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Tuesday, 9 November 1976
Page: 2489

Mr NEWMAN (Bass) (Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development) - in reply- In concluding the debate I begin by thanking at least 3 honourable members who have spoken for their contribution; that is the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), and the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). In relation to the fourth honourable member who participated, I shall dwell for a few minutes on his contribution. I do not know what to do with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). I am becoming a little bit weary of the absurdities which he produces in the House. After listening to him tonight, I do not know whether to be indignant or whether to start pitying the poor man. I do not know whether to be amused or angry. We have a Bill which attempts to widen the interest of the Federal Government. It attempts to take us into areas where we can really help the States in conservation matters. Yet hardly once- perhaps in passing, to give the man credit- did he even recognise the attempt by this Government to be constructive in the matter of conservation. As usual, he slipped back to his romanticising on past deeds, of what he and his Government did. In doing that, of course, he indulged in and displayed all his favourite prejudices and pursued his favourite task of bashing State governments or, at least, State governments which do not belong to the same political party as he does.

We really cannot tolerate this sort of approach in this place. At least, I do not think we can. I believe that sometimes there is a case for bipartisan approach. I believe there is room for positive, constructive criticism. I think there is even room -maybe I am asking too much- for people to join together to encourage conservation in this country. I have to ask myself just how genuine is this man.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! Would the Minister mind taking his seat for a moment? I remind the Minister that any reflections on the motives of an honourable member of this House are unparliamentary. I mention this matter before we get to that stage. The Minister is getting very close to it. I draw his attention to that fact.

Mr NEWMAN - I accept your warning, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I heed it, but you will understand, as I went through some of the things that were said tonight, that I became so excited, that I made the preliminary remarks in which I indulged myself. Firstly, one of the main criticisms made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition concerned funds. The Government has made it perfectly clear that although it would like to be able to fund many projects this year, it sees itself bound by fiscal responsibilities. If it is to cure inflation, the Government is necessarily bound to restrict the growth of public expenditure. Enough has been said in this House on that matter, but it needed to be reiterated tonight.

In relation to this Bill, may I say in passing that this year the Government is spending $3.3m which is more than was ever spent by the Opposition when it was in government, even though it initiated the Bill. For example, in 1974-75 an amount of $9m was appropriated but nothing was spent. In 1975-76 an amount of $ 1.8m was appropriated and approximately $1.3m was spent. I think that those things have to be kept in mind when we hear the ranting and raving of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. So much for funds; but there are some other things on which I must correct him. First of all, on the provision of funds for the National Estate, let me reiterate that it is true that this year the Government has curbed expenditure on the National Estate but the Government has made it quite clear that this is only until the Heritage Commission draws together those elements of the National Estate, or at least is well advanced in that area, which will enable the Government to rationally decide those projects in the National Estate which we will fund in future years. Secondly, in dealing with the National Estate it is interesting to compare the record which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition so proudly extolled. At least this Government can take credit for making appointments to the Heritage Commission, and for making them quickly. The previous Government had made only one appointment by November 1975 although the Act had received royal assent in June 1975. That is not a particularly good record on which to come into this House and make comparisons.

Reference has been made to Kakadu, and I should make clear where the Government stands on the dedication of this park. We cannot do anything at the moment until we have the second report of the Fox Committee because part of the job of the Committee is to help the Government define the boundaries of that national park. However, I am quite prepared to say tonight that my colleague the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) and I are working towards declaring this as a national park at the appropriate time, and nobody should doubt our motives in this matter. As for the Gudgenby national park, my colleague the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) declared this park last week. For heaven's sake, let the Deputy Leader of the Opposition get his facts straight before he comes in here making such wild, sweeping, inaccurate accusations.

There are many other things which were so badly put and so badly misrepresented by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps isolating a couple of those matters will suffice, although I repeat that he said other things which either misrepresents the situation or were inaccurate. I am under some constraint to finish so let me do so on this note: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked about the leadbeater's possum in Victoria and the ground parrot in Queensland. By introducing this Bill and by providing the ability for the Federal Government to assist the States in the management of their national parks, we will be able to help the States in the preservation of species such as those. Through the States requesting help from us the National Parks and Wildlife Service will be able to provide expertise and decent advice which will allow the States to formulate proper management policies which, in the end, will do more to preserve the sorts of species about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking than anything that the last Government tried to do under the existing Act. I could say much more but I conclude by saying that this Bill is a genuine attempt to broaden the scope of the Act in order to develop the interest of the Federal Government in helping all the States better prepare management plans for the conservation of their national parks, their fauna and their flora.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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