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Friday, 29 July 1904

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - Certainly the course of procedure which the honorable member for Macquarie asks the Government to consent to is unusual, and it requires a considerable amount of reason to justify it. But in view of the treatment which the honorable member for Macquarie received last night, and also in view of the influences at work in the House-

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Underground influences.

Mr BROWN - There is ample justification for the action taken by him. What is the position? First of all, we had expert reports upon all the sites - the western sites, the southern sites, and the southeastern sites. All the sites now mainly under consideration were dealt with by experts appointed by the honorable member for Hume when he was Minister of Home Affairs in the Barton Government. At the close of the debate in the last Parliament a certain movement was made by the then Minister of Home Affairs for . the purpose of supplementing the information then available, and the House was given to understand that an inquiry was to be held in order to obtain some special information that had been overlooked on the previous occasion. But we find that the supplementary inquiry with regard to the Bombala and Tumut sites has been as exhaustive as, if not more exhaustive than, the inquiry entered into by the expert Commissioners. The whole question has been reviewed from every possible stand-point, and every tittle of information which it was possible to obtain has been brought to bear. I do not object to that. The House should be placed in possession of all the information bearing upon the question. But the honorable member for Macquarie - and I agree with him - asks that a similar inquiry should be extended to Lyndhurst. We were refused that by the late Government. We were informed that the information available covered all that was necessary. Whenever we asked that the same treatment as was extended to the other sites should be extended to Lyndhurst we were met by a refusal. When I got possession of the supplementary reports about a fortnight ago, I made a special visit to Sydney in order to bring the matter under the notice of the State Government. I was not successful in seeing the State Premier. But I endeavoured to get all the information I could with respect to the

Lyndhurst site. I consider that the honorable member for Macquarie has done the right thing in endeavouring to bring the information up to date, and to place honorable members in a position to judge this site on the newer and wider information which is now available. Since the investigations were made by the Commission of experts - and these were mainiy confined to a prescribed area - a considerable section of the people in the western districts have taken up the question of dealing with the source of water supply which has been reported upon lately by Mr. Wade, and deputations, of which I was a member, have waited on the State Government to deal with the question from a State stand-point, and not particularly from a Federal stand-point. I know that I cannot enter into full details at this stage, but I wish to indicate that there is now available more information than was available when the Commission of experts made their inquiries, and that information has been secured by the State Department for other than Federal purposes. A league has been formed to secure the erection of a weir and conservation of water for purely State purposes. I am a member of the league, which I believe includes the Prime Minister and several members of the State Parliament. That shows that since the first inquiry was made the attention of the State Parliament has been specially concentrated on this source of supply for purposes of water conservation, and it is admitted by the Ministry that it reaches the proportions of a national scheme, affecting all interests ' along the Lachlan River. I wish now to refer to the question of Mr. Wade's report. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will not dare to rise here and question straight out the ability of Mr. Wade to deal with this matter. Mr. Wade is a gentleman who has risen from the ranks in the Public Service of the State until he has attained the position of chief officer of the Department of Water Conservation. But the honorable member comes to the House, and points to a number of instances of wasteful expenditure by the Department in vears past, and by innuendo he tries to lead honorable members to believe that Mr. Wade had something to do with the commission of those mistakes.

Mr Austin Chapman - Not so.

Mr BROWN - I am glad to have the honorable member's denial, because Mr. Wade attained his position as the result of those mistakes, and the officers who were responsible for them had to quit the service.

The present Government of New South Wales has decided to make the question of water conservation an important item in its programme. The people of the State realize the need for water conservation throughout its length and breadth, and no matter what Government may have the control of its destinies, it must be prepared to make that question one of the main planks of its platform in the near future. For the purpose of thoroughly equipping the State to deal with this great question, the See Government sent Mr. Wade on a special mission to America to make inquiry and report, and he has only recently returned. I believe that there is no man in the States to-day who is so well posted as Mr. Wade with uplodate information on this subject. If honorable members had received his report last night in the spirit in which they are prepared to receive the reports of other officers,. I should have said that this action on the part of the honorable member for Macquarie was uncalled for. But how was it received here? Every innuendo was thrown out against it, and there were circulated here, not only newspaper letters or reports, but anonymous letters condemning this site as being unsuitable from the standpoint of water supply.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member is clearly anticipating the debate in Committee.

Mr BROWN - I do not wish to do that. I desire to state this fact as a reason why some official action should be taken to place before the House Mr. Wade's information, so that honorable members may be satisfied that it is reliable. I understand Mr. Wade is at present in Melbourne ; I have not had an interview with him, but the honorable member for Macquarie intimates that he is available to the House. If it thinks that the information which was supplied is not correct, it has the right and opportunity of calling Mr. Wade to the Bar, and questioning him.

Mr Webster - Who has thrown any doubt on the report?

Mr BROWN - Doubt has been expressed all round.

Mr Webster - Not at all.

Mr BROWN - The honorable member for Macquarie was met with a running fire of interjections from all parts of the House when he was submitting the document. The main objection taken to the site was based on the question of water supply, the practicability of which has been discredited by more than one speaker. '

But I cannot deal with that now. If honorable members feel that the report is not the handiwork of Mr. Wade he is here, and may be questioned. I am not altogether favorable to the dragging of any public officer before the House to be examined by honorable members, because I do not think that is a proper way to elicit information, unless there is ,some very special reason for taking that course. Why should not the Government ask Mr. Wade to supply them with an official report - on which would be staked his reputation as the Engineer-in-Chief of Water Conservation in New South Wales, and which, I believe, would be accepted by the large majority of honorable members as being substantially correct. That has been done with respect to Mr. Pridham's report.

Mr Batchelor - We have already agreed to that.

Mr BROWN - I am very pleased to hear that intimation. That, I think, pretty well clears the way. I realize that some good has been done by this discussion in reaching that position, because, so far as I could ascertain, there seemed to be a very strong desire not to allow this site to receive the same amount of inquiry and investigation as has been allowed in the case of other sites.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).- I find that I unwittingly did the right honorable member for Swan a wrong in my comment on some remarks which he made just now, and I ask permission to make the correction. I find that I did not read enough of his speech as reported in Hansard, and had I read the words preceding the quotation which he made from his report, the matter would have been clear. I find that his statement, suggesting grave menace and danger to the Capital Site from, the water supply, relates to the construction of an artificial lake, as a beauty spot and a water frontage pure and simple, and does not relate to the water supply proper. Had I known that, I certainly should not have made the remarks I did concerning that report.

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