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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2527

Mr McGAURAN (11.05 a.m.) —How would Australians feel if they were generally aware of the fact that the husky dogs based at Mawson in Antarctica, with such a tradition of involvement in Australia's exploration, research and maintenance of that area, are to be shipped off to America? Our huskies are being summarily removed from the Antarctic and sent to some adventure playground in Minnesota, America. It is simply remarkable that Australians are being denied the heritage, the history and the cultural value of these huskies.

  If they have to be removed—as the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton), has discussed in his contribution—then why are the alternatives not being seriously considered? We are told that the huskies must firstly be removed under annex II of the protocol. The British have decided that they are not bound by that aspect of the protocol and that their obligations will be met by allowing huskies to live out their natural lives in Antarctica whilst the breeding is stopped. If that is the case, why is Australia not following suit?

  Secondly, if the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment and Territories (Mrs Kelly) believes the huskies must be removed from Antarctica pursuant to international obligations, then why are they going to America—and, moreover, with such haste and at such expense? We have heard that the ship has been delayed by bad weather and that this has put the schedule back a little bit. We understand from the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr McArthur) that helicopters are being used at phenomenal expense to transfer the dogs to the ship so they can be taken to Hobart to be loaded onto a Qantas jet and flown to America.

  Why this phenomenal expense and haste to send them to Minnesota? I understand that the adventure playground or adventure park or resort area or tourist operator in Minnesota—and we are not properly told who is getting the dogs, except that they will be in the snow and that they will continue to pull sleds for tourists—has said, `If I don't get them in November, I don't want them. You land them in Los Angeles at your expense and I will fly them from Los Angeles up to Minnesota'. Gee whiz, now we have the nation acceding to the timetable of some private operator, if not profiteer, in Minnesota! This is very unseemly.

  We want from the Government an explanation as to who is getting the huskies. Despite our best efforts we cannot find out. A number of us have made numerous representations, in person and by letter, to the Government. Secondly, we want to know the cost. What is the cost of removing the huskies, particularly with this expedited timetable? How much of that cost is being met by the operator? We are not being told any of this. Is this open government? This is a serious decision affecting Australia's heritage. We are operating in the dark.

  If the dogs have to be removed from Antarctica, why are they going to America? There are alternatives in Australia. The official line from the Government is that it is in the best interests of the dogs to go to Minnesota, basically for two reasons: there is snow and they can pull sleds. In actual fact, when we look at what is being offered in Australia, those criteria can largely be met. We certainly believe there is a welter of evidence that the dogs can be properly and fully cared for in Australia.

  I draw to the attention of the House the submission made by a constituent of mine, Mr Michael Newton, of Darriman, which is between Sale and Yarram in south Gippsland. Mr Newton is the most established and oldest registered breeder of Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies in Australia. He has successfully made application to develop a zoo at his property at Darriman. Formal approval has been given to commence construction of a marine, fauna and ecological environmental study centre which, on figures provided by the Victorian Department of Education, will be used by some 40,000 students a year.

  Mr Newton has offered to take all the huskies from the Mawson base to keep them together. He plans to build a large enclosure for the huskies at his zoo and include an educational film for students and the public on how these dogs were used in the Antarctic. Mr Newton believes that these dogs can still serve the public of Australia educating young Australians as to their uses in the Antarctic.

  My constituent can keep the working teams together so that they could be worked in the South Gippsland Zoo during the seasons of autumn, winter and spring. These dogs have played a remarkable role in utilising Australia's claim of 42 per cent of Antarctica. Mr Newton has been working his huskies and making dog equipment for the last 14 years and can assure any relevant authority that the Mawson dogs would be worked strictly to any criteria the Antarctic division requested.

  The offer to take the Mawson dogs is not to keep them as pets, but rather as living representatives of Australia's achievements in Antarctica. If successful in his application to care for the huskies, Mr Newton would have exhibited the dogs at the South Gippsland Zoo where the educational facility is being established along with a museum in order to increase Australians' knowledge of our involvement in Antarctica.

  Mr Newton, whose reputation as being a foremost expert in this area is Australia-wide, has been operating kennels and breeding huskies and giant Alaskan malamutes for many years. He has always kept a large number of dogs, usually between 50 and 60, twice the number of those presently kept at Mawson. In developing the South Gippsland Zoo project, my constituent has been given permission by the Royal Melbourne Zoo, the Department of Conservation and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife to construct enclosures for the Arctic wolf, the timber wolf, coyotes, the red maned wolf, dingoes, cape hunting dogs and various species of jackals and foxes. There would be no need to split up his family of dogs, thus eliminating fretting which naturally occurs when that happens. He does have the experience and the veterinary advice at hand to give the dogs the comfort, love and security at his kennels.

  There is a conclusion in all of this by the Government that Australians cannot care for the huskies. That is patently false. Both the honourable member for MacKellar and the honourable member for Corangamite have spoken of the capability of Australians to look after and preserve their own heritage. The amazing thing is that the argument goes along the lines that the breeding of the huskies should not be continued in the Antarctica. That is a very debatable point, which the shadow Minister has touched on.

  Why are the dogs going to be bred in Minnesota and not in Australia? Why are we, with one sweep of the hand, wiping away the history of the huskies in Antarctica? Australians must be outraged that these cultural wreckers on the Government side can deny future generations of Australia the first-hand sighting and gaining of knowledge that the huskies in Australia would bring. It is simply outrageous that the Government, without proper explanation, has taken the huskies away from Australia, supposedly in the name of the best care and attention for the huskies. The truth is that Australians can care better for the huskies than somebody seeking to exploit them in faraway Minnesota for commercial purposes.