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Thursday, 21 March 1968


Mr GILES (Angas) - I do not intend to keep the House very long, but I felt that as the member representing the seat of Angas I should say a word or two on the matter of the Chowilla Dam. I think that possibly the House will have read into the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), in answer to a question recently, the fact that at least the proposal looks as though its implementation may be doubtful for some time yet. The delay might be for the purpose of assessing new facts or it might be for other reasons. I rise tonight to point out that, on the information available to me, I see no reason to suppose that the dam should not go ahead.

Honourable members will be aware of the fact that the technical committee of the River Murray Commission has produced new facts. They are not available to me at this point of time. Therefore, I am forced back on the facts as I know them. What are the problems that apply to the immediate building of the Chowilla Dam? Firstly, there is the cost factor. I do not know the cost of alternative schemes. I have heard rumours - though I have not seen figures to prove it - that there is a cheaper source of water upstream.

Until that is proved I maintain my opinion that the Chowilla Dam should go ahead for the benefit of South Australia, in particular. The second problem relates to salinity. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) referred to this matter tonight in relation to drier agricultural areas. The third problem concerns a matter which is important to the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) - the flow past river towns such as Mildura and Wentworth. I should like, very briefly, to discuss these three aspects.

As regards the question of costs, 1 get back to the original agreement which was signed by the four Governments which are signatories to the Chowilla agreement and which was approved by the four Parliaments. I suppose, if we assume that the South Australian Government could take this matter to the courts, that it is possible - although not probable - that it could get a favourable decision. I imagine that if it did there would still be the problem of getting the four Governments that are signatories to this agreement to agree to find a greater amount of capital than originally was required. As honourable members know, the tender price has increased. I say to the House - and I mean it - that there is still a moral responsibility on the signatories who agreed to go ahead with the scheme situated at Chowilla, with the prime object of providing for the future development not only of the agricultural areas in my electorate, but also of the industrial and urban areas of Adelaide. There are certain cost contingencies attaching to the tender price which, I believe, have not been considered.

I do not believe at this point of time that sufficient investigation has been made into the economies of the scheme. I know that the economies that have been suggested in relation to the smaller Chowilla scheme have never been costed out and put against the total cost of the scheme. Quite apart from this, in this area today roads, railway lines, access bridges and many buildings have been constructed. The value of this work is $5m. I hope that when the Chowilla scheme is costed out on an acre feet basis, the cost of this work will be deducted from the total cost of the Chowilla scheme.

I shall deal briefly with the question of salinity. The latest agricultural work of which 1 have heard in the last 6 months leads me to suppose, as has been found in Israel, in the Ganges Valley in India and in America, that in well drained soils waters with a salinity level of 500 parts per million can be regarded as being extremely pure. What is the lesson of this? I would have thought it meant that a lot of the argument that once went on, that Chowilla should not be proceeded with, has been invalidated. In other words,, there is a much bigger margin in favour of building a dam at Chowilla, putting up with salinity levels we have thought were high. New agricultural developments and advances in element application have considerably tapered down the effect of saline on irrigation settlements. I put this forward in case it has not been considered. I do not know what has been considered at this point of time.

I move to the third point, which concerns the flow past Victorian towns, which will interest the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). The prophets of gloom have been saying for some time that if you build at Chowilla under the early conditions, the monthly allocation of water that flows past the towns of Mildura and Wentworth might provide for a situation that does not allow the high salinity to be diluted to a great enough extent due to lack of flow. I say that until we stop the wastage of River Murray water going straight out of the plug at the mouth of the Murray - and a lot of the South Australian quota of water does just this - we will not necessarily have enough water left to increase the flow past Mildura and Wentworth. At the moment 850 cusecs of water flows past this town. The requirement of the Victorian Government is for 900 cusecs. This is awfully close to the present position. The water has stopped flowing altogether at my end of the Murray. If we stop South Australian quotas of water from going out of the mouth of the Murray and allow South Australia to have its proper storage, then I believe the position past Mildura and past Wentworth and elsewhere will be considerably improved. 1 feel that people have the wrong end of this argument and are not aware that a national wastage of water will occur if the Chowilla project is not proceeded with. South Australia has had to win water rights on the Murray the hard way. A previous Premier of South Australia had to fight for these rights through the courts because this is South Australia's only source of water to increase the State's industrial and urban expansion. Therefore, water is a very, very vital matter for South Australia. I would say that possibly through wise leadership South Australia has led not only Australia but possibly the world in its ability to exploit all possible catchment areas in order to conserve water. The State of South Australia has had to do this, and it has done it.

Finally, I put it to the Government that if you find thrift, if you find hard work, if you find farsightedness, if you find that the South Australian Government has allocated more of its State resources to water conservation than other States have needed to, woe betide the government or anyone else that penalises this thrift. Do not take away or discourage the natural or traditional attitude of a people who have looked after their own water supplies to a greater extent than anyone else. Do not do this by stopping what I regard as a vital move, the building of the Chowilla Dam. I believe the Chowilla Dam will be built. The problem is, when. I will be here to try to insist that this dam will be built. According to new figures that come forward, which I have no access to, and future proof, I will be here to try to make sure that the dam is built at Chowilla as soon as possible.







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