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Tuesday, 27 October 1964


Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - Senator Ormonde raised a matter with which I omitted to deal, and I hasten to do so now. It was in connection with the Canberra Technical College. He asked what type of tradesmen were being trained and what progress was being made. Most tradesmen are catered for in the Technical College, including bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, motor mechanics, fitters, radio technicians, electricians, hairdressers and so on. Details of progress are not available for student by student or section by section, but they could be obtained. However, many students are qualifying in trades and I think that is a good thing. There are, in fact, 3,200 students at the college.

Senator Ormondealso referred to Division No. 853, sub-division 6, item 06 - " Payments to the Department of Education, New South Wales, £1,192,100". The expenditure refers to public schools only and relates to the salaries of teachers in the Australian Capital Territory who are employed by the New South Wales State Government.

As to the point raised by Senator O'Byrne in relation to the efficacy or otherwise of Lake Burley Griffin for swimming purposes, I do not want to give undue emphasis to the matter, except to say that on 14th October the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) committed to writing some views concerning the lake for the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony). I think I should read that comment because it is self explanatory and puts the matter in perspective. It is in these terms -

I have received from my Department today - October 14th 1964 - an up to date assessment of the health considerations which arise because of the quality of the water in Lake Burley Griffin!

Expressed in briefest terms it is my Department's opinion that people should be advised not to swim in the lake.

As you know, my Department has been carrying out regular tests of the water in the lake and the Molonglo River and these are continuing. Since the lake began to fill an increasing number of sampling stations have been used and samples are now being taken and tested from 17 points. The results of the tests show the amount of contamination from human and animal sources. The tests already made and observations on current methods of management of sewage reveal that the lake is contaminated by organisms from sewage effluent, from surface run off and from animal sources.

Because of the number of variable factors involved, the degree of risk to health involved in swimming in the lake cannot be denned in absolute terms, nor can it usefully be compared with other situations. The judgment in this situation must deal with this individual case and the assessment of the Department is that the degree of risk is such that it cannot be ignored.

My Department's view is that responsible people, knowing that some risk is involved, will not want to swim in the lake and that children should be advised not to do. The opinion on accidental immersion in the lake, as might be expected in recreations such as yachting, boating and fishing, is that this would probably not involve any significant health, as distinct from physical, risk.

Because the lake is contaminated to some degree any person swimming in it, particularly for prolonged periods, faces a risk of infection. Exposure to contaminated water such as exists in Lake Burley Griffin might result in bacterial and viral infections, particularly of the gastro-intestinal ' and respiratory tracts. It is also possible, but much less likely, that the eyes, the ears and the skin may bc affected. It would not necessarily follow, however, that if anyone became ill after swimming, the lake was to blame.

Senator O'Byrneknows that these things can happen in thousands of other places. The statement continues -

It is considered that the contamination of the luke comes from two sources, die Harman and Queanbeyan sewage effluents. Additionally, there is the problem of surface run off after heavy rains, lt is hoped that the proposal to chlorinate the Harman sewage effluent will lead to an improvement in the present quality of the effluent. lt is also understood that works to eliminate the discharge of effluent into the lake from Duntroon school and Fairbairn areodrome are in progress. When completed these works will help improve the situation.

I pass this information on to you as the Minister holding executive responsibility for Lake Burley Griffin. Should you consider that any remedial works are necessary to eliminate the health risks outlined above, no doubt you will take this up with the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of Works.

I do not myself intend to make any public statement on this matter.

The comment then goes on -

Mr. Anthonysaid that the basis of the information in Senator Wade's letter was made available to an inter-departmental committee comprising representatives of the Departments of Health, Works, Interior and the National Capital Development Commission.

That is a factual statement which does not need any embellishment from me.







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