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Thursday, 1 December 1960


Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) initiated this debate at the second reading, he spent a good deal of time tracing the development of this great plan for India and Pakistan, and illustrated the great facilities that would be brought about by this scheme which is probably the greatest new settlement and development plan in existence outside our own Snowy Mountains project. The right honorable gentleman also indicated how much, besides the Colombo Plan, we were deeply involved on the side of lifting the standards of these people in the Asian countries, particularly in this area of the Indus River Basin. The Australian commitment in this irrigation scheme is about £6,965,000. The scheme is fosterfathered, as it were, by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other countries, which I shall refer to later, are also involved in the scheme. They include New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, West Germany and others. But the dramatic side of this project is the harnessing of two groups of rivers and spilling their waters by irrigation into an arid plain where 50,000,000 people live under sub-standard conditions. They have an expectancy of life of about 30 years. Their poor crops hardly keep them alive. In fact, these people live on a subsistence level which is one of the lowest in the world.

Peaceful planning is necessarily slow planning and it is good to see that Australia has added its quite considerable quota to the huge amounts that will be necessary to make this 130,000,000 acres of poor rainfall country blossom into useful, strong, and even rich production. As the Prime

Minister has explained, there are two river systems - the eastern and the western systems - of the Indus Basin. The eastern rivers are the Ravi, Sutlej and the Beas and they flow into Pakistan. The western rivers are the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab The huge development of these irrigation schemes will be one of the outstanding public works in the world to-day. It is a good thing as the Prime Minister has said - and the Opposition concurs - that we, as a powerful unit in the democracies of South-East Asia, should be involved in this project ourselves. We will be involved in the mechanical advice that we can give and in providing know-how and the goods we can sell. We will be involved also in the spending of money towards the development of this great basin into an active and successful settlement.

Therefore, it seems that any criticism which is likely to be levelled at the proposal can be answered appropriately. Admittedly, there is criticism of such things. To-day, in the House a statement was made about heavy cuts in the proposed expenditure on a new high school at Darwin. One sees in the newspapers, and in a film which is now running in Sydney, news and pictures of the terrible devastation by drought in Queensland which could have been saved to some extent if there had been sealed roads in the Channel country to permit the transport of starving cattle from the beleagured area into the lush pastures of New South Wales which is enjoying a great season. It is evident that we have our frustrations, our need for money for development and grounds for valid criticism in many cases. Honorable members on the Labour side have voiced criticism from time to time that our peaceful planning is tortuously slow and in many cases amounts to nothing more than complete frustration and a feeling that nothing will ever be done. Despite all these things, and admitting that charity should begin at home, it is occasionally imperative that our charity should be extended overseas. The amount of £6,965,000 Australian which will be used to further the scheme of the Indus Basin will be money well spent.

This project will involve the use of our know-how, our planners and our architects. We have had vast experience in the building of dams, and the various appurtenances, canals, lakes and hydro-electric schemes which go with a vast enterprise such as this. We certainly will be called in to help. I was speaking only the other day to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who had been conversing with Lord Boyd-Orr, the chairman of the United Nations great Food and Agricultural Development Organization. Lord Boyd-Orr said that the Australian was admirably fitted for work in the Pakistan areas because he understood better than many other technicians the value of dry farming, the problem of rivers that flood in the monsoon and are strings of waterholes in the dry. So we will not only give our money but we will also provide the brain and muscle of Australians towards the development of this great enterprise. If we can quell the desert and follow the biblical injunction to make it blossom like the rose, we will have gone a long way towards relieving one of the old causes of war that drive men to hate each Other blindly without knowing why. How often have we been distressed by the IndianPakistan situation and by affairs in Kashmir. These are all tensions on tensions. Perhaps on one side there is lusher country than on another; or there are arbitrary divisions which are not our business any more. They have all been passed over in this instance.

As against the tensions and the anger, the boundary quarrels, the poverty and the struggle to get a living subsistence, everything is now suddenly put into a new perspective. Groups of democracies in the world will club together to build an enormous irrigation scheme which will lift up 50.000,000 people at least, and enable perhaps 100,000,000 eventually who inhabit this basin to rise above the low-grade basis of just getting a living and scraping the soil. No longer will they live in the poorest possible circumstances. They will have an opportunity to live, to rear their children, develop a culture and have some of the good things of life that are denied now to the teeming millions of Pakistan and India. Until these waters flow over the arid areas and the eastern and western rivers are locked together so that the water can be controlled, there will always be alternate seasons of great flooding and great drought. The man who lives in that area now is existing on a small pocket handkerchief of land, working his inside out, rearing an immense family and dying in the dust he was born in with no hope for the future and nothing but work and sweat in his eyes from the time he is born until he is buried.

Therefore, the concept of the United Nations and the peaceful planning that is envisaged in this scheme involve a project that we should be proud of. Certainly we should not worry unduly about the money we will owe the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development because of our participation in this great scheme. The country that is to be developed is poor country and 90 per cent, of its inhabitants are peasants who have a life expectancy, as I have said, of 30 years. It is dry, arid, hot and dreary. The average rainfall over this 130,000,000 acres is low, yet paradoxically enough the area is surrounded by rivers. The long, lazily-flowing Indus is like our river Murray. The other shorter rivers are big rivers in our book because mostly we have no rivers of any great size except the Murray, the Mumimbidgee and a few others. Between the river systems of this area there is arid desert or flooded landscape.

This calls for the maximum of flood control and for the maximum of planning for the distribution of water. In the monsoon period of June to September most of the rain falls. After that, it tapers off and, in some places, there is no rain for the best part of the year. The highest rainfall is about 15 inches and the lowest between 5 and 10 inches. Of this area, 16 per cent, has 5 inches of rainfall. There is an opportunity for us and for the world to do something important to relieve the sufferings of the people concerned.

This will be a sort of a test case for us as the Prime Minister has said. Here is a challenging project. Here is an immense project. Here is a semi-arid area which gradually tapers off to what is called the Indian Desert. It is interesting to see how the people of Pakistan and the people of India who are faced with the eternal, carking, vital, day-by-day problem of feeding themselves look at this. One report states, referring to Pakistan -

The majority of cultivators are working with uneconomic holdings and with the growth of population these are becoming even smaller and more fragmented. According to Sir Malcolm Darling (Report on Labour Conditions in Agriculture in Pakistan, 1955): "Sind is the only province in Pakistan where it can be said that (the cultivator) has enough (land to live on) . .". He goes on to point out that many holdings are barely sufficient for the maintenance of the families which own them. The pressure of population on the land is therefore the ultimate cause of the Area's economic trouble.

A good deal of the problem is political. The population explosion is at its fiercest in India and Pakistan. There is a rapidly growing population and a growing and serious problem of feeding them. With the news that the great Indus scheme was at last to become a reality and that the differences between India and Pakistan had at least been assuaged to a great extent by the signing of the treaty by the leaders of those countries and the representative of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, we began to see the plan unfolding and the machinery of development getting under way.

This plan is as important to these people as was the initiation of the Snowy River scheme to us. Because of that, the " Pakistan Times " published a supplement late this year concerning the Indus Waters treaty. One paper pointed out that in West Pakistan the average area under crops was 8 acres per head. This is about half of the world average. Despite the fact that the man who grows his meagre cotton crop, and the wheat for his sustenance, works day and night, he has not the water to produce at a higher rate than half the world's average. The "Pakistan Times" further stated-

Of the 130,000,000 acres of the Basin, about 75,000,000 are cultivable. Of this total only 31,000,000 acres is at present under crops.

These crops would be good, bad and indifferent. Here, production is to be doubled and trebled. Here, international tension is to be made easier. Here, a challenging piece of engineering work is to be done which will draw the interest of the world as the. Snowy Mountains scheme has drawn that interest for many years.

This great scheme is under the aegis of the United Nations and it is financed, curiously enough from our point of view, by a benevolent institution known as the World Bank. It is very seldom that a bank stands in the position of a fairy godmother or fairy godfather, according to whether a bank is masculine or feminine - I had thought that they were amorphous. But this bank which has been established by the United Nations does not seek profit. It has given considerable assistance to this scheme. A great deal of the credit is due to Mr. Eugene Black and to later directors of the bank who ha.Ce persisted with the gathering of the immense amount of money required for cultivation and development under this massive scheme.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is holding the sinews of war. Balanced on either side of it are the Indians who are contributing an enormous sum and the Pakistanis who are contributing another heavy sum. They will have to borrow heavily from America and elsewhere to keep up with their commitments. The amount of money involved from all countries is considerable. As I said before, Australia has contributed the sum of £6,965,000 to this scheme. In terms of Australian currency, Canada has contributed £10,157,000 to it, West Germany, £13,000,000, and New Zealand, £1,244,000. The United Kingdom has contributed £26,000,000 despite its own problems and the difficulty of quieting the carping critic who says, "These financial expeditions abroad are all very well but what are you doing at home? " The United Kingdom is beset by its problems of currency and the development of markets in Europe. Yet it has made the strong contribution that I have mentioned! The United States has contributed £73,903,000. The total is some 400,000,000 dollars.

The rivers of the Indus Basin are the only source of water for the region. Without irrigation from them, West Pakistan and North-West India would be largely desert. As I said before, this scheme will make the desert blossom. We have learned by experience that irrigation itself is not a miracle in the sense that it makes everything all right for ever. But irrigation can turn parched land into a garden. There are various problems which we have conquered in this country. There is the salting-up, the dying-off of land, and the damping-down of land which we found in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area and other irrigation schemes. Now there is a curative process by which irrigation can really mean a Garden of Eden blooming where previously there has been nothing.

Irrigation waters from the Indus will end the reliance upon a rather hungry crop of hard cotton plus the wheat which is the stable diet of the people in the area. Many supplementary crops will be tested for the area. They will include barley, oil seeds, rice, corn, millet and the better varieties of cotton. In the past, irrigation has been a very uncertain proposition. In some months there has been little more than a trickle of water in the river beds. In others, the rivers have swollen to uncontrollable torrents. There is an enormous plan on the highest possible technical level to make certain the water is completely controlled.

The initiation of this vast scheme will grasp the imagination of the Australian because in our own great Snowy Mountains scheme we have seized a few brawling torrents which ran to the east coast and thrown them over a mountain range. Most of us will live to see the Snowy waters flowing out through the Riverina into South Australia, Lake Alexandra and the sea. That is one of the dramatic developments of irrigation in this country. So we are appreciative of what is happening in the Indus Basin. I think that we are really sensible to have engaged as partners in the development of India and Pakistan and other eastern countries. I see the money we have invested in this project coming back to us in dividends in the form of peaceful planning which will mean much in the future. The Prime Minister made a point of the fact that we had never been very far behind in developmental plans or in defensive alliances; indeed, that we had never been to the rear of the field in anything that made for the betterment and democratic advancement of the hemisphere in which we live. To date, we have invested £34,900,000 in the Colombo Plan. Taking into consideration our small population of only 10,000,000, our own vast commitments, and the high standard of living of the Australian people, the expenditure of that money at the rate of approximately £5,000,000 a year is a very good performance. In addition to that, we have done much for those whom we seek to aid by giving them entry to our universities so that they might study economics and other subjects.

The Labour Party supports this great Indus Basin scheme which seeks, by the ingenuity of man, to conquer one of the great arid deserts of the world. Under this scheme, that desert is not to be conquered by commerce, nor by marauding capitalism; it will be conquered by the contributions of the free, democratic nations of the world, who believe that it is part of their job to see that the standards of living of the Asian people are lifted. This project is one of the finest examples of help to those who are unable to help themselves. The benefit that will come from it is almost incapable of measurement. We ought to be proud of the fact that by contributing £6,000,000 from the comparatively small population of 10,000,000 Australia has played its part manfully with the other members of the United Nations. We Australians ought to be proud of the knowledge that, by peaceful planning we have been able to bring to the people in the stricken parts of the world a better standard of living, and the feeling that there is a greater destiny than that of poverty and travail from the cradle to the grave.

We can lift the standards of the stricken people only by getting down to the job of making mother earth prolific. Sophistries and philosophies are of little value if we do not get down to the great problem of producing food. This project will take some time to bring to fruition, but when it is completed it will be a monument to the integrity of a bank which belongs to the peoples of the world; it will be a monument to the two countries which have decided to be friendly, at this stage at any rate, if not continuously, and it will be a monument to the United Nations, which gets so many kicks. I say that it will be a monument because it seeks to divert man's mind from murder and mayhem to peaceful planning, and to a submission to arbitration rather than to the dreadful arbitrament of war.

When we do have these areas settled in the years to come, we shall have conquered one of the greatest deserts in the world, and from then on the United Nations will move from strength to strength in helping those people who cannot help themselves. For those reasons, I believe that the £6,000,000 we propose to invest in this project will be money well spent. The Labour Party believes that it will be money well spent because this project represents internationalism on a high scale. The International Bank and the contributing countries are to be congratulated upon cooperating in a scheme that does make for better living conditions and for a better way of life for our fellow-men. This project has, I believe, surely made history.







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