4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table the following paper -
General papers index, including presented papers, Committee reports, Returns to Order, Sc., of both Houses, and certain papers not formally printed, 1901-9 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Parliaments).
Ordered to be printed.
– I am reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph as having voted against the Government on an amendment moved by the honorable member for Parramatta on the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill. I did not vote on the amendment, but left wordthat I would pair against it in favour of the Government, because I desire to extend, not to restrict, the powers of the Commonwealth.
Proclamation - Parliamentary Library
– Now that the general elections in New South Wales are over, when does the Minister of Home Affairs propose to recommend the Government to issue the. proclamation taking over the Federal Capital’ area?
– The proclamation will come in due time, when we have got a Bill through to govern the place according to civilized conditions.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs,’ upon notice -
Whether, before considering sites or ground plans of the Parliamentary buildings at the Federal Capital, he will give this House on opportunity of expressing an opinion as to the desirableness of the Library being placed in a separate building, open to the general public, following in this respect the example of the Congress of the United States at Washington?
– In reply to the question, I have to say, “ Yes “ ; but the honorable member can obtain full information on the subject of the Congressional Library from a book entitled Uncle Sam and His Family, by an Australian journalist, Grattan Grey.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs say whether there is any truth in the report that certain newspapers have the exclusive right to news of the Scott Antarctic expedition, which has been subsidized by the Commonwealth, or whether that information will be available to all?
– The honorable member told me that he would ask the question, and I therefore had inquiries made, receiving the following reply from Captain Scott -
Report entirely untrue. Have arranged publication of news in Australasia without any exclusion, and directly transmitted from New Zealand.
Professor David has also written to say that-
Captain Scott authorizes me to absolutely deny report that section of Australian press has exclusiverights to publishing reports of his. discoveries. He arranged specially, in writing, before leaving London, that all expedition news be transmitted to his New Zealand agent for simultaneous distribution to press everywhere, without any exclusion.
Bullfinch Communication - Peak Hill Postmaster - Pennant Hills Wireless Telegraph Station - Overtime
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who,. I understand, is acting for the PostmasterGeneral, been directed to the discovery of the very rich gold-field at Bullfinch, in Western Australia. I have private advices that between 2,000 and 3,000 persons are likely to be settled there in a few days, and the need for telegraphic or telephonic communication is urgent. Will the honorable gentleman see if immediate steps can be taken to erect a line from Southern Cross to Bullfinch, a distance of only 23 miles?.
– The honorable member notified the Department of his intention to ask the question; and I have been handed the following reply -
The Deputy Postmaster-General reported, on the 21st instant, that two extra telegraphists had been sent to Southern Cross so as to cope with the increased business at that office, and that he was calling tenders for a tentative daily mail service for three months so as to give time for necessary action regarding the establishment of a permanent service; and advice has been received that he himself left Perth for the goldfield on the afternoon of the22nd instant with a view to seeing what arrangements were required to meet the requirements of the public so far as this Department is concerned.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been called to the allegations of over-work at the Peak Hill Post-office?
– The following statement has been furnished to me by the Department of the Postmaster-General -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, reports that the postmaster inquestion made no application for leave on account of ill-health during the years 1908, 1909, nor during this year, nor was any complaint received from him that he was being overworked.
On the 4th instant the assistant at Peak Hill was absent owing to indulgence in drink. The postmaster asked to be allowed to employ a casual messenger until relief could be provided in the assistant’s place, and on the following morning he was informed that the messenger asked for could be employed. On the 14th idem a qualified assistant was sent to him, the delay having been due to the difficulty of providing such assistance owing to calls made upon the relieving staff and other officials available for relief duty.
Owing to the assistant’s continued misconduct, it was not possible to finally deal with his case before the 20th inst., when he was reinstated after having. been dealt with. On the same day the postmaster reported that he was unable to continue duty, and the following day his death occurred.
The district inspector was instructed yesterday to proceed to Peak Hill and make full inquiry into the statement that the postmaster’s condition was the result of overwork.
– Some time ago, it was decided to’ erect’ a wire- less telegraph station near Pennant Hills,
I should like to know whether any steps have been taken towards the erection of this station - whether the ground has been obtained, or anything done in the matter - and if not, why ?
– The honorable member will see that, asI am only representing the Postmaster-General during his illness, I am not in possession of the full details of the case. If the honorable member will give notice, I shall try to have a reply tomorrow.
asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
A careful history of flood records and figures is being collected by the Meteorological Bureau which will serve’ as a basis for warning settlers in districts yet to be opened up.
Council of Imperial Defence - Manceuvre Area at Liverpool.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Has the Government decided to establish a manoeuvre area at Liverpool; if so, what area of private land is included, and what arrangements have been made with owners of the same?
– The official reply is as follows : -
The Government of New South Wales has concurred with the request made by the Com- monwealth to reserve , a large area near Liver- pool for Defence purposes which it is intended to use for a manoeuvrearea. Some 16,000 acres ofprivately-owned land are involved in the proposal, but any arrangements for their acquisition will rest with the State Government. The Commonwealth is not purchasing any property within the proposed area.
– Some time ago, it was reported in the press that the High Commissioner had formulated a scheme for advertising the Commonwealth in England, and particulars were given showing that an expenditure of £50,000 is involved. From paragraphs that have appeared since, I understand that the Government have not accepted that scheme; and I should like to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether the whole has been rejected, or whether it is intended to carry out a part, and, if so, what part?
– The honorable member’s statement is not quite accurate. In the ordinary course, heads and subheads of Departments send in their estimates of probable expenditure; and the High Commissioner forwarded proposals of the kind which would involve an expenditure of something like £50,000. This was considered too large, and was reduced to £20,000. The same ideas are being carried out, but not on such an extensive scale as proposed by the High Commissioner.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs, before spending any more money on advertising in the direction suggested, inquire whether there is any truth in a statement reported to have been made at Kingaroy by Mr. E. E. Morrison, one of the Scottish Commissioners, who came out to inquire as to land for settlement? The following is the statement : -
They had come to spy out the land, and they had seen a beautiful country. Something like 76,000 acres were to be shortly thrown open in that district, and there would be from six to fifty applicants for each separate lot. The whole area would very shortly be over applied for. That meant that the people already in this country, and the people from other Colonies, were on the lookout for this land, and were ready to take it up. That being so, it seemed that there were more people than could be supplied already. That was his difficulty. Why, then, should Queensland ask to be sent immigrants when she could not supply her own people with land? (Hear, hear.) There seemed to be a large number of genuine settlers, farmers sons, and others, who could not be supplied with land.
Will the Minister make inquiries as to whether there is any truth in that statement ?
– I shall be happy to make inquiries. northern; territory
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 18th October, vide page 4742) :
Clause 5 -
The agreement is by this Act ratified and approved.
Mr.HIGGS (Capricornia) [3.19]- Is no one going to make a few observations before this clause passes? I think I owe it as a duty to the country, and to the party on this side, that I should further criticise this Bill before the provision is disposed of; and i think that the observations i have to make now are even of more importance, if that be possible, than those i made on a previous occasion. Honorable members seem like a lot of happy schoolboys going out to play cricket, or to indulge in some other pastime - that is their attitude towards this particular proposal. They remind me of the set of happy schoolboy’s of whom we read in the poem of Eugene Aram. Do they realize what they are undertaking? i agree that we should take over the Territory, and govern it as best we can ; but if the agreement be carried in. its present form the Commonwealth Parliament will be saddled with a burden that will place so many obstacles in the way of settlement that the country, to my mind, will never be settled. We should encounter difficulties enough in developing the country if we acquired it without the compulsory provisions of the agreement in regard to the construction of a railway ; but apparently honorable members are prepared to accept a proposal which means our undertaking a liability running up to £10,000,000, upon which interest will have to be paid. For a period of over two years I had a very valuable experience in the Queensland Government Office, in Sydney. i have on a previous occasion told the Committee that it was my duty, when in that office, to advertise the resources of Queensland, and to furnish information to intending settlers. It was really a miniature Lands Department of the State, and I met there Anglo-Indians, Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen, and Americans, as well as people from Canada, Germany, and elsewhere. I met all classes of settlers, from the man who had sold out in New. Zealand, and had a capital of £70,000, which he wished to invest in a large area - from the man who wanted, perhaps, 100 square miles of country for a sheep or cattle station - to the small man who desired a 160-acre block. Among those who interviewed me were men who had £2,000 or £3,000 each, and wished’ to purchase land near a railway station, giving as their reason that they did not wish to take their wives and children into the NeverNever country. They wished to take up land where they could secure the comforts that are obtainable, more or less, in a closely settled community… Out of the many who interviewed me, I do not think one asked for a piece of leasehold country. Every one said : “ We want the freehold.” It is the policy of the Labour party, to which I am proud to belong, to introduce the leasehold system. We propose to institute a new regime, by substituting for the old system of selling Crown lands a system of leasing. That is the problem which we have to solve, and if we are going to load up leases in the Northern Territory with the heavy expenditure which will have to be undertaken if the agreement be carried out in its entirety, the position will be exceedingly difficult. Have honorable members seriously considered the problem that confronts us? It will be all very well for the Federal Parliament,’ meeting in Melbourne, thousands of miles away from the Territory, to try to govern it, but we must not forget that the South Australian Government, although much nearer, could not do so successfully. If we are to make a success of the undertaking, we shall have to offer great inducements to people to live and work there. How will it be possible for us to induce people to go to the Territory unless we can promise them good and cheap land, within districts having a satisfactory rainfall ? It is for these reasons that I ask honorable members not to be led away by the bit of acting that took place in the South Australian Legislative Council one day last week, when the Standing
Orders were suspended, and a Bill passed through all its stages to provide for the repeal ‘of the Northern Territory Agreement. Act. The proceedings, as reported, remind me of a “ turn “ which I saw in the Melbourne Opera House a little while ago, and which was presented in the form of an illusion. There were three actors. One of them was placed in a box having three or four sets of locks, and two innocents from the audience were called up to the stage, and were supposed to lock him in. They’ turned the keys in two of the locks, but two others were apparently overlooked, or were so easily opened, that, no sooner had the curtain been lowered and raised again, than the individual who was supposed to have been locked up in the box was seen standing behind a screen. Naturally, some of the people in the gallery, who saw through the performance, called on the performers to “get work,” and the members of the South Australian Legislative Council, when they indulged in this little bit of acting, must have expected to be greeted with the same cry. I am not led away by their action, and I hope honorable members will not be. The South Australians have tried to govern the Territory, and have failed, although they can claim to be as intelligent and clever and able at self-government as any other people in this continent. South Australia was founded by some amongst the best people that ever came to Australia, and if they cannot govern the Territory we shall have a great deal of difficulty in doing so. If we saddle ourselves with this huge debt, our difficulties will be insuperable. If we wish people to go to the Northern Territory, we must offer them land at a verylow rate. Personally, I think we ought to offer the land absolutely free if, by way of alternative, it is to be perpetually leased, and we might be able to do that, or something very like it in some cases, if we did not burden ourselves with the responsibility of the proposed railway constructions. Honorable members also seem to forget that a great deal of the land in the Northern Territory has been already taken up.’
– I do not think the honorable member is right. In the Survey and Lands Department returns furnished from the Crown Lands Office, Palmerston, on 2rst March, 1910, and published as an appendix at page. 13 of the Government Resident’s Report on the Northern Terri tory for 1909, the following particulars, for the twelve months ended on the 31st December, 1909, are given -
Area of the Northern Territory, 623,620 square miles- 335,1 10,800 acres; area within counties (ave), 13,821.000 acres ; area within hundreds (30), 2,856,430 acres ; land alienated 473,232 acres ; purchase money, £164,192 6s. 8d. ; free grants, 48 acres.
– All terminable leases.
– That is so, but we have been led to believe in this House that the greater portion of the land’ under lease in the’ Northern Territory is held under annual permit. That is not the case.
– Who led the honorable member to believe such a thing?
– It was said repeatedly.
– Who said so? You people seem to delight to hear these cock-and-bull yams about the Northern Territory.
– What special mission has the honorable member in this House that he should lecture me in that fashion?
– The tone of the honorable member’s speech all through justifies what I say.
– When it was stated that the land was let, I heard some one call out “ Under annual permit.” There are 69,276,320 acres held under pastoral leases, which run up to forty-two years, many of them having about thirty years to run. Those who have travelled through the Territory during the past fortyor fifty years have got to know it better than we do, and without a doubt, they have taken up the best lands. Will the honorable member for Wakefield challenge the statement that the best lands in the Northern Territory are comprised in the 69,000,000 odd acres let under pastoral leases for terms ranging from forty-two years downwards?
– I do not want to challenge it, but the lessees must fulfil certain conditions or throw up their leases.
– The principal condition seems to be the payment of from1s. to 2s. 6d. per square mile. According to a table appearing in the same report, the terms of pastoral leases are as follow : -
The total rent received from holders of pastoral permits and leases was £8,32912s. 9d. in 1908, and £8,89510s. in 1909. Thus the whole of the tent which the South Australian Government was able to obtain from the people who were given leases over 69,000,000 acres in the Northern Territory was under £9,000. In spite of this the Northern Territory has not gone ahead. Under the agreement we must allow those lessees the same rights as they had under the South Australian Government. The honorable member for Wakefield says they have to fulfil certain conditions. .In all probability they have to erect huts for boundary riders, or, perhaps, to build homesteads ; I have not had time to examine the terms of the leases . Should the Commonwealth propose to resume these leases for closer settlement, the lessees will demand compensation, and if we do not pay the compensation that is asked for, will take us to Court. Every one knows that when a Government or municipality is taken to Court, it loses, because, owing to a peculiar kink in human nature, juries are always ready to mulct a Government in damages. Not long since, the Queensland’ Government offered to pay £2 2s. an . acre for an estate of 400,000 acres, but the owners, taking the matter into Court, were able to get , £310s. an acre. The honorable member for Hindmarsh speaks of opening up the country. How are we going to do that? Who are we going to get to live there? Are there farmers in Victoria likely to go there unless very great inducements are offered to them?
– Give them railway communication.
– There is now a railway from Palmerston to Pine Creek. I have read what Mr. E. E. Morrison, one of the Scottish Commissioners, has said about the difficulty of getting land in’ Queensland. Another member of the Commission says that he. has found it hard to ascertain why land for lucerne growing should be worth £10, £20, £30, and even £70 an acre. The fact that farmers will pay such prices shows that they have no wish to go out into the Never-Never. They desire to remain where their children can be educated. Men will not go to the Northern Territory unless they can get good land, possessing a good rainfall, or artesian water supply.’ Capital will be needed to develop this land, and men possessing capital do not care about pioneering work. The men who go there will be without capital, and we shall have to lend them money to make homes, sink wells, and carry out improvements’. But if we incur great expense in buying back land, and in building and taking over railways, there will not be cheap land available for settlers, and the Territory will be a great white elephant. The South Australian legislators are doing a grievous wrong in forcing this arrangement upon the . Commonwealth. The newspapers which have discussed the matter admit that the Commonwealth should control the Northern Territory, but say that South Australians are driving a hard bargain. I am sorry that the Minister of External Affairs and others who are so ready to do what is best for Australia cannot see the matter from the point of view of those of us who wish to protect the people of the Commonwealth. We should be willing for the transfer of the Territory were therailway conditions absent from the agreement. Those who vote for the agreement as it stands will be sorry later. I have mentioned that Major O’Loughlin, the Minister charged with the administration of the Northern Territory, sent his sons to Queensland to seek for land, while, according to the Sydney Morning Herald of 31st December, 1909 -
Mr. J. G. Bice, Chief Secretary of South Australia, is now on a visit to Queensland, and will go to the Mitchell District for a few days. His sons have taken up land on Mitchell Downs, in a group of South Australians. The group originally included the Messrs. O’Loughlin, of South Australia, but these retired from it.
If there is such good agricultural and pastoral land in the Northern Territory, why do prominent South Australians send their sons to Queensland?
– Will there have to be a referendum before the Territory can be transferred?
– My reading of the Constitution is that there must be a referendum before a State can surrender territory. But South Australians will gladly vote for the surrender of the Northern Territory, especially if the Commonwealth makes itself responsible for some of their railways. Possibly agriculture has not made headway there because the farmer is much less liberally treated than the pastoralist. The big squatter is allowed to take up 1,000 square miles at a rental of1s.’ per square mile per annum, while the small farmer has to pay 3d. per acre per annum for 160acres, and is required to reside on the land.
The CHAIMAN.- Has this anything to do with the agreement?
– The clause deals with the agreement, which covers the whole case. If we are going to continue the present land policy, we had better not take over the Territory. A squatter is asked to pay only as much for 40 square miles, or 25,600 acres as a farmer has to pay for 160 acres.
– That has nothing to do with the agreement we are discussing.
– I am sorry that under your ruling I am not at liberty to draw attention to these discrepancies. Perhaps I shall be in order in referring to the report of the present Speaker, who visited the Northern Territory.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I was emphasizing the fact that we shall have great difficulty in inducing farmers to go into the Northern Territory unless we can offer them splendid facilities, and pointing out that even in Queensland men were willing to pay from £10 to £70 per acre rather than go into the Never-Never. . This applies in all the States ; and if we saddle ourselves with an expenditure of £10,000,000 or £12,000,000, or more, in providing a railway to carry mails, we shall be unable to offer proper inducement for settlement. In the memorandum , issued by the honorable member for Darling Downs, when Minister of External Affairs, some reference is made to mixed farming permits : -
Of the three existing permits for mixed fanning purposes (including one application approved during 1909), two are situate in the hundred of Hutchison, county of Palmerston, and worked by Messrs. Herbert Brothers in conjunction with their agricultural leases. The area approved in the latter part of the year is situate in the hundred of Waterhouse, on the Pine Creek and Palmerston railway line, abutting on agricultural lease No. 42, registered in the name of W. C. Milton. These permits are terminable’ upon three months notice to the lessee, and without compensationfor the value of improvements. The annual rent is £2 per sq. mile.
I should like honorable members to notice the following paragraph particularly -
It will be noticed, by the limited number of applications received for mixed fanning areas, that this form of closer settlement has not appealed to the public, and the sanguine hopes that were entertained for the future success of these permits have not been realised.
Then follows a table showing the agricultural leases -
Twenty leases containing 5,371 acres at 6d. per acre, non-personal residence ; 2 leases containing 160 acres at 3d. per acre, personal residence. Total, 22 lenses; 5,531 acres.
Nine applications were ‘received between April and November,1909. The area applied for was 3,540 acres, of which 1,940 acres have been approved of for lease. The balance, 1,600 acres, is receiving the Hon. Minister’s consideration. The revenue received from agricultural leases and applications amounted to£128 4s., showing an increase of £3411s.11d. on the amount collected for the preceding year. No leases were forfeited during the year. The following are the localities for land applied for and situate outside hundreds, viz., 640 acres near the Roper River, 640 acres on East Alligator River, 640 acres near Daly River smelter, 320 acres Adelaide River, and 160 acres on the Edith River, between Fine Creek and Katherine Telegraph Station - making a total of 2,400 acres.
I have already said that if we expect farmers to go into &e Northern Territory we shall have to give them land practically for nothing. By the way, I cannot understand why I was ruled out of order when dealing with this question, because it is referred to in this memorandum of the honorable member for Darling Downs. We are proposing to initiate a new system of land settlement, under which land shall be leased, and not sold j and we are told that, up to the present, leases have not been taken up as it Was hoped they would be. The memorandum says -
It will be noticed, by tile limited number of applications received for mixed farming areas, that this form of closer settlement has not appealed to the public.
I hope we shall be able to carry out the idea of simply leasing the land, in view Of the evils of land monopoly, not only’ in Great Britain, but in Victoria^ New South Wales, Tasmania, and even in Queensland. These evils appear to have arisen because we have sold the lands of the people.
– Does the honorable member think that has anything to do with the question?
– I think it has much to. do with the question. I deeply regret that honorable members do not realize the burden that they are about to inflict on this Parliament and Government, and on the Commonwealth generally. Some years ago, when there was an unemployed agitation in Adelaide, the. Government of the day were induced to purchase land on the outskirts of Adelaide, cut it up into blocks of s and 10 acres, and rent it to bricklayers, carpenters, and other workmen at a peppercorn rental of rs. per acre per annum, and, in addition, to assist them by contributions of £5° towards the cost of building homes.
– Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the question before trie Chair ?
– I was going to point out that when these men had improved their properties they banded together in a political association, with the object of obtaining the freehold, and on this point successfully fought the political party who had been instrumental in placing them on the land.
-I would point out that that has nothing to do with the Northern Territory agreement.
– I am showing that under the agreement we are taking on ourselves a burden which will make it impossible for us to provide those advantages and facilities which settlers have a right to expect, and that even on the outskirts of Adelaide the leasehold system was not found acceptable. When we take over this Territory, will the people who are settled there join a political association and demand from the Commonwealth Parliament the right to obtain the freehold of their lands ? Is that what is contemplated by the framers of this agreement? Will Hie Minister in charge of the Bill tell us what policy is to be pursued ? Has any one an idea of what we are going to do with the Territory when we take it over ?
– What would the honorable member’s policy be?
– I should appoint a Board or Commissioners to govern it until such time as we had there a population sufficient to govern the country for themselves. I should say that the moment we had there a population of 10,000 people we should hand over the Territory to them, and let them have a Parliament of their own. If the land is as good as some honorable members say it is, I should allow the farmers who went there to have the use of it free of rental for tcn or twenty years ; but 1 am inclined to believe that it is not as valuable as some would have us believe. Mr.’ Speaker, on his return from a trip to the. Northern Territory, made the following statement in this House -
With other honorable members, I visited Port Darwin. We there were the recipients of the’ hospitality of the South Australian Government, who gave us the opportunity of travelling as faT as Pine Creek, and subsequently up the Adelaide River for a distance of ninety odd miles. I never, of course, saw the best of the country. The portion I travelled over was very poor and inferior from a cattle point of view, although there were one or two cattle stations there. In some cases stations have been abandoned, and the cattle taken elsewhere in the Territory, with satisfactory results. During the trip down to Pine Creek I did not form any great opinion of the country as grazing areas; but, from the mineral point of view, there may probably be something more to be said, in spile of the failures made by companies which have there spent large sums of money. As in the case of many English propositions from time to time, those concerned have done a lot of work on the surface, but never seem to attempt to explore or develop the ground itself; and I think that that may have something to do with the failure of the industry. I am only speaking from information which I gathered during my trip.
Mr. Speaker has probably as good a knowledge of Australia as any of us. He has travelled over a- lot of country, and certainly knows good land when he sees it. Honorable members will not give me credit for a desire that the Commonwealth should take over the Territory. They seem to think that, because I object -to the railway provisions of the agreement, I am opposed to the transfer itself. Let me say once more that I am in favour of taking over the Territory, but that I am not in favour pf those provisions in the agreement which would compel us to spend anything between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000 upon it. After administering the affairs of the Territory for forty years, the South Australian Government find themselves with an annual deficit of ,£200,000 in connexion with it. I am willing that we should take over that loss, but, as business men, we ought not to be prepared to accept an agreement saddling us with an expenditure of from £10,000,000 to £15,000,000, which will make it impossible for us to carry out the aims of the Australian Labour party. Honorable members must realize that that great party in the Commonwealth Parliament will have to accept the responsibility for accepting the agreement as it stands. Already the Leader of the Opposition has disclaimed any responsibility for it. He has told us that if the opportunity offers be will propose an amendment, making it possible for us to build the proposed railway where and when we like.
– That is corroborative of the honorable member’s habit.
– It may be his habit, but he has’ availed himself of the opportunity to say that we should be allowed to build these railways where and when we like. No doubt he will point to that statement when the dreadful crisis comes. He will point to it when, perhaps, the country is stricken by drought, and we are short of revenue - when we shall have saddled ourselves with an annual expenditure of from _£2, 000,000 to ,£3,000,000 for defence; £3,000,000, perhaps, in respect of old-age pensions; and £7,000,000 on the construction of the Federal Capital, as well as a number of other items not yet actually before us. When that time comes, we shall be asked by the electors why, as business men, wc accepted this agreement compelling us, as it does, to take over some nonpaying railway lines in South Australia and to construct others. It is wrong, from every point of view, to burden the Terri tory in this way. We must not forget that the people who go there will have to bear the burden later on. Some honorable members think that we should annex the Territory, and govern it without assuming any duty. We must discharge the duties of the National Parliament, but some honorable members do not seem to realize what we are doing in proposing to take over 560,000 square miles of country, and to govern- it. Look where we will, we find the process of devolution going on wherever there is any centralization, such as. is proposed in this case. The people of Scotland, at the present time, are asking for a local Parliament ; and we should not be right in taking over the Territory and proposing to make money out of it for the. rest of the Commonwealth. If it is rich country we should induce people to settle there, and hand it over to them to govern for themselves as soon as there is a sufficient population. The better they govern it, and the larger the settlement, the, better for the Commonwealth. Surely honorable members are not prepared to make a bad bargain merely because of -the foolish idea that the country is in danger of invasion. -If we accept this agreement as it stands, we shall certainly make a bargain which will reflect on our great National party, which has done so well during the last twenty years, and has magnificent opportunities of doing better. If we lose sight of those opportunities, and foolishly and unthinkingly accept a financial burden of this kind, our act will sadly reflect on our party for all time. That is why I am opposed to the agreement. If I were not greatly concerned about it, I should not oppose this proposition, as I do, and have been doing, for some time.
– The trouble is that the honorable member is. not careful in his promises when on the hustings. He promised that the railway should be carried into Queensland.
– I made no such promise, and if the honorable member knew me better, he would know that I would not stoop to such paltry tactics in order to secure my return to Parliament. I was defeated three times before .1 secured a seat in Parliament, and I have suffered defeat once since then. In every case, my defeat was due to the fact that my political opinions were in advance of the times. If I were not convinced that the acceptance of this agreement must mean a huge blunder, I would not oppose it, as I am doing, to the evident annoyance of honorable members, who make interjections of the contemptible character of that addressed to me a few moments ago. The Sydney Bulletin has made a great deal of capital out of this matter, and one of my constituents asked me at a meeting that I addressed whether I was opposed to the direct line because I wishedto obtain a few capitalistic votes. I replied that I did not know what route should be selected, that there was not sufficient information for our guidance, and that the statements about the Northern Territory were extremely contradictory. I pointed out that while some people said that it was an El Dorado, others declared that it was unfit for settlement ; while some declared there was magnificent land in the Territory, others said that the soil was of the poorest quality. That being so, I said I did not know what course the railway should follow, and I was not going to pledge myself to any particular route. I was in favour of taking over the Territory, but not in favour of binding the Commonwealth Parliament to any particular line. I can produce reports of speeches in whichI made that statement when before the electors. The Labour platform, upon which I have always stood contains nothing that will compel us to build such a railway line. I hope honorable members will give attention to the serious nature of the bargain proposed, and allow us tomake necessary amendments in it.
MrCARR (Macquarie) [4.26].- As a supporter of litemeasure, I wish to protest against the long, dismal indictment put forwardby the honorable member for Capri- cornia. The Northern Territory is essentially Australia’s burden. If it were a Sahara, upon which nothing could live, we might advantageously abandon it ; but, whatever may be said of it, it is not that. It is capable of sustaining considerable human life - if not white, at least Asiatic - and hence the greater danger of leaving it in its present state. A good deal of capital has been made out of the assertion that South Austialia desires to dispose of the Territory at the expense of the whole of Australia, hut it seems only reasonable that, when one section of Australia has borne the cost of keeping so large an area white–
– This agreement provides that she shall get back every penny that she ever spent on it.
– That is all right, but when one section of Australia has strained her self - whether by spending money or by mortgaging her securities is immaterial - to bear this burden and keep the place clean for the whole of Australia, it is only fair that the whole of Australia should come in and relieve her. It must be remembered that this is not a proposal for absolute relief to South Australia, because she must still bear her share of Australia’s burden. She stands in with the Commonwealth, and, whatever it costs the Commonwealth to maintain and develop the Territory, it will cost South Australia pro rata. Those are the principal reasons why I support the measure. The route the line is to follow may be open to question, if we consider the matter of running it through the most fertile country, but that again is not the essential feature. The main thing to be considered is a direct route - quick and speedy communication, that will bring the place as near as possible to the inhabited portions of Australia. In this connexion, what is required is a railway system rather than a mere railway line. It will behove each of the States to link up its railway system with the transcontinental line, and it will pay the Commonwealth to assist the States to do so better than to detour the line through certain States. All the States have to be considered, and we shall not improve the position of New South Wales by running the line into Queensland any more than if we run it direct. It will have to come to Oodnadatta anyhow, whichever route is chosen further north. It is purely a Queensland argument that the line should detour into Queensland. If we made itdo so, we should sacrifice considerable distance, and add materially to the cost.
– I submit, as a point of order, that the honorable member is not correct in saying that it is a Queensland argument that the line should go into Queensland-, in view of the fact that no one has yet suggested such a course.
– The honorable member’s statement involves no point of order.
– Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia are not affected by the way the line runs. Obviously, the Western Australian connexion with it must occur at or near Port Augusta, and New South Wales must connect somewhere near Oodnadatta. The position is not affected except in the case of Queensland. I do not charge honorable members from that State with being biased in that way, but simply point out the fact that Queensland is the only State that will be affected by a deviation of the route. The fact stands;. but whether it is influencing honorable members they know best themselves. It is of no use for us to attempt to settle the Northern Territory unless we supply speedy railway communication. I make that the first consideration. The country is worth developing ; and it is, therefore, very important to bring it, by modern engineering devices, as near to the centres of civilization as can be. I also have it from private authorities in the Northern Territory that if a move is not made by the Commonwealth at an early date, an attempt will be made to induce the Imperial authorities to make the Territory a Crown Colony. We know what that is.
– They could not do it.
– I have not gone into the question ; but if South Australia is prepared to do it, and the local agitation is strong enough, I have no doubt that means will be found for doing it. However, I mention the matter merely as ah indication of the unrest existing in the Territory, and the unfair conditions imposed by the present situation on those who are expected to develop it. They feel the position keenly, and would welcome any change ; but would prefer that the Commonwealth should take it over. It is our duty to see that that is done.
– As an opponent of the agreement, I object to the long dismal future in store lor this Parliament if it has to administer the Northern Territory. The agreement reminds me very much of the old log-rolling days, when the back-scratching fraternity were in evidence, except that, for cool cheek, this proposition beats anything that I ever heard of in my life. We are asked to confine our railway policy in this connexion to a sandy desert. I am not so much concerned about what effect this will have on the Labour party, but the one thing that will tend to develop any country is a vigorous railway policy, and ‘that policy should be left to those best capable of judging where and how it should be carried out. We are asked by this agreement to tie ourselves down to a non-paying proposition. This has been proved by figures that have been supplied to honorable members over and over again ; and the most optimistic writers have been asked to describe the Territory for our edification or deception, as the case may be. After painting the Territory in the most rosy hues, they cast quite a gloom over the matter as a business proposition. As such, it will not stand investigation. It is right that the people of Australia should know exactly what they are called upon to subscribe to under the agreement. The financial position under it has been dealt with under four headings. The first is the indebtedness of the Northern Territory to South Australia, amounting to £2,725,761. Even this would not appear to be a definite amount, because the memorandum states -
In connexion with the dates of maturity it should be noted that the loans for the Northern Territory have seldom been floated separately. Usually loans have been raised for South Australia proper and Northern Territory together, thus it is not possible to say always that particular parcels, of stock or bonds relate only to the Northern Territory. In the redemption of the loans there must be an understanding between the Commonwealth and State.
It Appears, therefore, that no definite arrangement has been arrived at, and that after we have taken over the Territory we shall have, to begin to negotiate or arbitrate as to what the amount of the indebtedness of the Territory to South Australia proper really is, and what amount the Commonwealth will have to undertake. Under the second heading, there is the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway ; the loans outstanding for which amounted, on the 30th June, 1908, to £2,242,342. It is also proposed to build from Pine Creek, to join the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway, about 1,063 miles of line, at an estimated cost of £4,500,000 - what I venture to call a considerable under-estimate of the actual cost. It is shown that an annual loss of £393,633 is contemplated. These items bring up the total estimated outlay, or responsibility to be taken over by the Commonwealth, to over £10,000,000. In my second-reading speech, I estimated that the cost would run in the near future to £14,000,000; and I think that that is quite an under-estimate. 1 appeal to the Committee not to treat the matter in a light-hearted, flippant way, but to consider the enormous responsibilities that the Commonwealth is taking over. They should not look at it from a State or parochial point of view ; but the one thing to which I object in the whole agreement is that the Commonwealth should be asked to tie itself down to a definite line of railway which may soon be proved to be altogether undesirable and unremunerative. I feel very strongly on this point ; and, as the South Australian Government appear to be. anxious to review the matter, the best thing we can do is to amend the Bill, in order to give the South Australian Parliament an opportunity of reconsidering the offer. If the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Brisbane were accepted; with a slight alteration, I should be prepared to vote for the acceptance of the agreement ; but, without some such assurance, I feel compelled, in the interests of Australia, to vote against the clause now before the Committee.
.- Last session I was a very strong supporter of the Bill, and nothing has happened since to cause me to alter my views regarding it. It is notable that the agreement which it ratifies was made by one Government, and has since been adopted in its entirety by two others, the Administrations leading three political parties having recommended the particular measure to Parliament.
– Yet it has failed to pass.
– It. was got through this House last year, and the less said about its fate in the Senate then the better. It has gone through the other Chamber this year. I hope it will now become law very won.
– As it stands.
– Yes. It is not necessary to repeat what has been said about the advisability of the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth ; the criticism of the Bill has turned on the agreement relative to the route of the proposed railway. We have been told that the region through which the line will pass is desolate and of little use. One of the most interesting reports on Central Australia is that published by Professor Baldwin Spencer, in the Age, in October, 1905. In it he says -
Central Australia and the Northern Territory, except that part df it which borders the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Carpentaria, is commonly regarded as desert country, more or less useless, and not only uninhabited, but uninhabitable. This is very far indeed from being the case. A small part of it, such as the region which centres in Lake Amadeus, and extends to the eastern borders of Western Australia, is certainly true desert, but there are, on the other hand, vast areas, including the Finke Basin, the MacDonnell Ranges, and practically all of the central country north of these to Port Darwin and the Gulf of Carpentaria, which are anything but desert.
He adds -
In regard to climate, though of course it is very hot during the summer months (OctoberApril), there is no difficulty whatever in working all the year round, that is from Oodnadatta northwards to Daly Waters, eastwards of the centre to Queensland and westwards towards Western Australia. From March to September it is simply perfect. The days are warm and bright, and the brilliant sunshine, tempered over the lower steppes by a strong south-east breeze, is most exhilarating. The nights are cold and bracing. The summer months are decidedly warm, but the air, except during the very short period when the ruins fall, is so dry that the heat does not in the- least affect the average healthy white man. I should doubt if, anywhere in Australia, there is a stronger, healthier, and hardier people than those who are scattered over the great central area of the continent.
This is his conclusion -
I know of no more delightful climate than that of the MacDonnell Ranges during the. greater part of the year, and more especially during the winter months, when it is perfect, and there isno part of the year during which, taking ordinary precautions, a white man cannot work ia any part of the great steppe lands of the interior of Australia.
Governor Kintore, in the memorable report of a trip undoubtedly made at the instigation of the Colonial Office to support the proposal to create a Crown Colony in the north, which he published without consulting his Ministers, in 1891, said -
The extreme southern portion of the Northern Territory, comprising the MacDonnell Ranges, must, however, be retained for South Australia. My visit to that portion of the country led me to share the hopes that are universally entertained, that the exploitation of that district will handsomely repay South Australia for the money expended on it.
Speaking of the MacDonnell Ranges, Mr. Alan Davidson, the leader of the Central Australian Exploration Syndicate, in the report which he published in 1905, said -
The country is there and the gold is there, and it remains for others to improve on the prospects obtained. . . The one essential feature necessary for the development of the interior, and the opening of payable goldfields is cheaper communication. This can only be accomplished by continuing the transcontinental railway across the continent. An extension from Oodnadatta to the MacDonnell Ranges and the Arltunga gold-field would very materially assist in opening the interior and making other portions more accessible. The possibilities this country contains certainly warrant a great endeavour (even at a sacrifice for a time) being made to create a central mining population. . . . No effort or expenditure should deter those in authority from constructing a line.
It is significant that Professor Baldwin Spencer says nothing about extending the Pine Creek line into Queensland. He says -
As far as Alice Springs, that is, right across the southern steppes and through the central ranges, the route is already surveyed. Shifting sand, in certain parts, and broad river courses, liable at rare intervals to carry immense bodies of water and flood-wrack, including trunks of the large gum trees which border the streams, would have to be provided against) but there are no serious engineering difficulties except possibly that of carrying the line over the Central Ranges. Beyond this again, all is easy. I think, however, that it would be a. mistake, unless there are serious engineering or other difficulties in the way, ±0 follow the present telegraph line along its course north of the MacDonnell Ranges. If the railway .line, once safely across the’ MacDonnell Ranges, were deflected to the east, it might cut through the eastern side of the Murchison Range, .with its future gold-field, and- then, trending again to the east, it could tap the Downs country, from which it could run in a north-westerly direction to Pine Creek, the present southern terminus of the line from Fort Darwin.
He tells us that at the present time the cost of carrying material of any kind in the interior of Australia is prohibitive; he and Mr. Gillen paying £35 a ton for the transport of their stores.’ He says nothing about taking the line east from Oodnadatta, his opinion being that it should go north from there to the MacDonnell Ranges, then east to the Murchison Range, then further east to the Downs country, and then back towards Pine Creek. The Territory can be developed only by a railway going as nearly as possible through the middle of it. If the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland extend their railways to their western borders, it will be the duty of the Commonwealth to connect the transcontinental line with them. In August last there was published in the Age a letter from Mr. Wm. Taylor, of Cresswell Downs, in the Northern Territory, not far from Camooweal, in which the writer says -
Should the railway ever be built from Oodnadatta - South Australia’s northern-most railway point - to Pine Creek, it would touch the western boundary of these Downs, and a railway run from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal [to connect with Queensland) would run right through the centre of the Barklay table-lands. There Would be no more engineering difficulties than there’ arc between Hughenden and Cloncurry. Say a branch were then run from the main trunk line (Oodnadatta to Pine Creek) from cither Newcastle Waters or the Katherine River to either Wyndham or Derby, in Western Australia, all this fine pastoral, mineral, and agricultural country would bc made available. I have seen most of the articles in the papers advocating different routes for railways, but I have spent thirty years in this country, and I do not think any one knows it better as a whole than I do. The three lines I have suggested would open all the country, would be the least expensive to build, and would, I firmly believe, be the best for the future of Australia, and that is what I suppose most of us have at heart.
Last year we were told on the authority of engineers, who did not hesitate to put their names to their reports, that the Port
Augusta to Oodnadatta line was in a wretched condition, and practically worthless, statements which have been repeated this year. But I was one of twenty members who, twelve months ago, travelled over it, and were surprised at the condition in which we found it. With us was Mr. Lovat Fraser, a special correspondent of the London Times, who, in an interview, said of the line -
So far as the railway to Oodnadatta is concerned, it is quite clear that the statements made in the Federal Parliament about the line not being in good order are utterly unwarranted. I have travelled over many railways in many countries, and have never known a smoother or easier running line than that from Quorn to Oodnadatta. We travelled up to 45- miles an hour, which is considerable speed for a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, and the train ran as smoothly and well as it would on the best permanent way in the world. . After what I had heard I was absolutely astonished.
His statements would be indorsed by all who made the trip. The running of the train in which we travelled was the smoothest that I have known. During two days we had our meals aboard under conditions infinitely more comfortable than those under which one dines in either the Adelaide or the Sydney express.
– How can that be,, seeing that one line has a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and the two others a 5-ft. 2-in gauge? Such a statement is contrary to the world’s experience.
– We all commented on the fact. We had a particularly rough trip over to Adelaide, the oscillation was very great, and we had no hesitation in favorably comparing the running on the Oodnadatta line. As to the terms of the agreement, I am not prepared to regard it from a bargain point of view. Whether South Australia was actuated by patriotism, vanity, or greed when she took over the Territory and assumed the responsibility ,. she performed a great work, and placed the rest of the Commonwealth under an obligation. Had she not taken that action, the Northern Territory would have become a Crown Colony, and would, probably, ‘ have passed into the hands of chartered companies.” That was undoubtedly the object of Governor Kintore’s visit in 1891 because he strongly recommended that th, Territory, from the MacDonnell Ranges northward, should be taken from the control of South Australia, and he emphasized the opinion that it would be impossible to develop the country by means of white labour. Had the Northern Territory passed into the hands of chartered companies and been developed by coloured labour, our dream of a White Australia would have vanished, unless we were prepared to buy out the whole of the created vested interests- an expenditure which, I am satisfied, would have proved as great as the present cost of taking over the Territory. From an entirely Australian point of view I consider it is our duty to take over the Territory. I am not prepared to delay any longer ; and, if we propose any amendment in the agreement and refer it to South Australia for further consideration, there must be further delay. If we wish to take over the Territory we must take it over now with all its burdens, and with the provision with regard to the railway. Strictly speaking, we should be entitled to make the railway where we choose, and practically we can do so under the agreement, though I am satisfied that we cannot carry the line into Queensland, or New South Wales. In the interests of Australia as a whole, I am prepared to adopt the agreement as it stands, convinced that in doing this we shall be doing good work for the future of the Commonwealth.
– I expressed my views very fully on this question last session, and I should not have taken part in the debate now, but for some statements made in regard to the interpretation of the agreement. I have no wish to add anything to what the honorable member for Ballarat said in respect to the way in which the agreement was made, except that it was on instructions given direct- from that honorable member’s Department to the Crown Solicitor, and that it did not come in the usual way through the Department of the Attorney-General. As the . honorable member for Ballarat has said, that agreement was signed immediately after the draft had been completed. In regard to the interpretation, however, I protest against the view continually expressed that the Commonwealth is absolutely bound to construct this line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta on the definite route as it appears on the map. That is an absolutely incorrect view.
Mi. W. H. Irvine. - The honorable member does not suggest that the line may be taken outside the Territory?
– No, I do not; but it has been said over and over again, and only this afternoon, that by this agreement we are tying ourselves down to a definite line of railway. Paragraph b. provides that we must construct, or cause to be constructed, a railway from Port Darwin southward to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper, while paragraph d provides that we shall construct, or cause to be constructed, as part of a transcontinental railway, a line from a point on the Port Augusta railway, and connect it with the other part of the transcontinental railway at a point on the northern boundary. So long as the railway is within the Territory, we may take it where we like from Port Darwin to any other point on the Port Augusta railway line - in regard to this the Parliament is left absolutely free. The line may run right over to the Western Australian border, or, on the other hand, to the Queensland border.
– Is that the honorable member’s definition of “southward”?
– Yes; and, further, I say that that was the intention of the agreement, and that that is the proper interpretation. I agree that the railway must be within the Territory ; and if the Minister of External Affairs is of opinion that it can be taken into Queensland, the logical action would be to amend the Bill so as to make that perfectly clear to the people ; otherwise there is bound to be misconstruction and difficulty. I protest against the suggestion that the line shown on the map is the only line that can be constructed. As I said last year, I believe that, when the Territory is taken- over, the first railway to be constructed will be one from Port Darwin southward to the Barklay Tableland, connecting with the Queensland system. As to the Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta line, that, I think, should be connected as soon as possible in the interests of Australia; but the two lines ought not to be placed in competition in this discussion. If the Northern Territory line is constructed it should be as a developmental line; and- our first step, when the Territory is taken over, should be the formation of a sound railway policy, directed to those portions of the Territory which are likely, in the first instance, to be the best adapted for closer settlement. Such a policy, of course, can only be framed after careful inquiry by specially-appointed persons. If, however, we take the information at present supplied by those who are thoroughly conversant with the Territory, the line should undoubtedly run through that vast area known as the Barklay Tableland, which we are told, by a recent authority, is the finest watered country in Australia, and the healthiest for sheep and stock. The first extension that takes place of the Pine Creek railway will open up country more fertile than any traversed by that line at present.
– Are not the honorable member’s suggestions against the South Australian view?
– I do not know. to which South Australian view the honorable member is referring.
– The view that the railway ought to be constructed, as shown on the map, from Pine Creek to Port Augusta, and as indicated by the Minister.
– I do not know what the Minister has said, but my view is that the first railway to be constructed should be towards the Barklay Tableland.
– That is south-east, not southwards.
– Such a line would be in the Northern Territory, and would connect directly with the Queensland system at Cloncurry. It is quite clear that, under the agreement, there is no specified time when the railway shall be constructed. The express intention was to leave the matter open so that the Commonwealth could develop a railway policy best suited to the needs of the country. It was- not intended that the railway should be constructed immediately.
– Is there anything on record to that effect?
– The agreement itself is on record.
– It must be within a reasonable time.
– There are no such words in the agreement.
– But is a reasonable time not meant?
– The agreement means that, ultimately, this line shall be constructed, and, naturally, the Commonwealth will administer the Territory as any ordinary prudent business man would. We shall build railways with a view to development, and to making the burden on Australia as light as possible, with the ultimate object of white settlement as soon al possible. Governor Le Hunte, of South Australia, visited the Territory, and, in a report presented in 1905, he said -
If, us I have said before, Port Darwin becomes a place of strategical importance it will be absolutely necessary to connect it by rail with the South.’ I believe that, to’ use the commonphrase applied to the subject in the North, “ it is bound to come,” and that the present generation will see a transcontinental railway system from Adelaide to Port Darwin, linked with Western Australia on its one side and Queensland on the other.
Not only the Northern Territory, but Australia, will not be adequately defended until there is a railway from Port Darwin towards Western Australia, on the one hand, and towards Queensland on the other. We are rather neglecting, I think, that immense vacant space in the north of Western Australia - regarding it as practically non-existent - but, so far as we can judge, it is just as important as any other part of the country. However, we are dealing with one problem at a time. In my opinion, too much emphasis is laid on this one line of railway, whereas we ought to keep in view the fact that the Northern Territory will never be adequately developed until there is a complete railway system. For instance, there is bound to be a railway into the rich Victoria River country sooner or later. Mr. Brown, who recently visited the place, has described that part of the Territory as rich basaltic country with volcanic deposits, and he says the soil is similar in character lo that of Darling Downs, and some of the best parts of New South Wales and Victoria. If that be so, the sooner we have possession of the Territory the better. 1 shall not detain the Committee further, but I felt that it was necessary to point out that there is nothing to prevent the proposed transcontinental line being connected with the Queensland railway system. Having regard to the natural development of trade on the opening up of the Territory, obviously the first connexion that will be made will be with the Queensland railway system. Queensland at the present time is developing her own railway policy, including a transcontinental system, which will open up the whole of her western territory, and must ultimately be linked up with the Northern Territory line. If those lines are constructed, I am sure we shall have no regrets for our action in taking over this Territory. I have always held that in its present state it is a menace to Australia, and that we should take it over as quickly as we can. The Territory can be effectively defended by the opening up of its lands, and the settlement upon them of a prosperous agricultural and pastoral community. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that this will mean a. considerable expenditure. It will mean a comprehensive railway system, a system of water conservation, land legislation more liberal than any we have yet known, the establishment of experimental farms in different parts of the Territory, a big stream of immigrants who must be assisted by State and other advances to get on the land, and the appointment of a large body of agricultural experts to teach them how to obtain from it the best possible results. It will mean, further, cool storage agencies, and other undertakings essential to agricultural and pastoral development. It will also be necessary to pass measures giving every encouragement to the opening up of its mineral resources. All this can be done only with the assistance of expert advisers, and it is necessary that the Commonwealth should take steps at an early date to equip itself with the most competent expert advisers that it can obtain. This is a problem that must be worked out, not on party lines, but with due regard to the proper development of national resources. The question rises superior to all party considerations. It is the one big pressing national consideration that we have to face, and, if during this session we pass this Bill, take over the Territory, and lay the foundations of its wise development, we shall deserve well of the people.
– After the dreary, weary waitings of the honorable member for Capricornia, it is refreshing to listen to speeches like those just made by the honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Gippsland. I can speak with some freedom on this question, since I am opposed to the agreement and the Bill now before us.
– The honorable member has a curious way of showing his opposition to the Bill.
– The honorable member would not say that if he had ascertained the facts, and his speech would not have been half as curious as it was if he had been sure of the information on which he relied. When I entered this Parliament, towards the end of last session, this Bill was before the House, and the agreement had been accepted by the Parliament of South Australia without an open protest on the part of the people of that State. In the circumstances, therefore, I had reluctantly to give my assent to it. Since then, how ever, I have never missed an opportunity to oppose this Bill oh every platform from which I have spoken in South Australia, That is my position to-day. But whilst I am opposed to the Bill, I cannot listen without a protest to outrageous statements such as have been made during the second-reading and Committee stages. Listening to some honorable members, one would imagine that the Territory was a dry and barren waste, subject to an almost perpetual drought, whereas it is not.
– I did not say that it was.
– The honorable member has made many other ridiculous statements, although he has not committed himself to an assertion of that kind. As a matter of fact, there are only 6,300 square miles in the Northern Territory with a rainfall of under 10 inches, as against 135,600 square miles in Queensland, 408,300 in Western Australia, and’ 81,444in New South Wales. The area under an extremely low rainfall in the Northern Territory is far less than that in at least four of the six States of the Commonwealth. A good deal has been said as to the failure of South Australia to satisfactorily develop the Territory, but those who know anything of the history of that State will admit that there are very good reasons for its failure to do more than it has done in this direction. Taking everything into consideration, I question whether Queensland has done better in developing interior country. If South Australia, in promoting closer settlement in the Northern Territory, thirty or forty years ago had adopted the policy followed by Queensland in the development of her sugar industry - at a time when a landgrant railway for the Northern Territory was lost by only one vote in the State Parliament - there would have been a very different tale to tell to-day. We should have had in the Northern Territory a very considerable population. Its present condition is due to the fact that South Australia has followed the policy of keeping the Northern Territory white not for her own sake, but for the sake of a White Australia, and has so placed the whole Commonwealth under an obligation to her. As to the arrested development of the Territory during the last ten years, honorable members know that in pursuance of that policy, followed by a determination to secure the development of the country by a land-grant railway, the alienation of land . has been stopped during that period, and -only annual permits have been granted. What capitalist would spend his money in developing’ large areas in the Northern Territory on an annual permit? Such a thing is out of the question. About ‘five or six years ago, South Australia invited applications throughout the world for the construction of a railway on the land-grant principle. The conditions involved the protection of the interests of the f future producers of the Territory, and the people of South Australia were made a party to the compact. It was declared that the railway should not be constructed by coloured labour, and that union rates of wages and conditions of labour should be observed, whilst the future earnings of the railway in. respect of freights were bound down to the charges then prevailing in the State. Notwithstanding all these conditions, an offer was made to construct the line, and a deposit was lodged in one of the local banks to the credit of the South Australian Government. From time to time, Influences operating against ‘ the settlement and development of the Northern Territory have all been in a direction that should be appreciated by the Commonwealth Parliament. I wish now to refer to the question of route. Having regard to the. history of South Australia’s control of. the Northern Territory, it is quite reasonable that one of the conditions stipulated by the State should be that the railway north and south shall become an accomplished fact. Under this agreement, however, we are offered infinitely more liberal and generous terms. If I had the settlement of this question, the Commonwealth would not have the offer of the country except upon its undertaking to complete the direct railway on the plan projected by South Australia. I should stipulate that there should be a direct railway north and south so far as the reports pf the engineers showed that to be possible, and that it should not leave the Territory proper. Thirty years ago or more, South Australia undertook the development of the Territory by the construction of a through railway, and a start was made at Palmerston, at the one end, and Port Augusta at the other.
– And why did South Australia balk when the railway reached Hergott Springs?
– I am not prepared to say that the Port “Augusta rail- “ :way, before it reached Hergott Springs, or Farina, at all events, was conceived as a
Northern Territory line; but its continuation to Oodnadatta was undertaken with the express purpose of developing the Territory by the construction of a through line. Is it reasonable to suppose that the South Australian Government would have carried that railway as fax as Oodnadatta, a relatively dry pastoral country, if it had not intended that the scheme should be completed, and that the completed scheme should be a linking up of sea and sea and the development of the Territory proper ? The honorable member for Maranoa wishes to know why the South Australian Government balked, and did not carry the Port Augusta line further than “Oodnadatta.
– Not further than Oodnadatta, but further than Hergott Springs. Why did the South Australian Government balk when they got to Hergott Springs, and run it away down to Oodnadatta?
– Simply for the purpose of the development of the Northern Territory.
– It was not to catch the trade of Queensland ?
– No. The earlier conception of the South Australian Government was to divert from Farina or Hergott, or between the two points, eastward through the Cooper’s Creek country to get to Birdsville, tap the Queensland country, and serve the trade of that part, which at that time belonged to, and enriched, Port Augusta. Port Augusta practically controlled the whole of the trade of south-west Queensland at the time.
– That was the natural port.
– It was, and South Australia enjoyed the trade of that country. Then came the Northern Territory interests, and it was the dominance of them over the consideration of tapping that portion of Queensland that determined the future of the railway in the direction of Oodnadatta, instead of in the direction of Birdsville. Then there was another balking at Oodnadatta, because when the State reached that point it came upon bad times, as all Australia did. Not only in South Australia, but all over the Commonwealth, the developmental policy of railway building was arrested.
– Did not the South Australians strike a bad patch there?
– I shall tell the honorable member ‘about that bad patch shortly. All the States had to stop railway construction at the time. When the time came when we could reasonably expect to resume railway construction in that direction, the land-grant question arose, and then came the question of reserving the country and leasing no more of it until the Commonwealth Parliament had considered whether it should become Commonwealth Territory. That, also, arrested development. I ask honorable members, whatever State they come from, and whichever side of the House they sit on, to take into consideration what South Australia did at the time, when she was only a mere handful of people, not only in continuing the construction of the railway line, but in pluckily undertaking the construction of the overland telegraph line in the interests of Australia as a whole. Do not honorable members think that South Australia has put the Commonwealth under a considerable debt to her?
– The honorable member should address his conversation to the honorable member for Capricornia.
– I am afraid he needs it. I ‘fear he is pledged right up to the hilt to the people in the eastern country to send the line across the border if he can. Perhaps he was too wise to say it, but if he did not say it he meant it. The opponents of the Bill say, “ We are prepared to give back to South Australia every penny of her outlay in capital and interest up to date.” It should be remembered that South Australia had a project, which was dear to the heart of every true South Australian, to construct a through railway. The prize for South Australia is not in the northern portion of the Northern Territory proper, but in the MacDonnell Ranges. My personal view is that South Australia should retain the temperate zone up to, and including, the MacDonnell Ranges, build the railway to it herself, give the northern portion to the Commonwealth, and, say, as a condition that the northern portion must then be linked up by a railway. However, under an agreement made by the then Government, South Australia has offered to surrender all the Territory to the Commonwealth, and with it the. railway from Port Augusta, including the wharfs, so that the Commonwealth shall have through communication from sea to sea. Is it not reasonable that South Australia should insist on the through direct railway, in order that she may secure the development of the MacDonnell Ranges, in which there are 80,000,000 acres with a rainfall of from 10 to 22 inches? The honorable member for Gippsland quoted Professor Baldwin Spencer as saying “that for the greater part of the year it was a delightful place to live in. I say it is one of the finest climates on earth for every month of the year.
– Is the honorable member for or against the agreement?
– I am against South Australia giving that country away, but I want to enlighten the Honorable member’s dark mind. I wish to get him out of his narrow parochial groove, and induce him to remember that there is some other place in Australia than the little spot, from which he comes. I commend the honorable member for Darling Downs for the straightforward and statesmanlike deliverance which he made last year, when a member of the Government, and which he has repeated to-day. He, however, put his finger on the weak spot, which makes me an opponent, rather than a supporter, of the Bill, and that is that no time is specified when the railway shall go right through to link up with some point on the northern railway system of South Australia. That is my biggest objection to it. Surely, in the name of conscience, there is enough latitude and elasticity in the agreement when it ‘ allows the Commonwealth to deviate for about 500 miles east or west without getting out of the Territory? The honorable member for Darling Downs shows a tinge of parochial feeling, although he put’s it very cleverly, when, speaking from a “ national “ point of view, he says that “ national “ considerations would lead the Commonwealth to take the line right down to link tip with Cloncurry, and that then the statesmanlike, national idea would be to develop the country, and come away down into South Australia “ when the cows come home.”
– A very good idea.
– It is .an idea that does not appeal to me. I want to put another consideration from South Australia’s point of view. If this Parliament passes the Bill, and ratifies the agreement, there is one great reason why the line should be taken right down from the north to the south. In the first place, it would only be an act of common justice fulfilling the Commonwealth’s obligation to South Australia for what South Australia has done in the interests of the Commonwealth in the past. Another tangible reason which ought to appeal even to the most selfish of honorable members is that the agreement -takes over the wharfs at Port Augusta, and 400 odd miles of railway to Oodnadatta, built at very big cost, and showing a loss of about £80,000 a year, which must continue until- the line is taken into the MacDonnell Range country. If the railway is taken over by the Commonwealth - and I am informed that the numbers are up - the Commonwealth cannot in its own financial interests leave the Oodnadatta railway where it is any more than it can leave the Pine Creek end where it is. It is an unproductive concern, showing a loss every year, but if we get into the MacDonnell Range country it will be a profit yielding concern, every year.
– Profit yielding to South Australia only; not to the Commonwealth.
– Profitable to both. If the loss of £80,000 a year is wiped out, and a profit is shown, it will be a benefit to the Commonwealth, and an indirect benefit to South Australia, because the development of the MacDonnell Range country must have its outlet at Port Augusta. The suggested .deviation into Queensland, and thence to Birdsville, and from Birdsville to Hergott, is an absolutely impossible proposition from an engineering point of view. Although South Australia, thirty-five years ago, contemplated that route, the engineers state to-day that there are only two routes that could be taken, one over impossible sand hills, and the other over equally impossible watercourses like the Cooper, Diamantina, and other rivers, which are sometimes 60 miles wide. The only reasonable route is the direct route, and honorable members should accept the agreement in the spirit in which it was made. I sincerely hope that South Australia will not be left in the lurch by the Commonwealth getting legal power and control over the country, and then forgetting all the implied obligations of it. My dismal friend, the honorable member for Capricornia, was very much troubled about the action of the South Australian Legislative Council in passing a Bill to repeal the agreement with the Commonwealth, and thought it was simply a piece of bluff. The honorable member does not know the conditions obtaining there. There was no bluff about it. I am not justifying the action of the Council, but they would have been perfectly justified in, as was first proposed, passing a resolution calling upon the Government to withdraw the agreement with the Com monwealth. ‘What prompted the mover of the resolution to introduce a Bill instead of a motion in the Council was that a motion had been on the notice-paper in the House of Assembly for weeks. It was not party business, because three members of the Labour party were supporters of it, but the Government, for reasons best known to themselves, had refused to give the Assembly an opportunity of taking a vote on it. The Government are in touch with thd Government of the Commonwealth, ‘and want them to get a final decision in this Parliament before there, is a possibility of an adverse vote in the South Australian Assembly.
– The action of the Legislative Council was simply bluff.
– I will tell the honorable member what sort of bluff it is. It is bluff on the part of men who want to undertake this business themselves, and who, if it were a failure, would have to stand the major portion of the loss through the taxation they would have to pay. If the honorable member would only inform his mind a little better, and enlarge his soul, remembering that there is scope for enterprise outside the borders of that country where he has obtained such a narrow, cramped conception of the future of Australia, he would not talk so much about this occurrence in South Australia being legislative bluff. I lived in the north for thirty years, and during that time came into constant contact with those who know the Territory from end to end. My feeling is that South Australia will lose prestige if she transfers the Territory to the Commonwealth without the stipulation that the transcontinental line must be made within a reasonable time. Unless that line is made, she will, instead of being in the first rank among the States, occupy a place in the second rank.
– - The fervent remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield make those who are supporting the transfer of the Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth look like bloodthirsty bulldogs worrying an inoffensive Skye terrier, in order to filch from it a much desired bone. I have never understood why the State is so ready to part with land which, according to her representatives, is so fertile in resources, and so full of promise, that it offers an unbounded field for enterprise. We have been told that the present railway to Oodnadatta only needs to be extended to the MacDonnell Ranges, or the Barklay Tableland,, to earn an immense profit. Yet South Australia has not borrowed the money which she could get on this- excellent security to make the extension. I do .not doubt the belief of the honorable member for Wakefield in the statements which he made, but they cannot carry conviction to honorable members generally. In spite .of the alleged capabilities of the Territory, it is to-day unpopulated, undeveloped, and without railway communication, while heavy annual loss is resulting from the neglect of these things. The State representatives who speak so highly of the country overreach themselves when they paint its riches in such, glowing colours. People are never anxious to part with their most valuable and cherished possessions. According to the most favorable official reports, the Commonwealth will saddle ‘itself with a tremendous financial burden if it ratifies the agreement. .Our burdens are already very heavy, and we are committed more or less definitely to still heavier expenditure in the future, while, on ‘ account of the Territory, we are asked to expend over ,£10,000,000 at least, without allowing a farthing for developmental work,
– That is the very lowest estimate.
– A statement, prepared by the honorable member for Darling Downs, when Minister of External Affairs, shows that the agreement commits us absolutely to the expenditure which I have mentioned, and a further expenditure for developmental work of at least twice as much is well within a reasonable estimate. Ministers have, perhaps unintentionally, misled the Committee by stating that the agreement does not bind us to construct the transcontinental railway within the Northem Territory ; but the honorable member for Darling Downs, who had charge of the Bill when introduced last session, and is favorable to the ratification of the agree-‘ ment, ‘ has pointed out that the Commonwealth: will ‘not he able to take the transcontinental line, outside the present boundaries of the Territory. I am not opposed to the transfer’ of the Territory to the Commonwealth on just and equitable terms, but I object to its transfer under conditions which are atrociously unfair and which will manacle, arid fetter us, so that we shall be unable to move,’ except as desired by
South Australia. It may be that, should the Commonwealth take over the Territory without being bound in respect to the route of the proposed transcontinental line, investigations would show that, an extension from Pine ‘Creek to Oodnadatta would be the . best line to carry out, but the agree- ment compels us to construct that line whether its construction is, or is not, in the best interests of Australia, and when, so far as is known at present, it is certain to prove a very heavy financial loss.
– South Australia would not advocate the construction of the line if she did not consider it in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– As a representative of the State the honorable member cannot be regarded as an unprejudiced advocate. According to the memorandum of the honorable member for Darling Downs, the line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta would be 1,063 miles long, or, if taken to the east of Lake Eyre, and still kept within South Australian territory, 1,350 miles long, and the cost about ,£4,500,000, or probably nearly £5,000,000. The memorandum states-
During the first year or two after the completion of the Railway, the annual expenditure would be approximately : -
Roughly speaking, that means £400,000 annually. Then -
If a sinking fund is provided of 1 per cent., to begin five years after the’ date of the loan for the new railway, it would amount to an additional charge of £45,000.
In addition to the foregoing, the expense of settling the Northern Territory during the first ten years has to be considered, but, after that time, it is hoped that, with the improved means of transit and the opening up and settlement of the country, the consequent increase of revenue would make the whole transaction a reproductive enterprise.
If the South Australian Government always held those opinions, why did they not borrow the money, and carry out this work, which they say will make the railway re- ‘ productive? Year after year, however, they went on. piling up a deficit on the cost of the construction of the present line to
Oodnadatta, which is, admittedly, the point at which it should not have terminated.
– They could not do the work all at once.
– But they had opportunities, extending over a number of years, to do it by degrees, and the damning fact against the agreement is that, during all those years, no attempt was made to carry that line one single mile further towards those alleged great fertile lands. The report goes on to say -
The capital invested by the Commonwealth in connexion with the Northern Territory would be-
That liability has also to be taken over under the agreement, in addition to the present Pine Creek to Port Darwin line -
It will be seen, I think, that I was quite right in saying that the initial cost to the Commonwealth will be over ^10,000,000 - without allowing anything a.t all for developmental work.
The foregoing figures do not include the compensation due to South Australia in respect of the overland telegraph, which will be chargeable as “ transferred property “ under Section 85 of the Constitution.
Nor do they include a great number of other things - a fact which is apparently being conveniently lost sight of by a number of honorable members, whose changed attitude in regard to this measure is to me a source of considerable perplexity. Honorable members opposite, who were bitterly opposed at one time to the acceptance of this agreement upon any consideration, are now amongst its warmest advocates.
– Name them 1
– It is not necessary to name them; they are known. There was a time in this House when there was no hope whatever of this Bill going through.
– The honorable member is making deliberate misstatements !
– Honorable members on both sides of the House know that what I say is quite correct.
– It is a deliberate misstatement ; and the honorable member is not “ game “ to stand to it !
– I am “game,” and the honorable member himself was one who, at one time, believed that this agreement would not pass. There were others who expressed the same opinion. But a wonderful change came over some members’ views after the assiduous lobbying of the special envoy of a wealthy South Australian combination, which included some of the largest land-holders in the Territory. We are told that the defence argument is one of the most powerful in favour of the taking over of the Territory. It is said that, while the Territory is in the hands of one State, we are exposed to the dangers of invasion on account of the vast exposed seaboard, and the unoccupied interior - that its present unprotected condition is a menace to the other States. Even if that were a legitimate argument, which I hold, on the authority of military experts, it is not, it would not affect the position one iota ; because the Commonwealth has not the money, and will not have for many years, for any big scheme of settlement or developmental work or for transcontinental railway construction. And the Territory will still remain for many years as it is now. There are sufficient outstanding commitments at the present time to absorb our revenue for years to come; and we have to remember that, with the party now in power, there is to be no borrowing, and all works must be carried out by means of revenue. How are we to raise sufficient revenue from 4,500,000 people to carry on the great work of developing and defending the Northern Territory, especially in view of the fact that we are faced with so many national undertakings of great financial magnitude? As to the defence point of view, it is very doubtful whether any invading force would attempt to take possession of the Northern Territory. Even if the Commonwealth did establish military stations, fortified the whole of the seaboard of the Northern Territory, and settled any considerable portion of the Territory, there would still be left to the alleged danger of invasion that vast seaboard, and much more fertile country represented by the northern half of Western Australia which is still under State control. As a matter of fact, military, experts tell us that the difficulty of transport - the absence of railways and other means of communication with the seaboard - would prove a gigantic obstacle to the landing of a force of any size, and that, indeed, such a landing could never be attempted. The commissariat difficulty would interpose an insuperable obstacle to the transportation of troops through the Territory. If we are to construct a railway for the purposes of defence, it will have to run through the more fertile parts of north Queensland, so as to connect with Townsville, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, and Brisbane, and other Queensland ports.
– Would the honorable member take the line to Sydney?
– There is no necessity. Sydney has no chance of getting any of that trade, for the ports to which I have referred are the natural distributing points for the Northern Territory, and a railway following the route I have outlined would traverse country that would enable it to yield a profit. It would also be advantageous from the point of view of the transportation of troops. The commander of one of the war-ships at Port Darwin, on the occasion of the parliamentary visit of inspection, pointed out, in the course of an after-dinner speech, that a railway for defence purposes must follow and be in touch with the seaboard as closely as possible. Such a line would necessarily pass through the western portion of Queensland.
– Would it run round Cape York?
– Then it would get away from the coast-line.
– Not at all, for there is already communication with Western Queensland by railways from the eastern seaboard via the Townsville, Bundaberg, Brisbane, and Rockhampton lines ; and only a few miles of railway would have to be constructed to connect the main trunk, line with the present terminal points of those seaport railways.
– The terminal points of those lines are further from the proposed route of the transcontinental line than the MacDonnell Ranges are from Palmerston.
– There are no ports in the MacDonnell Ranges, and the proposed direct line, before it could touch the seaboard, would have to join with the Port Augusta line; whereas there are several natural commercial outlets for a line connecting with Port Darwin and running through a portion of Queensland. In that way, the shortest routes to the world’s markets would be obtained, for there are numerous lines of steam-ships touching at ports on the Queensland coast. If the produce of the Northern Territory is to be carried to Port Augusta for shipment, it will have to cover thousands of additional miles of coast -line before it comes in touch with the ordinary commercial trade routes. Another point to be remembered is that the steamship facilities existing at Port Augusta are not equal to those on the -Queensland side of the continent, where some of the finest steam-ships are constantly calling en route to other countries. We have listened to some glowing accounts of the Territory, and have been told what it will produce, and what is going to be done there in the way of settlement. May I remind honorable members that it is not a new country - that it was known to the Spaniards, the Portuguese, and the Dutch as far back as the sixteenth century ?
– So was the eastern coast of Australia.
– Only occasional visits were made to the eastern coast.
– And, therefore, according to the honorable member, New South Wales is no good.
– That does not follow. New South Wales was a terra incognita, except so far as the coast-line itself was concerned. On the other hand, the Northern Territory, for some distance inland, was well known to the Spaniards, the Portuguese, and the Dutch, as far back as the sixteenth century ; and, although there is a population of millions in the Straits Settlements, they have never sought to avail themselves of it. If the Northern Territory were the magnificent country it is said to be, why did they not settle on it? 1 have to remember that other States will have to pay the piper, and the State of New South Wales will have to bear the heaviest cost of this mad agreement.
– South Australia will have to pay her proportion of the cost of developing the Territory.
– But her contribution will not be anything like as large as that of the State of which I am a representative. I should not object so strongly if there were any justification for the proposed expenditure, or something ahead to look to. When we are told that, the Territory comprises magnificent country capable of sustaining an enormous population, we cannot help wondering why the Malays and the Dutch, with their overcrowded settlements only a few days’ sailing from our coast, have npt attempted to migrate to the Territory. The fact that they have not done so shows that the land is not what some honorable members would have us believe. When we look at the official returns, we find that the population, instead of increasing, is declining. I propose to direct attention to a few items showing that the Territory has been steadily declining ; numbers of people, after investing thousands of pounds there, have left it. It has been gradually falling behind. Settlement has fallen away, and even the Chinese, who will remain in a district as long as there is a possibility of eking out an existence, are being forced to desert the northern portion of the Territory. I refer to the country in the neighbourhood of Port Darwin. I know that that does not represent the whole of the Territory, but I am told that, for a distance of several hundreds of miles, the land is very similar to that around Port Darwin. You know, Mr. Chairman, for you were one of the party, the remarkable fairy stories local residents used to tell us of the producing capabilities of the soil. We were told that it would grow anything, from the products of the temperate to those of the torrid zone. If we asked, “ Can you grow apples here? “ we were told, “Yes, the finest in the world.” Then if we asked, “ Can you grow pineapples?” we received the reply, “ Yes, the finest that can be produced anywhere.” According to the stories we were told, apples, pineapples, oranges, bananas, sugar, and sisal hemp could all be grown side by side in the neighbourhood of Port Darwin.
– Then it is a wonderful place.
– Is it any wonder that we were surprised at these statements? If the soil is so good, how was it that we could not obtain at Port Darwin a native-grown apple, pineapple, or fresh vegetables? We could not obtain either milk, butter, or fruit that had not been imported.
– We had all of those products, and they had been locally produced.
– Yes, a -few things on the fringe of the little space occupied by the Botanical Gardens only, where there is just a small pocket of good soil, with a spring at hand. I looked in vain for a potato or a cabbage patch, an apple or an orange tree, in the grounds of the hotel at which some of us stayed. I was told that the hotel had been in the possession of the one family for twenty-five years, yet they had not succeeded in growing a cabbage or a potato.
– Such things are not usually grown in connexion with hotels.
– Not in cities where the land is not available ; but, since land must be obtainable at very low prices, one might have reasonably expected to see those products growing there. Land cannot be very expensive in such a place, and certainly there was a sufficient area of spare ground round the hotel to grow enough vegetables to supply the town, but everything of that kind that was required was imported.
– What is the reason of that?
– The stuff cannot be grown. The trouble is that the soil will not retain the moisture. Copious rains fall for about four months in the year, and then there is a drought for eight months. In some parts a sort of coarse cane grass springs up after the heavy downpours, but about a month after the rainy season has ended the moisture seems to run away from the roots, and the grass, which runs up to 8 or 10 feet in height, is unable to sustain its own weight. It dies and falls over, and I take it that where that grass will not grow nothing else will grow. I believe for a time a couple of cows were kept at the Residency, but the cost of feeding them was prohibitive, and the luxury had to be dispensed with. In the neighbourhood of Port Darwin there is one little fertile pocket of soil. This has been turned into the botanical gardens, and there they can grow pretty well anything under special conditions of nurture and supervision. They can cultivate sisal hemp, cotton, and other products there under special conditions, because they have a well from which they can keep pumping up the water and so secure plenty of irrigation. Visitors are shown samples taken from that little place as evidence of what can be produced in the Northern Territory, but, of course, they are no fair indication of what can be produced commercially under normal conditions of cultivation, because those special conditions do not prevail all over the Territory. I propose, later on, to move, as an amendment, to insert after the word “ agreement,” in the first line, the words “ subject to the amendment or excision, of the mandatory clauses regarding the taking over of existing railways or the construction of transcontinental lines.”
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 -p.m.
.- When I spoke on this question before I indicated that I was against the railway “part of the agreement, which means more than appears on the face of it. The estimated cost of the 1,063 miles °* railway which is to be built from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta is put down as £4>5°0>000That is about £4,223 a mile. It is unfair to the Commonwealth to put forward an estimate in that form, seeing that the Palmerston-Pine Creek line, 147 miles in length, cost about ,£1,000,000, or between .£7,000 and £8,000 per mile. Moreover, that line was built by alien labour, and is near the coast; there was no expensive carriage for material, and light rails, weighing only 41 lbs. to the yard, were used. Yet the estimate for a line that is to be continued through the heart of Australia in dry country is only £4*223 per mile. From Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, 4.79 miles cost about ,£5,000 per mile, yet we expect to build this line between the two, with from 500 to 800 miles extra carriage on the material, for less per mile than the two ends were built for. That is a monstrous estimate. Averaging the cost of the two ends gives £6,000 per mile, and 1,063 miles of line at that rate would cost £6,378,000, or £1,878,000 above the estimate put forward in the official memorandum, with rails at only 41 lbs. to the yard. We shall require 80-lb. rails, heavier sleepers, and a broader gauge.
– The mail trains have been run on 60-lb. rails for the last thirty years.
– Not for a distance of 2,000 miles. It will cost at least ,£1,000 a mile to supply the extra weight of rails and fastenings. In addition to this the material will have to be run hundreds of miles from the coast. Railway men, in my experience, can be got to work within a reasonable distance of the coast at 30 per cent, less money than they will demand in the interior.
– Does the same argument apply to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway ?
– I am not speaking of Tasmania, which knows nothing about this question. We have in Western Australia probably the best railway men in the Commonwealth. They do the work more expeditiously than, perhaps, anywhere else in Australia, because they are paid big money, and expect to do so much work each day. They would not work, as in Tasmania, probably, for about 6s. or 7s. a day. The best men clear out from those places and go to the West. If we try to build railways through the heart of Australia I shall not be at all surprised to see platelayers gett;ng 17s. or 1 8s. a day. That means that these estimates are worth nothing to the Committee. In any case, they are only calculated on 4r-lb. rails.
– The existing line has 50-Ib. steel rails.
– The Pine Creek line was laid down with 41-lb. rails, .and has never been touched since. We have no right to expect that the line through the heart of Australia will be built at any less cost than the Pine Creek line. If we calculate it at £7,000 to the mile,, it will cost ,£7,441,000. To that will have to be added £1,000 a mile for extra heavy rails and fastenings, bringing the cost up to £8,444,000. The cost of additional length and extra weight of sleepers will be another £500,000, bringing the total up to £8,944,000. The construction of this line through the heart of Australia by white labour will cost ,£1,000,000 more than the cost of labour in the construction of the Pine Creek line. This will bring the total cost up to £9,944,000. For earthworks and additional works in connexion with the gauge, which is to be 4 ft. 8j in. instead of 3 ft. 6 in., another £500,000 must be added for such a long line, bringing the total up to £10,444,000. I have not calculated anything for expensive water supplies or anything of that kind, but even then the estimate of £4,500,000 is seen to be £5,944,000 below the mark. Adding that to the estimated cost of taking over the Territory - £10,24^015 - it brings the liability- up to £16,185,015. That is what we have to face. The honorable member for Darling Downs spoke about water supply, experimental farms, settlement, and the usual functions of government being applied to the Territory, so that it means at least £20,000,000 before we have made a start. The honorable member for Barker interjected while the honorable member for Lang was speaking, “ If you build the railway it will settle Hie Territory.” I interjected that I thought it would settle the
Commonwealth, and I think it will just about settle everything in Australia for a long time.
– The honorable member is a poor Australian.
– I am not. I believe Australia is one of the best countries in the world, but it requires proper handling. The proposed transcontinental railway starts out in a direction east of north, and then for 100 miles goes nearly due west. Had the intention been to get to the Northern Territory, a much shorter route could have been followed. I should like to see Australia covered with a network of railways. We could do with 10,000 miles of lines; in fact, railways are as necessary for our internal commerce as are steam-ship lines on the ocean for our external trade; without them nothing can be brought to market. The proposed transcontinental line, however, follows a very strange route. Starting at Port Augusta at sea-level, it passes through places where the stations are 12 feet below sea-level, and it is proposed to take it, before reaching the northern coast, over mountains from 3,000 to 4,000 feet high. Such a line will do nothing to develop the Northern Territory, because it will not pay to send produce over it. Money could be much better expended in making short lines inland from points on the northern coastline. The honorable member for Wakefield proved that the country which would be traversed by the proposed line is not good for much, because he spoke of the rainfall over millions of acres of it being only from 10 to 20 inches, which would be less than the daily evaporation.
– These remarks would apply to the Western Australian railway.
– That line goes through a temperate belt compared with Central Australia. It will take two or three years for surveyors to ascertain what districts are worth opening up, and it is through such districts that we should take railways. I am not opposed to the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, but I object to South Australia dictating to the rest of Australia terms which are unfair. Under the agreement the Commonwealth binds itself, not only to be responsible for the interest on the money already expended in connexion with the Northern Territory, but to find£10,000,000 for railways. I hope that the Committee will amend the agreement. If the agreement is not amended, I shall vote against its ratification.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
All estates and interests, held by any person from the State of South Australia within the Northern Territory at the time of the acceptance, shall continue to be held from the Commonwealth on the same terms and conditions as they were held from the State’.
– I move -
That the following words be added - “ Provided that the Commonwealth may impose such taxes, land and other, as may be necessary for the peace, order, and good government of the Territory.”
Unless there is an arnendment giving the Commonwealth perfect liberty to impose such taxes as may be deemed necessary, we shall be unable to make the holders of the 69,000,000 acres of the Territory contribute anything towards the heavy expenses of development. I am surprised that those who drew up the agreement did not make some provision to protect the Commonwealth. If this clause means anything, we shall not be able to tax the lessees in any way, because it will be held that we. are interfering with the rights they enjoyed at the time the agreement was made. In the case of public servants transferred from the States, we have seen cases of men enjoying rights, privileges, and salaries far superior to those held by other public servants in other Departments and from other States. Inasmuch as some of these lessees have entered into an agreement with the South Australian Government to lease lands for periods as long as forty-two years, and at rentals as low as1s. per square mile, an amendment of the kind I have proposed is necessary.
– We are tired of the honorable member’s fooling around over this measure for a week !
– I ask that the honorable member be called upon to withdraw that opprobrious expression.
– If that be the wish of the honorable member, I shall call upon the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw the expression.
– I withdraw it.
– I have been accused of “ fooling around,” but I can say that I have never been accused of being an “ ecclesiastical political weathercock,” as was the honorable member for Wakefield by the President of the Methodist Conference. However, if honorable members carry their minds back to another measure in which it was proposed that we should tax Crown lessees__
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing another Bill.
– Then, with great respect, I must disagree with your ruling.
– The honorable member knows what course to pursue if he disagrees with my ruling.
– Then I beg to disagree with your ruling that I am out of order in discussing the taxation of Crown lessees on an amendment of clause 10 of this Bill.
– When the honorable member was speaking he referred to a discussion which took place on the Land Tax Assessment Bill, and I pointed out that he was not in order in referring to that measure. Thereupon the honorable member disagreed with my ruling that he was out of order ‘ ‘ in discussing the taxation of Crown lessees on an amendment of clause 10.” That was not what I ruled; what I ruled was that the honorable member could not discuss what had previously been discussed under the taxation proposals of another Bill.
– In that case I beg to withdraw my disagreement with your ruling. I never mentioned the Land Tax Assessment Bill, but merely said that honorable members would remember the discussion of another measure. I did not say where that discussion took place, and it might have occurred in Timbuctoo. I am not referring to any measure before this Chamber; at least I shall not do so if I did so before. If this clause is not amended we shall not be able to deal with the Crown lessees in the Northern Territory.
– If the honorable member had the common-sense of a child he would know what the position was without wasting the time of the Committee !
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh refers with scorn to my endeavours to elicit information. Unlike the honorable member, I do not pretend to know everything; and it is curious that, when he and the honorable member for Wakefield know so much, they did not succeed in administering the Northern Territory without loss. I do not see that there can be any objection to the amendment, because the moment we expend money in the construction of a railway line the value of the lands of the lessees must be enhanced, possibly to the extent of 3d. per acre per annum.
– I hope the honorable member will not persist in what is a. wholly unnecessary amendment. The Commonwealth will have absolute powers of taxation ; and, at any rate, the question of taxation does not arise under this clause, which refers solely to the tenure of the lands held from the State of South Australia. The clause simply provides that the lands are to be held on the same terms and conditions from the Commonwealth as they are from the State. Those lands are liable to taxation now if the State chose to impose taxation on Crown lessees; and all the lights of the State come over to the Commonwealth.
– We have decided not to tax Crown lessees.
– We have decided nothing whatever in regard to Crown lessees of the Northern Territory under the Commonwealth, or in regard to tenants of the Commonwealth, but only in regard to the tenants of States. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government in regard to its own lessees is quite unknown, because the question has never been considered from a practical point of view.
– Does not clause 7 protect the Commonwealth in this respect?
– Yes ; whatever powers the State of South Australia has in the Northern Territory are transferred to the Commonwealth as laid down more specifically in the schedule which embodies the agreement. The amendment would’ not strengthen the position of the Commonwealth in any degree.
– I am afraid that the reply of the Minister does not meet the case. This House has already decided that Crown lessees shall not be taxed.
– That State Crown lessees shall not be taxed
– If the honorable gentleman will look at ‘the law governing States and territories in the United States of America, he will find that if we were to tax Crown lessees within the Territory after we had taken it over, we should throw ourselves open to a charge of differentiating as between a State and part of a State. Grave complications have arisen in the United States in connexion with the government of State and Federal Territory. I take it that our Courts would hold that a territory held under a Federal Constitution such a ours would be akin to territory held under the Constitution of the United States of America. Precedents very largely govern the decisions of our Courts.
– If that is so, then nothing that we could insert in this clause would alter the position.
– The policy of the Minister seems to be that we should hurriedly accept this agreement, although he tells us that the question now before us has never been considered by the Government. All that the honorable member for Capricornia asks is that there should be no doubt in respect of this matter. It is not right that we should have to go cap in hand to the South Australian Government for permission to do anything. The Minister says that the conditions prevailing in South Australia would govern this contract.
My contention is that the moment we take over the Territory, we should have complete power to deal with all its lands, without regard to any agreement that has been made between the Government of South Australia and its tenants.
– Clause 7 gives us the power.
– I hold that it does not. The moment an honorable member attempts to bring the Committee to a common-sense view of the matter, he is met with all sorts of objections, and with the cry of, “Let the Bill go.” We shall not treat the Territory, or the people of Australia, fairly if we pass, without question, what the Minister admits has not yet been considered.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– When an honorable member attempts to insert a provision stating in plain English what our intention is, all sorts of objections are raised. There are 103,000,000 acres in the Territory held under lease. Some areas are leased for the full term of forty-two years, at a rental of 6d. per square mide.
– Can South Australia tax those leases?
– The question is not what South Australia can do, but what the Commonwealth can and ought to do. If South Australia has made certain conditions with these lessees, and we take over the leases without stating in plain English what our intention is, complications are sure to arise.
– Why obstruct?
– When I ask honorable members to take a business-like view of this question, I am met with the reply, “ Do not obstruct.” Those who speak in that way would not risk” a penny of their own money under such an agreement as that which _ they ask us to accept. The only objection that the Minister has raised to the amendment is that it is unnecessary. He does not say that it is an improper provision to make. He does not say that the Commonwealth should have power to tax these enormous areas leased at 6d. per square mile-
– I say that we should ; and that we have, and that nothing that we may insert in this clause will alter the position.
– Why not express our intention in the Bill itself? Those who fear that we are hurriedly rushing into an undertaking that will cost the Commonwealth a good deal in the future, simply ask that we shall follow a common-sense course, and take care that complications do not arise because of the absence of a necessary provision from this Bill. The Government of the Commonwealth will be guided by this measure, and not by the procedure adopted by the Government of South Australia, with all its blunders and costly mistakes in administering the Territory. The Commonwealth will have to start anew in the development of the Territory, and should take care not to be hampered by conditions that exist between South Australia and its Crown tenants. If this amendment be rejected it will probably be said hereafter that the proposition was Pui before us, and that we refused to do our manifest duty.
– The honorable member for Franklin is under a misapprehension as to what this clause involves. Clause 7 refers to the general laws under which the Territory is governed, and declares that they shall remain in force until repealed by the Commonwealth Parliament. ‘ The clause under discussion simply refers to estates and interests in the Territory held at the present time under agreements containing certain covenants, and provides that the Commonwealth shall take the place of the State Government in carrying out those covenants.
.- I think that this clause was designed not so much to limit the power of the Commonwealth as to protect the interests of persons holding estates under lease from the South Australian Government. It is sometimes found necessary to vary the conditions under which estates are held. It has often been found advisable in Queensland to make the conditions less oppressive by granting a longer tenure and so forth.
– We can do that.
– I do not think we can.
– Yes, we can. In order to remove the matter beyond doubt, I move -
That the following proviso be added : - “ Provided that the Commonwealth may in the interests of persons holding estates within the Territory grant concessions if considered advisable.”
– I do not know exactly what new powers the amendment is designed to confer. I take it that the clause almost, if not wholly, removes from the Commonwealth any power of taxation over lands held under lease in the Territory at the time of transfer. I have here a list showing that certain persons hold leases haying a currency of forty-two years, and that the rentals are merely nominal. If all rights under those leases are to be maintained inviolate as they existed at the time of the acceptance of this agreement and the transfer of the Territory, I doubt very much whether we shall not thus be committed to an abrogation of any right that we may hold under the Constitution to tax these lands.
– Clause 7 gives us all the power.
– But clause 10 takes away the power therein conferred. It provides that all estates and interests held at the time of acceptance shall continue to be held from the Commonwealth “ on the same terms and conditions “ as they were held from the State. We have no information as to what those terms and conditions are. But whatever they are we have to take them as they stand and may not vary them. Under the previous Government the practice was to furnish memoranda explanatory of the general provisions of Bills of this kind, and showing how certain clauses would operate. I am sorry to say that practice, has not been adopted by the Minister in this case, and, consequently, members all round the Committee are at a great disadvantage in considering the various clauses. A return was laid on the table of the House in regard to lands held by the members of the Railways and’ Northern Territory League. Some of these persons hold tremendous areas, and are very anxious that the Commonwealth should construct these railways. For instance, the Hon. John Lewis holds 2,164 square miles under forty-two years’ lease, and ‘is interested in 500 square miles under permit.
– Last week he voted for the repeal of the agreement.
– We cannot take any notice of that sort of thing. It was a very safe bluff, in any case, seeing that the passage of the Bill was known to be assured. He was a member of the council of the Northern Territory League, the wealthy combination to which I have already referred. That body sent a man to Melbourne who spent weeks and weeks in this building, lobbying members in their interests. Then there was Mr. Gordon Buchanan, another big land-holder, and a member of the Railways and Northern Territory League. He has 3,12 square miles under lease, and 864 square miles under permit. Cowan’s trustees hold 5,035 square miles under lease, and 200 square miles under permit ; they, too, were represented on the league. Mr. R. E. Warburton, also a member of this patriotic league, holds 930 square miles under lease. All these people were anxious that the Commonwealth should take over the Territory and spend millions of pounds in railway construction. And there is no room for doubt that the transcontinental railway embodied as an irrevocable part of the agreement would immensely benefit the areas held by these gentlemen.
– The honorable member is quite wrong; they are all against it.
– When they know they have the numbers in this House, and that the Bill will be carried, some of them make a pretence of wanting South Australia to retain the Territory ; but that does not deceive anybody on the other side any more than on this.
– Perhaps they were bluffing previously.
– I do not think they would have spent a large sum of money to send a man over here to “button-hole” members in this House, and change the opinions and votes of several members for the purpose of getting the measure through, if they had been only bluffing. Under this clause are we to surrender our powers of control over the leased lands for the next forty-two years? Are we to tie up the power of the Commonwealth in that way, so that whatever authority we may have to legislate in respect of other lands, the lands of these favoured individuals will be exempt from our legislative powers? We have already had a declaration from the Government that they are not going to tax Crown leases. If that is the case, we shall have our hands absolutely tied with regard to these immense holdings, some of which are almost large enough in themselves to form separate States. We ought to have fuller information on the question. I shall certainly not vote for the clause as it stands, without an amendment to safeguard the right of the Commonwealth to take absolute control and jurisdiction over these lands, irrespective of the terms that may have applied under the State laws when the leases were made. The leases were granted at a time when it might, perhaps, have been thought advisable to adopt almost any means in order to get some one into the Territory. The eyes of the country having been picked out, and practically the only areas suitable for occupation and development being in the possession of these lessees, the Commonwealth should not be left at their mercy when it. desires to develop the Territory.
.- It is quite amusing to hear members of the Opposition. We have defeated one amendment, and now we have another, which proposes to limit the powers of the Commonwealth only to giving greater concessions to those wicked men about whom we have just heard from the honorable member for Lang. That honorable member has denounced gentlemen who are looking forward to the development of the Territory, and deserve credit for pushing the matter along and asking that the Commonwealth should take it over. We do not denounce a progress committee in any settlement for looking after the interests and well-being of the place. If they appeal for increased railway and telegraphic facilities, we give them credit for doing their duty. Why, then, should we denounce those who hold leases in the Northern Territory for looking forward to the development of the country by the Commonwealth? It cannot be said that they are actuated entirely by self-interest ; but the honorable member for Lang apparently thinks they are prompted by unworthy motives, although he has been reminded that some of them have voted against the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. I do not agree that the action of the South Australian Legislative Council was a piece of bluff. I think it was quite genuine. An amendment to limit the Commonwealth Parliament to granting concessions to the leaseholders is an extraordinary proposition. It means giving them better terms than they are getting now. I do not think so much of the rentals paid for the opening up of new country. It is quite possible that if we paid men 6d., or even 2s. 6d., a square mile for developing the country, it might be a cheap thing to do ; but we ought not to limit ourselves to giving concessions. The clause is clear enough if common sense is applied to it. Whatever conditions were made by South Australia will apply under the Commonwealth. The existing conditions include control and power to tax by the South Australian Government, and those powers are to be transferred to the Commonwealth.
Amendment (by Mr. Elliot Johnson) proposed -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that no limitation shall be imposed on the right of the Parliament to alter the conditions of tenure from time to time as may be deemed expedient in the interests of the Commonwealth.”
– The amendment would make absolute nonsense of the clause. The clause would direct that all estates and interests held from the State should be held on the same terms from the Commonwealth, and then the amendment would go on to say that they should not be held on the same terms.
.- In the memorandum circulated by the honorable member for Darling Downs, the causes for the failure of the brainy South Australians to properly govern the Territory are set out. Among them is the following : - “ Too large leases for lessees to comply with the stocking conditions.” Another cause was the insufficient capital of lessees, who were too frequently the nominees of banks and mortgage companies, which charge high rates of interest. According to the memorandum, the only condition imposed on these lessees is the payment of rent, and under the clause they will retain all their present rights, so that we shall not have power to terminate their leases. Elsewhere in Australia Crown leases contain conditions regarding improvements, which are apparently wanting in this case. It would be a calamity if the Commonwealth could not terminate these leases.
– All the leases are subject to resumption.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 -
The Government Resident of the Northern Territory, and all officers in the Public Service of the State of South Australia whose salaries are paid out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament of that State for the service of the Northern Territory, shall, by virtue of this Act, be transferred to the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
– I move -
That the words “ shall, by virtue of this Act,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ may.”
The clause provides for the transference to the Public Service of the Commonwealth of all officers of the Public Service of South Australia whose salaries are paid out of moneys appropriated to the service of the Territory.
– How many are there?
– Not very many. Of course, all who are suitable will be taken into the Commonwealth service, but we do not wish to be compelled to take them all, whether suitable or unsuitable. Sub-clause 2 of clause 12 provides that section 84 of the Constitution shall be deemed to apply to every officer transferred by this Act as if he were an officer of a transferred Department retained in the service of the Commonwealth. The proposed amendment will make this clause correspond with the provision in the Northern Territory Surrender Act, which states that -
On the acceptance of such surrender by the Commonwealth, the Government Resident and all other officers and persons in the Public Service of the State of South Australia, whose salaries or other remuneration are provided for on the Estimates of Expenditure for the Northern Territory for the year 1907-8, may be transferred by and as from a date prescribed by proclamation to the service of the Commonwealth, and on such transfer shall cease to be officers in the Public Service of the State of South Australia.
.- I do not think that it would matter if the clause were left as it stands, so long as it is intended to take over these officers temporarily. The South Australian Act provides that they may be taken over, and that such as are not taken over are to be compensated by the State for their period of State service. Officers taken over are to be given the full compensation that, upon retirement, would be paid under the South” Australian law, to be apportioned accord.ing to service between the State and the Commonwealth. Although this clause says that the officers are to be taken over, they are to be taken over subject to the provisions of the measure, and clause 12 makes the provisions of section 84 of the Constitution apply to them. In my opinion, the drafting is all right. I am partly responsible for both measures, and see no reason for using the word “ may.” No harm will be done if the officers are taken over temporarily.
– They will be taken oyer temporarily, but we do not wish to give them an absolute right to service under the Commonwealth.
– I do not think that that would be given. Section 84 of the Constitution says that any officer who is not retained, unless he is appointed to some other office, shall be entitled to receive his pension or gratuity, words which imply the power to dismiss, even were that not inherent, as I believe it to be under the decisions in Bond v. The Commonwealth and Cousins v. The Commonwealth. How is the transference to be carried out by proclamation ?
– There will be a machinery Bill which will provide for that.
– There must be a Bill to provide a Constitution for the Territory, but the moment that the Territory is transferred, such officers as we want must come with it. Until a Bill to provide a Constitution has been passed, the Territory will be administered under the South Australian laws. It may be some years before we give it a Constitution as in the case of Papua.
– In dealing with it, we shall want much the same powers as we have in regard to other Federal territory.
– It seems to me that if the officers are taken over we should say that they are to be taken over on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Clause 13 agreed to. .
Clause 14 -
The Commonwealth, in consideration of the surrender of the Northern Territory and property of the State of South Australia therein, and the grant of the. rights in the Agreement mentioned to acquire and to construct railways in South Australia proper, shall -
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway with a railway from a point on the Port Augusta Railway to connect therewith is hereinafter referred to as The Transcontinental Railway).
.- I should like the Minister to explain the following provision -
Provided that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Agreement, the Commonwealth shall, if the Governor of the State of South Australia so requires, in lieu of being responsible for the indebtedness of the State in respect of that portion of the overland telegraph line which is in the Northern Territory, compensate the State of South Australia for that portion of the line in accordance with section eighty-five of the Constitution.
.- The overland telegraph line cost, I think, about £620,000, and in 1898 an arrangement, for bookkeeping purposes, was come to between the State Government and the Northern Territory Department, under which certain debts were taken over from the Territory, and made part of the South Australian public debt. Of that sum £363,000 was in connexion with the telegraph, but, as matter of fact; it is debited to South Australia, and, therefore, will not be part of the obligation or debt of the Territory we have to pay as part of the consideration for the Territory. We may either pay the debt in relation to the telegraph, or we may pay the value of the asset under the provision of the Constitution in regard to transferred departments; practically either amounts to the same thing ; but we get over the possibility of South Australia losing £363,000 owing to the debt not being debited to the Northern Territory. This provision is all right, because the telegraph is in the Territory, and’ we are really paying for it in one of the two modes I have indicated.
.- I thank the honorable member for his explanation, and I think I was right the other clay when I said he had something to do with this measure, although that idea was scouted at the time.
– That was not in reference to the matter now before us.
– I cannot understand why this was not included in the total indebtedness as shown in the memorandum issued by the honorable member for Darling Downs.
– Why should it be included? It has nothing to do with the agreement or with the taking over of the Territory.
– It has to be paid by the Commonwealth, to whom?
– To South Australia, but for a transferred property, the same as a post-office.
– This overland telegraph line, as the honorable member knows, is a white elephant.
– That is not so.
– In a report we read -
The overland telegraph line has never been regarded as an undertaking of the Northern Territory, and, therefore, the figures relating to the line have been excluded from all statements showing the financial position of the Northern Territory.
This was a move on the part of the clever South Australians, who were again trying to grab; and, as I say this line, which they built, has proved a white elephant.
– It has not.
– It paid very well.
– That statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh is on a par with other statements he makes. According to the report from which I have already quoted, there was a surplus in 1901 of £7,672, but in the five following years there were deficiencies of £1,830, £11, 444, £9,719, £5,888, and £3,463 respectively.
– Yes, ever since the establishment of the Pacific Cable.
– And the honorable member has not sufficient sense to know that !
– Why did the honorable member for Hindmarsh deceive the Committee by saying that the line paid ? That is throwing dust in our eyes by means of deceitful misstatements.
– The honorable member is not in order in using that language.
– Then I shall describe what the honorable member says as gross inaccuracy. I know that the Pacific Cable is a competing line ; but South Australia was grabbing when this line was built. The Government of the State was in agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, which is the most gigantic cable monopoly which ever existed, and it has been fighting the Pacific Cable all through. I am glad of this opportunity to expose the tactics of South Australians, whoare apparently willing to say anything.
– The Overland Telegraph line paid before the Pacific Cable was constructed - before Federation.
– Am I to be allowed to proceed ?
– Will the honorable member speak the truth?
– I ask that that expression be withdrawn.
– Will the honorable member for Hindmarsh withdraw the expression?
– I withdraw it.
.- As the clause is a long one, I move -
That the sub-clauses be considered seriatim.
– This is a most unusual motion. I point out that every sub-clause arises again in the schedule, so that there will be every opportunity for discussion and amendment.
– I shall not take the responsibility of deciding whether or not the sub-clauses shall be considered seriatim, but will put the motion proposed to the Committee.
– - Itake it that the honorable member for Brisbane does not desire to move an amendment, but merely to make a suggestion, for the convenience of the Committee, that we take the sub-clauses seriatim, a practice that has been followed previously under similar circumstances.
.- We have adopted the practice, when there has been a unanimous opinion, that it would suit the convenience of honorable members ; but, under the circumstances, as the Chairman does not feel disposed to take the responsibility of deciding the point, I hope honorable members will vote against the proposal.
– At any rate, honorable members cannot be prevented from amending each sub-clause !
– The honorable member may move to amend every line if he thinks he can succeed. For five days we have listened to honorable members, and we are now nearly physically exhausted; they are still adopting methods which will reflect on them, and for which they will be sorry. They are occupying the time of the Committee without any real reason, and other honorable members are justified in refusing to submit any longer to such tactics. I suggest that we might take a test vote on the first subclause, and then allow the clause to go. The minds of all present are made up, and no amount of discussion can change the vote. It would be reasonable to conserve the time of the session that is left by taking a test vote.
– It is evident that the only purpose to be served by the honorable member’s suggestion would be the prevention of fair, legitimate discussion of the sub-clauses. It has been the practice to deal seriatim with the sub-clauses of a lengthy or complicated clause.
– There is nothing to prevent the honorable member moving an amendment of any ‘of these sub-clauses.
– Perhaps is would be well not to press the motion, because if we deal with the clause as a whole it will be open to us to discuss any part -of it ; whereas if we take each sub-clause separately the discussion will be confined to the particular sub-clause under consideration.
– I do not know to whom the honorable member for Adelaide alluded when he spoke of the methods adopted in dealing with this Bill.
– He referred to the honorable member for one.
– If he did, then I repudiate his suggestion, and return it to him with scorn.
– I was not referring to the honorable member; I think he has been very fair.
– 1 have. I spoke to the motion for the second reading, and have spoken only once in Committee. I have submitted this morion, believing that its adoption will facilitate discussion. There .are several sub-clauses which we might be willing to accept, but there are others in respect of which I must strongly express my dissent. We have to deal not only with the building of the transcontinental railway, but with the far more serious question of taking over a railway within a State, and building_ railway lines within State territory. It would expedite the consideration of the whole clause if we were permitted to deal seriatim with each sub-clause.
– On a point of order, I submit, Mr. Chairman, that you are following a most unusual course in putting this motion to the Committee. It is the first time in my parliamentary experience that such a procedure has been followed. I think there is a Standing Order providing that the sub-clauses of a clause shall be put separately whenever desired.
– The Standing Orders provide that the House may order a complicated question to be divided.
– That course has always been followed without the submission of a motion. A decision is always arrived at by the Chairman putting the proposal to the Committee, and receiving an affirmative or negative’ reply.
– I would point out, Mr. Chairman, that the standing order to which you have referred relates to proceedings not in Committee, but’ in the House.
– The proceedings in the House always govern the proceedings in Committee unless otherwise provided for.
.- I move -
That paragraph b be amended by leaving out all the words after the word “ constructed “ and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ such railway lines within the Territory as may be necessary for the development and settlement of the Territory.”
I hope that the position is not as bad as the honorable member for Adelaide would lead us to ‘ believe, when he states that honorable members have so completely made up their minds that there is no possibility of passing an amendment, and that we might as well take a vote, and go home. Such a statement has been made very often in regard to many matters that have come before Parliament, and I regret that the honorable member, with his wide parliamentary experience, should have felt it necessary to repeat it.
– But does not the honorable member think that it is a fair thing? The majority of the members of this House have been discussing this Bill at various times during the last few years.
– There is no doubt that in paragraph b we have the particular point of objection to the measure, and in submitting this amendment, I derive some encouragement from the fact that at last one amendment - important, although only verbal - has been made in the Bill, although we were told at the outset that we must accept it without alteration. The honorable member for Gippsland stated that this measure had been brought forward by three different Governments. While that is, I believe, a matter of history, to me it only emphasizes the fact that this is by no means a party measure. In the discussion of this clause, dealing, as it does, with the transcontinental railway, I think we may be allowed to exercise our own individual opinions without reference to the particular Governments that have brought the Bill before the House. I am unfortunate in having to oppose a measure submitted by a Government of which I am a supporter; but the Minister in charge of the Bill has been most generous in recognising the position of honorable members, and I am bound by a distinct promise to my constituents to oppose this agreement.
– And no one is finding fault with the honorable member.
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman would not do so. Despite the statements that have been made by honorable members - and which I have very carefully refrained from using - in regard to the desolate and waterless character of the country, I am not opposed to the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. As I said on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I am heartily and enthusiastically in favour of the transfer. The Committee has decided that it shall be taken over, and I loyally accept that decision.
– When did the Committee do that?
– By accepting clause 5 the Committee practically ratified and approved of the agreement. My objection to the agreement springs, not from any objection to the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, but entirely from the fact that it will commit us to the expenditure of millions - the exact amount cannot be predicted - without any prospect of a reasonable return, particularly in regard to the expenditure on the transcontinental line. I have taken the statements of South Australian officers in regard to the character of the country through which the proposed railway is to travel. I have not expressed a personal opinion in regard to it; but I was interested “ to observe in Hansard the following quotation made by an honorable senator from a speech by a South Australian Minister: -
The Territory has been a weakness to us from the first day, and I believe it never would have been ours but for the foolish anxiety to show that, although a small community, we were capable of big things. From the first it has directly and indirectly added to our national debt, burdened our annual revenue, hindered the development of South Australia proper, and given us no end of trouble. It will be a growing care and increasing loss to us as long as we retain it.
Even if the worst that has been said regarding the character of the country were true, I should still be in favour of taking over the Territory, although I am strongly Opposed to the building of the proposed transcontinental line. If there is one position that I do not wish to occupy, it is that of the prophet who has made a gloomy prophecy and lives to be able to say, “ I told you so.” That, of all positions, is the least enviable; but we have to look at the facts in this case. Over £5,000,000 has already been spent in attempting to develop the Territory. It is heavily loaded with debt, and shows an annual deficit of over £200,000. The clause commits us to build a railway north and south, but my difficulty is not the route that the railway will traverse. I am not concerned whether it is to go directly north and south, or to deviate eastward or westward.
– In the agreement there is nothing to stop the line being linked up with Camooweal before it goes further south.
– Honorable members misunderstand my attitude if they think I am anxious that the railway should approach the Queensland border. That is not my contention. I am not anxious that Queensland should get any benefit from the Northern Territory transcontinental line. A good deal has been said about the attitude of some honorable members because they happen to be Queenslanders, but whether the proposed transcontinental line is built or not, the Queensland railways cannot be prevented from getting the trade from the Northern Territory. The survey is already completed from Cloncurry to Camooweal, and that line, when built, will draw the trade naturally from the Barklay Tablelands, one of the best and most prolific parts of the Northern Territory. Again, a short line from Burketown would tap the country to the north of the Barklay Tablelands and draw the trade from there. There is no immediate intention to build railways westward from Winton, Longreach, Charleville, or Cunnamulla, because there is no trade there to get, nor will there be for a century. There is therefore nothing in the argument that Queensland members want the line to deviate into their State in order to benefit Queensland.
– Is it not a fact that several Queensland members are supporting the Bill as it stands?
– That is so, and proves that the opposition to the Bill is not actuated by State motives. My principal objection to the clause is that the route of the line is not left entirely for the Commonwealth to decide, as it should be.
– It will practically have to be. I see no obligation which requires the Commonwealth to build the railway unless there is some prospect of its paying.
– We must interpret the clause in a reasonable way. The railway must be within the Northern Territory, reasonably follow the north and south route, cross the northern border of South Australia, and link up with the South Australian railway system.
– Whenever it pays the Commonwealth to construct it.
– That interpretation allows such a wide margin that I hesitate to accept it. If, by passing the agreement, we undertake to build the transcontinental line, it must be built within a reasonable time, in fairness to South Australia.
– Perhaps the honorable member does not know that the element of time was deliberately taken out of the agreement.
– I did not know it, but South Australia would not agree to the indefinite postponement of the building of the line. It must be constructed within a reasonable time. I wish to put two new aspects of the case regarding the building of the transcontinental railway line for defence purposes. The line, if built as proposed, would not conduce to effective defence. I am supported in this view by Mr. J, G. Gwynneth, civil engineer, who wrote a pamphlet entitled The North-South Transcontinental Railway, in which he says it is the worst route we could possibly choose, and adds -
For defence purposes the route and gauge render it unworthy of consideration, beyond that it would be a source of danger.
Suppose, for instance, certain circumstances arose necessitating the hasty despatch of troops from all the principal head-quarters of the various Slates to Port Darwin. None could be taken by rail from. Townsville in Queensland. Those going from Rockhampton would require to travel 2,186 miles in a south-east, south, southwest, and north-westerly direction - in fact, all round the coast, which at present occupies eighty hours, actual travelling - before reaching Adelaide, their final point of departure for the north, a further distance of 2,000 miles, occupying a further eighty hours at 25 miles an hour.
– Twenty-five miles ?
– I challenge any honorable member to show where, in any part of the world, trains on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railway travel for long journeys, including stoppages, at more than 25 miles an hour.
Mr.Ozanne. - I have travelled up to 40 miles an hour on the same line.’
– I have travelled at that rate on the Queensland railways, but
I am speaking of the average time for the whole journey. Twenty-five miles an hour is the absolute limit of safety on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. The speed limit is 10 miles an hour in Queensland on the branch lines, which are constructed more lightly than the ordinary main lines, and are meant to act as feeders. A new aspect with regard to the transcontinental line is, that, if built as proposed, instead of being a guarantee of safety in the matter of defence, it would be an absolute hindrance, and a standing invitation to an invader to hit us at that point. Every part of Northern Australia is equally open to invasion, but I can conceive of no more satisfactory arrangement for an invader than for us to provide him with a railway line through the centre of the continent.
– If it is of no use for us, how can it be of any use for him?
– It will be no good to us, because we cannot use it. Before our troops could get round to Port Augusta an invader would establish himself in the heart of the country. I challenge the Government to submit to experts the proposed transcontinental railway line through the undeveloped part of Australia as a strategic scheme for defence purposes. The best guarantee of effective defence lies in linking up the existing railways already connected with the centres of population.
– There is nothing in the agreement to prevent that from being done.
– But who is going to pay for linking up the lines that already connect with the centres of population, with the proposed transcontinental railway line for defence purposes? It means extending the existing lines by 250 or 300 miles, or more, further inland. Is the Commonwealth to compel the States to do that work across country to which they do not want to build lines in the meantime ? There is not an eastern State that wants to extend its railways further westward, particularly at present. Only as settlement pushes out from the coast will they be compelled to do it. The country in the west of New South Wales and Queensland is sparsely settled, and unlikely to be thoroughly settled for many years to come. There is, therefore, very little probability of railway lines being constructed to it at present. So long as there are reasonable areas of land much more suitable for closer settlement available near the coast men will not go out into the interior. This party complains that large areas of land suitable for closer settlement near the coast, or on the railway lines, and near the. markets, are held in large areas out of use, so that men are, unfortunately, pushed out into the interior, where they are handicapped by distance from markets and heavy freights. The defence of the Northern Territory will not be secured by building a railway through the heart of Australia. It will be done much more scientifically and effectually by the settlement of a population round the coast of the Northern Territory,, and by connecting the coastal ports of that country by railways in such a manner that the people will be able to concentrate themselves at any given point to repel an invader. Now that we have decided to take over the Territory, the question of the best means of developing it arises. Unfortunately, the Government seem to be unable to inform die Committee of their intentions in this matter, not even the slightest indication having been given of the manner in which it is proposed to induce immigration, or to attract settlers from other parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Darling Downs said it would be necessary to construct the proposed railway for the development of the Territory. My view is that the Commonwealth should be able to build as many as and whatever railways it may find needful for development. I do not suggest that these railways should be extended into the other States ; and, therefore, against the advice of some of my friends, I have used the words “within the Territory.” My object, is to give the- Commonwealth unlimited powers in the matter of railway construction within the Territory without compelling it to construct a railway along any particular route. The population of Australia is settled chiefly in the coastal districts, the settlement of the interior proceeding gradually as people work back from the coast. The Northern Territory will be settled in the same way. It cannot be settled from the inside. No one thinks that we can put 50,000, 10,000, or even 2,000 people into the heart of Australia, give them railway communication, and expect them to go ahead.
– If a field like the Bullfinch were found there, population would soon follow.
– Yes ; but railways are not built in the hope of finding mining fields ; their construction comes after mining fields have been opened up. The Northern Territory will be developed from the coast. There are many good rivers iu the coastal districts of the Territory. On page 22 of the memorandum, it is stated -
There is no doubt that if no bar exists, this will be one of the finest ports in the gulf district, i.e., the part of the Gulf owned by the South Australian Government, which we can state is certainly the best part (as we have seen all the Queensland portion), and excepting the Batavia River, there is nothing to equal the McArthur in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Then, on page 23, we are told -
Arnheim Land is the northern portion of the Northern Territory. A sandstone tableland, rising to a height of at least 1,200 feet above sea level, lies north and south right across the centre of Arnheim Land. From this tableland flow out rivers to the north, south, east, and west - the South and East Alligators; the Mary River, which was discovered and travelled down by Stuart; the Katherine, the sources of which were discovered by one of Australia’s earliest and bravest explorers, Dr. Leichardt, in 1845 > the Waterhouse and Chambers, which, joining the Roper, help to make that ever-flowing river one of the finest in Australia.
On page 25, it is stated that: -
The Coastal, extending inland for about 100 miles, with a frontage of 1,200 miles to the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Indian Ocean, and intersected by many magnificent rivers, 16 of which are navigable for 50 to 60 miles from the sea.
In addition to the rivers, railways will be necessary to give, communication to the land further back.
– There will be nothing to prevent the Commonwealth from making all the railways that may be necessary.
-The honorable member would have us build the transcontinental line first, and then whatever other railways might be necessary ; but the transcontinental line would cost from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000, and my contention is that if we spend so much money on it, we shall have no money for other lines. Our expenditure should be on lineswhich will pay, and will . develop the country, not on a line which we know not to be wanted, and to have no prospect of paying. How can we raise enough money for a transcontinental line and the coastal lines which are necessary ? Is our population rich enough, or patriotic enough, to be able to provide, say, ,£30,000,000 for railway construction in the Northern Territory, when districts in populous States are to-day crying out for railway communication for which money cannot be ‘found? South Australia, of course, will be in the happy position of being guaranteed from loss on its lines. Some honorable members have gone into hysterics about the proposal to expend a few thousand pounds on the Capital site, on works which are necessary, and yet they are ready to spend from £15,000,000 10 ,£20,000,000 on a railway from which we cannot hope for any return. If we commit the country to this enormous expense, the people must, hereafter, submit to very heavy taxation. The honorable member for Macquarie spoke of the danger of the Northern Territory being made a Crown Colony, and being populated with coloured races, if the Commonwealth refuse to take it over; but the Imperial Government cannot take any part of Australia without repealing the Act which covers our Constitution. The agreement is altogether un-Federal, and so ties the hands of the Commonwealth, that it is difficult to express oneself regarding it in proper parliamentary language. According to the honorable member for Darling Downs - I quote from a speech made when he was Minister of External Affairs -
The establishment of Federation caused the Government of South Australia to look to the Commonwealth to relieve their State of the burden of maintaining the Territory. On 18th April, 1901, the late Sir Frederick Holder, then Premier of South Australia, wrote to the Federal Government intimating that South Australia was prepared to offer the’ Territory to the Federal Government on the Federal Government also assuming the liabilities of the Territory.*
Then, in September, 1902, the following motion was carried in this Chamber -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is advisable that the complete control and jurisdiction over the Northern Territory of South Australia be acquired by the Commonwealth upon just terms.
Is it fair or just that we should adopt a clause like this, committing us to a railway, either now or at any future time, whether we think such a work necessary or not? Of course, we might indefinitely postpone its construction, but that would not be consistent with the dignity off this Parliament, or in consonance with the resolution I have read. It would be much better to say straight out that we will take over the Territory and meet all obligations and claims, but claim the freedom to build railways where, when, and how we chose. That is a more reasonable and just interpretation of an agreement between the two Governments than the “ stand and deliver “ attitude now adopted. This is not a question of obliging South Australia, but of doing what is right in the interests of the people as a whole, lt is rightly said that
South Australia will have to bear its share of the deficit which admittedly will follow the proposed expenditure on a railway line. I was interested by the following paragraph in the Melbourne Herald of the 20th instant, in reference to the dismissal of a warder at Fremantle prison for attending military parade -
At the bottom of the whole business is the paltry spirit of parochialism and jealousy. It is to be found in the attempts, from time to time; of some of the States to “ beat “ the Commonwealth. We have such examples in the wire-netting troubles raised in New South Wales, the Federal Capital Site, the Northern Territory contract, and the cadet railway fares.
The point of my amendment is that the Commonwealth should not be tied to any arrangement in regard to building a line in any particular way at any particular time, but should be free to construct lines when and where we think necessary for the development of the Territory.
– If we_ were beginning the whole business of negotiating for the taking over of the Territory the amendment, in itself, is one to which the honorable member would be quite justified in asking honorable members to agree. That, however, is not the position; an agreement has been made, and one of its important features is that a line shall be constructed linking the Pine Creek railway with some part of the line south of Oodnadatta. That agreement, so far as this Bill is concerned, we have either to accept or reject - the Bill is for the acceptance of an agreement which has been entered into; and it is idle to talk of altering that agreement. Some reference has been made to a slight alteration which I made in the Bill ; but I point out that we are quite justified in altering the Bill where the alteration does not touch the terms of the agreement. The South Australian Parliament has adopted the agreement, and we ask honorable members now to accept its terms, believing that, in the interests of Australia, the Territory should be taken over and developed by somebody with larger powers than those of the State. I do not wish to discuss whether South Australia is making a good or a bad bargain. By a large majority, we have decided to ratify the agreement ; and I ask honorable members to take a division as early as possible. 1 take it that there is no desire to “ stone- wall “ the question, now that honorable members have placed their views on record. As honorable members know, the Government cannot give way in this matter, because to do so would be simply throwing the Bill under the table.
– I have a good deal of sympathy with the amendment; and the only reason I shall not be able to vote for it is that I do not think it is so important as the honorable member appears to imagine. One consideration outweighs all others in my judgment as a reason why the Territory should be taken over at the earliest possible moment ; and that is that we may develop our projects of defence, which as a corollary require- the making of an effort to settle the outlying portions of Australia. But whether that work of settlement be carried on or not, there must be increased means of defence for those outlying portions. The southern part of the continent is safe only as the northern portions are made safe from the invader. I have heard, even in the debate to-night, the idea of invasion pooh-poohed as a silly scare.
– I wish T could feel so !
– I wish I also could feel so. But it would seem that the Asiatic shadow is becoming bigger every day by reason of internal development of the Eastern countries, and the awakening that is taking place, especially so far as regards the integrity of their own nations, and their rights and privileges with reference to the other nations of the world. There is the further fact that the civilized countries are directly interested in the southern seas, and are taking every opportunity to develop their interests there. We all know the relationship of Holland to Java, say, and, therefore, to Australia, on the one hand, and also the relationship of Holland, on the other hand, to that modern progressive nation of Germany. Whichever way we look there are centres, shall I say, of interest growing and multiplying every day; and we shall not be able to treat the question of defence for very much longer in the calm, casual way that we have been able to do for so many years, and which would never have been possible but for our reliance on the Imperial Navy. That is the determining view which makes me so anxious to do something for the development of the Northern Territory. From the point of view of defence, we must, it seems to me, take the shortest possible cut to get our troops and munitions of war as nearly to the boundary lines of the continent as we possibly can, and there is only one way in which that can be done. To talk of taking troops from Queensland and New South Wales, around by Melbourne and Adelaide, to the Northern Territory is so much moonshine; it is deliberately choosing a route of 3,000 or 4,000 miles as against one of 2,000 miles, at most, in the other direction. This points to railway connexion as nearly as possible to the objectives we have in view ; that is to a linking up of the Queensland railways via Camooweal, and so enabling a short cut to be made with our defence preparations. On this point I see no difficulty in the agreement. There is nothing to prevent our linking up Pine Creek with Camooweal, and running through the best part of the lands of the Territory, thus insuring railway communication which will be immensely profitable, besides advantageous from the point of view of defence.
– That would not relieve us from building a transcontinental railway line.
– Certainly not, at some time or other. This matter has been discussed by the makers of the agreement over and over again; and on our side it was insisted that all stipulations as to time should be deliberately taken out before the agreement was submitted to this Houses
– Is there any writing on record to that effect?
– I think so- I think it would be found in the correspondence.
– Not in the printed correspondence.
– It is not in the agreement.
– No; because the agreement is the final act of a series of negotiations. The first propositions of the South Australian Government stipulated for the building of a railway within a given time, but all stipulations as to time were removed.
– They never were put in, though the request was made.
– Surely it is not desired to have repudiation already.
– It is not a question of repudiation. The suggestion is that we should be guilty of repudiation if we did not construct the line from north to south in the very near future.
– It would practically * be repudiation.
– I do not know that it would be, if we adopted the same attitude towards this line as the South Australian Government have always adopted towards it. Why have they not built it? Simply because they see no prospect of its being a payable undertaking. Is it suggested that we should build this railway in the certain knowledge that it must involve an immense loss to the Commonwealth? I think not. The only chance of making the railway a payable proposition will be secured by linking it up to the best country of which we obtain possession and connecting it, piece by piece, for some distance down, with the railway systems of Queensland. I believe that developmental lines of that description would lead to the further exploitation of railway construction within the Territory, and would enable the main line to be brought down, piece by piece, through its entire length. It is most unreasonable, however, to say that this line is to be constructed off-hand and carried direct from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. The only thing that could, by any stretch of imagination, warrant the immediate construction of the whole of that line would be the fact that it was urgently required for defence purposes. I have already shown - and it has been demonstrated beyond all doubt - that that would be a very foolish undertaking from a defence point of view. The quickest route is the only one justifiable from the point of view of defence, and that, it seems to me so far, is via Camooweal.
– So far as the conveyance of troops from New South Wales and Queensland are concerned.
– We could not carry them over a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge line with any degree of safety.
– We shall have to do so, I think, until we tackle the much vexed problem of the unifying of our railway gauges. Here are the figures worked out in a graph, showing the distances that would have to be traversed over these various suggested routes. From Port Darwin to Adelaide, via Oodnadatta, is 1,896 miles, as against 2,215 miles via Camooweal. From Port Darwin, via Oodnadatta, to Melbourne, the distance is 2,379 miles, as- compared with 2,412 via Camooweal.
– There is a little difference in favour of Adelaide.
– Only a slight difference. When we come to the distance from Sydney-
– If it were linked up with a line to Broken Hill, the distance from Sydney, I suppose, would be practically the same as that via Camooweal.
– According to this diagram, the distance from Sydney, via Camooweal, would be 2,238 miles, as against 2,961 miles via Oodnadatta, a difference of 723 miles.
– But if the Cobar line were carried on to Broken Hill, and a connexion made with the transcontinental line, the position would be different.
– Even when the Cobar line had been carried to Broken Hill, it would have to be connected with some other system, and a desert with a 5-in. or 6-in. rainfall would have to be traversed. We should have to get across to Petersburg. That might shorten the distance slightly.
– It would reduce it by -500 miles.
– No. Even then there would be a margin of 500 or 600 miles in favour of the Camooweal route. According to this diagram, the distance from Port Darwin to Brisbane via Oodnadatta is 3,686 miles, as compared with 2,104 via Camooweal - a difference of 1,582 miles - and the difference is very much greater in respect of Rockhampton and Townsville. The quickness with which it would enable us to get troops on to the field of action must determine very largely the value of a railway for strategic purposes. If troops could be kept in sufficient numbers near Rockhampton and Townsville to enable a dash to be made across the continent the moment an enemy made its apeparance, the Camooweal route would appear to offer the most likely chance of our getting first to the scene of action, and so securing the advantage that we should hope to obtain if an enemy attempted to invade our shores. Considering this matter from a defence point of view, it seems to me that the very first thing that the Commonwealth must do when it takes over this Territory is to get these lines linked up via Camooweal with the systems of the other States. An honorable member said just now that he did not think Queensland would carry her western lines any further into the interior because they did not pay. Population, he said, would have, first of all, to push out, but I think that if the temptation of opening up the Barklay Tablelands were held out to the Queensland Government they would soon be carrying those lines a little beyond their present termini. I understand that it is contemplated to connect Cloncurry with Camooweal by means of a railway to develop that part of the country which is supposed to be very rich from a pastoral point of view. Therefore, whether the Territory is taken over or not, Queensland intends to open up all the country near the border. Does not common sense suggest that we should bring our railway down to that splendid part of the Territory to which I have referred ? The building of a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek must be left to the future. I do not think it was intended, either by the South Australian or the Commonwealth representatives, that that -railway was to be constructed forthwith. I find that in the year 1905 there was an adjourned debate in the South Australian House of Assembly on a motion by the Honorable V. L. Solomon, proposing, amongst other things -
That the work of construction of the railway shall be commenced by the South Australian Government from Oodnadatta and by the Commonwealth Government from Pine Creek end, within twelve months of the passing of the necessary Acts by the State and Commonwealth Parliaments, and the approval of the transfer and alteration of the boundary by the Imperial Parliament.
The Treasurer had moved to omit the words “ and alteration of the boundary.”
– That was carried, and was really the beginning of the negotiations.
– So that this proposal was submitted to the State Parliament. I am credibly .informed that it was one of the matters most strenuously discussed by the negotiators when these proposals were first taking shape, and that all reference to the time within which the railway should be constructed was eliminated from the decision ultimately arrived at. That being so, there is no immediate obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to construct the railway, nor do I think that there is any likelihood of its being constructed for the mere purpose of linking up the two ends.
– Would the honorable member run the Oodnadatta and Pine Creek lines without any development?
– We have to run them, and they are being conducted at the present time, at a loss. We must, however, take over that burden. I have no rosy dreams of what is to take place in the immediate future. I believe we are assuming this obligation as part of the white man’s burden in Australia, and that it will be a heavy burden for many years. The Northern Territory is a rich, but a tropical, country, and one of the very serious problems which we have to face is how we are to develop tropical Australia on the lines of a White Australia. We talk very glibly at times as if that problem had been solved. I should rest more comfortably to-night if I believed that it had been, but the problem is by no means solved. I wish honorable members to understand that I am not assenting to the transfer of the Territory in the belief that riches are going to drop from it almost immediately into the lap of the Commonwealth. There is potential wealth, and -possibilities of remarkable development there when we shall have solved the problem of how to people a tropical part of Australia under conditions that we have prescribed for the more temperate parts. We have so far, and, I think, wisely, declined to make any distinction in our policy. I should not be in favour of taking over the Territory if I did not feel that we had the greatest possible latitude as to how we were to develop it, and when, how, and where the Commonwealth was to shape its railway system. Fundamental to all settlement and development is the provision of facilities. The want of them is crippling everything sought to be done in the Northern Territory at present. We cannot begin to settle or develop it. until we have pierced it with the requisite facilities for getting produce out or stores in. It must be pioneered, and can be pioneered only by railways.
– No other part of Australia was pioneered by railways.
– Australia has been kept back for want of that proper and sensible policy. I am not sure that our Public Works Departments in the States have not, on the whole, kept Australia back rather than pushed it forward for that very reason. In America, the railways have been taken in advance of population. Here, when they have had to make a road, it must be an everlasting macadamized road, instead of a track which would do to get produce out, allowing permanent roads and railways to be built afterwards. The policy adopted in America or Canada would have made a tremendous difference in Aus- tralia in the last fifty years; and that is the course we have to take to develop the Northern Territory. People cannot do anything with a country when it costs them from £14 to £30 a ton to get their stores into it.
– They have a railway to Oodnadatta.
– That does not take us into the Northern Territory, nor am 1 arguing that, the railway to Oodnadatta is worth very much. It is part of the burden Ave have to take over. We must take the responsibility and develop the Territory on certain well-defined lines at our discretion ; but as speedily as possible. In giving my vote for the agreement, I do not bind myself to construct the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek until such time as other railways have been joined up, so as to give the Territory a chance to connect itself with the outposts of civilization of the continent. Then, and only then, do I believe’ that we shall gradually, but surely, penetrate into what has been called the ‘ ‘ dead heart ‘ ‘ of Australia ; and perhaps find, after all, that the heart is not so very much dead as we thought, but is awaiting resurrection by the provision of facilities linking it up with the great centres of population. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Brisbane will not give us any privilege that we have not now. In the course of time, we shall see a connexion made, first for the purposes of defence; next, to link up the good land of the Territory with the good land of Queensland ; and then gradually, by slow stages, we may complete the contract as indicated in the agreement. When completed, that will give us a system of railways which will make a considerable difference in that part of Australia which is now perplexing and vexing all who want to see it populated as quickly as possible.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta has made a great deal out of the necessity for a railway to meet possible invasion, as he indicates, from Asia. Are we likely to be invaded by the Indians, the poor creatures who are so divided amongst themselves that they cannot successfully carry on self-government? Are we likely to meet with aggression from China with its 400,000,000 inhabitants? They are attempting to get a representative Parliament, and will no doubt get it before long. While we have every reason to train our citizens, it does not follow that we are likely to be interfered with by the Chinese or the Japanese. The Indians and the
Chinese will be occupied for a long tim’e in looking after their own citizens, and Japan will have enough, to do for many years to come. Any attempt on the part, of those nations to invade Australia would be a challenge to the whole of the Western nations, such as Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and America.
– I have allowed great latitude on this clause, but the amendment before the Chair deals with railways.
– By a process of elimination, many of the opponents of the measure have been turned into its supporters, and we have to accept this clause as it is on account of the system of party Government. The Barton Government, the Deakin Government, the Watson Government, or the first Fisher Government could not have carried it. If we had only had elective Ministries, and Ministers had put their proposals on the table to be dealt with on their merits, what is happening to-night could not have happened. Through the system of party Government, we find ourselves tonight, a little army of half-a-dozen, opposing a measure which, four or five years ago,, would not have had a chance of passing. I deplore it, but we have done our best. We have made our protest, and I am sorry to think we shall be in such a small minority when the division is taken.
Mr. MCWILLIAMS (Franklin) [11.7I -The contention of the honorable member for Parramatta regarding the terms of the agreement is not a fair one. The clause dealing with railway construction is much’ more emphatic than the terms of the contract regarding the Federal Capital. Both contain provisions that certain work is to be done without a time being fixed, but for the last seven years New South Wales members have been charging this Parliament with repudiation in not carrying out the agreement with their State. South Australia is handing the Territory over to us on condition that we perform certain work. If she fulfils her agreement, it will be sheer repudiation for the Federal Government and Parliament to refuse to carry out their part of the contract within a reasonable time. It would be just as bad as if a man purchased an article, and told the seller that he would pay him in fifty years’ time. Another phase of the question put forward is that before the railway is constructed from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, other railways may be built to form the trade routes of the Territory proper. This means that the Commonwealth is to be saddled with the cost of 1,100 miles of railway which will be useless. As for the statement that population will settle along the route, I would remind honorable members that South Australia has already taken a line, 600 miles in length, as far north as Oodnadatta, but that the traffic on it is met by the running of one train a fortnight, which does not earn enough to pay for grease for the wheels, and is run chiefly to keep the line in working order. If there is no more traffic on the whole line when constructed than there is on the Pine Creek and Oodnadatta lines, it will be a ghastly failure. Even at this eleventh hour I urge the Committee not to leg-rope the Commonwealth by committing it to a huge and useless expenditure. It has been admitted that the Northern Territory has been cursed by the maladministration of the South Austalian Governments and Parliaments.
– That matter is not before the Chair.
– There is now a debt on the Territory of £3,500,000, which i- is proposed to increase by nearly £7,000,000, and when the Territory comes to apply for admission into the Union as a State, its people will probably be handicapped with an indebtedness of from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000. What we are doing will absolutely prevent development. It has been unfairly stated that some of the representatives of Queensland are opposing the ratification of the agreement to benefit their own State, but when a division takes place the representatives of all the States will be found voting for and against. I certainly have no personal interest in the matter, and have opposed the ratification of the agreement because I believe that it shackles the Commonwealth in *s way which, in the near future, we shall bitterly regret. Had it not been for the earnestness of some honorable members, the Bill would have been rushed through in a couple of hours. However, if the Government and its supporters will not save the Commonwealth from having to construct an unnecessary and very costly line, they must take the full responsibility.
– Instead off amending the clause in the way proposed, it would be better to leave out paragraphs b, c, d, and the others at the bottom of the page. I think that this is one of the most unbusinesslike contracts ever made. I have no objection to taking over the Northern Territory, as I have said, on fair terms, but I do object to imposing upon the Commonwealth the obligation to construct railways which even the most optimistic have admitted must entail a heavy financial loss. Take paragraph b. It requires the Commonwealth to construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southward to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper. That in itself ought never to have been put into the agreement. I cannot understand for the life of me how any business man representing the Commonwealth could have consented to a clau.se which is so one-sided and unfair, and so suicidal as a business proposition. It is sufficient compensation to South Australia for the acquisition of the Territory by the Commonwealth that we are relieving her from the heavy financial burdens which the retention of it imposes on her now year by year. But, in addition, we have to relieve her of all the obligations she has incurred in consequence of blundering in connexion with the administration of the Territory. We have to assume responsibility for her mistakes : to pay the piper while she has called the tune. So that she is not only to get back every penny of expense she has incurred, but the Commonwealth is to spend millions upon while elephant railways from which South Australia alone can reap any benefit, and that benefit is mainly for a handful of large land-holders. I cannot conceive a more inequitable arrangement. Now let us look at the figures relating to the Port Darwin and Pine Creek railway, one of the liabilities that we have to take over. With regard to that railway the following extract is taken from the report of the South Australian Railways Commissioner for 1907-8 -
Statement of Revenue, Working Expenditure, and Interest from the commencement to 30th June, 190S - Palmerston Line : -
I desire now to draw the attention of honorable members to a table which has been compiled from the annual reports of the South Australian Railways Commissioner, and which appears on page 34 of the memorandum from which I have been quoting.
– I think, sir, that the honorable member is entitled to a fair hearing.
– I think it is advisable to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.] Let us now consider the profits which we are likely to get by the mere act of taking over the railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek. We may estimate our prospects from the following table, which sets out the result of the operations of the line between 1903-4 and 1907-8 -
This table illustrates the magnificent character of the speculation which we are asked to embark in.
– The honorable member is in his “cush” now, all right.
– I feel quite happy when I see the smiling face of my friend opposite. These figures will, I am sure, appeal to him, for he is a perfect “ whale “ on figures.
– Will the honorable member deal with the clause?
– I beg, sir, to call your attention to the fact that it deals with the whole of these matters. Perhaps you did not notice the wording of paragraph b.
– There is nothing about the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in the clause.
– I claim that I am entitled to refer to the interest which he is evincing in the arguments and figures which I am using.
– The honorable member must not do it.
– I beg to disagree with that ruling. It is a most extraordinary one to give ; it has never been given before. In accordance with the standing order I shall proceed to write out my dissent.
– The question is that clause 14 stand part of the Bill.
– I desire to express my disagreement with your ruling, sir, and, under the Standing Orders, T have to place my disagreement in writing. You must not take advantage of my complying with the Standing Orders to force a division, and prevent my being heard.
– I said that the honorable member was not in order in referring to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
-Did you give that as a ruling?
– I gave it as a direction. Will the honorable member proceed ?
– If I am ordered not to do a certain thing, and I am told that I am not in order, I take it that that is a ruling; and I am within my rights in disagreeing with that ruling, and in complying with the Standing Orders by committing the disagreement to writing. What am I to proceed with ?
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause before the chair.
– In doing that, I claim my right to refer to the attitude of any honorable member, or to his arguments in support of, or in opposition to, the clause. However, I desire now to deal with sub-clause c, which has reference to the acquiring of the Port Augusta railway. I find that we are to take over the whole line, but not the rolling stock, or anything which might be of use to the South Australian Government on their other railways. .1 direct the attention of honorable members to a table compiled from information supplied by the South Australian Commissioner of Audit and the South Australian Railways Comptroller of Accounts, giving figures which are a most direct refutation of some of the statements made about the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta being a paying enterprise. In 1903-4, the earnings from the line were £43,000, and the expenditure £46,000, showing a deficit °f £3>000, while in 1904-5, the earnings were £50,000, and the expenditure £48,000, showing a surplus of £2,000, as against the deficit of .£3,000 in the previous year. A number of other figures are given in the same table; but not for the latest dates. We, however, know that the figures are not exactly exhilarating; but a footnote tells us that they are all approximate, and that it has not been the practice of the South Australian Railway Department to keep separate accounts for the various sections of the line under its control. We are further told that details for the earlier years are not available. The footnote goes on to say -
The total amount expended from loans in respect of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway to 30th June, 1908, exclusive of rolling-stock and movable plant, is , £2,242,342. In addition, there has been expended from revenue on construction account an amount of , £29,292.
That is a nice little “ nest egg “ that we are asked to take over, excluding, as I have said, all rolling stock, or anything that can be utilized by the State Government. I cannot conceive of any man with ordinary comprehension of what is fair and just agreeing to the terms of the agreement, and the fact that they have been agreed to does not say much for the business acumen of those who represented the Commonwealth in the negotiations. It is necessary to quote figures of the kind to refute some of the grossly exaggerated statements we have heard made, probably through lack of knowledge. When the honorable member for Capricornia said that they were not in accordance with fact, the accuracy of his assertion was challenged, and I therefore thought it advisable to place on record the proofs obtained from the cold unemotional figures of the South Australian official records. Honorable members, therefore, can be under no misapprehension in making up their minds either to accept the agreement as it stands, or as proposed to be amended. I trust that if the amendment be not accepted, it will be the forerunner of others of a more sweeping character.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of paragraph b (Mr. Finlayson’s amendment) - put. TheCommittee divided.
Ayes … …23
Noes … … … 4
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 19 agreed to
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 10a. The amount of compensation to be paid by the Commonwealth for any land to be acquired or for any leases resumed by the Commonwealth within the Northern Territory shall not exceed the unimproved value of the land or lease on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and ten, “together with the value of the improvements thereon.
This is a copy of a clause which we inserted in the Bill relating to the Federal Capital. As honorable members are aware a very considerable proportion of the Northern Territory is held under lease on long tenures or under permits or other agreements. The new clause that I propose is necessary so that lands acquired by the Commonwealth shall be purchased at their present values, and not at the enhanced prices that will accrue from the construction of railways or other improvements by the expenditure of public moneys. The proposal to insert a like provision in the Bill to which I have referred had the support of honorable members opposite and, if I remember rightly, was unanimously agreed to by another place. Its insertion in this Bill will render it impossible for the Commonwealth to be called upon to pay for the increment in values brought about, not by the acts of lessees-, but by the expenditure of public moneys.
– Every one will agree with the principle of the proposed new clause, but it would be out of place in this Bill, which provides only for the acceptance of the agreement. A machinery Bill will have to be introduced later on. It is no part of the agreement. A proposal similar to that submitted by the honorable member will be embodied in the machinery Bill which will have to be introduced later.
– It is quite clear that there will be a large increment - I think momentarily - on the passing of this Bill, and some steps ought therefore to be taken by the Commonwealth to preserve its undoubted interest in it. The Minister of External Affairs has declared that he agrees with this proposal in principle. If that be so, immediate effect should be given to it. It will be too late to act when the increment has actually taken place.
– We can make the Bill retrospective.
– That would be a very objectionable course to pursue.
– In what way will there be an increment?
– In the same, way that an increment takes place whenever it is known that the Government intend to construct a public work.
– Provision is already made for that in the pastoral leases of the Territory.
– But the public will know to-morrow that the moment this agreement is concluded an extension of the Pine Creek railway to Oodnadatta is practically assured. Consequently, the_ land along that line will immediately receive an enhanced value.
– There is not a foot of that land alienated.
– But by the construction of the projected railway we shall augment the value of the improvements in pastoral leases.
– In the leases themselves special provision is made that the lessees shall not receive compensation in respect of increment imparted by any public works which may be undertaken.
– I am glad to hear that, because it goes a long way towards meeting the object in view. I do not think that this increment should be pocketed by the lessees of the Territory. On the understanding that the Minister will bring down a Bill at the earliest possible moment embodying the proposal of the honorable member for Franklin, I think that the clause may very well be withdrawn. The Bill cannot affect the present lessees.
– I am quite certain that it will affect them.
– I am content to accept the assurance of the Minister.
– If we take over any of the lands comprised in the leases we must do so by arbitration.
– But the arbitration will take place on the terms of the leases.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Schedule, preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report, by leave, adopted.
House adjourned at 12.8 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101025_reps_4_58/>.