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Thursday, 18 October 1973
Page: 2324

Mr DAVIES (BRADDON, TASMANIA) - The Minister for Transport will recall my question on Tuesday of this week regarding the vessel 'Blythe Star' now overdue at King Island. I ask the Minister: What initiatives have been taken to step up the search for the vessel 'Blythe Star'? In asking this question, I thank the Minister for the information that he has kept up to us since last Monday. In view of the information that the Minister has just passed on that there is an oily substance reported on the sea and on the beach between Sandy Cape and the Pieman River and because of the undoubted greater efficiency of helicopters as opposed to the conventional Royal Australian Air Force aircraft now operating in the area for search purposes, will the Minister authorise the immediate chartering of helicopters based at Wynyard Airport in Tasmania for an immediate search in case there are survivors along this isolated coast?

Mr CHARLES JONES (NEWCASTLE, VICTORIA) (Minister for Transport) - My reply to the honourable member no doubt will be of interest to other honourable members. At 9.45 this morning the latest position with respect to the search for the 'Blythe Star' was that there had been no change in that no wreckage had been sighted, but an oil slick had been sighted on the west coast. Those in charge of the search have arranged for the police to visit the area of this sighting. It is in a pretty isolated place, as the honourable member would know, adjacent to his electorate, between the Pieman River and Sandy Cape. It is not expected to be able to determine whether the oil slick is from the 'Blythe Star'. It would be tomorrow at least before this would be known for certain, allowing for time to recover samples of the oil slick and to have them tested.

With respect to the search that is continuing, thanks to the co-operation of the Services - the Department of Air and the Department of the Navy - through the Minister for Defence, 4 Royal Australian Air Force planes and 2 Navy tracker aircraft have been made available and they will continue to carry out the search. It was intended that, last night, there would be a search by RAAF aircraft again using flares which would be dropped. The hope was that in this way the attention of the men who may be on board the ship or who may be in lifeboats or on rafts might be attracted. This is considered to be one of the best methods of searching. Because of the inclement weather and low cloud level last night, those searchers were unable to carry out this operation. The honourable member raised the point of introducing helicopters into the search. As soon as question time is concluded, I will confer with the Minister for Defence to arrange for as many Service helicopters as are available to take part in this search.

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