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Tuesday, 30 March 1971


Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - Very briefly, I support the very lucid exposition which was given by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) on this subject. I think the watchwords in his remarks were 'planned activity'. I differ with Senator Davidson to some extent, although I might have misunderstood him. Perhaps I could begin by saying that the outstanding feature of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution was not from the direct implementation of its recommendations by the present Government but in that the Committee pinpointed certain problems in the States, as a result of which the States galvanised themselves into activity.

While the Committee was in Melbourne taking evidence a controversy existed about a sewerage diversion into Port Phillip Bay. It was remarkable that during the time that we were there taking evidence the Premier of Victoria saw the light and decided to divert the sewerage line into Bass Strait. Conversely, when the Committee was in the Northern Territory we found that we were able to assist the Department of the Interior by exposing the depredations of the Rum Jungle project which grossly polluted the Finniss River. It is history now that the Department of the Interior has conducted field surveys to see what rehabilitation has been carried out by the Atomic Energy Commission. Applying those experiences and following the original line taken by Senator Murphy, I say with all due respect to Senator Davidson that I would not be content to see surveys and that sort of thing only. I want to see interim measures, and in order to achieve these I would adopt Senator Byrne's thesis that we should be calling witnesses and making spot checks on the activities of some Government departments to see what is being done about environmental pollution, even if it is only in its infancy. Some matters call out for an independent body to mediate 1 conclude by referring to 3 classic illustrations. At the moment in the Australian Capital Territory there is a tug of war involving the Postmaster-General's Department about erecting a combined television tower and restaurant on Black Mountain. In this matter the Minister for the Interior is trying to be a benevolent neutral, the Postmaster-General's Department is wanting to embark on pollution by environmental rape and some of the lower echelon of the Department of the Interior are opposed to the proposal. Some of the officers have not committed themselves. But the Minister has remained silent. This is a mailer in respect of which a public inquiry lasting one or two days could bring all the issues into the open, as a result of which some people would be obliged to pull up their socks.

Another matter which I mention relates to out new frontier. I refer to Dampier Sound and the operation of the Hamersley empire. The plain fact of the matter is that despite all our talk about pollution, in some rivers in that area pollution has been perpetuated under the guise of mineral exploration. 1 suggest that in that case, if we brought the Minister for National Development before us and asked him what obligations he had in this regard, and for that matter what obligations the Western Australian Government had, we would be able to embark on immediate effective interim measures. This is the way that I see the situation. I think we would find that if we proceeded in this way we would not have to wait for the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Alan Hulme) to act as a generalissimo on anti-pollution measures so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. If there were public hearings at which Ministers and their departments could be asked to defend themselves in relation to what they were doing in the cause of pollution - particularly water pollution - we would be able to get somewhere.

Again following on with Senator Byrne's thesis in relation to Federal responsibility and again adverting to the Australian Capital Territory, there has been an amazing delay in the proclamation of additional parklands in the Australian Capital Territory. Obviously the greater the open space the better it is. Senator Cotton, who is not now in the chamber, would be aware that 1 have been waiting since last November to learn when the Minister for the Interior will take courage and say that a certain number of acres in the Northern Territory will not be a play area for the mining interests and for him to accede to the original request made by the Northern Territory National Parks Board for additional open spaces. 1 welcome the move which has been made by Senator Murphy, but I believe that any inquiry should not be restricted to academic discussion. Only by confrontation with some of these departments will we be able to get quick measures which will prevent in a practical way intrusions into our existing environment.







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