9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President(Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. I would refer the honorable senator to a statement made by the Prime Minister in the House yesterday to the effect that the Government propose to appoint a Royal Commission immediately to inquire into the loss of this vessel.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In submitting this Bill to Parliament, the Government have taken an unusual course. Under the law as it stands, Parliament has given the Government power to pass Ordinances relating to the Northern Territory, and the procedure in the past has been to legislate for the Northern Territory by Ordinance. A little consideration will indicate the necessity for that. If all laws dealing with the Northern Territory had to be passed by Act of Parliament, the greater part of the time of this Parliament would be occupied with Northern Territory affairs. That Territory is comparable to a State, and Parliament would have to pass special legislation for it on almost all the questions dealt with for Australia generally. The same argument applies tothe other Territories - Papua, the Mandated Territories, and Norfolk Island. The procedure of legislating by Ordinance does not deprive Parliament of its power to control legislation. Under the Standing Orders and the procedure of Parliament, all Ordinances have to be laid upon the table of Parliament for a certain number of sitting days, and if any honorable senator takes exception to an Ordinance, or to any part of it, he can give notice of motion to disallow either the whole or portion of it. That motion, under the Standing Orders, takes precedence of all business, including Government business. Therefore, there is no chance of an Ordinance becoming law without honorable senators having a full opportunity of concentrating the attention of Parliament upon it. That is the procedure in the Senate, but in another place the same standing order does not exist. Any senator may move to hold up or disallow an Ordinance, and, if he can get the Senate to agree with him, he may amend it in any particular. I submit that while these Territories remain so small in population as not to justify their having Legislatures of their own, legislation by Ordinance is the most convenient procedure.
When objection to an Ordinance relating to Crown lands in the . Northern Territory was taken in another place, the Government felt that important principles were at stake. The Government at first contemplated giving an opportunity for a discussion on the general principles of the
Ordinance, but later decided to bring -the Matter before Parliament in the form of :i schedule to a Bill. This will enable the whole Ordinance- to be fully discussed. I take it that all honorable senators, irrespective of party and of the view they may take of this Ordinance, are interested in having some sort of order and cohesion in Commonwealth legislation. If this Bill were passed and became an Act it would cause considerable confusion in our Statutes, because it would be different from all of them. The Statutes deal with Commonwealth legislation, but the Bill does not deal with Commonwealth legislation per se, but with legislation for that part of the Commonwealth which is called’ the Northern Territory. Honorable senators will see that if we had one Act of the Commonwealth Parliament dealing with one phase of Northern Territory legislation, while all other phases of Northern Territory legislation were dealt .with by Ordinance, serious difficulties would arise in future in deciding which legislation should be dealt with by Act of Parliament, and which by Ordinance. The Attorney-General’s Department strongly recommends - and the recommendation has much to commend it - that the Bill should be passed up to its final stage, but not into law. The Government could then issue an Ordinance, embodying the principles contained in the Bill, with such amendments as Parliament might make. This procedure would not disturb the practice hitherto followed, and would not create the confusion which would result from passing the Bill.
– There is a difference between the Northern Territory and other Territories under the control of the Commonwealth.
– That is so, but the necessities of the Northern Territory require an Ordinance to be passed almost weekly. My remarks are forcible enough if applied only to the Northern Territory, but ““the position becomes infinitely more complicated when the other Territories are taken into consideration.
The development of the Northern Territory is of pressing importance to Australia. I frankly _ confess that in my recent journey through that part of Australia the thought was ever present in my mind that Australia, in holding that Territory in its present condition, is tempting- fate. There is a general impression in the southern part of Australia that the Northern Territory has not progressed because of its natural disadvantages. It is assumed that there is something in the soil, climate, or other natural features that prevents its development. I have had opportunities, during my political life and previously, of visiting practically every part of Australia. I am not unacquainted with the possibilities of development because, as a young man, I passed the greater part of my life in a State which developed from a primitive condition into a prosperous and thriving community. I refer to the State of Western Australia, the development of which has been not merely mineral, but pastoral and agricultural. I am acquainted with the climate of almost every part of Australia, and with the conditions under which the people have had to live. I have also seen other countries, and have studied their climates, soils, and conditions of life. In the light of that experience, I say, in all seriousness, that there is nothing inherent in the Northern Territory to prevent its being developed equally with every other part of Australia. I say, too, that in the past we have not always directed our Northern Territory policy in the light of the experience we should have gained in the development, of the various States. The Northern Territory, unfortunately, has .been- a happy hunting ground for faddists, and numerous fads, all of which have ended disastrously, have been tried there.
There are one or two outstanding facts which, if they had been recognised and acted upon, would have changed entirely the progress of development in the Territory. The experience of the States has been ignored, in that an attempt - has been made to put first what naturally comes at a later stage in development. In the States development followed along definite and obvious lines. The pastoral industry came first. In some States mineral development occurred at an early stage by the discovery of alluvial gold, but that was abnormal. If the history of the States is studied, it Wil be found that the pastoralist generally came first. He, with his Socks and herds, caused a certain amount of development in the interior. That, in turn, gave growth to cities, which called for the development of roads and railways. Then it was discovered that .the land could be put to more profitable use, and the farmer and orchardist were introduced and settled upon country which was at first regarded as suitable only for pastoral purposes. Thus the pastoralist came first, and the agriculturist followed. As the pressure of subsistence became greater more intensive forms of agriculture were introduced. In duo course the necessity arose for cutting up the larger estates, and. the increase in population called for the development of secondary industries, which depending as they did upon the pastoral and agricultural industries, developed in ratio to the pastoral and agricultural population.
Attempts have been made to develop the Northern Territory, and a great deal of money has been spent in efforts to promote the agricultural industry there, and even to develop secondary industries, before the primary industry of the pastoralist has been given a chance to expand. The Government, seriously in earnest over this problem, have come to the conclusion that it has been demonstrated beyond all doubt that there is a vast area in the Territory just as suitable for pastoral development as are any of the rich pastoral districts in other parts of Australia. The pastoralist in the northern country has already shown that cattle-raising can be carried on successfully, and therefore our first line of action should be to assist in the further development of that industry. At the same time we should not neglect to give assistance, where it is justified, to agricultural and other industries. The chief attraction that the Department of Home and Territories had for me when I took it over, was that I felt, as an Australian, that there was resting upon Australia a great responsibility to develop its northern country, and that if I found a . way by which we could commence to develop it 1 should have rendered at least some service to my country during my political life. I felt that if I could only do that I should not have lived in vain.
Looking at the Northern Territory geographically we must realize that it is the Achilles’ heel of the Australian continent. I have heard it said that, because the Northern Territory is unpeopled, it does not, from a military point of view, constitute a danger to Australia. Military authorities have stated that if an army were landed in the Northern Territory it would be isolated, and that, because of the climatic and other con- ditions, it could not possibly find its way into the southern, eastern, or western portions ,of this continent. I have had the opportunity of travelling over a considerable area of the Territory. Honorable senators will see; on the map before them, the port of Darwin in the far northern corner. I proceeded by motor car down to Newcastle Waters, and then I turned east to the Queensland border, and went through, the pastoral districts. What is there to prevent a mobile army from following that line? Certainly there is no lack of food, because there are hundreds of thousands of cattle. It may be said that we could get the cattle off that country, but has anybody with the slightest knowledge of stock contemplated how long it would take to remove those cattle? Let them ask any pastoralist what length of time would be. occupied in shifting cattle from one run to another, or let them contemplate the difficulties of the task of droving hundreds of thousands of cattle before a mobile force, so that they might be placed in a position of safety before a rapidlymoving army could overtake them.
Then again there .would be no difficulty in regard to water, because the whole of the country is well supplied in that respect; not only is there sub-artesian water at a depth of from 200 to 400 feet, but there are also surface waters. At Newcastle Waters there is a great natural water-hole some miles long and hundreds of yards wide, and 30 or 40 feet deep. As far back as the memory of white men and aborigines goes, it has never been dry. There are other permanent water-holes, and, with water and cattle, there are food and drink for an army.
For eight months of the year the whole of the interior portion of the Territory is the finest country in Australia for motor transport, for which it is specially adapted. The soil is of such a nature that the greater the traffic the better the road becomes. In many parts of Australia the greater the traffic the more the road is cut up, but exactly the reverse obtains in this part of the Territory.
– As long as it does not rain:
– I am speaking of the dry season. During eight months of the year no rain at all falls, so that there is no difficulty in regard to transport, and very rapid transport, too.
I now come to the question of the possibility of an army obtaining other supplies. It is a fact that rice has been grown in the coastal area. I saw some returns put in by a man who had never seen rice grown. He was a South Australian farmer who had some land in that area, and he obtained seed rice from a Chinaman at Darwin. He ploughed- the land, sowed the rice, and treated the crop exactly as if it were a wheat-field in South Australia. When the wet season came he noticed that his paddock was covered with water, and he said good-bye to his rice crop. Naturally, from his wheatgrowing experience, he thought that that would be the end of it, and he was confirmed in his pessimism when he noticed a green scum forming on the water. He thought it was due to the fermentation of the seed underneath, but when he examined the “ scum “ he found that it was caused by the tiny spores sent up by the rice seed for the purpose of obtaining air. As the water drained off, the rice began to grow. Although the man did not trouble further with it, he reaped ‘upwards of 45 bushels to the acre of a .splendid sample of rice ; and, moreover, he reaped that crop. within six months of the sowing. What is the significance of that? It means that there are hundreds of thousands of acres in that coastal belt with exactly the same rainfall and. exactly that kind of soil. Very little clearing is required, and all the land would ‘ grow rice equally as well as that produced on this man’s particular plot. Imagine the position of an army of occupation in that portion of Australia after the lapse of nine months !
– It is significant that the honorable senator should mention rice.
– Yes, because within nine months there would be an adequate supply of an essential food for certain armies. These are facts, and they make one think seriously; they were ever present in my mind. I have no military knowledge whatever, but as a layman I see no difficulty in an army travelling over that country. Transport would be easy, and food, water, and anything else essential to an army on .the march could be easily obtained.
There are two distinct classes of country in the Territory from the agricultural and pastoral points of view. If one takes a line from a point on the Queensland border to the Western Australian border, it may be said that the area to the north is coastal country and low-lying, the rainfall varying from 40 inches in the south to 60 inches in the north. This rain occurs in the four summer months- of December, January, February, and March. It is monsoonal, absolutely regular, and never failing. If we take a curved line from another point on the Western Australian border, passing south of Newcastle Waters to a lower point on the Queensland border, say at the Lake Nash head station, we have another area with a rainfall ranging from 20 inches on the southern boundary to 40 inches on the north. That rainfall, too, never fails, as the records will show, although it varies a few inches occasionally. The significant thing in regard to that area is that in the present year, from January to June, it had the lowest record of monsoonal rain experienced in the last fifty years. That meant th’at, so far as Western Australia and Queensland are concerned, the 20-inch rainfall line moved up 100 miles north, but in the Northern’ Territory remained stationary. The western districts of Queensland received ,many inches less than the normal rainfall, and -the southwestern portions had scarcely any rain at all, drought conditions prevailing. These conditions, however, strange to say, practically ended at the Northern Territory boundary. When I passed through the Barkly Tablelands country there was an abundance of grass, and no evidence of drought whatever, but immediately I entered Queensland drought conditions were ruling, and I saw there hundreds of cattle dead and dying.
– The heavier stocking on the Queensland border would account for that.
– Yes ; but there was scarcely sufficient grass to keep the cattle alive. It was the worst season experienced for fifty years; but those condi-tions do not obtain in the pastoral country in the Territory. I have no personal knowledge of the western portion of the Territory, but accompanying me on the tour was the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has an intimate knowledge of the Victoria River District, and, as we passed through the Barkly Tablelands country, he informed me that the soil and grasses there were very similar to the soil and grasses in the Victoria River district. There was, however, the difference that on the tableland to the eastward the water was in surface water-holes, whereas in the VictoriaRiver country there are creeks and rivers which run throughout the year and which are supplied by permanent springs. If that is so - and I have no reason whatever to doubt Mr. Nelson’s word, which has been confirmed by others - the Victoria River district is even richer than the Barkly Tablelands. There is a comparatively low rainfall in the country to the north of the Macdonnell Ranges and somewhat lower than that in the south. The country in the region of Alice Springs, which also embraces the Macdonnell Ranges, has a good rainfall, but it is not as regular as that in the north. I am assured that this country has a good rainfall, and the fact that large areas are taken up shows that it is suitable for pastoral pursuits. Some of it possibly may be used for agricultural purposes.
One naturally asks why country which is as good as I have indicated is only used to the extent that it is today, but one has onlyto consider the conditions under which pastoral pursuits are carried on to find the answer. There are practically no sheep in the eastern or western areas, with the exception of those used to supply the stations. In this country, as in Queensland and in the north of Western Australia, the wild-dog pest is a great menace to sheep-breeders. To protect sheep from dogs, a dog -proof fence has to be erected, which is much more costly than a rabbit-proof fence, because the wild dog has a great capacity for jumping. Fencing wire and wire netting are expensive, and the cost per mile of fencing the land is prohibitive. If one is breeding sheep, accommodation must also be found for the employees required on a sheep-run, and as the number is greater than that required on a cattle station, the cost is consequently higher. Shearing sheds and the machinery for driving the shearing appliances have also to be provided. Moreover, the pastoral country in the Northern Territory is sparsely tim bered, and consequently ample supplies of timber for construction work are not available. Station owners are, therefore, not only compelled to use galvanized iron wherever possible, but have also to bring timber or iron frames and all the necessary requisites for erecting sheds a considerable distance.
I was told by those who should know, that the maximum distance from water at which cattle can be kept in good condition is 9 or 10 miles, and for sheep about 5 or 6 miles. That means that if a considerable area is to be used for sheep, bores have to be sunk, and tanks and pumps erected. To sink a bore is a fairly costly proposition owing to the high cost of the material used and the high cost of labour. The cost of a pumping plant - the water is sub-artesian and has to be pumped - is fairly heavy Timber, as I have said, is scarce, and the cost of fuel for driving the pumping engines means further expense. A pastoralist in that district informed me that his bores were costing him £8 per week for pumping, and that where the fuel had to be carted a longer distance, the cost was £12 per week for each bore. One has, I think, only to consider these points to realize how much more expensive it is to” carry sheep than to run cattle. On. the cattle stations, they have permanent water or bores. The cattle remain in fairly close proximity to the permanent water, and although the boundary riders are necessary, a great deal of attention is not required. At certain periods they rope and brand the steers or young cattle and when they wish to dispose of them they “cut out” a mob and send them to the market. Little or no attention has to be given to the cattle, and the labour required is not great. Aborigines are, of course, excellent cattlemen, and they are largely employed for labouring and other work on the various’ stations. On the other hand, sheep require constant attention, as they have to be properly watered and shifted from one centre to another as the necessity arises.
When one considers the means by which commodities have to be brought to the stations, one can readily see why the sheep industry has not been developed. It is not because the settlers prefer to breed cattle instead of sheep, or because sheep are less productive, but under pre- sent conditions’ sheep are not as payable a proposition. It is 200 miles from the coast of Emungalan, on the Katherine, and 400 miles to Newcastle Waters, and goode and stores have to be carted from the rail-head by donkey, horse, or camel teams. The port of Burketown, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, is poorly equipped, and ships there have to anchor 8 or 9 miles off the coast. The goods have to be lightered, and in rough weather operations have to be suspended and the ships put out to sea. When the goods are lightered and landed they then have to be carried by camel or donkey teams for very long distances. The people further south obtain their stores from Oodnadatta, in South Australia, over indifferent roads and by similar means. Those in the Victoria River country obtain some of their stores from the Katherine River or from Wyndham, on the coast of Western Australia. The cost of transporting stores averages 2s. 9d. per ton per mile, which represents from £25 to £45 per ton to get the goods on to the station. In many instances the cost of transport is more than the original cost of the goods. If a person was prepared to undertake sheep raising on the Barkly Tablelands or in the Victoria River country a tremendous amount of ‘ capital would have to be expended before he would be in a position to carry a single sheep. Even if he established a sheep run, the wool would have to be transported in the same way and at the same, cost as his goods are brought to the station. The indifferent shipping f acilities at Burketown and at Port Darwin add to the cost of handling the wool from a business point of view.
While the country is suited for sheep, these factors prevent it being used for that purpose, and an industry which does not require such heavy expenditure naturally has preference. Cattle can be driven, on the hoof to the market, and generally speaking the cost of producing cattle is much lower than that of producing sheep. Only those who are financially strong can carry on with the market as it is to-day, and the small men in consequence of the present depression are being forced out of business. Avon Downs station, once owned by Senator Guthrie’s father, was carrying sheep when labour and transport costs were much lower than they are to-day, but with the increasing cost of transport and labour it became unprofitable, and cattle were substituted. Mr. Lloyd, the manager of Avon Downs station, has had twenty years’ experience in managing a sheep station in the back country of New South Wales, and I had a very interesting talk with him when passing through.. He told me that in his opinion that station alone would carry 65,000 sheep. That is good country, but it contains only the same types of grass that the whole of the Barkly Tablelands carry. Possibly some of the other country would not carry an equal number of sheep to the square mile. He assured me that, in his judgment, the whole of the country that is grassed with Mitchell and Flinders grasses will carry sheep adequately. I am assured that there is no reason, other than the high cost of production, why sheep should not be carried on the Victoria River country.
If we can transform this from a cattleraising to a sheep-raising proposition we shall immediately add tremendously to the population in the Territory, . create a demand for labour, and bring about an enormously increased production of wealth. That, in itself, will lead to the subsequent development . of other industries in the Territory, because those industries will need to be contiguous to the great sheep-carrying country. If honorable senators require a demonstration pf that fact let them go to the western districts of Queensland. It was an eyeopener to me to see the splendid towns - such as Winton and Longreach - in the west of Queensland. Longreach has a prosperous, thriving population, living entirely on the sheep and cattle industries. There are no other industries, no other resources, ‘no Other cultivation within hundreds of miles of it. The same conditions apply to Winton. Despite the drought, those towns are thriving and expanding. I was told that there are other towns, which I had not the opportunity of visiting, that are equally thriving and prosperous. If similar conditions to those existing in Queensland in regard to sheep-raising can be made possible on the Barkly Tablelands and the Victoria River country, .it is certain that we shall have similar towns springing up iri those districts, providing us with a white population in the Northern Territory. From that population will be drawn a certain proportion of men who will prospect for minerals. That has been the history of all the States. Men who have become dissatisfied with the city or the farm have taken to mineral prospecting and have pioneered other industries. Arising out of that development will be the exploitation of the mineral resources in the north and in the Macdonnell Ranges, in addition to the exploitation of the agricultural possibilities of the Territory. If we can, as a commencement, open up this country, and make it possible to put it to the greatest use of which it is capable, we shall begin an era of production and increased population in the Territory that will, of itself, quickly cure the other disadvantages from which the Territory at present is suffering.
– That is not possible without communication.
– Give the Territory the same chance that every State has had and similar results will follow. This is not the time to set out the way in which those disabilities can be cured. That they can be cured I. am absolutely certain; and they must be cured. We must give to these districts the same means of communication that are possessed by every similar district in Australia. We cannot shift our responsibilities to the shoulders of anybody else. The Commonwealth is the State in this matter. If the Northern Territory were in the control of a State, or if it were a separate State, it would immediately be provided with railway and telegraph communication, and improved harbor and shipping facilities. The obligation lies on the Commonwealth Parliament to make such provision. There is no other way by which the Territory can be developed. I do not care how ideal the land laws are, or how perfect this Ordinance may be, unless that provision is made, this Ordinance and every other piece of legislation will surely fail. The Government recognise that, and are bringing forward proposals which it is believed will deal adequately with the position - giving in time those facilities that are necessary to enable this country to develop. Because that aspect is not pertinent to this measure, I cannot now indicate in detail what we propose to do.
We are not unmindful ofour obligations, and we are making provision along what we consider to be safe and progressive lines.
I invite honorable senators to afford me a little indulgence. I do not think I need apologize for asking that, because I believe that honorable senators are as interested in the subject as I am, and recognise its importance. I think that a great educational work needs to be performed in this matter. I am convinced that the people of Australia do not realize what a splendid asset they have, and are not seized with the difficulties of the situation or of its immensity. So far this has been nobody’s business. Now it is our business, and if we take up a little extra time in its consideration, that time will have been well spent.
I want honorable senators to have fixed firmly in their minds the fact that although this Ordinance - being a consolidating Ordinance - carries on the provisions of existing Ordinances relating to agricultural lands, it is to be followed by another, which will deal solely with agricultural and town lands. By agricultural and town lands I mean those situated in the coastal area; and, possibly, development will come later in the Macdonnell Ranges. The reason that I bring this aspect before the Senate is that the Government do not consider that the conditions set out in existing Ordinances relating to agricultural lands are at all suitable. They contain what we think is a defect, in that a man can never acquire the freehold of his land. We believe that one of the best inducements that can be given to an agriculturist is to enable him to acquire the freehold of his land. Before that can be done the Northern Territory Administration Act must be amended. Honorable senators need have no fear that we shall be able to slip that through without their knowledge. The amendment will have to be ratified by Parliament before we can pass an Ordinance granting a freehold title. I mention that fact now in order that honorable senators will not devote time to discussing this Ordinance in its relation to agricultural land.
– Does this Ordinance repeal all other land Ordinances?
– It will do so. A charge has been falsely made that the Government have adopted a policy of secrecy in regard to this Ordinance. That is a most unjust charge. Never since the Commonwealth Parliament was inaugurated has an Ordinance been promulgated which has had so much publicity as has been given to this particular Ordinance. I have cuttings from the newspapers - going back to last Novembercontaining the clauses and setting out the principles of the Ordinance. Those principles have been referred to also in speeches made inside and outside Parliament. I myself have indicated in the Senate the nature of those principles. I was astonished, to read that certain gentlemen had stated that a great amount of secrecy had been observed.
– This Ordinance is more. drastic than anybody had any idea it would be.
– It is exactly the same as was published in the press months ago. The Government appear to have committed another crime in the eyes of some people in that they consulted the pastoral lessees regarding the terms of this Ordinance. I cannot see that tl.’ere is any crime in having done that. Surely when we are intending to promulgate an Ordinance affecting pastoral leases in the Territory it is advisable to obtain the opinions of, and afford the opportunity of criticism to, the men who hold those leases, in small as well as large areas. I have had the opportunity of consulting both those sections and obtaining their advice and opinion. Their advice has , not always been acted upon. This Ordinance does not meet with the full approval of the pastoral lessees of the Territory. They prefer to have something very different. But having regard to the position which the Government and Parliament take up, they say that they are satisfied that the Ordinance will assist them and others who take up leases under it in the development of the Territory. In the early stages of the formulation of this Ordinance I freely consulted everybody and anybody who possessed any knowledge of the Territory. I had not been to the Territory at that time. I should have been a fool had I shut myself up with my departmental officers, many of whom had not been to the Territory, and had accepted their advice, and framed an Ordinance on. their suggestions alone. I consider that I should be complimented on the fact that this Ordinance has been framed in the light of the best advice obtainable from people who have been through the mill and know the conditions in the Territory.
I come now to an examination of the conditions leading up to the promulgation of this Ordinance. They are most important. No member of this Parliament can fairly judge this Ordinance unless he honestly and impartially looks at the position in which the Government and Parliament are placed with respect to the lands of the Northern Territory. If he simply looks at the Northern Territory as a blank space upon which anything could be written, without any regard1 to that which is past, he is acting contrary to his own judgment. Regard must be paid to the present position.
At the risk of wearying the Senate, I propose to give the history of the land legislation of ‘the Territory, because it must be intimately connected with any proposition in regard to the legislation of the future, by reason of the fact that, under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, the Commonwealth Parliament bound itself to comply with the then existing conditions. I shall deal with this position later. The Northern Territory was annexed to South Australia in 1863, and in the same year the first Land Act applicable to the Northern Territory was passed by ‘the South Australian Parliament, authorizing the sale of 500,000 acres of country lands at 7s. 6d. per acre, and also 1,562 town lots. The Act of 1863 was repealed by the Northern Territory Land Act 1872. This Act . provided for the granting of pastoral leases for terms not exceeding twenty-five years, in. areas not exceeding 400 square miles, to the first applicants, at a rental of 6d. per square mile for the first seven years, at the. end of which period the rent was to be increased to 10s. per square mile for the remainder of the lease. The principal condition to be complied with was to stock the land with two head of large cattle per square mile within three years, and to keep the land so stocked during the remainder of the lease.
– That was done to induce the people to go out there.
– I intended to say that nobody would take up land, because the rentals were fixed at 10s. per square mile. In 1S82 the Northern TerritoryCrown Lands Consolidation Act was passed, repealing the 1S72 Act and its subsequent amendments. The provisions generally affecting pastoral, leases were similar to the 1872 Act. About the year 1SS4 the whole of the Crown lands in the Territory were applied for on pastoral lease, and the first year’s rent of 6d. per square mile was paid. One company, the Musgrave Range Pastoral Company, had applied for the whole of the unallotted pastoral lauds. At this time, wool and fat cattle were marketable at high prices. Almost immediately a slump came, and the revenue from pastoral rents was reduced in a few years, through the abandonment of the country, from £25,000 per annum to about £10,000 per annum.
In order to .revive the pastoral industry, an Act to liberalize the laud laws was passed in 1890. This Act repealed the 1882 Act, and provided for the granting of pastoral leases to the first applicant for any period not exceeding forty-two years, at rentals prescribed as follow: - For first period of seven years, not less than 6d. per square mile; for second period of seven years, not less than ls. per square mile; for third period of seven years, not less than 2s. per square mile; and for the remainder of the term of the lease such an amount per square mile as’ should be fixed by valuationirrespective of lessee’s improvement - made by the Minister. No limit was specified in the Act at which the rent on reappraisement could be fixed. The lessee covenanted to stock the land with one head of cattle or five head of sheep per square mile before the end of the third year, and before the end of the seventh year to increase the stocking to at least two head of cattle or ten head of sheep per square mile, and keep land -so stocked during the remainder of the lease. A power of resumption was- provided which prescribed three months’ notice if it was intended to resume land for specified public or mineral purposes, and, if the land were required for any other purpose, one year’s notice was prescribed. Might I interpolate that* “ public purpose “ has been legally defined to mean resumption only for railways, post offices, and other Commonwealth undertakings, and does not include resumption for pastoral purposes.
– In the Ordinance will the Minister provide that “ public purpose “ shall include anything of public advantage ?
– Legally the term “ ‘public purpose “ does not include resumption for pastoral or agricultural purposes. Compensation for improvements on resumption, and also loss of lease consequent on resumption, was also provided for in the Act of 1890. Except on resumption, however, all improvements made by the lessee reverted to the Crown on expiration of lease. The Act provided that existing leases could be surrendered for new leases under the Act for a term of fourteen years additional to the unexpired period of the lease. As the 18S2 Act provided for a term of twenty-five years, leases granted in 1882 would therefore have had- seventeen years to run at the passing of the 1S90 Act, and, if surrendered for a lease under that Act, would be entitled to a term of thirty-one years. In order to prescribe a limit to which the rents of pastoral leases under the 1890 Act could be raised on re-appraisement, a section was inserted in an amending Act of 1896 which prescribed that -
The rent to be fixed by valuation for the remainder of the term of the lease shall not be more than 50 per cent, above or below the rent payable during the last year of the third period of seven years.
Following on the recommendation of the Northern Territory Commission of 1895, which considered that “ An amendment of the pastoral laws regarding improvements and revaluation of rent on the lines of those obtaining in South Australia under the Act of 1893 and to grant a right of appeal,” was necessary, the Northern Territory Land Act 1899 was passed. That Act repealed the sections of the 1890 Act relating to the granting of pastoral leases, and fixed terms and conditions as follow : - “The term of any pastoral lease shall not . exceed forty-two years.” Rents for the first period of twenty-one years were made similar to the 1890 Act, that is - for first period of seven years, not less than ‘6d. per square mile;’ for second period of seven years, not less than ls. per square mile; for third period of seven years, not less than 2s. per square mile; and rent for the remainder of the term was tn bo fixed by valuation. The Act provided that every valuation should be mad© by two arbitrators, one appointed by the Minister and the other by the lessee, and applied the provisions of the Arbitration Act 1891 of South Australia to every such valuation. The limits to which the rents could be reappraised were fixed at not more than 50 per cent, above or below the rent payable during the twenty-first year. The Act provided, in effect, that there, should be only one revaluation. The lessee could hold the land at the original rent for twenty-one years, and then it was hot to be raised by revaluation more than 50 per cent. For the remainder of the period of the lease there could be no alteration in the rental. Resumption for special purposes was provided for on giving three months’ notice; for any other purpose, two years’ notice was required, provided that no resumption could take place during the first ten years of the lease except for public works.’ The lessee under an existing lease could within three years of the passing of the new Act surrender his lease or leases for a new consolidated lease under the Act, for a term not exceeding forty-two “years from the date of such surrender, at a rent for the full term agreed upon by the Minister and I he lessee. All leases granted under the Act are liable to forfeiture if the rent is unpaid for more than three months. It will be noted that the powers of resumption, both in the 1890 Act and the 1899 Act, are similar and wide in their application, but by an Act called the Northern Territory Land Amendment Act -1901 of South Australia these powers were curtailed by the Legislature of South Australia to the extent that no lands could be resumed, except for the specified public purposes, on three months’ notice, or, when the land was required for agricultural purposes, on two years’ notice.
– After a long and bitter experience of the administration of the Northern Territory.
– The amending 1901 Act is as follows: -
Section 1. - This Act may be cited for all purposes as the Northern Territory Land Amendment Act 1901, and, except so far as inconsistent therewith, shall be incorporated and read as one with the Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1800 .and the Northern Territory Land Act 1899.
Section 2. - Sub-section (2) of section 54 of the Northern Territory Land Act 1899 is here by repealed, and, notwithstanding anything contained in the said Act, the Governor shall not after the passing of this Act resume pos-. session of any leased land except for the purposes contained and set forth in sub-section (1) of the said section 54 (this refers to specified public purposes) or when such land is required for agricultural purposes.
Section 3. - Where it is intended to resume any land for agricultural purposes two years’ notice of such intended resumption shall be given to the lessee.
One peculiarity of the legislation of South Australia will be noted, in that it4 dealt with the Territory as a whole, and the same’ rents and the same stocking conditions were applied without discrimination as to the quality or the stockcarrying capacity of the land; consequently many anomalies were “ created which still have to be contended with.
When the ‘Commonwealth took over the Territory, on 1st January, 1911, there were in existence 265 pastoral leases under the Acts of 1890 and 1899, having, a total area of 108,048J square miles, and the revenue derived from these leases amounted to £6,803 9s. lid. There were also 161 pastoral permits,, comprising an area of 43,632 square miles, and returning annually £2,181 12s. ; therefore, the total annual revenue received from land occupied for pastoral purposes amounted to £8.985 ls. lid., or an average of ls. 2d. per square mile. Regarding the issue of pastoral permits, it may be mentioned that this form of tenure was introduced ‘by ‘South Australia about the year 1902, pending the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. The granting of long leases was discontinued, and annual occupation permits were issued. In connexion with these permits, the , State. by notice in the Government Gazette, and by letters to permit-holders,’ gave an assurance that when the policy of granting leases was resumed, the permitholders would have the first right to the leases held under their permits. Thus, at the time of transfer, the total area occupied for pastoral purposes amounted to 151,680 square miles.
I come now to the sections of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act which affect the Commonwealth. Sub-section 1 of section 7 of that Act provides - “ All laws in force in. the Northern Territory at the time of the acceptance shall continue in force, but may be altered or’ repealed by or under any law of the Commonwealth.”
And under the Commonwealth Northern Territory Administration Act, sub-section 1 of. section 13 provides that - “ Until the Parliament makes other provision for .the government of the Territory, the Governor-General may make Ordinances having the force of law in the Territory.”
But so far as the occupation of ‘ land is concerned, the application of the. provisions of the sections in the Acts quoted is limited by the provisions of section 10 of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, which provides that - “ All estates and interests held by any person from the State of South Australia within the Northern Territory at the time of the Acceptance shall continue to be held from the Commonwealth on the same terms and conditions as they were held from the State.”
– That was only fair.
– It was the fly in the ointment as far as the Commonwealth was concerned. That provision removed from the control of the Commonwealth, for the term of these leases or permits, as the case might be, 151,000 square miles of pastoral land, and whatever conditions might be included in those leases had to be complied with until the tenure expired. Certain areas of the Northern Territory, including the Victoria River district, are leased under either the 1890 or the 1899 South Australian Acts. Other areas are leased under the Commonwealth’ Ordinance of 1912. The areas leased under the South Australian Acts are still subject to the conditions under which the leases were- granted by that Government, and unless we amend the agreement - and -I doubt if we have power to do so under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, without the consent of South Australia - we cannot alter the conditions of tenure of any of the land so held. The Victoria River Downs station, which is one of the largest, contains 8,746 square miles, and the lease has twenty years to run. Another large station is Alexandra, on the Barkly Tablelands. This property is held under two leases, one of which covers 5,342 square miles, and the other 2,610 square miles. Each lease has nineteen years to run. One lease of 6,800 square. miles in the Territory has twenty-one years to run, and all the larger leases will continue for eighteen to twenty-one years. Some of the smaller leases granted under. the South Australian Act of 1890 have only, from fourteen to sixteen years tq run.
– Are those leases in the hands of private individuals or companies?
– Principally companies, although some of them are held by private individuals. The policy of the “Commonwealth so far as tenure was concerned was governed, as it is now, by Section 11 of the Northern Territory Administration Act, which provides, that : -
No Crown Lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this Act.
In accordance with this policy, and under the powers granted by the Administration Act, the Government of the day - the second Fisher Administration - introduced an Ordinance, No. S of 1912, relating to Crown lands. The main features of that Ordinance with respect to the leasing of pastoral lands were the division of them into three classes, and the fixing of the following maximum areas for each class - Class 1, -500 square miles ; class 2, 1,000 square miles; class 3, 3,000 square miles. Pastoral leases were to be granted in perpetuity. Some gentlemen have suddenly discovered an objection to long leases.
– That is all right.
– I am glad I have one follower. I have noticed that members - of a certain political party have taken serious objection to the length of the leases, and only a few days ago they were claiming to have inherited all th qualities of the Fisher Government, with its magnificent record of legislation.
– Everything depends upon the frequency of the re-appraise; ment of rents.
– They were subject to re-appraisement every twenty-one years.
– That is too long.
– I am glad that Senator Grant supports the Government, because it is proposed in this Ordinance to reduce the terms to fourteen years, twelve years, and ten years.
– That is still too long.
– That Ordinance of the Fisher Government met with considerable criticism, and was subsequently withdrawn and re-introduced with certain modifications. Ifc then became the Crown Lands Ordinance (No. 8) of 1912, which is in force to-day.
The principal alterations in relation to pastoral leases affected by the substituted Ordinance No. 8 of 1912 were the reduction” of the maximum areas to : Class 1, 300 square miles; class 2, 600 square miles; and class 3, 1,500 square miles. The term of pastoral leases in class 1 was definitely fixed at twenty-one years, and of leases in class 2 or class 3 at forty-two years. In addition to the compensation on resumption, provided for in the previous Ordinance, it was further stipulated that where the whole of a lease was resumed the lessee” should be entitled to compensation for the loss of his lease.
The policy of the Government of the day was, as far as is ascertainable,” “ one man one lease,” but this policy was not specifically laid down in the Ordinance, although it provided for maximum areas for leases of land classified as first, second, and third class respectively. In this connexion the Crown Solicitor has ruled that one lessee may hold any number of leases provided that such leases are allotted to him, and that the area of each is within the limits prescribed by the Ordinance. The administration of the Ordinance is vested in the Classification Board at Darwin, which determines the classification of land, the rents payable, and stocking and improvement conditions, and considers all applications, and decides the final allocation of leases. Various amendments of the Ordinance have been effected from time to time.
The great slump in the cattle market during the last few years has made the conditions imposed by the 1912 Ordinance a hardship which cannot be removed by the Classification Board, because no power exists. In consequence numerous appeals have been made to the Minister to modify severe conditions, to postpone the payment of rents, and to lighten conditions generally. In these circumstances the Minister has been obliged to waive the administrative provisions of the Ordinance. The Department is aware of the very precarious position of the small holders generally in the Territory.
– What does “small holder” mean?
– That depends upon the country. It would . mean the holder of 300 square miles on the Barkly Tablelands, or 100 square miles in the coastal area. The Department is also aware that in the majority of cases the various conditions attached to pastoral leases under the 1912 Ord nance have not been fulfilled by the lessees. If those conditions were enforced, the greater number of the smaller lessees would be forced off the land, and in many cases would be ruined. The. principal hardship is the improvement clause, as ‘it demands a definite cash expenditure of, in numerous cases, up to £10 per square mile within the first fourteen years. That was one of the most stupid provisions that could have been put into an Ordinance. By eliminating the improvement conditions and reverting to a stocking condition only, all leases under the new Ordinance will be held on a common basis.
It is considered that a lessee, to comply with a practicable stocking condition, must, so far as- the available lands in the Northern Territory are concerned, be prepared to expend a considerable amount of capital in providing permanent water, fencing, buildings, yards, &c, which are necessary appurtenances to the business of cattle raising. He will be’ enabled to lay out his available capital to what he considers the best advantage, and in his own time, without being forced to comply with what may be an onerous condition of lease, which, if not fully complied with, might, in the eyes of an exacting Administration, render his lease liable to forfeiture.
An example may be quoted. Suppose an applicant was successful, at the present time, in obtaining a lease of an average-size block of, say, 400 square miles of the best port!on of the Barkly Tablelands. The lease would provide a minimum stocking condition, which would have to be complied with within five years. Before any stock could be placed on the land, however, provision would have to be made for a permanent water supply. This undertaking, to insure safety, would mean the putting down and equipping with water-raising apparatus of, at least, two bores. The average cost of bores, fully equipped, is, at present, about £2,000. Therefore, before any stock could be placed on the country, an outlay of at least £4,000, or £10 per square mile, would have to he faced. I have checked that estimate with figures supplied by the owners of runs regarding the expense they have been put to, and with what the Government have spent in (putting down bores on the stock routes.
Regarding this aspect of the matter, the following extract from an official Queensland publication, issued in 1913, before’ the war, is instructive: -
According to expert knowledge, an intending raiser of cattle ‘could, with £5,000 in cash and some assistance from one of the financial institutions, make a decent start on a 20,000-acre .holding. The latter could be leased from the Lands Department for a long period at a very low rental. At a low estimate, the country would carry, at least, one beast to every 10 acres; consequently it would be necessary, if the new settler wished his run to become a paying proposition during the first season, to stock it with from 1,500 to 2,000 head of mixed cattle.
Good grade bulls can be obtained at about £12 12s. per head, and similar cows at from £2 15s. upwards. At least, 2J per cent, of bulls would be required for every 100 breeding cows. Pedigreed bulls, it may be mentioned, are not. provided for in the above expenditure. Good grade bulls are sufficient for the maintenance of the herd until the cattle man becomes well established on his holding.
The erection, of a house, &c, would cost from £300 to £350. Other initial monetary obligations would include - Twenty working horses, at £10 per head, £200; dray and harness, £35; cart and harness, £25 to £30; tools, £10; fencing, with posts and plain and barb wires, £21 per mile; hut for men and wages of one stockman and two general hands.
It may also be mentioned that in the year referred to the average number of cattle, including beef and dairy breeds, carried on country held in Queensland was about seven and a half head per square mile.
Although I am convinced’ that a stocking condition, if strictly enforced, is sufficient to insure full occupation of the land, without an improvement . condition, I am satisfied, since my visit to the Northern Territory; that the accommodation provided generally for employees on runs is quite inadequate, and that in some cases no attempt has been made by large holders to provide accommodation at all. I do not consider that such cases can be met by the insertion of a clause in leases generally, or by any provision- that could be made in this Bill, but I intend to introduce, as soon as possible, a special Ordinance, to be called the Workers’ Accommodation Ordinance. I do not wish my remarks to bo interpreted to mean that it is the general practice not to provide decent accommodation. The party which accompanied me through the Territory stayed- at many pf the runs, upon some of which the accommodation was excellent. At the Lake Nash, station the accommodation was equal to anything I have seen. Mr. Nelson, the representative of the Territory in another place, inspected it closely, ‘and conversed with the men employed there. He told me afterwards that he was very pleased with it.
– -Did Mr. Nelson accompany the Minister on the trip ? ,
– Yes ; he went right through with . me. Lake Nash is undoubtedly an ideal station. There are one or two stations which do not provide proper accommodation. I could name them, but do not think that I should do- so.
– Do- they include the stations owned by the Queensland National Pastoral Company?
– No. We visited stations where, not the accommodation, but the lack of it, was disgraceful.
– Some employees prefer to live’ in tents rather than buildings.
– I do not think that is general. I saw one place where the accommodation was not fit for aborigines. That station has been occupied for forty years, and it is a payable proposition, but the lessee has never thought fit to provide decent accommodation.
– Does he live on the station?
– No. The question of accommodation, for the workers will not be lost sight of. I submit that it cannot properly be included in this Bill, but should be dealt with, as it has been in the States, by special legislation. Apart from that provision I would leave the lessee to be the judge of what improvements are necessary. He has to pay the bill, and his improvements . will naturally be directed towards making the run pay.
– The pioneer in all stages of development has to live humbly.
– That is so; and in. any legislation on the subject reasonable time must be allowed for providing the necessary accommodation. In the early stages they should not be called upon toprovide elaborate accommodation.
The position with which the Government are faced at present is due to the indefinite conditions under the existing Ordinance. As- to terms of lease, the Classification Board may grant any term up to fortytwo years, and may resume an indefinite area at the end of fourteen years. There is no limitation as to the amounts at which rents may be fixed, and no limitation as to the extent to which rents may be raised on re-appraisement at the end of twenty-one years. Impossible stocking and improvement conditions may be imposed by the Classification Board, and there is no right of appeal by a lessee against any such conditions. The Board is arbitrary, and there are no .provisions to review any of its .decisions. The fact that only 8,581 square miles, out of a total area of 108,048 square miles held under South Australian Acts at the time of transfer, have been surrendered for leases under the present Ordinance, is sufficient proof that the terms and conditions offered by the present Ordinance are unsatisfactory to the lessees holding under those Acts. It should be borne in mind, whenever an amendment is proposed in the direction of bringing the present conditions more into conformity with the existing Commonwealth Ordinances, that there is the striking object lesson that the lessees under the South Australian Act will not surrender if we make the conditions similar to those under our existing Ordinances. [Extension of time granted.’]
The new Ordinance aims at overcoming the difficulties and anomalies created by the 1912 Ordinance, and having regard to the Government’s developmental policy for the Territory, and the fact that the greater portion of the best pastoral country is held under South Australian Acts, it further offers a business proposition to those lessees to exchange their leases for leases under the new Ordinance. Under the new Ordinance it is proposed, for administrative purposes, to divide the Territory into four districts, as follows: - (a) The Darwin and Gulf District, which contains the area at present served by the existing railway, and the tropical coastal area east of the overland telegraph line and north of the 17th parallel of latitude; (b) the Victoria River
District, which contains the area drained by the Victoria River and its tributaries, and extends from the Western Australian border to approximately the overland telegraph line on the east, and as far south as the 20th parallel of south latitude; (c) The Barkly Tablelands district, which contains the area covered by the Barkly Tablelands; (d) the Alice Springs district, which contains the area bounded on the north by the south boundary of the Victoria River district, and portion of the south boundary of the Barkly Tablelands district to a point approximately half way between the overland telegraph line and the Queensland border, turning south to the 24th parallel of latitude, and then east to the Queensland border. In determining the boundaries of these districts, their geographical position was taken into consideration together with the stock-carrying capacity of the land, its capacity for pastoral purposes, and the proximity and facilities of approach to railway stations, ports, rivers, and markets. All other circumstances affecting the value of the land for pastoral purposes were also considered.
The number of leases granted under the 1890 Act of South Australia is 121, with a total area of 36,216 square miles, and a total annual rental of £2,014 6s. lOd. This gives an average area for each lease under this tenure of 299 square miles, and an average annual rental of ls. Id. per square mile. These leases have from ten to eighteen years to run.
The number of existing leases granted under the 1899 Act of South Australia is ninety, with a total area of 58,129 square miles, and a total annual rental of £5,-987. This gives an average area for each lease under this tenure of “46 square miles, and an average annual rental of 2s. Id. per square mile. These leases have from eighteen to twenty-one’ years to run. What we are aiming at is to induce the owners of pastoral leases to surrender them and come under the new Ordinance They have met and have discussed it, and have agreed that if it is passed into law they will surrender and come under it. That would give the Commonwealth control, at the end of given periods, of a large and increasing area of country. To illustrate my meaning I have had three graphs prepared, and they are drawn to scale. In the first graph we see that’ the proportion of the total area of the Northern Territory occupied under the old conditions is 94,345 square miles. The second graph shows that if the leases were surrendered and brought under the new Ordinance, we should secure the power of resumption over 23,000 square ‘ miles, or 15,000,000 acres, within twelve years from the present date. We could then fix any conditions we liked as to rentals, terms of lease, re-appraisement, and so forth. The third graph indicates that in 1945 there will be 46,000 square miles, or 30,000,000 acres, under the control of the Commonwealth, and only 47,173 square miles held under the South Australian Act. If we did not pass this Ordinance, and the lessees had power to retain the whole of that area, there would be no possibility of any alteration in the terms of tenure and reappraisement for the whole of the balance of the term; and the leases, for the greater part, range from eighteen to twenty-one years.
– Is it proposed -to extend the leases for the full term of twentytwo years, if the pastoralists come under this Ordinance?
– The Ordinance provides that if a lease is held under the South Australian law, and is surrendered, the lessee, under the new Ordinance, may receive a forty- two years’ lease; but immediately he accepts it we have the power of resumption within twelve years. The twelve years’ period dates from 1923. At the end of the first twelve years, we shall have power to resume one-fourth of the area held under the lease, and in another ten years power to resume one-fourth more. But the lessee comes at once under the stocking conditions and the new rental conditions, and he also comes immediately under the new reappraisement conditions. That is the advantage from the public point of view. But what is the inducement from the pastoralists’ stand-point ? Of course, if we cut down the term of the lease we make the proposition less attractive to him. The number of existing leases granted under the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1912 is 259, with a total area of 87,254 square miles and a total annual rental of £10,423 16s. 6d. This gives an average area for each lease of 337 square miles, and an average annual rental of 2s. 5d. per square mile.
The total number of existing leases held under the South Australian Acts and the 1912 Ordinance is 470, with a total area of 181,599 square miles and a total annual rental of £18,425 3s. 8d. This gives an average area for each lease of 427 square miles and . an average annual rental of ls. lOd. per square mile. It is said that under the new Ordinance we shall be perpetuating the system of low rentals. I am not concerned so much about the rental question.
– It does not matter.
– No. If the pastoralist is prosperous, we can .tax his income. If the Commonwealth hands over to the States the power to tax incomes, we shall still have the power to levy income tax in the Northern Territory. If the pastoralist is not prosperous there will be no income tax to collect from him.
-The main point is to get the country settled.
– Yes . I frankly confess that the fear that the rentals are too low has never been shared by me. If the pastoralists are making money the Commonwealth will have the power to tax them ; but, if they are not prospering, too low a rental cannot be fixed. Even as regards the rental under the new Ordinance, we shall be in a much more satisfactory position than we are under the old South Australian law.
Having regard to the foregoing statistics, it is practically impossible for the Government to seriously contemplate the expenditure of large sums of money in building railways or other substantial improvement works until we can obtain absolute control over the whole, or at least, portion, of the lands likely to benefit by such expenditure, and at the same time offer sufficient inducement for closer settlement. With this end in view this new Lands Ordinance is introduced. It is. recognised that the conditions obtaining in the Northern Territory are exceptional. The only portions of the States that are at all comparable are the western division of New South Wales, the north-western portion of Western Australia, and portions . of Queensland and South Australia, in all of which pastoral leases : are granted for lengthy terms. The analogy between these areas and the Territory .is, however, far from perfect, as the stage of development reached by the most backward of the areas in question is greatly in advance of that reached by the Territory. If we look back over the history of State legislation, it will be found that in the earliest stages of development long leases were granted.
– What is the period in Queensland ?
– It varies . from twelve to forty-two years. In the back country long leases are still granted, but in the areas contiguous to railways the terms are shorter.
I have already informed the Senate that if the new Ordinance is adopted it will repeal all other Land Ordinances in force, and all future leases will be issued under it. We are dispensing with the Classification Board and appointing a Land Board, which will be under the Minister. We thought it desirable that the pastoralists should have representation on the new Board, and they will have an opportunity of selecting some one who can present the position from their point of view. We are asking them to submit a panel of three, one of whom will be selected, and, when appointed, will be their representative. The other two members will be appointed by the Government from such suitable persons as may be available. The Board will have power to determine rents, classification of land, the area to be included in any lease, purchase price of improvements, any area that may be subsequently resumed from new leases granted under the Ordinance, and also power to deal with applications. There are the usual - reservations as to minerals, right of entry, power of resumption, . and forfeiture for non-payment of rents. The power of resumption means the power to resume the land in accordance with the Ordinance. The Minister may postpone payment of rent for such time and on such terms as he thinks fit. A lessee may, with the consent of the Minister, assign, transfer, or sublet his lease or any portion of it. Provision is made for the adjustment of the residence covenant in respect of any agricultural lease that may be assigned, transferred, or sublet. The position of a mortgagee with regard to any pastoral or agricultural lease that the mortgagee enters into possession of is also defined. A maximum term of forty -two years for pastoral leases is specified. The
Board may determine a minimum stocking rate for each district, and also that’ the rate of any lease within a district may be greater than the minimum, determined for the district, but the Board cannot vary the conditions of a lease during its currency. The minimum stocking conditions must be complied with within five years, and a stock return must be furnished1 every three years. An appeal may be made to the Minister against the enforcement of what may be regarded as an excessive stocking condition. Provision is made for the holder of an- existing lease to have preference in respect of a new lease, or portion of a lease, where such new lease is made available before the expiry of an existing lease, and also in respect of any block for which he elects to be given preference if the existing lease is subdivided on expiry. An outgoing lessee may remain in occupation after his lease has been determined by effluxion of time on giving three months’ written notice to the Board. An outgoing lessee, if allowed to remain in occupation for twelve months after his lease expires, will be required to maintain the improvements and pay the rent. The Board may determine the occupation’ of an out-going lessee on any expired pastoral lease, by paying for improvements.
The Bill also provides for payment for improvements to an outgoing lessee, out of the moneys appropriated by Parliament for the purpose. The deduction can be made from any amount so payable, of any moneys due by the outgoing lessee to the incoming lessee under the lease, as rent or compensation for loss or depreciation on improvements. If the outgoing lessee and the incoming lessee agree on the amount and time of payment for improvements, and notify the Board in writing within one month of such agreement, the liability of the Crown to compensate for improvements ceases to exist. The holders of existing pastoral leases may, within three years from the commencement of the Ordinance, surrender their leases for new leases under the Ordinance. A definite date of expiry of all existing leases exchanged for leases under the Ordinance is also provided for. The rents of all leases under South Australian Acts exchanged for leases under the Ordinance, are fixed at a specified rate per mile for each district. The rents of all leases under the 1912 Ordinance, which are exchanged for leases under this Ordinance, are to be fixed by the Board in accordance with the specified scale for each district, provided that in poorer classes of country the Board may fix a rent lower than the minimum prescribed for any district. Existing rentals are to continue until 30th June, 1928.
– After 1928 the rentals of the leases issued by the South Australian Government can be altered.
– They cannot be altered untilthere has been a reappraisement. A minimum is fixed at which they commence; but it may be higher than they are now paying.
– If the lessees who acquired their leases under the South Australian Acts come under this Ordinance, will their leases be re-appraised now?
– No. A rent is fixed under the Ordinance for all the leases issued under the South Australian Act, and which have been surrendered. They are subject only to re-appraisement after twelve years, and in some cases it may mean an immediate increase in rent. The Bill provides that the Minister shall permit lessees to subdivide the whole or portion of their leases for closer pastoral settlement, and to transfer the subdivisions to persons approved by him. The approved persons acquiring the subdivisions shall then become Crown lessees, and the rate per mile of the transferred subdivisions shall be the same as the original leases. This provision has been inserted to encourage pastoralists in possession of leases to subdivide their property. Although the Government have the power of compulsory resumption, we are encouraging lessees to subdivide their leases, and if they do so we shall, subject to the consent of the Minister, recognise them as lessees under this Ordinance. A lessee may appeal against the decision of the Board in respect to the area to be resumed or to be subdivided by the lessee, and improvements carrying compensation.
I have dealt fairly fully with the main provisions of the new Ordinance, many of which are embodied in existing Ordinances. I have indicated the direction in which amendments have been made, and I ask the Senate to confirm the action of the Government. Under this Ordinance and our general developmental policy I feel sure that the Territory will progress as other parts of the Commonwealth have done.
– What is the area which has not been leased ?
– The Northern Territory comprises, roughly, 523,000 square miles,181,599 of which have been leased.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
The following Bills were received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Wilson) read a first time : -
Beer Excise Bill.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.30 p.m.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Last year Parliament passed a Meat Export Bounties Bill granting a bounty of ¼d. per lb. on frozen beef, and on certain canned beef exported before the end of 1922, and 10s. per head on live cattle exported. The total amount paid under the Act was £121,061. Before they agreed to grant the bounty, the late Government succeeded in having oversea freights reduced from l&3/8d. to l&1/8d. per lb. The treatment charges of the meat works were reduced, at the suggestion of that Government, by an1/8d. per lb., and the employees engaged in the meat works agreed to a reduction in wages of 12s. per week. The cumulative effect of the bounty and of those reductions was equivalent to 36s. per head on cattle slaughtered for export. The result was to make marketable a large quantity of live-stock which otherwise would have been valueless, because the oversea market was then in such a condition that the meat works in Australia were not prepared to operate and the stock-owners had no outlet for their cattle. The bounty was paid last year on 112,500,000 lbs. of frozen beef, thus enabling the cattleowner to find a market overseas for about 188,000 head of cattle, lt is estimated that- the bounty and the other advantages obtained by reason of the reduction in freight &c, enabled him to get an average price of £2 10s. per head for his cattle. Honorable senators will agree that that was a very low price, considering that these cattle had to be of prime quality in order to be approved for expert. A total of about £400,000 was thus received by the Commonwealth from oversea buyers iu return for the payment of a bounty of £117,000. In addition, 7,600 live cattle were exported as a result of the bounty.
– Did the honorable senator say that the Commonwealth got that money ?
– Not the owners of the cattle?
– The owners received the money in the first place. Surely the honorable senator will agree that the coming into the Commonwealth of such a large amount of money benefits every section of our industrial and commercial community ! A very large part of the money received was paid to the workers employed at the various meat works at which the cattle were treated.
– Eleven of those meat works were closed down.
– Even though the bounty was being paid, the whole of the meat works did not operate. A bounty was paid on 7,600 head of live cattle exported. Taking the average price, f.o.b., at £3, they returned to the Commonwealth £22,890; against which must be set, of “course, the relatively small amount of bounty paid - £3,816. That Act expired at the end of 1922.
– The Government were criticised severely for passing it.
– It does not matter what a Government does, it is bound to be criticised by some section of the community. The greater part of that criticism came from the people of this State and the newspapers of this city.
– Were they not misled by some members of the present Government ?
– I do not know how they could have been misled. The gentlemen who set themselves up as moulders of public thought in this city should have been sufficiently well acquainted with such an important matter as to be proof against misleading statements by anybody - even by members of the Commonwealth Government.
In March last the Australian Meat Council considered the position of’ the beef industry. That organization is representative of the cattle industry throughout the Commonwealth. It approached the Government and urged that they should follow the policy which was adopted last year by providing a subsidy for cattle-growers on the export of beef on similar terms and conditions to those which applied in 1922. Later, a deputation from the Council waited on the Government and drew attention to the serious position in which cattle-growers in Australia were finding themselves this year, mainly by reason of drought conditions and the depressed state of the British and other oversea markets. The Government very carefully reviewed the position, and, in deciding to help the industry, insisted on oversea freights being reduced by a further Jd. per lb. The Meat Works treatment charges, it was provided, should also be reduced by a like amount. No interference with wages was suggested by the Government because, at the end of 1922, the wages to be paid to those engaged in the meat industry in Queensland for 1923 were fixed at the same rate as was paid in 1922. As the shipping companies and the meat works agreed to the reduction suggested by the Government, it was decided to grant a bounty during the current year as follows : -
Over 90, per cent, of the bounty on frozen beef will go to Queensland, as that State has the largest surplus of beef over local requirements. The bounty on live cattle will be paid mainly to cattle-owners in the north-west of Western Australia, who carry on a substantial trade in live cattle with eastern ports. All States will participate in the bounty on canned beef, Queensland receiving the largest share.
The position of the London market at present is worse than it was at this time last year, as the following figures will show: -
The bounty will enable about 12,000 cattle and 70,000 tons of beef to be exported from Australia.
– English people can obtain beef more cheaply than can our own people.
-That is because of the difficulties connected with the marketing of North Australian beef in the southern centres of population, and because thepeople of Australia are not prepared to purchase and consume frozen meat, as are the people in Great Britain and other oversea markets.
– We get scarcely anything else in Sydney.
– It is not purchased as frozen meat ; it is not meat which has been in storage for a considerable time. In the summer-time a great deal of meat has to be kept in cool storage for short periods.
– And the people have to pay1s. 6d. per lb. for it.
– That is not because the cattle cannot be bought cheaply in the northern portion of Australia. The cattle which were sent to the meat works last year realized only about £2 10s. per head.
– They are giving away a bullock to change a pound in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales.
– I should not think that cattle which were given away in that manner were fit for killing; they would probably be stores for which the owner had not proper pasture .
– I saw in Townsville, last year, beautiful cattle which realized only £2 15s. 9d. net to the owner.
– They would probably be four-year-old bullocks, and would weigh from 600 lbs. upwards. That only goes to show the parlous state of the pastoral industry in the remote parts of the Commonwealth, and how very necessary it is for the Government to do something to tide it over its present difficulties. That is an argument in favour of the Bill.
Early in the year it was estimated that not more than 150,000 cattle would be dealt with for the purposes of the bounty. Lately, however, a change has taken place. The general rains which have fallen in the northern districts of the Commonwealth during the last two months have had the effect of opening up the stock routes, with the result that a far greater number of cattle than was expected have been sent to the works. The departmental records of slaughteringsto date indicate that 250,000 cattle will be killed for export, and 12,000 live cattle will be sent abroad. It is estimated, therefore, that the total expenditure under the Bill will amount to about £150,000.
With regard to canned beef, the Bill goes further than the Act passed last year. This year the bounty is to be paid on all canned beef slaughtered between 1st March and 31st October, 1923, and exported before 31st December of this year. Previously, the bounty on canned meat applied only where the whole of the edible flesh of the bullock was canned. The Government are assured by leading men among cattle-owners that the bounty paid on canned beef will enhance the price of cattle sold for canning, and that the full benefit of the bounty will thus be passed on to the stock-raiser. On reference to the Bill, it will be observed that the bounty will not be paid unless conclusive evidence is produced to the departmental officers that the full benefit of the subsidy has been passed on to the cattle-grower. A similar condition was included in last year’s Act, and was found, in practice, to work satisfactorily. According to recent press reports, South Africa has also found it necessary to give a bounty on beef exported this year from the Union. I commend the Bill to the sympathetic considerationof honorable senators, who, I am sure, must realize that under present conditions it is very necessary for the Government to help the cattle men of Australia.
– As the result of the estimated expenditure of £150,000, what will be the return to the Commonwealth?
– There are 250,000 cattle which will be slaughtered, and 12,000 head of live cattle will be exported, making a total of over 260,000 head. Assuming that the prices realized for the cattle approximate last year’s receipts, from £500,000 to £750,000 will be returned to the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This measure means a great deal to two very large Australian undertakings - the Commonwealth Shipping Line and Cockatoo Island Dockyard. It is unnecessary for me to remind honorable senators that, in the language used by Senator Kingsmill yesterday, we are all travelling along the same road, anxious to perfect the working conditions and to improve the efficiency of these large ventures, so as to make them of some valueto the Commonwealth.
– Do ships travel along the same road?
– We wish them to follow the road of prosperity and to turn aside from the road followed in the past. The Bill provides for the handing over of the Commonwealth Shipping Line and the Cockatoo Island Dockyard to an independent Board, The circumstances under which this shipping Line came into existence, and its subsequent benefit to Australia, are well known. A statement, showing the position of the Commonwealth Government shipping and shipbuilding activities from the end of 1914 until June last, has been tabled. This shows a total debit of £2,645,761 on all transactions after allowing for the proposed writing down, interest on all moneys advanced, and the total cost of all steel ships built or in course of construction in Australia. In fact, it shows all expenditure except the loss on wooden tonnage, which, it is freely admitted on all sides, could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered a reasonable charge against the Line. A balance-sheet and profit and loss account of the Line for the year ended 30th June, 1922, and an estimated balance-sheet and profit and loss account for the year ended 30th June, 1923, have also been tabled, and show that the loss for these two years amounted to £2,797,719 4s. 3d. This, - however, includes £1,732,920 for interest and depreciation. As a matter of fact, notwithstanding heavy losses incurred during the last two years, the Commonwealth. Shipping Line has made a gross profitof £2,493,449 since its inception, but the net loss has been £493,278, the difference comprising interest and depreciation already written off.
– Those are proper working charges against any business concern.
– That would be the ordinary course to adopt. Owing to shipping difficulties and abnormal times, in order to place the Line on a proper footing, we have been compelled to write down values to a very considerable extent. It is now proposed to write down the book value of the fleet from £12,766,588 to £4,718,150. The” reduced value is the result of a careful valuation on the basis of present-day market value. The Government’s experience in this connexion is not exceptional; in fact, we are very small fry when we compare our experience with that of other countries. The Canadian Government Merchant Marine is in a similar position, with the exception that, as it was only in 1919 that it commenced operations, it has no accrued profits to set off against its recent losses. Australia in that respect is more fortunate. The Government of the United States of America has a fleet of some 1,416 vessels of nearly 10,000,000 tons dead weight, and of these only 389 are in commission. That Government is losing £10,000,000 per annum on its shipping operations, and that figure excludes interest and depreciation.
– I think it includes the subsidy paid by the Government.
– The estimated gross capital cost of America’s fleet is £614,000,000, and its estimated market value to-day is £60,000,000, or, in round figures, 10 per cent, of its actual cost. Comparing Australia’s position with other countries, we ‘have something for which to be thankful. On the proposed reconstruction basis, the Line should shortly become a payable proposition, because the charges for interest, insurance, and depreciation will be materially reduced. For instance, on the fleet now in existence, interest and depreciation .would, under the amended valuation, absorb only £420,265 per annum, as against £1,428,510 on the present basis. A saving of £100,000 per annum would also be made on insurance. The Commonwealth Shipping Line is being written down from £12:,766,000 to £4,718,000, and we are now considering the latter amount. It has been argued that the fleet has been undervalued and too drastically written down. If the Government intended to sell the Commonwealth vessels holus bolus to an independent company for £4,718,000, then this criticism would be largely justified; but the Government are not proposing to do any such thing. Wo are capitalizing the fleet on the presentday value to give the Board -of Control a. reasonable chance of making the Shipping Line a Success, and justifying its existence.
– The Government propose to sell ‘some of the vessels.
– We propose to dispose of vessels which are valueless from, our point of view, but it is not intended to sell the larger steamers, which aire of considerable value to the Australian trade. We are living in the day of large vessels, and other countries are building 25,000-ton and 30,000-ton ships. Many of the vessels of the Commonwealth fleet are from 5,000 to 6,000 tons, and in view of the tremendous distance dividing Australia from the rest of the world, they are of very little value to us.
– Has the loss been sustained owing to the expenditure being heavier per vessel as compared with those of other companies.
– Not in regard to the “Bay” liners.
– I am referring to the smaller vessels.
– What applies to one applies to the other. We have shown a profit on most of the trips undertaken by the “Bay” line of steamers, but the difficulty has been in connexion with the smaller vessels.
– The proportion of working expenses to earnings is too high.
– That generally applies when a deficit occurs. The Government propose ito retain the most efficient, suitable, and economic, units of the fleet, and to dispose of the inferior, inefficient, and unsuitable tonnage, with which the Line is saddled, and which involves very heavy losses, even if the vessels are laid up. When the fleet is idle there is the expense of upkeep, caretaking, and occasional docking. We hope to eliminate this unnecessary expense by placing the Commonwealth SShipping Line on a proper working basis, and disposing of the surplus tonnage to other countries, where they will be capable of service and therefore of some value.
– Considering that the Government will have to sell these ships to some one some clay, the Minister is not giving them a very good advertisement.
– I am merely saying that the ships are unsuitable for the Australian trade. The 6,500-ton, boats built at Williamstown, Port Adelaide, Cockatoo Island, and Walker’s are second to none for efficiency and quality of workmanship. That is the opinion of those who have a’ right to express it. When I say that the ships are not suitable for our trade, I do not complain of their standard or quality. During the two years ended 30th June last, the “ D “ and “ B “ steamers alone were responsible for a loss of no less than £355,515, excluding interest and depreciation, which, during the same period, involved at least another £650,000.
– Why were so many ships built?
– During the war, the world was crying for ships, and any old thing that would float was of value. The Common wealth, like other Governments, undertook the building of ships.
– And quite right, too, at that time.
– We have to face circumstances as they are to-day. The abandonment by the Conference lines of the policy of discriminating against supporters of the Commonwealth Government Line has already had extremely satisfactory results. Much of the prejudice against Commonwealth vessels is disappearing. That is another reason why the Government considers it is justified in looking forward to a reasonable measure of success in the future running of the Line. The reduced cost of coal, which may be expected now that the coal strike is over, is another favorable factor. There are also the anticipated material reductions in the cost of stores, port charges, and repairs. Under the decision to do repair work at Cockatoo Island dockyards, repairs will be carried out more efficiently than they have been. The popularity of the “ Bay “ liners, in regard to both passenger traffic and merchandise, has considerably increased.
– Do those ships carry only one class of passenger 1
– There are twelve or fourteen berths on each boat which are regarded as first class, but I am led. to understand that, by the end of the present year, they will be abolished. These berths have caused some controversy, and they are of such small importance to the people who travel between Australia and the United’ Kingdom, that the management of the Line has decided to remove them. When that has been done, the ships will carry a larger number of passengers and the service will be more efficient than at present.
The Commonwealth Line has suffered considerably from industrial disputes. It. is hoped that, under the new arrangement’, employees in all branches will realize the necessity for not interrupting the continuity of the business. Fair conditions will be meted out to them, and I do not think that we shall look in vain for a corresponding return from them
I come now to the other side of the question, namely, construction and repair work at Cockatoo Island. Two years ago, a Commission, of which Senator Reid was chairman, inquired into operations at Cockatoo, and did excellent work. The decisions recorded by the Commission have been more than justified. The members of it had’ the one aim of improving the conditions and justifying the continuance of that great work. Some of the finest machinery . in the southern hemisphere is at Cockatoo, and I have not seen machinery to compare with it in any workshop in the world. Some of the machines cost many thousands of pounds. The Commission recommended that the capital ‘ cost of the works, namely, £2,275,000, should be. written down to £400,000. The difference between those two figures does not represent a loss. Much of the machinery at Cockatoo Island is for naval work only, and to add tho cost of this to working capital would be unfair. It is ridiculous to value the works at £400,000. Those who are opposed to the works being continued in Australia have suggested the formation . of a company with a capital of £450,000 or £500,000 to purchase the dockyard. If the Commonwealth Government was selling the concern to a private company it would not be prepared to accept anything like £400,000. That figure does not take into account the whole of the machinery. The defence machinery will be taken care of, and will be available whenever it is required for the defence of the country. That policy will relieve the taxpayer of the burden of establishing new works, at a cost of over £2,000,000, if the need for them should arise. This is the only shipyard in the southern hemisphere equipped to deal with big ships and their machinery. I remind those who say that the Government should go out of the business that one of its duties is to provide for the defence of this country. It has been suggested that we should close down the works, and keep the machinery for use in the event of another war. If that were done there would be no skilled men available, when required, to operate the machinery.
One object of the Government’s proposals is to remove overlapping, of which I shall give one instance. The management of the Commonwealth Line has adopted a certain system of costing. Marine engineers and surveyors are employed to guard against excessive expenditure, and to supervise repair work. These men are employed for no other purpose than to check the costs of another
Government concern. At Cockatoo Island there are senior men who have given much time and energy to “the reconstruction carried out during the last two years,, and there is no need to duplicate their work. Cockatoo Island . should be a branch of the shipping business, and there should be no necessity for one Department to check the figures of another. No business man would tolerate for five minutes such double overhead charges. In endeavouring to put the Shipping Line on a business footing we should consider what business men would do in the same circumstances.
The balance-sheet of the dockyard showed a profit of £40,000 up to 1922, and £51,000 up to 1923. As these figures would cover 5 per cent, depreciation and 5 per cent, interest on a capital of £400,000, some honorable senators may rush to the conclusion that it would be good policy to continue iu the shipbuilding business. As a matter of fact, I am referring only to bookkeeping entries. The 12,500-toh steamers, of which one was launched the other day in Sydney-
– “Who launched it?
– I understand it was launched by the* wife of the Acting Premier of New South Wales.
– No members of the Federal Parliament were invited to the ceremony.
– I am sorry for that.
– The schedule states that the Fordsdale is a vessel of 9,700 tons.
– I have been assured that the tonnage of this particular steamer is 12,800. It is expected that another of these vessels will be launched about twelve months hence. The Government realize that Cockatoo Island cannot be expected ‘ to pay as at present conducted, but if given all Government repair work it should prove a highly efficient and remunerative proposition.
– It would be competing with private enterprise in that respect.
– Tes. I am coming to that point. The Government are anxious to obtain; the best results from the establishment, because much public money is at stake. I have pointed out the absolute necessity for retaining Cockatoo Island dockyard for defence purposes. Despite all criticism from the press and elsewhere, the responsibility rests upon us tq. maintain this equipment in the southern hemisphere for defence purposes. The whole subject was investigated two years ago by a Commission, and the conclusion was reached, after an exhaustive inquiry, that Australia should maintain one efficient -shipyard, but could not afford two. There are still some 600 men working at Garden Island, and the highly efficient equipment at Cockatoo Island remains only half employed. Of course, work of a technical character that can be done by the naval ratings will still be executed at Garden Island, but it is proposed that all the heavy jobs shall be carried out at Cockatoo Island. The policy has been for the Government not to undertake private work, and, as a result, scores of important jobs have been lost to Australia. It would never pay a private company to install the highly expensive machinery erected at Cockatoo Island, because tho; quantity of work available is limited ; but, on the other hand, seeing that the Government need this machinery for naval repairs, it would, pay to keep the works fully employed by accepting private contracts. The policy decided upon is that the Board shall manage Cockatoo Island as a business concern. Both State and Federal taxes will have to be paid, and the undertaking will be placed upon the same footing financially as any private establishment. There will be no such thing as writing off losses and letting the taxpayers foot the bill.
A Board of three is suggested, and the number of members is not- to exceed five. Just how the Board shall be composed is a somewhat debatable point. I have read the discussion in the other branch of the Legislature, and I cannot agree with the suggestion ‘that the labour unions should have the right to nominate a member. The Board should not simply meet once a month, collect their fees, and have nothing else to worry about, as happens in the cases of many boards of directors. They should be managers in the real sense of the word. It is suggested that one manshould be experienced in commercial shipping, that another should be particularly qualified to control the practical side of the work, and that the third should be largely responsible for the financial success of the venture. It appears to me that a Board combining those qualities would be able to obtain the efficiency that is generally desired. It does not seem to be conducive to the best results to have the controlling office in Melbourne, while the works are in Sydney. No good purpose can be served to-day by retaining the Melbourne office. The whole of the controlling forces should be concentrated at the scene of action. On the question of remuneration, I think the Board should comprise the best men available, and that the Government should not be expected to fix the salaries to be paid. Having obtained the services of the most efficient nien we should pay them what they are worth. The vessels to which Senator Payne referred will be sold in the best possible manner; but I am unable to tell him the price that will be expected.
– Could I not fix my own terms, as others did in the case of the Commonwealth woollen mills?
– We are quite prepared to sell the honorable senator a ship as soon as he is ready to purchase one.
– What is meant by the “best possible manner”?
– It will be for the Board of experts to decide what is a fair price. It is not reasonable to expect any one officer of the Government to determine what a ‘ dozen vessels are worth in the world’s market.
– In what manner, and under what conditions, are they likely to be sold?
– The Board wilt have the power to decide the terms and conditions under which surplus vessels shall be disposed of.
– Has the Minister any announcement to make concerning the attitude of the Board on freight subsidies ?
– That will be decided by the Board.
Two years ago, when a Commission was inquiring into the whole question, the stores at Cockatoo Island were valued at £100,000, but since then the stocks have been considerably reduced. The stores will be taken over at . their present value, to be decided upon by competent valuers. The value of the stores is not included in the written down value of £400,000. Honorable senators will be glad to learn that balance-sheets audited by the Auditor-General will be made available once a year, from which the actual position of the undertaking will easily be ascertained. Government debentures, carrying interest at 5 per cent., will be issued for the total value of the property transferred.
Many are of the opinion that the Line should be scrapped, and have raised objections because the value of the ships has been written down to the extent named. They should remember, however, that the Line is, not being disposed of to a private company; but is to continue under a Board which will control it on behalf of the Commonwealth. The value pf the vessels has been written down to present market values, to enable the whole undertaking to be placed on a proper basis. The Government do not wish to handicap the line in any way, and the value of the vessels has been reduced to enable the Board to carry on the enterprise in a business-like manner. I am sure honorable senators will give the measure their support, because the continuance of the Line and the works at Cockatoo Island will be the means of providing employment in -Australia for a large number of men.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
The following paper was presented: -
War Service Homes. Act - Land acquired at Dungog, New South Wales.
Reports on Provisional Parliament House, Officers’ Hostel, and Administrative Buildings at Canberra.
Senator LYNCH brought up the reports, together with minutes of evidence, plans, and appendices, of. the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, relating to the erection of provisional Parliament House, Officers’ Hostel, and provisional Administrative Offices at Canberra.
Sitting Days -loss of the”Sumatra” : Royal Commission.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In view of the volume of business now coming forward, I wish to intimate to honorable senators that, after next week, it will probably be necessary for us to meet on Tuesdays. I make this intimation to enable honorable senators to make whatever arrangements they may consider necessary. .
– I was informed this morning, in answer to a question, that the Government intend to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the loss of the Sumatra, and I. desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, if the Government will agree to extend the scope of that proposed Commission to enable inquiries to be made into the operations of the Navigation Act. I can assure the Government that it is necessary to take drastic action to prevent passengers, as well as those who “go down to the sea in ships” to earn their livelihood, leaving port in rotten vessels: I was engaged in the shipbuilding industry for many years, and was one of those responsible for the inquiry conducted many years ago by the late Mr. Sam Smith. The evidence given before that inquiry proved conclusively that the inspection of vessels at the time was totally inadequate, and I am sorry to say that it is equally unsatisfactory to-day. On numerous occasions I have read of the loss of vessels and valuable lives which I believe could have been prevented if a proper inspection had been made. I have in my possession a letter from the Chief of the Navigation Department in New South Wales practically admitting that a ship was allowed to go to sea in an unseaworthy condition. If the scope of the proposed Commission were extended, evidence could be adduced to prove that ships are being sent to sea in an unseaworthy condition. It is the duty of the Government to take action in the interest of those who have to travel by water or who have to earn their living on the sea. It can be proved not only that the Sumatra was rotten, but that her construction was not of the requirements for deep sea trade.
I am anxious that the scope of the Commission shall be extended, so that inquiries may be made concerning the seaworthy condition of other vessels trading on the Australian coast. The Fitzroy was unfit to go to sea, and five colliers, whichwere allowed to leave with their hatches off, which is contrary to the Act, have been lost off the New South Wales coast. The members of the union to which I belong are afraid to make a report to the authorities, because they know they would be victimized and would have to look elsewhere for work. Those who have families to support can hardly be blamed for refusing to run such a risk. I wasthe honorary secretary of the Boilermakers Union, and because I took a. prominent part in an inquiry into the scalding to death of a fireman, on a vessel on which I was working, and gave evidence which prompted the company owning the vessel to immediately compensate the widow, without any court proceedings, I was hunted from shop to shop, and was denied an opportunity to secure work in my own country. I had a family to support and did not know what to do in order to earn a living. Senator Gardiner suggests that I have always had a guardian angel watching over me, and when I look back I realize that if I had been of a different disposition I might have been still hammering away at my old job, instead of occupying a seat in this Senate. If the Government would extend the scope of the Commission in the direction I suggest, evidence would be tendered that would stagger the people of Australia. If the Government cannot accede to my request, I trust that they will appoint another Commission or Board of Inquiry to investigate the condition of all vessels in the Australian trade.
[3.44]. - I realize the importance and gravity of the matter raised by Senator McDougall, and I can assure him that I shall not only formally bring the matter under the notice of the Minister in charge of the Department, but will personally see if anything can be done in the direction he suggests.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Senate adjourned at 3.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230713_senate_9_103/>.