6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented: -
Inter-State Commission Act -
Inter-State Commission - Tariff Investigation - Appendices to Reports : Statistical and other information, and Evidence -
Ale and beer.
Apparel, viz., socks and stockings.
Brushware, brushmakers’. drafts, and brushmakers’ woodware.
Copper, refined - Bounty.
Electrotypes, stereotypes, and matrices.
Enamelledware and hollo wware.
Paints and colours, varnishes, and paint oils.
Vehicles and parts, including motor vehicles.
Writing inks and ink powders.
Ordered to be printed.
Audit Act - Treasury Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 78.
War, The - Gold Coast - Correspondence Relating to the Military Operations in Togoland.
– Has the Attorney- General read the statement made at a meeting of the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures that the Commonwealth contracts are being carried out by the scum of the earth ? Can the gentleman who made that statement be brought to book for it under the Crimes Act?
– Beyond entering an emphatic protest against the statement, I do not know what we can do to the person who made it.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs, since the House adjourned last Friday, been able to look into the land resumption case connected with the Liverpool Manoeuvre Area which I brought under his notice, and has he done anything in regard to it?
– I have looked into the case, and find that there is a great difference between the compensation claimed by the owner of the land and the offer of the Crown, the owner asking about £900, and the Crown offering about £200.
– That is one of the little tricks of the ‘Crown.
– The case will have to go before the Court, which will determine the value of the land.
– The Minister of
External Affairs stated last week that Sir George Reid has been definitely informed that his occupation of the office of High Commissioner will “ shortly cease. Have the Government in mind a successor?
– The appointment of a successor to Sir George Reid has not yet been considered by the Cabinet, but it will be dealt with in due course.
– Are we to understand from the answer given by the Minister of External Affairs that he has officially told Sir George Reid that his term of office will not be extended when the period for which he was last appointed expires? If so, when was Sir George so informed?
– Sir George Reid was informed some time ago that his termof office would be extended for twelve months. Some communications subsequently took place between the Government and Sir George Reid, and on 22nd April I think - there was an earlier notification by cable - Sir George was informed by letter that there would be no further extension of the term after the twelve months had expired.
– Will the Minister be good enough to give the House the reasons why he desires that the services of Sir George Reid shall not be continued ?
– The original term of office stated in the Act creating the office of High Commissioner was five years. I presume Parliament had good reasons for fixing that period. In addition to the five years, however, Sir George Reid is to serve this Government for an additional period of twelve months. Personally I think that an absence of six years from Australia is a long term for a gentleman occupying such an office.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether the High Commissioner, Sir George Reid, has not given entire satisfaction to the Commonwealth during his six years of office.
– On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I would ask whether the honorable member is not contravening a ruling recently given by you that it is not in order to base a question on one just answered.
– I think that the question put by the honorable member for Calare is a legitimate one.
– The honorable member’s question is such as he should hardly expect me to answer. I do not think itright that he should press for my individual opinion as to whether or not
Sir George Reid’s representation of the Commonwealth has come up to Australia’s expectations. I have no complaint to make of Sir George Reid’s representation of Australia in London, but he must recognise that after so many years’ absence from the Commonwealth he must be, to some extent, out of touch with Australian public feeling and public opinion.
– In view of the high cost of living, brought about by the drought and the Tariff, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of increasing the allowance to old-age pensioners which was promised during the last electoral campaign?
– We have considered the advisability of increasing the sums paid to old-age pensioners, and to others, andour policy will be announced at the proper time.
– Is it the intention of the Government to form a coalition with the Opposition during the war, a course that has been suggested by some of the newspapers?
– I have heard only a rumour of the suggestion, and do not propose to take any notice of it until something more definite is known.
– Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister and his party are pledged not to form a coalition Ministry under’ any circumstances?
– It is not a fact that the party is pledged, and I am against it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether his Department has yet come to any decision with regard to the offer of the premises of the German Club in Sydney for use for hospital purposes?
– No decision had been come to on Saturday last.
– Can the As sistant Minister of Defence inform the House of the result of the investigation into the working of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow ? What decision has been arrived at ?
– The manager of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow has been given the report of the experts who visited the factory on behalf of the Government,and has been asked to comply with their recommendation that a second shift be employed.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence able to tell the House whether the proposed two shifts at the Small Arms Factory means two shifts of eight hours or two shifts of twelve hours ?
– So far as I can ascertain, the intention is to have two shifts of eight hours.
– Why not three shifts, then?
– In the report presented by a Committee of this House, it was stated that the output at the Small Arms Factory could be increased by 70 per cent. by carrying out the recommendations of the Committee. Is it proposed to increase the output by 70 per cent. under the proposal of the Government?
– I have been informed, this day, by the Minister, for the information of the House, that it is the intention of the Minstry to have two shifts, though I was not informed whether those shifts were to be of eight or of twelve hours. However, there will be two shifts, possibly of twelve hours each; and, if that be so, it is anticipated that the output will be increased by 70 per cent., as the Committee suggested could be done.
– You could find out from the Minister of Defence.
– I shall find out.
– May I ask the Prime Minister, with regard to the proposed second shift at the Small Arms Factory, whether the Public Works Committee in their recent inquiry were invited to consider whether a second shift could be worked at the factory ?
– I do not know whether they were asked or not.
– I understand the Assistant Minister of Defence is in a position to answer that question.
– As I understand it, the Public Works Committee had full power of inquiry into anything concerning that factory which might tend to increase the output, either by putting in another shift, or two more shifts, if they thought fit.
Treatment op Nurses] - -DISENROLMENT - Discharge - Non-delivery of Correspondence and Newspapers - Casualty Lists - Services of Expert Riflemen - Provision for Dependants.
– I ask the Naval Minister if he has read in this morning’s Age the complaint that the Defence Department is sweating the nurses? Is there any truth in what has been said on that subject? If there is ground for the complaint, will the Government, which represents the Democracy of Australia, put the nurses on the same level as private soldiers?
– As officers!
– I have not read the complaint, nor am I aware that the Department is sweating the nurses. I shall have the matter inquired into, and will let the honorable member know the result.
– As the complaint has been made that the names of men going to the front have in some cases been struck off the electoral rolls, will the Prime Minister give the instruction that this is not to be done?
– I am not acquainted with the provisions of the Electoral Act which govern whatever action is being taken, but I hope that the electoral officers will hesitate before striking off the roll the names of soldiers.
– Their names are on the roll of honour, at any rate.
– Yes. Names should not be removed, from the electoral roll unless there are good and sufficient reasons for their removal. The matter will be looked into from the legal and administrative points of view.
– Seeing that a number of men have been discharged from the Expeditionary Forces after, some of them, putting in drill for several months, will the Department make some arrangement so that those who are connected with the Army Medical Corps may serve in either the hospitals or the ambulance companies at or near the front ? Many of these men are desirous of rendering some service to their country.
– It is the intention of the Government to give every consideration to the cases of those men who, perhaps because of faulty teeth or some defect of that sort, have been discharged.
The whole matter is being considered by the Minister.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that numerous complaints are made about the non-receipt of correspondence sent from Australia to our soldiers at the front? In many cases, letters, and in nearly all cases newspapers, go astray, and I should like to know whether this arises from any act of censorship ? I have sent copies of a Melbourne weekly newspaper to two soldiers who are fighting at the Dardanelles, and not one of these newspapers, sent since November last, has been delivered.
-.- Last week, I think, I gave detailed information as to the arrangements made at this end. I do not know what may be the arrangements at the other end.
– Referring to my question to the Postmaster-General, can the Assistant Minister of Defence state whether the military censors are preventing the free despatch of newspapers from Australia to the troops ?
– Not that I am aware of. I might, while I am on my feet, reply to the question asked by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the shifts it is proposed to work at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow. It is proposed to work two shifts, but the hours to be worked on each shift have not yet been decided upon.
– May I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence, in view of the fact that the Melbourne newspapers are not publishing details of the casualty lists, except in regard to the State of Victoria, whether he will .be good enough to have full casualty lists filed in the party rooms for the convenience of members?
– If that can be done without any great amount of extra work I shall be glad to comply with the honorable member’s request.
– I would like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if his attention has been called to a letter signed C. S. Robertson, which appeared in the Argus on Monday, in which the statement is made that there are a large number of expert riflemen in Victoria who are prepared to give their services free, so as to enable the troops to become expert shots before they leave for the front? Does the Minister propose to take any action to avail himself of the services of these expert riflemen?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister.
– In view of the considerable doubt in the minds of many who desire to enlist as to the provision to be made for their wives and children during their absence, will the Assistant Minister of Defence see that full notification is given in the newspapers as to the conditions in this regard ?
– I think it has been made widely known that the wives of all soldiers who go to the front are to have a separation allowance of 10s. a week, and each child under the age of sixteen an allowance of 2s. 6d. These facts are, I think, now being advertised.
– In view of the fact that the mail route is now open across France, will the Minister of External Affairs issue instructions to all the oversea shipping offices as to the requirements of his Department, and the various consulates, in regard to passports? The public are put to a great deal of inconvenience through lack of knowledge in’ this regard.
– As I understand the suggestion, it is that information regarding passports shall be issued to the various shipping offices and consular agents throughout France and - in what other countries?
– I mean that the information should be given to the shipping offices in Australia for the convenience of people travelling from this country.
– That will be done, if it has not been done already.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral being assisted in the administration of his Department by an Honorary Minister? I have heard that an Honorary Minister is assisting the honorable gentleman, and, if that be so, I should like to know what arrangement has been made for the division of the work?
– No special arrangement has been made.
– Any change would be for the better !
– That is a matter of opinion. One of the other Ministers has been assisting me, though not under any definite arrangement.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to amend the Pensions Act, so as to meet certain deserving cases not provided for in that Act ?
– I think it is the intention of the Government this session’ to propose an amendment of the Pensions Act, in order to make it more workable where it is at present found to be a little faulty. The amendment proposed may make the Act a little more generous.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House when he is going to do something for the poor fellows who are running our outback mails ? Will the honorable gentleman let us know what he is going to do, and when he is going to do it?
– That matter is now being arranged in detail. Every case must be dealt with on its merits.
– You have not dealt with one yet ! Tell us one case you have dealt with.
– I have answered the honorable member. A sum of £50,000 is to be appropriated for the purpose of giving some assistance to the mail contractors.
– They will die while the arrangements are being made
– In distributing the £50,000, will the PostmasterGeneral, with his benevolent heart, do something for those people who look after the little allowance post-offices in the country ?
– Those offices are not concerned, because many of the people in charge do not keep horses.
– No; but they keep husbands.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that letters are still being sent out from his Department to the effect that there is to be a reduction of mail services and of subsidy? If so, is that policy to be continued ?
– I am not aware that such letters are being sent out; they do not go from the Central Office.
– I saw one on Friday.
– In a number of cases, a reduction of mails was necessarily arranged for, and, as to these, some consideration will be given.
– What relief will those people get if you stop part of their subsidy?
– They will get relief from the special appropriation.
– Did the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General join with trade unionist delegates at the Adelaide Labour Conference in passing resolutions in favour of materially altering the incidence of the land taxation passed by this Parliament during the present session? If so, who is responsible for the Labour Government’s legislation ?
– I think that is a question upon which I must intervene. It is one which does not affect in any way the business before the House, and, that being so, it ought not to be asked.
– I would like to ask the Prime Minister if his Government is committed to bring down legislation in accordance with the findings of the Adelaide Conference on Federal matters?
– Order! May I again point out that questions of that character cannot be asked. If I were to permit such a question to be asked I could conceive that honorable members might feel at liberty to ask questions on any subject under the sun.
– It is public policy.
– Not at all. I have stated the honorable member must not ask such questions.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to the fact that the American Beef Trust that is operating in Queensland and in Northern New South Wales has caused the closing of the Cooperative Canning and Preserving Works at Byron Bay? If that is so, will the Minister communicate with the New South Wales Government and ask them to prevent the passage of New South Wales cattle into Queensland so as to give the people of New South Wales an opportunity of getting meat at a reasonable price ?
– My attention has not been drawn to the matter, but now that it has been drawn to it I shall be glad to make inquiries.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence in a position to reply to the question I asked last week with regard to the office of censor at Thursday Island to which the salary of £400 a year is attached?
– Information is being obtained on the subject.
– In view of the fact that a considerable quantity of frozen meat has been released from storage and made available for public consumption, can the Minister of Trade and Customs state whether retail prices have been affected ?
– I understand prices have dropped by from 2d. to 3d. per lb.
– May I ask the Prime Minister if there is any likelihood of a truce being formed with the object of putting an end to party legislation during the currency of the war?
– In answer to the honorable member for Dampier, mayI say that this Government brings in no party legislation? It brings in only legislation for the welfare of the people of Australia as a whole.
– Has the Assistant Minister of Defence read what is said to be the first of a series of articles which was recently published in a Melbourne newspaper, dealing with battles which took place a hundred years ago, in which the British are described as having been assisted by the Germans in securing a victory against one of our present Allies? Do such articles come within the purview of the censor?
– The censor has received certain instructions from the
Minister of Defence, and I take it that if my colleague sees anything in a newspaper which ought not to appear he will immediately enter into correspondence with the censor concerned.
– Since the Prime Minister has stated that it is the intention of his Government to legislate, and to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth, in the interests of the whole of the people, will the right honorable gentleman immediately direct the withdrawal of the tyrannical instruction recently given to heads of Departments that only members of trade unions shall be employed by them?
– No such instruction has been given. An order was issued, but not equivalent to that implied by the honorable member’s question.
Speech by Sir George Reid.
asked the Minister of
External Affairs, upon notice -
– Yes, I have seen both the article in the newspaper referred to and the report of proceedings at the dinner of the Imperial Industries Club, held in London on 16th February, 1915, which apparently was the occasion of the remarks under review. Having read this, I have formed the opinion that it was a characteristically humorous speech by Sir George Reid on both sides of the fiscal question, and having no political significance.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the scandals which in the past have arisen over the public contributions to certain charity relief funds, he will confer with the Attorney-General, with a view to have some public supervision of the collection and distribution of the money, and the expenses incurred in connexion with the various patriotic funds?
– I shall consult the Attorney-General on the matter, and let the honorable member know the result.
Royal Australian Navy: Employment in Naval Stores and Dockyards - Construction of Cruiser - Temple’s Safety Flying Machine - Broadmeadows Camp: Death Rate - Cost of Cruisers Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– As portion of this question deals with a matter which the Naval Department regard as secret, I shall hand the answer to the honorable member, and any other honorable member may also see it confidentially, if he desires to do so.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1: Yes - of a modified type.
The answers to questions 3, 4, 5, and 6 are of a secret character, but I shall be pleased to give the information sought to the honorable member or to any other honorable member who may desire to be furnished with it.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
If any inconvenience has been caused to Mr. Temple by delay in replying to correspondence, this is regretted.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House of -
The cost of the construction of H.M.A.S. Sydney and Melbourne?
The cost to date of H.M.A.S. Brisbane, now on the stocks?
The present estimated final cost of the * Brisbane* when ready for service?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway: Estimated Cost: Revenue and Expenditure - Federal Capital Buildings : Competition for Designs
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Did this estimate include any provision for -
What was the original estimated period for the completion of the line? 4. (a) When was work started at the Port Augusta end?
How many miles have been completed -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
£4,045,000 for an unballasted line with 70-lb. rails, and navvies’ wages at 10s. per diem. 2. (a) Yes; but amount not specifically shown..
No period was officially stated. 4.(a) 13th July, 1912, although twelve months later only 6 miles of line had been laid. First sod was turned on 14th August, 1912.
(a) 531 miles 28 chains.
40 miles at the eastern end. A considerable mileage has been partly ballasted in the worst places at the western end.
– On the 20th May, the honorable member for Wakefield asked the following questions in respect to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway:
The proportions respectively-
The answers are as follow: -
The proportions of this amount are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I move -
That Order of the Day No. 1, Government business, be postponed until after consideration of Order of the Day No. 2.
The object of this re-arrangement is to enable the Minister of Trade and Customs to bring before the House a motion relating to the remission of duties on certain commodities.
.- Will the Minister of Trade and Customs indicate the difference between the duties which are to form the subject of his motion and other duties in the general Tariff ? His proposal is, I understand, to make lawful, by a resolution of this Parliament, the remission of certain duties. How is the particularizing of this item rendered necessary? Does not the item stand on the same footing a3 any other item in the Tariff ?
– In February, the Government discovered that there was a considerable shortage of fodder, and as Parliament was not sitting we could not remit the duty on that commodity. We promised the importers, however, that we would hand back to them any duty they might pay on imported oats, bran, pollard, hay, chaff and straw. I had expected that the Tariff would have come under consideration earlier in the session, and that we should have had an opportunity of dealing with this remission of duty in -the ordinary course of dealing with the Tariff. As, however, consideration of the Tariff has been delayed, the duty which the business people have paid on these imports is held up by the Government pending, parliamentary sanction to remit it, and I am taking action now to convenience the importers, many of whom are small men.
– The whole of this discussion is irregular at this stage. I take it that the Prime Minister is asking for leave to take a certain course, and that the House will grant it; but I mention the irregularity now, so that the discussion which has taken place may not be regarded as a precedent.
– I am under the impression that the House can alter the order of its business at any time during the sitting.
– There is a time when the order of business can be altered, but the Government have not taken the course which would allow of that being done in a regular way. The Standing Orders specifically state that when the Order of the Day for Supply is called upon, with the exception of every third’ Thursday, I shall leave the Chair immediately. If that practice were not followed, we should have a grievance day on every occasion when a motion to go into Supply was before the House, instead of only once in every three weeks. In those circumstances, I could not regularly allow a discussion to take place at this stage of the proceedings. As, however, I understand the House has no objection to the course proposed by the Prime Minister, I am allowing the motion to proceed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra- Minister of
Trade and Customs) [3.50]. - I move -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1914 as amended by the Resolution proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs on the twelfth day of December One thousand nine hundred and fourteen be further amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the twenty-seventh day of February One thousand nine hundred and fifteen at nine o'clock in the forenoon, Victorian time, Duties of Customs he collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff as so amended.
– Yes ; the action that I am taking now is the same as I took in regard to the duty on wheat. I am attempting to validate an action of the Government which was taken in the interest of the whole community. Honorable members opposite will agree with me that the Customs Department will gain nothing from what is now being done, though the moving of the motion will be of great advantage to business people, because it will enable them to get back money which they have paid. I should have moved this motion earlier in the session had I thought that the discussion of the Estimates would have lastedso long, because I believe that some per sons have been keeping fodder in bond, in expectation of the course now being taken.
– The duty paid will be refunded ?
– Yes, from the date specified.
– How long will the repeal of the duty operate?
– Until we deal with the Tariff, or until another motion is moved suspending this one. In February the Government, seeing the serious position of the users of fodder, decided that oats, bran and pollard, hay, chaff, and straw should be admitted into the Commonwealth duty free, and I am now seeking to validate that action. - Mr. J. H. CATTS (Cook) [3.52].- As we are asked to ratify an interference with the protective policy of Australia, we ought to have from the Minister some information regarding the position of the country so far as fodder stocks are concerned. To what extent is the Commonwealth able to meet its own needs in respect of straw, hay and chaff, > bran and pollard and oats ?
– It is common knowledge that there is a shortage.
– Is operation of a duty to be suspended whenever it is “common knowledge” that there is a shortage of the article to which it applies? Surely the Minister can tell us on what information the Government acted. So far as I am aware, we have never been given that information. The Prime Minister stated that the drought was only a little one, and was felt over only a part of Australia. If that be so, there must be other parts which enjoyed a bountiful season, and produced straw, hay and chaff, bran and pollard and oats in abundance. We ought to be told what parts of Australia escaped the drought, and what the production in those areas was.
– In other words, if the drought was only a little one, the present proposition is wrong. “
– Everything depends on the extent of the shortage, which may have been so serious that it warranted the action taken by the Government. We have had the intimation that the House was never consulted on this matter. Certainly we have not had an opportunity to consider it. Now that we have been consulted, the Minister should give us what information he possesses. The Government could not have acted in the dark. I should like to know if Ministers are able to ascertain the position of Australia in regard to other commodities besides those named in the motion. .
– Whether they have done anything under the amendment moved by the honorable member the other day.
– No; whether they have acted upon definite information, or have merely made a plunge in the dark.
– Every State Government approached the Commonwealth Government in regard to this matter.
– With the exception of the Queensland Government, I think:
– If it were ascertained that there would be an actual shortage between crops, and that, no matter what price might be offered for fodder, it could not be got locally, the action of the Government was justified’ because the import duty would then have operated only as a- revenue duty, and I am not in favour of the imposition of revenue duties, and have never voted for them. I rose because this is the first occasion on which this matter has been mentioned, in the House.
– I have answered at least a dozen questions on the subject.
– This is the first time that the House has had an opportunity, to consider the matter. We are asked now. to ratify the action of the Government, and the Minister should be in a position to give us the information on which the Government acted.
.- The honorable member for Cook has placed the Minister in a somewhat difficult position. He must realize as clearly as any one else that it is difficult for the Minister to explain how widespread the drought was when the Prime Minister consistently referred to it as a little drought. The- Prime Minister has always denounced any one who has attempted to draw attention to the sufferings of our producers as the result of the bad season through which we have just passed. To dare to do that seems to be, in his opinion, unpatriotic and un-British. He appears to fear that the Germans might hear’ of it. Consequently out of the purest patriotism he has consistently spoken of the drought as only a little one, although, as we all know, it has been very widespread, and it is not altogether fair to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to make a’ fool, so to speak, of his leader. What is proposed is to validate the action the Government Has taken. What was done was, in my opinion, necessary, and I therefore offer no opposition to the proposal before us, but I ask the Minister what’ he proposes to do in regard to the duty on sugar.
– There is a stronger case for’ the remission of the duty on sugar.
– The shortage of sugar is admitted, and* the Attorney-General has Told us that the sugar duty operates mainly, if not solely, for the benefit of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Why not. then, in the name of common sense, take off the duty on sugar. It is an amusing state of affairs that we should have the valorous reformers of the Caucus, the eaters up of all trusts - except the tobacco combine - leaving that Behemoth, the Sugar Trust, alone. Not a word has been said as to what will be done regarding the sugar duty.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the motion.
– If the honorable member will take my advice he will vote to put on the free list the commodities mentioned in the motion. We shall not get too many articles on the free list later.
– I ask my honorable friends to endeavour to ascertain for us in another place what is going to be done in regard to the duty on sugar.
– I ask the honorable member not to pursue his present line of observation.
– I do not propose to do so, but I urge Ministers in all cases where there is an absolute shortage of an article to place that article on the free list, so. long as that action will not completely dislocate local employment.
– I agree with what has been said about the extraordinary position adopted by the Prime Minister in regard to the drought. Nothing but dire necessity would excuse such a departure from the Protectionist policy of the country as is now proposed, and those of us who are in close touch with the country districts know that the conditions which have recently prevailed have been almost unprecedented. The drought was so severe and sudden that.it found the community quite unprepared for it. I do not propose to say anything against the granting of relief to the consumers of fodder, but we are entitled to receive from the Minister more specific information concerning the reasons which prompted the.action of the Government. I have always felt that the Prime Minister was wrong in describing the drought as a little one.
– Victoria does not know what a drought is.
– If the honorable member had travelled for five weeks through a district which had been devastated and almost depopulated by the drought - and I have done that - he would not have made that remark. . The drought of last season was the most severe, because the most sudden, ever experienced in this part of Australia. The Protectionist party is sometimes charged with giving no assistance to those on the land, and what is now proposed takes from the producers a benefit given to them by the Tariff. As I have said, only dire neces-. sity could excuse the action now taken. Yet the Minister has given no reason for the action of the Government, first in declaring that the drought was only limited in character, and then in taking the drastic step of depriving a large number of persons of the benefit of protective duties.
-The duties that have been remitted are of no use to our farmers except in times of drought.
– I do not altogether agree with the honorable member. There is one commodity in regard to which, if it were not for our Protectionist policy, our farmers would have to meet very serious competition. This commodity would come from New Zealand, as in years gone by, in such quantities as to rob the growers within the Commonwealth of much of the benefit of the Protectionist policy. Simply because I am aware of the conditions, I am not going to oppose the proposal of the Government; but I feel that the Minister might have been a little more candid, and could have been so, without any great danger of conveying information to the enemy. We shouldhave had placed on record the reason why he, as an avowed ardent Protectionist, has seen fit to introduce a proposal of an undoubtedly Free Trade
.- Can the Minister give the Committee any assurance as to the length of time this proposal, if carried, will operate? I presume, of course, that these commodities will be dealt with in their entirety when the general Tariff is before us.
– And it will then be for the Committee to decide how long the proposal now made shall operate.
– I presume that the Tariff will be dealt with about August or September.
– Next week!
– It ought to have been dealt’ with long ago.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– It would have been dealt with had honorable members not talked so long upon the Estimates.
– I do not know how long we are to remain in session, but the probabilities are that we shall not have the harvest until November, when Parliament may not be sitting.
– Oh, we shall be here until nearly Christmas!
– The honorable member probably knows move about that than I tlo. However, if the House is not sitting lit the time of the new harvest, I wish to make quite sure that these duties will be re-imposed. Is that possible?
– It is possible for me tq come clown to-morrow with another motion re-imposing the duties.
– That I fully understand.
– This motion is proposed for the convenience of business people, and if any honorable member objects, let him say so !
– I am not objecting at all. By this motion, if we carry it, we shall make these various items free.
– The motion becomes operative as soon as I move it.
– That is exactly the point. The tabling of this motion makes these items free, and as soon as the Committee deals with the Tariff - and the Minister has mentioned next week, though we can scarcely deal with the whole of it by then-
– I am not sanguine enough to think that we can deal with the whole of the Tariff by next week.
– Within the next few months, I hope, we shall have finished the Tariff, and there is the possibility that Parliament may rise for the referenda campaign. It is quite obvious that if Parliament does rise, and these goods are left on the free list, it will be impossible for the Minister to do then what he can do when Parliament is in session. I wish to be sure, before we actually agree to this motion, that it will be possible to so arrange matters that these duties may be automatically re-imposed.
– That may be at any time honorable members choose.
– So long as that is so, I have no objection to offer to the mo- tion. It is a matter of general knowledge that those who were able to get good crops last year are doing very well out of the high prices, while those who did not, are suffering great inconvenience just now. As I say, I have no objection to this motion provided the duties may be re-imposed as soon as the local conditions justify that course.
.- I do not think this is. a case in which we should press a fiscal policy to the extent of blind devotion. We all know, just as well as does the Minister, that, in November last, there was practically an ascertained shortage of fodder. The honorable member for Cook was on the right track the other night; and I am sorry that he allowed “ his motion to be smothered.
– I could not help it.
– The honorable member “blew hot” for a while, and then “blew cold.”
– Nonsense! I could not help myself.
– The position illustrates the necessity for a dependable Department devoted to the collection of statistics. Nothing is more important than that we should know that enough foodstuffs, are being raised, either for the preservation of the people or for the preservation of stock, which is, I think, our greatest national asset; the first es”sential, as a basis of our national existence, is “ Enough for all.” I freely give, my support to this motion; and, indeed, I go further. I am not even, so keen as the honorable member for Grampians, or the honorable member for Richmond, on the question of the reimposition pf these duties, though certainly I should vote, for that. I do not regard the duties as absolutely essential to our primary industries; we all know that they are not. There are only very odd years when the farmers get any benefit from such duties. Of course,- they may operate at times in regard to oats, hay, and wheat, but generally they are practically inoperative. I am pleased that the Committee is showing a disposition to ratify what the Minister has. done; and the only trouble is that the honorable gentleman did not act soon enough. In my opinion, the Federal Government and the State Governments have slept on the question, whereas they should have been in the field much earlier. The first consignment of lucerne for Victoria is about to be landed, to be followed by the first consignment of cereal fodder; but, in the meantime, thousands of head of stock have died. The assurance by the Minister that the fodder is coming in duty free constitutes, in my judgment, not Free Trade, but the highest form of Protection that could be offered to country producers at the present time, seeing that fully 90 per cent. or 95 per cent. of the farmers are buyers, and not growers and sellers.
.- While I concur in the action of the Government in removing these duties, I should like some explanation from the Minister in regard to the application made from Western Australia for a remission of the duty on maize. The action of the Government in regard to grain and pulse is perfectly clear to the people generally, but they went further, and remitted the duty on hay and chaff; and a statement has been made that that action was taken only after a deputation of Melbourne people had waited on the Minister - that it was a relief granted, not so much to pastoralists and farmers, as to city people.
– It was not in consequence of any action of city people that I communicated with all the Premiers and urged them to take steps!
– Of course, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statement, but I know that it was not repudiated at the time it was made. I should like the Minister to seriously consider the representations of the Western Australian people in regard to the importation of maize. The State Labour Government assisted in the importation of large quantities, and only after it had been clearly proved that it was impossible to obtain the commodity in Australia. That fact should have some weight with the Commonwealth Government; and I know that the question has been submitted twice to the Cabinet.
– More than twice.
– The poultry-raisers, particularly, applied for a remission of the duty, and they were assisted in the way I have described by the State Government of Western Australia. The duty, however, amounts to a very large sum - in the neighbourhood of £10,000 - and I think that the case for these people is quite as good as that made out for those interested in hay and chaff. I urge the Government to reconsider the matter, because the position is certainly not fair to the distant community in Western Australia. The argument that was used as against the importation, namely, that maize could be purchased in Australia, has been proved to be absolutely incorrect; and I see no reason why those who require that commodity should not be placed in the same position as those who require hay and chaff.
– I do not oppose the motion, but I think it would have been very much better if the Government, instead of dealing piecemeal with these matters, had dealt with sugar and fodder all at once. Every time the Tariff has been before us I have pointed out that these fodder duties are not of the slightest use to the Australian producers, except during a drought.
– That does not apply to sugar.
– It does not, and I was about to say so. In nine years out of ten the Australian producer is exporting practically the whole of these items. The duties on chaff and wheat-
– Wheat is not now being dealt with.
– Are we not dealing with wheat and flour ?
– At any rate; except in times of drought we are exporting practically the whole of these items, though, of course, oats may occasionally be imported from New Zealand; and, therefore, the duty is quite worthless to the farmer in ordinary years. As a matter of fact, the prices ruling in the centres of population in Australia are considerably less than those for which these commodities could be imported from any part of the world. I object to this piecemeal method of dealing with the matter, because it is the bounden duty of the Government to deal with a much more important commodity, namely, sugar.
– But this arose at a time when the sugar question was not prominent.
– The sugar question is always with us. There has never bean a year, except one, since Federation, in which Australia has not been an importer of sugar. I have the only figures available dealing -with this question. They cover the years 1903-14. Before that time-
– I will ask the honorable member not to discuss the sugar question. .
– I am not going to discuss the sugar question. I merely mention it by way of arguing that it is the bounden duty of the Government to deal with the whole of this question at once, instead of in the piecemeal manner that is now proposed. I can only come to the conclusion that no political capital is to be obtained by dealing with the duties on chaff and oats, whereas considerable capital can, and probably will, be obtained out of the sugar question. The Government are to be censured for not dealing with sugar in some way in connexion with this proposal.
– Order! I have allowed the honorable member considerable latitude. I ask him not to proceed further with that argument.
– It would have been better if the Government had dealt with all the subjects that are involved in one resolution, so that the House could have gone into the matter thoroughly, instead of in the piecemeal manner proposed. I have no objections to, the resolution. I believe, in spite of the interjections that have been made, that the drought from which Australia is suffering at the present time, particularly so far as concerns Western Australia, South Australia,’ Victoria, and Tasmania, has been the most severe that any of these States have experienced since their foundation, and it is a matter for regret that Tariff revision was not dealt with before. In some portions of the southern States it is practically impossible to buy some of the items enumerated in the resolution, except at prices which place them beyond the reach of the ordinary consumer. My only regret is that the Government have not dealt with this matter in one broad comprehensive measure.
.- I was not in the Committee when the resolution was moved, and I did not hear the Minister’s explanation of the idea that the Government have regarding the period during which it is intended that this Bill shall operate. I presume the
Government do not expect the Committee
– I will reply to that now if the honorable gentleman sits down.
– In reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Cook, I would like to say that the Government did take action. In October, when the Premiers met in Melbourne, I visited the Conference on more than one occasion, and afterwards, on behalf of the Federal Government, I approached the Premiers individually, with a view to some joint action being taken. It was known that there was likely to be a shortage of about 300,000 tons of fodder in Victoria.
– What amount was available t
– Seven hundred thousand tons, instead of a million - I think those are the figures, but I am speaking from memory. Our idea was that all the Governments should act together, and that the Federal Government should make arrangements to Buy in New Zealand on behalf of the States. We could have bought then at the price of £3 10s. per ton.
An Honorable Member. - That was the time to buy.
-We tried to get the State Premiers to move, but the response was not encouraging. South Australia asked for oaten straw, and Western Australia asked that the duty on maize should be remitted, though, as we were producing five or six million bushels, the Government did not consider it desirable bo accept the Western Australian suggestion.
– Was it not the desire that you should allow private enterprise to import?
– That was suggested, but I may point out that if the suggestion had been accepted, a dozen or more purchasers would have been operating in the New Zealand market, with the result that prices would have at once gone up, and that the people would not have obtained any advantage from our action.
– Were you referring to hay and chaff?
– What is the price now?
– I think it is somewhere about £10 or £11 per ton for chaff.. “South Australia, as I have stated, did take action by asking us, towards the end of January, to make oaten straw. I pointed out that I did not think this would be of much effect, but that is what the South Australian Government asked for. Subsequently the Government agreed; - and a public announcement was made to this effect through thé press - that as Parliament was not sitting, and in view of the shortage^ - as far as we knew it then existed, judging from the prices that were being, obtained - instead of importing ourselves, to do the next best thing, .While we could hot remit the duty, as Parliament was not sitting, it was agreed that whatever duty was paid should be ear-marked, and subsequently repaid to the importer. It is in order to validate that action that this proposal has nOW been brought forward.
– Did the States ask th§ Federal Government to import?
– No. We were asked by the Government to remit the duty on Western Australian maize, and subsequently by the South Australian Government on oaten straw. Mr. Hutchinson, and Dr. Cameron, representing Victoria, saw me on many occasions with regard to the matter from the Victorian stand-point. This Bill is drawn up in the interests of “the agricultural community, notwithstanding what my honorable friends opposite have said about the interests of the cab- driver.
– I said they compelled action.
– Whatever amount of hay, or straw, or bran, or pollard, or oats is consumed by the horses of cabdrivers, a hundred, or probably a thousand times as- much is consumed by the animals of other people in the community.
– Can the Minister tell the House how much hay and chaff will be covered by this proposal?
– No. The record has been kept, but I have not got it here.
– It has not arrived yet.
– Oh, yes. Some of it has been brought in, and the importers are asking that, as we promised the duty should be remitted, it shall be remitted at once, so that they can get back the money which they have paid in duty
– Can you say how lon’g the Government intend that this resolution shall remain in operation ?
– Until the Tariff is considered by Parliament - and we are hoping to get on with the Tariff next week. The matter will then depend oh Parliament.
– But what is your idea about it? You must have something in your mind
– We have. The idea of the Government is that these duties shall be reimposed as soon as possible for the benefit of the Protectionists in the honorable member’s electorate.
– Assuming the Tariff has not been reached before the harvest, will the duty be reimposed before then?
– The Tariff will be reached before the harvest. I can assure the honorable member on that point.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 2nd June. vide, page 3629) :
.- Last week, when the honorable member for Grey was addressing himself to these Estimates, he censured the Government for their want of policy in regard to the Northern Territory. It is not the fact that there has been an entire absence of policy in regard to this territory. In my opinion, there has been clear evidence of a well-defined policy, and I do not know that we can object altogether to it, because that policy has been in consonance with the Government’s general belief. It has been a Socialistic policy - a policy which, however suitable it might be to some people under some conditions, is bound to fail when applied to the development of a territory such as the Northern Territory. Last year the total deficiency amounted in round figures to £500,000. Out of that deficiency the sum of £26,880 has to be provided for in these Estimates for the payment of salaries. The Minister admitted in this Committee, some time ago, that the Northern Territory presents very great difficulties. I think his speech was the most pessimistic utterance that I have ever listened to from a Minister in charge of a large and important Department. It seemed “to me, to be a cry of hopelessness; but we are piling up these deficiencies year “after year, without making any progress. The
Batchelor Farm, started with a good deal of eclat, has been practically abandoned. The cattle taken up there have been so treated that they appear to have been lamentable failures, and the whole thing is depressing in the extreme. In view of the fact that the Government’s Socialistic policy, when applied to the Northern Territory, has proved itself a failure, [ think it is high time that we should seek to induce the Government to adopt some other policy. What I suggest is that we should, at the earliest possible moment, get rid of a large number of the highly-paid officials who have been sent up to the Territory, and save the expenses incidental to their existence there, which would be by no means limited to the large amount paid in salaries. Having done this, the Government should embark upon some well-defined policy whereby the natural resources of the Territory can be developed. There is only one way in which that can be done, it is by the establishment of railways. The Northern Territory should be coupled up, according to our agreement with South Australia, to Oodnadatta, and in the direction of the Macdonnell Ranges, at the earliest possible moment; but I think, also, that there should be railway communication with Queensland. The only policy that can be of any service must be a vigorous policy. As things are now, we are simply frittering away £100,000 this year, and £100,000 next year, without accomplishing anything. There must be a vigorous policy if the Territory is to be developed, and. I suggest that that policy should be a borrowing policy, to raise money so that the necessary railways can be quickly constructed. So far as the Oodnadatta railway is concerned, I do not think that there is any question at all about its desirability, or that the country in the Macdonnell Ranges is not eminently suited to the production of meat, and more particularly beef. I venture to think that if there had been a railway across that area at the present time, we should have been saved the exorbitant prices which have recently been charged for meat in Australia. The construction of such a railway in accordance with a policy which would not impose any immediate additional taxation on the people, would open up the country, would gradually lead to its being inhabited and exploited, and would so benefit, not only the Territory “itself, but the people of the Commonwealth as a whole. Since we are contributing year after year so much towards the maintenance of the Territory, we are entitled to expect that something shall be done at the earliest possible moment to give us a return for our money, and, so far as I can see, the only means by which we can secure a return is the production of vast quantities of meat at a lower price than that at which we oan obtain it elsewhere. I listened carefully to the speech made last week by the honorable member for Wimmera, who advocated a policy with which I am in no way in agreement. The honorable member urged that we should obtain from India the services of an engineering expert, possessing high qualifications, to advise us with regard to an irrigation policy for the Northern Territory. I am soundly convinced that an irrigation policy is suited only to a welldeveloped country, and not to a virgin land like the Northern Territory. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will not give any serious consideration to such a policy. We can readily guess what would be the report made by an irrigation expert from India. He would, in all probability, say that we ha.ve in the Northern Territory the necessary water supply to irrigate certain parts’ of it, and that, under certain conditions, it would be a profitable venture. But we must not lose sight of the fact that his experience of irrigation would have been gained in a country where the cost of labour is purely nominal, whereas no successful irrigation policy could be carried out where labour is at such a price as that likely to prevail in the Northern Territory. The Department of External Affairs is becoming more interesting since it now not only administer^ the Northern Territory, but also controls Papua. 1 have a few observations to offer with regard to that Commonwealth Territory. The last report which we have received from the LieutenantGovernor of Papua shows that in 1912-13 the territorial revenue amounted to £54,000, or £6,000 in excess of the revenue for the previous year, and more than double that received five years ago. These figures, so far as they go, are eminently satisfactory. They indicate progress and development, and show that the administration of the Territory is moving, to’ some extent, along satisfactory lines. But there is another important statement embodied in this report which acts as an antidote to any feeling of congratulation which the reading of these figures might arouse. I refer to the paragraph in which it is stated that “ the volume of trade last year shows a decline of £11,000.” That is an unpleasant fact in respect of a country that has been developed to a considerable extent at our expense. The total receipts last year were £112,000, and of that amount the Commonwealth contributed in various ways £63,000.
– Or more than one half the total revenue.
– Quite so. One of the most serious aspects of this decline in the volume of trade is that it relates to exports, which were £5,000 less than for the previous year. The Lieutenant-Governor’s report goes on to say -
This decline in the exports is due to the reduced output of gold, which was £15,000 less than the previous year.
I regret that this is so, and I think it worthy of note that the gold-mining ventures in Papua are not proving as successful as we might have hoped. In the absence of a larger output of gold, the progress of the Territory is not likely to be rapid. There is yet another very unsatisfactory fact relating to the occupation of land in Papua. I am surprised to learn from this report that the area under lease has decreased regularly since 1911. In 1913-14 the area under lease was 60,000 acres less than in 1912-13. That is not an evidence of development. There must be a screw loose somewhere, and we have to ask ourselves whether we are securing a fair return for our money. Judge Murray refers to a report made by Dr. Arthur Wade, which deals with petroleum in Papua, and is good enough to say that it is eminently satisfactory. I regard it as being eminently unsatisfactory. I have been studying recently the question of petroleum and oils, and find that it is said by one excellent authority that if a map of the world were marked with a red spot at every place where there are indications and showings of petroleum, it would present the appearance of a person suffering from smallpox. The idea sought to hs> conveyed by that statement is that indications of petroleum are very widely distributed over the face of the earth. But there are certain places where petroleum is in great abundance, where it has proved of’ inestimable value and of great profit. I, for one, would thank God if we could find a good flow of crude oil in Australia or Papua. It would be worth making a considerable sacrifice to secure. Dr. Wade’s report gives some indication that there is likely to be a favorable issue to the operations being carried on in various parts of Papua. He tells us, at page 15 of his report, that -
Three miles to the east of the mission station at Orokolo we found a series of mud volcanoes in the coastal fringe of hills just over one mile north of the fishing village of Hohoro. . . . From Ekoa a series of vents extend eastward for about 4 miles towards Vaiviri on the Vailala River. The mud volcanoes consist chiefly of large flat cones varying from a few inches in diameter to about 20 feet. Much gas is escaping, along with brine, and good showings of petroleum.
The sum total of the encouragement appears to be that the indications are good. In various places, we are told, there is a possibility of striking a good flow, but we have no definite assurance on the subject. The writer of this report goes on to urge the need of caution. He is a prominent authority, and we find him stating -
After mature consideration of all the conditions, I, therefore, recommend that the plant necessary for the safe, rapid, and economical development of the Papuan areas is the Parker Mogul rotary of the latest type, and that the Parker firm be asked to supply to each plant two drillers with a guaranteed practical experience of their system. This, however, will entail considerable expenditure, and it may bewell to delay until the present plants on the field have been more thoroughly tested.
In other words, we must be cautious. Before entering upon an enterprise which would involve much expenditure, we must make the best use of the small and inefficient plant we already have. Again, at page 34 of his report, Dr. Wadestates -
Gate valves should be available on the fieldfor controlling and checking the flow of oil, should it be struck. “Should it be struck!” Notwithstanding all his knowledge and experience as a geologist, Dr. Wade is not prepared to> make any more definite statement. At pags 37 of his report he advises rigid economy -
Rigid economy, as far as efficiency will allow, should be exercised until commercial quantities of petroleum are struck. Operations? should be hastened with this in view in order to put the working on a sound financial basis.
I come now to what is the more important part of this report, which deals with the policy of the Government for the development of the field which has been examined. Dr. Wade says -
The declared policy of the Commonwealth Government is to reserve the oil-field for Government exploitation. It is, therefore, obvious that the development must necessarily be comparatively slow for financial reasons. He says further -
The effect of the Government policy will, therefore, in case of success, mean that no great output, such as is the case in privatelyowned fields, can be expected from New Guinea for a considerable period.
This comes from a disinterested source. The author of this report is not committed to a policy either for or against Stateowned or State-controlled fields. But he points out that if this work is undertaken by the Government, it must necessarily be a slow, and therefore an expensive, process.
– Is the honorable member putting a proper interpretation upon the report?
– I think I am. Dr. Wade states further -
The oil indications, however, extend over a wide area, and, should the Government think fit, a portion of the field could be thrown open to private enterprise. Taking Kerema as the dividing line, if the Government retained the enormous area to the west, there still remains a large area to the east whichis likely to be idle for a long time. It may be worth while considering whether it is good policy to leave this area undeveloped.
I would urge the Minister to give some consideration to this particular recommendation. Dr. Wade reports that -
If private enterprise is to be admitted, it must be done in the early stages, otherwise if the results in the initial stages of the Government exploitation of the western field fall short of expectation, it may make it difficult for companies to raise the money required. Such disappointments are always possible.
A good deal of importance attaches to that proposal. If we are going to develop this or any other portion of the oil fields by private enterprise, then, as Dr. Wade says, it is essentially necessary that private enterprise be given the first chance, because if an area proved disappointing it would be very difficult to induce any one to put capital into such a venture in other parts of Papua. Another serious matter - the last to which I shall draw attention - relates to the question of labour. Dr. Wade says -
Labour is not cheap in Papua when compared with wages paid in other oil fields with which
I am acquainted. Wages vary from 10s. to £2 per month for labourers and foremen, and, in addition, the men must be housed, fed on meat, rice, tea, sugar, and vegetables, or equivalents, and supplied with a quantity of tobacco weekly, according to Government schedules. A few skilled native workers get as much as £8 a month with these additions. On the whole, the Papuan labourer is well paid, well fed, well housed, and well treated in every respect.
Whilst I am not advocating cheap labour, I do say that if weare to make a success of ventures of this nature in competition with other places where still cheaper labour is available, we can only do so at the expense of the general community, and the cost of the article must increase. That is a very serious consideration, and it is well that the Committee should be acquainted with these facts.
– The wages mentioned are not very princely.
– Those are the wages for native labour.
– They are the wages which the Government are paying to natives.
– I have called attention to these matters in the hope that the Minister will think twice before entering upon a large expenditure in the development of these oil fields, because the report which is referred to by Judge Murray as satisfactory seems to me eminently unsatisfactory, having regard to the little assurance that could be given that the oil is really there, and that, even if it is there, it is doubtful whether we can work it at a profit. I turn now to another matter. Amongst other interesting places which the Minister of External Affairs has under his control is Norfolk Island, to which some reference was made in the course of the debate last week. I was amongst those who were privileged to pay a visit to the island a little time ago. A gentleman who has resided in the island for many years, and has made his home there, describes it as “Beautiful! Sublime! Incomparable!” and he says -
Within its borders are neither public-houses, pawnbrokers, workhouses, madhouses, nor gaols. Add to this its prodigal profusion in nature (for its resources, owing to its wonderful fertility, are proverbial) by the Providence of its Bountiful Creator; its freedom from all conventionality and restraint, the allurements of its occupations on land and sea, the diversity of its refined pastimes and enjoyments, and you have at once a most bewitching island, an ideal home.
The writer of that passage is Mr. J. E. S. Caverswall, a Britisher who believes that he has reached a veritable Paradise. The island is not self-supporting, and has not been so during the whole time it has been under the control of the New South Wales Government. According to the reports of Mr. Atlee Hunt, at least £1,500 per annum, probably a great deal more, will be required fo carry on and finance the island. The question at once arises as to what use this island is to Australia. It is situated a little more than 1,000 miles due east of Sydney, and has an area of only about 8,000 acres. At the outside, its capital value cannot be more than £40,000 or £50,000. The island is at a great disadvantage in having no natural ports or harbors, but one reason why we should retain it under our control is that if we relinquish our hold, it may be occupied by undesirable neighbours. Therefore, I think that whatever expenditure is necessary to maintain the island will be borne cheerfully by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.
– All the trade of the island is done with Australia.
– I do not think that great value is to be attached to the trade of so small an island. The present population is largely composed of the Pitcairners, who were the descendants of the Bounty mutineers. Originally they lived on the small island of Pitcairn, but subsequently, when their numbers had considerably increased, they petitioned the Imperial Government for a larger island on which to make their home. As the Imperial authorities were at that time about to remove the convicts from Norfolk Island to Tasmania-and in that fact we have the origin of the name “ New Norfolk “ - the Pitcairners were permitted to enter into possession of the vacated island. According to the last census, there were on Norfolk Island 596 Pitcairners, 193 persons connected with the Melanesian Mission - mostly black boys from other islands who are taken to Norfolk Island for theological training, and subsequently return to their homes - and about 150 other residents, chiefly pure Britishers. I think the problem of making this island pay its own way offers wide scope for the exercise of good government on the part of the responsible Minister. The imports of Norfolk Is land in 1913 represented a value of £9,371, and came almost exclusively from Sydney, and the exports were worth only £1,531. A small island which isimporting over £9,000 worth of goodsand exporting only £1,500 worth must be rapidly going to the bad financially. The problem for the Minister to tackleis to make the imports and exports balance so that the island may be made self-supporting.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is not my intention to discuss a general policy for the Northern Territory; I shall simply content myself with saying that I have confidence in the future of that great province. Its climate, soil and rainfall are of such a character that w.e are justified in believing in the ultimate successful development of the Territory, but I am prepared to admit that the problem before us is a serious one, and will not be easily solved. The difficulty pf the problem is increased by the fact that every time a State Government very rightly endeavours to make its own State more attractive for its people, that very endeavour detracts from the attractiveness of the Northern Territory, because, naturally, people will not go so far afield if they think they can do just as well nearer home. The people who go to the Territory are those who gaze into the future, and are prepared to surrender immediate comforts and pleasures for the sake of greater rewards in the years to come. Therefore, it is necessary for us to exercise patience in tackling the great problem of settling and developing the Territory. Ultimately, I am convinced, we shall accomplish that end, but only after many failures. I do not think that any one Minister, either now or in the future, will be able to populate and develop that territory successfully without first making failures. I have been rather surprised to hear some of the opinions expressed by members from South Australia. The opinions they are expressing to-day are rather different from those that were expressed in the years before the Federal Government took over the responsibility for the Territory. I refer, particularly, to those of the honorable member for Wakefield.
– The honorable member for Wakefield was opposed to
South Australia parting with the Territory.
– The honorable member was not in this Parliament in the days to which I refer, when very glowing speeches we’re made by Mr. Solomon, anc! other honorable members. One would have thought that the South Australian people were surrendering the Territory only out of a great sense of national duty. The anguish of a mother parting with her Benjamin was as nothing compared with the grief of South Australia in parting with the “Northern Territory. The transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth was made with that utter disregard of their own interests which has always characterized South Australians, who were actuated in regard to it only by consideration for the common weal. But now that we have the Northern Territory, we hear from the honorable member for Wakefield that it cannot produce this, that, and the other, and that to do anything at all with it we must employ the giant intellects of the world.
– What I said was that its development needed the application of practical common sense.
– The honorable member said that it required the application of the great intellects of the world, and the expenditure of vast sums of money to attract the most skilled men. The inference from his speech was that the world must be ransacked for capable directors before the Northern Territory could be made to produce anything. Before the transfer of the Territory, its resources had only to be tapped - so said the South Australians - to make it produce everything that could be conceived; but to-day one might believe from their utterances that they had unloaded a duffer mine upon the Commonwealth. I do not look in any pessimistic mood at the problem which we have to face in the development of the Northern Territory. I believe in the future of the Territory, and in the capacity of the people of Australia to conquer the difficulty of developing it. The honorable member for Wakefield complained about some of the attempts which had been made to encourage agriculture there. The agricultural policy of the last Fisher Administration was laid down by an able and courteous member of the Labour (party, who, before he entered this Legis lature, was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly. T refer to the late Mr. Batchelor, whose early death was universally deplored. In South Australia he had been Minister for Education, and had had the administration of the Northern Territory under his control.
– For only a little while.
– For a. considerable time ho was a member of a Cabinet that had to deal with the affairs of the Northern Territory, and for part of that time he was personally responsible for its administration. He laid down a scheme of great promise for the agricultural development of the Territory under Commonwealth control. I followed him in the office of Minister of External Affairs, and loyally attempted to carry on his policy, which I still think is the right one. I am sorry that my successor differed from ns, and interfered to some extent with the working of the agricultural farms for which Mr. Batchelor had provided.
– No; I distinctly said that we should give the scheme a trial. When I was in office there had been the experience o£ only eighteen months.
– Are these farms still being carried on?
– Yes; we tried to improve them.
– I am glad to know that. I thought that work on the Batchelor Farm had been stopped.
– Twenty-eight thousand pounds had been spent on agricultural experiments, and it would have been ridiculous to stop these experiments before some results had been obtained from them.
– I am glad to know that the experiments are continuing. At the initial stage many difficulties had to be faced. It may be that we made mistakes in some of our appointments. It was difficult at the time to get first-class men for the ordinary work, because there was no drought, and things were booming in all the States. One or two of our appointments did not turn out as well as we had hoped, although the men appointed had been trained at agricultural colleges. I am a great believer in the agricultural college system ; but the men turned out from agricultural colleges have sometimes a great deal of theoretical knowledge, and need time for the acquirement of the practical acquaintance with agriculture which is necessary to make good farmers. For one or two of the appointments I am to blame, if blame is to be attached for the unsuitability of - the men appointed. The labour difficulties were greater then than they are now. In the first, instance we had to give to men sent to the Territory a twelve months’ engagement, and, of course, men so appointed are somewhat in the position of being able to please themselves as to what they will do, and what they will not do. Their position is very different from that of men who are appointed by the day, and may be dismissed at any time. The drink evil, with which I do not propose to deal now, but to which I may refer at some length when the proposals of the Minister of External Affairs for the nationalization of the drink traffic in the Northern Territory come before us, has also played its unhappy part in the Territory. I am strongly in favour of pressing on with the agricultural experiments that have been begun. The honorable member for Parramatta, when a member of the New South “Wales Government, was, as Minister of Mines, in charge of the Hawkesbury College; but it is more than probable that that institution did not then pay its way.
– It does not do so now.
– That is very likely. But the teaching that it has given to young Australians, and the experiments which have been carried out there, have been worth the expenditure upon the college. The same may be said of the Wagga Experimental Farm, and similar places. I understand that in Tasmania land which was at one time considered useless is now found to be of great value for apple-growing. Discoveries of this kind are largely brought about by experiments; and in the making of experiments there are sure to be mistakes and loss of money. I was of the opinion that the honorable member for Angas, when Minister of External Affairs, did not find his Treasurer as sympathetic as he might have been.
– No Treasurer is ever that.
– The right honorable member for Swan has good and large ideas, and does not hesitate to spend money on any scheme in which he hasconfidence. His career in Western Australia proves that. He had faith in Western Australia, and did not hesitate to spend money there. But when Treasurer of the Commonwealth he made one or two remarks about the Northern Territory which were not as complimentary as I should have liked to hear from him - though, no doubt, they expressed hishonest convictions. I, therefore, thought that he was not as sympathetic as he might have been in regard to the experiments that were being carried on in the Northern Territory. Mistakes may have been made in the development of the Territory; but, in spite of that, money must be spent there, and the country has a great future. Listening to recent speeches of some of the honorable members of the Opposition, one might think that this and the last Fisher Government did not desire to assist the pastoralists in the Northern Territory, yet, when, as Minister of External Affairs, I laid certain regulations before the House for the government of the Territory, they were condemned by honorable members of the then Opposition as too liberal. We were prepared to give to the pastoralists areas larger than some of the German principalities; but I was compelled by the speeches and actions of honorable members of the Opposition, and one or two members of the Labour party, to withdraw my proposals. It is the policy of this Government to help the pastoralists as well as to encourage closer settlement. In attempting closer settlement in other parts of Australia mistakes have been made and failures have occurred. Except for one week when the Labour party was in power, and could not do much, Victoria has been governed continuously by Liberal Administrations. The State Government have, I believe, honestly tried to settle people on the land, according to their ideas, though these, of course, may differ from the idea* of some of us. There is a Closer Settlement Board, which, I think, has dona some good; but, if all I hear is correct, a great deal of money has been wasted in this direction. Although the State has had responsible government for fifty years, and every Department is wellofficered, with its work right under the eyes of Parliament, I do not think I am far out when I say that £500,000, at least, has been thus wasted. But there is no reason why the State Governments should not continue their efforts, until they do succeed in placing the people on the land. Before I conclude, I should like to refer to a statement which was made by the Minister of External Affairs some little time ago, and which was seized upon with great avidity by the Argus. I was not very keen on the suggestion that was then made by the Minister ; and when I saw how eagerly the Argus took it up, I was confirmed in my idea that it was not a very good one. The Minister put forth the suggestion that some land in the Northern Territory should be set apart for returned soldiers; and, though it is not often that the Argus pats the honorable gentleman on the back, it agreed that, at last, here was an idea worths of a statesman. Now, I am opposed to that idea, because I think that the men who have gone to risk their lives at the front deserve land, not in the Northern Territory, but in Victoria, New South Wales, and the other settled States. It. would be manifestly unfair that these men, after they had fought on our behalf, should be sent up into the wilderness^ - because, as yet, it is a wilderness - in order to create, it may be, an oasis.
– Some of the returned soldiers would be glad to go there if they were given help.
– I do not object to helping those who may desire to go there, but I hope the idea of the Government is not to set apart land in the Northern Territory as a provision for our returned soldiers, who are legitimately entitled to the best that Australia can give them.
– You would not put a
Dar on returned soldiers going there?
– No; I should give them every facility, if they desired to go. As I said, when I saw the eagerness with which the Argus took up the idea, I was confirmed in my view that it was not a sound one, because these soldiers should “have the best we can give them.
Mr. MCWILLIAMS (Franklin) r5.35]. - We are accustomed to an annual discussion on the Northern Territory, though I must confess that we never seem to get much further forward. My view of the matter can be stated very briefly. The whole history of British colonization shows nothing like so stupendous a failure as that of the Northern Territory. For 100 years that part of Australia has been settled, practically in the same way as. were many other of the States, which have since done so well. Melville Island was settled as Sydney, Hobart, Fremantle, and other places were - as a military centre - but the Territory has never made any progress since. The capital town has been shifted to Port Essington, and from one place to another, and the expenditure has run into over £5,000,000; and yet, to-day, if we put aside Government officials, there are fewer people in the Territory than at any time during the last fifty years. The one mine which practically produces all the gold in the Territory is worked by fifty-seven Chinese and five whites, and this proportion is general on the Territory gold-fields. On some of the tin-fields a little more white labour is employed, but these fields at present cannot be called a success. No person can read the last official report without being struck with the entire absence of anything like a proper policy of settlement. When the late Mr. Batchelor inaugurated experimental farms, I supported the idea as at least an attempt to do something, though I am not generally favorable to such enterprises by the Government. Those farms have proved nothing but one long, ghastly failure, from start to finish. Here is what the Administrator said in his report - -
The progress of land settlement has been disappointingly slow, as will be seen by the report of the Director of Lands. Yet on the whole I am not surprised. While the southern States continue an active policy of land settlement in districts already partly settled, the Territory will not offer any real inducement for the small farmer with reasonable capital to transfer his home from the south. And as, apparently, there is still much available land in Australia, where the climate and life generally offer more attractions than in the north, this is not altogether to be regretted.
What the Administrator says is quite true. While there is land available, and labour to be obtained in the more temperate portions of Australia, it is only a few adventurers - and I use the word in its best sense - who will go to the Territory. Even those who are taken there for Government works almost invariably return south after a very short time; and this, perhaps, is not surprising when we remember that the conditions are so different from what they are elsewhere. What the honorable member for Barrier says is quite correct. While there are great advantages to be obtained in the southern region, we shall not get men, especially married men, to take their families into such an isolated place, where so many hardships and dangers have to be faced. One strong feature was drawn attention to by the Leader of the Opposition; and it is one that this House and the Minister will have to consider. For instance, on page 9 of the Administrator’s report we read -
Recently the Chief Surveyor has handed me reports from three of his surveyors, who assert a deficiency in their men’s work of 60 per cent. during the summer months.
This means that a man is only doing 40 per cent. of the work that is done in the States. There is another statement of great” interest in the report, that which deals with a subject that has been so often discussed in this House, namely, day labour versus contract labour. Honorable members opposite have declared, over and over again, that the Government are getting a very much better return under day labour than under contract; but on page 76 of the report we are told by the Superintendent of Public Works -
During the last year, both systems, viz., day labour and contract. have been tried by this Department in carrying out work, and from the figures submitted herewith there can be but one opinion which of the two systems is the better.. In my two preceding annual reports I have touched upon this question, and I should be wanting in my duty if 1 did not again call Your Excellency’s attentionto the great difference in the cost of similar works carried out by the two different systems.
– This is party politics, pure and simple! There is no great national policy about this!
– It is all very interesting -
I give two instances : -
Two workers’ cottages in Beetson-street erected By day labour cost £640 each. A cottage of similar design at Fanny Bay gaol, carried out by contract, was finished for £530. besides paying cartage on the longer distance. It will thus be seen that £110 was the difference paid in wages on this day-labour job as compared with an exactly similar one carried out by a contractor. The whole of the materials for both jobs was supplied from the Public Works store, in one instance to the Department, and in the other to the contractor, the price for materials in both cases being the same.
Further, the Superintendent says -
The teacher’s residence, Darwin, by contract cost £1,083. A similar house built on block 596 by d,ay labour cost £1,330 8s. 7d. Certainly in this case the whole of the foundation blocks had to be blasted out and the material carted about a mile further than was thecase in the firsthouse, but even,after allowing for this expenditure, £130, the cost of the house by day labour was £1,200, or £119 more than the contract house.
– Was this done under tins’ man’s supervision ?
– Then he ought to be sacked.
– He ought to be sacked for telling the truth? Is that your policy, then?
– I did not interject in that spirit at all. I mean he should have been sacked for not doing the work better.
– I know nothing about this officer. My only knowledge of him has been from reading his report; but I do say that when the head of a Department makes a report through a Minister to this House it is the duty of the House to give it careful consideration . He goes on to say -
I do not hear the contractors complain about losing money. In fact, the contractor they have on the Fanny Bay job offered to, take on as many cottages as he could get at the same figure.
There are other quotations here to which I might refer. One, for instance, in which he states that, although the contractor is not working his men as easily as the men are worked by the Government, yet, owing to the curious irony of the situation, these men are giving the contractor infinitely better services than ever they gave to the Government. In dealing with the difficulty of getting men, the Administrator reports -
The great trouble of farming in the NorthernTerritory is the dearth of capable farm bands.
The ex-Minister of External Affairs pointed out that it was quite easy to get good labour.
– I did not say it was quite easy. I said it was easier now than it was.
– Then the Administrator goes on -
Most of the men applying for work are from cities and towns, without any knowledge whatever of farm or stock work, and–
I draw the honorable member’s attention particularly to this - the demonstration farm is more a kindergarten than a properly managed institution.
– That does not speak very much for the man in charge. He ought to be sacked.
-Is the acid to be put on the Administrator, also, for telling the Minister exactly the truth ?
– Have you got a corner in acid?
– I am not going into the merits of the Administrator. I do not know him, and I am not giving my opinion as, to whether he is a capable officer or not; but there should be no secrets between an Administrator in an important position and his Minister. He should put all the cards on the table, and report exactly what is in his mind and exactly the conditions obtaining in the Territoryhe has to administer.
– Do you not think he should give the reason why?
– He does. He says it is the dearth of capable farm hands. I do not know whether the Administrator has anything to do with the appointment of the men on the farm. The Minister shakes his head.
– Only indirectly.
– You speak of the experimental farm as a kindergarten institution. Is not that a peculiar position for the management to be in ? Who appoints the manager - the Administrator or the Minister ?
– I believe the Administrator has nothing whatever to do with the appointment.
– Who appointed him?
– I think the Minister who appointed him would be the honorable member himself.
– Then it is a reflection on me.
– From the interjections which have been made, it is quite clear that honorable members have not had the facts regarding the Northern Territory brought very closely under their notice. But the report of a responsible Administrator charged with serious duties should be of very great value to honorable members, as offering the only possible way of getting at the real facts of the case. I believe that any officer reporting to the Administrator, and, through him, to the Minister and Parliament, would report according to his judgment. His ideas may be wrong ; but I believe such a report would give us exactly what the officer thought were the facts; and I think this report demands the immediate reconsideration of the whole situation.
– May I intervene for a moment? This is all ancient history. Things are much better now than they were.
– What is the date of the report?
– It is the last report “we have - 1913. We have only just got it.
– I have had mine for months.
– My information is that things have not improved.
– If the honorable member will read the evidence taken before the Closer Settlement Committee in Victoria he will find that things are as bad elsewhere.
– Is that any. reason why this terrific waste of public money should be allowed to go on, if it can be stopped ?
– Is it going on?
– I am afraid it is.
– No, it is not.
– In another portion of the report it is stated -
The general operations at the Batchelor Farm have been unfortunate, to say the least, during the year. The regrettable legal proceedings in which the late manager was implicated, together with the strike, disorganized all the work at the most critical period, with the result that cultivation of crops was compulsorily deferred for the year, and the stock reduced to a low ebb in condition.
The Administrator goes on to say that - rarely indeed do men remain for a year.
That is repeating exactly what happened to the South Australian Government forty years ago. They took men from Victoria, where the rate of wages was about 45s. to 48s. a week, and paid them £4 10s. a week to go to the Territory. Most of them drifted back again in a very few weeks. At the same time, I believe that something can be done with this Territory. With the honorable member for Barrier, I do notthink it is beyond the intelligence of the people of
Australia, and this Federal Parliament, to grapple with the problems of a tropical country.
– What do you suggest?
– If i may be allowed to make a suggestion - i have already made it to several Ministers - i believe that the only way to get the Northern Territory settled is by a system of community settlement. If you could get 100 families, or something like that number, to go up there, you could deal liberally with them. The great hindrance to development at the present moment is that you cannot expect men to take their families outside the radius of civilization, cut off from all their little societies, their churches, and their schools. The difficulty this circumstance presents will be overcome by community settlement. If the people can take with them their churches, their schools, and their civilization, the outlook will be different; and i would not stint a few hundred or a few thousand pounds to give the Territory a fair chance, for i believe that this is the only way in which the Territory will be developed. The system has been successful in other parts of the world, and i commend the suggestion to the present Minister. If he will adopt some system of community settlement i think he will find most honorable members behind him. As things are, we have been trying for 100 years to settle the country, and are yet only playing with the question.
– We have not been here 100 years.
– i mean the people of Australia. It is 100 year* since the Northern Territory was firstsettled, and in that period there has been an expenditure, including English mining investments, of between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000, and to-day i doubt if we have 2,000 white settlers in the Northern Territory, excluding Government officials. i believe our system of attempting to settle the Territory from the north is .i mistake. That system cost South Australia £3.000,000 or £4.000,000. If the railway system is to be extended, as i believe it will be, it would be much better to extend from the south, entering the more temperate parts of the Territory first. i do not wish to repeat arguments which have been stated over and over again in this House; but i will tell the
Minister that any fair attempt to settle the Territory on proper lines will have the support of, not only every member of the House, but of the people of Australia, for the question is not a party question. It is altogether too big for that. We are not effectively occupying the Territory. We can give no answer to any one who comes to us and tells us that we are neither using the Territory nor allowing anybody else to use it, or that if we are not going to use the heritage which was left to us we must stand down and leave it to somebody else. What answer can we give to such a suggestion as that? I would urge the Minister to take into serious consideration the suggestion of community settlement.
– Do you not think we ought to get on with railway communication ?
– No, i do not.
Australia was settled without railway communication by men who had nothing better than a bullock dray. I believe all this pampering up, and all this argument that nothing can be done in the Territory without a railway, receives its best answer from the history of the settlement of Australia. The pioneers had no railways.
An Honorable Member. - What did they do in Western Australia ?
– They did tha same as was done all over Australia. I admit the railway will be a great means of inducing settlement; but we have already 150 miles of railway from Darwin to the south, and 1 do not think it has been responsible for the settlement of one individual.
– Unfortunately, we have not tapped the good country.
– Unfortunately, we rarely seem to tap the good country, though I believe there is good country in the Territory, and i believe the Minister will be able to find a sufficient area upon which a system of community settlement could be originated.
– What do you mean by community settlement?
– The establishment of communities where the people would have some of the comforts of civilization.
– The honorable member means upon a domestic basis ‘
– Quite so. The system has been tried in pome parts of Canada and the United States, and has proved a success. I may not be in the House next week when the question at the nationalization of the liquor traffic in the Northern Territory comes up for discussion, and I should like now to express the opinion that this proposal on the part of the Government is the most serious that they could make. A number of socalled hotels up there should be purchased by the Minister and a fire-stick applied to them.
– Why buy or burn them ?
– Because I should not like to burn down any man’s house without paying him for it, and some of these hotels are fit only to be burned. The nationalization of the liquor traffic should not be undertaken without the very gravest consideration. I do not think it is in the interests of Australia that the Government of the Commonwealth should become the owners of the hotels in the Northern Territory. It is ten times more difficult to get rid of something that is in the possession of the Government than to get rid of anything controlled by private individuals.
– Would the honorable member like the people up there to be poisoned with bad grog for all time?
– I think the Government have now an excellent opportunity to undertake the responsibility of abolishing the liquor traffic in the Territory.
– Does the honorable member think it is right that this Parliament, which will not close its refreshment bar, should prohibit the use of liquor in the Northern Territory ?
– I can only say that, as the honorable member knows very well, there have been two or three attempts to close the parliamentary refreshment bar, but that not one honorable member who has come forward with such a proposal has stood by it and given the House an opportunity to vote upon the question. I shall vote to close the parliamentary bar: but that, surely, is no reason for establishing Government bars in the Territory.
.- I have full belief in the potentialities of the Northern Territory, and hope that it will prove the salvation of the Commonwealth. The several States have shown a strong objection to hand over to the Commonwealth any land for settlement purposes, and we must therefore look to the
Northern Territory as a field for our experiments in that direction. The experiment in land tenures in the Federal Capital Territory is, I feel sure,’ being followed with a great deal of attention by the thinking, economic world. When our own people are supplied with farms, when, instead of hundreds of applicants for one block of land, there are hundreds of blocks of land awaiting settlement, we should take charge of the current of emigration from the Old World, which, I feel sure, will set in as soon as this terrible war is over, and direct it to the Northern Territory. People in the older countries of Europe, perhaps overburdened with taxation, will look to this newer land-
– Where the taxation is so light!
– Taxation here is less than in any other country. The executors of the estate of a millionaire in Victoria would have to pay a 10 per cent, probate duty, whereas in Great Britain they would have to pay 15 per cent. Again, a man investing in property in Melbourne would have to pay a municipal rate of ls. 6d. in the £1, running up, in the case of some of the suburban municipalities, to 2s. 3d. in the £1 whereas in London the municipal rating ranges from 8s. 6d. to 14s. 6d. in the £1.
– The executors of a millionaire dying here would have to pay nearly 25 per cent, by way of State and Federal probate duties.
– The extra taxation is only temporary - it is to prevail only during the war.
– There is nothing temporary about it.
– I shall be very pleased to compare the probate duties of Great Britain with those of any State in Australia. Returning to the question which I was discussing when interrupted. I would point out that recently there were something like 1,”000 applicants for three blocks of land in South Australia, and over 500 for one block in Victoria. But when we have supplied the wants of our own people, I should like to see us extend our arms in wide welcome to the white races of the Old World, and employ them in filling up the empty north. Roosevelt, than whom no President of the United States was ever more definite in his statements, once said, “ Fill up your empty north.
It is dangerous to leave it as it is.” I should like to see the Government start building the north-south railway from both ends, instead of beginning, as we are doing, from the more unhealthy part of the Territory. I am anxious that the agreement made with South - Australia shall be kept, and that, as promised, the railway shall run from north to south. I have never failed to express my appreciation of what South Australia did for the rest of the Commonwealth in holding the Northern Territory for it. She held to the Northern Territory when it was a great burden for her to carry, and I must compliment the men of South Australia, who rose to the height, not of politicians, but of statesmen, in the work they did in this connexion. If, overburdened with debt, thousands of the white races of Europe desire to leave a continent which has been decimated and desecrated during this unholy war, we should give them opportunity to come here. What would be better than to settle in the north men with military training? We could require them, if necessary, to take an o’ath quite as binding as that by which Germ’any is seeking to maintain its hold upon its citizens wherever they may be. T.f we had the means, I should willingly give to every man with military training who was prepared to settle in the Northern Territory, monetary assistance, implements with which to work his farm, seed with which to sow it, arid a healthy home, erected in accordance with a common set of plans, for his wife and family,
.- I do not propose to prolong this debate for more than a few minutes for the reason that the financial year to which these Estimates relate has almost expired, and the votes covered by them have already been expended. Another reason why I think we should deal with them as quickly as possible is that we ought to apply ourselves with the least possible delay to the great duty which the electors cast upon us at the last general election, and that is, the revision of the Tariff on a sound, scientific, protective basis. That, in my opinion, is a duty which the electors of Australia intrusted to us, and which they expect us to carry out. It is also very necessary that, instead of wasting time on what is likely to prove, shall I say, a profitless discussion, we should proceed to set our house in order. When the war comes to an end, we shall have to deal with greatly changed conditions. We shall have huge financial and industrial problems to solve, and the sooner we prepare for them the better for the people of Australia. My chief object in rising to-night is to take exception to the argument which has been repeated again and again during this discussion, that we are committed, under the agreement made with South Australia, to build a railway north and south, from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. The agreement with South Australia proves conclusively that the framers contemplated the necessity of the line making a detour from a north and south course. In that agreement South Australia bound itself to authorize, . by legislation, the Commonwealth to do all that is necessary to enable the Commonwealth to make surveys, acquire the necessary land, and to construct a railway iri South Australia proper from a point on the Port Augusta railway to a” point on fine northern boundary line of South Australia proper, to connect with that part of the transcontinental railway to be built iri the North- ern Territory from Port Darwin southward’s to the northern boun’da’ry cif South Australia proper I hold that if we were to carry out the scheme foreshadowed by
Sir John Forrest a few weeks ago ; that is, to build this railway from Newcastle Waters to near the Queensland border, and then turn southwards to Alice Springs, and thence continue to Oodnadatta - we should be carrying out the spirit of that contract.’ Moreover, I believe that that is the route which the transcontinental railway should take. All the evidence we have shows that such a line would pass through tha best country. If, on the other hand, the railway is built due north and south between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek, it will traverse an immense mileage of. poor country, and even then will not develop the Northern Territory. We should still have to face the problem of developing the land between Victoria River on the one side and the Barclay Downs on the other. I cannot understand why the Queensland Government did not accept Sir John Forrest’s suggestion that their railway should be extended from Cloncurry to Camooweal, and that the Federal Government should continue the Commonwealth railway from Camooweal towards Newcastle Waters, and also at a given point extend southwards towards Alice Springs.
– But the “ also “ was an afterthought, according to the letter.
– The honorable member for Angas showed conclusively last week that there was no intention on the part of Sir John Forrest to dodge the agreement with South Australia. The suggestion which’ the right honorable member for Swan made represents the true way to give the Northern Territory railway communication, and it observes closely the spirit of the agreement. The Commonwealth has spent an enormous sum of money 6n the Territory, because it had to take over all the expenditure incurred by South Australia, and it cannot be denied that so far very poor results’ have been obtained. It is the one portion of Australia where settlement has been a failure. The other States started with difficulties quite as great as those in the Northern Territory, but at no sta’ge in their history were the prospects so discouraging as they are in the Northern Territory to-day. We have listened to most glowing descriptions of the Territory. Some honorable members have said that it is a country with a very fine climate ; another member said it would carry 20,000,000 sheep; others, in turn, have said that it is good horse country, good cattle country, and rich mineral country. We were told by the honorable member for Adelaide, in a very fine phrase, that the possibilities of the Territory are immeasurable. When we look at the statistics relating to the population, and the number of sheep and cattle in the Territory, we cannot recon”cile those glowing descriptions with the actual results. I will admit that the lack of facilities for transport is a serious obstacle. That is all the more reason why we should proceed with the policy of building railways to develop the Territory. We have wasted enough money on fanciful theories. Queensland and other -States were developed in the first place as cattle and sheep country, and along those lines We must proceed to develop the Northern Territory. The other forms of development will follow. The sooner we cease spending money on these beautiful theoretical propositions that sound so well, the better it will be for the public Treasury.
– Would you favour the appointment of an Advisory Committee of tins House?
– Not a Committee of this House, but I believe there would be a great advantage in having an advisory committee. We must admit that the remoteness of the Territory and its nonrepresentation in this Parliament give us less knowledge and less control over it than we have over other portions of the Commonwealth, and there is no doubt that the burden of the Minister is considerably increased in consequence. The thought occurred to me, when this matter was being discussed a few weeks ago, that it was not fair to ask the Minister to immediately propound a policy for the development of the Territory. It will take time and patience to produce a sound policy of that kind, but surely during the forty or fifty years that the Territory has been partially settled we have gained enough experience to put us on the right track. A few nights ago the honorable member for Oxley expressed the hope that the freezing works which Vestey Brothers are erecting in the Territory will be resumed in the near future by the Government, if they have the power to do so. I hope the Government will do nothing of the sort, but will give Vestey Brothers a fair deal in the arrangement which has been made with them. I cannot conceive of anything more mischievous and more likely to deter men with capital from coming to Australia, or those in Australia from investing their money, than indulgence in such wild and irresponsible talk. I have no brief for Vestey Brothers, but I understand they are a British firm, and are investing British capital, and if the works are a success, as I have no doubt they, will be if Vestey Brothers are left alone, that success will represent a long step in the direction of solving the problem of the Territory. Therefore, I say again, let us, for goodness’ sake, be done with theoretical propositions, and, guided by the experience of the past, develop the Territory along the same lines as those on which other portions of the Commonwealth have been so successfully settled and developed.
.- The honorable member for Lilley has pleaded with Parliament to adopt a practical method of settling the Territory, and to be done with theoretical ideas. Apparently the practical method of the honorable member is to adopt the suggestion of the right honorable member for Swan, that a railway should be taken into the Northern Territory by a side window. The strategic railway mooted by the Government at the present time is practically based on evidence given before the Commission that investigated the Northern Territory railways and ports. Mr. J. Harper, Assistant Commissioner for Railways in New South Wales, proposed a scheme somewhat similar to that suggested by the honorable member for Swan. He was asked (Q. 620-21), “Are you aware that the contract with South Australia absolutely binds the Commonwealth” to construct the direct line from north to south ?” He replied, “ We are looking at it from a railway point of view only.” Mr. Combes asked him, “Would the system you suggest be used for trucking starving stock in times of drought?” He replied, “Undoubtedly.” My own opinion is that starving stock would not be carried on that roundabout route. Then he was asked, “ In suggesting these eastern connexions, you are not looking at the development of the Territory as the prime reason for building railways?” and his answer was a direct “No.” There we have direct evidence that this suggested railway, which is to go to Broken Hill through Temora,through the far west of New South’ Wales, and on to the Territory, is not. meant to develop the Territory at all.
– I was speaking of theCamooweal line.
– It is practically thesame line. Even if it were not, its result would be the same, because it would not develop the Territory. WhenI said that the possibilities of the Territory are immeasurable - a phrase whichwas referred to satirically by the honorable member for Lilley - I was not expressing my own opinion, because I have not seen the Territory; but I was expressing the opinion of those who are qualifier!; to speak, and who do know the truth of what they say. If honorable memberswill read the evidence taken before the Royal Commission, they will make their voices heard, so that in the next Esti-mates provision will be made for theactual development of the Northern Territory, instead of for merely playing with it. Other witnesses before the Commission testified that the only way in which to develop the Territory was to build me north-south railway. We find that thefirst route suggested by the Commission is “ A, South-east - Camooweal.” Seven witnesses subscribed to that line, and amongst them were two Railway Commissioners - one, Mr. Harper; and the other, Mr. Pagan, Deputy Commissioner of Railways in Queensland. The second recommendation was “ B, North-south Central.” Thirty witnesses advocated this route, and twenty also favoured a branch to Camooweal - not to Newcastle Waters and thence to the Territory, allowing time itself to bridge the interval. The Commonwealth spent a large amount of money in endeavouring to ascertain from experts what was the best thing to do, and yet to-day we are still discussing what should be done. Last year the Northern Territory cost the Commonwealth about £470,000, of which between £80,000 and £90,000 represented the loss on the Oodnadatta line. Therefore, it is about time that steps were taken to make effective use of that portion of the Territory’s railway system. It is an established fact that once the belt of country between Oodnadatta and Charlotte Waters is crossed, what is said to be splendid country in regard to both climate and productivity is entered. Some honorable members have cast a doubt on the wheat-growing capability of the Territory. Were they persons who had lived in the Territory for any length of time, I should be prepared to accept their opinion on the subject, but they are persons who have not visited the Territory, or know scarcely anything of it. It is to be remembered, too, that thousands of acres in the southern parts of Australia, which it was once thought were useless for wheat-growing, are now wheat fields. Probably South Australia grows more wheat on country that at one time was held to be useless for wheat-growing than she grows on the land that was regarded from the first as good wheat country. Victoria, again, is growing wheat on mallee country which was long thought to be useless. As to the capability of tha Northern Territory for the growing of wheat, let me quote the opinion of Mr. Giles, the explorer, as stated in a letter written to Mr. J. G. Knight, C.E., Chief Warden of Gold Fields in the Northern Territory, and published in the Northern Territory Times. The letter is dated 11th May, 1880, and Mr. Giles says -
From the northern base of the Macdonnell Range to the west range (Hann), is a distance of 70 miles, the whole of which is magnificently grassed, although timbered thickly in places by mulga (acacia). At 25 miles from the Macdonnell Range are rolling downs, thickly grassed, and equal in richness of soil to any in South Australia, being inundated plains of rich black and red soils, fit for the growth of wheat.
The climatic advantages of this country are beyond dispute.
– The opinion just read does not refer to the country round about Darwin.
– We who urge the extension of the railway from the south do not say that the Darwin country will do all that has been claimed for it, but it is to be expected that as settlement follows a line going northwards, stock and human beings will gradually become acclimatized, and when Darwin is reached, will be able to successfully contend with any disadvantage that may exist there. While the representatives of South Australia demand that the right thing shall be done so far as their State is concerned, they have none the less the interests of the Commonwealth at heart. But the proposal of the right honorable member for Swan was to give to Queensland benefits which should go to South Australia. That is evident from the terms of his letter, which I shall read. The right honorable gentleman said -
The Commonwealth would undertake to construct a railway from Camooweal through the Barclay Tableland, and thence up the Katherine River, which will, by that time be connected with Port Darwin.
There is there no hint of the continuation of the line southwards -
In the construction of this work all the traffic of rails, machinery, and sleepers would be carried over the Queensland lines; and I am informed wooden sleepers can be obtained in Queeusland. That in itself during the time of construction would mean an immense advantage to Queensland. Then it would necessarily have the trade of the Northern Territory from Newcastle Waters and the Barclay Tableland, which would all gravitate into Queensland.
– It would never, under any circumstances, go to Adelaide.
– I do not anticipate that the production of the Barclay Tableland would go to South Australia, but the extension of the line northwards from Oodnadatta would give us the trade with the Macdonnell Range country. The right honorable member for Swan said further, regarding his proposal -
It would be an outlet for the enterprising people of Queensland, and would encourage them to occupy and utilize thu lands in the Northern Territory.
Why should not the enterprising people of South Australia be encouraged by the extension of the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges? Have we not a special claim to that advantage? All the evidence of those who know the Northern Territory best points to the conclusion that it should be connected with the rest of Australia by a line going north from the existing line in South Australia. The proposal of the right honorable member for Swan would serve only part of the Territory. The honorable member for Lilley has argued that the right honorable member had in view an extension southwards from Newcastle Waters to Oodnadatta; but the concluding paragraph of the letter is against his contention -
The western portion, however, is impossible, unless we have communication with Queensland, and, if that is denied to us, we must turn our attention to connecting the Northern Territory from Oodnadatta, a policy to which we are already pledged.
What the right honorable member says there is that if the construction of a line from Camooweal to Newcastle Waters were opposed, the Cook Government would be forced to carry out the compact with South Australia by continuing the line northwards from Oodnadatta. The honorable member said, further, that the agreement between South Australia and the Commonwealth does not stipulate the building of the railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. I believe that at the present time a survey is being made from Kingbouya to Oodnadatta. To that I do not object, nor should I object to any deviation from a direct route northwards which would have the effect of serving better country than that on the direct route, so long as the line was extended northwards from Oodnadatta.
Sitting suspended from6.30 to7.45 p.m.
– To continue my quotation from Mr. Giles’ letter -
North of Hann Range the country continues good and splendidly grassed, but badly watered. Brackish water has been obtained at 80 foot in abundance. The country oilers every facility for dam sinking. At 20 miles north of Hann Range the road touches the Wood Creek, and follows it a distance of 40 miles, the whole of its course being through richly-grassed plains, with occasional patches of mulga timber, up to the base of Central Mount Stuart, under the foot of which runs the Hanson Creek, where permanent water exists a few inches under the sand, and by using a plough and scoop in the bed of the creek large reservoirs can be scooped out, yielding unlimited supplies of water. The land along the course of the creek maintains its rich character for grass and herbage, improving as it approaches the Stirling Creek, and rendering it exceptional for agricultural or pastoral purposes. Water may be got at an exceedingly shallow depth.
We thus know beyond doubt what the country is like in the Macdonnell Ranges. However, I desire to deal with that phase with which we are more immediately concerned. A Commission of our own creation, which reported last year, gives ample evidence of what the Northern Territory really is, and affords sufficient information on which the Department of External Affairs could do more than simply try to conduct the affairs of this immense area by sending an Administrator on long and circuitous journeys, and, from time to time, receiving reports from him, only to learn from all sorts of sources that there is turmoil and domestic unrest in that quarter. I maintain, and it is the opinion of most people, that, if we could get into the Territory with more ease and expedition, things would begin to right them selves more quickly from an administrative point of view ; and I feel positive that the desired end could be best attained by carrying the proposed railway from north to south. The leases in the Territory expire in 1944, but about one-half of them expire much earlier, and this gives us ample opportunity to review our policy. One settler, in reply to a question put by the Commission in regard to railways said -
In the event of a railway passing through the country, I think that every pastoralist would be quite prepared to surrender portion of his land.
The leases are of such magnitude, simply because of the lack of moans of communication. The report of the Commission says -
The Northern Territory Land Act should be so framed as to allow for that. We can do nearly as much on 3,000 miles of country with a railway as on6,000 miles without a railway….. With compensation for improvements we would be quite prepared to surrender portion of our lease.
Occupiers are forced to hold double the quantity of land under present conditions, but, with proper railway facilities, there would be two settlers where now there is one. Dealing with the matter as affecting the Barclay Tablelands, the report of the Commission says -
Evidence goes to show that under more favorable conditions the stock-carrying capacity would be largely increased. One witness stated that on6,000 square miles his firm at the present time carried 35,000 head, but that he hoped to sec the day when the run, with improvements, would carry 100.000 head.
But there cannot be improvements until proper facilities are afforded, and those facilities, according to the evidence, must take the form of railway communication -
In other words, the carrying capacity is capable of being almost trebled.
If that be so, it is evident that there is something in the country which ought to spur us on to attract population. Another witness, speaking of the Barclay Tablelands, says -
On one station on the Barclay Tablelands sheep have been raised for many years, the present number being 58,000. The industry is under great disabilities owing to insufficiency of water, cost of fencing material, high rate of freight, distance from markets, and scarcity of labour.
These difficulties would be obviated by the provision of a railway; in fact, the witness says -
Those disabilities would be certainly minimixed with railway communication.
– What about the Cloncurry railway?
– No doubt the Cloucurry railway would assist the Barclay Tablelands more than would the straight-cut railway; but it does not follow that, because the railway is taken from north to south, branches cannot he made, as recommended in the report. There is good country On the west side of the Territory - in the Victoria River and Ord River districts - which i? highly- spoken of by Mr. L. A. Wells, of the South Australian Lands Department. Mr. Wells has explored that part of the country, and his brother lost his life in similar work ; and he tells us that the country west of the telegraph line is some of the most wonderful he has seen. He admits that there are belts of desert, so to speak; but with a railway from the main track into the Victoria River district, there are immense possibilities of development. In conversation with myself he said that he never saw bigger-framed flocks, and never tasted better mutton in his life than he did there; and he is certainly a man who knows what he is talking about. Although the line mentioned by the PostmasterGeneral might be the better one for the Barclay Tablelands, some of the richest country, from a metal-bearing point of view, is to be found in the centre of Australia; and this country, along with the pastoral country, would be best assisted and developed by means of a railway. Speaking of the Victoria River district, one witness before the Commission said -
On an area of about 11,000 square miles (7,040,000 acres) his company was carrying 107,000 head of cattle and 900 head of horses. Ho believed that by providing water it would safely carry 30,000 head more.
To provide water we must provide facilities for conveying the necessary machinery and labour, and there is no doubt that in this way the stocking capacity of the country could he nearly doubled. Another witness, an owner and manager, said -
He held 1,50.0 miles of country, carrying 5,000 head of cattle and 700 horses. In the event of a railway he would be willing, under certain conditions, to surrender part of his country. The block he would surrender would carry 10,000 head of cattle, and not be overstocked.
This the settlers are prepared to do as soon as the Commonwealth is prepared to settle the country, instead of waiting for the Administrator to do it. Another paragraph in the report of the Commission is -
One station owner and manager expressed the opinion that the whole of the Victoria River country, from the Kith parallel south, was, generally speaking, good sheep country. He estimated that with railway facilities that country would carry from 20,000,000 to- 30,000,000 sheep easily, and a great number of big stock as well.
Then Mr. Richard Murray, of the Department of Forestry, South Australia, told the Commission -
There is country to the north of the Macdonnell Ranges where I have seen grass you could mow, and that country is unoccupied. There is some fair country also in the vicinity of the Truer Ranges which is untouched at the present time.
Another piece of evidence is -
At the present time the two holdings carried about 10,500 head of cattle and 1,800 horses. On an average they sunt away about 1,500 head of fats per year; but in bad seasons they were obliged to hold them over, or soli as stores. With a railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges this country would carry more stock, because necessary improvements in providing water would be possible.
According to people who know, the development of the Territory depends on railway communication; and this is what ought to first occupy the attention of the Government. My object in speaking is, if possible, to obtain a promise more definite than that given last week by the Prime Minister in Adelaide, namely, “ Leave it with us, and we will see it is done.” I wish for some definite, specific promise, for which the report of the Commission affords ample justification. It is not only South Australia that asks for this railway. The motion on which the Prime Minister gave the assurance that I have just mentioned was submitted by delegates from Tasmania, who regarded it as imperative that the Territory be developed by carrying the railway from Oodnadatta north; and certainly Tasmanians cannot be charged with taking a local or prejudiced view of the situation. The Registrar of Mines, South Australia, in his evidence before the Commission, said -
The country round Hergott did not look well; but from about the Coward northward, right to Arltunga, feed is luxuriant, and water abundant - that was when I was up in March.
According to that gentleman, had the railway been in existence during the recent drought, it would have been possible to send stock to Charlotte Springs, where feed was very abundant. The same witness further said -
When I came down in December of the same year, the country was dry in parts, and had I written my description then I might not have been so enthusiastic.
It will be seen that this witness is unquestionably expressing his genuine opinion, for he does not depend on what he saw in March. He said further -
The Macdonnell Ranges struck me as being a most wonderful place for horse breeding.
It is to bridge that strip of what is called desert country that we ask for railway extension. Of course there is an extension from Pine Creek to Katherine River, but I doubt whether that railway will afford such facilities for the development of the Territory as would an extension from Oodnadatta.
– What distance has to be covered?
– I think between 300 and 400 miles. Mr. Henry Lewis, pastoralist, of Adelaide, said to the Commission -
I have travelled across (north and south) six times, and I consider that every mile of country between Oodnadatta and the Katherine is good country for cattle and horses. Anywhere north of Newcastle Waters would be too wet for sheep, but there is room for plenty south of that.
– How much stock is there between Oodnadatta and the Macdonnell Ranges now?
– I do not hold myself ‘ip as a compendium of statistics. I am quoting the evidence of others, who know the country well. The right honorable member admitted, after an interjection from the honorable member for Grey, that he did not go into the Northern Territory, but came in by the Alberga River from the north-west coast of Australia.
– It is 300 miles from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
– Exactly so.
– Tell us how much stock there is.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has reached the time limit.
.- I confess a feeling of some surprise that the South Australian Government ever allowed this wonderful Territory to be taken over by the Commonwealth. I have been listening here night after night to speeches describing what a wonderful land it is-
– They had confidence in the Commonwealth, but it has been misplaced.
– It must have been. The South Australian Government must have been giving away something very great, according to the wonderful resources that have been described to us. Yet, after the lapse of all this time, and after the expenditure of so much money, we only see barren results.
– How has the money been spent? Not in the way this Commission recommends.
– I hope there will be some change in the expenditure of money on the Northern Territory. I was one of those who, a few years ago, severely denounced the expenditure that was then taking place, and I hope we shall not have any repetition of that sort of thing. What I want to point out is that the arguments we have heard apply, not only to the Northern Territory, but to the whole of northern Australia. We have to realize that that area must be populated. The honorable member for Franklin pointed out to-night that if we wished to retain our hold on northern Australia we should have to populate it, and in order to do this the Administration should be sympathetic, and should show, not only a keen desire to induce people to go there, but a desire to treat them fairly when they are there. It is absurd for us to bring forward a scheme of closer settlement at present. If we realize the history of Victoria, of New South Wales, and of other portions of the continent, we see that the pastoralist came first, and opened up the country. He was followed by the farmer, and after that people began to talk about closer settlement. It must be the same in the Northern Territory. We must build up its pastoral and mineral resources first. When we get people going there like the Vestey Brothers, who will put for- ward capital for the purpose of developing the country, I hope the present Administration will do all they can to encourage such people, and not put obstacles in their way, as it has been suggested by some honorable members they should. Although the pastoral industry should he developed, one cannot help realizing that the mining industry, if encouraged, is the industry that is most likely to attract population. The history of Victoria shows the wonderful growth of population, and the great development that took place after the discovery of gold. My own experience in connexion with “Western Australia showed that the same thing happened there. We had an enormous area, with great resources, and yet, until gold was discovered, there was very little development. After gold was found a large population came to Western Australia. There was an immense settlement, and at the present time we have a very large agricultural industry in the State. I hope the Minister will do all he can to encourage mining in the Northern Territory, by seeing that the raining laws are sufficiently sympathetic to encourage capital. It is all very well for us to try to assist small holders, and endeavour to induce people to start mining, but- the only way in which mining can be built up successfully in that particular country is by having the mining laws so drawn up that the people who invest their money can secure a good title, and be assured that they will get from the Government a fair deal and every protection. I am not advocating anything in the nature of a fee-simple so far as mining propositions are concerned. That, in my opinion, would be a very great mistake, but those who are prepared to spend money should be told by the mining Ordinances that they will be fairly dealt with, whatever the results of their enterprise. It is only by the establishment of large companies that we can hope for anything in the nature of a big mineral production in the Northern Territory. In this respect the history of Western Australia should be a guide to the Minister. He has had a big knowledge of Western Australian fields and conditions, and should be able to frame mining Ordinances that will induce capital to come forward and help in the work of development. He has framed certain Ordinances in connexion with exclusive prospecting licences. There is danger if the Minister allows any person who has obtained a licence to have the exclusive right of mining over an area of 5 square miles. This might be all right if it applied only to something in the nature of a rare metal the existence of which was problematical. I had an experience of this sort myself once, and the Minister will recognise the difficulty that would arise if any one person with an exclusive licence to prospect for gold were to discover an alluvial lead in his holding; or he will, without doubt, imagine the trouble that would follow the discovery of alluvial tin. I would, therefore, strongly urge the Minister to exclude any of the royal metals from these mining Ordinances, or anything in the nature of alluvial tin.
– Will the licence entitle the holder to all minerals ?
– It will only give him the right to the mineral named upon the permit obtained from the Department, but I am sure grave trouble would arise in the event of alluvial discoveries. I am quite in accord with a number of members in regard to railways. To develop the country railways must be built. After my experience in Western Australia, I do not think the railways should be built necessarily as the engineers desire, or be so heavily ballasted that trains can travel 30 or 40 miles an hour. Prospecting railways are required to carry goods, and admitting of travel at the rate of 14 or 15 miles an hour. If railways are to be built through Queensland, or from the south, they should be as light as possible, and constructed so that they can be made sufficiently strong to meet subsequent requirements. Water supply is also a subject of tremendous importance to that Territory, and, in my view, a large number of boring parties should be sent out with the object of locating subterranean water. In fact, I would advise the Minister to get the map prepared by the Western Australian Government to see what was done in the back country there with the object of providing water for prospectors. I am quite satisfied that if the Minister spent £100,000 in the course of the next two or three years on a definite policy in this respect, even if it did not prove to be of material assistance in the discovery of minerals as well, the expenditure would be more than justified from the pastoralists’ stand-point alone.
– Would you permit the use of the divining rod ?
– No. Men of experience are required. Send them out in three or four different directions to locate where water supplies may be found. I found one very good way was by putting down a 6-inch bore and a pipe with grating attachment at the bottom. In many instances we had nothing else, and .that means was always sufficient to provide water for a prospecting party. If, afterwards, settlement took place, we could make a more permanent supply. Another matter upon which I would like to touch has reference to the establishment of treatment plants, and I want to say openly that no blame attaches to the present Minister for the large expenditure recently incurred under this head. He is merely following the late Administration. Treatment plants are established for the purpose of enabling a prospector to realize to some extent the value of the ore that he may produce. It had been decided to erect a plant for the treatment of tin at Maranboy, but I was rather astonished to discover that it was intended to erect a ten-head mill. I saw the Minister, and pointed out to him that we bad done the same class of work at Greenbushes, in Western Australia, and suggested to him that a five-head mill would be more than ample for the requirements of the district. I also pointed out to him that, in a district such as that the great cost to the prospector was that of getting his ore to the mill, and that it would be far better to have two small plants in different spots than one large central mill.
– If you had only one mine, what would be the use of two plants ?
– This is not the case of one mine; but here you have a tenhead plant involving an expenditure of something like £20,000. If other districts are discovered, how many plants of this sort is it proposed to erect? I am satisfied that the House would object to the heavy expenditure the frequent erection of large plants like this would involve, particularly as a much less expensive plant costing £9,000 or £10,000 would have done all that was necessary. I think there is only 1,600 tons of ore available now, and with that large plant it would be possible to crush the district out within a couple of months. Such a large mill is not necessary, and I hope that future action by the Minister in this respect will be more in the direction of erecting small treatment plants, which will be ample for all requirements. We have done a great deal of this kind of work in Western Australia. I advocated the erection of these plants as strongly as did any member of the State Parliament, and yet, when I left office, I had serious misgivings as to the value of the work we had done. We had produced something over £4,000,000 worth of gold, the whole of which went, not into big outside companies, but into the pockets of our own people. There was, nevertheless, a doubt as to whether the working of these plants was beneficial to the mining industry. In many districts where we had small parties working, all the rich ore was crushed by men who, having done this, neglected their holdings, with the result that a very great number of them are now deserted. On the other hand, if small plants had been taken there to assist prospectors in ascertaining the value of their propositions, and in inducing others to come in with ample capital for the development of their properties, I feel sure that, instead of so many of these holdings being abandoned and the districts deserted, as they are today, we should have had big mines in full operation. If the Minister will give investors an assurance of generous mining laws; if he will give them an assurance that if they put money into a mining proposition they will be fully protected under the mining Ordinances ; if he will see that a large sum is expended on water supplies, and also enter upon a good system of light railway construction, he will do much to induce settlement and development in the Territory. The matter of the development of the north does not apply only to the Northern Territory. We have an immense coast-line, stretching from Western Australia round to Queensland, and every effort should be made by the Government of the day, not only to promote settlement, but to develop the industries we already have there. I wish to refer more particularly to the pearling industry. At present, owing to the war, it is moribund ; but I know that many honorable members of the
Labour party would sooner see that industry closed down than allow it to be carried on with alien coloured labour. The pearling industry, however, has done much to develop north-western Australia, and to open up th© resources of Western Australia itself. I do not wish to discuss the merits or demerits of coloured labour in connexion with the industry. A Royal Commission, of which I am a member, has been appointed to inquire into the matter, and I should not care te make any statement regarding a subject which, so far as I am concerned, at least, should be treated at the present time as sub judice. The Commission does not intend to hold any meeting until the war is over, and the industry is once more being actively carried on.
– Has not the sacrifice of human life been terrible in the pearling industry?
– If that is so, surely
Ave are not going to ask that our own people shall be employed in such ari industry.
– I, for one, am not.
– The latest available statistics regarding the pearling industry are in respect of the year 1912. They show that in that year, in Western Australia alone, we had 401 pearling boats, of the value of £186,000, and that during the year they raised shell to the value of £421,000, in addition to pearls of the value of £100,000. These boats employ a large number of white people, as well as a large amount of alien coloured labour. I wish to point out, however, what the pearling industry did for the development of Western Australia. In the old days, before the pastoral industry of the State had been developed, many entered upon the pearling industry, made money out of it, and then opened up the pastoral industry in the north of Western Australia. A number of these, in turn, having made a good deal of money, settled in Perth, invested in several industries there, and also invested largely in land in the agricultural areas adjacent to the capital. They were very largely responsible for a good deal of the development of Western Australia. The pearling industry is a big one. Broome, until the outbreak of the war, had a larger white population than any other town in the north-west of Western Australia, and we desire to do all that we can to retain population there. Life in the north-west is no mere frolic.
– What is the population of Broome?
– Prior to the war the white population was about 1,100, but I am afraid that it has dwindled away to something like 500. I am not asking that the Minister shall alter at present any of the existing regulations relating to the industry; but the honorable gentleman has recently given permits to a Targe firm, enabling it to employ some forty or fifty boats in the trade. I believe that at present twenty-five permits have been granted.
– That is, surely, to the benefit of Broome.
– I am not questioning that ; but my keen desire is that no monopoly shall be created in connexion with the pearling industry. If we are to have such an industry, I desire that the boats employed in it shall be owned by individuals, and not by companies. I should like to see the industry controlled by people owning at the outside not more than seven or eight boats each, so that we may secure the largest white population possible in the north, and in order that the profits of the industry shall be distributed over as large a section of the community as possible.
– It is, in the abstract, a good idea, but the honorable member knows very well that the industry can be most profitably worked by a company that has a schooner to follow its fleet of boats.
– Quite so. But the Minister should remember that the industry was never more profitable or better regulated than during the two or three years immediately preceding the outbreak of war.
– That was because of the high price of shell.
– On account of the arrangements that had been made, they were getting about £220 per ton for their shell. The industry was then very prosperous; a, remarkably large number of pearlers owned only one boat, each, and quite a number owned only two or three each. I am sure that the Minister, like all of us, desires that if we have such an industry it shall employ as many white people as possible, so that we may not only maintain but increase the white population of the north. The Minister hae satisfied me very well regarding his actions at the present time, but I hope his future policy will be such as will enable the industry to be carried on by as many white persons as possible, and that he will distribute licences over the greatest number of white people that can be secured for the industry. As to the Northern Territory itself, one cannot but feel doubtful of the result of our experiment. The Minister himself, when speaking to this question a few days ago, said that he had not yet been able to develop such a policy as he could lay before the House and say he was determined to carry out. I can understand that, having regard to the varying views of honorable members, it is exceedingly difficult to secure anything in the nature of a common agreement. To my mind, the best policy that could be adopted would be to appoint three Commissioners to control the Territory. The Minister should endeavour to secure for this purpose three sound, solid business men who have had experience of the pastoral industry, who know what it is to go out back, and to brave and fight all the difficulties incidental to the development of such a country. I have no hope that we shall be able to push forward closer settlement in the Northern Territory at the present time. We must first of all develop other resources. We must induce people to develop the pastoral industry, and encourage the mining industry, by good, sound administration. The present Administrator may be a. very clever man, but I would strongly advise the Minister to secure the services of three practical business men, who would be able to suggest to him what is best for the development of the Territory. If that were done, we would get far greater value for the expenditure of our public money in the Northern Territory than we are securing at the present time.
.- It cannot be said that there is any lack of interest on the part of honorable members in the question of the development of the Northern Territory. The attention given to this question no doubt is due to the small progress that has been made in developing the Territory since it was taken over by the Commonwealth, and the enormous expenditure that is being incurred in respect of the payment of interest on the public debt and in carrying on the administration. I do not propose at this stage to criticise either the Minister or the Government regard ing what has been done, because I fully realize that there has not been very much time within which to carry out any great work, and that the war, which, unfortunately, is raging at the present time, has engrossed our attention, and led us to hold over what we might otherwise have done in respect of this important matter. The difficulties associated with the Territory are that the climate is tropical, and that its products are such as are supplied by the cheap coloured labour of other countries. It is not likely that, except for home consumption, the tropical products of the Northern Territory, grown by white labour, could compete with those of countries where cheap coloured labour is used.
– What about the improvements .in machinery ?
– They, too, can be employed elsewhere. We know that cattle do well in the Northern Territory, and that on the Barclay Tablelands and south thereof sheep also do well. I have always had great hope of the development of mineral production in the Northern Territory. It is undoubtedly a mineral country, and a good deal of gold has been obtained there, although no large mines are being worked at the present time. The mines opened up seem to have petered out at no great depth.
– There are some good mines there.
– They do not produce much gold.
– They are on the way to do so.
– I repeat that I have great hopes of the mineral production of the Northern Territory, and’ I believe that if we expended a considerable sum in making a complete geological survey of it we should do well. We cannot do better than let daylight into the Territory, so to speak, by the construction of railways, so that people who are enterprising and desire to settle there, or embark their capital there, may have an opportunity of inspecting it. With that object in view, the late Government, of which I was a member, made the construction of railways in the Territory the primary part of their policy. A statement, representing the views of the Liberal Government, laid on the table of the House on 12th August, 1913, contained these very definite words -
Parliament would be asked to provide funds for trial surveys with the object of connecting by railway Port Darwin with Port Augusta, viti Macdonnell Ranges and with the eastern railway system -
That is, the railway systems in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia - via Camooweal -
Honorable members will see that the Liberal Government made it part of their policy to connect the railway from Pine Creek southwards to Oodnadatta, vid the Macdonnell Ranges, with Camooweal, on the western boundary of Queensland. That statement continued - which will open up the country for agricultural and pastoral settlement. Without these main lines of transit it will be impossible to complete our defences or to adequately develop the resources of the Northern Territory.
That was the policy of the late Government, and had we remained in office we fully intended to carry it out. It has been said by honorable members representing South Australia, and I think it is understood by a good many people outside, that there is in existence an undertaking by the Commonwealth to build a railway to connect Port Darwin with South Australia vid the Macdonnell Ranges and Oodnadatta - the line which the late Government proposed to build - but I submit that no undertaking of that kind was given by this Parliament or by anybody until the late Government placed that proposal in their platform. I will read the agreement into which the Commonwealth entered with South Australia when it took over the Northern Territory, and honorable members will be able to judge for themselves as to whether the Commonwealth had undertaken to’ do that which the late Government proposed to do. The Commonwealth, by its agreement with South Australia, undertook - to construct, or cause to be constructed, a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of .South Australia proper, which railway, with the railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect therewith, is hereinafter referred to as the transcontinental railway.
Also - to construct, or cause to be constructed, as part of the transcontinental railway, a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect with the other part of the transcontinental railway at a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper.
I know that at the time those words were used the Government were not sufficiently informed on the subject to know exactly the route the railway would follow from Port Darwin to join the railway from Oodnadatta to Port Augusta, and therefore that language was employed; but the Commonwealth was bound to build a railway to cross the northern boundary of South Australia somewhere. I only mention this fact to show that those who argue that the Commonwealth is committed to the construction of a railway direct southward along the telegraph line from Port Darwin, vid Alice Springs and the Macdonnell Ranges, to Oodnadatta have no foundation in this agreement for the statements they make. The only foundation they can claim is that the late Government, of which I was a member, did mention, as part of their policy, the construction of a line to connect Port Darwin, vid the Macdonnell Ranges, with Oodnadatta. That is the only pledge that has been given - at any rate, in such definite words. - by any one. Reference was made in the House a few nights ago, and by the honorable member for Grey in the South Australian press, to a letter written by the then Prime Minister, at my suggestion, to the Premier of Queensland, in which it was advocated that a railway should be built by the Queensland Government to Camooweal from Cloncurry, a distance of about 150 miles, on condition that the Commonwealth carried its line on westward through the Barclay Tablelands to Newcastle Waters and thence northerly until it joined the railway coming south from Pine Creek and the Katherine River.
– You did not propose that the Commonwealth should build from Camooweal, which is in Queensland, to the border?
– No. Our idea was to carry our line to the Queensland border somewhere near Camooweal, which is very close to the border. When I made that suggestion I had in mind the Government programme, wherein we had undertaken to build a railway to join Port Darwin to Port Augusta vid the Macdonnell Ranges.
– Your idea was unfortunately expressed in your letter.
– The honorable member is like the Mussulman of Fez or Delhi, who in his daily prayers turns lr» face towards the temple of Mecca, for his eyes are always fixed on the city of Adelaide.
– You had your eyes on the western railway always.
– I confess that I set before myself the construction of that great national work, and I glory in the fact that my efforts were successful. I may explain that after we hail pledged ourselves to build this railway, the question of route between the Katherine River and Oodnadatta, viti the Macdonnell Ranges, had to be considered. I had not sufficient personal knowledge to justify me in expressing an opinion, but I was guided by the opinion of Dr. Gilruth, who had travelled over the country between Newcastle Waters and Alice Springs, and described it as being very poor. He did not advise that the railway should go in that direction, but thought that a detour should be made through the Barclay Tablelands, which is excellent country, to a place called Anthony’s Lagoon; thence to Alroy Station; and thence southward for 339 miles to Alice Springs. The distance from Newcastle Waters to Alice Springs via the telegraph line, is 470 miles, and a detour as proposed by Dr. Gilruth would increase the distance by about 100 miles. . One great advantage in that route which appealed to me was that it would pass through good country all the way from Newcastle Waters to Anthony’s Lagoon and Alroy Station, a distance of 238 miles, and Alroy Station is only 150 miles from Camooweal, on the “Queensland border. By that means we should have had a common line from Port Darwin for a distance of 688 miles to Alroy Station. At that point the two lines would diverge; one would go west of south to Alice Springs, a distance of 339 miles; and from Alice Springs through the Macdonnell Ranges to Oodnadatta, a distance of 297 miles; the other would go eastward to Camooweal, near the Queensland border, a distance of 150 miles. That seemed to me to be an excellent idea.
– It would have been on a narrow-gauge railway.
– that does not make any difference to my argument; the distance is the same, whether the gauge be narrow or wide. The only difficulty if the railway was constructed on the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge would be the change of gauge at the Queensland border. In constructing the line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, the sleepers could be made long enough to allow of the widening of the gauge, and then the gauge would be the same from Port Darwin to Port Augusta, and from Port Darwin through Queensland to Wallangarra, where the New South Wales gauge of 4 ft. 8 J in. would be reached.
– Did your scheme provide for starting construction from Oodnadatta ?
– We had not reached the constructing stage. The bargain had been made, and it had to be kept. This is no small matter. The present war had not broken out at the time my letter was written, but the Government of which I was a member had the smallest of majorities, and many large obligations, and money was nob too plentiful. To make a railway from the- Katherine to Oodnadatta, connecting with the Queensland border and the anchorage at Hie Pellew Islands, would probably cost £7,000,000, and would occupy several years, the distance being about 1,000 miles.
– It should not take longer than the construction of the eastwest railway.
– I hope that it will not take so long. But in the latter case you are going to a settled country, in which there is a considerable population, an immense trade, while in the former you- must develop the country through which it passes in order to create traffic.
– Will any of the traffic from the Northern Territory go across the east-west railway?
– I do not think so.
– The right honorable member said last week that he had no axe to grind.
– And I am riot aware that I have any.
– The right honorable member’s axe is already ground.
– I am not always thinking of myself. The railway to Oodnadatta stops within 300 miles of the Macdonnell Ranges, and, although it has been constructed for many years, the intervening country is still uninhabited.
The honorable member for Wakefield told us the other day that it is a droughtstricken country.
– It is all occupied.
– I understand that there are but few sheep or cattle there. I cannot understand theattitude of the honorable members for Grey and Adelaide. The late Government, of which I was a member, placed upon its policy programme the construction of the line which they advocate, and their present tactics seem to me to be calculated to alienate support of which they should try to take advantage. Without a tittle of evidence, and notwithstanding our Statements to the contrary they charge me and the other members of the last Ministry with breach of faith and the repudiation of an agreement; They must think they are making some political capital, or otherwise they would not seek to quarrel with their friends. When I wrote the letter to the then Prime Minister to which reference has been made, I had in mind the fact that from Camooweal to Alroy Station is only 150 miles, and that when those places are connected by railway we can continue quickly southwards and westwards. When what I suggest is done, viz., the railway from Port Darwin to Alroy Station, 688 miles of the through line from Port Darwin to Oodnadatta will have been constructed, and 150 miles of railway from Alroy Station will connect withCamooweal on the Queensland border. Are the representatives of South Australia opposed to any connexion with the Queensland railway system ?
– We are prepared to have the two railways constructed together.
– Are we notto connect with the Queensland railway system until a line has been carried through Central Australia from Port Darwin to Oodnadatta ? That is not what we pledged ourselves to. Our policy was to connect Port Darwin and Port Augusta by a railwaygoing via the Macdonnell Ranges with a branch to Camooweal connecting it with the railway systems of the eastern States.
– What did the right honorable member say in his letter?
– Nothing contrary to that.
– That as an alternative he would be obliged to go on with the north-south line, to which his Government was pledged.
– The connexion which I suggest would mean the construction of only 150 miles of railway. There never was a more dog-in-the-manger policy than that of the honorable members for Grey and Adelaide, who virtually say that until a railway is taken right through South Australia, at a cost of several millions of pounds, and requiring several years to construct, the Northern Territory shall not be connected with the Queensland railway system, although a connexion could be given by laying down 150 miles of railway. They cannot hope for the sympathy of the members of their party or any one else in such a selfish and foolish policy.
– Why did the right honorable member have his speech printed by request in the Adelaide Advertiser?
– When I read the long letter in which the honorable member for Grey misrepresented my action and the proposals of the late Government, I wrote to the newspaper in which it was published stating that it would be only fair to publish my speech; but I now hear for the first time that it has been published.
– I merely quoted from the right honorable member’s letter.
– The honorable member made a good many statements that were not accurate. Let the honorable member and the honorable member for Adelaide tell the Committee plainly that their wish is that a railway should be taken right through South Australia before a connexion with the Queensland border is made.
– We asked, and insist that the railway shall be continued from Oodnadatta to the MacDonnell Range concurrently with any construction from the other end.
– That is a matter of policy, to be settled bymy honorable friends opposite. We have never yet considered how the construction of these railways shall be undertaken.
– The right honorable member in his letter said which should have precedence.
– I do not withdraw one iota of what I have written, because I believe that I defined a good policy for the opening up of the Territory. I think that my second letter did not reach the Premier of Queensland, that it did not get beyond the then Prime Minister.
– The then Minister of External Affairs would not indorse it.
– I shall deal with that interjection presently. I said to the Prime Minister on the 30th June, and he indorsed the statement, that if the Northern Territory is to be opened up by railways, within a few years we must build from the Katherine southwards to Newcastle Waters, and from Camooweal westward to Newcastle Waters. That was to be a first instalment of the whole construction, and would mean the making of a railway for a distance of 838 miles from Camooweal to Port Darwin, 146 miles of the track being already laid, viz., from Port Darwin to Pine Creek. There would then remain 636 miles to connect Ahoy Station with Oodnadatta. Although I am not now in office, I repeat that the route which I favour, from the information I have gained from those who know the country, is from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, a distance of 146 miles, for which the railway is already constructed; from Pine Creek to the Katherine, a distance of 54 miles; and from the Katherine to Newcastle Waters, another 250 miles; thence to Anthony’s Lagoon, which is 592 miles from Port Darwin, and on to Alroy Station, which is 688 miles from Port Darwin. From Anthony’s Lagoon there would be a branch line to Peilew Islands anchorage near Booroloola, a distance of 236 miles. From Alroy Station there would be a connexion with Camooweal, a distance of 150 miles, and the main line would go on from Alroy Station to Alice Springs, 339 miles, and from Alice Springs to Oodnadatta, a distance of 297 miles.
– The right honorable member apparently wishes that the construction shall be from the north southwards.
– I have never said so. The honorable and learned member for Angas and myself are in agreement as to route. The method of construction was never considered between us, except that I told him that I could not make provision on the Estimates of 1913-14 for the construction of these railways. We had not then sufficient information. All we could do was to determine a policy.
– And we also sanctioned surveys.
The honorable member’s time having expired, leave to continue granted.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas would have liked to commence the work of construction at once, but I considered that want of information and the financial position did not justify that. We had a great many other obligations to meet, and had not been long in office. It was too soon to propose the construction of railways which would cost many millions of money, but had we remained in office we should probably have done something in the next session. My honorable and learned friend was desirous of constructing 300 miles of railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Range, but I held that such an extension of the present line by itself would not in any way develop the Northern Territory, because its terminus would be 1,000 miles from Port Darwin. I did not say that we should not make that extension, nor that I would not build from the south. There are many advantages in building from the south. For one thing, labour can be obtained in the south, but is difficult to get in the north. The route that we advocate, except for 150 miles, is common to both - the through line and the line to Camooweal - and it seems to me that no public man, not even the honorable members for Grey or Adelaide, if they were in office, would dare to declare that they would build a line for 688 miles from Port Darwin to Alroy Station, and then carry it 339 miles down to Macdonnell Ranges, and on to Oodnadatta, and would not connect with the railway system of Queensland by building 150 miles of railway from Alroy Station to Camooweal.
– No; I should start from Oodnadatta.
– Would the honorable member not take the line to Camooweal at all ?
– If it were profitable I should; but I would not leave Oodnadatta out altogether.
– I do not see, if funds are available, why the line should not commence at Oodnadatta, Camooweal, and at Katherine River, too; I should have no objection. It must be remembered that beyond Macdonnell
Ranges trade is not likely to come south, hut must go north, except, perhaps, in the -case of cattle and other stock. I think that the bombardment of those who are willing to assist this great railway project ought to earn for the honorable members who carry it on discredit, and not praise, in their own State of South Australia. The honorable member for Grey has been attempting to make some capital by pointing out that I had not the concurrence of my colleague, the honorable member for Angas, at the time he mentioned, but was acting against his advice. Let me tell the honorable member that, unlike himself, I do not regard this as a -.parochial matter, the whole end and object of which is to have a large expenditure in South Australia, but as a great national project. I know enough of the practice of Ministers to be able to say that any member of a Government, even if he be not the Treasurer, has a perfect right :to approach the Prime Minister on any subject of national importance, unrestricted by the fact that the project may be situated in territory under the control of another Minister. It is a privilege of Ministers to be able to go to the Prime Minister direct, if they wish to communicate with him on any subject of national interest.
– Without consulting the Minister in whose Department the matter as?
– Certainly , without consulting anybody.
– That is your idea of loyalty !
– The Minister rebuked the honorable member for Swan in his letter.
– That letter I never saw. Honorable members know very well that if there is a man whom I would go a long way out of my way to serve, and to whom I would avoid saying anything unkind, or likely to give offence or hurt his feelings, it is the honorable member for Angas. I had charge of the finances, and I saw that an immense amount of money was being spent without return ; and I desired to see what could be done under the circumstances. I have always placed at that honorable member’s disposal, while we were colleagues, any experience or knowledge that I may possess; and I was at all times only too glad to consult with him, and did consult with him and with Dr. Gilruth, times out of number, in order to further the development of this immense Territory. This, as I have said before, is a great national question, far above departmental considerations.
– Involving millions!
– Yes; and I have a perfect right - indeed, it is my duty - if I have anything to say, to freely communicate, verbally or by letter, with the Prime Minister. To be told that in doing so I have broken one of the canons of conduct as between Minister and Minister hurts me much, and especially so as the honorable member for Angas is an old, valued, and dear friend of mine. I fully appreciate the difficulties which confront the Government and the Minister in regard to the Territory. If we are to let daylight into that part of Australia, it must be by means of railways; and this work is of the utmost importance to the people of Australia. Of course, if we may judge by the progress of the east-west line, it will take years to carry out the project.
– It will not take long now that we have our own steel works.
– In any case it will take a long time to carry the sleepers and rails from Port Augusta and Port Darwin; but I hope the connexion with Queensland will give us another avenue for transport.
– We have -done much in twelve months on the east-west railway.
– Not very much.
– More than the honorable member’s Government did in five years.
– That is a reckless, unfair statement, which is not based on fact. When were we in office for five years?
– Taking your record for a year, that is about the rate of progress.
– Much could be said about the slow progress on the east- west line, but I hope there will be an improvement in this respect byandby. However, the Government have now in hand this railway project for the Northern Territory; and if they propose to commence at once from Oodnadatta northwards, they shall have my help. I shall protest strongly, however, if they do not also do their utmost to induce the Government of Queensland to build the 150 miles of railway from Cloncurry to Camooweal, as the quickest way of getting into the Territory from the port of Townsville.
– It will be all right now that there is a new Government in Queensland !
– I think that any Government should agree that that is the better and most reasonable course, with advantages to all concerned. I realize that the Government are face to face with a great difficulty, and the sooner they make up their minds the better. I feel certain that they will come to the same conclusion that the late Government came to; and if they do, I shall do my best to help them.
.- While this debate has consumed considerable time, I think we have no right to complain of the manner in which it has been conducted.
– You will make the debate spin out if you start to talk !
– After all that has been said, the Committee will surely expect me to make some statement at this stage, and I do not regard the honorable member’s interjection as a bar to that course. I am greatly indebted to honorable members on both sides for the manner in which they have dealt with this problem of the Northern Territory. The great issues involved have been dealt with in no sense from a party point of view; and it is only right that it should be so. For if ever there was a problem that will tax to the utmost the wisdom and patriotism of Australian public men it is that of the development of the Northern Territory. Therefore, it is an omen of good hope that honorable members on both sides look at the problem in a practical and businesslike way, and are offering suggestions not to embarrass the Minister or the Government, but to assist in arriving at a policy which will enable Australia to make the best of this great possession of ours. A good deal has been said about the route of the railway. I incurred the displeasure of my honorable friend, the member for Grey, some time ago, because I expressed the idea that, if we did desire to let immediate daylight into this northern portion of Australia, the suggestion made by the right honorable member for Swan that there should be a railway from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal was a good one. I am still of that opinion. But this does not affect the view that I hold, namely, that the rest of the railway should be pushed on from the south as well as from the north. Here I may say to my honorable friends, who have insinuated the possibility of a breach of faith, that, so far as this Government are concerned, they are determined to honour the agreement already arrived at, not merely in the letter, but also in the spirit. This declaration should satisfy honorable members from South Australia. But surely honorable members will reflect on the position in which Australia finds herself to-day] We are confronted with the greatest convulsion in history, and with the necessity for unparalleled expenditure in men, money, and munitions. In such a world-wide cataclysm, may we not be excused from immediately taking in banc) great national projects, including this railway?
– -The Government would have constructed the strategic railway if they could have found support for it. Mr. MAHON. - I would rather the honorable member did not introduce this question of the strategic railway. While the Northern Territory presents a very pressing problem, I take it that the safety of the whole of Australia is still more important. If it were necessary, on the advice of the best experts, that the strategic railway should be built in order to safeguard this continent from attack, then it would become even more important than the Oodnadatta railway.
– Where are those experts ?
– The honorable member may depend on it that the Prime Minister of Australia has not proposed this strategic railway without having good advice.
Some comment has also been made upon the circumstance that we have devised no new policy for the development of this Territory. Well, the Government have been only a few months in office, and a problem so vast as this Territory presents is not to be solved off-hand. Surely it is not expected that every new Minister shall come down at once with a new policy. Is it not wiser that he should examine the work of his predecessors - preserving what seems good, and eliminating that which has proven to be defective? The lines on which the Territory are now administered were inaugurated by the honorable member for the Barrier, and others who preceded him in office. Their work was well done, and continued with equal energy and ability by the honorable member for Angas, my immediate predecessor. What course was left for ‘me ? Obviously that of taking up the threads of administration as I found them, and giving time and opportunity for the ripening of one experimental measures of those who had studied the same question in advance of me. The honorable member for Angas, for instance, gave exhaustive consideration to the Territory, and has bequeathed a historical retrospect of its position of the greatest value to those who are to follow us. Again, the honorable member for the Barrier laid securely the foundation of measures which, in the ultimate issue, must contribute to the successful settlement of the Territory.
– -Yes ; agricultural. Experiments in agriculture are not to be decried, and I will be pleased to show the honorable member a sample of butter made at Darwin. Its condition disproves the idea that we cannot make butter in a tropical country.
– In the winter you can; in the summer it runs away.
– This butter was certainly not made in the winter. It has been in my possession for some time.
– What are you going to do with it?
– Divide it up if the honorable member is particularly anxious for it. That is practical Socialism.
Coming now to the views expressed during this debate, I am in partial agreement with many of them. I have faith in the future of the Territory. Ultimately, it will, I am convinced, become a great asset for Australia. Meanwhile, I do not disguise the difficulties of any great advance coming from what is known as “closer settlement” there. My opinion is that development there must be pursued on the lines which have succeeded in other parts of Australia. And notably by what has occurred in Western
Australia, where the mining pioneer prospector has been the avant courier of civilization. I pin my faith, in the order named, to the miner, the pastoralist, and the agriculturist.
– I wish that were right.
– The Northern Territory admittedly contains mining fields of very great possibilities.
– It is - for the speculator to go down.
– The honorable gentleman knows the early history of mining there and in other parts of Australia. He is aware that much of the money subscribed for mining development never reached the mining fields. I repeat that mining must be looked to to give this country its initial impetus; then development of its pastures, and, after these two, on agriculture.
– Do not you think that a railway would be a prime factor in this development ?
– I believe the railway will be of very great assistance, but I remind the honorable member that there was a Coolgardie and a Kalgoorlie long before a railway went beyond Southern Cross.
– You struck rich country.
– Yes, rich mining country; and if we could strike a rich mine in the Northern Territory, we would have the people there, railway or no railway.
– Then the best thing is to wait until you strike a mine.
– No; we cannot stand still. We must have settlement. Yet it is to be feared that from the man who risks no capital of his own little is to be expected as a settler. Experience so far with such has been the reverse of encouraging. He is a very unstable type of pioneer who requires to be spoon-fed by the Government. On the other hand, the man who does possess capital of his own will not occupy the Territory. Why ? Not because the country lacks attractions, but because other parts of Australia, where life is less strenuous and conditions, more comfortable, also offer him inducements. Until there is greater congestion in the temperate zone of Australia we can hardly look for any large accession of bold and adventurous spirits to occupy the agricultural areas. This is why immediate reliance must be placed on the mineral wealth and the pastoral possibilities of this great possession of ours.
I have been twitted by the honorable member for Grey with presenting a policy of despair in connexion with this Territory. The honorable member surely does not expect me to portray its possibilities in the exuberant language of a company promoter. Is it not better to look difficulties in the face rather than resort to the devices of the ostrich? Is it not wiser in the long run, and more honest to present drab reality rather than a picturesque Utopia ? Remember that we cannot absolve ourselves from responsibility for the consequences to men who might be lured into the region by glowing descriptions of the fortune which there awaits grit and industry. It would, of course, be easy to draw alluring pictures of the Territory; to dwell on the rapt happiness of Edwin and Angelina gazing on roseate sunsets, across fields of bountiful crops which the mere tickling of the fruitful soil had made ready for the reaper. But those on whom responsibility rests must adhere with fidelity to the actual conditions which must be faced by the settler in the Territory.
– If you would incorporate the railway in that picture, we should take you more seriously.
– I hope She honorable member will live to see that railway, and that a grateful people will bestow on him the halo which he has invented for the right honorable member for Swan. I would like to briefly touch on one matter referred to by the honorable members for Brisbane and Barrier. I refer to the policy of the Government in respect to the liquor traffic in the Northern Territory. With the objects which both these gentlemen have in viewI have a good deal of sympathy. The objection that arises to my mind - and it is an objection that confronts all reformers in that sphere - is that they are attempting to do in one generation what is the work of four or five generations. They expect to do offhand what only education and example may accomplish after a good many years.
– As the honorable member for Flinders would say, “ the time is not yet ripe.
– Although the honorable member for Brisbane holds extreme views regarding liquor prohibition, I must say that he was absolutely fair in the way he presented his case. But he is sufficiently hardheaded and practical to know the difficulty that faces any man who attempts to apply prohibition to a country that lies largely within the tropics.
– Give them local option.
– I have no objection to that at all.
– That is what I suggest.
– I have no objection to take a referendum vote of the white people of the Northern Territory in respect to the sale of liquor in that territory.
– Of all the people ?
– If you will do that, I shall be satisfied.
– I will be prepared to do that on the first available opportunity; but I think the honorable member will be grievously disappointed in the result.
– Absolutely, no.
– Does the honorable member expect victory for his principles?
– I do not.
– Why do you want it?
– For educational purposes.
– Very well, I am in agreement with the honorable member; but surely he will realize the impossibility of preventing men from drinking in a climate of that kind! He has been in some of the tropical parts of Australia, and he must know the thirst that is developed in those regions. However, it it be that we cannot reform this generation within this generation’s life time - and I do not think we can - and if men will drink, no matter what the results may be, surely it is a good thing that they have pure, unadulterated liquor. That is what we propose to do, We propose to regulate the sale of liquor throughout the Territory.
– And the quality?
– And the quality,of course. We shall be the sole buyersof liquor there, and we shall be the sole vendors.
– And you will sell a curious liquor that will not make men drunk ?
– If men drink too much they will get drunk ; if they eat too much they will get ill. It is not the use of liquor that we propose to prohibit; it is the abuse of it, and the introduction of the vile concoctions that have worked so much mischief on the constitutions of white men in the past.
– Will you give us your definition of the word “ abuse “ ?
– I think the honorable member, whose reputation for humour is well established in this House, can find an illustration if he will “ stop, look, and listen,” when next he goes out of doors. The honorable member for Barrier referred to a suggestion of mine which found favour with the Argus, that returned soldiers should be invited to settle in the Northern Territory. He appeared to think that approval from such a. source threw some doubt on the scheme. In that I am inclined to concur. It certainly is disconcerting to find one’s proposals favoured by the organ of Toryism. The position reminds me of O’Connell’s attitude towards the Times. Whenever he was in doubt about any question he consulted the Times, and invariably found that by doing the exact opposite to what it recommended he was generally right. But the honorable member for the Barrier has scarcely gathered the real purport of the proposal in regard to the settlement of returned soldiers. I recognise, as he does, that everything we can do for the men now fighting for civilization should be done when they return. Many of these men who before the war had followed sedentary occupations, will have acquired a taste and liking for openair life, and may be willing, in default of better opportunities to embrace those offered by this new country. Judging by the number of disappointed applicants at every land ballot, it will be very difficult to find in the moderately cool portions of Australia areas of land offering sufficient attraction to these men. If we are to assist settlers in the Territory - and I think we should - then these men, who have developed a taste for an open-air life, and who will be physically strong and vigorous, might well be ‘ assisted to take up land in the Northern Territory. The precise method in which this is to be done remains to be decided, but it mightwell be done perhaps on the community system suggested by the honorable member for Franklin.
– Any attempt at settlement on the community system will be an absolute failure.
– I do not know why the honorable member should say that.
– Surely the Minister would not put our returned soldiers on land which no one else would take up?
– I spoke not of every returned soldier, but of those who might be inclined to follow the life of a pioneer. I did not say that we should send them indiscriminately into the Territory.
– Could we not obtain for them land nearer home ?
– Can the honorable member find any land for them in his own constituency? If not, what alternative has he to offer ? In conclusion, I may say that these Estimates relate to several other important matters, such as the control of Norfolk Island, the Territory of Papua, and the High Commissioner’s office; but, with the exception of the honorable member for Cook, no one has referred to them. The honorable member for Darling Downs has made some inquiries privately regarding Papuan developments in railways, oil, rubber, and general plantations, and I am glad to be able to supply the information. As the Committee is aware, the late Government projected a railway from Port Moresby to Astrolabe, anc! in respect to that line I have ascertained that the surveys had been completed, and the. work was about to be begun when the war broke out. That event created considerable uncertainty as to the future of the mines, on which the railway will depend for practically all its business. The Mount Morgan Company, which it was understood was about to exercise the option which it held to purchase the principal mine, the Laloki, declined to exercise that option. The result was that no steps ‘were taken in connexion with the construction”, and that the rails which had been ordered for Port Moresby were carried on to Brisbane, where they now are. Since that time the position has not changed until to-day, when some responsible gentleman called on the Secretary and intimated the desire to re-open negotiations on -the basis of their furnishing a guarantee of a certain amount of traffic. A.s this proposal is only now being submitted to me, there has been no time to consider it, but it might, perhaps, be stated, for the information of the House,, that the intention to complete the railway has not been definitely abandoned. The fact is that the work was suspended only because the Government found themselves in a position that whereas they might build the railway, they had no assurance that any freight would be forthcoming, on its completion, for it to carry. It might, perhaps, be added, that the wharf at Port Moresby, with which the oil fields work is intimately connected, is about to be begun. Instructions to put the work in hand have already been given.
Honorable members will be interested to hear the latest reports from the oil field, which came to hand only to-day. Work in connexion with the oil field, which had been suspended, pending consideration of Dr. Wade’s final report, has now been resumed. Dr. Wade has been appointed director of the oil fields under an engagement for two years. Three drillers have been engaged, two of whom had to be obtained from Canada. These men have arrived, and leave Sydney today. A report from Dr. Wade has just been received, indicating that work on. the field is now well in hand. He has already obtained 30 or 40 gallons of a good, clear, light oil, which he states gives better results in his oil engine than oil imported for the purpose. It has a sweet smell, and is free from sulphur. It is likely that a large sample will be sent down shortly. This light oil, in Dr. Wade’s opinion, indicates a heavier oil at a lower depth.
– What are Dr. Wade’s qualifications ?
– He is a man of very high standing. We made exhaustive inquiries regarding him.
– If the honorable mem. ber will refer to the report which Dr. Wade has presented he will see for himself the various letters which he is entitled to put at the end of his name.
– I have known a lot of mining fellows who put many letters at the end of their names.
– The honorable member for Darwin has the whole alphabet after his name.
– But I spoke of the various letters denoting academic distinctions which Dr. Wade is “ entitled ‘* to put at the end of his name. New plant has been purchased, but, owing to the rather difficult nature of the country, it is possible that further plant of a special character will have to be imported.
A small vessel for the transport of stores, &c, between Port Moresby and the field has just been completed, and is to leave Brisbane within the next few days. Arrangements for the engaging, housing, and feeding of a considerable number of native labourers are now in progress. The matter of the health of the men of the field is a subject of consideration. Malaria and a particularly troublesome kind of sore are prevalent, but it is expected that, with the application of the precautions suggested by modern preventive medicine, these evils can be minimized.
– Does Dr. Wade give any idea of the base of the oil. Is it asphalturn or paraffin 1
– Dr. Wade’s report came to hand only to-day, and I have not yet had time to read it. I shall be glad to show it to* the honorable member. In regard to the plantations, the position is as follows: -
Speaking generally with regard to the plantations in the Territory, it may be said that they are in a favorable condition. Many mistakes have occurred owing to ignorance of planting conditions and inexperience of the country. During the last two years progress has been seriously retarded by the remarkable and unusual drought felt over a large part of the Territory. No particulars are available at present showing the respective areas of different private owners which are under cultivation, but as regards the Government plantations, the following table shows the areas under cultivation : -
On the whole, these plantations are in a favorable condition, but it will be six or seven years before they are all making returns. This period has been extended owing to the setbacks that the Government have had, in common with private planters, particularly owing to the drought.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I have exhausted not only the time allotted to me, but the various points raised during this debate; and, since nearly all the proposed votes for which these Estimates provide have been expended, I ask the Committee to be good enough to agree to them without further delay.
– Mr. Chairman-
– The honorable member has already spoken twice.
– Mr. Chairman, I desire
– Order! The honorable member for Echuca has already spoken twice.
– With all respect, sir, I have spoken only once.
– An honorable member is entitled to speak twice in Committee to the one question. The honorable member for Echuca, as my own records and those of the Clerks show, has exercised his full privilege.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Angas, having exhausted the time allotted to him on the first occasion, was allowed an extension of time, and spoke for five minutes longer; but I am quite clear that otherwise he has not spoken twice.
– With all due respect, Mr. Chairman, I have not spoken twice. Through the courtesy of the Committee, I was allowed to speak for about five minutes ‘after the first, thirty minutes allotted to me had expired.
– The Standing Orders provide that in Committee honorable members may speak twice on any one subject, and that on each occasion they shall not occupy more than thirty minutes. The honorable member for Angas rose for the first time and spoke for thirty minutes. I then called him to order, his time having expired. The Committee desired that he should be allowed to speak right on - that he should be allowed to exercise his privilege to speak a second time without any other honorable member intervening - and leave was granted accordingly. The honorable member for Angas then spoke for another quarter of an hour. I am bound under the Standing Orders to rule therefore that he has spoken twice.
– I do not wish to speak a second time, but there is. a misapprehension which, as I am the victim, I should like to clear up. I thanked the Committed for its courtesy for granting me an extension of time, which otherwise I could have obtained by sitting down and rising again. It was a case of an extension of one speech.
.- I congratulate the Minister on the impartial attention he has promised to give to the suggestions which have emanated from both sides of the Committee in regard to the development of the Territory. The price of beef and mutton is high at the present time, and that fact, although it is a great disability to the community, will be of great assistance to the Minister in helping him to develop the Territory. The great difficulty in the past has been that the pastoralists have not been able to get sufficient value for their products. However, I do not wish to say anything further on this question, having already expressed my views. I doi wish to appeal to the Minister, however, to do something for the people of Norfolk Island, which is situated about 800 miles from Sydney, and has an area of about 8,000 acres and a population of 900. Its imports were valued last year at £9,000, and its exports at about £1,700. The residents are practically cut off from communication with the mainland. A steamer visits the island only once a month, and is unsuitable for taking away the produce. Having regard to the high price of beef in Australia, I think it would be a good policy to encourage the development of the fisheries of Norfolk Island. The islanders have three or four whale-boats, and those members who visited the island recently noticed that the boats returned after an absence of a few hours laden with the best varieties of fish. In order to give the islanders encouragement and to develop that industry, the Government might very well consider the advisability of providing them with a steam-launch or trawler.
– Do you mean that the Government should make a free gift of a trawler?
– I do not think it would be altogether a free gift, inasmuch as it would help the electors of South Sydney to obtain cheap fish. In conjunction with the trawler the Government should establish a refrigerating plant for the islanders, and transfer the fish frozen there to the Sydney market.
– Would that not be a socialistic undertaking?
– I do not care what sort of proposal it is. The Australian people require fresh fish, the islanders are in need of a means of livelihood, and it is only proper that the Government should do something to assist them. Another industry which has been neglected is whaling. The islanders have to go for many miles in ordinary whale-boats in pursuit of a whale, and in some instances they have had to tow a whale behind an ordinary row-boat for two days, whereas if they were provided with a launch they could prosecute their industry with more vigour. Something might be done to encourage the industry of drying and smoking fish. The islanders know nothing of our requirements, and I think that some person of experience should be sent there to teach those people the fishcuring business, and to produce other articles which are much needed on the mainland. The Commonwealth grants a bounty of £d. per lb. on dried and smoked fish. In 1912-13 there were only five establishments engaged in this industry, and the bounty amounted to only £103 for the 49,440 lbs. produced in the Commonwealth. The importations of dried and smoked fish in .1912 totalled 26,000 cwts., worth £76,327. On this subject Knibbs says - t
The abundance of fish in Australian waters offers excellent opportunity for the institution of preserving establishments, particularly in those coastal districts which enjoy a temperate climate. Up to the present but little development has taken place, and the establishments for fish preserving at the present time are very few.
I think this industry requires only a little encouragement from the Government and it would be quickly established. The Norfolk Islanders are under a great difficulty, because of the absence of any anchorage for vessels calling there. The steamer has to anchor in the open roadstead, and the residents never know on which side of the island the steamer will stop ; its anchorage depends on the state of the wind. The steamer is able to remain at the island only a few hours, and the consequence is that as soon as the vessel comes to anchor every vehicle in the island is requisitioned in order to carry, the produce to the point of embarkation. If the residents were provided with a steam launch, it would obviate the rowing of their produce for 1 or 2 miles to the ship’s side, and the spoiling of perishable commodities by the salt water. We were treated excellently on the small steamer Mal:ambo. which carried us from the island to the mainland; but if some arrangement could be made for the steamer Levuka to make a detour of about 50 miles to the island, the people would be much better served. The small boat was overcrowded ; many passengers had to take accommodation in the smoking room, and I understand that on the last trip some men had tq sign on as members of the crew in order to secure passages. What is required is a vessel with up-to-date refrigerating accommodation, so that the perishable products of the island may be landed in good condition on the mainland. The fruit industry of Norfolk Island also presents great possibilities. Never have I tasted more luscious oranges than those grown on the island. I find that lemons.’ oranges, and other fresh fruits imported5 into Australia were valued at £217,796 , and I am sure that Norfolk Island would, be able to supply from £15,000 to £20,000 worth of fruit for the Sydney-market, if facilities were provided for bringing their produce in good order to the mainland. I have mentioned these two or three items in the hope that the Minister will do something for these islanders, who are certainly deserving of consideration.
.- Honorable members on both sides of the House are very grateful to the honorable member for Calare for anticipating in> such a concise .and clear way the statement which, no doubt, we shall have in due course from the Royal Commission which recently completed a visit to Norfolk Island. I do not wish, at this late hour, to traverse the issues which have been raised by my honorable friend, or the Ministerial statement to which the Committee listened ‘this evening; but J do wish to take this the earliest opportunity, to express my profound disappointment with the attitude evidenced by the honorable member for Brisbane during the remarks of the Minister. Those of us who are innocent in our natures have always looked to. the honorable member for Brisbane as a. sort of apostle of the temperance movement; we have, hoped for great things from him. We. have heard him most desperately in earnest on the public platform; we have -seen him moving in this Chamber from victory to victory - Pyrrhic in nature, no doubt, but still victory - we have seen him abolishing the parliamentary bar, and still the bar is open; we have heard him denouncing the Minister for iniquities in the Northern Territory, and we have heard him making the rafters ring with appeals that the people there should be allowed to settle the question of liquor control by local option. To-night, in the most barefaced manner, the honorable member for Brisbane has told the House that he believes that when the vote has been taken Bung will come out triumphant. Has he been urging and compelling us to agree to the taking of a vote so that Bung may be triumphant? This is an extraordinary thing for a temperance advocate to do.
– Give the honorable member credit for an attempt to educate the people on the -subject.
– The honorable member would establish the liquor trade in the Northern Territory by buttressing it withGovernment . assistance, and without inconveniencing himself politically. This is a most disappointing attitude. If there are any from whom we might expect coherence and consistency, they are the advocates of temperance. Surely we have a right to expect that the honorable members for Brisbane and Barrier will not ask Parliament to arrange for the taking of a vote which will benefit the hotel trade of Australia. I protest, with all the warmth of which I am capable, against the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane to give the people of the Northern Territory local option on the drink question when, as he himself has confessed, the result will be to establish the liquor trade there. Is he so recreant to his temperance principles’ as to wish to entrap Parliament into consenting to a mock referendum which will benefit no one else but Bung? I hope that honorable members will no longer take as gospel everything they hear from these temperance gentlemen, but will do what they think best to bring about lasting reforms, discountenancing reforms which, though politi«ally expedient, must damage the temperance cause.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– My honorable friend does not wish me to outline a policy at this hour. No doubt the Temperance party throughout Australia deeply regrets the price which the honorable member for Barrier has had to pay for many of his most earnest convictions. The honorable member adorned the last Labour Ministry, in which he acted in many capacities - one rapidly succeeding another, I might add. He is not now a member of the Cabinet, and there is no member of the Cabinet to whom we can look for guidance on this question. I ask him, therefore, to get into even closer touch with the honorable member for Brisbane, and to obtain from the honorable member an explanation of his interjection that if a referendum were taken in the Northern Territory the vote would go in favour of the drink traffic. We ought to be in earnest in regard to referendum proposals. If we think that we- can achieve- some good by means of a referendum, let us urge it; but it would be to waste the public funds to hold a referendum merely for educational, purposes, if the result would show the people of the country how helpless we were in regard to the reform proposed.
– It is fortunate for me that I have been present during part of the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth. If one could hear that honorable member without seeing him, one would think that he meant what he said, and it would not be evident that to-night he has tried to make a farce of so serious a matter as the sobriety of the people of the Northern Territory. It is most unsatisfactory that the honorable member, notwithstanding his high abilities, which have been developed by special training, should utilize his eloquence to cast ridicule on a good cause, and to make fun of what, at the present time, is for the nations of the world one of the most serious and perplexing questions that they have to face. The honorable member continually descends from the sublime to the ridiculous, and generally ends in making himself ridiculous. I owe him an apology for a statement that I made some two years ago, under the mistake that he had received his training at Oxford. Having discovered that I am wrong, I apologize to Oxford.
– Why does the honorable member wish for a referendum in the
Northern Territory if he thinks that it will benefit Bung?
– I have always taken the stand that the liquor question should be settled by the people concerned. It is for them to say what they want. I may be defeated on this occasion, as I have been defeated before, but I am confident that ultimately good sense will prevail. I agree with the Minister that we cannot entirely reform this generation; in this generation that reform comes by stages, and that often victories are achieved by defeat. The wave may be defeated, but the tide is sure to win, and in a Democratic country nothing has a better educational effect than the free exercise of the franchise on questions of national importance. There could be nothing better in Victoria and the Northern Territory, or in Papua, than to allow the people to determine, in regard to the liquor question, what is best for themselves, as they did in South Australia a few months ago. I want to refer to the fact that the honorable member for Barrier, when he was Minister over the Department, also promised that a referendum vote should be taken. That has not been done yet, but I am quite satisfied with the announcement of the Minister to-night.
– Will the’ vote be taken on the basis of adult suffrage of the white population ?
– Certainly; on the widest possible franchise.
– Every person over twentyone years of age has a vote there now.
– The Minister of External Affairs has stated to-night that he is prepared to give the people of the Northern Territory a vote on this question, including every one who drinks as well as everybody who does not. I disagree entirely with the Minister’s statement that a person living in the tropics generates such a thirst that strong drink is necessary. That statement is absolutely contradicted by every medical and scientific authority on the subject.
– Well, I have lived there, and the authorities have not. That is the difference.
- Sir William McGregor, the late Governor of Queensland, had more experience in the tropics than the Minister, and his testimony is absolutely and strongly in favour of continuous and total abstinence.
– .The officials at Papua are total abstainers.
– Yes. The LieutenantGovernor of Papua is a total abstainer, and so is the Administrator of that Territory. It is just as wrong to say that strong drink is necessary in the tropics as it was wrong to think that alcohol was necessary in the Arctic regions. In all expeditions in Arctic and Antarctic regions alcohol is now specifically left behind except for medicinal purposes.
– Because it gets frozen.
– No, because it may be the means of allowing men who take it to become frozen. The same argument against alcohol in the Arctic regions applies against alcohol in the tropics. Evidently the Minister needs to look up some authorities in order that his mind may be disabused of the ideas he holds now that because people get thirsty they must drink strong liquor.
– What does the Administrator of the Northern Territory think about it ?
– I do not know. Now coming back to the statement made by the honorable member for Wentworth, I want to say that while it is true that if a referendum vote were taken in the Nor. thern Territory, it would probably result in favour of nationalization, that is no> guarantee that it will be the final decision. Local option polls on this question have been held in various countries of the world for many years, and yet we have not seen the end of the liquor traffic, but they have all done something to educate the people concerning the effects of alcohol. At any rate, I am prepared to stand by the result of a referendum vote rather than the statutory decision by a Parliament sitting in Melbourne with regard to the conditions in the Northern Territory. This Parliament has no right arbitrarily to determine such a question for the Northern Territory. I know of no more satisfactory method of settling this question than by the referendum.
– Would you give the people there a vote for other things besides liquor?
– I would give them a vote for everything. I am so thoroughly democratic that I am prepared to trust the people in all circumstances, because
I believe in government of the people by the people and for the people. I believe that people in the Northern Territory are just as intelligent and capable of deciding what is best for the Northern Territory - indeed, I think they are more likely to know what is best for them - than we here in Melbourne are, for they have to live there, and they know what suits them best. They might be wrong, and they might do things of which I do not approve; but that would not prove I was right and they were wrong. The mere fact of being in a minority on a question does not necessarily mean that the minority is wrong. For instance, we were in a minority on two occasions over the referendum questions in Australia, but we are so convinced that we are right, although the people said we were wrong, that we shall submit the questions again. There is no better educational method in any country than the exercise of the referendum, which requires people to give an intelligent vote on all great questions. In regard to the Northern Territory, on this and on any other question I am prepared to abide by the will of the people, and to allow them to determine under what conditions they shall live.
.- My experience with regard to the temperance question is that those who know least about the effects of drink set themselves up as judges. I believe the honorable member for Brisbane has not had any experience of the effects of drink.
– Would you recommend me to try it, and speak from experience ?
– I believe that the honorable member would then be in a better position to say what are its effects, and would be able to speak on both sides. I have not much to say regarding the Northern Territory. I spoke upon the subject some years ago, and as time goes on I find that my utterances are being borne out more fully even than I anticipated. I do not think that it will be necessary for me to alter the views I expressed at that time. In common with other honorable members I regret that the prospects of the Northern Territory are not more promising than they are. I sympathize with the representatives from South Australia in their desire to induce the Commonwealth to spend millions of money upon the development of a- territory which, at present, holds out .very little hope of success.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the Northern Territory.
– I have read almost all the reports upon the Northern Territory that have been received, and the more of them I read the worse I am confounded in trying to arrive at a decision. The Minister of External Affairs has said that he relies upon three things for the development of the Territory. The first is mining, the second pastoral occupation, and the third agriculture. What is the history of the Northern Territory from a mining point of view? There is no territory in Australia, or for that matter in the world, from which so little has been earned at so great a cost. There is no country in which so much capital has been sunk with so little result. The men who sank their money in the Northern Territory were as clever as many of those who profess to know all about mining to-day. They sank, not thousands, but tens of thousands of pounds there, and the monuments of their misplaced confidence are to be seen in the Northern Territory to-day. I am told that it is because the water beat them, but it was because no continuous lode has yet been discovered there. Since this Parliament took over the Northern Territory, we nave spent, or have undertaken to spend, £35,000 to encourage mining prospecting. What has been the result?
– We have had minerals from the Northern Territory to the value of nearly £3,000,000.
– And it cost far more to get them.
– The same thing might be said of the gold obtained in Victoria at the present time.
– It is of no use for honorable members to talk in that way. I ask them, to point to one mining show in the Northern Territory that has paid dividends to those who have undertaken to explore the mineral wealth of that country. The result of the prospecting that has been undertaken does not give the slightest encouragement to continue the work. We have spent £35,000 upon prospecting, which has merely tested mining shows that have been tested over and over again, and proved to be failures.
– I could refer the honorable member to hundreds of places in the eastern States of which the same might be said.
– The honorable member could not refer me to a place where the mines have all been failures, and where there have not been some that have been successful. I should like to be able to speak otherwise of the Northern Territory if I could i No man has a greater desire than I have that it should prove a profitable undertaking to the Commonwealth. Of what use is it for. honorable members to tell this House and the country that we are warranted in expending millions of money, as the right honorable member. for Swan has recommended, “upon a railway scheme in the Territory ?
– What is £35,000 for exploration. I have known the proprietors of one station to lose £35,000 in putting down trial bores for water.
– We have had no result from this expenditure in the Northern Territory.
– They got blind bores, too. The honorable member speaks of £35,000 as if it were an enormous sum.
– I expect some result from that expenditure. Thousands of pounds have been spent on bores put down in the Northern Territory to crosscut a lode which it was thought might run deep, but without any result.
– It takes more than a bore to prove a reef.
– I am well aware that it does. Does the honorable member think that I do not understand how to prove a reef? When I refer to one feature of the subject, honorable members apparently desire a disquisition upon the subject of mining generally. When we come to consider the pastoral possibilities upon which the proposed railway is to depend for revenue, what is the position? If honorable members will look through the reports, they will find that nearly all the more valuable areas of land im the Northern Territory are already under occupation. They are held under leases for forty-two years, granted by the State Government, tie term having to a greater or lesser extent unexpired.
– That is one of the big problems of the Northern Territory.
– We have to look it in the face. The desirable pastoral areasare already under occupation. Outside* the Barclay Tablelands, with the exception, perhaps, of a little of the country in the Macdonnell Ranges, there is nocountry in the Northern Territory suitable for the closer settlement which would, be necessary to provide a traffic which, would pay interest on the millions of money which some honorable memberssuggest we should spend in railway construction there. It is better that I should speak according to the facts than that I should, with a desire to curry favour, support some of the proposals that have been made. So far as the returns from pastoral occupation in the Northern Territory are concerned, I predict that the> north and south railway will never pay.
– We are pledged to thairailway by the agreement.
– No, we are not pledged to that railway.
– Of course we are.
– Some other time weshall have a talk about that; but I predict now that the north and south railway, if constructed, will always be a> white elephant for Australia. What waa the ground of the appeals to this Housefor the taking over of the Territory It. was urged that the taking over was necessary in order to preserve the Territory against the invasion of the Japanese. That was the great lever which was always used when it was found that faith had been lost in the Territory from a developmental point of view; and but forthat, I doubt whether the proposal would, have been agreed to. If it is possible for the Japanese to come to Australia through the back door, the best thing for them would be for us to build a railway so that they may get to the more settled’ portions of the country. No attacking force could possibly travel over the Territory as it now is; and the best course,from the point of view of safety, would’ be to leave the Territory as a buffer between the threatening elements and the settled parts. The Minister of External Affairs seemed to be very happy because some one has sent him 5 lbs. of butter asa specimen of what can be produced in the Northern Territory - as an illustration of the agricultural possibilities of that part of the country. No one denies that cows can give milk in the Territory . if they get sufficient food, and that butter can consequently be produced; but it is sheer nonsense to point to. that as a proof of the agricultural possibilities of that part of Australia. I was one who predicted failure for the experimental farms of the honorable member for Barrier, and in consequence I was almost insulted hy some honorable members. As a matter of fact, however, in the shortest time on record, these experimental farms have mot only proved a failure, but have practically passed out of existence, as, indeed, they well might, for the project was still”born and never had any life in it. To talk of agriculture in connexion with the Northern Territory is mere nonsense; to talk of its great pastoral possibilities is a stretching of the imagination ; and to talk of its mining possibilities only suggests that the wish is father to the thought.
– What would the honorable member do with the Territory?
– Leave it until it develops, as the other back-blocks of Australia have developed, by overflow population.
– I heard exactly the same thing said about Queensland thirty years ago.
– And also about Western Australia.
– I also remember the time when there were people who said that a white man could not live in Cooktown, and even further south.
– What parts of Australia have been peopled by overflow population?
– A large portion of Australia.
– Show me where there is an Overflow population in Australia, except in the cities.
– In the early days men took up areas on the borderland under conditional purchase and leasehold tenure, and these areas became divided and subdivided until they became too small for the increasing families. Then the sons, being used to the land, went further afield, and that is what I mean when I speak of overflow population. The sons of men who are on the margin of settlement, and who are acclimatized, and anxious to follow in their fathers’ footsteps, keep spreading further and further out,- ever bringing land under cultivation.
– What is the good of settling ‘ this land if, as according to the honorable member, there are no possibilities, either agricultural, pastoral, or mineral i
– I am speaking of Australia as a whole. Perhaps the honorable member agrees with the Minister that the returned soldiers should be sent to the Territory.
– I do not.
– To send the returned soldiers to that part of Australia would be meteing out to them the worst treatment they could receive.
– Who says that the Northern Territory is an Eldorado? But it is a payable proposition.
– I differ from the honorable member.
– Then you differ from the report of the Commission.
– I do not care about the Commission at all. I do know that the State from which the honorable member come3 had every opportunity to do something with the Territory.
– And it did well.
– It did nothing, and it handed over the Territory to the Commonwealth, overwhelmed with debt.
– It gave Australia telegraphic communication.
– The honorable member is now talking of “ wire pulling.” The Territory was banded over to us overwhelmed with debt, and with railways which involve us in an annual loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Yet representatives of South Australia are now telling us of what the Territory is capable. Thousands of pounds were spent at Port Darwin to illustrate what could be produced there in the way of cocoanuts, paupaus, and so forth. When honorable members visited that part of the Territory everything was arranged to impress them with the idea of both agricultural and mining production. Even the- miners never tried to wash out the tin from the mica deposits, but built them up in great tiers, and we were given glowing accounts, such as mining’ syndicates ever put forward.
– The Northern Territory is not the only place in which that sort of thing is done.
– Two wrongs do not make a right. All these grand possibilities were spoken of with an eye on transferring the Territory, and no doubt it influenced a number of honorable members, though it did not influence me,
– I think the honorable member must have been given a bad horse to ride!
– Let the honorable member for Parramatta do as I did, and investigate this matter for himself. Having some mining properties to inspect, I did not trust to what others told me, but I put on dungarees and inspected them personally. In addition to a personal investigation of the Northern Territory, I had the advantage of conversations with men whom I met there who had been in the Territory for years.
– You had made up your mind before you went there.
– I do not thank the honorable member for that incorrect statement. It was a red-letter day for the residents when the Governor-General visited Port Darwin. Every man threw down his tools to go into the town and learn that the Commonwealth really intended to take over the Territory. I had the opportunity of discussing the problems of that country with many men, who had no object in telling me what was not correct; and I drew my own conclusions from what I gleaned from them. The best proof of the view I hold lies in the fact that each Minister who has had control of the Northern Territory has felt that the task of advising the adoption of any practical policy for it is almost hopeless.
– Have you any views as to what we should do ?
– The hour is too late now for me to give my views upon the matter of what ought to be done. I shall do so later. In the meantime, I am pointing out that I have seen no reason to change the views I had formed. Unlike other Ministers, the present Minister is not very enthusiastic. He is right in saying that every new Minister cannot be expected to evolve a policy for the Territory. In fact, he goes further, and says that he proposes to follow the policy moulded by his predecessors, by. which I take it that he means to say he is going to adopt the best part and to set aside the impracticable. If he does this, he will be doing well. No Minister could have a more vexed proposition to deal with, or a more unsatisfactory one, or one the attempt to settle which will do him less credit.
.- I cannot let the statement made by the honorable member pass uncorrected. The honorable member has always been an uncompromising opponent of the Northern Territory. I admit that there is a great deal of doubt as to whether that portion of Australia will ultimately be a success; but we have to make up our minds to make it either a big success or a big failure. We are now piling up a large debt by the accumulated interest which is falling into arrears every year, and we do not see any hope of getting an adequate return for our investment unless we propose to go further. What encourages me in my desire that we should go further is the fact that we have heard said about many other parts of Australia just what the honorable member has said to-night about the Northern Territory. A number of years ago it was said that all the country in Western Australia between Beverley and Southern Cross and towards Kalgoorlie was utterly useless, yet to-day we know that in an ordinary season this country is one of the best wheat fields Australia possesses. From what I have heard from men who have had experience in tha Northern Territory and in pastoral and agricultural pursuits in other parts of Australia, a great deal of the Territory, if it is provided with adequate means of communication, will be found to be remunerative. I do not say that the whole of it is good pastoral, or good agricultural, land - as in every other part of Australia, belts of poor country lie between belts of good country - but I venture to say that, taking it right through, it is of the same average quality as is the rest of Australia. What is. keeping it back is partly its inaccessibility, and partly the fact that an adequate reward has not been held out to those who are willing to pioneer it.
– I suppose that you want some more millions for that purpose?
– If honorable members say that rather than hold out a reward to those who are willing to develop the Territory they would prefer to see it remain waste, to be ultimately taken possession of by other nations who are land hungry, I have nothing to say; but we- can only populate the- Northern Territory by opening it up by good means of communication, and by holding out adequate rewards to the people who are willing to sink their capital in it.
– What form of reward would you suggest? .
– I do not care whether it is freehold tenure or any other form of reward; but I do say that we must hold out an adequate reward to the man who is prepared to risk his capital there. The honorable member says that the Territory is useless, and that any man prepared to put his capital in it is bound to suffer loss.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I do not know what other interpretation could be placed on the honorable member’s attitude. He tells us the Territory is no good, and that it would be infinitely better to leave it unoccupied for all time, because we can never hope to get an adequate return from it. I say that if any one is prepared to sink his capital, risk his own enterprise, and. perhaps, a considerable part of his life, in the Northern Territory, the honorable member should be the very first to- offer him the fullest reward that we can possibly give.
– Quite a number of men have already done it.
– Everything that the honorable member says in that regard is another reason for saying Chat we should give to any one who goes to the Northern Territory and takes all those risks the fullest reward that ‘lies in our power. In regard to the much-discussed scheme of railways, whilst I admit the existence of the agreement with the South Australian Government in regard to the north and south railway, it seems to me that it is a matter of no moment to the people of South Australia, from a commercial stand-point at all events, provided the Commonwealth builds a line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges whether, after that, the Commonwealth develops tha Territory from the railway standpoint in any other way. It must be perfectly obvious to anybody who looks at the map that, after a ‘certain point in the Territory is reached on the journey south from Darwin or on the journey north from Adelaide, there must be one point where it would be better to send produce either north or south, and if any honorable member looks at the map again, he will see that point about 50 miles north of the Macdonnell Ranges, which is about equidistant from Adelaide and Townsville. It seems to me, therefore, inasmuch as most of the good territory lies to the eastward, that it would naturally be very much better to take the produce from the portion of the Northern Territory that does not go directly north to the ports in the Northern Territory, through Queensland,, and that it would not pay in any circumstances to use the port of Adelaide. I do not believe produce from that district will ever go to Adelaide. “ Necessarily, from its geographical position, all the trade that will ultimately develop in the ranges will go south, but after that I believe most of the trade .will either go east or north, if the means of communication were similar in every respect. While we are pledged tq go on with the development of the Northern Territory with railways as being the only means that make it possible to open up the Territory, yet I think we should be fulfilling the letter and the spirit of the’ agreement with South Australia if we built the line from Oodnadatta .well into the Macdonnell Ranges, and then developed our railway policy from the north, so as to permit the settlement which I believe will ultimately take place to draw the north and south lines together. I think that will be the wisest and most economical policy, and that it will develop the Northern Territory quicker than any other. ‘My view is that the only course open for us to pursue in regard to the Northern Territory is a forward one, We cannot retract the step we have taken. Whether that step was wise or unwise is not a consideration that we can enter upon now, and we should, at all events, make a serious effort to try to turn he Northern Territory into a commercial proposition. I have great faith in that, being ultimately accomplished. It may take a good number of years, but I believe it will ultimately be done. I recognise the truth of what the Minister said a little while ago, that, whilst this great war is in progress, and that whilst necessarily the whole energies of the nation are being devoted to the fulfilment by Australia of her full share in it, it is practically impossible for us to go on with big developmental schemes; but I would suggest in the meantime that the Minister should go into this matter as fully as he possibly can, so that, when the time comes that money is available, We shall be able to start immediately upon a strong, forward, progressive policy in the development of the Territory.
Proposedvote agreed to.
– I beg to move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I hope honorable members will assist me in getting these Estimates through, because we are very anxious to get them out, of the way. I am afraid we shall have to sit rather late to-morrow.
– What other work have you got ?
Question resolved is the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 June 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150609_reps_6_77/>.