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Wednesday, 8 November 1967

Mr FAIRBAIRN - The decision , to proceed with the Ord was made by the Government on Tuesday night. The answer which I gave to Senator Tangney was cleared by me some 10 days or so previously. I can give the honourable member the actual date if he requires it. This answer was cleared by me on 21st October. We finally received the submission from the Western Australian Government on the previous Friday and, as a result of this, the Government, on the following Tuesday, night, decided that we should proceed. And I am happy that we were able to do so. The Prime Minister has just reminded me that he and I, when we were in Western Australia in September, announced that when further figures were available we would look at them. As a result of the quite considerable improvement in a number of aspects of the Ord River scheme, the Government made its decision.

If the honourable member wishes to know what these aspects were, I shall be happy to give him the full facts and figures showing why the Ord River project has become more economic and why proceeding with it is now more suitable. The plain fact of the matter is that sorghum now appears as a suitable alternative to cotton. Furthermore, cotton yields were slightly improved this year. A new variety that had been tested gave an increase of 27% over the yield from the variety previously used. Stub cotton has been grown to a very great extent and has proved that it gives slightly improved results and also is very much cheaper. This year, costs on the Ord Scheme showed a reduction of well over $20 an acre. A number of other matters have been examined also, and when the Government looked at the project on the Tuesday night it became immediately apparent that the economic prospects were considerably, improved. I am only disappointed that the Opposition, instead of lauding a decision made by the Government that will have a remarkable effect in a very remote area of Australia, seems to be concerned only about having lost some of its ammunition for the forthcoming Senate election campaign.

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