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Tuesday, 4 September 1984
Page: 400

Senator MESSNER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Resources and Energy and follows the earlier question from Senator Bolkus. I note that the Minister has indicated that there has been a fall of 23 per cent in water resources money for the State of South Australia in this year's Budget. I ask: Is it a fact that the funds provided for special assistance to water, to which he referred, have dropped from $10m in the last Howard Budget to $7m this year, a decline of 30 per cent?

Senator WALSH —Some people are tigers for punishment. The inadequate and misleading figure that Senator Messner quoted may well be correct; I do not have with me the figure for the last Howard Budget. However, I do know that the last Howard Budget established the preconditions which, had they not been changed, would have left the country with a $10 billion deficit. Where Senator Messner is misleading or obtuse or whatever is that he has counted only part of the allocation to South Australia in this Budget for water assistance. If the figure in the last Howard Budget was $10m, as he said-I do not know whether that is correct; judging by his recent record it is unlikely, but it may be-the total figure this year for water assistance for South Australia is $15m. That is made up of $8m in the water resources assistance program, the requirement of which is that it be matched by State funds in some proportion, and $7m outside the normal water resources assistance program, which does not require a matching State contribution.

I do not know whether Senator Messner is complaining about that, but I do not believe that the South Australian Government or even the South Australian Parliament, which I understand has in it some colleagues of his, would complain about that. If his figure of $10m is correct, then in real terms after adjustment for cost changes over those two years, the total payments from the Commonwealth for water assistance programs in South Australia this year will be 25 per cent higher than they were in the last Howard Budget.