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Tuesday, 7 December 1971
Page: 4258

Mr Uren asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(1)   Was $43m allocated to the State of Tasmania for the 5-year period beginning 15th July 1967 for the purposes of assisting the State in an accelerated programme of electric power generation.

(2)   Has a substantial portion of this money been used in the Gordon River project and in particular in the building of systems which will lead to the flooding of Lake Pedder.

(3)   Has sufficient finance been provided to allow Tasmania to complete this project.

(4)   Is he able to say whether the proposed flooding of Lake Pedder has caused considerable controversy and is bitterly opposed by conservation bodies.

(5)   Has his attention been drawn to the large public pressure building up in Tasmania and on the mainland for an inquiry into the flooding of Lake Pedder.

(6)   Is he able to say whether the retaining of Lake Pedder in its present state as a tourist and scientific area would outweigh the potential return from electricity generation over the long term.

(7)   Would he on behalf of all Australians take all possible legal and financial steps to halt this project at its present state of development until the completion of a full inquiry into the Gordon River Scheme.

Mr McMahon - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The Commonwealth, under the Tasmania Agreement (Hydro-Electric Power Development) Act 1968, is providing Tasmania with bridging finance, subject to an overall limit to $47m, for a 5-year programme of accelerated electric power development. The programme largely comprises the completion of works in the lower Derwent and Mersey-Forth areas, the installation of a thermal station at Bell Bay and the commencement of development of the Gordon River area. Commonwealth assistance is available under the Act only to the extent that funds from the State's and the Hydro-Electric Commission's own sources are inadequate to finance the Commission's programme of development during the5-year period commencing 1st July 1967. Payments by the Commonwealth to 30th June 1971, under the Act, amounted to $21,411,000.

(2)   and (3) As indicated in (1) above, the Act provides bridging finance designed to allow completion of a 5-year programme of development, comprising several specific projects as well as other associated works. The Commonwealth's assistance is not directed towards any particular project, or component of a project, within this total programme. (4), (5), (6) and (7) These would be matters for the Tasmanian Government.

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