I will be very brief. I support my colleagues in their appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment to place upon himself and his Department a statutory obligation to produce a report within a relevant period of time. The Minister knows we discussed this at length in the Special Committee and, following on the views expressed there, we put down this amendment.
I would like to think that with this legislation a new era will be ushered into the whole world of wildlife and conservation in this country. I am certain that is what the Minister and his dedicated officials have in mind. In the organisations outside the Department which are interested in conservation and wildlife that is what is hoped for. We want to see the protection and preservation of our wildlife take on a new meaning in the life of our community, take on a new dimension, and become something of more importance and of greater significance. How better can that be achieved than by the Department producing a comprehensive report on their activities every year?
I would not be content with a comprehensive factual report. I would like to see—and my colleagues share this view—an attractive, interesting stimulating document brought out each year showing where we are going and what progress has been made. Many organisations are very successful in bringing out that sort of document, organisations whose purposes are not anything like as important as the functions of the Minister will be under this legislation.
I hope I am not being unduly sanguine or optimistic in looking forward to a document being brought out each year in colour which would be available to our schools and which would be included in the school curriculum and would be mandatory for all our primary schools to study and be familiar with. That document should stimulate throughout the community a new revival of interest in country life, wildlife and conservation in all these areas. I foresee a great and significant part being played by this document in the future. That is the idea. If we are not going to have something like that let us not bother about it. Let us forget about it. Let us not have any report. The Comptroller and Auditor General in the Committee of Public Accounts will make sure that routine administrative matters are examined and looked into.
We on this side of the House want to see something meaningful emerge from this legislation. We hope and visualise a document of importance and significance which would be looked forward to every year by interested people, by different organisations, societies, naturalists, conservationists and everybody interested in this field. We hope that this document by its very existence and by its annual appearance would stimulate many other people who might not be interested in this area at the moment to become interested. That is what we are looking forward to. That is why we put down this amendment. We want to see that interesting, colourful, attractive, informative document made available to the public within a reasonable space of time.
I think that would be good for the Department. The Minister is very fortunate in having many dedicated people in his Department who labour in this wildlife service above and beyond the call of ordinary civil service requirements. It would be in their interests if they knew that their work —what they were doing, what they were achieving and the progress they were making—was to be recorded and displayed to the general public at an appropriate and relevant time every year.
What good is it to them if three or four years later some dull and uninteresting routine report is brought out and read by no one? That is not the sort of atmosphere we want to generate. We see this document as a climax of the year's work of the wildlife service. We want it brought out as quickly as possible. The only reason I would tolerate any delay in bringing it out would be because they want to make it better, more attractive, fuller and more interesting. If the Minister looks on this annual report of his Department in that light, he will not hesitate to accept our amendment.
The Minister knows as well as I do the way the public service operates. If he looks at any aspect of the public service he will see that, when there is a statutory obligation, a statutory mandate, the thing is done. If there is not, it is postponed, put on the long finger, produced whenever time permits and nothing more pressing intervenes. Under EEC legislation, for instance, there is a statutory stipulation that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Government must bring out every six months a report on developments. It is one of the few reports that appears promptly and regularly because there is a statutory obligation on the Minister and the Department to produce it.
There are other areas in which, if there is no statutory obligation, things are postponed and come out in God's own good time. Deputies have experience of finding in their post a report of some Department or other and saying to themselves "I did not realise that Department brought out reports," simply because in a period of three or four years they had not seen such a report. When the Department have no obligation by statute to produce a report in a certain time they will not do it until such time as they have nothing better to do, and then it is too late to be of any significance or importance.
What is wrong with the Minister accepting the statutory obligation to do this? The Minister for Finance has all sorts of constraints placed on him to do certain things every year and he does that. If he is prepared to undertake these annual statutory obligations, surely the Minister for Lands should equally be prepared to do so. It is no answer for him to say the matter can be brought up on the annual Estimate. We are not discussing such a situation because as we all know very few Departments any more have their Estimates brought in here for lengthy discussion. In recent years we have been rushing through a whole bookfull of Estimates at the end of the year, shoving them through in a matter of hours.
The Minister knows there is no answer. The only satisfactory way to approach this is that the legislation would place on the Minister and the Department a statutory obligation to produce a worth-while report so that everybody interested would see it while it was still relevant. I am sure the schools, apart from others interested in an adult professional way, would like to see such an occurrence so that teachers could bring it into the classroom to have it discussed and examined. That would do an enormous amount of good in so many cases that I could not possibly begin to talk about them here.
I join with my colleagues in asking the Minister to accept this reasonable proposal. It is no good for the Minister to say this is not done in any other Department. We are changing our procedures all the time. We are doing things now that were unheard of and unknown when I first came here. Let us set a headline in this new area. We have never had a comprehensive piece of legislation dealing with wildlife. Let us do the thing properly and bring out a fullscale, adequate report on time every year.