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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr HAROLD HOLT - I am glad to say that discussions between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government on this matter have been proceeding satisfactorily, and the road from Normanton to Julia Creek should be commenced at an early date. Both parties agreed that on any assessment of the programme this road would be a desirable development. While I was in northern Queensland recently, I had an opportunity to confer with the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Lands in the Queensland Government and a representative group of cattlemen from the northern areas of the State. Those discussions made it obvious that wrapped up with this question of roads and the attainment of the objective of greater export income from beef production were various other matters. These included the possibility of shipping by way of shallow-draft vessels from ports in the Gulf of Carpentaria to ports farther south on the east coast and the problem of nutrition to ensure that a bigger proportion of the cattle calved was eventually brought to market. Even the shortage of suitable seed for pastures and legumes appeared to come into the picture.

As a result of these discussions, I proposed that it might be useful if the appropriate expert technical officers of the Commonwealth Government conferred promptly with officers of the State Government, and I said that if the State Administration were disposed to request this of the Commonwealth, I would bring the matter to the attention of my colleagues in this Government and state my own view that we might readily respond to the request. Already, the Premier of Queensland has sent a letter about this matter to the Prime Minister, which was received to-day, and I have no doubt that it will be promptly considered by the Commonwealth Government. We are well aware of the desirability to encourage the production of beef not only in Queensland but in other suitable areas in the north, as a valuable contribution to our export income. For our part, we would be willing to collaborate in securing the objectives we have in mind, and the financial arrangements will be discussed in that spirit.

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