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Thursday, 9 May 1968

Mr HALLETT (Canning) - I support this Bill, which will make available $3. 6m to Victoria for certain measures to restrict salinity in the River Murray. It would be unthinkable for us to allow the River Murray and many other .great rivers in this country to continue to be affected in this way. This problem is associated with not only the River Murray but also many other rivers and salty lakelands in various parts of Australia. We must not allow the development of what has occurred in some parts of the world. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) mentioned West Pakistan, where a tremendous area of rich soil has been allowed to be affected. Only a year or two ago - this might still be happening - the salinity there was travelling at a rate equivalent to the size of one tennis court each minute. This situation could not be tolerated in any country. Great problems have been experienced in finding a solution to this problem in other countries, but we are a comparatively young nation which is tackling the problem in its early stages. I congratulate the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and the Government for proposing this action so quickly. I note that the Minister stated that, in the normal course of events, these problems will build up gradually, thus allowing time for action to be taken. But the trouble in the River Murray indicates how quickly, salinity can build up in a big river which is subjected to a particularly dry period, when insufficient water, is available to move down the river and return the salt to the sea. This happens in many areas for other reasons, and it was this point that I wanted to mention this . afternoon.

When we are developing this country in this respect we should not consider only the' water courses and rivers. Engineers responsible for other works throughout the country must co-operate with the engineers in this field. In many parts of my' own State of Western Australia engineers have built roads that restrict the flow of water, thus leading to the build-up of sali and the ruin of thousands of acres of territory. This - can happen anywhere. Our engineers should get together on this problem because we cannot afford a build-up of salt and the consequent loss of development. If this is not done and the trouble is not corrected in the manner now being adopted, salinity will have an effect on the food supplies of the people not only in this country but also overseas. Our balance of payments also will be affected if we do not challenge this problem now and restrict .wherever possible ;the salt content that' is, in many instances, affecting some of the best soil in Australia. This can be achieved if it is - attacked -early, enough and if the engineers of this country work together to ensure that sufficient water flows back into the sea and carries the salt with it. ' ' ' .

I make this plea to the Minister, who is doing an excellent job in national development - in the establishment not only of dams but also of many other engineering works such as railways and roads. I support the Bill.

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