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Wednesday, 1 November 1967

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) - Firstly, may I extend to the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) not only my congratulations but the congratulations of the people I represent in the capital highlands, or more precisely the Emerald area. We express to him our great appreciation for the manner in which he approached this matter. In so doing I would also like to express my gratitude to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who took the trouble to visit this area and spend 2 days there. I would also like to express gratitude to the Joint Government National Development Com.mitte which carried out a very thorough survey. I was absolutely thrilled by the fact that this Committee accepted my invitation to visit this area. But this story goes back a long time before the theorists and the academics came into the picture and before those who sat in their offices and worked out their theories of how we should develop the outback even knew that we existed. It goes back to 1948 when I was secretary of the Western Local Government Association we began this agitation for irrigation project in the Emerald area. The story continued on from there. 1 was most surprised to see the reaction of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) today, because it was only a few weeks ago that he leant across the table and congratulated the Minister for National Development on certain research work that was being done to assess the water capacity of this area. I can almost see the expression of sheer delight on the face of the Minister for National Development. But now when it comes to spending $20m and S48m - not a mere pittance - on development, for some unknown reason the honourable member for Dawson is absolutely staggered. One could see the reaction on his face. I am deeply disappointed, because I thought that if there was one man in this House who would thrill to this announcement it was the honourable member for Dawson. He was absolutely full of chagrin. So over the years we agitated.

The honourable member for Dawson made some very interesting remarks at a conference held recently in Ayr. He said that it must be realised that the Federal Government cannot deal with these water conservation schemes for the States unless plans were submitted by the States. It would be very interesting indeed to examine the sterile record of the Queensland Government prior to 1957. The Nogoa Gap and similar schemes were not examined then and plans were not submitted to the Federal Government. These schemes were not even contemplated. I was a member of the Australian Labor Party in those days and 1 make no apology for that. It used the policy of national development during my own campaign and it was futile, because an electorate that had been held by the ALP since Federation swung with possibly a swing that created political history. This was because the ALP regard people in my area as galahs. Its members do not visit this area. Do not make any mistake about that. If ALP members visit it they come through like a brumby with his tail on fire. They sweep through the area. This is exactly how Labor regards the people in my area, and the people know it and are not now falling for the Labor Party's antiquated political cliches.

Nothing was done by the Federal Government in those days because it had very little, if anything, submitted to it. But to see a man congratulate the Minister for National Development with great fervour on one day because of a small contribution in this field - mere research work - and then see him get up today and in a fever denounce the grant of $20m to the people of Queensland is absolutely staggering, and I for one am genuinely and sincerely disappointed in his reactions.

If the Minister intended to make this announcement for political purposes surely he would have done it prior to the Capricornia by-election, because Frank Rudd was closely associated with this development scheme. I owe a great deat of gratitude to Frank Rudd for his assistance to me to secure the Minister's decision. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Emerald Shire Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and the great team of people in that area, and perhaps above all to the Queensland Government which took the trouble to examine this scheme closely. The Queensland Government did not want to have another Peak Downs scheme which would crash around its ears. When it was satisfied that it had a scheme to submit to the Minister for approval it came forward with the scheme and received a result which will be applauded from one end of Queensland to another as a splendid example of pure decentralisation. I do not think that I have to impress on the Minister that we are going to sit back and say that nothing more is required for development in the north. We are not. But we do appreciate this tremendous contribution.

If I may deal very briefly with what this contribution will mean to this area. First of all, the morale of the people in the area will be boosted sky high. The pattern of development in northern Australia indicates very clearly, even to people not conversant with such matters, that not only will cattle production increase dramatically but the quality of beef will show tremendous improvement. I remember the opinion expressed by the late director of Northern Development, Don Sutherland, who said that the general pattern would be to bring cattle across northern Australia to the central highlands of Queensland. The central highlands area would be used for fattening as well as for general intensive feeding and so on. My electorate has been favoured and today is a day which could almost be described as one of historical importance to this area.

One of the great benefits to come from this announcement by the Minister for National Development will be that this area will provide a tremendous source of fodder. In the near future action will be taken to conserve fodder to mitigate the effects of droughts in Queensland. The central highlands area has been regarded always as having a tremendous potential. The one thing it lacks is water. The people of the area believe that if they have sufficient water the area could become a second Darling Downs. As people from Queensland know, the Darling Downs is one of the most prolific producing areas in Queensland. But the people did not know that in the course of time, following the general trend in the United States of America and other countries interested in increasing cattle production and improving the quality of beef, the central highlands would become a great cattle feeding area. This land can be used for intensive feeding and, possibly, lot feeding. This is not beyond the realm of possibility. Fantastic prices have been paid for limited acreages in that area. Obviously the trend is to intensive feeding. Is it not perfectly obvious that the construction of the Nogoa Gap Dam will provide the key to the whole situation? This announcement by the Minister will mean a tremendous contribution to the development of my electorate, particularly to the central highlands area.

I was thrilled indeed with the announcement. I again express, as sincerely as I can. my appreciation to the Minister first, and to the Queensland Government and the great team of people who, for the past 15 or 20 years, have been hoping that this scheme would develop. I again express my disappointment and utter amazement at the reaction of the honourable member for Dawson. He should applaud this announcement but he denounced the scheme. It is probably the most significant announcement in recent times for the State of Queensland, and for Western Australia with respect to the Ord River scheme.

Dr Patterson - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I would like to make a personal explanation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Does the honourable member for Dawson claim to have been misrepresented?

Dr Patterson - Yes. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) stated twice that 1 had denounced the scheme. This was a deliberate untruth.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! There is no substance to the point of order.

Mr Snedden - Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal by the honourable member for Dawson of the phrase that the statement was a 'deliberate untruth'.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I suggest that the honourable member for Dawson withdraw that statement.

Dr Patterson - I withdraw that statement. The statement made by the honourable member for Kennedy was quite inaccurate.

Mr Snedden - I rise to order. The honourable member for Dawson is now debating the matter.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition.

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