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Wednesday, 4 March 1970

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry) - Since my statement to the House yesterday a series of reports has been received from Thursday Island about the movement of the oil slick and the progress made in trying to ascertain what can be done to minimise its effect. Two notable problems are involved. One is that the Master of the vessel that is holed, the Oceanic Grandeur', is hesitant about transferring oil from the tanks on board that vessel because, as I understand it, of risk to the stability of the vessel. However, the Leslie J. Thompson', another vessel owned by Ampol, is standing by and she has the capacity to take at least half the oil that was on board the 'Oceanic Grandeur' at the time of the accident. The oil slick itself at this stage is apparently moving in an easterly direction instead of the northwesterly direction . which was originally noted yesterday. The oil slick is broken up into several parts. There is one fairly substantial slick and a number of smaller slicks. The smaller slicks are those which are at the moment causing the most fear for Thursday Island and the pearl beds thereabouts. As to what is being done, yesterday a Hercules aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force flew some detergent to the area. This morning another load from Sale in Victoria with some equipment to spray it was forwarded, together with some experts to ensure that in its use there would be no added risk to sea life or any other form of life in the area. There is some problem in determining the best type of detergent to use and at this stage no detergent has in fact been spread. But I can assure the honourable member and other honourable members who are concerned with the possible effect of pollution that everything possible is being done to ensure that the spread of the present slick will be restrained and also that any future discharge will be limited to the maximum degree possible. As soon as I am in a position to make a full statement on the position I shall do so.

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