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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) - The contribution made by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) was, as one would expect, disappointing. But we are certainly nol disillusioned. We expected the Minister to make such a statement because there is a watershed of fundamental difference between (he attitudes of the Australian Labor Party and the Government on this matter. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) clearly puts this matter into its correct perspective for the Labor Party believes in the establishment of a construction authority. We are not satisfied that there should be only a consultative body to gather information and furnish it to people who ask for it. This nation has immense problems: great jobs need to be undertaken for development. Just as the visionaries in years gone by saw the great problems of the Snowy and agitated for work to commence on this wonderful undertaking - work which was begun during the period of a Labor Government - so too today we on this side of the House see the challenges that exist in this country and the need to employ the skills of the work force of the Snowy Mountains Authority, the great team that has won world acclaim for its efforts, in the development of this country.

The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill establishes a restricted technical consultative Corporation. But this is not enough. This kind of organisation cannot achieve the goals that we feel should be sought at this time in the development of our continent. The Opposition is firmly committed to the formation of a national conservation authority. Without any doubt, in office we would establish such an authority. We would do this by retaining the skills that are at present available in the Snowy Mountains Authority. We would build this organisation to meet the great tasks that lie ahead. Our attitude is supported by people in all walks of life. Perhaps the greatest witness in support of a construction authority that we could bring to the attention of this Committee is none other than Sir William Hudson, the former head of the Snowy Mountains Authority, who did so much in the great physical development of this work and who, in addition, was able to sell this project to the people of Australia. On 28th March 1968 the 'Canberra Times' headed its editorial with the words "The Death of a Giant'. We do not want to see the death of this giant. We want the Snowy Mountains organisation to be kept intact as a construction authority so that public works in this country may proceed. An article in the 'Australian' on 19th October 1967 was headed 'We are too Smug, says Snowy Man'. That was a reference to Sir William Hudson. An article in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 6th January 1967 was headed 'Engineers warn of Snowy Team's Break-up.'

Those headings are true. Since the Government indicated that it intended to vacate this important developmental field the number of skilled personnel employed by the Authority has fallen each year. In 1966- 67 there were 71 fewer such employees than in the preceding year. In 1967-68 the number had fallen by a further 149 and in 1968-69 by a further 144. lt is circumstances such as these that irk and worry me. Members of the Country Party, including the former honourable member for Gwydir, Mr Ian Allan, have advocated the use of an authority such as the Snowy Mountains Authority. A newspaper article of 29th June 1967 under the heading 'CP Hopes for Federal Aid on River Plan' reads:

Country Party backbenchers hope the Federal Government will provide some financial assistance in the Budget lo be brought down in August to help establish a Darling River Conservation Authority.

I ask the Minister and the Government: Are there no great works we might undertake on the Murray and Darling systems? Think of the water that now pours into the sea from the Tweed, the Richmond, the Clarence and the Macleay Rivers on the north coast of New South Wales, devastating the countryside as it does, causing havoc whenever it rains and involving large expenditures of money in flood mitigation work. How wonderful it would be if this surplus water could be diverted to the western side of the Great Dividing Range, ls this not a challenge to be accepted by this Parliament? Surely this is one of the great tasks facing us. The Adelaide 'Advertiser' on 10th July 1962 contained an editorial headed 'Need for a National Water Plan'. Of course there is need for a national water plan. There is need for co-ordination of State and Commonwealth activity in this field. There is a responsibility on everybody in this country to harness our water resources for the development of this country. In its report dated 1 1 th December 1 945 on irrigation, water conservation and land drainage the Rural Reconstruction Commission referred to the need to harvest the waters of our southern rivers if our population is to grow to about 25 million. The report was submitted to the Honourable J. J. Dedman, who was then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. Of course our population will grow, as will the populations of our neighbouring countries. There will be a hungry world to feed in the future just as there is today. Perhaps some enlightened government in the future will be prepared to do a little more than has this parsimonious Government, which gave a paltry $15,000 for the relief of devastated Peru, where 40,000 or 50,000 people lost their lives and where whole communities were wiped out. The Government's miserable attitude is reflected in its approach to the cause that we are now considering. The Rural Reconstruction Commission reported:

In view of the vital importance of irrigation in the future of Australia's rural development, the Commission recommends -

(a)   that the maximum economic development of irrigation should be regarded as a national objective;

(b)   that an all-Australian co-ordinated plan for irrigation development should be drawn up in which the long-term needs should be carefully considered;

(c)   that the survey of river catchments and the recording of river gaugings should be encouraged so as lo supply the fundamental data on which future satisfactory irrigation schemes may be based:

(d)   that the methods of distributing and using water in existing irrigation schemes should be Mud icd so as to devise means whereby water may be more effectively used in the future than it has been in the past:

Those recommendations have fallen on deaf ears since this Government came to power. i make this final plea at this requiem for the great Snowy Mountains Authority - at these death rites of the Authority - to the Government or at least to some Government supporters who will allow their consciences to be aroused, for this is no small matter. This is a major matter. Such people as Professor C. H. Munro have argued a case for the establishment of a Darling basin authority as a national undertaking. The Darling River gets its water from Queensland and New South Wales. There is a need for a national undertaking to examine these matters. An article in the Melbourne 'Herald' on 27th October 1967 was headed 'Snowy-size Plans needed on SMA.' An article in the same newspaper on 27th September 1967 was headed 'Retain Snowy Skills - Hudson'. An article on 26th September 1967 was headed 'Sir William Hits Snowy Loss'. Those articles in the Melbourne 'Herald' support the arguments that we on this side of the chamber have advanced this afternoon. i can only hope (hat an annoyed community will take up the case that has been put to the Parliament by members of the Opposition.

Amendment negatived.

Progress reported.

Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.

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