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Tuesday, 18 May 1965

Senator SCOTT (Western Australia) . - I rise to support the Bill. I am pleased that Senator Cant on behalf of the Opposition also supports the measure and that the Opposition will not vote against it. This Bill is of tremendous importance to the agricultural areas of Western Australia and indeed to the whole Commonwealth. Under the provisions of the Bill, the Commonwealth Government will provide £5.25 million on a £1 for £1 basis to Western Australia to help the State to supply water to its agricultural areas. This means a total expenditure over the next seven or eight years of £10.5 million.

The water will supply an area of 8 million acres. Already 4 million acres of land has an adequate water supply. The farmers and the townships in the area will now have the use of additional water. It will increase farm production and supplement town water supplies. Farmers in this area will be able to increase the carrying capacity of their land as a result of this supply of additional water. With the help of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia, new grasses and legumes have been produced. By the use of these, the carrying capacity of the area affected will be increased by more than 100 per cent. Sufficient water cannot be obtained in some of the drier areas with an annual rainfall of 12 to 15 inches because the salt level is too close to the surface and farmers are unable to put down bores or construct dams. Therefore, they have to rely on water reticulated a considerable distance from the Darling Range catchment area.

With the additional water to be provided through the scheme under discussion and the new varieties of grasses such as cyprus barrel medic, rose clover and other clovers that will thrive in the low rainfall areas towards Geraldton, farmers in the area will be able to take a new look at agriculture. Large additional areas are being sown to clovers and medics which build up the nitrogen content of the soil. After three or four years, this build up enables the farmers to adopt the ley system of farming. The nitrogen content is built up for three or four years and then a crop of wheat is sown. On this highly fertile country, the farmers are then able virtually to guarantee in a normal year a return of about 10 or 12 bags of wheat to the acre instead of the normal 4, 5 or 6 bags.

Senator Morris - How much do they pay for the water?

Senator SCOTT - This water is reticulated to supply stock. The farmer has to pay so much per acre to the Government. He will also have to pay a certain amount for the water he uses.

Senator O'Byrne - Will any of this water go on to the pastures?

Senator SCOTT - It is not designed to go on the pasture. I am not talking about irrigation. I am talking about water to supply additional stock that the farmers will be able to carry on this area because of scientific developments and new types of pastures. In some cases they will be able to quadruple the stock carrying capacity of the land. The water going to this area will supply their stock. The farmers cannot get water on their properties because of the salt content which is close to the surface. That is the reason for this Bill. However, the hour is late and we could continue this discussion for a long time. I conclude by saying I am glad the Australian Labour Party is supporting the measure and I have pleasure in supporting it myself.

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