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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1731


Mr SPEAKER - Order! I remind the honourable member for Griffith that it is usual to ask for the call to raise a point of order, not to bang on the table to get it. The honourable member will behave.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Sir, 1respectfully suggest that the amendment moved by the Minister for Immigration totally negates the meaning of the original motion and, therefore, is unacceptable. It is not a proper amendment.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I rule that the amendment is not a direct negative of the motion; that it is relevant to the motion and is in order.


Mr GRASSBY - Mr Speaker, thank you very much. The Opposition has engaged in a cynical exercise this morning to involve the national Government and the national Parliament in a dispute between Sir Robert Askin and his own employees. It is nothing more nor less than that in the first instance, but it goes a little further. It is an attempt also to limit the actions of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in his endeavour to safeguard the heritage and the assets of the nation. This is merely a smoke screen, the first of a series of them that we will see in this Parliament in the next few months.

I deal first of ali with the issue that has been raised in relation to the operation of the Snowy Mountains scheme as it affects irrigation and food supplies for the people in the major cities of the nation. I am talking about the Murray and Mumimbidgee Valleys. I deal with that issue first because the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made some reference to it. I would like to place on record the facts of the situation relating to water storages in the Snowy Mountains at this time. These are the facts of the situation as they have been established by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The situation is that Lake Eucumbene is at present filled to half its capacity or, to put it in more precise terms, to 54 per cent of its capacity. At its full capacity of 3.9 million acre feet it contains 7 times as much water as Sydney Harbour. It is the key storage for the whole of the western areas which produce so much of this nation's food supplies.

At the present time, according to the documentation of the Snowy Mountains Authority, Lake Eucumbene is at its second lowest level since the completion of the total system. I also draw attention to the fact that the Minister has pointed out - and this again is borne out by the Snowy Mountains Authority - that the lake was at its lowest on 31 August last - a month earlier - at 51 per cent. He also pointed out that normally it is replenished by snow falls. Spencer's Creek readings show that at the end of September 1973 there were 21 inches of snow containing 10 inches of water. The annual average depth of snow at this time is 67 inches containing 30 inches of water. So this means that there has been an equivalent drop in rainfall of 20 inches. Yet the Opposition says that it is not a matter for concern that we should not be worried about this. I might say that I alerted every irrigation authority in the Murray-Murrumbidgee valley. I let every authority, every local government body know exactly what the position was. I said that I did not want to see the water supplies of the nation in jeopardy because of an industrial dispute between Sir Robert Askin and his employees. The Minister stood firm on that. He said: 'We will not get involved in an industrial dispute; we will not extend it; we will not provoke it'. What the Opposition is trying to do is to involve this nation in a parochial dispute in New South Wales.

I am not surprised at the honourable member for Wannon. I was not surprised at all when he rose in his place on this particular tack. But it was with a sense of disappointment that I saw that the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) was prepared to play ducks and drakes with the countryside in order to score a political point. I was saddened by this. I think it was a poor effort. As a matter of fact, he also sent some telegrams to people in my electorate of Riverina, and I am glad that he did so. He said: 'Do not be involved in an industrial dispute'. God bless him, that is right. Do you know what I told them? I said: 'Send him a few telegrams, let him know, because I think it would be very good for the right honourable member for Richmond to be put on the right track now and then'.

All of this business about the role of the Snowy scheme has been blown up, in the words of the honourable member for Wannon, because the Minister for Minerals and Energy made a decision. I made a note when the honourable member for Wannon was talking. He said in effect: 'You know, the great sin that this Minister committed was that he gave a directive, and it was the first directive that had ever been given to the Snowy Mountains Council; no Minister had ever given a directive previously'. God bless him, I hope that the Minister gives many more because 8 months ago - not last week or the week before - a deputation arrived from the MurrayMurrumbidgee valley. The people comprising the delegation were concerned about this water supply. They were concerned not only about the immediacy but also about the future and security. They came to put one simple case, which was: Would there be in fact a continuation of past policy whereby first priority was given to cheap power, or would there be a new priority for irrigation for food supplies?

I went to the Minister for Minerals and Energy and I put the view of the deputation, which was not a party political deputation; it comprised people from all political parties. They asked that there be a directive, and the Minister for Minerals and Energy said: 'When it comes to a choice between cheap power and the food supplies of the nation, I will opt every time for the nation's food supplies'. That was the first time it had been stated in 20 years. I was grateful for it and 'I conveyed it at that time. I acknowledge it in the House today, and I am proud and happy to do so.


Mr Katter - We are sick of your one-eyed views.


Mr GRASSBY - Somebody in the Opposition said that I was one-eyed, but at least in one week's time I will be normal but he will not. The decisions in relation to irrigation supplies were made 8 months ago. They were announced 8 months ago and they are on the record of 8 months ago. As far as the industrial dispute is concerned, of course there was no intention by the Minister for Minerals and Energy or this Government to be involved in an extension of an industrial dispute, which I might say is a disgrace to the State of New South Wales. I turn now to another matter because it is an associated matter in this context. A concerted attack has been made on the Minister for Minerals and Energy. It is not an attack because of the power industry or because of Sir Robert Askin and his worries with employees; it is an attack on the Minister because of his dedication to ensuring that in future the nation's assets will not be prodigally made available to other interests outside Australia.


Mr Reynolds - Where are the millions of dollars for the Liberal Party coming from now?


Mr GRASSBY - Of course, the nation's assets in minerals and fuel supplies exceed $400,000m, and wherever there is a honey pot there are a lot of bees.


Mr Fairbairn - What has this to do with the motion, Mr Speaker?


Mr GRASSBY - Everything. I suggest that this motion-


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister will confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair and the amendment moved by him.


Mr GRASSBY - Mr Speaker, this has everything to do with the motion. I make passing reference, of course, in accordance with your instructions, as I always do. My point is that the attack on the Minister in this instance is a spurious attack. It does not go to the heart of the matter and has nothing whatsoever to do with the realities of the situation. As a matter of fact-


Mr James - It is a one-eyed attack.


Mr GRASSBY - That is right, but the members of the Opposition will not recover. The situation is that the Minister is under attack because of his dedication to the conservation of Australia's resources and Australia's heritage. That is the real reason for the attack and it is one of the reasons I rise in my place to support the Minister. If one examines the present situation one will find, as did the Labor Government when it came to office, that in Canberra, for example, there are 60 foreign lobbyists. Most of them have an interest in the Minister for Minerals and Energy. They are, I might say, totally sustained by outside funds. Some of them, of course, masquerade under the titles of Australian association of this, that or the other. They are here in effect, as foreign agents. If they were in Washington they would be required to be registered, but in Canberra they are not.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! I ask the Minister to confine his remarks to the motion and the amendment.


Mr GRASSBY - Thank, you, Mr Speaker. I was going to develop this point because I believe sincerely that the motion moved by the Opposition today has nothing whatsoever to do with the administration of the Snowy waters. I do not believe that the right honourable member for Richmond, for example, has any belief at all in the things he said. He was attempting to score political points and that is all. The reality of the situation is the attack on the Minister. He is in the hot seat because he is resisting the pressures to which I have referred. That is the real reason that he is under attack.

I have established that some of the most infamous of international interests have been able to set up in Australia. An example is the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation which was able, under the previous Government, to build up assets of $52m. This is an organisation which the Senate of the United States has described as being capable of dictating to foreign governments. It is trying to dictate to this Minister now.


Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What about the 35-hour week? Get to the heart of the matter.


Mr GRASSBY - A New South Wales member interjects on a New South Wales matter. He was once a member of the New South Wales Parliament and I suggest that he go there, put his case in the New South Wales context and cease involving the national Parliament and the national Government in a domestic issue in New South Wales.


Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Come out into the open and tell us where you stand.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I will tell you where you stand in a moment.







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