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Tuesday, 8 March 1966

Our approach to development generally, and northern development in particular, will continue to be both vigorous and comprehensive. Achievements to date have been very much more impressive than published criticisms would suggest. When account is taken of current and proposed work, the total of public and private investment for northern Australia is in the vicinity of $2,000 million. The Government will maintain close co-operation with State Governments for development purposes. The planning and construction of public developmental projects are primarily matters for State Governments. The Commonwealth Government has assisted the States to undertake a variety of projects by means of special grants and loans. We recognise, however, that while our activities can sometimes trigger off worthwhile developments, or act in aid of the development undertakings of others, the major contribution will be made by private enterprise and the initiative of private investors.

A recent example of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States towards development was the announcement by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) on 24th February that the Commonwealth and State Governments have agreed that Australia should increase its rate of softwood planting from the present 40,000 acres a year to 75,000 acres for the next 35 years. The programme recommended will meet Australia's most urgent needs in the foreseeable future. Imports of timber and other forestry products now cost Australia more than $200 million a year. This cost could treble by the end of the century if we fail to increase our planting rate. The Commonwealth Government has offered the States about $20 million in longterm loans over the next five years to help lift the planting rate in the Government softwood plantations. These loans will be interest free for the first 10 years.

Commonwealth-State co-operation led to the formation some four years ago of the Australian Water Resources Council. Thanks principally to the provision of Commonwealth funds of about $5.5 million, expenditure on the investigation of water resources will increase by 60 per cent, in the three years to 1966-67. A further expansion of this work in the succeeding three years is being discussed by Commonwealth and State officers in Canberra this week.

Examples of this co-operation are too numerous for me to list them all here, but I mention the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governmentsin1962to develop 41/4 million acres of land for beef production in the brigalow belt of central Queensland, with the Commonwealth providing $14.5 million to finance the scheme. Despite severe drought conditions in 1964 and 1965, good progress has been made in development of the area and, as recently as last Friday, I talked in Canberra with the Premier of Queensland about a similar scheme for a further area of nearly six million acres in central Queensland.

Expansion in the mining industry has been the most spectacular development in the north in the post-war period. New industries have been established at a number of places - bauxite development at Weipa and Gove, manganese at Groote Eylandt, iron ore on the northwest of Western Australia, and at two centres in the Northern Territory, and coal at two centres in central Queensland. In addition, considerable expansion has taken place at Mount Isa, involving private investment of some $130 million. In this case, the Government has made this development feasible by providing $34.5 million towards the cost of reconstruction of the railway to Townsville. In the case of the bauxite deposits at Gove in the Northern Territory, the Government has negotiated arrangements for development of the field by a company with 50 per cent. Australian equity and with conditions requiring establishment of a plant on the site to process bauxite into alumina.

The Commonwealth Government through its financial assistance in connection with the beef cattle roads has made an enormous contribution to the development of better road transport facilities throughout Northern Australia leading to a larger turn-off of cattle. Drought effects were alleviated by movement over these roads to better pastures. Since 1961-62, approval has been given for assistance totalling $41.5 million towards the construction and up-grading of roads for cattle transport in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The sugar industry which supports the bulk of the population in the north of Queensland has gone through a phase of expansion since 1950 with acreage and output both increasing by approximately 100 per cent. This expansion has been made possible by the successful negotiations of the Government which have enabled it to establish markets at home and abroad to absorb the increased output. Development of the industry over the past 15 years has led to substantial growth of cities and towns on the north Queensland coast and to development and modernisation of harbour and transport facilities.

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