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Thursday, 22 October 1970

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - The appropriation this financial year for the Department of Works is $68. 68m. I see that $1 1.25m is set aside in division 584 - Repairs and Maintenance - for Northern Territory services. The sum of $2.25m is appropriated for the Stuart and Barkly Highways for these purposes. Additionally, $ 1.55m is provided for water supplies, roads and stock routes for pastoral purposes. An appropriation of $1.2m is made for roads for transport of beef cattle. I wish to speak on the subject of pastoral roads.

Apart from sealed highways - some of the beef roads are sealed and some of them are not - and several other highways, most of the roads in the Northern Territory are flat graded. This means that a grader just goes through the country, levels off the grass, bushes and trees and, by vehicles driving over them and the general use of them packing the surface down, these roads are established and used for transport purposes. This practice has been going on in the Northern Territory for 50 years. In a number of places, one sees one road, a small creek alongside it and then a bigger creek alongside that. The creeks previously were flat graded roads. I ask the Government under this appropriation head to look at this practice of flat grading roads across the country. In the long run. it is just a waste of effort and it causes a tremendous amount of erosion in some of the sandy country that we have in the Territory. When I went to the Territory first some 30 years ago, I remarked on this practice. I had noticed other roads in other parts of the country, for instance the Riverina, where the roads had been graded into the middle and, because of this procedure, 40 years or 50 years later water still ran off them instead of down them. So, 1 urgently request the Government to look at this practice of flat grading pastoral and second and third level roads in the Northern Territory.

In my contribution to the discussion of these estimates, I wish to compliment the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public

Works for the sincere and thorough job that it has done in 1970 with respect to the Northern Territory. One sees taking shape now the projects on which it made decisions earlier. Sealed roads are reaching out towards Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria to Kununurra and the recently opened Victoria River Bridge to the west. Decisions on these projects were taken by the Public Works Committee, in many cases consuming time that it could ill afford, with members sleeping in fairly basic conditions - for some parliamentarians - as they did alongside the Victoria River Bridge.

Other projects which the Committee has studied in the past related to schools, dental clinics, office blocks and so on. The Committee has travelled to the Territory again and again this year to study references. Some 8 items have been referred to the Government for approval by the Committee this year to a value of approximately $50m. I believe that members of the Committee have done a sincere and genuine job. It has been a great job for my part of the world. 1 turn to the Department of Works itself. From top to bottom the Works Establishment in the Northern Territory carries out so much of the work performed and supervises sub-contractors. The Department has ils own planners and its own engineering division. Might I commend the Department on the first rate job that its employees do under fairly basic conditions. Many of them live in road camps hundreds of miles from what is normally regarded as civilisation. When it comes to turning in a good job, these men cannot be faulted. I have seen them out on the Barkly Highway in a temperature of 110 degrees in the shade pouring tar on a bitumen road. Despite the intense heat, the job went on just the same. I would not have liked to have been doing it and I have been working in the Territory a long time myself. I commend these men on their work.

I wish to deal with one other item. With the build-up of these very large engineering works in the Northern Territory, the Department of Works has gathered a considerable engineering service itself. On many occasions it employs outside consultant engineers. Some of these engineering firms are being asked to do consultant work in Indonesia, and in other countries to our near north. I ask the Minister and his Department to look into the possibility of some sort of a joint venture being undertaken in the export of consulting engineering services to such places as Indonesia where these services are so urgently required. Some of our consultant firms are already carrying out work hand in hand with the Department of Works. They have been requested to do some jobs in Indonesia. With the experience that the Department has gained in the past and will gain in the future I think that, together with these consultants and the local private engineers, it should assist our friends and neighbours to the near north, such as the Indonesians, in some of their engineering projects.

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