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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2441

Mr BONNETT (Herbert) - What 1 have to say tonight might be regarded as a little controversial in some quarters. But I have a little feeling in regard to the environment. It comes from a study made over the last few years. Within those years I have realised that the people of the world have become increasingly conscious of the environment in which they live and are attempting to ensure that it is a healthy environment for themselves and future generations. Within the last 20 to 25 years the progress in industry and communications and the increase in the number of city dwellers have created a situation in which man has to take a quick, serious look at the environmental problems which he has created and is still creating and which have certainly been to bis own detriment.

To me, the term 'environment' covers many things which affect our daily lives. They include air pollution, noise pollution, water pollution and food pollution to name just a few - all of which have developed into a major health hazard. For instance, the very air we breath is becoming polluted by the gases and fumes from industry and vehicles in closely settled areas to such an extent that it must be injurious to the health of our population. The extensive use of detergents and pesticides also plays no small part in assisting to create this health hazard. Science teaches us that abundant foliage is necessary to maintain the oxygen content of the air we breath. Yet we have systematically destroyed acres and acres of this growth in order to replace it with dwellings and buildings to increase the size of our cities. Had we been aware of the danger we faced by polluting our environment, this could have been avoided. But 1 feel that it is still not too late. Fortunately, we in Australia are in the position of being able to learn from the mistakes made by other countries and we still have time to plan our living environment accordingly.

Recently 1 read that authorities in the city of Kokyo in Japan have decreed that school children will spend a week of their school year studying away from the city in order that they may experience the breathing of clean, pure air. This, to me, is a shocking state of affairs and one to which I hope our children will never be subjected. We are in the fortunate position that, if we start our planning immediately, this situation may never need to arise in Australia. It will take a tremendous amount of planning, foresight and money.

But, to my mind, it must be undertaken as soon as possible if we are to provide the solution to this major problem which, let us face it, will take years to implement.

This has been a controversial matter at many meetings I have attended; but I still stick to my idea, which is this: Major centres should be established outside cities, instead of increasing the populations of our cities, with the green belts being allowed to remain in and around these centres. Within the districts areas should be set aside for industry and planned in such a manner that there is no atmospheric pollution. This is not impossible; it is something which can be done. Methods for the destruction of waste in these towns or centres, call them what you wish, would have to be devised in order to avoid contamination of water and food supplies. Again, it is not a hard task to overcome this problem. I would rather see half a dozen major centres with a healthy environment free from pollution than one major city complete with every known hazard to the health of the population.

It may be argued that economics dictate the growth of a city. It may be argued that instead of the establishment of a number of towns we have to put all the development into the one centre for economic reasons. But when one sees the evidence of the dangers that are created by pollution in a closely settled city which has been allowed to grow haphazardly - and this is what has happened in every major city in Australia - with no thought at all having been given to the environment, this argument becomes so much rubbish. These problems can be overcome. Engineering technology today with regard to rapid communications between seaport and major centres could do much to overcome the objection on economic grounds. I will not tolerate the argument that we must have a closely settled area close to a seaport because of economics. We have centres in northern Queensland 50 or 70 miles from a major seaport which are still progressing in their contribution to the Australian economy, and the same can be the case in the major cities in the south as well. We are extremely fortunate in that the areas in which we have established these centres still contain plenty of room for expansion.

I believe also that the establishment of national parks and reserves close to these centres for the preservation of our native flora and fauna and for the use of the people is a necessity. There must be some place where people can go to gel out of the concrete jungle and breathe a little of the pure clean air that is our heritage. We are lucky in that we have the greatest collection of unique flora and fauna in the world, and this should be preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of our own people and visitors. Yet it would appear in many instances that we are determined to destroy this also. Some of my colleagues on the other side of the House who are members of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation, which deals with the preservation and conservation of wildlife, have seen this happening. We appear to be determined to destroy our unique flora and fauna to build cities and dwellings. We destroy the flora and force the fauna out of the area. This should not happen. We should be able to enjoy them because they belong to us.

We have the personnel capable of planning such centres and we have the personnel capable of establishing what is needed in them. As I said before we have the areas in which this development can take place; we now have a Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts; the Minister for the Environment (Mr Howson) is currently the Minister at the table. 1 do not see why investigations and feasibility studies for the establishment of these centres along the lines I have suggested, instead of allowing the major cities to become choked, should not be instituted immediately. Let us face the fact that it would be a long, hard and arduous task, but there is no doubt that it must be done in order to preserve our environment and to prevent these centres being allowed to grow in a haphazard fashion. In this way sensible and economic planning can be undertaken so that the best possible results for the preservation and maintenance of the environment can be achieved. We are in the fortunate position that this can be done. We can learn lessons from the mistakes made by other countries. We are still able to do this, if we grasp the nettle and have the guts to do this. It may take a lot of money. This I do not mind. What is money if it means the preservation of our environment for ourselves and for future generations? It can be done. I notice that the Queensland Government has issued instructions to industries to make arrangements to avoid pollution of rivers, streams and land by waste matter.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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