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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2460

Mr MORRIS (Shortland) - It is indeed an honour to follow the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe). One cannot help but think of Rip van Winkle when it seems that the honourable member has suddenly made a new discovery, that of air pollution. One wonders why, the honourable member coming from an area just north of an industrial city like Newcastle, on the occasions he must have passed through it he did not notice pollution before. It is strange that he did not raise the matter when he was a member of a party which was in office for so many years and which did nothing about the problem.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - When things are different they are not the same.

Mr MORRIS - Of course they are different. Recently in this House I referred to the 1972- 73 report of the Air Pollution Advisory Committee tabled in the New South Wales Parliament. Tonight while debating the estimates for the Department of Environment and Conservation I wish to say something about the effect of cities and urban development on the quality of the air. The report stated that the level of air pollution in New South Wales cities was too high and had not decreased as much as was desired. The report stated that the prime reason for the situation was the increasing population, with accompanying increases in cars, industrial activity and incineration. The major cities in New South Wales had average pollution levels exceeding those recently offered by the World Health Organisation as long term goals. To combat this the Committee has steadily increased the stringency of the action against polluters. Mention was made of prosecutions being recommended against 9 companies last year but I would be interested to know how many prosecutions were actually launched in New South Wales. I understand that there were none.

A very interesting report appeared in the United States 'New and World Report' of September 1973 which outlined the impact that cities, roads and buildings have on the degree of pollution and air quality. It showed that in the USA it has been found that cities are generally hotter than nearby rural regions, that it is not as windy in most cities, which means that air pollution is not dissipated as fast and heat tends to linger longer in the atmosphere. Urban air was found to have about 100 times more dust particles and 5 to 25 times as much foreign gaseous pollution as that in rural regions. Urban centres and small towns were described as heat islands that twisted the climate. The buildings were heat holders and the question was asked: What lies behind all this? For one thing, the first step man takes when building a town or city is to replace trees and grass with asphalt, concrete and brick. These building blocks wreak havoc on natural weather patterns.

Concrete and asphalt absorb heat like giant storage batteries by day and radiate the pentup warmth at night. On a summer day, surface temperatures of a asphalt parking lot will reach 115 degrees Farenheit. while the grass that surrounds the lot will register a maximum of 90 degrees. Even several hours after sunset there still will be found a difference of 14 degrees in temperature. Big buildings, as well as well as streets, store heat. Not only do these structures radiate shafts of hot air into the atmosphere, but also they break up wind currents on the ground. This leaves the urban centre with stagnant air to breathe and extreme turbulence, as aeroplane passengers can testify, in the nearby upper atmosphere. Studies show that cities experience higher temperatures, greater cloud cover and more pollution during the 5-day work week than on weekends. It rains, for example, 24 per cent more often Monday to Friday than on weekends. This week day - weekend weather difference is caused by the thousands of automobiles, air conditioners and industrial plants that heat and pollute city air only during the week. Dr Helmut E. Landsberg of the University of Maryland's Institute of Fluid Dynamics and

Applied Mathemathics has been reported as saying:

Most spectacular among the effects of the city upon the atmosopheric environment are those caused by air pollution . . . This smoke pall affects an area SO times that of the built-up regions. And these values are probably conservative.

Dr Landsberg,who is described as one of the nation's leading authorities on city induced weather, explains that this added heat load becomes particularly burdensome during natural hot spells and is reflected in higher mortality figures for city dwellers. The effect is probably hardest on persons in the higher age groups with impaired heart and circulatory functions.

The social impact also is that the people in the lower income groups in these inner urban areas who are subject to the poorer quality of air because of financial barriers are unable either to afford an air conditioner or to move from the area. Scientists and engineers have said that in construction of cities, for one thing, trees should never be chopped down when construction work begins. They have said that condensation and air currents created by trees in summer can turn the hottest street into a city oasis. Those are just a few of the points in the article. There is a very strong case for thought and planning to be given in the size, area and height of buildings within city areas and also the very important point that parking areas for motor vehicles in cities ought to be constructed underground rather than having asphalt plains, as we do in the cities. These areas absorb and maintain heat, unlike an area of grass and vegetation.

It has been interesting to note in the Press during the last few days a report stating Fumes at night are like a fog', according to a Port Kembla resident; a report in the 'Canberra Times' stating that a Geelong company was fined $1,000 for polluting the air; and a report on the opening of a symposium on air quality by Professor Zelman Cowen who spoke of air pollution as an 'abomination - a defeat of man by man himself.

There are 3 ways to develop proper and effective air pollution control: Firstly, there is the need to establish complete monitoring facilities to determine the status of the air; secondly, guidelines and action programs have to be developed; and thirdly comes the institution of an effective abatement program. No co-ordination on a national basis had been taken until this Government came into office: the previous Government did nothing about it.

It did nothing about air pollution control. This evening the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe) informed the chamber of air pollution as his new discovery. The previous Government left it to the States and to local governments. However, because we have an international responsibility for the protection of the global atmosphere, the Australian Government has in its platform on environment a clause stating that it is the responsibility of the Australian Government to show leadership in co-ordinating measures designed to monitor the level of air pollution and to develop programs to protect the quality of air in Australia.

The Australian Government has offered to the United Nations Governing Council on Environmental Programs to provide within Australia a baseline monitoring station to measure the baseline levels of air pollution in the world's atmosphere. This station will be one of 10 situated throughout the world. Its basic function will be to give us readings on the quality of the earth's air at those places where the air is purest. We need these stations so that we will have a yardstick with which to measure how polluted the rest of the earth's air is becoming, and particularly the air around our cities. Such measurements will include all those pollutants which are commonly measured, such as sulphur dioxide, sulphur trioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and dioxide, ozone, hydrocarbons and solid particles.

Having brought the subject of air pollution before this chamber on a number of occasions in recent months, and coming from a city where I have seen the benefits of the development of a properly controlled program of air pollution and the development of proper programs for abatement, I know what the results are and I know the benefits that can be derived. As recently as last week following my comment on the emissions from a ferroalloy plant I was very pleased to learn that in Newcastle the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd immediately made a public announcement that the plant concerned would cease operation on 30 June next year. To me that was a great victory for the cause of air pollution control in Australia because it was an acceptance by industry at the highest level and an acceptance by our largest Australian company that it has a responsibility to participate in the improvement of the quality of air within Australia.

The program that has been followed by BHP in other areas of its activities in the Newcastle region, in the development of antipollution control and particularly water pollution control, is something that ought to be looked at by other major manufacturers and other major companies within Australia. I hope that this Government will press on with its stated policy as soon as possible and as soon as the work load enables the progress that is needed to be carried out.

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