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Wednesday, 1 November 1967

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Dawson will resume his seat. I suggest that the House come to order. I call the honourable member for Dawson.

Dr PATTERSON - Mr Deputy Speaker,as I was saying, it is no surprise to the Opposition and it is certainly no surprise to the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland that the Government has been forced to make this statement and take action on water conservation at this point in time. It is rather remarkable that in the dying days of the Parliament and coin.cidentally on the eve of the Senate election the Government should make this important statement affecting Western Australia and Queensland where every poll taken since the last election has shown the tremendous rate at which the Government has lost popularity in those two States because of the blatant discrimination shown by this Government against those States regarding water.

Mr Anthony - Tell us what happened in Capricornia.

Dr PATTERSON - Fancy the Country Party talking about the Capricornia byelection which represents the worst defeat that it has ever had in Queensland. Regarding Queensland, it is well known that the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, who is a member of the Country Party, made a momentous statement in 1949 about what his Party would do regarding water conservation when it came into power. But what has this Government done and what has the Country Party done with respect to water conservation in Queensland? We find that $900m has been allocated by this Government in the States for power, water conservation and flood mitigation and not one cent has gone to Queensland. The people of Queensland are well aware of this fact. At the last Federal election, the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) was forced to make a promise. He promised $50m in the next 5 years for water conservation projects. It is only today that we have before us any positive decision taken on that statement. The excuse, whenever questions have been asked in this House time and time again by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), by myself and by one member of the Country Party, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan), has been that the Government has written to the Premiers and that the information concerning the questions has been confidential. The Government always says that it is trying to get this information from the States and that when the information is available and has been analysed it will make a decision.

Anyone would think that the Premier of Queensland and the Premier of Western Australia had never approached the Commonwealth with respect to water conservation. The truth is, of course, that so far as stage 2 of the Ord River project is concerned the Government of Western Australia has made so many approaches to the Commonwealth that the people of Western Australia, the Government of Western Australia, the Parliament of Western Australia and the people on the Ord River project have become sick and tired of the hypocrisy of this Government regarding water. Because of this, the Government has made a decision on the eve of a Senate election with regard to water conservation. Exactly the same can be said about the position in Queensland. Queensland has already given this Government one shock, lt did this in 1961. What happened after the results of the 1961 election? We saw brigalow development. We saw beef roads.

Mr Robinson - Does the honourable member not want that?

Dr PATTERSON - We saw an unprecedented level of-

Mr Robinson - Does the honourable member not want this?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Cowper will cease interjecting.

Dr PATTERSON - We saw an unprecedented level of Commonwealth funds flow into Queensland. This was because the Queensland people had almost kicked this Government out of office because of its discrimination against Queensland. Then, we have the promise made by the Prime Minister on the eve of the election for the House of Representatives in 1963. This was the next great development promise. It has turned out to be one of the most blatant hypocritical tricks in the history of this Federal Parliament. This was the move to develop Northern Australia. This was the establishment of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, of which the second Director has now resigned or is in the process of resigning. The most important point is that these promises were made for political reasons. They were forced on the Government. The Government was returned to office with a big majority. What happened then? In 1964 nothing was provided in the Budget for the matters to which I have referred. No funds were provided for beef roads and water. The funds for beef roads started to taper off. In 1965 nothing was provided in the Budget again with the exception of $3. 5m for the Queensland Government to assist a foreign owned company at Weipa. Again there was nothing for water. Nothing was provided for beef roads.

Mr Fairbairn - Did not the honourable member recommend Weipa to me when he was Head of the Division?

Dr PATTERSON - I would be most grateful if the Minister would give me leave to divulge to the House what I did recommend to him. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have never divulged any confidence or any Cabinet submission that 1 have written to any person. If the

Minister wants me to give this House details of my recommendations 1 will be delighted, Sir, to do so. 1 will be delighted to let him know what I recommended in connection with the Budget in 1965. The next step by the Government was taken on the eve of the Dawson by-election. Suddenly for beef roads in area 3, the Government found the money that it could not find in the 1965 Budget, 5 months earlier. The Minister for National Development thought that this beef road was in Dawson until he was reminded in the town of Sarina that thai area was in Kennedy. The next move by the Government was the development of area 3, again on the eve of the Dawson byelection. Again money was found, which could not be found in the previous budget.

But the most important asset of all in the permanent developmental field in Queensland and Western Australia is water. After the initial promise by the Prime Minister in November it was 8 months before the Government wrote to the Premier of Queensland seeking details of water conservation projects. This procedure, of course, has been given, chapter and verse in answer to many questions asked by the Opposition. The Government has always tried to make out that Queensland in the past has not submitted a proposal regarding water. I commenced by saying what the Country Party intended to do when the Government came into office in 1949. We know the deplorable record of the Country Party in the field of water development in Queensland. In 1960 the Queensland Premier submitted to the Commonwealth Government proposals for the Nathan Gorge and the development of the Dawson River. It was turned down flat by the Commonwealth. Again in 1960 proposals were submitted for the extension of Mareeba-Dimbulah project. It was turned down flat. In the same year proposals were submitted for the development of irrigation projects on the Mclntyre Brook and the border rivers between New South Wales and Queensland. That was turned down flat. In 1963 the Queensland Premier asked for technical assistance with respect to an evaluation of the Nogoa Dam project. This assistance was granted. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics carried out an investigation. Its first report was unfavourable. The assumptions on which the first report was based were not sound, with respect to yields of cotton, sorghum and maize. Since that time more investigations have been carried out. But during all of this time, despite the fact that the technical experts in Queensland were perfectly satisfied with the viability of the Nogoa Dam project, the Government made the Queensland Premier and the people of Queensland sweat it out until the time was opportune to make a decision.

The past situation regarding the Ord River project is so tragic that it need not be repeated again in this House. I do not know how the Western Australian Premier and the people concerned with the Ord River project have been able to put up with the stalling tactics of this Government for so many years. It was only at the beginning of this year that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) went to the Ord. In fact, from reports which I was given when I was at the Orel in the middle of this year, the Treasurer was critical about it. It is strange to recall all the reasons advanced by the Government this year as to why it could not do anything regarding the Ord River project. It said it wanted more time to obtain technological advice. It said it wanted more time to be able to see that the problems concerning parasites were solved. It also said it wanted more time in which to study the production and economics of sorghum. But by a very strange coincidence, suddenly all of these questions have crystallised quickly and the Government is satisfied about them. It must be satisfied. It would not spend $48m on the Ord if it were not satisfied. Suddenly, in a matter of weeks, all the arguments that had been advanced against the Ord have been tossed overboard by the Government.

The Government is fooling no-one. It certainly will not fool the people of Western Australia or of Queensland as regards its behaviour in the past concerning water conservation. The Government's record with respect to water conservation in Queensland is deplorable. It has not given that State lc despite the fact that it is the richest State in the Commonwealth so far as water is concerned. Approximately 44% of the surface water on the mainland area of Australia is in Queensland. Of our mainland water supplies, 75% is north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Not only is Queensland the richest State in the Commonwealth as regards water resources; but contiguous to water resources in the Fitzroy and Burdekin River basins are some of the richest soils in Australia. In Queensland we have the ability and capacity to grow tremendous quantities of rice, cotton, sorghum and other grains, centred around the beef cattle industry. Queensland can grow those products which we can sell overseas. A similar position applies to the Ord. It is a great Australian project. Several years ago I stated that the Ord would be one of Australia's greatest assets. As each day goes by 1 am more and more certain that I was right. Nowhere else in Australia is there the possibility - now the distinct probability - of impounding so much water in relation to such a large area of uniform and commandable soils. There are at least 200,000 acres of commandable good quality soils. Nowhere else in Australia, within known technology, have we a combination of those two features. The Ord could be one of the cheapest water conservation projects in terms of the cost of acre feet impounded in Australia.

The most tragic aspect of ali is that the decision of the Minister and of the Government to provide water to Western Australia and Queensland has to be held until the dying days of the sessional period of Parliament. It is simply grandstanding in the worst sense of the word for the Senate election, lt is, however, consistent with every decision that this Government has made in respect to northern development. Each decision has been announced either as a matter of political necessity or as a result of an election promise. This applies to every decision that has been made from the original Ord River grant to the decisions on this current Nogoa and Ord dams projects. It applies to the brigalow scheme, coal ports, the Mount lsa railway, beef roads and northern ports. I would not be surprised to see in the next few days or the next few weeks a decision taken on the mysterious, mythical $50m beef roads scheme. What has happened to this scheme that was announced by the Minister for National Development some months ago? Where is it now?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Dawson that it does not really matter where it is. lt is not the subject of this debate.

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