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Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Page: 1808

Senator WEST(1.57 p.m.) —I rise today to bring to people's attention what is happening within some specialist sections of the Public Service. In particular, I refer to the provision of services to mining companies in this community, to the regional areas that they service and to the effects of this on the Australian Geological Survey Organisation, otherwise known as AGSO.

Senator Sherry —A very important body.

Senator WEST —You are right, Senator Sherry; it is very important. An article from the New Scientist dated 1 June says:

It is the latest casualty of the government's aim to slash expenditure on public sector science.

A paper distributed to staff at a meeting on 13 May said the AGSO budget is likely to be reduced from this year's $55.5 million to $37.8 million in 1997-98. That is a budget cut of more than 30 per cent over the next two years.

This means that somewhere between 102 and 132 staff will be losing their jobs, and these are the scientists that are involved in the geological mapping of this country.

An article from a newspaper last Sunday in New South Wales outlined the benefits that are going to accrue to this country from a Newcrest mine at Cadia near Orange. I understand that Newcrest were encouraged to look further in this area at Cadia because of the geological mapping. They have found one of the richest gold deposits in this country. This will do not only wonderful things for the Australian balances of payment and trade but also wonderful things in the local area in terms of employment and infrastructure, and in general boosting morale in country areas.

Of course, that is not the only mine that has been discovered as a result of this geological mapping survey by AGSO, in cooperation with the states. It is very important and I think it is a thing that we can ill-afford to lose. I draw attention to an article that appeared in the Australian on Monday, 3 June, which said:

Strong protests over the cuts have been lodged by mineral firms including Mount Isa Mines, Normandy Exploration, Equinox Resources, Cable Sands, Orion Resources and Paladin Resources.

They warned Australia was still extensively unmapped and unexplored in geological terms, and cuts of the order envisaged would deter future mineral exploration and send many companies offshore.

This is what this government is doing to the minerals and mining industry in this country. It is encouraging the industry to go offshore because it is not doing anything to enhance this country's base knowledge, which is necessary for mineral and mining companies to undertake research and further exploration. The government is to be condemned for this. I will continue to pursue this issue because it is vitally important.