4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 i.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs give us any information about the proposed new boun-
– I claim the courtesy of a reply to a question, without notice, from the Minister of Trade and Customs. Has any reduction in the price of butter or other produce come- to his knowledge during the last few days?
– I see from the newspapers that the statement of prices read in. this chamber the other day created consternation in’ the butter, industry, and that those connected with it desire to prove that the prices are not those that were- then given. I have been informed’ that butter has dropped about 2d. per lb. since then.
– I ask the Minister if he thinks that the publication of the prices of butter .and meat had immediately the very beneficial effect of reducing the cost of living in Australia, whether he will consider the advisableness of extending such publication in the interests of consumers?
– I do not think, that the publication of prices referred to was theimmediate cause of - a reduction in the cost of living, but it probably had some- effect in that direction.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs say when- the papers relating to the new Commonwealth, offices will be laid- on the table of the Library,, in accordance- with the- promise which he. has made? Has he seen the statement in this morning’s Argus that a contractor has offered to give £joo to the hospitals if a comparison will not show that the new Commonwealth. Treasury will’ cost 50 per cent, more than the State building alongside it ? ls .the Minister prepared to make an opportunity for the hospitals to get that .money ?
– I understand that such a paragraph has appeared, but, for my peace of mind, I read only the Age. I shall look into the matter.
– But what about the laying of the papers on the table? When will the honorable gentleman make .available to members all the papers relating to the proposed building, including the offer of the Victorian Public Works Department ?
– I have given instructions to have the papers supplied, and shall look into the matter again. No doubt they will be sent back to the Library to-day.
I Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.- I inquired this morning, and found that they are not there .now.
– I should like to inform the honorable member for Lang that I have made an inquiry in respect of the papers he has referred to, and I ‘find that they were left at the Library at 2.30 p.m. yesterday.
– I inquired this morning as to whether they had been returned, and was told they had not.
– I ask the Minister of -Home Affairs if he will make further inquiries in reference to the papers. I have just been into the Library, and have discovered that they have not yet arrived there. The honorable gentleman might inquire why they have not been sent, and when they will be sent to the Library.
– We shall have a search made.
Motor Car Tires
– With reference to the two motor cars which are to be acquired for use in connexion with the construction of the railway from; Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, will the Minister of Home Affairs give an opportunity to Australian and other tire makers to tender for the supply of tires?
– I have been looking into the matter, and think that there will be no difficulty about that. The officers making the recommendations have .been using foreign material for so long that I suppose they are unconsciously biased, but as it is the policy of the Fisher Ministry to give preference to Australia, we shall do it in this instance.
Cadet Exemptions - Australian
– Will the Prime Minister invite the Minister of Defence to consider, with a view to granting an exemption from compulsory training, special cases like that of Albert Charles Osborne, of Chatswood, New South Wales, an orphan left with the care, according to his statement, of eight younger brothers and sisters, all under sixteen years of age? He declares that he will not undergo the training, and says -
I have a good character from my employer. I do my work faithfully, and I have long hours. My father is dead. My mother died only four, months ago. I and my brother are the sole support of the family. I am tired out when I get home, and it is as much as I can do to look after the house, which is not our own yet, and which I have to keep touching up. I have eight brothers and sisters, all under sixteen, to look after.
I ask the Prime Minister whether he is not of the opinion that Parliament would support the Minister of Defence in granting special -exemptions in cases of that kind ?
– Every member must be in sympathy with the honorable member’s request, and, so far as the law permits, I think the matter can be easily dealt with. I shall bring the matter before the Minister of Defence.
– As Chatswood is in the division of North Sydney, I ask the right honorable gentleman to make sure that the published statements are correct before taking action. The honorable member for Capricornia might have communicated with me on the subject before interfering.
– Accepting the facts, the case is a very hard one, and there is warrant and precedent for an exemption. In countries where there is conscription, any person having a family to support is not compelled to serve.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. When I saw the paragraph in the newspaper this morning? I ascertained the division in which Chatswood is situated, and, finding that it is not represented by a member of our party, I thought that, as the line of demarcation between ourselves and honorable members opposite is so clear, I was entitled to ask the question. If the honorable member for North Sydney will assure me that he is in sympathy with the object of questions asked on a previous occasion-
– The honorable member is going beyond a personal explanation.
– I wish only to add that I shall be happy to consult him about questions of a similar character which may arise in connexion with his electorate.
– When I asked a question of the Prime Minister, following upon the question of the honorable member for Capricornia, I had not seen the newspaper account of the pathetic situation of the cadet referred to. Having now read the report, I say at once that I am quite in sympathy with the question asked by the honorable member, and I hope that some action will be taken. The case is certainly a most pathetic one. Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the following paragraph -
The whole of No. 4 Company of the A.G.A., stationed at Wollongong, resigned to-day -
– Is Wollongong in the honorable member’s electorate?
– No; but this is a public matter, and I am asking the question in the absence of the honorable member for Illawarra, who represents Wollongong. The resignations are stated to be - owing to the regimental staff being abolished, and no provision being made for their upkeep. The loss to the Commonwealth of the local A.G.A. is a serious one, as they were recognised rs absolutely the best big-gun shots in Australia. To-night the head-quarters company in Sydney, which should muster 121 strong, ha’d dwindled down to 25, including 5 officers going out tomorrow.
Does not the Prime Minister think that that indicates a serious state of affairs ?
– These are times when all kinds of people go on strike to assert their rights. I have no very great apprehensions .concerning the movement referred to, although I greatly regret it. I saw the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred, the particulars of which, I think, are stated somewhat differently in the two morning papers of Melbourne. I shall bring the matter before the Minister of Defence. If there is any real grievance discovered, it ought to be removed.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a somewhat important question concerning Queensland. What is the true position of affairs, in view of the suggestion made by him, as to the abolition of the sugar Excise and Bounty?
– The question asked by the honorable member is very concise. What the true position is I do not know myself. All I can say in reply to the question is that the sugar Excise and Bounty represent superstructures on our protective policy, intended to insure the development of the sugar industry by white labour. If any legislation can be devised to serve the same purpose, the superstructures referred to should, no doubt, be removed as early as possible.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What has been the increase in imports of both classes of confectionery (n.e.i. and ornamental) during each of the five years ending 1911 and the total said imports during ion? What have been the increases in local production?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Value of output of confectionery works throughout the Commonwealth, 1908-11 -
The following are the names of those industries in which manufacturers asked for an increase in import duties : -
Division 1. Spirits, &c. -
Division 2. Tobacco, &c. -
Tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes+.
Division 3. Sugar -
Division 4. Agricultural Products and Groceries -
Division 5. Textiles, Felts, and Furs, and manufactures thereof, and Attire -
Division 6. Metals and Machinery -
Division 7. Oils, Paints, and Varnishes -
Division 8. Earthenware, Cement, &c. -
Division 9. Drugs and Chemicals -
Division 10. Wood, Wicker, and Cane -
DivisionII. Jewellery -
Division 12. Leather and Rubber -
Division 13. Paper and Stationery -
Division 14. Vehicles -
Division 15. Musical Instruments -
Division 16. Miscellaneous -
Those marked thus * are those dealt with in
Tariff Revision last year, while in connexion with those marked+ schedules have been received.
It should be mentioned that in some cases the applicants who sent in schedules represented only a small proportion of manufacturers.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to instruct the Commonwealth Statistican to compile the following tables for the next YearBook: - The number of income taxpayers in Australia ; the number of non-income taxpayers ; the taxpayers up to £200, from £200 up to £300, from £300 to £500, from £500 to £1,000, from £1,000 to £5,000, from , £5,000 upwards; separate tables for property and personal exertion; the value of estates of deceased persons under £500, from £500 to £1,000, from £1,000 to £5,000,from£5,000to£10,000, from £10,000 to £50,000, from £50,000 and upwards; a table worked out upon the probate tax; the number of persons who leave at death no property subject to review?
– Steps have already been taken to obtain the information desired, and it will be published, provided the State Departments concerned are able to furnish the necessary data. Attempts by this Government to get the desired information have not, so far, met with success.
Leave of Semi-Official Employes
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the feeling which prevails amongst land-holders within the Federal Territory with regard to the delay which is taking place in the resumption of their land, and the absence of any definite pronouncement with reference to the conditions of tenure to be adopted after resumption -
Will the Government make arrangementsfor the immediate taking over of the holdings of those land-holders who may from time to time desire to dispose of their properties?
Have the Government given consideration-. to the matter of advancing loans, through the Commonwealth Savings Bank, to owners of freehold land within the Federal Territory, in order to enable them to pay off existing mortgages and still furtherimprove their holdings?
In view of the rabbit-infested state of a large number of the holdings within the Federal area, will the Government at once make arrangements for supplying wire-netting (on lines similar to those of the State Government) to those land-holders who may desire to net their holdings in?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 to 3. I will request Colonel Miller, Administrator of the Territory, on his return from. Western Australia, to go into the whole of these matters, which have already received some consideration from the Department.
Divisional and Subdivisional Returning Officers
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
When filling vacancies in the ranks of Assistant Returning Officers, it is the policy to secure the services of public officials. In some cases, however, the services of public officials are not available, and in other cases their services can- not be made available without serious embarrassment to the Departments in which they are employed.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, and the Commonwealth was informed that the two Governments were in conference on the subject as to the measures in operation and as to what course of action would afford reasonable protection to New South Wales, and those associations from whom communications had been received by the Commonwealth were informed accordingly. It is understood that the matter is still engaging the attention of the State Departments, and no further communication has been received from the district associations.
If it is found necessary to put the special provisions of the Quarantine Act into operation for the protection of clean States, or any clean part of a State, from tick infection in any other State, this will be done after full investigation of all the circumstances.
Mr. THOMAS (Barrier- Minister of
External Affairs) [10.51]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the House is to provide for a permanent survey for a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. As honorable members are aware, the South Australian Government some forty years ago decided to build a railway right across the continent from Port Darwin to connect with their railway system in the south. Any one who knows anything about the Northern Territory will realize that this was a very bold and a very courageous project, especially when we remember that it was undertaken when the population of Australia was considerably less than it is at the present moment. The South Australian Government extended their railway system northward as far as Oodnadatta, which is a distance of about 680 miles from Adelaide. They also built a line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, a distance of about 150 miles. There is, therefore, at present a gap between Pine Creek and Oodnadatta of 1,065miles . It is intended by the railway for which this survey is required to carry the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. When taking over the Northern Territory, the Federal Government, under an agreement with South Australia, undertook to connect, at some time or other, the railway at Pine Creek with some point on the Port Augusta railway. Therefore we are legally, as well as morally, bound at some time to connect Pine Creek with the Port Augusta and Oodnadatta railway.
– We are legally and morally bound, I say, to connect those two points. It is proposed to make a permanent survey to the Katherine, having the further extension fully in our mind. There are, however, some persons who argue, and, I think, with a certain amount of force, that it is quite possible that for the immediate development of the Northern Territory it might not be the best policy at the present moment to go on with the railway from north to south. I mean that there are differences of opinion in this House as to whether it is the better policy for the immediate settlement of the Northern Territory to build a line at once from north to south, or whether there should be some extension into Queensland or- into New South Wales. Whichever of these two policies be correct, the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River would suit either. Whether this House ultimately decides that it would be better not to proceed immediately with the line from north to south, but to connect with the railway systems of the more populous States, or whether they come to the conclusion that the line should go direct from north to south, Ihe railway for the purposes of which we are asking for this survey must form part of either system. The length of the railway will be about 56 miles. The route is as follows : - From Pine Creek the line follows near the telegraph line for about a mile, then, bending slightly to the west, passing along the eastern edge of the Mount Wigley Range, and following the valley of the Ninnaber Creek, it crosses the River Cullen at about 6 miles ; following the telegraph line thence in a general direction of about 45 degrees east of south to the Ferguson, it crosses that river about miles below the telegraph line. From the Ferguson, in the direction of about 22 degrees east of south, it keeps to the west of the hills described on the plan as the Milne Mountains, and crosses the Edith River between 6 and 7 miles below the telegraph line. After crossing this river, the line takes a direction of 32 degrees east of south until at about 12 miles it strikes the head of one of the branches of the 10- Mile Creek. Following the general direction of this creek on its west side on a general bearing of about 52 degrees east of south to its junction with the main 10-Mile Creek, and then following along the west side of the 10-Mile Creek at an average distance of about three-quarters of a mile from it, it crosses the Katherine about three-quarters of a mile below the junction of the creek.
– What is the general direction of the line from the start to the terminal point?
– It goes south. There are two suggested routes, even from Pine Creek to the Katherine. One is that which I have just described. Another which has been suggested is that the railway should go a little more west, near the mining fields,, pass through them, and arrive at the Katherine River at the same place as is suggested in the scheme now submitted. The second suggestion would mean that the line would be extended about 5 miles. Personally, I am in favour of the more direct route, rather than that we should branch off, because the extension through the mining districts would mean an added cost of some £25,000 or ,£30,000, and it would also mean that for all time there would be 5 miles added to the distance of the big trunk line ; because this railway must necessarily be part of the trunk railway system of the Northern Territory. I am of opinion that, by having some good roads, which we calculate can be made for about £5,000, we can avoid the necessity for such a deviation.
– Does that mean that the trunk line will be of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge?
– I will come to the question of gauge in a moment. At present, I say it would be better to follow the direct route rather than branch off to touch the mining fields. It is estimated that the cost of the survey will be something like £4,000 or £5,000, and we are anxious, of course, that it shall be completed as soonas possible. Three parties would be required to complete the survey in six months, and the cost, it is estimated, would be a little over £4,110. To complete it in nine months, two parties, at an estimated cost of £3,360, would be necessary. As we are anxious to push on with the work as fast as possible, in order that, when Parliament meets next year, the Government of the day may be in a position to introduce a Bill for the construction of the fine itself, we desire to have three parties at work.
– Will nothing be possiblebefore this session closes ?
– It will take six months to make a permanent survey.
– What ! For 56 miles ?
– Yes; that is the estimate, if we have three, instead of two,, parties at work. The permanent survey will be made on a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, but an estimate will also be furnished of the cost of a 3-ft. 6-in. line, which is the gauge of the present railway. It is calculated that the cost of a 4-ft. 8½-in. line of railway to the Katherine itself would be over £500,000, and that to bridge that river would involve a further expenditure of about £170,000. It is not proposed at present to throw a bridge over the Katherine. The proposition is that we shall carry the railway as far as the river, and establish a cable way of ligger wood, or of some similar type, to be provided at a cost of about , £3,000. This, it is believed, would be of great assistance in connexion with the erection of the bridge itself. It is thought that it would be sufficient to carry passengers, goods, live stock, &c, across the river at high flood, and could be worked as occasion demanded.
– Let us be clear. The Minister says that it would cost about £500,000 toCarry the railway to the river, and a further sum of £170,000 to get over it.
– Yes. The policy of the Government is to have the survey made as soon as possible, in order that we may come down with a proposal for the immediate construction of this 56 miles of railway. Whilst this survey is being made, a Committee, to consist of a railway engineer, a harbor engineer, and one who knows the country of the Northern Territory, will be appointed, and will furnish, for the information of Parliament, a full and detailed report as to the best general railway policy for the Territory. It will report whether it considers it advisable to go straight on and immediately connect with the line to the south - and definite instructions will be given to it to bear in mind the legal and moral obligations that we have to construct a railway - or whether we should first construct railways to join with any other State systems, or push out to any of the rivers, with the idea, perhaps, of opening up some particular parts of the Territory.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Committee he had in view some months ago, when he communicated with the High Commissioner in London?
– I do not remember sending any statement to the High Commissioner.
– The statement which the Minister has just made is already in print as having been sent to the High Commissioner.
– It is in a magazine I have here.
– I mentioned the matter when in Darwin, and it is possible that the statement I then made may have been sent Home by the press. But I do not remember sending to the High Commissioner any statement concerning this matter. Whatever may be the report furnished by this Committee, we claim that it is a matter of urgency that this line in the north should be proceeded with. In order that the Territory may be properly developed, it is, of course, necessary that we should find markets for the settlers, and that we should give them better facilities than they possess at present for dealing with their cattle and produce. One of the proposals in connexion with the development of the Territory is that freezing works should be erected there. Whilst I was in the Territory, a deputation interviewed me on the subject. I informed the deputation that the Government were prepared to erect freezing works, but that we should require, first of all, to receive from the Administrator a very definite statement as to where they should be erected. I said that, until we received from him a very definite report as to the most suitable locality in which to erect them, we could not go on with the work, but that, upon the receipt of such a report, we should be prepared immediately to erect freezing works. I have received recently from the Administrator a rather interesting report, which the House perhaps may be pleased to hear. It is as follows -
In reply I have to inform you that this question - the question of the freezing works - has been discussed with several of the larger pastoral ists in the Territory. Suggestions were made for the erection of works in the following localities : -
The following conclusions were arrived at : -
Locality (1) (Macarthur). - There would be at present insufficient stock likely to come forward to warrant erection of works here.
Locality (2) (Victoria). - The route to any suitable site for works is too rough to land stock fit for freezing, and it would be difficult to arrange for shipping facilities until a great deal of survey work, &c, has been carried out, both of that river and the neighbouring country.
Locality (3) (Katherine). - It was generally agreed that fat stock could be landed in freezing condition there, both from the west and from the east of the overland telegraph line. If works were established there, however, it would be absolutely necessary to have additional cold storage at Darwin. It would be impossible to rail frozen meat from Katherine to Darwin to suit shipping requirements, and to have supplementary cold storage works at the port would obviously add very seriously to the working expenses.
Locality (4) (Darwin). - Reviewing the whole question, it would appear wisest to erect the works at Darwin, but it will be impossible to convey stock to Darwin in f reezing condition, at all events in sufficient numbers, until the railway to the Katherine is completed. I have already given the question of a suitable site some consideration, but shall write you again in regard to this. I think there will be no difficulty in finding Crown land suitable for this.
I have intimated to all pastoral ists concerned, however, through the Progress Association here, that, before 1 recommend the expenditure of public money upon such works, I must receive written guarantees that stock-owners will support them by supplying a fair number of cattle every season. Inquiries are now being made from stock-owners generally. Without such a guarantee the stock-owners of the Victoria River district would discontinue to patronize our works in the event of the Western Australian Government, or any private firm, erecting freezing works at Wyndham, because they consider the route to Wyndham much better than that to the Katherine. As the Victoria River would constitute the main source of our supplies for a number of years, this would mean the closing of the works, to the detriment of the other stockowners, or their carrying on at a huge loss to the State. Of course, I do not wish to hamper trade, but it is undesirable that the Territory should develop a new industry and some one else reap the benefit, to its own financial detriment. My intention is to have such a guarantee that, if any one chose todivert his stock, the forfeiture of so much (say 2s. 6d.) per head, would permit us to keep the works going for the smaller supplier. I have explained the position fully to the stock-owners I have met ; they agree to its reasonableness ; and I have every hope that, ere very long, I may be able to forward to you the necessary guarantee. I estimate we should not commence the establishment of freezing works unless we can get a guarantee of 10,000 per annum as a minimum supply. This number is a mere bagatelle in a country with 500,000 cattle and no local demand for beef.
In addition to the necessity for such a minimum for the upkeep and running of the freezing works, it is necessary in order to insure shipping facilities ata satisfactory rate.
In conclusion, I am certain that we cannot, with profit to the stock-owner, establish works until the railway to the Katherine is completed, or nearly so, for, on the route between Katherine and Pine Creek, all stock would rapidly lose condition, and so be landed as “ stores,” not as “ freezers.”
There is no doubt the establishment of freezing works at Darwin would be of immense value to the Territory. The value of cattle would nearly double, the railways would pay, and settlement would be encouraged.
The freezing works proper would probably not. be kept going more than six months in the year, but the addition of canning and manure plants which are to-day necessary adjuncts, would enable the engineer and the best of the staff to be kept busy for the greater part of the year. In addition, the works could be the source of a general electric supply for the town of Darwin, at a small additional expense, for electricity is a necessity in any up-to-date freezing works.
My rough estimate of the cost is about £80,000, and, were it decided to go on rapidly with the railway extension to Katherine, every endeavour should be made to have it reach a point 10 miles from Katherine by the end of next year. If this were possible, and the stockowners come into line, the freezing works should be ready by then, and operations could commence.
The Administrator has received from London the following cablegram from Mr.. Townshend, manager of the Victoria Downs property -
Bovril Australian Estates, with extension railway to Katherine, subject reasonable charges for treatment, guarantee supply at least 5,000 head cattle annually meat works, Darwin, disease drought excluded.
Concerning that cablegram from London the Administrator has telegraphed the following message -
When definitely decided re railway and freezing works, propose preparing an agreement for general manager’s signature. Have received no guarantee from smaller holders, but this is the most important, and will warrant establishment of. works.
It will be seen from what I have read that it will be a good thing to have a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River if, as the outcome of it, among other things, we could have freezing works at Darwin.
– It seems to pass through very poor country when it has such a bad effect on the stock.
– Yes. The country between the terminal points is not, in my opinion - and I think that the honorable member for North Sydney rather agrees with me - too good. But the line has to go by that route in order to get to the good land. It is admitted that there is good land on the other side of the Katherine River. They can bring the cattle to the other side of that river, but travelling over the intervening 56 miles they say would be bad for them. The land along the route is, apparently, not good. I am glad to say that the mining reports which we have received from time to time are satisfactory. There is no doubt that there is a good mineral belt in the district, and that it would be touched by the proposed railway. We recognise that the development of the Territory would be helped very considerably by the establishment of a mining field. If we could have some good mines opened there they would have a wonderful effect in that direction. I have already referred to the legal and moral obligations that we have in connexion with the carrying out of the railway from the north to the south. Besides, we have to pay and we are now paying about £80,000 a year interest on the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, so that we have to take that into consideration as well as our legal and moral obligations. I hope that honorable members, will see their way clear, I trust unanimously, to support this proposal for the survey of a railway, and will not demand any immediate linking of the north and the south. I think that we are justified in asking even the representatives of South Australia not to be too impatient, in view of the fact that we have taken over all the monetary considerations in connexion with this matter. Of course, if the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta had remained with South Australia, and its Government had to meet a loss of £80,000 a year, there might be a small justification for persons in that State being a little impatient if we did not go from the north to the south at once. But seeing that the Federal Government has taken over that liability, from the stand-point of South Australia there ought not to be, I think, any impatience shown After a survey has been made, and a construction proposal has been submitted to, and authorized by Parliament, it will take some considerable time to build the railway. In the interval, the Committee of which I have spoken will be doing their work and reporting. They will have the assistance of the survey parties in order to survey any lines which they may deem necessary, and by the time the railway is built to the Katherine River we shall know more definitely what it may be necessary to do in the future. Whatever Government may be in office then will be in a far better position than we are in now to put before the House a definite railway scheme. Seeing that at present there are only about 1,000 white persons in this great Territory, which for over forty years has been administered by South Australia, we think it is not unreasonable that we’ should not plunge too heavily at once. We feel that a proposal which practically means a direct expenditure of £500,000 will be a fair and legitimate instalment 10 go on with. I therefore ask the House to pass the Bill.
– I can see no reason to urge against the proposal itself, but it is to be regretted that the Minister could not have seen his way much earlier to take definite action to have constituted a Committee such as he has suggested. In 1910 the Commonwealth resolved to take over the Northern Territory, so that for nearly two years this matter has been under the control of the present Administration. I am glad to say that the Minister will receive support from this side of the House for the appointment of the Committee to which he has referred. As a matter of fact, in 1910 such a Committee as he has suggested to-day, was outlined from this side, and the honorable member for Parramatta almost suggested in detail the personnel of the Committee which was to be appointed. It is a pity that the Minister did not take action earlier, because it would appear from a report in the Empire Magazine, of the 5th June, 191 2, that the Department itself had in contemplation the proposal which the Minister made here to-day. The report reads -
Reuter’s Agency is informed that, according to information which has reached the High Commissioner in London, the Commonwealth Government has decided upon an important step with regard to the development of the tropical regions of Australia. The Minister of External Affairs, whose Department controls the Northern Territory, has decided to appoint a committee to visit the territory and advise the Government as to the best measures to be taken for railway development.
In this connexion it is interesting to note that by the agreement under which the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory from South Australia, the Federal Government is bound to connect the far north and south of that State by means of a railway nearly a thousand miles in length, from Pine Creek in the extreme north of the Northern Territory to Oodnadatta, the present terminus of the line running north from Adelaide.
The above-named committee will consist of a railway engineer, a civil engineer, and a third expert, thoroughly conversant with the general conditions of the Northern Territory. This committee is to report on the railway lines necessary, with special reference to development from the north ; to indicate the general direction and nature of the lines required; and to give an approximate estimate of cost. While bearing in mind the legal obligation of- the Commonwealth with regard to the Pine Creek-Oodnadatta line, the committee will have to take into consideration existing and projected lines in Queensland and Western Australia, and will make recommendations as to the junctions, navigable rivers, and other kindred matters connected with the development of the Territory.
– That is the statement which I made to the press representatives here.
– My only regret is that the Minister has been loitering over this matter. There was no necessity to place upon the Estimates a sum to provide for a Committee of Inquiry into the whole policy of railway development in the Northern Territory. Consequently, I contend that a lot of valuable time has been lost. I hope that the members of that Committee will be men of the highest qualifications. I trust that the railway engineer will be the best whose services can be obtained in the Commonwealth, and that the only consideration which will weigh with Ministers in the matter of his appointment will be his fitness for the office. The value of the Committee will depend entirely upon the impartiality, the efficiency, and the high character of its members.
– The honorable member is throwing off about the appointment of Mr. Chinn.
– I think it is unfair to make that imputation against the Minister. The only persons who ought to be sent to the Northern Territory to conduct the proposed inquiry should be those of proved ability.
– I have been on the lookout with a view to getting men of that stamp. But it is not easy to get them.
– It is essential that a developmental policy in respect of the Northern Territory should be ‘formulated at the earliest moment. In the absence of a comprehensive railway policy that is impossible. Without railways the progress of the Northern Territory is unthinkable. But in giving effect to any such policy we must recollect our legal obligations to South Australia.
– What the honorable member read a little while ago was practically the statement which I made to the press.
– As the Minister has properly pointed out we are under no legal obligation as to the time within which the northern transcontinental ,’railway should be built, but we are under a moral obligation. Our legal obligation is to construct that line, and our moral obligation is to construct it within a reasonable period. It has been left to this Parliament to decide what shall be the route of the proposed transcontinental line. It has been stated that the line must be from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, but the route is left open for Parliament to decide between the terminal’ points of Port Darwin and Port Augusta. In the absence of complete expert advice we are not ableto determine the route which should be traversed. The Minister has stated that a line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta would cover a distance of 1,065 miles. If a diversion were made to the east, past Lake Eyre, the distance would be 1,350 miles. In any case, something must be done, and done quickly, for the development of the Northern Territory. In the first place, that course is necessary for the adequate defence of Australia. For adequate defence we must have the empty spaces of the Territory populated. That country must be developed rapidly, because, at the present time, it is ‘ a veryheavy burden upon us.
– Does the honorablemember think that the construction of this 60 miles of railway will relieve that burden?
– I welcome even the smallest step in the progress of the Territory. I do not think that the construction of the proposed line in itself will do> much to ease that burden.
– It will increase our liabilities.
– As soon as we commence to expend money we must inevitably increase our burden. In carrying out any developmental policy we must be committed to a heavy capital expenditure. It is our duty to see that . that initial expenditure will ultimately become reproductive and a benefit instead of a burden to Australia. If we look at the balance-sheet of the Northern Territory to-day we shall find that the estimated loss for the current financial year is £478,857, and that the loss last year was £409,964. The burden this year will, of necessity, be heavier than it was lastyear, because we are now taking our firststep in the matter of expenditure in the Territory.
– And the other expenditure was a legacy.
– Yes. We hope, however, that the expenditure which we are now incurring will ultimately have the effect of making the country revenue-producing.
– The other indebtedness was a legacy. I am not complaining, but the fact remains.
– There is no cause for complaint. We have to face the great problem, not merely of the development of the Northern Territory, but of the development of the northern portions of Queensland and Western Australia. We know that Queensland has been able to formulate a policy for the development of the northern portion of her Territory which promises good results. But in the case of the Northern Territory its isolation and other difficulties have tended to delay development. While it may not be as rich a country as is Queensland, it contains quite enough good land to make it a very valuable portion of the Commonwealth. We are beginning to understand the nature of Australia better every day. I can remember when parts of Victoria were regarded as a desert. Since then I have heard that that country has been sold for £5 and £6 per acre.
– The same thing has occurred in South Australia.
– Exactly. The learned Professor Gregory wrote of the “ dead heart of Australia,” but time may prove that it is a living heart. Each year we are driving the desert further into the centre of this continent. In carrying a policy there, our first object must be to make the country reproductive, and, to my mind, this is only the first step in that direction. I regret, from what the Minister has said, that the rate of progress of the survey is apparently going to be very slow. I understand it will take six months.
– It is as quick as any other.
– How long did it take to conduct the survey from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta ?
– Two years.
– Then, considering the distance, it must have been carried out at a much faster rate. In this case, there is a railway right to the end from which the survey is to be started. Not only that, but when I was in the Department, I think we had information from South Australia to the effect that a 3 ft. 6 in. survey had already been completed..
– A flying survey, yes.
– It was a survey of some description. If the proposed survey is completed in six months, it will not be of much practical help to us, because I presume the House will rise this year about the first week in December, or thereabouts. I hope the Minister will try to expedite the survey so that something definite may be laid before the House before the recess. If that can be done, it will be so much the better for the Northern Territory. It is most urgent that we should immediately take steps to complete our transcontinental lines as far as we can, so that they may be ready for use for defensive purposes. The times are fairly serious throughout the world in matters of defence, and our position ought to be one ofreadiness as soon as it can possibly be made so. Years ago, Major-General Edwards came here, and told us, in a report presented to the States, that -
No general defence of Australia can be undertaken unless its distant parts are connected with the most populous colonies in the south and east of the continent. If an enemy was established in either Western Australia or at Port Darwin, you would be powerless to act against him. Their isolation is, therefore, a menace to the rest of Australia. The interests of the whole continent, therefore, demand that the railways to connect Port Darwin and Western Australia with the other colonies should be made as soon as possible.
That was a note of warning sounded long before we entered into Federation, and every one who studies the defence of Australia will find that that note is becoming more and more accentuated.It is, therefore, our duty to try to help forward the development of the Northern Territory as rapidly as possible, so that that fear of isolation may be practically removed. I am glad to notice that the Minister, in his direction to the proposed Committee, states that, while bearing in mind the legal obligation-
– That is word for word what I gave to the press, but we never sent it to the High Commissioner.
– We debated a whole day here, but could not get a word from the Minister as to what the policy of the Government was, when a statement to the effect of the one which I have quoted would probably have saved a great deal of time. We could not get a statement from the Minister, and then I went to the Library, and picked up the very thing for which we were asking him when we urged him to inform us officially as to the intentions of the Government.
– Perhaps he was too modest to repeat it.
– There is a sense of duty to the House which should overcome the sense of modesty even of the most retiring Minister.
– Does not the honorable member think we have done the right thing in bringing this measure forward purposely for discussion? o
– In that, as I say, the Government have acted quite properly, but we could not get a statement even regarding the Bill for the survey until we had debated the matter pretty well for a whole day, and then the Prime Minister rose and informed us that he would introduce a Survey Bill. If Ministers would take the House more into their confidence in these matters, they would find that public business would be much more expeditiously dealt with in the House.
– I do not understand what you say about refusing information. When did we refuse it?
– That remark shows how little Ministers are cognisant of what goes on in the House. I believe all parties in the House are absolutely united on the Northern Territory question, and we do not want to bring into it the slightest tinge of party discussion. So far as this matter is concerned, we say that we applaud the Minister for his intention to appoint a Committee to inquire into the whole development policy.
– I think we have plenty of Committee up there already.
– Not of this description; but, of course, the right honorable member will understand that I am speaking only for myself.
– You said “We.”
– I was speaking editorially. The statement I have referred to shows that the Committee when it begins its inquiry will have two objects in view. First, our legal obligation; and, secondly, the obligation to inquire into the question of existing and projected lines in Queensland and Western Australia.
– I suppose it will be a Committee of members of Parliament.
– There will .not be any member of Parliament on it.
– Governor Le Hunte, of South Australia, when he visited the Territory, made inquiries into the matter, and his opinion was that there would ultimately be three lines - the one which would connect with Adelaide, another going round to
Western Australia, and the. third connecting, with Queensland.
– -That is a bit for everybody !
– There is not the slightest; doubt that ultimately that must be the solution of the whole question, even looking at it from the defence point of view.
– That will fit in with the next ten years’ Budget.
– - We are looking a long way into the future, perhaps a future further than some of our eyes will see, but it seemed to Governor Le Hunte, as an absolutely independent expert, that that would be .the course of ultimate development. The Committee must obviously consider the connexion with Queensland, because, at the present time, there is railway communication in Queensland within 150 mires of the Northern Territory. That line is within a short distance of the Barklay tablelands, which form, probably one of the best parts of the Territory. In any event, if the line goes straight down through ‘ the Territory, one of the first lines which will have to be constructed will be one to throw open the Barklay tablelands for closer settlement. It is necessary to develop our railway policy soon, and to get some idea of the lines which we must construct, because on the railway policy will, to a great extent, depend our land policy.
– Hear, hear ! They will have to be worked together.
– They must be worked together, and with them, as the Minister has indicated, must go also the development of our export trade as regards the location of freezing works, &c. The direction followed by our railways must determine the classification of the land for the purposes of settlement, and until a railway policy is announced, we cannot fix the land policy. I hope that ‘the Minister will expedite this survey, and that there will be put before Parliament very soon a comprehensive policy for the opening up of the Northern Territory.
– I shall be glad to get suggestions from a good harbors engineer.
– If I have gathered a true idea of the policy of the Government in regard to the Northern Territory, I must express my regret at the course proposed to be taken. Every word uttered by the Minister indicates that it is the Government policy to develop the Territory from the north. There could not be a more mistaken policy than that; indeed, it is suicidal. To carry out the agreement with South Australia, 1,060 miles of railway will have to be made to join Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, and if the policy of the Government is to develop from the north, every man employed on that work, and all the material, will have to be transported at great cost to the tropics, the sea voyage to Darwin occupying nearly as long as that to Europe. The men employed on the work will be taken direct from the southern portions of the continent to the tropics, and will have to face malarial conditions, and the increased cost of transport will be enormous. There could not be a more insane proposal.
– It is nonsense to suggest that everything required for the transcontinental line will be taken to Port Darwin, to be afterwards brought south. If that is to be the temper of the discussion, it will be valueless.
– Every indication we have is that it is the policy of the Government to develop from the “north, and the instruction to be given to the Committee which is to be appointed, is that development shall begin from the north.
– Where should it begin?
– From the south, if you wish to follow common-sense, business lines. To begin from the south would cost a third less for construction alone, and would at once improve the facilities for getting stock and other requirements to the Territory. The p:Stol: 1 country there is not to be surpassed in other parts of Australasia.
– And it is not in the tropical region.
– That is so. The Minister of External Affairs seems to think that South Australia will have nothing to complain of if the construction of the transcontinental line is postponed until the distant future, because the Commonwealth has taken over a liability of £80,000 a year in connexion with the line to Oodnadatta. But is there no one but South Australia to be considered ? To propose after three years the survey of a line 60 miles in length cannot be called development. Would the right honorable member for Swan be contented with such progress in connexion with the western transcontinental line? What is there to prevent the formulation of a comprehensive policy for the development of the Northern Territory? It is admitted that we cannot construct the railways that we need out of revenue. That being so, why wait for years before borrowing the money required, seeing that we shall continue to lose money as long as the Territory remains undeveloped? What would a private company do under similar circumstances? It would say, “ We are losing so much every year, and, at compound interest, the loss will double itself after a few years, unless we do something to redeem the position.” It would not consider a line to the Katherine, without a bridge over the river, an adequate attempt to meet the case.
– Does the honorable member think that the Katherine should” be bridged ? Cattle can be got across without a bridge.
– The honorable member has evidently not seen the Katherine. People are taken across it on a “ flying fox.”
– I know many rivers on which a flying fox is used which cattle can be taken across.
– The Prime Minister will not say that cattle could be taken across a flooded river with precipitous banks by swimming as easily as by driving across a bridge. The proposed line will form portion of the transcontinental line, but by the methods that the Government are following” £5°°>00° will be added to our liabilities in connexion with the Northern Territory without reducing our difficulties. When this line has been made we shall not have given access to the Barklay Tableland.
– The honorable member does not think that the line goes far enough ?
– It does not, In any case a line should at the same time be pushed up from the south to the MacDonnell Ranges. That would tap country capable of carrying millions of sheep and cattle. A survey of such a line has been made, and the whole of the data in connexion with it is available in a report which the Minister might have secured.
– Could we get water there ?
– There is abundance of water there, as I shall be able to show when I address myself to my motion. The grayest mistake we are making in this matter is that we do not decide at once that this line shall go right through from south to north in the way in which we decided to undertake the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
– What about a survey of the line?
– The line is already surveyed for 327 miles north from Oodnadatta, and very valuable information has been supplied by Mr. Graham Stewart, who was in the country for a number of years. Several alternative routes have been surveyed. If this Parliament is to rise to the occasion in connexion with the proper development of the Northern Territory, it must decide upon the construction of the through line connecting south and north, as by no other means can we Hope to have the Territory settled, stocked up, and developed, and the present unsatisfactory position of affairs improved. This pettifogging piecemeal policy of constructing 60 miles of railway from the north, and then waiting to consider how much- further we shall take the line, can be of no possible use in the development of the Territory. There is a greater reason for the construction of a line through the Northern Territory, joining south and north, than there was for the construction of the through line joining cast and west.
– Then the honorable member thinks that this line should have been built before the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
– I have not raised that point; but I venture to say that if, when it was proposed that the Commonwealth should take over the Northern Territory, Parliament had been invited to consider the construction of this line in 60-mile lengths, there would have been a good deal of noise about it. . From a business stand-point, if not also from the point of view of defence, there is greater urgency for the adoption of a comprehensive policy of railway construction, joining north and south, than there., is for the construction of the Western Australian line. , After the construction of the through line, there may be, and no doubt will be, lines constructed connecting with the other States ; but no line crossing a corner of the Northern Territory can possibly develop it, and no line going merely from Port Darwin to the Katherine River can develop it. It can only be developed by a through line connecting south and north, and when we know that that line must be constructed out of loan moneys, why should we wait five or ten years before deciding upon its construction? If we believe that a line must be constructed through the Territory joining south and north, and that it cannot be developed without such a line, it is clear that the true policy is not to waste further time in deciding upon a comprehensive proposal for the construction of the through line. If that is decided upon, it will be found most economical to construct the line from both ends.
– That is what the Minister of External Affairs has said.
– I did not understand the honorable gentleman to say so; but I am glad to have that admission from the Prime Minister.
– If the Committee reported that it was necessary to go right through, does the honorable member mean to suggest that we should think of starting only at one end?
– That is what I understood from the honorable gentleman’s statement to be the Government policy. If I misunderstood him I am not the only one who did so. Everything the honorable gentleman said led to the impression that his policy was one of construction from north to south. Although I have no knowledge of railway construction I would undertake to construct the through line south to north at one-third less, mile for mile, than it would cost to construct the same line from north to south. It should be remembered that in constructing the line from south to north we should be passing immediately through country with climatic conditions as good as those of Victoria, and only gradually approaching the tropical portions of the country. The development of the central portion would materially assist in the development of the tropical portion. If the proposition were submitted to any railway contractor or engineer in the world I have no doubt he would say, “ If it is your intention to construct the through line you should commence the construction from the south, because all necessary -material and all stock and everything necessary for the settlement and development of the country must come from the south.” It is absurd to suggest that all material should be carried round the coast, a journey almost as long as from here to London, that men should be taken round in the same way and dumped down in the malarial and tropical portions of the Territory. If the line is to be constructed from north to south we shall have to transport over the same roundabout route all that will be required to stock and develop the country. It was because of the adoption of that course in the development of the Northern Territory that South Australia failed. She tried to develop it from Port Darwin. Had South Australia pushed through, as was originally intended, with the line from Oodnadatta, I venture to say that thousands of people and millions of stock would be found in the Territory to-day. She failed in her effort to develop the Territory by attempting to do so from Port Darwin, and the Commonwealth Government will certainly fail if they adopt the same course.
Mr. GORDON (Boothby) L”-57]– I desire, at the outset, to give the Minister of External Affairs and the Government my assurance that I shall do my utmost to consider all proposals they bring down from an Australian point of view. If there is one subject which, more than another, honorable members should approach with broad minds, and a certain exercise of imagination, it is the development of the central and tropical portions of Australia. This question is not one which concerns South Australia, or any other particular State. Whatever success the present, or any future, Government of the Commonwealth may have in the settlement of the Northern Territory will be for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole, and not of any one State. We should all be actuated by the one desire to see the Territory populated, and one industry after another established there to increase its wealth and advance its prosperity for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole. I approach this question with somewhat mixed feelings. Last night, thinking over the matter, I drew up an amendment which I intended to submit to alter the instructions to the Committee for this survey with the object of having a start made with the survey from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. I was courteously informed, officially, that my amendment could not be submitted as it was not entirely in order. I did not propose to submit it with any view of embarrassing the Minister of External Affairs, or delaying necessary works, but with a desire to emphasize the policy which I believe to be the more correct one for the development of central Australia, and the Northern Territory from the south to the north, which has just been so forcibly and eloquently advocated by the honorable member for Grey. We have already a railway connexion stretching right from Brisbane round the eastern and southern coast of Australia to Oodnadatta. We have to remember that we shall have workmen- and engineers engaged on the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. We have already had a declaration of policy from this Government that they are committed to a uniform gauge as far as Commonwealth railways are concerned of 4 ft. in. Now is the time to carry out that policy by continuing the railway from some point on the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge right through the centre of the continent, with the purpose of inducing settlement gradually to creep from the temperate zone into the semi-tropical and tropical. Going back some years> we find that South Australia attempted the development of this great stretch of country. The great mistake which the State made was in establishing the two ends of the railway, one at Oodnadatta and one at Pine Creek. Those two railways stop, from the railway point of view, practically nowhere. Oodnadatta is an unsatisfactory terminus ; Pine Creek is a most unsatisfactory one. Something must be done. Whether the policy be to build from the north to the south or from the south to the north, the termini of the railways at present are of no advantage to the pastoralists or to the mining industry. If the Government is desirous of opening up from the north, then the Minister is perfectly right in asking this House to agree to carry the railway somewhere beyond the point at which it now stops. The Minister told us that he proposes to have an alternate survey for a railway on the 3-ft. 6-in. and on the 4-ft. 8 1/2-in. gauge. I contend that having determined that the railways of the Commonwealth should be on one gauge, now is the time to make a start in the direction of uniformity ; and the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek should be altered to the 4-ft. i-n. gauge in order that the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine may be constructed on the same gauge. It will never do to continue on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge from Pine Creek to the Katherine. My concern would not be greater if South Australia were losing this £80,000 a year on the Oodnadatta line- As it is at present, the Commonwealth is losing that sum, and in addition to that we are losing a large amount of money because of the small population in the Territory and the backward condition of the country. Now is the time for this Government to come forward with a bolder policy’ than is contained in this Bill, a policy which will make for the complete survey of the transcontinental route through the heart of the continent, in order that that railway may be begun and completed with the smallest possible delay. On the basis of the time that this survey is to take, six months for sixty miles, it will occupy nine years to complete the survey between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek ! There is already in existence something more complete than a flying survey for several hundreds of miles north of Oodnadatta, and there is nothing to prevent the Government this session bringing down a Bill asking this House to agree to the continuation of that railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges.
– Only extravagant expenditure; that is all.
– Where care is exercised there can be no extravagance in the building of railways in any part of Australia. If this continent is to be developed, if we are to take advantage of the great natural resources of the country, we must build railways, we must make roads, and we must give the industrial army that goes forth to develop inland Australia every possible means of communication. The same argument, the same assertions of extravagance, were made when it was proposed to throw transcontinental railways across the United States and through Canada. Instead of one railway there are now several, and they have been more instrumental than anything else in developing the country. From the point of view of industrial development, from the point of view of defence, we shall never be in a safe position as a people until we have trunk lines running east and west and north and south. I hope that the Government will see their way clear, before this session closes, not only to carry out this survey, but to come to some determination on their own responsibility to link up the two ends of the present disconnected north to south line. We have no necessity to wait for three Commissioners to examine the country, and to report, so far .as Oodnadatta and the Macdonnell Ranges are concerned. All the necessary information is already available. The country is well known.
There are no engineering difficulties. A survey has already Deen completed. It isquite within the power of the Government to bring down another Bill, whilst thissurvey is being effected, to continue the railway from .Oodnadatta to at least the Macdonnell Ranges. On economical grounds that will be a far safer and sounder policy than endeavouring to build a railway southwards from the north. In, Committee I propose to take a test division, if it be permissible to do so, in this direction. I do not object to die proposed survey being made. I do not object to the railway being continued from Pine Creek, because the railway at present existing is perfectly -useless. But I do contend, that, simultaneously’ with this survey, or with the construction of the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine, there should be some definite and determined forward movement in the direction of carrying the railway into Central Australia as the only possible means of developing what is, after all, the best pastoral country in the Northern Territory.
– Would not that be reckless expenditure ?
– It would not be reckless expenditure. It would be a commonsense policy, because it is to Central Australia that you have to go to find the best sheep country. It is in Central Australia, that you find the best pastoral country. It was from that part of the Northern Territory that, only a year ago, cattle weretrucked 700 miles to Adelaide, and another 500 miles to Melbourne; arid they topped the cattle markets of this city against the best cattle that Victoria could produce.. This shows that it is extremely good pastoral country. I hope that this Government and the party in power will not be satisfied with their present policy of developing the Territory ; that they will not be satisfied to close the session by merely asking this House for authority to carry out a trumpery survey for 60 miles; but that they will come down with a bolder proposal and ask us to agree to the building of a railway extending at least to the Macdonnell Ranges.
Mr. FRANK FOSTER (New England> [12.10] - 1 regret the brevity of the remarks made by the Minister in introducing this Bill, for I have been waiting - and waiting in vain, it would seem: - to hear from the Government something like a comprehensive policy for the development of the Territory. South
Australia, since the “eighties,” has been struggling with this proposition. She has had her own obligations to attend to, and since she has not had available the money necessary to develop the Territory, we cannot heap, upon her any contumely for her failure to open it up by a bold and progressive railway policy. The Commonwealth, however, is in a different position. In taking up this problem, we are working for Australia as ‘ a whole, and, from the point of view, of defence, for the Empire. That being so, we cannot afford to deal with it as South Australia did, and we cannot find the same excuse for inaction as could be pleaded in the case of that State. I cannot throw too much blame on the head of the Minister, when I look at the Estimates, and see what a miserably small vote is proposed in connexion with the Territory. Provision is made for an expenditure which would be just about sufficient to establish a fair-sized cattle station. If I castigate any one, I must castigate the Government, since they do not seem to have taken a twoBanded grip of the proposition, and do not appear to have sufficient backbone to ;grapple with it. I agree with those who have spoken, and especially the honorable member for Grey, who has shown that the ‘ “less money we put into this proposition the greater will be our loss. To proceed along the lines which we have recently followed, - appointing a number of public servants ;and heads of Departments, whilst failing to provide sufficient capital to permit of genuine developmental work - will be to -make the Territory a sink for public funds. Under such a system, it will continue to be -a white elephant. Our first duty is not to any party but to the Commonwealth, and in this matter we have to deal with the in- vestment of Commonwealth funds. The Minister, like other honorable members who have visited the Territory, is aware that the one barrier to its settlement hitherto has been the want of transport facilities. So far as his present proposal goes, I can congratulate the honorable member on making a sensible and solid attempt to do something practical. But it seems to me that he is falling short of the mark in coming forward with a small Bill of this kind without taking into consideration at the same time the building of the transcontinental railway and the provision of steam.ship transport. The transport needs of the Territory cannot be met merely by the construction of that transcontinental railway.
Those, who advocate that line, and who assert that nothing more is needed to open up the country, overlook the great railway development necessary before the Territory as a whole can be opened up. Standing by itself, the railway can open up only a narrow stretch of country running from north to south. I do not understand the attitude of those who speak of the Territory as if it were a comparatively small place. From north to south, it stretches a distance of many hundreds of miles, while it is about 400 miles in width. The construction of a line to the Katherine will not help, to any material extent, the pastoralists on the Victoria River. A big enterprise like the Bovril Company, no doubt, could travel cattle over long distances to reach railway communication, but if we desire to develop the Territory, we have also to consider the small man. Then, again, how will this proposed railway assist the settler on the Macarthur river or the Roper? This, line will, no doubt, be of great value to the people south of the Katherine and to those along its route, and that being so we cannot scoff at it, but the policy of the Government should be a comprehensive one, and should include the construction not only of the transcontinental railway, but of other lines which are necessary to open up and develop the ‘country. I join with the honorable member for Boothby in urging the Government to provide at once for at least a railway survey to the Macdonnell Ranges. It is absurd to talk of developing our railway policy only from the north. Such a proposal is impracticable, and must prove tremendously expensive. One reason why I urge the early survey of the transcontinental railway line is that it is necessary from a health point of view. The honorable member for Grey put the case well when he said that in attempting railway development only in the northernmost part of the Territory, we should be going into that part of it which is least satisfactory from a health point of view. Undoubtedly miners in the coastal districts, and pastoralists who have struck out into the bush, have suffered severely from malaria.0 A Commission appointed by this Government, which consisted of Mr. Gilruth, Dr. Breinl, and others, has reported that malaria is more prevalent at the small outposts than at Darwin or Pine Creek, where improvements have been made, and where medical attention can be obtained. The curse of residence in the northernmost part of the Territory is that during the wet season there is no health resort open to a man there unless he takes a sea voyage. If it were linked up by means of a railway with the Macdonnell Ranges, however, a magnificent health resort would be opened up. In the heart of Australia will be -found one of the greatest of the sanatoria which it possesses. But we. cannot overlook for a moment, as the honorable member pointed out. that this is a sheep country. Within the rain belts the few individuals who have gone out there and faced all the difficulties which surrounded them have only developed the cattle industry to the extent of 500.000 head, which, in the circumstances, is :i magnificent accomplishment. But, considering that a beast is worth from £2 to £3 on the pastoral areas there net. and that it costs several pounds .1 head to drive cattle out and bring them in touch with a railway or a steam-boat, the present pastoral pursuits may be said to be keeping back that country. As regards sheep, the transit of wool is much easier than that of live stock, and so the growth of wool becomes much more payable and develops a country much more quickly than does the cattle industry. If we are to seriously attempt to develop the wool industry in the Northern Territory we must tap the Barklay tablelands, and the country south of them. That is where I come in in regard to advocating a developmental railway policy in the Northern Territory itself. There is a river, called the Macarthur, which flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and the Admiralty have reported that at its mouth there is the possibility of a splendid harbor ; that is, in the Pelew group of islands. A railway constructed along the Macarthur to this splendid harbor and continued on to the Barklay tablelands would tap the whole of that great district ; and, seeing that we have a report from our own Commissioners that in these tablelands there is artesian water, surely the attention of the Government might be directed without delay to a comprehensive scheme of settlement along those tablelands, in smaller areas than those which we have hitherto thought of, and the survey of the suggested railway line. Not only in this district is there artesian water and great possibilities for the wool industry, but shale has been found, and specimens have been assayed. The test of the shale showed that it contained 10 per cent, of oil ; but it was only weather-beaten shale which had been taken out of the river bed, and not from the lode itself. Not only have we had report after report on this matter, but even our own Commissioners - Dr. Breinl and1 the Administrator - who have gone there, have reported on this shale deposit as a means of feeding a railway from that direction. Surely the Government will take some steps “to bore the shale beds to find if there is coal there; because if coal and shale which will yieldpayable oil can be discovered at this juncture we shall have a station where thevessels of the Fleet as well as other vesselswill go for fuel. In the Gulf of Carpentaria we shall have a place for our freezing; works with coal at the door, one might say ;. and, in addition, the chance of opening upthe Barklay tablelands. Furthermore, if a survey were made of a line from the Barklay tablelands to the Katherine River railway, and a line were found to be practicable, we should have a feeder. Again, we have the Daly River quiteadjacent to this main line. I think that-, a railway of about 60 miles would tap the Daly River country, and thejunction might be somewhere about Brock’sCreek, which is considerably over I00miles from Darwin. If we are to feed the men who are going to construct even theKatherine River line; if we are to feed the miners at Pine Creek and in thevarious river belts which the line willtap, that is where we ought to put the agriculturists who are to do the work. Honorable members have seen corn from the Daly River. It. is a pretty hard job to get corn out with only a little steamboat running in there sometimes. Butta feed corn to pigs, and then to get thebacon out, or to go in for other work connected with agriculture, might be a fairlygood proposition. Here would be a market to supply the men constructing the railway and the men on the mining fields to beginwith, and we would have a quicker way of transit to Darwin than a boat which comes, in at very long intervals. Very often the boat is dependent upon weather conditions, and the produce of the settler is rottingon the wharves. Already on this river a certain amount of development has taken . place, and some farms are growing magnificent sugar-cane and corn or maize. Togo on with a railway policy without a survey to also open up the Daly Rivercountry, seems to me somewhat suicidal..
I find, of course, that a good deal of objection to developing the country comes from persons who have never visited it, and never examined the reports of experts who have explained from personal visits what the character of the country is, and what the possibilities of the minerals are. I agree with previous speakers that the Committee which the Government are going to appoint should be composed of experts. But how they are going to recommend lines, without also reporting on the land, and the possibility of settlement, and on the minerals, and the possibility of mineral development, I do not know. And how we are to be expected to vote for the construction of lines, and the spending of money on them unless we know what is to feed them and yield a return, I do not know either.
– I take it that it will be their duty also to report on the character of the country through which the line is to be run.
– The Committee must not be composed of only engineers. It should include at least one expert on land and agriculture, and one expert on mining. I do not mean a man who is only a geologist. I would like to see a man appointed who knows something of pick and shovel-ology, and hammer and drill-ology, as well as geology. I would like to see appointed a man with a comprehensive grip of mining, who is also a geologist, if he can be found in Australia. That is the type of man who, if sent there, would give us most valuable information. I may say that I have one objection to geologists. They are men who are so wrapped up wilh their study of rocks, ina general way, and of general propositions, that they have not, as a rule, devoted much time to mineralogy. It is a mineralogical report that we really want. We want a man with a comprehensive view of mining - a man who will go into the matter and make that his great point. I may say that in the case of the mine which the Government own at Brock’s Creek, a report was made by a geologist that the mineral would go 21 dwts. to the ton. A practical miner laughed at his statement. The company had control, and they said to the practical miner, “ Go ahead and get us out a crushing.” ‘He got out a fairly large crushing which yielded more than 16 dwts. per ton. The geologist had merely taken a general sur vey of the place, he had not investigated the shoot, whereas the miner had. I trust that the proposed Committee of experts will be appointed without delay, so that we may obtain a report from them before the wet season sets in. I would urge the Government to hasten the survey of the proposed line for the simple reason that, in November, the wet season will set inr and for some time afterwards very little can be done. My chief complaint is that Ministers are allowing the dry season to slip by without doing anything. Although the dry season had started two months when the members of the parliamentary party, which visited the Northern Territory, journeyed to the Daly River, their whole itinerary had to be cancelled because the country was in such an impassable condition. I come now to the proposal which is more immediately before us. A short time ago the honorable member for Swan inquired as to the geological formation over which the proposed line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River would pass. I think that is a matter of grave importance - of such importance that when the information sought is forthcoming some honorable members may be led to vote for the project who otherwise might have some hesitation in doing so. As a matter of fact the proposed line will tap a large belt of mineral country. At first the formation of the land is granitic, this gives place to a clay slate, and as one approaches the Katherine an immense belt of basalt country is reached. The vegetation of the last named area is so sweet that it is almost impossible to get stock to travel past it. In turn this country issucceeded by a magnificent belt of limestone which extends more than 100 miles west towards the mouth of the Victoria River. This tract will supply us with the very material which we require in the Northern Territory for the construction of buildings. Here we should be able to establish cement works. We must all acknowledge the important part which cement will play in the development of the Territory. What is the use of erecting wooden buildings in order that white ants may eat them? Obviously we must put up concrete buildings. If, for no other reason than the enormous limestone deposits, which are to be found in this country, I think the con’struction of the proposed line is abundantly justified. Its terminus, too, will form the dep6t for all the great areas lying to the south. I spent several days in discussing the position with pastoralists in the Territory, and in speaking of its potentialities they remarked, “ You call that country at the Katherine River good. Come south, and we will show you millions of acres better than that will ever be.” In the Victoria River country there are millions of acres of superior land over which Mr. Townshend offers to drive stock to Port Darwin. Surely we are treating the Territory with utter contempt when in a land Ordinance which is now on the table of the House the Government offer to give away nearly 2,000,000 acres of land in one block.
– But only upon lease.
– It is possible to have just as big a monopoly in leasehold land in perpetuity as it is in freehold. For the Government to grant snore than a living area upon a perpetual lease to any person is to treat the Northern Territory with utter contempt. I think too much of the land there to agree to grant it to monopolists. I shall never vote for land monopoly under a perpetual lease system any more than I shall support a land monopoly under a freehold tenure. I warn the Government that it is their duty to see that the lands along the route of the proposed railway are held for the smaller class of settlers.
– Are those lands good enough for cultivation purposes?
– They are good enough for agriculture of the highest type. I can show the honorable member a coloured geological map of that country-
– Who is the geologist - Mr. Brown?
– I think he is.
– But it is poorly grassed country.
– The grass is magnificent.
– The pastoralists say that they cannot travel stock along the route of the line without sacrificing their condition.
Ma FRANK FOSTER.- The honorable member forgets that the line will traverse sixty miles of country. If stock are driven from sweet country to sour country they will inevitably fall away in condition.
– That country only car- ries one beast to the square mile.
Mr. FRANK FOSTER. And what beast is that - an opossum?
– I made full inquiries into the matter when I was on the spot.
– I may tell the honorable member that the per mile capacity of no part of the Territory has yet been tested.
– That is what is carried at the present time.
– There is no part of the Territory which has been fenced for the purpose of carrying stock. The stock simply roam at large in the wild bush, and consequently it is simple rubbish for any man to talk about the square mile carrying capacity of the country.
– I am only giving the statements of men on the spot.
– I have been on the spot, and I understand something about soil and the carrying capacity of land.
– The Minister insisted that one reason for constructing the line was that the cattle suffered so much injury when they were being travelled along the route it will follow.
– He was talking of fat cattle only.
– He said that fat cattle became stores.
– I may tell the honorable member that in my own electorate, if fat cattle are travelled from the plains to the higher country they will rapidly become stores until they become acclimatized.
– How much of the sixty miles of country which the proposed line will traverse is volcanic?
– Only a very small proportion.
– That would account for it.
– But there is a big proportion of limestone country. The limestone area extends over at least 100 miles in the other direction. I should say that there are 500,000 acres of it in an easterly and westerly direction. At the present time they actually drive the stock to Darwin over the very country honorable members are talking about; but, as any. man knows who understands stock or grazing, they lose condition. When they get to Darwin they are sold as fats, and they are fairly fat, but they are in nothing’ approaching the condition in which they would be if they were driven to the depot which it is proposed to establish at the end of the line, and thence trucked 200 miles to die sea-board. This will become a magnificent depot for all that southern country. I hope the Government will not attempt to construct the bridge over the Katherine River before they have surveys made of a line from the Macarthur River to tap the Barklay tablelands; of another line from the Daly River to Brock’s Creek; and of another from the ‘Victoria River. It would be an absurdity to spend £170,060 on that bridge before that other work is done. I am not asking the Government to do impossibilities. I do not want them to rush ahead with work which they cannot finance. In their wisdom they have seen fit to starve the Northern Territory vote; and I want to thank them now for not putting me there as Administrator, because with the vote now on the Estimates the only thing I could have done would have been to resign. An Administrator can do nothing in the Northern Territory unless he has money at his command. I think the least vote that the Government could have put on the Estimates for the Territory was £150,000, if settlement is to forge ahead; and what. is the use of building railways unless we have settlement? What is the use of keeping all the mineral wealth locked up there for want of development? The line which it is now proposed to survey will help to give the mineral industry in the Territory a great lift, provided that the other work of developing the mineral wealth of the country is carried on as well. I am ashamed to think .that the Government have been in control of this country for two years, and that not one reward has been offered for the discovery of a mineral field there. It would not have cost the Government a penny to make the offer. They could have offered the reward in such a way that it need not be paid except to a man who discovered, say, a .field which would employ 250 men for six months, or 500 for twelve .months, or something of that kind. Our railway policy requires to go hand in hand with our policy of developing the mineral wealth of the country. It is useless for us to construct these lines with the idea of developing agriculture only. The two great industries that are there, and that only need assistance to become developed, and will develop themselves when they get .a start, are the pastoral and mineral industries. Grazing can be carried on with. Che greatest security .; and every stock-holder in the Territory laughs at the idea of any man talking about the impracticability of grazing cattle there. They have proved the practicability of the industry right up to the hilt. A note of pessimism regarding the Territory and its development is sounded by some honorable members when discussing this line. They speak of the country as if it was a place that we had already tested and found wanting. I should like to refer those pessimistic gentlemen to the development of Western Australia before and after the gold-fields were discovered. How long was Western Australia a sparsely settled country before Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie were found? The gold was lying in chunks, as it were, on top of the ground. Prospectors went out and found it, and then there was an inordinate rush to the country, which from that time on was rapidly built up. Any man who takes these things into consideration must feel angry with any Administration that sits down and practically does nothing towards encouraging the development of the mineral wealth of the Territory. I welcome this line from the stand-point of the mineral wealth of the country alone. It will do a lot of good, but it will not do half as much good as it will if a vigorous policy of mining encouragement and development goes side by side with it. I shall be glad if the Minister of External Affairs will see that he gets a definite report with regard to the mineral possibilities as well as the land possibilities of the Territory. If he does that he will be doing a great deal of good as regards the future of the country* I should like to refer those honorable members who are afraid of developing the central part of the Territory, where the rainfall is lighter, to the experiment in establishing Salt Lake City, in the United States. The people who went to that country to develop it were looked upon as lunatics by those living under better conditions in America, yet they turned what was a dry barren country, devoid of water supply, .and practically a wilderness and a desert, into one of the most smiling and’ fruitful portions of the United States. I have an unlimited faith in the NorthernTerritory, and that faith has been strengthened by going inland 200 miles,, and by reading every report that hasbeen made regarding the minerals, or the soil, or the possibilities of the Territory generally. If any man can read those reports from experts who know their business, or take a trip to the Territory and see the position for himself, and still be pessimistic about its future if it gets a decent chance of development, I shall be exceedingly surprised. In the Northern Territory lies the greatest chance that Australia has ever had of an enormous development, especially along pastoral and mineral lines. So great is my enthusiasm on the subject that I could go on almost indefinitely, but out of consideration for the time of the House, I shall bring my remarks to a close by urging the Government not to stultify themselves in their railway policy. They must not tie themselves up to a kind of do-nothing policy, saying, “ Oh, let the Territory wait for a time.” I urge them to immediate action from the defence stand-point. It will be of the greatest value to Australia to get white people into the Territory, and I consider every pound spent on that object is a pound spent on real defence. From that stand-point I urge the Government to push on as fast as they possibly can. If they cannot expend the money during the life-time of this Parliament, let them spend every penny they possibly can in getting surveys completed and reports made, which they say are essential before they can spend more money in development. Finally, I would impress on them, in getting those reports, to see that the three policies of land’ settlement, transit - which covers railway and steamer communication - and mineral development go hand in hand.
.- I agree with the honorable member for New England that, before commencing our railway construction in the Northern Territory, we should formulate a complete scheme of land settlement, including water conservation and irrigation. The populating of the Northern Territory depends on the establishment of agricultural settlement. Tt is often forgotten that the Territory embraces an area of many thousand square miles, and contains soils of many kinds and differing climates. Therefore, the means that must be adopted to make use of one district will not always serve for another. It is the tropical districts, where the rainfall it- great, that are capable of most agricultural development, but they are the districts least suitable at present for ^grazing. From what I learned while in the Territory, most of the cattle fattened there come from districts more than 200 miles from the coast, from land growing rich grass. Grass is everywhere abundant in the tropical districts, as those of us who ‘ travelled through a good part of the country on horseback are aware, but it is too strong and rank even for the sustenance of stock, and useless for fattening. For a short time in the year, after it has been burnt off, stock i.an be fattened on the green sprouts that push up, but that is only for a month or two. Possibly the grass might improve if the land could be sufficiently stocked to keep it down, but probably it grows too quickly for that, and what is needed is cultivation and the planting of grasses from elsewhere. That has been found necessary on the northern rivers of New South Wales and in Gippsland. The Territory will carry most of its population on the country lying between the coast and a line 200 or 250 miles inland, and agriculture must be assisted with water conservation and irrigation. The primary object of the Government is the development of the Territory, not the benefiting of the existing States, and, in my view, that can best be brought about by the construction of lines running in from the coast for about 200 miles. At the same time, experiments in agriculture must be undertaken, and encouragement given to the growing of the tropical produce that we now have to import. We import from ^6,000,000 to ^7,000,000 worth of such produce. We ought to be able to make our own jute goods.
– How would the tropical produce be harvested?
– It has been said that it is impossible with white labour to compete in the growing of tropical produce with black labour, but I have sufficient faith in the genius of the white man to believe that he will devise machinery for effectively getting over the difficulty. Rice is ari article which we import in large quantities, but those of us who visited the Territory were shown large plains in the valleys of the rivers., inundated at certain seasons, which would be suitable for the growing of rice, and I think it would be possible to use for it harvesting strippers similar to those used for wheat. Certainly encouragement should be given to induce the attempt to grow tropical products. Last year some men grew rice on the Murray as an experiment, adapting agricultural implements to its cultivation and harvesting, and they believe that as a result the cost of growing and harvesting rice could be materially reduced. An experiment of this nature might well be made in the Northern Territory.
– When the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill was before this House, I opposed the measure, because there was attached to the agreement for the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth a condition for the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. I thought that the agreement should not have been loaded with such a condition, and voted against it for that reason. But the Territory has been taken over by the Commonwealth with that condition, and it is now the duty of this Parliament to carry out the terms of the agreement. We had last year several legal opinions given as to the extent to which the route of the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek might be varied without going outside the terms of the agreement. So far as a layman may do so in the midst of conflicting legal opinions, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe that the spirit of the agreement is that the line shall be run from Oodnadatta practically through the centre of the Northern Territory to Pine Creek, and that any material deviation from the direct route with the object of linking up the Territory with an eastern State would be a breach of its provisions. If the proposed line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River is to be regarded as a developmental line, intended to give effect to the policy of developing the Territory from the coast, I contend that this proposal should have been accompanied with a statement of some general policy of the Government for the establishment of an agricultural settlement to provide traffic for the line. If this line is submitted as a part of the transcontinental railway, I have no hesitation in saying that the appointment of a Committee for the purpose of investigating the character of the country between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek is altogether unnecessary. If the through line is to be constructed in accordance with the spirit of the agreement for the taking over of the Territory by the Commonwealth, it is the duty of the Government to give instructions for the survey of the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek.
– There have already been several trial surveys made of the line for 327 miles north of Oodnadatta.
– It should not have been a difficult matter for the Government to furnish the House with an estimate of the full cost of the through line. The spirit of the agreement and the legal interpretation given of it demand that the line shall take a reasonably direct course through the centre of the Territory, linking up the termini, and, in the circumstances, what we require is information, whichmight be obtained by a survey, as to the best route to follow to give effect to the agreement. If this section from Pine Creek to the Katherine River is to be regarded as a portion of the main trunk line, the Government should have submitted a more extensive scheme of railway construction. If it is merely to be considered asa developmental line, I repeat that the Government are to be blamed for not having submitted with it a general scheme of land settlement, and a report’ upon the resources of the country through which the line will run. They should have submitted, also proposals for at least a beginning of some form of experimental agriculture, with the object of developing what I believe might become a great dairying industry, and for the cultivation of tropical products, which are at the present time being imported into Australia to the value of some millions sterling. We grow 100,000,000 bushels of wheat annually in Australia, and there is every reason to believe that the Commonwealth will become one of the biggest wheatgrowing countries in the British EmpireOwing to our large production of wheat, there is a constantly increasing demand for corn-sacks, and we know that the jute, which is the raw material from which these sacks are manufactured, has to-day to be imported from India, although all we require might be readily grown in the Northern Territory. We are really left in the dark as to what the real intentions or the Government are in proposing to construct this small section of railway. In the circumstances, the only thing that is certain is that its construction will add to the already substantial deficit which we have to meet upon the working of the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek. We should have side by side with this proposal a scheme submitted for the establishment along such rivers as the Katherine and the Daly of agricultural settlements for the growth of fodder, by means of irrigation, which I consider is essential to agricultural development in the Territory. The construction of this line, without the adoption of a settlement policy, can only add enormously to the already heavy burden we have to bear in connexion with the Northern Territory. If this proposal is submitted as part of the through line, the Government should have proposed the construction of more than 60 miles of the railway. I do not care to be dogmatic, as the honorable members for Grey and Boothby have been, in the expression of an opinion that it would be better to start from the south in the building of the trunk line, but such a course would appear to have many advantages. The men engaged in the construction of the line would commence their work in a temperate climate, and the railway, as it was constructed, could be used for the transport of necessary materials northward.
– Would not water carriage be cheaper?
-It would; but the honorable member forgets that when we got the material to Port Darwin, we should have to bring it down from that place by rail to the point of construction, and the cost would ultimately be as great as that from the south. The position viewed from the two standpoints 1 have mentioned is incomplete and ineffective. It is lacking in that grasp of the essentials of the methods to be employed in the development of the Territory, and in that comprehension of a railway scheme such as would be necessary in building a main trunk line through the centre of Australia. I do not wish to deal with the possibilities of the Territory. I have some ideas on the subject, having travelled through a portion of it. I believe that the agricultural settlement of the future will take place in the northern portion, which, at present, probably, carries the smallest number of stock, and which, in my opinion, can only be developed by the expenditure of large sums of money in railway construction, and in experimenting with the growth of tropical products. We may also hope for the development of the dairying industry and of stock-raising, for export to the Mother Country, rather than to the southern centres of Australia. I know that these’ schemes cannot be carried out at once, but I believe that the question of agricultural development can never be successfully solved unless some clear title is given to the people who take up land.
– Order !
– I wish to state so much, because I think that this portion of the railway which the Government propose to build is a mistake, unless the project is accompanied by some comprehensive scheme of land settlement, in order that the railway may be a paying one, or, at any rate, may not add materially to the already nearly overwhelming deficit accumulating within the Territory. I wish to state once more that this proposed sec tion of railway construction should have been accompanied by some well-considered general scheme of agricultural development. If this be a portion of the main trunk line the policy of the Government in the first instance, before undertaking the construction of any other railways in the Territory, should be to take that trunk line through, to construct the whole of the remaining portion of it. In my opinion, it is the duty of the Government to come down to Parliament with a larger proposition and furnish us with more information with regard to the whole route which will connect the termini at Oodnadatta and Pine Creek.
– I desire to give expression to some of the opinions I hold with respect to the work which . we are called upon to do in the Northern Territory. I was one of the members of Parliament who had an opportunity of visiting the Northern Territory, not on the last occasion, when a parliamentary visit was paid, but previously. While I was there I endeavoured to acquire as much knowledge as I -could upon some of the problems of the Territory in order to ascertain in what direction we could develop it with any degree of success. I want to say at the outset that I believe that in taking over the Northern Territory we have applied ourselves to a very intricate and serious problem. I am not one of those who would harshly criticise the Government for the little bit of delay that has occurred in this matter. I think they have been very wise in going slowly, and in getting a proper grip of the problems connected with settlement there. The example of South Australia ought to be sufficient to induce care in this direction. South Australia took in hand the management of the Territory with a very great amount of enthusiasm, and, at the very outset, spent a considerable sum of money in developmental .work. It must now be realized that a good deal of that initial expenditure was wasteful. The waste could have been avoided if there had been a little more knowledge behind the enterprise. For instance, I was told that in the construction of the great transcontinental telegraph system, and also in the construction of the railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek the original proposals of the South Australian Government embraced the use of timber for poles and sleepers, following the practice which is common in the south. The result was that in most cases the poles and sleepers were eaten out by white ants before the constructors had an opportunity of placing them in position. Further inquiry would have shown that material which was appropriate down south was not appropriate for use in the Northern Territory. We do not want to repeat mistakes of that kind; and this Government, profiting by the experience of South Australia, will not repeat them. The experience thus gained goes to show that timber within a certain radius along this country cannot be profitably used, and that other material must be substituted. South Australia substituted iron and steel sleepers and poles for the wooden ones originally contemplated. The difficulties of the problem are great, and apply to nearly every kind of work to be taken in hand in the Territory. The experience and knowledge gained in dealing with similar matters in the south is of no use in the north ; and to engage in any very large work involving large expenditure without due inquiry and investigation must involve the Commonwealth Government in expenditure that may turn out unprofitable and useless because of the lack of intimate knowledge of the conditions. That being so, I do not adversely criticise the Government for handling this matter with a considerable amount of care. Ibelieve that the Government are very wise, and that they are only acting on the lines of experience gained by South Australia at considerable expense to herself. With respect to the proposition now submitted to us, I think that the available knowledge enables us to take the work in hand. The knowledge that has been gained in the construction of the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek applies to this particular section of the line. The proposal does not seem to me to involve any deviation from: that bigger scheme of a transcontinental line which must ultimately connect Port Darwin with Oodnadatta and Adelaide. There is an alternative route ; but if this line is to be a section of the main transcontinental railway, it means that that connexion is to be on the western side of the ranges - on the side of the poorer and more barren country that runs towards Pine Creek and the seaboard - instead of on the eastern side, where good country such as the Barklay Tableland obtains. Looking at the possibilities of development from a wide stand-point it seems to me that there will be need for two develop mental lines - the one running through the western part of the Territory, but avoiding the more mountainous country, and the other extending through the eastern portion to the Queensland border. The line with which we are now dealing will assist in. developing the Northern Territory, and will ultimately form part of the main trunk railway. The character of the country further inland is by no means fully known. Some explorers have traversed it, and it seems to me that a route that ought to be at least considered is that from the Katherine River, gradually rising to the high tablelands, of which the Macdonnell Ranges form the centre, and extending southwards until it reaches Oodnadatta. The Minister is not asking too much from the House in requesting that it shall agree on the information now available to the survey of this section. When a proposal is made to carry the line further on, a more thorough investigation of the country should first of all be made by experts, in order to make sure that the best route is selected. This railway is very desirable for developmental1 purposes from the stand-point of Darwin itself. It will bridge over a piece of country in which it is very difficult to handle stock. Some honorable members do not seem to understand why fat cattle travelling over this piece of difficult country show a tendency to become poor, but any one who visits it will readily realize the cause. Owing to the heavy rainfall, there is a most vigorous growth of tropical vegetation, and’ we have growing there a grass that is very like buffalo. It grows very high, and has a heavy flag.
– That is the cane grass.
– It is known as cane grass, but is largely of the character of buffalo grass. It has a very thick stem, and grows vigorously during the winter season. During the dry season, which extends over at least six months, this grass becomes very dry, and stock lost amongst it are hard to discover, and may perish for want of food. The grass has lost its flag, and its stem is without nutriment, so that stock lost amongst it are unable to secure food. Drovers have great difficulty in travelling stock through this long, reedy grass, and all the time that they are passing through it the cattle are perishing. Pastoralists up there, however, have learnt that when the grass is in flag, and is drying rapidly under the warmer conditions then prevailing, it should be fired and burnt off. That is a somewhat difficult work, demanding a good deal of knowledge . and very careful attention. If, however, the “grass is burnt down to the roots, the result is that the very heavy dew which falls during the dry season causes new shoots to spring up, and on these the stock can feed. In that way alone can the country be made fit to carry stock during a large part of the year. If by means of a railway, however, the stock-owners further inland can carry their cattle over this troublesome bit of country to the seaboard they will be greatly advantaged. Unquestionably, this section of the line will help considerably to bridge over the present difficulty. It will not do it completely, because, lying still beyond, there is country which is troublesome to travel over and handle. But the line will certainly bridge over the worst part of this kind of country, and enable a trade to be developed at Port Darwin. It seems to me that a trade there is possible. A cattle trade with the east has been developed in the northern portions of Western Australia, such as Wyndham. What has been done there can be done at Port Darwin, but the initial trouble is to get to the coast, and to establish a wellorganized means of handling the stock there. This was done years ago. A cooperative company was formed amongst the pastoralists to handle stock and find a market in the east. One boat was engaged regularly in that trade between Port Darwin and eastern ports, and a considerable amount of traffic took place. Ultimately, this co-operative venture was bought out by Goldsbrough, Mort and Co. It was carried on for a time by that big firm, but when the financial smash occurred, and the firm got into financial difficulties, they discontinued that portion of their operations, and since then it has ceased to exist. But the fact that it did exist, and that it was growing and developing, and the further fact that similar ventures are very successful in the northern portions of Western Australia, not a great distance from the Northern Territory, is an indication that this business can be developed. It can be developed by means of this line which is projected by the Minister, and by the other proposals which lie has submitted to the House. That being so, I support very heartily this proposal as an initial work by the Commonwealth in the direction of opening up and developing the Territory ; and to the extent to which it has gone, I do not see but that it is on fairly safe lines. Of course, with drought problems and the handling of the difficult conditions involved, the Territory is not alone concerned. A great portion of Australia from the south to the north, and from the east to the west, is very vitally concerned. I do not know whether the Minister has read a series of articles which are appearing in a Sydney publication by Mr. Frank Cotton, who has had a lot of experience in the eastern States, and also in South Australia, of which he is a native. He is a very careful, observant man, and I take it that his opinion is worthy of some consideration. He is writing a series of very instructive and informative articles on drought and the drought conditions of Australia, and the best means of providing for those conditions so far as human intelligence and effort can do so. In an article which appeared about a fortnight ago, he included a map of Australia, showing the weather conditions and the lines of railway that would best assist in surmounting the drought problems which are presented all over the continent. Honorable members, if they turn up the weather reports of Mr. Hunt, , will discover that he has charts showing the average rainfall. From these charts it is seen that along a thin strip of coast-line, particularly in the north of Australia, there is an average rainfall of from 50 to 60 inches. Then farther in there is a narrow strip with a rainfall of from 40 to 50 inches. Still farther in there is a large belt of country extending right round Australia and narrowing very much along the Great Australian Bight, with a rainfall of from 20 to 40 inches. And inland we find a big patch of country, in which the rainfall runs from 5 to 10 inches. The belt of country which lies between the 10-inch rainfall and the 40-inch rainfall, and of which the 20-inch rainfall is about the centre, is the great stock-producing part of Australia. Mr. Cotton claims that that is the great stock country in Western Queensland, in the Northern Territory, and in the large portion of Western Australia which it covers. In New South Wales that is certainly the stock centre ; in Queensland, too, it is the stock centre; in the Northern Territory it is not developed, because that is practically a no-man’s land, and in the north-west of Western Australia it is the country which is rapidly developing from the stock point of view. The rainfall in this country varies. It is subject to its drought conditions, and the only human way of surmounting that trouble,
Mr. Cotton suggests, is by developing irrigation where it is practicable, and placing at the disposal of stock-owners railway communications which would assist them to shift their stock from the droughtstricken to the more favoured portions of Australia.It is very seldom, in the period of white settlement, that there has been a drought operating over the whole of the continent-even in my State there may be a drought of a very serious nature in one part, and good, favorable conditions in another part. The problem we are trying to solve there is how to get the railway communication extended, so that the losses in a drought-stricken part may be minimized by affording facilities to convey stock to more favoured parts. That is the scheme which Mr. Frank Cotton outlines. He considers that a line of railway should be carried through the central part of New South Wales - it is being carried there rapidly by the State Government - that it should be carried through the western parts of Queensland, linking up those lines which can be connected with it; that it should be carried practically from Camooweal across the Northern Territory, and across the more inland parts of Western Australia to the Kimberley district ; that it should be carried down through the Kimberley district towards Kalgoorlie, and then linked up with the line with which the Government propose to connect Perth and Port Augusta. He holds that that line, as well as the other cross lines, which are in construction in South Australia, Victoria, or in the centre of New South Wales, lends itself to that system of railways.
– The best horse- feeding country is to be found in the Macdonnell Ranges, and it would not be touched by that line by some hundreds of miles.
– It would cross the Macdonnell Ranges.
– It would cross the Barklay Tablelands.
– It would not touch the Macdonnell Ranges by hundreds of miles.
– I do not claim to be sufficiently acquainted with the extent of the Macdonnell Ranges, but they certainly follow the rainfall area which has been indicated. There is no reason why feeding lines should not be extended further in to develop the internal parts.
– How would that carry out the agreement ?
– That would be not wholly a part of the agreement. This is a line for the purpose of minimizing drought effects; it is worth considering in the interests of Australia as a whole, and it does not leave out of consideration the question of developing its internal parts.
– The agreement provides that the line must not leave the Northern Territory or South Australian country.
– Will those honorable members who stand by the agreement say that these other schemes which are proposed are not to be touched because they are not embraced in that document?
– The agreement with South Australia ought to be honored first.
– I say that these schemes are worthy of consideration. I do not believe that Australia can be properly developed until they are considered in some form or other. The fact that there is a wider and better scheme does not interfere with the carrying out of our agreement with South Australia.I advocate the extension of this line as part of that agreement. I believe that it will lend itself to that agreement.
– What line?
– The line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. For the purpose of developing the Territory I urge that the next railway which should be undertaken is an extension of the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. I have heard a lot about those ranges, though I have never seen them. If they are of the character that has been represented by explorers and others, certainly that country ought to be connected by rail with Oodnadatta. At present, the line to Oodnadatta is a white elephant. It does not serve any useful purpose. No development has taken place since it was constructed, and. in my judgment, no development can take place under existing conditions. The reason is that it was planted in the desert and left there. By carrying it to the Macdonnell Ranges there is a possibility of making it a paying concern. In connexion with the construction of the line which is now under consideration, we must consider the interests of Australia as a whole. I wish to point out that this undertaking does not clash in any way with the proposed transcontinental railway through the Northern Territory. Indeed, it will help to develop that line, inasmuch as it will work in with that scheme.
– I think the time will come when all these schemes will be carried out.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that.
– We cannot do everything in this generation.
– But there is no reason why we should postpone the line to which I have referred for the sake of pushing ahead with party schemes which are not of a national character. I hope that the Government will consider the question of extending the Oodnadatta line to the Macdonnell Ranges, thereby assisting to develop the Territory from the south as well as from the north.
– My complaint is that that is not a part of the scheme at present.
– That is so. But we must undertake this great work in sections. There is a large area lying between the Macdonnell Ranges and the Katherine River, about which we ought to be better informed than we are at present. The Government intend to supply us with the desired information through a Committee of experts whom they propose to appoint to formulate a railway policy for the Northern Territory. When that information is forthcoming we shall be in a position to decide what route the transcontinental line should follow. But there is no need for us to wait till the report of the Committee is available before we undertake the construction, either of the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine, or from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. There are a number of other problems connected with the Northern Territory with which I should have liked to deal, but time prevents me. I am in accord with the policy of the Government so far as land tenure in the Territory is concerned up to a certain point. But if they grant great pastoral areas in the Territory to persons under perpetual lease I believe they will be making a grave mistake.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that.
– In conclusion, I commend the Government for having submitted this proposal as the beginning of practical work in the development of the Territory. I applaud them for going slow. I hope that they will take every opportunity of obtaining expert information in regard to the expenditure to which the Commonwealth will be committed, thus insuring that we shall secure the best returns from that expenditure. I do not think that they are making any mistake in submitting this proposal, which isa good one, in the interests of the northern part of the Northern Territory, because it is a project which will lend itself to the carrying out of our agreement with SouthAustralia to construct a transcontinental railway through the centre of the Territory.
.- I cannot congratulate the Government upon the manner in which they have submitted; this important business to the consideration of the House. I do not think that we have as much information before us asis available. For instance, we might have had placed in our hands maps of the country, reports bearing upon it, and information from those who have been resident there for years. We might have had a geological map of this portion of the Territory. I believe there is a good deal more information available in regard tothe Northern Territory, its geology, and the delineation of its rivers and natural features, than has been placed in the handsof honorable members. South Australia has been in possession of this Territory for a long time; and I know that that very eminent and energetic geologist, Mr. H. Y. L. Brown, has been over the country many times. Through the courtesy of an honorable member I have just had placed inmy hands an excellent geological map of the Territory between the Katherine River and Port Darwin. But I have no doubt that there is a good deal more information available in regard to the country lying further to the south, to the Macdonnell Rangesand all the way to Oodnadatta, eastward to the Queensland border, and westward to the Ord River, near the border of Western Australia; and, indeed, in regard to the whole of the Northern Territory. Mr. H. Y. L. Brown has travelled over this country many times, and has given to the Government of South Australia the benefit of his observations and knowledge.
The proposed railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River would traverse a distance of about 50 miles, and would, of course, necessarily form a part of any scheme of railway construction undertaken in the .Northern Territory irrespective of whether the line is destined to be taken to the Queensland border or to Oodnadatta.
Therefore, I do not think anybody who believes in developing the Territory will have any objection to the proposal of the Government. Although the proposal does not represent what I desire, still it is in the direction of what I desire. If I cannot get all I think necessary, I must try to help forward something in the direction which I favour.
When the Government submit to the House propositions for the expenditure of large sums of money, with the object no doubt of continuing that expenditure, I should like to have from them, in no uncertain terms, an assurance that they bave faith and confidence themselves in what they are doing. Unless one has knowledge of the subject with which he is dealing, and faith and confidence in what he is undertaking, I do not think much good is likely to come from his efforts. If we undertake any great work of this sort, our duty is to know as much as possible about it, and then to be certain in our own minds that what we are proposing is a good thing, and that it will result in advantage to the country. I have not yet heard from the Government in clear terms a deliberate statement that they have faith and confidence in what they are proposing to do - it is certainly very little at present, but is only the forerunner of what they ultimately intend - and that they believe it will tend to the development of the Territory and the advantage of Australia. I should like to ask the Minister, and through him the Government, if they really believe, there is abundance of good agricultural land in the Northern Territory. Do they believe that a large area of that good agricultural land is capable of being successfully cultivated by a white population ? Do they believe that white men - men of our own race for preference - will go there; that they will found homes there; that they will rear families and happily establish themselves there? Those are questions about which I think the Government, when they are embarking upon a policy of this sort, must convince themselves first, and be able to speak upon with directness and confidence to us, so that we may be assured that, at any rate,, those controlling for the time the destinies of Australia have complete faith and confidence themselves in what they are proposing to do. I do not think I am asking too much in asking for this direct assurance. If the Government have knowledge of the question - being intimately connected with it and taking the primary responsibility, they ought to have more knowledge of it than we have - and if they have faith and confidence in what they are doing, they should not hesitate to advise us to go boldly forward. If they are certain themselves, there is no reason for them to hesitate to advise us to go forward, because that is the very thing we want to do. We do not desire to hesitate or dilly-dally. We want those who are leading us to state definitely to us that they are not leading us or the country into difficulty, but stake their reputations that they will lead us to certain victory. Unless you believe in the thing you are doing you are nearly beaten before you start. You must never waver when you undertake a great work. You must make up your mind before you start, and then use all your energy and determination to carry it out, realizing all the time that if you do not succeed your reputation will be tarnished.
The Federal Parliament - and I do not wish to escape any share of responsibility that may attach to me in the matter - has burdened Australia with the task of settling this vast Territory. We took it over deliberately. It was almost the unanimous voice of the Parliament of Australia that it should be taken over, and now we have to see the business through. I think I am not exaggerating when I say that at present we are losing about £500,000 a year in the process. That shows me, and ought to show every one in the House, and especially the Minister who is primarily responsible, that we cannot afford to delay. We must set to work at once to see whether we cannot do something with the Territory, so that we may be in a fair way to see daylight through the task, and have a fair prospect of removing the immense weight of a loss of over half-a-million a year.
The. Minister of Externa] Affairs is; I think, to be congratulated on having this great opportunity, which does not come to every man. He has the opportunity now to show how he will deal with this great burden and responsibility, so that future generations will think of him and bless him. It does not come to every one, as I have just said, to have the opportunity that the honorable member has, and although it is a heavy burden and responsibility, that ought to make it all the more attractive to him. When the burden is heaviest and the responsibility, and even the danger, is greatest, the task becomes more attractive to capable and ambitious men. The Minister, being in control of the settlement of the Northern
Territory and the making of it a great success, lias one of the greatest opportunities likely to come to him in his lifetime. It is the great things with which we have to deal that are attractive and which succeed. Mr. Chamberlain, in writing to me once, said, “ After all, it is the great things that succeed. It is of no use shrinking and peddling nowadays. Those who wish to succeed must risk something, and courage finds its own reward.” Nothing in this world is much worth having about which there is not some risk. Where there are risks the reward is all the greater.
I am becoming tired of proposals for the appointment of Committees and Commissions. On technical matters such as those with which we are now dealing, I prefer the report of a paid expert, who will not be influenced by any other consideration than his duty, to that of a Committee or Commission. These bodies spend a great deal of time in taking evidence which is very seldom read, and is often unnecessary. We need the advice of a good experienced engineer on the subject of railway construction generally in the Territory. Such a man with an assistant, and furnished with camels for the dry country, would travel from the Katherine to Oodnadatta, to the borders of Queensland, and all over the districts about which we need information in a very few months. Trial surveys are not necessary until routes have been reported upon as likely to be suitable. Years ago, in Western Australia, I was asked to report on the country between ]3eve, ley .and Albany, a distance of about 250 miles, to ascertain how much of it was good, to furnish maps, and to suggest a route for a railway. I took about six weeks over the work, and when surveyors were sent into the district to survey a line, they followed my route very closely.
– Was the honorable member in office when the railway was constructed ?
– It was constructed by a land company, but it has been admitted that the route I suggested was the best that could be obtained. On an expedition of that kind an engineer takes his barometer, his boiling water apparatus, and has his barometric stations for purposes of comparison - in this case the telegraph line would serve as a base - and he makes a rough map of the country as an explorer would do. There would be no trouble in determining in this way generally the best route for a line from Oodnadatta to the Katherine, or from Camooweal, on the Queensland border,- to the Katherine. We have already a number of officers in the Territory. There is the Administrator, the Director of Lands, the Director of Works, and the Geologist. The Geologist ought to be travelling through the country and mapping it, and the Minister would do well to have compiled all the information already obtained, which is considerable, and would be invaluable if made readily accessible. There are also a number of surveyors in the Territory.
– They are all engaged in surveying blocks for settlement purposes.
– Then send some more there. It would not cost very much. A surveyor might well accompany the engineer to assist him in mapping the route and in compiling information regarding the natural features of the country traversed.
I wonder that the Minister has not availed himself of the services of surveyorswho know the Northern Territory. Mr. David Lindsay, for instance, was ten years in the northern parts of Australia, and is a man of great experience. He knows all the country to the westward of the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Roper River, and from Port Darwin to Adelaide. He is a properly qualified man, and was in command of an exploring expedition through the centre of Australia many years ago. He is, too, of good repute. That is the sort of man I would get hold of. I should obtain from him all the information that he possesses, and send him out to get more. There are not many men with hisknowledge and experience, and he was ready to accept a very moderate salary. Although he was in Melbourne for months looking for an appointment, and although he was well qualified for the position of Director of Lands, he did not get it, and a political’ partisan, without any knowledge of the Northern Territory or of Central Australia, was preferred to him - one who will take years to acquire, if he ever does, the knowledge and experience already possessed by Mr. Lindsay.
The proposed railway would go in the right direction. As to its gauge, I might mention that in Western Australia they are now constructing a small length of line with 80-lb. rails, and full-length sleepers. but are using the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. When the time comes for connecting this line with the trans-Australian line, one of the rails will be moved to make the gauge 4 ft. 8 in. Some arrangement of that kind might well receive consideration in connexion with this line. We should aim at having one gauge for the whole of Australia. I hope that the Government will not undertake further construction in regard to these trunk lines on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, except in the way I have mentioned.
– Can sufficiently heavy rails be put down on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge ?
– Yes ; there is no reason why the railway should not be built up to the strength required for the 4-ft. &%-‘n. gauge. The Western Australian line I referred to will be constructed on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to meet the requirements of traffic and for the transportation of material for the transcontinental railway, and when that line is completed, all that will be necessary will be to remove one rail out to the 4-ft. 8)-in. gauge.
I complain that the Government have not told us sufficiently clearly what they propose to do. It seems to me to be trifling with this matter to ask for £5.000 for the survey of 50 miles of railway, and to say nothing about construction for another year. I do not mean to say that 50 miles of railway would be of no use, but that we should begin upon a systematic plan of development for the Northern Territory, and carry it out as quickly as we can., I suppose that it will be two years before the construction of this line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River is commenced. The survey may take a year.
– It is estimated that it will take six months.
– Unless it is very easy country I do not think that a permanent survey, carefully carried out, so as to save expense in construction, is likely to be completed within that time. There may be no meeting of Parliament for some time after the survey is completed to authorize the construction, and appropriate the money, and therefore I should not expect this section to be completed within less than three years’ time. I hope that the transcontinental railway will be completed nearly as soon. It should not be forgotten that we shall be losing £500,000 a year all the time. We require a great deal more information, and might have had it if the Minister had been equal to the occasion. He might have had an engineer and a small staff at work in the Territory six or eight months ago, and we could have had reports from them by this time. The honorable gentleman has done nothing in connexion with framing a policy of railway construction for the Territory, and, without means of transit, we can do nothing with this country. Land policies are of no use without a population, and if people go to the Territory they will be quite unable to make a living without means of transit. If we are going to do anything with the country, we will have to construct railways from Pine Creek to .the eastern border, and from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta. I should like to know what all the officers in the Northern Territory are doing. We have never heard from them, and we might have had telegraphic reports to show what they are doing. I suppose they are trying to make themselves comfortable.
The Minister does not seem to know what can be done by energetic people. It is possible to map a whole country in a few months if the work is tackled with energy. Three or four energetic surveyors could triangulate and map the whole of the Northern Territory in a couple of years. A small number of active men carried out as big a work in my own State within a very short time, and their surveys are reliable, and have stood the test of time. I suppose a triangulation could be carried out over the whole of the Northern Territory, and there is no reason why a great deal of it should notbe mapped in twelve months. A geologist should accompany the survey party, and a geological survey of the Territory should be made at the same time. I can inform honorable members that hundreds of miles of unknown country in the north-west of Western Australia, from Beagle Bay across to Cambridge Gulf, was mapped and triangulated by surveyors of Western Australia in a year. They went up the Fitzroy and down the Ord, and their surveys have been in use for the last twenty years.
To map a country requires men with a grasp of the business and energy and determination to carry it out. The distance from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta is about 1,000 miles, and from Pine Creek to the Queensland border about 600 miles. It would not be a great matter to survey 1,600 miles of country in a territory like that. Unless we provide means of communication, we might just as well give up the Territory and confess that we have failed to develop it. In view of the battalions behind him, I suppose it would be of no use for me to move a vote of censure on the Minister of External Affairs for his neglect up to the present date. I do not mean to say that the Minister is not in earnest, but he does not appear to know how to go about the work before him. He may be desirous of doing his best, but what is the use of that when he does nothing? I hope the honorable gentleman will take the House into his confidence, and tell us what all these officers with high-sounding titles are doing in the Northern Territory. Are they merely surveying a few blocks of land for settlement ? If so, where are these blocks situated? It is to be hoped that they are not in the country between Pine Creek and the Katherine, a distance of 50 miles, described by the Administrator as land on which “all stock would rapidly lose condition, and so be landed as “ stores,” not as “ freezers.” It must be terribly poor country, of which such a. thing can be said. As a rule, in new country in Australia - even in barren parts - it is astonishing how well stock will do. I can speak from experience, especially of horses. They will do well on the most scanty herbage. This country, from Pine Creek to the Katherine, must be a poor place if cattle cannot be driven the short distance across it without losing weight. I do not say that it is not better to move cattle over a railway than through country which is not well grassed, but certainly it is not a very good advertisement for a country to say that we want to build a railway th rough it to bring stock a distance of 50 miles, because they will fall off in weight if driven the short distance covered by the railway.
– Cannot they drive cattle 50 miles ?
– They say they cannot. They say that if you drive them from the Katherine to Pine Creek - 50 miles - they will fall off in weight, because the country is so poor. I have examined the map, and the geological formation does not seem to be barren. It is mineral country, but one would think there would be sufficient grass sometimes.
– It would not take a good drover long to get over 50 miles.
– I should think not. I hope that no time will he lost in making these flying surveys, which would
Cost very little, and then permanent surveys would follow, in advance of construction.
I believe that a good railway survey has been made by South Australia from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. A sum of ^50,000 spent on surveys would be money well spent. You cannot go wrong in having good surveys before you go in for construction. For every £1 you spend on surveys, you may save £100 in construction. I shall not vote against this measure; but I look upon it as trifling with the subject to ask us to vote ,£5,000 to make a survey for 50 miles of railway. We ought to have provided for making the whole trial survey from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta and from Pine Creek to the Queensland border. We ought to have a statement from the Government as to their intentions in that regard.
– Why to the Queensland border ?
– Because it is all good country. There is magnificent grazing country all the way from the Katherine to the Queensland border. The whole of it has been taken up already for pastoral purposes, and cattle are running on it. It is the basaltic formation which is so much desired. That and the Victoria River country are the best parts of the Territory. There is also good country near the Roper, and the country to the south in the Macdonnell Ranges is known to be good as well as auriferous. Not only should these good areas be opened up for pastoral purposes, but, if possible, for agricultural, too. But I cannot say that I am too sanguine in this latter respect.
It was well said by the honorable member for Boothby that a question well worth considering is whether in building the railway from Oodnadatta we ought to follow the present route or go on from Coward Spring to Tarcoola with a 4-ft. 8^-in, gauge line, and there join the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway. That would be much shorter and cheaper, I think. I do not, however, give a definite opinion upon this point. I hope that the Minister will rouse himself and do something, and insist on the officers who are already in the Territory doing something. They may be doing good work, but we have had no information. I have no desire to do them an injustice. I wish again to impress upon the Minister that a map of that country traversing all the rivers not already traversed, and making a triangulation of the whole country, is not a matter that should be neglected ; for I should say that we could do the work for not more than £20,000, and perhaps it would be finished in a couple of years. Then we should have a map that should be valuable for all kinds of purposes - not only to engineers, but to land-holders, pastoralists, and to all interested in the Territory.
.- One of the most satisfactory features of this Bill is the fact that all of us can approach the consideration of it quite free from either party feeling or State prejudice. lt is one of those all too uncommon measures which appeal to the best patriotic feelings and the best national sentiments of every honorable member. I have a good deal of sympathy with the complaints that have been made, not only while this Bill has been under consideration, but in previous debates upon the Northern Territory, concerning the delay that has occurred. But in all great undertakings there is a good deal of preparatory or spade work which has to be done; and this is all the more in proportion to the size of the undertaking. The necessity for much of it is not visible, and yet it is essential, and has to be most carefully done. The Minister of Externa) Affairs, to that extent, excites my sympathy, because it seems to me that he is particularly anxious to get a thorough good grip of the position, so that he may be able to put his case clearly and forcibly. He is much to be commended for that attitude. It is also satisfactory to know that the Minister has assured himself, by a personal visit to the Territory within the last few months, of the necessity of what he proposes. He has all the advantage of personal experience and knowledge of the position. The problem of the Northern Territory is, perhaps, the most difficult one we have to face. The difficulty of the defence of Australia, and the heavy demands made upon our patriotism, as well as upon our financial resources, seem to me to be secondary to the claim that the Northern Territory will make upon our true national sentiment, and our desire to see Australia settled and developed. In that respect, may I again repeat that I am not at all impressed with the statement that we must develop the Northern Territory because of defence necessities. I have seen no reason to alter the opinion. I have long held, that the Northern Territory is the least vulnerable part of Australia. I fail to see why any nation anxious to invade or capture this country should land troops at a point where they would be so isolated that they would be practically harmless to Australia, and where it would be necessary to incur heavy expense in securing supplies from oversea. I do not view this as being, in any sense, a defence proposition. The settlement of tropical Australia, the inducements that will have to be offered to people to leave the more comfortable and more habitable parts of the Commonwealth, will call upon us to do the very best we can as a nation, and will place upon residents of southern Australia a tax that they will scarcely bear with the patience they display in connexion with the burden of taxation generally. We are spending public funds at the rate of £500>00° a year in the Northern Territory, and there is very little to show for it. This money is being spent thousands of miles away from our chief centres of population without practically any return to people in other parts of the Commonwealth, and the expenditure will continue for many years before we shall be able to point to something tangible as the result of our legislation and our labours there. I am entirely in sympathy with the view expressed by the right honorable member for Swan, that it is altogether unreasonable that it should take six months to survey this 60 miles of railway. The delay means that there will be no opportunity to pass a Railway Construction Bill this year, and that since the new Parliament will not meet before July next, we shall be well on to the end of next year before such a measure can be dealt with. That seems to be an unnecessary waste of time.
Mi Mcwilliams. - The surveyors will not do badly if they complete the survey in six months.
– I am inclined to agree with the right honorable member for Swan that, if the present staff of surveyors is not sufficient to enable the survey to be made in less than six months, it should be increased, so that we can have a report presented this session, and provision can be made, perhaps, for the’ construction of the line before Parliament is prorogued. If it is going to take us two or three years to construct 60 miles of railway in the Territory, our rate of progress there will be so slow that many years must elapse before we shall secure a reasonable return for our expenditure. 1 notice that the Northern Territory estimates this year provide for an expenditure of £9,530 in respect of the Survey Department. They provide for a Director of
Lands, a Chief Surveyor, three surveyors, three assistant draughtsmen, a secretary to the Director, and so forth.
– That staff is to enable us to get ready for the settlers whom we expect.
Mi. FINLAYSON. - 1 am not complaining of. the proposed expenditure; I am satisfied that all these officers are required ; but if the staff is insufficient to enable this work to be done in less than six months, the Government will be justified in adding to it, so that we may have the survey completed in time to enable us to take action before this session closes.
– We have only three months to run. Does the honorable member wish to be here after Christmas?
– I should be prepared to support a special session after Christmas, if necessary, to deal with work of this character. This waste of time is very serious. The fact that we are expending £500.000 a year in the Northern Territory should, in itself, be sufficient to induce us to hurry up our developmental works, so that the Territory may contribute something towards its own support. We are not looking for any revenue from the Northern Territory at the present time. None of us thinks that it will give us for years even the interest on our outlay. But we ought not to delay every little project that is designed to hasten the time when the Northern Territory will be in any way self-supporting. If possible, this work ought to be expedited. I wish now to refer to the railway gauge. I favour the adoption of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, which has proved to be admirably suited for developmental purposes in Australia, as well as in other countries. No doubt, before long, the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge will be accepted as the standard for Australia; but many years will elapse before it will be necessary to connect the railways of the Northern Territory with a railway system on a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.
– The Northern Territory railway will be connected with New South Wales before long.
– I do not hesitate to prophesy that that connexion will not take place within the next ten years. The Northern Territory net-work will be connected, first of all, with the northern lines of Queensland, which will continue for many years on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.
– And through Queensland that net-work will be connected with the New South Wales railway system.
– Queensland’s trunk lines will be connected with the New South Wales railway system on a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge within, I dare say, the next five years. But Queensland’s branch lines, particularly those stretching inland from Townsville - and the Townsville railway will be most intimately associated with the extended line in the Northern Territory - will not be converted for many years to a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge.
– And every year of delay will make the cost of conversion greater.
– On the contrary, there is no loss in the matter. I heard with pleasure the statement of the Minister that it is proposed to carry out this survey on the basis of a 3-ft. 6-in. line, as well as a 4-ft. 8^-in. line. The culverts, bridges, roadway, and tunnels, if any tunnels are required, should be built to carry a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge line, but the railway itself should be constructed on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. Honorable members who talk about building a little line of 200 miles, away in the north of Queensland, on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge have simply not yet grasped what seems to me to be the main proposal at the basis of- all our railway building, and that is that the railways should run to, and finally be connected with, each other, and not exist as individual lines. What we are suffering from more than anything else in this country just now is that our railways follow no great national plan. There are a number of little scraps and odd-ends of railway built.
– There is only one remedy for that, and that is Unification.
– There is only one remedy, and that is to adopt the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge as soon as possible, and to extend the main trunk lines to that gauge. What we want to do in that direction is to start right in the centre of population. Any one who knows anything of the circumstances of Northern Australia must admit that this line, whenever it may be completed, will form a link in the railway which is ultimately to be connected with the north Queensland lines, as well as, probably, a part of the main trunk line from north to south. I do not look upon this bit of line as in any way determining the route of the transcontinental railway. Whether the railways of the Territory will best be connected through Queensland, or will follow what I think is the most absurd proposal of all - the direct route from north to south - does not matter, because this bit of 60 miles will be a link in either of the connexions which may be made. I think that the Committee of Experts whom’ the Minister proposes to appoint ought, to continue their investigations beyond this paltry extension. I noticed in the press lately a suggestion to call together the Commissioners of Railways for the different States to confer as to a general scheme of national railways. It will be remembered that Lord Kitchener recommended that we should have strategic railways, to be used in time of war if necessary. For the purpose -of defence, as well as for the convenient and economic working of our railway system, and the development of the’ country, we should have one grand system to which every extension should lead up. The Committee of Experts should not only pay attention to this piece of 60 miles, but should continue their investigation. I speak with some diffidence, ‘because I have not visited the Territory, and can only form an opinion from observation of the map and reading the reports of those who have been there, but I feel quite certain that this bit of line to the Katherine River will not develop the Territory. There will have to be branch lines from the main line leading out towards the Gulf of Carpentaria, which will afford a ready and convenient outlet for much of the products of the Territory. The country cannot be developed by one little branch line. Are not both Victoria and New South Wales suffering seriously’ to-day from the one fact that all produce is being drawn to one centre along- one line? If Queensland has anything at all to its credit, so far as development is concerned, it is that it has tapped much of the country westward, and brought the produce along different lines of railway to various ports. That country has been developed by -a decentralization policy. Similarly, in the Northern Territory, if we hope to make that bit of country popular with the people who wish to settle there, we shall have to provide, not one, .but many railways. And, as in the Gulf of Carpentaria, we have a. number of very suitable ports, with every facility for communication by sea, as the land is valuable, and as the population must always, in Australia at any rate, go from the coast inland, there seems every reason to believe that the development of the Northern Territory can only proceed satisfactorily by the building of short lines, forming part of a network which will eventually cover the Territory, and link it up with the southern States. Some reference has been made to the products of the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Wimmera, for instance, alluded to the possibility of rice production. There seems to be an absolute agreement that the Territory is capable of producing sub-tropical things in absolute profusion. Not only rice, but sugar and tropical fruits of all descriptions, can be grown there to advantage. There seems no doubt in the minds of those who know the Territory as to the suitability of certain parts to grow cotton successfully. In Queensland it has been proved that cotton can be grown of a quality superior to that of any other part of the world, especially from central Queensland to the north-west.
– And made payable?
– Yes. One most remarkable feature, however, is that of late one firm, Messrs. Joyce Brothers, had to close down their cotton factory. For many years they did their best, and spent large sums in trying to develop the cotton industry. On their own responsibility, and at their own cost, they encouraged the farmers, supplying them with seed, taking the raw cotton, and giving them every possible return for it - a return much higher than that which is received by ordinary cottongrowers in any other part of the world.
-vIs the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the question?
– Yes, sir, and easily. I am showing that, not only in Queensland can cotton be grown, and give a satisfactory return to the producer, but also in the Northern Territory it can be grown even better and ‘ under better circumstances. It offers special opportunities in the matter of cotton production, because there there is a native population who can be trained to the art of cotton-growing and picking, and that is not to be found in any other part of Australia.
– I thought that your side were going to do all this work by white labour1?
– One of the duties, which I am sure no member of the House would try to avoid, is the responsibility for the care of the aborigines in the
Northern Territory. With careful attention and kindly handling they can be made a most valuable asset in the development of this country.
– Then we shall have to keep the drink away from them.
– Certainly. There is nothing more fatal to the aborigines of Australia, as to any other native population, than alcoholic poison.
– They would be cheap labour; you would not give them the same wages as white men.
– The aborigines of the Northern Territory can be developed, made better, and instructed in the arts of civilization by being given some work to do in their own country, and I know of no work which is better suited, and for which they would be more capable, than the production of cotton. If I might put a word in the ear of the Minister, it would be in the direction of encouraging, in every possible way, the production of cotton in the Territory - erecting a cotton mill there for the treatment of the raw product, and giving every opportunity for the employment of the aborigines in the picking of the cotton from the bushes. I hope that in developing the Territory, not only by this railway, but by any other railways or projects that are submitted by the Minister, we shall avoid anything in the shape of a centralization policy. I am quite prepared to admit that if we are going to put down big works, such as stores, breakwaters, and a harbor at Darwin, we must of necessity devise some means of making them payable. But it is only a matter of time, I hope, when, by the settlement of communities of people, which I believe can be successfully introduced from the Old Land and from southern Europe, we shall be able so to develop the Northern Territory that we shall have, not merely one line of railway to a port, but a network of railways leading to various ports. By that means we shall develop it on a broad scale. I am heartily in favour of this proposal for the survey of a railway between Pine Greek and the Katherine River. I only hope that the Minister will so expedite that survey that we shall be afforded an opportunity of passing a Bill to authorize the construction of the line before Parliament prorogues.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryrie) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Thomas) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
I should like to know what business the Government intend to proceed with next week ?
– We shall deal further with the proposal which we have just been considering.
– And after that?
– The next business will be the resumption of the debate upon the Northern Territory Land Ordinance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120830_reps_4_65/>.