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Tuesday, 10 December 1974
Page: 3326

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - I am happy to support the States Grants (Water Resources Assessment) Bill 1974 and the River Murray Waters Bill 1974. The River Murray Waters Agreement is something which is very important in South Australia. Our State is utterly reliant on the waters of the River Murray to which no water is contributed by the State from any subsidiary streams. We are very conscious of the operation of the River Murray Commission and the life line that the river is to South Australia. I hope that the Commission can proceed speedily with construction of the Dartmouth Dam. On its completion South Australia will be insured against the effects of drought against which it is not insured at the moment. I commend the work of the Commission and of the River Murray Waters Bill which is a small machinery measure in support of the Commission.

Despite what has been said about research and study into the control of water pollution in Australia I would not like to see the control of the River Murray system taken outside the River Murray Commission. I certainly want to see the powers of the Commission upgraded so that it can pay a great deal more effective attention to pollution and the salinity of the waters of the Murray. In my opinion it would be a very retrograde step to take the control of the system out of the hands of the 3 States which are concerned with it, and the Commonwealth, which is an equal partner in the River Murray Commission, and to make the river and the watershed subject to the control of the other States which have no interest in it. I want to say this: The River Murray Commission has proven to be one of the greatest examples of interstate cooperation that Australia has seen.

Senator Georges - I would not have thought that from listening to some of the debate.

Senator STEELE HALL -Now that Senator Georges raises the matter, the system broke down temporarily in South Australia because of the actions of his parliamentary colleagues at the State level. They mercilessly and shamelessly used the need for water supplies in South Australia for their own political benefit. They put the Australian Labor Party first every time, before the good of their own State, so much so that they went to an election in 1970 promising that 2 dams would be built on the River Murray in the near future. That was their election policy. But they knew full well that their promise was utterly false and that the dams could not be provided in any way as they had promised. I repeat that they went to the public promising that 2 dams would be built. The then new South Australian Government in 1970-71 denied any dams to South Australia and stated, following that election promise, that it would re-negotiate the scheme. It left South Australia in the lurch for an additional 2 seasons. If there is any problem concerning a shortage of water in South Australia before the Dartmouth Dam is completed it will be the Dunstan Labor Government that is absolutely and only responsible for that shortage in our State.

There are many other facets to the matter. I am sure that Senator McLaren is rearing to say something in defence of his lame duck State

Government in South Australia. But nothing he can say can alter the facts which are well printed and well documented.

Senator McLaren - They are well documented in this document before me.

Senator STEELE HALL - Yes, I am sure -

Senator Poyser - Peace and goodwill to all men.

Senator STEELE HALL - Yes, but the facts cannot be denied, Senator Poyser. There is no doubt that the most conservative and the most reactionary political Party in Australia is the Australian Labor Party. It has never shown any propensity to be able to change its mind. It has stuck to written objectives which are unchangeable. This is illustrated in its tactical views of the economies it governs, whether they be on the State or Federal scene. It is unable to match the moving scene in front of it. But in South Australia the State Labor Government was advised before the 1968 election that it would have to change its policy on the Chowilla Dam and promote the Dartmouth Dam because of new information that was to be introduced to it very shortly. However, that Government went to an election promising the construction of the Chowilla Dam, as did the then Opposition. Shortly after the election the information that the outgoing Labor Government knew was available was presented to the new government. That information was presented to the new government from com'puters which produced 350 studies of the River Murray system whereas only 1 3 had been available on a manual basis previously. Of course, the system was entirely reversed in relation to the yield from the river system following a comparison between Dartmouth and Chowilla.

It was a very agonising time. I can tell Senator McLaren that at that time his State leader said that whatever supply point it obtained for South Australia from the Commonwealth Government, it would want 1,250,000 acre feet of water. I can also tell Senator McLaren that the LiberalCountry League Government of the day would not accept 1 ,250,000 acre feet and said that that was not good enough to guarantee South Australia's future. We stuck to the proposal that we would not agree to the construction of Dartmouth Dam nor would we shift from our position in regard to the Chowilla Dam until we received a very substantial increase of water supply from 1,250,000 acre feet to 1,500,000 acre feet, despite the fact that the Dunstan Administration ran out from under. It was willing to settle for a figure it had obtained already. But the new . State Government in South Australia stuck out and increased South Australia's useful water supply by 37 per cent simply by hard negotiations. Senator McLaren knows that to be true, and nothing that he can say consequent on what I have said tonight will alter those facts. Nothing will alter the fact that the final arrangement which the Dunstan Government had to agree to was worked out and signed by the representatives of the previous administration, which Mr Dunstan opposed. I will listen to the intricate argument that I am sure Senator McLaren will now put to us. I am sure that he will try to substantiate the cause of a government, of an administration that won government on a promise which it has never really tried to fulfil in any way, and knows it cannot fulfil.

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