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Thursday, 23 August 1973
Page: 374

Mr GILES (Angas) - I must quietly congratulate the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) on having the courage to get on to his feet tonight and take up the case for an industry in his electorate. I am very pleased to have from all quarters of the House support for what I said last night. One can only ponder as to the whereabouts of those other people who did all the talking about fruit in the past. Are they hiding behind Cabinet solidarity? What is their reason for not sparing a word or two at this stage for the sake of those in their electorates who have been so heavily hit by this decision on sales tax? In my electorate of Angas the people who have been hit hardest are the brandy producers. They have been hit 3 ways. On top of that they have to contend with the removal of the sales tax exemption. The honourable member for Wilmott showed great courage in talking from his side of the House on this matter tonight.

There is another matter which is of very great concern to my electorate and which I intend to touch on this evening. Some honourable members of this House may remember that some time ago I spoke in a perhaps intemperate fashion about the fact that the River Murray water quality was not being protected. I said that this Government was not interested in the protection of the quality of the water downstream in South Australia. I pointed out that South Australia was on the end of the drain and had a vested interest. I pointed out that Albury and Wodonga could not help but pollute areas downstream that depended on high quality water. I also pointed out that the Premier of South Australia and the Labor Government were deficient in their responsibilities to that State because they would not seek a firm agreement on water quality and that all they had done at that stage, when they had been flushed out, if I may use the term, prior to a State election, was to come out with a few blithe words to the effect that they were watching this problem very carefully.

When I said this and when I got quite a reasonable Press in the South Australian Advertiser' for a mere back bencher I was accused by the Deputy Premier of South Australia of being a headline hunter. The worm turned with a vengeance this afternoon. In Adelaide the Leader of the State Opposition, Bruce Eastick, asked the Deputy Premier, Mr Corcoran, whether there was any truth in the task force statement from Dr Coombs that progress on the construction of the Dartmouth Dam would be slowed down in order to try to save the Government, which has been guilty of such rank over-expenditure in the public sector, from more embarrassment. The Deputy Premier of my State immediately assured the House that there was no such contention. He stated that as long as the Labor Party was in control of the future water supply of South Australia there would be no question about a proper guaranteed water supply. An hour later a letter was delivered. It went up and down the front bench of the State Labor Government while complexions turned progressively paler, so I am informed.

The Deputy Premier, in the absence of Mr Dunstan who was away sick, then had to get up and say that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), whom I contacted 40 minutes ago to let him know I was going to speak on this matter, had written a letter to the South Australian Premier requesting in very severe terms that there be no further contracts let. This is my information. I am a long way from Adelaide now, but I hope this is near enough to the spirit of the letter. The letter pointed out that there was benefits to all 4 parties to the agreement if the rate of expenditure were to be slowed down. What economic nonsense this is. Does one start to put money into something and then let it lie idle just because there is a big river flowing at present but no snow up in the Alps to substantiate the flow of water into South Australia, the State that is on the end of the drain? Does one then support such a contention from a Prime Minister who has been on record before as saying that the Ord is nothing but an economic tragedy? Honourable members will forgive the people of South Australia if they do not think that the Prime Minister is very genuine in wanting to conserve water for the driest State in the driest continent of the world, whose entire future industrial progress and that of the irrigators in my own electorate is dependent on quantity and quality of water from this source.

A Liberal-Country League Premier of South Australia got himself, shall I say, into a state of disrepair when he fought to get a 37 per cent increase of available water for that State. He gave away the building of Chowilla Dam because there was better quality and a greater quantity of water available from the Dartmouth Dam if it were built. These are the facts. I want to say to the House at this stage that without the interference of the Premier of Souh Australia the Dartmouth Dam would now be built. He played politics in a State seat at the top end of my electorate next door to the electorate of my colleague and won the seat for one session, but it has now returned because people are starting to wake up. I hope that the State Government has the intestinal fortitude to make quite sure that it does not agree to this rotten suggestion implied in the Whitlam letter. Just because this Government has overspent left, right and centre and has had to ask Dr Coombs to try to rescue it by saving money here, there and everywhere, why should it penalise a State - or attempt to do so - which is only one party to the 4 agreements? Why penalise the only State that is entirely dependent for its water supply on the one and only river that runs through it?

I remember full well today the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) - who is notorious for his absence from these debates affecting electors at present - trying to heap abuse on this side of the chamber in relation to the 'Burdekin Dam. What confidence will the people of the Burdekin River area have in him in future when he cannot even honour an agreement solemnly signed between all 4 parties to it? The Prime Minister is trying to get out of his extravangance by pushing the people of South Australia to the wall, when everybody knows that they are entirely dependent on that one source of water.

Mr Speaker,you will excuse me for sounding perhaps more emotional about things than usual tonight but this is a very serious thing for my electorate which is starved of irrigation water in normal years and which is not seeking to expand its irrigation area as are some other electorates in the Commonwealth which are further up the main stream of the Murray. Our only request, which is reason able, is to allow South Australia to exist, to expand a little industrially and to use more water - per head as the standard of living improves. People in South Australia are not attempting to increase irrigation waters in that State. As honourable members know, the farmers in my electorate are almost entirely involved in profitable enterprises. I might add that 92 per cent of the brandy supply of the entire country is at risk, not only from the effects of the Budget but also from the lack of water. Although I let the Prime Minister know that I would be raising this matter tonight I hope that he does not get away by the use of coercion and force with his centralist sympathies in trying to put a small State and small industries under his sway in order to swell his own ego or in order to patch up the extravagance of his other policies.

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