Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr CROSS (Brisbane) - I thank my colleague, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), for the kind words that he uttered, lt is customary on occasions like this, even when we are dealing with an academic matter, a matter of some importance in the field of science, to be a little political. I intend to be a little political for a few minutes. 1 would like to give the credit for the establishment of the marine research station to the man who raised this question in the Parliament. Surprisingly enough it was not the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) nor was it the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The record shows that our Senate colleague, Senator Felix Dittmer, in his maiden speech in 1959, raised the question of research into the tropical environment. He put this proposal to the Prime Minister, when he was in another place, on 25th September 1963, as appears at page 833 of Hansard.

If the Prime Minister lakes .some credit lor his interest in this establishment then he was considering it for about 7 years.

A very important symposium was conducted by the Australian Conservation Foundation in May of last year. Our distinguished ex-colleague. Sir Garfield Barwick, who has now been translated to the judicial field, wrote the Prime Minister a letter on 2nd June 1969. In answer lo a question from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) the Prime Minister said:

On 9th April 1970 i wrote to Sir Garfield Barwick informing him of progress made on the mailers he wrote lo me about un 2nd June 1969.

So we see that there does not happen to have been as much urgency about this matter as we would have liked.

J return to the Bill and the proposal to establish an Australian institute of marine science, lt is a very apt time to be doing this, in the year of the discovery of iiic east coast of this continent by Lieutenant James Cook in the HMS 'Endeavour', He made the first contributions to marine science on the east coast of Australia and certainly his expedition charted new fields in oceanography, hydrography and scientific investigation of the marine environment. About 100 years ago, in 1873, the HMS Challenger' set out on the world's first oceanographic expedition. Now one hundred years later this Government is setting about this very commendable enterprise in the first year of the international decade of oceanographic exploration.

We are all very concerned these days with conservation. Many of the honourable members who have spoken in this debate, including the honourable member for Griffith, have mentioned the pollution of our environment. Of course we all are concerned with this, but real conservation is based on a proper survey of the flora and fauna of our nation and the ecological system - the environment in which plants and animals live and how they may best be preserved. What areas of our continent are biologically unique and ought to be preserved inviolate? What areas of our continent and its environs are capable of being used and developed and their natural resources husbanded in such a way that they may not be destroyed?

As the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H, Bowen) has shown an obvious interest in matters of scientific research, I should like to draw his attention to two previous proposals that have been put to the Government by the Australian Academy of Science, both of which are in a field comparable with the proposed Australian Institute of Marine Science. The first was a proposal early in 1962 for a Flora of Australia outlined in a paper by Dr S. T. Blake of Brisbane. More recently, in May 1969, the Australian Academy of Science submitted to the Government a suggestion for a Biological Survey of Australia, to be principally domiciled in Canberra, which would involve a complete survey of the flora and fauna of our continent in order that we might know what we ought to develop, what we ought to exploit, and what we ought to conserve. It is on the basis of scientific research that conservation is founded. So, the Australian Labor Party welcomes the proposal that the Government has placed before us.

We are very much in favour of the establishment of an Australian Institute of Marine Science. Naturally, as a Queenslander, I am pleased to see the proposal to establish this Institute at or near Townsville in North Queensland. For my part, I am extremely pleased with the personnel who have been appointed by the Minister to the proposed Interim Council. We have a well balanced team. We have Dr M. F. Day of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation who is associated with entomology; Professor Burdon-Jones, the Professor of Marine Biology at the James Cook University of Townsville; Dr N. H. Fisher of the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources, a Queensland graduate; Professor Dr Dorothy Hill the research Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Queensland; Mr Walter Ives, Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry, who was previously a member of the Executive of CSIRO; Mr D. F. McMichael, now the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in New South Wales, but previously the Director of the Australia Conservation Foundation; and Professor R. J. Walsh, Professor of Human Genetics at Sydney University representing the Australian Academy of Science. So, the Minister has brought together, because the principle pur pose of this Bill is to appoint an Interim Council and to give it a charter, an expert and well balanced team of people with backgrounds in a number of scientific disciplines and people who have been concerned not only with science but also with administration.

My plea to the Minister is that he gives this Interim Council the widest possible charter as to the site and the purpose of the various installations which will be associated with the Institute. I am interested - and I would be interested if the Minister would develop this - in the role of the proposed Institute as a national centre for marine science. I would hope that it would be possible to have a national centre in Townsville. But 1 am not unmindful of the fact that marine science and oceanography are carried out in our nation by many authorities - by the universities, by State government instrumentalities, and. of course, by private organisations such as petroleum companies and the like.

Accordingly, 1 feel that one cannot establish a national centre in a field as broad as marine science. I feel that the Government should look into some coordinating system - perhaps, a national committee on oceanography - with a much broader charter than anything that we have had in Australia to this point in time. I know that there are committees, one of which I think is concerned principally with the use of facilities that the Navy makes available in its oceanographic frigates. As I have said, I welcome this Institute. What I am saying is not to be taken as criticism of the idea of establishing this facility in North Queensland, but merely as suggesting that there are some matters associated with th s Institute that should be looked at carefully and that the Minister should be guided by expert advice from the people he has appointed.

I wonder myself whether it could be more appropriate for this institution to be known as the Australian institute of tropical marine science or, perhaps, the Great Barrier Reef institute. Everybody can have an institute of marine science but only Australia can have a Great Barrier Reef institute. The Great Barrier Reef is unique in the world. It is the largest coral reef at present in existence or, as far as is known, is the largest coral reef that has existed through geological times, from the Ordivician till now, when coral reefs have existed.

I am interested also in the question of the site of this Institute. We all recognise that the site of an institute of this kind must be associated closely with a university where people from other scientific disciplines are available and where laboratory facilities as well as backup facilities of various kinds are available. Such an institute must be located in an area where scientists who may be carrying out research on the Reef can go to people in other scientific persuasions and with other specialities in fields such as chemistry, physics and the like - of course, the use of computers is associated with almost all levels of science today - and where they may discuss these matters and take advantage of the knowledge of their other colleagues.

But part of a national centre for marine science would involve also backup facilities in terms of oceanographic vessels. This means port facilities, facilities for instrumentation and the care, maintenance and replacement of the equipment that an institute of marine science normally has. So. I hope that that portion of the Bill which speaks about the site of this Institute as being at or near Townsville will be flexible enough to be able to have research stations built on the Reef at places like Cairns or other areas in North Queensland which, by virtue of the fact that the Reef is closer to the shore at those places than it is at Townsville, may be better places in which to establish such a centre. I am sure that, quite apart from the buildings of the Institute itself, it WIll be necessary to put research stations actually on some of the islands in the Reef area and in the various environments that exist on the Great Barrier Reef.

I turn to one matter of concern to people who are interested in marine science. I would hope again that the Minister will give an assurance that the establishment of this Institute in no way will mean any lessening of Federal assistance to other forms of marine science and oceanography in Australia, lt is inevitable that programmes of oceanography and marine science will be carried out by many authorities throughout a nation as large as Australia is. At the present time, the principal authority in oceanography in Australia is our own Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The headquarters of its Division of Fisheries and Oceanography is at Cronulla near Sydney. This Division has been concerned principally with the ocean as it affects the fishing industry. This work is vital. From its headquarters and from sub-stations, work has been carried out in important industries such as the crayfish industry in Western Australia, the tuna industry, the prawning industry and a whole range of fisheries research.

Then, there is the Royal Australian Navy. Anybody who knows anything about oceanography realises the great debt that the universities, CSIRO and other organisations owe to the Royal Austraiian Navy for its co-operation with oceanography and marine research over the years. The Royal Australian Navy more recently has reestablished a submarine fleet. It is a long time since we have had a submarine fleet of our own. Now, we have 4 Oberon-class submarines and 2 more submarines of that same class on order. This means that the Navy has a very real and continuing interest in hydrography and in marine science generally. The Navy always wifi make its judgments in accordance with its defence responsibility, and that is very proper. Then, we have the Bureau of Mineral Resources. I suppose that one could say truthfully that the Bureau of Mineral Resources has carried out only a modest amount of research on the continental shelf, lt has carried out 3 major marine geophysical surveys. They were in 1965, 1967 and 1968. lt has published only I paper, in conjunction with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, on the area between Australia and Timor. Because of the many problems associated with the continental shelf, of what we need to know about, the continental shelf, of what it means in terms of the coming of fauna and flora lo this country, and of what it means in terms of the actual coming of primitive man to this country, we need more research. I would hope that the Bureau of Mineral Resources is able to expand its activities in this field with its own specialist calling.

I would also like to say something about the universities, because I am making a case for national co-ordination in the fields of oceanography and marine science. I think we should all recognise that the universities and Government departments have played a very great role. There is 1 organisation which has been operating in Queensland since 1922. I refer to the Great Barrier Reef Research Committee which has been associated since its inception with the University of Queensland. This organisation has a research centre on Heron Island. The research centre was established after the Second World War in 1948. A great deal of work has been done there. It has never enjoyed the assistance from the Commonwealth Government that this enterprise in Townsville will enjoy. The Barrier Reef is so large that there is a need for research in many places at the same time and at different times. I would particularly hope that the finance and the programmes which will be given to and organised through the new Institute of Marine Science, which will be located at or near Townsville, will also take into account the pioneering work that has been done by the Great Barrier Reef Committee on Heron Island and elsewhere over the period and will see that this work is nurtured, enhanced and assisted in every possible way.

I have dealt at some length, and I suppose it is natural for a Queenslander to do so, with the Great Barrier Reef. It is something of which we are very proud. Other honourable members have spoken about the Barrier Reef as a tourist attraction and its importance from the point of view of fisheries. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) spoke, about it as a source of protein. We know that the Barrier Reef is all of these things. But while we now know a lot more about the Barrier Reef than we did 50 years ago, when we look at the tremendously rich fauna of the West Pacific and Indian Oceans, we recognise what a great deal there is yet to be learnt. When one looks at the detailed work that has been done on the Barrier Reef, one finds for example that the expedition conducted by the British Museum in 1929 on Low Island did work which has never been repeated. Indeed, the reports of that exercise were still being written into the 1940s and, I think from memory, into the early 1950s.

So there is a great deal of work to be done on the Barrier Reef.

The Royal Society itself in 1972 will be conducting an expedition to the Barrier Reef. We need all of this knowledge. We need all of this research. We on this side of the House are pleased that the Commonwealth Government is making this contribution. While much of the discussion is concentrated around the Barrier Reef, let us not forget that we have one of the largest continental shelves in the world. Whilst the Barrier Reef may be what one may perhaps call the glamour element of our continental shelf, there is much to be learnt about other sections of the marine environment of Australia. When one looks at the amount of money that this country spends as compared with Canada, for example, one realises that the Australian record is not as good as it might be. From the United Nations report on oceanographic research statistics in 1967 we find that Canada, which has a continental shelf of 926,800 square miles - a little bit larger than Australia's 830,148 square miles - spent $38. 55m on oceanographic research while Australia spent $2. 20m. In that same year Canada had a manpower of 500 engaged in oceanographic research while Australia had a manpower of 85. Canada had 22 research vessels in the field while Australia had 8 research vessels, and many of them were on a part time basis. So I hope that the importance that this Institute will give to the Barrier Reef does not mean that the great need for the development of other facilities in other parts of Australia - the need to encourage programmes being conducted right around our continental shelf by organisations such as the Flinders University in South Australia, universities generally, and the CSIRO - is not forgotten. The Labor Party welcomes this Bill and it trusts that it is an indication of a continued interest by the Government in research into Australian flora and fauna.

Suggest corrections