27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr SPEAKER - Have any honourable members any petitions to present?
– Mr Speaker, I wish to move the suspension of Standing Orders. I move:
Sir, I move this because, as you will appreciate, under the routine of business if certain notices are to be given they have to be given after petitions and before questions. Whether such notice or notices would be given might well depend on what the honourable member for Wannon (Mi Malcolm Fraser) might say and what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) might say thereafter, if he did speak thereafter. Also, Sir, the terms of any such notices would be affected by anything which the honourable member for Wannon said and/or anything that the Prime Minister might say. Furthermore, Sir, I should think that everybody would agree that these matters about which the honourable member for Wannon has made statements outside the House are of more immediate importance to the public - more immediately in the minds of honourable members - than the other matters which would normally intervene. Accordingly I have moved the suspension of Standing Orders.
– Mr Speaker, I have no objection whatever to the suspension of Standing Orders, though I take it that the suspension of Standing Orders would be such that there would not be just one statement, but at least two.
– I have no objection.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)Mr Speaker, I take it from what has been said by the mover of this motion that there is no need for me to ask for the leave of the House to make a statement concerning recent Press reports and concerning the office I held as Minister of State for Defence. I was surprised to learn on the morning of Tuesday, 2nd March, that a story had appeared in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ alleging principally that the Joint Intelligence Organisation had been ordered to report to me on Australian Army activities in Vietnam because I did not trust Army reports. Immediately I reached Canberra, on my own initiative and not at the direction of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), I drafted a reply denying the report and pointing out the function of the Joint Intelligence Organisation. 1 emphasised that JIO is not an intelligence gathering organisation. It assesses information given to it by the Services in Vietnam, principally by the Army, by the Department of Foreign Affairs and by South Vietnamese Government agencies, lt has no officer or office in Vietnam.
In the article there was to me a strong implication that the Joint Intelligence Organisation had been asked to spy on the Army. A report in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 3rd March and an editorial in the ‘Canberra News’ of 4th March had also assumed that the ‘Telegraph’ article implied spying on the Army. So I was not alone in my interpretation. I repeat: This is utterly false. Anyone should be able to see the difference between a broadly based assessment of the overseas political and defence matters of interest and importance to Australia, including Vietnam and Phuoc Tuy province and an operation alleged to be checking on the Army itself. The function of the Joint Intelligence Organisation - its role in support of defence planning - has been stated previously. The .1970 Defence Report stated:
The Joint Intelligence Organisation began operating on February 2, 1970, and is now giving active support to defence planning by the preparation of intelligence analyses and assessments on military, economic, scientific and technical matters affecting Australia’s defence.
One odd thing about the ‘Telegraph’ report is that the journalist who wrote it at no time sought to check its accuracy with me although a copy was shown to the Prime
Minister (Mr Gorton) who told me that in its original form General Daly’s name had featured. 1 would have thought that the journalist should have referred such a matter to the Minister primarily concerned. The Joint Intelligence Organisation is, of course, housed in the Department of Defence, lt has civilian members from the Department of Defence, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and there is a significant number of servicemen from the three Services in this joint organisation.
I turn now to the article in the ‘Bulletin’ dated 6th March but on sale on Wednesday, 3rd March. I had, in the week before, given a background briefing to Mr Peter Samuel concerning Army civic action. Such briefings are a common and, I believe, a necessary practice to afford journalists a wider understanding of current events. Mr Samuel did not take shorthand, nor did he take notes during the briefing. He naturally put what I said together with previously held views of his own. Perhaps I had assumed more knowledge on his part than L ought; perhaps my explanations were not sufficiently clear. Whatever the fault, the result was a story with an interpretation that 1 regarded as inaccurate. General Daly saw me at length on Wednesday and together we drafted comments. I emphasise the word ‘comments’ because the report issued has, I think, been reported as a flat denial. The heading titled ‘Revolt’ - this was the heading in the article in the Bulletin’ - was, of course, nonsense and nobody would believe it. My reply stands. When it is read fully it will’ be seen thai some of my comments on the article are related to perspective and interpretation rather than a denial. For example, I said that the Army supported civic action wholeheartedly as an important extension of military activities. It does, but there is the different question of civic action once combat activities have ceased, lt is the view of the Government of which I was a member that civic action should be continued, as I had made clear.
In my answer to Mr Samuel’s article I pointed out that the Army in Vietnam was entitled to go outside Phuoc Tuy province without reference to Canberra. It could in fact be deployed anywhere in the Third Military Region under its directives. It was not that the Army was out of Phuoc Tuy that was of concern but the fact that the price paid in some loss of security in Phuoc Tuy in 1%8 during and after the Tet offensive was not brought adequately to attention under the reporting system then used. All this occurred in 1968, long before the Joint Intelligence Organisation began making its regular broad based assessments of pacification, Vietnamisation and of the situation generally in South Vietnam and Indo China. These assessments began in June last year at my direction. They are assessments on Vietnam, not on the Australian Army, the United States Army or any other army. I stress again that they are based on information given to the Joint Intelligence Organisation principally by the Army itself so far as South Vietnam is concerned.
It may not also be understood that the Joint Intelligence Organisation is staffed significantly by members .of the three Services. All policy directives were and are cleared through the Chairman. Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Army is involved in preparation of the monthly reports. Any government that did not have machinery for this kind of intelligence assessment would be failing in its duty. lt has been alleged also that I saw Mr Samuel’s article before it was published, and it was implied therefore that I had approved it. Earlier, 1 had not been concerned at what may appear in his article until I was told by the “Daily Telegraph’ from Sydney that its report had been discussed with Mr Samuel. If this was correct, it could mean that his report also would be what I would regard as inaccurate. Later, on Tuesday, 2nd March. 1 therefore spoke to Mr Samuel. He brought a copy to my home at 6.30 p.m., on Tuesday, 2nd March. 1 started to criticise the report but was told that the printing press would be rolling already; there was no point in further criticism of the article at that time. However, I draw the attention of. the House to a major point of difference between the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and ‘Bulletin’ stories that concerns the treatment of the Joint Intelligence Organisation. There was no spying connotation in Mr Samuel’s article. 1 sec no reason, Mr Speaker, to comment on Press matters which have largely involved journalists quoting journalists. I come now to other matters I believe of greater importance. A report in the Australian’ on Thursday. 4th March, alleged that General Daly had told the Prime Minister that I was disloyal to the Army and to Mr Peacock. It has since been confirmed by the Prime Minister and General Daly that that meeting took place on Monday afternoon, 1st March. General Daly has denied that charge - and I know that the Prime Minister has - but I wish to say something about loyalty.
My responsibility through the Government is to this Parliament and through it to the people of Australia. My ultimate loyalty must be to Australia. What is meant by ‘loyalty to the Army’? Does anyone mean that that requires a Minister to defend every act of commission or omission of the Army or does it mean that it ought to be defended when it is unjustly accused? If there is anyone in this House who believes that loyalty to a Service requires uncritical and universal support of its activities, that is nol a concept that I can embrace for it would be a denial of parliamentary authority. I do not deny that there have been di (Terences’ of opinion - the Press has labelled it ‘abrasion* - with some Service relationships in Canberra. But I assert that any Minister for Defence who seeks to do his duty will have to seek to move people from old views and from views that may not embrace the total defence concept.
Let me give some examples. For many years, the chief Army establishments were traditionally based in south eastern Australia. When the Government was considering locations for a new task force base, before my time as Minister for the Army, the Army suggested the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, further removed from any source of strategic danger. In the event, the Government decided that a far more suitable location would be Townsville. It has taken a long. time to get an accurate view of the cost and problems involved in installing a major Army unit in the West.
Posting turbulence has been a matter of concern as it affects many servicemen especially those with school age children. I have had several talks with the Chiefs of Staff and the personnel members of their boards on this topic - and including, of course, the Chairman. I was told that every thing possible was being done, but many complaints made from soldiers and their wives continued to come to me. So, through the Chairman. Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Services are now providing statistics of posting turbulence. Before, this information was not even compiled. Now at least it will enable the Minister for Defence and the Defence group to assess the matter objectively.
Lest anyone argue to the contrary, I affirm in the strongest terms that the decisions that we have taken about Vietnam have been based on and do not conflict with military advice. Let me emphasise here, too, in the strongest possible manner, that I have the highest possible regard for the qualities of the men and women in the fighting forces. By their continuing deeds on active service, devotion to duty at home and abroad, members of the Armed Forces are continuing to serve with the highest possible distinction in a manner that enhances the traditions of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. What ] have just said applies particularly to servicemen and women on operational duty in Vietnam.
If there is resistance to change there may be some who resent and do not understand the role of the Department of Defence. Therefore I seek to clarify it, because there has been some implication that the Army is an independent organisation. Of course it is not. Let me establish some facts about the responsibility of the Minister for Defence, the duties of his military and civilian advisers in the Department of Defence and the established machinery whereby the individual and collective advice of the Chairman and Chiefs of Staff of the 3 Armed Services reaches the Minister for Defence.
Almost 13 years ago in this House the then Prime Minister referred to what he called the clear and commanding authority of the Minister and the Department of Defence. He announced the intention to issue an administrative direction which would, as he said, establish the complete superiority of the Department of Defence in the field of policy. The 3 Service departments and the Department of Supply were, for stated reasons, to operate within the general policy authority of the Department of Defence. In (958 the Prime Minister issued the confidential administrative direction as to how the Department of Defence was to operate under its Minister in pursuance of the announced policy. Responsible for the defence policy of the country, the Minister for Defence and his Department would under the directive have a corresponding authority and duty to see that the policy was made effective by acting strongly - in the actual words of the then Prime Minister - to see that the defence policies were carried out by every one of the armed forces. So it was that the Department for which I was made responsible to this Parliament acquired the authority which I exercised until yesterday.
The Minister for Defence takes his advice from military and civilian sources, either compositely or separately, according to the subject. Every Service, whether through its responsible Minister or its Chief of Staff, has a channel requiring it to contribute to the making of defence policy, just as the Minister for Defence has channels for satisfying himself that the Service is carrying out the defence policy laid down and for directing it if it strays off course. Each Service Minister has the right of access direct. Each Service chief has that right. There is a fabric of high level committees, in all of which the Chiefs of Staff and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee sit either with the Secretary of the Department of Defence and other senior officials, or in the case of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, without the attendance of civilians except on rare occasions.
On matters that involve the conduct of military operations, such as the direction of Austraiian military operations in Vietnam, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee offers advice to the Minister for Defence after consulting the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Orders and directives to our joint forces overseas go in the name of the Chairman, not of a single Service chief. The Chairman works in the Department of Defence and is in constant touch with the predominantly uniformed staff in the joint staff of the Department of Defence. More than that, the Chairman must in his own right advise the Minister for Defence on military matters as the principal military adviser to the Minister for Defence. From 1965 until 4 months ago the office was occupied by a distinguished soldier and former Chief of the General Staff. He has been succeeded by the former Chief of the Naval Staff, an officer with great experience.
Chiefs of the armed Services doubtless have their own views about the decisions they would like to see from the perspective mind capabilities and contributions of their own Service. They have, I suggest, ample means of influencing their colleagues to render the collective military advice that they individually believe to be right. I would expect them to argue their views strongly.
I have added to these’ channels of communication with regular meetings of Service Ministers which did not take place before, with the Chairman and the’ Chiefs of Staff and other members of their boards as required. But the ultimate decision and responsibility belongs to the Minister for Defence and his immediate advisers. All honourable members would agree that we cannot in our system have a politically involved Service head. The defence role is emphasised by the fact that ‘ for the first time the Department of Defence has shown an active interest in the pay and conditions of service, where formerly it was left to the Services to speak to Treasury alone. Since 1 became Minister for Defence pay and allowances for service men and women have been increased by more than $60m in a full year. The Kerr Committee, an independent committee of inquiry, has started work aimed at providing long term recommendations to improve conditions of ^service.
The centralisation of authority in a department of defence containing senior civilian and military advisers has not proceeded anything like as far in Australia as it has in many Western democracies, including countries in close relations with us. Specifically I have in mind Britain, the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Further progressive steps are necessary towards closer integration of many activities of our three Services under effective direction of the Minister for Defence and it has been the policy to pursue that. In the words of a former Prime Minister:
Close contacts and the promotion of common services wherever possible will tend to produce a growing integration of outlook and ideas and will tend to give a unitary significance and thus a more effective value to the total defence effort.
One of the tasks of the Minister for Defence is to balance civilian and military advice. There are clearly matters that must be firmly discussed. This has been done, I believe, with understanding and good sense. There are now few who do not believe that in the complex arrangement of defence policy civilian expertise must play a significant part. The ultimate task of defence is to look into the future, to assess the strategic circumstances in which Australia will find itself in the years ahead and then, with Government approval, to translate that assessment into effective forces which will meet our national needs.
It is for alt these matters that . the Minister for Defence is responsible through the Government to the Parliament, and to Australia. I have been well and truly served by the personnel of the Department of Defence. 1 pay a particular tribute to the Secretary and to the Chairman. No Minister for Defence can carry this heavy task unless he has the active support of the Prime Minister. Unless he has that support he cannot maintain an adequate authority over the Services. If they feel there is an appeal direct to the Prime Minister, the co-ordination of policy and the chain of command disintegrate.
On Monday afternoon when the Prime Minister heard reports of the impending Telegraph’ article that appeared on 2nd March he in. his own words sent for General Daly and assured him of support, thus violating the chains of command, chains of authority. There was no reference to me and no attempt to contact me until it would have been too late to prevent the false allegation appearing. In fact I did not speak to the Prime Minister until 10.45 a.m. on Tuesday, 2nd March. From the nature of his statement of 4th March, the Prime Minister apparently knew the precise nature of the allegations. He assured General Daly of unequivocal and absolute support - I believe an impetuous and a characteristic action. I should have been contacted, even called back to Canberra if necessary.
On Wednesday, 3rd March, journalist Alan Ramsey saw the Prime Minister. He told him he had a story that General Daly had accused me of disloyalty to the Army and to Mr Peacock. In his own words, the Prime Minister did not comment on this report, on this essential part of it. He refused to comment. The Prime Minister claims he does not comment on reports of private conversations even though he knew it would lead to a report damaging both to its target - myself - and to its alleged spokesman, General Daly. In plain words, the Prime Minister would prefer to allow a false and damaging report to be published about a senior Minister. Later, both he and General Daly denied the report. Which principle is more important - silence about a conversation, or loyalty to a senior colleague? One sentence would have killed the report. The Prime Minister, by his inaction, made sure it would cover the front page. As I have indicated in my letter of resignation, I found that disloyalty intolerable and not to be endured. lt should not be thought that this act alone has brought me to this point. Since his election to office, the Prime Mininster has seriously damaged the Liberal Party and cast aside the stability and sense of direction of earlier times. He has a dangerous reluctance to consult Cabinet, and an obstinate determination to get his own way. He ridicules the advice of a great Public Service unless it supports his view.
But let me give one example. Little notice was taken of a Press statement issued by the Prime Minister on 20th July 1970 concerning the call out of troops in New Guinea. Nobody knew of the unpublished drama of the previous week. During the Gazelle Peninsula crisis in Papua and New Guinea there was a possibility that the police would not be able to contain the situation. A course of action had been set in train that had as its central point the possibility of a serious confrontation with the Mataungan Association. This plan was not discussed with Cabinet. The first I heard of the matter was when I was asked to arrange for a call out of the Pacific Islands Regiment on 14th July. I immediately took advice from my Department and the Defence Committee. Part of the advice was to the effect that the legal consideration for a call out had not been fulfilled. T made it plain that 1 would not sign such an order until the legal considerations had been fulfilled and until Cabinet had been consulted. After some days the Attorney-General flew to Port Moresby and, on his return, T received his advice. Cabinet met on Sunday, 19th July, at the Lodge. With Cabinet authority I then signed that call out order. The Prime Minister had resisted Cabinet discussion from the outset. The attitude was: ‘This is the course I want and that is all there is to it’.
It is also not known that a letter from the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) saying that both he and the
Administrator considered it appropriate for the call out order to be revoked by a further recommendation lo the GovernorGeneral was sent to the Prime Minister. 1 received a copy on 16th September, and I supported it in my own letter to the Prime Minister on 17th September 1970. Despite this the Prime Minister has refused to allow adequate Cabinet discussion to decide whether or not the original order should be revoked. It still stands, and possibly illegally. This was an important matter. It involved not only the possibility of the Pacific Islands Regiment being used but also its subsequent reinforcement from Australia. It could have involved Australian troops having to fire on people from Papua and New Guinea. The Prime Minister did not believe that Cabinet discussion was warranted.
The original plan and the call out were both matters of the highest importance. The Prime Minister fought to prevent Cabinet discussion. If such a discussion had not been held despite my insistence, I would have resigned then. I have now done so as a result of what I have regarded as the Prime Minister’s disloyalty to a senior Minister. The Prime Minister, because of his unreasoned drive to get his own way, his obstinacy, impetuous and emotional reactions, has imposed strains upon the Liberal Party, the Government and the Public Service. I do not believe he is Jit to hold the great office of Prime Minister, and I cannot serve in his Government. ,:
– I do not disagree with the concepts advanced by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as to the proper functions of the Minister for Defence vis-a-vis the Services and the Service Ministers. I do not think that the former Minister for Defence can claim that at any time he was interfered with or in any way obstructed or not supported in carrying out that general concept of the functions of the Ministry of Defence visavis Service functions. Certainly he has not done so now, and certainly I agree with the statements of how the defence Services of Australia should be run.
I want to say, Mr Speaker, that I believe what I am now going to say to be true and essential for any government, and that is that the armed Services of a government have very much expected of them. They are expected to render loya! service unto death. They must retain a standard of discipline more rigid than those of other sections of the community. They ave expected to be at all times subject to the direction of the civil power - completely subject. They are an ann wielded by their commanders but only for purposes decided by the government of the day. They are expected to refrain from any political activity and to make no public comments or statements themselves even in their own defence if they see themselves denigrated in the newspapers. This is their duty in a democracy. This is essential, and an essential duty for them to perform. But in return there is an equal duty on governments. The armed Services must not be’ allowed to be denigrated or criticised without proper basis. If that happens the ‘ Government has a duty to come to their defence and to refute that criticism. If, of course, there is a proper basis for criticism then that should be laid open and corrected. I think this is the only decent and proper way in which a government can act in relation to its own armed forces. Sir, this is not, as some newspapers have suggested, taking the side of the generals, lt is protecting the whole of the Army against criticism when that criticism is undeserved, and T believe there is a duty to do that.
Mr Speaker, if I may follow through a sequence of events before coming to some of the remarks Mr Fraser subsequently made and which 1 did not know he was going to make, the events of the last week took place, to my recollection this way: A Mr Baudino of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ came to see me last Monday afternoon to tell me of a story he was thinking of publishing. He spoke to me about it. He had shorthand notes. He spoke to me; he did not read the story. Just why he did this I cannot tell, because it is a most unusual thing to have happened, but he did. And the story which he was thinking of publishing made allegations against the Army and, by name, against the- Chief of the General Staff who was, in the article spoken to me and subsequently as written, accused of taking decisions’ himself which were against Government policy. The statement he proposed to publish alleged that the Army in Vietnam had carried on its own operations in areas which were not covered by the Cabinet directive. It alleged that the Army had independently decided to cease civic action against known Government policy and it alleged that the Army’s behaviour was so unsatisfactory that an organisation had been brought in to spy upon it. These were most serious charges to be published against the military and its commander, for if an Army were to act against its directives, if it were to refuse to implement Government policy, if it needed to be spied on, then the armed forces would have refuted civilian political control and the whole proper relationship between the armed forces and the Government would not have been operating. And, further, the charges by the author of the article were, I believe, falsely placed tn the mouth of Mr Fraser, the Minister for Defence. Again a serious allegation. I told Mr Baudino that the Army had not acted in the way in which he reported, and I knew it had not acted in the way in which he had reported. For example, I know that when the Army left their province to go to Bien Hoa in the Tet offensive, although that was in the area which their directive covered, yet the Army had rung up the Minister for Defence to say this was going on. They advised it. and the Minister for Defence had rung me up in the middle of the night to check that with me.
– Lucky to get you at home.
– Well, 1 was. 1 pointed out to Mr Baudino that the Army had not acted in these ways. The Minister himself had stated in the House only the week before that the Army in fact was working on planning papers, contingency papers, in relation to civic aid and the Minister has indicated just now quite clearly that there was no question of the Joint Intelligence Organisation being brought in to spy upon the Army, lt is not a fact gathering organisation. So those 3 statements were false. I also told Mr Baudino that in placing these statements in the mouth of Mr Fraser he was by his own admission to me acting on second or third-hand information because he slated he had never spoken to Mr Fraser himself; he had never got these briefings from .Mr Fraser; he was acting on what was gossip of other journalists and he, therefore, was acting on second or third-hand information. Mr Baudino left my office indicating that he was not sure whether he would or would not publish the story. I think the words were: ‘I do not quite know what I will do with it.’
But 1 felt that nevertheless he might because, in spite of what has been said, nobody can allow or disallow a journalist to publish a story. 1 did not want the Chief of the General Staff to wake up the next morning and read in the newspaper an accusation against him by name of what would have been a dereliction of duty and to find that the ‘Telegraph’ was accusing him of this action. Nor did I want the military for whose actions be is responsible to the Government to believe that the Government was accusing them for things they had not done, as the article suggested was the case. I think that in adopting that attitude 1 was adopting the proper reverse duty of a government to its armed Services. I therefore rang him and asked if he had heard the stories which Mr Baudino had told me were circulating about the Army and what it had wrongly done. He said to me that he had not so I asked him to come and see me, and the purpose of that was to forewarn him of what he might see in the Press the next morning, so that he would not be too disturbed - in which he featured by name - and to let him know my own views as head of the Government, and these are my views. These were all said to him.
The first point I made was that there was nothing to go on alleging that these accusations had come from the Department of Defence or Mr Fraser since they were based purely on rumours in the Press gallery. The second was to make it clear that 1 knew the allegations against the Army were false - as 1 think it is admitted those 3 allegations were false - and that I had the utmost confidence in the Army and its commanders and that I wished Sir Thomas Daly and the Army to know this. In this, of course, I was in no way, I gather, departing from the views of the former Minister for Defence who has just told this House that he had confidence in the Army and its commanders. The third point I wished to make was that if these false allegations against the Army did appear and were publicly given space in the newspapers they would be denied at the highest level. We did not propose to allow servicemen to be subjected to unjustified, unbased criticism without fully defending them. That, Sir, was the reason why I spoke to the Chief of the General Staff whose own integrity had been impugned by this story, and the military under his command had also been so impugned, and that was that. I attempted, incidentally, to ring Mr Fraser, not for him to take action on this matter but again to warn him that he might see something of this kind in the paper the next day but he was not available at the time.
Next morning Mr Fraser, who had been in Melbourne the evening before and the afternoon before, had an appointment to come and see me to discuss matters in connection with this concern. He appeared with a denial of the story in his hand. It was basically a denial of the JIO story. It was originally intended that it would be put out departmentally. But as we looked at the article we saw the allegations that the Army had acted beyond the area where its directives permitted, that it had acted independently of Government policy in civil action. There were two other charges beside the JIO charge and we thought that since they were false - I believed they were, I knew they were, Mr Fraser told me they were false - they should be refuted and denied in whole and that since the article had put these words into the mouth of Mr Fraser, quite wrongly, they should be denied from the mouth of Mr Fraser rather than departmentally. There was no dissension, no discussion, no disagreement about this and Mr Fraser issued such a statement. So much for the allegation that Mr Fraser was ordered or instructed or in some other way forced to issue the statement which he did on this matter.
The next point as far as I was concerned is that once Mr Fraser had issued this denial of what the Army was alleged to have done, had issued the denial that he had told anybody that they had done these things, and he assured me that he had not, that was the finish of the matter. But the next day an article by Mr Samuel appeared in the ‘Bulletin’. It was alleged to be based on a background briefing by Mr Fraser on a matter of civil aid in Vietnam. I did not myself pay much attention to it. It made various kinds of allegations against the Army of a similar kind but different in degree from those in the article by Mr
Baudino but it did not attribute these criticisms directly to Mr Fraser as Mr Baudino had done and the suggestions against the Army had already been refuted by the Minister for Defence, so 1 therefore paid little attention to it. I did not speak to Mr Fraser about it on any occasion. I did not have any conversation with him relating to it. But the Minister for Defence refuted the article point by point entirely on his own initiative. I thought the statement he made, which I saw for the first time when it was distributed to the Press gallery, was a good and forthright statement and, if I may interpolate a little, I am quite mystified by Mr Baudino’s claim on television that 1 was furious when it was issued. But these are the bases of allegations so freely made that in these affairs I ordered or instructed or pressured Mr Fraser to reply to this article.
At this point, Mr Speaker, let me divert a little because I think one should be fair to the former Minister for Defence. Let me comment on the allegation that has been made that both these articles were submitted to Mr Fraser prior to publication. The facts are, as Mr Fraser has related them to me, that the Baudino article was never seen by Mr Fraser before publication and indeed it could not have been. But the former Minister for Defence was disturbed by the allegations in it, and on checking with Mr Baudino he was told that Mr Baudino had used as a basis for his story the article which was subsequently going to be published by Mr Samuel. So the former Minister for Defence, being disturbed at the allegations in Mr Baudino’s story, asked to see Mr Samuel’s story in order to see whether it followed the same lines. This story was shown to him on Tuesday evening, when it was too late for him to take any action since the presses for the ‘Bulletin’ were already rolling, but he has informed me that it is a gross distortion of the briefing which he in fact gave to Mr Samuel.
So as to the allegation that Mr Samuel’s article and Mr Baudino’s article, which was obviously based on it. are correct versions of this background briefing, the House might in considering this matter put this into its mind: Mr Fraser briefed other journalists on civil aid in Vietnam, including, I am told, Mr Barnes, Mr Ramsey and perhaps Mr Solomon. These journalists wrote stories, or two of them did, but none of them wrote what Mr Samuel wrote or referred to the matters to which Mr Samuel referred and this, I think, in looking at part of this affair is quite relevant.
On the day after Mr Fraser’s refutation of the ‘Bulletin’ article appeared, that is, on Thursday of last week, Mr Ramsey came to see me with a statement starting off T have been told’ that the Chief of the General Staff, Genera) Daly, had said certain things in conversation with me, and appended to that were 5 questions. Had General Daly come to my office to discuss alleged Army versus Defence matters? I told him I had asked General Daly to come to my office. After all, it was not, as has been reported in the newspapers, a secret meeting. General Daly drove up to the front of Parliament House in his own car and, in the way everybody else does, walked up the front steps and came to my office. If that is a secret meeting then 1 must have SO secret meetings a day. I told him I had asked General Daly to come to my office but that the purpose was to make the points to him which I have already stated earlier in this speech, and these points were told to Mr Ramsey.
Had I called Mr Fraser in the next day and told him to sort the matter out? I told him that Mr Fraser had come in the next day to discuss the Baudino article, that he had had a denial in his hand when he came in and that we both agreed as I have told the House, that that denial should cover all the allegations and should be in his own name. I think it fair to say that at that time when Mr Fraser came in - though I do not like breaching a principle - he said to me: ‘Why were you trying to ring me up last night?’ I said: ‘To warn you that you might see in the paper the sort of story that is coming out’ He said: ‘Well, I am glad you did not get me because it might have stopped me sleeping’, or words to that effect. As far as I know, there was never any ill feeling in any of the discussions we had - the Minister for Defence and 1 - on this matter.
Next I was asked: Had I discussed the matter with Mr Peacock? I told him I had not, that Mr Peacock had gone straight from the House .on the last day it sat when he was obviously fairly unwell, and the honourable member third from the right on the front Opposition bench was sitting at the table and he will remember he made some remark about the Minister because he was finding it so difficult to speak. He had left and gone straight into hospital to have an operation, and had been there ever since So I had not.
The matter on which I would not comment at all was Mr Ramsey’s suggestions as to what General Daly might or might not have said. I believe it wrong to do this, to make comments or affirmations or denials in cases like this. I think this is so whether the person who is a third party is a General, an Admiral, a politician, a civil servant or a businessman. 1 therefore replied to that question: ‘Had General Daly said what it was claimed he did say?’ by saying that I thought it wrong to discuss or comment with Mr Ramsey on what a third party had said and Mr Ramsey replied: ‘Fair enough’.
A voice - You liar.
– Why don’t you deal with the animal?
– That was the sole conversation on that particular part of the statement. That was all that was said. There is no question that I wish now very much that I had abandoned the normal practice and said: This is nonsense’ or This is untrue’ or ‘I will deny this’ or something of this kind because so much has been built on that. In hindsight I have no doubt that was an error and that should have happened. But that was in fact the course of that interview. I am told now that if I had taken some such action the story would not have been printed. That might or might not be true. Who knows; who can tell? ft is quite possible that it might well have been printed under the heading: ‘This is the story the Prime Minister tried to kill.’ But that is by the way. I would still have been more pleased had I taken that action. There has been an enormous amount built on that particular point. That is the sequence of events.
I had, I thought, a perfectly amicable, constructive discussion with the former Minister for Defence on the Tuesday on which he came to see me. We had, I thought, a perfectly amicable, constructive discussion on the Friday when he came to see me. He came up to the Lodge on Sunday so that we could get the facts as to what he was accused of, what I was accused of and what the refutation of that would be. I thought that that was amicable. 1 rang him on Sunday when I heard that there was going to be a command performance on television by Mr Samuel, Mr Baudino and Mr Alan Reid and I felt he should know about that and should have a chance to see it. I rang him up after it and made comments which I thought were suitable to the programme itself. Up to that point of time I did not have knowledge that there was resentment and a feeling in the mind of the former Minister for Defence on this matter. I can fully understand that there would be such a feeling. I think it is based in this case, as far as I can tell, on refusing to deny the Ramsey article. I cannot see any other basis, but I can understand it. I can only say I believe that that in itself was a mistake and had it not taken place probably none of this would have happened.
I now have to come to make some comments on some of the matters which the former Minister for Defence raised and which I did not know were going to be raised. I will not therefore be able to deal with them as completely and in as detailed a way as I would tike. But 1 would make this as a statement: The Minister has not in my view at any time not had support from, the Prime .Minister in the running of his Department. If that is not true - which I think it is - then the Minister has not at any time complained, that he has not had support from me in the running of his Department. He did hot claim in his speech that this was so, but he did mention the necessity for support in these circumstances.
The question was raised on a matter which took place a long time ago on the matter of the riots amongst the Mataungans on the Gazelle Peninsula. I do not have this as clearly in my mind, Sir, as I would like or as 1 would have had. a chance to have in my mind had there been more notice. But the circumstances as I remember them were that there were riots and threats of riots in the. Gazelle Peninsula and police had been moved about to prevent squatters from taking up government kind, to prevent rights between rival groups of Mataungans, to prevent civil disorder generally. But the Administrator - and to my recollection the Minister, but certainly the Administrator and the authorities up there - felt that the situation could arise when the police themselves would be outnumbered and might not be able to maintain that civil quietude which is required. It was therefore asked that the PIR– not Australian troops but the PIR - could be placed on readiness to be able to go at a moment’s notice to the Gazelle Peninsula should the situation there deteriorate to such a degree when it was felt that this should happen.
The note on this which has been given to me is that on Tuesday, 14th July 1970, the Minister for External Territories approached the Prime Minister and the Ministers for Defence, External Affairs and Army for their concurrence on the call out of the Pacific Islands Regiment, see teleprinter message. On Wednesday, 15th July, the Defence Committee considered the possible call out of the Pacific Islands Regiment and concluded that, on the information available, and having regard to the legal requirements, it did not appear that the Minister for Defence would be justified in seeking to move the Governor-General to authorise the call out. On Friday, 17th July, Mr Hewitt reported to me that Mr Fraser believed a group of Ministers, including the Attorney-General, should be convened to look at these facts and to assess them. On Saturday, 18th July, Ministers met at the Lodge. Those present were the Minister for External Territories,, the Attorney-General, the Minister for Defence, the then Minister for Primary Industry and, to my recollection, a number of others.
On that occasion - we were then discussing both the legal position and what should be done - it was indicated by the Minister for Defence that the decision should have the backing of more Cabinet Ministers. Later, the former Minister for Defence said that the Defence Committee could review its advice and then its advice. should be considered if not by Cabinet by the Ministers concerned, including the then Minister for External Affairs who was absent from the previous meeting; and it was decided at that discussion that the Attorney-General should go to Port Moresby al once to discover just what the legal position was, to assess what legal arguments should be put to the GovernorGeneral as they should have been put. Ministers were telephoned on Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, on 18th July, and they met on Sunday, 19th July and a formal Cabinet decision was recorded. According to the list of Ministers present at Cabinet, it was virtually a full Cabinet. There may have been one or two absent. This is the basis for this charge that has been made in the House here today.
The matter started on 14th July, going through a series of time including a visit to New Guinea by the Attorney-General to discover the situation and concluding on 19th July. 1 would not deny that when the former Minister for Defence was talking to me on this matter I was doubtful whether the group of Ministers concerned was sufficient to do this or whether there needed to be a full Cabinet meeting. The Minister for Defence pressed his view that there should be a full Cabinet meeting. He certainly argued with me for a while - I think, quite cogently - and there was a full Cabinet meeting.
I do not think there are other specific points which I can make, except that there were a number of statements of opinion made about me by the former Minister which I had never thought he entertained. For myself, I think he has been a good Minister for Defence. I think that it is a tragedy that he should have felt compelled to resign on the circumstances of the case as far as I have been able to put them to the House.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to move the suspension of Standing Orders for another purpose. I move:
-Order! I might say before this motion is put that 1 had already taken some disciplinary action in regard to Mr Ramsey. I have asked for his removal from the Press Gallery and for the withdrawal of his pass.
– I move then-
– I am just saying that. Mr Uren - He could be right, you know.
-Order! We are not debating the matter. This Ls a matter concerning the observance of propriety in the Press Gallery.
– I appreciate that under the Standing Orders, Mr Speaker, you have reported to the House the action taken by the Serjeant-at-Arms. 1 now wish to move the suspension of Standing Orders so that I may move that Mr Ramsey be brought to the Bar of the House at its sitting tomorrow to be dealt with by the House.
– I. second the motion.
– While the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was giving the House an account of his conversation with Mr Alan Ramsey of the ‘Australian’ newspaper last Wednesday afternoon Mr Ramsey was heard and seen > by many honourable members to cry out: ‘You’re a liar’.
– No, ‘You liar’. He was speaking to the Prime Minister.
– Then, ‘You liar’. If any honourable member had used such words, whether justified or not, Mr Speaker, you would have dealt with him immediately. Any strangers, including strangers in the Press Gallery, must not misconduct themselves. Mr Ramsey clearly misconducted himself in using those words, whether they were justified or not. It is not satisfactory, I would submit, that such an allegation should be made and should not be proved or disproved. The only way this matter can be determined now under the Standing Orders is for Mr Ramsey to be brought to the Bar of. the House. He will then have the opportunity, to explain his action and, if he can, to justify it. It is not satisfactory, that such an allegation should be made in the precincts of this chamber and nothing be done about it. Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, an early opportunity should be taken, an opportunity under the Standing Orders. Mr Ramsey would not be condemned unheard. He would be heard.
– He Would, as far as I am concerned.
-Order! I would remind honourable gentlemen that this is a very serious matter that is being debated. I suggest that it should not be treated lightly.
- Sir, I am certain that, in view of some past incidents when people have been brought to the Bar of the House, the great majority of honourable members on this occasion would be scrupulous to see that justice was done. And the proper, the prompt, way to do so is to have Mr Ramsey brought to the Bar tomorrow and be heard.
– I support the motion which has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and which I seconded. 1 believe that, given the grave circumstances in which the House has met this afternoon - circumstances so grave that they are probably unparalleled in the constitutional history of the Commonwealth of Australia - taken in conjunction with the direct imputation against the character and integrity of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), nothing less than what has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition should be fulfilled by this House, in fairness to the Prime Minister who has had his integrity impugned, in fairness to the journalist who interjected, but more especially in fairness to the Australian public who at this point will be experiencing some difficulty in trying to sort out fact from misrepresentation. There is another reason why this must be done. The Prime Minister’s explanation of events when he had that discussion with Mr Ramsey, which evoked Mr Ramsey’s interjection, is at variance with the statement of Mr Ramsey in the national daily newspaper, the ‘Australian’, where he fully reported a meeting with the Prime Minister and, with the exception of a very moderate, restrained statement related to a very narrow area of the total article Mr Ramsey had in mind, reported no comment by the Prime Minister at all about the essential substance of the story which was a very bitter denunciation-
-Order! The honourable member will be out of order-
– This point is most important.
-Order! I would like the honourable member to come to this point.
– The point is, at law-
-Order! This is a matter regarding a person’s conduct within the chamber of the House of Representatives.
– Yes. On this basis the journalist ought to be before the House. The point 1 want to make is that in British law there is a tradition built up over many years, that where a man has an allegation made against him of such a nature that he ought to deny it and fails to take the appropriate action to deny it then there is case law - law which has been established recently in the High Court of Australia in the Woon case.
-Order! This is a parliament and the rules of procedure of the House will apply.
– I am suggesting that the Prime Minister has realised this and has altered his report of what transpired between him and Mr Ramsey.
-Order! The honourable member will not make charges of that kind against any other honourable member.
– I will amend that. In fairness, Mr Speaker, you are quite correct. As things stand at the moment this is the appearance that one gains, and in fairness to this House-
-Order! 1 ask the honourable member to resume his seat. I have asked the Leader of the Opposition to set the example by keeping to the motion that is before the House.
– Am I to take it from the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that in the event of any stranger entering this Parliament and making allegations against the whole propriety and conduct of the Parliament from the public or Press galleries this, immediately opens for debate the subject matter on which he chooses to interject and to bring business before this Parliament in such a highly irregular manner? I suggest that this motion is out of order.
-Order! The honourable member is now casting some aspersions on the Chair. I feel I ought to tell the honourable member that the business before the Chair at the present time was brought in a correct manner and in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– I ask you, Mr Speaker, with indulgence to consider that two things have been proposed to you in that: motion. One was to bring to the notice of the Chair this conduct which, in itself, is something quite apart from its subject matter and content of which you and the House should take cognisance. The other was an entirely different matter, the subject matter of the interjection which it is proposed should be open to debate. I suggest they are two entirely different matters and 1 would suggest, with respect, that the former is that to which we should now address ourselves.
– If an honourable member calls another honourable member a liar in this chamber you, Mr Speaker, demand an immediate withdrawal. No opportunities are given for explanations, for justification or attempted justification. I think the offence is more heinous when somebody who is here by grace of the Parliament has the audacity and the stupidity to shout at the Prime Minister of Australia, no matter who he is; You are a liar’. I think that anybody who does that sort of thing should be paraded at the Bar of the Parliament for sentence, just the same as in the case of an honourable member. Cut out all this rubbish, the cliches, the shibboleths and the humbug. Do not give this fellow an opportunity to come before the Bar of the Parliament to pose as a martyr. He is beneath the contempt of every member of this Parliament and everybody who has a regard for democracy and who wants to see the supremacy of Parliament maintained. Nobody will accuse me of having ever entertained tender feelings in regard to the Press. They fought me and T fought them. I once said in this Parliament and outside it - I hope you will bear with me for just a sentence, Mr Speaker - that the Press of this country is owned, for the most part, by financial crooks.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is now getting away from the subject matter before the Chair.
– I think I am, Sir. 1 do not believe we are serving the best interests of this Parliament if we do not immediately have this man called to the Bar of the
Parliament and made to apologise, and then when he is made to apologise he should be otherwise dealt with as this House decides. The idea that he is going to be allowed to pull his poison can into the precincts of this House in order to carry on his campaign against the Prime Minister or anybody else at any time in any circumstances is obnoxious.
-Order!’! think the honourable gentleman may have an opportunity to discuss this matter at a later date but at this stage I think he is out of order.
– Having said that much I do not think I will need another opportunity.
– lt is, 1 think, well understood, Mr Speaker, that you have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear save as this House gives you direction. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has moved a -motion calling upon you to summon some perron to the Bar of the House to give an account of himself as to why he interjected something from the gallery. I have often heard interjections from the gallery - not always complimentary to members of the House - both in this Parliament and in another in which 1 served. The only action I ever saw a Speaker take in a case like this was to order that the person who had been disorderly be taken in charge and removed from the gallery for- disorderly conduct. Now we are asked to treat this man seriously and to ask him why he said what he said. 1 believe that this House and the people of this country are’ sick to death of the politics of this country being directed by leaks from government departments to pressmen and by gossip of pressmen. They are sick to death pf the politics of this country being run by the Press. If you summon this man here to ask why he said something or other you -are elevating him to a degree of importance he does not deserve. He is a gossiping journalist and should be treated with- contempt and not summoned to the Bar of this House.
– I think the point recently made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) is an extremely relevant point to the matter before the House at the moment but I would give a completely different interpretation to that point from the one that he has given. This House has been engaged this afternoon in considering something which relates to the position of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and a senior Minister, the former Minister for Defence, in which one has alleged against the other serious disloyalty. This has come into existence as a result of stories that have been published in the Press of this country, stories that have been published in a way that is common in this House. One of the daily newspapers called this a shoddy and tawdry game that is played a lot here. It is played a lot here both by Ministers and the Press and what the Press does in this matter is relevant to what this House does. This House has an opportunity now in supporting the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to look a bit more closely at the conduct of the Press and Ministers. It has an opportunity to decide here who is telling lies and who is not telling lies, because somebody is telling lies. The House has an opportunity here lo judge for itself whether or not we are going to have government by lies, innuendoes and false impressions. As the Prime Minister said-
-Order! The motion is that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving such and such a thing. The motion itself cannot be debated as the honourable member for Lalor is attempting to do. The matter to be debated is the reason for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I think the House would want to know, if it is to make up its mind whether or not Standing Orders should be suspended, what would happen if the Standing Orders were suspended. What can be done *as a result of the suspension of Standing Orders? The House would want to know ‘ what it may be able to do, what it may be able to hear and what it may be able to decide if the Standing Orders are suspended, and I suggest these are some of the things that it can decide. 1 do not think it is reasonable to allow a situation to continue in which the reputations of a member of the Press, a stranger in this Parliament, and Ministers in this Parliament, are at stake without fully taking every opportunity we can to arrive at the truth. It seems that this motion moved by the Leader of the Opposi tion gives us a better opportunity to arrive at the truth than if we do not support it.
– I have been informed by Mr Eggleton, my Press Secretary, that he has received a communication from Mr Ramsey which Mr Ramsey gives me permission to use. He telephoned Mr Eggleton in a great state of emotional upset. I am quoting what Mr Eggleton says.
– When did he telephone?
– Apparently just lately. I just got it. Mr Eggleton says:
He says that he lost control of himself in a quite inexcusable way. He apologises most humbly and he realises that his action was very wrong. The reason for his outburst was that he thought you had generalised rather on your own comments to him on the day, while you certainly did quote him quite correctly. What he meant when he made his outburst was that you had been unfair. There was no question of you being a liar. He agrees that he did in fact say: ‘Fair enough’.
Mr Speaker, as far as I am concerned, that is apology enough for me, and I would suggest that the motion might be withdrawn.
– I want to speak.
– Order! I must put the request to the Leader of the Opposition first.
– We withdraw the motion.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate leaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next 5 years by the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the Slate school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatibes in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they are not gravely concerned that moral standards in the Australian community may be changing, particularly in regard lo the community’s willingness to treat adults within it as reasonable and responsible people who are capable of making up their own minds as to what may be perfectly acceptable or unacceptable material in books, magazines, plays, films and television and radio programmes, and particularly when this material depicts life in human society, including language habits and sex habits and gives warning of the dangers of the use of violence and narcotic drugs;
That they in fact welcome this change, having regard for the fact that it demonstrates an increasing tolerance of and respect for the rights of individuals to think their own way through their own lives, free from information-withholding restrictions which people of one religion or one standard of morals may seek to impose on either the majority or minority who do not hold the same views;
That they question the simplistic view that nations ‘perish’ because of a so-called ‘internal moral decay’, unless such ‘decay’ is taken to include an increasing unwillingness to face the facts of life in open discussion and freedom of thought;
That they welcome the statement by the Honourable the Minister of Customs and Excise, Mr Chipp, that the concept of censorship is abhorrent to all men and women who believe in the basic freedoms and that, as a philosophy, it is evil and ought to be condemned-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will seek to ensure that Commonwealth legislation bearing on films, literature and radio and television programmes is so framed and so administered as to give the maximum freedom to adults to choose what they will watch, read and listen to, even in the face of pressure from those who seek to impose their ideas and morals on others who do not share them.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth: That they are gravely concerned the tax concessions for people residing. in Zone B have not been increased for 11 years. Their concern is aggravated’ by the fact that many towns of high living costs which are situated geographically in isolated areas are either classified as Zone 8 or receive no Zone classification. They are also gravely concerned that taxpayers living in these isolated areas receive no tax deductions for travel and accommodation expenses when they or their dependants are forced to travel to cities to receive specialist medical treatment.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives will seek to ensure that the Commonwealth Government will lake immediate steps to amend the above tax anomalies by -
An early investigation of the location of Zone A and Zone B areas so that towns of equal isolation and cost factor will receive the same Zone concession.
An early investigation of the amount of concession entitlement for Zone B with a view to an increase in that amount.
The Income Tax Assessment Act be amended so that travel and accommodation expenses be allowable, deductions when a taxpayer or his dependants are forced to travel from isolated areas to cities for specialist medical treatment.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will every pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That this House no longer has confidence in the Government.
– 1 wish to inform the House that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) resigned from the Ministry on 8th March. For the time being the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) will answer questions on matters relating to the. Defence portfolio and the Postmaster-General will also represent the Minister for. Supply in this chamber.
– I ask (he Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Has he noticed that since 21 October-
– 1 take a point of order. Mr Speaker, 1 direct your attention to standing order 110. I have given notice of a motion of no confidence in the Government. That being so, it will take precedence over all other business. The traditional procedure is for a Minister to move the adjournment of the House so that tomorrow this matter can have priority.
-Order! What the Leader of the Opposition said is true but, so far as the Chair is concerned, the motion has not been accepted as such.
– Mr Speaker, I thought that the Leader of the Opposition had given notice that he would move a motion tomorrow. When he moves that motion - and he has not done so yet - the Government clearly wilt accept it as a motion.
– That is ali right.
– Has the Minister lor Trade and Industry noticed that since- 21st October 1970 there have been on the notice paper questions concerning the Tariff Board, asking whether the Board has reported that it has insufficient staff to carry out normal tariff inquiries and inquiries about dumping under the New Zealand and Australian Free Trade Agreement and has asked for increased staff so that it may begin some of the special inquiries that it has said are necessary? So far no action has been taken either to answer those questions or, presumably, to meet the Board’s needs. When does the Minister think that the needs of the Tariff Board for staff for these purposes will be met?
– This question is similar to a question which the honourable member asked me previously. The honourable member is seeking information concerning questions that are on the notice paper. When I am in a position to give him that information 1 will do so.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry by stating that I am a Bert Kelly protectionist and not. a Ned Kelly protectionist. Can the Minister state when the formula and programme for holding an investigation into the functions and administration of the Tariff Board will be prepared? If an inquiry is to be held, is it not most desirable that it be held as quickly as possible?
– There has never been a statement saying that there shall be such an all-embracing review of the Tariff Board and its functions as suggested by the honourable member. The Government has stated that there shall be a progressive review of tariffs and that the Minister for Trade and Industry is’ charged with carrying out an examination of how this progressive review of tariffs is to be done. At the moment I am having consultations with industry groups. Last week J met with the Conference of Manufacturing Industries Association and with the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council. This week I will be meeting with the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Australian Farmers Federation and will be seeking their points of view as to the rules and principles which should be- adopted in carrying out such a review. When I have sought the views and opinions of these bodies I will be preparing a paper to submit to Cabinet and the Government will then make a decision which will be announced in public.
– ls the Prime Minister aware that a recent gal I tip poll indicated that 2 out of every 3 people, in. Australia would favour Commonwealth control of prices? Would the Prime Minister be prepared to submit to the people iti a referendum a request for constitutional power to control prices?
– I noticed the poll, but the question is clearly a question of policy and, I think, not suitable for answering at question time.
– Is the Minister for Social Services preparing any major changes in the social services structure for eventual submission to Cabinet? If so, has he received any help and advice regarding this matter from either the Government Members Social Services Committee or the Opposition Members Social Services Committee?
– The question of major changes in the social services structure has been engaging my attention for some time and I shall, in due course, be making a submission to Cabinet. 1 think, because it is a policy matter, that 1 had better not discuss details now. I have had some preliminary conversations with the Government Members Social Services Committee and I shall look forward to the advice and help that members of that Committee can give me in the preparation of various plans and, perhaps, in distinguishing between various alternative plans which might be proposed to be brought forward. I have not had any communication from the Opposition Members Social Services Committee nor, indeed, would 1 expect any in view of the equivocal nature of their approach to this social service question which they regard always as one of gaining political advantage rather than honestly trying to help pensioners. I would at some stage in the House, when an opportunity presents itself, make a statement but I do not want to take up question time with a lengthy reply. However, there is one matter of veracity which has to be settled in this House between the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Shortland. I would not, of course, say, and you, Mr Speaker, would rightly rule it out of order, that one of them was a liar.
-Order! The Minister, by imputation, has reflected on those 2 gentlemen and I suggest to the Minister that he withdraw that remark.
– I do, Mr Speaker. I just say that it is impossible to reconcile the statements which have been made in this House one with another.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. I refer to the Minister’s statement which indicated a reduction of about 10,000 in this year’s immigration target. Will the Minister state in what areas of migration the reduction will be effective and whether it will cause the breaking of any arrangements that have been made already with migrants overseas? Is it also a fact that the number of unassisted migrants has fallen? If so, what is the reason for this decline? What is the estimated saving in the cost of the immigration programme this financial year as a result in the reduction of numbers? In view of the reduction this year is it to be taken that the Government proposes drastically to curtail the immigration programme for the year 1971-72?
– Against the economic circumstances recently outlined in this House by the Prime Minister, the immigration programme for 1970-71 has been modified to include the arrival of 120,500 assisted migrants and 49,500 unassisted migrants - a total this year of about 170,000 migrants. This will entail a reduction of some 3.000 in the assisted programme and 7,000 in the unassisted programme but will not involve any revocation of existing arrangements with migrants. Regarding the areas involved in the assisted programme, I can indicate to the honourable member that the reduction will be basically effected in the British programme where our operations have been inhibited . markedly by communication difficulties consequential upon the recent British Post Office strike. There will be other smaller and relatively insignificant reductions with those countries with which we have bilateral agreements. Regarding one of the final questions posed by the honourable member I can say that the unassisted programme is an area over which we have little or no control. The downturn has been evident for some months and I believe it to be attributable to the general prosperity of Europe and the associated’ economic conditions which that part of the world is enjoying at present.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. During a recent visit to Turkey 1 was informed by the authorities, and I also noticed, that there was a demand for Turkish workers throughout Europe. Plane loads of Turkish workers were observed leaving for West Germany. As a result of this visit I ask the Minister: What is the current situation concerning the Turkish programme in Australia? How is the programme running? Have problems been encountered and how are Turkish workers regarded within industry?
– In reply to the honourable gentleman’s question without notice, I can say that I certainly know of his visit to Turkey and of the keen demand for Turkish workers throughout Europe, particularly because of the devolpment of the guestworker concept in that part of the world. So far as the Turkish programme is concerned, it first came into operation in Australia early in 1969 and since that time some 7,500 Turkish people have arrived here, settling basically in Victoria and New South Wales with more recent arrivals going to Queensland and Western Australia. The programme this year has been eased to allow the arrival of some 3,000 Turkish people. When the programme first came into operation it was well appreciated that because this was a new source of selection and there were at the time relatively few Turkish people here there would be some problems. As a consequence of that realisation and a detailed integration study carried out by my Department it was found that the problems experienced by Turkish people in Australia were as a general rule no different from the problems experienced by arrivals from any new source of migration to Australia.
A number of special measures have been taken to assist the integration of Turkish people here. In Turkey, apart from the pre-embarkation course, special orientation classes have been provided better to assist Turkish people to integrate after their arrival here. So far as the Australian end of the operation is concerned, again a number of special measures have been undertaken which include special language training facilities to assist Turkish migrants to understand and acquire a knowledge of the language, citizenship education courses and an increased number of Turkish speaking welfare officers. So the honourable gentleman will gauge from this reply that a great deal is being done. I can tell him from discussions I have had with employers of Turkish workers in a number of States of Australia that they are very well regarded as good and industrious workers.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry inform me of the success or failure of the Government’s crash programme to train meat inspectors? Is it a fact that the scheme has fallen far below expectations? Will this scheme continue in view of the operative Government credit squeeze?
– It is true the Government has started a crash series of courses to try to train meat inspectors. Far from the conclusions that the honourable member has drawn in his question, 1 can assure him that the courses have by no means been failures. I am told the course to be run by the Commonwealth has already received some 1,200 applications and this, of course, means that it will be possible to select a fairly high calibre of persons for the course. The Western Australian Government and the Victorian Government are associated in. running these courses. The first course commenced in Melbourne today with 40 inspectors and the next one will commence in about June 1971. They are to be of 12 weeks duration. In any event, the courses will enable the training of persons who will be able to fit in very well with the demand for meat inspectors. As to the part of the. honourable member’s question in which he referred to the effects of the Government’s, general restraint measures on expenditure, in view of the tremendous significance of maintaining inspectors to ensure access to United States and other overseas markets and to enable meatworks to remain open, it is essential that we maintain a flow of meat inspectors. For that reason I can assure the honourable member that these’ courses will in no way be affected.
– Is the Minister for Education and Science aware that in 1969 Dr Price, the then new Chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said that the Organisation would broaden its work in preventing pollution from damaging the quality of life? In view Of the fact that our agricultural and urban-industrial scene has now reached the stage where scientific research without regard to ecological side effects and environmental consequences is no longer defeasible, scientifically or ethically, will the Minister state what steps have been taken to re-align or alter the research priorities of the CSIRO in the light of the Chairman’s statement?
Mt N. H. BOWEN-I recall Dr Price making this statement. He took up office in
May 1970 although his appointment had been announced some time before. The CSIRO has for some lime been doing a great deal in relation to environmental studies and pollution. I recall when I took over this portfolio visiting CSIRO headquarters in 1969 and meeting about 30 of the heads of divisions who were there for a conference on pollution and environmental studies. There are in fact 25 of the CSIRO divisions currently engaged in research programmes dealing with environmental studies. There would be a total of about 50 projects in this field. So in answer to the honourable member for Griffith I would say that Dr Price has reaffirmed his own firm belief in the desirability of CSIRO scientists fulfilling their role in this regard and they are actively pursuing it at the present time.
– Has the Treasurer or his Department, singe 5th January last, been requested by the Prime Minister or his Department to give, further consideration to the problems of the gold mining industry with a view to determining whether those problems as well as those of the people dependent upon the industry warrant a further increase in the gold subsidy under the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Aci? If so. can the Treasurer say whether the investigation has been set in motion, what form it is taking and whether any decision has been reached?
– A series of investigations has been made into the gold mining industry, particularly in relation lo Kalgoorlie. There have been a number of representations and I am nol sure to which one the honourable member is referring. 1 recall that’ early in January further representations were received. These have been examined by the Treasury and other departmental experts and a decision was made which confirmed an earlier decision that the Government would continue the subsidy at the present level and there was no justification for a further increase in it. Most of the recent representations have been very largely a repetition of the previous ones. A very thorough job has been done by those concerned who provided a great deal of detail. This has been gone into and the decision after several examinations has remained the same.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen reports in the South Australian Press that an increasing number of migrants are returning to Britain and taking with them a variety of goods still under hire purchase contracts with Australian companies? As such persons make a declaration of ownership when re-entering Britain, is it possible to negotiate some sort of agreement with the British Government to assist in the recovery of such debts?
– My attention has been drawn to the matters to which the honourable member referred in his question. He asked whether it may be possible to negotiate some agreement with the British Government. I would not like to give an answer to that off the cuff. If he will permit me to take time to consider the matter 1 shall look into it and give him a reply at a later date.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honourable gentleman will remember that on 19th February I asked him about the appointment of a director of the proposed national gallery and I recalled that he had told my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in May last that it was hoped that an appointment would be made shortly. In reply the Prime Minister said that there had been consultation and discussion between the interim council for the Australian National Gallery and a distinguished overseas art director who has since been identified as Mr James Sweeney. I ask the Prime Minister: Has he or has anyone on his behalf ever asked Mr Sweeney whether he would accept this position? lt such a proposal has been made when was it made, what was his reply and when did the reply come?
– I am quite unable to remember the dates and months concerned but the answer to the basic requirements of the question is this: I believed that an offer had been made. There is indication that if an offer had not been made, discussions had taken place and I believed that an offer had been made, which was being considered but later was not accepted. I have noticed that Mr Sweeney has stated that he had not received an offer and he has now received one.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. What is the present position regarding the building of Dartmouth Dam? Is it a fact that the Premier of South Australia has said that his Government is prepared to break the deadlock and ratify the agreement? Did the Premier of South Australia and his Government cause the deadlock and so put the building of Dartmouth in what one honourable member would describe as ‘cold storage’ for at least 10 months, to the detriment of production and national development?
– As I indicated a week or so ago in this House my understanding is that some legislation has been or is to be introduced into the South Australian Parliament along the lines indicated in a recent letter sent to the Prime Minister by the Premier of South Australia. As 1 pointed out at that time, the Premier of South Australia had publicly stated - as I have not had the opportunity of seeing the proposed Bill or any reference to any debate in relation to this matter I cannot confirm what the Premier publicly stated - that 2 clauses in the agreement which had been ratified by both Houses of this Parliament and the Parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria were to be deleted from the legislation to be introduced into the South Australian Parliament. Without a careful study of the submission by the Premier of South Australia and without a knowledge of the legislation to be considered by that Parliament, it would appear that if the 2 clauses to which he has referred were deleted the situation would be exactly the same as it was before when the other 3 Parliaments had made it quite clear that the proposal was not acceptable to them.
I would like to make it quite clear that all the concern of the South Australian Government has been to ensure that further consideration will be given to the Chowilla project and the whole of the River Murray system in the future. This has been made quite clear although actual reference to Chowilla was removed from the present agreement with the approval of the Government of South Australia at that time. Although that was done there was an exchange of letters and at a conference between the various governments it was made quite clear that there would be a continuing study of the future development of the Murray system and that consideration would be given to Chowilla in that study. That is the position as it stands at the moment and as far as the various governments are concerned. However, this Government cannot give a reply to the Premier of South Australia as the Prime Minister has not had an opportunity to study the matter fully and becausewe are not aware of the full details of the proposed legislation or of the debate that is taking place.
– My question without notice to the Minister for External Territories concerns the recommendations made last September by the board of inquiry under Professor Cochrane into rural wages in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He will remember that the board recommended a’ new ordinance to raise the provision of cash, rations and accommodation from a figure of $4.83 a week to a figure of $5.90 a week and at the end of 12 months to $6.40 a week. Is it a fact that the Administration has decided against introducing any legislation to implement the recommendation for $6.40 at the end of the 12months? Has it decided to introduce legislation next month which will fix the total wage at the apparent equivalent of $5.90? Will this figure include 50c deferred wage, which was not recommended by the Cochrane committee, and only $1.42 in cash as against $2.53 recommended as a first stage by the Cochrane committee? What arethe reasons for these rejections-
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s question is far too long and I think it appears to be one which is suitable for the notice paper.
– But then 1 will have to wait a month for an answer.
– I suggest that as the honourable member’s question appears to be involved it might be better suited for the notice paper.
– The Minister is familiar with the details and there is only one sentence remaining in the question.
-I suggest that the honourable member does not go any further than that.
– 1 ask the Minister: What are the reasons for these rejections and reductions of the amounts and components recommended by the Cochrane committee?
– In the November sittings of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea House of Assembly rural wages were increased by 50c. In the meantime the Administrator’s Executive Council discussed the recommendations of the Cochrane report. As a result of those discussions legislation was introduced in that House to provide a minimum wage of $5.90. There is also legislation which provides for a minimum wages board to inquire into wages. 1 point out that this is a matter of great concern to the economy of the Territory. We are paying a considerably higher wage than are those countries which compete with the Territory on world markets. The Administrator’s Executive Council is fearful that a decision to increase rural wages in 2 years time to $6.40, as recommended by the Cochrane inquiry, might have very serious repercussions on the economy of the Territory. 1 think it is right that we should heed the recommendations of the Executive Council because products such as copra, coffee and cocoa are produced in other countries which have the lowest standard of living in the world. If wages in the Territory go above an economic figure the Territory will be out of business. I support the action of the Executive Council in this regard. In any case the House of Assembly will have this legislation before it and will be able to give its views on the matter. I know that the Leader of the Opposition does not have very much respect for the opinions of the House of Assembly - he has said so before - but I assure him that this Government has respect for the opinions of the House of Assembly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that China, without consulting Laos, has constructed an allweather road across the north of that country leading to the borders of Thailand, and is that road guarded by thousands of front line Chinese troops with the most modern weapons? Is the Minister aware that the great majority of the Australian people appear to be ignorant cf the fact that China has thus long ago invaded Laos? What can be done to inform the nation of these events, especially when criticism is heard of South Vietnamese actions in Laos as being likely to provoke China?
– The statements contained in the honourable gentleman’s question are correct. The Chinese are building, without the approval of the Laotian Government, a highway leading from Yunnan Province down to a place called Pak Beng close to the Mekong River. They are also building another complex running through Phong Saly in the north of Laos, joining that road and again moving towards Pak Beng. It is a roadway of considerable quality, capable of carrying heavy traffic of high density. As the honourable gentleman has said, it is very closely guarded by antiaircraft guns. The road is being built by Chinese and is being manned by Chinese military personnel. The reasons for this are not clear, but it is thought either that it is needed because the Chinese wish to support the Communist insurgents in north-east Thailand, or probably in the long run they wish to establish their political hegemony over those parts of Thailand.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 18 February (vide page 273), on motion by Mr Swartz: That the Bill be now read a second time.
Dr Patterson (Dawson) (4.33)- Mr Speaker, the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill 1971 has been introduced into the Parliament by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) under what has been called the new national water resources development programme. The Government has agreed to a request from the State of New South Wales for a grant of up to $9m under the programme to assist in flood mitigation works on 11 New South Wales coastal rivers. The history of the flood mitigation scheme in New South Wales has been well documented in the Parliament, particularly in early 1964 when the needs for the programme were debated at some length in the Parliament.
There can be no doubt that floods have presented a serious problem in eastern New South Wales ever since those areas were first settled. Of course, the same comment applies to other river valleys in eastern Australia as well as in other parts of Australia. In this Parliament many sound debates have taken place concerning the need for flood mitigation work. Considering the work that has been undertaken by the Corps of Engineers in the United States of America and by other federal authorities which are greatly concerned with flood mitigation, there can be no doubt of its value. In fact, one thing that rather amuses me is to hear the trenchant criticism by some newspaper people of water conservation when it is needed to protect areas in periods of drought by minimising losses. But rarely do we hear any criticism of conservation works - whether they be levees or reservoirs or small or large dams in the upper reaches - either to control the flow of the river or to control the level of silt coming down the river to minimise losses. But the basic principles of the objectives are the same irrespective of whether we are considering drought or flood, it is a question of measuring the costs as against the benefits to the nation. Of course, there are some very qualitative differences. In periods of drought one rarely sees loss of life or destruction of communities or assets which one sees in times of floods. There can be no doubt that in terms of devastation and loss of physical assets through sheer force, floods have been a very significant factor, particularly in eastern New South Wales.
Looking back over the record of the Parliament it can be seen that many honourable members in this Parliament have taken a very active interest in this matter. On the Opposition side the previous honourable member for Cowper, Mr McGuren, from time to time spearheaded debates in the Parliament on this matter. I thought that the Minister might have given us some information as to the benefits, if any, which have accrued. Obviously some benefits must have accrued from the time when the first scheme was introduced up to the present time. This would give us some idea of the benefits in relation to costs. We could make a quantitative assessment of the scheme - particularly as it affects the various river valleys. We could make an assessment in quantitative terms rather than simply in qualitative terms. It may be that it is too early to make an assessment in many areas because a period of time is needed in order to demonstrate the advantages of flood mitigation work.
I thank the Minister, for the explanatory document which accompanied his second reading speech. This trend has developed only in recent years. These explanatory documents give honourable members an opportunity to become more conversant with some of the technical aspects of a scheme which - otherwise’ are not available to the Opposition or to the public. There are some interesting aspects - of this scheme. Again I repeat that .we would have liked to receive an evaluation of the benefits which have accrued since the original programme was introduced. :
The constructing authorities, as set out in the Bill, are principally the shire councils in the river valleys. 1 make the constructive suggestion that perhaps’ the’ Minister might consider making available in the Parliament from time to time progress statements on what is happening in these river valleys, because although it is to be a 3-way contribution by local authorities, the State Government and the ‘Federal Government, nevertheless the Federal Government is to invest funds iti- this scheme, and it is essential that this Parliament should be alive to the ‘value not only of this flood mitigation scheme, but also of the beef roads scheme, the brigalow scheme and the water development scheme. We want to know more about the Federal moneys which are being spent in the field of national development. ° I think this is a fair suggestion because, after all, if Federal funds are involved we are entitled to know how efficiently they are being spent. This is not to suggest that Federal funds are being spent in anything but an efficient way.
I think that this information would be of interest to those honourable members who do not live in the particular area concerned. For example, I should imagine that honourable members who represent electorates in eastern New South Wales would have a far better knowledge of what is being done in those areas than would honourable members who do not live in those areas, in the same way as I have first hand knowledge of what is being done with the beef roads scheme or the brigalow scheme or the water conservation scheme in northern Australia. It is simply noi enough to allow Parliament to debate more constructively the issues involved.
– The Minister said that he Will do this and 1 thank him. This is something which we need to debate from time to time: at least it is something that we should have access to from time to time. Over the years there have been estimates - some accurate and some best estimates - of flood losses in the various east coast river systems.’ 1 suppose it depends on how one measures in quantitative language the benefits and costs. However, if we take the crude measurement of benefits and the value of losses and also take into account what could be saved in terms of steady growth if there were no floods and compare that with the costs, I do not think that anyone would argue that this is not a good investment from a national point of view.
From the figures I have seen, before I was a member of this Parliament and since I have been a member, flood mitigation work in eastern New South Wales has always been considered a sound investment from the national point of view. Of course, economists can argue about what values one places on benefits. For example, let us consider a severe loss in dairy production. Usually the loss to the town in real terms is the current value of the butter lost, the current value of the milk lost or whatever it might be at that point of time. Some economists would argue that one should take the import parity price and the cost of subsidies involved and so forth. On technical grounds perhaps one can justify this. However, on the practical grounds of demonstrating losses to an established community, whether it.be rural or urban, these losses are valued at a common current denominator. The point I am making is that the cumulative losses already sustained over the years far outweigh the costs involved in flood mitigation work. Therefore, in terms of a benefit cost ratio there can be no argument that this is a sound investment.
I cannot claim to have first hand knowledge of floods in eastern New South Wales. However, I have seen several major floods in this area. During the war years I had the misfortune to be caught in a troop train at Casino for 7 days following a major flood in that area. I point out, however, that this is not the only area in Australia that suffers from severe flooding. 1 would hope that the Government will give serious consideration to extending this work into other areas of Australia that suffer severe flooding. During last weekend in north Queensland I was caught in a flood between 2 rivers. If one can imagine 27 inches of rain falling in 24 hours that will give some idea of the density of rain which fell in the area where I happened to be, unfortunately, last Saturday night, Sunday and Sunday night. I emphasise the force of water and the damage it can do in a matter of hours. A stream can be suddenly transferred from a dry sandy bottom to a raging torrent. It can break its banks and its course can be completely altered if the force of water is strong enough. In this way a great deal of flood mitigation work can be completely wrecked. This has happened with some other rivers.
There are other areas of Australia besides New South Wales where great damage is being done by flooding. The Fitzroy basin in central Queensland is an area in which there is frequent flooding and considerable damage. The Herbert River in north Queensland is another. A proposal was put forward years ago to divert waters from the Herbert River into the Burdekin River. This would minimise the flow of water and minimise floods in that area. I hope that the Department of National Development is considering these schemes in its long term planning. One can see the types of losses that are suffered in the sugar industry and the dairy industry, for example. Flood can do much damage to the sugar industry in northern . New South Wales. This is despite the fact that sugarcane is one of the toughest and hardiest of all crops. However, severe losses to sugar production result from lodging, loss of ces through harvesting delays and the drowning of the root structure. Losses have been sustained by the dairy industry in New South Wales through the flooding of pastures, loss of livestock and alterations in the lactation period of cows. As a cumulative loss this amounts to a very large sum of money over time. Taken by and large flood mitigation work of the type which is being carried out and supervised by State governments and the local authorities is, in all areas, of tremendous benefit to the regions concerned. Over the years the Hunter River area has suffered tragic losses.
– I am glad that you raised this.
– I hope the honourable member did not think 1 was going to forget. It is very pleasing to see that a,t last the magnitude of the losses have been recognised by the Government. Not only have losses of a rural nature been suffered in this area but also there have been tragic losses in relation to road works, bridging, reservoirs and in the community itself in which many poor ‘people have been homeless. All of these are losses to the nation. This is particularly so in respect of the human side. I suppose there is no area in eastern New South Wales which has suffered more from floods, on the human misery side, than the Hunter River area. Many types of work are being carried out in flood mitigation. One of the basic works is to try to keep the channel from the upper reaches of a river to the estuary deep or straight so that there can be a minimum of water actually ricocheting from the sides of the river and overflowing into levees that have been constructed to facilitate the flow of the river or to enable drainage works to take place if in fact the river does break its banks. There are other measures such as the construction of reservoirs or small or large dams. I understand that a lot of work is being carried out in the form, of river alignment. Work is being conducted to align a river to give a very acceptable flow in terms of cusecs. This is being done by the planting of trees and shrubs. It would seem, certainly in some parts of the Hunter area, that this has been highly successful.
Areas will be affected whether a flood is small or large. Of course, a large flood will involve more areas and a larger loss of property and perhaps greater loss of life. I would like the Government to give some inkling of what its future ideas on this matter will be. This is what one might call a second stage programme. It must be accepted that although local authorities are able to plan for the worst type of flood, or perhaps the highest flood in their records, it is accepted technology throughout the world that no flood mitigation work is 100 per cent proof. Whatever is done we will always get freak floods or flash floods that will cause havoc to flood mitigation works and which will again break the banks of a river and do damage.
The Minister has referred to his intention to give the House more information. I ask the Minister to look at some of the work which has been carried out in the United States. 1 refer him particularly to a report to the United States Congress by the Committee on Public Works which deals with river, harbour and beach erosion and flood control projects. This is a document, presented to the Congress, that gives details of the various flood mitigation, beach erosion or harbour trust works in the United States. The report presents analyses as to what has been done with respect to this work, what are the benefits and costs of each project and, later, a progress report is given as to the funds spent. The report also gives comparative benefit-cost analyses in terms of the limited amount of money that is available to be spent. This is something at which I think the Government might look. The document certainly is an interesting one. I am sure that the Parliament would find it most interesting insofar as Australian conditions are concerned.
I have mentioned previously that the Opposition believes that flood mitigation work - that is, minimising the effect of floods - should really be in the realms of national disaster work. In support of that point of view, I intend later lo move an amendment to the second reading along the lines that this type of programme should be expanded and that it should incorporate other disasters. When a flood occurs, the usual procedure is for the local authority concerned to assess the damage and to make an approach to its State government. The State government then makes an approach to the Federal Government. This takes time. Time and again in this Parliament we have heard impassioned speeches by honourable members on the subject of droughts or floods. Those members have tried to obtain some action quickly. In most cases, we do get some action but often it is a very long time coming.
The Australian Labor Party believes that a national disaster organisation should be established. That organisation should have at its disposal necessary moneys so that immediately a national disaster occurs it can swing into action without the problem of all of the red tape that is the trouble now. That organisation should be able to make available to local authorities if necessary the money that is needed. Such an organisation in respect of a national disaster, be it a flood, a cyclone, a drought or a tidal wave, would streamline the lines of authority which often become entangled in State and Federal parliamentary structures.
– Does the civil defence organisation do this now?
– Civil defence does this in some States. It does in New South Wales. Its powers are most limited in terms of finance; it has manpower. In Queensland, the civil defence organisation is recognised only when a national emergency, for instance, an atomic attack, occurs. The civil defence organisation has no legal power, for instance, in relation to a cyclone. Tn Queensland, when a flood, a cyclone or a drought occurs, all areas are divided into zones under the classification of police inspector’s districts.. The civil defence organisation has not (he same power in Queensland as it has in New South Wales.
Because of this deficiency in our makeup, I believe that in relation to national disasters of this type the laws relating to civil defence at least should be uniform throughout the continent. If the laws are good enough to apply to the work done in New South Wales and experience shows them to be worthwhile, these laws should be applied also in other areas of Australia.
It is necessary to recognise also. I think, that not all floods are bad. We are inclined to take the view that every flood is bad for the area in which it occurs. Looking at the world situation, we find that a significant proportion of the world’s agriculture is produced on the flood plains. Particularly is this so in Asia. Those who have seen the flood plains of Asia often wonder whether it is worthwhile year after year for thepeople to grow rice, for instance, in the paddy fields when they see all of their labours wiped out when a major flood occurs. In China tremendous floods have occurred in the Wang Ho river. Those floods have wiped out millions of acres of crops. But when the floods have subsided it has been found frequently that the fertility content of the alluvium is of a higher value than it was before the floods came. In actual fact it is possible that floods in certain areas will bring periodic benefits to those areas. I think it must be accepted that the alluvium levels in a number of our rich river flats have been established through floods. I think that ail honourable members will accept the fact that it is far better to control waters in areas in which floods may occur than to permit uncontrolled periodic floods which do an increasing amount of damage as the agriculture in those areas becomes more itensified
Another danger that occurs (ti areas following floods - I have seen this in most areas where flooding occurs - is pollution and, with it, disease. The threat of disease has been quite common in the Hunter River area. I have seen areas in Northern Queensland where, after severe floods, the danger of pollution and the spread of disease has been present simply because good fresh water was not available. Other factors, including the stench of rotting carcasses and sewage ‘breakdown.
The other point that J would like to make is that the Opposition believes that in this programme the Nambucca River in New South Wales should be included in the river systems. We have had representation to this effect. The argument could be put that a need exists for further surveys to be carried out to determine whether the Nambucca River should be included. But through siltation alone enough evidence is available to suggest that a strong case can be made for the inclusion of the Nambucca River in this programme. During the Committee stage the Opposition will move an amendment to this effect.
Those are the main points that I wish to make. The Opposition supports this Bill. Bills of a similar nature have been supported by the Opposition on the previous occasions when they have been introduced. My friend, the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), has spoken on such Bills several times. I think I am right in saying that the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) has spoken on this legislation several times in support of the remarks of a former honourable member for Cowper, Mr McGuren, stressing the great need for flood mitigation work in the Cowper electorate.
The Opposition does not beat around the bush. It says that this is a good programme which should be supported and which, the Opposition believes, should be expanded. Also - and perhaps this is more important - the Opposition believes that the Government should give some indication that this work will be continuous not only in eastern New South Wales but also in other parts of Australia. Although this work is of tremendous benefit to eastern New South Wales as regards flood mitigation, minimising losses and also with regard to employment, I believe that the injection of this money into local authority areas will give a great boost to employment, particularly .in seasonal industries. This is something which is in the interests of national development. It is something which is causing our national income to increase. It is something which we on this side of the House believe should be expanded. Flood mitigation work should embrace all “ major- river systems, particularly those in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, where evidence of losses exists. I am not conversant with the flood position in South Australia, but I do not think that South Australia suffers much damage from floods.
– We would love a flood down there.
– My friend from South Australia tells me that the biggest problem there is that the State has not sufficient water. All these areas in eastern Australia - in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria - are highly susceptible to flooding as well as to drought. I refer to the coastal streams as well as to some of the inland areas. I mention the Fitzroy basin, the Darling River and the border river streams. All of these areas experience national losses. Therefore, I stress again that the Government should give serious consideration to expanding this work to include other parts of Australia. In conclusion I move an amendment as follows:
That all the words after -That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘whilst welcoming the proposal for the purpose of flood mitigation works in New South Wales, this House is of opinion that the assistance offered is inadequate and should form part of a larger scheme to deal with national disaster and that, accordingly, a joint select committee of the Parliament should be appointed to inquire into the practicability of the establishment of a national disaster organisation.’
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– The measure before the House is of vital importance to the river valleys of the New South Wales coast. Last year the Government announced its intention to provide by way of grant $9m from the projected SI 00m water resources fund. I believe that the. decision was a positive one, a correct one, and that it accorded with the requirements of the present stage of development of flood mitigation works in this part of Australia. The history of flood mitigation is one of ingenuity and local enterprise. Farmers and local government worked in close co-operation and ultimately, after many years of endeavour, gained government co-operation to provide the ways and means of giving effect to flood mitigation measures of a practical nature.
In order to understand flood mitigation it is necessary for an assessment to be made of the real meaning of the word ‘mitigation’ in the context in which we find it related to these works on coastal rivers. As the term implies, it is to mitigate the effect of floods. The ultimate objective, of course, is flood prevention. Many honourable members have spoken in this House and in State parliaments over many years of the desirability of effective flood prevention. I know that for very many years a former honourable member for Cowper, Sir Earle Page, took up much of the time of this House espousing the objectives of flood control.
Of course he was not the only early champion of the advocacy for works of this kind. There were many others, in the Slate field and in local government, lt was somewhat amusing to hear the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) talking this afternoon about a mere event in 1964 and of the efforts of a former honourable member for Cowper which, when analysed and assessed, really did not contribute very much to this cause at all.
– Because the Government would not move on his suggestion.
– Of course, the honourable member who interjects was not here, nor does he know the long history of rejection of any request for flood mitigation funds at the Federal level from a previous government, and particularly the Chifley Government which, during the floods of the 1940s, rejected out of hand anygestion that Commonwealth funds should be used in this direction. I hope that ‘.he Opposition will do its own research to discover exactly who did the real job of work in this matter of flood mitigation.
– 1 rise to order. Apart from the point of -the honourable member’s false accusations, which I do not suppose–
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat.
– It will be found very clearly that this Government, and this Government alone, at Federal level moved to provide funds by way of grant for flood mitigation purposes. So we find a programme to the extent of $26m in the first place being undertaken and effectively carried through to conclusion recently. This measure is tq provide a contribution of $9m towards a further programme which will cost S22m for rivers in New South Wales. Engineering, which is a vital part of this, may be defined as the science of directing nature’s forces and resources far the use of mankind. I believe that this sums up in a few words exactly what is being done today. The flood mitigation methods include levies, bank protection, drainage and retaining walls. These measures are designed to cope with the various categories of flood frequency and the various effects of serious floods, average floods and nuisance floods.
It is in this regard that the real effects and the material benefits that flow from flood mitigation works are to be found, lt has been suggested that there should be detailed cost benefits and that those should be on a broad basis. The honourable member for Dawson asked that this be done. 1 am glad that the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) proposes to provide further information in this way. But I would point out that there’ are human factors to be taken into consideration. There are many things in connection with the effects of floods whose actual value is very hard to establish. I refer to the disaster that befalls towns which are inundated. It is passible to value the loss of fixed assets in homes and furniture, but not the intangibles such as the inconvenience caused, the loss of man hours in so many directions and the effect on education when children are not able to attend school. I could run through a whole host of things. It was put to me on one occasion that if one could establish a different cost factor when water was I ft deep in an average home as against the cost factor when the water was 5 ft deep, then one would be a pretty good economist with some kind of formula which so far it has not been found necessary 10 develop in this country. 1 say quite objectively that if we go too far on the question of cost benefits and try to analyse all these things in’ minute detail many projects of this kind for’ the good of the community would never ‘be undertaken. We would be overwhelmed by all sorts of irrelevant details. Fortunately, the Government of New South Wales and the Federal Government in co-operation with local government in New South Wales have seen to it that an objective approach is made in this matter. I am sure that the example that has been so well established there will stand for all time as’ a monument to what can be done to curb nature when it runs riot in this way and occasions great loss in the community. . .
Reference has been made to what can be learned from overseas study. I believe that we have set the pace on the Coastal rivers of New South Wales. We have been’ able to do, with the limited resources that this nation can call upon, much more than one finds in many overseas countries Where’ floods do occur. I have compared cost factors in the United States with those of the schemes that are now under way in Australia and I find that we are able to give a very much better result in terms of objective results than many of the major schemes in the United States. This is something that I hope the Opposition will also look at in a little more detail because before I conclude 1 want to deal with the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Dawson. However, in the first place let us recognise exactly what these funds are intended to da. They are intended to supplement funds of an equal amount from the State Government, together with a contribution by local government - in the case of the northern rivers of New South Wales of $1 for every §4 of government, State and Commonwealth, funds provided and in the case of the Hunter River a slightly more liberal provision. This is an established basis upon which the works have been going forward since 1964.
The reason for this is that all the interested parties met and determined that this was their view as to the procedure that should be followed. Of course, it encompassed the arrangement that local administration oversighted by State authorities would be the basis of the means of carrying out this work. This has set an example to Australia and, for that matter, to overseas projects, where local administration has a major responsibility, where on the spot action can be taken, where on the spot engineering can be applied and where in fact techniques of the work done along the rivers can be a local approach oversighted by State authorities. This has enabled a great deal te be achieved without too much cumbersome red tape in a practical way in the interests of the localities concerned in the first place and of the State and the nation. This, 1 believe, is a very good example, first of all, of a degree of self help and, secondly, of the backing of worthy projects with Government funds.
In the current programme, however, we find a considerable amount of conservation work being proposed for the upper reaches of some of the rivers. I refer in particular to the Clarence, the Macleay and, of course, the Hunter rivers. In the case of the Richmond River there is not so much upstream work involved. It it in this regard that a cost problem does arise and I believe that as the programme proceeds there is justification for some review to be made of the ratio of local funds to Government funds. This is for the reason that the nature of the upstream work in conservation measures is not so directly related to improvements upon the fertile river flats or to the benefit of the adjacent urban areas. In these instances, of course, some local contribution is obviously justified, but to the extent that contribution becomes a burden upon ratepayers there is a case which, I believe, should be looked at so far as the weight of that burden is concerned. I know that submissions in that regard will be made to the New South Wales Government and, no doubt, will in turn be referred to this Government for consideration.
The amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson, however, proposes an entirely different approach. He has completely mixed up flood mitigation with flood relief and on the face of it he has proposed an amendment which is quite out of keeping with the objects of the Bill before the House. Perhaps being a Queenslander he is not aware of what happens in some States, and I refer in particular to New South Wales. We already have a well established approach in the matter of flood relief and flood restoration quite distinct from flood mitigation. In the first place, when a disaster occurs - and we have had experience of this in the last few weeks - the civil defence organisation goes into action. It has at its disposal certain facilities. It is able to call upon the Commonwealth to give assistance through the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army. This precedent is well established and has operated for a long period. This is to deal with immediate on the spot problems but then, of course, the question of the cost of restoration works, first of all so far as personal loss is concerned, follows a pattern established in the 1950s and has nothing whatever to do with flood mitigation.
The object of the projects which this Bill makes possible is to minimise the loss so there will not be such a great call upon resources of flood relief. Farmers, business people and householders all suffer when a flood occurs and then there are precise measures to afford relief to them. In cases of extreme hardship grants are made. In other instances long term low interest loans are made to assist those people. This is currently being done in the floods now occurring and having recently occurred in so much of New South Wales. The funds for this purpose are made available - by precedent - on a $1 for §1 basis by the 2 governments, State and Federal. There is no suggestion of a departure from that scheme and it is working very well indeed. With regard to the restoration of such things as roads, bridges and public services the State, using funds provided on this $1 for $1 basis, makes available grants to local authorities, sometimes up to 100 per cent, to enable them to undertake the restoration work. In the north west of New South Wales such arrangements have been made at this moment and are being carried into effect.
So there is absolutely no justification for the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson so far as New South Wales is concerned but if he wants to put forward a proposition of this kind for other States then he does not have to come into this Parliament to do so. He has to persuade the Stale governments to participate in what is already - by precedent - available through the policies of this Government. There is no necessity for any improvement unless it be to find more funds because I think it must be recognised that there is always an enormous cost involved in flood restoration. There is always pressure to find enough funds to be provided on the basis I have described. I am satisfied, and I am sure most members of this House must also be well satisfied, that this Government is playing its part and on that basis will continue to play its part in the most effective way possible to meet flood damage and flood effects. Then, of course, there was reference to one river not mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill. The Bill refers to a number of rivers in New South Wales and several of them are in my electorate. The rivers are the Tweed, Richmond, Bellinger, Clarence, Macleay, Hastings, Manning, Hunter, Hawkesbury, Shoalhaven and Moruya.
Suddenly the honourable member for Dawson discovers that he has had some request for the inclusion of the Nambucca River, in my electorate, in this measure. The Nambucca Shire Council, a very active and enthusiastic local council, long ago approached the New South Wales Government to ascertain whether the
Nambucca River could be included in this scheme. In due course representatives of the New South Wales departments concerned, that is, the Public Works Department and the Conservation Department, made an investigation particularly of erosion and undertook discussions , with the Shire Council. The Shire Council ultimately expressed the view that participation in this scheme was not justified so far as the ratepayers of that shire were concerned. I believe that it made the right decision, because there is not a flood plain on the Nambucca; there is not flooding of homes and a loss of pasture: there is not damage of the kind that is sustained on other rivers. The position there is quite different from what we see on the other rivers adjoining the Nambucca.
The honourable member for Dawson advocates that cost benefit analyses should be carried out. He surely cannot deny a cost benefit analysis in regard to the Nambucca. If after investigation it is found that there is justification for the inclusion of the Nambucca in the scheme I, and I am sure others, will be only too ready and willing to say that it should be done. I point that out in the interests of the people concerned and particularly the ratepayers and the scheme in general, and I say to the honourable member for Dawson that he should have a second thought about it.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is a paradox that in this, the driest of the world’s continents, we should be considering flood mitigation, what we are to do with surface water, how rapidly we can discharge surplus water into the Pacific Ocean and, furthermore, why we should be content with a consideration of the problems of flood mitigation only on the eastern coast of New South Wales and why this study and consideration should not be extended to the other river systems’ of New South Wales and, if other States will cooperate, of the other States of “the Commonwealth. I want to pay a tribute to one who deserves to be acknowledged, who was perhaps mainly responsible ‘ for the adoption of flood mitigation work on the north coast of New South Wales., I refer to a former honourable member for Cowper,
Mr Frank McGuren, because it was through his constant advocacy, persistence, constant representations, speeches in this place and uflagging zeal in talking about these matters, that the Government finally in a time of crisis was compelled to take action.
I can recall that the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate), the honourable member for Cowper of that time, Mr McGuren, and I journeyed to the north coast to the area of one of the most terrible floods that had visited the coast of New South Wales. It was in May 1963. For some days great volumes of water had built up over the coastal plain, flooding out farms and vegetation, destroying crops of all kinds, washing livestock out to sea, devastating the countryside in a shocking and horrible fashion and bringing great hardship upon the people of that community. Following our return from a visit to the area pressure was exerted upon the Government of the time to take action because the tragedy was so great - this was acknowledged - on the north coast and the central coast of New South Wales. The Press also supported the representations made on our side of the House that the Commonwealth Government and the State too should join with the progressive local government governing bodies in providing funds to meet this situation.
I join with other speakers in expressing words of appreciation’, to those county councils such as the Macleay River County Council, the Tweed Shire Council, the Richmond River County Council and local government bodies generally for what they have done in planning this flood mitigation work, trying to overcome the immediate question of draining water off their lands to the Pacific Ocean. Even at this time, when it Hoods, water covers considerable areas of the countryside. That is not to say that a tremendous amount of work has not been done. 1 pay a tribute to those responsible for their thoughtfulness and leadership, and for planning for each river system the type of work that is required to overcome the immediate problem, either by cleaning out the river system, altering the banks of the river, building up levees or building and cutting canals out to sea. These county councils have done much to mitigate the damage df flood.
As far as the Bill in concerned, flood mitigation works means works tor the purpose of reducing the likelihood or mitigating the effects of flood. I should like to think that our thoughts on this subject would go far beyond the limited requirements of the Bill itself. I should like to think that the proposal of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) for a wider consideration of this matter would be adopted. I should like to think that in this country, where we need to preserve and store water, action might be taken to deliver water to drier areas and thus mitigate the damage caused by floods and help to overcome this problem. But the history is one of the rapid drainage of water to the sea. 1 was somewhat disappointed with the remarks of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) this afternoon. He failed to pay tribute to his predecessor. It would not have been a great sacrifice on his part to have done so. He would not have given away anything. Back in those days when the campaign for flood mitigation was being fought here in the Parliament the then honourable member for Cowper, Mr McGuren. moved an amendment in relation to the Advance to the Treasurer, proposing that the estimates for the Department of the Treasury be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to make an immediate grant on a fi for £1 basis with the New South Wales Government for the urgent and imperative work being carried out by the county councils to mitigate and control the frequent disastrous floods in the northern rivers of New South Wales in order to preserve the valuable production of the great north coast farming areas and to prevent the heavy economic losses which follow these floods.
This motion was supported by members of the Australian Labor Party, members of the Opposition, and we brought to the attention of the Parliament the great damage that was being done and the need for action, whether it be in the sense that was put forward in other days by a former honourable member for Cowper, Sir Earle Page, who advocated a gorge scheme and the storage of water to be delivered to other places or whether it be the sort of scheme that has come to be accepted. Whatever it was, it was an earnest approach to a great challenge to the people on the coastline of New South Wales.
When from time to time these cases were being presented the Opposition found that members of the Government were not sympathetic. I think of the words of the present leader of the Australian Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony). These are his words in reply to the Labor Party proposal:
When the honourable member for Cowper rises in this chamber and says that the Commonwealth should enter this field, he is only trying lo create a diversion. He is trying to pass the buck on to the Commonwealth Government, although this is a State responsibility. What is the difference between the State undertaking flood control and building dams such as the Glenbawn dam and the Keepit clam?
The Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for Richmond, would have no part of that proposal. He said: This is not a matter for the Commonwealth Government; this is a responsibility for the State Government of New South Wales’. Let us be done with this matter. Let us be fair to the former honourable member for Cowper. Let us be fair to MrMcGuren. Let us give credit where credit is due. Let us end for all time this churlishness of wanting to sneer at and deride someone who has made a signal contribution to the development of this country and to the people of the north coast of New South Wales. It is important to remember that following a parliamentary visit to the north coast in 1963 and our persistent motions subsequently, legislation finally was introduced on 5th March 1964 and it received royal assent on 23rd April 1964, despite the fact that the Leader of the Country Party had said earlier that it was not a Commonwealth responsibility. It was a case of the people of the north coast of New South Wales winning a significant democratic battle because they had a member in this Parliament who was prepared to speak for them and to play a vital part in developing this country.
The proposed legislation takes the situation a step further. The initial legislation concerned 6 rivers on the New South Wales coastline and involved the expenditure of about $5m. This legislation provides for $9m to be spent over 7 years on 11 rivers on the eastern coastline of New South Wales. This is to be commended. It is necessary. There is need to help those who are prepared to help themselves. All honourable members are familiar with the devastation and tragedy caused bv Hood and the misfortunes of those people who are subjected to recurring floods which come with regular monotony and regular disaster. AH honourable members know of the great losses to the dairying industry and the vegetables, fruit and pastures on the river systems. Flooded rivers, when they change course, tear out great stretches of the alluvial Hats, occasionally deporting the soil on other land but frequently carrying it out to sea. Floods cause severe damage to roads, railways, telephones and electricity services. These facilities are all victims of uncontrolled flood. It is up to the Parliament to give more thought to what can be done about the tragedy of Hoods.
In proposing an amendment the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has suggested that members of the House should engage in an examination of the question of flood disaster and flood mitigation. He has proposed the appointment of a committee to investigate this matter. Is this not a reasonable suggestion? Surely it is the responsibility of members of the Parliament to look carefully into questions of this kind and not to accept existing conditions as the ultimate. Whatever has been achieved up to the present time, much more requires to be done. The honourable member for Dawson has. quite rightly, referred to the east coast of New. South Wales but my mind turns to the areas west of the Great Dividing Range where, because of the flooding of the western rivers, many areas are flood bound and people are suffering tremendously because of the lack of flood mitigation work and because the Government has failed to harness, store and control water. The basic consideration should be what can we do to control water in this dry continent. What can we do to conserve water? What can we do to distribute water? What can we do to make the best possible use of the water?
The proposal that a committee should be appointed by the Parliament to look into this subject should commend itself to every responsible member of this chamber. On this occasion members should forget narrow party lines. We should be looking at the major question which is affecting the people of this nation. Of paramount importance is the inadequacy of water in one place and the surplus of. water in another. There is a necessity to store water. All of these questions should receive close attention by members of Parliament who have been sent here by their constituents to deal with such questions. Surely honourable members accept the fact that there is need for action in this field and that such action should not be limited to the eastern coastline of New South Wales but should be extended to include the overall problem.
The present subsidy to some extent is meeting the requirements of those engaged in flood mitigation work. A S2 for $1 subsidy is provided for the river systems with the exception of the Hunter River where the subsidy is S3 for $1. This is a reasonable proposition and it has been accepted, but I am not content with this type of flood mitigation. We must go far beyond this and 1 should like to think that a plan would be developed for the purposes of: diverting water from the river plains on the eastern coastline to other areas where it is required. I was pleased to note that this legislation contains provision to enable the extension of mitigation work to other river systems on the coastline of New South Wales The Hawkesbury River has been included and during the life of this legislation some $2,060,000 will be used for flood mitigation undertakings on the Hawkesbury, Colo and Nepean rivers. The Windsor, Colo, Baulkham Hills, Penrith and Camden councils will contribute to this worthwhile project. I believe that consideration should be given to the manner in which our river systems are used and also to the way in which land abutting and in close proximity to the river systems is used. At times I am somewhat concerned that contractors can remove great quantities of gravel from river plains, thus weakening the banks of rivers and helping to create dangerous situations. This is an aspect to which a committee, such as is proposed by the honourable member for Dawson, could give consideration.
I believe that the Parliament is accepting to a greater extent than ever before a responsibility for seeing that action is taken not only in respect of flood mitigation and reducing the likelihood of floods with their disastrous and damaging consequences but also in overcoming floods. In a Bill of this kind, limited as it is, I cannot put forward proposals that I should like to submit to the Parliament. I should like to propose a wide ranging national conservation authority which would have regard for all water that is precipitated in Australia - water that is urgently required in some parts of the Commonwealth. Such water would help to provide life-giving properties to some of the driest parts of Australia.
As far as it goes this Bill meets the requirements of many people. I can only hope that those engaged in local government will find the measure acceptable to them and that the measure will provide the additional finance that they so urgently require. I hope that the Government, despite the assurances given by the honourable member for Cowper, will have another look at the Nambucca River to see if it is not possible to provide funds so that this river system, too, can receive the assistance required for a practical programme of flood mitigation. Surely the fact that the Nambucca people have not the resources at this time to match the Commonwealth and State in their grants should not deny those people the opportunity of having necessary work done on the banks of the Nambucca River to preserve that area. I support the broad principles of the Bill but feel that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson goes a long way in dealing with the question that this Parliament ought to be considering, the investigation of an outstanding issue concerning floods in this country, the need to look after people who are suffering the effects of floods and the mitigation to the fullest extent of the very great disasters which occur.
– It is with a great deal of pleasure that I support this Bill. I want to make one comment in regard to the background of this flood mitigation situation and the comments that have been made about the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) and the early days of the presentation of the suggestion that the Commonwealth Parliament become associated with and responsible for flood mitigation. The present Leader of the Country Party has never opposed Commonwealth participation in flood mitigation. What he has opposed and what I have always opposed is the Commonwealth Government coming in and literally taking charge of and accepting full responsibility for flood mitigation. I think that the stand of the Minister for Trade and Industry and myself has been completely justified not only by the legislation which is before the House at this stage but also by the legislation that has been passed previously and the assistance that has been given by the Commonwealth in relation to flood mitigation.
I can speak with some knowledge and understanding of this situation as 1 worked very closely with the Macleay Shire in the early days on flood mitigation. I know the work that was put in by local government people in that area on the presentation of the case for flood mitigation. This was in regard not only to the Macleay area but also the Clarence and Richmond areas as my colleague, the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) has said. A great deal of work was put into this legislative programme by local government authorities so that when it reached finality it was a perfect example of co-operation between Federal, State and local governments. To my mind this is one of the greatest points in the argument for decentralisation and centralised control. It runs along lines that I have been putting forward over many years. If we are to be successful in this country we must work continuously for this co-operation between Federal, State and local government authorities. 1 have been rather disturbed - and have stated so in this House; I have been highly critical inside and outside this House - about what I call an element of centralisation that is showing its head. More and more powers are coming to Canberra and there is to my mind less and less appreciation of the urgent need for State and local government authorities to have their say. It will be to the detriment of the Commonwealth and a danger to the progress and development of this country if the movement towards centralised control in Canberra accelerates much more because this legislation is complete proof of the success of Federal, State and local government cooperation. One only has to read the second reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), to look through the Act and to think of the work that has been done in the introduction of prior legislation. In support of some of the things I have been saying I would quote the last paragraph of the
Minister’s second reading speech. He said:
Honourable members will observe that the Bill does not contain provision for Commonwealth approval of the individual works to which the Commonwealth assistance is to be applied. The programme involves a large number of individual items including levee banks, river channel improvement and drainage works on 11 river systems. The proposals put forward by the State are subject to some amendment in the light of final investigation and design. We regard the final selection of such individual works as a matter for the State and the local authorities concerned. The Bill does, however, contain provision for the Commonwealth to be kept suitably informed about the works and to be furnished with information relating to expenditure and progress on the works. I have much pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.
I have much pleasure in commending the Bill and the words of the Minister to the House. I would also like to congratulate the Minister on the work he has done and for following the steps of many illustrious Ministers for National Development who worked for the fulfilment of this legislation and this programme. I hope what I have said answers some of the criticism offered here of the comments of the Leader of the Country Party.
I want to emphasise again trie necessity for this co-operation between Federal. State and local governments. The honourable member for Cowper when talking about this and the value of this legislation spoke about the damage that was caused by floods and the difficulty of assessing total damage and getting a full appreciation of it. As he said, if we see a house or building damaged we can say it costs $X, but there are those things that are intangible, things we cannot assess in terms of dollars such as the loss to a country area, the loss to a country town, the problem of communication, the problem of transport and the loss of time in an area relative to production, lt is not only a matter of the flood and the damage that is done at the time but also the loss of production during the flood and the period of rehabilitation and reconstruction afterwards. All these things have to be assessed. We have a full appreciation of what has happened even in the last 2 months in New South Wales and in parts of Queensland. During the flooding of certain areas of Queensland we had other areas almost next door that were still suffering from drought. This is an indication of the problems that are associated with the primary producer and the reason why legislation such as this is of such necessity.
I want to comment in regard to the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Dawson. First of all, the amendment would delay the real value of flood mitigation work. It is suggested that a joint select committee of the Parliament be appointed to inquire into the practicability of the establishment of a national disaster organisation. I think this was answered quite effectively by my colleague the honourable member for Cowper when he said that that part of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson was absolutely irrelevant to the legislation before the House. To my mind this shows a lack of appreciation and understanding of this legislation. I suppose one can understand that the honourable member for Dawson does not have an appreciation of what has been done and what is being done in other States.
In my own State of New South Wales there is a very effective civil defence organisation/ In times of flood or other national disaster the civil defence organisation in New South Wales does a magnificent job. Those who have had an association with that body and who have seen what it has done will agree that it is geared to meet the problems referred to in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. I would not disagree with anyone who argued that there must be co-operation between the Federal Government, the State governments and local government authorities working through the civil defence organisation. The honourable member for Dawson said that there has been delay. If he cares to look at the situation he will see that in New South Wales the delay has been brought to an absolute minimum. After a flood it takes some time to assess what damage has been caused. The civil defence organisation is geared to move into action the moment a flood, a fire or other national disaster occurs. That is one reason why the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson is not necessary.
I support the legislation that is now before the House, knowing something of the work and effort that has been put into this legislation by so many people. As I have already said, I pay tribute to those who have worked in local government for the success of this legislation - who have made people aware of some of the problems and who have helped to get back into full production, as I have seen happen particularly in the Macleay area, areas which for weeks were unable to maintain full production. I appreciate the full value of this legislation. I congratulate the Government on introducing legislation of this sort which will give encouragement to people on the land. This is further evidence of what can be achived by co-operation between the Federal Government, the State governments and local government authorities. Surely in matters of this kind local government authorities have a far greater appreciation of the circumstances and what should or should not be done in certain areas. I support the legislation.
Sirring suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
– The Bill before the House is concerned with a grant of financial assistance to the State of New South Wales for the purpose of flood mitigation works on the Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay, Hunter, Shoalhaven, Bellinger. Hastings, Manning, Hawkesbury and Moruya Rivers. The rate of subsidy will be on the basis of $2 by the Commonwealth, $2 by the State and $1 by the local authority, with the exception of the Hunter River where the subsidy will be on the basis of $3 by the Commonwealth, $3 by the State and $1 by the local authority. Under this Bill the Commonwealth is to provide $9m which, together with the $9m provided by the State, will give considerable assistance to the State Government and the local authorities and will enable them to take greater steps in carrying out this work than have been taken to the present time.
One of the heartening things about this Bill is that the grant of assistance will be made retrospective to 1st July 1969. But a matter which concerns me - and my electorate is in the Hunter Valley - is the fact that we have had to wait almost 20 months for the Government to make up its mind to introduce this Bill which makes money available for the work to be carried out. In the flood which occurred in the Hunter Valley on 1st, 2nd- and 3rd February last a considerable amount of damage was done purely and simply because certain work had not been undertaken. If the Government had made up its mind earlier, this work could have proceeded and a lot of damage which did occur would not have occurred. A number of farms which have been put out of production would not have been put out of production and losses would not have been incurred by the occupants of those farms. This is a matter with which I should like to deal later.
As we are all aware, the Hunter Valley contains one of the most fertile river plains in Australia. In the lower Hunter River area there are approximately 94,000 acres of some of the most fertile land in Australia. This land is available to be used for intensive cultivation and to obtain a quick turnover of the commodities which are required, such as lucerne and green vegetables which are sent to the adjacent cities of Newcastle, Cessnock, Maitland and also Sydney. As a lot of this land is now unproductive and will remain unproductive for some considerable time, this Government has to do something about the matter, and I hope that the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), in his reply to this debate, will be able to say why the Government has not taken earlier the steps which it is taking tonight in order to provide the necessary finance for this flood mitigation scheme.
Up to date a considerable amount of money has been spent on making improvements in the Hunter River Valley, and 1 want to quote from a publication which was prepared by the New South Wales Department of Public Works. It discloses that the work which has already been carried out in the Hunter River Valley has been most effective. It shows that the following work has been completed: 60 miles of levees, including spillways; 8 miles of control and diversion banks; 0.6 miles of pilot channels; 5 miles of bank protection; 40 miles of flood canals; 14 miles of stream improvements; 70 flood gates; and 65 farm crossings. This report covers the period to the end of 1969. It is the latest information available. The report for the following year has not yet been sent to the Government Printer. This report gives some indication of the amount of money which has been spent on flood mitigation work on the Hunter River. The work is similar to that which has been carried out on other rivers which have already been included in the scheme. The first 6 rivers on which work was undertaken were the Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay, Hunter and Shoalhaven. The work which has been carried out on all these rivers has resulted in increased production worth millions of dollars. But this Government refrained from carrying out work in these river systems for some considerable time, and I will deal with that matter shortly.
We have reached the stage where the Government has now made up its mind to proceed with work on the rivers to which I have referred. It is remarkable that the Government decides to carry out flood mitigation work when it gets into trouble. In 1963 the Government was in trouble. After the 1961 elections it had a majority of only one. On the eve of the 3963 elections the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, brought down in this place the first flood mitigation Bill which provided for Commonwealth expenditure of some $8m. Further work was not undertaken, but now it is obvious that the Government has again got into trouble. We find that some 20 months after the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made a statement on this matter, the Government finally has introduced the Bill which we are presently debating. It would appear that the only time when the States or the people involved in this flood mitigation work can expect any assistance from the Commonwealth Liberal-Country Party Government is when it is confronted with some economic problems such as those which are facing it today. At that stage this is one of the election gimmicks which the Government uses.
As I said earlier, the recent flood to which the Hunter Valley has been subjected and which is now subsiding has caused a considerable amount of damage. I spent nearly the whole of yesterday with Mr Unicomb the Labor candidate for the electorate of Paterson at the next Federal election, and 1 am confident that he will be the next member for Paterson. He gave me a very good account of what work has been carried out and of the damage which was caused in the flood. I found that work was stopped on the Oakhampton spillway because the Government’s contribution to the scheme was not made until after 1969. This spillway was breached in a number of places. This resulted in floodwaters coming over the top of the spillway into the ponding area, filling this area more quickly than would otherwise have been the case and breaking the banks of another spillway which should have held back the water. This is typical of some of the tragedies which occur in these valleys when there is a heavy concentration of rain such as that which was experienced in the Hunter Valley recently.
There were numerous other examples of similar damage occurring because work had not been carried out. The river broke its banks at Bolwarra, and immediately there was flooding in that area. As the river was heavy with sand, sand flowed over and now thousands of tons of sand have been dumped onto properties making them almost non-productive for some considerable time. These properties will be non-productive until such time as the owner can remove the sand. At the present time one owner is removing sand from his farm by using a new method of ploughing. The bottom soil can be brought to the top and the sand ploughed to the bottom. Some farmers in discussion with me yesterday indicated that at the present time their farms, which were inundated with sand in the 1955 flood, are again inundated with sand, and that where they have not been able to get rid of it there has been a marked difference in the yield from the crop when compared with the yield from crops planted in the natural alluvial soil in the Hunter Valley. This has resulted in a part of the crop being destroyed or becoming non-productive, and it has meant a considerable loss of earnings to these people.
At another place Wyburn’s levee was breached, which resulted in the New England Highway being closed for a couple of days. The same thing happened to the railways. The railway line was cut for 12 to 14 hours which resulted in considerable loss to the New South Wales Railways and caused considerable inconvenience to the people who were travelling by rail. This was another example of work not being completed because of insufficient funds. In late 1969 when no additional Commonwealth money was forthcoming the Department of Public Works had to terminate the services of either a number of its own employees or the contract people whom it was employing at that time.
One of the great tragedies of this recent flood, as has been the case with respect to all previous floods, is the way in which the banks of our river are taken away by flood. In one section where the bank was 20 feet to 22 feet high a section of 60 feet has been torn away. This huge slab of some of the most beautiful alluvial soil that one could ever wish to see has been destroyed. Another result is that the river changes its course. The river builds up on one side while its other side is torn away. It is no use what ever for the river to build up in the area that it does.
One of the things that concerns me as the member for Newcastle is the fact that all this erosion which has taken place as a result of these floods - I have been unable to obtain confirmation of this information - has led to a reduction in the depth of the steel works channel from the Dyke end to the BHP wharf in the Port of Newcastle. As a result of siltation, the depth of this channel has been reduced from 36 feet to 33 feet. I ask honourable members to work out the significance of the reduction of the whole of that channel from a depth of 36 feet to 33 feet. This silt has been carried down the river from the upper reaches and the lower reaches of the Hunter River. It has all finished up in the Port of Newcastle. Let us consider the effect that significant siltation like this has on the flow of the river. In the basin the depth has been reduced from 36 feet to 35 feet. This means that ships using the port of Newcastle cannot enter the port as heavily laden as they would normally be capable of being loaded.
The same thing can be said about the basin area. This will cost the owners of these ships thousands of dollars in increased freight over a period because their ships are not able to carry the amount of cargo that they normally would carry. What does this siltation cost? It is estimated that, in normal circumstances, it would cost the Martime Services Board of New South Wales approximately $lm to remove the silt from the port of Newcastle by dredging. The farmers in the Hunter River valley will have lost approximately $lm in crops destroyed. Approximately 35,000 acres of farm land, including some of the richest farms in Australia, will be out of production for at least another 6 months. All one can see in the valley is huge areas of farm land covered by water. It will take several months for that water to drain away, lt will be some considerable time after that before the farmers will be able to undertake any ploughing and get their farms into production again. So, the farmers will lose money. Not only have they lost approximately $lm worth of crops but also they will have no incomes whatever for the next 6 months. In some cases, the period may be longer than that.
Honourable members can see what is happening with local government, lt is estimated that repairs to flood damaged roads, bridges and similar local government facilities such as drains will cost $100,000. In my opinion, the figure is a moderate estimate of the damage which has been caused as the result of the flooding of roads. What does this mean? It means that as traffic continues to move over these roads, the surfaces will break up. The estimate of $100,000 is a moderate one. I believe the final figure will be far in excess of that amount.
It can be seen from what I have said already tonight that this Government is to be condemned for having failed to continue the previous agreement for the past 20 months. The Hunter Valley Conservation Trust, which is charged with the responsibility of carrying out this work, did not know where it was going. It was told by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in his policy speech in 1969 that his Government would continue the scheme. But it has taken 20 months for the Prime Minister, or the Minister responsible for this proposal, to introduce a simple Bill that requires little drafting. The Government cannot say that it has not had draftsmen available to prepare the legislation because this Bill is a simple piece of legislation which could have been introduced during the first full week that the Parliament sat following its resumption after the last election.
If we consider the matter overall, we shall see that the Government itself must accept some responsibility for this total loss of production and earnings by some of these people in the lower Hunter valley area. As I have pointed out already, at least Sim in crops has been lost together with loss of incomes for at least half a year. Some of the people to whom I have spoken are taking what has happened quite philosophically. Their attitude is: ‘Well, we have been putting up with it for some considerable time’. 1 think that 36 major floods have occurred in the Hunter valley over the last 68 years. So, the people have become quite accustomed to floods. But it is time to mitigate the effect of these floods. Referring to the legislation, I think that what is proposed can be marked down to the credit of a former member for Cowper, Mr Frank McGuren.
– Oh, are you trying to run him as a candidate?
– We may run him as a candidate. If we do, the Country Party can say goodbye to Robinson. The Country Party has already lost the seat of Casino in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in the last election and it was battling to hold the seat of Clarence. So, the Minister can take it from me that, if McGuren runs, he will give it a shake and the new member for Cowper in this House will be in the ranks of the Labor Party.
– And the honourable member can take it from me that this is irrelevant to the subject matter of the Bill.
– It is in the Bill, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will deal with you in a moment. This Bill could be classified as the McGuren flood mitigation legislation. Honourable members who were here in 1962 will recall the number of times when Frank McGuren asked questions and moved motions on this subject. For example, on 4th October 1962 during the discussion on the Advance to the Treasurer, Frank McGuren moved:
That the amount of the vote - ‘Department of the Treasury, £66,442,000’- be reduced by £1- As an instruction to the Government - To make an immediate grant on a £1 for £1 basis with the New South Wales Government for the urgent and imperative work being carried out by the county councils to mitigate and control the frequent and disastrous floods in the northern rivers of New South Wales, in order to preserve the valuable production of the great north coast farming areas and prevent the heavy economic losses which follow these floods.
That was a sensible approach to the problem. At approximately the same time the then Leader of the Opposition, the present right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), made a public statement following a visit to the north coast of New South Wales by members of the National Development Committee of the Australian Labor Party who discussed the problem of flooding with various flood mitigation councils. The then Leader of the Opposition announced that the next Labor government would subsidise on a £1 for £1 basis expenditure by the New South Wales Government on flood mitigation. This promise upset the Country Party whose members ridiculed the proposal every time Frank McGuren raised this subject in the Parliament.
Let us look at what the present Leader of the Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), had to say in reply to the amendment moved by Frank McGuren to which I have just referred. The present Deputy Prime Minister said:
Is it any wonder that the people in this area are concerned? Yet this member for Cowper comes here and has the audacity to say that the Commonwealth Government should give money for flood control works.
– The Deputy Prime Minister is a very good member.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for the Minister for Primary Industry to interject from a seat other than his own?
-Order! The point of order is without substance.
– The present Deputy Prime Minister continued:
I am very sensitive about this matter, because the country councils are being hoodwinked into thinking that they should press die Commonwealth Government for money, although they should be addressing their requests to the State Government. This approach only causes delay. When the councils are led to believe that the Commonwealth may give assistance, they decide to press the Commonwealth instead of pressing the State Government. Of course, the State Government encourages them to do this
This was the attitude of the then honourable member for Richmond who is now Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party. He was opposed to the proposal. If I had time, Mr Chairman, I would read what you riad to say on the same day in similar strain to the speech of the new Leader of your Party.
Honourable members can see that the Country Party opposed these proposals whenever they were put forward. It was only after the Labor Party made a very positive decision that action at the Federal level was proposed. We must bear in mind one fact: It was a New South Wales Labor government which initiated this scheme and put it into operation on the basis of £2 for £1 and £3 for £1 subsidies. It took a Liberal Party-Country Party Government in the Federal Parliament some 7 years to make up its mind that it would give some assistance to help the State Government with this scheme.
Honourable members on this side of the House support the measure. We believe it is in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth. At the same time, we support the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The Government should set up a parliamentary select committee to inquire into and report upon national disasters. This is something which is long overdue. This country unfortunately is subjected to extreme flooding and extreme bush fires. Year after year millions and millions of dollars have been lost as a result of these two unfortunate national catastrophes.
– 1 rise to support this Bill to grant financial assistance to New South Wales for the purpose of flood mitigation works in relation to certain rivers. I cannot agree with the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition because the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in his 1969 policy speech stated that $100m would be provided over the next 6 years for water resources in Australia. This Bill comes within the ambit of the $100m which was referred to in the Government’s policy speech. So there is no need whatsoever for the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) because the $100rr provides for assistance in the field of water resources for the whole of Australia.
The need for flood mitigation in New South Wales really became evident in 1955 when a major flood established the real need for flood mitigation schemes. The year 1963 was the turning point; the national importance of flood mitigation was recognised by the Commonwealth Government. The result was that the finance available for construction was almost doubled. The cost of works since 1963 has been shared on the basis of $3 each from the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government for each $1 allocated by the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust. I have 2 rivers in my electorate which are very seriously affected by flooding and consequently there is a need for great flood mitigation works. They are the Hunter River, about which the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has just spoken, and the Namoi River which is over the Dividing Range. There are 2 big dams on both of these rivers. They are the Glenbawn Dam on the Hunter River and the Keepit Dam on the Namoi. Even though these dams hold huge quantities of water, when 8 or 9 inches of rain fall in 3 or 4 days they cannot contribute greatly to alleviate the flooding that takes place on these rivers. With all respect to the honourable member for Newcastle, when this quantity of rain falls it is very difficult to do much about it anyway. Many of the towns along these rivers receive 21 and 22 inches of rainfall a year. In the recent floods they received as much as 13 or 14 inches within a few weeks.
The Bill before the House ratifies the grant which was announced on 15th July 1970. Therefore here again the honourable member for Newcastle is a long way off line because those concerned with flood mitigation in the Hunter Valley had plenty of time to make their arrangements. Indeed, on behalf of the Government I interviewed the Maitland City Council and members of the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust at that time to tell them that the Government would make money available and that they could go ahead with their flood mitigation plans. The Bill provides for a grant, under the programme of up to $9m for assistance with flood mitigation works on II New South Wales coastal rivers. I support this Bill which will grant financial assistance to New South Wales for the purposes of flood mitigation in relation to these rivers. The allocations to the local government bodies that are in control of flood mitigation work, along with the New South Wales State Government and the Commonwealth Government, are as follows: Tweed River Shire Council, $462,000; the Richmond River County Council, $1,070,000; Bellinger River Shire Council, $810,000: Clarence River County Council, $4,270,000; Macleay River
County Council, $2,047,000; Manning and Gloucester Shire Councils, $2,300,000; Hunter Valley Conservation Trust - which, of course, is by the far the biggest council and has the biggest river valley to look after- $6m; Hawkesbury, Windsor, Colo, Baulkham Hills, Penrith and Camden Councils, $2,060,000; Shoalhaven Shire Council and Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, $780,000; and the Eurobodalla Shire Council, $627,000. The total amount proposed for flood mitigation works for those rivers is $20,426,000.
The damage that occurred in the last floods would have been far greater if flood mitigation works had not been carried out by the councils to which I have referred. This refers particularly to the city of Maitland which is the biggest city in my electorate and which is only 18 miles from Newcastle on the Hunter River. I pay a great tribute to the Hunter Valley County Council for the great work that it has done around Maitland in providing the necessary levee banks and engineering works to control flood waters. If this work had not been carried out the recent flood would have been of far greater proportions than it was. The area to be covered under the Bill is approximately 1 million acres and it affects over 500,000 people. The cost of the works to be constructed over a period of 6 years will be shared by the Commonwealth and the State governments, each contributing $9m, with local government providing $4m. The Commonwealth Government’s participation in these works was notified to the Government of New South Wales last year. As I have already mentioned, on 15th July satisfactory plans on flood mitigation works were received from the responsible Ministers. The great need for flood mitigation works on these rivers in New South Wales has been very well brought to the attention of people and governments by the recent disastrous floods. These’ floods have shown how essential it is for more flood mitigation programmes to be undertaken by both the State and Federal Governments in cooperation with local government bodies such as shire councils, county councils and conservation trusts. I have already paid a tribute to the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust. I also pay a tribute to all of those other bodies which I have mentioned and which are carrying out such valuable work.
As mentioned earlier, great damage has been caused by the recent floods particularly in the Hunter Valley where the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust has carried out extensive works such as the construction of levee banks, bank protection, drainage works and river training works whereby rivers are confined to channels and willows are planted. Despite these grand works great damage was done to the towns and the rural areas in the Hunter Valley. The Trust, which carries out the conservation or flood mitigation work in the area, has to look after the city of Newcastle, the city of Maitland, Singleton and district, Muswellbrook, Denman, Merriwa, Scone and Murrurundi. The damage that has occurred is estimated at many millions of dollars. Damage has been occasioned to property. There has been loss of sheep, cattle and crops such as pumpkins, potatoes, watermelons, rockmelons, millet, lucerne and maize, and there has been a loss of milk production.
Many estimates have been made of the damage sustained at Maitland. It is estimated that half a million dollars worth of damage has been caused in this area - $300,000 on farms and $200,000 on roads. As I mentioned earlier, the amount of rain which fell in this area was a record. Although great works have been done by the governments concerned, it was impossible to stop some serious flooding. At the present time about 500,000 acres of farmland are under water in the Maitland area. At Singleton hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage has been done on farms, with loss of fences, stock and soils. Singleton is a fine town. There is a levee bank right round the town. In ordinary times, without this levee bank constructed by the flood mitigation authority there is no doubt that the town would have suffered major flooding. The honourable member for Newcastle did not mention this fact. This time there is no doubt that the town of Singleton would have suffered a major flood without the levee bank constructed in a proper engineering manner round the town by the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust.
At Muswellbrook hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage has been done to water works, road works, property and fences. At Aberdeen damage has been done to properties and some town houses.
At Scone, further up the Hunter Valley, damage has been caused by local flooding to property and business premises. At Merriwa still in the Hunter Valley - $157,000 worth of damage has been done to shire property in the form of shire roads and bridges, apart from property damage. These facts and figures indicate very clearly the need for flood mitigation works on the Hunter River. Over the Great Dividing Range at Murrurundi in the Quirindi district and in the Namoi River watershed about 10 or 11 inches of rain fell in a few days. The average rainfall is 21 inches. Over Sim worth of grain sorghum and maize was lost by the flooding that took place at this section of the Namoi River. It is estimated that $250,000 worth of damage was caused to roads and bridges. Further down the Namoi River at Wee Waa the whole cotton crop was lost. Possibly $15m worth of cotton was lost in the Namoi River area.
It is clearly indicated that a Bill of this nature, with money being spent on properly engineered flood mitigation works, will be of tremendous value to the primary production of not only New South Wales but also Australia. Governments must consider urgently more flood mitigation works and make every effort to alleviate the disaster caused by floods such as the ones which we have recently witnessed. Under this Bill considerable works of a flood mitigation nature will be carried out. This will increase the protection of towns and preserve the agricultural production of crops and stock. It is essential that right throughout Australia more works be carried out and more thought given to flood mitigation. The $100m mentioned in the Government’s policy speech provides for this. It is up to the States to bring forward schemes to the Commonwealth Government. I feel sure that the Government and the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) will give every consideration to the establishment of such works to provide for more production and to prevent damage to properties, loss of stock and loss of property in the various towns.
There is nothing worse than living in a town which has been ravaged by floods. The people lose the furniture in their homes and their personal property. So they drift away to the cities. Flood mitigation works are one way in which we can help maintain the population in our country towns and keep them thriving, as we see them in the Hunter Valley today. There is no doubt that the people who live there are very courageous. They have had 2 or 3 major floods in the Hunter Valley in the last 15 years but they have gone on producing. The money being spent and the work being done on flood mitigation is giving them more protection all the time. I think we will probably see the time when they will be free from flooding in the area even though they may receive great quantities of rain within a short time. The engineering department of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in New South Wales and the Public Works Department have done great work in the Hunter Valley and in every valley on the north coast of New South Wales. With their valuable knowledge they are making a great contribution towards easing the flooding, the disaster and the losses that have taken place in past years.
The Bill has many good features. I am not in favour of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson because it is already catered for in the policy enunciated by the Government. I have much pleasure, on behalf of the Australian Country Party, in supporting the measure. I know that it will be passed by this House tonight.
– I was very interested in the remarks of the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe). Only last Saturday night I went into his electorate - not for evil political purposes.
– What did you want to go for?
– I will tell the honourable member what I went for. I went to purchase some hay from one of his constituents in the Morpeth region. It is a tragedy to see the way the farms are. This man told me about a fellow coming down the Hunter River under the Morpeth bridge in a little canoe. The canoe turned upsidedown and the man swam towards a willow tree and climbed up. I said: ‘It was not Frank O’Keefe, the honourable member for Paterson, looking after your interests, was it?’ Of course he laughed. The willow trees in the recent floods in Maitland were cracking under the force of water. It really brings home the devastation caused in the
Maitland region by the recent floods. It has compelled me to rise and say something in this Parliament tonight. The honourable member for Paterson was unfair in his criticism of members of the Opposition. He criticised my colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) because he did not refer to the devastation caused by recent floods in the Singleton area. There is a limit - thank God there is - on all speakers in this Parliament. Some of them could speak under boiling water or under sewer water. If there was no limit they would go on and on. The honourable member for Newcastle has been interested in the devastation caused by floods in the Singleton area. He has mentioned it to me in private when we have been travelling down from Newcastle. I was a little disappointed to hear the honourable member for Paterson shower praise on the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust on several occasions. But to be fair to the honourable member for Paterson, probably time did not permit him to shower a handful of praise on the Hunter Valley Research Foundation because 1 know that he is interested in its activities. 1 hope that I will be able to refer to some of the important work that the Hunter Valley Research Foundation is doing, lt is a non profit organisation, not something that Government members support-
– It is a wonder it ever did anything.
– 1 did not hear the interjection but I will handle it if it is repeated. The Hunter Valley Research Foundation is an organisation which is registered as a non profit company. It was registered on 13th November 1956. The memorandum and articles of association were signed by 9 original members. There are in all 12 members of the Board of Directors elected from the 33 members of the company. The registered office of the company is in Newcastle, as the honourable member for Patterson would well know. The Hunter Valley Research Foundation operates along normal business lines with respect to the preparation and publication of a balance sheet and statement of accounts, duly audited. The principal objects of the company are to conduct and foster research into problems of flood mitigation and conservation of water, soil, timber and vegetation or any of them in the Hunter
Valley, and all problems related thereto. This is an honourable organisation led by Professor Cyril Renwick, a man of admirable and sterling qualities, an Australian of a rich, evenly balanced character. I mean rich in principles, not in the monetary sense.
The measure before the Parliament proposes the making of a grant of $9m to the New South Wales Government, a mere bagatelle. When one thinks of $20m for a rocket firing destroyer, the money that the Government has poured down the drain on the Fill bomber or the $400ra estimated by economic experts as the cost to the Australian taxpayer of our involvement in Vietnam, $9m is chicken feed as I am reminded by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who is always diligent when debates take place in this Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson is not within the precincts of the chamber and should not interject
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. In my opinion the measure is an important one but does not do enough. I found it soothing to listen to my colleague the honourable member . for Paterson this evening particularly when he referred to the savagery of the devastation caused by the recurring floods in New South Wales rivers, especially the Hunter River. Honourable members do not need reminding that the electorate of the honourable member for Paterson covers practically the whole of the Hunter Valley. I listened in my room to the speech of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) this afternoon. He pointed out in his opening remarks how the late member for Cowper, Sir Earle Page-
– A great man.
– Yes, he was a great man. The honourable member for Cowper said that he championed the cause of Federal assistance for flood mitigation on the coastal rivers of New South Wales. All honourable members respect the memory of the late member for Cowper, Sir Earle Page. I remember that when I was a small boy it was not the Menzies-Fadden administration but the Bruce-Page administration. That was when I was about 14 years of age. But no-one in this House was in a better position to put into effect a reasonable scheme for flood mitigation than was the champion referred to by the honourable member for Cowper, the former member for Cowper whose memory we revere. The late Sir Earle Page was a Deputy Prime Minister and, I believe, a Treasurer of this country. But with all respect to him, he was noted for speaking on these things on the eve of an election because he still had faith in the political ignorance of his electors. If he had represented an electorate such as Hunter, which I represent, he would not have been able to get away with it because my electors are the most astute political students in the nation. That is why they returned me to this Parliament with a majority of approximately 73 per cent. They cannot be dudded or misled because industrial workers have had it, if I may use the vernacular, put over them so often by the monopolies of big business that one’s story has to have a true, sincere ring before one can put it over them again.
-Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that he come back to the Bill.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your guidance. The honourable member for Cowper also stated this evening that we should have a look at overseas countries in regard to flood mitigation.
– What did he say about the last member for Cowper.
– I had better not answer that interjection from the honourable member for Wide Bay. The honourable member for Cowper referred to the United States. That is fair enough. But he made no reference to Israel where the people have turned deserts into gardens. He did not dare make any reference to the People’s Republic of China which dammed the Yellow River that has flooded for centuries. Oh, no, we cannot make reference to what the Chinese have achieved in flood mitigation.
– They do not exist.
– They do not exist, we do not recognise them, but we hope to God they keep buying our wheat because we would lose our seats if they did not. That will show the people the falsity of this place, particularly on the part of. Government supporters v/ho stand up when the proceedings of Parliament are being broadcast and will not be frank with the Australian electors. But one day the electors will wake up that they have been dudded and the honourable member for Cowper will be singing Gracie Fields’ favourite song. ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’.
-I would remind the honourable member for Hunter that this is the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill and deals with a grant under a programme of up to $9m for assistance with flood mitigation on 11 New South Wales coastal rivers. It has nothing to do with China or Israel and I would suggest to the honourable member that he comes back to the purpose of the Bill.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to make particular reference to this Bill as it affects the Hunter Valley. I am sympathetic to the problems of the Macleay, Tweed, Richmond, Clarence and Shoalhaven rivers, and now the additional rivers of Bellinger, Hastings, Manning, Hawkesbury and Moruya. The Hunter River makes a greater commercial contribution to the economy than do any of those other rivers. The Hunter River probably plays a greater part in commerce than any other river in Australia.
The Bill makes provision for a grant of $9m which, as has already been pointed out, is for assistance with flood mitigation works an 11 of the New South Wales coastal rivers. The Commonwealth proposes to allocate $10Om over 5 years for rural water conservation and supply works. This sounds a big sum but it will be spread over the Commonwealth, lt is to be used also for water measurement. This amount will be over and above the State’s own programmes for these purposes. My view is that this amount is inadequate for control of the disastrous floods in the Commonwealth, and the $9m now being allocated for flood mitigation in New South Wales is a mere drop in the ocean.
No-one aware can deny the fact that the Hunter Valley Research Foundation is a non-profit, dedicated, knowledgeable and trustworthy organisation which has carried out as much research in the rich Hunter Valley region as its financial resources will permit. The former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for
Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), in 1965 met in his very courteous manner a delegation from the Hunter Valley Research Foundation introduced by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and myself. The delegation was led by Professor Cyril Rennie. The delegation put forward to the Minister a scheme concerning the Patterson, Allyn, Williams and Hunter Rivers in that region. This scheme was the result of a careful study. It was a 5-year scheme that was to cost approximately $23,470,000. That may seem a big amount. If I may use the Australian vernacular, it sounds like a big bite of the Commonwealth Treasury purse.
Under the proposed scheme the State Government was to contribute $10,750,000, the Federal Government only $4,760,000 and private enterprise such as Broken Hill Pty Ltd, Stewarts and Lloyds (Aust.) Pty Ltd and the other big industries in the Hunter Valley region, with which the honourable member for Farrer Would be very conversant because he is an astute politician, were to contribute $6,660,000. Local instrumentalities and organisations were to contribute $1,360,000. Whilst they got a patient hearing and probably the most courteous ‘no’ that ever a Minister could give to such a courteous and talented delegation, I believe that the courtesy, skill and sincerity of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation has caused the Government to move in the direction that it is moving with this legislation. But it is not sufficient. I believe the legislation has been expeditied as a result of the activities of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation. The honourable member for Paterson did not pay this organisation a tribute but that was probably an innocent omission on his part. He has had a lot of worries of all sorts on his mind in recent times. I believe that at the appropriate time he will accord this worthy organisation the credit that it deserves.
The Hunter Valley Research Foundation, according to a book that I have before me, suggests the building on the farms of 2,000 large dams for irrigation and 3,000 stock ponds over 5 years. It states that 40 per cent of all water requirements in the Hunter Valley are met from groundwater. This booklet, which sets out a water plan for the Hunter Valley during the period 1966-71, mentions also river protection work and drainage and urban protection in Singleton - not referred to in the criticism of the honourable member for Paterson - and Maitland. It goes on to state that the finance needed for the 5 years is $23,470,000. It suggests that the State Government should allocate $8m for large dams, $860,000 foi farm dams, $1,810,000 for floods and drainage and $110,000 for special studies. Time will not permit me to refer ro all the information related by this very worthy organisation.
The honourable member for Paterson pointed out that recent floods in the Hunter Valley region cost approximately $20m. I do not dobut h in the absence of any figures to the contrary. But the largest and most devastating flood in the Maitland region was in 1955 or thereabouts. It was estimated by experts to have cost $30m. Reference has been made this evening by certain speakers to pumpkins, cauliflowers and the like floating down the river. 1 can remember when a beast, the subject of a cattle stealing charge, was washed away from a yard at the back of the Maitland police station, and to the amazement of most evenly balanced people it was found - you are aware of this location, Mr Speaker - at Broughton Island about 30 miles away. That is an indication of the force crf the water and the tide. I am glad that the Hunter Valley region has been shown more sympathy in this legislation, but it is still not enough in terms of the importance which this region plays in the Australian economy. I wholeheartedly support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson, lt is full of merit, richness and sincerity.
– As is usual when a matter of such vital importance to country electorates as this is being discussed in this House there is always a succession of Opposition speakers because the Government parties are not prepared to debate the issues. I see in the chamber tonight, apart from you, Mr Speaker, only a couple of members of the Liberal Party. The number has increased by one as I speak. Members of the Country Party are usually here but only in the physical sense. I rise to criticise the Government because it has been m office for so long and has done so little. It should be criticised and is deserving of criticism. Let members of the Government stand in this chamber and say what they have done in regard to the water problems of the Commonwealth over the years. I know it would not be fitting for me even to breathe the name of the proposed water storage in South Australia but I will mention the Ord River project. The word ‘Ord’ is almost a dirty 3-letter word so far as Government members are concerned.
Flood mitigation and the expenditure involved in flood mitigation in a country such as ours is in the long term a shocking waste of public funds and represents a shocking lack of foresight on the part of a Government that has been in office far too long. The northern rivers system of New South Wales has come to the attention of the House in this Bill because of the parochial attitude of some members of the Country Party. They are sitting here on my left. Their political attitude is of the extreme right. This afternoon they have said some of the most stupid things I have heard. I heard one honourable member who occupied the Chair during part of the debate - he later entered the debate - say that the whole thing should be left to local shire councils. He was beating his chest about this aspect of development being almost the optimum in his mind of what development should be. How in the name of goodness could he suggest that the Snowy River would have been harnessed as it has been if the work were left to the local shire councils which, today, are in financial difficulties because of the non-policies of the Government? That was a stupid contribution to this debate which, to some extent, is limited in nature. I repeat that in the long terms the money spent on flood mitigation will be squandered.
– The honourable member can interject because it does not rain often in his electorate so flood mitigation is of no concern to him. The fact is, if he has the nous to absorb it, that flood mitigation in a country such as Australia will, in the long term, represent a waste of finance. Australia is a dry continent. Australia should have a water conservation authority. The Government, by recent legislation, has wrecked the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. The Government has reduced the effectiveness of the Authority.
It will enable the Authority to undertake work overseas but it will strangle its operations in Australia. In conjunction with an examination of flood mitigation there should be an investigation of water conservation. What would be wrong with a thorough and proper examination by experts who, of course, are available to the Government and who can adequately measure water volumes that flow to the sea? Flood mitigation works will force water into the sea and in Australia this will be a tragedy. One of the major problems that will face humans in the not too distant future will be a shortage of water. Some countries are examining the possibility of re-using water waste from society. Indeed some countries are re-using such water. But in Australia we are living in the Dark Ages and are still chopping down trees and straightening out rivers enabling huge volumes of water to flow to the sea. It will not be long, of course, before we are considering plans for desalinating sea water for our very existence.
It is a shocking indictment of the Government that it has not carried out studies in that area of the Great Dividing Range where the rivers mentioned in this Bill have their source. Such a study resulted in the formation of the great Snowy Mountains scheme whereby vast quantities of water were impounded. If a similar study had been undertaken in the area now under discussion the necessary headworks and tunnelling would have been carried out and the flow of water would have been controlled. I challenge members opposite at any time to refute my suggestion that if a similar scheme had been undertaken in the Moonbi and Dorrigo Ranges we would have about 21 feet of water in the Darling River the whole year round. This would be achieved by turning the flow of some of the rivers. The Snowy River used to flood almost every year. It does not flood any more and the water flows to the west. This is the sort of thing about which this Government should be thinking. My suggestion would not embrace all the rivers mentioned in the Bill but it would most certainly take care of most of them.
It is shocking to have to sit in this chamber and listen to some of the arguments advanced by members of the Country Party. They are parochial in their attitude and yet they criticise comments made by members of the Opposition. Their criticism of a former member of the Opposition reveals their narrow political outlook for which they stand continually condemned. Everything to them must be political. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) is laughing. He really cannot afford to laugh because this afternoon there was quoted from the official records of the Parliament the attitude of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) on the subject of water conservation. Of course, subsequently members of the Country Party refuted that quotation. I have no doubt that my colleague, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), will have something to say about this in a few moments.
During the debate this afternoon and this evening mention has been made of $100m to be spent on flood mitigation, but little has been said about water conservation. Members opposite have spoken of the millions it has cost those engaged in agricultural pursuits in the areas which have suffered as a result of the Government’s inactivity. If we combined these two elements of finance the sum involved would be far greater than the amount it is proposed to expend to waste water. I support the amendment because it has, for its purpose, an attempt to force the Government to do. some constructive thinking about this measure. Members of the Government Parties have criticised the amendment as being irrelevant to the Bill. I do not agree with that, particularly as during the course of this debate members opposite have made comments that have not been entirely relevant. One member opposite dealt briefly with water resources. Another Government member was critical of one of my colleagues for daring to mention water conservation. This Bill will be passed because the Government has the numbers. This is a numbers game; it is a political game. People do not matter as people and rights do not matter as rights so long as Government members have their small-minded way with legislation which typifies their attitude. This is typical of other debates that have ensued during the 12 months that I have been a member. The fact is that in their condemnation of the amendment, Government members are condemning what should be a long range outlook on this problem. It seems to me that members opposite do not want to think about anything unless it is a narrow problem involving the small confines of their own electorates. This applies to all members of the Country Party. If the rabbits got up and barked members opposite would probably hop. That is their attitude. If someone raises a question in their electorates, members of the Country Party will raise it in the Parliament, but they are not prepared to look at anything from a national point of view. The former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), may well snigger with the honourable member for Angas (Mi Giles) who so often changes his mind. 11 he tried to change horses midstream as often as he changes his mind he certainly would not be . in this chamber today. The fact is that the Government has no plan for water conservation. It has no plan for almost anything. It has played politics for 20 long years and a pretty shocking show it has made of it.
– Sit down and stop playing.
– If it were not unparliamentary I would tell the honourable member the truth now. The fact is that he has no plan and his interjection confirms it. He ought to have enough courage as a member for the Government to stand and move that the debate be adjourned so that he can sit down and give some serious thought to the problem.
– He is incapable.
– He is overheard, but worst of all he is over here, but he may not be here for long. Why is it then that this Government has not embarked upon a plan? Because it is a government which is negative in its outlook on almost everything. It is a government of absolute, utter and disgraceful discrimination. It has been since it achieved office. It achieved office on that note and it will continue to be a government of discrimination. It has discriminated on almost every matter that has come before this House since it has been in office. It does not give a damn for the people when it discriminates in this way. It is discriminating in this Bill by confining the Bill to New South Wales.
I do not think we have much to worry about in the State from which I come in regard to flood mitigation. We had a flood of Liberals at one time; we even got rid of those. The fact is that South Australia has not that much water and that is why I have risen in this debate tonight. Looking at the problem from a national point of view, the Government is robbing some areas of South Australia of the possibility of getting water by squandering millions of dollars on a short term plan which it cannot get out of now. It has led men into a situation where it now has to do something to protect them, their wives and families and their properties. At the same time it is only because of the Government’s gross and utter neglect that this situation exists to-day. We see the resources of this country go to waste and our financial resources are also wasted. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) has the hide to stand here this afternoon and blame the late Ben Chifley for the lack of flood mitigation works in northern New South Wales in the 1950s. Ben Chifley certainly would not have been with us at the time to which the honourable member refers. The honourable member said to me that I was not in the House at the time-
– Ben Chifley died in 1951.
– The honourable member for Cowper should know that. His snide remark to me was: ‘You were not in the House then’. Neither was he in the darned place. Where does that get him. This is a classic illustration of the attitude of these people who have been in government far too long and who have done far too little.
– I rise to order. Would it be asking too much for the honourable member for Sturt to deal sometimes with the topic of flood mitigation in the Hunter Valley rather than elsewhere?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)There is no substance in the point of order.
– I rise to order, lt is obvious that the honourable member for Angas has not been listening.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Certainly there is no point of order.
– I rise to order. The Standing Orders rule the honourable member for Sturt out of order.
– I rise on a further point of order. I understand an important meeting of the Liberal Party is being held. Could you tell us- r
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Grayndler will resume his seat. I ask the honourable member for Sturt to confine his remarks to the Bill, which relates to certain flood mitigation works in New South Wales.
– Prior to being interrupted by a point of order taken by the honourable member for Angas, I had used the words ‘flood mitigation’ 3 times in 3 minutes. The Government is wasting money today with its long term view. As I said before, and for the honourable member’s benefit I will remind him, what the Government is doing today in the long term will be wasted because it is spending money on flood mitigation. If it had had sense over the last few years it would not be in this. The honourable member for Angas is always ready to say something in this chamber when I am on my feet. I do not know why. He seems to be completely tongue tied at other times. If he is so interested in what I am saying and if he wants to come across afterwards I will show him a plan and the facts put forward over the years in relation to the flood waters from the Northern Rivers. These show that what I said could be done, can be done. But the honourable member would not be interested because of his petty party outlook which has done nothing for flood mitigation in New South Wales. So send your political colleagues up to their electorates and let them beat the drum about what they are doing in in this Bill as much as they like, for as long as they like. The Government should be condemned today in this chamber. When those who will follow us in this chamber, when the honourable member for Angas and I have long gone, read history they will condemn honourable members opposite all the more for their utter and absolute stupidity. He, as a South Australian, should be more concerned than members from other neighbouring States of New South Wales. Obviously he is not because he cannot elevate his mind above his narrow political outlook both in the State and Federal spheres.
In conclusion, I support the amendment. It has been difficult to get a debate in this
House on water conservation and I have had to go off the track a little. I did this because the fellow who interjects so much, with his parliamentary colleagues, has prevented such a debate. The fact is that one of these days in the not distant future he, along with every other Government member in this place, will stand to be counted by his electors and I am quite sure the electors’ memories will be somewhat longer than the Government thinks. 1 urge the Government members in their sorrowful moment to support the amendment. This will mean that the Bill is carried but a national planning organisation, an all-party committee, will be set up. That is what the amendment says, no more and no less. The main thing is that honourable members opposite should be big enough to. recognise the Parliament as it ought to be recognised, to recognise that they have a responsibility to the whole of the country and to set up a joint committee of this House which would have the right to call evidence from wherever it sees fit on this most important question.
– I rise in this debate to fulfil 3 major tasks, the first of which is to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) on behalf of the Opposition. I want to refer particularly to some difficulties in the interpretation of history which seem to have occurred in the course of this debate. I want to deal with the role of the former member for Cowper, Mr Frank McGuren. Before I do that it would be as well if I reminded the House that the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in his second reading speech said very bluntly and simply - I am grateful for his brevity on this occasion - that the Bill is concerned to meet a request from the State of New South Wales for a grant under the Water Resources Development Programme of up to $9m for assistance with flood mitigation works on 11 New South Wales coastal rivers. A little later he said - and this is a point to which I want to draw the attention of the House because it is concerned with the history of this matter and perhaps what we should be thinking about for the future:
A fundamental feature of the arrangements is that the level of assistance to be provided to the local government authorities who are, of course, representative of the land owners and other people who are most intimately affected by floodings, will depend upon the amounts provided by the authorities themselves from their own resources towards the cost of flood mitigation works.
The Stale is to subsidise local authority expenditure at the rate of $3 for Si in the case of the Hunter River and $2 for $1 in other cases. The Commonwealth assistance will match the State contribution.
The beginning of this great effort to arrive at this measure was perhaps on 8th September 1962. I refer to that date because it is not a date which relates only to a Labor Party or Opposition move but also - I say this with charity - to a Country Party move in this matter. On that date the Grafton Branch of the Australian Country Party wrote a letter and I want to read an extract from that letter which is already recorded in Hansard. It reads:
Now that flood mitigation councils ure operating on several of the north coast rivers the value of the jobs they are doing is becoming more clear. The nation stands to gain much from the money invested in such works and this Branch resolves to approach the Federal Government with a request that they contribute on a £1 for £1 basis with the State Government to give the councils sufficient finance to expedite their programmes. We therefore ask your assistance in placing this request before the Federal Government.
That letter of 8lh September 1962 was addressed to the then honourable member for Cowper, Mr Frank McGuren. On 4th October 1962 he moved that the Government, as a matter of urgency, do something along the lines suggested by the Australian Country Party’s Grafton Branch. That motion was defeated by one vote. It was defeated after .the whole of the Opposition supported it - after many organs and members of the Country Party in thai region had supported it and had in fact asked the honourable member for Cowper at that lime to raise it and work for it.
The important aspect in this matter is the principles which were enunciated by the present Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party. In relation to efforts made by Mr Frank McGuren at that time. Mr Anthony - I use his name to establish clearly that the Deputy Prime Minister and the present Leader of the Country Party is Mr Anthony - said on 4th October 1962:
Yet this member for Cowper comes here and has the audacity to say that the Commonwealth Government should give money for flood control works.
He was horrified. The Deputy Prime Minister went on to say:
I am very sensitive about this mutter, because the county councils are being hoodwinked into thinking they should press the Commonwealth Government for money, . . 1 think that is clear enough. In fact the present Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Country Party was at that time opposed to this entire concept. He would have opposed every single tenet contained in the Bill now before the House and also the terms of its introduction by the Minister for National Development. In fact at that time he was talking about the sort of thing contained in this Bill and its concept when he said:
This would create a precedent for all time and the Commonwealth would be. obliged to enter the field of water conservation and of flood mitigation.
In other words at that time there was a complete opposition by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Country Party to this sort of measure and indeed to all similar measures. The honourable member for Cowper at that time, Mr Frank McGuren, and members of the Opposition stood firm and they pressed the case for legislation such as this. I suppose I would be lacking in charity if I did not congratulate the Minister for National Development, for defying all these things in history anld coming forward with this measure which we support.
– He has seen the light.
– As my distinguished colleague says, the Minister has seen the light. Having put the historical record straight, I move on to what is happening at the present time. There are some things that would be better to have cleared up in relation to this measure. The honourable member for Dawson referred specifically to the need for flood mitigation works on the Nambucca River. The present honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) dealt with this suggestion. 1 do not want to do him any injustice and if I misquote him I hope that he will correct me. 1 understood him to say that the New South Wales Government has made an investigation of flood mitigation possibilities on the Nambucca River. 1 understood him to say that that Government had made this investigation of the flood mitigation prospects for the Nambucca and that the Nambucca Shire Council had considered the report. 1 think that the honourable member said further that the Shire Council had decided against adopting that report and the indication was that nothing was needed or desired at the present time on the Nambucca River in terms of this legislation. I do not want to argue with the honourable member but I want to clarify this matter because I think it is a very important point. I ask the Minister for National Development to apply himself to this point when he replies in this debate.
Because of my natural interest in all these problems and because it is part of the national problem of flood mitigation, flood control and water conservation generally I visited the Nambucca area and I asked the Nambucca Shire Council to indicate to me precisely the present position. On 5th March 1971 the Nambucca Shire Clerk Mr J. Mattick wrote to me and said:
I enclose a copy of a letter which has been forwarded to the Department of Public Works.
He was kind enough to say that my interest was appreciated. The interesting point about the letter of 5th March 1971 sent to the New South Wales Department of Public Works is the contents. I think that the Minister should clear up the confusion which appears to exist because the Shire Clerk, on behalf of the Nambucca Shire Council in the letter to the Department of Public Works, said: Dear Sir.
Re: Flood Mitigation Scheme for the Nambucca River.
Council understands that Commonwealth legislation is being introduced to provide funds for flood mitigation programmes on coastal rivers and the Nambucca River has been excluded at this stage, lt is understood that investigation or the valley is to be undertaken this year. Council seeks clarification on whether it will be eligible for capital works if the investigation reveals that this is desirable, and of course, if the works as suggested are within Council’s capacity to meet by way of its share of contribution.
Your advices in Ibis regard will be appreciated.
We have here a clear interest of a council in flood mitigation, works on the Nambucca River. We have here a clear desire to enlist the aid of State and Federal authorities on a matter which every honourable member in this chamber has agreed is vital to
The appropriate department approaches the the survival of the prosperity of that region. I ask the Minister to direct his attention to this inquiry. There are two aspects in this matter. Firstly, the council has made an approach to the New South Wales Government. lt obviously expects that Government to approach the Commonwealth Government for the matter to go to the responsible Minister. If the Minister has not received this request I think we should know about it. I think the Minister should indicate what the answer is to this clear-cut query from the people in the Nambucca area. I hope that I read the letter slowly and precisely so that the Minister was able to get the import of their message.
The third task I have to undertake tonight is to support specifically the amendment moved by my colleague the honourable member for Dawson. That amendment ment states that flood control is only one part of the overall approach that we should be making to national disasters in Australia. Let us be quite clear on this. We have national disasters somewhere in this nation all the time. Sometimes they occur in this Parliament, but I do not think they are covered by this legislation or that they can be covered by any other legislation. In a time of drought, flood or fire at some time there is involvement by someone in this continent. We say as a matter of policy that there should be a national disaster organisation. It has been said by those on the Government side that all is well and there is no need to concern ourselves with any more than what is being done. We say that this is just not the case. In fact the long chain of bureaucracy which has to be followed, which has to be abided by under the present ad hoc system, is such that it creates hardships.
Let me indicate what happens when there is a national disaster. I will leave aside the fact that civil defence can come to the aid of the people. I am talking about the rehabilitation of areas. What happens in the normal course of events? In the normal course of events there is a fire, flood or bush fire. It is beyond the capacity of a hard pressed State to meet the demands placed upon it. So what does the State do? Premier of the State and says, ‘Mr Premier, this is the situation. We will need these funds.’ The Premier then says: ‘We had better seek them because we have not got them because of the financial stringencies which have gone on for so many years. We must seek them from the Commonwealth.’ So a letter is addressed from the Premier to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister receives it and refers it to the appropriate Minister of State who refers it to his department which examines it and makes a recommendation. If it is favourable it goes back to the Prime Minister who refers it to the Treasury which then makes a determination and it goes back to the Prime Minister. This is the long bureaucratic chain. Of course, the departments could come back with the wrong recommendation and so work in the disaster area, wherever it may be, is suspended.
We propose that instead of this ad hoc approach there should be proper organisation, a proper drill. We have said that we are pledged to do just this. We have made the pledge and it is associated with our amendment. We say that we should set up a national crop and stock insurance corporation which would take so much of the hardship out of industries such as the dried fruits industry and the canned fruits industry which, with great regularity, find themselves in trouble. We have said that these are the things that we want to do. So we have said to the Parliament as a whole, I thought in an atmosphere of reasonableness, that these are our policies. We invite the Government to support them and indeed to do more than that. We ask the Government perhaps to suspend its judgment on these matters while we explore the detail of their possible operation. So by this amendment we have sought the interest in the Parliament - the interest of all sides and all sections of the Parliament - in order to make our proposals, which we will implement sooner or later, better for the combined consideration that we hope will be given by the members of this Parliament and by all of the specialist agencies upon which a select committee would be able to call.
I think that the amendment is a supremely reasonable one. It is not just a case of rescuing somebody from the rooftop of a flooded house. It is not just a case of providing these matching grants to some authorities in some river valleys. What we say is: Let us take this opportunity in the national Parliament to look at the nation as a whole and to say that as disaster is endemic in our continent, let us provide for it, let us have a drill. We have 2 policies which we will implement. We say to the Government: ‘Let us have your help and assistance in approaching them.’ I think that is a supremely reasonable approach. Therefore, I commend the amendment to the House, but I would also ask specifically that the Minister for National Development address himself to the expressed concern of the people of Nambucca, Macksville and the area generally. I ask the Minister to deal with this matter specifically and clearly in his reply to this debate.
I would say that the absence and silence of the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country Party this evening perhaps indicates his support for our amendment. Therefore, we may be grateful that he has accepted the case which was put forward so eloquently many years ago by Mr Frank McGuren, which was supported by the Opposition and which is now embraced in our amendment.
– We are discussing the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill 1971. This is a specific Bill before the House tonight. I think that the deciding factor in ascertaining whether the case which the Australian Labor Party advances is legitimate is the question: Will Labor support the Bill? Will it vote against the Bill? This is the question. As I have said, this is a specific Bill. No self respecting Government will allow an Opposition to take the business of the House out of its hands. I can assure honourable members opposite that the Government has self respect and it has respect for the nation, otherwise it would not have been returned to office again and again over the last 21 years. After all, the Labor Party praises the great political sense of the Australian people, but then it turns around and says: ‘This Government has done all sorts of wrong. It is not worthy of its place.’ How did the Government get its place as the government in the community in this democratic country? It was by the vote of the people.
If the Government had been as bad as the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) said it had been - and that was one of the worst speeches I have heard on this subject in this House; he got right away from the Bill and condemned the Government - how could it have survived for all of those years? Abraham Lincoln said that you cannot fool all the people all the time. He was right, and there has been no fooling of the people in this country because the Government has brought down legislation which the people supported. Now the Labor Party said! - and I am answering what has been said - that at election time the Government brings forward a gimmick. Was there ever a greater gimmick than the Labor Party brought forward when it introduced the Snowy Mountains legislation? The Labor Party turned the first sod. Which Government raised all the money and got from overseas all the big earth moving equipment and did the job in the Snowy Mountains? It was this Government. The people throughout the Murrumbidgee area and right down through the Murray River area which is in the electorate that I represent are appreciative of the great work that has been done by this Government. Labor did nothing whatsoever concerning the Snowy Mountains except turn the first sod. At the next election which was held on J 10th December 1949 - a month or so after the Snowy Mountains scheme was announced - Labor was thrown out of office, and it has been out of office ever since.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Order! I point out to the honourable member for Mallee that the Bill does not deal with the Snowy Mountains scheme, it deals with a number of rivers and is concerned with the flood mitigation scheme in New South Wales. I ask the honourable member to return to the Bill.
- Sir, I was only asking you. for guidance, whether I could deal with the subject in the same way as the honourable member for Sturt dealt with it. All 1 am seeking is your guidance. After all, the honourable member for Sturt condemned this Government roundly, and as he did that I have the right to put forward what this Government really has done. Surely 1 am allowed to do that. Anyway, let roe move on. Honourable members opposite say that the question of irrigation should have been brought into the flood mitigation scheme. Australia is a great irrigation country, lt has some 3,357,000 acres of land under irrigation. About two thirds of the irrigation is along the Murray River and its tributaries, including the Murrumbidgee which flows through the States of New South Wales Victoria and South Australia. In these areas irrigation is used to produce many crops.
When the honourable member for Sturt rose to speak he said that as he was the second speaker in succession on the Opposition side, why was not the Government putting up its speakers? He said that members of the Labor Party have to speak on anything concerning primary industry. I say to him that he should look at the debates recorded in Hansard on wheat, wool, dried fruits and any other product one likes to mention. He will see that after about three or four speakers the Labor Party has run out of speakers because its members do not have any knowledge of the subject. We hear speeches from members, like the honourable member for Sturt who made a speech in which he merely condemned the Government. He did not put forward anything concerning the subject of the debate before us at the present time.
I do not want to make a long speech on this Bill, to which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has moved an amendment. As the Bill refers specifically to New South Wales I was hesitant about speaking on it. If I read the Bill correctly, it refers to the northern rivers of New South Wales.
– Does the honourable member not want the Government to do something for his electorate?
– I am asked whether I think that the Government should do something about my electorate. I do not use the words ‘my electorate’ to refer to the Mallee electorate. It is the electorate that I represent. One might say what a ridiculous thing it is for any member to rise in this House and talk about ‘my own electorate*. The electorate that I represent is named Mallee. It is no more my electorate than it is the electorate of anyone else. I have represented it for the last 25 years. That is the position.
The Government has done an amazing amount over the years for this electorate. It has helped to provide the area with water to build up the great Sunraysia dried fruits area which produces 75 per cent of the whole dried fruits pack in Australia. The Government has done a magnificent job in regions such as the Murrumbidgee irrigation area in New South Wales. Consider the millions and millions of dollars that the present Federal Government raised for use in constructing the Snowy Mountains project. Yet, the Labor Party claims credit for that scheme. The Government has done a magnificent job.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I remind you of the fact that I was elected to this House on 9th February 1946. I entered the House when the Parliament met shortly afterwards. Are you aware of the fact, Sir, that I had to urge the then Labor Government to do something about the Snowy Mountains scheme? The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is shaking his head. Is the honourable member saying my statement is not correct? If so, I invite him to read Hansard. I never make a statement in this House unless I know that I can back it up to the hilt by reference to Hansard or otherwise. Labor decided later to turn the first sod on this project.
The main point that I wish to make in referring to this Bill is that it is a measure that has been asked for by the Government of New South Wales. The New South Wales Government approved of this legislataion The Bill is now before the House for its approval. I do not think that the Labor Party will vote against this Bill. Nor will the Labor Party condemn the Government in regard to this scheme. The dilemma that faced the Labor Party was that it might have to vote for this progressive Bill that will help with flood mitigation and at the same time probably help with irrigation and water conservation without making any other move. Suddenly, the Labor Party had an idea. This was that it would move an amendment which, if carried, would take the operation of this scheme completely out of the hands of the Government. But the Labor Party will not be successful.
State governments have big schemes of all types for irrigation purposes. Flood miti gation is not proposed everywhere because some places do not suffer from floods as much as others. This is so in my own area. But we have irrigataion projects. The Government is always watchful on this subject and is always willing to meet the State governments with a $1 for a $1 subsidy or a specified amount for each $1 raised by a State government. These subsidies are payable in respect of such projects as the Dartmouth Dam scheme. In fact, the Government is supplying most of the money by far for the Dartmouth Dam scheme. So no-one can turn to the Government and say that it does not believe in irrigation.
The name of the Deputy. Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, has been mentioned in the debate. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) seemed to indicate that the present Deputy Prime Minister was leader of the Country Party at the time when Mr McGuren was a member of this House. He was not. I was a member of this House when Mr McGuren was here. Certain things that have been said regarding what the present Deputy Prime Minister is alleged to have said have been denied on 3 or 4 occasions. It is a very easy thing in this House for a member to take a small piece of a speech out of its context in Hansard and quote that section in the House. That is what has been done tonight. The piece quoted reads as though the member speaking meant a certain thing. If only that part of the speech is read, that can be the case. Honourable members opposite seem to think that they can use quotations out of context to condemn people. This is what has been happening tonight on quite a few occasions. It is completely wrong in every way for any honourable member to do such a thing.
I turn to the speech made by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster). Actually, I think that 1 can leave the subject of his speech because, as I have said, the Australian people are politically conscious of what is happening in this country.
Mention was made of the alleged narrow, parochial attitude of the Country Party. The Australian Country Party stands Cor the main factors in our national wealth. That is the clipping of the golden fleece, the harvesting of the golden grain, and the cultivation of the countless other products of the soil. We stand for rural and primary industries. We believe that by fostering them we may have a chance of keeping people from drifting to the cities. For the honourable member who repersents a city electorate of Adelaide to rise and say that the Country Party has a parochial view is so ridiculous that perhaps I should not comment on it. Will the Labor Party vote for the Bill if it loses the vote on its amendment? This will be the deciding factor because the amendment to the Bill which is not opposed by the Opposition is only put up by the honourable member for Dawson in an endeavour to take attention away from the Labor Party when it was supporting something that has been approved by the State and Federal Governments, and something that has been introduced into this House in the best interests of New South Wales and the Commonwealth of Australia.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise because I can recollect that you, the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate), the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) who is now the Deputy Prime Minister - I agree with the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) on that point - the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), the former honourable member for Cowper and 1 were the 6 members of this Parliament who travelled as a parliamentary delegation, to the areas devastated by flood waters in 1963. As a result of that visit and subsequent report, the first legislation to assist in flood mitigation works on various rivers in the northern part of New South Wales was introduced. 1 think that any fair person - and I am afraid that the honourable member for Mallee was not noted for his impartiality in the past - would agree that the original concept of legislation to enable the Commonwealth to provide assistance for flood mitigation was put forward by Frank McGuren who, in 1963, was the member for Cowper and that subsequent flood mitigation legislation will always stand as a monument to him. The present honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) was not a member of this House at that time. To my knowledge he was not even known at that time as a candidate for the electorate and he did not play any prominent part in the consideration of the legislation which came before this House. The fact is that it was Mr Frank McGuren who proposed this scheme. I state this explicitly because I have known Frank for many years. I shared an office with him in this House. 1 worked with him in his area. As an official of the Australian Labor Party in later years I knew him very well indeed.
– Look out or the ALP will run him again as the Labor candidate.
– The honourable member should be careful. We might do that.
– I wish you would.
– Without any doubt whatever the first person to formulate the principle that the Commonwealth should assist with flood mitigation was Frank McGuren. Because the 1963 election was in the offing - it was held some months later - and the Government had an overwhelming desire to regain the seat that because its loss was like a thorn in the side of the Country Party, the Government finally adopted the policy that Frank McGuren has espoused over the years. This was an effort to use the proposal as a political gimmick to win that electorate. I spoke on that Bill in this House at that time. [ spoke also on the various matters of public importance that were proposed for discussion when we advocated this scheme before the Government adopted what was the policy of the Australian Labor Party or Frank McGuren on it.
I state quite explicitly now as I said at that time that the legislation does not go far enough. For instance, it did not touch on the Hawkesbury River itself. 1 am pleased to see that in 1971, 8 years later, the Government has decided to give something to the Hawkesbury area.
– You were not here in 1961.
– I was here in 1961. You see, you have a lot to learn.
– There was no Bill in 1963.
– I am speaking from memory, and I can be checked on this. This
Bill was introduced in 1963. The honourable member for Cowper, Mr Deputy Speaker, does not even know when this legislation was first introduced to assist his electorate. That is how much he knows about when this matter first came before the Parliament. He does not even know the date. I can give from the top of my head the date when it first came before the Parliament. I am glad to see that the matter has now been brought before this Parliament and that assistance is to be given to the Hawkesbury River area to the extent of $2,060,000. I think this is important because the Hawkesbury River is admired as being one of the most beautiful rivers in Australia and indeed one of the most beautiful rivers in the world. This area is the main supplier of vegetables to Sydney. When one sees the damage that has been done to the Hawkesbury River through flood it becomes obvious that the time has come for something to be done to overcome this problem. Apparently the honourable member for Cowper does not even know when the legislation was introduced, although he accuses me of not knowing the history of the legislation. I do not think he can know much about it if he does not even know when it came into being.
It is a pity that some notice was not taken of the attitude of the Opposition ranks or of the policies of the Austraiian Labor Party in those days. Assistance was not given to the Hawkesbury area at that time. Of course, it is equally a great pity that people like the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) cannot go back - I will not say to his electorate - to the electorate he represents and say to the people that he represents: ‘Well, the Government has now at last decided to give assistance in my electorate as well. We will not touch just the rivers of New South Wales; we will look at the rivers of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.’ Evidently quite a good job has been done. Of course, this legislation basically deals only with the rivers of New South Wales. Despite the bluster of the honourable member for Mallee I think there is no doubt that he will be very pleased indeed that he can go at last to his electorate, or should I say the electorate that he represents-
– You speak of your electorate too.
– No. I speak of the electorate 1 represent. The honourable member for Mallee can go back to the electorate which he represents and say to his people: T have at last managed to do the right thing by you.’ I can say now that the Government which of course we have to say he represents - of which he is a partner - has now decided to give assistance in the electorate which he represents.
For that reason the Australian Labor Party has moved the following amendment:
Whilst welcoming the proposal for the purpose of flood mitigation works in New South Wales, this House is of opinion that the assistance offered is inadequate and should form part of a larger scheme to deal with national disaster and that, accordingly, a joint select committee of the Parliament should be appointed to inquire into the practicability of the establishment of a national disaster organisation.
I suggest to the honourable member for Mallee that he ought to support that amendment. I think it is an admirable proposition which would assist the electorate he represents. Quite obviously, if the honourable member has a conscience, he should give the amendment his complete support. My main point is that I welcome the fact that something is at last being done for the Hawkesbury River area. I think it is a pity that this was not done 8 years ago when we asked this Parliament to do something about this area. I believe that the great damage and devastation which has been done to one of the most beautiful rivers, if not the most beautiful river, in Australia because of the floods which have occurred since that time would not have occurred if the proposals of the Australian Labor Party had been agreed to. I believe that a great loss of property and of crops which the area supplies to the Sydney metropolitan area, together with economic damage, would not have occurred had the Government taken steps 8 years ago to implement the policy advocated by the Labor Party.
I believe also that the Bill does not go far enough. I strongly agree with the amendment. The honourable member for Mallee may recollect that in 1962 and 1963 I was a strong advocate of a national disaster fund and of other proposals. I asked for an inquiry into this matter by way of question to the then Prime Minister and by question to the responsible Minister. I dealt with this matter in debates in this House and during the adjournment debates It ls obvious that sooner or later we must face up to the issue that floods, bushfires and various other national disasters must become a national responsibility. The Commonwealth Parliament must fact up to that responsibility. Finally, I would like to say again, even though I may have hurt the feelings of the honourable member for Cowper, that I shared an office with Frank McGuren who was the member for Cowper in 1963. I have known Frank McGuren for many many years. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) and I sat and discussed all of the problems with him. Together with the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), who is at present in the Chair, the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) and the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mt Anthony), who was then a private member. 1 went to a parliamentary delegation to the flood affected areas of that time. We landed m Grafton. The Labor Party members of that delegation had already spoken on the matter a number of times. Frank McGuren in particular had issued warnings on the issue. We were able to come back to this Parliament and enunciate a policy, from memory, in the last couple of months before the election. Because the Government had a snap election on its hands is decided that it wanted to use our policy as a political gimmick. Whether Government supporters like it or not, that was the wedge; that was when the breakthrough occurred. That was the time when the principle was adopted even though the amount was faT too small. At that time the legislation did not go far enough. As I have said, it did not touch the Hawkesbury River or other rivers. The legislation did not go beyond the State of New South Wales. However, at least the breakthrough occurred and the principle was adopted This is why I say that the principle of Commonwealth assistance for flood mitiga tion will always, whether Frank McGuren returns to this House or not, be a monument to Frank McGuren, the member for Cowper between 1961 and 1963.
– in reply - In the second reading speech I indicated to the House the importance of this measure. It was pleasing to see during the debate that, apart from one exception, all the speakers have indicated strong support for the Bill and the basic proposals. In relation to the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) this, as he would really understand, is not acceptable to the Government and I am sure it will not be acceptable to the House. There are a number of special reasons why it would be completely unacceptable. The first important reason is that it would mean considerable delay if we were to withdraw the Bill or what flowed from the Bill. It would mean a delay of some considerable time - perhaps years - while a joint select committee of the Parliament took the time to investigate the matter and make certain recommendations.
This is a measure which is of vital importance and on which we have already given undertakings to the Government of New South Wales and to the local authorities concerned. We could not accept any delay, as would be implicit in acceptance of the proposed amendment. The second thing is that it is basically not applicable to this measure, because the question of setting up of a disaster fund or setting up a committee to investigate the establishment of such an organisation has no real direct relationship to the measure that is before the House. It is something that could be brought up in some other context, but certainly it has no direct relationship to the measure before the House. I know that the honourable member for Dawson really understands that position. So for those 2 basic reasons the amendment is not acceptable.
During his comments the honourable member for Dawson asked for information regarding benefits, or whether any benefit study had been made, of the previous programme of flood mitigation in the coastal rivers area of New South Wales. The information which we have and which has been provided in the memorandum refers mainly to the area of responsibilities and the overall benefits that have accrued as far as the area is concerned. I think that during the debate it has been brought out very clearly that there is strong support for the measures that have been undertaken and a desire to see that they are continued, as proposed in this Bill. Even if it were possible to indicate a cost benefit analysis in relation to the rural areas, this could not have been done in the time. Perhaps at some time in the future it may be possible for such a cost benefit study to be undertaken. If it is possible 1 will certainly see that something is done about it. But sufficient time has not elapsed since the initial work was undertaken and the proportion of work that has been undertaken in relation to rural areas is such that we could not provide sufficient information at this point of time.
The honourable member for Dawson also asked in relation to this and other matters associated with water conservation or flood mitigation that regular progress statements be made to Parliament. I did interject and say that I would certainly see that this was done. It is my intention this year to introduce for the first time an annual report to the Parliament from my Department. Up to the present time there have been annual reports from the various authorities associated with the Department but there has not been a special report by the Department itself. I feel that the stage has been reached when there are sufficient matters of great moment and importance to report regularly to this Parliament and that we should have an annual report of the Department of National Development presented. For the first occasion I will be presenting an annual report this year. It will contain reference to expenditure on flood mitigation, water conservation and matters of that nature. This will give the opportunity for discussion to flow from it in the Parliament. This, being an annual report, means that at regular intervals each year these matters will be covered.
The honourable member for Dawson also indicated that he had in mind an extension of this flood mitigation scheme beyond the rivers of New South Wales to other areas in Australia. It has been made clear under the national water resources development programme, the fund which has been established by the Government for the second 5-year period, that it will cover flood mitigation works. The expenditure in the Bill will come out of that fund. If there are proposals by other States in other areas and they are given priority by the States concerned the matter will receive consideration for expenditure under the fund that has already been established. I thank the honourable member for Dawson for .his reference to the explanatory memorandum which has been attached to this measure. It is an innovation which, as he has indicated, is a fairly recent one. 1 can assure him that it will be continued in the future. We have introduced it in relation to water conservation and flood mitigation matters which come, by way of legislation, before the Parliament. I will be examining the possibility of extending this system to other matters. However, I can give the honourable member an assurance that this type of information system will continue.
The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) referred to a proposal for the extension of the flood mitigation scheme to cover the Nambucca River. I understand that at the Committee stage an amendment will be moved by the honourable member for Dawson in relation to this matter. As it has been mentioned during this debate I think I should draw attention to the basic fact that these proposals are not initiated by the Commonwealth. They go to the State through the local authorities concerned and the organisations set up by those local authorities, and are submitted on a basis of priority by the State for consideration for Commonwealth assistance. This was done in the previous scheme. It has been done in the new scheme which is covered by the measure before the House. The honourable member for Riverina referred to some correspondence relating to the Nambucca proposal. I have not seen the correspondence in relation to it. However, if any proposals are submitted by the New South Wales Government in relation to this proposal supported by local authorities for consideration under the national water resources development fund in the future, and if they are given the appropriate priority by the New South Wales Government, they will be considered under the fund. But at the moment it is not part of the present scheme which now covers, with the additional 5 rivers, the 11 major rivers in New South Wales.
Finally I would like to touch on the question raised by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). He emphasised that there had been some delay in this matter being dealt with by the Commonwealth. I can assure him that there has been no delay because, as the Bill clearly states, it is dated back to cover a 7-year period commencing 1st July 1969, and funds will be appropriated to cover that particular period, as required and requested by the State. Following the usual procedure, after the submission has been made by the State to the Commonwealth we must go through the procedure of examining the situation. A formula of investigation is followed. It was done in this case in exactly the same way as in all other cases under the national water resources development scheme. When the investigations were completed and all the information had been provided by the local authorities and by the New South Wales Government last year I had the opportunity of announcing publicly that the Commonwealth would approve the proposal and it would be ratified by legislation at the first opportunity. The legislation was prepared last year and we have had the opportunity now early this year of introducing it into Parliament. In other words, the scheme is continuing on from the previous scheme and there will be no delay in the work continuing beyond that. What funds are required to cover the period back to July 1969 will be authorised when this measure passes through both Houses. I do again commend the Bill to the House and for the reasons I have stated the Government cannot accept the proposed amendment.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr Patterson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I move in relation to clause 3:
That the clause be postponed- as an instruction to the Government:
To amend the clause to include the Nambucca River in the definition of ‘prescribed river’.
The reasons for this amendment were debated during the second reading stage but to be more specific I refer to the definition of a “prescribed river’. The definition clause names certain rivers. The Opposition wishes to include in this definition of prescribed river’ the Nambucca River. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) said that the Nambucca Shire Council did not wish to be included in this scheme. I think he said this was because it would nol be in the best interests of the rate payers. The honourable member for Riverina (Mt Grassby) has quoted a letter from the Nambucca Shire Clerk in which it is made quite clear that the Nambucca Shire Council would like to participate in this scheme, lt is obvious that there is superficial evidence of siltation in the Nambucca River. On the other hand it is clear also that if detailed investigations have nol been made they should be made. I ask the Minister whether, if this amendment is defeated, the State Government in the next 5 years will approach the Federal Government if the detailed survey shows there is a case for the inclusion of the Nambucca River in the definition of prescribed river’.
What concerns me is a basic difference between the approach of the Opposition and the approach of the Government to Federal funds for development. The Minister indicated that the priorities are determined by the States. In other words, if the State does not want to put forward this proposal, irrespective of how good it might be in comparison with others, it therefore cannot be considered. Instead of the States putting forward priorities which can be heavily influenced by politics, I believe that the correct approach of the Federal Government always should be to invest its money in those projects which will give the greatest return, to the nation. That is why I have always stated that instead of waiting for the States to put forward their priorities based on qualitative terms, the correct way to invest Federal funds is for the Commonwealth to play a national role in planning and to put forward Commonwealth priorities based on a national viewpoint rather than a State viewpoint or a regional viewpoint. I hope that we are not to hear mentioned too often again that unless a State puts forward a priority we cannot consider a project which may have a high priority for development.
I have mentioned several times that, for example, in my State, where there is a great tendency to put forward priorities for water conservation not based on economic considerations but frequently based on the whims of politicians, this is not the way to develop a nation in the best interests of the people. Therefore I hope that serious considerataion will be given to including the Nambucca River in this scheme. We are told that a survey will be carried out. If this amendment is defeated I hope this will not inhibit the Nambucca River being included in the national water resources development programme even though it is not included in this Bill. The Nambucca Shire is desirous of it being included. There is evidence of heavy siltation in the estuary. There is evidence also of periodic floods in that area and there is evidence that flood mitigation work is needed. Those are the precise reasons why the Opposition has moved this amendment. But I again make the qualification that if this amendment is defeated I hope it will not mean that for the next 5 years we will not see any amendments to this programme which will exclude not only the Nambucca River but all other rivers in the eastern part of New South Wales.
I am pleased to hear the Minister say that the Government will consider any other flood mitigation programme that is put forward by the States. It will consider programmes relating to not only New South Wales or the eastern areas of New South Wales but also the central and western areas of New South Wales, northern New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. This to me is a constructive move.
– One of the weirdest statements I have ever heard in my life is the statement by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that we should take over the financing of flood mitigation, feasibility tests and all the associated work from the States. This would be to the detriment of the States. Who would be better equipped to do this than the States? It would appear from what the honourable member for Dawson was stating that the States were not supplying any money, lt would appear from what he suggests that the Commonwealth Government would have to supply all the money or request the local government authority to do so.
I well remember when an earlier agreement was brought to this House and I asked the then Treasurer why the Hawkesbury River was not included in the scheme of things. I was told that it was simply because the New South Wales Government had not included it. On making inquiries from the New South Wales Government I learned from the then Premier, Mr Jack Renshaw, that better things were intended by the State Government for the Hawkesbury River. But, of course, this never eventuated. Because of representations that I made the Hawkesbury River is now included in the terms of this Bill. It does seem odd that the honourable member for Dawson should advocate that this Parliament should take over from the States, should take no notice of what they say, and should spend money on rivers not recommended by the State governments. I cannot understand his reasoning in this respect. It seems to me to be utterly foolish, and I must oppose the amendment.
– I just want to point out briefly that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), speaking on behalf of the Opposition, has been completely misunderstood by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin). We have two major points with which I hope the Minister will deal quite specifically and without allowing any extraneous matter to enter into the debate at the Committee stage. The first thing that we are concerned about is that the Nambucca people should have the right to participate in the benefits of the S9m scheme. The second point put forward by the honourable member for Dawson on behalf of the Opposition is in relation to other rivers. What form of approach will the Government take if our amendment in general terms is defeated? Will it exclude these rivers from the scheme?
What we are anxious to do is to open this scheme to these people in a general way. We are not saying that anyone should or should not be forced to take part in it. What we are saying is that we have a $9m scheme and we are concerned because there is an authority which has already moved, which has shown an interest in and a desire for flood mitigation. If the Government defeats the Opposition amendment will these other rivers be excluded from the scheme? Will it be necessary to introduce new legislation specifically for Nambucca? Our second point is this: In relation to other streams, other rivers and other desirable mitigation schemes, what course will need to be followed? I think the Minister should tell the Committee at this stage exactly what is in his mind and the Government’s mind in relation to these two major points. I think he can see what we are trying to do. We are trying to be helpful and constructive on this issue at the Committee stage.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that in the interests of the electors of Nambucca, which is in my electorate of Cowper, he should seriously consider withdrawing his amendment. He should do so on the ground, as I mentioned earlier in this House, that there has not been a detailed investigation into the flood mitigation possibilities on the Nambucca River. It is true that discussions of a very preliminary nature did take place between State Government authorities and the shire council. In those discussions reference was made to the problem of any cost implication as far as ratepayers are concerned. As I understand it, the view was expressed by the council that it did not wish to become involved in a scheme if it would place a burden upon its ratepayers. It reasoned that there is no major flood problem on the Nambucca River. There is no inundation of property or other effects as is the case on other rivers. Notwithstanding this, however, because of river bank erosion and evidence which justified certain conservation work, it was thought fit that further investigations should be made by the New South Wales departments concerned, mainly, of course, the Department of Conservation. 1 understand that these investigations will be carried out.
It would be quite wrong for us arbitrarily and without authority to include the Nambucca River in a programme of flood mitigation works by supporting the amendment because, firstly, there is no estimate of the cost of the proposal and, secondly, there is no firm arrangement between the council and the New South Wales Government. In other words, we would be usurping their rights if in this Parliament we took action along the lines suggested by the honourable member for Dawson. Another factor to be taken into account is the position of the adjoining shire of Bellingen in respect of the Bellingen River flood mitigation proposal which will involve a total expenditure of $810,000. The Bellingen shire council has, by resolution, decided thai it docs not wish to participate in the scheme, and the question of how this matter will be disposed of arises.
I believe that it would be quite wrong to support the amendment which simply highlights the political manoeuvring that has been attempted this evening by the Opposition in relation to this matter. The Opposition has failed to recognise the fundamental approach originally made with local government, through the proper processes of local government, by numerous conferences. Officers who were appointed to deal with these matters drew up firm proposals with estimates of costs properly assessed and based upon calculations made as a result of engineering surveys and so forth. There was no mystery about the original proposals. They did not emanate merely from some political discussion. They came from a basie approach contained in what was known, at the time, as the Salter report. This report was prepared by a most worthy local government clerk, with the assistance of all the local governments interested in this matter. His work was so outstanding that he was subsequently recognised in an Honours List. If my memory serves me correctly, he was awarded an M.B.E. chiefly because of his efforts in this field. Mr Salter passed on a couple oi years ago. He has not been mentioned in this debate. I mention him now because his report is so relevant to what we are now discussing, namely, a proposal that we should initiate in this Parliament something that involves local and State governments, when in fact, the move should undoubtedly come from them initially. I suggest, in all seriousness, to the honourable member for Dawson that in the interests of the people he, apparently falsely, believes he wants to help, he should withdraw his amendment.
– J should like to make one final point to clarify the Opposition’s position in this matter. What we are proposing is in no way binding on the local authority concerned. What we have said, in effect, is that should the current investigations prove that there is a firm basis for a flood mitigation scheme and the council concerned decides that that basis is acceptable and it wants to participate, it should be able, under this legislation, to proceed. We are not by any means attempting to take anything away from the basic decision of local government. We are trying to ensure that, if local government at Nambucca makes a decision to proceed, under this legislation it can do so. That is the only point that is before the Committee.
– The matter has been dealt with very capably by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson). He stated the position very clearly. There is only one other point that 1 would like to stress and that is that apparently the Opposition, in its desire to be constructive - and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) has claimed it desires to be constructive - has overlooked the fact that if this amendment were carried as an instruction to Parliament to incorporate it in the existing legislation this Bill would have to be withdrawn and the matter would have to be referred back to the State Government for consideration by the State and by the local authorities concerned because there is no appropriation for this. The total amount that has been allocated has been worked out after negotiation and consultation with the State authorities and with the local authorities concerned. The 1 1 rivers, including 5 additional major rivers, have been included in this measure for the 7- year period. If the amendment were carried the matter would have to go back to the authorities concerned to discuss the inclusion of an additional river and to see whether some further appropriation could be made.
I suggest to the Opposition that, if it desires to see that this matter is handled constructively, it should not pursue this amendment to a vote. If it does it will be indicating that it wishes to delay rather than to assist the passage of the measure.
The honourable member for Riverina was not in the House when I answered, during the second reading debate, the question that he raised as to whether Nambucca could be considered under the national water resources development scheme if it were put to us on a priority basis by the State in the future. The answer is: Yes, the national water resources fund is set up to include works for flood mitigation purposes. The proposals must be submitted on a priority basis by the States concerned. Flood mitigation schemes on major rivers in New South Wales have to be initiated by organisations of the local authorities, in consultation with the State authorities, and eventually the State makes a submission to us under this scheme. I ask the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) to consider this matter very carefully because I am sure that, if he wishes to be constructive, he will withdraw this amendment.
– The main point that the Opposition is making has been answered by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in that the Bill makes no specific provision for the inclusion of rivers such as the Nambucca River. The Minister has made it clear that, if the detailed survey which is to be carried out shows that there is a case for its inclusion, if the local authorities want it included, as has been indicated by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), and if the State authorities want it included, the Commonwealth will give serious consideration to its inclusion. Our reason for including it as an amendment was to get from the Government an undertaking that it would be included if there is a case for its inclusion. The Bill contains no specific provision for any further addendum as regards the inclusion of a river such as the Nambucca. The Opposition has no intention of withdrawing the amendment. This is an expression which we wanted included specifically in the debate on this subject.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) - by leave - read a third time.
-I have received the following letter:
Dear Mr Speaker,
I want to say how sorry 1 am for my conduct in the Press gallery this afternoon and to express my deep and sincere regrets. Mr Speaker, I apologise unreservedly to you and to the House for an impulsive remark. I assure you of my highest regard for the House and all it stands for.
Yours sincerely. Alan Ramsey
– Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence to ask whether Mr Ramsey’s pass has been restored or is the position still as you stated it to be this afternoon?
– The situation is that Mr Ramsey will still be entitled to go into the Press Gallery.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 March 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710309_reps_27_hor71/>.