22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator COLE presented a petition signed by 493 citizens of the district known as Newnham, Treherne and Mayfield, about 5 miles from Launceston, Tasmania, praying that the Parliament take action to ensure that a full official post office is granted to the district.
Petition received and read.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform me whether there is any conflict between the provisions of the Snowy Mountains agreement recently made between New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth, and the River Murray Waters Agreement that was made originally many years ago between New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Commonwealth? Is there any danger that under the Snowy Mountains agreement South Australia might lose benefits to which it is entitled? Have there been any discussions or conferences to ensure that if there are any such complicacations they will be resolved?
– There has been a series of conferences over recent weeks, the last of which was held last Monday in Melbourne. It was attended by representatives of the River Murray Commission and there were available for consultation representatives of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority and also, I understand, the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. Following that meeting, the River Murray Commission made some recommendations to me in my capacity as president of the River Murray Commission. I do not think it would be proper for me to canvass the nature of the recommendations, except to say that they do not contemplate any alteration of the Snowy Mountains agreement that is at present before the Senate. I have sent these recommendations to the Prime
Minister, who has had some conversations and discussions with the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and I am aware that he is endeavouring to arrange a meeting of the Premiers to discuss the recommendations.
As honorable senators will have noticed, I have circulated a proposed amendment to the Snowy Mountains Authority legislation, and I am hopeful that the recommendations will resolve the difficulties that have arisen. Personally, I have never, at any stage, felt that South Australia would lose any benefits as a result of the Snowy Mountains scheme or the agreement, and that is in accordance with the legal advice tendered to the Commonwealth. On the contrary, I have always felt that South Australia could only obtain benefit, could only be put in a better position, as a result of the scheme. Still, I am hopeful that this discussion with the River Murray Commission and the proposals it has advanced will be to everybody’s benefit, and will resolve the difficulty that has occurred. Time will show. The Prime Minister is endeavouring to get a conference together as soon as he can. What is in contemplation does not mean any amendment of the Snowy Mountains agreement or the arrangements generally in regard to the scheme, and therefore does not affect the legislation that is before the Senate.
– I should like to ask a supplementary question, Mr. President. I ask the Minister whether it is contemplated that the legislation to be enacted by the Victorian Parliament and the New South Wales Parliament will contain a provision similar to the amendment to the Commonwealth legislation that the Minister has circulated.
– I am not able to answer that question, because I do not know. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the relevant legislation has already gone through the Parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria.
– But is it proposed to amend that legislation?
– I doubt whether it is proposed to amend it, but that would turn on what is done in relation to the River Murray Waters Agreement.
– I do not know whether the reports mentioned by the honorable senator are reports of fact, but I hit ve read in this morning’s press an account of the .discovery of a drug in :the soil .of Japan. The news item makes it obvious that this is a very worth-while drug, especially as it is for the treatment of tuberculosis. However, if the honorable senator will place her .question on the notice-paper I shall obtain a considered reply to it from my colleague, the Minister for Health.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. President. I should like to direct your attention to the vase which was presented to the Government and people .of Australia by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of ‘Gloucester as a gift from the British ‘pottery manufacturers to commemorate the coronation of Her Majesty and as a symbol of the .Commonwealth of which she is the head. This vase has been removed temporarily during the currency of the present exhibition in King’s Hall. The vase is an example of craftsmanship of the very highest order, and is a source of considerable interest and joy to people visitingCanberra. Could it be arranged, when the vase is replaced in King’s Hall, that it be exhibited on a raised pedestal to a height more approaching eye level, so that the full beauty of the figures at the base .of the vase may be seen?
– I appreciate the thought behind the honorable senator’s question and T shall look into the matter. I see no reason why his suggestion should not be adopted.
– 1 address my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I am interested in correspondence between the Minister and the Australian Automobile Association concerning the basis of a national road plan, about which there is a considerable difference of opinion between the Australian Transport Advisory Council and the Australian Automobile Association. As a preface to my question, I should like to quote from a copy of a letter dated 20th March, 1958, which the Minister, in his capacity as chairman of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, wrote to Dr. Duncombe, who is the president of the Australian Automobile Association. The quotation is as follows: -
The Council decided to adopt as the basis of a national roads plan the roads proposals developed by the State Road Authorities and by the Commonwealth.
In order to dispel the misconception which exists as to the detail and nature of this .planning, the Council will issue as soon as possible two maps together with supporting statements. The first will show the highways which will comprise the principal Australian roads network, and will show the extent of the bituminous surfaces, while the supporting statements will show data on planning proposals for future roads development. Th.second map and statement will deal with the secondary roads system not included in the fin.1 map.
When is it likely that these maps will be completed? Will honorable senators and honorable members be supplied with copies of these maps when they are prepared?
– As Senator Hannaford has indicated, it is correct that at the last meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council it was decided to publish two maps dealing with Australian roads. The first map, as I think the honorable senator said, will show the extent of bituminous-surfaced highways in Australia which .comprise the .principal :network. It will be supported by data including planning proposals for future roads. The second map, with supporting data, will deal with secondary roads not included in the first map. In accordance with that decision conferences are currently being held with representatives of State road authorities - the States have all the data on this subject - with a view to preparing the maps. A good deal of work has to be done in connexion with the preparation of these maps, and although work is going forward, it is not yet possible to say precisely when the maps will be released. When they are, they will be available to honorable senators.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Has his attention been drawn to a statement by the Army’s personnel administration director, Colonel K. Mackay, that whereas the authorized strength of the Australian Regular Army is 26,000 the present strength is only 20,800? Of that 20,800, fewer than 8,000 are privates, more than 8,000 are noncommissioned officers, and more than 4,000 are officers. ls it a fact that .among a soldier’s major problems are the housing and education of his children? Will the Government heed the claim that the private soldier is the Army’s most important man, and ensure that portion of the yearly allocation of £200,000,000 for defence will adequately provide, not only for the soldier’s personal requirements, but also for the requirements of his family?
– I did note the newspaper report to which Senator Ashley has referred. I read it with a .good deal of interest, and in some ways with a little surprise, because I attended an Army function on Saturday afternoon - merely .as .a guest and observer - and in the discussions I had with various Army officers a good deal of appreciation was expressed at the fact that Army recruiting had improved somewhat recently. I am sure that the points mentioned by the Army spokesman referred to in the question, in whatever capacity he was speaking, will not pass unnoticed by my colleague, the Minister for the Army. Indeed, I am aware from information that has come under my notice that he is already moving along the lines that Colonel Mackay mentioned.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen the reports <of the splendid communication services and rescue work rendered by .Queensland radio amateurs during the recent Bowen disasters? A’s .these services are Tendered on behalf of the community, without charge to the community, and at considerable financial expense to the radio amateurs concerned, will the Minister take this further example of their national worth into consideration when framing the next Budget so that experimental radio equipment sold to these people shall be exempt from sales tax?
– I can only give the time-worn answer that all things will be considered when the next Budget comes round.
– Could the Minister representing the Treasurer state the amount that has been paid out of Consolidated Revenue towards the construction of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme since its inauguration? If he has not the figures, could he obtain them and furnish them .to the Senate at a later date?
– I think the honorable senator may take the figure of £100,000,000 as being approximately the expenditure up to the present time.
– In view of the fact that there is over-production of pearl shell in Australia, I ask -the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Is the Japanese fleet fishing in our northern waters to be .allowed to fish in areas adjacent to the Western Australian coast? Can the Minister :tell me whether the quantity of shell “to be fished by Ihe Japanese has been reduced to the same extent as the .quantity that may be taken by Australian producers?
– I understand that the Minister for Primary Industry recently made a ‘Statement to the effect that this season the Japanese are not to be permitted to operate off the Western Australian coast. If the second part of .the honorable senator’s .question refers only .to Western Australian waters, the size of the -take will, therefore, be nil.
– Australian waters.
– If it refers to the Australian take, I shall .have to get the information and let the honorable senator know.
– I address a question to the Minister for Repatriation following upon the one I asked yesterday concerning British ex-servicemen. Will the Minister consider extending to British exservicemen the same facilities for diagnosis, and for hospital treatment if necessary, as are made available to Australian ex-servicemen whose disabilities become apparent twelve or more years after demobilization? Will the Minister further consider arranging with the British authorities for copies of the service and medical records of migrating British ex-servicemen to be forwarded to the Australian Repatriation Department for reference against applications by British exservicemen for medical assistance at some future time?
– I should not like to give a straight-out answer to that question without looking into the matter to see what the impact would be upon our legislation and upon that of Great Britain, but I assure the honorable senator that I shall look into the matter and see what can be done.
– In view of the decreased availability of graving docks for merchant navy and British Commonwealth naval ships, as well as the ships of our allies on the Australia-United Kingdom route, will the Minister for Shipping and Transport consider recommending a thorough investigation by the Government into future requirements, during both war and peace, of these facilities? If such an inquiry reveals that additional graving docks are warranted, will he give serious consideration in this respect to the port of Hobart, which has adequate anchorages, is strategically well based and is already the terminal for some major shipping companies trading between the United Kingdom and Australia, and is a most popular port so far as the various navies are concerned?
– The provision of graving docks for merchant shipping is continuously under the notice, if not the review, of my department, and from time to time various proposals for the establishment of more graving docks have been investigated. The information available, however, reveals that Australia has sufficient graving docks to cope with the business offering. I am aware that from time to time cases for the establishment of graving docks at certain ports are presented to the Government. For a number of years, my own State of Western Australia has advocated the suitability of Fremantle as a site for a graving dock, and it is not surprising, therefore, that Senator Marriott should be now pointing out the particular advantages to be gained by the establishment of a dock at Hobart. The question is one of hard economic fact. In the past, the answer to the questions raised in regard to this matter has always been that sufficient support would not be forthcoming to justify the huge capital expenditure entailed in the establishment of further graving docks.
– My question directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air relates to the aerial survey and mapping of certain parts of Western Australia that have not yet been mapped. By way of preface, I point out two important factors: First, vast areas of Western Australia, as yet unmapped, are now, or will be in the near future, urgently required for use as farms for ex-servicemen and civilians, and for mining and other purposes. Secondly, I am informed that the responsibility for this task rests on the State SurveyorGeneral whose work, to an extent, is being hampered by lack of aircraft to conduct the surveys. Will the Minister make representations to the Minister for Air, or the Minister for Civil Aviation if appropriate, in order that Royal Australian Air Force aircraft may be made available to carry out the additional surveys in Western Australia?
– My understanding is that the responsibility for aerial surveys rests on the Minister for the Interior. I do not know whether, in discharging that responsibility, the department employs or co-opts staff or aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force, but I shall be pleased to look into the question and direct it to the Minister for Air, or the Minister for the Interior, whichever Minister is concerned.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has provided me with the following information: - 1 (a) and (b). There is no available evidence that clothes manufactured in Japan are being sent to Hong Kong for finishing to give the impression that they are produced in a British colony. In any case, clothes made in Japan attract the same duty on importation into Australia as clothes made in Hong Kong.
There is, on the other hand, evidence available which suggests that clothing made in Japan is not sent to Hong Kong for finishing. For example, in the six months ended December, 1957, Hong Kong imported only 152 dozen shirts from Japan; in the same period Hong Kong exported 106 dozen shirts to Japan.
Moreover, there is no evidence that imports of shirts from Hong Kong into Australia are increasing. In 1956-57, 36,000 dozen shirts of Han Kong origin were imported into Australia. In the first six months of 1957-58, 18,000 dozen shirts were imported. During the same period (six months ended December) production ot shirts in Australia at 914,000 dozen was 85,000 dozen higher than in the same period the year before.
So that this whole matter of imports of apparel from Hong Kong might be kept in perspective, it should be recognized that imports of all apparel from Hong Kong is running at an annual rate of £780,000 compared with expected total imports of something like £10,000,000 and domestic production in excess of £140,000,000.
Sports shirts are being imported from Hong Kong which bear a label stitched to the shirt showing a map of Australia and the word “ Aussie “. But the label is also marked clearly with the words “ Made in Hong Kong “. This marking complies with marking requirements as laid down in the Commerce (Imports) Regulations. The shirt is, however, enclosed in a cellophane transparent wrapper which also bears a map of Australia and the word “ Aussie “, but does not refer to the country of production. Future imports of such shirts will be required to bear a marking as to country of origin on the wrapper as well as on the shirt.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
Cortisone is available as a pharmaceutical benefit, but may not be prescribed as such for the treatment of chronic arthritis.
The list of diseases for which cortisone may be prescribed is determined on the expert advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, and is extended from time to time in accordance with the latest clinical evidence.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
I may state that a preparation used by diabetics for testing for sugar is already available under the provisions of the National Health Act for pensioners.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Greece, Jugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (excluding Ukraine), Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Austria?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following information as requested by the honorable senator: -
The Commonwealth Statistician, who compiles these statistics, defines “ Long-term and Permanent Arrivals “ as all persons who state on arrival that they intend to stay in Australia for one year or longer.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has supplied the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: - 1.It is understood that two storms early this year damaged the tobacco crop in Victoria. One storm, in the Ovens River Valley, near Wangaratta, affected 86 acres and the other, in the King River Valley towards Gapsted, damaged 133 acres of crop. The total loss has been estimated at 62 tons ofleaf, valued approximately at between £50,000 and £60,000. The current estimate of the Victorian crop is 1,640 tons.
– by leave - Recently Senator O’Byrne stated, by way of preface to a question in the Senate -
I should like to point out that a large woollen mill in Launceston, Tasmania - that of Patons and Baldwins Limited - has found it necessary to reduce its working week to four days because of the very intense competition it has to meet as the result of the importation of Japanese textiles.
Themanagement of this firm has since contacted me and stated that the picture presented by Senator O’Byrne was misleading, and was given without consultation with, or authorization by, this firm. An analysis of the position conducted by the firm clearly demonstrated that, owing to the very warm winter last year, stocks of knitting wools had accumulated in wholesaler and retailer warehouses, and a considerable quantity had been carried over. As this winter approaches the raw wool market is showing a steady and significant downward trend and buyers, anticipating falling prices, are operating on a hand-to-mouth basis. Believing this to be but a temporary trend, the firm, instead of putting off shift workers and working the balance of the staff for five days a week, decided to keep all the staff on for four days a week - a decision which the staff appreciates.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which proposes certain alterations to the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956, is designed, primarily, to clarify certain aspects of that legislation and, at the same time, achieve a greater degree of unity between some of its provisions and those already incorporated in other legislation. For these reasons the bill is almost entirely of a machinery nature.
As honorable senators know, section 37 of the Broadcasting and Television Act uses the term “ Acting Commissioner “, but the term is not used in sections 34 (2.) and 35, which makes provision for the appointment by the Governor-General of a person in an acting capacity. To rectify this situation, clause 2 of the bill now before the Senate provides for the insertion in section 4 of a definition of “ Acting Commissioner “.
Clause 3 of the bill provides for an amendment to section 13 of the Broadcasting and Television Act, relating to the vacation of office by members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. As honorable senators may recall, section 13 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956 provides that in certain circumstances the Governor-General is required, by notice in the “ Gazette “, to declare the office of
Commissioner vacant. The office is thereupon deemed to be vacant. However, section 13 of the Broadcasting and Television Act does not prescribe a method for declaring vacant an office held by a member of the board. This situation gives rise to legal doubts relating to vacancies, and to remove such doubts clause 3 has been included in the bill. Clause 3, in addition to providing a method for the vacation of office by board members, provides that the resignation of a member of the board shall not become effective until it has been accepted by the Governor-General.
I propose in committee to move an amendment to clause 3 providing for an important change of principle in section 13 of the act. It is proposed to delete subsection 1, which empowers the GovernorGeneral to terminate the appointment of a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for inability, inefficiency or misbehaviour, and substitute a new provision under which a member may not be removed from office during a period of appointment unless each House of the Parliament passes a resolution requesting the Governor-General to remove him from office for misbehaviour or incapacity. The Government feels that such amendment is essential to safeguard the interests of members.
Amendments similar in principle to those contained in clause 3 of the bill relating to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are proposed in clause 7 for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which operates entirely on a part-time basis and which would in future be covered by new sections 37 and 38 of the act. In addition to dealing with the question of vacancy of office, the new section 38 of the act will also ensure that where a commissioner has any interest in a contract made or proposed to be made by the commission, he shall notify the commission accordingly, and shall be debarred from taking part in any deliberation or decision of the committee on the matter concerned.
I propose in committee to move an amendment to clause 7 of the bill in order to safeguard the interests of members of the commission in the same manner as my proposed amendments to clause 3 will safeguard members of the board. It is apparent to the Government that in the interests of the community, the position of members of statutory bodies should be clearly defined, and it is this objective that the proposals which I have outlined are designed to achieve.
Another objective of the present bill is to bring the Broadcasting and Television Act into conformity with current practice in regard to other statutory authorities. Sections 16 and 28 of the Broadcasting and Television Act refer to the functions of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department in connexion with interference to the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting stations and television stations.
Whilst section 134 of the Broadcasting and Television Act already empowers the Governor-General to make regulations for the prevention of such interference, the obligation in the broadcasting field was for many years assumed by the Postal Department. When the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was established in March, 1949, it assumed the responsibility for the overall planning of the national broadcasting and television services, the determination of standards and practices for technical equipment and the operation of services. The assumption of those functions implies the responsibility for planning the measures necessary to prevent interference to reception of broadcasting and television programmes and the supply of advice and assistance to listeners and viewers who are troubled by interference. The latter responsibility is not included, however, in the specific powers and functions of the board as outlined in the act, and it is necessary to clarify the matter. Accordingly, clause 4 of the bill provides that section 16 of the act, which relates to the powers and functions of the board, should be amended so as to ensure that, henceforth, the board will be responsible for the detection of sources of interference and the supply of advice and assistance in connexion with the prevention of interference to the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting stations and television stations. At the same time, clause 6 of the bill provides for the insertion of a new section 28a in the act, by which the Postmaster-General will be required, at the request and expense of the board, to provide facilities and servicesrequired by the board for the performance of its newly acquired functions.
Honorable senators will recall that inMay, 1957, an amendment was made to section 29 of the Public Service Act to provide that where the Public Service Board makes an alteration to the classification of an office, in a case where there is no other office having the same designation and classification, the board is not required to declare the reclassified position as being vacant. This device eliminates executive and other action which normally follows the declaration of an office as vacant. In the particular circumstances to which it relates, the Government regards such a provision as sensible and is anxious to extend the principle involved to the reclassification of relevant offices under the jurisdiction of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Accordingly, clause 8 of the bill seeks an amendment to section 46 of the act along the lines of the amendment made by section 8 of the Public Service Act of 1957 to section 29 of the Public Service Act 1922-1955.
Section 87 of the act prescribes that the Minister shall not revoke the licence for a commercial broadcasting or television station unless he has first received a report from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In the opinion of the Government, this section does not go quite far enough and should be amended. I will, at the committee stage, move an amendment to the bill to insert a new clause to provide that in such cases a recommendation from the board for the revocation of such a licence is also necessary.
The final clause of the bill, clause 9, relates to section 128 of the act and involves the replacement of sub-section (3.) of that section- As it now stands, section 128 makes provision that a broadcast listener’s licence or a television viewer’s licence may be issued and renewed at reduced fees to a pensioner who lives alone, lives with another pensioner, or lives with any person or persons if the income of each other such person does not exceed the maximum amount of income and pension allowed under the Social Services Consolidation Act or the Repatriation Act.
In 1956, the Social Services Act was amended to provide for higher maximum pension payments to pensioners in charge of two or more children than those available to ordinary age, invalid or widowed pensioners. In these circumstances, therefore, unless the number of children which a pensioner has under his or her charge is known, the maximum pension payable is not ascertainable under the present legislation. Moreover, a further alteration is also required to sub-section (3.) (c) of section 128, to cover the recent amendment to the Social Services Act which exempts a permanently blind person from a reduction of age or invalid pension.
The amendment proposed by clause 9 of the bill, therefore, includes a reference to the maximum amount of income and pension which a person who lives with a pensioner may receive, unless that person is a permanently blind person or a person who has the custody, care and control of two or more children. Should such a person receive an income greater than that specified, then the pensioner does not qualify for reduced licence fees under the Broadcasting and Television Act. Apart from these amendments, section 9 of the bill also provides for the exclusion of reference to section 87 of the Repatriation Act in section 128 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Such a reference is no longer necessary because the amount of income is fixed with reference to the provisions of the Social Services Act. Here again, honorable senators will appreciate that the amendment is entirely technical in nature and serves only to clarify the grant of concessions to pensioners without in any way affecting their present scope.
As I indicated at the outset, the amendments proposed by this bill are designed to clarify certain aspects of the existing Broadcasting and Television Act and at the same time to achieve a greater degree of unity between some of its provisions and those already incorporated in other legislation. Copies of the amendments which I propose to move in committee will be circulated to honorable senators before the secondreading debate is resumed. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Benn) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend in certain respects the provisions of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-52, which includes the statutory authority for Australia’s participation in a British Commonwealth partnership governing the conduct of the external telecommunications services by radio and by cable, and defines the powers, functions and duties of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia), which is Australia’s national body for the purposes of this partnership. The amendments proposed in the bill are confined to sections of the act which relate to the powers, duties and finances of the commission, and their main purpose is to clarify and facilitate the administration of the act.
The majority of the proposed amendments are formal ones bringing provisions of the act into line with comparable provisions of more recent Commonwealth legislation. In such cases, the amendments make no change at all in the substance of existing provisions, and there seems therefore to be no need to summarize them here. These are all but one of the amendments provided for in clause 12, together with the amendments covered by clauses 3 and 13.
Another group of proposed amendments changes existing provisions of the act to bring them into line with corresponding provisions in other legislation covering such statutory bodies as the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I propose, Mr. President, to summarize these briefly in the order in which they are proposed in the bill.
Clause 4 deals with the remuneration of commissioners. Section 11 of the act prescribes the remuneration of the members of the commission, other than the chairman, at rates which have remained constant since 1946. The rate for the chairman is determined by the Governor-General in Council. In the interim, of course, substantial changes have occurred in money values and also in relation to responsibilities undertaken by the commissioners. This problem has arisen in the cases of other statutory authorities and was met, in regard to the Austraiian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, by providing in the Broadcasting and Television Act for the remuneration of members of both bodies to be determined by the Governor-General. Clause 4 would incorporate the same provisions in the Overseas Telecommunications Act. Clauses 5 and 6 are consequential.
The provisions of sections 14 and 15 of the act relating to commissioners’ leave, dismissal and vacation of office, have been re-stated in clause 7 in the form which has already been incorporated in the Broadcasting anl Television Act and the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act. This would change the substance of the existing provision, mainly by transferring from the Govenor-General to the Minister the power to grant leave of absence to Commissioners.
The bill includes, in clause 8, an amendment of section 18 of the act to provide that the rate of salary of an officer of the commission shall be approved by the Minister if it exceeds £2,500, instead of £1,500 as at present. This amendment would bring section 18 into line with similar provisions in the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act and the Broadcasting and Television Act.
In clause 9 an amendment is proposed to bring the provisions relating to reclassification of positions in section 19 of the principal act into line with those of section 29 of the Public Service Act as recently revised. The amended section 19 would authorize the commission to give a notice, for the purpose of preventing a re-classified position from falling vacant, where all positions having the same designation and classification are re-classified or where a position which is the only one of a particular designation and classification is re-classified. It will be appreciated that in such special cases the operation of machinery for notifying vacancies, receiving applications, making appointments, &c. is time-wasting without serving any useful purpose.
The amendment proposed in clause 1 1 would bring section 38 of the act into line with the similar section in the Broadcasting and Television Act. Section 38 provides that the commission shall not, without the approval of the Minister, acquire by purchase any land exceeding £5,000 in value; dispose of any property, right or privilege valued at over £5,000; or enter into any contract for the supply from places outside Australia of equipment or materials of a value greater than £5,000. It is proposed to raise the amount stipulated in each case, and originally prescribed in 1946, to £20,000, which is more realistic in the light of present currency values.
Clause 12 provides for complete revision of Division 4 of Part II. of the act dealing with the finances of the commission, but only one of the amendments proposed in this clause makes a material departure from the existing provision. This is the alteration to section 50 which at present exempts the commission from any rates, taxes or charges under any law of the Commonwealth or a State, to which the Commonwealth is not subject. Since this provision was made in 1946 a great deal of consideration has been given to the status of statutory business corporations in respect of taxes, and the conclusion has been reached that, generally, there is no valid reason why a statutory corporation which conducts a commercial undertaking should not have to meet the same business charges as would have to be met if the undertaking were conducted by private enterprise.
In accordance with this principle, which has been applied to other statutory business corporations, it is proposed in clause 12 to amend the act so that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission shall be subject to taxation, other than taxes on income, under the laws of the Commonwealth, but shall not be subject to taxation under a law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth to which the Commonwealth is not subject.
There remain only two proposed amendments to be mentioned, Mr. President. They differ from the others in being additions to the act and in relating to specifically telecommunications matters. The first is set out in clause 10 and deals with the important matter of the secrecy of the contents of telecommunications-. The Internal Telecommunications Convention, to which all major countries, including Australia, are parties, imposes upon its signatories the obligation to take all requisite measures to ensure the secrecy of communications.
Under section 29 of the act the commission is authorized to dismiss an officer for misconduct, but this penalty could clearly be inadequate, in certain circumstances, as a penalty for a breach of secrecy. Because of this, a number of countries make special provision for offences of this kind and, so far as Australia’s internal communication services are concerned, special provision is made in the Post and Telegraph Act.
Clause 10 accordingly provides penalty provisions for breaches of secrecy similar to those contained in section 16 of the Income Tax- and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act in the case of breaches of secrecy by income tax officers. This clause also specifies the circumstances in which the prohibition of divulgence of contents of telecommunications does not apply. These latter circumstances are consistent with the requirements of the International Telecommunication Convention.
The second additional section provided for in the bill is set out in clause 14 and is aimed at protecting the commission and its staff from liability for loss or damage as a result of failure in a telecommunications service, however occurring. This is another matter dealt with in the International Telecommunication Convention, which stipulates that the parties thereto accept no responsibility towards users of the international telecommunications services, particularly as regards claims for damages. Due to the extensive ramifications of the international telecommunication services and the complex equipment and human element associated with their operation, failures of service do occasionally occur, notwithstanding every effort made by the telecommunication authorities throughout the world to avoid them.
The need for affording telecommunication authorities freedom from liability in this connexion is therefore a matter in respect of which most countries make provision in their laws and for which provision is made in section 158 of the Post and
Telegraph Act, so far as communication services internal to this country are concerned. Clause 14 is provided in the bill to provide the commission with the same degree of protection in the operation of Australia’s external communications services. I think it will be clear from what I have said that all the changes proposed in this bill are aimed at clarifying and facilitating the administration of the principal act and bringing it into line with more recent comparable legislation, and that where changes of any substance have been made they have been based on accepted and established principles. I commend the bill to tie Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16th April (vide page 512), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the Senate is-, as has been indicated, one to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Act 1949-1956. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) launched the bill with a secondreading speech delivered on 16th April last. I say at once that the Opposition is indebted to the Minister for a very informative and interesting speech. In a very comprehensive fashion he traced the history of the Snowy Mountains scheme, described it, reported on its progress-, and gave a broad outline of its future. In turn, he paid a tribute to all those who played a part in bringing the scheme to its present state.
I shall advert to the history of the matter for only a moment, commenting before I do, that whilst I bestow some really genuine praise upon the Minister for his speech, before I conclude I shall criticize him for an omission that he made. The history of the scheme, of course, goes back a long time to the days when thoughts about diverting the headwaters of the rivers in the Australian Alps were first entertained. As the Minister said, attention was focused on the matter in a practical way in 1945 when the then Premier of Victoria, Mr. McDonald, suggested that something should be done, and proposed that the Commonwealth and the States concerned should institute an inquiry. The matter was carried a very definite stage further in the following year when the then Labour Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, proposed that the Snowy waters should be diverted to the Murray, and made an important stipulation that really was the beginning of the action ultimately taken. The stipulation was that the Commonwealth should undertake the work as a national project.
Officers of both the Commonwealth and the States made investigations and- ultimately made recommendations which were inspired by great vision of the potentialities of the waters originating in the alps. From then on the matter was taken up enthusiastically by the Chifley Labour Government. Whilst one pays a tribute to those who conceived an idea of this nature, having regard to the practical and technical difficulties one cannot but help also express admiration of those who were capable of translating thought into action. That is one of the hardest things to do. It was proper, I thought, that the Minister should pay tribute to the then Federal Minister who was responsible for getting this great national project under way. I refer to Mr. Nelson Lemmon. It was his drive, vision and energy that ultimately led to the Commonwealth going ahead with the scheme. 1 have the most vivid recollections of the scale model, lit by electricity, of the whole scheme that he proudly displayed to everybody at the time, and I well recall the enormous enthusiasm that the then Prime Minister. Mr. Chifley, himself had for the project. 1 suppose that Mr. Lemmon’s enthusiasm for the initiation of the scheme was matched only by the enormous support and encouragement given by Mr. Chifley.
The present Government is to be warmly commended for pressing on with the project. As the Minister said, all parties are proud of this great national undertaking and the promise it holds for the future. Everybody has co-operated to produce the result. Again I advert to the part played by the Commonwealth Government in the early days. The Labour government ran into difficulties similar to those that the Minister has encountered during the last few years in his attempt to secure agreement with the two States primarily concerned, New South Wales and Victoria, on the allocation of electric power and water under the scheme. It is very clear that had the Commonwealth waited until full agreement was reached on this matter the scheme would never have been begun, or it would be beginning only now. The great contribution that the Chifley Government made to this project was to cut through the conflicting interests of all States, to get over all the difficulties that are inherent in seeking an agreement of this nature, and to organize and initiate the scheme.
Apart from the credit that is due to both governments one must also pay tribute to the people of Australia. In answer to a question this afternoon the Minister indicated that out of the proceeds of taxes that have been paid year by year into Consolidated Revenue this great project has been advanced to the stage where it is producing electricity and is well on the way to completion. There now can be no doubt about the efficiency of the planning or the ultimate success of the scheme. The fact that the people have played their part has led to general interest in the project throughout Australia. I make no apologies for describing the scheme, very briefly. The purpose of the scheme was to trap the head waters of the rivers in the Snowy Mountains’ area, some 3,000 square miles in extent, to divert them into vast storage capacities and then, utilizing the fall of the land, to drop the water down the mountains, to utilize that water again and again at power station after power station, and ultimately to capture it, store it, and presently to leave it there for diversion to irrigation and general purposes.
When one looks at the map indicating the scheme, one cannot but be lost in admiration of the mind that conceived it. We find that one river, the Tooma, a tributary of the Murray at the moment, is to be completely diverted underground, through a mountain, to the Tumut River. To the same point are brought waters from the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee to the Adaminaby storage dam. Again into that reservoir are brought the waters of the Eucumbene River, the main tributary of the Snowy. So, in effect, four rivers are combined to create a head of water that will operate the series of power stations that will adorn the Tooma, the Murrumbidgee, the Eucumbene and the Tumut itself. Under the agreement which this bill seeks to ratify, the duty is imposed upon New South Wales to erect, at the end of that line, the Blowering dam. That will be the ultimate regulating reservoir that will capture the water after it has turned the turbines and generated the electricity and power used for irrigation purposes in the Murrumbidgee valley. The water will ultimately find its way back to the Murrumbidgee, which in turn joins the Lachlan, and, further to the west, will catch up with the Murray once more.
Then, looking to the east still further in the range, one finds the headwaters of the Snowy River trapped. That river, at the moment rising in New South Wales, flows through the eastern projection of Victoria and enters the sea. Hitherto, the great bulk of the water has been wasted - not used. It is now being trapped in the Kosciusko storage. Power stations are erected along the alignment, and ultimately the waters are diverted from Victoria to the Murray. I understand they will ultimately add 730,000 acre feet of water to the Murray. Along these various lines, further reservoirs are built. The whole scheme ultimately envisages some fifteen power stations - with the possibility of two more when certain other works are completed - capable of producing 3.000,000 kilowatts of power, a quantity almost equal to the total production of power in Australia to-day and certainly very considerably in excess of the total quantity produced at the moment by New South Wales and Victoria in combination.
Having adverted very inadequately to the scheme, I now suggest that if one projects one’s mind into that rugged and difficult country one can see the terrific amount of human thought and human endeavour that has gone into the carrying out of this scheme. It was most proper that the Minister should pay tribute to the men who, under difficult climatic conditions, have advanced the scheme to the present stage. I join with him in paying tribute to them and to the commissioner, Sir William Hudson, who was appointed originally to sponsor the scheme and who has done so with very great success up to the present time. I pay tribute also to the associate commissioners, the engineers and others who were associated with him. Again, one must not forget the contractors who brought modern skills and equipment to their aid in carrying out the contracts for the various phases of the scheme.
Whilst speaking of the vision splendid in the matter, my mind goes back to the very prophetic vision of the poet Henry Lawson in his poem, “ The Storm that is to Come “. Perhaps, the Senate will bear with me while I read the following extracts from that poem: -
By our place in the midst of the farthest seas we are fated to stand alone -
When the nations fly at each other’s throats let Australia look to her own;
Let her spend her gold on the barren West for the land and its manhood’s sake;
For the South must look to herself for strength in the storm that is yet to break.
The West cries out at last in drought; but the coastal towns are dumb;
And the East must look to the West for food in the war that is to come.
He concluded -
I have pictured long in the land I love what the land I love might be,
Where the Darling rises from Queensland rains and the floods rush out to the sea.
And is it our fate to wake too late to the truth that we have been blind,
With a foreign foe at our harbour-gate and a blazing drought behind?
There, certainly, was the long, distant vision that comes to poets and people of that kind, and to-day there is rapidly coming into fruition the very thing that Lawson envisaged in a slightly removed area. I refer to the problem of picking up our rivers which, in their rush of water in the rainy season, mostly vanish into the sea. On behalf of the Opposition, I express the hope that this great project will be the forerunner of many more, that it will command the support of all parties in this Parliament. It is a national work of the highest character. It should not be delayed by State or party considerations of any kind.
That leads me to proffer the thought that perhaps it is time this Parliament was vested with constitutional power to embark itself upon national works involving more than one State. Some safeguard as to that might be required to prevent the Commonwealth taking strong-arm tactics, as it were. If we had a body like the Interstate Commission reconstituted, such a project might be embarked upon, on the recommendation of such a body, and I hope that this project will fire the imagination of the people of Australia to confer upon the National Parliament, which has had to take whatever con. stitutional risks there were in going ahead with this matter, full authority for future projects of this type.
The bill serves a most useful purpose in that it obliges the two States of Victoria and New South Wales, where the authority’s activities are centred, to give, through their parliaments, a completely firm constitutional base to what goes on in that area. The two States, by legislation pursuant to the agreements they have made with the Commonwealth, will vest in the authority all the powers that it requires. It is not an easy matter for the Commonwealth to move into a field of this type when one considers the various interests of the States, their need to develop their own electricity systems, and the riparian rights of many people along the rivers which might be diverted, thereby grievously affecting their fortunes and even, as has happened in the Snowy Mountains scheme, depriving them of whole townships. At this point I interpolate the statement that the Adaminaby dam, to be served by two rivers, will hold approximately eight times the volume of water that is concentrated in Sydney Harbour. Those honorable senators who know Sydney Harbour will have some conception of the magnitude of the Snowy Mountains scheme when they realize that only one of the many reservoirs to be constructed will contain eight times the volume of water in the harbour.
– What are the two rivers?
– The Mumimbidgee and the Eucumbene will both flow into the Adaminaby dam. As I indicated earlier, they in turn will flow into the Tumut River. I am pleased to note the firm constitutional basis upon which this work is being carried out by the Commonwealth. One of the two agreements that has been approved addresses itself to the allocation of power and electricity between the Commonwealth and the States of Victoria and New South Wales. The other .deals with compensation for any damage that may be caused by flooding while the work is in :progress. Responsibility for such flooding is thrown upon the authority which is required, not only to take all precautions to prevent it, but also to accept full responsibility for the damage that may be caused.
Ons can understand why eight years elapsed before the Government was able to conclude this agreement when one looks at the scope, complexity and difficulties of negotiation that are plainly inherent in bringing about the agreement. I lay no blame at the door of the Government for the time it took in getting the States into agreement, and up to a point I do not blame the Government for seeking to resolve its difficulties with two States before tackling the third. In short, that is a repetition of the procedure adopted when the scheme was launched. In order to get the scheme under way the Government of the day had to cut through State interests, jealousies and con flicts. To some extent, the Minister has also taken that action in reaching the point where two of the three States are in agreement. I am not surprised at the length of time that has been occupied in bringing the States to that point because I understand perfectly the reason for the delay. The Government is to be congratulated on having taken this further major step. The reading of the agreement presents a task for anybody because it is exceedingly difficult and technical.
– The agreement contains as many bends as the Murray River.
– I agree with the honorable senator. As a reading of the agreement involves a simultaneous consideration of the legislation dealing with the establishment of the River Murray Commission, one finds even more bends and twists, and is faced with tremendous difficulty in treading one’s way through all the changes that have been effected in the agreement year by year. I appreciate the difficulties that face the Minister, if only because of some difficulties that face me now in understanding the agreements.
I have adverted to the fact that clause 2 of the Principal Agreement requires the three parties, the Commonwealth and the two States, to obtain statutory approval from their respective governments. That approval has now been given, and I believe both State acts are awaiting proclamation.
Under Part II., the Commonwealth authority is authorized to proceed with the works .envisaged in the total scheme.
Adequate precautions appear to be incorporated in the agreement for the conservation of water because, by clause 5 of the Principal Agreement, the Commonwealth authority is required, when the works are completed, to provide a further storage area on the river Murray to the east of the Hume reservoir to contain at least 250,000 acre-feet of water. In addition, the authority is given the alternative of paying half the cost involved in increasing the capacity of the Hume reservoir to store another 500,000 acre-feet of water. Throughout the agreement the need for water conservation seems to have been given prime consideration.
Clause 6 of the Principal Agreement provides that, after the water has run through the various power stations on the Tumut River, New South Wales shall collect the water in the Blowering reservoir and attend to its diversion to the Murrumbidgee River, such water being free for use, in the interim, for irrigation and other purposes.
I state the proposition broadly, if not with complete accuracy, when I indicate that the water that becomes available under the scheme is to be shared equally between Victoria and New South Wales. Under the terms of the agreement no charge i9 to be made to the States for the water that they take. However, they are to bear the cost of producing electricity, which is to be used, in the first place, to supply the needs of the Commonwealth in the Australian Capital Territory and in the area of the Snowy Mountains Authority. The remainder - which of course represents the great bulk of the electricity produced - will be allotted in the proportion of twothirds to New South Wales and one-third to Victoria. The various States must erect their own pick-up installations close to the authority’s operating centres. One outstanding feature of this whole scheme is that the electricity systems of Victoria, the Commonwealth in the Snowy Mountains area, and New South Wales are thus linked. The possibility of an immediate transfer of electricity to meet any emergency demand is an enormous advantage and, in my view, one of the outstanding aspects of the scheme.
I shall now advert to a matter that interests me particularly. I indicated that electricity would be supplied at cost by the Commonwealth to the States. Very elaborate provisions in the agreement determine the base upon which that cost is to be ascertained. They provide that the cost will include interest throughout the period of construction - that is, interest charged to the authority. To-day, Senator Aylett asked the Minister a question as to the source of the money, lt is common ground that the total amount, which will run into something like £110,000,000 before the end of this year, has come from Consolidated Revenue and is not money raised by the Commonwealth by loans bearing interest for the purpose of carrying out this work. It is wrong to impose a fictitious interest charge upon a project of this nature that is provided to serve a national purpose. The burden of interest on capital cost breaks down the benefit of government undertakings, even when interest is, in fact, paid. Interest is an annual charge which, when loans are renewed, has a habit of increasing and not diminishing year by year, and is also one of the most crippling burdens on governmental undertakings.
– You have rather changed your position. I thought you were opposing the use of revenue to finance this scheme.
– I have not changed my position.
– Why not advocate that those taxpayers who contribute to this investment get the interest on Snowy Mountains bonds?
– It is of no use to speculate about what would happen in a hypothetical case. We are dealing with an agreement which requires the authority to pay interest on moneys that have not been borrowed for it but which have been raised by taxation and which will be taken into account in assessing the cost of production of electricity. The agreement provides that the capital shall be written off into costs over a period of 70 years and that the whole of the interest, particularly the charges that arise in the course of construction, shall be capitalized and included in that amortization. The end result will be that, with interest included, the cost of electricity will unquestionably be higher than otherwise would be the case. That is not to the national good. In the view I take, the end to be served is to get electricity manufactured at true cost and not at some fictitious cost. The interest paid by the authority will be paid to the Commonwealth Treasurer and will pass into Consolidated Revenue - to the detriment of the authority and to the heightening of the cost of power. I suggest that this was an opportunity for the Commonwealth to do something to keep down costs. It could have played a major part in doing that.
– Would that have been fair to the Tasmanian taxpayer who is contributing to the scheme?
– It has nothing to do with the Tasmanian taxpayer.
– It has everything to do with him.
– We face reality when we cost on a true basis and not on a fictitious basis.
– It could only be done on a basis of parity with other investments.
– To take that thought a little further, if the Government intends to expend capital moneys of this kind, the obvious thing to do is for the Commonwealth to help the States in their hydro-electric projects by letting them have money without the payment of interest. What the Commonwealth has done has been to take full advantage of its soaring revenues and to go ahead with its own projects without having any obligation to pay interest. The Commonwealth not only does not pay interest, but it also makes a profit out of these instrumentalities. My view is that that is not for the benefit of the people of Australia. It places a false burden upon the authority and places additional costs on manufacturers and users of electricity in the two States.
Interesting projects are dealt with in the Snowy Mountains agreement. The Guthega project has been producing electricity since 1955. This scheme provides a very good example of Commonwealth and State cooperation. As the generating authorities are put into action, they will be taken over by a council consisting of Commonwealth and State nominees, four being from each side. Indeed, State officers will operate the generating powerhouses. The authority will be responsible for the rest of the undertaking.
I come now to the one major point of criticism that I wish to raise. I refer to the position of South Australia. The Premier of that State has been importuning Labour members of this Parliament, by telegram and otherwise, to vote against this measure.
– I agree, more particularly as he has not furnished them with any reasons as to why they should do so. He has merely made a demand that they vote against the bill.
– Was that demand made of all members of the Opposition or only of South Australian members?
– I think it was made to South Australian members. I cannot vouch for this, but I believe that similar action was taken in relation to supporters of the Government as well.
– The honorable senator used the word “ importuning “. Would it not be fair to read the telegram?
– I have not the telegram. For many months, the South Australian Premier has been conducting a campaign in this matter without advancing reasons for his view that South Australia is being hardly done by in this agreement. In my view, the Minister for National Development, too, is to be rebuked for the silence he has maintained throughout. From time to time he has been asked in this chamber whether South Australia has been consulted and whether it will be protected, but every question has been fobbed off. The Minister has not made any statement on the matter, and that attitude has been carried into his second-reading speech. His failure to deal specifically and clearly with the questions that have been raised by the Premier of South Australia is the one great omission that mars his second-reading speech. It would have been better for him to have dealt with the point.
The Minister was asked a question to-day, and he indicated that an amendment had been circulated. It proposes that the bill be amended to provide that nothing in the act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements, copies of which are set out in the schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954. That is all right as it relates to that act. 1 point out that there are three parties to the Snowy Mountains agreement - Victoria, New South Wales and the Commonwealth.
– They would not want to prejudice South Australia’s rights, would they?
– I should think not, and I hope not. If that be so, I should have thought that a statement of the kind contained in the proposed amendment would be incorporated in the agreement so as to bind Victoria and New South Wales in relation to South Australia. That is the place for that kind of provision.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that any statute of Victoria or New South Wales could affect South Australia’s rights?
– No. But I think that South Australia must look to the River Murray Waters Agreement for the assertion of its rights. South Australia is very nervous about the matter and, on the surface of things, not without justification, because very clearly at an early stage of the scheme - in fact, next year - the Tooma, a tributary of the Murray, is to be diverted to the Tumut River and is to be completely taken out of the Murray system. I think I am right in saying, too, that a period of some five years will elapse before the Snowy River is diverted into the Murray. There is cause for concern and alarm.
The one criticism I have to make in this situation is that that fact was not faced more directly and that the proposed amendment was not negotiated and included in the agreement, because in the formative stage of the agreement the Premier of South Australia was protesting that South Australia’s interests were being adversely affected.
– Does not that anxiety justify the attitude of the South Australian Premier in seeking to have the matter cleared up?
– He had the right to raise it. I am not complaining about his right to do that, but I do complain about his almost peremptory orders to members of the Opposition. I must complain, also, of the Minister’s failure to deal adequately and expeditiously with those complaints, and to take them into account when the agreement was in the course of confirmation. If we accept the amendment, what will we have? We shall have a section, in an act brought down by only one of three parties to an agreement, which is unilaterally revocable. What South Australia is concerned about, naturally enough, is what is happening in the interim period. I realize that the agreement contains provisions dealing with that, but they are too extensive to debate upon the second reading. I shall leave further consideration of them until the committee stage. The Minister would have achieved 100 per cent, satisfaction all round if he had managed to insert in the agreement a clause formally binding Victoria and New South Wales in the direction 1 have indicated. Senator Hannaford said that they could have no objection to that. If he is right it would have been very easy to obtain agreement to such a clause, and thus reassure South Australia completely.
– Does the honorable senator think that that would have been satisfactory to South Australia?
– I do not think that the Premier of South Australia would have very much to complain of if the three contracting parties agreed that South Australia’s rights under the other agreement would not be affected. That is, of course, a matter for the Premier of South Australia himself to decide. I do not want to read his mind, but since the honorable senator asks me, that is my view. Certainly, in view of his expressed fears, one cannot expect the Premier to accept with equanimity this unilateral provision by the Commonwealth. It leaves a gap which can be filled, not by mere amendment of the Commonwealth act or of the two State acts - for they are revocable - but by amending the agreement between the parties and incorporating the brief provision to which I have referred. My own view, for what it is worth, is that the River Murray Waters Agreement adequately protects South Australia because, although Victoria and New South Wales are given the whole of the waters of the Murray from the source to Albury, and may also divert the waters of tributaries crossing their respective territories, those rights are conditional upon the minimum requirements of South Australia being met. That is clearly and completely laid down. From a legal viewpoint I say, quite frankly, that I do not see anything in the scheme which detracts from South Australia’s right to satisfaction of its minimum requirement. However, I do ask the Minister, in the interests of the whole scheme, to do the Senate the favour of making a complete statement on the South Australian position when he replies to the second.reading debate, I invite him to consider - and I think that he will have the time - my suggestion that a small supplemental agreement would go a long way towards putting this question of the South Australian position out of the field of controversy.
I am glad to have had an opportunity to address myself to the further development of this great project, I was very happy to hear the announcement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 1st May that contracts had been accepted for the completion of another three major stages of the scheme - the Tooma-Tumut diversion, the T 2 project and the MurrumbidgeeEucumbene diversion - at a total cost of £33,350,000. I share Sir William Hudson’s disappointment, publicly expressed, that we were not able to attract tenders from the United Kingdom.
Notwithstanding all that I have said, the Opposition will support the motion for the second reading. We will reconsider the whole position after we have had the benefit of the Minister’s reply. We look forward to hearing, for the first time, of the attitude of the Government to the controversy with South Australia over the diversion of waters. I would ask the Minister one further question: Has the Government considered, in view of the greater volume of water that will be available pursuant to the scheme, granting to South Australia something more than the minimum requirement prescribed for that State under the River Murray Waters Agreement? Has that been canvassed?
– Labour did not canvass it in 1949.
– I do not know. I was not a party to the negotiations.
– You can take my assurance that it did not.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, and once again ask whether the Commonwealth Government has in mind greater provision for South Australia from the aggregation of waters that will follow the implementation of the scheme.
– It cannot do that. Have not Victoria and New South Wales also to agree?
– Of course they have. I am asking the Minister what is the Commonwealth’s outlook towards this matter.
– What water does the Commonwealth own?
– The Commonwealth will certainly have authority over all the reservoirs during the construction stage - which apparently will take another fifteen or twenty years to complete. Thereafter the Commonwealth and the States will together, through a council to be established, control the operation of the scheme as a whole. I suggest that the Commonwealth will have a major voice in that.
– Do you suggest that the Commonwealth should repudiate the 1949 arrangement made by your party?
– I merely ask whether, the scheme having advanced to this stage, the Commonwealth has given any thought to South Australia receiving additional quantities of water.
– The Senate is indebted to both the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and Senator McKenna for giving honorable senators details of the agreement now before us and directing attention to the magnitude of the Snowy Mountains project as a whole. I thought that the Minister gave a very good picture of what the scheme sets out to do, and how the Government proposes to accomplish the tremendous projects envisaged. I was pleased that Senator McKenna found himself in accord with the Minister’s sentiments. The Minister said that this was a mighty undertaking which would do great things for Australia. I do not think that there is any doubt about that. Any one who takes the trouble to understand the magnitude of the undertaking and considers, even briefly, the immense possibilities which it holds for the generation of electricity and the provision of water for irrigation and other purposes, must agree that the scheme will do great things for Australia. I find great difficulty in deciding just where these great things will end. I do not think that any of us can yet fully appreciate the advantages that this scheme will mean to the Commonwealth. The benefits that will accrue to Australia through the increased volume of water that will go down the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers, in terms of increased production because of the greater number of farms that will be watered, and in terms of .increased population, as a result of this scheme, cannot be visualized. In addition, enormous quantities of cheap electricity will be available. We have been told that under the scheme fifteen or sixteen power stations will have a generating capacity of 3,000,000 kilowatts. I am not a technical man, and I do not pretend to comprehend just what that means, but we have been told that it is equal to at least three-quarters of the present electricity generating capacity of New South Wales and Victoria combined. We would all agree, I think, that that will be a mighty result from the tremendous Snowy Mountains undertaking.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said in his second-reading speech that some 1,800,000 acre feet of water will be turned westward rather than eastward. Of that water, 1,000,000 acre feet will, flow into the Murrumbidgee Valley and another 800,000 acre feet will go into the Murray Valley system. So, one can scarcely visualize the benefit that will flow to Australia from this capacity to generate electricity. Much of it, as Senator McKenna said, will be generated in difficult country. Many of the power-stations will be underground and, therefore, immune from any emergency whether it is created inside Australia or outside this country. In the event of trouble of any kind occurring in Australia, industries that depend on electricity, as well as the citizens of many of our cities, will be able to obtain all the electricity they need for upwards of two years from the reserve of electricity generated by the power stations. Four million tons of coal would be needed to generate the quantity of electrical energy that will be in reserve. These are tremendous figures, and this is a tremendous claim to make. Certainly, I am not in a position to rebut it and I do not desire to do so. I accept the claim as a factual statement. This whole scheme fires one’s imagination when one attempts to contemplate the tremendous advantages which must accrue from it in years to come, perhaps not so much in our time, although the Minister did make it clear that in the next four years electricity generated by the scheme would become increasingly available for use. But perhaps the benefits will accrue largely to the generation which follows us, particularly from the increased volume of water made available for irrigation. It will be some years before the benefits from the increased number of farms that will be brought into production become evident.
I was intrigued by one of Senator McKenna’s remarks - I think I heard him correctly - in which he implied that a national scheme such as this should not be hindered or held up because of any petty State jealousies or State interests. I do not think the honorable senator meant to imply that a representative of any State, particularly in this chamber of the Federal Parliament, should be precluded from stating what he believed to be germane to the difficulties in which a State finds itself in regard to legislation before the Parliament. Perhaps Senator McKenna did not intend to go that far. I hope that he did not so intend, because that would prevent senators from his own State and, indeed, from other Slates, who still regard the Senate as a chamber in which State rights, and particularly State difficulties, can be ventilated, from expressing their views. His main criticism of the matter before the Senate was that neither the Premier of South Australia nor the Minister for National Development has indicated the real difficulties that are facing South Australia in this matter.
– Is not that true?
– I do not think it is true. The difficulties can be plainly seen by anybody who has any imagination and is prepared to exercise it.
– Inform the Senate now of the difficulties.
– Be patient. Any one who exercises his imagination knows full well that the chief difficulty relates te the diversion of the Tooma River, which is a tributary of the Murray. I do not think that Senator Toohey is ignorant of the position, and doubtless he will state his case in due course.
– Tell us about the Tooma River.
– Be patient, and I shall do so; I cannot explain the matter while you are chattering away. I was about to discuss that particular matter. If Senator O’Byrne will listen intently to my remarks, he may learn something. Senator McKenna, having said that he saw no difficulty and had no knowledge of what the difficulties were, pointed out in his next sentence that the Tooma was about to be diverted and that that, of course, would create difficulties for South Australia. Actually, he answered his own question. He did not need the Minister to tell him the answer.
I know that South Australia has been faced with certain difficulties, and I shall take a few minutes of my time to inform the Senate what I believe them to be. South Australia is a party to the River Murray Waters Agreement, which governs the distribution of the waters which are regarded as the flow of the Murray at Albury. Under that agreement, South Australia has certain specific rights. They are clearly laid down for all to read. They are rights that South Australia has in normal times as well as rights that that State would have in times of drought or, in the words of the agreement, in periods of restriction.
– What proportion is South Australia entitled to?
– Be quiet. A period of restriction is denned under the River Murray Waters Agreement as being a time when there is a flow in the river Murray which is less than at normal times and calls for some action on the part of the commission to distribute the available waters of the Murray fairly. I say that South Australia has rights in both instances. When the flow of the river is normal, we have a stipulation that South Australia is entitled to 1,250,000 acre feet. That is in normal times, apart from drought periods. In other words, New South Wales and Victoria, which have a call on the Murray before it enters South Australia, must allow 1,250,000 acre feet to flow into South Australia. There is no difficulty created by that provision, and it is not a difficulty at the present time. But, in times of drought or periods of restriction, South Australia also has certain rights which are specifically laid down in clause 51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement. That clause says simply, in effect, that whatever water is available in the Murray at Albury shall be distributed as between the three States on the basis of five-thirteenths to each of Victoria and New South Wales and three-thirteenths to South Australia. So our rights under that agreement, to which South Australia is properly a party, and always has been, are secure; but it is obvious, I think, Sir, to all honorable senators that it is a matter of some concern to South Australia when it is suggested that water from the Tooma River, which is a tributary of the Murray as defined by the River Murray Waters Agreement, shall be diverted from flowing into the Murray. It is a very natural concern, and it really is the basis - and always has been - of South Australia’s objection to the agreement. I think that any honorable senator will realize that if there is a certain amount of water in the national tank so to speak, and a State is entitled to a share of that water, when, a hole is knocked in the tank and some of the water is drawn off - in this case 330,000 acre feet - there is that much less to be distributed in a time of difficulty. In some way that deficiency must be restored.
I want to be completely fair, and I acknowledge that clause 10 in Part III. of the First Schedule to the bill purports to make that deficiency good. It makes a real attempt to provide that South Australia shall be compensated for the loss of water which will be caused by the Tooma diversion. It is there provided that the loss occasioned by that diversion must be borne by New South Wales and Victoria. It is also provided that when the Snowy is finally diverted into the system the deficiency created by the diversion of the Tooma will be made good. That will not occur for six or seven years.
I want to stress a point concerning the difficulty in which South Australia has been placed. South Australia is, as I have said, a party to the River Murray Waters Agreement, and has a representative on the River Murray Commission. Its rights under that agreement are enforceable in respect of any attempt by any person or State to plunder - for want of a better word - in a time of drought, a share to which he or it is not entitled. But the effect of this legislation is that the Tooma diversion is being carried out, not by a State, but by the Commonwealth through its agency, the authority in charge of that diversion. That has been said publicly, so there is no secret about it.
The South Australian Premier has said that because South Australia is not a party to the Snowy agreement it loses any right of enforcement against the Commonwealth, whose agency is in charge of the Tooma diversion. I am not a legal man. That is the last thing I would claim to be. I am a humble wheat-grower, and I try to grow wheat with success; but I do profess to understand this particular matter, and my understanding of it is that as a result of this legislation South Australia will lose the right of enforcement which it has enjoyed under the River Murray Waters Agreement. That is very important to South Australia, because who can know what attempts may be made, and can be made, in a time of difficulty, when everybody will try to get as much water as possible. We have to face the possibility that some unreasonable party will take more than its fair share of water from the river Murray. Prior to the signing of the Snowy agreement South Australia had a right of enforcement for use against any State attempting to do such a thing, but it is to lose that right of enforcement because it is not a party to this agreement. I think that fair-minded people, irrespective of whether they are inside or outside this Parliament, and irrespective of their political opinions, will acknowledge quite readily that this is a problem.
I am glad that the Minister for National Development has circulated the amendment which he proposes to move at the committee stage. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has cited it, and 1 shall read it again for the sake of clarity. It reads -
Nothing in this Act- -
Irrespective of whether or not it is the Commonwealth that carries out the Tooma diversion - shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements copies of which are set out in the schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954.
This is a real attempt to meet the difficulty regarding the Tooma diversion. In reply to a question addressed to him by Senator Laught this afternoon the Minister said that the River Murray Commission, on which a representative of South Australia sits, has met recently on this and other matters and no doubt has considered the very matters that are germane to the present bill. We can take it that a report has been submitted to the Minister on that. The Minister also said that a conference of Premiers was being arranged. It is my fervent hope that the recommendations submitted to the Minister as a result of the discussions by the Premiers, if adopted, will solve South Australia’s difficulty. 1 do not think the Minister would be surprised to know that, unless something like the proposed conference of Premiers had been attempted, I should have found myself unable to support this bill. In fact, that has been no secret. I indicate now to the Senate that I support the bill because the amendment proposed by Senator Spooner represents a real attempt to do something to solve the difficulty, because it means something to me and is something that I can understand as a layman, and because I feel that every South Australian who studies it will realize that the amendment is not merely window-dressing but has a legal implication. To my mind it will help very greatly in the direction desired.
There is a second matter in which South Australia has met some difficulty. That State has claimed that it is entitled to share in the waters of the Snowy River after they have been diverted. The Minister said in his speech the other day that, whether or not South Australia was entitled to a full share of the Snowy waters, it certainly would benefit to a considerable extent as a result of the water storage that will be part of the scheme. Storage of water at Jindabyne and elsewhere in the mountains is part and parcel of the scheme and, as a South Australian, I concede the point made by the Minister, and always have conceded it.
Stored water from the Snowy Mountains will be available to be sent down the Murray in regulated volume, and will be available in great quantities to the three States which share the waters of the Murray in accordance with the prescribed proportions of 5-5-3, the last proportion being South Australia’s proportion. It is only fair for me to acknowledge that benefit here. But South Australia claims that in a time of drought it should share in the full volume of water from the Snowy. I am not in a position to enter into that argument, because it is no doubt a legal point. Some people may say that South Australia is entitled to it and some may say it is not. I have seen legal opinion to the effect that at law South Australia is entitled to that water because, in fact, when the Snowy water joins the Murray it will be denned as River Murray water. If that legal opinion is upheld South Australia will be entitled to share in that water. If it is not upheld no doubt it will be further tested in a court of law at some time, and everybody will be bound by the ultimate decision. I think that the Minister will .agree, however, that that problem will not arise for six or seven years, because, at the present rate at which the work on the Snowy scheme is being carried out, the Snowy water will not reach the Murray before then.
– It will arise only during a drought and after the expiration of six or seven years.
– That is quite true. I am putting this forward as a practical point of view and as something that appeals to me. Because the ‘Snowy waters are to be mixed up in the Jindabyne and other storages with the waters of the Murray tributaries, it will be a difficult job to determine what proportion of these waters the several States are entitled to. I think that will be an almost impossible task and will be beyond the capacity of anybody who is likely to be charged with the responsibility. Certainly .he would have to be better at sums than I am. I think the view I am now putting to the Senate is reinforced by people in high places who really understand the difficulty. Therefore, the suggestion that all this water, for all practical purposes, should be regarded as forming part of the waters of the Murray has the merit at least of -being practical and would overcome the difficulties of accounting to which I have made reference.
Some honorable senator may well say to me that the difficulty envisaged is one that would be created only by some bad boy, as it were, plundering these waters in a drought year, and therefore is purely imaginary. I may be reminded too that before either New South Wales or Victoria could take an improper or unfair share of the waters in a drought period, both those States would have to gang up against South Australia in order to deprive it of its share of the waters as provided by the River Murray Waters Agreement. It is true also that the Commonwealth would have to be prepared to sit idly by and allow such a thing to happen. In other words the Commonwealth would need to concur in the ganging-up by New South Wales and Victoria against South Australia to deprive the latter State of its share of the Murray waters. Those eventualities would have to occur before any State could deprive South Australia of its share of the Murray waters as laid down by the River Murray Waters Agreement. Admittedly it is most unlikely that New South Wales and Victoria would agree to do such a thing ‘because probably one would be robbing the other in the process and even in the unlikely event of them both agreeing to such a plan, it is most improbable that the Commonwealth Government would stand idly by and allow the plan to be put into operation, because it too would face criticism from the rest of Australia and from members of this Parliament, irrespective of the party to which they belonged. The whole thing would be too hot to handle. However, when we are passing legislation all sorts of contingencies must be guarded against. Although the possibilities I have mentioned are most unlikely, it is the duty of the legislature to provide against them. Therefore we have looked for some undertaking in this legislation. We have looked for some indication that perhaps the River Murray Waters Agreement is to be amended to safeguard the rights of South Australia as I have tried to set them out.
I have referred to the amendment that has been circulated by the Minister and I repeat that it is of great value to me. It is something that I can understand. It means that notwithstanding anything in this bill - for instance about the Snowy River waters being divided between New South Wales and Victoria or the return of the waters which are to be diverted by the Tooma part of the scheme - South Australia’s rights under the River Murray Waters Agreement are to be preserved. That has great significance for South Australia. Being satisfied on that point, and in the sincere hope that the Premiers themselves, when they meet shortly, will be able to reach an amicable agreement in this matter, I support the bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), when he spoke earlier this afternoon, completely outlined the history of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. I do not intend to retrace any of the ground he covered, other than to repeat that it was a Labour government which brought this scheme into operation and that during the course of the debate which took place in both Houses of the Parliament at the time some rather extraordinary statements were made by honorable senators who now occupy the Government benches. In another place, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he spoke on the measure, admittedly did not oppose it, but spent the greater part of his time arguing that the Government did not have the constitutional, power to put the scheme into operation. Obviously he was not very happy about the scheme but he knew that the people of Australia would welcome such a great national undertaking. As I said he spent the greater part of his time raising constitutional difficulties. I shall return to the constitutional angle of this matter when I deal with some references in the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner).
One of the most remarkable statements made during the debate on this project in 1949 was that which is attributed in “ Hansard “ to the present Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator O’sullivan had this to say -
I repeal - and this has a direct relation to the bill - that I see in the measure the pattern of socialism.
He went on to say in another section of his speech -
To anybody who has read the bill and seen the maimer of control for which it provides, the criticism of socialism is inevitable.
Then he went on and repeated his assertion of socialism. He said -
The reason for that is that it is a socialistic enterprise. Socialism has proven a failure, and it will be a failure again . . .
Even the Government to-day is claiming that this scheme has been anything but a failure. I think it has recognized very clearly that it will be one of the greatest advantages this nation has ever known. The prophet Senator O’sullivan apparently thought that it must inevitably fail because in his belief at least it had some socialist concept associated with it. I view of the fact that the Government is taking to itself a considerable amount of credit, which does not rightly belong to it, for the continuance of this scheme, it must mean - if Senator O’sullivan was wrong in 1949 - that I have facing me on the opposite side of the chamber a bunch of socialists. I congratulate them on their conversion to something politically useful.
I think I should repeat that the opening of the scheme - I do not intend to do the Minister an injustice this time - was contemptuously boycotted by the people who now constitute the Government of this country. It was boycotted by the present Prime Minister and by all the members of the Liberal party and the Country party who were occupying parliamentary seats at that time. The people of Australia should never be allowed to forget the contemptuous attitude taken by the then Opposition in this Parliament towards Australia’s greatest national undertaking.
– It was opened a week before election day, was it not? You would not have had in mind the chance to get a few votes out of the opening, would you?
– That had no association whatever with the matter. A certain time had been fixed for the opening. Now, out of his own mouth, the Minister has indicated that his party boycotted the opening for political purposes. He simply emphasizes the smallness of mind demonstrated by the members of his party at that time.
I’ come now to the Minister’s speech. Among other things, he said -
The Snowy Mountains scheme is Australia’s greatest development work. All political parties in Australia take pride in being associated with it.
That phrase must have certainly commended itself to the Minister, for he used it again later. It is now obvious that this Government, the members of which resisted the scheme to a great degree and boycotted its initiation, is taking praise unto itself because it has done what the people of this country required it to do, in continuing the scheme.
When speaking of South Australia’s position, it is rather interesting to recall that the late Archie Cameron, who was a member of a Government party in another place, spoke of that State’s position when the project was being discussed originally. He suggested that South Australia’s position might be prejudiced at some time in the future after the scheme started to become operative. He went on to say that the Premier of South Australia would watch South Australia’s interests. I feel that the Premier of South Australia has not watched the interests of his State in this matter. I disagree very strongly with Senator Pearson. I believe that the Liberal Premier of South Australia had a clear duty at the time when this scheme was approved by legislation, to study the position. He had a duty to endeavour to discover its possible effect upon South Australia and to make some move then to safeguard properly the interests of his State. Instead of doing what one would expect a Premier with some foresight to do, he waits until certain stages of the scheme have been completed and then suddenly discovers that South Australia’s interests may possibly be threatened as a result of the operation of the scheme. Now, at the eleventh hour, we see brought into the Senate an amendment which is obviously the result of intense hostility and discussion between the Premier of South Australia and the Minister.
T have read the amendment very carefully and have tried to reconcile it with the statement by the Minister early in his second-reading speech that the agreement provides for the sharing between New South Wales and Victoria of the additional irrigation water which will be made available in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys by the operation of the scheme. That indicates clearly that the agreement provides that this water shall te shared only between Victoria and New South Wales.
There is no third State mentioned. It says that there shall be an equal sharing of the additional water by the States of Victoria and New South Wales.
Before dealing with the amendment, I remind the Senate that from time to time over the last six months I have been prodding the Minister for National Development with various questions concerning South Australia’s position under the agreement. After waiting for six months, we have handed to us an amendment containing about 33 words, and to date no explanation of that amendment has been forthcoming. It will be remembered also that in the course of a speech I made some time ago I suggested that to clear the matter up properly the Minister should make a clear and concise statement outlining exactly South Australia’s position in the operation of this scheme. After all that time, and after all this sound and fury have come from South Australia, and after that sound and fury obviously had been rejected at some stage by the Commonwealth Government, we now have presented to us an amendment which reads -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements copies of which are set out in the schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954.
How can the Government reconcile that amendment with the clause of the bill quoted in the Minister’s second-reading speech? I suggest that the proposed amendment could provide the legal fraternity with a feast for life in determining just how South Australia’s interests are being threatened by the operation of the scheme, especially when we remember the multitudinous provisions of the act. I am completely satisfied in my own mind that the proposed amendment means nothing at all. If South Australia’s Premier is satisfied with the position, all I can say is that hs is remarkably easily satisfied. I understood Senator Pearson to say that he was satisfied with the proposed amendment.
– Together with other things.
– Senator Pearson very skilfully covered up for the Premier of South Australia. He tried to create the impression that Sir Thomas Playford had done everything that was necessary and proper to safeguard the interests of South
Australia. Sir Thomas Playford did nothing of the kind. I say that he treated his own party with contempt for nobody will convince me thai at least until a few days ago those honorable senators on the Government side who come from South Australia had any knowledge at all of what Sir Thomas Playford had said.
– I refute that.
– It is only natural that the honorable senator should refute it, but I believe what I am saying is true. I say also that Sir Thomas Playford treated those honorable senators on this side who come from South Australia with equal contempt.
– That is to say you did not understand the difficulty before then?
– It is not a question of whether I understood the difficulty. I am trying to indicate to the Senate that for a least the last eighteen months the Premier of South Australia has been grandstanding around Australia making threats about what he is going to do to the Commonwealth Government over the operation of this scheme, but being careful never to tell anybody exactly what he wants. The Premier of South Australia has not even properly informed the Leader of the Opposition in that State of the true position or exactly what he wants from the Commonwealth Government. Senator Hannaford, Senator Pearson and Senator Mattner know as well as I do that Sir Thomas Playford has been grandstanding repeatedly in this matter, that he has been putting up a sham fight - something which he is so fond of doing - with the Commonwealth Government and then drawing back just before the point of impact. Senator Pearson knows it is true. Not long ago, I and other honorable senators on this side of the chamber received a telegram from the Chief Secretary of South Australia asking that certain action be taken to protect the interests of that State, but the Chief Secretary did not tell us what he feared or what protection he sought; in fact, he has never made one concise statement outlining his quarrel with the Commonwealth Government,
– Should not the honorable -senator be capable of assessing that for himself?
– I do not know whether that question ought to be answered in this chamber. Not one senator on the Government side was capable of assessing the matter until a few days ago. If they were able to do so, why were they asking questions of the Minister, as I have been, over the last six or seven months? If there is no obscurity about the attitude and actions of the Premier of South Australia, why have Government supporters sought information on the matter?
– Did Senator Buttfield ask any question of the Premier of South Australia?
– I recall at least one question asked by Senator Buttfield, and by other honorable senators from South Australia on the Government side, of the Minister for National Development in regard to South Australia’s position under the Snowy Mountains agreement. The fact that such questions were asked by honorable senators opposite indicates that they were not sufficiently informed.
J take very strong exception to the attitude of the South Australian Premier, and f entertain the suspicion that he is prepared to subjugate the interests of his State in order to gain some political advantages from the grandstanding in which he has been indulging for the past twelve months. We have seen in the press from time to time statements to the effect that Sir Thomas Playford is going to do this and that to the Commonwealth Government, and that he has reached the last stage and now something dreadful is going to happen. But nothing has happened.
I am not satisfied with Senator Pearson’s assertion that the interests of South Australia are being adequately protected by an obscure amendment tabled by the Minister at the eleventh hour, and I suggest that the Minister contact the Premier of South Australia and ascertain his present view on the matter because the Premier might possibly have changed his mind again. Before I support the measure now before the Senate, I desire further information in relation to South Australia’s position. The Minister has had several opportunities to satisfy the legitimate curiosity of senators from South Australia, but he has failed to do so. Admittedly, in his second-reading speech he made a reference, which conveyed little or nothing to me, to the effect that any future period of drought in South Australia will be met by an increased supply of some 60,000 acre feet of water to that State. The minister then discussed irrigation in South Australia. In view of the probing that I, and other honorable senators, have done, the Minister might fairly have been expected to include in his second-reading speech a clear and unequivocal statement as to South Australia’s position.
– What is the honorable senator’s complaint?
– The report of the negotiations-
– What does the honorable senator say is wrong with the legislation?
– The report of the negotiations that took place between the Premier of South Australia and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for National Development should have been tabled in the Senate.
– Will the honorable senator not reply to my interjections?
– If the report of the negotiations were tabled, we would be better able to understand the position.
– I should like a reply to my interjections.
– Am I to understand, Mr. Deputy President, that you are going to permit these continual interjections by the Minister?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator will continue his remarks.
– When I was so rudely interrupted by the Minister, I was developing the thought that the Senate should have been informed of the negotiations that took place between the Premier of South Australia and the representatives of the Commonwealth Government. We might then have had a clearer understanding of the position. After all, why should any mystery surround such negotiations when South Australia’s interests are threatened by this proposed legislation? There appears to have been a deliberate blanketing of information and, as Senator McKenna said, the silence of the Minister has been more than significant - “ The silence of Dean Maitland “. While the Minister sits tight-lipped in his place and refuses to give information to the Senate and the people of Australia, the Premier of South Australia runs rampant around Australia seeking election material by the grandstanding activities he is so fond of adopting.
– Is the honorable senator worried that Sir Thomas Playford will win the next election in South Australia?
– He certainly will not win the next election by fair means, and I am sure that, having some knowledge of the political set-up in that State, the honorable senator will agree with me.
Senator Pearson suggested that the only reason why South Australia feared for its future was because of the diversion of the two rivers. Very definitely, that is not the only matter worrying South Australia although, admittedly, it is one of the potent factors -causing concern because, after the diversion of the water, replacement will not take place until some other part of the project is completed. As a consequence, South Australia’s fears in that direction are valid. Another matter causing concern is the effect of the diversion on the development of ‘South Australia where a large expansion of industry must inevitably take place in the not too distant future. An increase of population will follow and, of course, more water will be required. This agreement does not protect South Australia’s interests to a sufficient degree to permit future expansion.
– The honorable senator is now agreeing with the Premier of South Australia.
– I am not. I have said all that I want to say about the Premier, and I shall not retract one word. Under the surface, I am sure the honorable senator is in complete agreement with me. Senator Pearson has overlooked, perhaps, the most potent reason for South Australia’s fears, and I emphasize again that the agreement does not ‘contain sufficient protection or guarantees to enable South Australia to plan for its future expansion and development.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with the failure of the Minister for National Development adequately to advise the Senate about negotiations with South Australia and to state in general terms South Australia’s position in regard to the Snowy Mountains agreement. I remind the Senate that in this very chamber questions have been addressed to the Minister as to whether South Australia’s interests had been or would be threatened in any way by the ratification of the agreement. If my memory serves me correctly, on each occasion the Minister said that South Australia’s interests were not threatened. In direct contradiction of his statements on those occasions, the Minister has foreshadowed an amendment which not only suggests but proves conclusively that the information he gave us was not correct.
– That is not right. The amendment will ma’ke assurance doubly sure.
– The moving of this amendment will mean that, when the Minister gave the assurance that South Australia’s interests were not threatened, he was not sure himself.
– That is not so.
– I want to emphasize that point. I have made some rather scathing statements about the Minister in the course of my speech, but they do not relate to his work as Minister in charge of the Snowy Mountains scheme. The Minister, in administering the scheme, has done a very good job indeed. I am prepared to concede that point, but I am not prepared to retract in any way the criticisms that I have levelled against him both this afternoon and to-night. I believe those criticisms were well deserved and perfectly valid.
In the few minutes that remain at my disposal I wish to do something which I feel will be endorsed by every other honorable senator - that is, to compliment Sir William Hudson for the work he has performed in directing the operations of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. He has become almost part of this great national developmental scheme. Because of the quiet, unobtrusive way in which he goes about his task, a lot of the great work that he does goes unnoticed by many people, but I wish to have it recorded that for my part it has not gone unnoticed.
Let me now sum up my remarks. In the course of my criticism I have attacked the Premier of South Australia and have claimed that he had not informed members of his own party, members of the Australian Labour party, or the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament, about his troubles in regard to this agreement. I have stated that I believe he has been parading around Australia seeking some political and electoral advantage from his so-called quarrel with the Commonwealth Government. As I said earlier, this is not the first sham fight in which the Premier of South Australia has been engaged. 1 take back nothing of what 1 said in that regard; I said it in all sincerity, and I believe it to be true. I suggest that, if supporters of the Government from South Australia spoke from their hearts instead of from their minds, they would rise to-night and say that they wholeheartedly agree with my assertion that Sir Thomas Playford has not played the game with his own party, with .the Labour party, or with South Australia. If the minds of honorable senators opposite could be read, I am sure that, whatever they might say with their tongues, they would be found to agree with what I have said.
In conclusion, I hark back to what I said at the beginning of my speech - that before the motion for the second-reading of this bill is disposed of, honorable senators on both sides of the chamber should receive more information about the negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and South Australia. We should be told in clear and unequivocal terms what the position really is. If that information were made available, it would do a great deal to clarify the difficult situation in which we find ourselves.
.- The first thing I should like to do is to join with Senator Toohey in paying a tribute to Sir William Hudson and his officers, who have contributed to the success of -this magnificent scheme. I think we all will agree with that part of Senator Toohey’s speech, but with that part only. I cannot but deprecate the honorable senator’s opening comments in which he repeated a statement which, through repetition, has become almost a form of propaganda. I refer to his attempt to tell the people of Australia that when the Snowy Mountains scheme was initiated members of the present Government parties were opposed to it and treated it in a contemptuous way. If any one reads in “ Hansard “ the speeches of supporters of this Government when legislation related to the commencement of the scheme was before the Parliament, they will discover that not one of them opposed the scheme in principle but that member after member rose and paid tribute to the conception of the scheme and to its greatness, Let that be stated clearly.
It is true that supporters of the present Government did not attend the opening ceremony. They did not attend because the function was hurriedly brought on as an election stunt. It was so hurriedly brought on that a lot of gelignite was placed in the wrong position and great hunks of New South Wales were blown all over the continent and later had to be replaced. That is all I propose to say about the remarks of Senator Toohey until we reach the stage where the public comments of the Premier of South Australia form a proper subject for discussion in our consideration of the bill.
It has been said before - and it must be said again very briefly so that it can be driven home to the Australian populace - that the Australian Labour party in conceiving this scheme, this Government in carrying it out, and Sir William Hudson and his officers in their activities are presenting the nation with not only 3,000,000 kilowatts of electricity per year, which is regarded in the agreement as being a major part of the undertaking, but which in my view is a minor part, but also 2,000,000 acre feet or more of irrigation water annually. Electricity can- be generated at the same cost in the powerhouses of the States, but water cannot be got into the interior of the continent in any easier way. As a result of this scheme, water will flow over the burnt plains of the interior, with a consequent yield of at least £30,000,000 worth of primary products each year. The significance of that to a country which is so starved of water cannot be overestimated.
I hope that, whichever party is eventually in office when such decisions are made, the lessons that will be learnt from the Snowy Mountains scheme will be applied in other parts of Australia. I think Senator McKenna had in mind what happens in Queensland, where so much water runs from the ranges into the sea. What can be done once can be done again. These agreements are so advantageous that the measure should have passed through the Senate without any discussion at all. It has not so passed because objections have been raised to certain provisions relating to the division of the irrigation water between the States. The proposals, which are clearly set out, provide for two stages.
Let me say here that there has been no disagreement on the part of the States, the Commonwealth, or any one else, as to the efficacy of those provisions during normal years of river flow. It is not claimed by South Australia’s Premier, or any one else, that in those circumstances they will operate to the disadvantage of South Australia. It may be of interest to recall that there has not been, ever since the River Murray Waters Agreement was signed, other than a normal river flow; there has not been a period when restrictions have been necessary. When the agreements begin to operate there will be far less chance of that ever happening than there is now. Let us be clear that there is no argument about the effect of the agreements on the division of water during years of normal river flow. All the argument is concentrated on what might happen during periods of restriction - which we have never had so far. What I propose to say now will relate to arguments advanced - and I hope rejected - in relation to periods of restricted river flow only.
Effect is to be given to the agreements in two stages. First there is the method by which water is to be divided among the States after the Tooma diversion has been completed and before the Jindabyne tunnel has begun to bring Snowy water into the Murray. That is the stage to which this first agreement relates. All the objections which we have heard from the Premier of South Australia have concerned what will happen during this stage, so I think we should look at that agreement and see precisely what is objected to. The agreement provides that the water which is lost to the
Murray as a result of the diversion of the Tooma will be assumed to have been taken from the Murray by New South Wales and Victoria. The procedure to be followed in dividing the river Murray waters then remaining will be to measure the flow of the river at Albury, add to that the amount of water drawn from the Tooma, and then apportion that figure among the States in the proportion five-thirteenths to New South Wales, five-thirteenths to Victoria and three-thirteenths to South Australia. However, whereas South Australia will receive its full proportion, New South Wales will receive five-thirteenths less what it has had diverted from the Tooma, and Victoria will receive five-thirteenths less what it is alleged to have diverted from the Tooma. I do not think that the Premier of South Australia or any one else has argued that any disadvantage could be suffered by South Australia under the terms of that agreement. That is not the objection. The objection is rather that the agreement might not be carried out, and that as South Australia is not a signatory it could not take action to ensure that the agreement was honoured. The subsidiary objection is that South Australia is not provided with alternate protection under the River Murray Waters Agreement. It is admitted that it would be quite all right if New South Wales were to divert the water, but it is claimed that as the Commonwealth will be carrying out the diversion as the agent of New South Wales, South Australia will not obtain the protection which would undoubtedly be hers if New South Wales undertook the work. That is the whole nub of the objection.
As to the validity of these legal objections, I cannot judge. I do not think that that could be determined by other than a court. Senator Pearson pointed out what must be assumed before the validity of the objections become in the least important. We have to assume that New South Wales and Victoria would, under the lap, gang up to break an agreement that their parliaments had signed, for the purpose of doing dirt to South Australia. We have to assume that the Commonwealth Government then in power would stand by idly and allow such underhand work to take place without acting to enforce an agreement to which it was a signatory. We have to assume that the river Murray commissioners would be prepared to act in a subservient fashion and not bring the matter to public notice - not rebel against being required to act in an underhand way. We have to assume that there would be no public outcry of significance, and that the various State representatives in this Parliament on both sides would raise no objection to such clandestine action.
We have to assume that all this would be done - for what purpose? On the side of New South Wales and Victoria, the object would be to obtain some 30,000 acre feet of water and on the side of the Commonwealth there would be no discernible purpose whatever. Despite the need for all those assumptions, these legal objections were advanced by the South Australian Premier. Whatever one may think of them - and personally I think they are exceedingly paltry - they were pressed. Perhaps the Premier of South Australia thought he was doing the best that he could for his State. However, it transpires that even these objections can be overcome. We have had circulated in the Senate to-day a proposed amendment to the bill providing in effect that South Australia’s rights must not be prejudiced by anything in the measure. Whether that will afford South Australia a great measure of protection I do not know. The Minister has informed us that other proposals are in train, and these might well be expected to allay the rather flimsy fears so far expressed. What these other propositions are I do not know, and we have not been told. However, any one who has followed the history of this matter since 1948, as I have, and been closely associated with the question of the disposal of the waters of the Murray and Murrumbidgee can make a pretty good guess at the form that the proposals are likely to take. I should not be surprised if one were an amendment to section 45 of the River Murray Waters Act, to put beyond any doubt the intention that this diversion of the Tooma is to be considered, for the purposes of the act, to have been undertaken by New South Wales. That appears to be the one obvious solution.
– It could apply equally to Victoria.
– In either case, such an amendment would overcome any possible objection. But other propositions could also be advanced - quite a number of them. One of them, I would not be at all surprised, would have something to do with enabling the State of New South Wales, or the States of New South Wales and Victoria jointly, to be relieved from deducting from their share of the Murray the water diverted from the Tooma and to replace it instead in the Murray lower down, say at the mouth of the Murrumbidgee or some other river. That would not have anything to do with South Australia’s objections, I do not think.
But South Australia is not the only State interested in the Murray; Victoria and New South Wales also have great interests. 1 would believe that New South Wales requires water in the Murray far more than it requires it in the Murrumbidgee, and I am certain that Victoria requires all its water in the Murray, and requires most of it, as does New South Wales, before the Murrumbidgee reaches the Murray. There are settlements on the New South Wales side opposite Mildura, but they are small. On the New South Wales side, developments are taking place around Tocumwal and Deniliquin and areas of that kind. That is where the water will be required rather than lower down. In the case of Victoria, too, I believe that the vast proportion of its irrigation requirements is taken from the Murray before the Murrumbidgee runs into it. So these States, too, have an interest in any amendments of this kind which may be in contemplation for the River Murray Waters Act.
But solutions of that kind, though they would completely overcome the objections which have been put forward by the Premier, of South Australia might well pose new problems when the second stage of this agreement before us is reached; that is the S.age after the Jindabyne tunnel brings Snowy water into the river Murray, because it might well be that when the Jindabyne brings Snowy water into the river Murray this water will be regarded, as part of the flow of the river Murray. I say “ if. might well be “ because it is by no means certain that it will be. It might be that it can be regarded that the bed- of the river Murray is used for carrying the water of the Snowy in the same way as, on the irrigation- system which serves me, Pyramid Creek is used for a short distance to carry the- water of the Murray. But it may well be held that this. Snowy water forms part of the flow of the river Murray. If that is so held-, it might well happen that when the second stage of this agreement is reached it will mean nothing whatsoever. Its terms will not be binding and the provisions it lays down as to the division of the Snowy water will have no effect at all. Any agreement made here as to the division of Snowy River water will have no effect whatever if that water is held to be part of the flow of the river Murray. The result of that could be, if these amendments that I am imagining go in, that New South Wales or Victoria could find- themselves by one amendment forced to deduct the water which is diverted from the Tooma from their share of the Murray and, on the other hand, completely prevented from replacing that Tooma water with a portion of the Snowy diversion which is provided for in the bill now before us.
I hope and trust that any amendment to the River Murray agreement which will have to be passed by my own State and the State of New South Wales, as well as by the Commonwealth and South Australia, will be very carefully examined indeed by the commissioner for my own State and the commissioner for New South Wales, to be quite sure that amendments will not leave them in a worse position than they are supposed to be in under this agreement - atany rate, in a worse position as far as the Tooma diversion and that portion of- the Snowy flow which replaces it are concerned1 - because, as I have said, it is not only the amount of water which is important toNew South Wales and: Victoria, but also where the water can be taken, out of the river. Those points, I trust, would be we in the minds of the Victorian legislature when it came to consider any amendments or alterations to the River Murray Waters Act. As far as the provision of the water itself is concerned, I think it should be stated that it is all being paid for by the electricity users of New” South Wales and Victoria. There is a current opinion that the capital’ of the scheme is being given by the taxpayers of Australia generally, including the taxpayers in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. That conception is entirely untrue. In point of fact, the- capital is being lent - not being given - to the authority by the taxpayers of Australia, and it is to be repaid with interest by the electricity users of New South* Wales and of Victoria.
– They are getting water for nothing.
– I would not say it is provided for nothing, although, in one sense it is provided for nothing. In another sense, it is being paid for by higher electricity charges than would be the case if the water were charged for too. It is true to say that the water is supplied as a byproduct, free of charge to the three States concerned except the extra charge they pay for electricity.
There is one other comment I wish to make before I sit down, and it relates to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the capital so spent on this great scheme, coming as it does from revenue, should not be required to bear any interest charges whatsoever. At first glance that, P suppose, seems reasonable. After all, the Commonwealth has not to pay back people because it has not borrowed money from them for this scheme; the money has come from revenue. But after all there are at any one time in this country numerous schemes which would benefit the country were they carried out, such as the Snowy Mountains scheme, the turning backwards of waters in Queensland, the development of oil search and numerous schemes of all kinds. There- is not an> unlimited amount of money to finance them. One of the yardsticks by which one can best tell whether money spent on a scheme has been spent wisely is whether the value of the production flowing from the scheme can: meet the interest charges which, in the present case, are extraordinarily low, being: merely the ordinary bond rate of interest. I do not agree with- the Leader of the Opposition on that point, and I close by commending once again the conception and the execution of this whole scheme, and- by saying that I look forward with hope to its results, and trust that these results will not be marred for any petty, paltry reasons.
– I am glad to know that there is somebody on the Government side who has been in close collaboration with the South Australian Government and. has given us a grand explanation of South Australia’s difficulties, in relation to this agreement-. Senator. Gorton:s remarks bearout the contention that I; now proceed to put to the Senate. I want to deal in my speech with the purpose of the agreement and not with politics, although if anybody introduces politics into the matter I shall deal with that subject, too.
Senator Gorton has discussed the legal aspect of this matter, in a roundabout way, but I want to deal with the purpose and the economics of the agreement. The bill before us purports to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act. The long title of the bill has no addendum such as “ and for other purposes “ or “ and for anything incidental to hydro-electric power “. It is purely a bill to deal with hydro-electric power from the Snowy Mountains scheme.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric. Power Act provides for the diversion and storage of water by way of tunnels, channels, storage basins and so on. That water is to be used for the production of electricity, and thereafter is to be distributed among certain of the States. Nobody quarrels about the agreement up to that stage. Honorable senators have spoken about the introduction of the scheme, and of how some people stayed away from the opening ceremony. I shall not go into that matter. The point I want to make is that a schedule to this bill purports to deal with the distribution of the water after it has been used for the generation of electricity.
Another agreement, known as the River Murray Waters Agreement, already provides for the distribution of water among the States involved’ in this agreement.
The River Murray Waters Agreement is administered by the River Murray Commission. When this bill becomes law its provisions as to the distribution of the water will over-ride the wishes of the River Murray Commission. That is the position in a nutshell. Senator Gorton has just said that water is already being diverted from a tributary of the Murray River. That fact leaves South Australia in a somewhat dis.stressing position. The honorable senator was speaking on the matter from the legal standpoint, and he admitted that there was some justice in South Australia’s claim regarding the diversion of this water.
Certain clauses, which. I will deal with more fully at the committee stage, provide for the diversion of certain waters from the Tooma River into the Tumut River, and from the Tumut River into the Murrumbidgee. Had that water been diverted this year - a dry year - there would have been a grave shortage of water in South Australia. Let nobody have any illusions about that.
Under the scheme 330,000 acre feet of water is to be diverted from a tributary of the Murray into the Murrumbidgee. There are close to 700,000 people in South Australia to-day, relying on the water from the Murray River, who would have been in a terrible position had that water been diverted in this dry year. That is the factor with which I am concerned at this stage.
There is provision for the division of the water in the Murrumbidgee, after diversion, between New South Wales and Victoria. If that water flowed down its usual channel into the Murray South Australia would get its due ratio this dry year, or any other dry year. But when that water is diverted into New South Wales, and from New South Wales goes back into the Murray after the withdrawal of the supply to New South Wales guaranteed in this distribution agreement, South Australia will not get its proper ratio of water. South Australia would get its proper ratio only if the 330,000 acre feet of water flowed back into the Murray. As it is, South Australia will get only half the amount of water that now flows down the Murray.
Of course, that leaves South Australia in a position in which it may suffer a great disability. Senator Gorton has said that we are looking to the future, and that there has not been any trouble over the division of the water in the Murray during the period since the work of the River Murray Commission commenced. That is quite true, except for the fact that only a flood last year, which caused Lake Victoria to overflow, has saved South Australia from the difficulties attendant on a dry season this year. The result of that flood is that South Australia has been able, for the first time, to use just about the quantity of water that, under the river Murray agreement, is to be allowed to flow down the Murray. About 700,000 people use Murray water for the purposes of primary production, secondary industry and ordinary living, and have been relying on the stored water for some months. So it is right that the South Australian people should do their utmost to see that their rights are protected.
In perhaps ten or fifteen years, when the second part of the Snowy project has been finished and the water from the Snowy River is sent through the various tunnels and channels to produce electricity, it is estimated that 440,000 acre feet will flow into the Murray. It is claimed that South Australia will derive a benefit from the storage of water and the regulation of the supply. The fact is the total of water available will be no greater than it is now. South Australia may get a greater distribution at one period than at another, but there will still be only 440,000 acre feet diverted into the Murray. Senator Gorton himself says that there is a doubt whether South Australia will be allowed some share of that water. The bill provides for the diversion from the Tooma to the Tumut, and thence to the Murrumbidgee, of 330,000 acre feet of water. Half of that is Victoria’s share and all that would be necessary to be diverted from the Snowy River is 165,000 acre feet and not 330,000 acre feet at all. Only half of the amount would need to be returned to the Murray through the diversion of the Snowy River. Here again Victoria will not come out of this as well as it did before- It will get only half of the amount which is to go into the Murrumbidgee. But South Australia is not to get a drop at any time under this agreement- Senator Gorton, a legal man who has studied this agreement, and has apparently been in concert with our worthy Premier of South Australia, knows something about this. He has already expressed a doubt about the matter and I agree with him. I am only a layman and have been in concert with no one; I have just studied the matter myself. The point is that neither Senator Gorton nor I will make the final decision in this issue. There is only one place in which that decision can be made, but whether the matter will go that far I do not know.
The flow of water in a river is determined by what happens at its upper reaches- Senator Gorton himself admits that even when the Murray River is flowing at its greatest height, the amount of water in it will be halved before it reaches its confluence with the Murrumbidgee. Is that not an admission that at some time in the future all the water may be used before it reaches South Australia and that South Australia will be left high and dry? There is no question about that. I know there has been a lot of propaganda and that the Minister for National Development and others have said that this scheme will irrigate 1,000,000 acres of land along the Murrumbidgee and, possibly 500,000 acres or 750,000 acres along the Murray. If the water is to be used in that way, what will South Australia’s position be? South Australia is irrigating 750,000 acres now and wants to develop more irrigated land. It is building up its agricultural industries just as the other States are. Is it not right that South Australia should attempt to protect itself now and not wait until some time in the future?
We all know that certain pressure has been brought to bear on the Government through the activities of the Premier of South Australia and members of his ministry. Pressure has been brought to bear on members of the Liberal party. Indeed, the pressure has been so great that at present there is a quarrel amongst the members of the Liberal party. We know, of course, that some have had to give way a little bit and I shall deal with that presently. In addition, there has been pressure from the Liberal party in South Australia on the Liberal party in this Parliament, which is the predominant Government party. Of course, the Minister for National Development assures his colleagues that South Australia’s rights are being protected all the time. That was the substance of a reply that he gave to one of his Liberal friends. But when we ask the same sort of question he asks that it be put on the notice-paper. We receive no reply. Answering a South Australian Liberal party senator the Minister gave a lot of assurances. He intimated that he had circulated an amendment to this bill which he hoped would overcome the difficulty.
All we hear from the Minister is hopes and assurances; yet immediately he says these things we find that our friends opposite, particularly Senator Pearson, are prepared to leave Tommy Playford high and dry. Senator Pearson now repudiates the South Australian Premier altogether and says that he is now in agreement with the Minister. Honorable senators opposite from South Australia do not know where they stand but apparently they are prepared to accept the assurances given by the Minister.
Very little reliance can be placed on such assurances. A Minister gives an assurance to somebody and then passes on. Another Minister takes his place. The person to whom the assurance was given asks the new Minister about it but the new Minister replies, “ I do not know anything about that. The assurance was given by Senator so-and-so some time ago and there is no record of it “. So the assurance goes by the board. Assurances do not count. That is particularly true of assurances given by the Minister in charge of this bill. Do honorable senators remember the time when we were considering a bill which we claimed provided a means of robbing the woolgrowers of tens of millions of pounds? We said that the Government was taking this money away and that the wool-growers would never get it back again because the Government would find some means of keeping it from them. The Minister dramatically entered the chamber, thumped his desk and said, “ Over my dead body “. But in the very next year he brought down a bill which confiscated the money. Apparently his dead body has come to life again. Yet we have honorable senators here who are prepared to accept his assurance on a particular phase of this scheme and to repudiate their own party in South Australia! They are not only repudiating their own party but they will be allowing nearly 250,000 people to suffer if there is no settlement of this issue. That is the position.
Now let us have a look at the amendment that has been circulated. I told honorable senators that I would deal with it presently. The bill as I have said contains agreements between the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria which I believe will take away certain rights from South Australia. It is proposed to insert a clause to read as follows -
Nothing in this act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements, copies of which are set out in this schedule to the River Murray Waters Act 1950-54.
Water is to be diverted from the Tooma River into the Murrumbidgee, yet this amendment says that nothing shall interfere with the rights of South Australia to that water. The water will have gone - it will not be there. It will be in the Murrumbidgee River. What on earth is the use of that? It is no good at all. This amendment will not protect South Australia in any way, yet our friends opposite are prepared to accept the assurance of the Minister and to accept this amendment as a settlement of the matter so that they can back the Minister up no matter what happens. Then, Senator Gorton has a dream and is able to suggest certain things. I, too, could have a dream and suggest the same things. I have been trying to get from the Minister information concerning what was recommended to him by the River Murray Waters Commission. I have been unable to induce him to table that report for discussion, yet Senator Gorton has its contents disclosed to him in a dream. Let me emphasize that no agreement will overcome the difficulty unless some provision is made for the water that is to be diverted into the Murrumbidgee pending the completion of the whole scheme. Something more than simply allowing Victoria to use the water must be done in this instance for, under the present arrangement, South Australia is deprived of any rights to share in that water. It is now proposed by honorable senators opposite that we should accept an amendment relating to that water when in actual fact there is no water available for South Australia. If water is taken out of the Murray - and this agreement purports to legalize that action - then South Australia has no rights at all. That State certainly will have no protection even under the proposed amendment.
It has been suggested that there is some doubt about the ownership of that part of the water which might come down the channel of the river Murray. It was suggested that such water could ,be used before it reached the confluence of the Murrumbidgee with the Murray. What right would South Australia have to that water under the proposed agreement? I cannot see that it would have any. I suggest that it will have to be left to a court to decide whether the diverted water would be deemed to be the natural flow of the Murray and would come within the ambit of the River Murray Waters Agreement or whether South Australia is deprived of all rights under the proposed agreement. I do not think we can do anything .to rectify the position, but I do suggest in all earnestness that during the period while water is being taken from the Tooma River pending the completion of the whole scheme there must be some agreement entered into between this Government and the Governments of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. It has to be remembered that when the scheme is completed, when the whole of the 440,000 acre feet of water is allowed to flow into the Murray after being used for the generation of electricity, and for other purposes, it will be only about 100,000 acre feet more than is flowing into that river now. Even so, I am convinced that it is still necessary to make some provision to cover the period between the time the water is diverted from the Tooma River until the scheme is completed. The only attempt to make such provision is the paltry amendment which honorable senators opposite now propose as a way out of the difficulty in which their own party in South Australia has placed them.
I hope that the Minister’s assurances are well founded. I hope that he will take into consideration not only Senator Gorton’s suggestion but also .the suggestion put to him and some other Ministers that between the time of the diversion of the Tooma River and the completion of the Snowy scheme this 330,000 acre feet of water shall be allowed to flow into the Murray and South Australia will be allowed to share in the use of the whole of it. The schedule to the bill provides for the extension of irrigation for the purposes of agriculture, fruit-growing, pastoral pursuits and so on, but, once water is diverted from the tributary of the Murray into the Murrumbidgee, South Australia is left without any right at all to any extra water from the Snowy Mountains scheme. I think that is the water about which Senator Gorton has expressed doubt.
Another important economic aspect to be considered is that whilst it will be possible to use the land adjacent to the Murrumbidgee and adjacent to the Murray right down to the point at which the two rivers join, no provision is made for the expansion of production along the lower reaches of the river. Surely, honorable senators opposite can see the need for making some provision which will permit of the extension of primary pursuits on the land adjacent to the lower reaches of the Murray. I submit that a doubt exists in connexion with those areas, because it cannot be denied that the schedule deals with something which is completely outside the ambit of not only the bill but also the principal act. This legislation does not deal wholly and solely with the supply of hydro-electric power; it deals also with the distribution of water after the hydro-electric authority has finished with it. It is because of these facts that I suggest that some agreement should be arrived at. I suggest also, with all the emphasis at my command, that Parliament should be notified of any such agreement immediately it is arranged. We object strongly to the hole-and-corner tactics the Minister has been adopting during the last couple of months, and even earlier. When we have asked questions, prompted by a genuine desire for information, the Minister has snarled and barked at us for doing so. He snarled and barked at me and condemned me out of hand because I asked for certain information, yet, when an honorable senator on the Government side asked an almost identical question the following day, the Minister answered it.
– When did the honorable senator ask a question?
– Does the Minister not remember?
– No, I do not.
– Then perhaps I had better draw the Minister’s attention to it. Does the Minister remember that on the day following that on which I asked the question, he was leaving the chamber and when I asked where he was going he snarled at me? My question is contained in “ Hansard “. On that occasion, as now, I was seeking information in connexion with the ‘hydro-electric scheme and the agreement relating to the Murray waters; but I have not been able to obtain any information at all. I do not know whether the Minister is in possession of the information I have sought, but he has never even said in reply to my questions “ I do not have the information “. I asked whether a recommendation dealing with certain phases of the distribution of the water had been forwarded by the commission to the Minister, and if so, would the Minister table the papers. In reply, all the Minister said was “ Put the question on the notice-paper “ and it is still there. That is the kind of treatment honorable senators receive from the Minister.
Senator Critchley yesterday received a similar answer from the Minister to a question on the same matter. However, information that the Minister refuses to give can be obtained from outside sources, and it has been ascertained that the River Murray Waters Commission met last Monday. The Minister’s approach to our questions is entirely wrong. We should be able to obtain the information we require, if only for the purpose of enabling us to make speeches in this chamber.
The Minister is not able to agree even with the Premiers of the States concerned who now go direct to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in an effort to overcome the difficulties that the Minister either cannot, or is too stubborn to deal with - and I have heard some stronger adjectives than “stubborn “ applied to the Minister. Surely honorable senators are entitled to be informed on matters that are more or less public property. An example is the dispute that exists between the parties to these agreements and the parties to the River Murray Waters agreement. After the statements that were blazoned forth by the Premier of South Australia, everybody knew that a dispute existed. I do not take much notice of Sir Thomas Playford’s statements because I know, as does Senator Toohey, that he is one of the greatest propagandists in Australia who makes promises and gives assurances to electors prior to an election. But he brought to everybody’s notice the fact that a disagreement existed between South Australia and the parties to the agreements in relation to the distribution of the waters from the Snowy Mountains scheme after the water has been used by the authority for the production of electricity. There is of course, no dispute in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme itself.
I am prepared to allow this bill to pass the second-reading stage but I shall discuss it further in committee in an endeavour to obtain information from the Minister. I hope he will give that information instead of standing on his dignity, shaking his head and scowling at any honorable senator who asks him a question. If he adopts that attitude, then the responsibility for the fate of this bill is on his own head.
– I had hoped that our task in connexion with this measure, with which I thought we all agreed, was merely to express our praise for the magnificent scheme now in operation. That is what I intend to do in most of my speech, but, unfortunately, the last two speakers from the Opposition side of the chamber have brought so much partisanship into the discussion that some reply must be made to their charges.
An attempt has been made to create the impression in the public mind that the Government parties have been lukewarm towards this measure. The first reply to that statement that came to my mind, before 1 referred to any authorities was that most of us are comparatively new to the Senate. Yesterday the astounding statement was made that the Minister was cold or only lukewarm towards the original legislation. But neither the Minister nor any other present Liberal party or Australian Country party senator from New South Wales was a member of this chamber in 1949. Indeed, only two members of these parties now in the Parliament were here in 1949. The Senate has had an infusion of new blood, so even if Senator Toohey’s statements were correct, senators from New South Wales would not be affected. But his statements are not correct.
I have taken the trouble to read “ Hansard “ and I have found that the Liberal party of the day was wholeheartedly and enthusiastically behind the Snowy Mountains scheme. Members of that party praised the scheme, not in lukewarm terms, but completely and emphatically.
The honorable senator opposite who is interjecting may interject until he is black in the face, but the people of Australia will take their sober history from “ Hansard “ and the records of the day. Long after the honorable senator is forgotten, except as a name in this chamber, the record of what was said in those days will live.
I shall quote from “ Hansard “ a statement by the present Prime Minister (Mr, Menzies). It reads -
Do we need to develop the resources in the Snowy Mountains area? Most unquestionably we do. It is of immeasurable importance to Australia that we should develop our power resourcesthat are not dependent primarily on coal.
The right honorable gentleman’s criticism was directed towards strengthening the basis of the scheme and not weakening it, as has been suggested. The bill now before us seeks to implement the policy then laid down by Mr. Menzies. The right honorable gentleman criticized the bill in three respects. He said first, that the States should be partners, and we have made them partners by the agreements which are in the schedule to this bill. Secondly, he said that finance should remain under parliamentary control, and the particular financial arrangements that he criticized have been altered so that finance is under parliamentary control. Thirdly, he claimed that the defence power was inadequate, and the Minister and his confidential advisers know how inadequate it is. Because of the inadequacy of the defence power the Government asks that the bill be passed without unreasonable delay.
Sir Earle Page most enthusiastically supported the bill, and in definite terms congratulated the Minister concerned and the Government. That is a complete answer to the suggestions made by honorable senators opposite. Senator Harris thinks that his bare assertions are sufficient ground for public belief, but the public will not believe him. There is the record of “ Hansard “ and the whole public record of the great statesman who leads us to-day. We are enthusiastically behind this measure.
Although I admit that the people who have taken the initiative may have a special niche in history - I shall not begrudge it; I have always given full credit to Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lemmon, and I am sure everyone else on this side of the chamber does so - why should this Government be denied the credit that is due to it? Why should the Minister for National Development, who has laboured like Hercules since he entered the Parliament and who has been beset by worries by which no Minister in such a responsible position should be beset, be harassed and worried in the petty way adopted by Senator O’Flaherty? Here we are legislating for a great national undertaking, but Senator O’Flaherty delivered the pettiest speech that I have heard in this chamber for a very long time.
From that, Sir, 1 turn to the disquietude that has arisen in South Australia. Let me say that I have considerable sympathy with it. During a visit I made to South Australia - 1 did not see the Premier, because he happened to be in Sydney at the time; I do not know whether he heard that I was coming and did not think there would be room for the two of us - I discussed this matter with half of the State Cabinet and many members of the South Australian Parliament. I think I appreciate the South Australian viewpoint. 1 appreciate it to the extent that I know that, of all the waterless parts of Australia, South Australia has developed possibly better than any other. South Australia depends on the Murray flow for 90 per cent, of its water supply. Therefore, I feel it is pardonable that the Premier of South Australia should take every step to have everything down in black and white.
Having said that, in my opinion all of South Australia’s fears are illusory, because, although the construction of the Tooma dam will temporarily reduce the amount of water that is available to South Australia, the diversion of the river will not in any way affect the rights of that State. South Australia has its rights recorded in agreements, and it has its constitutional rights. Not being a lawyer, I am not prepared to examine fully those rights; but I think the amendment that the Minister has foreshadowed, which we will gladly endorse, and which definitely provides that South Australia’s rights under other agreements shall not be effected by this legislation, is a sufficient safeguard. Even if it were not a sufficient safeguard, under the River Murray Waters Agreement South Australia has the right to a certain flow of water, and it is only in a drought year or a year when restriction occurs pursuant to the agreement that she can suffer in any way.
Before the Tooma is diverted and the volume of the Murray is reduced, we shall have ample time for discussion and further legislation, even if this bill does not sufficiently secure the rights of South Australia. I say emphatically that no ohe is justified in voting against this measure, because it seeks to give a sound legal basis to the greatest undertaking in Australia at the present time. Every patriotic Australian has a duty to vote for it. 1 agree that South Australia has a right to safeguards either in this bill or in other agreements, but it would be to the eternal shame of any State that it should hold up this great national undertaking merely because an “ i “ was not dotted or a “ t “ was not crossed. Behind all legal agreements there is a further agreement - the good faith of the Australian people and their representatives. No one who represents New South Wales and Victoria in this Parliament, those States being the great benefactors under this measure, wishes in any way to mitigate or take away the rights of South Australia.
As to the criticism that the Minister has not told us everything, what negotiator makes every step apparent to everybody? The Minister has had to negotiate with three States, lt is quite possible that there are people in New South Wales and Victoria who are willing to try to take some petty advantage of the situation, but I do not think so. I think all States are agreed that in the long run every State should get what it is entitled to under this measure. What South Australia is entitled to, in broad terms, is an undiminished flow of water. In other words, if the supply is diminished by irrigation in New South Wales and Victoria, that diminution must be made up for in some other way. The precise quantity of water to which South Australia is entitled is set out in a public document. Whether or not the legal processes by which South Australia’s entitlement can be enforced are sufficient, I am sure public opinion in Australia is sufficient. No one in New South Wales and Victoria would dare to take by irrigation water that was needed further downstream to which a rightful claim could be established.
So South Australia has certain legal guarantees. As every honorable senator realizes, no one can say whether those guarantees are perfectly sound unless the High Court were to sit in judgment on them; but I and many other intelligent people, and some lawyers, believe that those safeguards are sufficient. Behind those safeguards is the safeguard of public opinion. Surely, now that we are a nation - one people with one destiny - those safeguards are sufficient. Although it is a childish one, I have a clear recollection of the beginning of federation. Among the great rallying: cries that were inscribed around Sydney in letters of fire was the phrase, “ The Murray no longer divides “. I hope everyone will accept this bill in that light. The Murray should no longer divide us; it is probably the greatest unifying force in Australia.
Now I wish to make one or two comments about what this great undertaking will do, and why it is so important. I suppose I shall only be recapitulating, because the facts have been stated well and often. It is important for all Australians to realize that the greatest drawback in this country is the lack of water; it is the only really serious drawback. We must use every cubic foot of water that we have. This plan for diverting the Snowy River, which is one of our perennial streams and flows through well watered country, into the Murray and irrigating dry lands in the west is one of the boldest and most imaginative ever conceived. I am sure that no one in Australia will tolerate for any length of time any interference with it. One has only to go into the marvellous oases of Griffith and Leeton, or further down at Mildura, and into the arid lands that surround them, or better still to fly over these areas and contrast them, to realize what the Snowy Mountains project is doing for Australia. Merely to increase the flow of water in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia is of immeasurable importance.
In the Snowy scheme there is a pattern for the future, because it will not be the last of such schemes. It may be - indeed, it would be better - that in the future schemes will be undertaken by the States with Commonwealth assistance, because none of the future schemes will be on the same gigantic scale as is the Snowy scheme. If we travel down the eastern coast of Australia, we find that in Queensland more water runs to waste than anywhere else in Australia. One of our great engineers- even suggested a scheme similar to the diversion of the Showy River. He suggested a diversion of some of the water in the coastal streams to the parched and arid west. I shall not attempt to say whether such a scheme would be practicable. The rate of evaporation would’ certainly be high, and it may bs that the waters of those rivers could be much better used in the coastal area even though the streams flow through fairly well watered regions.
I would set no bounds to the possibilities that exist for the future development of Australia. We have the water we need, but it is not in the right places. The pattern set by this measure, if followed, will ensure that it is in the right places. New South Wales is being treated so well under the Snowy scheme that it ought not, perhaps, to be considered next on the list, but if there is one scheme in that State which I would count worthy of any risk it is the Clarence River scheme. The Clarence River, with its tributaries, is one of the most magnificent waterways in the country. The provision of a simple dam in. the rocky gorge through which it flows would make possible irrigation which would serve an enormous area of that State.
– Is the honorable senator not satisfied with the benefits accruing to New South Wales under the Snowy scheme?
– I want everything done that will benefit Australia as a whole. I assure the honorable senator that I am quite prepared to agree to the Ord River being dammed, if that is possible. I see no limits to what can be done in the irrigation field. Despite the criticisms which we have heard I hope that the general sentiment will be that this is a necessary bill, a good bill and one that we all support whole-heartedly.
I join other honorable senators in giving praise to every one associated with the scheme. It is due, first, to those- who last century conceived in a vague and genera] way the idea of large-scale irrigation;, to the- engineers and officers; and to the poli>ticians who pushed- it forward. As there has- been a kind of indiscriminate attack upon honorable senators on this side ofthe chamber I think I am entitled to say that my colleague, Senator Reid, was the New South Wales Minister who authorized, the survey which led, in the ultimate, to this great scheme- itself. The scheme had been proposed on previous occasions but he was the first Minister to direct his officers to go ahead with a survey. He is entitled to full credit for that. Most of the credit for the implementation of the scheme so far must go to Sir William Hudson and the officers and men who work under him. I have read a great deal about the scheme, have studied it and have visited it more than once. I hope to visit it again because nothing is so calculated to rid one’s mind of gloom and pessimism than a visit to that magnificent region, and the sight of what is being done there. It is a great scheme for war - if war comes - and a great scheme for peace. I think that, in days to come, we shall regard it as possibly the most important economic development in our history.
.- I hasten to join my two colleagues from South Australia who have already spoken. At the outset I would associate myself most heartily with the eulogies of the mammoth Snowy Mountains scheme that have come from all sides of the chamber. This afternoon our leader traversed in detail the economics of that great national undertaking. There is no need for me to recapitulate those details, but I wholeheatedly support the praise given to all who have been associated in the development of the enterprise so far.
The legislation before the Senate seeks the ratification of the agreements between the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria, conferring on the two States special benefits in the form of hydro-electric power, and water for domestic purposes and irrigation, particularly in New South Wales. At the moment the future of the plan is threatened by serious legal implications which, if not removed, could involve all parties to the Snowy Mountains project in lengthy and costly litigation. The measure before us seeks to impose conditions which conflict with the agreement made by the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia under the River Murray Waters Act of 1915-1950.
I am sorry that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is not in the chamber because I wish to level at him criticism - not of a highly caustic nature - for not answering directly questions submitted to him on this matter by Opposition members, from South Australia especially. For some time past we have been conscious of the effect of the agreement on hydroelectricity and riparian rights, upon the State of South Australia. Naturally, we came to the fountain head seeking information concerning the measure that is now before us. It has formed the basis of discussion, not only among politicians generally, but the community as a whole in South Australia. Hitherto, the water requirements of South Australia have been adequately safeguarded under the River Murray Waters Act. When it seemed to us that South Australia’s position was in jeopardy as a result of a development of this great scheme, we naturally inquired of the Minister what the legislation proposed and what chance South Australia had of satisfying its water requirements both now and in the years to come. Our inquiries were not answered.
I pass now to the agreement itself. It envisages the diversion of the Tooma waters to the Tumut River, servicing in the process four or five power stations generating electricity for distribution throughout New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. Negotiations on the agreement must have been proceeding for a considerable time. The parties were doubtless aware of its implications for South Australia but not one word was mentioned of that State taking part and protecting her interests. Earlier in the debate Senator Gorton enumerated the conditions of the agreement and the problems associated with the scheme. They were manifold. Consequently, the parties concerned should have co-opted the services of South Australia when formulating any scheme associated with river Murray water. The bill before the Senate, which seeks to ratify the agreement, poses the question: Was South Australia consulted at any time in relation to the mechanics of the undertaking? I should say, in view of the belated intervention by the Premier of that State, that it was not consulted. If the Premier of South Australia knew the nature of the negotiations that were taking place, he was very secretive about the matter. If he knew the particulars, he should have published them so that the people would realize the detrimental effect that this agreement would have in relation to the water that South Australia derives from the river Murray. If the Premier of South Australia knew what was transpiring, he should have sought to participate actively in the conferences between the parties concerned.
Complementary legislation has only recently, 1 understand, been passed by the New South Wales and Victorian Parliaments. It has been decided to proceed with the Tooma and Tumut projects in the face of protests from South Australia. The Premier of South Australia has taken a stand on that State’s water rights, in the interests of South Australia’s economic and social development. The outcome of the Premier’s intervention will be vital to South Australia. The South Australian Government has caused a writ to be issued in the South Australian registry of the High Court, seeking four things. It seeks first -
A declaration that the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Act is beyond the power of the Commonwealth and invalid in so far as it purports to authorise the diversion of the River Tooma or any other tributary of the River Murray.
As a layman - not a legal luminary, of course - I would hold that that is valid because it involves constitutional problems. Secondly, the writ seeks -
A declaration that the proposed diversion of the Tooma or other tributaries of the River Murray by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is not authorised by law.
Again, I would hold that that is valid, because the agreement violates existing acts; they have not been repealed. Thirdly, the writ seeks -
An injunction restraining the Commonwealth and its agents from diverting or otherwise interfering with the natural flow of the River Tooma or any other tributary of the Murray.
Again, I think the demand is valid, because conditions relating to water flow are laid down in the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954. Fourthly, the writ seeks -
A declaration that water diverted from the Snowy into the Murray will become subject to the River Murray Waters Agreement.
Again, I think that would be valid. I think that all water diverted into the Murray should become the subject of a covering act. Under the Snowy Mountains agreement, it is proposed to divert some 500,000 or 600,000 acre feet of water from the Tooma, a tributary of the Murray, to projects for the generation of hydro-electric power. The water will be used for irrigation purposes, probably in New South Wales, and ultimately it will flow into the Murrumbidgee, which meanders through New South Wales, and will be used for servicing farm lands. Therefore, it will almost fizzle out before it rejoins the Murray. Other than in seasons of high flood, there is no possibility of that water returning to the Murray for use in accordance with the River Murray Waters Act.
By way of compensation, this legislation proposes that Snowy water shall be diverted through the Jindabyne tunnel into the Swampy Plain River, which runs into the Murray. But the quantity of water that will flow to the Murray by this means will not be as great as the volume of water to be diverted from the Tooma. Another ground for South Australia’s protest is the fact that the second project will take seven years to complete. In my opinion, despite the magnitude of the project, the Snowy Mountains Authority could commence the Snowy project first and undertake the second section of the undertaking afterwards. That would obviate a hiatus, as it were, of seven years and dispel the apprehension in the minds of the people of South Australia regarding this project.
According to the River Murray Waters Agreement, South Australia is entitled to riparian rights if the volume of flow of the river Murray is reduced. Although the agreement has been amended four or five times since 1915, this provision has remained. Minor alterations have been consequential upon extra dam storages being required to hold the water of the Murray in certain places. Under the River Murray Waters Act, South Australia is entitled to three-thirteenths of the river Murray water. The interpretation section of that act reads in part - “ River “ and “ Tributary “ respectively include any affluent effluent creek ana-branch or extension of and any lake or lagoon connected with the river or tributary.
That seems to me to make the position clear.
As I said earlier, this whole matter is of vital importance to the economic development of South Australia now and in the immediate future. The Attorney-General of South Australia has appealed to Labour senators to do all they can to protect South Australia’s rights to water. We were asked to oppose strongly any alteration of the River Murray Waters Act, and to oppose the present legislation. We have had no information from the Minister regarding features of this project which threaten to be detrimental to South Australia’s welfare because they will affect that State’s supply of water from the Murray. However, no doubt as a last minute yielding to pressure from various quarters, the Government has introduced a belated amendment. Unless this amendment is ratified by New South Wales and Victoria, which are the other parties to the agreement, it will not be legally binding. Those States will have to pass complementary legislation to bring the amendment into force, and the decision of South Australia on that matter will rest entirely with the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford. If he is satisfied that the Government’s proposal is legitimate and legal, then we also must be satisfied. In those circumstances, I accept the legislation so long as South Australia’s future water rights are guaranteed.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [9.44]. - I rise to support the bill and to express my very great pleasure at what has been, and is being, done in the wonderful Snowy Mountains scheme. I think that, as Australians, we all can feel rightly proud of it. We are particularly proud of what has been achieved by the people who are building this mighty project. Those of us who have visited the scheme and travelled through that rugged, difficult country were impressed by the spirit of pioneering and adventure which animates those engaged on the project. We must feel awe at the fact that through such difficult country roads have been built along which are carried heavy equipment as well as supplies for the workers although, not so very long ago, it was just possible for a sure-footed pack pony to negotiate the narrow, boulder-strewn paths in order to deliver supplies to the camps and the working places. To-day, we see great mechanical forces at work on tremendous undertakings which will do so much, not only for the south-eastern part of Australia, but also for the whole Commonwealth. These are things of which we ought to feel proud.
We should pay a great tribute here to the families which have made their homes in the Snowy Mountains area in order to work on the project. They include many new Australians as well as old Australians who work together to make a greater Australia. They include people who have come from snow-covered countries, and who are pleased to work in the conditions that obtain in the Snowy Mountains. Perhaps they are better qualified than anybody else for work in this kind of country. The new Australians and old Australians on the Snowy Mountains have the same pioneering spirit which enabled our own forefathers to build a nation out of a wilderness. Children are growing up in the Snowy Mountains area realizing that Australia has not only a tropical belt, but also snow-covered areas which are a very important part of the nation’s heritage.
Overseas companies are playing a spectacular part in the Snowy Mountains project. I should like to pay a tribute to them, and to the people who originally saw the great vision of this project. I should like particularly to mention also Sir William Hudson and the people who work with him to bring reality to the vision of the men who first dreamed of the Snowy Mountains project many years ago. We can feel very proud of the men who do the actual, physical work of bringing the project into being. Tunnellers on the project created a world tunnelling record, after three or four months, of 362 feet a week, compared with the normal tunnelling rate of 70 feet a week. Not satisfied with that, they later broke their own record with a new world record of 482 feet a week. That is a spectacular achievement of which we may well be proud. I believe that all Australians will support the expressions of pride in the achievements of these workers that have been voiced in the Senate.
The contract for the construction of the great Adaminaby dam provided for its completion in four years. It is now almost completed, two years before the due date. That is something else which calls for our congratulations. I believe that these things are important because they express the spirit of the undertaking - the spirit which in the past has made this country what it is, a spirit which will continue to make this country able to take its place among the great nations.
I turn now to the work of the laboratories associated with the scheme, work which is recognized in other countries. The men who work in the laboratories are so keen and enthusiastic, not only about their own project, but also about helping other projects throughout the Commonwealth, and their work is recognized overseas. The Snowy scheme to-day, and when completed, will always be recognized as a great achievement. Certainly the part played by the government will be, but far more than that, the part played by those who have helped to build this great undertaking.
May I refer for a moment to comments made by Opposition speakers that honorable senators on this side have opposed this scheme in the past. That is quite wrong. We have supported the scheme as a whole. In fact, if honorable senators refer to the 1949 debate they will find that the then Opposition senators, who are now on the Government side, referred to the scheme in the most glowing terms indeed. So, why put forward this false propaganda, which is unfair not only to honorable senators but also to the people who are building the Snowy scheme?
We have before us a bill to approve two agreements relating to the Snowy Mountains scheme. I should like to-night to pay a tribute to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). He has undertaken years and years of work to bring this legislation into being. It has, of course, entailed negotiations and the consideration of various people and various things, but Senator Spooner, as an Australian believing in this scheme, has left no stone unturned until in this day and age he has brought before the Senate legislation to approve the agreements between the Commonwealth and the States concerned. As we think of this scheme it is good to realize that it is the largest engineering work ever undertaken in Australia, and one of the largest in the world. That is a great thing for us as Australians. The scheme involves the construction of seven major dams, fifteen power stations over 80 miles of large-diameter tunnels, miles of aqueducts, shafts ranging up to 1,100 feet deep and hundreds of miles of mountain roads in this rugged, spectacular alpine country. When we consider all that we must realize the importance of this legislation to-night.
Three parties are concerned with these agreements - the Commonwealth, New South Wales, and Victorian Governments.
I should like to repeat some points that have already been made. Because of their importance I cannot neglect mentioning them again. As honorable senators know the first agreement sets out the basis on which the scheme will be constructed, describes how the power will be generated, and how power will be purchased by the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria. The scheme also provides for the sharing between New South Wales and Victoria of additional irrigation water which will be made available in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys. Electricity and water! Surely they are two of the most important needs of any country. Those are the things for which the agreement provides. The second agreement deals with measures to prevent possible damage by flooding in the upper Murray and lower Tumut. As honorable senators know, to date this scheme has continued under legislation passed by the Commonwealth in 1949. That legislation was based on the defence powers and also, of course, the powers of the Constitution. One of the principal provisions of the main agreement is an undertaking by the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria to bring down legislation so that the Snowy Mountains Authority will be able to carry out its important work- So, this legislation with which we are dealing to-night is complementary to legislation which has already been passed by the Parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria.
The simple story of this scheme is that the waters of streams and rivers which rise on the eastern side of the Great Divide at a high elevation in those great mountains are to be transferred by tunnels and shafts to rivers at low elevation on the western side of the range. The fall of the waters will enable large quantities of electricity to be generated. The whole task has been made more difficult by the nature of the country, the handicaps of snow, wet seasons and. of course, the problem of transportation. But all those difficulties have been overcome. The scheme provides for the diversion of water from the Snowy River to the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys, where the water will be used for irrigation purposes. Also, the volume of irrigation water made available to the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys during the irrigation season and in dry periods will be further increased by the regulation provided by the reservoirs of this scheme.
So we see what this scheme means. First of all it means electricity which, in this modern day and age is a most needed requirement. The total generating capacity of the scheme will be approximately threequarters of the present total capacity of all the electricity systems of the Commonwealth. That is a tremendous thing, and I wonder if we realize when we speak about it in words like these, what it really means. The agreement provides that after the requirements of the Commonwealth in the Australian Capital Territory and the Snowy Mountains area have been provided for, the States will be sold the balance of the power at the cost of production. The water will be made available without charge to the States. When we consider the area under Commonwealth jurisdiction that is to be served we realize that the bulk of the power will bc used by the two States. The Australian Capital Territory and the Snowy Mountains area will obviously use a much lesser amount. The additional cost of providing irrigation water is included in the cost of generating the electric power and, as we have been told’ so often to-night, that cost will be recovered when the power is sold.
Now let me for a moment speak of water and its tremendous importance for irrigation purposes. I have lived a great deal of my life in the country. I have see over and over again the great tragedy of long dry spells of drought. I know what it is to- see stock and crops dying. I know the problem that is faced by people whose only thought is, “ If only we can get rain to save our very livelihood “. How important is water to a community! Speakers have waxed poetical to-night so perhaps I may be forgiven if I do so too. In this sunburnt land, the thing we need most of all is water. Very often the availability of water has been the determining factor in the settling of this country by our pioneers and explorers and I believe it will continue to be so in the future. The distribution of population, too, has been decided by the supply of water. I suppose we can say that the need for water in this country is paramount. The whole future of Australia, its population, its development, its welfare and prosperity can be effected by the supply of water. It may well be true that in the future water will be even more important than electricity. I am sure that every honorable senator agrees with me when I say that the harnessing and diversion of water may indeed be the most important role of this legislation. The water made available to the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys will be increased by the direct diversion of the Snowy River and its tributaries and further by the regulation of the Snowy, Tumut, Tooma, Geehi and Murrumbidgee rivers in the reservoirs of the scheme. What a tremendous thing that is! Any one examining the map of the areas through which these rivers flow cannot help but be impressed by the enormity of the scheme. Water will be stored during periods of high flow and be kept available for release at a uniform rate during periods of both high flow when there is a plentiful supply and during dry spells. When I think of the weeks and months of wet seasons in Queensland when the rivers burst their banks and millions upon millions of gallons of water flow into the sea, when I think of the difficulties and tragedies of the dry periods we experience in that State, I cannot help but feel that those who are to enjoy the benefits of this great scheme are fortunate indeed.
The water to be made available for irrigation in the Murrumbidgee valley will be increased by approximately 1,000,000 acre feet a year while over 800,000 acre feet more will be made available annually in the Murray valley. But we do not appreciate just how important this great increase is until we realize that it will supply about 3,000 farms and will support an increased population of 150,000. What a wonderful thing that is for this country! What a wonderful thing it is for a country with a rapidly increasing population, a country to which more and more people are coming to live, that we are able, through a scheme such as this, to settle 150,000 people in the area.
When we look at the map and note the Snowy River rising in New South Wales and flowing into the sea in Victoria, we realize that the major benefit will naturally accrue to New South Wales and Victoria. We have certainly appreciated what has been said by our South Australian colleagues during this debate, but we must remind them of the Minister’s secondreading speech in which he stated that South Australia also will gain by the improved water conservation in that more water will be available in the river Murray during dry periods. J was pleased to hear my colleague, Senator Pearson, express appreciation of the proposed amendment which has been circulated by the Minister, for I am confident that South Australia will also agree wilh us that by this scheme we are achieving a great deal indeed. It should also be appreciated that in a drought period South Australia will receive an increase of 60,000 acre feet of water a year. It cannot be denied that this is indeed a very helpful contribution.
We cannot think of this scheme without realizing its great strategic value in the production of hydro-electric power. When we realize that the Adaminaby reservoir, when filled to the normal operating level, will contain a reserve of motive power for the generation of electrical energy equal to approximately 4,000,000 tons of coal, when we realize that a power station depending upon this reservoir could operate continuously and supply a large proportion of the needs of New South Wales and Victoria for nearly two years, we begin to appreciate the tremendous value of the scheme in times of national emergency. Further, when we examine the situation of the scheme we realize that this in itself affords great security to the undertaking should we ever be involved again in a war.
As I speak of this scheme to-night, I should like to be able to think that as the years go on we shall see more great projects of this kind undertaken in this country. I hope that it will be possible some day to have in Queensland a scheme which would prevent the loss of the tremendous volume of water that now flows into the sea during wet seasons and would overcome the present problems and handicaps experienced in times of drought. I hope also that before very long we shall see the beginning in Western Australia of the great scheme which my colleagues from that State, at every possible opportunity, stress will do so much for the development of that part of Australia.
As was stated by honorable senators opposite, this scheme was commenced by a Labour government, but it has been continued by the present Government which has laid down the organization, supplied the money for its development and finalized agreements such as the one under discussion to-night. It is a developmental project which has the support of all honorable senators. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Minister and those who have done so much for the scheme. Apart from the immediate benefits derived by way of increased electricity and the provision of adequate water, apart from what the scheme has meant to Australia in opening up that part of the country, there is also the important contribution which it is making to the success of our immigration programme. It enables us to bring people to live amongst us. Further, the scheme is of tremendous importance because of what it has meant in the field of research. I was particularly interested recently to see the work being done by officers connected with the scheme in connexion with the prevention of soil erosion. We know only too well what a tremendous problem soil erosion is in many parts of Australia. Perhaps, one day we may find that the research work conducted in this field by the officers of the Snowy Mountains authority will provide an answer to the problem of soil erosion in other parts of the Commonwealth. For all these things, we, as Australians, owe a great debt of gratitude to the scheme.
It is very exciting to be in at the beginning of a great scheme like this. Just as the Minister looked ahead 70 years in his second-reading speech, so I am sure all honorable senators feel they would like to see what the scheme will have achieved by that time. I recall reading the words of an American legislator - if my memory serves me correctly, I think he was addressing Congress - when he said, “ I am so glad that I was able to be in at the beginning of things in this country because it is a great thing to lake part in the beginning of anything that is worth while to a nation “. I feel that we are all glad and proud at having been in at the beginning of this scheme. I am sure that we look forward to the day when it will be completed and plentiful supplies of water will be flowing through those areas where it is so urgently needed. I am indeed proud to have the opportunity to-night of supporting this legislation. Above all, I am proud of having been fortunate enough to be a member of a Parliament - I use the word “ Parliament “ advisedly - that has played some part in the beginning of something so worth while to Australia, a Parliament which has played a great part in the beginning of a scheme in which new and old Australians, together with others from overseas, under the guidance and leadership of Sir William Hudson and his officers, are working together to build a greater Australia. I support this legislation.
.- I have always hoped that I would live to see the day when we would have complete unanimity in connexion with great socialist projects in this country. That day has arrived at long last. It has been most gratifying indeed to hear Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin praise the foresight and vision of those Labour Ministers who were here in 1948-49. But for the great foresight and vision of the Labour government of that day, this scheme would not have been launched. Despite the criticism of this “ socialist “ project in those days, despite the doubts expressed by the then Opposition as to its validity under our defence powers, we went ahead with it. In spite of that criticism, it is most gratifying to hear the speeches of honorable senators on the Government side who saw the wisdom of carrying on the greatest socialist project that was ever launched in this country. I am not the only senator who thinks along those lines. I shall read an extract from a statement made by the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator O’sullivan. He said -
I still say that anybody who has read the bill must commend the project; but, if he has any intelligence, he must bemoan the method by which it is to be implemented and operated. The reason for that is that it is a socialistic enterprise. Socialism has proven a failure, and it will be a failure again in the operation and implementation of this measure because it has not been successful in any major project.
The Leader of the Opposition at that time described the project as socialistic and doomed to failure because, he said, no socialist project of that magnitude ever succeeded. I am sure that Senator O’sullivan, with every honorable senator in this chamber, is pleased that the project is succeeding.
This project is socialist in character because it is financed socially, that is, out of Consolidated Revenue or, in other words, by an issue of treasury-bills. If the debt to the Commonwealth Bank had been paid by the surplus revenue received each year in the form of taxation, the money to finance this project would not have been available. The interest on the debt to the Commonwealth Bank is continuing and so, in an indirect manner, the issue of treasurybills is financing this project.
– In a very indirect manner.
– I accept the interjection and say that the project has been financed out of revenue received from taxpayers.
– That is a much better way of stating the position.
– Very well. States, other than those concerned in this agreement, are financing major projects. My own State of Tasmania is, and has been for the last nine or ten years, spending in the vicinity of £12,000,000 a year on the construction of hydro-electric schemes for defence purposes. But Tasmania has had to find the whole of that money by diverting to the schemes some of the finance that otherwise would be allotted to housing and roads. In addition, money has been borrowed locally, which entails the payment of interest.
If an amount of up to £18,000,000 a years is to be channelled from Consolidated Revenue into the hydro-electric scheme, should not the States that are parties to the agreement equitably share the burden of financing the project? No cause for complaint would exist if Tasmania did not have to cheesepare in regard to other projects in order to finance the hydro-electric schemes, but does the Commonwealth Government have to cheesepare in order to finance the Snowy Mountains scheme? Not at all! The Commonwealth has gone full steam ahead. If any money has been required, it has been supplied.
Praise is justly due to the engineers working on the scheme, and the man, Mr. Nelson Lemmon, who visualized the project and, supported by the late Mr. Chifley, brought it before the Cabinet.
In spite of the criticism that has been raised in regard to constitutional rights, the Opposition will support the bill. However, the same criticism will arise on the proposed amendments and a legal battle will follow because, where tactics are involved, members of the legal fraternity will never agree amongst themselves. Irrespective of the amendments that may be introduced, a legal battle will follow if one State objects to the amendments and seeks legal advice. Therefore, if we wait until we can get complete agreement, the scheme will never reach maturity. In spite of the advice given by Senator O’sullivan, and the statement of Mr. Menzies at that time that the project was constitutionally unsound and could not operate, the Labour government of the day went ahead with it and ironed out the difficulties afterwards. I am pleased that the present Government is continuing that policy to ensure that this great socialist project, that will be of so much benefit to Australia, will continue.
Senator Mccallum, a Government supporter, is not sure about the amendment. He said that no doubt further legislation will have to be introduced in the future to straighten out the whole matter. He commended the project and said that it is a pity it was not undertaken previously by the States. Of course it is a pity. When we were in office, a Country party Premier in Victoria and a Liberal party Minister in New South Wales were clamouring for such a project but neither had the initiative to go ahead on a State basis.
– The States did not have any money.
– I have just stated that the Labour Government in Tasmania has, over the last nine or ten years, found approximately the same amount as has been spent on the Snowy Mountains scheme. We have obtained the money, and any other State government could have obtained the money for a similar project if it had had the initiative to go ahead, but, as I have said, a Liberal government was in power in New South Wales and a Liberal-Country party government was in power in Victoria.
Senator McCallum also stated that he hoped that similar projects which will no doubt be commenced in the future will be undertaken by the States with the assistance of the Commonwealth. I agree completely with Senator McCallum. If that position ever arose I would be one of the first to say, “ Start on that project now “. The Snowy Mountains scheme was inaugurated as a defence project. Even in Tasmania turbopowerhouses are being placed underground where they will be free from attack. The Snowy Mountains project is a defence project, as is the Tasmanian hydro-electric scheme which supplies power for the aluminium works.
Even though the States are undertaking projects that are of defence value, they are not receiving revenue from the Commonwealth to finance those projects. Electors in the various States are asked to pay taxes in order to finance the Snowy Mountains scheme as a defence project - to a point, rightly so. But, in addition, they are obliged to pay taxes to meet interest payments on State schemes. Tasmania is shouldering more than its share of the burden in that direction. We would not mind quite so much if the Commonwealth Treasurer were a little more human at meetings of the Australian Loan Council and allowed us to have sufficient to go ahead with schemes that are of defence and developmental value without having to cheese-pare other projects such as the erection of schools and hospitals. If Senator McCallum were honest, he would advocate that the States should be assisted when they undertake schemes that are similar to the Snowy Mountains project.
Tasmania has been able to spend its money wisely and to show that it has engineers who are qualified to undertake such schemes as hydro-electric projects. In fact, the Commonwealth tried to “ pinch “ our chief hydro-engineer by offering him a salary of £7,000 a year. We were forced to raise money through the taxpayers of Tasmania to increase his salary in order to retain him. We experience that kind of thing at every twist and turn. That is the kind of assistance that is being offered by this Government to a State government which has proved that it has the initiative to undertake schemes similar to that for which this Government is justly patting itself on the back! I do not condemn the Snowy Mountains scheme. It was a Labour socialist scheme. It has been a success and is worthy of the support of all sections of the community. The Liberals support the scheme, and the Labour party supports it wholeheartedly. I do not know at this juncture where the Australian Democratic Labour party stands in relation to the matter, but if that party supports the scheme, everyone in this chamber supports it.
The Snowy Mountains scheme is the only project of its kind that will be undertaken in Australia. When we note that huge sums of money are made available for it and that only £2,500,00.0 is made available for a portion of Australia which is twice the size of Victoria and which, apart from the grazing of a few beef cattle, is standing idle, we realize just how unbalanced is this Government’s approach to the development of Australia. Already £100,000,000 has been spent and another £300,000,000 is to be spent on a project that will benefit two States, but only £2,500,000 is to be spent on the development of an area in Western Australia which, as I said, is twice the size of Victoria, but has a productivity which is probably as great as that of the land which the waters of the Snowy project will irrigate.
If this Government has so much money available for the Snowy Mountains scheme, why should it not make available some of it to absorb the unemployed in our community? We in Tasmania could employ all who are at present unemployed in that State if we had sufficient finance to undertake developmental schemes. It would be of great benefit to Australia if developmental schemes could be undertaken with money provided not from Consolidated Revenue but by way of loans. The only excuse that this Government has for not financing the Snowy Mountains project through loans is that loan money is not available from the general public. If the Government enjoyed the confidence of the moneyed people of Australia, loan money would be available. If it were to do something to reduce the present high rates of interest and to curb the robbery and thieving that is taking place in the hire-purchase field, loan money would be available.
– The Premier of Tasmania should control it in his own State.
– In the last nine years, the Premier of Tasmania has done as much in the development of hydro-electric power in a State that has a population of only 340,000 people as has the Commonwealth -Government in the development of the Snowy Mountains scheme.
-. - Get back to the question of hire purchase.
– If the Labour Premier of Tasmania did not have as many fogies in the Upper House to throw out any decent legislation that he submitted to them, th.a.t matter would have been rectified year> ago. It has only been by humouring the members of the Upper House that he has. managed to obtain sufficient funds to proceed with the hydro-electric schemes to which I have referred. The honorable senator wants to know why action has not been, taken in regard to hire purchase in order to make Tasmania the ideal State. She should try to induce some of her colleagues in the Upper House in Tasmania to pass appropriate legislation.
I am very pleased indeed to note that the Liberals have come round to Labour’s way of thinking in regard to to what they have described as a project which has been financed by Communist methods. Private enterprise and the States failed to undertake the Snowy Mountains project, so a Commonwealth Labour Government did something. It is most gratifying to members of the Labour party, and probably to all the people of Australia, to note that this Government is carrying on the scheme in the interests of the nation. We hope that in the not distant future the Government will embark upon a little bit of equalization and let the State Governments have, for similar developmental schemes, some of the surplus revenue that it is putting into the Snowy Mountains project.
– As I have rather limited time at my disposal, I propose, first, to answer some of the rather extraordinary statements that have been made by certain honorable senators opposite. I was amazed to note the lack of understanding of the Snowy Mountains scheme by some of the South Australian members of the Opposition. Senator Toohey suggested that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) or even the Premier of South Australia should have given some explanation of what South Australia wanted. I feel quite capable of studying legislation and making up my own mind whether my State is protected under it. I do not expect to be told by either the Minister or the Premier of the State what I should do in the Senate.
I have studied the legislation and done a great deal of research upon the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, because I realize that my State is very much concerned with what is being done there. I have visited the project of several occasions. I consider it impossible for any one - particularly South Australians, if I may say so - to understand just what it is all about without visiting it. There is altogether too much uninformed comment in South Australia by people who know nothing about the scheme, or what is proposed under it, and who are influenced by one-eyed views expressed in newspapers which also know little but are willing to criticize this Government. The Premier of South Australia is, in his own way, trying to look after the interests of his State.
My worries relate to two particular aspects of the scheme. As Senator Pearson explained, the first point which has worried some South Australians is that the Tooma River is to be diverted before the Snowy River is brought into the scheme. There will be an interim period during which a drought could produce a rather embarrassing situation for South Australia. I was astonished to hear Senator O’Flaherty say that the agreement did not cover that possibility. Clearly he has not read the River Murray Waters Act, section 45 of which states that the water above Albury shall be divided between the States of Victoria and New South Wales, but that if they divert any tributaries they must deduct a like proportion from the water to be shared in time of restriction at Albury.
– What if there is no water there to deduct?
– If, say, 300,000 acre feet were taken out, New South Wales and Victoria would have to deduct that quantity from any water available at Albury, and, as a result, South Australia would not suffer. Sections 47 to 51 also protect South Australian rights. The Snowy Mountains agreement divides the water above Albury between New South Wales and Victoria. The Government expects that the River Murray Waters Commission will take over the disposal of such water as there is in the river at Albury, and that, accordingly, South Australia’s interests will be protected.
The second point that has worried me is whether water which comes in from the Snowy is to be deemed Murray water. There are two ways of overcoming that difficulty. The first is an amicable arrangement between the States concerned. The other is to have legal judgment on the point. As it is a matter for the River Murray Waters Commission to decide, we need not worry about it at the moment. Some years will elapse before the Snowy water will be brought into the Murray and in the interim period of perhaps seven years it will be possible for South Australia to seek legal opinion as to whether the water in the Murray is to be shared by all States, or a certain amount of it deducted for sharing between New South Wales and Victoria alone. Senator O’Flaherty went on to say that South Australian senators on this side of the chamber had repudiated their party in that State. That was an extraordinary statement. We have done nothing of the kind. What we have said is that we wanted assurances that the rights of the State would be protected. The Minister told us to-day that the River Murray Waters Commission has met and made certain recommendations; that he was satisfied that the matter would be cleared up. I am satisfied that the South Australian representative on the commission would not have agreed to any recommendation had that not been so. I emphasize that all recommendations of the River Murray Waters Commission are made unanimously. 1 think it was Senator Toohey who said that he had received a telegram from the Chief Secretary of South Australia telling him to do certain things about this bill. 1 recall the Chief Secretary sending a telegram in which he paid me the courtesy of saying that South Australia intended issuing a writ. I have no recollection of being told to do anything in particular. The Chief Secretary merely stated that a writ was coming in from his State. That was a courtesy for which I thank him. Senator Toohey also suggested that we should ask the South Australian Premier whether he was satisfied with the present arrangements. I disagree wholeheartedly. I repeat, it is our duty to decide for ourselves whether South Australia is being properly protected.
I am satisfied that negotiations are proceeding in a way that will protect South Australia. For that reason I shall support the bill. 1 agree with Senator Toohey that our State needs more and more water. South Australia can only develop to the extent permitted by its water supply in time of drought. In that knowledge I have taken particular care to satisfy myself that South Australia will receive in time of drought the maximum amount of water to which it is entitled. We certainly do not ask for water to which we are not entitled.
The great pity is that, under the scheme, water is to be supplied free of charge. The Australian Labour party made a great mistake in inaugurating the scheme on that basis. I am sure that if the water were to be paid for, we would not have had all this bother. South Australia would, of course, have been perfectly willing to pay for any water to which it was entitled. Unfortunately, the trouble has been caused through no fault on our part. It is an unfortunate fact that New South Wales and Victoria will have to pay, by way of electricity charges, for any extra water that South Australia may gain.
– Victoria always pays.
– I agree with the honorable senator. Victoria has been extremely generous to South Australia, this year especially. Our State would have had a very difficult time if the Premier of Victoria had not made water available to it over the Eildon Weir. For that we are very grateful. It is a credit to the Liberal Government of Victoria.
We have taken care to obtain assurances that South Australia can never be deprived of its water entitlement in time of drought. The danger was not that the Snowy Mountains agreement prejudiced South Australia’s rights. I do not think that it did, or does. The danger was that we might fall between the two agreements. Under the River Murray Waters Agreement South Australia, as a party, receives protection. However, South Australia is not a party to the Snowy Mountains agreement and could not insist upon the agreement being honoured because the Commonwealth, not New South Wales or Victoria, would be undertaking the diversion. There was a danger that we might fall between the two agreements. Therefore, we have repeatedly sought an amendment to the River Murray Waters Agreement which would avoid that situation.
The Minister for National Development and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have been most co-operative, and have listened to any troubles we may have expressed. Neither suggested at any time that South Australia was out to get more water than it was entitled to. Both gentlemen have said all along that they appreciate the difficulties experienced by our State. They would have no reason whatever to prejudice our rights. The amendment which has been foreshadowed by the Minister re-assures us that the Commonwealth always intended that South Australia’s rights would not be prejudiced in any way.
The last of the criticisms T want to answer was made, I think, by Senator McKenna and later by Senator Aylett. They said they were very pleased that on this occasion all parties have united in undertaking a socialist scheme. Members of the Liberal party are agreed .that a Liberal government should always cooperate with private enterprise rather than be a substitute for it. We have not said at any time that there are no functions which governments cannot perform better than private enterprise, but these two critics, in saying that we are ardent socialists in supporting this scheme, have forgotten that under the scheme we have insisted that most of the work shall be done by private enterprise under contract to the authority. And these contracts have helped to make the scheme a tremendous success. Indeed, the Public Works Department in New South Wales undertook the contract for one part of the scheme, but was unable to keep up to its contract schedule. The job was taken from it and given to private enterprise. That department was dubious about the ability of the private contractor to complete the work - the construction of the Adaminaby Dam - in four years; but we have heard to-night that it will be completed in half the time that the department contracted to do it. That completes my comment on the criticisms I have heard from the other side.
I shall now briefly outline my support for this scheme. It is undoubtedly of great national importance. As a senator from
South Australia, I represent a large section of Australia and Australians in this Parliament. I examine this legislation first of all to see whether my State will suffer under it; and as a good Australian, I support this bill because my State will not suffer under it in any way. Australia as a whole will benefit tremendously from this scheme, and I am very pleased to have this opportunity to support it.
We have heard the scheme described in detail. It will produce 3,000,000 kilowatts extra of electricity and about 2,000,000 acre-feet of water. That will be done by trapping water at the high levels and using it through as many power stations as possible before it is made available for irrigation. An important consideration is that this extra water alone will produce about £30,000,000 worth of additional food, and from that production the nation will gain something in the vicinity of £16,000,000 in taxes, which alone will be a great benefit.
I mentioned just now that private enterprise has been carrying out contracts under the scheme with marked success. I should like to add that although among those contractors have been people from other countries, invariably they have led Australian workmen whose performances have proved that Australian workmen, when they are well led, can beat records set anywhere else in the world.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin indicated how the authority leaves no stone unturned in its investigations before it carries out work in the field. The scientific laboratories at Cooma are certainly well worth visiting. There, engineers, hydrologists, agronomists, foresters, geologists, soil conservationists, ‘chemists and so on, investigate the various aspects of the work involved in the scheme. I saw there concrete which had been made ten times more resistant to variations in heat and cold than had previously been achieved. I saw experiments designed to keep eels out of the Murray. Eels apparently predominate in the Snowy, and it is very important that they should not be brought into the Murray. Scientists are trying to find ways of eliminating this difficulty. I saw geologists testing various types of rock that has to be penetrated in the building of tunnels and dams. These are only a few aspects of the investigations that are carried out thoroughly before workmen move on to the job. In addition, there are experiments in cloud seeding and the reduction of water evaporation, both of which will add tremendously to the efficiency of the scheme.
The public relations services that are maintained under the guidance of Sir William Hudson leave nothing to be desired. I only wish that we could have similar services of equal efficiency provided in conjunction with all our government undertakings. People who visit the scheme - I believe there were 30,000 visitors last year - are looked after and shown every aspect of the scheme. Wonderful success has been achieved in letting people know how the Government is undertaking this project. I congratulate the commissioner on that aspect alone; and that is only a very small part of the scheme.
We have been told that the demand for electricity in Australia has been increasing over the last 30 years, and that it has doubled over the last ten years. We must realize that industrial productivity is directly related to the proportion of power used by the workers. We have only to look at countries like America, Canada, or Sweden to realize that unlimited resources of power guarantee the soundness of a country’s economy. In America and Canada the quantity of power used by the workers is three times as much as that used in Australia.
– That is per head?
– Yes. Obviously, we must provide more power in this country if we are to increase our productivity and the efficiency of the workers. This increased power will do that. The important thing is that whereas most of the power hitherto produced in Australia has been thermal power, which is uneconomic for peak loading, hydro-electric power will add to the efficiency of the electric power resources of the country if it is made available at peak periods. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) put -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended for this sitting to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Before proceeding with my secondreading speech I should like to thank the Senate for its courtesy in enabling the measure to be introduced at this late hour. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Judges’ Pensions Act 1948-1956, which now contains standard provisions governing the payment of pensions to judges who retire from federal courts, so as to increase the rates of pensions payable to members and widows of members of the federal judiciary.
I am sure I need not remind honorable senators of the importance of maintaining the high status and independence of the judiciary. Financial independence, which involves payment of a completely adequate salary and the certainty of a completely adequate retiring pension, plays, I believe, a significant part in the achievement of this goal.
The first important change that this bill makes is to increase the maximum pension payable to a judge from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, of the salary he is receiving immediately before retirement. Furthermore, it entitles him to receive the maximum pension on retirement after reaching the age of sixty years and serving as a judge for not less than ten years. Under the existing provisions, a judge meeting these requirements receives, on retiring, 27i per cent, of his salary, with an additional 2i per cent, of his salary for each completed year of service in excess of ten years. To receive the maximum pension of 40 per cent of his salary on retirement, therefore, a judge must have completed fifteen years of service.
A judge who retires owing to permanent disability or infirmity before he has fulfilled the above-mentioned requirements will receive a pension at the rate of 14 per cent, of his salary, if he retires during the first or second years of his service. If he retires subsequently, he will receive an additional 4 per cent, of his salary for each completed year of service other than the first year, the maximum rate again being 50 per cent of his salary.
Under the existing provisions, a judge who retires owing to permanent disability or infirmity at any time within five years of commencing his service as a judge, receives only 15 per cent, of his salary. If he retires subsequently, he receives an additional 2i per cent, of his salary in respect of each completed year of service in excess, not of the first year, but of the first five years, subject, again, to the maximum rate of pension of 40 per cent, of salary.
Rates of pensions for widows of judges are retained, as under the present act, at half the amount of the judge’s pension.
The bill does not affect the rates of pensions that are at present being received by retired federal judges and widows. Since the passing of the 1948 act existing pensions have on occasions been supplemented by administrative action and appropriation. The Government proposes that existing pensions should be increased by 25 per cent., as from the time when the present amendments come into operation. The increase would be effected by administrative action and appropriation. This course is proposed in order to avoid setting out in the bill a table of individual names and pensions, which would be the only clear way in which the matter could be covered by legislation. The Government has not thought that desirable. The figure of 25 per cent, is adopted because it represents the proportionate increase in the maximum pension payable under the bill.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment: -
Bills of Exchange Bill 1958.
Bankruptcy Bill 1958.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that Mr. Charlie May has retired from the Commonwealth Public Service as foreman gardener at Parliament House. He has been a gardener all his life. Born in Berkshire, he came to Australia 46 years ago, and for the past 42 years has been employed by the Commonwealth Government. From 1916 to 1929, when the early development of this city took place, he was employed by the Works and Railways Department and later by the Federal Capital Commission. In 1918 he was in charge of a large gang which planted the first of Canberra’s pine plantations at Mount Stromlo, and later planted much of the southern side of Canberra with various trees and shrubs. He also played a part in the planting of the four poplars which adorn the parliamentary courtyards.
In 1929. Mr. May was appointed foreman gardener at Parliament House, and has been responsible ever since for the proper maintenance of our gardens, the bowling green and tennis courts. That section of the National Rose Garden which is included in the Parliamentary Gardens was laid out and planted by Mr. May. I feel sure that I express the wishes of all honorable senators who have known Mr. May and his valuable work during all these years when I wish him a very happy retirement and express the hope that he may live long to enjoy it.
– I am speaking before the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) on this matter only because if he spoke now the debate on the motion for the adjournment would be closed. On behalf of the Opposition 1 express my pleasure that you, Mr. President, have seen fit to mention this matter to the Senate. When an old identity like Mr. May passes from the parlimentary scene it is quite proper that the matter should be noted in this chamber. All of us agree that life in this Parliament is somewhat disruptive of our domesticity, and it has been very helpful in the restoration of domestic relations for honorable senators to be able to go home armed, from time to time, with a beautiful parcel of flowers gathered by Mr. May. I often see honorable senators approaching home-going aircraft with the well-known parcel of flowers. Mr. May attended to the wants of members of Parliament in that direction with the greatest assiduity. He has kept the scene around Parliament House very bright by his care of the gardens in the immediate vicinity. We have all profited by the happier outlook we have gained through his attention to our environs. Apart from all that, Mr. May was an individual of fine, sterling qualities and was a friend, I believe, to every parliamentarian who knew him. I have seen him about this place now for nearly fourteen years and I regret we shall not see him again in his usual activities. I join with you, Mr. President, on behalf of the Opposition in wishing him good health, long life, and a very happy retirement.
.-I detain the Senate this evening in order to register, on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labour party, an emphatic protest at the action which has been taken in connexion with the Victorian elections by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have always understood that in a democracy all people are equal before the law, and I have always understood that in an election all candidates are equal before the people. It is my belief that in a truly democratic election no government instrumentality is entitled to give privileges to any candidate over and above those given to any other candidate. I regret that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has made a decision in Victoria which, in my opinion, is a grave threat to democratic principles. We have been informed that during the forthcoming election campaign the Liberal party will receive two and a half hours radio time, the Australian Labour party two and a half hours, the Australian Country party one and a quarter hours, and the Democratic Labour party 30 minutes.
– Too long.
– I can understand the feelings of the honorable senator of the Australian Labour party who says that it is too long; but it is a strange remark from one whose leader in the other House is at the present moment campaigning on the basis that he believes in the right of free expression to all people. ] point out that the Democratic Labour party in Victoria, under the ruling of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, is the only party which will be unable to broadcast its policy speech in full. The other parties will be able to devote a full hour to their policy speech and then have time left to be utilized, as is the custom, in short winding-up speeches - in some cases for two or three days, and in some cases for a fortnight before the election. Is it in accordance with democratic principles that when candidates are standing for Parliament, some of them receive from a government instrumentality the right to make speeches - for a whole fortnight in some cases - between six and seven o’clock in the evening, when the people of the country are all having their evening meal and are therefore potential listeners, whereas other candidates are denied that privilege? 1’ should like to ask whether it is in accordance with the Constitution, in which there is a provision that no person shall be entitled to be a member of Parliament who has a direct or pecuniary interest in some agreement with the public service of the country.
I have made inquiries about the value of the radio and television time being made available to the other parties. In terms of money it is considerable, and I point out that even if my party had the money to buy similar time, it could not get it on the commercial radio stations because contracts which those stations have entered into would make that impossible. T say, therefore, that I regard it as a grave threat to democratic principles that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should take it upon itself to say that certain candidates shall receive privileges, and certain other candidates shall not. Is it not a mockery that Parliament, on the one hand, lays clown that if any government servant in the course of an election gives an advantage to any particular candidate he shall be dealt with to the utmost rigor of the law, and on the other hand condones a system under which broadcasting facilities are made available to certain candidates and not to others?
The Australian Broadcasting Commission cannot say that this matter has not been raised before, lt would have been raised after the last federal elections, but when Senator Cole asked a question about the right of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to discriminate between parties he was told that the commission determined the right of minority parties to time on the air in accordance with two principles, namely, whether they were represented in the Parliament and whether they had polled a reasonable or sizable proportion of the votes in the previous election. In the last federal election the Australian Labour party polled 413,000 votes in Victoria and the Democratic Labour party 209,000. So, the Democratic Labour party polled more than half the number of votes polled by the Australian Labour party and yet the Australian Broadcasting Commission has allocated to the Australian Labour party five times the broadcasting time given to the Democratic Labour party in this coming election! We are contesting 60 of the 66 seats in the Legislative Assembly and we are averaging, according to the commission’s allotment of time, thirty seconds a candidate.
I have mentioned a number of matters, but I come back to the important principle I enunciated in the first place. In an election all candidates are equal. There are no majority candidates and no minority candidates if this is a democracy. Therefore if all candidates are equal, no government instrumentality has the right to distinguish between them and grant privileges to some and not to others. During the fortnight before the election, candidates of my party will be able to listen every night, between six and seven, to the candidates of opposing parties speaking to the electors for five minutes, but they will not be conceded the same privilege. T say therefore that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in determining that it has the right to distinguish between candidates - to have favoured candidates and unfavoured candidates, to determine majority and minority parties - has transgressed an obvious principle of democracy. If it cannot give fair and equal treatment to all candidates it should give privileges to none. If it is unable to treat all candidates alike let it cut out broadcasting on behalf of political parties at election times altogether.
I register an emphatic protest on behalf of the Democratic Labour party. I believe that the advantages that are being given to other parties are unjustified and unequal. In any democracy, if we are going to stick to the principles on which democracy is supposed to be based, one of the first things to ensure is that all candidates receive equal treatment.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandVice President of the Executive Council and fact that I do not refer to the remarks of Senator McManus does not mean that they were not very interesting. I rise solely for the purpose of supporting you, Mr. President, and Senator McKenna in your remarks relating to Mr. May. Although he will no longer, officially, move among us, his spirit will be with us in the precincts of Parliament House. He will long be remembered for the magnificent contribution he has made to the aesthetic beauty of the approaches and surrounds of Parliament House. The shrubs, gardens and trees which adorn these precincts will be a perpetual memorial to the splendid and notable work he has done in that respect for Australia’s capital city.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 May 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580507_senate_22_s12/>.