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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1040

Mr COLLARD (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - In directing a question to the Minister for Northern Development I refer to the proposal to pipe gas into Western Australia from Palm Valley. Is the Minister aware that the extent to which development will follow the introduction of gas into the Pilbara and other parts of Western Australia will depend largely on a secure and plentiful water supply which at present is not available in some of the areas? Is it correct that with today's expertise no real engineering problem would occur in damming and piping water from the northern rivers of Western Australia to Perth and places between and beyond? If so, has any study been made, and with what result, to ascertain the cost and also, what is extremely important in the circumstances, the time required to complete such a project? If a study has been made is there any intention of carrying out a survey in the near future?

Dr PATTERSON (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Northern Development) - One of the great paradoxes in the development of the resources of northern. Australia is the serious shortage of water which occurs periodically in provincial cities and towns and in rural areas in close proximity to millions of acre feet of water which annually flow wastefully to the sea. This happens in the honourable member's own electorate as in other parts of Australia, including northern Queensland. Regarding the development of the Pilbara, I assume that the honourable member is speaking about the proposed Pilbara complex, lt is certainly true that the two most important variables associated with the successful development of this area will be the supply of cheap power, in the form of gas, and also the supply of water. I have seen dam sites in the area. Engineers tell me they would be capable of harnessing the waters of the Fortescue River which would supply large quantities of water for the industrial complex. The same principles apply to the waters of the Gascoyne and Murchison rivers, linking up with a possible water pipeline to Perth.

In the northern areas of Queensland a similar principle applies. It is absurd that a major city like Townsville should be short of water year in and year out when beside it is one of the greatest rivers in Australia - the Burdekin - which annually discharges millions of acre feet of water wastefully to the sea. The Australian Government has always believed that the harnessing of water for soundly based schemes is a great national asset.

In conjunction with the States, because after all the initiative must come from them, the Government is determined to harness water resources for soundly based schemes to supply water not only to towns and cities but also for the progressive development of Australia's natural resources. The initiative must come from the Western Australian Government with respect to the particular pipeline mentioned. As far as I am aware there have been no studies to date to link the northern and southern areas but I shall certainly bring this matter to the attention of the State authorities.

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