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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 695

Senator JONES —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer him to the Treasurer's comments on the AM program on 16 February, in which he stated:

The States really don't comprehend the problem Australia has. Australia's national income has been cut but the States believe that we can have a higher living standard by having better roads, better bridges, better ports, better public facilities at a time when the nation's income is going down . . .

They've got to basically cut their cloth the same as the Commonwealth has cut its.

I ask the Minister: First, is the Macquarie River dam an example of the kind of public expenditure by the States of which the Treasurer was critical? Secondly, what is the background to this project and how much Commonwealth money is involved in it?

Senator WALSH —The history of the Mackenzie River dam-I think Senator Jones inadvertently said Macquarie-is that it was announced in the 1984 Queensland Budget--

Senator Boswell —How do you know whether it is the Macquarie River or the Mackenzie River? You can't even get the question right.

Senator WALSH —I will give Ronnie some more shock treatment if he does not shut up.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. That was a most unparliamentary remark and it should be withdrawn.

Senator Colston —It is factual.

Senator Chaney —I would ask Senator Colston to withdraw also. He makes few if any contributions to this place and adding abuse to his repertoire is not going to help the running of the Senate.

The PRESIDENT —I would ask Senator Walsh to address honourable senators on the other side by their proper title.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, I shall call him Senator Boswell in future. The history is that in the 1984 Queensland Budget it was announced that $4 1/2m would be spent constructing a dam on the Mackenzie River. Thirty five kilometres, or thereabouts, downstream from the dam is a very large farm of about 30,000 acres, owned by a company called Ciasom Pty Ltd, which is the Bjelke-Petersen family company and which is farmed by the Premier's son, John Bjelke-Petersen. Fortuitously a few weeks before that announcement John Bjelke-Petersen had made an application to install an 18-inch centrifugal pump on an anabranch of the Mackenzie River, which adjoins his farm. An 18-inch pump would have very quickly pumped the anabranch dry unless the river was continuously flowing. It does not flow continuously. After the dam is constructed it will be able to flow continuously and recharge the anabranch on which the 18 inch centrifugal pump was installed.

For many years, at least for two decades I think, State governments have submitted to the Federal Government wish lists of irrigation projects to be funded by Commonwealth money. They gather dust in the present Department of Resources and Energy. They have gathered dust in other departments when functions were allocated differently from the present allocation. But at no stage had the Queensland Government on its wish list ever submitted an application for Federal funding for the construction of the Mackenzie River dam. In reference to the type of expenditures of which the Treasurer was critical, and to which Senator Jones referred in his question, it is regrettably a fact of life that governments in Australia have long squandered public capital on uneconomic irrigation schemes. But this is the first time, to my knowledge, that $4 1/2m of taxpayers' funds has been appropriated, or misappropriated, to provide a private irrigation scheme for a State Premier's son.

Senator Jones —How much?

Senator WALSH —Four and a half million dollars.