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Tuesday, 2 June 1970

Mr TURNER - I was under the impression that it was promised in connection with the election.

Mr Swartz - No.

Dr Patterson - Mr McEwen promised it.

Mr TURNER - It was the Leader of the Country Party. That is a distinction without a very great: difference, lt was promised by the Leader of the Country Party. Let us pass over that slight difference. It was promised at the time of the election by the Leader of the Country Party, who certainly spoke for the Government on that occasion as on many other occasions. I ask: What is the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the Bill that has been promised by the Leader of the Country Party for the Government, and what is the attitude of the Australian Country Party? They are equivocal and rather interesting. The amendment which I have in my hand states:

That all the words after That* be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the technical evaluation and any cost benefit analyses carried out by the Commonwealth for the project near Bundaberg be made available to this House.'

The motion before the House is that this Bill be read a second time. So the Opposition is saying that the Bill should not be read a second time; all it wants to do is to look at the cost benefit analyses. Is the Opposition for the Bill or is it not? In any case, what is the real meaning of the amendment? I suggest that this is a piece of political jiggery-pokery and nothing else.

Mr Daly - Hear, hear.

Mr TURNER - The honourable member who has just interjected is nothing if not a realist. I am glad to have his support for the statement I have just made. The Labor altitude, as I was saying, is equivocal, and it is based on sheer politics. What it is trying to say is this: 'If anybody wants a dam anywhere, we are their friends. We will have a look at the Bundaberg scheme. We may be for it; we may be against it. But, friends everywhere throughout Australia who want a dam, we may turn down the Bundaberg one and select yours instead.' I have no intention of voting for an amendment that is completely phony, and I believe I have exposed that precisely.

We have had great advocacy by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who comes from the coast of Queensland in the vicinity of Bundaberg. Of course he had support from the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) and from the honourable member for Riverina. I do not know what (he honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who interjected, thinks about this. He should be a member of the suburban lobby. What he thinks of his friends in (he country lobby - there is more than one lobby in this place - I do nol know. I hope he will tell us. The honourable member for Riverina, in a speech that was replete wilh every kind of generalisation and every kind of demagogic appeal, was completely lacking in substance. He referred to urban water supplies. What a terrible thing it would be if a suburban member woke up and found there was no water coming from the tap. Let me draw the distinction I have already drawn, because repetition is necessary to drive an idea into the minds of honourable members opposite. The suburban water supply I get in Sydney I pay for. lt is an economic scheme. There is no gift to me from the taxpayer in the water 1 get. But as I have already pointed out - and I repeat - the water supply for irrigation purposes is not paid for by the people using it. The honourable member for Riverina can quibble that they pay some small fee for the reticulation of it but the headworks, the major expenditure, the enormously high proportion of the cost of these schemes, is provided free of charge by the taxpayers for the people in the irrigation areas. Urban supplies are paid- for in full by the consumers. I draw that fairly simple distinction. I hope I have driven it into some thick heads here.

The honourable member for Riverina poured scorn on Dr Davidson. He is the honourable member representing the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. We may test his bona fides by this circumstance. He represents the people of that area. Of course he is an advocate for them, but nobody believes that he is impartial or objective. Dr Davidson, on the other hand, is a lecturer at the University of Sydney and has no reason to support the people of the Murhumbidgee Irrigation Area or any other irrigation area.

Mr Katter - I rise to order. The honourable member constantly refers to the honourable member for Riverina opposing Dr Davidson. He supported Dr Davidson.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order!There is no valid point of order.

Mr TURNER - As I said earlier, it is difficult to drive a few simple ideas into thick heads, and I repeat it. Let us pass on and have a brief look at the Bundaberg scheme. 1 am mainly concerned with the general principles involved in this matter. What is it really all about? The Commonwealth is to provide SI 2.8m and the Queensland Government $8. 3m. That is a total of about $20m. But this figure is not the true cost. This is for only some of the works. The cost of .the total works when completed will amount not to a mere $ 12.8m provided by the Commonwealth nor even to the $20m supplied by the Commonwealth and the State. In the long run the scheme is estimated to cost S47m. Nearly $50m is going into this scheme. The honourable member for Riverina said th:s is a bagatelle. I dare say that when we consider what has been spent in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area it is a bagatelle - but not to the taxpayers of this country, who are clamouring for many other things besides water conservation and irrigation. What is this expenditure to do? Tt is to provide irrigation for about 1,450 farms and some augmentation of the water supply to the town of Bundaberg. Irrigation for. 1,450 farmers to cost $47m! This is a fair round sum per farm when the total of $50m is divided by the 1,450 farms affected.

Originally the farmers were given dry farms, not irrigated, and they were given larger areas because it was not irrigated. It was realised that to grow a quota of sugar they needed an extra area because the land was not irrigated. What is the posit;on of the sugar markets round the world?

Dr Patterson - Very good at present.

Mr TURNER - The honourable member says they are very good at present. I will say a few words about the past and future as well as the present. Nobody, not even the honourable member for Riverina, the honourable member for Dawson or any member of the Australian Country Party, has suggested that this land is to be used for anything but sugar. So what is the position of the sugar market? There has been a trend towards self-sufficiency in sugar by importing countries in recent years. The British Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, under which we sell at a very satisfactory price, ends in about two or three years. If Britain by that time is in the European Common Market and buying sugar made from beet on the continent of Europe, the highly desirable British market will disappear or will be enormously reduced. Then there is the United States Sugar Act. The United States had a quarrel with a gentleman called Castro of Cuba some time ago. At that time Queensland vastly increased the production of sugar presumably either in the belief that the new market would last indefinitely into the future or in the equally likely belief that the Australian taxpayer would pay the losses of the sugar industry, forever. After all, it had some reason to think so. As to the International Sugar Agreement, the countries of the European Economic Community did not sign it.

The costs of sugar to the Australian consumer, because of what we might call a tax upon the consumer, is enormous. The more we grow, the more it costs the Australian consumer as a kind of taxpayer, if you like. We have been told that unless we implement this scheme we will lose so much sugar production. Yes, and look at the extra price for sugar that the Australian consumer will pay. It is true, as the honourable member for Riverina said, that we need export income. We need the foreign exchange we earn from exports. He nods his head. He nearly nodded it off. We may pay a high or low price for the foreign exchange we earn from our exports. For $1 of foreign exchange we may have to pay $2 if we earn it by means of sugar exports. We may have to pay only $1.20 if we get it by some other more economic means. So we have to look at the cost of gaining $1 of export income. Sugar represents the least economic of all ways df gaining exchange through exports. I have here a table that was supplied to me by the Parliamentary Library, lt sets out the type of arrangement under which Australia sells sugar, the percentage of production of that type and the average price per long ton of raw sugar. Domestic sales represent 23% of production. Only 25%! The average price per long ton of sugar for domestic consumption is $140. The sales at a negotiated price - that would be with the United Kingdom and the United States - are 25% of production, and the average price per long lon is $100. Free world sales represent 50% of production - and increasing with the Bundaberg scheme - and the price is $60 per long ton. So the prospects for the sale of this additional sugar that is to be produced are. to say the least, pretty dismal.

Now I come to the information supplied to this House in regard to a cost benefit study of this scheme. None has been supplied to this House. Some weeks ago I tried to get a cost benefit study from the Parliamentary Library. I was told that it had none. The best that it could do was to give me some sugar producers journal in which there was said to be some kind of summary of a report that had been made by the Queensland Government. This summary set out only matters that were of interest to the producers, such as how much water they were going to get, how much it would cost them, how many acres would be irrigated, and things of that kind. There was nothing there to enable members of this House to see how many farms would be irrigated: what that would cost: and what was the value of production from the farmers.

Mr Corbett - I will lend the honourable member this document afterwards.

Mr TURNER - My friend had something here. Oh, yes. later I got one. But this is the trouble-

Mr Grassby - We have not.

Mr TURNER - That is quite true. The honourable member would not have a copy. Honourable members would not have copies. Copies were made available to members of the Queensland Parliament, no doubt Country Party colleagues of our friends in the corner. Not only that, but I believe that there were 2 reports. One was provided to the Commonwealth. I understand that the proposition was then turned down. A subsequent report was made which no doubt was more encouraging. 1 do not know which was the report that 1 finally got. But let us pass over that. 1 have quoted before, and I quote again, a paragraph from the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, known as the Vernon Committee. In paragraph 17.73, the Vernon Committee said:

We think . . . that there would he merit in the establishment of a Special Projects Commission, or some such body, willi the power lo investigate proposals for major development projects, wherever they are located, to advise governments on them, and to publish its findings.

I wish to emphasise those words. I want to underline them; put them in italics; and write them in big letters: . . and to publish its findings.

Mr Grassby - What is wrong with that?

Mr TURNER - There is everything right with it. The Vernon Committee continues:

Such a body, if given sufficient powers and adequately .staffed, could do much both lo enlighten the public and to assist governments in arriving at the most informed decisions possible.

Al this point, we can roll out the pork barrel that the honourable member for Riverina brought in. As I understood his long winded explanation of the criteria that would be applied, it was that we should not take loo much notice of boffins. We can read what they said but, in the end, a person should form his own judgment. 1 read that as meaning: 'Then we roll out the pork barrel'. That is the final criterion. Away with the boffins; roll out the pork barrel. That is as I understood the honourable gentleman.

Now, if I may, I wish to make some brief comments on one or two speeches that I have heard. The honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) referred to the benefit from taxation derived from the growing of more sugar in Bundaberg. He said that this was a great asset. If the honourable gentleman had read Dr Davidson's book - this, of course, would be highly subversive as far as members of the Country Party were concerned - he would have appreciated the point that was therein made that if a similar amount of money was expended in another and more economic industry, as much, or more, will be derived from more taxation from that more economic investment of capital than would be derived by investing that capital in something like more sugar in Bundaberg. So, that argument falls flat on its face.

Then, I think the honourable member for Riverina referred to droughts. Once again, anybody who has read Dr Davidson's book - and I commend it to honourable members-

Mr Grassby - Yes, I think the honourable member should.

Mr TURNER - Yes. Anybody who has read that book will realise that where water storages have been installed, as on the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area - I think he instanced it - the incidence of drought has been greater than elsewhere because people who run cattle are inclined to fatten them or to use the produce of the irrigation area to fatten them so that more cattle are there to be looked after and, when the drought comes, they die from thirst.

Mr Grassby - But that did not happen.

Mr TURNER - Oh, well, this is merely the honourable member's assertion. I prefer the academic. No matter how much scorn is poured . upon academics, they are impartial to the partisan argument of the honourable member for Riverina who represents an irrigation area. But this is just a matter of preference.

I wish to make a few positive comments here. Who does the Opposition think it is helping, and who do members on this side of the House think they are helping, by supporting the investment of taxpayers' money in non-economic industries? If this money were invested in economic industries - if it were invested for example in restructuring some of the primary industries like dairying which badly need it - I would agree wholeheartedly with this move. But no good is being done by simply wasting money by bolstering up declining industries, whether it be the sugar industry, the dairy industry, or whatever it may be. I support wholeheartedly - 1 have no objection; none whatever - the expenditure of public money on making industries viable by restructuring and by a variety of other means.

I would be wholeheartedly behind a study, for instance, of the economics of transport and handling as they affect the wool industry. I would be wholeheartedly behind helping people who are in uneconomic industries on the land to get out of them or to use their land for some other purpose that is likely to be more economic. T would be glad to help them with regard to housing if they must move from their present holdings somewhere else. I would be glad to help them in retraining for some other job. I would be glad to help with social services where necessary to tide them over the interim period when they are becoming established in some other form of production. These are good things'. But the more money is wasted by putting it into declining industry the less money is available to spend on the real things that ought to bc being done in rural industries.

This is the positive approach that we have failed to make on either side of this Parliament to the rural industries. This is positive. It might indeed mean spending more money; but the results would be worthwhile. If we continue to bolster declining industries' and not to develop economic industries, the economy must to that extent be weakened. I am not one-eyed about this matter. I am not saying that this ought to be done only in the primary industries. I have attacked also the policy of bolstering up uneconomic secondary industries.

Mr Grassby - This is the first time we have heard that.

Mr TURNER - If it is, the honourable member was not listening or maybe he was not here. I had a few words to say a little while ago about hot water bags, for example.

Mr Kelly - That is true.

Mr TURNER - That is the truth. I am quite even handed about this. I believe that this country cannot survive unless our industries, primary and secondary, are made more efficient. At present, we are sailing along gaily because it happens that countries like Japan are happy to use Australia as a quarry.

Mr Foster - That is right; true again.

Mr TURNER - Yes. that is right. But if we are to develop the industries based on metals, we have to do a lot more than dishing out money to bolster declining industries without changing those industries or making them economic. If we waste money in this way, we shall not be able to build a strong economy. We shall not be able to develop and defend this country. Indeed, I. believe that our very survival depends upon our looking at our primary and secondary industries with a very cold and critical eye and making them efficient. I believe that anybody who fails in this task is failing not only his party and his electorate but also Australia. This is a serious charge to make. I am sorry that it has to be made by the advocate of the Devil, because there are so many on the side of the angels on both sides of this House; we should find some more Devils.

Just by way of conclusion, I state that 1 listened, as I always do, with great interest and enjoyment to the speech of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). He told us how this Bundaberg scheme was the result of petitions - in other words, pressure groups. He referred to humanitarian aspects.

Mr Katter - That is right.

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