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Thursday, 23 June 1949

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), whom I almost invariably have the unhappy experience of following in debate, has made one good statement. He said, in effect, that he would rather see this scheme go ahead in its present form than not to go ahead at all. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) will agree with that statement, which represents advanced thinking compared with the views of other members of the Opposition about the Snowy Mountains project. I believe that this scheme would never have come to pass on its present scale if the Commonwealth had not taken the initiative. If it had been left to the States to decide it would have been like so many other things that we have left to them. We should never have got unanimity of thought and action. Nothing would have been done. Honorable members opposite are not decrying the need for defence as such, but they are decrying defence of this type, which has to do with the generation of electric power. What would electric power be used for in a defence programme, of which this hydro-electric scheme is a part ? It would be used to provide power for atomic research. Honorable members opposite talk about defence in the terms of soldiers, guns and bayonets which, in this atomic age, shows that they have a Maginot-line complex. Hearing them talk about defence, one would never think that the atomic age has arrived.

Mr BEAZLEY (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Why has Russia maintained an army of 13,000,000 men?

Mr DUTHIE - Doubtless, it has its own reasons. An American author has written -

I do not know with what weapons the next war will be fought, but I do know that the wai after that will be fought with bows and arrows.

He meant that the next war would end the white civilization. In atomic research Australia is working in conjunction with the United Kingdom.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The clause before the committee makes no reference to atomic research.

Mr DUTHIE - It is obvious that in the defence programme, with which this scheme is integrated, that aspect must be considered. When the Tennessee Valley Authority was constituted, it affected five States of the United States of America. It was challenged in the Supreme Court of the United States of America, which held that it was right and proper, in times of peace, that the nation should prepare for war. It allowed the authority to carry on its great programme. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) referred to the fact that it was from the Tennessee Valley Authority that the United States of America got the electric power with which to conduct the atomic energy research which, after .two or three years led to the production of the first atomic bomb.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member may not refer in committee to speeches made in the second-reading debate. .

Mr DUTHIE - I was referring to the Minister's remarks on this clause. If we cannot prepare for war on a State basis with any likelihood of success1, or win a war on a State basis, but are able to do bo only on a Commonwealth basis, we could certainly never carry through a scheme of this magnitude on a State basis. That is the answer, I think, to the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) of the defence aspect of the hill. The righthonorable gentleman, with his legal mind at work, tried to make out that we are trampling down State sovereignty. Only two States, New South Wales and Victoria, are directly involved in the scheme. That is the sort of tripe that we hear so often from the Opposition. If the Constitution does not permit us to plan for atomic defence by the creation of hydro-electric power, there is something wrong with the Constitution. It is fantastic to think that we could ever get agreement among the States on all details of such a project as this. We have been discussing it in Australia for 80 years. Now, when the Commonwealth comes forward with a plan, cut and dried after tremendous thought and planning and a great number of conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Opposition does not want the plan to go ahead in its present form. But it has not given us an alternative plan. The amendment is not an alternative.

Mr Fuller - It is humbug.

Mr DUTHIE - Humbug, yes. It is only designed to delay the scheme. Time is of the essence of the contract. So much is involved in the completion of the plan, particularly the first phase of it, that time is a vital consideration. I was glad to hear the Minister for Works and Housing tell honorable members that work on the scheme has 'already begun. In spite of what the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) hae said, the first work has been done.

Mr White - What is being done ?

Mr DUTHIE - A road is being built. When I was in Tumut recently, I saw the first gang go out on to the job. I shall not believe that the Opposition is sincere in its desire that Australia should be adequately defended if it continues to ridicule the defence aspect of this project, for there is no doubt that the resources that will be available when the job has been completed, or even half completed, will make a tremendous contribution to our defence potential. Defence has more to do with what electricity can produce than it has with armies. So I hope that we shall agree to this clause in such a way as will show to the people of Australia that we want to go on with the project on a Commonwealth basis and that we do not want to resort to the humbug of having half a dozen different authorities all disagreeing about it.

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