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Wednesday, 27 November 1974
Page: 2837

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

This Bill concerns the provision of grants to the States over the financial years 1974-75 and 1975-76 for the measurement of the quality of surface and underground water resources. Following a recommendation by the Australian Water Resources Council, the Australian and the State governments in 1964 adopted an accelerated program of surface and underground water investigations designed to improve knowledge of the rate of flow, the quantity and changes in quantity of Australia's water resources. This program has been most successful and is a good example of co-operation between the Australian and State governments. It is now apparent to the Water Resources Council that the present program would benefit greatly by the concurrent assessment of water quality. Thus, this Bill provides for an expansion in the program to include water quality assessment of both surface and underground water resources. The cost of such a program for each State was determined by that State. The Australian Government's contribution for water quality assessment is to be a grant on a dollar for dollar basis with the States, up to specified limits. Within this framework, the total amounts of Australian Government finance that would be available to the States is $446,305 for surface water quality assessment and $361,600 for underground water quality assessment. In making the contribution of $807,905, the Australian Government is confident that the States will meet their commitments to the water quality assessment program so that the objectives endorsed by the Water Resources Council may be achieved.

The proposed legislation does not, of course, cover the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory as it is expected that this will be provided for in appropriations for the Departments of the Northern Territory and the Capital Territory respectively. It was originally intended that grants would be available to the States prior to the commencement of the 1974-75 financial year. However, due to unforeseen delays brought about by the election in May 1974, the Bill has been held over until now. Despite this, the Australian Government has decided to make available the full amount requested by the States for the remainder of this financial year.

I turn now to the Bill itself, which is in the form of amendments to the States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Act 1973. Section 4 provides for an amendment to section 3 of the principal Act to set out the scope of the word assessment' so that it now includes water quality measurement in addition to water quantity measurement. The Bill also amends the machinery provisions of the principal Act by altering the provisions for the submission of progress reports. Thus, it can be seen that section 8 (1) (b) and 8 ( 1 ) (c) allow the States an extra month in which to submit their reports. This is considered necessary due to the increase in the number of State departments that will be involved in collecting the extra data and also the increase in the data itself. Provisions for increases in the grants of financial assistance related to State expenditure is provided for by sections 9 and 10 which amend schedules 1 and 2 of the principal Act. These increases in grants have been allocated between the States on the basis of their own proposed programs.

In order to implement a planned program for the conservation, development and proper management of Australia's water resources it is essential that a national water quality assessment program be implemented in conjunction with the present quantity measurement program to provide the necessary basic data. The program of water quality assessment which forms the basis for this Act and in which all governments in Australia will be participating has been devised with this end in view. Such a program was in fact envisaged in the water policy statement released on 10 October 1974. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.

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