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Thursday, 28 August 1980
Page: 873

Mr BRAITHWAITE (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) - My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can he advise me whether any agreement has been reached with the Government of Queensland on the construction of the Burdekin Dam?

Mr MALCOM FRASER (WANNON, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) - Some time ago I announced the Government's approval in principle for support of the construction of the Burdekin Dam, as a result of very strong representations that have been made by the honourable member for Herbert and by interested groups in Queensland which have been fighting for the construction of the dam over decades. I am delighted co be able to say that, as a result of discussions that had been foreshadowed with the Queensland authorities, a number of options were recently put in front of both governments. As a result of those discussions there is agreement between Queensland and the Commonwealth. By way of a grant outside the National Water Resources program, we will be providing funds for the complete cost of the dam, which is about $84.5m in June 1980 prices. That will be spread over a number of years. The offer is made to Queensland on the basis that that State from 1 July 1980 finances the initial works associated with the project and that it will bear the cost of the irrigation and area development works, possibly through recourse to the special infrastructure borrowing agreements of the Loan Council. Queensland has accepted that obligation in a discussion that I had with the Premier this morning. I am confident, therefore, that this approach of the Commonwealth will be well received in Queensland.

This decision to finance the Burdekin Dam will not be at the expense of other projects under the

National Water Resources Program. I would like to draw to the attention of the House the potential benefits to Queensland and as a result to Australia of the decisions which have now jointly been made by the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. It is estimated that the project will generate an increased average annual gross value of production of some $1 17m, assuming a sugar price of $220 a tonne. The current figure will of course be much higher when current sugar prices are taken into account. In a sense that is a relatively modest estimate. It is also likely that urban centres adjacent to the Burdekin basin will in the longer term draw their water requirements from the dam. There are some population estimates which show that the Townsville population could exceed 160,000 by the year 2000. I am advised that the next source of that city's water supply would be the Burdekin Dam.

There are many advantages as a result of the construction of this dam. lt is not just a question of water for irrigation or a question of conservation of what is a scarce resource in Australia. It is also a matter that will be of significant advantage to other elements of the Queensland community. I think it ought to be noted that this project will stand alongside other great water resource projects as a great development in Australia's history. We all can recall the great projects and developments that have taken place, the most notable of which is the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. It is very pleasing to the Government to know that the Burdekin is now going to share in that kind of development and cooperation between governments.

Mr Hayden - Could the Prime Minister table the cost benefit report on the project for the benefit of the House?

Mr SPEAKER - There is no point of order.

Mr Hayden - No. I rose and you called me. I have not mentioned anything. I merely asked whether the Prime Minister as--

Mr SPEAKER - Will the honourable member resume his seat for a second? I called the Leader of the Opposition because I thought that he was rising to seek the call for a question. I now understand that he was not so much seeking the call; instead he was putting a request across the table to the Prime Minister whether he would table a document. There is no point of order. As a matter of indulgence I will acknowledge that the request was made.

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