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Thursday, 25 November 1965

Mr ARMSTRONG (Riverina) . - I endorse everything that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said this morning, especially his comments on water conservation. My electorate is now vying with that of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) for the right to say that it has the largest area of irrigation of any electorate in Australia. When all the works that are now proceeding in the Blowering area on the Murrumbidgee River and the Talbingo dam above it are finalised, over 90 per cent, of the available water in the present Snowy Mountains Authority area will be trapped. However, nearly half the flow of the Murray River will remain unused. Before the Snowy Mountains Authority is dispersed and used elsewhere, I would like it to devise means of using the remaining waters of the Murray River. I do not want to make comparisons between works, as we are prone to do. Some people do not want to see work undertaken in other areas because it may deprive the area in which they are interested of the opportunity of having work done there. This is a narrow, parochial viewpoint and not a national one. I do not want to put that viewpoint forward, but I think it would be a waste of talent if we did not use the great administrative and planning ability of the Snowy Mountains Authority in the area where it is now situated before it is dispersed for use in other regions.

Two areas above the Hume Weir could be developed. One is known as Murray Gaps and the other is the Jingellic area. Both have been surveyed and a good deal of basic work has been done, but for the moment further work is not proceeding. This matter also concerns the River Murray Commission. It is not a matter solely for the Commonwealth Government; it is a matter for the Governments of three States as well. It is a matter of such national importance that work should be undertaken at the earliest opportunity so that water that is not now being used could be put to proper use. The Murray River, of course, is Australia's greatest waterway and conservation of water at the source of this river would not only result in greater productivity but would also create diversity of production and so produce greater wealth for the whole of the community. Another aspect that should not be forgotten is that the tourist industry along the Murray Valley is developing. It is already a minor industry. Work on the Murray River would, in addition, give more security to those people who pump from the river at no cost to any government. It is interesting to note in passing that I saw the Murray River at Swan Hill in July of this year and in the mid regions of the stream it was just as low as it was in 1914.

I want to get away from the Murray River for a moment and refer to the Murrumbidgee River. Along the Murrumbidgee River, between Darlington Point and Balranald, large numbers of people have implemented private irrigation schemes of an elaborate nature. They are creating employment and are adding considerably to production. At the moment, they do not have any firm basis for this activity, and I think that they should be given some security. This is a matter, of course, for the State Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission of New South Wales. The pumping licences on which these people operate at the moment can be revoked at very short notice. This is a matter for overall planning. I would urge, therefore, that every effort be made to allow these people to have some continuity in their pumping. Considerable attention has been focused on the value of irrigation by the intensity of the drought that now prevails.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! It is now fifteen minutes to one o'clock and in accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question -

That grievances be noted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

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