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Friday, 29 July 1904

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - I cannot see any justification for the course proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie. I have every respect for Mr. Wade, but the fact that the honorable member asks that he shall be examined at the Bar, when"he has already furnished us with a report on the Lyndhurst water supply, shows that the honorable member is not satisfied with that report.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am satisfied with it.

Mr WEBSTER - Then why examine Mr. Wade at the Bar of" the House?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because certain honorable members say that they are not satisfied with the information which I have alreadv placed before the House.

Mr WEBSTER - I have as much confidence in Mr. Wade as I have in the officers who occupy similar positions in the other States. I know that it is customary to eulogize the heads of Departments upon their assumption of office to such an extent as to lead one to believe that they can be absolutely trusted to lay down perfect lines in regard to future administration. If Mr. Wade be examined at the Bar of the House, what will happen? Every honorable member will be afforded an opportunity of cross-examining him as to his qualifications. In doing so, those who are familiar with the blunders which have been committed in connexion with water conservation works in New South Wales will of necessity question him in such a way as will introduce the names of other officials-

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In New South Wales there have not been nearly the same number of blunders committed as have occurred in the other States

Mr WEBSTER - I admit that errors have been made in Victoria such as have not occurred eleswhere. I very much question the wisdom of summoning Mr. Wade to the Bar of the House to give evidence under such conditions. The honorable member for Gippsland has stated the condition upon which he is prepared to support the suggestion of the honorable member for Macquarie. Does he seriously contend that experts other than Mr. Wade should be examined ? The Government have already indicated their willingness to obtain a report from him.

Mr Johnson - Is the honorable member afraid to allow Mr. Wade to be examined ?

Mr WEBSTER - I have the same confidence in Mr. Wade's report that I have in the reports submitted by other experts upon various aspects of this question. Having that report before us, what more do we require? It is true that expert knowledge is of value so far as it relates to the volume of water which can be conserved at any of the sites. But I hold that the engineering blunders which have been committed in connexion with providing water supplies to various country towns in New South Wales, afford the most condemnatory evidence of expert knowledge' that can possibly be supplied. Not only do we require to ascertain the volume of water which is available at each particular site, but also whether it can be conserved. Further, it is necessary for us to provide against such a result as has occurred at Tamworth, where, after an expenditure of 50 per cent, in excess of the official estimate, there is merely an apology for a water supply to-day. We require to know the character of the country constituting the water sheds of these particular areas. At Tamworth the water is conveyed to the town by gravitation, but it carries with it a certain amount of soil, the presence of which is a menace to the health of the people. I have seen that water so discoloured, when coming through the bathroom tap that persons were almost prevented from using it. It is very important that we should know something as to the quality of the water which can be conserved. Obviously any water is useless which contains deleterious matter sufficient to render it unfit for human consumption. If it be logical to summon an engineering expert to the Bar of the House to give evidence as to the quantity of water which can be conserved at any particular site, it is equally logical to summon an analytical chemist to testify to the elements which are contained in that water. Is there any honorable member who will deny the necessity which exists for making such inquiry ? The honorable member for Macquarie pointed out last evening that a sample of the water supply at Orange had been subjected to an analytical test. Why was it not taken from the Lyndhurst water-shed? The very fact that it was obtained from Orange indicates a fear that the analyst's report upon a sample taken from the Lyndhurst water-shed would not be satisfactory.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The sample taken from Orange comes from a part of the Lyndhurst water-shed.

Mr WEBSTER - The honorable member did not indicate that last evening.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I informed honorable members that it was taken from one side of the Canobolas.

Mr WEBSTER - But the honorable member also said that the Lyndhurst water supply would be situated upon the other side of the Canobolas. The proposition that the water can run from one side of the Canobolas into a dam upon the other, is a most remarkable one.. Personally I am not prejudiced in favour of any site. It is obvious, however, that the most important factor in connexion with any Federal Capi tal is its water supply. Without a supply of pure water no capital can be a success. In company with the honorable member for Macquarie I inspected the Lyndhurst site, and endeavoured, in the limited time at my disposal, to investigate the character of the surrounding country, and the possibilities of its water-shed.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. The time for the discussion of this motion has expired. The Clerk will call on the Orders of the Day.

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