9th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Markets and Migration is he aware that the decision of the Government as to assistance for hop-growers in Tasmania is being anxiously awaited by those concerned, and, further, is he aware that thegrowers are absolutely dependent upon such assistance to enable them to cultivate their land and string their hops, and that failure to do this means ruin to them?
– The subject mentioned by the honorable senator hasbeen receiving the careful attention of the Cabinet. The Government realizes the difficulties of the Tasmanian hop-growers, and it is hoped thata decision will be come toat an early date.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General if the Bankruptcy Act, passed last session, is now in operation, and, if not, when will the measure be given effect to?
– The AttorneyGeneral has advised me that he hopes that the necessary action will betaken very soon.
The following paper was presented : -
Report to the League of Nations on the administration of the Territory of New Guinea from 1st July, 1923, to 30th June, 1924.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, uponnotice -
– The information asked for by the honorable senator will be found in the attached statement: -
Statement showing particulars of persons deported underthe Immigration Act 1920-1924, during (a) twelve months ended the 30th June, 1925, and (b) six months ended the30th June, 1925: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Has a report for the year ending90th June,1925,been receivedfromtheFederal Capital Commission:andifso,whenwillit be made availableformembers?
– No. The commission is required to furnish annually a report on its control and management of the affairs in the Territory during the preceding year, but as it has only been functioning since the beginning of the present year, the first annual report will not be available until after December next.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether it is intended to confer with the state Ministers regarding the allocation and expenditure of the federal road grant beforo regulations arc finalized.
– Arrangements for a conference could not be made to deal with this year’s grant, but later in the year the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways proposes to confer with the Works Minister of each state on the whole question of federal roads grants.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister supplies the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
SenatorFOLL asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has a further agreement been entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Larkin-Sopwith Co. to include Melbourne in the aerial mail service!
Did the original contract include Brisbane in its schedule?
If so, when will this part of the contract be carried out?
– The Minister for Defence supplies the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the approaching visit of the United States Fleet to this country, and the reasonable assumption that such visit is intended by the United States of America to deepen the cordial relations between that country and this, the Government will acknowledge the compliment by way of opening up negotiations with the United States ‘ of America for the purpose of arriving at a trade reciprocity arrangement on a basis mutually advantageous to both countries.
– The suggestion of the honorable senator will receive consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister supplies tho following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
I will bring the honorable senator’s questions under the notice of the Commonwealth Shipping Board for comment, and will further inform him as early as possible.
Motion (by Senator Newland), agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Benny on account of illhealth.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That Senator Drake-Brockman be discharged from, attendance on the Standing Orders Committee, and that Senator Kingsmill be appointed a member of the committee in his stead.
Debate resumed from 8th July (vide page 762), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure now under discussion is of a most important character, and it is almost impossible to realize how far-reaching its provisions may be. It is to be regretted that a much larger proportion of members of the Federal Parliament have not had an opportunity, or have not embraced the facilities placed at their disposal by the Government, to visit at least portions of the Northern Territory. After perusing the measure I think I can go so far as to say that it provides only a very small step forward. The bill deals, not only with the Northern Territory as we know it, but also with a portion of western Queensland, and certain territory in the north-eastern portion of “Western Australia. It would appear from the figures placed at our disposal that the area consists of the whole of that portion of the Northern Territory north of the 20th parallel of south latitude containing approximately 2S7,227 square miles, territory in “Western Australia comprising 120,500 square miles, and a certain area in Queensland consisting of 38,000 square miles, or a total of 445,727 square miles. So far as can be ascertained at present the population of the Northern Territory fluctuates, and now numbers about 2,240 whites, and 1,018 coloured people, or a total of 3,258. The population of the areas in Queensland and “Western Australia covered by the bill, when added to that of the Northern Territory, approximates 4,000 white persons. With due respect to the opinions expressed by other honorable senators who have preceded me in discussing this measure, I believe that the men and women who have- taken up resi dence in the northern portion of Australia are just as enterprising as, and perhaps more so than, any other persons in the Commonwealth. There is generally reluctance on the part of any Minister to relax his authority, and I do not think this bill goes far enough in the matter of conferring local government upon the people resident in the north. Although I believe steps have been taken to extend to a small degree the system of local government previously in operation in Papua and the Mandated Territories, at present local government there is purely nominal. When the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory from South Australia the debt of the Territory was £3,901,086, or approximately £8 per square mile. Since the’ Com. monwealth has had control, the debt up to the 30th June, 1924, has increased to £7,791,130, or approximately . £14 per square mile. According to the accounts published the deficit last year amounted to £243,762, and it is still increasing. In his lengthy second-reading speech, $e Minister (Senator Pearce), did not give any reason why it is proposed to assume control over a portion of Queensland and of Western Australia. I do not know how these states stand financially at present, but I do not think either of them is accumulating debt to the same extent that the Northern Territory has been doing during the period under which it has been controlled by the Federal authority. Upon that point, however, I speak subject to correction. The Minister did not tell us whether either of the states was agreeable to hand over any portion of its territory to be administered , by the proposed commission, and I do not think any attempt should be made to apply the bill to state territory until the approval of the states concerned has been obtained.
– It cannot be applied to any state territory without the consent of the states concerned.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to go on with the scheme whether the states come into the arrangement or not ?
– No. Queensland and Western Australia have complete control of their own territory, and I feel sure that any area proposed to be transferred is as well developed as is the Northern Territory. In these circumstances I am not prepared to entertain the idea of asking the states to hand over, either temporarily or in any other way, the control of any portions of their territory. It is proposed that eventually the commission shall be located at Newcastle Waters, but, unfortunately, the Government have not fixed » definite time for the transfer. If we look at the history of South American republics we find that it has taken very many years to accomplish the transfer of a seat of government, because there has been no definite time fixed for the transfer to take place. Coming nearer home, many people were under the impression when they agreed to federation that the Commonwealth Parliament would meet at the Federal Capital to be established in New South Wales. They overlooked the cunning wording of the section of the Constitution Act which provides that the Parliament shall sit at Melbourne until it meets at Canberra.
– I do not see the connexion between Canberra and the proposal in the bill.
– I ani trying to show that the bill contains a provision almost precisely the same as the section in the Federal Constitution, which says that the seat of government shall be at Melbourne until Parliament meets at Canberra.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator under the cover of this bill to discuss the meeting of the Federal Parliament at Canberra. The honorable senator will have ample opportunity of discussing that matter on other occasions.
– I must make my meaning clear in another way.
– The honorable senator is entitled to do so so long as he keeps within the scope of the bill; but he must not disobey my ruling.
– The bill provides that the commission shall sit at Newcastle Waters, but until its permanent abode is established there it may reside at Darwin. I object to this proposal, because of the fact that a similar provision in the Federal Constitution has not worked out satisfactorily, inasmuch as the Commonwealth Parliament is still meeting at Melbourne, although the seat of government was to be established elsewhere. I should like to see the provision in this bill amended so that the commis sioners shall be obliged to take up their residence at Newcastle Waters within a specified time. That is the point I was anxious to emphasize when I referred to the delay that has taken place in removing the federal seat of government to Canberra.
-The honorable senator has referred to that matter two or three times. He has said quite enough about it to illustrate his argument, and I cannot allow him to refer to it again.
– I trust, sir, that you will keep other honorable senators as closely to the bill.
– The honorable senator is entitled to discuss the bill, but not to give an instruction to the Chair.
– I hope that I have made it quite clear that this provision of the bill should be amended. In committee I shall move to fix Newcastle Waters as the place of residence of the commission. It is an important matter, and I would not like anything to happen, such as happened in regard to Canberra.
– The honorable senator is deliberately disobeying the instructions of the Chair. It is the last time I shall warn him. The next time he offends I shall be obliged to take appropriate action.
– I have not the least intention of disobeying your ruling. There is another phase of the bill to which careful attention should be given. I take it that the commission will indicate to the Minister that certain sums of money are required to carry out works, and that the Minister will submit the matter to Parliament and obtain its approval of the expenditure. The Minister has assured us that the adoption of a proposal of this character would- mean that there would be, not only continuity of work, but also continuity of policy. I agree with him that that would be a great improvement upon the present system. I recall that under the River Murray Irrigation Scheme, which is financed conjointly by the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, development goes on uninterruptedly irrespective of what governments happen to be in power. Northern Australia is practically unpopulated at the present time, and no matter what action is taken it must remain so for a considerable period; but I hope that under the proposal outlined in the bill increased development will take place. I cannot gather from the measure exactly how the money for the work is to be secured. I take it that the Commonwealth will borrow it, and at the discretion of the Minister supply it to the commissioners. I do not hold out much hope of any great advance taking place immediately, since the best portion of the Territory has already been leased for long terms.Under the ordinance agreed to by the Senate last session it was provided that as leases expired they could be extended for a term of twenty years, and in many cases up to forty, years. The report of the Administrator of the Northern Territory for the year ended 30th June, 1924,’ at page 17, contains the following item : -
Pastoral, Leases.- On the 30th June, 1924, there were in existence 451 leases comprising an area of 113,530,560 acres, with an annual rental of £18,27911s.11d. Of this amount the sum of £15,685 4s. 9d. was received, being a decrease of £131 13s. on the previous year’s collections. The leases granted under the South Australian act number 210, and comprise an area of 96,642¾ square miles, with a total annual rental of £8,165 17s. 2d., and 241 leases comprising 80,748¼ square miles, with a total annual rental of £10,113 14s. 9d., are under the provisions of the Crown Lands Ordinance 1912-23.
That paragraph indicates clearly that a substantial portion of the Territory is at present leased for very long periods at rentals which, I take it, are practically fixed, and the total rental for the 113,530,560 acres is only £18,27911s. 11d. per annum. The sum collected - £15,685 4s. 9d. - showed a slight decrease.
– Those leases are subject to re-appraisement.
– Not the leases to which these figures refer.
– Yes, they are. The lessees can obtain an extended term only if they elect to come under the ordinance passed last year, and when they do the leases are subject to re-appraisement.
– I know that, but there is no re-appraisement until the termination of the first period.
– And there can be no renewal of leases until they are surrendered.
– There can be a renewal of the leases provided the lessees come under the terms of the ordinance.
– Not at the termination of the leases, but if they come in within two years.
– The number who would come in now would be very limited. I do not suppose that any of them have yet come in. These leases, unless they come under the terms of the ordinance of last session, will not produce any more revenue under this bill than they do to-day, and we are informed by the Administrator that even the nominal revenue obtained for the past year represented a slight decrease on the previous year’s collection. I do not wonder at it. Of course, I can see quite well that steps are being taken by the Government to make provision for the destruction of the leasehold system of land tenure in Northern Australia. If I read this bill and last year’s ordinance correctly, the lessees to which I have just referred can, . under certain conditions, secure the freehold of their land. On that point I may be mistaken.
– If the honorable senator is referring to pastoral lands he is certainly mistaken.
– But the Government has introduced a bill, the object of which is to grant freehold titles to certain lands in the Territory.
– Only in respect of town lots and garden blocks, and cases in which the land is to be used for agricultural purposes.
– That places an entirely different phase upon the -whole subject. I realize that I shall not be in order if I discuss the provisions of the Northern Territory Administration Bill now, but it appears to me that the provisions of that measure and this one are so intertwined that it is almost impossible to discuss them separately in a satisfactoryway. I understand that although at present there is very little freehold land in the Territory, the Government intend, as soon as possible, to make much more land there available under that title. If it does so we know very well what to expect. Freehold land is held in all the states of the Commonwealth, and unemployment is rife throughout the country. The position is most acute in those statesthat have been the longest settled. “We have idle men everywhere, and ragged schools, soup kitchens, and other similar institutions that we could well do without.
– There is an unemploynient fund in Queensland.
– There will be ‘ a lot of unemployed senators after ‘ the next general election.
– There may be. Seeing that we have had so little time to think about this proposal to place the Territory under the control of a commission, it would be well to defer consideration of this measure for a time. The complexity of the problems which the development of the Northern Territory present would justify the delay. The area which it is proposed to bring under the control of the commission under the name of North Australia will comprise, 445,000 square miles. Its soil and climate are similar to those of Northern Queensland, and I cannot think that it will be impossible for us to settle white people there.. Although it is well known that the whole of Australia and Tasmania was at one time inhabited by coloured people, and that the inhabitants in these latitudes both north and south of the equator right round the world are largely coloured races, there is no reason that I am aware of why we should not be able to provide comfortable homes and a good living for thousands of white people in the Northern Territory. The £6,000 which it is proposed to spend on salaries for the three commissioners is not too much, provided that we get the right men. ‘ It may be found that it is not enough, in which case we can increase it later. Having regard to the immense area that is involved, and also to the fact that government by commission is as yet on trial in Australia, I appeal to the Government to postpone consideration of this measure, to give honorable senators an opportunity to consider more carefully the wisdom or otherwise of placing it upon the statutebook.
– I am glad that honorable senators opposite have looked at this bill in a broadminded way, and not in a party spirit. It places a very big question in front of us, and honorable senators are to be congratulated upon treating it as they have done. The Government is to be commended for making a practical and an honest attempt to do something with our vast empty north. Tie Northern Territory contains 520,620 square miles of country, and is six times the size of Victoria, but according to the latest census figures it is inhabited by only 3,572 people. I think I am justified in saying that since it has been under Commonwealth control it has been the plaything of politicians. With so many of us, who live away down here in the south under such totally different climatic conditions, it has been a case, with the Northern Territory, of “ Out of sight, out of mind.” The Territory is so inaccessible to us, and we have had so few opportunities of informing ourselves of its potentialities, that we have practically forgotten it.
– A great deal of money has been spent on it.
– That is so, and some very difficult and hard pioneering work has been done, as I shall endeavour to explain. I do not altogether blame past or present Ministers or Governments for the almost total failure to take any practical steps to settle and develop the Territory, for the difficulties to be overcome are tremendous. The point I wish to emphasize is that the position of the Territory is by no means hopeless. I waa glad to hear Senator Findley say yesterday that the Government ought to appoint the best men available to this commission, irrespective of expense. The amount of money that we spend in salaries to the commission is really of very little importance. The development of this Territory constitutes such a big problem, and is of such vast importance to Australia and the Empire, that the very best men should be secured to do the work.
– It is our bounden duty to do something tangible.
– That is so. The sparse population of the Territory, its huge coastline, and its vast area constitute problems of peculiar difficulty ; but something must be done with it. We must look at the position in a practical and dispassionate way. At present the Northern Territory is entirely a pastoral proposition, and just as the various states of the Commonwealth were developed, in the first place, by pastoralists, so I believe the Northern Territory must be.
– Entirely by the pastoral industry?
– Pastoral arid mining. I confine my remarks chiefly to the possibilities of the Northern Territory from the stand-point of the pastoral industry, because I know something of its pastoral possibilities and practically nothing of mining. I realize, however, that Western Australia and other states would never have been opened up so soon but for the lure of gold. But the problem in the Northern Territory is almost entirely pastoral. A vast area in that magnificent country has a surer rainfall and a better climate than many other parts of Australia. It is our bounden duty to increase our flocks and herds, which form the basis of our greatest wealth-producing industry. Of all the Ministers who have had . administrative authority over the Northern Territory - and I followed politics pertaining to the Territory long before I entered this Parliament - none has shown anything , like the grip or breadth of outlook in dealing with Northern Territory problems as has Senator Pearce. The bill which he so lucidly explained has much to commend it. I think it is a good idea to divide the Territory, as suggested, into two states. Whether they be called Central and North Australia does not matter very much. Originally, that part of Australia was called the Northern Territory of South Australia, but that was distinctly a misnomer. As the Territory, for some reason or other, but partly through government bungling, is in illrepute with investors and people generally, it would, perhaps, be advisable to make some change in the name. I do not think, however, that the proposed new states should be named after members of Parliament, however estimable my colleagues may be, because this would probably engender a feeling of jealousy in some quarters; and, after all, we must confess that members of Parliament have not done so much for the Northern Territory as did the early explorers and pioneers. If any changes are to be made at all, we should preferably attach the names of early explorers to that portion of the Commonwealth. Some were/ wonderful men, who blazed the trail across the continent without any of the facilities of travel now at the disposal of pioneering travellers. They are the men whose names, if any, should be enshrined in that portion of Australia.
– And do not forget men who, like “ the Fizzer,” lost his life carrying mails in the Northern Territory.
– I forget no one. As an Australian, I revere the names of all those men and women who faced the hardships inseparable from the pioneering life and did such yeoman service in opening up our out-back country. It is immaterial by what name we call the Northern Territory. Our first duty is to settle and develop our dangerously empty north. The Territory has been thoughtlessly condemned by many, who ought to know better, as a white elephant - as a useless waste area that will never be of any benefit to Australia. The expression of such opinions is to be very much deprecated. On the other hand, there are people who, in newspaper articles and speeches on the public platform, speak of the Northern Teritory as a land flowing with milk and honey, suitable for closer settlement and agriculture. It is not, and for many years will not, be an agricultural country. After many years of practical experience I have come to the conclusion that it is unwise to describe any part of Australia as useless. As a young man, I was inclined to agree with those who spoke disparagingly of our outback country, but experience, travel, and observation have changed my views. I well remember when the great mallee country in the north-west of Victoria was described by the public, members of Parliament, and the press as absolutely useless.
– A select committee of the Victorian Legislative Assembly labelled it a wilderness.
– When first I knew the Mallee it was a wilderness in every sense of the word. Before we thought of growing wheat there, my family had practical experience in a heart-breaking undertaking. We lost a great deal of money trying to run sheep in that country. At that time it was indeed a howling wilderness, and apparently was almost useless. This is why people got into the habit of describing any dry country as valueless. I shall never do so again. There is no part of Australia, not excepting even the Nullabour Plains, which I crossed the other day, that I would describe as useless, because I know what can be done with apparently poor land by intelligent treatment under modern conditions of cultivation. Victoria owes a great deal to the late Mr. Lascelles, who devised means to get rid of the mallee scrub and make the land arable, and who, in addition, was responsible for the construction by private enterprise of the railway to Hopetoun. The government of the “day, regarding themallee country as valueless, would have nothing to do with the proposal. What is the position to-day? The great mallee country may fittingly be described as a waving wheat-field, and one of the richest provinces in Victoria. The wheat yield in the north-west of this state is enormous, and is increasing every year. The Government has built railways through it, and returned soldiers who have been settled on that country on liberal terms are, I think, doing better . than returned soldiers settled in any other part of Australia. There is still a considerable area of crown lands in the Mallee available for future settlement. That country- which a few years ago was regarded as useless, is now producing millions of bushels of wheat annually, as well as large numbers of fat lambs, fat sheep, and wool. What has been done there is a wonderful object lesson of what may be possible in other parts of Australia. The history of Australian development is romantic and inspiring. Unlike the pioneers of many other countries, notably South Africa, our early settlers were not called upon to wage war against the indigenous tribes, but they had to fight isolation, droughts, extraordinary hardships, and unsympathetic legislation. In spite of all their difficulties they blazed the trail, and whilst very few of them reaped the full reward of their courage and industry, they made it possible for those who followed them to make good. For this Australia owes them a deep debt of gratitude. On one occasion when in Sydney an inspector of pastoral properties, who probably had inspected more holdings than any other man in Australia, said he was prepared to make a wager that . he could not take a buggy and pair from Sydney through to the Gulf of Carpentaria without passing through properties, the pioneers of which had all failed, either through droughts, low prices, or pressure by financial institutions. I do not know enough about the Northern Territory to say whether certain agricultural products such as cotton and tobacco, can be grown there,’ but I feel pretty certain that wheat will not be successfully cultivated in that portion of Australia, because, as is the case in South Africa, the rain comes at the wrong time.
– It is not safe to prophesy.
– I agree with the honorable senator, but we have the experience of South Africa to guide us. Because the rain comes at the wrong time South Africa cannot grow enough wheat for its own requirements. For the same reason I doubt if wheat will ever be successfully grown in the Northern Territory. The rain comes at the wrong time of the year, and then it is too heavy. I remember on one occasion a fall of 19 inches in 24 hours on the Barkly Tablelands. That certainly would have destroyed all wheat crops. As a matter of fact, it killed quite a number of sheep and lambs. It was, of course, a phenomenal fall.
On one occasion I was present at a dinner given - I think it must have been by a Labour Government - at the Oriental Hotel, in Melbourne. It was one of the most amusing functions I have ever attended, because the greater the quantity of wine consumed - and there were ample supplies of champagne available: - the more enthusiastic became the guests concerning the possibilities of the Northern Territory, which, at that time, had only recently been taken.-, over by the Commonwealth. Early in the evening speakerssuggested that blocks of 100 square miles should be made available to settlers; but, as the function proceeded, many said that blocks of 100 acres in extent would be ample, and that the production of strawberries and tomatoes could be profitably undertaken for supplying “-the early markets in Sydney and Melbourne. When I left the gathering, which was fairly early in the morning, none of theguests was suffering from “ D.T’s.”, but many had what might be termed the ‘‘NTs.”, so enthusiastic were they about closer settlement in the Northern Territory. At that gathering it was freely stated, as theevening wore on and the wine flowed freely, that the Northern Territory should be subdivided into farms of approximately 320 acres, and thus theso-called beef baron’s and pastoralists who were then in occupation of certain portions of. the Territory should be taxed off the country. I was requested to make a speech,- because, L believe, I was the only one present who had any experience whatsoever of the Northern Territory.
As the Minister (Senator Pearce) in his able .second-reading speech pointed out, the coastline of the Northern Territory differs very largely from the coastline of Queensland and New South “Wales, in that it consists of very poor country. On the coastal areas in the Northern Territory very heavy tropical rains are experienced, but the land is comparatively poor, and consequently, these lands will be exceedingly difficult to economically settle. I do not know sufficient concerning the conditions to offer suggestions as to how. the coastal country should be developed; that is a question for practical men to settle. There is, however, a huge area of good horse and cattle country; there are also large tracts of land which, as yet, are unsuitable for any. kind of settlement. Honorable senators who have visited the Territory during a record good season may think that there is little unsuitable land, but those who have studied the history of the Northern Territory as I have, since 1882, will understand what I mean. After closely studying the reports of early explorers and pioneer pastoralists, and perusing maps, I have come to the conclusion that in normal years portions of the Northern Territory are quite unsuitable for ordinary settlement. There is, however, good land eminently suitable for the production of beef, and on which fins horses can be raised. By far the best country in the Northern Territory is the Barkly Tablelands, which consist of limestone country, on which Red Flinders and Mitchell grass grow luxuriantly, and it is, therefore, an excellent grazing proposition. In this connexion, I desire to quote the opinion of one of the earliest pioneers in the Northern Territory. I refer to Mr. Benjamin Crosthwaite, who is still alive - he lives at Kew - and who, in 1875, took up Rocklands Station, on the border of Queensland and the Northern” Territory, and which also runs into the Barkly Tablelands. In that year, Mr. Crosthwaite left what was then a comparatively little place, but which is now regarded as the hub of the universe, and is known also as the city in which the Ford motor works and other prosperous and progressive industries are to be established - I refer, of course, to Geelong. This is what Mr. Crosthwaite wrote -
Early in the year 1875 I travelled from Rockhampton, in Queensland, across the Peak Downs, the Barcoo country, and on to the farfamed Bowen Downs. At Mount Cornish I was most hospitably received by the manager. In talking oyer country with him, he asked me why I did not go out to the Barkly Tablelands? Tlie gentleman had had the management of a “ boiling-down “ establishment at Burketown, at the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and during hie residence there there were three sheep stations on these tablelands, about 200 miles from Burketown, where the sheep had done remarkably well, both a.s regards the increase and the clip. Owing to the great degression in pastoral pursuits about 1870, tlie settlement at Burketown had to be abandoned. In consequence of this, the sheep were necessarily withdrawn from the tableland stations, much to the regret of -the owners. Acting on Mr. Edkins’ advice, I returned to Mount Cornish, purchased a mob of breeding cattle there, and started for the tablelands with Mr. N. Buchanan, a well-known Queensland explorer, in charge. After travelling about 100 miles west we formed a camp for the cattle on the Western River, which at that time was almost unoccupied, and Mr. Buchanan and I crossed over .the low range at the head of the Diamentina on to the Gulf country. We followed $he lower country round; till !we struck the. road from Burketown -to the abandoned tablelands. This road we had considerable difficulty in following, as the rapid growth in that part of the world had almost obliterated the tracks. Eventually, however, we followed a rocky hollow leading up out of the comparatively barren country bordering the O’Shannessy River, and’ I shall never forget the sensation I experienced when we found ourselves on the noble stretch of richly-grassed undulating downs, “ the Barkly .Tablelands.” From that to Lake Mary was about 40 miles. The growth was so luxuriant that we had the greatest difficulty in following the old track - indeed, wo had actually lost it when Ave caught sight of the lake, where I understand is now the township of Camooweal. From this point Mr. Buchanan and I went over a considerable part of the’ tablelands, travelling about 150 miles west into the Northern Territory, and passing through a considerable part of the present Avon Downs property, which was then unoccupied. Everywhere we found the same beautiful undulating downs, thickly covered with- the best Queensland grasses. On my present and previous journey I had been through some of the best pastoral districts in Queensland, but 1 had seen nothing that 1 liked so well as these limestone downs of apparently unlimited extent. The climate on the tablelands for six months in the year is as fine as any in Australia.
I would draw particular attention to the last sentence, because I wish to disprove the erroneous impressions formed by so many people concerning the climatic conditions in the Northern Territory. The letter goes on -
The increase in both cattle and horses was most satisfactory; indeed, my actual muster when I gave delivery on the sale of the station was considerably higher than the number shown on the station books.
That has been the experience during the last 40 years on every station concerning which 1 know anything. When properties have been sold on a walk-in walkout basis, it has usually been found that the number of cattle and horses has always been considerably in excess of that shown in the books. In consequence of the satisfactory nature of the country, and the good health of the horses and cattle, there has seldom been the number of natural losses for which allowance has been made. Unfortunately, the experience in regard to sheep has been the reverse. The letter proceeds -
I sold this property in 1882, and on my return to Geelong (where I then resided) I had several conversations with Mr. Guthrie about the Barkly Tablelands, and I believe that he was a good deal influenced by my reports in his decision to form a sheep station at Avon Downs - which . is in the Northern Territory. That was the first attempt made to establish a sheep station in that Territory
In conclusion, I should like to point out that the only drawback to this magnificent country is the difficulty of communication,
The difficulty of transport and communication still. exists to a marked degree, and little progress in this connexion has been made during the past fifty years, and that if it was decided to continue either of the Queensland western lines across the Thompson, and so on through the tablelands to Port Darwin, the whole of the Queensland portion of the line would pass through valuable pastoral country showing no serious engineering difficuties, and that it would tap on the Barkly Downs a huge area of the finest sheep country in Australia.
That was the experience of a practical man in 1875, and I think the conditions are the same to-day.
– Has it since been verified ?
– It has been verified by nearly every one since then that the great need of that area is a railway connecting it with’ the great western railway system of Queensland.
– Cartage costs are , now worse than they have’ ever been.
-They are terrific. After establishing a sheep station, at huge cost, the pioneer of sheep in that country was eventually forced to give it up, largely on account of the cost of transport. That trouble has been in existence for the last 40 years. Mr. David Lindsay, the noted explorer and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, gave his opinion of the Barkly Tablelands, as follows. -
The whole of the vast tract of country known as the Barkly Tablelands may be described as a luxuriantly grassed country. Much of it, especially the country on the Herbert, James, Lorne, Rankine, Brunette, Cresswell, Playford, Buchanan, and other creeks, can scarcely be surpassed, so far as my experience goes, in Australia.
It is not waterless country.
– Are the creeks dry?
– Some of them at certain seasons of the year are, but there are some very big permanent waterholes, although they are not sufficient for closer settlement purposes or for sheep. Later on I shall explain the great cost of developing that country for sheep, but I hope that, eventually, the Barkly Tablelands will carry 10,000,000 sheep. The country is suitable for raising sheep if worked the right way. Mr. David Lindsay says -
It is equal to some of the finest country on the Cooper in Queensland. I have no hesitation in expressing my opinion that this country is eminently adapted to wool-growing, and sheep will do well, there being sufficient shady trees scattered about the country. The grasses are not too long, and are free from injurious seeds.
I quite agree with him. Its freedom from injurious seeds gives that part of Australia a tremendous advantage for woolgrowing purposes, because in some of the coastal districts, just as in Rhodesia and many parts of Africa, it is impossible to keep sheep on account of the injurious seeds in the grasses. Mr. Ernest Favenc, another explorer, says -
The Barkly Tablelands, which lie between parallels 17 and 21, is of the’ same nature as Landsdowne, Terrick Terrick, Portland, and Northampton Downs, which are recognized as the cream of the Barcoo country.
I know of the stations he has mentioned. They are some of the most famous in ‘the world, and the wool produced there commands high prices, yet, in his opinion, the
Barkly Tablelands country is equally good. He says -
It is ideal wool-growing country, and I should say would carry between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000 sheep.
I do not altogether agree with him there. I think that he might be too optimistic, or that he saw the country in a good season and did not realize the enormous expense entailed in developing a sheep station. Mr. Lewis, a well-known pastoralist, of the firm of Lewis and Bagot, Adelaide, addressing the South Australian Parliament in 1901 upon the Northern Territory, said -
One district alone (the Barkly Tablelands) was capable of keeping 10,000,000 sheep.
Honorable senators will see that all these men are backing up one another in the statement that the Barkly Tablelands country is cap’able of carrying sheep. I think it may eventually carry 10,000,000, and, if so, it will be of enormous advantage to Australia. Mr. Lewis went on to say -
The Barkly Tablelands, of which very little was known, was a tract of very . good country between latitudes 17 and 21, and adjoining the Queensland border. Some of the cattle on that country, after travelling 1,150 miles, sold in the Adelaide market, averaged £12 10s. per head, and some sheep which were recently travelled down brought 16s. It had a very good rainfall, and did not suffer from droughts.
That gives another picture of the Barkly Tablelands. As honorable senators are aware, a vast portion of Australia has very rich soil. It is rich in lime and phosphates, and everything that tends to produce- various crops. The natural herbage of Australia is the best in the world. It is the most fattening. There are very few other countries where the native grasses are so fattening and where stock can be turned out all the year round, and be brought in prime fat, as they are in Australia. But we have also a vast area which has a very low rainfall, and which is subject to periodical droughts that serve to make the lot of the outback settler, whether he be a pastoralist or a grain-grower, very hard indeed. However, on the Barkly Tablelands droughts are practically unknown. I have been associated with that country for 43 years, and I do not think that at any time during that period there have been material stock losses from droughts. The average rainfall over the whole of the area is 17 inches, and the rain comes relatively regularly.
– To increase the carrying capacity of the land, would it not be necessary to improve the water supply ?
– Yes. And it would also be necessary to spend vast sums of money on fencing. It is not an easy task. That is why I wish to convince honorable senators that the Northern Territory is a pastoral proposition, and that they must not run away with the idea that we should be hard on leaseholders, or refuse to give any one a freehold, or that we should cut up the area into small holdings. It is a place where a man must, have a large holding, a lion heart, and a long purse, if he wishes to develop it.
– Small holdings must come eventually.
– Small, in comparison with the present unwieldy holdings.
– Holdings about 100 miles square ?
– Yes, something like that. I quite agree with honorable senators who object to vast areas being held by any one man or set of men. There is not the slightest doubt that some of the holdings in the Territory are too big, but it would be worse to have too small holdings. The station with which I was associated covered 2,100 square miles, and was considered one of the smallest up there, but I admit quite frankly that it was too big for us. It would have taken £500,000 and an army of men to develop it to its full capacity. It has not yet been developed to that extent, butin the 30 odd years for which we have held it we have managed to develop and fence about half of it.
– Cattle leases must be larger than sheep holdings.
– Certainly, but the honorable senator will agree with me that it is not good for the Territory itself or for Australia for any one up there to hold 14,000 square miles of country.
– What does the honorable senator think would be a reasonable holding?
-About 100 to 200 square miles. I think that is about the lowest we can get down to with practical results during our lifetime.
– An area of 100 square miles would be too small, in many cases.
– It would be in many parts of the Territory, but, like the rest of Australia, the land will all have to’ be classified. I understand that a land board has been appointed to classify it, but I am afraid the board has not been very active. I do not know what it has done.
– It has not been able to get out because of the wet season.
– I have been informed that it has not yet got out of Darwin. If that is true it is something of a scandal.
– That is not correct. The board commenced with the southern portion of the Territory and then went north, but when it reached Darwin the wet season prevented it from travelling out into the districts. It should be out among the holdings at the present time.
– I am pleased I have drawn that reply from the Minister, and to learn that the board is not neglecting its duties. I have received a letter from Mr. Stewart Field, one of the most extraordinary men I have met in Australia, and probably the most successful drover in the world. He has crossed Australia from north to south on foot about . 20 times, driving sometimes cattle, sometimes horses, and sometimes sheep. Therefore, his evidence as to the route the North-South railway should take is of value. He has made some marvellous trips, and has had some stirring experiences in crossing uncharted rivers with the stock in his charge. He hasseen most parts of Australia in most seasons. In fact, he has walked over most parts of Australia in most seasons. He is an observant man. He is a practical and highly educated man. He has not gone over the country in a motor car travelling at 60 or 70 miles an hour, but has walked over it. In his letter to me, he says -
The northern portion of the tablelands is wonderful grazing country, with 17 to 19 inches of rainfall, and what strikes one is the limited area of waste land as compared with Queensland and other parts of Australia.
– Does he refer to unoccupied land?
– No, he is telling me what a little extent there is of land of poor quality or land which is not well grassed.
– He is referring to the uniform nature of the good country.
– That is so. The uniformity of the grass-carrying capacity of the Barkly Tablelands is extraordinary. Mr. Field says -
At Avon Downs Station I saw no waste land at all. Avon Downs, so far, is the only station in the Territory carrying sheep, doubtless due to want of better railway facilities. Avon Downs also carries a large herd of well-bred cattle. I think this run the pick of any I have seen in these regions, and it certainly stands well ahead of the Richmond and Clon- curry country of Queensland, and it takes much less rain to constitute a good season than the latter. Some years ago 1 saw two mobs (1,000 in each) of fat cattle from Avon Downs, the finest mobs for the numbers I over saw, which averaged in the Adelaide markets£ 13 and£11 respectively. Three lots of wethers (22,000 in all) averaged 15s. 6d., 15s. 10d., and 18s.9d. respectively in the same market, the latter mob being the highest price ever reached . for a* similar number in those markets.Rocklands Station, adjoining Avon, and with country also on the Queensland side, carries an immense herd of cattle, as does Alexandra, to the west of Avon, and Brunette, still further out. All these runs are gradually aidingtheir carrying capabilities by artesian bores. In time to come, all this magnificent grazing country will be under sheep. Queensland people intend shortly carrying the Cloncurry line to Mount Oxide copper mine, and thence to Burketown, theport, and to connect with Camooweal from Mount Oxide, and so tap the trade, and we will before long see this region, with Burketown as a port, carrying several millions of sheep.
He made a mistake in referring to artesian water. There is no artesian water in the Barkly Tablelands, or, so far as I am aware, in the Northern Territory. At huge expense bores were sunk to a depth of 2,000 feet and did not strike a flow. However, the saving feature of the Territory and of a great portion of Australia is the fact that there is an unlimited supply of sub-artesian water at a depth of from 150 feet to 300 feet. In all the bores we put down we never failed to strike sub- artesian water. Sometimes it rises to within 100 feet of the surface, but, generally speaking, it has to be pumped from a depth of about 200 feet. All these experienced men made the same prophecy in regard to the sheep-carrying capacity of this part of the Territory. I would not quote them if they were not experienced and observant. Captain W. R. (now Admiral) Creswell was one of the earliest explorers. I understand he and his people had been connected with the pastoral industry before he joined the Navy. He passed through the Barkly Tablelands in 1885, and he wrote in equally glowing terms of the climate. Although the weather is very hot in summer, the atmosphere is not humid; and in winter I have known of a billy of water to freeze. The climate, therefore, is remarkably healthy. The people of Australia and other countries should know these facts, and not be left under the false impression that the Territory is a great wilderness, and that the money to be spent there by the Government upon railways, roads, water supply, telegraph and telephone lines, and civil aviation will be wasted. It is necessary to deal with this problem earnestly and in a big way. It will be necessary to spend large sums of money there.
– 7?he country cannot be opened up unless it is done in a big way.
– It will be useless to fiddle with it. The work must be done by men with big ideas. If honorable senators opposite are invited to agree to the expenditure of large sums of money in developing northern Australia, I urge them not to belittle their own land by saying that the country is not worth it. Let me assure them that it is a very valuable part of Australia, and a very dangerous part, too, if it is left in its present untenanted condition. At the present time we have no means of developing or defending it, and I regard this bill as the first great step in the right direction, for it aims at doing something on practical lines.
I have told honorable senators the truth, as’ outlined by explorers, pioneers, drovers, and other practical men, and, of course, it sounds too alluring. Looking at that side of the picture alone, honorable senators opposite may say, “What a good wicket these leaseholders are on! What a shame that they should hold large areas thus temporarily locked up! Why do we not go out there and make a fortune?” I wish to tell them the actual experiences of those who attempted to pioneer the sheep industry and to lay the foundations for the flocks of from 10,000,000 to 20,600,000 sheep, which all the authorities I have quoted said should, and I hope some day will, be there. I suppose that honorable senators realize that it is a comparatively easy and inexpensive job to establish a cattle station as compared with developing a property to carry sheep. I hope that my honorable friends opposite will bear this, fact in mind, since some of their supporters frequently decry the pastoralists and the wool industry, and talk about “ bursting up mere sheep walks.” They do not realize that the great wool industry is the most valuable, and affords more employment than any other in Australia. These “ mere sheep walks,” rather than being a detriment to the country, are the backbone of it. The squatter realizes, of course, that where land is suitable for closer settlement, and can be put to greater use thereby, it must be devoted to that purpose-, and that the pastoralists must go into the outback country such as western Queensland, the Barkly Tablelands, and the eastern portion of Western Australia, where I am told that good sheep country has lately been discovered and settled.
– What- about the pests there?
– I shall deal with them, but I want honorable senators opposite to realize that it takes a long purse and a great heart for a man to go into those parts of Australia and develop the country. The men who took up that class of land and made it fit to raise sheep are the greatest benefactors Australia has ever had.
– What about the wheat-growers ?
– They have been of very great assistance, but the value of wheat will, never approach the value of the wool produced in Australia. In other parts of the world good wheat can be grown, and with an average yield greater than that obtained in Australia, but not so in regard to wool. Providence has given us a vast, rich continent that produces the best sheep and the best wool in the world. That is no idle boast. Our wool has handling and spinning qualities peculiarly its own, and no country will ever produce wool of the same intrinsic value.
– The honorable senator does not fear South Africa?
– I do, because I believe that it will produce 1,000,000 bales of merino wool before long. But South African wool will never be as soft and good as that grown in certain parts of Australia. I have made a life-long study of this subject, and for the benefit of honorable senators opposite who are according me a most attentive hearing-
– Did the honorable senator say that the climatic conditions of South Africa are similar to those of Australia?
-As a matter of fact, more sheep to the square mile are carried in South Africa than in Australia. South Africa has 28,500,000 woolbearing sheep, and we should not belittle the opposition Australia will have from that quarter. When I first entered the wool trade, South Africa produced 200,000 bales of comparative rubbish. The wool was short, ill-bred stuff of low value.
– It has improved its flocks immensely, because it was permitted to purchase Australian stud sheep of high quality.
– Yes ; either through our liberality or stupidity. Today South Africa is producing close upon 600,000 bales of merino wool.
– Are the climatic conditions similar to those of Australia?
– From a woolgrowers’ point of view they are equal to our own. - [Extension of time granted.]
One hesitates to speak of one’s own family, but I think that I am justified in paying some tribute to my father, who invested in the Barkly Tablelands in 1882 and pioneered from the south. He established the Avon Downs station, which he stocked with sheep, cattle, and horses. That belt of the Northern Territory was then considered by the South Australian Government to be so good that it was not thrown open for leasehold under ordinary conditions, but in 1882 the right to lease the land was sold at public auction. For the right to lease the Herbert River auction blocks as they were called - each covered an area of 300 square miles - people paid as much as £500. But the South Australian Government was very wise, and I exhort the Federal Government to follow its example. It wanted to encourage people such as my father and others to settle in that country, and spend money on developing and stocking it. Certainly large areas were allotted, and these are as essential to the proper development of the country now as they were then. Long leases were granted.
– For what term?
– Forty-two years’ security of tenure. There was no power of resumption, and a pepper-corn rental averaging1s. 9d. a square mile was charged. The total rental my father paid for 2,100 square miles was £255 a year. If such alluring terms had not been offered nobody would have gone there, for the risk was terrible. I was very young at the time, but I remember the first mob of 14,000 merino sheep driven northward from the north-west of “Victoria in an attempt to reach the Barkly Tablelands. Droving was the only way to get them there. As a matter of fact, only 4,000 of them reached their destination. . That alone shows the enormous risk that’ men were obliged to take in their efforts to develop this outback country. Instead of subjecting them to criticism and abuse, we ought to applaud them’ for what they have done. Many years afterwards the Barkly Tablelands property to which I have referred was sold to a company, and I was elected chairman of directors. One of the company’s first acts was to take steps to increase our flock of breeding ewes. We bought 5,000 merino ewes in Western Queensland, engaged drovers, through a firm in Brisbane which I believe knew its business, and instructed them . to take these ewes to the station. We paid 16s. or 17s. a head for those sheep,’ and the whole flock was lost in a single day. An extraordinary heat wave occurred while the sheep were travelling oyer a long, dry. tract of country to Boulia, where there was a good waterhole. On the particular day that they were lost the thermometer registered 123 deg. in the shade. The sheep were struggling along when they smelt the water. They immediately started to run, but, instead of reaching the Boulia waterhole, they ran into a dry billabong some distance from Boulia. They were so mad with the heat and thirst that they simply rushed on top of each other until all were smothered. Not a single animal was saved. Boulia waterhole was only about 3 miles distant. Possibly the drover in charge showed bad judgment. He should have driven the sheep by night and camped by day. ‘ However, that is another illustration of the practical “difficulty and enormous expense which has to be faced whenever an- attempt is made to establish a sheep station in. the Northern Territory or in any other outback country.
When my father first went into the Barkly Tablelands country the nearest railway station was 500 miles away ; there was one mail every six weeks;, there wasno telephone or telegraph station available, and the nearest doctor was hundreds’ of miles away at Cloncurry. One policeman had charge of the whole of the Northern Territory at that time, and I could tell a good story of how he arrested a notorious horse-duffer at the Rankin River police station. When he got hisman he tied him to a horse and took him to Port Darwin, about 500 miles distant, for trial. The man was found guilty and sentenced to a few mouths’ imprisonment. Just about the time the policeman returned to his station the horse-thief was out of jail and back at his old game: and, I believe,. is still at it. We are told sometimes that such tremendous prices are obtained for wool that the pioneers arewell rewarded for all the difficultiesthey face and the expense they incur. I have account sales which show the prices received for wool for the last 30 years. For the fine quality merino wool grown on my father’s station in the early days - wool similar to that which I saw in Africa recently, of short staple, fine diameter of fibre, and free from seeds like the burrs which areto be found in so much of the wool in the south - only5d. or 6d. a lb. was received. The first lot of fat bullocks sent to the Adelaide market were sold for 20s. and 30s. a head. Frequently the accounts he received from the Adelaide agents forhis fat bullocks showed a debit instead of a credit. On many occasions he did not get a single penny for bullocks which had taken five or six years, to raise.His horses, were sold for £2 or £3 a head. I have an account here of a sale in 1903-4 of 4,950 fat wethers from that station. They brought £4,150, but the expenses, including droving commission, amounted to £3,830, so that the cheque received - and, mind you, it was- not a profit by any means - was for only £320.
I have heard it said during this, debate that nothing has. been done to develop and prove the Northern Territory. I deny that. There have been some splendid pioneers in” the Northern Territory, as in other parts of Australia. I wish we had more men of the- same calibre in these days. If young fellows- in the southern states would strike out for themselves and do some pioneering work in our out-back areas they would realize that all the romanco and profit has not gone from out-back life. If I were a young man I should delight to take up some of the vast unsettled areas in Western Australia, Queensland, or the Northern Territory. But what encouragement do pioneers get afterall? I know of one gentleman who spent30 years in a tremendouslyuphill fight in the Northern Territory. He invested over £100,000- there in fencing- for fences- are necessary in dealing with sheep - in putting down bores, in conserving water, and in stocking with: high-class sheep-, cattle, and horses. He increasedhis stock until he had 60,000 merinoes, 9,000’ shorthorn cattle, and 400 horses. In the end, after all his toil and. anxiety, he sold the whole property, including stock, plant, and stores, for £80,000, and on terms. In other words, he received £30,000 less than he spent. Though he personally did not make money, he laid the foundation of the industry in the Northern Territory. He is alive and well’ in Melbourne to-day,and is satisfied because he has done something for Australia. Others will’ reap the reward of his: pioneering labours. He proved’ that the Barkly Tablelands are wonderfully healthy for white men. Others said’ so, but he proved, it. He employed.,, on the average,, 40 men. per annum, and had’ practically no black, boys on the property. He paidhis employees,, on the average, £4 per week,, and “kept” them, and every man who worked on the property expressed his- appreciation, of the climate. He proved also that sheep can be handled profitably there,, for although he only received 4d. and5d., a pound from his earlier clips of wool, he ultimately topped the London market tor scoured wool. He grew the wool on the tablelands,. had it scoured there, sent it to London,, and obtained top price for it. That surely is a great achievement. During his development of Avon. Downs Station, he also secured top price for fat sheep in the Adelaide market. He frequently topped the Adelaide market for fat bullocks, I have seen his BOO brand cattle sold in the Melbourne market for £20 apiece. He has done something tangible for Australia.
– Can the honorable senator tell us what it cost this man for stores ?
– I have not the definite figures at hand, but all the accounts are available. I know that when the country was first occupied, and for many years aftewards, flour cost £100 a ton.
– What would have been the price at that time in the Adelaide market?
– I cannot say without reference to the invoices. The flour had to be sent to Burketown by steamer. As honorable senators know, Burketown is a very poor port. Steamers have to lie out in the open roadstead, miles from the wharf, and stores haveto be lightered from the steamer to the shore. That had to be done with this flour. It then had to be carted across rugged mountains to the station. It cost £100 a ton by the time it got there.
– It is £50 a ton there now.
– My object in stating these facts is to inform honorable senators and the public of what the pioneers in the Northern Territory, and in other parts of Australia, have had to suffer. The gentleman to whom I have just referred is well satisfied with his achievements. He had hundreds of miles of fencing constructed on his property, and he put down something like 20 bores. It is to be regretted that these pioneer pastoralists are subjected to so much abuse. This man, for instance, was attacked by scurrilous articles in the Sydney Worker. It was said that he was a beef baron ; and that he locked up land. The Worker published photographs of the quarters that were provided on the station for the men. I admit that they were poor quarters, but so were those occupied by the pioneer squatters themselves. I was in the plains of the Western District not long ago, on one of the most famous stations in Australia. Some of the highestpriced wool in the world is grown there. The gentleman who was showing me round the property pointed to an old building, and said, “ That was the original homestead.” I said. “ What, that old dog kennel? Did Mr. So-and-so live there?” He replied, “Yes, and he reared a large family there.” There are old huts on many of these Western District stations which we “think are hardly fit for dog kennels nowadays, but which were the homesteads of the pioneers. On the Northern Territory property to which I referred, and of which I was afterwards managing director, we did not build quarters for the men, for the reason that they preferred to live in tents. They said that it was healthier, and so it was. On one occasion when shearing time came, a photograph was published in the Sydney Worker of an old bough shed on the station, and it was stated that that was the kind of accommodation provided by the wealthy squatters for the shearers. As a matter of fact it was nothing of the kind. The men asked for tents, and they were given the very best of tents, and an abundance of the very best of food; in fact, as regards fare, they lived extravagantly. They realized that tent life was the most.healthy for them. The other day I was surprised to see in the Melbourne Labour Gall an attack upon myself. It said that I spoke with two voices. I came back from South Africa more firmly convinced than ever of the advisability of adhering to the White Australia policy. This paper declared that, by employing Australian aborigines, to whom I paid no wages at all, I had made a profit of £250,000 on a station in Queensland. I would not like to make that amount of money in such a way as that, but I do wish there was some truth in the statement about the £250,000. As a matter of fact, I was never interested in an acre of land in Queensland in my life, and I did not make any money on leaseholds at all in that state. The facts are, that I was managing director and the paid servant of a company holding a leasehold in the Barkly Tablelands, and my salary was £250 a year. The Labour Call merely made a mistake in adding three noughts to the amount of my salary, which I fully admit was not enough by a. long way. My co-directors agreed that I was very much underpaid. I have no doubt they were right.
– It is a wonder the honorable senator did not go on strike.
– The habit to strike is not in my make-up. Instead of employing aborigines, the company employed 40 white men, and ‘ paid them on the average the very high wage of £4 a week and found.
– High at that time.
– Yes; and high wages to-day, because the men were found as well.
– High wages today !
– Does the honorable senator- ever sit down, with pencil and paper, to find out what it costs to keep a. man ?
– At that time many station-owners were paying only £1 a week and found.
– I am not concerned with what other people were paying. That is the wage we paid to our men.
With regard to the water difficulty mentioned by some honorable senators, I may say that we put down sub-artesian bores on the Barkly Tablelands, and at first had to incur the expense of petrol to keep the engine pumps going ; but finally, on account of the cost, we equipped all our bores with a 22-ft. comet windmill, made by Stuart Williamson and Company, of Rockhampton. and constructed huge overhead earthen tanks, which held the water like a bottle. What encouragement did the pioneers in the Northern Territory get ? It is true that the South Australian Government treated them very well. It gave them long leases, and security of tenure, at a peppercorn rental. In this way, it encouraged men to occupy and develop out-back country. Contrast that treatment with that meted out to the pioneers by the Federal Government, who introduced and enforced taxation of leaseholds. The valuations and assessments were farcical and cruel.
The company for which I was managing director bought for £80,000 the Avon Downs Station, upon which over £100,000 had been spent upon improvements and stock - there were 50,000 sheep, 9,000 cattle, 400 horses. The value of the leasehold improved was estimated to be £17,500, yet some inexperienced or prejudiced individual, probably living in Melbourne, actually assessed this particular leaseholdfor taxation at an unimproved value of £88,600 ! This was not only stupid, but cruelly unjust, and actions1 of that kind will prevent others from investing in and developing out-back country. As a fact, the unimproved value of that property was not worth 6d. The capital expended in sinking bores and erecting hundreds of miles of fenc ing, and stocking it, gave to it its value. Instead of encouraging us to produce wool in the Barkly Tablelands, the Federal Government strangled us by the introduction of the principle of- taxation of leaseholds. There never was such a ridiculous tax in the financial history of the Commonwealth. On behalf of the Avon Downs Company, I have had to pay £5,07911s. 2d., representing taxation on the unimproved value of leaseholds from 1914-15 to 1920-21. I did so under protest, but I am afraid we have very little chance of getting a refund.
– Cannot that tax be passed on?
– How can a pastoralist in the Northern Territory or a primary producer anywhere in Australia pass on taxation? I have never heard a more asinine remark in this chamber.
– I did not say that it could be passed on, but I have heard some foolish people say that, it could be done.
– A storekeeper who buys a commodity for £1 may pass on his taxation by charging £2 for the same article, but the primary producer must export his surplus produce, and meet competition in the open markets of the world, 12,000 or 13,000 miles away. What I have said may be regarded as an argument for the freehold principle, but I would not part with too much of the freehold in the Northern Territory. I am rather in favour of the leasehold principle. I believe that if people are to be encouraged to take up that class of country they should have long leases and security of tenure at a low rental. As regards the disabilities of leaseholds, I stated in my evidence before the royal commission -
It must he borne in mind that a leasehold is not on the same footing as a freehold, as the burden of federal land tax may be escapedby subdivision - not so with a leasehold.
Itmust be remembered that the unimproved value of a leasehold is also further reduced by the fact that a leasehold does, not afford anything like the same facilities for financing. It is possible to borrow money on any freehold. If a property is worth £10 an acre a man might reasonably hope to borrow to the extent of £5 or £6 an acre, and in like ratio whatever the valuation might be, but it is very difficult to borrow any money on leasehold properties out-back. Instead of being given a bonus for growing wool on the Barkly Tablelands - I would advocate paying a bonus to people who take up and develop out-back country., because under the best of conditions it. is an uphill task, and takes a lot of money - the pioneers ‘are discouraged in every possible way. We . should do all we possibly can to ensure the effective occupation of our empty places. On the question of equalization of profits, in my evidence before the commission, I stated -
Whilst the profits disclosed . by the profit and loss account during a goodseason may be satisfactory, still, in the case of a leasehold, pr o vision has to be made for the possibility of future bad seasons. Unless thisbe reserved, finance against the value of leasehold country during a drought is absolutely impossible. Here, again, a pastoral leasehold during a good year is penalized by -
War-time Profits Tax (enormous).
Federal Income Tax.
Federal Land Tax . (based on an absurd valuation ) .
Northern Territory Income Tax. 5.Queensland State’ Income Tax on . all sales affected when delivery given in Queensland.
Victorian State IncomeTax on income earned in Victoria. South Australia, Income Tax on allincome earned in . South Australia.
These handicaps, combined with adverse legislation, and an ever-increasing cost of’ management, due to labour problems,which under the new logare quiteunbearable, make the lot of a leaseholder in the Northern Territory . unenviable, and development of further country extremely unlikely. The numerous taxation departments willingly participate in all profits during a good year,but do not makeallowance for . subsequent losses in . bad seasons.
Ihopethathonorable senators opposite will urge the Treasurer to disgorge some of the money which the Treasury filched from the pioneers in the Northern Territory.
– So far from doing that they insisted on . the Government collecting it.
-Yes, I have paid under protest every taxation claim in respect of Crown leaseholds.
– The honorable senator has exhausted ‘his time.
. - I feel at a disadvantage in followingthe honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. I have no harrowing tales to tell of personal misfortune in connexion with the Northern Territory, the government of which is sought to be amended by this bill. I have greater pleasure in discussing this bill, because its purpose is to do something for the development of Australia, whereas many other measures that have come before the Senate in recent years have been designed to restrict development by vexatious restrictions, to which Senator Guthrie has alluded so eloquently. It is always a pleasure to listen to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) when he is dealing with the Northen Territory, because he speaks with enthusiasm born of knowledge and experience. I do not, propose to deal with the early history -of the Northern Territory, because that retrospect is a dismal one. It is a record of failure, due not altogether, I think, to mismanagement, but rather to the defeat of settlement schemes by the forces of nature. Most of us will agree that South Australia, which is sometimes called the “ Scotland of Australia,” can get more for its 6d. than any other state.
– I wish that were true.
– Why did the honorable senator leave it?
– Perhaps because I felt I was not getting value for my6d. But to resume, after the very pertinent interjection by the Minister, I have always thought that if South. Australia, after spending a great deal of time and money on it could not get a good return from the Northern Territory, it would be a difficult matter for the Commonwealth to do so. It is in the interests of Australia, which as I hope to show later, is the interest of the Empire, that it is necessary for something to be done with what is usually alluded to as our empty north. Therefore, it is as much for imperial as for federal reasons that I am an enthusiastic supporter of the bill. I . shall, however, elaborate . that later. Senator Guthrie has informed us that he has a knowledge of the Barkly Tablelands and a portion of Queensland, whilst other honorable senators have given their opinions concerning the Northern Territory. My knowledge of the Northern Territory is confined to the southernportion, and : to a period almost 40 years ago. It is peculiar, but I know thatin the
Macdonell Ranges, Alice Springs, and down to Hergott Springs, there were in those days more people there than there are to-day, and it certainly was a more prosperous part of the world ; but it has been set back by various means. Fortunes have been amassed in that portion of -the Commonwealth, but I doubt very much whether they will be made in the future unless .the cost of production, which has been the main factor in destroying .enterprise in that part of the .Commonwealth, is materially reduced.
In regard to the .other portion of the Commonwealth which may possibly come within the scope of this hill, I may claim to have ‘a fairly good working knowledge. ‘ I know only a little about it - and there are few people who know more than a little - but there is no doubt that if the development of that portion of Western Australia which, is sought to be included in this measure is to take place, an influence greater than that of a .state must undertake the work. I do not see how it is possible, considering all the difficulties to be surmounted and the ingenuity which has to be shown in colonizing and populating a country, for Western Australia to find the money or the influence to adequately develop that portion of its territory which will, if that state assents to the proposition, come within the scope of this measure. That the Commonwealth should do so is, in my opinion, eminently desirable. Honorable senators will see that the portion of Western Australia sought to be included embraces only one settlement of any importance, that of Wyndham, and continues down to Collier Bay. From the state point of view, that part of the country, consisting, as it does, for tlie greater part of rugged mountain ranges with the good flat country far behind them, intersected by rivers and river basins, is the only portion which is good, and it is undoubtedly good, but it will hare to be treated on am ‘altogether different basis from the balance of- that large area. One reason why it should be under Commonwealth control is, in my opinion, its intense value from a strategic point of view. In one portion of thai country there are, ‘within a distance of 100 miles, three harbours equal to any to be found anywhere on the Australian coast. I believe that eminent authority on harbours, Sir George Buchanan, who is visiting Australia, -hat already reported on Napier Broome Bay, and situated within less than l’OO miles - nature has been so prodigal - are Vansittart Bay ‘and Admiralty Gulf, either of which is a harbour practically as good as Napier Broome Bay. Certain advocates of the defence of Australia, most of «whom are to be found on the opposite side of the chamber, are possessed of the idea that the best way in which to defend Australia is by what may be termed a “ mosquito “ “fleet. They advocate the defence of Australia largely by means of submarines and aircraft. I am prepared to admit that that policy is loudly acclaimed by honorable senators opposite, including, of course, Senator McHugh-
– The Labour party has the only defence policy.
– Then I must congratulate the honorable senator upon the fact, and upon his ready recognition of a defence policy. It did not strike me that way-
– We have the only effective defence policy.
– So far as I am concerned, the honorable senator is quite welcome to retain it. As this bill does not deal with defence, I shall not proceed further, on these lines except to say that this may be a very good supplementary item to consider in preparing -a Commonwealth defence policy. As was stated by the admiral in command of the Special Service Squadron which visited Australia last year, “With whatever we start we have to come back to the big ships.” It is a necessary process, of evolution. Situated as we are, and expecting, as we must, attacks from the northern hemisphere from whichever direction iti that hemisphere they may come, this portion of the country to which I am alluding offers in the defence of Australia a wonderful jumping-off ground. We must establish listening and observation posts in that portion of the Commonwealth nearest to any of our potential enemies, since whether they come front the east or from tine west they must enter at the north. It is _ to hp, regretted that we have not listening posts in the Indian Ocean - it may be possible later to acquire them - as at some time we may need them. We require not only listening posts, but also a system of defence which will, at all events, partially satisfy the dictum of those who say that our shores must be defended hundreds of miles from the main land - an opinion in which every one who has studied the question of defence will readily concur. Is it not fit and proper, therefore, that those in control of our defence should also have some authority in this territory? That is one of the reasons which compels me to support the bill, more particularly as I hope that the Western Australian Government, which can do very - little indeed with the proposition as a state concern, will see its way clear to concur with the wishes of the Government in this particular. Indeed, it would be taking from them a responsibility and making a success of a proposition which is at present only, a responsibility.
As to the settlement of the country in question - and of course no country is of value until it is settled - I was very much struck with the remarks made by the Minister, when introducing another bill, which is so closely interwoven with this measure that their aims and ideas are identical, concerning the proposed form of land tenure and settlement in the Northern Territory and in those portions of Queensland and Western Australia proposed to be included under this measure. In that measure it is provided that in certain cases and under certain guarantees and conditions companies or associations will be able to obtain the freehold of land in areas up to 20,000 acres. In the first place, I consider 20,000 acres somewhat small; but if this country in Western Australia is to be settled it must be developed, along the natural river basins. The area delineated on the map, vhich honorable senators have had an opportunity of studying, shows that on the coast line from Wyndham to Collier Bay - these are the two extreme points of the western, portion to be. included - several rivers make their entrance into the sea. All these river basins have fairly extensive areas of good land, but, strange to say, access from one river basin to another is absolutely impossible owing to the contour of the country. It would, therefore, seem that if this portion is to be settled - personally
I think it will be, some day, and will support a fairly large population - each of these river basins must be developed by efforts confined to each separate basin, because, as I have said, there is no means of communication between them except by aeroplanes. What an opportunity this affords to the system of land tenure referred toby the Minister (Senator Pearce). I hope in time, when the attitude of the states to this proposition has been definitely settled - I trust in the affirmative - that this policy of the Commonwealth Government may be put into operation. So far as the probabilities go, I know that there are men in Australia who would be prepared to undertake the development of this Territory. I have spoken to some of them, and I know that their main objective would not be the making of profits: bur rhat they would simply work to adequately develop more particularly the northern portion in the interest of the Empire. We should settle there those who are willing, and should encourage those who have indeed formulated schemes, having as their basis the proposition submitted by the Minister. I refer to companies formed for the settlement of migrants in any part of Australia offering sufficient inducement. In years to come, and with an accelerated rate of development, I believe that that portion of Australia with which we are now dealing must become a very important part of the Commonwealth. Its potentialities in the matter of pastoral and agricultural pursuits are good. The soil along the river basins, already alluded to, is very fertile, and all that is needed is population. In addition to these resources there is just beyond the south-western boundary, in Western Australia, one of the largest iron deposits in the world - a deposit which, with the exhaustion of those now in use. must come into its own. I allude to the magnificent deposit at Yampie South. This, in itself would give such a fillip’ to industry in Western Australia that that portion which is sought to be included in the North Australia scheme would also share in the benefits.
As honorable senators are aware, I have at various times referred to the necessity for stimulating research into our natural resources, which could be extended by taking over an area such as this. With the Northern Territory in the centre, Western Australia on one side, and the Barkly Tablelands on the other, a stimulus should be given to the Federal Government ‘to expend more, and yet more, money upon ascertaining the various industries suited to this country, and the best way in which to encourage them.
I now come to a very vital part of the bill, and that is the part providing for the appointment of a commission. Various opinions have been expressed concerning the placing, as rulers of the proposed Territory, of what is known as a provisional government. The words “ provisional government “ have, to me, a very nasty twang. If I remember aright, in the first -stages of Soviet Russia, provisional governments were established after all the former governments had been killed or banished. It is quite possible, and, indeed, probable, judging from the source whence it came, that the provisional government phrase still clings in their memory. It seems, no doubt, to honorable senators opposite, to be a fit and proper term to apply to any persons who are to commence to administer on a new scale. I hope, however, that this provisional government will not be appointed. The only way I think in which to solve this question is by the appointment of a commission - so long as the right men are selected. Therein lies the crux of the whole question. ‘ Although little mistakes have been made in appointing some commissions lately - I do not wish to allude to any particular commission - I believe that even from some commissions that have been appointed lately a good deal better effect would have been obtained if greater consideration had been given to their personnel. But judging by that and by the importance this question must assume, I feel sure that the Commonwealth Government will do its very best to select for these positions the best men available. To take an intelligent interest derived from personal experience in the whole of this vast Territory, to decide what is best to be done for the provision of means for its development, and to give consideration to schemes which may aid in its development, is not a light task for any man, and will demand experience of similar classes of country, an experience which is possessed by few. However, the Government, being so much in earnest in this matter will, I feel sure, endeavour to secure and, indeed will secure, the best men available in Australia. In my opinion, it is more likely to find in the ranks of Australians who know the country and the circumstances, and whose psychology is Australian, more suitable men for the task -than it is likely to get outside Australia. Two of the most vital problems which we have to-day are the peopling of the country in the north and the provision of transport facilities throughout Australia, whether it be by road or any other method. With both these problems the commission will have to deal. With the Government of today, if this bill is passed, will lie the solution of a puzzle which has taxed the brains of statesmen, both federal and state, for many years. The solution must be extant, and I hope it will be found. I can assure Senator Pearce that he has my very best wishes for a successful solution of the puzzle, and that the commissioners, when they are appointed, will have my most intense sympathy, because I am aware of the difficulties of the task that will confront them. I have very much pleasure in supporting the second reading of the bill.
– The people of South Australia are much concerned in the passage of this bill which is designed to make further provision for the development and government of the Northern Territory. I have listened with considerable attention to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber who have taken part in this debate, and more particularly to Senator Lynch, who spoke, as he usually does, about every other part of the world save the Commonwealth itself. Evidently the honorable senator is not much concerned about his own country. It is becoming quite common for some honorable senators supporting the Government to talk about everything’ but Australia. Last night we had a dissertation from Senator Lynch on almost everything under the sun. What struck me most was that the President did not call him to order, but allowed him to talk at random. I should like to know why the bill has been introduced before the consent of the Western Australian and the Queensland Governments has been obtained to the transfer of a portion of their territory to the control of the proposed commission. The bill proposes to take some very rich land from Queensland, but will the state government hand it over? “We have a Minister who represents- Queensland. Can he. answer that question?;
– I cannot answer on behalf of the state government.
– Of course, the Minister cannot answer for others who exercise the. power in regard to this territory.
– The Commonwealth does not propose to take its over.
– The control of the territory in question is dealt with in the bill. We are asked to legislate for an area over which we have no control. I am sorry Senator Kingsmill has left the chamber. If he were here he could tell us what the Western Australian Government intends to do in the matter. My idea is that the Government is merely following up its action of last year, when it had legislation passed enabling the big lessees, in the Northern Territory to hold their leases until 1965. Evidently these big lessees are not satisfied with the Northern Territory as it now is, and they want some richer country. We talk about bringing immigrants to the Territory and patting them on the land there, yet we will not be in. a position to do so until after 1965, when the leases will fall in. The other day I heard Senator Guthrie say that only 10 per’ cent, of the land in Australia had been alienated. In my opinion, a lease- is an alienation. When land is leased it is alienated for a period. It is not actually banded over in fee simple,, but. a lease cannot be broken without repudiation. The Commonwealth Government has taken from the people of Australia their birth-right in the Northern Territory and will withhold it from them, until 1965. This Parliament is evidently developing some of those wild ideas which Senator Lynch propounded last night when he tried to instil in the minds of the people, through Hansard, certain principles for which he would not stand in those days when, as he told us, he was walking through the Northern Territory. He does not mind now if some one works 60’ hours a week so long as it benefits him. He frequently speaks- of the Labour catechism, but, having departed from the straight road of Labour, he cannot understand our doctrine of “ a fair thing for everybody.” Labour will see - eventually, of course’ - that justice prevails in Australia.
– Quite so!” If you do not agree with me, off with your head.” That is the latter-day Labour doctrine.
– One can understand Senator Lynchwanting to- cutoff the head of any man who differs from him. He came here from a country for which I have a great regard. He left that country because, economically, his head might have been chopped off, but having become wealthy, and having been given in this great Commonwealth of Australia something which ha could not get in his own land, he now puts up a fight to prevent other people who come from the same land from getting some of the territory covered by this bill. I am sure that if the people in the land from which he came could only read his speech they would say, “ This is not theLynch that left us.” Some men improve when they reach the countryof their adoption, and some improve when their party attains political power. Some that, are slaves to-day would be tyrants to-morrow. An old saying runs, “ Put a beggar on horseback and he rides to Hades.” There are men in this country who haw fought for principles, but are not on horseback. They retain something that is greater than wealth or authority - the respect of the people. It isunfortunate for a. number of men, who have been placed on horseback by Labour, and who have been untrue to- Labour, that they cannot now ask for a Labour vote. They, certainly will never receive an intelligent Labour vote. Under the bill it is proposed, ap- parently, to cut the Northern Territory in halves, the northern portion to be controlled by a commission, and’ the central portion by the Government. The Minister (Senator Pearce), however, submitted no good arguments to support this proposal. So many commissions have been appointed in Australia that, before long:, the ‘whole country will be governed by them. The Federal Capital Territory is now- being managed by a commission, and it is proposed to appoint another to controlmillions of acres in North Australia. Some day, perhaps, a commission will govern Victoria. The southern portion of the. Northern Territory,, let me remind honorable senators, is now under the control of the Government of South Australia.. But it is all part of Australia.
– There is variety of government, at any rate.
– Yes, but variety of government is not desirable. What we want is a government for Australia, and it is a pity that some individuals cannot see this, country through Australian eyes. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford), for instance, cannot see an inch beyond Queensland. I know that Queensland is a wel-governed state, and I hope that the authorities there will carefully scan the provisions of this bill, for, if Queensland had a- goveraanent that neglected the interests of the people, some of the richest land there would pass out of its control.
About three months ago I visited portion of the Northern Territory. Despite what is said by the “cattle kings ‘” andotherpeople who stand behind the Government. I saw at -Ryan’s Well., some80 miles north of Alice Springs, sheep as good as any to be found in other parts of Australia. I have no hesitation in saying that^. where cattlemen are in occupation of country suitable for sheep-raising, it would . pay to push the cattlemen off or induce them ro replace cattle with sheep. Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow, I have no doubt, will support the view that it is better to raise sheep than cattle.
– Provided the country will carry sheep.
– Of course.
– The distance from a railway is a factor.
– Undoubtedly. I shall come to that aspect later.I. was informed that the great obstacle to sheepraising in theneighbourhood ofRyan’s Well was the cost of fencing. It was necessary to keep down the dogs, and, if the country were cut up and the occupants of the land were ali forced to fence their holdings, sheep-raising would present no difficulties, but it was no use trying to run sheep there when people who had cattle stations on adjoining country did not fence their land.
– Fencing would be no remedy against dogs in that district. Large areas are required by each occupant, and fencing would be too expensive.
– Let me remind the honorable senator that sheep-raising is carried on successfully at Coondambo station, near Kingoonya, on the EastWest line. The land is of a similar character, and carries about 45,000 sheep, although it was stated a few years ago that sheepcould not be raised in that country. That station is ran by Mr. Peck, a man who knows his business. Notwithstanding the adverse opinion of experts, it carries 45,000 sheep to-day, and 40,000 were shorn, there last year. ‘It is just an ordinary salt and blue-bush run, with some Mitchell grass on it, and is very similar to large areas in the Northern Territory. Although it con-, tains 700 square miles, it is being developed. Water has been found on it where experts said there was no water. What has been done there can be done elsewhere in similar country. It is our duty to do our utmost to develop Australia, and honorable senators on this side of the chamber are not regarding this bill in a party spirit. We do . not doubt that the Government and its supporters honestly desire to develop the country. When the party with which I was travelling was coming down from Alice Springs two drovers were overtaken who were bringing 300 head of cattle to market. I cannot . give the names of both men, but one was named Dixon. They told us that they had just passed a place called Deep Well, where there was an abundance of stock water, but that a. man named Johannsen, who controlled the well, forbade them to water their stock. They were justifiably angry, for the refusal meant that their cattle had to go without water for five or six days, and would, of course, rapidly depreciate in value.
– Why were they prevented from watering the cattle?
– We were simply told that Johannsen would not permit them to do so.
– But did they give a treason for his refusal ?
– They did not. The water was available, but although the cattle were very thirsty, they were not given a drink.
– Did not the honorable senator inquire why Johannsen acted an this way?
– The drovers told us that Johannsen had refused to give them permission to use the well.
– This Johannsen must also have been a watersider’.
– I should like to know why he declared the cattle “black “!
– That is something for the Government to discover. We asked the drovers for the reason, and they replied, “He would not allow us to use the well.” Drovers are not lawyers, and do not carry all the Northern Territory ordinances in their pockets. I venture to say that if the Leader of the Senate were a cattle-drover he would not be so well acquainted with the Northern Territory ordinances, that he would be able to argue the point as to whether a man in charge of a well was justified in refusing cattledrovers permission to water their cattle at it.
– Was the well privately or publicly owned?
– I do not know.
– The honorable senator, as a custodian of the public interests, ought to have ascertained the facts.
– We were travelling at the time, and the drovers had passed the well when we met them. If I had been remaining in the locality I should certainly have seen that the stock were watered. I would have taken steps to ascertain why Johannsen refused permission to use the well.
– These Johannsens wherever they are, it would seem, are no good to Australia.
– It is utterly wrong that drovers should, in these circumstances, be prevented from watering their stock.
– Did not the honorable senator sympathize with the men and the thirsty stock?
– I did, just as I would have sympathized with the honorable senator if he had been, suffering from thirst and had been prevented from obtaining water when it was available. I trust that the Minister will make inquiries into this ‘ case. These stock had to walk over 300 miles to market. It was in the best interests of all concerned that they should reach their destination in the best possible condition, and that was not possible when they were obliged to do without water for five or six days.
Although the Government proposes to appoint a commission to control the Northern Territory, we have no idea who are likely to be appointed. It is possible that the wrong men may be selected.
– That is the great danger.
– There is no doubt about that. I trust that the Government will not make political appointees, but will take every step possible to secure the services of men who are whole-heartedly interested in Australia, who are prepared to make sacrifices to promote the progress of the Territory, and who will be thoroughly qualified to discharge the important duties that will devolve upon them. I trust that under no circumstances will persons who have lost their former position in politics be appointed to the commission without regard being paid to their qualifications. This commission will be one of the most important that any Commonwealth Government has appointed. It will assume control of a territory which, to my mind, has wonderful potentialities. Although I should not be in order if I discussed the general question of the construction of the north-south railway, I may be allowed to observe that in my opinion the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government have done wisely in entering into an arrangement to ‘proceed with the work at least as far as Alice Springs. We may look for a marked development in the Northern Territory after the north-south line is built, but there . is very ‘ little chance of progress either there or in Central Australia until then. Even if the line does not return interest on the capital expenditure, the indirect benefit to the Commonwealth will fully justify the outlay.
– But the honorable senator would not favour the line going into Queensland territory?
– The line should follow the route most calculated to benefit the whole of Australia. I agree that there is room for a difference of opinion as to the route, but South Australia expects the Commonwealth Government to honour the contract made with that state. Railway communication is essential to the development of the Territory. I hope that when the bill is in committee honorable senators will give close attention to its provisions, and, if necessary, so amend them as to ensure’ that the measure will be entirely satisfactory in every respect.
Debate (on motion by Senator New- land) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.24p.m. to 8 p.m.
I move -
That the consideration of the Post and Telegraph Bill 1924, which lapsed by reason of the prorogation, be resumed at the stage it had reached during last session.
The Post and Telegraph Bill, which I introduced last session, and which had reached the second-reading stage, lapsed by reason of the prorogation. If the motion is negatived I shall have again to obtain leave to introduce the bill, and, later, to repeat the arguments I used in moving the second reading. In view of this, I trust no opposition will be shown to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2nd July (vide page 628), on motion by Senator J. D. Millen -
That the Government forthwith give an assurance to the people of Tasmania in particular, and the people of the Commonwealth in general, that. there will be continuity of transport: service for passengers between Tasmania and the mainland; and in the event of any strike, lock-out, or discontinuance of this service from any cause whatsoever, the Government will immediately take the necessary action to maintain, without interruption, this vital service.
It is to be regretted that there should be any . necessity to submit such a motion as this to the Senate. As honorable senators are aware, Tasmania has, during the past six years, been placed in a most unfortunate position, owing to the annual discontinuance of the shipping service which connects Tasmania with the mainland. I wish to most strongly emphasize the point that the- State of Tasmania has rights equal to those possessed by any other state in the Commonwealth, and the time has arrived when the Tasmanian people are determined to see that those rights are recognized to the full. It appears to me that any state is entitled to expect the Commonwealth Government to see that communication is maintained, practically at all costs, between the various states.
– Does that mean with the co-operation of Tasmania in this case ?
– The Commonweal th Government should reasonably expect the hearty co-operation of the state immediately concerned. This principle should be recognized in the case of Tasmania, more so than in connexion with other states, because of its insular position. If there is any dislocation in the regular service between Tasmania and the mainland, the Tasmanian people must necessarily suffer very severely, because owing to its geographical position, and its climatic conditions, it is impossible for that state to be self-contained. As many of the commodities which are absolutely essential to the welfare of Tasmanian people have to . be procured from other parts of the Commonwealth, it is the duty of the Federal Government to see that continuous . communication is provided. During the past six years the Tasmanian people as the outcome of the dislocation of this service have experienced awful conditions, particularly at certain periods. The expression I have used is not sufficiently strong to convey to honorable senators the actual condition of affairs brought about by shipping strikes in recent years. Our tourist traffic each year assumes considerable dimensions, and in connexion with that traffic Tasmania has had an apparently assured harvest during certain months of the year, but it has been wrenched away by this dislocation . of shipping services. In addition, numerous persons who have established themselves in business in a small way have had the whole of their arrangements upset, and after the investment and expenditure of capital have been deprived of that reward to which they were reasonably entitled. Industrially and commercially Tasmania has suffered very severely, and all the inconvenience and loss which has occurred has been brought about at the whim of a few individuals who are never happier then when sowing seeds of discontent amongst the Australian workers. This is, I believe, the main reason why we have to contend with these intolerable shipping strikes and their attendant difficulties.
– Is there not always a cause?
– There is a proper tribunal by which the cause can be removed. There may be causes in some instances, but we have spent thousands of pounds in providing the means. - whereby wrongs may be constitutionally righted. If certain individuals prefer to dislocate the means of communication! in carder to make their own positions secure rather than take advantage of. the Arbitration Court, it is evidence of the policy they wish to pursue. “We bad reasonable prospects of a. most prosperous tourist season ki Tasmania in January last, and a great many small settlers were looking forward with confidence to receiving fair returns from their fruit crops, but at the end of last year tha shipping service between Tasmania and! the mainland was. suddenly dislocated. The- result waa that many hundreds of tourists in Tasmania, who, were anxious to return to Victoria, and other states, to resume their duties, of which they had been relieved for a few weeks, were stranded. During the three weeks in which there was no regular service, hundreds of cases were brought directly under my notice, many of which were -pitiful in the extreme. In some instances, young women, who> were without means, and who were anxious to return, were practically living on- the charity of Tasmanian people. Quite a number had arrived with sufficient money to spend a few weeks’ holiday in Tasmania,, and had retained only sufficient to pay their return fares. When the dislocation in the shipping service occurred, some were without sufficient means to pay for accommodation, and young women who had insufficient to pay for a substantial meal were living on a c:up of tea and a scone. At least half a dozen people came to me during the strike, and explained their position in regard to their employment in Victoria. One man lost his situation owing to his extended and enforced absence from the mainland. His position, although his employer did his best to assist him, could not be kept open any longer. I may mention also the case of a man who was with his. wife and family on the north-west coast, and when informed that the Largs Bay, was to- visit Hobart hired a motor car hi which to travel to that city. He had proceeded some distance, on the way when he ascertained that the vessel was to call at the Tamar Heads, and in travelling to the boat he incurred an expenditure of £25. There were instances in which growers of small fruit, many of whom were returned soldiers suffered loss owing to the difficulty that was encountered in. getting supplies of sugar for use in the jam factories. Their fruit could not command the higher price it would have commanded if the factoriescould have accepted it from them. On this matter the people of Tasmania are unified. They are: unanimous: in their determination to have their rights recognized. Meetings have been held throughout the island. I was- very much impressed with the suggestions put forward, at a meeting convened by the municipal association of the north-west coast.. While. I note with pleasure the fact that, the Prime Minister has more than once expressed his determination to do all in his power to see that there is continuity of service in the future,, I think that the suggestion I put forward at the meeting, to which I have referred is worthy of adoption. That suggestion was that the mail contract with the shipping companies should provide that if at any time the service is discontinued by reason of a strike or lockout, or from any other cause, the control of the mail vessels should immediately pass to the Commonwealth Government. Had some such provision been in- operation last January Tasmania would not have been reduced to the unfortunate position in. which she found herself. Neither would the visitors to the island have had to suffer the inconvenience and losses they sustained. It was not until three weeks after the cessation of the service on account of .the strike that the Commonwealth Government assumed control of one of the two large steamers engaged iri the service, and in. that period was dene the immense amount of damage to which I have referred. Consequently, I trust that when this motion is carried by the Senate, and concurred in by another place, some provision will be made> to avoid a repetition of the disastrous incidents of last January. The uncertainty of the shipping service has had a very damaging effect on the development of Tasmania. One can readily understand haw chary people are about extending their businesses or increasing their investments in concerns whose success depends upon the continuity of a shipping service with the mainland. The fear that this service may be suspended at any moment is always in the minds of the people of Tasmania, and I am confident that it has prevented the expansion of many businesses.. It is an intolerable . dread, that something may happen just at a time when the people ought to be earning a decent reward for their indus-try or investments. A -little while ago I had the pleasure of reading in one of the Melbourne dailies a statement by tha Prime Minister that the Commonwealth Government ‘ intended to take steps to provide that the dislocations of the past should not be repeated. In view of that statement one. might reasonably ask why this motion is necessary, but it is necessary because it will enable the Prime Minister to know exactly how Parliament stands in regard to the matter. I should like to see Parliament unanimous upon it. It is not a party question, and I make an appeal to every honorable senator. The Commonwealth is composed of six states. Tasmania is one of them. She is unfortunate in many respects, particularly owing to her insular position, tart she is just as important for the welfare of the Commonwealth as a’ whole, as is any other state. I believe honorable senators opposite will support the motion, because if anything should intenrna.pt the means of communication between states on the mainland, they would “be. the very first to do all in, their power to see that those means of communication were restored. No matter what the dispute may be between any two sections of the community, when the people of a state, who have no. part in the dispute, are isolated, a terrible hardship is inflicted upon them. “While we have machinery for the settlement of disputes it is outrageous that thousands of people, who may not be participants in those disputes, should be penalized by being deprived of employment for weeks, at a time. The average working man finds that he has as much ms he can do to make ends meet when his work is continuous, and it is difficult to make up leeway after several weeks of idleness. Therefore, I confidently ask honorable senators to support the motion. If it is carried unanimously the people, of Tasmania will have, the satisfaction of knowing that the representatives of the whole of Australia are determined that the rights of any state, no matter how small it may be, will have their protection.
motion,, it is well that, honorable senators should understand the conditions of the present agreement between the PostmasterGeneral and Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited,, which provides: for the mail services between the mainland and Tasmania.. The agreement provides that in the event, miter aiia, of strikes or lockouts- affecting the running of the mail steamers y the service, or services affected may be suspended by the contractors and resumed at the expiration of not more than 20 days from the date on which the cause of suspension ceases. The- contractors are not paid for any voyages which should have been made by the. contract steamers during the period of suspension. Briefly, Sanator Millen’s suggestions ave that services suspended owing to strikes- or lockouts must be resumed wihin 48 hours from the hour at which suck suspension occurs, and that the Commonwealth Government shall, if required, find the necessary labour for manning the mail steamers. The agreement with the steamship company provides for >a> resumption after not more than 2/& days from the date on which the cause of suspension ceases. Therefore, in order to carry out the terms of *Senator Mill’ens** motion, it would’ be necessary for the contractors to concur in any amendment of the terms of the agreement desired during the currency of the contract or, failing concurrence on their part, for the PostmasterGeneral to give twelve months’ notice, of termination of the contract, and invite tenders for continuance of the service under conditions including those suggested. It is well for honorable senators to recognize the legal position. I do not suppose that the steamship-owners would place any difficulty m the way of the- Commonwealth Government,, but if they stood on their rights the Commonwealth could not intervene until after 20 days..
– Their concurrence could be secured for intervention within a shorter period.
– Probably. The Prime Minister has already given a very definite assurance that the Government recognizes its responsibility to do its. utmost to. maintain a continuous service for passengers, and mails between Tasmania and the mainland. On the last occasion when the service “was suspendedthere was irritation shown in Tasmania - a very natural irritation in the circumstances - but a little consideration of what actually happened will show that there was good justification for the delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government. From day to day the information given in the press and otherwise was that a settlement of the dispute was just about to be effected. Honorable senators will recollect that the matter was before the Arbitration Court on several occasions. It looked from day to day as if the dispute was just about over, but it dragged oil until at last the Ministry saw that the seamen’s representatives were playing with the court, and that it was part of their plan to make it appear that there would be a. settlement, while all the while they did not intend that there should be one. Therefore, it stepped in, manned the Nairana,’ and resumed the passenger and mail service by that boat. I have a list of the mails carried between the island and the mainland during that period of interruption. They were mostly carried by small cargo” boats, but the list shows that, notwithstanding the strike, the Postmaster-General maintained a service which was practically equal in the number of arrivals and departures to that which was obtaining previously. Of course, there was some delay, because the smaller boats took a longer time than is usually taken by the larger vessels to make the passage. The list shows that the . Postmaster-General’s Department did its utmost to maintain a mail service, but, of course, the passenger service was considerably interrupted. Tasmania is obviously in a different position from that of any other state. It is much more seriously affected by a shipping strike than is any other state, which can be reached by a railway connexion. The Commonwealth Government recognizes that fact to the full, and intends to do everything it can to avert any future dislocation of the service between the mainland and the island. However, the State Government also has some responsibility in the matter. It is presumed to represent the people of Tasmania, who, we are assured by honorable senators, take a very serious view of the frequent dislocations of the service between the state and the mainland, because they are considerably injured by them. I do not suppose that a day passed during the last period of interruption when the Commonwealth Government did not get two or more telegrams from the Premier of Tasmania, urging it to do something for the people of the state. It did something for them, and recognizing that it would probably be necessary to coal the Nairana when that vessel reached Launceston, and that heated feelings are always created when strikes are in progress - an instance of this occurred in Western Australia, where the strikers prevented the Customs officials, the health officials, and other officers from going on board steamers to carry out Commonwealth functions - the Government thought it advisable to telegraph to the Premier of Tasmania.. We asked him to give an assurance that when the vessel reached Launceston, if it had to coal, or carry out any other service, his Government would do that which lay within its province and provide police protection if it should be required. So far as I am aware, the Commonwealth Government had no reply to that telegram. If the people of Tasmania are anxious that this service should be maintained, if they are really indignant at the constant interruptions, they should a”- least see that their Government gives a guarantee . that any vessel which is provided for the purpose of maintaining the service they need so much has an uninterrupted discharge at any port in the state at which she calls.
– The people of Tasmania were not aware that that telegram had been sent.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the telegram, was sent and that, so far as I am aware, no reply has been received.
– I hope that the people of Tasmania will be informed of that.
– They ought to be, because the Commonwealth Government did its utmost to provide Tasmania with a steamship service during this interruption. It did its best to enable the service to be carried on, and to avert the injury which the state suffered. The Commonwealth Government, in turn, has a right to expect that the State Government will carry out its own obligations. Under the Constitution, the state authorities have control over the police force, and when they are appealed to by the Commonwealth Government to provide necessary police protection, they should reply promptly, and in favorable terms. The Government has no objection to the motion, for it suggests a course of action along lines on which the Government has already given an undertaking to proceed. But I do suggest that there is some obligation on the part of the Tasmanian Government to co-operate with the Commonwealth, and see that the’ shipping service is not interrupted by any illdisposed persons.
– I have every sympathy with Tasmania, because of its insular position. I realize that it has many difficulties, and any remarks that I may make to-night should not be construed as antagonistic to that state or its people. The Commonwealth Government has certain duties to perform, and I point out that the powers suggested by the motion are already possessed by it. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has already informed honorable senators of the action the Government took, showing that it possesses these powers.
– We do not ask for any fresh powers. We simply want an assurance that the powers possessed by the Government will be exercised.
– If any assurance was necessary, it was given by the action of the Government during the recent interruption of the service.
– But nearly three weeks elapsed before action was taken. That is our complaint.
– The honorable senator not only sought an assurance that certain things would be done, but he also went out of his way to lay the whole of the blame for the interruption of the service on the Seamen’s Union.
– On the communists, who are “white-anting” the union.
– That union was not the originator of the trouble. The blame lies at the door of theCommonwealth Shipping Board, which attempted to evade an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by chartering vessels outside the Commonwealth Line. While steamers of the Commonwealth Line were lying idle, vessels manned with crews who were not paid Australian rates of wages or working under Australian conditions, were chartered.
– What has the Tasmanian’ shipping service to do with that ?
– I am simply expressing my opinion as to the origin of the trouble, just as the mover of the motion did. Had the Commonwealth Shipping Board obeyed the award of the Arbitration Court, the Tasmanian service would not have been interrupted, as far as the seamen were concerned. Senator J. D. Millen went on to say that the Government must regulate unionism, or unionism would regulate the Government, but the honorable senator did not say, as he might have done, that “ employerdom “ was regulating the Government.
– I did not say that, because it would have been untrue.
– It would have - been “ more truthful than the statement that unionism was regulating the Government. The honorable senator referred to the oligarchy of unionism, but said nothing of the oligarchy of the ship-owners.
– I spoke of the oligarchy in unionism run by communists.
– I maintain that there is an oligarchy in the Steamship Owners’- Association of Australia. This has shown itself within the past 48 hours, for although the Commonwealth Shipping Board is willing to settle the present trouble with the Seamen’s Union, the associated shipowners decline to enter into the proposed agreement. I should be inclined to go a good deal further into this subject were it not for the fact that attempts are now being made to settle the dispute. I do not intend to support the motion, because, in my opinion, there is no necessity for it. Honorable senators from Tasmania should be content with the assurance given that the Government will take all necessary steps to maintain continuity of the shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland. Had the Commonwealth Shipping Board been alive to its responsibilities, it could have commissioned one of its idle steamers to maintain an uninterrupted service.
– The board cannot get the seamen to man the vessels it is now trying to send to sea.
– It chartered vessels outside the line in order to defy the award of the court.
– When the board attempted to send the Largs Bay away on the 11th January, some of the seamen jumped overboard, so that the vessel could not sail. Was that the fault of the board I
– That was done because the conditions of the award were not being observed.
– The board tried to commission one of its vessels, and the men refused to work.
– The Commonwealth Line of Steamers should be free from political influence, and the board should see that the line is used to its fullest extent. My contention is that the board, and not the seamen, is to blame for the position in which Tasmania found itself.
– I desire to support the motion so ably moved fey Senator J. D. Millen, I well know, as Senator Needham has pointed out, that the Government has power at the present time to dispatch steamers to Tasmania ; but honorable senators from my state desire the Government to use that power, and we wish to have the support of honorable senators on both sides of this chamber. We desire to give the party opposite an opportunity to say whether they think that Tasmania should be cut off periodically from the rest of Australia, or whether they contend that an uninterrupted service should be maintained. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has stated that the Government feels that the service should be maintained, but Tasmania requires an assurance that the Commonwealth will be ready at a moment’s notice to assist, if necessary,’ in providing a regular service. Only people who have been to Tasmania can realize the loss and inconvenience caused by the periodical shipping strikes. I have heard it said that notwithstanding the disabilities to which Tasmania has been subjected by the Navigation Act, its trade is continually increasing. It will be a bad day for Tasmania, just as for the rest of the Commonwealth., when its trade ceases to increase. But I point out that people do not travel from Tasmania to the mainland at the present time unless compelled to do so for business reasons. The tourist who may be contemplating a visit to the island now asks himself whether he will be able to return. Some time ago I inquired at the Tourist Bureau for some authentic figures regarding the Tasmanian tourist traffic, and found that during the last three years it has been a decreasing quantity. In 1923, according to the Tourist Bureau figures, 5,116 people travelled to Tasmania; in 1924 the number was 4,300, a decrease of 7 16 ; and so far this year there have been 3,300 tourists, a decrease of 1,000 on last year’s figures. In three. years the traffic has decreased 30 per cent. The strikes have been solely responsible for this. It is impossible for those who do not live in Tasmania to understand how sensitive the people there have become to strikes and rumours of strikes. The frequency of these shipping hold-ups has made stability impossible for the producers in Tasmania. Only a week ago rumours of a strike caused a big slump in the price of potatoes in the north-west of Tasmania. As soon as the rumours gained currency the people rushed their potatoes to Sydney, which was the only market then available to them, and the market was glutted. Instead of disposing of their produce regularly over the twelve months of the year, our people are in such constant fear that they will not be able to get shipping when they want it, that they market their produce spasmodically. There is either a glut or a famine. Although last week potatoes went down£1 a ton, they have since gone up £2 a ton, for the strike rumours have somewhat subsided. It is impossible to regulate trade satisfactorily under present conditions. What Tasmania wants, and what she has a right to expect, is that both sides of this Chamber shall say definitely that she is entitled to a regular and certain shipping service. On the occasion of the last strike it was expected every day for three weeks that a settlement would be reached, and the Minister in that respect put up a good case; but why in the name of common sense cannot these disputes be settled while the boats are running as well as while they are tied up at the wharf ? We shall have an opportunity, when this vote is taken, of seeing who in the Senate are in favour of isolating Tasmania and who are not.. I was tremendously shocked to learn from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce)’ to-night that the Tasmanian Government refused to provide police protection for the men who were employed at Launceston to coal the boats that were preparing to run during the last strike.
– I did not say that the Tasmanian Government refused police protection, but that, so far as I knew, no reply had been received by the Commonwealth Government to its telegraphic request that police protection should be provided.
– I do not wish it to be understood that I said the Tasmanian Government refused police protection ; but I think I am entitled to say that its failure to answer the Ministers telegram may be . construed as a refusal to do so. I trust that both sides of this Chamber will vote for this motion and so in favour of keeping the wheels of industry moving in Tasmania. If Tasmania had not been an island, she would have had railway connexion with the other states, and these continual strikes would not occur. All honorable senators have an opportunity now to indicate whether they favour maintaining a regular shipping service to Tasmania or whether they prefer isolating her.
– I support this motion with a great deal of pleasure. My first reason for doing so is that I represent another state that is unfavorably situated from the point of view of connexion with the more populous parts of the Commonwealth. It is very necessary that states like Western Australia and Tasmania should support’ each other as far as possible. My second reason is that it gives me another opportunity to protest against what is really at the bottom of this trouble, I refer to that legislative misfit, the Navigation Act, which is an impenetrable hedge, or a barbed-wire entanglement, between justice and those people - I do not say honorable gentlemen opposite - who are advising the Seamen’s Union. If it were not for the Navigation Act and the protection which it affords these people, their practices, which cause so much inconvenience, would be impossible. Why do we continue to keep on our statute-book those sections of the Navigation Act that have crippled Tasmania and Western Australia, done a great deal of harm to Queensland, and strangled Papua and New Guinea ?
– And put Darwin off the map.
– -That is so, for Darwin is no longer a port of call for oversea vessels. In these circumstances, I consider it my clear duty, as the representative of a state which is vitally con- cerned in the mater, to vote for the motion as a protest against the retention of legislation which makes possible the position in which Tasmania finds herself.
– I also support the motion with a great deal of pleasure. I regret extremely that there was necessity for moving it. 1 have been connected with this Chamber for only two years, but if my memory, which carries me back many years, is reliable, this subject has been debated in one House or the other in practically every session of the Federal Parliament. It has always been a vexed question as to who is responsible for the unsatisfactory position of Tasmania, but the fact remains that the people there have spent a tremendous amount of energy and money in endeavouring to settle it. An annual and heavy loss, as well as serious inconvenience, is caused to the people of Tasmania through these shipping disputes. I believe that Senator Kingsmill put his finger onone of the chief causes of our troubles. The operation ofthe Navigation Act has contributed largely to Tasmania’s difficulties. I have no desire at the moment to discuss that measure or the suggested amendments to it, but. I hope that every honorable senator will realize how unsatisfactory Tasmania’s position is. Certain sections of the Navigation Act, which, I believe, were wrongly placed in it, are highly inimical to Tasmania’s welfare.
– I have allowed honorable senators to make passing references to the Navigation Act during this discussion. That is permissible under the rules of debate. But honorable senators are mot permitted to anticipate the discussion of other motions on the notice-paper. The very next business that will come before the Senate is Senator Ogden’s motion, which relates to the Navigation Act. I must ask the honorable senator, therefore, not to discuss that matter any further.
– I bow. to your ruling, sir, but the provisions of the Navigation Act bear so strongly on. the motion now before us that it is difficult to dissociate the two subjects.
– The rules of debate are emphatic on the point.
– I trust that every honorable senator will recognize how necessary it is, in the interests of not only tourists, but more particularly the general public who have to travel between Tasmania and the mainland for business reasons, to act along the lines indicated by the motion. It cannot be doubted,, as has been stated by previous speakers, that Tasmanian producers lose a tremendous amount of money annually in consequence of these shipping strikes. The Commonwealth Government could do a great deal to assist them by providing a continuous shipping service. Tasmania cannot have railway connexion with the other states of the Commonwealth, but surely she is entitled to a regular shipping service. I regret that the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) is not prepared to support the motion. He stated that in his opinion the Government had the power to do what we desire, and that it was its duty to do so. It is hard to understand, therefore, why he will not vote for the motion. I should like to pay a tribute to the shipping firm of Messrs. Holy man and Company for the great efforts they have made to keep their fleet in operation. They have only a few vessels, but they have suffered great inconvenience and expense in order to maintain a regular cargo service. If it had not been for their enterprise and persistency, Tasmania would have been absolutely cut off from the mainland on many more occasions than has been the case. I sincerely trust that when trouble occurs in the future the Government will do what it did during the last dispute, but that it will act much more promptly.
.- I should not have spoken in this debate except for the peculiar attitude that Senator Needham has adopted. He told the Senate that he believed that it was necessary to maintain a regular shirking service between the mainland and Tasmania, and that the Government had power to do so; “but,” he added, “it will do so without my support.” That is a peculiar attitude. It appears to me that Senator Needham has not the courage of his convictions.
– I have.
– If he had, he would realize that it is his duty to support the motion.
– The honorable senator ought to quote me correctly if at all. I said that the Government already bad power to provide a regular service for Tasmania.
– Whether the cause of these strikes may be laid at the doors of the ship-owners or the seamen, Tasmania should not be made to suffer all the time. Prior to the last strike I was in Melbourne on public business, and intended to stay about a week, but learning from some one who had inside information that a strike was about to occur, I returned to my own state on the day that I landed. Hardly had I reached Tasmania before a strike occurred. Senator Needham has attempted to show that the trouble was due to an attempt on the part of the ship-owners to charter ships.
– I did not say anything of the kind. Please quote me correctly, if at all.
– Well, that is what I understood the honorable senator to say. It appears that the trouble was the outcome of a dispute between a seaman and one of the officers - I believe the officer gave the seaman a push. I should have thought that the right thing to do in such circumstances would have been for them to conclude the argument between themselves instead of penalizing the unfortunate public. Under existing conditions and with the perfection of our industrial machinery, there should be no reason for strikes in Australia. I should like to tell Senator Needham, if he does not know it already, that the seamen have not gained in popularity among their fellow unionists by the tactics which they have been adopting during the past few years. Unions have obligations to the people as well as to themselves. They should not be selfish, but should think of the interests of the people. I agree with the mover of the motion that there is an obligation on the part of the Tasmanian Government to support any effort made in this Parliament to improve the shipping facilities between Tasmania and the mainland. I trust therefore that Mr. Lyons and his Government will take whatever action may be necessary to achieve this end, and that immediate relief will be granted by the Federal Government.
– I rise to support the motion. At the outset, I should like to express disappointment at the modesty of the mover (Senator Millen), who asks only that there shall be no interruption in the transport of passengers between Tasmania and the mainland. He leaves out of consideration the transport of goods, which in my judgment is equally important, because Tasmania, being isolated from the mainland, is on occasions in much the same position as a beleaguered city or a . country under blockade. Strikes with their consequent interruption of steamship services to Tasmania are just as serious as a blockade by enemy forces. How would honorable senators opposite feel if at a critical lime, when the produce of their twelve months’ labour was ripening in the field, there should come like a bolt from the blue an interruption of those public services by which their products were marketed 1 How would they feel if the product of their labour had to rot on the trees or in the fields? These frequent interruptions are totally unwarranted and unjustifiable. This man-made blight, this man-made calamity, falls upon the state least able to bear it. I heard Senator Needham say something about the Commonwealth line of ships being responsible for much of this trouble. Does not the honorable senator know, without being told, that by instituting a strike to remedy a grievance, those responsible for it are violating a Labour-made law? “When we find in the chamber, as well as out of it, apologists for this- infraction of Commonwealth law, is it not about time that we faced the situation squarely, because what is happening in Tasmania to-day might happen to mainland states tomorrow ? Fortunately the latter states are linked up by railway systems, and even in times of industrial strife are able to keep the wheels of industry going, at least in some sort of fashion. Tasmania, being isolated from the mainland, is in a totally different position. Is it right that one state should have to submit to a condition of affairs which would not be tolerated by other states? Senator Needham; so I understand, is going to vote against the motion. I do not know how many other honorable senators opposite will vote with him, but I am going to vote for it, although it is only an instalment of what I should like to see. I should like the people of Tasmania to appeal to the Commonwealth Government for an assurance that cargo, as well as passenger, services will be maintained, because, unless goods can be freely interchanged between the–’ states, the trade of the state that is penalized must be paralyzed by this man-made blight of strikes and industrial disturbances. Droughts, floods, and such like visitations of nature are as nothing compared with’ the calamity of an organized strike, but if the people do not assert themselves, they deserve to be kicked all the time at the instance of that outlaw section of the community that is behind these industrial upheavals. The motion merely asks for an assurance that the Government will place Tasmania, in relation to its passenger trade, in the same position as other component parts of the Commonwealth. The alternative is a policy of strikes, lockouts, and industrial disturbances, unless the remedy can be applied. Any honorable senator who votes against the motion must, therefore, declare himself to be in favour of the causes that prevent the application of the remedy. I firmly believe that Tasmania, if given a chance, is capable of a great future. Therefore I have much pleasure in supporting the motion. I sincerely hope that honorable senators opposite will do likewise, and that even Senator Needham will see his way clear to change his mind, because it is not playing the game to penalize one state of the Commonwealth by these industrial disturbances. The time has come to speak out plainly. If every other element in the community had the right to strike to-morrow, the resort to this barbaric weapon for the settlement of industrial disputes would soon cease. If, for example, our primary producers - those people engaged in the production of, say. onions, potatoes, wheat, or dairy produce, in Tasmania or elsewhere - could say that their produce would not be marketed unless they received whatever they saw fit to demand, or more, for them, Mr. Walsh, Mr. Garden, and their friends would quickly be brought to their bearings. And because, in the nature of things, they cannot do this, there is no sound reason why any other man, or. set of men, should do it or be allowed to do it. But, because they cannot do that, Mr. Walsh and his friends can hold a pistol at the head of society and say : “I am your master, I am your overlord,” and so effectively disorganize important public services of the Commonwealth. These unscrupulous industrial leaders, who have been engaged over -long in blackmailing society, must be checked. I shall vote for the motion whole-heartedly, and, in the belief, that by its adaption a small measure of justice will be done to the: island state.
– I shall be very brief in my reply to the debate.. Dealing, first of all with the reference made by the Minister (Senator Pearce) to the agreement, between the Postmaster-General and certain shipping companies- for the conveyance of mails between Melbourne and Tasmania,” I would remind the Senate that that agreement may be determined at short notice by either side. It would,, therefore, be quite feasible to amend it in the way suggested by me when submitting this motion. As to the suggestion made by Senator Lynch, that we should also ask the Commonwealth Government for an assurance that there will be a continuity of service in the transport of goods, I remind him that the vessels that provide continuity of transport for passengers will have ample space for cargo, and if this mail service is maintained without interruption there will be no further trouble in respect of the carriage of our produce. I was somewhat surprised to learn from the Minister this evening that the Tasmanian Government, when asked for assistance, did not give the Commonwealth the definite and vigorous support that might very properly have been expected in the circumstances. Iwas also very disgusted to find that when the Commonwealth Government provided a volunteer crew to take the Nairana to Tasmania, some of the men employed on the wharf at Launceston absolutely refused to coal the vessel at that port. That element must be firmly dealt with, and I am glad to say that it comprises only a very small section of the people of . Tasmania. The great bulk of the people of that state have been most seriously inconvenienced, and tragic incidents have occurred in consequence of the dislocation of the shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland. I trust that the Senate will carry this motion.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed’ to.
Effect on Tasmania.
Debate resumed from 2nd July (vide page 633) on motion by Senator Ogden -
That, in- the opinion of the Senate, the Navigation Act should be amended so as to. exclude Tasmania from the operations of the sections of the act relating to coastal passengers, thus providing’ for freedom of intercourse, by any ships between Tasmania and mainland ports.
That this resolution be transmitted to the House of Representatives- with a request for its- concurrence therein.
.- Many of. the difficulties experienced, owing to the operation of the Navigation Act, have been discussed on the motion which the Senate has just passed. A royal commission has been most carefully conducting investigations into the operations of the Navigation Act, and some of its earlier recommendations have been extensively quoted during the debate on the motion to which I have just referred. The Government have only just received the latest report, of the commission,, and owing, to- the indisposition of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), who is in. charge of the Department of Navigation, I have not had an opportunity of conferring with him concerningthe recommendations contained in the report. For these reasons I. ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted- debate adjourned.
Effect on Western Australia.
Debate resumed from 3rd July (vide page 701) on motion by Senator Lynch -
That inasmuch as the Navigation Act im- poses severeand burdensome restrictions on trade with Western Australia, and also in the coastal trade of that state, the Senate is of opinion that - (a) The compulsory clauses ofthatact relating to trade and commerce be repealed until such time as the various interests engaged in the coastal trade : are willing to accept the same terms and conditions, no. more and no less, us those governingthe activities and operations of the general body of citizens throughout the Commonwealth, or until the law compels the acceptance, of such conditions,
– -Ican assure the mover of the motion that the Government fully realize the great difficulties under which Western Australia is at present labouring, and is very anxious to do the right thing at the proper time.
– Has the Minister only sympathy to offer ?
– No-. The Government has, however, not yet had time to consider the report of the royal commis-. sion on the operations of the Navigation Act.
– Has not the report been received ?
– The last: reporthas only just been received.
– Honorable senators will realize- that the recommendations of the royal commission must receive the mature consideration of the Government before I shall be in a position to speak authoritatively on the question. The report of the commission was only received last week and, as I stated on the previous motion, the responsible Minister (Mr. Pratten), whom I must consult before I debate the motion, is indisposed.
– What is the Minister’s personal opinion ?
SenatorWILSON. - In my present position I can express only the views of the Government. We have no desire, to delay the discussion longer than is neces sary ; but, inview of thecircumstances I have mentioned, I ask leave to continue my speech at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
Thai the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing, the Minister for Defence the position regarding the aerial mail contract recently entered into between the Larkin-Sopwith Company and the Commonwealth Government. To-day I asked the Minister (Senator Crawford) a series of questions, in which I pointed out that under the original contract this company was to provide an aerial mail service between Adelaide and Brisbane. That contract was never carried out by. the company, which, I understand, was far a time given permission to exclude the service to Queensland until it had obtained new aeroplanes from Great Britain, which were then on order. I was, therefore, very surprised to learn, from the reply received from the Minister today, that the original contract had expired, and chat a new contract had been entered into between the Government and the Larkin-Sopwith Company which includes Melbourne in the Adelaide to Sydney service, and that the service to Brisbane, which was embodied in the original contract, has been deleted. There is, therefore, little prospect of the service, which was also to serve the Northern Rivers district, being extended to Brisbane for some considerable time. In entering into a new contract under which Queensland has been excluded the Government have acted in a very unfair manner towards that state. It is not unreasonable to ask the Government to make some provision on the lines provided in the original contract,as we were definitely assured by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) that Brisbane would be included in the company’s itinerary. I have brought this matter wider the notice of the Government in the hope that something will be done on behalf of Queensland, which has not the short train distance from Sydney to Brisbane which exists between Adelaide and Melbourne and Melbourne and Sydney.
– I shall ask the Minister (Senator Crawford), who is temporarily absent, to bring the remarks of the honorable senator under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 July 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1925/19250709_senate_9_110/>.