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Tuesday, 2 April 1968

Mr LUCOCK (Lyne) - Mr Deputy Speaker,first of all I should like to express my appreciation to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) for his co-operation making it possible for me to discuss this measure before it is passed prior to the suspension of the sitting. I do not propose to cover a great deal of the ground that has already been traversed by my colleagues on the Government side of the chamber, particularly the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson). In the consideration of this measure, there has been a concentration on and appreciation of the work that has been done and the success that has been achieved in flood mitigation on the rivers along the New South Wales coast, particularly in the north. I pay my own personal tribute to those concerned in this work in the local government sphere, particularly Mr Des. O'Dell and Mr Clyde Cavanagh, two of the executive officers of the county council concerned with flood mitigation works on the Macleay River. Both of those gentlemen hi-ve served as chairman of that count/ council and Mr O'Dell is at present president of the Macleay Shire Council. I pay tribute also to other members of that Shire Council who have contributed in no small way to the success of the flood mitigation venture and also to the various local government bodies that have assisted, as well as to executive officers such as the county engineer and the county clerk, and to al) others who have played their part.

Two objectives enter into this flood mitigation work. The first is the lessening of damage due to floods and the second is the removal of flood waters from properties after the peak of the flooding has passed and the returning of the flooded areas to production in the quickest possible time. Those of us who have had any experience of flooded areas and who have seen how much has bien achieved on the north coast of New South Wales know exactly how successful flood mitigation projects have been. Some Opposition members, particularly the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), have said a great deal about the attitude of myself and some of my colleagues to flood mitigation proposals and t'o the presentation of the case submitted by Mr McGuren when he was member for Cowper. Assistance is needed for flood mitigation works also on the Manning and Hastings Rivers. I am confident that when the State Government, at some later date, has prepared a case and submits it to the Commonwealth Government again with all the associated facts and figures, the Commonwealth will step in and give assistance.

The point that 1 wish to make is that my colleagues and. I did not oppose the giving of Commonwealth assistance for flood mitigation works. What we always opposed was the literally direct Commonwealth control that would have resulted from proposals made in the early days by Mr McGuren and others who wished the Commonwealth to contribute to the maximum possible degree. That would have meant direct Commonwealth control. My colleagues and I have always said that' when proposals were made to the Commonwealth through the State Government in the correct form we would support the principle of Commonwealth assistance. Proper proposals were eventually put forward and, when presented in the correct manner with the full authority of the State Government, my colleagues and 1 supported them. We have continued our support since and shall continue to support the principle of Commonwealth co-operation and participation in flood mitigation work. This is a tremendously important activity. The farming districts on our coastal rivers play a vital part in Australia's economy. We have a full appreciation of the Commonwealth's responsibility in this area and in respect of a much wider sphere. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) recently spoke of the squandering of money. This is one matter to which we have given much attention. During my speech in the AddressinReply debate 1 referred to other spheres where the Commonwealth has given financial assistance. This brings me to a matter that I regret having to raise, but it has been brought to my notice - and I informed the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) that I would be discussing this - that in the Portland Observer', in which is incorporated the 'Guardian', and I am led to believe the 'Guardian' is the second oldest newspaper that is published in Victoria, is a report of a statement by the honourable member for Corio. ( am rather disturbed at the report, which reads:

Mr GordonScholes, MHR for Corio, said at Hamilton that the present drought conditions pose a continuing threat to the livelihood of all sections of the Australian community . . .

In total the Liberal-Country Party Government in Canberra is committed to spending only .S50m over a period of 10 years on water conservation throughout Australia.

I will comment further on this later, but that statement can be linked to what is attributed to the honourable member later in the same article He said, according lo the report:

The Country Parly member following me in the debate criticised the Labor Party for asking the Government lo do more for the rural community than is already being done.

Both these statements are completely and absolutely wrong in all respects. In support Of my contention I quote what I said during the Address-in- Reply debate, since I was the member who followed the honourable member for Corio. I said:

After listening to speeches made by members of the Opposition, I would like to make one comment at this stage. Most of those speeches stressed the point that this Government had done nothing about the drought. The drought problem of course is a complex one but members of the Opposition have shown a complete lack of appreciation of what the Government has done. Apparently, they have not listened to any of the statements made in this House by Ministers and by honourable members. They have not even taken note of what was contained in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. If honourable members read through that Speech they will find numerous references to the primary producers and the problems that confront them. At one point in his Speech His Excellency said:

My Government will introduce legislation during this Session to authorise expenditure on water conservation projects already agreed upon with the States. These will be financed from the $50m being made available by the Commonwealth over 5 years for these purposes.'

There have been other references to this particular problem by Ministers and by honourable members.

WhatI said is completely and absolutely true. Honourable members opposite do not pay any attention to what happens in the House, nor did they pay attention to the statement by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral which I have quoted. Mention was made of the provision of $50m over a 5 year period. The honourable member for Corio referred to a 10 year period. This shows that he did not listen. He misquoted the Country Party member who followed him - me - and obviously he had not listened to what I said.

Mr Luchetti - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I take the point that the honourable member for Lyne is not dealing with the Bill that is before the House. He is reviving the debate that took place on the Address-in-Reply, and the matters that he is discussing have no relationship to the Bill before us.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order!I ask the honourable member for Lyne to confine his remarks to the subject matter of the Bill.

Mr LUCOCK - I point out to the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) that while he does not appreciate my drawing attention to the fact that what his colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said was incorrect, the

Bill relates to the expenditure of Commonwealth money on drought relief work. I thought that the honourable member for Macquarie knew a little about country conditions and problems, and flood mitigation surely is related to water conservation. An amount of $50m is to be expended over a 5 year period, not a 10 year period as stated by the honourable member for Corio. It is money additional to that which is being expended by the Commonwealth Government in other spheres of similar activity. The Government is assisting primary producers in the complex problems that confront them. Nowhere in my speech did I say that the Commonwealth has done enough, and I would be interested if the honourable member for Corio could show me where I did say that.

Mr Turnbull - Why did he make that statement?

Mr LUCOCK - The answer is obvious when we read his final comments in the Press article to which I have referred. He said:

Anything other than a Labor victory will be interpreted as a vindication of the Government.

He was referring to the forthcoming byelection for Western Province in the Victorian Upper House. This was the reason why the honourable member gave a completely wrong impression of my remarks on the Address-in-Reply.

The money that is to be expended on the Nogoa Dam is included in the $50m expenditure proposed during the next 5 years, but the money to be spent on the Ord River scheme is additional money. I sincerely hope that when the State Government submits a case in respect of the Hastings and Manning Rivers consideration will be given by the Commonwealth Government to providing additional money for those schemes.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

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