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Wednesday, 3 June 1970

Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs) (Minister for National Development) - in reply - Before referring to the Opposition's amendment I would like to make a few brief comments about the matter raised by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), that is the basis on which these projects are assessed. In this case the project was, as the honourable member indicated but perhaps over-emphasised, considered on a regional as well as a national basis. This is one of the criteria applied to projects submitted by the States under the Commonwealth national water resources pro gramme. The project was considered on economic as well as regional community grounds. We should understand that this project is a supplement to the States' works programmes related to water resources and is not intended to be a programme on its own. The previous Commonwealth programme and this present programme are designed to facilitate and expedite the States' programmes.

The States submit to the Commonwealth an order of priority for the various projects to be considered in accordance with the standard criteria which we apply and which have been applied in this case. It is interesting to note that only recently in relation to another matter we were criticised fairly strongly for applying the criteria too severely. In this case we have been criticised apparently for not applying the criteria strictly enough. However, I say that the economic aspect as well as the regional community aspect are considered and were considered in this case. The honourable member for Wakefield raised a query about the water charge which is proposed by the Queensland Government. The report submitted by the Queensland Government shows that the charge will be sufficient to cover all operating and maintenance costs, plus a proportion of the capital cost of the head works, which would probably be in the vicinity of 25%. This was illustrated in the submission made to the Commonwealth by Queensland.

Turning to the Opposition's amendment, it is surprising to find such an amendment moved and supported by 3 Opposition honourable members from Queensland. If the Government accepted the amendment and undertook a further study, as the amendment implies should be done, the measure would be delayed for some considerable time, depending on how long and to what extent we wanted to conduct further feasibility studies. To the relief of the Opposition, I am sure, the Government will not accept the amendment. There is another reason why we cannot accept the amendment. Nobody has yet referred in the debate to the explanatory memorandum which was circulated to all honourable members. The practice of circulating explanatory memorandums has been followed in the past in relation to projects of this kind. It was followed on this occasion and will be followed on future occasions. A summary of the State's submissions was set out in the explanatory memorandum. The summary was not included in the second reading speech because of the length of the document. We thought it better to submit these points for consideration in a separate document, as has been done in the past. The document, a copy of which was circulated to all honourable members, condensed the feasibility studies which were submitted by Queensland and which were very carefully studied by the Commonwealth - by officers of my Department - bearing in mind the criteria which we apply in these cases. The summary set out what was contained in the principal submissions.

There were 2 main submissions regarding this project. The memorandum contained an introduction which gave a description of the area. There followed a closer reference to the project area. There were references to climate, soils and land use. The memorandum summarised the submissions regarding the benefits to the district from a regional and a national point of view - submissions which were checked carefully by officers of my Department bearing in mind the criteria which we have set as standards. The memorandum contained a description of the works and costs, the facts relating to the project, and finally an illustration in diagramatic form of the project itself. So the information which we received and which measured up to the standard criteria which we apply in these cases was accepted by the Government and has been submitted to the Parliament in the form in which similar information has been submitted in the past. For the reasons I have advanced - that it would delay the measure and that the information has been submitted in the best possible form - we do not accept the Opposition's amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second rime.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

In Committee

The Bill.

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