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Tuesday, 20 September 1983
Page: 969

Mr ANTHONY —I direct a question to the Minister for Science and Technology. I refer the Minister to his comments in the House on 6 September in response to a question about the Australian National Animal Health Laboratory. He stated then that the Australian Academy of Science had recommended that 'experienced flying squads of diagnosticians' should be used instead of ANAHL for diagnosing and treating exotic and indigenous animal diseases. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that the report by the Academy to which he referred was prepared by Professor Bede Morris of the Australian National University? Is it a fact that this report was not endorsed by the Academy's National Committee for Animal and Veterinary Sciences? Is it also a fact that the Australian Veterinary Association Ltd has protested at the way in which this report was handled? Is it also a fact that the report's conclusions have been opposed by both the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Australian Science and Technology Council? What basis does the report provide for the disturbing statement made by the Minister to this House on 6 September?

Mr BARRY JONES —I thank the right honourable Leader of the National Party for this question which, I assure the House, was not by pre-arrangement. Yes, of course I am aware that the report put out by the Australian Academy of Science was in fact originally drafted by Professor Bede Morris, whose position is well known. However, I checked the status of the report by checking with the secretary of the Academy of Science's biological section, Professor B. W. Holloway. I spoke to Professor Holloway in the United States and he assured me that it had been cleared by the biological section of the Australian Academy of Science and was a report of standing; it was not just a report by an individual. What I said in my answer to the question the other day was that there were two alternative views. The extreme view is the view that all we need is the institution of ANAHL in Geelong. The other view is that we ought to have flying squads on the ground and, at the extreme position, that we do not need ANAHL.

Clearly, this Government has inherited a mess in regard to this situation. We have the responsibility of trying to make sure that we do the best for the Australian meat industry, the Australian consumer and for Australia's overseas meat markets. It is not an easy problem. A committee of Ministers, which has been set up, deliberated this morning and reached certain conclusions. I imagine that the Prime Minister will be in a position to make an announcement about it within a very short period.

Mr Lloyd —Have you ever been there?

Mr BARRY JONES —Of course I have been there. I was born within 300 yards of it. The Government has to face the fact that since the 1960s there has been a revolutionary change in the way in which animal diseases are diagnosed. That is common ground and it is certainly accepted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Three of the leaders of CSIRO came to see me on the subject last night. It is freely conceded by them that, if we had the--

Mr Shipton —Which three? Tell us.

Mr BARRY JONES —The Chairman of CSIRO, Dr J. P. Wild, FRS; Professor David Craig , FRS; and Dr Keith Boardman, FRS. The three of them came along and conceded that, if we had known then what we know now about the diagnostic changes brought about by the technological revolution of the last decade, the whole configuration of ANAHL would have been utterly different and it would have been established at infinitely less cost. Nevertheless, it is a situation that we have inherited with an organisation that is overspecific and overdesigned for the purpose for which it is now needed. That is a problem to which this Government has to address itself and to which it is addressing itself very rapidly.