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Wednesday, 8 May 1968

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) - Tonight is the climax of almost 20 years of hopes and aspirations of the people of the central highlands of Queensland, particularly those based at Emerald. In making my submissions to the House I attempt to do so on the basis of stressing the national importance of the approval of the grant made available by the Commonwealth Government for the building of the Maraboon Dam. It is not just a matter of establishing a dam on the Nogoa River and then developing a number of farms in the vicinity. The impact of the approval goes far beyond that. We have come through, perhaps, the worst drought in the history of this nation. What rather amazes me is the very short memory of those persons in high places who scream to high heaven that this must never happen again and that we must rake steps to ensure that the impact of any future drought will be reduced to an absolute minimum. I see no evidence of anything very material being done in this direction. The Maraboon Dam represents the first step in the creation of a vast granary in this particular part of the world.

Perhaps the severest effects of the drought, which is only partly over, were felt in the central and north western parts of Queensland. The losses there are incalculable and there are some third generation graziers in those areas who will never recover from the effects of the drought. However, with the establishment of the dam I should think that within about 10 years vast quantities of fodder will be available for storage in strategic places for use in lessening the impacts of future droughts. This matter has been spoken of and promulgated and the time has come for some specific planning to bring the idea to fruition. Tied up with all of this is the matter of transport, and tied up with transport is the question of transport costs. There is a move in Queensland at the moment - a move that I am proud to say has been pioneered by the Australian Country Party in Queensland - eventually to submit to the governments of the Commonwealth and the State for consideration and approval a tapering system of freights. In other words, the further one is from the seaboard the lower become the freight rates. This would be a substantial and realistic contribution to a genuine attempt at decentralisation.

Already in the Nogoa area are many farms which are flourishing and producing a number of grains, principally the coarse grains, sorghum, safflower and similar crops. It is the constant cry of farmers in that area that their efforts are being reduced to the barest profit margin by the high freights which persist there. With the establishment of the Maraboon Dam all kinds of things will happen and this is the point that I am trying to make in my contribution to the debate. The Dam itself will fire off a chain reaction of development. It has been visualised, by people who give realistic and practical consideration to these matters, that there will be a converging on the central highlands of beef cattle from the Gulf country, probably from parts of the Northern Territory and from some of the south western areas of Queensland. The establishment of numerous farms in this area undoubtedly will lead eventually to intensive feeding and probably we may see, and almost inevitably will see, lot feeding in the area.

Already there is development of the brigalow area and in this regard I would like to state that certain difficulties have existed, particularly in regard to drought. Many of the settlers who went into the area, particularly No. 2 area, started well behind scratch financially and otherwise. One difficulty that was greater than any other was the matter of sucker infestation. Certain areas have not reacted to either chemical treatment or burning off and the only answer is deep ploughing. The deep ploughing of these areas requires massive equipment, the purchase of which is quite beyond the capacity of any of the settlers. I have mentioned in this House before that they are living under almost primitive conditions. Not a penny is being wasted. In many cases they have a large galvanised iron shed. One half is devoted to storing their equipment and the other half is devoted to living quarters for their wives and families. They are not wasting money. They are living very frugally. It would appear to me that a possible solution to this problem is the establishment of a Commonwealth equipment pool. Something of a similar nature existed some years ago. I do not know whether such a proposition could be examined and some sort of consultation take place between the State and Federal Governments to assist these people. It does not matter how much water and irrigation become available as a result of the establishment of the Maraboon Dam, this question of reinfestation of sucker growth could become an insoluble problem.

In the Gulf country at the moment there is much more intensive thinking in regard to pasture improvement. Admittedly the pasture improvement in these areas is on a much vaster scale than in the more settled areas. But it is not beyond possibility that we will see a tremendous increase both in the quality of the beef produced in this part, of the country and in the numbers. It is visualised, further, that some of these cattle will be brought down the Lynd, eventually into the central highlands and possibly to the coast. Tied up with the propositions of bringing cattle into the central highlands and into the Maraboon Dam area from both the north and the south eastern part of Queensland, and possibly the Northern Territory, is the matter of transport. When we think of transport these days we think in terms of beef roads. I believe that the Government should give serious consideration to the reclassification of the Capricorn Highway as a beef road. Unless it is reclassified I cannot see, at least in the foreseeable future, the necessary money being made available by the State Government, which simply does not have the resources, to bring this desperately bad road up to a reasonable standard - let alone a standard whereby cattle can be transported by road into the coastal areas and, more particularly, into the central highland areas. The same consideration applies, to a much lesser extent, to what was once known as the 'Clermont defence road'. I believe that this could be a main arterial road for the transport of beef into this area.

I mentioned that there are many considerations tied up with the establishment of the Maraboon Dam and that almost all of them are of national importance. I am hoping that my address will not be regarded as parochial because I believe that the Government, in making what was a most generous grant of $20m to the Queensland Government so that the dam might be proceeded with, had in mind, as the previous speaker, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) mentioned, the very important matters of overseas credit and our export trade. 1 would like to mention one particular aspect in relation to developing the area and that is coal mining which has been referred to already. I am thinking more precisely of the Blair Athol deposits of black coal for which there is an extremely limited market. It would appear, from certain take-over moves that have been made recently, that there is new hope that the Blair Athol area will be developed fully. I would like honourable members of this House to have the opportunity pf seeing these tremendous deposits - probably one of the most significant deposits of black coal in the world. The pathetic aspect of these tremendous deposits remaining dormant is that where there was once a flourishing town now there is only a handful of men working in the mine: It would appear that there is a new hope for the revival of that area, but it is dependent upon . sufficient water being available to supply the sort of plant that would be established. The works would require huge quantities of water. I believe that this water could be made available from, the Maraboon Dam. There again we have another tremendous benefit which could result from the establishment of that dam.

I would like to take the opportunity of paying tribute to. the many people who have been associated with the presentation of the case for. the dam and their tenacity in their belief that the dam should be built. I. refer firstly to the State Government. This brings me to the point of again refuting the statement made by the honourable member for Dawson, which, has been made so often in . this House. It reflects rather a shabby attitude. The honourable member said that the grant was made for purely political purposes and that the timing of the introduction of the grant was used for political purposes. The grant was introduced prior to the Senate election. We all know-even those of us who are rather immature in politics- that a matter as parochial as "this is not as vital in a Senate election as it would be in the byelection for Capricornia. Where could there be a more classic example of a candidate who could have been assisted by the introduction of this scheme than the Liberal candidate for Capricornia? Mr Frank. Ruddwas the chairman of a local research bureau which fought most vigorously for Government approval of the construction of the dam. Would it not have assisted him if approval had been given prior to the by-election in Capricornia? The claim that the grant was made as purely a political manoeuvre is ridiculous.

I refer again to the people who have contributed so greatly and so tenaciously to the eventual approval of the dam. It was a- fine example of community team work. First of all the local authority had the case. One has to have a starting point somewhere. Then the people concerned combined their efforts in order to convince the Queensland Government. Believe me, they had many discouragements. Eventually they had the opportunity of taking their case personally to the Minister for National Development. They asked the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to go out and he was able to examine the case on the spot. Eventually the Government Parties' National Development Committee visited the area. Finally the Government was so firmly convinced that the project was worthy of consideration that approval was granted. I am absolutely convinced that the Government will never regret what will prove to be a most remunerative investment. This will be an investment that will benefit not only my electorate in the central highlands; it will be an investment in the interest of the whole nation.

This brings me to another point. I would be' very reluctant to cast any reflections on the tremendous contribution made in a limited' capacity from time to time by the economists of this nation. But I believe that they have established a trend of thought which is rather dangerous to any pioneering developmental projects which get very far away from the mere privileged and more developed areas of this nation. I refer to the attitude of intensive develop-' ment rather than extensive development. At a time when the people are crying to high heaven for extensive development this Government has accepted the principle of intensive development. In other words, it has accepted the principle that it should make the developed areas bigger and more substantial and converge all of the activities around the already large provincial and metropolitan areas. It declines to take a punt on a project which is even slightly doubtful. People begin to think that the pioneering spirit of this nation is dead and a thing of the past and that there is a risk that the great rural vitality of this nation may wither and die. However, this fear was readily dispelled when approval was given for the building of the Maraboon Dam at Nogoa and for further development on the Ord area. At the same time approval was given for an even greater network of beef roads.

Much more still needs to be done in northern Australia because we started a long way behind scratch. Even though we appreciate the grant of S20m for the construction of the Maraboon Dam, we do not want to lose sight of the fact that the people of northern Australia have built upa great deal of credit in the national coffers and we believe we have the right to draw on this now. I believe there is a new climate and atmosphere in Canberra in regard to northern development. I think there is a realisation that the vast rural areas of this nation need to be closely examined, and that where a case for development exists development projects should be pursued and pressed.

Finally, 1 want to express tremendous appreciation to the Minister and the Federal Government on behalf of the many people in the settled highlands not only of Emerald itself but also of Claremont, Blackwater and other areas whose morale has been boosted to high heaven by this scheme.. These people will live to see this great nation derive benefits from what will be a most remarkable investment.

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