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Thursday, 26 February 1959


Mr FULTON (Leichhardt) .- First, I should like to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on being elected Chairman of Committees, and through you, to congratulate Mr. Speaker on his election. I trust that you will both remain in good health to administer justice and maintain decorum in this House, as we know you are both capable of doing.

I should also like to take this opportunity to thank sincerely the Clerk of the House and his staff. I know that I am speaking for all new members when I do so. The co-operation and assistance of the Clerk and his staff have added much pleasure to our early days in this Parliament. I also thank the rest of the staff of the House for their many kindnesses to us since we arrived here. 1 must apologize for my absence when the Governor-General delivered his Speech. Since that occasion I have read the Speech. As many speakers before me have discussed it in detail, I shall confine myself to saying that the Speech read by His Excellency had quantity but not quality.

I should like to pay a tribute to the Governor-General and his Lady for the many courtesies they extended to us in the Leichhardt area during, their visits there.

I feel humble - very humble indeed, and yet proud and honoured - to follow in the footsteps of a great Australian, a man who, as a youth, worked very hard indeed, and when he was still young offered his services to his fellow workers to better their conditions. Later, that same man entered the Queensland Parliament. His ability and energy were soon recognized, and he attained the rank of Minister. The monuments to his service as a Minister are to be seen in the north of Queensland to-day, and are a tribute to his great energy and foresight. The road network throughout northern Queensland is due entirely to his energy and effort as Minister for Public Works. His work is also seen in the many schools in scattered areas, the building of which he fostered as Minister for Public Instruction. He was a man at whom, in my opinion, nobody, in this or any other land could point the finger of scorn, and whom nobody could call anything but a true Australian. I am happy and proud to have known him, and to have been able to call him my friend.- I' refer, of course, to the late Henry Adam Bruce, who spent, his later years in this very House.

I- am honoured to represent the electorate that Mr. Bruce represented in this House - the electorate of Leichhardt, the most northerly electorate in the Commonwealth. It has an area of approximately 127,700 square miles, and yet has a population of under 100,000. In my opinion, it is an area with great potentiality - greater, perhaps than any other area of comparable size in the world. I should like to speak on the industries in the Leichhardt electorate, most of which are financed from capital raised locally, although some of them are not. The main industry - the sugar industry - is of great economic importance to the Commonwealth.

The Leichhardt electorate stretches from El Arish, near Tully in the south, to Thursday Island in the north. The sugar belt in Leichhardt extends from the south of the electorate to Mossman, about 100 miles to the north, There are seven sugar mills in that area. Last year, those mills crushed 2,328,269 tons of sugar cane for a yield of 333,715 tons of sugar. The sugar industry employs thousands of workers but, unfortunately, as it is a seasonal industry, practically all those workers have to seek other work for the five or six months of the year that are the slack period in the sugar industry. Their main concern - and I think it is also the concern of this Parliament as well as of everybody in Australia - is to find some alternative work at which they can be gainfully employed during that period. To fulfil this purpose I had in mind - and will undertake as best I can - the encouragement of some sort of industry that can operate under cover, such as a cotton mill, where work is indoors, because it is during that slack period in the sugar industry that Queensland has its greatest rainfall. In the sugar belt the annua! rainfall varies from 79.52 inches to 177.31 inches. That is a great rainfall but, unfortunately, that lifeblood of empire, water, flows swiftly and directly to the Pacific Ocean and is lost to the area. Some honorable members may recall Dr. I. J. C. Bradfield's scheme to divert that water to the west. I think that we shall see that scheme in operation if we live long enough. It will be the salvation of the whole of that area when it is implemented.

The next important industry in Queensland is the timber industry. As honorable members are no doubt aware, some of the finest cabinet timbers in the world are found in Queensland. This industry is at present receiving a much-needed overhaul. A commission is inquiring into the industry, and it is hoped that a sane and commonsense policy will be evolved, because this industry is nearly as big as the sugar industry in Queensland and can be improved if treated with more sympathy and understanding by governments. The timber industry also employs workers on a seasonal basis and, again, these workers must be looked after in those dreary months when the industry cannot employ them. The tobacco industry is also a seasonal industry, so we have three seasonal industries in Queensland - sugar, timber and tobacco. If we are serious about developing our north and populating and expanding these undeveloped areas we must find sufficient work to keep in the north the workers in those industries.

Tobacco-growing, which is the next important industry in my electorate, is proving to be a very valuable asset to our economy, but the Government, if it is sincere in its wish to assist, should give more sympathetic consideration to the industry and' to the conditions of the workers in the area.

Further into the hinterland we rise to a height of 3,000 feet to the districts of Mareeba and Dimbulah, and then to the Atherton tablelands where maize .and peanuts are grown. Continuing further we come to the Evelyn tablelands, where the climate is much better than the climate df Canberra. -Dairying pursuits are carried on in that area. I was surprised to hear honorable members say that they are happy about the dairying industry ..and that it is better now than .ever before. If those honorable members were to visit the north and see for .themselves the plight of the industry, they would .change their attitude. "We .then come to the .mineral 'belt which leads to the Cape York Peninsula. The Government could well devote more attention to that area. Over the years, many kinds of minerals have been discovered there, but many have been cast aside because they have no commercial value. However, we hope that the great bauxite find at Weipa will be developed and become a great asset to north Queensland and to Australia in much the same way as the Mount Isa mine, which is included in my neighbouring electorate of Herbert. Honorable members will remember that Mount lsa commenced as a gold mine, progressed gradually into copper and silver lead mining, and then became famous when uranium was found in that area. The same story could be repeated in north Queensland if the aluminium project now under way is given the impetus that it needs.

Many other minerals that were previously cast aside as having no commercial value will, I hope, be mined. I have in mind molybdenum, which could be of great value to us. Other minerals such as copper and silver lead have been found in payable quantities in that area by gougers, people who are content to scratch the ground and win enough gold, tin, or other minerals to keep them .going for a time, but when they have to dig more deeply and are unable to find the capital to finance that work, just move on and begin again. These gougers are proud men and do not like to see the big combines come in and swallow up the small miners and take away from the area the profits which are made there. I do not think that a gouger would tell any person where the minerals are to be found, so .a great deal of capita] is needed to work the diggings. If the finance is made available, the mining industry will develop as it should.

Sitting: suspended -from 6 to 8 p.m.


Mr FULTON - Mr. Speaker, through you I should like to thank the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for delaying his speeches on the banking measures so that I may conclude my speech. -Before the suspension of the sitting, I described, the mineral belt in the Cape York Peninsula, which is part of the Leichhardt electorate. I could say much more, but with the limited time at my disposal I feel that I should move on to other subjects. Cattle is another industry in this peninsula and it has already been referred to by the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray). I fully endorse their comments and I hope that they will continue to fight for this industry. I shall deal now with the pearl shell industry. This is in a very bad state at the moment but it could be important in the economy of Australia. Honorable members no doubt have heard of the experiment of importing divers from Okinawa to try to show our islanders how to dive and how to produce more pearl shell. The experiment was a complete failure. At least three quarters of these men, if not all of them, have been returned to Okinawa. Our divers proved just as good as they could ever be.

I feel that this industry would play an important part in our national life if it had the sympathetic consideration of the Government. The industry could put the islanders in their proper place. We have heard much talk in the House about aborigines and Indonesians, but we have never given any thought to the islanders. They are a magnificent and very intelligent race. If they were given a fair deal they could be assimilated into the community just as the Maoris have been assimilated in New Zealand. They are just as intelligent and have just as magnificent a physique as any Maori 1 have ever seen. I feel that they should be given a better deal. It may be said that this is a responsibility of the State government. We are prone to say that the responsibility for many things rests on the State government. However, it is surely the duty of this National Parliament to ensure that the State governments fulfil their obligations. If they do not, we should find out why.

I feel, also, that the National Parliament should assess the worth of all undeveloped areas. If it cannot do so, it should call on the State governments to make a thorough investigation into the potential of the undeveloped areas and the means of getting the products of the areas to the markets. A thorough investigation should be made by the States to assess the value of these areas, and priorities should be fixed on the basis of their worth and the cost of bringing them into production. I think that it should be the duty of the National Parliament to see that the State governments investigate the potential of these areas.

The tourist industry would also benefit from further development. The Leichhardt area has a variety of tourist attractions, including the Great Barrier Reef. I do not think that one could find a better sight than the underwater observatory at Green Island. This is a private venture undertaken by two young men who sank a large tank alongside the reef and built other parts of the reef around it. Many overseas visitors have told me that the attractions there are far greater than anything they have ever seen anywhere in the world, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. On the tablelands, which have a beautiful climate, it is possible to travel for many miles on good roads, thanks to the efforts of the late Harry Bruce. One can travel from Cairns, up to the tableland 3,000 feet above the sea, in a one-day trip. At Ravenshoe, the real beauty of the scrubland can be seen. The tourist then comes down the Palmerston Highway to Innisfail, which is a pretty sugar town with a strong and healthy community. I venture to say that nowhere else in the world would one find scenery to match that abounding on this trip. However, further development is needed before the best use will be made of this area.

T have spoken about the industries in the Leichhardt electorate. I now want to say something about the thoughts of the people in that area. Leichhardt, as I have said, is the most northerly electorate in the Commonwealth. More than half the world's population lies between the north of Australia and China, and we must remember that the population in this area is increasing 100 times faster than is our populalation, even with our immigration scheme. The people in the Leichhardt area fear this rapidly increasing population because the policy of the Government is to try to buy the friendship of our neighbours. Friendship bought in this way does not last very long. Our neighbours would undoubtedly think that we had something to hide if we tried to encourage their friendship without asking them to do something in return, and I feel that what we have to hide is the vast undeveloped area in the north of our continent. We have not developed this area to its fullest. No matter how friendly the governments may be this year or twenty years hence, the populations of the countries to our north will still be growing. Those countries will certainly not have enough land to support the increased populations. It may be the hope of those who are firing rockets at the moon to transport millions of the people there and so relieve these overcrowded areas.

We must also remember that scourges, such as plagues at one time killed millions of people in these areas, but medical research has provided the means to control these diseases. As a result populations will increase more rapidly than they otherwise would. In addition, the lifespan of these people has been extended, and this increases the problem of a growing population.

As I said earlier in my speech, the Leichhardt area could maintain 1,000,000 people, who could live well off the land. If we do not develop this country, we have no right to prevent other people from doing so.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Holten) adjourned.







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