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Tuesday, 23 May 1972
Page: 1900


Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to introduce into the Senate a Bill for the next stage of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The Bill itself will provide additional evidence that this Government not only intends to continue its support for scientific endeavour in this country but that it will support the growth of science into new fields - in particular, into those fields which are of importance to the nation as a whole.

One such field is marine science, which has been rather neglected in the past in the sense that the efforts of isolated groups, though praiseworthy in themselves, have scarcely been commensurate with the magnitude of the problems which await investigation. There are already several independent groups working in the general field of marine science. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has a Division of Fisheries and Oceanography, which is involved with studies in several areas around the Australian coast; the Royal Australian Navy is also doing oceanographic work. Several State governments are, through their relevant departments, involved in studies of the marine environment and in addition, several of the universities have small research groups, which are interested in biological and physical studies in the marine area. The work of these groups has added much to our knowledge of the sea around us; but with the immensity of our coastline - over 12,000 miles - ranging as it does from temperate through sub-tropical to tropical zones it is clear that, if we are to make the best use of our natural resources, our efforts in the field of marine science need to be strengthened.

It is appropriate here that I should enlarge somewhat on what I mean by the term marine science. It covers a vast field ranging from biological studies in the littoral zone through to the deep waters beyond the continental shelf; from physical studies of the bays and estuarine waters to the deep ocean and of the sea floor. The term marine science thus embraces so diverse and immense an area of scientific activity that it cannot be defined in a few words. It will not of course be possible for the Australian Institute of Marine Science at Townsville to cover all aspects of marine science.

In 1970 the Government introduced a Bill for the establishment of an Australian Institute of Marine Science as the first step towards correcting deficiencies in our work in marine science. That Act provided that there should be an institute known as The Australian Institute of Marine Science, and that it should be located in the vicinity of Townsville in the State of Queensland. That Act also provided for the appointment of an Interim Council, which was to examine the matter of the establishment of the Institute and to make recommendations with respect to the functions and powers of the Institute, the constitution of its governing Council, the site of the seat of the Institute and the nature of the co-operation with the James Cook University of North Queensland.

The Interim Council was appointed by the Government in September 1970, and consisted of Dr M. F. C. Day as Chairman and as members Professor C. Burdon-Jones, Dr N. H. Fisher, Professor Dorothy Hill, Mr W. Ives, Dr D. F. McMichael and Professor R. J. Walsh. The Interim Council completed its work and reported to the Government in July 1971. The report of the Interim Council has been circulated to honourable senators, and I would refer them to that report for the full details and recommendations.

At this point I join with the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in expressing my thanks to the Interim Council for its work and for its recommendations on which this Bill is substantially based. I believe that its work will result in the significant enhancement of Australian competence in the field of marine science and will provide the framework for the establishment of an Institute which will make its mark in the world of marine science.

Honourable senators will note that the Bill embraces all of those recommendations which are immediately relevant to the establishment in Townsville of the Australian Institute of Marine Science as a real and progressive entity - as an entity which will make a substantial contribution to the study of marine science in Australia and especially to the study of the marine areas of north Queensland. The Bill does not, of course, deal with the equipment which will be essential to the work of the Institute. The nature of that equipment is a matter for discussion and decision by the Council and the Director of the Institute but I am able to say that the Government has accepted, in principle, the need for a research vessel of approximately 80 feet. The question of acquiring a vessel of about 120 feet is one which is being examined by the Government in the context of a rather similar requirement by the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography of the CSIRO. The Government's aim is thus clear, that is, to establish the Australian Institute of Marine Science along the lines recommended by the Interim Council and, in presenting this Bill, the Government has token steps in accord with that aim.

Honourable senators will have noted that the report of the Interim Council deals with matters beyond the immediate establishment and concern of the Institute. Those matters concern the more general question of the national research effort in marine science. Thus the Interim Council recommended that an Australian Marine Science Council should be established to be the governing body of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and that it should have broad functions and responsibilities for the co-ordination and development of marine science in Australia. It was also recommended that a Marine Research Fund should be established, under the control of the Australian Marine Science Council, to promote the development of marine science in universities and other institutions.

The Interim Council also suggested that the national research effort should be strengthened in other ways and has particularly mentioned physical oceanography and marine and coastal engineering as 2 areas which should be given closer attention. I mention these particular recommendations as examples. They are far reaching and important and are being examined in depth by the Government from within its own resources. This examination, of course, will in no way affect the development of the Australian Institute of Marine Science which the Government is anxious to establish without delay. It is for that reason that the present Bill deals with the establishment of that Institute along lines, as I have said, recommended by the Interim Council.

I shall now deal with the way in which the Bill itself has taken these recommendations into account. The choice of the site for the Institute is an important matter and, as some questions have been raised about it, I propose to outline the major considerations which have led to the selection of Townsville, or more particularly, Cape Pallarenda which is within the boundaries of the City of Townsville. Let me say at the outset that the Interim Council was unanimous in its choice of Cape Pallarenda, and the Government has accepted this recommendation.

The Interim Council considered that it was essential for the Institute to be located on the mainland, for ease of access, though it was also considered important to locate the Institute close to an existing academic and scientific community. It also appeared desirable to locate the Institute centrally with respect to the Great Barrier Reef, since it would be concerned with studies over the length and breadth of the Reef. A further important consideration was the availability of supporting services such as facilites for the repair of ships, a reliable power supply and other services which an Institute of this kind would require.

It will be seen that Townsville fulfils these criteria. The Cape Pallarenda site is within the city boundaries, and only a few miles from the James Cook University of north Queensland. Townsville is a large town centrally located with respect to the Reef as a whole and with most, if not all, of the facilities which are required by the Institute. Subsequent to the selection of the Cape Pallarenda site, concern was expressed that the effluent from a nickel smelter which it is proposed to build a few miles north of the Institute might pollute the water to the extent that it might interfere with the work of the Institute. It is, of course, important to ensure that the work of the Institute at its base at Cape Pallarenda will not be adversely affected by pollution of the marine environment, and the Government is in close touch with the Queensland Government on this matter. I should add too that several Queensland

Government departments are currently discussing possible approaches to effluent standards to be observed by the proposed nickel refinery. I understand too that not only is it intended that the waste disposal situation be reviewed annually but also, equally importantly, that it be done in conjunction with continuous monitoring.

It can be seen, therefore, that the question of pollution is under careful scrutiny. However I should remind honourable senators that the major concern of the Institute will not be with the waters in the immediate vicinity of Townsville but with the waters of the Reef as a whole. The Institute will, of course, require sea water for its aquaria, and it would be convenient to draw this from the sea immediately adjacent to the Institute, but if this water is not entirely satisfactory, no doubt some alternative solution can be found. The Government has accepted the recommendation that approximately $8m should be spent over the next 5 years to establish the Institute on an adequate basis. Over that time, it is expected that the research staff will build up to number about 25 and that there will be appropriate numbers of support staff. It is envisaged that the Institute will work in close liaison with the James Cook University of north Queensland where work is already under way in marine science. It will also provide a facility which, with the concurrence of the Institute, can be used by marine scientists from elsewhere. It is not intended, nor indeed necessary, that these arrangements should be formally covered in the legislation, but rather that they be developed by the Council of the Institute as and when the opportunity offers.

Before passing on to consideration of the Bill, may I refer briefly to some of the matters raised by the debate on the 1970 Bill. Honourable senators on both sides of the Senate supported that Bill, and many interesting comments and suggestions were made. The extent to which the Council of the Institute and the Director and the scientific staff will be able to cope with these suggestions is a matter for those individuals. The Government does not propose to dictate the scientific programmes to be followed, but it does look for the same high level of scientific achievement as characterises the work of the many excel- lent laboratories in this country. May I say too that it is not intended to divert scientists from existing research establishments to the Institute. On the contrary, it is the intention of this Bill to increase significantly the total scientific manpower and thus the total research effort in marine science. The Institute will provide an additional training ground for young marine scientists and will doubtless attract marine scientists from other countries. 1 now draw the attention of honourable senators to the Bill itself and to the fact that the existing Act is repealed - that is, the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1970. That Act made a number of provisions which I have summarised earlier, including the establishment of an Interim Council. That Council has completed its work and those sections of the 1970 Act which will continue to have force are included in the present Bill. Honourable senators will no doubt wish to study the Bill in detail, but here I draw their attention to its main provisions. The functions of the Institute are delineated in the Bill and permit the Institute to carry out research in whatever branch of marine science merits its attention and to publish the results of that research. In accordance with the recommendations of the Interim Council it is intended, in the first instance, that the Institute should concentrate initially on problems relating to the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea and the coast and adjacent waters of North Queensland. Such studies would be designed to provide a better understanding of the processes affecting the origin, development, and evolution of the Reef and of the associated biological systems.

It is expected that the Institute will also undertake a supporting programme of oceanographic research in the Coral Sea and northern Australian waters, with particular reference to the factors affecting the Great Barrier Reef; this may include a programme of coastal and estuarine research with particular reference to the factors influencing the productivity of tropical coastal waters. It should be noted, too, that the Bill permits the Institute to carry out work beyond Australian territorial waters should that be necessary or desirable. The Institute is given the necessary powers to fulfil its functions. I draw honourable senators' attention particularly to 2 aspects. Firstly, it is intended that the Institute should be able to accept gifts and bequests. It is envisaged that the Institute need not necessarily be wholly dependent on Government finance but, as with similar institutions, should be free to undertake such work in specific areas as benefactors may desire. Secondly, as was suggested during the debate on the previous Bill, the Institute is free to display material and to arrange for lectures, public or otherwise, in matters relating to marine science. It will be important that the Institute, where appropriate, will collaborate with other laboratories and will not duplicate work which is being undertaken elsewhere in Australia.

Honourable senators will note the Government's intention that the Institute be governed by a small council comprising a chairman and 4 other members, all of whom will serve on a part time basis. Should the work of the Council increase to a level at which it becomes necessary for one or more of the members to serve on a full time basis, suitable amendments to this legislation will be introduced. I also wish to draw attention to the requirement that the majority of the members of the council be persons holding scientific qualifications. It is intended to select, as members of the council, scientists who are eminent in their field, of whom at least some will be well versed in the field of marine science.

I turn now to the duties and responsibilities of the Director of the Institute. In order to develop the Institute into a first class research institution, the first important task of the council will be to seek, on a world wide basis, applications for the position of Director and to select an individual of high scientific stature. Whilst the Director will be subject to the general direction of the council, he will be responsible for managing on a full time basis the day-to-day affairs of the Institute. The Director will be appointed for a period not exceeding 7 years, but will be eligible for reappointment. This is in accordance with the general provisions for statutory office holders and does not imply any lack of continuity in employment. The Bill also provides that the Minister may appoint an Acting Director in the event of the temporary absence of the Director. It is considered that from the point of view of the staff this is the most satisfactory way of arranging the continuity of the Institute's affairs.

As for the staff of the Institute, it is proposed that they be appointed by the council, and in general the terms and conditions of employment of the staff will be aligned with those applying to the staff of the CSIRO. The rights of stall who may be members of the Commonwealth Public Service are protected and preserved. The Bill establishes the basis for the funding of the Institute, the control of its monies and the auditing of its accounts. These broadly follow the pattern established for the control of the funds of CSIRO. Money will be appropriated by the Parliament, and the Government has in mind a sum of about $8m over the next 5 years both to provide for the establishment of buildings and facilities and also for the running costs of the Institute. At the end of that period the staff is expected to have been built up to its projected complement and the Institute to have an annual running cost of approximately $ 1.35m.

The council is required to report to the Minister as soon as practicable after the end of each financial year. The report will cover both the operations and the finances of the Institute, and is to be laid before the Parliament within 15 sitting days of its receipt by the Minister. The annual report will, of course, include not only financial statements but also descriptions of the work carried out during the year, details of published work and such additional information as the council deems relevant. Specific problems may arise where the expertise available from within the council or the Institute to examine and report on matters of interest to the council needs to be supplemented from outside. In the Government's view the council should be able to have the help of committees for specific tasks. Accordingly, the Bill makes the necessary provision to that end.

In conclusion, I know that the announcement of the Government's intention to establish an Australian Institute of Marine Science at Townsville created a great deal of interest in scientific circles both in Australia and abroad. Australia is an island continent bounded by some of the world's great oceans. In the Great Barrier Reef we have a vast region of unique interest. Our fisheries are growing In importance and are attracting international interest. On the sea, as on the land, basic scientific knowledge is equally essential to sound conservation and sound development. I am sure that the present Bill will be seen by honourable senators and the scientific and lay public at large as providing for a very desirable expansion of Australia's scientific activities. It can be confidently expected that once established as a viable and operating institution, its work will be of great benefit to Australia in particular and to the scientific world at large. May I remind honourable senators, too, that the work of the Institute can be expected to yield information of the greatest practical value to those who are involved in one way or another with marine problems. The Bill provides the framework on which can be built a research institute which will take its place among the great marine research institutes of the world. I commend the Bill to the Senate.


Senator Georges - I suggest to the Minister for Works that the next time he has a -prepared second reading speech on a Bill he should seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard and so save time.

Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.







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