4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 7.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I call the attention of the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral to the fact that several men are working in the Adelaide General Post Office as letter sorters, and being paid only , £60 a year, being classed as postal assistants in order that this wrong may be done. I ask the Minister what course he intends to pursue to remedy or remove their grievance ?
– I shall have the matter brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– It is the intention of the Government to proceed with the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Monopolies) Bill to-morrow morning, and as the measure contains only one clause, it is to be hoped that honorable members will allow it to get into Committee without debate - of course, with a division on the second reading, if necessary - as its principles can be discussed at the Committee stage. In this way time may be saved.
– The Bill referred to is so very brief that it invites brief discussion, but its importance is so enormous that, at one stage or another, it must be closely considered. I do hot apprehend that this will take a great amount of time, so far as we on this side are concerned.
– It is alleged that Ministers have appointed a professional medical lady to a position under Government without notifying that it was to be Riled, or inviting applications from suitable persons. I understand that the duties are of a consultative character, and it has been suggested to me by a Minister that the appointment was alluded to by the PostmasterGeneral as probable some time ago, I have been asked by the Society of Medical Women to ascertain if such an appointment has been made without a public intimation of the position being vacant, and without inviting applications from qualified persons. If it has been made, by whom has it been made, and on whose advice? Why have the provisions of the Public Service Act been departed from?
– The matter will be looked into.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Motion (by Mr. Batchelor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- The convincing arguments of the Minister in moving the third reading necessarily invite, I shall not say a reply, because I am a hearty supporter of the measure, but con gratulations on its having arrived at this stage. Although there has been some delay, yet, considering the immense interests involved, the Minister has reason to be satisfied with what he has achieved. When the importance of the transfer of territory is understood, this measure will occupy a much larger place in the minds of the Australian people than it has occupied hitherto. The agreement has been before Parliament for more than three years, its terms have been repeatedly threshed out by the press, and occasionally and indirectly discussed in this Chamber, until it is ripe, and, indeed, overripe for settlement. It is a misfortune that it was not ratified three years ago, as we could have well employed the opportunities which that would have allowed. The acceptance of the Northern Territory will impose fresh responsibilities upon the Commonwealth, but will require and provoke an assertion of our strength that should serve to emphasize its truly Australian character, and assist in giving what may be termed a national accent to our discussions on other measures. The control of this enormous area must necessarily exercise great weight on the counsels of Ministers, and the deliberations of this and future Parliaments.
There is, from my point of view, but one circumstance in connexion with the measure which offers occasion for regret. To that, I alluded in detail during the discussion in Committee, and see no reason to revive it in any elaborate way at this stage. At the same time, it is impossible to forget, and should be emphasized for the benefit of those who come after us, perhaps some time after us, that they will be confronted with the problem of railway communication in the interior of Australia as effected from or through, the Northern Territory. By the way, I assume that a more approriate title to that great section of Australia will be adopted. “Northern Territory” is, geographical, sufficiently descriptive, and may possibly remain while it continues a Territory, but certainly on its assumption of the full dignity and power of a State - one of the many goals that we have in view - it will require another title, possibly before that time.
But whenever the problem of. the route by which the Oondadatta railway, or some part of it, is to be connected with the Pine Creek railway, is revived, there will be, in all probability, a reference to some facts which have already been placed before this
House. Under many conditions, no such reference will be necessary. The Government, I take it, have cordially accepted the general principle that this particular connexion, which will be one of the most important of the railway connexions of the Territory, should be taken by the best route, having reference not merely to the Territory, but to Australia as a whole, ignoring all States or parts of States.
– They propose to take it in accordance with the agreement.
– I am coming to that. If, on inquiry, the best route proves to be all within the Territory, whether it go to the east, or west, or centre, no debate can arise under the agreement. The members of the South Australian Government and of the Federal Government who were concerned in the drafting of the agreement, were entirely at one on this point. A reference to the debates in the South Australian Parliament at the time when the agreement was adopted and acT cepted on behalf of the State, shows that the position was frankly and fully placed before them by the one Minister who was then able to appear, Mr. O’Loughlin, as it had been by the Premier before the session, and as it was indirectly by others associated directly with it.
– Does the honorable member think that that counts for anything ?
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the Government accepted the proposition to take the line outside the Northern Territory?
– I say, as the quotations already given from the South Australian Hansard show, which may be supplemented, if necessary, that the Bill was debated in the South Australian Assembly with a full recognition of the fact, indeed, with an express recommendation from the Minister in charge of the Territory, and of the Bill, that the eastern route, shown on the map as entering the territory of Queensland, was the better route both from the South Australian point of view, and as far as he put it from the general point of view.
– I am very glad that the honorable member has made that statement before the proclamation is issued in South Australia.
– I made the statement in Committee. It has not been challenged, and cannot.
– I should be very sorry to vote for the third reading of the Bill if I thought that that was contemplated.
– I think that the honorable member was wrong in alleging that the South Australian Minister asserted that.
– I gave the quotation from the debate in the South Australian Parliament, which the honorable member will find if he will look up my speech ; it is indisputable. Any and every railway may be “in contemplation,” but as far as this particular railway was concerned - that is, the main central connexion ; probably in the future there will be others - our agreement was that it should be the best. If that best should fall anywhere within the Territory no question will arise. It may not fall within the Territory ; that is a matter which the future alone can decide, because a very large part of this area is . practically unknown, and, from a railway point of view, the greater portion of it has never been effectively studied.
I think that the first duty of the Commonwealth Government after this transfer is complete, will be to initiate the necessary steps for a complete investigation of the circumstances of the Territory from an Australian railway point of view. Then there may be routes which will be almost equal to each other, thus affording a choice, or there may be one route so distinctly superior that it will be decreed the best. It was agreed between the State Government and myself that the best route would be followed, the Federal Parliament having the right and the authority to determine which route was the best.
– Does the honorable member think that that is fair play to South Australia?
– I think it is perfectly fair, because it was put to the State Assembly, as I have already quoted, at the time the agreement was submitted.
– In the agreement?
– Both parties accepted the agreement as permitting that. The Attorney-General of the present Federal
Government and another legal authority say still that, as the agreement stands, it permits that deviation. But for holding a contrary opinion, I should not be addressing these remarks to the House. As this is the last opportunity I have to speak, I have thought it desirable to repeat my remarks.
The Attorney-General in that Ministry, the honorable member for Darling Downs, who was absent on the occasion of the last debate, when I addressed the House, and whom I had not consulted, confirmed an opinion which I already held, but which, in the circumstances. I did not feel entitled to rely upon absolutely. This was that, instead of passing through the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, as it would in the ordinary course have done in order to be put in proper form, so great was the haste and pressure that the agreement went immediately into the Crown Solicitor’s office, and was there dealt with, being returned for immediate signature without undergoing the scrutiny of either the Attorney-General or the officers of his Department. But for that, the one clause which was introduced into a later part of the agreement, which, in my opinion, puts the interpretation ^beyond question, would never have been” included, and the plain meaning would have been clearly set out on its face. I called the attention of both the State Premier, Mr. Price, and Mr. O’Loughlin, the Minister for the Northern Territory, to the mistake in the agreement before it was submitted” to the State Parliament.
– They never told the people of South Australia anything of the kind. 8
– But they told the people the fact. When the Bill was before the House of Assembly Mr. O’Loughlin distinctly said that the eastern was the better route. That was his opinion te the last, and is now. He has reiterated during the present session that it is the better route. If it proves to be so it is the route to be adopted.
It was, as already explained, from a sense of personal responsibility that I brought that matter before the House on the second reading. Nevertheless, on full consideration, I felt amply justified in voting for the measure at every stage in Committee, and shall certainly warmly support its third reading. I am quite sure that when the investigation of the whole of the Territory, so far as it is necessary for the purpose of completing this railway communication, has been made, the common sense of this Legislature, which will have the supreme decision, will be supported by the common sense of the people of Australia, including those of South Australia, in advising that the best route shall be followed. As it at present stands, although our honorable understanding in this regard is indisputable, in my opinion, the terms of the agreement do not express it. Nevertheless, despite the view I take of the agreement, I have complete reliance that when we arrive at the final choice we shall look at the question with open eyes, and be able to set aside merely State considerations. When I say “ we,” I .speak as much for the people of South Australia as for those of every other part of this great Commonwealth. Consequently, my apprehensions in this regard are few or none.
Then again, when the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth has been accomplished, the interests of South Australia in it will be no more than those of any other State, and after the lapse of some years, when the several routes have been tested and surveyed, we shall face the question very much better informed than the best-informed mind on this subject to-day. More, in the course of the development of the Territory there will be frequent relations between the Commonwealth and the States bordering upon it,- and, of course, with South Australia, in whose territory lies a railway of which the Commonwealth will have control from the first, of which it will have to find the cost, and with which it has to make connexion. Out of this circumstance there will necessarily arise a give-and-take, in order that these matters may be settled with equity to all concerned. The people of the Commonwealth, as a whole, and the people of South Australia, will then thoroughly understand their mutual interests. If there be any conflict of interests with respect to routes and other matters, I am certain that the difficulty will be solved in a just and sympathetic fashion. When once these questions are lifted out of the arena of party controversy, and we have mastered all the necessary facts in relation to the development of the Territory and the best routes to serve it, we shall have solved the problem or nine-tenths of it. No matter what the legal difficulties may be, they will not amount to the other tenth.
– If this was in the honorable member’s mind all along, why did he not make that statement when dealing with the Bill last year?
– I have already said that at that time I followed the same course, as now, with one difference ; I told the House frankly, on the recent second reading, that, whether any amendment was made in respect of the railway or not, I should support the whole of the agreement, and the whole of this Bill, exactly as it stands. I will accept it now, even if not a letter of it is altered, and for that reason declined not only to move, but even to support, any amendment in Committee. I voted for the Bill right through. So my votes have been exactly the same as last year, and my attitude is unchanged. But now that we are parting from the Bill, in view of the questions that may arise when possibly, few, if any of us may be surviving, I have felt it my duty to tell the whole of the story regarding the agreement arrived at. I have relied for the statement. not upon any quotation from myself, but entirely upon quotations from the representatives of South Australia, who made the agreement with the Government of which I was a member. I have taken every word of it from their mouths, and depend wholly upon their testimony.
– But why did not the honorable member make this statement when the Bill was leaving the House last year ?
– Because it was only by something little short of a miracle that we got the Bill through this House at all, anr! it failed, unfortunately, by two votes in another Chamber. I was perfectly certain that under such circumstances it would never do to raise any fresh difficulty. The mistake made was, however, sufficiently real and substantial to deserve to be placed on record now, but not “sufficiently substantial to induce me to hesitate about passing the Bill then. It has not been sufficient to make me hesitate in my support on this occasion, though now free from official trammels. I followed precisely the same course in both cases, but have placed the true facts on record.
What can the honorable member ask more? I am perfectly content to accept whatever settlement may be arrived at in this regard by those who will have knowledge which we have not, and a responsibility which we share in a very limited degree, because we have not yet the knowledge of what is the best route. I think before the honorable member came in I had said more than once that if - as is quite possible, and some people say is most probable - the best route is found to lie inside the Territory, this personal reminder 01 mine will never be of any importance, ft will merely have been an incident in the passage of the measure. Its importance will arise only if it should prove that the dotted route to the east, or another route going round by Tanami on the west, is absolutely the best in the Australian sense, and in this regard Australian interests include South Australian. I feel that I have discharged my conscience.
Let me congratulate the Minister on the passage of this Bill. It is now perfectly safe to find its way to the statute-book. I feel sure it will be among the pleasantest recollections of the honorable member’s long political life that he was the Minister in charge of this great measure, of such immense importance to his own State and to the Commonwealth, at the time when it became law. I am certain that in his conduct of this Bill he has done everything which was in his power to insure its passing.
Although it has been necessary, for greater caution as they say in the profession, and with great precaution, to put certain facts on record, it is quite likely that they may never be called for, except as a matter of some trifling parliamentary or political interest. I am confident that when the subject is as thoroughly mastered as if ought to be, the people of Australia, and those who represent them, will readily be able to solve this difficulty, before the main route cf this line has to be laid down. It is certain that, either by that time, or soon after, other railways will be needed, traversing portions of the Northern Territory, in order to give us that complete connexion with our north-western ports and country; and, also, through Queensland, with our northeastern ports and country, which is necessary to throw the Territory open for use and settlement wherever its soil and climate justify it. The boundaries of that fruitful and profitable area have yet to be decided. Many of us believe that when the resources of science have been brought to bear, the portion to be excluded will be relatively small, and that the enormous area now being added to the already fruitful portions of Australia, will contribute greatly to its wealth.
I trust that it will contribute soon to a very large addition to the white population planted in the Territory. That is the primary duty of this and every other Commonwealth Government that follows it, until at least, to something like the same extent as our southern shores, the northern, including the north-eastern and north-western parts, become, by pacific settlement, not only profitable, but reasonably secure. The defence of this continent must, in order to be effective, cover the whole continent, and without a peopled and prolific Northern Territory, the southern portion may well look to its own future with the greatest anxiety. Under the circumstances, I take the passage of this Bill as one of the best possible omens for the great work of defence which is now in course of being undertaken by the Commonwealth.
– Here beginneth the first lesson.
– I did think that the holy calm which seemed to pervade the Chamber would have allowed me to discuss this question without interruption. I thought that some influence had had a chastening effect upon honorable members - whether it was the experience which they had gained at Sunday-school picnics, or at the race-course, I do not know. But, apparently, I have misjudged the temper of the House. I am really disappointed with the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition towards this Bill. A week ago, he made a speech in which he emphasized the necessity for placing upon record the views of the various parties to the agreement which is embodied in this Bill, that the projected transcontinental railway should traverse the best available route. He stated that we ought to add to the agreement an addendum to that effect. It is true that he said he would accept the agreement in whatever form it was approved by the House, because he regards this question as one of national importance, and does not allow monetary considerations to enter into his calculation at all. But where was the honorable gentleman that he did not assist us to fight for the object which he has ire view ? Believing as he did, and as he does, that it is necessary to embody in the Bill a provision that the Commonwealth shall be at liberty to construct the railway along the best available route, why was he not present when we were fighting this forlorn hope for the nation? He feels that he has discharged his duty by making a speech this evening. But may I remind him that speeches do not count for much in this House. The people expect their representatives to vote, and if the Leader of the Opposition had assisted us to eliminate from the Bill the monstrous compulsory railway provisions which appear in it, I believe that we should have secured a very desirable alteration. But when the honorable member surrenders without a fight, and when his followers receive no encouragement to put up a further battle, it is impossible to obtain any alteration of the measure. I do not believe in surrendering until the last moment, and I would urge honorable members, even now, to refrain from committing this enormous blunder. There is yet time to do so. We may very well postpone the third reading of the measure for six months in order that Parliament may have an opportunity of further considering the question. The Leader of the Opposition has said what is true enough, namely, that the daily press has discussed this question, which was before the House three and a half years ago. But what has the daily press said? Can he produce a single newspaper which has not told us that South Australia is endeavouring to drive a hard bargain with the Commonwealth ?
– The honorable member should read the South Australian newspapers.
– He should have read the Bulletin during the past three or four years.
– I hope that the honorable member will not interrupt me. Since the Bill emerged from Committee, he has doubtless visited Quorn, that little place on the map where the people did not have sufficient public spirit to entertain the members of this Parliament when they were on their way to Oodnadatta, except by buying them three-pennyworth of chewing gum.
– That statement is worthy of a backcountry Queenslander, because it is absolutely contrary to fact.
– The honorable gentleman was mayor of Quorn for three years.
– I was resident there for thirty years.
– I want to know whether the honorable member’s connexion with Quorn has anything to do with his strong advocacy of this Bill, to which he said he was opposed, although he has voted for it at every stage. I am not opposed to taking over the Northern Territory, and to relieving South Australia of the burden of £200,000 which she has to pay upon it annually. But I wish to protest as emphatically as I can against the compulsory railway provisions which appear in the Bill, and which, to my mind, are absolutely monstrous. The Sydney Morning Herald. which is by no means a supporter of mine, stated the other day that when I said that those provisions are a positive outrage, I did not use language which was in any way too strong. I wish I had a few more adjectives at my command, so that I might refer to them in even stronger language. Under the agreement, the Commonwealth will have to incur an expenditure of £10,241,015, which is made up as follows : - Public debt on 13th June, 1909, £2,718,939; deficit or advance account, £7 7 9> 7 34 > cost °f the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, £2,242,342; cost of railway from Pine Creek to Port Augusta, when completed, £4,500,000. Not only is the Commonwealth committed by the agreement to that expenditure, and to an expenditure in connexion with the overland telegraph line of .£362,377, but it is bound to take over the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line, on which there is an annual loss of £70,000, and it has also to develop the country.
– There is a train to Oodnadatta once a fortnight.
– I will deal with that aspect of the question at a later stage. The deficit which the Commonwealth will have to face is set down by the UnderTreasurer at ,£399,000 per annum, without allowing anything whatever for developmental purposes. It will also be compelled to allow South Australia the running power and the rights which are set forth in the memorandum of agreement. Subparagraph h of paragraph 1 provides that the Commonwealth shall -
Allow the State reasonable running powers and rights on such conditions as may be agreed upon or in default of agreement as may be determined by arbitration on all railways acquired or constructed by the Commonwealth in South Australia proper and (without limitation of the scope of such powers and rights) the use on such conditions as aforesaid of the station yards buildings and other accessories at Quorn and Port Augusta and .at the wharf at Port Augusta used in connexion with the working of the said railway but not so as to interfere with the proper control working and maintenance of the railways of the Commonwealth.
The “maintenance of the railways” may mean anything. There would be conflict, I take it, if the South Australian Government demands “reasonable running powers” over the railway with all the rolling-stock she may choose to use, and the Commonwealth will have, at the same time, to bear the loss of £70,000 per annum. It is quite certain that that loss will be greatly exceeded when South Australia claims the revenue that she now derives from the line. According to the figures supplied to us, the total amount expended from loans in respect of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway to the 30th June, 1908, exclusive of rolling-stock and movable plant, is £2,242,342. In 1903-4 the earnings were £43,000 and the expenditure £46,000, showing a deficit of £3,000; in 1904-5 the earnings were £50,000 and the expenditure £48,000, showing a surplus of £2,000; in 1905-6 the earnings were £60,000, and the expenditure was £50,000, showing a surplus of £10,000; in 1906-7 the earnings were £63,000 and the expenditure was £51,000, showing a surplus of £12,000; and in 1907-8 the earnings were £63,000 and the expenditure was £51,000, showing a surplus of £12,000. We are not misled in regard to this table, because there is a footnote which’ tells us that the annual interest on the 30th June, 1908, amounted to £8 c,o88; so that the expenditure on which a surplus is shown does not include the interest. If, however, we take the interest into account, there is an annual loss of £70,000. Where will the Commonwealth be when the South Australian Government, under its running powers, takes the earnings of £63,000? From this point of view the whole proposal is monstrous; and I cannot think that honorable members have given the agreement that attention which it deserves. Under all the circumstances we may estimate the deficit not at £70,000, but at probably £100,000. Honorable members are too much carried away by all the talk about “the national view.” At foundation the national view means pounds, shillings, and pence ; and we must not run the Commonwealth on to financial rocks, with a deficit of £500,000 a year, in connexion with a scheme which the
South Australian supporters of this agreement have engineered. With £500,000 per annum, we could give 5,000 farmers £100 each to enable them to settle on proved agricultural lands. I was very much interested, in looking over the records, in the facts in connexion with the Royal Commission which was appointed by the South Australian Government to inquire into the Northern Territory question. The members were the late Sir Frederick Holder, Mr. William Haslam, M.L.C., Mr. J. V. O’Loghlin, M.L.C., Mr. J. Warren, M.L.C., Mr. W. 0. Archibald- the present honorable member for Hindmarsh - Mr. W. Gilbert, M.H.A., and Mr. V. L. Solomon, M.H.A. ; and their commission contained these opening words -
Know ye that I, relying on your prudence and fidelity, have appointed you, and by these presents do give unto you, or any three or more of you, full power and authority diligently to inquire into and report upon all matters relating to the Northern Territory, with a view to the further development of its resources and to its better government.
I was very much surprised to find that our “trusty and well beloved” friend, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, was a member of that Commission. We did not hear a single word from him about the evidence taken by that body. But I never read a more painful document in my life than the report of the Commission is. I have not read the whole of it, but I have read as much as I could in the time at my disposal. The evidence is without a doubt damning. I shall quote one or two passages. By the way, I may mention that this Commission, on which our “ trusty and well beloved friend “ found a place, was appointed in January, 1895, and were sitting for about six months. One would have thought that such a Commission would visit the Northern Territory, whose affairs they were appointed to investigate. But instead of going there they took the winter trip to Queensland, and spent a whole month in investigating the condition of the sugar plantations of that State. I shall first quote from the evidence of Mi. G. W. Goyder, C.M.G., late SurveyorGeneral of South Australia - 482. Have you studied the matter of the various suggestions which have been made for the construction of the railway across the continent ? Do you think it would be of much assistance and value to the Territory and South Australia? - I do not think so. 483. Then you would not advise the Government to construct the railway ? - No. 484. Would you counsel your friends or a private company doing it? - A company may go in for it for its mineral worth,- and be very successful. 485. But you do not think it would be a success? - Not for pastoralist purposes. I have heard that if a line were constructed one of the benefits we should reap would be a saving of a certain number of days in the transit of English mails. That is, I think, a mistake.
That is what was thought about the prospects by the late Surveyor-General, the man who I suppose went up to the Northern Territory to survey the land. Mr. Johnson, M.P., was examined as follows by Mr. Archibald - 850. Would it pay a company to take up the transcontinental railway on the land grant system? - Yes, it might do so. They would have to introduce population ; otherwise they would not be able to make it pay. 851. Would we not be going in for a big gambling concern, the chances being so poor? - 1 would not put my own money in it, but money is so extremely cheap in England that with good management a company might make it pay.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in asking that question, admitted that the chances of making the railway pay were poor. I also draw attention to a point which does not appear to have been considered. If we take over, as we must do, the railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, we shall become responsible for a line upon which there is a loss of about £50,000 per annum. The earnings for a succession of years were - 1903-4, £13,219; 1904-5, ,£13,069; 1905-6, £13,854; 1906-7, £13,280; 1907-8, £14,060. The expenditure during the same years was - 1903-4, £17,006 ;
I904-S. £I5.429; i9°5-6> £i4.897 ;
I006-7. £14,018; 1907-8, £14,462. The surpluses are given as follow - 1903-4, £3,787; 1904-5, £2,360;. 1905-6, £1,043; 1906-7, £738; 1907-8, £402. But although a small surplus seems to be shown in those years the figures quoted take no account of the interest charges, which, for the year 1907-8, amounted to £46,746. If we take that charge into account the surplus of £402 for 1907-8 is converted into a deficit of £46,344. I wish now to furnish some particulars with regard to the wages paid to those working on the railway, and honorable members will once from the figures that I shall quote that the expenditure that the Commonwealth will have to incur will have to be much heavier than the present expenditure is. A table printed on page 193 of the Royal Commission’s report furnishes the following particulars of rates of pay to railway employes : -
Should the Labour party remain in power - as I hope they will do for many years to come - we shall have to level up those wages. No Australian Government supported by the Labour party could continue to employ Asiatics at is. a day, even for the purpose of making the railway pay. The Australian Labour party will have to insist on the payment of wages under a rule which I hope will sooner or later generally prevail in the Commonwealth, namely, that a living wage must be a marriage rate wage.
– What are the South Australian Government doing?
– No doubt in time they will level them up, but we cannot carry on railways by the employment of Asiatics, at a wage of is. or 2s. a day, and the loss of some £40,000 incurred in respect of the Pine Creek railway will no doubt be largely increased. These facts, it seems to me, show that honorable members have not given due consideration to the agreement.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– -Honorable members, including the Leader of the Opposition, have endeavoured to impress on the House that the proposed railway may be constructed along whatever route experts declare to l>e the best. That opinion has been challenged by the honorable member for Grey, and I believe that his contention is correct. The opinion of political lawyers is not of very much value. As my eloquent friend, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, pointed out, one can obtain from a lawyer on the Bench a sound opinion regarding the construction of an Act of Parliament, but the opinion of a lawyer in politics is, perhaps, unconsciously biased by the political side on which he happens to be. The Leader of the Opposition says that the transcontinental railway may be taken either east or west. As I pointed out on a previous occasion, if the terms of the agreement are to be accepted, the railway must run southwards from Pine Creek. There is nothing in the agreement to show that it may be carried either in an easterly or in a westerly direction, and to take the line eastwards towards Camooweal, so that the Queensland Government could connect it with their railway system, and so secure the trade of the Northern Territory, would, I think, be an absolute betrayal of the representatives of South Australia who have supported this measure. I do not think that the Federal Government would be allowed to run a railway along that route without being challenged in the law Courts. The
South Australian Government would contest the matter, and it would be futile to point in the Courts to the eloquent speeches of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to certain understandings. The Justices being trained to weigh evidence and to construe Acts of Parliament, would say, “ We must view this law as it was passed. The speeches not in consonance with it may have been mere subterfuges, uttered with a view of securing the passing of the Bill.” Some honorable members talk about carrying the line away into the Queensland corner, but I hold that, according to the agreement, it must be kept within the Territory, and follow pretty closely the overland telegraph route. It might possibly diverge 100 miles from that course, but not much more. I do not know, that I can say more at this stage to emphasize the iniquitous burden that the framers of this agreement are casting upon the Commonwealth, so far as its railway provisions are concerned; but I should like now to refer to the quality of the land which we are to take over. That romantic publication, Territoria, has painted some wonderful word pictures of the quality of the soil, and has shown how it would be possible for us to settle no less than 1,000,000 farmers in a particular portion of the Territory. I have here a very interesting passage from the evidence given by Mr. Charles W. Nash, of Borroloola, in which he deals with both the soil and the climate -
I can truly say that I have been over most of the country, within 100 miles radius of Palmerston, and I know of no place where 100 acres of fair land in one block is to be obtained.
But, setting aside the question of soil, in one word, the climate precludes all possibility of a plantation life; I allude more particularly to the cultivation of coffee, sugars, and tobacco.
The climate necessary for the profitable cultivation of these crops is a humid one. True, we sometimes during the wet season have a few weeks of that state of the atmosphere, but is never to be relied upon. It is more generally a deluge or none at all, and between these bursts of wet we have an intense sun heat that burns up all plant lift. Even the wet season is very unreliable. I have known December and January very wet; then the whole of February without a single shower. T have repeatedly seen whole crops of maize destroyed, and had to be replanted ; and as these small patches at their best never produced more than ten-bushel crops, it is easily seen why no settlement has taken place in this direction. As for sugar and tobacco growing, huge fortunes have been utterly lost in trying to establish this industry.
Mr. Nash was asked
The reasons for past non-success in settlement here ? - Simply because the natural resources are so poor - poor in minerals, in soil, and climate. This, no doubt, will sound paradoxical when you have been told, for yeaTs past, that it is one of the most wonderful countries in the world. If good in any respect, why has this question arisen ? Why at all the very nature of your Commission ?
This witness, in reply to a question, asked the members of the Commission a very pertinent question. He said, “ Why the nature of the Commission at all, if the place is as good as has been stated?” After some forty years of trying to govern and develop this Territory the Government of South Australia appointed a Royal Commission to try to find out what was the matter with the place and to account for the annual loss of ?200,000. We are anxious to get at the truth about this matter. The publications with which honorable members have been overwhelmed, describing the value of the lands in the Northern Territory, contain no reference to the evidence given by Mr. Nash before the South Australian Commission, or to that given by the Curator of the Botanic Gardens in the Northern Territory. There is a little evidence here from that gentleman which, I think, will stagger honorable members. Mr. Holtze, Director of the Botanic Gardens at Palmerston, gave this evidence -
Is the Botanic Gardens at Palmerston in the same position as originally chosen? - No; it has been changed several times. In the first instance the ground chosen was only good in a very small part. The late Dr. Schomburgk recommended, in order to demonstrate the suitability of the Northern Territory for growing tropical products, that a block of 50 acres should be chosen. A place was chosen, and a sample of the soil sent down to Dr. Schomburgk. He thought a good deal of it. Unfortunately, when we commenced to work, we found the water to a great extent was brackish, even after sinking 60 feet. The ground got so bad and dry, that it was no good. I urged the Government to shift the gardens to a better place. It has been shifted to a place which I considered very good soil.
Do you find that soil which looks rich at the start works down under cultivation, and that the rubble comes to the surface? - Yes. The ground was trenched by Chinese, and all the rubble was brought to the surface.
Is there a tendency in the Northern Territory for the surface soil to work down by cultivation and the rubble to come up? - Not so much by cultivation ; more by tropical rains. It is natural that they wash the good soil down into the gullies. Therefore, I say only the gullies are fit for tropical agriculture.
What chance will farmers who may be induced to go to the Northern Territory to settle have of shifting their farms from one place to another as soon as they obtain the experience which was obtained by the
Curator of the Botanic Gardens at Palmerston? This gentleman had Government money at his disposal, and could shift the Botanical Gardens to’ wherever he wished. The statement is made that the gardens established on sites selected by experts had been shifted several times. In the circumstances, how can we expect farmers settling in that country to be successful? I have some evidence here of the public spirit of the South Australian Government in the matter. It deals with part of the burden which is to be inflicted upon the Commonwealth under this proposal, and which must make it almost impossible for us in the control of the Territory to do our duty by the Commonwealth. A Mr. Warland, of Port Darwin, was asked some questions as to the mistakes that were made, and his answer was -
One of the first mistakes was made by the South Australian Government, when they sold the town and suburban lands in order to defray the cost of settlement, thereby rendering bond fide settlement almost impossible. Owing to the land-owners being absent from the country they would not allow people to build or improve their lands, and there being no other land available within reasonable distance of Palmerston, the would-be settlers were compelled to leave the country, or turn their attention to mining.
If we are going to settle that country in order to make the railway pay, this land will have to be repurchased from the owners, and the settlers we induce to go there will have to pay the price which we pay for resuming the land. After they have paid that price for it they will probably meet with the experience of the Director of the Botanic Gardens. It must be admitted that with an area of some 560,000 square miles the Territory necessarily contains some good country. But what do the experts, who have investigated the matter, say? They say that this good country is already taken up and is in the hands of private owners. How are we to get that land for settlers? We must buy it back from the present owners, and no honorable member will suggest that in taking this freehold land from the pioneers who went to the Northern Territory years ago we can do any less than give them a fair value for it. If we do that, we must place an insupportable burden upon the incoming farmers. The members of the South Australian Commission said that the reason settlers could not be induced to take up land in the Northern Territory was that 7s. 6d. per acre and survey fees had to be paid for it. If settlers could not be induced to go to the Northern Territory when they could get the freehold of land at 7s. 6d. an acre, and survey fees amounting to a shilling or two, how can we expect that they will go there if they are called upon to pay, it may be, some pounds per acre which the Government of the Commonwealth will have to pay to secure the land for them if we do our duty by the present owners of the freehold? Mr. Walter Griffiths, another member of Parliament who resided in the Northern Territory for twelve years, gave this evidence when under examination by the honorable member for Hindmarsh -
I understand it to be your opinion that the Government should turn their attention for the development of the Northern Territory to deep sinking in connexion with the mines? - Yes.
I understand you to be of opinion, from your long experience and residence in the country, that we can depend upon the mining and pastoral industry to push the Northern Territory along? - Yes.
You do not seem to have a very high opinion of the Northern Territory for tropical agriculture? - Under existing conditions it has not been proven that we have the land there, and I consider I am not in a position to state whether the land is capable to the extent that has been suggested or not.
White ants are a source of great trouble? - Yes. Mr. Holtze says in the Government
Resident’s report : -….. “ The white ants have proved very destructive to the orange trees.”
Then the Honorable John Langdon Parsons was asked this question -
What about the land on the banks of the rivers?
To which he replied -
There are no large rivers in the immediate neighbourhood of Palmerston. You must go either 50 miles eastward to the Adelaide, or a hundred miles westward to the Daly.
Before we can settle population in the Northern Territory, we must find good land to put it on, and it is obvious that there is none within a great distance of Palmerston. I have already mentioned the curious and condemnatory fact that South Australian Ministers of Agriculture who have administered the Northern Territory, and thus have had every opportunity to make themselves acquainted with its great possibilities, have gone to Queensland to select land for their sons. Why should they not go to the Territory described in that romantic pamphlet Territoria, and take up some of the good land which the poets who compiled the work say will provide room for 1,000,000 farmers, and produce not less than 400,000,000 bushels of wheat annually ? Could one expect such a statement in a pamphlet put before the House to influence honorable members? We are told that between Powell’s Creek and the
Katherine River 1,000,000 white farmers could easily be placed, if it could be proved that wheat could be grown there. They say that by the expenditure of a few thousand pounds it could be proved whether wheat could be grown there, in which event 1,000,000 farmers could produce 400,000,000 bushels per annum. To show the extravagance of that statement, let me draw attention to the fact that the wheat production of South Australia in 1908-9 was only 19,397,672 bushels, and its production for nine years 126,996,987 bushels, notwithstanding that the wheat farmers of South Australia are the second best in the Commonwealth. A curious fact in connexion with the illustrations of Territoria was discovered by Senator Millen.
– There is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed.’]
– Apparently they could only find one waterhole or lagoon in the Territory, and, therefore, the same scene has had to answer for two pictures. At page 7 we have a view entitled “ Horses in our so-called arid Central Australia,” and at page 23 the scene is repeated, with the title, “ Cattle in our so-called arid Central Australia. ‘ ‘ Apparently the horses were first driven into the water and photographed, and when they had been got out again, the cattle were driven in.
– It was not necessary to have different waterholes for horses and cattle.
– Apparently there are so few waterholes that it was necessary to make one do for two pictures. We are not even told where this waterhole is. There are a number of other pictures which, unless one looks carefully at the letterpress, are misleading, as they seem to show scenes in the Northern Territory when really they are pictures of cotton-growing and manufacture in the United States of America. I have some testimony, which I suppose was given on oath, as it was taken by a Royal Commission. Speaking of the tablelands on which the Territoria romancers say that wheat can be grown, Mr. John Costello, of Lake Nash, in Queensland, said -
On the tableland the fearful droughts have played a most damaging and ruinous part.
At page 169 the Hon. William Forrest, of the Northern Pastoral Company, gave this evidence -
Has anything been done in the way of artesian boring? - Yes, boring for artesian water has been tried, but no artesian water has yet been found.
He admits that water can be found by sinking to a depth of 230 feet. But how can farmers possibly make a success of this country if they have to depend upon an underground supply of water? Where can they find the mo.;ey for the purpose? I suppose that a well 230 feet deep could not be put down for less than £125.
– Where did the men in Queensland find the money to do the same thing ?
– It is very difficult to get farmers with money to go away from the proximity of railway lines. I am pointing out the difficulties which we shall experience in inducing men to go on to the tablelands.
– We all see the difficulty.
– In that case, why do honorable members want to load the Commonwealth with compulsory railway provisions which will involve the expenditure of millions of pounds? The difficulties are great enough without providing that we shall construct the railway southwards from Pine Creek to Port Augusta. At page 184, Mr. George Bright, of the Herbert River, Queensland, made this statement -
The drawback to the tableland is the want of a market within a reasonable distance, and the want of a permanent supply of water. . . . If it could be shown that artesian water could be tapped on the tablelands, I am quite certain sheep would occupy some of the runs now used for cattle.
In Queensland, a man can get thousands of acres for the mere taking of the land. They have what is called a prickly pear selection. A man can get 2,500 acres of that country at from 2s. 6d. to 5s. an acre, within 20 miles of a railway, and he can get land for nothing. How can we induce farmers to go to Hie Northern Territory if they are to be saddled with the huge expenditure which will be incurred in constructing the proposed railway ? It is not fair to the Commonwealth that such conditions should be imposed upon it. Evidence was also given by Mr. James Bradshaw, who has 4,800 square miles of territory on the Lower Victoria River, 280 miles south of Port Darwin - 3314. By Mr. Archibald. - I understand you are paying 6d. a mile for your country ? - Yes. 3315. But the really good country stands you in at about 4s. per mile? - Yes, I suppose it does. The country I am using is not fully stocked. 3316. Do you think you could fully stock all your country? - The 4,000 miles? 3317. Yes. Would you care about putting stock on all of it? - There is a lot of it which I could not stock. 3318. I take it, then, that the country in the neighbourhood must be patchy ? - Yes, it is not all good pastoral country, for a lot of it is rugged sandstone country and good for nothing. 3319. Do you think it is characteristic of the Northern Territory that the good soil is patchy ? - Yes, but there are areas of 100 and 200 miles of really good grazing country ; and then there might be 200 or 300 miles of useless country adjoining it
I ask honorable members to note that, according to this witness, there is good grazing country. If we hope to settle the Northern Territory, we must have agricultural country. lt will be of no use to lease large areas to pastoralists and expect that we shall populate the country. With wire fences, you will not find, as you did of old, a number of shepherds, but only a boundary rider whose duty it is to cover 40 square miles, doing 10 miles each day until he gets round the run. Therefore, if it is contemplated to settle the country, we need agricultural land. If we have to depend upon pastoralists, it will be a wrong to the Commonwealth to commit it to the expenditure of many millions on a transcontinental railway which will never be used as a passenger line. When I said the other day that I believed that we would best govern the country by handing it over to those who had to live there, and giving them a local Parliament, the honorable’ member for Hindmarsh said, “ You would have it run by a lot of carpetbaggers.” I want to show the House that it will be impossible for us to govern the Territory from Melbourne or YassCanberra. I propose to quote the evidence of some persons who appeared before the Royal Commission. At page 31, the Hon. John L. Parsons referred to -
The impossibility of the Government and Parliament of a small colony necessarily preoccupied with the affairs of the colony, and for the most part unacquainted with the conditions and requirements of a tropical region, to successfully legislate for and administer a tropical colony 2,000 miles distant.
On the same page, the Hon. J. C. Johnson, M.P., Minister of Education and Minister for the Northern Territory, also gave evidence -
You spoke just now of mismanagement, which from first to last you say has characterized the affairs of the Territory? How would you describe that mismanagement? From carelessness? - I have already said that distance from the seat of Government was the chief cause ; that is, distance and ignorance of its requirements.
On page 183, Mr. George Bright, of the Herbert River, gave the following reason for non-success -
One drawback has been, and a. very serious one all along - the distance between the seat ot Government and the base of operations.
When we take over the Northern Territory we must do something with it. We render ourselves almost immediately liable for the loss of £70,000 on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway. We must appoint a Railway Commissioner. I wonder who will be Minister of Railways in this House? Will he investigate the Territory as the honorable member for Hindmarsh and his colleagues did in going to Queensland on a trip-
– 1 hope the honorable member will not be Minister of Railways - we want a speedy service.
– Of course, we shall want a speedy service. It will be of no use to have a railway on which, the trains are so slow that the dairy cattle run and bite (he passengers on the observation car. If it is a fast railway it will cost money. How are we to manage the Territory from Melbourne? I can quote numerous witnesses to show that the place has been kept back because the Seat of Government was so far away. Surely somebody will have to look after the line and fix the freights and the passenger fares, although it is doubtful whether any passengers will travel over the railway. If we are to govern the Territory, we ought to set up as soon as possible a little local Parliament. It should be our duty to pass Acts of Parliament setting forth the policy, but then we should allow the people who have to live there to administer them. The most serious piece of evidence was given by Mr. J. C. F. Johnson, who was Minister of Education and Minister for the Northern Territory for two years.
– Let him rest.
– I do not wonder that the Minister of External Affairs wants him to be allowed to rest and his evidence kept dark. The Minister has not said a single word in defence of this proposition. He has given us what, in his opinion, is the Government view - that the railway may be constructed anywhere in the most crooked fashion, and at the same time he tells us what the South Australian view is. He dare not say in this Chamber that the South Australian view is that we may construct the railway anywhere from east to west. He knows better than to do that, and, therefore he keeps a very wise and silent tongue. In question 779 Mr. Johnson was asked :
You are speaking from a South Australian point of view?
He replied -
Yes, and my views are, and always were, wilh regard to the Territory, that it is a b:id job we ever had anything to do with it - a bad thing for South Australia, and a bad thing for the Territory. My opinion on my return was it would be advisable to get rid of the Territory in some creditable way.
– That is what they are trying to do.
– But is this a creditable way? We have freely, and out of the magnanimity of our views as Australians, agreed to take over the Territory, and save South Australia £200,000 per annum, but is it creditable to the South Australians to force upon us an expenditure of another £300,000 per annum? I do not think it is.
– The honorable member held the same views with regard to the Western Australian railway.
– I am glad to be reminded of that. It is a curious fact that some of the South Australians who were not in favour of the Western Australian railway two or three years ago are now willing to let it go through.
– Name them.
– What is the reason of that ? Is there an agreement to defeat ihe opposition to the Western Australian line?
– That is a shocking misrepresentation.
– Order ! I have repeatedly called honorable members, especially the honorable member for Adelaide, who has been interjecting all the evening, to order. I ask him now to discontinue the practice.
– You have not previously referred to me, Mr. Speaker.
– It is curious that the scene has, apparently, changed, and that there should now be in the Federal Parliament quite a different atmosphere from that which obtained four years ago, when I had the honour to be in another place.
– And when the honorable member subscribed towards opposing the other line.
– I confess that I did subscribe a. couple of guineas to circulate a speech in opposition to the line. I was quite entitled to do so. I did not make as good a speech as the honorable member in question, and suggested to him that he should get a few thousand copies of his speech printed. I said I would subscribe a couple of guineas, so firmly was I of opinion that it was not right to construct the line at that stage.
– That ought to be of interest to the members from Western Australia.
– Order !
– They know all about it, and I got a letter containing a hint that I was not doing right, but that did not deter me in my opposition. I hope that 1 never shall be deterred. If I believe a thing is wrong, I hope I shall have the pluck to oppose it, nothwithstanding honorable members’ personal opposition. I am anxious for the friendship of every man, but if he does not give me his friendship in my public career he can do the other thing.
– How can the honorable member expect to retain our friendship ?
– I again appeal to honorable members not to continue to interject.
– One of my fears is that this great National Parliament may become a log-rolling institution, with a spirit of “ you roll my log and I will help you to roll yours.” Is it a creditable way to get rid of the Territory for the South Australians to bind us to construct this railway? I believe that for many years to come we shall have to hold the Territory as a man with a considerable area of country might allow a paddock to remain disused. We shall have to leave it very unsettled for a long time. Honorable members are hugging to their breasts the delusion that when this Bill goes through there will be no further bother, but it contains a clause which renders all that has been done nugatory. It says that “ nothing in this Act shall be construed to mean the appropriation of revenues or moneys.”
– Why is the honorable member fighting it so if it means nothing ?
– I believe in fighting a thing at every stage. While that clause is there, South Australians cannot claim that the agreement has been completed. The question will crop up again. I have already invited the attention of honorable members to the fact that the reason urged by residents of the Northern Territory why it has not been populated, is its remoteness from the Seat of Government. The Seat of Government being in Adelaide, 2,000 miles away, residents of the Territory have had to contend with undue delay in the transaction of their business. Their applications for land have had to be sent to Adelaide, and the journey to and from that city has occupied from six to twelve months. Will the Commonwealth be able to govern the Territory from Melbourne in any more effective way? If applications have to be forwarded to this city, from six to twelve months must elapse before they are answered. One witness was questioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, as to whether this difficulty could not be overcome by extending the powers of the Government Resident. Hut he pointed out that, whereas it was possible for the electors to dismiss members of Parliament if they neglected their public duties, it was very much more difficult to interfere with the Government Resident. He urged that it would be impossible to displace that officer every two or three years. It is necessary to appoint him for an extended term ; and if he be vested with very wide powers, unless he be an exceedingly able officer, he may get the Territory into greater difficulties under Commonwealth administration than have existed under the administration of South Australia. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken of the liability of the northern part of Australia to invasion. He said that it is open to attack by the hordes of people in the east - by the Asiatics. Quite recently, I came across a very interesting passage in the History of Australasia, which is one of the text-books of students in New South Wales. The author speaks of the curious fact that Australia remained unsettled for so many years. He says that to most .people it will appear strange that the Asiatics did not find their way into the northern portion of ;his continent long before the British took possession of it. But he points out that there are three main reasons why they did not do so. He says -
There are three main reasons for this. In the first place the tribes of Eastern and South-eastern Asia were not particularly adventurous voyagers. All the bold Asiatic seamen - at least all those of whom history tells us anything - lived up in the north-west corner of the Indian Ocean, and so thought themselves very bold indeed when they managed to sail as far east as Java. In the second place, the Malay Islands enjoy a tropical climate and are extremely fertile, while the north coast of Australia is, on the whole, barren and uninviting. If Malays did land on the continent they must have thought it a poor place compared with their own country, and felt not at all inclined to change their abode. In the third place, it happens that the only pan.-, of the Australian coast which look at all pleasant from the sea are the eastern part and the southern as far west as Port Fairy ot thereabouts ; and by a curious series of accidents the European explorers, when they came, lit upon nearly all the rest of the coastline, and missed the pleasant part. When at last Captain Cook happened to find that, it did not take long for Europeans to make up their minds about coming out here to live.
I do not attach any importance to the statement that the northern part of Australia is likely to be invaded either by the Chinese, the Japanese, or the Hindoos. If they intended to attack the Territory, they would have made a move in that direction very much earlier than this. No doubt the uninviting character of thai portion of Australia was known to the, Asiatics, and, consequently, they were satisfied to remain in their own territory.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I am not carried away by the alarmist view that there is a danger of the Territory being invaded either by the Chinese or the Japanese. As honorable members are aware, there are 400,000,000 inhabitants of the Chinese Empire ; and, without a doubt, there are many thousands - perhaps millions - of educated men within that Empire. But what the honorable member for Hindmarsh would designate as the “genius of die Chinese race,” is npt for the arts of war. The Chinese will avoid war at all costs ; so that it is not very likely that we shall be attacked by them. Japan has lately taken over Korea, but she is not sending many Japanese to that country, although it is far more fertile, from ‘ all accounts, than is the Northern Territory. Has it ever occurred to honorable members that if the Japanese or the Chinese had been anxious to acquire territory like the Northern Territory, they would long ago have made an attack upon the Dutch, who hold Java? The Dutch nation is much weaker than any of the other nations interested in Australia ; and it must be confessed that if any Eastern nation ever attempted to invade these shores, we should have Great Britain, Germany, the United States of America, France, and no doubt other Powers joining together to give us their assistance. Such an attack would mean a challenge to the whole Western civilization, and a success in the case of Australia would doubtless be followed by others. But the Chinese are too steeped in ignorance and poverty for an undertaking of the kind even if they were so disposed.
– China is one of the richest countries the world ever saw !
– That may be, from a certain point of view. Australia is said to be a very rich country because the wealth is represented by, perhaps,£300 per head; but that argument is easily exploded. The late Mr. Tyson was supposed to possess £4,000,000, but, in the statistics, if another man had nothing, each appeared as worth£2,000,000, There may be a great deal of wealth in China, but, from all I have read, the poverty is so great that 1 shall not offend the susceptibilities of my audience in the gallery by describing Chinese food. We are told that there is danger from India; but that country is so divided by castes, and on religious and industrial questions, that danger from that quarter is very unlikely. The trouble from those Eastern nations will not be in the form of war, but in the form of industrial competition, because we know that the capitalists of the world, for the sake of dividends, propose to employ Chinese, Japanese, and Indian labour to undersell the labour of Australians, Britishers, Germans, and other Westerns. I think I have said enough to justify my attitude in voting against the third reading of this Bill. I hope, though, perhaps, the hope may be useless, that this measure may be rejected at the last moment ; but, in any case, we ought not to be deterred from expressing our opinions.
– Ihave not had an opportunity of addressing myself to this subject as yet, and there are one or two aspects which, if, when presented, they have no effect on honorable members, may serve to indicate the reasons for my attitude in regard to the third reading. The two main reasons for the taking over of the Territory by the Commonwealth are represented by defence and the preservation of the White Australia policy. Any one who considers for a moment the position of the Northern Territory, and the effect it must inevitably have on the future development of Australia, must admit that no time should be lost in devoting to it that measure of attention which we hope will result in its forming a bulwark, not only against armed nations who may attack us, but also against the gradual dribbling in of what we are accustomed to regard as inferior races. This latter is, in my opinion, the more immediate danger, but both aspects are important and purely Federal, and are intimately connected one with the other. I feel, however, that the South Australian people and Government are driving too hard a bargain with the rest of Australia. I have studied this question to some slight extent ; and I think that too much credit cannot be given to South Australia for preserving this Territory, and thereby the whole of Australia, from that degeneration and deterioration which might have followed the cession of any portion to inferior races, or to syndicates only too anxious to invest large sums of money in that part of Australia, and to exploit with any kind of labour they chose to employ. Having said that, however, we have done all that could possibly be claimed as a proper recompense to South Australia, whose attitude brought its own reward. Not only from Australia as a whole, but from all parts of the civilized world, comes that commendation which is an adequate reward to any people. When we have to face a business arrangement, however, sentiment should not bulk too largely in the eyes of those who are endeavouring to secure the best terms for themselves. The Government and people of South Australia seem to have altogether lost sight of the Federal ideal ; and are endeavouring to perform that physical impossibility of “ eating their cake and having it.” They have tried by various means to settle this Territory; in fact, so varied have been their efforts that authorities tell us that every kind of land tenure known on the face of the earth can be found there. They have no.t confined themselves to that panacea of land settlement - long leases - nor to giving cheap freeholds, but have tried everything between those extremes, only to meet with failure. It is to be regretted that the mineral wealth of the Northern Territory has not been sufficiently uncovered to cause greater attention to be paid to it, not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world. The returns show not only a large expenditure, but a considerable waste of money, by past Governments of South Australia, in their attempts to settle the Northern Territory. In Western Australia we have a large area of country which, I venture to say, is just as uninviting and forbidding as the portion of the Northern Territory which has just been criticised. But, owing to the fact that gold was dis covered and that very large numbers of men were attracted there, the natural hindrances to settlement were overcome to a large extent. Water has been carried to the gold-fields, railways have been constructed, electricity is largely used, and now we find that’ the modern towns, Kalgoorlie, Boulder City, and others, possess all the accompaniments of an up-to-date civilization.
– That was all done by the State, without Commonwealth assistance.
– But the justification for it was the discovery of these enormous mineral fields.
– There was no population in the gold-fields’ area until then.
– Exactly. But the people of Western Australia have not endeavoured to drive such a hard bargain with the Commonwealth as South Australia is trying to do in this railway business.
– Western Australia is asking for a railway to be built, without making any return to the Commonwealth. In this case the Commonwealth will get the whole Territory.
– I find from the agreement which is now being pressed upon the House by the Government, that South Australia is hanging back over the question of the western railway.
– Where does the honorable member get that statement from? This is the second time that I have heard it made.
– Absolutely breaking the word of the Premier of the State.
– Rubbish !
– lt is quite true.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie is quite correct; but that is not the point that I now desire to make. I may be wrong, but 1 think it was in the minds of those who made the agreement on behalf of the Commonwealth, and in the minds of the South Australian Government and people, that there should be a cession of land to the Commonwealth along the route of the Port Augusta railway line. But I cannot discover that such a cession is provided for in the agreement. I do not know whether any of the South Australian representatives, who seem so anxious to speak, have anything to say on that point. I do not know whether they can inform me whether it is proposed to make any grant of land along the railway within the State of South’ Australia.
– No, there is not; of course not.
– In the case of the Western Australian railway, there is a promise of a cession of land along the railway route.
– No; a mere suggestion.
– South Australia, however, not only wants the Commonwealth to take over the existing lines, but requires us to give running rights to their Government.
– No; the Commonwealth is simply to continue the existing service on the line.
– We are, I think, to give running rights, and the service is not to be less than the existing service. I cannot put my finger at the moment upon the actual provision in the agreement ; but I believe that the Commonwealth is to give South Australia the use of yards and buildings, as well as running rights and powers. The honorable member for Wakefield will not deny that.
– A train once a fortnight.
– I understand that the train runs only once a fortnight, and the honorable member for Capricornia has told us that it runs so slowly that the cowcatcher is fixed to the rear of the train to prevent the animals from biting the passengers.
– That statement was not funny as the honorable member for Capricornia made it ; it is less funny now.
– I am not trying to be funny. The Minister can afford to look at the matter from a humorous point of view, because he knows that he is about to be successful. I, however, am concerned about the position which the-. Commonwealth will occupy when this Bill becomes law.
– The honorable memberneed not regret that the Commonwealth is not to get any of the land lying along theexisting railway.
– I shall not argue as to the quality of the land. I am speaking particularly about the conditions which are being exacted by the South Australian Government. Something has been said about a promise that was made, and I think it just as well that the contradiction should go on record. On page 634 of Vol. 36 of Hansard for the year 1907 the right honorable member for Swan is reporter to have said -
However, I got a promise from the then Premier of South Australia, Mr., now Sir, frederick Holder, which T regarded as completely satisfactory, as I was under the impression that if the Premier of one State officially gave a promise in writing to the Premier of another State that a certain thing would be done, that promise would be regarded as binding on the people of the State.
The honorable member also read a letter to that effect.
– Sir Frederick Holder never secured the authority of his Ministry.
– If honorable members from South Australia are going to quibble with regard to a promise made by the Premier of that State not being binding upon their Parliament and people, of course I am not able to argue with them.
– I was a member of Sir Frederick Holder’s Ministry, and can say that we were not consulted.
– I consider that these terms are unnecesarily harsh. 1 may remind the House that when Federation was about to be accomplished, certain States endeavoured to place financial responsibilities upon the shoulders of the Commonwealth, but their object was defeated by the terms of the Constitution. One State, for instance, increased the salaries of some public servants, and Victoria reduced postage rates, very many people in this State being under the impression that the whole cost would be borne by the Commonwealth. But they reckoned without their host. They discovered that the cost had to be borne by the State itself, and the position was the same in regard to all the States which increased the salaries of public servants whom they were about to transfer to the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, however, if this Bill be carried, the burden of maintaining these railways, to say nothing of developing the country, will fall upon the Commonwealth. I contend that we should not be justified in taking over the Territory simply to hold it as a sort of dead man’s land. If we take it over, we must develop it, and if we do develop it, the expenditure in that respect will be for many years simply enormous. I venture to say that it will be something which no Treasurer could contemplate for one moment with equanimity. With regard to the financial position of the Territory under the proposed agreement, I propose to quote very briefly from a valuable paper prepared by the Treasurer, and embodied in the memorandum issued by the Minister. This statement is dated 9th August last, and it points out that the total indebtedness of the Territory on 30th June, 1909, was no less than £3,498,673. That total includes the public debt of £2,718,939 due to South Australia, and also an item of £779,734in respect of the deficit, or advance account. The total loss on the Territory for the year ended 30th June, 1909, was £157,512. The Treasurer points out that if the Northern Territory alone were included in the agreement, the Commonwealth Treasury would have to provide for an annual loss of £164,398, apart from any expenditure in respect of the development of the country. We have the further statement -
If, therefore, the Northern Territory is taken over by the Commonwealth, together with the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, the annual sum to be provided by the Commonwealth would be -
Assuming that immediately after the completion of the railway the annual deficit on the line would equal the interest, the annual expenditure would be approximately -
The capital invested by the Commonwealth in connexion with the Northern Territory would be approximately -
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.
– That is due in any case.
– That is so. The Port Darwin to Pine Creek railway in 1907-8 showed a surplus of earnings over expenditure amounting to £402, but allowing for interest, amounting to £46,746, there was a net loss of £46,344. Then we have the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway line, on which there is a fortnightly service, and which shows a surplus of earnings over expenditure, exclusive of interest, amounting to £12,000. The interest on cost of construction, however, amounts to £81,088, so that on that railway we shall have, to begin with, an annual loss of £69,088. On the overland telegraph line there is an annual deficit of £3,463, or a total for the last six years available of £32,344. These figures are sufficiently alarming to cause the people of the Commonwealth to give more consideration to this proposition than apparently the Parliament is prepared to do. This is hardly the time to discuss the question of settlement, but I would draw attention to the fact that we shall not be by any means the first to try to settle the Northern Territory. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Capricornia Eastern nations have attempted in vain to do so, and other European nations also failed many years ago to establish settlements there.
– They were simply exploring expeditions.
– They went there as they went to other parts of the world.
– But they made no attempt to settle there.
– Because they found the country wholly unsuitable. I would remind honorable members of what the Dutch have done in Java, which is now one of the wealthiest and most lucrative of all their possessions. Is it possible to conceive that the Dutch, with their knowledge and determination, would have allowed this Territory to remain unpeopled if they had considered it suitable for settlement?
– We might just as well ask why they allowed Australia as a whole to go out of their hands?
– But their own settlements were nearer the Northern Terri tory than any other part of Australia. Since they had established satisfactory settlements a little north of the Territory one might well have expected them to establish themselves there if they thought the country suitable. They have, however, kept well clear of it. In that fact alone, we have cause for consideration.
– They also kept clear of Victoria.
– But the position in that regard is entirely different. The Dutch who visited the southern part of the continent in the early days were simply making exploratory expeditions. They actually made an effort to found a settlement in the north, but they did not endeavour to establish a settlement in the south.
– The honorable member is so obsessed with what, to his mind, is the enormous value of the Northern Territory that not only does he take every opportunity to bring it before the House, but it is almost impossible to get away from him when once he starts to speak of it.
– He knows the value of it.
– He does indeed.
– He has hoodwinked the House.
– He seems to have induced many honorable members to see eye to eye with him. He has evidently supplied them with the spectacles necessary to enable them to see just what he desires that they shall see.
– He deserves a vote of thanks from South Australia.
– The honorable member must have in his mind’s eye a monument - I do not know whether it is to be of Northern Territory granite - in his honour. He certainly deserves a monument for his fidelity to this question. I ask him, however, on this occasion, to forget his natural tendency, and to allow me to continue. The Dutch did try to make a settlement in the Northern Territory, but found that they could not remain there. I venture to say that this is the only case in which these people, having tested the conditions of a country, were unable to make a permanent settlement. We are justified in having some regard to the teachings of history. I wish to remind honorable members that the Northern Territory is littered with the remains of mining plants that consisted of magnificent machinery, costing enormous sums, and which was sent to the Territory from time to time from other parts of the world. In addition, large areas of country that were taken up and attempted to be used have been given back to the Crown. I am speaking now of the northernmost portion .of the Territory, and it will be found that, only in very few cases, those who originally took up country there have continued to occupy it.
– A lot of the mining failures were due to the fact that “ Johnanies “ from England were sent to manage the mines, instead of working mining managers who could have been obtained in Australia.
– That was, to some extent, no doubt a drawback. Victoria, which is the most up-to-date mining portion of the Commonwealth, has supplied Western Australia particularly with a very large number of mining men; but I recognise that a number of very capable men from the Old Country have done very valuable work in Western Australia, and men of the same training, with the same backing, found it impossible to make a success of mining operations in the Northern Territory. To return to the question of the value of the land, I have read and heard a good deal about it. I have conversed with men who have been in the Northern Territory. During the last week, I spent some days with Professor Baldwin Spencer, who crossed the central part of the Territory on two occasions, and made very valuable observations there. From every source of information, I am convinced that on the plateau of the MacDonnell Ranges, and a little further north, there 1s valuable land which might be profitably occupied if there were means of communication with markets. In this connexion, I wish to put forward an idea that has occurred to me. I spoke of it to an honorable member a few minutes ago ; and he told me that the same idea was suggested at the Committee stage when the Bill was last before the House. I urge that we should make a new agreement with the Government of South Australia. For defence purposes, and in order to maintain the White Australia policy, we should agree to take the northernmost onethird of the Northern Territory, and defend it against those who might invade it for purposes of occupation, and against undesirable persons who are drifting into the Territory. We could allow South Aus tralia to retain the southern two-thirds, including the more valuable land. I feel sure that if such a proposal were made, we should be able to get very much better terms from the South -Australian Government.
– That proposition was rejected last year.
– So I understand. It was brought up in Committee, i am told, but I was not aware of it. Thinking the matter over, and endeavouring to find some solution of what to me is a difficulty, it occurred to me that perhaps the Government of South Australia might be prepared to consider a proposition of that, character. I am not aware that such a proposal was ever made to the people of South Australia.
– They have got too good a thing on in this to consider such a proposition.
– I think the Commonwealth Parliament should give them an opportunity to say whether they would not prefer to retain the valuable land which is known to exist in the southern two-thirds of the Territory. We should get all we desire from a Commonwealth point of view by taking over the northern one-third. By spending a certain amount of money in that part of the country, we could defend it against the two dangers to which I have alluded. I feel that this Parliament is not entitled to handicap posterity in this matter. It will be very many years before the Northern Territory is settled. It will certainly not be in our time, and posterity for a considerable period will have to bear a very heavy burden of expense and responsibility. The expenditure in the Territory will necessarily be enormous, especially if we are compelled, as seems likely, to construct the railway entirely within the Territory.
– We must do that.
– There have been other opinions expressed regarding it.: If we are compelled to do that, I can only say that we are now proposing to take a very serious step which will involve the Commonwealth in great financial responsibility. I urge that the matter should be regarded from the Federal and national stand-point, even by honorable members who represent South Australia. We should even now post- pone the consideration of the question. We should decline to pass the third reading of this Bill until the alternative has been placed before the Government and the people of South Australia of the Commonwealth taking over only a portion of the Territory and the State retaining the southern part of it, which is held to be of such enormous value from a settlement point of view. If such a proposal were adopted, South Australia would be relieved of what undoubtedly is to that State a serious financial responsibility, whilst the Commonwealth would be able to take means to protect Australia from two serious dangers. Some people are disposed to minimize the danger of invasion, but the other danger to which I have referred will continue to confront us if we intend that Australia shall remain a white man’s country. If we are now found wanting in our appreciation of our duty to the people of the Commonwealth as a whole, I feel sure that nothing but disaster ‘will follow, and that the years to come, instead of being full of praise for those who have been legislating in the Commonwealth Parliament will bring with them a constant source of trouble which will emphasize the failure of this Parliament to realize that it had in thismatter a national duty to perform. We should not allow sentiment or a desire to stand well with a particular portion of the Commonwealth to cause us to make a grave mistake which may be fraught with disaster for those who are to follow us.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill benow read a second time.
This is a measure to transfer the administration of the Patents Department from the Minister of Trade and Customs to the AttorneyGeneral, and does that and nothing more. The transference is proposed because the matters arising in connexion with patents and trade marks concern the Attorney-General’s Department more nearly than that of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and administration will be facilitated by it.
– I thought that the honorable member had already patent rights over all the designs of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
House adjourned at 10.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101101_reps_4_58/>.