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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2459

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - In speaking to the estimates for the Department of the Environment and Conservation I, like previous speakers, have no desire to attack the Government on this issue. An examination of the proposed expenditure of $1,729,000 this year as compared with the appropriation of $778,700 last year indicates that the Government is increasing its muscle in this field. I believe that more money, thought and action must be devoted to the conservation of our forests and our water resources and to protection of the environment which is most important from every point of view. Conservation, at its simplest, means the wise use of resources. The environment and, in particular, the countryside hold resources capable of many uses for agriculture and forestry, for water catchment purposes, for mineral workings, for settlement and, increasingly, for outdoor recreation. At the same time the rural environment is valued in a less tangible way for the culture and history of its community, for its wildlife, for the beauty of landscapes and, in some areas, for its remoteness. Environmental conservation is therefore concerned both with the quantity and quality of many different resources.

Conservation of land for agriculture, for forestry or for leisure alone may not be in the best interests of environmental conservation as a whole which aims to harmonise all resources with the minimum of conflict. For example, wildlife cannot be conserved simply by the establishment of nature reserves. It is against this complexity of rural land use that the advantage and disadvantage of leisure activity must be seen. Increasing urban development, which destroys the countryside, is associated with increasing leisure activity. The visual effects of and pollution from industry and towns in the country side and on the coast are often damaging to leisure interests while the characteristic pollutants of leisure - litter, noise and vehicle exhaust fumes - cause problems for other resource uses. There are also many conflicts between modern agriculture and forestry and leisure activity.

In 1971 it was my good fortune to accompany overseas a parliamentary delegation from the Federal Parliament. In our travels we were the guests in Great Britain of a pollution and environmental experimental station some miles Out. of London. There we were able to see at first hand the attack that has been made in Great Britain on pollution and methods of controlling pollution. I should like to see set up in Australia a similar experimental station on an Australian Government basis in complete co-operation with the States making every Tort to control this menace which is causing great concern in Australia. At the British experimental station we saw methods of breaking up oil slicks, a matter with which we arc daily concerned in Australia. In tonight'^ P:es' under the heading 'Reef birds - oil threat' there is a report of a giant oil slick sweeping towards the Barrier Reef and menacing two of north Queensland's biggest bird sanctuaries. We often see such reports relating to our sea coast, our rivers and our beaches. We must make every effort to stop this pollution which is causing considerable trouble. In Great Britain the Government has co-operated with the major oil companies, which provide ships, and ways and means have been devised by which oil slicks can quickly be broken up, thus alleviating the difficulties which follow from them.

Contamination of rivers is another problem. The emptying of waste into our valuable river systems has caused great concern. We often read about oysters in our rivers being destroyed by detergents and industrial wastes being poured into our river systems. It was an eye-opener in London to see the control that is exercised in respect of the Thames River. We saw children catching fish at the London Bridge - something which has not been seen in England for perhaps 100 years - simply because of the great control that has been exercised over the emptying of waste into this wonderful river. It is something that should be followed in Australia. We are a young country and we can profit from the experiences and problems of overseas countries. We also witnessed in England the treatment of sewage. While I have no desire to drink water that has passed through a treatment plant, an engineer in charge of one of the pollution and environmental stations was quite happy to drink the water that had passed through the London sewers and had been treated in the London system. This is another aspect that we must look at.

I was a keen surfer in my younger days and I was shocked to see the sewage pollution at lovely Bondi Beach and further down the coast while flying to Canberra today. It is a tragedy to see this raw sewage being emptied into the sea and polluting the finest beaches in the world. We as Australians should be ashamed to see this taking place. Let us hope that the State governments and the Government in Canberra co-operate to end this dreadful scene which members of Parliament can observe if their plane happens to fly over the sea near Sydney. This problem can be eradicated by putting some more muscle into pollution control and by giving the Minister for Environment and Conservation more finance to enable him to work in co-operation with the States so that this dreadful raw sewage is stopped from entering our coast and desecrating the lovely beaches about which I have spoken.

The electorate of Paterson covers 187 miles of the New England Highway. The pollution by diesel trucks on our main highways in this country is shameful. If one is driving a nice clean car and passes a diesel truck with faulty atomisation, at the next town the car is covered with carbon. This filthy pollution could be stopped if some control were placed on the users of the diesel vehicles to see that the atomisation is in first class order and is not belching raw fuel into the atmosphere, contaminating those who have the misfortune to be driving in the vicinity or to have contact with the fumes. I feel we should be making every effort to devise ways and means to ensure that the atomisation is in first class order and that the pollution is stopped. This has been achieved in Great Britain. Controls are placed on vehicles there. In the week when I was in London I did not see very much pollution coming from road vehicles but in Australia it seems to be allowed to go on.

The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) said that we should be looking at the methods which are being adopted overseas to find ways and means of combating these problems. The honourable member for McKellar (Mr Wentworth) said that pollution and environmental control has mainly been in the hands of the States. This is true but I feel that the Minister for Environment and Conservation will agree that we should be using our best endeavours to co-operate with the States to do whatever we can to improve our environment and to eliminate pollution.

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