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Wednesday, 8 May 1968

Dr EVERINGHAM (Capricornia) - The honourable "member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has made clear the value and limitations of the Marraboon Dam scheme. While it is a start to cope with the devastating recurring droughts of centra] and northern Queensland east of the Great Dividing Range, it is a hasty, halting, halfbaked scheme.

Mr Katter - Rubbish.

Dr EVERINGHAM - It is hasty because it has not arisen from energetic study of the whole of the needs of the northern and drought-prone regions but from a sudden change of heart induced from an increased absolute majority of the Australian Labor Party in the Capricornia by-election, following the Australian Country Party's landslide loss of the electorate of Dawson in an earlier by-election! It is halting because it arises from a once-for-all decision presented to this Parliament in response to a request from Queensland.

Whenever questions are put to the Government as to their intentions in national planning, the Government has a few stock answers which are predictable and characteristic of a reactionary plan-fearing regime. My colleague from the electorate adjoining my own has objected to the secrecy of the evidence on which the Government's decisions are made. The Government's stock answers go something like this: This is primarily a State matter and any initiative must come from the States. Have honourable members heard this before? A second answer is: This is a matter for private initiative and governments should merely create the climate to encourage private investment. Have honourable members heard that anywhere before? . I am giving honourable members the excuses that are being made by this Government for not introducing planning and for not discussing the reasons for its attitude. These are the answers we get when we ask the Government for their plans of development and ask for the reasons. Another stock answer is: This is a matter of policy and the Government's intention will be stated at the appropriate time. Another answer is: lt is not possible to say when studies will be completed but when they are a statement will be made to the House.

Mr Katter - What is wrong with that?

Dr EVERINGHAM - The only thing wrong is that we never get a straight answer. We still do not know the stages at which these decisions are made. We do not know th? evidence on which these priorities are allocated. In fact, for all we know there could be no priorities. Apparently, the Government waits for Queensland to submit some priorities and then decides whether it will or will not accept them. No-one knows why. Another answer given is: This could not be brought forward earlier bsc-.use preliminary studies have not been completed. This is the type of propaganda we hear in answer to our questions. We are not given the facts. Sooner or later there must come a time when the facts are available and when they can be given. The honourable member for Dawson has objected to the fact that these details are not available. If they are available then the House should be allowed to hear them.

The only aim of such stonewalling tactics that I can conceive is to block criticism which could put the Government in danger. The aim of water conservation is not just to make a profit. We know the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority does make a profit but it did not do. so for its first decade or two. The profit the Authority makes is from the sale of electric power. But this is not its main value to this country. The country has recovered the cost in increased revenue from the rural production made possible in the Murray basin by diversion and control of water from the Snowy River. This profit does not show on the balance sheets of the Snowy scheme. It should be shown on a national balance sheet compiled by the Department of National Development and based on the estimates of the effects of their projects over 50 years or so. In New Zealand, for instance, it has been found over 40 years that in some areas there is more profit to be made from planting timber than from planting crops or raising livestock. It has been found that such long range projects are not practical propositions for unaided private enterprise.

It is obvious to anyone who can see past the elections after next, and past next year's dividend cheques .or his own retirement allowance, that similar considerations apply to many industries which at present are preserved by our reactionary government for the use of short range private investors. The sloth and reluctance of the Government to develop anything which pays off later than the election after next is bound up with the greed motive which activates their great and powerful friends in industry, the man who pays the piper and calls the tune until the public outcry forces some positive progressive step like the one we are discussing. Then the hasty, halting and half baked step forward is taken. The issues which would allow informed criticism are kept under wraps. The issues involved in what other projects should have priority are hidden in clouds of speculation, or perhaps they are gathering dust in the pigeon holes of the Queensland irrigation authority to which they have been referred back by this Government. I hope that the prediction made by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) when he says that this step forward will start a chain reaction is correct. Unfortunately, I fear that the chain has a missing link. It seems to lack the link of understanding between the people who will populate the irrigated areas and the people who will sway the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) when he makes up his next Budget.

In view of the Government's record of inaction in the north until electoral pressures are felt, it would seem that the best hope that the honourable member for Kennedy will be able to entertain for a new spurt in development will be to lose his seat to the Labor Party. He accused the honourable member for Dawson of stating that the scheme had been introduced purely for political purposes. The honourable member for Dawson did not say that; he said that the timing of the announcement and the precipitancy of the decision was opportunistic. The announcement before the Capricornia by-election of the Nogoa . scheme, which the honourable member for Kennedy suggested would have been a trump card for the Liberal Party, could hardly have been brought forward for the simple reason that the Government was considering the Ord River scheme first and would have found it necessary to announce that scheme first.

Mr Pettitt - Rot! They were announced together.

Dr EVERINGHAM - They could have been announced together, but the findings on the Ord River scheme were generally much further advanced and had been discussed far more than the Nogoa scheme at that stage and the Government would have had to bring the Ord River scheme forward first. But the Government stalled for a long time and then made some statement to the effect that the Ord scheme could not be proceeded with. I suggest that this is the main reason why the Government did not have its trump card ready for the Capricornia by-election. Water is not the only thing that can be classed as the lifeblood of this nation. Many other things can be classed as lifeblood. I refer particularly to the lack of people in the north. Only 4% to 5% of our population lives in the northern half of this continent. But water is very close to being the lifeblood of this nation and while we let it bleed out into the ocean we are inhibiting the development of population in these areas.

The honourable member for Kennedy spoke of the potential of black coal. The development of coal deposits in central Queensland is dependent not only on water, as he stated, but also on far-seeing initiative of the kind which is sadly lacking in the Department which was set up specifically to show this initiative. I refer to the Department of National Development, whose whole approach has been to foster a climate for private enterprise. Part of this climate, no doubt, involves the impounding of water; but part of the climate is created by giving taxation concessions, by making double taxation agreements and by granting freight concessions. While the honourable member for Kennedy is talking of the tapered freight scheme for people in outback areas of Queensland as a means of encouraging decentralisation - a scheme which the Queensland Government has suddenly rushed into after seeing it work successfully in New South Wales - and while he is commending the Queensland Government for this, he is ignoring the fact that far greater concessions are being given in other ways. Concessions are being made not to the people who are settling the outback or who are increasing the population there, not to Australians who are going to develop our resources which would then be owned by us, and not so that we can improve our standards of living or our balance of payments; the concessions are being given to overseas monopolies which have come into Australia and have exploited our mineral resources because we have failed to exploit them. But our failure has been brought about by the Department of National Development which has shown no initiative in regard to anything that offers a profit.

Mr Calder - Such as?

Dr EVERINGHAM - The honourable member for the Northern Territory asks me to state examples. To mention only one example, our aluminium deposits are the biggest in the world.

Mr Calder - In the Northern Territory?

Dr EVERINGHAM - In the north of Australia. We are referring to the Maraboon Dam and I am comparing the development of water by this Government, under protest and under pressure, with its lack of development of mineral resources which it is selling out cheaply to foreigners.

Mr Pearsall - Like the Reece Government in Tasmania is doing to Japan?

Dr EVERINGHAM - The Reece Government in Tasmania is struggling because it is starved of funds by a Commonwealth Government which does not care about the problems of State governments, no matter of what political colour those State governments might be.

Mr Dobie - They are starved of something else.

Dr EVERINGHAM - lt seems that most interjectors are interested in topics other than the one we are discussing, which is the Maraboon Dam and the responsibility of the Department of National Development to work in the best interest of this nation by allotting priorities to the resources which should be developed. The priorities which have been established were decided by a Labor government when it was in power, but they were vigorously opposed by friends of the reactionary Government that we have today. Those people vigorously opposed the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and said that it was a waste of money. They vigorously opposed the Bell Bay aluminium scheme, which was entirely-

Mr Hulme - An election stunt.

Dr EVERINGHAM - It was entirely the result of enterprise displayed by the same Tasmanian Government, working in conjunction with the same Federal Government which is now doing nothing in regard to mineral development. The PostmasterGeneral has said that this was an election stunt. This reminds me of the remark made by the honourable member for Kennedy in which he accused the honourable member for Dawson of saying that this dam was an election stunt. Anything can be called an election stunt if it helps to win an election, but I suggest that sometimes these stunts are not in the interests of the Australian people. If these projects are in the interests of Australians then it is time that we saw a few more stunts coming from the Department of National Development.

Mr Hulme - One of the reasons why the -Bell Bay enterprise was sold was that it was so successful.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Clark)Order!I suggest that we should have one speaker at a time.

Dr EVERINGHAM - I have been asked to give some examples of how private enterprise has been invited by the Department of -National Development to enter places where governments have a right to develop pro'jects in order to induce people to go to the north of this . continent. I have mentioned the aluminium, project at Bell Bay. If this project had not been developed by a Labor Government, it would npt have been begun by private enterprise. It would not have been developed by. an anti-Labor government, and Australia today would not have had an aluminium industry at Gladstone, Weipa, in the Northern Territory or in any State of the Commonwealth.

* *

Mr Pearsall - THe Bell ' Bay project was carried out by an anti-Labor Government.

Dr EVERINGHAM - The Common-' wealth Government at that, time was notantiLabor, but this Commonwealth Government is. The project was undertaken because Australia needed aluminium and because the Government could not get it easily by appealing to private enterprise. Labor federal governments are not averseto asking private enterprise to help them out.

Mr Munro - As. long as they do not make a profit.

Dr EVERINGHAM - All those hilarious gentlemen opposite who seem to think 1 am joking had better look at the history of their country. Who was it established Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd? I do not hear any interjections -now. COR would not have been formed had Labor not been in office. Who was it commenced the production of vaccines in this country because no drug firm would bring fresh vaccines to Australia?

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