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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2315

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) - I listened with interest to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) said -

Senator Murphy - There was an arrangement made today to suit you. Now you are prejudicing that arrangement.

Senator WRIGHT - I have made no arrangement to curtail the Budget debate. I told you this morning that I would not conscript it but, as is my habit, I have done everything to accommodate myself to it. I despise myself for the degree to which I have accommodated myself.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Order! Senator Wright, you should address yourself to the item before the Chair.

Senator WRIGHT -Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. I listened with interest and appreciation to what Senator Cavanagh gave by way of information to the Committee and I have listened also with great appreciation to the information which Senator Georges gave to the Committee. I must say that each of them has contributed greatly towards relieving the anxiety that I had when this item was approached. I would despise myself if, as a custodian of public money, I allowed this money to be squandered in the way in which it appears to have been squandered. I believe that up to date prima facie it has been squandered over the last year. I am not prepared, notwithstanding the information given to the Committee, to acquiesce in a vote for $700,000 not exclusively for Applied Ecology Pty Ltd and not exclusively for that part of its activities relating to turtle farming. Why? Because it is not yet justified. But there is a way out of the situation that can probably be considered. We have been told of 2 reports that we will have. I understand that one is a consultants report from an economic point of view- a feasibility study, in other words- and the other is a study as to the appropriateness of this whole project to the conservation purposes and the Aboriginal welfare purposes for which it was designed. That is the general purpose of those 2 reports.

Furthermore, there should be available by the time those reports mature for consideration some report from the Auditor-General. My proposal is, and I do not know whether it will have any acceptance with those in charge of this part of the Government's business, that an undertaking be given that an opportunity will be provided for a debate upon those 2 reports- the first 2 reports together- and that a request be made to the Auditor-General on behalf of the Parliament that, if he can make it convenient, consistent with his duties, he supply some report on this project for our consideration then and that the Minister take into account the decision of the Senate on that occasion in making his decision on the continuance or discontinuance of this project. It will be noted that I have couched my proposal in terms most calculated to attract the acceptance of the Minister so that he will undertake to us that he will take into account the decision of the Senate, after particularly taking those 3 reports together, in making a decision on behalf of the Government on whether this project should be continued. Even on the present basis $700,000 seems to me to be a completely inordinate amount especially in relation to other amounts that I will be dealing with which come under the responsibility of Senator Wriedt. I think that the proposal I have put would provide a proper opportunity for consideration. I would like to know the Minister's reaction.

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