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Tuesday, 2 June 1970


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I would suggest that the honourable member for Angas cease interjecting. He has just come into the chamber. I suggest that the honourable member for Sturt apply himself to the Bill and not to the honourable member for Angas.


Mr FOSTER - Thank you, Mr Speaker. 1 say dishonest because of the fact that members opposite do not look upon a water conservation programme for any purpose other than to see how it may benefit them by returning members of their parties to the Treasury bench. Let me digress a little and pursue the matter of the Chowilla Dam. If time permitted 1 would be happy to read the 14 points and facts about Chowilla that were put out by the Liberal Party some years ago and which were supported by honourable members opposite and relate them to what has happened to that project. If I did this it would be clear that my description of the Government a few minutes ago is apt. If members of the Opposition were wrong in respect of Chowilla and Dartmouth how in the name of goodness can we be wrong tonight? If honourable members cast their minds back to the debate on the Dartmouth Dam they will recall that the Government said that it had changed its mind about the Chowilla Dam because of differences in analyses of costs and other technical matters' which we had demanded to see and were refused. We will be consistent now by continuing to demand any analyses that have been made of any projects.

During the debate this afternoon and this evening almost every possible aspect of Government policy, from education to, occasionally, water conservation, has intruded. There has been no approach by members of the Government on a nat onal basis to the problem of water conservation - no approach whereby State boundaries have been disregarded and consideration has been given to watersheds anywhere in the Commonwealth that could benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth. I would imagine that there is just as much water racing to the sea from the Moonbi Ranges area adjacent to Coffs Harbour as raced to the sea from the Snowy River before that project was initiated. The Commonwealth Government must be aware of this fact but nothing has been said about any study being made of that particular area although there is a continual flood problem between that area of the Great Dividing Range and the coast, lt could well be that a study of this area would reveal that quite a considerable head of water could be diverted to the Darling River and into the Murray River complex, lt ought to be the policy of the Government and an undertaking of the Government to look at regions such as this. Honourable members may say as much as they like about the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, but South Australia was an absolute loser in regard to the whole project. It cannot be denied that South Australia was an absolute loser. 1 wish to say something else about the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, which is about lo be bombed out of existence. A Bill lo this effect will be introduced in the House shortly. Some honourable members opposite who took part in the debate today have had the effrontery to stand up and say what the Commonwealth Government should do in regard to water conservation. They have also had the hide to mention what the Authority may be able to do. They have ignored completely the fact that a Bill is to be introduced very shortly for ils disbandment. Only the other week when the House was debating the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill honourable members opposite had to think for a few moments about what they could say in support of that proposal. They will also have to think about what they can say in support of a B il which will result in the breaking up of an Authority which has been responsible for building-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member should not anticipate the provisions of another Bill.


Mr FOSTER - Yes, Mr Speaker. 1 was about to say thai this Bill will result in the breaking up of an Authority which has been able to do so much for water conservation in general. What areas are available for water conservation? What watersheds do we have in Australia? What underground supplies are known and available? These questions have to be answered. Of course, there is also the fact that we should be looking at what benefit we will obtain from this measure in terms of water, which is a commodity that is in very short supply. This provision should be measured in terms of the benefit that will be derived. In this regard I wish to refer to another project which has yet to come before this House for approval. 1 refer to the building of a nuclear power station in an area that the Government will no doubt select. Numerous questions have been directed to the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in regard to the cost of the project but the House has not received a proper answer. Once again we will be expected to debate a Bill which will approve the expenditure of millions of dollars, but we will nol be in a position to study the numerous reports which will have to be prepared before such a project is undertaken. The Government has gone along in a headstrong manner in regard to this particular project, lt has probably sealed a deal in regard to the project before anything has been put before the House for debate.

Members of the Australian Country Party have tonight seen fit to read from a document which | might term a closed shop document, ft has been made available on a limited basis to certain honourable members in this House. If this is the way democratic Parliament works then I have been in error for a number of years in believing that there is democracy in this chamber. But this is the type of treatment that the House is given. The Government is going to set out on the basis of the programme which is embodied in the Bill. In fact, the Bill seeks to put into effect certain proposals upon which studies have been carried out by the Stale Government. Surely the Commonwealth has the right to demand the reports on these studies, apart from its own investigation. The Bill which is before the House tonight authorises the payment of certain moneys to the State by way of assistance but we dare not for one moment ask for the reports which justify the expenditure of this amount of money. I wish to quote from a document entitled 'National Planning of Water Resources Development:'. I shall quote it only briefly. It states:

Since /he early post-war years there has existed in Australia a steadily growing body of professional and public opinion which feels that our national planning of water resources development has been haphazard and based on intuition instead of on comprehensive investigation of the engineeringeconomic bases for various projects. Such studies as have been made have been the responsibility at a variety of Slate authorities., often with inadequate facilities and with little co-ordination between them. No attempt has been made to provide Commonwealth wide overall appraisal of Australia's needs, without regard to artificial State boundaries and political jealousies.

This is exactly the position in Australia at present, Mr Speaker, I- see that you are going to ask me to resume my seat. Therefore, I will do so and regard my time as having expired.







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