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Tuesday, 7 December 1965

Dr FORBES (Barker) (Minister for the Army) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of Parliament to certain amendments requested by the Queensland Government to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State relating to the development of the brigalow lands in the Fitzroy River basin of central Queensland.

The Brigalow Lands Agreement Act 1962 approved an agreement under which the Commonwealth provides financial assistance to Queensland of up to £7,250,000, on a repayable interest-bearing basis, in respect of expenditure by the State over the fiveyear period ending 30th June 1967 in the development of certain specified areas in the Fitzroy River basin.

The general plan of development of these areas involves the re-subdivision of the original holdings and the allocation of the larger number of blocks, some to the existing landholders, some to sale at auction and the remainder to applicants selected by the State. Those blocks allotted to existing holders or sold at auction are for development by the holders from their own resources, while those allotted to selected applicants are developed by the State Government on behalf of the applicants with finance provided by the Commonwealth under the Brigalow Lands Agreement Act.

The scheme of development is administered wholly by the State. Commonwealth participation is restricted to the provision of financial assistance for implementation of the scheme. The State Government, largely as a result of the experience it had gained in administering the scheme, recently proposed a number of variations to the Agreement. These are the following -

(a)   extension of the boundaries of the areas of the scheme to take in some additional areas in the west and the south;

(b)   additional development work in the form of ringbarking of forest country and eradication of sucker regrowth;

(c)   greater flexibility in the development of individual blocks in regard to the provision of fencing, cattle tick control units and water facilities;

(d)   the provision of breeding cattle;

(e)   additional road work for the area, both in the form of main roads and access roads; (0 an extension for three years to 30th June 1970 of the period within which financial assistance is available to the State.

The variations do not involve any increase in the Commonwealth assistance of £7,250,000 provided for under the original agreement.

In a scheme of this nature, it is not surprising that the State has found it desirable to vary the original plan of development in the light of experience. The Commonwealth Government has accordingly agreed to the necessary amendments to the Agreement to give effect to the variations requested by the State, and the amendments involved are embodied in the further agreement which the Bill now before the House submits for Parliament's approval.

The opportunity has also been taken in the amending Agreement to enlarge the discretion of the Treasurer to agree to variations of the scheme requested in future by the State. Under the original Agreement, the Treasurer was able to approve only suggested variations in the details of the development works specified in the third schedule, namely, the particular works to which financial assistance provided by the Commonwealth may be applied. It is thought desirable in the interests of flexibility to extend the Treasurer's discretion to include the plan of development specified in the second schedule.

I think it can fairly be said that the brigalow lands development scheme is already proving to be a notable success, and I am sure that full development of the scheme will produce important benefits for the nation in terms of northern development and export earnings from beef cattle. I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.

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