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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 435

Mr BRAITHWAITE(10.49) —I welcome the very late interest, indicated at Question Time this afternoon, of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) in Queensland and north Queensland and in particular the Burdekin Dam. Although it was rather late , it proved one thing; that is, that the Dorothy Dix question which prompted his answer was geared to only one end-to what we have heard a little bit about tonight. It was geared to furthering the campaign against the Queensland Government. I would not mind-as I say, I welcome the intervention-if it had not been so hypocritical. It follows so closely on the attitude expressed by the Prime Minister and the Government on the Franklin Dam, for which the Prime Minister has honestly earned the reputation of a dam buster of great proportions . What concerns me most is not so much the hypocrisy but the cynical approach adopted in using a Dorothy Dixer to express a latter-day interest in the Queensland elections. It would possibly have been much better if the question had concentrated more on where the Burdekin Dam was to be located and on the Government's attitude to conservation of water and the development of the north.

I just want to look at the facts. The Government has only one Minister from Queensland and he visits it only on his rare returns to Australia from overseas visits. He probably does not yet understand that there is an international airport at Townsville at which he might land on some of these returns. We have also seen the dismantling of the bicentennial water resources program by the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh). The question this morning was answered in such a fashion that it was obvious that the Prime Minister's interest in or knowledge of the Burdekin was only a last minute intervention brought about by the fact that the Queensland election will be held at the end of this year.

The Burdekin Dam was a commitment well before the Prime Minister entered this place as a member. That commitment was real. I want him to tell me why there are so many people engaged on this project which I have visited four times in as many years. Many people were working there in 1981, 1982 and 1983, well before the Prime Minister even became interested in it. I feel that the answer to the question this morning did not place emphasis where it should have been placed. Cane farmers, rice millers, rice growers, business people and newspaper proprietors in the Burdekin area have given a decade of commitment to this project. Finally they won through and saw the commitment made by the Fraser Government in 1980. The Prime Minister would not even know the names of the people with that lifetime of interest. Ian Chisholm, Ross Chapman, Joe Bugeja, Frank Rossiter, Ray Hoey and many other business people have been solid in this regard to try to get the matter going. I recall the efforts made by the previous member for Herbert, Mr Dean, and what he was able to promote in this area.

Mr Humphreys —Did you support him?

Mr BRAITHWAITE —I certainly supported him. The Prime Minister might be interested to know that the Burdekin Dam is in the electorate of Dawson, not in the electorate of Herbert where I am pretty sure he feels it is located.

There has been an unpardonable delay by the Government in announcing that it will recommit itself to the Burdekin Dam and not welch on the deal, as it did in relation to the Alice Springs-Darwin railway link about which it promised something before the election and then walked away from that promise. I feel that the Prime Minister's recent policy recommitments in Townsville were only extensions of projects commenced by the Fraser Government. The Commonwealth offices in Townsville, the expansion of the Townsville Airport, the national highway program and the Burdekin Dam are only re-affirmations of projects commenced by the Fraser Government.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.