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Thursday, 25 November 1965

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) . - Honorable members may recall that a few weeks ago in a Grievance Day debate I referred to the priorities to which I thought the Government should give consideration. The first priority was defence. The second was water conservation, and the third - a natural corollary of the second - was decentralisation. I dealt to some extent with the first priority but I did not have time to refer to the other two. Probably I will not have time to complete my arguments this morning, because I may speak for only 10 minutes. These are very big subjects encompassing the whole of Australia and all Australians. Defence has No. 1 priority in this country. We all know that. No matter how good your water supply, your social services, your decentralisation schemes or anything else that makes for congenial living may be, if your defence is not good and an enemy can come in and take charge, everything is lost. I do not think any honorable member will disagree with me when I say that defence is our No. 1 priority.

When I spoke on a previous occasion I directed attention to the presence of our forces in Vietnam. I believe that our men there should have the wholehearted support of the Australian people. Since I spoke this cry has been taken up by a New South Wales clergyman. His remarks have received some publicity in the Press. Of course, when I spoke in this Parliament nothing was said in the Press about my remarks.

Our soldiers have fought in two great world wars and in numerous small wars in an effort to rid the world of would-be tyrants. On this occasion they are doing exactly the same thing. The Government of the day has decided, in its wisdom, that we should co-operate fully with our ally, the United States of America. If we did not, how could we expect that great power to co-operate with us if such co-operation became necessary for our defence? Therefore I say very definitely that as the Australian Government has seen fit to intervene in Vietnam and as our kinsmen are fighting there at the present time, every Australian should be wholeheartedly behind those men who are helping to prevent the spread of Communism across Asia.

Throughout this country we hear people saying that our men should not be in Vietnam. We hear all kinds of speeches about the subject, and they must be very discouraging to our men who are fighting on foreign soil. I know from experience that this must be so. I remember the feelings of those in Changi prison and such places at the darkest hours of the period when so many of our men were prisoners of war. When they heard on the secret wireless that people working on the wharves or the ships in Sydney Harbour - I forget the exact details - were getting extra money for the risks they were taking, this had a most depressing influence on them.

I know that nothing can be done about this matter unless the people of Australia themselves decide to give our men serving overseas every support, and from this Commonwealth Parliament I appeal to every citizen to realise that men are dying overseas so that we may continue in peaceful occupation of this country. I repeat that there are people in Australia saying that our men should not be in Vietnam and other countries', but I remind the House that our men have served overseas before. Australians have gone abroad on many occasions and made sacrifices; they have given their lives so that their fellow Australians may live. This will happen again because there will always be men willing and able to take risks when even small things connected with our way of living are challenged.

I hope that people throughout this country will realise the seriousness of the situation. The majority do, because a Gallup Poll has shown that they do. We must realise that there is really a war in progress, even though we have not declared war. Our men are dying, and I appeal to the people of Australia to give our soldiers serving overseas their wholehearted support, as they have given it in the past.

Let me move on to the second subject about which I wished to speak. It is the subject of water conservation. Some people may say that social services should be given a high priority by the Australian Government, but I remind them that social services can be provided only when a country is prosperous. Unless a country earns a lot of money it cannot pay social service benefits. I believe that the best way to increase our productivity, ensure for our people more congenial living and perhaps increase pensions for those who we know need them is by implementing a vigorous programme of water conservation. The Government should inaugurate a major plan for the conservation of more and more water. It should also make sure that the water that is conserved is used to the best advantage.

In previous speeches I have made advocating greater efforts in water conservation I have stressed the need for taking stored water by pipeline to country districts far removed from the storages. It has been stated by an eminent expert on the subject that in some cases the wastage of water between storage and point of use is as much as 90 per cent. Some of it is lost through evaporation but most through seepage. This is a national calamity. An efficient pipeline system for water distribution would be equivalent to increasing existing storages by 50 or 100 per cent. The provision of storages is a very expensive business. The provision of pipelines is also expensive, but it is only a single expense that is incurred. There is only a limited amount of water available in Australia and if we concentrate on building more and more storages we will eventually reach the limit and find that any further storages provided cannot be filled. If, however, we concentrated on using the stored water to the best advantage we could double the amount of water that is at present available for pastoral and agricultural pursuits.

I do urge the Government to consider seriously the implementation of a plan for conserving more water and distributing it by pipeline. I know that some people will tell me that the States should do this kind of job. I know that the States have their obligations and I know that the Federal Government distributes large amounts of money to the States so that they may fulfil those obligations. What I have been trying to arrange through my efforts in this House over a long period is a conference between representatives of Commonwealth and State Governments and interested pastoral and agricultural organisations, so that we may find out exactly what is required.

I live in an electorate which has a very large frontage on the River Murray, which is, of course, Australia's greatest waterway. The amount of produce directly attributable to irrigation from the River Murray is tremendous. Country like that around Mildura would be carrying perhaps one sheep to 40 or 50 acres if the benefits of irrigation were not available, but today, as everyone knows, Mildura is one of the show places of Australia. The district produces as much as £12,000,000 worth of dried fruits per annum. The dried fruits industry is an important export industry and it must be. maintained. Many other commodities, such as cotton, could be grown in the district if more water was available. Therefore I appeal, on behalf of all the people of Australia, because all would ultimately benefit, for greater efforts in the field of water conservation and also for the provision of pipelines for distribution of stored water.

In conclusion I return to my original point and urge the people of Australia to give their full support to our servicemen overseas.

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