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Two in The Top End -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) up to 73/40 on the belief that

here we got the RBA showing

leadership, it would be good

for the Australian economy and

good for the Australian

currency, as we are back to a

pattern of watching falling

stock markets and seeing the

Aussie as something of a

commodity currency that's

whipped around by the ebb and

flow of stock markets, we have

given back about a cent. To sum

up we have gone down 4 cent, up

3 cent and down 1.5 in the

space of a little under 10

hours, it's a wild rise for the

Aussie dollar overnight in

London. It doesn't look like it

will stop for a little while.

Nick Parsons thanks for joining

us. I was talking with Nick Parsons from nabCapital in

London, that's the program.

Kerrie O'Brien will be in the

chair tomorrow. Thanks for your

company, until next time I'm

Mark Bannerman goodnight.

'Tim and I are on our odyssey, the top of the continent, right across Australia's last frontier. as we investigate We'd seen big, big mines.' really is what's driving This activity the Australian economy at the moment. 'And rocks with big histories.' towards consciousness, Tim. This is the first step It's just...it gets me right there. to mango madness.' 'In Darwin, we'd succumbed That's right. Exactly. Everything's on edge. 'As we continue our journey, that never got off the ground.' we visit an irrigation scheme where you get torrential rain It's a desert, for three or four months a year. 'But another one that did.' this would become I would have thought the food bowl for South-East Asia, rather than the perfume bowl. against the scourge of the north.' 'And Tim and I take up arms Right. Let's kill toads.

'So continues our northern odyssey.' is still in the grip of drought, 'While Southern Australia Darwin is awash. Here in the tropics, seems inadequate. the term "bucketing down" at the end of the wet season, We've returned here to continue our journey.' an inch in two minutes here, Tim. Well, you can see how you'd get Oh, jeez, yeah. it can be so blinding. It's just that, you know, the end of the street. Yes. I mean, you can hardly see

driving in this circumstance. Oh, it's quite dangerous, You've got very limited visibility. Well, it is. to leave the car alone, Tim, And most of the locals know under these circumstances. Yeah, well, I know. Very few cars around. out in it, but nevertheless. Don't know what we're doing good for rent, isn't it? Well, this is the last car Well, could go on, John. later than this. Right. You know, sometimes you get it Could be another couple of months. is the envy of the south, 'All this rain

but it's a tough climate.'

that's dumping rain one minute 'What makes people come to a place and steaming hot the next? On Darwin's foreshore, of an earlier people, Tim finds evidence who were drawn to the north.' there's a real story to tell. On this tree, it's called a tamarind. It's not a native tree, seed pods, which are edible. And it produces these little with them. Yes. You can make a lovely sour sauce brought to Australia, They were first ever got to this part of the world, before the Europeans Yes. by the Macassans. They were from... The people...who were they? Yes. They were from Sulawesi. to harvest sea cucumbers. And they came here, Sort of a relative of the starfish. Cucumbers. aphrodisiac qualities, I believe. Very highly prized for their By the Chinese, yes. Ah. Oh, really? I've had some myself, actually.

And it have the desired effect, Tim? Did it affect performance or... Well, I can't vouch for that, John. But...(LAUGHS) But, um...(LAUGHS) or anything like that? Did you try a before and after, No, no. (LAUGHS) Well. Well, it is a beautiful tree. people... Europeans weren't the first It just serves to remind us that ..outsiders to come here. No. Yeah. There's a very long history. Of contact with the outside world, in this part of Australia. Yeah. going back thousands of years

Mm. We were very much latecomers. is just one reminder 'The tamarind tree of visitors from the north. we catch up with curator Paul Clark, At Darwin Museum, of other visitors.' who shows us evidence Well, this is a good example, Tim, that could have brought people here. of the kind of watercraft with 10 people on board it. This came out to Australia in 1964, off to go to the market with produce Came from the Tanimbars, people set and they ended up off our coast. and a storm blew up and brought in. Got picked up by the navy And this one looks interesting. This has got to be a refugee boat.

of the Vietnamese refugee boats, Yeah, this is one at the end of the Vietnam War that came into Darwin Harbour that came into the harbour, then. and there were hundreds of them that survived. Yes. This is one of the very few about this, Paul? You know what I love All these boats.

that every single one of us, It just reminds us through to the most recent immigrant from the first Aborigine Some by plane. has come here by boat. being washed on our shores, Well, we still have drifters as the last couple of years. even as recently to see it all laid out like this. Yeah, it's just wonderful

when you could walk So there was not a time Never. from South-East Asia to Australia. elephants and everything here. If there had been, we'd have tigers, influence on the continent. Yeah. But those water gaps had a profound have met with a mixed reception. 'Northern visitors is unashamedly despised But one immigrant operating under cover of darkness.' and now the target of vigilante mobs Yes, we're off and fired up. We're off? Let's kill toads. Looking, looking. Ooh, there's some up ahead. Here we are. Oh, look here. Look at this fella. My goodness. Have you got one there? Oh my... Oh, he's a big fella. It's quite a gentle creature, really. Yeah, they are. They don't struggle. Hey. No empathy. No. You notice we're not wearing gloves and stuff. They don't let out any poison, they don't get upset by handling. They're quite a placid animal, in that sense. Anyway, I suppose she'd better join her mates in there.

Yeah, she doesn't fit around here. No, that's right.

Graham, you founded Toad Watch. Yeah. So why did you do it and why are all these people here? Well, basically, it was a response to the cane toads coming into the area

and just pig-headedness, I guess, thinking, "We can't just let them have it. We've got to have a crack at stopping them. And then once we'd started, we found we could do lots of things that people had never tried before, was the biggest issue. Here's one over here, who wants to get that one?

There you go. Yes. Oh, well done. In the bag. Yeah. (LAUGHS) 'Cane toads have devastated wildlife in much of northern Australia. Their venom excretes 14 different toxins,

strong enough to kill a goanna or a small crocodile.' Now look at this one, Tim. He's tiny. I assumed they'd be bigger, the tadpole would be bigger. Now which is the more dangerous? Well, to a frill-neck or a small snake, the little ones are more dangerous, because they wouldn't look at that as food. No, so they'd eat that, it's poison, they're dead. And the biggest problem with this, it's out in the daytime, whereas these things only come out at night. That's when the reptiles and lizards are out feeding, so these things are actually a nightmare in the city here. They're the things that are killing our frillies. It's amazing, isn't it? It's in cities. It is. They attack at every level. At every level. Daytime, night-time, every size. 'A blast of carbon dioxide sends the toads off to a very long sleep.' I know it's very necessary, but I must say, I find it really sad to see something die. Even though it is a toad. You'd feel better about it, if they'd actually done their job. Well, I suppose. But they didn't.

So it was a total waste of time. The whole thing was madness. Yeah. But it's sad to see anything die. Yes, it is. But we've got to think of the larger picture, Tim. I know. Now we do. Now we do. If you could have stayed the hand that released them in '35... I know, but we can't. No.

We've got to be real. That's right. We've got to kill 'em. Sorry, Tim. Has anyone made anything out of Toadzilla? 'Next morning, Tim and I head back to the killing fields. It's time to consign the toads to their grizzly graveyard.' What's happening in here? This is the doings, is it? Yeah, this is a toad vat, where we have all our toad juice. Ooh, the vat. It's very, very smelly. Ooh. It smells a bit. I'm getting a whiff. Oh, Tim. That's revolting. Oh, Tim. I see you were getting too close there, John. I was, I know. Ew, it's revolting. Oh, lord. Come on, have a look. Fresh air and I'll be back. Oh, Tim, the romance of the toad.

Come on. All right. Get into the spirit of it. Come on, see them go in. Ew, that's a whopper of iced toad. Just the thing for a hot day. How long is it going to be, before this is fertiliser? It'll probably be a while from now. We gotta keep adding more stuff to it, till it gets fuller and keep that in more acid, then more toads and more acid. That's how it becomes a fertiliser. Yeah, that's how it becomes a fertiliser. So that it's not as smelly. 'I'm not sure I see toad fertiliser catching on. Give me a good old blood and bone, any day.' Well, I've enjoyed Darwin, Tim. Yes, it's a vibrant city.

I don't know what the mean or average age would be. About 32. Is it, really? Yeah. Very young city. Really is. Well, that would make it the youngest city in the country.

Yes, by far. By far. And you can see how much young people enjoy living up here. There's a sort of freedom, it's relatively inexpensive. Yes. It's exciting, it's on the frontier. Yes. If I had to...what a lovely place.

'We leave Darwin, after the rains abate. The dry season has started, but the Top End will remain sodden for some time. We head for the Mary River, keen to experience the vast flows of water still surging around the Top End. Captain Flannery takes the helm.'

Oh, here's a jabiru stork, I think. Oh, yes. Look at that, John, look. Yeah. Now I've never been close to one of these birds. I think they're one of the most beautiful birds in Australia. Oh, look at the colour on its head. Yeah. It's like an iridescent blue, on the head there, Tim. Yes. Bright orange legs, an enormous beak, like a dagger.

Yes, he's magnificent. That is one of the greatest moments for me. I've wanted to see one of those for years. I never thought I'd get to see one this close up. Splendid chap. Oh. Now do they hang around in pairs? Yeah. Well, I think they do. I honestly don't know a lot about them. They were found in Southern Australia, but they've retreated up to the north. Wow. 'As the world gets hungrier and thirstier, more than a few jabiru want a drop of this liquid gold.' Pressure will come, for this to be converted into rice paddies. Yes, it will. And we're looking down the barrel of a food shortage, at the moment.

So I suppose when the day comes, when there's millions of people who are really short on food, there'll be additional pressure on them, Yeah. on this country, to do something. That's right. You could convert northern Australia into a huge rice farm. And you wouldn't make a dent in the extra 3 billion people that we're going to have on the planet over the next couple of decades. Yeah. You know, by then, when there's 9 billion of us, we're going to need two planets' worth of resources

to support people. That's just not sustainable, it's not tenable. Yes. Don't you think there's a place somewhere in the world, John, for this sort of grand nature? Well, indeed. Well, indeed. Well, see, when the population is 9 billion and you satisfy that need, then it's 20 billion. I mean, where does this end? Exactly. Having said that, while it's pristine, or reasonably pristine and beautiful, it's a pretty hostile place, Tim. Oh, yeah. All that there is between you and me and a nasty, toothy death is a couple of litres of fossil fuel, I think. That's it. I think it's time to turn around. Me too. If you don't mind. No, we're off. Thank you, Tim. 'With all this water, it's easy to see why there have been grand dreams for the Top End. We're at Humpty Doo, where men once had a vision and the vision was meant to be rice. 100,000 hectares of it. Blokes like Ted Kilpatrick came to the Top End in the late 1950s, with the sniff of a big future. People must have been pretty optimistic, were they? That you could get a good crop. Well, we got 2 tonne to the acre. Yeah. We can see that we could grow rice. 'CSIRO scientist Garry Cook arrived 20 years later. By then, the Humpty Doo project had failed.' It's a difficult area for farming, up here. It's a desert, where you get torrential rain

for three or four months a year. Everything you do here is more expensive than down south. And if it can be done cheaper elsewhere, it will be. But as we see rice now, it's doubled in price. Will there come a time when the amount you get for the grain will make it worthwhile attempting again to grow rice here? Well, I think what's going on at the moment with

the diversion of grain into producing biofuels and whatnot, it's changing the whole economics of food production worldwide. It could be time for another look at the economics of the north. There's a bloke growing barramundi out on the river there. What's wrong with a farmer having a barramundi paddock? So you could grow barramundi and rice together. Is that what you're suggesting? Yeah. You can't have a monoculture on rice. I suppose there are lessons to be learnt here, aren't there? Lessons from the experiment. I think so. That the effort required is just too great. But it was a successful experiment. I'm half on Ted's side and half on your side, because I reckon this is an unfinished experiment. We're still trying to work out how to live properly in northern Australia. Yes, yes. And we're seeing it slowly work together, but we're a long way from a solution in my view. 'Back on the Savannah Way, we head towards the Western Australian border. 2,500 kilometres down, 1,500 to go. Finally, we reach the border. Tim and I might be welcome in Western Australia, but something else isn't.' Well, this is it, aye? I suppose, Tim, we've just got to be natural. Now don't look guilty or suspicious. All right. All right. But I don't know what I'm supposed to be guilty or suspicious of. Handling cane toads, for a start. Don't mention cane toads. OK. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Good day. How you going? How are you? Not too bad, mate. Welcome to WA. Thank you. Just wondering if you've aware of WA quarantine regulations. Sort of, yes. Yes. Just wondering, through the list there. No soils, no walnuts. We have nuts. Just got some peanuts there. Out of the shell, they're fine. Have you been camping where there are cane toads in the area? Yes, we have. Yep, yep, yep. We've seen billions of cane toads. Is that right? Well, we'd better run the mirror underneath, just in case. Have you ever found any cane toads under cars? We've found dead ones, but no live ones. So how wide is this front? The toad front that's bearing down on us here. As wide as you like to put on it, because it starts up near Darwin and all the way down near Alice way. It's like a band, but of course, that's segmented, as well. But now they're as close as 25km, so it's getting very close, yeah.

Right, well. Heading west at a rapid rate. Not enough's been done, John. Gentlemen, don't forget to wind your watches back 90 minutes too. No worries. Thank you. Thanks. We're going back in time, Tim. We have. In more ways than one, John. 'We are going back, to a state not yet ravaged by the toad.' Can I say, Tim, that we've been aware of this for as long as my lifetime and it's always been treated as a bit of a joke. Look, John, what did we pick up as a pamphlet, here at the border? "You can help keep Western Australia cane toad free." What a load of old... Well, you can.

But without the government investing substantial money in it, the toads will occupy Western Australia and it will never be the same again, as we've seen. Forget it. It's an absolute tragedy. It is an absolute tragedy. I just cannot believe, if it was an agricultural pest, if it was liver flu or something... Yes.

..or tuberculosis, you can be sure that countless dollars would be spent on it. Money would be no object. Yeah, exactly. But because it's a toad, which is affecting the natural environment, almost nothing has been done. Yes. All we've got to stop the toads now, coming into Western Australia is some volunteers, dad's army. Volunteers. That's right.

Just go out and collect a handful. That's right. Rather than the billions that are advancing on us. Yes. We thought we had trouble on the Murray-Darling River system, I tell you, it's nothing like what I've seen here with the toads. '40km across the border, we encounter a Top End dream that became reality 35 years ago. Lake Argyle is the centrepiece of the Ord River Scheme, a dam that can hold 10 times more water than Sydney Harbour. Water, water, everywhere. But what is it all being used for?

Tony Chafer, from the Ord Irrigation Co-Op explains.' They've looked at a couple of options to take the water south.

The pipeline option was just not viable. The only option they considered might be viable is actually towing it down behind the dirty great big ships in dirty great big bladders, but even that was a lot more expensive than diesel. So what can we grow here, Tony? The secret of the Ord has been the fact that there has been such a large variety of crops that are able to be grown here successfully. So if one crop has fallen over or failed or hasn't proved to be successful as it could have been, another one's been there to fall in its place almost immediately. This could be the rice bowl of the world. It could. Yes. Apparently someone's told the magpie geese and they're lining up.

'So, what is this liquid gold now being used for? The waters of Lake Argyle only irrigate 14,000 hectares of land. You won't see rice, wheat or cotton here. All have been tried and failed.

Half of the entire Ord irrigation area is planted out to... ..sandalwood. The biggest local grower is Chris Done.' Well, Chris, we're looking at a mountain of seedlings here, of sandalwood trees you reckon are accruing $100 in value a year.

So by the time they mature, each tree's going to be worth $1,500 in today's figures. That's right, yeah. It's an extremely valuable product and worldwide demand far exceeds the supply that's currently available. Yeah. Each of these trees is going to accrue in value considerably, it's the life cycle. I must admit I hadn't heard about it since the '70s, when people were burning incense sticks. It's got an incredibly big market in the world cosmetics industry, as well.

So in fact, that's the biggest part of the market these days, it goes into high value, top end perfumes and things like that.

It just seems to me, slightly bizarre, I don't know why. I just feel a slight amount of unease. It seems to me, I would have thought this would've become the food bowl for South-East Asia, rather than the perfume bowl. How long has the dam been here? 40 years, round about. Yes. And the water has been there. People have tried everything under the sun. They've tried to make a living out of it. Rice twice, cotton twice. Forget what else... Failure, failure, failure, failure. Till we get to sandalwood. Sandalwood could be the big winner. You're hoping. I think it's part of the mix. The agricultural industry here has, as you say, gone through a lot of trials and some of which have failed, but they've also produced some crops very, very successfully. So it then comes down to a matter of what's the best value to use this land for, in terms of returns. And over here, ahead of us... 'Sandalwood is a parasite that takes 15 years to mature. The first harvest is still years away in the Ord. Chris shows us his most mature trees.' The main stem contains the heartwood, which we then extract the oil from. The thing that strikes me about it is the diversity of plants here, including these native trees you've planted, have brought in a lot of wildlife. There's butterflies everywhere, there's birds, lizards. It's fantastic. A significant habitat in the area. In fact, we've just done a wildlife survey, which had a quantity of about 105 species of birds, so we've got a very good database of the wildlife that's using the plantations. Yes, all right. Remarkable, really. Remarkable? All right, good. Thanks for that, Chris. 'It was difficult getting a handle on the Ord. Is this to be the nation's new breadbasket or is its potential far more modest? Either way, there's enough growth in mining, agriculture and tourism, to make nearby Kununurra one of the boom towns of the north.' I'd say it's very ahead, Tim. Looks a very attractive town. Yeah, it is. We'd need to get a job up here, though. There's plenty of work. I'm telling you now. And I wonder how much real estate there is, for sale. Now, let's see. What's here, what's here?

Can we go about half a million in old Kununurra? For a three-bedroom home.

They are Sydney prices, Tim. They are. That's not cheap. Look. "Happy haven" - $627,000. Mm, that's a newer house. Three-bedroom, one-bathroom home. We should find out how much they've gone up. Yeah, we need to speak to Andrea Fox. Hello, Andrea, we were just talking about you. Oh, yes. We've seen your photograph here. and finding things quite expensive. We're looking to buy here Yeah. Yes, but well worth it. You get great rental returns on all the properties and the capital gains are really outstanding. in the last 12 months, Andrea? How much have prices gone up About 30% increase in the last year. Mm. That's about the same rate as gold. Yes, yes. Which is extraordinary. supply to meet the demand. Right. That's telling me there's not enough Your problem would be in building, it'd be hard to get tradespeople to do the job. Absolutely. To build, we need tradesmen. And for tradesmen to be here, we need accommodation. Yeah. So it's really a... It's a vicious circle. It's a vicious circle. Well, thanks, Andrea. That's fantastic. Pleasure. Thanks for visiting our town. Absolute pleasure. Thank you. Nice to meet you. Pleasure. OK. Bye. 'We leave Kununurra and the Ord, not quite convinced this will become the nation's food bowl.

further west, But now it's time to make our way the Kimberley. into Australia's true last frontier, We're off to the start of the Gibb River Road,

one of the great journeys in Australia. But there is a problem.' This is telling a bleak story, Tim, I would suggest. We can go over a little way up. Yes, up to Pentecost River. Yeah. But then Pentecost to Kalumburu turn-off, closed. Yes. But notice, John, penalties apply. Yes. But we don't know what they are. Could be just a stern ticking off. (BOTH LAUGH) I don't like the way you think, John. That has me worried. OK. Pentecost River, here we come. Here we come. 'There are more adventures ahead on our northern odyssey.' Confident? I think so. Just take it gently, slowly. 'Finally, we arrive in the heart of the Kimberley. We encounter a land of massive fires and of rare birds.' Oh, look that. Most fearless bastard I've ever seen. Yeah. 'A land of big trees.' We have here Rod +... It's either Gravy or Gramy. It's Gramy, I think. 'And big rivers.' You can fill Sydney Harbour in just over 5 hours. Wow. Easy. 'Perhaps this would be the food bowl of the nation.' Closed Captions by CSI

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