6th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– On behalf of Senator Watson I ask the Minister of Defence whether he has a reply to the question asked by that honorable senator yesterday regarding the closing of the Newcastle Camp ?
– I told Senator Watson yesterday that I had sent to the Quartermaster-General a telegram asking him to make a full inquiry as to the reasons why the Newcastle Camp was being closed, and to thoroughly satisfy himself as to the necessity for the action taken before giving his approval. Since then I have received the following reply.- “ Position Newcastle Camp as follows : Recruitingwas stopped, and Camp quarantined about month ago. No drafts thence sent Sydney since.. Principal Medical Officer requisitioned erection hospital huts consequent increasing sickness. Commandant adopted following alternative. Clear Warwick Farm present occupants, and remove all Newcastle men whose health permits, and isolate them at Warwick Farm. Believed suggested change will give all opportunity regaining health, likewise obtaining training beyond elementary stage; furthermore give Newcastle Camp complete airing and probably clean bill health, enabling recommencing recruiting. Medical officer suggestion erection hospital huts Newcastle, thus retaining men in infected area indefinitely with possibility increased sickness and serious interruption recruiting, only alternative. No intention closing Newcastle recruiting depôt one day beyond its getting clean bill of health. Hope fortnight will see Camp re-opened ; recommend Commandant’s proposal.”
I have approved of that recommendation because I found that not only has there been in that district the small-pox trouble, which has affected the Camp, but a rather serious outbreak of measles in the Camp as well. The men from the Camp will now be taken to Warwick Farm, and isolated there till they get a clean bill of health, and steps will be taken to give the Newcastle Camp a complete airing.
– The men at Warwick Farm will be shifted first?
– They will be shifted to Liverpool.
– Has the Minister of Defence any information respecting the question I asked a few days ago as to the medical men at Claremont Camp in Tasmania ?
– We sent a telegram instructing the Commandant of Tasmania to expedite the reply.
– What departmental difficulties are there in the way of getting information of this description ?
– We have not yet been able to get the information, and I remind the honorable senator that the Senate will be sitting next week.
– I do not know when the Senate is going to rise, and I want the information as soon aspossible.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Electoral Branch whether soldiers who have gone to the front will have the advantage of their names being retained on the electoral roll, even though they may be absent from Australia for a year, in order that they may not be disfranchised or prevented from voting at an election which may possibly occur immediately after their return and before they would have time to re-enroll 1 Will the Minister give consideration to that aspect of the matter?
– It is not a question of giving consideration to the matter. I think it must be ten months since we issued definite instructions that the name of every man who went to the front was to be retained on the roll, and I understand that so far as is humanly possible that has been done. Besides, we get a record of the names of soldiers from the Defence Department, and sometimes a returning officer exercises his power of replacing a name which has been struck off by mistake. The only trouble we have had is in the case of a man who departs from a district without leaving an instruction as to where he is going. An objection is lodged against the name as that of a person who has left the district, and perhaps a month or six weeks later his name is found in a list of names handed over from the Defence records. In such cases the objection is withdrawn. Where an apparent mistake has been made, under the Electoral Act the returning officer has the power to restore the name. I think that as a result of that operation we have succeeded in keeping the names of 95 per cent. of the men on the rolls.
Report of the Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the questions of the provision of automatic telephone exchanges at Sydney, New South Wales; Malvern, Victoria; and Collingwood, Victoria, presented by Senator Keating.
– Will the Minister of Defence ask the Minister for the Navy to ascertain for the Senate the price tendered for beds on the Brisbane by Newlands and Company, of Sydney, and also the price paid for the imported article ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information from my colleague.
Report of Select Committee presented by Senator Long, and ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator Barker) agreed to-
That the report from the Printing Committee, presented to the Senate on 4th November, 1915, be adopted.
Motion (by Senator Newland) agreed to -
That a return be prepared and laid upon the table of the Senate showing the number of men now in military Camp in each State who have been in Camp for a longer period than six months. Also the reasons (in groups) why such men have not gone to the front with the units to which they were originally attached.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Divisions 1 to 12, £6,668.
.- On the vote for The Parlia ment, I desire to ascertain whether the Government have yet defined their attitude this year towards the matter of increments in the various public Departments. I should like to have a statement from the Minister as to whether the Government have decided on no increments above the automatic legal increments ?
– No increases are proposed in the salaries of the higher-paid officers, and the only advances are the automatic statutory increments of civil servants receiving up to £200 per annum. That information applies only to this Supply Bill, and I cannot say what is to be done in the future, because the Government have not yet considered the matter. There are certain increments provided by Statute for officers receiving over £200, but these we are not committing ourselves to say that we shall approve of, nor at present are we asking Parliament to commit itself to them.
– I regret that the Estimates have not been submitted, to enable us to compare the proposed expenditure of this year with the actual expenditure of last. It seems to be very bad business, for it means that the Government are practically leaving the control of the Departments in the hands of the permanent officials. Some honorable senators may imagine that the Government are running the show, but in reality they are doing nothing of the kind.
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable senator cannot enter upon a general discussion of the Departments on the vote for Parliament.
– The honorable senator must confine himself to the item before the Chair.
– May I not bemoan the absence of the Estimates? If discussion is to be stifled in this fashion, the sooner we shut up shop the better. Surely I am entitled to ask a question.
– Will the honorable senator ask it?
– Why are the Estimates not beforeus to enable us to see the actual increases in expenditure?
– In moving the first reading, I said the reason the
Estimates could not be submitted was that more than three-fourths of the expenditure for the current year is on the war, and any Estimates that could be submitted would be accurate only as regards the ordinary Departments, the war Estimates being uncertain because we do not know the extent of the liability being incurred for us by the Imperial Government overseas.
– Will you be in a better position in three months’ time?
– We should be, because we have asked the British Government to submit their claims from time to time as it becomes possible to submit them.
– We shall never be able to bring them up to date until after the war.
– But we shall know what certain services are costing, particularly the provision of supplies, clothing, and transports engaged between Egypt and the front. We can make only the roughest guess at present at this expenditure, but when we get an account covering a certain period we shall be able to frame more accurate estimates of our overseas expenditure. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to ask that the Treasury should not be pressed to produce its Estimates for the year at present. If it was done, it would serve no useful purpose, because, as regards the bulk of the expenditure, it would be of only the roughest possible character.
– According to statements made by Mr. Fisher and Mr. Higgs Estimates have been prepared.
– That is so; but those regarding the expenditure oversea are based on a rough calculation only. We hope shortly to get data on which to form an approximately correct estimate. I also pointed out that we are making no increases in the other Departments, except those in a list which I read out and explained item by item. This showed that the only large increase was in the Postal Department, the reasons being increased services, necessitating an increased staff and increased expenditure on salaries. Surely, with that information and the statement I have already made to-day, Senator Stewart must see that he would be in no better position if we brought down the Estimates from the other Departments and excluded the Defence De partment, through which three-fourths of the expenditure is incurred.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Divisions 13 to 16, £11,035.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.24].- The item “Allowances to officers acting as secretaries to - the Prime Minister and Leaders of the Opposition in the Senate and House of Representatives “ apparently discloses a new departure in giving my honorable friend Senator Millen a secretary. I am not aware that he has one at present.
.- When Senator McGregor was Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Edwards acted as his secretary, and I understood that the practice had been continued. Mr. Hayes acts as secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in another place, and if Senator Millen is not provided with a private secretary, I am astonished that he has sat silent under the deficiency for so long. If it is so, I shall be happy to see that he is supplied with secretarial assistance, as he should be, and as I thought he had been.
.- -I knew of the practice under the previous Government, and when I became Leader of the Opposition again I applied for secretarial assistance, but was refused.
– Who refused you?
– The AttorneyGeneral’s Department, which is in the habit of nominating an officer to discharge the duties. I was told that the Department could not spare any officer. Although I felt a little sore that the treatment extended by our Government to our opponents had been reversed, I said no more about it, publicly or privately; but as the matter has been brought up now I have no hesitation in telling the Committee the facts.
.- This is the first time the matter has come under my notice. I am only sorry that Senator Millen did not speak to me privately, but I will do what I can now to see that he is provided with secretarial assistance.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.28].- I am glad to hear Senator Pearce’s statement, for I was surprised when I found that Senator Millen had no one to assist him in his duties. A great deal of work devolves specially on the Leader of the Opposition, and he should have proper assistance.
– This little incident contains all the elements of comic opera, and shows with extraordinary vividness with what ineptness the affairs of the country are carried on. In the first place, Mr. Hughes, as Attorney-General, informed Senator Millen that he was not to be provided with a secretary. Next, when the Estimates were prepared, presumably in the Attorney-General’s office, a salary was included for this official who did not exist. An incident so contrary to all ideas of good business management could not happen in any but a Government institution. I am glad the matter has been brought up, and that Senator Millen is to be provided with secretarial assistance.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Divisions 17 to 27, £48,170, agreed to.
Attorney-General ‘ s Department .
Divisions 32 to 37, £13,929.
– A number of complaints are made in connexion with the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, by people desiring to bring cases before the Court, of the undue time that elapses before they are given an opportunity to do so.
– Twelve months or more.
– I believe that in some cases the delay has amounted to two years. It is generally felt that the delay in taking up the consideration of cases brought before the Court is altogether unreasonable. Have the Government ever considered whether the business of the Court could not be expedited if necessary by the appointment of an additional Judge? The people of Australia have decided that disputes between workmen and their employers shall be settled by arbitration before a court specially constituted for that purpose, and those desiring to appear before the Court should be given the very earliest opportunity to have their differences settled. If a case drags over a year we have workmen continuing to work under conditions to which they object. If the complaint is made by the employer he has to carry on his business under conditions which he believesto be opposed to his interests. The Government might take into consideration the appointment of an additional Judge, or some other means for expediting the business of the Court.
– I concur in the criticism which Senator Stewart has offered, but I am very hopeful that recent developments will remove the constitutional difficulties in the way which have contributed to the delay in the transaction of. the business of the Arbitration Court. I do not know that the appointment of an additional Judge would speed matters up as much as might appear at a first glance, as the delay is due in a large measure to the vagueness and ambiguity of the existing Act and the difficulty in defining what are Federal and what are State powers. I am hopeful that in view of the powers about to be conferred on this Parliament it will be possible to anticipate a speedy and early settlement of the industrial disputes which, from time to time, are brought before the Court.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Divisions 38 to 45, £50,241.
– Will the Minister representing1 the Minister of External Affairs tell honorable senators what is being done in Papua in connexion with the development of the oil-fields there?
– I can give no more than a general statement that bores are being put down under the supervision of Dr. Wade, the expert in charge, with a view to testing the oil at deeper levels. If the expectations of the expert are realized, a good supply of oil will be struck when the boring is deeper. The work is being carried on as expeditiously as possible, and, judging by the samples received and the reports of authorities, we are quite hopeful that good oil will be discovered, and that in the near future it will be a paying proposition.
– I should like to have a little more definite information on this matter which is of the greatest importance to the Commonwealth. I have no knowledge of the depth to which the boring has already gone. We should like to know what the indications are, and what difficulties, if any, there are in the way of a practical development of the oil industry. A vote of £4,000 is included in the schedule for the. development of the Papuan oil-fields, and we ought to be informed as to how far it has proceeded. Are we depending entirely upon the expert advice of Dr. Wade in this matter ?
– Who is Dr. Wade?
– That is a very pertinent question, in view of the reports which have been made by, I believe, the same gentleman on the South Australian oil-fields. If his reports are not more trustworthy than is the advice which he has given in connexion with the South Australian oil-fields, I am afraid that it may be found that we are on a wild-goose chase in Papua.
– He could not inspect the Papuan fields in a motor-car, as he did the South Australian fields.
– Honorable senators are unable to gather very much information from the casual and superficial reports that are presented. I should like to know what is the depth of the bore, and what are the latest indications on which the expert bases his belief that a good supply of oil can be obtained in Papua. The Minister might say whether there are any reports which supply detailed information on the subject, and, if there are, he might see that we aTe given access to them. I take a very deep interest in this matter, because I regard a discovery of a really good oil-field in Australia as one of the most important discoveries that could be made at the present time. Some of the railways which have been projected, and which are in certain quarters strongly objected to, might be made payable concerns by the discovery of a good oil-field in the Commonwealth.
– I did not come prepared to say exactly how many feet the bore is down. It would not, I think, greatly enlighten honorable senators to know whether it is down 100 feet or 200 feet.
– It would if we knew the strata through which it passed.
– I have here a sample of the oil from Papua, and by examination honorable senators will be able to tell that it is the real thing in oil. The indications lead us to believe that we have in Papua a rich oil-field which iB Commonwealth property. An indication which is quite as satisfactory as the official reports, and which justifies us in being optimistic about the prospects of the discovery of good oil in Papua, is that private companies are submitting applications for, and are very anxious to secure, land in Papua for the development of the oil industry.
– Have they been given any grants?
– No; but applications have been made for lands by persons who desire to work the oil-fields in their own interests. The Government are quite alive to the importance of the development of the oil-fields in view of the fact that a very large supply of oil will be required for our Navy. It will be a very big thing for us if these oil-fields in Papua can be successfully developed. The most convincing argument of the presence of oil there is the sample of oil which I have produced, and all the indications justify us in believing that we have a rich oil-field in Papua. I am very sanguine that it will be proved to be so. Honorable senators should not forget that development in such cases is always slow, and the Government have ‘ been alive to the importance of having the developmental work done as speedily as possible. A report on Papua was tabled since Parliament met on the last occasion, and it includes a reference to this industry I shall ask that the quarterly reports from Papua may be circulated amongst honorable senators in order that they may know exactly what is being done in this connexion.
– This is a matter in which, as a Tasmanian, I have taken some interest. I have been glad to hear the announcement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I have a speaking acquaintance with Dr. Wade, and I have also taken the trouble to look up his credentials, which may be inspected by any honorable senator, from the files of the External Affairs Department. Having looked them up, I am satisfied that Dr. Wade is the very, best man who could be secured by the High
Commissioner in London. He was the best man available for the purpose for which he was engaged. From conversations I have had with the Minister, and with Dr. Wade, who is - now in Melbourne, I find that the oil was discovered in Papua as the result of boring.
– Most petroleum oils are discovered in that way.
– We have oil in Tasmania derived from shale, of which there are enormous deposits in that State. If any honorable senator will take the trouble to look up the official papers bearing on the matter he will find the result of an analysis of that oil by an analyst of very high repute, who says that it is rich in paraffin, and would also be very suitable for petrol. It is a light oil, which would be specially valuable for making paraffin wax. But, so far, the oil which has been obtained would not provide good fuel, so that, unless the deposit changes in character, it would not be of very much service to Australia from the stand-point of fuel for the Navy.
– We cannot reply to the honorable senator, because we are not discussing Dr. Wade.
- Dr. Wade gave such a favorable report on the shale deposits of Tasmania that the Government of which Mr. Earle is the head are securing his services with the view to conducting the shale oil industry as a State enterprise.
– Over £1,000,000 has been expended in that direction in New South Wales.
– I am quite aware of that, and I recognise that the proposition is one which promises a varying measure of success, as witness the case of the Scotch oils.
– I desire to point out that the development of enterprises of this character proceeds very slowly. I could have brought the Vice-President of the Executive Council numerous samples of oil similar to that which has been exhibited in this chamber– samples which were obtained in Queensland eighteen or twenty years ago. As a matter of fact, whilst a bore was being sunk at Roma, nearly twenty-five years ago, an enormous pressure of gas compelled the cessation of boring operations. The gas then became ignited, and after burning for a considerable time somebody conceived the idea that it would be wise to utilize it for lighting the township. Accordingly a gasometer was erected, and the supply of gas was connected with Roma. Soon after this had been done, the gas pressure considerably diminished, and, indeed, almost ceased. When the experts investigated the matter they affirmed that the gas pressure was being generated by big deposits of mineral oil. Companies were formed for the purpose of prospecting for oil, and these were allowed to take up portions of the country in the immediate neighbourhood. But, beyond having obtained numerous samples similar to that which has been exhibited here this morning, those companies have achieved no practical result. I believe that the portion of Australia in which a good mineral oil-field is discovered will prove, not only of great value to the Commonwealth, but also to the State in which it is located.
– And the discoverer will make his fortune.
– I do not know that he will. In Queensland the Government have taken the oil industry under their control, and not long ago I read that they had obtained the services of an American expert to advise them in this matter, with the object of thoroughly proving the Roma field. The experts have reported time and again that in all probability there will be large quantities of oil struck in that district. We do not know what may be the value of Dr. Wade’s advice, but so long as there are indications sufficient to warrant tests being made of this country, those tests should be made. At the same time, the Minister should see that all the information that is available from time to time is furnished to Parliament, in order that there may be no waste of money in conducting useless experiments. We all know that experiments are frequently undertaken by Governments, and after they have been in progress a little time, the experts in charge of them are put on to other propositions, with the result that those experiments are continued long after they give any promise of being successful. That is the reason why the Vice-President of the Executive Council should see that whenever reports come to hand concerning oil developments in
Papua, honorable senators are furnished with them promptly, so that we may be in a position to judge whether itis wise to persist in these operations.
– I should like some information from the Vice-President of the Executive Council aa to how settlement in the Northern Territory is developing, and also as to what progress is being made in gold and other forms of mining there.
– I have no information in reference to the Northern Territory beyond that which is embodied in the reports which have recently been laid on the table of the Senate. Certainly there are no glowing accounts to hand of settlement there during the past twelve months. Indeed, it is quite reasonable to suppose that the calls in another direction have taken settlers away from, rather than to, the Territory.
– But have not the men who have been put upon the country there been getting off it?
– To some extent that is the case. Pending the development of a system under which settlers will be induced to go there-
– The difficulty is to induce them to stay there.
– A scheme will have to be evolved under which men taking up land in the Territory will be afforded an opportunity of making a livelihood commensurate with the difficulties with which they are confronted. During the past year, I repeat, nobody expected any great development in the matter of settlement in the Northern Territory. The construction of the transcontinental railway southwards is in progress, and, although there have been no fresh mining developments, some of the older mining fields in the Territory show reasonable prospects of proving successful. Upon the termination of the war, I anticipate that there will be quite a rush of people to Australia who will have learned from what is happening in Europe what a rich country this must be, seeing that it can afford to pay its troops almost as much as other countries pay their officers. The Commonwealth is thus receiving a great advertisement which, I believe, will result in a large influx of population in the not distant future. Personally, I do not look for a rapid development of the Territory until the north-south transcontinental railway has been completed. Then the rich mining centres in the Macdonnell Ranges and the rich grazing lands of the Territory will be developed.
– I desire to inform honorable senators that during the next few minutes there will be a march past of some of the troops who are being prepared for the front, and, in order to afford honorable senators an opportunity of witnessing it, I propose to suspend the sitting until half-past 2 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from noon to 2.30 p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I need hardly remind honorable senators that this question has been in abeyance for a considerable number of years, and it is generally recognised that Australia has hardly been doing her duty by permitting the waters of the Murray to run to waste for so long, more particularly as this country is subject to periodical droughts, with the result that great hardship has been inflicted upon our people, because sufficient provision has not been made to conserve the good things that Divine Providence has given to us.
– More wealth has been wasted through the waters of the Murray not being conserved than has been won from all the mines.
– We are all agreed that this waste should not have been permitted, and I hope that, as a result of the collective efforts of the three States interested - Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia - we shall be able to prevent any future waste. Everybody has recognised the great advantage that an agreement with regard to the River Murray would be to Australia, but the interests of the various States have been so conflicting that up to the present it has been practically impossible to finalize the negotiations on a mutually satisfactory basis. In 1902 a definite move was made, and a temporary agreement between the States was drawn up. That agreement, however, was not ratified by the Parliaments. In the years that followed the experts of the several States were almost continuously conferring on the question, and it would be impossible, in the short time at my disposal, to detail all the negotiations that were conducted. In 1912 another agreement was arrived at, but it was not until 1914 that the interests of the three States - South Australia with her dominating interest in navigation, Victoria and New South Wales with their dominating interest, in irrigation - were brought into line. It may be asked - Why does the Commonwealth, at this stage, come into an agreement of this sort? The Commonwealth is interested in and responsible for navigation, and is equally interested in seeing that no particular State abridges the right of any other in regard to navigation on that waterway.
– It is a national question.
– Of course, it is a national question.
– Like the Northern Territory.
– The River Murray is the one great national river of Australia ; but, whether national or parochial, I want to remind the Senate that the issue now is - Shall we permit the waters of the Murray to run to waste any longer? The Commonwealth was invited by the various States - and I think the advice was wisely accepted - to join in the scheme as a contracting party, and use its influence in supervising the utilization of the waters in the best interests of the States and the Commonwealth. I do not purpose going into the question of the allotment of the waters. I am conscious that, judging by the comments in the press, there is a fear that Victoria, my own State, is not getting her fair proportion of the waters. As a member of the Commonwealth Government, however, and as one sent here to represent Australia as a whole rather than one State, I believe that since a unanimous agreement has been come to between the States, it is too late now to quarrel about the apportionment of the waters, and it is quite time we got down to bedrock and finalized the agreement. Therefore, I am hot speaking as a Victorian in this matter, but rather as one whose desire it is to see that the waters of the Murray are utilized to the best interests of all concerned, and in order that the development of this country may be proceeded with. Whether the wealth that will be created as the result of the conservation of this water is produced in New South Wales, Victoria, or South Australia, it is impossible for any Statenot to participate in the added prosperity, aud I want to point out that no cooperative scheme among the States could effectively control the Murray. The Commonwealth Government, therefore, came into the scheme, and will have equal representation on the Commission to be appointed to control this matter. The Commission will be given full power to deal with all formal matters - matters in which the vital interests of a State are not concerned. In the event of a dispute with regard to navigation and irrigation between South Australia and Victoria, it will be within the power of the State not satisfied to ask for the appointment, within two months, of an arbitrator to be mutually agreed upon. If they cannot, come to an agreement between themselves, the Chief Justice of Tasmania, as the representative of a disinterested State, one having no particular monetary or other interest in the matter, will either act himself or have the power to nominate an arbitrator to settle the dispute. The decision of such arbitrator will be final, and if one of the States is ordered to carry out any work within its own boundary, or to incur any expense, the Commission will have the right, in the Courts of this country, to compel that State to complete the undertaking as finally determined by the Commission. Those who have been interested in this subject, know, of course, that the whole of the water flowing down the Murray comes from Victoria and New South Wales.
– Water comes from Queensland, too.
– Queensland has certain rights within her own boundaries, but they hardly affect this question. It has been mutually agreed between Victoria and New South Wales that all the water above Albury flowing down the river shall be equally divided between the two States, subject to a de- duction of any water that may be utilized for any purpose either by Victoria or New South Wales above Albury. There is provision to give South Australia, subject, of course, to the supervision of the Commission, practically full control of the Lake Victoria area. New South Wales, in effect, has virtually surrendered all her claims to that area, save the common rights of the people in regard to land bordering on that lake. This, I believe, if not the best and the most scientific agreement, is the first apportionment of the waters of the Murray that we have been able to get the States to agree to. Therefore, I think, as the States are more vitally interested than we are in the matter, it would be foolish to attempt to improve on the compact. Our object should be rather to work with the States in this matter, and promote the scheme, towards which the Commonwealth will contribute £1,000,000, and New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia each £1,221,000. The estimated cost of the works is briefly specified as follow: -
Subject to the supervision of the Commission, each State, so far as they have been able to determine, will have its fair proportion of the waters of the Murray to utilize, either for navigation or for irrigation.
– Or both.
– It is estimated that when the scheme is carried out we shall be able, along the banks of the Murray or closely adjacent thereto,to irrigate an area of about 1,400,000 acres of land.
– To whom does the land belong?
– I shall come to that aspect of the subject, but at present I am dealing with the interests of the States. Speaking from memory, about 600,000 acres of that area will be irri gated in Victoria, which will be just double the irrigation area that it isnow dealing with. New South Wales will be entitled to irrigate about 600,000 acres, and South Australia about 200,000 acres. I am not prepared to say, apart from the reports of the engineers, that this is a practicable scheme, but if it be so - and I have every reason to believe that it is - I hold that, irrespective of the States from which we come, we ought to make the best use of this territory and these waters in the common interests of Australia. It has been suggested that we might acquire the land prior to spending this money on the Murray. I believe that had the States acted with wisdom they would have acquired all the land along the banks of the River Murray which are to be benefited and the unearned increment.
– Can we not insist upon that being made a condition precedent to our giving them the money ?
– Yes, I believe that we have full power to insist upon any conditions we please.
– You will have to put it in the Bill before I will agree to it, anyhow.
– It was the very insistence upon conflicting interests for very many years which left the Murray in the unfortunate position it was in last year.
– Australia, not the Murray. The Murray is in the right” position, but Australia is in the wrong place.
– If the honorable senator means that the Murray is in the right place, yes; but if he is referring to the waters of the Murray, they are in the wrong place, because most of them are in the sea. Last year two honorable members of this Parliament and myself walked across the junction of the Darling and the Murray without taking off our boots. When we reflect on the potentialities of a river like the Murray, on the possibilities of establishing thousands of happy and contented homesteads along its banks, and on the amount of wealth which could be developed there, surely it is about time that we ceased to quarrel with one State or another in regard to 100,000 acre-feet of water. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, the expenditure is limited to £1,000,000, and even if there be a State which will have no close interest in the scheme, but will be compelled, as a unit of the Commonwealth, to contribute £250,000 a year, I do not believe that there is a State which will not indirectly, if not directly, get a full and adequate return for such expenditure. There are all sorts of schemes of an idealistic character which may be suggested. With most of them I have a good deal of sympathy; but whatever our actions to-day may be, whatever injustices we may think are to be inflicted by the landlords whose properties adjoin the banks of the Murray
– You are going to give them a nice present, anyhow - a fine Christmas box.
– Not we. We do not control the land.
– You control the money.
– If the honorable senator will point out to me in what way we have power to deal with the landlords along the Murray it will be an education to me.
– You control the money. You need not present it to the landholders along the Murray.
– No; but I point out te the honorable senator that the States should control tha lands along its banks.
– They have not done so, and we should not give them a farthing until they do. You are simply wasting the Commonwealth money; throwing it to the landlords along the banks of the Murra)’.
– The Parliament which controls the lands adjoining the banks of the Murray is elected by the same people.
– Well, let them find the money.
– If the people are anxious to do it, there is nothing to prevent them from taking any land they like without any limitation.
– Let us keep our cash until they do so.
– It may be possible that they have not the same insight or foresight as the honorable senator has.
– I am recommending to you the Labour platform which you have signed, and which you are now deliberately working against.
– No. If it was within my power to impose some of the conditions about which I know the honorable senator is enthusiastic, I would gladly do it and invite the Senate to join with me. I am not prepared to say that whilst we are quarelling about an ideal which could be put into operation when all the people are agreed it is advisable to have the waters of the Murray running to waste in the sea, thousands and thousands of acres of land lying idle, thousands of sheep and cattle dying, and thousands of men unemployed.
– None of us wants that, but we want to put this scheme on a business basis.
– I admit that many of the men who came to Australia before the honorable senator or I was born held the same idea, but surely the fact that we cannot get the whole of the Parliaments and the people in this country to agree with us to-day is no justification for our stopping all development. That is the position.
– Oh, that is the old capitalistic ‘ ‘ gag ‘ ‘ - out of the mouth of a Labour member.
– It may be.
– There is no “ may “ about it; it is. You are giving them millions.
– Suppose that we make them a free present of £1,000,000, does the honorable senator tell me that the workers of this country did not lose more than that sum in the Riverina along the banks of the Murray last year ? Their loss could not be put at under £25,000,000. Where were the ordinary working men who look for a job in those parts? They were strolling round this city seeking a job, and creating an army of unemployed. I admit that they have to live; but are we to say that until such time as we can get a majority in both Houses of the State Parliaments to agree to a common or idealistic land law we shall permit the waters of the Murray to run to waste instead of being employed to develop the resources of Australia? There is no more enthusiastic supporter of a communistic policy of land settlement along the bangs of the Murray than I am, but I refuse to permit its waters to run to waste until such time as I can get a majority of the people to agree with me on a policy.
– A majority of the people have agreed, and to that fact the presence of the Labour party here is the evidence.
– A moment ago Senator Turley very aptly remarked that New South Wales had been wise enough to carry out a land policy - with which he and I agree - with regard to her irrigation areas.
– But she bought the land first.
– There is nothing to prevent New South Wales from putting into operation at Wentworth the same principles as she has applied in the Murrumbidgee area, because she has control of the lands.
– Put a provision in the Bill.
– The people of New South Wales returned to the State Parliament a dominant party elected on the same franchise, and subject to the same principles as the honorable senator and myself, and it is certainly their specific duty to deal with the land law. It is not for this Parliament to deal with that subject.
– Our duty is to keep our money.
– After this Bill is passed they could not do it without sacrificing enormous interests.
– This scheme willcost the Commonwealth £45,000 a year in interest, besides the salaries of the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner, and we shall have to pay our share of the cost of repair.
– We shall have to do nothing of the sort, because under the Bill our liability is limited to the expenditure of £1,000,000 only. That is the beginning and the end of it.
– It means an interest bill of £45,000, and a liability of £1,000,000, with nothing to show for the’ money. It is heaving money at the landholders along the Murray. You call that Labour policy. If it is, it is time that I got out and looked for some other job.
– If any honorable senators believe for a moment that the Commonwealth and States are going to spend £4,600,000 on the utilization of the waters of the Murray, and the country adjoining its banks, and that the States are going to become hard-up or bankrupt as a result of the scheme, let them take my advice and vote against this measure.
– They will not carry it out for £10,000,000.
– If they do not carry it out for £20,000,000, it will not affect the ‘ liability of this Parliament, because that is distinctly limited to £1,000,000. The agreement as drawn up between the State Premiers did not limit our expenditure to that sum. Clause 5 of this Bill reads -
Subject to this Act, the agreement is hereby ratified and approved, and shall take effect on the commencement of this Act, but nothing in such ratification and approval shall be taken to render the Commonwealth liable to payment of any greater sum than £1,000,000 in respect of the cost of carrying out the works to be provided for under the agreement.
– And clause 43 of the agreement.
– Clause 43 of the agreement, as I pointed out, does not limit our expenditure to £1,000,000, and it is valueless unless it is ratified by this Parliament. The Government are not asking honorable senators to ratify the agreement without this limitation of £1,000,000. That is,- 1 think, fairly clear. It may be suggested that we ought not to be talking about the development of the Murray country at this time; but, looking calmly at the situation, I believe that the greatest difficulty which Australia has to face is not so . much while the war is on as afterwards. On the day the war is declared over, Australia’s difficulties will begin; because, no matter how good the season, no country with a population of only 5,000,000 can at once absorb 200,000 men. Unless we are prepared to see the men who have been fighting for the Empire going about seeking employment at the conclusion of the war, we must have some public works ready to assist them over a period which, I believe, will be the most trying in Australian history. I do not advocate that we should rush off to spend these millions to-morrow, but we should have our plans and surveys completed, and not wait until the men land back from the war before starting a proposition that requires preliminary preparations extending over twelve or eighteen months. We should have not only this, but other public works, ready to keep our men in full employment during the assimilation period. I believe that for every £1,000,000 we spend in guarding the waters of the Murray -we shall have a return of at least £10,000,000.
– How will you get it!
– Probably by the development of a shipping industry of some size along the Murray, the initiation of irrigation works, and in other ways. We shall want men to work the irrigated land, tradesmen to make homes for them, and railway and shipping employees to carry their produce to market. Every man we put on the soil of this country gives employment in turn to at least two or three others; so that, if it is possible to put 50,000 men on the land bordering the Murray, we practically make immediate provision for 150,000 men, which, multiplied by five, will give a rough idea of the probable total number of people who will ultimately benefit.
– It will all go in capitalizing land values ; that will take all the honey out of it.
– We have not the power to insist upon certain land’ laws, although we have the power to destroy the agreement.
– We have the power to withhold our money.
– And, by so doing, we can throw back the settlement of the Murray waters question for ten or twenty years.
– Cannot the three States do the work themselves? Have they not money and resources?
– Yes; but has the Commonwealth no interest?
– Yes; and I am willing to lend the Commission the £1,000,000.
– One of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities with regard to the Murray is navigation, and we ought not to shirk our responsibilities. Even if we have no direct interest - which I do not admit - we, at all events, have this common interest, that no State can make progress without the Commonwealth similarly progressing.
– Can we not make progress without singling out the landowning class for special benefit?
– We are not the only party to the contract. The States who own the land, and practically own the waters, are not prepared to allow us to dictate to them what they should do.
– Then let us keep our money.
– We can keep our money, and we can keep the Murray dry. I am not putting the agreement forward as a perfect one, because probably Victoria does not think it is quite good enough, South Australia probably thinksit is hardly as good as she expected, and New South Wales would like just a little more; but it is a compromise, and the States have agreed’ that, even if the agreement is not perfect, it is the best they can do. In the circumstances, therefore, it is- our duty to support it, and try to make it law. I trust that at the very earliest opportunity the work will be undertaken, so that we may see what will be practically a new State along the banks of the Murray added to the Commonwealth’.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from page 7273) :
Department of External Affairs.
Divisions 38 to 45, £50,241.
– I would strongly urge the Government to see that progress, both in survey and construction, is made from the southern as’ well as the northern end of the north-south railway. I am not “opposing the short line now suggested, but under the present system of working only from the northern end all the supplies have to be sent round to the north, entailing a 33 per cent, increase of cost. Surely the prospect of saving that amount will appeal to Senator Stewart’s Scotch intellect. The railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta belongs to the Commonwealth, and so do the wharfs at Port Augusta, and we ought to develop our own property. The Government should move to fulfil the promise that the work would go on from the southern end.
– Was that promise made?
– Not distinctly as regards either end, but to do what we are doing now is as if a man climbed on to the roof, and went down the chimney, instead of going through the front door. Back freights can be got from the southern end, the work can be done cheaper, greater facilities are available, population is nearer, and settlement can take place as the line progresses, while, from the defence point of view, there can be no comparison between the advantages offered by the two methods.
– And to do the work from the northern end simply means giving the Chinaman a subsidy.
– The temptation will be to purchase rails from Japan or China when we could make them ourselves. As this is the only opportunity representatives of South Australia have of putting their views before the Cabinet, 1, as a South Australian, would urge the Minister to put before the Cabinet the desirableness of looking at the question from a common-sense and economical point of view, and beginning the work at the southern end of the line.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council spoke before lunch of the progress, or want of progress, of settlement in the Northern Territory, and indulged in hopes, which we all share, as to the great and glorious future before that part of the Commonwealth in the sweet by-and-by. In the meantime it would be interesting to know what is taking place there now. The Minister rightly said that we could not, as reasonable men, expect any marked progress to have been made during the last twelve months, but that leaves unsatisfied our curiosity to know what fate has overtaken those who settled there prior to that period. A large amount of money, and a good deal of official encouragement, misdirected or not, was given to induce a number of settlers to go on certain lands there. They are maintained by subsidies provided by the public of Australia, and we should like to know whether they are there now, and how they are getting on. How many of them remain ? What is the amount of money we have advanced to keep them there ? What are the prospects of their remaining there after we have spent this money ?
– Does the honorable senator not remember seeing a moving picture of it?
– I am afraid that it is a moving picture. So far as I can understand, all the efforts which have been made up there have moved very rapidly from the region of brilliant hopes into something approaching a ghastly failure.
– That is the history of all early development in Australia.
– Are we never to learn from the mistakes of the past ? Are we to attempt to develop the Northern Territory by repeating the mistakes of the past? We should endeavour, knowing the mistakes that have been made, to strike out upon a policy which is likely to lead to success. An amount of money, which in itself is not very large, but is enormous when compared with the results that have followed from its expenditure, has been spent upon Government farms in the Northern Territory. Efforts have been made there by the External Affairs Department to solve problems which have been solved elsewhere long ago. Persistent efforts have been made to settle people in tropical and sub-tropical regions, and to solve problems with which the people of Queensland have been dealing for years.
– And which they have not solved yet.
– But which they are in a better position to investigate with a hope of solution than are the people in the Northern Territory. I cannot conceive of a more foolish commencement of development than that which has taken place in the Northern Territory. If I wished to grapple with the problem of the cultivation of tropical and sub-tropical products I should not go to the Northern Territory, but to a place like Queensland, where I could get land as good, if not superior, to any in the Northern Territory, in districts that are comparatively settled, with fixed market routes, social facilities in the way of churches and schools, and a settled population. What the Administrator of the Northern Territory is attempting to do is to solve the problems arising from the growth of sub-tropical products in places which lack all the facilities to which I have referred. It would be very much better if he were to direct his attention, as he probably would do if the Government intimated that that was their policy, to that class of country for which our people have shown themselves to be well adapted, and which would present to them no new problems for solution, and that is to the grazing country. Beyond the tropical country which is now being dealt with in the Northern Territory there is an area on the Barclay Tableland of what may be called fair grazing country.
– And all of it is held under lease.
– It is of no use to suggest that because it is held under lease we are impotent to deal with it. We are not impotent. We can in our cities resume land worth hundreds of pounds per foot, and it should not be a stupendous problem to resume grazing areas in the Northern Territory upon a well-devised scheme. The fact that those areas are now held under lease is a legacy of South Australian statesmanship, with which Senator Guthrie has been associated. It would be far better, in my judgment, to pay even more than the market. value in order to resume some of those lands for development than it is to continue to squander money in attempts to develop the jungle area in the north of the Territory. Efforts which have been marked by ghastly failure have been made to create settlement by inducing men to occupy small areas of land, with a prospect of being able to grow cotton successfully. Settlers might be attracted by the prospect if they were invited to occupy sheep farms of a reasonable size. Our people are qualified as graziers, and not as cotton growers. They know nothing of cotton growing. There is no one here who would be prepared to devote his energies to that form of agriculture. We could anticipate a real development of the Territory if we could induce people to settle there by offering them larger areas and better prospects of success in the grazing business, which they well understand. So far nothing has been done in that direction. We have been frittering away our money in efforts to establish a form of settlement which might be successful fifty years hence, when the population has increased and people in the Northern Territory know something more than they can possibly know to-day of the conditions under which they will have to live and when facilities for the marketing of agricultural products have been opened up. I have referred to this matter before, but apparently with no success. I am satisfied that the longer we delay making grazing settlement the starting point of development in the Northern Territory the longer we shall be wasting money, and the greater will be the failure we shall be creating. We can do nothing on these Estimates, and I do not propose to attempt anything; but I hope the aspect of the case to which I have referred will be given serious consideration, and that honorable senators as well as the Government will give closer attention to the continuous reports of dismal failure that come to us as the result of utterly futile and misconceived efforts to develop the Northern Territory.
.- I did not hear the whole of the remarks made by Senator Millen with respect to the experiments which have been undertaken by the External Affairs Department for the development of the Northern Territory. I candidly admit that its development is one of the biggest propositions the people of the Commonwealth have had to face. I am, in a measure, disappointed that something more substantial has not before this been done in that direction. The Northern Territory is six and a half times the size of the State which, with five other honorable senators, I represent in this Chamber. The population is limited to 2,000 or 3,000 people, half of whom are coloured people. Experiments have to be undertaken there, and they must be conducted by the Government, because private individuals will not take the risk which Governments are expected to take in developing a country.
– I did not raise the question as to whether the- experiments should be undertaken by the Government or by private individuals, but as to whether the experiments were in a direction that might be immediately promising, or such as we might anticipate would result in failure.
– All the Governments that have had control of the Northern Territory, though they have not done much, have attempted something which, if their experiments proved successful, would be of immense value to the Territory and to the Commonwealth as a whole. I understand that experiments are being made in cotton culture. Senator Millen said that no one in Australia knows anything about cotton production. I do not believe that. I believe that in various parts of Australia, and particularly amongst the officers of the Agricultural Departments of the different States, there are men who know a great deal about cotton culture, and about the cotton industry in all parts of the world.’ If there is one industry which should receive every possible encouragement in Australia, it is the production of cotton. Wool is at present the staple industry of the Commonwealth. It is worth probably £25,000,000 a year to Australia; but the cotton industry of America is worth over £40,000,000 a year to that country. It is argued that we could not compete in the cotton industry with other countries because the labour employed in those countries in the production of cotton is cheap labour. I have been reading a little about cotton production in America, and I have learned that in some of the States in which it is produced coloured labour has been displaced by white labour, because it was found to be less economical.
– By “ mean whites.”
– No, by white men receiving reasonable wages. Further, it must be remembered that experiments have been made in the harvesting of cotton by machinery. The cost of cotton production, so far as labour is concerned, need not be seriously taken into account if it be possible to get machines to do the work in the cotton-field, which, in most instances, is done to-day by human labour.
– In any case, the white labour referred to as “mean white” was itself the product of the employment of black labour.
– There is nothing in the argument about “mean whites” when it is thoroughly analyzed. We know that, for a number of years, sugar was produced in Queensland by coloured labour. It was argued that the industry could not be carried on successfully if it had to employ white men at white men’s wages. There was a desire
On the part of a section of the people of Queensland, if they could not continue to employ coloured labour, to be in a position to employ “ mean whites “ - that is, white men working for black men’s wages. But to-day Queensland is producing sugar under conditions which are better than those under which sugar is produced in any other part of the world.
– After we abolished the blackfellow.
– I am speaking of what is actually taking place. Sugar is now produced in Queensland under conditions immensely better than at any previous period, and it is no dearer in
Australia to-day than it is in most parts of the world.
– Because we did away with the black-labour competition.
– I cannot understand what Senator Guthrie is driving at. Is the honorable senator in favour of black labour?
– We prohibited the importation of black-labour sugar.
– Could we not just as easily prohibit the importation of cotton produced by black labour? If we can produce sugar successfully by the employment of white labour under reasonable conditions, what is there to prevent us from producing cotton in the same way?
– Incidentally we have created fortunes for the sugar companies.
– Does the honorable senator desire that the sugar industry should be a failure?
– It is strange that the opposition to my remarks should come, not from honorable senators opposite, but from members of my own party.
– The honorable senator is not voicing the opinions of the Labour party. He is not the Labour party.
– I think I am voicing the opinion of a majority of the members of the Labour party when I say that we desire to see natural industries established in every part of Australia.
– And cottongrowing is one of them.
– It is one of them. Cotton grows in a semi-wild state in most parts of the Northern Territory, and cotton of good quality has been produced in some parts of Queensland.
– Cotton was sold from Queensland many years ago. Mr. Cole has published a book in which he gives luminous details of cotton production in Australia.
– I gather that Senator Bakhap is not opposed to experiments being made in the Northern Territory by the present or any other Government to further the establishment of the cotton industry in Australia.
– Not at all.
– I hope that the Government will not hesitate to continue their experiments in the Northern Territory until they have proved conclusively that the cotton industry can be established as an essential Australian industry, providing employment for Australians, and a raw material which at present is being- imported in enormous quantities of great value, and which we would not need to import if the people and their representatives in this Parliament did their duty in the encouragement of Australian industries. Senator Millen says that some of those experiments have not been successful. That is perfectly true. But I would remind him that successes are frequently built upon failures.
– I was not speaking of the botanical experiments, but of experiments in the way of settlement.
– Successful settlement cannot be undertaken in the absence of experiments.
– Then why were experiments in settlement started before the botanical experiments had been completed? I do not object to experiments in the form I have indicated. My remarks related to the attempt to establish dairy farms in the Territory.
– The honorable senator said that we could not undertake the cultivation of cotton because our people had no experience of cottongrowing. I disagree with him. I say that cotton production would prove of more value to Australia than would the opening up of grazing areas. I do not know what sum has been expended in cotton experiments in the Territory, but my own opinion is that it has been altogether inadequate. We talk about an expenditure of a few thousand pounds in the Northern Territory, but, before that country can be developed, we shall have to spend millions of pounds. We must speak in millions, and not in paltry pounds, when we discuss the settlement of the Territory. I will be no party to cutting down legitimate expenditure in that portion of the Commonwealth. The money we have already expended there represents only a few thousand pounds, which is a mere bagatelle. It is true that we are adding to the transcontinental line by extending it from Pine Creek to the Katherine, a distance of 50 or 60 miles, and that it is now proposed to still further extend it to Bitter Springs. Personally, I regard the agree ment into which the Commonwealth entered with South Australia as a binding one on this Parliament. Under that agreement, we undertook to complete the northsouth railway, and not to leave a gap of 1,100 or 1,200 miles unbridged. We have agreed, not only to finish that line, but to construct other railways in the Territory, to make roads, and to provide means of communication generally. In short, we undertook to render the Territory habitable, and to make the- conditions obtaining there as attractive as possible to the people. We must also find markets for the tropical productions of the Territory. We ought to be as much concerned with its development as are the Government. We ought to render every assistance to any Government which takes the development of the Territory into their serious consideration. My regret is that past Governments have not regarded this portion of the Commonwealth and its settlement as one of the most serious problems with which they were confronted.
– Mr. Glynn’s policy was one which made for its development.
– I am satisfied that that is the policy of the present Ministry. I know that there is a disposition to view this matter through various coloured spectacles. For myself, I intend to view it through Australian spectacles. The agreement entered into with South Australia should be honoured, and the present Government intend to honour it. They are proceeding to do so on lines which meet with my approval. They are expending money in demonstrating, as far as possible, the manifold advantages of that area, and in proving that industries which are non-existent to-day may be established there - industries which will return millions of pounds to Australia in the years to come.
– As I do not desire to be misunderstood on this matter, I propose to supplement the remarks which I made a short time ago. When I referred to the failure of certain experiments in the Northern Territory, I was not referring to the experiments carried out by the Government Botanist with a view to determining what products ought to be grown there, and how they should be grown. The experiments which I had in my mind related to the endeavour which has been made to create some small settlements in that portion of the Commonwealth. Senator
Findley, I am sure, will recognise the gulf which exists between the two things.
– The honorable senator inquired, “ What is the good of going in for cotton cultivation when nobody here knows anything about iti”
– Exactly. When I said that nobody here knows anything about it, I was referring to the class of people from whom we hope to draw our settlers. As a matter of fact, Queensland can produce a limited number of men who are thoroughly familiar with cotton culture. But those men do not comprise the class from whom we can hope to secure settlers. The officers in the Agricultural Departments of the States, although they may know all about cotton cultivation, are not the men who will themselves embark upon the industry. I have known of only very few officials who were prepared to go out into the country and show people how to do things. Indeed, I know of only two officers who have gone upon the land themselves, and those gentlemen subsequently abandoned all their previous teaching, and, when interrogated as to the reason for so doing, declared that they were then speaking from experience, and not from theory. Throughout Australia, there are large bodies of men who are looking for land who are fully qualified graziers, and who would be prepared to settle in the Territory if they were afforded an opportunity. But we cannot find any number of practical agriculturists who understand cotton cultivation, and who are prepared to accept the risks of embarking upon the industry in the Territory. Whilst we are carrying on these scientific experiments there, ought we not to make a practical effort to settle in the Territory individuals who are already qualified as graziers ?
– That is another proposition.
– I have addressed the Committee a second time on this matter in order to dispel any misapprehension which might otherwise exist regarding my attitude. Honorable senators must recognise that, unless we are going to allow the pastoral leases in the Territory to mature twenty or thirty years hence before we make any effort to create smaller pastoral holdings there, we must, sooner or later, face a resumption scheme. In my judgment, the sooner we do it the less we shall have to pay. Senator Stewart has very truthfully remarked that, with every successive year, the tendency of land values in any new country must be upwards. Consequently we must, sooner or later, grapple with this problem, and by the resumption of the more-favoured estates, make way for smaller pastoral holdings. The sooner we do that, the better it will be from a financial standpoint, and the sooner we shall open the door for successful settlement in the Territory.
– I rise for the purpose of stressing the point made by Senator Senior regarding the advisableness of proceeding with the construction of the north-south railway from the south. If that course were adopted, the whole of the material required in the construction of that line would be carried by white labour. But what do we find ? Quite recently an agreement was entered into with a steamship company to provide a mail service from Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, to Port Darwin. Under that agreement, the company is being subsidized by the Commonwealth to the extent of £3,000 a year. Yesterday we passed a Bill, under which a bounty is to be granted1 upon the production of pig-iron. We have already extended protection to steel rails; and in effect, therefore, we are giving this steam-ship company a bonus of £3.000 annually to carry those rails to Port Darwin. I would further point out that the steam-ship company in question is employing coloured crews upon its vessels. This compact was made by the present Government, notwithstanding that thereis a legislative provision which prohibitsa postal contract being let to a steamshipcompany which employs coloured crews.
– Did the honorablesenator object?
– I knew nothingof the contract until after it had been made. Neither did the honorable senator. The first intimation we had of it was when a paper was laid on the tableof the Senate on the 14th August last.
– Is not there a differentiation made between the rates charged on such vessels?
– No. The rates provided for in this contract are sufficiently generous to insure the fortune of any company. For example, the freight on bran between Sydney and Port Darwin-.- is 55s. per ton; that upon bacon, whether by weight or measurement, is £1 17s. 6d. per ton. The rate between Melbourne and Adelaide is only 10s. 6d. per ton.
– But what freight is there to Port Darwin ? Does not the charge depend on the volume of the trade ?
– It is proposed to extend the north-south line from the Katherine River to Bitter Springs, and thus to provide this company with an increased volume of trade. We are subsidizing the company to the extent of £3,000 a year, and allowing it to carry a crew of Chinamen.
– Why, half our transports are manned by Chinamen. Quite a number of Chinese have lost their lives when transports have been submarined.
-There is no vessel subsidized by the Government which carries a coloured crew except one, which is in Sydney Harbor. There are sufficient men in Australia to manage the whole of the British mercantile marine. How many Chinamen have pone to the front in defence of the Empire, although they have been manning the British mercantile marine for years?
– I tell you over a hundred men of Chinese extraction have gone from Australia, and thirty-seven of them have gone from Ballarat. I have all the figures at my disposal.
– What is a hundred, anyway?
– It is a bigger percentage than your own people have sent.
– The Government are pursuing this policy of building the railway from north to south, and they are sending all the material from Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane to Port Darwin in subsidized ships, not manned by Australians but by Chinamen, whereas they might have sent all the material vid Port Augusta, and transported it over their own railways, which are manned by Australians. That is the point I want to emphasize. Fortunately, the agreement which has been entered into will have a currency of only two years, and I hope no Government will ever attempt to make any similar agreement in the future. We passed an Act of Parliament which, I believe, represented the opinion of the people of Australia, to the effect that the Australian coastal trade should be reserved for Australians. The Government of the day supported that principle, and although the Act received the King’s assent, the Government hung it up, and in the face of that Act of Parliament they made a contract subsidizing a steam-ship company employing Chinamen in the Australian coastal trade. I make the strongest protest I can against this course of action, and I believe that the whole trouble could have been got over by starting the line from the southern instead of from the northern end.
– Senator Findley suggested to the Government that they might undertake the cultivation of cotton in the Northern Territory, and Senator Millen suggested grazing farms. I am in sympathy with both, for I believe Australia can become one of the great cotton -growing countries of the world, just as she has become one of the great wool-growing countries of the world. I am quite in sympathy with Senator Millen’s suggestion. There are 70,000,000 acres of the best land of the Northern Territory held on long lease, and very many of the lessees, so far as I can gather, are doing nothing at all with the land, so the sooner the Government undertake the resumption the better it will be for the Northern Territory and for Australia. I also suggest that the sugar-growing industry might be established in the Northern Territory.
– The de Lissa Company tried, and failed.
– I think, however, that some attempt might be made to ascertain what can be done in that direction.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 - Land acquired under, at -
Amungula, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Bherwerre, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital (Port) and purposes.
Goorooyarroo, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Majura, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Molonglo (2), Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Public Service Act 1902-1915.- Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 187, 195, 196, 197, 199, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, and 216.
– In moving
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I wish to intimate that the first; business on re- assembling next Wednesday will be the Murray waters Agreement Bill. The Supply Bill will follow.
– Yesterday, about midnight, on the motion for adjournment, the Minister of Defence, representing, I suppose, the Government, made a very brief statement in regard to the referenda proposals and voting, telling the Senate of the arrangement which had been come to between the Labour Administration and the State Premiers sitting in conference. The most meagre information was vouchsafed at the time in the Ministerial statement, and it would have been unwise for any one to have made any comment on it without giving the whole matter very grave consideration. I wish it to be clearly understood that I assume the whole responsibility for what I intend to say. I am not speaking for any one but myself. The arrangement, if it discloses nothing else, discloses the fact that there is in the Federal Constitution a flexibility which its most rabid critics have not been willing to concede as existing. I also fully recognise that by virtue of the arrangement the position in connexion with the powers sought by the Labour Administration rests with the State Legislatures. It is for them to refuse or consent to confer the sought-for powers on the National Administration at this juncture. While I am always prepared to accept the statement that political peace is desirable, I believe there is such a thing as an unwise peace. Germany, for instance, offers us peace. We can bring this war to a termination to-morrow on German terms, but we have wisely spurned the offer. Now, I am particularly concerned with the assertion that these powers are necessary for the rational prosecution of the war. I combat and repudiate the assertion that they are necessary. I say that the proposals had their genesis nearly five years ago in times of peace, and that during two campaigns it was never once remotely suggested that they were essential for the prosecution of any war in which Australia, as a part of the Empire, might become engaged. I would, perhaps, not say anything at this juncture, but I feel sure that the people of the States will not condone any torpidity, vacillation, or political cowardice in their representatives, irrespective of the party to which they belong. I am notprone to offer unsolicited advice, and as I have said, I fully recognise that it is the legislators of the States in Parliament assembled who will have to decide these matters. But I will depart from my usual practice, and urge the State parliamentarians right throughout the Commonwealth to give calm and grave consideration to these questions, andurge them not to suffer themselves tlo be misinformed, bulldozed, or stampeded, or even betrayed, as Ireland was a century ago.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 November 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19151105_senate_6_79/>.