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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 2276

Mr BONNETT (Herbert) - This afternoon I intend to confine my remarks in the debate, on these estimates to the matter of the environment. It is a rather intriguing study which I have commenced just recently, and to me it is becoming increasingly important. Perhaps one of the most significant national developments during the 1960s was the widespread realisation by the public that the quality of the environment in which we live is declining, that the air and waters around us are becoming increasingly polluted and that much of the land upon which more and more of us live, is becoming increasingly congested with mounting burdens of waste disposal and with growing social problems. This awareness gave rise to a deepening public concern for the protection of our natural resources and for the acknowledgement of our social obligations and to an insistence that some action be taken to reverse these, processes of deterioration.

The responsibility for what has taken place over a. long period of time rests with many men in many places. If one wants to be with it these days the. terms to know and use in daily conversation are 'conservation', 'pollution' and 'ecology of the environment'. Hardly a day goes past in our lives when these words do not appear in the Press, over the radio or other news media. But to know how to use these words and the meaning of them one must first define them. The definition of 'conservation' is 'a preserving from harm or decay, protecting from loss or being used up'. We naturally think in terms of conserving our flora and fauna. In preserving these we also preserve our national heritage, our way of life and the rights of every person in this land to enjoy the beauty of the scenery, the landscape and the natural habitat. We all own these. We all have a stake in these, things and we have a responsibility towards them.

The next word to define is 'pollution'. This is defined as 'destroying the purity or sanctity of or making foul or filthy', Immediately we think in terms of pollution of water, air and soil. But we, the humans in this world, are also responsible, for polluting the atmosphere with noise. I am told that the level of noise in some of our cities regularly exceeds 85 decibels. I am also told that this is a level widely regarded by doctors as causing severe hearing difficulties. Some of us are also responsible for polluting our minds with pornographic literature and twisting our minds physically and mentally by the use of drugs.

The ecology of the environment embraces all forms of life and its natural surroundings. It is the study of environments and the interdependence of life that exists in those environments. Some of us may have taken a course in science and will remember the long hours of work over some science project where diagrams were drawn to explain how the plants grew, how the cows ate the plants, how the men ate the cows, and how what was finally left was returned to the plants. This was a simple process which we all understand. But today, with the tremendous increase in scientific knowledge, things are not so simple because the value of this scientific knowledge gained is either not being passed on to the people or, where it is passed on, many of us tend to disregard it. The pace of life which we live nowadays has increased alarmingly. For the great majority of people the tendency is to look for the easy way out for themselves regardless of how it affects somebody else.

Another factor which is becoming an increasing problem in our environment is the population increase throughout the world. Everywhere one sees evidence of a lack of planning for an increase in population. I call it a lack of planning because it has brought us the major problems of increased crime, vandalism, riots, aud an increase in alcoholism and drug addiction, an increase in emotional and mental disorders and an increase in unemployment, welfare dependency and poverty. I reemphasise the word 'planning' in relation to the future growth of this country, because as our population increases the people must be housed, fed, entertained and gainfully employed. It is not just a case of desiring increased population because the accepted view is that our country is underpopulated. If we as a country are to become a world power with a strong voice in the management of world affairs we must improve the efficiency of the economy we already have and want, and we must make better use of what we possess. I believe that the size and affluence of a country are not pre-requisites for greatness and progress.

I have mentioned the concern that is evident regarding conservation, pollution and the envirionment. But who is to blame and who will accept responsibility for the situation? We have quite a number of socalled leaders today who persuade people to march through our towns and cities waving banners to declare their right';, privileges and freedoms as individuals. But how many gatherings of the people and marches have we had in this country that are organised to declare an individual's responsibility to his country, his family and perhaps his fellow citizens? I can think of only one, and that takes place every Anzac Day. These people who gather and march in protests and demonstrations against pollution blame everything from government and politicians to big business and advances in technology. They tura on a tremendous show of public sentiment. Everybody has a good day. They finish up tired and happily worn out. They have enjoyed the party. Then they all go home, and the pollution continues.

I ask again: Who is to blame and who will accept the responsibility for this situation? The answer to this question, as I sen it, is you and I - every person, every single human being. It is not government or big business that is responsible for the destruction of our wildlife and flora which should be preserved. Government and big business are not to blame for the cruelty, apathy, sadistic rowdyism and disregard for the feelings of one's neighbours that we see reported in the Press every day. The answer is that man alone is to blame. Once upon a time he could always leave behind the mess he created and move on to greener pastures. Today there is no place to go, no place to run to. We have run out of green pastures. Therefore, I think it is of extreme importance to our future generations that we as a people do something to conserve our environment, whether we do it individually or collectively.

In the Book of Genesis we are reminded of this. It says that God created man in his own image and gave him dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, the cattle and all the earth; over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. He commanded that man be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it. In my opinion man has done just that. He has followed out these orders implicitly. But in doing so he is well on the way to destroying the only home he knows. We must learn that the conservation of our environment must be a joint venture between man and nature if we are to hand our country and our way of life over to future generations in good order and condition. The challenge of preserving this environment may well become one of man's greatest tasks in the near future. The establishment by the Government of the Department of the Environment is a significant step forward in this direction. The recently announced intention to introduce legislation for urban and regional development is another significant step forward in planning properly for the preservation of our environment.

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