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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2675


Mr SNEDDEN (BRUCE, VICTORIA) - I direct a question to the Minister for Northern Development.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the chamber.


Mr Cohen - Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence for a moment. Will you make inquiries to see whether the microphones in this chamber can be checked? I think every honourable member in this House is having difficulty in hearing what members from both sides of the House are saying.


Mr SPEAKER -I have had a look at this matter several times. I think that a lot of the difficulty is caused by members reading and by directing their heads towards the desks instead of speaking into the microphones. If they would hold the papers up and would speak into the microphones it would be much better.


Dr Forbes - On a point of order, Mr Speaker, may I add to what has been said? It has been the practice of your predecessors to take a strong line against members reading newspapers in this House. This practice seems to have got out of hand lately and I ask you to give consideration to imposing a ban against reading of newspapers in this House as did your predecessor.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I think the point is well taken. I will have to consider banning such a practice on both sides of the House.


Mr SNEDDEN - My question is directed to the Minister for Northern Development. Does the Minister agree that the construction of the Monduran Dam is essential for ensuring stability of sugar production in the Bunda berg district? Has the Government reached a decision on when funds for phase 2 of the dam will be made available?


Dr PATTERSON - Of course I agree that the construction of the Monduran Dam and the associated works and weirs on the Kolan and Burnett Rivers are essential for the welfare of the sugar industry in the area. As regards the physical and technical questions, the answer is yes. There is no doubt where anybody would stand on this matter, particularly in an area which over the years has been devastated by recurring droughts. Not only is it essential for the sugar industry but it is essential also to the economic nucleus of the city of Bundaberg and the area around it. On the other hand there is the question of finance, as the former Treasurer well knows. A tremendous number of other proposals are before this Government, as there were before the previous Government. What has disturbed me greatly - it is a pity that the right honourable member's advisers have not briefed him on this as I mentioned the same subject only yesterday to the honourable member for Farrer - is that when the new Government took office I called for the economic evaluation appraisals of these projects but such an evaluation has never been made of the Bundaberg irrigation system. If the honourable member wants to raise this matter I can say that in fact the only statement on evaluation made by the previous government, by an interdepartmental committee, was that the project was totally uneconomic. How do you like that? This Government does not accept that point of view, just as we did not accept the Opposition's decision regarding the Eton project. The Bundaberg project is being thoroughly examined at the present time, as quickly as possible, by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Department of Northern Development, the Snowy Mountains Corporation and Queensland Government departments. It is being done with all haste so that I can put a submission to Cabinet as soon as the appraisal is finished. In answer to the honourable member's question, I agree with him on the need for this project but I am bound by the policy of the Labor Party and the commonsense policy of being able at least to put forward an evaluation analysis.







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