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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2363

Senator JESSOP (South Australia) - I wish to use the opportunity provided by the debate on the Appropriation Bills (No. 4) and (No. 5) to point out 2 matters to the Senate. One refers to the Kimba-Polda pipeline in South Australia which has been the subject of an application by the State Government for a grant from the National Water Resources Fund for a number of years. I recall when I was a member of the House of Representatives that this question was discussed in conjunction with consideration of the KeithMannum pipeline and on that occasion the State Government's submission pointed towards the wisdom of granting money for the purpose of that pipeline. Last year the State Government made a further representation for a grant of money from this source to assist in the very important task of completing a pipeline which would serve quite an important farming area in South Australia.

The pipeline is a 15-inch main and is 60 miles long. It passes through a productive farming area. The scheme itself will cost $2. 5m and will serve to stabilise the primary industries in that area and allow for the continuation of diversification. Unfortunately the submission from the State Government did not stress the efforts being made by the farmers in that area to diversify their stocking patterns. It pointed fairly clearly to the increase in the sheep population in the area and, of course, the Government bearing that in mind was justified in suggesting that at a time when the Commonwealth was helping the wool industry it would be unwise for it to aggravate the situation in that area by encouraging the further production of wool.

However, in October of last year 2 members of the State Opposition, Mr Graham Gunn, the member for that area, and Mr Arthur Whyte, M.L.C., together with honourable senators from this side of the House made representations to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) pointing out the significant attempts of the farmers in that area to diversify their production. We showed that there was a substantial increase in cattle production in that area - from 1,215 in 1965 to 4,753 in 1971. Pig production increased from 1,634 in 1965 to 4,582. There is evidence that the raising of English bred sheep is being encouraged in that area, purely for meat production purposes. So I was glad when the Prime Minister recognised the efforts of these farmers to undertake diversification. The Minister for National Development and the Prime Minister agreed to consider a further submission from the State Government. Regrettably, to date the

State Government has not made a submission, although I understand that the Premier of South Australia has written a letter to the Prime Minister indicating that such is his intention. I hope that before long the submission will arrive and that the substance of the submission will substantiate what I have already told the Senate. I do hope that when that time comes the Commonwealth Government will look kindly upon the submission and grant the money necessary to ensure a speedy completion of that important pipeline.

Another matter to which I refer is the much vexed question of national highway No. 1 or, as it is known in South Australia, the Eyre Highway. It has been the subject of comment in the Senate by senators from both sides. We realise the need to ensure that that highway is sealed at the earliest possible time. We realise that the State Government has indicated an interest in that road and has decided to allocate S>5m appropriated from certain funds in that State. It is prepared to direct that amount towards the important work of constructing and sealing the highway, provided the Commonwealth Government comes to the party with $2.5m, the additional amount required to complete this important road. On many occasions I have pointed out to the Minister that this road carries a large number of vehicles that are registered in States other than South Australia. Figures given to me following questions Senator Bishop and I asked on this matter during a Senate estimates committee hearing indicate that the volume of interstate traffic on that road now amounts to 80 per cent of the total traffic. In my view, that points quite strongly to the need for the Commonwealth Government to reassess its attitude to roads of this character, because I am quite sure that all honourable senators will agree that the State Government cannot be expected to give an extremely high priority to a road that carries only a relatively small number of vehicles registered in that State.

We hear the excuse given by the Commonwealth Government that under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement the Commonwealth cannot interfere in this area because the categories of roads are defined clearly, the amounts are allocated and it is up to the States to decide on the priorities which they give to roads which they consider need attention. I point out that not only does the Eyre Highway, national highway No. 1, come in that category but in my view other roads can be classed as national roads as well. There is a road in Queensland, the Landsborough Highway, there is the Stuart Highway, also in South Australia, and there is a road in Western Australia, the Great Northern Highway from Meekathara to Port Hedland to Broome. In my view these roads demand more attention from the Commonwealth Government. I think there is a strong case for a complete review of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, bearing in mind the need to recognise a special category of national roads which should be mainly the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. I referred to the Stuart Highway in South Australia. I know that when the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) was Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities he journeyed over that road which goes through a very interesting part of South Australia and which leads into the Northern Territory. It passes through the Coober Pedy opal area. It goes through potentially rich mining areas and also fairly rich beef growing areas. I recall that on his return he said that he could well understand the complaints of people in that area about the road because in many parts it was nonexistent.

I appreciate that the Commonwealth has recognised the need to improve transport between the Northern Territory and South Australia because it is currently surveying the route of a railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. It would appear to me that it would not only be good sense if the Government allocated, in the forthcoming Budget or in the near future, sufficient funds to allow for the construction of that railway line but also it would be wise for it to consider the economic feasibility of carrying out at least the basic roadworks necessary to form that road along relatively the same route. It would be an economic project as far as I am concerned. I believe that the Commonwealth Government should look at the matter of sealing that road in the near future. Of course I realise that it can be done only with the co-operation of the South Australian Government. As far as I know the State Government has made no approach to the

Commonwealth with regard to that highway. I think it is fair, under the present system, for the Commonwealth to say that it cannot make a special grant for the Eyre Highway, bearing in mind that 4 or 5 other roads in Australia are in the same category. The Queensland Government made a plea for certain moneys to be allocated for the Landsborough Highway. It received the same answer. I think we have a strong case here. Senator Bishop may agree with me that there is a case for the Commonwealth Government to consider grouping all these roads together in an effort to get the lot done at the earliest possible time. I would appreciate it if the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) would take notice of what I have said about both projects, which are of great significance to South Australia.

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