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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr ROBINSON (Cowper) - Mr Speaker,I rise to support the legislation for the setting up of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation which, I believe, will play a very significant part in the future development of this nation. Despite the criticism that we have heard this evening from the Opposition there is no doubt at all that a future exists for such a corporation.

We have listened to some quite unfounded criticisms this evening. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser) who, I believe, represents that part of Australia which covers at least the main section of the Snowy Mountains area in which this project has been developed and is being brought to completion, has been quite destructive, quite unfair and lacking completely in judgment in what he has said tonight. Of course, the evidence of his lack of understanding is no surprise to honourable members on this side of the House. He became quite personal in an attack on the former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). I deprecate his attitude. He claimed that no Minister had been present in the chamber during the debate. He failed to recognise that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and no responsible member of Labor's shadow Ministry had appeared in the chamber to support his cause. So his arguments fall to the ground.

I do not want to take up the time of the House in what might be described as spurious approaches to this very important matter. I believe that the accomplishments of the Snowy Mountains Authority have been recognised. The Authority was the means of developing and constructing to a stage of near completion a very great project. The Labor Party fails to recognise that this work is nearing completion. It fails to recognise that there is no project work which can be continued under the Snowy Mountains scheme. So when we ask ourselves what the old Authority can do under its charter we find that there is no project in contemplation which is applicable to the Authority. This is patently clear. The Government has taken into consideration every facet of logical development in this nation in coming to the decision which has resulted in the proposals, embodied in the legislation now before us- a decision that henceforth the Authority should change. The States were approached by the Commonwealth and asked for their views. There were many discussions about the future utilisation of the Authority as it was constituted. The States wanted to guard very jealously their rights to maintain their approach to the construction of water con? servation projects and other major public works projects in the States. 1 had some misgivings about this situation but I am a States righter and 1 believe that there is justification for the States to maintain their sovereignly in this field. This evening the Opposition has demonstrated that if it occupied the treasury bench it would be a centralist political power. These days the allegation is consistently made that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is a centralist. Well, that allegation is not borne out in this matter.

The Opposition -has claimed this evening that the Snowy. Mountains scheme is a monument to democratic Socialism. This is undoubtedly true but not in terms of the hard cold facts of reality. We recall that the Snowy Mountains Authority did an excellent job in the face of what might be termed the demands of people who did not like this kind of approach to a great public works in this nation. Under the leadership of Sir William Hudson and others there developed a relationship between management and labour which set a pattern for low costs, efficiency, completion on time and getting the job done in a way that could not be compared with the old fashioned approach in the States. The Authority is not a monument to democratic Socialism; it is a monument to the drive and initiative of people who went out not to follow the old methods but to introduce new ones, to get new thinking and new concepts and to get the job done. It is a tragedy for Australia that people like the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and so many others have stirred up dissatisfaction amongst the staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority; have caused dis sension; have created misunderstandings; have maligned the former Minister for National Development; have criticised this Government and in so doing have lost sight of what might have been a somewhat better approach to this difficult and complex problem of finding a new role for the Snowy Mountains Authority and the dedicated people who work not only at the executive level but in the field to create in Australia a great organisation.

The Government has adopted the only course open to it in establishing the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. Any alternative approach would have meant the continuation of an organisation capable of carrying out construction work or calling for tenders for work to be carried out. This would have meant having .in Australia virtually a centralist body which could turn its attention to a project only in cases of difficulty, because after all the Commonwealth's control does not extend beyond the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory or one or two Territories beyond the mainland. When it comes to dealing with work within a State it is a totally different matter. Someone has asked: 'What about Cooma?' He forgets the origin of the Snowy Mountains scheme - the fact that the Constitution provided a certain basis for the establishment of the scheme. This was the interest of the respective States in the waters of the River Murray. This was a clear and precise base which could be used at the Commonwealth level. There has been reference to defence powers and constitutional approaches but fundamentally there was a starting point which made the scheme possible.

The founders of the Constitution recognised that the River Murray had a particular significance in this continent. This is not the case with other river systems. It is patently clear, therefore, why the Snowy Mountains Authority was not asked to carry -out construction work on, for example, the Ord River scheme; to cany out construction of the Fairbairn Dam in Queensland: to carry out construction of the King River Dam in Victoria; to build the Keith to Tailem Bend pipeline in South Australia; to carry out work on the greater water supply of Western Australia. These are projects being assisted financially by the Commonwealth but their construction is a matter for the respective States. There are many more important works in the national water resources programme. There are many more works coming under the National Water Resources programme, and they are very important works. These include the Copeton Dam and the projected border rivers scheme in New South Wales, a considerable development along the east coast of Australia within my own electorate and those of my colleagues, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and others-

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