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Australian Geoscience "facing a crisis"

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TSe C>-L~ci;. of Earth Science Societies in Australia

Australian geoscience "facing a crisis"

The President of the Australian Geoscience Council, Dr Bob Day, said today (Wednesday) that up to 50 per cent of Australia's 8000 geoscientisis are currently out o f a job. ' .

He said the two billion dollar exploration industry Is being brought to Its knees by a combination of low commodity prices, restriction of access to land in Australia brought about by Native Title considerations, and the failure of Government to take positive remedial steps.

*Tro pretty critical of the Budget for its failure to support the industry in tough times," Dr Day said.

"Despite claims that the Government wants to maintain Australia's strength in research and innovation, it emerges from the fine print of the Budget that nearly 20 per cent has been slashed from the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO).

"This will involve the loss of nearly 100 AGSO staff, many of whom arc amongst Australia's leading geoscientific researchers in their field.

’At a time when the mining and petroleum industries in Australia are under enormous pressure, the Government should be investing in Australia's future through additional support to geoscience," Dr Day said.

Access to quality, publicly funded geoscientific information is essential to successful minerals and petroleum exploration. In Australia, AGSO (in conjunction with the State and Northern Territory Geological Surveys) plays this vital role.

The ready availability of modem geoscientific information helps companies to focus their exploration efforts in areas of greater mineral and petroleum prospectivitiy. This enhancement of the nation's competitiveness for attraction of the global exploration dollar has been Australia's competitive advantage.

Provision of such information has enabled Australia's geoscientisis to unlock our geological treasure chest-A s a bonus, the products of scientific creativity and the innovative application of Information Technology have become significant exports. Mlncom and World

Geoscience are notable examples of this success.

Dr Day said it was particularly disappointing that highly successful mining and petroleum Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) were also in jeopardy. -These CRCs are effective collaborations between Universities, CSIRO, Government and Industry, and have attracted some $17 million per annum to geoscience areas.

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Prt.'ident: Dr Boh Day Pli: 07-3359 8267 Fix: 07-3250 3951



Η : viver. three of these CRGs, namely the Australian Qeodynamics, Australian —iV^ i~ Australian Mineral Exploration Technologies CRCs, had not had their ."cnennr nrrjewed. .

"Its tough in the universities, it's tough in private industry, and it's tough internationally. The last thing the sector needs now is a weakening of Government support," Dr Day said.

During 1997/98 the mining and petroleum sectors each spent around $1.1 billion.

But recognition of Native Title and its attendant requirements have slowed the issue of Exploration Titles to a trickle, resulting in a virtual moratorium on access to land.

"Its small wonder that industry is shedding jobs," Dr Day said.

He pointed out that public and private investment in geoscience in recent decades had demonstrated impressive results.

During the 1970s and 1980s there was widespread apprehension that Australia's known petroleum reserves would be rapidly depleted with Australia's self-sufficiency in oil and gas under threat in the 1990's.

Today, as a result of substantial private sector investment in exploration, mainly in the North West Shelf, Timor Sea and Bass Strait regions, Australia's self-sufficiency in petroleum liquids remains around 80% and in gas 100%.

Similarly, mineral resources extracted over the past 100 years or more have in most cases been replaced with the discovery of major new deposits in recent decades.

The minerals and petroleum sectors continue to be the pillars of Australia economic wellbeing.

Exports from unprocessed and processed minerals in 1996/97 were worth $41.3 billion. This was 36% of Australia's total exports of goods and services, and 64% of total commodity exports.

The petroleum sector, for example, is a sizeable contributor to the Australian economy with an annual value of production of $8 billion, with net exports of $1 billion.

The petroleum sector alone pays resource taxes on oil and gas production of $1 billion and contributes another $ 1 billion in other taxes.

Dr Day said Australia's innovative applications of geoscience and information management not only lead to the discovery and development of the Earth's resources. They are equally applicable to water resource- and environmental management and land care.

"Australia must continue to invest in geoscience to ensure that the research . infrastructure in this country - which comprises people and their skills and expertise - is retained." he said. i

For interview.

Dr Bob Day Ph (07) 3359 8267; 0412 529 166