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Wednesday, 3 June 1970

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) - I want to direct the attention of the Committee to clauses 6 and 7 particularly. These relate to the entitlements of the State being limited if the Minister is not satisfied that reasonable progress has been made. That is one point. The other, of course, is that clause 7 is a pretty sweeping provision, lt states that where the Minister has requested the Slate to furnish information in relation to the design or construction of the work, and unless the State has furnished thai information, the Minister would deny the State financial assistance. The Minister has to be satisfied that the design and construction are in accordance with the purposes of the work that has been agreed. He has to be satisfied wilh the contract. 1 ask the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) whether, in this particular context, this represents a completely new and radical departure in Commonwealth and State relations. In case the Minister has any doubts about the importance of this matter, I refer him to the fact that the Commonwealth has made money available for the Copeton Dam project in New South Wales This is a project about which there has been considerable controversy both in regard to the letting of the contract and in respect of the future use of the water to be impounded there.

I draw attention also to the fact that the Commonwealth is a contributor to and a participant in a partnership way in the development of the Colleambally irrigation area which, for the information of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), is about 5 times the size of the Ord River area and therefore would warrant his attention in respect of its economics and its sound basis. However, I say that in passing. The Colleambally scheme was drawn up and it was the subject of approaches to the Commonwealth Government. Eventually there was agreement that joint legislation should be enacted at both the Commonwealth and State level. This legislation has, in fact, been. passed. Now the question arises whether the assessment of the scheme is to be judged by the Commonwealth in the same way as it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall make decisions in respect of the legislation now under consideration.

I have quoted 2 instances where there may be some doubt as to whether the joint intention is being honoured. In clauses 6 and 7 of the Bill it is spelt out very precisely that the Commonwealth will reserve the right not to make finance available unless the intention of the project, as agreed to by the State and the Commonwealth, is followed through and implemented. I think we should hear from the Minister on this aspect during the Committee stages because this provision seems to mark a considerable departure in respect of Commonwealth contributions to State projects. I seek to relate clauses 6 and 7 to what the Minister said more or less in answer to the honourable member for Wakefield who said that the cost of the headworks should be borne by the farmers. I hope that I am not misquoting the honourable member but no doubt he will correct me if I am wrong. The Minister, in reply to the honourable member, said that the water charges would cover operation and maintenance and a 25% contribution to the cost of the headworks. Again I think the Minister is in duty bound to indicate whether or not he is undertaking a radical departure from what has been accepted since the findings of the Pike Royal Commission which established clearly that it was unfair and inequitable to charge farmers alone for the cost of headworks. I commend to the honourable member for Wakefield a study of the findings of that Royal Commission before he pursues this subject further.

I think that the Minister has a responsibility in relation to this Bill to say whether the Commonwealth requires, under clauses 6 and 7, that this be done as a condition of Commonwealth financing. If it is I think we would contest it, because there is certainly no proof at all that if we regard water as a multi-purpose commodity we should single out any one section of those favoured by its use for the whole cost of the works, or even this arbitrary section of the works which is to be charged against it. There is an important issue here, not only in relation to this measure but in relation to the disbursement of the remainder of the funds, small and modest as they are, in the national water resources programme. I would ask the Minister to direct his attention to the queries that have been raised in this matter. If a decision has been made, I would also ask him to state, in order to clear this matter up, whether the Commonwealth has required that there should be a contribution to the headworks. If it has I would ask him whether he could relate that to the findings of the Pike Royal Commission in relation to the contributions to be made by primary producers for headworks designed, of course, to impound water for many purposes, not just for one purpose. I would also ask whether a formula has been devised which will give us precisely, as has apparently been done in this instance, a breakdown between secondary, tertiary and primary industries, service industries and perhaps just visiting householders and will show how all them are to be charged sectionally for what are in effect public works that are financed out of taxation to which we all contribute. I stress again that these are important matters of principle in relation to these 2 sections. I think there should be clear, full and definite explanations because it not only touches on what we do today but on what we may very well do in relation to the disposal of the remainder of the funds in the national water resources programme.

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