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Wednesday, 23 March 1966

Mr BARNES (Mcpherson) (Minister for Territories) . - The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) has initiated the debate at a time when the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) has on the notice paper a motion dealing with the regulation of the flow of certain rivers in Australia. I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate because the subject of water conservation is an important one to Government supporters. The honorable member for Dawson may be able to give his party better advice on the subject of water conservation than it has ever had. It needs good advice because its record in water conservation is very poor.

The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) indicted the former Labour Government of New South Wales when he complained about that State's poor record in water conservation. It is only 9 or 10 months since the Labour Government went out of office in New South Wales. The New South Wales Labour Government's record during 24 years in office is appalling. Construction of the Keepit Dam took 20 years. The Dam was estimated initially to cost $3 million but the final cost was $28 million. The history of the Glenbawn Dam was similar in many respects to that of the Keepit Dam. The Warragamba Dam, which is a water reservoir, took years to construct. The original estimate of cost was $8 million but the eventual cost was $58 million. These are examples of the New South Wales Labour Government's record. Let me turn to the situation in Queensland. During 39 years under a Labour Government only 120,000 acres came under irrigation. Since the present Country Party-Liberal Party Government took over in 1957, the area under irrigation has more than doubled to 280.000 acres.

Mr Cross - Who started this?

Mr BARNES - I will tell the honorable member. Since the present Queensland Government came to power it has started investigations on 43 projects. Of course, we are particularly concerned about water conservation in productive areas. We welcome the suggestion by the honorable member for Dawson that water should be provided in already settled areas. On other occasions his party has advocated the provision of water for new areas. This would necessitate the building of schools and hospitals in these areas and the expenditure on ancillary projects would be far greater than on the construction of a dam. Many people in

Queensland are strong in their advocacy of water conservation in settled areas. This is the policy of the present Queensland Government. I point to such projects as the Leslie Dam, the Borumba Dam and the Coolmunda Dam near Inglewood. I think a dam has just been constructed on the Burnett River north of Bundaberg. These are important measures to safeguard already highly productive areas.

Of course, Queensland experienced a setback as far as the border rivers scheme was concerned. Queensland had an agreement with New South Wales for the construction of a dam at Mingoola. The site was found to have very difficult constructional features and it became necessary to amend the legislation under which the Border Rivers Commission operated to permit the construction of dams off the Dumaresq River. Unfortunately, the New South Wales Labour Government never seemed able to come to the party. Its investigation on its side of the border was poor. Queensland has made a splendid investigation. It has documented all the advantages to the Queensland side of the border that would flow from the building of the dam, but the New South Wales Government has not done anything like the same amount of work as regards its side. I have been in communication with Mr. Beale, New South Wales Minister for Conservation. He has informed me that his Government is at present undertaking detailed investigations of the economics of the scheme. T point out to honorable members that many tobacco growers along the Dumaresq River are deeply concerned about the quality of the water that they are getting. I am sure that this is a matter that will generate interest in both States now that each has a government sympathetic to water conservation. In a recent Press statement entitled "North Under-protected", Mr. Beale, referring to the north of New South Wales, said -

Experience in the present drought, however, has shown that the north of the State is under-protected from drought compared with the south, and has emphasised the need to construct additional water conservation works in the north as soon as possible.

Investigations .made by the Commission already have shown that river regulation in the Severn.Macintyre River Valley should receive the highest priority, and that a storage on the Severn is the most attractive proposition, as this tributary provides more than two-thirds of the Valley's water resources.

I understand that 35 new projects are being investigated in New South Wales. These will cost millions of dollars.

Queensland is the most active State in the construction of dams and in other water supply projects. A tremendous fillip has been given to this work since the present Government came to power. I remind honorable members, as the Minister for National Development did, that the 'Commonwealth has always taken a keen interest in water conservation. The Minister pointed out that, to date, $560 million has been spent on the Snowy Mountains scheme. This represents an enormous contribution to water conservation. The Commonwealth is now advancing to the States $1 million a year for investigation into water resources. This indicates the tremendous interest of the Commonwealth Government in establishing water conservation. I have no doubt that the Commonwealth will again look closely at the prospects of extending such facilities. As the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) pointed out, many of us have to live with drought. In the last few years there has been brought home to us how important it is to have water schemes in existing highly productive areas to secure that production, because by removing insecurity we can generate considerably more revenue to support schemes elsewhere.

I do not think I need add to what has already been said about the Snowy Mountains Authority by my colleague, the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn). He pointed out how active this Authority is and he referred to the areas in which it operates. I understand that the present scheme is due for completion in 1975, so the Authority has many years ahead of it. Of course, the people in the Authority will not be lost to Australia. Their talents will be used, because there is so much scope for their use in Australia. I finish on this note: I am glad that the honorable member for Dawson has joined the Labour Party, because he will educate members of that Party in the importance of water conservation.

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