No scheme of national defence can be considered complete which does not provide for a sufficient supply of Public Water at suitable distances throughout the State or country, as the case may be.
In this paper I wish to speak with particular reference to the requirements of the Balranald Pastures Protection District, and at the same time what is here said will no doubt find ready application in many other P.P. Districts, particularly those within the Western Division.
Should an enemy at any time gain entrance to this country, undoubtedly it would be at some point on the rich coastal fringe by which this continent is surrounded; and should it be necessary for the defenders to retreat towards the hinterland of sparse population and desert condition, such retreat would be greatly hindered through scarcity of water.
It must be obvious to all thinking minds that an abundant supply of water is one of the State's greatest necessities, as well as being one of its greatest assets. Hundreds of thousands of sheep, in the past, have perished in this district because of the fact that there has been no provision by way of P.W.P.'s on the T.S.R.'s giving egress and ingress to the holdings in our dry sectors; as one patrols this district, he is struck by the number of sheep skeletons that are seen.
It has often happened that thousands of sheep have perished because it was impossible to travel them out through the lack of Public Watering Places. In like fashion too, should an Australian army be driven inland at any time, supplies of beef and mutton on the hoof would be greatly facilitated by an efficient system of P.W.P.'s. These national necessities should be not more than 12 to 15 miles apart, and should so link up with each other that stock travel would be possible at all times. At a pinch, feed can be carted to travelling stock, but this is not so with water.
The whole of the Western Division is sparsely populated, with practically only two rivers—the Darling and the Lachlan—as a water supply; hence the great need for a sufficient number of P.W.P.'s in this area. The probable cost of a P.W.P. in this sector of the State would be round about a thousand pounds. Against this is the fact that each W.P. is a leasable proposition at about £25 per annum, so that money spent by the Government in this way would be money well spent in the very best interests of the ratepayers. If the Government would grant sufficient money to do the excavations alone, it would be a work of first rate national importance; equipment could be added later. If a series of tanks were to be put down, no doubt a very suitable contract price could be obtained, as this work is now being done at a low figure by crude oil tractors drawing enormous scoops, a ten thousand-yard tank can now be put down in a fortnight.
Millions of pounds are being spent to-day on defence works, and a large proportion of this can be considered dead money, more or less but money spent to provide Public Water would not only serve to relieve unemployment, but would also provide a national asset of the very greatest value.
To illustrate my point further, I would like to instance the present position in the Balranald P.P. District. Mildura is a city capable of taking large supplies of sheep and cattle, but this wonderful outlet is denied to a very large extent on account of the lack of P.W.P.'s route, except in very lush seasons, when arrangements can sometimes be made to secure private water.
No bona fide purchaser of stock in quantities should be obliged to go cap in hand to a private owner for a drink for his animals; the convenience should be at his disposal by the State.
I trust the Institute agrees with the views set out above and will use its influence to secure the necessary money for the Boards in the Western Division to provide an efficient system of P.W.P.'s throughout the whole of this area. It is not only a defence necessity but an economic necessity as well for the stabilising of the State and the well-being of our dumb creatures.