PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2637

OPENING OF THE ORD RIVER DAM - KUNUNURRA WA - SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE RT HON WILLIAM MCMAHON CH MP - 30 JUNE 1972

Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 30/06/1972

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2637

OPENING OF THE ORD RIVER DAM
KUNUNURRA, W. A.
Speech by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon
William McMahon, C. H., M. P. June, 1972.
Mr. Premier, Mr. Chairman, Sir Reginald, Sir Charles, my " ther
Parliamentary Colleagues, Distinguished Guest, including my own
Minister for the Interior, Hunt, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Before us as you can see stretch the waters of the greatest
man-made lake that has ever been built in Australia. It is a
unique and imaginative enterprise.
For years we have talked about the Ord Irrigation Scheme
here on Australia's North-West frontier, in a region where some of
our pioneers wrote their names into the record of our history.
This is the country to which the overlanders came in the last
century. Let us, now, remember those adventurous men and their
families, who drove their cattle until they reached the Kimberley.
The story of the Durack family is only one which enriches the
history of the far North-West. They first crossed our continent to
settle here in 1835, and it took them over two years to get here.
Today the site of their homestead, named Argyle, lies under this
lake. It is singularly appropriate, therefore, that the Government
of Western Australia has given the name Lake Argyle to this
great stretch of water.
The early pioneers broke the silence of this land. Since then,
the modern pioneer has come, and technology has made its contribution
to the pace of development.
The Ord River Irrigation Scheme is one result, with this dam
as its central feature. Storing millions of acre feet of water,
it gives a new kindcE like to this area: To the cotton and other
crop farmers, and to the adventurous Australian families who lived
and have made their homes here in Kununurra. They have demonstrated
their confidence in the North West in an unmistakble way. / 2

It is not my interntion today to recite the history of the
Ord River Scheme although I want to say I have had a long
association with it ever since it was first mooted in the
Commonwealth Cabinet.
In some ways, it has been a controversial project, which has
had its troubles and its problems. Many have been overcome but
new ones crop up to test the skill and energy of the farmers,
research workers, and of the officers of the two Governments
Commonwealth and State as well.
Let us put problems aside to talk about the engineering
triumph this dam really is. Let us acknowledge the spirit, the
enthusiasm and the labours of those who live here.
The North-West no longer sleeps in the past. It is
bustling, adventurous and Drogressive. Beef-roads have soread
across the Kimberley. Highways link the outposts with our ports
and with cities, and the jet-port at Kununurra has conquered
distance and brought the Ord River community into the web of a
rapid transport system.
I am pleased to mention here that the Commonwealth recently
approved a major upgrading of the road to the Kimberley on the
Northern Territory side of the border. This will provide a high
standard, all weather link through to Katherine, Darwin, Alice
Springs and on to the east.
The West Australian and Commonwealth Governments have taken
many initiatives together in the Fast Kimnberley. We began in 194G
when the two Governments financed the Kimberley research station.
We brought the CSIRO to the area, and it is still here and will
continue to do valuable work. The Commonwealth has contributed many
millions of dollars to assist the West Australian Government. in its
development programmes in the whole of the North-West.
West Australia has always had faith and confidence in this
Ord Scheme and i the impact it would make in the East Ximberley and
in the North. It was against this background that the Commonwealth
Government decided in 1967 to provide funds within a limit of
$ 48 million for the main dam and the development of the irrigation
area around here.
You, Mr. Premier, as you so well said, as Minister for Public
Works were a driving force for this project in its early stages
and so were Sir David Brand and Sir Charles Court in later years.
The results of this enterprise and co-operative effort not
only by governments but by people cannot yet be measured fully.
Much has been achieved but and I repeat more or less what you said
1r. Premier there is much still to be done.
But let me mention two or three developments that stand out
at this time. First cotton. I amn told thc cotton area per
farmer has almost doubled in about seven years. The yield has reached
top world standard now 1000 lbs. of lint per acre or nearly
double what it was seven years ago. That is a first-class
performance.

3.
Then there is research. The experts tell me the Kimberley
Research Station has made good progress on hybrid cotton, cattle
production, peanuts, safflower and sorghum. So, too, have the
West Australian Department of Agriculture, and scientists and
researchers of the University of New England in New South Wales
who are also working in this area.
These applied experiments will help to increase the range
of activities here, and give the Ord region further economic
diversity. They will make their contribution, Mr. Premier, to the
goals and to the ideals that you have mentioned.
So we have here today something made and something in the
making. It is an interesting and spectacular country and provides
the attractions and climate, I believe, for tourists. Who knows
that at some time in the future this Lake could be the site of a
great water carnival for the North and the North-West, attracting
overseas tourists who want to see the granduer of our new
frontiers. Both governments have been alert to preserve the natural
beauty of this environment, and funds have been provided for
ecological studies over a very wide area. This is a place, I
believe, where man and nature can live in harmony.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have here today a huge dam
a great lake and a new horizon for the East Kimberley and the
North-West. Those associated with this project have planned and built
well. I would like to mention the personnel of the constructing
authority, which was the Public Works Department of Western
Australia, and the contractor, Dravo Pty. Ltd. which was awarded
the contract in world-wide competition. I cr-:-; aatulato them on the
jobs they have done so well.
This is part of our nation-building, and we are a great
country part of a process that is going on all. over Australia
today. I new have the very greatest pleasure n officially declarii
the Ord Piver Dam open.

Transcript 2637