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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1756

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (11:55): The member for Perth gave a most extraordinary speech. She said there really should not be any development and there should not be any dams. She said we should listen to CSIRO because they have some good ideas. I have been listening to them for 42 years and I am dammed if I have heard any ideas on northern development, outside of water proposals. And as for increasing cattle production by 40 per cent, I can absolutely assure the House that if that was possible to do we would have already done it.

The reality is that we are probably looking at a 40 per cent decrease in cattle production because of the droughts. We do not need to have droughts. Virtually every single station property in North Queensland has water running past it every year. So, as long as they were given 300 hectares of freehold irrigation land we would not have such a thing as a drought in northern Australia because, unlike the rest of Australia—if not the rest of the world—we are on rivers and creeks that run every year.

Let me be very specific: my home town is Cloncurry. My family have lived in or around the Cloncurry River for 120 years. It has run every single year for 120 years, and Cloncurry is 500 kilometres from the sea. So it is as inland as you can get.

So what are we doing with this land that the good Lord has bequeathed us? What are we doing with it? I will tell you what we are doing with it. Seven million hectares of what was designated on the old map as the best natural grasslands in Australia—I am talking of the Sun map, a commercial map you bought at the garage—now does not have that grassland on it. The map should have on it 'prickly acacia infestation' because seven million hectares of beautiful grasslands has been destroyed by prickly acacia.

The honourable member for Perth may not understand that nature does not stand still. We should involve ourselves to ensure that the beautiful, natural environment which the good Lord gave us, is protected and turned into a useful asset for the people of the world. If Australians seriously considered it they would realise that if you take a 100-kilometre coastal strip out of northern Australia and a little dot around Darwin, there would be about 100,000 people living in an area almost the size of Europe, which has a population of 600 million or 700 million. What is that area producing? It is producing $100 million-worth of cattle and little bit of tourism trade in Darwin. The rest of its production is so small that it does not require mentioning.

So we have an area the size of Europe with an average rainfall of 30 inches or 40 inches. In the electorate of the honourable member for Leichhardt the rainfall is over 60 inches. And what is that area producing? It is producing $100 million-worth of cattle, and that is it. We look after it so well that seven million hectares of natural grasslands has been completely destroyed by prickly acacia tree. If we were to take seven per cent of that water and two per cent of that land we could produce $20,000 million-worth of prawn and fish product and we would have the cattle production.

I do take your point: we can do processing in northern Australia. And we could produce all of the transport petrol requirements for Australia. We send $25,000 million every year to the Middle East to buy petrol when that money could be going into Northern Australia. If we use seven per cent, 93 per cent of that water will run, as it has always run, to the sea.

And what the young lady from Perth does not understand is that the northern rivers just go: whoosh. They are only there for two or three months of the year. No matter how many dams you build, you are still going to have a huge flood at the start of the year and nothing at the end of the year. The change to nature is negligible. All you will see at the mouth of the Mitchell River will be a flood that is probably two feet lower than the annual 60-foot flood that it normally is. That is the only difference that you will see, and yet in return for that we can produce food where our nearest neighbour— (Time expired)