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Thursday, 1 March 1973
Page: 192

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) - I strongly support the point of view expressed by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), because the problems they have exposed in this House exist in most of the rural areas of this great nation. Knowing the pattern of the man, I feel confident that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) will give very sympathetic consideration to these problems. The 2 major matters I want to speak about may at first glance appear to be somewhat parochial but they most certainly are not. They have a definite impact on the whole of this nation. The first matter is the critical and urgent necessity for the construction and completion of the Julius Dam to supply water to the city of Mount Isa and the huge mining complex there which contributes in so many ways, not the least of which is the employing of many thousands of Australians, to the national economy. One can find in Mount Isa people from all States, most of whom are there permanently although there are many transients. There are ethnic groups, mainly Finns, who have made their residence in the city of Mount Isa.

A most critical stage has been reached in the water supply for the community and to keep in operation what is now the largest rnining complex of its kind in the world. It should not be argued, as has been argued from time to time, that you cannot give special consideration, to this matter and that the granting of the amount necessary, to which I propose to refer in a few moments, could be taken as a precedent for similar grants in other parts of this country. Here is a complex that is contributing vastly to the overseas credits of this nation and, of course, to our own national earnings as well as to the employment of thousands of Australians. There is an urgent need for at least $4m to be provided. This is a very small sum to ensure the security of not just the city of Mount Isa. We are developing various areas up there.

There is the huge concept for the development of phosphate rock in the Yelvertoft area, as we know it up there, and the Lady Annie area. These are terms which are better known domestically. This complex could involve the expenditure of $100m or more, and it does not involve just the operations of another mining complex. We can foresee that with the production of the raw product, phosphate rock, secondary industries will begin to emerge in the area. Highways would be built and there would be a pipeline to the Gulf. Already a port has been planned in that area and this, of course, would lead to the wholesale export of beef cattle and other commodities from that corner of the continent. This would not have a great effect on the port of Townsville. We visualise the growth and development of that area on such a vast scale that both ports would be kept extremely busy. I most earnestly appeal in this matter to the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). He knows the area; he is sympathetic to it. I have no doubt that in him we will have an advocate who will press our case. But the one great doubt I have is how the Cabinet will receive a submission from the Minister for Northern Development. I hope it will be received with greater sympathy than previous submissions he has made.

I again point out that there is a critical urgency about this matter and I am not exaggerating the case at all. The Queensland Government is making a significant contribution; Mount Isa Mines Ltd is making a significant contribution. It is a matter which affects the whole of this nation and I appeal to the national Parliament and to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Cabinet to treat this matter with the utmost urgency and to make a contribution which in the scope of things and in relation to the size of this vast mining complex is not very great, but would be at least $4m.

The other matter 1 want to deal with concerns the completion of roads already planned and the provision of additional funds for another scheme. I am not sure whether the present Government would call it a- beef roads scheme or whether it would call it something else, but here again this is not a parochial matter. The roads that I have in mind link up with the whole of the national highway system. What has brought me to the point of presenting this matter here tonight is the great emergency that arose during the recent wet in Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern New South Wales. The whole transport system was brought to a standstill because of the poor sealing of the road between Mount Isa and Townsville. There are some ISO miles of very bad dirt road which is bad, particularly in the wet. A truck can get bogged down in a flash. There is an urgent requirement for the completion of the north-south road between Cloncurry or Julia Creek - some place in that area - and either Barcaldine or Longreach to link up with the bitumen surfaced road which then projects down south into New South Wales and Victoria and links up with what will become a great national highway.

Mr Keogh - Why did you not do something about it when you were in office?

Mr KATTER - I will accept that interjection. I quote the Prime Minister today. We spent tens of millions. Maybe the honourable member who is interjecting will start throwing some of his dirty vitriolic mud, as he did today, because he is like a didgeridoo; he makes a lot of noise; he is full of emptiness; all he can do is throw mud. I return to this matter of what in effect will be a national highway. When the matter of bringing troops back from Singapore was before us today the Prime Minister made a very significant comment. He said that we do not want our combat troops in other countries; we want them back in Australia. This is a matter I would love to debate with him for some time, but at least that is the concept of this Government. In other words, it says that the whole focus of the defence system must be in this country. I would say that there is a serious missing link in our roads system for the transport of troops, commodities, weapons and so on. As long as this link is missing, that is all that is required to create chaos in a national emergency. Our roads are a most strategic part of this nation. So, forgetting the absolute importance of this matter from an economic point of view to the Northern Territory, to Queensland and to the whole of this nation, we can argue on the basis of defence, alone that this road should be completed, with national finance. I refer to the road link between Townsville, which has become .our most important national military complex :and another great highway, which comes down to the south to link up with what is already a bitumen surfaced road. The distance is not that far. We could get down into that central western area and link up with the bitumen surfaced road. These matters are of great national importance. I appeal to the Minister for Northern Development to look into this matter. He knows the areas concerned. He is a great believer in the north. I feel that he will put our case most effectively. I hope that Cabinet receives it with the same consideration.

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