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Thursday, 1 March 1984
Page: 215

Senator JONES —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I wish to make one or two remarks on an item which was listed on yesterday's Notice Paper but which was inadvertently left off the list in today's Notice Paper. I think it is reasonable, from my point of view and the point of view of the Senate, that we look first at the background of the Burdekin Dam and then at the problems now existing in Queensland in relation to the development of the project itself. It is worth while noting that financial assistance was sought from the Commonwealth from as far back as 1949. Through a series of governments, including Labor governments and Liberal-National Party governments, some undertaking was given in relation to financing that project. It is also worth noting that the previous Labor Government provided a $3m grant in 1974 for the Clare Weir, regarded as the pilot scheme for any future large scale development. It also initiated a Commonwealth-State investigation of the Burdekin Basin potential which was completed in 1977 at a cost of about $1m. Specific projects were not analysed, but the conclusions indicated that without further water resource development the Burdekin delta region would stagnate. Following that investigation by the Federal Government and the allocation of certain amounts of money, it is worth while noting that the previous Government agreed to meet the full cost of the dam, $107m, at January 1983 prices. While the States would be responsible for the cost of the preliminary works amounting to $19m and the development of the irrigation area amounting to $142m, the Federal Government was going to meet its part of the bargain in relation to the amount of money that it would put forward. Not only did the Labor Government and the previous Federal Government indicate that they would support the scheme, but there was also an indication of support by the Queensland Government. In December 1978, the Queensland Government published a full economic, technical evaluation of the Burdekin Dam project. This has been accepted as the preferred scheme under which future development would take place. To extend a little further on the scheme that was put forward by the Queensland Government, the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation and the former Department of National Development and Energy undertook a further study of the Burdekin Dam project, the report of which was tabled in Parliament in September 1980.

One of the reasons why I raise these points on the Burdekin Dam today is that as late as yesterday a statement was made by Mr Goleby, a Minister in the Queensland Government. He is initiating a dispute about the concern of people in relation to the gathering together of land that will need to be resumed in relation to the development of the Burdekin Dam project. According to Mr Goleby, the State Government wants a buy back scheme which will allow the farmers, who are the large landholders in the area, to buy back the land acquired by the Government for the Burdekin Dam scheme. Some conflict is involved in this because both the Federal Minister and the State Opposition believe that any land acquired by the Government should be divided amongst the smaller landholders who could ballot to acquire the land around the Burdekin as opposed to setting up a buy back scheme whereby the large landholders would reap some benefit from the development of the Burdekin scheme paid for by taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth of Australia and also by taxpayers throughout Queensland by virtue of the Queensland Government's allocation of money to that scheme.

I hope that the bloody mindedness of the State Government through the Minister does not allow the situation to develop so that large landholders can buy back land and small landholders or people wishing to acquire land after the development of the scheme will not be able to acquire any land because the buy back scheme will prevent them from gaining land to develop the Burdekin River scheme. I hope that the dispute which is starting to develop is settled. Positive steps regarding the scheme have been taken by the present Federal Government and previous State and Federal governments for the benefit of the people in Townsville and north Queensland, in particular, to develop industry and farming in the area and, at a later date, a hydro-electric scheme.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2 p.m.