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Tuesday, 1 October 1974
Page: 1507

Senator MISSEN (Victoria) -I support the remarks of Senator Carrick and Senator Baume about the Sewerage Agreements Bill. As they have said, a much more direct and overall approach is required by the Government to the basic question of sewerage provision which is so necessary in the major residential areas of

Australia. This Bill is to allow a small addition to the moneys provided in 1973-74. It adds something less than $8m to the moneys available. It could be called just a drop in the bucket when one considers the whole scope and necessity for money and sewerage works in the major cities.

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), who represents the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) in this chamber, made in his second reading speech 2 statements with which I think we would all agree. He said:

We have no cause for pride in the quality of services when millions of gallons of raw sewage is pumped each week into the seas off our coast, bays and inlets, metropolitan rivers and creeks.

The pollution of our seas and inland waters is a major issue which is closely tied up with the provision of sufficient money to sewer our city areas. We recognise that in the main urban areas about one-sixth of the houses are not sewered. The Minister went on to make a statement which is of great significance to the whole problem. He said:

They re-enforce the point that these great problems will not be solved without heavy capital spending. Spending on sewerage works soaks up an enormous amount of capital, both for the expansion of services to meet growing populations and to chop out the backlog in services which now exists. It means that the States and local government cannot tackle the backlog and at the same time keep up with new services without strong support from the Australian Government.

We suggest that those statements by the Minister in his second reading speech are true. Major support has to be given and I agree with other senators who have spoken in this debate that that major support should be in the form substantially of grants and not loans which add to the long term indebtedness of the authorities that have to deal with this problem.

I speak particularly of the position in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Over the years the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works has shown a great deal of imagination in endeavouring to make plans and cover the various possibilities in providing for the needs of a growing population. Since 1897 the Board has endeavoured to meet these needs within its financial capacity. In 1958 it made a start on the construction of the Brooklyn pumping station to replace the overloaded original Spotswood pumping station. The Board has since sewered well over 150,000 houses in the metropolitan area, including nearly 100,000 since the Brooklyn pumping station was commissioned in 1964. As a result of the necessity to look ahead the Board of Works has at all stages realised that the Werribee farm, which had treated the bulk of the city's waste since 1897, could not continue to handle the ever-growing amount which was required to be treated. Therefore, in 1965 work began on the multi-million dollar south-eastern sewerage system which is designed to serve the rapidly growing areas east and south-east of Melbourne. This system, which is an expensive one and is still in the course of construction, will ultimately discharge purified waste water into Bass Strait near Cape Schanck. Even the introduction of this system, with all that it will do for the southern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, will not overcome the problem.

Consequently, the Board 's major projects now involve, firstly, the expansion of a $57m program on the Dandenong Valley trunk sewer and contributory mains and, subsequently, the new developments in the western part of Melbourne -the north-west intercepting sewer costing $66m and a $200m sewage treatment plant at the Werribee Farm, which will be known as the Western Purification Plant. It has been pointed out by Mr Alan Croxford, Chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, that these recent developments are by far greater and more expensive than any developments which have been carried out by the Board in the whole of the period since 1897. All these things are not luxuries but necessities, and they are necessary to treat the sewage which the further development of Melbourne will bring about. Therefore, all these proposals must be given close attention, and finance for them must be found. As has been pointed out, even with the developments in the south-east of Melbourne, the build-up of the sewage flow to the Werribee Farm will soon be too much to be treated entirely. Consequently, all these developments require urgent attention and should be speeded up. As at April 1974 155,000 dwellings in Melbourne were still unsewered. This fact is constantly in the Board 's mind.

In the last week or so I have had correspondence with the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works on another question, lt seemed to me that much could be gained, in this time of growing unemployment, if there were some taking up of the slack by the expediting of MMBW programs. This could be achieved by making further moneys available to the Board so that it could hasten its development of headworks and other things which are necessary for the long term development of Melbourne. I asked 2 questions of the Board. Firstly, I asked:

How much is required to extend the existing sewerage facilities to the outer areas of Melbourne?

In effect, I asked: How much would be required to cover the whole area in future? The answer was:

It is estimated that $126m (in June 1974 values) will be required to be spent on sewerage works in the years 1 974-75 to 1 982-83 to overcome the sewerage backlog.

That money is not for additional matters; it is to overcome the backlog in sewerage. Obviously there is a great need for moneys to be made available. I asked a second question. It was:

Assuming that additional funds are made available for sewer extensions, could employment be offered to persons now out of work due to the current economic crisis?

The answer was:

Yes. It is thought that up to 200 persons could be offered employment with the Board, but not before January 1975. The interim period will be required by the Board to prepare the necessary designs for such sewer extensions as may be possible in the light of additional funds.

I point out that, even if the Government decides to make available additional funds to create further work for persons out of employment, there must be a time lag. Obviously these things must be done at an early stage so that the earliest effect on unemployment can be achieved. I think that this area of sewage treatment is an area which is fairly labour intensive and an area in which one could expect, if the Government were prepared to make further grants available to the States and to the semi-governmental institutions, further employment will result. The Budget allocates $104m to be spent through the States on sewerage proposals, but we cannot ignore the enormity of the task which is before the country. Budget Paper No. 8 'Urban and Regional Development', dealing with this problem, states:

An important component of the program is the upgrading of trunk mains, headworks and treatment works to ensure that effluent is adequately treated to protect areas where outfalls occur from environmental degradation.

It also states:

Present estimates suggest that it will take about 10 years to overcome the sewerage backlog to the extent that all existing dwellings are served and all new dwellings being built can be connected immediately to a complete and environmentally acceptable sewerage system. The present best estimate of the total cost of the works program needed to attain this objective is about $3, 800m (in June 1974 prices). The contribution required from the Australian Government is likely to be about 40 percent, or $ 1,500m.

I believe it would be wise for us to bear in mind that, even in the terms of the Government's statement there, that amount to be provided by the Federal Government obviously is not half the amount which it is contemplated must be provided from all sources. Senator Carrick said that the rates of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works may rise by 30 per cent shortly. When one sees the statement which Mr

Croxford, the Chairman, made on this matter, one appreciates that the Federal Government is not yet doing what is needed in this area. He said:

If the public demand more water, pollution controls and more sewerage then the public has to pay for it.

The only other way to finance these is for the governments to provide direct cash grants. They are not doing that and so the public must pay instead.

He also said that the works programs scheduled for this year would get about $72m from public loans, $28m from Federal Government loans, $22m in State Treasury advances, $5m in revenue from Board owned properties currently leased and about $3m from acreage levies charged to sub-dividers. Consequently we see that the Federal contribution is but a small part of the amount which the Board of Works must raise. The Board has an indebtedness of about $700m and has to pay 58c out of every dollar to service those loan repayments. The State Parliament of Victoria recently passed legislation which will allow the debt to rise to $ 1 ,000m, but that means only that the inflationary effect of greater rates, the payments which must be met by the citizens of Melbourne and the amounts which must be paid all the time in interest payments are the items which are rising and which will continue to rise if the loan is increased to $ 1 ,000m. I join my colleagues in saying that there are 2 changes, among others, that are needed. There is a need for greater grants, not loans, and there is a need to increase not the present indebtedness of the semi-governmental authorities but rather the contribution which the Commonwealth will make to service what is an essential aspect of our quality of life.

There also is a great necessity for long range programs of three or five years duration. We can arrange a 3-year program when it comes to roads so why can we not do it in relation to sewerage. Surely this is an area in which we are even more able to estimate because we can judge the number of people and dwellings to be serviced and we know the existing backlog. Surely this is an area where long range plans should be available and further government moneys should be available. I join in supporting the Bill because it represents some small assistance in meeting the need but I also join my colleagues in saying that the plans which the Government has at the moment are not adequate for the great necessities which this problem raises in all our urban communities in Australia. I hope that the Government will think again on this matter and carry out the promise it made to the people.

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