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Tuesday, 2 June 1970

Dr EVERINGHAM (Capricornia) - I want to, first, support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). This Bill is an example of a broken down fire brigade approach to what should be long range planning. Here we have an emergency effort, which is still a dismal one, which does not give the priority to the full scheme as recommended by the State of Queensland and which, as the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) has said, shows no concern by the Commonwealth for priorities within the State. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has admitted as much. He has said that he is not concerned with State priorities in a State, but only as between States. The scheme does not correlate or integrate with any other department of government or long range policy.

The honourable member for Dawson has told us that what we need first of all is a cost benefit analysis. 1 want to suggest to this House that benefits are not just the sorts of things which economists only place in their economic analyses, whether it be this rather thick document put out by the State of Queensland on the Bundaberg region, whether it be the costing done and the cost benefit analysis done by the Snowy Mountains Authority, or any others. These people are restricted to fairly immediate considerations. They are not concerned with the development of this country as a nation. 1 wish to protest first of all at the ad hoc nature of this approach. The Government, as it usually does, has waited until a public outcry has occurred and people have been walking up and down the streets of Bundaberg selling buttons which read: 'We want water. Voluntary organisations have more get up and go and more initiative in broad national planning than this Government which ought to be giving the lead and which ought to be educating the grass roots people so that they can use their vote intelligently and can assist the Government instead of having to buck it all the time to get the slightest minimum of action.

This is an emergency grant. That is what it is. lt is not the scheme which ought to be contemplated as the proper way of handling this urgent need of the sugar producing areas not only in this Kolan-Burnet 1 area of the Bundaberg sugar producing region but also, as the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) has said, in the areas south of the river including the Isis region and the Childers region. All these areas ought to be tackled as a unit. The full proposals in logical order as put out by the Queensland Government Irrigation and Water Supply Commission should have been backed to the hilt by this Government. This Government is the only one which can finance such development and da- it with the fullest resources and with the best priorities not only to relieve the urgent needs of those growers who most desperately need water now - they will not get it for another 3 years at least - but also to deal with long range planning needs which should have been accepted many years ago.

Why should it be left to the States all the time to come up with the detailed planning1 Why should the States b; left with the laborious effort of compiling this data, negotiating it, revising it. renegotiating it and putting it up for Commonwealth experts to pull apart and to say: 'Do it again; you have not done your homework"/ Why should the States be required to take the initiative in these matters? It is the Commonwealth which comes along and claims the credit by grandly handing out a bit of a grant or more often. I might say, a loan for development works in these States and demanding in return its pound of flesh in interest. Why should this be the position in a country where only I government holds the purse strings and where only I government can decide priorities on a national scale? We have the vision not of Cabinet co-ordination in planning but of Cabinet disintegration.

We saw it, as some preceding speakers such as the honourable member for Dawson mentioned, in the Chowilla-Dartmouth debate. We are given a cut and dried decision. We are given an overall sketchy argument as to why a certain plan should be put up. But we are given no real alternatives. We are given no reasoned approach whereby we can say: 'Yes, step by step, this is the logical scheme to adopt*. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) answered this criticism by saying: 'But, of course, you did have the costing of the Chowilla project. You did have the cost of the Dartmouth project. So. I fail to see what the honourable member for Dawson is referring to'.

The honourable member for Farrer was mystified about it.

What the honourable member for Dawson was referring to was the fact that we were given again this cut and dried alternative - either we' have this or we have that. No attempt was made to correlate what would happen if we had both, if we had stages of both or if wc had both in stages of one with stages of the other. I believe that I stand closer to the honourable member for Farrer and the honourable member for Dawson in my approach to water conservation than I stand to, say, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and to Dr Davidson who wrote his book knocking all sorts of water projects. My reason is not just that we have a dry continent but that this continent has very little water left that we can use for the people whom we are bringing here.

I think that we must have a very firm look at our immigration policy. I think that we will need to reverse it in some areas. We are succeeding in piling more and more bodies into the great overgrown cities of Melbourne and Sydney. We are not getting centres fit for people to live in, located in areas where a reserve of water is available. Again, I will quote the honourable e member for Farrer - a former Minister for National Development - who said that Queensland has probably the greatest water resources in Australia but only a little money to develop them. Now, what is the position? Where is the Government to put its development? Where will it put its people? Where are these new centres to be established? The Government cannot put these people in Melbourne. Melbourne is fighting already with New South Wales and the Riverina as to which will have the water for Melbourne. The Government cannot put these people in Sydney because Sydney is having difficulties not only in getting water into the city but also in getting it out again. The headaches caused by pollution and traffic are choking the development of Sydney.

If the Government is to accommodate these people, it will need to build big new centres in areas where the resources are available for these people to live. Plenty of water will be needed to do this particularly if these people are to have a diversity of interests nearby so that they will have reasonable chances of full employment and diversity for their families to get jobs and so to stay in these centres. What the honourable member for Farrer said is exactly right. The only place where we have big water resources is Queensland. But this is undeveloped water. The snag is that it is so irregularly arranged in time. The average annual rainfall in the area referred to in the Bill - that is the Kolan-Burnett region - according to the explanatory memorandum which the Minister for National Development has circulated wilh the Bill, is stated to be between 44 inches in the eastern section - that is the catchment for the Kolan River - and 38 inches in the western section, which is the Burnett catchment. The Burnett catchment is a much bigger area but provides not a great deal more water because of the lower rainfall west of the coastal range which separates the 2 catchments.

As this memorandum points out, the rainfall is terribly variable not only during the year, because most of the rain falls in the one wet season in the summer, but also from year to year because this area has about 3 drought years in every 10 years. This type of situation is much more marked in coastal Queensland than in any other part of Australia with a comparable rainfall. That is quite a respectably high rainfall. This is the sort of rainfall that is received in other closely settled parts of the coastal fringe of this country. There is nothing wrong with an annual rainfall varying from 44 inches to 38 inches if that rainfall is spread reasonably as it is in other places in Australia. But this is not the case in the Kolan-Burnett area.

This is where hardship, inhumanity and injustice are being suffered by these farmers who have suffered 8 drought years in the last 9 years. They are very lucky to have a crop this year because the rainfall is still subnormal'. Last year was really the worst year on record. 1 suppose that it could be said that most of the dry farming sugar areas in this region received approximately 10% of their crop, if that. This tragedy has not been stopped. As the Minister and others have pointed out, the problem is not just that the rainfall has not recovered properly. The problem is that the reserve water under the ground is still decreasing.

Until we have two or three Hood years, or years of above average rainfall, the slow spreading gangrene and the tragedy that is affecting this industry will not be slopped. This project will be too late for many farmers unless we have a Hood very soon; even next year will be too late for some of them.

What should be done? More to the point, what should have been done? As the honourable member for Dawson has said, there should have been national priorities - not State priorities, not State begging, not State agitation and nol public protest. National priorities should have been set when the Snowy Mountains scheme was launched and those priorities should have been stuck to instead of the Snowy scheme being tapered off. This is the pity and the tragedy of having a Government which insists on an ad hoc approach instead of planning. The Government is not planning because it is frightened that it will be labelled politically as too far left, as having a discredited philosophy or a foreign philosophy. The only philosophy which the Government has is the tattered remnants of an outworn one that went out with Queen Victoria.

I want to refer briefly to the sorts of things that ought to be exercising the minds of those in government when the Government decides these priorities. They should not concentrate only on water priorities. I have put forward an argument for giving Queensland the No. 1 priority. Queensland has this variable rainfall. Any school child with an atlas detailing the monthly variations of rainfalls in the different rainfall regions of Australia can demonstrate that there is no annual variation elsewhere in Australia like that which occurs in coastal Queensland. As the honourable member for Dawson said, records over the last 50 years show that there is no other region in Australia which has such a rainfall variation from year to year. There is no other region where one can expect 3 drought years in every 10 years. But there are other things that can influence priorities besides water, and one of those is politics. This is what we are here for but unfortunately sometimes this does not mean politics in any enlightened way of serving Australians. It means a short range or shortsighted policy - what will serve until the next election.

This is the pity of what I have called politics in deciding priorities.

Even from this narrow and shortsighted point of view there is no need to search for things like the Ord River project or the Nogoa scheme, which are not as urgent or as beneficial from the economists' point of view as other schemes, in order to show that we are being impartial and helping all the States equally. Western Australia might have been better off to undertake other schemes before the Ord scheme. That State might have done better to have had a steel works. Of course everybody knows this now, but we should have known it when the Ord scheme was being considered; then even the short range protest that we must not carry out the Burnett and Burdekin proposals before giving something to Western Australia would have been without foundation. In that situation Western Australia would have been given something which it needed and Australia woUld have been better off. There would have been no basis for protesting that we have to balance the water grants to the States. I am not saying that we should not have the Ord scheme, but I am saying that it is a far more controversial project than a steel works for Western Australia or the Burnett or Burdekin schemes for Queensland. These are the broader visions which are not apparent in this Government's Cabinet because it does not correlate what one department does with what another department does. It seems that even the Department of National Development has nol the imagination to balance other kinds of projects against water projects.

Tasmania, for example, might be quite contented if it had an expanded aluminium industry rather than more money for water. One may say: Well, what about Victoria? What about New South Wales? What about South Australia? They are all crying out for water. Of course they are, and they need it, but they need it for different reasons. South Australia needs it for settlement, for people and for industry, and at this stage probably more than for irrigation. Wherever one goes the two objectives will have their claims. Irrigation will have its claim and population centres will have their claim, ft is very difficult to say, when a cost benefit analysis is undertaken, what the value of a water scheme will be, because primary production based on irrigation brings about population centres and population centres have a value that is very rarely costed in irrigation costing and cost benefit analyses. Therefore it is necessary to have a slightly broader view instead of merely saying: Where can we use water for irrigation? We have to say: Where can we build centres and cities to establish people to improve the quality of life? We should have a look at our migration policy and see if we should not be giving more attention to encouraging people to migrate from our own cities into new centres than to encouraging them to migrate from other countries to Australia and creating more urban problems for ourselves.

Mr Speaker,I commend the step, such as it is and as late as it is, outlined in the Bill. I commend the adoption of the Queensland plan, such as it is. I deplore the need for it to have developed so painfully over so many years without the help of the Snowy Mountains scheme. I deplore the lack of information that is given to this Parliament, and, it seems, the lack of discussion of it by the Cabinet. I therefore support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. I think it is high time that we had put before us rationally and plainly this kind of information so that we can make practical decisions here and so that the public can see that we have made the right decisions. The honourable member for Farrer objected to the amendment because he said he had grave reservations about making confidential reports generally available. Has he grave reservations about the Queensland Government making this p'an available? Has he grave reservations about the cost benefit analyses which he said were made freely available on the Chowilla and Dartmouth projects? Where are these secret documents about which he has such reservations? Are they stamped 'top secret' in the Minister's filing cabinet? If not, why are they not here? Why are they not condensed and put before us. The 'Readers Digest' could do it. Half a dozen good journalists could do it. I feel that it would be far better for this Cabinet to employ half a dozen people to prepare these summaries, if necessary, rather than using all sorts of public relations officers, trade experts and other propaganda devices to pull the wool over the people's eyes instead of giving them the facts and letting them gain confidence from the facts.

Mr Giles - Do you not think this project should be undertaken.

Dr EVERINGHAM - Of course it should, lt should have been done a long time ago. That is the theme of my speech. The only point I am making is that if we had the proper information placed before us as to the priorities we would bc convinced, as Mr Haigh of the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission is convinced, that this is not the most economic way to spend the money. There are some things we have to pay for whether we provide the money or not and one of them is the full Kolan-Burnett-Isis scheme. We will have to pay through the nose every year that we do not have that full scheme. 1 am not objecting to this scheme: I am objecting to the deficiencies and the failure of the Government to give us more than half a loaf as a good investment for Australia's future. Queensland has convinced the Commonwealth that this scheme is going to pay for itself because of stability in the sugar industry and because of the guaranteed returns. Why then is the Commonwealth not convinced that the entire scheme will pay for itself? The Government is not convinced because it has not done enough homework on this project. That is why it cannot present us with a case that has been fully argued. The Government did not want to go into too much detail because this would show up the fact that the full scheme ought to be implemented as a coherent plan, lt will cost more if it is done piecemeal, by doing it in the way proposed and leaving it to the Queensland Government to concentrate on the Monduran Dam scheme and the linkages instead of coordinating all the works. I do not want to delay this dam: I want the other works to proceed at the same time in order to make it more efficient and to get a better return for the money in the long run. Eventually that money will have to be spent and this entire project will cost more.

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