25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Did the Minister recently state that because of the Commonwealth and State anti-tuberculosis surveys, Australia could become the first nation in the world to reach a stage at which, by World Health Organization standards, tuberculosis no longer constituted a major public health problem? Were these observations intended to cover the position in the Northern Territory and other Australian Territories? What co-operative action with the Territories, particularly the Northern Territory health administration, is taken by the Minister in connexion with this campaign? Does the Minister consider that the Australian aboriginal population is in need of special assistance and attention because of the high incidence of tuberculosis?
– The honorable senator has quoted my remarks correctly. The emphasis in his question, as I understood it, is on the Northern Territory. I am very happy to be able to inform him that even at the present time we are undertaking a thorough survey of all aborigines in the Northern Territory. We have co-opted the services of the Anti-Tuberculosis Association of New South Wales, which has some of the most modern equipment in the land, as well as adequate trained staff, and which is accepting that responsibility on our behalf. The association is about to undertake an examination that, I am sure, will prove of great benefit to the people of the Northern Territory. We are determined to give them exactly the same service as that which is available in all the States.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. I wish to express to the Minister the pleasure that I had in reading the announcement of the settlement of the Sydney Post Office dispute, and to ask for elucidation of the last part of the statement which says that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia will not support any stoppage of work on any industrial issue in future, but will negotiate and, failing agreement, will go to arbitration. The statement adds that the council and the union agree that in the event of the men stopping work the prescribed penalty provisions of the act will be appropriately applied. Do I correctly understand the sense and meaning of that as being a recognition of the significance of the Post Office as a central national service to the people? Does it mean that in the event of any industrial dispute affecting the service, these two great agencies will submit the dispute to arbitration and not support a direct stoppage?
– As I understand the situation, from the talks I have had with the Postmaster-General, the honorable senator’s interpretation of the terms of the settlement is correct. The terms mean exactly what they say. The settlement indicates that the two union organizations concerned have a very lively appreciation of their obligations to the community. The fact that they have written into the agreement their compliance with the penalty provisions also indicates that they are approaching their responsibilities in a proper manner.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. In the light of the present controversy on the harmful effects of cigarette smoking, can the Minister say whether his department has official knowledge of the efficacy or otherwise of filter tips in reducing the harmful effects of smoking? Has the department knowledge of an article being marketed under the name of Aqua Filter, which is an additional external filter holder, for which the manufacturers claim the ability to remove up to 94 per cent, of the nicotine and up to 79 per cent, of the tars in cigarettes? Can the Minister state whether those claims are substantially correct?
– I believe it is true to say that, so far as is known, filter tips on cigarettes play little, if any, part in reducing the harmful effects of cigarette smoking. I understand that the Victorian Anti-Cancer
Council has tested the Aqua Filter holder and has come to the conclusion that there is justification for the claims made by its makers.
– A free advertisement.
– If the honorable senator is patient he will see that the conclusion he has drawn is a little premature because 1 was about to say that in the United States of America, where the filter has been promoted, its reception has not been enthusiastic. Therefore, whether this type of filter is acceptable to smokers generally is quite another matter.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry state the reason for the delay in granting soldier settlers on Flinders Island permanent leases? Is it not a fact that the time has long since passed when this should have been done?
– There has been no undue delay in granting permanent tenure to the settlers on Flinders Island. As a matter of policy, permanent tenure is never conferred until the property concerned has reached its planned productive capacity. There are some twenty farms, I think, on Flinders Island which have almost reached the level of planned productivity, and permanent tenure will be made available to the farmers in the near future. I think it is proper to add, by way of explanation, that a settler suffers no financial hardship because he has not been granted permanent tenure, for the simple reason that he is not asked to pay his full financial commitments until the planned productivity has been achieved and permanent tenure granted.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister read a report on wool prices in the “Australian Financial Review “ of 7th April headed “ Melbourne Wool Rise “ when, in fact, the report reveals a fall in prices of from 2i per cent, to 5 per cent.? Is this the ultimate example of an intentional effort to mislead the public as evidenced by the terminology generally used by the press in reporting wool price movements?
For example, wool prices never fall - there is always “ spirited competition “ or “ animated bidding at lower levels “. Or is the heading that was used merely a demonstration of incompetence?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred. In fact, I souvenired a copy as an oddity. I do not think it is fair to say that this is a deliberate attempt to mislead. It is true that the heading which is in large type reads, “ Melbourne Wool Rise “. In fact, the prices did not rise because the article under the heading states -
Wool prices for all descriptions were up to 24 per cent, cheaper.
I think this was an unhappy choice of words. I have no logical explanation for it except that possibly the article was written by a journalist who was confused in his mind and got his ups and downs mixed. Whilst the heading indicates that there was a rise in Melbourne wool prices, the article itself states in somewhat involved terms that the prices actually fell.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Has the Minister read a statement that school cadets from all States will visit the Royal Military College, Duntroon, from 17th to 20th April? Is it not a fact that sixteen candidates for this visit will be selected from Queensland, 36 from New South Wales, 22 from Victoria, 22 from Tasmania, four from South Australia and only two from Western Australia? Will the Minister inform the Senate who will pay for this visit? Who decided how many cadets would participate from each State? Why will Western Australia send only two cadets when Tasmania with a much smaller population is entitled to send 22? Is this a case where distance penalizes Western Australian cadets?
– I think that this scheme to enable school cadets to visit the great institution at Duntroon is an excellent one. Naturally, such a visit will fire the boys’ enthusiasm and will help them to understand the military set-up in Australia. I think visits of this kind should be encouraged. The honorable senator has directed attention to what he regards as an imbalance in the representation from the various States. I do not know how the numbers of representatives were chosen. I was not aware of the relevant figures until the honorable senator stated them. He has said .that there will be 22 Tasmanians and only two from Western Australia. That meets with my approval as a Tasmanian; but I shall ask the Minister for the Army to consider whether an injustice is being done to any State and to ascertain the explanation for the proportions that were decided upon.
– I direct a question to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the many questions directed in another place to the Prime Minister and his denial that he will be appointed as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, I ask the Minister whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate will in the near future be appointed as Ambassador to the United States. In view of many statements on the future of’ Government senators, I further ask whether the Minister can advise when the Government intends to hold the next election. for the Senate.
Senator - PALTRIDGE.- Answering the last part of the question first, I can give the honorable senator an assurance that no election will take place in the immediate future. With regard to the other part of the question, when the appointment of a new Ambassador to the United States has been made, it will be announced by the Prime Minister in the normal way.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Did the Government undertake subsidization of the teaching hospitals of the States in respect of their teaching services? Did this extend to capital expenditure as well as recurrent expenditure for maintenance of these services? Has the subsidy been paid in respect of capital expenditure on a £1 for £1 basis? Why has the Government not paid anything in respect of the recurrent expenditure for maintenance of the services?
– This matter is not under the jurisdiction of my department. As I understand the situation, it is the respon sibility of the Prime Minister’s Department. 1 shall bring the question to the notice of the Prime Minister and ask him to supply the information sought by the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Is it a fact that one of the terms of settlement of the disastrous strike affecting mail services in New South Wales is that women are now to be called upon once again , to meet a national emergency by working’ the intermediate shift? If .this is a fact, has the union involved in these discussions made any attempt to apply its professed principle of equal pay for equal work in respect of the women who will do the job?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is found in the following words of the first paragraph of the terms of settlement: -
To supplement the regular full-time staff the union agrees that labour, male and female, will be employed on a regular short shift basis within the intermediate shift only and the union and department will make an immediate approach to the Arbitrator to determine the rates. ‘ “
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that in Tasmania there remain a few Saxon merino studs that have carefully avoided blending with other strains such as Vermont, Rambouillet, or Peppin which is the common Australian merino strain? Is the Minister aware that Saxon merinos can be bred in other parts of the world with equally fine wool and similar conformation characteristics? In view of the drastic decline in the demand for this type of stud ram in Australia because of the limited requirements, will consideration be given to lifting the export ban on this particular breed, and so make it possible for the stud breeders to obtain sufficient revenue to keep their studs in production?
– This is a question that one could not answer adequately at question time, and certainly not without notice. The question raises a much bigger issue than keeping alive the splendid contribution that these studs have been making to the Australian wool industry. It goes much further than that. There are two schools of thought in Australia to-day on this matter. One school argues that these stud animals should be made available to other wool-producing countries, claiming that that in itself would generate and increase demand for the type of wool concerned. The other school of thought argues that extension of the production of this type of wool would be a threat to the Australian industry. By and large, as a government, we seek the advice of the industry itself on these things. As I understand the position, we carry out the wishes of the industry in placing the present embargo on the exportation of these sheep. If there is any further information that I can get for the honorable senator I shall let him have it.
Senator CAVANAGH__ I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which arises out of a question asked by Senator Fitzgerald. As the future Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain has announced that he will leave Australia in April for the purpose of getting his children settled in English schools, but will not take up his duties until September, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the future High Commissioner will resign as the member for Angas prior to his departure for England, and thus permit the election of a member residing in Australia to represent the people of Angas for the five months until the present member takes up his new appointment?
– I am not in a position to say what are the specific plans of the present honorable member for Angas, but 1 think that every honorable senator and every honorable member, knowing the present member for Angas, will appreciate that whatever he does he will at all times have the interests of his electorate at heart and will make proper arrangements to see that his electors are properly represented.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. I was delighted that the Minister yesterday recognized that the statement of the Ambassador for Indonesia to the effect that there were reasons for thinking that Australia had no reason to interfere in the Malaysia dispute did not transgress the proper province of diplomatic privilege. Whilst the Ambassador-
– Order! Will the honorable senator ask his question?
– I am about to do so, with the preparatory explanation that I have given. Recognizing that the ambassador chose to use the public press as his medium of communication, would the Minister not consider it satisfactory to, and an entitlement of, the Australian public to have the answer published in the public press?
– I am not sure just what the honorable senator’s question is. What does the honorable senator mean by, “have the answer published in the public press “?
– I understand Australia claims the right to interfere in the Malaysian dispute.
– The answer from whom? I am not sure what the honorable senator means, but there is clearly no inhibition - at least I should hope so - in the Aus. tralian press in publishing any answers given to any matters of this kind.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he has seen press reports of an address, delivered yesterday at the World Health Day luncheon given in Melbourne by the United Nations organization, by the Victorian Director of Tuberculosis, Dr. Marshman, in which Dr. Marshman gave details of the high incidence of tuberculosis in countries close to Australia and warned against complacency. Does the Minister agree with Dr. Marshman’s comment that tuberculosis is a danger to all countries because it can spread from countries of high incidence to the more fortunate countries like Australia? If so, what precautions is the Government taking to minimize any potential dangers to the health of the Australian population?
– I have not seen the report referred to, but I would have no hesitation in agreeing with such an authority as Dr. Marshman. I have no doubt that the honorable senator has quoted him correctly. We take all the precautions we can to guard against the entry into Australia of tuberculosis sufferers. All immigrants have to be tested before being allowed into Australia. We have now reached the stage where all Australian States have agreed upon a compulsory chest X-ray campaign. That campaign is revealing a higher incidence of tuberculosis in Australia than some people thought to exist, although the incidence is not nearly as high here as it is in many overseas countries. Some States, notably Western Australia and Tasmania - and I think it would be fair to say the same of South Australia - have had a compulsory chest X-ray system in operation for some years and they have achieved remarkable results in eradicating the threat of tuberculosis. Indeed I think their success was such that many people began to be complacent about the threat of this disease. However, since the other three States have introduced compulsory chest X-rays, many people who were never even suspected of being victims of tuberculosis are being found to be sufferers. So long as these campaigns are pursued and continue to have the cooperation of the Australian people, I am sure that eventually we shall eliminate this dread disease from our land. I have told the honorable senator that we take every precaution to guard against sufferers being admitted to the country. Those precautions will be maintained stringently.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. It has relation to some press information published in the last few days about a notice given by the Postmaster-General to the Brisbane stock exchange following on what was considered to be an abnormal rate of trading in the shares of a television company. I ask the Minister whether he can tell us the terms of the communication to the stock exchange, the stage of trading at which it was communicated, and the reasons for what appears to me to be a somewhat unprecedented communication from a Minister to a commercial stock exchange.
– I speak subject to correction, but my understanding of the posi tion is that the Postmaster-General made his announcement not to the stock exchange but to the company that had recently been issued with a licence to operate the third commercial television station in Brisbane. As I understand the position, the PostmasterGeneral indicated that the licence would be withheld until stock exchange trading movements had been clarified. If that is not the proper analysis of the situation, I shall inform the honorable senator accordingly.
(Question No. 10.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
(Question No. 41.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
(Question No. 57.)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Amounts of income tax?
– The AttorneyGeneral has furnished the following reply: -
(Question No. 68.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
In a recent press statement I mentioned that arrangements would be made for banks to change over from a £ s. d. to a decimal system of operation during the long week-end preceding the official change-over date. I also said that while conversion of machines outside the banking system would not commence to any significant degree before the change-over date, it would thereafter proceed on a zone-by-zone basis, which should be the most convenient arrangement for regional commercial and shopping centres. This should not be taken to mean that one or more States will receive any priority over others; on the contrary, it seems most likely that conversion will proceed simultaneously in all States. This is, however, a matter which cannot be settled in detail until precise information concerning the number and location of machines has been obtained, and the Decimal
Currency Board is at present gathering the required information in relation to cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines by means of the current machine registration programme. When the information has been gathered and collated it will bc possible to look more closely, in collaboration with the converting companies, at the zoning arrangements for conversion work.
(Question No. 77.)
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice - 1 ls Australia eligible for membership of the Afro-Asian Economic Conference, the fourth of which was held at Karachi from 5th to 9th December, 1963?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Public Works Committee Act, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Public Works Committee Act - Twenty-eighth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Debate resumed from 18th March (vide page 350), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the Senate is one to amend the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960. The 1960 principal act is not the original measure that was brought before this Parliament. The original bill was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government in 1948 under the complete power that this Parliament possesses over weights and measures. There had been no action by the Commonwealth until 1948, and the weights and measures used in trade and commerce were determined by each of the States. The requirements of the States varied and it was generally acknowledged that it was an incubus on industry to have to comply with the regulations of six different States.
– Because of the variation in the size of packages, you mean?
– No, the legislation has nothing whatever to do with regular standards for packages or goods; it is concerned with determining, first, the units of measurement and, secondly, the standards of measurement. In other words, the bill is concerned with matters of weight, length and volumetric capacity. As the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) indicated in his second-reading speech, it covers also the measurement of electrical power, quantity of heat, density, pressure, and temperature. So it is a matter of determining what docs constitute a unit of measurement.
– I thought you were speaking generally.
– No. The bill is concerned only with matters of the nature I have just indicated.
– Not quite; it refers also to the approval of patterns used in trade.
– As Senator Gorton reminds me, it is concerned with individual items related to patterns of measuring instruments. I leave that for a moment, but I shall come back to it because it is one of the main purposes of the bill.
The Commonwealth power,I suggest, is even wider than the power over weights and measures that Congress has under the United States Constitution. There the power is, in contradistinction to our own, to fix the standards of weights and measures. If that were the power that we had in this Parliament,I think the Minister might have difficulty in working in the control over patterns that this bill proposes. Fortunately we are not tied down to merely fixing the standard of weights and measures; the power is completely expressed in the three words “ weights and measures “. Therefore, I think it is of greater amplitude than the power of the United States Congress in that field.
Although our first measure was introduced in 194S, nothing was really done to implement it. The Labour Government was displaced at the end of 1949 and there was no further activity in that field until 1960 - eleven years after this Government took over. In the meantime, the six States continued merrily on their way and industry suffered whatever inconveniences were implicit in that situation. Shortly, I shall invite the Minister to tell the Senate why that long delay occurred in relation to a matter which, in 1945, was acknowledged by all parties in this Parliament to be one of pressing urgency from the viewpoint of trade and commerce.
The 1960 bill which this Government introduced was modelled entirely on the 1948 legislation. It provided for supplementary standards in addition to the main ones that were established under the 1948 act. The 1948 act was repealed and the 1960 legislation was introduced, but the two pieces of legislation had the same basis and operated on the same principles. The purpose of the act is to provide means by which the measurement of physical quantities, for which there are Commonwealth legal units of measurement, may be made. In other words, the act establishes throughout Australia uniform units of measurement and also uniform standards of measurement of physical quantities. The act preserves State laws where they are not inconsistent with the Federal law.
We realize that, under section 109 of the Constitution, if there is inconsistency between Commonwealth and State law the Commonwealth law is to prevail. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong in saying that I imagine this particular provision has been included to negative the possibility of a claim that the Commonwealth provisions were exhaustive and exclusive and that, therefore, all State laws on the subject fall to the ground.
– I am told that that is true.
– Thank you. The broad purpose of the act is to provide, amongst other things, that once the units are established and the standards of measurement are determined they shall be deemed to regulate the whole of trade and commerce. Agreements which involve those units and measurements shall be deemed to be expressed in terms of the Commonwealth standards, and if they are not so expressed the agreements in question shall be null and void. There is an exception in that this provision does not apply to contracts or agreements that relate to imports and exports. That is understandable because trading arrangements in regard to imports and reports would, from time to time, be concerned with measurements determined by countries other than our own. Therefore, this seems to be a completely rational provision.
The duty to establish and maintain the standards that are to operate throughout the Commonwealth is imposed on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and that body has in fact established a National Standards Laboratory at Sydney. That is at least one activity which has taken place under the act. A National Standards Commission was appointed, and its main function, under both the 1948 act and the 1960 act, was to advise the Minister in relation to the very important matter of units and standards. It had no staff and was serviced in this respect by officers of the C.S.I.R.O. I think the Minister will readily acknowledge that there was very little work for it to do. Following discussions between State and Federal officers, and a conference of State ministers in May, 1962, over which Senator Gorton presided, it wa.s determined that certain changes were necessary. Whereas it had been thought that the regulations made under the act might be brought into force on 1st January, 1964, the full operation of the regulations was to be postponed until 1st January, 1965, which would mean an exceedingly long delay before effective action could be taken, having regard to the fact that this proposal of uniformity was first mooted in 1948.
At the conference in May, 1962, a new difficulty was faced. It arose from the fact that even if there were uniform standards, State laws provided that before articles of measurement went into use, things such as instruments for measuring cloth, butchers’ scales and pumps for measuring petrol into tanks, had to be inspected by State officers and were required to conform to the patterns determined by the States. In relation to individual articles, such as petrol pumps, the States were laying down different patterns. The manufacturer of an article was faced with the real difficulty of having to modify it according to the law of the State in which it was mechandised The patterns, very properly, were determined by the States to prevent, as far as possible, fraud in measuring out petrol and other commodities. In May, 1962, the States and the Commonwealth, with the concurrence of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, agreed that it would be desirable to have a central authority to determine the patterns, apart altogether from the standards, of measuring instruments. It was also agreed that the authority should be the National Standards Commission which had been set up under the 1960 act.
This decision meant, of course, that the Standards Commission would have greatly enlarged functions to perform. Under the bill before the Senate it is proposed to establish the commission as a corporation sole, to give it a common seal and, above all, to authorize it to acquire its own staff. No doubt it will operate to a considerable degree through State officers and instrumentalities. The main purpose of the bill is to deal with the question of patterns, to which I have referred. In addition, a few, other consequential changes are sought to be made. The first concerns the provision of grades of standards additional to those provided for in sections 8 and 9 of the 1960 act. Steps were taken to clarify the methods of verifying and re-verifying subsidiary standards used in the States and throughout Australia against the main or key standards. The bill before us contains provisions relating to that matter. It is proposed, under clauses 4 and 5, to amend sections 8 and 9 of the act in order to confer on the National Standards Commission power to determine special standards of measurement and to provide means of measurement beyond the Commonwealth units of measurement.
I think I have adequately summarized, from the viewpoint of the Opposition, the purposes of the bill. We are not opposed to any of them. We recognize that the proposals have been agreed to by all States and by the chambers of manufactures throughout Australia, which are the bodies most concerned with its provisions. I hope that the Minister will explain to the Senate why it has taken so long for action to be taken in this matter. If the bill now before us is the measure of the difficulties encountered - and these are resolved very simply in the bill - why was there a delay from 1950 until 1964 down the whole period of office of this Government in presenting it? It would seem that the Government almost lost sight of the bill. Finally, it impinged on the consciousness of the Government in 1960, and the Government has taken a very leisurely course ever since.
Agreement was reached with the State Ministers in May, 1962, yet we do not get the bill then agreed upon until almost two years later. One cannot but be disappointed to find even now that there will be a long lapse of time before the regulations come into operation. The regulations will represent a very considerable part of the legislation. This is essentially a bill which will have major provisions in the regulations but they will not be fully operative until at least 1st January. 1965. That does give us some concern.
The Opposition does not oppose the bill. We favour it because it is in line with our own thinking. I wish to mention only one other matter before I conclude. The Government has seen fit to introduce decimal currency into Australia to operate’ in the foreseeable future. The Government based its decision partly upon the great convenience that the decimal currency would have not only in commerce but also in the teaching of school children. It would seem to be a completely logical extension of that thinking to spill the decimal system over from the currency into the field of weights and measures as has been done throughout the rest of the world. I invite the Minister to say whether, any consideration was given to that aspect of the matter. If it was, what reasons actuated the Government in not adopting that rather obvious reform which is a logical concomitant of decimal currency? We have heard Senator Kennelly express himself on that subject in the Senate often. Nobody pretends - I certainly do not - that the transition would be an easy matter. It would be no easier in weights and measures than the transition from the present system of currency to the decimal system. I am not suggesting to the Senate that this could be done easily without plenty of preparation. But surely a reform of our present system of yards and inches could have been considered at this time when we are adopting a decimal currency system. I express disappointment that we heard nothing about the prospect of a change in relation to weight? and measures in that direction when the Government was introducing this measure. I invite the Minister to inform the Senate whether a change was considered, and if so why it was not adopted by the Government.
– in reply - I am glad to know that the bill in itself attracts no opposition from those sitting opposite in this House. 1 shall endeavour to answer so far as 1 can the questions arising from the bill that have been asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). They were directed mostly at delays in the time when the bill is designed to come into operation. Moving backwards in time from the present, let me advert to the point made by the Leader of the Opposition that the bill will not come into operation until 1st January, 1965, and that it is a pity that there will be such a delay between the time when the bill is passed and the time when the regulations under the bill are likely to come into operation. The delay did not stem from any desire on the part of the Commonwealth Government but was provided for at the request of the State governments. They stated that it would take them that long to provide for the changes and to check properly the hierarchy of standards they have to apply in their States. As the Commonwealth Government had received that request from the States, it appeared reasonable to accede to it.
Going back further in time it has been suggested that there has been rather too long a delay between May, 1962, when the Commonwealth and the States agreed to adopt the measures provided in the bill, and the present day. I am assured by the Attorney-General’s Department that although, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, this seems to be quite a simple bill involving problems which could be simply overcome, in fact it took eighteen months’ fairly solid work to give the bill an appearance of simplicity in the final result. The objective was a bill that would be acceptable to the Commonwealth and State Governments, particularly since the Commonwealth Government will be leaning quite heavily on the States for the actual policing of the standards throughout Australia. I have practically ceased to go back in my explanation to the time where I myself had responsibilities for these matters. I think it was in 1961 when I first assumed responsibility although a bill was announced in 1960. I do not know of my own knowledge the reasons for the delay which took place between the introduction of a bill in 1948 and the introduction of an amending bill in 1960. I have been told that this length of time was required for the objections raised from time to time to be considered. These objections by the various State Governments were not raised all at once. One would raise an objection to regulations or proposals not so much on the grounds that the proposals themselves were outside the ambit of Commonwealth power because Commonwealth power, as I understand it, is absolute in this respect but because it was considered that there might be consequential results of such legislation which would have an adverse effect on State legislation in some other field. It has taken this length of time for the organization of the National Standards Commission at officer level to conduct discussions with the six different States in dealing with many objections raised at times by the six States and extending over a wide field. As I have not been closely associated myself with what has gone on in that time, I can only pass that information on to the Leader of the Opposition as it has been given to me by a member of the commission.
The only other question raised by the Leader of the Opposition was whether Australia should or should not adopt a metric system. Personally, I do not think this question is directly related to the bill before the Senate, particularly since it is put forward as a proposition which should have come into operation at the same time as the adoption of a decimal currency and not just in relation to this bill at all. However, there are provisions in the bill for metric measurements of length and volume in Australia and there are provisions for the National Standards Commission to prescribe national standards for those lengths end measurements of volume. If and when a government makes a major policy decision in another field, at least there will be standards as a result of this bill which will allow that decision to be applied. That,I think, is the only responsibility which 1 as Minister and which this bill, as presented to the Senate, are required to meet.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have only one matter to raise with the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton). I refer him to proposed new section 19a, which deals with the question of patterns, to which I referred at some length at another stage of the bill. In the proceedings that took place in May, 1962, there was a suggestion by the States that a central authority to deal with patterns might be established. I refer the Minister to the minutes of the conference, at page 6, which read -
Representatives of all States agreed that the bringing in of Commonwealth legislation was the most appropriate way of dealing with the matter.
That is the matter of patterns. The minutes continued -
It was agreed that the Commonwealth should prepare draft legislation and circulate it to the States for comments. It was intended that this legislation would include a provision that if any Stale authority so desired, it could ask the central body to re-examine an approval given . . .
That would be for a pattern - if it was found that the equipment involved was not proving satisfactory in service.
I do not see in this legislation any such provision to meet the understanding that the States had. Is there any provision for the States to ask for a review of approval of a pattern that is later found to be unsuitable for the particular State?
– Does there need to be any specific legislative provision to enable them to ask for a review?
– I am merely indicating to the Minister that, according to the minutes, there was an understanding that the legislation would include such a provision.
– I have no doubt at all that the regulations made under the act will provide for them to be able to ask for a review, but I think they could do it in any case.
– I put it specifically to the Minister: Is there any such, provision in the bill before us?
– Is it intended to make such provision in the regulations?
– I am told that it is intended to make such provision in the regulations. I do not think it is necessary, but it is proposed to do it.
– I should be inclined to differ with the Minister about whether or not it were necessary.I agree that any State could make a request at any time. I am just pointing out that the States seemed to be under the impression that they would be given some form of statutory right to have their request considered. That is implicit in what took place at the conference with the Minister.
– I do not think that there is any real point at issue between us if they get this provision in the regulations, except a difference of personal interpretation on whether or not it is necessary.
– If it is put in the regulations, that will meet the point.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19th March (vide page 402), on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill is to enable the grant of an amount of£ 2,750,000 to the State of New South Wales over a period of six years as financial assistance for flood mitigation work on rivers subject to flooding on the coast of New South Wales. As explained by the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) in his second-reading speech, the Government decision to make the grant arises out of a request by the New South Wales Government for the Commonwealth to join the State in providing financial assistance to local government authorities and those other people who are charged with the carrying out of flood mitigation work, or who take it upon themselves to engage in flood mitigation work, on the Macleay, Clarence, Richmond, Tweed, Shoalhaven and Hunter rivers. All of these rivers are subject to chronic flooding which, in the Minister’s words, “ causes great hardship and considerable economic losses “ in the community.
We on this side of the chamber wholeheartedly agree with the Minister’s summation of the position. What has been worrying us is the time it has taken for the Government to come to this decision. Listening to the Minister introduce the bill, the thought passed through my mind that the Government had taken a long time to agree that there was a flood problem on the northern rivers of New South Wales. The fact is that between 1908 and 1960 there have been 32 major floodings in the Hunter valley alone. I do not know how many floods there have been in the rivers between the Hunter and the northern border, but I should think there have been as many as on the Hunter.
– What has the State Government done about that?
– I am coming to that. I have anticipated that sort of retort. It will be dealt with in the next stanza.
– Before you become too rhetorical about it, let me suggest that surely these conditions have been due, to a large extent, to deforestation of watersheds.
– 1 have that matter covered, too. In my few remarks on this bill, which the Opposition supports, I propose to talk principally about the Hunter valley, because that is” the area which I know best of all. Before discussing what governments have done in relation to flood mitigation, particularly in the Hunter valley, I pay tribute to the people of the Hunter valley for what they have done to help themselves.
As all honorable senators probably know, the New South Wales Government has a great rural record. It has a great record as regards soil erosion, conservation, and allied matters. I think that has been admitted pretty generally. The Hunter River should1 be of special interest to the people of Australia. It is a unique area. A special organization, the Hunter River Conservation Trust, which has been formed, puts out a booklet once every three months. The trust is constituted of officers from various government departments and local authorities, but basically it is a local organization engaged in raising money through local councils and taxpayers, both farmers and townspeople. The members of the trust are paid public servants, but there is also a voluntary organization known as the Hunter Valley Research Foundation. It is almost completely a lay organization on one side and a scientific organization on the other.
The President of the Senate, Sir Alister McMullin, played a foremost part in the establishment of this organization. About four years ago 600 or 700 people met in the town hall at Maitland. Those at the meeting decided that nothing would be done for the Hunter - they were probably thinking of both the Commonwealth and State governments - unless they did something for themselves. They set up the organization that I have mentioned. Something like £100,000 was raised at the first meeting. As I have said, the President of the Senate was one of the movers in the initiation of this great movement and I should like to think that his influence has had something to do with the Government’s move to help New South Wales in flood mitigation work on the coastal rivers. The organization has engaged scientists interested in this type of work. I am not an authority on these matters, but the booklets that have been produced and distributed to the local community show that an economic and scientific survey of the whole Hunter River valley has been made. That survey has been of great value to the Government.
May I say also that Mr. Allen Fairhall, the Minister in the other House, had a good deal to do with this matter, too, as also did the Lord Mayor of Newcastle at the time, Mr. Charles Jones, who is the present member for Newcastle. From one end of the valley to the other people did something for themselves, and I am happy to see that the Government has responded to their work.
– Which government?
– This Government.
– What about the State Government?
– Now that the honorable senator has interjected I may as well deal with that aspect straight away. On second thoughts, as 1 would be departing from my notes I will not deal with the matter just yet.
– Go on, we are dying to hear it.
– I will leave the subject of the State Government until later. Undoubtedly there has been an about-face by the Government on this matter. I have read in “ Hansard “ speeches of members in the other place. Government supporters, of course, have for years been defending the Commonwealth’s inaction and saying that this matter was a problem for the New South Wales Government. They have been saying that the Commonwealth Government had no constitutional power to help New South Wales. It was even said in the other place that the trouble was that nobody had asked for help. It was stated that before the Commonwealth Government could do anything the State Government had to be asked by the local authorities, who in turn had to ask the Commonwealth Government to come to the rescue and try to do something about flood mitigation. To me that does not make sense. Surely, when we are faced with problems such as major floods, we should not consider protocol. If the people on the north coast of New South Wales have not been as interested and as keen to develop an organization as have been those in the Hunter valley, that is a matter for them. The same applies to the people in the Hawkesbury River valley. I heard Mr. Dean say that nothing has been done for the Hawkesbury valley. The fact is that the people there have not the same type of organization that the people in the Hunter valley have, and apparently governments wait until the local people move.
I think that the local Liberal Party and Country Party members have been in diffi culties in arguing that the Government did not have the constitutional power. They have found that people, who are flooded out do not worry too much about the Constitution. It was said in the other place that the Chifley Government would not help the farmers with flood mitigation. I do not know whether that is true or not. Even if it were the case, I know that the Chifley Government stretched the Constitution of this country to its very limit to establish the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The Snowy Mountains scheme might not be a flood mitigation scheme, but it is certainly a water conservation scheme of major significance, and very much allied to flood mitigation. To me both matters are allied, the one depending on the other. I understand that even to-day some lawyers say that the Snowy project is ultra vires the Constitution, but I could not imagine any government trying to take that point now.
– Not until they get an atomic reactor going.
– That may be sa What I am suggesting is that if one government could get over the constitutional difficulty and establish the Snowy Mountains scheme, this Government could also get around the Constitution to help flood mitigation.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has been able to get around the Constitution. I shall refer to that matter later. The Labour Government had a coal problem during the war and it overcame constitutional difficulties. Where there’s a will there’s a way. It was unconstitutional for the Commonwealth to do anything to help the coal industry, but what did the various governments involved do? They found a way of getting around the Constitution by establishing the Joint Coal Board to control the coal industry. We have often heard Senator Sir William Spooner say in this chamber that the Joint Coal Board has done a wonderful job for the coal industry, but constitutional difficulties had to be overcome before the Joint Coal Board could be established. We were always told that the Government could do nothing about education because of the Constitution, but the Government is doing something about that. T think that the farmers of the Hunter valley were entitled long ago to hope that constitutional difficulties should not stop the Commonwealth Government coming to their aid.
– Do you not believe in State rights at all?
– 1 do believe in State rights, but I do not believe that the doctrine of State rights- means that State governments have to spend all the money on developing industry, conserving industry, conserving land and controlling the rivers which produce the income for the national government, without the national government doing something about it as well. It is very important that the Commonwealth Government should treat floods as a national disaster, because that is what they are.
Take the position of Newcastle. The Hunter River flows into the basin at Newcastle, which is the most important port in Australia. Close Newcastle down and you close Australia down. Why should not this Government contribute to the maintenance of flood mitigation on the Hunter River? Do honorable senators know that every year the New South Wales Government spends just under £2,000,000 dredging the Newcastle harbour to clear it of the silt that comes down the Hunter River, not only during floods but continually? What would happen if a big flood occurred there and the harbour were blocked up? This Government would move heaven and earth to correct the position. I do not say this would be done out of concern for the farmers along the Hunter River. It would be done in the interests of Australia. I am not an expert on these things but I do know that year after year the position on the Hunter River worsens. The rich alluvial soil of the valley is being washed into the sea. This can be stopped if we have the finance and the will to do the job.
I have spoken about the Hunter River because that is the area that I, personally know. I have been there when floods have completely inundated Maitland. It is impossible to count the number of bankruptcies that have occurred in the Hunter valley due to floods. Hundreds of farmers have been driven off their land. Those people who do not want to be worried about such matters say that floods are good for farm lands, but I have never yet heard a farmer say that a flood was a good thing.
There is talk now about resiting the towns in the Hunter valley. That is a great national question. Many towns, including Maitland, are built on the bends of rivers. Indeed, almost every town was established on the bend of a river when Australia was first founded. It is now suggested that Maitland should be moved to the two major hills of the area. That, surely, should be a national work. It should not be the financial responsibility of the local authorities or the local people to rebuild towns.
Another important factor is the need to conserve the soil. It is of no use the Government talking about what it intends to do about water conservation on the Ord River, in northern Queensland, or at Chowilla - all works that we support - if it does not propose to do anything about conserving areas that we have established already. It seems to me that the principle to be adopted should be first to preserve the districts that are already settled.
Now let me take honorable senators for a trip along the north coast, starting at the Richmond. Many of us are inclined to smile and talk about what a wonderful area the Richmond valley is, but I suggest that honorable senators inspect the area for themselves. The grass is certainly green and the farms look beautiful, but there is a great deal of poverty there, too. I always come back from the area feeling that it is a subsistence farming area. There are many people on farms there who hardly know where their breakfast is coming from. Many of them are unable to meet the capital costs of their properties. Residents of the north coast are becoming very worried about the number of farmers who are going out of dairying and turning to fat cattle raising. If farmers turn to fat cattle raising, not much will be done about soil conservation because I understand - I hope I am not wrong in saying this - they can make a pound quicker by raising fat cattle than they can by milking, but that is not necessarily a good thing for the north coast.
On one of my visits there a few months ago I talked to some banana growers. They were in a state of poverty. Although what I am about to say is not strictly relevant to the problem of flood mitigation the conditions I found there are indicative of the need to do something. One of these banana growers told me that his return from the
Sydney market for 49 cases of bananas was about £13 10s., and out of this he had to pay for the cases. That was two weeks income. Again, if any honorable senator cares to visit the schools along the north coast he will see just how bad are the conditions under which the people are living there. You cannot resign yourself to staying in an area all your life when it is being flooded every few years and nobody is doing anything about it. When those conditions prevail, people want to leave, and they are leaving the north coast area. For instance, at one school 1 visited 1 saw a big sixteen-stone school teacher and his wife teaching only eleven children in a school at which the attendance was once SO. In one day I called at half a dozen schools, and the highest attendance at any one of them was approximately twenty. Whereas the enrolments once ranged between 70 and 80. These low enrolments are the best proof of all that things are not what they seem in the northern rivers areas.
Then there are the share-farmers. I am certain that no honorable senator would care to engage in share-farming under the conditions which obtain up there. Sharefarming in that area amounts almost to living in a state of peasantry, especially in those localities which are subject to flooding. We on this side feel that this state of affairs calls for a national effort, and that the Commonwealth Government should really get down to the job of doing something for the people who live in flooded areas. Despite all these conditions - if I may be political for a moment - the people on the north coast always seem to vote for the Country Party. That is the curious part about it all. Recently when I stood up to make a speech in one town on the north coast about fifteen miles north of Lismore, I thought from the number of heads that were poking out of the various doorways that 1 was going to have a good audience. But when my chairman got up and said, “ I now introduce to you Senator Ormonde, from Sydney,” everybody moved off the street. It seemed to me that they were afraid to be seen listening to a Labour speaker. However, later we sat down at dinner with one or two people whom I had seen moving off the street, and they would not allow us to pay for our meal. They were friendly with us in private but feared being with us in public. In the town of which I am speaking, I also counted the number of shops. I should say that there were at least 30 different premises, but only about ten of them were occupied.
I do not say that we on this side can offer all the solutions to these problems, but I do not think governments should blind their eyes to what is happening in a country just because some of the bigger farmers are doing all right and just because there is plenty of national revenue coming in. A lot of people are going without and they are not all to be found around the suburbs of Sydney. I tell honorable senators quite seriously that I have never seen as many shoeless children attending school as I saw on the north coast. That state of affairs can only mean that their parents are not earning enough to enable them to afford shoes, and I think we have to do something about it.
I do hot know whether information about this serious state of affairs ever gets through to the head-quarters of the Country Party. I suppose that so long as north coast people continue to vote for its members, the Country Party will not worry very much about that district.
Of course, as I have pointed out, the people along the Hunter River have done something for themselves, lt is possible that by their constructive organization they have done much towards influencing this Government to take an interest in flood mitigation work. I compliment the Government upon taking this step. I think it is a good move but the help ought to be extended to other river basins because I do not think any greater good can be done for the nation than by conserving the heritage we already have. If we do not do something soon we could have many Tennessee valleys in Australia. In particular something must be done about Newcastle because that city is continually threatened with blockage of its harbour due to siltation. There is an urgent need for flood mitigation work in the Hunter River valley.
I want now to say a few words about what Labour has done in New South Wales. I am prompted to say this by my friend from South Australia, Senator Buttfield, who always tries to be fair and give Labour credit for what it does. Many people seek to criticize the- New South
Wales Government for the conditions that obtain in the north coast area. I do not think any one can fairly criticize the New South Wales Government for its attitude towards. the residents of any rural areas. I remind the Senate that at the time when the McKell Government was elected in 1942 I happened to be the editor of a Labour newspaper in Sydney. So obsessed was the McKell Government with the importance of carrying out developmental works in rural areas that I had my work cut out proving that it was in fact a Labour government. Mr. McKell, as he was then, had a great interest in the country. That was our ex-Governor-General, Sir William McKell. He really and truly believed that the whole future of Australia depended on doing something for the man on the land. He purchased a farm in the Goulburn . district. That farm was a dust bowl when he bought it. He put into that farm every penny he earned in Macquarie-street and everywhere else and, by the conservation of water on that land and the damning of the valleys of the eroded areas, he turned that farm into one of the best farms in the district. Sir William McKell was the first nian to introduce to the farmers of New South Wales the co-operative system of sharing equipment. When equipment was hard to get, he introduced a co-operative system whereby a farmer would not become over-capitalized by buying equipment. Equipment was transferred from one farmer to another. That happens in ali parts of Australia now. That is Sir William McKell’s record. I think that much can be said, also, for the premiership of Mr. Cahill who concentrated on country areas. Of course, if a government has been in office for 25 years, one can hardly talk about the work that was done by that government’s predecessors, because 25 years is a long time.
I want to refer to the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Is there any development in Australia as wonderful as the Murrumbidgee irrigation area? I am not saying for one moment that Labour governments were completely responsible for the establishment of that area. The development of that area was based to a large extent on the activity and the enthusiasm of the local people. Senator McKellar would no doubt be able to give the Senate a dissertation on that matter. I do not claim credit for that development on behalf of Labour governments, but that is an area which has been nurtured over 25 years by the Labour governments of New South Wales. It is quite foolish to ask, “What has the New South Wales Government done about flood mitigation and water conservation? “
– I asked what it had done about the Hunter valley.
– Yes- not about the Hunter River flood mitigation scheme. There is, for instance, the Glenbawn dam on the Hunter River which cost the New South Wales Government £15,000,000 to build. I do not know of any part of New South Wales to which you could go in which you would not find monuments to the rural activity of the New South Wales State Government. In the Murrumbidgee irrigation area to-day there are approximately 29,000 people; about 25 years ago the population was only 2,000. Those figures give an indication of the tremendous development that has taken place. Other major projects which have been undertaken include the Burrinjuck dam, on the Murrumbidgee River, which has a capacity of 837,000 acre feet; the Wyangala dam on the Lachlan River; the Lake Brewster storage also on the Lachlan River, the Glenbawn dam on the Hunter River; the Keepit dam on the Namoi River; the Menindee Lakes storage on the Darling River; and the Burrendong dam on the Macquarie River. There is also the Murrumbidgee irrigation area and the Hay irrigation area. Senator McKellar spoke a few months ago about another area, the Coleambally irrigation area. The New South Wales Government is doing a tremendous job for the people on the land in New South Wales. The Government is building bridges to replace bridges which have been washed away by floods, and is restoring roads affected by floods.
– Any Labour government would do that, including a Commonwealth Labour government, if we had one.
– Honorable senators on the other side of the chamber are unfair in saying that the New South Wales
Government has done nothing in relation to soil erosion, water conservation, and flood mitigation. The New South Wales Government has very special problems in that regard. Honorable senators from South Australia would agree that it is most important that there is an efficient water system in New South Wales, as they have little water in their State. New South Wales governments have always been prepared to share their blessings with other States which are not so well provided for. 1 am very glad that the Commonwealth Government has decided to support the New South Wales Government in its flood mitigation programme. If programmes similar to this one were undertaken all over Australia the results would reflect themselves in more profitable industries for people in rural areas, a better standard of living for all of us and, of course, more revenues for governments.
– This bill provides for a grant of up to £2,750,000 to the State of New South Wales over a period of six years as financial assistance towards the carrying out of flood mitigation works on certain New South Wales rivers. The basis for Commonwealth assistance in this instance is to match the State Government’s subsidy at present being provided in the cases of the Macleay, Clarence, Richmond, Tweed, Shoalhaven and Hunter rivers. The State of New South Wales at present subsidizes the relevant local authorities on the basis of £3 for £1 in respect of the Hunter valley and £2 for £1 for all other authorities for the other rivers. Therefore, with the Commonwealth Government matching the State Government’s subsidy as proposed in this legislation, the net result will be that the level of assistance will be £6 for £1 in the case of the Hunter River, and £4 for £1 for the authorities controlling the other rivers mentioned in the legislation. The Commonwealth grant will be payable to the State of New South Wales in respect of expenditure incurred on flood mitigation works, excluding expenditure on the maintenance of works, during the period up to 30th June, 1969. lt should be noted that the Commonwealth grant is given with very few ties attaching. It will not be necessary, for instance, for the authorities to which the grants are given to obtain Commonwealth approval for individual works, and the determination as to what individual works shall be selected in the various areas remains the responsibility of the State and the local authorities concerned.
In his speech introducing this legislation in another place, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made the point that there was a strong case on national grounds for the Commonwealth Government to enter into this particular financial arrangement to provide money. It should be remembered also that this bill comes in pursuance of a promise made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), as late as October of last year, that assistance would be given. To get some quick appreciation of the need and justification for flood mitigation in the areas concerned, it should be appreciated that the five river basins covered by this particular legislation have an area of approximately 5,500,000 acres, with an average annual production of £9,000,000. Losses by flood in these areas over the years have been enormous. Of course, it goes without saying that floods in these areas have occurred regularly. I often wonder whether the average citizen living in the security of his urban residential area has a real appreciation of the devastation and damage that is caused by floods to the nation’s economy and to the individual people concerned. There is nothing new about floods - they are as old as the Bible itself. As we all know, down through the ages there have been devastating floods in mainland China. We have all heard about the floods of Egypt. In our own time we have all seen, through the medium of the cinema, photographic evidence of the damage caused by floods not only in Australia but in the Tennessee valley in America, which is one example that comes to mind.
Senator Ormonde referred to the utilization of flood lands. It is, of course, a paradox, which I mention in passing, that although flooding causes great devastation to life and property, nevertheless it provides great productivity through intense cultivation of land which has previously been inundated. I can give a simple example of this. One does not need to go further than the Hawkesbury River to know there are certain areas which are constantly subject to flooding and which, as a consequence, have tremendous productivity. It is a matter of interest that, as has been stated, in the 150 years of settlement along the Hawkesbury River - it should be remembered that the very early settlers of this continent found their way to that area - there have been no Jess than 50 damaging floods. It was a matter of some surprise to me that the Hawkesbury valley was not in some way tied in with this legislation.
On the same point of using inundated areas which subsequently have high productivity, it is estimated that about 500,000,000 people in the Far East depend upon flood plains, that is to say plains that are subject to flooding. Those people depend on the the flood plains for their existence. In the United States of America 10,000,000 people reside or work on 70,000,000 acres of land that is subject to flooding. Whilst man has -made tremendous progress in science - the splitting of the atom, penetrations into outer space, projections of a man on to the moon, if you like, and all the other excursions into the secrets of nature - inevitably in God’s own time we have floods and famine. Mere man has a responsibility to make efforts and take measures to mitigate the problems that stem from them. On the north coast of New South Wales, which is particularly pertinent to this legislation, in 1963 for instance, flood damage exceeded £2,000.000. The losses in the Hunter valley in the 1955 floods exceeded £8,000,000. It has been estimated that the 1949-50 floods on the Macleay River cost Australia £2,500,000 in loss of productivity. As a matter of personal interest, I well remember being the mayor of a municipality at the time of the Macleay River floods in 1949-50. The municipality launched a special appeal which raised moneys for the people in distress in the Macleay area. Indeed, I think Senator Ormonde lived in the municipality at that time. We took into our municipality quite a few people who had been displaced from their homes and gave them accommodation locally until they could be resettled.
To get some understanding of the reasons for the frequency of floods, particularly on the eastern seaboard of New South Wales, it is necessary to look at the map and to notice the proximity of the Great Dividing Range and the New England mountains to the sea, and to appreciate that whilst we talk in the broad in this legislation in terms of the rivers - the Macleay, Clarence, Richmond, Tweed, Shoalhaven and Hunter rivers - in fact there are associated with each of these rivers many smaller creeks, brooks, rivulets, &c, all part of a vast catchment and finding their way into the main watercourses which wind their way in a very short distance to the sea. I remember that as a schoolboy in New South Wales we learned in parrot fashion that the rivers on the coast of New South Wales were the Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay, Hastings, Manning, Hunter, Hawkesbury, Shoalhaven, Moruya and Bega. As we all know, that is an oversimplification of the situation.
Perhaps I could explain this better by taking one example to make the point about the concentration of the small creeks, brooks and rivulets. I refer to the Hunter River which, as we know, flows down the Hunter valley and meets the sea at Nobby’s at Newcastle. The Hunter River catchment begins back at the Great Dividing Range with creeks and brooklets such as Pages River, the Goulburn River, Kungdon Ponds, Dartsbrook, Wybong Creek, Krui Creek, Martindale Creek, Merriwa Creek, Widdin Brook, and dozens of others which I could name. Then there are the Patterson River, Williams River, Allyn River and Wollombi Brook - known locally as “ the Cock Fighter “ - all finding their way from this vast catchment to the concentration that we know as the Hunter River. The Hunter then flows its comparatively short distance to the sea at the great industrial city of Newcastle. Again, taking the Hunter valley as an example, we know that there were floods of considerable magnitude as far back as 1875 and 1893. I have a table showing the floods in the Hunter valley between 1908 and 1960. This table was prepared by the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust and it shows the maximum height of the water, the peak flow and the flood volume during the period of flood in acre feet. This is a very comprehensive document which, with the permission of honorable senators, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “.
I thank the Senate for its courtesy in allowing the incorporation of that document. People and organizations who glibly suggest that flood mitigation should be taken over in its entirety by the Commonwealth - Senator Ormonde got very close to such a submission - very conveniently forget that we in Australia function under a federal s’ystem, and that whilst the Commonwealth has limited powers given to it by way of the Constitution, the States are sovereign and have unlimited powers. I suggest that flood mitigation must remain a State responsibility and will remain a State responsibility so long as our form of government remains. lt is as simple as that.
Flood mitigation in itself has vast and complicated implications and aspects. There is no easy short path to flood mitigation. Because of the lack of basic knowledge of what is required and because of the losses that are being sustained, the Commonwealth Government is entitled, within the framework of our federal system and by using section 96 of the Constitution, to provide assistance to the States and to the State local authorities to which certain works are delegated. The control of rivers is obviously vested in the States in which the rivers are located, and through the States it is vested in a multiplicity of departments, all of which have a role and are responsible to the State governments. The Commonwealth, as in this instance, is helping to provide funds in co-operation with the States, but it should never be forgotten that it is doing this by grant under section 96 of the Constitution and that it is not assuming the responsibility for this work.
In the emotional atmosphere that surrounds a devastating flood, it is easy to refer to a national disaster and to talk about the national loss of production, but this does not shift the constitutional responsibility. Even if this were done, I very much doubt if it would be to the advantage of the nation. After all, if flood damage has been manifest in towns and villages, it is the municipal or shire authorities who have the burden of restoring roads and footways, rebuilding town levies, or restoring or diverting power lines, &c. It is their engineers and their specialists who have the answers, who have the know-how and the capability to do the work, and whom we call upon to do the work. It should be remembered that they are under State authority. If the problem concerns the siltation of navigable waters, a matter to which Senator Ormonde referred in discussing Newcastle harbour, it is one for the Maritime Services Board which has dredging facilities at its disposal. It has the requisite know-how and is aware of the steps that need to be taken to overcome the problem. Again, a State authority is concerned with the matter. If the problem concerns soil erosion, the State Department of Agriculture has experienced officers who have the necessary knowledge and know-how to deal with it. If it is a problem of dam diversion and the storage of water, the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission is the authority to which we naturally would turn. Therefore, an attempt to shift responsibility for flood mitigation, with all its State government and local government associations, into the federal sphere would be merely to erect one more barrier - to make one more river to cross. Ultimately, the matter would have to go back to the people who have the know-how, the knowledge, and the experience to deal with it.
I have noticed that criticism was expressed in another place concerning the handling of flood mitigation work, particularly in the Hunter River valley, on the basis that many different departments and organizations had been engaged in the work. I do not consider that that criticism is altogether valid, for the reasons I have already given. I wish to refer to some of the organizations that are handling this problem. I am of the opinion that there should be an authority with responsibility to co-ordinate the work of flood mitigation that is at present being undertaken by the various bodies in the field. Let no one imagine, Mr. President, that the problem of floods will be solved merely by providing large sums of money. The person who says, “ Right, let us provide £10,000,000, £20,000,000, or even £50,000,000 and we will all go in and build levee banks, and that will solve everything “, shows an abysmal ignorance of the problem and an elementary lack of knowledge of the principles of water conservation. The task of flood mitigation is a continuing one. It has many complexities. With the best will in the world, and with vast sums of money, a lot of time will be needed and much planning, research and gathering of data will have to occur before effective results are achieved. A young country like Australia, with a population of a mere 11,000,000, could not afford to rush in indiscriminately to tackle the task.
Against the background that I have given, J think it is proper to refer to the work being done by the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust and the Hunter Valley Research Foundation. I was pleased to note that Senator Ormonde also referred to those bodies. The Hunter Valley Conservation Trust is, of course, a governmental body. I think it could almost be described as an ad hoc local government authority. It was established by the Government of New South Wales. The Hunter Valley Research Foundation was established by the private sector in the community. The Hunter Valley Conservation Trust was established by act of Parliament in 1950, to make provision for flood mitigation and the conservation of natural resources in the Hunter valley. It was given power to make recommendations to the Minister concerning soil conservation, forestry measures, flood mitigation, river improvement, water conservation and irrigation. In 1952, the relevant act was amended to give the trust power, subject to the approval of the Minister, to make contributions to specified bodies and individuals for work in connexion with forestry measures, soil conservation, flood mitigation and river improvement. In 1956, the Hunter Valley Flood Mitigation Act was enacted by the New South Wales Parliament to make provision for contributions by the trust in respect of approved programmes of river and flood mitigation works undertaken along the main streams of the Hunter River. It can be seen, therefore, that the trust has a very comprehensive task to carry out. It is a State authority. Its genera! function is to promote flood mitigation and the conservation of natural resources in the Hunter valley.
The Hunter Valley Conservation Trust has pointed out, in a paper presenting a case for additional financial assistance, that on account of the size of the valley - it covers an area of about 8,000 square miles - and the complexity of the problems involved, work is being carried out in several parts of the valley by various State departments and their agencies. Detailed studies of erosion and flood problems, including model studies of the more intricate aspects of flood mitigation and control, are being made. The trust unifies or coordinates all these activities and levies a conservation rate over the entire valley, with the exception, of course, of the Newcastle city area, for the purpose of financing its share of the work. I understand that the levy is collected under an arrangement with the local council authorites and that, at present, it is at the rate of id. in the £1. In 1963, it returned approximately £68,000.
The trust points out that at least threequarters of the total area of the Hunter River catchment is being used for farming and grazing and that much of this land is subject to sheet and gully erosion in varying degrees. The valuable top soil is gradually being washed away and most of it finds its way into the river. Some of it reaches Newcastle harbour, as Senator Ormonde said, necessitating large annual expenditure in removing it by means of dredging. As we know, the port of Newcastle is probably the busiest port in Australia. The trust pays to land-owners who undertake soil conservation work, as recommended by the Soil Conservation Service, a contribution of 25 per cent, of the cost. The Hunter Valley Conservation Trust is a most important body and is doing particularly fine work. Because the Commonwealth Government proposes to subsidize it to the degree to which it is already subsidized by the New South Wales Government, its work will become doubly effective. 1 have said little regarding the research problems of flood mitigation because, frankly, this is a subject of which I do not profess to have great knowledge. However, I wish to refer to the work being done by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation. From what I have read and from conversations I have had, I am satisfied that it is making a real contribution to flood mitigation. The present Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) was one of the two chief architects of the foundation’s structure. It received financial support from the State of New South Wales which contributed £25,000 and £100,000 was raised locally. The President of the Senate, Sir Alister McMullin, played a leading part in the appeal that was launched to raise funds for the foundation. I have in front of me a copy of a journal published by the foundation in which there is a foreword by you, Mr. President. You have given evidence of your real interest in the work of this body.
The Hunter Valley Research Foundation employs a permanent staff under the control of Professor Cyril Renwick who was seconded from his university duties by the State Government. The foundation is used as a centre of postgraduate training in hydrology and related subjects. Because of the existence of the research foundation and the degree of concentration on the river problems, the foundation has had the utmost co-operation from both State and Commonwealth governments in the provision of instruments. To-day the Hunter Valley is probably the best instrumented river valley in Australia if wc omit the area under the Snowy Mountains
Authority. Over the years, a considerable volume of data has been obtained and the longer this gathering of data continues, the more confirmation there will be of the relation between rainfall - both in quantity and intensity - run-off and consequent stream flow. Again, because of the existence of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation and the volume of information made available by it, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been able to undertake much-needed research in land utilization. This is perhaps the first study in depth of a settled region in Australia. All in all, the Hunter Valley Research Foundation is a first-class example of community self-help by people living in a particular region. They have thus earned the respect and help of both Commonwealth and State governments.
In summing up, I would say that flood mitigation remains the responsibility of the State which in turn delegates responsibility to various local government and statutory authorities. These have the experience and the know-how to do the job. The Commonwealth Government, within the limits of its constitutional power should continue to make funds available and I have no doubt that it will do so. In this case, the Commonwealth Government is providing £2,750,000. I do not suggest that this is the last amount that the Government will provide on this level, because the problem will not be solved in a week or a year. Flood mitigation along the northern rivers of New South Wales will take a long time. A basic need is proper research because without research we are only playing with the problem. I am sure that this research will continue as the work progresses.
I believe that in the case of the northern rivers of New South Wales, there is nothing basically wrong with all the various authorities participating in a field of activity in which they are expert. The Hunter Valley Conservation Trust is ideally placed to act as a clearing house or a co-ordinating authority because of its set-up and its ability to draw together all the various authorities concerned. The trust is in an ideal position to see that first the State and then the Commonwealth spend their money effectively so that the great northern rivers area will be developed to better advantage and so that those who live there will reap the benefits of their labours. They will thus be encouraged to work for even greater production, and this in turn will contribute to the progress and development of Australia.
– The Senate has before it for the first time in its history a bill to make funds available to the New South Wales Government for flood mitigation in relation to certain rivers on the north coast of New South Wales and the Shoalhaven River on the south coast. Clause 5 of the bill provides that an amount not exceeding £2,750,000 will be made available by the Commonwealth Government to the New South Wales Government over a period of six years for flood mitigation. Having regard to the enormity of the damage that is caused by floods and the huge sum of money that is required for the amelioration of the problems caused by floods, the provision of £2,750,000, while welcomed by the people of New South Wales, is merely a drop in the bucket. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) said last year that some thousands of millions of pounds would be required to tackle this problem effectively. The task is so enormous that the assistance provided for in the bill is very small. It is like giving a school boy a pop gun to quell a group of rioting natives. Nevertheless, the assistance will be welcomed by the people of New South Wales and no doubt it will be of great help to those who are trying to mitigate the damage caused by the clements from time to time in the areas concerned.
The bill is unique not only because for the first time the Commonwealth Parliament is devoting its attention to legislation designed for the purposes of flood mitigation but also because Australia is regarded generally as a dry and barren land. We have spent and are spending millions of pounds on the construction of dams and waterways for the conservation and diversion of our existing water supplies, but through this bill we propose to devote up to £2,750,000 to the drainage of waters flowing into the coastal rivers of New South Wales. Between the Tweed River and the Hunter River to which Senator Anderson directed attention, enormous damage has been caused practically every year by floods.
This is perhaps the most fertile part of Australia, but thousands of tons of good soil has been washed into the ocean by flood waters. Great furrows have been ploughed into the ground by water. Human lives have been lost. Homes, business premises and the hopes and aspirations of men and women living along the north coast of New South Wales have been destroyed and dissipated. One has only to see at first hand the problems involved to appreciate the enormity of the task of flood mitigation.
Some eight or nine years ago I was in the town of Kempsey in northern New South Wales when the Macleay River rose in flood. I saw and heard personally the problems of the men and women living on the land. I saw farmers trying to shift cattle to higher ground. I saw mothers taking their children to schools and churches while the flood waters roared past. I saw the problems of the police and the civil defence authorities as they tried to marshall the resources of the town to combat the stark horror of the disaster. In a day the lush pasture land had been turned into a massive sheet of water. Three or four days later, after the water had gone, when the farmers were able to go back to their land, they saw nothing but mud and useless waste. This sort of problem is common, not only to the northern coast of New South Wales, but also to many inland parts of Australia. It is common to the New South Wales inland rivers, to the Castlereagh, the Macquarie, the Peel and the Namoi. People in those areas suffer somewhat the same disabilities from time to time.
While we in Australia have to combat the horrors of fire, flood and drought, we have not to deal with the terrible problems of earthquakes, with which the Alaskan people are dealing at the present time. We are not faced with the problem of volcanoes pouring lava over cities and towns, as was the case towards the end of last year in Italy.
Flooding is caused, first, as a result of excessive rainfall at the river sources. Great damage is occasioned by the rivers being unable to cope with the sudden rush of water brought about by the excessive downpour. The Grafton area of New South Wales has experienced about 20 floods on the Clarence River in the past eighteen years. The great Hunter River, which drains some 1 1 ,000 square miles of a most fertile valley before reaching the sea at Newcastle, has experienced flooding of a substantial nature at regular intervals. The Bellinger, Manning, Macleay and Hastings all overflow intermittently. As I have pointed out, the problem exists, not only in relation to the northern rivers of New South Wales and the Shoalhaven River, but also in relation to the inland rivers. I mention this merely to indicate that if the overall problem is to be tackled it must be tackled wilh much more financial assistance. We appreciate the enormity of the task. We are grateful that £2,750,000 is to be provided by the Commonwealth to alleviate the position. Nevertheless, we feel that much more has to be accomplished and many more millions of pounds will have to be expended before we may be completely effective in mitigating the problems of flooding.
The problems arc occasioned not only by the elements that cause the flooding but also by the sins of omission of those who settled these areas in the pioneering days. Some 140 years ago, when settlement on the Hawkesbury River was taking place, the then Governor of New South Wales, Governor Macquarie, directed that the towns of Camden, Richmond and Windsor be moved from their original sites on the banks of the river to higher ground so that they would not too often be subject to flooding. Flooding occurs mainly because of erosion which causes siltation at river mouths. This has resulted from overstocking the land in the early days, by building towns - which are now cities - along the banks of rivers, by denuding forest lands in the vicinity of settlements, and by the removal of vegetation cover from steep timbered lands. Adequate drainage must be established before we can effectively deal with the problems. More adequate, suitable and effective flood warning methods must be devised. Provision must be made for flood refuge sites not only for human beings but also for stock.
The Senate will be interested in some remarks in a report of the Macleay River Flood Mitigation Committee, which was established by the Conservation Authority of New South Wales after a very serious flood in that area in September, 1953. The report states that it should never be forgotten that in the twelve years from 1863 to 1875 there were eighteen floods on this great river, of which no fewer than nine were rather serious. Because of the further development that has taken place in the last century, because there has been more silting of streams, more clearing of timber, and probably a higher rate of removal of essential vegetation, floods of greater frequency and height than those experienced between 1863 and 1875 may be expected. So, while the problem at present is enormous, having regard to the development that has taken place in the vicinity of the rivers, it will no doubt become more acute as the years go by unless tackled on an effective and adequate basis.
Flood mitigation measures will depend largely on enthusiastic co-operation between the people immediately concerned, local government organizations, rural associations generally, and government departments. I agree with Senator Anderson’s view that there should be one overriding authority. Flood control and mitigation are not tasks of sectional undertakings. They demand a joint drive against the forces of nature and geographical characteristics involved. As pointed out by Senator Ormonde, the Opposition does not oppose the measure.
In conclusion, I commend the activities of the New South Wales Minister for Conservation, Mr. Enticknap, and the Conservation Authority of New South Wales, for their continued attention to the problems of areas subject to flooding. I also commend to the people of this nation and particularly to those who reside on the north coast of New South Wales the activities of the former member for Cowper, Mr. Frank McGuren, who, whilst in this Parliament for a period of two years, constantly devoted his energies towards securing a provision of the nature contained in this legislation. He directed his efforts constantly towards securing recognition by the Commonwealth of the fact that this was not a task only for the New South Wales Government and for local government organizations, and that if we were to deal with the problem adequately on a national basis the Commonwealth had to come to the party. The Opposition appreciates the fact that the Commonwealth has come to the party, but we say that it should have come with a far greater amount. We hope, however, that as a result of the events that can be brought about by the dropping into the bucket of this £2,750,000 the people of New South Wales, particularly those living along the banks of the coastal rivers, will not have to fear in the future some of the problems and the aftermaths occasioned by floods and the ravages of the elements.
– I have very much pleasure in rising to support the bill. I should like to congratulate the Government on bringing down this measure, and I should like also to express appreciation for the support given to the bill by the Opposition. Flood mitigation has been of great interest to me over a period of years. One has to be in these areas, even without witnessing the actual damage occurring at the time of a flood, to understand the damage that does occur as a result of floods, and the tremendous difficulties with which the people in these areas are faced.
One other reason why this matter is of great interest to me is that I was present at a meeting in Grafton on one occasion with Sir Earle Page. We met local council representatives and the question of flood mitigation came up. At that time the people were not getting anywhere with their appeals for assistance and the proposition was put to Sir Earle Page that the Commonwealth Government should give assistance. Sir Earle pointed out, correctly, that it was a matter for the State Government. Indeed, that point has been stressed time and time again. It was stressed by Mr. Chifley himself that flood mitigation belonged properly to the State concerned. Sir Earle Page and I were criticized very strongly because of our attitude at that time. We felt that the State Government should take a much more active financial interest in flood mitigation than it had done up to that time, and that if it could not find its way clear to provide financial assistance for the people it should then approach the Commonwealth.
Subsequently, in view of certain criticism by local publications, I pointed out that under section 96 of the Constitution the Commonwealth did have the power - which it is using now - to provide assistance in matters of this kind, but I emphasized that it was unthinkable that the Commonwealth should have to provide financial relief to the States every time the States fell down on their own responsibilities. I adhere to that statement. Where the States are absolutely unable to provide financial assistance, then, under section 96 of the Constitution - if the case put up by a State is good enough - the Commonwealth does, and should, come to their assistance.
The Commonwealth has been chided for the lateness of its assistance, but I state again that this was a job for the New South Wales Government. The approach to the Commonwealth Government was brought about by the combined efforts of the councils which put a submission to the State Government. The State Government then brought the case to the Commonwealth Government. We have an example of a similar approach in the case of the Blowering Dam. Again I want to refresh the memories of honorable senators, and emphasize that that work was a State obligation. The responsibility was undertaken completely by the State originally, but subsequently the State deferred the building of the dam and the Commonwealth Government had to come to ils assistance. However, the main thing is that assistance has now been granted. Wc all want now to forget about the past and be grateful that the future will be brighter and better for the people in that area.
Mention has been made of the tremendous damage that ensues when floods occur. Some of the people who have been unfortunate enough to suffer from both fire and flood have told me that they prefer fire damage to flood damage. They say that at least the fire does clean everything up, whereas with a flood they have the heartbreaking task of trying to clean up. Those of us who have suffered damage from only minor floods, and know how difficult it is to restore fencing and other things, realize the great hardships that people suffer when a flood goes through their homes, leaving slush and debris, with resulting dampness and mildew underneath the houses. I fully concur with Senator Anderson’s statement that people living in most cities and towns have no idea of what flood damage means to country people. In many cases the damage is accompanied by large losses of valuable stock. It must be a very harrowing experience for any stock owner to see his stock - if they are not drowned - dying of starvation because he cannot get feed to them on account of the flood.
The bill before us has been fully explained. Five councils - the Macleay River, Clarence River and Richmond River county councils and the Tweed and Shoalhaven shire councils - are to benefit. In the areas covered by these councils the Commonwealth Government has agreed to contribute £2 for every £2 that the State contributes. The State contribution in turn is dependent upon the local authorities contributing £1. Therefore, the areas will receive £4 for every £1 that they spend. This, of course, will be of tremendous assistance to them. In the Hunter River valley the people will receive £6 for every £1 that they spend, the State Government providing £3 and the Commonwealth Government £3. I emphasize that Country Party members and all members of Parliament in these areas have been active. It is not their fault, whatever their political colour is, or has been, that they have not met with success prior to this.
The emphasis is on flood mitigation and not on flood prevention, because after all flood prevention in these areas, at any rate, is something which would be very difficult to achieve, if not impossible. Mitigation is the correct approach to the problem. Inhabitants in most of the areas have told me that it is not the flood going through that causes so much trouble, in spite of the loss that it occasions, as the lack of drainage of the water after the flood has subsided. Much of the land inundated remains covered with water for weeks and months afterwards. That causes very much damage and loss. If, included in this flood mitigation work, there were provision for drainage systems to get the water away fairly quickly, that would be of very great benefit.
At Grafton I saw a plantation of young timber that had been planted for the purpose of supplying wood to the local match factory. It was a special type of fastgrowing timber. It was pointed out to me that if the water broke through at a certain point the whole of this plantation would be swept away. They said that one flood at a particular time would mean the end of the timber-growing project. So far as I know the timber is still there and is growing well. I am very pleased to know that.
The £2,750,000 provided for in the bill is to be spent over six years. I think it is important that a time limit has been placed on the expenditure of this money. We all have vivid memories of dams being started and not completed, with the result that the ultimate costs has been far greater than the original estimate. It is very pleasing that the money is to be spent over a period of six years. While the Commonwealth’s contribution will be £2,750,000 the total expenditure will be more than £12,900,000- just on £13,000,000.
I think, too, that it is fortunate in one respect that this offer has been made at this time, because councils to-day are not finding it difficult to obtain sufficient moneys for the various works that they want to undertake. I think it has been stated already that in these five counties along the Hunter River there are between 300,000 and 400,000 people living in an area of 5,500,000 acres. That is a tremendous area and when it is covered by flood water it resembles a great inland sea. We are also told that in normal times when there are no floods the products of the area are worth something like £9,000,000 a year. If the area can be made reasonably free from floods then its productivity will be increased greatly.
If I might digress for a moment, I think Senator Ormonde made some reference to share farming on the north coast. He did not specifically mention the Hunter valley but I took it that he was including that area when he referred to share farming as being a peasant type of existence. I took that to mean that he was saying that it was not a lucrative occupation. That may be so in certain cases, but it is not true of share farming generally. For instance, only this year one share farmer in my district produced 70,000 bags of wheat, the first payment on which will be over £90,000. Therefore, it cannot be said that all share farmers are verging on bankruptcy.
I think it was Senator Anderson who said that some areas benefit from floods because the receding waters leave behind them very valuable soil, but I remind the Senate that while floods do deposit valuable silt on some areas they denude other areas of their good soil. In some years, floods are responsible for carrying thousands upon thousands of tons of good fertile soil into . the sea. This is one of the things that flood mitigation can help to prevent. Soil conservation, for instance, can be related to flood mitigation in this way, and we have seen great strides made in the prevention of soil erosion during the past few years. The prevention of soil erosion anywhere will help considerably in flood mitigation work because by preventing soil erosion much can be done to hold the waters in their original channels. One honorable senator quoted some poetry this afternoon. It reminded me of the poem about the drover who was returning home. It went something like this -
Every creek and gully sends forth its little flood Until the river runs a banker, all stained with yellow mud.
That is how floods start. If the run-off can be prevented then something at least is done towards minimizing the effects of floods.
Mention has also been made of the civil defence organization in New South Wales. When speaking about floods I think we should pay a tribute to this organization because it is doing very good work indeed. From what I can gather the civil defence organization in New South Wales is probably better organized and more efficient than that of any other State, and I think this is due largely to the very good work of the director, Major-General Dougherty.
Again, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from the way in which the people in flooded areas have organized things to minimize flood damage. For instance, the shopkeepers have erected substantial shelves at high levels on which to place their goods during times of flood. In one town that I know of business was resumed some two or three hours after the flood receded despite the fact that the water had been 3 or 4 feet deep in the town. In this way, the people have shown that they are certainly worthy of any assistance that we can give them in the way of flood mitigation.
It is not just a question of helping the people directly affected. As was stated earlier, flood mitigation can lead to increased productivity and will encourage people to continue to live in or adjacent to these areas instead of so many leaving, as was mentioned by Senator Ormonde, after devastation had been caused by floods. It is small wonder that people are leaving because they do suffer great hardship in time of flood. It is all very well to say that in the early days the towns were established along the river banks but I am one of those who believe that if towns were being established to-day they would still be established on the banks of rivers, for despite the dangers and risks, it would seem that people will build close’ to waterways. Indeed, we still see them doing it. It would seem that they are prepared to take the risk. On every river in New South Wales that I know of, we see people moving down closer and closer to the water. That is unfortunate because when floods come, they are the first to suffer.
Again I express my pleasure at the bill that has now come before the Commonwealth Parliament and I sincerely hope that the money that is being granted by it will do much to prevent the suffering and economic loss that we have had to put up with over past years.
– The Labour Party applauds the Government for bringing down this measure because, after all, it indicates new thinking on the part of the Government. For many years now we on this side in particular have been pleading with the Government to do something to protect the people against the ravages of such natural hazards as bushfires, droughts and floods. We have submitted various schemes over the years but this is the first occasion upon which the Commonwealth Government has accepted some responsibility to help guard against devastation caused by these natural hazards.
I am reminded that only within the last couple of years the former honorable member for Cowper, Mr. McGuren, put before the Government a proposal that the Commonwealth should contribute £1 for £1 with the New South Wales Government towards overcoming this great problem. One might be pardoned for feeling that Mr. McGuren was instrumental in inducing the Government to decide for the first time to do something to assist those people who have suffered these great hardships over the years, especially those residing on the north coast of New South Wales. I- think all honorable senators greatly appreciate the Government’s action in bringing forward this bill.
Several honorable senators on the Government side have suggested that this is purely a State problem. They have pushed it aside as a State responsibility. In other words, they have argued that the Commonwealth has no need to worry about this problem, that it is one that should be left to somebody else to solve. That type of thinking might well have been accepted before the last war, but surely since then people’s thoughts have moved on to the new situation that confronts our country to-day. Surely everybody recognizes that the Commonwealth is the source from which all the money flows.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. President, before the suspension of the sitting, I was pointing out to the Senate that the members of the Australian Labour Party are delighted with the type of thinking expressed by the Government in this particular measure. We are delighted to see that, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, we are beginning to accept someresponsibility for the national disasters which occur in Australia from time to time. I find that I disagree with some of the members of the Government who have spoken earlier. They implied that this particular problem was one of State responsibility. 1 point out that it was a State responsibility many years ago but, because of the change that has taken place in the economics of government in Australia over the last twenty years, with this Parliament taking to itself the right of taxation and, therefore, the right to distribute money to the States, this responsibility must be accepted by the Government. There must be a new conception of our responsibility in the National Parliament in caring for the problems of Australia. For a great number of years - indeed, we still do it to-day - this Parliament has tended to shrug off its problems by the payment of a sum of money. In the more advanced countries of Europe, governments are not merely satisfied by giving to aged people, for instance, a sum of money and saying, “ That ends our responsibility to you. You can now go and care for yourself “. In the more enlightened countries, governments take a far greater responsibility in caring for their aged people. In Australia, we still say, “ We will provide you with a sum of money “. That is all we do, even though special circumstances may be involved. Whatever disabilities these people may have, we consider that our responsibility ends when we pay a sum of money. I say that- is lazy - I say it is not commensurate with the responsibilities of this Parliament. This Parliament ought to be accepting greater responsibility in the care of aged people and for these problems which are presented to us from time to time. The matter before the Senate is one of those particular problems.
The Commonwealth Government now says to the State of New South Wales, in effect, “ We are prepared to match what you provide for flood mitigation by giving you a sum of money “. Then the Government says that that is where its responsibility ends. In fact, many honorable senators have gone further to-night and have said, “ This is not our responsibility at all. This is a matter for the States”. I think that we are far behind in our thinking as people who have the responsibility of caring for this nation. I believe that this Parliament now has the resources to deal with these problems. It is idle to say that we have not the power or that our Constitution does not provide us with the right to assist the States with their problems because, as long as We find the money, we will be able to direct what will be done with it.
I think we are shelving our national problems. While I applaud the Government for the step forward it is taking, I suggest to it that it has not gone far enough. I suggest that it is too cautious and that it has not attempted to tackle the problem in the way in which the Australian nation demands.
Some fifteen years ago this Parliament decided that there was a tremendous problem concerning water conservation and the development of electricity resources. We found that we had the resources to overcome this problem by harnessing the waters of the Snowy Mountains. So. there was set up a scheme by this Parliament, which has been carried on by the present Government, to establish the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Authority. This Government has done an excellent job in carrying on that scheme. The Snowy Mountains Authority is now revered throughout Australia because it has brought to our nation a magnificent scheme. It has done a tremendous job in the development of our country. Australians to-day feel proud of the job that the Snowy Mountains Authority is doing and they feel proud that this Government has been big enough to see that the scheme has been carried on and developed to its greatest extent.
The job of the Snowy Mountains Authority is nearly completed. This will leave Australia with a number of technical people in an organization that is ready to take on further developmental tasks. I suggest to the Government that this authority with its planning people - the whole organization - is available to tackle the problem of flood mitigation not only in northern New South Wales but also in other parts of Australia to bring relief to those people who live near the rivers. It is available to bring help to those farmers who try to win their way of life from the soil around the rivers. It can harness for the future of Australia the tremendous resources which are available to this country and which require only a Commonwealth government with the courage and initiative to undertake this task. The Department of National Development is spending possibly f 30,000,000 or £40,000,000 a year on the Snowy Mountains scheme. I do not know what the exact figure is, but it would be a large amount. In the near future, the Snowy Mountains scheme is going to come to an end. This amount of money, whatever it may be. will still be available to the Government. I suggest that that sum of money should be set aside now by the Government for this purpose. The Department of National Development could be the department which would set aside manpower for this problem: and the technical officers of the department could look at the problem of the tremendous damage that is done alone our eastern coast so frequently by floods. Tremendous resources have been washed out to sea. I have seen the damage which has been done to the fertile soils of the Hunter valley by floods. T have seen it washed away in the violent tow of those tremendous floods we have from time to time. I am satisfied that we have in our government departments people who can plan what ought to be done to save Australia’s resources. I believe the Department of National Development has within its ranks people who can bring this help to Australia. It has been done in other parts of the world.
Some 30 years ago the United States Government had a great unemployment problem and was forced to look for schemes that would give employment to its idle manpower. It conceived the great Tennessee Valley scheme, which to-day is one of the great schemes of the world. That scheme harnessed the waters and provided irrigation for thousands of farms, and conserved tremendous wealth for the American people. That was all accomplished because of the need to find work for idle hands to do. In Australia we are in a different position. We believe that we have tremendous resources. At the moment we have great development, but what we need is a courageous government which is prepared to say that it will conserve Australia’s wealth by tackling the flood problem. A tremendous job can be done along the northern rivers of New South Wales.
I know that you, Mr. President, have been interested in flood mitigation schemes. You have taken a tremendous interest in activities to conserve for the people of the Hunter valley the resources that they have and to prevent the tremendous disasters that we have seen in that area in the past. Along the northern rivers are many hundreds and thousands of acres of the best land in Australia. That area reminds me of Patterson’s poem -
He sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plain extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
In looking over those grasslands and meadows along the northern coast of New South Wales one sees the tremendous amount that can be done with courage and resource. Dorothy McKellar referred to the great sunburnt plains. This area has enormous resources but we must harness the rivers and prevent the death dealing floods that we face from time to time. With safe, controlled rivers the people would be enabled to carry on their activities without risk of disaster and this would eventually bring to the area great cities and tremendous wealth for the people. That is not an impossibility.
Again I take the liberty of referring to the great work that has been done by the Hunter Valley Foundation. You will recall, Sir, as I do, the tremendous floods that flowed through the Hunter valley in 1955. They swept through Maitland and other towns and we saw boys from the surf clubs rowing their boats through the surging waters. I pay a tribute to those good young people of Australia who are prepared to go out and risk their lives whenever there is a disaster. We saw some of those boys swim out to help people caught in the floods. You and I asked ourselves what we could do to prevent a recurrence of such tragic losses. Fortunately, in the community around the Hunter valley we had some people who were determined not only to do something but also to persuade their fellow citizens to help. One young man, Leo Butler, who was working in a newspaper office in Newcastle, set out to see what he could organize to bring relief to the Hunter valley. Leo, with the help of one or two others, gradually enlisted the aid of the local people.
Our good President, displaying the good citizenship that he has shown over the years, headed, and still heads, the organization of community effort to see what could be done for the Hunter valley. Gradually the people of the valley were induced to undertake the work that was necessary to record the extent of the rainfall, the nature of the run-off, how the rivers silted up, and why they silted up. Officers of the Department of National Development sent down radio isotopes to trace the silt that was flowing into the Hunter River and ultimately silting up Newcastle harbour. They showed us where our good top soil was going. All that information has now been collated, ready for some authority with the power and the money to do the job of protecting the Hunter valley, conserving the waters and ending the hazards of periodic flooding.
I am certain that the people of Australia and particularly those of the northern rivers area are all prepared to help in this work. Once they have been asked to do a job, good people throughout the country will assist to overcome these problems. All the necessary information has been compiled; it now becomes necessary for the Commonwealth to play its part. I have with me a pamphlet issued by the Hunter Valley Foundation. It is one of many that have been issued by this organization. Copies are sent to the State and Federal governments and they contain all the knowledge that is necessary to enable the work to be proceeded with. So on the one hand we have the knowledge all collated and ready; on the other we have a magnificent body, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. The Commonwealth Government has the financial resources necessary for the task. I believe that although the thinking expressed in this bill is the type of thinking that we have been waiting for, until those three components are brought together, to tackle courageously the task of harnessing our rivers, mitigating floods, and bringing a new way of life to the people of the northern rivers, or anywhere else in Australia where these natural hazards exist, we will not get very far.
I applaud what I believe to be a new thought on the problem of floods. I think that this bill represents a start. But whilst I applaud it, I do urge the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) and the Cabinet of the Australian Government to look more closely at this problem which has cost us millions and millions of pounds in flood relief. Year after year we pay relief to the poor victims who are washed out by the terrific floods. We try to do something for them by giving sums of money. I say to the Government: “ Here is a task. If you measure up to it the people of Australia will applaud you for doing a magnificent job.”
– I am pleased to take part in this debate. This bill attempts to face up, if only in part, to a great problem confronting this country and therefore concerns every Australian. I listened with great attention to the information given by my colleague (Senator Arnold). I know of the great interest that he has shown in the Hunter valley and the great floods in the Maitland area. I agree with the honorable senator’s remarks concerning the work that you, Mr. President, have done in this field. I know that you and many other people have played an invaluable role in attempting to alleviate the tragic results of floods.
I am pleased to note the steps which it is proposed to take under th; bill before the
Senate. The financial assistance which the Commonwealth intends to provide is not as great as many of us would like to see, and I have no doubt that you, Sir, are included in that category, but nevertheless it is a step in the right direction. The bill provides that the Commonwealth will make a grant to the Government of New South Wales for the purpose, of assisting local government bodies to carry out flood mitigation work on the Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay, Shoalhaven and Hunter Rivers. The sum of £2,750,000 is to be made available over six years, commencing with this financial year, to match the . State subsidy of £3 for £1 for Hunter River works and £2 for £1 for works on the other rivers I have mentioned. It is estimated that the total provision to be made in 1963-64 will be £200,000.
Government supporters have stated that flood mitigation is primarily a matter for the States. I point out that the Government of New South Wales has implemented programmes which will cost many millions of- pounds. I am pleased that at long last financial assistance is forthcoming from the Commonwealth. I sincerely hope that the amount of the assistance will be sufficient for the purpose. I regret that the proposals do not’ include the Hawkesbury River, and I shall have something more to say in this’ respect later in my remarks. Floods on the northern rivers of New South Wales have followed definite patterns since 1802 which, I believe, was the first year in which records were kept. In the last eighteen years there have been twenty major floods in the Clarence River valley alone. It has been estimated that in 1952 floods cost that area £10,000,000. In 1954, 22 people lost their lives in floods and 10,000 people were rendered homeless, as Senator Arnold has stated. In 1955, floods again led to loss of life. In 1956, the Clarence River was flooded on five separate occasions. In 1959, the river was flooded on two occasions. There were floods in April and May of 1962. They occurred again in January and May of 1963, and yet again in March of this year. I hope, as I think every member of the Parliament hopes, that a greater sum than £200,000 will not be required this year, but history has shown that there is no certainty that further flooding will not occur.
Many of my colleagues, in this chamber and in the other place, have paid tribute to the work done by Mr. Frank McGuren, the former member for Cowper. From the time that he entered the Parliament in 1961 he commenced organizing his Australian Labour Party colleagues, and on two separate occasions he was instrumental in having the matter of flood mitigation discussed in the Parliament. On 4th October, 1962, he raised the matter during the debate on the Estimates. On 16th May, 1963, he proposed that it be discussed as a definite matter of urgent public importance. He did so in order to direct attention to this important subject. On that occasion, the proposal he put forward referred to -
The need for work, subsidized by the Commonwealth Government on a £1 for £1 basis with the States, which will mitigate and control the frequent and disastrous floods in Australia, preserve valuable production, and prevent the heavy economic losses which follow these floods.
I shall not discuss the hostile contributions made by Government supporters to the debate on that occasion.
I have mentioned the name of Frank McGuren. There is another name that should be mentioned when we are discussing the work of flood mitigation on .the northern rivers of New South Wales. It is that of the late Sir Earle Page. Over a period of many years he asked the Government on numerous occasions to take cognizance of the disastrous conditions that resulted from floods. It has been suggested that flood mitigation is a State matter, but I think that Senator Arnold has disposed conclusively of that argument. He stated that because the Commonwealth controls the national finances it must take heed of the nation’s troubles and difficulties.
As I stated earlier in my remarks, I regret that the provisions of the bill do not extend to the Hawkesbury River valley. I remember that when my very close personal friend, Mr. John Armitage, was the member for Mitchell in this Parliament he stated that the floods which had occurred in May, 1963, had cost the vegetable farmers and dairy farmers of the Hawkesbury district approximately £500,000. It is a pity that the bill does not cover the Windsor and Richmond areas. On 1st July, 1963, a number of members of Parliament, including myself, visited the northern rivers of New
South Wales in the company of Mr. Frank McGuren. When we returned, the leader of our party made a statement, following discussion that we had with him. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “, on 12th October, 1963, stated, under the heading “ Calwell Pledges Federal Grants for Flood Aid
A Federal Labour Government would match the expenditure of the N.S.W. Government on flood mitigation on the coastal rivers of the State, the Leader pf the Federal Opposition, Mr. A. A. Calwell, said in Sydney yesterday.
He promised this after a Federal Labour parliamentary committee had studied a report prepared recently by five county councils in northern N.S.W.
Senator Arnold has referred to the comprehensive booklet which has been prepared by the councils in flood affected areas. A most comprehensive booklet has also been compiled by the Macleay River County Council, the Clarence River County Council, the Richmond River County Council, the Tweed Shire Council, and the Shoalhaven Shire Council. It is a credit both to the councils and the people of the areas. The booklet refers to drainage works, the construction of levy banks, river bank protection, the re-alignment of rivers and dredging. I think that all Australians should be greatly indebted to the people of these areas for the work they are doing. The booklet presents the case for flood mitigation on the .coastal rivers of New South Wales. It is stated that the councils represent an area of 5,621,852 acres with an average annual production of £9,169,000. They claim that the adoption of their proposals, involving an expenditure of £5.397,000, would increase average annual production to £18.242,250. The publication deals with all the problems with which the councils are faced in respect of flood mitigation. It contains the following statement: -
Our coastal rivers have flooded from time immemorial and it is admittedly true that the rich and fertile coastal belt is the product of untold floodings over the centuries, With the coming of man however and the cultivation of crops and pastures accompanied by the establishment of settlement and industry the land no longer benefits from constant inundation.
Attached to this submission are appendices setting out in detail the losses in each specific area and it is sufficient to say here that direct losses on the north coast in the May, 1963, floods exceeded £2,000,000. To these measurable direct losses must be added the many indirect losses such as dislocation of commerce and transport, the destruction or damage of farm land by col. ipse of valuable bank. land,, stripping of soil from the grazing land in non-tidal sections, scouring and sanding of alluvial flats and a general lowering of production capacity. Even worse, for it is irreparable, thousands of acres of rich and fertile land is washed to sea each year.
This is a magnificent booklet and a copy should be in the hands of every member of this Parliament. It has had a marked influence on Government thinking about flood mitigation and great credit must be given to the men in the areas concerned who have produced this magnificent work.
Much has been said about what the New South Wales Government should have done. Here is. what the Labour Government did. On 22nd May, 1963, a State grant of £50,000 for flood relief work was made available. The State Minister for Local Government, Mr. Hills, announced that the New South Wales Government had provided altogether £279,000 for flood relief. The expenditure by the Department of Main Roads had totalled £159,000. Local shire and town councils expect to claim another £70,000 for repairs to roads and bridges. On 19th September, 1963, the State Minister for Public Works, Mr. Ryan, said that a total of £750,000 would be spent on flood mitigation in 1963. He further stated that since 1955-56, flood mitigation schemes of the Department of Public Works were est:-: mated to have cost £9,200,000 and this money was spent along New South Wales coastal rivers. Supporters of the Government should recognize that the New South Wales Government has played an important and noble role in combating floods.
I am pleased that the Commonwealth Government is going to play a small part in this regard because this is a national problem which concerns every Australian. These floods have a devastating effect on our people. We should face up to such national calamities with courage and determination as though an enemy were attacking, our shores. Funds can always be obtained by governments without difficulty in time of war. We must face up to this problem in the same way. I am happy to support the bill and hope that this provision will be the forerunner of further assistance.
Senator MURPHY (New South. Wales) exceeding £2,750,000 by the Commonwealth Government to the New South Wales Government to assist in flood mitigation work on the coastal rivers of northern New South Wales - the Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay and Hunter Rivers - and the Shoalhaven in the south. Already, the State Government has provided grants to the county councils in those areas for flood mitigation. There has been a grant of £3 for £1 spent by the Hunter River Conservation Trust and a grant of £2 by the State Government to each of the other county councils for every £1 they spend on this work.
The Opposition supports this bill because we, like the Government, consider that this is a national problem. It is a paradox that in Australia which is the driest of all continents, the coastal rivers of New South Wales year after year carry flood waters to the sea. Water is lost, soil is carried away, devastation is caused, lives are lost and property is damaged. This devastation has been obvious for many years. Between 1908 and 1962, there have been 33 major damaging floods in the Hunter River alone. We know of the tremendous personal loss which is caused to those who live in this area which is one of the most prolific areas in Australia. We know that the Commonwealth as well at the State Government has assisted those in the areas concerned from time to time. Estimates have been made which, though imprecise, show that the loss of property alone has amounted to millions of pounds in some of the major floods.
What is to be done about them? The New South Wales Government, under the present able leadership in this field of the Minister for Conservation has endeavoured over a number of years to advance this work. There are a number of problems and the first and worst of these for New South Wales is that it, along with other States, is in a financial strait-jacket. Because of the financial agreement of 1927 and the arrangements which have been made for uniform taxation and because of the way in which the Commonwealth doles out money to the States, the States are unable to do all the work which falls within their normal functions. In particular. New South Wales has not been able to do all the work it would like to do in flood mitigation.
The Commonwealth Government has come tq recognize, as the citizens of New South Wales have recognized for a long time, that this is a national problem. The loss of lives and property and the damage, to a producing area such as the northern rivers district of New South Wales add up to a national disaster and the problem must be treated on a national basis. We should be ashamed that although a national problem has been evident for many decades, it is only now that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to treat it as a national problem. Only now is the Commonwealth prepared to go to the assistance of the New South Wales Government and the people who live in the areas concerned.
The proposal contained in the bill is merely to assist in flood mitigation. There cannot be control unless a lot of money is spent - far more than is being spent now and far more than is being contemplated. Yet estimates made by the county councils concerned and presented to the Commonwealth Government, and apparently accepted by the Commonwealth, are that by the expenditure of relatively small sums of money, a great return could be obtained. For example, the expenditure of some £2,500,000 would produce something more than double that return annually. It is said - and it has been said often by Government supporters - that we live in an affluent society. We are told that everybody has a car, everybody has a job and we are living in a wonderful world. We have never had it so good. Is it not extraordinary that in this affluent society year after year we ignore a great national problem involving losses which could be averted. Yet, until now, the Commonwealth Government has failed to play its part. It has not acted nationally, even though the problem was before its eyes in a dramatic way every time there was a major flood on these rivers.
We ought to be ashamed of ourselves as a parliament and the Government certainly ought to be ashamed of itself, because it has been in power for a long time and has taken no action. This Government has not, been involved as was the Labour Government which preceded it, by war and great problems of post-war reconstruction. This Liberal-Country Party Government has been in office since 1949 and has had ample opportunity to see that these great national problems were attended to. It has failed to do so until now. Why is the Government taking this action now? It is principally because of the dedication of one man, Frank McGuren, who came into this Parliament determined1 to stir the national conscience in regard to flooding on the northern rivers of New South Wales. He succeeded, by his persistence in raising this matter again and again in the other House, despite the scorn and the suggestions from the Government that action such as this could not be taken, that it was unconstitutional, and that’ the matter was no concern of the Commonwealth but was a concern of the State and ought to be left to the State. That kind of approach is not one which will be accepted by the Australian people. When we have a national problem, it ought to be tackled on a national basis.
I am pleased that this step is being taken by the Government. True, the step has been taken only on a temporary basis. It is intended to provide moneys over a period of six years. The Commonwealth has not suggested that it will participate in any other way than by providing finance, but this much is a great step forward. Despite all the subtleties about the constitutional impossibility of doing anything for the northern rivers, despite all of those things that were said over the past two years, all the cobwebs have been swept away, all the difficulties which were made to appear have been shown not to exist in fact, and the Commonwealth is at last commencing to discharge some of its responsibility to the people not only of the northern rivers of New South Wales but of the whole of Australia in respect of this great national problem.
– Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber during much of the debate on this important subject of flood mitigation, but on an occasion when the Senate was not sitting I had an opportunity of listening to the debate on the bill in the House of Representatives and I was greatly interested in it. In particular, I refer to the speech made by the new member for Evans (Dr. Mackay). He spoke at great length on this subject and as a listener to the broadcast I was very greatly impressed. What I have heard to-night has been of considerable interest to me and has really been responsible for bringing me into the debate.
I am not a New South Welshman. I am a South Australian, and conditions in New South Wales differ very materially from those in South Australia. But I agree with other speakers that this is a great national problem, and for that reason I thought that as a South Australian I would not be projecting myself unnecessarily into the debate by saying a few words. I agree with a great deal of what has been said by honorable senators opposite. We know the magnitude of the problem which has existed for many years, particularly in New South Wales and perhaps in Queensland also. Our attention has been centered more on the northern rivers of New South Wales be: cause of the devastating floods that have taken place in those rivers from time to time.
My experience of them has actually been only what I have seen on film. It was most distressing to me to see the terrible havoc wrought by some floods, particularly in the Hunter River valley. I had an opportunity of visiting that valley not very many years ago and I saw the level reached by one of the famous floods. I do not know what year it was. Probably you, Mr. President, would remember. In the upper reaches of the river we saw an indication of the magnitude of the flood that caused a great deal of damage downstream towards the coast. The flood level was marked on trees. It seemed virtually impossible for any flood to have reached such a level. That flood threatened even one of the great wineries in the area and, I believe, almost reached the top of the vats that were then fermenting wine. That a flood could reach such a height was beyond my comprehension. One could imagine the havoc that such a body of water going down to the lower reaches of the Hunter River wrought on its path to the sea.
From time to time we hear complaints about the Commonwealth Government’s lack of responsibility in regard to flood mitigation. We hear references by the Opposition to amounts being doled out - that was the term used - by the Government to the States to minimize the damage caused by floods. I shall not deny that vast sums of money are required to carry out the works that are -necessary. ‘ I do not know the actual nature of the works involved. No doubt large engineering works will be necessary to dam some of the water that falls in tropical downpours from time to time. Such works would have a beneficial effect in minimizing flood damage. The Somerset dam that was constructed to control flood waters which used to cause great damage along the Brisbane River has had a marked effect. I remember my father’s telling me many years ago how a naval gunboat in the Brisbane River had been deposited by flood waters in the Botanic Gardens, which are adjacent to the river. Perhaps one of our Queensland senators can verify that.
– That is quite right.
– When I was last in Queensland there was a flood of some magnitude but nothing like that happened because of the holding effect of the Somerset dam. I visualize that the works carried out in these New South Wales rivers will be of a similar nature. They will have a two-fold purpose. They will conserve water, which is one of our most valuable assets, and they will control the damage that from time to time afflicts the low-lying areas adjacent to these coastal rivers of New South Wales. I do not have any hesitation in saying that these rivers are an enormous asset. When I hear the rather doleful statements of some New South Wales members about the shocking effects of these rivers, all I say is that we would like to have a few of them in South Australia. I do not doubt for a minute that steps would have been taken there to control them.
Of course, we are very conscious of the water problem, and what a tremendous thing water is in a dry State like South Australia I concede fully that these New South Wales rivers must be given some attention. Floods have been occurring there during the whole of my lifetime. I can remember through the years the damaging floods that have taken place in northern New South Wales, and particularly in the areas concerned in the measure. I maintain, however, that apart from the damage inflicted, the rivers are a magnificent asset. One has only to travel through the area to realize what a well- watered country it is. If the waters that I flow down these rivers were given their true , value, and a proper conservation scheme put into operation, untold wealth would result. 1
I do not think that the Commonwealth Government can be blamed altogether for insisting, as it has in the past, that flood mitigation is a State responsibility, but I think that, as Senator Arnold pointed out, things have altered to some degree. This is not the Australia of 30 or 40 years ago. The power of the purse, to a great extent, lies with the Commonwealth Government, and 1 the Commonwealth Government is prepared to accept its responsibilities. I think that this bill is only a start. We have heard of the wonderful work that has been done along the Murray watershed extending from the Snowy Mountains region, and even from the south-eastern portion of Queensland, right down to South Australia, to the sea at Lake Alexandria. A great deal of flood mitigation work can be done in that area.
Do not run away with the idea that South Australia does not get floods. We have only one river of any magnitude flowing into South Australia. I do not want to pay too much attention to this aspect, because I realize that this measure concerns the rivers enumerated in the bill, but we have to recognize that floods are not confined to coastal rivers. The character of coastal rivers is completely different from that of the large rivers that flow down from the eastern highlands to South Australia. The floods that South Australia experiences, because of the nature of the country through which the rivers flow, are completely different from the floods in coastal areas, and are known as creeping floods. There is a heavy rainfall along the eastern highlands, and sometimes a set of conditions operates to bring heavy winter rains which deluge the whole of the eastern highlands from Queensland to Victoria. We experience floods of great magnitude which come down the rivers which flow westward. I recall very vividly the last big flood which took place. It affected the country right through Victoria into South Australia. It would be virtually impossible to control a flood of that magnitude. I cannot remember the amount of water that it was estimated flowed down the Murray under that set of conditions, but it was an astronomical figure. To control a flood like that would be almost impossible, but something can be done, and will be done, when the great Chowilla dam is constructed in the next few years. That dam will have an effect on floods which take place in the Murray, which is slowflowing and completely different from the coastal rivers of New South Wales. I know that drastic action is needed to minimize the damage that occurs in New South Wales from time to time and at the same time result in the conservation of water which will increase the productivity of the areas concerned.
I did not get up to make a long speech. I got up to commend the Government for at last making a start and doing something along the lines that tire bill sets out - to control the damage caused by floods. The bill deals with flood mitigation but it has a twofold effect. Even when its provisions are carried to fruition this will be only a start. The principle is right, and I give it my whole hearted concurrence.
– It is only on comparatively rare occasions that we have the experience in this place, as a government, of presenting a bill which attracts support from both sides of the chamber, and from, as I understand it, every honorable senator who has spoken. The whole debate has been punctuated by words of commendation for the measure and, in the main, for the Government. We heard such phrases as “ new thinking “ and “ a realistic outlook on a great need “, “ the first time in the history of the Commonwealth “, and so on.
– It is a constructive approach.
– The honorable senator always makes his best speech by way of interjection, but I should like to make this speech by myself. It was not until Senator Murphy got to his feet that any attempt was made to criticize the Government in any way. Senator Murphy in quite characteristic fashion, described this problem as one which had existed for decades and one of which we should be ashamed. He carefully absolved all governments previous to this one from any blame, but said that this Government was at fault because h had taken so long to get on with a very vital task. Senator Murphy spoke with such characteristic vigour that I set myself to recall whether I had ever heard the honorable senator address himself to this subject before.
– I have.
– If you have, you must have had laryngitis at the time, because I never heard you. The plain fact of the matter is that it was not until the Government brought down this bill that so many people, including Senator Murphy, showed such an interest in this very vital subject. I have said that this bill has been commended not only in this Parliament but also in the areas where this very welcome relief is to be given. If I may say so, this is another first that can be added to the impressive list of firsts which have been achieved by this Government.
If Senator- Dittmer proposes to continue interjecting, let me discomfort him by telling him that this Government was the first in the history of the Commonwealth to do anything about such an important project as the standardization of rail gauges. This Government was the first to do anything about great water conservation schemes such as the Chowilla and Ord River projects. It was this Government which first encouraged the development of the north. This Government was the first to do something real about encouraging oil exploration and production in this country. It was the first to do anything about great land settlement schemes such as the development of the brigalow country about which we had heard so much for so many years. This was the first government to do anything about developing such important projects as beef cattle roads, coal ports and export ports. As I listened this afternoon and to-night to the contributions coming from both sides of this chamber, I reminded myself with a good deal of satisfaction that this proposal is just another first to be added to the already impressive list of firsts; just another stimulus to this Government to keep on producing the firsts that mean so much to this Commonwealth of ours.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 7th April (vide page 476), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
,- The bill before the Senate proposes to grant financial assistance to the State of Tasmania for the purpose of constructing a road to the Gordon River. I might say at the outset that this legislation introduces a new chapter in the fascinating story of hydro-electric development in Tasmania, because the area to which the proposed road will give access is one about which very little was known previously. Surveys had been made by intrepid pioneers in their search for minerals, and some aeronautical photography and helicopter survey work had been carried out but the area which the road will open up is approximately one-third of the area of Tasmania. It lies in the south-west of the island and it can be said quite truly that the proposition that we are debating to-night does open a new chapter in the history of the development of Tasmania.
Earlier to-night we listened to a debate on flood mitigation. It is rather a coincidence that we should now be dealing with a measure related to water use. There is no doubt that in the circumstances that were described during the previous debate water, like fire, can be a bad master. On the other hand, water can be of great service, and the controlling of water can make a great contribution to man’s well-being. It is ironical that a continent of abundance such as the one in which we live, should be under-endowed with one of the most precious commodities essential to man’s wellbeing. I refer of course to water. A vast area of this continent has a poor rainfall. Consequently, much of our land is arid and relatively unproductive. But this road which is estimated to cost £2,500,000, which will be 50 miles long, and which according to the details that have been supplied will be 22 feet wide, will take us into a rather fascinating part of Tasmania where the rainfall ranges as high as 100 inches a year.
Perhaps the variation in Tasmania’s rainfall s not well known. It ranges from over 100 inches a year in the Lake Margaret, Queenstown and Zeehan areas in the south-western corner to between 20 and 26 inches in the midlands where very fine wool is grown. On the east coast we have a tourist’s paradise with long hours of sunshine and adequate rain. The fertile western part of Tasmania, with its volcanic soil, is capable of becoming the vegetable garden of Australia. So this State, which is often thought of as just a tiny island, is in fact a spectacular island because of the infinite variety of its features, lt has towering mountain ranges of scenic grandeur unequalled in any other part of the southern hemisphere. Indeed, I have often heard it likened to parts of Switzerland. In Tasmania we have fast flowing streams which have been responsible for the development of the industrial wealth of the island.
Here let me say that during my contribution to the debate I shall not develop the laryngitis to which the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) referred because I am stating facts whereas his speech went very close to the bone of blatant politics. As a matter of fact, when the Minister was giving us an outline of all the firsts that he claimed for his Government I thought I was listening to Cassilis Clay saying that he was the greatest. I have mentioned those few matters in introduction to my remarks so that this grant to the State of Tasmania of £2,500,000 can be placed in its proper perspective in comparison to the £2,750,000 which has just been provided for the negative side of the control of our water resources. There are increasing demands for power in Tasmania. It has been found that every seven to ten years the demand for electric power doubles. This has its consequence in that it provides greater employment opportunities and allows a rapid development of Tasmania’s natural resources. By the use of this cheap electrical power, we are able to encourage and to sustain industries. At the present time in Tasmania there are such industries as the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australia Limited, the annual output of which is between 130,000 tons and 140,000 tons of electrolytic zinc, besides producing ammonium phosphate, superphosphate and sulphuric acid. Every one knows the value of those products to Australia’s primary industries. In 1960-61 the company’s exports of zinc to overseas markets amounted to 7J ,452 tons, the value of which was £6,500,000.
Honorable senators are of course well aware of the great aluminium industry that was established in Tasmania through a joint Commonwealth-State endeavour. That industry has an output of 50,000 tons of aluminium per year, which exceeds the whole of the present Australian demand for that product. The Australian Newsprint Mills Limited have an annual output of 80,000 tons. These newsprint mills supply one-third of the total present demands for newsprint in Australia. The managements of the newsprint mills will be interested in this proposed new road, because it will run in the same direction as the old road which runs through the concessions of the Australian Newsprint Mills from Kallista to the Florentine Valley. The Florentine Valley is typical of the country in the south-west which is to be opened by this new road project. It is quite possible that the eucalyptus regnans in that area, which is the same type as is being used for newsprint, will be usable for that purpose also. Close co-operation is called for, therefore, between the newsprint interests and the State Government to see that both interests are complemented. The road itself will bring great benefits, not only from the point of view of hydro-electric development, but also in the development of subsidiary industries.
This country is practically unexplored. There is no estimate of the potential of this area from the point of view of minerals. My colleague, Senator Aylett, who was in the osmiridium fields in the early pioneering days will probably be able to tell the Senate of his intimate knowledge of this country. The opening of this country will make available opportunities for geological surveys which have been almost impossible in the past. It is also interesting to note that this area is a rather dense rain forest. The sun is unable to penetrate through the interlocking branches of the horizontal forest growth. As a consequence of the loss of the sun’s influence to create chlorophyll, the undergrowth will be an absolute wonder to the photographer and will be of great interest to people interested in silviculture and forestry. It is important that during the early stages of the opening up of this country close consideration be given to the co-ordination of the varying interests which will be created as a result of the expenditure of this £2,500,000. Only last week, as a member of the Scenery Preservation Board, I raised this matter at a board meeting. It was considered that a body should be set up comprising representatives of the Forestry Department, the Hydro-Electric Commission, the Department of Mines, the Department of Lands and Works and other interested organizations. This body would closely watch the vista which will be unfolded in the exploration which will inevitably take place.
The development of the Gordon River will, in the first instance, give a potential of 20,000 kilowatts in the Upper Gordon River. It is estimated that, with the head of power available there, electricity can be produced at .55d. per kilowatt hour. It is anticipated that, in the second stage, the middle Gordon scheme will develop 175,000 kilowatts at a cost estimated to be 44d. per kilowatt hour. In the lower Gordon project, there is a potential of 180,000 kilowatts at an estimated cost of 44d. per kilowatt hour. When that is compared wilh the cost of electricity in other States, the tremendous advantage in the encouragement of industries that will be given to Tasmania will be seen. Already, as I have mentioned, some of the industries established in Tasmania include the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australia Limited, aluminium and electro-metallurgical companies, the Australian Commonwealth Carbide Company Limited and the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited. These companies, in addition to the other users of electricity, will be able to offer greater employment opportunities and bring added wealth and prosperity to our island State.
The Hydro-Electric Commission has been engaged in the development of our resources. It has completed most of the Derwent scheme. It is about to complete the great Lake Poatina scheme. The commission is also carrying out the developmental work for the Mersey-Forth power scheme. The project to build this road giving access to the Gordon River scheme is a very timely venture which will give engineers, geologists, the investigators of topography and those who study the river flows and the catchments the opportunity of commencing the preliminary work that is necessary before major engineering projects can be commenced.
– This is a non-repayable grant, is it not?
– The honorable senator mentions a non-repayable grant. It may be of interest to him to be reminded that since 1951 the Tasmanian Government has not been the recipient of nonrepayable grants proportionate to those that have been received by the other States. I understand that the statistics show that whereas £360,000,000 has been granted to the other States, only £2,500,000 has been granted to Tasmania. So it ill-becomes the honorable senator, who is from Tasmania, to begrudge this relatively poor amount when it is so long since there has been any grant at all. There is always a certain amount of politics in these matters. I remember quite well that an altitude similar to this was taken by the Opposition of the day, whose members now constitute the Government, when the Snowy Mountains scheme was introduced. They criticized the concept, but they have lived to eat their own words.
The Tasmanian concept of hydroelectric power, which was expounded by the late Albert Ogilvie, has become a great monument to him. His successor, Sir Robert Cosgrove, assisted to develop hydro-electric power as the life-blood of Tasmanian industries. The present Premier of Tasmania, the Honorable Eric Reece, is continuing the great traditions of his predecessors. When this grant is made available by the Commonwealth there will be another feather in the cap of the HydroElectric Commission, which will be able to show that it has the engineers, the knowhow, the technique and the will to take up the great challenge that Tasmania offers to it.
I should like to pay a tribute to Mr. Knight, the chairman of the Hydro-Electric Commission. A native-born Tasmanian, he has done great credit to himself and to his family. He has made a magnificent contribution to the development of the State. He is very excited about what this grant will make possible in opening up this new area. It is a matter of great pleasure to honorable senators on this side of the chamber and to the people of Tasmania that the Government has been able to make this grant and so to assist the steady development of Tasmania to continue.
Tasmania suffers a great disadvantage because it is an island, but we have found over the years that despite our limited natural resources we have been able to attract industries to the State because of of our wonderful hydro-electric system. Because of the concessions we have been able to grant to these industries, our population has steadily increased. Our facilities for pleasant living are being expanded and Tasmania is becoming a place in which people are interested. They want to see Tasmania, and many of them want to live there. The great thing is that when people go to live there they want to stay there because they believe that it is God’s other island.
This grant will begin a most interesting phase in Tasmania’s history. It will enable the opening up of a new area where the potential is such that it presents a challenge to all those who will be concerned to develop it. I hope that the natural flora and landscape will be preserved by those who have the responsibility to construct this road. I hope also that when this country is opened up the vandals, who have wrought such havoc by the careless use of fires, w’.ll have learnt a lesson and will respect the new areas to which they will have access as a result of this road.
It is very pleasing for me to be able to support this bill. I hope that no limit will be imposed to constrict the building of an all-purpose heavy-duty road providing for any eventualities that may emanate from this important project. Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, I commend the bill and am very pleased to see that the opportunity is to be given to the Hydro-Electric Commission to get on with the challenge that is before it.
.- I hope I am not out of order in commencing my speech by saying that this is surely a unique situation. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), in closing the second-reading debate on the measure which has just been passed by the Senate, said that it was rare indeed to be able to reply to a debate throughout which a bill had been supported by the Opposition - an Opposition now of fifteen years standing. The bill now before the Senate will put into effect part of the policy of the Menzies Government - the policy on which this Government was returned to office, not with a majority of only one in another place, but with a majority of 22. The purpose of this bill is to provide to Tasmania £2,500,000 to construct a road in the south-eastern part of the State. Over the past few years the Menzies Government has asked the State Governments to suggest projects from which, if Commonwealth money were provided, we could add to Australia’s export income. The Reece Labour Governnent, as we hear it advertised now in the State election campaign - this one-man band - has failed in every aspect to put up a case to the Federal Government for a grant to increase the export income of Tasmania. As a Tasmanian representative in the Senate, 1 was embarrassed by being asked to attend a deputation to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), who, in his fairness and in his desire to help Tasmania, invited the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) to attend. We heard a member of the Australian Labour Party in another place put up a case for a thermal power station. I have never been so embarrassed politically as 1 was on that occasion. Not only was the case weak, but also it was presented in a half-hearted way. However, the Prime Minister had the grace to say, as usual, “ We will consider your case “. He was not sarcastic.
Then there came from the Tasmanian Labour Government complaints to the effect that Tasmania was not receiving its fair share of loan funds for developmental projects. We back-benchers on the Government side in the two Houses of the National Parliament said to our political opponents, “ For goodness’ sake put up some decent arguments, because the Commonwealth Government is going to bend over backwards to spend money in Tasmania if the projects concerned fit in with the announced policy of the Government “. Time passed. The views I am expressing sincerely arc contrary to those which, I gather from “ Hansard “ of yesterday, were expressed by members of the Labour Opposition in another place. In October last year the Commonwealth Government had a case put to it by Mr. A. W. Knight, a very great Tasmanian and a public servant of the State, for a grant of loan funds in con nexion with a particular project in Tasmania. The case was received by the Commonwealth Government and was examined by it. When the examination had been completed, and as soon as possible thereafter, an announcement was made by the Prime Minister that £2,500,000 would be made available by the Commonwealth Government to the Tasmanian Government for the construction of roads in the southeastern area of Tasmania.
– A non-repayable grant.
– Quite so. The point I am making is that immediately after the announcement was made - the Prime Minister made it as soon as he could after he and the Cabinet had made a decision on the proposition that had been put forward by the Tasmanian Government - it so happened that it was decided to hold a general election. Members of the Labour Party in another place were low enough, politically speaking, to say that the project had been announced because there was to be an election for the House of Representatives. I am glad that Senator O’Byrne did not stoop to such a suggestion.
Let us assume that the Prime Minister accepted the proposal of the Tasmanian Government in order to win one seat in Tasmania. It will be remembered that at the time the Government parties had a majority of one in the House of Representatives. Perhaps some people would have thought he was being clever, but the mainland States would not have been interested and voters in those States would not have been influenced. The Prime Minister made the announcement in October of last year. There was a federal election at the end of November and the Government was returned with a majority of 22, the additional seats having been won not in Tasmania, where the Government did not gain one additional seat, but mainly in New South Wales and Queensland. So, the criticism of the Opposition in this respect counts for nothing.
Let us leave party politics aside and discuss the facts. Mr. A. W. Knight, the commissioner of the Tasmanian HydroElectric Commission, a man whom the National Capital Development Commission wanted to come to Canberra to help with the development of the National Capital, put up a proposition on behalf of Tasmania in answer to the Commonwealth plea that the export capacity of the States should be increased. Mr. Knight decided that the next hydrO-electricity project in Tasmania should be based on the Gordon River, in the south-western portion of the State. He knew that the commission was spending approximately £250,000 a year in prospecting, if I may use that word, for developmental projects to increase the volume of hydro-electric power in Tasmania. I believe that, because of his expert knowledge and as a result of advice he had received from other experts, he had formed the opinion that nuclear power and other forms of electricity generation were not sufficiently advanced for the Government of Tasmania to be interested in them. He has stated that it takes seven years to plan fully a new development in hydro-electric construction in Tasmania.
The Government of Tasmania has stated that at the moment it can provide sufficient power from its hydro-electricity resources to meet the requirements of the State, but it was not able to make such a claim two months ago, and at the time of which I am speaking it was panicky about the future. So, from Mr. Knight and the Government of Tasmania came the clear-cut proposition we are discussing. The south-western area of Tasmania is a vast, rugged, almost unexplored region which has great potential. The Gordon River may be used to increase considerably Tasmania’s hydro-electricity supplies. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, we must plan for further expansion of hydro-electricity supplies to meet the needs of industry.
Despite what the Government may think of the system of uniform taxation, I believe that it is crippling the Australian economy. Under uniform taxation, the Tasmanian Government could not afford to build roads through this rugged and almost unexplored area to construct hydro-electric power stations, and so it put up a case to the Commonwealth Government. This is the first case of its kind put forward sincerely bv the Tasmanian Government because the Premier. Mr. Reece, was against a thermal power station at Fingal and an irrigation scheme from Poatina. That should be realized by ail Tasmanians.
But in this instance, the Tasmanian Government put a case to the Commonwealth Government. It stated that if the Commonwealth Government would provide money for the construction of roads, the Hydro-Electric Commission could enter into a contract to increase production of hydroelectric power in Tasmania in the next seven years. There is plenty of water available in the Gordon River and there is a great potential for the production of electricity which will be needed in Tasmania in the years ahead. If the people of Tasmania realize the political facts of life and if they return a Liberal government to office in Tasmania after 2nd May, they will need even more hydro-electric power. The Commonwealth Government does not regard this project in the light of party politics. It regards this as a national project. All State Premiers have been told time and time again that if they have a proposition which will increase our exports, they can seek financial assistance from the Commonwealth. This bill is the result of the first sincere effort made by the Tasmanian Government to take advantage of this genuine and generous offer by the Menzies Liberal-Country Party Government. The Commonwealth Government does not assess the hydro-electric potential of the Gordon River scheme but it has given the State Government the green light to construct a road into the area so that it can proceed with its hydro-electric project. For this purpose, the Commonwealth Government is making an interestfree grant.
As a Tasmanian representative in the Senate I am thrilled that the Commonwealth Government has made the grant al this time because, apart from the benefits to Tasmania to be derived from greater production of hydro-electric power, this project will give a boost to the tourist trade. This is a branch of the economy with which the Tasmanian Government is not even concerned because it does not realize the potential. The Gordon River road will go through an area that will provide an attraction for mainland and overseas tourists. They will be able to drive through glorious scenery over good roads. Once this road is constructed with the grant from the Commonwealth Government, private enterprise will willingly take an interest in the project. Hotels and motels will be constructed. There will be service stations and houses. Once construction of this kind begins, work is provided in the bush and other branches of the economy go into action.
So this project will encourage economic growth and development in Tasmania, lt will help to make the position of primary producers more secure. Other industries such as timber-milling and paper production, which are now fundamental to the Tasmanian economy, will advance. Decentralization from the two major cities - I believe there will be a third next week - will be encouraged. People will move into the midlands and south-western districts of Tasmania to find a livelihood and help to produce goods that will contribute to the prosperity and happiness of Tasmanians. I have great pleasure in supporting the bill, and I am pleased that honorable senators opposite have not adopted the attitude towards the bill that was adopted by their colleagues in another place.
.- As a resident of Tasmania, I welcome the introduction of this bill, which provides for a grant of £2,500,000 to Tasmania. As a senator, I doubly welcome it, because it will render a great service in Tasmania, particularly to many of those people who are responsible for my being in this chamber. I should have anticipated that Senator Marriott would have tried to keep the debate on a higher plane. I think it is fair to say that no derogatory comment would have been made during the debate had he not introduced it. ‘lc used one word which I utterly resent when he accused the Australian Labour Party of being low. I consider myself to be on just as high a plane as Senator Marriott. I am no lower than be is. I resent words of that kind being thrown across this chamber. I do not think that, politically, you can get any lower than Senator Marriott. It is rather unfortunate that on a matter which is so very vital to Tasmania that tone should have been introduced. The debate could have been kept on a plane befitting the importance of this grant to Tasmania. Senator Marriott having dragged the debate down to such a level that we have to reply to the words that he used, one can say that the grant has been most belated. This is the first bill ever introduced into the National Parliament to give Tasmania a non-repayable grant.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise will have a chance of answering me. Apparently he is to follow me, as he is making notes. This is the first such bill since I have been in this Parliament, and I have been here almost eight years. Senator Marriott, said that this £2,500,000 non-repayable grant was part of the policy of the Commonwealth Government. It may be but, if so, the Government is only endorsing the Tasmanian Labour Government’s policy over a period of years in relation, to the extension of hydro-electric undertakings.
The history of hydro-electric development in Tasmania goes back to 1895, when the Duck Reach station was built in Launceston. It was then under the control of the Launceston City Council. In 1911 the Waddamana station was established as a private enterprise but was unable to carry on. In 1914 the then government took over the assets of that project and carried on and built Waddamana “ A “.
– It was a Liberal government, not a Labour government.
– I thank the honorable senator for the interjection. In 1914, as he says, there was a Liberal government in Tasmania. Mainly through the efforts of the Labour Government which came into power in 1.934, hydro-electric undertakings were extended, providing employment for many thousands of Tasmanians. Before 1934 the main export from Tasmania was the youth of Tasmania. The foresight of the Ogilvie Government in extending the hydroelectric system resulted in industries being brought to our State to provide employment for the young people. Now very few young people are going away from Tasmania. In fact, the reverse is the case. We are bringing in quite a considerable number of skilled and unskilled workers.
I am in complete accord with the bill. I am quite confident that it will not be opposed by any member of the Opposition. The area involved is of such a rugged nature that it would be beyond the resources of the Tasmanian Government and the Hydro-Electric Commission to construct the proposed road without the assistance being provided by the Commonwealth. Senator Marriott also introduced party politics when he referred to the State election which will take place in Tasmania on 2nd May. He said that the hydro-electric system would be extended under a Liberal government. Let me assure Senator Marriott that the Liberal Party in Tasmania will not get an opportunity of governing for at least five years after 2nd May. I am as confident as I am of the fact that I am standing here that a Labour government will be returned.
Let me cite the following figures to give some idea of the extension of the hydroelectric system in Tasmania since 1945: -
That table shows that the Tasmanian Labour Government has extended the industry considerably since 1955. It is confidently estimated that 98 per cent, of the population of Tasmania enjoy the use of electricity. An important feature is that the consumers at a point remotest from where the electricity is generated pay exactly the same amount as consumers in the thickly populated areas of Hobart and Launceston and their suburbs.
Much development is likely to result from an extension of the hydro-electric scheme. Many industries came to Tasmania as a result of the Labour Government’s foresight in making cheap power available. It has been stated on a number of occasions during the debate on this grant in another place and during debates on other bills in this chamber that electricity charges in Tasmania are the lowest throughout Australia. It is confidently expected that a number of large firms will be requiring further supplies of electricity in the near future. One of these is Comalco Aluminium (Bell Cay) Ltd., which will further increase its aluminium production. Another is Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited at Wesley Vale, a new project that has been in operation for only a short time. This organization is continually expanding and increasing ils production by stages. It will require more electricity for its plant. Then there is Australian Newsprint Mills Limited at
Boyer, which has continually expanded since it came to Tasmania, as has been mentioned already to-night.
At this point I might say that one wonders whether the granting of this nonrepayable grant to Tasmania might not have a two-fold purpose. We welcome the grant because it is going to increase our electricity output. We welcome it, too, from the angle of employment and other features associated with it, but one wonders whether it has not been made also to assist Australian Newsprint Mills Limited. The proposed road will give this company access to large forest areas. Probably there has been a little double-thinking on this matter. I do not know whether or not I am correct, but I am inclined to think that some of the directors of Australian Newsprint Mills Limited may have played some small part in inducing the Government to make this non-repayable grant to Tasmania so that the organization in turn can take advantage of the road, which will give it access to forests from which to manufacture its product.
– There is nothing wrong with that.
– There may not be anything wrong with it, but nevertheless we find that this kind of thing happens, particularly under a government such as we have in the federal sphere, which is very partial to private enterprise. One other industry which has only recently come to Tasmania, and which will expand very much in the near future, is Australian Paper Mills Limited at Geeveston. This organization will require further power to expand its production.
The State Hydro-Electric Commission has made a forecast of the demand for power up to the year 1974. The total load, in millions of kilowatt hours, used in the year 1963 was 3,373,000. It is estimated that in 1974 the requirements will reach 5,780,000. It can be clearly understood from that that a great expansion is taking place in Tasmania. A huge demand will be made on the Hydro-Electric Commission for hydroelectric power, and this grant by the Commonwealth will greatly assist the Tasmanian Labour Government to supply the requirements which it will be called upon to supply during the next few years.
It is true to say that this road to be constructed by the Hydro-Electric Commission with money provided by this Government will open up a great tourist area. I was pleased to hear Senator Marriott mention the possible expansion of the tourist industry in Tasmania. I do not agree with his remark that the State Labour Government was not aware, and not appreciative, of this situation developing. I think that the State Labour Government is very alive to the fact that Tasmania has some of the greatest tourist assets of any State in Australia. Whilst the State might have the disability of cold winters it still has a very attractive climate for about eight months out of the twelve. Only a few months ago a new round road known as the. Murchison Highway was opened. It will give easy access to most of the tourist attractions in Tasmania. The road into the south-west area will add to the value of the Murchison Highway which was opened at the latter end of last year.
I did not want to raise the point I am about to raise, but in view of a statement by Senator Marriott in this chamber I think that I must do so; - It was announced in October that the Commonwealth Government was to make a non-repayable grant to the Tasmanian Government for this particular project. The announcement arose as a result of a question asked in another place. It is significant that although the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) gave the information in answer to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), the Premier of the State had not been informed. He did not know about the Government’s decision until he heard it, either on a news broadcast or read it in the press; I am not sure which. The honorable member for Franklin was advised, before the political head of the State was informed, that the grant would be made available to Tasmania. If that is not playing party politics I am afraid I have something yet to learn about politics. Probably we all have.
However, I wholeheartedly support the bill and I hope that the project it envisages will be given effect with the least possible delay.
.- This is an important bill to the State which
I have the honour to represent as a senator. There is no need to submit arguments in favour of the measure, because there seems to be no resistance to it, but I think it is my duty to record my thoughts upon the matter in deference to the work that has been done by the present Commonwealth Government and by those who have been responsible for formulating the proposal. The Senate might take some pleasure in the thought that although we have listened so much over the last two or three years to speeches on the subject of developing the north, we find now that the. Commonwealth Government’s interest extends also to developing a resourceful unit of the Commonwealth in the ultimate south. This is an indication that the Government’s interests are nation-wide.
In view of phrases that have been used by some speakers who have preceded me it should be made clear that the proposal in this bill is that the Government pay to Tasmania over a period of three or four years - I am not sure which - the equivalent of the cost of a road some 50 miles long into the Gordon River hydro-electric developmental scheme area at a cost not exceeding £2,500,000. It is a non-repayable grant, as my colleague, Senator Henty, has attempted to remind speakers throughout the debate to-night. It is not an interest-free loan, and it is not a loan; it is a straight-out grant to the State and it is not repayable.
The next thing to notice about the grant is that it takes its place in Commonwealth financing wholly outside the general programme of road financing on which Commonwealth expenditure for the benefit of the States has increased so much over the past few years. It is entirely apart from the grants which Tasmania receives year by year on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the origin and operation of which we owe to the only Tasmanian who has been Prime Minister of this Commonwealth - Joseph Lyons. This grant is also entirely apart from the ordinary reimbursement of uniform taxation revenue that is provided for in other Commonwealth legislation, and it is entirely apart from the ordinary loan programme in which I believe the Commonwealth has been so generous to Tasmania over the past five to seven years. It is in the course of these ordinary financing arrangements that the development of Tasmania has gone ahead to such an extent in the last decade.
Now we come to the point where the Commonwealth announced a policy of nation-wide assistance to developmental programmes, particularly if they had a special export potential. Under this policy the Commonwealth has assisted developmental programmes in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The Government’s actions should not engender miserable party politics; rather should they evoke from everybody who considers the matter an expression of whatever statesmanlike appreciation he can muster of the fact that this proposal completes the circuit of national development, first time round.
Tasmania is only a small State, but let it be remembered that experience has shown that the demand for electrical energy doubles once in every ten years. So in planning to meet the ordinary increase in the demand of the people in Tasmania we must plan for a doubling of the capital development necessary to generate electrical energy. Not only do we look to that in this instance, but, due to technical improvements in the transmission of electrical energy, it is now regarded as feasible that the surplus peak load generation in Tasmania can be transmitted to the Victorian system to help meet the huge demand on that system, in much the same way as peak load energy is supplied by the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. So the Commonwealth Government would be completely deficient in outlook if it failed to recognize the potential of a proposal that can assist progressive development of the sort that has been mentioned.
But it is not only in that respect that the Commonwealth Government’s prescience in approving of this programme should receive commendation. No doubt, the reason for the Commonwealth Government’s decision that this was a programme that should be assisted was the favorable cost factor in Tasmanian electrify generation compared with electricity generation in the other States. Let it be remembered that Tasmania’s output of electrical energy represents about one-fifth of the total of electrical energy produced in the Commonwealth. Whereas the cost per unit of electrical energy in New South Wales is 2.6d., in
Victoria 2.5d., in Queensland 2.9d., in South Australia 2.4d. and in Western Australia 3d., we find that in Tasmania it is only .9d. whereas in Tasmania the cost per unit of power for industry is .55d. the next best is South Australia where the figure is 1.9d. or almost four times as much. Then comes Victoria where the cost is 2.19d.
The next thing that needs to be understood with regard to this project is its importance compared with some other projects that we have financed with, I think, the support of all sections of this Parliament. I refer for instance to the Snowy Mountains scheme. Tasmania has had the good fortune to have as the head of its HydroElectric Commission Mr. A. W. Knight whose management of the undertaking is a credit to the whole State. No doubt honorable senators have heard me refer more than once in similar terms to the head of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. But does the Senate understand that the Gordon River catchment area will have a water yield two and one-half times greater than that of the Derwent River in Tasmania, the stream on which we fastened our first hydro-electric development? The dams to be constructed in the catchment areas of the Gordon and King Rivers will cover 120 square miles, compared with 56 square miles for Lake Eucumbene in the Snowy Mountains. Their active storage capacity will be 3,200,000 acre-feet compared with 2,500,000 acre-feet in Lake Eucumbene!
In order to make a proper assessment of the potential that this grant by the Commonwealth is helping to tap, we should bear in mind that it is estimated that a total of 4,800,000,000 units will be the annual energy output of the schemes to be developed in the Gordon and King river areas within the next twelve to fifteen years.
– Is it 4,800,000,000 units?
– It is 4,800,000,000 units as compared to 5,500,000,000 units which will be the capacity of the completed Snowy Mountains scheme. So, it is estimated that there will be developed a power energy potential, on the average, per year, equivalent to six-sevenths of that generated by the Snowy Mountains scheme. Having gone through the topography of the area, having considered the geology of the area, and having considered the river flows, it is estimated that this development will be achieved at the cost of £150,000,000 as compared to more than £400,000,000 for the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– You will balance the Snowy Mountains scheme?
– I am not disparaging the Snowy Mountains scheme. I shall never engage in a criticism of that project. As a national development, it will be cheap in 50 years’ time. I am trying to bring this debate, concentrated upon the Tasmanian proposition, on to the national level of a developmental project that will substantially and positively contribute to Australia’s interests. Compared to the Snowy Mountains development on an economic basis, this project is most attractive.
Without any reference whatever to party politics, Mr. President, for the particular reasons that I have put forward, I find myself in support of a Commonwealth government which has put forward to the Tasmanian Government the proposition, “ We will give you £2,500,000 to put in the preliminary road so that this important development can be completed to the stage where it will be ready for use in December of 1966 “. My whole outlook on this matter can be rounded off by saying that the development of our Tasmanian industry in this respect has been the kernel of Tasmanian development. It was placed under an independent commission in 1932 by a Liberal government. It has rejoiced under the management of a man who knows no political affiliations. He has dedicated himself to the development of this system in Tasmania. I believe that this commission is making a great contribution to the improvement of our little State and, on the basis of the assistance that this money will give to Tasmania, our State will become quite a considerable unit in national development.
– Mr. President, I rise to support the measure as one who was born and reared in Tasmania and as one who has the honour and privilege of representing Tasmania in this chamber. It is my hope that the remainder of the debate will continue on the high plane on which it has been conducted with the exception of the contribution of one speaker. That speaker, I will endeavour to show, was astray in some of his remarks.
I am concerned with clause 5 of the bill, which reads -
The Treasurer may, for the purposes of this act, approve standards of design or construction for the Cordon River road and if, after standards so approved have been notified to the State, expenditure is incurred by the State on the construction of that road otherwise than in accordance with those standards, the Treasurer may direct that payments under this act shall not be made in relation to that expenditure.
It can be left to the experts in Tasmania in conjunction with the Commonwealth experts on road planning to devise specifications which will meet the requirements of the Treasury and of the State in connexion with the building of this road. Although this road may be looked upon as an inlet or outlet for an isolated area of Tasmania, it must not be forgotten that it will be called upon to carry some of the heaviest burdens of any road in Tasmania. Heavier burdens than the ones imposed upon Tasmanian roads by the timber industry will be placed upon this road by the transportation of hydro-electric equipment for the development of hydro-electric power at the head of the Gordon River. I have seen some of the heavy transports which have had to be obtained to carry loads of hydro-electric equipment. To avoid the risk of smashing the bridges on some roads in Tasmania which had carried the burden of loads of timber and other commodities, bypasses have been built. That will give the Senate some idea of the weight which these roads will be expected to carry for the development and expansion of hydro-electric power. The roads will have to be constructed to carry the burden of the heavy machinery and plant which will be transported over them. A very solid foundation will need to be provided so that the road can carry this burden. The width of the road will be a matter for specifications which will be laid down. I trust that those specifications will be laid down by the State authorities in conjunction with the experts in the federal sphere, so that they will not only meet the requirements of the narrow road which may be necessary to carry, heavy loads to hydro-electric projects but will also meet the requirements of the future. I can picture this road not as a bypass into an isolated area but as. a road which will be in constant use for hundreds of years to come.
This portion of Tasmania has a’ potential for development equal to that of any other part of the State. There is a vast mineral belt running from the north-western side of Tasmania right down the west coast as far as Adamsfield. To my knowledge, that is as far as it extends, but it could go right through to the ocean on the other side. I have travelled that country on foot. I have carted my provisions and swag from the Pieman River through the Savage River to the Nineteen Mile River and through to Waratah. I have worked in the Waratah mines. I have travelled from Renison Bell to the Castor River osmiridium fields. I have been right through that section of the country and have worked in some of the mines. I have represented that area in the Senate for 26 years. I have travelled through Renison Bell, Zeehan, Strahan and Queenstown. The only place to which I have not been is the Florentine osmiridium fields. I have been into the osmiridium field at Adamsfield, which is an area that will be opened up by this road, and up to the headwaters of the Gordon River. If it is any news to honorable senators, I have travelled by road, train or on foot, carrying my provisions on my back, from the far north across to Adamsfield, and the only part over which I have not travelled is that district to which I referred. I have sought osmiridium in several of the places that I have mentioned. There is a mineral belt running from the Pieman River, where gold was produced in the early days, to the Savage River, where there is both gold and osmiridium. That part of the State has one of the biggest iron ore belts. I understand that surveys have just been completed of the Serpentine iron ore belt which runs through the country I have mentioned in a straight line as far as Adamsfield. At several points there are outcrops of mineral wealth, some of which were mentioned by Senator O’Byrne. In addition there is a very extensive belt of silver-lead. At one stage in Tasmania’s early history one of the Commonwealth’s wealthiest tin-mines was located in that area at Mount Bischoff. That mine produced millions of pounds worth of tin; in present currency it would be billions of pounds. Considerable work is still proceeding through that mineral belt. Prospectors have had great difficulty in getting into some of the country that will be opened up by the proposed road. In fact, some parts have probably never been seen by. man. I believe that I have established that I know the geography of that side of the island, as well as the eastern side, which was referred to by Senator O’Byrne as the Surfer’s Paradise of Tasmania.
There is no telling what wealth will be opened up in this area when the road is built. I refer not only to hydro-electric power; the years to come will, I believe, show that hydro-electric power will be only a small part of the wealth of this area. I see no reason why the mineral belt which has outcrops south of the route proposed for this road will not also reveal outcrops between Queenstown and Adamsfield, because the Serpentine belt runs right through that area. The only reason these outcrops have not been discovered is that that territory has been so difficult to penetrate. In certain wet periods it has been most difficult for prospectors to enter the area. There is no telling what wealth will be revealed when the exploratory work is performed and the road is built.
I have not yet touched upon one of the most promising sides of the picture. Senator Poke referred to it, although I do not quite share the view he expressed. I was a supporter of the Labour government that granted a subsidy to the newsprint industry-
– No, that government took up a considerable number of shares which the public would not take up at the time.
– I will put the honorable senator right, as I intend to put Senator Marriott right presently. We provided by legislation that if the price of paper fell below a certain level in Tasmania the Government would grant a bonus of so much per ton on all paper pulp that was produced. I was a back-bencher in the Government that passed that legislation.
There is no telling how much more timber will be tapped when this road is put through; it could amount to millions of super, feet. The timber that becomes available when the road is built will be available not only for pulping but also for milling. It would be very difficult for anybody to estimate the potential value of this road, but I must say that I believe that its construction is very belated. The Federal Government has been slow in providing the assistance necessary to construct this road. We must consider the amounts that have been provided from Consolidated Revenue to pay for various works in other States and to promote exports. The Snowy Mountains scheme is one illustration. Hundreds of millions of pounds from Consolidated Revenue have been used for that project. That money has come from the taxpayers, and it should not be forgotten that the Tasmanian taxpayers contributed their share. Money has been provided for the construction of beef roads in the north of Australia. Large sums have been contributed by the Commonwealth for the standardization of railway gauges in certain States. Tasmania receives no benefit from any of those projects. Tasmania receives no direct benefit from the standardization of railway gauges or from the construction of beef roads in Queensland, though I must admit that all Australians receive an indirect benefit. Some of the mainland States have benefited directly also from the Snowy Mountains scheme. Queensland has received direct benefit from grants for beef roads and other projects. The Government has also been quite liberal with its funds in Western Australia. Now Tasmania is to have a grant, but I suggest that it is Jong overdue when we consider what has been given to the other States.
Senator Marriott was totally incorrect when he said to-night that the Government had asked Tasmania to propose some scheme on which a grant could be made, and that no scheme had been forthcoming. The Premier of Tasmania has nearly exhausted himself in making representations to the Commonwealth Government for grants, similar to those made to other States, to develop projects in Tasmania.
– Such as? Tell us what they are.
– If the honorable senator who interjects is trying to take credit and to say that Tasmania has not advanced any scheme, as was suggested by Senator Marriott, I would remind him of repre- Isentations made by Mr. Knight on behalf I of the Tasmanian State Government. If any Minister is advancing a proposition, he will take his expert with him to explain the scheme. It is only natural that when the Premier of Tasmania advanced a scheme for the development of hydro-electric power, he would send his most expert adviser to put the facts before those in authority. That is how Mr. Knight comes into the picture.
– What are the other cases that you are talking about? Tell us.
– If the honorable senator had been listening to the Prime Minister and other Ministers of his Government he would not be asking that question.
– But you do not know.
– I remind the honorable senator that Tasmanian senators on this side of the chamber have never let up in their attempts to get a grant for Tasmania in compensation for the taxation that Tasmanians have paid to provide grants for other States. At no time did Senator Henty ask, “ What is it you want to develop? “ He did not ask that question because he knew that we had the projects on the tip of our tongue and could have stated them without difficulty. The honorable senator should not pretend that the Government is making a gift to Tasmania out of sympathy for the State’s difficulties.
– You have been out of Tasmania for so long that you do not know what the projects are.
– If I did not know more about the history of Tasmania and its geography and potential than Senator Henty does I certainly would not have asked the people of Tasmania to allow me to represent them in this chamber.
When we consider this proposal in its true perspective we see that there is nothing great about it. In fact, the grant is no more than a drop of fly dirt in the ocean. It should have been made years ago. Each year the Premier of Tasmania has had to come, cap in hand to the Australian Loan Council to beg for money to keep the hydroelectric schemes going. A few years ago, hydro-electric works in Tasmania had to be neglected because we could not even obtain from the Australian Loan Council sufficient money to keep men in employment and the schemes operating. Senator
Henty has referred to reproductive works. I inform him that almost every scheme in Tasmania is of a reproductive nature. He has been Minister for Customs and Excise for a good many years and if he knows anything about the State from which he comes, he should know that that is so. If he refers to the statistics he will find that Tasmania exports far more than it imports. It is helping to carry the burden of other States which import far more than they export.
– Let me cite some figures for the benefit of honorable senators opposite. For purposes of comparison, I shall refer to New South Wales, which is the most populous State, and to Tasmania, which is the least populous. We must bear in mind the large population of New South Wales compared with that of Tasmania. In 1960- 61, New South Wales imported goods to the value of £479,484,226 and exported goods worth £282,124,534, so that imports exceeded exports by nearly £200,000,000. In the same year, Tasmania imported goods worth £18,874,071 and exported goods worth £21,294,208. Those figures indicate that in Tasmania there are more reproductive projects than there are in larger States into which money is being poured. In 1961- 62. New South Wales imported goods worth £412.910.196 and exported goods worth £322.762,351, so that imports exceeded exports by almost £100,000,000. In that year Tasmanian imports amounted to £13.623,528 and exports to £28,597,937, or more than double the value of imports. In 1962- 63, New South Wales imported goods worth £476,942,488 and exported goods worth only £310,827,422.
– Where do those figures come from?
– They are official statistics relating to overseas trade. I do not think that more reliable figures could be obtained. Senator Henty has said that Tasmania cannot put up propositions of a reproductive nature.
– I did not say that. I said you could not tell us what the propositions were.
– I am able to state all the proposals that Tasmania has put forward.
To continue the comparison I have been making, I point out that in 1962-63 Tasmania imported goods worth £18,182,078 and exported goods worth £33,395,725. When Senator Marriott said that the Government of Tasmania could not put forward projects that would assist in earning export income, he showed how little he knew of the State that he represents. The figures I have cited show that the value of Tasmania’s exports has exceeded the value of imports each year by many millions of pounds, while the value of imports in New South Wales has exceeded the value of exports by hundreds of millions of pounds. Yet, despite the fact that Tasmania has been carrying the heaviest per capita burden in helping Australia’s export position, it has been receiving the smallest grants from the Commonwealth Government for developmental purposes. The grant of £2,500,000 which it is proposed to make under this bill is merely something to which Tasmania is entitled. It should have been made long ago. The figures I have given show how erroneous Senator Marriott’s statements were.
I remind Senator Marriott that the announcement that the Commonwealth proposed to make this assistance available to Tasmania was made in answer to a question asked by a supporter of the Liberal Party in the other place, before the Premier of Tasmania knew of it. Representations had been made by the Premier and’ the decision should first have been conveyed to him. However, whether or not the announcement was made on the eve of a federal election does not worry me. I am glad that the proposal has been accepted and that Tasmania is to receive the money. Nevertheless, the decision of the Government was used by the Liberal Party during the recent general election campaign to indicate what the Commonwealth Government was doing for Tasmania. It was used as election propaganda.
– How many voles did it win in the area?
– It did not win any votes for the Government parties. In fact, they almost lost a seat in Tasmania. I am sorry if I have hurt the Minister’s feelings. Apparently he does not enjoy listening to facts.
Tasmanians welcome this project because the Gordon River road will be a main artery through an area that has not been explored and is capable of development. Further to the south there is land that probably could be used for agricultural development but at present it has no outlet. It can be surveyed only from the air, from the sea or on foot. ] have not been in this area in the far south-western corner of Tasmania myself, but 1 believe that it has a potential for agriculture. Branch roads from the proposed road may be the means of opening up still further land.
The Commonwealth Government should not take the full credit for this belated grant. In the 26 years I have been a member of the Senate, I have found that Tasmania with its small population and restricted area must be thankful for small mercies from the Commonwealth Government. Although Tasmania is only a small State, on a per capita basis it is doing more for the national economy than are the bigger States. The comparative import and export figures should be an indication to the Commonwealth Government that this grant is much too small in relation to potential development and the return for the money to be expended. Perhaps this will encourage this Government to make further grants to Tasmania so that it can develop still further its export trade which already compares more than favorably with that of the big States. They are getting the lion’s share of grants from the Commonwealth Treasury. Only to-day, the Senate agreed to a big grant to New South Wales for flood mitigation. On a per capita basis Tasmania is doing much more for the national economy than are the bigger States.
– Get off that racket.
– These are the facts and the Government should recognize them. ] am not going to take all the credit from this Government, but this grant is a compliment to continuous Labour administration in Tasmania. Labour governments have been in office in Tasmania for more than 30 years. Senator Marriott and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) have said or implied that the Tasmanian Government has not asked for similar assistance in the past. The fact is that th: Labour Government has done such an excellent job of developing the State’s export trade and the State itself that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to give it £2,500,000 outright. Government supporters must either accept my statement or the statements of Senator Marriott and the Minister for Customs and Excise. I say that the Government is recognizing the outstanding achievements of continuous Labour administration in Tasmania. Under Labour, the population of Tasmania has almost doubled. The development of secondary industries in Tasmania surpasses the imagination of mainland people. With the further extension of hydro-electric power under a Labour government, there is no doubt that Tasmania will become the Birmingham of Australia in secondary production.
– At the outset, I should like to say that I agree with Senator Wright that this debate should be as free as possible from party politics. I noted that whilst Senator Aylett castigated Senator Marriott for indulging in party politics he himself plunged much deeper into the mire. I can contradict Senator Aylett’s statement that this is the first non-repayable grant made to Tasmania. In point of fact, there have been several. They were paid under the guise of grants for unemployment, but it is also true that the Government of Tasmania did not spend the great bulk of that money on the relief of unemployment.
The grant proposed in this bill falls into a very different category. It is true, as has been said, that to some extent it rounds off the nation-wide development that has been undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. Some honorable senators have contended that it is late in coming. It is late, not through the fault of the Commonwealth Government but because the propositions previously put to the Commonwealth by the State Government did not fall into the required category. The Commonwealth Government laid it down, quite rightly, that before it could embark on assistance for projects, it must be sure that the money would be expended on something of lasting benefit to the State. The project must be something that would increase export potential, would make Australia more secure and would speed up the development we desire so much. It is a fact that not until this proposition was put forward did the Tasmanian Labour Government bring to light a proposition that fell within the category set by the Commonwealth . Government.
There has been a tendency to concentrate on the prospective hydro-electric development in the area named in the bill, and rightly so. But I recall learning at school that when the Dutch navigator Tasman first sighted Tasmania, he viewed the mountain peaks with astonishment. That was in 1642 - more than 300 years ago - yet the south-western area of Tasmania has never been investigated except from the air and by a few excursions. In the small State of Tasmania, this area is still a no-man’s land, yet I believe it possesses scenic attractions unrivalled in Australia.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Polyvinyl chloride products.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 April 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640408_senate_25_s25/>.