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Wednesday, 27 October 1971
Page: 2609

Mr KIRWAN (Forrest) - The Bill before the House is the Western Australia (South-West Region Water Supplies)

Agreement Bill 1971. When introducing the Bill the Minister for the Army and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Peacock) said that it was being introduced in order to amend the Western Australia (South-West Region Water Supplies) Agreement Act of 1965. He said it was designed to provide an extra SI. 5m to bridge the gap caused by increased costs since the original Bill was passed through the House. He went on to point out that the Commonwealth is providing the money to the State Government in the form of a loan, repayable over 15 years, on a dollar for dollar basis. When the late Mr Holt introduced the 1965 Bill, he said:

The purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia for the provision of financial assistance to the State to accelerate extensions to the comprehensive water supply scheme in the south-west of the State. . . . The comprehensive water scheme was originally planned, in 1946, to extend over 12 million acres, but was subsequently modified to 4 million acres. The Commonwealth Government of the day agreed to assist the modified scheme and for this purpose the sum of £Sm was provided on a £1 for £1 basis with the State under the Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Act 1948- 1957. The modified scheme was completed in 1961-62.

In 1963, the Government of Western Australia sought further financial assistance to accelerate desirable extensions to the scheme, which the State had been financing from its own resources since termination of the Commonwealth assistance. . . . The purpose of the scheme is to provide water for stock and domestic purposes only and not for irrigation.

As the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) has stated, the scheme provides essential water. It takes water from the coastal areas around Perth and. Collie and carries it to the wheat belt where it is needed for land which is dry. The water is used to service homes and sheep watering points. The scheme is moving to its conclusion. The money which the Commonwealth has given to assist the State in bridging finance has been very important and has played an essential part in ensuring that this project comes to a conclusion. Under the present circumstances I believe that this measure ought to be a reminder to us of the need for the Commonwealth to provide money to assist the States with urgent and very essential public works. At the present time the areas being serviced by this water scheme are experiencing grave problems and therefore very careful consideration ought to be given to extending the scheme where it is warranted. But if extensions are not warranted what is warranted is Commonwealth assistance for other public works to keep in employment people who are presently threatened with unemployment, including some of those who will be drawing on this water as farmers. Commonwealth assistance is needed vitally in the south west areas that are served by this water scheme. It is needed also in areas outside the scheme - in the Plantagenet-Albany area, in the Bunbury-Collie area and in the BridgetownManjimup area.

Some little while ago I asked the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) who was in Western Australia whether he would communicate with the Minister for Decentralisation in Western Australia to determine what the Commonwealth could do to assist the Western Australian Government to encourage industry and work in the south west of that State. Co-operation on the same lines as is provided in this Bill is required urgently to alleviate some of the unemployment which is already existing in the area and which is worsening as it is in most of Australia. As I said to the Acting Prime Minister at that time, the Forrest electorate is ideally suited for testing out policies of decentralisation because it will not affect the Country Party vote. It secures only 10 per cent of the vote in the area as it is, so it is one area where we can get down to the serious work of ascertaining what can be done by way of decentralisation without affecting Country Party representation. The people in the area are wise enough to know that even though they are country people their interests are not served by that Party. They give only 27 per cent of their vote to the Liberals, too. In spite of that, the Government should see what can be done to give the State assistance in the same way as is being done in this Bill to undertake further public works. I commend this thought to the Minister and to the House.

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