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Wednesday, 23 March 1927

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - Perhaps one of the greatest and most important works the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, has undertaken is the conservation of the waters of the river Murray. The construction of the Hume Weir is, I understand, proceeding in a satisfactory if somewhat slow manner, but for various reasons the estimated cost of a few million pounds lias been greatly exceeded. Inquiries as to the probable date of the completion of the work are always met with the answer that it will be at least four or five years before the weir is ready. I am not sure that objection can be raised on that score, because of the Colossal magnitude of the work, which will have far-reaching effect on the whole of the irrigable .area between the weir and the mouth of the river Murray. I noticed, some time ago, that it was intended to carry the water from the weir through a syphon under the river so that' it might be used for irrigation purposes on the New South Wales side. Whether or not that scheme will come to fruition I cannot say, but it seems to me that it is time steps were taken to ensure that the waters impounded in the weir are made use of for irrigation purposes. Ifc is of no particular value to impound water unless it is to be used for navigation or irrigation purposes. I understand that already a considerable number of locks have been completed along the river, but I should like to know what steps have been taken to utilize the impounded water for irrigation purposes, particularly on the New South Wales side of the river.

Senator CRAWFORD(Queensland-

Honorary Minister) [11.36]. - The Government claims to have put the Postal Department on a business basis, and it considers that it is in strict conformity with business principles to spend loan funds on postal works. The Department otherwise could not be expected to meet the steadily increasing demands that are being made upon it for telephones, telegraphs, post offices, and other facilities. They certainly could not be met out of the ordinary revenue of the department. When the present Government took office there were 50,000 applications for telephones that had not been dealt with, and during the past four years applications for new telephones have been received at the rate of about 5,000 a month. To meet the heavy demands for post and telephone facilities has involved the department in an expenditure amounting to over £5,000,000 a year, the bulk of it being incurred in providing telephones for new subscribers and on new telephone exchanges. Most of the new exchanges are automatic which, although costly to hiatal, are cheaper to operate than manual exchanges. For the current year the capital expenditure of the Postal Department will be £5,250,000. Under the present administration substantial reductions have been made in postal and telegraphic charges, and there have been considerable extensions of telephonic and telegraphic services in country districts, which it would have been impossible to provide without the expenditure of loan funds. On the money borrowed for its development, the Department is paying interest, and making payments to a sinking fund in order to liquidate the debt in 35 years.

The Commonwealth's contribution towards the cost of the Hume Weir and the other works which have been taken in hand by the River Murray Waters Commission is £75,000 for the first few months of the new financial year. As the Commonwealth finds one quarter of the total cost, the remainder being provided by the Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian Governments, the total expenditure on the Murray Waters scheme for the new year will thus be £1,200,000. The largest proportion of this expenditure will be devoted to the construction of the Hume Weir. When the weir was ' originally designed it was intended to impound 1,000,000 acre feet of water, but, subsequently, it was thought advisable to increase the capacity of the reservoir, and foundations were provided to carry a weir sufficient to impound 2,000,000 acre feet. It is considered that this quantity of water will be sufficient to irrigate large areas of land on both sides of the river.

Senator Grant - What steps are being taken to ensure that the water will be used for irrigation purposes?

Senator CRAWFORD - That is a matter which concerns the States. Having gone to the expense of building the weir they will- undoubtedly see that the waters are used. The scheme would otherwise prove most unprofitable to them.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee :

Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

The Schedule -

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