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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 2266

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - It surprises me that any Government supporter, particularly the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar), would dare to rise in this House and talk about conservation when he has been a party to a campaign in Indo-China to eradicate almost three-fifths of its land area of timber. I take this opportunity to remind the honourable member how shockingly lacking he can be in this regard. In addition I remind the House of the stupidity of the Government and of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in attempting to introduce into this House a proposal to impose a tax on the use of liquid petroleum gas in motor vehicles. That proposal was very hastily withdrawn. The Government withdrew it because it knew of a decision on this side of the House to oppose it during the Budget debate. How unconcerned must this Government lie when it seeks to impose a tax on what can be regarded, in comparison with other petroleum products used in motor %'ehicles. as a comparatively non-pollutant fuel. So much for the Government's hypocrisy in regard to that. 1 will waste no more time on that.

The honourable member for Warringah, who has hurriedly left the chamber, spoke about exhaust emission. How many Government supporters have stood in this place and have said, as a guide to transport companies and transport pool operators, that this Government would operate government motor cars and government transport vehicles with liquid petroleum gas? lt has not done so. Government supporters have woken up to the environment in the last few short weeks and they are falling damn short of what their responsibilities ought to be in regard to this matter. The Minister for the Army (Mr Katter), who is attempting to interject, does nothing in administering his portfolio to ensure that certain near city areas are given back to local authorities in the interests of the people, and in the interests of environment and recreational facilities. They should hand them back to the local councils which can make good use of them on behalf of the people. This Government has no use for them in this day and age for retraining purposes.

How much attention is the Minister for the Army paying to the Woodside area in South Australia and the Hills freeway where land is now being made available to every speculator across the Commonwealth and indeed to overseas speculators who are running rampant through the area offering all sorts of inflated prices for farm land adjacent to the very area to which the Minister will perhaps in the next few short weeks have to pay some regard. He should not sit in this place and think that he can make snide remarks when somebody is on his feet, thinking that that person may not have some knowledge of the situation. What he ought to be doing as a Minister is to stand in this place and say what ought to be said in the interests of the community.

Most of us are conscious that the world today faces a number of major problems which appear almost insoluble. The most important of these problems is the environmental crisis. This threat to the life support system of the earth is more apparent to those suffering from its effects already but is nonetheless shared by us all. In the developed nations it may manifest itself in emphysema, lung cancer, heavy metal poisoning, mental illness or by our increasing dependence on hazardous and potentially dangerous chemical sprays used in food production. In the under-developed nations environmental stress becomes evident earlier and shows itself in the more traditional manner through starvation and disease. It is doubtful whether the world can support over a period of time the level of industrial activity to which it is at present being subjected. Our wanton use of valuable and limited mineral and energy resources to create shoddy products of little or no real value is extremely short sighted in 1972 and will not only create animosity in the under-developed world but also will downgrade our own children's futures.

The despoilation of land is still proceeding, even in Australia, although many nations are now spending millions of dollars in land reclamation projects. A recent survey showed that unless drastic steps are taken soon almost all of the native vegetation, except that under State control, which exists within a 50 miles radius of Adelaide will be destroyed by 1980 regardless of whether the land is suitable for agriculture. A common symptom of environmental breakdown is the use of irrigation for food production, leading to increased salinity levels and the ultimate failure of crops. We all are familiar with the problems of salinity along the Murray River caused by irrigation and the intrusion of salt water into the aquafier at the

Adelaide Plains due to over-pumping. The more dependent we become upon such exercises the more we are closing our options for the future. It is up to us to recognise these and other problems and to take responsible action now.

It is imperative that action be taken at all levels of government but the most important role must be assumed by the Federal Government. There are areas in which it can act immediately and have a significant impact. For example, the vast majority of Australians live in major cities which, as a result, suffer from congestion and air pollution. In order to assist decentralisation which will help to solve this problem, the Federal Government can provide cheap land, mass transportation systems, additional finance for tertiary educational complexes and establish Commonwealth Departments at the new sites to provide employment in the early stages of development. The efforts of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation should be considerably expanded in the field of environmental conservation and the Organisation should immediately undertake the national survey of natural resources which was suggested by the National Academy of Science in 1968 and again in 1972. This should be paralleled by the removal of income tax incentives for the clearing of indigenous vegetation and the provision of incentives for its retention. The Commonwealth should provide funds for the management of national parks in States and should assist with the purchase of important wildlife habitats. It should provide a subsidy to allow the States to remove stock from marginal areas, such as the north Flinders Ranges, and assist in the destruction of introduced pests which are now in that area.

One subject which is of particular interest to me and one which the laughing honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) may remember I have raised, is the open space and Hills face zone in the Adelaide Hills area in the Federal electorate of Sturt. There are local problems which require Federal assistance if we are to provide a worthwhile environment. The State Government is restricting development in the Hills face zone of both urban and extractive industry and the Australian Labor

Party's shadow Minister for the Environment, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), has promised that the Australian Labor Party would, when elected, give assistance to the purchase of major portions of the Hills face zone and thus provide recreational land and preserve this vital backdrop to the city. A fund has also been established by the State Government to allow quarry site restoration and the planting of trees. There are many areas of land in Adelaide at present which will almost inevitably be built on because insufficient funds are available to enable them to be purchased as recreational land. Two such areas are Craigburn and Penfold's vineyards. I have made vigorous attemps to frustrate the alienation of Penfolds and believe that other vineyards should be retained. I will work to achieve this.

At present our pattern of industrial development is capable of generating goods in excess of our reasonable personal requirements and this has resulted in the widespead introduction of gimmickry and deliberate obsolescence. The problem of distribution of resources is now being recognised and elementary arithmetic shows that there are insufficient materials in the world to provide the underdeveloped nations with a standard of living equivalent to our own. Because of this and other problems, goods will have to meet much higher standards of durability than heretofore. It is evident that with the introduction of automation and mechanisation fewer people will be required in the production of goods. Consequently more and more of us will become involved in one kind of service industry or other. We look forward in this respect to a shorter working week. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has had plenty to say to straighten the twisted and tormented minds of members of the Government parties on this matter. Australia cannot ignore the greatest single problem facing the world today - over-population - and it is a problem in respect of which there has to be international understanding rather than countries saying that they have no problems simply because their problems are not the same as the problems faced by India, Pakistan and other nations.

The 10 minutes allowed each honourable member in this debate is not sufficient even to scratch the surface of this matter and the Government's action in restricting the debate to 10 minutes for each speaker is indicative of its attitude to important matters such as this.

Mr Giles - It is not the Government and you know it.

Mr FOSTER - The honourable member for Angas who interjects so much should realise that the area which he represents in this Parliament is being denuded of vegetation, it is an area which should never have had a plough, harrow or pick put into it for so-called agricultural development because since it was opened up about SO years ago farmers have had to exist on a pittance, lt is no good the honourable member saying that he does not have to recognise certain factors, such as salination, in his electorate. But be that as it may, his thinking has never changed and is never likely to change.

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