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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2296

Senator KILGARIFF(10.18) —The Minister has indicated that the finance for the Department of Health has been cut back. As I understand it, coastal surveillance, quarantine matters and the like do come under the Department of Health. It is very difficult to ascertain within the Budget Papers whether the same amount of money is being spent each year on coastal surveillance because it is so fragmented over the various departments. When the Minister obtains this information, will he ascertain whether coastal surveillance as a whole is being cut back? If this is the case, it is difficult to understand the reason. There has been a drive by the Federal Government this year in relation to the prevention of drug abuse. The project is called Operation Noah. I commend the authorities for previously conducting such a drive because they were able to obtain information which resulted in finding millions of dollars worth of drugs that were brought into Australia. I thought that was extremely good. I have no doubt that people who are interested in drug prevention would commend the authorities for their initiative.

The point I am making now is that a lot of drugs are brought into the country from the Golden Triangle in Indo-China. Operation Noah was to encourage the Australian community to lend its assistance to finding the smugglers and bringing about their apprehension. In view of that it is most unusual that funding for northern coastal surveillance is being cut back. The Minister has yet to confirm this. To me, that is a most serious situation. Frankly, I think that this is extremely poor economy, given the inroads that drugs are making into Australia now. As I have said, the fragmentation of budgeting for northern surveillance, which covers so many departments, causes a most difficult problem. I look to the Minister to give the chamber, Australia and me an assurance that northern surveillance is not being cut back; that it is being kept up in an efficient unit and that funds are being made available to the coastal protection unit to ensure that it operates efficiently.