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Tuesday, 2 June 1970

Mr CORBETT - ft does defeat the Bill. It reads:

That all words after That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof:

All you have left is the amendment in these words: 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 Bill therefore goes, and that amendment will be in lieu of the Bill. This is the amendment proposed and supported by the Australian Labor Party. It is quite obvious that it will defeat the Bill. I agree with the honourable member for Bradfield who summed up very well indeed. There are one or two other comments about which I agree with him. I agree with his desire to see primary industries made efficient. I think that this is a good objective. But where the honourable member for Bradfield got off the line was in his assessment of what was going lo be achieved by this project. In point of fact this scheme is designed for the very purpose of making the growing of sugar in the Bundaberg district efficient and profitable. This scheme will stand up to an economic investigation despite what the honourable member said. In a very kindly way I want to draw his attention to the fact that this scheme docs not increase the production of sugar because the level of production is already set out in assignments and by the whole system of sugar production. What this scheme will do is to secure the production of the sugar that is already allocated to that area.

Mr Turner - The full quota.

Mr CORBETT - It allows the full quota to be produced.

Mr Turner - What about the increase in sugar production?

Mr CORBETT - It increases it only to the amount that Australia is expected or is allowed to produce. In point of fact the sugar industry is quite profitable. It is necessary to have a sugar industry in the whole area of the north of Queensland to enable the full utilisation of the land and to support the population in that area and cater for all the extra benefits that go with intensive agricultural .production. I want to refer to some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). His speech was one of the strongest condemnations made tonight of the amendment although in fact he said he supported it. In some of his comments nc said that one could get a cost benefit analysis and if one did not like it simply scrap it and get another to suit the occasion. If he gets the cost benefit analysis that is asked for in this amendment he can scrap it and get another one that he likes. Furthermore, he said that decisions should not be made on these analyses alone. I agree with the assessment of the honourable member for Bradfield on this matter. He assessed it quite well. He said there is no magic formula. That was another one of his statements. The honourable member for Riverina went on with great flights of fancy about the development of irrigation and- what it will achieve but he was well away from this project and although I would hope some of those things might in time come true they have very little relationship to the Bill now before the House.

I now want to deal with the Summary of a Report on Water Conservation. Underground Water Supplies and Irrigation. The actual report was handed out to members of the Government Members National Development Committee.

Mr Turner - What about the Parliament?

Mr CORBETT - People from the Bundaberg and District Irrigation Committee came down and put their case to the members of the National Development Committee. If anyone in this House wanted to inquire into what was' going on I am quite sure the Committee would have been very happy to have supplied the information.

Copies of the report were given to members of the Committee.

Mr Foster - You were privileged people.

Mr CORBETT - It was not that we were privileged people at all. Those people presented this to us in furtherance of their case. However, if there is to be a cost benefit analysis I am not against this at all; I would go along with the idea of having it. But 1 point out that this scheme was given No. 1 priority by the Queensland Government. If there are people in this House who want to disparage the Queensland Government then I am not one of them. 1 believe the Queensland Government has made a very good assessment of the projects in that State. There is no reason why it should not have done so. It has the whole State to consider and there still remain to be completed the Burdekin and Border Rivers projects which were mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson. But in their order of priority they were given an assessment by the Queensland Government and I believe that there was a very careful and comprehensive cost benefit analysis made of all the projects. If 1 am wrong then we have not had any evidence of it here in this place. Anyone interested in it could have obtained the information from the Queensland Government or they could have got it from someone in the Bundaberg area. I want to quote from this report about which I have been speaking. The foreword was written by Mr Ben Anderson who is the Chairman of this organisation. He is a great Queenslander. I commend him and his committee for the work they did in producing this document. It states:

This joint report compiled by the Department of Primary Industries-

Honourable members should listen to this ; and the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission and presented to the Ministers of the respective departments supersedes a previous report that was released in December 1966.

Can anyone suggest that attempts were made to hide this report when it was presented to the Ministers in the State House? Surely the report had to go there in order for the project to receive a priority for consideration bv the Commonwealth Government. Even if there was need of further information for the House this scheme should not be condemned. The foreword continues:

The thoroughness of the survey covering the Bundaberg Region must satisfy the Lower Burnett Community as it realises upon examination how well all phases of the major irrigation scheme have been investigated and the conclusion whereby the report declares "That there is a significant degree of urgency for provision of the Stage 1 of the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme.

I repeat that the Queensland Government has approved the scheme and has given it No. I priority and has approached this Government for finance to implement it. The attitude of the Commonwealth to Queensland's approach to the scheme is allimportant. These people did their very best. That is why they came to Canberra and presented this document to the members of the Government Members National Development Committee.

Mr Foster - The select few.

Mr CORBETT - They could hardly go round to every honourable member. I am supporting the scheme and I congratulate the people who went so far as to provide the members of that Committee with this report. There may be some criticism about the information available. Honourable members opposite say they have not got all the information they would like. We have been dealing with these schemes for quite a long time. People really - interested in the scheme could have obtained the information they wanted if they had made a reasonable effort to get it.

Dr Patterson - I rise to a point of order. For the last 5 minutes the honourable member for Maranoa has been criticising the Opposition for the amendment it has moved. The amendment quite clearly uses the word Commonwealth', not 'State'.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!There is no point of order involved.

Mr CORBETT - In the foreword the Committee slates:

Water, in great quantities is absolutely essentia! for this otherwise well developed area.

This point was conceded by the honourable member for Dawson. He said that the area needed only a supply of water and that it had everything else. Therefore this project is much more economic than it would be otherwise. Again, he made the point - to give him credit where it is due - that this would he a much more economic proposition than embarking on something entirely new. The foreword continued: lt is the one commodity needed to guarantee constant production and without it a rising population cannot enjoy the natural desire to develop a wonderful piece of a great Continent to the full.

I now want to refer to a publication called the 'Australian'. Some honourable members who are not always in favour of irrigation schemes might think that this is a reasonably good newspaper to read. An article in the 'Australian' stated:

The sugar industry provides the basis of prosperity for the Bundaberg district - and water is the basis of prosperity for the sugar industry.

Without sugar, Bundaberg could not remain one of Queensland's major provincial citied and support a district population of 45,000-

Is this not a worthwhile aim? I am sure it is. I would like to know who thinks that this is not a worthwhile aim. The article continues: and without water the sugar industry cannot remain economically secure.

It's a simple equation, but it sums up the situation in the Bundaberg district which last year was hit by its third severe drought in 6 years.

Yet honourable members talk about years in which we can dry farm. The report continues:

In a normal year - if: there is such a thing in the Bundaberg sugar industry - the district can earn about $34 million from a peak nf 341,000 tons. But sugar production last year was well below peak and the return from 212,000 tons was only $21 million.

Simple arithmetic shows that there was a loss there alone of some $13m. That would be the cost of th:s scheme, as pointed out by my colleague the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann). I would like to read a little more of this article. It continues:

In the three severe droughts .since 1964, it is estimated that the Bundaberg sugar industry lost $32 million because of below peak production.

These figures are not from some biased source, as people like lo suggest sometimes. They were published in the 'Australian' of 21st May, which is not so long ago. They are fairly recent figures. I could quote a great deal more from th s fairly full article. While this irrigation scheme is designed primarily for sugar I want to take up the argument about whether anything else is involved. Critics said that nothing else was involved but I interjected and said that something else was involved. This article states:

While the irrigation scheme is designed primarily for sugar it will also help other agriculture. A substantial tobacco industry, worth $1 million a year, and bean growing should gain greater stability.

For a start about 30,000 acres of irrigated land could be used to grow additional small crops, but sugar industry leaders expect all available land to be growing sugar by the end of the century.

This statement just goes to show the necessity for schemes such as this. Anyone who argues against them in the light of those figures and other figures I could quote is not trying to promote the essential decentralisation that this country so sorely needs. We in Queensland are very proud of what has been achieved in this direction, lt could be claimed (hat what I now propose to quote is biased. I used the 'Australian' article particularly because that claim could not be made about it. I want to refer to remarks made by the Secretary of the Bundaberg District Cane Growers Executive. He said:

The scheme is economically justified. The number of 1,458 assignments given security, increased efficiency and volume of production makes it unique in the State lo dale in the ratio of farms served lo capital cost. 1 believe that the evidence is irrefutable. The need for this scheme, its economic, soundness and its potential for keeping a district such as Bundaberg viable and prosperous is undoubted. We heard honourable members speak about the. need for railways and other things. I want to refer now to the value of this scheme. apart from sugar production and (he production of other agricultural products. Bundaberg needs this water. Bundaberg at present obtains its water from underground sources mainly on the south side of the Burnett River. The report states:

During 1964 and 1965 there was considerable difficulty in maintaining a satisfactory supply from this source due lo the fall in the water table level. This fall was a result of the high demand for irrigation water in the area east of the North Coast railway and (he lack of replenishment lo withstand this demand.

Il is estimated that the present safe yield from me area supplying the city may only be 4,000 acre feet per annum, but even this would he in jeopardy should the continued high rale of pumping result in further lowering of the ground water table.

With the increasing demand for' domestic and industrial supplies to the city, it is imperative that the present supply be supplemented from surface water sources.

So there are many aspects of this scheme conveniently overlooked or disregarded by its opponents. Because this project has been condemned oh the ground of economics, I want again to quote from this publication. I do not propose to refer to ali pf the many figures supplied in support of the scheme but will select a few. The value of the shortfalls in the 2 successive years 1964 and 196S at the respective overall prices received reached the staggering total of $18,776,000, about 40% of the capital cost of the stage 1 development of the proposed irrigation project. I am indebted to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) for arranging a trip to this area. The people were anxious to show the capacity of the district. They certainly were not hiding it. The honourable member for Kennedy arranged the trip that he talked about in the course of his speech, and I was very much impressed by the need for the scheme. I was happy to see, as he was, some members of the Australian Labor Party taking part in the trip.

Turning to direct losses, I think' the honourable member for Kennedy quoted some $5m. There are perhaps a few other items in the figure that I will quote. The average annual drought loss is $5im. This figure is made up by a region sugar production loss of $4,432,000, increased milling costs of $1,033,000, loss of road transport fees of $31,300 and loss of harbour dues of $64,700. This makes a total o $5,561,000. When we look at the annual loss than can be saved by this project it stands beyond any doubt as being very well worth while. I repeat that this scheme is being carried out in an area that is already well developed. In addition to that there are secondary effects. Here again, I think mention has been made that loss of production on farms has a very direct effect on other activities in or directly related to th: sugar industry throughout the district. Ir terms of gross value of production the sugar industry requires a higher labour force for harvesting and processing at area level than do most other primary industries. The sugar industry is a very valuable source of employment. Consequently, any decline i:i productivity as a result of drought can have severe social and economic consequences for the region. As my friend the honourable member for Kennedy said, there is a humanitarian aspect to this. The honourable member for Bradfield was good enough to go along with ' that. He was prepared to agree that this was a worthwhile attitude to take.

While losses .in the field cannot be evaluated precisely in economic terms, the local average annual production loss was $4,432,000 - this was the figure I quoted before. The loss of $8,776,000 during the 1964-65 drought is obviously high.. It was estimated by the ANZ Bank that direct losses in wages by some 3,200 employees on farms and in mills during the 1965 harvest season amounted to some $3m. Arguments will be used to show that these people could have been employed somewhere else. But we have to promote development. We have the responsibility and the duty to promote the development of every part of this Commonwealth that we can. It is very easy to see the expansion of our capital cities. We know that they are selfgenerating. But we have the responsibility to promote the development of other areas. This is one way in which development can be carried out. I must say - that it is a surprise to me to find there would be anyone with a full knowledge and understanding of the great value of this scheme who would be in opposition to it.

I would like to. make one or two other points from the document I have referred to. I want to refer to the comparative returns from dry land and irrigated farms with total gross assignments of 75 acres. In the first instance I want to refer to the situation where the area irrigated from that 75 acres was only 39 acres as against 49 acres in dryland areas. With crops grown under dryland farm conditions - and 49 acres, I understand, is the maximum that can be continuously used from the area - the difference amounted to a benefit of some $949 in favour of the irrigated area after allowing for all of the costs of production - the extra cost of production that would have to be included. I will not quote all of the figures in this report. However, when we go on further to a greater degree of irrigation - and this is what we hope to achieve - when some 56 acres out of 75 can be irrigated, the advantage then shows up as no less than $3,130. This is a typical case of a farm that grows an assignment of 75 acres. Therefore, when we see the figures of production that can be achieved - and I have quoted only the benefit that can be obtained by irrigation - the tremendous value of the scheme to the sugar industry can be appreciated! I have figures on the value of the sugar industry generally which I probably will not have time to quote tonight. In debating this Bill I want to try to keep to the Bundaberg area. I wish to refer briefly to a few of the benefits that will be derived from this scheme, with security of production as a result of irrigation. They are set out in the report as follows:

1.   At Stage 1 ta) development where present peaks would he achieved from 32% of gross assignments there would be consistent production of annual milt peaks which by elimination of past frequent shortfalls and stabilisation of the undergound water supply situation would provide an average annual increase in sugar production of 46.070 tons valued at $4.1m.

If that is what the honourable member for Bradfield was referring to, he would be right. There will be an increase in production up to the quota, but it is soundly an- ticipated that there will bc a market for this production. We will not be producing something that cannot be marketed. The report goes on to refer to the benefits as follows:

2.   The maintenance of peak production would ensure a substantia) reduction in average costs of growing, milling and handling.

Who was talking about efficiency? This is the way it should be done. The report continues:

The more consistent and increased produclion would ensure more efficient use of land, plant, mills,' transport and other facilities, all 'geared' for peak production.

There would be full utilisation of everything concerned with the industry. The third benefit is set out in the report as follows:

3.   Elimination of catastrophic losses in prolonged droughts such as in the 1899-1910 period . . .

I think my colleague the honourable member for Kennedy referred to that period of drought. Other benefits would be:

4.   Providing the opportunity for further in creasing annual irrigated sugar production from assigned areas . . .

5.   When market conditions permit the scheme will enable a further annual increase in irrigated sugar production . . .

I emphasise the words 'when market conditions permit*. Here I agree with the honourable member for Dawson that there will be an increase in the amount allowed for Australian production under the International Sugar Agreement. Let me add that if we let our production fall we will not have the same claim for a continued increase in our production. Other benefits set out in the report are:

6.   A high degree of economy inherent in expansion of production above existing neales since it would result from: more intensive use of existing lands: . (b) in the second stage from intensive use of mainly undeveloped lands within the general area required to be served by the works;

(c)   more intensive use of established facilities including cane tram lines, mills, bulk handling, port. road, power and urban facilities.

7.   Elimination of frequent shortfalls which by reducing supplies available for export could, in the long term, provide opportunities for other countries to take over established contracts.

I mentioned that earlier, and it is true -

s.   More intensive development of rural areas further improving the ' environment fur secondary industry development already substantially established around Bundaberg and thus encourage further decentralisation in the Stale.

Do we want any more than that to justify the scheme? I am sure that we do not. Let me refer to the efforts that have been made by the people concerned to provide the relevant information. If some people did not receive it I can say that the people concerned did their utmost to provide it. They submitted it to the Queensland Government. They did not want to hide it. They stand on it, and they are justified in standing on it. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill.

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