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Thursday, 11 September 1958


Mr WEBB (Stirling) .- I wish to make a few remarks under the heading "Payments to or for the States", in relation to the development of the north-west of Western Australia.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN -

Before the honorable member proceeds, may I remind him that payments to or for the States in this connexion refer only to the Department of Health. The honorable member may .discuss other payments to or for the States under the proposed vote for Capital Works and Services. I was lenient with the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), but I should not have allowed him to go on.


Mr Webb - I understood that when these items were placed before the committee it was decided that payments to or for the States should be one of the items to be discussed.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - If the honorable member will refer to the Estimates he will see that " Payments to or for the States " in this connexion refers specifically to the Department of Health.


Mr Webb - When shall we have an opportunity to discuss the payments to or for the States to which I want to refer?


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN -

Since the honorable member has indicated that he does not intend to take .long, I shall allow him to proceed.


Mr WEBB - The matter to which I propose to refer is the grant to Western Australia for northern development, .the amount provided this year .being £125,000 It will be remembered that, earlier this year, legislation was passed by the Parliament to provide .for the sum of £2,500,000 to be made available over a period of five years for the development of the north-west of Western Australia. Approval was to be given by the Commonwealth for certain works, to be recommended by the Western Australian Government, to be undertaken.

Earlier this year the Western Australian Government made submissions to the Commonwealth relative to certain works of an urgent nature. One of those was the construction of a deep water port at Black Rocks, at Derby; another was the construction of a new berth at Wyndham - the existing jetty is only 300 feet long and is unsatisfactory for modern ships; and the third was extensive investigations in the Napier-Broome Bay area, to study the most suitable and economic method of surveying the north Kimberley region recently opened up for pastoral settlement.

Here again, we have evidence of delay on the part of the Commonwealth in replying to submissions by the States. The legislation to which I have referred was passed by the Parliament earlier this year, and within a matter of weeks the Western Australian Government had placed its submissions before the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has told us that it was only a matter of two or three days before he replied to the Western Australian Government, indicating that the submissions were acceptable to the Commonwealth. Correspondence was tabled in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly on 19th August last, when this Government was criticized for delay in answering the State's submissions. On 4th August, the Premier of Western Australia had asked for a reply, pointing out that, due to seasonal conditions, work had to be commenced urgently, and that it was necessary to place orders for the steel plates that were required, particularly for the Wyndham jetty. I think that it is necessary to emphasize that point, because the State Government has been delayed in carrying out the job it wants to do in the limited time in which it has to undertake these works, bearing in mind the seasonal conditions that apply in the areas concerned.

Black Rocks, where the deep water port is to be provided, is near Point Torment, about 14 miles from Derby. The idea is to provide a deep-water port to service the west Kimberleys area. This site was selected by the naval vessel " Lachlan ", which carried out hydrographic surveys in 1946 and 1947. As a result of those surveys, it was revealed that there was a depth of water up to 36 feet at all stages of the tide, within reasonable access of the shore, and that approaches to the site in King Sound offered no major problem of navigation. The existing port at Derby, which honorable members from Western Australia will know well, is a tidal port and can only be approached during special tides and by specially designed small ships. There are tidal fluctuations of up to 34 feet. Consequently, when the tide is out, the ships rest on the bottom of the ocean. Broome also is a tidal port, with a tide range of 28 feet, and even there at times the ships rest on the bottom. No overseas ships can use these two ports unless they are specially constructed in a manner similar to that of the ships of the Western Australian shipping service.

During the war, as an outlet for the cattle industry, meat works were constructed at Broome, although it was admitted by all those responsible that the works should have been constructed at Derby. However, Broome was at that time the most northern port to which shipping could proceed. The meat works were therefore located at Broome. Their location at Broome entails for cattle a walk of more than 90 miles over the worst stock routes in the north. Although road trains now operate, they are more costly than is the ordinary method of moving stock. On account of the non-use of Broome by overseas ships, it is necessary for all the meat that is handled at the Broome freezing works to be shipped to Fremantle, where it is transhipped for export. It is obvious to all who have examined this matter that the proper outlet for the west Kimberleys is in the vicinity of Derby, but that the existing port, for the reasons I have given, is inadequate. Therefore, a port at Point Torment is essential.

The Blue Funnel Shipping Company has given an undertaking that its overseas vessels travelling to Australia from Asia will call at Point Torment when the port is built there, as well as at Wyndham and Darwin. That, directly and indirectly, will help to reduce the large deficit on the State-operated steamers. As honorable members from Western Australia know, the deficit incurred on the State ships runs into approximately £800,000 per annum. That deficit is more or less treated as a subsidy to assist the people of the north, because if increased freights were charged to meet the deficit it would affect detrimentally the people living in the northwest and in the Kimberleys region.

There is tremendous scope for development of this area, and development of the west Kimberleys eventually must take place. There is an annual rainfall ranging from 50 inches to 20 inches, and the regularity of the rainfall compares with that of south-eastern Victoria. The district covers an area of 20,000.000 acres. It is intersected by major river systems which carry immense volumes of water. The gorges that exist, and which some honorable members had the pleasure of seeing when they recently toured the area, are ideal sites for the construction of dams. There are extensive areas of rich plain country which are suitable for large irrigation projects. The Fitzroy River carries a tremendous volume of water, comparable to the flood discharge of the Nile. All that water, of course, is going to waste, because, in the past, no real imagination was applied to the development of the area.

Those honorable members who visited the Kimberleys also saw the Napier-Broome Bay area, where the State Government plans to build jetty facilities to serve the pastoral industry. The pastoral properties are in the process of being developed, but part of the area will be used for the purpose of making the necessary investigations. Honorable members who visited the Napier-Broome Bay area must have been impressed by the immense area of water in the bay, an area three times the size of Sydney Harbour, with a tide rise and fall of only 10 feet. At the moment, however, apart from luggers, the only means of transport to the area is by air. When this country is developed it will be wonderful pastoral land. At the Kalumburu Mission we saw crops of maize, peanuts, sorghum, tomatoes, and many tropical fruits, indicating that the soil will grow almost anything.

The other project to which I want to refer is the extension of the Wyndham jetty, which is so essential. However, the

Premier of Western Australia fears that the financial allocation that has been made will not be sufficient to enable the whole of these three projects to be completed. Wyndham is a deep-sea port, and the extensions that are proposed to it will enable ships drawing up to 40 feet of water to berth there. Already at Wyndham there are modern, efficient meat works which handle at the moment more than 30,000 beasts a year, but which could handle 80,000 if the facilities were available. What is required is a pasture of about 30,000 acres close to the works to be used as a staging depot for the fattening of cattle brought over long distances to the meat works.

That is where the irrigation of the area comes in, and that is why I have emphasized in this chamber time and again the need for this Government to provide finance for the Ord River irrigation scheme. It is estimated that the damming of the Ord River would cost about £16,000,000, which, as 1 have already pointed out is not as much as one year's expenditure on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, lt is essential that those things should be emphasized in this Parliament as often as possible. People who have had an opportunity to visit the Ord River area realize that it is wonderful country. It is waiting for us to develop it, but I am afraid that if we have not the initiative and courage to do so so, somebody else will.







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