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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 773

Senator WALTERS(10.30) —I rise to speak on the adjournment debate tonight, which is rather unusual for me, about two matters. The first concerns the question that Senator Aulich addressed to the Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, last week on the Craigbourne Dam. Senator Walsh was very critical of the Tasmanian Government spending any money on the Craigbourne Dam. He used such colourful phrases as 'a gross waste of money', 'idiocy', 'lunacy', and the like. Just before the election in 1983 the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, and the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin, went around Tasmania. Prior to the election they thought the Craigbourne Dam was an excellent idea. The Tasmanian Country newspaper deals with rural matters. An article in that newspaper was headed 'Irrigation ''carrot'' for rural voters' and stated:

Irrigation schemes are the main carrot being dangled in front of rural electors in Tasmania.

Both major parties have promised to totally fund the Craigbourne dam on the Coal River totally out of Federal Funds at a cost of $6.5 million.

Senator Walsh did not on that occasion tell us that funding of the dam was lunacy and a gross waste of money. Indeed, the Tasmanian Country on 25 February 1983 under the heading 'Dam commitment' stated:

During a visit to Tasmania last weekend, Mr Kerin confirmed the Labor Party's commitment to going ahead with farm irrigation proposals.

Mr Kerin said that a Labor Government would definitely go ahead with the construction of the Craigbourne dam and also the Winnaleah irrigation proposal. Construction of the Warners Creek dam would also proceed under a Federal Labor Government.

We are used to broken promises in this Parliament. In the Senate we have heard the Government make all sorts of promises to the Australian people. The only one it kept was its promise to stop the Franklin Dam. It ill becomes a senator, a new Tasmanian senator at that, to come into this place following the last election and ask the Minister for Finance, who was a member of the Government that promised Federal funding for the construction of the Craigbourne Dam, whether he was aware of the revelations about the gross waste of public money involved in the plan for the Craigbourne Dam. Senator Walsh said that he was not aware until that morning of the apparent resurrection of that lunatic proposition. The Government promised that 'lunatic proposition' to the people of the south-east coast of Tasmania prior to the election. It made a commitment to build the Craigbourne Dam. Such is the hypocrisy of this Government that the people of Tasmania are certainly becoming very used to it.

Senator Peter Rae —In that one, Senator, it was even worse in that it was a Dorothy Dix question and not something that was without preparation. Don't you agree?

Senator WALTERS —As Senator Peter Rae says, it was a question set up by the Minister. As such it was, I believe, grossly irresponsible.

I touch briefly on another matter. Very recently there was a strike by Australia Post employees in both Tasmania and Victoria. During the week of the strike, I attempted to send a telegram from my office. I believed that telegram to be a very important one. I was told that the post office was not taking any telegrams by telephone and that if I wanted to send one I would have to go to the post office. A member of my staff went to the post office to send that telegram for me. As I have not been able to contact the intended recipient of that telegram, I still do not know whether it was delivered. I know that my money was accepted. I also know of a constituent who sent a telegram at the same time. That constituent's money was accepted, but the telegram was never delivered. The money was accepted, but the constituent was not told that the telegram would not be delivered. It was only because the recipient was waiting for that telegram and finally rang to find out what had happened to it that the information was given that the telegram had been sent a week before and had never arrived. On ringing Australia Post and demanding the reason for this non-delivery, my constituent was told that there had been a strike and that telegrams were not being delivered. When Australia Post was questioned as to what on earth happened in a matter of life and death-for example, if the telegram was of great urgency, perhaps informing relatives that a parent might be dying-the constituent was told that the union had taken it upon itself to decide whether to forward a telegram or not. The union decided whether the telegram was of such importance that it would be delivered.

Senator Kilgariff —Or was the situation that the money went into somebody's pocket?

Senator WALTERS —I have no knowledge of that; I do not believe anyone else would have either. I honestly have no idea whether the telegram I sent that week, for which I paid from my pocket, was ever delivered. I do know that a telegram paid for by my constituent was never delivered and that that constituent was not told it would not be delivered. On ringing Australia Post, the constituent found out that Australia Post employees were on strike and that telegrams were not being delivered. I ask the Minister for Community Services, Senator Grimes: What action is available to customers of Australia Post to recover money paid to have a service that has never been undertaken?

Senator Kilgariff —Or to ensure that it did not go into somebody's pocket.