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Monday, 15 September 2003
Page: 20053

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (5:24 PM) —I rise today in the grievance debate to raise a matter of great concern to myself and, I am sure, to many people wanting to address the whole issue of environmental flows in our very precious river systems across Australia. The matter that I raise today must be cleared up within the scientific community. On the weekend of 11 September 2003, an article by Michael Thomson on page 7 of the Queensland Country Life attacked the credibility of the CSIRO. The QueenslandCountry Life newspaper is well-regarded in Queensland, as is the journalist who wrote this article. I want to quote from the article because it is important that we are able to, at the end of all of this, get the CSIRO to make sure they are able to answer these claims—certainly more substantially than they have to date. The article in Queensland Country Life says:

At the time the CSIRO website read: “Salt levels are rising in almost all of the Basin's rivers—

this is the Murray-Darling Basin—

and now exceed WHO guidelines for drinking water in many areas. If we do nothing, the salinity of the Lower Murray River—where Adelaide pumps out its drinking water—will eventually rise to exceed WHO guidelines.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you and I both know that is a very strong statement and we would want to know that that sort of statement is backed up with proper science. I would expect that the CSIRO, a well-respected and highly regarded organisation, would be able to scientifically back up a comment like that posted on their web site.

In that article, Dr Jennifer Marohasy made some very controversial statements to do with the CSIRO. After her statements, the CSIRO removed that part of the article from its web site. I want to quote Dr Marohasy, who is now with the Institute of Public Affairs, because she is also a highly regarded authority and one who has opinions that we all must listen to. In the article, she says:

Someone is misleading the Australian public ...

She says that the evidence that has been received for the deterioration in water quality of the Murray River has not been backed up by science. When we have CSIRO and Dr Marohasy contradicting each other, it is important that we are able to clear this matter up. I would again like to quote the article in the Queensland Country Life because it uses very strong language. I quote from the CSIRO paper River Murray water quality: a salinity perspective 2003 which:

... supports calls for increased environmental flows and maintains that “degraded water quality through salinity is one of the major issues facing the basin”.

“There are increasing trends in stream salinity from upland catchments, particularly in NSW,” the paper states. “These streams are exporting much more salt than falls in rainfall suggesting that clearing has mobilised stored salt from these areas.”

When language like that is used, scientists have to be prepared to ground proof those statements. They are very strong statements; they are considered extremely credible because of the people who have made them, and in this case the CSIRO's badge is attached to those statements.

In the limited time that I have today, I would like to move on to another issue within my electorate of Maranoa. It concerns a very small community in my vast electorate, the little town of Yowah. Yowah is an opal-mining town north-west of Quilpie. It has never been allocated a postcode—not before Federation and not since Federation. The community has grown. Whilst Yowah may be only very small today, it is a community to which the federal government has provided some $460,000 for the establishment of a rural transaction centre. They have rural power, they have a school, they have a state emergency service, they have an airport, which is utilised by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and they have a small golf course.

I recently wrote to Australia Post seeking their support for the allocation of a postcode to this small community. Why should they have a postcode? I think that, like any other community that is not attached to another town and that stands out there alone with all the facilities, such as a school, a rural transaction centre and a small airport—albeit one that is not lit at night, but the Flying Doctor Service on occasion have to come in and land for emergencies—they are important to Australia. And I would hope that they were important to Australia Post. I was disturbed to get a letter back and find that my request on behalf of the community of Yowah had been rejected. What Australia Post said to me was that they wanted the township of Yowah to share a postcode with not only the town of Cunnamulla, which is the main town in the Paroo Shire, but also other smaller communities in the region.

Interestingly enough Australia Post, in making their evaluation, assess aspects of the geography of a community and the population trends. While Australia Post do not know whether the population of Yowah is going to rise, they do know that the residents of Yowah get an average of 200 or 300 items of mail a week throughout the year. I would have thought that small communities like Yowah deserved the same consideration as those people who live in urban parts of Australia, the new suburbs that are created in outer metropolitan parts of Australia and townships that grow because of the demographic shifts and changes that are occurring in the coastal regions of Australia.

What I am saying to Australia Post is that I would like them to revisit this issue. I find it unbelievable that the simple allocation of a postcode to a small community is so difficult. I notice the member for Lyons coming into the chamber. He would know this community. In his days as a wool presser in western Queensland, he possibly visited the township of Yowah. I am sure I would have his support in getting Australia Post to allocate the small community of Yowah its own postcode. Yowah is a small opal-mining community. It does a significant amount of trade in opals, with buyers coming in from other parts of the world.

Something we can do for small rural communities is give them their own identity through their own postcode rather than a postcode they have to share with another community. I just hope that Australia Post will rethink their position and grant this proud little community, which recently had a rural transaction centre built, the recognition that they deserve. This sort of case should not be considered purely on the size of the community, particularly not for our rural communities. This is a community that I think deserve the support of this parliament and deserve Australia Post giving them recognition through their own postcode.