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Thursday, 1 December 1960

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,I wish to contribute briefly to this debate. This Indus basin waters project, which is of such immense dimensions, brings the story of the Good Samaritan to international affairs. It lifts the story that we know so well out of its Palestinian context and on to an international plane where Pakistan and India take the place of the man who lay broken on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho and the eight nations which are contributing to this scheme take the place of the Good Samaritan who brought the broken man out of his misery and saved his life.

One may ask, looking at a scheme of this magnitude, " Is the pen mightier than the sword? Are food and economic security greater than armaments and recurring crises? Is water conservation more vital in this world than the stockpiling of hydrogen bombs?" I have no hesitation in answering " Yes " to all those questions. If this world were spending on schemes of this kind only a quarter of what it is pouring out on armaments that are out-dated within twelve months, world peace would be a reality instead of a mirage that appears always just ahead of us.

Mr Curtin - Peace could be perpetual.

Mr DUTHIE - Peace could be perpetual if it were sought by methods such as these and if it were promoted by cooperation of this kind on an international level.

In my opinion, the contributions being made by many nations to this Indus basin waters scheme will plant a strong tree of international peace, understanding and tolerance in Asia by helping to bring together two nations which as neighbours have had very great difficulties with one another in recent years. This scheme is the biggest single international water conservation scheme ever financed by many nations together. There are similar national projects of equivalent or even greater dimensions, such as .the Tennessee Valley

Authority scheme in the United States of America and the Yellow River project in continental China, which is truly one of the greatest water conservation schemes ever attempted in the history of man.

Mr Griffiths - It is the greatest.

Mr DUTHIE - As my colleague, who has been to China and seen the scheme, says, it is the greatest of its kind in the history of man. But that, too, is a national and not an international scheme, great as it is. Then there is our own Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which is entitled to be numbered among these national projects of great dimensions. There are also the hydro-electric schemes in Japan - some of the biggest projects that the Japanese people have ever undertaken for the conservation of water.

Somebody may ask, "What about the Colombo Flan as an example of international co-operation? " The objects of that scheme go far beyond the conservation of water. We send quite a lot of aid to Asia under the Colombo Plan, but its emphasis is over a field much wider than is that embraced by this Indus basin waters scheme. Until the Colombo Plan was initiated, no international project of its magnitude had ever been contemplated. We are now considering a water conservation scheme which is the greatest international scheme of its kind that has ever been envisaged. It represents a massive attack on poverty, starvation, privation, malnutrition and deserts. The spectre of all these things haunts so many countries to-day. If only we could bring water to the deserts, what a veritable Garden of Eden could be brought into being even in our own country. If we in Australia put into operation the Bradfield scheme, which was envisaged by Dr. J. J. C. Bradfield, we should have a project comparable with the Yellow River project in China and the Tennessee Valley Authority scheme in the United States. Some day, some government will have the courage to initiate Dr. Bradfield's scheme and transform millions of acres of desert into a veritable Garden of Eden.

I believe that the Indus basin waters scheme really confirms the prophecies given to us by the Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament when he said that streams shall break out in the desert and, again, that the desert shall blossom as the rose. Those prophecies may have sounded idealistic in Isaiah's day, but they are now becoming a reality in our time through the genius of man. We can take our minds back also to the days of the Pharaohs in Egypt when Pharaoh told Joseph, who was his prime minister, " Give my people bread ", and Joseph worked out a plan by which the Egyptians were able to get their bread. In the Indus waters scheme, we are to-day bringing to fruition a similar noble enterprise. The people of Pakistan are in a position very similar to that of the Egyptians in the days of the Pharaohs. They are crying out for food and sustenance. They are calling on other countries for help. In this project we have a scheme that will answer their call and meet their needs.

At the present time, in the Indus basin, there are 50,000,000 people who have a very frugal standard of living indeed. Ten years will be needed to bring the scheme to fruition, and when it is fully developed, the population of the basin can be expanded to 70,000,000 in a few years. And those 70,000,000 will live not in penury and semi-starvation but in security. They will make a notable contribution to the economic stability of India and Pakistan and they themselves will have a standard of living that has never before been envisaged in those countries. They will have a standard of diet and health higher than has ever been known by the Pakistanis and Indians in this area.

This scheme will do much to prevent the tragic waste of water that has been going on for millions of years and is still going on throughout the world. The genius of man has made possible the conservation of water in order that it may be used in time of drought or diverted to dry desert areas to produce food and other things for the benefit of mankind. The wasting of water on the massive scale on which water runs to waste in this country is criminal in a world in which so many human beings are near starvation. How selfish we are in this country! How utterly complacent are most Australians about the starvation of other people! From time to time, members of this Parliament go to South-East Asia on parliamentary business. I have had the privilege of visiting that part of the world myself, although not on a parliamentary mission. I discovered that ;there were 123,000,000 people homeless in South-East Asia. We in this country have a home to go to at night and we hardly ever think of the millions who are without homes. We eat three good meals a day. Admittedly, in this building, we now have to pay more for the meals that we get here. However, millions of people in Asia are lucky to get even one meal a day. This great Indus waters scheme will ensure that very little water from the Indus River and its tributaries goes to waste in the future. The stored water will be used for the cultivation of rice-fields on a scale that the Indians and Pakistanis have never seen before. And rice is life to the Asian people.

Another interesting feature of this scheme is that it goes beyond the boundaries of race, religion and colour. Anything that can break down those barriers deserves our support. Our own great problems, which were outlined by my colleague, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), should not close our eyes to the dire needs of a less fortunate people resident in another country. Parochialism - so many Australians are guilty of this - when others need help is almost inhuman. I feel that in this measure our gunsights are being lifted to cover a new field of international aid, and this scheme should bring blessing to Australia and to the nations that will be helped as a result of it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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