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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3234

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I would like to comment on some of the arrant nonsense that was spoken by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin). It is obvious from his reference to the whole of the Northern Territory being an arid, uninhabited area that the honourable member for Banks knows nothing about it. But I do thank him for the compliment he expressed when he said that he admires the cattle men who live and have to battle for their existence there. I will accept that. North of the latitude of Daly Waters across Australia is what can be referred to as a high rainfall area. As the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) said, that is where the heavy carrying and the large food growing programs will take, place in the future. In respect of whatever else he said in the same vein, the honourable member for Banks does not know what he is talking about.

There is one other comment I would like to make on the speech of the honourable member for Banks. He claimed that the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) was responsible, as a back bench member of the Opposition, for the introduction of the beef roads scheme in northern Australia. No doubt he had something to do with it when he was in the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. But it was Sir Charles Adermann who was the father of the beef roads scheme in the north of Australia and not the present Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory.

In response to the claim by the honourable member for Banks that the Minister should be given full credit for what has happened I point out that the previous Government was responsible for the construction of the beef roads. I shall mention only the ones for which it was responsible in the Northern Territory. It was responsible for the upgrading of the Stuart Highway, which after all carries a lot of beef, at a cost of $5m a year. It sealed 250 miles of road from Wave Hill to Katherine. It sealed 300 miles of road to the Gulf of Carpentaria from the Barkly Highway. It sealed 100 miles of road to the Gulf from Mataranka. It sealed 260 miles of road from Katherine to Wave Hill. A road from Timber Creek to the Western Australia border - Dingo Gap as it is called - is under construction at the moment. It has been responsible for the construction of numerous bridges. Almost all of that work has been done during the 6 years I have been a member of this Parliament. I know some of it was commenced earlier than that. But it was still carried out by Country Party members, Country Party planners. So let us get that right. I would like the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory to continue that program. Its continuation will lead to proper development of the north. While I am on that subject I urge upon him to do battle with the Coombs report, which is aimed directly against northern development. One has only to go through it item by item to see the devastating effect that its implementation will have on the north.

The honourable member for Mackellar spoke of the sealing of a road from Pimba, which, is in the Woomera area, as the Minister would know, to Alice Springs. I certainly would not recommend that it should go via Marree and alongside Lake Eyre because the rivers are three times as wide in that area and the sandy soil is quite often very wet. I urge the Minister to give consideration to this matter, together with his colleagues from South Australia and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). It is becoming a hazard to drive in that area. It has rained more frequently in that area this year than it has for many years. That road, even as it runs at the moment alongside the watershed 100 miles west of Oodnadatta, is a hazard. I ask him to give consideration in his future planning to this matter as well as to the continuation of the upgrading and sealing of other gravel beef roads in the Northern Territory. While on the subject of the road from Port Augusta to Alice Springs I want to point out that we on this side of the House have asked on numerous occasions for permission to be given to travellers to go through the rocket range because by doing so they can cut off quite a lot of distance and quite a lot of the bad wet weather road in the vicinity of Lake Harris as it starts to go north at Kingoonya. I ask him to give consideration to that.

While on the subject of northern development I want to discuss the port of Darwin. The honourable member for Banks said that the previous Government had done nothing about development of the north. It instituted the studies with regard to the development of the port of Darwin and voted $21m for this work. That was no doubt in train and under discussion at the time the previous Government went out of office. On 2 April I asked the Minister for Northern Development a question concerning this matter. He gave me an assurance that it was under consideration by the Department of the Northern Territory and the Department of Transport. He also said at the time that he could not give me a firm answer. I ask him to bear in mind that the port of Darwin is certainly one of the best in northern Australia. It is 2,000 miles closer to many of the areas to which we export our goods. I ask him to urge his colleagues to treat this matter very seriously.

With regard to railways in the north, I know that the previous Government had the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line under very serious consideration and that it was only because of the South Australian Government that the matter did not come to fruition. But it has been announced that work will now go ahead. May I point out to the Minister that in 1966 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when advocating the completion of the DarwinAlice Springs-Port Augusta railway line, also advocated the construction of branch lines to Mt Isa and Wyndham. I asked the Prime Minister whether he would still stand by that and whether it was still Labor Party policy. He said that it was:

It is part of the Platform of the Australian Labor Party to undertake the construction of the NorthSouth standardised rail link in the interests of national defence, national development, and to provide feeder services for the cattle raising resources of the Northern Territory and the western area of Queensland.

I would ask the Minister for Northern Development to again take up that matter as it was an undertaking given in an answer to a question I directed to the Prime Minister.

In the few moments remaining to me and because anything to do with Darwin has to do with northern development or, certainly, the other part of the Minister's portfolio, I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that in the Estimates last year an amount of $5.6m was set aside to be spent on stage 4 of the Darwin steam power station to 30 June 1973. In this year's Estimates there is provision for an amount of $5m to be spent, and I believe that the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works has either looked at or is going to look at this proposal. I also inform the Minister - he has no doubt heard - that I wrote to him today about this situation. I do not expect him to have taken any action on my letter because I wrote it only today. November in Darwin is called the suicide month. There have been recent power failures at the Stokes Hill power station. Only recently, the station got back into going order again but now apparently there have been main bearing failures in the alternator and the generator, and I believe that there is also boiler trouble. I would urge the

Minister, as I have done in my letter-

Mr James - He is very worried about it.

Mr CALDER - I am sure that he is. He could not be anything other than worried. I am asking the Minister to strain every nerve to get the Stokes Hill power station back into operation again. It is a matter of urgency. I have received numerous telegrams, one of which I will read to honourable members. It states:

Owing to power crisis workshop and office facilities losing S hours per 24 hour day. What action do you propose to take to prevent any further inconvenience and financial loss . . .

This is happening all the time in Darwin. Let us face it, this Government and the previous Goverment have spent a lot of money on the Stokes Hill power station. I do not know how this Government can rectify the situation but I do ask the Minister to use all his influence, knowledge and sympathy for the people of the north to put this matter at rights because from November until the rainy season sets in it is sheer hell living and working in Darwin. I know that people used to live in Darwin at this time of the year with rags wrapped around their wrists. I have done it myself. However, they are used to air conditioning, and because of the power failure, none of the offices have fans or air conditioning.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Duthie) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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