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Tuesday, 20 May 1980
Page: 2884

Mr McVEIGH (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) -I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Do the present CommonwealthState arrangements under the natural disaster guidelines extend to the provision of emergency town water supplies from underground bores which have declined because of falling water tables in drought areas? If not, will the Commonwealth Government agree to any such proposals submitted by a State in order to ensure that local authorities have adequate town water supplies through sinking, developing and equipping new bores?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WANNON, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) -The aspects which the honourable gentleman has mentioned are not included in the core group of measures which are agreed as a matter of course between the Commonwealth and the States. On the core group of measures the States know that they can go ahead and commit expenditure with the complete understanding that the joint arrangements will operate. So that honourable gentlemen may be reminded of those measures, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard one page of last year's Budget Papers. It describes the core measures. They are extensive and instructive.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Extract from 'Payments to or for the States, the Northern Territory and Local Government Authorities 1978-79', 1 978-79 Budget Paper No. 7; pp 84, 85


When natural disasters causing damage and destruction occur in a State, the Commonwealth stands ready to join with the State Government concerned on a $ 1 for $ 1 basis in meeting expenditure on the immediate relief of personal hardship and distress, except where such expenditure is of a very minor nature. Such expenditures may cover provision of food, clothing, shelter and repair of homes to make them habitable and secure.

In respect of 'major' disasters, the Commonwealth also assists with expenditures on other agreed relief and restoration measures when it is considered beyond the capacity of the State concerned to meet these expenditures from its own resources. In 1977 arrangements were made to enable the States to assume automatic Commonwealth agreement to inclusion of certain 'standard' measures under the arrangements following specified major disasters. The States are required to seek Commonwealth approval if they wish to change the terms of previously applied standard measures (e.g. the size of concessional loans). It remains open to a State to request Commonwealth support for non-standard measures which it might wish to implement for a given disaster. The standard measures are as follows:

(a)   grants for relief of personal hardship and distress (cyclones, floods, storms, bushfires);

(b)   grants for restoration of public assets and emergency protection and repair works by State, local and semigovernment authorities (disasters as in (a));

(c)   concessional loans to small businesses (cyclones and floods);

(d)   concessional loans to churches, sporting associations and other voluntary non-profit organisations (disasters as in (c));

(e)   concessional loans to primary producers for carry-on, restocking and restoration etc. purposes (cyclones, floods, storms, bushfires and droughts);

(f)   freight subsidies for primary producers (disasters as in (e))

(g)   subsidies for carriage of water to central dispersal points for primary producers (drought); and

(h)   assistance to State, local and semi-government authorities for the disposal of helpless and unsaleable stock (floods, bushfires and droughts).

The financial arrangements which had applied since 1971 were modified in 1978-79. The Commonwealth previously met all expenditures by a State in a year on agreed measures necessitated by major disasters in excess of a base amount set for the State. Under the current arrangements above-base expenditures are financed on a $3 Commonwealth: $ 1 State basis. The State base contributions, which were doubled in 1978-79, are:


Major disastersare denned as those necessitating expenditures on agreed relief and restoration measures in excess of one tenth of a State's base annual expenditure.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - If any State wishes to propose measures additional to those which are accepted as a matter of course, it may do so. In Western Australia, where some wheat producing areas were in the fourth year of drought, the Premier proposed certain specific and special measures. They have been substantially accepted. In addition, in New South Wales some additional measures have been agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government, to include the provision of subsidies to councils and other organisations which are approved by the State and which are able to provide emergency water supplies, but such subsidies are to be based on existing facilities and on reasonable additional special costs incurred in providing emergency supplies to primary producers. Some additional support also will be given to primary producers to assist them in meeting special costs incurred in the transport of emergency water supplies to their properties. I mention those two matters because one is quite specifically related to provisions which could be made by local government, and which have been approved in recent weeks, in the drought areas in New South Wales. If the honourable gentleman believes that particular circumstances in relation to local government town water supplies arise out of the drought, that would be a matter for the Premier to put to us. The Premier has, in fact, proposed some additional measures which are now receiving urgent examination, but the matters raised by the honourable gentleman are not included in the matters about which the Premier wrote to me.

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