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Tuesday, 9 March 1971
Page: 735

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - I move in relation to clause 3:

That the clause be postponed- as an instruction to the Government:

To amend the clause to include the Nambucca River in the definition of 'prescribed river'.

The reasons for this amendment were debated during the second reading stage but to be more specific I refer to the definition of a "prescribed river'. The definition clause names certain rivers. The Opposition wishes to include in this definition of prescribed river' the Nambucca River. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) said that the Nambucca Shire Council did not wish to be included in this scheme. I think he said this was because it would nol be in the best interests of the rate payers. The honourable member for Riverina (Mt Grassby) has quoted a letter from the Nambucca Shire Clerk in which it is made quite clear that the Nambucca Shire Council would like to participate in this scheme, lt is obvious that there is superficial evidence of siltation in the Nambucca River. On the other hand it is clear also that if detailed investigations have nol been made they should be made. I ask the Minister whether, if this amendment is defeated, the State Government in the next 5 years will approach the Federal Government if the detailed survey shows there is a case for the inclusion of the Nambucca River in the definition of prescribed river'.

What concerns me is a basic difference between the approach of the Opposition and the approach of the Government to Federal funds for development. The Minister indicated that the priorities are determined by the States. In other words, if the State does not want to put forward this proposal, irrespective of how good it might be in comparison with others, it therefore cannot be considered. Instead of the States putting forward priorities which can be heavily influenced by politics, I believe that the correct approach of the Federal Government always should be to invest its money in those projects which will give the greatest return, to the nation. That is why I have always stated that instead of waiting for the States to put forward their priorities based on qualitative terms, the correct way to invest Federal funds is for the Commonwealth to play a national role in planning and to put forward Commonwealth priorities based on a national viewpoint rather than a State viewpoint or a regional viewpoint. I hope that we are not to hear mentioned too often again that unless a State puts forward a priority we cannot consider a project which may have a high priority for development.

I have mentioned several times that, for example, in my State, where there is a great tendency to put forward priorities for water conservation not based on economic considerations but frequently based on the whims of politicians, this is not the way to develop a nation in the best interests of the people. Therefore I hope that serious considerataion will be given to including the Nambucca River in this scheme. We are told that a survey will be carried out. If this amendment is defeated I hope this will not inhibit the Nambucca River being included in the national water resources development programme even though it is not included in this Bill. The Nambucca Shire is desirous of it being included. There is evidence of heavy siltation in the estuary. There is evidence also of periodic floods in that area and there is evidence that flood mitigation work is needed. Those are the precise reasons why the Opposition has moved this amendment. But I again make the qualification that if this amendment is defeated I hope it will not mean that for the next 5 years we will not see any amendments to this programme which will exclude not only the Nambucca River but all other rivers in the eastern part of New South Wales.

I am pleased to hear the Minister say that the Government will consider any other flood mitigation programme that is put forward by the States. It will consider programmes relating to not only New South Wales or the eastern areas of New South Wales but also the central and western areas of New South Wales, northern New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. This to me is a constructive move.

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