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Thursday, 4 October 1956

Mr GEORGE LAWSON (Brisbane) . - I shall confine my remarks to matters that concern the Department of National Development. At the outset I express again my regret, and that of the people of Queensland, at this Government's failure to assist the Queensland Government to carry out the very important national works that it has in hand, and which it is endeavouring to perform with the loan moneys granted to it by the Australian Loan Council. I have complained on a number of previous occasions in this chamber about the Government's neglect of Queensland in this respect. I cannot understand why it is that Queensland, unlike other States, cannot obtain money from the national revenue to carry out these important national works.

I notice that in the Estimates for this year financial provision is made for only one developmental scheme, the Snowy Mountains project. This year the amount provided for that project has been increased by about £3,000,000. As 1 have said before, I do not object to the money being provided from revenue for an important project such as this, but I am of the opinion, as are many other Queensland people, that the Snowy Mountains scheme is no more important than are quite a number of other projects that the Queensland Government is endeavouring to undertake with the limited funds made available from loan moneys. For five or six years quite a number of very important projects, which would assist in development, not only of Queensland but also of Australia as a whole, have been under construction. Every one must agree, and particularly those who have visited Queensland, as many honorable members of this Parliament do at certain times of the year, that Queensland is in need of development, if only from the point of view of defence. The Queensland Government is endeavouring to carry out a programme of development, and I should like to mention some of the national projects that it has in hand.

I shall mention, first, the Burdekin Valley irrigation and hydro-electric scheme, which was commenced during the term of office of the Chifley Labour Government. The Prime Minister at that time was so impressed with the project that he. decided that his government would give financial assistance to the Queensland Government. 1 understand that during the 1949 election campaign the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur

Fadden), who is a Queenslander, also promised that if his party was returned to power the government would give financial assistance to the Queensland Government to enable it to carry out this important work. The Queensland Government has done a very good job in trying to perform these many developmental tasks. It is estimated that when the Burdekin Valley scheme is completed many thousands of acres of valuable land will be made available for settlement. Although the project is still a long way from completion, I understand that even now there are about 300 ex-servicemen settled on the land, and that they are doing very well. How this Government or any other government can claim that such, projects are not national works is beyond my comprehension. They are as nationally important to Australia, as are many other works that are being paid for from revenue. 1 am very pleased to see that no provision is made in the Estimates for any projects other than the Snowy Mountains scheme to be financed from national revenue. In, the Estimates for last year provision was made for the aluminium undertaking in Tasmania, and also for projects in South Australia and Western Australia. The only project for which provision is made this year is the Snowy River scheme, but north of the Burdekin there are two much more important projects from the point of view of population, defence and the development of Queensland. I was very interested to read in the Brisbane " Courier Mail " a long article by an expert which that paper sent, to gain first-hand knowledge of all these important projects for which the Queensland Government has been endeavouring to get extra financial assistance. The writer refers, first, to the fact that the people of northern Queensland are hankering for adequate water and cheap electric power, and then goes on to say -

The source of supply will be the £20 million Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme and the £16,300,000' Tully Falls hydro-electric scheme.

These are both good schemes- and of great national importance. The writer points out that the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme will call for a dam with a capacity of 90,000,000,000 gallons of water, or about three-quarters that of Sydney Harbour. Honorable members will appreciate just what that- means- to the people- of northern- Queensland, who depend so greatly on irrigation. The writer continues^-

It will be conveyed by gravity in a system of channels- to 1420 farms varying in size from 59 to 200 acres. Total area of the farms will be 78;000 acres of.' which 38,000 acres will be irrigated annually.

Of this it is expected that 12,000 acres will be devoted to tobacco production and 26,000 acres to mixed crops.

It is estimated that irrigation will lift production by £6,161,000 a year. The present population of 5,000 in the area to be served, is expected to be increased by 16,000.

That is the opinion of one who has just visited these projects. The. writer then goes on to refer to the Tully Falls hydro-electric scheme, which takes, in. very, difficult and rugged country, and is also very important to the development of Queensland. Here, again, the Federal Government, should, give financial assistance to the. State Govern; ment, which is carrying on with the meagre amount of money at its disposal' and endeavouring to bring these schemes into operation as quickly as possible. The writer points out that, when completed, the project will supply power to all north Queensland from Tully to Cairns, Mossman, Atherton Tableland, and out to Mount Garnett. I understand that it- will not be long, before the scheme is in operation and bringing adequate water and cheap power to the whole of that area. The writer adds that at Tinaroo 700 men are employed, and at Tully Falls 360.

I cannot understand' why Queensland is not treated in these matters- in the same way as are the other States. The people of Queensland do not object to the Snowy River scheme, but if it is; all right to carry out' a scheme which, benefits. New South Wales and Victoria only, it is equally right to give Queensland sufficient funds to enable it to carry out these huge projects. That would do: a great deal, to solve the population problem - every one. realizes how necessary it is to populate Queensland and northern Australia: - and. would also contribute substantially to the. defence of this country.

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