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Thursday, 24 March 1966

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) .- I move -

That the following words be added to the motion - " and should incorporate the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority's investigation, design and construction teams in the proposed Authority ".

I listened with some degree of satisfaction to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) because apparently he and his colleagues in the Country Party agree that water conservation not only should have urgent priority but is a national responsibility. The only point on which I join issue with him is that the whole of his speech was devoted to the Darling River and its tributaries whereas I think the motion itself is directed in principle to all the major rivers in Australia. The honorable member will have to realise, I think, that he will have a tough row to hoe in getting his Government to agree to suggestions of this type. The Labour Party, of course, has been putting forward an identical proposal for years.

I shall refer to some of the problems confronting the honorable member in persuading his Government to agree. Firstly - I have mentioned this matter on previous occasions - I remind him of the most recent announcement to the public by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) with respect to Queensland's potential and particularly as this includes the southern Queensland area which includes the area about which the honorable member has spoken. The Treasurer stated that the rural industries had a greater potential than the secondary industries. In particular, he mentioned brigalow and spear grass. The Government has backed the development of the brigalow lands. That is a very good project. We still do not know very much about the economics of developing the spear grass country, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Treasurer is right in his predictions about spear grass. I am certain that development of this land, too, will prove to be a very good project once we gain more knowledge of the economics of spreading fertiliser on it.

The Treasurer made no mention whatsoever of water. In other words, the Treasurer is of the opinion that northern New South Wales, and southern, central and northern Queensland have no potential in terms of the marriage of water and land resources. Let us contrast all this with the opinion of a man who I consider knows something about this subject. I refer to the late Director-General of Primary Industries in Queensland, Mr. Stuart Sloan, who presented a paper to the Water Symposium in Rockhampton last year. In that paper, he said -

Because of our limited water resources, I believe we will never regret building well located irrigation schemes, using suitable soils and good quality water, irrespective of what the economists may say. If this generation does nut find it economic to build large water storages, the next generation will have to do it for survival.

I think the honorable member for Gwydir will agree with that. I most certainly do. Let me also illustrate another reason why the honorable member is going to have a problem in convincing the Government of the need for this most urgent proposal. The Minister for National Development, in his speech yesterday, referred to the plight of the farmers in northern New South Wales. However, he then attempted to humiliate me by inferring that in my electorate it was green and lush. I wish to inform the Minister that the monsoons have failed for the seventh year in a row. Although the sugar cane might look green from the air, if he dug down six or seven inches he would find that now, in March, there is no subsoil moisture there.

If he goes into the electorate of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), Fisher, he will find a more serious situation in some areas than there is in Dawson. But despite the fact that if has been proven that water conservation has enabled the stable establishment of industries in similar areas, the Minister for National Development still refuses to accept the fact that' a very large proportion of production could be saved if only the farmers in the areas which the honorable member for Gwydir mentioned could be given water. I can instance one of the most outstanding examples in this respect and that is the Wallavilie-Isis area near Bundaberg where because of the failure last year of adequate underground water and the inability to store surface water the sugar mill was bankrupted and had to be taken over by another company. This was due almost entirely to lack of water. The Minister said that it was no good putting dams on the coast if Bourke was so many' miles away. I have never advocated such a system. In my first speech in this House, I clearly defined two areas. One was the arid and semi-arid regions where not much could be done with respect to large scale water conservation. There the problem is to provide small storages^ to regulate the flow of the tributaries, and to provide a practical system of credit and transport in order to be able to alleviate the hardships of producers. But it is in the semi-high or high rainfall areas that the greatest potential for increased production exists. These are tha areas about which I have been speaking mainly and these are the areas about which the honorable member for Gwydir mainly spoke.

The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), in a most remarkable .md characteristic speech, said that he was most disappointed with mine. Well, that is usual for a person such as the honorable member for Wakefield, who has the reputation of being the biggest knocker in this House in relation to developmental schemes. In fact, the honorable member is called " Knocker Kelly " in many places. He challenged me and said, for example, that it was all nonsense-

Mr Ian Allan - I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in referring to a debate which has taken place previously? Are we debating yesterday's motion again today?

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