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Wednesday, 24 March 1965


Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) .- I thank Senator Dittmer for the excellent contribution that he has made to this debate. As he said, the Bill is supplementary to one that the Senate passed in 1960 and which provided for considerable monetary backing for a scheme sponsored by the World Bank for the development of the Indus Basin in India and Pakistan. The sum provided for in the earlier measure, however, has been found to be insufficient to enable the scheme to be carried to a conclusion. It is interesting to note that this will be one of the greatest irrigation schemes in the world. It will be much greater than our own very great Snowy Mountains scheme. I understand that it will be ten times as great as the much talked of and famous Colorado scheme in the United States of America.

The Indus River flows for 1,800 miles through India and Pakistan and empties into the Indian Ocean. It has six tributaries. I thought Senator Scott was going to improve my education by naming them, but he did not do so. It is interesting to note that the Indus and its tributaries discharge twice the quantity of water that is discharged by the Nile and three times the quantity that is discharged by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which flow into the Persian Gulf. I have learned from my reading that in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers was the famous Garden of Eden. One does not know whether what happened there so many years ago was good or bad, but at least one can say that if there were no Garden of Eden, possibly we would not be discussing this legislation. I repeat that the Indus has ten times the flow of the Colorado River in the United States of America. The Indus flows through an area where the annual rainfall is ten. to fifteen inches a year and 16 per cent, of the surrounding land has less than five inches annual rainfall. While such a small amount of rain causes grave concern and great suffering amongst the people who live in the region, their troubles are increased by the fact that it is a very irregular rainfall.

The purpose of .the scheme is to dam the rivers and to irrigate the valley of the Indus, where more than 50 million people live. Honorable senators are aware that strained relations existed for some time between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir and over who was to control the Indus Basin. Fortunately, with the aid of the United Nations Organisation and its agency, the World Bank, the scheme has been commenced. As we all know, it will provide a great area of arable land suitably irrigated for food production to feed the people of a country where food is probably more needed than in any other country of the world.

It is also interesting to note that, as was stated in the first Bill, the amount to be contributed by Australia under that legislation was £6.9 million. Canada was to contribute £10.1 million, Germany £13.4 million, New Zealand £1.2 million, the United Kingdom £26.1 million, and the United States of America £78.9 million. I have stated the figures to the nearest million pounds. We can be proud that our country of 11 million people, which needs great amounts of money for its development, contributed under the first Bill a share that shows that possibly we are doing more than other nations with a greater number of people. The Bill before us now increases our contribution to £11.6 million. According to a statement made by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) in his second reading speech, we have paid over £3 million; the balance will be paid in or before 1970. When the scheme is completed it will increase the area under crop from the present 31 million acres to at least 75 million acres. The additional area provided is almost as large as my own State of Victoria. Senator Scott has said that the amount to be irrigated on completion of the scheme is 100 million acres. The history of the scheme I have read stated that it would be at least 75 million acres but I shall not quarrel with Senator Scott over his figure. It will mean that the water provided and the improved farming techniques such as are used in Australia and other modern countries will provide sufficient food for millions of people. The number stated is 50 million people, the majority of whom unfortunately live today in conditions of semi-starvation.

Although the United Nations may not have fulfilled all that some of us hoped it would, it is to be congratulated for its work in getting the World Bank to commence this scheme and, we hope, to complete it. That feat alone satisfies me, at least, that it is a tremendously useful council of the majority of the countries of the world. Let us hope that sooner or later all countries will become members of the United Nations. I have always been a firm believer that we would stop the spread of the ideologies in which we do not believe if we could feed and house the people amongst whom they have gained supporters. The greatest success in stopping wars can be achieved by giving to the people a decent standard of living. It has been proved in our own country that where a decent standard of living is provided, foreign ideologies get very little support. Until we are able to deal with the everyday needs of the mass of the people of the underdeveloped countries - particularly in Asia - I believe we will always be troubled as we are today.

I join with Senator Dittmer in supporting the Bill. We are pleased with this legislation as it will give help to people who need it. Let us hope that it will give to a vast number of people sufficient food to eliminate living conditions of semi-starvation, reports of which have come to us in recent years, particularly from the area concerned in this legislation.







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