4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator VARDON presented a petition from eleven taxpayers in the State of South Australia, praying the Senate to reject the Land Tax Assessment Bill.
Petition received and read.
– I beg to present a similar petition from thirty-three taxpayers in the State of South Australia, and to move -
That the petition be received.
– We have just heard read a long diatribe, in the form of a petition, from eleven persons in South Australia. I want to seriously direct the attention of the Senate to the folly of continuing this practice. Here we have eleven persons presenting alengthy petition, the reading of which has wasted about four minutes.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honorable senator is discussing any motion which is before the Senate.
– The question before the Chair is that the petition be received.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I think, sir, that you will find that is a purely formal motion.
-The honorable senator is quite right. Standing order 93 reads -
Every petition which, according to the rules of the Senate, can be received, shall be brought to the table by the senator presenting the same, and no discussion upon the subject-matter thereof shall be allowed.
– It is one of the inherent rights of a British subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Immediately after the first petition was read, sir, I rose to ask that the signatures thereto be read. I think that, as a part of the petition, the eleven signatures should be read. The probability is that the Printing Committee, now that the petition has been read, will not recommend that it be printed.
– The honorable senator is not on the Printing Committee, and, therefore, he cannot say what they will do.
– I said that the probability is that they will not recommend the printing of the petition.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honorable senator has a right to discuss a matter which is past and gone.
- Senator Guthrie is not in order in discussing the matter. I was waiting to hear what he intended. He cannot do anything at present, because the petition was received and read, and since then another petition has been received.
– On a question of order, sir, I wish to point out that the order of the Senate was that the first peti tion be read. The names of the signatories are a part of the petition which was ordered to be read, and the order of the Senate will not be complied with until they are read.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I would point out that other business has intervened since the order was made, which is fatal to a point of order concerning anything which was done previously. The petition contains the reasons for its presentation, and, surely, the question of the signatures must be an immaterial matter, once the petition was certified as being correct. Otherwise, we could have a petition presented, the reading of which might occupy a considerable time. I have seen a petition presented to the Senate, and the boast was made thatitwas about 6 miles long. It was virtually all signatures.
– Which were more or less illegible.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - If it be correct that when the Senate orders a petition to be read the signatures thereto must also be read, it will be possible to have a petition presented which might require a whole day forthe reading of the signatures, particularly if they were illegible. I submit that it is too late for Senator Givens to take a point of order, and that, even if it were not too late, the Senate is not entitled to have the signatures to the petition read unless that was specifically included in its order.
– The case that has been stated by Senator Gould directs attention to the point that if a petition is presented to the Senate, containing a list of signatures running to miles in length, it is sufficient to call special attention to it, but when we have a petition presented from eleven persons, presumably poor widows, we are entitled to have, not merely a portion but the whole of it, including the names, read.
– The position presents itself to my mind in this way. The President, having given a decision on a point that has been raised, no honorable senator should question it, whether that decision is right or wrong, or whether the course adopted be correct or incorrect. Any honorable senator desiring to dissent from the ruling of the President should adopt the method prescribed by the Standing Orders.
– Why does the honorable senator wish to burk the reading of the names?
– I do not. But if we have this laxity in connexion with our proceedings on this occasion, it may occur again. I submit that it is desirable, for the ordinary conduct of business, that we should adhere to our Standing Orders. If we find that any standing order is inconvenient, we should take proper steps to have it amended. You, sir, have given a decision. Whether it be right or wrong is immaterial. You have ruled that no further step can be taken with regard to certain business that has been followed by other business. That being so, I submit that your ruling should be accepted, and that, if any honorable senators wish to rectify what has been done, they should proceed under the Standing Orders themselves.
– The discussion is certainly out of order, because, as pointed out by Senator Millen, I have already ruled that fresh business has intervened. Had Senator Guthrie proposed as an amendment that the names on the petition be read, that amendment would have been received, and the Senate might have ordered that the names be read. But the petition was received and read, and another petition was presented by Senator Vardon. The motion that the second petition be received was carried by the Senate.
– Are not the names on the petition part of the document?
– It is not in accordance with the practice of the Senate to read the names on a petition unless it be specifically directed that they be read.
– I should like to put this position.
– Order! Unless the honorable senator intends to submit a motion he is altogether out of order.
– I move -
That the petition including signatures be read.
I should like to point out that when the first petition was presented, and had been read, I immediately rose for the purpose of moving that the names also be read.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Chair ! The honorable senator is returning to a matter that has been decided.
– Surely I have a right to make a personal explanation.
– Not on a motion.
– I wish to submit my reasons for moving that the petition, with the names attached to it, be read. I say again that I rose immediately after the Acting Clerk had finished reading the first petition, in order to call attention to the fact that the signatures had not been read, but the President called on Senator Vardon. I think that the usual practice is, when informal business is being dealt with, that a senator who rises after business that has been brought before the Senate by another senator has been disposed of, shall be called on before the first senator is called again.
– Order !
– I always understood that that was the practice. But, although I was on my feet as soon as Senator Vardon was, I was prevented from moving that the signatures to the first petition be read.
– The honorable senator has no right to reflect uponthe Chair.
– Are we to understand, sir, that there are no means of returning to the question in a case where you have failed to call upon an honorable senator who has risen to move that a certain procedure be taken? It was clearly a mistake on your part that you did not see Senator Guthrie but called on Senator Vardon for the second time. Do I understand that it is impossible for a small error of that kind to be rectified when it is pointed out?
. A motion is now before the Senate that the second petition presented by Senator Vardon be read with the signatures attached to it. I myself should like to hear the names of the signatories. But you have given your ruling, and I do not intend to dispute it, because I believe that it was given in good faith. I am quite in accord with the motion that the names to the second petition be read. But we must bear in mind that if this course is to be adopted as a rule, the reading of names to some petitions may occupy a considerable time. I do not believe that Senator Vardon has any desire to conceal the names on the petition, so that all that has occurred is nothing better than a storm in a tea cup. But I trust that in future when the President has given a ruling it will be accepted as final.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [2.53].- Since this matter was first mentioned I have had a further opportunity of referring to the Standing Orders. I direct attention to standing order 94, which provides that -
The only questions entertained by the Senate on the presentation of a petition shall be - 1. “ That the petition be received.” 2. “ That the petition be read.” 3. “ That the petition be printed.” 4. (In the case of a petition against a return) “ That the petition be referred at once to the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications;” or 5. (In the case of a petition respecting any subject then under the consideration’ of a Select Committee) “ That the petition be referred to the Select Committee on. . .”
That standing order specifically provides that only certain questions can be submitted with regard to a petition. The rights of a senator presenting a petition are defined in standing order 92, which provides -
Every senator, presenting a petition to the Senate …. shall confine himself to a statement of the parties from whom it comes, of the number, of signatures attached to it, and of the material allegations contained in it, and to the reading of the prayer of such petition.
That is all that can be done. It seems to me, therefore, that it is impossible, under the Standing Orders, for an honorable senator to move with regard to the signatures. That being so, is it not a straining of the Standing Orders to say that a motion can be submitted for the reading of the signatures to a petition? Any citizen has a right to petition Parliament, and due provision is made in the Standing Orders to protect the Senate against an improper attempt to use the right of petition. Standing order 74 provides that -
Every petition shall be lodged with the Clerk at least three hours previous to the meeting of the Senate at which it is proposed to present the same; and when presented must bear the Clerk’s certificate that it is in conformity with the Standing Orders.
It would, therefore, appear that the only motions that it is competent to submit as to such a petition as that presented by Senator Vardon are, that it be received, or that it be read, or that it be printed. I do not suppose that any one can reasonably object to the signatures being read if honorable senators so desire. But I contend that the Standing Orders make no provision for that being done. If we were to allow a motion of the character submitted by Senator Guthrie to be entertained, such a motion might be submitted with regard -to a petition containing thousands of signatures. The names are not, properly speaking, a part of a petition itself. A petition must contain a prayer, and, when the prayer has been read, the petition itself has been read. I therefore urge that it is not in order for the signatures to this petition to be read, or for any motion to that effect to be submitted. An honorable senator presenting a petition can, if he sees fit, mention the names attached to it, or he can mention how many names it contains.
– This is rather an important question. Our Standing Orders have been framed for the convenience of honorable senators and to promote the proper conduct of business. The Senate ought to be careful before it puts itself in the position of not being able to rely upon its own judgment as to what shall be done with a petition. It is to be hoped that the outcome of this discussion will be an amendment of the Standing Orders, so that if a similar case occurs again a majority of the members of the Senate may be able, if they think fit, to order that the names attached to a petition be read.
– - Personally I have not the least objection to the names on the petition being read. I shall probably have from twenty to fifty more petitions of a similar character to present, and, if that course will meet with the views of honorable senators opposite, I shall be glad on every occasion to move that each petition, with the names attached to it, be read. Furthermore, as a member of the Printing Committee, I shall be prepared to move that the first petition presented to-day be printed, including the names upon it; by that means it would be possible to get every name to the petition brought under the notice of honorable senators.
– The established practice of the Senate in these matters should not be readily departed from. I remind honorable senators that in connexion with the Tariff there were twelve petitions presented to the Senate. There was only one signature to one of them, whilst there were 384 signatures to another.
– Does the honorable senator not think it is time to shut down on the practice?
– I am not prepared to shut down on the right to petition Parliament.
– It is an obsolete practice.
– I am satisfied that if Senator Lynch were one of a minority seeking redress, he would be one of the first to petition Parliament if he thought he had a good case. The practice of the Printing Committee in dealing with petitions is to print a petition, and at the close state the number of signatures to it. Where a number of similar petitions are presented, the practice is to print one, and add the information that so many similar petitions have been presented, with the number of signatures. Senator Vardon, when he brought forward the petition now under consideration, mentioned that it was exactly the same as that previously presented, and if this motion is carried we shall have practically the same petition read over again. An exactly similar case occurred in the Senate on the 30th September, 1903. I quote the following from the Hansard report of the proceedings which followed the presentation of a petition on that date-
-one electors of Tasmania praying the Senate to delay the erection of a Federal capital.
Petition received and read.
– Is there any rule, sir, by which we can have the names of the petitioners read?
– I do not know that there is a rule to that effect.
– The petition is not really read unless the names are given.
– Suppose that there are 1,500 names to a petition? If the Senate desires the names in this case to be read, I am not going to say that it cannot be done.
– It will not take long for the Clerk to read eighty-one names.
– Does it matter what the names are?
– I should like to hear the names read.
– I do not think it is a desirable course to adopt, because we might have 15,000 names to a petition. Does the Senate desire the names to be read?
Honorable Senators. - No.
That shows the way in which a similar matter was dealt with then. If honorable members think that a new practice should be introduced, the best thing to do is to refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee. In order to save a little time, I ask Senator Guthrie whether he thinks it desirable that we should have practically the same petition read throughout again.
– I regret very much that any discussion should have arisen in regard to the petition, especially in view of the circumstances surrounding . this case. Persons may be disposed to imagine that the attitude adopted by an honorable senator towards such a motion as that which is before the Senate might be indicative of his feeling with re spect to the merits of the particular legislation petitioned against. I think we should most sacredly guard the right of petition.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the same justification for the right of every one to petition exists to-day that existed when the practice originated ?
– I do, undoubtedly.
– If every eleven persons in the community wasted the time of the Senate by presenting a petition which must be read, it would be years before we could get to our business.
– The interjection is somewhat beside the question. Let me remind honorable senators that the right to petition Parliament is inherent in every individual. I shall quote just one sentence from an authority formerly in Australia on constitutional law, Professor Hearn. He says, in dealing with this as one of the three inherent rights of a British subject -
The fitful enthusiasm of the individual may be matured into a steady, settled, national purpose.
That is the basic principle on which the individual has the right to petition Parliament. There are three inherent rights of the individual, the right to petition Parliament, the right of public meeting, and the right of free speech.
– Are we discussing these rights?
– No; I was diverted to some extent by an interjection by Senator Lynch, which suggested that because there are only eleven signatures to the petition it should not be taken into consideration. An honorable senator presenting a petition is obliged, under the Standing Orders, to take some responsibility for it. Irrespective of an honorable senator’s personal feelings with regard to the prayer of a petition, it is his duty, I take it, if one is given him for presentation to Parliament, to present it. I have on more than one occasion presented petitions with the prayers of which I could not personally agree. Whether a petition is from one or 100,000 persons it is the duty of an honorable senator to whom it is given for presentation to present it. The discussion may bringunder the notice of the Standing Orders. Committee the desirability of laying down, some definite rules dealing with the matter. Senator Lynch thinks it necessary that inall cases the signatures should be read and’ printed, but to read the signatures to some- petitions that have been presented to the Senate would occupy the whole of a sitting, and to print them would require a volume as large as the Journals of the Senate for a session.
– I submit that standing order 91 concludes the matter. It reads -
The only questions entertained by the Senate on the presentation of a petition shall be - 1. “That the petition be received;” n. “That the petition be read;” iii. “That the petition be printed ;” iv. (in the case of a petition against a return) “ That the petition be referred at once to the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications;” or v. (in the case of a petition respecting any subject then under the consideration of a Select Committee) “ That the petition be referred to the Select Committee on . . .”
On that Standing Order the practice of the Senate since its foundation has been to receive a petition, to receive it and order that it be read without the signatures, and to print petitions without the signatures. If it is now deemed desirable to alter the practice in any way, the proper course to take is to refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee, with an instruction to consider whether the signatures to a petition, as well as the petition itself, should lie read. If a departure from the practice followed under standing order 91 is asked for, good reasons for it should be given. Every citizen has the right to petition. On page 573 of his book on the Government of England Hearn says -
The great political changes of the present and the preceding reign have been freely made the subject of petition. During the first twenty years of Her Majesty’s reign the House of Commons received on an average about 13,000 petitions in the year. On a single day (28th March) in i860 nearly 4,000 petitions were presented on the subject of Church rates.
As petitions have been so freely presented, why should any restriction be imposed upon their reception by this Chamber, provided that they conform to its rules?
.- I intend to oppose any departure from the course which has hitherto been followed ‘in respect of petitions. I recognise the necessity of permitting every citizen to petition Parliament; but, ever since I entered the Senate, I have adopted the same attitude in regard both to the printing of petitions and of the signatures attached thereto. I have always opposed the printing of both. When a petition has been received in the Senate, the fact is recorded in the pages of Hansard, and that ought to be sufficient. I hope that no other attitude will be adopted by this Chamber, and I am sorry that we cannot always prevent the reception of any petition presented to it from costing the country a solitary penny more than is required to secure a record of that fact in the pages of Hansard. If any honorable senator desires to ascertain the substance of a petition there is no obstacle in the way of his doing so. The same remark is equally applicable to the signatories to a petition, which, when once it has been presented to the Senate, becomes the property of the Senate. I recollect one occasion upon which Senator E. J. Russell presented a petition of such proportions that he was obliged to carry it under his arm. If the names attached to that petition had been ordered to be read by the Clerk, he would be reading still. I hope that Senator Guthrie will recognise the wisdom of withdrawing his motion. By all means, let us follow the good old usage which we have always observed in connexion with the presentation of petitions ta the Senate.
– I trust that Senator Guthrie will be satisfied with this discussion, and, will consent to withdraw his motion. Upon a trivial question of this description, it is painful that so much time of the country should be wasted. The practice which we have always followed in respect to petitions is a good one. If any honorable senator wishes to ascertain the names of the signatories to a petition, it is his duty to examine it before submitting a motion that those names should be read and printed. All petitions presented in this Chamber become the property of the Senate. No doubt it would be more interesting to Senator Guthrie to ascertain the names of the eleven signatories to the first petition which was presented to-day than it would be to secure those of the thirty signatories to the second petition. I feel sure that if an appeal were made to the Printing Committee, that body would authorize the printing of those names. But, even if it did not, any honorable senator would be at liberty to copy the names in question, and would be in a position to read them to the Senate. The object which Senator Guthrie has in view can be attained just as effectively, and without any loss of time on the part of the Senate, in another way.
– Probably I should not have pushed this motion to a division if I had been afforded an opportunity of submitting it in respect of the first petition which was presented in this Chamber to-day. I recognise that every citizen has an inherent right to approach Parliament by petition. But the public ought to know exactly what weight to attach to any petition by being informed of the names of the persons who have signed it.
– The weight which should be attached to a petition is to be found in the petition itself, and not in the names of its signatories.
– In the Houseof Commons and the House of Lords, a great deal of weight is attached to petitions, which are always referred to a Petitions Committee. Here, the Senate acts in the capacity of a Petitions Committee. In the nth edition of May, page 535, that authority says -
In some cases, petitions have been ordered to be printed when the notice appears, with the signatures attached thereto, and in others for the use of members only. A petition has been ordered to be printed for the use of members only, with the names of the persons who had signed it. Sometimes petitions which have been already printed, have been ordered to be reprinted.
So that the practice of the Imperial Parliament is to print petitions in the noticepaper, such notice-paper being purchasable by the public. I do not think that I can withdraw my motion, seeing that I was prevented from submitting a similar proposal in respect of the first petition presented to the Senate to-day. My desire is to ascertain the names of those who signed that petition.
– Senator de Largie has asked whether any business which had been closed by reason of other business having intervened, as the result of the President failing to notice an honorable senator who had risen in his place, may be re-opened. He desires to know whether the fact that such business has been disposed of, prevents it coming up for consideration again. My answer is “Yes.” But I would point out that, if it be necessary for any matter connected with that business to be brought before the Chamber, an honorable senator has the remedy in his own hands in that he is at liberty to put a notice of motion upon the businesspaper. Upon the question which is now under consideration, and as to which there seems to be a considerable disagreement, Senator Gould has quoted standing orders 92 and 94. I would remind the honorable senator that our present Standing Orders were framed to govern the procedure of the Senate some years ago. I do not think that they have been altered since I became a member of this Chamber. Senator Gould contended that the motion which should be put from the Chair is: “That the petition be read.” That is so. But at the same time the real question now at issue is : Do the signatures to a petition form part of the petition itself ? I should most certainly rule that a petition which lacked signatures could not be received. Consequently, the signatures to. any petition form a part of it. I recognise that this matter has been before the Senate on two or three occasions. Senator St. Ledger, in quoting from our Standing Orders, has pointed out what has been our practice in the past, and expressed the hope that I would respect it. But I would remind him that we are endeavouring to establish a practice of our own, and that that is the reason why some years ago the Senate ordered that the rulings of the President of this Chamber should be printed as a guide to his successors. The object in view is that we shall eventually evolve a practice of our own to govern our procedure. In the record of the rulings which ex-President Sir Richard Baker gave, I find the following: -
The names of the signatories to a petition may be read if desired by the Senate.
The position, therefore, is that the Senate, if it so desires, has power to order that the signatures attached to any petition be read. In the present case the matter is entirely in the hands of honorable senators themselves, and they will have to decide it.
Question - That the petition, including signatures, be read - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Petition, and signatures thereto, read.
Senator McGREGOR laid upon the table the following paper : -
Report by Dr. Breinl, Director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, Townsville, on the results of his journey to the northern parts of Queensland, July,
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, in view of the stage at which matters have arrived in regard to the proposition of the Government for the location of the Federal Capital, they have considered the advisableness of creating a Joint Committee, consisting of members of each House, to be elected by ballot, for the purpose of inquiring, considering, and reporting on the comparative merits of the sites to which the selection has now been narrowed down?
– The Government are taking no steps in the direction indicated by the honorable senator.
– Arising out of that answer, I desire to know whether the Senate will be afforded an opportunity of reconsidering the decision already arrived at with a view to coming to a decision which will be more generally acceptable to the people of Australia?
– An answer to that question was given yesterday.
– I asked the question early in the session.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The same question should not be repeated.
– I ask Senator Givens to give notice of the question.
– All right, we will give you notice.
Bill read a third time.
NORTHERN TERRITORY ACCEPTANCE BILL (No. 2).
Debate resumed from 7th September, (vide page 2626), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– In approaching a subject which has frequently been before this and the other branch of the Legislature, I feel that it is unnecessary to enter minutely into the reasons which would make for or against the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. But there are certain aspects of the matter to which I desire to direct attention, not with the hope of influencing votes in the Senate, but with the view of presenting the proposition to the country at large with what appears to me a truer sense of perspective than seems to have prevailed hitherto in the discussions in parliamentary circles regarding it. As this is probably the biggest obligation with which the Commonwealth is confronted, it is extremely desirable that we should recognise exactly what the obligation is which the Commonwealth is asked to accept. Approaching the matter from that stand-point, I find that I am at variance, as far as reasons are concerned, both with those who advocate the transfer and those who oppose it.
– Who do oppose the transfer ?
– There are some who say that it is undesirable to sanction it under the terms of the proposed agreement. Those who are urging us to accept this agreement as it stands, are continually saying that the Northern Territory is a veritable Garden of Eden, and a land flowing with milk and honey. But if it be such, the necessity for the transfer to the Commonwealth largely disappears. If the country were all that its advocates make it out to be, the enterprise of South Australia would be quite capable of developing it as we desire to see it developed. On the contrary, those who are disinclined to favour the transfer, point to the barrenness of the country as a reason why we should leave it as it is. Now, it seems to me that those two sets of advocates ought to change places. If the Northern Territory were a rich land, if it were full to overflowing with alluring attractions to settlement and to investment, there would be no necessity for the Commonwealth to assume responsibility for it. But, because in my view the acceptance of the Territory represents an enormous obligation, and the Territory itself is going to be a sink swallowing millions of public money before we can do anything with it - because I regard it in that light, and recognise that it is far beyond the strength of any individual State to grapple with the problem, I consider it to be absolutely essential that the transfer should take place.
– Surely the honorable senator does not take a pessimistic view of the possibilities?
– I take what I believe to be the common- sense view. The position is, as any one must notice who approaches the matter from the stand-point, not of a special advocate, but of an honest inquirer, that this transfer will entail an enormous obligation upon the Commonwealth. It is idle to represent this Territory as consisting altogether of absolutely .choice land.
– Hear, hear !
– In taking this Territory over, the Commonwealth will not be stepping into a lordly heritage - something which, from the moment we get it, will pour money into our pockets. It is going for years to come, as I said before, to be a sink, into which public money will be poured, if we are to approach seriously the settlement and development of it. I want to show how absurd have been some of the views put forward by certain of the advocates of this proposal. I venture to say that if any company promoter had put into a prospectus statements so absolutely incorrect as are those contained in a pamphlet issued in support of the transfer, he would be fairly entitled to be prosecuted for attempting to obtain money by false pretences. Whether these statements have been published in ignorance or not, I do not know. All that I know is that the pamphlet I hold in my hand has been issued in support of the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. It is called Territoria. In turning over the pages by accident I came upon one illustration to which I should like to draw attention, in order to show to what lengths the advocates of this proposal have resorted in their efforts to present it in its most alluring light. They actually publish two pictures of the same waterhole under two different aspects. In one picture the waterhole is shown with a mob of cattle, and in the other with a mob of horses.
– That is quite possible. The two pictures might have been taken on two different days.
– Exactly; that is precisely what has happened.
– They had to make use of the same waterhole for both pictures.
– Exactly; that is the whole point.
– They had to show that waterhole, because there is no other.
– This suggests an attempt to play the tole of the boomster
– Did the honorable senator ever see a waterhole in any part of Australia where there was not another one quite close to it?
– Yes, I have camped at a waterhole in a part of Australia where there was not another one within 80 miles. When you have the camera brought into play to show a picture like this, and when later on you nave the same picture exhibited representing a lot of horses instead of cattle, you may reasonably assume that the compilers had to make the most of their waterhole.
– Where is it?
– I do not know. The pamphlet does not state where it is. The reason is obvious. If the compilers stated under one picture where the waterhole was, they would have to state it again under the other, and in that case even the most casual reader would realize that the same waterhole was being made to do duty in two different aspects.
– Is the honorable senator quite sure that it is a picture of a waterhole at all ? It may be a mirage !
– I. am not prepared to believe that even the camera could be made to present a picture of that kind unless there were a real waterhole to be photographed. In this extraordinary pamphlet I find that the writers in their opening lines set about their task in this way : They say, “ Briefly then without any flights of verbosity “ ; and from that moment they proceed to deal out scarcely anything else than verbosity. I shall read one or two passages in order to show the Senate the kind of language that is indulged in. by the more extravagant advocates of the transfer. As I have said, it is called Territoria, and it is issued under the auspices of the Australian Railways and Territory League. Here is one statement which the authors make -
Roughly, Territoria is 560 miles wide by 900 miles long, encompassing an area of 523,620 square miles.
A little later on they say -
Practically the whole of this vast area is lying idle so far as agricultural progress is concerned.
Now, sir, the obvious intention there is to convey to the reader that the whole of that 523,000 square miles is suitable for agriculture.
– Certainly not.
– What, then, is the meaning of this language? If I were to say, “ There are a thousand square miles of land lying idle and suitable for agriculture,” would it not convey the idea that the whole of that area was suitable for agriculture ?
– The inference certainly is that the land is suitable for agriculture.
– That is clearly so. I should have been inclined to approach this pamphlet with a great deal more faith if the statements contained in it had been couched in terms more closely approximating to the truth.
SenatorMcGregor. - The Government are not responsible for that pamphlet.
– It is not a Government publication.
– I am aware of that, and I have not alleged that it is a Government publication. I am quoting from it to show what the advocates of taking over the Territory have to say in support of the project. A little further on the pamphlet speaks of Port Darwin being “ only about seven days’ sail from the insatiable markets of the East.” Now, there are practically no markets in the East for our products to-day. The people of Eastern countries have scarcely developed the slightest taste for them. We all know that strong efforts have been made by some of the most enterprising commercial firms in Australia to develop ‘markets in the East. They are proceeding with that work to-day. It is an extremely difficult thing to make the slightest impression upon the East with such products as we can send ; and, therefore, to speak of these markets as being “ insatiable “ is another of the romantic statements of the gentlemen responsible for this pamphlet. It would be one of the most hopeful signs for Australia if we could find anything like a growing tendency on the part of Asiatic people to consume our meat. But, as a matter of fact, the East is not taking it.
– Asiatic peoples are taking our timber.
– Probably they are to some extent, but to say that these Eastern markets are “ insatiable “ is an extravagant use of language. Here is another passage in the pamphlet which will appeal to honorable senators who like poetry -
The atmosphere is clear and dry, and the heat is tempered by cooling zephyrs from the sea.
Just think of it - cooling zephyrs from the sea in the neighbourhood of the Macdonnell Ranges ! Does it not make every one desire to take up a selection in this inviting country, where cooling zephyrs blow gently upon the brow as the sun goes down ? I come to a few other quotations. Speaking of the projected railway it is said, “ It will be in Commonwealth territory from sea to sea.” That is absolutely incorrect. I might use a stronger term. It is not proposed that the railway shall be within Commonwealth territory from sea to sea. It is to be within South Australian territory.
– South Australia is part of the Commonwealth.
– My honorable friend will admit that the passage which I have quoted is not justifiable in view of the facts. Let me take another statement. Speaking of the route over which this railway will pass, it is said, “ There is plenty of water.” Let me ask those who know anything about the construction of the overland telegraph line whether the facts support that statement. Is it not well known that some of the effort’s made by those engaged in the construction of the line were quite heroic, and that much suffering was entailed through want of water ?
– The honorable senator might say the same as to the line connecting Melbourne with Adelaide, because the country which it traverses is partly desert.
– That does not touch my point. Does my honorable friend say from his place in this Senate that there is “plenty of water” on the route to be traversed by the projected line ?
– I do not say that there is plenty, but there is probably enough.
– If my honorable friend says that there is not plenty, he comes into conflict with the authors of this pamphlet, who say that there is.
– Is the honorable senator opposing this proposal ?
– I am opposing the absurd efforts of those who support the project in such extravagant terms. I have to thank the Government for the production of the map which now hangs upon the wall in this Chamber. The special value of it is that it was prepared by the South Australian Government, and presented to their State Parliament at the time when that Parliament was considering the resolutions covering the proposed transfer. There is a great deal in this pamphlet which I need not weary honorable senators with; but there is one paragraph which I must read. On page 12 the writer, speaking of the country between Oodnadatta and the northern boundary of South Australia, which, according to the pamphlet, has an annual rainfall of 5 inches, and referring to a place called Dalhousie, where there are some springs, says -
An inexhaustible supply for all purposes, including irrigation.
I have never been there, but I venture to say that no statement was ever further from the truth, as I shall show from a few succeeding lines -
Some are on top of mounds, some are on level ground. The growth of acacias, grass, and reeds shows the water is fit for irrigation.
What it really shows is the ignorance of the person who penned the paragraph. I could take honorable senators to any place in Australia where there is an artesian supply, and they will find that where it is collected in pools there is always a vegetable growth, such as is mentioned here. The alkali is not injurious so long as it is retained in the water, but only when the water is evaporated, and we get this peculiar vegetable growth.
SenatorVardon. - Bore water is used for watering stock.
– I am speaking of irrigation. For stock purposes our artesian supplies are of immense value to Australia ; but for irrigation purposes it will be found that they will be most disappointing to any one who anticipates anything material from their use in that way. The paragraph continues -
From the hot springs a strong stream of water flows for two miles or more, losing itself in a swamp covered with rushes and reeds. Eastward for many miles the country stretches away level and suitable for irrigation farms.
The whole purpose of that is to suggest that the water and the land are there ready for irrigation. The most this water can do, left alone, is to flow, according to the showing of the writer, for only 2 miles in a stream. It is not likely that it is more than half-a-mile wide, and that means that the water referred to would serve an area of only 640 acres. Yet in the pamphlet the country is pictured as stretching for many miles, level and suitable for irrigation farms. The statement could only be written by ignorant enthusiasts, or by men who designedly sought to mislead those whose support they desire to secure for this proposal.
– What is the honorable senator quoting from?
– A pamphlet distributed in this Chamber, presumably by Ministerial authority.
– I do not know who has distributed it, nor do I blame any one for distributing literature of the kind; but it has been distributed to honorable senators by the messenger of the Senate. It is issued by the Railway League in South Australia. Turning over the page, I find the following: -
Large areas of these sand hills are richly grassed.
I ask any ‘ man who has any knowledge of the interior of Australia whether sandy country, with a 10-inch rainfall, is not very light-carrying pastoral country of doubtful value? This sand-hill country is known as “jump-up” sand-hill country. It is held together in a good season, when there is some vegetation ; but in a dry season the sand hills are constantly shifting.
– No; the saltbush prevents that.
– I take no exception to Senator Vardon’s efforts to support the writers of this pamphlet; but if there is one member of the Senate who would not in sober seriousness indorse these statements, it is our common-sense friend, Senator Vardon. My only object in reading these extracts is to show the extravagant efforts which are being made to impress upon the minds of those called upon to decide this question that South Australia is offering the Commonwealth a rich Bonanza. A very much more accurate picture of this Territory was presented by a well-known South Australian, Mr. Barr Smith, who, speaking in his place in the State Parliament, said this -
South Australia should never have accepted the Northern Territory. We have no identity of interests.
– Surely Mr. Barr Smith did not say that from his place in Parliament?
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. I find that this is a quotation used by Mr. O’Loughlin in introducing the motion relating to the proposed transfer. He quoted from Mr. Barr Smith, who wrote a pamphlet on the matter. Mr. O’Loughlin, as Commissioner of Lands in South Australia, introduced the motion approving of the transfer ; and when a South Australian Minister, responsible for the carrying of the motion, quoted Mr. Barr Smith, honorable senators will recognise his objects in doing so. This is the quotation -
South Australia should never have accepted the Northern Territory. We have no identity of interests, nothing in common with it, no natural connexion of any Kind with the Territory, except geographical, which we share with Queensland and Western Australia, and we have less of that than they have, for we are separated from it by a desert sometimes impassable. The Territory has been a weakness to us from the first day, and I believe it never would have been ours but for the foolish anxiety to show that, although a small community, we were capable of big things. From the first it has directly and indi recti v added to our national debt, burdened our annual revenue, hindered the development of South Australia proper, and given us no end of trouble. It will be a growing care and increasing loss to us as long as we retain it.
– That is only the opinion of one man.
– I am quoting it as such. I say that any one who takes the trouble to make himself familiar with the information obtainable on the subject must recognise that Mr. Barr Smith’s description of the country is much more accurate than that presented by the authors of the pamphlet from which I have quoted.
– Mr. Barr Smith was obviously speaking of country- lying to the south of the Macdonnell Ranges.
– Exactly. That part of the country which, according to the authors of the pamphlet, is suitable for irrigation with a 5-in. rainfall.
– Oh, I do not mind that-.
– My honorable friend agrees with me that these efforts are extravagant and flamboyant, and they are also somewhat discreditable when put forward by a body that has taken upon itself the responsibility of informing the people of Australia upon the question. I commenced by stating that if this, country were as good as the advocates of the transfer would have us believe, the necessity for the transfer would largely disappear. If the country were as good as it is alleged to be there would be no need for the Commonwealth to interfere, nor would South Australia give us an opportunity of doing so.
– Would not that apply to all poor lands in the Commonwealth ?
– What other lands are being offered to the Commonwealth?
– The honorable, senator says that the land would be taken up if it were as alleged, but what about the land in Western Australia that is not developed ?
– Western Australia is not asking the Commonwealth to take over a portion of her territory. My contention is that were this country as rich as it is represented to be, the private enterprise of South Australian citizens would have long since done something with it.
– That was not the case in Western Australia for years, and there is a portion of waste land in that State.
– A large portion of the State is still waste land.
– Because the State has not the people to take up the country.
– Because the honorable senator will not let them come here. My friends will insist upon drawing me off the track. I wish this view to have consideration, because nothing but disappointment is going to follow this transfer, if, when it is taken over, the people of the Commonwealth are to assume that they are stepping into possession of a valuable asset. I say that the people of Australia must recognise that, after taking over this Territory, it will for many years be a heavy liability upon the Commonwealth.
– The same may be said of nearly every big undertaking.
– Yes, but all these matters are proportionate. To my mind the biggest problem that confronts Australia to-day is the opening up and settlement of the .Northern Territory. A number of people approach the matter lightheartedly, and seem to think that by the mere transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, as though by the touch of a magician’s wand, we shall be able to solve all the problems that have absolutely paralysed the efforts of South Australia tor the last generation.
– It has required a large expenditure which South Australia could not afford.
– Exactly. I want that point to be recognised outside. I wish the electors of Australia to understand rhat in approving of this transfer as they have done, from the moment it takes place a problem will present itself which it will take the best brains in the. Commonwealth to solve, and the transfer is going to lay a heavy burden upon the financial resources of the Commonwealth. If this is recognised it may prevent a great deal of disappointment later on.
– Every one with any sense recognises it.
– No. I am afraid that there is a large number of people who have not stopped to look into the matter. They have been told that we shall be getting millions of acres for id. an acre, and are under the impression that we shall be stepping into possession of a goodly heritage which will be a source of profit rather than of loss. It appears to me that it is well, in the interests of the Territory itself, to dissipate these views. I am supporting the transfer, because I think its development is a responsibility which it is far too big to expect any one State to undertake, and because I believe it represents to-day the weakest spot in Australia’s armour. Let us consider some of the difficulties which will present themselves when the transfer is effected. Have honorable senators ever thought out any connected plan for the settlement and development of the Territory? Have they considered the difficulties with which we shall be confronted the moment we take in hand any proposal for its settlement? A great deal has been said about its tropical possibilities, but does any one dream that any considerable number of men will wish to engage in the production of tropical products in the Northern Territory to-day? It would, be better for men to pay the market value of lands in northern Queensland, where they would have fixed channels for the marketing of their produce, the advantages of settlement, roads, schools, and churches, with seaports served by regular trading ships, than to take up land in the Northern Territory if it were offered to them for nothing. The advantages of settlement in northern Queensland would more than compensate for the difference between paying for the land in that State and getting the land in the Northern Territory for nothing. When we come to speak of agricultural settlement, I would ask who would dream to-day of going to the Northern Territory under existing conditions to carry on what we understand as agriculture? Even if the land were obtainable for nothing, I have no man so much my enemy that I would suggest to him that he should go to the Northern Territory at the present moment in order to become a farmer. We shall be driven in the Northern Territory to follow the track which has been followed in the de velopment of the older States. We shall have to look to the grazier and pastoralist first of all to open up the country, and blaze the track for the smaller man to follow. It will take years to .produce any substantial result. During those years, if we are to increase pastoral settlement in the Territory, we shall have to face an enormous expenditure, and to face it promptly. In dealing with the possibility of opening up that country by pastoral settlement. I would point out that, of the total area of the Northern Territory, namely, 520,000 square miles, there are 400,000 square miles which enjoy a rainfall ranging from 10 to 40 inches. We may fairly take it that that is the land which is most attractive at the present time. It excludes the purely tropical country, and also the country which more nearly approximates to desert. Nearly one-half of that 400,000 square miles is now held under lease, and under long leases at that.
– What period of those leases has expired? Half their time has gone.
– Judging by a rough glance at page 18 of a memorandum which was presented to the Senate in 1909, there are very few leases which will fall in under twenty years; and by far the great majority will not fall in until periods ranging from twenty-five to thirty-five years have elapsed.
– Some of the leases have only half their time to run.
– Those leases embrace only a comparatively small area. Whilst we may be disposed, by expenditure upon a railway, to stimulate settlement in the Northern Territory, we must take over that Territory with all its existing obligations. I repeat that nearly one-half of the land which is at present most attractive to our people is locked up in leases which have from twenty to thirty-five years to run. So that whilst the construction of a railway through that country may benefit those leases, it will not do much to solve the problem of the closer settlement of the Northern Territory. The mere transfer of that Territory to the Commonwealth will not overcome the difficulty. But I still come back to my starting point that it is the very necessity of the position which imposes upon the Commonwealth the obligation to take over the Northern Territory. I come now to the question of the route to be followed by the proposed railway. Some difference of opinion has been expressed upon the question of the country which that line should traverse, and as to the strict interpretation which should be placed upon the agreement which has been entered into between the Commonwealth and South Australia. I do not pretend to express anything like a legal opinion ; but, so far as I am able to judge, the agreement does imply that the railway should be confined to the limits of the Northern Territory itself. In dealing with this matter, however, one is entitled to bear in mind the assurances which were given by the parties to the agreement.
– Assurances mean nothing. We are only concerned with what is in the agreement itself.
– My honorable friend is quite right. If the agreement were construed in a Court of law, regard would be had only to its terms. But if my honorable friend wished to come to an understanding with me upon any matter, and if he said to me, “I am quite prepared to allow you a certain amount of latitude,” his attitude would help me in arriving at a decision. When the agreement first came before this Parliament, I was strongly of opinion - as theoretically I am to-day - that the authority which takes over the Northern Territory ought to be left absolutely free to determine in what way it will proceed with the development of that country. Its hands ought not to be tied in any way. But when the Bill was before this Parliament on the last occasion I was very much impressed by a statement which had been made in the South Australian Parliament, and by a map which had been forwarded to the Commonwealth Government by the Government of that State - either the map which is now hanging in the chamber or a duplicate of it - in both of which it was set forth that South Australia was prepared to agree to an alternative route.
– I understand that the map hanging in the chamber is the original one.
– I know that a map was forwarded to the Commonwealth authorities by the South Australian Government, and we now have the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the one hanging in the chamber is the original. Mr. O’Loughlin, who sub.mited the motion in the South Australian House of Assembly for the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, said -
Mr. Deakin, however, undertook to construct the line from Port Darwin through Central
Australia to join the existing railway at Oodnadatta, or to go through what was considered very much better country - from Pine Creek, vid Camooweal down alongside the borders of Queensland, and the territory west of Birdsville, and down to Port Augusta vid Hergott.
Honorable senators will see that that proposition is disclosed upon the map in the chamber by a dotted line.
– And’ it was assented to by the South Australian Parliament.
– Yes. But here, again, I have to admit that nothing which may have been said in that way can affect the strict interpretation of a legal document. At the same time, when the statement was brought under my notice, it exerted a great influence upon me.
– The honorable senator’s colleagues, and particularly Sir Robert Best, made it as plain as possible that the’ line was to be constructed within the limits of the Northern Territory.
– I believe I am correct in saying that all the members of the late Ministry accepted the view that the legal interpretation of the agreement did confine the construction of the railway to those limits. But I say it was not unreasonable - seeing that a South Australian Minister had put forward an alternative route, which he declared would pass through better country - to assume that the South Australian Parliament would be quite prepared to accept a variation of the agreement, which would enable the better route to be followed. Mr. O’Loughlin went on to say -
The length of the proposed line from Port Darwin to Port Augusta would be 1,686 miles. The length of the other proposed line from Port Darwin, vid the Queensland border and Birdsville and on to Port Augusta, would be 1,726 miles.
That is about 40 or 50 miles further -
No doubt the Territory would keep the line in their own territory if possible. There was very little difference between these routes, as far as distance was concerned, and he ventured to say that from information carefully gathered, the line vid Queensland border and west of Birdsville would be the best line for South Australia and probably the best for the Commonwealth to construct, because the land was much more fertile and had a better rainfall.
When Mr. O’Loughlin gave utterance to these statements and intimated to the South Australian Parliament that the Government of that State regarded the alternative route as a better one, it was, to my mind, reasonable to assume that they would not be inclined to bind the Commonwealth Parliament down to the literal interpretation of the agreement which had been entered into.;
– Does the honorable senator think that any person in Australia has sufficient information to enable him to say what is the best route to be followed ?
– I do not.
– But the people of South Australia know how to conserve their own interests.
– They are in the position of vendors of this property, and to that extent they must be the best judges of their own position.
– But whilst they may conserve their own interests, have they no right to pose as the only Nationalists in Australia ?
– I am not prepared to believe that even the great State from which my honorable friend hails enjoys a monopoly in the art of posing. Mr. O’Loughlin went on to say -
It must be evident to every one that one of the two proposed lines to which he had referred must be built, because the country could not be properly developed without it.
It had been asserted by some people that if the. line running close to the Queensland border were constructed it would tend to develop the Queensland ports instead of those of South Australia. That idea was altogether erroneous, because the Federal Government were bound to construct the line to Port Augusta, and not to take it to any Queensland port and the line going to Port Augusta via Hergott would naturally bring much of the Queensland trade to South Australia, because it was nearer than any Queensland port. Port Augusta was a much better port for all kinds of shipping than Rockhampton or any of the other Queensland ports. There was a time when South Australia used to do a large trade with Queensland, but for many years, owing to the low rates charged on the Queensland railways, and to various other causes which it was not necessary to explain, that trade had disappeared. With the railway to Port Augusta, however, the trade would be restored to the merchants of Tort Augusta and South Australia generally.
– Is that the national aspect ?
– I merely put it forward with a view to showing that although we have been presented with this agreement, it has come to us accompanied by the assurance of the responsible Minister of South Australia who handled this question, and whose motion received the indorsement of the Parliament of that State, that notwithstanding its express terms, that State is willing to allow it to be interpreted in such a way as to permit the proposed transcontinental railway to deviate from the Northern Territory in the way that it is outlined upon the map. It was with this knowledge that I supported the Bill which is now under consideration on the last occasion that it came before this Chamber. In confirmation of what I have stated, I should like to quote the utterance of Mr. Dashwood, the Crown Solicitor of South Australia, who, in the first instance, expressed the opinion that the proposed line must be kept within the confines of the Northern Territory. But after he had given that opinion, the Attorney-General placed certain other points before him. One of these points reads as follows -
It has always been understood, and was so stated by the Hon. Mr. Price and the Parliament of South Australia at the time the agreement was made, that the agreement would enable the Commonwealth Government to select the best route, irrespective of the consideration of State interests.
The Attorney-General put before the Crown Solicitor this fact: That it was always understood that the agreement would enable the Commonwealth to select the best route, irrespective of the consideration of State interests. The Attorney-General put that statement before the Crown Solicitor, and asked him whether it affected the interpretation of the agreement. The point I wish to make is, not whether it affects the interpretation of the agreement, but the admission of the Attorney-General that it was understood that the Commonwealth was to be free to go outside the Territory.
– Unfortunately, it was not so expressed.
– Here is what Mr. Dashwood said.
– The marvel is that the late Government did not make an amendment.
– There was no need to do so.
– Why not?
– Because it was understood that the Commonwealth would be free to go outside the Territory.
– Sir Robert Best said the opposite here.
– I have said that, so far as a layman can interpret the agreement, the Commonwealth is not free to take the railway outside the Territory.
– It is competent for the two parties to vary the agreement.
– Yes; but we were told as plainly as words could speak by the South Australians that there would be no objection on their part to our varying the agreement in that way.
– The honorable senator’s contention is that it ought to be made plain that the Commonwealth has the power to go outside the boundaries.
– I think.it ought to be made plain one way or the other.
– My view is that we should not allow the Bill to pass without removing the slightest cause of ambiguity and possible litigation.
– I mean that if it is plain that the railway is to be limited to the Northern Territory, that may, or may not, be a reason for going against the Bill.
– The Bill ought to state that.
– Personally, I believe that the Commonwealth ought to be free to carry the line outside the Territory.
– Order ! This seems to be a general conversation between two or three senators. I wish that Senator Millen would take no notice of interjections, or that honorable senators would cease to interject.
– I have just read a statement wherein the Treasurer of South Australia placed before its Crown Solicitor the fact that it had been understood, and that some members had stated in the Parliament, that the Commonwealth was free to go outside the boundaries of the Territory, and asked that gentleman whether that fact would cause any modification of the opinion which he had previously given. The Crown Solicitor replied in this way, “ I believe it was understood and stated as mentioned.” First, the Attorney-General said it was so understood, and then the Crown Solicitor replied, “ I believe so, also.” I mention these facts, not in any way as varying the agreement or altering its legal interpretation in the slightest degree, but merely as showing that there was at that time a willingness on the part of the South Australian authorities that the Commonwealth should be at liberty, if it saw fit, to so far depart from the terms of the agreement as to go outside the boundaries of the Territory. Now, we are confronted with a somewhat different position. Those who were entitled to speak for South Australia, and who then said that they were willing that we should vary the agreement to that extent, now come down and say, “ No, we intend to keep you to the letter of the bond.”
– Who said that you were entitled to vary the agreement?
- Mr. O’Loughlin said, not that we were entitled to vary the agreement, but that he had no objection to our going outside the Territory.
– He never said anything of the kind. He merely referred to a question of deviation, and expressed his own opinion.
– I do not know what Mr. O’Loughlin meant when he spoke of the Commonwealth taking the railway out by Camooweal, and presented to the State Parliament a map showing the alternative route, and urged that it would be a more advantageous one to the State, as it would enable them to tap Queensland. I do not know what all that meant, with the two quotations I have made from the Attorney-General and the Crown Solicitor, except that whilst the letter of the bond called upon the Commonwealth to keep the line within the Territory, the South Australians, as a party to the bargain, were not careful as to whether we adhered to that or not. The only way in which the remarks can be interpreted is that at that time they were willing -that the Commonwealth should cross the eastern border of the Territory if it saw fit, but since then, as I say, there has been a stiffening of the backs of our South Australian friends.
– They think that they have got us.
– Exactly. Having seen that, for one reason or other, the supporters of this measure are growing in Parliament, they have now said, “ The period of jeopardy is passed. We can now demand our pound of flesh.” A little while ago, they were prepared to unbend, to abate a little; but to-day, seeing that the obligation of the Commonwealth to take over the Territory and do something is growing every hour, and that the Bill has now more supporters in Parliament than it had previously, they say, “ There is less necessity for us to meet the Commonwealth in a reasonable and liberal spirit. Therefore, whatever inducements we may have held out before by the utterances of our public men, we can now cancel them, and say. ‘ There is the bond. ‘ “
– Who has been saying that?
– The people of South Australia.
– I must be pardoned if I refrain from re-quoting the statements which I read a little while ago. I have made the quotations, and expressed my own view, and it is for honorable senators to say whether they indorse it or not. I can only interpret them as meaning that South Australia, speaking through her public men, was prepared to allow the Commonwealth to vary the deviation shown on the map which was then laid before the State Parliament, and which is now suspended here.
– Who is making a different statement now?
– Amongst others, Senator Symon.
– And the late Government, through Senator Best, in this Chamber.
– My honorable friend again falls back on that.
– Why did not the late Government seek to vary the agreement ?
– There was no need for us to make an alteration when we had an assurance which I, at any rate, was prepared to accept then.
– The hon=>orable senator did not say so here.
– There was no occasion to do so.
– The late Ministry absolutely declared that this railway was to be limited to the area of the Northern Territory.
– Exactly. There was the agreement, and the Senate had to accept or reject it. The assurance of South Australia, so far as it could be given through her public men, that such a deviation had been considered by them, was a factor, at any rate, with me. When 1 make an agreement with a man on whose word I can rely, and he tells me that whilst the agreement ties me down in certain ways he will not be particular as to whether I vary something or not, I have a reasonable right to proceed on the assumption that that variation will be permitted.
– I think the honorable senator would say, “ Well, just indorse that on the back of the agreement,” because he or the other person might die.
– My honorable friend has always to recognise that it is not easy to get an agreement approved by four legislative Houses, and that Governments are very often inclined to say, as, perhaps, has happened in the past, “ Here is an agreement, but we have received an assurance, and have no reason to believe that the State Parliament will be unreasonable. We. shall proceed with the matter in good faith.”
– You take the assurance as being as strong as the agreement.
– Exactly. Circumstances have altered. To-day South Australia feels that she is somewhat on a better wicket, and therefore we find a disinclination to meet what I regard as the requirements of the Commonwealth.
– Why does the honorable senator repeat so often the statement that South Australia, being now on a firmer wicket, is demanding something more?
– I am pointing -out that we have received an assurance from those whom I must accept as authoritative spokesmen for South Australia, that she intends to keep us to the letter of the agreement.
– -Who has said so?
– Senator Symon. Surely I am not misinterpreting him.
– He is not everybody.
– Order ! The Minister has the right of reply.
– I have dealt with that aspect because I wanted, amongst other things, to make it clear that one of the reasons which “induced me to abandon my former attitude of hostility was the belief that, if necessary, we should have the right to deviate the route of the line east or west, as circumstances might justify. I dp not know that that is necessary ; and I do not know any one who can assure me authoritatively that it is. I am prepared to believe at the present moment that South Australia intends to adhere to the terms of the agreement. That compels me to consider this question : Is the adherence to the agreement sufficient to cause the rejection of the Bill, regarding, as I do, the transfer of the Territory as an essential and urgent matter? I ask honorable senators to glance at the map on the wall, as I point out that the deviation proposed thereon will carry the line, at the most, 50 or 60 miles east of the Territory. Does it make much difference in its development whether we keep just an inch within the eastern boundary, which we clearly have the right to do, or go 50 miles on the eastern side of it. The map shows that if we had the right to deviate, if the assurance of South Australia were adhered to instead of the agreement, the most that we should- get would be the liberty to shift the line 50 miles east. Suppose that we magnify the position, and say that the distance is 100 miles. Seeing that the issues are so great, does it matter whether we take the line vid Birdsville or Cloncurry ? I should be reluctant to express an opinion as to the correct route to take. Nothing, but a close examination of the whole country - certainly a much more minute inspection than has yet taken place - is necessary before any one ought to say by which route the line should be taken. If we strike out the clause confining the Commonwealth to the Territory in the construction of the railway, what shall we have done? We shall have gained the liberty to swing the line, at the most, 100 miles to the east.
– And “leg-rope” the Commonwealth.
– We have “legroped “ the Commonwealth to the extent that we have prevented it from going eastward 100 miles. I ask honorable senators whether that is a serious factor. Can any one say that if we develop the Northern Territory satisfactorily a railway line running on the western side of the boundary will be more suitable than a line running an inch on the eastern side? I resent the attempt to restrain the Commonwealth by a condition of this kind. The Commonwealth should have the right to say in what manner development should proceed. But, seeing that we are confronted with the very great responsibility for that empty and undefended Territory, it seems to me to be absolutely essential that we should even submit to what may be called an indignity or an injustice, rather than see these negotiations fall through at the present time. Let me point out another reason for saying that the matter is not as imperative as at first sight it appeared to me to be. Construct that railway from Hergott Springs to Port Darwin as you like, and there will still have to be another line. That is absolutely clear. The main consideration in taking charge of the Territory is that of defence. For defence purposes a line running from Port Darwin to Oodnadatta is something in the nature of a farce. I shall show why. The reason is simply this : The distance from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta is, roughly speaking, about 1,100 miles. If you build that 1,100 miles of railway to Oodnadatta, you are just as far from the centres where your reinforcements must be obtained as you were when you were at Port Darwin. Let us follow the thing out. The distance from Port Darwin to Oodnadatta is, as I have said, 1,100 miles; the distance from Oodnadatta to Adelaide, nearly 700 miles ; from Adelaide to Melbourne, 480 miles; from Melbourne to Sydney, 582 miles; from Sydney on to Brisbane, 725 miles.
– Surely there would be some linking up.
– Yes, that is my point. I am endeavouring to show that the question whether the Commonwealth constructs a line a few miles west of the boundary or a few miles east is not so material as at one time I thought it was, inasmuch as you have to make another connexion somewhere for defence purposes. It is idle to assume that you could take troops round from Brisbane to Port Darwin by the route which I have just traced.
– What FieldMarshal ever proposed that troops should be taken from Brisbane to Port Darwin? Surely a few could be obtained in Melbourne.
– If an attack were made on Australia at Port Darwin, it would be essential to” gather reinforcements wherever they were to be found. If we were to construct that line only, we should have, in order to obtain reinforcements - which can only be obtained where the population is centred ; they cannot be obtained from a sparsely-populated country - to come down to the east and south-east. If we had only a line of railway from Port Darwin to Oodnadatta, we should have to carry troops 2,500 miles from Brisbane, if they were required to be brought from that place. If they were brought from Sydney, the journey would be 1,700 miles. If they were brought from Melbourne the journey would be 1,200 miles. But by running a railway across - I do not say exactly where, nor do I care - we should save 50 or 60 per cent, of that journey.
– What would happen if we had no railway communication with’ Port Darwin at all?
– I am not arguing on that ground. The honorable senator surely does not assume that I have been opposing the taking over of the Territory. I am trying to show that the obligation to provide that railway within the Territory does not now present so serious a.n obstacle as I thought it did some time ago; one reason being that ive shall have to construct a second line, if only for defence purposes’. That being so, would it much matter whether the north or south line ran a few miles to the east or the west boundary of the Northern Territory? That is the view which presents itself to me.
– The curious point is that the Queensland Government were never consulted on the point, although the South Australian Government were.
– It is easy to be wise after the event; and there are many factors in connexion with the proposed transfer that have presented themselves to our minds which did not occur in the early days of the negotiations. So much may fairly be said on behalf of those who made this agreement. If we could wipe it off’ the slate altogether, and were free to make a fresh agreement, there are many things in it that might be left out, and there are also things which are not in it that ought. to be there. An amount of ventilation and discussion has been bestowed upon this question such as is seldom devoted to a public matter.
– Senator St. Ledger thinks that Queensland ought to have been a party to the agreement.
– No, she ought to have been consulted.
– If Queensland, why not Western Australia?
– If the matter be put in that way, I would say that the time was not ripe for consulting either of those States. South Australia was the only State concerned, because it was from. South Australia that the Territory was to be taken over. I regard this agreement as containing a drawback, inasmuch as it limits the freedom of the Commonwealth. But nevertheless, on further consideration, I consider that that drawback is rather theoretical than practical, seeing that the limit to which it ties us is, after all, only a matter of a few miles ; and even that limit is robbed of its significance by the knowledge that before very long we shall have to construct another line of railway which will serve the purpose of bringing the Territory into closer touch with the greater part of the population of this country. Whatever the effects of the agreement may be, however, there is, overriding them all. this tremendous clanger, and this great obligation upon us to do something with the Territory. If any one likes to say that South Australia is taking up a selfish attitude - and I am not saying that she is - in refusing to allow us to do what she could not do herself, I still say that, although that might be wrong on her part, we, nevertheless, have to consider that we have here, if my view be correct, a tremendous outstanding danger in that great empty north. That being so, I am content to allow smaller matters to be sunk. They are really small matters compared with the main issue, which is’ that we should assume this responsibility at the earliest possible date.
– I do not think that any one seriously objects to the Commonwealth taking over the Territory.
– It is a question of terms, and I am merely pointing out that we have to take the balance of .good and weigh it against the evil. In this world we cannot always attain our ideal, and while I regard this agreement as defective, nevertheless I say that the advantage of the Commonwealth taking over the Terri. tory outweighs, in my judgment, the disabilities which the agreement will impose. Before I conclude I may direct attention to a detail. It frequently happens that when a Bill gets into Committee some honorable senators are absent from the Chamber when questions of detail arise, and do not hear the discussion on amendments that are submitted. I desire that honorable senators, and the members of the Government, shall have a full opportunity of considering the suggestion which I have to make; and 1 trust that when it is considered the Government may be inclined to adopt it. The Bill secures to all those living in the Northern Territory their full rights and privileges as conferred upon them by the Government of South Australia. I want to suggest to the Government whether they ought not to introduce into this measure exactly such a clause as was inserted in the Act locating the Capital Site area, so that if resumption takes place it shall not be made on the added value which will be given to properties by reason of the transfer to the Commonwealth. It was recognised by all sections in Parliament, when we were dealing with the Capital Site question, that an enormous increment would be given to property byreason of the development work to be inaugurated by the Commonwealth. The good-will of the leases in the Northern Territory are worth to-day very little, indeed. In the Northern Territory Land Act there is a provision that in assessing value for assessment purposes account shall not be taken of any value added by the construction of public works. That is not sufficient for us. When the Territory is transferred to the Commonwealth the mere process of development and the spending of money on public works will give an enormous added value to these leases.
– It will automatically add increments.
– Exactly. We ought not to allow that increment to be taken by private individuals. That is recognised as a sound principle, and it is not unfair in any way. I commend the point to the Government, and shall move an amendment with regard to it when we get into Committee.
– We have listened with consider- able interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. He has explained the circumstances under which this Bill was introduced by the last Government, and he has made his own position clear with respect to it. Apart from that interesting explanation, the honorable senator has made clear what was in the mind of the late Government with respect to the limitation on the powersof the Commonwealth regarding railway construction within the Northern Territory. I do not quite agree with Senator Millen as to that, because I was of opinion last year, as I am of opinion now, that, notwithstanding the assurance given at that time, it was more or less clear that the railway would have to go through some part of the Territory proper. Senator Millen is quite right now in resisting the acceptance of this agreement, because it has since been made abundantly clear that the taking over of the Northern Territory is to be limited by a binding direction with respect to the route of the railway. The question arises whether Senator Symon, a representative of South Australia, has not given the strongest reason why we should refuse to consider this matter any further. In his speech on the 17 th August, he is reported in Hansard to have said-
– Order ! The honorable senator will not be in order in quoting from Hansard of this session, unless he connects his quotation with this debate.
– It has been pointed out in many ways that South Australia does not care very much whether the Commonwealth assists by taking over the railway. We are led to believe that it is immaterial to that State. If that be so, I say that we should let South Australia go on with her work if she considers it profitable. But when she asks us to take over the Northern Territory, with its large indebtedness, she should leave us unrestricted as to the methods we shall adopt for its future management. I am not concerned as to whether the present or the late Government are responsible for the remarkable position in which we are placed in connexion with this proposal. There is a conflict of opinion as to whether, upon the acceptance of this agreement, it will be competent for the Commonwealth, to use Senator Symon’s phrase, to “swing” the railway out of the Northern Territory to the east. But the weight of argument in the matter is, in my opinion, entirely on one side. I think that under this agreement, we could not take the railway outside of the Northern Territory. The only conflicting opinion is that of the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth ; and. it is reasonable to assume that his opinion has weighed with the Government.
– The Attorney-General of South Australia indorses his opinion.
– The Crown Solicitor of the State is against it. When his attention was, a second time, called to the question, he adhered to the opinion he had already formed. Mr. Mitchell has strongly expressed the opinion that if we take over the Northern Territory under this agreement, we shall be bound to build a railway within the boundaries of the Territory. He thinks that we cannot swing it outside of the Territory or South Australia proper. The Attorney -General does not hold that view ; and so we have no definite pronouncement upon which Parliament can come to a decision upon this very important matter. I ask the Government whether we should involve the Commonwealth in enormous expenditure in connexion with this proposal, when we are not clear as to the route of the railway. The answer is that, during the passage of the Bill through Committee, it will be possible to make this matter clear beyond mistake. I ask the only representative of the Government present whether they will accept, in Committee on this Bill, a modification of the terms of the agreement, permitting the Commonwealth to swing this line where it chooses, in the best interests of the country?
– Give notice, please.
– Notice of this question has been given in the form of an amendment.
– That is so. One of the most important objections to the Bill is that it is proposed that Commonwealth action shall be limited, and that the railway shall be constructed within the Northern Territory. When, as pointed out by Senator Millen, by binding the Commonwealth strictly to the terms of the agreement, we shall be compelled to build a railway through barren country, and to assume a huge debt under conditions which will make it difficult or impossible for us to carry out our obligations, I am surely entitled to ask the Government whether they will accept an amendment of the Bill allowing the Commonwealth Parliament full freedom to determine the route of the railway. I am afraid the Government will not accept such an amendment. If we had the power under the agreement to swing the railway outside the Northern Territory to the east for any considerable distance, every representative of South Australia would be against it. Are we to have this liberty when the Bill gets into Committee? I hear some honorable senator say “ No,” and if that be so, I say that under this proposal the Commonwealth Parliament is being legroped in connexion with a most material provision affecting the development of the Territory when transferred. Who should determine the conditions and terms upon which the Territory should be developed, but those who will be responsible for the expenditure involved? It is beyond doubt that we are being asked practically to carry the railway from Pine Creek in as straight a line as possible to Oodnadatta, or we shall not get the Territory at all. That is the position which South Australia is taking up in this matter. If the Bill were so framed that we should be at liberty to exercise a wise discretion in this important matter, I should not press the necessity for an amendment of it in the way I am doing. Surely the Government can see that when the people of the whole Commonwealth are being asked to meet the expenditure in connexion with this proposal they have a right to consider what they are to pay for. But all these considerations are eliminated from the discussion of the question by the attitude assumed by the Government. It is admitted that the proposal will commit the Commonwealth to an enormous expenditure, and in this connexion I shall refer to official figures.
– I think that on an occasion like this we should have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.’]
– When we call attention to the enormous expenditure, involved, and make out a strong case from the fact that the operations of South Australia in connexion with the Territory have been unremunerative for the last thirty or forty years, we are referred to the national aspect of the question. When we show that the railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek is likely from the -experience of the past to be an expensive white elephant, and will fail to bring about what we desire in the development of the country, we are told that this is a national undertaking; and that we do not take the national view of the question that it is our duty to develop the Northern Territory and strengthen what has been called the “ Achilles’ heel “ of Australia. We hear a lot of poetry recited by representatives of South Australia, but when we point to the cost and almost uselessness of the undertaking, we are reproached as anti-nationalists, as if it were not one of the first duties of a representative of the Commonwealth to inquire the reason for every pound of expenditure called for, and whether it will effect the purpose we desire to attain. If I thought that the putting of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 of Commonwealth money into the Northern Territory, under the hard-and-fast conditions laid down in this Bill, would be the most effective way in which to realize the desire of the Commonwealth in connexion with it, I should have no objection to the proposal. But I say that the attitude assumed by the Government fetters honorable senators and prevents them from considering the matter from that national point of view. . But even if we expend £3,000,000, £4,000,000 or .£5,000,000 upon the construction of the transcontinental railway from Port Darwin to Port Augusta, we shall be very little nearer the goal which we have in view.
– The honorable senator ought not to get angry.
– Senator Henderson has very seldom seen me in a temper, though there is no reason why I should not express myself strongly upon this question. My opposition, and that of other representatives of Queensland, to this Bill, is not prompted by our failure to appreciate the importance of the Commonwealth taking over the Northern Territory and assisting in its speedy development. Senator Symon may indulge in the most flowery eloquence upon the subject of our national duty, and honorable senators opposite may point out that, in the interests of the defence of Australia, it is imperative that the Commonwealth should administer that Territory, but I hold that any such warnings to the representatives of this Parliament are entirely superfluous. We appreciate the danger to which we are at present exposed, and we recognise our duty in the matter. But the only thing which we have to consider is “ What is the best way in which to effect our purpose ? “ From the very moment that South Australia grabbed the Northern Territory in i860, or 1861,, that State realized its great possibilities. Since then South Australia has expended large sums of money upon it, and made huge sacrifices in the hope of reaping prospective benefits. In many respects she has done all that Senator Symon has so eloquently claimed. But what is the only inference to be drawn from that circumstance? It is that inasmuch as South Australia has failed to develop the Territory, notwithstanding that she has expended millions sterling upon it, the Commonwealth will equally fail to develop it along similar lines. Although South Australia has been charged with the administration of the Northern Territory for forty years the Territory occupies practically the same position to-day that it did originally. As a matter of fact, its position is almost worse now than it was formerly, because we learn from recent reports by the Government Resident that even the Chinaman, who is the most thrifty individual on earth, has been compelled to leave it. He is leaving it now. That is a very significant fact. The Government Resident, in a recent report, attempts to explain it away by declaring that the Chinese who were within our Territory, prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth, are now leaving the Northern Territory and spreading themselves over the various States, owing to the abolition of border restrictions.
– Does not the honorable senator think that is a reasonable explanation ?
– I think it is a fair, reasonable, and absolutely correct explanation. But what does it imply ?
That, in the Northern Territory, even the Chinaman cannot earn a livelihood.
– Not necessarily.
– It is better for a Chinaman to remain in a place where he can earn a livelihood than to become an inmate of a charitable institution.
– The whole of the honorable senator’s argument is based upon the fact that die country has not yet been opened up.
– South Australia has already expended millions of pounds in an attempt to develop the Northern Territory, and it now asks the Commonwealth to embark upon an expenditure of millions more. Further, it wishes this Parliament to attempt the development of that country along the lines which have already proved such a ghastly failure.
– The honorable senator has made a very misleading statement. South Australia has not expended millions of pounds upon the Northern Territory, apart from the cost of its two railways.
– From official figures I learn that on 30th June, 1909, the loans outstanding upon railways in the Northern Territory totalled £2,768,062, with, I suppose, accrued interest, less a sum of £49,123 which has not been expended, thus leaving a balance to the debit of the Territory of ,£2,718,939.
– All that money ha* practically been spent, as Senator O’Keefe has said, upon the railway.
– In that £2,768,062 is included the cost of other undertakings in the Territory, apart from that of the Port Darwin to Pine Creek railway.
– Then, where do the honorable senator’s “millions” come in?
– Is not that amount sufficient to satisfy the Minister of Defence ?
– I was always under the impression that “one” was singular whilst “ two” were plural.
– The expenditure of South Australia upon the Northern Territory aggregates millions of pounds, but what that means does not seem to occur to some honorable senators. To them £3,000,000 means nothing if we say it quickly. Seeing that the Commonwealth is likely to be called upon to pay interest upon that £3,000,000, I say that we may well pause to consider our position. If ever there was a place on earth whicli ought to offer to the white man a chance of carrying on his avocation with success, surely that place is the Northern Territory, within the ambit of its small railwayline. Port Darwin possesses a magnificent harbor. Upon both sides of it are surface indications of rich mineral wealth. In the early days all this was known, and settlers were attracted there by those indications. It was because of this great promise of ultimate success that the railway to which I have already referred was constructed. Upon the faith of its glowing prospects South Australia expended millions of pounds upon it. But even the Minister of Defence cannot dispute my statement that, despite all these advantages, the railway has never paid for grease for the carriage wheels.
– It is more than paying working expenses now.
– It is unnecessary for me to bombard the Vice-President of the Executive Council with the official returns relating to the receipts from that railway. If we consider the interest which has to be paid upon its capital outlay we shall at once realize that it has been a howling failure.
– And its position is growing worse.
– Exactly. Even the Chinamen are leaving it. Why?
– Because they cannot get a living there.
– Because it is evident that the interior of the country upon which alone the ports can- exist will not support even a Chinese population. That is the real reason. If ever an experiment in railway development promised to be successful it was the experiment which was conducted in connexion with the Port Darwin to Pine Creek line. The original route was planned to pass through the heart of the country to Oodnadatta. In furtherance of that policy, South Australia extended the railway from Oodnadatta to Hergott, at a cost of between ^£2, 000, 000 and £3,000,000. All the time the people remained in the north in the hope that investment or settlement might gradually follow the development of the two railway projects. But these have been failures. That cannot have been from the want of a port, because there is a grand one. It cannot have been because there are no resources within the immediate vicinity of Palmerston, because every mem ber of this Parliament who visited the Territory saw surface indications that it was possibly a rich portion of Australia. These two circumstances do not account for the failure; and, therefore, we are driven back to the only remaining consideration, that, for the most part, the country at the back of it is such as will not support a population. When the development of that country is the sole consideration, we have a right to consider an alternative developmental line; and no Government has the right to bind this Parliament hand and foot, so to speak, as to what other line of development it shall choose, in order that the Territory shall be what we hope it will be, one of the bulwarks of Australia. Let me now state the indebtedness of South Australia on the Northern Territory. Taking, first, the loans spent, less loans outstanding and unexpended, the total debt is £2,718,939. Then there is an accrued deficit, called the Advance Account, amounting to £779,734, making a total indebtedness of £3,498,673 on the Territory and the Pine Creek railway. I have not given the details of the figures, but I have taken them from the memorandum drawn up by a former Minister when we were considering this question. I still think that if we are going to spend any money, the word “nationalization” is not a sufficient objection to our examining the accounts. Now, let us see what the expenditure amounted to. The interest on the loans and the sinking fund, at the 30th June, 1909, including the interest on the deficit of £779,734, that is the Advance Account, amounted to £140,763, and the excess of expenditure over revenue amounted to ,£16,749. In other words, there was a total annual loss of £157,512 on the administration of the Territory. We are asked to take over an annual deficit of £164,398. What is the position? We are to start with an annual expenditure of £164,398, without the slightest indication that there will be a return of one penny. For some years, we shall have to provide that sum out of revenue, in order to keep the Territory going in its present unsatisfactory position, and we shall be saddled with a capital debt of £3,498,673. Suppose that the Parliament did decide to take over the Territory with its indebtedness. We might be able to consider even the expenditure of these millions, if our hands were free as to our developmental lines. But, under the agreement, we are driven further. We are driven to consider the linking up of that railway with the line tr>
Oodnadatta from Port Augusta, and there they want to pile on still more unremunerative expenditure. The loss on that railway amounts to £2,242,342, and the annual loss on the working of the same, and the providing of a £ per cent, sinking fund, amounts to £77.694- Now, putting the two together, because that is the obligation which the agreement imposes on the Commonwealth, on the Pine Creek railway and the Advance Account we are saddled with an expenditure of £3,498,000; and on the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway with a further expenditure of £2,242,342. making a total liability of £5,74°>342For the last twenty years, this money has not earned anything. What prospect have we that, if we take over this liability, we shall get any return? How can it be shown that Australia will be better defended by taking over the liability ? No supporter on the other side has shown where, if we link up the two lines, we shall get a return. That being so, we are asked to pay a remarkably dear price, at the expense of what is called national sentiment, from the point of view that there is no other way of developing the Territory and of defending that unoccupied area. It is well known that it was on these grounds that some Queenslanders, including myself, strongly opposed the Bill on a previous occasion. There is not a scintilla of evidence to show how, if we are to be bound down as to any railway route, we shall be any nearer the object which we seek to achieve by linking up in some form the railway -systems of Australia. Not only must we take over the two lines with their indebtedness, but another hard-and-fast condition is attached, and that is that we must connect Pine Creek with Oodnadatta. If the Territory is traversed by that route, the distance will be a little over 1,100 miles, but if the connecting link is taken a little east of Lake Eyre, the total distance for which the Commonwealth will be responsible will be about 1,350 miles, and the shortest possible distance will be about 1,200 miles. The expenditure on the connecting link and the two terminal portions will represent to us a liability of £10,000,000 When the proposition is regarded from a financial stand-point, surely it must be perceived that we shall never get even an attempt at land settlement? Neither the last nor the present Government, nor any other Government, has given an answer to that aspect of the question. I still contend that the line of development in the Territory is not as indicated in the agreement. On the contrary, by looking at the States of Queensland and New South Wales we have every assurance that if the route can be “ swung “ to some extent it will be, if not remunerative at the beginning, reproductive and developmental in the course of a few years. It is impossible for any person who looks at the map, and keeps in mind how Australia has developed, and the causes thereof, not to see that Queensland and New South Wales hold the key of the position, because it is in those States that the development if going on. For many years, in both Queensland and New South Wales, it was thought that Australia was, as the maps indicated in our early youth, a great desert. I can remember the time when, as quite a child, I used to look at the maps on the walls of an Australian school. We had a map of Australia, and right along its centre, from a little north of where Perth is now to where Brisbane is, were printed the words “ Great Australian Desert.” It was not until the gold discoveries in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, that people were attracted to that country, and then they found that, after all, the centre of Australia was not a great desert. Even the people of New South Wales did not know the extent of their own resources for many years. Queensland was one of the last to realize its wealth. One of the richest and most fertile portions of the continent was found to be that which previously had been regarded as a desert. In furtherance of its developmental policy, a steady scheme of railway construction was proceeded with in Queensland from 1885 onwards.
– What has that to do with this Bill?
– I want to show that the further we get from the great lines of Queensland and New South Wales the less chance there is of those, or other, lines being developmental. In Queensland we have spent millions of pounds in extending our lines from four points into the interior, in order to prove whether it was worthy of development or not, and the enormous expenditure was justified by the results.
– I think we ought to have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.’]
– It is evident that there must be at some time or other a railway through the interior for developmental purposes. On this point I desire to lay before the Senate some striking facts as to the results of the developmental policy in Queensland. lt has to be remembered that to a very large extent railway construction there has proceeded towards the western border. The total earnings of the Queensland railways in 1905 amounted to £1, 483,535- In I9°9 they amounted to £2,218,194. Those figures are remarkably strong. The export of wool alone from western lines amounted in 1905 to £2,649,751, and in 1909 to £4,811,279. These figures show that the nearer Queensland development has gone towards the centre of Australia, the more remunerative her railways have become. The cattle in Queensland in 1905 numbered 2,963,695, and in 1909, 4,711,782. The sheep within the same period increased from 12,500,000 to 19,300,000.
– The honorable senator is now discussing the development of Queensland. I do not know whether he intends to connect his remarks with the subject before the Senate.
– My point is that these figures show that the prosperity of Queensland has increased the more she has developed the country lying towards her western boundary. I argue, therefore, that the proper way to develop the Northern Territory is to build a railway that would open up the country to the west of the Queensland border. The Northern Territory has been in process of development as long as has Queensland. But what have the results been? Mr. Nicholson Waters, in his report for 1905, says that he estimates that there were in the Northern Territory at that date nearly rr, 000 horses, 250,000 cattle, 60,000 sheep, and 12,000 goats. That is all ! Yet immediately to the eastward there has been a tale of continuous development and progress. Do not these facts show that if we are. to develop the Northern Territory we must rely upon linking it up as far as we can with the country lying just over its eastern border? A good deal has been said in the reports that have been presented to us to the effect that -he country in the neighbourhood of the Macdonnell Ranges is a sort of Paradise. Senator Millen has dealt effectively with that point. On the other hand, other critics have observed that the country is really a desert. I have no doubt that some of the opinions expressed have been pessi mistic. But there is one factor that cannot be explained away, and that is borne in upon us by a study of a rainfall map. Such a map shows that nature herself has imposed a bar against a railway through the Northern Territory ever being remunerative. A rainfall map of Australia shows that for the most part the coastal districts enjoy a liberal supply. They are marked with dark lines. The darkness of the lines decreases in tone as one goes towards the centre. The centre of Australia has, indeed, been described by Professor Gregory as “ The dead heart of Australia.” To some extent I regret that that expression has been used. It is not a pleasant term to apply to any part of this country.
– There is no “ dead heart “ in Australia.
– I am simply quoting Professor Gregory.
– Does the honorable senator indorse his statement?
– It is not a matter of indorsing the statement, but of appealing to the rainfall map.
– If the fact is there, the denial of it will not alter it.
– Some people would deny that the sun rose yesterday if it suited their purpose. I can appeal to the rainfall map, which can be seen in the Library. It shows that, inside the area I have described, we shall be face to face with one of the great geographical difficulties of Australia. Outside that area, there is country with a rainfall which entitles us to hope that it may be profitably settled. My contention is that the proper developmental policy to be adopted in connexion with the Northern Territory is that which has been followed in other parts of Australia. Development must proceed from the coast. Whoever heard of a country being developed from its desert interior, its ‘ ‘ dead heart,” outwards? The arid interior of the country can only be successfully occupied by a process of development advancing on lines along which nature will assist the advance. I contend that it is through the railway system of Queensland we can most, successfully develop the Northern Territory. I ask whether representatives of South Australia, who are continually preaching Nationalism, and our duty to the Commonwealth as a whole, are willing to take that view. The railway policies adopted in more than one of the States show that it is from the east and from the seaboard that the attempt should be made to settle the interior of Australia. If we proceed to develop the Territory on the lines I have indicated, we shall, at the same time, adopt the best possible means for the defence of Australia. Will the supporters of this Bill advance any argument against that contention? The history of the management of the Territory by South Australia has shown that, notwithstanding lavish expenditure, she has entirely failed to settle it! Can any honorable senator who supports the proposal made in this Bill for the linking up of Pine Creek with Oodnadatta, show that any better results than have been secured by South Australia in the past are likely to follow from it? From where are we to draw our means of defence of the Territory, if the Imperial Navy should cease for a time to hold the supremacy of the sea, and an enemy should effect a landing at Port Darwin? The readiest and best line of approach for any defensive force would be from Queensland and New South Wales; and yet, in this Bill, we are being asked, for purposes of defence, to construct a line which will double or treble the distance over which men, supplies, and munitions of war would require to be taken for the defence of the Territory. The Minister of Defence has reports dealing with this matter. Some of them, of course, must be strictly confidential ; but I should like to ask him whether, from his knowledge of them, he is able to say which of the two routes suggested should be selected in the interests of the defence of the country? If the honorable senator were in a position to tell the experts of his Department that Parliament was willing to give him £5,000,000 to build a railway for the defence of Australia in the Northern Territory, and he asked them to advise him as to the best strategic line and the route it should take, will any member of the Senate say that one of the experts would suggest the adoption of a direct line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek? I cannot speak authoritatively on the question; but I have heard military authorities and others address themselves to it, and contend that the only practical railway policy to adopt for defence purposes would be to link up the existing railway systems in the way I have indicated. If the Government are in earnest in suggesting the needs of defence as a justification for the expenditure of this enormous sum of money, why do they not enable us to consider a proposal for the acceptance of the Territory from that national point of view ? Why is it sought to leg-rope the Commonwealth Parliament in the way pro- posed in this Bill? I can afford to disregard a retort that I have supported a Government that introduced a similar Bill. No Commonwealth Government that has sofar proposed to deal with” the matter has asked this Parliament to take a national view of it. If that had been done, the route of the railway would have been left to the Federal Parliament. I was glad to hear Senator Millen say that, in the action he previously took, he relied upon assurances that, under the last agreement, the Commonwealth would have some freedom to swing the railway out of the direct line; but it is quite clear that under the agreement now before the Senate, it would be quite impossible for the Commonwealth to swing that line out of the Northern Territory. In view of the disastrous failure which has so far attended every attempt to develop the Northern Territory, why should this Parliament be prevented from considering any other railway policy but one for its development? I say that no Government has any right to consider its political skin in dealing with this matter. No Go- vernment has any right, and I hope the present Government will not do so, to bring pressure to bear upon their supporters in the consideration of the question. It will be remembered that the late Government did not do so, because some of their supporters were amongst the most vigorous opponents of the proposal. I hope that if the Bill is read a second time, an amendment will be carried in Committee which will enable the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with the matter on national lines. I intend to give honorable senators the benefit of some personal experiences in the Northern Territory. I was a member of the party who were given an opportunity to see the Territory for themselves. It was considered advisable that members of this Parliament who could take advantage of the opportunity should be in a position to compare the reports on the question with their personal observations and experience. The most remarkable feature I noticed at Port Darwin was the feeling of despair common to every white man in the Territory as to its future. Every one we met was anxious to know what the Commonwealth was go ing to do with the Territory.
– The honorable senator was there for only about five minutes.
- Senator Needham is always romancing, and it is unnecessary to take him seriously. I had aconversation with a prominent resident of
Palmerston, who is in business there. I asked him to state frankly to myself and others, what the people of the Territory believed should be done. I told him who I was, and the business on whichI had come, and to the direct question, ‘ What do you think is the best to be done to develop the Northern Territory?” the answer I got was, “ Drive all the South Australians into the sea.”
– Was he a Chinaman?
– No, he was not. I shall not give the gentleman’s name, but I may say that he was a white man, and a Britisher. When he made that remarkable statement I told him that South Australia had done a great deal for the Territory in spending money on the construction of a railway line through some of the good country, and when I said, “I should have thought that the desire of the residents of the Territory was to drive out the Chinese,” his answer was, “ The South Australians are worse than the Chinese.”
– What was his name?
– I can give the honorable senator the name privately. This man was settled in the Territory, and in business there. When I asked him why he said that the South Australians were worse even than the Chinese, his answer was, “ The Northern Territory has been looked upon as an exploiting ground for South Australia. We have always been regarded as a suburb of Adelaide. We are under the thumb of Adelaide, and the people there will not allow anything to be done in the Northern Territory, unless, and when, the interests of Adelaide require it.”
– That is what the people of North Queensland say about Brisbane.
– I do not indorse the statement. I thought this man was doing South Australia an injustice to some extent.
– He did not know it was loaded.
– Why does the honorable senator quote him?
- Senator Lynch now knows that the question was loaded, and when Senator Vardon asks me why I quote the reply,I say that there is this element of truth in it that the failure tosettle and develop the Territory, whether intentional or not, on the part of South
Australia, has been due to the fact that the authorities in that State have regarded as the only possible line of development a line through the Territory, and a connexion with Adelaide.
– The question is whether we should ratify this agreement or not.
– I have heard leading representatives of South Australia say that that State does not care two straws whether this agreement is ratified or not. I have seen comments in the journals of the State to the same effect.
– Hear, hear.
– Very well; it is a matter of£10,000,000 expenditure to the Commonwealth if the agreement is ratified, and we have, therefore, a right to be particularly careful as to its terms.
– That does not represent more than 6d. an acre for the Territory to be handed over to the Commonwealth.
– If we are to take that view of the matter I am entitled to say that the whole Territory is not worth that at the present time, and never has been during the last thirty or forty years. The reason for this is, as the Palmerston resident explained, that it has been treated largely as a suburb or annexe of Adelaide. On the other hand, if South Australia exhibited the courage which Queensland displayed
– By bringing in coloured labour?
– The honorable senator ought not to make misstatements in regard to South Australia.
– I cannot simultaneously reply to two interjections. The Minister of Defence is labouring under a great delusion if he imagines that the development of Queensland has in any way been dependent upon the employment of coloured labour.
– Mining operations in that State have been its salvation.
– The Minister of Defence is suffering from a delusion if he imagines that the development of Queensland is in any way attributable to the employment of coloured labour.
– I do not say that it’ is attributable to that. But I do say that coloured labour was introduced with the object of developing it.
– The honorable gentleman is a trifle premature. He swallowed the bait a little too soon. My reply to him is that only in an infinitesimal degree is the development of Queensland due to the employment of black labour. That State would have been just as well off to-day if coloured labour had never been introduced there.
– I hope that the honorable senator does not intend to pursue that line of argument.
– I do not. I believe that South Australia could develop the Northern Territory if it proceeded upon lines similar to those upon which Queensland has been developed. The latter State has expended millions of pounds in the development of country which at one time was regarded as worthless.
– -The honorable senator has made a similar statement in regard to the Northern Territory.
– And it is just as much a misstatement in the one case as in the other .
– If the Northern Territory is the country which South Australians believe it to be, and which their official reports declare it to be, that State need not come as a beggar to the Commonwealth asking for £10,000,000.
– She does not come as a beggar.
– I object to the farce which is presented by the statement that South Australia does not approach the Commonwealth as a beggar. There is quite a halo around the head of Senator Vardon when he declares that the State which he represents is offering the Commonwealth a regular Bonanza. It is prepared to surrender this priceless heritage in order that the Commonwealth may be strengthened. I wonder why my South Australian friends have no sense of humour. Senator Vardon. - Did South Australia approach the Commonwealth with a request that it should take over the Northern Territory ?
– If it did not, what is the meaning of the agreement which we are asked to ratify? Was there never such a person in existence as the late. Mr. Price? Does Senator Vardon mean to suggest that Mr. Deakin went down on his knees to that gentleman, and preferred a request that the Commonwealth should be permitted to take over the Territory?
– No. Two plain, sensible business men came together and entered into the agreement which is now before us.
– Whenever we point out the difficulty of developing the Northern Territory by constructing a railway along the route which has been outlined, the same old cry is raised, namely, “It is a national duty.” If we do not subscribe to the agreement which has been entered into, we are branded as traitors to Australia. My honorable friends from South Australia are great patriots, every one of them. Whenever it suits their purposes they exclaim that the undertaking is a great patriotic one. They remind me very much of Johnson’s splendid definition of patriotism with certain modifications.
– The honorable senator’s idea of patriotism is to benefit his own State. That is why he opposes the Bill.
– Whether or not the Commonwealth constructs the transcontinental line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, Queensland is going to have the Northern Territory.
– Now the cat is out of the bag.
– No. It will not be a case of political annexation or of thimble- rigging the political market. It will be the result of the enterprise of the people of Queensland, backed up By their natural and geographical position.
– That sounds all right.
– It is an absolute fact. Cannot the Minister, with the aid of a little imagination, learn the lesson which is to be learnt from a study of the map which is now hanging in the Chamber? Less than thirty years ago the tropical railways of Queensland were built. Within the past twenty-five years those lines have been extended west, and every mile of them is being followed by settlement, mining and pastoral. Between Cloncurry and Camooweal there is good country. Any person who chooses to look at the map must recognise that the construction of a railway from Port Darwin to Port Augusta will not affect Queensland, because that State will be bound to take advantage of its geographical position to extend its lines right out to the Territory. Consequently, she has a right to object to being saddled with the responsibility of contributing to the building of a railway through the Northern Territory - a railway which, in the light of experience, cannot become remunerative for centuries. No amount of cavil can overcome these facts. Settlement is proceeding all along the Queensland linesof railway, but is diminishing in South Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.45 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Walker) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [7.46]. - I like Senator Walker very much, as we all do, but I must say that I do not like his Bill. I am sure, that he knowing the high esteem I have for him, will believe me when I say that hitherto I have abstained from speaking on the Bill, either in the form in which it was introduced last session, or in the form in which it was introduced this session, because of my unwillingness to oppose it if that could be avoided. But I feel somehow that I must take this opportunity to explain my attitude and my feelings of apprehension with respect to it. I think that, my honorable friend will not feel hurt if I say that, in my opinion, it is rather a foolish and illconsidered Bill. It really purports to interfere, in a way which I do not think has been quite realized, with the Statutes, the charters, and the articles of association under which the different banking companies in the States have been established.
I shall welcome the time when we have a Commonwealth banking law, and a Commonwealth companies law. I am sorry that we have not, but, of course, the Parliament of the Commonwealth cannot do everything at once. Men are merely human ; their powers and energies are limited. I do not like to see a Bill of this sort dealing with any matter either permissively or otherwise in relation to banking companies unless as part of a general Commonwealth banking law. My honorable friend, at whose feet I sit, is an expert in banking. This measure does not deal exactly with a matter relating to banking, but with a matter which affects the constitution and foundation of companies carrying on the business of banking in the States, in many instances by Statutes, in some instances by charters, and in other instances under the Companies Act, as limited companies under memorandum and articles of association. I do not think that the framer of this measure -of course my honorable friend is not its framer - had sufficiently thought out what he was doing when he considered clause 2. He is dealing there with the constitution and the powers of companies which are established in pursuance of charters or articles of association under the Companies Act, or the law of the State. The framer of the Bill - unconsciously I am quite sure - seeks to interfere with State institutions established by Statute, and otherwise, with particular constitutions of their own. My honorable friend, I am sure, will tell me, if he knows, whether there may not be in some of these Statutes, or charters, or articles of association prohibitions against provisions of this kind.
Senator Lt. -Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Nonsense !
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [8.20].- I have had the privilege of listening to the whole of Senator Symon’s criticism of the Bill. It was very captious criticism in many respects. It is a matter for regret that the honorable senator was unable to deliver his speech on the second reading of the Bill. I think that a great deal of his opposition to it arises from a misconception as to what Senator Walker desires to accomplish, and as to the reserve liability with which the measure deals. The honorable senator is aware of the nature of the reserve liability which Senator Walker wishes to protect, but I doubt very much whether, after listening to his speech, honorable senators generally have as clear a view of the position. It is just as well, in the circumstances, that a few observations should be made to clear up issues which have been clouded by Senator Symon. The primary object of Senator Walker is to protect the reserve liability which rests upon the shareholders of a bank.
This measure, if enacted, would be as applicable to a bank in Western Australia as to a bank in Queensland or New South Wales. As it is only a small instalment of banking law, and deals with one principle only, it can be safely taken in hand by a private senator. If Senator Walker, or any other senator, proposed to bring in a general banking Bill, I should say at once that the responsibility properly rested with the Government.
.- When this Bill was in Committee I succeeded in securing the insertion of a new clause giving a definition of “ net profits.” That definition was drafted hurriedly by me while I was standing on my feet, and I had no opportunity of studying “the best language to use. Senator Walker stated that he would agree to recommit the Bill afterwards, in order that the amendment might be properly drafted in legal phraseology.
– The honorable senator had his opportunity last week and did not avail himself of it.
– I have my opportunity now. This is the proper stage at which to secure my object. The honorable senator can please himself as to whether he will adopt the usual course that is binding upon a gentleman - namely, that of keeping his word.
– I kept my word last week.
– The honorable senator did nothing of the sort, and if he goes back on his word to-night I tell him plainly that in the future I shall not take his word as being worth a straw.
– The honorable senator has only to read Hansard to see that I did keep my word.
– This is the’ proper time to recommit the Bill. Senator Walker can please himself as to whether he will do so or not. It is entirely a matter for himself. I should have had nothing to say on the measure to-night except for the purpose of suggesting a recommittal, were it not for the excellent example that has been set by Senator Symon and Senator Gould. When two such distinguished members of the Senate offer an example it is only fair that a humble individual like myself should profit by it. I shall, therefore, take advantage of this opportunity to express my views upon the Bill once more. I will admit that the measure is a much better one now than it was when originally drafted by Senator Walker. It is a better Bill than it was when introduced this year. The criticisms that have been levelled against it have served to inform even Senator Walker as to the serious nature of his proposal. It would not be a bad thing if the measure were delayed for one year more. We should then probably secure further improvements. What is the original purpose for which such Conservative Legislatures as the House of, Commons and the New South Wales Par liament inserted in the Acts governing certain banks a provision to the effect that bankdirectors should not, except in the event of liquidation, call up the reserve liability of their shareholders ? If honorable senators: ask that question and insist upon an honest answer, they will understand the whole meaning of this Bill. The real reason why the provision to which I have referred was inserted in the original charters of some of the banks was to compel shareholders, or directors acting for them, to conduct: their business on such cautious lines that they would never be faced with the punishment under which they lay with respect to their reserve liability. “ If this Bill be carried, it will provide an easy way for shareholders to evade that punitive provision. It is very plausible for Senator W!alker to say,’ and for Senator Gould to reiterate, that it is better to have the money available in the event of its being required than to rely upon the chance of getting it out of the shareholders. But I reply that the money is much more likely to be required if this safety provision is removed from the charters of the banks than will be the case if that provision is left unimpaired. Because the directors and shareholders of banks, knowing that they are faced with this liability all the time, will manage their business on such safe and cautious lines that they may never expect to be faced with such a disaster as liquidation. In the crisis of 1893, the safest banks in Australia were those that were faced with this liability. Nearly all the banks that had not that provision in their charters failed, and brought disaster, not only on their shareholders, but on the public.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will be good enough to look a.t this copy of Hansard, which will show him that I did not break my word to him.
– The honorable senator told me that he was prepared to recommit the Bill.
– The honorable senator had a week’s notice.
– I had nothing of the kind. I had no idea that the Bill was going to pass through Committee this day week. I have since taken an opportunity of consulting the Crown Law officers for the purpose of having my new clause redrafted.
– I promise that when the Bill gets to another place I will get the honorable member who takes charge of it there to see Senator Givens with the object of inserting the clause that he wishes.
– The honorable senator can shuffle in any way he likes. He may keep his word or not, as he pleases.
– I rise to order. I have already kept my word, as Hansard shows. The honorable senator has no right to insinuate that I did not keep my word.
– I did not insinuate. I am not in the habit of insinuating anything. An insinuation is quite different from a plain blunt statement, and I make the plain blunt statement that Senator Walker broke his word to me. Resuming the thread of my argument, I say again that this Bill removes a safeguard which has been established in the interests of the public. The shareholders are not the principal persons to be considered in this matter. Whereas a bank may deal with two or three million pounds of money invested in bank shares, it may deal with forty or fifty million pounds of money of depositors. That is to say, a bank might have twenty times as much public money intrusted to its custody as it has money of its own. That being so, it is the interest of the public that most requires to be safeguarded.
– Is there a single public newspaper in Australia that has found fault with this Bill?
– I do not care two straws what the newspapers say. If the newspapers were regarded, there would not be a single senator belonging to my party in this Chamber to-day.
– Take the Sydney Bulletin, which is in favour of the Bill.
– It is very likely that the Bulletin man took only a casual glance at the measure, and that Senator Walker, or some other “ very nice man,” got hold of the writer and secured a kindly criticism in consequence. The public have no safeguard for the enormous sum of money deposited with the banks, beyond that provided by the Acts and charters under which the banks are working. Senator Walker proposes that these safeguards, which have been provided for a very wise purpose, shall be removed, and that the banks shall be allowed to set up a fund free of liability, and then, as they choose, play ducks and drakes with forty or fifty million pounds of- public money, for which the depositors would have no redress, whilst no punishment would fall upon the directors. Senator Gould put the matter very nicely. He argued that in the event of liquidation the reserve fund established would be available for the payment of the liabilities of the bank, but would not be available to relieve the shareholders of their reserve liability. Why should it not be available to pay liabilities before it is available to relieve the shareholders of liability? Why should not the people who have trusted their money to the banks be protected? Why should it be regarded as a hardship upon a bank to have to pay its just debts ? Senator Gould has admitted that the object of the Bill is to enable banking companies to build up enormous reserves, in order to safeguard the interests of their shareholders, because the honorable senator pointed out that if a fund for the purpose were built up without the authority of such a measure as this, it would be available for the payment of the debts of the bank. I contend that every shilling that a bank can put together should be available to meet its debts. Suppose the reserve liability of the shareholders of a bank amounted to £1,500,000, and they built up a fund to the same amount under the authority of such a measure as this, and later, owing to misfortune, adverse circumstances, gross mismanagement, or any other cause, the bank were driven into liquidation, and was unable to meet its debts within, say, £3,000,000, what would happen ? Instead of the shareholders being called upon to suffer in any way, they would merely hand over the ,£1,500,000 they had accumulated to meet their reserve liability, and would then say to the unfortunate creditors of the bank, “ You must be satisfied with that, and ‘ chisel ‘ them out of the other £1,500,000.”
– Might that not happen where no fund was built up under such a measure as this?
– If, in that case, the bank went into liquidation, the creditors would have full recourse in respect of everything possessed by the shareholders to the full extent of their liability. The safeguard provided under the existing legislation is that such a punitive provision induces the shareholders of a bank to take every care that it is run on solvent lines.
– Suppose the total indebtedness exceeded the reserve liability by a certain amount?
– The creditors of the bank would suffer to the extent of the excess by which the total indebtedness exceeded the reserve liability. But under a measure of this kind the shareholders would go free, and they would feel under no obligation, as they do under the punitive provisions of the existing law, to see that the business of the bank was conducted on safe lines. They might, under this proposal, be tempted, in order to make ex cessive profits, to permit the directors to launch out into extravagant schemes which would ultimately land the bank in a mess. We have to protect not only the interests of shareholders, but the interests of the public who may have intrusted £10.000,000 or £40,000,000 to the banks. It is for these reasons, I say, that the Senate should pause before agreeing to pass this Bill. I entirely agree with Senator Symon when he says that a serious measure of this kind should be taken in hand by a responsible Government. It should form part and parcel of a well-considered, comprehensive banking law. We should not pass banking legislation at the invitation of a private member of the Senate. That is a wise view to take of the matter, and on that ground alone the Senate would be justified in refusing to pass this Bill.
– What has the honorable senator to say against Senator Gould’s statement - that what is proposed is a form of insurance in prosperous times against possible loss in a crisis?
– An insurance for whom? I have only to ask that question.
– For the shareholders and depositors.
– For the shareholders, undoubtedly. But so far as the depositors are concerned, it would remove the safeguard provided by existing legislation, and would place them at the mercy of reckless management through lack of interest on the part of the shareholders. I succeeded in carrying an amendment of the Bill providing for a definition of “ net profits” in the following terms - “ Net profits “ means profit after full and due provision for current expenditure has been made and does not include profits from realization of assets or conversion of reserves or any portion of reserves.
– How can that be improved upon?
– I am not speaking to Senator Walker at all now; I have finished with him. When I consulted the Parliamentary Draftsman on this matter, he pointed out that it is exceedingly dangerous to try to define “ net profits.” He said, “ If you do not include everything, everything that is not included may be regarded as available, and it would be much better to say what ‘ net profits ‘ do not mean than to attempt to define what they do mean.” He has suggested the following definition: - “ Net profits “ within the meaning of this Act shall not be deemed to include moneys received from realization of assets or from the conversion of reserves.
I desire that that definition should be substituted for the one which is now included in clause 3 of the Bill, and I therefore move -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 3.”
.– Clause 3 of the Bill was inserted at the special request of Senator Givens, who desired to define the expression “ net profits.” If it will, please the honorable senator, I may say that if the Bill passes in the Senate, I will get the honorable gentleman who will have charge of it in another place to insert the new definition of net profits which he proposes. I think that will be admitted to be a fair offer. This Bill was introduced on the 6th July, and since that date Senator Givens has had ample time to submit his OWn definition of “ net profits.” A fortnight ago I gave the honorable senator a sort of half promise that I would have no objection to his being given an opportunity to deal with the matter on last Thursday. The honorable senator had his opportunity then, and did not avail himself of it. Now he says that he cannot accept my word in the future. I think I shall be able to survive the fact that Senator Givens is not able to accept my word. I have been well known in Australia for the last forty-eight years, and I should not be ashamed to have any one inquire what my character has been in any place in which I have resided. I think I am justified in making a few remarks in reply to this evening’s debate. Senator Symon has come in at the tail of the hunt, and has overlooked the fact that in his absence a full explanation has been given of the various matters to which he has referred. I have quoted the opinion of the Bulletin on this Bill, and only this evening my attention was drawn to a reference to the measure which appears in the financial columns of the Age of yesterday. It is “admitted that the Age is a good commercial paper, and this is what it has to say about this Bill.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in reading from a newspaper comments on a measure before the Senate.
– Then I shall not quote the reference. I suppose I shall be at liberty to read a letter which I received from Brisbane on the 6th September. It is from a well-known Queensland man whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting for twenty-three years. To my agreeable surprise, it appears that the Brisbane Courier last week published the whole of my second-reading speech on this Bill, though it took up four columns of its space. This is what the gentleman to whom I refer has written -
Brisbane, ist September, 1910.
I cannot refrain from offering you my congratulations upon bringing forward “ The Commonwealth Banking Bill.”
I have read in the daily press with great pleasure your able and interesting speech introducing the measure.
Needless to say I fully indorse all you said on the matter, and sincerely trust you may carry it to a successful issue, as no one can really doubt the benefit it will be to the public generally, and to banking business in particular.
Senator Fraser told me only yesterday that he knows this gentleman, and has a high regard for him. I also received on last Monday the following letter from the general manager of the Western Australian Bank- 28th August, 1910.
Dear Mr. Walker,
I am in receipt of your letter of the 15th jast. and shall have very much pleasure in reading your speech in the Senate in connexion with the Bill which you are now introducing. X trust that there will be no factions opposition, and whatever criticisms are levelled against the Bill will be done for the general benefit and not for any personal motive.
I have also a letter in my possession from the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales approving of the Bill.
– No one doubts that.
– The Bank, of New South Wales is the largest and oldest bank in Australia. This evening I had occasion to ask Mr. Wadsworth, the Librarian, if he had in his possession a magazine published some years ago by
asked various members of the Federal Convention to contribute articles, and he asked me to contribute one. I have it here under the heading - “ Banking Crises, Outline of a Federal scheme for their Prevention,” by J. T. Walker, Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, London. President of the Bank of New South Wales. Member of the 1897 Convention for New South Wales.
Do honorable senators think that I, as an ex-president of a bank, do not know what I am talking about when 1 suggest a means by which the shareholders and creditors of a bank can be benefited ? We had gone through the crisis of 1893, and the misery which occurred at that time impressed me with the danger of failing to provide for these reserve liabilities on shares. As Senator Gould has completely answered Senator Symon, it is unnecessary that I should do so in detail. The greatest opponent of this measure is my honorable friend, Senator Givens, if I may call him so, in spite of his statement that I have broken my word to him. He has. opposed this Bill throughout, as he opposed a similar Bill in two previous sessions. The honorable senator and Senator Clemons made certain suggestions for which I am obliged, and I have accepted many of their suggestions. In the circumstances I thought thatSenator Givens would admit that I have shown an honest desire to do what he thinks is right. I have said that the definition of “ net profits” in clause 3 was included in the. Bill at his request. I ask him in all the circumstances not to oppose the adoption of the report any longer. I think the definition of “ net profits “ included in the Bill is a very good definition. I spoke to a lawyer in Sydney on the subject the other day, and he said it was a most difficult thing to give a satisfactory definition of “ net profits.” I have undertaken, should the Bill be passed by the Senate, to see that the honorable gentleman who will have charge of it in another place will propose the insertion of the new definition of “net profits” suggested by Senator Givens. I am prepared to carry out that promise. As Senator Givens merely wishes to have “ net profits “ properly defined, and I have given him my promise that a definition of that term will be inserted in the Bill in the other branch of the Legislature, I think that he ought to be satisfied.
– No promise on the part of the honorable senator is of any value to me.
– I am sorry that Senator Givens will not accept my word. We all recognise that he is a formidable opponent of any Bill to which he takes exception. I have good reason to know this. It is more than two years since I first brought a similarmeasure forward:
– It may be too early for the honorable senator to shout even now.
– I realize that Senator Givens has many excellent points. Nature has bestowed upon him a good Herculean frame and a singularly active mind. He has also cultivated a characteristic Hibernian eloquence. Indeed, if I may be permitted to borrow from the vocabulary of a celebrated Irish- Australian orator - I refer to Mr. Daniel O’Connor, of Sydney - I will say that my honorable friend is endowed with a wonderful Niagaric torrent of words, conjoined with a Demosthenic vehemence of declamation, but unfortunately he has a Himalayan phrenological bump of self-satisfaction which detracts materially from the influence which he might otherwise exert in the councils of this Parliament. I hope that at this stage the debate will not be further prolonged.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … . … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put. The Senate divided.
Majority …… 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19100908_senate_4_56/>.