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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr GARRICK (Batman) - I move:

In clause 17 sub-clause (1.) omit from paragraph(f) the words 'outside Australia' and insert in Australia or elsewhere'.

This amendment relates to the clause which denies the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation the right to engage in the construction of engineering works within Australia. We on this side of the House believe that this destroys the very spirit of the Corporation. For many years now those thousands of Australians who take pride in their country's achievements and triumphs have found satisfaction and inspiration in the successes of the Snowy Mountains Authority. Our overseas visitors, newspaper editors, and particularly our engineers - in fact everyone - recognises that the Snowy Mountains scheme epitomises all that is to be admired in Australia and that it is our best example of Australian getupandgo. Even the former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), a man dedicated, it would seem, to presiding over the death of the Snowy Mountains Authority, was unstinting in his praise of the Snowy Mountains scheme. On 28th August 1969 he is reported as having told the nation:

In this regard I would remind members that although we may be approaching the stage of taking the Snowy Mountains scheme for granted, it is still the largest development project ever undertaken in Australia, and will possibly remain the largest ever undertaken.

He must have expected that, with such limited vision, he would have remained in office forever. He continued:

Its basic concepts and the skill, drive and imagination with which they have been carried out have received world acclaim. The hard won skills acquired in such an undertaking would not be dissipated.

Of course, despite his words on that occasion, it is well known and well documented that he had been actively engaged in dissipating the hard won skills for some years past. Now our worst fears have been confirmed, not to our surprise, by the successor to this former Minister. The Bill introduced by the present Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) completely emasculates the Snowy Mountains Authority by the simple device of denying it the right to continue in the fields of construction activities in Australia. The Minister's second reading speech brought to my mind some lines written by the South African poet, Roy Campbell. He wrote:

You have to praise their firm restraint I'm with you there of course: They use the snaffle and the curb But where's the bloody horse?

We may well ask: Where is the scope to use the hard won skills and services of the Snowy Mountains Authority under this Bill? For in denying the Corporation the right to the construction of, or the performance of any work in relation to, engineering works in Australia the Government is removing from the Corporation the very element which gave to the Corporation, or the Authority, its essential character. Sir William Hudson expressed concern that the team spirit of the Authority would disappear if the Authority switched to design and consulting work. In short, Sir William was convinced that the vital nexus between design and construction was the source from which the special character of the Authority emanated. Sir William also expressed the view that he had always hoped that the Authority would be used in the same way as the United States Bureau of Reclamation, which had engaged in construction projects all over America. And who better than Sir William to express an authoritative view - a view worthy not only of consideration but also of acceptance?

There is no doubt that the Authority's success is derived in no small measure from its esprit de corps and it is this esprit de corps which this Government, through the agency of the Minister for National Development and his precedessor is determined to destroy. It is demonstrably true that men are by their very nature creative beings who derive satisfaction from the willing performance of productive activities and there is no doubt that work on the Snowy Mountains scheme, by virtue of its national importance, by virtue of the magnitude of the tasks undertaken and by virtue of the inherent challenge to those in both higher and lower echelons, inspired the work force, just as their success inspired the Australian people. It is little wonder then that within the Authority there existed an esprit de corps that was without parallel in this nation's history. It is little wonder then that this Government quickly recognised, as even the meanest talent would, that the dismemberment of this great

Authority would best be done, even if not quickly, by attacking that esprit de corps, by demoralising the Authority's work force, and this was, and is, the ignoble job to which the Minister and his predecessor addressed themselves.

The Government and the then Minister must have been encouraged by a report in the 'Australian' newspaper of 10th June 1967 by Mr Anthony Curtis who found unrest and apathy as the men from the Snowy faded away. Mr Curtis wrote that the men of the Snowy: . . were washed up as a construction force, but 'elements' of their investigation, design and scientific services staff, plus a few administrators, would still have a job.

According to Mr Curtis the questions the men from the Snowy were asking were: Who will form the elements?' 'What work will they undertake?' These questions, 3 years later almost to the day, have still not been answered. The situation as it existed then is the situation that exists today.

Mr Dann,the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority, is still respected but is still referred to privately as 'the undertaker' because he still has the invidious task of having to attend to the Authority's final dismemberment and even demise. The hypocrisy of this Bill as it stands is evidenced by the fact that the Government is prepared to allow the Snowy Mountains Authority to compete with foreign enterprise in foreign lands. This indicates that the Government agrees with the Australian Labor Party and the people of Australia that the Snowy Mountains Authority is a magnificent construction authority, capable of holding its own in any land. Why then is the Government prepared to allow foreigners to reap the benefit of this world class construction authority and yet deny these same benefits to the people of Australia? Can the Government give us an assurance that it has nol made some deal with foreign corporations to give them unrestricted access to Australian resources for no other reasons than their own private profit? Why is the Government giving such an open cheque to foreign enterprise when the records show that in this field we have one of the finest construction authorities in the world? Is the Government afraid that the Snowy Mountains Corporation will be too efficient and effective for these foreign interests to compete with within Australia? ls the Government afraid of competition in Australia? It obviously does not care about competition in foreign lands since the Bill allows the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to compete as a construction authority anywhere except in Australia.

Labor initiated the Snowy River project and Labor, in consultation with the States, would carry through without interruption a programme of planned development, or further irrigation, electrification, road building and so on. This clause of the Bill is merely further evidence of the Government's determination to put the riches of our country at the mercy of foreign enterprise and comes as no surprise from the Liberal Party which sees any national effort, be it the Snowy Mountains Authority or the Australian Industry Development Corporation, as a threat to its friends who could not care less about the welfare of the Australian people. I hope that the Government will give due regard to this amendment.

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