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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr Whitlam asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(1)   When did he learn that on 3rd May 1969 the Australian Conservation Foundation's seminar recommended that the Commonwealth and Queensland should confer on the establishment of a joint advisory commission on Barrier Reef development and conservation.

(2)   When did he receive the suggestion by Sir Garfield Barwick, the Foundation's President, that, pending the establishment of the commission, urgent consideration should be given to a special inquiry into all factors bearing on the desirability and safety of oil drilling in that region, having regard to the paramount importance of protecting the living marine environment..

(3)   Why was he unable in the last Parliament to answer the similar question I put on the notice paper for him on 10th September 1969.

(4)   When and in what terms did he respond to Sir Garfield Barwick's suggestion. '

Mr Gorton (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   By letter dated 2nd June 1969 Sir Garfield Barwick, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, informed me that a symposium held on 3rd May 1969 and sponsored by the Foundation had resolved that it be recommended to the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments that they collaborate in setting up a joint advisory body or commission in respect of the Great Barrier Reef with certain terms of reference.

(2)   By the above letter of 2nd June 1969.

(3)   The particular question was only one part of the Question on Notice of 10th September 1969 which raised matters which were under consideration by the Commonwealth Government at the time. This was indicated in my answer to the question without notice by the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition on 9th September 1969 (page 927 of Hansard).

(4)   On 29th January 1970 I issued a press statement on a conference which had been held between the Premier of Queensland and myself at which we had agreed to set up an Inquiry into the risk of damage to the Great Barrier Reef from drilling for petroleum. On 9th April 1970 1 wrote to Sir Garfield Barwick informing him of progress on the matters he wrote to me about on 2nd June 1969. On Sui May 1970 I made a statement in the House on the setting up of Commonwealth and Queensland Royal Commissions to inquire into the petroleum drilling aspects of the Great Barrier Reef.

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