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- Start of Business
- AWARDING OF COMPUTER CONTRACT
- AUSTRALIAN MEAT BOARD
- PIG MEAT PROMOTION ADVISORY COMMITTEE
- LEGISLATIVE DRAFTING INSTITUTE
- VICTORIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT GRANTS COMMISSION
- DARWIN RECONSTRUCTION COMMISSION
- DARWIN CYCLONE TRACY RELIEF TRUST FUND
- JOINT GEOLOGICAL AND GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH STATION: ALICE SPRINGS
- AUSTRALIAN ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION
- EDUCATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
- AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION TO THE SOUTH PACIFIC
- MIGRANT SERVICES
- PERSONAL EXPLANATION
- NATIONAL WATER RESOURCES (FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE) BILL 1978
- HOUSE COMMITTEE
- LIBRARY COMMITTEE
- COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES
- PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEE
- STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE
- JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE BROADCASTING OF PARLIAMENTARY PROCEEDINGS
- JOINT COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
- JOINT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC WORKS
- COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES
- THE HUMAN TRAGEDY OF UNEMPLOYMENT
- Sheltered Workshop, Geelong-Western Australian Roads- Inflation: Wage Increases- Sugar Price- Pecuniary Interests of Members- Proposed Sydney to Melbourne Foot Race- Taxation: School Teachers- Public
- House- Handicapped Children's Allowance
Wednesday, 1 March 1978
Mr KEATING (Blaxland) -This Bill seeks to grant financial assistance to the States in connection with the development and management of national water resources. The express purpose of the Bill is to establish machinery for the provision of Commonwealth financial assistance to the States for water resource projects. The projects at the moment, of course, are administered by the States as the States have over time developed expertise in the management of water resource projects. The Bill seeks to authorise the payment of up to $2. 5m in the financial year 1977-78. A similar Bill was introduced last year before the Parliament was dissolved and therefore it has been reintroduced. The Bill presented last year sought authorisation to expend up to $lm from Consolidated Revenue in the financial year 1977-78 on New South Wales flood mitigation projects. But during the election campaign the coalition parties promised $ 1.5m to upgrade the Gin Gin channel of the Bundaberg irrigation scheme in Queensland and the additional $1.5m is reflected in this legislation bringing the total maximum appropriation to $2. 5m.
The Opposition objects to the express purpose and not the nature of the legislation. This Bill envisages that there will be enabling legislation establishing the framework for the payment to the States of moneys provided under this legislation for water resource projects. Previously money was allocated on the basis of separate enactments which, of course, gave the Parliament the opportunity to debate each project. The Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) in his second reading speech said that the Government will table agreements and therefore the tabled agreements can be the subject of debate. We know that during the course of parliamentary business and debate legislation attracts much more scrutiny and attention from both sides of the House and officers of the Parliament. The Opposition and the Parliament generally would have a much greater opportunity to discuss and debate a particular water resource project during a second reading debate or a Committee stage debate than it would if agreements were tabled as proposed under this legislation. The Opposition seeks to have the legislation redrafted so as to provide for separate enactments for each project that is undertaken. I therefore move:
That all words after ' that ' be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: 'Whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House is of the opinion that separate enactments should have been provided for each water resources project'.
The history of water resource projects under the Labor Government was indeed a happy one. But it is not a happy one under the present Government. On 3 May last year the Deputy Prime Minister and present Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), in reply to a question on notice, said:
The present Government does not have a program of assistance to the States for water projects. It is of the view -
That is the Government is of the view- that new Commonwealth-State financial arrangements should provide greater flexibility to the States in ordering their own priorities in water resource matters.
On 17 August the Deputy Prime Minister made a statement which signalled the Government's abdication from participation in new water resource projects. He said:
In the present difficult budgetary circumstances the Commonwealth will not be allocating funds for individual water resource projects.
As the former Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam), pointed out last year, the current Budget was the first Budget in 14 years which failed to allocate new moneys to new water resource projects. He went on to point out that in 1977, and now of course in 1978, the national government of the world's driest continent, a continent wracked by flooding on its eastern coast, played no part in planning or financing new water resource projects for the first time in nearly a generation.
Contrast that with the performance of the Labor Government during its period of office. I might best illustrate the point by relating to the House the details of an answer given on 5 October 1977 to question on notice No. 1391 asked by the then Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. E. G. Whitlam. He asked what financial assistance was provided for each of a number of water resource projects by the Federal and State Governments in each financial year since 1968-69. The projects listed are the Emerald (Fairbairn Dam), the Bundaberg project, the Lower Dawson River weirs project, the Eton scheme including the Kinchant Dam, the Clare Weir project, the Proserpine flood mitigation project, the Ross River Dam and the Julius Dam. As an example, the Bundaberg project had nothing expended on it by the Liberals until 1970-71 when $1.9m was spent and in the following two financial years $3.2m and $4.4.m respectively were spent. Then the Labor Government came into office and a whole gaggle of projects were funded. For the first time the Lower Dawson River weirs scheme was funded in 1973-74 with $95,000 and in 1974-75 with $455,000. The Eton scheme received $387,000 in 1973- 74, $ 1.799m in 1974-75 and $ 1.999m in 1975-76. But in 1976-77 the allocation was down to $8 1 5,000. The same applies to the Clare Weir. There was no funding by the coalition parties; that began when the Labor Government came to office. An allocation of $100,000 was made in 1974- 75 and $349,000 in 1975-76. The situation was similar with other projects. The Proserpine flood mitigation scheme was first allocated moneys by the Labor Government in 1974-75 when it received $ 120,000. The Ross River Dam was first allocated funds of $ 1.4m by the Labor Government in 1975-76. It received nothing from the coalition. The Julius Dam had received nothing previously but in 1974-75 received $2m from the Labor Government of that time. The point I am making is that not only has the coalition been puny in the allocations to water resource projects but it is now also phasing out the kind of initiatives taken by the Labor Government throughout that period.
Another example is the question of water treatment for Adelaide, which is of course the driest city in Australia. The expenditure in this area was reduced from $9.7m in the 1975 Budgetthe last Whitlam Budget- and $9.4m in the 1976 to $6m in the 1977 Budget. God knows what will be provided in the next Budget.
Adelaide hoc been politely forgotten Across the .-------- - ----- 1---- - v - o-------------- - whole range of projects in the light of the statement last year of" the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), whose Government does not have a program of assistance to the States for water projects, we do not see much hope for the grand initiatives of the Labor Government in this field. It is true that an additional $1.5m is being granted in this legislation to finalise the Gin Gin channel of the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. But that scheme involves a total accumulated expenditure of towards $20m and the $ 1.5m is to complete it. Of course that would not have been offered but for the fact that during the election campaign the coalition wanted to pull a few rabbits out of the hat. In Queensland this was a popular promise to make. In the legislation which was introduced shortly before the Parliament was dissolved there was no mention of the Gin Gin channel or the $1.5m. It has mysteriously crept in after the election campaign. While we support that expenditure, I indicate the shallowness of the Government's attitude to this whole question of water resource management.
My party has had a continuing commitment of financial assistance to the States for a whole range of civil matters and works. Of course water resources was given a high priority among them. It is the view of this side of the House that this should be the case and that the Government should be initiating new projects. There is no point in talking about general purpose grants to the States. They will decide their own priorities and they will not always be the kind of priorities we would like to fix in this national Parliament. Hence we provide specific purpose grants. The Opposition does not want to surrender the right of scrutiny of those pieces of legislation by simply having the tabling of agreements. We like to keep our eyes on Mr Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland and, for that matter, the other State Premiers of Australia to see that they are doing the right thing and that they are not, for instance, using water resource moneys under this legislation to featherbed, say, a particular industry which might be requiring the Government rather than itself to pay for some water management program in a particular area. We want to see that the money is properly spent in the real management of water resources which are the responsibility not of any private individual or of any private company but of the State. Therefore we should like to see separate enactments for each new agreement.
All I can do is urge the Government to look much more sympathetically at the whole ques tion of water resources, and particulary it. should re-assess the Adelaide position so that Adelaide is not forgotten by the coalition in terms of the problems of water, salinity and the general problem of water supplies in South Australia, particularly in Adelaide which is of course reaching an acute stage. More funding must be made available to solve the problem. It just cannot be forgotten with this empty ploy of saying that this is a State responsibility. Lots of things were State responsibilities before the Whitlam Government was elected, but between 1972 and 1975 and afterwards it clearly emerged that a lot of things that we believed were the problems of the States were areas in which the Commonwealth became involved. Money was provided but of course management was left with the States. We saw a lot of progress which was not achieved previously because the money was not there. We want the Government to think harder about the question of water resources, to commit additional funds in the coming Budget and to nominate new projects for commencement in the budgetary year beginning on 1 July.
In conclusion, the Opposition does not oppose the spirit of the legislation but it proposes this amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill urging the Government to abandon the concept of one enabling piece of legislation for the tabling of agreements in favour of the previous practice of introducing separate enactments for each new scheme.