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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1386

Mr FITZGIBBON(1.53) —We have moved from the sublime heights of a discussion of genetic engineering, to the royal coat of arms, and to the ridiculous Premier of Queensland. I am going to descend even lower than that and discuss a more basic issue. This is called a grievance debate and I believe it is most appropriate that here I express the grief of those people in this country of ours, the so-called lucky country, who are deprived of what should be an essential in this day and age-sewerage. I referred to this subject in my maiden speech and said that I would attempt to elaborate at a later date on some of the problems suffered by people who are without that basic facility.

Never in this House have I heard anyone-I have been a member for only a short time, admittedly-mention the word 'sewerage'. That is fair enough, I guess, because I suppose there is not one member of this House who does not live in sewered premises. But, out there, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are without sewerage. I know that it would be quite ridiculous to try to extend sewerage to isolated farmhouses and things of that nature. But what I am urging is that this Government and this Parliament give serious attention to those people who live in urban areas where there are quite dense population gatherings and who are totally without any sewerage.

What does it mean if one does not have sewerage? It means this: One has to make do with a pan service, or one has to have a septic system on one's premises. The costs of this are quite tragic. The simple fact of the matter is that, in financial terms alone, there are pensioners who are paying quite extravagant costs for a pan service; and then if people try to put in a decent septic system, they spend up to $7,000 or $8,000 in some cases because of the nature of the soil. That is just an incredible expense and, of course, it is an unfair imposition. Also, we should consider the cost as far as health is concerned. Honourable members will understand the diseases which emanate from those places which are without sewerage.

I believe that all of us here would recognise that the lack of sewerage is a problem. I mentioned in my maiden speech where the responsibility lies. I am glad that some Opposition members recognise the problem. For years and years some people have been without sewerage-then, for one brief moment, they had a period of hope. That was when the national sewerage scheme was introduced. But now, of course, that has gone by the wayside. There is some Commonwealth funding provided for sewerage, but it goes straight to the States and it is nowhere near enough. We must face the fact that local governments cannot be responsible for the provision of sewerage because they do not have the finances. The State governments do not have sufficient finance. So it must be recognised that the responsibility for sewerage extension resides with the Commonwealth Parliament.

I have talked about the disgraceful performance of the Fraser Government in torpedoing a national sewerage program, but I cannot be very proud of the performance of this Government, really, because it seems that sewerage is a dead issue; and it should not be a dead issue.

Mr Cunningham —It is on the nose.

Mr FITZGIBBON —That is it. When one gets up in the Parliament and talks about a national disgrace, a national problem, it is a great area for people to develop jokes about. But when people call one out to their premises when there has been rain about and one has to lift the legs of one's trousers to walk around in transpiration areas, it is not a very delightful exercise. It is something to which somebody in this Parliament should give his attention.

In the remaining time available to me, I make the suggestion that some thought be given to spending unemployment grants on the extension of sewerage facilities. I know that sewerage extensions would involve a fair amount of money on material content. That is true. But there is also a heavy labour content in the provision of sewerage, and rather than spend all our unemployment grants on some things which have no permanence and no real value in a lasting sense, we would be far better off bringing sewerage to those urban areas which lack that essential facility.

Another matter to which this Parliament should give its attention is this: The fact is that villages in urban areas which are situated inside water board areas are disadvantaged. In New South Wales, for instance, if a town is without sewerage, all it has to do is get its name on the list and wait for, say, a maximum of seven years, and then the State Government's sewerage assistance scheme comes to its aid and that little town is sewered. What is happening, of course, is that small villages in country areas are being sewered--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 p.m., in accordance with standing order 106, as amended for this session, the debate is interrupted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.