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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3227


Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) (Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory) - There is very little difference between what the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) says and what I think.


Mr Katter - This is not concluding the debate?_


Dr PATTERSON - No, it is not closing the debate. But in order to do justice to the debate I will answer as quickly as possible the specific questions that are asked. I do not disagree with what the honourable member for Herbert said about the reafforestation scheme at Ingham except in regard to the procedures to be followed. Last July, I think it was, in the company of the honourable member I met many people in the Ingham district. I personally received a deputation from the 2 local authorities concerned and the various development bureaux, and I was impressed by the well documented case that was presented by the officers in the development bureaux. Without having investigated the proposal or knowing the details of it from the Federal point of view I said that it appeared to be a project which deserved priority as a northern development project.

As I explained to the councils, to the bureaux and to the honourable member for Herbert, and as honourable members opposite well know, our hands are tied unless a request comes from the Queensland Premier supported by the Queensland Government. Up to the present time there has been no request for support, for funds or for any investigation of this project. Under the present system relating to Commonwealth-State finances and procedures, there is nothing I can do about the matter. We have to wait until the Queensland Government submits a proposal. I have alerted the specialists in the various departments who are concerned with reafforestation, and I can assure the honourable member for Herbert that when this case comes down to Canberra it will be given very careful consideration as a northern development project. If it is a sound project within evaluation terms, obviously taking into account the environmental factors, I will have no hesitation in putting it up in the normal way for support. But I impress upon the honourable member that he must get the Queensland Government to put the proposition forward.


Mr Bonnett - It shall be done.


Dr PATTERSON - Very well. As regards water conservation, the honourable member for Herbert expressed sentiments about the Burdekin area which incorporates indirectly the Ross River or the supply of water to Townsville, the Urannah scheme and the various catchments in the Burdekin basin, such as the Bowen River. The honourable member knows the history of this matter. I point out that there is more Federal activity going on in that area now than there has been in the past 24 years. The Snowy Mountains Corporation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Department of Northern Development and various State departments are presently either directly or indirectly working in the area in an attempt to put forward a proposition for the systematic development of the area which will benefit not only the Burdekin area but also the people of Townsville. The proposal for the Urannah scheme which the honourable member mentioned has been submitted, I think, for quite a number of years. But no evaluation has ever been done by Federal authorities and there are available no figures on which one could prepare a case. This matter is being investigated. The same is true of the Burdekin project and the Bundaberg project which is partly in the electorate of my friend the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen); these projects have to be evaluated.

The honourable member for Herbert also mentioned the resources in the great Burdekin basin. Of course, there are tremendous resources of land and water and other natural resources. I suppose I can say with some bias that if Captain Cook had landed, or if Governor Phillip had established his settlement in the Burdekin area instead of in Sydney, we would have had a different pattern of development and settlement in Australia today. Millions of people would have been settled in that area because of the resources of water and soil, and the climate. They are factors which are important in settling a new area. I can assure the honourable member for Herbert that I have no difference with him regarding the point he raises. I again suggest that in respect of the Ingham reafforestation proposal he should get the Queensland Government to put forward the proposition so that it can be considered quickly by the Federal Government. Unless the Queensland Premier puts it forward and it is supported by the Queensland Government, I am afraid that there is nothing I can do about that project.







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