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Wednesday, 1 November 1967

Mr CHANEY (Perth) - 1 do not want to castigate the Government on this decision. I had the feeling that because Western Australia was to get $48m for which I am deeply grateful and Queensland is to get $20m, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) somehow would be able to control himself. It seems to me that we cannot win. According to the Opposition, no time is the right time to say anything in this House. Whenever the Government announces something that is of great national importance it is said that it is committing a grave sin or error. Let us have a look at what has happened. The honourable member for Dawson says that this is purely a political gimmick which has been introduced because of the Senate election. What he means, in effect, is that it has taken some of the wind out of the sails of honourable members opposite in their election campaign. They will not be able to go around the country saying: 'What about the Ord? What about the dams in Queensland?' This is fair political play. Honourable members opposite are saying, in effect: 'You chaps are quite unfair because you have stopped us saying these things about you'. We are all in politics. If the Federal Government had wanted to make real political capital out of the Ord it would not have picked the Senate election as the time at which to make the announcement; it would have made the announcement 12 months ago. This was a pretty hot political question at that time, and the Commonwealth Government showed great political courage in deciding then to seek further information. It has now obtained further information and has announced to the nation that the project will go ahead. Rather than berate the Government and whinge about what has happened, I congratulate it. I congratulate the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) particularly on what he has achieved in respect of both the Western Australian proposal and the Queensland proposal.

The honourable member for Dawson seems to think that whenever Prime Ministers and Premiers correspond with one another every member of this House should receive copies of the correspondence in order to learn what is going on. Where would the nation's affairs be if this happened? There must be hundreds of occasions when a Premier gets in touch with the Prime Minister in complete and utter confidence and I congratulate those who maintain this confidence. I for one do not want to be informed of every approach by a State to the Prime Minister. The States realise that the Commonwealth is in a position in which it cannot accede to every request. Priorities have to be observed and funds have to be apportioned according to the nation's best interests.

The honourable member for Dawson suggests that it is a wonder that the people of Western Australia have tolerated this Government for so long. Let us look at what has happened in that State. Where did the finance for the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme come from? It came from the Commonwealth Government. What about the standard gauge railway in thai State? I know that there are many people throughout Australia who claim that they were the originators of this idea, but my colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), in a report that was presented to this House by the Government Members Rail Standardisation Committee, of which the present Minister for National Development was then Secretary, emphasised how important it was to have a standard gauge railway for the transport of iron ore from Koolyanobbing to the coast at Fremantle. This railway is now an accomplished fact. The honourable member for Mackellar, the Minister and other members of that Committee were laughed at by many Australians and by many members of this House at that time. Let us consider also the port development that has been undertaken in Western Australia. Where did the money for this come from? It came from the Commonwealth Government. I suggest that one would find it difficult to convince the people of Western Australia that the National Government in Canberra had completely ignored their needs. Proof of this is to be seen in the results of every election since 1949. On every occasion, somebody has asserted on the hustings that there is in Canberra wicked government that is not treating Western Australia properly. But, strangely enough, the people of that State seem always to return a fairly high proportion of members who support the present Government.

I now turn to what I set out to say, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Government is to be congratulated for its moves in relation to the Ord and the Emerald projects in two States where water supplies and development are extremely important. The honourable member for Dawson said that when he went to Kununurra he heard that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) was critical of the Ord River project. I went there in April or May of this year at a time that coincided with a visit by the Minister for National Development, other Ministers and various experts. A number of Ministers in this Government went there to see for themselves what was going on and to talk to the farmers on the irrigated areas, with the object of sitting round the Cabinet table on their return and making a decision. Decisions of this kind cannot be made overnight. lt is sheer political chicanery for the honourable member for Dawson to say that this announcement is made the day before the House rises for a Senate election purely to help the Government in that election. I repeat that if the Government sought to gain real political advantage from an announcement such as this, it would not choose to make it just before a Senate election, for most of the time Senate elections are fairly well cut and dried affairs. If that were the Government's purpose, the announcement would be made before a general election for this House. The Government, to its credit, did not choose last year, under pressure by some Opposition members, to make this announcement about the Ord scheme. I am sure that all representatives of Western Australia in this House and the Senate, as well as the great majority of citizens of Western Australia, congratulate the Minister and the Government on the decision that has been taken with respect to the Ord River project.

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