PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7374


Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/08/1988

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 7374

For almost a century the dream of a dam upon the Burdekin
River has inspired generations of people with the promise of
new prosperity for North Queensland.
Today we mark the realisation of that dream the completion
of the Burdekin Dam and the formal opening of a new era for
the people of this State.
In opening this dam today I pay unreserved tribute to all
those who have planned and built it.
And I take unqualified pride in the fact that throughout the
long saga of the Burdekin Dam, it wad'Federal Labor
Governments which have led the way, and which have paid the
bill, in the interests of North Queenslanders.
In 1889 that is, ninety nine years ago W. H. McKinnon
presented his engineer's report which for the first time
proposed a large dam on the Burdekin river to irrigate the
surrounding land.
It was the Chifley Labor Government which set up a joint
Commonwealth-State Ministerial Committee to investigate
northern development. That was in 1945 ninety nine years
after the Burdekin was discovered and named by Leichardt.
Chifley's committee selected the proposal for a dam at the
Burdekin Falls as the one most suited for further
development. But various promises by successive conservative Governments
came to nothing.
It was not until 1974 that, with the decision of the Whitlam
Labor Government, the first Commonwealth funds were granted
for water resource development in the Burdekin region.
Three million dollars was allocated for the building of the
Clare Weir, a pilot scheme-for future large scale
development. A further one million dollars was allocated to
investigate the Burdekin Basin's potential for development. 1093

in 1976 a Townsville resident and Labor Alderman called Ted
Lindsay helped establish the Townsville-Burdekin Regional
Water Committee which went on to play a major ro lei n
advancing the cause of the Burdekin Dam.
It must be a matter for great satisfaction for Ted, who is
of course now my colleague the Member for Herbert, to be
here today to witness this ceremony in the knowledge that
his hard work and dedication helped bring it about.
Because in 1983 the ALP promised to build the dam, and when
we were elected to office we reaffirmed and subsequently
fulfilled that commitment.
In 1984 the Burdekin Falls Agreement was signed by senator
Peter Walsh, the then Minister for Resources and Energy, and
Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the then Premier of Queensland.
Less than three years later the dam wall was finished a
year ahead of schedule due to the good industrial and
meteorological climate that prevailed.
Now in 1988, thanks to the recent cyclone, the dam is full
and North Queensland is about to receive the benefits of
this great achievement.
I say great, because the dimensions of this Dam beggar the
imagination. The dam wall is 876 metres long, with a spillway of half a
kilometre, rising 37 metres above the river bed, holding
1.85 million megalitr~ es of water, inundating 22,000 hectares
of land and drawing on a catchment area of,* nearly 115,000
square kilometres, or about half the size-' of the State of
Victoria. The Dam will provide some 850,000 negalitres of water to
convert through irrigation some 50,000 hectares of grazing~
land into 500 new farms capable of producing crops of the
highest quality.
And 130,000 people in Townsville and Thuringowa will receive
a water supply that is guaranteed and pure.
No wonder the dream of a Dam inspired so many people for so
long. No wonder the Federal Government is proud to say we have
fully funded the realisation of the dream, to the tune of
$ 129 million.
No wonder Ted Lindsay looks pleasedi
Back in September 1983, in Question Tine in Parliament, I
was asked a question about whether the Dam would be
completed by 1988 the question, I hardly need add, came
from the Hon. Member for Herbert, Ted Lindsay.

1 said then that the Federal Government was totally
committed to building the Dam and that we were aiming to
finish it in 1988 our Bicentennial year.
It was clear even then that the opening of the Burdekin Dam
would be a major event of our Bicentennial celebrations. It
is a tremendous symbol of the reconstruction of the
Australian economy which has occurred under this Government.
And it is, in anyone's book, a significant achievement of
nation building something for which future generations
will be indebted and grateful to us.
Many people can share in the glow of this achievement:
the workers whose efforts saw the dam completed ahead of
schedule; the contractors involved in the project, especially
Leightons Contractors who won an Australian Federation
of Construction Contractors, Engineering Award of
Excellence for their innovative engineering which
hastened the speed at which concrete was placed;
the Queensland Government which is to pay for irrigation
works and a number of other associated infrastructure
projects; Senators Peter Walsh and Gareth Evans, the Commonwealth
ministers responsible for the dam since 1983 amd the
Queensland ministers Mr Coleby, Mr Martin Tenni, and
Mr Don Neal; and
the former and present Commissioners of the Queensland
Water Resources Commission, Mr Don Beattie and Mr Tom
Fenwick, and all Commission staff who administered the
It is a project which underlies the commitment of this
Federal Government to the well-being of the people of North
Queensland. And it is a project which proves again the truth that,
through constructive cooperation, Australians can perform
great tasks and complete great achievements. 1095
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Transcript 7374