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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2211

Mr DRUMMOND —by leave-I believe the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Lindsay) has quite adequately done the job of putting the point of view of the members of the Public Works Committee, so I will speak very briefly to express my real pleasure at being associated with this project as a member of the Committee. It has been wonderful to be associated with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation team headed by Dr Frater. I am sure that the honourable member for Herbert would agree with me that Dr Frater and his team fired the imagination of the members of the Committee regarding this project. It was a great eye opener to me. I remember it being pointed out to me as a child that the light we see from the stars takes hundreds of years to get to Australia. That was very hard to comprehend. This new radio telescope will pick up signals which are something like 5,000 million light years from Australia. When one thinks that light travels at about 1,860 miles per second, one can do the sums and visualise how big our universe is. I was not really aware of its immensity and, I suppose, its certainty. To think that light comes from that distance makes one feel really humble.

I will make a couple of comments on the telescope itself. The last 20 years at Parkes have seen many discoveries that have led to new sciences not suspected when the telescope was designed and built. With each generation of new telescopes new sciences emerge to challenge and add to our understanding of the cosmos. With the new telescopes planned for the 1980s and into the 1990s, there is no sign of any abating of the rate of new discoveries. The Australia Telescope is designed to be sufficiently versatile to cope with the new modes of operation which future discoveries will demand. In the Australia Telescope, Australia should have the most versatile telescope array in the world. Planned for operational start during the bicentenary year, 1988, it is a scientifically and technologically demanding project. With the telescope we can look forward to the solving of some of the most exciting problems in astrophysics today. Without it, one of Australia's most eminent branches of science will wither. The technology developed for the Australia Telescope will have a wide application in industry and other research areas. The Australia Telescope project is timely in that its developments are directly applicable to satellite communication at a period when Australia is preparing to enter this field of radio communications. The technology that must be developed for the telescope will have applications across a whole range of endeavours from medicine to mining. Once again I compliment the Government on carrying on this initiative started by the previous Government.

Mr Barry Jones —With a bit more vigour.

Mr DRUMMOND —I trust the Minister for Science and Technology, as urged to by the honourable member for Herbert, will direct his renowned vigour towards the project.