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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr McIVOR (Gellibrand) .- After perusing the Estimates, I am disappointed that more money is not to be made available for developmental works in the Northern Territory. The terrific potential of this part of our continent in the mining, agricultural, and pastoral industries, coupled with its great defence importance, makes the Northern Territory No. 1 in our priority list of national projects. It is truly said that water is the lifeblood of a nation, and the import of this statement is brought forcibly to one's mind when travelling in central Australia. My next remarks relate to a project geographically and climatically far removed from the Northern Territory. I refer to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. I accept without argument its great national value and importance, but there is a need in the Northern Territory for investigation and research on a national basis to ascertain whether it is possible to implement schemes of a similar nature in that part of Australia. We must keep in mind the extent of the rainfall in the wet season and, as water is so vital to any industry operating or contemplated in the Territory, investigation of this problem is imperative.

I have referred in other speeches in this chamber to the crying need for all-weather roads in the Northern Territory, and in this regard I should like to mention the great strides being made by the Peko company at Tennant Creek. I think that every one is interested in the financial report on that company which appeared in the newspapers in the last few days. Perhaps one of the most striking features of that report is in relation to the transportation costs of the company's products, coupled with the statement that it was possible to carry on under such circumstances only because of the very high grade of copper ore that was being mined. This leads me to make some reference to production at Mount Isa and Mary Kathleen. I am of opinion that activities in the Northern Territory and at Mount Isa and Mary Kathleen are closely related. We are reliably informed that £20,000,000 will be spent at Mount Isa in the next two years on office accommodation, laboratories, dam construction, and modernizing of plant to increase production three-fold. An amount of £9,000,000 will be spent at Mary Kathleen on housing, accommodation, laboratories and plant before production is commenced. The huge amount of money being spent in north Queensland on these projects is indicative of the great potential of the area and every credit must be given for the initiative and enterprise associated with them. In order to exploit fully the great mineral resources of the Northern Territory and north Queensland, it is necessary to extend the all-weather road from Tennant Creek through Mount Isa to Townsville. If this were done, the task of obtaining and retaining labour would be made much easier. It would have a significant effect in lowering production costs and also would reduce the cost of living for the people of the Territory, as well as for those in northern Queensland. In addition, it would have great utility value to the nation as an alternative transport route.

The construction of this road and the continuation of the all-weather road from Alice Springs through to Adelaide is of urgent necessity to the development of the Territory and to the important projects that are at present being undertaken there. Such roads would have a real place in a national roads scheme. The future of the pastoral and mining industries, as well as that of the " baby " industry of the Territory - the agricultural industry - depend largely on an immediate programme for the construction of all-weather roads in this frontier area of the continent. My views on the need to construct roads and to develop industry in the Territory, and the tremendous task which confronts any government that is concerned with those matters, were supported by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in a statement that he made to the Parliament on 13th March last, when he said -

The development of the Northern Territory is going to be much harder than is sometimes represented by those who talk most glibly and write most freely about the subject. Pioneering ha.never been easy in any part of the Australian continent and the main reason why the northern region has not been populated or developed to the same extent as southern Australia is simply that it is an even harder country than the rest of the continent. .This is still a hard frontier But a nation with the sort of record that we Australians have is not going to turn aside from the challenge of this last great task of pioneering. I believe that, as a nation, our people still have the toughness, the initiative and resourcefulness of their forefathers and to-day we undoubtedly can bring to the task scientific knowledge and technical skill and mechanical power immeasurably greater than was ever available to the earlier pioneers of this continent. Power lies in out hands to do more than they did. The urgency of the times in which we live demands that we do more. We should bring to the task all possible scientific and engineering aids and use an imagine lion stimulated by the present and not by the past. 1 agree with that statement of the Minister. He went on to say that water was of vital importance to the mining industry, and he pointed out that the Government had made surveys and had not neglected that field. He also informed the Parliament of what had been done at Tennant Creek in the search for water. He referred to remarks of the then Administrator, Mr. Wise, stressing the importance of road construction as a means of opening up mining areas and assisting production. He went on to say that much had already been done in road construction, and that the Government was working on a comprehensive road construction and maintenance programme for the Territory designed to improve, generally, the transport and communication facilities in the general interests of the development of the Territory.

I fail to see how those remarks of the Minister are backed by the votes which the Parliament is now considering, because a programme of the dimensions that the Territory demands would necessitate the expenditure of a great deal more money than is provided in these Estimates. Now is the time for something to be done. Although it was almost 50 years before anything was done about the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, the majority of Australians now are convinced of the value of that scheme to the nation. Its success should be a lesson and an inspiration to every one to support further national research, investigation and planning. Posterity must benefit from the heritage that we leave behind us.

The vast possibilities of the Northern Territory warrant investigation of the whole area, because we must bear in mind that the development of this part of our country may be of inestimable value to our national security and prosperity. The development of the Territory, of course, depends wholly upon population. If population is to be attracted, it is essential that the people who go there should be able to enjoy some of the amenities which the more fortunate members of the community have. I do not think that the pioneering spirit is dormant in Australians, but it must always be remembered that we live in a mechanical age, when little is beyond the scope of scientists and technicians to accomplish. It must also be remembered that now that Australians have tasted the sweetness of these amenities, they will be loath to forego them even while pioneering. If all of these things are taken into consideration, and if every effort is made to keep them in the forefront of the picture, I believe that the Northern Territory eventually will be a place of which we may be proud. lt is time that this Government enacted legislation to permit the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) to exercise his franchize iin this place. I say, in conclusion, that railways, roads and water supplies are essentials for the development of the Territory, and are needed quickly. So that they may be provided as soon as possible. I strongly suggest that money which may be wasted on defence could be used to advantage in the Northern Territory and. at the same time to the benefit of Australia generally.

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