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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2673

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - I wish to say a few words on these 4 Bills before the Senate, namely, the Albury-Wodonga Development BUI 1973, the Albury-Wodonga Development (Financial Assistance) BUI 1973, the Growth Centres (Financial Assistance) Bill 1973, and the Land Commissions (Financial Assistance) BUI 1973. 1 wish to emphasise particularly a matter which has already been referred to this afternoon and in which I, along with other honourable senators, have an interest. Of course, the development of the Albury-Wodonga complex is not the first major development of this type to take place in Australia. Even the development of the Monarto area, which is a development taking place in South Australia, is not the first such development which has taken place in that State. I draw attention to the very successful development of the city of Elizabeth which took place under the aegis of the Playford Government in South Australia. The Monarto development is a different matter altogether. It is differently placed in relation to the capital city. It is placed in an area which has a different rainfall and there are many other features about it which are different. But that development could well be the subject of quite a separate discussion. I mention it in passing and I want to refer to it again.

However, the measures before us, of course, specifically relate to the Albury-Wodonga development. I am a little disappointed that circumstances have prevented a longer debate and discussion in greater depth than we are having at the moment, because it is a proposition of great imagination and adventure. Certainly we will be watching its development and noting its contribution to the total distribution of population within Australia, its contribution to the total production capacity within Australia and, above all, its contribution to what I will call again the quality of life within Australia. I refer very briefly to the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill which is one of the four Bills before the Senate. I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) to one or two of its clauses only. Clause 5 of the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill refers to the powers conferred on the Minister, and it reads in part:

.   . he shall exercise them in accordance with the Agreement.

The second part of the clause points out that the Australian Minister may exercise all or any of the functions and powers relating to a designated area conferred on him by or under a State Act. So the Minister shall exercise these powers conferred on him in accordance with the Agreement or he can exercise such powers as are conferred on him by a State Act. I would be grateful for a response from the Minister in due course as to whether this would include anything that might relate to the water resources for the AlburyWodonga development area. Reference was made to this matter a little earlier. The Minister will not be surprised to note my interest in it. Indeed, he replied to a question asked by me in relation to this matter some time ago. Any development of any kind, particularly one such as is projected here, must place heavy emphasis on water sources and water resources. I assume that resulting from this new development which is being undertaken now there will be heavy demands on the River Murray system. Of course, any demand on the River Murray system must have an influence on South Australia. I do not see any specific reference to this either in the notes or in the Minister's second reading speech. It may be that I have not noted it, but I would be obliged to the Minister if he would indicate to me what is the position in regard to the demand made by the Albury-Wodonga development on the resources of the River Murray system.

Having drawn attention to this heavy relationship between this development and the River Murray system, I want to turn to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution which, of course, was tabled in the Senate a couple of years ago. The Committee took great cognisance at the time of the relationship between the River Murray system, the AlburyWodonga area and South Australia. The report stated:

The Murray and its tributaries form the largest river system in Australia. The catchment comprises five-sixths of New South Wales, more than one-half of Victoria, one-sixth of Queensland and about one-fourteenth of South Australia.

The Murray ... is managed, under the River Murray Waters Agreement, by the River Murray Commission, which has authority to make quantitative assessments . . . The Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are parties to this Agreement which provides that the minimum quantity of water to be allowed to pass for supply to South Australia in each year shall be sufficient to maintain certain specified flows in the lower river . . .

At the time the report was put down, these flows were listed in the report as follows: currently varying from 47,000 acre-feet a month in the winter months to 134,000 acre-feet a month in the 4 summer months of maximum demand- the total amounting to 1,254,000 acrefeet over 12 months.

The report continued:

The flow at Albury is shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria, and each of these States has full control of the tributaries in its own area below Albury, subject-

I draw attention to this proviso- in each case to the fulfilment of the South Australian allocation.

I hope that the authorities that have been concerned with the Albury-Wodonga development have taken note of this important reference in this extremely important report. The report continued:

Water quality in the Murray deteriorates progressively. In the upper reaches it is less than 30 parts per million total dissolved solids but at Waikerie in South Australia it exceeded 600 parts per million for much of the irrigation season during the 1967-68 drought.

Further on in its report the Committee expressed the view that it had no doubt that the salinity of the Murray River was one of the biggest water pollution problems facing Australia. Because of the size of the Albury-Wodonga development and, indeed, because of its importance to our total national life, it is important to point out in this debate and at this time that the needs of South Australia will be very much affected by the demands made on the River Murray system by the new development. If this is not so, I would be pleased to hear it from the Minister and I would be pleased to hear also further details of this kind of relationship. I am putting to the Senate this afternoon that the facts I have raised have some relationship to clause 5 of the Bill which deals with the powers of the Minister.

In expressing my concern about the quality and quantity of water in South Australia, I also want to draw attention to the other development area which has been referred to in this debate, that of the new city of Monarto in South Australia. I wish to quote from an article written by Dr D. W. Connell. Dr Connell gave evidence some years ago to the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. He has recently been appointed chief chemist with the Victorian Government's Westernport Bay Environmental Study. He is a vice-president of the Australian Littoral Society and an author of many papers on aquatic environmental topics. He draws attention in this article to the River Murray and its relationship to Monarto:

The New Town's point of water withdrawal, as well as one for Adelaide, is situated in the final stretch of river before discharge into Lake Alexandrina. Most pollution problems generated upstream reach their maximum intensity in this region . . . If the New Town-

That is, Monarto- grows according to plan, it will constitute the largest single population centre in the Murray Valley . . . It is well to remember that the Murray Valley may be the site for other future new population centres.

Dr Connellthen refers to plans made at that stage for the establishment of the scheme which is the subject of the Bill before the Senate this afternoon, the Albury-Wodonga Development Scheme. He concludes this section of the article by saying:

It could be expected that the New Town, with its comparatively large population and no doubt associated industries, will bring to the Murray Valley the potential for water pollution problems which are now associated with the large coastal cities.

When the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs concludes the debate he should be able to respond by giving us assurances on this matter because it is of particular significance to a State as the society of a new town, city or newly developed areas will make many demands upon water supply. The curious situation which exists and which I emphasised by quoting an extract from the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution and other references make this matter one of considerable interest. This is the only portion of the Bill to which I wish to refer at this stage. I lend my support to the venture.

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