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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3201

Mr Jacobi asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:

(   1) Is it a fact that the problem of damage to long period structures produced by distant earthquakes has not been satisfactorily explored.

(   2 ) Is the possibility of damage to long period structures in Darwin due to earthquakes in the Banda Sea noted in the commentary (Clause C3.2) of the SAA Earthquake Code (Australian Standard 212 1-1979).

(3)   Will the Minister take steps to explore more fully this whole question, particularly with respect to possible damage in Darwin, and in view of the projected extensive engineering projects in the north-west of Western Australia to explore the possible damage to structures in this region.

(4)   Although it is not customary to provide strong motion instrumentation for structures, such as production platforms and pipelines, is information obtained about the response to these structures during an earthquake vitally important to engineers in the design of earthquake resistant structures.

(5)   Is the Minister able to state whether it is the practice in places like California for all multi-storey buildings to be provided with these instruments.

(6)   Is it a fact that detailed information of the seismicity of an area is necessary in order that seismic risk may be assessed as precisely as possible.

(7)   Is it also a fact that seismicity information can only be obtained with an adequate network of stations but that at the present time coverage in Queensland is less satisfactory than in most other parts of Australia.

(8)   Can the Minister say whether the University of Queensland plans to increase the number of stations but is unable to do so because of lack of financial support; if so, will the Commonwealth undertake to meet this additional cost.

(9)   Is the long term operation of permanent seismograph stations under the control of regional centres such as the University of Adelaide and the University of Queensland a problem because of the lack of long term funding.

(   10) If so, will the Minister investigate the present unsatisfactory nature of the arrangements for operating permanent seismograph stations in Australia and ensure that secure long term funding is available.

(11)   Are dedicated communication channels allowing recording at a central site more convenient and more satisfactory than recording separately at each of a number of isolated sites.

(12)   Is it a fact that in many instances it is essential to bring signals from a remote detector to a more accessible recorder, but that the annual rental for telephone lines for distances of hundreds of kilometres is many thousands of dollars per year; if so, will the Minister take appropriate steps to ensure that lines used for the transmission of earthquake data are available at nominal rental.

(13)   Can the Minister say whether the cost to insurance companies from damage caused by the 1954 earthquake in Adelaide (magnitude 5V4) was approximately $6m; if so, would a similar earthquake at the present time cause damage amounting to $24m.

(14)   Did an earthquake of magnitude 6Vi strike the Kingston-Beachport area of South Australia in 1897 producing ground movement more than 10 times as great as the 1954 earthquake; if so, were an earthquake of this magnitude to now occur in Adelaide, would the damage be many times in excess of $24m.

Mr Anthony -The Minister for National Development and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)   Study of the effect of distant earthquakes on long period structures is relatively new, however, awareness of this phenomenon has increased in recent years. The Commonwealth Government established its first seismic station in 1 949 and now owns or assists with the operation of 50 seismic stations in all States and the Northern Territory. These stations are located on a priority basis according to estimates of the seismic risk. Susceptible regions are provided with more stations than relatively low risk areas such as Queensland where there are three stations.

(2)   Commentary Clause C3.2 of the SAA Earthquake Code refers specifically to the need to take into account the long period effects of distant earthquakes on long period structures and Darwin is given as a case in point.

(3)   The risk to facilities constructed on or near the Northern Australian coastline due to large distant earthquakes in the Banda Sea, is less than that due to lateral forces arising from tropical cyclones which would probably dominate the design. However, further inland, where the tropical cyclone risk is diminished the effects of these distant earthquakes on long period structures may well be of practical importance.

(4)   Data on ground motion and structure response are highly desirable to assist engineers to design earthquake resistant structures and to assess whether the structures they have designed are performing in accordance with expectations.

(5)   Accelerographs are installed in all new multi-storey buildings in California but there are many high earthquake risk areas of the world where the installation of such instrumentation is not mandatory.

(6)   Assessment of seismic risk must necessarily be an approximation.

(7)   Coverage in Queensland is not as extensive as in other States. However as indicated in (1) above Queensland is considered a relatively low risk area.

(8)   The operations of the universities and the management of their finances do not fall within my ministerial responsibilities.

(9)   and (10)1 cannot comment on the universities' or any similar institutions' interval management and finances.

(11)   Yes.

(   12) It is essential in many instances to bring signals from a remote detector to a more accessible recorder, and the actual cost of installing and maintaining dedicated land lines is high. Whether the cost should be subsidised by other users is a matter for the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.

(13)   I understand that the 1954 Adelaide earthquake (magnitude about 5.5 on the Richter scale) cost the insurance companies about £4m (that is $8m).

It is not possible to predict the value of damage which an earthquake might now cause.

(14)   The ground movement associated with the 1897 earthquake would have been about 10 times as great as the 1954 earthquake. Again, it is not possible to predict the value of the damage which a similar earthquake might now cause.

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