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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 669

Senator AULICH —Is the Minister for Finance aware of revelations about the gross waste of public money involved in plans for the Craigbourne Dam scheme in south-east Tasmania? Will the Minister confirm that South West Tasmania dam compensation money is not being spent by the State Government on this scheme, which would give each of 50 farmers a subsidy of $40,000 per year? Is the Minister aware that an extra $1.25m will be needed to build a Berlin-type wall around an historic home that otherwise would have been flooded by the dam?

Senator WALSH —I am aware of the plans that the Tasmanian Government has had for some years for the waste gross of some $5m or $6m of public money. I was not aware until this morning of the apparent resurrection of that lunatic proposition, to which an extra $1.25m has been added to build a Berlin-type wall. As to whether any Federal Government compensation money is being used on that project, the answer is no, but with one possible reservation. When the offer to pay the final $9m was made to the Tasmanian Government about two months ago, the Government was given authority to use that money for the purpose for which it was originally designated; that is, to maintain employment levels on the west coast. The Federal Government had agreed to allow Tasmania to use that money, for example, if it chose to do so, to mine out the 40 series stopes at Mt Lyell. However, there were no strings attached to that $9m.

I suppose it is possible that the Tasmanian Government will divert money which was ostensibly for employment maintenance on the west coast into the Craigbourne Dam, and indirectly into the pockets of its best supporters, the 50 farmers, who stand to gain an annual recurring subsidy of $40,000 a year under this proposal. They may be the beneficiaries of that money, rather than the people for whom it was intended. That would be unfortunate, but if the Tasmanian Government is determined to throw $5m, $6m or $7m-it will be somewhere in that range-at 50 of its pets in the Coal River Valley whether it is ultimately sourced from the Federal Government or not, I guess it will happen. It is disgraceful that such a proposition should be contemplated.

I am not aware of what was described as a secret report prepared in 1983 and to which I understand Mr Lohrey referred in Hobart yesterday. Analyses of previous studies were done in the Commonwealth bureaucracy a couple of years ago and produced figures which are similar. So it is very likely that the analyses done by the Commonwealth Government are based on the same basic information as the report apparently prepared by the Tasmanian Government. Regarding the Berlin-type wall, it is proposed to construct a raised road between the dam and the Colebrook Park homestead to prevent the homestead from flooding. The road will need to be some five metres above the floor level of the homestead to achieve this objective. I am unable to verify the additional cost of constructing this levee bank and road between the homestead and the dam.

In view of the high subsidy element to individual property owners involved, one would have to agree that the Craigbourne Dam is extremely wasteful of Government money. It is also inequitable that such enormous subsidies should be given to a handful of people at the expense of either taxpayers in general or, should the Tasmanian Government divert Commonwealth money into that, people on the west coast whose employment requirements were to have been taken care of.

Senator Chaney —Will the Minister table the papers from which he has quoted?

The PRESIDENT —The Minister has tabled certain documents.