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Thursday, 31 March 1966

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) .- On a number of occasions I have had to direct the attention of this House to extensive damage along the foreshores of Botany Bay in the vicinity of dredging operations by Commonwealth Government authorities. Probably the most extensive damage of all occurred last weekend. The situation became so dramatic that on Sunday several metropolitan radio stations broadcast appeals for volunteers to go to Brighton Beach. They suggested that the volunteers should take a spade to try to save the long concrete promenade that extends along the beach and also the new clubhouse at Brighton-le-Sands.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Did the honorable member go?

Mr REYNOLDS - I was not in the vicinity or I would have been only loo glad to do so. Most people are aware of my interest and of the representations I have made in this matter. 1 only wish the Government was as responsive and sympathetic. 1 think 1 have dealings with all the Ministers in this Government but none has been so dilatory in his response to representations as the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton). 1 do not say that on only one or two counts. Lately I have made persistent representations to the Minister informing him of what would happen along the Botany Bay foreshore both to public and private property. I have made representations to the Minister and have referred to the matter in this House on Grievance Day and at other times, only to find the Minister for Works replying to a Government supporter without having had the courtesy to respond to my written representations on this subject. I have had to go to the Minister and ask him to give me a copy of his reply.

I emphasise that the damage last weekend caused grave anxiety to many residents in this area and on Monday I sent the following urgent telegram to the Minister for Works -

Extensive and devastating damage occurred over week-end along Botany Bay foreshore near Brighton-le-Sands. Beach cliff now within three yards of public footpath. Emergency action taken by municipal authorities to save public buildings. Situation demands urgent action by your Government Please advise me of any immediate plans.

This is not a joke, as honorable members and the Minister would see if they visited the area. But despite protracted negotiations, I am not aware of the Minister having once visited this area. The damage is so extensive that the Rockdale Municipal Council asked the State Government to sue the Commonwealth Government for St million for the extensive damage that had occurred up to a couple of months ago. Since then much more extensive damage has been done and last week was the worst of all.

The Commonwealth Government stated in response to representations by me some months ago that it was not within its power to make any kind of assistance available to repair the damage until it could be proved that the Commonwealth was responsible for it. Damage continued for month after month in one storm after another. Erosion along the beach front took place to a depth of more than 100 feet and the beach cliff has now receded to a point almost immediately alongside Grand Parade, a much used public road in Brighton-le-Sands, which runs through the busy shopping centre there and on to Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. I told the Minister about this, but he was adamant that until the Wallingford Research Laboratory in England had provided a report that would indicate whether the Commonwealth's dredging operations were to blame for the damage, the Government could accept no responsibility. So damage along the beach front has continued for nine months and the parklands have been denuded and almost eroded away.

There is a danger to public health also. Garbage was buried and covered with topsoil in order to protect the beach and the park against erosion. However, the topsoil has been eroded away and garbage now floats along the foreshores of Botany Bay in the vicinity of hundreds of homes adjacent to the beach front. Not only is there danger to the public because the beach cliff, which drops about 14 feet, is right alongside the roadway and a busy public footpath, but also there is now a health danger because the garbage buried in an attempt to prevent erosion has been uncovered. As I have said, so far as 1 know the Minister for Works has never inspected the area to see the problem that exists there. Relief measures are needed urgently. The Minister maintained that the Government could not accept any liability until its responsibility had been proven, even after 1 had organised a petition which was signed by residents throughout the area in their hundreds and which was made available (or signature through Returned Services League clubs, the local sailing club, the local fishermen's club and various other public organisations in the district. But then it became known to the Minister through representations by Government supporters that there was anxiety among the local residents and disgust at the Government's lack of action. This knowledge persuaded the Minister to say: " Without accepting any liability or responsibility, we will take the action that is most urgently required ".

What about the predicament of all the private citizens whose homes have suffered damage from sand blast and who have been inconvenienced by the lack of public facilities on the beach because of damage to the swimming enclosure, the parklands and the enclosure in Cook Park. All these facilities have gone, but the Commonwealth still refuses to accept any liability in the matter. All that it could be persuaded to do was to agree, without prejudice to any ultimate responsibility that it may or may not have, to make $5,000 available to the local municipal council for the most urgently needed repairs along the promenade on the Brighton beach front. It has promised also to make up to $10,000 available for urgent work in Cook Park. But this is not good enough. Although the Rockdale Municipal Council estimated that $1 million would be needed to repair the damage, the Commonwealth so far has agreed to provide only $15,000. What good is SI 5,000 when the estimated cost of repairs is $1 million?

I am concerned not so much about the repair of the damage to private homes from sand blast and other causes. What I am really concerned about is the Government's taking so long to deal with the problem. How much more damage must be done to private property and to the public facilities in this lovely district before the Government can be persuaded to accept what is obviously its responsibility, as anybody would agree? Tonight, I have not detailed all the damage that has occurred. I have said nothing about the siltation of Cooks River, which causes damage to boats as they are taken to and from the BrightonleSands fishermen's club. I have said nothing about the problems experienced by fishermen in navigating Botany Bay itself and the approaches to Cooks River.

The seriousness of this matter has been brought to my notice and I have brought it to the notice of the Minister for Works, but, somehow or other, he has not seen fit even to do me the courtesy of acknowledging my representations weeks after I have made them. Though I sent him an urgent telegram directing his attention to the great dangers to residents and public property in the area, he has not even done me the courtesy, through a whole week of the parliamentary sitting, of acknowledging that telegram in which I made urgent representations on behalf of the local residents. That is why I feel so strongly about this matter. It is all right for the Minister to laugh about it, but if he goes there and talks to the residents he will soon have the smile wiped off his face.

I have asked the Government and I have asked the Minister to give me a copy of the main recommendations and findings of the Wallingford report now that it has been furnished to the Government. What did the Minister say? He wiped me off indifferently. He said: " The report belongs to the Maritime Services Board. If the Board likes to make it available to you, well and good, but I am not going to do anything about it." That is the effect of the reply which the Minister gave me, despite the fact that Commonwealth money has been used to meet half the cost of the research. I think that as the member for the district 1 am entitled to receive a copy of the main findings and recommendations of the Wallingford report.

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