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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2348

Mr TURNBULL (MALLEE, VICTORIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development who will be aware that most water storages serving Victoria are now at a satisfactory level, but this has not always been so and, as Mallee constituents are highly dependent on an adequate water supply, I ask: What progress' has been made in discussions in regard to the building of the proposed Dartmouth Dam?

Mr SWARTZ - I referred to this matter in the House last week. I can bring the position up to date by describing what has happened since then. The position is that after South Australia at long last passed legislation approving the original agreement between the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for the construction of the Dartmouth Dam, certain actions had to be taken consequent on that approval by the South Australian Parliament. First there was an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the States in relation to a number of points that had to be clearly defined. To the best of my knowledge that stage is either completed or is just in the process of finalisation.

The second point was that the estimates of the cost of constructing the dam then had to be reviewed. This was carried out by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation at the request of the River Murray Commission. I indicated that there had been an increase from S57.5m to $64m in those estimates, which will be considered by the River Murray Commission next week. But as the increase is above the 10 per cent set out in the escalation clause in the agreement the matter then has to be referred back to the 4 governments for reconsideration.

Also, this matter cannot be referred back to the governments for reconsideration until the Acts have been proclaimed by all the governments concerned. This is a machinery procedure which takes a certain amount of time and my understanding is that this will be done as quickly as possible. I can assure the House that immediately the Acts are proclaimed the River Murray Commission will refer the new estimates to the governments concerned. It will then be up to the governments to consider the matter. Under the agreement the governments have 6 months in which to make a decision as to whether to proceed with the work on the basis of the new estimates. I would anticipate, and hope, that this will not take the full 6 months. I would expect that within a matter of a few months the governments would be able to make up their minds in relation to the additional costs and refer the matter back to the River Murray Commission.

Therefore, the position at present is bound by certain time factors inherent in the agreement. But as I said last week, as President of the River Murray Commission I am most desirous to see this matter brought to fruition as quickly as possible.

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