Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 1 October 1958


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The Opposition is pleased that the Government has at last been able to persuade South Australia to accept this compromise agreement because it will do one good thing. Though South Australia will lose in the process its fair share of water which is to be diverted, it will at least guarantee the legality of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. But just so that it can go on the record that the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, is not the wizard of negotiation that he pretends he is in South Australia, and that at long last he has met his match in the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I think it should be repeated here that South Australia has been deprived of a share of the water that it should have got had it been given its just share of the water that is to be diverted. I do not know whether Sir Thomas Playford does not realize this, or whether he realizes it and pretends that he does not in order to save face. I have a feeling that he does know he has been cheated, but rather than admit that he has been beaten, he is pretending that this is a wonderful agreement.

Let me explain why the South Australian people are being deprived of their fair share of the diverted water. In order to understand this scheme one has to keep in mind three rivers, the Tooma, the Eucumbene and the Snowy. Those three rivers play a part in the diversions that will occur when the scheme is completed. Altogether, 300,000 acre feet of water per year will be diverted through the Tooma into the Murrumbidgee. Some 248;000 acre feet of water per year will be distributed from the Snowy via the Eucumbene into the Murrumbidgee. Some 400,000 acre feet of water will be diverted from the Snowy itself via the Murray, making a total of 948,000 acre feet of water per year.

It is important to remember that the cost of those diversions has been met by all the people of Australia on a population basis. If it were physically possible for all the people of Australia who have contributed towards the cost of the diversions to share equally in the benefits of the diversions 1 would advocate that they should share accordingly. But it is not physically possible for more than two of the States to share in the benefits of the additional hydro-electric power, and those two States are Victoria and New South Wales: It is not possible, geographically, for more than three States to share in the additional water available for irrigation purposes.

Even though we might say to the States of New South Wales and Victoria, " It is your good luck that you are getting all the additional very cheap hydro-electric power between you, South Australia, at least, ought to be given her share of the additional water that is made available and which she so badly needs ". If this fair share were to be divided correctly, South Australia should have the amount which, under the agreement, she is entitled to have in drought times, which is three-thirteenths of the water that flows through the Hume dam at Albury. Victoria is entitled to fivethirteenths of that water and New South Wales is entitled to five-thirteenths of it. As 648.000 acre feet of water which previously flowed into the Pacific Ocean at Orbost is now being diverted into the interior through the Murrumbidgee and the Murray, we can see that South Australia's fair share of that additional water is threethirteenths. But what is South Australia to get? The Tooma water, amounting to 300,000 acre feet per year, is being diverted from the Murray into the Murrumbidgee and is to be divided equally between Victoria and New South Wales. South Australia will lose its three-thirteenths share of that diversion.

However, the Government has said, " We will apply justice in this case by setting aside from the Snowy diversion an amount of water equal to the diversion from the Tooma and the surplus will be divided between the States on the basis of fivethirteenths to Victoria, five-thirteenths to New South Wales, and three-thirteenths to South Australia ". The Government claims that, in this way, South Australia will get its just share. It suits the Government to overlook the fact that the diversion of 248,000 acre feet via the Eucumbene, Toona and, ultimately, the Murrumbidgee, al' in New South Wales, has not been taken -to account, and that none of it is shared by Victoria or South Australia. The Government still refuses to face up to the fact that the diversion from the Snowy itself has, first of all, clipped from it the 300.000 acre feet which is taken from the Murray and diverted into the Murrumbidgee via the Tooma River.

This is a very important diversion to South Australia. We are not very much concerned about our share of the water from the Murray in ordinary normal times; our chief concern is in time of drought because it is in time of drought that all the States need the water most of all. So, to all intents and purposes, we can say that this agreement hinges upon South Australia's share of water in time of drought. In time of drought, the snow-fed river is ever so much more valuable than the water of the river which is fed by ordinary rainfall, and the Tooma River happens to be one of the best snow-fed rivers of the continent. It is strange but true that very often in years of drought, there are heavy falls of snow.


Sir Philip McBride - Who told you that?


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am pleased that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) is now awake. I have read the reports that have been published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I am influenced, also, by a statement made by Sir Thomas Playford himself who told me that that information had been given to him by reputable authorities.


Sir Philip McBride - He had incorrect information.


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not think he had. He told me that it is generally accepted that in time of drought the strange phenomenon of additional snowfalls does, in fact, occur. I am prepared to accept the statement by the Premier in that respect. I will admit that the Premier, when he found himself confronted with a more skilful negotiator, seemed to lose all interest in the great advantage of snow-fed tributaries and was prepared to accept in their place rain-fed tributaries which will be of no benefit when there is no rain.

I find in this bill a deal with which I agree. It is true that this agreement has cleared up the question which was never previously quite clear of what constitutes the waters of the Murray - do they include the water actually in the stream itself, the water that is dammed up in the locks, and iso forth? This agreement clarifies that point. South Australia's rights are now clear, and to that extent we must commend the proposals. Now we know that the whole of the water left in the river Murray itself is to be shared in the manner that I have just mentioned.

Originally South Australia objected to the proposed diversion of the Tooma River on the grounds that it was being made by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and not by the States of New South Wales and Victoria. But the Minister for Supply has stated that South Australia did not press this point once agreement was reached on what the Minister is pleased to call the major question of the manner in which the Murray waters are to be shared in time of drought. That is the first sell-out by the Premier of South Australia who had so much to say in the press about how he was going to fight for the rights of South Australia. Almost every day, at one time, one would read in the newspapers how the wicked Federal Government had deprived South Australia of its share of the river Murray waters. The Premier of South Australia did not wake up to what was going on until it was too late. He did nothing about this matter until some time in 1957. For nearly eight years, he was asleep and took no steps whatever to protect the water rights of South Australia as a consequence of the diversion.

In 1948 or 1949, Sir Thomas Playford knew that there was to be a diversion from the Snowy into the Murray and through the tributaries of the Murrumbidgee. That was when the Premier should have moved in, at a time when the Commonwealth Government had not been committed, as it now is, to a tremendous expenditure of public revenue. That was when the Commonwealth Government could have brought some pressure to bear on Victoria and New South Wales. The Commonwealth could have said to those States: " If you do not agree to let South Australia have a fair share, as far as we are concerned the scheme can stop ". Victoria and New South Wales, realizing how much they stood to lose by way of additional hydro-electric power and water, would have been compelled to talk common sense and accept a just settlement of the scheme. What happened? Sir Thomas Playford, after sleeping soundly for eight years, suddenly woke up that there was a Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority diverting water, which every schoolchild in Australia knew about from the third grade upwards. Only after the Commonwealth had spent more than £100,000,000 did he come to light and ask for his share. At that stage, New South Wales and Victoria decided that they would stand pat because the Commonwealth had spent £100,000,000 and if the agreement was not finalized, the Commonwealth probably would be pushed out by the High Court on the ground that it had no constitutional right to be there, thus relinquishing ownership of works that had already cost £100,000,000 of public money.

The Minister in his second-reading speech went on to say something with which I cannot agree. He said -

The claim of South Australia to share in drought time in the diverted waters of the Snowy was clearly a matter of concern only to the States of New South Wales and Victoria. It was not a matter upon which the Commonwealth could be expected or indeed had any right to adjudicate.

I disagree with the Minister. I say that the Commonwealth did have a right to adjudicate. It had a right at the very beginning. Perhaps the Government that commenced the scheme was at fault in not calling together the three States and saying, "Before we embark on this £200,000,000 scheme we want you to reach agreement as to our constitutional rights to carry on the scheme and control the distribution of electricity and so on ". South Australian being vitally interested in the project, it would have been brought into the scheme at that point before New South Wales and Victoria could blackmail the Commonwealth, and to a lesser extent South Australia, by saying, " If you do not agree to what we want, you will be ousted because the Commonwealth has no constitutional right to be there ". At that time, the Commonwealth probably would have been able to obtain an agreement. It is true that the Government which started the scheme perhaps did not have time to complete those negotiations, but at any rate the succeeding government early in 1950 could have done so before too much money had been spent. But it was not done. That was the great mistake of the whole project.

Another concession which the South Australian Government makes is that, in a period of restrictions, New South Wales and Victoria will be permitted to use the water from the river Murray in excess of the quantity to which they are otherwise entitled and to replace that excess from any tributary of the Murray below Albury in such a way that the rights of the other States are not prejudiced. The Minister said -

The significance of this requirement is that New South Wales and Victoria may take water out of the main stream of the Murray, where they need it, and replace it from tributaries.

That represents another sell-out by South Australia, because the way the agreement previously operated, South Australia had 3/ 13ths of the water that was released from

Albury, plus any water not used by New South Wales and Victoria which flowed into the Murray below Albury. But under this proposal New South Wales and Victoria can use more than their 5/13ths shares of the Hume dam and compensate South Australia by counting the water that they cannot use from the Darling, the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee as being water to compensate for the water that is released from the Hume dam.

But this part of the agreement has not been altered - that is, the original agreement to which the Opposition took exception when it came before Parliament in May this year. At that time the Opposition complained that South Australia was being forced to allow the water that is diverted from the Tooma to be carved up in equal parts between Victoria and New South Wales. South Australia would thus lose her 3/ 13ths of the water, representing some 70,000 acre feet per annum. That part of the agreement is still unaltered.

I compliment the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on his skill at being able to put it over this smart Premier of South Australia. I do not know how he did it, but the fact is that he did it. Sir Thomas Playford has gone back to South Australia and has not said one word about the way he has been chiselled out of his share of the Tooma waters. He thinks he has had a victory. He thinks he has beaten Menzies, Cahill, and that clown Bolte - that is the word he used, and I think he is probably right there. He tells the people of South Australia that he has three scalps on his belt. But when we have a good look at this matter, we find that Sir Thomas Playfords scalp is on their belts, because what he regards as a victory simply amounts to this: The Government says, " We will pinch from you 70,000 acre feet of water and then we will give back to you 70,000 acre feet of water that you are entitled to anyhow, and what is left over we will let you share in on the basis of 3/ 13ths of the total ". That, to Sir Thomas, is the wonderful proposition. I do not think it is wonderful. I think it is just an example of the Premier being soundly asleep for eight years while South Australia's rights were being stolen - not only the rights of the present generation but the rights of future generations. The agreement ;that we are ratifying to-night will be used for generations, or indeed centuries, to come, to deprive the people of South Australia of their just share of the waters of the river Murray.

If ever a man was soundly defeated it was Sir Thomas Playford with respect to this matter. The more one examines this agreement, the more loopholes one discovers. It will be seen from the Minister's speech that New South Wales and Victoria required as a condition to their meeting the South Australian claim that the River Murray Waters Agreement should be amended to make it mandatory upon the River Murray Commission to declare a period of restriction when the water stored in the Hume reservoir and Lake Victoria falls to 1,000,000 acre feet. That means that if there is 2,000,000 acre feet at Albury and none at Lake Victoria, the commission could theoretically fail to declare a period of restriction. The result would be that South Australia would be in a position where New South Wales and Victoria, if it suited them, could take the initiative and have a period of restriction declared, but South Australia, if the tables were turned, could not do so.


Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes - If there were 2,000,000 acre feet of water at Albury it would be running over the spillway.


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am reminded that the Hume dam is to be enlarged so that it will hold more than 2,000,000 acre feet- 2,500,000 acre feet I think the honorable member for Chisholm suggests. I remind honorable members that South Australia pays its share of the cost of raising the wall of the Hume dam. South Australia pays its share of the cost of all the other locks and arrangements on the river to control the flow of the water. Anybody would think that South Australia paid absolutely nothing towards the cost of control of the river waters. Anybody would think that South Australia paid nothing towards the cost of the diversion of the Snowy waters into the river Murray and Murrumbidgee River.

Now we come to another of the Minister's statements about the agreement. He said -

It does this for periods -of restriction by the addition , of sub-clause .(3.) (b) of clause 45 which provides that no State shall .receive less water .b>y reason of the Tooma diversion than it would have -received 'had 'that -diversion not been made.

What

Summed up, one can say that, out of all the diversions that are to be made. New South Wales will get 433,000 acre feet more than before; Victoria will get about 1 80,000 acre feet more than before; and South Australia will get a miserable pittance of about 35,000 acre feet more. As a South Australian, I do not regard that as a good proposition. I think that, having regard to the fact that New South Wales and Victoria are to share between them the whole of the hydroelectric power, which will be provided at a much cheaper cost than that at which South Australia will ever be able to generate thermal power, South Australia should receive a greater share of the additional water even than its three-thirteenths of the total volume of water provided by diversions, including the diversions of the Tooma, Eucumbene and Snowy Rivers. But it is not to get that.

We heard the Minister say also -

Thirdly, clause 5 of the new agreement which amends clause 51 of the River Murray. Agreement ensures that South Australia receives its appropriate share . . .

What does he mean by the words "appropriate share", other than the share that I have just explained? It is of no use for the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) to frown at me, for I know that this matter is too complex for him to understand. He should not try to divert me from doing my duty by frowning at me when I am discussing a subject that is too profound for him to understand.

We find that " Murray water " is defined as including any water coming into the river Murray and its tributaries by reason of the permanent works of the Snowy Mountains

Authority. I should like the Prime Minister, if he intends to honour the House by participating in this debate, to tell us whether that means that the water diverted into the river Murray by way of the Murrumbidgee and other tributaries is to be included in the whole of the amount to be divided between South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. If it is, and the right honorable gentleman says so, he will defeat the whole of my opposition in one fell swoop. But I have a very strong suspicion that it is not so, although the Minister for Supply - probably in ignorance of the facts - has stated that it is so. I have a nasty feeling that the water diverted into the Murrumbidgee by way of the Eucumbene will not be included when South Australia's entitlement to river Murray water is ultimately determined in times of drought.

The House has been very patient, Mr. Speaker, and I thank honorable members for their courtesy in listening to me on this highly important, though rather involved, matter without interjection or interruption. The Opposition supports the bill, reluctantly, and for two reasons only. First, it gives South Australia a little more than would have been the case under the agreement that we ratified last May. Secondly, from the national point of view, it finally paves the way for settling beyond doubt once and for all the Commonwealth's right to construct works of the kind being undertaken by the great Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, and to control and generally superintend that authority.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.







Suggest corrections