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Wednesday, 3 June 1970

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - I wish to refer specifically to the matter of finance and I. would like to ask the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) a question about interpretation. Before doing that I would like to reply to the argument advanced about finance by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). The honourable member's argument was quite fallacious and I would have hoped that the Minister might have pointed this out. There is no substance in the honourable member's argument that because the headworks are not paid for by the farmer - because the farmer is subsidised by the taxpayer - the scheme must be uneconomic From the Commonwealth's point of view it does not matter who subsidises what. The Commonwealth is concerned with whether the total benefits at import parity prices are greater than the total cost of the scheme. The domestic arrangements made between the farmer and the Commonwealth and whether the farmer pays for the headworks or not are completely irrelevant to a national approach, lt may be that in this case the taxpayer is subsidising the farmer but the project still could be completely economic. I accept what the Minister said about the explanatory document, but it is most innocuous from our point of view. What wc want is the Commonwealth evaluation of this scheme. I have read all the reports that the Minister mentioner on the Slate views, but as everybody knows these are received by the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth makes its own evaluation on the criteria laid down with respect to balance of payments and development, and makes certain assumptions in relation to sugar. For example, what is the price of sugar, ls it import parity or world price or the domestic average price? What we want to know is why the scheme was justified in this way, and the information we seek has not been made available.

In regard to delaying the Bill, I suggest that this is something that you, Mr Chairman, perhaps as Deputy Speaker, could look at. 1 moved an amendment at the second reading stage. I was somewhat surprised to discover that never in the history of this Parliament had such an amendment been passed. What would happen if the amendment had been passed is somewhat doubtful, lt could be interpreted politically by the Government that the Bill had been defeated. On the other hand if we read May. according to the practice in the House of Commons it could be interpreted otherwise - that it affected nothing but merely delayed the second reading of the Bill until a later hour or the following day and included the amendment as an addendum to the Bill. The problem lies in how this situation is interpreted. 1 would ask that at some time consideration be given to this aspect. 1 moved the amendment at the second reading stage because it did not seem that it could be moved as appropriately in the Committee stage. All the Opposition sought was to have information made available and. at. the same time, to support, the Bill. In other words if we lost the amendment we would support the Bill. Apparently our objective is difficult to achieve and the Standing Orders should be altered to permit what we sought. This was an example of the Opposition supporting the Bill 100% but seek ng more information. The only way to get it was to move the amendment at the second reading stage.

On the question of finance I should like the Minister to explain what is meant in clause 6 by the words: 'reasonable progress'. The clause reads:

The Stale is nol entitled to financial assistance under this Act unless thu Minister is satisfied that reasonable progress has been made by the Slate in carrying out the construction of tidal barrages and irrigation and ancillary works -

I assume that what is meant by this is that a works programme will be set out for a period of time and that unless the complementary work is carried out by the State to the satisfaction of the Commonwealth there will be no grant for the Monduran Dam us such and everything will stop.

Mr Swartz - One must fit in wilh the other. It is complementary.

Dr PATTERSON - Yes. They are the main points I raise. 1 should certainly like to take on the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) in respect of sugar, but the Committee stage is not the occasion for that. I will, however, say that sugar prices have been rising consistently and not falling in the last 12 months.

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