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Thursday, 10 March 1966

Mr FAIRBAIRN - I have seen the statement made by Sir Robert Webster. He sent me a copy of it. For a long time there have been allegations that synthetics would take, over from natural primary products in many fields. It is perhaps 30 years now since we were first saying that synthetics would replace wool. Wool is still with us, although synthetics are blended with it. We are crta told that there will be a synthetic to replace steak, but I think I would prefer to s'ick to the natural steak for a while to come.

For the foreseeable future cotton appears to bc able to resist inroads from synthetics although such inroads may be sufficient to force down the price of cotton. The reason why cotton is being grown more than anything else at the Ord is because it is a much more profitable crop. There are many other crops which can be grown there. Research and experimental work are being undertaken in connection with them. As an example, I mention long grain rice. The growing of sorghum is also a profitable venture at the Ord. Investigations are being carried out in many other fields such as the use of pastures for the fattening of beef cattle, the growing of oil crops and so on.

Sugar can be grown particularly well on the Ord River, but the cost of establishing a new mill is such that it is unlikely that sugar will become a main crop in the foreseeable future. The honorable gentleman asked whether there had been any discoveries of minerals as a result of the opening up of this area. I do not think we can say that it has been as a direct result of the opening up of the area that minerals have been discovered, but there have been some interesting discoveries of minerals in that area. I refer in particular to the discovery of a major deposit of bauxite not very far away.

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