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Wednesday, 20 March 1968

Mr FAIRBAIRN (FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for National Development) - As I am sure the honourable member would know, the constitutional authority for development of water resources in the States lies with the States. The States have shown indeed that they are very cognisant of the need to increase this development because they have speeded up their rate of dam construction quite considerably over recent years. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth does assist, and plays quite a major part in assisting the States both in the assessment of water resources and in construction work. The Commonwealth assists through the Australian Water Resources Council which makes quite large sums of money available to the States for assessing the resources of surface and underground water. We assist through the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority through which we have spent $623m to date.

We assist through the national water resources development programme and, as honourable members will know, we have announced already that three major projects will be assisted financially through this programme. We have also assisted financially a number of other projects such as the Ord River scheme and the Emerald Dam project as well as through the River Murray Commission, the Western Australian Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme and the Blowering Dam.

However the honourable member asks me whether we are doing enough. Naturally, in every aspect of government resources are limited. Some people think we are not doing enough and others think we are doing too much. All I can say is that, so far as water conservation is concerned, when this Government came to office the total capacity of all major storage dams in Australia was 7,000,000 acre feet'. Today it is 26,000,000 acre feet and it will be over 40,000,000 acre feet when all the projects now authorised or under way are completed. To put it another way, when we came to office the amount of money being spent per annum on water conservation for irrigation was $15m. Today it is over $100m per annum. This sum will be increased when other major schemes such as those at' Emerald and the Ord get under way.

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