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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr NELSON (Northern Territory) , - In continuing my observations concerning the possibilities of sheep raising in the southern portion of the Northern Territory, I desire to quote further figures in refutation of the statement of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) that that country is not capable of carrying a rabbit to the square mile.

Mr Killen - I stated that it was capable of carrying one sheep to every 25 acres, or two or three head of cattle to the square mile.

Mr NELSON - I donot wish to misrepresent the honorable member. The figures I produced yesterday and which I shall make available to the honorable member, will, I believe, convince him that the country is much better than he says. I should like to give some figures concerning an area at Charlotte Waters on the extreme southern border of the Northern Territory where the postal department has reserved an area of five square miles adjacent to the post office. Many years ago the department placed 300 sheep on this area, and also some hundred head of horses and a number of cattle. The total number of sheep and goats sold and used to meet the local demand during a period of three years was 1,177. In 1922 the department had 457 sheep on that area, and notwithstanding the fact that large numbers were sold and that some were used to meet local requirements, including those of men engaged on the overland telegraph line, they are still shearing about 500 sheep and lambs. It must also be remembered that in disposing of the surplus stock, the department has sold most of the ewes and female goats. The honorable member for Riverina contends that the country is capable of carrying only one sheep to 25 acres, but he will admit that the carrying capacity of the country is governed by the quantity of water available.

Mr Killen - I am assuming that the necessary water is available.

Mr NELSON - Generally speaking, cattle will roam only five miles from water, and sheep perhaps not more than two and a half miles. A fair number of sheep as well as a number of goats, horses and cattle have been kept on a block of five square miles notwithstanding the fact that the water supply is on the main stock route over which thousands of cattle travel annually. In these circumstances the honorable member must admit that the country's carrying capacity is very deceptive, and that one can only judge its real value after a number of years experience.

Mr Killen - To what portion of the Northern Territory is the honorable member referring ?

Mr NELSON - To CharlotteWaters on the southern boundary of the Territory. In 1922, 500 sheep and 100 lambs were shorn for a production of 4,010 lb. of wool or an average fleece for both sheep and lambs of 8 lb.

Mr Maxwell - Were they crossbreds or merinos?

Mr NELSON - They were merinos. The honorable member for Riverina will admit that an average of8 lb. for 500 sheep and 100 lambs is a very good return for this class of country. These are authentic figures taken from the official records of the department.

Mr Killen - I have seen the country in the vicinity of Maryvale Station which is much better than the country of which the honorable member is speaking. The manager of that station, who is an experienced man, informed me that although he carried sheep for some time he disposed of his flocks because they did not pay. He has now had cattle on the property for some time.

Mr NELSON - I am aware that in the absence of a reliable water supply, as at Maryvale Station, it may be difficult to run sheep profitably.

Mr Jackson - But they have not sunk bores for water there.

Mr NELSON - Exactly. That is retarding development, and consequently the stock is concentrated around small supplies of water. It must be obvious to the honorable member for Riverina that owing to thelong distances from that station to the head of the line it is far easier to travel cattle than sheep. In some cases pastoralists found that in endeavoring to market sheep the losses were very heavy, and they went in for cattle, which are more easily handled.

Mr Killen - Pastoralists have also to contend with dingoes or incur heavy expense in providing vermin-proof fencing.

Mr NELSON - That may be so; but that does not detract from the actual value of the country. If pastoralists refuse to improve their holdings it is obvious that they must incur losses. The absence of fencing is one of the disadvantages encountered in the northern part of Australia.

Mr Killen - It would never pay to fence some of the country.

Mr NELSON - I have in mind a stationnear Attunga, owned by Mr. Rosenthal who, I believe, has been visited by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), consisting of 99 square miles of country. This property has been improved, and is now producing some of the finest cattle and horses to be found in the Territory. More money is made on that 99 square miles of country than is made by the owners of much larger areas which are unimproved.

Mr Jackson - And the owner of that property started without a shilling.

Mr Hill - But there is a good rainfall in that locality.

Mr NELSON - It is not very good. On the subject of rainfall I have some official figures for the years 1922, 1923 and 1924, as recorded at Charlotte Waters. They are : -

Rainfall at Charlotte Waters from 1st January 1922 to 31st March, 1924.


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