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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 531


Mr LINDSAY(10.00) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your re-election as a Deputy Speaker of this House. You have discharged the duties of your high office with fearless independence. Less than two years ago the Hawke Government, an authentic Australian government, was elected by the people of Australia to restore confidence and vigor in all sectors of the Australian economy and to ensure that basic human rights are available to all. Honourable members will recall the desperate years of the Fraser Government. Australia was in deep crisis with the worst economic recession in 50 years. Our national spirit was devastated by seven years of confrontation and division inflicted by a Liberal-National Party government. In less than two years the competent and dynamic Hawke Government has reduced Australia's inflation rate from 11.2 to 5.3 per cent; reduced unemployment from 781,000 to 609,000, created nearly 300,000 jobs; slashed interest rates; begun re-arming our defence forces; re-established Australia's prestige in the community of nations, and been responsible for the lowest level of industrial disputes over the past 16 years. The list of achievements is almost endless. In less than two years the Hawke Government has laid the foundation to build new national unity, national purpose and national progress, and, in the words of Prime Minister Hawke, an Australian government dedicated 'to build in our time a nation foremost among the nations of the world in freedom and fairness for all'. There is a new spirit of confidence in this nation. There is a new confidence, a new spirit of prosperity, in the Herbert electorate as a result of the Hawke Government's interest in north Queensland.

It seems now that, after losing votes in north Queensland at the Federal election, the Liberal Party is trying to court votes through the new honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Everingham). This honourable member was elected not knowing whether he was a member of the Liberal Party, the National Party of Australia or both. He was quickly disowned as a National by the Queensland Premier before he decided this dilemma. In his one visit to north Queensland since the election, the honourable member for the Northern Territory has managed to ignore the problems of the sugar industry. He did not mention falling mineral prices. He forgot about the Burdekin Dam development initiated by the Hawke Government.

He did not talk of north Queensland defence, or of youth unemployment, which concerns this Government, or of tax reform which we are tackling. He did not concern himself with transport or tourism or any of the many State Government neglects. His first, and so far only, contribution to the future of north Queensland was to suggest that north Queensland be separated as a new State from the clutches or Sir Joh and the rest of Queensland. Is it any wonder that north Queenslanders are bewildered at being told by the Liberal member for the Northern Territory that their final political solution lies in divorcing themselves from the National Party State Government? I need do no more than challenge the member for Northern Territory to come back from the clouds and table in this House an itemised costing and analysis, constitutional and economic, of his illusion. Until he does so, his recent exercise can, and must, amount to no more than a headline grabbing stunt.

Development of north Queensland has gained force with the aid and encouragement of the Hawke Government. No longer will the boundless opportunities of north Queensland be consigned to the benign neglect of any government.

It was in February 1983 that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) promised a new $12m Commonwealth Government centre for Townsville to enable Federal Government departments to even more effectively serve the people of north Queensland. This large, elegantly designed and functional building is almost complete.

It was in February 1983 that the Prime Minister undertook to give support to one of the most exciting scientific projects ever developed in northern Australia. The Great Barrier Reef Wonderland, costing some $21m, is about to commence construction in Townsville as a Commonwealth bicentennial commemorative project. The Hawke Government has provided nearly $7m to develop an aquarium which will house a wide variety of coral species and reef fish. One enormous tank will house a microcosm of a functioning coral reef system with a wide variety of coral reef fish. The second huge tank will contain predatory animals of the reef; for example, sharks. Visitors will be able to view coral reefs and fish life from an underwater transparent tunnel through both tanks. More than 400,000 visitors are expected each year at Great Barrier Reef Wonderland. The completed project will be administered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

It was in February 1983 that the Prime Minister assured the people of North Queensland that his Government would fund construction of the Burdekin Dam on a $2 to $1 basis with the State Government. The Hawke Government has exceeded its historic election promise. It is paying the full cost of the Burdekin Dam-surely the greatest national water resources project in Australia since the Snowy Mountains scheme. Prime Minister Hawke has visited the Burdekin Dam site. The Federal Treasurer (Mr Keating) has visited the Burdekin Falls site. Each of these great Australian leaders has fully appreciated the grandeur of the Burdekin Dam scheme. They quickly saw that completion of the Burdekin Dam would firmly establish north Queensland as one of the major agricultural areas of Australia and as a centre with unlimited potential for industrial development. To the Hawke Government the people of north Queensland say 'Thank you'.

It was in February 1983 that the Prime Minister promised the people of Townsville that his Government would build a new domestic air terminal. In last year's Federal Budget, moneys were allocated for this project. The Hawke Government has firmly set the course to enable construction of the domestic air terminal as soon as possible. In November last year the Prime Minister, during a Press conference in Townsville, said that he expected tenders for construction of the new terminal would be called before the middle of 1985. A hearing of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works has been held. In contrast to the do-nothing attitude of the Liberal-National Party Government, the Hawke Government has acted decisively to provide the necessary facilities to enable rapid expansion of international and domestic air traffic through Townsville.

It was in February 1983 that the Prime Minister promised the people of north Queensland that his Government would begin the urgent up-grading of the Bruce Highway and arterial roads in Townsville. This work has proceeded at an unprecedented pace. Approximately $50m has been allocated by the Hawke Government for replacement of single lane timber bridges with double lane concrete bridges. Many kilometres of the Bruce Highway have been reconstructed and other sections of this national highway are now being reconstructed. It is the greatest road building and maintenance program in north Queensland's history. The unswerving commitment of the Hawke Government to reconstruct the Bruce Highway to a standard that will give the growing cities of north Queensland the genuine highway standard link they need and deserve is applauded by the people of north Queensland.

It was in February 1983 that the Prime Minister promised the people of Townsville that his Government would institute a massive program to help give jobs to the long term unemployed, victims of the Fraser Government's fiscal madness. Millions of dollars have been allocated by the Hawke Government to the Herbert electorate under the community employment program. Hundreds of Townsville people have received jobs and training to increase their chances of re-entering the permanent work force.

The years of Liberal-National Party government have left deep scars on the economy and the development of northern Queensland. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation suffered merciless cutbacks in funding by the Fraser Government. The CSIRO laboratory in Townsville was established in 1962 to undertake detailed research in the semi-arid tropics. Australia is the only advanced nation in which this environment is represented. The CSIRO laboratory at Townsville is therefore in a special position in northern Australia. Only two of CSIRO's 42 divisions have their headquarters in northern Australia. The divisions of Tropical Crops and Pastures, and Tropical Animal Science receive less than 5 per cent of CSIRO's total budget, yet Queensland regularly produces more than 20 per cent of Australia's total agricultural income. This lack of attention to tropical agriculture is shown by the concentration of CSIRO scientists in the south. More than 70 per cent of CSIRO's agricultural scientists are found south of, and including, the Sydney-Adelaide axis-on 8 per cent of the Australian land mass. This is despite the fact that 50 per cent of Australia's rural exports are produced in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Tropical agriculture again missed out last year when CSIRO moved 20 per cent of its research into high priority areas and protected these from Budget cuts. The Division of Tropical Crops and Pasture had only 7.4 per cent of its research protected from the cuts, yet another agricultural division based in the south had 44 per cent of its work protected. This lack of support for the northern CSIRO divisions is a long term trend and during the past decade the Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures lost 25 per cent of its staff and had its operating funds slashed by 45 per cent. The Division of Tropical Animal Science is still fighting to set up animal nutrition facilities at Townsville, despite staff having been appointed two years ago. The need for animal nutrition research in the tropical north was one of the major factors leading to the establishment of the Division of Tropical Animal Science in 1982. Naturally, a major part of the scientific effort at the Townsville laboratory has been to increase the productivity of the beef industry in the tropics.

Declining funding for rural research has resulted from two factors. First, the progressive phase-down of CSIRO rural research during the Fraser Government years. This wind-down continues notwithstanding the fact that approximately one-third of the nation's export earnings had its origins in the agricultural sector. Exports of agricultural products amounted to about 42 per cent of total agricultural production in 1982-83. Last years Federal Budget reduced CSIRO funds by 3.2 per cent but 20 per cent of the research was protected. This means non-protected research suffered a loss of l4.3 per cent of funds. Examples of non-protected research are the introduction and improvement of tropical beef cattle. This was despite the mention of these research areas in the Budget Papers as areas of highly significant research. It is clear that, without the sustained research input which has underpinned the rural industry to date, the competitiveness of the rural sector will ultimately place that sector where manufacturing industry is today. Australia might well take as an example the United States of America which, notwithstanding its developed, technologically-advanced economy, invests heavily in agricultural research.

The second factor is the preferential allocation of resources to divisions involved in southern agricultural activities. There are two reasons for this. First, most of these divisions are headquartered in Canberra and proximity to the corridors of power within and outside confers some advantage. The second factor is the 'downgrading' of applied research within CSIRO in favour of other research activities-for example, biotechnology. Yet it is precisely because of the less-established nature of agricultural industries in the tropics that funds for applied research are the first to suffer by the overall rundown of the rural research effort. The irony is that most research effort is needed in the tropics because agriculture in the southern States is both more established and shares much in common with agriculture in other developed countries. The CSIRO has proposed a concerted tropical research initiative based on the Davies Laboratory, Townsville, and involving an attack on a range of problems, including those of the beef and sugar industries and for new industries such as soy beans in the Burdekin Dam area.

Another important achievement of the CSIRO Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures is research into the production of kenaf for the manufacture of paper pulp in Australia. Timber for paper pulp in many tropical countries is in short supply and alternative sources are being investigated. Kenaf, a member of the hibiscus family, has been shown to be the best alternative. Paper production is a major world industry with production exceeding 100 million tonnes per year. A paper pulp mill using kenaf as its sole source of pulp already operates in Thailand. An Australian company is currently investigating the feasibility of a multi-million dollar kenaf-based industry in the Burdekin area. Kenaf is grown as a highly mechanised agro-industrial crop similar to sugar cane. The Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures holds the world collection of kenaf lines and has also investigated other fibre crops that can be used with kenaf to produce paper.

The sugar industry has serious problems which must be attacked by the type of research carried out by the CSIRO Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures-for example, northern poor root syndrome, genetic resources maintenance, poor rationing and nitrogen nutrition. The Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations has asked CSIRO for help. Here is an excellent opportunity for a tropical initiative associated with the problems of the sugar industry and other agricultural industries in north Queensland.

Debate interrupted.