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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1951

Senator BOSWELL(4.12) —I rise to make a few remarks on the question of surveillance. There is no doubt in my mind that the Government has downgraded surveillance, particularly in the area of the Great Barrier Reef. Surveillance has been downgraded from 1,400 hours to 1,200 hours. The radar used for the surveillance has been downgraded. I have asked a number of questions of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) as Minister representing the Minister for Transport and I have asked questions in Estimates Committee E on this matter. It appeared to me that no one in the Government knew why the downgrading had taken place. I must have asked 12 or 14 questions. Departmental officers replied that it was a matter for the Department of Transport because it was responsible for charter arrangements and had made the charter arrangements previously. It might have made the charter arrangements previously but this matter has been transferred to the Department of the Special Minister of State.

A number of questions need to be answered in this area. Firstly, why was the contract taken away from AireSearch Pty Ltd and awarded to Skywest Airlines Pty Ltd-a Western Australian company-without any tenders being called and with no specifications being given? It is a disgrace that a contract can be summarily taken away from one company and given to another with no tenders being called. To my knowledge-and as far as I can ascertain from all other sources of knowledge-the radar that Skywest has installed is inferior to the 360 degree radar in the Nomad Searchmaster plane. The radar is ineffective for a number of reasons. The radar that the AireSearch plane is presently using has a 360 degree scan target, with a range of 140 miles. It can give the exact position of contact, range and bearing by digital readout. It can track multiple targets without heading variations. It has a 1,000 kilowatt power effect, roll stabilisation, tracking skills and possible angles of 45 degree bank. It is approved for night time search. An independent source estimates that the Skymaster search radar with 360 degree range costs $6,060 per 2,700 square miles whereas the side looking aerial radar costs $6425 per 2,700 square miles.

The radar that has been lost through the contract being taken away from AireSearch was capable of searching at night. The plane was capable of flying at night. It had an arrest record of, I think, 14 Taiwanese clam boats. It had a wonderful record of search and rescue. I can obtain no reason from the Minister, from the Estimates Committee or even Senator Gietzelt why this contract was taken away.

As I said before, I believe this Government has a lot to answer for on this subject. I notice that my time is running out. I hope that the Minister opposite , Senator Gietzelt, can lay some light on this subject. People in Queensland, such as those in the professional fishing industry, are terribly worried. I ask the Government to put the same effort into the Great Barrier Reef as it did into the South West Tasmanian wilderness.

Question resolved in the affirmative.