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Thursday, 26 September 1974
Page: 1454

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr Deputy President,I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

The purpose of this Bill is to obtain approval for an agreement which has been negotiated with the Queensland Government under which the Australian Government will provide a loan of $2m during this financial year to the State towards the cost of constructing Julius Dam on the Leichhardt River at a site about 65 kilometres east of Mount Isa. Construction of the dam is to be financed by Mount Isa Mines Ltd, the Mount Isa City Council and the Queensland Government. The estimated cost of the dam is $ 10m with an estimated further cost of $ 1 5.2m to cover pumps and a pipeline supply system. The Queensland Government's share of the total estimated cost of $25.2m is $7.3m and includes an amount of $3. 9m to enable the dam to be built with spare capacity to cater for the expected growth requirements of the area. Julius Dam with a storage capacity of 123,500 megalitres, is being constructed in the Selwyn Ranges some 1,500 kilometres north-west of Brisbane. Rainfall in this region is low, averaging less than 400 millimetres a year and both monthly and annual falls are variable resulting often in severe water shortages over long periods and sometimes in serious floods. The extremely high annual evaporation of 3,230 millimetres leaves an annual deficit of 2,830 millimetres and is the major cause of low yields from water storages.

The whole area is highly mineralised and known reserves of silver, lead and copper ores have been increased as a result of recent exploration, whilst the economic feasibility of developing other mineral deposits has been proved. Mining started at Mount Isa in February 1923 in primitive conditions; transport through the Selwyn Ranges was difficult, and the only water available was from sandy pools in the bed of the Leichhardt River. During its first 50 years of development, water has been an extremely important constraint to progress at Mount Isa. The first water supply was provided by damming Rifle Creek in 1929 and this supply was supplemented by bore water. Later, supplies were further augmented by the construction of Lake Moondarra in 1955, and it is obvious that further development will rely on additional water supplies.

The population of Mount Isa at the 1971 Census was 25,200, representing an increase of 8,200 since 1966 at an average annual growth rate of 8Vi per cent over the census period. Undoubtedly, there is general agreement that people living in arid areas under uncomfortable climatic conditions for many months of the year should have access to assured water supplies for domestic and municipal purposes. The demand for water for mining activities is also expected to increase. Mount Isa Mines is developing a new mine at Hilton some 16 kilometres north of the present workings. Operations at the Hilton Mine are expected to commence around 1977-78. Other prospective users of water, such as the phosphate mine at Lady Annie and copper mining at Kajabbi, are likely to begin operations at a later date. Julius Dam is expected to be completed by 1975 and, therefore, there will be some considerable delay between the completion of the dam and the main demand for water.

The loan to the State of Queensland is basically to enable the State to assist in the development of our valuable northern mineral resources. This loan, together with funds provided by Queensland, will ensure a supply of water in anticipation of expected demand by mining industries. It will ensure that workers and their families will be able to enjoy some of the amenities which people in southern Australia often take for granted. Concern has been expressed at the high level of water charges which may have to be levied by the Mount Isa Council to meet its share of the dam and distribution works. An offer of a loan of $2m to the State of Queensland was made by the Australian Government in October 1972 and confirmed by this Government with improved terms to ease the burden of repayment until the anticipated demand for water develops. This new offer has been accepted by the Premier of Queensland under the terms set out in the Schedule to this Bill.

The mining industries of northern Australia are making a noteworthy and vitally important contribution to the economy of Australia. They will continue to do so in the future and, in one way or another, we must assure that the heavy burden of costs for water, transport and other basic facilities does not act as a deterrent to those people whose personal contribution is indispensable to the success of the development of our northern resources. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.

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