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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 591

Mr FISHER (Mallee) - Tomorrow I will be distributing to all honourable members of this Parliament an article reprinted from the 'Sunraysia Daily' and written by its editor, Mr George Tilley. The brochure puts forward a proposal for a north-south highway linking Darwin and Mildura. A small but enthusiastic group of men is now working to promote this proposal which could be Australia's highway to the future. The idea is one that could open up an enormous area for development, tourism, transport and defence, but it has to have the backing of governments if it is to succeed. Australia at the present time does not have a north-south road. Despite the lessons learned when Australia was threatened with invasion from Japan and Australia's north had no road links with the south, nothing has since been done. Since then Australia has developed rapidly along its coastal strip and in the west. Darwin has blossomed into a rich tropical city and Mount Isa has become one of the three fastest growing cities in Australia. Today Mount Isa has a population of 29,000, which by 1975 could easily grow to 35,000. It has the largest lead mine in the world and is the major world source of copper, silver and zinc.

By contrast Broken Hill, once Australia's top mining city, is slowly dying. The northsouth highway would link Mildura with Broken Hill, Mount Isa and Darwin. By tourism alone it would help to rejuvenate Broken Hill. In June a committee consisting of representatives from the district's 3 municipalities and a number of interested businessmen met, and it is attempting to set up committees at Boulia and Mount Isa to form a central region with a northern region committee to be established at Tennant Creek-Darwin. The north-south highway would be of direct benefit to all States except Tasmania and Western Australia but as a tourist route would benefit Tasmanians wanting to cross Australia's centre. The highway would connect by the shortest distance the most highly developed southern parts of Australia with the most highly developed northern areas. For Victoria, it would make Mildura the gateway to the north.

The suggested route of the highway by the North-South Highway Committee is Mildura, Broken Hill, Boulia, Mount Isa, Tennant Creek and Darwin. The connecting of Broken Hill and Mount Isa, via Boulia, would couple a network of highways by the shortest possible route. North from Broken Hill, the Silver City Highway to the Queensland border would need upgrading, with new highway construction being required northwards to connect with the sealed northern Australian highway network at Boulia. From Brisbane connection to the suggested highway could be made by upgrading of the Charleville-Quilpie-Windora road. As the gateway to the north, Mildura is already linked by the Sturt Highway from the east and west, the Calder-Sunraysia Highway, the Henty and Western Highways group in tha south, and the Northern, Loddon Valley and Murray Valley Highways group in the south cast. Broken Hill is linked to the south by the Silver City Highway and to the east and west by the Barrier Highway.

For the inland and the developing north, the highway would provide the shortest route to Australia's major production and consumer areas which would result in lower costs and a stimulation of commerce. Road trains can be operated in the western division of New South Wales, which includes Wentworth. As part of the hub of the 3 States, road transport north out of Wentworth could cut transport costs dramatically to match sea freight to Darwin and other northern points. Freight costs would also be lower than any existing or proposed land connections whether road or rail. Road transport associations are showing a keen interest in this economic possibility, particularly as it would tie in with the beef roads of the north and the movement of beef to the south - especially in drought circumstances. The highway, of course, would increase the development of Darwin as an international point because distribution and receival of goods by land would be easier for a greater part of Australia. The highway naturally could make the Sunraysia district, Broken Hill and Mount Isa major inland transport and population centres. Rail and air services already serving these centres will assist with the decentralisation and development that could result.

Further, development would eventuate as service centres sprang up along the route. The population could fan out along the highway.

From the point of view of tourism the highway would open up enormous parts of the interior with greater ease and comfort for overseas and Australian tourists. With longer holidays and more reliable vehicles the average Australian is now looking for more distant holiday places. Tourist interests along the highway would include Australia's newest and largest national park through which the route proposed by the Committee passes in the south-west corner of New South Wales.

As a defence road the highway would be invaluable. The only inland north-south road is from Alice Springs to Darwin. The coastal highways are vulnerable. There is not even a good all-weather road connecting Queensland and the Northern Territory. The suggested highway could be defended probably even better than the part way highway-railway system which now exists. Another advantage would be the connection that the highway would have with the proposed natural gas pipeline. A pipeline runs at present from Gidgealpa to Adelaide. The proposed pipeline is to run from Gidgealpa to Sydney. The suggested highway would cut right across that pipeline and would be of value during construction of the pipeline. The pipeline is to be extended not only east to Sydney but also west to link up with Palm Valley. The Federal Inland Development Organisation, which has been submitting a similar proposal but for a highway further to the east of the nation has accepted the Sunrasia concept. The northsouth highway is a workable and highly necessary project. It should have the backing of all States and the Commonwealth and should be built even if it has to be a toll road for the early years of its existence.

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