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Thursday, 2 November 1967

Mr HAROLD HOLT - It does not altogether surprise me that the honourable member should talk about blatant political vote-catching action because the Opposition, as I understand its view, has come out emphatically in favour of providing finance for the Ord scheme and for the Nogoa projects, and it has done this without having available to it the authoritative information necessary for making a judgment. Why do the members of the Opposition do this? If it is not for sheer political purposes I would be very hard put to find the explanation. This Government has behaved in relation to both these projects in a responsible way. It has accepted the jibes of honourable members opposite and of other critics around Australia who have argued that we have not moved quickly enough on these matters. We have been told that adequate information was available on which we could have acted. Well, we have waited until we considered that we could, on the basis of information within our possession, take a responsible decision.

To show just how absurd the criticism can become, I have today looked through two newspapers published by the same management. In one we are attacked on the ground that our decision is not justified economically, while in the other the editorial says that what we are now doing we should have done long ago. We cannot win in these matters. Had we not taken action honourable members opposite would have been attacking us throughout the Senate election campaign for our lack of initiative in development matters. We took that kind of criticism in the Capricornia by-election campaign because although it could have suited us politically to make at that time the announcement that we made a few days ago, we did not then feel satisfied, on the information available, that we could take a responsible decision. We had not at that time been able to give the matter the consideration it needed; we have now given it that consideration and arrived at our decision.

As to the Ord scheme, I read somewhere that the Leader of the Opposition had stated that in August I denied any knowledge of sorghum growing in the Ord area. Well, I would like to consult the records before I deal with that allegation, but I did make it clear yesterday in this House that when

I was in Western Australia with my colleague, the Minister for National Development, we conferred with the Western Australian Government and we were told of the hopes that Government had of the Ord after studying recent developments there. We replied that when we received our own latest information covering the season up to the end of October we would consider the matter further and then deal with it. This is precisely what happened.

Let me now deal with the second part of the honourable member's question concerning our alleged neglect of New South Wales. One would have thought that a few illustrations would have convinced even the honourable gentleman that New South Wales has bad a very generous deal from this Government. For example, the Snowy Mountains scheme, involving an outlay of hundreds of millions of dollars, has been of very real benefit to New South Wales. Only about a week ago it was announced that we would increase the amount made available to New South Wales for flood mitigation work on the northern rivers. At present the Blowering Dam project is proceeding. The Commonwealth has provided financial assistance for coal loading plants at Newcastle. One could go on reciting a variety of such matters. There is, for example, Commonwealth expenditure on airport development in New South Wales. Compare how favourably New South Wales has been treated in this regard with the treatment received by other States. I could go on indefinitely on this theme. I have enough respect for the ability of the Premier of New South Wales to believe that he will see to it that New South Wales gets a fair deal out of whatever the Commonwealth is able to dispense.

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