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Thursday, 30 August 1973
Page: 624

Mr HANSEN (WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND) - My question is directed to the Minister for Northern Development. What has happened to several requests made by the Queensland Government for financial assistance in the construction of phase 1 and phase 2 of the Bundaberg irrigation project? Can the Minister indicate when a positive decision can be expected on this important project which is located in a serious drought prone area?

Dr PATTERSON (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Northern Development) - I am very much aware of the concern and the efforts of the honourable member for Wide Bay with respect to this important water conservation project in an area which is very adversely affected from time to time by seasonal conditions. This project has been before the Commonwealth for some 10 years. The previous Government provided some assistance for it in 1970. In October lost year and in February this year the Queensland Premier wrote to the previous Government and this Government respectively for financial assistance amounting to $ 18.5m with respect to phase 2 of stage 1 of the project. The policy of the Labor Government is that it will support soundly based water conservation projects in proven and established areas provided that an evaluation analysis has been carried out and, of course, that the results are made available to the public.

The first thing I did when we received the letter from the Premier was to call for the Federal evaluation report on the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. There is no report. The previous Government just hoodwinked the people of Bundaberg, and the people of Queensland for that matter. There is just no Federal evaluation analysis. The same thing happened with respect to Urannah. A request came from the Queensland Premier at the same time about this scheme. The honourable member for Herbert will know this. I again called for the Federal evaluation analysis to put a case to Cabinet. One just has not been done, despite the fact that the previous Government said that this scheme had been under Federal investigation since 1967. It was just hoodwinking the people of Queensland again. The same thing happened with respect to the Eton irrigation project. Assistance for that project was refused by the previous Government last year without any evaluation analysis whatsoever.

The first thing that the Whitlam-Barnard Government did was to reverse the previous decision and ask for an evaluation report. The scheme proved to be sound and in the Budget we financed it. I oan assure the honourable member for Wide Bay that consideration of the Bundaberg irrigation project is in hand and that organisations such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Snowy Mountains Corporation, as well as the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Northern Development, have started an evaluation analysis. As soon as that is completed I will put a case to the Cabinet. The same applies to several other water conservation projects which are now being investigated in Queensland.

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