10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the Senate that I have this day received from Senator Beamy a letter, dated 26th January, 1936, resigning his place as a Senator for South Australia on account of ill-health. In compliance with section 21 of the Constitution, I have notified His Excellency the Governor of South Australia that a vacancy has occurred in the representation of that State in the Senate.
– I have to inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Lady Chapman, expressing great appreciation by herself and family of the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of her husband, the Hon. Sir Austin Chapman.
– On the 15th January, Senator Gardiner asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
– Since, according to the Prime Minister’s statement the peace officers were appointed for the specific purpose of serving summonses on . two men who at that time were very much in evidence,, and since- no summonses now required to be served-
– Order! The honorable senator must know that it is not in order for an honorable senator to make statements of fact when asking a question except in so far as may be necessary to explain such question. Questions are only permissible to elicit information.
– I am aware of that Mr. President, but sometimes it is necessary to make statements in asking questions. I ask the Leader of the Senate if the peace officers were required to serve summonses on two men-; if not, what particular work are they performing, and are they all employed, in New South Wales? ‘
– The duties of the peace officers are to ensure the due observance of the laws of the Commonwealth. Concerning the States in which they are employed:, I ask the honorable senator to give notice.
– Has the- Government any evidence that the laws of the Commonwealth are not being observed by the people, and, if so, has a reporton the matter been furnished by the peace officers ?
– The Government is satisfied that the officers are being usefully and economically employed in enforcing observance of Commonwealth laws.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether a sum will be placed on the Estimates for the next financial “year to provide for an aerial service to Tasmania or other States in the Commonwealth.
– I remind the honorable senator that it is not usual to make a statement concerning Government policy in reply to a question.
– I ask the Minis ter for Markets and Migration if the files relating to the export of canned fruits from Australia for the last six months will be made available to honorable senators?
– It would be unwise, at this juncture, to give publicity to the documents. An inquiry is being made into the question raised by the honorable senator. If he desires to soe the files I invite him to call at the office of the department.
Inmate of Public Institution
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether it has come to the notice of the Government that a former Minister of State for the Commonwealth is now an inmate of a charitable institution in one of the States ; and, if so, does the Government propose to make provision for him as a recognition of services rendered by him to this country ?
– I think Senator Lynch is under a misapprehension as to. the nature of the institution. I understand that it is not a charitable institution, but one in which resident inmates are required to pay’ for accommodation received. The position of the gentleman referred to was brought under the notice of ‘the Prime Minister, who promised to have inquiries made as to the conditions under which he is living.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Finance : Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1925, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Northern . Territory -
Crown Lands Ordinance - Statement giving reasons for the resumption of Woolner Aboriginal Reserve, Northern Territory, together with sketch showing area resumed.
Ordinances of 1926 - No. 1 - Inspection of Boilers. No. 3 - Encouragement of Primary Production.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Fifteenth Annual Report, 1924-25.
asked the Minister for Markers and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow: -
Tariff Board’s Report
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he lay on. the table of the Senate the Tariff Board’s report on the proposal to establish, the paper-pulp industry in Tasmania?
– The report will be laid on the table of the Library.
Arrangement with United Statesof America.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the increasing adversebalance of trade between this country and the United States of America and the necessity for enlarging oversea markets for out primary products, will the Government consider the advisability of opening negotiations with the Government at Washington with a view to making a reciprocal trade arrangement between the two countries?
– The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow: -
– As announced on Friday last, His Excellency the Governor-General has intimated his intention to be ready at 3.30 o’clock to-day to receive the AddressinReply agreed to by the Senate, and I propose now to proceed to Government House to present the address.I shall be pleased if as many honorable senators as can find it convenient to accompany me will do so.
Sitting suspended from 3.15 to 4..15 p.m.
– I have to announce to the Senate that, accompanied by honorable senators, I visited Government House and presented the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General, to which His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
I receive, with much pleasure, the address which has been adopted by the Senate in reply to the speech which I delivered on the occasion of the opening of the first session of the tenth Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I thank you for your expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Sir Victor Wilson) read, a first time.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) pro posed -
That the bill bo now read a third time.
– Unfortunately in committee I missed my opportunity to draw attention to the position in Papua in regard to the attempted discovery of oil, but I was assured by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that I could bring the matter forward on the third reading. A big lump of money has been poured into
Papua in an effort to discover something like a commercial supply of oil, hut, so far, no satisfactory result has been achieved. The members of the Public Accounts Committee did some service to the Commonwealth when they visited the Territory to find out what .was happening in regard^ to this particular enterprise, and they have placed on record some very useful information. For instance, we learn from them that, during the last fourteen years, £360,000 has been spent upon this search, an average of more than £25,000 a year. But the unsatisfactory feature of the whole position is that there have been divided counsels and divisions of opinion among the experts at work there. There has also been a very imperfect .system of working, with the result that it has been with the Commonwealth a case of pay, pay, pay, all the time, and no return. The first effort was made by the Commonwealth Government in 1912. The policy then was to keep in the hands of the Government whatever effort was being made in the direction of testing Papua for oil supplies, and it continued in operation from. 1912 onwards - until it was thought better to get the best expert advice that could be obtained. That expert advice was supplied by Dr. Wade in 1914. Previously a good deal of money had been spent in an amateur way iia one particular district, the Vailala River, and when Dr.. Wade appeared on the scene he advised that work in that locality should’ be continued. His advice was followed, and a lot of money was spent in that valley. Then came a change of policy on the part of the Commonwealth Government, and in 1918 it was thought advisable to invoke the aid of experts of the Anglo-Persian Oil Com.pany. who at once condemned operations in the Vailala Valley, in which about nine bores had been sunk, with no tangible result, and commenced operations at Popo. The first bore they, put down proved a failure; their second bore in .the same locality also proved a failure, and the same .result has been achieved in a third bore.- Thus we have had divided counsels and differences of opinion among experts, but the outstanding feature of the whole business is that the Commenwealth has spent a lot of money, and not one district in Papua has yet been properly tested for oil. On the Estimates covered by this bill, we are asked to privide £15,<000 to continue the search. I want to know what the attitude of the ‘Commonwealth Government will be if oil is obtained in commercial quantities *in Papua. Will the Government assume .control of it 1 I know that previous Governments have laid it down emphatically that if oil is discovered in New -Guinea it will be retained bv the Government iu the interests of the people of Australia, and will not .be handed over to any company. But I do not know the attitude of the present Government in this regard. It has already departed from the policy laid down by another government - that prospecting should be carried ou by the Government alone - .and has .allowed a number of companies to exercise individual rights over certain areas in the territory. Whether the supplies of oil that may be discovered by these companies will be retained for and exploited by the Commonwealth Government exclusively in the interests of Australia, we have yet to learn.
– The conditions surrounding those leases are very rigid.
– -They are rigid to the extent of the areas made available. The companies regard them as somewhat small. We are periodically voting sums of money for the testing of Papua for oil. A big sum of money .has already been spent there, but not a single district has been tested down to what are regarded as petroliferous strata. It is about time we had a declaration of the Government’s intentions. I should like to know what the Government will do in the event of oil being found in ‘Commercial quantities, and I should also like to know whether the Government is satisfied to continue the expenditure of money when nothing worth while is being found. It is time we called a “ halt, and took stock of the position. We cannot continue to vote money for this purpose without holding an investigation to see whether we are getting ‘value. It is quite clear, from the report of the Public Accounts Committee, that serious mistakes are being made one after another by the ^company in charge <of operations there. Bores have been put down to 1,700 and 1,800 feet in an unworkmanlike way.
– That statement is not fair.
– Similar things have happened on the best oilfields in the world.
– There is nothing in the report about “unworkmanlike” operations.
– I -think Senator Kingsmill is in error. On page 9, the report states -
When the new plant arrived it was found that the casing in No. 2 bore was so bent as to prevent further drilling. The casing was thereupon withdrawn, and the hole, not being vertical, was plugged. A new bore - No. 3 - was started 20 feet away, with the Fauck system. A commencement was made on thiB bore on 25th November, 1924, strict precautions being taken to ensure the verticality of the hole and to give the new drilling system a thorough test.
With the two faulty bores before them the company took ‘ ‘ strict precautions “ in drilling a third bore to see that verticality was preserved. As the company decided that the third bore should be done in a workmanlike way, I am justified in saying that the first two were done in an unworkmanlike way. Honorable senators can judge of the justice or otherwise of my criticism. The first two bores showed what to avoid in sinking the third bore. The boring seems to have been done in a perfunctory way. The petroliferous strata- have not been reached’, but we are still paying out money. I, therefore, ask what is the policy of the Government? Will the oil, if discovered, be reserved as a Government monopoly, or will every one be allowed to participate in the benefits of the discovery ? Declarations have been made on this side of the Senate that the discovery of oil in Papua will be made a Government monopoly. I am not prepared to vote more money for oil prospecting if other people are to get the benefit, and I am not prepared to vote any more money if the result is not likely to be better than we have had up to the present.
– I wish to direct attention to an unsatisfactory phase of the migration policy. Wherever Nationalists hold a public meeting, the Government’s migration policy is discussed. I suppose it is very rare for a meeting to be held under the auspices of the Nationalist party without the necessity for additional migrants from other countries, and especially from the United Kingdom, being emphasized. I recognize that the complete solution of the migration problem is difficult. Difficulties occur in bringing large numbers of people to this country, especially when the Commonwealth Government has to make arrangements with the State Governments. The nomination system ought to be greatly improved. I understand that persons in Australia can nominate others in Great Britain, and in that event they take the responsibility for the repayment of the passage money, and undertake to find work for the migrants. In those cases the Government carries no liability, financial or otherwise. That is a very good way of obtaining migrants, and the system would work successfully if no obstacles were placed in its way. Let me recount an incident that happened to Mr. John Henry Cann, a great friend of mine, who for a number of years was a member of the New South Wales Parliament. After being Acting Premier, Chief Secretary, and Treasurer, he became a railway commissioner. He is known by repute to every honorable senator, and personally . to many of us. When his term as railway commissioner expired, he paid a visit to England. Australia has treated him well, and he is proud of the country. He agreed to nominate three relatives, who went to Australia House to be medically examined. There Mr. Cann met a Mr. Southhall, who treated him very well, and suggested that he should see the High Commissioner. Mr. Cann replied, “ I have no particular business with him,, but for the sake of old times, I will go and see him.” A messenger was sent to his office, and returned with the information that the High Commissioner was at Geneva. Then Mr. Southall said, “ Why not see the Secretary to the Commissioner, Mr. Shepherd?” Mr. Cann consented, but Mr. Shepherd was .also out, and was not expected to return until 3 o’clock. Mr ‘ South-all’s next, suggestion was, “ Why r.ot see the chief clerk?” “Very well,” said Mr. Cann. But the chief clerk was cut, too., and not expected to be in again until 3 o’clock. Mr. Southall next invited Mr. ‘Cann to see Sir Arthur Cocks, the Agent-General for New South Wales, who has his offices in Australia House. Mr. Cann said, “ Yes, I should like to see him’. We were in the New South Wales Parliament together.” ‘They found that !Sir Arthur Cocks waa on tb* Continent.. Mr. Southall then said, “ Will you call on Mr. Price, the AgentGeneral for South Australia V “ Well,” said Mr. Cann, “ I will, for his father’s sake.” Mr. Price was in.
Coming back to the question of the nomination of. Mr. Cann’s three relatives, I have another extraordinary story to tell. After these persons had passed the medical and other necessary tests, Mr. Cann proceeded to nominate them. He was told that he could not do so, tor only persons in Australia had that right. He said, “ But I am an Australian citizen, and I am going back to Australia by the mail boat. These immigrants cannot travel by that boat, but I expect to get to Australia before them, so that I shall be there to meet them.” He was again refused permission to nominate them. He thereupon sent a cable to his brother, Mr. George Cann, who is Minister for Labour in the New South Wales Government, and asked him to nominate ohe prospective immigrants. His brother did so, but, notwithstanding that they had already submitted themselves for the necessary examinations, these unfortunate people had to pass through the same examinations again. But Mr. Cann was not yet out of the wood. He was astonished to learn from the Department at this stage that one person could not nominate more than one immigrant. He said, “ Surely that is not so. I will interview Sir Arthur Cocks.” He did so. Sir Arthur thought that there “ must be a mistake somewhere,” and he rang for an officer. The officer repeated that it was not competent for one person to nominate more than one immigrant, and quoted the regulation in support of his statement. Sir Arthur Cocks investigated the position, and discovered that provision had been made for one person to nominate more than one immigrant. At last, after weeks of uncertainty, finality seemed to have been reached, but Mr. Cann left England before the immigrants. On his return to Sydney he spoke to his brother, Mr. Geo. Cann, about the matter. The latter pointed out that the regulation that provided that one person could nominate only one immigrant had been repealed for two years. How was it that the officers in the London office were unaware of it? My point is that it is extraordinary that this circumlocution is necessary to make the way clear for nominated immigrants to come to Australia. I was under the impres- sion that the New South Wales Labour Government was favorable to immigration under the nominee system, but these three immigrants have not yet arrived. Information came to hand some little time ago that they would arrive on the Largs Bay. A letter has since been received stating that it was found to be impossible for them to catch that boat, but they would leave England on the 15th of February. They, will be fortunate if they reach here at the end of March or the beginning of April. If that should be the case, it will have taken nine months to bring the negotiations to a successful issue. In circumstances like these the nominee system is a farce, whereas it should be the simplest thing in the world - if the Governments said to be favorable to it are really sincere.
-Henry Barwell. - Under the most favorable conditions the nominee system can only bring a trickle of immigrants here.
– Even if that is so the trickle should not be blocked. I did not know until recently that Sir Victor Wilson had charge of the Department of Markets and Migration. Since it is his department I should like to have information from him as to why this sort of thing is allowed. Perhaps the Minister will be able to answer this riddle: If in nine months you cannot bring one nominated immigrant here, how long will it take to bring 100,000? If results like these are achieved under Sir Victor Wilson, whose, ability has carried him to such dazzling heights in so short a time, what may we expect from a less, talented migration administrator ? It is essential that immigrants should come to Australia. The country is starving for them, and thousands of people in England are hungering for land. - If we cannot meet the situation better than we are doing, all I can say is that we “are little men flung into a great crisis. If it takes a gentleman who has been Acting Premier, Chief Secretary, Treasurer, and Railways Commissioner in our Mother State more than nine months to get a nominated immigrant to Australia, how -long will it take an ordinary man to do so? I should like to know if intending immigrants have to come via the Cape. Are they not allowed to tavel via the Suez Canal, and may they not travel by vessels of the Commonwealth Line?
– It looks as if the Government did not want these people to come to Australia.
– There does not appear to be any very great anxiety to bring them to Australia, although the Government comes to Parliament for money to carry out its immigration policy.
[4.47]. - I regret very much that Senator Thomas has ventilated this complaint in the Senate., instead of submitting it to me personally for investigation. The migration officers in the Mother Country, as Senator Thomas must know, are confronted with very many difficulties. The honorable senator mentioned the absence from London of the High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook) and the official secretary, and gave honorable senators the. impression that they were not discharging their duties.
– Not at all. I knew that Sir Joseph Cook was in Geneva, un Government business ; but I know nothing about the official secretary to the High Commissioner or the accountant at Australia House.
– I can assure Senator Thomas that I shall, at all times, be prepared to investigate any cases such as that which he has mentioned. Mr. John Cann is a well-known public man. If he cared to nominate 20 persons, he would be entitled to get them. There is no reason why, under the nominated system, any citizen of Australia should be limited to the right to nominate only one migrant from- the Mother Country.
– I know that regulation was withdrawn two years ago, but, apparently, the officials at Australia House did not know.
– Then I should like to impress upon the public generally that we are prepared to accept any number of nominations from any Australian citizens who are in a position to provide employment for the persons nominated. Senator Thomas also spoke in condemnatory terms of the strict medi cai examination of all intending migrants in London. This form of criticism is unexpected. Usually the department is criticised because the scrutiny is said to be not strict enough. Every reasonable precaution is taken to see that the right type “ of migrant is selected ; and the department makes the best arrangement possible for the transport of migrants.
– Are they allowed Lo come via the Suez Canal?
– They are expected to travel by the most convenient route. With a stream of 20,000 or 30,000 immigrants a year, it 13 essential that the department should have a free hand in arranging for transport.
– Do I understand that intending migrants are not prevented from coming via the Suez Canal ?
– If the facilities are available, no. Wherever possible we prefer that the migrants should travel by the Commonwealth Line of steamers. I may, perhaps, be permitted to cite one illustration of unjustifiable criticism by a gentleman who was unable to bring his English chauffeur to Australia when he returned from a visit to the Mother Country. He was very annoyed, and made a public complaint, but when he learned confidentially that the medical examination disclosed that the chauffeur was suffering from tuberculosis, he realized that the department was merely safeguarding the interests of Australia. The department did not care to publish, this information. It simply withheld permission. As to the delay mentioned by Senator Thomas in bringing people to Australia, honorable senators would be surprised if they knew how much trouble is caused sometimes by migrants who wish to travel by the next boat. The transport arrangements should be left in the hands of the department. I shall call for a report concerning the case mentioned by Senator -Thomas. In the short time that I am likely to be in charge of the department I shall make it my business to investigate carefully every complaint that may be made, because in the -working of our migration system co-operation with citizens in Australia is essential.
– Is it a fact that a visitor to the. Old Country, such as Mr. Cann, is’ not permitted, by the regulations, while there to nominate a migrant?
-I should ‘ not like to answer . that question un til I have again studied the regulations, but I should be surprised if they are legally construed in that way, and astounded if the department refused Mr. Cannes nomination on those grounds.
– I listened with, interest to- the Minister’s; explanation concerning the complaint made by Senator Thomas) about the delay in the nomination; -and arrival of certain immigrants. It appears to be a. case- of John Cann can’t, but George Cann can. But I did not rise to say anything on that subject. .1 -wish to make a brief explanation of the state of affairs in Papua. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I had the satisfaction and pleasure recently of a fairly close study of the conditions there. Expenditure by the Commonwealth on boring for oil has ‘been spread over a considerable period. It would appear that, In the earlier years at all events, the expenditure was somewhat unsystematic, but during the last three or four years everything has been carried out in a most workmanlike manner. Any trouble that has arisen has not been due to the faults of human agency so much as to the exceptional difficulties, unprecedented, I think, in the history of boring, that have confronted the officials. .Nine bores were put down in the Vailala district before they decided to shift the scene of operations to Popo. This, change was only made after most careful examination by, I think; six or seven geologists attached to the staff of the Anglo-Persian Company. These officials- came to the conclusion that, whilst oil undoubtedly did exist in the Vailala district. the country was so faulted and broken by disturbance that it was. impossible to get oil there except in small quantities. If honorable senators care to study the data available to them, they will find that the geological sections made by Dr. Wade, who examined that part of the country, coincide with the plan made by the- officers of the Anglo-Persian Company, and show the broken and faulted structures. Accordingly the boring plant was shifted to Popo, where the geological structure is very much more settled and operations are now being carried on there. On two occasions the plant was found to be unsuitable, but it was impossible to know this1 until boring had been- in progress for some time.. It has now been found necessary to employ what is known as the Fauck boring plant, the type usually employed in- Central Europe, where the geological features of the country are similar to those of
Papua, and also- W import drillers familiar with that class of country and! that type of boring plant. . The. mud stone strata, is: causing a great deal of trouble, the pressure exerted by t-his strata being as much as 1,000 lb. -or 1,100 lbs. to the square- inch. This enormous pressure has affected the perpendicularity of the bores and has been- responsible for the non-verticality of No-. 2 bore. I understand that better progress has been made since the boring plant has been in charge of these men, who have almost an exclusive knowledge of thatclass of country, and I think that in a short time one of the bores at Popo should reach a depth of 3,500 feet, which I believe is the depth to which the geologists say it should be sunk before all hope of finding oil is abandoned. Though our experience may have been costly in the past,, at present the boring plant is costing £2,000 a month or £24,000 a year, and admirable work is being done. The sum I have mentioned, which I believe, is the maximum, is an extremely small amount on which to run a plant,’ and, as a matter of fact, I do not think the whole of it has been expended. The work being undertaken is being carried out under great difficulties, as before boring can actually be started the difficulties of transportwhich include traversing bad roads or country where no roads at all exist, and delays at river bars - have ‘to be overcome. In addition, extremely difficult geological features have to be encountered while boring is in progress. In these circumstances. I would be sorry to see the search for oil at Papua abandoned by the Government, even if supplies are not obtained in this particular bore, because I am satisfied that, whilst we can get the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to carry on exploratory work for £2,000 a month, we are receiving good value for our money, particularly as we are utilizing the services of an expert staff in the employ of the company, the members, of which have had experience in almost every part of the world where oil i9 likely to be discovered.
– And we have the right of supervision.
– Yes, the officer on the spot who supervises the work for the Commonwealth reports to the department at fairly frequent intervals concerning the future prospects of the bore. I would remind Senator Lynch that this work is being undertaken on a government reserve of 1,000 square miles in area, and if oil is encountered on one portion the ‘Government can decide what it intends to do in regard to the balance of the reserve. In these circumstances, I regret that Senator Lynch has misconstrued the intention of the members of the Public Accounts Committee in the report they submitted, but I feel sure that he has acted bona fide. I am sure that the motive of the honorable senator in bringing the matter forward is that of doing good for Australia. The report anight, perhaps, have been somewhat more explicitly worded, but if Senator Lynch considers it carefully, and does not overlook the immense difficulties which have to be encountered, he will review his decision. I am sure that the Commonwealth Government is getting full value for the work being done in prospecting for oil in Papua, and it would be very fortunate if it could get similar prospecting done by any ohe else on anything like the same terms.
– I am pleased that Senator Lynch introduced this matter. I am inclined to think that the Commonwealth is not getting the benefit it should for the money being expended in searching for oil in Papua, as we have been informed that three bores have been sunk in various centres from which no satisfactory results have been obtained. An honorable senator opposite interjected to the effect that the workmanship was not what it should be.
– Who said that?
– An honorable senator opposite.
– That is not so. The interjections from this side of the chamber disputed Senator Lynch’s statement.
– I consider Senator Lynch’s statement fairly accurate. Senator Kingsmill, who .has had some geological training, knows a good deal’ concerning drills and drilling, and although I can imagine hard stone deflecting the course of a drill, I am at a loss to understand why mudstone should do so. Apart from the money the Commonwealth has spent in unsuccessfully searching for oil, approximately £100,000 of private capital has also been spent in different parts of Australia. with the same results. We are not getting the returns we should for the money expended. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon the Anglo-Persian Oil Company or to refer disparagingly to the agreement* which lie Commonwealth Government has entered into with that -company, under which the Commonwealth is to be supplied by it with 200,000 tons of -oil per annum for fifteen years at 2s. 3d. per gallon, while, at the same time, similar oil . is being sold in Great Britain at ls. S-d. per gallon.
– That agreement does not cover the work under discussion.
– I know that, but the Anglo-Persian Company is not giving the Commonwealth the treatment anticipated. Whilst the company is conducting the prospecting work on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, -and is also controlling the principal sources of supply in other parts of the world, the Commonwealth cannot expect to obtain good results from the boring being undertaken by the -company on its behalf. It is time that the business was placed on a better basis than it is at present. It is true that the Commonwealth Government has entered into an agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, under which the Government is supposed to have a controlling interest in the company’s operations in Australia aim Papua, but the Government has only three representatives on the local board, while the company has four. It is against the company’s own business interests to discover oil in Papua whilst the Government is an important customer-
-brockman. - The company is spending large sums in- prospecting work, not only in Papua, but elsewhere. ‘
– That may be so. Oil was found in German New Guinea in 1.914, prior to the outbreak of war, but concerning that find we have heard nothing since. What is being dome at that bore to-day? And what has become of the valuable seepages collected from it?
– The honorable senator is speaking now of the work done in the Mandated Territories, and not. in Papua.
– Yes. If oil was discovered there, why has not ‘developmental work been proceeded with ? ^ It is not in the interests of this great trust or combine, which is doing good business with the Commonwealth Government to discover oil in Papua. In 1922-23, 46,000,000 gallons of petrol and benzine, valued at £3,500,000 were imported into Australia, and in 1923-24 and 1924-25 the figures were: - 66,000,000 gallons, valued at £4,200,000, and 90,000,000 gallons, valued at £5,375,000. Oil fuel is likely to be used even more extensively in the future than it has been in the past, and if it is possible to discover supplies in payable quantities in the Commonwealth or the Mandated Territories, every effort should be made to do so. Under the present agreement, however, it” appears unlikely that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company will give the Commonwealth a fair deal, particularly as it has entered into a contract to supply the Government with its requirements for the next fifteen years.
– The remarks of Senator Bangsmill make it unnecessary for me to traverse much of the ground covered by Senator Lynch. I wish, at the outset, however, to reply to the statement of Senator Graham, who has repeated an insinuation previously made against the AngloPersian. Oil Company, to. the effect !tha.t under the present agreement the company is not likely to endeavour to discover oil in Papua. That allegation was one of the causes which led to the visit of the Public Accounts Committee to Papua. _ Senator Kingsmill. - It was the principal cause.
– The allegation was fully investigated by the Public Accounts Committee, and I would remind Senator Graham that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), who are members of his own party, were amongst those who conducted the inquiry. The other members of the committee consisted of Government supporters. A majority of the committee reported on this question as follows : -
In conclusion, the committee is of opinion that, as the result of its close investigation of the work of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company
Limited and its officers in Papua, and a visit to the scene of operations at Popo, there is no justification for the insinuations oft repeated that the company is not doing its best on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to find oil in the Territory. The services of the company’s experts “have been placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government for the performance of this work, and only actual expenditure incurred by the company in connexion with operations in Papua is allowed it.
The members of the party to which Senator Graham belongs reported -
We are of opinion that no evidence has been adduced to confirm the contention that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited is not making every effort on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to find oil in the Territory of Papua.
I do not know if Senator Graham has read the report, but, if he’ has, it is rather strange that, on the floor of this Chamber, he should repeat a serious allegation against the honesty of the company - -that is what he has done - when the whole matter has been investigated by the Public Accounts Committee, and the allegation unanimously refuted by every member of the committee, including members of the honorable senator’s party. In reference to the point raised by Senator Lynch, I desire to say that there are no divided counsels in the matter of prospecting for oil in Papua. There is only one counsel - that of the best geologists the company is able to obtain, and it is to the effect that there is a reasonable prospect of oil being obtained where boring is now being carried on. Senator Lynch, however, would lead one to believe that the fact that a number of bores have been unsuccessful is a. reflection in some way upon the experts who have advised us. If we could obtain the services of an expert who could tell us unfailingly where oil could be discovered, he would be worth his weight in gold, and oil would be cheaper than it is to-day. The facts are that, not only has the Commonwealth Government spent money, but the Anglo- Persian Oil. Company, the Standard Oil Trust, and other companies, have spent millions of pounds in sinking bores which have proved unsuccessful. Although they have had the services of the best experts in the world, the sinking done on their recommendation has not always been followed by the discovery of oil. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company, for instance, has spent approximately £500,000 in sinking unsuccessful .bores in Egypt, and has also spent fabulous sums in Persia and elsewhere on unsuccessful exploratory work. These companies, however, did not discontinue operations, but pursued the search until successful. The surface indications were, favorable in the valley of the Vailala River, referred to by Senator Lynch and Senator Kingsmill. But the expert could not see below the surface. The bore alone could reveal those broken conditions, and when they were revealed as the result of boring, the experts, while still retaining the opinion that oil had been there, came to the conclusion that the indications showed that it had escaped. After further geological surveys they recommended the Popo site.
– That shows that Dr. Wade’s opinion, was superseded.
– It does not indicate that. Dr. Wade made his report before any bore had been put down. ‘ He said that the Vailala River Valley looked a favorable place, and boring proceeded there.
– And then other experts came in and stopped the work there.
– No, quite a lot of bores were put down. One of them, I believe, was sunk to a depth of 1,800 feet.
– That was one of nine that proved failures.
– Oil in commercial quantities was not discovered there. What was discovered was this broken strata, which eventually led the experts to the belief that Vailala Valley was not the best place in which to carry on boring.
– They found small quantities of oil there.
– Yes, they found small quantities of oil. A change was made to the other locality at Popo. It is a mistake to think that Dr. Wade reported against the Popo site. He did not. It is in the areas in which he said oil might occur, but it was not the spot where he recommended that boring should first be carried on. Boring at Popo has attained a greater depth than was reached in any of the bores in the Vailala River Valley, and the indications bear out the statements of the geologists that the country there is more settled than it is in the Vailala Valley. There is also more likelihood of oil in commercial quantities being discovered there. Unfor tunately, when the bore at Popo reached a depth of about 2,000 feet conditions were . encountered which, while being favorable in the matter of giving indications of the presence of oil in the vicinity, caused considerable difficulty, inasmuch as owing to the enormous pressure of the strata the casing of the bore was deflected. Senator Lynch seems to think that the experts ought to have known beforehand that they were likely to meet with that tremendous pressure.
– It will have to be explained why the same pressure is not to be found 20 feet away where the second bore is being put down.
– The experts decided to put down a larger bore with stronger casing, which they assumed would be able to withstand the pressure. The fact that the casing in the first bore was deflected Was no condemnation of the locality. It was simply a revelation of the inability of the casing to stand local conditions which were previously unknown. When the officers in charge became aware of those conditions they proceeded to put down another bore in the same locality with stronger casing, which they considered would overcome the trouble. The bore has been sunk to a depth a little below that of the previous bore, but difficulty has been encountered in regard to some of the tools, which have lodged in the casing. It is a difficulty which of tens occurs in boring operations. There is also a little deflection of the casing.
– I understand that they are now “ fishing “ for the tools.
– That difficulty has been partly overcome. The experts are now awaiting the arrival of some material from Melbourne, and they hope to be able to get the bore down to a greater depth. If the plant will do it, and we have every reason to believe it will, we intend +o go down to the stipulated depth of 3,500 feet. I am pleased to say that the prospects, judging by the report as to the strata and the conditions generally, are more favorable for the finding of oil in commercial quantities at Popo than they are in respect of any other bore that has been put down in Papua. If, because of the difficulties encountered, we had abandoned the bore, and another company had come in, had gone down below the depth at which we encountered difficulty and had struck oil, every one would have said at once what fools the Government were to abandon boring’ because of striking; a little bit of difficulty.
IF Senator Lynch will look at the- report of the Committee’ of Public Accounts he will see- that the policy of the Government is embodied1 in the Oil Ordinance. The ordinance is too lengthy to read now, but- it sets out fully the condItions applying to private enterprise. To show that the> Government is not alone in its belief that oil will eventually be discovered! in Papua, I may say, in conclusion, that there are companies spending their own mooney in prospecting for oil in those localities surrounding Popo- which are now open to private enterprise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2,2nd January (vide page- 322), on motion by Senator Pearce-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In the course of his speech, Senator Pearce drew comparisons between the Barcoo country of western Queensland and the Barkly Tablelands of the Northern Territory in- order to show that sheep raising could be carried on in theTerritory. I agree with him that theBarkly Tablelands are undoubtedly a wonderful! asset to Australia, but compared with western Queensland they have two or three great disadvantages from a sheep-raising point of view. In the first place, there is no artesian water supply on the tablelands. . Sub-artesian water can be obtained, at depths varying from 160 feet to 25© feet, but that water has te be raised to the surface by pumps or windmills. In western Queensland artesian water can be obtained! by ‘boring to a depth of from 1,«00 feet to 4-,00-J feet; and instead of having to spend capital on windmills, oil engines or pumping plants of any description, a western Queensland pastoralist can by means of drains carry the water from his bore through the paddocks to practically every part of his run. The cost to him s very little beyond the original cost of putting down the bore. Another disadvantage of the Barkly Tablelands., compared with’ western Queensland, is that, owing to the absence of scrub, there is* no shade, for the. stock, and shade is particularly desirable during the lambing period-; furthermore, owing to the absence- of creeks, dams cannot be provided for a natural water supply. Notwithstanding these disadvantages, I believe that if a railway line is put through the tablelands, and if sheep country becomes scarce in other parts of Australia, wool-growers will be compelled to- go there. If, eventually, they do so, I believe it will prove to be a good proposition for them. The Minister in his reference to the possibilities that may follow the construction of railways in the Northern Territory, rendered a service to Australia, but I urge the Government to reconsider the position and first build the railway in that part of the Territory which is capable of producing wool, so that something practicable may be done’ to open up large tracts of country in that portion, of the continent. Later on the lighter cattle-carrying country could be opened up by a line from the south.
In the course of my few remarks I do not wish to throw cold water on the scheme put forward by the Minister, who has done more for the Territory than hasany other minister who has been in control of it. But, when he refers to the possibilities of mining development, we have to remember that there are many places in Australia to-day which are far more accessible than the areas the Minister has referred to. but which cannot be worked at a profit because of the high cost of production and the low prices obtainable for the output. You, Mr. President, know the Cloncurry district very well. Previously it supported a large and prosperous community, but now, because of the increased cost’ of mining and the reduction in the price of copper as compared with the price obtainable a few years- ago, its position is very unfortunate. There are other mining districts in Australia suffering in the same way. The Minister said that, with railway communication, the- White Range goldfields, near Arltunga, to the east of Alice Springs, might be opened up again. The history of gold mining in Australia has shown us that if gold is available in payable quantities anywhere men- will get it irrespective of the local conditions. I agree with the Minister that every facility and encouragement should be given to enable mining for a. valuable product to be. carried’ on. The government, battery at Arl- tunga carried on for- a number of years even at a considerable loss, until there were no miners left on the field. It was not the closing down of the battery that drove the- miners off. It was the fact that there was no stone- coming in to be crushed that caused the battery to be closed down. During the war, when the price of wolfram rose to over £100 a ton, good money was made by miners at Hatch’s Creek, in the Territory. But once the demand’ for wolfram returned to normal, th® field could not carry on. There- are millions of tons of wolfram at Hatch’s Creek which cannot be worked successfully at the present time. Wolfram’ is now exported from Eastern countries at £20 or £30 a ton, whereas to make it pay at Hatch’s Creek a return of over £100 a ton would be required. That is the main reason why that field is closed down at the present moment. I do not wish to deal further with this matter,, as other bills that are comnig before the Senate will provide us with an opportunity to discuss the Northern Territory and its railways. Although the appointment of a commission may domuch to develop the Territory, I suggest that we are perhaps a little premature in creating so much costly administrative machinery. Notwithstanding that view, I shall not vote against the second’ reading, of the bill, but I should like to see an amendment made in committee to provide for bringing the machinery into operation gradually. We have had, with varying results, a number of administrators, and I do not think the Commonwealth has yet had a truly successful administrator. If it is necessary to increase the- administrative staff, it should be possible to- do it by a gradual process, without creating, immediately all the machinery provided! for in the bill. I am afraid that we maty appoint, three men as members of this commission, and find out afterwards that they are not the most suitable men. for. the job. We might appoint at present one commissioner, and when, as development proceeds and ‘ the machinery provided for in the bill comes into existence, the commissioner finds that he needs assistance a second commissioner could be appointed. Later, in the same way, a third1 member could be added to the commission. To create, in. the place of the- Administrator, a board of three commissioners1, with. Governmentresidents, in the north and south,,
Ls a very big advance om the present system. The. Minister stressed the fact that the Territory was not at present an attractive proposition for a man of small means. for many years to come the holdings’- must be large and the population scattered. Australia is a huge continent, which 6, 000,000 people cannot” fill. There must, therefore, be empty spaces. I am mot saying that our population could not be better distributed, or that our cities are. mot congested. Let honorable senators consider for a moment the difficulties associated with developing- the centre of’ Australia, with its light rainfall, its tremendous distances, and the heavy cost of supplying water and other facilities. Obviously, until we have a larger population there will be parts, not only of the Northern Territory, but also of the States, which must remain empty. In the process or development the selector displaces the squatter and the squatter is driven further back. This measure is the result of careful study of the Northern Territory and its problems by the Minister, who should be commended for giving so much time and attention to- the subject. The bill will do at least one good thing, for it will show to- those- who contemplate investing money in the Territory that they have”, at the head of the department, a sympathetic’ administrator. I directed attention on Friday to the unfortunate circumstances connected with the venture of Vestey Brothers. It is pitiful to think that a company, with a capital of £29,000,000, spent something like £2,000,000, and received nothing in return. Vestey Brothers’ operations have not been a good’ advertisement for the Territory. By showing, particularly to those interested . in the beef -producing industry - and,, after all, beef, producing will be tie principal industry of the” Territory for some time to come - that the Northern Territory is being sympathetically administered, and that the Government of the day will pay some’ attention to their requirements, settlement may be encouraged and a repetition of the unfortunate conditions of the past avoided’. Honorable senators have equal responsibilities in assisting, to solve this; problem,, and I do not doubt that each of us would like to see the1 bill do what the Minister has’ predicted it will do for the Territory. If the Territory benefits from’ the passing’ of this bill, the whole of Australia will benefit. If the Minister’s hopes are realized, great credit will reflect upon him. He has the best wishes of every honorable senator for the realization of his anticipations.
– Those honorable senators whose homes are not far enough from Melbourne to necessitate their living here permanently, and who have to travel to and from their homes every week-end, are placed at a disadvantage when a minister introduces important legislation and the debate is proceeded with the following week. I have not yet had an opportunity of perusing Senator Pearce’s secondreading speech, and consequently, in debating the bill, I have to trust very largely to my memory. I listened with very great interest to the right honorable senator, and I shall endeavour to answer some of his arguments. Several persons have severely criticized the Federal Government’s administration of the Territory. I am not referring particularly to the administration of the present Minister, but to the administration generally of Commonwealth Governments. - Criticism has come more partcularly from South Australia. Within the last few days I have read in a newspaperthe statement of a South Australian representative in another place, who spoke very strongly about the failure of the Federal administration in the Northern Territory, and expressed the desire of South Australians to have the Territory back. I shall give the Senate one or two quotations from a pamphlet issued by a former Minister for External Affairs. Much of the business of that department is now done by the Home and Territories Department. The pamphlet states -
Apart from the debt on the Port AugustaOodnadatta railway, which was incurred in respect of expenditure, wholly in South Australia, but which was transferred to the Commonwealth as part of the price paid to South Australia for the Territory, there was at the date of transfer a debt of £3,931,085 (of which £151,000 was unexpended), which involved an annual interest charge of £151,41(1. It must not be understood that this debt represents actual cash outlay on the Territory. It had been the practice by the South Australian authorities to charge all expenses against a separate territory fund, which showed a .large deficit every year. The interest on previous excesses of expenditure over revenue was added to this deficit. From time to time, when the deficit amounted to a substantial sum, a loan was raised to wipe it out by transferring the amount to a loan fund.
On this interest was chargeable, and in turn was debited to the Territory, and so the process was repeated. It is,’ therefore, a fact that a substantial portion of the debt is made up of interest and compound interest, from which it cannot be said that the Territory has reaped any advantage. Unfortunately, information is not available at the present time to show what percentage of the total debt transferred represents real expenditure, the results of which should be visible in the Territory.
I quote that to show that South Australia never spent a penny on the Territory. It borrowed money to build railway lines and the administrator’s house at Darwin, and each year - the loss on the Territory was met by raising a further loan. It charged 6 per cent, for officers employed in the Territory, and added that to the debt. We may take with a grain of salt many of the statements that have been made about the great things South Australia did in the Northern Territory before it was handed over to the Commonwealth. The Minister discussed, in his speech, the potentialities of the Territory. I heartily agree with the views he expressed in that regard. I am an optimist about the Northern Territory. That it contains great mineral wealth, I have no doubt. Its pastoral possibilities are being thought of chiefly at present, and they are worthy of consideration. I believe that in time agricultural pursuits will flourish in some localities, but before that day can come, means of communication must be provided. Senator Foll, in his speech, criticized Dr. Gilruth for attempting, during his term as administrator, to demonstrate the agricultural possibilities of the Territory. If blame is attachable to anyone on that score, it must be to myself and, in some degree, to the late Honorable E. L. Batchelor, who was the first Commonwealth Minister in charge of the Northern Territory. Mr. Batchelor, whose death everybody deeply deplored, was Minister for Education in South Australia before he became a member of the first Federal Parliament, and, in that capacity, was responsible for the administration of the Northern Territory. He, therefore, had some experience nf. Northern Territory affairs before he assumed charge of them for the Commonwealth. Part of the policy he laid down as Federal Minister, involved experiments in agriculture. I succeeded him as Minister in charge of the Territory, and I thought that I could not do better than to carry on with the policy that he had laid down. Tor these reasons the blame for any failure in the experiments must be attached to myself and in some degree to Mr. Batchelor, but not to Dr. Gilruth. I do not propose at this stage to discuss the route that a developmental railway into the Northern Territory should take, but will content myself with remarking that before we can expect much development some means of communication with the south must be provided. I am not concerned at the moment whether railways, aeroplanes, or roads suitable for motor transport are most desirable. The report that I have already quoted states that there are no roads at all in the Territory. Gibbon says in his great history that the development of a country is shown by its roads; but when the Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth from South Australia it had no roads. The pamphlet to which I have referred proceeds -
There arc no roads at all. Here and there a track made by horses or vehicles marked the route from a township or station. These tracks varied from time to time at the will of the traveller and, generally speaking, were impassable during the wet season. No culverts had brien made or bridges constructed.
– Has it any roads now? I travelled over 2,000 miles of country there, and I met with ho roads, only tracks.
– I do not know what the position is to-day. The object of this bill is to hand over the development of the Northern Territory to a commission. The chief reason that the Government appears to have for wanting, to do this is that if the work is left to Parliament, time will be swallowed up in eternity before it is properly put in hand. The Minister in charge of the bill enumerated a number of. obstacles that militated against successful development under direct parliamentary control. I understood him to. say that the procedure under parliamentary control has been, and would need to be in the future, as follows: The Minister in charge would first develop a policy. He would then refer it to Cabinet for consideration. It might be a long while before Cabinet gave attention to it, for the Minister would have to wait his turn to submit it. That turn might be a long time in coming. I have had some little experience of the ways of Cabinets, and I know that that is so. Every minister thinks that his is the most important department and he tries to get the attention of Cabinet as frequently as possible. The situation might arise, the. Minister told us, that although a very good policy had been’ framed no consideration would be given it by Cabinet for some time. Even after Cabinet had approved ‘of the policy, the Treasurer had to be faced. I join issue with the Minister at this point. Cabinet having approved of a policy the Treasurer as a member of the Cabinet must give effect to it. In my experience Treasurers have done their best lo comply with the wishes of Cabinet. For the sake of argument, however, we will allow that this is an obstacle. The difficulty having been overcome, proposals would still have to go before Parliament. The Minister pointed out further that, unfortunately, it frequently happened that the Estimates were not passed by Parliament until late in the year. It would hardly be worth while commencing work then, he said, and before very much of the money could be spent, the vote would lapse. The Minister also pointed out that even supposing every one of these obstacles had been overcome, all projects estimated to cost more than £25,000 would have to be referred to the Public “Works Committee for consideration and report. I agree with the Minister that under the existing system many obstacles must be overcome before very much can be done *Id give effect to any ministerial policy. But is the Minister faced by any hurdle that would not face this commission? The commission would,, as a matter of fact, be subject to every control that hampers the Minister himself. The Minister has not told us that he would allow the commission to do as it pleased in the Northern Territory. It would “doubtless have to frame a policy and submit it to the Minister. If he agreed with it, he would have to submit it to Cabinet, and it would be necessary for it to pass through the same stages as a definite ministerial policy would have to pass. Is it likely that Cabinet would give more attention to the policy of the commission than to the policy of its own minister? The same argument may be applied to the Treasurer and to Parliament itself. We have been told that, under this measure, should it become law, the commission would be able to formulate, for presentation to Parliament, a comprehensive policy, covering a period of, say, five years ; and that, if it were approved, the commission could go ahead without delay. But could not the department itself formulate a comprehensive policy, obtain approval of it,’ and carry it out just as effectively as a commission? Pot three years I have not had the distinction and pleasure of sitting under you, Mr. President, and of associating myself with honorable senators. I have been dependent, during that time, upon the newspapers for a good deal of my information on public affairs. But, after my re-election to the Senate, I had the effrontery to ask a question about some railway matters in which the Prime Minister’s Department was interested. The reply that I received was that the Prime Minister bad sent some letters to. the newspapers and that I had better read them. This is my reason for using newspaper information as an argument to illustrate my point. I understand from the newspapers that . Parliament voted .£8,000,000 to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to be spent in developmental work over a period of five years. I understand, also, that that amount has been spent, and that a further sum of £2,000,000 is to be asked for to carry the developmental work still further. If money could be voted to the Postmaster-General’s Department to carry out a big comprehensive policy, over a period of five years, could it not be voted in a similar way to the Department of Home and Territories for the development of the Northern Territory ? Then there is the difficulty associated with the Public Works Committee. In that connexion, I may be excused for saying that one of my last acts in Parliament, before the country decided that I had better have three years’ rest from my parliamentary duties, was to move that work in connexion with the Federal Capital at Canberra need not be referred to the Public Works Committee for consideration and report. I thought that it would be impossible to carry out the Federal Capital work expeditiously if all the projects connected with it had to be referred to the Public Works Committee. On that occasion Senator Wilson, who was then a private member, suggested that I was jealous because I was not a member of the Public Works Committee. The Minister now proposes to give the. Northern Territory Commission authority to expend money on works exceeding in cost £25,000 without reference to the Public Works Committee.
– That is the only blot on the bill.
– I cannot understand why the same authority should not be vested in the Minister, because when Parliament is in .session he is here from day to day, and must accept responsibility for his administration. The commission, on the contrary, will not be answerable to Parliament. I am afraid that the real trouble with regard to the Northern Territory is that the Home and Territories Department has no wide comprehensive policy for its development. I have no wish to disparage either the Minister or the officers of his department. I simply say that the latter do not possess the necessary knowledge to frame and give effect to a sound policy for the development of the Territory. What knowledge can Mr. McLaren-, the permanent head of the department, have of the Northern Territory problems ?
– Mir. McLaren went tq the Territory to study the position.
– I suppose that he did not remain there very long. I have been to the Territory myself on a visit, but I cannot pretend to have an intimate knowledge of its peculiar difficulties. I feel sure that if the Minister came down with a policy that appealed to the imagination of Parliament and the people,, he would get parliamentary authorizationfor the expenditure of any amount asked for, because we are all anxious to- developthe Northern Territory on sound lines. Why should Parliament give to the proposed commission powers in connexion with public expenditure that are denied to the department iself ? The position of Canberra was different. There were many people who did not want the seat of” government to be moved from Melbourne. Consequently, certain members of Parliament were not in favour of voting an annual amount for works there. SenatorWilson, before he joined the Ministry, was opposed to expenditure at Canberra. He preferred to remain in Melbourne, but as a Minister he is prepared to give the Federal Capital Commission unlimited-, financial authority to develop Canberra.
– Does the honorable senator object to the proposal to appoint a commission to administer the Northern Territory?
– I am sorry if 1 have not made myself clear to honorable senators. I have been dealing with the reasons advanced by the Minister in support of his proposal, and I say that they do not appeal to me. I give the Minister full credit for his earnestness. He always pays honorable senators the compliment of preparing his case, and presenting the strongest arguments he can adduce in favour of any scheme which he brings before the Senate. In this case I do not think the reasons he has submitted are sufficient to ‘justify the proposals contained in the bill.
– Is the honorable senator opposing the bill ?
– I am, and -chiefly because the reasons advanced by -the Minister do not, in amy opinion, warrant Parliament in vesting the North Australia Commission with such wide powers. According to newspaper reports - I was not in Parliament at the time - *]le right honorable senator, when he became Minister for Home and Territories, presented a policy for Northern Territory development, and I believe he received the congratulations of his friends on both sides. What that policy was, I do not know, and if effect lias not yet been given to it, I should like to know the reason for the delay. I believe that considerable progress has been made at Canberra since the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission, .and again I say that the same satisfactory results could have been achieved by the department if Parliament had lifted the restrictions Imposed upon it. .Sir John Harrison is a member of the Federal Capital Commission. I met him once in .totally different circumstances. He was then devoting his time and .abilities to the splendid work of building houses for ‘returned soldiers under, the voluntary system. I believe he , cam build houses well, but I am not aware that he had built a city before lie- received ibis (present .appointment. Another commissioner is Mr. Gorman, who is a member .of a very respected and wealthy fern, of estate agents in Sydney.. I .am mot aware that he has built ‘a city.
– Does the honorable senator know of any man who has built a city?
– I believe, also, that the Government secured as chairman a very able engineer from Tasmania, Mr. Butters. My point -is that members of all these commissions must ‘necessarily rely to a great extent upon advice tendered ‘by departmental officers. I understand Idi at a number of officers have been transferred from the Home and Territories Department to the Federal Capital Commission, and I contend that the Northern Territory could be developed by the department itself. If, however, Parliament insists on giving the proposed commission unlimited powers, and if Parliament as determinedly restricts the operations of the Home .and Territories Department, .then, of course, it will be better to appoint the commission.
– Usually when a commission is .appointed care is exercised to select men :of special ability to carry -out the work to be entrusted to them.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that such men ,are not available in the department?
– The duty of the -officers .of a department is to carry out the policy of the responsible Minister.
– The department could develop the Territory just as effectively as the proposed commission if Parliament :agreed to -a definite .programme of development spread over .a number of years, as ki the case .of the PoSt and Telegraph Department a few years .ago.
– The honor-able senator might as well argue that we should not have a Postmaster.General, and that the officers of the department should do the work mow entrusted to ham.
– Not at all. If we agree to the appointment of the North Australia Commission, the Minister wi’l’l be able to -evade his responsibility. ‘On Friday last Senator Guthrie asked a question about certain timber that “was being used at ‘Canberra. T -do not think that that was a question upon which the fate of ‘the Empire or the Commonwealth depended. ‘It was asked however, in all seriousness, and the Minister replied that it was a matter over which he had no control, as it was dealt with by the commission. Some years ago Parliament appointed the War Service Homes Commission, and in doing so relieved the then Minister for Repatriation (the late Senator E. D. Millen) of the responsibility of administering that branch of his department. The result was a complete fiasco. The scandal in connexion with the administration of the War Service Homes Department, with which the late Senator E. D. Millen had nothing whatever to do, since the whole work was handed over to a commission, was largely responsible for his death. The late Senator E. D. Millen was one of the most brilliant Ministers we have ever had in this chamber, and whilst there is some one occupying his place here to-day, there is no one capable of filling it in the way he did. His responsibility in respect of the War Service Homes scheme was taken from him and vested in a Commissioner. The appointment of commissions enables Ministers to shirk their responsibility. It was once suggested that the people of the Northern Territory should be allowed to return a senator, who should, however, not be allowed a vote. The proposal was not adopted, but eventually, under a measure passed by Parliament, the residents of the Northern Territory were given a representative in another place, but without a vote. All that representative seems to have done is to have made a bitter attack upon the administration of Senator Pearce and a scurrilous charge against the exGovernment secretary in the Northern Territory, who is a returned soldier. In order to bolster up his case the Minister has stated that, under the Constitution as it stands, the Parliament cannot properly develop the Northern Territory, since the great men who framed the Constitution, in framing it, did not have in view the possibility of this legislature being called upon to administer a vast tract of new country. What is there in the Constitution to prevent the Commonwealth Parliament itself developing new territory ? Under it our powers are somewhat limited in so far as development works within a State are concerned; but what power does the Government of, say, New
South Wales or South Australia possess which the Commonwealth cannot exercise in respect of the Northern Territory? We have sovereign rights in the Territory. The Commonwealth Government has indeed more power in the Northern Territory than a State Government has within its own boundaries. If railway material, for instance, is imported by a State Government, it is subject to Customs duty, but if imported into the Northern Territory for use by the Commonwealth Government, the Customs duty may be waived. The problem of developing the Northern Territory is a very difficult one.
– In what way does the honorable senator think it could be developed ?
– I shall answer the honorable senator by quoting Disraeli, who, when criticizing the actions of the government pf the day was asked what he would do. His reply was, “ Wait until I am on the government benches.”
– What is the alternative of the proposal submitted?
– The Government should do the work, and not shirk its responsibility.
– It is the honorable senator’s duty to suggest an alternative policy.
– Surely not now.
– The honorable senator suggests going on as we have’ been for the last ten years?
– I suggest that instead of obtaining an annual grant the Government should ask Parliament to vote sufficient to enable work to be carried on uninterruptedly by the department for,- say, five years.
– That is not a policy.
– I think it is. I should like the Minister to stick to his guns. I do not make this suggestion in any unkindly way, because I have the highest possible respect for the right honorable gentleman. He was in control of the Defence Department during one of the most critical periods of our history, and carried on successfully .when most men would have broken down under “the strain. He was able to do so mainly because he was a total abstainer. In a. military sense much was then ^accomplished by him. He sent to the front a body of men better equipped and far more numerous than the force with which Wellington won Water: loo. In these days cif peace I should like him to exercise his ability in the direction of sending out men not to fight others, but to conquer nature. I should like him to demonstrate his capacity not in sending out men to besiege cities, but to establish new ones ; not to demolish communities, but to build up new ones.
– Does not the honorable senator think that some alteration is necessary?
– Yes. The Minister should bring down a policy under which money could be voted to enable his department to carry on the work uninterruptedly for five or six years. Under the present system perhaps nine months of the year have gone when the money for developmental works is voted.
– We cannot overlook the difficulties of transport and of communication between Melbourne and Darwin. It takes three months to receive a reply to a. letter sent to Alice Springs through Darwin.
– Yes, but telegrams can be despatched or wireless messages transmitted. Under the proposal of the Government the commission is not to be given full power. The commission will have to come to Parliament for authority to act.
– Its first duty is to submit a plan of its proposed activities.
– That is the trouble.
– The plan of operations has to be approved. The Minister is responsible.
– The responsibility is taken from the Minister.
– The Minister has the responsibility of approving, amending, or vetoing the policy submitted by the commission.
– The policy once approved, . the responsibility will be upon the commission.
– Yes, but an expert commission.
– Why not have an expert commission within the department?
– It is better to have one on the spot.
– I have already shown the unsatisfactory results which have followed the appointment of other commissions, particularly the War Service Homes Commission, and have briefly expressed my views concerning the disadvantages which are likely to follow this proposal to remove from the Government the responsibility of directly administering the affairs of the Northern Territory. Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [8.0]. - I hope it will not be thought that for a new senator I am showing an undue anxiety to address the Chamber at such an early stage, but this bill happens to be one that deals with a subject in which I have taken a very great and almost lifelong interest. I look upon it as . of the utmost importance, and I think time will show that it will be an epoch-making measure in the history of Australia. It provides for a scheme that in all probability will lead, to the creation of a new State or new States of the Commonwealth, and I am such a firm believer in the potentialities of the Northern Territory that I feel that nothing but good can come from a project which, like this, is aimed at the development’ of the resources of that country. Here I should like to express the hope that the wisdom and the advantage of passing this bill mav be proved during the reign of office of the right honorable gentleman, Senator Pearce, who now administers the Territory. The right honorable senator has made himself thoroughly acquainted with the Territory he is administering, he knows its possibilities, he is keenly interested in its development, and, to my mind, he is the man to do the pioneering work in connexion with the inauguration of a scheme such as that which is provided for in the bill he has introduced. I have travelled twice through the Northern Territory, and I profess to know something of the difficulties under which the settlers there are obliged to labour. I think I also know something of the difficulties that must confront a Minister who tries to administer .the affairs of the Territory under the .present system. Notwithstanding all that Senator Thomas - said this afternoon, in my opinion the development of the Northern Territory cannot be’ successfully undertaken from
Melbourne-. Every ona admits the absolute necessity of trying, to: do something, to- people and develop the north, but the impossibility of making progress, under the present system is admitted by any one who knows anything about the subject - that, is to- say, any one I have ever heard, with perhaps the exception of Senator Thomas. I doubt whether anyone who listened to the honorable senator really discovered what his idea was- in regard to it. Bie was opposed to the bill, but I could not- gather whether he was for or against the present system of administration. His speech was entirely destructive. He had not one constructive idea with regard to this all-important subject, nor any alternative scheme to suggest. He asked ‘ ‘ Why have a commission ? Why could not the officers do the work ? ‘” I du not know whom the honorable senator meant by his reference to “ officers.” I think he spoke of the officers of the Department of Home and Territories. But someone has to lay down the plan and outline a scheme. That is certainly not a task for departmental’ officers. Their duty is rather to get to work after a scheme has-been outlined for them.. I’ take it- that if a commission is appointed it will be composed of the best men to be obtained, men of ability who understand’ something of the problems of the north, and who will be capable of’ devising, some scheme that wilT make for the development of the Territory. I failed completely to understand the idea in themind of Senator Thomas.- Again the honorable senator asked ‘ “ Why let the Minister shirk his responsibility ?” Under the bill’ there is no question- of the Minis:ter shirking, his responsibility. I think that right through the measure the responsibility rests on him. The commission’s first duty is to devise and submit to him a scheme and the responsibility rests upon him to accept or reject it. In other words the scheme will not standunless it- is approved, fey him. There is, therefore. no shirking of responsibility on his part.
The “present system has shown that, the north cannot be successfully administered from Melbourne, and I. think that the case, put up by the Minister- was very strong. He outlined the present difficulties. They are. insuperable as far as. the- successful administration of the
Territory is concerned. He pointed to the fact that it takes three months to send a letter from Alice Springs, through Darwin- to Melbourne, and get a reply. The affairs of a young territory that has- to. be- opened up,, arndt in which all the pioneering work has to be done., cannot be administered’ like that. If there is something, ambiguous, in a letter that has- been sent from Alice Springs to Melbourne by way of Darwin, it will take another three months to have the matter cleared up. I do not think that any one with common sense- would say that under such a system it is possible, successfully, to- administer such a country, and so I claim’ that the case- for the alteration of the- .present administration of the Northern’ Territory is established’ beyond all question. There is some- difference of opinion as- regards: the- potentialities of the- Territory - whether it is worth while to attempt to do much with it. I have heard one. man. describe this portion of Australia as a. perfect, paradise. I have heard another man describe it, as. a howling wilderness. It is. neither one nor the other. I can understand a man who visits the Territory at the height of a good season, and,, in- the. winter, saying that it is a perfect paradise. I have been there in those circumstances myself. I was there in 1923, in a. very good season, and in the winter, and I thought it was a lovely place. I can understand another man, who may go> there at the height- of a drought, and, in the summer, coming back and using language by no means flattering to the Territory,, or encouraging as to its developmental possibilities. Having seen, the Territory under both conditions,, I. can say that the. contrast between the good season- and; the bad* season, is certainly striking.. But. I am firmly convinced of the wonderful possibilities of this country,, partly from my own knowledge-,, and partly from what I have heard of it.
I agree with the Minister that it. is necessary to. concentrates in. the first place upon the pastoral- and. mineral industries. Agricultural development no doubt, will come,, but it must be- a thing o# the. future. Nevertheless, there, are possibilities- of intense cultivation with closer settlement in; certain portions, of the. Territory. Take, for instance, the fertile areas’ that exist within the Macdonnell Ranges. Those who have- visited Alice Springs know that these ranges rise precipitously out of the plain. . They aire: steep and! high, but there are three distinct ranges’ running parallel* to ©ae another; with fertile fats of Ja, sandy- loam,’ lying in between. These flats will’ grow anything provided they have water. Thevegetables and fruit grown there will’ compare with anything that can be grownelsewhere in the Commonwealth. “Water is obtainable anywhere, and facilities for its conservation are simply ideal. But, for all that, I agree with the Minister that the development of the pastoral industry is the first thing that ought to- be undertaken. There are in the Territory 200,000 square miles of country suitable for pastoral pursuits. Of this area, roughly two-thirds is good country - some of it is very good - and the other third can, be described as fair. I agree,, alao, with those who have- said that some of the holdings are too large. I know that one run covers aim area of 8,90& square miles. It is: too lange. If the Territory is to be properly developed’ and stocked, the holdings should be sub-divided. When railway communication- is established1, a lot of that country which is’ suitable foi* sheep will’ be stocked with sheep. When I was there in 1933, I came across a man in the Macdonnell Eang.es,, about 100 miles north-east, of Alice Springs,, who was running 4,000 sheep, and who during the year sent 2,000. of them to Adelaide, where they topped the market. There is- no, question with regard, to the possibilities of running sheep, there. but that man had. to contend! with enormous’ difficulties. He was 4!O0 miles from the railhead’,, and he had not fences.. Owing bo the lack of means of. communication it was- impossible for kim to- get fencing material. Wild dogs, are very bad in the hills and his> sheep had to be shepherded clay and. night by blacks who. are oftenvery unreliable. It is only men with long purses ami stout hearts, who can, under present conditions, go into the Northern Territory and! hope to make a real success: of it despite the difficulties with which they have to contend! - high wages, high freights, and lack of means of. communication owing- to the absence of railways1 and roads. Apart from the* necessity of building a railway - - I am not- going tot enlarge- on- that at the present, moment, because, the bill dealing- with- the North-South Railway will- be before us in a few days - it will undoubtedly be necessary to establish, telephonic and telegraphic communication, make roads and put down bores and well’s. One- of the greatest needs of the settler in the Northern Territory is water. Many settlers have gone there without ample means, audi they have put down a certain number of wells, b«t it is necessary to have’ the wells at fairly short intervals if the country is to be anything like fully stocked. Cattle cannot travel very far each day to water. Therefore the cost of putting down bores or wells is very heavy, and if we are toput on that country any one except a man who has any amount of money theGovernment, will undoubtedly have to help! in the- shape of loans for the per.pose of finding and conserving water. **Senator Thomas referred to the mineral possibilities of the Territory. He said that he believed they were considerable. Undoubtedly they are very considerable. Minerals can be obtained all over the Territory. The possibilities in the Macdonnell Ranges, apart from other portions, are very great indeed. I have- been there myself. I saw fossickers there in I9’2’3’. They were getting gold by merely panning and washing sand from the creek, and they were getting it all the time. They made enough money to> enable them to go away for a good spree, and then they returned again and made more. They could get gold wherever they went along those ranges. The White- Range which is of quartz or quartzite formation, extends for 30 miles,, and every part of it contains gold in payable quantities.. I happen to have kept,, in connexion with the North-South railway, newspaper cuttings over a period, of years, and yesterday, when I was looking at them, one of. the first things I saw was a report by Mr.., E. C. Playford, who, I believe, is the recently appointed Acting Administrator of the Northern Territory, and! who, in 1920, was ‘ mining, warden there. Here is a telegram from Darwin which appeared in the Adelaide Register of’ the 20th October, 1920-
Mr. E. G. Playford, Mining Warden, has returned to .Darwin, after an. absence of ten months.. Me. Playford gives an interestingdescription of the; White Range mines, near Arltunga, 60 miles from Alices Springs, oil- a surveyed route for the proposed North-South line. Those mines were worked ten or twelve years ago, but are a low-grade proposition, and must be worked on a big scale to pay. This would require much machinery and fuel, and supplies for a large number of men. This was impossible without a railway. The mines were closed down. Should the railway be built, these mines would bo the greatest in Australia. When originally worked, one of the mines produced 7,000 or 8,000 tons of stone which, crushed at a Government battery 6 miles away, yielded 1£ oz. standard gold per ton.
This is not a nobody who is speaking, but a Government official with technical knowledge. I shall not read the whole of the report, but Mr. Playford further says -
Most of the gold is in great “ bugs “ and also in a kind of gossan. A hill rises on the property to a height of 800 feet, and the four lodes, starting at the base of the hill, go right through it. The warden said, with .emphasis; “ But I tell you it is no good without a railway. If they get railway communication either with Oodnadatta or with the nearest Queensland railway, this mine would be the biggest thing in Australia.”
That gives some indication of what is thought by experts who have been there and assayed samples. There can be no doubt about the mineral possibilities of the Territory, and when the railway goes through a very big impetus will be given to mining. I obtained some time ago - I am sorry I have not got it with me at the moment - returns from the Government Department in Adelaide showing the yield at the battery erected by South Australia. That battery was put down about 1900 or a little earlier. The latest figures I obtained were for 1916, and they showed that the yield per ton of gold had steadily increased. The further the operations . were carried the greater the yield became. The returns were for the years 1903, 1906, 1911, and 1916.
– Why did the battery close down?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Because of the impossibility of carrying on at a profit without means of communication. The battery was closed when I was there. It is situated about 70 miles from Alice Springs, and very rough roads have to be travelled in order to reach it. The stone was handled in a very rough and ready way, and had to be carried from the mine to the battery on the backs of blacks. Of course, the mineral deposit upon which Mr. Playford reported, and which he said would be, with railway communication, the biggest thing in Australia, is not the only mineral deposit in the Northern Territory. Valuable deposits are to be found all over the Territory, as honorable senators well know. I suppose every one has heard of the wonderful find of silver lead at Barrow’s Creek, about 200 miles north of Alice Springs. The returns are extremely high. It is a very rich stone, equal to anything Broken Hill has produced, and there is quite a lot of it within sight. The mineral possibilities of the Northern Territory are certainly very great. Leaving that aspect of the subject for a moment, let me return to the pastoral industry. When I went there in 1923 I travelled as . far as Central Mount Sturt, or Stuart, as it is called by some. From the South Australian border to Central Mount Sturt there is no country that can be described as desert. There were certainly some sand hills, but they were- fairly well covered with mulga and spinifex. Some people say that spinifex is no good, but those who live there say that .the seeding stalks, are good fattening feed. Between the sand-hills are well-grassed sandy flats. The country improves as one goes north. I have travelled well over 2,000 miles by motor car in the Territory, ‘ and there is very little country that I went through that coUld be described as poor. Most of my journeyings were along or near the route of the railway. There are immense areas splendidly grassed, and carrying much mulga and acacia. There is certainly not much permanent surface water, but water can be obtained at a shallow depth practically everywhere I went, and I think the same is true of most parts of the Territory. In 1923 I went through the Burt Plains, which lie immediately north of the Macdonnell Ranges. They were a perfect picture. I have photographs taken on the Burt Plains of motor cars the- tops of which, are barely visible above the high and thick grass. - Senator Findley. - What kind of grass was that?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Mitchell and various other varieties of grass grow there. I do not know the names of them.
– Was it Mitchell grass that grew- as high as a motor car ?
– I am not sure of that. All I know is that we were told by people on the spot that the grass was good feed. I mention these matters merely to prove to those honorable senators who have not been there that this is a country worth developing. Some difference of opinion is expressed outside the Senate as to whether the country really is worth developing, and it is marked on the map as a desert. I assert that it is not a desert, and I do not know any part of it that is a desert. It is certainly worthy of attention.
I should like to refer to a statement by Senator Thomas, in which he said that South Australia had done nothing for the Northern Territory. Such a statement is absurd. That State had the responsibility of administering the Northern Territory, and it certainly accumulated a debt running to over £3,000,000. But what has the Commonwealth done since? Look at the debt that has been piled up, with not nearly so much result as came from expenditure by South Australia.
– I did not say that South Australia had not done anything. I said that it had not spent anything.
– Yes, but there was a sneer about the statement which the honorable senator must admit. Every one in the chamber noticed it, and I, as a South Australian, cannot allow it to pass without protest. As far back as 1871, 55 years ago, South Australia, then a mere handful of people, built the overland telegraph line.” Was “it nothing for a few people in a State to undertake a liability like that? At that time South Australia did not know that she would be able to rid herself of the Northern Territory. She assumed the responsibility, and showed a boldness in developmental policy that is a good example to the Commonwealth to-day. She built the railway line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, about 480 miles, and the line from Darwin to Pine Creek, 148 miles. The statesmen of South Australia set to work in a statesmanlike way, and did these big things. The line to Oodnadatta was built as part of the overland line, and it was never intended that it should stop at Oodnadatta. It could not pay if it. terminated there, and if South Australia had retained the Territory it would have extended the line before now.
– Did not South Australia cease the construction of the Oodnadatta line twenty years before the
Northern Territory was handed over to the Commonwealth?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I do not know the year when it was stopped, but I know that it was built as an instalment of the overland line, and that it ‘ was started at both ends. If Senator Thomas is fair, he will admit that this mere handful of people, in one of the smallest States of the Commonwealth, undertook this big responsibility, when they did not know that they would be able to shift the liability on to the Commonwealth. Every credit is due to South Australia. It is not right for Senator Thomas, or any other honorable senator, to sneer at what that little State did at that time. South Australia financed Sturt and Stuart when they went through the Territory. I could say many other things about what South Australia did, but I shall not do so because I think every other honorable senator admits that that State did a. great thing by the Northern Territory, and deserves every credit for it. Now let me come to the proposals in the bill. The bill does not propose to establish local self-government, and I think the Government is wise in not going that far. Local selfgovernment at present is impracticable. To provide some 2,000 people, in a territory of some 500,000 square miles with a satisfactory local governing scheme would be almost impossible. It is proposed, in the bill, that the Northern Territory should be separated into two parts, taking the 20th parallel of south latitude as the dividing line. The Government is wise in desiring to divide such a vast area. The appointment of two Government residents, a commission of three members, and two advisory councils of four .members each, is proposed. At first glance that seems somewhat cumbersome machinery to set up, but on reflection I think’ it will be realized that it is not so. I must confess that I thought the scheme was top heavy at first, but on consideration I altered my opinion. I presume that the members of the advisory council will be paid fees but not salaries.
– They will receive fees to cover their outofpocket expenses.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.That would be the better way to meet the needs. The. Government residents will-, of ‘Course, be well paid, but I hope . the salaries will not be the deciding factor in appointing the members of the commission. Upon the personate! of this commission will depend the success or failure of this scheme. If the right .men are -selected, success is assured, but if the wrong men are .chosen dismal failure is certain. I am sorry that the Government (has limited the amount that may be paid to the members of the commission.
– Mae ‘Mi-mister in charge of .the bill said quite definitely that if it were found necessary to pay higher salaries than those contemplated, ‘he would mot hesitate to ask Parliament to provide mere money for the purpose.
– The right honorable gentleman showed his wisdom in making that statement. When I was Premier of South Australia I made up my mind that I would pay the very highest salary to secure the very best commissioner for the State Railways Department. ‘The policy is always worth while. Certainly the very best qualified men it is possible to get, irrespective of salary, should be( appointed to this commission. That will be economy in the long ran, and that alone. The only point in the bill which leaves me unconvinced is the measure of power proposed for the commission. Seeing that it will be such an expensive body, it seems to me that it could be given even wider powers. T do not mean more power in relation to the matters specified in the bill, but in other ways. Would if not be worth while, for instance, to authorize it to deal with mining and fisheries? These are essentially matters that will affect the development of the Territory. I .am informed that the fishing industry will become very valuable as the ‘Territory develops.
Senator -Guthrie. - What would be done with the fish ?
– They would be tinned, of course. A wonderful lot of edible fish may be caught in t3ie Territory waters. It is a generallyheld opinion that fishing will become an important industry there. Why should not the commission be given control of aborigines-.? Education is another matter that it could very well manage. These -things could be handled efficiently and -expeditiously on the ‘spot, and must necessarily be expensive to manage from Melbourne. I consider the bill to be a good, practical effort by the Government to create machinery that will lead to real development of the Territory. It merits the sympathetic support of all honorable members. I .am sorry that Senator Thomas saw fit to condemn it in such round terms, particularly .as he had no counter .proposals to offer. He was .asked for his proposals, but -replied, in -effect, that he would state them when on the Treasury bench. The honorable .senator may never get there. I give the Government every possible -credit for evolving this scheme. It is well worthy of a trial.
– It does not require a very great mental effort to hand anything over to ;a ‘Commission.
– Nobody suggested -that it did. My suggestion is that a commission of thoroughly qualified experts residing in the Territory will be much more likely to do effective work than a Government department controlled from the seat of ‘Government at Melbourne or Canberra. Everything depends, of course, on getting the right men. The pro’blems associated with the empty north aTe many, but they are not insuperable. I believe we ought to give private enterprise more encouragement, for I think it is destined to play a much more important part in these developmental projects than government. I was pleased to hear ‘Senator .Pearce .say that he was not satisfied with the Northern Territory land laws, and that .they must be altered to provide for a freehold title in certain cases. That is exactly my opinion. ‘The people who go into the Northern Territory to develop it will certainly desire more security than is afforded by leasehold.
– I think long leasehold tenure at peppercorn rentals is desirable. I am personally opposed -to the freehold tenure in the Northern Territory.
– The granting of freeholds would induce more people to take up land there than leasehold at even a peppercorn rental. But I realize that this is a matter on which there must inevitably .be .-a difference of opinion.
– If .a freehold tenure were given the ‘eyes might be .picked out of the .country and ‘.the ‘Government de- prived for all time of the best land. If long; leaseholds were granted at peppercorn rentals X feel certain that people would settle there, and the land would still- remain in the hands of the Government.
– There are certainly two. sides to the. question,, but I advocate the freehold system.
– I do not think that the. Minister suggested providing a freehold title for pastoral lands, but only for the smaller agricultural holdings.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL That is what I understood.
– Who’ is to decide which land is suitable for pastoral, and’ which for agricultural purposes?
– It is obvious that one of the first duties of the- commission will be- to classify the land under its control. In conclusion may I express my satisfaction that Senator Pearce baa not only seen, and appreciated the: Northern Territory,, but. that he has: sound ideas as to its development, I trust that the Government will appoint to this commission men of the same knowledge and vision as the- night honorable gentleman himself. If that be done, the time is not far distant when the Northern Territory will cease to be an. encumbrance and will become a valuable asset to the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Lynch) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21st January (vide page 240) on motion by Senator Pearce -
That- the hill he now read a second time..
– I ask leave to continue my speech on the resumption of- the debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON (South Australia) [8.431”. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
My first remark i-n regard to this bill is that it is considerably overdue. As far back as I can remember in my public life, the building of the North-South railway has been a matter of public interest, and the introduction of this bill revives the subject in a practical form. An agreement to buil’d’ a line to Alice Springs from- Oodnadatta was made in 1907, between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments. It was virtually incorporated’ in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910.. This year is 1’ikely to be reckoned, in the days to corney as the one in which a start was really made to. accomplish something in the way of real development in the Northern Territory.. When South Australia handed the Territory over to the Commonwealth it made certain stipulations, which honorable senators will see in the schedule to the bill-. These seem to Gover every reasonable matter’, except the time within which the line is to be completed. Agreements of this character, which appear to be quite clear to the lay mind, are capable- of varied interpretations by legal practitioners. That is very evident from the numerous legal interpretations that have been given- of the original agreement ber tween the- Commonwealth and’ South Australian Governments. I think .the time has arrived when we must do something to develop the Northern Territory, if we desire to hold it. Honorable senators generally must agree that that, is so, after having listened to the interesting and informative speech just delivered by Senator Sir Henry Barwell. Unlike several honorable senators I have not had an opportunity to visit the Northern Territory, but I know that a considerable number of young men are anxious’ to have an opportunity to take up land there, with a reasonable prospect of success, which will be impossible unless we push on with railway construction. This bill, with another- that will come before honorable senators to-morrow, represents a serious attempt on the part of the Government to fulfil the contract entered into with the State of South Australia.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON.That is true, but there was a remarkable discrepancy in the capital cost of the two schemes. This measure, however, merely seeks the ratification of the agreement, which appears as the schedule to the bill. The agreement also provides that the State of South Australia will, at the expense of the Commonwealth, during the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, lay a third rail on the 5 -ft. 3-in. gauge from Red Hill to Adelaide, so that when the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill is completed there will be a continuous railway on the standard gauge from Port Augusta through to Adelaide.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON.Senator Guthrie’s pessimism reminds me of an opinion .expressed by .the late Hon. J. Lewis concerning Pinnaroo eighteen or twenty years ago. When I interviewed that gentleman about financing a certain transaction at Pinnaroo, he said, “ Why go into the desert? You might as well throw your money into the gutter ?” To-day Pinnaroo is one of the most progressive and successful districts in South Australia.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON.Yes.
Debate (on motion ‘ by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Senate adjourned st 9.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 January 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260127_senate_10_112/>.