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Thursday, 24 March 1966

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member for Dawson is in order. He can refer to another debate to substantiate the point he makes in this debate.

Dr PATTERSON - What I was trying to say was that the honorable member for Wakefield inferred that every dam in Australia is uneconomic. He challenged anybody to produce evidence to the contrary. But the honorable member for Gwydir produced such evidence with respect to the Keepit Dam. I suggest that the honorable member for Wakefield should look at his economics in the light of what the honorable member for Gwydir said.

Mr Robinson - The honorable member is twisting his facts.

Dr PATTERSON - I am not twisting anything. This is what he said. Another point which the honorable member for Wakefield said was that it was nonsense to bring the investigational staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority into such areas as northern New South Wales and Queensland. The honorable member said that we had to have soil surveys and so forth. I agree with those remarks, but we were not speaking about that matter. We were talking about areas where there are serious losses facing established industries, as the honorable member for Gwydir said. All they need is water. This is what we were speaking about. The economics of the enterprises have been invesigated and soil surveys have been made. This was done 50 or 100 years ago. It is a question of providing water to these established areas and not to the new areas as the honorable member for Wakefield suggested. These are proven areas. I agree that it is important that there should be proper research and investigation, both economically and scientifically, before we go into new areas. I agree entirely with that and no person can ever point to any publication or statement that I have ever made in which I have said anything to the contrary. I am concerned with this problem as a matter of urgency. I am sure that the honorable member for Gwydir is also. I am speaking about these areas where have occurred high losses which we know could be saved if we had proper storages. These are the crucial problem areas today.

Similarly, with northern New South Wales and South Queensland. In the Esk and Eidsvold areas, there is a drought at the present time yet, three months ago, water was flowing down rivers on which exist practical dam sites. There would be dams there if the Queensland Government could get the funds to build them. I refer also to the Burnett River as far west as the Brigalow area, the Pioneer River, the Broken River, the Eungella, the Burdekin River and the Herbert River. These are the established areas in which these big losses have taken place or are taking place today. Then there is the underdeveloped areas of the Gulf country - the Flinders, the Mitchell, the Leichhardt, across into the Northern Territory to the Adelaide and Daly rivers, parts of the Ord and the Fitzroy. These are the underdeveloped areas where we have to carry out research. This is the type of work which a conservation authority would carry out in conjunction with construction teams. It would require engineers, geologists, hydrologists and surveyors - people trained to carry out investigations Ik association with the other physical scientists in the fields of soil, climate and economics. In turn, a system of priorities would be established.

But first and foremost I believe that we have to solve the problems in the areas today where the crises are developing. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Gwydir that a crisis has occurred in northern New South Wales. I listened carefully to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes). It was obvious to me that he was embarrassed, being a member of the Country Party. I read his speech again this morning. There is really nothing in it to comment on because he did not talk about Queensland or the need for water conservation in that State. Certainly, he spoke of what had been done during the 39 years in which a Labour Government was in power in Queensland, but he did not attempt to justify anything which the Commonwealth Government had done in its period of reign. I want to say for the record that this Government has not given the Queensland Government one penny for water conservation - not one penny-despite the fact that Queensland is potentially, in terms of water and underdeveloped soils, the richest State of the Commonwealth.

As honorable members know, the Australian Labour Party feels very strongly about the Snowy Mountains Authority. I would say that a large number of people outside the Labour Party also feel strongly about that organisation. The Minister for National Development stated, when referring to the Snowy Mountains Authority, that he had never seen a more active death bed. I accept the point that with respect to the design and construction sections of the Authority it has work to do and will be fully occupied for a number of years to come. But I am concerned with this highly important investigational section which will be a vital part of a water conservation authority such as the honorable member for Gwydir has suggested. It comprises a team of people trained in this particular field of water development. They are experts in this field and they work as a fully co-ordinated team. It is no good having a civil engineer only go along to a dam site and make a decision. He must have his supporting staff - his surveyors and hydrologists, for example. They are the people who can add most to the scientific investigation from the practical point of view.

I should like the Minister for. National Development to review the position of the investigational section of the Snowy Mountains Authority to see whether it could in fact undertake a very large proportion of the urgent work that is needed in all these areas. I know he has said that he is already doing this; but despite the constitutional aspects governing the Snowy Mountains Authority I find it extremely difficult to understand why this Government will not give the Premier of Queensland and the Premier of New South Wales, if they want it, the assistance of the staff of the investigational section of the Snowy Mountains Authority to help the State departments in investigating water resources.

Mr Brimblecombe - If the Premier of New South Wales wants it.

Dr PATTERSON - I am not quite sure who interjected, but I can assure him that the Premier of Queensland certainly wants this assistance. He has publicly stated on several occasions that he wants the assistance of the Snowy Mountains Authority. There are many areas, for example in the Fitzroy basin, that could profitably utilize the skills of the investigational staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority but the Queensland Government has no finance to pay for it. It is almost unbelieveable that at the height of the drought the Burnett area received the assistance of the investigational section of the Snowy Mountains Authority and the district was then asked to pay £10,000, despite the fact that the farmers were almost on their knees as a result of the drought. That seems to me to be a very poor way of looking at development.

On the question of whether the staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority is satisfied, 1 refer the Minister for National Development to a statement made by Mr. G. L. Walker, the General Secretary of the Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draftsmen of Australia, in which he made quite clear what the staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority thought of the delay in making a positive decision on its future. He listed fact after fact to prove his contention that this Government is deliberately adopting a policy of disintegration. I hope that statements of that sort are wrong. I have made similar statements and I hope that they are wrong also, because I think that this Authority should be given every opportunity and every en couragement to work in conjunction with the States, if the States want this, on water conservation in Australia.

I should like in the remaining few minutes to say one thing about some of the rivers which the honorable member for Gwydir mentioned. There are many rivers in Australia which, based on technical information, we can forget about for the time being. I do not agree with some engineers who, because they see a lot of water flowing down a river, say: "This is a good place to build a dam ". The most important thing is to make a proper overall physical and realistic economic assessment. For example areas like the north Kimberleys with the King Edward, Drysdale and Carson rivers areas have been thoroughly investigated from a land classification point of view. In these sandstone areas there will be limited scope for development unless technology is able to solve some of the inherent problems. So in considering what can be done with all rivers we certainly must adopt very sensible priorities based on a realistic approach to the economics of production.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Whitlam - I second the amendment and I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.

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