31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) left Australia today for discussions in Japan. He is expected to return on 22 March. During his absence the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) will act as Minister for Trade and Resources. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) left for New Zealand last Sunday to attend the Seventh Asian and Pacific Labour Ministers Conference. He is expected to return on 20 March. During his absence the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) will act as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. He no doubt will be aware of the decision last Friday of Universal Textiles Australia Ltd to reduce significantly its operations in Hobart with the resultant retrenchment of 300 employees. Does the Minister agree that these retrenchments, plus an additional 600 to 700 other jobs that will be affected by this decision, create major social, employment and economic problems for the city of Hobart? Will the Government give urgent consideration to stimulating a program of regional development to ensure that decisions of this nature need not be taken by private companies if they are aware that the Federal Government can assist them to maintain industries in such areas? What contact has the Federal Government had with the Tasmanian Government since the announcement was made in order to see in what way the Federal Government may be able to assist?
-I must confess that I am unaware that Universal Textiles Australia Ltd made this announcement last Friday. I was on an aeroplane for most of that day. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister and seek a response for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Government is about to take over administration of the Aboriginal communities at Mornington Island and Aurukun, without consultation with either the Uniting Church in Australia or the Aboriginal people concerned? Can the Minister inform the Senate what steps the Federal Government can take to prevent this from happening as it is in complete contravention of the Federal Government’s policy of self-determination and self-management by Aboriginal people?
– I have some information on this matter which was the subject of news comment today. I am able to advise the Senate that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is aware of the decision of the Queensland Government to take over the administration of the Aboriginal communities at Mornington Island and Aurukun from the Uniting Church in Australia. The Minister was advised by the Church of this decision. The Minister would be most concerned if that action were taken against the wishes of the Uniting Church and, particularly, against the wishes of the Aboriginal people at Mornington Island and Aurukun. He has received a telegram from the chairman and Council on Mornington Island saying that the Council and community were not consulted about the Queensland Government’s takeover. The Minister has been advised that the decision was made at a time when the Uniting Church had agreed- and had so informed the Queensland Minister concerned- that it would abide by the expressed will of the Aurukun community, determined by means which could be seen to guarantee free expression by the community. Since that information was conveyed to the Queensland Government in January the Uniting Church has stated that it received from the Aurukun and Mornington Island peoples indications that they do not wish to come under the control of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs.
The Uniting Church has, and before it the Presbyterian Church had, a distinguished record of service in the interests of Aboriginal people in northern Queensland since early this century. The Uniting Church has been active in various Aboriginal communities throughout Australia in pursuing a policy of self-management so that each community can be in charge of its own affairs and be able to make decisions for itself. The Minister is also concerned, as is the Uniting
Church, to maintain the right of the Aurukun people to live in decentralised communities on tribal lands within the boundaries of the reserve. The Government intends to examine closely all developments surrounding the decision of the Queensland Government when considering what action needs to be taken to preserve the interests of the Aboriginal communities at Mornington Island and Aurukun.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services and Minister representing the Prime Minister. Does he agree that recommendations for government tenders are an area in which no political influence should be brought to bear? If he does agree, can he advise what guidelines, if any, have been laid down on relationships between those who evaluate tenders and Ministers of the Government?
– I know of no guidelines which have been laid down. In fact I think it is fair to say that until the recent Facom incident no guidelines were suggested as being necessary. I put to the honourable senator that between 1972 and 1975 the Whitlam Labor Government had confidence in the Australian Government Stores Supply and Tender Board, as did LiberalCountry Party governments in the preceding years. There had been no cause to believe that there was anything untoward about the procedures and practices of the Stores Supply and Tender Board. As the honourable senator would know, procedures relating to the Facom incident were not totally under the control of that Board. It is the Government’s intention that in future that Board will play a far larger role in such tenders.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and refer to the present serious oversupply of wine grapes. In view of the great success which attended the move of the then Government in the Budget of 1954 to allow an excise differential of 30s per proof gallon of Australian brandy as against other potable spirits, will the Government give urgent consideration to the immediate reintroduction of a differential in equivalent monetary terms to the differential allowed at that time? In putting forward this proposition, I have in mind that brandy production requires three times the quantity of grapes required to produce wine
– I acknowledge the great interest that Senator Jessop has in the industry in South Australia and his association with it over many years. The honourable senator has suggested that the Government might revert to some sort of differential system. I will have the matter referred to the Minister with whom that responsibility rests, although it may also be related to the portfolio of a Minister other than the Minister for Primary Industry. I will take the honourable senator’s question on notice and ensure that an answer is supplied to him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Are we to assume, on the basis of Press reports, that the impending discussions between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs will be restricted solely to Vietnamese refugees? If the answer is yes, does it mean that the pleas of many Latin American families here whose relatives are subject to the dictates of military juntas in Latin America have been forgotten?
– I am advised by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that the discussions wtih the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and his officials are not confined to the Vietnamese but cover a review of refugee-type situations throughout the world. The problems of refugees in Latin America are also involved in the discussions. The Australian Government will be considering carefully and sympathetically the world refugee situation as presented by the High Commissioner. As at 30 June 1977 Australia had accepted 1,038 Chilean refugees. In the current financial year Australia has received from Latin America to date 48 refugees, including 39 people who represent the last remaining Chilean refugees in Peru. So, to give a general answer to the honourable senator, the discussions this week with the United Nations High Commissioner will be very wide-ranging.
– Is the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Resources aware of the decision by the Labour Government of the United Kingdom to proceed with a nuclear waste treatment plant to produce plutonium for future power generation? Would the uncertainty of securing supplies of uranium oxide from a major producer- Australia- be a major factor in this decision? If other countries contemplate this move, does this not heighten the danger of plutonium falling into the wrong hands, instead of being stored away safely as waste?
-The honourable senator was kind enough to advise me that he would be asking this question and I have obtained the following information for him: The Windscale inquiry was instituted by the British Government some time ago. It is an environmental inquiry and an integral element of the process by which the British Government will consider a further installation for its nuclear industry. I understand that the British Government has received the report of the Windscale inquiry but as yet has not taken a decision on the matter, and that there will be a debate in the House of Commons. The British nuclear industry has been established for over 25 years. It is very large and comprehends all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. Britain, of course, is a nuclear weapon state and a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In the wake of the oil crisis the position is that many countries are now making commitments to nuclear energy since it is the only viable energy source available. It is in relation to that problem -namely, the large scale utilisation of nuclear energy- that the concerns expressed by President Carter and other leaders in relation to the plutonium problem have real meaning. President Carter has initiated the international fuel cycle evaluation to study the non-proliferation aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and the United States for the time being has suspended the reprocessing of nuclear fuel. Because of the international concern about the availability of uranium supplies, some countries are turning to sophisticated nuclear technology involving reprocessing and the fast breeder reactor, which would achieve the more effective use of uranium but would increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. By taking the decision to export uranium, Australia can slow the movement towards the use of plutonium as a nuclear fuel and lessen the attendant increased risks of nuclear weapons proliferation. Those who oppose or delay the development of Australian uranium are by their actions frustrating the international contribution Australia can make to slow down the movement towards plutonium energy economies. The Australian Labor Party, whose policy is one of opposition to the development of Australian uranium resources, and those unions which share the same view, should seriously reconsider and reflect upon the consequences that their action can have both for Australia and for mankind.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Administative Services, relates quite closely, I think, to the answer that he gave a short time ago to a question from Senator Button. I refer the Minister to the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Government Procurement Policy, which is known as the Scott report, which was commissioned by the Whitlam Government, which was presented to Parliament in May 1974 and which dealt with the whole question of government purchases. I ask: Would the controversial problems associated with tenders for computers not have been avoided if the Government had acted on one of the recommendations of that Committee, which suggested that restrictions should be placed on public servants involved in procurement purchases, or tendering, for a period of at least two years from their ceasing to be public servants? Further, will the Government consider the other recommendations of this Committee which, among other things, suggest that huge amounts of public funds could be saved if the Government established a centralised purchasing authority to be known as the Australian Government Purchasing Commission to enable it to be much more economic in purchases of stores and goods?
-The honourable senator knows that the proposed establishment of the Australian Government Purchasing Commission was a matter of controversy in the Senate in 1974 and 1975. He knows also that many of the recommendations of the Scott report have been adopted. A statement I made on behalf of the Prime Minister in the Senate some weeks ago affirmed quite clearly that the Government was serving notice on private corporations not to indulge in the habit of employing public servants who have been involved in the contracting system. The honourable senator can be assured that the Government has this matter under urgent consideration. When the Government has come to its conclusions on the procedures it intends to adopt, the Senate will be informed.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to an article appearing in the Sunday Mail in Queensland on 12 March which described how a 200 series Boeing 727, on a domestic flight from Miami to Newark in the United States of America, sequentially suffered complete power loss on all three engines. Subsequently, the engines were restarted and the aircraft made a safe landing at Jacksonville. As this type of aircraft operates in Australia I ask the Minister: Has the Department of Transport or either of the domestic airlines been made officially aware of the emergency so described? Has the subsequent inquiry yet made any findings available to interested parties? If so, is any change to be made to either maintenance or operational procedures to prevent such a happening in Australia?
– I have some information on this matter. I am advised that the Department of Transport was informed by the Boeing company on 2 February that such an emergency had occurred on 27 January with a Boeing 727 aircraft. The information indicated that no cause for the occurrence had been established and that further investigation was being pursued by the United States National Transportation Safety Board. No advice has yet been received of the outcome of the investigation. I am further advised that the position is being watched, and the Department will consider the need for any change when further information is available from the American authorities.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. It relates to the future of Woomera and the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury. The Minister will recall that last year- I think it was in September- the Minister for Defence made a statement indicating the future prospects of Woomera and stating that experimental exercises were being conducted by the Army and other Services. Can the Minister tell the Senate what conclusions were drawn from the exercises? Have the future prospects of Woomera deteriorated in any way?
-The honourable senator’s interest in the Weapons Research Establishment is well known. I regret that I have no information at hand to give him. I shall seek information and tomorrow in the Senate I shall try to answer the question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing both the Acting Minister for Trade and Resources and the Minister for Defence. I refer to a report in the Melbourne Age of 21 February relating to allegations by Mr Keith Souter that section 4 ( 1 ) of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1947 could be invoked to make the mining of uranium a defence project rather than a strict engineering project. Is it a fact that section 4 ( 1 ) of that Act makes it an offence to boycott or encourage the prevention or obstruction of any approved defence project? Is the Minister aware of these allegations? Is it proposed to invoke the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act? Does the Minister believe that the use of this law would improperly restrict the level of public debate in Australia about uranium mining?
– You must not give a legal opinion.
-I have been reminded by one of my colleagues that I must not give a legal opinion, which I could not do in any event. I suggest to the honourable senator that he ought to look at the actual definition of ‘approved defence project’ which, according to my photostat copy of the relevant part of that Act, appears in section 3. 1 do not know who Mr Keith Souter is or whether he has the wrong Act or the wrong section of that Act. I do not know Mr Souter and I virtually do not know the Melbourne Age. All I can say to the honourable senator is that, as far as I am aware, there is certainly no proposal to invoke the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act in respect of uranium mining.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the Government is contemplating action which will eliminate the autonomy of the Trade Union Training Authority? Further, is it true that the Government intends to alter the relevant legislation so that the Director of the Trade Union Training Authority will become a nominee of the Government instead of being elected by the Council of the Trade Union Training Authority?
– The Senate will be aware that for some time the Government has been considering a report of an inquiry which was undertaken into this matter. This report has been given very close and lengthy consideration. I think the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations will be announcing a Government decision in relation to the matter quite shortly. I certainly shall not anticipate any announcement which he might be making in respect of the matter. I say no more than that the Senate will be informed by the Minister in his own good time.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I ask the Minister: Does the Government intend to consult the trade union movement at all with respect to this relevant legislation?
– There are adequate procedures for consultation to be carried out between the Minister and the trade union movement which are constantly being invoked. I imagine that they will be applied in this case as well. But I shall refer that specific question to the Minister to obtain a specific answer on that point.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen an announcement that CSR Ltd and the New South Wales Government plan to discuss a $2 5 m prototype conversion plant to produce oil from Australia’s coal reserves? As this indicates that a private Australian industry is willing to make available a multi-million dollar investment necessary to reduce Australia’s dependence on imported oil during the next decade, can the Minister say whether the Federal Government is participating in these discussions?
-I have seen the newspaper article to which Senator Thomas referred. Indeed, I think all Australians will have read it with interest because the need to find alternative ways of obtaining our energy- particularly oil energy- is of great importance. Therefore, I do note the offer of CSR Ltd to have discussions with the New South Wales Government in that regard and I commend such an approach. But in general terms Senator Thomas asked several other questions. The fact is that other States as well as New South Wales are also undertaking work related to the production of oil from coal.
I remind Senator Thomas that the Commonwealth is deeply involved in this area of energy research and development. The Commonwealth, with the State governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, is about to commence an investigation with the West German interests of the feasibility of establishing a plant to derive oil from coal in Australia. This is a very important development indeed. The Federal Government is now co-ordinating negotiations with the West Germans with a view to achieving early completion of detailed specifications of the work to be carried out.
As the Minister for Science would know, for many years the Commonwealth Government, through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has been very active in coal conversion work in Australia. I am further advised that some of the funds from the coal research levy which was introduced in the latest Budget are likely to be used to investigate alternative methods of producing oil from coal and other related matters. The Federal Government, through its coal research agreement with the United Kingdom and others under negotiation with the United States of America, will be able to assist Australian research workers to be fully informed of the latest overseas developments in coal conversion and so ensure that Australia will be able to take full advantage of the developments in technology in this very important area.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, follows the earlier question asked by Senator Bonner. If the Queensland Government proceeds with its plan to take overthe administration of Aurukun and Mornington Island against the wishes of the Aboriginal people in those areas, will the Government be willing to use the powers of the Parliament under section 5 1 of the Constitution to pass special laws to protect the people in those areas from the efforts of the Queensland Government, and will it be willing to tell the Queensland Government of its willingness to do so?
– As I indicated in answer to the question asked by Senator Bonner, in considering what action needs to be taken to preserve the interests of the Aboriginal communities at Mornington Island and Aurukun, the Government intends to examine closely all the developments surrounding the decision by the Queensland Government. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has this matter under close consideration at present. Undoubtedly he will be having discussions with relevant parties and will indicate what action he believes needs to be taken to protect the interests of those communities. If he has any more specific information on the points raised by Senator Grimes, I will see that the honourable senator is advised.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education. It concerns the relationship between unemployed teachers and Federal Government expenditure on education. Has the Minister seen the report headed ‘Jobless teachers “victims” of cuts’ which appears in the Australian newspaper today and in which the President of the Australian Teachers Federation states that unemployed teachers are the victims of Federal Government cuts in public spending? Can the Minister say whether this is so? If it is not, what are the facts?
-I saw the article in the Australian newspaper today. The basis of the argument is entirely incorrect. The fact is that in the two years of office of this Federal Government the employment of teachers in Australia has risen by 11.2 per cent whilst the school population has gone up by 2.6 per cent. I repeat that the employment of teachers in Australia has been lifted dramatically, by roughly 20,000, whilst the school population has barely moved; it has increased by 2.6 per cent, which is about 74,000. The effect has been not only to increase greatly the work force of teachers in Australia, from about 150,000 to about 170,000, but also to enable class sizes to be reduced quite dramatically so that the pupil-teacher ratio in Australia is comparable to the ratio anywhere else in the developed world.
I want to make it abundantly clear that if there are unemployed teachers in Australia it is not because teachers have been disemployed. The very reverse is the case. There has been an abundant increase. Two factors have created this situation. One is that the retention rate of teachers in Australia has increased. To demonstrate that, I point out that the normal resignation rate of teachers per year is 12 to 13 per cent of the teacher work force; whereas at the moment the rate is 9 per cent. The effect of that is that in the last two years about 15,000 more teachers have remained in the work force than have left. Also, the ratio of teachers newly taken in each year normally would be about 80 per cent new graduates to 20 per cent re-entry. There has been a wide movement for re-entry. The result is that the ratio is now about 60 per cent to 40 per cent, which has greatly altered the situation. Equally, there are jobs for teachers in particular areas of the States, but the mobility of some of the people applying is not great. The problem is complex, but I stress that in the past two years there has been the greatest increase in the employment of teachers that this country has seen.
-I ask the Minister for Education a question which follows from the question he has just answered. Is it not a fact that the Australian Teachers Federation is saying that the reason for the surplus is the very matter of which the Minister has just spoken, that is, that the retention factor is much higher now because teachers are unable to find alternative forms of employment? Is that not the thrust of what the Federation has been saying for some time?
-If Senator Wriedt can read that into the article in today’s Australian he can read anything into anything. The article says simply that the number of unemployed teachers is the result of cuts by the Federal Government in education spending. I repeat something that I think Senator Wriedt has heard me say before: The only cuts in education spending by a Federal government were those made by the Whitlam Government of which Senator Wriedt was a Minister.
– Order! I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of the Right Honourable Brian E. Talboys, M.P., Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Overseas Trade in the Government of New Zealand. On behalf of honourable senators I extend to Mr Talboys and members of his party a very warm welcome.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
In fact a deplorable situation developed in New South Wales where, due to work pressures and lack of funds, no formal CES training -
That is, training of CES Staff- was carried out for about two years.
I ask: Since the Norgard inquiry brought down its report, what action has been taken to rectify this situation and what has been the result of any such action?
– Since the acceptance by the Government of the recommendations of the Norgard report quite a number of measures have been put in train to improve the level of training in the Commonwealth Employment Service, not only in New South Wales but throughout Australia. For the information of honourable senators I will detail some of these measures. A national steering committee has been formed within the Department to plan and co-ordinate the development of a national training program. Additional training resources have been provided within the CES to develop new training programs. Arrangements have been made to run a number of training courses for trainers to ensure a supply of suitably trained personnel in all States. Improved training programs have been developed for new entrants into the CES, and steps have been taken to obtain suitable accommodation for the expanded training activities. All these measures have been introduced only recently and it is too early to give an evaluation of them, as Senator Baume has requested.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to his speech in the Senate last week on the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill in which he expressed the Government’s objective as follows: . . that any measures to achieve changes in the structure of industry are taken only after having due regard to the capacity of the economy to sustain those changes and to absorb any members of the work force displaced by those changes.
Specifically, my question relates to the impending retrenchment of 300 or more workers as a result of the decision by Dunlop Australia Ltd to restructure its Universal Textiles operation in Tasmania. Is the Minister aware that the level of unemployment in the Hobart employment district exceeds 7 per cent and that capacity to absorb those workers does not exist? In view of this, will the Minister take steps to influence the Dunlop company to observe the Government’s policy expressed by him in the Senate on Wednesday last and demand that with its wealth and diverse productive capacity Dunlop establish alternative commodity production in its Derwent Park factory to absorb the 300 or more workers who will be displaced if the company proceeds with its misguided intention of cutting the major part of its Universal Textiles operation in Tasmania?
– The statement of government policy which Senator Harradine has read out and which he correctly attributed to me was made in the Senate last week in the debate on the amendments to the Industries Assistance Commission Act. The statement referred to guidelines. I think the guidelines were taken from the proposed amendments to the Act. They are in that section of the Act which lays down the policy guidelines which the Industries Assistance Commission is obliged to observe in relation to any reference to the IAC regarding any measures of assistance to industry. The specific question which Senator Harradine asks is not in regard to an IAC recommendation or inquiry, as I understand the matter, but is in regard to a decision by an industrial company to retrench workers as part of a restructuring program. So the two matters are quite distinct. However, the matters which the question reveals are always of concern to the Government. I instance the concern which the Government has in regard to the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co Ltd. I shall refer this matter to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I shall certainly draw his attention to the problem and invite him to consider the matter which Senator Harradine has raised.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer or to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. I refer to a resolution of a meeting of the Lords Mayor of Australia which was reported on the Australian Broadcasting Commission news this morning. It stated that the Lords Mayor wanted the Prime Minister to raise the ceiling on the amount of household rates which could be claimed as income tax deductions. Has the Government given any consideration to increasing the ceiling of council rates as a deduction for income tax purposes? Is the Government aware that these and similar concessions contribute substantially to urban growth and life? Are there any proposals which would assist city and urban councils to encourage greater community and housing development in those cities, to prevent them from becoming sprawling masses and to assist them to be appropriately developed societies?
– That question, I think, comes to me in both my capacities. By way of preface I add that from time to time I meet the Lord Mayors of the various cities of Australia.
– Who is right and who is wrong? It is Lord Mayors.
– I award Senator Grimes two points for neatness. He does not succeed often but he can have an early mark today. I thank him very much. I meet the Lord Mayors.
– Keep it up. You are right.
– There is no limit to the numeracy and literacy of members of the Australian Labor Party. The Lord Mayors meet regularly as a city secretariat to discuss the peculiar and unique problems of the cities. I meet the city secretariat in my capacity as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. This morning I read a statement of a recent meeting and of its urging the Federal Government to increase the ceiling of $300 as a tax deduction for rates. I know of no such intention. Of course, this is a policy matter and would be one that I would have to take to the Government. I shall refer that portion of the question to the Treasurer. I point out that one of the basic reasons for the establishment of individual grants commissions in the six States was for the grants commissions to have an opportunity to look at the needs of individual municipalities, shires and particularly cities so that the grants commissions, when breaking up the recommendations for equalisation, could make allowances for either concentration or diversity of population or areas, or the special needs of cities. My own view is that the State grants commissions should concentrate more upon the particular needs of cities, which are, of course, the instruments of service of the whole of a State and should be regarded as such. They could therefore do much to help in respect of the revenues of the cities. Nevertheless, I will bring the aspect of an increase in the ceiling of allowances to the attention of the Treasurer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Senior members of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are in dispute over the use of outside contract labour by the ABC in a current ABC television series called ‘The Marcia Hines Show’. In respect of this series, can the Minister inform the Senate how many instances there have been of the use of contract labour for work that could have been done by ABC employees and, secondly, what has been the cost to the Commission of the use of this contract labour?
– Whilst I am aware of the nature of the dispute, I am not aware of the details. From time to time the ABC has used contract labour for various purposes. However, I am not sure whether it has been used for announcing purposes and, if so, in what quantities it has been used. I will seek the information and let the honourable senator have it.
-I think that those of us who remember the weakness of the League of Nations would be permitted to have some concern not merely for the weakness but also for the danger of the United Nations as it is operating today. In view of the incident for which the Palestine Liberation Organisation has claimed credit and about which it actually received the right to speak over the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s national network last night, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider the appropriateness of making representations to the appropriate organ of the United Nations to expel or cancel the recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation as an observer to that body while ever these tactics of terrorism are boasted to be the achievement of the PLO?
-I think that all honourable senators would share the honourable senator’s sentiments about the activities of the PLO generally and, in particular, the event of the last few days. An interesting suggestion has been made. I will pass it on to my colleague for his consideration.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. On 27 January 1978 the Attorney-General announced the appointment to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Mr P. C. Winter, a former General Manager of the City Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd; Mr W. B. Borthwick, a former Assistant General Manager of the T & G Mutual Life Society Ltd; and Mr L. G. Oxby, a former Deputy General Manager of the AMP Society. I do not want to put words into the Attorney-General’s mouth but I ask: When he was announcing the appointments did the thought strike him that the public might wonder at the abundance of former insurance managers and try to reason why?
– There are very simple reasons why. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which I remind the Senate was established by an Attorney-General in the Labor Government, is based on the view that appeals to the Tribunal should go in many cases to panels comprised of the President, who is a judge and a full time member, and part time persons who, according to the legislation under which the Tribunal was established, have special qualifications in regard to the matters under appeal. A large number of people have been appointed as part-time members to make up panels. Certainly, at times the Tribunal may be constituted by a presidential member sitting alone but the idea is that the President should in some cases sit with part-time members who are chosen because of their special qualifications and knowledge. These people have been appointed to hear appeals specifically related to the Insurance Acts.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs seen a report in yesterday’s media carrying the headline ‘Cruel Hoax for Tasmania ‘, which stated that the Opposition spokesman for Primary Industry, Senator Walsh, had said that a Government document he had just obtained showed that under the Federal Government’s new petrol freight subsidy scheme no subsidy would be paid on fuel freighted to Hobart, Launceston, Devonport or surrounding districts? Will the Minister explain to the chamber the Government’s policy on the fuel freight subsidy? If Senator Walsh was not misquoted, I am sure that it must be through ignorance of Government policy that he made such a ridiculous statement.
– The statement attributed to Senator Walsh is in accordance with the attitude that he displays frequently in the Senate.
- Mr President, I rise to order. Senator Walters is not seeking information; she is asking for a statement of Government policy.
– Order! The point of order is not sustained.
– I shall obtain the details of the application of the Government’s new proposals to Tasmania and specific areas of Tasmania.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister may not know that the Treasurer has just stated in the House of Representatives that the Budget deficit is shooting up above the Government’s estimate because the Government has been more successful in controlling inflation than it expected to be. Given the fact that for more than two years Government spokesmen, especially the Prime Minister and the former Treasurer, Mr Lynch, have asserted that a rising deficit or, as they used to put it, a deficit out of control, causes inflation, does the Government expect a burst of new inflation caused by its ballooning deficit? Alternatively, has the new Treasurer repudiated the Fraser-Lynch doctrine that a rising deficit equals rising inflation?
– What a pity it is that Senator Walsh has neither heard nor read the full substance of what the Treasurer has said in another place on a number of occasions as to the reasons why–
– I am talking about what he said today.
-I ask Senator Walsh to contain his blood pressure and patience. The deficit is likely to be a little larger than first expected. Perhaps the honourable senator regrets two of the reasons why it will be a little larger. Had Senator Walsh been listening carefully to the Treasurer- he is not listening now- he would have noted that because of the success of the Government in reducing inflation and containing nominal wage rates -
– And increasing unemployment.
– That was an initiative of the Whitlam Labor Government. We do not deny the Australian Labor Party the exquisite satisfaction of being the creator of high unemployment. The fact quite clearly is that if the Government contains nominal wages better than it predicted- as it has- its intake of tax will be less and therefore the deficit bigger. Equally, if the Government can reduce imports by the offset of home-made manufactures, then of course the revenue from customs duties will be less. Those things have happened. The Government does not run away from its statement that the containment of the deficit is important. Indeed, as I have frequently reminded the Labor Party, its then Treasurer, now its leader, laid down in 1975 that premise which the Labor Party and its Leader now seek to deny furiously. No doubt the Labor Party will note that, whereas it left office with inflation running at 18 per cent, in the last 12 months inflation has run at 9.3 per cent and is falling. Having raised interest rates from a basic 6 per cent to 1 1 per cent and 12 per cent, no doubt the Labor Party will note that interest rates have now dropped by about 1.3 per cent. I wonder whether the Labor Party is regretting the success of the Federal Government’s policies.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Implicit in the answer that the Minister just gave is an assertion that the ballooning deficit has been caused solely by shortfalls in revenue. Is the Minister in fact saying that expenditure also will not overshoot the estimates?
– How the Opposition can find these implicit things I do not know. I quoted two factors, the decline in revenue due to lower taxation and the decline due to lower customs duties. There will be also an offset in increased expenditure. I am open to correction if I am wrong, but I thought Senator Walsh was interested in rural affairs. Is he now saying that he opposes the extra expenditure in drought relief and aid to the beef cattle producers and to isolated children? What is Senator Walsh saying? I take it that he is regretting, on behalf of the Labor Party, that the deficit has ballooned, to use his words. Of course, he puts aside taxation and customs duties and asks the Government to direct its attention to the real issue. The real issue is increased rural expenditure to relieve the plight of the rural people, which Senator Walsh now regrets and condemns. The Government is proud to have increased the expenditure in that regard.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs concerning the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Can the Minister say what progress has been made, particularly in negotiations with the States, towards ratification by the Commonwealth of the Covenant?
-I am informed that Australia has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Ratification of the Covenant would be desirable, particularly in the light of Australia’s election to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Government’s main concern is to ensure that Australia will be in a position to fulfil its international obligations after ratification. Since the standards of the Covenant will need to be implemented Australia-wide, it is essential that satisfactory arrangements for implementation be made between Federal and State authorities. The matter has already been discussed with the States in the context of the Commonwealth’s proposals to establish an Australian human rights commission. However, further consultations with the States will be necessary before the Government is in a position to decide that ratification may be effected. I understand that the Prime Minister has written recently to State Premiers seeking their support for early ratification by Australia of the Covenant.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and is complementary to the question asked earlier by Senator Grimes of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is the Attorney-General aware that the Queensland Government has taken over two Aboriginal mission communities at Mornington Island and Aurukun and that the takeover was carried out without consultation with either the church or the respective communities? Is he also aware that the takeover was arranged by agreement with a mining consortium in the case of Aurukun and by arrangement with tourist and /or fishing interests in the case of Mornington Island? Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether the decision of the Queensland Government is consistent with the decision of the 1967 referendum, and can the Commonwealth Government legally prevent such takeovers?
-I do not really think this question comes within my responsibility as Attorney-General. The honourable senator may be seeking a legal opinion, which I have no intention of giving. The policy considerations behind this question clearly concern other Ministers and I suggest that the honourable senator address his question to them.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science. Having raised here on occasions over the last two years the question of butter presentation and spreadability, I ask the Minister: Is he aware that Australian domestic consumption of butter has approximately halved in less than 10 years? Can he advise what progress, if any, has been made with the butter blending project, and what are the major impediments at present to its development?
– The honourable senator has on several occasions inquired about the lower level of butter sales in Australia. Indeed, the matter is of great concern to the dairy industry. Various suggestions have been put forward as to why butter may have lost some of its markets over the last year or two. I think that may be a matter for individual views in the industry, on the part of those who produce competitive products and indeed on the part of honourable senators.
– You would not be referring to New Zealand, would you?
-Senator Wright, who is also very interested in this matter, suggests that New Zealand is a competitor. Senators Wright and Archer would appreciate that it is fairly obvious that the inroads into the spread market have been created by butter’s competitor, margarine, and the references to the consequences of that form of competition are right to the point when one considers the future of the butter industry. New Zealand’s greatest market is in butter but that market has been eroded by margarine sales despite the fact that it is more expensive than butter in that country. That is something that authorities in Australia may wish to consider. However, I understand that recently there has been quite a run in the direction of lower levels of butter sales in Australia and this is of great concern, because of one particular aspect. The honourable senator asks about a blend that has been encouraged by some individuals in the dairy industry. It is for those individuals to be responsible for the action they have taken. My understanding was that blending was progressing in South Australia. I am unable to say at the moment how that is proceeding but I will attempt to obtain further information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Last week the Prime Minister, in making a statement in the Parliament concerning the computer affair, advised the Parliament that a committee of Ministers, appointed by a Cabinet decision of 8 November, had approved the issue of a letter of intent to Facom Australia Ltd. I ask the Minister: Who were the members of that committee, and was he one of them? On what day did that committee decide to award the computer contract to Facom? Did the committee have before it a copy of the letter from IBM Australia Ltd to the Prime Minister dated 2 December?
-I do not know whether I heard the honourable senator correctly. I understood him to be asking about a meeting of Ministers on 8 November and whether they had before them a letter dated 2 December. I hope I heard incorrectly, because the committee would be a pretty remarkable one if on 8 November it could have before it a letter dated 2 December. As I recall the Prime Minister’s statement, a committee of Ministers considered this matter on, I think, two dates in November- I think 7 and 8 November. As the honourable senator would well know, it is not usual to disclose members present at Cabinet meetings. If the Leader of the Opposition looks at the issued list of Cabinet committees he may be able to make a guess, but I have no intention of disclosing which committee of Cabinet considered the matter or of telling him whether I was present. If he rereads the Prime Minister’s statement he will see that no committee of Ministers on that date decided to award the contract to anybody. Again I say that I thought the Leader of the Opposition asked whether on 8 November the committee had before it the letter of 2 December.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Resources. It has been reported that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has stated that it is anticipated that between 1980 and 1985 there will be a drop in the demand for uranium of some 36 per cent from the original estimates of production because of delays and revisions caused primarily by environmentalist groups. In view of” the fact that there are indications that the development of uranium mining may be further retarded because little progress is being made and little agreement is being arrived at between people representing Aboriginal interests, mining interests, government authorities, et cetera, is it now not unlikely that the timetable for future estimates of production of uranium may also have to be further amended? In the event of an impasse in the situation will the Government bring the matter before an arbitrator and take whatever action is considered necessary to ensure that stability and common sense are brought to the planning and development of uranium?
-I am advised by my colleague in the other place that the annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977 stated that Australian sales of uranium to the mid-1980s might amount to between 33,000 tonnes and 55,000 tonnes. Whilst there has been some weakening in the uranium market in recent years, this still represents a very considerable level of possible exports by Australia from new mines. In his statement to the Parliament of 25 August 1 977 the Minister for Trade and Resources pointed out that the Ranger Inquiry assumed that the production and sale of Australian uranium would begin in 1981-82 at a rate of 2,000 short tons, increasing to 10,000 short tons in 1985-86. He said that these estimates are broadly in Une with the Government’s assessment of the world market in the first half of the 1980s and that after 1985 the likely exports Australia could make would increase substantially.
The estimates and advice of the Atomic Energy Commission were, of course, available to the Government in the course of making the decision in relation to the development of Australian uranium resources which was announced to the Parliament on 25 August 1977. As to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, I am advised that whether the Government will bring the question of an agreement with the Aboriginal people before an arbitrator is a matter that can be decided only when negotiations with the Northern Land Council have proceeded further. It would not be proper to comment any more than that.
-Last week Senator Wheeldon asked me a question concerning the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the Press. I have obtained the following reply from my colleague the Minis.ter for Foreign Affairs: The main criticism directed towards UNESCO’s activities in the mass media field has focused on UNESCO’s draft declaration on the use of the mass media. UNESCO was directed to prepare this draft declaration by a decision of the Organisation’s member states at the eighteenth UNESCO general conference in 1974. The draft subsequently prepared was discussed at the nineteenth general conference which was held in Nairobi in 1976. Discussion at Nairobi was contentious with the critics of the draft declaration, including Australia, being opposed mainly to those provisions which implied an unacceptable degree of state control over the activities of national mass media. Discussion of the draft was finally deferred pending a re-draft by UNESCO after further consultations with independent media specialists and member states. The re-draft is scheduled for discussion at the twentieth general conference, which is to be held in Paris in October and November of this year. We understand that the re-draft is now nearing completion and will be communicated to member states, including Australia, in the near future. A final definition of the Government’s policy on this must await consideration ofthe new draft.
Much of the debate on the mass media question has focused on the question of the free and balanced flow of information between countries and on the role of the international news agencies in ensuring this. A UNESCO colloquium on these problems, held in Florence in April 1 977, was an important and positive step towards the establishment of an informal code of ethics for western journalists writing about Third World countries, which was generally endorsed by representatives of both Western and Third World media. This colloquium also evidenced considerable support for the creation of Third World ‘pool’ news agencies but was careful to note that such agencies should strive to create a flow of material conceived by professional journalists rather than by government officials.
In general, Australia is committed to the maximum possible freedom in media activities and the flow of information and news. We are completely sympathetic to the need to ensure a prompt and reliable flow of news to and from all developing countries and recognise that a reliable news service concentrating on their affairs would be all to the good. We could not, of course, favour government control over information activities and would hope that proposals for Third World news ‘pools’, including those made by the non-aligned nations, would not mean that governments would become the sole source of news in developing countries, freezing out independent news agencies which have an important contribution to make. We favour freedom and competition in the provision of news, both nationally and internationally, as we do in other fields.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill 1978. Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1978.
– Pursuant to sub-section 12D of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 I present the Academic Salaries Tribunal 1977 Review.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964 I present the annual report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on files and rasps.
Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare
-by leave- On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, I present a report on the reference relating to the introduction of a national superannuation scheme.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator BROWN(Victoria)-by leave-I have the honour to present to the Senate, on behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, a brief formal report on the reference relating to the introduction of a national superannuation scheme. This reference was originally given to the former Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, of which I was a member, on 7 April 1971 and remained in abeyance awaiting the report of the National Superannuation Committee of Inquiry under the chairmanship of Professor Keith Hancock
The majority and minority reports resulting from that Inquiry recommended two basically differing schemes. These have been referred to the Government’s advisers for examination. The Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare believes that further inquiry at this stage would merely duplicate the work already done by the Committee of Inquiry. Therefore, we have decided not to proceed with the reference.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Senate-
notes the agreement of governments on the member countries of the Commonwealth that the second Monday in March shall be observed throughout the Commonwealth as Commonwealth Day;
commends the value of the institution of the Commonwealth as a unique world forum for free and open discussion and exchange of ideas between member countries of the diverse cultures, religions, languages and local history;
regards with satisfaction the growing awareness in the Commonwealth of the value of regional consultation, such as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting as a stimulus to new and increased co-operation in areas of special interest to the region;
Commends the observance of Commonwealth Day as an occasion for Australians to reflect on the value of membership of the Commonwealth and to reaffirm their commitment to the Commonwealth.
That the terms of this resolution be conveyed to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
– It is of interest to me to observe that yesterday was Commonwealth Day. I would have thought that a motion such as this should have been moved last week. We place ourselves in a ridiculous position when on the day following the observance of Commonwealth Day we pass a resolution in wholehearted support of it. As I recall, Commonwealth Day was celebrated yesterday in Sydney and, I think, in the other capital cities.
– It was Labour Day in Victoria.
– It was Labour Day in Victoria.
– And Canberra Day in Canberra.
-And Canberra Day. Nevertheless, the Government has moved a motion saying that it considers it important that Commonwealth Day should be observed. It seems odd that that motion was moved so late. It is an important motion which I think should have been moved last week in order to encourage citizens to participate in the various celebrations throughout Australia.
– I would like to be associated with the motion, in view of my connection with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I have just completed a term as the Australasian Regional Councillor during which I have been involved with the headquarters of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in promoting interest in and support by parliaments for the observance of Commonwealth Day. I think it should be pointed out that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is one of the most, if not the most, senior of Commonwealth organisations. Not only has it done a great deal in promoting relationships between parliaments but it also has been in existence during the emergence of the Commonwealth as a strong collection of nations representing 35 to 36 groups of people. Therefore it has had a strong association with the promotion and development of the well-being and the many activities of the Commonwealth.
I am glad to note that the resolution will be forwarded to Sir Robin Vanderfelt at the headquarters of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in London, as it was at this time last year. I think we also should take note of Senator George’s suggestion that motions relating to the observance of Commonwealth Day might be made before the actual day. It is only a small detail, but it would serve to remind the Parliament and the community at large of the importance of the day that is ahead of us rather than behind us. I have pleasure in thanking the Minister for what he has said and I support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I inform the Senate that pursuant to resolutions agreed to by both Houses I have received letters from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) nominating members of the House of Representatives to serve on joint committees as follows:
Mr Armitage, Dr Blewett, Mr Bryant, Mr Dobie, Mr Jacobi, Mr Katter, Dr Klugman, Mr Martyr, Mr Neil, Mr Scholes, Mr Shipton, Mr Short, Mr Simon and Mr Thomson.
Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory
Mr Bums, Mr Dean, Mr Fry, Mr Haslem, Mr Innes and Mr Lucock.
Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House
Mr Haslem, Mr Innes, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Keating, Mr Lloyd and Mr Simon.
Debate resumed from 2 March, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill is to provide $2. 5m for two specific projects associated with water conservation and distribution and flood control in New South Wales and Queensland and also to authorise future payments for the same purposes under criteria which are specified in the Bill. Before I continue, I think I should correct a couple of statements made by the second speaker for the Government in the House of Representatives on this Bill, the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite). He said that this Bill is an example of what the Government ‘s federalism policy is all about. This Bill of course provides for a tied grant to the States. The grant is made available under certain conditions and, as such, is the antithesis of what the new federalism is supposed to be all about. He also stated- evidently he had not read the Bill- that it provides for a contribution of $200m over five years, lt provides for no such thing. It authorises payments without further Acts of Parliament for water resource projects in accordance with the criteria specified in the Bill. It does not appropriate $200m.
Of the $2.5m that the Bill does appropriate, Sim is for New South Wales, mostly for flood control work, and the other $ 1 ,5m is for the completion of a part completed irrigation scheme in Queensland. The sum of $lm was the subject to legislation introduced but not finalised before the Parliament was dissolved last year. The other $1.5m, for which this Bill makes an appropriation, and the $200m promised, which is something separate from this Bill, over five years for future water resource development projects, are two specimens of the grab bag of promises conjured up by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the weekend before he delivered his policy speech last year, when he thought that he was in considerable danger of losing the election. The $1.5m appropriation and the $200m broader undertaking were two of the 16 bribes hastily put together. They were described by the West Australian newspaper, with its characteristic editorial objectivity, as having the rarity of jack black jelly beans. That is, the 16 hastily conceived bribes in total had the rarity of black jack jelly beans, in the view of whoever wrote the editorial in the West A Australian
Apart from the pork barrelling origin of onehalf of this Bill, the Australian Labor Party has grave reservations about the open-ended nature of clause 7 (2) which authorises non-specific future payments for water resources projects. It is true, of course, that parliamentary appropriations will be required for such payments. Those appropriations could be tacked on to the annual Supply Bills. The Parliament could then only stop pork barrelling appropriations, like the Ord River scheme appropriation of 1 967, by stopping the Supply Bills. I and others had hoped to see an end to such parliamentary vandalism. If the Parliament passes this legislation in its original form it will have surrendered more of its authority to the Executive Government. I therefore move an amendment in the same wording as was moved by my colleague in the House of Representatives, the honourable member for Blaxland, Mr Keating. It states:
At end of motion, add-‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that separate enactments should have been provided for each water resources project’.
The Clerk was supplied with copies of the amendment last week. I neglected to see whether they were still with him. I gather that they are. The two projects for which funds are appropriated by this Bill I have already detailed briefly. Flood mitigation in New South Wales was the subject of legislation introduced but not proceeded with before the Parliament was dissolved last November. The second project was the completion of the Gin Gin channel in Queensland which will provide water for the urban area of Bundaberg and for cane field irrigation. By the generally appallingly historical standards which apply to irrigation schemes, the irrigation scheme component of the project in Queensland is economically sound, though it is superficially incongruous to provide more water for cane irrigation when the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) admitted in the House of Representatives 12 days ago that two million tonnes of cane would be left to stand over or be destroyed next year.
The cost benefit analysis on the project was done some years ago. It revealed that the project should be sound in the longer term. In fact, the project would have been completed by now had the Queensland Government not defaulted on its financial obligations in accordance with the policy of economic sabotage which the Premier appeared to be following between 1973 and 1975. The sometimes sordid and sometimes stupid history of irrigation projects in Australia amply demonstrate the need for a more critical and enlightened scrutiny of the ecological and economic consequences of federal irrigation schemes. The salinity problem which afflicts the Murray Basin is caused by irrigation. There is also a very high correlation between irrigation or products produced in irrigation areas and our chronic problem labour intensive industries which suffer from surplus capacity as well as from a comparative disadvantage. That surplus capacity has been induced substantially by past irrigation schemes.
I have some sympathy for the Victorian Government’s current efforts to obtain a larger share of the national market entitlement for manufactured dairy products. But that Government has been responsible for some of the industry’s surplus capacity. Almost unbelievably it has settled new farmers on irrigated dairy farms in new irrigation areas within the last three years. Of course, at that time the Victorian Government was stuck with the legacy of Sir Henry Bolte’s fundamentalist belief that Murray River water should be used to add to surplus capacity of problem agricultural industries and desalinate the Murray Basin but that, in no circumstances, must that water go to Melbourne. Fortunately that Bolte-type ignorance or dogma is less fashionable than it was once, with the possible exception of some highly placed people in the Western Australian Government.
Demands for water for domestic and industrial use, plus a better understanding of the economic and ecological realities associated with irrigation schemes, have led to a far more critical appraisal of the projects before funds are appropriated. I note with some irony the comments made on past funding for irrigation schemes in the House of Representatives by the honourable member for Dawson, Mr Braithwaite, and the honourable member for Wakefield, Mr Giles. They made their comments about that most spectacular and expensive of all Australian monuments to politicians megalomania, the Ord River scheme. Mr Braithwaite said:
The honourable member for Wakefield spoke on this subject at some greater length and said in a more colloquial way:
If some States are so dopey and so lacking in foresight as to squander all their funds on, shall we say, a second Ord River, that is their funeral.
I was always -
That is, he- and so was I, for that matter- highly suspicious of the Ord River Scheme and, being wise in hindsight, what a white elephant we now have on our plate. I say with deep respect to my colleagues from Western Australia, I do not believe that project was ever studied properly. I do not believe its cost effectiveness was ever established.
Mr Giles is wrong about one thing. The cost effectiveness of the Ord River scheme was in fact established. It was established in considerable detail and published in a book called The Northern Myth. The problem was not that its cost efficiency had not been established but that the present Premier of Western Australia who was then the responsible Minister thought he could bend reality in accord with his will. That was the problem. It was not that the knowledge was not available; it was that the knowledge that was available was ignored by the politicians who were in power, and by one politician in particular. While at that time and since the Premier of Western Australia has been raiding the water supply capital funds to give substance to his personal fantasies for the development of the Ord River the water supplies in the rest of the State have been neglected.
For 16 of the last 19 years Sir Charles Court has been Premier of Western Australia or the Minister responsible for industrial development and water supplies. At the end of that 19-year period Perth and the southern half of the State generally have had placed on them the most severe water restrictions ever experienced.
– There has been a drought.
– I know there has been a drought. There have been two droughts in succession. There has been a complete ban on the use of sprinklers in the Perth metropolitan area and in all areas serviced by the comprehensive water scheme. Therefore the ban covers virtually the entire south-west of the State. Senator Thomas has reminded me that there was a very dry winter last year. There was also a very dry winter in 1976- the year before. The present restrictions would have been much less severe or there would have been less need for the present draconic restrictions if moderate restrictions had been applied during the summer of 1976-77. Those restrictions were not applied because of the cynical opportunism of the Court Government which was facing an election and which did not want the public to be appraised of the fact that the Government which claims to be a government of development and so on had failed in one of its primary developmental obligations, namely to provide an adequate water supply. Water restrictions were not imposed for the summer of 1976-77 when they really should have been because the Government was facing an election and it did not want its crumbling clay feet to be exposed.
Before concluding my speech I warn against what might be a very much graver danger for Western Australia. My warning concerns the possibility that the present Premier may be turned loose on the Arab loan market to borrow $300m which he seeks to fulfil his personal fantasies for the Ord River- that is, to establish a sugar industry producing about 220,000 tonnes of refined sugar. It is not a new idea, incidentally; he came up with it in the early 1 960s, abandoned it and resurrected it in the last couple of years. If the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is foolish enough to let the Premier have his head on the Arab loan market- I note from an article in last Saturday’s Press that it is quite clear the Prime Minister at this stage does not intend to be so foolish- or if at some time he should change his mind and allow the Premier to go out and to borrow $300m overseas to establish a sugar industry in the Ord River area, we Western Australians will be in the position where we will be producing a commodity which has a minimum production cost of about $300 a tonne and a marginal market value of about $ 1 50 a tonne. Of course, not only will we be saddled then with the existing capital cost of the Ord River scheme and the $3m it costs annually to maintain the handful of farmers who are still making some pretence of carrying out agriculture there, but also we will be saddled with enormous losses on an annual production of a substantial quantity of sugar cane.
The history of the Ord River scheme underlines more than that of any other irrigation scheme, certainly any recent irrigation scheme, the need for critical parliamentary scrutiny of the appropriation of funds of this nature. The appropriation did not receive that sort of scrutiny in 1967 although, given the political circumstances at the time, it probably would not have made any difference. Funds ultimately were provided by the Federal Government of the day to secure a fifth Senate seat in Western Australia. The sorry history of the Ord River project demonstrates that this Parliament should not abdicate its responsibility to scrutinise these matters to the extent that it will be doing if it passes the Bill in its original form. Therefore, I hope that all the honourable senators who recognise that this Parliament should not surrender more of its authority to the Executive government will vote for the amendment which I have moved.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
-The National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill forms the legislative framework which will enable the Commonwealth to provide finance to the States for various water projects and, in effect, provides the legislative means whereby the Government’s election promise on this subject will be fulfilled. I greet the introduction of the Bill with much satisfaction because there are many projects in South Australia to which the provisions of this Bill could be applied. South Australia has a particular problem with respect to water filtration. The Labor Government in South Australia is currently carrying out a water filtration scheme which will cost $154m to complete.
The Premier of South Australia made reference in his policy speech during the South Australian election campaign last year to providing metropolitan Adelaide with filtered water. Unfortunately, he did not mention anything about country areas. In particular, he did not mention the northern Spencer Gulf area, which has very poor water quality. As Senator Messner will appreciate, a few years ago problems were encountered there with respect to amoebic meningitis, which is a water-borne disease. That caused a lot of community comment in regard to future filtration of the water supply in that area. I hope that the State Government will recognise the problems there and that it will include a project for that area in its program in the future.
We must recognise that the size of Australia’s fresh water resources cannot be increased except by undertaking large scale desalination projects or perhaps by towing icebergs up from Antarctica. As neither of these methods is likely to be introduced in the near future we must conserve and preserve the limited water resources that we have in Australia. The preservation of water includes its protection from pollution and its purification to permit re-use. It is probably in protecting our water from pollution that most can be done to ensure that our water resources are used sensible and efficiently. Yet it is within this area that coherent national machinery for wise water management is lacking. The Senate will recall that the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, of which I am the Chairman, has before it the following reference:
The continuing oversight of the problems of pollution, including ways and means of preserving the environment from pollution; and the recommending, as soon as possible, of what further measures might be taken to overcome the problems revealed by the reports of the Senate Select Committees on Air Pollution and Water Pollution, and which measures, if any, should be taken urgently.
Therefore, I think it is appropriate for me to speak on some of the problems of pollution as they affect our water resources. Although my colleagues on the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment may agree with my remarks, I emphasise that my remarks are of a personal nature. In 1970 the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, which was chaired by my colleague Senator Davidson, tabled its report on water pollution in Australia. This report was described in the Bulletin of 10 April 1971 as ‘the standard reference on the subject and an eloquent as well as expert piece of work’. The Committee made the following comment in its report:
A company investing in water pollution abatement got no direct financial return from its investment and was incurring the expenditure for the benefit of the community as a whole. In addition, it had few legal standards to meet. Consequently, firms with a responsible attitude received little encouragement and even some discouragement in seeing others get away with it.
But industry is not necessarily the chief offender. Much pollution springs from sewage entering waterways. This is the responsibility of local government authorities and government bodies in the States, which may seem also to be getting away with it. In part, the problems spring from a lack of awareness and from inadequate and fragmentary legislation. The Select Committee’s report states:
The picture of State and Territory legislation built up during the Committee’s investigations has been by and large one of a remarkable lack of cohesion bordering on the chaotic.
Furthermore, no national standards exist for water quality upon which legislation can be based. I note that late in 1976 the Australian Water Resources Council started to compile a series of reports on water quality criteria. It would be interesting to learn the outcome of this work. What is needed is a national water quality reference document of the kind published by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States of America in the publication entitled Quality Criteria for Water’, which is quite a large document. I believe that such a document is long overdue in Australia.
In view of these remarks, let met quote the first recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution in Australia. It states:
Australia should adopt a national approach to the management of its water resources which set out acceptable standards, co-ordinates the aims and aspirations of State and local government authorities and creates the machinery to achieve them in balance with other national goals such as those for growth and development.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! Too many speeches are being read in the Senate chamber. I think that Senator Jessop is reading a great deal in making his speech. Senator Walsh, who preceded the honourable senator in the debate, also read his speech. The Standing Orders state that honourable senators should not read their speeches.
– Thank you for your advice, Mr Acting Deputy President. When speaking on some subjects I find it necessary to refer to notes quite extensively. Mr Acting Deputy President, you may be capable of retaining these matters in your mind, but I find it impossible to do this because the Senate deals with a broad range of subjects. I was talking about the need for co-ordination and the need for the establishment of a national body to deal with this subject. The Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution made reference to the need for the establishment of such a body. Of course, the United States of America has adopted very stringent rules and laws with respect to water quality. I understand that in that country the Federal Government provides all the finance for projects that are shown to comply with the standards that the Federal Government lays down. I think that ought to be examined by the Government with the object of encouraging the States to enter into more conservation projects to minimise the pollution of our inland waters.
We ought to examine also the treatment of sewage. In Brisbane a clip-on device in a treatment works injects oxygen into the sewage body itself, thus accelerating the bacteriological action and quadrupling the efficiency of the sewerage treatment plant. Similarly, I read in the New Scientist in May last year an article which commented on the results of work carried out by the Water Research Centre and the Thames Water Authority on the use of anoxic bacteriological filter beds which can remove up to 90 per cent nitrate from sewerage works effluent. The work was done at the two largest sewerage works discharging into the River Lee, from which 20 per cent of London’s drinking water is drawn. It is noteworthy that the extract from the New Scientist points out that salmon were caught recently in the River Thames for the first time in many years.
Last year the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment visited the Lower Molonglo water quality control plant in Canberra, and I think that all honourable senators should take time to inspect that facility. I was delighted to note that the plant, when it is fully operational, will minimise pollution in the Murray River system. Although on its own it may not seem to do a great deal, at least it is an example of projects that ought to be continued throughout the system. On Friday of this week the Committee will visit the Atomic Energy Research Station at Lucas Heights. The Atomic Energy Commission has done a lot of work in determining the age of ground water by measuring the relative quantities of various radioactive substances in the water. An article in the Bulletin of 3 1 January this year detailed some most disturbing results of this work as it applies to Australian bore water. For example, water from the Mereenie aquifer which supplies Alice Springs is 2,500 years old and water from the lowest part of the Great Artesian Basin in South Australia is 500,000 years old. Even water from the bores in western New South Wales is at least 200,000 years old. I found that information quite interesting and I am looking forward to talking to some of the experts when we visit Lucas Heights on Friday.
The Australian Water Resources Council comprises Federal and State Ministers with responsibility for water resources and for works. The Council meets once and sometimes twice a year and is supported by a very small secretariat. According to the Commonwealth Government Directory for 1977, the functions of the Council are:
To provide a forum for exchange of views relating to the development of policies, guidelines and programs which may be considered appropriate to assist the orderly assessment, and most beneficial development and management of Australia ‘s water resources.
I believe that the work of the Council is admirable and does much to assist in examining and dealing with problems relating to our water resources. Even so, I believe that in the modern Commonwealth of Australia problems related to our water resources need more than a mere forum for the exchange of views, even though such exchanges at ministerial level may be fruitful up to a point. Water resources and flows take no heed of State boundaries, and one State’s waste may be another State’s drinking water. It is very important for the Government to recognise the recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, which stated:
. take urgent steps to establish a National Water Commission. The functions of the Commission should include:
If this matter was important 8 years ago, how much more important is it today? Australia is the driest continent in the world and South Australia happens to’ be the driest State in that continent. The question of establishing a national water commission to deal with the subjects I have just described is a matter of urgency, and the Government ought to take action to see that the recommendation is implemented.
I note that the Opposition has chosen to submit an amendment to the Bill, which I reject. I believe that it is meaningless and would not serve any useful purpose. I remind the Opposition that each water resources project will require a special appropriation and legislation, debate on which will give ample opportunity to honourable senators to express views on particular projects. I reject the Labor Party’s amendment and have pleasure in supporting the Bill, which I believe will stimulate a tremendous amount of capital works throughout Australia at a time when we need to provide job opportunities.
– In supporting the amendment moved by Senator Walsh, I agree with Senator Jessop that water is the most precious commodity that this continent possesses and needs to be protected from mining operations. In the first instance I wish to take up the statement in the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that the new legislative procedures in regard to water resource projects would not in any way restrict the flow of information or reduce the opportunities for debate. I have some misgivings about this, and I think that the Opposition ‘s amendment has been prompted by the fact that in much smaller procedural matters involving nature conservation grants we are provided with a brief map but receive no information on the habitat or the wildlife involved. I question whether the Senate will get all the details that it should about water resources projects.
Senator Jessop referred to the report prepared by the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution in Australia. The Committee was under the chairmanship of Senator Davidson and its members included myself and former South Australian stalwarts like Senator Ridley and others. Under a federal system, legislation in Canada dealing with the improvement of the St Lawrence Seaway and legislation in the United States dealing with the Hudson River seemed to be more comprehensive. I feel that the Australian legislation is somewhat skimpy, and I will listen with interest when the Minister replies to learn just how comprehensive this legislation is. The problem with the federal system is that there are too many fingers in the pie. In my own State Mr Arblaster, who purports to be the shadow Minister for Public Works in the New South Wales Parliament, has roundly condemned the Deputy Premier, Jack Ferguson, who argued rightly that our zest to encourage mining operations does not mean that we should trespass on a major city’s catchment area. The Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, of which I am a member, has heard evidence from coal interests that it is all right to mine under a catchment area. Water is our supreme asset, but a minor catastrophe involving seepage would inflict severe consequences on a major city and loss of valuable water in rural areas also. The most irresponsible statement I have read in the last decade was made by Mr Arblaster, who more or less said that the New South Wales Deputy Premier was committing an act of treason when he advised that we should hasten slowly in mining expansion. On the one hand we get the Bureau of Mines, with all the exploration that is undertaken. Surely, with orderly planning, one can have one’s cake and eat it too, especially on the matter of protecting our water resources. I want to discuss that a little further, because our track record, at either State or territorial level, has not been very good. I well remember the night in this chamber when we were inundated with material from four senior Ministers in relation to Fox Report No. 2.
The Minister for Trade and Resources, the Deputy Prime Minister, went to great lengths to say, with a flourish, ‘We are going to spend $300,000 in rehabilitating the Finniss River’. It was only as a result of the courage of the Senate Water Pollution Committee, in perhaps badgering witnesses, that we learned that the actions of our much-vaunted Atomic Energy Commission had, by miscalculation, polluted the Finniss River. We were then told, ‘It will need only $20,000 and it will be right ‘. Then we were told by another expert- I think a gentleman by the name of Baxter, who received a knighthood, of whom honourable senators will have heardLook, it does not matter; that river runs out into nowhere’. Country Party supporters- cattlemen -commended socialist members of the Water Pollution Committee, and Senator Davidson too, for the way in which it tackled that problem and arrived at the truth. Senator Rae was on the Committee and suggested that possibly, under a co-ordinated Canberra thrust, a plan such as Senator Jessop referred to was feasible but regrettably, members of the legal profession, did not agree. As a result, a piecemeal approach emerged. I am not being churlish on this. I think attitudes have changed, that there is now a much more responsible attitude, but there is still a tendency, when applying protective standards, to wonder whether we are being firm enough.
Every time someone says to me, ‘The protective standards are based on the North American experience’, I say, ‘Maybe they are, but North America is fortunate in having a much higher rainfall, and, except for certain inland States, a much lower rate of evaporation. ‘ This is where we have to be careful not to have too many people meddling. When one reads the last Snowy Mountains Authority report one can have no doubt what that project has meant in the way of energy and water resources, and how it has demonstrated the vision of the postwar era as seen by Prime Minister Chifley. Virtually living dangerously, from a legal point of view- and there is an interesting analogy here- he used the defence powers although it was debatable whether they still applied, since the war had ended. However, irrespective of the political complexion of the State governments of the day, he bludgeoned it through, and it is now history that successive governments have paid tribute to his foresight on that occasion. That was something in which all elements of the community were involved, and served as a milestone. Moreover, it proved beyond doubt that water is our prime asset.
I wish to refer now to certain other reservations that I have. When we consider all these reports, whether on the Murray River or the Snowy Mountains, we must ask, if we are sincere on the subject of conservation, who are to be the people who will make these decisions. I endeavoured to find out whether our wet lands survey had been held back and learned that it had. We have done nothing about it. I am not blaming the Commonwealth outright; I know that of some of the States one could say, ‘Oh ye of little faith’they are so timid about what should be retained in its natural state.
I am reminded of the controversy about the removal of certain mangroves. In Queensland I can recall the Cane Board asking what right another authority had to meddle in matters concerning cane production- although we know that at times an expansion of production can interfere with vegetation on affected rivers and lead to the building up of silt.
Therefore, in considering the personnel of these authorities, one must ask whether they include any genuine conservationists. I realise that Senator Jessop and others had an opportunity to hear from Dr Harry Frith, one of the wildlife experts of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; that he pointed out that surely, even with all our water needs, by the proper manipulation of water levels one can avoid disturbing every billabong that might be the habitat for a particular form of bird life. I should like to be confident that when we arrive at one of these highfalutin agreements between a State and the Commonwealth we will be considering not merely what is involved in satisfying water needs but also the attendant need to protect the environment. We are finding that so many of these projects are undertaken in a piecemeal manner.
If I may digress, there are ways in which one may make the best use of resources and neverthless preserve the environment. To take the example provided by softwoods in New South Wales, I recall that the Premier said, ‘I know that you do not want to decimate your gum forests but we have to have pines.’ He concentrated the effort in the Tumut area and traded that off against the Barrington Tops, which was allowed to retain its eucalyptus forest context. That is the way in which these things can be done.
I repeat, it is of little use to employ the term water resources’ if on the one hand we develop a dam, a weir system or something like that and, on the other, reduce the water quality elsewhere. For instance, in the State of New South Wales it could be argued- although some oyster growers would not agree completely- that the quality of the water in the Georges River is improving. I must say that that is certainly true of the Parramatta River. On the other hand, although some oil companies have improved their refineries in this regard, certain others apparently have not. One of the weaknesses seems to be that whatever is done to monitor our rivers, the progression down the line is so slow that there is delay before remedial action is taken.
The purport of the amendment is to ensure a more searching assessment of each agreement arrived at in this field. Even with the best intentions, under the federal system the chain of command is such that by the time the directive gets down to the river authority slight variations have been made to it. Conservationists have distinct reservations even about the Alligator River in the Northern Territory because, even accepting the question of the Ranger Mine, we notice that Mr Justice Fox suggests that development take place in a number of stages. However, when one talks to mining people they say, ‘You can take short cuts.’ That has become a bit tedious. What happened in the case of the Finniss River must never, never be repeated, and it is only by exposure of the facts, and effective monitoring, that that kind of thing is avoided.
What has been proposed seems to me to be a little skimpy: Senator Jessop referred to the concept of the Water Resources Council. It is very nice to believe that the Minister responsible for water conservation in a State sits down with his Federal counterpart, but I would like to ensure that the whole of the river in question is placed under supervision. In New South Wales the Parramatta River was the subject of meddling by all these different State authorities. I compare that with the Canadian attitude, again working under a Federal system, concerning improvements to the St Lawrence Waterway. I do not deny that under some of these piecemeal schemes ultimately one may reach one’s objective, but I believe that by a mass attack one will arrive at the objective more quickly. It may be that in State government thinking there is more maturity on the part of politicians of all persuasions. I hope there is, but I have some reservations and ask: Will the personnel concerned give more than mere lip service to the unfinished business of wet land surveys? How much would some of these water levels be controlled? What will this do to the habitat of particular bird life? What role would the Commonwealth Government play? Surely, if the New South Wales Legislative Council is to virtually hobble the powers of the New South Wales Water Board, the custodian of catchments, the Federal Government has a role and can say, ‘Water is more important than coal’.
Finally, when these agreements are presented, I should like to see more details given than are given under the Nature Conservation Grants, which are far too skimpy. Perhaps the Minister can give an assurance that mining will not always be king; that water, in all its forms, must be protected. I would conclude on one other point. I know that the question of salinity of the Murray River was a very vital matter. We did not reach a final conclusion, particularly on the vexatious matter of how much we should control agricultural expansion which in some areas compounds the salinity problem. I repeat that I shall await with interest an explanation of my reservations by the Minister.
– The Senate is today debating the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill which relates to financial assistance to the States and the establishment of agreements. As the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) pointed out in his second reading speech, the Bill provides a legislative framework which enables the Commonwealth to make agreements with the States. Reference is made to a national water resources program costing some $200m. As I see it, the Bill is a tidy arrangement to allow a water resources program to continue. Until now various programs of assistance have been authorised by specific Acts, but with a long term program in mind the Government has presented this ongoing legislation. I note that the Minister gave an assurance regarding information on agreements. He pointed out that there will be opportunities for discussion and debate on particular measures. Clause 6 of the Bill sets out the provisions for the tabling of those agreements.
I accept the Minister’s assurance on these matters, but I think it needs to be emphasised that while it may become the responsibility of honourable senators to monitor the process constantly so that all water resources programs and related legislative details come under appropriate scrutiny, the Government will, in due course, give adequate and appropriate announcements of any agreements, arrangements or projections so that Parliament can give them adequate and proper attention. Legislation on water resources is always a good vehicle for what I would call local debate. We are very much concerned about water resources, water services, water supplies and water quality in our own areas. Over the years we have had many debates on these and related subjects. The South Australian situation has already received attention and will continue to receive it during this debate. Many cliches have been used about South Australia, such as it being the driest State in the driest continent. There have been many comments about the quality of Adelaide’s water. There have been many references to the need for water resources if the nation is to produce and if its people are to have a good style of life.
This Bill does not relate particularly to a water scheme but to machinery to implement plans for water resources. A great deal of what the Minister said and what is contained in the Bill reflects what was contained in the statement made in the middle of February by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He indicated that he had written to State Premiers inviting them to nominate projects for consideration under a five-year national water resources program. He pointed out that the Commonwealth Government is to contribute some $200m during this period. In the letters he was seeking the Premiers’ agreement to contribute equally with the Commonwealth to the programs in their own States. I am interested in and impressed by the diversity and extent of the program which the Prime Minister outlined to the State Premiers. It encompassed the provision of funds to the States in the form of grants or loans according to circumstances. The very high priority given to water supplies for urban and rural areas was mentioned and, very importantly, the matter of funds for water supplies, including the re-use of water. Flood mitigation, drainage and flood management programs were fairly obvious inclusions in a water resources program.
The Prime Minister’s communication drew attention to the long term use of existing water resources. We must search constantly to see how water supplies and resources can be improved. It is also very important that we look seriously at the long term use of those resources which already exist. As may well be expected in any water program the Commonwealth Government outlines to the States, there was an important reference to salinity control. South Australians are amongst those who feel very keenly the effects of salinity in their water and river systems. There have been many arguments, and many figures have been produced to show something ofthe effect of salinity on productivity as well as on domestic water supplies in South Australia. I hope that we will see some development and progress in salinity control over the next few years.
The Prime Minister added that it was anticipated that the Government would begin considering proposals from the States in relation to this program before the presentation of the next Budget. Therefore, it is important to point out that the Prime Minister’s statement, rather than just seeking a response of views or information, indicated plans and intentions to commence this program in the near future. Whilst the Bill does not specifically refer to a project it invites attention to certain situations. In South Australia discussion and controversy are taking place in relation to a filtration system for Adelaide. I refer to something which the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) said in another place on 1 March in relation to the Adelaide water supply. He pointed out that the Government had already put up $28m to help with the Adelaide water scheme. He asserted that this would allow the South Australian Government also to put up some of the money it now receives under the tax sharing arrangements to join with the Commonwealth in solving the problems everybody recognises. He said
As well, for the next financial year we have committed ourselves to a further $4.3m. This means that about $32. 8m will be given to South Australia to improve the water treatment plants to overcome those very real problems in Adelaide.
In elaborating on this matter the Minister pointed out that if the South Australian Government would give that scheme a high priority, under the new tax sharing arrangements it could, if it so wished, make a bid to put even more money into the Adelaide water treatment scheme. The Minister said that there was a wide flexibility in this mateer and that the offer was there for the South Australian Government to act upon. I relate that example to this Bill because it provides opportunity for the Minister for Education who represents the Minister for National Development to explain the Government’s position in relation to the agreements to which the Bill refers. Perhaps in the Committee stage the Minister will give us further information on this matter. We shall seek information so that we are fully informed about water quality.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! I referred previously to honourable senators reading speeches. It appears to me that you are reading from copious notes. The Standing Orders do not allow honourable senators to read speeches.
– I note the point you have made, Mr Deputy President. I was indicating that during the Committee stage of the Bill I hope the Minister will refer to this matter. It is important not only to a capital city in Australia but also because it affects the standard of living, quality of life and reputation of a city which is in need of a water supply of good quality.
In relation to agreements I refer also to the Bolivar scheme, north of Adelaide in South Australia. As I understand it, water which has been treated and is of an acceptable standard is, unfortunately, flowing out to sea in considerable quantity when neighbouring rural areas could use this water if proper safeguards were applied. A State government may determine its own priorities, and it takes responsibility for them. I suggest that there is a case for the Commonwealth to state its position and its relationship to the South Australian situation. I hope that the Minister will furnish himself with appropriate information to reply to the questions raised and to provide further information in the Committee stage.
I return to the Bill and its national character. It sets out a pattern of procedures. It must of necessity always have in mind Australia’s total water resources and total water needs. We have now and we have had for some years an Australian Water Resources Council. It is a prestigious body of Ministers from the Commonwealth and the States and it is supported by a very large body of officers, and a welter of committees, research groups, working parties, technical officers and other very distinguished and learned people. Its publication of last year outlines a program of meetings and many research projects. That is excellent. We have the best collection of appropriate material of almost any country in the world.
The Australian Water Resources Council has produced a document entitled ‘Proposed National Approach to Water Resources Management’. The foreword of the document sets out the basic principles and goals underlying the approach to the development and management of water resources in Australia. It is true, as the document points out, that responsibility for these matters in the States and Territories rests primarily with the respective governments and each government retains the right to determine the basis for implementing its particular proposals. The document contains a large number of pages that outline the main activities that are likely to be involved. It is a splendid document. It sets out in very clear terms a national approach to water resources management.
The document calls for the continued development of policies and practices which, as far as possible, are consistent throughout Australia and which are aimed at achieving appropriate water quality objectives and the highest practicable level of pollution abatement. It also calls for the adoption of the general principle that direct costs or costs related to loss of amenity attributable to pollution should be borne by the polluter. It asks again for the implementation of a program of public education, ensuring a proper understanding of the factors affecting the development and use of water resources. It also seeks to encourage an active interest and involvement of the community in the planning and management of water resources. This excellent and consistent theme runs throughout the remaining pages of this document.
I merely want to assert that that document might well have been lifted in its entirety from a document tabled in this Parliament some six years earlier entitled ‘Report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution’. I cannot see in the document of the Australian Water Resources Council any reference to the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, although the Council’s report of 1975 did refer to the report of that Committee and to its emphasis upon the importance of water quality assessment on a national basis. Some of my colleagues, one of whom served with me on the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, have referred to the report of this Senate Select Committee. Although the Committee’s report was presented in 1970, it is timely to tell the Senate that the report is still recognised throughout the Commonwealth as a very authoritative and complete document as far as Australia’s water management and resources are concerned. It is true that certain events have taken place since that report was presented. It is also true that there have been extensive technical advances. One would hope that this would be the case. But this report, which made such an impact at the time, is still drawing public attention and the attention of authorities and organisations which are engaged in water conservation, water management and water inquiries. Some 84 meetings were held by this Committee in the two years in which it was in operation. In that time 230 witnesses gave evidence to the Committee and it heard from Commonwealth and State governments, local government, industry, community organisations, universities, primary producers and others.
I take a moment to state again some of the main recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution and to draw attention to the fact that the Australian Water Resources Council, which is an excellent body that produces splendid documents, undertakes a vast amount of research and seems to have a large number of people working with it and for it, lacks the one thing which I think we need as far as water resources management is concerned, namely, authority. We need a body that has authority. The main recommendation in the Committee’s report of 1970 was that there should be a national policy and that we should adopt a national approach to the management of water resources which sets out acceptable standards, co-ordinates the aims and aspirations of State and local government authorities and creates machinery to achieve them in balance with other national goals, such as those for growth and development.
The report went on to state that the Commonwealth should take urgent steps to establish a national water commission which would formulate a national policy on water resources management, make an assessment of water resources and quality and provide programs for the conservation and orderly development of water resources. In its emphasis upon this aspect the Committee drew attention to the fact that there was such diffused responsibility for water management in Australia that only a concerted national effort could save many Australian water resources from becoming unusable. The Committee stated that there was nothing in the present piecemeal and parochial administration of water to prevent the insidious growth of pollution excesses.
In referring again to the establishment of a national body, the Committee set out the ways in which it felt a national water authority should be established. It said that such an authority should consist of a commissioner and six full time associate commissioners and that the six associate commissioners should be appointed from a panel of nominations invited from the State governments. The Committee went on further to point out that the federal nature of such an authority should be maintained. It asserted also that it should be assisted by a multi-disciplined administration involving specialists in a number of fields- health, engineering, conservation, planning and so on. From the response which that report received, I am convinced that it still contains one of the best plans for Australia’s water resources management.
If such a body were established it would be able to carry out all the research and planning which the Water Resources Council carries out. It would maintain the true spirit of federalism as far as water resources management is concerned. It would provide for equality of voices from the various States and the various regions. It would provide for equality of voices from the various disciplines relating to water resources control and management. At the same time, it would be an authority. It would have power to do certain things. It would be clothed with the understanding and support of the Commonwealth and the States. We would not have now, as we had then and as we seem to have had over many years, a piecemeal approach to water resources management.
If this Bill does nothing else, it draws attention to the fact that there is still in Australia a piecemeal approach to water administration, water authority and water legislation. I take a little comfort from a leading article which appeared in the Australian in April of last year, which stated:
There is a need for some form of co-ordinated inland waterways policy in Australia. At present, we have a number of agreements between States and between States and Commonwealth relating to specific undertakings but no overall authority to deal with one of our major problems: water.
This, surely, is an absurdity in a continent in which vast areas are arid or almost arid . . . control and direction of our water resources is largely a haphazard business.
About the same time the Nation Review stated in an article relating to water:
Water hasn’t reached the stage of being the most serious problem facing us right now, but . . . unless some action is planned now water will have become a more serious problem than the energy crisis by the year 2000.
I submit that the material contained in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution represents the gathering together of information from authorities throughout Australia and throughout the world. It sets out a program in an orderly way. It set out a program in an ordered way, and I present it to the Government yet again. I ask the Government to consider seriously having an authority that not only is well equipped but also can manage and control our resources and keep them in a state of quality that is acceptable to all the people. The Bill before the Senate today gives the Government certain legislative authority. I hope that the Government will look at the other matters relating to water control and supply and management and that in due course it will provide a commission which is clothed with authority and which can save, preserve and develop our water resources.
– The Senate is debating the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill 1978. The Opposition has moved the following amendment:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that separate enactments should have been provided for each water resources project.
I have great pleasure in supporting that amendment. Speakers on the Government side have presented arguments as to why that amendment should not be supported; yet on many occasions honourable senators on the Government side stand up and say both here and in public that this is a States House. Their very action today in saying that they will not support that amendment points out once again that this is not a States House; it is a political House. If this amendment were carried it would enable senators from the various States to have a debate on the water resources of those individual States. We could have a very good debate for and against the proposal. But the Government senators want to have all of the debates on water resources buried in an overall piece of legislation so that once again they cannot be brought to book and made to stand up to their claim that this is a States House.
At present the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources has before it the following reference: ‘The Commonwealth’s role in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia’s water resources’. I have no doubt that when that Committee brings down its report Senator Thomas will be able to go on for many years boasting about it being a very good report, just as Senator Davidson always takes great pride in the report made by the committee on water matters of which he was chairman. Being the only South Australian member of the Standing Committee on National Resources, I am a little disturbed that in South Australia, apart from one other small group, only the South Australian Government departments have seen fit to make a submission to that Committee. We hear many complaints from the Riverland and particularly from the State member for Chaffey, Mr Arnold. He often stands up in the State Parliament and criticises the State Labor Government for, as he claims, doing nothing to protect the interests of the water users in the Riverland.
I have been to the Riverland, I have acquainted the people of the Riverland with the fact that the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources is conducting an inquiry into the Commonwealth’s role in relation to water resources, and I have told them that they should make a submission; yet no submission has been forthcoming from Mr Arnold or from any of the organisations on the Riverland which are deeply concerned about the quality and quantity of water in the River Murray. It makes me wonder at times, when people stand up in public places and criticise the State government, whether they are doing it only for political purposes.
The Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) made reference in his second reading speech to the fact that the projects selected under the Government’s $200m National Water
Resources Program will be authorised by such agreements as those about which I spoke earlier. I will have something further to say about that $200m and also about Mr Newman’s reply in the other place at the end of the second reading debate. Senator Davidson also mentioned that debate; in fact, he quoted from it. People, particularly in South Australia, listening to Mr Newman and reading his speech and listening to Senator Davidson today, could be completely misled, as I will point out later. Both South Australian senators who have spoken today referred to the water nitration scheme in Adelaide. When Senator Jessop spoke about it, he said ‘if it was completed’. Of course, Senator Jessop knows that if it is to be completed the Federal Government will have to come to the assistance of the State Government with a large amount of money.
Senator Davidson said that there was some controversy over filtrated water for Adelaide and the schemes that are involved. My State member, the member for Murray, Mr Wotton, is in a state of great uncertainty about that very thing. A couple of months ago he was reported in two separate places in an edition of” the Murray Valley Standard as calling on the State Labor Government to do something about extending the water scheme through the Bremer Valley to Strathalbyn and saying that the State Government should use some of its resources, some of the money it gets from the Federal Government for the filtration plant for Adelaide water, for that purpose. If one turns over a couple of pages one finds him saying that he supports the State Government funding a scheme to filtrate water for Murray Bridge and district. On the one hand, he is criticising the State Government for filtering water for the metropolitan area and saying that some of the money should be used to extend the country water scheme which, I might say, was contracted and built by the State Labor Government. It had no scheme through Callington under Mr Playford when he was in office. On the other hand, Mr Wotton goes on to say that we ought to find money to filtrate the water in Murray Bridge and district.
Representations were made to me from the district council, asking whether I would support a resolution that was carried at a recent meeting of the Murray Valley Development League calling for greater expenditure of funds to bring water to country areas to encourage decentralisation. When I wrote back to the council I pointed out that whilst I supported the motion in principle I could not agree that a water scheme in a country area would lead to decentralisation. I am mindful of the fact that in South Australia we have a fully planned city- that is the city of Monartowith a pipeline running through the centre; yet this Government is not prepared to give us a penny to develop that city. So it is quite wrong for organisations to get together and pass motions calling on governments, State or Federal, to act, on the basis that developing a water scheme in a country area will bring about decentralisation. Monarto is a perfect illustration of the fact that that does not happen -
– No one wants to live there.
- Senator Cormack has interjected and said that nobody will live there.
– I said that nobody wants to live there.
– It has to be proved that nobody wants to live there. Senator Cormack has been in this place for a long time. He would know that when the establishment of Canberra was first discussed the same argument might have been used- that nobody wanted to live here- but now more than 200,000 souls live in the city of Canberra. The same thing would have happened in Monarto. It is quite useless to say that nobody would want to live there. I live at Murray Bridge, which is only a few miles away, and it is a growing town. I have been quite happy to live there for the past 28 years and I am sure that if Monarto were developed people of the same opinion would like to live there. It has a pipeline from the River Murray through the centre; it is adjacent to Lake Alexandrina, which is the outlet point of the Murray into the sea; and it is very close to Adelaide and the seaside resorts of Goolwa, Port Elliott and Victor Harbour.
I want to comment further on the matter of filtration, in view of the fact that Senators Jessop and Davidson have seen fit to make some remarks about it. I will quote from a Press release issued on 10 August last year by the Minister of Works, Mr Corcoran. One would have thought today, in listening particularly to Senator Davidson, that the State Government was behind the times in bringing about water filtration for Adelaide. But no such scheme was planned or even envisaged under the previous Liberal governments. Mr Playford talked about it right up to 1965 and I think Mr Hall was elected in 1 968 on a policy of filtered water for Adelaide.
– It was part of his policy to filter water and I am sure it was part of the
Liberal Party’s policy in 1 965. But it had no plan. The Press release of 10 August 1977 stated:
The Minister for Works, Mr Des Corcoran, said that in 1970 no scheme had been devised for the filtration of Adelaide’s water.
That is when the South Australian Labor Party came to government. It continued:
Details of a filtration scheme were not received by the Government until 1971 and following full examination of the report and alternatives, the filtration of Adelaide’s water was put to the people as Government policy prior to the 1 973 State elections.
A submission was made to the Commonwealth Government following the election and the Whitlam Government undertook to fund the program in 1974.
Work on the project started almost immediately following that agreement.
The State Government could not proceed with the program until the Commonwealth Government agreed to provide the necessary funds.’
Of course, as Mr Corcoran pointed out, when we were in Government we entered into an agreement to provide a certain amount of funds. The Press release continued:
No time has been wasted since the agreement was reached whereby the Commonwealth was to fund the program with $100m by grant and loan over a 10 year period.’
I will come back to that when I refer to what Mr Newman had to say when the Bill was debated in the other place and what Senator Davidson had to say when quoting him today. The Press release continued to quote Mr Corcoran:
Hope Valley water filtration plant has begun operation. Anstey Hill will go into service in 1 979 and construction of the Barossa would have started by now but the Commonwealth Government has refused to provide funds for that works.
Despite numerous approaches to the Fraser Government we still do not know what the funding situation will be beyond next financial year. ‘
He was talking about this financial year-
This must have a serious effect on the previously planned rate of progress for the four other filtration plants needed to serve the metropolitan area.’
Accompanied by Senator Messner, Senator Young and Senator Bishop, I was able to go to the Hope Valley filtration plant on 4 February last year and have a good look at it prior to its opening. If any honourable senator opposite would like to look at the brochure that was given to me when I went through the plant to see how the plant has been constructed and what it is meant to do and the progress report on the other schemes, I would be quite happy to let him look at it. I have the document here. It is a very valuable document. It should lay to ground forever the criticism that has been made of the Labor Government in South Australia, to the effect that it is not getting on with the work of planning for the filtrated water scheme for Adelaide. On 7 December last year, just prior to the Federal election, Mr Corcoran had to put out another Press release dealing with the Fraser Government’s water resources program. It was a criticism of the promise that had been made in the Government’s policy speech. We now see this promise coming forward again today by way of this legislation. The Press release of 1 December 1977 stated:
The Minister of Works, Mr Des Corcoran, today described as an empty sham the Fraser Government’s five year program for national water resources.
Mr Corcoran was referring to the following statement made by Mr Fraser in his policy speech:
We will improve city and country water supplies with a five year $200m national water resources program ‘.
We heard Senator Jessop earlier today make some criticism of the State Government in South Australia that it was not doing anything to help country water programs. Of course, the legislation before us is not doing anything either to assist the South Australian Labor Government to do the very thing that Senator Jessop is criticising it for not doing. The Press release continued:
Mr Corcoran said that on the surface this seemed to be a generous commitment. He was talking about Mr Fraser’s promise of $200m over a 5-year period.
But deeper analysis shows that instead of being a giver Mr Fraser is a taker’, said Mr Corcoran.
The $200m equated to $40m a year over the next five years for all the States.
Where is the generosity in this intention when the expenditure on water resources activities last financial year was $77m?’
That was in the State. It continued:
The reduction of $37m is bad enough in itself but when the cost of inflation is added to that amount the fall in funding is drastic.
If allocations are made in line with population it will mean that South Australia’s share will be about $4m- a veritable drop in the bucket’.
Mr Corcoran was quite right when he talked about $4m because Senator Davidson today, and Mr Newman earlier, referred to the fact that South Australia will receive about $4.3m, I think, under this scheme. The Press release continued:
Mr Corcoran said that South Australia had received $ 13.5m from the Commonwealth Government for water resources activities last financial year.
South Australia’s position is quite clear. Every year we need to be compensated in full for the cost of inflation just to maintain our existing acitivities- with no increase in activities allowed for.
Instead of that, under this seemingly generous program, we will get no compensation for inflation, and we will lose an additional $10m a year compared with what we received in 1976-77.
Mr Fraser’s intentions are obvious; pick out a nice round figure like $200m; it sounds good and spread it over a number of years which he hopes the public won’t remember anyway.
We still have no commitment from the Fraser Government beyond next financial year for Adelaide’s Water Filtration Program’, he said.
On the other hand, Mr Whitlam and Mr Uren have pledged a Federal Labor Government to fund the program to its completion and at the weekend Mr Uren announced that if a Labor Government is elected it will inject almost immediately an additional $ 1 7m- including $5m for water filtration- into the public works sphere in South Australia.
Such a move would create 750 additional job opportunities’.
In this Press release Mr Corcoran, the State Minister of Works, put in a nutshell how Mr Fraser tried to fool the people into believing what amount of money they were going to get. When we examine this Bill and Mr Newman’s remarks we find that Mr Corcoran was exactly right in what he had to say about the amount of money that would be forthcoming. I shall quote, as did Senator Davidson, what Mr Newman said on this matter when he was winding up the debate on the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill, as recorded on page 305 of the House of Representatives Hansard on 1 March:
As well, for the next financial year -
He was talking about South Australia- we have committed ourselves to a further $4.3m.
As I said, Mr Corcoran was not very far short of the mark when he envisaged back in December 1977 what South Australia’s share would beabout $4m. He was right on the mark.
– He had been at a meeting of Ministers; he should know.
– I do not know whether he had been to a meeting with the Minister. The Minister would not have told him about his policy and what the Government was intending to do so long ago. We are now half way through March and Mr Corcoran made that prophecy four months ago. Mr Newman went on to say:
This means that about $32.8m will be given to South Australia to improve the water treatment plants to overcome those very real problems in Adelaide.
Senator Davidson repeated that $32. 8m will be given to South Australia. There is no such thing as any gift of $32.8m to South Australia because only 30 per cent of the $32. 8m which the Federal Government is talking about giving to South Australia will be in the form of a non-repayable grant. The remaining 70 per cent will be in the form of a loan repayable over 40 years at the bond rate of interest. However, we have the Minister in the other place and Senator Davidson in this place saying that the Government is making a gift of $32.8m. The only gift to South Australia is 30 per cent of the amount quoted. The taxpayers of South Australia have to repay the loan with interest over 40 years. The current proposal provides no guarantees for South Australia’s water filtration program after the 1978-79 financial year. We can see how one can fiddle around with figures and make this piece of legislation appear as though it will be of great benefit to the people of Adelaide who for years have suffered from poor quality water. If the South Australian Minister and I had not been prepared publicly to state that South Australia is receiving a grant of only 30 per cent of that $32. 8m, the people of Adelaide would think that the Federal Government is acting in a fairy godmother fashion and giving South Australia the money, as the Minister said in his speech when winding up the debate in the other place.
It is quite clear that the Federal Government ‘s proposals for financial support for the Adelaide water filtration program are totally inadequate. This is particularly so when account is taken of other equally high priority water programs such as River Murray salinity control and drainage program, rehabilitation of irrigation headworks, water treatment for northern towns- about which Senator Jessop spoke- rural water supplies in South Australia and rehabilitation of artesian bores. So we have great problems in South Australia. Today Senator Jessop again mentioned that Australia is the driest continent on earth and that South Australia is the driest State. It is even drier than usual this year as you, Mr President, know because of the drought which has been ravaging the State. Only the other day somebody at Murray Bridge told me that while water skiing in the River Murray near Mypolonga he fell off his skis and was able to stand up on a mudbank in the middle of the river. That is something which we have not been able to do in the River Murray for many years. The river is very low.
At Mypolonga pumps have had to be put in to obtain the water. In the past all people had to do was open the sluice gates and flood the swamps. This area produces all the whole milk for Adelaide. Because of the drought, water has to be pumped out of the river and any not used has to be pumped back into the river. In South Australia we are desperate for water. This Government should not be penny pinching with funds for the State. It ought to be prepared to give South Australia all the assistance it requires. Senator Davidson has said that it is the last user of any river system who gets the worst end of the stick. Those of us who live in South Australia know that we get all the rubbish which comes down the River Murray because we are the last users, particularly those who live as I do, at Murray Bridge on the lower reaches of the river. I remember some years ago attending an opening ceremony for what I suppose one could call the laying of the foundation stone for the Dartmouth Dam when Mr Freudenstein was the Liberal Party Minister for Works and Water Conservation in New South Wales.
– He was a member of the Country Party.
– He was a Country Party Minister. He said that one of the great features of the Dartmouth Dam was that it would help to wash all the salt from the Murray into South Australia. That was a dastardly thing for any Minister to say. That is just what happens, and now South Australia has to face the consequences. Some years ago Senator Davidson put forward another scheme. I happened to get hold of a copy of the Advertiser of Wednesday, 9 January 1974. An editorial headed ‘The River Murray’ referred to Senator Davidson giving an address at the Adelaide Summer School of Environmental Studies. Senator Davidson said that the Murray ought to be a saline channel. He was agreeing with the Pels’ scheme which had been put forward for a concrete channel for freshwater to be built alongside the River Murray with the Murray being used as a salt water channel. The Advertiser did not agree.
– When was this?
– This was in January 1974. The editorial, in taking Senator Davidson to task, stated:
The arguments against the Pels scheme seem quite conclusive. Whatever its merits, they are heavily outweighed by its disadvantages. The Minister of Works (Mr Corcoran) pointed out yesterday that it had been examined by consultants retained by the River Murray Commission to investigate salinity in the Murray Valley. They had reported adversely on it. Apart altogether from any technical considerations, the estimated cost of $335m rules it out.
That was four years ago. Senator Davidson supported that scheme, which four years ago, if it were possible, would have cost at least $335m. The editorial continued:
To allow the famous old river to deteriorate into nothing more than a salt water drain, with inevitably disastrous effects on flora and fauna, seems an altogether too defeatist solution to the salinity problem.
I watched the papers closely after that editorial and I did not see a denial published from Senator Davidson or a claim that he was misreported and that he wanted to be corrected. So I must assume that that editorial is correct when it states that Senator Davidson advocated that the River
Murray should become a salty drain. In the same newspaper we find a comment on that statement by Senator Davidson. It is headed:
Salty Murray would mean no Chowilla.
– We did not get Chowilla anyway, did we?
– The honourable senator talks about no Chowilla. It was her colleague who went to an election on Chowilla. He even went as far as saying that he would do the digging himself. If the honourable senator has any doubts about that I refer her to a document which Mr Hall had published. I shall give it to the honourable senator afterwards. She should read it. It is called: ‘Fourteen Facts About Chowilla’. Mr Hall went on the hustings everywhere and pointed out -
– Did you give it to Mr Dunstan to read?
-No. This is Mr Hall’s document. It was produced during the 1968 election. He went to the people with it. I am always happy to quote from it when a former colleague of Senator Hall says that Chowilla was not a goer. If the honourable senator agrees that it was not a goer, she is saying that Senator Hall misled the electors of South Australia. No doubt he did, because they woke up and he was turned out of office in 1970.I have the document here. It is a good little document to read. It points out all the facts on why we should build Chowilla. There are many facts in the publication with which I do not disagree. All I am concerned about is that you and some of your colleagues -
– Order! Senator McLaren, will you direct your remarks through the Chair, please.
– I am sorry, Mr President. I was provoked. What I am concerned about is that at one time there were people in South Australia who were falling over themselves to promote the construction of the Chowilla Dam but now they want to forget completely that they published this document. I have spoken about it often in the Parliament. I have reminded the Parliament that Mr Hall endeavoured to have the document destroyed at taxpayers’ expense. But he made his decision too late. Thousands of copies happened to get out into the electorate. I was not a member of parliament then but I was glad to help with the circulation of the document in the Riverlands area because I supported Chowilla and I still do. I think the day will come when it will have to be built to ensure that South Australia has a good supply of water.
– Other distinguished senators supported Chowilla too.
-Yes. I know. But honourable senators on the Government side argue that if Chowilla were constructed it would be a saline pond. Those honourable senators do not go on to tell us that when we are short of water in South Australia we draw our emergency supplies from Lake Victoria, which is not nearly as deep as Chowilla would be. They are quite happy to have that water. They do not mention Lake Victoria, which is replenished from water let out of Lake Hume. No doubt the water will be let out of Dartmouth when it is completed in order to replenish Lake Victoria. So the argument that Chowilla would be a saline pond is completely wrong. It is all right to use that argument politically but on the facts it is completely wrong.
I hope that in the near future all States will agree that Chowilla has to be constructed. Every year when there is high rainfall in the northern areas of New South Wales good quality water comes down the Darling River and it flows out through the barrages at Goolwa out to sea. It is not being trapped. It is good water; it is not polluted like most of the Murray water. By the time we get the Murray water it has been through all the systems of Victoria and New South Wales, particularly in the Sunraysia district, where there is extensive irrigation for orchards. We get what is left of the water. It is not good quality water at that.
I am hopeful that one of these days governments will have enough courage and will construct Chowilla for the benefit of the people of South Australia. I shall cite some of the works which have been carried out by the South Australian Government. When I pick up the South Australian Hansard I am disturbed to read almost every week that Mr Tonkin, Mr Arnold or some of their colleagues accuse the State Labor Government of a lack of initiative in constructing water conservation projects in South Australia. I shall read from ‘South Australia Development 1977’, which lists a few of the projects which the Dunstan Labor Government has carried out since it has been in office. I shall quote only a few paragraphs from the document. At page 30, under the heading ‘Waterworks and Sewerage’ this statement appears:
Over $64m was spent on waterworks and sewerage services in 1 976-77, and nearly $70m is expected for 1 977-78.
Twenty-four major projects were completed during the year. They included the replacement of the prestressed concrete section of the Morgan- Whyalla pipeline, Lock-Kimba water supply -
Senator Jessop criticised us a while ago for not doing anything about the water supply to the northern areas. The document continued:
A provision of $7. 3m has been made for continuing work on the construction of water treatment and filtration plants in the metropolitan area in 1977-78, following an expenditure of $9.4m for this purpose in 1976-77. Nearly $3.8m will be spent on the construction of the Little Para Dam, on which nearly $8.9m was spent during 1 976-77. This reservoir will have an 1 8,000 million litre capacity and satisfy the demand for water in the northern suburbs. It will also act as a balancing storage for the Mannum-Adelaide pipeline.
Nearly $2.5m was spent on completing the replacement of a section ofthe Morgan- Whyalla pipeline during 1976-77. Other projects included modifications to the spillway at Baroota reservoir ($1.5m) which will continue in 1977-78 and the completion of the South Coast water supply scheme. A $3m supply project to upgrade Port Lincoln’s water supplies commenced in 1977 and involves the construction of new pumping stations and transmission lines. Replacement of the Renmark open channel irrigation system with pipelines was completed during 1977 at a total cost of $6.2m.
By 1981, it is expected that the Hope Valley, Anstey Hill, Barossa and Little Para water treatment works will be commissioned at a cost of nearly $60m -
Of course, we know that the Hope Valley scheme is now in operation. That might be why Senator Jessop said in respect of these water filtration plants, ‘if completed’. The words used in the document are: ‘it is expected ‘. Of course, that expectation relies solely on the Federal Government providing its share of funds which was agreed upon by the Whitlam Labor Government. The document continued: . . and will service all the northern and part of the central sector. Both the Hope Valley and Anstey Hill works are already under construction and the Barossa works has been submitted to the Public Works Committee
In 1976-77, over $3.6m was spent on rehabilitation of pumping and water distribution facilities in irrigated areas. Laying of mains has been completed in the Waikerie area and progress is now being made on the Berri scheme. Recently completed works in the Chaney area have been affected by a succession of high river levels and some modifications to design have become necessary. Nearly $5 m will be spent on the continuation of these works in 1 977-78.
Nearly $800,000 was advanced to the Renmark Irrigation Trust in 1 976-77 for rehabilitation of the irrigation system. Installation of irrigation pipe mains, drainage accessories and domestic water supplies continued during 1976-77 and should be completed by 1979. A similar sum has been advanced to the Trust for 1 977-78.
The document further stated:
South Australian expenditure on the Dartmouth Dam project in 1 976-77 was nearly $9m, of which nearly $7m was from State funds. As Commonwealth funding of this project has now ceased, a total of $8m from State funds will be expended in 1 977-78 on this project.
That is a brief outline of what the South Australian Labor Government is doing to construct water projects in our State.
As I said earlier, I am disturbed when I hear public utterances by our opponents both inside and outside the South Australian Parliament criticising the South Australian Government’s efforts in trying to provide water for everyone in the State and also for trying to provide good quality water for people who live in metropolitan Adelaide. I hope that the Federal Government will have a change of heart and introduce legislation in the Budget session which will provide money to South Australia for water resource purposes.
I am talking now from a States point of view. I am reminded so often by honourable senators opposite that this is a States House. I hope that the Government will come forward with the money so that South Australia can go ahead and complete the projects that it has promised on the basis of a contract entered into with the Whitlam Labor Government. When funds are provided the South Australian Government will be able to bring to fruition a filtrated water scheme for South Australia.
In closing my remarks I repeat that I support the amendment moved by Senator Walsh who is the Opposition’s spokesman in this place on water resource matters. I hope that some honourable senators opposite, especially those who stand up so often and remind members of the Opposition that this is a States House, support the amendment because that is in effect what the amendment seeks to do. The amendment seeks to ensure that each water project will be the subject of a separate piece of legislation. If the legislation concerns Queensland, we will be able to debate the issues that concern that State. The same procedure will apply in respect of legislation that concerns New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and my own State of South Australia. In this way honourable senators will be able to stand up and be counted as to whether they support or oppose projects.
Legislation of the type we are now considering gives a blanket cover for the allocation of all money, enabling the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) to say, as he did, that he is making a gift of $38.3m to South Australia when in fact this is not the case; he is making a gift of only 30 per cent of that amount. If we deal with this legislation in the way I have outlined proper debate will be able to take place and the people in the respective States will be able to see whether the Senate in fact is a States House. As I said, I support the amendment.
– The Bill we are debating is entitled, surprisingly enough, the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill 1978. 1 am reminded when thinking about this type of legislation of a comment made some years ago by my friend the Hon. Bert Kelly. Referring to the fact that there may be an election coming on he said: I can feel a dam coming on’. I am afraid that typifies many past situations in which decisions on the construction of major earthworks in this country have been made for political reasons. I am confident that the legislation in front of us will go a long way towards correcting that anomaly.
The Bill sets out the legislative framework for agreements with the States. This point has been well demonstrated by previous Government speakers. The Commonwealth and the States projects selected under the $200m national water resources program will be authorised by these agreements.
I support the remarks of Government speakers and also some of the comments that have come from the Opposition side. One thing I have observed since I came to this place is that honourable senators are now inclined to stop talking when they have said what they have had to say. I think that is a very commendable practice. It is one that I would commend to the Senate.
I strongly support the legislation and I have no hesitation in rejecting the amendment. I would like to remind Senator McLaren and other Opposition speakers who support the amendment that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said in his second reading speech:
A copy of every agreement with a State must be tabled in the Parliament. In addition, the Parliament will need to consider separately the appropriation of funds for the purpose of the agreements.
– Read it again.
– That sets out very clearly the intent of the legislation. For the benefit of those slow learners on the other side of the chamber I shall read again those words of the Minister. He said:
A copy of every agreement with a State must be tabled in the Parliament. In addition, the Parliament will need to consider separately the appropriation of funds for the purpose of the agreements.
If we take the Opposition’s amendment at face value we find that the Opposition is suggesting that there should be only one debate on the subject and that will be the finish. Under this legislation honourable senators will be able to debate this subject every year when it comes up under the Budget provisions. Therefore, the Opposition’s point, taken literally, is that we should have only one debate. However, we are saying that we should debate this subject every year.
Opposition senators made some interesting points in the debate. Senator Walsh pointed out quite correctly that in many cases our irrigation schemes have been ill conceived and that factors have arisen which were beyond the knowledge or control of those people who designed the schemes. He is saying now that we should forget the people who have been brave enough and adventurous enough to go to these places and that we should close down the schemes. I suggest that that is a completely callous point of view. I would say that the Western Australian Government in particular in its handling of the Ord River scheme is doing its very best, on the one hand, to find alternative economic crops to grow in the Ord and, on the other hand, to ease the problems of those people who in some cases are faced with bankruptcy. I point out to Senator Walsh that the problems in the Ord area were of a nature that could not have been expected or anticipated when the project was constructed. The insects and other things that attacked the cotton turned what was quite an economic and productive crop into a completely useless one.
I would like to point out to Senator McLaren that the filtration problem for Adelaide ‘s water supply has been a growing one. The problem has not been with Adelaide all the time. As the salinity level rises in the River Murray, this filtration scheme has become more and more necessary. It is only in more recent times that the problem has grown. Because no more South Australian senators from this side of the chamber are to follow me in the debate I feel I should make that point and a couple of other points as well. Senator McLaren would give the impression that the only money the South Australian Government had to spend on the scheme was contributed by the Commonwealth. If the Federal Labor Government had had its way when it was in office, that would have been the case; but it is not the case. The South Australian Government raises much of the finance from the unfortunate people in South Australia. In many cases, the charges in that State are higher than those in other States. If South Australia sets a low priority for a water resources project as opposed to another project, so be it; that is the way it decides. It is up to the State and the Commonwealth to negotiate with regard to the $200m water resources program. If the State puts a low priority on country water supplies, for instance, that is the State Government’s decision.
We also have the same old Labor Party hackneyed phrase of spend, spend, spend. Honourable senators opposite still think that money grows on trees. They tend to forget that we have a responsibility in this Parliament- certainly, it falls on honourable senators on this side of the chamber- to control and to try to modify the amount of money that is being spent on behalf of the taxpayer. When Senator McLaren was answering interjectors from this side of the Senate he pointed out that he did not like this loan coming from the Commonwealth. I suggest that if the honourable senator does not want the money he should suggest to the people in South Australia that he does not want it and let them judge his action. I am sure that other States in Australia would take advantage of that money.
Senator Coleman spoke in the AddressinReply debate last week. She made a rather amazing speech. I think that the points she made were replied to fairly well by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senate Withers). It struck me that anybody listening to that speech would be discouraged even to come to Western Australia, let alone to set up a business. She seemed to forget that the water restrictions in Western Australia were introduced, to a very large degree, because we have had three very dry winters in a row. The evidence put before the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources during its current water resources inquiry showed that the Western Australian Department has things well in hand and that if it were not for a most unexpected situation- the three droughts in a row- the water restrictions would not have been applied. One of the other factors that add to our problems is that we seem to get a tremendous number of people moving to Western Australia from Labor-governed States. This adds to the load on our resources, including water.
As I said before, I am the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources. At the moment the Committee is carrying out an investigation, as Senator McLaren quite rightly pointed out, into the role of the Commonwealth in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia’s water resources. We expect to be ready to report before June. It is not my intention to pre-empt what will be stated in the report. The comments I make are mine and not necessarily those of the Committee. One of the points that is coming through very strongly in our inquiry is that water is a State resource. The officials from the States who gave evidence during our inquiry made that point very strongly. They feel, quite rightly too, that water is a State resource. That does not say that the Commonwealth does not have and should not have considerable interest in the subject of water. The final resource rests with the States.
During the time I have available to me in which to speak I would like to discuss nine separate matters which deal with water resources. Matters I wish to discuss include: The multitude of Commonwealth departments involved with water, the Australian Water Resources Council, the subject of research, environmental considerations, sewerage programs, flood mitigation, the River Murray Commission, project priorities and finally Commonwealth funding. The first point relates to departmental arrangements for water. The Committee has been told that no fewer than 23 government departments and agencies have some influence on or some involvement in water.
I would like to read the quite considerable list for the benefit of honourable senators. First of all, we have the Department of National Resources which has a predominant role in many areas. We have the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which I would like to deal with in more detail later. We have the Department of Health, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Department of Construction, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, the Department of the Northern Territory and the Department of the Capital Territory, the National Capital Development Commission, the Department of Administrative Services, the Department of Primary Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Department of Finance, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the River Murray Commission, the Snowy Mountains Council, the Australian Water Resources Council and the Commonwealth Consultative Committee on Water Resources. That is a fairly long list. Honourable senators can imagine the problems that are created because of the diversity within the Commonwealth of responsibility for water resources.
The second point I wish to discuss concerns the Australian Water Resources Council. This Council is supported unanimously and has been congratulated by all States that made submissions to our Committee during its inquiry. The Commonwealth also thinks very highly of its work. At this stage I would like to congratulate Mr Alan Hatfield who has been the executive officer of the Council for some time for the way in which the Council performs its function. It has a very useful function to perform in the determination of policies in the water area. I refer honourable senators to a small publication produced by the Council. It is dated August 1976 and is entitled Proposed National Approach to Water Resources Management. The document is too long to incorporate in the Hansard record, but I would direct the attention of those honourable senators who are interested in the subject to that publication. It sets out quite clearly the matters that should be considered by the Commonwealth and the States.
Thirdly, I wish to talk about the subject of research. The States maintain that they should be responsible for a certain area of research, and I support that contention. This is the area of applied research where some problems may be of a nature that interests only a particular State. It is quite right that the States themselves should carry out that research. There are many more basic problems of research that can be carried out by the Commonwealth and, in fact, are being carried out to a large extent by CSIRO. We have something of a problem within CSIRO as well. The duplication I mentioned in regard to the Commonwealth Government’s involvement in water is taking place also within the CSIRO. Fourteen separate divisions of the Organisation have been involved in water research. At the moment, 19 separate programs are being undertaken by the Organisation, and no fewer than 190 persons are investigating the separate programs of water resources.
– Are they investigating programs or water usage?
– Water research involves a diversity of subjects. Many of those subjects may not be directly concerned with water to our way of thinking but they are all areas of water research carried out by the CSIRO. One of the more useful roles of the Australian Water Resources Council is to make certain that Australia is well represented internationally whenever matters of importance are being discussed overseas. In that way we are able to keep up with the latest developments.
The fourth subject on which I wish to speak relates to environmental matters. I do not wish to deal at great length with the environment because Senator Davidson and Senator Jessop, who are far more experienced and knowledgeable in this area than I, have made fine contributions in this regard. However, I should remind honourable senators that the Commonwealth has undertaken to allow the States greater responsibility when impact studies are being carried out. The fact that I do not spend a great deal of time discussing environmental matters does not lessen in my mind the importance of that subject. The fifth subject matter deals with sewerage programs. I should like to underline a couple of problems in this area. Some States give high priority to sewerage works and others give very low priorities and it is very difficult for the Commonwealth to embark on a funding program when the States have different priorities. I give as an example the position in my own State of Western Australia, which in the past has given a fairly low priority to sewerage works simply because the soil around its capital city is much more suited to other methods of sewage disposal. However, its priorities in the water area are far higher in relation to rural reticulation schemes. That is one of the problems that the Commonwealth faces when it embarks on a major sewerage program.
The sixth subject matter deals with flood mitigation. Some States, including New South Wales, have quite extensive flood mitigation programs. For a number of years New South Wales has had a scheme under which the Commonwealth provides $2 for every $2 provided by the State and $ 1 provided by the local authority. I commend that scheme to other States. The Commonwealth has a responsibility in flood mitigation because it always picks up the tab when a major disaster occurs. So it is up to the Commonwealth to see that major disasters are avoided to the fullest extent possible. The seventh subject on which I should like to touch is that of the River Murray Commission. The three States concerned have told us that the River Murray Commission is working well and that it has all the power it needs to carry out its functions satisfactorily. My personal observation is that that is not necessarily so. The salinity of the Murray River is a problem that is growing all the time and the fact that the Commission is empowered to take an interest only in the area immediately surrounding the river and has no power to operate in the areas from which the salt comes certainly reduces its power. That matter will be the subject of some recommendations by the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources.
The eighth heading to which I shall speak deals with water project priorities. This is a fairly delicate area, and in making its report the Committee will have to come to grips with the problem. The States say that they should have their own priorities. I agree with that. The States certainly should have their own priorities. But what happens when the Commonwealth’s priorities do not accord with those of the States? I do not give an opinion on that; I simply air it as a problem that will need to be faced very shortly. The ninth and final subject is that of Commonwealth funding of water projects. It has often been said by the States that the Commonwealth should give more advance warning of any funding programs and that the States need to be aware years ahead ofthe Federal Government’s priorities in these areas. I agree that it would be a lot easier for the State governments if they knew many years ahead the level of funding that each project was going to attract. I strongly support the idea of having a long term program to develop our water resources, but the Federal Government is charged also with the management of our economy and there must be flexibility in any budget so that programs can be changed to take account of things that arise in the short term.
One of the problems exemplified by this Bill is the Bundaberg irrigation program. In 1970 a fixed amount of $12. 8m was granted, being the amount calculated to be necessary to complete the project. However, in 1974 another $4.4m was needed because of the escalation in costs that had occurred in the meantime. We are now faced with a further payout of $ 1.5m to complete the project. Although it was started in 1 970, the project really has not contributed very much and will not contribute very much until this money is spent. It is a rather sad fact of life that the dam that has been built at Bundaberg is of little use and the water is not being used to any extent at all. Provision must be made by the Commonwealth when it funds projects such as that to build in an escalation clause in order to allow the project to be completed. Certainly the Government has a responsibility, as do the States, to ensure that the money is spent as economically as possible, but some escalation provisions must be included to allow for increases in costs.
In conclusion I should like to point out, as other honourable senators have, that Australia is a very dry continent and water could very well be the limiting factor in development projects in the future. I support the need for the Commonwealth to place more emphasis on development projects in the water resources area. I believe that the Commonwealth should recognise many of the points that I have merely underlined. I have not offered solutions to any of the problems, but I suggest that the Commonwealth should take on board the points I have raised. I believe that the Bill we are now discussing is the first step towards solving those problems. I strongly support the Bill and reject the amendment.
-The Senate is debating the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill 1 978. In his second reading speech the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said that the purpose of the legislation is to provide what is described as a legislative framework to enable the Commonwealth to make arrangements with the States for the provision of financial assistance for water resources projects. From a reading of the Bill, it appears to me that its main clauses are clause 3, which sets out the types of projects that are eligible for Commonwealth assistance; clauses 4 and 5, which relate to the way in which agreements for financial assistance will be entered into between the Commonwealth and the States; and clause 7, which relates to payments, not exceeding $2. 5m in aggregate, to be made out of Consolidated Revenue for this financial year. Of that amount, $ lm is to go to New South Wales, the State that I represent in the Parliament, for flood mitigation purposes. The remaining $1.5m is to go to Queensland for work on the Gin Gin channel in the Bundaberg irrigation scheme.
asked what would happen if there was a difference in priorities between the Commonwealth and the States. I believe that, under clause 4, sub-clause (3), that is the type of problem that will arise. That sub-clause provides:
An agreement with a State under sub-section ( 1 ) may specify conditions to which the grant of financial assistance in accordance with the agreement is subject.
Virtually what the Commonwealth is saying there is: ‘We have the money; you will agree to the conditions that are to be imposed for the financial assistance that you will get or else you will not receive it’. The Bill is of great importance to New South Wales, the State that I and others represent in this Parliament. It is for that purpose that I support Senator Walsh’s amendment, on behalf of the Opposition, to add the words: but the Senate is of the opinion that separate enactments should have been provided for each water resources project.
It is true to say that the Commonwealth has full rights to water resources within its mainland Territories, namely the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, but under the Constitution it has no rights in respect of the water resources of the various States. However, the Commonwealth has in fact become involved in water resources assessment, planning and development within the States. Frankly, that has come about because the States, under the Commonwealth State financial arrangements as they have existed, have not had the financial ability or capacity, without Commonwealth assistance, to be able properly to carry out effective water resources assessments, planning and development.
The Commonwealth’s earliest involvement in water resources planning dates back to 1915 when, as a signatory to the River Murray Waters Agreement, it agreed to contribute a quarter of the cost of the construction of the works for the conservation of River Murray water resources above Albury and the control of water flows downstream of Albury. In 1964, the Menzies Government introduced the State Water Resources Measurement Act, to subsidise the cost of the assessment of surface and ground water resources by the various States. Two years later, in November 1966- it is of interest to note that this was at about the time of the general Federal election- the Commonwealth announced the national water resources development program, under which it would provide non-repayable grants to the States of up to a total of $50m over five years for water conservation works aimed at reducing the hazards of drought, and of expanding primary production.
However, I think it is fair to say that the history of Commonwealth assistance to the States in many areas of capital works expenditure, and especially water resources development, received a very big impetus during the years of the Whitlam Labor Government. In 1973 the Commonwealth, under the Whitlam Labor Government, agreed to assist each of the three States, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, involved in the River Murray Commission, by way of a repayable loan to the extent of 50 per cent of the State’s contribution. In addition, for the first time, water resources projects such as the Lower Dawson River scheme, the Eton scheme, the Clare Weir scheme, the Proserpine flood mitigation scheme, the Ross River dam project and the Julius Dam project in Queensland, received financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government. They were some of the water resources programs undertaken in Queensland by the Whitlam Labor Government. Frankly, the Fraser Government, in the two years that it has been in office, has shown a total lack of regard for water resources in Australia- until it was forced to take an interest in them a mere month before the recent federal election. In fact, as I have said, it was virtually forced during that campaign by the weight of public opinion into making its announcement of a national water resources program. In May 1977 in this chamber Senator Withers answered a question by Senator Harradine without notice; it was an answer given, on notice, on behalf of another Minister. On 3 May 1977 Senator Withers is recorded at page 1090 of Hansard as stating:
In response to a question without notice Senator Harradine asked me as Minister representing the Minister for National Resources on 29 March, I undertook to seek information at the earliest date regarding the evaluation by the Commonwealth of water resources projects in Tasmania. The Acting Minister for National Resources has provided the following information:
In 1974, the previous Government -
That is the Whitlam Government- invited the States to submit works programs for water resource development for the ensuing five to ten years as a basis for selection by the Commonwealth of projects for financial assistance in accordance with its objectives in the water area. The evaluation of these programs has not yet commenced -
That was in 1977. We had sought the evaluation in 1973. Senator Withers continued:
The evaluation of these programs has not yet commenced with the change of Government, and the procedures to evaluate the programs lapsed.
The present Government does not have a program of assistance to the States for water projects.
That was in May 1 977. The Minister said further:
It is of the view that the new Commonwealth/State financial arrangements should provide greater flexibility to the States in ordering their own priorities in water resource matters.
Might I, in reply to Senator Thomas, direct his attention and that of the Senate to clause 4, subclause (3) of the Bill. The Minister continued:
Nevertheless, the attention of the honourable senator is drawn to the current inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources on the role of the Commonwealth in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia’s water resources. It is hoped that the report of the inquiry will provide valuable guidance to the Government in respect of this important matter.
After saying that the whole program that the Whitlam Government had drawn up, prepared, considered and discussed with the States had lapsed under the present Fraser Government, the Minister said that Senate Standing Committee on National Resources was inquiring into the role of the Commonwealth in the assessment of water projects- adding that it was hoped that the Committee would provide valuable guidance to the Government in respect of this important matter. I might point out that the Senate Standing Committee is still conducting its inquiry into the matter. On 17 August 1977. the Minister for National Resources, Mr Anthony, as reported at pages 324 and 325 of Hansard, had this to say in the House of Representatives:
The Government also recognises the appropriateness from a national perspective of being involved in the development of water resources and flood mitigation projects in the States. The Commonwealth will continue to meet its obligations to the States in respect of assistance authorised under previous programs.
Yet we were told by Senator Withers that the other assessment program hadlapsed. Mr Anthony continued:
I have now been authorised to bring forward a new national water resources program as a basis for providing assistance for projects identified by the States as having top priority. In the present difficult budgetary circumstances, the Commonwealth will not be allocating funds for individual water resources projects.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner the Senate was debating the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill. I had drawn attention to remarks of the Minister for National Resources, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, when he spoke in the House of Representatives on 17 August 1977. On pages 324 and 325 of House of Representatives Hansard the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for National Resources, made a statement on Commonwealth involvement in Australia’s water resources. I mentioned this before the suspension of the sitting. Amongst other things he said:
The Government also recognises the appropriateness from a national perspective of being involved in the development of water resources and flood mitigation projects in the States. The Commonwealth will continue to meet its obligations to the States in respect of assistance authorised under previous programs. I have now been authorised to bring forward a new national water resources program as a basis for providing assistance for projects identified by the States as having top priority.
I emphasise the next words of the Deputy Prime Minister. He said:
In the present difficult budgetary circumstances, the Commonwealth will not be allocating funds for individual water resources projects. However, in 1977-78 $1m of grant funds has been allocated for the New South Wales coastal rivers flood mitigation program. These grants will be allocated on the same funding basis with State and local authorities as in previous programs. We recognise that it is urgent to ensure continuity of work on flood mitigation projects along these rivers. The States will be duly notified of the details of the new national water resources program.
I repeat the remarks of the Minister for National Resources. He said:
In the present difficult budgetary circumstances, the Commonwealth will not be allocating funds for individual water resources projects.
I suggest that is why the Government says it is now of the view that standing legislation of the nature of this Bill is more appropriate to the requirements of a long term program and that, moreover, it will reduce the legislative load in the Parliament without in any way restricting the flow of information or reducing the opportunities for debate. In his second reading speech the Minister for Education said that a copy of every agreement with a State must be tabled in Parliament and that in addition the Parliament will need to consider separately the appropriation of funds for the purposes of the agreements. All those who are experienced in the parliamentary process know that when a government tables a statement relating to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, an Opposition senator moves a motion that the Senate take note of the statement. He seeks leave to continue his remarks. The motion is put to the bottom of the Notice Paper and becomes an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That is the last time that any kind of debate occurs on the matter. The proposal of the Minister that the Parliament will need to consider separately the appropriation of funds for the purposes of the agreements merely means that it will have a one line entry in the Appropriation Bills and that it might be discussed at the Senate Estimates committee hearings. But as to having an overall debate in the Parliament or in the Committee of the Whole, nothing is further from the truth. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment which has been moved by my colleague Senator Walsh which reads: but the Senate is of the opinion that separate enactments should have been provided for each water resources project.
I have already referred to what the Minister for National Resources, the Deputy Prime Minister, said on 1 7 Augustlast. He said:
In the present difficult budgetary circumstances, the Commonwealth will not be allocating funds for individual water resources projects. However, in 1977-78 $lm of grant funds has been altercated for the New South Wales coastal rivers flood mitigation program.
That amount apparently comes to light in this legislation. Clause 7 of the Bill allocates an amount of $2.5m, $lm being for New South Wales and $1.5m being for the Gin Gin irrigation channel in the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. My own State of New South Wales has had a history of bad flooding. I personally know something of the history of that bad flooding on the northern river system. The Fraser Government provided no Commonwealth money for flood mitigation for the financial year 1976-77. It is all very well for the Government to come forward now and say that it is providing$1m for flood mitigation purposes for New South Wales in 1977-78. Because of the economic policy pursued by this Government last financial year, it made no money available to New South Wales for flood mitigation purposes. The New South Wales Government was forced to continue its own contribution to flood mitigation that year although obviously at a much reduced level. The level of subsidy for flood mitigation purposes was on a 2:2:1 basis. The Commonwealth provided two parts, the States provided two parts and local government provided the other part. When the Commonwealth contributes nothing, obviously a reduced amount is devoted to flood mitigation purposes. Despite the fact that last financial year the Commonwealth contributed nothing to New South Wales for flood mitigation work purposes, the Wran State Labor Government continued its own contribution to flood mitigation that year although at a very much reduced level. Nonetheless, at the same time additional work was carried out in places like Bourke and Brewarrina in western New South Wales.
The attitude of the Fraser Government should be compared with the contributions that the Whitlam Government made to flood mitigation purposes or the amelioration or alleviation of flooding in New South Wales during its term of office. In the last year of the McMahon Government, 1971-72, an amount of $923,000 was made available by the Commonwealth to New South Wales for flood mitigation purposes. In the first year of the Whitlam Government, 1972- 73, that amount was increased to $ 1.2m. In 1973- 74 it increased to $ 1.48m. In 1974-75 it increased to $2. 3m. In the first year of the Fraser Government, 1 976-77, nothing was made available by the Commonwealth Government for flood mitigation purposes in New South Wales. Now, in 1977-78, despite the inflation that has occurred between 1 974 and 1 977, a mere $ 1 m is being made available to New South Wales for flood mitigation purposes. Because it is proposed that in future all of this type of work is to be debated, discussed and considered in globo by the Parliament, we believe that the amendment proposed by Senator Walsh should be accepted. We object to the expressed purpose of the Bill but not the nature of the legislation. Previously money was allocated to the States for projects on the basis of separate enactments which gave the Parliament and members of the Parliament an opportunity to examine fully and debate each project.
– Do you not believe that that can be done now?
-No, I do not believe it can be done now. I have said so already, in the event that the honourable senator was not here when I did so.
– I was here, but you still have not really given a basic reason.
– It might be able to be done, but nowhere nearly as effectively. I say that for the simple reason that the Minister said in his second reading speech that the legislation now contemplated would reduce the legislative load of the Parliament. Surely that means that fewer Bills are to be put through the Parliament; consequently, there will be less debate. As a secondary argument, the Minister said that a copy of every agreement with a State must be tabled in the Parliament. The practicalities of that, as Senator Young would know from his long experience in this chamber, are that when a Minister tables in this place an agreement between the Commonwealth and a State an Opposition honourable senator or, indeed, if necessary a Government supporter, seeks leave to move a motion; leave is granted; he moves that the Senate take note of the paper and seeks leave to continue his remarks. That matter appears on the Notice Paper and automatically goes to the bottom of the Notice Paper. The honourable senator knows as well as I do that in practical terms that subject is very rarely, if ever, restored to the Notice Paper as a matter for debate. So far as the third argument is concerned -
– You were Manager of Government Business in the Senate for nearly three years, and I did not notice you restoring any matter either.
– I never restored any matter to the Notice Paper because I was flat out in my capacity as Manager of Government Business in the Senate rerestoring the legislation which honourable senators opposite were constantly rejecting. I was trying to do that in the hope that honourable senators opposite might have a second train of thought on the legislation they had rejected. My third argument is that the Minister said in his second reading speech:
In addition, the Parliament will need to consider separately the appropriation of funds for the purpose of the agreements.
The honourable senator who interjected knows as well as I do that the appropriation of those funds will be included in an overall Appropriation Bill which will comprise some tens of thousands of items. The appropriation of those funds might be raised at an Estimates committee hearing, but when the Appropriation Bills are considered in the Committee of the Whole, because of the enormity of the Appropriation Bill which will include this appropriation, very little opportunity will be given to debate adequately and effectively any of these worthwhile or not worthwhile water conservation projects. Therefore, from the point of view of parliamentary effectiveness, the introduction of this legislation which seeks to put these matters through the Parliament in globo will be a retrograde step.
Perhaps I can give an example of the sort of misunderstanding that can occur if a project is not the subject of parliamentary debate but might be purely a matter of Press conjecture. I refer again to the State of New South Wales, which I represent in the Federal Parliament. When this legislation was first mooted the present Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Wal Fife, who represents the country seat of Farrer, made a statement which appeared in the Wagga Advertiser of 1 8 February, headed: Lake Mei um to rank high in $200m scheme’. The report stated:
The Commonwealth Government will contribute $200m during the coming five-year national water resources program.
This was stated yesterday by Mr Fife, member for Farrer and Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, who said that the Prime Minister had written to State Premiers inviting them to nominate projects for consideration, and was seeking the Premiers’ agreement to contribute equally with the Commonwealth in the program in their States.
He said that he hopes the New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, and other Premiers will join the Commonwealth in this program and that the Lake Mejum project on the Murrumbidgee River is placed high on the priority list by Mr Wran.
Additional matters are raised in the article. For the purposes of my argument, Mr Fife has suggested that because this legislation under which the Commonwealth is prepared to make $200m available over a period of five years is now going through the Parliament, it automatically means that the Lake Mejum project on the Murrumbidgee River in New South Wales is to be completed. The New South Wales Minister for Conservation and Minister for Water Resources, Lin Gordon, issued a statement in reply to the article which appeared in the Wagga Advertiser. He said that the statement in the newspaper which was attributed to Mr Fife gave a misleading impression of the likely benefits of the Commonwealth’s announced $200m national water resources program. He said:
Contrary to the views expressed in the article it is very doubtful whether the program will do much to assist implementation of major development schemes such as Lake Mejum, because:
The announced expenditure of $200m over five years will be spread over the whole of Australia.
He also said that it was unlikely that New South Wales would receive more than $6m to $ 10m per annum in both grants and interest-bearing loans. He pointed out that the new Commonwealth program would replace other financial assistance arrangements which already exist for water assessment and flood mitigation. Because New South Wales is presently receiving nonrepayable grants of about $3m annually from the existing programs, the net gain under the new scheme- the subject of this Bill- so far as New South Wales is concerned will be relatively small. Mr Gordon also said:
Under a former national water resources development program New South Wales received Commonwealth financial assistance for only two of the eleven rural water projects submitted for consideration.
There is considerable doubt as to whether the Commonwealth Government will view the Lake Mejum scheme in a favourable light.
Nevertheless the new South Wales Government is presently compiling a submission to the Commonwealth for financial assistance.
Allowance will be made for the Lake Mejum project in this submission.
On that issue I draw the attention of the Senate to the provision contained in clause 4 sub-clause (3) of the Bill, which states:
An agreement with a State under sub-section (1) may specify conditions to which the grant of financial assistance in accordance with the agreement is subject.
The record of the Whitlam Labor Government with respect to water resources and the development of water resources is second to none so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. In Budget Paper No. 7, entitled Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1977- 78, which was issued in connection with the latest Budget, at page 82 under the heading Water Resources Assessment’, it is stated:
In 1964-65 the Commonwealth agreed to provide grants to the States in order to accelerate their programs of surface water measurement and investigation of underground water resources. The surface water program is aimed at completing a basic network of stream gauges throughout Australia; the underground investigations involve a general speeding up of the work of locating and measuring underground water resources. From 1 974 - the time of the Whitlam Government- the assistance was increased to allow for assessment of the quality of water resources. The Commonwealth has agreed to support this program further for the triennium 1976-77 to 1978- 79. It it expected that $6.7m will be provided in 1977-78.
A table then sets out payments made to the States since 1973-74 and estimates for 1977-78. It is a short table of about five lines. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows that in 1976-77 an amount of $1,630,000 was made available to New South Wales by the Commonwealth Government for the assessment of water resources; and, notwithstanding inflation, the estimate for 1977-78 is exactly the same as the grant in 1 976-77.
The matter before the Senate is of great importance to the nation. It is of particular importance to the people of New South Wales, especially those who live in the Northern Rivers area and in the north-western and western areas. Insufficient assistance has been provided by the
Commonwealth to date for flood mitigation purposes, water assessment purposes and water development purposes. I believe that each of the schemes that are proposed under this legislation in the future should be dealt with on its individual merits. For those reasons I support the amendment moved by my colleague Senator Walsh.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.22)- I thought that on the eve of my retirement from the Senate I would be reprieved from having to address myself to the Senate on matters of contention; but I am pulled to my feet. as it were, by some of the extraordinary statements that I have heard from honourable senators opposite. I think it is fair, in making a brief reference to Senator Douglas McClelland who has just resumed his seat, to go back into the immediate history of the problem of the attitudes that have been developed as a result of this Bill being before the Senate.
Until such time as a private foundation was established with the subscriptions of people from various parts of Australia- corporate bodies and private citizens- the Commonwealth showed very little interest in water, except in relation to the River Murray. It came together with the States in the River Murray Commission to establish a balance between the three States that were drawing water from the River Murray. The public concern that evolved as a result of the establishment of the water foundation led the Senate to set up a committee to look at the general problem of water in Australia. That committee was presided over by Senator Davidson who made some reference to it this afternoon. Therefore we found that the Parliament was beginning to take an interest in these matters.
The third stage evolved when the Commonwealth began to participate in examining the problem. The first matter to come out of the meeting of State and Commonwealth Ministers in relation to water problems was the discovery that no one in the Commonwealth knew what water it had, except in relation to some of the southern rivers in the State of Victoria. The State of Queensland could not even begin to say what amount of water was going down its rivers. In fact, with the exception of the State of Victoria, no State in Australia knew what water resources it owned. When it comes to building dams, no engineer will recommend the building of a dam unless he knows the run-off- the water going down that river- over a period of 25 years.
If one takes the trouble to look at the latest report issued by the Atomic Energy Commission one will discover that certain echelons of Government have asked the Atomic Energy Commission whether it can discover the extent of Australia’s underground water supplies. I quote this as an example because it illustrates the abysmal lack of information to enable not only the Government but also the Parliament to deal with the problem of water resources in Australia. This report tells a slightly alarming story of how radio isotopes were used to discover the movement of water in the underground storage basins of Australia which were regarded as being inexhaustible. For example, it was discovered that some of the water in the Alice Springs area had been put down in storage 500,000 years ago. It was described as old water. We are faced with the problem, therefore, ofthe States not knowing how much water is going down their rivers. We also have the rather terrifying problem of no one knowing how much water is stored in the underground basins and aquifers of Australia. It is alarming, to say the least, to think that some of the water that was stored in the aquifers half a million years ago is being taken out and the rate of resupply in the aquifers cannot be discovered. That is one problem.
The problem of flooding, to which Senator Douglas McClelland has been addressing himself tonight, is basically man-made. Flooding occurs on what are known to engineers, ecologists, et cetera, as flood plains. I remember that, when the honourable member for Maribyrnong, Dr Cass, was a Minister under Mr Whitlam in the previous Government and complaints were made to him about flooding on flood plains, he said: ‘People have to realise that flood plains are for floods and not for people to live on’. That is a harsh judgment and one which I do not accept. In a period of lesser knowledge than we have now people thought that a flood plain was neither a place on which to build, as people did in the Brisbane Valley, or fertile ground- which in fact it was- where agriculture could be established quickly, with better pastures, better production and so on. No one is to blame for that.
A characteristic of politicians in this country is that we involve ourselves in what Senator Walsh earlier today described as ‘pork barrelling’. Dams have been the most prolific source of pork barrelling in Australian politics. If anyone wants to make a name for himself within a State or to be elected to Parliament, the first thing he does if he comes from a rural area is to say: ‘We will have to have a dam here, and if I am elected to Parliament I will advocate that a dam be built’. If he comes from an area such as suburban Brisbane, for example, he says: ‘If I am elected to Parliament I shall see that action is taken to prevent any future flooding of the Brisbane River’. Every political party in Australia has been involved in pork barrelling. We find ourselves, therefore, in an interesting situation. The more the problem of water is argued and discussed, the less we discover we know about it. All we know about our own country is that there is not enough water available for people to use as they wish.
Senator Walsh quite rightly made some very caustic remarks about the Ord River dam. I make no apology for saying to honourable senators that I agree with nearly every word he said about that dam. In fact, if any honourable senators care to look up Hansard they will discover that I was involved in a debate in the Senate in which I spoke for more than an hour on the Ord River dam. I had never done that before and I have never attempted to do it since. But I spent an hour on it. Anyone with any brains could see that the construction of the Ord River dam was a stupid exercise because no one knew what was going to be done with the water when it was dammed. Any questions asked of the government of the day about what was going to be done with the water when it was dammed could not be answered. The Ord River dam had to be built. It was not a question of partisan politics, as Senator Walsh attempted to put it. It was simply that everyone in Western Australia considered that the Ord River dam had to be built. If anyone in the Senate at that time expressed the opinion that there should be a closer examination of the Ord River dam before it was built, every Western Australian member of parliament and senator jumped on him. I do not know what will happen to the Ord River dam water. The only conclusion I can reach is that it has to be used and it should be used most effectively. Perhaps the way to use the water is to transport it over the Leopold Ranges to the Pilbara area where it could be put to effective use.
An interesting formula has been enunciated about the use of water. I do not know how accurate it is but it is accurate enough for me to quote it. In a country of scarce water resources, and Australia is one such country, it takes one tonne of fresh water to make one tonne of steel. My friend Senator Tehan will not be very happy when he hears the other side of the epigram. It takes one tonne of fresh water to produce one tonne of butter fat under irrigation. The reason I mention that formula is that the basic problem we have in Australia concerns the use to which we put our water. This caused me to interject earlier this evening when Senator Thomas was speaking about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the number of echelons of the CSIRO that are engaged in the examination of water and to ask him what the CSIRO is doing about water and whether the CSIRO is involved in its use.
I think the argument could be adduced without any trouble at all that the problem in Australia at present is not that there is an inadequate supply of water, but that the supply of water available is grossly misused. For example, I can remember that some years ago water restrictions were imposed in Victoria. Victoria is a well watered State. It knows its water resources because it has been gauging its streams for longer than any other State- for more than 50 years. The use of water for both irrigation and domestic purposes, especially for gardens, was restricted. When one travelled by plane to South Australia and arrived at the fair city of Adelaide all one could see were sprinklers in the parklands splashing water around in order that the parklands were kept green. I could see no other reason for this watering being done.
– That was underground water.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACKUnderground water, be hanged! If it was underground water the honourable senator had better start looking at the aquifers in the Adelaide plain to see how much water is left near Bolivar and a few other places around Virginia to the north of Adelaide. We have heard a great deal about the water supply in South Australia. I am sympathetic to South Australia. It is the driest State in Australia. Each South Australian senator says that every year when the question of water resources comes up. It is well known that only one per cent of South Australia’s land mass has an annual rainfall of 20 inches or more. We all know that. Has any one in South Australia, especially the representatives of South Australia, ever stopped to think how much water he could save if, for example, it was compulsory for every house in South Australia to have water tanks? The Housing Trust, which is a very efficient housing production echelon of the South Australian Government, does not put water tanks with the houses it builds. Much of the water problem in the city of Adelaide could be solved if the citizens were made to conserve water instead of allowing the rather prolific rainfall on the Adelaide plains to pour down the gutters and out to sea.
– They even rely on Queensland to fill up Lake Eyre every so often.
-Yes, they do. They have had bad luck this year. The pelicans are in great danger. At this stage of our history it is necessary that we should have a central interest in the problem concerning water resources in Australia. Although it has been said here that the States have an interest in water, that it is their resource, the fact is that it is not an exclusive resource of any State. The River Murray Commission illustrates this point perfectly. Through this Commission there are three States participating in the management of the water from the Murray River. Therefore, this matter traverses State boundaries. Just before Senator
Douglas McClelland concluded his speech somebody asked me a question about subterranean water in western Victoria, from where I come, and whether there was a shortage of subterranean water there. The answer is no, but it is used only for stock water. The great drawing of water from the western Victorian sub-artesian basin is made by South Australia. The South Australians are drawing prolificly from the water of the sub-artesian basin of Victoria. I mention that for no reason other than to illustrate that the water resource is not exclusively owned by Victoria or South Australia. I have read that in the south-east of South Australia there are diminishing flows of water coming from the sub-artesian basin in western Victoria. No one knows how long it will take the aquifers to fill.
As I have said, there should be a central coordinating body to help control Australia’s water resources. This Bill seeks to make that possible. Whether it should be done on the basis that the States are able to demand from the Commonwealth Government an exclusive source of revenue for water resources is something that I do not find tolerable in any degree at all because the pork barrelling system which relates to water resources would be invoked, and the Commonwealth Government would not know to what it was committed. We have already been through that. We have the scandalous situation with the Ord River dam scheme. Senator Durack ‘s ancestors settled in that area in the 1860s after overlanding from New South Wales. The Ord River dam was built at great expense and no one knows how to use the water there. When Mr Fairbairn was the Minister for National Development a dam was built on the Burdekin River. I do not know to what use it has been put. Perhaps you, Mr Acting Deputy President, will in a moment enlighten us and explain to the Senate what the Burdekin River has done.
– The Nogoa, not the Burdekin.
-It was contemplated somewhere up there. We are misapplying our water resources, and this Bill in reality is an attempt to produce a focal point where the matters concerning available water resources can be discussed and water can be allocated. I know that Senator Douglas McClelland has made an impassioned appeal for additional funds to be given to New South Wales. The whole history of New South Wales as a State shows that it has probably been the most recreant State in the management of its water resources. That applies to whatever government has been in power in that State. I do not blame
Mr Wran’s Labor Government or Mr Askin’s Government or the Lang Government or even Sir Henry Parkes’ Government. New South Wales has paid less attention to its water resources than any other State in Australia. It has plenty of water but it has misused it more than any other State. I have not much sympathy for New South Wales when it comes to flood relief. All the flood problems in New South Wales have been created by man and not by nature.
– He would like some now.
-Maybe he would. Do not pray for it, dam it, as Bishop Thomas or someone else in Victoria said. I have read through the material available to honourable senators, the report of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources to which Senator Thomas adverted this afternoon. It seemed to me that he indicated about nine matters at which this Senate Committee has been looking. The Senate has directed the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources to inquire into the Commonwealth’s role in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia’s water resources. The last piece of information I can get on that inquiry is dated 24 October 1977. The Committee has not reported to the Senate. The Senate does not have the benefit of the report of one of its committees. The Government has pre-empted the findings of that Senate committee, as it has done on many other occasions when dealing with matters the subject of Senate committee reports. The Government does not allow any debates in the Senate on reports presented by Senate committees. The Chairman of a committee presents a report and it is ordered to be printed, the subject matter of the report goes onto the Notice Paper and that is the last chance the Senate has of dealing with reports arising out of its own organic system.
If the Senate committees are to have any validity at all the Government simply has to make time available so that the reports of those committees can be debated. I suggest that in future the Senate must insist that it will not examine or give consideration to such Bills until it has received the report of a Senate committee so that the Senate may have the capacity to look at the validity or otherwise of the legislation which has been brought down by the Government. I have no doubt that some very interesting information will be available when Senator Thomas and his Committee further examine the Commonwealth’s involvement in water resources. But I am sure Senator Thomas will agree with me when I say that the horse is out of the stable and galloping. Without being too cynical, it might be worth while considering whether that Committee should examine that reference any longer. I could enumerate other instances in which this has happened.
I found one matter dealt with in the last reference to be rather interesting. It relates to a matter I mentioned earlier. The Water Research Foundation of Australia Ltd was, as I have said, the begetter of parliamentary interests in Australia’s water resources. Members of the Foundation appeared before Senator Thomas’ Committee and put forward certain points of view. I thought that those members were received with some consideration by Senator Robertson. This private foundation has been financing a large number of small investigations into how Australia’s water could be properly conserved and properly used. From reading the Hansard report of the proceedings the Foundation’s request that it should get some subsidy from the Government to enable it to carry on was received with a good deal of sympathy by the Senate Committee. But when one turns to the Bill one discovers that there is no means in the Bill by which the Water Resources Foundation of Australia can be given any grant.
It is not for me to elaborate on the work which has been done by the Water Resources Foundation of Australia, but it is clear to me that it has been touching upon matters in relation to the water resources of Australia which have never been tackled by any government in Australia. I know from my reading of reports that have been issued annually over the last few years that the Foundation has done a lot of investigation of a mechanical, engineering and geological basis on how more effectively farmers can build dams. Adequate mechanical equipment is now readily available to farmers to build dams, as distinct from the old days when one had to hang on the end of a buckscraper with about 10 Clydesdale horses in front and hope that the buckscraper did not strike a rock because if it did one could go for a sixer over the top of the buckscraper. In those days one wanted to get something up as quickly as possible when building dams.
There is no reference in the Bill as to how the Water Resources Foundation can get some aid from the Government to enable it to carry out the effective work which it had been carrying out. It surprised me to discover in the evidence before the Committee that the Foundation is currently involved in a number of projects of an effective and practical nature- not of a theoretical nature. The number of people actively engaged in universities as a result of research grants being made by that private Foundation also surprised me. It seems quite clear to me that what has happened as a result of the drafting of this Bill is what usually happens when there is a shortage of money. The people who feel the first pinch because of the shortage of money are the young barons in the Australian feudal structure. Anyone who thinks that the days of Henry II and the feudal barons have gone has not been in the Parliament long enough. There are about 32 barons in Canberra and many of young squires around the place are seeking the opportunity to carve out their own barony in the future. But the barony they try to carve out is money. When there is a shortage of money they make sure that they get the first dip at it.
I remember an occasion some 20 years ago when this subject came up for discussion and Senator Wright, with one of the witticisms which spring to his fertile mind from time to time, when someone interjected on him said: ‘You do not understand. The closer you are to the bakehouse, the better the bread’. That is roughly the situation when it comes to getting money. The reason why the Water Resources Foundation of Australia does not get any money is that the young squires, around the place, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation- it is a pity Senator Webster is not here- and some of the other people around the place make sure when money is scarce that nobody gets it except themselves. That is the situation about which Senator Douglas McClelland is worrying. Everybody is worrying about it. It becomes a power struggle as to who gets the money.
During the Committee stage of the Bill I shall test the Committee on this matter. I hope that some members of the Standing Committee on National Resources, which has had a reference given to it by the Senate, will agree with me on it. I hope the Government will agree. When it comes to the definition of what is an authority, State or local government body, project or something else like that there should be inserted a provision that money can be made available to organisations such as the Water Resources Foundation to enable those organisations effectively to carry on their job. I do not see any great urgency about this Bill. The Senate may properly consider whether the Bill should be sent under the relevant Standing Order which enables the Senate to do so to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources and that it be asked to report to the Senate on the Bill. I cannot see any urgency about the Bill. I think that this is an effective way of dealing with the matter.
Honourable senators have been talking about the problem of water resources in a State context. This is a House ofthe States. We are dealing with a problem which relates to the States. I cannot see why the Bill could not go to a committee of the Senate with an instruction that the committee look at it and report back to the Senate when it returns after Easter.
I do not see why we should be pressed to push this Bill through at the present moment. I think it could be properly sent to the Committee which is in charge of this problem. The Committee could report back to the Senate and say that it is a fair Bill or it is not a fair Bill. The Committee could make some recommendation to the Senate. The Senate could then proceed to debate and argue the matter which honourable senators, as representatives of the States, have given close scrutiny. I do not see for one single solitary moment that this Bill will solve the problems of the scarce national water resources of Australia. All it can do is to say that the Commonwealth makes the decision as to what money will be made available to the States on some pro rata basis, a dollar for dollar basis or under some other agreement.
I do not agree with the amendment moved by Senator Walsh. I think it is ludicrous. The amendment defeats the very purpose for which the honourable senator argues, namely the elimination of the pork-barrelling system. The honourable senator’s amendment would make pork-barrelling worse than ever. There is no way in which I could accept it. I reject it. I could say much more on this subject. However, time passes on and I notice that you are beginning to frown, Mr President. In that case I had better conclude my speech.
– There is half an hour to go-
-I do not want to take the half hour that is still available to me. I am apprehensive as Mr President sat me down the other night. I do not intend to put myself in that embarrassing position again. I merely conclude for the time being by saying that I reject the amendment and I support the principle embodied in the second reading speech. I will leave any further observations until we get to the Committee stage.
- Mr President, I do not doubt that the worried frown on your brow, as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack described it, was caused by the fact that I indicated that I was going to speak instead of Senator Wriedt. I merely do so to intersperse the wisdom of Government senators. I must thank Senator Sir Magnus Cormack for his contribution. This is the first time I have heard him speak on water resource matters although he indicated he spoke quite some time ago on the Ord River scheme and that he had some caustic remarks to make about that scheme. However, I believe he has made fairly clear his general philosophic approach to the need to harness our water resources. He expressed an opinion which I heard in Sri Lanka, where one of the ancient princes declared that not one drop of water would pass to the sea without it first being used. I think that is what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is saying. He has expressed the view that we ought to harness our water resources to our best advantage no matter where those resources may be.
Perhaps I should give some comfort to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. The Ord River project is far away from my own state of Queensland. Much has been said about useless expenditure on the project. But my view is that although the Ord River scheme may have been undertaken before its time it will in the passing of time give a return for the expenditure. Perhaps at some future date it may even be said that considerable foresight was shown in developing the scheme. My view is that we cannot be overcritical of any project which conserves the water resources of this country. It may be that money is spent unnecessarily or that a wrong priority is given to expenditure in one place by the Commonwealth or the States and that we should protect ourselves against making such an error because the money may be better used for a particular purpose in another place.
The Opposition commends the legislation before us although an amendment which endeavours to improve what the Bill intends to do has been moved. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has indicated that the Opposition’s amendment is an idle amendment. Nevertheless, I think there is purpose in it. The amendment seeks to make certain that the Commonwealth does have a more direct involvement in the allocation and the spending of specific amounts of money. I also share the honourable senator’s concern about whether the Bill will achieve what it seeks to achieve. Perhaps we ought to send it to a committee of the Senate. Of course, I am not in a position to speak for the Opposition on this matter and I do not know whether at this stage the Opposition is prepared to consider such a proposition. I do not doubt that while I am speaking and while subsequent speakers are contributing we may take a look at the proposition.
The failing of this legislation appears to centre on a misconception from which the Government suffers. The misconception is based on the fact that in the past the Government has strongly opposed the Australian Labor Party’s drive towards a central authority in many areas or, if I can put it another way, its drive towards nationhood. From the Government’s reaction I infer that it has taken the opposite position, namely a complete faith in a federal system. In this legislation the Government is endeavouring to carry out a program which it seems to accept is a national responsibility. It is endeavouring to achieve that national responsibility through the States. This approach just will not work in this area, just as it has not worked in other areas. It will not work in specific areas such as the securities and exchange area. The Government is saying in this legislation that it will allocate $200m over five years. The Government announced the details of its new national water resources program in 1977 during the election campaign. It said that the money for the program would be spread over five years with the Commonwealth contributing up to $200m seeking a matching dollar for dollar contribution from the States. Further, it said that the program would be drawn up according to State priorities and that it would embody a national approach to the assessment, planning, development and management of water resources. My impression immediately is that that proposition is contradictory. It says to the States: ‘We will provide the money; you will set the priorities’.
Immediately we come up against the problem indicated by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack that there will be a tendency for members of parliament pork-barrel within their State, to have moneys to particular areas for political advantage. That practice, of course, will counter the very purpose and thrust of this national water resources program. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack indicated rather sharply that he was against pork-barrelling and that there was some question as to whether or not moneys should be spent on the Burdekin Dam in Queensland. My view is that the water conservation program in Queensland is insufficient to meet the needs of the State and that rather than criticism being directed at the Burdekin Dam in particular, support ought to be given to increased expenditure. Another problem in this area is that insufficient moneys are being provided for this very important project.
– You may need a larger tax basis.
– Of course, it is a case of priorities. We could look at our priorities in respect of expenditure and say that we could reduce expenditure in certain areas and that we could increase it in others. I am saying that we ought to look at our expenditure priorities and that we should allocate moneys in areas where the desired effects cannot be seen in the short term. Long term projects must be planned for now. If we do not plan for them now we will suffer considerably in the future. That is the whole nature of this exercise. It has a very high priority because in this country which has such a flood of water at one time and such a scarcity of water six months later it is necessary to engage in projects which will stabilise that sort of situation. In the protection of the environment and industries which are very much dependent upon water and in the protection of the conditions under which livestock exist, it is necessary to give a very high priority to these water resources projects, even if we have to limit expenditure in other directions.
It can be argued and has been argued that irrigation projects lead to over-production and therefore that we ought not be supporting irrigation programs. In my view that is rather backward thinking. If we can stabilise our production and make certain that there is a continuity of product, whether it happens to be in respect of vineyard production in South Australia or other States or the irrigation of lucerne, for example, in the St George area, the next step when we reach an over-production situation is to see that there are outlets and markets for the products which these irrigation areas produce. It seems to be a backward step when, immediately a position of over-production is reached in a particular field, we begin to limit the projects which are so necessary to expand and enrich our countryside and to stabilise the conditions under which we produce our rural products.
I have some figures with me on the subject but I think 1 have said enough for the purpose of this debate. However, let it be said that there ought not to be any limit placed on the amount of money spent on the Burdekin River Dam in Queensland. Rather, expenditure should be increased. I am not engaging in pork barrelling in respect of this project. In spite of what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said about flood mitigation, it is most necessary to mitigate the effects of flood on the City of Brisbane. The cost to the nation of the great flood in Brisbane was considerable. Over $100m of Commonwealth money was expended. That was additional to the large sums of money that were spent by insurance companies and private individuals in rehabilitating homes. The cost to Brisbane -
– Loss of life, too.
-Of course, there was the loss of life, the loss of stock and the terrible hardship for which the flood was responsible. We cannot really support an argument that the amount of money expended on flood mitigation could be limited in a place like the City of Brisbane. One can argue, of course, that poor planning has led to building and development in flood plains and that we ought not to permit this. It has been argued also that enterprises ought not to be developed in fringe areas and semi-desert areas. But we would limit our expansion considerably if we were to prevent development in risk areas. We ought to devise schemes by which the risk is lessened. If the risk leads to some loss, it ought to be compensated for by some schemes that have been spoken of in the Senate.
In my view, the legislation is well-intentioned but it does not carry out the purpose which the Government or for that matter the Opposition desires. It endeavours to assist the States. It allows them to have the main responsibility as to where the money will be spent. Of course, the amount of money which is made available is not sufficient. I could go on to speak about other areas including interest rates. I could go on to speak about the areas which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack covered in his speech. But perhaps I ought to leave it to subsequent speakers to engage in further debate on those items.
– I rise to support the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill and to oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition. The debate has ranged over a wide area. I suppose that the topic we are debating is of importance to all of us, in our every-day lives because water is something that none of us can do without. I wanted to say something about irrigation in opening my remarks because Senator Georges just touched on the subject. I agree with him that because occasionally in respect of certain primary industries some over-production occurs in irrigation areas, that does not mean that irrigation is not important in the overall scene. Indeed, the importance of irrigation to the Australian economy is well known and appreciated by those who have dealings in areas which depend upon an irrigation system for their economic lifeblood.
I suppose that, coming as I do from an area of northern Victoria where we have the largest and second largest fruit canneries in the southern hemisphere and some of the largest dairy production factories in Australia. I become accustomed to the importance of water in the economic sense to the primary industries of Australia. This debate affords us an opportunity to recall that fact. To those honourable senators who are interested in learning something of the importance of water, I recommend an excellent publication entitled Liquid Gold. Of course, when people speak of liquid gold in the irrigation areas, they speak of water. It is true to say that those people who have lived with the system, if I may put it that way, over the years have learnt to appreciate water as liquid gold.
– Who wrote Liquid Gold
– I am afraid that I cannot tell the honourable senator who wrote the book but it is available. It is a publication dealing with irrigation areas in Victoria.
– It was written by Clive Turnbull.
– It may well have been. I am afraid that having quoted the name of the book, the name of the author escapes me but I would be happy to obtain a copy and supply it to any honourable senator who is interested. I think it would be in the Parliamentary Library. Having made those remarks about irrigation, perhaps I ought to return to the Bill because that is what we are debating.
I shall confine the few remarks I wish to make in this debate to the Bill and then speak in general terms on some of the problems of the River Murray which affect three of the States in the Commonwealth very directly and vitally. One has only to listen to the contributions already made in the debate by honourable senators from New South Wales and South Australia to know that the River Murray, which is the largest internal waterway in the nation, is of vital importance to the three States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. However, the legislation is timely because my State and other States in Australia are experiencing at the moment one of the greatest droughts we have had for many years. It varies in severity in different areas. In certain areas of Victoria its severity is very great. When we look at the conservation of water and national water resources, drought is a very relevant consideration. We must see that we conserve the water even for stock and domestic purposes because it is so necessary for the members of the farming community who live in what might be termed dry areas as opposed to irrigation areas.
The Bill grants financial assistance to the States in connection with the development and management of national water resources and deals with agreements between the States and Commonwealth. However, I deal now with the amendment. I do not share the concern of Senator Douglas McClelland about an agreement between each State and the Commonwealth in relation to the moneys to be made available under the legislation. It does not refer to State priorities, as Senator Georges said. I suggest that that is a fairly reasonable provision. Each State should know and should be presumed to know its priorities, and I think it would be quite wrong for the Commonwealth, in the context of an individual State dealing with an intra-state water problem, to direct the State as to particular works which should get priority.
The situation may well be different with the River Murray, where there are competing States. This legislation does not purport to deal in any shape or form with the River Murray Commission, but it does provide for approved bodies in addition to the States, such as an authority of a State or a local governing body. We all know of examples of such bodies. In Victoria the authority is the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, which is an independent statutory authority handling all the irrigation works throughout the State. Obviously it is the authority that would be charged with administering any moneys made available under this Bill. Money is to be made available for projects, and project’ is defined in the Bill in wide and comprehensive terms. I do not want to take up time by reading the definition in detail, but it refers to the conservation of water resources or the water environment, the management of water quality, the distribution or reticulation of water, the drainage and desalinisation of agricultural land, or the mitigation of flooding. All aspects of the use of water are covered. The definition also includes ancillary matters that arise out of those projects, such as the establishment of construction camps and the services necessary for those camps, including the construction of roads, the acquisition of land, the payment of compensation, the construction of diversion works, spillways, outlet works, pipelines or any other necessary works or measures.
The legislation is drafted in wide terms and is designed to enable the States to undertake works which are necessary for the conservation of water. As has been said, an amount of $2. 5m is appropriated in this financial year for those projects. It is probably worth remembering the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm
Fraser) on 12 February that the State Premiers had been invited to nominate projects for consideration under a five-year $200m water resources program. The Government is aware of the problem, and it is significant that this fairly generous allocation has been made for a comprehensive program over a five-year period.
As I said at the outset, I wish to say a few words about the River Murray. I think I mentioned in a debate last year that I was fortunate to be a member of a party which inspected the problems of the River Murray from its source in eastern Victoria to Mildura on the South Australian border. We had the privilege of the company of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), who was then the Minister for National Resources. During that inspection we had an opportunity to see at first hand the problems on both the New South Wales and Victorian sides of the Murray. It is interesting to note the comments of the Deputy Prime Minister on that occasion, and this has already been referred to in the other place by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick). A newspaper report on the matter stated:
The River Murray Commission’s present charter left it inadequate to cope with all the demands on the river, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, said yesterday.
He said there was flooding, erosion, salinity and pollution and legislation would have to be introduced to alter the Commission ‘s powers and structure.
I suggest that if we are to solve the problems of the River Murray, and they are great, that matter does require urgent consideration. Of course, the ball is not entirely in the Commonwealth’s court. There has to be agreement between the three States- South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales- as well as with the Commonwealth, which is only one of the four parties. I think it is generally accepted by the States I have mentioned that some upgrading and updating of the statutory charter of the River Murray Commission is necessary if the problems that are now manifest are to be dealt with adequately.
I want to trace briefly those problems. The two basic problems of the River Murray which have reached crisis point are salinity and sediment loading. In regard to salinity, unco-ordinated irrigation development without complementary drainage systems has ensured that this problem will occur. Add to that combination the known saline ground water structure and the crisis surely must have been predictable. Except for one aspect of sediment loading, these problems have their origin in the catchments or lands adjacent to the stream. Sediment loading has had the effect of turning rivers of water into rivers of sand, and the Murray below Albury and the lower Kiewa River in Victoria are typical examples of that. The situation has been dealt with exhaustively by a newspaper correspondent from the Albury Border Morning Mail who accompanied us on the tour. He has prepared a number of papers relating to the problems ofthe Murray which have been collected in summary form, and I wish to refer briefly to some of the comments in those articles. The correspondent stated:
This problem in the mainstream has been compounded by over-committing the stream as an irrigation water carrier.
That will become a very serious problem with the completion of the Dartmouth Dam in northeastern Victoria, when a further large quantity of storage water will be taken into the Murray. Grave problems exist in the north-east from the source of the Murray down to the Echuca area in Victoria. I do not know how many river miles are involved, but as the crow flies it would be 150 miles or more. A river as large as the Murray was never intended to be used as an irrigation canal, but the Hume Weir and now the Dartmouth Dam have done that to it. This has led to very grave problems in the upper reaches ofthe river, and for the people below Albury the additional water will create erosion and other problems. The river altered its course, and the physical inspection that we conducted disclosed just how serious the problems were. Coming further down the river to what is known as the Barmah Choke, there are extensive red gum forests in the Moira Lakes area in New South Wales as well as on the Victorian side of the river. Of the 28,585 hectares of the Barmah Forest, about 24,280 hectares consists of red gum forest. That very large area, is also likely to be affected by the Dartmouth Dam if some remedial action is not taken. The problem has been met in a reasonable fashion by various government initiatives over the years, but the value to both Victorian and New South Wales of these red gum forests is considerable. It would be a tragedy indeed if, because an authority such as the River Murray Commission does not have the power and the finance to grapple with the situation, these forests were to be lost. Those who live in the affected areas are supremely aware of the problems involved. Having highlighted them in this debate, I hope that the Government will take not of them and will initiate action to give the Commission the necessary authority to make provision for the Dartmouth water which I understand will be coming down the Murray within the next six months. I am not entirely sure of the date, but the Dartmouth Dam has almost been completed: I think we can look to the water becoming available in the near future. The water is certainly essential to South Australia. South Australia would be delighted to have it. I want mainly to flag some of the problems associated with carrying it to South Australia.
That brings me to the next problem, that is the problem of salinity. If we have problems upstream from Echuca, we certainly have them downstream between that centre and Mildura. In the Swan Hill-Kerang area the salinity problem is a grave problem. I have spoken about it previously. There is a rising water table and there are questions as to where one can dispose of the salt. If one were to put it back into the Murray River the people in South Australia would not be too happy about it. If one were to take it out to the salt lakes in northern Victoria some of the owners of wheat properties there would not be very happy. So the disposal of the salt after it has been extracted from the soil also represents a problem. Of course, if one does not deal with the salinity problem what has been over the last half century valuable irrigation land, producing all sorts of fruit and vegetable crops, will become barren wasteland. A physical inspection along the Murray provides evidence of the ravages of uncontrolled salinity in the soil.
I refer briefly to what the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) said in closing the debate in the other place in this legislation, as reported at page 304 of Hansard. He said:
The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) talked about salinity problems in the Murray River. I am surprised that a member of the Opposition should raise this matter because it was this Government which, in 1977, decided at last to take some real steps to implement action to alleviate those very real problems in the River Murray system. I can say this to the honourable member for Riverina: I hope that in the near future we- the States and the Commonwealth- will be able to announce the consultants who will be working to recommend to the governments concerned with the Murray River system, immediate steps on an interim basis that can be taken to start helping the people who rely on water from the River Murray. After that, we will, as we have committed ourselves in our policy speeches in the last election, be taking steps to take real action to solve the River Murray salinity problem. I hope that reassures the honourable member for Riverina.
That is an authoritative statement by the Minister which I think we can note in anticipation of the necessary action being taken to alleviate this important problem.
The debate in this chamber has highlighted the importance to the Australian economy of water. I do not propose to comment on the Ord River system, about which certain observations have been made, because I have not been to see it and prefer to discuss areas that I have seen. I stress the importance of irrigation water, indeed water in general, to the Australian economy. I support the Bill and reject the amendment on the ground, to put it briefly, that I believe that the States are in the best position to know their own priorities and requirements. After all, the position of the States is safeguarded by the agreement and its conditions, as embodied in this legislation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– I enter the debate because I feel that my State- Western Australia- has a special case to put in connection with the development and management of water. Australia is a vast, dry continent, and we are all aware of the great responsibility we have in the development and management of water. I often wonder whether the Government is really conscious of Western Australia’s geographical position both internationally and in relation to this country as a whole. Certainly I have my doubts concerning the Government’s awareness of our significance internationally. When it comes to talking about our vast mineral resources we all think that we are rich, and indeed we probably appear to be until we start looking at the question of ownership and control. The question then arises of just how rich are we. One wonders just how far one should go into that aspect.
Our development can stagnate if we do not utilise with care and caution such water as is available to us. Western Australia is a vast, dry State. It is a State which covers almost one third of our continent and which has an area that is more than three times that of New South Wales, 1 1 times that of Victoria, almost one and a half times that of Queensland, more than two and a half times that of South Australia, some 37 times that of Tasmania, almost twice that of the Northern Territory and more than a thousand times that of the Australian Capital Territorythe nation’s capital. Western Australia has a coastline which represents more than one third of Australia’s total coastline, but our population represents less than 10 per cent of the nation’s population. Having a dry, arid climate, no one is more aware of the need for forward planning in Western Australia than the people of Western Australia.
Much criticism has been levelled at the Ord River project. Quite a lot of it has been justified. But I wonder whether we should not take a long term view of the situation that exists there. If methyl alcohol has an important part to play as a future source of energy- I believe that it has- the Kimberleys will provide us with an ideal place to supply Australia with all of that substance that it needs. Indeed, we shall probably be able to export it to other countries also. The Kimberleys are ideally situated for the shipping of such a product to other areas. Most of our vast mineral resources are situated in the Pilbara region, but water will be required for future development there. Surely we do not visualise the future of this area as one which will be used only for the supplying of mineral resources, without an attempt being made to develop it further.
– Do you have any idea how much land is needed for that sort of program?
-We must plan for the development of the Pilbara region if we wish to do more with our mineral wealth than just ship it out by the millions of tonnes. Naturally, the provision of water will take a great deal of money and planning, but water is a necessity to the area. The Fortescue, De Gray and Robe Rivers are in the area. I understand that quite a bit of study has already taken place in regard to their potential. Such development will undoubtedly take a lot of money. But this Government, in setting aside a mere pittance for developing the national water supply, certainly lacks the spark which existed in our forefathers, who decided to build a pipeline from Perth to Kalgoorlie at the turn of the century and who planned the Snowy Mountain project. They had full faith in the future of the country and concern for those unemployed at the time. This Government lacks concern for the unemployed in which its forefathers showed some interest. We have the materials, the natural wealth, the expertise and the skills required; it is just a matter of getting people to work to do something with the country’s future and have a bit more faith in what they can do. An amount of $200m is not much. It will not go very far.
The development of a national water supply would take a great deal of money. It certainly could not be done with the pittance that has been made available by this Government. Much of the water in the metropolitan area of Perth comes from artesian bores. This Government drastically reduced the money available for the deep sewerage program. In fact, I think it cut out funds altogether. When this work stopped it added not only to unemployment but also to the lack of proper sewerage in the inner city. Eventually, this could have an effect on the water supply. In the management of the water supply the Government should make a special grant for deep sewerage to re-employ the engineers, the contractors and the men with the shovels who became unemployed because of the lack of money for deep sewerage. If we do not do something about deep sewerage it will eventually affect our water supply.
I return to the Ord River scheme. Perhaps we should take a serious look at the Ord River project. Sometimes I wonder whether future generations will be thinking of piping water from the Argyle Lake on the Ord to Perth. I know this would cost large amounts of money. It would probably cost $2 billion. By comparison, the $200m that the Government is providing is a bit of a joke. A 150-millimetre pipeline from Lake Argyle would take 12 years to construct.
– The water would be so expensive that you probably would not be able to drink it with scotch.
-It probably would be, but a pipeline is something we may have to look at. This Government is not taking the situation seriously when it is allocating only $200m. It is a joke. The proposal for a pipeline from Lake Argyle to Perth may have much merit. Earlier today an honourable senator mentioned the possibility of towing icebergs from the Antarctic to Perth. This would involve a continuing expense. At least a pipeline from Lake Argyle to Perth would be permanent. It would benefit not only the people of Perth but also the new mining areas north of Kalgoorlie- the Pilbara and Carnarvon and other developing areas which have never had the benefit of a permanent water supply.
If Perth is to continue to expand at its present rate the ground water required will increase in direct ratio with the result that the water tables will drop, lakes and streams will disappear and the quality of life will diminish. The building of dams in the south-west of Western Australia could have a disastrous effect on the already fragile environment. The Ord system contains water in massive quantities. Its usage is virtually nil. There is a back-up average rainfall in the area of approximately 700 millimetres a year. This water is pouring into the sea. A greater amount of fresh water pours into the sea than the amount used in the metropolitan area of Perth. Perth has a water shortage of such proportion that what was once one of the city’s main features is now rapidly disappearing. I refer to the individual gardens which were as much a part of Perth as were its hot dry summers. We were told that there was a drought and that things would get better the next year. We have been told that for the past two years. Things have not got any better. We have been told this in the face of world findings that there could be a change in the climate, but we are not sure whether there will be any change. Some of the findings and statistics today tell us that there will be permanent dry areas for many years to come.
Perhaps there is much merit in looking at the Ord scheme and piping water from it. Perhaps it is not such a joke as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said it was. I think he was being facetious when he said that perhaps we could use the water for the Pilbara area. Perhaps this is possible. The cost of a pipeline from the Ord could probably be reduced by using open ducting in those areas flat enough to accept such a method. A pipeline would be of great benefit to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd, for example which at the moment has lost its European export market. Steel plates for a 1 50- millimetre diameter pipeline that length would amount to approximately 1.5 million tonnes. With continual usage the water supply to Perth from the River could be between 150 million and 200 million gallons a day. With unemployment standing at 600,000 we have no excuse for not developing our nation.
I support the amendment, but my view is that there is not enough money even to whet the appetite of Western Australia, let alone do something for its future development. Development of our water resources could not only benefit the country as a whole but would also provide useful constructive employment to the unemployed in this land of plenty.
– We are rebating a Bill to grant financial assistance to the States in connection with the development and management of national water resources. I support the Bill. It is quite wideranging. I refer to what the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said in his second reading speech on page 274 of Senate Hansard. He said:
It encompasses all aspects of water resources management for which Commonwealth assistance would be appropriateconservation and distribution works, water quality management, desalinisation or agricultural land, flood mitigation and floodplain management, and studies or investigations relating to all aspects of the assessment and utilisation of Australia’s water resources.
One can see from that statement just how broad this legislation is. That is why I commend the Government on its proposals which we are debating at present. The Government has stated that it is prepared to put forward some $200m over the next five years to cover the aspects referred to in the second reading speech.
Many honourable senators have said that Australia is the driest continent in the world. It is certainly not endowed with a great surplus of water. Therefore, there is a need for conservation and maximisation of utilisation of all the water resources we have. There is a need to know much more about our resources, not only on the surface but also in underground streams. Whilst there are many river systems in Australia there are few of great significance. Perhaps the only one of great significance is the River Murray. It supplies water within the borders of three States- New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia
This river, which flows for many miles across the continent, has great demands placed upon it. Over the years it has been necessary to introduce State quotas to make sure that there will be equitable distribution among the States for irrigation and other uses. The great use of water, for irrigation in particular, has brought many great problems. I refer to the problem of salinity. Whilst the allocation of quotas was undertaken through the River Murray Commission, whereby the three States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia sat down together with the Commonwealth and came to mutual and sensible arrangements for quotas, with the usage of this water in irrigation we have seen great problems of salinity. Salinity is still causing great problems. We have seen what has been done with regard to commitments made by Federal governments over the years.
To digress for a moment, tonight Senator Douglas McClelland claimed that the Whitlam Government had been more generous than possibly any other government with regard to water resource development. It is interesting to note that between 1965 and 1972 successive Liberal Party and Country Party governments granted some $22 lm for this purpose. According to my mathematics, this works out at some $3 1 .5m per annum. The Whitlam Government, during its term between 1973 and 1975, contributed some $55. 5m for this purpose, which works out at about $27m per annum. I mention that because Senator Douglas McClelland raised the matter tonight. I do not think it matters much what governments were prepared to spend in the past because all governments have placed priority upon the need for more to be done within the area of water resources in Australia. Perhaps it could be said, though, that there might be a greater need today for this work than there has been in the past. I say that because salinity is a problem; we have been hit with droughts in the past three years; and with the great demand that is being placed upon the River Murray systemunfortunately, the only major river system we have in Australia- there is a great problem of sufficient supplies of quality water being available to meet the needs of this vast continent.
I referred earlier to the problem of salinity, particularly the South Australian problem of salinity. At times South Australia has been referred to as ‘the State that gets its water out of the sink’ because by the time the salinity has come into the water from New South Wales and Victoria and the water flows down into South Australia, South Australia generally does finish up with a greater salinity problem than the other States because they get first use of the water and, unfortunately, much of the salinity seeps back into the Murray system. Hence we had the controversy over where a dam which would have assisted with regard to the salinity problem, particularly in South Australia, should be built. That controversy went on for quite some time, particularly in this chamber. A decision had to be made between Chowilla and Dartmouth. There was also controversy about this matter in my State of South Australia.
Having debated this issue so much in the past in this place, this afternoon I was prepared to let the reference made to this matter pass. But having heard Senator McLaren speak this afternoon, I must speak on this subject, if for no other reason than that I think he was grossly unfair in his remarks about Mr Steele Hall. What Senator McLaren said was correct, but what was grossly unfair was what he did not say. I think it was totally and politically immoral for an honourable senator to stand in this place and wave pamphlets around which, I agree, were supported by Mr Steele Hall when he was Premier of Sonth Australia, but not say that when the river system got so low that Mildura became concerned there was a need to have a rethink of the whole situation.
The Engineering and Water Supply Department in South Australia and the Department of National Development in Canberra, totally divorced from politics, set to work and engineers from both departments came up with recommendations for a total rethink of the dam situation and with a recommendation that a dam should be built further upstream at Dartmouth. It was then that Mr Steele Hall, as Premier of South Australia, spent some time in Canberra with engineers from his Department and it was then that he changed his mind because of the logic of the arguments put forward to him by experts and not by politicians. That is what Senator McLaren failed to tell the Senate today in all fairness to Mr Steele Hall. I do not mind how much Senator McLaren likes to try to belt the ears off us; I think he has a responsibility to come up with all the facts, particularly if he is attacking somebody who no longer sits in this place. That is all I wish to say on the matter.
We are fortunate in Australia that we do have a River Murray system, with all the problems involved with salinity, et cetera. South Australia takes advantage of the Murray system for more than just irrigation along the River Murray area. Today water is pumped from the River Murray not only to the city of Adelaide to supplement Adelaide’s domestic requirements for water, but also to the city of Whyalla in the north and en route to cities like Port Augusta and many of the rural areas. Today we also have a pipeline which goes to the top end of the south-east of South Australia. So it can be seen that there is a great need for South Australia not only to have its quota of water but also to have quality water, because the water is used for domestic purposes as well as industrial purposes. There are and have been problems, particularly with salinity. Whilst some $3.4m has been spent over the years on some projects related to salinity, I hope that through this legislation the States will again be able to approach the Federal Government so that part of the proposed expenditure of $200m can be used in this area, which will assist irrigation in New South Wales, Victoria and in my State of South Australia.
I mentioned the fact that today Adelaide is using quite a lot of of River Murray water which has been piped down to the city. But one of the problems we also face is the fact that we have a market garden development north of the city of Adelaide- a big area known as Virginia- where through the great development of market gardens over the years there has been such an excess demand placed upon subterranean water that the water table is lowering and there is a need to impose quotas. But right near Virginia we have the Bolivar treatment works, where water is recycled at the rate of millions of gallons per annum. Unfortunately, until the present, this water has not been used to supplement the needs of the market gardeners in the Virginia-Angle Vale area. The State Government has been approached regarding this matter, but to my knowledge so far no applications have been made to the Federal Government. This is one area in which water utilisation can be given further assistance because here, virtually at the back door, is water which only needs piping or reticulating. This would cost quite a lot of money, but if one turns again to what the Minister said in his second reading speech one sees that it also covers such things as distribution. This legislation could be a great asset to the South
Australia Government in terms of the Federal Government assisting the South Australian Government to provide more water for the area of Virginia, which is so important. At the present time there is grave concern because, as I said earlier, the water table is being lowered and this will restrict production in this very important area unless something is done in the near future. I hope that the State Government will take up this matter with the Federal Government after this legislation is passed and come forward with a proposal, and that we can obtain some benefit for these people who are in need in this very important area of South Australia.
Another issue which was mentioned tonight by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack- Senator Jessop mentioned it this afternoon- is that of subterranean or underground water. There are great underground water tables in the south-east of South Australia, but there is also a great need for more research to be done in this area. We have heard figures quoted on just how old- hundreds and thousands of years old- this water is, but there is a great need to know more about it and to know what the limits are in drawing water from those subterranean areas, so that people in the future will not be disadvantaged by overuse or abuse at present. This area, which also fits within the legislation, is one of great need.
In regard to flood mitigation, particularly in the eastern States of Australia there have been great problems over the years, there will continue to be great problems and a geat deal will need to be done. We know what has happened in the Wee Waa area. In conjunction with flood mitigation measures we saw the establishment of a great cotton industry in that northern part of New South Wales. So, a dual purpose was served there- firstly, to control flooding in the area and, secondly, as a result, to conserve water which can be used for irrigation, which in turn has developed into what today is a very important agricultural industry.
I note with interest tonight that a few members of the Opposition have criticised the legislation, stating that they feel that great limitations are placed upon the legislation and as a consequence they support the amendment moved by Senator Walsh. I cannot support the amendment. I do not feel that there is any need for such an amendment. Whilst I am pleased that the Opposition supports in principle the Bill and the need for this legislation in order to look further into the water resources of this country- this scarce resource- I cannot see the point of its argument in coming forward with an amendment stating that separate enactments should be provided for each resource project. The Minister has made it perfectly clear- he stated this in his second reading speech- that a copy-of every agreement with a State must be tabled in the Parliament; and, in addition, the Parliament will need to consider separately the appropriation of funds for the purpose of the agreements. If every agreement is tabled in the Parliament there will be an opportunity to debate those issues. If the Opposition is genuine in its desire to debate those issues and if it feels that by some devious means the Government is refusing to give it such an opportunity, there are such things as urgency motions on Wednesdays arid there are opportunities whereby the Government can be exposed if it tries to frustrate. I believe that the Minister is giving the Opposition every opportunity.
This legislation tends to centralise the whole issue of water resources so that the States can come forward responsibly with submissions to the Government or the Minister on what they see as a priority. Then, after agreement between Ministers, both State and Federal, that agreement will lie upon the table in the respective chambers of this Parliament. The individual members of this Parliament will then have the opportunity to debate that agreement. I repeat that, if any senator feels that he or she is being frustrated by the Government and does not have the oppotunity for an open debate, I have yet to see an Opposition, if it is trying to be effective, not picking up the issue on a Wednesday with an urgency motion. Any party has an opportunity to do this if it wishes. I reject the amendment and support the legislation. I feel that, whilst it is a very small Bill, it is of extreme importance because it deals with one of the scarcest and most important resources in Australia. As I said before, there is a great need for efficient utilisation and conservation of this very scarce resource.
– As has been pointed out previously, we are dealing with, the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill 1978. From the number of South Australians who have risen to speak on this Bill it must be obvious that as a State we are extremely concerned about the water resources back home- or, rather, the lack of them. Never having been one to let the side down, I would like to spend the next few minutes looking at the water future of South Australia. What an exciting future we have. We will take over from Western Australia as the ‘State of Excitement ‘ before too long.
First of all, I agree with Senator McLaren’s comments on the need for Chowilla. I point out that on 5 December 1961 the River Murray
Commission resolved, firstly, that additional regulation of the waters of the River Murray is essential to give greater security in years of drought and to prevent disastrous losses which would otherwise be inevitable; secondly, that exhaustive hydrological investigations have shown that the provision of a large storage at Chowilla would be the most effective and economic means of providing this additional regulation; and, thirdly, that detailed site investigations have demonstrated the practicability of constructing a dam at Chowilla to provide this storage. I point out to Senator McLaren that, although the Liberal Government rejected proposals for the building of that dam in 1970, Mr Dunstan did not help either by failing to keep the promise which he made in the elections of that year and around which he based his campaign, namely, that the Labor Government would ensure that it was provided. In what has to be the greatest piece of political chicanery ever, he deceived the people and in so doing deprived them- or should I say ‘ us ‘-of decent water.
South Australia is notorious for its water. It is muddy; it is salty; and it tastes and smells foul. It is probably better suited to top dressing the garden than to quenching our thirst. Any senator from South Australia who stands up to speak and is presented by the attendant with one of these glasses of beautiful water can only weep that we have to chew ours 32 times before swallowing it, whereas in Canberra and the eastern States this is what we are provided with.
– If you are on the Hope Valley Reservoir pipeline you do not have to do that. It is as good as that water.
-Is that what it is? We are on the end of the Murray; that is the problem. I endorse, therefore, the remarks made by both Senator Davidson and Senator Young regarding the salinity problem in South Australia and the urgent need that exists there for a desalination program. I would like to add to their remarks by drawing the attention of the Senate to several reports which have appeared recently in various newspapers around the country and which attest to the appalling state of South Australia’s water. I might add that no South Australian needs to read the newspaper to have that pointed out. On 1 5 August last year the Adelaide Advertiser ran an article by conservation writer Kim Tilbrook headed ‘The future of water’ and sub-headed ‘The quality of the vital Murray water is deteriorating with salinity. This could have far-reaching social and political implications ‘. He goes on to say:
Salinity levels ofthe River Murray in South Australia have already exceeded standards accepted by the World Health Organisation.
It is a sobering thought for those who rely on the river for drinking water.
In recent years salinity has been increasing, raising serious doubts about the river’s remaining our lifeline. Now, 64 per cent of the salinity comes from New South Wales and Victoria -
Not only do the eastern States steal our tourists; they also destroy our water- and if it continues unchecked the Murray will be useless for South Ausralian irrigators by the turn ofthe century.
Just how long we can go on drinking river water after then is not known. But experts believe it would probably be only a few years.
Most of South Australia depends on the Murray. It supplies about 66 per cent of our water needs in a normal year. In a dry year it supplies 83 per cent of our needs, which shows our reliance.
In the past 12 years salinity has risen by an alarming 10 per cent.
The implications of all this cannot be stressed enough when we consider a statement printed on page 23 of a document emanating from the Department of Environment and Conservation, entitled An Evaluation of The Dartmouth Project, April 1974. The statement is headed ‘Salinity’. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a short section of this report. It is only about 150 words long but it is written in the typically convoluted style of bureaucratic reports, and I would rather not read it aloud.
The document read as follows-
1 The principal environmental effects associated with the Dartmouth project are those arising from the increase in irrigation in the two upstream States. The two most important adverse effects are expected to be:
In effect, what this section says is that the principal environmental effect associated with the Dartmouth project is that the Murray will increase in salinity. It says this without making any further comment about the damage that this will cause to South Australia and South Australians. It is if I may say so, a typical piece of political cynicism on the part of those who think that Australia finishes at the western border of Victoria. The report goes on to say:
On the other hand, the increased allocation of water to South Australia post-Dartmouth will result in correspondingly greater regulated flows passing the South Australian border -
The report at least acknowledges that we exist- and this will have a significant dilution effect.
But will it be sufficient, bearing in mind the section from the Advertiser article that I have just quoted? I doubt it, particularly in view of the fact that governments are notoriously slow to appreciate such problems. On 26 December last year the Age carried a report of a joint StateFederal Government meeting on this problem and commented again that in Adelaide the saline level in drinking water is reaching maximum desirable limits. The Age article goes on to say:
Now, about 60 years after the salinity problems were first noticed -
Sixty years, that is over half a century- three State governments have got together to clean it up.
New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia recently formed a joint committee to draw up a plan- but it will be Federal politicians who provide the funding.
It is this last sentence that I think is most pertinent to the debate on this Bill and to implementation as an Act. It is vital to the future of South Australia’s water supplies and to the development of that State that desalination programs should have a high priority in any allocation of funds under the Act. I therefore greeted with some horror the rather cynical remark by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack about ways and means of getting hold of money. I hope that South Australia is not too far away from the $200m bakehouse, because if it is I fear that its future is limited. I support the Bill as it stands in the hope that in the future it will bring some long-term and short-term benefits to South Australia.
– I was glad to hear Senator Haines speak tonight on behalf of her State. I take the opportunity to support some of the general sentiments that she expressed. I support the Bill. I oppose the amendment which seeks to add to the motion that the Bill be read a second time an expression of opinion by the Senate. I commence by endorsing the remarks made by my colleagues Senator Jessop and Senator Davidson in relation to the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I also endorse the remarks of Senator Mulvihill who was a very vigorous member of that Committee which produced a report that commenced with this introduction which I read to the Senate:
Australia is the driest continent in the world. About onethird of it is desert; more than half of it receives an average annual rainfall of less than 15 inches; and the average annual rainfall on the mainland is 16.5 inches, compared with 26 inches for all land areas in the world and 29 inches for the United States. Even in the higher rainfall areas, falls tend to be seasonal, or erratic, or both.
The next part really puts into perspective the problems relating to our water resources. The report says:
The continent’s annual volume of run-off has been estimated at 200 million acre-feet. This represents an average depth of i’A inches, compared with 9% inches for all land surfaces of the world and 9 inches for the United States.
Because some parts of the world receive very high rainfalls, I do not think that the world average is nearly as relevant as the comparison of our situation to that of the United States. It is well known that the United States has substantial desert areas and yet it has just on eight times the run-off of the continent of Australia. When we in the Senate debate the question of the provision of moneys and support for a scheme involving financial assistance for national’ water resources we should be conscious of these facts and we should support the measures. I believe further to the comments made by preceding senators in relation to the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution report that although, if I may put it this way, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since that report was presented, the Senate could well consider whether it should appoint a similar committee to update that report. This is not a matter of triviality. It is a matter of life or death, to the continent of Australia. I notice my colleague Senator Davidson agreeing with me. I hope that there is a general feeling in this chamber that one of Australia’s essential requirements is the very careful management of its water resources, careful husbanding of those resources, A Senate committee, if appointed, might be able to update the recommendations which were made previously.
At this stage I do not want to deal in great detail with the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill. If some of my comments appear to be Committee stage comments I hope I shall be forgiven. My comments deal with the generalities in relation to the Bill. The second reading speech mentions projects, and the definition is contained in the definition clause. I notice that conspicuously absent is any reference to preserving the living resources in the waters, as well as to the waters themselves. Without water the living resources die, as is being found at Lake Eyre at the moment. It went through an extremely unusual period of being full. It had huge quantities of wildlife on the surface and a wide variety of life beneath the surface. That is now almost at an end. I believe that Australia must pay attention not only to conserving its water resources and the quality of those waters from pollution but also to ensuring that the ecological chain is maintained. I simply mention to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) who in this chamber represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) that perhaps some thought could be given to whether there is not room for some addition to the definition of project.
I draw attention to the detail of the amendment which seeks to add these words: but the Senate is of the opinion that separate enactments should have been provided for each water resources project. ‘
I can think only that when that amendment was moved by Senator Walsh he did not have regard to the forms of the Senate, to the nature of the Senate and to developments taking place within the Senate. Clause 6 of the Bill provides:
The Minister shall cause a copy of every agreement, including every amending agreement, to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the date on which the agreement is made.
It also provides in clause 7 sub-clause (2) that payments shall be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and shall be available under an appropriation made by the Parliament for that purpose. The Senate has been at some pains to ensure that all appropriations are scrutinised and subject to full accountability by the committees of this chamber. It is my belief that the amendment moved by Senator Walsh is in direct conflict with the whole way in which the chamber has been developing which would ensure that the fears which are apparently expressed in the honourable senator’s amendment cannot be fulfilled.
Prior to the development of the Senate committee system I would have agreed with him. I now disagree with him because I believe that he is taking away from and denying the efficaciousness of the Senate committee system. I do not think it is necessary to express that opinion. I believe that we shall have adequate opportunity, pursuant to clause 6, to ensure that the enactments of agreements are scrutinised and subject to debate and that, in relation to the appropriation of money, through the Estimates committees and other committees of the Senate, we shall have adequate opportunity to ensure that those matters are scrutinised and discussed to the extent which honourable senators believe are necessary.
In relation to this proposal I raise two points. The first is of relevance to my State of Tasmania. In 1 974 a commitment was given by the present
Government, when in Opposition, that Commonwealth funds would be made available for the construction of the Warner Creek Dam. It was stated that it was estimated at that time that the dam would cost some $2m. It was regarded as having a high priority on a cost-benefit basis. According to the experts reports it was certainly one of the best cost-benefit analysis projects in Australia. It would provide not only irrigation water but also domestic consumption water for a significant area of Tasmania. The project could be provided at a very low cost. Although the cost has escalated since 1974 it is still low in comparison with other water schemes. It would use an existing water system simply to bank up some water by a very cheap dam in the headwaters area which would ensure a flow throughout the year. I understand that the Tasmanian Government has expressed some concern as to the exact Commonwealth intention in relation to the project because the Bill does not spell out intentions. Rather, the Bill provides the opportunity for the Government to go ahead and to negotiate agreements with the States. In the light of a very firm commitment given by our parties when in Opposition I again invite the Minister, at the appropriate time, to indicate the thinking of the Government in relation to this project which is certainly one of the most important national water resources projects.
I ask the Minister to endeavour to clarify whether the Government, which I assume has given full consideration to this project, proposes that money should be made available by way of loan or grant. What contribution, if any, is expected by the Government of Tasmania to the capital cost of this very cheap project? Are there any general guidelines available to enable State governments to assess national water resource projects when making submissions to the Federal Government in relation to this or any other project which the States may have in mind? As I understand the project it has the support of local government and of the State Government if they can finance it. The project was the subject of a firm promise by the present Government when it was in Opposition. I take this opportunity to raise the matter because it is of considerable interest and concern to the people of the area. The project has been investigated and recommended on a number of occasions. I trust that it will be the first project which receives the acceptance of the Commonwealth under the Bill which we are about to pass. One might almost say that if that happens I would believe that we could not have been more appropriate in our support of the Bill.
I have one further comment about our national water resources. I shall take up a little further the comment I made about that resource including not only the water but what is it in. The Australian Fresh Water Fishermen’s Assembly, which is a national body comprising all organisations interested in inland fish in Australia, has expressed considerable concern over procedures for the importation of living fish. It has suggested that the risk of importation of fish species which constitute a threat to Australia’s fresh water fisheries and particularly to our native fish exists as a result of the lack of procedures regarding the importation of living fish from other lands. The Assembly suggested that the risk of importation and establishment of environmentally deleterious organisms, other than fish, exists in Australia. That must be a matter of considerable concern to those interested in the national health of the country.
The Assembly also talked about the risk of importation of diseases presently exotic to Australia, that is exotic in relation to man, plants and animals. It made a number of recommendations, namely that the list of species of fish currently permitted entry to Australia requires urgent critical revision to exclude any species which may reasonably be suspected of posing a threat to the well being of Australian native fishes, or of existing populations of desirable imported species. It also suggested that existing examination and quarantine measures for imported live fish and their containers are insufficient to give reasonable assurance of exclusion from Australia of exotic plants and animals which could have an adverse impact upon the Australian environment.
I pause to indicate that I understand that the importation of fish is big business in Australia. Nobody suggests that the business should be unreasonably interfered with but simply that safeguards should be taken. The majority of those fish come from South East Asia, particularly from Singapore and other areas that are not noted for the high quality of their water resources. The danger is that the importation of fish in containers which hold water from other countries may result in the introduction into Australia of diseases which may affect man, plants or animals. Another danger is that organisms of various sorts which can affect the water resources in Australia also may be introduced in this way. This is a matter that deserves serious consideration by the Parliament and the Government.
– I intend to ask a question tomorrow on that very point.
– Thank you, Senator Baume. I am delighted to find that others are expressing concern about this matter. I believe that it is appropriate to raise the subject in a debate on this Bill because, as I mentioned earlier, the Bill does not mention the question of what lives in the water. I understand that there has not been any firm indications from the Government as yet of what its attitude may be to the submission from the Australian Freshwater Fishermen’s Assembly. I believe that the Government is still considering the submission. I am not suggesting that it is unreasonable that no such indication has been given. I simply take the opportunity to urge that the matter be given attention as soon as possible. The future of the Australian environment and the health and well-being of the Australian people and Australia’s water resources and flora and fauna are at stake in this regard.
Finally, I take the opportunity to say that I am not suggesting and I am sure that the Australian Freshwater Fishermen’s Assembly is not suggesting that the importation of private aquarium fish should not be allowed. I am simply saying that adequate quarantine measures should be applied to ensure that the importation of these fish does not involve a risk to our community. I support the Bill and I oppose the amendment for the reasons I have outlined. I believe the amendment constitutes almost an affront to what the Senate has achieved by way of assistance to ensure that the fears implicit in it are not likely to be fulfilled.
– I thank the Senate for what I think has been a very useful debate on the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill. It is natural that all honourable senators should be interested in this legislation. I think Senator Rae summed up the main source of interest when he described Australia as the most arid continent on earth, having an average rainfall of 16 inches a year compared with, an average world rainfall of, I think, 26 inches a year. I think I could add to that by saying that the total run-off of all water courses in Australia would not be equal to about half the run-off of decent river systems like the Mississippi, Missouri or Nile rivers. Therefore it is natural that all honourable senators, particularly those who represent the more arid States, should be interested in this legislation.
I will not delay the Senate. This Bill seeks to provide the legislative framework for the States and the Commonwealth to make financial agreements. The $200m national water resources program of the Commonwealth would be negotiated under this Bill. It is therefore a vital Bill. The Government will oppose the amendment, which is considers to be totally unnecessary and irrelevant as the very thing that it asserts is not correct. The argument of the Opposition that this negotiation will deny the Parliament full debate is simply not true. Such a view comes strangely from the Opposition. I remind the Opposition that in 1974 the Whitlam Government introduced the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Bill to provide the same umbrella technique that the Opposition is now opposing. Incidentally, if the Opposition looks at the debates that took place at that time it will find the then Labor Government asserted the opportunity of the Parliament to debate the legislation.
It is quite clear that if there was one piece of legislation for a particular water project that piece of legislation would be debated once in this Parliament. Under this scheme it will be a line of the appropriations that is debated annually. Of course, as honourable senators on this side of the chamber have repeated, such a subject could be debated in many other ways. I will not make any other comments. Matters that have not been taken up during the second reading debate may be taken up during the Committee stage. I remind Senator Rae that if he looks at clause 3 (a) of the Bill he will see that a project is specified as meaning a project by way of the conservation of water resources or the water environment.
– I was seeking that sort of explanation. If that is what is meant, I am glad to have it recorded.
– That is what is meant. I hope that the Bill will pass the second reading stage tonight. The Government opposes the amendment and commends the Bill in its existing form to the Senate.
That the amendment (Senator Walsh’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Security- Timorese Community in Australia
– Order ! It being past 10.30 p.m., in conformity the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I do not propose to take up a great deal of time in the Senate adjournment debate. However, I refer to a question that I asked of Senator Withers, the Minister representing the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in the Senate late last week. I now pose another question to the same Minister in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). I want to keep emotion out of the matter and I ask that it be considered seriously. Last Thursday I asked whether the Minister knew who Major Peter Castleton was. I asked him whether Major Castleton is the representative in Alice Springs for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and /or the American Central Intelligence Agency. I asked the Minister whether he was aware that Major Castleton was monitoring Australian citizens in Alice Springs who expressed even a slight interest in military bases in the area. I also asked him whether he was aware that Major Castleton was endeavouring to obtain photographs of Australian citizens for a dossier purposes. I asked him whether he could tell the
Parliament whether the Army was taking over Special Branch and/or ASIO activities in the Northern Territory and whether this was an extension of the authority given to troops at the time of the recent international gathering at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel and at Bowral. If this was not the case, I asked the Minister to take appropriate steps to have the surveillance of Australian citizens by Army personnel brought to an end. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) said at the time that the answer to all the questions was no. Since then other developments have taken place, including a recent meeting of representatives of respective police forces, who are also in a state of confusion as to whether the Army will be called in again in similar circumstances and what its role will be. There has been a great deal of confusion about security organisations of this country over a period of years. I would like to quote the words of Arthur Lewis, M.P., who was chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Freedom of Information. In a recent article in the Contemporary Review he made a number of very good points. He wrote:
The Right of Privacy. The first major exemption from free disclosure of information is that of privacy. Personal information shall not be freely divulged or distributed if it would constitute an unwanted invasion of privacy.
The article went on to say:
The Right to Inspect. Each individual would have the right to inspect records concerning him personally and check the veracity of them -
Referring to the right to correct, he said:
Each individual would have the right to correct information about himself that was demonstrably incorrect -
We do not have that sort of freedom in this country. People are enabled to compile at will dossiers about the private lives and political lives of many citizens in this country. I think that we have reached a disastrous state of affairs when a senior Army officer is able to enter homes to talk to people and to harass them as our friend, Major Castleton, has done and apparently will continue to do in Alice Springs. It now appears on the evidence disclosed that this Army man is a representative of a security organisation. As a result of the question that was asked in this place a few days ago, additional information has come to me from people who have been harassed by him. Harassment of civilians in Alice Springs is not confined to this gentleman. Apparently, representatives of the American Army are doing the same sort of thing. It would seem that the authority goes even further than this. If people leave Central Australia and go to live in one of the States, they are still subjected to periodic checks by members of ASIO. The evidence suggests that Special Branch people have done this also on occasions.
There may be some excuse for surveillance of civilians by members of the Services in time of war. But in peace time surveillance reduces this country and its government to the position of an elected dictatorship. In Queensland, where the Government is an elected dictatorship, it is quite common for Special Branch people to enter homes without authorisation. Even my home has not been free of that. Special Branch officers have also attended functions uninvited and in disguise. I have suggested to some of them that their disguise could be more effective if they were a little bit more realistic. Some weeks ago an instruction was issued for some files collected by the Special Branch in my State to be destroyed in case they became politically embarrassing. ASIO and the Special Branch have a long history of harassment of individuals in Queensland.
I am making reference to these points because they have a bearing on what is now happening in Alice Springs. Under the new no march regulations and other legislation Queensland has been reduced to a total police state. It will be a matter of time before visas and passports will be required for everyone who is not a permanent resident. A banana republic dictatorship has been set up by the Premier of Queensland and backed up by a powerful police force. Many members of the police force have no desire to participate in shows of violence against civilians who, whilst they might maintain a minority attitude to certain things, at least have the right to be heard. What is happening in Queensland occurs in no other place in Australia. Last Saturday presented a clear indication of this. Several thousand women in Sydney were able to celebrate International Women’s Day by having a march and a demonstration without any arrests, but some 200 women who tried to do precisely the same thing in Brisbane found a quarter of their number charged for breaking the law.
– And they were quite disgustingly mauled.
– Yes, they were quite disgustingly mauled too. Some of the television videotapes were very realistic. If the Federal Government proposes to adopt similar tactics, backed up by the armed Services, it will be quite tragic for this country. As we saw at the time of the Hilton tragedy and the Bowral health course, it is obvious that in the long term inexperienced servicemen will shoot first, particularly if they are unused to handling large numbers of civilians, and inquire afterwards when the Government is chasing an alleged spy or person suspected of a subversive statement or action. Some years ago a friendly 007 in the Special Branch in my State admitted to me that he and another person had spent two weeks trying to identify a person with whom I had been seen publicly on two occasions. I gave him the name of the person and bought him a drink to celebrate the completion of that part of my dossier.
In Queensland almost every person associated with the Labor Party has been subjected to harrassment, but many of the people employed, particularly as part time agents, act like apprentices when seeking information. I recall that on one occasion in 1957 when it was publicly advertised that I would be attending a meeting a part time agent who was a cab driver was endeavouring to ascertain the location of the political meeting I was scheduled to attend that evening. His cab followed my vehicle and I led him on a merry chase- without breaking any speed limits, I might say- out of the city area and down a deadend bush track. He had nowhere to go and he could not turn his car around so he got out and talked to me. He admitted that he was getting £10 a week as a part time agent for the Special Branch. He said that he disliked the work but he needed the money. He did not find out where I went that night to the meeting because by this time he had totally blown his cover.
Special Branch part time agents and ASIO part time agents are employed in trade union offices, post offices, universities and other sensitive areas. Apparently the Commonwealth, with the employment of the gentleman in Alice Springs to whom I have referred, has decided to extend this to the armed forces. For internal reasons, the Army has its own security and intelligence sections, and whilst many of us may feel unhappy about the way in which they operate I am afraid that they are a fact of life. Last week Mr Michael Hodgman, the Liberal member for the Tasmanian seat of Denison, said in Brisbane that the Queensland Premier was practising McCarthyism. He also said that he would resign from a government that banned or seriously inhibited street marches in Queensland. The Liberal Party has within its power in my State the right to oppose the continuing development of a police state, but its parliamentary representatives in the main sit around like stunned mullet unwilling to rock the boat and unwilling to overthrow a dictator. Rank and file members of the Liberal Party as a consequence are now joining organisations such as the Civil
Liberties Council in increasing numbers. I wish to quote two or three paragraphs ofthe reported statement of Mr Hodgman, who was speaking at a Young Liberals’ dinner attended by several prominent Liberals. Mr Hodgman said:
I, as a Liberal, could not remain part of a Government which, by a combination of executive and legislative action, actually banned or seriously inhibited street marches.
We are Liberals, not conservatives.
What your government has done is anti-Liberal and a direct violation of the basic and fundamental philosophy of liberalism.
He asked what Liberals in Queensland had supported the stand by church leaders in cancelling the Palm Sunday procession as a protest. Two archbishops were named by the Premier as being Communist Party supporters.
– Evidently he thinks they are a bit pink.
– Before this is all over the Premier’s face is going to be pink too. Mr Hodgman went on to say:
Your Government has behaved in a way which has caused great disquiet among many feverently anti-Communist Australians who have a basic commitment to fundamental human rights in a democratic community.
The right of peaceful freedom of assembly was guaranteed by a thousand years of English common law tradition, and in an interview when he arrived in Brisbane for that function Mr Hodgman said that he found most degrading Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s McCarthyist outbursts. He said
I can only say that I regret that the head of any State Government is prepared to say that a Catholic archbishop and an Anglican Archbishop are in any way sympathetic to the cause of atheistic communism. 1 might say that that situation has been aggravated by the activities of the Queensland Government yesterday in kicking the Presbyterian Church out of two missions and taking them over on behalf of big business without consultation with the church or with the Aborigines concerned. Quite recently the Queensland Government did the same thing on the Aboriginal reserve at Herberton, although we may have been able to get something corrected in that area.
The Concerned Citizens Group of Alice Springs has called for an immediate inquiry into the activities of intelligence people from Pine Gap, and last Wednesday members of the group tried unsuccessfully to enter the United States section of the geological station at Alice Springs. It will be recalled that the Minister for Science recently told the Senate that that particular aspect of Pine Gap was declassified. That is not quite true, although it is possible that this week a tea and bickies’ party will be arranged on the area occupied by the station for ‘respectable’ citizens who want to gain entry. It is doubtful whether any members of the Concerned Citizens group will get in. Major Peter Castleton obviously an aspirant for government when the colonels take over, subsequently intervened. He demanded of various people the names of those who had attempted to visit the geological station. He also asked for photographs, video-films and tape recordings for his dossiers. He has harrassed local people in the street, in their homes and at public gatherings. Incidentlly, because this man is a known agent, people seen being question by him are then shunned by other people in the town in case they too become involved in some sort of conspiracy against the security of this nation. I said earlier that apparently the military personnel who belong to the United States Army are carrying out a similar civilian surveillance.
I hope now that the Minister will give an assurance that civilians in this country will not be harassed by military security agents. If such an assurance cannot be given, then I propose that the matter of civilian surveillance by Service people should be referred to an appropriate Senate standing committee for investigation or to a royal commission. It is not good enough that that sort of thing can happen in this country in 1978. It is the thin edge of the wedge. We have seen it happen in so many other countries as a prelude to greater power being taken, whether by an elected dictatorship or a military dictatorship. I hope that we will not see that sort of thing happening in this country. I hope that the Minister will take seriously the complaint that I am making on behalf of many people in Australia, and specifically on this occasion on behalf of many people in the Alice Springs area of the Northern Territory.
-On 2 1 February this year the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) wrote to Mr Mu Pingue Fongue, the Secretary of the Timorese Committee for Permanent Residence in Australia, in the following terms:
You wrote to me on 6 December 1977 seeking financial support for the work of the Timorese Committee for Permanent Residence in assisting refugees from East Timor to settle in Australia. I regret that you have not had a substantive reply to your letter before now.
I appreciate that important part played by your Committee in meeting the community needs of the Timorese people but unfortunately I have no funds available at present to provide immediate assistance to the Timorese Committee for Permanent Residence. The limited funds that were made available to my Department late last year for ad hoc assistance to ethnic groups and organisations were already fully committed before I received your request.
The Minister went on to detail where those funds were allocated. I refer to that letter tonight because I regard it as a totally bureaucratic response to what is a very tragic human situation taking place in Australia under our very noses, as it were. Senator Missen and I, although coming from different political parties, were able to obtain a little further enlightenment on Saturday of last week when we had a meeting in Melbourne with members of the Timorese community who are refugees in this country.
The Minister’s response is a bureaucratic one. That may sound a little harsh, because I believe the Timorese community in Australia is grateful for the assistance it has had and the reception it has received in this country. What the Minister was relaying in that letter- he went on to detail it- was that it was quite impossible for the Commonwealth of Australia to find some $12,000 to support what was effectively a welfare office for the Timorese community in Melbourne. That seems to me to be an extraordinary attitude, an extraordinary statement and one which is so reprehensible that I felt it incumbent upon me to make it the subject of my maiden speech during the adjournment debate in the Senate. I trust that it will also be my last speech on the motion for the adjournment.
The meeting which Senator Missen and I attended was also attended by some 150 refugees who are living in Melbourne. If I might briefly explain the situation of Timorese refugees in this country: There are some 2,000 refugees from Timor, most of whom are women. In the course of the meeting last Saturday we met a number of women with children who husbands are in Timor and are anxious to come to Australia. We also met a number of children with parents either in Timor or Portugal, who have been cared for by distant relatives in this country. For example, we met one young boy called Amerigo who is 1 3 years of age. His father is in Timor and his mother is in Portugal. He has been in that situation for some two years now, and because of what seems to me to be bureaucratic indifference in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, nothing has been done to expedite the bringing of one or both of his parents to Australia. His situation is repeated over and over again with various other children who are members of the Timorese community in Melbourne.
Most of the adult Timorese refugees are women. Their native language and culture are different from ours. Many of them came to the meeting on Saturday by public transport, often with children, to express their concern about inaction on the matters I have mentioned. I think that is indicative of the rather tragic situation which exists. I might add that the plight of women who encounter this sort of difficulty in any country is made much more difficult in the Timorese people by the particular relationship between the father and the Timorese family. He is in a sense a patriach, the titular head of the family, and is responsible for all those practical activities in respect of which he most sadly missed in the kind of situation I have described.
There are a number of issues on which I wish to touch only briefly, because I understand that my colleague Senator Missen will be speaking on the matter also. He will also, I think, be referring to a petition that was given to us by the refugees present at the meeting last Saturday. I do not want to go into details concerning its contents, and it is not the kind of petition than can be tabled in the Senate, but it contains a number of references to the hopes which these people had in the Australian Government as, to use their words, uncompromising defenders of human rights- a charitable view of the Australian Government that I have not been able to share, but it is their opinion. That aspiration, that promise, has certainly not been fulfilled as far as the Government’s response to them has been concerned. The sorts of situations which exist are simply these: Many of these families have husbands and fathers in Timor. Others have husbands and fathers and relatives in Portugal. It would not seem to be as difficult as the Department pretends to bring some of those refugees from Portugal. It is admitted that there have been difficulties in bringing refugees from Timor to Australia.
Let us look at the situation insofar as Timor is concerned. It was in either March or April last year that it was first announced that it was. the Government’s intention to send a party of departmental officials to Timor to interview people who desired to come to Australia to rejoin their families. For a number of reasons which amount to nothing more than prevarication- of which I might say both major political parties in this country would probably be guilty in such a situation- really nothing has happened since. Some six weeks ago, in announcing the de facto recognition of the Indonesian regime in Timor, Mr Peacock, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, again raised this question of the possibility of speeding up the reunification of Timorese refugee families in Australia with their husbands, fathers and so on. All that has done has been to raise new sets of hopes, somewhat cynical I suppose, in view of the fact that this matter was first mooted by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs as early as March 1977, and that nothing has happened since.
The kinds of anxieties which arise from the knowledge that a civil war is still going on in Timor- despite the answer which Senator Withers gave in this chamber last week, there is ample evidence of people being engaged in a conflict, being killed, injured and so on- are, in themselves, chronic anxieties to Timorese in Australia. When one adds to that the kind of separation factor which is now of two years’ standing and the stress that causes to women with children who are on their own in Australia, one sees that a very real social problem is developing about which we believe the Government should be quick and alert to do something.
If I might illustrate what the Government might do about it: In the last 12 months the Timorese community in Melbourne has, I think it is true to say, been sustained by the activities of Mr Joao Goncalves, who has been their effective welfare officer and has been employed by the Timorese Committee for Permanent Residence. He is a man I, and I think other senators from Melbourne know personally, a man who speaks Timorese, Portuguese and English, one who has, far beyond the call of duty, been available at all hours of the night really to solve social problems for members of the Timorese community who are in great distress. The letter I read earlier from the Minister relates to this man. I refer to the statement that the Minister cannot find $12,000 to keep this man in his position. He has become a focal point of the Timorese refugee’s life in Melbourne, has looked after them, has sustained them, has interpreted for them, has looked after their problems with the Minister, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and so on; for the services of that man who has sustained them for the last 12 months, there is just no money available beyond 7 April. It seems to me, leaving aside any notion of human compassion which might possibly grip a Minister of this Government or indeed members of the Senate, in a moment of aberration, to be bad business not to be able to find $12,000 to look after people in that situation. It is for that reason that we are most concerned to raise the problem and urge that some action in relation to it be taken.
Until this year the salary of Mr Goncalves was paid by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. As a result of that body’s inability to continue funding his activities the Government was asked to do so. It has been unable to assist, presumably in the sacred cause of cutting public expenditure. It is tragic that that restraint should be applied in this situation. Leaving aside the many problems that undoubtedly exist, such as the situation of the 200 Timorese children in Melbourne who have no special teaching facilities or help of any kind available to them and who are in a difficult and desperate position, we have a community in Australia which is upset and distressed about a situation in its homeland and a community which is upset and distressed about the real social problems that exist for it in this country. That community is effectively being denied the sort of help it should be given by a government of any compassion.
I conclude by referring the Senate to the report of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid of August 1977 entitled ‘A Response to a Green Paper- Immigration Policies and Australia’s Population’. In that report ACFOA had something to say firstly about the notion of family as it applies to the Timorese community and other communities of a non- Western culture. 1 do not want to touch on that in any detail, but some hardship is caused by the very strict application of the notion of family in the nuclear sense as we understand it in a country such as Australia. In relation to East Timor specifically ACFOA said:
ACFOA is concerned that the Minister appears to be reneging on his former statements regarding the acceptance of refugees from East Timor. It is particularly concerned about the change in criteria which will not allow many people to come from East Timor to be reunited with their families. .
ACFOA believes that the continual lack of action regarding the reuniting of families from East Timor, separated since the latter part of 1975, is causing emotional hardship and possible long term psychological damage both to those who are already here and those separated from them.
Special assistance K required for Timorese refugees as the bread-winners of the majority of families stayed in East Timor. Many Timorese refugee families in Australia, therefore, are suffering by having rip head of family.
Further, ACFOA believes that the excessive delay in processing Timorese refugees presently in camps in Portugal is quite inhumane, is inexcusable and should be rectified forthwith.
ACFOA believes that the past ambiguities of Australian policy towards East Timor have resulted in confusion and the raising of false hopes amongst East Timorese people. We should therefore regard all East Timorese wishing to come here as refugees and treat them as such.
With the greatest of respect that is a damning indictment of a country whose former prisoners of war have a vastly different story to tell about what the people of Timor did for them in 1943. That document from ACFOA is a damning indictment of this country’s indifference to the plight of refugees from another country which in earlier years did so much for us when it was not bound to do so. It is for that reason that I have raised this matter in the Senate.
– I join with Senator Button in raising this matter tonight. We were guests last Saturday of the Timorese community in Melbourne so that we could hear its problems and discuss with it what seemed to me to be a sharp and real problem. It is one about which that community has not protested throughout the length and breadth of the country. It appeared to me that its members are quiet and polite people. They are almost timid people. They quietly made their point of view clear. They are also a sad people. They belong to broken families in many respects. They are people who see no way clear to repair the damage to families which they are suffering at present. The 150 to 200 people, including many children, who came there were, I think, people who are very thankful for the opportunity of living in Australia. They do not moan about that fact. They are appreciative of that situation. But at the same time they realise that they have grave social problems, terrible problems, because of the failure to achieve any reunion of families in Australia. I shall not repeat what Senator Button has said. I agree with what he said. I think it is a fair description of the situation. But as he mentioned, there was a petition which some 60 of the adults present had signed, and in it they set out their feelings about the situation. I think it is of interest to members of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard the original of that document. I seek leave to have it incorporated.
Leave granted. 77ie* document read as follows-
ADDRESSED TO: SENATORS JOHN BUTTON AND ALLAN MISSEN
We, the undersigned, Timorese refugees in Australia very respectfully submit to you the following:
Because of the political-military events in Timor, we necessarily took refuge in Australia, abandoning our birthplace and therein all of value that we possessed, including our close relatives.
In Australia where we arrived about 30 months ago, we were well received by the Australian people, to whom we are eternally grateful. Here we have built up new friendships, obtained work that provides us with our daily bread and which allows us to face the future with confidence, and so start a new life free of worries and uncertainties.
It now happens that though we have a tranquil and promising future, another acute and threateningly difficult problem arises, for which reason we approach and request your help, Sirs. We feel that you, by being uncompromising defenders of Human Rights, might be able to help us in obtaining a positive and just solution which will put an end to our anguish and suffering.
In Timor among our close relations, we find our husbands, sons, parents, brothers, and other families still suffering the anguish and horrors of a cruel war that has sown death and destruction among our people, respecting neither age, nor sex, family ties, nor friendships.
It happens that we are now permanent residents of Australia. Consequently we desire that our families joint us.
Although we have been plighting for more than two years to both the Australian and Indonesian governments to get our relatives to come out of East Timor and join us in Australia, it appears that neither of them are interested in helping up. The Indonesians are trapping our relatives in East Timor and it seems that the Australian government has given its acquiescence to that inhumanitarian attitude.
We are feeling desperate and frustrated with that situation of impass and our confidence is becoming so depressed that we don’t know which way to turn.
You are known amongst our community as great friends, not only of East Timor, but also of the Timorese people. For this reason, we have seen you as our hope to the end of this suffering.
We are asking whether this petition could be read at the next session of Parliament, and this matter brought up with the federal cabinet and foreign representatives in Canberra to see if something can be done towards the resolution of this complex problem.
Finally, we would like to thank you very much for the opportunity we have been given to meet you here today.
March 11, 1978.
-I thank the Senate. I shall add a little to the comments on the problems that have been mentioned. As I said, the real problem is the reunion of families and that is what is worrying the people more than anything. Of course there is a problem which these people have as newcomers to Australia- the fears, the language difficulties and the difficulties of getting accustomed to Australian ways. All these things are emphasised even more by reason of the fact that these people are mostly women and children. Many do not have in Australia a father or husband, as Senator Button has pointed out, who can adopt the role which is natural in a Timorese community where the father makes decisions about education, the home and other matters. The wives, forced with their difficulties and responsibilities, have to try to take over these jobs and they find it difficult. These are urgent problems for them. They are concentrating therefore on getting their husbands and other members of their families back with them as soon as possible. They see a drift, a lack of action on the part of the Australian Government that has not yet achieved any substantial reunification of their families.
Matters which they raised very strongly relate to the immigration team which we hope will soon go to Timor. This has long been coming. It was promised that we would have an opportunity to send people from our Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to Timor to investigate those who want to come here. They will then come back, report and make some arrangements. I note that in a reply to a question which Senator Button asked on 3 June last year Senator Guilfoyle said:
The arrangements for reuniting East Timorese now in Australia with their relatives either in Australia or in East Timor follow from an agreement between the President of Indonesia and the Prime Minister of Australia that officials of their two countries would meet to resolve the problems of the East Timorese ‘refugees’ who had come to Australia without their parents.
The Indonesian authorities have given their agreement in principle to a visit by Australian officials to East Timor to interview migrant applications sponsored -
That still awaits. The situation is that we do not have a team. We have not reached a situation where any of our specialists can go there and see the position. The thing which concerns the Timorese people in Melbourne is that when this team does go it should be accompanied by an interpreter from the Timorese community so that there can be no doubt that our officials are being given the real answers by the people who are there. The Timorese also are highly concerned about the safety of their relatives who may well be intimidated and forced not to tell their real wishes to the people who go there.
They are concerned that there ought to be prior notification to the people who are to be interviewed. Timor is a difficult country in which people are far distant from points of contact. Therefore, arrangements must be made so that people know that the team is coming there and so that the people can gather. There probably will need to be some acknowledgment from them as to whether they have received notification that their relatives in Australia want them to be interviewed and want them to proceed with their applications. I suppose that it will require that photographs be taken to ensure that the people actually interviewed are the people the immigration team wants to interview. All these are problems which were raised with us and which concern these people. So when the governments of the two countries reach agreement that an immigration team should go there, we should ensure that such a team does not cause greater danger to the people there but that it interviews people who desire to come to this country and whom we desire to come to this country.
Senator Button referred also to the refugees who are in Portugal. In fact, something like one million refugees in Portugal have come from various overseas territories. Portugal is a poor country and is not capable of properly absorbing migration of that magnitude. In all only about 1,500 people in the camps are Timorese refugees. This was pointed out by Mr James Dunn in his report on his investigations in Portugal some 15 months ago. In that report, which is recorded in Senate Hansard for 23 March 1977, Mr Dunn pointed out that at that time there were only about 1,500 Timorese refugees in Portugal. He went on to state:
About 95 per cent of the Timorese wish to come to Australia where more than a third of them are said to have relatives, most of whom came to Australia as refugees from Timor in August 1975. Apart from the family reunion aspect, the main reasons they gave for wanting to come to Australia were: better prospects for employment and resettlement; their desire to live in a climate more akin to that of Timor; and a general wish to live not very far from Timor, with a view to re-establishing contact with friends and relatives when access to the territory is eventually permitted by Indonesia.
I do not think the numbers have changed very much since that time. The situation, as I see it, is that surely we can take into this country a substantial number of these people. I understand that we have taken a mere trickle up to the present. We have had quite a long period in which to accept people. Of course, we have had some of them interviewed. I believe that the standards laid down by our Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for allowing these refugees to come from Portugal to Australia are altogether too strict. Apparently very few of these refugees are allowed into Australia. I have been told by people I saw the other day that some of the refugees have suffered sickness because the food is not satisfactory in the camps in Portugal. These people are living in very poor conditions there and some have fallen sick and some have infectious diseases. Those disabilities are being used as an excuse to stop these people from coming here. We might have to ensure that their infectious diseases have been cured, but surely we should not be stopping these people from coming here for this reason. Surely we should recognise this as a more compassionate reason why we should be concerned to see that these people do not have to live in a country where, although they might be Portuguese citizens, they have no common social background with the Portuguese people. Many cannot speak Portuguese. They are stuck in camps in Portugal unable to be properly absorbed into the community there.
I believe that we can do much better in Australia; that we have a duty to take a great number of these people. We should not be imposing a strict definition of ‘family’ or ‘family relationships’ and saying that because people who do not have family in Australia should not be able to come here. I refer to a document to which Senator Button referred which was prepared by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. In that document the Council speaks of family units and family reunions and points out that a degree of affinity has to be permitted, but that in general there might be good reasons for limiting entry to parents and single children. The document goes on to state:
Nevertheless in view of the widely acknowledged and demonstrable importance of family support systems in times of crisis ACFOA urges that in the case of refugees:
‘families’ should be widely interpreted in the terms of the culture and background of the refugees concerned rather than according to the normal criteria of Australian immigration procedures- this would involve the acceptance, appropriate to each particular ethnic group, of degrees of what we might describe as extended families ‘;
at the beginning of a refugee movement to Australia every effort should be made to keep families together wherever possible;
in later stages of resettlement and integration sympathetic consideration should be given to family reunion whether from the country of origin or elsewhere, even when such family members are nondependent.
I submit that that should be the type of attitude which our authorities ought to be applying in this case and not taking any technical description of dependants or a father-son relationship as being necessary for this to apply. The other day we reviewed many individual cases. I will refer briefly to them. There was one old Chinese man who came from Timor and who wants to go back. His whole philosophy is that his spirit will wander unless he is back in Timor where he can be properly buried when he dies and he will thereby rest. He wants desperately to go back to Timor but arrangements have not yet been made. He is here in Australia without the members of his family and he wants to go back to Timor.
Senator Button referred to a young boy, Americo Mousinho, who is 13 years old. He is one of the few in Melbourne who have been denied permanent residence to this stage. His family want him to stay here and be educated in Australia. He has a father in Timor and a mother and sister in Portugal. They want him to stay here. He is here with an uncle and other members of his family. Surely the Department could find its way clear to ensure his permanent residence in Australia. Another case deals with a young boy who was sent from Timor to Taiwan before the war to complete his education. Of course, because of the outbreak of the war his father could not support him any longer and he is supported by his brothers in Australia. He is here now on a visitor’s visa. He could, of course, study better in Australia and he wants to stay in Australia. His family want him to stay here but the Department has rejected his application and has indicated that there is no great hope that he will be allowed to remain. This seems to be unjust and unfair in the circumstances of the case.
We were told of places where the Department has been unhelpful, where it has had to make inquiries overseas in Hong Kong and other places and it has told people overseas to give information about the residents who are here so that they could reunite families. But when these people go to our High Commission in Hong Kong they find that there is no record of the correspondence and that the Australian Department has not written. These are extra frustrations which are worrying the Timorese refugees in Australia. The other day we saw two ladies who have 10 children between them- they have five each- and whose husbands are in Timor. These women were helping not only to support their children but also they were attempting to help their husbands and other children in Timor by trying to get money through to them.
These obviously are cases where the sooner the husband can come out to Australia and the family can be re-united the better it will be for all concerned. It is better for the children. The fear these people have is that their children will grow up without the control of a father and they will have problems with them in later life. There were many other cases that we dealt with briefly. If these people had come here by boat as some refugees from Vietnam have done they would probably have been treated in a much more reasonable way. No boats are able to bring refugees from Timor. Therefore, they are waiting on the Australians to put pressure on the Indonesian Government to carry out what it said it was going to do. We may well feel that sufficient pressure has not been applied by the Australian Government to ensure that in the name of humanity something is done about these broken families.
Senator Button spoke about Senor Goncalves whom I respect too as someone who has worked for the community. He had been supported financially by the Council for Overseas Aid but it cannot support him any longer. That Council has suggested that the Government should take over this responsibility. I suggest to the Government likewise that it ought to find the money and it must surely be able to find the money to support this man. There are 1,000 people in Melbourne and Victoria alone who are of this community and surely the Government can find the necessary money to have this leader of that community give his full time attention to looking after his people as he has been doing. Surely it saves the Department a lot of work and surely it has saved the Department a lot of work. That alone is a reason for the Government to accept this particular responsibility.
– And the Department of Social Security.
-Yes, and other departments too. I am sure that there ought to be a case. I do not think we are sufficiently accepting our responsibility in regard to these matters. In my contribution to the debate on the AddressinReply on 22 February I said:
I believe that since the last war we have had a continuing obligation to the Timorese people. I have said before and I will say again now that we continue to have that obligation to them. There are only 600,000 Timorese but after all we are only 13 million here and if we were attacked we too would expect people to come to our aid.
I believe that the Government will continue to press for proper decisions in regard to the reunion of Timorese families in this country, and there are many of them, and that would be seen as an improvement. I trust that we will press further for the International Red Cross to go into Timor and see what is going on there. We must continue to regard this matter as being one in which we have very substantial obligations. Whilst I regret the decision that was made -
That was the matter of recognition- it was a matter of judgment so far as the Government was concerned and I believe that it in no way lessens our obligations to or interest in the area.
I believe that I should go further than that. I believe it enhances our obligation to the people of Timor, the people who are here, and we should be pressing now to ensure that Indonesia recognises the fact that there is this great social and personal dilemma for people who are separated. Our responsibility as I see it is, firstly, urgent and effective pressure from Australia for the acceptance by Indonesia of an Australian immigration team in Timor and the achievement of early reunion of families from there; secondly, for a more compassionate re-examination of the Portugal refugee program and the bringing from Portugal of many more of the people who are there at the moment and who want to come to Australia; thirdly, pressure for International Red Cross to get back into Timor and also for us to supply aid to these families in Timor; and lastly, support for the Timorese leadership financially in Australia in the way that has been referred to by both Senator Button and me so that we will help the people who are here. I believe that the people of this community will be coming to Canberra and shortly will be making representations to the Minister and to the Indonesian Ambassador. They will certainly have our support and I hope they will have support around the Parliament in what they are seeking. I believe that we have not done nearly enough in regard to this matter, and I hope our conscience will be stirred so that we will do better.
- Senator Keeffe has raised a number of matters which are not precisely within my own ministerial responsibility. The honourable senator raised many matters which are of concern to me personally and I am sure to other Ministers. I will see that the appropriate comments are referred to the Ministers concerned and if there are replies that they wish to make to Senator Keeffe I will see that they are given to him.
The matter of the refugees from East Timor has been raised most sincerely by Senator Button and Senator Missen. I have some information on this matter from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). It may be appropriate for me to give some statistics which I have. They are precise in their numbers and put into perspective many of the things that have been raised by the two senators concerned. In September 1975 2,501 evacuees came to Australia from East Timor. Seven hundred and thirty one Timorese went to Portugal following a brief stay in Australia and the remaining 1,770 were permitted to apply for resident status subject only to satisfying requirements of health and character. Most of the Timorese who went to Portugal found settlement there difficult and most have sought resettlement in Australia.
At the end of January 1978, applications covering 1,059 persons had been received in Lisbon. Visas had been issued or approved for issue to 243 persons. One hundred and fifty persons had been rejected. Another 77 cases covering 322 people still in process included 33 cases and 155 persons for whom nominations have not so far been available. Subsequently 701 nominations covering 2,668 persons were lodged in Australia for people who it was claimed were residents of Timor but were seeking to stay in Australia. Of those people 600 were close relatives of Timorese residents in Australia. Senator Button and later Senator Missen mentioned that in March 1977 the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs announced that following discussions in Jakarta the Indonesian Government agreed in principle to a visit to East Timor by a team of Australian officials to interview Timorese refugees who were eligible for entry and who were nominated by relatives in
Australia. The Australian Government also agreed in principle to a visit to Australia by an Indonesian team to consider applications by any Timorese persons who wished to be reunited in East Timor with their families. The Government had very much in mind the distress occasioned by separation of families. This matter has been referred to in the Senate this evening.
Until now it has not been possible, despite the statement in March 1977 of our Minister for Immigration, to take any action regarding the nominations submitted by close relatives of Timorese in Australia. However, the Indonesian Government has advised that arrangements for a visit to East Timor by a Department of Immigration team will be discussed after the elections this month. It is therefore anticipated that a visit will take place in the near future. I am personally aware of representations made to the Indonesian Government with regard to a visit and with regard to family reunions about which we all feel so strongly. When I was in Jakarta in January the Australian Ambassador and I visited the Acting Foreign Minister of Indonesia. This followed the statement about de facto recognition. We stressed the strong feelings of the Australian Government concerning family reunions. I am also aware of our Foreign Minister’s representations and continued statements with regard to family reunions. I am hopeful that following the elections in Indonesia this month an early visit can be made to overcome the difficulties that have been outlined in the Senate this evening with regard to finalising what ought to be a very compassionate reunion of family members as early as possible.
The acceptable categories for entry will be spouses, minor dependent children, parents of Australian residents and relatives who have skills and experience recognised and in demand in Australia. I have noted the comments that have been made, particularly by Senator Missen, concerning the wider eligibility that ought to be considered. I will draw the attention of the Minister for Immigration to the comments made by the honourable senator and I shall obtain a response from him. As I said earlier, family reunion is a foremost aim of the Government and it is one that will have our close and active attention until we are able to fulfil what we had anticipated at least a year ago as being a matter of some urgency.
Matters were raised concerning the funding of the association or an individual in that association which has done so much to present the cases of those people to government and elsewhere and to alleviate the distress and hardship of the refugees in this country. I shall raise that matter with the Minister and I am sure that the very urgent pleas that have been made will have his consideration.
Through the Office of Child Care under my Department, we have been aware of the need to help refugee children. We have been able to fund projects designed specifically to assist Vietnamese, Laotian and Timorese refugee children. Another matter of continuing concern to me is that of refugee children who come here as double orphans or who are likely to become double orphans. We have made arrangements for the payment of a special benefit to them for some period and we have made arrangements about the responsibilities of both State governments and our Government in that connection. I simply summarise by saying that I feel sure that the case of the East Timorese refugees that has been presented to the Senate will receive the urgent and active attention of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I certainly undertake to draw his attention to the many matters that have been raised and to seek a response from him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 21 February 1978:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In February this year, following talks between the Australian and Papua New Guinea Foreign Ministers, the two Governments agreed that negotiations on the Torres Strait would be resumed in the near future. In their talks the Foreign Ministers discussed how each country would handle interim proclamations of 200 mile zones and I invite the honourable senator’s attention to the joint ministerial statement they issued on these matters on 1 0 February 1978.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Is there an immigration office in Mount Isa; if not (a) who performs work for the Department of Immigration in Mount Isa; and (b) when is it anticipated that an immigration officer will be appointed in that city.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs does not have an officer located in Mount Isa and it is not expected that an officer will be appointed in that city in the foreseeable future.
Mount Isa comes within the responsibility of the Townsville Regional Office of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Officers make visits to Mount Isa as required. The office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Mount lsa provides a service in respect to inverviews for citizenship and other general inquiries of a routine nature.
A social worker from the Brisbane office of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs visits Mount Isa whenever necessary to’ deal with individual cases.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 February 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
With regard to those findings, I should like to point out that the Department’s Townsville Office was working under extreme difficulties at that time caused by the increased numbers of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries and by inadequate accommodation. The problems which existed at the time of the survey have been largely overcome. For instance, in June 1977, five additional staff were allocated to the Townsville Office and shortly after, a further five staff were provided. Most of these were placed in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Section. Also, some additional staff have been temporarily transferred to Townsville to assist with the heavy workload in that Office. The staffing situation in the Townsville Office is continuing to be monitored by the Depanment.
The accommodation problem facing the Townsville Office at the time of the survey was largely due to the location of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Section in cramped accommodation separate from the main Commonwealth Government Offices in Townsville. The Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Section was subsequently moved to more spacious accommodation located within the Commonwealth Government Offices. The Department has now been allocated space in the Commonwealth Bank Building and negotiations are presently proceeding to obtain a further allocation which would allow it to move from the Commonwealth Government Building and consolidate almost all of its operations in Townsville in the Bank Building. This move should ensure that an adequate standard of accommodation is maintained for some time to come.
A one-week training course in assessing, held in Townsville for six staff of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Section;
An eight-week basic course in examining, held at the Brisbane State Headquarters of the Department, attended by one officer from the Townsville Office;
A two-week advanced examining course held at the Brisbane State Headquarters, attended by one officer from the Townsville Office;
Two Counter Officer courses, lasting three weeks and four weeks respectively, each attended by one officer from the Townsville Office;
An elementary induction course, held in Townsville, attended by twenty staff of that office;
A two-week management course conducted by the Public Service Inspector’s Office in Townsville, attended by one officer of the Department ‘s Townsville Office.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 February 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 March 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780314_senate_31_s76/>.