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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 948


Mr BARRY JONES (Minister for Science and Technology)(9.45) —On behalf of my colleague the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh), I want to respond to some matters raised in this debate on the estimates for his Department. The honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey) referred to the water supply. That is common ground, and nobody will disagree with him about the importance of the provision of an adequate water supply. The honourable member raised the Agaton project in particular which he said was responsible for providing water for 660,000 hectares in the area north of the gold fields. That was a matter for detailed negotiation with the States, and the Harding Dam received a high priority. With the very severe constraints in the current Budget , assistance to the States had basically to be limited to on-going projects. The Harding Dam project is an on-going project, which could not just be left, whereas the Agaton project is a new project.

The distressing thing-perhaps the only one-about making the transition from opposition to government is the realisation that one must make agonising choices not between good and bad projects-that is easy-but between good and good projects, when one of two rival projects, both of which have considerable merits , must be postponed.

The honourable member for Lowe (Mr Maher) referred to the medical cyclatron. The honourable member made a very broad ranging speech in which the affairs of his electorate were not mentioned. The honourable member is very widely travelled, travelling not just between Concorde, the airport and Canberra. There is considerable interest in the prospect of having a medical cyclatron. A feasibility study is to be undertaken, involving the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Health, some other departments and, perhaps, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The important thing about the medical cyclatron is that it produces products that are used in nuclear medicine-isotopes which have a very short life before they decay. If a patient is to be treated it is not as though one can get the isotopes, pack them and then fly them off to some part. The patient must be right next to the cyclatron to get the benefit or, because of the decay in radioactivity the isotope will not have the same beneficial effect on the patient. That project is being considered. It is not something that can be rushed into. The point has been well and correctly taken that the only continents that do not have a cyclatron of that nature are Australia and the Antarctic.

The remarks made by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Hollis) have been essentially dealt with by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen). I wanted, however, to take up a matter that related to a point made by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran). The honourable member is not in the chamber at the moment. We must recognise that there is a changing concept of what we mean by resource. Australians have a long tradition of thinking of resources as essentially things that are dug up and shipped out in huge volumes.

The point that was made correctly by the honourable member for Gippsland and acknowledged by the Deputy Prime Minister is that there has been a fundamental shift in international trading patterns. The kinds of things that we are good producing in high volumes are now in oversupply and there is a diversification of suppliers. The greatest expansion in international trade has occurred in those products that we are not very good at producing-at least, not yet. I give as an example my Japanese watch, which is now aging. I think I bought it in the company of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar). On looking at such a watch, one finds that there is probably a quite significant Australian contribution to the physical resources used in its making. After all, the watch consists of iron ore, sand, quartz, copper and some trace elements, but it would probably be a gross overestimate to say that the value of the raw materials is 5c. Let us say that the watch is worth $100. If the value of the raw materials we provide is 5c but the finished product is worth $100, of course there is a differentiation of 2000:1. The Japanese put in the design skills, the software, the engineering and the micro-electronics, and we pay for it. Even if they say: 'We will not charge you for the 5c contribution you make by way of raw material' , there is still an enormous discrepancy between the value of what they put into it, the skills, and what we put into it. The result is that we really need to put much more emphasis on developing the little grey cells.

Proposed expenditures agreed to.

Department of Transport

Proposed expenditure. $198,234,000.

Department of Aviation

Proposed expenditure, $441,256,000.