15th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate, on the 2nd June, . 1938, adjourned till a day and hour to be fixed and to be notified by the President to each honorable senator.
The Senate met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the notification of the President.
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair, and read prayers.
Canberra Comm unity Hospital.
Senator BRAND brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the proposed erection of a Community Hospital at Canberra.
– On the 1st June, Senator J. B. Hayes asked the Postmaster-General the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable senator with the following answers : -
– I ask you, Mr. President, if your attention has been directed to a statement appearing in today’s issue of the CanberraTimes to the effect that the Opposition in the Senate consists of only three members, all of whom are Queenslanders? If you have not seen the statement will you read it- and lake steps to correct the error, in justice to the party which I have the honour to lead in this chamber, and which includes Senator Cunningham, a colleague from Western Australia, and Senator Ashley, of New South Wales?
– It is not the duty of the Chair to take notice of the numerical strength of parties in the Senate. Furthermore, if the Chair paid attention to statements that appeared in the local press, it would require to take notice of what appeared in the press all over the Commonwealth, and instead of there being one occupant of the chair, there would have to he at least a dozen.
– On the 2nd June, Senator E. B. Johnston asked the following questions, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that on the morning of Empire Day, National Broadcasting Station 2FC (Sydney) was utilized for the wide dissemination of propaganda in favour of unification and the abolition of State parliaments and State governments?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable senator with the following reply : -
– Can the Leader of the Senate furnish any information with respect to the wandering Trade Delegation from Australia? I understand that our representatives are somewhere in Europe, and I should like to know whether they are likely to return within the next few months, or whether they intend to remain in England until the test cricket matches have been played.
Question not answered.
– Does not the Leader of the Senate intend to answer my question?
– I cannot compel a Minister to reply to any question.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce advise me of the stage reached in the preparation of amendments to the Seamen’s Compensation Act ? Also, will the amending legislation be introduced during the present session? If not,” when may we expect this much-delayed measure to be introduced?
– The amendments to the Seamen’s Compensation Act are being considered. Consultations are being held with other departments concerned, and the amending legislation will be introduced at the earliest possible moment,
– On the 1st June, Senator Collings asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice -
The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– I ask the Leader of the Senate if it is a fact, as reported in the press, that there is a great diversity of opinion between the Australian and British delegates at the conference in London which is now considering a revision of the Ottawa Agreement, particularly, as to articles 9 to 13 inclusive, which affect Australia’s tariff policy? In view of the importance of the effect of the proposed agreement upon Australia’s fiscal policy, will the Senate have an opportunity to discuss the draft agreement before it is agreed to by Australia’s delegates ?
– Such negotiations may be carried on with or without difficulty, but it would be unwise for this or any other Dominion Parliament, or the Mother of Parliaments, to discuss the subjects involved while negotiations are proceeding.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 16 of 1938 - Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen; Australian Workers’ Union; Boilermakers’ Society of Australia: and Electrical Trades Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No . 50.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
A ppointments - Department of -
Attorney -General - N. L. Hutchison. Commerce - C.N. Belle.
Interior - P. E. Disney, F. G. Doran, and W. F. Jones.
Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1938, No. 54.
Maternity Allowance Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 61.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 8 - Native Labour.
No. 9 - Arms, Liquor and Opium Prohibition.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938,” No. 52.
Northern Territory - Recommendations of Policy in Native Affairs in the Northern Territory, by Dr. Donald Thompson - Melbourne. December. 1937.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 53.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Adelong, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Ararat. Victoria - For Defence purposes. Cod una, South Australia - For Defence purposes (2).
Darwin, Northern Territory - For Defence purposes.
Eastwood, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Kissing Point, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 7 of 1938 - Methylated Spirit.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say if any provision has been made for the issue of railway passes to the senators-elect, who are to be sworn in on Friday week? Will passes also be issued to the wives of new senators who wish to attend the swearingin ceremony?
– I assure the honorable senator that those arrangements have been or will be made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Regarding Rifle Clubs -
Is it a fact that the Minister has set a limit to - (a) The number of clubs; (b) The number of members in the aggregate?
What is the role of the rifle clubs in the scheme for the defence of Australia?
Is approval given for the formation and retention of clubs only in localities which may be of tactical value or else bear some relation to mobilization centres in the event pf a state of war arising?
What are the qualifications for membership of a club?
Are there any tests of physical fitness and efficiency required of members of clubs?
What are those tests - if any?
What inspection is carried out by the Military Board in order to ensure compliance with those tests?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) Yes. 1,200 clubs.
Yes. 50,000 members.
The age for retirement is65 years.
Male persons who are British subjects may be elected . as honorary members by the committees of rifle clubs.
There is no test of physical fitness but there is an annual test for efficiency. . 6. (a) To be classified as efficient in each year an active member must: -
HOME CONSUMPTION PRICE.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
Transfer of Beam Stations
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following : answers: - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Government was consulted prior to the setting up of the rates conference in London and agreed in principle, in common with all other . Empire governments, to the transfer of the beam stations In the United Kingdom as a basis upon which the re-adjustment of rates could be effected.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff 1938.
Customs Tariff (.Exchange Adjustment) Bill 1938.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference)1938.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is probably one of the most important and far-reaching measures of social reform ever submitted for the consideration of this Parliament. The truth of this statement will become more apparent as I outline the scope of the bill and explain the principles upon which it is based.
But first let me state one or two principles which, I think, should be ‘borne in mind in approaching the consideration of a measure of this kind. All will agree that it is essential for the maintenance and prosperity of a democratic country that its people should enjoy as great a measure of social security as it is possible to provide - security against the ills of the flesh to which we all are heir, security for their dependants in the case of premature death, and security against the vicissitudes of life in general. -The peace of mind and contentment which result from* the knowledge that a measure of security is provided cannot be over-estimated. In the case of the working man - and I need hardly mention that working men constitute by far the greatest part of our population - the anxiety consequent on sickness cannot but have a depressing effect on him generally. The contingencies covered by the bill - namely, sickness, disablement, old age and widowhood - are those against which he is anxious to provide. With, these contingencies provided for, I believe it may be safely asserted that, as the years go on, the improved outlook of the “working man will be reflected in his increased efficiency and his general happiness and contentment. There is another fact to which I think I should refer. It is that within the last 50 years the birth-rate in Australia has fallen by more than one-half. I may be asked what is the connexion between birth-rate and social insurance. A report recently issued by Mr. Harold Butler, then Director of the International Labour Office in Geneva, suggests that the spread of social insurance may operate to check the restriction of the birth-rate by improving the prospects of social security. One of the reasons frequently advanced to explain a falling birth-rate is that parents are unwilling to bring children info a world where there’ is so little security for their future. One of the greatest fears of the married man is that, if anything should happen to him, he .would leave a widow and young children unprovided for. While these circumstances persist, there will be the regrettable restriction of families that exists to such an extent in Australia at the present time. Anything that diminishes this sense of insecurity can hardly fail to counteract one at least of the causes of a falling birth-rate. It is difficult, in present circumstances, for many married men to make anything approaching reasonable provision for their families in the event of their death, but this is precisely one of the most important objects of a well-designed system of social insurance. The scheme we are now considering guarantees provision for life for the widows of insured persons, with allowances for their dependent children, of which the average Capitalized value is Approximately £700. Such a provision will give to many a family some degree of confidence in the future, and it is not too much to hope that it will be reflected in an everincreasing birth-rate as the beneficent effects of the scheme become more generally enjoyed.
The magnitude of the scheme will be appreciated when it is considered that it brings directly within its scope over 3,850,000 persons, and affects, including wives and children, a total of no fewer than 3,600,000 persons, or about 52 per cent, of the people of Australia. It applies to the bread-winners, the sick, the aged, and the wives, widows and orphans of the workers,, and it affects persons in every walk of life. The benefits for which the scheme makes provision are the following: -
Weekly cash payments during sickness, called in the bill “sickness benefit “ or “ disablement benefit “.
Free medical attendance and free medicines, called in the bill “ medical benefit “ ;
Superannuation pensions for insured persons, life pensions for their widows, and pensions for their orphans up to the age of fifteen; and
Allowances for dependent children, under the age of fifteen, of persons receiving pensions or sickness or disablement benefits.
The contingencies to which I have referred are to some extent already met in various ways, but it is now recognized in nearly every country of’ the world that only under a national scheme of insurance, involving the co-operation of the government, the employer, and the employee, can a satisfactory and comprehensive scheme be devised for the protection of the wage-earners against the various misfortunes of life. Government systems, both Commonwealth and State, have already made generous provision for the sick, the needy, and the aged. The Commonwealth scheme of invalid and oldage pensions is one of the most generous in the world. There are in our midst, however, persons depending on wages and salaries for their livelihood, who desire to provide some protection for themselves and their, families, but they are unable to make this provision out of their limited resources. A typical case is that of a wage-earner afflicted with a long illness. By reason of loss of earnings and medical expenses, the savings of a life-time may be consumed and future earnings mortgaged. Should he die the widow and dependants may be left unprovided for. These cases are not necessarily covered bv the present legislation, and it is for the purpose of meeting them that the- scheme embodied in the bill has been presented. If the bill be passed, the individual, with the co-operation of the Government and his employer, will be able to provide some measure of protection for himself and his family.
The question of national insurance has been under consideration in this country for several years. A royal commission reported on it in 1925, and in 1928 a national insurance bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. The, financial, position since 1928 has not, I need hardly remind honorable senators, been such as to encourage any government to venture on a scheme of the mag’nitude of a national health, insurance scheme. The delay during the depression is understandable when it is realized that the scheme embodied in the present bill involves a total liability on the Australian nation of over £281,000,000. This amount is an inescapable liability, because under no circumstances must this scheme be allowed to become unsound from the actuarial point of view. I stress this figure, firstly, because of its magnitude, and, secondly because it shows the impossibility of embarking on such a scheme except under more prosperous conditions than those which prevailed in the years subsequent to 1928. With the gradual improvements in the national finances the time again became opportune for the revival of the matter. And now, after due consideration, the Government has brought forward the plan contained in the measure at present before us. In so acting, the Government has, I think, happily combined action with due consideration - a course which is counselled by Sir Arthur Salter in the following passage from his Constructive Democracy: -
I remember, when I was in China a few years ago, I was amazed at the enormous number of plans for financial and economic reform to which I was asked to add one more. They seemed to be always thinking but never acting. When I came back here, we seemed to be always acting but never thinking, T thought bow good it would be if each could get a little of the other’s habits in that respect.
The points I have mentioned emphasize the importance of the measure. Well might the Treasurer describe it as “one of the most far-reaching schemes of social reform that has been presented to the Federal Parliament”. It relieves the mind of the bread-winner; it makes provision for the sick and aged; it assists widows and orphans; and touches more closely the people of Australia than any other measure of social reform hitherto introduced. The measure now presented represents the major plank of government policy enunciated at the recent election, and every effort has been made to place it before Parliament with the least possible delay. With the completion of the census recently, reliable information and statistics .became available upon which to base calculations. The Government also had the advantage of the advice of expert and most experienced officers, whose knowledge was gained in a very practical way under the British scheme. The Government were guided also by the best actuarial advice that Australia could supply. Might I, at this juncture, be pardoned for paying a tribute to a colleague who has been able to prepare and submit to Cabinet such a comprehensive measure suitable to Australian conditions and modelled on, we believe, the best model of a health and pensions insurance scheme at present in existence. I refer to the British scheme.
Germany appears to have been the pioneer of the national system of insurance, but almost every country in the world to-day has a national scheme of insurance involving co-operation between the government, the employer and the employee. Honorable senators are, no doubt, aware of the countries in which these schemes have been adopted. We, in Australia, are tuning in with the-times, and I venture to think that as a result of this measure we shall assist in relieving the worries and anxieties of those who have the burden of family responsibility. It is not proposed to touch the provisions of our Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but we shall introduce in this scheme a method whereby those who live prudently and save for their old-age will not be handicapped by the existence of a means test or any inquisition into their affairs. Some thousands of our people . have endeavoured to provide against the risks of sickness, health and old-age through the medium of various bodies. The friendly societies have played a not unimportant part in providing for the needs of the people, and are entitled to credit for so doing. Insurance companies, provident societies and some trade unions have made similar provision. There is evidence from the work done in this valuable way that there is a call for a national scheme. The greater part of our population remains unprotected, either for the reason that they are thoughtless of the future or because they are unable to make the necessary payments called for by the existing organizations.
One of the most serious problems the Commonwealth has to face is the rapid rise of costs under the present Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Thirty years ago the annual cost was about £1,400,000. Twenty years ago it was about £4,000,000. Ten years ago it was about £10,000,000. This year it will rise to about £15,800,000, and the actuaries estimate that, 40 years from now, the cost would amount to £32,000,000 a year. These disquieting increases in the annual burden are mainly due to the fact that the expectation of life of the people of Australia is steadily rising, whilst the birth-rate has steadily fallen. The consequence is that the average age of our people is steadily rising, and it is estimated by the actuaries that 40 years hence the number of our people of pensionable age - women 60 years of age and over, and men 65 years of age and over - will have risen from the present figure of 590,000 to 1,280,000, an increase of 117 per cent. These are some of the vital considerations which have led the Government to frame this national insurance scheme.
Even after the introduction of this scheme, no reduction of the present costs of the existing invalid and old-age pension scheme can be anticipated, as any savings effected by the insurance scheme will be more than offset by the growth of the number of persons of pensionable age, a considerable proportion of whom, especially women, will not be covered by the insurance scheme.
Before outlining the scope of the scheme, I should like to put before honorable senators the three main principles upon which a scheme of national insurance may be said to be based. The first main principle of national insurance is that, within the scope of the benefits to be provided, the classes of persons covered, and the jurisdiction of the government sponsoring it, the insurance shall be universal and compulsory. There may be exemptions where special classes have equivalent cover adequately guaranteed, but they will be exceptions. The object is to guarantee a minimum of security in a certain field for those members of the community whose resources are inadequate to provide them on a voluntary basis. The second main principle is that it is insurance, and premiums are paid. As a rule, the classes of persons covered are confined to employees, and the contributions are shared between them and their employers, and these are subsidized by government grants. The limitation to employees is in part due to the difficulties of determining the limits of earnings for other persons, and of collecting compulsory contributions from them. Voluntary insurance is allowed to persons who have been compulsorily insured, and in Great Britain, a supplementary system of voluntary insurance for self-employed persons ah initio is now being commenced. It is somewhat experimental, and will be extremely difficult to administer. Voluntary insurance, of course, is .open to “ selection against the funds “, whereas compulsory insurance has a pooling effect. The third main principle is also one inherent in insurance. The basis is actuarial, and security is safeguarded by invested funds.
As national insurance is a combination of insurance principles with government re-distributions of national income, it is not surprising that its limitations are frequently ignored or misunderstood. A parliament may undertake by statute to provide certain benefits, but if it does not provide the financial security for them also, the undertaking is not one of insurance. The point is not clear-cut, but the principle should be clear. The benefits should have as their security something more tangible than the promise of an act of parliament, and the contributions received for future benefits should generally be held to meet the liabilities of those benefits. Tlie present proposals are based on a combination of
Commonwealth and British experience, and are te cover the great majority of the- employed population. The contributions from employers and employees of both sexes are the sums required to cover the risks at the age of sixteen years. The large additional sums required at later ages are to be provided by the Commonwealth and will aggregate about £2,000,000 a year for the first five years, rising to over £11,000,000 a year.
The scheme is based on the accumulation of sufficient funds to provide enough interest to -pay about one-third of the pension benefits when the scheme matures. When that period is reached the insured persons will be contributing only one-sixth of the annual cost of the scheme. These funds will be held in trust for the contributors, and will be their security. There will be a large pensions fund and a smaller health fund. Apart from a portion of the investments under the health scheme which may be under the control of the trustees of the approved societies, all the funds will be under the control of a representative board of trustees to be specially pet up under the bill, a clause in which provides that all moneys under the scheme must be kept for the sole benefit of the insured persons, and must not be held or applied as security for any purposes outside -the scheme. The bill may be considered from several aspects but honorable senators will, I think, get a sufficiently comprehensive view of it, if I set out the classes- of persons who ave to be affected, the benefits to which they will be entitled, and the contributions which will be payable. Other aspects are the means by which the scheme is to be administered, and the financial arrangements for ensuring its solvency.
With a few exceptions, all persons over the age of fourteen years, who are employed under a contract of service, will be brought within the scope of the scheme.
– Whether of British or foreign nationality?
– Will they have to bc naturalized?
– I do not think that the bill makes provision for naturalization. That is a matter for consideration in committee.
Persons employed otherwise than by way of manual labour whose rate of remuneration exceeds £365 per annum and certain other limited classes are exempted from the scheme. The bill thus provides for the compulsory insurance of employed persons whose rate of remuneration does not exceed £7 a week, but there is no limit of remuneration as regards manual workers. The reason for the distinctionis that some manual workers earn more than £7 a week at certain times of the year, but not as a rule more than at that rate throughout the whole of the year. As far as is practicable, all regularly employed persons will be brought within the scope of the scheme, but special provisions will be necessary to cover the circumstances of particular classes, such as shearers and waterside workers, and large classes of government employees will be wholly or partially excluded. The bill provides for total or partial exemption when all the benefits or part of the benefits, according to the conditions of the employment, are guaranteed by a government, and are on the whole equal to, or better than, the benefits to be guaranteed under national insurance. There will, of course, be equivalent exemption from contributions. The precise definition of the groups concerned will be dealt with as one of the first responsibilities of the National Insurance Commission to be appointed. It may be explained, however, that the usual continuance of salary allowed in such employments during sickness, will probably be considered as equivalent to both medical treatment and sickness and disablement benefits under national insurance.
The bill does not allow of the exclusion of private employments, some of which have superannuation schemes and other provisions for the welfare of employees. There are some differences of opinion on the merits of this feature. Some organizations would like exemption because they are proud of their schemes, and some employees fear that their employers may reduce their total contributions for employees5 benefits when they become contributors to national insurance. Other organizations think it better to benefit from the contribution made by the Commonwealth to national’ insurance, and mean to ad apt their own schemes to fit in with what is to be provided under this legislation. Where employers have contractual liabilities for provident funds they may need the aid of the State parliaments to secure proper adjustments. On the whole, such adaptations offer the best solution. The administrators of national insurance must be satisfied that any excluded person has his benefits guaranteed to him without any possible doubt, and they cannot be responsible for the solvency of private benefit schemes.
While the present proposals are limited to the insurance of employees, and therefore do not cover self-employed persons at the outset, the insurance will not cease when persons lose their employment. Among the benefits is a ‘ free insurance period “ which can extend to cover nearly two years after employment has ceased. Contributors will be excused during sickness, and no sick person can lapse from the scheme, however long the sickness may be. The scope of the scheme is widened very greatly by provision for the continuance of insurance on a voluntary basis by persons who have been compulsorily insured for two years, and who either become self-employed or pass above the remuneration limit.
The great majority of the people will have been employed persons in the early years of their working lives, and will have become eligible to continue as voluntary contributors. The limitation of the title to voluntary insurance affects persons who have already passed out of employment, rather than any special class of occupation. It is comparable to the exclusion of persons who are already past the pension age.
The most important limitations are, of course, imposed by the financial resources of the contributors and the Commonwealth Treasury. It may be contended that tlie employees or the employer, or the Treasury, or all three, should be asked for more. There is as much force in the contention that some, or all of them. are being asked to pay too much.
Coming now to the contributions, I would remind honorable senators that, in an insurance scheme created on a pre- cise actuarial , basis, contributions and benefits must be strictly related to one another if the scheme is bo remain- solvent. If the benefits are to be increased, the contributions must be increased in proportion. In fixing the rates of the weekly contributions, the Government has been compelled to have regard to the amount which the lower-paid wageearners could afford to pay, and in fixing the women’s contributions the fact has been borne in mind that the average wages of women are only about 54 per cent, of the average wages of men. The ordinary total weekly contribution at tho inception of the scheme will be 3s. a week in respect of an employed man, and 2s. a week in respect of an employed -woman, the contribution, in each case, being shared equally between the employer and the employee. Lower rates of contribution have been fixed for certain other persons who, by reason of guaranteed provision elsewhere, can secure partial exemption from the scheme and will, therefore, be covered for part only of the complete scheme of insurance.
Special provision is made in the bill for young persons who, though under the age of sixteen at which full insurance of employed persons begins, are in employment and not less than fourteen years of age. The original bill provided foi these young persons medical benefit only, in view of the importance for future health of providing treatment for the adolescent, and of the need, on the other hand, of keeping as low as possible the contributions to be paid by young persons between the ages of fourteen to sixteen years, whose wages are generally low. Most of the young persons will be dependent on their parents, and therefore their most pressing need is for medical treatment when they fall ill.
In the House of Representatives, however, the Government was strongly urged to make some small provision for these young persons by way of sick pay, and the Government accordingly introduced amendments which, without increasing contributions, provide juvenile contributors with sickness benefit at the rate of 5s. a week, when incapacitated from work, if they have satisfied the usual conditions for title to this benefit. These amendments also have done away with the waiting period, originally imposed on juvenile contributors before their title to medical benefit became effective and have secured that insurance as a juvenile contributor shall count, without reduction, towards satisfying the qualifications for benefits of persons who continue in insurable employment after reaching the age of sixteen.
The following benefits are included in the scheme : - Sickness benefit, disablement benefit, additional benefits, medical benefit, old-age pension, widow’s pension, orphan’s pension, dependent child’s allowance.
I do not propose to go into the details of each of these benefits at this stage. They are sufficiently explained in the memorandum circulated by the Government in connexion with the bill. Broadly speaking, these benefits may be divided into two main classes, namely : benefits associated with health - health insurance benefits ; and those of the nature of superannuation benefits - pension benefits. The first class will be administered by approved societies, and pension benefits bv the Insurance Commission.
As regards the administration of the sickness and disablement benefits, the Government has decided to entrust this part of the work to societies which will be under the direct control of the insured persons themselves. This is a great experiment in public administration in this country, but I am. convinced that the government of these societies by the members themselves, subject, of course, to audit and supervision by the Insurance Commission, will preserve that personal touch and humanitarian interest which are requisite for the satisfactory administration of a sickness scheme.
The bill provides that separate sections of registered friendly societies and of trade unions may be approved societies under the scheme, if they conform to the requirements laid down. By this means we shall enlist the services of the many prominent organizations in Australia which have already got a valuable accumulation of experience in the administration of sickness benefits. The bill also provides for the formation and approval of other societies throughout the Commonwealth which, in the opinion of the Insurance Commission, are qualified to undertake the important work of sickness insurance administration. Representations have already been received with regard to the formation of approved societies from quite a number of important organizations which are already doing valuable welfare work in the Commonwealth, and I have no doubt that in a comparatively short period of time, sufficient applications for approval will be received to ensure that nearly every part of the Commonwealth will be provided with ample facilities for insurance under the new scheme. No society will be approved that is carried on for profit. Any surplus arising out of the operations of the society must be distributed among the members by way of additional benefits. The societies will be subject to audit by auditors appointed by the Insurance Commissioner, and to avoid extravagance in administration, there will be a limit placed upon the amount whch can be spent upon administration. No society can continue as an approved society unless it can attain to a membership of at least 2,000 within a reasonable period of time. This is a wise precaution from the point of view of securing efficient administration and a reasonable measure of security against the risks of heavy sickness following upon an epidemic.
One of the most valuable provisions in the bill is the arrangement under which one-half of the disposable surplus revealed as a result of the actuarial valuation of every approved society is to be put into a common pool, and then Te-dist’ributed among all the societies in proportion to their membership. This arrangement will be of special advantage to societies which have had a run of heavy sickness claims during a valuation period, and it will tend to equalize the rates of benefits among the various societies - a desirable end in a national scheme. By leaving with each society at least one-half of the surplus which it has earned, we shall preserve the incentive to careful administration which is of special importance in the supervision of sickness claims.
I have great hopes, in view of the healthy conditions under which our people live in Australia, that the valuation results of our approved societies will, disclose successively increasing surpluses as each valuation comes round, and that the health scheme will, in time, be able to give additional benefits of a preventive and curative character such as dental services, opthalmic treatment, payments to hospitals, and other benefits enumerated in the fourth schedule of the bill. The bill contains ample safeguards in the contingency and special risks funds against the risks of societies falling into deficiency as a result of heavy sickness claims, and, so far as it is humanly possible to foresee, no society, which is properly administered need fear having to reduce its statutory benefits because of a run of bad luck. Insured persons will be free to- join the society of their own choice, and no society will be allowed to reject an application for admission on the ground of age. Each society will receive a suitable reserve value graded in amount according to the ago of each contributor over the ago of sixteen years. When the scheme has been in operation for some little time, steps will be taken by the commission to allocate, compulsorily, among societies, any insured persons who have not voluntarily joined societies or who have been unable to obtain admission to a society.
The medical service that the Government proposes to provide by way of medical benefit under the insurance scheme will be a first-class general practitioner service. It will be administered by the insurance commission and will be available to every person insured for the health benefits of the act, without a waiting period, and will include services wider in scope than those generally provided under the existing contract practice. Medicines and drugs of the best quality, and certain medical and surgical appliances, will be supplied to the insured, person as required, without extra charge, if ordered by the doctor providing treatment.
The Government believes that the introduction of medical benefit under the insurance act will make possible the development of medical services, for insured persons at least as a first step, throughout the country, and their eventual extension into areas where medical facilities are now far from adequate. This cannot, of course, be done forthwith, but we shall have a basis on which to provide for expansion, and we should at least be able at an early date to provide general practitioner treatment for all insured persons within reasonable reach of a doctor.
So far as these aims are concerned, the Government has, it believes, the concurrence of the medical profession. Certain details of the machinery remain to be worked out in consultation with representatives 1 of the doctors concerned. There is at present some disagreement between the Government and the medical profession as to the proper rate of remuneration to be paid for the insurance doctor’s work, and some misunderstanding of the conditions of service under the act. The question of remuneration will shortly be referred to a royal commission, and the misunderstandings as to the conditions of work will, I am confident, be largely dispelled when further questions of detail have been discussed with representatives of the profession.
I have referred to the drugs and medicines to be supplied as part of medical benefit, together with certain prescribed appliances. These appliances will be mainly bandages, dressings and splints, as required in connexion with such operations or treatment of injuries as may be covered by the insurance doctor’s contract. The general arrangements for the supply of these drugs, medicines, and appliances have been agreed to by the representatives both of the registered pharmacists and of the friendly societies’ dispensaries, by whom the supply will be undertaken. The arrangements made secure to the insured persons complete free choice of a chemist, and the system of remuneration will be, in substance, repayment for the wholesale cost of the materials supplied, supplemented by a fee for each prescription, to cover the chemist’s overhead expenses and to provide payment for his professional services.
The pension scheme also will be administered by the commission. This scheme will include : -
Old-age pensions for insured women at 60.
Old-age pensions for insured men at 65.
Pensions for life (or until remarriage) for widows of insured men.
In each of these instances there will be additional allowances for dependent children. The scheme also provides pensions for orphans, that is, for the children of insured persons, both of whose parents are dead.
In addition, there is a special scheme of cheap voluntary insurance for old-age pensions at 60 for wives who had been in compulsory insurance for a certain time. I shall refer to this later.
In order to enable the widows and orphans to participate in the benefits of the scheme at the earliest practicable date, it has been provided that these pensions shall come into operation after the payment of 104 contributions in respect of the husband’s or father’s insurance.
That means that after the payment of only £7 16s. Od. in contributions by the man himself, the widow will become entitled to a pension, plus children’s allowances, which, according to the estimate of the actuaries, will bc worth on the average a capital sum of £700.
For the reasons already given, the scheme at the outset will be restricted to employed contributors, but many persons who relinquish employment, or whose salaries rise -above the limit for compulsory insurance, namely, £365 a year, will desire to continue their insurances. The bill accordingly contains a valuable option under which all such persons other than married women, if they have been in compulsory insurance for at least two years, will have the right to continue in the scheme as voluntary contributors at the ordinary rate of contribution. As the benefits under the scheme will be worth on the average more than three times the amount of the total weekly contributions at the age of 40, and as their value will increase rapidly with the age of the contributor, it may be anticipated, that large numbers of insured persons will wish to continue in insurance as voluntary contributors, and, if it is generally desired, arrangements will be made to enable contributions to be paid by monthly, quarterly, or half-yearly instalments.
The claims of the woman who has been in insurance for a reasonable length of time and who gives up her employment on marriage or some time thereafter has not been overlooked. Many of these women will desire to continue their insurance for an old-age pension, and a scheme has been devised under which they may remain in insurance for pensions only, as special voluntary contributors. For this pension they will pay a contribution of ls. a week - and that contribution will be fixed and not subject to any later increase. When I remind honorable senators that a woman’s old-age pension at 60 will be worth over £400 in capital value, and that even at the age of 30, she would have to pay 3s. 6d. a week for this cover to an insurance society, the attractiveness of the scheme will at once become apparent. Of course, many of the women will marry insured men, and we have made it clear in the bill that, for special voluntary contributors, the old-age pension under the bill will be in addition to, and not in lieu of j any widow’s pension and children’s allowances to which such women may become entitled by virtue of their husband’s insurance.
A desire has been ex-pressed in certain quarters that women should be entitled to insure for an old-age pension of 20s. a week at 60 years of age, instead of the 15s. a week provided in the bill. The Government was reluctant to increase still further the compulsory contributions for women under the bill, as it may be anticipated that a large proportion of the women on the basic wage - upon whom an extra contribution might press rather heavily - would qualify for the extra 5s. in any case, under the clause in the bill which provides for a supplementary allowance under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The situation has been met by including in the bill a provision, under which all insured women can exercise an option, within a fixed period, to pay an extra 6d. a week, so as to qualify for a full insurance pension of 20s. a week..
The fact that the benefits of the scheme are secured to the insured person by the joint co-operation of himself, his employer, and the Commonwealth, has enabled the Government to offer those benefits to insured persons on extraordinarily attractive terms. It is estimated that the average age at which insured persons will enter the scheme next year will be, for men nearly 34) years, and for women nearly 28 years. Men will pay ls. 6d. a week - 7-Jd. for health insurance, and 10½d. for pensions. For 7-Jd. a week for health insurance they will get benefits which will be actuarially worth at age 34, nearly1s. 6d. a week.For 10½d. a week for pensions insurance they will get benefits which will be actuarially worth, at age 34, about 6s. 6d. a week; that is, over seven times the value of their own contributions.
Women will pay1s. a week - 7d. for health insurance and 5d. for pensions. For 7d. a week for health insurance they will get benefits which will be actuarially worth, at age 28, nearly1s. 6d. a week. For 5d. a week for pensions insurance they will get benefits which will be actuarially worth, at age 28, about 3s. a week, that again being seven times the value of their own contributions. Even if we take into account the fact, that later on, the men’s contributions will be increased by 6d.a week, . and the women’s ‘by 3d. a week, it remains true that the scheme offers to the entrants of next year, valuable health and pensions benefits on terms, which, for generosity, have never been surpassed by any other national insurance scheme in the world.
As the Treasurer indicated in his secoud-reading speech upon the bill, the Government is very anxious to extend, as far as possible, the ‘benefits of this scheme, to the quite considerable number of self-employed persons in Australia whose economic circumstances are comparable with those who will be compulsorily insured under this bill. It is obvious that it would be unwise, and, indeed, administratively impracticable, to bring these persons compulsorily into the scheme. It is equally obvious that we could not fit a voluntary scheme into a compulsory one. It would be wrong to upset the whole actuarial balance of the compulsory scheme by introducing into it a group of people who can choose whether it will pay them best to come into the scheme, or to stay out. A separate scheme and a separate insurance fund for the self-employed group will need to be established. For some time, past our officials and the actuaries, amid many other pre-occupations, have been engaged in working out the details of this separate scheme. It is not an easy task. It is impossible to forecast how many persons would take advantage of the scheme, what their ages and family responsibilities would be, and consequently what financial burden would fall upon the Commonwealth. The Government,, however, is determined to press on with the matter, and sufficient progress has, been achieved to warrant the statement that a Voluntary Pensions Bill for the self-employed will be introduced at an early date, on terms which ought to prove attractive to those who desire to be insured.
The last matters to which I propose to refer are the methods by which the Government is going to finance the whole scheme. The basic principle of the scheme is that the weekly contribution of each insured person must be the equivalent in value of the benefits under the scheme of persons, of the same sex, who enter into insurance at the age of sixteen. The finance of the scheme will thus be free of the criticism that “ the young pay for the old “. Young and old alike will pay the minimum contribution - and the added cost of oncoming years will be met by the Commonwealth Government out of general revenue. At the outset of the scheme a large number of persons, getting on in years, will be brought into insurance for the first time. More than half a million of them will be over 40 years of age. Persons will be admitted to full insurance under the scheme at all ages between sixteen and 65, paying contributions appropriate to entrants at age sixteen, and the scheme will therefore start with the assumption of liabilities greater than the contributions will cover. In other words, there will be an initial deficit both on the health insurance and on the pensions side. When the bill was originally presented to the Parliament, the capitalized value of the deficit was estimated at £281,500,000, i.e., £17,500,000 on the health scheme and £264,000,000 on the pensions scheme, but since then certain concessions have been granted which will slightly increase the deficit on the pensions scheme. It is not possible to state the amount of the increase, as the chief concession is in the nature of an option, and the extent to which the option will be exercised cannot be foreseen.
– Will that affect the rate of contributions?
– No. These initial deficits will be met by grants from the Commonwealth, but in different ways.
On the health side, in order that the deficit should not fall on the approved societies, through whose accounts will pass the sums required to meet the cost of health insurance benefits, the Commonwealth contribution will take the form of guaranteeing the additional liabilities in the first place, by crediting the societies with “ reserve values “, and secondly by an annual grant by the Commonwealth Government of 10s. per annum for each insured person, to be paid into a sinking fund which will gradually replace that guarantee by cash about 30 years hence, after providing 3$ per cent, interest annually on the amount of the reserve values for the time being unliquidated. When the reserve values are liquidated, the Commonwealth grant will cease, and the bill provides accordingly. The sum involved is about £900,000 per annum.
The problem as to the best and wisest way of financing the pensions scheme presented special difficulties. , We were faced with the enormous initial deficit of £264,000,000 arising from the high average age of entrants. In the absence of a fund, this liability would have necessitated a grant from the Commonwealth of £20,000,000 a year. We had, therefore, to face the problem that, 40 years hence, the Commonwealth might be faced with a liability of £36,000,000 or £37,000,000 a year in respect of national insurance and the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - £20,000,000 a year for the former, and £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 for the latter.’ The Government was not prepared to commit future generations to a liability of such magnitude, and the conclusion was reached that, if this national insurance scheme is to be brought into operation, the present generation- -the generation which is . to benefit by the creation of the initial deficit - must make some contribution in advance of the immediate needs, in order to build up, before the full liabilities of the, pensions scheme develop, a fund, the interest on which, together with annual grants from the Commonwealth, will meet the increasing charges when they exceed the amount received in contributions. That is the scheme embodied in this bill. The Commonwealth will pay to the pension scheme under the bill £1,000,000 a year for the first five years. Thereafter, the grant will rise at the rate of £500,000 a year until it reaches its maximum of £10,000,000 a year in 1961. It is estimated that from that year the annual grant of £10,000,000, with the interest upon the fund which is being gradually built up, will be sufficient to finance the future needs of the national insurance scheme in respect of pensions. It is important to note that, under this arrangement, apart from the fixed grant of £1,000,000 a year to pensions for the first five years, in no one year would the Commonwealth be called upon to undertake a heavier financial liability for pensions under this national insurance scheme and the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act than what the cost of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act alone would be, if this national insurance scheme were not adopted.
Thus far, I have dealt with the financing of the scheme. Honorable senators may be interested to know the extent to which it is anticipated that these funds will be drawn upon to meet benefits under the scheme. The actuaries estimate that the following amounts will be paid out in cash under the insurance scheme in successive yearly periods, apart altogether from the valuable medical services : - During the fifth year of the scheme, £2,800,000; tenth year of the scheme, £9,400,000; twentieth year of the scheme, £18,600,000; thirtieth year year of the scheme, £25,000,000 -.”fortieth year of the scheme, £28,500,000.
It is estimated that, in addition to the payments for medical services, the cash disbursements for sickness under tho health insurance scheme will, in the course of time, exceed £3,000,000 a year. The disbursement under the contributory pensions scheme will reach £30,000,000 a year, and about 1,000,000 persons would participate in one or other of the benefits of that scheme in each year. The effect of the national insurance pension scheme, in conjunction with the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, will be that, eventually, about £46,000,000 a year will be distributed in pensions among more than treble the present number of participants.
Having regard to the estimated number of participants, the variety and usefulness of the benefits to be provided, and the large initial capital liability, I think it may be truly said that the national health and pensions insurance scheme is a measure of the greatest social importance. Designed, as it is, to alleviate some of the anxieties which disturb the peace of mind of many of our fellowAustralians - both men and women - the scheme will, I feel sure, meet with the approval of all persons who have the welfare of their country at heart. I commend the bill to honorable senators and ask them, to give it their generous support.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Foll) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Allan MACDONALD) read a first time.
Bill received from House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Allan MACDONALD) read a first time.
– I move -
That Crown Lands Ordinance No. 2 of 1038 (Northern Territory of Australia) be disallowed.
Before stating my objections to the ordinance referred to, I should like to say that the Northern Territory is no new-found interest of mine. I took a considerable interest in it when it was under the jurisdiction of the South Australian Government. I have also had an opportunity of doing business with many of the residents there both before and since the Commonwealth took control. My association with the Pastoral Board of South Australia for about five years in valuing pastoral properties gave me a good insight into country similar to that held by Northern Territory pastoralists. I know very well the nature of their trials and troubles, and I know what they suffer during droughts and bad seasons. One of my objections to the ordinance is that I disapprove of legislation by regulation. I quite realize that in many bills provision has to be made for regulations, but such regulations should deal only with minor matters. The scope of the ordinance makes it not a minor but a major consideration. The area of the Northern Territory is approximately 523,000 square miles, or 340,000,000 acres. That is no small area, and I do not think that any government should, by regulation only, alter the existing land laws applying to such a large territory.
– It is not being done by regulation. “ It is an ordinance.
– It has the same effect as a regulation. Another objection I have is that the ordinance gives effect to a recent report- by the Payne-Fletcher committee. Clause 124 of the report states -
The Land Board at Darwin, consisting of the Administrator and two other officials, need no longer be continued as it is only performing routine duties.
The ordinance will replace the board by the Administrator. Any senator who studies the ordinance will see that in every instance it substitutes the Administrator for the Minister or the board. The Payne-Fletcher report deals very extensively with the administration of the Northern Territory, and those who have read it, and who know what has happened in the Territory, realize that a change in the administration is no novelty. The history of the administration is something like a kaleidoscope; if you turn it round you can see a different design in every different position. It may be interesting to some senators to know just what has taken place. The Commonwealth Government took over the Northern Territory in 1911 and appointed Mr. Justice Mitchell as temporary Administrator. The appointment of Dr. J. A. Gilruth was made in 1912, and he held the office until 1919.
– When he departed hastily.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Government then decided to dispense with an administrator, and replaced him with a director and council of advice. Mr. H. E. Carey was appointed, but his tenure of office was short, for in October of the same year the residents issued an ultimatum to the governing body saying, “ Get out or be put out “. Mr. Carey and the council left Darwin in October of that year, and on 19th December, Mr. Staniforth Smith was appointed. He held office until 1920. In 1921, the Government decided to revert again to an administrator, and Mr.Urquhart was appointed. At this period the Government passed a law observance ordinance to assist the Administrator and avoid, if possible, repetition of the happenings of 1919. Mr. Urquhart remained in office until 1927. In 1926, the Government again altered its mind and passed what was known as the North Australia Act 1926. That act divided the Territory into two sections - North Australia and Central Australia. Each section was to have a government resident appointed by an advisory council, and North Australia was to have also a development commission of three members. Mr. Robert Hunter Weddell succeeded Mr.Urquhart. and held office as Government Resident until 1931, when the North Australia Act was repealed. The commission was abolished, and the whole of the Territory was again placed in the hands of the Administrator at Darwin. Mr. Weddell held office until 1937, when Mr. C. L. A. Abbott was appointed. That is a very brief history of what has happened. I quite agree with the Payne-Fletcher committee that the land laws of the Northern Territory are urgently in need of alteration. The condition of pastoral leases is deplorable. The 326 leases are being operated under five separate laws or ordinances. When the Commonwealth Government took control the conditions of the leases were at least uniform, but subsequent legislation has been optional with lessees, with the result that there are 52 leases under the old South Australia Act, 55 under a Crown Law Ordinance of 1912, 105 under an ordinance of 1927, 90 under a further ordinance of 1927, and 27 under an ordinance of 1931.
– Is there much difference between them?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.There is a considerable difference. The Government, should have made all the leases uniform. Some men have leasehold properties in which there are four different leases. That aspect should have had very serious consideration before the ordinance was framed.
– Are the properties covered by different leases of similar type?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.They are practically all the same type of holding. I admit that the Government has done good work in assisting settlers. It has made concessions in respect of railway freights, which were badly needed. The freight on a trainload of cattle from Alice Springs to Adelaide, which is the only market open for them, used to be something like £725. A considerable reduction has been made and appreciable freight reductions on other goods also have been allowed. In the matter of red tape, the administration goes to almost absurd lengths. Concessions are given to settlers on materials used in sinking bores, and on fencing wire and stud stock. If a man at Alice Springs claims the freight concession allowed on casing he has bought for a. bore, he must lodge an application at Alice Springs. The application is sent to the Department of the Interior at, Canberra, and that department sends it to the Land Board at Darwin. The Land Board then relays it to Alice Springs for a report. Alice Springs sends it back to Canberra, and if it is then considered worthy of investigation it is investigated. About twelve months after the making of the application, the man may learn of its fate, and probably he will not then receive the refund to which he is entitled. It is not necessary for me this afternoon to go into the cost of the Northern Territory; that is well known to every honorable member of the Senate and to every thinking resident of Australia. The Commonwealth Government paid to the South Australian Government about £6,000,000 when it took over the territory, and since then it has expended about £15,000,000. To-day, however, the revenue from the territory does not compare favorably with what South Australia received when it was spending very much less.
– The northsouth railway has not been completed yet.
– When it took over control of the Territory the Commonwealth Government promised to complete the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, and, as I am just reminded, that line has not yet been completed. I propose to deal briefly with the cost of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. No one can deny the lavish expenditure by successive governments on the Territory, but one has every reason to question the results obtained from such expenditure. The Commonwealth has expended about £15,000,000 on the Territory since taking it over in 1911, and in comparison with the increase of population which has since taken place and the financial returns, that expenditure has been out of all proportion to the results obtained. Including aborigines, half-castes and Asiatics, the total population of the Territory to-day is estimated at 24,000, but as only an infinitesimal proportion of the total has been spent on the aboriginal population, we must base the expenditure of the past 27 years on the European population of 5,454. Adding to the initial cost to this Government when it acquired the Territory from South Australia, its subsequent outlay of £15,000,000, Commonwealth expenditure works out at an average of £5,260 a head, of the present European population. Taking the European population in 1911 and the increase of that population to the present day, we find that every adult European added under Commonwealth control has cost Australia £5,730. Unfortunately, also the majority of the newcomers have been either governmental or semigovernmental employees, and the remuneration paid to them is annually piling up the deficit. Out of a total revenue of £204,693 collected in 1935-36, a sum of £128,018, or over 60 per cent., was expended in respect of administration.
My main objective in bringing this matter before the Senate this afternoon is to endeavour to get all members of this
Parliament sufficiently interested in the subject to do something definite in regard to the Northern Territory. In the past innumerable commissions of inquiries have been appointed, and now we have the report of the Payne-Fletcher committee. Although I do not agree entirely with that report, I admit that on the whole it proposes a step in the right direction. It offers a basis upon which any government can build a policy in respect of the development of the Territory - a definite policy, and not a policy that will be open to variation each time a new Minister is appointed to control the Department of the Interior. It will at least enable the Northern Territory to become selfsupporting. I fail to see any reason why it should not be so. All of the States adjoining the Territory are developing lands no more suitable than the Northern Territory; yet, only 34 per cent, of the Northern Territory is occupied. Ever since the report of the Payne-Fletcher committee was issued on the 10th October, 1937, we have been waiting for the Government to implement some of its recommendations. We have been told that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) proposes to postpone such action until he has had an opportunity personally to examine this part of Australia. I am afraid that the Minister, when he visits the Territory, will see a country very different from that to which he has been accustomed. The present Minister is a son of the land; he has been bred and brought up on the land, but on land very different from that of the Northern Territory. In the western districts of Victoria, which is a veritable garden of Eden, people are accustomed to talk of sheep to the acre, but in the Northern Territory it is a matter of sheep and cattle to the square mile. I do not wish to do anything which would prevent the Minister from visiting the Northern Territory. His visit there will probably do a lot of good. But I hold the opinion that the report of the Payne-Fletcher committee offers a far better basis on which to establish a policy in respect of the development of the Territory, than would any opinion which the Minister might form after a visit lasting three months. I urge the Government to take this report very seriously. I feel sure that every senator is anxious that something should be done to make of the Northern Territory something more than a sink for our money. In the early days South Australia regarded the Territory more or less as a white elephant, and any change of view in that respect can be attributed to the lavish expenditure of the Commonwealth on that part of Australia. I repeat that if the Government seeks the basis for a long-range policy for the Territory, such a basis is to be found in the report of the Payne-Fletcher committee. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will get down to business on this matter immediately, instead of tinkering with the administration of the Territory by piecemeal amendment of ordinances.
– I second the motion.
– I heartily agree with much that has been said by the honorable Senator who has just resumed his seat, and I propose to deal later with his general remarks. For the moment, however, I am obliged to deal with his motion for the disallowance of a specific ordinance, and I propose to show why the ordinance should not be disallowed. The particular ordinance mentioned gives effect to two recommendations made by the PayneFletcher committee, namely -
that the Land Board should be abolished and its powers vested in the Administra.tor: and
Dealing with the Land Board, the committee in paragraph 124 of its report, stated that the hoard need no longer be continued as it is only performing routine duties. In the opinion of the committee the Administrator can fittingly exercise all of the functions of the Land Board and generally act as land commissioner for the Territory. As a matter of fact, the old Land Board which was abolished consisted of the Administrator himself, the Chief Clerk of the Lands Department at Darwin, and the Chief Surveyor. Thus, under the new arrangement the Administrator ‘would have the advice of those officers who, with him, constituted the old board. Moreover, the adoption of the committee’s recommendation would permit th’e Chief Surveyor, who was a member of the board, to spend more time on field duties.
I point out that the committee strongly recommended that the Administrator should be entrusted with power to give decisions on most matters without reference to Canberra. It went so far as to state that the Administrator should actually decide all ordinary questions of administration, appertaining to the Territory. In this respect I quote paragraph 420 of the committee’s report -
The authority of the Administrator should not be unduly circumscribed. He is the mail on the spot and the people look to him for decisions. He should, we think, be entrusted with power to give decisions on most matters without reference to headquarters. Important local matters could be decided by him, subject to the approval of the Minister, and the papers be then submitted instead of merely submitting reports and recommendations in the first instance. Matters of more than local concern, or matters involving Targe expenditure, would, of course, need to be submitted for Ministerial decision before any action was taken.
The qualities of energy, determination, fearlessness, tact, judgment^ decision, initiative, and resource, are all needed by the Administrator and his officers if the Territory is to progress. These qualities will not be developed unless scope for their exercise is given.
The Minister for the Interior, and the Secretariat at Canberra, should define policies, give general directions, and exercise a guiding influence and control, but, so far as is possible, should leave particular decision? to the Administrator and to the local staff at Darwin. This will inculcate in the Territory service a sense of responsibility, and lead to that efficient and prompt administration which is needed.
– “Will that power be given ?
– I ask the honorable Senator to bear with me until I deal with that matter later. Although the Administrator, by taking the place of the Land Board, has the power to reappraise rents, it will be observed that section 32 sub-section 8, has been amended to provide a right of appeal to the Minister in addition to appeal to the court. The following important powers have not been vested in the Administrator - the powers of resumption, and the granting of estates in fee simple. This is the first legislation of the Government to give effect to some of the recommendations of the Payne-Fletcher committee’. Before adopting the committee’s recommendation that the Land Board should be abolished, the Administrator was consulted and he concurred with the proposal. He also concurred with the other amendments of the ordinance conferring upon him many of the powers which, up to the time of the passage of the ordinance, had been vested in the Minister. The Government has been criticized by honorable senators, and by certain sections of the public, for not expediting consideration of the PayneFletcher committee’s recommendations and for failing to put them into effect. Yet, when the first piece of legislation is passed to give effect to some of those recommendations, it is disputed by some honorable senators. I can assure honorable senators that the ordinance does no more than what I have stated. The Government agrees entirely with the recommendation that the Administrator should be invested with more powers, and that more responsibility for local administration should be given to him. I have been advised by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) that he has been astounded at the amount of work of a purely local administrative character, which the Minister is required by statute to perform. Honorable senators, for instance, will be surprised to learn that as the law relating to the Public Service of the Northern Territory stands at present, the Administrator cannot appoint a married woman to a temporary position. Recently the Minister in Canberra was called upon to approve of the appointment of a cook-laundress in Darwin. Honorable senators will hardly contend that such a ludicrous position should be allowed to continue. I remind the honorable gentleman that one member of the committee of investigation was a grazier of extensive experience, capable of offering sound advice on matters appertaining to leases in the Northern Territory.
In preparation for his visit to the Northern Territory, the Minister for the Interior has been in negotiation with the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) with a view to granting certain exemptions from taxation. That is a matter which cannot be hurried. A similar need for caution exists in respect of exemptions from customs duties, about which the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) must be consulted. These negotiations are proceeding, and will be continued.
While in the territory, the Minister will deal with matters affecting railways to which the honorable senator drew attention. Other recommendations in the report will require intensive study, and some measure of local observation and consultation, before a recommendation can be made to Cabinet. The Minister is giving consideration to the recommendation that certain lands be converted to the raising of sheep. Nor has the subject of railway freights been overlooked.
The Minister proposed to discuss per.sonally Avith Messrs. Payne and Fletcher the ordinance regulating land administration. The other matters to which the honorable senator referred will bo brought before his notice prior, to his departure for the Northern Territory. Already a great deal of preparatory work has been performed, in the knowledge that on his return the Minister will have to make a report to Cabinet before the Government’s policy can be decided. I, therefore, urge the Senate not to disallow the ordinance, because its disallowance might seriously affect the administration of the Northern Territory and deny to the Administrator those extra powers with which he should be armed if he is successfully .to control the hugeterritory under his care.
– In supporting the motion for the disallowance of this ordinance, I propose to refer briefly to the position which has arisen in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory. The present situation there is nothing new, because for many years difficulty has been experienced in administering that part of the Commonwealth. In more recent times a committee was appointed, and in due course it submitted a report. The members of the committee, Messrs. Payne and Fletcher, are highly qualified men.- Mr. Payne has an extensive knowledge of land administration in Queensland, whilst Mr. Fletcher is a pastoralist of wide experience. The
Assistant Minister (Senator MacDonald) said that what this ordinance sets out to accomplish was recommended in the Payne-Fletcher report. ‘That is true, but it is not the whole truth; the committee made a number of other recommendations. There is, however, no evidence in the statement of the Assistant Minister that effect will be given to them. For instance, paragraph 124 of the report states -
The Land Board at Darwin, consisting of the Administrator and two other officers, need no longer be continued as it is only performing routine duties.
That is not denied. I point out, however, that the body which was previously in existence, and which was abolished by the Scullin Government for reasons entirely different from those submitted this afternoon, had more extensive powers than were vested in the recently dissolved Land Board. It is true that the Payne-Fletcher report recommended the abolition of the Land Board, but I emphasize that that recommendation was based on the fact that “ it is only performing routine duties “. If the Administrator had allowed the Land Board to function as it should function, no such recommendation would have been contained in the report. Paragraph 124 continues -
The Administrator can fittingly exercise a! I the functions of the Land Board, and generally act as land commissioner for the territory.
Of course he can. He can easily exercise all the functions of a body which had no functions to exercise. Naturally, the administrative inefficiency which has characterized the control of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth ever since it was taken over from South Australia has killed the possibility of advance. The white elephant remains white.
– “Would the disallowance of this ordinance change the colour of the elephant?
– The disallowance of the ordinance would indicate clearly that the Senate is tired of the policy of tinkering with the Northern Territory. I have great respect for the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen). In saying that, I make no invidious comparison between him and some of his predecessors in office. But there is no occasion whatever for the present Minister to start out on a long trek to the Northern Territory in order to see for himself the conditions there. Most of his predecessors undertook a similar journey, and arrived at certain conclusions, but all their reports and conclusions have been pigeonholed, and nothing has been done.
– They resulted in the appointment of the Payne-Fletcher committee.
– That may be, but the net result is still nothing. Those reports revealed such a scandalous state of affairs that even the present somnolent Government was moved to try to shift the responsibility from itself to someone else. Accordingly, it asked Queensland to assist it by making available the services of Mr. Payne. He has done an excellent job.
– South Australia also was asked to assist. “
– The policy of the present Government is to hand over to boards and commissions the control of anything which is likely to be a disturbing factor,, or to cause Ministers to walk in their sleep. They prefer to sleep in their beds. I propose to quote from the report of Messrs. Payne and Fletcher.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) . - Two hours having elapsed from the time of the meeting of the Senate, I’ direct the Acting Clerk to call upon the first Order of the Day.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That the consideration of the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the disposal of the motion for the disallowance of Crown Lands Ordinance No. 2 of 1938 (Northern Territory of Australia).
– Paragraph 124 of the committee’s report states further -
This reform would also allow the Chief Surveyor to spend more time on field duties.
Although the Minister for the Interior proposes to tour the Northern Territory, the Chief Surveyor in that Territory has not yet been called into consultation. The man who, according to the report, should be liberated for more important work, has not been asked to offer his advice to the Minister, notwithstanding that he is the man with whom the Administrator must, consult regarding land operations. I emphasize, that it is not fair to say that the Payne-Fletcher report recommended what this ordinance proposes to do. As I have said, that is only a portion of the committee’s recommendations. Paragraph 125 of the report reads -
If substantial capital is to be invested in the lands of tlie Northern Territory, it will be necessary to constitute an independent land tribunal to which lessees may appeal on material questions from the Administrator’s decisions, as Land Commissioner.
Instead of conferring greater powers on the Administrator, this ordinance only hands over to him restricted powers which are not worth having. He might as well be without them. Paragraph 125 also states -
The Land Court of Queensland or the Pastoral Board of South Australia might, with advantage, by arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State Government concerned) be constituted the Land Court of tho Territory, particularly as the amount of judicial land work to be done in the Territory would not be considerable. The functioning of such an experienced tribunal would afford a great protection to Territory lessees and would be a further inducement to tho investment of capital.
While the report does recommend what this ordinance, if carried, would achieve, namely, the abolition of the Land Board, it does so only on certain conditions.
It would appear that every new Minister for the Interior must inquire personally into conditions in the Northern Territory. I do not object to the Minister making himself acquainted with local conditions - I think that he should do so - but I. point out that, although this report was presented in October last, nothing worth while has been done since then, except that this ordinance has been framed. I understand that certain inquiries are being made, but, if this report is to be jettisoned, as were previous reports, we shall make no progress. It is not a creditable reflection on the policy of the Government in relation to the Northern Territory.
The committee would never have recommended the abolition of the Land Board at Darwin, and the transfer of its powers to the Administrator, if it had not believed that other parts of its recommendations would be given effect. This fatal indecision on the part of governments in connexion with the “Northern Territory has been most disastrous. I have some personal knowledge of interests in Melbourne which, I understand, are prepared to invest a fair amount of capital in the Northern Territory, and not on the lines suggested some years ago, of freedom from tariff imposts, or anything of that sort. These people, some of whom I met recently, are willing to invest money in the Northern Territory on the lines suggested by this board. They are prepared to invest it now, not ten years hence, when some other government may be in power. Naturally, I hope that long before then we shall have in power a Commonwealth government composed of political elements entirely different from those in the present Administration. Any intelligent member of this Senate - I am not suggesting that at the moment there are in this chamber members who are not intelligent - who reads this report, can get a very clear knowledge of what, in the opinon of the committee, should be done to develop the Northern Territory.
I direct attention to some interesting “ Administrative Maxims “ to be found on page 67. I shall read them, because I wish to have them placed on record, and I hope that they will impress the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), although I do not think that he needs to be impressed so much as do some other people whom I could name. Those “ Administrative Maxims “ are stated by the Payne-Fletcher committee for the guidance of all public officers associated with Northern Territory administration. They are as follows: -
In other words, the board suggests to the present Minister for the Interior that he should get on with the job, and not allow the recommendations contained in the report to be pigeonholed and forgotten -
Hitherto, there has been no attempt to do that. There is no occasion for the Minister to go to the Northern Territory to find out what should be done -
For years there has never been anything but obstruction of the efforts of those who have at heart the best interests of the Northern Territory -
I hope that members of the Country party in this chamber are listening -
In other words, the commission says to the Minister, “ Don’t -wait until you have made a long trip over the country before doing anything. Get to work now in Canberra. Mistakes will probably be made, but mistakes are better than doing nothing, and they may lead to something better being done “ -
That is just what has happened in connexion with the Northern Territory. The difficulties of its development are admitted ; but, as the report says, difficulties ire made to be overcome - not to encourage the development of administrative sleeping sickness - !). In a pioneering community acts of Parliament, ordinances and regulations need frequent modification and adjustment-
I wish members of the Ministry in the House of Representatives were listening to me now, because I know that Senate Ministers are not responsible for what has happened in the Northern Territory. They are apologists for the shortcomings of their colleagues and party in the other chamber, so I feel a little guilty in talking to them, but I hope that what I am saying will be passed on. Let me repeat this maxim I have just read -
Representations ‘have been made to headquarters with a view to an amendment of regulations or ordinances. Senator James McLachlan, in the motion now before the Senate, is making representations in the hope that amendments may be considered. There have not been modifications and adjustments of ordinances because officialdom does not want to be disturbed in its sleep. Its attitude would appear to be, “ Satisfy the Minister with some reply. Parliament will soon be in recess and then we can go to sleep again”.
That is the right keynote. The Government should co-operate with the people who are endeavouring to develop the Northern Territory. This PayneFletcher report is the finest document of its kind that has been placed in my hands. I have read every paragraph in it because I am interested, not personally, but as a member of this Parliament, and it is my ardent hope that by co-operative administration between the Government and people living in the territory we shall get this “ white elephant “ off the Commonwealth pay-roll.
The history of the Northern Territory is a record of dis-service by the present and most preceding Commonwealth Governments. I am not suggesting that the territory will ever become a great revenue-producer, but I do say with every confidence that wise administration and earnest co-operation between the Government, the officials responsible for the administration, and the people, will ensure some return from this costly asset. In conclusion, I say to the Minister for the Interior that he should not longer delay the effectuation of the recommendations contained in the Payne-Fletcher report. I do not wish him to abandon his proposed trip to the Northern Territory, but I urge him to get on with the job at once, and do something along the lines recommended by the committee.
– I make no pretence of having studied the Payne-Fletcher report in detail. I thought this was a matter which might, perhaps, be left to some future senator, because in the time remaining to me as one of the representatives of South Australia, I have many other things to do. But the motion submitted by Senator James McLachlan raises an interesting and important problem, namely, the development of the Northern Territory, concerning which I may be permitted to make a few general observations. The mover put his finger on the real difficulty when he spoke of the frequent changes of Ministers for the Interior. This has had most unfortunate results for the territory. In the last fifteen years there have been seven different Ministers for the Interior or for Home and Territories as the portfolio was formerly designated. Most of them, after a few years in that ministerial office, were promoted to some other post in the Cabinet. I do not know whether the Assistant Minister (Senator MacDonald) has visited central Australia or Port Darwin.
– I have not.
– I have not been to Port Darwin, but I have visited Alice Springs in central Australia and I know how the people there complain of these frequent changes. They say, “When a Minister for the Interior is appointed he pays us a very pleasant visit. We tell him what we think ought to be done and he goes away. We are always hoping that this time something really will be done for us, but a year or two later we read that the Minister who came to see us has been transferred to some other department. The new Minister for the Interior visits us and all the business begins again. Nothing is ever done.” I am not criticizing the present Minister for the Interior when I say that nothing much has been done for the Northern Territory, because, as a matter of fact, during the last year or two a considerable amount has been done in the way of road making and hospital accommodation at Alice Springs.
– There has been an expenditure of £15,000,000 on the Northern Territory under Commonwealth control.
– Much of what has been done should have been done many years ago, but, as I have said, in recent years the Commonwealth Government has not been unmindful of the Northern Territory problem. I was a member of this Parliament in 1926 when Senator Pearce, who was then Minister for Home and Territories, introduced and passed the measure under which the Northern Territory, for administrative purposes, was divided into two areas - central and north Australia. That seemed to me to be a very good scheme and I regret that later the act was repealed. The repeal was. in my opinion, a retrograde step. The distance between Alice Springs and Port Darwin is so great that Alice Springs seems to be the natural centre for the administration of the central part of the territory. The northern portion formed one area and the southern portion another, and had that system been retained we would not have the ludicrous position that obtains to-day. About two years ago I asked whether the Deputy Administrator at Alice Springs had power to refer matters direct to Canberra, and I was informed that he had first to refer them to the Administrator at Darwin who would then communicate with Canberra. That seems to me to be an unsatisfactory way of carrying on administration. As a matter of fact I noticed in the press a short, while ago that the Deputy Administrator at Alice Springs has ceased to be so designated.
– He is now known as the District Officer.
– He has been deprived of some of his authority when it would have been better to have given him moTe power, mainly on the ground that Alice Springs and Darwin are so far apart and that the Administrator seldom visits Alice Springs.
– There is little or no communication between them.
– That is so. I believe that I am right in saying that the Administrator does not visit Alice Springs once a year. How can he be expected to represent the southern portion of the territory when it is impracticable for him to make frequent visits ? The Deputy Administrator should have been allowed to communicate direct with the Minister in Canberra and in that way expedite matters.
– The present Administrator has visited Alice Springs on three occasions since his appointment twelve months ago.
– Conditions must have changed.
– Travel bv air now permits more frequent visits.
– Possibly that is so, but frequent visits were not made previously.
– The increase of overseas air-mail services may benefit indirectly in that respect.
– We hope that that will bc so. I agree with the mover that there does not appear to be any reason why the Government should adopt the Payne report in a piecemeal manner, particularly as we understand that that report is’ to be the basis of legal enactment later. Whyshould not this proposal be held up until the whole matter can be dealt with later? I dislike the changes made in this ordinance; the proposed amendments do not appear to be very desirable.
– They are comparatively unimportant.
– The development of the Northern Territory is a difficult problem. Personally, I dislike the principle of placing too much responsibility upon one man. I do not suggest for a moment that Mr. Abbott is not a suitable person to occupy the position of Administrator, but in matters of this kind it is an advantage for him to have the assistance of others, even if they are subordinate officers. I doubt whether the Minister will, as a general rule, support the Administrator in Dar win in whatever he does. It, therefore, would appear to be more practicable to have a capable Minister in Canberra who will, so far as he can,/ support the man on the spot. I do not believe that we shall ever get any further with this problem unless we have a Minister who knows something about the land and its problems, not necessarily the Northern Territory. I am not making invidious comparisons, but some of the Ministers who have visited the territory knew absolutely nothing about the land and its problems. How can we expect men who have no knowledge of the land, and particularly the back country, to submit a sound and sensible policy? We should give all the support we can to the Administrator, but he should not have too much responsibility thrust solely upon him. When an administrator, instead of a board, has to shoulder the responsibility of ‘ approving of transfers, mortgages, leases and sub-letting, it is inevitable that criticism will be levelled against bini personally. That is not a good policy in an isolated community such as the Northern Territory.
– The Payne-Fletcher report states that the Land Board is performing only routine duties, that the skilled men should be free, and that the Administrator should act alone.
– If that practice be adopted we shall detach the criticism, particularly in regard to the allotment and transfer of land, that should be levelled against a board; if the whole of the responsibility is placed on the Administrator, however excellent and honorable he may be, there will be suggestions of bias and prejudice which would not be made if there were a land board of three persons.
– The land transactions are comparatively few.
– They may be. But clause 8 of the ordinance reads -
Section 76 of the principal Ordinance is - repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
The Administrator may declare any area, not being less than two thousand acres, which he deems to be suitable for closer settlement purposes, to be an agricultural arpa for the purposes of this part.
Is that a negligible matter ?
– Does the Honorable senator think that the Administrator will deal with closer settlement to any great extent?
– Then why insert that clause in the ordinance, giving the Administrator power to declare any area in excess of 2,000 acres an agricultural area?
– The Government is making the necessary machinery available.
– Presumably the clause is there for a purpose. Previously that power was vested in the Minister and applications for areas for closer settlement purposes were made to him. It is too much power to give to an Administrator, particularly when it is provided that he can declare any area suitable for closer settlement purposes to be an agricultural area.
– “Would that apply to existing leases ?
– It might. So far as I can see, the eyes might be picked out of a particular locality. It is proposed to empower the Administrator to select occupied areas and to declare” them agricultural areas.
– Would he have the power to do that during the currency of a lease?
– I presume so; but perhaps the Minister will inform us on that point.
– Whoever heard of a pastoral lease being declared an agricultural area.
– Does the ordinance apply to land at present occupied ?
– It brings it under the agricultural section of the ordinance; not under the lease section. It does not relate to the power of resumption; that is dealt with elsewhere.
– I should be glad to have some further information on the point. The Assistant Minister did not give us any details concerning the proposed new section.
– -Another section of the main ordinance deals with resumptions.
– Perhaps Senator Sir George Pearce, who has had considerable experience of the administration of the Northern Territory, will give to the Senate the benefit of his views on the subject. The position seems to be that, owing to unwise decisions, the Northern Territory has had to submit to setbacks for years. Had the Northern Territory continued under the former system of having two divisions - north and central - 1 believe that its development would be more effectively controlled than it is to-day. I am in favour of granting adequate powers to the Administrator, but I am opposed to giving to him extensive authority to make decisions, as between individuals, which will inevitably lead to criticism and dissatisfaction. The responsibility in this matter should be borne by a board and not by one man.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.33]. - I gathered from the remarks of Senator James McLachlan, who submitted the motion, that he is desirous not, so much of disallowing the ordinance, as of directing attention to the necessity to adopt some of the recommendations of the Payne-Fletcher report. The honorable senator dealt very briefly with the ordinance, and most of his remarks were directed to the necessity for something being done to accelerate development of the Northern Territory. I commend him for his action in this respect, because for a long time I have felt that too little attention is given by this Parliament to matters affecting that territory. As . a Minister, I tried to galvanize the interest of my fellow Ministers, and of the Parliament, but unfortunately, with not much success. I welcome the motion, but I do not see that we shall gain anything by carrying it. The difference between control by the Land Board, as formerly constituted, and control by the Administrator, is the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee. If the Minister attaches some importance to the amended ordinance I shall not oppose it. There is very little difference between the Administrator acting as a land board, and accepting advice from the Surveyor and Chief Officer of the Lands Depart- ment, and the three of them sitting together as a board. It is not worth while to disallow the ordinance. If the Minister thinks that there is something to be gained by amending it in the form proposed, I shall not offer any objection. There is no connexion between the Payne- Fletcher committee’s recommendation in this respect and its other recommendations, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). If honorable senators will refer to paragraph 124 of that report they will find that the other recommendations are quite distinct. The commission recommends the change proposed in this ordinance, and says that it will be an advantage. The Minister is acting upon that recommendation.
Dealing first with the point raised by Senator Duncan-Hughes, I am sure that section 8 of the proposed ordinance has nothing whatever to do with the powers of resumption in respect of pastoral leases. I well remember the passage of the bill in which we laid down a land policy for the Northern Territory, The intention of the Parliament, as expressed in that measure, was subsequently embodied in an ordinance. The Administration has distinct powers of acquisition. South Australian members of Parliament lay the flattering unction to their souls that their State was superior in its methods in the Northern Territory, but it left some awful legacies to the Commonwealth. One of those legacies was a form of lease which contained no provision for resumption. The Northern Territory was the only part of Australia where there were leases with no power of resumption. One of the objects of the unending Commonwealth land laws to which I have referred was to induce lessees to surrender their leases by offering them longer tenure; there was no objection to granting leases for longer periods, and I think we extended them to 60 years, but with the right of resumption. We did that because vast areas were being held out of production. We wanted to have the land a little more closely settled, but still used for pastoral purposes. We were successful in that a number of the lessees did surrender their leases, but I am sorry to say that those surrendered were, unfortunately, not those that could with advantage be subdivided. 1 emphasize my view that the Minis.ter should obtain . first-hand knowledge of the territory. When I was Minister I went up to see the country I was called upon to administer. Persons who are reared in the southern part of Australia have not the faintest idea of conditions in the Northern Territory, and if they applied there methods that would be quite satisfactory in Victoria or South Australia, they would meet with disaster. We did apply such methods, and they cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds! The conditions are so entirely different that only by paying a visit there can the Minister realize the fundamentals of the problem.
– It is not necessary for every new Minister to pay a visit to the territory. His advisers can tell him all about it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.If I were the Minister I should prefer to see the territory myself. Senator James McLachlan referred to the countless reports that have been presented on the Northern Territory. If any honorable senator will read those reports he will discover how widely they differ. Why do they differ? One man from the south goes there at a certain time of the year, when the country looks like a garden; there are. feed, water, game, and every other requirement in abundance. Another man goes there at a different time in the same year, and the country seems like a howling desert. Thus some of the reports are most optimistic, whilst others are equally pessimistic. I formed the opinion, as a result of my visit, that what is keeping the territory back - and this is borne out in the report - is the cost of production and the cost of transport. There is no other secret. The Barkly Tablelands at one time carried hundreds of thousands of sheep, but it is not doing so to-day. Why? Because of the high cost, of production. It costa more to run sheep than cattle; fences and shearing sheds have to be constructed, - the sheds have to be equipped with shear- ing machinery, and more accommodation has to be provided for men. As a consequence, when costs of production rose, th» pastoralist discarded sheep in favour of cattle. The costs of production, however, still rose, and even cattle became unprofitable. The efforts of the Government should be directed to lowering the costs of production. The PayneFletcher report confirms that, and the policy of the Bruce-Page Government was directed to that end.
Honorable senators may read, in the Payne-Fletcher report about another legacy left by the South Australian Government - the Darwin wharf. If there is one wharf in Australia that apparently was deliberately planned to raise the costs of production, and to play into the hands of those who advocate the go-slow policy, it is that at Darwin. It is so constructed that gangs of men working there must sit down and wait while trucks are taken away. It seems that the wharf was constructed with the idea of interfering as much as possible with the continuity of loading and unloading ships. The PayneFletcher report put its finger on that disability. Flour required on a station has to be bought in Sydney. It is shipped round the coast to Darwin, taken by railway over 200 miles to Pine Creek, and then transported by camel team to the station. I saw accounts for flour bought at £12 a ton in Sydney, showing that it cost £40 a ton landed on the station on the Barkly Tableland. The cost of every other requirement on a station is similarly inflated. That being so, how can any one raise cattle and sheep profitably? It is impossible. I also represented to the Government that another matter requiring action was the tariff. This is not a question of free trade or protection, but a policy that what may be right for States like Victoria, South Australia, or “Western Australia, ought not necessarily to be applied to the Northern Territory. A tariff policy suitable to the south, when forced on a district like the Northern Territory, may become an obstacle to development of every kind. The Payne-Fletcher report gives some particulars of the effect of the present fiscal policy. On page 13 the report states -
Tariff charges press heavily on the territory and fetter its progress. That the undeveloped Northern Territory should pay a heavy petrol tax, and otherwise pay tribute to the populous States by tariffs on machinery and developmental material seems ‘to us to be ludicrous.
The petrol tax in Victoria is heavy, but Victorian motorists obtain roads in return for it. Paragraph 61 of the report says -
The Commonwealth levies a petrol tax of per gallon on imported motor spirit. This tax is universal throughout Australia, including the territory. In the territory however, residents have to pay for their petrol from ls. to 2s. (id. per gallon extra mainly on account of long haulages. Thus, at Alice Springs the terminus of the Port Augusta. - .Alice Springs railway, petrol costs 2s. yd. per gallon; at Tennant Creek, 3s. lOd. per gallon; and at Newcastle Waters, 4s. 4<1. per gallon.
The places to which the Payne-Fletcher report directs attention are in the best areas. The journey has only commenced at Alice Springs, or at the end of the railway at Birdum; the most costly part of it lies ahead. Petrol has to be taken from the railway hundreds of miles to the interior of the Barkly Tablelands, or to the Victoria River country. Our party went over the Barkly Tablelands in Ford utility trucks, and in some places our petrol cost the Commonwealth Government 12s. a gallon. That was in 1932, and I think it would be dearer now. As with petrol, so with everything else. The man on the land in the Northern Territory is not so favorably placed as the farmer in Western Australia, who can obtain goods from Perth and has a railway 20 or 30 miles from his property. In the Northern Territory there is a long steamer “trip, followed by rail haulage, at the highest rate of freight in the Commonwealth, and then a long road trip. How can any industry prosper? The policy of the Bruce-Page Government was to give tariff exemption to the Northern Territory. We proposed to allow the people to obtain their goods wherever they were cheapest. If the cost of production were reduced, there would be no reason why the Northern Territory should not progress as much as the pastoral districts of Queensland and New South Wales. I went from the Northern Territory to the Queensland pastoral country, and then back into the territory in order stall further to inform my mind of the comparative stages of development. There was, indeed, a great contrast. There were exactly the same Mitchell and Flinders grasses on the Barkly Tablelands as in the western district of Queensland. On Rockwood Station, which, I think, is only 50 miles over the Queensland border from the Northern . Territory, there were from 40,000 to 50,000 sheep, but there were no sheep on the Barkly Tablelands. The explanation is that in Queensland there are railways running in from the coast right to the pastoral country. Therefore, pastoralists can make purchases at a reasonable price, and can make sheepraising pay. The Bruce-Page Government proposed to do two things for the Northern Territory - to provide means of transport and to remove the tariff. We then came up against a difficult proposition. The Northern Territory has been mapped out by man on certain lines, but God made it in a different way. The natural outlet for the production of the Victoria River country - which includes some of the richest land in the Northern Territory - is not Darwin, but Wyndham; yet because a boundary line has been drawn on the map, government after government has tried to develop the Victoria River country by forcing it to trade through Darwin. Wyndham is the natural port for that country. One of our proposals was that the whole of that portion of North Australia should be brought under Commonwealth jurisdiction and treated as one territory. We sought to abolish the arbitrary boundary, and we desired to make tariff concessions. The Attorney-General at that time said that we could give tariff concessions to a territory of the Commonwealth, but not. to a part of a State. Therefore, before we could give a tariff concession to the north-west of Australia it would have to become Commonwealth territory. That was the reason which impelled us to suggest that the Commonwealth should take over that portion including Wyndham. We could then treat it as one area with the territory and give to it the same concessions.
– Why has not the Northern Territory been given the benefits of a low tariff in the meantime?
– It has. Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The reduction of costs of production combined with tariff concessions would solve the problem of the Northern Territory. We thought it would be best to give the Barkly Tableland an outlet at the nearest port, that is the McArthur River, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Payne-Fletcher Committee recommends linking the tableland by rail with Queensland. I do not propose to quarrel with that view, but I believe that one of our outstanding blunders in respect of developmental projects in the past has been the construction of railways for the dragging of goods a distance of several hundred miles overland, in an unusually hot climate, instead of providing access to the nearest port. A port could have been provided on the McArthur River within a distance of 120 miles of the fertile Barkly Tableland. I remind Senator James McLachlan that the tableland will carry sheep; and it did so until the cost of production became prohibitive. Our proposal in the past was that meat-works and a wharf should be established on the McArthur River, but it was not suggested that a railway should be built to connect this port with the tableland. Good roads and motor transport would be sufficient to meet the purpose. For these reasons, I do not agree with the recommendation of the Payne-Fletcher committee for the construction of a railway to connect the tableland with Queensland. It should be linked with its natural outlet q$ the McArthur River by means of motor transport. The Bruce-Page Government also sought to attract capital for the development of the territory. The States had borrowed up to the limit, and it was impossible for the Commonwealth to go on the loan market. It was under these conditions that the idea of bringing in chartered companies, to which Senator Collings objects, arose. The Bruce-Page Government announced its proposals in that respect, and invited British capital to consider the proposition. One British capitalist, Lord Luke, came here, and with his own expert staff investigated the whole of the proposals. When I interviewed him as he was about to leave Australia, he said that he was convinced that the scheme was sound, and’ that it was the best way in which the territory could be developed. He said that if Western Australia were prepared to come in he would put his own money into a chartered company, and added that a number of Western Australia lessees had consented to come in with him. The western portion of the territory would have been developed in that way but for two things. The first was that the Bruce-Page. Government was defeated at the ensuing elections in 1929, and the other was the advent, of the world-wide depression, which brought about a slump in the prices of beef, mutton and wool, with the result that all prospect of money being provided for the development of the territory disappeared. The depression knocked out all interest in those proposals.
I am satisfied that these are the things that we must do in order to develop the territory. I still believe in the wisdom of separating the northern part from the southern part, because the problems of cbe Alice Springs district differ entirely from those in respect of the Barkly Tableland. The tableland can be developed only on the basis of big areas, whereas settlers in the Alice Springs district are successfully raising sheep on comparatively small areas. I point out chat at the time the Bruce-Page Government formulated its policy in respect of the territory, very little sheep-raising was carried on in the Alice Springs area.
– Nobody ever doubted that sheep would thrive in that district.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE The industry is now expanding, and it is being carried on, not by big men, but by small men. I welcome the proposal of the Minister to visit the territory. He is a man with a practical mind, and will readily see that no insuperable problem exists in respect of the territory, but that its greatest handicap is cost of production. Senator James McLachlan criticized the huge expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in the territory. At least, we may claim that the expenditure was incurred with a good intention. In that respect, however, the Government was ill advised, and perhaps nobody was more * responsible for this mistake than a South. Australian Minister who was a close personal friend of mine, the late Honorable E. L. Batchelor. Like thousands of Australians, he had the idea that, because the territory has a rainfall of from 50 to 60 inches, it is similar country to northern Queensland. He concluded that it should be possible to grow agricultural products in the territory, and his agricultural expert agreed with that view. A start was made in the agricultural development of the territory, but, unfortunately, it proved to be a tragic example of waste of money. Senator James McLachlan said that he could not understand why the territory had not progressed, when the adjoining States were working land that was no better. I point out that the land which Queensland is working is entirely different from that of the territory; there is no land in the territory like it. The fact is that the rainfall in the Northern Terri-. tory is confined to torrential downpours during a period of three months, and for the remaining nine months the country is baked like a brick under a hot sun. In the northern portion of the territory, of which Darwin is the port, nothing can be grown for nine months of the year except along the rivers. There is no tropical agriculture in that area as we understand it, because the conditions there are entirely different from those operating in the coastal belt of Queensland, oi in a country like Java, where the rainfall is about the same. Because he believed in his idea, the late Mr. Batchelor, with the very best of intentions, spent large sums trying to develop the territory on the basis of tropical agriculture. His scheme proved a hopeless failure, and to-day the expensive machinery installed, on what is known as the Batchelor Farm is rusting away. Another enthusiast in. the development of the territory was Dr. Gilruth, a veterinary surgeon of considerable attainments, who felt convinced! that the territory could be developed through sheep-raising. He induced thethen Minister to establish a flock of sheepin the territory, but when the dry season came, accompanied by the speargrasspest, the unfortunate animals were almost tortured to death. The spears from this grass worked themselves through, not only the wool, but also the skin of the sheep. The remnants of that flock, consisting of” only 150 sheep, were transferred to the coastal belt of the Barkly Tableland, and” there they not only recovered, but also flourished and multiplied. Thousands pf” pounds were wasted in that experiment. I daresay that Dr. Gilruth believed that this experiment was justified. In any case he demonstrated that sheep cannot be raised in the country between Darwin and the Katherine River. That particular area is certainly a problem, and the man ha3 not yet been born who can tell us how to develop it except through mining. No other form of production can be carried on as a payable proposition in that part of the territory. But the other portions of the territory are entirely different. The Barkly Tableland has a healthy climate - for the most part of the year a beautiful climate - and in that district the white man can live healthily and produce cattle and sheep or a commercial basis. I have seen fat cattle on Mr. John Lewis’s station at Newcastle Waters which would find a ready market anywhere. I hope that the Minister will visit the territory as soon as possible, because I believe that as a practical man he will readily appreciate the real difficulties confronting the territory. I repeat that a policy directed towards the reduction of costs of production, especially in regard to transport, would solve the territory’s greatest problem.
– I have listened with great interest to honorable senators who have taken part in this debate. I recall the promises made by the Bruce-Page Government and successive governments to give to the Northern Territory great concessions in respect of the tariff, almost to the extent of allowing the free entry of goods. So far as I am aware there was nothing then, as there is nothing now, to prevent that policy from being carried out. But that has not yet been done. I am sorry that Senator Pearce did not tell us why past governments, with which he has been associated, have failed in this respect. Past governments have thrown out the suggestion to Western Australia that it should hand over the north-west part of that State to the Commonwealth in order that all of that portion of Australia might be enabled to enjoy benefits under the suggested scheme of tariff relief. I do not propose to discuss the wisdom of Western Australia’s replies to such invitations. However, I repeat that there was nothing to prevent the BrucePage Government, or any of its successors from giving effect to this particular scheme of tariff relief so far as the Northern . Territory was concerned. This Government can implement it, and the sooner it does the better. If it were attended with beneficial results in the territory, I have no doubt that many more people would be induced to live in the north-west parts of Australia. I was pleased to hear Senator Pearce urge the Government to do something which past governments with which he was associated intended, but failed, to do, and I suggest that it would be an honour to the right honorable gentleman, and a very good thing for Northern Australia as well, if the proposals for tariff relief and decreased costs of production put forward by the Bruce - Page Government in respect of the territory were now carried out. The Government should reduce production costs in the Northern Territory by lowering the tariff wall, as the BrucePage Government intended. That action would have the beneficial results mentioned by Senator Pearce. The primary producers of Australia are calling out for tariff relief. Constitutional difficulties prevent tariff differentiation as between the States, but that inhibition does not apply to the Northern Territory. I agree with Senator Pearce that this reform should be instituted in the northern portion of the Commonwealth which is under Commonwealth control. An exAttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth said that, it can be done.
– No political party in Australia is in favour of it.
– Tariff reduction is a plank of the- platform of the Australian Country party.
– That party does not want the reform confined to the Northern Territory. _ Senator E. B. JOHNSTON- I should like the reform to operate throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, but, if that be not possible, I should be willing that a start be made in the Northern Territory. I listened to Senator James McLachlan with interest, and was amazed to hear that the Land Board in the Northern Territory had been abolished. Obviously, if a land board is not considered necessary in the Northern Territory, the Government does not expect any rapid settlement there, because experience in all the States has shown that a land board is essential where large area3 of Crown4 lands are thrown open to application. The disposal of Crown lands is- much more likely to be dealt with satisfactorily by a board of three, of whom one is a licensed surveyor, than by one man acting alone. I am amazed that the Chief Surveyor of the Northern Territory should no longer be a member of the board. No person is so well qualified to advise the Administrator, or the Minister, in regard to the disposal of Crown lands as is a qualified licensed surveyor, who, in the course of his profession, gains experience in classifying and valuing land. I do not know the Chief Surveyor of the Northern Territory, but I do know that he must be trained in these matters. I intend to vote for the motion, because I know from my own experience the value of trained licensed surveyors in the disposal of Crown lands. The late Lord Forrest, who was chiefly responsible for the development and settlement of vast areas of Western Australia, was a licensed surveyor and explorer. Few modern dictators have greater power than was exercised for over ten years by that “ Emperor of the West The secret of his success lay in the fact that he knew Western Australia from end to end. As a licensed surveyor, he had acquired an intimate knowledge of every portion of the State, including the arid goldfields areas. He knew the resources at the disposal of the State. The most rapid development that has taken place in any part of Australia occurred when Western Australia entered on a period of selfgovernment, with him as its first Premier. That success was possible only because of his training. Throughout Australia, licensed surveyors have rendered invaluable assistance to the pioneer settlers. I am opposed to any proposal to take the control of Commonwealth lands in the Northern Territory away from the Land Board, and to give it to the Ad-
Senator JJ. B. Johnston. ministrator. Just as Western Australia has reason to be grateful to Lord Forrest, so is South Australia indebted to Mr. G. W. Goyder, who, when SurveyorGeneral of the State, defined the area beyond which settlement could not successfully be undertaken. The soundness of his judgment was proved in later years, when most” of the settlers who took up land outside what is known as “Goyder’s line of rainfall “ failed. Their failure resulted in gains to Western Australia, because many of them subsequently settled there - some of them with my assistance - and they were much more successful. The Government would be wise to retain the Land Board, with a licensed surveyor as one of its members, because of the value of his experience in the classification and disposal of Crown lands. I say that, notwithstanding my belief that the Government acted wisely in appointing Mr. Abbott as Administrator of the Northern Territory. As I predicted when the appointment was made, he has shown energy and ability in the performance of his duties. He is an excellent man whose appointment has been thoroughly justified.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The appointment of Mr. Abbott as Administrator of the Northern Territory was undoubtedly a wise one. He has proved himself to bc the right man in the right place. However, I believe that he would be the last to claim that, in addition to his present responsibilities as Administrator, he should take over the work of the highly-qualified chief surveyor, who, I understand, has been a member of the Land Board for many years, and who knows the resources and capabilities of Northern Territory land better than any other man. It would be unfair to Mr. Abbott to suggest that the ordinance would give him a complete authority over the lands of the territory, because in 1931, when the North Australia Commission was abolished, the administration at Canberra usurped, and still retains, control over all leasehold tenures granted to that date, including the very important South Australian tenures granted before the territory was taken over by the Commonwealth. I disapprove of tlie administration at Canberra having complete control of these pastoral leases. The Administrator of the Northern Territory deserves better treatment, and the people of the territory have a right to demand some measure of autonomy in the form of a local land board under the guidance of an efficient chief surveyor. From the earliest days of settlement in this country licensed surveyors have rendered very valuable services to the people. It is a mistake to abolish the Land Board, thus losing the valuable advice of the chief surveyor.
– The purpose of the ordinance is to allow him to do more field work.
– I should have thought that the chief surveyor would be relieved of field work; this should be left to other competent surveyors. It should be the duty of the chief surveyor to tender expert advice to the Administrator in much the same way as surveyors-general tender advice to their ministerial heads in the various States. I speak feelingly in this matter, because I have been closely associated with the work of land surveyors during the whole of my life. I have already mentioned the monumental work done by our greatest surveyor in Western Australia - the late Lord Forrest - in the development of land settlement in that State by means of free homestead farms and the Agricultural Bank. He obtained his wide knowledge in the field as a licensed surveyor, and in the course of his exploration made the first overland trip across the unknown waterless desert to Adelaide. When we in Western Australia speak of land settlement we remember also the great work done by Sir James Mitchell, particularly in the opening up of the wheat-belt for farmers. In carrying out that great work he relied much on the expert professional advice given by the surveyor-general of the day, who for over twenty years - and I mention this with much diffidence - was my father (the late Mr. H. F. Johnston). The people of the Northern Territory, unlike this Government, show some appreciation for the work done by licensed surveyors. Mr. Blain, the present member of the House of Representatives for the Northern Territory, is a licensed surveyor with a close personal knowledge of his huge constituency, and he ha3 had the endorsement of the people on two occasions. I hope that the Government will not take this retrograde step of abolishing the Land Board, because that will throw too much” work on the Administrator, and dissociate him from the chief lands officer, and the capable gentleman who for so many years has been the chief surveyor in the Northern Territory.
– Senator James McLachlan deserves our thanks for giving us an opportunity to discuss this important subject. 1 do not feel inclined to vote for the disallowance of the ordinance, but I welcome the opportunity to refer briefly to one or two underlying principles which arc involved in the motion. When first I heard of the proposal to abolish the Land Board, I received a bit of a shock, but knowing now how it was constituted, I do not think that any great harm will be done. Land boards as we know them in New South Wales - I believe similar bodies exist in some of the other States - are very important bodies. In the early days of settlement, when we were developing our Crown lands, these boards played a very important part in advising Ministers. In New South Wales the chairman of a land board is a representative of the Lands Department. He is given a large district, and acts as chairman of the local lands boards, the representatives of which are chosen because of their particular local knowledge to sit with the chairman when he visits their districts. A permanent official, known as the district surveyor, always accompanies the chairman, and his expert knowledge and advice are available to the land board in a particular district. This system of decentralization works most satisfactorily.
– In Western Australia the district land surveyor is the chairman of each local land board.
– The system . obtaining in New South Wales is probably better, because the chairman has more or less expert training in Crown lands law. He graduates from the Lands Department first as a Crown lands agent, and is generally a man with wide experience and a sound knowledge of the law relating to Crown lands, which is a study in itself. I could understand objection being raised to any proposal to abolish such a land board in the Northern Territory, but apparently the land board in question comprised the Administrator, the Chief Lands Officer, and the Chief Surveyor, so i>do not think that any great harm will be done. Probably the suggestion contained in the report of the commission, that this particular officer should be released from his present duties and allowed to do more useful work, is a sound one.
But, what I am more interested in is this admission of the failure of the attempt to govern people from a great distance. This system has always failed. It failed in connexion with the American colonies, and, in a minor way, it has failed in Australia. Most honorable senators will agree that it has failed in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory from Canberra, or, as formerly, from Melbourne, because’ those who are responsible for the administration do not understand the local conditions.
– That is because of the centralization of administration.
– That is what I am saying.
– Then the honorable gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition are in agreement.
– That is so. Yet, what a howl of opposition was heard in this chamber when Senator Hardy, some time ago, raised the issue of decentralization by the creation of new States! Many colleagues in New South Wales with whom I have been associated for some years, have always contended that government from a great distance must fail. I am pleased to find that the Assistant Minister is displaying more interest in the subject than he did during the debate on the motion moved by Senator Hardy some time ago. In perusing the ordinance, I notice that in many instances the word “ Minister “ has been deleted, and the word “ Administrator “ inserted - thus showing a growing tendency to recognize the principle of local government in such areas. That principle should be adopted more exten sively throughout the whole of Australia. National matters should be controlled by the national Parliament, and authority in local matters exercised by provincial councils or authorities controlling, say, new States. When my colleagues and I have advocated such a reform, it has always been vehemently opposed by the Leader of the Opposition. Although the Government does not propose, in this instance, to adopt the whole of the recommendations of the PayneFletcher committee, I gladly support the ordinance which Senator James McLachlan has moved to disallow, because in a number of instances attempts are being made to place the control of local matters in the hands of the Administrator. The time is approaching when the Commonwealth Government will have to consider, not merely the giving of increased powers to the Administrator, whoever he may be, but also the creation of a local advisory body to assist him in solving the problems of the Northern Territory. Perhaps the time is not yet opportune for the establishment of some form of self-government in the Northern Territory, but the Government should, so far as practicable, keep in view the desirableness of a policy of decentralization.
– Will not this ordinance make the Administrator a dictator ?
– At present a good man is occupying the important position of Administrator, and he should be permitted to decide matters of importance instead of having to refer everything- to Canberra.
– Would not the honorable senator prefer a real land board?
– When questions of land settlement are involved, it is an advantage to have a board such as is operating in Queensland.
– We want the present board retained and improved.
– It is absurd to suggest that the board which previously existed was really a land board. I wish now to refer to the interesting remarks of Senator Pearce, especially his references to the proposal, made a few years ago. to form a chartered company for the development of the Northern Territory.
When the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) “was Prime Minister and Senator Sir George Pearce was a member of his government, I submitted a proposal to Melbourne and Sydney newspapers for the development of the Northern Territory by a chartered company similar to that mentioned by Senator Pearce. The suggestion was favorably commented upon by the Melbourne and Sydney newspapers at that time, and, if everything else fails, it may still have some merit. I suggested that for a number of years the Northern Territory should be handed over to a chartered company, but that the constitution of that company should be such, that the Commonwealth should own one-third of the shares, the company one-third, and one-third to be open for public subscription; the company to be given a franchise of the territory, say, for perhaps 50 years, subject .to conditions which would insure that the territory would not pass under the control of people who would not develop it. In return for its investment, the company would, like the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, receive at the end of 50 years, a land grant, the unearned increment compensating it for any possible loss. Eventually the whole of the territory, subject to the grants made to the company, would revert to the Commonwealth. Such a policy might still be desirable with certain modifications due to improved transport facilities. If the Northern Territory is to be successfully developed, the fullest possible measure of self-government compatible with safety must be given to its people. .
– I have listened to some very interesting speeches, more or less relevant, to the motion which provides for the disallowance of an ordinance promulgated by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) and recently gazetted. While some interesting and instructive observations have, been made by honorable senators experienced in the administration of the tropical and sub-tropical portions of Australia, I remind honorable senators that the question we have to consider is whether the ordinance under discussion shall or shall not be disallowed. It appears that some honorable senators are speaking with two voices. We have heard pæans of praise concerning the findings of the Payne-Fletcher committee; but immediately the Minister attempts to give effect to a recommendation of that body, objections are raised. The present secretary of the Department of the Interior was Acting Administrator of the Northern Territory for some time, and acted as a member of the board which the Government has’ abolished. I do not know whether Senator James McLachlan really wishes that the ordinance shall be disallowed, or whether he has merely taken advantage of this procedure to ventilate his views concerning the development of the Northern Territory. I direct the attention of honorable senators to paragraph 124 of the Payne-Fletcher report which reads1 -
The Land Board at Darwin, consisting of the Administrator and two other officers, need no longer be continued as it is only performing routine duties. The Administrator can fittingly exercise all the functions of the Land Board, and generally act as Land Commissioner for the Territory. He ‘would, of course, have the advice, if he required it, of the officers of the Territory Service, who, with him, now constitute the Land Board. This reform would also allow the Chief Surveyor to spend more time on field duties.
The Administrator, who was consulted in this matter, approved of the step which has been taken.
– Would the Minister expect him to oppose the ch ange ?
– The Payne-Fletcher committee also obtained the views of the Chief Surveyor on the subject, and the alteration is being made because the board has been performing only routine duties.
– The board has not any power at all.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, but who is responsible? The original ordinance was promulgated by the Scullin Government which the honorable senator, although not a member of Parliament at the time, vigorously supported. I refer him to the tragic ordinance promulgated in 1931. I agree with the honorable senator that the ordinance was quite unworthy of a capable administration. It is the ordinance that the honorable senator and I alike have condemned, and that the Government is now altering in order to give some measure of local control.
– That is so much bluff and blarney.
– What is this vulgar allusion to bluff and blarney? That is all we seem to be able to get from Senator Brown. But without any partisanship, I submit that the ordinance of 1931 was entirely wrong. It vested in the board, subject to an appeal to the Minister, a hundred and one various powers that it had to exercise. The duties were more or less routine, as has been shown to-day. If honorable senators will look at the new ordinance they will see the powers that were formerly’ vested in the Minister. Section 11 of the 1931 ordinance stated that -
The Minister and any member of the board or any person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister or a member may, at any time, enter upon any Crown lands.
Imagine vesting in a Minister at Canberra power .to enter upon Crown lands in the Northern Territory for the purpose of enforcing an ordinance! Section 25 reads -
The Minister may, on the .application of tlie lessee, if he thinks lit, postpone the payment of the rental under any pastoral or agricultural lease for such period, and on such terms, as are prescribed or as he thinks fit. ls that a function that a Minister of the Crown should be discharging from Canberra, which is a long way from the Northern Territory? Is it not more sensible that the Administrator on the spot should discharge those functions? It has been suggested that section 8 of the ordinance to which the motion refers goes too far. That section repeals section 76 of the principal ordinance and inserts in its stead the following: -
The Administrator may declare any ansa, not being less than 2,000 acres, which he deems to lie suitable for closer settlement purposes, to be an agricultural area for the purposes of this part.
The 1931 ordinance is almost as long as the National Insurance Bill, for it has 131 clauses. It is divided into seven parts relating to “ Leases, Pastoral.” ; “ Leases, Agricultural”; “Leases of Crown Lands”; and “Miscellaneous Leases”.
Part IV., with which I wish to deal now defines “ agricultural lands “, “ garden lands”, “tropical lands”, and “tropical products “. Section 76 sets out that -
The Minister may declare any area, nut being less than 2,000 acres, which the board has reported to be suitable for closer settlement purposes, to be an agricultural area for the purposes of this part.
Instead of vesting that power in the Minister, the new ordinance vests it in the Administrator.
– - What ii wrong with my contention that the new ordinance will give to the Administrator power to determine what land shall be used for closer settlement?
– There is a vast area of country that he will deal with as freehold.
– Does the ordinance apply to pastoral leases?
– No, ii applies to land where the title is granted in fee-simple. It has no relevance to the resumption of leasehold land.
– I think it will be found, that resumption is dealt with in the part relating to pastoral leases.
– The ordinance is divided into several watertight departments, some of which I have enumerated. The part I am now dealing with relates to freehold land.
– I have a suspicion that we are both wrong.
– I am able to interpret this ordinance only in the light of its terms, and I have come to the conclusion that grants in fee-simple are dealt with in a distinct and separate part, “which has nothing to do with the resumption, extension, or continuance of leases. Let me show what has happened since 1931. In 1933 an ordinance was promulgated which said -
Where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Minister that the payment of the full amount of rental under any pastoral or agricultural lease will entail serious hardship on the lessee, the Minister may remit the whole or any portion of such rental for such period and on such terms, as are prescribed or as he thinks fit. imagine vesting such a power in a Minister ! It is now vested in the Administrator, who is on the spot. Section 112a gave the Minister power to grant leases of Crown lands for church purposes, and it was provided that ls. per annum should be paid if and when demanded by the Minister. That now becomes the duty of the Administrator. The whole tendency of the original ordinance was to shift the work of administration to the city of Canberra. Other ordinances have been promulgated since, and under the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1935, the Minister was given various powers of a more or less subordinate character. That was done by a government of which, I think, [ was a member. In the present ordinance we have tried, as far as we can without doing injury to any interests, to place the whole of the administration in the hands of the Administrator. That ordinance, as far as it goes, carries out the recommendation of the PayneFletcher committee, and adopts the sound principle of trusting to the men on the spot, with proper rights of appeal on serious questions. My attention has been drawn to paragraph 132 of the committee’s report, which reads - .
We have given close attention to the land ordinances at present in operation. The advantages that would follow from repealing them mid starting afresh would not be sufficient to justify such action, particularly as all vested rights would have to be preserved. Wc, therefore, content ourselves with suggesting material amendments which we consider to be necessary to foster progress and advance the interests of the territory.
That recommendation has been carried out in the amending ordinance. I appeal to Senator James McLachlan to withdraw the motion. There is nothing in the ordinance that offends against the PayneFletcher report. When the Minister has an opportunity to visit the territory, as he will have shortly, he will be able to decide on the spot what is necessary. The pastoral environment will be different from that to which he is accustomed, but he will, no doubt, be able to obtain a good idea of local requirements. I have been very interested to hear the different views expressed on the development of the territory, and I could add a word or two myself; but the issue is the disallowance or otherwise of the ordinance. Not one speaker has shown that the ordinance will be likely to do injury to any one. When the territory was under an acting administrator, the Land Board, which was set up by the ordinance of 1931, met every couple of months and had only a fewapplications before it, and these, as the report of the Payne-Fletcher committee points out, were largely routine matters. If the honorable senator will not withdraw his motion, 1 ask the Senate to reject it, because this ordinance simply gives effect to the policy outlined in the report of the Payne-Fletcher committee.
– The Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) described an interjection by myself as “ bluff and blarney “. 1 am informed by the member for the Northern Territory that the present ordinance is simply bluff on the part of the Government. I ask those honorable senators who support it, to what extent it will assist in the economic development of the Northern Territory? Even if this ordinance gave dictatorial powers to the Administrator, to what extent would it assist in the development of what can be termed the Cinderella of Australia? The powers vested in the Administrator by this ordinance, however, are very limited indeed, and when the Government claims that by such action it is only following out the advice of the PayneFletcher committee, it is merely trying to bluff the Senate. My leader (Senator Collings) has pointed out that the Payne-Fletcher committee made this recommendation simply because the powers of the Land Board had been emasculated. Senator Abbott supports this ordinance, but he did not make himself very clear as to whether he thought it would or would riot, be far better if the Government gave certain specified powers to the Land Board. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) contends that it would be far preferable to establish a real land board in the territory and enable it to do necessary work, such as is done by land boards or land courts in the States. That is the position, and the Government is merely trying to bluff honorable senators by alleging that splendid results will follow this action.
A great deal of good could be done for the Northern Territory if the Government were genuinely anxious to develop that part of Australia. Governments of a political colour similar to that of the present Government have been in power for many years past with the exception of the period from 1929 to 1931, and we are informed by the report of the Payne-Fletcher committee that there has not been in the past that close collaboration between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments that is necessary for the development of the territory. As a matter of fact, much good work could be done immediately, and at comparatively little expense, in the territory. Why, therefore, talk about grandiose schemes which sound well to the people? If the Government were earnest, it could, for instance, immediately extend the present railway line 100 miles southwards from Birdum and thus tap a part of the Barkly Tableland. That work could be completed within twelve months, and in the opinion of residents of the territory would be well worth while. Another railway could be built, as recommended by the Payne-Fletcher - committee, from Dajarra to Rankine, a distance of 240 miles, of which 160 miles would be in Queensland., and 80 miles in the territory. That is not a big job. This proposal also is supported by many residents of the territory. Why talk about big schemes when little jobs of this kind,’ which would undoubtedly help in the development of the territory, could be done within a comparatively short time? No attempt has been made to undertake them, however, because, in the past, the Commonwealth Government has failed to co-operate with the State governments in such matters. The committee commented upon the lack of such cooperation between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government in respect of linking up the southern part of the tableland with South Australia. Its report states -
Given’ confidence, and certain land administration reforms, which we envisage in this report, Central Australia can be developed to carry 300,000 sheep, and the number of cattle available for transport by railway can also lie increased. If this development takes place, the Central Australia railway will more than pay working expenses and the trade of Adelaide will be substantially increased. But such development cannot take place without reasonable encouragement from railway authorities.
Why does not this Government co-operate more closely with the Government of South Australia in this particular matter? I suggest that if it were in earnest it would do so eagerly.
– The railway is already there.
– That is so, but the Payne-Fletcher report suggests that there is room for closer co-operation between the two Governments in respect of the lowering of railway freights. I have repeatedly contended that this Government should use some of its surpluses in building new railways where they are urgently required, and in assisting development by the lowering of freights on existing railways. The report of the committee continues -
We recommend, therefore, that the Commonwealth and South Australian railway authorities should co-operate and decide upon a schedule more in conformity with the railway cattle freights in Queensland. As already stated, fat cattle in Queensland are carried 1,417 miles at a charge equivalent to £2 0s. lid. per head. We think that this charge should not be exceeded for the conveyance of cattle from Alice Springs to Adelaide, a distance of 981 miles.
As to the need for co-operation between this Government and the Government of Queensland, I point out that a line could be immediately constructed from Dajarra to Rankine, to be eventually carried through to Darwin. Such a line would open up the Barkly Tableland and thus immediately accomplish something in the development of the territory. In these circumstances, no need exists for handing over the work of developing the territory to chartered companies. We can help ourselves if we can have cooperation between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government, as suggested by the Payne-Fletcher committee. If the Commonwealth Government were really in earnest in. this matter, it would be prepared to spend a few hundred thousand pounds immediately in the direction I have indicated. The Leader of the Senate criticized the action of the Scullin Government in abolishing the
North Australia Commission. In his second-reading speech on the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill on the 5th November,, 1930, the then Minister (Mr. Blakeley) said -
I pay a tribute to the ability of the present North Australia Commission, and my grief is that, they have uo job to do. They were given a job but no money with which to do it. Obviously, a development commission must have money with which to carry on developmental works, and, as that money has not been made available to the North Australia Commission, it follows that the commission itself is unnecessary and that administration by a commission is costly and cumbersome. If funds had been made available and if arrangements had been made with Queensland and Western Australia to carry out a big scheme of development, particularly by building railways to open up the very valuable and rich Barkly Tableland near the Queensland border and the country right across to the Western Australian border, there would have been some such justification for retaining the commission. . . .
That is the point I stress. In the past, no money has been made available for the development of the territory. When the Scullin Government took office, this country was struck by an economic blizzard, and all honorable senators are familiar with the financial difficulties which confronted us at that time. Money could not then be made available for this purpose, but the point I emphasize is that it was not made available prior to -the advent of the depression. In view of this fact, it is apparent that there was not that seriousness and honesty of purpose in respect of the development of the Northern Territory which should have been displayed by governments in the past. If we could have the same enthusiasm for the Northern Territory to day which is sometimes in evidence in respect of some of the wealthier States, then the Northern Territory would go a.head. If, instead of talking about big schemes, we were to do some of the smaller things which I have indicated, we would help to develop this part of Australia. I and my colleagues support the motion for the disallowance of this ordinance because we contend that the Northern Territory will not be assisted merely by vesting emasculated powers in the Administrator.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (South honorable members for the way in which they have received the motion, notwithstanding that some have thought that there is no justification for disallowing the ordinance. The Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said that only a small matter was involved, but if he will look at the ordinance he will find that it affects about 103 amendments. I was struck by his remark that the whole of the ordinance is a tragedy. If that be so, I wonder that it has remained for seven years without alteration. Most honorable senators would like to see some real development take place in the Northern Territory. Senator Abbott said that the Land Board was a land board only in name, but I remind him that it consisted of three members - the Administrator and two officials - and that even if the Administrator will, as has been claimed, still have the benefit of the advice of the other two gentlemen, should he require it, that advice will not have the importance that would attach to it had they remained equal members with the Administrator on the Land Board, as previously. A board of three is to be replaced by one individual. Senator Pearce, who on occasions has been in charge of the Northern Territory, said that when South Australia handed over the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth it left to the Commonwealth an embarrassing legacy. That may be so, but I retort that the Commonwealth gave to South Australia an unredeemed pledge. The undertaking, given by the Commonwealth when it took over the territory from South Australia, to complete the railway line from Oodnadatta to Darwin, has not been honoured. The right honorable gentleman then spoke of the leases which existed in the Northern Territory when it was ceded to the Commonwealth. They were South Australian leases, for a term of 42 years, with the right of revaluation at the end of 21 years. He said that those conditions could not be altered, but I point out that, although South Australia had about 500 leases containing similar conditions, no difficulty was experienced in altering them. It is true, as Senator Pearce said, that the leases contained no provision for their resumption, but in respect of similar leases under the South Australian law thePastoral Board of that State’ approached the lessees and said that if t hey would give up a portion of their holdings, they would be given a new lease of 4.2 years. An amicable agreement was entered into with the lessees. I admit that the authority which controlled pastoral leases in the Northern Territory spoke of resuming leases, but I say advisedly that the procedure adopted was scandalous. Resumptions took place, and others were proposed, without any inspections of the properties. In the first year in which I was a member of the Senate I approached the then Minister for the Interior in connexion with a case in which an attempt was made to resume the homestead of a lease and the only water on the land. Senator Pearce also said that, included in the legacy left by South Australia to the Commonwealth, was an L-shaped wharf at Darwin. Although a committee- recommended in 1926 that the Government should put the wharf in order, nothing has been done. That neglect cannot be laid to the door of South Australia.
The Bruce-Page Government proposed that a chartered company should take over a large portion of the Northern Territory. I can never understand why the Commonwealth Government should have made that proposal, and yet not offer to its own settlers - men with experience of Australian conditions - the same privileges. Had it been prepared to offer to Australians the conditions which it offered to others, there would have been greater development of the Northern Territory than has actually taken place.
In my opening remarks I said that settlers on similar land in Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia were at least making a living. Senator Pearce claimed that the country in the Northern Territory was entirely different from that in the three States mentioned. I disagree with the right honorable gentleman. In the Northern Territory there is 300,00 square miles of land similar to that which has been developed in Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia. I do not claim to know much about the tropical areas of the Northern Territory, but
I do know that a large portion of the land there is similar to that in the States which I have mentioned.
Having taken the matter so far, I propose to take it to a division. I do so in thehope that, by disallowing the ordinance, we shall cause something definite to be done towards the development of the Northern Territory. In any case those who read Hansard will know that we in this chamber take an interest in the Northern Territory. As a South Australian I claim that South Australia saved the Northern Territory from occupation by Asiatics. That portion of the Commonwealth remained untouched for years until South Australia took charge of it. The people of that State are disappointed with the administration of the territory by the Commonwealth.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator James McLach- lan’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read a first time.
Bill received from tie House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLACHt.AN) agreed to -
Th at Hie Senate, at its rising, adjourn till lu-morrow at 11.30 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 9.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19380621_senate_15_156/>.