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Wednesday, 11 April 1973


Mr MORRISON (St George) (Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill proposes a simple amendment to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972. The amendment will remove a condition which is presently restricting the selection of a suitable site. Honourable members will recall that the first step towards establishing the Institute was the Act of 1970. An Interim Council was appointed under that Act with Dr M. Day of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation as Chairman. The Council was instructed to make recommendations to the Government for the establishment of the Institute, its functions, powers and constitution and for the site of the Institute. It was specifically directed by section 4 (2) of the Act that the Institute be at or in the vicinity of Townsville.

In July 1971 the report of the Interim Council was completed and submitted to the Government. It considered and made recommendations on marine science in general as well as the Institute. The recommendations of the Council led to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972 which was given Royal Assent on 9th June 1972. The governing Council was appointed under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Basten. The Council faced 2 major problems. The original intention was to use some government land at Cape Pallarenda, but this proved impracticable.

Honourable members may recall that the report of the Interim Council expressed some reservations about the Cape Pallarenda site but within the restrictive terms of the Act it regarded it as the best site available. On page 19 of its report the Council drew attention to the following disadvantages of the site: Firstly, the wharf is exposed and in shallow water; secondly, it is not a suitable base for operations in some fields of marine science; thirdly, Townsville is not a suitable site for some of the other operations proposed; fourthly, there is risk of pollution from a smelter - in fact the site is already badly polluted and water for the aquaria would have to be imported. In addition, when the Council examined the Cape Pallarenda site in detail subsequently it was discovered that prior approval had been given for a Royal Australian Air Force and Department of Civil Aviation surveillance radar to be installed on Many Peaks Range near the proposed site. Expert advice was sought and, based on experience with a similar radar in Sydney, it was considered that the radar could cause unacceptable interference to delicate scientific equipment in the laboratories. It was also determined that electrical screening could not eliminate the problem for some of the items of equipment.

The Council then resumed attempts to find an alternative site at or within the vicinity of Townsville, that is, broadly within the city boundaries. So far these efforts have been unsuccessful, bearing in mind the conditions which the site must fulfil.

One proposal was to separate the aquaria from the Institute and locate them on Magnetic Island. This was rejected since the separation would lead to a loss of efficiency as a result of the time lost in travelling between the two sites. In addition, the building and operating costs would be increased and it was desired to conserve Magnetic Island.

The Council considered the problem at its meeting in February 1973 and as a result reported to me in the following terms:

Accordingly the Council recommends that the Institute be located somewhere on the tropical coast of Queensland, not necessarily where the 1972 Act directs and not necessarily on Commonwealth or Crown land.

The purpose of the amendment is therefore to remove restrictions on the search for a suitable site. The Government is mindful of .he advantages which would flow from close association with the James Cook University of Northern Queensland. It is still the intention of the Government to locate the Institute on the tropical coast of Queensland. Its work will be directed initially to marine problems in the area of the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea and the adjacent waters of northern Queensland. A further problem arose in connection with the appointment of the Director. This is a key position and the success of the Institute will turn on finding the right person. The Council refrained from advertising for a director until a suitable salary had been determined. The recent Remuneration and Allowances Act 1973 set the director's salary at $19,148. This is the range appropriate to a Head of Division in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. It should enable a scientist of suitable eminence and calibre to be recruited. With these 2 difficulties overcome, the Council is confident that action can be taken to bring the Institute into operation as soon as possible.

The Institute will provide for the development of marine science in Australia, lt is important to make provision for research in temperate and tropical waters and to balance properly the allocation of our research resources to these areas. The Government regards the Institute as an important step in developing and extending marine science. The Government intends to overcome Australia's deficiencies in marine science and it is examining other steps that should be taken. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.







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