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Wednesday, 8 March 1961

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) . - I wish to introduce something constructive into this debate. The main incentive for increased development, production and export earnings and decentralization is water conservation. It is on this subject that 1 desire to speak to-night. We have heard it said over the last few weeks that the Government has certain plans to increase export earnings. I believe that the proposition of which I will speak would increase export earnings considerably. We have heard of roads to be built in the Northern Territory, and of the export of beef they will bring to the markets. I fully agree with the remarks in that connexion. But this proposition concerns Australia's greatest waterway - the Murray River. In spite of everything that has been said about conserving water in different parts of Australia, it must be remembered that all governments, whether Labour or Liberal or a coalition of Australian Country Party and Liberal have not conserved enough of the water of the great Murray River and that water, in large quantities, is still going to waste by running into the sea.

For a long time Victoria and New South Wales have been endeavouring to come to some agreement to build a high-level weir on the Murray River to be called the Marra- boor Weir because it would be on the Little Murray or Marraboor River and would conserve the waters of the big Murray. It has been stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the weir should be built under clause 20 of the River Murray Waters Agreement because there are only two States that will receive benefit from the weir. 1 do not agree with that statement because 1 believe that if two States get a certain benefit from it, the Commonwealth must benefit also by way of taxation and other means if the weir brings greater production. We are endeavouring to have this Marraboor Weir built but agreement cannot be reached between the two States.

I am asking the Government to convene a meeting between the Premiers or the appropriate ministers representing New South Wales and Victoria in order to thrash this matter out and get this weir built. We cannot have some misunderstanding or lack of finance holding up a project that will bring great development and production. It is reported that the Victorian Government has said that it will supply at least one-third of the money. The New South Wales Government, although it has not made any statement, will, no doubt, supply a certain amount. We are asking that the Federal Government supply, say, a third of the money by way of a grant. The first move should be taken by the States but I believe that if the Federal Government will convene a meeting with the States on this proposition a successful conclusion could be reached.

I was very interested in the speech of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) who mentioned that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen on 26th February had said that the Commonwealth was prepared, if necessary, to devise special financial arrangements to encourage projects on which export depended, especially where thoseprojects were of such a size as to place them belond the resources of a single State. I take it that the same position will apply if a project is beyond the resources of two States. I rose especially to request the Federal Government to call this conference. It is of vital importance. The weir would, be in the vicinity of Swan Hill', Victoria. It would benefit New South Wales tremendously and it would benefit Victoria considerably. It would bring into production thousands of acres of country which are suitable for the growing of many primary products. There are good railways and airports adjacent to the area that the weir will serve. The roads are fairly good. Some money will have to be spent on them, but it will not be an excessive amount.

So far as the primary products are concerned, it will be possible, with the water that will become available, to grow cotton, rice, wheat, sheep - especially fat lambs - cattle, both for fattening and for dairying purposes, and fruit and vegetables of all kinds. Products most in demand for export could be grown, and in encouraging the growing of such items the Government would be taking a very definite step towards increasing production and increasing also our export earnings. What we want is some action. If someone would give me £1,000,000 I could bring all that country into production and so provide Australia with greatly increased export earnings. Recently we had completed in the electorate of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) the great deep-water port of Portland. The goods from the area in question could be transported by rail to that port and shipped overseas from there.

Honorable members of the Opposition are continually interjecting. It appears to me that if one speaks of unity tickets or something of that kind that does not, in my opinion, matter very much, everybody listens with rapt attention, but if one speaks of something progressive, such as water conservation, the Labour Party considers it a tremendous joke. If I were to reply tonight to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who spoke about the great Australian Labour Party and what it stands for. I would ask him only one question, and it is this: Will the Labour Party make a special point in its platform at the next Federal election of its great objective, the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange? Every member of the Labour Party says in this House that he is a socialist, but we never hear them say it at election time.

Mr Peters - You are spoiling a good speech

Mr TURNBULL - The honorable member for Scullin says that I am spoiling a good speech. I should say that I am spoiling what was a constructive speech, but I am doing so only because whenever one speaks of something constructive, such as water conservation, the Labour Party makes a tremendous joke of it.

Mr Pollard - We were responsible for the Snowy Mountains scheme!

Mr TURNBULL - The honorable member for Lalor has reminded me of another interesting point. The building of this weir would put to the greatest use the waters that will be made available by the great Snowy Mountains scheme which the Labour Party initiated but on which this Government has spent millions of pounds and has done all the work in its implementation.

However, I am not here to bandy words with the Labour Party, the members of which are obviously not in agreement with my advocacy of this water conservation scheme. That is obvious from their interjections to-night. I put it to the Government that my suggestion is worthy of consideration. Many men are eager to see this weir built. It would bring many settlers to the area. According to the Murray Valley Development League, a million people can be settled in the Murray Valley. I suggest to the Government that it should call this conference, despite the provisions of the Murray Waters Agreement. Have the States contribute liberally, and then the Commonwealth Government can provide the balance. It will not regret doing so.

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