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25 March 1998

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary for the
Bureau of Meteorology

I am going to ignore protocol and start off by recognising the really important people here today and they are those very dedicated, local and competent Bureau staff who spent 30 years and more serving their country through the Bureau. So you are my prime acknowledgment today.

But it doesn't need protocol for me to recognise within the audience a very distinguished group of Australians, led by the former Governor General and the Ambassador for the Environment the Right Hon. Sir Ninian Stephen a great Australian, know to most Australians and know favourably and with some deep feeling, from the work that he has done for our country over many years.

I also want to recognise the Hon. Jim Webster, Dr the Hon. Moss Cass, my old mate Dr Phillip Law of Antarctic fame and also of course our special guest speaker today Mr Geoffrey Holland, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission who will, as Dr Zillman has said, be presenting today's address. To you Dr Zillman and to other distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen.

Before I perform the very pleasurable task of presenting the Bureau's Long Service Awards, I would like to say a couple of words about the theme today "Weather, Oceans and Human Activity" that I hope will provide some insight into the importance the Howard Government attaches to this subject.

Perhaps I should start by making a pre-publication comment on just one of the issues that I know that Mr Holland will be addressing in his speech and that is the lack of adequate research into oceans and the failure of world governments to adequately implement agreements which impact upon the health and sustainability of the resources of our oceans.

I am pleased to say that following a major review of our Antarctic goals into the next thirty, forty or fifty years the Government will be placing an increasing emphasis on resources for marine science in the Southern Ocean.

Whilst the expense is huge - particularly for a country of Australia's relatively small size, and whilst we can never do all that we should do, we are as a nation playing our part in enforcing international agreements by preventing unsustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean.

Two actions in which the Australian Navy were recently involved have shown to the world and to the pirates involved - those pirates who seek to take advantage of the remoteness and lack of knowledge of the patagonian toothfish - we have shown the world and those pirates that we are serious about our obligations to science and the environment.

On a lighter note I understand that Mr Holland will be saying in his speech, amongst other more serious things, that an overcrowded world will turn to the oceans for a number of basic uses including, he says, habitation.

I guess most people would agree that to minimise air pollution the first house to go under the water should perhaps be Parliament House. But as most politicians can talk under water I guess this wouldn't solve the problem.

Ladies and gentlemen one of the things that most people have come to realise is that humankind is altering the Earth in unprecedented ways.

For example, we know that :

And these and other changes are accelerating quite rapidly.

Against this background it's clear that with the dawn of the new century the environment will be a major factor in relation to human health, the economy, national security and social justice.

More than ever before, society and the Government will look to the science community for:

In all of this, the sciences of Meteorology and Oceanography have a significant role to play in debates related to possible changes in the earth's climate.

The Government is committed to drawing upon the best possible science that the Bureau, the CSIRO, the Universities and the private sector can bring to bear on the global changes and challenges that lie ahead.

Governments from all countries have taken the advice of scientists in recognising the problem of Global Warming. In the light of Australia's commitment at Kyoto the Australian Government relies on the scientific community to help us find ways of reducing our Greenhouse emissions in such a way that we achieve our goals but at the same time maintain our standard of living.

I note that Mr Holland in his address will be urging us to take a world view on this and other matters relating to greenhouse and we as a Government certainly do that. But we won't be held to ransom by the hypocrisy of some of the other countries and governments - and the approach taken by these governments - in other parts of the world.

As part of our commitment to Kyoto the Government has committed $180 million over 5 years to the Climate Change Package. This package will assist us in meeting our protocol commitments of reducing projected growth of our greenhouse gas emissions quite substantially.

In this, the International Year of the Ocean, it is fitting to note that through the Natural Heritage Trust, the Howard Government has committed $125 million over four years to the Coasts and Clean Seas program. Coasts and Clean Seas is based on partnerships between the community, governments and industry. and it will provide the funds for the conservation, sustainable use and repair of Australia's coastal and marine environments. We are determined to stop the reckless exploitation of our unique wetlands and coastal marine environment and we want to enhance the essential marine habitats along Australia's very vast coastline.

In all of this we will also need to recognise the dedication of those working in the sciences - gathering data, analysing data, and improving our understanding of the environment and through that making sure that we don't destroy, through ignorance and self interest, that very fragile environment.

And on this World Meteorological Day I want to acknowledge, with pride as an Australian, the dedicated work that Australians, and particularly Bureau scientists have played in understanding and protecting our global environment.

And it is this 'public good' work of the Bureau of Meteorology that ensures that those core activities will always be funded by the taxpayer. But this does not lessen the Government's desire to have the Bureau of Meteorology enter the commercial world where competitors are already established and where we can offer new and enhanced services that the public are prepared to pay for.

The dedicated work of our Bureau people is exemplified by two recent examples very much to the fore of my mind and that is the establishment with CSIRO of the "Supercomputer" in Melbourne and also the development of that innovative pilotless aeroplane called the Aerosonde which many of you would have seen downstairs.

I want to also say that as an Australian and on behalf of the Australian Government how particularly proud we are that the leader of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is also the world leader of meteorology in his capacity as President of the World Meteorological Organisation. It does show that Australians can achieve the very highest and certainly in John Zillman that has happened.

His commitment to Meteorology right around the world is well recognised by his election and continuing election to that position.

To continue this success of Australian science and meteorology into the new millennium we must encourage the fresh young minds of the future to bring ideas and energy to science, together with the knowledge of experienced scientists, our scientists we will go a long way to achieving our goal of sustainable living - where human activity no longer alters the weather and oceans.

John and ladies and gentlemen, with those few words, I now pass back to Dr Zillman to assist in the presentation of long service awards to staff who, as I mentioned earlier, can look back with pride on 30 years of dedicated service to Australia through the Bureau of Meteorology.

Commonwealth of Australia