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Tuesday, 4 September 1984
Page: 394

Senator BOLKUS —Has the attention of the Minister for Resources and Energy been drawn to recent statements by the Opposition claiming that the Federal Government has slashed its funding for South Australia's water resources program by approximately 23 per cent in the recent 1984 Budget? I ask the Minister whether he can say whether such claims are accurate and, if not, to what extent they are inaccurate.

Senator WALSH —Yes, I am aware of some claims by Senator Messner along the lines mentioned by Senator Bolkus. Senator Messner seems to be determined to conduct a misinformation and disinformation campaign in South Australia about this question-of similar magnitude to the sustained disinformation and misinformation campaign which he has been conducting about social security matters for some time. Senator Messner claimed that the allocation for water programs in South Australia this financial year was $8m. In that he ignored, either deliberately or otherwise, the $7m which has been provided in the Budget outside the Federal water resources assistance program to the Adelaide and northern towns water treatment program. That is a particularly important program, a fact well- recognised by this Government in both the previous and present Budgets, a program that is essential to upgrade the low quality of water received by many places in South Australia for far too long. That $7m, incidentally, will not have to be matched by State funds as is required under most of the Federal water resources assistance programs.

One might have excused Senator Messner's ignorance on this matter-I am giving him the benefit of the doubt, I suppose, in describing it as ignorance-if he had been required to consult the Budget Papers and read all through them to discover the $7m he overlooked, inadvertently or otherwise. However, I am particularly peeved, and I believe I am entitled to be so, as I personally went to the trouble of signing a letter to Senator Messner which pointed out this fact to him. I do not know whether he cannot read, whether he does not want to read, or whether he deliberately plays fast and loose with the truth. The fact is that there has been a very significant increase in this Budget in allocations to South Australia for water, for the reason I have already given, that is, that the Commonwealth Government is very conscious of the high priority that ought to be given to the Adelaide and northern towns water filtration program. That priority has been matched by the Commonwealth by an appropriate financial allocation.