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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2314

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - I should like to give an indication of where the figure of $155,000 came from. As the Minister stated, it does include the rental, which he has indicated was $25,000. The figure of $155,000 was provided in the estimates for the Department to cover the cost of running that office for 1973-74. The cost of running that office includes rental, cleaning, services and the staff that runs that office.

Senator Wright - And salaries?

Senator GEORGES - Yes, the salaries of the office staff. The statement was made that the office cost would be $155,000. Without proving the Minister incorrect, the $155,000 as stated is the figure for the cost of running the office, including the rental and other matters. I make the point that this amount was estimated not only on the basis of running the turtle farms. Honourable senators must realise that $700,000 is the estimate or budgetary provision for running Applied Ecology, which is responsible not only for turtle farms in the Torres Strait but also for crocodile farms in the Cape York Peninsula area near Edward River, and also projects at Mornington Island, One Arm Point in Western Australia, and in the Territory. In order that the Senate may clearly understand the position, I point out that $700,000 is an allocation not only for turtle farming but also for other projects associated with Applied Ecology.

The step taken by the Government was clearly to cut the estimate suggested by the Department from some $1.1 4m- the figure seems to varyfrom over $lm to $700,000. By its decisions to appoint people to Applied Ecology Pty Limited in particular, the Government was able to cut down on the heavy administrative cost that was anticipated. So that even the $ 1 55,000 estimate of the cost of running the Applied Ecology office at Woden is to be cut by two-thirds by reduction of staff that has occurred through resignation and by reduction in the area of space from 2,600 square feet to 800 square feet for the time being. I make it clear to the Senate that when it became obvious to the Government and the Minister that all was not in order these decisions were made to reduce heavy administrative costs to a reasonable level. I did not enter into the Estimates debate on this Department earlier because of a limit on time, though I had researched all the information that I needed. I have endeavoured to correct some inaccuracies in figures and material given to the Senate. I am now satisfied that the decisions that have been taken and will be taken in connection with Applied Ecology- I am not talking about the other associated companies which are in a state of suspension at the present time- will correct the situation and keep within the allocation of $700,000 the expenditure on all projects, including crocodile and turtle farming and other associated projects.

Senator Little - Will that include the purchase of the turtles?

Senator GEORGES - Yes. This will be necessary because of some of the unsatisfactory projects at Mornington Island, Borgu Island, the Northern Territory and north-western Australia.

Senator Little - What about the worm infestation?

Senator GEORGES -That is a problem that is being solved. We should have been aware of it much earlier. We are now phasing out the unsatisfactory projects and considerably reducing expenditure. By doing this, we feel that while keeping within the allocation of $700,000 we can maintain the operations in the interests of the Islanders and Aborigines, who have been led to expect certain things. I think it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that those who have been involved in the project, especially the indigenous people, should not be disadvantaged; and it is to this end that we are directing all our attention. Decisions that are being made will be influenced by the reports that the Government is receiving, especially the CarrMainSmart report and the Jenkins report. I assure the Senate that at this stage I feel confident that within the Budget allocation the necessary corrections will be made.

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