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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2464

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - Thank you, Mr Chairman. I did not wish to be discourteous. However, I believe I must add a comment to the reply which was made by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) when he introduced the recent report of the committee appointed by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments on the problem of the crown of thorns starfish. Let me make the point that although we are not quite certain what has caused the crown of thorns infestation and we are not quite certain whether it is a man-made epidemic or a cyclic epidemic, it would be to the disadvantage of us all and to the disadvantage of the future of the Great Barrier Reef if we were deliberately to play down the level of this threat. One of the unfortunate parts of the recent recommendation is that it did play down the threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Since the report has been tabled comments have been made and I direct the attention of honourable senators to them. The report effectively stopped and in other ways affected the plans of various organisations which desire to do something immediately about the crown of thorns threat. Mr Walt Deas, who is a very distinguished underwater photographer and researcher said:

I personally do not agree with the joint CommonwealthQueensland report. With many months of working up on the Reef during the past 2 years, one soon finds out-

Senator Wright - I rise on a point of order. I have no objection to the honourable senator briefly making a rejoinder on a report which has been referred to. But this report is not the subject of the Committee's consideration. The Committee's consideration is directed to the terms of the Bill. I ask that the honourable senator keep within the relevance of the matter before us.

The CHAIRMAN - I uphold the objection. The honourable senator is required in the Committee stage of the Bill to address himself to the terms of the clauses of the Bill.

Senator GEORGES - Yes. I wish to be brief and there are only a few more lines which I wish to read. In effect the material was introduced by the Minister in his second reading speech.

The CHAIRMAN - We are not now discussing the Minister's second reading speech.

Senator GEORGES - Mr Chairman,if I cannot make these remarks during the Committee stage I will have to speak at the third reading stage. I do not desire to do this. Therefore, if you would give me just a few moments I will merely read what I desire to read. Mr Deas said:

With many months of working up on the Reef during the past 2 years, one soon finds out that various reefs have had extensive damage caused by the Starfish.

I would also like to place on record very quickly the following extract from Mr Deas' article. It states:

The latest report by Professor A. K. 0'Gower Professor of Zoology, University of NSW, Miss Isobel Bennett, Sydney University and Dr D. F. McMichael, Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Services of NSW states that systematic sampling by Dr Endean is 'adequate . . .

This was even though the committee refused to accept his evidence as valid. The article to which I am referring further said:

The findings of the Commonwealth/Qld Committee 'was based on its interpretation of the evidence presented to it and not upon its own inadequate sampling.' These 3 Australian scientists all specialists in marine life have rejected the findings of the above Committee which declared the Crown of Thorns Starfish was not a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef.

I introduce this as a rebuttal of what the Minister has said and I ask the Senate to take note of it.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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