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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr BARNES (McPherson) .- I wish to speak on two important industries which provide the greatest opportunity for the development of our export trade. I refer to the cattle industry and the production of iron and steel. Most of our cattle population is in Queensland and in the area immediately adjacent in the Northern Territory, and the two areas are more or less dependent on each other. An important factor in the development of the cattle industry is the provision of roads to facilitate the transfer of cattle from one part of the country to another. Queensland, particularly west of the Great Dividing Range, has an uncertain climate. Rainfall varies considerably. One area might have a good season, and another, 400 or 500 miles away, might have a drought. The railway systems which run generally from east to west do not serve the purpose of transferring cattle from a drought area to a district where the cattle may be fattened or saved. The provision of roads is essential.

In a dry season, and in the off season when pastures have deteriorated, there is always a percentage of cattle which could be marketed as fats, but at present, because we have to rely on droving, it is not economic to move them. It would not pay to put less than 400 fat cattle on the road. In any case, most of the roads would not be passable for stock because of a shortage of grass. If we had a suitable network of roads, we could have a continual supply of cattle to build up our export industry. We could get 100 from here and 150 from somewhere else. The movement of these cattle would make room for those that remain in the area.

The Queensland Government has a plan for roads to develop the whole of Queensland. The plan includes not only the Channel country, but also the Gulf country and the northern areas. We must accept its plan as the most suitable because it has been prepared by experts in the various departments. The construction of all these roads would cost between £8,000,000 and £10,000,000. The provision of these roads would put the cattle industry in a very sound condition. We could build up our export income and also save the cattle in times of drought. We lose cattle worth millions of pounds every time we have a drought in Queensland. If we saved those cattle, the Treasury would benefit.

I have been heartened by the statesmanlike declaration on economic policy that was issued by this Government recently. I believe this policy will provide more funds for use for development. However, despite the splendid record of this Government, I believe it could set a better example by diverting money which is now being spent in metropolitan areas. Undoubtedly, this expenditure has beneficial results, but it could be made to better purpose on the roads I have mentioned. I refer, for example, to a large block of Commonwealth offices now being constructed in Brisbane at a cost of about £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. No doubt similar buildings are being constructed in other capital cities. The money that is spent on those buildings would provide all the roads needed in Queensland to build up the cattle industry. That would save losses from drought and would also provide more income to develop the economy.

I direct my attention now to a matter concerning Queensland mineral deposits and the Australian steel industry. There has been a suggestion that we should permit the export of iron ore, but I am completely opposed to such exports. The steel industry has been developed to a point where it

F.9129/60.- R.- [Ill] can export its products. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is spending £30,000,000 a year to expand the industry. It is estimated that by 1970 the company will export £100,000,000 worth of steel. This export trade could be speeded up.

I do not see any reason why, if Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has not sufficient funds, we cannot attract overseas steel firms to set up another industry in Australia to speed up the expansion of our steel industry. I understand that 292,000,000 tons of steel were produced in 1957 in the world. It is anticipated that between 1972 and 1975 that figure will reach 630,000,000 tons. We have the coal and we have the iron ore. If we manufacture steel in this country we will sell, not only our iron ore abroad, but we will sell our coal and our labour also. If we export our iron ore we will provide other countries with an opportunity to compete against our own exports. I believe that every deposit of iron ore in this country should be developed. In this way we could continually develop and expand industry and provide jobs for thousands of Australians, including young Australians leaving school and immigrants to this country. We would also provide population for the scattered parts of Australia. We have to develop the northern parts of our country. Australia will be the base for the production of steel for the whole of the East and, undoubtedly, Asian countries will develop tremendously. The demand for steel products will be enormous over the next decade.

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