4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister favorably consider the suggestion that we should adjourn to-night until to-morrow at half-past 4 p.m. in order that honorable members may attend the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show at Flemington?
– It has been the practice of this Parliament, as a National Assembly, not to adjourn for anything but a national event.
– What about the Cup Day adjournments?
– During the sitting I shall take an opportunity to ascertain the opinions of honorable members regarding the suggestion that has been made.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral a question having reference to a meeting of forty-four delegates of the People’ s party, who assembled in secret caucus at the Independent Hall, and came to a determination. They met at twelve- the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and Hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world - for the purpose of attempting to prevent a citizen from exercising his right to stand for the Senate. I wish to know whether the Crown Law officers have the power to put an end to these attempts to prevent the free citizens of Australia from exercising their rights?
– I am unable to offer any useful opinion as to the appropriateness of the hour chosen for the doing of what it is alleged was done ; nor am I to be regarded as an expert in regard to the attendant phenomena which the honorable member has described. But, as to the Constitution, on which I speak with some authority, I know of nothing in it which precludes any citizen from offering his services to the people of this country. I deplore that institutions such as the honorable gentleman has named are trying to restrain the exercise of that freedom. Amidst the clash of parties the laws are silent.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– No. The honorable member is in error in assuming I have “ issued an order fixing the rates of pay in the sugar industry.” I have merely indicated that bounty will not be imperilled in respect to those districts where the rates are not governed by an industrial award or mutual agreement between representatives of employers and employes, provided fair and reasonable rates of remuneration are paid to the workers. The Sugar Bounty Act 1905-10 places upon the Minister the responsibility of withholding bounty if certain conditions in regard to wages are not observed; and it was therefore necessary, in the absence of any award prescribed by a Commonwealth or State industrial authority, and of any authoritative standard rates of wages, to define’ what is considered as “ fair and reasonable rates of remuneration.”
Debate resumed from 3rd September (vide page 2877), on motion by Mr. Fuller -
That the Ordinance No. 3 of 1912 (an Ordinance relating to Crown Lands, entitled Crown Lands Ordinance 1912), made in pursuance of the powers conferred by the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 and the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910, be disallowed.
Upon which Mr. Poynton had moved -
That the following words be added : - “ until it be amended in such a way as will prevent any pastoral lands being let under perpetual lease conditions.”
– This is one of the most important motions that has been under discussion this session, if not this Parliament ; and I have listened with great pleasure to the speeches of all who have addressed themselves to it, because they gave evidence of considerable study and of deep research into the history and the land laws of many countries. My interjection last night, when the honorable member for Grey was speaking, was intended, not to disconcert him, but to enable me to clearly understand his position. The motion, if carried, would strike a blow at the leasehold system, which the Labour party favours. The honorable member for Illawarra, who moved it, asks that the Northern Territory shall be developed under the freehold system, which would enable as much land as the squatters could afford to purchase to come wholly into the possession of private persons, and would be attended by results as disastrous as those which have been seen in the States.
– The honorable member for Illawarra said that he did not advocate freehold in regard to the great pastoral areas.
– He wishes to introduce the freehold system into the administration of the Northern Territory, and said that the Labour party is trying to realize another plank of its platform. I have yet to learn that land nationalization is a plank in the platform of the Federal Labour party. It is true that in the platform of the Labour party in Tasmania there is a plank which reads, “ No further alienation of Crown lands.” But I interpret that to mean, not the nationalization of all the lands of the country, but no further alienation of lands which have been purchased by the State. I need scarcely point out that there is a vast difference between that system and straight-out land nationalization. There is a big gulf between it and the doctrine which is advocated by Henry George. I would also remind honorable members that, no matter what party may be in power, it is no longer possible to prevent the land-owner being called upon to contribute his fair share of the taxation of the. country. I favour the policy of the non-alienation of Crown lands in preference to the system promulgated by Henry George, under which the State would secure the whole of the unearned increment by putting upon land its economic value. There is a section of politicians and electors growing up in this country who desire to derive most of the revenue required for governmental purposes from the land; and I want to ask land-owners which they prefer - a system which will gradually nationalize the land, or one which will make it of no value whatever to them? I favour the non-alienation of Crown lands, and the leasing of them under a system which will provide for periodical re-appraisements, and for the resumption of any portion of them after due notice has been given. Whether they are let in perpetuity or not is a matter of indifference to me. In submitting this motion, the honorable member for Illawarra made very extensive reference to ancient history. But surely he will not compare our modern systems of government with the system which obtained under the Emperors of Rome ! From the knowledge which he had to acquire to fit himself for the legal profession, he must be well aware that in ancient Rome the patricians really owned the land, and the majority of the people were merely serfs. Even if the latter did obtain a little plot of land upon which to work, they were liable to be taken off it at the most inopportune times, to fight the wars of the Empire. For a short time, I admit, the land system mentioned by him did result in settling people on the land. But did it keep them there? Decidedly not. Thesame aggregation of estates occurred that is witnessed to-day, and ultimately there came the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. I was surprised to hear the honorable member - doubtless inspired by my presence in the chamber, and the fact that I had quoted Tennyson - recall the well-known lines of Goldsmith -
Ill fares the land to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.
Why did Goldsmith write those lines? Was it because he had been reading of the decline and fall of ancient Rome? No. It was because he had returned to the village which he knew so well, and had found it deserted. Why was it deserted? Because the land had passed into the hands of a few individuals who had converted it into deer parks. In other words, it was due to land monopoly - the system which my honorable friend would have us perpetuate throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I was surprised, indeed, that he did not quote the words -
The law condemns the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose.
They are just as applicable to existing conditions as are those of Goldsmith. We all know how the lands of Great Britain were acquired. History teaches us that originally they were in the hands of the King. Then the Barons became strong enough to compel the King to disgorge, with the result that a large section of the conservative populace of that country became its landed gentry. They have held the land ever since. Some honorable members have asserted that every man naturally desires to cultivate his own piece of ground - that there is some sentimental consideration about land ownership which makes it attractive. I would ask them how many persons residing on, and working, the land in Great Britain, America, or Victoria, really own their holdings? Very few indeed. What is the position in America at the present time? Unfortunately, I have not access to my own library at present, but I believe that about 90 per cent, of the wealth of that country is in the hands of about 1 per cent, of its people. An article which was recently published in McClure’s Magazine bears out my statement. It is headed, “ Prominent Owners of New York,” and refers to many of the wealthy families of America, and to the way in which they acquired their wealth. It says -
Taken as a mass, these Knickerbocker names, or the names of their immediate descendants, probably represent nut far from $1,000,000,000 in New York landed property. The Astors and their numerous collateral branches own at least $500,000,000; the Goelets and Gerrys and the Gallatins, all Goelet descendants, control at least $150,000,000; the Rhinelanders, with their branches, hold not far from $100,000,000; the heirs of Henry Spingler and Garret Storm represent another $50,000,000; and the present generation of the Wendels have in the neighbourhood of $40,000,000. If we join with these the other large landed estates, represented by the Beekmans, the Stuyvesants, the Enos, the Schermerhorns, and four or five others, we shall reach a total not far removed from the billion mark.
Yet the honorable member had the temerity to point to America as the wealthiest country in the world. He omitted to tell us that that wealth is in the hands of the few, who own and control the land. One has only to read The Jungle in order to learn how the wealth of New York is distributed.
– Will the honorable member explain the similarity between the conditions which obtain in New York and those which prevail in the Northern Territory?
– I am merely replying to the statements of the honorable member. He would have us believe that America had made such wonderful strides under the system that he is advocating we should perpetuate in Australia. I find another statement to the effect that Peter Goelet’s farm grew from a value of $10,000 to $200,000,000 in a century. This wealth is handed down from father to son, and the unearned increment accumulates year after year and decade after decade. Another estate in the United States, owned by Goelet’s brother, was worth $500,000 in 1800; in 1848, $25,000,000; in 1880, $250,000,000; and in 191 2, $500,000,000. That shows the value of these vast estates as they have accumulated in the United States of America, owing to certain people whom I have already named getting the ownership of the land in the early days. Almost every invention in the United States has made that land more valuable. It is said that the invention of the lift considerably increased the value of the land on which buildings might be erected. So we find the land monopolist benefiting all along the line by the value given by the community, and not by his own energy or ability. In answer to those honorable members on the other side who say that people like to own their own land, I want to demonstrate that the people working on the land do not, as a rule, own it.
– Even if the honorable member were right, would two wrongs make a right?
– There are no two wrongs in this case. I believe that the private ownership of land is the fulcrum on which the capitalist places his lever to push so many of the populace into wage slavery. There would not be the industrial trouble that there is at the present time if the land was easy of access to the populace. No man would work for a master if he could get on the land easily, and work there in his own interests. The only way for men to get on to the land is for the State to retain the ownership, and put them on it at a fair and reasonable rental. We have heard much about the state of Great Britain and Ireland, but who owns the land in Great Britain ? I find from a work entitled Our Old Nobility, by Howard Evans - articles that appeared in the Echo newspaper published in book form - the following statement: -
Besides that income, the Earl of Dudley draws royalties from the coal mines. There are in this. list a number of other names, which I have not time to read, of men owning vast tracts of country, and receiving huge sums of money annually in rent. I had not the opportunity of finding out the enormous revenue that the Duke of Westminster must draw from London; but I have been informed, although I cannot vouch for the truth of the statement, that it is about ^400,000 per annum. Yet we have the honorable member for Illawarra and the honorable member for North Sydney telling us that the masses own the land. There is a tendency in all countries for land to accumulate in the hands of the few, and for wealth to do the same in consequence. Year after year the rich are becoming richer and the poor poorer. The only way to stop that sort of thing is for the State to retain the ownership of the land, giving each and every one the product of his labour, no more and no less, and allowing no person to traffic in land. The honorable member for Illawarra mentioned Ireland. I travelled with him through that country, and made numerous inquiries, but I did not see the great wave of prosperity of which the honorable member spoke. A few estates have been cut up, and a big burden has been placed on those who are trying to pay for them.
– I did not talk about a wave of prosperity; I talked about the improved conditions.
– What are the improved conditions worth? Mr. A. J. Ogilvy, in his work Phases of the Land and Labour Question, says -
It is not surprising, then, that in Ireland you can hire an able-bodied man for 6d. a day.
When I made inquiries to find out whether that statement was correct, I was informed that it might have been correct when Mr. Ogilvy visited Ireland some years ago, when things were very bad there ; but that the wages of the farm labourer at the present time were is. a day and his food. I looked round for some multi-millionaire farmers when I heard that the wages were so low, because our friends on the Opposition benches are continually telling us that if the wages of the workmen on farms are kept low the farmer will be able to make a good living; but that if the wages are raised the farmer’s profits will be reduced until he is unable to live. If this were so the fanner in Ireland should be the richest on the face of the earth. Do we find him so? No, because he is living on a rented farm, and the steward of the estate on which he resides has to get as much rent as possible to send to “My Lord,” who resides in England. If the
State owned the land, it would not be to its advantage to penalize any one working it, as that would drive him off it. The State would have no need to do anything of the kind, because the revenue it would derive from a reasonable rental for land would be so great that very little taxation would be required, and a farmer leasing land from the State would be in a much better position than is the farmer who is supposed to own his land. If a man owns ^200,000 worth of land, and we take half the economic value of it in the shape of land tax, will any honorable member say that he pays no rent ? I ask honorable members opposite to say whether any settler owns his land if he has to pav a land tax. When speaking from a public platform in Tasmania, I was told by a farmer that I was altogether wrong when I said that farmers had to pay a proportion of their income every year to their landlord. He said, “ My land is my own ; it is as free as air ; there is not a shilling owing on it.” I replied, “ How much do you pay in land tax 7”and he said, “I pay /[io a year.’’ Then I said, “ There is a mortgage on your land of ,£200, and I do not care who put it there.”
– Is the honorable member against the land tax?
– Decidedly not; because it is making the big land-owner, in my State at all events, disgorge some of his land.
– What effect did the honorable member’s statement have on the small farmer to whom he has referred?
– I am glad to be able to tell the honorable gentleman what was the effect of it. He said to me, “ Will you come down to my place, and stay the night ?” I did so, and I found that he was a Liberal. I stayed the night, and next morning he and his wife went with me and voted for the Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament. That is the effect my statement had upon this farmer. I was glad of the opportunity to explain the matter, because I feel sure that it requires only a little explanation to make these people realize that they only fancy they own their land when they hold it in fee simple. When they are in need of a little capital, these so-called owners of the land mortgage it to ‘a money-lender, and once a man mortgages his land he ceases to be the owner of it. Honorable members may say that 1 should come a little nearer home, and consider the freeholds of Australia. To secure the knowledge I required on this question I referred to the report and evidence of a Royal Commission appointed by the State Parliament of Victoria in 1895. At page 61 of the evidence, question 13 10, a Mr. James Boyd made this statement ir» answer to the Chairman of the Commission -
You have had an opportunity of finding out the exact condition of the farmers; can you give us your knowledge of their position to-day? - It is not a very favorable position at present, from the turn things have taken in the last two years through prices of produce and stock falling.
I find that, although the prices of produce and stock had fallen, there was no fall in the price of money. The witness was further asked -
Has the price of money fallen during the past two years and his answer was -
No, it is inclined to be the opposite. It did increase at the time of the commencement of the depression, then it lowered a little.
What were you giving two years ago? - Eight per cent, and p per cent.
What are you giving now? - The reconstructed banks are charging 9 per cent.
Interest was charged at the rate of 9 per cent, to the land-owners, who, we are told, could get such cheap money, under the old regime, and before the advance of the Labour party throughout Australia. I quote this further evidence in answer to the Chairman of the Commission -
Are most of the farmers of this district borrowers? - Yes, I am sorry to say; many of them I am acquainted with are borrowers.
Do you know any that are not under the necessity of borrowing? - I should think fifteen out of twenty are borrowers.
Another authority, a Mr. James Perrott, Secretary to the Shire of Rosedale, gave this evidence in answer to the Chairman -
Have you any knowledge of the number of borrowers in the district in proportion to the number of farmers? - I should say 90 per cent.
Throughout the evidence taken by this Commission there is ample proof that the land, although it was supposed to-be freehold, was mortgaged to the banks and money-lenders, and, in some cases, the occupiers had actually obtained advances on their stock and implements.
– By the same line of argument, any business man who has an overdraft does not own his business.
– No, decidedly he does not. I think I have said sufficient to convince honorable members that a leasehold is far preferable to the present system of so-called freehold. I favoured the leasing of land by the State because the man who takes it up under such conditions is able to devote any capital he has to the development of his holding. I have already in this House mentioned the case of a farmer in New Zealand who paid£3,ooo for his land and went on to it practically without any capital at all. When hard times came he had to borrow to keep going, and he was never able to redeem his land. Eventually it was sold, and he was sent adrift without anything at all. In the opinion of Sir Alfred Wallace and of A. J. Ogilvy, if a man is able to secure land at a fair rental upon lease, with reappraisement after certain periods, he is able to use his capital in the direction I have suggested, and that is much more advantageous to him than to devote it to the purchase of his land and then to have to borrow for its development.
– We ought to give him the right of conversion.
– In my opinion, the leaseholder should live upon his lease and develop it. While he is there he should be entitled to everything he can take off it, and should also be compensated for any improvements made if he be dispossessed at any time by the State. I believe also in the re-appraisement of land values, and the right of the Government to take over land at any time.
– Paying compensation?
– I believe in paying compensation for any improvements made, but I have yet to learn that the mere occupancy of land gives value to it. The increment of value is given to land by the influx of population, the invention of machinery, and so forth. Community value is likewise given by people flocking to a country. Every immigrant who comes out here gives increased value to the land. That is the reason why we find certain people anxious to retain land in fee-simple. They know that its value goes on increasing, owing to the energy of other people.
– Is that the reason why the honorable member is opposed to immigration ?
– That remark is an endeavour to drag a red herring across the path, but I am exceedingly glad of it. I am not opposed to immigration, but I am opposed to people being brought out here when there is no work for them to do, and when they simply crowd our cities as is the case to-day.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the question.
– If the State of Victoria owned the land of the State, immediately immigrantscamefrom the Old Country they could go straight on to the land, and there would be no fear of their suffering from want of work. The honorable member for Echuca seems amused, but there are immigrants who are looking for work. I know of one case of a man who came out, and, being unable to get work himself, his wife is working in a factory at 7s. 6d. a week, with which she has to keep the two.
– How much land does he want?
– I do not know. It is most difficult for any one to get on the land in the State of Victoria. In conclusion, let me say that I have not heard an argument brought forward from the other side that will induce me to change my views on this question. I can see none of the trouble that we are told is likely to arise if we adopt the leasehold system for the Northern Territory. We have the leasehold system in operation in Australia at present. Leaseholders in Queensland are better off than many freeholders are. In Bendigo the municipality retained possession of a considerable quantity of land upon which buildings have been erected. I understand that those buildings are never empty. The municipality receives the rents from’ them, and has increased its revenue from that source. The point raised about leasehold in perpetuity does not concern me at all. What we want to do with the Northern Territory is to put there people who are willing to go on the land under the best conditions we can possibly give them. In my opinion, the best way of pursuing that policy is simply to adhere to the system of leasehold on similar lines to those which the Minister has adopted.
.- The honorable member for Illawarra is to be congratulated upon the very able, clear, and logical speech with which he laid this motion before the House. The motion itself is deserving of the closest consideration by the House, because the development of the Northern Territory will depend entirely upon the nature of the land policy which we adopt. I am sorry that the last speaker had apparently not studied the speech of the honorable member for Illawarra, or he would have found in it a distinct disclaimer of certain of his remarks. The honorable member for Illawarra said -
I certainly do not wish to advocate the adoption of the freehold system in regard to the great pastoral areas of the Northern Territory.
Nothing could be more emphatic than the honorable member’s statement in that regard. Personally I strongly echo the remarks he made. We do not want to see introduced into the Northern Territory a land policy which would permit- the accumulation of vast areas of freehold property, which would be likely to block the progress of settlement. The honorable member for Illawarra added -
It is the application of this Ordinance to areas that may be classified as suitable for dairying, agricultural, and closer settlement purposes, to which I object.
I agree with him in that limitation. Our object is to get the Northern Territory settled. If we do not intend to pursue some serious policy for its development and settlement, it had been better had we left it under the control of South Australia. We have this problem to face, and must face it not as mere theorists or advocates of academic principles. We must face it as a stern business proposition which we have undertaken to solve, and must approach it exercising our knowledge of human nature as it exists in the world to-day. We are not contemplating some scheme which presupposes having to do with individuals whose characters have so completely changed that they are going to be actuated by purely altruistic motives. We have to deal with ordinary human beings. We have to show people who are willing to go to the Northern Territory that there are good prospects ahead of them there. What is the one instinct above all others that we want to encourage in Australia? It is the home-loving instinct - the desire of a man to have a home of his own, and to feel that it is his own. The encouragement of that instinct will bring out everything that is noblest and best in a man. What have we to offer to men to induce them to leave the southern States and go to the Northern Territory? I should prefer to leave the present settlers in the southern States, and get fresh settlers from abroad; but it is absolutely essential to have men of Australian experience in the Northern Territory. However, we have to hold out such inducements to Australian people, or others, as will cause them to settle there. The experience of ages shows that there is instinct in every man the desire to own his land, or whatever form his property takes, for himself ; and it is to that instinct we have to appeal.
– The desire generally is to hold somebody else’s land !
– And the honorable member gratified his own desire in that direction’ by imposing the Land Tax. How are we facing the problem of the settlement of the Northern Territory? Honorable members opposite contend that the best principle to adopt is the leasehold principle; but I hold that we ought to offer such a tenure as will secure to the settler bis home, and the reward of his industry. I do not condemn the leasehold principle per se. In dealing with vast areas of public land, the leasehold principle is the right one; but when our object is to induce people to make their homes, and to carry on dairying, and other forms of farming, freehold is the right tenure to offer. Honorable members opposite admit that their scheme up to the present is an idealistic one, in the sense that it is simply an idea which has never yet been brought into practical and successful operation in any part of the world. I do not say that, simply because it is an experiment, it ought not to be tried, except, of course, it can be* shown that the principle is so contrary to. progress in other countries that it ought to be at once condemned. We have taken over this vast area; and we are informed in Knibbs -
The Northern Territory was transferred to the Commonwealth on 1st January, 1911. At that date, out of a total area of 335,116,800 acres, there were alienated 473,990 acres; 103,629,497 acres (about one-third), were held under leases and licences; and the remainder (about twothirds), was unoccupied. The principal leases were -
No matter what party is in power, the Government will have to formulate some policy in respect to the tenants now inoccupation of the most desirable lands belonging to the Commonwealth ; the Administrator will, first of all, have to make an examination of all those areas subject to lease, and, if it be desired to resume them at an early date, to initiate some scheme for obtaining possession. I understand that, included in the lands at present occupied, are large areas of excellent pastoral country, and the problem is, therefore, one of administration to be faced now.
The fundamental principle of the Ordinance is contained in clause 15, which provides -
Lenses under this Ordinance shall be granted by the Administrator in the name of the King, and (except as regards miscellaneous leases) shall be in perpetuity, but subject to re-appraisement of rent at the periods provided by this Ordinance, or in special cases at the periods prescribed by the regulations or provided for in the lease.
The lands are to be held in perpetuity, and divided into classes according to clause 7, as follows -
The classes into which Crown lands are to be classified and the maximum area which may be included in any one pastoral or agricultural lease of the lands so classified shall be as follows, until the regulations otherwise provide : -
Division I. - Pastoral Lands.
Class 1. - Maximum area - 500 sq. miles.
Class 2. - Maximum area - 1,000 sq. miles.
Class 3. - Maximum area - 3,000 sq. miles.
Division II. - Agricultural Lands.
Sub-division A. - Cultivation Farms -
Class 1. - Maximum area - 640 acres.
Class 2 - Maximum area - 2,560 acres.
Sub-division B. - Mixed Farming and Grazing -
Class 1. - Maximum area - 12,800 acres.
Class 2. - Maximum area - 64,000 acres.
The principle, then, is that these lands are to be held in perpetuity on leasehold ; and it may be said that there is no distinction between this and freehold. When, however, we come to look at the nature of the tenure we see exactly what is contemplated. For instance, take any one of the leases, excluding town leases, and we see that the land has to be classified by the Board, and assessed at a rental. The general principle, leaving out exceptional cases, is that, for the first twenty-one years, the land is to be held at a certain rental, then reappraised, and so on, indefinitely. The first point to be kept in mind is that it will not be wealthy men who will “ rush “ the Territory.
– Hear, hear.
– The Minister says “ hear, hear,” and I hope he will understand that I am not discussing this question in a party spirit. No matter what Government is in power, the fact remains that, in order to get settlers in the Territory, we must hold out the prospect of making money, and making a home there; we do not desire mere birds of passage, who will make as much as possible, and then clear out. In short, our desire is to have permanent settlement by white persons, who will be a bulwark of defence for the continent.
– Does the honorable member think that holders of large areas are going to live there?
– No; in many instances they will not, mainly because they will not have a proper sense of security for their holding. Let us take the case of a man with very little capital, who desires to go to the Northern Territory and start farming ; and most of the settlers will be of this class. The first thing which will face him when he gets there is that he will have to fence and stock his land, erect buildings, and keep things going for two or three years until he gets a return. “ Where,” he will ask, “am I going to get capital to enable me to carry on?”. Then he will turn round and say, “ In Queensland, if I took up land under the Act, I could go to the State Agricultural Bank, and although I might have very little capital I should have a holding which I could convert into a freehold, and the State Bank would be quite prepared to make an advance to me on the security of my holding. I should have an asset which was capable of being converted into capital.” I find, for instance, that through the Queensland Agricultural Bank advances may be made for any of the following purposes : - Agricultural, dairying, horticultural, or viticultural pursuits on the holding ; making improvements, or adding to improvements already made ; the purchase of stock, machinery, or implements. The point is that advances are only made on the security of first mortgages.
– We are drafting a Bill in order to let the lessees have money.
– I quite believe that the Minister intends to do it. The development of the Territory will be greatly impeded unless we have an Agricultural Bank such as exists in the States to assist the farmers.
– A Bill is being drafted for that purpose.
– At the same time no State will be prepared to make advances to anybody unless there is security forthcoming.
– Is not the land there?
– That is perfectly true. Where is the value of the security ? When you are advancing money, the object is not simply to have something which is a security, but to make a piece of land a living, developing unit for the wealth of the community as a whole. That is the way in hich this matter will have to be aproached Honorable members opposite speak with contempt about land being mortgaged all over the country. But it is no reflection on the farmers of Australia that their lands are mortgaged. Instead of living here in the city, under luxurious and comfortable conditions, amidst all the pleasures and excitement of the city, these men had the courage and the pluck to go out into the country with comparatively little money, take up holdings, and borrow money, in order to develop the country, and so make city life possible for others. These men are to be commended. What we, as a nation, ought to do as regards them is to see that advances are made to them for the development of the country on the easiest and best possible terms we can get. Omitting a State bank altogether, let us consider the nature of a lease. Even if it contain an area of 3,000 square miles, the lease has to be appraised every twentyone years, and under this regulation it may be appraised more often, because subclause 6 of clause 20 reads -
Where the regulations otherwise provide or special provision for that purpose is contained in the lease, the re-appraisement of the rent may be made at less intervals than the periods specified in this section, and shall take effect accordingly.
The first objection, it seems to me, is that we are holding out nothing of ‘a nature to induce a person to go up to the Territory, and we are not offering him, when he gets there, a lease of such a nature as to be an asset that will be of assistance to him in raising the money requisite for opening up and developing the country. This Ordinance is defective on account of the method of re-appraisement. Let us look at the way in which the rent is to be fixed. There is no basis laid down - no indication as to what elements are to be taken into account by the Board when they come to make an assessment. The Board are simply told, “ There is a man on a piece of land situated in a certain place; appraise it just as you think fit.” No guide of any kind is given. In Queensland they ive a system of perpetual leases, and in them they make this important distinction, that the Court has to assess the land according to a certain basis which is given in sub-section 2 of section 125 of the Act, which concludes in this way -
Provided that, in determining the rent, regard shall not be had to any increase in the value of the holding attributable to the improvements.
That provision is not to be found in this Ordinance, and I think that honorable members on both sides will admit that it is a fair thing to provide. We are told that if land is resumed it is intended to give compensation for the improvements there. Now, is the compensation to be given simply for the amount of money which the leaseholder has expended on improvements, or what is to be the basis of compensating him? That is not made clear.
– The value of the improvements.
– One man may go on to a holding and spend ^10,000 or ^£13,000 in doing something which he hopes will improve it, but after all his expenditure the land may be utterly useless to him. His improvements may fail, and he has nothing’ to show for his outlay. He has no freehold or anything of that description. His money has simply been thrown away. On the other hand, another man may go on to the land, put down a bore, and get a permanent water supply, and the added value of the land is very much more than the mere cost of sinking the bore. The land may be improved four or five times in value simply by that boring operation. You, sir, know very well of what tremendous value it has been to Queensland as a whole to have artesian bores, and how greatly they have added to the value of the land.
– Would not that be an improvement value?
– In this Ordinance there is no direction given, in the appraisement of the rent, to make a distinction between what you may call, if you like, some sort of community value and the value resulting absolutely from a man’s work and his improvements. It seems to me that in operation the Ordinance will simply act as a method of taxing the people in the farming community for the good work that they do in developing the country. Take, for instance, some parts of Queensland. We have large areas of scrub land over which the prickly pear has spread very widely indeed. Any person looking at these lands would say, “ Obviously they are not a benefit, but a burden to the
State.” Many men would not think of taking them up. How would you assess such lands on the basis of perpetual leasehold? To begin with, they are really not worth any rent at all. In many instances a man ought to get a bonus if he has the pluck to go on such land and clear it. However, in many cases the farmers have cleared the scrub and the prickly pear, and to-day the lands are as good as the lands held in any part of the State. After these men have been working on land of this description night and day for fifteen years, giving up the whole of their lives to the development of this part of the State, and living there together in a large community, the community value, as you call it, there is not anything created by money expended by the State, but what has resulted from the men’s own efforts, working night and day in order to make it a good, fit and habitable portion of the State. Suppose that there are corresponding parts in the Territory, what will be the method for assessing the rents under this Ordinance ? Undoubtedly it can be said, “ We know that the land under freehold conditions twenty-one years ago might have been worth only £1 per acre, but to-day where the land is worth £20 an acre as the result of these men’s work, we will assess it on the capital value, and fix the rent accordingly.” When you come to assess land, it is unfair to have an Ordinance without some guiding principle, so that when an assessment is made by the Court or tribunal, a clear distinction may be drawn between the value added by works of the State and that given by the energies of the tenants. Such a distinction could be clearly drawn, and the Court might be directed to say that, in assessing the value of a lease on any reappraisement, regard should be had to the value given to the land by the construction of any railway or other public work, but that on no account should the value given by the money or efforts expended by the tenant to improve his property be taken into consideration in fixing the rent. Although the tenants are to have leases in perpetuity, their tenure will be from its very nature uncertain. Re-appraisements are to be made periodically, and conditions are attached, but from time to time other conditions, not contemplated when the land was taken up, may be insisted on. A man who takes a lease in the Northern Territory will be’ given an instrument of title from which he will ascertain that he has the right to occupy a certain definite area subject to the reservations and conditions set out in the title. Every twenty-one years, or more often, if the Administrator so decides, there must be a re-appraisement, the land is to be held liable to resumption, and where suitable for mixed farming and grazing the tenant must covenant to stock it to the extent prescribed by regulation. He cannot determine for himself what stock the land will carry. That is determined for him.
– By the Director Lands.
– By the Administrator. This Parliament gave the GovernorGeneral in Council authority te make regulations, which it has delegated to the Administrator. He may make regulations prescribing all matters which by these regulations are prescribed, or permitted to be prescribed, or are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for the purpose of carrying out or giving effect to this Ordinance, or regulating the conduct of any business in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory.
– In practice the Director of Lands will make the regulations.
– Very likely. Of course, great latitude must be given to those on the spot. My objection is that the lessee will hold his land subject to restrictions of all kinds. There is to be a covenant as to the stock to be carried, the land must be cultivated to the extent required by the Classification Board, it must be fenced as prescribed, and the tenant must observe and comply with the regulations under the Ordinance for the time being in force. Under clause 16 there is a series of reservations and conditions, in addition to which the tenant must observe any other reservations, covenants, conditions, or provisions which may be prescribed. It amounts to this, that- a man who accepts a lease in perpetuity to occupy lands for pastoral or agricultural purposes will have the value of the lease appraised at such periods as the Administrator may determine, and will hold it subject to the terms and conditions from time to time prescribed. I do not assume that a man possessing the capacity and judgment of the present Administrator would insist on conditions likely to retard settlement, which it will be his desire to facilitate, but nevertheless the Ordinance will have the effect that I have stated. It may be a wise one from the Administrator’s point of view, hut the person who is asked to take up land in the Northern Territory, and to remove there all his belongings and those who are dear to him, may .require greater security and more definite conditions. Unless we meet intending settlers in this matter our land policy will fail.
– Is the whole of the Northern Territory to be open for selection r ‘
– I understand that a Board is to be constituted whose duty it will be to classify the lands of the Territory. It will make reservations for townships and mineral reserves, and will classify the land as suitable for farming, mixed farming and grazing, or pastoral pursuits only. As minerals may be found on pastoral leases, they are properly reserved to the Crown in the instrument of lease.
– Are not settlers to be given land for ten years without payment?
– The first 5,000 settlers who take up land in the Northern Territory are to hold it rent free for life, or for twenty-one years, whichever is the longer period, and other settlers are to hold their land rent free for the first ten years.
– A man who gets land rent free for ten years should make some return.
– I admit that. The weakness of the leasehold system is that it does not appeal to the dominant passion in human nature.
– It appeals to the man who has no money.
– I cannot see that. It will not appeal to him if he has nothing upon which he can raise money.
– But we provide that he will be able to raise money.
– If necessary, the Commonwealth will have to make something in the nature of a grant, to promote settlement in the Northern Territory. I think it would be wise for the Minister to consider the advisableness of throwing open land for occupation there under what is known as the “ group “ system. In Queensland during recent years that system has been found exceedingly helpful. It may happen, for instance, that a group of settlers from the Riverina, or from some other district, or perhaps families who have intermarried, may desire to occupy a piece of country together. They may even be bound by agreements which provide that they shall render each other mutual assistance. I therefore suggest to the Minister that he should de vise some method which will permit of settlement in the Territory under the group system. I hold in my hand the figures relating to this form of settlement in Queensland. They are contained in the report issued by the Lands Department of that State for 1910, which says -
The portions opened for group settlement, and capable of being thus selected during the year, numbered 924, and comprised a gross area of 748,172 acres. Seven hundred and twenty portions, comprising 628,423 acres, have been applied for by members of the bodies of settlers for whom they were set apart. Comparing these results with those of the previous year, the number of portions opened in 1910 was 209 greater than 1909, the gross area was 19,215 acres greater, and the number of such portions that have been applied for is 116 greater, and their area 152,461 acres greater.
One of the great difficulties experienced in promoting land settlement in the outlying districts of Queensland has been isolation - the disability of living alone and the lack of companionship. But in places many, many miles from Brisbane, these group settlements have been formed, and have proved successful. Even if land were not applied for under that system, no harm could result from making provision to meet such applications. Up to the present time, this Parliament has not been called upon to deal with general land legislation. Hitherto that function has been reserved to the States. But the taking over of territories by the Commonwealth is adding to the list of subjects which we have to consider; and I venture to predict that this will not be the last occasion upon which we shall be called upon to discuss land settlement in the Northern Territory. We are now confronted with the task of formulating a developmental policy for that Territory, the greater portion of which is of a tropical character.
– Should we not provide for settlement by means of a Land Act ?
– I agree with the honorable member. So far, we have not constituted a legislative body for the Northern Territory. The time is not ripe for that, and, therefore, this Parliament must deal with the land question. The policy which we are now considering has been developed only by the Cabinet, whose members were bound to lay down the leasehold system of tenure as a fundamental principle.
– Parliament itself fixed that.
– Before Parliament fixed it, I think that somebody else fixed it - a Labour Conference.
– The motion approving of the leasehold system was carried unanimously by this House.
– I was not aware that a division was taken upon it.
– Then, was it not carried unanimously ?
– No; it would be correct to say that it was agreed to on the voices. This policy was considered by the Labour Conference first, which decided that the policy must be leasehold. It was then formulated by the Cabinet. It would not have been placed before us if it had not been for the astuteness of the honorable member for Illawarra, who showed us how we might tackle it in a way which would evidence that we realize our responsibility. The trouble is that we cannot amend the Ordinance in any way. We can merely make suggestions, but we cannot get a vote even upon their value. We have either to accept or reject the Ordinance as it stands. However, I am sure that the Minister of External Affairs will consider the suggestions which have been made by honorable members upon both sides of the House, because we are all anxious to achieve a common object. Within two or three years we shall have a whole series of Ordinances relating to the land, so that the question of land settlement will always be with us.
– If the Land Board which is to be appointed cannot make valuable suggestions to us, its members will not be worth their positions.
– -I hope that we shall have our railway policy developed as soon as possible, because it is on the development of that policy that the classification of our lands will depend. For instance, the running of a line of railway through a certain portion of country may determine whether the land there shall be classified as agricultural or pastoral.
– This comes well from an honorable member who was a -Minister in a slow-coach Government.
– My experience of the honorable member is that he was only of service in attempting to wreck the coach of government. We object to perpetual leasehold for several reasons. In dealing with a leasehold tenure as opposed to a freehold system, the honorable member for Illawarra stated two objections very clearly. The first was that the experience of other countries which have adopted the leasehold principle convinc ingly proves that that tenure does not appeal to human nature. In this connexion he referred to New Zealand, Victoria, and South Australia, in none of which countries did the perpetual leasing system evoke any adequate response. Further, those who obtained land under that tenure were very eager to acquire the freehold. I merely wish to supplement the remarks of the honorable member by stating that amongst the varied forms of land tenure in operation in Queensland is that of the perpetual lease. For the first ten years of the lease, the rent is fixed at £1 10s. per cent, per annum on the notified purchasing price of the land as an agricultural farm. After that the Court makes periodical appraisements of the land, and in making them applies the proviso with respect to improvements to which I have referred. Our experience in. Queensland has been that the perpetual lease tenure has not become popular. I have ascertained that land was first opened for perpetual lease selection in March, 1910. Since that time 981 portions have been so opened, and to the end of June of the present year only thirty-three perpetual lease selections had been taken up. Local land agents in the different districts, when questioned on the matter, I find on making inquiries, agree that applicants for land1 invariably prefer the form of tenure that promises freehold in the future, and when land is opened under such tenure they select under it in preference to a tenure which excludes freehold.
– Does the honorable member know the quality of the land offered under perpetual lease?
– I understand that it is good quality land.
– And the areas?
– The areas correspond to those of similar tenures. The honorable member, of course, would not suggest that any Ministry would throw land open simply to show that a certain system was a failure.
– I know that an area of only 125 acres was thrown open under perpetual lease at Tara.
– Tara lands were taken up readily, and improved greatly in value. I have reason to know that some of them were -very good lands. The honorable member for Illawarra pointed out very properly that what we all desire is to see, as far as we can, small freehold holdings throughout Australia. I do not think that any honorable member on either side wishes to see the vast accumulation of estates in freehold. The Minister could study with advantage the operation and practice of the Queensland system, which provides very extensively foi: pastoral leases throughout the State, and gives very good security. These leaseholds are not perpetual, but are for sufficiently extended periods to give security of tenure and invite occupation. The general result, so far as Queensland is concerned, has been of value to the revenue, and certainly has helped towards the settlement and occupation of the country generally. At the same time, when we come to the fundamental question of giving every man his own home, as we all desire to do, it seems to me that we must hold out to the man the hope of the freehold. Let me make one or two quotations of different opinions expressed on this question. M. de Sismondi says -
Wherever we find peasant proprietors we also find the comfort, security, confidence in the future, and independence, which assure at once happiness and virtue. . . . His little patrimony is a true savings bank, always ready to receive all his little savings and utilize all his moments of leisure. . . . The peasant proprietor is, of all cultivators, the one who gets most out of the SOil. . . . Let other nations boast of their opulence, Switzerland may always point with pride to her peasants.
Howitt, in Rural and Domestic Life in Germany, writes -
The peasants are not, as with us, for the most part totally cut oft from property in the soil they cultivate, totally dependent on the labour afforded by others - they are themselves the proprietors. , . . They labour busily, early and late, because they feel they are labouring for themselves.
– That is quite out of date. You ought to read what the Scottish Commissioners say about Denmark.
– The quotations I am making are from a recent publication by a writer who knows what he is talking about. The Prussian Minister of Statistics has stated -
It is almost a universally acknowledged fact that the gross produce of the land in grain, potatoes, and cattle is increased when the land is cultivated by those who own small portions of it.
Arthur Young, in his Travels in France, writes -
An activity has been here that has swept away all difficulties before it, and has clothed the very rocks with verdure. It would be a disgrace to common sense to ask the cause. The enjoyment of property must have done it. Give a man secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden.
The real fundamental point is that we must let the magic of ownership operate upon human nature. If we want to settle the
Northern Territory we must give something that will appeal to a man’s selfinterest in going there, occupying the land, and settling there. Unless we do something of that description, we are likely to fail. Honorable members opposite have in this case two policies. They say that they do not intend to touch past acquisitions of freehold at all, and are going to apply the principle of leasehold in the future. They have, however, a policy which is equally effective. Although they do not get at the land, and get the rental out of the land, they are able, by means of land taxation, to get almost the same result as by the leasehold principle. They are able, by taxing the land, to get from it an equivalent of that which they propose in future grants to get by way of leasehold, but underlying the whole of their scheme, as was indicated by the honorable member for Denison, there is the desire for the nationalization of the land. Their object is to bring in as soon as they can a scheme of Socialism, but if their scheme of Socialism is applied to the Northern Territory it will prove utterly futile and hopeless, because they seek to eliminate out of human nature the desire of acquisition and desire of gain.
– Is that the highest ideal of human nature?
– It is a permanent condition of human nature. The desire for acquisition is an honest desire, and not, in itself, evil. It springs from man’s desire to supply his own and his family’s needs. Contrast the desire of a man to earn and retain what is his own with the desire of honorable members opposite to tax away from a man even that which is his. When a man desires to have a home of his own, in which to bring up his family, and to bear the burden of citizenship, he is actuated by a good and honest principle,
– That is different from what you were saying before.
– It is not ; it is the same principle. If we want to make a success of the Northern Territory, we must recognise that principle. When we look at the growth and development of Australia, we must ask ourselves who would have done all the pioneering work in this country if there had not been held out to those who came first some’ reward for the efforts they were making? Of course, many honorable members, like the honorable member for Denison, have been brought up in places like Tasmania, where more settled conditions obtain ; but let him and others go to the vast northern States, like New South Wales and Queensland, where for years to come we shall have to do a great deal of pioneering, and let them see the hardships which the men at present in occupation of the land are facing. They will see then that those on the land are doing this because they are eager to have homes of their own. They desire to settle on and own the land, and by their efforts there to form a patriotic band, prepared in the hour of emergency to stand up and defend their country. Unless we try to people the Northern Territory with the same class of men, we shall be running great national risks. Our hope of the salvation of Australia, and the maintenance of a White Australia, lies in the adoption of such a sane, sensible policy as will lead men to face the hardships they are bound to undergo in order to do their part in building up this great Commonwealth.
Mr. FRANK FOSTER (New England) £4.9]. - The honorable member for Darling Downs, especially in his latter remarks, seemed to allege something that is not contained in the Ordinance at all. He appeared to desire to make out that the Government have neglected in the Ordinance to give security of tenure to the owner or occupier of a homestead. If there is one thing on which I can congratulate the Government in connexion with this Ordinance, it is the fact that they not only give absolute security of tenure, but protect the lessee from the possibility of losing his holding by mortgaging it to a private individual. Having a beneficent landlord in the State, the lessee must be safer than he would be if he leased his land from a private owner. If we go abroad we shall find that, with the exception of France, land development in every country of Europe is carried on under the leasehold system. But the lessees have a wretched tenure, have to pay high rent, and are exploited by the landlords all the time. The landlords take from them the produce of their toil, and endeavour always to make slaves of them.
– Yet, not one of those lessess, so far, has found his way into the Northern Territory, where he could get the land on very much better terms !
– That is because the Conservative Governments who have hitherto controlled the Territory have permitted 90,000,000 acres of the best land r there to be monopolized by a few holders.
– Conservative Governments such as that of the late Mr. Kingston ?
– They were certainly Conservative Governments as compared with the present Government of the Commonwealth. I am prepared to defend the perpetual leasehold principle. I should like to remind honorable members opposite that, from many public platforms, speakers on their own side have often expressed the opinion that, if we were only now beginning the settlement of Australia, none of the land should be sold. We have heard that statement time after time; but those who have spoken in that way have said that, since so much of the land has already been sold, it is better now to continue the freehold system. It is with intense regret that I feel compelled to enter a protest against this Ordinance, because there is embodied in it the principle of land’ monopoly in an extravagant form. Under its provisions, one man may take up nearly 2,000,000 acres of land, and then turn round and sublet it to those who may follow him in the settlement of the Territory.
– The lessees will not have the right to sublet their leases.
– They are given the right to sublet under this Ordinance.
– Is that so?
– There is nothing to prevent it, and some of the sections plainly enough give the right to sublet.
– Lessees cannot sublet, except for a very short time, and only with the consent of the Board.
– They can sublet altogether with the consent of the Board, but only for a short time without that consent.
– This would be all very fine if we could be sure that we should always have in power a Government who do not believe in land monopoly, and who would be careful to protect the interests of the small holder. In such circumstances, I might cast my bread upon the waters and trust to Providence; but I am not prepared to support proposals which provide for land monopoly, and which would he a disgrace to any Parliament or any Government. I tell the Government straight out that these provisions seem to me to be a contempt of the whole position. The Government, apparently, do not value these lands. They are in the position of the landlord of this vast estate. They propose to allow people to become their tenants under certain conditions ; and, in order, they say, to encourage settlement, they offer nearly 2,000,000 acres in one block. There are lands in the Northern Territory so “fertile and well-watered that I know of no lands in any part of Australia that are more suitable for close settlement. An honorable member on the other side told us that, in parts of the Northern Territory, the grass grows too fast, and stock cannot eat it down. Any man who has experience of pastoral occupation knows that when grass grows too fast on land, the only thing to do is to put more stock on it that they may eat it down more quickly.
– Settlers cannot get the stock; that is the difficulty.
– I hope the honorable member for Illawarra will not take that stand.
– It is a fact.
– Settlers can get stock if they pay for them. There are hundreds of thousands of cattle in Queensland that might be purchased. I admit that there is great difficulty in taking stock to the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the question.
– I do not. wish to go too much into detail ; but I wish to say that there is no doubt that the disabilities under which settlers in the Northern Territory must labour have been taken into consideration in the drafting of this Ordinance. One of the chief disabilities is, no doubt, the difficulty of obtaining stock, because the settlers will be limited to securing cattle from tropical portions of Australia, and cattle that are, to some extent, immune from the tick, and from diseases affecting stock in the Territory. We could not take cattle from a cold climate like that of Victoria, and transfer them to the Northern Territory with much hope of success. It would take some time for them to become acclimatized, and there would, no doubt, be considerable losses of such stock. I consider that the provisions of this Ordinance covering resumptions of land are only fair. If we are to resume leases - and when such large areas are allowed, a great deal of resumption will become necessary, I hope, at a very early date– it is only fair that a man whose lease is resumed should be given compensa tion for his improvements and for the value of the remaining portion of his lease.
– What ! In the case of a perpetual lease?
– I heartily indorse the provision proposing compensation for the value of improvements, and the unexpired portion of the lease in all cases of resumption ; but I take the stand that no more than a living area should be granted under any lease.
– In pastoral areas?
– I am totally opposed to the granting of any perpetual leases in pastoral areas, unless of a very limited acreage.
– Acres are no good in that country ; settlers will want square miles-
– I was under the impression that honorable members coming from South Australia were standing up for the value of this country ; but here we have one who says that people will want square miles and not acres in the Territory. If 3,000 square miles of country are necessary to enable a man to make a living, the land cannot be of much value.
– A man would not be able to do very much with pastoral property only 10 square miles in extent.
– The honorable member is talking reasonably now ; but what about a pastoral property 3,000 square miles in extent? That is what I am con, Deminig. Under this Ordinance, pastoral lands are divided into three classes, and it is proposed that the maximum area to be granted of the first class shall be 500 square miles ; of the second class, r,cc-o square miles ; and of the third class, 3,000 square miles. Of course, there may be some belts of territory in regard to which it would not matter if we allowed 3,000 square miles to be held. In 500,000 square milesthere is scope for all kinds of country, bad as well as good. But I stand with those honorable members who have urged the Government to bring down a Land Bill. This Ordinance was presented to the House by the Minister before our party had had any opportunity of discussing it.
– This is the biggest land proposition in Australia.
– Seeing that the Commonwealth is now a great landlord, that it possesses Papua, the Northern Territory, and the Capital Site area, it is high time that we had a Federal land law. If a Bill were brought down for- that purpose the House would have an opportunity of discussing the whole question. Surely the Government are not afraid of assuming responsibility in that direction. They have a sound majority behind them, and can insist on purely labour principles being embodied in such legislation. Surely it ought to be the aim of the Government to lay down a broad policy for these Commonwealth areas, to guide settlement for all time. There are honorable members on both sides of the House who have had valuable experience in land matters. Some have taken part in the framing of State Acts. 1 have had a great deal to do with land, and have taken it up under many tenures. I have also assisted others in the matter of land occupation. It is a foolish thing to throw down a land Ordinance like this, and say that we cannot amend it ; that we have to take it or leave it, though it involves the management of 500,000 square miles of country. There is a great deal in the Ordinance which does credit to the industry and ability of the Minister, but nevertheless I trust that he will withdraw it, and come down with a Land Bill covering Papua, the Northern Territory, and the Federal Capital area.
– This session, or next?
– This session.
– Before Christmas, or afterwards ?
– If the Government intend to hold another session after Christmas I shall be prepared to let the matter stand over until then.
– Would the honorable member defer the Ordinance until the Bill was passed?
– We could grant permits in the meantime, and the Government could afterwards bring in a Bill to allow the people holding land on permits to continue in occupation.
– That would be deferring the Ordinance.
– Most decidedly; I would withdraw the Ordinance altogether. The wet season in the Northern Territory is approaching, and before anything can be done under this Ordinance it will be upon us. It continues from November to March. Nothing can be done under the Ordinance this season.
– Is that the condition every year in the wet season?
– Certainly, in the far north, though not perhaps in the MacDonnell Ranges country. I have had the pleasure of watching operations under the perpetual leasehold system in New Zealand, where it has been eminently successful. Unfortunately, their law did not include a re-appraisement section. That was the mistake they made. In 1907 they abolished 999 years’ leases, and substituted 66 and 33-year periods. One can take up land for one or other of those terms. The New Zealand Government made a special classification. Of first class land they only allow 640 acres to be taken up. They allow 2,000 acres of second class land, and 5,000 acres of third class ; the latter being the limit. They give occupiers an absolute security. The Government will make advances up to three-fifths of the value of a lessee’s interest in a lease. It is strange that some members should doubt whether the Government could finance land held on perpetual lease. The Government would be advancing money on their own property. When money is borrowed ostensibly to develop the land, the landlord gets the benefit, even if the lessee fails to be successful himself. The arguments to which I have listened relating to borrowing money on freehold, as against on leasehold, seem to me very absurd, when one remembers the fact that under a perpetual lease absolute security of tenure is given. I regret that nothing has been put into this Ordinance in regard to community settlement. The honorable member for Darling Downs made quite a good point on that matter. I heartily indorse what he said - that community settlement, as established in Queensland, has had good results. The community settlement under the New Zealand Act has also been beneficial. Under it 250,000 acres may be taken up for community purposes. I should like to see the Government embody in any land scheme introduced by them a plan of assisting the man with no capital. I assert here, that, under this Ordinance, there are very few who will be able to go to the Northern Territory unless they have a great deal of capital. I take the stand that if we are to have a proper grip on the Territory in regard to land settlement, we shall have to aid the man who wishes to go there without capital. There is one way of aiding the settler which appeals to me as being substantial and reasonable. That is for the Government to employ intending settlers in the first instance. When the New Zealand’ Government thought fit to send out intending settlers, they paid them to cut the timber down, clear the land, and fence it ; and then gave them the first preference in the leasing of the land so prepared. If we are to induce men to go to the Northern Territory and stay there, I can conceive of no better way of assisting them than by employing them, in the first instance, to clear the land, to construct railways, make roads, and do other necessary works which are required to prepare the way for settlement.
– It would be like the scrubcutting at Pilliga.
– I refer the -honorable member to the system in New Zealand, where more success has been -achieved than at Pilliga scrub, and it is a success under a good rainfall such as we have in the Northern Territory.
– In some seasons.
– The honorAble member is very much at sea.
– At some periods of the ; year the rainfall is very good in the Northern Territory, but at other times there is no rainfall at all.
– The honorable member is not’ much of an agriculturist if he does not know that a guaranteed rainfall of six months is sufficient to enable water to be conserved for ihe balance of the year. I am afraid that the honorable member is like a great many people at present in the Northern Territory who wish to exploit the natural’ grass without putting up a fence, cutting a tree, or con.serving the water in any way. These are not the sort of men who have settled and developed Australia, and on whom we shall have to rely to stand by the country in her hour of need. We desire men who will make the best of the land. Of course, we owe a great deal to the pastoralist, who is the pioneer, buf he ought not to be igiven 2,000,000 acres in the Northern Territory, and thus enabled to batten on those who come afteT him. The man we have to consider is the man who puts the land to its best use; and that should be our guide in developing a land policy. We, the landlord of the Territory, propose to construct railways ami create irrigation works, but, in order to provide for the men of small areas, who are the men we want, it will be necessary to classify the land in small blocks. In my opinion, a 3ao-acre block on the Katherine River, with the railway there, will prove quite as good for dairying purposes as a 1,280- =acre block, say, twenty miles further out. But we have also to bear in mind the 100- acre man ; and I hope that the Government will see fit to encourage every workman on the railways, and every public servant there, to have a piece of land, and make his home on it. Intense culture can be carried out most successfully in a country where the rainfall is absolutely assured; and I have here some figures in this regard taken over a great number of years. Some honorable members have an idea that the rainfall in the Territory is a continuous deluge; but I know a number of places in Queensland where there is even a heavier rainfall, and where the people are doing very well ; indeed, I could point to a place within fifty miles of Sydney where there is a 50-inch rainfall. Figures taken at Darwin show that the rainfall in 1887 was 67 inches, in 1888 it was 61 inches, in 1889 it was 52^ inches, in 1890 it was 65! inches, in 1891 it was 74^ inches, in 1892 it was 42J inches, in 1893 it was 62^ inches, in 1894 it was 60J inches, in 1895 it was 78 inches, in 1896 it was 67 J inches, in 1897 it was 24 inches, in 1898 it was 58 inches, and in 1899 it was 59^ inches. These figures represent only a decent rainfall for so hot a country ; and that rainfall extends over six months.
– The trouble is” that it does not extend over a year.
– The honorable member must remember that evesy pastoralist in the Territory has stated that, if the grass is burnt while dry, it throws up a splendid green shoot on which stock can be fattened. I saw, nearly three months after-
– The honorable member is going into another question, which is not before the Chair.
– I do not want to trench too far, but merely to say that, three months after the rainfall, I saw such grass making splendid progress; and when that can be done without irrigation, the Government would be wise-
– The honorable member is going beyond the question before the Chair.
– I merely wish to ask the Government, in their Ordinance, to lay down a land policy, including a scheme of irrigation.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the question of irrigation, which is not before the Chair.
– I do not quite grip the scope of the discussion before the Chair ; but I was under the impression that this Ordinance opened up the question whether the scheme laid down by the Government should be adopted or rejected. I do not wish to go unduly into detail ; but I regard this as a very vital matter. We must consider the value of the land when we are formulating a scheme of settlement; to draft an Ordinance for a desert is a very different matter from drafting an Ordinance for good agricultural land. I am urging on the Government not to regard this land as of such little value that it may be thrown away in wholesale fashion, and, in their scheme of settlement, to consider community of interest, and prevent, as far as possible, the isolation of the settlers, because we cannot expect people to go into the wilderness. I hope I shall be in order in referring to the freehold blocks in Darwin, where the freehold system has been in full operation, and 1,000 allotments have been alienated. To-day a public servant in Darwin cannot, except at an exorbitant price, obtain a block of land on which to build a home. On looking at the map, I see that nearly every block has been bought from the Government, with a few exceptions in the bush amongst the blacks and the Chinamen. In Darwin the freehold system has run riot, and. we now see the effect. Absentee land-holders own at least twothirds of the blocks already alienated in Darwin.
– What does the honorable member mean by an “ exorbitant price ? “
– I mean £100 for a block.
– How big are the blocks - one acre?
– I am informed that they are ha If -acre blocks.
– And the owners are asking ,£250 each.
– When in Darwin I had several chats with gentlemen who desire to build and settle there, but are unable to do so owing to the exorbitant prices asked ; and I was hoping that the Government would have some scheme for resuming this land, or of appointing a municipality with power to tax it.
– There is a municipality now.
– I am glad to hear it, because there is only one way to force these absentee gentlemen to disgorge, namely, a severe tax on those who do not improve their blocks. I think I am safe in saying that out of 1,000 blocks, less than 300 have been developed. There is one thing on which I wish to congratulate the Minister, and that is that he has safeguarded the mining interest. I trust that in the administration of the Territory we shall not see any clashing between the landholder and the miner. The land-holder only wants the surface of the ground, while the miner, as a rule, only wants what is underneath the ground. Surely in developing any land system, we might well protect future generations by evolving a scheme which will give both men a chance to work side by side, because the pastoralist and the miner, working side by side, must develop the Territory.
– Not without a National Bank.
– The question . of finance was raised by the honorable member for Darling Downs. I was very pleased, indeed, to hear that the Government were preparing a scheme for financing the settlers. .
– Yes, a Bill is being drafted, now.
– Seeing that there are two banks at Darwin, I do not think that it would be very much amiss for the Government to establish a branch of the Commonwealth Bank there. I believe that a Credit Foncier scheme in connexion with that bank would be excellent, not only at Darwin, but throughout the Commonwealth. I do not wish to labour this matter too much, and as the scope of the debate has been somewhat cut down, I shall reserve for a future occasion several matters on which I was prepared to speak today. In my opinion, the point raised by the honorable member for Grey, in regard to pastoral leases, is such a serious one that it cannot be overlooked by the Government. I shall feel myself in duty bound to vote for his amendment, if it can be put. I understand that it is not competent for us to amend the Ordinance; but, if the amendment can be put, I shall feel myself in duty bound to vote for it, because to extend the perpetual leasing system to pastoral holdings would be fatal to a proper scheme of land settlement, and would encourage land monopoly of an extreme nature, which I do not -wish to see anywhere, especially in the Territory. Other points raised by the honorable member for Grey I indorse very strongly, especially hisstatement that if we adopt the perpetual leasing system, it is absolutely essential to make that form of tenure as subject, and as easily subject, to transfer, and, if I may employ the term, to commercial conditions, as is a freehold. I think that the great thing necessary is to protect the holder of a perpetual lease in every shape and form, and to give him absolute security of tenure; but let him know that, though it is a perpetual lease, he is better safeguarded than a man with a freehold. We leave it to himself to see the superior value of a perpetual leasehold in the fact that, instead of sinking his money in the purchase of land, he is able to spend it in developing the land, and doing the work which is necessary to open up that great Territory. Any other system than the encouragement of settlers to put their best efforts into the work of development would be fatal. We do not want the land speculator, or the land gambler, or the land monopolist. We do not want anybody who will hold back this great country from Its legitimate purpose, for the simple reason that, while it is undeveloped and unpeopled, it will remain as a menace and a danger to the future of Australia.
-4SJ– I fmd in the Northern Territory (Administration) Act of 1910 this provision -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold ot disposed of for any estate of freehold, except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this Act.
It seems that a good deal of the discussion as to the merits of land tenures is somewhat beside the issue raised by the Ordinance. If I were to give my preference, it would certainly be for leasing. I do not say that we should apply the principle of leasing right out to the Northern Territory, but, on the comparative merits of leasehold and freehold in a place where there is no adequate tax on the land to stop aggregations, and to check abuses which semimonopoly might encourage, I do not think that there can be a second opinion, because the bulk of the land in the .Old Country is held on leasehold tenure. When I left it thirty-two years ago, Ireland was practically held in leases whose tenure could be determined by six months’ notice to quit, and in some cases the lessees could be put out without any notice, and, of course, there was absolute stagnation. But under the beneficent legislation begun in 1881 by the Ashbourne Acts, there are about 200,000 peasant proprietors, and I believe that statistics show that it is the fourth leading country in the world as regards exports and imports per head of the population. There has been an absolute transformation over a good part of that country, as the result of giving security of tenure through peasant proprietorship ; but, after a time, without a check, they may go back to the old system. Some years ago, when this question was mooted in the Parliament of South Australia in connexion with the land laws, it was found that from a fourth to a third of the land which had been alienated by the State to be held by small occupiers and tilled by them had passed into the hands of landlords and tenants, and that it was only a question of time when the conditions might begin to assume the form that they did in the Old Country until recent years; that is, that a good part of the soil might be held in tenancy. Happily that has not been the case. That was the position which we had to face in 1887, when I entered the State Parliament. In 1884 South Australia imposed an all-round land tax on the unimproved value of land, and I believe that it was the first such land tax imposed by a British Legislature. It did operate to some extent, although it was only a tax of a Jd. in the £1, as a deterrent against the aggregation of large estates. It was thought, however, in 1887 - and I tabled a motion to give expression to that belief, which, I think, was carried in 1888 - that if we adopted for a time the leasehold principle, we could accomplish at once all that the land-tax men aspired to do; that is, that we could preserve, without confiscation, in relation to the unsold Crown lands, the principle of making the State keep the economic rental and applying that rental in the reduction of State taxation. In 1888 we adopted the principle of perpetual leases, and there were also leases for terms of years. We provided for a periodical appraisement of the rent - every fourteen years, I think - but the system never gave universal satisfaction. Within a year or two even members who might be regarded as the beginners of the Labour party supported the policy of giving the right of purchase in connexion with perpetual leases. There were workmen’s blocks, and some lessees under the workmen’s block system became rather importunate. They saw members of Parliament, including myself, and, in a good many cases, the holders of such blocks were given the right of purchase, and so on, until the original system, which is embodied in this Ordinance, was departed from. Every principle requires some modification, either as to the time of its application, or to the extent to which it is applied, by the conditions of the place in which it is being applied. Even Herbert Spencer himself said that he did not believe that the abstract lines laid down in Social Statics were applicable to every country at a particular time. He wrote many years ago to a Society in South Australia that he would not necessarily apply the principle of land nationalization embodied in that work to a young country like that. In dealing with the Northern Territory, which is almost continental in size, and the conditions of which are somewhat primitive, it would be almost suicidal to offer all the land on the perpetual leasing principle. If that is done, as time goes by and population increases, you will have to reduce the size of the blocks, and must then, to some extent, interfere with the vested interests created. Section 25 gives to the -Administrator arbitratory power of resumption for any purpose, another section providing for resumption for a public purpose. The Administrator is not checked in respect to resumption even by the Minister. It is only the regulations that may be disallowed by the Minister. I do not wish to repeat what has been said by the honorable member for Darling Downs; but most extraordinary powers of interfering with the interests created in favour of lessees, and generally in regard to the administration of the Act. are given to the Administrator. Upon the adoption of this Ordinance, arbitrary powers may be exercised without reference to this Parliament. The regulations are not subject to disallowance by the Parliament. If honorable members will look at the end of the Ordinance, they will find that the power of disallowance is not provided for, except by sections 42 and 43, under which the Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, disallow any regulation, which shall thereupon cease to have effect. The powers through regulations, are very extensive. Glancing hurriedly through them, I find that there is a power given to the Administrator to prescribe by regulation how appraisements are to be made, whether at statutory periods, or at other periods fixed by him. The Administrator has power to make regulations in regard to forfeiture; the reservation to be made may be prescribed by him ; the power of resumption is arbitrarily vested in him ; and how stocking and fencing is to be done are matters to be left to him, as are also the covenants to be put into town leases. The miscellaneous leases will cover, I suppose, the greater part of the Northern Territory ; and the conditions upon which they are to be parted with, and, indeed, almost all of the conditions, are at the arbitrary discretion of the Administrator. The present Administrator possesses very high credentials ; but he has to apply theoretical knowledge, acquired in the philosopher’s chair, and, doubtless, by some personal observation, to a country embracing 335,000,000 acres. I only wish that the intellect with which he has been blest by Providence may be turned to so fruitful an account, that there may be a realization of our hopes, which seems almost impossible. Eight sections only of the Acts Interpretation Act of 1904 are adopted. It is section 10 of that Act which gives the Legislature power by notice to disallow regulations. Whether it is intended or not, the position seems to be that only the Minister can check the arbitrary exercise of the extraordinary powers vested in the Administrator. Is that right? And is it right, in connexion with an Ordinance, not one line of which Parliament can alter? No doubt there is a similar provision in the Papua Act; but there is a sort of Legislature in Papua - an Executive Council - and the Lieutenant-Governor can disallow its Acts, and must suspend certain of them to give this Parliament the opportunity to disallow them. In the zeal to apply the principle of perpetual leasing, which I extol under certain circumstances in which it would be truly applicable, the draughtsman, under Ministerial inspection, has made a mixture of principles. As the honorable member for Darling Downs has shown, there is nothing to say that the rental value of a lease shall be the rental value of its unimproved land. That provision is in the Papua Act, section 20 of which says that the rental of all land granted or disposed of by way of lease, shall be assessed upon the unimproved value of the land. There is no express provision in this Ordinance that the rental value is to be assessed on the unimproved basis. That being so, what chance has a lessee, who, if his lease is resumed, can get compensation only for improvements, of obtaining advances from an ordinary bank, or even from the Commonwealth Bank. In 1888 or 1889, the development of part of the Northern Territory was retarded because of the uncertainty of tenure, and the indefiniteness of the provisions in the South
Australian legislation of the day regarding the compensation to be given for improvements. One man lost as much as ^£50,000 in waiting for a suitable tenure to get advances from the banks to proceed with the sinking of wells in the Herbert River country. That was regarded as one of the best districts in the Northern Territory, and wells were being sunk there to a depth of 500 feet. They were afraid to bore for artesian water, because of the depth, and because the banks refused to lend money without security in regard to the leases. Under this Ordinance, banks are not likely to make the advances required for the development of pastoral property in the Northern Territory. I do not know whether the Minister considers that, if the power to resume is exercised, the lessee will have a right to compensation for disturbance. I do not think, if consistency be regarded, that he should have that right. Its introduction would destroy the principle of perpetual leasing. I am dealing now with the application of abstract principles to conditions to which they are really not applicable. Under a perpetual lease, the State refuses to part with the economic rental of its land. It says to tenants, “If you take possession of the land, subject to resumption for public purposes, you will not be disturbed. The result of the industry you display in its development, will not be touched by us. We shall, on re-appraisement, fix the rent only in accordance with the increase in value given by the aggregation of population, and expenditure upon public works.” One can concede that to be a legitimate policy in an appropriate sphere of application. If, then, we adopt the principle that, upon resumption, the Crown will compensate a lessee for other than his improvements, we shall be called upon to compensate him for what he has not got.
– He will have a lease in perpetuity, and surely that is worth something.
– The honorable member, who is pretty conversant with the principle laid down by Henry George, must know that a perpetual lease is a means of retaining the full economic rent. The sale value of a lease is the sale value of the improvements upon it, plus the difference capitalized between the rent paid and the true economic rent.
– And the goodwill.
– It is the difference between the two things. But if the appraise ment has taken away the full economic rent, we cannot capitalize what does not exist - that is to say, the difference between the rent payable and the true rent of the land. So that the draftsman, acting like a philosopher under the inspiration of the Government, and adhering to a principle which is not applicable to the Territory,” has very properly refused to recognise any right to compensation by lessees, if their occupancy under a perpetual lease is disturbed. So far, then, we have philosophy as a prelude to action. But this philosophy will not afford much consolation to the lessee who wishes to get a bank to advance him money. Possibly he may be asked to seek his consolation, as Burke once put it, “in the final proportions of eternal justice.” The Administrator will not be able to help him in such circumstances, because he will not be able to pay compensation where an Ordinance forbids him to do so. I need scarcely point out the difficulties that will arise in case of partial resumptions. As the honorable member for Grey knows, many improvements in South Australia have been confiscated on partial resumption or on subdivision, as the result of being located in the wrong part of the land. No bank, looking at the improvements on a perpetual lease, would make any advance to the lessee in the absence of some guidance as to how the value of those improvements is to be assessed.
– Would the honorable member grant perpetual leases of pastoral areas ?
– No; I indorse everything that the honorable member says upon that point. The Government are attempting to apply philosophic convictions to a very mixed condition of human affairs. Seeing that we cannot tell how the settlement of the Northern Territory will develop, surely we ought not to grant perpetual leases of untold areas there. What we ought to do is to grant terminable leases. I believe that the existing South Australian Acts under which leases have been granted in the Territory are very much better than is this Ordinance. Under those Acts the greater portion of the Territory can be leased for forty-two years, and they will apply to it if the Government choose to withdraw this Ordinance. Subclause 1 of clause 41 of the Ordinance provides -
That provisions of any Acts of the State of South Australia relating to Crown lands, and in force in the Northern Territory at the commencement of this Ordinance, shall, subject to this Ordinance, continue in force, but except in cases allowed by this Ordinance or the regulations, no new lease shall be granted under any of those Acts.
In this connexion I wish honorable members would peruse the memorandum which was prepared by the honorable member for Darling Downs at the time the NorthernTerritory was taken over by the Commonwealth. In that Territory almost every form of land tenure has been tried under quite a legion of Acts. Yet the provision which I have quoted has been incorporated in this Ordinance as a sort of saving clause. I confess that I do not know exactly what it means. Does it mean that the provisions of the South Australian Acts are not to apply to leases to be granted? I do not think so. On the other hand, if it means that those Acts are to apply to all leases, then this Ordinance will go some way in prescribing the conditions which are to obtain under a perpetual lease, whilst a number of South Australian Statutes will prescribe the remainder. I wish that the Attorney-General would help the Minister to explain this technical provision. I have no wish to prolong criticism of the Ordinance. I believe in retaining the economic rental of land in the absence of a fair land tax, because, as time goes on, and our population increases, that policy will help to diminish our taxation. But whilst I have always been in sympathy with that idea, I do say that a perpetual leasing system is not applicable to the Northern Territory, and I indorse what was said by the honorable member for Grey to the effect that the Government ought to withdraw this Ordinance. If one desired to criticise it in detail, it is vulnerable at almost every point. Take, for instance, the case of town lands. Why on earth should we sell the leases of town lands? I can understand the rentals being fixed by bidding, but in this case it is proposed to offer the leases at a certain rental, and men are to be asked to bid for the option. This option system has been found to work very bady in South Australia. Men bid too high for the land, and afterwards, having paid too high premiums, ask for a reduction of their rental. There ought to be no option in perpetual leases, because we shall not part with the economic rental. Even if honorable members think that vast areas in the Territory - some of which are comparatively unknown - are suitable to perpetual leasing, we ought to be exceedingly careful to insure that the Ordinance gives effect to our desire. It is, however, premature to adopt this principle in the Northern Territory. Our proper course isto institute a system of terminable leases. I am, therefore, perfectly in accord with the amendment of the honorable member for Grey.
.- I can conceive of no more important matter which this House could be invited to consider than that of the land laws of so great a country as the Northern Territory. I join with other honorable members in protesting against this system of land legislation - land legislation by means of an Ordinancenot a line of which we have the right toreview. We may either accept or reject the Ordinance, but we have no opportunity of discussing it in detail, or of making amendments in it. It would have been much better if the Government had brought down a Bill which would have enabled us to debate the question of land legislation of the Northern Territory in all it’s details. I. do not propose to follow either the honorable member for Illawarra or the Minister of External Affairs in discussing the merits of the freehold, as opposed to the leasehold system, because, under the Northern Territory Administration Act of 1910, which was quoted by the honorable member for Angas, it is obligatory upon this Parliament to legislate for that Territory on the leasehold system. So far as ninetenths of the Northern Territory is concerned, nobody has ever asked for freehold. I cannot imagine any pastoral lessee in the Territory asking for a freehold ; and we have to regard the Territory to-day, so far as 99 per cent, of its land is concerned, as a pastoral proposition, and a pastoral proposition on the cattle side. So far as the great bulk of the land there is concerned, and so far as we understand it at the present time, we know it to be of use only for pastoral purposes. For a very limited area along the coast, and along certain portions of the rivers, freeholds have been granted ; and in those parts nobody would suggest that the land should be leased in large areas ; but, so far as the great bulk of the land in the Territory is concerned, it is to pastoral pursuits only that we can look for immediate development. I think the perpetual system of leasing, as proposed under the Ordinance before the House, is altogether wrong, so far as pastoral purposes are concerned. I am sure that the objective which we all have in view in connexion with the land legislation of the Northern Territory is to induce people to go there and occupy the country. The Federal Parliament does not desire that that great north land of Australia should be empty as it is at the present time. We want to do our utmost to encourage people to settle there, not only for pastoral purposes, but for agricultural purposes, on the coast and along the rivers. For immediate purposes, however, it seems to me that we ought to concentrate our attention on pastoral development ; and the question that I ask myself is this : Under what system are we going to induce people to go from the south to the north of Australia and take up land for pastoral development ? Would a lessee prefer a lease in perpetuity, as proposed under the Ordinance, or a lease which, while giving him security of tenure on the one hand, preserves to him some right of compensation in the event of the Crown resuming? Under the Ordinance, there is no right of compensation for any unexpired balance of the lease, as there could not be under a perpetual system. All that a person has a right to claim, in the event of the Crown resuming his pastoral lease, is the right of payment for improvements. One of the latest reports from the Government Resident for the Northern Territory shows that, of a total area of 335,000,000 acres, only 474,000 acres, a comparative speck on the map, has been alienated. Consequently, the question of land monopoly, and the experiences of other countries, hardly come into the calculation so far as the Northern Territory is concerned. The fact that 474,000 acres is held under the freehold system in the Territory does not in any way prevent the occupation of the greater portion of that great country to-day, because that alienated area is chiefly coastal country and land along the rivers. Whilst that land may be required in a few years’ time, there is no demand for it up to the present. .
– Is there not some in Darwin?
– Land has been sold in township allotments in Darwin. The honorable member for New England referred to the very high prices that were being asked for land there. I have gone to the trouble of making inquiries regarding the prices asked for township blocks; and, whilst I find that in the centre of the town, the business part, the owners of corner blocks, and so forth, regarded as good sites, require a fair amount of money for them, the prices for blocks close to the township, and within the township radius, are not prohibitive. It is a very easy matter for the Government, or any one else desirous of obtaining blocks in the township of Darwin, to obtain them at a fairly reasonable price - reasonable if the buyer believes that the country is going ahead. I contrast the Ordinance now before us with the land laws in force in South Australia. We have passed through much tribulation in South Australia as landlords of a great stretch of pastoral country. We have had vast experience in that regard ; and, as the result of that experience, have come to the determination that the best possible system for obtaining the occupation of pastoral lands, and, at the same time, not alienating them, is to give leases of twenty-one or forty-two years, as the case may be. The longest lease given is fortytwo years. Before offering land previously leased, a report has to be furnished to the Government as to whether such land, owing to the nature of the soil, the rainfall, or proximity to sea or railway, is suitable for subdivision. If not, it may again be offered on a forty-two years’ lease; but, in the re-appraisement, no increased rent is imposed for any improvements made by the lessee in the course of his lease. But - and here is the point where I wish to draw a distinction between the pastoral laws of South Australia and the laws by which the Federal Government hope to induce settlement in the Northern Territory - it was enacted in South Australia, after much pastoral land had been thrown back on to the hands of the Government, and great areas and valuable -improvements had been handed over to caretakers, that the lessee is entitled to compensation for loss or depreciation in value of his lease caused by resumption, andi also to compensation for improvements ; while, in case of a dispute, there is to be a settlement by an arbitrator appointed by each party. It was only under this system that we in South Australia were able to get the country occupied, and work given to the railways. It seems to be a far better system, from the point of view of a Government, and also of the man who is going to risk his money and spend his life in such country, than to ask a settler to take up a perpetual lease, which is subject to resumption and re-appraisement. Clause 15 sets out that the lease shall be in perpetuity ; but I notice, in one of the sub-clauses of clause 16, a restriction which seems to impose on the lessee an obligation not to use the land for the purposes that he thinks best. A covenant is to be placed in the lease by which the lessee will use the land only for the purposes for which it is leased. That is to say, that if land is leased for pastoral purposes the. lessee will not be permitted to do any cultivation. I consider that an unnecessary restriction in the Northern Territory. With respect to reappraisements, I should like to know upon what system they are to be made. It is provided that they may be made at intervals of fourteen, twenty-one, and fortytwo years, but under regulations, which are to be in his control, the Administrator is given the power to make a re-appraisement at any time he sees fit. Under this Ordinance a lessee will not know where he stands. There is an element of uncertainty in connexion with the leases and in connexion with the regulations which may be brought into force by the Administrator. Unless we offer lessees some fixity of tenure we cannot expect men to go from the settled south to the empty north to develop it. No person will go to the Northern Territory to take up land unless he feels that he will have the right to reap where he has sown. If we are not prepared to offer settlers in the Northern Territory better inducements than are provided for in this Ordinance it does not seem to me to be probable that we shall be successful in settling the Territory. I could understand the framing of this Ordinance in the spirit in which it evidently has been framed if there was anything in the nature of a rush to the Territory taking place. If the lands were so valuable that every care would be necessary to prevent monopoly, or if there was a manifest desire on” the part of pastoralists in Australia to secure leases in the Territory, I could understand the Government hedging them about with all sorts of conditions. But when we consider the difficulties of transportation in the Territory, and that special inducements must be offered to encourage pastoralists to take up land in that country, instead of having these restrictions we should have the most liberal land laws applied to the Territory that are to be found in any part of Australia. It seems to me that this Ordinance is not nearly as favorable to the lessee as is the land legislation of Queensland or of South Australia. There ought, under existing conditions, to be special encouragement to pastoralists to go to the Northern Territory. I suppose there never was a time in the history of Australia when the outlook for pastoralists, especially cattle-owners, was better than it is to-day. Lessees in the Northern Territory are looking forward to prosperous times in the development of trade with the East. Coming over in the train last night from Adelaide I was told by a pastoral lessee interested in the Northern Territory that a contract had just been entered into for the supply of 40,000 cattle from the Territory to Manila. He looks forward to a considerable increase of that trade if the Government are prepared to give facilities for the shipment of cattle at Port Darwin.
– The honorable member means live cattle?
– Yes. An Australian company has already, leased an island off the Philippines lying near Manila, on which abattoirs are to be erected, and a very big trade in live cattle. from the north of Australia is contemplated. It looks very much as if we in Australia are in for a period of dear meat. That is a bad outlook, no doubt, for the consumer, but is particularly promising for the pastoralists, and for the early occupation of the empty lands of the Northern Territory. The Federal Government should hold out inducements to people to take up country for pastoral purposes in this unsettled part of’ the Commonwealth. We have no need to bother our heads about discussing the freehold system when dealing with pastoral occupation. But the pastoral lessee to whom I have referred told me what I already knew or thought, that he would not dream of taking up further land in the Northern Territory on a perpetual lease. He said he would prefer a forty-two years’ lease with some idea as to what his rental would be, and the compensation due to him in case of resumption.
– He considers that he has better terms than he would have under this Ordinance?
– Yes, he thinks he has. He would prefer a definite lease even at a higher rental to an indefinite lease at a rental which might be varied from time to time without his Knowledge. That is the difference between a perpetual leasing system here proposed and the system, under which he at present holds his land. In the one case there is security of tenure at a fixed rental for a definite period-
– Does the honorable member say that a perpetual lease does not give security of tenure?
– Probably, because under this Ordinance it is possible that the lands may be resumed at any time without compensation for the unexpired balance of the lease. As there would be no unexpired balance of the lease in the case of a perpetual lease, there would be no compensation for resumption. Under the leases granted by the South Australian Government for forty-two years, there is a right of resumption, but the lessee must receive compensation for the unexpired balance of his lease. Surely he is entitled to that? We cannot induce a man to take up country, stock it, and improve it, unless he is guaranteed some compensation in the event of the resumption of his lease. A pastoralist would naturally prefer to pay even a high rent for a lease for a fixed period than a low rent which might be increased from time to time for an indefinite lease. In the first case he would have a security which a bank would recognise and be prepared to advance money upon, and in the other case there would be practically no security, except, of course, that probably in the majority of instances the Crown would not be likely to resume. The whole objection to this Ordinance from the point of view of the pastoralist is the system of re-appraisement provided for. He would never know from one day to another when the Administrator by virtue of his powers under this Ordinance might not under some regulation come along with a re-appraisement of his land, put up his rent, and make his conditions more difficult. Instead of placing such restrictions on men who are prepared to go into the Northern Territory to take up land for pastoral or agricultural purposes we should do all we possibly can to induce settlement there by offering intending settlers some advantages which they could not secure in the southern States of the Commonwealth. Unless we are prepared to do that, we cannot expect people to go from the temperate districts into the sub-tropical and tropical regions of the Continent to fight against nature in order to win wealth from the soil and assist in the progress of the Commonwealth. Our whole object should be to induce settlement, and I feel that under this perpetual lease system we are going the wrong way to work.
– Under the Northern Territory Administration Act power is given- to pass Ordinancesfor the government of the Territory. I do not think that this Parliament, in giving that power to the Governor-General in Council, understood that it was giving or desired to give power to pass land laws. I understood that the Act was merely one to provide for the provisional government of the Northern Territory, dealing with the preservation of law and order rather than giving the Governor-General in Council power to deal with such large and important questions as the alienationor leasing of Crown lands. It came asa surprise to me, as to many others, when the Minister undertook, in the form of an Ordinance, to perform the duties of a land legislator. Such an assumption of au- thority is certainly most undemocratic, and is hardly justified by the circumstances of this case. One would have thought that the land laws of South Australia, whichwere in existence when we took over the Northern Territory, would be sufficient toenable temporary or provisional arrangements to be made for the settlement of the country pending the Federal Parliament having an opportunity of dealing with this vast and important question of land legislation. Nothing probably could exceed in importance and significance legislation dealing with the great inheritance taken over by the Federal Government. Yet we have this extraordinary spectacle of . the Minister of a Democratic Government, supported by a Democratic party, under- ‘ taking the functions of a land legislator, and dealing with the future tenure, the future title, the future development, and the future possession of vast estates covering, it is said, 500,000 square miles. We have the Minister dealing with that matter with a stroke of the pen, in the manner in which it might have been dealt with by some Imperial edict under the Roman Empire. It is said that the term “ Ordinance for the government of the Territory “ may include the power to pass land laws dealing with millions of acres and millions of pounds’ worth of property. But I do not think that this Parliament would intentionally have parted with such enormous legislative authority had it thought that in giving power to make Ordinances it was giving power to make land laws. Certainly it is to be regretted that the power was given, if it has been given ; but I, like the honorable member for Angas, should like to have some information as to the strict meaning of the word “ Ordinance “ before I would acquiesce in the view that the power to make Ordinances for the provisional government of the Northern Territory includes power to make land laws. However, here we have to deal with the position as it stands. Our power to intervene or to do anything is extremely limited. We can merely say Yes or No as to whether this Ordinance shall pass. We cannot amend it; we cannot even suggest amendments. But 1 should think that, as the result of this discussion, which has included contributions from members on both sides of the House, the Minister in charge of this vast Territory ought to have been enlightened to a consciousness that there are very grave defects in the Ordinance. In fact, I think that the honorable member for Angas succeeded in absolutely riddling this scheme with his criticism. He showed its imperfections, its many dangers, and the undesirable results which will follow from its adoption. In dealing with land legislation for the Northern Territory we should be guided, not so much by philosophical principles or doctrines, as by the question of what is the best way to- settle theproblem of land occupation. I, like the honorable member for Angas, have entertained many ideas in my earlier years, from the philosophical doctrinaire standpoint, as to the importance and value of the leasing system. I believe that the Minister did me the honour of quoting in his speech extracts from a pamphlet which I published many years ago on the history of land tenure in Victoria. I am very proud, indeed, that the honorable gentleman has quoted it. The incident has revived, and I hope will give new life to, a forgotten pamphlet. The industry of the honorable gentleman and others in ferreting out forgotten political literature is surprising. I am prepared to stand by what 1 wrote twenty years ago. The land system of Victoria at that time was very imperfect indeed. The land legislation of that, time did not preserve the landed estate of Victoria from the unfortunately successful efforts of land-grabbers and dummies. In those days it would have been better indeed if our legislation had been more perfect, more rigid, and more exacting, in preventing the wholesale alienation of lami in fee-simple, particularly in the form of sale by auction.
Those were the evils to which my criticism was mainly directed. I never objected to the system of free selection before survey, or to the system of deferred payments. The system of sale in freehold has been generally considered by critics and jurists as the highest form of alienation of land known to the law. But, as I said just now, in dealing with the settlement of the Northern Territory, we must consider the question, not from what I may call a purely idealistic stand-point, but must have regard to what is the best, safest, and surest method of securing settlement. We must not fatuously endeavour to arrive at a perfect system, but must regard legislation in a practical way, and see to what extent it may be utilized to popularize settlement, and to hold out every reasonable form of inducement to that end.Whilst, ideally considered, a leasing system may be regarded as best from a national stand-point, nevertheless there is no disguising the fact that it is extremely unpopular amongst a large number of people whom it would be desirable to place on the land. It might, therefore, be unwise, in endeavouring to settle the land problem in the Northern Territory, to force down the throats of the people a system which we as legislators might consider the most perfect which the wit and wisdom of man could devise. The whole struggle in land legislation in Australia during the last forty or fifty years has been to endeavour to find out the best way to preserve the national interests, while, at the same time, making settlement attractive. On the one hand, Legislatures have endeavoured to maintain control over the land to the very last moment, in order to secure evidences of *bona fides. We see this in the gradual extension of the probationary period under the conditional land sections of the Land Acts of New South Wales and Victoria ; but a preliminary or probationary period has been insisted on during which a settler is merely a lessee. First we had a six years’ probationary period of leasehold, during which the lessee was required to give evidence of his honesty, means, and ability to settle and conquer the wilderness and make a nome for himself; and then that period, together with the period of payment, was extended to twenty years, during which there was time to make the necessary improvements. These gradual extensions have been to enable the tenant or settler to, as it were, fight his way, while, at the same time, giving him a definite object in the shape of a better title. While it has been thought best that the Crown or the Legislature, as representing the public, should preserve a continuous control over the land tenure, there have been gradual concessions, with the ultimate object of a freehold title ; and we must admit that that object and final hope and ambition of most settlers has been a strong inducement in all the Australian States.
– The Crown never loses control of the land.
– I know. I wish to say that since I wrote the strong denunciation of the wholesale alienation of land in Victoria, there has been a great invasion of what is known as the system of freehold estates.
– The honorable member has “ gone back “ a bit.
– Not a bit. There has been an invasion, and an almost complete destruction of the principle of freehold. At that time freehold estate was regarded as something sacrosanct - something sanctified by immemorial usage and association - but there has been a great change since then. Legislatures have invaded and encroached on the freehold in various ways and by various methods, and it has been shown that freehold is no longer to be relied on even by freeholders. We have had compulsory land resumption laws, not merely for the purposes of railways, public buildings, and so forth, but also for securing the estates of private individuals, with a view to promoting closer settlement. That was a thing unknown at the time I wrote those articles; and there has now been another strong invasion of freehold* estates, in the shape of land taxation, in the various States, and particularly the Federal land tax, which has threatened freehold with gradual extinction. There is no doubt that when we have taxation, not merely on the annual value, but on the capital value, we must sooner or later have the complete invasion and bursting up of freehold estates. The tendency of both Federal and State legislation has been to remove, to a very large extent, the original distinction between freehold and leasehold estates, as understood years ago. There is no doubt, however, that, notwithstanding all this, freehold is still undoubtedly the most popular form of land tenure; and this is an element in human nature that neither Federal nor State legislation can ignore. In dealing with the land question in the Northern Territory, and admitting the desirability of holding out some inducement or attraction to settlers, we ought to consider which form of tenure will, when coupled with due safeguards and securities, lead to bond fide settlement. We must remember that, in framing the land policy of the Territory, we have to compete with the land systems of the various States ; and the settler will consider where he will get the most consideration and can invest his labour to the best advantage. When we have the State Legislatures giving conditional leases, together with deferred payment conditions, and, in many cases, subsidizing settlers to enable them to make improvements, this scheme of perpetual leasing, philosophically and theoretically attractive as it may be, is not calculated to promote settlement to the same extent as the system in the various States. In a properly drawn-up scheme for the Northern Territory, we might have had, to some extent, the leasing system placed alongside a limited, or a qualified, freehold system, giving the intending settler the option of deciding which he will accept.
– Mr. Hume Cook replied to that very well when a similar idea was suggested here on a previous occasion.
– I was not aware of that. I should think that it would be a safe proposition for the Minister to put in a Land Bill for the Northern Territory; that is, assuming that he wants to draw people there, and does not wish to rigidly enforce either a political or a philosophical fad. I do not think that we, as legislators, are bound to enforce, right up to the hilt, our theoretical ideas. We should decide which is the best system for settling the Territory. Judging from the criticism already offered, this plan for settling the Territory is doomed to failure, because it will not offer to intending settlers those attractions and inducements which are necessary to prevail upon them to leave the various States where there is land to be obtained under a qualified freehold or leasehold system. I join, therefore, with other honorable members in regretting that the Minister has not seen fit to take the House into his confidence and give Parliament an opportunity of taking a hand in the land legislation for the Territory. I admit that, in framing this Ordinance, he was restricted by the section of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act which- provides that land shall not be alienated in freehold estate. That provision was intended to limit the Government, but it cannot, of course, limit the action of Parliament. It was merely inserted in the Act for the purpose of preventing the Government, by administrative acts, parting with any portion of the Territory in freehold estate. It was not intended to operate as an ultimate constitutional principle. Parliament could not give away or surrender its absolute control over, and power to deal with, the land in the -Territory. So that the Minister, although he himself is bound by this section, could have brought down to the House a Land Bill dealing with the settlement of people on the land in the Territory, and providing, as I suggested, some alternative, partly in the form of alienation in fee simple under the deferred payment or conditional purchase system, as found in the various States, and partly in some form of the leasing system, so that intending settlers would have had an option of adopting the form which they thought suitable to their requirements and their means. There can be no doubt that there is a distinct advantage in the leasing system, in that it does not call upon the settler or the tenant to pay down a large sum in capital expenditure That is a strong argument in its favour which may have operated as an inducement to many persons to go on the land in the Territory in accordance with that principle. On the other hand, there may be a large number of other desirable persons who, having the means to pay the capital price for their title, would prefer to go into settlement on those terms and conditions. Criticising this scheme now as a leasing system pure and simple, without reference to the freehold system, I think there are certain fundamental defects which would doom it to failure, and1 render it absolutely necessary for the Government to re-cast it, in order to bring it up to the requirements of even a fair, reasonable, and safe leasing system. I consider that there are three fundamental conditions to any leasing system of land tenure necessary to recommend it to the confidence and support of intending settlers: The first is fair rent; the second is fixity of tenure; and the third is free sale. I remember reading, many years ago, the reports of the agitation in Ireland over the land question, and the great contention was then in favour of what were called the three F’s - free sale, fair rent, and fixity of tenure. Applying that test to this leasing system, I invite honorable members to say what guarantee there is for fair rental. Certainly, there is no guarantee here in favour of free sale, nor is there any guarantee in fav.our of fixity of tenure. The fair rent is to be determined by the Classification Board. No doubt, originally it is open to the tenant to say whether he will go on. If he is not prepared to pay the rent in the first term, he can throw up the land ; but when it conies to a question of reconsideration or re-appraisement, as it is called, he is absolutely at the mercy of the Board or the authority which is directed to determine the fresh rent at the end of seventeen or twenty years.
– There is no legislative declaration of the principle which is to guide the appraiser. He is not directed to ascertain, or to base his judgment upon, any state of facts. In a judicious scheme regulating re-appraisement, the person invested with the right to determine the increased rent should be governed by certain facts or elements. But here it. is left to the appraiser, without any indication or suggestion as to what he is to take into consideration in deciding the increase of rent. He may increase the rent in a manner which will compel the tenant to sacrifice the whole of his estate. There is no security, I repeat, for a re-appraisement of fair rent. One would think that in a properly drawn-up scheme the appraiser ought to have been directed to take into consideration certain changed conditions or altered circumstances, or other facts or matters of which the tenant would be able to give some evidence, and which would take away from the appraiser anything like autocratic, unregulated, absolute power. Under this scheme there will be nothing to prevent the appraiser from increasing the annual rent because of the increased value of the estate arising from the tenant’s own improvements. That is what is done now under the Local Government Act of Victoria. The annual valuation for rating purposes is increased from year to year, based on the added value of improvements created by the tenant.
– Not from year to year. Sometimes several years elapse before a fresh valuation is made.
– I think that it is a yearly valuation. Under this scheme the improvements made on a leasehold may add enormously to the value of the property, and the tenant may be liable to an increased valuation arising, not only primarily, but secondarily, as a development from his own improvements. Like some of the Irish tenants who demanded lair rent, he will be placed in the position of being compelled to pay a higher rent on account of the improved value arising from the expenditure of his labour and capital. That shows that there is no guarantee for a tenant being required to pay only a fair rent under the appraisement clauses. Another defect in this scheme is that it does not provide for real fixity of tenure. Why? Because, although these leases are called perpetual leases, there is a power of defeasance in the Ordinance in the shape of the power of resumption; and the latter power is not limited to cases where land may be required for a public purpose, such as a railway or public building, which might be put into any scheme of land legislation ; but it is absolutely unlimited. The power of resumption is reserved in a form which gives the Administrator or Government of the day power to resume a whole estate, and to afterwards use it for other purposes of land settlement.
– The Government will pay for the whole of the improvements.
– That will not be sufficient. A man may have° to cut his way through miles of scrub, and make other expenditure in the wilderness, to provide access to his land, but he will, on the resumption of the lease, be paid only for the improvements which he has made on it. Why even in this matter should he receive only the actual value of the improvements themselves? The cutting down of scrub, the sinking of wells, the making of dams, may add enormously to the capital value of a property, and when one lessee is turned out to make room for others, consideration should be given to that increase in value. Why should the lessee not be paid, not merely the value of his improve- ments on a strictly cash basis, but the resulting value to the estate itself?
– How would you get at that?
– Just as you get at the market value of a freehold. Give the lessee the right to sell, and give him absolute compensation for his lease as you give the freeholder absolute compensation for his freehold. Why should there be a distinction between a freehold and a leasehold in regard to the power to sell ? A lessee should not be robbed of the value that he has given to his land by the money and labour he has spent on improvements.
– The honorable member for Angas said that he has nothing to be compensated for.
– I differ from him in that. If you give a man a leasehold estate, you should recognise, the market value of that estate. If you do not, you will detract from the value of the tenure. A leaseholder should be able to sell his lease, subject, of course, to the buyer being approved by the Government. I do not say that a leaseholder should be allowed to sell to any one holding other leases. To prevent persons from holding a number of leases, I would reserve to the Government the right to approve of assignments or transfers. That would prevent the aggregation of leasehold estates in the hands of one person. The leaseholder should have the right to sell his lease for its market value, and not merely be forced to accept compensation for the improvements on it. To give this right would increase the attractiveness of the tenure, and increase the security of the leases. In order to popularize the leasing system, you must give it a high standard of value. Free sale, fair rent, and fixity of tenure must be features of any leasehold system, if it is to be a success. The form in which this scheme has been put before us has justified the destructive criticism which has been levelled against it by other speakers. We shall not attract either poor or rich men from the southern parts of the continent to the Northern Territory under the precarious and wretched tenure here provided for.
– In the Ordinance to which attention has been directed, we have for discussion one of the most important questions that could come before Parliament, and I regret that the Government has not embodied the provisions of the Ordinance in a Bill. I question whether any measure now before us is of equal importance. We are deciding the nature and conditions of the tenure under which the Northern Territory is to be occupied, and the importance of the subject justifies the introduction of a Bill to deal with it. I strongly appeal to the Government to withdraw the Ordinance. Ministers must realize that its provisions have come as a shock to honorable members on this side as well as to honorable members opposite. I fail to see any reason why pastoral country should be alienated under perpetual leases, though I have no objection to the proposals in that regard relating to agricultural land. Even the honorable member for Bendigo has admitted that perpetual leasing has this great advantage, that it enables a man to use all his capital in developing his land. I understand that for the first ten years the lessees are to have their land rent free. No doubt every inducement should be given to settlement in the Territory. For the last thirty years there has been, and probably for the next thirty there will be, .a great deal of discussion as to the best methods of dealing with land. A great deal has already been said and written on the subject, and in years to come still more will be published, because the last word has not been said on it. It is not satisfactory to reason in regard to a new country on the conditions obtaining in an old country. Leasing is unpopular to some extent, because those who have come to Australia from the Old Land remember the conditions of tenure which they left behind, and which were not of a satisfactory character. In Great Britain and in Ireland they hungered for freehold, and it is hardly surprising that when they get here they still have a predilection for that tenure. That, I think, is due to the fact that the lands of Great Britain are in the hands of the territorial aristocracy. Anybody who has recently visited the Old Country knows, that, whilst it is possible to secure land there under numerous forms of lease, it is extremely difficult to obtain possession of the freehold. There are men in England who are quite willing to purchase land if it will return them only 2 per cent, upon their outlay, because of the power and prestige which its ownership will bestow upon them. The conditions in Australia are very different. The primitive system of farming which is adopted in England and Scotland is really amazing in this twentieth century. But the conditions under which the tenants must farm are laid down in their leases. In Australia, the farmer cultivates land with the object of making money, but in England his object seems to be, not merely to make money, but to ornament the property for the landlord. It is difficult for us to dogmatize on a matter of this sort. One of the biggest points in favour of the perpetual leasing system in connexion with agricultural areas is that it frees a man from the liability to find capital.
– It prevents - him having to expend the whole of his capital in purchasing the land.
– He is not called upon to expend any capital in that direction. I think it is just as well that we should view this matter from a practical stand-point. I rose chiefly to direct attention to what I regard as the greatest blot on this Ordinance, namely, its provisions in regard to pastoral country. I consider that the system of perpetual leasing in respect of pastoral areas should not be entertained for a moment. The party with which I am associated is generally credited with possessing extravagant ideas, but I cannot recall any occasion upon which any member of it has demanded perpetual leases in the case of pastoral areas. I should like to point out the action which has been pursued by the South Australian Government in this connexion for several years. Pressure was brought to bear upon that Government with a view to inducing it to issue pastoral leases in the Northern Territory. It resolutely refused to comply with that request, because it was of opinion that the day would come when the Commonwealth would take over the Territory, and because it recognised that it had absolutely no right to fetter the Federation in any respect. Consequently, only annual permits were issued in respect of pastoral, areas. But, if this Ordinance be ratified, the holders of those permits will be in a position to surrender them and obtain perpetual leases. It will be admitted, I think, that Australian development has proceeded upon narrow lines. We all know that, in the first instance, the best country in the Commonwealth was held by pastoralists. Some of this land has since been resumed for closer settlement purposes. That being so, we ought, in the Northern Territory, to carefully guard against the mistakes which have been made in other parts of Australia. I make no reflection upon our predecessors. I do not suppose that all the errors were due to selfishness. But we know that mistakes were made, and it is our duty to guard against them. Honorable members doubtless entertain different opinions of the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Gwydir believes that the only form of life which will flourish there is that of white ants. But a great many persons who have resided in the Territory for quite a number of years hold a very different opinion of it. We know that a number of men who practically had not sixpence to jingle on a tombstone went up to that country, and made princely fortunes out of cattle runs.
If that has been the case, the place cannot be so poverty-stricken as some people would make out. We require to be very careful in deciding on the size of the pastoral leases to be given in an unknown country. I think the present proposal of 3,000 square miles is too much. I should give 2,000 square miles, and, in fact, would make the area even less than that, because we must feel our way in regard to this matter. If we give our country away in large blocks of 3,000 square miles each, and find in twenty years’ time, as I believe we shall, that the land is capable of considerably greater improvement than is going on there, we shall regret our mistake in having made the blocks so big. If we start with a reasonably-sized block, say, of 1,000 square miles, or even 500 square miles, and then find that men who have spent their lives in this class of industry are not prepared to take the blocks up because they are too small, it will be very easy for the Government to increase the size. They can even double or treble it, but it will not be so easy to reduce the size of the blocks if they find that, in the best interests of the Northern Territory and of the Commonwealth, the land should be held in smaller areas. The extent of the block depends on the quality of the country, the rainfall, a’nd the permanent water.
– And railway communication.
– I do not look forward, for some years to come, to railway communication so widespread as that. If we get a main trunk railway through the Territory, and afterwards feeding lines going to the eastern and western States, there will be even then a tremendous area of pastoral country distant from railway communication, and distant also from the sea-board. Of course, care will have to be taken in fixing pastoral leases that are in any way near a railway. A pastoralist so situated would naturally be at a considerably greater advantage than a man who was farther off from the line or from the sea-board. That is where the danger comes in of having a perpetual leasing system for this class of country. I think the lease should be for twenty years, and I should not object to forty years, because, especially in third-rate country, we must offer a fair amount of inducement to men who are devoting their lives to pastoral pursuits to take up the land. They must be given a certain length of lease before they will care to take it up.
We must also be largely influenced, when deciding on the size of the blocks and the conditions of tenure, by the pastoral laws of adjacent States. In this case, the nearest State will be Queensland, and we shall necessarily have to take into consideration the pastoral laws of that State. One reason why I am opposed to the perpetual lease proposal now before us is that, where a twentyone year, or even a forty-year, lease is given, you can always look forward to the time of its expiry. What will be the position of the Territory in those days ? It is highly probable that what has occurred in other parts of Australia will occur there. Land that was thought to be of very little value because of the sparseness of settlement and want of communication will probably have become more valuable, and the Government of the day would naturally desire to let it in smaller blocks, and on shorter leases, or even throw it open under the perpetual leasing system for agricultural settlement, or for settlement in considerably smaller blocks than anything we are contemplating to-day. I can understand a Government, if they are anxious to acquire a lease, having to pay compensation for the remaining years that the lease has to run, but I do not know how we are going to appraise the value of the remaining years of a perpetual lease. It is a curious fact that, whenever the Crown ‘ goes into the Courts against a private litigant, the Crown always goes down, and I tremble to think of the amount of compensation that the Crown would have to pay if the Government attempted to resume perpetual pastoral leases. I believe the honorable and learned member for Angas says we need have no fear with regard to that phase of the question. That may be all right from the legal point of view, but I have seen such funny decisions given by Courts with regard to leases and their values that I am rather inclined to look at the question from a plain layman’s point of view. I am afraid that gigantic values may be put upon the unexpired portions of perpetual leases on the ground that the compensation should include the value of the land until Doomsday. That is one of the strongest arguments why the House should be careful not to sanction a lease of this character. It is such an unknown quantity, and we may be placing those who succeed us in the Government of this Commonwealth in the position of having to pay heavy pecuniary compensation to the owners of perpetual leases in years to come. I do not think we have a right to legislate in that fashion, because we may not only be tying up the country, but tying up the future finances and not giving those who are to follow us a. fair deal.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 -p.m.
– I have said that it would be wise, in dealing with the pastoral lands of the Northern Territory, to be guided largely by the legislation of Queensland, because, if we cannot offer pastoralists as favorable terms as they are offered in Queensland, we cannot reasonably expect to be able to stock the country. I think that the maximum areas of pastoral lands provided for in this Ordinance are too large, and it would be sufficient in the case of the different classes of pastoral country to provide for areas of 500, 1,000, and 1,500 square miles respectively. Those who know anything of pastoral occupation will, I think, be prepared to admit that 1,500 square miles would make a very fairsized run. If, by experience, we found that blocks of the size I suggest were not sufficient to induce pastoralists to take up the country, it would be easy to increase them, but we should find it next to impossible, after fixing a maximum area, to subsequently reduce it. If we permit this country to be let in blocks of 3,000 square miles, and it is afterwards seen that the carrying capacity of the country is such that it would be readily settled with smaller blocks, the Government may be faced with the necessity for a large expenditure for the resumption of leases, and members of this Parliament, at a later date, may say that we had no right, in our day and generation, to give the country away. There is no State of Australia that has suffered so much as has South Australia from an experience of this kind. Many people in that State were under an impression that on much, of the northern country pastoralists were making princely fortunes. That view was held, not only by the residents of towns, but by country people familiar with agriculture and pastoral occupation who ought to have known better. The consequence was that a great number of leases were resumed, and they remained in the hands of the Government for some years. The Government became responsible for the improvements that had been effected upon them, and by the time they 1 were clear of the business it was found that pastoral improvements had cost the country about ^750,000, and that amount had practically to be written off as a dead loss. Honorable members who have had the good, or bad, fortune to be members of State Parliaments will agree with me as to the care which should be exercised in framing provisions for satisfactorily leasing the pastoral lands of the Northern Territory. On the subject’ of compensation for improvements, I question whether it would be advantageous for the country if the Government were responsible for compensation for any more than water improvements. I fail to see that improvements other than water improvements can materially increase the carrying capacity of pastoral country. It is only such improvements that, I think, we should trouble ourselves about. We should not, I think, make ourselves liable for other improvements. A man may have a lease for forty years of a very good piece of country. He may put on improvements in the shape ot very expensive .residential buildings and elaborate wool-sheds, which will not increase the carrying capacity of the land at all, but will give the lessee a practical monopoly of the country, because of the expense that would be involved in resuming it if compensation had to be paid for such improvements.
– - They would ‘be of some value to an incoming tenant.
– I am not so sure of that. An incoming tenant might have a great deal of pastoral experience and a limited1 amount of capital, and a palatial residence might not be of much value to him.
– But the honorable member referred to wool-sheds.
– There are woolsheds and wool-sheds. It might be that when a lease is running out the Government would think it desirable to let the land for other than pastoral purposes. A number of blocks might be falling in during a bad financial year, and if the Government were called upon to pay a big price for improvements which did not add a penny to the carrying capacity of the land they would be strongly tempted, in such circumstances, to renew the leases.
– But these leases are to be perpetual.
– My argument in this connexion rests upon the assumption that the Government will adopt a different system in dealing with pastoral lands. I have very little doubt that, in view of the tenor of the debate, they will come to the conclusion that a mistake has been made in the Ordinance, and will decide to treat the pastoral . country of the Northern Territory on much the same lines as those on which pastoral country elsewhere is treated. I am dealing with the fact that under this Ordinance the Government will be called upon to pay for improvements on the resumption of a lease, and I suggest that they should be responsible for water improvements alone, because it is only such improvements that will add to the carrying capacity of the country.
– When we compel lessees to put up fences we should pay for them on resumption.
-Fencing will obviously be done in the interests of the lessee.
– But we should surely pay for it if we resume his lease?
– I do not think that any holder of pastoral land will go in for fancy expenditure on fencing.
– The Ordinance says that the lessee must fence his land.
– The honorable member means to say that we should pay compensation for fencing upon the resumption of a lease.
– For any improvements.
– Does the honorable member believe that there should be no limit to the improvements for which compensation should be paid?
– Suppose the lessee puts down bores and puts up fences, stockyards, and sheep-yards, does the honorable member not think they should be paid for on the resumption of the lease?
– I think they should, but the Government should not be asked to pay’ for a palatial residence.
– The honorable member need not worry about palatial residences in the Northern Territory.
– A man who secured a good piece of country, and wanted to keep it, might consider that it would pay him to pile up improvements upon his land in such a way that the Government would hesitate about resuming it. The honorable member for Bendigo referred to there being no definition to guide those who have to do with the reappraisement of rents from time to time. The safeguard I take to be that there is an appeal to the Judge of the Northern Ter ritory, and that two assessors are to be appointed to sit with him, one by the lessees, and the other by the Director of Lands. With a tribunal of that character, I do not think that there is any fear about the tenants receiving substantial justice. Nor do I think that there will be any difficulty in regard to re-appraising rents. No doubt I shall be told that it is not easy to fix the value of country in this part of Australia. But for 600 years a principle has been recognised in the Old Country in respect to fixing the rents of tenants. It is a sound principle, and one under which justice has always been done, both to tenants and landlords. It is very simple. You take the value of the produce of a holding for fourteen years and average it. The average value indicates the rent for a future period. The carrying capacity of a piece of country and its productive value give the only honest and natural method of ascertaining fair rent upon which either a private owner or the Crown can act in relation to tenants. No private owner can rightfully claim more. If he does, he entrenches upon the tenant’s capital, and he has no more right to that than to the money in the tenant’s pocket. . A principle which holds good in the case of a private owner holds good in the case of the Crown ; and I fail to see why a principle recognised in assessing rents in the Old Country by any honest steward acting for an honest landholder who wants no more than fair rent from his tenant should not hold good in this country when the landlord is the Government. In conclusion, I appeal strongly to the Minister to withdraw this Ordinance. I think that a grave error of judgment has been committed. If the Ordinance has been framed by officers of the Northern Territory, they do not know very much about the requirements. If it has been framed by officers of the External Affairs Department in Melbourne, they have exhibited their want of knowledge. I feel rather depressed at seeing an immense area of country attempted to be dealt with under the principles contained in this Ordinance. I am impressed with the feeling - though I hope I shall be proved to be wrong - that those charged with the duty of administering this large Province for the people of the Commonwealth are not seized of those sound principles which ought to guide them in their task.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) of External Affairs has gone about this business in an altogether wrong way. I hope we shall be able to consider the question free from party bias. As I view the Ordinance, it is one of the most stupendous pieces of legislation that could occupy this or any other Parliament. We have done nothing much more important in this Parliament than the consideration of these proposals for land settlement in the Northern Territory. Here we have far and away the biggest, and the most difficult, land proposition in Australia. Yet, forsooth, it is being dealt with by means of an Ordinance thrown upon the table of this House, framed by the Minister, upon whose advice nobody knows. The Ordinance was drawn up some time during the recess, and but for the fact of its being challenged by the Opposition, it would now be the law of the land, and settlement in the Northern Territory would be proceeding on the basis laid down in it. Did I say “settlement would be proceeding”? I withdraw that phrase. I do not think that very much settlement is likely to take place up there under an Ordinance of this description.I am going to say very little about the underlying principles of the Ordina nce. Its terms appear to me to be open to very grave objections. First of all, the Minister sets out that tenures of land up to the extent of 2,000,000 acres shall be granted in this region. For an up-to-date Minister, professedly full of modern notions of economics, full of idealism and of beautiful sentiments, who believes, so he tells his own constituents, that there ought to be a communistic form of settlement in the community, and that the basic principle of our economic system ought to be communistic - common holding for the benefit of all - for this Minister to be willing to give a private person control over 2,000,000 acres of land strikes one as being very peculiar indeed. Two million acres of land ! Just think of it. A whole country all to one man’s own self, to control,- to cultivate, and do what he pleases with, subject to regulations which are to be’ imposed. And what are those regulations? They have not yet been submitted to the House. They are to be framed by somebody - we do not know by whom. The regulations in this case will be all the practical working provisions that we shall have.
– We cannot consider the regulations when they are framed.
– I take it that they must be laid upon the table of the House.
– Not under this Ordinance.
– The Minister is not obliged to lay them on the table.
– That makes it so much the worse, for it means that the practical effect of those provisions need never come under the purview of this House at all. If this is not oligarchic rule, I should like to know what is.
Certain things are to be done by regulation. What are those things ? They include the conditions under which, a man’s rent shall be re-appraised. Clause 15 of the Ordinance reads -
Leases under this Ordinance shall be granted by the Administrator in the name of the King, and (except as regards miscellaneous lenses) shall be in perpetuity, but subject to re-appraisement of rent at the periods provided by this Ordinance, or, in special cases, at the periods prescribed by the regulations, or provided for in the lease.
This clause provides that, in the case of leases in perpetuity, there may be reappraisement at any time. I thought that the regulations, like other regulations, would Be laid on the table, but, apparently, regulations under an Ordinance differ from those under an Act of Parliament. These regulations will be framed by officials in the Territory, and submitted to the Minister, Parliament knowing nothing about them, although they may apply to “special cases,” and there may be re-appraisement at any time it is thought fit. The leases are given in perpetuity, but, it appears, there is no guaranteed tenure of any kind. I do not know whether the Minister has overlooked this point or has any reply to the criticism in regard to it; but it seems to me to indicate a most serious position. What these “ special cases “ are is to be decided under regulations, which are not to be submitted for the criticism of this House. I hope that, before the Ordinance be passed, honorable members will insist on having some say as to the terms and conditions of the land tenure in this great Territory.
It strikes me as a very peculiar proceeding, for which, I venture to think, the Minister can find no parallel in the whole history of responsible government, that it is proposed to govern this Territory by Ordinance, the regulations under which are not to come before Parliament at all. Another objection is that the Ordinance, in itself, is a Land Bill ; and, that being so, I cannot see why it is not taken into Committee, so that we may consider the terms and conditions it imposes in detail. It is the only land legislation proposed for the Territory, and we are not even paid the compliment of its being taken into Committee, so that it may be dealt with clause by clause, and line by line. I suggest to the Minister, even now, that he ought to move the Speaker out of the chair, so that we may be enabled to consider this proposed legislation as similar legislation in all other Parliaments is considered. . It is not fair to the House, the country, or to those who may be -the pioneers in the Territory, that honorable members should only have the alternative df disallowing the Ordinance or letting it pass; and it is an extraordinary proceeding on the part of the Ministry to propose to govern the Territory in this off-hand way.
It is a fair question to ask the Minister who has assisted him in framing this Ordinance, for I am sure that he does not profess to be a land ‘ expert, any more than we on this side profess to be experts. If the honorable gentleman has any land experts in his Department, we are entitled to know who they are. Mr. Atlee Hunt is an estimable gentleman of great ability ; but surely he has not framed this Ordinance ; and we ought to know whom the Minister has consulted in the framing of these important proposals. 1 can conceive of nothing more important than this Ordinance, providing, as it does, for the future government of a Territory, which. as I read the other day, is ten times as large as England and Wales put together. The government of the Territory is full of difficulties and problems; and yet all the Minister does is to lay this Ordinance on the table. We should have heard nothing more of the matter if the Ordinance had not been challenged by this side ; and if the House submits to deal with an important piece of land legislation in the way suggested, it will deserve the severe censure of the people of Australia. I speak in all seriousness, with no wish to give the Ministry any trouble; and I strongly suggest, either that the Ordinance should be withdrawn and a proper Land Bill introduced, or that we should now be permitted to go into Committee. The amendment challenges the Ordinance on only one point, namely, the form of the perpetual lease.
One principle of the Ordinance is the classification of the land’; and I should like to know whether the land is to be surveyed before it is to be classified. Are we to have survey before classification and selection, or is the Minister going to do as was done in New South Wales under the Land Act of Sir John Robertson many years ago? Is the Minister going to have the country “ peacocked,” or is he going to start the Territory on some scientific basis which will stand the test of time? The more I look into the matter, the more I am convinced that there ought to have been an exhaustive inquiry on two or three preliminary points .before settling the_ land tenures. The Minister ought to have in his mind a clear idea as to whether he is going to allow people to go anywhere they choose in the Territory irrespective of any plan of settlement or of what the consequences may be to the future government of the Territory. iH’e ought to have the lands broadly classified before they are thrown open to selection, and there ought to be a report from the officials who are to do this classification as to the form of tenure which will be best for the Territory, and as to the proportion of the Territory to be settled in the near future. We have no evidence that the Minister has, as yet, even considered these important points. This Ordinance raises the whole question of railway construction - the two questions, it seems to me, are inseparable. The more I consider the matter, the more it seems to me to be one of facilities. We are to begin our railway construction right up in the tropical region - in the most unhealthy part - and the railway is to be taken through barren country, with no proposal of any kind further than to reach the Katherine River.
– That is the “ promised land,”
– It may be the “ promised land,” but I venture to say that the “ Moses “ who is interjecting will not take anybody there, or go himself.
– I would not try to find water, as Moses did. c
– The honorable member will remain in Maranoa if I am any judge of his hard common sense.
This Ordinance seems to have been framed with a view to putting limitations on the people who may seek to go there.
The great problem is to give them inducements to go there. This Ordinance says to them, “ You shall not do this ; you shall not do the other ; you shall not cut the timber ; you shall only cultivate the land as we suggest, and you shall be subject to this condition and the other condition.” The answer of the man who can do the Territory good, and pioneer it to-day, is, “ I do not want to go, anyhow. What will you give me to go up?” That is his attitude. It is not a matter of putting limitations upon him, but a matter of giving him enough to induce him to go there. The point is that you will have to rely upon old seasoned squatters ; at any rate, men with experience who have tackled hard problems before. But what hope is there of getting such persons to go there with all these limitations - with more limitations than there are in other parts of northern Australia at the present time? Forty years have been spent in trying to get men to go there, and they will not go.
– Without limitations.
– Without limitations, practically. They will not go until railways are constructed. It would have been a very much better proposition, it seems to me, if the Minister had set out eighteen months ago to have this country investigated scientifically and systematically by the best men he could obtain for the purpose. I think that eighteen months ago one or two of us on this side made that very suggestion to the Minister, and after the expiration of that time he is coming round to our view. He will have to do it before any good- will be done there. You will not get men to go there unless there is an easy way back.
– The only way fo keep them there is by making it difficult for them to get back.
– No, I do not quite agree with my honorable friend. It seems to me that there must be many good .spots in this huge Territory, as there are in any other part of Australia. I believe that, given the inducements - the facilities, the penetration of the country by railways and other means - people will go there ; but I doubt if they will do so under the terms of this Ordinance.
Let us see for a minute what the Ordinance means. The provision to which I have called attention says that a man may hold- a lease in perpetuity, but he may always have the fear that the lease may be -called a special one, and the rent reap praised at any time if the gentlemen- up there think fit to do so.
– Not at any time, but at the end of twenty-one years.
– Let honorable members listen to clause 15 -
Leases under this Ordinance shall be granted by the Administrator in the name of the King, and (except as regards miscellaneous leases) shall be in perpetuity, but subject to re-appraisement of rent at the periods provided by this Ordinance -
That is clear enough : it means twenty-one years; but the provision continues - or, in special cases, at the periods prescribed by the regulations, or provided for in the lease.
– That is in regard to mining leases.
– It does not say so, and the regulations which will prescribe the periods have not to come before this Parliament at all. I do not think that . the Minister can have any idea what the meaning of this provision is. It . means that somebody in the Territory may make regu: lations providing for the re-appraisement of these leases at any time, if they care1 to make out a special case, and this Parliament is not to be consulted. ‘ :
– If you get many settlers up there, they will want a Parliament of their own, and this Parliament will have nothing to say.
– My honorable friend behind me points out that my reading of the Ordinance is confirmed by subclause 6 of clause 20, which reads -
Where the regulations otherwise provide, or special provision for that purpose is contained in the lease, the re-appraisement of the rent may be made . at less intervals than the periods specified in this section, and shall take effect accordingly.
That is even stronger than the general statement I read in clause 15. There is no security of tenure in the Ordinance. Leases will be subject to re-appraisement at any time by a process of regulations, and these are not even to be submitted to this House for consideration. If ever there was a problem which ought to -be dealt with by an Act, it is this problem of land settlement. It is vital to the settlement of the Territory - vital to its development, its security, and its safety - and yet a responsible Parliament, composed’of men who are sent here on a democratic franchise, is not to be consulted. Our masters have sent us here. We are not here’, in this instance, to look after a set of. natives, as in the case of Papua. We are sent, here to legislate for a white man’s country, and for conditions of tenure suitable for white men. Why, therefore, has this matter come here in an Ordinance? Why is it not submitted to this Chamber as it would be submitted to every other Legislature in Australia? They fix their tenures in Parliament after discussion in Committee, where the meaning of every line is threshed out point by point, and the result is a matured land law governing the whole conditions and tenures of the State. Here, however, there is nothing but an Ordinance treating this Parliament and the people of Australia just as you would treat the natives of Papua. There is no analogy between the two cases, and I cannot imagine what these champion Democrats in the Ministry have been thinking about. I am sure that they could not have consulted the Caucus, or it would soon have wiped out an autocratic, oligarchic proposal of this kind.
– You ought not to grumble about that.
– Oh, but I do. The Democrats are over here, and this is the work of the Conservatives and Autocrats over there. You want to govern a huge slice of Australia without reference to this free Parliament. Do not talk about Democracy here.
– What is the honorable member making so much noise about?
– I am making a noise about this matter because I am a free representative of a free people, who have sent me here to see that no grievous wrong of this kind is done to Australia. I believe in the White Australia policy. It should have a trial under the best conditions. To test it in the Northern Territory, the regulations for the government of that country should be framed in the light of the criticism of the whole people. A land tenure should not be definitely fixed until the people have had a “ say “ in the matter. It is a subject, not for Parliament alone, but for the people, to deal with. The Government proposes not to consult this- Parliament, let alone the people.
– Does the honorable member desire a further postponement?
– I should like a further postponement while some preliminary work was being done.
– The honorable member’s leader wants us to go ten times as fast.
– The Leader of the Opposition is a bit of a goer himself, and knows that honorable members opposite need the spur. Honorable membersover there have been trying for a long, time to discover some point of difference between us; but we are agreed that any proposals for fixing the land tenure of the Northern Territory should be decided on only after the fullest and freest discussion in the country and in Parliament.
– It is well that honorable members are agreed on one thing.
– The trouble of the Labour party is that they cannot discover any sign of disagreement between us. The Minister who controls the Northern Territory is out of the chamber, as the man who framed an Ordinance of this kind should be. When “he is present, he is loftily reading a newspaper. He is a high and mighty gentleman 1 His handiwork is seen in an Ordinance which might fit a country where the aboriginals predominated, and which we were looking after for them, but not a country populated by a free white people, taking a keen interest in legislation. The Minister should either withdraw the Ordinance and introduce a Bill, or he should allow the Ordinance to be discussed in Committee of the Whole, clause by clause. Parliament should not surrender its control of the administration of the Northern Territory. It is usual for regulations under a Statute to be laid on the table of this House ; but that course is not to be taken in regard to regulations affecting the Northern Territory. Parliament is not to be consulted concerning the conditions under which re-appraisement may take place, though nothing could be more vital to the settlement of the Territory. If anything would’ discredit leasehold tenure, it would be that, at any time, and for any reason that the Administrator might think fit, a lease might be reappraised, even though its rent had been fixed only three or four years previously. We’ were under the impression that reappraisements were to take place at intervals of twenty-one years ; but, under the Ordinance, a lease may be re-assessed at any time. The covenants provided for seem to have been framed with a view to a state of affairs similar to that existing in the southern part of Australia, where life is a more comfortable and alluring thing than it will be in the Northern Territory, in regard towhich we have no experience to guide us.
This leads me to think that the resumption clauses may work harshly in some respects. Sub-clause 8 of clause 35 provides that improvements shall mean improvements of a permanent nature, reasonably adapted to the use of the leased lands for the purposes of the lease. There must be plenty of mistakes made in the settlement of the Northern Territory. Dams will be built which will be washed away, fences will be erected only to be destroyed. Experience will cost those who buy it dear. But when leases come to be resumed, the lessees are to receive compensation only for the useful improvements then existing on their land. Pioneers must make many mistakes ; but they generally hang or. to their land, hoping that when they have bought their experience they will be able to recoup the cost. Here is an Ordinance which provides that however much a lessee may have suffered in buying his experience, when his land is resumed, no account shall be taken of that suffering, but only of the improvementswhich are then upon the ground, notwithstanding that they may have cost him two or three times their value at that time. I mean to say that in a new country like the Northern Territory a lessee will have to find out by practical experiment what is best to do.
– The honorable member does not suggest that a lessee should be compensated for worthless improvements?
– I suggest that we shall have to offer a different tenure from that of perpetual lease if we are to induce men to take all these risks, knowing that their land may be resumed or re-appraised at the whim of the Minister. Under this Ordinance, there is no land tenure which is worth very much. It purports to give lessees a lease in perpetuity. It does nothing of the kind. It imposes all sorts of limitations upon them, and says that the Government may resume their land for any special reason, at any time, without paying Parliament the compliment of consulting it. It is an Ordinance which ought not to be sanctioned by a free Parliament. It might work very well in a blackfellows country, but not in a country which has to be peopled by white men, who will live under conditions of freedom such as we hope will obtain in the Northern Territory. The more I study the covenants to be attached to these, leases, the more I am impressed with the fact that the Government are offering men perpetual leases only in name. They reserve to themselves a perpetual right to say to the lessees, “ You must do as we please, and not as you wish.” They even prescribe how these men shall cultivate their land, how it shall, be stocked. Such a covenant may operate very well down here, where it is desirable to enforce intense culture, but surely the time has not arrived when we should impose such conditions in a tropical country, especially when underlying this legislation is a desire to induce men to occupy that country. I hope that we will consider this matter further. I confess that I should like to look into some of the details of the Ordinance. I trust, therefore, that it will not be rushed through the House to-night. It is about the most important piece of legislation that we shall lie called upon to consider this session.
Why the Minister has chosen to take upon himself the responsibility of governing the Northern Territory all on his own, I do not know. Nobody but a visionary like he is would have shouldered such a responsibility. No man acquainted with the elements of this problem would have attempted to deal with it in the way that he is doing. I wonder whether he has consulted any of the land experts in Australia in regard to it?
– He has been reading some of the honorable member’s speeches, in which the honorable member said that private ownership of land was robbery.
– And I have been reading some of the Minister’s speeches, in which he declared his belief in communism pure and simple. He has now. an opportunity of putting his own ideas into practice, but he is not doing it. His idea of equality and common holding is that a man shall be able to hold up 2,000,000 acres. This great opponent of land monopoly will grant a lease over 2,000,000 acres of this earth’s surface. If that does not lead” to land jobbery, which he cannot prevent, I shall be very much surprised. Even from a leasehold point of view, a definite term ought to be prescribed in these leases. Before a man will expend his money, time, and health in developing the Northern Territory, he will want to know how long he will be permitted to stay there. He will not go there if the Minister hangs this sword over his head, and threatens to come down upon him on the suggestion pf a visionary whom he has specially selected because of his peculiar views on land tenure. The Minister has told the public plainly- that he selected certain officers in the Territory because they were in sympathy with his own ideas that a man should have no vested interest in land, and that he should receive no community value of any kind.
– Those statements have been made by the honorable member himself.
– I have them in my office now, and I take them out every now and again to look at them.
– The Minister reads them here about once a month. He has only one idea of argument, and that is to read what an opponent may have said away back in the dim and distant past. That is about the measure, of his mental capacity and outlook. This Ordinance bears evidence of the same narrowness of outlook. This great champion of Democracy will not consult a free Parliament as to the form of land settlement which should be adopted in a Territory which is nearly ten times as large as the United Kingdom.
– The honorable member will be pulled up presently for tedious repetition.
– I shall repeat myself no more. I intend to sit down. My honorable friends opposite usually wish to get me down. But with all their jeering and laughing, not one of them knew of the existence in this Ordinance of the provision to which I have pointed. My statement was contradicted by three or four of them. But proof of it is to be found in clause 15 of the Ordinance which I discovered. 1 was then told that confirmation of my statement was supplied by another clause. I turned gladly to clause 22, and found that confirmation. Honorable members opposite may laugh as they please, but they cannot laugh out of existence the hard fact that the Government will not pay this Parliament the compliment of consulting it in the framing of the conditions which are to be imposed in respect of land settlement in the Northern Territory. They are inviting the free people of this country to do their pioneering work subject to regulations which are not yet in existence, and which may not come before this Parliament for review when they are made. If that is not a travesty on Democracy, I should like to know what is.
.- To some extent, I have to agree with the honorable member for Parramatta on this proposition. The matter is. of vital importance, not only, to the Northern Territory, but to the future of Australia. The main feature underlying the successful settlement and development -of a country is itsland laws. If they are not such as will encourage development, we are bound to fail, no matter what provisions we make in other directions. I have been surprised at the action of the Government in taking this course to deal with this big question. We ought to be even more careful in a matter of this kind than we are in ordinary legislation, because this method of laying down laws can be used by administrative officers without responsibility to Parliament, and thereby the very object that a Government may have in view may be defeated. In my opinion, this question should have been the subject of an Act of Parliament. It is too big to be dealt with by Ordinance. There is also another safety valve required in administering a big concern of this kind, and that is, that any regulations which are made should also be subject to the oversight of this Parliament. How are we going to keep a hand on the tiller of the administration of the Northern Territory unless this, Parliament has control ? The settlement of a country depends largely on its land laws, and theories that will apply to countries which have reached a certain stage of development will not apply to other countries where development has not progressed to any extent. There is no known method of laying down laws to apply strictly to all - countries alike. The circumstances of the country for which you are going to legislate must be considered. In the early days of Australia pioneers went out into the country and developed it, and made homes for themselves. I have had something to do with the large land-holders in one parr, of the mother State, and I say that all credit is due to the men who went out 11* the early days and blazed the track for those who followed. I say this ungrudgingly, because I know they had a burden, to carry in the pioneering days of all the States. One does not under-estimate or decry the value of the services rendered by those people if, later on, one recognises that the advance of civilization and settlement makes it necessary to resume certain land for public purposes. Perpetual leasing, asI understand it, is a system which can be worked only where you have the safety valve or safeguard of a living area. If-, you can apply the system to an adequateliving area you can work it, because then no question of resumption or compensatioiv comes in. The ‘transferring of the perpetual lease of a living area is merely a matter of transferring it to a suitable person who takes the place of the original holder. In applying the perpetual leasing policy, we should not depart from the fundamental principle that it can be effectively operated only where living areas are properly denned and exist. What are we trying to do in this case? We are trying to apply the system to a condition of affairs where it will not work. It is proposed to allow a man to take up a perpetual lease of 3,000 square miles, or nearly 2,000,000 acres, of land. The idea of handling land in millions of acres in that way would be scouted as preposterous if put forward in any State Legislature in Australia, and the fact that it has been gravely proposed in the Federal Parliament to give 2,000,000 acres to one man in perpetuity seems an indication that we do not realize the responsibilities cast upon us, or the possibilities of the Territory.
– It is at once establishing a monopoly.
– It is inviting people to create a monopoly. None of us can say whether, in some large lease of third class land, very valuable land may not be discovered, and be required very early for the settlement that the ardent supporters of the Territory hope will take place there. The Government propose under this Ordinance to allow a lease of 3,000 square miles of third class pastoral land, 1,000 square miles of second class pastoral land, and 500 square miles of first class pastoral land, in perpetuity. They include a provision giving them the power of resumption, and allowing compensation for improvements, and compensation also for the diminution of value? by the forced resumption of the lease. I should like to know exactly where we are, and how this is going to apply. It seems to me totally inapplicable. A lease is granted subject to re-appraisement at the end of twentyone years. The Government may then get the unearned increment by way of increased rent, and may apply that section of the Ordinance which says that they will take any accrued value from the development arising from public works, roads, railways, &c. To arrive at that value is easier said than done, It seems to be one of the most perplexing provisions of the OrdinanceThe “ accrued value arising from public works “ is one of those undefinable propositions that I do not think can be applied: fairly and equitably to the lessees and the Government. We come then to the question of the resumption of a perpetual lease. The honorable member for Angas says that you cannot resume that which a man has not got. In this case, the man undoubtedly has a perpetual lease. He must be compensated for his improvements, and then comes in the question of compensation for dispossession. Will any one in this Chamber tell me that that man has not some interest in his perpetual lease? If the lease has run for twenty years, and we require the land for closer settlement, will any man say that we. are not depriving the lessee of something which he possesses under a contract with the Crown? The development of a pastoral property involves for some years a very large expenditure, which does not immediately give a return, especially in country of this character. Before the pastoral lessee can get the coarse grasses eaten down, and the country brought under proper fodder and into proper productivity, years will have gone by’ and many thousands of pounds will have been spent. It is only when that stage isreached that the lessee can hope to get a’ return for his money and labour. If at that very time the Government say, “ We’ want to resume,” how are we to assess the value accruing to the lessee for the industry, skill, and experience that he has put into his holding? If we are going to compensate him, we must compensate him on a’ freehold basis - a capitalized value - be-‘ cause a perpetual lease practically becomes a freehold under those conditions. If we have to resume the lease on freehold conditions, then we have to pay a price, and; the Government always have to pay a higher price when they go into Court over’ questions of resumption. In that case, weshall have to pay a price at which we can-1 not use the land or parcel it out to other settlers, for successful use.. The Government would be left with a resumption upon their hands which they would be unable to place amongst other in-,’ tending settlers. The whole thing defeats’ its purpose, and it is evident that those who had the drawing up of this Ordinance have no practical experience of the working of the leasehold system as applied to large, pastoral areas. It is proposed that existing lessees under the South Australian Acts, shall be permitted to surrender their holdings and take up areas of 3,000 squaremiles on perpetual lease. Is there any-. honorable member of this House who believes that these people will not surrender their country up to the maximum area of 3,000 square miles in order ‘to obtain a perpetual lease for it? We may be just as sure that they will not surrender any country over that area. Under this system, we shall be parcelling out the Barklay Tableland country, which is the pick of the Northern Territory, into perpetual leaseholds, and will irrevocably prevent the development of the country. Two hundred and twenty-nine leases were granted under the South Australian Act of 1890, and they comprise an area of 64,610,800 acres. The occupiers of this country can surrender it and come under this Ordinance. There is an area of over 20,000,000 acres held in the Northern Territory under permits ; and when we take the land included in the 1890 leases, and the permits, we shall find that it comprises very nearly the whole of the land which was considered the best land of the Territory by those looking for land there. It includes the country we shall require first, because we shall first require the best land in the Territory for closer settlement. Under this Ordinance, it may be handed over to a few men in vast areas, and under such conditions that the Government cannot possibly resume it without landing themselves in a worse position than ever. We are. the custodians of the heritage of the people, not of to-day, but of those who will follow us; and we are responsible for reserving something for them. We must make such provision that the Government will be able to acquire these lands under conditions which will enable future settlers to successfully use them. If we do not, we shall fail in our duty. In the earlier settlement of the different States of Australia, it has been the practice to lease pastoral lands for a given number of years, and not indefinitely. The State Parliaments have wisely determined to lease such lands for a period within which the develop-, ment of more accessible territory might, reasonably be anticipated. This is the way in which the Parliament of New South Wales dealt with 80,000,000 acres in the Western Division of that State. This country was practically disconnected from the rest of the State, though there was a railway here and there touching the border of it. For all practical purposes, it was - quite unadapted to closer settlement. It would have been cruelty to induce people to settle upon small areas of that country, which is subject to drought. The State Parliament, believing that there was plenty of land for development in more accessible and more favored areas, on which people would have a reasonable chance of making settlement a success, decided to reserve the 80,000,000 acres of land in the Western Division under leases for forty-two years, with a right to resume at any time. This was advisable, because it was possible that land on river frontages and in favoured localities might be found at an early date to be suitable for closer settlement. But the State Parliament did not propose the resumption of those lands on the terms proposed in this Ordinance, by paying the cost of resumption out of the Public Treasury. They provided that where lands were required for closer settlement the Crown should have the right to resume one-eighth of a holding, and that the lessee should be compensated by the extension of his lease for five or ten years beyond the original term. That is the nature of the compensation which is being paid to lessees in the Western Division of New South Wales for the resumption of one-eighth of their original holdings. If this land had been let under perpetual leases in accordance with the provision of this Ordinance, how could it have been resumed for -profitable use by the public? It could not have been done. In spite of any argument which may be used by the Government to the contrary, I say that this Ordinance proposes a very short-sighted policy. We should impose such a limitation upon the leases of these pastoral areas in the Northern Territory that the Government may have a reasonable chance of being able to get the land back, by resumption or by the expiration of the leases, for the use of the people who, we trust, will, in days to come, desire to settle in the Territory. I agree with the honorable member for Grey that a lease of forty-two years is ample for third class pastoral land ; but such a lease should not be granted for first or second class pastoral land. The best, or first class land, should be let for a much shorter term, that the Commonwealth may easily come into possession of it when we have discovered its value and the use to which it can be put. There should be an extended term of lease for second class pastoral land; and, as I have said, the lease for the third class land should not extend beyond forty-two years. We should, in this way, have some idea of the value of the land when it is proposed to resume it.
If we proposed to resume third class pastoral land after twenty years’ occupation, we should know that the lease had twentytwo years to run, and we should be able to assess its value. I suppose that present holders of permits in the Northern Territory are to be allowed to surrender their land, and obtain perpetual leases of it under this Ordinance. Such men would not, I think, be the most desirable pastoral settlers, because they are merely migratory. .- No doubt these permits were issued by the South Australian Government in order that the lands might be reserved for legislation by this Parliament. It was believed that we should pass laws to govern the country, not that the Government would come forward with an Ordinance affecting matters of the greatest importance. When we regard this Ordinance as a whole, we cannot but be struck with the arguments that have been put forward by the members of the Opposition. This is not a party question. It is a matter affecting the welfare of the whole country. In New South Wales we did not make land laws party questions. Both sides applied their energies to adapt the legislation to the needs of the community. We cannot allow party considerations to enter into a subject of this kind.
– The settlement of this question is absolutely essential to Australia’s future.
– Exactly, and the land question is the greatest factor affecting success. We may build as many railways as we like; but if our land laws do not induce people to settle, what is the use of any railway? The Government propose to make provision to secure the increment of value given by public works. That is a doubtful proposition, because whilst it may be right to take some of the unearned increment which has hitherto been monopolized by those who have held land, I nevertheless feel the difficulty of defining the value given to land by public works. As to agricultural areas, it is proposed to give the first 5,000 settlers land for nothing. I should like the land-hungry people in the southern States to remember this. The land is to be given for life, or for twentyone years, whichever term may be the longer. In many cases, I am afraid, twenty-one years will not be “ the longer,” though I hope otherwise. The difficulty thus created, if any large, portion of the land should be capable of development, would be great. Such a thing has never been known in any country in the world as to offer land free of rent for a life-time. Naturally, it will enable the settlers to use whatever money they have in developing their holdings. But I am not satisfied that even with these liberal conditions we shall induce 5,000 people to go there to try their luck. Something will have to be done to illustrate the possibilities of the country, and to locate the particular sections where settlers may reasonably hope for success. We have not such information at present. I believe that the Minister has set on foot an investigation committee for the purpose of discovering and classifying the land. It will take a considerable time to fulfil that task. If it takes as much time as was occupied in New South Wales in classifying the land of that State, none of us will live to see the work finished. In New South Wales, after fifty years, the work was about as far forward as it was in the beginning. As a matter of fact, the whole of the hind is not classified yet. A false step made by New South Wales in not classifying its land in the first place, led to many abuses in the administration of the land laws.
– New South Wales has not done so badly. If the Northern Territory does as well we shall be perfectly satisfied.
– I am quite with my honorable friend, but the wish is father to the thought. We cannot hope that development of the North Territory will follow in the steps of New South Wales. The Minister has said that he does not expect rich men to take up this land which is offered, rent free for a life-time. He expects poor men to go there. What does he mean by poor men? Even if you give a man an agricultural area rent free, he still has to find money before he can produce anything to live upon. I know the difficulties experienced in the State which I represent, where the conditions were very favorable indeed in regard to the first outlay. The most favorable form of development lease that I have ever known was the settlement lease policy introduced into New South Wales. A man had to pay a nominal rent, based upon deposit and survey fee; and, those small amounts being paid, he had to pay 1¼ per cent, on the capital value of the land- that capital value sometimes running from 10s. to. £1 or more per acre. His rent amounted! to- id., 1¼d., or 1½d. per acre. Consequently, the outlay was not great in proportion to the advantages. Settlers obtained 3,000 or 4,000 acres in that way. It was the most successful - law regarding the development of the land in New South Wales. It put on the right men. They received only a limited area with a twentyeight years’ lease, and the right to select 1,280 acres in homestead selection at the end of the lease. To-day they have a forty years’ lease and the right to select 1,280 acres of homestead selection at any time after the first five years; which is far more considerate and effective than the old provision. By the time the lease comes back under the control of the Crown, it has already been proved by the settler how many people it will support, how many sheep or cattle it will run, how much wheat it will grow; and having that knowledge, the Government, know the value of the property that falls under their control at the termination of the lease. But under this Ordinance there will be nothing remaining for posterity. Large areas are to be handed over to the men who first apply ; and in the future we shall be hampered in proceeding with development by reason of restrictions embodied in the Ordinance we are now discussing. While I hope for the best for the Northern Territory, I candidly acknowledge that I have not such great hopes as some profess to entertain. I may be wrong. If I am, it is all the more necessary that the law should be made elastic so as to enable us to meet the conditions as they arise. I am not going to dogmatize in a matter as to which we have not full information. The provisions for the reservation of timber, and so forth, are wise, and such as wore not properly made in New South Wales. There, the great mistake was made of not preserving the timber - a suicidal mistake that was made, I think, in other States also. In New South Wales, I have seen timber ringbarked that was worth ten times the value of the land ; and forest .. after forest of timber that is now very expensive has been practically demolished by the ringbarker and the subsequent fires, owing to the lack of foresight on the part of the Legislature to recognise its value and the necessities of future generations. At the same time, the Minister would be well advised if he did not proceed with this Ordinance, but introduced a proper Land Bill, so that the House might be fully responsible for what was done and have control over the whole of this legislation. The regulations ought to be submitted to Parliament for honorable members to.. judge whether they are in the best interests of the country; and I must say that the method of this legislation comes as a surprise to me. It is not in accordance with the teachings of experience, which, after all, are our best guide. Theory is all right, but we have to deal with practical matters ; and experience shows that, first of all, the land ought to be offered on conditions that will invite settlement, and every facility and encouragement given. Settlers should prove what country is suited for successful cattle or sheep rearing, and when they have had an opportunity to get a fair return for the sacrifices they have made in living in isolation, and so forth, on limited leases, we shall be able to legislate with a full knowledge of all the circumstances and conditions. It is only when we have ascertained what is a living area for agriculture, mixed farming, or pastoral pursuits, that we can apply the perpetual lease system ; and the suggestion I have made would remove all the difficulties and disabilities that attach to giving compensation on an interminable lease. Such a lease, if assessed at its true value, would render the land valueless to the Crown when possession was taken for settlement purposes. I trust that this Ordinance will not go into Committee, but that the Minister will fall in with the idea that has been made by others as well as myself. The matter is too grave and far reaching for me to assent to the present Ordinance. This is not a party question on which any Caucus can bind me or any other member; and I feel I am at liberty to urge upon the Minister to take the course of limiting the leases in proportion to their value, thus making it possible for us to recover the land for the people of Australia. This will, as I say, remove the difficulties which raise some doubt in the legal mind, and more in the lay mind, as to the possibility of complying with the terms of resumption and compensation.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that this question should be dis-* cussed from a non-party stand-point. Party is, of course, a very important consideration, but the proper development of Australia is much more important; indeed, I feel sure that honorable members on all sides regard this as one of the most im-; portant questions, with which we have to deal. The only thing- that could , justify an Ordinance of. the sort, would be the fact that the Minister, was overburdened with applicants for holdings. The Ordinance itself is of a very drastic character, imposing conditions with which it is exceedingly hard to comply. This must mean, of course, that the Minister is receiving more applications for land than he can deal with, though this is not what we were led to expect from the reported press interview which the Minister, on 8th June last, gave on his return from the Territory. The Minister then said that the report he had received as to the conditions of labour in the Territory showed that only eight of the men engaged for the Batchelor Farm remained at work, all the others being sick. After indicating the various diseases from which the men were suffering, the Minister went on to say that delay had been caused owing to the alienation of the land at Darwin, and that, if the policy of leasehold, with conditions as to improvements, had been instituted, there would have been a different position now. I suppose this gave rise to the Minister’s ideas on the subject, though, perhaps, his ideas arose spontaneously ; but what appeared to be in his mind was the fact that some of the men could not get blocks for building purposes about Darwin. We were told by the honorable member for New England to-day that the prices there are very excessive ; and the Minister interjected, when the honorable member was speaking, that as high as ^250 was asked for choice J-acre allotments in the centre of Darwin. I am as much against speculative land holding as anybody could be; but surely a better way could have been found of dealing with the difficulty than a wholesale method of restricting settlement all over a Territory consisting of millions of acres ? Surely the fact that two or three men could not readily get allotments could have been got over in some other way? The Government could have very rapidly resumed these lands at their proper valuation, under the compulsory powers of purchase they possess, and no one would have blamed them for doing so. What would be the condition of a man who took up a block of land in the Northern Territory under the Ordinance? If the Government desire people to go there, every facility and inducement must be offered. No one will go to the Northern Territory for a week-end trip, and it is not likely to be much the resort of tourists. We must look at what is likely to be the practical outcome of a man taking up a large grazing block. The amount of land that may be taken up in class 3 is. 3,000 square miles, and that is a very respectable holding for anybody. I should not object to have such a holding myself, but not under the conditions set forth in this precious Ordinance. In clause 15, we are led to believe that the lease will be in perpetuity. It provides that the Administrator, in the name of the King, may let the land in perpetuity. One would think that he was going to have the land in perpetuity subject to a re-adjustment of rental from time to time. But when we turn to the provisions under the head of pastoral leases, we are surprised to find in clause 22 that in every lease issued there is to be “a reservation of a power of resumption.” ,
– But that applies only to pastoral leases.
– Yes, but for many years to come pastoral settlement, with a certain amount of agricultural settlement, I hope, on the coast-line, will, in all probability, be the class of settlement which will take place there. We find that, although a lease is to be issued in perpetuity, the Ad, ministrator may at any moment take the land away, and when we look to see what the power of resumption is, we find that the leases may be resumed for certain. purposes, such as water conservation works, sites for towns, recreation grounds, cemeteries, commons, reserves, and so on, by giving three months’ notice. I suppose that these will be small areas.
– That is the usual notice.
– Yes; but when we turn to the next clause, we find that where the land to be resumed is required for any other purpose two years’ notice of resumption is to be given. A man investing in a big leasehold will get a lease in perpetuity, and then the Administrator may say to him, “ I require your land for some other purpose, and so I give you two years? notice,” and it will be resumed. From a business point of view, these are really only leases for two years.
– See what the powers are in regard to compensation. ‘
– I did not propose to go into that question, because I do not think that any man who goes up there will consider that he has been properly treated if his land is taken away after two years’ notice. That, to my mind, upsets the probability of anybody taking up these leases at all. I believe that the Queensland system has encouraged settlement to a tremendous extent. I think that the plan adopted there of long leases, for periods such as twenty-one years, and for inferior land thirty years, with a power of resumption of part of the holding if required for settlement, has acted exceedingly well. That has been the pioneering way of settling that country, and, as it has enabled really good work to be done, why should we depart from it. It seems to me an extraordinary proceeding to tell a man that he is going to have a lease in perpetuity, and at the same time to give power to the Administrator to take it away after giving him two years’ notice. If we want this country thoroughly developed, and I think that is what all honorable members desire, we shall have to give some sort of security of tenure. People are not likely to go into the wilderness and create a value if that value is to be taken from them at a very short notice, because no compensation in reason that a man could get for fencing and water improvements would ever recoup him for the expenditure of the enormous amount of capital which would be necessary to develop a holding. I would impress upon the Minister that if he really wants to settle the Territory, he will have to proceed on the lines adopted in Queensland and by the South Australian Government, who offered a lot of this country on leases for forty-two years. Large areas of land are held under such leases now, and a great expenditure has been incurred. That is the only possible way in which we can get the country settled. In this Ordinance there are other clauses which want looking into. The honorable member for Hindmarsh was very much afraid that the country might be dummied by men putting very extensive improvements upon it. But sub-clause 8 of clause 35 says -
In this section “ improvements “ means improvements of a permanent nature reasonably adapted to the use of the leased lands for the purposes of the lease.
The honorable member suggested that any man could put very extensive improvements on the land so as to make it impossible for anybody else to take it from him, but that definition would operate as a safeguard against that, so that his fears in that direction were quite unwarranted. I think that the matter of improvements is fairly well safeguarded, though one would like to debate these clauses in Committee. Another objection to the Ordinance is that we cannot go into Committee, but must have a full-dress debate in the House. I would urge, as other honorable members have done, that this matter should be dealt with in a Bill, so that it could be thoroughly gone into from top to bottom. I want tocall attention to another clause, which provides that a man must keep a certain number of stock, but that he must not overstock the land. I can recollect this provision being made in the Queensland Act of 1884, and causing us a great deal of worry, and annoyance, but, of course, like a great’ many other impracticable measures, it became a dead letter very soon. First there was an outcry that the pastoralists were over-stocking their holdings, and shortly afterwards it was said that the selectors were much more valuable settlers, for the reason that they carried far more stock on the land than did the pastoralists. We were between the devil and the deep blue sea, and we did not know what to do. If we carried a large stock it was said that we were over-stocking the land, and if we carried a few stock it was said that we were not making good use of the country. I think that this provision in the Ordinance is a- ridiculous one, and might very well be eliminated. Somebody saw the old provision in the Queensland Act, I suppose, and, thinking that it was still in existence, incorporated it in the Ordinance. The fencing clause, too, will cause a good deal of trouble -
A covenant by the lessee that he will fence the boundaries of the lease as prescribed by the regulations.
One would want to see the regulations before he took up a lease, because they might stipulate for the erection of a stone wall or something of that sort. However, we presume that a little common sense will be exercised. A man will not take up a big leasehold for fun, and so we might leave out the provision that he must fence the land. Of course he must fence the holding to make any use of it at all.
– There are 500,000 cattle there now without fences.
– Yes, but we expect to get a little better class of settlement. We hope that sheep will find their way there before long. There are, after all, only three ways of holding land, namely, in commons, leaseholds, and freeholds. Commons are perfect hotbeds for pests of all kinds. The Deniliquin common, for instance, is covered with abominable thistles, and the stock on it have to starve. The way in which that common is managed is absolutely inhuman. Tenure in common is the worst kind of tenure. What is killing Russia is the holding of land in common, and the attempt is being made there to have land cut into blocks and sold in freehold. Here the inclination is to go in the opposite direction. After tenure in common, the next bad tenure is leasehold. Those who have experience know that freeholders take more care of their land than leaseholders do. On freeholds you see permanent improvements, good houses, strong fences, and fine stock. On leased land, as a rule, things are not brought to the same pitch of perfection. In New. South Wales and Victoria, immense sums of money have been obtained by the Governments by the alienation of Crown lands; in Victoria, as much as £39,000,000 has been obtained in this way. That money has been spent in improving the country by means of railways, roads, bridges, and other conveniences. But how are we to get revenue to improve the Northern Territory if none of the land there is to be sold, and no rent is to be charged for some years? Already we have to find over .£400,000 a year to meet the debts transferred to us by South. Australia ; and probably the least amount that will be required for the development of the Territory is from ,£15,000,000 to £20,000,000. If none of the land of the Territory is to be sold, the money for its development will have to be obtained from the people of the States. No one thinks that the improvements made in the Northern Territory will pay for. many years to come. If we could make improvements there which would Create prosperity, and make it worth while to buy the land, we should soon get revenue for further development.
– I would sooner we borrowed than that we did that.
– If money is borrowed, our resources must be crippled in some other direction. Every shilling obtained from the States will be needed for the vast projects we have in hand, apart from the Northern Territory. The money market is getting tight. Where is revenue to come from ? Should we sell land in the Territory, we can still tax it. The Commonwealth land tax is still fresh in my memory, although honorable members opposite seem to have forgotten it. The financial question requires serious attention. Honorable members are burdening the system of leasehold with all kinds of conditions, and say that not an acre of the Territory shall be’ sold. ^ That is all very fine in theory, but it will not settle the Territory.
– Until recently, the land there could be bought easily enough; but that did not settle the Territory.
– Until railways and other conveniences have been given, land will not be bought in the Territory. Land is not bought for fun, but to make money; and it will not be possible to make money in the Territory until it has been opened up. Like Mark Twain, I do not prophesy unless I know ; and I say that, ten years hence, the Government of the day will be doing all it can to get people to buy land in the Territory. The system now proposed is bound to break down, as it has done wherever it has been tried.
– It has been a success in New Zealand.
– Not at all. The present New Zealand Ministry has been put into power to secure the conversion of perpetual leaseholds into freeholds. The Minister of External Affairs ought to think ahead. We have not had much thinking ahead in our finances so far. He should not deprive the Commonwealth of a source of revenue for improving the Territory and making it habitable, and thus more easily defended against an enemy. It is surprising how autocratic our Labour friends are. The powers intrusted to the Administrator are those of an autocrat. I wondered at the time why they were so eager to call him “ His Excellency.” I can see the reason now peeping out in all directions. I think they ought to call him “ His Supreme Highness,” because no ruler in the world will be invested with such autocratic powers as will the Administrator in the name of the King. I hope that he will not be like the black tracker in Queensland, who was warned that before he fired at any fugitive from justice he must call upon him to surrender in the King’s name. This tracker shot a man first, but immediately called out, “ In the name of the King, close up and get him.” These powers are more than should be intrusted to any human being. The Administrator, with no Parliament to control him, may do all sorts of things before we even hear of them. That circumstance alone justifies this matter being proceeded with in a constitutional way instead of by an autocratic proclamation. Why should it not be dealt with’ by this Bill in the ordinary manner?
– A benevolent despotism is the best form of government.
– I entirely agree with the Minister, but I would like to be the despot. Even if a lessee in the Territory wishes to erect a dam on his land, he will have to subscribe to all sorts of conditions before he will be in a position to undertake the work. I suppose he will have to bow down before this despot and ask him to make the necessary provision. Then he must also undertake not “ to pollute, divert, or obstruct any water flowing in a defined natural channel except by the consent of the Director of Lands. Imagine polluting the waters of a broad stream flowing at the rate of 8 or io miles an hour ! The thing is too ridiculous for words. From start to finish there is not a practical line in the Ordinance. The Minister will be acting wisely if he consents to withdraw it, and to regulate leaseholds in the Territory on the lines which have been laid down in the various Acts passed by the South Australian and Queensland Parliaments. That is the way in which we ought to deal with the settlement of this great country in which we are all so much interested.
.- The wisdom of adopting a leasehold system in the Northern Territory can hardly form the subject of serious discussion, inasmuch as the Northern Territory Acceptance Act provides that that form of tenure shall prevail there. It seems to me that the Government had two courses ope’n to them, as far as the nature of these leases is concerned. One was to follow the economic course and to grant perpetual leases subject to reappraisements. While that is the ideal system, it would be impracticable in the Northern Territory. Had it been adopted, these reappraisements would have been made at fixed periods, and by that means the areas held under lease would have fallen automatically according to the needs of the community. As land values increased, the amount of rental chargeable would have increased, and by that means a constant redistribution of areas would have been effected. This is one method which might have been adopted. But I frankly - admit that the objections which can be urged against it would probably have frightened people away from the Territory; and the Territory being the undesirable place that it is, we require to make the conditions of life there as attractive as possible. The Government have adopted the leasehold system, but they have grafted on to it a. provision for the resumption of leases- ; at any time - a provision which is equally undesirable, seeing that the power of resumption is vested in the Administrator. Thatis not goad enough for the Territory, no matter how applicable it may be to the more favoured portions of the earth. In my opinion, it is quite sufficient to deter men from looking at the Territory at all. It is a fatal provision to apply to agricultural or pastoral lands there. It is an attempt to apply an ideal system to the Territory, which is the last place in the world where such a system ought to be tried. It would be far better for the Government to bring down a Bill relating to land settlement in the Territory, and to allow Parliament to become responsible for its provisions. We are told that “ in the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom,” and sometimes that statement is correct. Apparently, in dealing with the subject which we are now considering, more wisdom is required than is evidenced in this Ordinance. Possibly the Minister has in view the time when the Northern Territory will have its own Parliament, and in the interim he may intend to rule it by Ordinance and regulation. But such a period is too far distant for us to contemplate. For the time being, this Parliament is responsible for the government of the Territory ; and as a member of it, I object to any slip-shod method of regulating the form of land tenure which shall prevail there. Resumptions, if made, will have to be made after stated periods. I have no objection to charging lessees ho. rent for twenty-one years, but I object to the resumption of their holdings without due notice. In my opinion, two years does not constitute due notice. If we are to get pastoralists to enter the Territory, they must have a lease of at least twenty-one years ahead of them. Under this Ordinance, they have not that security. Clause 35 of the Ordinance provides that, in respect of a pastoral lease -
The lessee shall also be entitled to be paid compensation for any depreciation in the value of the lease by reason of any resumption, such compensation to be determined in the samemanner as compensation for improvements.
So that, whether the Government will or no, they are faced with the difficulty of trying to assess the value of the prospects that they are taking from a tenant by re-, suming his land. The difficulty of assessing the value of a perpetual lease is one that, as has been well said, would baffle-, the best authority on land in the country.:
I do not know how the Government will arrive at it. It seems to me that they have placed themselves in a veritable cul de sac by making such a provision, and I can only urge that the requests made on both sides of the House will be given full consideration by them.
. -I do not intend to repeat any of the arguments as to the impracticability of the scheme included in this Ordinance, except to say that it appears to me, after a careful reading of it, that it is surrounding an otherwise not very attractive Territory with a series of legislative barbed- wire entanglements. I rose mainly to urge upon the Government the desirability of giving the House an opportunity of dealing with this immensely important subject in the way in which it deals with others - that is, by a Bill introduced in the House, as honorable members on both sides of the House have urged. The power of Ordinance which has been given by the Northern Territory Administration Act is taken from the old tradition of the government of Crown Colonies, and is undoubtedly, even in this instance, useful for certain purposes. For example, for the purpose of police regulation, or for making laws to govern the hundred-and-one matters which may arise in an unsettled Territory like the Northern Territory, it is, I think, essential that the Governor-General in Council should have a power to make Ordinances such as was given by that Act. But that that power should be used for finally determining the whole future policy with regard to the land settlement of that immense area seems to me to carry it far beyond what was really intended. This Ordinance appears to bear on its face many marks of a want of complete, careful consideration. One aspect which is very serious from a legal point of view I should like the AttorneyGeneral to take into consideration. It will be observed that, in quite a number of places throughout , the Ordinance, the powers which are given to the Administrator depend on regulations. If we were legislating in this matter, we could, of course, do what is done by the Ordinance ; but the Governor-General in Council cannot do under the Northern Territory Administration Act what is done by the Ordinance. The only power given by that Act is that “ until the Parliament makes other provision for the government of theTerritory, the Governor-General may make Ordinances having the force of law in the.
Territory,” and then these are to be submitted to the House, as honorable members know. All (that the Governor-General and all that the Executive can do is to make such Ordinances or laws; they cannot delegate to the Administrator, or anybody else, the power which we have given them to make laws. It is a perfectly well recognised principle that, except in the case of Sovereign legislative bodies such as the British Parliament, or, as has been decided, the Colonial Parliaments, an agent who is given a certain authority cannot pass it on to somebody else. Therefore, the power which is assumed, by the GovernorGeneral in Council, and embodied in clause 42 of the Ordinance, in these words, “ The Administrator may make regulations not inconsistent with this Ordinance prescribing all matters which by this Ordinance are required or permitted to be prescribed,” is a power which the GovernorGeneral in Council has no right under the Act to exercise. The Act authorizes the Governor-General in Council to make all the necessary regulations.
– It does not make the Governor-General in Council a Legislature.
Mr.W. H. IRVINE.- No. I might test the question, as is often done with legal questions, by taking an extreme case. I might say that, if the Governor-General in Council, under the Northern Territory Administration Act, has power to handover to the Administrator the power to control some of these things by regulation, then the Governor-General in Council has power to hand over to him the power to deal with them all by regulation. If this Ordinance, instead of setting out some of the things and leaving others to the Administrator to determine by regulation, had” left them all to the Administrator to determine by regulation, what would be the position? Suppose the Ordinance ca’me before the House in this form - “ The Administrator may make such regulations as he. thinks fit for the granting of leases” - could it be for a moment suggested that that came within the power given to the Governor-General in Council by the Act?1 What is attempted to be done by the Ordinance is to hand over to the Administrator part of the legislative power which Parliament has conferred upon the GovernorGeneral in Council, and to hand it over to him without any restriction such as is imposed upon the power of the GovernorGeneral . in Council in the provision that the regulations must come before this-
House. If what the Government have done here with regard to the regulations is right, they might have carried it to an unlimited extent, and to the extent to winch they do carry it they defeat the object which Parliament had in view in saying that all the regulations are to come before the House. That is a matter of purely legal objection, but it may be of considerable importance i if the Ordinance should afterwards come before the Courts to determine whether any title granted under it was valid, or regulation made under it was good. In that case, not only the validity of the particular regulation, but the validity of the whole of the Ordinance, would be taken into consideration. The Attorney-General will remember that in the Kalibia case, in the High Court, it was recently debated that where a portion of an Ordinance or Act of Parliament is invalid, the question arises whether it is separable from the rest. If it cannot be clearly disentangled from the rest, then the whole goes. That is one serious objection from the legal point of view, in addition to all those that have been raised from the practical point of view. All that I urge on the Government is that, in a matter where we are called upon to lay down the whole of the lines for the foundation of the future developmental policy of the Northern Territory, we ought to have an opportunity of doing it, not by Ordinance, but by the introduction in the ordinary way of a Bill, which may be debated clause by clause, both in principle and in detail.
.- It is to be deplored that in connexion with a matter involving the biggest problem with which this Parliament has been called upon to deal, this legislative body has not been given an opportunity to bring the genius of its collective mind to bear on the consideration of the foundation of a policy for the successful settlement of the Territory. I can only believe that the Government have scarcely realized the enormous importance of the beginning upon which they are called upon to embark. The greatest proportion of the Northern Territory is held in large holdings, and must continue to be held in large holdings for a considerable time to come. There seems to have been no systematic attempt on the part of the Government, in the first instance, to lay down some plan by which it won Id be possible to push out settlement within the Territory in a way that would encourage its agricultural cultivation. This matter might have been discussed and debated at much greater length if this Ordinance had been submitted to us in the form of a Bill, which could have been .discussed upon its second reading, and later in detail in Committee. We should, if that course had been followed, have been able to avail ourselves of the experience which honorable members have gained of all the forms of land settlement adopted in the different States ; and it would have been possible for this House to have perfected a scheme of land settlement applicable to this most difficult Territory. Only about one-third of the enormous area of 350,000,000 acres in the Northern Territory has been occupied up to the present time. The land has been . available for occupation during the last fifty of sixty years. Whilst there has been no railway communication in the Territory, it has been possible to drive large stock to the nearest railway; and when we find that only one-third of the Territory is at present held under lease, we are forced to the conclusion that a very large proportion of the total area, considerably more than half, is unfitted for pastoral occupation.
– It may be inaccessible.
– I do not think that it can be regarded as inaccessible, when we know that the north-western portion of Western Australia, and the tablelands of the Northern Territory, 200 miles from the coast, where the grass is sweet and nutritious, have been successfully occupied for the raising of stock. There has been a steady decline in the area of the Territory under occupation from 113,000,000 acres in 1901, to 99,000,000 acres in 1910. It is somewhat extraordinary that there should be such a reduction in the area of land held under lease in the Territory. All these facts go to show that we have in that most difficult country a problem to tackle such as no nation in the world has yet been faced with. Something should be done by this House to obtain some revenue from the Territory at the earliest opportunity. If there is land there which is. or ever will be, suitable to carry an agricultural population, it must be sufficiently productive to enable settlers upon it to make some return to the Commonwealth Treasury, either in the form of part payment for the freehold of the land, or in the form of rental. The real difficulty is that we have not been supplied with the information necessary to enable us to frame a land policy for the
Territory. I do not say this in a critical spirit, because this is a non-party matter; and I have no doubt that every honorable member of the House is anxious to see an Act placed upon the statute-book which will help us to speedily settle the Territory. Provision is made in this Ordinance for the creation of a Classification Board. That is a very proper provision ; but “ if such a Board had been appointed a couple of years ago, this House might now be in possession of a comprehensive report from it which would enable us to enact a measure for the settlement of the country differentiating between the provisions applicable to different classes of land. We are now so much in the dark that we are unable to do more than debate the principles of leasehold and freehold. It is impossible for us to ‘ differentiate as ‘ we should in the terms upon which lands of different quality should be held. We have had a good deal of experience of various tenures of land in- “Victoria ; and, as has been the case in every country in which anything like successful cultivation of the soil has been found possible, the leasehold system has here been proved to be a failure. I should like to deal more extensively with the question of leasehold versus freehold than perhaps honorable members would consider reasonable at this hour of the evening, and, on that account, I may ask for leave to continue my remarks on the subject tomorrow. I can only now express my regret that we have before us an Ordinance proposing to place the whole of the lands in the Northern Territory under a system of perpetual leasehold. I believe that we should adopt different tenures for different classes of land. We should apply the freehold system to all cultivation areas. They should be marked out in places which may be speedily tapped by railway communication. What we require is the appointment of a man with the reputation of Mr. ‘ Elwood Mead, or an engineer from India who has had experience in the development of a tropical country. It should be the duty of such a man .to make a comprehensive report upon the country within the river systems of the Territory, and upon the way in which agricultural areas might be provided with an adequate water supply and with railway communication. With such a report, we should be in a position to devise a scheme of land settlement adaptable to the cultivation areas. We could then provide that the tablelands some soo miles from the coast might be held under lease for pastoral purposes, with a provision for their resumption when required by the extension of agricultural settlement. The trouble is that it is now proposed to treat the whole country as one area, when we know that only portions of it will ever be fit for agricultural settlement. Those are special agricultural districts, that should be dealt with separately, and freeholds should be granted in respect of them, with payments possibly extending over thirty or forty years. The back country that would appear to be fit only for grazing in fairly large areas should be dealt with on the leasehold principle, the leases terminating in reasonable periods, with power ‘ to resume if agriculture is pushed down so far. At this stage I ask leave to continue my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– I move -
The the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow, at 4.30 p.m.
I desire to intimate that honorable members who have business on the paper tomorrow do not desire to proceed with it before half-past 4 o’clock.
– What is the reason for the special adjournment?
– The Agricultural Show. I should also like to intimate that the Government propose, after to-morrow, to take private members’ time for Government business.
.- I have a very important motion on the businesspaper which, in the ordinary course, would come up for discussion oh the 19th of the present month. I wish to place before honorable. members a quantity of details in connexion with a survey made some years ago from Oodnadatta to the Alice River. For the Minister’s benefit, the information should .be laid before the House, and I trust, that the Prime Minister will afford me an opportunity of dealing with the proposition.
.- XI should like to be quite clear as to what the Prime -Minister intends. Do I understand that private members are to lose the first two hours of to-morrow’s sitting?’ Surely they ought to have two hours after dinner granted to them by way of compensation.
– I do not agree to that.
– Do I understand that the Prime Minister intends to take private members’ time for the rest of the session ?
– Yes; a motion will be submitted next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I hope that the Prime Minister will seriously consider the position in which several important matters standing in the . name of private members will be placed if he takes the drastic step that he has indicated. I happen to be one who has a motion upon the business-paper. It relates to the advisa bJeness of the Government instructing the High Commissioner to make full inquiries into the Australian butter trade with the United Kingdom, having special regard to Commerce Act regulations, and so forth. A decision of the High Court, about a fortnight ago, declared the grading regulations introduced by the Minister of Trade and Customs to be ultra vires, but the Minister has intimated that he proposes to introduce fresh regulations.
– We will see that the honorable member has an opportunity of discussing the matter if . the Minister does that.
– But I wish to have a discussion on the motion standing in my name. . - Several honorable members on the Ministerial side have spoken in favour of the attitude which I take up. The matter affects one of the greatest of our national industries, a trade which has grown more extensively than any other in Australia during the last five or six years. . The producers are labouring under severe restrictions. We are only in September, and it is unusual to take away private members’ time so early in the session.
– I enter my protest against private members being asked to surrender’ their opportunities in the manner proposed. I sympathize with the Government in their desire to get through . their business, but what happened at the end of last session in regard to private members’ business ought not to be repeated. I -should like to see . a day set apart On which private members could have their propositions fully-, discussed-. On the notice-paper there are two motions which I placed there in all sincerity. ‘ We come here pledged to a certain platform, drafted possibly a year or two before ; and it may happen, as in my own case, that an emergency arises which has to be dealt with at once. For instance, one of . my motions deals with the high cost of living, which calls for considerable thought and discussion. I shall be glad, of course, to give way ; but I do ask the Prime Minister to give private members a better chance than . they had last year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.27p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 September 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120904_reps_4_65/>.