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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr SPEAKER -Order! That is quite in order. The clock went back to zero because the motion was that the House do now adjourn. The House then decided that it would not adjourn and, therefore, the time was put back to account for the time that the honourable member for Cowper had used in the course of his speech.

Mr ROBINSON - Within my own electorate perhaps one of the greatest potentials for a major scheme is one not dissimilar to the Snowy Mountains scheme. The Clarence River, with its catchment, has an annual run-off of some 4 million acre feet and there is a possibility that in the future a considerable amount of work could be done in that area of a nature which could involve hydro-electric generation with diversions to inland areas as well as storage facilities and irrigation works within the valley itself. In th s regard the New South Wales Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission has begun only in the last few weeks an investigation of what would be known as the Jackadgery Dam. This could be as large as any construction carried out under the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric scheme. But again this is a matter of, first of all, the State's own rights to look at the project, to see what it .can do and what it believes should be done, and to make recommendations.

If we were to ask the Snowy Mountains Authority, as it was, to come in to survey, to assess and so on, we would immediately put the Commonwealth imprimatur on a State project. We would immediately see a situation in which there would be a call for vast sums of money. Of course, I would be delighted to see this happen in my own electorate. I am here to advocate that this should happen but I do recognise that there are procedures and ways and means of getting projects of this kind recognised and eventually put into effect. It certainly would not, in my view, be in the interests of this or any other scheme to try to lump them all under the one authority for the whole of the Commonwealth. In effect this is what it would mean if we were to try to carry on with the old Authority and give it the province of overseeing, investigating projects and making recommendations, and then proceed to be the authority for the construction of every major dam and water conservation project, irrigation scheme, flood mitigation works and the like throughout the Commonwealth.

The inquiries that have come to the Snowy Mountains Authority, and which will subsequently be a matter of concern for the new Corporation, include such propositions as the further work on the Eastern Suburbs railway in Sydney and a proposal by the Bolte Government in Victoria that there should be an underground railway system in Melbourne. The Snowy Mountains Authority has been referred to as a possible source of engineering advice for these works. It would be a fine thing if there were unlimited financial resources available so that this Authority could go and carry out all these projects, but if this were so what would happen to the interests of the States? [Quorum formed.]

There is a tremendous national responsibility for great projects to proceed. I believe that the new Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will play a very big part in this important developmental work. I believe that the Commonwealth, which has to assist the States and which has to play the particular role of supplementing finance to provide State works, will be able to do its job in an effective manner by drawing upon the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for advice and guidance - by seeking from it specific reports on particular projects and the like.

I am sorry that there is a lot of discontent and a lot of unhappiness on the part of those fine engineers and others who worked at Cooma and who were so much a key factor in bringing the great Snowy Mountains Scheme to fruition. I only wish there was some way to enable them to carry on as they have in the past, but I think that the transitional period will give them new hope and new heart and that there will be an approach which will be quite different to that which we heard expressed by the honourable member for Eden Monaro and others who want to. destroy confidence and who want to destroy the soul, so to speak, of those who are dedicated. The honourable member and the others to whom I refer paint a gloomy picture for the future.

It is a very practical factor that, from the engineering point of view, those who were engaged on the great Snowy Scheme had to work ahead of the project. They had to carry out design work well ahead of the particular segment of the scheme. It was only natural that there had to be a tapering off in this Held. In trying to cushion this tapering off, the Government has done all in its power to give these people other tasks to perform. I think it is to the credit of the Government that it has found not only in Australia but also overseas opportunities for these men to engage their skills and to have some opportunity of carrying forward into the future their great capacity in this important field of conservation and construction, lt is naturally disappointing to them that they do not have something comparable with the Snowy Mountains scheme to which to turn.

If that had been the case, tonight we would not be debating this measure. We. would not have heard many of the complaints that were expressed in this House in the last 18 months, lt would be merely a matter of changing over from one scheme to another, but unfortunately there is not a similar scheme to which the Authority can turn its attention. There are other works, and these have been referred to and explained in considerable detail in this debate. I express the hope that the new Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will be engaged by State governments and will be brought into use to a far greater extent than has thus far been envisaged. I believe that this is a proper approach, and the more so if there is recognition of the skill that this new Corporation possesses and can develop. There are further fields of endeavour for men of the capacity of these men who have been engaged on the scheme in the past. There are specialist tasks to be engaged in but which are the province of the States. If the States will see the value of the service that can be rendered by the Corporation, it will be a useful thing for Australia and for the governments jointly. Working in co-operation, they will see the value of some teamwork but they will not interfere one with the other in their particular approach to the requirements of the respective parts of the Commonwealth.

Tonight we are dealing not with what has been described by the Opposition as the end of the Snowy Authority but with a new phase of what has been a great demonstration of Australian capacity in the construction field. We are setting the stage for a new era which could well be significant for Australia's future development. I hope the Opposition will recognise this and that we will not see a continuation of destructive comment and destructive debate, that we will not see further fomenting of dissatisfaction than we have thus far witnessed in relation to this matter. 1 believe there is a great need for optimism so far as the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation is concerned. I am certain that if this optimistic attitude is adopted there will be greater recognition of the capacity which can be developed from the very efficient, sound and proven base that exists, within this organisation which is now completing the great task of constructing the Snowy Mountains project. I support this legislation to the full. I believe it is in the best interests of this nation and, having regard to all the factors which must be taken into consideration, in the best interests of all concerned.

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