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Speech to the Murray Valley Development League Meeting. Parliament House



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SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR E.G. WHITLAM, Q .C ., M .P .,

TO THE MURRAY VALLEY DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE MEETING '

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, ΝΘΝ0ΓΓ22 OCTOBER 197N _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ /<<£— v _ _ _ _ _ _ __

T h a n k you Co u n c il l o r Ge m m e ll a n d t h a n k you

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MURRAY VALLEY DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE FOR

ARRANGING THIS CONFERENCE TONIGHT ON A MATTER WHICH IS OF

CONCERN TO ALL OF US PRESENT.

T he Mu r r a y Va l l e y De v e l o p m e n t L ea g u e s in c e i t s

FORMATION IN 19 44 HAS PROMOTED THE CONCEPT OF THE

ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INTER-STATE BODY TO COORDINATE THE

BALANCED DEVELOPMENT OF THE RlVER MURRAY AREAS. I UNDERSTAND

t h a t Mr V ern La w r e n c e, t h e Ex e c u t iv e D ir e c t o r o f t h e L e a g u e ,

IN HIS THEN CAPACITY AS ORGANISING SECRETARY, WAS ASSOCIATED

w it h t h e 1946 Mu r r a y Va l l e y Re s o u r c e s Su r v e y Co m m it t e e

ESTABLISHED BY THE CHIFLEY LABOR GOVERNMENT AND THE

Go v e r n m e n ts of New So u th W a l e s , V i c t o r ia a n d So uth A u s t r a l i a .

T he L eag ue has a lw a y s b e e n c o n c e r n e d w it h t h e q u a l it y of t h e

w ater s of t h e Riv e r Mu r r a y and i t s t r ib u t a r ie s a n d i t i s

L eag ue p o l ic y t h a t t h e Riv e r Mu r r a y Co m m is s io n s h o u ld b e

r e s p o n s ib l e for w ater q u a l i t y .

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The Riv e r Mur ray Co m m is s io n w a s, a s you a r e a l l

AWARE, FORMED NEARLY 60 YEARS AGO WHEN THE RlVER MURRAY

Wa t e r s Ag r e e m e n t was m a d e . T he Ag r e e m e n t w a s , a s no ted

b y Dr Cl a r k in h is m o st v a l u a b l e p a p e r on t h e Ad m in is t r a t io n

of I n t e r s t a t e Riv e r s , " a p io n e e r in g a g r e e m e n t , n o t j u s t for

Au s t r a l ia , b u t for o th er f e d e r a l s y s t e m s in t h e Common law

w orld" . T he Au s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t c o u ld n o t h a v e s ig n e d

t h e Riv e r Mu r r a y Wa t e r s Ag r e e m e n t in 1914 a n d t h e

Au s t r a l ia n Pa r l ia m e n t c o u ld n o t h a v e p a s s e d t h e Riv e r

Mur ray Wa t e r s A c t in 19 15 b u t for t h e f a c t t h a t t h e r iv e r

WAS S T IL L BEING USED AT THAT TIME FOR INTER-STATE

NAVIGATION, A MATTER ON WHICH THE AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT

CAN MAKE LAWS.

T he o r i g i n a l Ag r e e m e n t a n d Ac t e n t a il e d a s m a l l e r

EXPENDITURE BY THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT THAN -BY EACH

of t h e St a t e Go v e r n m e n t s . T he l e g is l a t io n was co n c er n ed

WITH STORAGE OF THE R IVE R 'S WATERS AND LOCKS AND WEIRS

FOR NAVIG, ΊΟ Ν OF THE RIVER.

' Nowadays t h e r e i s v ir t u a l l y in t e r s t a t e

NAVIGATION ON THE MURRAY. ACCORDINGLY, THE AUSTRALIAN

PARLIW ENT NOW HAS VERY TENUOUS, IF ANY, CONSTITUTIONAL

POWERS TO PASS , VS WITH RESPECT TO THE MURRAY, IN

PARTICULAR, IT CANNOT ti= "S E L F PASS LAWS CONCERNING

THE QUALITY OF THE WATERS AND THE USE OF THE RIPARIAN

LANDS, -

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The A u s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t a g r e e s e n t ir e l y

WITH THE VIEW PUT FORWARD BY THE LEAGUE THAT THE

Riv e r Mur ray Co m m is s io n s h o u ld b e g iv e n r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s

FOR WATER QUALITY IN THE RlVER MURRAY, I WOULD GO

EVEN FURTHER AND SAY THAT THERE IS A NEED FOR AN

INTER-STATE BODY TO CO-ORDINATE ALL ASPECTS OF WATER

USE AND MANAGEMENT AND TO TENDER ADVICE TO

Go ver n m en ts on t h e u s e a n d m a n a g e m e n t of r e l a t e d l a n d s ,

I I I / 3

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T he Au s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t i s a l s o aw are of t h e c o nc ern

ON THIS QUESTION THAT HAS BEEN EXPRESSED BY A WIDE RANGE

OF ORGANISATIONS AND IN D IV ID U A LS , INCLUDING SOME OF THE

HONOURABLE MEMBERS OF BOTH MAJOR PARTIES PRESENT HERE TONIGHT,

IT WAS THE SAME SORT OF CONCERN THAT THE PREMIER :

of So u th A u s t r a l ia , Mr Du n s t a n , c o n v e y e d to me i n h i s l e t t e r

on 19 J a n u a r y 1 9 7 3 . I n r e s p o n s e to t h i s l e t t e r I c o n v e n e d

a m e e t in g betw een m y s e l f a n d t h e Pr e m ie r s of New So uth

W a l e s , V ic t o r ia a n d South Au s t r a l ia on 2 Ma rc h 1973 to

d is c u s s t h e Riv e r Mur ray and t h e powers of t h e Riv e r Mu r r a y

Co m m is s io n . At t h a t m e e t in g , a l l Pr e m ie r s e x p r e s s e d co ncern

over p r e s e n t a n d p o t e n t ia l w ater q u a l it y pr o b le m s i n t h e

Riv e r a n d a l l s a i d t h a t t h e r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of t h e Co m m is s io n

SHOULD BE INCREASED TO COPE WITH THESE PROBLEMS. We AGREED

AT THE MEETING TO ESTABLISH A STEERING COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

OF THE FOUR GOVERNMENTS TO WHICH A WORKING PARTY OF OFFICERS

IS TO REPORT ON THESE MATTERS.

IN RETROSPECT I BELIEVE THE WORKING PARTY SHOULD

HAVE BEEN GIVEN A D EFIN ITE COMPLETION DATE; EIGHTEEN MONTHS

AFTERWARDS THE WORKING PARTY APPEARS TO HAVE ACHIEVED L IT T L E ,

I UNDERSTAND THE WORKING PARTY HAS ESTABLISHED

EXPERT COMMITTEES ON S A L IN IT Y , WATER QUALITY, IMPROVED

IRRIGATION PRACTICES AND BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION. LAST YEAR

t h e Wo r k in g Pa r t y s u b m it t e d an in t e r im r e p o r t to m i n i s t e r s ,

WHICH THEY ENDORSED AND WHICH MADE A NUMBER OF RECOMMENDATIONS

REGARDING MINOR SALT M ITIGATION WORK.

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I UNDERSTAND THAT THE WORKING PARTY'S COMMITTEE DEALING WITH

WATER QUALITY IS LIKELY TO SUBMIT A REPORT BEFORE THE END

OF THE YEAR RECOMMENDING A WATER QUALITY MONITORING

NETWORK FOR THE MURRAY AND COMMENTING ON THE NEED FOR NEW

ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS TO CONTROL WATER QUALITY,

The Wo r k in g Pa r t y has a d o p t e d t h e p o s it io n t h a t

IT CANNOT MAKE D E FIN ITE RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW THE FUNCTIONS

of t h e Riv e r Mur ray Co m m is s io n s h o u ld b e m o d if ie d u n t i l i t

HAS ID EN TIFIE D THE EXTENT OF THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH

t h e Mur ray Riv e r and t h e ir root c a u s e s . ' I c e r t a in l y do not

ARGUE WITH THE"LOGIC OF THIS POSITIO N; IT IS HOWEVER MY

STRONGLY HELD VIEW THAT THERE IS ALREADY MORE THAN ENOUGH

EVIDENCE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT THE CURRENT POWERS AND

FUNCTIONS OF THE RMC IN ASSOCIATION WITH STATE GOVERNMENT

POWERS HAVE PROVED TO BE INADEQUATE, TH IS EVIDENCE IS

AVAILABLE BOTH IN TERMS OF TECHNICAL DATA AND IN ALMOST

UNANIMOUS EXPRESSIONS OF CONCERN BY THE PEOPLE MOST

INTIMATELY CONNECTED WITH THE RlVER SUCH AS YOURSELVES,

I AM DEEPLY CONCERNED THAT A MATTER IN NEED OF

REFORM 'O E N TIFIED 18 MONTHS AGO BY MYSELF AND THE". PREMIERS

IS TAKING SO LONG ^ BE EXAMINED,

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T he Au s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t i s f ir m l y c o n v in c e d

t h a t t h e Wo r k in g Pa r t y s h o u l d , in p a r a l l e l w it h i t s t e c h n ic a l

INVESTIGATIONS, BE LOOKING AT THE MOST GENERAL CLAUSES OF

ITS TERMS OF REFERENCE, REQUIRING IT TO EXAMINE THE TYPES

OF MEASURES WHICH NEED TO BE TAKEN TO PROTECT AND IMPROVE

THE QUALITY OF THE RlVER MURRAY WATERS AND THE CHANGES WHICH '

WOULD BE REQUIRED IN THE RlVER MURRAY WATERS AGREEMENT TO

ENABLE THE RlVER MURRAY COMMISSION TO UNDERTAKE SUCH

m e a s u r e s , In s u m m a r y, t h e Wo r k in g Pa r t y s h o u ld b e c o n s id e r in g

no t w hether c h ang es s h o u ld b e m ade in t h e Riv e r Mur ray

Wa t e r s Ag r e e m e n t, b u t w hat c h a n g e s .

T he r e a l it y of t h e s it u a t io n i s t h a t s a l i n i t y in

t h e Mur ray i s one of Au s t r a l ia ' s m o st s e r io u s w ater p o l l u t io n

PROBLEMS.

A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY IS TO BE SPENT IN TREATING

Ad e l a i d e ' s w ater s u p p l y , b u t i t m ay s u r p r is e m any p e o p l e

TO LEARN THAT WHILE THIS W ILL PROVIDE SIG NIFICANT IMPROVEMENTS

IN MANY RESPECTS TO THE QUALITY OF ADELAIDE'S WATER IT W ILL

HAVE NO EFFECT WHATEVER ON THE S A LIN IT Y OF THE WATER BEING

USED BY THE RESIDENTS OF THAT C IT Y . THIS MOST INTRACTABLE

PROBLEM MUST THEREFORE BE DEALT WITH EITHER BY DIVERSION OF

SALINE WATERS FROM THE MURRAY R lVER , OR BY CHANGES IN LAND

USE AND IRRIGATION PRACTICES. .

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CONFLICTS OVER USE OF WATER IN THE REGION ARE

GOING.TO INCREASE AS THE YEARS GO ON. At THE PROJECTED

RATE OF INCREASE IN DEMAND/ SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S POST -

Da r tm o u th e n t it l e m e n t w il l b e f u l l y t a k e n up by t h e y e a r

2000.

'TO DATE NO ONE HAS MADE A COMPREHENSIVE/ INTEGRATED EXAMINATION OF THE IMPLICATIONS WHICH DIFFERENT LAND USE

PATTERNS HAVE FOR WATER RESOURCES IN THE VALLEY. TWO OF THE

MOST SIG NIFIC AN T USES WHICH SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN SUCH AN

EXAMINATION ARE, OF COURSE, IRRIGATION AND THE DEVELOPMENT

OF URBAN GROWTH CENTRES SUCH AS ALBURY-WODONGA. SUCH AN

EXAMINATION MIGHT INDICATE THAT CHANGES IN EXISTING OR

PLANNED LAND USE ARE DESIRABLE IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE

QUALITY OF THE WATERS OF THE MURRAY SO THAT MAXIMUM.BENEFICIAL

USE OF THE WATERS IN ECONOMIC, ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL

TERMS CAN BE OBTAINED FOR BOTH THE REGION AND THE NATION

AS A WHOLE.

T h i s m a t t e r has n o t b e e n h w e s t i^ ed b y t h e

Wo r^ iN G Pa r t y . Dr Ca s s p u t i t to t h e Mi n i s t e r i a l St e e r in g

Co m m it t e d l a s t y e a r b u t t h e St a t e Mi n is t e r s r e j e c t e d ' t h e

p r o p o s a l.

The Au s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t is p r o v id in g l/ tg e am o unts

of f i n a n c i a l a s s is t a n c e for t h e d e v e l o p m e n t of t h e A l b u r y -

WODONGA AND MONARTO GROWTH CENTRES.

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IT IS IMPERATIVE OF COURSE THAT THESE DEVELOPMENTS

DO NOT ADVERSELY AFFECT THE QUALITY OF THE WATERS OF THE

Riv e r Mu r r a y , I am t h e r e f o r e p l e a s e d t h a t t h e C i t i e s

Co m m is s io n has b e e n s u p e r v is in g w hat m u s t b e one of t h e

MOST COMPREHENSIVE WATER QUALITY STUDIES EVER UNDERTAKEN IN

A u s t r a l ia in r e l a t io n to t h e A l b u r y -Wodonga growth Ce n t r e .

T he r e p o r t of t h i s s t u d y w il l b e a v a i l a b l e l a t e r t h i s y e a r

AND I AM CONFIDENT THAT IT W ILL ENSURE THAT TREATMENT

SYSTEMS W ILL BE SO IMPLEMENTED THAT ALBURY-WODONGA W ILL NOT

HAVE SIG NIFICANT ADVERSE EFFECTS ON WATER QUALITY IN THE

Riv e r Mu r r a y . When I m e t w it h t h e Pr e m ie r s of New So uth W a l e s

and V ic t o r ia on 25 J a n u a r y 19 73 i n A l b u r y -Wodonga we s a i d

THAT SERVICES W ILL BE PROVIDED TO THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE

STANDARD TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF OTHER USERS OF THE

Riv e r Mu r r a y ; t h i s s t a t e m e n t I s t i l l s t a n d b y , .

T he im p l ic a t io n s of o th e r forms of la n d u s e h a v e

NOT BEEN EVALUATED IN COMPARABLE DEPTH AND I SAY AGAIN

THAT AN OVERALL EXAMINATION OF LAND USE IN THE MURRAY REGION

IS ESSENTIAL. OUR POSITION IN RELATION TO MANAGEMENT OF

t h e Riv e r Mu r r a y i s c l e a r : t h e Riv e r Mu r r a y Co m m is s io n

SHOULD HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR CONTROL OF WATER QUALITY

in t h e Riv e r Mu r r a y , Fu r th er, I b e l ie v e t h a t t h e Riv e r

Mur ray Co m m is s io n s h o u ld h a v e c e r t a in r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s in

RELATION TO ALL ASPECTS OF THE USE AND MANAGEMENT OF THE

WATERS OF THE RlVER MURRAY AND ITS RELATED LANDS,

*

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I n a c o m p le x s y s t e m such as t h e Riv e r Mu r r a y Va l l e y w it h

ITS VARIOUS INTER-RELATIONSHIPS IT IS SURELY SELF-EVIDENT

THAT THERE NEEDS TO BE A BODY TO CO-ORDINATE THE PLANNING

OF THESE VARIOUS ASPECTS, BECAUSE THE RlVER RUNS THROUGH

t h r e e St a t e s , an in t e r s t a t e a g e n c y s uc h a s an e x p a n d e d

Riv e r Mur ray Co m m is s io n i s c l e a r l y r e q u ir e d . T h i s c o n c e p t

OF AN INTER-STATE BODY MANAGING WATER RESOURCES ON A RIVER

BASIN BASIS WOULD ACCORD WITH WORLDWIDE TRENDS IN THIS

DIRECTION EXEMPLIFIED BY THE DELAWARE AND SUSQUEHANNA RlVER

Ba s i n Co m pacts in t h e Un it e d St a t e s , n e g o t ia t e d b y t h e

St a t e a n d F e d e r a l Go v e r n m e n t s , a n d t h e r e c e n t e s t a b l is h m e n t

OF REGIONAL WATER AUTHORITIES IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.

T he A u s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t would s e e such a body

PRINCIPALLY PLAYING A CO-ORDINATING ROLE, MUCH OF ITS

FUNCTION BEING OF AN ADVISORY OR DELIBERATIVE NATURE ONLY,

T he o r g a n is a t io n m ig h t n e e d some stro ng " l a s t r e s o r t pow ers"

TO ENSURE ITS EFFECTIVENESS, HOWEVER, EXPERIENCE IN THE

Un it e d St a t e s in d ic a t e s that these a r e r a r e l y u s e d , i f a t a l l

W e would a l s o s e e such a bo dy h a v in g a d e f i n i t e o b l ig a t io n

TO CONSULT WITH SUCH GROUPS AS THE MURRAY VALLEY DEVELOPMENT

L e a g u e,

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I AM SURE THAT ONE OF THE REASONS FOR LACK OF

INTEREST IN THIS BROADER APPROACH TO THE USE AND MANAGEMENT

of th e Riv e r Mu r r a y i s d u e to a f e a r t h a t some of t h e St a t e

POWERS MAY BE FORFEITED TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, WHILE

St a t e Go v e r n m e n ts c o u ld lo s e some of t h e ir r ig h t to

IN D IVID U AL ACTION, I EMPHASISE THAT THESE RIGHTS WOULD

BE VESTED IN AN INTER-STATE BODY ACTING IN THE BEST "

INTERESTS OF ALL CONCERNED. As PUT SO WELL BY Dr CASS

RECENTLY, THIS IS A CASE WHERE STATES' RIGHTS ARE NONSENSE; IT

IS PEOPLES' RIGHTS WHICH ARE IMPORTANT AND THAT MEANS ALL

THE PEOPLE DEPENDENT ON THE RIVER AND ITS RELATED LANDS

IN ALL THREE STATES, ‘

T he Au s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t can do l i t t l e in t h e

WAY OF. DIRECT ACTION IN THIS AREA; CONSENSUS IS. THE ONLY

WAY OF ACHIEVING ANYTHING, I BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE MADE

SUGGESTIONS TO STATE GOVERNMENTS ALONG THE LINES OF WHAT

IS DESIRED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE MURRAY VALLEY. W e SHALL .

CONTINUE TO PUT PROPOSALS BUT WE CAN DO LIT T LE MORE. I URGE

t h e F e d e r a l Members h e r e t o n ig h t , w h a te v e r t h e ir p o l i t i c a l

PERSUASIONS, TO TAKE THIS MATTER UP WITH THEIR STATE

COLLEAGUES WITH A VIEW TO CONVEYING A GREATER SENSE OF

URGENCY AND PRIORITY,

I HAVE SAID THAT I AM CONCERNED WITH THE LACK

OF PROGRESS OF THE WORKING PARTY. I f IN MARCH 1975 - WHICH

W ILL BE TWO YEARS AFTER MY MEETING WITH THE THREE PREMIERS -

PROGRESS HAS BEEN UNSATISFACTORY, THEN I SHALL CALL FOR

A FURTHER MEETING WITH STATE PREMIERS IN ORDER TO OBTAIN

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AGREEMENT ON AN ACCELERATED PROGRAM FOR COMPLETION OF

t h e Wo r k in g Pa r t y ' s i n v e s t ig a t io n s , T h i s i s one e x a m p l e

of d ir e c t a c t io n t h a t I can t a k e .

T he Au s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t w ould a l s o g iv e

SERIOUS CONSIDERATION TO REQUESTS FOR FINAN C IAL ASSISTANCE

from St a t e Governments for m e a s u r e s to a c h ie v e a n d m a i n t a in

SATISFACTORY WATER QUALITY, BE THEY FOR ENGINEERING WORKS

OR FOR THE RESTRUCTURING OF LAND USE IN THE REGION.

Such r e q u e s t s would b e c o n s id e r e d in t h e c o n t e x t of t h e

A u s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t p o l ic y tow ards w ater r e s o u r c e s

MANAGEMENT. I n THIS CONTEXT I WOULD LIK E TO REPEAT A

SPECIFIC OFFER MADE TO STATE MINISTERS BY Dfi CASS LAST

YEAR WHICH WAS NOT TAKEN UP - THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT

W ILL PROVIDE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TOWARDS ANY STUDIES

IN THE REGION WHICH IT CONSIDERS WOULD CONTRIBUTE

SIG NIFICANTLY TO THE IMPROVED USE AND MANAGEMENT OF THE

Riv e r Mu r r a y w ater s and r e l a t e d l a n d s . Because State

Go v e r n m e n ts a p p l , to b e concentrating on e n g in e e r in g

s t u d ie s , t h e Au s t r a l ia n Go v e r n m e n t w ould, pf - ff.r to fu n d

„ j d ie s b ia s e d tow ards t h e s o c ia l a n d e n v ir o n m e n t a l

s u „. "

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S i ΧΤΥ YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE THE SIGNING

of t h e o r i g i n a l Riv e r Mur ray Wa t e r s Ag r e e m e n t a n d I

BELIEVE WE ARE AGAIN ABOUT TO ENTER A PERIOD OF CONFLICT

OVER THE USES OF THE RlVER MURRAY WATERS, TOGETHER

WITH INCREASING PRESSURES ON THE ENVIRONMENT. I DO NOT

BELIEVE THE PRESENT RlVER MURRAY COMMISSION OR EXISTING

St a t e i n s t i t u t i o n a l a n d l e g a l a r r a n g e m e n t s w i l l b e a b l e

TO COPE WITH THESE PROBLEMS AND I BELIEVE NEW ARRANGEMENTS

ARE NECESSARY.

I URGE ALL PARTIES CONCERNED TO PROCEED AS

QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE TO DEVELOP AN APPROACH TO THE

MANAGEMENT OF THE RlVER MURRAY WHICH W ILL ENSURE THAT

THE WATERS ARE USED TO PROVIDE MAXIMUM REGIONAL AND

NATIONAL BENEFITS IJ_SO CJAL, ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL

TERMS.

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