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Tuesday, 16 March 1971

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - It is not so long ago that I was in the Thomson valley. I could see how the problems mentioned by Senator Webster this evening could occur in the Thomson valley. It is a tremendous watershed with high country around it. This tends to concentrate the flood waters into the Thomson valley. That is apparent. I am assured by my advisers, who are members of a department which is the province of another Minister, that there are no flood mitigation relief applications from Victoria in the Department of National Development at present. We are dealing with a flood mitigation Bill. In my second reading speech I said:

The new national water resources development programme was announced by the former Prime Minister in October 1969. Under the programme, the Commonwealth proposes to allocate to the Slates $ 10Om over 5 years for rural water conservation and supply works and flood mitigation and water measurement over and above the States' own programmes for these purposes. The new programme follows the original national water programme which provided over $50m in grants to the Slates.

In 5 years the amount of the grant has been doubled. It is quite clear that the purposes for which assistance can be given are as I stated - rural water conservation and supply works and flood mitigation and water measurement.

Senator Webster - 1 prompt you by saying that it is just not for flood mitigation. The Victorian Government supplied a list for rural water storage.

Senator COTTON - I put it to Senator Webster that a Senate Minister has quite a number of problems. As well as his own portfolio he has 4 others to handle. He is asked 8 or 9 questions a day when his colleagues in another place are asked 2 or 3 in a year. No doubt his ability to handle a vast range of problems is enhanced by the fact that he is a senator. He does his best, but there are limitations. I, as Minister representing the Minister for National Development, clearly stated the purposes for which assistance can be given - rural water conservation and supply works and flood mitigation and water measurement over and above the States' own pro grammes. It is equally clear, from my advisers from the Department of National Development, that no applications from Victoria for flood mitigation are on the file. That is not to say that there ought not to be any applications, but it is equally not to say that I should make them. I stand ready to help the Committee in any area in which I can help properly,- either directly or on behalf of any of the Ministers that I represent. Honourable senators know that. Tonight I cannot take upon myself the responsibility of the Victorian Parliament.

Senator Sir MAGNUSCORMACK (Victoria) (9.15) - I rise in my . customary role of trying to pour oil on troubled waters. In that role I would like to correct the record so that the Committee will be quite clear that the Victorian Government has not applied for flood mitigation loans, advances, grants or assistance in relation to the Thompson River because that operation is not a rural flood control operation, lt is being conducted by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works lo provide a water supply to the metropolitan area of Melbourne.

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