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Tuesday, 22 August 1972
Page: 258

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second lime.

This Bill is concerned with a grant to be made under phase 2 of the national water resources development programme. The Government has agreed to provide to the State of Victoria a grant under the programme of up to $2m for specified works in the Millewa region.

The second phase of the national water resources development programme was announced by the Prime Minister in October 1969. Under this programme, the Commonwealth has undertaken to make available to the States $ 100m for rural water conservation and supply works, flood mitigation and water measurement. This new programme follows the original national water programme which provided over$50m in grants to the States.

The Bill provides for a grant of financial assistance to the State of Victoria for the construction of a pipeline water reticulation scheme in the Millewa region of north west Victoria. The scheme is situated in an area west of Mildura and covers some 455,000 acres containing 126 farms. The region is poorly watered and present supplies are pumped from the Murray River and delivered through open channels to farm storages. The system is inefficient and costly to operate, and the State is undertaking a programme involving complete renovation of the pumping stations, and replacement of open channels by pipelines. Details of the scheme are contained in the explanatory memorandum distributed with the Bill.

I turn now to the Bill itself, which generally follows the pattern of Acts granting financial assistance to the States under this programme. The works themselves, in respect of which a Commonwealth grant is payable, are described in the schedule to the Bill, and provision is made in section 5 for the schedule to be varied if this appears desirable in terms of the objectives of the legislation.

Provision for non-repayable grants is made in section 4 of the Bill.

Sections 6 and 7 set out requirements in connection with the implementation of the project, and cover the provision of information requested by the Minister, ministerial approval of the works, and approval by the Minister of contracts in excess of $500,000. Requirements for information in respect of expenditure are set out in section 8, and the usual provisions for the Treasurer to make advance payments, and for repayment of over-payments are made in sections 9 and 10.

The national water resources development programme represents a very important collaborative programme between the State and Commonwealth governments in the development of Australia's water resources. The present legislation gives effect to a further decision of the Government in connection with the continuation of this important programme.

The present water reticulation system has been in operation for many years and is nearing the end of its useful life. As well as meeting its high operation costs, capital expenditure would have to be incurred in the near future for complete rehabilitation, if the proposed new scheme is not installed. There is also the added advantage that water under pressure will be available to landholders at all times to replace the current intermittent supply to excavated storages.

It is expected that this will provide the opportunity to develop lawns and domestic gardens, amenities which will greatly improve living conditions for the people in the area served. No adverse effects on other aspects of the environment are expected to occur. Water diversions from the Murray River will be reduced from about 8,200 to 2,670 acre feet per annum, because of the reduction of losses achieved with the new scheme. I have much pleasure in commending the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator O'Byrne) adjourned.

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