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Tuesday, 9 March 1971
Page: 719

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I was very interested in the remarks of the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe). Only last Saturday night I went into his electorate - not for evil political purposes.

Mr Katter - What did you want to go for?

Mr JAMES - I will tell the honourable member what I went for. I went to purchase some hay from one of his constituents in the Morpeth region. It is a tragedy to see the way the farms are. This man told me about a fellow coming down the Hunter River under the Morpeth bridge in a little canoe. The canoe turned upsidedown and the man swam towards a willow tree and climbed up. I said: 'It was not Frank O'Keefe, the honourable member for Paterson, looking after your interests, was it?' Of course he laughed. The willow trees in the recent floods in Maitland were cracking under the force of water. It really brings home the devastation caused in the

Maitland region by the recent floods. It has compelled me to rise and say something in this Parliament tonight. The honourable member for Paterson was unfair in his criticism of members of the Opposition. He criticised my colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) because he did not refer to the devastation caused by recent floods in the Singleton area. There is a limit - thank God there is - on all speakers in this Parliament. Some of them could speak under boiling water or under sewer water. If there was no limit they would go on and on. The honourable member for Newcastle has been interested in the devastation caused by floods in the Singleton area. He has mentioned it to me in private when we have been travelling down from Newcastle. I was a little disappointed to hear the honourable member for Paterson shower praise on the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust on several occasions. But to be fair to the honourable member for Paterson, probably time did not permit him to shower a handful of praise on the Hunter Valley Research Foundation because 1 know that he is interested in its activities. 1 hope that I will be able to refer to some of the important work that the Hunter Valley Research Foundation is doing, lt is a non profit organisation, not something that Government members support-

Mr Giles - It is a wonder it ever did anything.

Mr JAMES - 1 did not hear the interjection but I will handle it if it is repeated. The Hunter Valley Research Foundation is an organisation which is registered as a non profit company. It was registered on 13th November 1956. The memorandum and articles of association were signed by 9 original members. There are in all 12 members of the Board of Directors elected from the 33 members of the company. The registered office of the company is in Newcastle, as the honourable member for Patterson would well know. The Hunter Valley Research Foundation operates along normal business lines with respect to the preparation and publication of a balance sheet and statement of accounts, duly audited. The principal objects of the company are to conduct and foster research into problems of flood mitigation and conservation of water, soil, timber and vegetation or any of them in the Hunter

Valley, and all problems related thereto. This is an honourable organisation led by Professor Cyril Renwick, a man of admirable and sterling qualities, an Australian of a rich, evenly balanced character. I mean rich in principles, not in the monetary sense.

The measure before the Parliament proposes the making of a grant of $9m to the New South Wales Government, a mere bagatelle. When one thinks of $20m for a rocket firing destroyer, the money that the Government has poured down the drain on the Fill bomber or the $400ra estimated by economic experts as the cost to the Australian taxpayer of our involvement in Vietnam, $9m is chicken feed as I am reminded by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who is always diligent when debates take place in this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Robertson is not within the precincts of the chamber and should not interject

Mr JAMES - Thank you, Mr Speaker. In my opinion the measure is an important one but does not do enough. I found it soothing to listen to my colleague the honourable member . for Paterson this evening particularly when he referred to the savagery of the devastation caused by the recurring floods in New South Wales rivers, especially the Hunter River. Honourable members do not need reminding that the electorate of the honourable member for Paterson covers practically the whole of the Hunter Valley. I listened in my room to the speech of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) this afternoon. He pointed out in his opening remarks how the late member for Cowper, Sir Earle Page-

Mr Robinson - A great man.

Mr JAMES - Yes, he was a great man. The honourable member for Cowper said that he championed the cause of Federal assistance for flood mitigation on the coastal rivers of New South Wales. All honourable members respect the memory of the late member for Cowper, Sir Earle Page. I remember that when I was a small boy it was not the Menzies-Fadden administration but the Bruce-Page administration. That was when I was about 14 years of age. But no-one in this House was in a better position to put into effect a reasonable scheme for flood mitigation than was the champion referred to by the honourable member for Cowper, the former member for Cowper whose memory we revere. The late Sir Earle Page was a Deputy Prime Minister and, I believe, a Treasurer of this country. But with all respect to him, he was noted for speaking on these things on the eve of an election because he still had faith in the political ignorance of his electors. If he had represented an electorate such as Hunter, which I represent, he would not have been able to get away with it because my electors are the most astute political students in the nation. That is why they returned me to this Parliament with a majority of approximately 73 per cent. They cannot be dudded or misled because industrial workers have had it, if I may use the vernacular, put over them so often by the monopolies of big business that one's story has to have a true, sincere ring before one can put it over them again.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that he come back to the Bill.

Mr JAMES - Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your guidance. The honourable member for Cowper also stated this evening that we should have a look at overseas countries in regard to flood mitigation.

Mr Hansen - What did he say about the last member for Cowper.

Mr JAMES - I had better not answer that interjection from the honourable member for Wide Bay. The honourable member for Cowper referred to the United States. That is fair enough. But he made no reference to Israel where the people have turned deserts into gardens. He did not dare make any reference to the People's Republic of China which dammed the Yellow River that has flooded for centuries. Oh, no, we cannot make reference to what the Chinese have achieved in flood mitigation.

Mr Kennedy - They do not exist.

Mr JAMES - They do not exist, we do not recognise them, but we hope to God they keep buying our wheat because we would lose our seats if they did not. That will show the people the falsity of this place, particularly on the part of. Government supporters v/ho stand up when the proceedings of Parliament are being broadcast and will not be frank with the Australian electors. But one day the electors will wake up that they have been dudded and the honourable member for Cowper will be singing Gracie Fields' favourite song. 'Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye'.

Mr SPEAKER -I would remind the honourable member for Hunter that this is the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill and deals with a grant under a programme of up to $9m for assistance with flood mitigation on 11 New South Wales coastal rivers. It has nothing to do with China or Israel and I would suggest to the honourable member that he comes back to the purpose of the Bill.

Mr JAMES - Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to make particular reference to this Bill as it affects the Hunter Valley. I am sympathetic to the problems of the Macleay, Tweed, Richmond, Clarence and Shoalhaven rivers, and now the additional rivers of Bellinger, Hastings, Manning, Hawkesbury and Moruya. The Hunter River makes a greater commercial contribution to the economy than do any of those other rivers. The Hunter River probably plays a greater part in commerce than any other river in Australia.

The Bill makes provision for a grant of $9m which, as has already been pointed out, is for assistance with flood mitigation works an 11 of the New South Wales coastal rivers. The Commonwealth proposes to allocate $10Om over 5 years for rural water conservation and supply works. This sounds a big sum but it will be spread over the Commonwealth, lt is to be used also for water measurement. This amount will be over and above the State's own programmes for these purposes. My view is that this amount is inadequate for control of the disastrous floods in the Commonwealth, and the $9m now being allocated for flood mitigation in New South Wales is a mere drop in the ocean.

No-one aware can deny the fact that the Hunter Valley Research Foundation is a non-profit, dedicated, knowledgeable and trustworthy organisation which has carried out as much research in the rich Hunter Valley region as its financial resources will permit. The former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for

Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), in 1965 met in his very courteous manner a delegation from the Hunter Valley Research Foundation introduced by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and myself. The delegation was led by Professor Cyril Rennie. The delegation put forward to the Minister a scheme concerning the Patterson, Allyn, Williams and Hunter Rivers in that region. This scheme was the result of a careful study. It was a 5-year scheme that was to cost approximately $23,470,000. That may seem a big amount. If I may use the Australian vernacular, it sounds like a big bite of the Commonwealth Treasury purse.

Under the proposed scheme the State Government was to contribute $10,750,000, the Federal Government only $4,760,000 and private enterprise such as Broken Hill Pty Ltd, Stewarts and Lloyds (Aust.) Pty Ltd and the other big industries in the Hunter Valley region, with which the honourable member for Farrer Would be very conversant because he is an astute politician, were to contribute $6,660,000. Local instrumentalities and organisations were to contribute $1,360,000. Whilst they got a patient hearing and probably the most courteous 'no' that ever a Minister could give to such a courteous and talented delegation, I believe that the courtesy, skill and sincerity of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation has caused the Government to move in the direction that it is moving with this legislation. But it is not sufficient. I believe the legislation has been expeditied as a result of the activities of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation. The honourable member for Paterson did not pay this organisation a tribute but that was probably an innocent omission on his part. He has had a lot of worries of all sorts on his mind in recent times. I believe that at the appropriate time he will accord this worthy organisation the credit that it deserves.

The Hunter Valley Research Foundation, according to a book that I have before me, suggests the building on the farms of 2,000 large dams for irrigation and 3,000 stock ponds over 5 years. It states that 40 per cent of all water requirements in the Hunter Valley are met from groundwater. This booklet, which sets out a water plan for the Hunter Valley during the period 1966-71, mentions also river protection work and drainage and urban protection in Singleton - not referred to in the criticism of the honourable member for Paterson - and Maitland. It goes on to state that the finance needed for the 5 years is $23,470,000. It suggests that the State Government should allocate $8m for large dams, $860,000 foi farm dams, $1,810,000 for floods and drainage and $110,000 for special studies. Time will not permit me to refer ro all the information related by this very worthy organisation.

The honourable member for Paterson pointed out that recent floods in the Hunter Valley region cost approximately $20m. I do not dobut h in the absence of any figures to the contrary. But the largest and most devastating flood in the Maitland region was in 1955 or thereabouts. It was estimated by experts to have cost $30m. Reference has been made this evening by certain speakers to pumpkins, cauliflowers and the like floating down the river. 1 can remember when a beast, the subject of a cattle stealing charge, was washed away from a yard at the back of the Maitland police station, and to the amazement of most evenly balanced people it was found - you are aware of this location, Mr Speaker - at Broughton Island about 30 miles away. That is an indication of the force crf the water and the tide. I am glad that the Hunter Valley region has been shown more sympathy in this legislation, but it is still not enough in terms of the importance which this region plays in the Australian economy. I wholeheartedly support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson, lt is full of merit, richness and sincerity.

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