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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2448


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - Mr Acting Deputy President, I am glad to see that my friend from Queensland, Senator Georges, is wholeheartedly behind the Australian Institute of Marine Science

Bill 1972. This Bill has as its purpose the establishment of the Institute of Marine Science at Townsville in Queensland. I point out that the Australian continent has a coastline of 12,000 miles. The sea is of immense importance to us in very many ways. The position of Australia is unique in that it is the only country on earth which occupies the whole of a continent completely surrounded by the sea. This makes the sea even more important to Australia.

In his second reading speech, when speaking on the establishment of this Institute of Marine Science, the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) referred to the term 'marine science' in this way: li covers a vast field ranging from biological studies in the littoral zone through to the deep waters beyond the continental shelf; from physical studies of the bays and estuarine waters to the deep ocean and the sea floor.

There is a great deal that we do not know about marine research. One vast field open for study is that of ocean temperatures. These Vary greatly at different depths and different areas and are very much affected by tides and currents. There is a vast amount that we still do not know about the marine life around our shores and the-


Senator Keeffe - There is a vast amount that you do not know about politics too.


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I suggest that Senator Keeffe will be able to make his own speech later on. There is a great deal that we do not know about the food on which fish and other marine creatures feed. We do not know what future effects may arise from any upset in the balance of nature that we may cause. An important implication of the establishment of this Institute is that it will research the possibility of food from marine sources being used to feed future generations of the human race. It may be that when we reach the limit of production on the land the sea will be able to provide a considerable quantity of food for the survival of mankind.

Another point made by the Minister in his second reading speech concerns the provision of a boat for the Institute. The Minister referred to a boat of approximately 80 feet in length and said that the Government was considering the acquisi tion of a boat of 120 feet in length. I think it would be a pity to impair the research undertaken by this Institute by equipping it with a smaller boat. 1 think the boat should be as big as this Government can afford and we should give all the help that we can to the Institute.


Senator Wood - A small boat may be more useful in getting into and out of reef inlets.


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - It may be more useful in some places but it would have to be seaworthy and be able to stand up to pretty rough weather. There has been some criticism of the selection of Townsville as the site for this Institute because of the possibility of pollution of the water by the nickel refinery. The selection of Townsville as the site was, I am told, influenced by many other matters than the availability of seawater close at hand. If an aquarium has to be established there is no absolute necessity for it to be at the site of the Institute at Cape Pallarenda, near Townsville. The selection of Townsville as the site was influenced by the need to have the land base close to a big centre of population where all essential services and facilities were available and to make it possible for the Institute to work in conjunction or co-operation with the James Cook University. There are many good reasons why we should endorse the selection of Townsville as the site for the Institute. lt was pointed out in the Minister's second reading speech and in the debate in the other place that the possible pollution of the water would not present a problem to the establishment of an aquarium because, as I said, it could be built further away. Senator Georges referred to the crown of thorns starfish. There is considerable difference of opinion in regard to recent attacks on the Reef alleged to have been made by the crown of thorns starfish.


Senator Keeffe - What do you mean by alleged'?


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I am making this speech. Recently a man in Cairns wanted to obtain a few crown of thorns starfish for scientific research. He sent parties out to the Reef but they could not find any starfish. Another point I would like to make is that it has been suggested by some people that devastation of the coral could be caused by cyclones. This, no doubt, will be the subject of investigation. However I would like to point out one significant fact that has not been mentioned so far, and that is that the Torres Strait Islanders who have been in that area for many centuries had a word for the crown of thorns starfish, although their language is not a written language. So the starfish is not a newcomer to the Reef.


Senator Keeffe - What is the word?


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - As near as we can make it, the word is spelt ......-----, It is interesting to note that the crown of thorns starfish was known to be in the Reef area prior to European settlement.


Senator Georges - But in these numbers? That is the point.


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I think it must have been there in considerable numbers for the Islanders to have a name for it. It has also been said that this is nature's way of maintaining the balance of nature. This would be a subject for investigation. Coral spreads very rapidly if it is left alone in its natural environment.

Sitting suspended from 1.00 to 2.15 p.m.


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - Before the luncheon suspension I was talking about the crown of thorns and the growth of coral. Much investigation has to be carried on in this area. Some people say that the coral is kept under control and prevented from spreading everywhere by the crown of thorns, but there are cycles of destruction and regrowth. A cycle takes place over a long period, but the investigation has to look into this question. This is the purpose of setting up the institute. A great deal has to be learnt in this field as well as many other fields. While I am on the subject of coral, 1 would like to mention that our neighbour, New Caledonia, has the second largest coral reef area in the world; it is second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. At Noumea in New Caledonia there is a very interesting museum displaying species of coral which I have never seen before. This coral has ben extracted from very deep areas of the ocean and it cannot be exposed to light for very long periods. As I have said, a great deal has to be learnt about these areas of our marine life.

This proposed institute will be able to receive, under the provisions of the Act, endowment payments. People will be able to leave legacies to the institute, and this will help to strengthen the institute and enable it to do much more research in the future. In his second reading speech the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) said:

Our fisheries are growing in importance and are attracting international interests.

Many vessels which service the fish cannery at Pago Pago in American Samoa are fishing in the South Pacific area. I have been told that some of these vessels come into Queensland waters in the Gulf of Carpentaria and take away our tuna for canning at Pago Pago. I believe that as this institute of marine science is established we could develop along these lines. When we learn the answers to many of the current problems we will be in a position to expand greatly not only our knowledge of the marine life but also our commercial interests.

Through this research we can learn also what quantities of the various marine creatures we can take safely from the ocean. In our lifetime we have seen the decimation of the whale population. Whales are not peculiar to Australia in any sense. We have seen most of the whaling stations of the world close. Supposedly there was an international agreement in relation to the killing of whales. Apparently that agreement was not observed and the whale population has almost been decimated. We do not want that to happen to any of the species of fish which are found in the waters close to Australia. When we obtain the necessary knowledge as a result of the research carried out by the proposed Institute we will be able to ensure that it will not happen. I believe there should be liaison between this institute and other similar institutions in various parts of the world. There could be an exchange of information which would be to the benefit of mankind in the long run.


Senator Milliner - Can you get a director for that?


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I do not see any reason why we should not.


Senator Milliner - In Australia?


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I do not see any reason why we cannot. This Bill provides the framework on which can be built a research institute which will take its place among the great marine research institutes of the world. I commend the Bill to the Senate and support it wholeheartedly.







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