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Thursday, 8 March 1984
Page: 642

Senator WATSON(4.27) —I wish to support the remarks made by Senator Coates. Although he and I are on opposite sides of the chamber, we both come from Tasmania and have common interests in the welfare of that State. I support his remarks about the low level of Commonwealth involvement, particularly from the defence forces, in infrastructure and personnel in that State. So the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Commonwealth Laboratories should be deplored by all Tasmanians. Earlier I commented publicly in support of my colleague the honourable member for Bass, Mr Newman, whose constituency covers the Scottsdale area, where one of the recommendations is to take effect. The transfer of the laboratory would have a detrimental impact on the Scottsdale community. The personnel in that establishment have developed a world-wide expertise in the area of the preservation of food. Its techniques have been adopted by the Australian Army in a great number of cases.

We often criticise the fact that only a low level of research and technology has taken place in Australia. Associated with that criticism we say that research and development in the laboratories, et cetera, should be where the operative manufacturing takes place. We have a food processing company in Scottsdale. So it is highly desirable that the Commonwealth laboratory specialising in the preserving of food for a long time, the manner in which that food is packed and carried, the nutritional value and all the associated matters be located in an environment which has not only a high level of expertise but also is cost efficient. So often we find when we centralise all these sorts of things that there is a lack of dedication and specialisation and sometimes other areas which happen to be popular at the time get prominence. A fairly low level of priority is given at the moment to defence and related matters. I hope that is not a reason behind the Committee's recommendations for the transfer of the laboratory and the unit out of Scottsdale.

We must encourage specialised institutions which are close to the area of activity. I believe this is in conformity with the view of the current Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones). I might be wrong, but I have read a lot of his papers and he seems to subscribe to the theory that we should encourage science and technology and that this should be done essentially at the place where the main activity is carried out. I hope we will get a wide level of support from Tasmanians in this place. I know the Minister for Social Security ( Senator Grimes) has publicly supported the need for the maintenance of this particular unit in Scottsdale. I also support the continuation of the other laboratories and centres in Hobart. After all, we are trying to develop a high level of expertise at the Antarctic Division laboratories in Kingston. Such a closure of facilities would have a detrimental impact on the whole concept of trying to decentralise some of the activities of the Commonwealth.