9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– On Saturday last at Woodburn, on the Richmond River, in New South Wales, the sculling championship of the world was contested, and an Australian, Mr. James Paddon, retained the title. In view of that fact, and in view also of the fast that the New Zealand Government presented a New Zealand flag to the challenger, and wished him luck on behalf of the Dominion, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of congratulating Mr. Paddon upon having kept the title to such an important championship in Australia ?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive the fullest consideration.
– The Prime Minister will probably have noticed, as I have done, that there has been some little delay in Victoria in connexion with the expenditure of that portion of the Commonwealth grant of £500,000 for main roads set aside for this State. Will the Prime Minister see that, so far as the Federal authorities are concerned, no delay shall take place, in order that the work of main road development in Victoria may be proceeded with as early as possible, and employment given in this way ?
– The honorable member’s question should have been addressed to my honorable friend, the Minister for Works andRailways (Mr. Stewart) ; hut I can inform him that, subject to compliance with the provisions of the Act, and observance of the safeguards necessary to see that the money is expended in the way intended by the Parliament, there will be no delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government.
– In connexion with the money voted by this Parliament to the States for the relief of the unem ployed, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of making’ the money available to the authorities of inland cities and boroughs, as I am sure they will be prepared to spend it atonce, and give immediate relief to the unemployed ?
– No money has been made available to the States by the Commonwealth for the relief of ‘the unemployed.
– For expenditure upon roads.
– With regard to the money voted for main road development, if the honorable member will make representations to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), who is controlling the matter, I have no doubt that they will receive the fullest consideration.I would like to add to what I said in reply to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), that I am informed by tha Minister for Works and Railwaysthat hehas already approved of some applications that have been received from the Government of Victoria.
Reportof Public Works Committee
– In view of the notice of motion given by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) concerning the expediency of proceeding with the erection of a provisional Parliament House at Canberra, I wish to ask the honorable gentleman whether a special effort will be made to have the report of the Public Works Committee on the proposed work distributed to honorable members before he submits his motion?
– The report referred to will be in the hands of honorable members this evening.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways if his attention has been drawn to a statement made by Mr. Ball, the New South Wales Minister for Works and Railways, to the effect that the construction of a railway from Yass to the border of the Federal Territory is a work to which New South Wales is pledged, and that when the work will be started depends largely upon the Federal
Government, and that he did not intend to take action in the matter until the Federalauthorities had requested him to do so. Is the Minister prepared to consider the matter, and arrange for the construction of the line without delay?
– The question of the construction of the line is receiving the attention of the Government, and there will be no delay so far as it is concerned in carrying out the work. If the New SouthWales Ministers are prepared to carry out their part of the compact, there will be no delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
– I have received the following intimation from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton): - “ I desire to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., ‘ the unsatisfactory administration of the Trade Commissioner’s Office in the East.’ “
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I have moved the adjournment of the House because many complaints have reached me regarding the Trade Commissioner in the East. Honorable members will remember that Mr. Little was appointed to that position some time ago. Shortly before his appointment he addressed members of both Houses in the Senate Club-room. I have been supplied with a large amount of information regarding the unsatisfactory way in which he has filled the position, and I deem it to be my duty to place it before the House and the Government, so that the Minister for Trade and Customs may have an opportunity of stating whether there is any foundation for the criticism levelled against Mr. Little. It appears that in September, 1921, Mr. Little’s secretary, after consultation with the British Con sul-General, wrote to Mr. Massy Greene, then Minister, for Trade and Customs, as follows : -
I am convinced, from my short experience in this office, that Little Brothers Limited and your Commissioner are one and the same, and it is all worked under the cloak so that your Commissioner can draw your £2,000 yearly from you as well as his pension from Brunner, Mond, and Company, to run his own business, and not for the benefit of Australia. The past history and reputation of your Commissioner in China are by no means a credit to any man, particularly a representative of the Commonwealth, and in support of this you have only to apply to the Consul-General, who will convince you of this fact to your entire surprise, and no doubt make you regret that you ever made this appointment.
On receipt of this report, the then Minister, Mr. Massy Greene, asked Major Isaacson, of Isaacson, Cornfoot, and Company, 121 Flinders-lane, Melbourne, to make investigations into the matter and report. In his letter to Major Isaacson the Minister stated -
Further to my interviews with you, I have now to request that you will, while inChina, make certain inquiries regarding charges made against Mr.E. S. Little, Trade Commissioner in China.
The charges are as follow: -
They are made by Mr. A. Luke Crommelin (with the exception that he does not refer to Brunner, Mond, and Company Limited, as set out in charge No. 2), temporary secretary to the Commissioner.
As you are aware, the mutter is adelicate one, and will require considerable tact and caution.
I desire that the inquiries be made with as little publicity as possible. You. will use your own discretion as to the best means of getting at the truth, and will use the sources you think best for doing so.
At the same time I shall be glad to know when you report the lines you have followed and the reason for your decision.
If you decide against Mr. Little, you should cable me at once.
In the event ofyour decision being in Mr. Little’s favour, it will be necessary for you to satisfy yourself regarding Mr. Crommelin’s position.
Ifhe has merely taken action upon rumour and surmise, without trying to satisfy himself as to the truth or otherwise of his charges, then the case goes against him.
If, however, you find that he fully believed in the charges, and deemed it his imperative duty to bring them under the notice of the Government, that will place him in a different position.
I shallalso be glad if you will advise me whether or not you consider that under any circumstances Mr. Crommelin should have acquainted Mr. Little of the action he has taken.
I am enclosing you certified copies of all the papers I have on the subject. You will observe there is a great sameness about all the criticism, no matter what its final source may be.
I would like you particularly to view the relations existing as between the Commissioner and the British officials, also as between the Commissioner and what may be considered vested interests. I need scarcely remind you that this must be done in a very careful and guarded manner.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Massy Greene.
– What was the date of that letter?
– The date is not stated beyond “December,1921.” After making investigations, Major Isaacson cabled to Mr. Massy Greene -
After exhaustive substantial inquiry recommend immediate dismissal; salary up to March. Cable Secretary to carry on. Advise bunk accordingly. Suggest new Commissioner work Japan and China combined. In any case expenses here reducible by half.
Next day, Major Isaacson despatched a second cablegram in these terms -
Yesterday’s cable may appear drastic. Firmly convinced, after further inquiries, steps suggested are imperative. Prompt action only method.
On the 7th January,1922, Mr. Little handed his resignation to Major Isaacson, who thereupon cabled to the Minister -
Interviewed Mr. Little. Result, received his resignation for Minister’s acceptance. Urge acceptance.
That such action was recommended can be seen from copies of letters to tha then British Consul-General for China, the late Sir Everard Fraser. In one of these letters, Major Isaacson says -
Shanghai,9th February, 1922.
Dear Sir Everard. - I have been thinking a good deal re the cable I sent covering resignation. I have come to the conclusion that the wisest thing was done. He asked to be allowed to remain till April. I get back in April early. After I lay all facts before the Minister, it should be “ dismissal,” nothing else will do.
I wish to thank you for your courtesy and patience, and will not fail to bring the matter under the notice of the Minister. It is up to the Government to know and understand what a C.G. is to us. I hope you will notify Pekin of the above, also, that I will call.
– Where on earth did the honorable member get that information?
– I have to dig a long way sometimes for information, and it is for the Minister to say whether it is accurate.
– It is not in my possession.
– In the meantime Mr. Rodgers had assumed control of the Trade and Customs Department. He cabled to Mr. Little that he was surprised to learn of his resignation, and was astonished that Major Isaacson had accepted it, as he was totally unauthorized to do so. Later Major Isaacson informed the Minister by cable that the latter was making an irreparable mistake in not immediately accepting the Commissioner’s resignation, and that unless definite action was taken he would have nothing further to do with the matter. It seems strange that while Major Isaacson was commissioned to make these investigations, there is no record of a report from him whether he was told on his return not to submit a report, or the report - if furnished - has been suppressed, cannot be ascertained.
– I have not received it.
– My quotations are from cablegrams sent by Major Isaacson, who is a big business man in Melbourne. Before Major Isaacson arrived in China, a petition, accompanied, I understand, by a strong condemnation from the Secretary to the Trade Commissioner, had been sent to the then Prime Minister by residents in China, asking that Mr. Little’s appointment should be terminated. Nothing was done. Honorable members have not seen those documents, and I do not know whether they are available. I have quoted information which I believe to be correct. In 1922 Senator Bakhap was sent to the East, but his report, which contains about ninety paragraphs, deals principally with trade in China. Only the last three paragraphs refer to Mr. Little. Senator Bakhap stated, in reference to Mr. Little’s work, that “in general it meets with my approval.” I have a copy of Senator Bakhap’s report, and there is very little in it pertinent to this matter, except that it speaks fairly well of Mr. Little’s administration. But in opposition to that I have copies of letters from Messrs. White, Cooper, Masters, and Harris, solicitors, of Shanghai, who are, looking after the interests of business people there, and they say that Senator Bakhap did not conduct a proper inquiry. It is alleged that he refused to, interview business men in their offices, and stipulated that they must come to see him in Mr. Little’s office. This they would not do. Senator Bakhap, I am told, stayed at Mr. Little’s home whilst up there inquiring into his work. Two important matters in connexion with the Trade Commissioner’s office are worthy of special inquiry, viz. : - (a) Is Mr. Little receiving much more in salary and allowances than he is entitled to; and (b) is Mr. Little connected with the firm of Little Brothers, of Shanghai, and is he working solely in the interests of that firm? In regard to (a) it is stated on good authority that, instead of receiving 9 taels to the£1, Mr. Little should be receiving only 6 taels, the tael being worth 3s. 3d. At first sight it would appear that exchange would rectify this payment, but Mr. Little is paid in Chinese money, and’ as “ 9 taels to the £1,” equivalent to 29s. 3d., was inserted in his agreement, he really receives about £3,000 per annum, instead of £2,000. In addition, his travelling allowance of £2 per day is equal to, at the same rate of exchange, about £3 per day. Regarding (b) it is stated that Mr. Hawkins, managing director of Little Brothers, Shanghai, is Mr. Little’s son-in-law, and that Mr. Little is really the proprietor of this firm,but cannot disclose that fact on account of his pension of £5,000 per annum from Bruner Mond and Company Limited, which, as I have already stated, is conditional upon his not engaging in business in the East. It is further alleged that all samples of goods sent to Mr. Little’s office from Australia are first shown to his son-in-law, and, if rejected by him, are then placed on the shelf. Even the Chinese employees in Mr. Little’s office are mostly travellers for
Little Brothers. If these allegations are true, it is time that steps were taken to place our trade representation in the East on a proper footing. For some time past the Commonwealth has been endeavouring to establish better trade relations with Asiatic markets, and in furtherance of that aim, several business firms in Victoria and other States have sent their own representatives to the Orient.
– That in itself is tantamount to an expression of want of confidence in the Commissioner.
– Yes. The Age of 23rd May last had this to say about the Eastern trade -
In view of the entirely negative results which have attended the appointment of Messrs. Little and Sheafe as Trade Commissioners at Shanghai and Singapore respectively, an influential group ofVictorian producers and exporters has decided to send a special representative to China. Several large firms and companies have formed an organization for the express purpose, and their special representative - a well-known commercial man of Melbourne - will leave almost immediately for Hong Kong with a roving commission throughout the densely-populated parts of China and Japan. The Commonwealth is spending about £35,000 a year on ineffective official representation, ostensibly to promote Australian export trade to this quarter, but beyond periodic bulletins and reports presenting facts already more or less familiar, the trading community has received no commensurate benefit. . . . The special representative of the exporting interests will make a thorough survey of the markets in Hong Kong, mainland Chinese ports, and Japan. Among the products the sale of whichhe will endeavour to foster are hams and bacons, meat, cheese, casein, and potted “ smallgoods “ foodstuffs. Offices and sample rooms will be opened.
That action on thepart of business people shows that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction with the operations of the Trade Commissioner’s Office in the East. The purpose of creating these agencies was to open up, or develop markets for Australian produce, and in view of the fact that business firms have deemed it necessary to send their own representatives to the East, and having regard also to the allegation that Mr. Little gives preference to a firm controlled by relatives, the whole matter requires the closest investigation. The Minister may, and I hope will, be able to say that there is no foundation for these statements. The information was given to me, and as a result of inquiries I made, additional facts were supplied. We are not justified in paying a large sum of money to persons supposed to be representing Australian trade abroad if they are not performing that work to our advantage.
– Were the statements which the honorable member has quoted as having been made by Isaacson contained in official papers?
– I have no official papers, but that is not my fault.
– The honorable member triedhard enough to get them.
-My sole purpose in bringing this matter before the House is that the allegations may be cleared up. I have not proceeded with undue haste. For a considerable time I have been endeavouring to augment the information originally supplied to me. Finally, I deemed it my duty to submit to the House the information in my possession, so that the Minister for Tradeand Customs might state the departmental view. If the allegations I have read are correct, Mr. Little should not continue in his position for another week.
– I expect that honorable members, knowing that I have recently returned from a trip to the East, will expect me to say something about the matter which the Leader of the Opposition has raised. The people of Australia owe thanks to the honorable gentleman for the action he has taken to-day. I visited Hong Kong, Kowloon, and up towards Canton. Unfortunately, I could not go to Shanghai, although I waa within twenty-four hours of that port. At Hong Kong, Kowloon, Nagasaki, Kobe, Kyoto, Yokohama, Tokio, and some other places, I inquiredof British, Australian, American, Japanese, and Chinese residents and merchants what they thought of Australian trade representation in the East, and in every instance the reply I received might have been summarized in these words, “It is a perfect pantomime.” I could say a good deal more, but I do hot propose to attack Mr. Little in this House. Suffice it to say that I am convinced that the Government must terminate the present representation of the Commonwealth at Shanghai. I say nothing against Mr. Sheaf, because I heard nothing about him.
– Hear, hear! I have heard nothing against Mr. Sheaf.
– Our present trade representation in Shanghai must stop. But one should not destroy unless he is prepared to suggest a method of rebuilding. I consulted business men in the East, included among whom was Sir Edward Crowe, who, for twenty-seven years, has been Commercial Adviser to the British Embassy in Japan. He said, “Well, Marks, what do you think?” I replied, “ My opinion is that our representative should be in Japan.” He said that was his opinion also. After discussing inter alia this matter carefully for over three days we had both reached the conclusion that it would be better for Australia to have a representative at Yokohama, the great seaport and business port. Our representative should be on the staff of the British Embassy, as an adviser on commercial matters to the Australian Government. We also entirely agreed that it was desirable to appoint a young Australian business-man of good appearance, for the reason that, in the East, the main business is done at the big clubs, and not in the offices. It is absolutely essential to get a man who would make a favorable impression at the big. clubs if we desire big business with the East. As to the salary to be paid to such a representative, Sir Edward Crowe considered that £1,300 would be enough. I do not know what Mr. Little is costing us at Shanghai. I am told it runs into thousands. By the expenditure of £1,300 a year I believe we could get far better representation than we have had. What is our trade in Chinalikely to be worth ? China is in active revolution, and the opinion of the leading men in the country is that it will be in active revolution for the next fifty years. An enormous trade in meat may be done with Japan. Has Mr. Little advised the Government to this effect? Has he informed the Government that Japan pays America £60,000,000 a year for cotton which is 33 percent. inferior to the cotton grown in Queensland ? My report to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) on these matters cost me £300 out of my own pocket. I do not know whether any notice was taken of it. That report described Mr. Little’s position in the East. Our present representation there is a waste of money for many reasons which I shall not gointo now more than I have already done.The solution of the difficulty is one I have just placed before the House. Japan isonly a twentyfour hours’ voyage from Shanghai. Trade running into millions of pounds is waiting there to be picked up. We could easily handle the Chinese trade from Japan. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition has brought forward this subject. It is time something was done.
– Perhaps I can save time in this debate if I give honorable members some information; but why they should pick on me over’ this matter I do not know. The gentleman of whom complaintis made was appointed in 1921.
– We are not picking on you.
– I do not say the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is. I congratulate him on the reasonable and moderate way in which he made his remarks. I agree that things in the East are not right.
– They are rotten.
– That is a rather strong term. My mission is to try to put them right or make them better. I have had many reports on affairs in the East. Wehave Mr. Little there as the direct representative pf the Commonwealth Government, and we also have Mr Sheaf, who is under the control of the Commonwealth and the States. I shall give honorable members some information about Mr. Little’s appointment. Some honorable members seem to think I should havegiven certain information to the Leader of the Opposition. He asked me to permit him to see documents which 1 regarded as private. I told the honorable member that I was prepared to let him see the documents on his word of honour that he would respect what was private in them, because I knew” he would abide by his word if he gave it. I was not prepared to let him have copies of documents for the purpose of “pitching into “ ex-Ministers. That did not. seem to me to be fair. I am quite prepared to give honorable members copies of public documents, but not of private papers.
– Then you consider it your duty to smother up things that have happened in the past ?
– If the honorable member considers that refusing to give copies of private documents is smothering up, then I say that I do not agree with him.
– If they bear on public matters, you are drawing a fine distinction.
– We should come to a pretty pass if honorable members could take copies of all reports, telegrams and letters sent to various Departments and use them as public property. I should be somewhat surprised to learn that the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is annoyed because he did not get the documents he wanted. He told me not to bother. I am also surprised to see that he has copies of certain documents.
– They were notvery private.
– I wish to make it very clear that I did not give him the information he possesses.
Mr.Charlton. - I got nothing from the Department.
– I agree that the state of things that has been pointed out as existing in the East is very unsatisfactory. That is not a reflection on those who have precededme in office, because many attempts have been made to clear up the position. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said he considered our representation in the East was a pantomime. A responsible member of the Senate (Senator Bakhap) investigated matters, and the only thing he said about Mr. Little was that he had been indiscreet. As a matter of fact, I am informed that a good deal of the information obtained about the position has been secured from a secretary who was engaged for two months, and who worked in collusion with a typist and sent out a lot of information. I am disposedto look very closely and carefully at such information. Certainly, I am not prepared to spread it about. I would rather be charged with smothering it up. I admit there is great necessity for a change in the East. As evidence that I am trying to improve matters, I inform the House that I have given Mr. Little three months’ notice to quit. He could have been dismissed summarily, but I did not feel entitled to so dismiss him. The work was not giving me the results that I considered we should obtain, and for that reason I gave Mr. Little notice. Idesire to make no reflection on his character. All I say is that I am not satisfied with the results, and therefore Mr. Little has to go. What the future action of the Government will be I am not prepared to say just now. I am trying my best to get something done there. I have had two or three deputations from business men. They have asked the Government to provide a subsidy for ships going to the East. I asked them to tell me what products they desired tosend to the East, what cool storage they required, and what trade they believed could be opened up, and I informed them that if the information was satisfactory, I was’ prepared, on behalf of the Government to promise a very substantial subsidy. I suggested to these business men that they should not only talk about the matter, but get together, with a view to submitting to me’ some definite proposal. The members of the Board of Trade receive no pay, but they work very hard, and we have the advantage of the services of some of the leading business men in the various capitals. I made the further suggestion that the business men should consult the Board, promising that if, as a result, a definite proposal were submitted to me, the Government, regardless of the cost, would assist by way of a subsidy, in opening up markets in the East for Australian goods.
– What about using the Commonwealth vessels ?
– The business men made a similar suggestion; but I pointed out that we required no ships unless there was prospect of doing trade.
– If refrigerators were provided in the East everything would be all right.
– If that were the solution of the question, there are enough business men in Australia to open up a trade themselves. Nevertheless, if there are men prepared to take the risks of pioneering work, the Government is prepared to subsidize their efforts. It is of no use sending only one or two ship-loads; there must be a definite and promising scheme for opening up a market for Australian products. Up to date, however, I have received no definite proposal from these business men. I am waiting for a lead. The
Commonwealth ships are not under the control of the Government, besides there are other ships, and it is to any of these that the subsidy could apply. I invite suggestions in writing from honorable members for submission to the Board of Trade.’
– Has the Minister my report ?
– Yes ; and it is a very moderate one - there is nothing “indiscreet” about it. I may say that Mr. Little is not to be accused of anything dishonest in the arrangement made about the calculation of nine taels to the £1, because that was agreed to when Mr. Little’s appointment was made, and I presume there was some ground for the arrangement. It has been pointed out, however, that Mr. Little, in the way of salary and expenses, is receiving something like. 30s. instead of £1. I am informed that there is no connexion whatever between the firm of Little and Son and Mr. Little - that it is a mere matter of similarity in names. However, there is no necessity now to worry honorable members with all these details. At present, as Minister for Trade and Customs, and on behalf of the Government, I say that new arrangements are required in the East, and I have shown my earnestness by my action in regard to Mr. Little.
– Was it on secret documents that you came to your decision to dismiss Mr. Little?
– Then on what did you base your decision ?
– If the honorable member had listenedhe would have heard me say that I had concluded that matters were not satisfactory in the East.
– But what did you act on?
– I had evidence to satisfy me.
– We ought to know what that evidence is.
– I am not going to tell the honorable member anything further. This is not a question on which we should become heated.
– Why smother things up? We ought to be told the facts.
– It is not my practice to “ smother things “ up.
– You are doing so effectively now.
– Honorable members say that the arrangements in the East are not satisfactory, and I quite agree with them. I value what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), because I know that any suggestion from him will be reasonable and practical. If honorable members can show the Government how our trade in the East can be improved, their suggestions will be adopted.
.- The House and the country are indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) for bringing this matter before us to-day. I personally thank the Minister (Mr. Austin Chapman) for the action he has taken in regard to Mr. Little.,. The remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) aptly describe the position. It is well known that the activities of Mr. Little and Mr. Sheaf are simply a farce, and it is common talk that they are there to make money for themselves, ‘ and not to benefit Australia. During my visits to the East I was always told by commercial men, both Asiatic and Australian, that they could get what information they required from Mr. Suttor, who represented New South Wales. There is no doubt that Mr. Little is of small use to us in his present position; and large merchants in Sydney and Melbourne have combined to send a representative for themselves to China. No doubt, if Mr Little had done the work he was sent to do, these merchants would have been quite content to be represented by him. But the Age last year, and in very strong terms, laid bare the facts, and condemned the then Minister for Trade and Customs for the appointment of Mr. Little.
The Minister (Mr. Austin Chapman) has asked for, suggestions, and as I have been to the East twice, I may venture to make one or two. As a result of many conversations with dear friends in that part of the world, I think the better plan would be to, as it were, subsidize some large and reputable business firm by paying the passage money, and contributing to the expenses of, any commercial traveller that firm might choose to send to the East. Such representatives would, I feel sure, show a much better return than a dozen Mr. Littles or Mr. Sheafs. When I first made inquiries there about Mr. Little I was asked whether I meant the missionary or the cinematograph operator; and, as I said before, the farcical character of the present arrangements have been well described in the terse sentences of the honorable member for Wentworth. What is really required for the Eastern trade is cheap freight, but how cheap freight is to be obtained in the fact of the great shipping Combine, I do not know.
– What is the Commonwealth Line of shipping for?
– Quite so, but I cannot see that the Commonwealth shipping could make a profit, except indirectly, by going to the East, but if the ports of the East were opened up for the products of Australia, any losses in the administration of our Commonwealth shipping would be indirectly more than made good. I went through the storehouses of one of the biggest Chinese importers, and saw there stacks of flour imported from America and Australia. We could have supplied the whole of that flour. The Americans are at a great advantage in having a shorter passage to make, and in the employment of the splendid steamers travelling to the East from San Francisco and other western ports of the United States of America. Those large vessels carry enormous cargoes, and the American manufacturers have been able to arrange with the American Shipping Combine rates of freight that are a mere bagatelle compared to the rates charged on products from Australia. The manufacturers of barbed wire in Melbourne had to pay more in freight for sending their goods by ship to Brisbane than was paid by American manufacturers for shipping the article from New York to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. Only a nation can stand up against that kind of thing, and, as I have said, Japan, acting in a national way, beat the American, Tobacco Combine. The only way in which we can hope to compete with American exporters to the East is for Australia to make use of the Commonwealth ships to carry its products to Eastern markets. A nation can fight even a -combine, if its operations are as well organized and controlled as were those of the Japanese Government when it defeated the American Tobacco Combine. So far as Mr. Little is concerned, if I had had my way, he would have been given three days’ instead of three months’ notice of dismissal.
– I have heard the adjournment of the House moved on more than a few occasions since this Parliament opened. I have heard Ministers make the usual explanations in connexion with the questions raised on those occasions, but I never listened to any reply from a Minister which showed greater justification for a formal motion of adjournment than that which has been given to-day by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman).The honorable gentleman gave us some inf ormation which I think no member of this Chamber was aware of before. He told us that Mr. Little about whose administration we have read a great deal in the press, has been given three months’ notice to quit. The motion has brought that fact to light, but I cannot understand why the Minister has said so much arad. yet so little. He has said either too . much or too little. Without desiring to cast anyreflection on the honorable gentleman, I think it is not for him to say what information he thinks ought to be given to the public in this matter. The acts of administration of a highlypaid official of the Commonwealth are matters of public concern, and the actions of the Trade Commissioner in the East which brought about the notice of his dismissal should be made public. I am sure that that isthe view which will be taken by the people generally. It is for the Minister to-day, or in the near future, to give the House further information as to the reasons which made it necessary for him to give this gentleman notice of instant dismissal, because three months’ notice is practically equivalent to that. The honorable gentleman’s explanation has left this matter ina more unsatisfactory position than it was in before the adjournment of the House was moved. If the Minister arrived at his decision to dismiss Mr. Little on information in his possession, I should like to know how much of that information is private and how much should be regarded as the property of the Parliament and public of Australia. I cannot believe that the honorable gentleman decided to dismiss this officer upon hearsay and secret re ports which he is not permitted to make public. He can only have decided to discharge this officer because he believes that in the position which he held he has done something derogatory to Australia. In the circumstances, the House is entitled to the information on which the Minister has acted.
.- I wish to say a few words on this motion. If it had done nothing else but draw from the Minister for Trade and Customs the announcement that Mr. E. S. Little has been given three months’ notice of dismissal from his office as Trade Commissioner to the East, the motion would have served a good purpose. We have heard that Mr. Little has been thirtysix years in the East, though not in an official capacity representing the Commonwealthfor that period. It would appear that he hasbeen our representative too long, because he has had associations and business connexions with trading firms in the East, and has neglected his duty as an Australian Trade Commissioner in order to devote his attention to the business of the firms with which he has been associated. There are in the East over 400,000,000 of people, and a great opportunity is open to this country to supply those people with many commodities, such as butter, bacon, jam, dried fruits, cheese, wheat, flour, beef, timber, lead, tin, and other metals. The report of the Commission for 1920-21 shows that, of a total trade done with Hong Kong and the south of China, of £167,000,000, less than £1,000,000, or a little more than a half of 1 per cent., represents the Australian contribution. Since then, our trade has somewhat improved, but thefigures I have quoted are, from my point of view, a sufficient justification for the dismissal of Mr. Little. The offices ofthe two Commissioners in the East cost the Commonwealth and the States an amount exceeding £20,000, and I do not think we have received an adequate return for that expenditure. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr Austin Chapman) has invited honorable members to make suggestions which might prove of value in connexion with our representation in the East, and the better exploitation of the market for. Australian products to be found there.
Iwould remind the honorable gentleman that, some time ago, speaking in this Chamber, I suggested the abolition of theoffice of AustralianTrade Comissioner in the East, and the subsidizing of ships of the Commonwealth Line. We might abolish not only the office held by Mr. Little, but also that held by Mr. Sheaf, and, in addition to subsidizing ships of the Commonwealth Line we might subsidize the exhibition of Australian products in Easternports. The subject of packing and labelling is worthy of consideration. Mr. Little failed in his duty in not directing the attention of Australian exporters to the unsatisfactory manner in which their goods sent to the East have been packed and labelled. When we know that he was associated withbusiness firms in the East, we can understand, to some extent, why he has not taken very much trouble to remind our exporters of these defects I hope the Minister will take into consideration the advisability of subsidizing window exhibitions of Australian goods in Eastern ports. These goods should be properly labelled with Chinese characters, and displayed in an artistic and attractive form. We can imagine the difficulty of Chinese going through the streets of Hong Kong, and looking at Australian goods displayed in shop windows with labels in English writing. It is as difficult for the Chinese to understand English writing as it is for us to understand the Chinese characters on the label round a jar of ginger. I think that great advantage to Australia would accrue if show windows displaying Australian goods in Eastern ports were subsidized by the Government.
– I do not at this juncture intend to say much on this question; but I submit that the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) has opened up two very serious aspects of administration. We were told very clearly by the honorable gentleman that the responsible officer appointed to represent Australia in the East has not proved satisfactory; but that, because it is the duty of an incoming Minister not to do anything which might injure his predecessor, the papers in the case are to be regarded as secret. The second aspect is that when the Min ister was asked whether he arrived at his decision to give this officer three months’ notice of dismissal on secret documents, he repeated his first statement that the reason was that his work was not considered satisfactory.
– The honorable gentleman said that the officer had not been getting any results.
– Yes ; but we want the definite information that is in the possession of the Minister. It may be that the information upon which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Charlton) took action was quite accurate, and it is my impression, after listening to what the honorable gentleman said, that it was. On the other hand, it may not be quite reliable, because the sources of, information open to the Leader of the Opposition may not be as authentic as those open to the Government. The information available from this side of the House bears out the Minister’s contention that the position is unsatisfactory. I am not pleading that this officer should not be dismissed. In the future, however, an officer might be dismissed wrongly, and the reasons for his dismissal might be withheld from Parliament. That would be a very serious matter. I suggest that the Minister should look into the matter again. There are documents in his Department which relate to matters of public importance, and the information contained in them ought to be made available to Parliament. Otherwise we shall have administration by secret society methods. The Minister’s explanation that he does not desire to “pitch into” a former Minister is not convincing. We do not ask him to “pitch into” any one, but if mistakes were made in these appointments, and are disclosed in certain documents, the House ought to be acquainted with the details. I do not wish to be offensive, but, as I indicated in an interjection, I consider the Government is endeavouring to smother up the maladministration of a previous Government. Very important action has been taken by the Cabinet, and not one reason for it has been given to the House, beyond the general statement that “ things were not satisfactory.” This is a dangerousprecedent, and probably something more will be heard of it. later.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Western Australian funds what they have lost in this respect?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Old-age Pensions - Franchise.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Overseas Selling Agents
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
– On the Srd July, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 13 th July, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), on behalf of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 90.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1923, No. 95.
Papua Act - Ordinance of 1923 - No. 3 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 1), 1922-23.
Public Service Act 1902-1918 - Appointments of Dr. ST. B. Charlton and Dr. R. E. Richards, Department of Health.
– I desire to lay on the table of the House the agenda papers for the Imperial Conference and the Economic Conference. I shall make a statement regarding -them, and, so as to give honorable members an opportunity of discussing them, shall move later that they be printed. The agenda papers set out the subjects which have been listed for discussion at the -Imperial and Economic Conferences to be held in October of the present year. It is impossible to consider these Conferences apart from the history of the Empire. Prior to the present century no Conferences of this character had been held, as the circumstances of the Empire did not necessitate them. But at the beginning of thepresent century the evolutionary progress of the Empire had reached the stage when selfgovernmenthadbeen granted to the Dominions, and the necessity for a change in Inter-Empire relations became obvious. Great Britain, instead of having dependencies for whose government she was responsible, had great Dominions possessing absolute freedom in regard to their owninternal affairs, and for all practical purposes ranking as partners in the Empire. They had ceased to be Dependencies or Crown Colonies. It became clear that if the Empire was to grow in strength with the advancement of the various Dominions, a method should be devised whereby consultation could take place between the British Government and the Governments of the Dominions. In the beginning of the present century the idea of holding Imperial Conferences came under consideration, and the first Imperial Conference was held in 1902. Conferences continued to be held from time to time, and matters of very great importance to the Empire were considered. The people of the Empire generally, however, did not realize the importance of them, or the necessity for them. It was the outbreak of war that first brought to every citizen realization of the fact that closer consultation was necessary. The Empire went into the war in August, 1914, with- oUt warning, and without consultation with the Dominions. The cause of that war was a Treaty, into which Great Britain had entered, guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Belgium, the existence of which was known to very few people in Australia. In theory, of course, as a self-governing Dominion, Australia, though part of the Empire, was in no sense bound to take part in the war. The request made to us, and to the other Dominions, to send troops to aid in the common cause, was framed as a request,” but it was obvious to every citizen of the Empire that Great Britain in declaring war inevitably involved all the Dominions. We knew that as soon as Great Britain was at war, Australia was at war also. As long as Australia remains part of the British Empire, that will be our position. Obviously, also, Australia is one of the places that may be attacked in the event of hostile action against the Empire as a whole. I stress that point, because it must be considered when we are estimating the need for holding an Imperial Conference this year, and for devising some better’ machinery for future consultation between the British Governmentand the Dominions. The wonderful solidarity of the Empire was demonstrated during the war when all the Dominions sprang to arms. They fought to preserve the Empire. Naturally, in such circumstances unity of thought and action was necessary, and to insure closer cooperation between the Mother Country and the Dominions in this time of crisis the then Prime Ministers of the Dominions were made members of the Imperial War Cabinet, and took part in the deliberations of that body. That recognition of the new Status of the Dominions was indorsed by the nations of the world when they agreed to the various Dominions becoming signatories to the Treaty of Versailles as separate nations, and to Australia and the other Dominions becoming independent members of the League of Nations. If the Empire under these altered circumstances is to continue, and maintain that unity which characterized it m the Great War, and which is essential to its future, it is imperative that there should be closer consultation between Great Britain and the Dominions, and that we should agree upon a common foreign policy and scheme of defence.
I have made these few introductory remarks because I consider it essential to any discussion of the forthcoming Conference agenda that we should realize how during the last few years the position of the Empire has changed. Formerly the Empire consisted of Britain and her ‘“dependencies, and for the foreign and defence policies of the dependencies the Mother Country was responsible. To-day Great Britain and the Dominions are sister nations, which together constitute the great British Empire. The task that lies to the hands of Empire statesmen is bo try to devise some system by which, notwithstanding the altered status of the Dominions, the various peoples of the Empire may continue united as one. That’ is a duty we owe, not to ourselves alone, but to the whole world, because in the past there has been no greater force making for world peace than the British Empire.. I believe that the future peace of the world depends to a great extent upon the maintenance of a united and strong British Empire, still striving to uphold those great principles upon which it has been built.
Before dealing with the matters to be discussed at the Conferences, I shall briefly outline the negotiations that led up to them. The first communication on the subject was a cablegram received on the 29th November last, in which the Imperial Government stated that it was proposed to hold an Economic Conference to discuss the development of trade within the Empire, in April of this year, in advance of the Imperial ‘Conference. Australia and the other Dominions were to express their views upon those proposals. The Government, when it assumed office and considered its legislative programme, came to the conclusion that, in view of the tasks confronting us, it was quite impossible for any representative of the Commonwealth Government to attend a Conference in England in April or June of the present year. In a cablegram which I sent to the British Government on the 24th February, I expressed our approval of the proposal to hold the Conferences, ‘but suggested that the two should «be held simultaneously at a date as late as possible in the present year.
In regard to the Economic Conference, my cablegram read -
It is useless to approach such a Conference unless prepared to face practical issues. Commonwealth’s position such that it will have to press for some further preference in return for substantial preference granted British goods. Consider that both Conferences should take place simultaneously, as success of Economic Conference depends absolutely on presence Prime Ministers, who could not spare the time to visit England on two separate occasions.
The British Government cabled in reply that they had consulted with the other Dominions, and that the general opinion was that the two Conferences should be held concurrently, the opening date to be the 1st November. That suggestion more or less met the views of the Commonwealth Government. If the Conference was not to assemble till the 1st
November, we would have reasonable time to meet Parliament before the Australian representatives would have to leave for London. Unfortunately that date was not final. Shortly afterwards certain references appeared in the press indicating that the Imperial Conference would be postponed till the following year. It was suggested that the Economic Conference would be held in the present year, and that Sits decisions ‘would be considered later at the Imperial Conference. I thereupon sent a cablegram to the British Government, in which I stated that our defence policy depended upon the result of the Imperial Conference, and pointed out that, according to reports, the Economic Conference waa to be held in September and October, its work to be subject to ratification by the Imperial Conference next year. With regard to that I said -
It is unnecessary to point out that the work of the Imperial Conference must in return receive the consideration, ratification, or amendment of each Dominion Parliament before being translated into law, so no practical results call be expected from Economic Conference until at least 1925. Your telegram quoted above suggests that subjects in your mind are so important and urgent that they will not admit of such delay. I sincerely trust, therefore, that there shall be no suggestion of abandonment or postponement until every possible avenue has been exhausted and the Dominions fully consulted. y On the 23rd March, I received a cable gram which stated that further replies had been received from the Dominions, and as (he original date, 1st November, could not ;be adhered to, the 1st October would be generally acceptable. The British Government also stressed the desirability of a second Minister from the Commonwealth attending the Conference. Upon that point they said -
I venture to suggest to you that it would be most desirable for you to arrange to be accompanied on your visit by at least one of your colleagues, as we fear your undertaking work of two conferences single-handed would result in almost intolerable strain.
The 1st October appeared to us to be too early a date, and having heard that the objections to 1st November came primarily from General Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa, I cabled to him -
From previous cables received I understood that conference being held this autumn would begin 1st November. In view of political situation in Australia this date is earliest that I can attend without gravest inconvenience. Am therefore cabling Secretary of State for the Colonies urging that original proposal for 1st November be adhered to, and if you can see your way to agree to this date it will assist me greatly.
Unfortunately, General Smuts replied -
I regret very much not to be able to meet you, but 1st October is latest date opening of conference to which I can agree. I have informed British Prime Minister accordingly.
I am outlining these negotiations in order to show to the House that we used every possible endeavour to have the date of the Conference postponed. Simultaneously with the cablegram to General Smuts, I had cabled to the British Prime Minister -
As House has requested opportunity to discuss Imperial defence, foreign policy, and economic relations before my departure, it is quite out of the question for me to attend to this discussion as well as ordinary work of Parliament which must be accomplished, and arrive in London before October. In fact, it seems now that I shall not arrive before November.
On the 27th March the British Government cabled that General Smuts could not wait till the 1st November. The cable read : -
Agree with you that postponement of Prime Ministers’ Conference until next year most undesirable. The difficulties of arranging any other opening date than 1st October are, however, so ^ great that I do not really see any alternative to arranging for meeting to start on 1st October, as proposed. Hope state of parliamentary business in Commonwealth will permit of your arriving then.
In reply to that I cabled that I would do my best to be there on or about that date. Honorable members will agree with mo, therefore, that we did our very best to secure a later date than 1st October for the opening of the Conference. I give this history of the negotiations so that honorable members may know the exact position.
I propose to deal with the two Conferences separately. Honorable members have before them the two agendas. A very short study of the agenda for the Imperial Conference will show that the two outstanding subjects listed are foreign policy and defence. I have already indicated that, in my opinion, wars arise chiefly from the different interpretations of treaties or arrangements made or entered into in accordance with foreign policy. It was for such a reason that Britain was involved in the Great War. I also stress the point that if one ‘part of the Empire is involved in war, the whole of the Empire is involved. . I think it is unnecessary to emphasize that point at any greater length. To my mind, constituted as the Empire is to-day, there is no possible escape from the position. We are part- of the British Empire, and it is quite useless to say that we are not concerned with what happens in other parts of the Empire. It is quite possible that we need not be concerned, but, unfortunately, if as the result of something that had happened in another part of the Empire, that part went to war, or Britain went to war, the enemy would regard Australia as a point of attack, and we should be compelled to take action in our own defence. We are part of the Empire, and while we remain so we cannot avoid the obligation that that involves.
With regard to the foreign policy of the Empire, I have no hesitation in saying that the position is quite unsatisfactory. If we accept the axiom that wars arise from foreign policy, and that Australia is inevitably involved whenever Britain is involved, it is clearly demonstrated that we should insist upon having some proper voice in framing that foreign policy. The importance of this was realized at the Conference of 1921. Mr. Hughes, then Prime Minister nf Australia, stressed that view more than anybody else, and it was owing to his representations, to a great extent, that action was taken to endeavour to evolve a method of keeping the Dominions informed of the proposals of the Imperial Government. The decision was reached that the Dominionsshould be regularly advised by the British Government on all matters of foreign policy, particularly those which might involve the Empire in war. The principle was laid down at that Conference that the Dominions must be kept fully informed, especially when the peace of the Empire was involved. The British Government undertook to supply information regularly to the Prime Minister of each Dominion, and it has done so. Unfortunately, the system has not proved quite satisfactory. The Dominion Governments have received information of the actions the British Government proposed to take in the realm of foreign policy, but almost invariably it has arrived concurrently with, or only a few hours ahead of the time of its appearance in the public press. That was almost inevitable. Honorable members .will realize that questions involving foreign policy would probably be under the consideration of the British Government for quite a long period, but, a decision having been reached, it is usually essential to translate that decision into immediate action. Many of the questions on which we have received information have, undoubtedly, been under the consideration of the British Cabinet for a considerable period. The reasons which have swayed that Cabinet from day to day in coming to the decision it finally, reached and communicated to us have not been available to us. It would be impossible for them to be available. The result i9 that though we have been kept informed of what has occurred, we .get no information that will permit us to. express our views and opinions and affect the decision reached. That has been the result of the present system. We had a practical illustration of it in that most unfortunate episode which occurred last year in connexion with Turkey, when Australia was brought to the brink of war. I do not propose to traverse the history of that incident, but I certainly have no hesitation in saying that it was a most unfortunate action that was taken by the British Prime Minister of the day. That action having been taken by the British Prime Minister, no course was open to Australia but to stand up to her obligations, and I make no apology for the action that the last Commonwealth Government took. It was a proper action, and probably the promptness with which it was taken prevented war occurring. The situation, however, was one that should never have arisen, and it is one that we should take all pains to prevent from arising in the future.
Many international questions in prominence to-day are of great importance, ana may affect the future peace of the world, but the imperfections of the foreign policy system of the Empire preclude Australia from being effectively consulted. One of these questions relates to the occupation of the Ruhr valley. That matter is of vital importance to the whole world. If we are true partners in the Empire we should be given a proper opportunity to express our opinion upon it before the course to be taken by Britain is determined: Another matter of great importance, is that of reparations. The policy to be adopted in that respect was” determined by the Versailles treaty. Circumstances have changed since that treaty was signed. There is no doubt that a settlement of the basis upon which reparations are to be made must be reached before the trade of the world can. be restored to a normal condition. It is probably the most important problem we shall, have to face. It is one upon which we, as one of the younger nations of the world, should have an opportunity to express our views. Under the foreign policy system which now prevails -within the Empire there is really no possibility of the British Government effectively taking the Dominions into consultation. The question is of such paramount importance that, on behalf of the people of Australia, I cabled to the Imperial Government, and asked that it should be listed for consideration by the Imperial Conference in October. All these questions are of such vital concern that it is necessary for the Dominions to be taken into consultation before any Imperial policy is formulated.
Various suggestions have been made to solve this problem of effective consultation. One proposal is that there should be an Empire Parliament to which representatives of all _ the Dominions should go. But for that suggestion I, .personally, have no liking at all. I do not believe that it is one that can be successfully worked. It has the inherent defect of infringing the self-governing rights of the’ various Dominions, and this none of the Do- minions, in their present state of development, would permit for a moment. In any case, an Empire Parliament, even if it were practicable, would not help in the matter of foreign relations. Foreign relations, ‘ in the first place, is a matter not for Parliament, but for* the Executive. It is not after something of which we do not approve has been done that we desire to be consulted ; we want an opportunity to express our opinions before action is taken, and that is only possible with some direct connexion with the Executive.
Another suggestion to which prominence has recently been given is that the Dominions should have a resident Minister in Great Britain; but to this many objections have been raised. It is argued that if a Minister went from Austrafia to Great Britain, he would very soon lose touch with Australian feeling and Australian sentiment; his vision would probably get clouded by the* environment in which he would find himself at the other end of the world. In any case-, he would be useless unless we gave him power to bind the Australian Government, and the Australian people. That is a power which no Government or Parliament would confer on any individual. It has also been argued that if such a Minister were in Britain, and a decision were come to in a crisis where immediate action was necessary, Australia would be bound by the fact that her Minister was there, even if he dissented from the decision, and refused to take any responsibility. As to this third objection, I .do not think it a tenable one. We should’ be no more bound because our Minister happened to be in Britain than we would be otherwise, particularly if he had actually dissented from the decision arrived at. After giving this matter full consideration, and with a full appreciation of all the difficulties, the Government believe that, although not an ideal solution, something material would be achieved if we had a resident Minister in Britain, provided that that Minister’s term of office was a very limited one. I shall be interested to hear the expressions of opinion by honorable members in regard to the suggestion. If Australia consented to such an appointment,’ it could be only on the condition that the Minister had the status necessary ro enable Australia to be given all information regarding questions arising from time to time, and that his position was such that he could exercise material influence in their settlement. If a Minister went there without the statusnecessary to give him such authority, I am quite sure the appointment would be useless. If, however, Great Britain were prepared to give him that status, then I believe a Minister in Great Britain would prove of very material advantage. I should like to point out to honorable members how a resident Minister would be able to do what it is quite impossible to have done at the present moment. A resident Minister, with access to the Cabinet and Cabinet documents, who would be consulted on all questions involving the interests of the Empire as a whole,or of Australia, would know from time to time exactly how any given position was developing. He would be able to inform and get the instructions of his Government, while the matter was under consideration, whereas at the present time we are not consulted in any way until a course of action has been finally decided. That would be a very great advance, which would give us some real voice in foreign affairs. But a resident Minister is not all that would be required. There must be regular and more frequent Imperial Conferences, and biennial meetings ought to be laid down as a principle. It is not necessary that these Conferences should always be held in Britain. It is worth considering whether they could not at times be held in the Dominions; but that is a matter which can be considered and arranged later. What is imperative is that these Conferences shall be held at frequent intervals, and that by them the foreign policy of the Empire shall be considered, and its principles laid down. Thereis no reason why, at the forthcoming Conference, an Empire foreign policy should not be agreed to by the Government of Great Britain and the Governments of all the Dominions. The League of Nations, reparations, and the affairs of Russia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Pacifies - all the great outstanding questions of to-day - could be considered and a policy laid down, to be departed from by Great Britain only after consultation with the Dominions. If, in addition to laying down a policy, which would be reviewed at every Conference, there was a resident Minister in Britain to keep the Dominion Governments advised of developments from time to time, if we had opportunities to consider any question when it arose, . I believe we should have gone a long way towards providing a better basis for an Empire foreign policy. The Prime Minister of Great Britain could enunciate, as he does from time to time, Britain’s Empire policy ; and if that policy were indorsed by the Prime Ministers of all, the Dominions, then, I think, the people of Australia, and the Dominions generally, would realize that they had some influence on foreign affairs. But if we must take our share in the framing of the foreign policy of the Empire, it is essential that the peoples of the different Dominions should be more fully informed on the great questions with which they will be concerned.
– Does the honorable gentleman intend to give us his policy now?
– Not to-day. Another point is that the members of this House should, from time to time, be kept informed on questions of foreign policy and other matters which, in the , immediate future, will probably be of vital concern to Australia and the Empire as a whole. Greater study and consideration should be given in the Prime Minister’s Department to questions of foreign policy; and another suggestion, on which I should be pleased to hear the views of honorable members, is the establishment of a small Australian secretariat in the British Foreign Office, without executive powers, but with the function of keeping Australia posted on foreign affairs affecting our interests. If these changes could be brought about we should have done something to keep the Empire together. To pursue a course which might result in disagreement on vital matters is to court disaster.
Another question to be considered and decided is the right of the Dominions to make treaties on their own account. This is a matter of the most vital importance to the future of the Empire. The Empire is one and indivisible. If the Dominions, without consultation with the other Dominions or with Britain, make treaties on their own behalf, which might, under certain circumstances, involve the Empire as a whole in war, there will arise an intolerable position. But if the question is considered at the forthcoming Conference, and it is possible to lay down a basis for a true Empire foreign policy acceptable to all the Dominions, I think the’’ claim of certain Dominions to make their own treaty arrangements will disappear.
I come now to the question of defence. We have to decide whether Australia prefers to be a separate nation, solely responsible for her own safety, or whether she elects to remain part of the Empire, and entitled to enjoy the protection of the British Navy. If we claim the protection of the British Navy in our hour of trial, we must be prepared to say that we are part of the Empire, and accept the responsibilities that it involves. There are very few people, indeed, in Australia who would deny that we must make adequate provision for the defence of our own shores and territories; but, having subscribed to that principle, we have to go a little deeper, and see exactly what it means. A number of people say that the League of Nations is the instrument which will safeguard Australia. No one has greater hopes than I, or greater belief in the League of Nations, but any one who says that a nation may be careless of its own defence at this time, and may rely upon the League of Nations to save it should its hour of trial arise, is only deceiving himself. The League of Nations to-day can give no such assurance, though I hope tha I some day it will be in a position to do so. There is no’ use, “-therefore, in relying solely upon the fact that the League of Nations has been established. The existence of the League does not solve the problem of Australian defence. Nor has the Washington Conference solved it. No doubt great results flowed from that Conference; but it certainly did not solve the problem of the future- safety of Australia. Sometimes, looking round the world as it is to-day, one wonders how much really was accomplished by the Washington Conference. It was hoped by that Conference to put an’.end to the mad competition in armaments that the nations of the world were engaged in, but to-day there are indications that that result has not been achieved. Some little time ago, when speaking in Melbourne to consular representatives of various countries, I suggested that perhaps it would be a good thing to have a League of Nations of the Pacific, or, at all events, a conference of the nations concerned to see whether something might not be done to insure the peace of the
Pacific, and get rid of the mad competition in armaments. I still think that something might be’ done in that direction, but the actual position to-day is anything but satisfactory. We have to consider it as we find it. We must have regard to the position of Australia as it really is. I would ask those people who contend that Australia must provide for the defence of her own territory, how that is to. be done? Australia’s land defences are Australia’s own affair; but land defences will not meet the case if this country is ever in danger. When this matter was previously discussed, the efforts of the Boers in the Boer, war were cited. It was suggested that if the Boers could hold out so long, there was nothing’ to prevent Australia, with the thousands of men she trained in the last war, and with her wonderful reputation as a fighting nation, from holding out, and that the people of this country are determined that no invader shall ever set foot on its shores. But the two positions are quite different. Honorable members who have cited the example of the Boers have forgotten the position of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State compared with that of Australia. The first great difference is that the capital of the Transvaal is away in the heart of the country, and it was there that the major manufacturing resources and supplies were centred. There was also the fact that the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were surrounded by countries whose people were distinctly friendly to them, and who took every action they could to help them to smuggle in supplies and munitions of war. Another important fact which must be borne in mind is that, in the Boer war, the British Forces were compelled to conquer the country of the enemy. Should Australia be unable to repel an invading enemy, there would not be the slightest necessity for the enemy to take this country at all. I ask honorable members to consider the real position of Australia. We have a coast line of some 12,000 miles in length. Every one of our great capital cities, where our great manufacturing resources are centred, is situated on the coast, and if we had not a force to repel a naval attack upon those great centres the life’s blood of the country would be quickly drained away. We have to consider the position in which we should be placed if we could not hold off from our shores an attacking naval force and that force had our capital cities at it.s mercy. Another important point to be borne Li mind is that, assuming that Ave had command of all the forces that could possibly be trained in Australia, with the necessary munitions of war, it would be inevitable that a hostile force with command of the sea would land somewhere upon our coast. It is useless for honorable members to suggest that if an enemy landed in Australia its forces would proceed to chase the Australian forces all over this country. It would never do anything of the sort. It would consolidate its position and expand it gradually. We might be prepared to fight, away at Alice Springs, or anywhere else, but that would be quite useless if New South Wales were in the hands of an invading force. I am putting these considerations before honorable members, because I believe that if they give them a little thought they will agree with me that Australia’s defence cannot be carried out by a land force- alone. We must have a naval force. If we are to have a naval force and are to be entirely responsible for our own defence, I ask honorable members to realize what that means. A modern battleship to-day costs anything from £7,000,000 to £10,000,000. If Australia were to be made safe in any sense of the word we should require to have one battleship, and, probably, more. If we accept the theory advanced by a certain school that the day of the modern battleship is gone, and we can dispense with it altogether, it is still perfectly .certain, even according to that school of naval experts,. that we should require a great fleet of submarines and destroyers, a tremendous air force, and, in addition, a certain number of cruisers to guard trade routes. I ask honorable members again to contemplate what that would mean to Australia. The financial burden involved in making such provision would arrest the whole of our development for years to come. That i.s certainly something which none of us would desire. We are driven to the conclusion that if we are to have an adequate defence of this country we must have some naval force, and that can only be provided by alliance with some other Power. I suggest that to every serious Australian there is only one natural Ally for. us, and that is the rest of the British “ Empire, and that any defence we are to have must be inside the Empire. It is for the Imperial Conference to try and evolve an Empire defence scheme that will give reasonable protection to the whole of the Empire without casting an intolerable financial burden upon the. different parts. In attempting to frame such a scheme the Conference will, of course, be faced with a very difficult task. We have to try to maintain unity of the whole and complete autonomy of the different parts. That is an extremely difficult task, but it is one which cannot be evaded, because Australia’s sentiment is certainly such that she demands that she shall have her own defence policy and her own naval unit. Australia to-day is determined that her defence shall be a purely Australian function, ‘and she certainly would not accept the idea which some people put forward that the time has come when we should have a great central force for the defence of the whole of the British Empire, and that Australia’s contribution should be a monetary one. Australia would not accept that for one moment. We are, therefore, faced with the fact that we have to try to preserve Australia’s individuality in regard to naval defence whilst bringing about that unity which is essential to an Empire defence scheme. At one time there was a suggestion that we should have a Dominion unit operating in the Pacific, to which all the Dominions should contribute. I think that Australia would welcome that to-day, and would be quite prepared to do her share in providing such a unit, for the simple reason that Australia has always provided her share of naval defence. I am quite clear that we would be prepared to accept that idea. I think it is one which might well be considered by the Conference. With regard to the particular unit which was proposed, but which w.as never brought into, being, Australia may, I think, claim some small credit. . During the whole period covered by the attempt to bring about an Empire defence scheme, Australia has played a part of which I think she may very well be proud of. During that period Australia has done more in regard to naval defence than all the other Dominions put together. I think the figures with regard to the expenditure provided by the different countries forming the Empire willbe of considerable interestto honorable members. They are set out in the following table: -
These figures show that Great Britain in 1922-23 is expending 26s.8d. per head on the Navy. Canada is expending 1s. 4d., New Zealand4s. 7d., and Australia 8s. 2d. per head. If the contributions of the other Dominions to defence were brought up to a level with that of Australia, the burden on Britain’s shoulders would be considerably lighter, and we should have a very much more efficient service. I think that is what should be aimed at, but whether the other Dominions will see eye to eye with us on the question remains to be seen. So far as I am concerned, as Australia’s representative to the Conference, I. think it is the view of the Australian people that we. are prepared to do our share towards safeguarding our position in Australia, and that we further desire to take our part inany Empire defence scheme in co-operation with Great Britain and the other Dominions of the Empire.[Extension of time granted.]
The other aspect of Empire defence relates to the Pacific, and the provision of a naval base. The necessity for a base in the Pacific has been recognised for a long time. Australia has considered the matter very seriously. Honorable members will remember the proposal for the Henderson Naval Base, and for a base at Port Stephens. It was estimated that the Henderson Naval Base would cost £9,000,000, and a sum of £879,000 has actually been spent upon that project. Australia has also spent £490,000 on floating plant, such as tugs, barges, &c. Great Britain proposes to construct a base at Singapore for the protection of British interests in the Pacific and the East. The provision of this base is a condition precedent to a large fleet being stationed in Australia a waters or the Pacific, and as such it must commend itself to the people of Australia, for it embodies the ideas of Australian Governments of all political opinions. The proposal shows that Great Britain recognises that the heart of the Empire is not now in the North Sea, but has been moved to the Pacific, and that the interests of the Empire in the Pacific are of such paramount importance that the time has come when steps should be taken to safeguard them. To the people of Australia, at all events, the idea of having a base properly equipped in the Pacific must appeal very strongly. It will provide opportunities for our Navy to co-operate with a large fleet, and it should have a very material effect upon our naval efficiency. The establishment of the Singapore base will be discussed at the Conference in connexion with the general defence scheme for the Empire, but I shall be interested to hear the opinions of honorable members regarding it.
– Does the right honorable gentleman not think that he should state his opinion on this very important matter ?
– I have already done so.
– I would like to know whether the Prime Minister proposes to commit Australia to the scheme?
– The honorable member is very apprehensive that I may commit Australia to something. The Government have placed the agenda before the House, and it is for honorable members to express their opinions upon all the questions listed. I wish to obtain the views of honorable members before I go to Great Britain as Australia’s representative. I have told honorable members quite frankly that the Government believe in an Empire defence scheme, and I trust that at the Conference such a scheme will be evolved; but I cannot commit Australia to one penny of expenditure until the decisions of the Conference have been submitted to the House. I assure the honorable member that within the shortest possible period after my return from these Conferences, the Government will summon the House and submit for its consideration and determination all the questions which have been raised.
Honorable members will see that the fourth item on the agenda is “Imperial Air and Wireless Communications.” This subject was discussed at very great length at the 1921 Conference, under the heading of “ImperialCommunications.” Australia, being the country farthest fromthe centre of the Empire, will benefit most materially by anything that may be done to improve facilities for communication within the Empire. The wireless chain of the Empire has developed considerably since the Conference of 1921. Great Britain is building a high-power wireless station which
Imperial ° [REPRESENTATIVES. will be capable of communicating direct with Australia. The Commonwealth has arranged for the erection of a high-power station in this country capable of communicating with Great Britain, while Canada and South Africa have also taken similar action. Within a short space of time there ought to be a chain of Empire wireless stations to provide direct communication between all the different parts of the Empire.
I have no knowledge of the position regarding air ships. I have seen statements in the newspapers that proposals have been made for the building of superairships, but, up to date, I have received no official information regarding them, nor any suggestion that Australia should bear part of the cost of them. There are amazing possibilities in the development of airships. Whether communication by air between Australia and Great Britain will come in the near or distant future, I do not know; but I am quite certain that it is only a matter of time. I have not time to go into this question in detail, and I can only tell honorable members that, when I was in England in 1921, I had many opportunities of observing the possibilities of airships. While their development may not_have reached the point where we can say with confidence that they can be employed as a means of communication over, a distance as great as that between Australia and Gre’at Britain, we can assert that they are already a very effective means of communication for distances up to 3,000 or 4,000 miles. I shall acquire all the information I can while I am in Great Britain, but I certainly cannot commit Australia to any hazardous airship venture until I have returned and reported to this House, and received the authority of Parliament.
Item No. 5 on the agenda paper is, “ Certain Economic Questions of Special Importance.” I have no information with regard to that item, but it probably has reference to the major deliberations of the Economic Conference, which will have to be confirmed by the Imperial Conference.
The sixth item is, “Marriage with Foreigners. Nationality of Married Women.” This represents an attempt to remove a very real hardship suffered by many women of British nationality. It is hoped that the Conference will be able to provide some relief for these women. The seventh item appears to be a duplication of the fifth, and refers to matters which will be passed from the Economic Conference to the Imperial Conference.
The eighth item is “Amendment of the British Nationality and Status of . Aliens Act 1914, to permit of naturalization of residents of Mandated Territories.” This item is listed with a view to providing machinery to overcome a technical difficulty. The Mandates Committee of the League of Nations made a recommendation to the Council of the League regarding the inhabitants of Mandated Territories acquiring the nationality of the Mandated Power, but under the British Nationality Act and the Dominions Acts effect could not be given to that recommendation. The proposal is to amend both the British and the Dominions Acts so that the recommendation may be acted upon.
Item No. 9 relates to “ Question of publicity to be permitted with respect to communications between several Governments of the British Empire, and in particular communications between His Majesty’s Government and Governments of Dominions. Personally, I favour publicity being given to all communications ‘ whenever . that can ‘ be done without jeopardizing the interests of the Empire. I am hopeful that, as an outcome of the Conference, it will be possible to give greater publicity to questions of Empire importance, so that the people of the Empire will be better informed of the’ , great issues which concern them.
Those are all the questions involved in the Imperial Conference. There remains the agenda paper of the Economic Conference. The two questions which are obviously of outstanding importance are “ Oversea settlement “ and “ Trade development.” Under the heading of “ Trade development,” there is a para-‘ graph relating to Tariff preference being accorded to Australia by the United Kingdom. There will be other opportunities for honorable members to discuss the question of oversea settlement, and therefore I do not propose to deal with it at very great length. I purpose, however, to refer to some of its broader aspects. The necessity for oversea settlement, from the point of view of Great
Britain, arises out of the diminution of employment consequent upon the disappearance of markets. Australia’s policy of migration is dictated by the necessity for developing this great continent. Great Britain and the Dominions are equally interested, and so the British Government passed the Oveaseas Settlement Act, which, for the first time in British history, provided financial assistance to migrants leaving Great Britain for the Dominions. That was a very considerable legislative advance, and was brought about entirely by the necessities of the case. Under that Act, agreements have been entered into between Great Britain ‘and Western Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria, for the settlement of migrants upon the land of those three States. In addition, the Imperial Government has made an agreement with the Commonwealth Government by which the two Governments jointly subsidize the, passage money of intending migrants to Australia. That agreement has been . renewed from time to time, but the last renewal was for a period of only a few months. That is not satisfactory. If a great migration scheme is to be entered upon, and extend over the next, few years, a definite agreement must be arrived at iu regard to passage money, so that we may know exactly where we stand. That is one of the questions that will have to be discussed at the Imperial Conference. We shall have other opportunities of debating this matter atgreater length. ‘
Perhaps the most important matter to which the Conference must give consideration is the finding of markets for the surplus production of not only the Dominions, but also Great Britain. The Mother Country is suffering at the present time owing to the dislocation of world trade consequent upon the great war. That dislocation affects Australia also, and I desire to remind honorable members of the facts of the position, because an appreciation of them will indicate the necessity for coming to a reciprocal arrangement for Tariff preference within the Empire for Empire products. During the war period, trade unexpectedly remained extraordinarily’ good, employment was plentiful, wages were high, and a wave of prosperity swept over all the manufacturing coun tries of the world. But practically the whole effort of the warring nations was devoted to the production of munitions and other war requirements. During all that period the world’s stocks of ordinary requirements were being depleted. Most people believed that the termination of the war would” be followed by a great trade revival. The ‘world’s stocks had been practically exhausted, and the expectation was that when the war was finished the world would set to work to replenish those stocks. Normally this would have taken place, but, unfortunately, the nations could noi; pay for the goods. An unexpected financial situation had arisen.- During the war there had been no great dislocation of finance, because the stream of finance had been’ dammed, but as soon as the war was over the stream reverted to its natural channels, with the result that exchanges slumped to such an extent that it became impossible for one country to trade with another. That fact affected Great Britain . as much as, if not more than, any other country, because she was one of the great manufacturing countries that supplied the requirements of other nations. For some time, therefore, Great Britain has been faced with the fact that there are no markets to absorb her exportable production. At one stage she had an army of 2,000,000 unemployed, and to-day the problem of finding work for hundreds of thousands of her population is exercising the minds of her statesmen. Migration to the .Dominions is one of the remedies for this evil that Great Britain has suggested. Australia is also faced with the difficulty of disposing of her surplus goods. Prior to the war, the Commonwealth had- very little difficulty in disposing of her surplus products. But at a time when the world’s markets are reduced, and the purchasing power of the nations is diminished, our surplus production, which can only be disposed of overseas, is increasing almost every day. The greatest problem that confronts Australia at the present time is that of finding markets for her. surplus production. Unless we can do that it will be useless for us to - proceed with a great migration scheme. We cannot absorb the surplus population of Britain, if, when we have brought the people here and set them to produce, there is no market in which to sell their products. The suggestion that an Imperial Preferential Tariff is sought solely in the interests of Australia is absolutely untrue. It is really a serious attempt to help Great Britain, Australia, and the Empire as a whole, and there is no reason whywe cannot enter into an agreement which will keep more of, the Empire’s trade within the Empire boundaries. Without shutting the doors in the face of other nations that wish to trade with us, we certainly should take action that will help Great Britain and all the Dominions over this difficult period, when the world’s exchanges are dislocated, and the ordinary avenues of trade are, to - a great extent, closed. These avenues cannot continue closed indefinitely, for if they do, European civilization as we know it will be at an end. The present parlous state of Europe, due to the dislocation of exchanges and the collapse of trade, must be remedied. That is realized by all nations; a solution of the problem will be found in time, but it cannot be found in a day, or a week, or even a year. During the period when Europe is trying to stabilize itself, is Britain to continue to have millions of its people unemployed, and is Australia to defer the development of its resources until the world’s commerce again begins to run in its normal channels? That is unthinkable; but the only way in which we can meet the situation that has arisen, and continue our schemes of Empire development, is by establishing closer reciprocal trade relations within the Empire. If I go to London as the representative of Australia, I shall press for trade preference with all the power that in me lies, and I believe that in so doing I shall be carrying out the wishes of the whole of the Australian people.
Of course, I appreciate the difficulties of the position. Preference within the Empire is not a new idea; it has been advocated before. At the Imperial Conr ference in 1902 the representatives of the British Empire,with the exception of Great Britain, unanimously agreed to a resolution suggesting that the time had come when in respect of duties then and thereafter imposed, preference should be granted by. each State of the Empire to the other States. Similar decisions were arrived at by larter Conferences, but nothing practical was done, for thereason that there had been no real pressure of circumstances, such as exists to-day. That is the main basis of my hope that something practical may be achieved now. In 1918, when the pressure of circumstances was being felt, and a considerable change had come over the mind of the British people generally with regard to the subject of preferential trade, the representatives of the Mother Country did, with thedelegates from the Dominions, agree to a resolution which went much further than anything of the kind that had preceded it-
The time has arrived when all encouragement should be given to the development of Imperial resources, and. especially to making, the Empire independent of other countries in respectof food supplies, raw materials, and essential industries. With these objects in view, this Conference expresses itself in favour of -
The principle that each part of the Empire, having due regard to the interests of our Allies, shallgive especially favorable treatment and facilities to the produce and manufactures of other parts of the Empire.
Arrangements by which intending immigrants from the United Kingdom may be induced to settle in countries under the British flag.
That resolution has been opposed by a certain group in Great Britain just as determinedly as was the principle which it expresses, but their stronghold has been undermined, and the hour when it will fall is not far distant. Perhaps not at the forthcoming Conference, but, sooner or later some basis of Empire trade reciprocity must be reached. When the agenda paper for the Conference was sent out it contained this item, “Fuller development of natural resources and inter-Imperial shipping and communication generally.” That, of course, is sufficiently wide for the discussion of anything, but it did not give any definite indication that preferential Tariff within the Empire would be considered. We pressed very hard indeed for the inclusion of that subject in the agenda, and on the 17th May the British Government informed all the Dominions by cablegram that “Governmentof the Commonwealth of Australia have expressed the intention of raising the question of Tariff preference accorded fey the United Kingdom.” The obligation is thrown upon the Australian delegates of sustaining theappeal for a reasonable Tariff preference from Great Britain. I do not propose to state at length the case I hope to present at the Conference in support of that policy, but I shall briefly indicate some reasons why, in my opinion, Australia is certainly entitled to raise the question whether the time has not arrived for giving preferential Tariff treatment to Australian products landed in Great Britain. Calculated on the basis of the imports in 1913, our 1908 Tariff gave preference in respect of 65 per cent, of the goods of the United Kingdom origin. In the 1921 Tariff we took very definite’ action, as a result of the resolution of, the Imperial Conference in 1918, to considerably increase the scope of our preference to great Britain. On the basis of the imports for 1920-21 preference- was given in respect” of 95 per cent, of the imports of a United- Kingdom origin. The preference for that year amounted to- £8,750,000; That means that had the British imports been charged the general Tariff rate that year, the amount I have mentioned would have been added to- the duty that was paid. In exchange for that, Britain has given- us a preference. We frequently hear that Great Britain is a Free .Trade country, and has no duties. That is quite wrong. The position has been changing very considerably of late, and appearances are that it will continue to change greatly. To-day we have a certain preference. It amounted in 1921 to £1,660,000 on our imports. In the same year we gave Britain a preference of £8,750,000 on £6S,000>000 worth of imports. The concession that Australia received therefore was small compared with what she gave. In the past Australia has adopted ah attitude which suggested that she was too proud to negotiate on the matter. She preferred rather to say, “We will not say- anything about- it.” I suggest that it is impossible^ for us- to maintain such an attitude. To try to do. so would be too serious for us, for Britain herself, and for the rest of the Empire. We cannot afford to stop our development. We must go forward. The only way in which we can progress is to find markets for our produce. If those markets cannot be- found in Britain they must be found elsewhere. We have been offered trade treaties by practically every country of any standing- in the world. Those countries are quite prepared to give us a preferential treatment of our primary produce in exchange for preference- for their manufactured goods which come into Australia. We can enter into treaties of that character without altering in any way our present basis of production, but it would mean that we would have to substitute- some country other than Britain as the place to which our primary products would be sent. That is the last thing that we desire to do. It would be most serious for Britain if the flow of our trade to her shores ceased. I have some figures- which are significant. They show Australia to be the second best customer that Great Britain has. Her best customer is British India. These figures relate- to the period 1913-1921. The table reads: -
The figures are for the calendar year in every case, except our own, in relation to 1921. In that year we changed our statistical year to make it coincide with our financial year. In 1921, Australia sent £76,849,000 worth of her products to Britain. It would be serious to Britain if, because of her negligence, we were forced to make reciprocal trade arrangements with some other country, which would then be the outlet for our surplus production. I do not for a second imagine that that will happen. I sincerely hope it will not. We must, however, look at the facts. I suggest that we place the facts before Great Britain, and that we do not first go to some other country and enter into an arrangement which will deprive Britain of our trade, and later go to her, and say, “ You knew that was the position.” We certainly should give the Mother Country the opportunity to take full advantage of anything we have to offer.
– Who was Britain’s second best customer in 1913?
– Australia. I wish <to make it clear that we are not suggesting a one-sided arrangement which will benefit only Australia. What I propose will benefit Australia ; but it will be of material advantage also to Great Britain. It has been said, that we are asking Britain to depart from her traditional policy. I noticed in the press the other day that Lord Beauchamp had said, in the House of Lords, that he trusted I was not visiting England to do the same thing as my predecessor had done - -interfere with Britain’s domestic arrangements. I have not the slightest intention of interfering in anybody’s domestic affairs. Domestic affairs are a people’s own concern. I’ certainly do not propose to do anything except point out the facts. A remedy for the position must be provided by Britain herself. It is a matter for her to decide, and not a thing upon which Australia should dictate to her. I propose simply to state the facts. Britain may then take any action she deems advisable in the circumstances. I shall make it clear also that we do not suggest that the only way’ in which effect can be given to our proposals is to place enormous duties upon the foodstuffs of the people of Britain. That has been suggested. Britain has a duty upon a number of things already. She has one on dried fruits, for instance. I believe she gives Australia a preference of one-sixth on dried fruits. It would not be departing from her economic policy if, instead of giving a preference of one-sixth on the existing duty, she wiped the’ duty out altogether That would not increase the price of food to anybody in Britain. Wiping out duties does not add to the price people have to pay for goods. I certainly think we could Le given a greater preference than we have at present. Much more than that can be done, however. If, after the fullest consideration, we came to the conclusion that it was imperative that we should develop a policy of “ Trade within the Empire,” and that by doing so we would increase the . purchasing power of the Dominions to the benefit of Great Britain, and would enable the Dominions to absorb p greater number of migrants from Britain, there are a number of things we could do to give effect to the policy. It could be done by altering the basis of freights. The Empire article could be placed upon a more reasonable freight basis than foreign products. I do not propose to discuss this matter at length just now. I mention it simply to show that the maintenance of the flow of trade to Great Britain is not limited by Tariff considerations, and that it does not mean putting a duty upon the foodstuffs of the people of Britain.
A point we must always remember in relation to the whole question of Imperial trade is that though we have bonds that hold us together in any crisis, the ties are indefinite and, at times, a little difficult to discover. The ties of Empire are really those of kinship and of a common sympathy arising out of mutual interests, certain ideals, and the great history pf our race. Surely it would be an excellent thing if we could increase the interests that are common to us” and it would undoubtedly bring us closer together and make us a stronger nation if we could strengthen the links of sentiment, self-interest, and self-defence. For that reason I urge that Imperial preference goes a good deal further than the mere material advancement of different, parts of the Empire. Much greater things are involved in it than that. The adoption of a policy of preference on a satisfactory basis will help to populate the great undeveloped parts of the Empire, and that is certainly imperative for its defence and prosperity. I ask honorable members to advance all the arguments they can in support of this opinion, and with as much potency as possible, so that I may be able to use them to persuade those in Great Britain who are opposed to us to come round to our view. I assure honorable members that I shall have no hesitation in using any arguments they may advance which will serve that purpose. One other subject which will come up for consideration at the Conference is a proposal that Great Britain should make moneys available to the Dominions, either at no interest or at very reduced interest charges, in order that great developmental public works may be carried out. If such works can be done it will tend to the settlement of the country. The works contemplated are, I understand, those which would require in their construction -a considerable” amount of the manufactured production of Great Britain. It would be of material advantage to Australia and Britain if moneys could be made available for works which are held up at present owing to the impossibility of financing them. It is proposed that these moneys should be available for concrete developmental schemes. The importation of livestock is, of course, an important subject. It was made a burning question between Canada and Great Britain recently, but I think a solution of it is in sight. By the action that has been taken I believe Australia has been unjustly treated. If a remedy is not applied, I shall certainly stress the serious injustice under which we are labouring.
The fifth subject on the agenda is “ State enterprises.” We have no information other than that contained in the agenda-paper, which states that there is a proposal to set State-owned or controlled economic enterprises on the same footing as private enterprises as regards taxation, and, in the case of commercial shipping in normal times, as regards ship-owners’ liability.
– I thought that perhaps the Commonwealth Government had suggested that proposal for the Conference.
– I can assure the honorable member that the Government are quite blameless ; we had no part in the making of the suggestion. What is intended, I think, is an attempt to establish a uniform practice as to the way in which State instrumentalities and State enterprises generally shall be treated throughout the Empire. Subject No. 6 is “ The Unification of Law and Practice.” This is more or less a machinery proposal, although I understand that it is designed to secure uniformity in procedure in the enforcement of orders of the Court in different parts of the Empire. This has been applied in Great Britain in the case of maintenance suits. The Commonwealth has not yet exercised its powers in regard to marriage, divorce, and matrimonial causes, and is taking no action; but in the Northern Territory, Papua, and Norfolk Island we propose to come into line with Great Britain, and allow such orders to be enforced. I understand that the State Governments are taking similar action. Then there is a proposal to form a uniform basis for the regulation of patents throughout the Empire, various suggestions having been made by the Patents Conference and submitted to the Imperial Conference.
Subject No.7 has reference to commercial and intelligence statistics. We have had experience here of duplication in statistics.. Honorable members will remember that the last Conference of Ministers took steps to bring about a more uniform system within Australia; and it is desirable that there should be some sortof uniformity throughout the Empire.
These are the questions listed for consideration at the Conference; and the three which stand out as of primary importance are those concerning foreign relations, defence, and Empire trade relations. It is for honorable members now to express their opinions on these questions. We have to realize that the basis of an Empire foreign policy involves the whole future of the Empire. If we can find such a basis, then I think it is possible for the Empire to grow stronger, and thus avoid many difficulties that must arise if we have not a common policy on which all the constituent parts of the Empire . have been consulted and are agreed. If such a basis cannot be found, I believe the failure to find it will eventually lead to the disintegration of the Empire - a result which the Government would regard as most disastrous. This issue has to be faced by honorable members, and it is for them to say whether we shall or shall not have a voice in the foreign policy of the Empire. lt is for honorable members to indicate exactly where they stand - whether it is their wish that Australia shall in course of time cease to be one of the component parts of the Empire. That issue at this time cannot be evaded. They have also to say whether they believe it is good thai the different parts of the Empire shall have their own treaty-making powers, and what will be the result if those powers are accorded. Then we have to face the question of defence. It is not of the slightest use for honorable members to declare that war is a mistake - that they abhor war. We all abhor war, particularly those of us who have been in it - we hate war, and would do everything in our power to make it impossible in the world. But we have to face facts. It is of no use to say that the League of Nations will remove, or has removed, all necessity for defence preparations. That stage has not been reached yet. Neither the League of Nations nor any other body can insure our safety, and it is for us to say what we propose to do. Do we propose to insure our own safety, and not look to the Empire for help? Or are we going to provide for our own defence within the Empire, believing that the best way to defend our own country is by entering into close relations with the Motherland and the other Dominions? As to Empire trade relations, may I suggest to honorable members that it is no good their pointing out all’ the difficulties that have been experienced in the past ? I have made a careful study of the matter, and know every objection to the proposals made. Are honorable members prepared to accept these proposals for Empire trade relations, proposals which will keep the flow of trade within the Empire, and enable this country to be populated and developed, and to dispose of its surplus products? Or have they some other method for meeting the difficult situation with which we are faced ? I ask honorable members to appreciate the great importance of all these questions to Australia and to our whole future. I do not ask honorable members to agree with me or with the Government, but I do ask them to regard these questions as a little outside the ordinary political arena. For example, I suggest that they should n6t deal with the question of defence, or the proposals for an Empire defence scheme, by accusing the present Government of being “ militarist “ and “ Imperialistic,” and of having no interest in Australia. The present Government has, at least, the advantage that all its members are Australian, born in Australia. All that we propose, whether honorable members agree with it or not, is designed in the best interests of Australia. That is why Ministers say that this country ought to defend itself, but that we should do so within the Empire. We should endeavour to make the Empire stronger by placing our foreign policy and our defence on a firmer basis. We believe that Australia’s future and Australia’s greatness will be best served by remaining within the Empire, and we ask honorable members to regard these questions from the highest Australian point of view. I ‘ ask honorable members to give the Government credit for, at least, being desirous of serving this country. The matters to be discussed at the Conferences are of’ the greatest importance to our future, and the Government is really seeking for guidance when it asks honorable members to take part in this debate. I move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Railway Extensionfrom Mataranka to Daly Waters
Debate resumed from 20th July (vide page 1418), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work : - Northern Territory Railway - Extension from Mataranka to Daly Waters, which said work was referred to the Public Works Committee and upon which the Committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries.
On which Mr. Gabb had moved, by way of amendment -
That all words after the word” That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - ‘‘all matters in connexion with the North-South railway be referred back to the Public Works Committee, with a view of the construction of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs taking place, prior to the extension of the line from Mataranka to Daly Waters.”
.- The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has acted wisely in moving the amendment. It is strange that sixteen years after the passing of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act it is necessary for a representative of South Australia to move an amendment of the kind. The policy of the Government in this matter is on all-fours with that pursued in regard to the Federal Capital. It is necessary for the good name of the Commonwealth that it should honour all commitments made in its behalf. I am a representative of Western Australia, to which State the proposed railway is of no immediate concern, but I think it necessary for every member to voice his opinion. It appears to me that the proposal of the Government is only one method of shelving the line which was promised by the Commonwealth when the Territory was handed over by South Australia. Whatever the investigations of the Public Works Committee may have been, I do not see how it could escape recommending that the first duty of the Commonwealth was to honour the agreement made with South Australia. Things have come to a pretty pass in this country when it is necessary to remind honorable members that we must stand to the promise made by the Commonwealth to South Australia. What will the word of the Commonwealth be worth if we do not? I have no fault to find with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) for defending the construction of the railway into Queensland territory, which is recommended as desirable in the report of the Public Works Committee. I have nothing to say against what is called the eastern route. I think that such a railway is necessary. But if we permit the idea to get abroad that it is possible that that line maybe built before the direct North-South railway, to which the Commonwealth is committed, where will the breach of our promises end? I might, as a representative from Western Australia, direct attention to fhe necessity for railway construction in the Kimberley district in that State, a territory as large as Victoria. I might come forward with data to show that the rainfall of the district that would be served by a line from Pine Creek to Wyndham and Derby is higher than the rainfall of that portion of Queensland referred to by the honorable member for Capricornia. I might supply information to show that it is a far morefertile district than that referred to by thehonorable member. I was there only a few months ago, and. there was grass man-high there then. But, notwithstanding the fact that the Kimberley country is more fertile than parts of South Australia that would be served by what the Public Works Committee properly refers to as the “direct North-South line,” concerning which there can be no equivocation, I should not be justified in doing what I have suggested. It is true that a number of legal authorities quoted in the report of the Committee say that “the direct North-South line” means that, directly the railway reaches the northern boundary of South Australia, it may be diverted eastwards for 100 miles to the Queensland border. Others contend that the agreement means something else; but in honest English language it undoubtedly means that the railway shall go by the direct north and south route. That route has been recommended by the military authorities. I say that when we have completed -the construction of the North-South railway by the direct route we shall be at liberty to decide whether a line should be constructed across the Barkly Tableland into Queensland, or from the North-South line into the Kimberley district, the most fertile part of tropical Australia. Those are matters which we can fight out after we have constructed the direct NorthSouth line. I am not going to take advantage of what I consider a wrong recommendation of the Public Works Committee. The Committee may be supported by evidence as to fertility and rainfall of the district which would ibe served by the line it recommends; but, once wo ignore the pledge of the Commonwealth to South Australia, we open up an endless vista of proposals for railway construction to open up the Kimberley district of Western Australia, andother districts. I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 6.26 to8 p.m.
– I am strongly in favour of the North-South railway line being built through the Northern Territory along the route which was originally intended - that known as the “ western “ route. I regret that the Government has brought forward a proposal to proceed with the construction of only one end of the line. The work should be done simultaneously at both ends, but if done only at one end, my personal view is that it should be commenced at the southern end. That is the natural end from which to push forward the work. An analogy can be drawn with a military base. It is customary to work forward from a military base, and to strengthen the communications gradually. One does not go to the destination first and work back to the starting point. I support the construction of the line along the western route for four reasons. The first reason is because the Northern Territory has always been, in a peculiar sense, the charge of South Australia. It was a South Australian citizen named MacDouall Stuart who first traversed the continent from south to north, and passed through the Northern Territory. It was South Australia which unassisted erected the overland telegraph line, and it was South Australia which, again unassisted, constructed the line to Pine Creek. If there is any one in the southern States of Australia to-day who has been a persistent advocate of the Northern Territory, and of linking it up with the rest of Australia, it is a South Australian, Mr. Simpson Newland, who, for about forty years, has not spared himself in advocating, by speech, letter, and pamphlet, the opening up of the centre of Australia.
– And the Murray Valley.
– That is so. The second reason why I support the western route is that a contract has been entered into. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has already stated the terms of the Act of Parliament relating to the matter, and it is disputed whether those terms will be complied with if the line is built along the eastern instead of the western route. I remind the House of a paragraph in the schedule of the Commonwealth Act which gives legislative effect to the agreement made between the late Mr. Alfred Deakin and the late Mr. Thomas Price regarding the surrender of the Northern Territory. Paragraph 2 of the schedule of that Act says -
The State, in consideration of the covenants and agreements by the Commonwealth herein contained, shall - i
At the time of such surrender authorize, by legislation, the Commonwealth to do all that is necessary to enable the Commonwealth to make surveys, acquire the necessary lands, and to construct, or cause to be constructed, a railway in South Australia proper from any point on the Port Augusta railway to a point on the northern boundary line of South Australia proper to connect with that part of the transcontinental railway to he built in the Northern Territory from Port Darwin southwards to the northern boundary of South Australia proper, and to maintain and work such railway when constructed.
The words I wish to emphasize are “ to connect with that part of the Transcontinental Railway to. be built in the
Northern Territory from Port Darwin southwards.” It is quite clear that the intention was that the line should pass southwards - and not south-easterly - through the centre of Australia and “ in the Northern Territory.” Another reason why I support the central route is out of consideration for the fair name of the Commonwealth. Some years ago I read in a book - I did not note the. reference at the time, and I have not been able to find it since - the statement that now the Commonwealth had taken over the Northern Territory there was little doubt that it would soon be one of the brightest gems in Australia’s crown. That time has notcome yet. Any one who has any doubt about that need only read last year’s report of the Administrator of the Northern Territory. There has been an astonishing lack of interest in the Northern Territory. I recently picked up a book on the Commonwealth of Australia by the late Hon. Bernard Wise, and, so far as I could discover, by a cursory examination of it, there was only one reference to the Northern Territory in it. This occurred on the first page, where the author referred to “ South Australia, including the Northern Territory.” Lack of interest in the Northern Territory has been very widespread. I suggest that the Northern Territory, more than any other part of Australia - mo-re even than the Federal Capital Territory - is the Commonwealth’s special charge. The fact that the Territory has not prospered more under the control of the Commonwealth is, to a certain extent, a reflection upon the Commonwealth, it is idle to ask the electors to give this Parliament increased powers until the Northern Territory has been made a success. The Act which granted representation in this House to the Territory was a good move by the late Government. I do not suppose that I shall ‘ always be .in complete agreement with the vIews of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), but his presence here will serve as a constant reminder that the Northern Territory must not be neglected. I give one more reason why I am in favour of the central route, and this is the national reason. Until we have a line through the centre of Australia, the immense range of country there can never be properly developed.
It is strange that there is always so much delay in carrying out these great transcontinental railway lines. The late Mr. Cecil Rhodes had great difficulty in obtaining sanction for a line to the Transvaal; and every one knows the immense difficulties which Lord Strathcona and Lord Mountstephen had to overcome before they could obtain sanction for the Canadian-Pacific line. That line has been of huge advantage to the sister Dominion. I understand” that the honorable member for Angas was placed in ah embarrassing position owing to the fact that the amendment of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) had been ruled out of order, but I consider that his amendment is ill-advised. The Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), in speaking on the 20th instant to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Adelaide, stated that if the amendment were agreed to its effect would be that the House would declare that it was not expedient to proceed with the work recommended by the Public Works Committee, and that he was sure that that was not the intention of the honorable member. That statement applies much more forcibly to the amendment of the honorable member for Angas. In moving it he said he hoped it would have the effect of forcing a vote on the question whether the House intended to honour its agreement with South Australia. His amendment cannot have any such result. It was hoped that a motion would be submitted on Thursday next to deal with that point ; but in view of the announcement by the Prime Minister to-day, I do not know whether that motion will be moved. What would be the result of referring the matter back as suggested ? Speaking with all deference To the members of the Committee, I do not agree with their findings. When a contract is in existence, a “Committee should not be asked to decide whether it should be carried out. I admit that that point was not specifically referred to by the Committee, but the findings of the Committee represent a departure from the contract. For instance, Senator Foll moved -
That the construction of the section from Mataranka to Daly Waters will of itself contribute very little towards the early development of the Northern Territory, and that the recommendation for its construction is only agreed to as being a section of an eventual line to cross the Barkly Tableland to Camooweal via Newcastle Waters.
That motion was seconded by another honorable member, and agreed to by five votes to one, the - honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) being the minority. When the Committee reported in the words of the motion it exceeded its authority. It had no right to say that the only line to be constructed should be that to Camooweal, but that is virtually what it did say. An expression of opinion that the section from Mataranka to Daly Waters was agreed to as being part of an eventual line to be extended further, omitting the word “ only,” might have been defensible, because it is possible that ultimately a line will be built to Camooweal. We, however, request that the western line, should be built first. The wording of the Committee’s report shows that there is no idea on the part of the Committee that a central line shall ever be built. On the same page of the report, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) is shown to have moved -
That the Committee place on record its opinion that, with the construction of a light line to Alice Springs, and the extension of the existing northern section to Newcastle Waters and thence to Camooweal, the whole of the railway requirements of the Northern Territory will be met for many years.
That resolution of the Committee, also, I suggest, was ultra vires. ~No authority vt-as delegated to the Committee to say when the line should be constructed; it’ was not within its power to say that the proposals it recommended would answer the purpose for many years. Those words “ for many years “ are not in conformity with the contract made with South Australia. Whether the through line follows the western route or the eastern route, it was not for the Committee to say that it Leed not be constructed for. many years. At page xxi of the report appear these words - “ The Committee does not feel justified in saying at this stage which route should be taken by a line so far in the future.” Those words “ so far in the future “ are a contravention of the contract with South Australia. For the members of the Public Works Committee, individually and collectively, I have much respect. In fact, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), in addition to the work he did as a member of the Sectional Committee which travelled overland from south to north, has, by his public lectures, - brought the Northern Territory to the notice of the general public to a quite unprecedented extent. The first effect of referring this matter back to the Committee would be delay. I am not in favour of that, for it would probably5 mean that no Bill for a railway in or to the Northern Territory would be introduced this session. No useful purpose would be served by postponing the matter until next session. Furthermore, postponement might give exactly the same result as the course to which we are objecting. Does the honorable member for Angas imagine that, after further consideration, the Public Works Committee will change its views or express them in different order ? I remind the honorable member that those members of the Committee who voted for the northern portion of the line were more numerous than those who voted for the southern portion, and in the summary of recommendations at the end of the report the northern section is the first mentioned.
– The real intention of t’ie motion is to get the House to decide the question.
– The House cannot decide it. The Public Works Committee have submitted a report following on the reference from Parliament, and the Government have decided which portion of the Committee’srecommenda tions they will first submit to Parliament. I regret that they are submitting only one of the recommendations, but I cannot believe that no bread is better than halfaloaf . If we cannot have lines built from both, the northern and southern ends, we owe it to the whole of Australia, and to the Northern Territory in particular, to sanction the construction of the northern section, although we may believe that the southern portion should be constructed first.
– The northern portion is part of the through line.
– That is the point I have been trying to em-, phasize. It will form part of the line which we claim must be built under the contract with South Australia. In those circumstances, I can see no justification for opposing it. The fact that the Works Committee agreed to it only as the first section of a line to eventually cross the Barkly Tablelands to Camooweal does not influence me in the least. I support the motion, because no one can say that the proposed section of the railway is antagonistic to the main project, viz., a direct line to connect the Northern Territory with South Australia. I will not vote against one part of a line merely because I think we should have two parts. That would be a short-sighted policy. I will not help to delay the construction of a line to serve the Northern Territory merely because I consider that it is not the best portion with which to make a commencement. - Therefore, I shall vote for the motion and against the amendment.
.- I do not cavil at either the letter or the spirit of the speech of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) who, with such maidenly modesty, has just stated his case. I find myself in the difficult arid almost unprecedented position of seeming to support the Government for a moment, a situation which might easily lose me votes if not the representation of the electors of Batman. However, I shall not forget to apologize to my electors in due course. By way of explanation, I may say that if I support the motion I shall do so with the firm belief that if the Government have ever done any good it has been by accident rather than design. They may have done good by accident and “ blush to find it fame.” I have been impelled to speak to this motion by the unexampled spectacle which I witnessed on’ Friday last of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), gazing with rapt attention into the face of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) while that distinguished and honorable gentleman was championing the cause of South Australia in regard to the proposed North-South railway. Having been in this House for some years, and having had the honour and pleasure of hearing the honorable member for Adelaide many times, I acquit him absolutely of ever having to my knowledge supported the honorable member for Wakefield before. I have heard him refer to him in terms which were parliamentary only by the indulgence of the Chair, and a straining of the Standing Orders, but on this occasion he listened to his every word with close attention, and even, in violation of the Standing Orders, said more than once, “ Stick to your point, Dicky.” And the honorable member for Wakefield, thus disrespectfully addressed, stuck to his point courageously and consistently. I shall not be going beyond the scope of this motion if I congratulate those honorable members upon their broad patriotism, that spirit of nationalism which makes them forget entirely local interests and directs their minds to the superlative claims of the whole of Australia. In a curious way this conversion to broad nationalism was manifested by all the representatives from South Australia. The only honorable member who did not manifest his nationalism through the claims of South Australia was the honorable member for Capricornia, who demonstrated his broad patriotism through the claims of Queensland. I have more “ than once heard appeals to honorable members in this Chamber to make their speeches and cast their votes from the Australian rather than . from the electorate point of view. Therefore, I congratulate those honorable members upon their broad vision.
I have a very friendly feeling towards that largely uninhabited State of South Australia, and I think that, as settlement and civilization proceed, its people may look forward to the time, not, I am afraid, while they are still in the flesh, but happily, when they will be in the spirit, when the transcontinental railway from Oodnadatta to Darwin will be completed. South Australia, about which I am making these few friendly observations, has many grievances. I will refer in particular to two. One is shat she succeeded in foisting the Northern t Territory upon the Commonwealth at a time when she had lost some millions of pounds upon it.
– Two millions eight hundred thousand pounds.
– I thank the honorable member for Capricornia. ‘ South Australia has never ceased to regard the Northern Territory as being in the nature of a munificent birthday gift on her part to .the infant Commonwealth.
– It was not a gift.
– I feel inclined to agree in part with the honorable member. It was a damnosa haereditas, a gift of doubtful value, and as such is perhaps not rightly referred to as a gift. The Commonwealth came to the rescue at the urgent request and almost prayer of the South Australian Government and people, and took the burden of the Northern Territory and its load “ of debt off its shoulders. That is one South Australian grievance. Another and more pressing cause of complaint is now before us. The representatives of South Australia have advocated at different times - once in every two or three years or so - the construction of the North-South line. Now, because some practical step is taken to complete the line-, they break out in a frenzy of indignation. I listened with interest to my gifted friend, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). I am quite certain that no city ever had a more earnest advocate. I marked his indignation. With due deference, I asked him, “ Do you consider that this line is going in the wrong direction?” I am sure he will not mind -my mentioning the subject, because, although it was a private conversation, it dealt with a public matter, and his remark does not compromise him in the least. It shows his spirit of rectitude. He said, “ I do not; but it is coming from the wrong end.” That is apparently his difficulty. I shall propound a new proposition with which Euclid himself would not quarrel. It is this: If you have two fag ends widely separated, and one fag end stretches in a straight line in the direction of the other fag end, it does not matter from which fag end you proceed to your point of contact, you will get there just the same. I submit that proposition for the consideration of honorable members from. South Australia, who have denounced the spirit of the motion before us because, they say, the movement to construct the transcontinental line proceeds from the wrong end. I have observed with ‘interest’ that the Public Works Committee, which set itself to consider this problem, have recommended the extension of the existing railway to Daly Waters on the understanding that eventually it shall form portion of a line which shall run through Newcastle Waters to Camooweal. There you see the fly in the ointment. The line is to proceed eventually to Queensland.
– And there is the end of your Euclid.
– In other words, what worries these true Federalists is not that the present proposed section will not form part of the transcontinental line from South Australia to the Northern Territory, but that Queensland may also benefit by it.
– We see the death of our own scheme.
– If the honorable member will return to his bulrushes we will continue the argument. Viewing this matter with the narrow vision of one raised in the cabbage garden State, to which you, Mr. Speaker, have been for so long a graceful ornament, I am unbiased ; but when I learn from the very highest authority, as I do, that the construction of the line as proposed will carry a railway through some of the best land in the Northern Territory, and that by its deviation in accordance with the motion will also benefit a part of the great State of Queensland, for which the honorable member for Capricornia speaks so well, I am impelled to give it my hearty support. The honorable member for Adelaide observed a moment ago that he saw the end of my axiom, but I remind him that the propositions of Euclid are not brushed aside in that simple fashion. The honorable member himself has - admitted that the line to Daly Waters is on the best route north and south. Last Friday, in this Chamber, another distinguished member, the representative of the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) mentioned that there was an “area of 523,000 square miles, or about 335,000,000 acres, in the Territory, and he spoke feelingly, from the point of view of the Territory. I suggest, for the consideration of the .House, that this aspect of the case is no less urgent than the pressing claims of Adelaide on the one side, or even of Camooweal and Queensland on the other. I am not aware that the honorable member for the Northern Territory condemned this proposal. On the other hand, with a good deal of intimate knowledge of the neighbourhood, he described to us in detail how this line was rightly conceived. He said it should be carried at least some miles further to tap. the rich resources of the Barkly Tablelands. I rose to-night to endeavour to disentangle this discussion from the merely local interests.
– You bring a bull into a china shop.
– I do not condemn the honorable member for looking at this matter primarily from the point of view of his own State, but I strongly criticise him and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) for opposing the proposal of the Government - not because it will injure their State, but because it may benefit another State of the Commonwealth. I have not heard all the speeches made in this debate, but in those to which I have listened there has been no serious argument against the proposal. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) spoke, as usual, logically and feelingly, and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), who has just resumed his seat, told us that he intended to support the motion. He was much more logical than his friend the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). My excuse - if I need any - for speaking in this debate is that I wish to place before the House the distinctly Australian viewpoint. The first thing we should do is to recognise the claims of the Northern Territory. This transcontinental line is not primarily to provide a tourist resort for the people of Adelaide. Its main purpose is to open up the Territory. The Oodnadatta line, I believe, is ‘ proving an unprofitable burden. I will not apply to it the name I used towards the Northern Territory some little while ago, but honorable members know what I mean. I trust we shall proceed with the construction of the line. It is not a very long stretch of railway that we contemplate in comparison with the distance of about 1,000 miles which still has to be spanned before the North-South line is completed. The Public Works Committee in its report / states -
That, when the time arrives for the construction of a through transcontinental line, negotiations be entered into with South Australia .which would permit of the alteration of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 to allow of such line being constructed on the route then shown to be in the best interests of Australia.
It must not be forgotten that the Public Works Committee also states that these lines should be regarded as providing sufficient railway development for the Territory for many years. It is perfectly clear that the Committee regards the southern section ‘ as much the lessimpor tant. However, we can hope on good grounds that the southern part will be constructed within a reasonable time. We must remember that this motion would not be before the House at all but for the fact that the Government got into trouble with its Air Force Bill, and had to put something on the notice-paper for discussion. If they can get rid of the Air Force Bill and their other present difficulties, it may be that a motion will be introduced for the construction of the other section. I am quite with the representatives of South Australia in their desire for the construction of the southern part of the line, and 1 shall support that work, even if it .can be shown, in the last resort, to be of some good to Victoria, or that it would incidentally benefit the “Ma” State. As the honorable memberfor the Territory (Mr. Nelson) acknowledges, the present proposal, having regard to the distance we are able to proceed, is on sound lines. I hope that gentleman’s advice will be taken, and that the additional small distance required to open up the Barkly Tableland will be covered. I trust the motion will be carried, notwithstanding the opposition of South Australian representatives, and the work rapidly proceeded with, so that this muchdesired transcontinental line may become an accomplished fact.
– We have just witnessed the rather rare spectacle of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) coming to the rescue of the Government, and I must say that the honorable member seems embarrassed by his own action. I hope that the amendment will be rejected. It is rather a strange proposal for a South Australian member to make.
– It is a very necessary proposal with this Government in power !
– This Government has done what no other Government has. Within a few months of coming into office it has tabled a motion to carry out the agreement with South Australia, the honouring of which is so loudly demanded by the honorable member. It cannot be denied that the section of railway the Government now proposes to construct will be laid along part of the original route.
– I deny that the Committee recommended it for that reason.
– The honorable member is endeavouring to interpret the reasons which actuated the Public Works Committee.
– The Public Works Committee stated its reasons.
– Although I have been speaking for only three minutes, the honorable member has interjected several times, and I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you ought to restrain his impetuosity. I was saying that this proposed section is part of the main trunk line, but because it does not happen to be the particular section which the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) thinks should first be built, he has tabled the amendment under discussion. What would be the effect of the amendment if carried? The amendment declares in effect that the construction of this section should be postponed until the section from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is completed.
– The amendment does not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable member for Angas concurs in my reading of the amendment.
– I say that the other section should be completed first.
– The honorable member for Angas now tells us that, in his opinion, the northern portion of the railway should not be constructed until the section between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs, as recommended by the Committee, is completed - that construction in the Northern Territory should be held up until the southern portion of the line is completed. That is a proposal to which, I am sure, the House will not assent. Northern Australia is crying out for development; and the amendment, if carried, would inflict grave injustice on the residents in that part of A.ustralia. The railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs has not yet been surveyed, and it is impossible to build it until there has been a survey.
– How much of the proposed section has been surveyed?
– There has been a permanent survey of 77 miles, and a trial survey of the balance. About thirty-eight years ago, a survey was made of the route between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs by Mr. Graham Stewart, of the South
Australian service; but that survey was not for a line such as recommended by the Public Works Committee. That survey was for a line with high-level bridges aud something like standard gauges, wherea’s the line recommended by the Committee is for a low-level line with steep grades. Obviously, the old survey is utterly useless for the class of line now contemplated. A working survey of the line recommended by the Committee would occupy approximately twelve to eighteen months, and cost £21,000 and the building of the railway subsequently would occupy approximately three years. The effect of the amendment is to hold up the construction of the line in the north for at least four years. The Government, after due deliberation, have decided to proceed with the line from Katherine to Daly Waters, and the fact was announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. There’ appears to be a deep-rooted suspicion in the minds of South Australian members that the Government are endeavouring to shelve for all time further construction in the south. When this session is over, I intend to personally go over the route recommended by the Public Works Committee, from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and to present a report and recommendation to the Government.
– You have the recommendations of the Public Works Committee.
– Yes; but the Premier of South Australia, although he had a number of recommendations from many Committees, still thought it advisable recently to have a look at the route for himself. As the Minister in charge, it is only fitting that I should seek first-hand information, in addition to that already afforded by the Public Works Committee. If the Government, with all that information before them, are of opinion that, in the interests of the Commonwealth, the line should not stop at a dead-end in that poor country at Oodnadatta, but should be continued on to Alice Springs, the line will be so continued. That is a statement which I ask the House, and particularly the South Australian members, to accept as an assurance that the matter has not been definitely shelved. The Government fully recognise their obligation to South Australia.
.- I agree that it is only proper that the Minister (Mr. Stewart) should desire to make investigations for himself. It is well known, however, that it will cost, at least, double the money to land the rails on the spot viâ Darwin than it would viâ Adelaide, seeing that there is railway communication at the southern end. I have been to Darwin, and my sympathies are all with those who advocate the North-South line. A solemn bond was entered into by the Deakin Government with the Government of South Australia, and it ought to be carried out. If a State dishonourably breaks agreements, can we blame the people generally if they follow the example? To a certain extent, the Government deserve credit for what they have done, but in the present instance they are to be condemned. One honora’ble member made a flippant remark about a big deficit of £2,800,000 having been taken over from South Australia, which had beggedthe Commonwealth to relieve it of its burden; this means only 2d. an acre for this splendid heritage. The Northern Territory contains 523,000 square miles, or about 335,000,000 acres. There are numerous splendid harbors along its northern coast, and to the east is Queensland, with belts of splendid country running into the Northern Territory. But I would remind the House that any lover of Australia must revere South Australia for what it did in the early days in linking this continent with Europe by means of the overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Port Darwin. But for that great work, Australia would have had to continue to get its news from the Old Country by means of ships. South Australia did not go in supplication to the other States; it blazed the trail as no other part of Australia has done. The Commonwealth Parliament should be prepared gladly to honour the agreement entered into with South Australia by the Commonwealth. The Government will do what the majority of honorable members desire. No honorable member would like to see a portion of Australia annexed by a foreign power, and we should be prepared to honour the agreement as a means of keeping our country intact. No matter what argument an honorable member may advance, he cannot salve his conscience for declining tosupport the construction of the North-South line. It is obvious that the construction could be carried out more economically from Adelaide than from the northern end. I have no recollection of large vessels berthing at Port Darwin, but steamers from 10,000 to 15,000 tons can enter the Outer Harbor at Adelaide, from which there is direct railway communication as far north as Oodnadatta. I shall certainly vote or pair in favour of the amendment.
.- I intend to support the motion, solely on the ground that it provides for carrying out part of a work which, in effect, has been agreed to by past Parliaments. A measure was enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament for the acceptance of the Northern Territory, this Parliament, apparently, regarding the Territory as an asset. Attached to that acceptance was a promise to construct a railway line southwards from Port Darwin. The line now proposed to be constructed will run southwards from Port Darwin, and it is, therefore, a part performance of the agreement. Viewed, however, from any other standpoint, the proposal is not an encouraging one. If there is any truth in the suggestion that South Australia is prepared to take the Northern Territory back, and sees a way of developing it, the Government should carefully consider whether an arrangement could be made for that State to resume control of the Territory, because, up to the present, the Commonwealth his made a hash of the whole matter. It has not succeeded in developing that country to any extent. We read, on the last page of the report of the Public Works Committee, between the 1st J anuary, 1911, and the 30th June, 1922, the loss incurred by the Commonwealth on the Oodnadatta railway and the Northern Territory railway amounted to over £2,000,000. We are also informed that the proposed extension would involve a loss of about £70,000 per annum.
– The honorable member has included the proportion of the loan money that has been paid off.
– If one were guided by the report of the Committee alone, it would be very difficult to find in it a justification for the construction of the line. On page 19 of the report it is recorded that the almost unanimous resolution of the Committee was that it was of opinion that the construction of the section from Mataranka to Daly Waters would, of itself, do very little towards the early development of the Territory. Apparently, the line must go further south in order to reach the good country on the Barkly Tablelands. This House, I take it, is not bound by the opinion of the Committee that the line should be constructed only as being a section of a line to cross eventually the Barkly Tablelands to Camooweal. This Parliament is absolutely free, as far as that issue is concerned, even if it accepts the recommendation of the Committee that the line from Mataranka to Daly Waters be constructed. It was no part of the reference to the Committee to determine whether the line should go to Camooweal or elsewhere. I understand that the estimated loss on it is about £70,000 per annum, taking everything into account. That loss is arrived at upon the assumption that there will be a revenue of £24,000 per annum. I understand that at present there is one train a fortnight on the Darwin railway, and if that train is still to run the assumption is that £1,000 per train will be earned on the section of 95 miles between Mataranka and Daly Waters. If there is only one train a fortnight each way, it means that £500 for each train journey will have to be earned on that section.
– The honorable member should take stock trains into consideration.
– If there are more trains, I have misunderstood the position as stated in this debate. If there were to be only one train a fortnight I should have great difficulty in believing that it would earn £1,000 or even £500 per trip. If that is a passenger train only, and there are to be other stock trains, it is possible that the amount stated may be earned. Nothing has been placed before the House to show how the estimatedrevenue is arrived at. With all respect to the Public Works Committee, I must say that the actual statements contained in the report do not appear to justify the recommendation made. For a member, like myself, belonging to Victoria, and, indeed, for most honorable ‘members who have never seen the Territory*- and probably most of us never will - it is very difficult to come to a decision when a report is so bare and scanty as this one is in the material which one needs in order to form anything like an independent judgment. The most general comment of the Committee about the land concerned is the rather surprising statement made on page 11 of its report: -
No portion of the Territory seen was as bad as that in the northern portion” of South Australia.
That is not a very cheerful or glowing description of the country.
– Every portion of the Territory has a bigger rainfall than the northern part of South Australia.
– Further reference was made in the report to the character of the land, and, on the whole, it appears that there is nothing very special in its quality, even in the judgment of the Committee, no member of which, so far as I am aware, is an expert either in stock or stock country. On page 17 is a rather remarkable statement to be included in a report as a recommendation to a deliberative assembly for the construction of a railway. The Committee states -
Most of the witnesses examined agreed that the Northern Territory was a country of immense and practically unknown possibilities, and there was very little chance of ever developing its ‘resources without a railway of some description.
In ordinary circumstances I should not consider myself justified in supporting any proposal to spend Commonwealth money for the purposes .of developing “practically unknown possibilities.” I should require to know what the possibilities were. But, as I say, this is not an ordinary case, because there is an agreement which binds the Commonwealth. That agreement is contained in. an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament-, one section of which provides that -
The Commonwealth shall construct or cause to bc constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards, to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper. . . ‘ .
I agree entirely with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that the true meaning of this section is that such a railway line shall be constructed within a reasonable time. That is the proper’ construction of the section, but that still leaves what is a reasonable time to be determined by the circumstances of the case. It is frequently a very difficult thing to determine what is a reasonable time. So far as the interpretation of the Statute, and so far as’ any legal claim which South Australia may have under it are concerned, it is perfectly open to the South Australian Government to institute proceedings, in the High Court, against the Commonwealth to “claim that the line has not been constructed within a reasonable time, and to ask for a declaration that a reasonable time has elapsed, and that the line should be constructed. I agree that it is reasonable to proceed with the construction of the line, but I find myself quite unable to understand the unwillingness of nearly every representative from South Australia to regard the construction of the part of the line which might be expected to immediately assist the development of the Northern Territory as being in itself a partial performance of the agreement. That it undoubtedly is. It is a matter for this Parliament to determine the order in which the various sections of the line shall be constructed, and what section is likely to do most within the earliest period for the development of the Northern Territory. I suggest that the northern section is more likely than the southern section to secure the early development of the Territory. It is agreed, I think, that the southern section would carry the line through a great deal of poor country, whereas the northern section would approach the Barkly Tableland, which appears to be El Dorado, the Promised Land, the Land of Goshen, of the Northern Territory. It is difficult for one not versed in the history of this matter to understand why it is that South Australian members do not gladly accept the offer of the Government to construct, at once, a section of the line which the Commonwealth has promised South Australia that it would construct. I have not had the good fortune, or it may be the misfortune, to find myself at Oodnadatta. I have been over the East-West line, and I understand from what I have read that Oodnadatta, which is a town of some 100 inhabitants, is situated in country that is pretty hopeless, and that there is a good deal of bad country north of it. I admit that I have had to obtain my information on the subject from the printed material which I have been able to secure. I have understood that up to the Macdonnell Ranges, at least, taking the most rosy .view possible of it, the country is very poor stock-carrying country, and but little traffic for the line could be looked for from it. The section proposed from the north, on the .other hand, which would certainly be” a portion of the line to which the Commonwealth is committed, would assist the development of the Northern Territory by reaching the Barkly Tableland. The construction of this section will leave the further course of the line quite undetermined, and this House will be entirely free to carry it directly north and south as South Australian members contend would be the proper thing to do, or, on the other hand, to construct the line with a bit of a swerve into Queensland, in order to obtain traffic, and develop the western portions of Queensland and New South Wales. So far as it is a question of the interpretation of the Statute, I suggest to South Australian members that if they contend that the true meaning of the agreement is the construction of a line which for the whole of its length will lie within the Northern Territory, then until the Statute is altered the Commonwealth Government will be bound by it. It is not a matter to argue about in this House, as, if there are legal rights, they will be protected by the Courts of the country. So far as the proposal before the House is concerned, the section of the line which it covers must be built if the agreement with South Australia is to be carried out, and on that ground I propose to suppport the motion.
.- I shall not take up much time, but I wish to define my reason for the vote I intend to give. I realize that this is not a party question, and I have no desire to make it one. I shall support the amendment, not for the reasons which have been advanced by the speakers to whom I have listened, but because I think that before any railway construction should take place in the Northern Territory, much as I desire to see that Territory developed, we. should deal with the proposal under consideration in another place, and which I think was presented here to-day, concerning the Land Ordinance for the Northern Territory, which was discussed in this Chamber a few weeks ago. On that occasion the feeling of honorable members was entirely against the Land Ordinance, which permitted the extension of big leases in the Territory -for probably forty-two years. Before we settle this question, which is of so much importance to the future development of the Northern Territory, we are being asked to agree to the construction, at great cost to the Commonwealth, of a railway which will benefit the people who are to be given the right to the extension of their leases. That is a wrong procedure. The first thing which this Parliament should do is to deal with the question of the extension of these leases. We should decide once and for all whether we will permit the people who are in possession of very large areas of country, some of which will be traversed by the proposed railway, to continue to hold them. I am not going to record a vote to enable people who have a monopoly of the best lands in the Northern Territory to hold them for a further term of forty-two years, especially in view of the fact that under the Ordinance proposed the rentals may not be increased during that period by more than 50 per cent. We are being asked to repeat a policy the results of which have been complained of in the . different States during the last century. Certain individuals were in the past given large areas of country, and as time went on itwas found to be a very difficult problem to settle people to develop Australia, because men held large areas under long leases. With that experience before us, it is now solemnly proposed to construct another railway at great cost to the country before we have definitely decided what is to be done with the leases of large areas, of country in the Northern Territory. If the proposed railway is to pay it can only be by the revenue derived from settlement along’ its route. If that is curtailed in any way the construction of this line will be a’ losing proposition for years and years to come.
– The Government do not propose to curtail, but, on the contrary, to do everything possible to promote settlement.
– That is what the Minister says, but we are told by the honorable member for the Northern > Territory (Mr. Nelson), who, “because of the manner in which he represents them in this House, is a credit to- the people there, that the Land Ordinance to which I have referred will give people who occupy very large areas in the Territory extended leases. For the promotion of the settlement which the Minister professes to desire, we should prevent the extension of these leases. When we have done that, we shall have some reasonable ground for hope that railway construction, by bringing about settlement, will provide s’ome revenue to help to pay for this undertaking. We must make some provision whereby the Northern Territory will become self-supporting as early as possible. We know that it will be a big load for the Commonwealth to carry for many years, and why should we add to the burden? We talk of the settlement of people on the land, and how many people from overseas might be settled in the Northern Territory if land were available for them ! The Government would place the land in the Territory in the same position that in the past land in the States has been placed in. For these reasons I will not cast a vote in favour of this proposal, much as I desire the development of the Northern Territory. So far as South Australia is concerned, I hope that when the problem of land settlement is solved the Commonwealth will carry out its agreement with that State as early as possible. With me the question is one of principle. I know what has happened in New South Wales and the other States because of the obstacles to settlement caused by the occupation of large areas of country under long leases. It has been very difficult to break up those areas, and there are many that are not broken up to-day, which if they were resumed would provide land for the settlement of hundreds of people from overseas who could make a good living on them. The first thing for us to do is to prevent in the Northern Territory what has occurred in the past in the States in the shutting up of land from settlement.
.- The whole of the representatives from South Australia are in agreement with the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) that the Government proposal is in part a fulfilment of the agreement with South Australia. But the position in which the South Australian members are placed is that whilst they naturally expected that the whole of the recommendations of the Public Works Com mittee would be submitted to this House, the Government have submitted only one of the recommendations. This has put South Australian members in an awkward position, and in order to state the case of the much more important southern section of the North-South railway, they had to submit the amendment. I heard what the Minister had to say, but I wish to explain the exact position of the matter at this moment. Two years ago this House approved of a section of the line of about 65 miles from the Katherine River to Mataranka, and not one yard of that extension has been constructed to this day. Not only that, but not one yard can be constructed until the bridge is thrown across the Katherine River. The. Katherine is a very wide and deep stream, and the estimate of the cost of the bridge is no less than £90,000. Honorable members who know anything of the Territory are aware that the wet season extends over many months of the year, and that, on the average, work on that bridge could not proceed for more than half of each year. Therefore, the bridge would take not one, but nearly two, years to build. What I have said to the Minister illustrates again the force of my contention that the line should be constructed from the southern end if the object is to develop the country. If the southern end of the line is to wait for the completion of the bridge over the Katherine, and the construction of sixtyfive miles or more of railway in the north, it will be delayed for another three years. This work has been available for two years, and it is, still not done, but the Government now asks for authority to proceed with a further length. The motion deals with a length of line from Mataranka to Daly Waters. That line will pass through country which is allotted but not occupied or used, except one Government farm.
– Much of the country consists of Crown lands which have not been alienated.
– I am basing my opinion upon the statements of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who knows what he is talking about, and on the views expressed by members of the Public Works Committee, who have shown me the map of the country. There is practically no occupation except by the Government farm. Men who understood railway construction and the needs of development would have commenced at the southern end - that is to say, at the temperate, not at the tropical end - as South Australia was doing. If the Territory had not been transferred to the Commonwealth, the Macdonnell Ranges would have been reached by South Australia years ago, even if she had had to “ pawn her shirt “ to do it. In contradistinction to the unoccupied country through which the northern section of the line will pass, there is the country between the terminal point of the South Australian railway at Oodnadatta and Alice Springs to Barrow Creek. Over that section, and beyond, every bit of the land is occupied. Men have been in occupation for thirty and forty years waiting for a railway.
– How long was the honorable member. Minister for Railways?
– Twelve months, or more.
– Why did he not carry out this work ?
– The honorable member is not aware that I had a scheme in hand, and I shall tell the House about it when the Bill is before it. In the country to which I have referred there are some of the largest pastoral areas in Australia. In good seasons it is some of the best grazing land in this country. In one of our most severe droughts, when some of the best farming lands in Southern Australia were destitute of feed, thousands of farmers’ working stock were sent to this area, where there was some of the finest feed ever grown, standing 3 feet to 4 feet high on every yard of that enormous area. Thousands of these horses, which otherwise would have been lost, returned to their owners fatter than when they were sent there. Country like that is not to be despised. Beyond Oodnadatta there is a stretch of country which is good in wet seasons, but in drought periods, sometimes for three or four years, it is quite impassable. It is to bridge that country, and to go to the rescue of the great men and women at Alice Springs and in the Macdonnell Ranges, that this line is needed. One of the families from that part of Australia came to this House some time ago at the invitation of the Speaker and the Prime Minister to urge upon individual members the need for going to the rescue of the great pioneers in the centre of Australia. The Prime Minister has promised to confer on this question, and I hope that a solution will be found. A solution willbe no good which does not take the work in hand immediately, instead of waiting for three years, until the bridge and the line at the other end have been completed.
.- I did not expect to speak again on this question, for I hoped that the Minister would accept the amendment, with the elimination of the stipulation relating to priority. He knows that South Australian members on this side of the House do not desire to obstruct the work.
– That wouldbe the effect of the amendment.
– The Minister knows quite well that I moved an amendment prior to the one before the House, and that it had for its object the starting of. the work at both ends of the line at once. Not being au fait with the Standing Orders, I was ruled out of order. My object was to get the Government to declare their policy. I should be glad if the Minister would give the House an assurance that he would accept the amendment with the deletion I have suggested. We would then get somewhere near to accomplishing the work which is so necessary in the interests of Australia. I am convinced that Parliament is not sincere in regard to the development of the Northern Territory and the construction of the North-South line. The Liberal side of the House will not honour the promise made to South Australia if it supports the Government on the present occasion. The Public Works Committee has blown hot and cold On this question in the same volume. It has gone outside the ambit of its instructions. It had no right to suggest where the termination of the section now proposed by the Government should be. The report should be referred back to the Committee, which should bring in a concise report as to what should be done. In the second paragraph of its report the Committee says -
On receipt of the present references from Parliament, the Committee, after considerable discussion, decided that it would be to the advantage of the Government, and in the interests of economy, if such inquiries were made in respect of these two sections as to enable areport to be presented on the whole question of the TranscontinentalRail way, of which these sections were apparently designed to form part.
Later, in the same report, the Committee says that the northern portion of the line is to go to Camooweal, but that it will have no effect upon the development of the Commonwealth. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment, because this is not the first time that there has been a “try on” with South Australia. It is twelve years since the compact was made, and that ought to be long enough for the Commonwealth to take on a job which was considered to be too large a task for one of its component parts. I would like to know from the Minister what action Senator Wilson took in regard to this proposal. In 1914, the North-South railway was discussed on the Estimates; and I shall explain what happened during the regime of the Liberal Government of that day. The policy of that Government on this question wasset out in the following declaration : -
Communications in a country of vast spaces and great distances (see Royal Commission’s report, paragraphs 9 and 10) being essential, proposals will be submitted for the construction of railways to connect Oodnadatta and the Katherine River through the Macdonnell Ranges; to connect Newcastle Waters, or some other point on the Transcontinental Railway, with the Queensland border at Camooweal or elsewhere.
I shall show how the Government were undermined by one of their own members, who was no less a person than Lord Forrest, who was powerful enough to secure a railway to connect his. State with the business centres of Australia. He went behind the back of his Government to do what the present Government want to do to-day. I shall not quote the whole of his memorandum on the, subject,but it caused a furore in this Parliament at the time, because the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Glynn) had to oppose him. The sting of the memorandum was in the tail of it. It said-
The offer of the Federal Government is onesided; but still the interests of Australia (which are our main consideration) have to be given prominence, and if the Northern Territory is to be opened up by railway in a few years, we must build from the Katherine southwards to Newcastle Waters, and from Camooweal westward to Newcastle Waters. The western portion, however, is impossible, unless we have communication with Queensland; and, if that is denied to us, we must turn our attention to connecting the Northern Territory from Oodnadatta, a policy to which we are already pledged.
The late Lord Forrest, a member of the Liberal Government in 1914, suggested that little scheme, which some honorable members supported on Friday ! The report of the Public Works Committee should be referred back, because it is contrary to the expressed intention of the Commonwealth when it took over from South Australia the responsibility of controlling and developing the Northern Territory. The suggestion that South Australia should take back the Territory from the Commonwealth is ridiculous. Should we not be ashamed to suggest that one little portion of Australia, which after caring for and developing the Northern Territory for years, asked its biggerbrother to take over the responsibility, should now resume the job because the bigger brother is unequal to it?
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the present Government have asked South Australia to take back the Northern Territory ?
– No; I am ridiculing the suggestion so that this form of evading their responsibility will not be considered by the Government. It would be the greatest disgrace that could happen to the Commonwealth if South Australia, that has done so much for the Northern Territory, were asked to take it back and complete the job because the Commonwealth would not, or could not.
– Did not some people in the Territory ask that South Australia should resume control ?
-I saw a press statement to the effect that some of the southern residents of the Northern Territory, those living in the Macdonnell Ranges, were so disgusted with Commonwealth control that they expressed a desire that South Australia should take back the Territory from the Federal authority. Apparently they have more confidence in little South Australia than they have in the whole of the Commonwealth. Their experience has been like that of Mr. Giles, who as a young man was an enthusiastic advocate of the development of the Territory. He grew whiskers while waiting for the rail- way. Still waiting, he grew grey; waiting still further, he became bald; and the chances are he will end his days before the line is constructed. The only logical attitude that this House can adopt is to say that the report of the Public Works Committee does not go far enough; it must be referred back, and the members of the Committee must be told to keep their place and not try to dictate a policy to the Government. A further reason why the report should be referred back is that it provided an opportunity for the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) to make a purely Queensland speech on a Commonwealth matter. He was supported only by two engineers, who had more regard to engineering difficulties than to the productivity of the country. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) said that the Barkly Tablelands are the Eldorado of the Northern Territory. I remind the honorable member that, in 1914, the Tableland held 145,940 head of cattle, whereas in the Victoria River district there were 267,018 cattle. The honorable member’s suggestion to build a railway through a corner of the Territory into Queensland and then sit down on the job for another thirty years will leave the Victoria River district untapped.
– That was not my suggestion.
– The honorable member said that the Barkly Tablelands were the Eldorado of the Territory, and I am showing that a bigger Eldorado will not be served by this proposal. The Territory comprises a very big area that can be properly developed only by honouring the terms of the compact with South Australia. For that reason the amendment should be carried, if only to deter the Government from making a tremendous blunder by carrying out the project recommended by the Works Committee. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) made a very nice speech.I have often been surprised by the sentences imposed upon prisoners when represented by solicitors. Now, I quite understand the reason for them. If an accused were not guilty of any offence, a Judge, after a. defence of the value of that put before the House to-night by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), would have no option but to sentence him to be hanged. Such evidence as was collected by the Public Works Committee is not to be compared with that contained in the report of the Royal Commission appointed by the Commonwealth in 1914, comprising Mr. Frank Clarke, Chairman, Mr. David Lindsay, explorer, and Mr. Combes, late superintending surveyor in charge of railway surveys in Victoria, to inquire into and report upon the development of the Northern Territory by the provision of railways and ports.
– That Commission was never allowed to complete its job.
– That is true; but its recommendations are based upon more exhaustive evidence than was taken by the Public Works Committee. Moreover, the personnel of the Commission was impartial; it did not include, as did the Public Works Committee, two members advocating the interests of Queensland It was no part of the Committee’s duty to recommend the construction of a line to Camooweal, but it did recommend it as a branch of the main through line. The unbiased Royal Commission did not do anything of the kind. The Commission recommended -
That the main trunk line be continued from the Katherine River to Oodnadatta viâ Renner and Alice Springs, as nearly direct as is consistent with the best engineering and revenueproducing consideration, and that the construction be commenced from both ends.
That is all we are asking for now. We are appealing to the Government to do something big, and not to toy with One of the greatest problems with which the Commonwealth has ever had to contend. Thirty witnesses examined by the Commission advocated the central route “ and twenty favoured also a branch to Camooweal.” I shall quote some passages from the Commission’s report in proof of the value and potentialities of the Territory. The only statement advanced in support of the recommendation of the Public Works Committee is that the Barkly Tablelands contain good country. I do not deny that it is excellent country, but nobody has told the House that on the whole of that vast area there are only eleven landholders. These were the details of pastoral leases in 1914: - Southern Division, 16,750 square miles, 7 holders; Macdonnell Ranges, 1,867 square miles, 6holders; Central Division, 6,008 square miles, 9holders; Northwestern Division, 27,610 square miles, 9 holders; North-eastern Division, 28,077 square miles, 11 holders.
– Does the honorable member know the currency of the leases?
– That information was given to the House by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson).We know, also, that the rental varies from 6d. to 3s. per square mile.
– Will the honorable member show the relation of this argument to the amendment?
– I am showing that the Committee, when it made its recommendations, had no knowledge of the value of other parts of the Territory. Therefore, the report should be referred back so that the Committee may re-adjust its vision, and recommend that the southern portion of the Territory be provided with railway communication first.
– That may have a very distant relation to the subject, but I ask the honorable member to become more intimate with it.
– To get a grip of the matter one must wander over a large area.
– That is what the honorable member is doing.
– I suggest to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) that he should visit, the Senate chamber, where he will see a map which sets out the holdings in the Territory. In the volume from which I am quoting he will find out when nearly every lease in the Northern Territory falls in. The volume may be dated 1914, but that cannot alter the date of the expiry of the leases.Though there were eleven lessees on the Barkly Tableland in 1914, it does not follow, by any means, that there is the same number now. . If the Kidman blight has settled on the tablelands, the number of lessees will have been reduced by half. I refer honorable members to the evidence by Mr. Allan Davidson, who spent nearly three years prospecting north and northwesterly of the Macdonnell Ranges. He said -
These are vast fields where prospect trials yielded at the rate of 15 dwts. to 2 ozs. of gold per ton. With the extension of the railway from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin, the conditions would he modified, and the mineral resources of the interior would then become the great factor in the development of Central Australia (see Journal of Exploration in Central Australia, under the leadership of Allan A. Davidson, 1889 to 1900).
That refers to the country which the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) wishes to be served by railway. My reason for wishing a line to bisect the Territory is because such a line would be of great developmental value. In regard to the desire of people inthe Territory for development, I refer to the remarks of a part owner of a station. They appear on page 689 of the report. The witness said -
In the event of a railway passing through a country, I think that every pastoralist would be quite prepared to surrender portion of his land. The Northern Territory Land Act should be so framed as to allow for that. We can do nearly as much on 3,000 miles of country with a railway as on 6.000 miles without a railway . . . With compensation for improvements, we would be quite prepared to surrender portion of our lease.
That evidence comes from a land-owner in the country through which we desire the railway to run. It is our duty to request the Public Works Committee to consider whether or not the through line should be built. I give these extracts because I wish honorable members to realize that all the good land in the Territory is not on the Barkly Tablelands. There is ample evidence to be obtained of the fertility of land elsewhere in the Territory, and we should make provision for the railway to continue from Oodnadatta. It stops now on the edge of a strip of barren country, but 80 miles farther on, at Charlotte Waters, there is feed in the driest years which South Australia experiences, and pastoralists would be glad to move their stock there if transportation were obtainable. Referring now definitely to the southern and central divisions, I direct attention to the evidence of Mr. Richard William Murray, Surveyor, Department of Forests, South Australia. He said -
There is country to the north of the Macdonnell Ranges where I have seen grass you could mow, and that country is unoccupied. There is some fair country also in the vicinity of the Truer Ranges which is untouched at the present time.
Mr. William James Magarey, chairman of the Crown Pastoral Company, which held an area of between 6,000 and 7,000 square miles in two holdings known as Bond
Springs and Crown Point, stated in his evidence -
At the present time the two holdings carried about 10,500 head of cattle and 1,800 horses. On an average they sent away about 1,500 head of fats, hut in bad seasons they were obliged to hold them over or sell as stores. With a railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges this country would carry more stock, because necessary improvements in providing water would be possible.
Air. Robert McEwin, fruit-grower and pastoralist, had been a director of the Willowie Pastoral Company, which owned Undoolya Station. He said he had ridden about 400 miles over the Macdonnell Ranges. His evidence contains these words -
The country in the ranges and round about is very good indeed. All kinds of grass seem to thrive there - Mitchell grass on the plains, and on the hills silver grass and other varieties similar to those growing in the Mount Lofty Ranges. Tlie country so impressed me that I took up an additional 2,000 miles. This was in 1900. I have no direct personal interest there now, but would like to have if a railway were put through. I was so impressed with the possibilities of the’ country that I promoted a company to construct the railway north and south on the land-grant system.
That shows us that the men who know the country are prepared to do what the Commonwealth Government says it cannot do. It has also been said that the Government would be glad if South Australia would take back the Territory. I trust we shall not allow any remarks of that description to gain currency in Australia or elsewhere. We should not permit the idea to get abroad that the Commonwealth Government cannot manage and develop the Territory. Mr. F. B. Wells, mining agent, Adelaide, referred to the Macdonnell Ranges in his evidence. He said -
Taking them as a whole (outside of the quartzite ranges, on which nothing grows, and over the whole schist country), they form the finest belt of pastoral country I have ever seen in my life. I have travelled for 150 miles east and north-east from Alice Springs with feed up to my horse’s knees at nearly every place I went to. The country east of Star Creek at the present time carries not a hoof of stock. The only drawback to the stocking of that country is the want of water, the difficulty of getting machinery up for sinking and boring, and the great cost. There is no doubt there are scores of places where artesian supplies could be obtained.
There, again, you have the statement that what the Territory needs more than anything else is a railway. The cost of camel carriage from the rail-head at Oodnadatta io the Ranges is excessive, and is a deterrent to the proper development of the Territory. If we agree to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), it will open .the way for the Public Works Committee to investigate the whole position. Mr. L. C. E. Gee, Chief Registrar of Mines, South Australia, in his evidence before the same Commission, said -
The country round Hergott did not look well ; but from about the Coward northward right to Arltunga feed is luxuriant and water abundant - that is, when I was up in March. When 1 came down in December of the same year the country was dry in parts, and had I written’ my description then I might not have, been so enthusiastic. The Macdonnell Ranges struck me as being a most wonderful place for horsebreeding.
The work of Mr. Simpson Newland, who is one of our pioneers and a patriotic Australian, has been referred to. He is a patriot, because his main thoughts are for the proper development of Australia. I pay my tribute to his work in this respect. He said in his evidence before that Commission -
South of the Macdonnell Ranges the country is purely pastoral, and the whole of it could be utilized. The Macdonnell Ranges country is first-class pastoral country, and was capable, with railway communication, of carrying a large number of sheep.
Mr. W. J. Magarey, chairman of the Crown Pastoral Company, Adelaide, stated -
If we had a railway a lot of the Macdonnell Range country could he put under sheep.
Mr. Henry Francis Lewis, pastoralist, of Adelaide, also gave evidence. The name of Lewis stands for something in pastoral circles in South Australia. Mr. Lewis said -
I have travelled across (north and south) six times, and I consider that every mile of the country ‘between Oodnadatta and the Katherine is good country for cattle and horses. Anywhere north of Newcastle Waters would be too wet for sheep, but there is plenty of room south of that.
Mr. Lewis means that there is plenty of room in the country which the honorable member for Angas has in contemplation, and I ask once more that we shall agree to his amendment so that the Public Works Committee may investigate the possibilities of this country. I propose now to call attention to the remarks of the Commissioners with a view to suggesting that the House shall take cognisance of their view that, while the Barkly Tablelands contains excellent country, there are other aspects of the subject which we should bear in mind. The report states -
Your Commissioners are much impressed by the natural advantages of this suggested connexion easterly, and think it should be made, but they, find no .justification for the view that it should stand alone. The evidence goes to show that the Barkly Tableland, while probably the best, is not the only area within the Territory capable of development, and a line traversing this district alone would be of no service to the Victoria River country which at present carries by far .the largest number of stock, or, again, to the very extensive districts lying iri the south and the centre. The contention that if the North-South line were built the Territory must remain isolated from the whole of the eastern seaboard can only rest on the assumption that the connexion with Camooweal would never be made, an assumption which is not compatible with any general view of the transport necessities of the country.
That Commission recognised that Camooweal had claims to be connected with the Territory by railway, but not to the exclusion of the Victoria River and the southern and central areas. The Commonwealth Government is not justified in adopting the attitude revealed by the motion before us. I suggest that if we agree to the construction of the line to Camooweal we will not get a direct North-South railway for many years. The central line should go through first. On South Australia’s attitude respecting the railway, and also the contention of that State that the southern portion of the line should be built first, I call attention to the evidence of Mr. J. F. Guthrie, chairman of the Avon Downs Pastoral Company -
What is your principal market for fat stock? - Generally, we have marketed in Adelaide. We generally travel the stock down through the south-west corner of Queensland to Hergott Springs and Farina. We have, as a matter of fact, topped the Adelaide market with fat bullocks and fat wethers, but that was more or less of a fluke. Generally speaking, as I have said, there is only one year in three that you can get through.
If that is not a justification for making a line to serve that portion of the country, what other justification is needed ? The evidence is quite unbiased, and it is for honorable members to judge of its value.
Then we have the following extract from the evidence of Mr. A. J. Cotton -
In the event of a railway being constructed and a demand arising for land ‘in the locality, would you, as an interested party in Brunette Downs, be prepared to surrender some of your country to meet the demand? - In the event of a railway passing through the country, I think that every pastoralist would be prepared to surrender portion of his land. The .Northern Territory Land Act should be so framed as to allow for that. We can do nearly as much on 3,000 miles of country with a railway as on 6,000 miles without a railway.
I have before quoted that portion of the evidence, arid I hope it will not be lost on the Government. Somewhere in the report it is stated that one settler was willing to surrender land of sufficient area to carry 10,000 head of cattle. I again wish to refer to the Victoria River country, which will come within the reach of the railway if the amendment of the honorable member for Angas is carried. Amongst the witnesses was Mr. L. A. “Wells, Deputy Commissioner for Federal Land Tax, South Australia, who was for three years engaged on a trigonometrical survey of the district. He is an explorer, and is not personally interested in pastoral pursuits. That gentleman stated -
In the Victoria River district, and east from the river’s course, there are some 20,000 square miles of excellent fertile valleys and downs highly suitable for sheep and cattle raising, whilst in the vicinity of Sturt Creek and the Ord River run (which is partly in Western Australia) there are also similar lands of large areas.
For the most part, natural waters are plentiful, except to the east of the source of the Victoria River, where, I am informed by persons who have seen the country, a large tract of fine rolling downs exists, but without water.
With facilities for transit, this country, in addition to cattle, which at present depasture on it to the extent of from 300,000 to 400,000 head, is highly suitable for sheep raising, and if fenced and improved would carry several millions.
At the time of my visit to the Ord River Station there was a full flock of 100 head of sheep, which were not allowed to increase beyond that number, being shepherded about the station home, and these, although in-breeding for ten years looked well and strong, and the small parcels of wool, I was informed, realized about the same price as that of southern sheep. On the Fitzroy River, in Western Australia, sheep have been successfully raised for many years.
– I think the honorable member knows that he has been allowed sufficient lati- tude. He has already spoken to the main question, and for the future he must confine himself strictly to the .amendment, or I shall be obliged to rale him out of order.
– I appreciate your kindness, Mr. Speaker, and fully realize that what you say is quite correct. I have, perhaps, transgressed, but this ‘question is so important to Australia, and particularly to South Australia, that I have felt compelled to take some liberties in order to get the case properly presented to the House. The evidence I have read is so good that I am pleased that it will now appear in Hansard. I hope that a division on the motion will not be taken to-night,, and, if my hope is realized, I trust that honorable members will take time to read the full text of the report from which I have quoted. I appeal to honorable members opposite to regard this matter from a non-party point of view. All that the amendment asks*, and all that I ask, is that the two lines shall be constructed concurrently. I think that I have justified the case for South Australia, notwithstanding what the honorable member for ‘Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has said in regard to Queensland. I do not for a moment deny that the Queensland country, or the country on the fringe of it is good, but as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has jocularly remarked, the line is going in the right direction from the wrong end. I know this Parliament cannot pledge future Parliaments, but if honorable members are satisfied that we owe a duty to South Australia, it is obligatory on them to see that this railway is built. We have to develop the great heritage that is ours. We must carry the. railway into the good country, where the fertility and the minerals are; we must do something big. Let it not be said that we have taken on a heavier burden than we can carry. If we do no more than construct the line from Mataranka to Daly Waters, our names will go down to posterity in execration. I hope that when the vote is taken, the interests of Australia will be the paramount consideration.
– I am sure we are indebted- to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) for the information he has given us regarding the potentialities of the Northern
Territory. I am afraid that there are honorable members who overlook the fact that in the Northern Territory the Commonwealth has a great heritage. Unfortunately, there is abroad an -impression that this portion of Australia is a desert, though nothing could be further from the truth, as the honorable member for Adelaide has shown. There is also the evidence of men personally known to a great many of us, and on whose judgment we can absolutely rely, and they tell us that this part of Australia can be inhabited and developed by white people. This question must be regarded absolutely from the point of view of the interests of Australia. This vast Territory has to be developed, and development is only possible by means of the railway. I am afraid that honorable members forget to regard this North-South railway as a national work. It is regarded too much from the angle of the interests of individual States, and that, of course, is an absolutely wrong attitude. We all recognise that the Commonwealth is under an obligation to build a railway in accordance with the agreement made with South Australia. The honorable member for .Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has given us his opinion that the State could enforce the agreement in the High Court, so that we need not dwell further on that phase. South Australia had every justification for expecting that the line would be carried out in accordance with the agreement made, and that agreement undoubtedly was for a North-South route without any deviation. I have no hesitation in saying that the southern end is where a start should have been made. There is also the obligation to proceed with the building* of the Federal Capital, but the construction of this line is even of greater importance than the provision of our future seat of Government. If only for the purpose of attracting population, thiB line ought to be constructed. It would afford employment to thousands of men, and would attract settlers of the right stamp. .Further, it is common experience that large numbers of the men employed on a work of this character become permanent residents in the country. I .feel sure that there would be a similar experience in connexion with the construction of the North-South line. It is essential that that great empty space should he populated in the near’ future.
The Government should announce definitely whether they intend to make any deviation from the direct route or carry out the agreement in its entirety. South Australia has every right to expect a beginning to be made from the southern end with this national project. As the carrying of the amendment would probably result in hanging up the proposal for a considerable period, I cannot support it. If the matter were referred back to the Public Works Committee, the undertaking could not be proceeded with this session, and twelve months hence it might not be possible tocarry a similar Bill. We are undoubtedly offered a portion . of the North-South line, and it should be accepted, although it is not what South Australia has a right to expect as the first portion. I accept the measure in good faith, believing that the southern part of the line willbe proceeded with before any deviation is made. I see no advantage in referring the matter back to the Public Works Committee, because its findingwas practically unanimous. I presume that the Government have some good reason for wishing to commence the work at the northern end. The proposed line should stimulate development, and I prefer to support its construction rather than tie up the proposal for an indefinite period.
– I am not opposed to the spirit of the amendment, but I cannot support it, because I fail to see what good purpose can be achieved by accepting it at this juncture. It would hold up the development of the Territory, so far as is contemplated by the proposed railway. It must be admitted that it is a decided breach of faith on the part of the Federal Government not to commence the building of the North-South line from Oodnadatta. The terms of the agreement were definite. Starting and terminating points were mentioned, but the precise route of the line was left to the whimof future Governments. The spirit of the agreement was decidedly in favour of a direct North-South line. If honorable members discard the State aspect, they will be unable to escape the conclusion that a direct North-South line should be built. Nevertheless, we should not bejustified in indefinitely hanging up the proposal by refusing to accept the proposed line. On the authority of experts, the southern part of the Territory is undoubtedly good country. This would not be a speculative railway, because the immediate success of the line would be assured. If the work were referred back to the Public Works Committee, there would be considerable delay.
– Nothing will be done for three years as it is.
– There is nothing to prevent the immediate construction of the bridge over the Katherine River and the continuation of the line as far as Mataranka.
– The money has been granted for that work, and still it has not been carried out.
Mir. NELSON.- That is noreason why it should not be done now.
– Is it wise to proceed with the construction before the matter of the Land Ordinance has been settled?
– That cannot possibly affect the battle of the routes. At least, the first portion of the proposed line has no bearing on the Land Ordinance, because most of the country through which the railway would pass is unalienated. There is a big station owned by the Commonwealth,and it could be utilized at once for closer settlement purposes. I, therefore, can see no justification for holding up the construction of the proposed line. It has been contended that the line would purely benefit Queensland, but that is a very extreme view to take, notwithstanding the comments that have beenread from various reports. If the North-South line is required, the present proposal must be part of it. I have, on a previous occasion, drawn attention to the possibility of a port being developed at Borroloola. With a port there, the South Australian members need have no fear about Queensland annexing the trade of the Northern Territory, because that would be the natural port, not only for the Barkly Tablelands, but for Western Queensland as well. One needs to havea knowledge of the geography of the Territory to be able, intelligently, to consider the matter before the House. I am not concerned very much about what has been said by Messrs. Hobler and Bell. They are not land experts.
– They were quoted by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) against the amendment.
– Their opinions were given to support the argument, that a lino to Camooweal would serve better country. If there is no port developed at Borroloola, the North-South line must eventually be linked up with the Queensland system. Neither the South Australian nor the Queensland faction seems to be concerned about the development of the Territory. What they are most anxious about is that they shall drag as much trade as possible to their respective States. If the North-South line were made to deviate to Camooweal the rest of the Territory would never be developed ; and if the line were taken to Alice Springs only, I am satisfied that honorable members from South Australia would not care what became of the other four-fifths of the Territory.
– The honorable member is wrong there, because the Northern Territory is almost South Australia to us.
– It appears to.be a “ dog in the manger “ attitude for those honorable members to assume. It has been stated that I have adopted a like attitude ; but I strongly refute that assertion. Whereas the States have their own Governments to control their affairs, the Northern Territory is purely a ward of the Commonwealth. It is immaterial to me what route is adopted, so long as the Territory is developed. I have pointed out the possibilities in the direction of the establishment of a port at Borroloola; hut the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has argued that the western portion of the Territory is superior to the ‘ Barkly Tablelands. The western part of the Territory is not going to send its products across Australia to Adelaide, nor yet across the continent to Townsville, in Queensland. If a port cannot be established at the Victoria River, obviously the traffic for the western part of the Territory should go to its natural port - Wyndham. It is immaterial whether the natural port is in the Northern Territory or out of it. The one thing that we desire is to see the Territory developed, and we do not care from which State it is developed. A reference was made to the report of the Administrator, and I desire to state that his report is not re liable at any time. I say that advisedly. We shall be called upon to discuss the annual report of the Stock Inspector of the Northern Territory shortly, and honorable members will find in the Administrator’s report a short condensed paragraph about what the Stock Inspector had to say. I can assure the House that the Stock Inspector had quite a lot to say on this question, and ‘honorable members should insist upon seeing what he did say. If they do so they will be in a position to appreciate the true value of the report of the Administrator of the Territory. It has been stated that there has been a loss of £2,000,000, but I put it to honorable members that when they consider the cost per acre of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, and its possibilities, they will admit that the Commonwealth made a very good bargain in securing the Territory ; . but it has handled the bargain very badly. One honorable member - I think the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) - said that the construction of the. line could not be carried out. nearly so cheaply by obtaining the necessary material from a port in- the Northern Territory as by obtaining it from Adelaide. In the first place, I point out that it is absolutely impossible to carry any material at all required for the present contemplated construction from Adelaide. Generally, the work of transporting material can be done as cheaply in the Northern Territory as in any other part of Australia.
– The honorable member-.for Melbourne was referring, not to the extension to Daly Waters, but to the extension from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
– It would be quite reasonable to take the material required for the section from Oodnadatta, to Alice Springs from Adelaide. It would be just as ridiculous to attempt to transport material from Darwin to Alice Springs as it would be to transport it from Adelaide to the Katherine River. I am a novice in this Parliament, but it seems . to me that there should be some means by which honorable members could take action jointly for the purpose of compelling the Government to honour the pledge to South Australia in the construction of the southern section of the
North-South line. But it would be parochial and anything but patriotic of honorable members to support the amendment, which can only mean the retarding of the progress of the Northern Territory, whilst it would not materially help the cause of the representatives’ of South Australia. I trust that the amendment will be defeated, that the motion will be carried, andthat the construction of the proposed line will be proceeded with without delay.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 18.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposo of a Bill for an Act to provide for the extension of the railway in the Northern Territory by the construction of a railway to Daly
Resolutionreported ; Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Stewart and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and(on motion by Mr. Stewart) read a first time.
House adjourned at 10:58: p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230724_reps_9_104/>.