9th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent, after reservation, reported.
– I have received from Mrs. Massey, widow of the late Prime Minister of New Zealand,. the following letter:- _
Ariki-Toa, 260 Tinakori-road, Wellington, 7th August, 1925.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 14 th July forwarding a bound copy and other copies of resolutions and speeches delivered in both Houses of Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia relating to the death of my husband, the late Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Will you phase accept and convey to members of both Housesmy family’s and my own sincere and heartfelt thanks for the very kind sympathy and condolence extended to us in our groat sorrow, and also an assurance of our very deep appreciation of the resolutions agreed to and the’ tributes paid to Mr Massey’s services.
– Is it correct, as reported in the press, that the Government has invited a delegation from the British Parliament to visit Australia, and, if so, can the Leader of the Government in the Senate say why the invitation was not sent through the Empire Parliamentary . Association?
– The only knowledge I have of the matter is that an invitation has been sent by the Empire Parliamentary Association ; but if the honorable senator will place his question on the business-paper, I shall be in a position to furnish him with a more complete answer.
– I can supplement the reply given by Senator Pearce. The invitation to a delegation from the British Parliament to visit Australia was sent from the Commonwealth branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association with the concurrence of the Prime Minister.
– That is all right, but it is not what was stated in the press.
– I am not responsible for what has appeared in the press.
The following papers were presented : -
Canned Fruit -Bounty Act- Particulars -of Bounty paid, &c, Financial Year 1924-5.
Customs and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1025, No. 83.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules, 1925, No. 132.
Distillation Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, No. 111.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Particulars of Bounty paid, &e., Financial. Year 1924-5..
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act- Statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs of the reasons for allowing the use of certain imported articles in manufactures (Tractors) on which bounty is payable.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired for Defence purposes at Nyngan, New South Wales.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 192:1, No. 133.
Navigation Act - Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, Nos. 73, 80, 86, 87, 97.
New Guinea - Ordinances of 1925 -
No. 20- Supply (No. 1).
No. 21 - Laws Repeal and Adopting (No. 2).
No. 22- Lands Registration (No. 2).
No. 23- Land (No. 2).
No. 24 - Interpretation and Amendments Incorporation.
No. 25 - Land (No. 3).
No. 26 - Administrator’s Powers.
No. 27 - Sanitation.
No. 28- Pounds.
No. 29- Sale of Bread.
No. 30- Dog.
No. 31 - Slaughtering.
No. 32- Rale of Meat.
No. 33 - Venereal Diseases.
Petroleum - Report on Investigations made in New South Wales by Dr. Arthur Wade, D.Sc. (Lond.), M.J.P.T., M.I.M.M., A.R.C.Sc, F.G.S., F.G.S. (America).
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Health- D. A. Tate.
Quarantine Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, No. 134.
Shale Oil Bounty Act - Particulars of Bounty paid, &c, FinancialYear- 1924-5.
Spirits Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1925, No. 88.
Statement showing for specific incomes the advantage of additional interest receivable by converting 4½ per cent, loan (tax free) to 5½ per cent, loan (taxable) after making an allowance for the additional income tax payable on the taxable interest received.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Particulars of Bountypaid, &c, Financial Year 1924-5.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Particulars of Bounty paid,. &c, Financial year 1924-5.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
– On the14th
August Senator J. Grant asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following answers: -
– On the 14th August Senator J. Grant asked -
I am now in a position to supply the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– This question should have been addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. The answers are as follow : -
Engineering Standards Association
Appointment of Panels and Sub-Panels
asked the Minister for Markets and’ Migration, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow.: -
Consideration resumed from 14th August (vide page 1444).
The construction of a railway in North Australia shall not be authorized . by the Parliament except in pursuance of an Act of the Parliament, the bill for which was introduced into the House of Representatives : by or on behalf of the Minister.
If, upon consideration of the report furnished by the Commission in pursuance of subsection (6) of the last preceding section, the Minister proposes to introduce into the ‘House of Representatives a bill for the purpose of authorizing -the construction of a railway in North Australia, the Minister shall so inform the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and shall . require the Commissioner to transmit to him the following information: -
A plan of the railway and of the lands through which it is to pass;
Upon which Senator J. Grant had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “ railway,” sub-elause (a), the following words be inserted: - “of the standard gauge of 4-ft. 8½-in.”
– The Commonwealth has, in the northern part of the Northern Territory, cne short stretch of railway on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and it also possesses another comparatively short stretch of the same gauge from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. I understand that it is seriously intended to proceed with . the construction of lines in the Northern Territory on this gauge. I quite realize that the railways in Queensland are almost wholly of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and lines of- similar width -obtain, in Western Australia. If that had been (he gauge adopted in Victoria and . South Australia, I should have raised no objection to the present proposal. But in view of the Commonwealth policy of unification of railway gauges, and in view of the fact that im pursuance of that policy the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane is to be built on the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge, serious consideration should be given to the advisability -of building further 3-ft. 6-in. lines. I gather from the remarks of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) that the ‘lines to fee built in the Northern Territory will be of the smaller gauge. This will necessitate all produce from the Territory, consigned to Adelaide or Bourke, or any other station in South Australia or New South Wales, being transferred from one set of trucks to another. All the devices yet invented . to overcome our break of gauge difficulties have failed, and it is recognized to-day by competent engineers that the only solution is to unify the gauges. ‘The 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge is now accepted all over the world . as the standard gauge. If 3-ft. 6-in. gauge lines are built in North Australia, Queensland will reap a big advantage. Notwithstanding the opinion- of . some people that the railway -traffic fromNorth Australia will flow to Port Augusta by the direct north-south ‘lino when it. is built, I consider that it will flow to Townsville or some other Queensland port. Some of it may go to New South Wales via Bourke. If we build 3- ft. 6-jn. gauge railway lines in North Australia we shall ultimately have to convert them to the standard gauge. Sooner or later all our Australian railways must be converted to the uniform gauge. No one cau say how many millions of pounds this work would cost now, and every year’s delay is increasing the amount. Victoria, for instance, is extending her 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railways into the Riverina. I do not blame her for so doing, for she has obtained the consent of the New South Wales Government, but those lines will sooner or later, have to be practically rebuilt on the standard gauge. Railway construction is only beginning in North Australia. The few hundred miles already constructed are not worth considering. In ‘these circumstances it is folly for us not to state definitely in this bill that all future construction must be on the 4- ft. 8i-in. gauge. I submit that this is -the proper time for us to provide for that being done, and I therefore ask honorable senators to vote for my amendment.
– Many of us agree with a good deal that the honorable senator has said, but it appears to its that his remarks are not apropos, for we are not now considering a proposal for the construction of either 3-ft. 6-in.. or 4-ft. 8^-in. railways. Nothing in- this measure will compel the commission to adopt either one gauge or the other. The clause before the Chair provides that before any railways are constructed parliamentary authority shall be obtained by means of the passing, of a bill.. When such a bill is before the Senate, Senator J. Grant, if he is still here, will ha>ve an opportunity to discuss the question of gauges. It is quite possible that the commission will recommend the adoption of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge; but, on the other hand, it may consider the building of a light 2-f t. 6-in. gauge line advisable for developmental purposes.. We ought not to hamper it by compelling it to adopt the 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge. I ask the committee not to accept the amendment, but to leave the matter for Parliament to- determine at the proper time.
– There is a good deal of common sense in what Senator J. Grant has said, and 1 should feel inclined to support him were it not for the fact that the clause provides that all proposals for railway construction in North and Central Australia shall be submitted to Parliament. I understand that a plan of all proposed railways must be submitted to Parliament, in which case it will be able to determine the gauge of the line.
– -The plan of a railway would necessarily show the gauge.
– I realize thatfor developmental purposes it may beconsidered desirable to use quite a narrow gauge in some districts; a light railway or tramway might be built. Seeing that Parliament will be the final arbiter in this matter, I am satisfied.
.- What would be the difference between the cost of a given railway built on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge as against the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge?
– A great deal.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. I believe the difference in cost, especially when bridges and earth works are taken, into consideration, would be merely nominal.
– It would cost at least 33 l-3rd per cent, more to build a 4-ft. 8J-in. than it would to build a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line.
– With all due respect to the honorable senator, I do not think that the difference would be anything like as much as that.
– It would depend upon, the nature of the country. In hilly country the cost might be more than, a third greater, whereas in. flat country it might not be quite so great.
-(Senator Newland). - This discussion is hardly relevant to the clause before the Chair.
– That may be so. sir, but I am prepared to go to almost any length to prevent the perpetration of this injustice.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to> proceed amy further along that line-.
– I do not, desire to come into conflict with your ruling, sir, but as the Minister was permitted to discuss this question, I thought I would. be given some latitude. Senator Thompson stated that it would cost 33 l-3rd more to build a 4-ft. 8^ -in. gauge line than one on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and Senator J. B. Hayes supported this statement. I disagree with their view. But I shall content myself for ‘the present with the statement that, in my opinion, the committee will commit a huge blunder if it countenances in any way the building of railways in North Australia on any other than the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge.
– Paragraph b provides that the Commissioner of Railways shall furnish the Minister with - a book of reference in which shall be set Forth the names of the owners of the said lands so far as can with reasonable diligence be ascertained, a description of the said lands showing the bearings of the railway and the nature and quality of cultivation, the state of the enclosures (if any) and the quantity of the land required for the purpose of the railway.
The words, ‘ ‘ so far as can with reasonable diligence be ascertained.” appear unnecessary.
– The same words are embodied in every railways act.
– That may be so, but they appear to provide an unnecessary loop-hole.
– Sometimes the names of the owners of the land cannot be ascertained.
– Such words will not be of any assistance to the commissioner.
– Yes, they will be.
– If they are allowed to remain in the clause the commissioner will be able to say that reasonable diligence has been exercised when, perhaps, it has not been. Who is to be the judge as to the diligence, - reasonable or otherwise, exercised?
– In that case, the Minister would be the judge.
– Such a question should not be determined by the Minister.
– The construction of a railway might be held up because the name of the owner of one piece of land could not be ascertained.
– If after the exercise of reasonable diligence the commissioner was unable to ascertain the names of the owners of certain blocks of land he could report accordingly. I believe the commissioner will exercise reasonable care, but the inclusion of the words to which I have referred appear quite unnecessary. If they are deleted as I suggest, the commissioner will not be hampered in any way.
– What difference does it make?
– If they are allowed to remain the commissioner may have an excuse for not exercising reasonable diligence.
Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Home and Territories) [3.381. - The Deputy -Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) appears to be under the impression that this paragraph relates to the acquisition of the land, but it does not. It deals only with the presentation of the Railways Commissioner’s report, which comes before Parliament accompanied by a plan showing the land to be acquired and a book of reference to the plan, in which the names of the owners of the land must be given. In some instances it may be impossible, to ascertain the names of the owners of certain blocks. In such circumstances the commissioner will have the opportunity to say that he has displayed reasonable diligence in endeavouring to ascertain the names, and if unable to do so, he can present his report. If these words were deleted he could not submit i report until the names of the owners of every block of land had been ascertained. Some of the land near Darwin was sold 100 years ago, and I am not prepared to say that, even with the exercise of reasonable diligence, the names of the owners of some of that land could now be ascertained. Some of it has never been used, and probably the titles were considered by the owners to be of so little value that they have been lost or destroyed. If these words were deleted and the commissioner could not ascertain the names of the owners, he would be unable to submit his report.
.- I am not confusing this paragraph with the provision relating to the acquisition of land which appears in another part of the bill. Notwithstanding the Minister’s statement, I am still convinced that the words are unnecessary. The Minister has said that if they were -to cost under or over £25,000, the sanction of Parliament will have to be obtained ia one way or another.. Senator Findley is wrong in assuming that the commission will have power to expend sums not exceeding £25,000 without any reference to the Minister or to Parliament. Parliament will, Erst of all, have to vote the lump sum for certain itemized works.
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) 13.48]. - I appreciate the information which the Minister has furnished to me. I am quite aware that the commission will not be able to expend any money unless it has been voted by Parliament j but if Parliament votes a lump sum for developmental purposes the commission may proceed with works that will cost not more than £25,000.
– Those works will already have been submitted to the Minister in the form of a schedule. If, for instance, £50,000 has been sought for carrying out boring operations, and has been included in the lump sum voted, the commission will not be able to expend that amount in road-making.
– Do I understand that the commission will have to devote the individual sums wholly and .solely to the items that have been submitted ?
– Does the “ act of Parliament “ referred to in sub-clause 1 take the place of a reference to the Public Works Committee?
– At present, when the Government desires to undertake any work that is estimated to cost more than £25,000, the House of Representatives is asked to pass a motion referring the matter to the Public Works Committee. Under this clause there is to be no reference whatever to that committee.
– That point is raised in the next clause.
– I am aware of that. But am I .to understand that this clause provides that an act of Parliament will replace the reference to the Public Works Committee, and that a special bill will be brought in to authorize any work which costs more than £25,000?
– That is so.
– Sub-clause 2 provides that if the commission is of opinion that the. construction of any work is desirable it shall so report to the Minister, upon which the Minister will do certain things. Sub-clause 4 provides that upon the receipt of plans, specifications, and estimates prepared in pursuance of sub-clause 3, the Minister shall refer them to the commission for consideration, .and .require the commission to say whether in its opinion it is still expedient .to carry out the proposed work. There seems to me to be a certain amount of redundancy about this, and I should like the Minister to explain why the commission is to be asked to express a second time an opinion which it has already given that a work should be carried out.
– It is not intended to burden the commission with a large technical staff which could not be fully employed. If it expresses the opinion that a certain work should be carried out the Minister refers it to the Minister for Works and Railways, who has the necessary technical staff. That staff prepares plans and specifications and an estimate of the cost of the proposed undertaking, and gives its opinion as to how best it could be carried out. All this information is supplied to the Minister in control of the Territory, and by him referred to the commission. When the latter sees what the work is likely to cost it may not think it worth while to ;go on with it. But if it is still of opinion that the work should be proceeded with, it informs the Minister accordingly, and he may then bring in the necessary bill to give authority for carrying it out.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 -
The provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921 shall not apply in relation to any public work to which the provisions of any of the last three preceding sections apply.
.- I shall vote against this clause, because I do not think the Commonwealth Public Works Committee should be deprived of its right to investigate all proposed works estimated to cost more than £25,000.
– The honorable senator would have the Public Works Committee sent up to the north every few weeks. eliminated the commissioner would be at a dead end.
– He could not present his report.
– He could report that he had made careful and exhaustive inquiries.
– Parliament has provided that the names must .be supplied.
– Although Parliament has provided that the names of the owners of the land must be supplied, the commissioner could say that exhaustive inquiries had been made, and they could not be ascertained.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 (Construction of .public works exceeding £25,000).
– The Government, no doubt, had a good reason for the insertion of this clause in. the bill; but I think that wes should, nevertheless, have from the Minister (Senator Pearce) a statement showing the wisdom of clothing the commission with power to undertake works that are estimated to cost not more than £25,000 without previously referring the matter to Parliament.
– The matter will come before Parliament in another way.
– If the bill is. passed in its present form, the commission will have power to proceed with very big works that separately may not cost £25,000, but in the aggregate may cost a very much larger sum, without first consulting Parliament.
– That is not so. There will be a difference in the method of consulting Parliament.
– I understood the Minister, when moving the motion for the second reading of the bill, to say that works, the cost of which would not exceed £25,000, could be undertaken by the commission, but that works estimated to cost more than that amount would first have to receive the approval of Parliament.
[3.421. - There are two ways in which Parliament will authorize the works that will be undertaken by the commission. Honorable’ senators will see by clause 18 that the commission will have to prepare and submit to the Minister a scheme for the development of a prescribed part of the territory, together with information and explanations in detail in relation thereto. If the Minister gives his approval the commission will have to take the necessary steps to give effect to the whole or the part of the scheme so approved. Under clause 19 the Minister may call upon the commission to prepare and submit to him any particular scheme. The commission will have to submit- each year estimates in detail of its proposed expenditure, and it will be given a lump sum to carry out any works to which approval has been given. That is identical with the procedure that is adopted in connexion with the Federal Capital Commission. When the estimates are submitted to Parliament, the Minister who has charge of them explains the manner in which it is proposed to expend the sum asked for. The only difference between that and other expenditure is that it is shown in the Estimates as a lump sum ; but the details can be furnished by the Minister, and frequently, are given without solicitation. The Federal Capital Commission now submits to me, as Minister, details of its proposed expenditure. I go through those details item by item with the officers of the department. If I approve of them, they are sent to the Treasurer for inclusion in his estimates, and later come before Parliament for authorization of the total amount. Parliament will have before it the sum total that is asked for by the Northern Territory Commission. The Minister who submits it will previously have been supplied by the commission with an itemized statement showing the manner in which it is proposed to expend the amount. This clause provides that if it is proposed to expend on any work a sum greater than £25,000, a special bill must be passed by Parliament . Parliament will thus retain the control that it exercises in regard to all other work throughout the Commonwealth the cost of which is estimated to exceed £25,000. In such cases, the House of Representatives refers the work to the Public Works Committee. That committee presents its report to Parliament, which either approves of or rejects ite recommendations .
– The Public Work* Committee will not deal with any of these works.
– No. That is why the procedure provided by this clause is necessary. Whether the work is estimated
– The honorable senator’s interjection is as ridiculous as most of his interjections are. He knows that it is rarely that works in the Northern Territory cost more than £25,000. Though I am not a member of the Public Works Committee now, I was a member of it for a few years, and I am in a position to say that as a result of its investigations it has saved the Commonwealth thousands of pounds. It is all very well for Senator Pearce to say that the control of the expenditure would be amply safeguarded by the fact that a special bill would be required to authorize expenditure on all works costing more than £25,000. We know, however, that bills are very frequently rushed through at the end of a session when it is impossible for honorable, senators to go fully into the details of any proposed expenditure and show where a saving could be effected. On the other hand, the Public Works Committee has the power to- call evidence and crossexamine witnesses, and can ascertain whether any proposed expenditure is reasonable or not.. While I was a member of it, the committee was able to show in some instances that proposals were unreasonable, and that the heads of departments were asking for elaborate structures where less pretentious buildings would serve. As the result of its investigations, it was- able to eni. down the cost of proposed works by many hundred thousand pounds. It is true that if this clause were not agreed to it would occasionally be necessary to send the committee to Darwin. In the past works in the north exceeding £25,000 have been thoroughly investigated by the members of the committee without great inconvenience or delay. Parliament appointed the Public Works Committee to investigate thoroughly any proposal for expenditure exceeding £25,000, and the committee’s investigations have proved most valuable in this respect. Knowing the value of the work done by the committee and the savings it has effected, I am not likely to support any clause depriving it of the power that Parliament, for its own protection, has given to it..
Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Home and Territories) (“4,0]. - I do not hold second place to Senator Foll in my opinion of the value of the work the Public Works Committee has rendered to the Commonwealth, and nothing I have to say on this clause must be taken as in any way derogating from that opinion. But, owing to the circumstances of parliamentary government, it may not be wise to apply the conditions of the Public Works Committee Act to a developmental policy for the north of Australia. If any such policy is to be a real policy, we must avoid the long delays that would necessarily ensue if every work in North Australia costing more than £25,000 had to be investigated by the Public Works Committee. Honorable senators know that practically the whole of the time of members of that committee, and the Public Accounts Committee, apart from that given to their attendance at sittings of either House, is occupied with the duties thrown upon them in investigating matters in those portions of Australia which are within easy reach of Melbourne by rail or steamer. There have only been two works in the Northern Territory costing more- than £25,000’ and requiring investigation by the Public Works Committee. Those works were the extension of the railway and the proposal to give increased wharfage- accommodation at Darwin. But if the commission is to do the work we hope it will do, there would be under the existing system far more frequent references each .year to the Public Works Committee. How long did the railway investigation occupy the Public Works Committee?: I venture to say that it took the committee close on- three months to- make its inquiry.
– But there were only three members of the committee making that inquiry.
– The honorable senator’s interjection only strengthens my argument. If it took three members of the committee three months, how Iona; would it have taken the whole committee 1o investigate the work? The” proposal to increase the wharfage accommodation is a small proposition requiring investigation in one locality only, but the committee has been inquiring into it for over twelve months, and lias not yet furnished a report upon it. In its endeavour to solve the problem, it found it necessary to circumnavigate
Australia. I am sure that any statutory requirement to refer works in. the north to the Public Works Committee would not speed up development, but would have rather the reverse effect and slow it down in a most regrettable fashion. If the north were within easy reach of the south, the Government would not put forward this proposal. It is not intended as a reflection upon the Public Works Committee, nor does it mean that the Government does nob appreciate the work done by the members of that committee, [t is put forward simply because of the physical difficulties in the way of referring works in Northern Australia to the committee. These difficulties are the great distances to be covered, the lack of means of communication, and the delays likely to ensue through investigations by the committee. It is quite possible that, because of political troubles or because of the meetings of Parliament, members of the committee would find it impossible to visit the north to make inquiries. In those circumstances they would summon the officers to come down to Canberra or Melbourne, and instead of the commission being in the Territory prosecuting the work for which it is being paid, that of developing the Territory, it would be spending most of its time hanging around Canberra or Melbourne in attendance on the Public Works Committee. In any case, what would guide the committee in making up its mind? It would make up its mind on the evidence submitted by the commission and its officers. Members of the committee are not appointed because they are railway experts or because they have any knowledge of water conservation, or road-making, or post and telegraph works, or harbour works. Yet these are the questions upon which they would report. The Public Works Committee has close at hand in Melbourne the technical officers of the Works and Railways Department, as well as the Postal and other departments, whom it can call before it to give evidence of a technical nature, and the committee is composed of men who are able to sift that evidence, and make up their minds as to the wisdom or otherwise of any particular proposition. But in the case of works in North Australia, it would mean either the committee going to the Northern Territory, to which there is a steamer service only once a month, .or the officers of the commission having to travel from Port Darwin to Melbourne.
– The Minister evidently anticipates a large expenditure there.
– I do. If the commission is not to have a large sum of money to spend, it will be useless to appoint it. Anybody who imagines that an area of 500,000 square miles can be developed without a heavy expenditure must be a blissful optimist, whose opinion is founded upon ignorance.’ Under this clause the commission, first of all, says that it considers a certain work desirable. If it be a postal work, the Postal Department will supply the technical officers required to obtain the information needed by the commission; and if the commission is satisfied in the light of the information so received, it may say that it still thinks the work should be proceeded with. Then the Minister goes to Parliament for approval of the work. Even though we pass this clause, Parliament may still say, if it thinks fit, that in view of the importance or magnitude of a proposed work it considers that an investigation should be made by the Public Works Committee, and it may by resolution refer the work to the committee. If it were a work relating, say, to the north-south railway, which involved the question of the best route to be adopted, and which had a political aspect, I should be the first to say that the matter should be investigated by the Public Works Committee before being submitted to Parliament. It would strengthen the position of any government to h?.ve an investigation of that character made ; but the clause under consideration stipulates that works estimated to cost over £25,000 shall not be automatically referred to that committee, and possibly held up for months until the officers can be brought down from Darwin, or until the Works Committee can take evidence in the Northern Territory. If the committee decided not to visit Darwin, or to bring the officers to Melbourne, in what better position would it be to judge the merits of a proposal than the members of the commission, or the Minister, or other members of Parliament? All would be3 guided by information supplied as to the nature of the reports. The only way for the committee to be in a better position than Ministers or members of Parliament generally would be for it to take the sworn evidence of witnesses on the spot, or after they had been brought to Melbourne. The Government does not wish to incur the delay that such a procedure would occasion. It is because it recognizes that the Public Works Committee is already fully occupied with the very- valuable services it is rendering to Australia, and that these additional works could not be investigated by one committee, that it submits this clause. I therefore ask honorable senators not to look upon the clause as in any way a reflection on the Public Works Committee, but to remember that there is always a reserve power in Parliament to refer any particular work to that body, to the Public Accounts Committee, or to a select committee. We say, however, that a proposed work in the Territory estimated to cost £25,000 or over should not pass automatically to the Public Works Committee for inquiry.
– This is undoubtedly one of the most important clauses in the bill, and we should be very careful before agreeing to it in its present form. The reference to the Public Works Committee of all the works in the Northern Territory estimated to exceed in cost £25,000 probably would result in some delay, but I am not sure that quite as much delay would not be occasioned by the circumlocutory methods outlined in clause 23. I have always contended during this discussion that there will be just as much delay in carrying out works in North Australia as there has been in the past in the Northern Territory. It was for that reason that I submitted an amendment to give power to a provisional council, after Parliament had voted an amount of money, to go ahead with proposed works. No improvement will be effected in administrative methods if we continue the practice of having these proposals referred hack to Melbourne.
– If the honorable senator was prepared to give that power to a council, what is his objection to giving it to tho commission ?
– I shall explain my attitude. Something is to be said in favour of the closing remark by the Minister that possibly, in order to get technical evidence, the committee would have to invite the members of the commission or its officers to travel southwards. That again might involve great expense: but can the Minister say that no departmental officers in Melbourne will have to go to North Australia to inquire into these works before the matters are finally determined? Clause 23 necessitates it. Before technical advice can. be given to the commission, technical officers must be sent from either Melbourne or Canberra to North Australia.
– But those officers could not speak for the commission.
– Nor could the Public Works Committee.
– The Public Works Committee would have to call members of the commission to give evidence as to why they recommended particular works.
– I wish to discover the most economical method, and the best way in which to avoid delay. I venture to say that when all the provisions of clause 23 have been carried out there will be just as much delay as if the Public Works Committee had proceeded to North Australia to make investigations. The Minister ha3 recognized the value of the work of that body. I was a member of it for four years, aud I can say that, it has saved Australia millions of pounds. The clause as it stands would preclude the possibility of an investigation by that committee. I therefore move -
That after the word “ apply,” line 2, the words “ unless Parliament otherwise directs,” be inserted.
– I accept the amendment.
– I am glad to hear the Minister’s interjection, for on various occasions it has been impossible to make certain references to the committee because of the language of the Public Works Committee Act. In my opinion, works relating to the Northern Territory have not been unduly delayed through being referred to the committee. The practice has been to form subcommittees so that two inquiries may be proceeded with simultaneously. It would certainly be possible for considerable delay to take place under the provisions of clause 23. Any work exceeding £25,000 in estimated cost will have to be dealt with by special bill, and after the various reports have been obtained Parliament may have gone into recess, in which case the bill would be hung up for perhaps from six to eight months.. The last recess, for instance, extended over a period of between seven and eight months. It is, hardly likely that a bill of this description would be brought down as one of the earliest measures, and it seems to me that only in exceptional circumstances would time be saved by taking an inquiry out of the hands of the Public Works Committee.
.- I also am glad that the Minister has accepted the amendment moved by the acting Leader of the Opposition. Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber at the beginning of this debate, but I understand that the Minister referred to the delay that has occurred in building the new wharf at Darwin, and has attributed it to the Public Works Committee. In my opinion, it is- a remarkably good thing that the delay occurred. The history of the proposal to construct a new wharf at Darwin provides a most glaring instance of the folly of rushing into new work in the Northern Territory. I was- privileged to. be a member of the Sectional Committee of the Public Works Committee that inquired into the first proposition to build a wharf at Darwin. The result of’ that investigation was that the matter was left to the wisdom of Parliament. According to the evidence taken from engineers and others it would have been folly to build a wharf such as was at. first proposed. The matter was referred to the Public Works Committee again, and a considerable volume of fresh expert evidence lias been obtained. The Government also invited Sir George Buchanan to report on the matter. Although he has not yet given evidence on it before the Public Works Committee, I understand that he has made an altogether new proposal. Had the’ first plan been carried out a large amount of public money would have been spent, and Darwin would have been very little better off..
– How long has the matter been before the Public Works Committee?
– Per- about: eighteen months. I do, not believe that that has hindered the development of the Territory in any way whatever. It will probably result in Darwin having a thoroughly suitable wharf. We shall be very unwise if we attempt to rush unduly developmental works- in North Australia. Although a good deal could be said in favour of the views expressed by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), as to the need for allowing the commission to go ahead without hindrance, a good deal could also be said on the other side. After all, will the members of this commission be so very much more expert than the heads of our own public departments who carry out our ordinary public works ? We have confidence in our public officers, and yet it must be said that not a single proposal that they have submitted to the. Public Works Committee has been recommended by it without alteration. The committee has been able to co-ordinate the work of the various departments. Unfortunately, our various departmental officers do not work together as well as they should. This is so, no* because of any ill-feeling, but chiefly because of a lack o£ appreciation of each other’s needs.. Surely no honorable member will suggest that this commission should be given more power than we take to ourselves. Parliament has resolved that no public work, the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000, shall be constructed unless it has been reported upon by the Public Works Committee. The application of that rule to this commission would be, to say the least of it, wise. Whoever thinks that the Public Works Committee’s investigations are a farce,, makes a huge mistake. Quite a number of our public officers have confessed that the. committee’s investigations have caused better and more useful work to be done. The expenses of the committee have been saved over and. over again. We shall safeguard the interests of the country by accepting the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses. 25- and 26. agreed to.
In the- first month in each quarter the commission shall furnish to the Minister a written report setting out -
the approximate expenditure and receipts during, the past quarter;-
the- general- condition as regards works under the control of the commission ; and
the appointments and’ removals of officers.
– Very careful consideration should be given to this clause. It contains some rather curious provisions. Paragraph (a), for instance, provides that an “ approximate “ statement of receipts and expenditure shall be submitted. The secretary of every friendly society and of every trade union in Australia is required by law to submit to the authorities a quarterly statement of the position of his society or union. It must be an actual and not an approximate return. The secretary of the National Federation is not obliged by law to do this, but I feel quite safe in sa,ying that the council of the federation would not be satisfied with an approximate statement from him. They would desire to know the actual position. Paragraph (b) provides- that the ‘ report should state ‘ ‘ the general condition as regards works under the control of the commission.” The board of directors of any concern which has big works in hand requires from time to time, not a general, but a particular statement of the progress of the work. It desires to know, for example, what story has been reached, how the sewer work is progressing, and so on. Paragraph (c) refers to “ the appointments and removals of officers.” Perhaps the details regarding the removals are more important than those regarding appointments. That paragraph would be improved if it were made to read, “ the details referring to the removals of officers. ‘ ‘ Surely the GovernorGeneral in Council will not be satisfied with a statement of the “ approximate expenditure and receipts “ and the “ general condition “ of the works of the commission. The clause should be amended to provide for an actual statement of accounts and a particular report of the works.
– Apparently the honorable senator has not read clause 29, which provides for the presentation to Parliament of an annual report which must set out in detail all the works done during the year, and also the financial transactions. Clause 27 provides for progress reports, which must necessarily be approximate, unless the commission is to be obliged o balance its accounts at the end of every quarter. Why should we make a horrible example of this unfortunate com mission, and oblige it to do more than we expect other similar bodies to do ? What has it done to deserve such an awful fate ? Recently a measure was passed for the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission. A similar clause to this was included in .that bill and no ob jection was taken to it. Pursuant to it reports have been presented to Parliament quarterly, and no complaints have been made as to their contents. Senator J. Grant has requested that” copies of these reports shall be forwarded to him even before they are tabled in Parliament j but even his microscopic inspection of them has not revealed any abuses. Although the Federal Capital Commission has control of only 100 square miles of country it is not obliged to submit a quarterly report showing the actual state of its finances and work. Why, then, should we oblige this commission, which will have control of 500,000 square miles of territory, to submit an actual report? It must be remembered that this commission will have charge of Crown lands reaching from the coast right down to Alice Springs. Is it reasonable to expect that it shall present an actual statement quarterly of the rentals received from leases in the vicinity of Alice Springs, Anthony’s Lagoon, the Victoria River country, and Darwin *1 I hope that we shall be reasonable, and not expect it to do impossibilities. A hard and fast rule was not made for the Federal Capital Commission, nor for the Murray Waters Commission. In respect, of those bodies, Parliament has been satisfied with an annual report, accompanied by a certificate from the Auditor-General ;that the figures given are correct. That is reasonable. I trust that we shall be satisfied with a similar provision for this commission.
Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) [4.351. - In this instance the word “ approximate “ is not of much consequence, but to any one acquainted with accountancy it would appear to be in the wrong place. The word “ actual “ should be used, because the expenditure and receipts could easily be given quarterly. The commission would not be expected to submit a statement of the whole financial position every quarter; that would be given annually. In any trading concern, the actual receipts and expenditure can be given monthly or quarterly, but a statement showing the actual financial position cannot be presented until the expiry of six or twelve months, or whatever balancing period has been decided upon. The word “ approximate “ should not be used, as it should bo quite easy to give the actual receipts and expenditure. It would riot be necessary to state what had been done at Victoria River or other places so long as a statement of the money actually received and expended was given.
– In many instances there are no telegraphs or other means of com.mumca.tion .
– The cheques drawn would show the expenditure and the money received from revenue. It would be the easiest thing in the world to make out an actual statement of receipts and expenditure for the quarter.
– In some instances the information would have to be obtained from a distance of 800 miles.
– The commission will know what cheques are drawn and what money has been received. Those unacquainted with accounts may confuse a profit and loss account with one of actual receipts and expenditure. Although the word “ approximate” should not be used in this instance, I suppose it will serve the purpose, but it is only a question of splitting straws.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) [4.371. - I move -
That the word “ approximate,” line 4, be left out.
If the committee agrees to the deletion of the word ‘ ‘ approximate “ I intend to move to insert the word “ actual.” The Minister (Senator Pearce) referred to the fact that the same words are used in the Seat of Government Administration Act, but possibly that is because, when debating that measure, I did not exercise the diligence I am showing on this occasion. As Senator Thompson has stated, I am not suggesting a quarterly balancesheet, but merely an actual statement of receipts and expenditure. The commission will be responsible for the expenditure of money, and although the territory over which it will exercise control is large, no money can be spent without their authority. Clause 29, to which the Minister referred, deals only with the annual report, which is based on the figures contained in the quarterly statement. Any person in business can easily determine at the end of the quarter the amount of money he has received and the amount expended. Perhaps the committee would agree to the deletion of the word “approximate” without the substitution of any other word, so that it would then read, “ the expenditure and receipts, during the past quarter.” If the paragraph in that form is acceptable to the committee I shall not press for the insertion of the word “ actual.”
-The honorable senator should remember that this paragraph does not relate to a report to be presented to Parliament, but only to a statement of accounts for the information of the Minister. If the honorable senator’s amendment were adopted it would mean that a large number of additional clerks would have to be employed to prepare details which would never be perused.
– I object to the use of the word “ approximate,” and if it is deleted and no other word substituted additional expense, as suggested by the Minister, will not be incurred.
– If certain statutes passed by this Parliament had been framed in definite language heavy legal costs would not have been incurred. As the word “ approximate “ can have a very wide interpretation, we should be more explicit. The commission should be in a position to state at the end of each quarter the amount of money received and expended, and that is all the Minister requires. If only an approximate statement is to be submitted, the particulars it contains may he of little value, and the use of this word may give the commission the opportunity to submit information which will be unreliable. As the commissioners will be operating at a great distance from the seat of Government, they should submit reports in a concise and definite manner, as any others would be of little service. It is more important to have an actual financial statement than it is to be provided with the actual number of officers who have been engaged or dismissed. I trust the Minister will agree to the deletion of the word “ approximate,” which can be made to mean almost anything.
– It is very evident to me why the word ‘ ‘ approximate ‘’ has been used. Even the enthusiastic honorable senator who has just resumed his seat must know that it would be impossible to submit anything but an approximate quarterly return. An officer may be paying out of a suspense account at Alice Springs or elsewhere, or out of cash forwarded from Darwin to Victoria River. How would it be possible to return the actual expenditure at a certain date in time to include particulars in a report to the Minister ? It could not be done. It is obvious that it is necessary that this or some similar word should be used, because it is impossible for other than an approximate statement to be submitted. If there were one central paying authority paying direct to payees it would be possible; but in the case of the commission, which is to have control over 500,000 square miles of country, it is not.
– Would the honorable member favour the substitution of the word “ estimate “ ?
– No; that is capable of a wider interpretation. The word “ approximate “ is the only one I can think of that would “fill the bill.” Surely honorable senators can see the impossibility of ascertaining the exact expenditure for some considerable time, on account of the distance from the seat of payment, and the indifferent means of communication .
– It would be shown a? a suspense payment.
– That would show that it was approximate expenditure.
– It could be fixed up in the succeeding expenditure.
– I think that the present wording is essential, and I shall vote for its retention.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 28 and 29 agreed to.
Clause 30 (Receipts and Expenditure of Fund).
-. - Is it provided that rents received from the leasing of land in the Northern Territory shall become portion of the revenue of the commission ?
– Yes, sub-clause (6) makes that provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 31 to 34 agreed to.
Clause 35 (Notice of action).
– This clause provides that one month must elapse, after notice has been served, before action can, be taken. Why has that period been selected 1
– Because of the vast distance that will have to be travelled. An officer against whom action is proposed to be taken must be given the opportunity to enter an appearance. This is a country that is without railway or other adequate means of communication.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 36 (Agreement with states contiguous to Territory).
– Can the Minister inform us whether any communication has been received from the Governments of the States of Queensland and Western Australia as to conceding portions of those states; or has the Commonwealth Government proceeded further with the matter?
– Copies of the bill, and the speech that I made when introducing it, have been sent to those Governments. I take it that they are awaiting the passage of this measure before moving in the matter. Negotiations can then be begun. Obviously, it would be foolish for the Commonwealth Government to approach them before the bill had received the imprimatur of Parliament. We do not anticipate receiving from those states any communication until this Parliament has approved of the bill, and, until then, we do not propose to make any further overtures to them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 37 and 38 agreed to.
– I move -
That tha words “the State of South Australia.” line G, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ any state “.
The amendment proposes to rectify an error of draftsmanship. .Nearly all the South Australian laws that were in existence when the Commonwealth took over the Territory have been continued, and in some cases it is necessary for them to be administered by an officer of the South Australian Government; hut there is -also the possibility that officers of other states will have to be similarly utilized. The Commonwealth has an arrangement with the Queensland Government, under which the education system of the Northern Territory has been brought into line with that of Queensland. We are now arranging for an inspector of the Queensland Education Department to inspect our schools, instead of ourselves appointing an inspector whose services would be required only occasionally. ‘
– Do the Queensland itinerant teachers visit the Northern Territory schools?
– No. The amendment will enable the Commonwealth to co-operate with other states where it is more economical to utilize the services of officers of those states.
.- I am very glad that the Commonwealth i3 availing itself of the advantages which the Queensland Education Department can offer. I trust that the services of the Queensland itinerant teachers will be made available to persons who reside along the Queensland border in the Northern Territory.
– The Commonwealth itself has an itinerant teacher who travels round the Territory-
– The Territory is so big that one man cannot do justice to it. I know the value of the services of these itinerant teachers to residents of the outback districts of Queensland. They have brought .a great deal into the lives of the parents as well as the children. This is one way in which those who live in the Territory can be benefited and interested. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 40 (Transfer of officers from Northern Territory Service to North Australian or Central Australian Service).
..- Will those officers who are now in the service of the Northern Territory ad ministration’ be given preference by the commission, or will the Government recommend that those who are willing ito remain there should be given that preference .?
– Every consideration will be given to officers who are now in the service, but I am not prepared to say that they shall receive preference.
– I do not ask that they shall be given preference.
– The policy of the Government is one of preference to returned soldiers. The commission must not be hampered in making appointments ; Lt must have a free hand to appoint the most suitable person, even though he be outside the Northern Territory Service. We want to have the most efficient Service.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 41 agreed to.
Clause 42 -
All magistrates and justices of the - peace holding office in the Northern Territory on the proclaimed day, and entitled to exercise jurisdiction therein, and all public officers and public functionaries in and for the Northern Territory on the proclaimed day, shall continue to hold office under the Commonwealth in relation to North Australia or Central Australia, according as to whether they are resident in North Australia or Central Australia on the proclaimed day, and shall continue to hold such office in North Australia or Central Australia, as the case may be, on the same terms and conditions as they held office under the Commonwealth.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the words “ under the Commonwealth/’ line 7, be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 43 (Appointment and tenure of Government Resident).
– Why is the period of appointment, not specified in the same way that the term of ‘office of the commission is set out ? I do not see any reason for the differentiation.
– This is a minor position.
– Can the Minister give us any idea how long the period will be ? I presume that there will be certain expenses connected with the office. I do not suppose that the Government Resident will live merely on air. Some contribution will have to be made from the Consolidated Revenue.
– At the second reading stage I intimated that the Government Resident in North Australia would probably be a man with legal training, in order that he might also act as a magistrate. I pointed out that in the northwest of Western Australia it is the custom to appoint as Government Resident a man who is also the magistrate. There are two doctors in Darwin; therefore the Government Resident there will probably be also a magistrate. To enable the services of a suitable man to be secured it should not be made a hard and fast rule that the term of appointment shall be three or five years. It may be possible to come to an agreement fixing the term at three, five, or seven years. But the clause as it stands gives the Government a little freedom to mate the term qf appointment such as will enable it to get suitable men. For instance, it is hoped to secure the services of a medical man as Government Resident at Alice Springs,, where there is no medical man now. A young doctor with administrative qualities is the type of man needed as- Government Resident there ; but to tie- us down to- a fixed term of three years or five years would possibly militate against our chance of getting such a man. If no specific period is fixed it gives the Government a little freedom in making a choice. In making appointments- in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea it has been found of great advantage not to have to tie medical men down to fixed periods. Young medical men do not care to be appointed definitely for long terms. They feel that they would like to get a footing in these out-of-the-way places and then return to the big. centres of population and brush themselves up a bit. I ask the committee to leave the clause as it stands, on the assurance that the period will probably be three or four years.
.- I hope that the- Government will got gentlemen possessing the qualifications required to- act as Government Residents, but I should like to know what powers they will possess as against those given to the commission?
Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Home and Territories) [5.9). - The powers of the commission are set out in clause 17 of the bill. Tho Government Resident will have nothing to do with them. He will deal solely with matters relating to the administration of justice, the police, aborigines, mines and fisheries and health preservation, which are all governed by ord nances. The Protection of Aborigines Ordinance will require a certain amount of policing. The Government Resident will have to see that the contracts made by the natives who are employed on the leases are properly made and carried out. He will supervise the inspection of boilers, and deal with the granting of assistance to indigent persons. Generally speaking, he will attend to matters which are ordinary state matters covered by ordinances.
– I should like the Minister (Senator Pearce) to give the committee some idea of the remuneration which is likely to be paid to a Government Resident.
– That is not fixed, but I should say that it would not be less than £50.0 or more than £800 a year.
Clause, agreed to.
Clause 44 -
– The intention of the Government is that the advisory council shall not have power to- advise on matters dealt with by the commission. The Parliamentary Draftsman was .of opinion that the clause made that clear, but Senator
Greene’s criticism on the second reading having raised some doubt on the point, it has been thought advisable to amend the clause. I move -
That the words, “ (but not including any matter relating to the powers of the commission or any matter under the control of the commission),” sub-clause (1), be left out. I propose to have these words re-inserted at the end of the sub-clause.
– I should think that it would be useful for the commission to have the benefit of the advice of the members of the advisory council, who will no doubt be residents of the Territory and have long experience there. The council, of course, need not accept the advice given, but I think it should be entitled to benefit by it. ‘
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That, at the end of sub-clause (1), the following words bo inserted : - “ (other than ordinances relating to the administration of Crown lands “), but not including any matter relating to the powers of the commission or any matter under the control of the commission.”
– Should not the “ but “ be “ and “?
– No. The “ but” is necessary, because of the words in parentheses. I want to say, in reply to Senator Thompson, that the appointment of au advisory council is in the nature of an experiment. It is the germ of selfgovernment, but we do not want to have at the outset what may be meddlesome interference in the bigger work the commission has to do. Until the advisory councils have demonstrated their usefulness by giving advice to the Government Residents on matters of administration that affect them intimately, it is not advisable to extend their duties. We are hoping that during the first five years in which the commission will function, the development of the Territory will be such that there will be an increased local population. Then possibly the functions of the advisory councils may be enlarged, not only to deal with administrative matters, but also to give advice on matters handled by the commission. However, this is merely a short first step towards selfgovernment, and it is all we feel justified in taking at this stage. We consider that during the first five years we should not have too many people “ putting their fingers in the soup,” and that the commission should be given a chance to make a start.
Amendment agreed to.
– I notice that the advisory councils will be partly elected and partly nominated. Will they be paid ?
– That point has not yet been decided, but it is obvious that some allowance for expenses will have to be made, especially if a member df an advisory council has to’ travel 200 or 300 miles to attend a meeting. The matter can be dealt with by regulation.
– The Northern Territory is very rich in minerals, and it seems to me particularly desirable that the members of the advisory council should have some experience, particularly of mining, in Northern Territory conditions. Therefore, I suggest that after the word “ members “, sub-clause 2, the words “ preferably men who have had experience in the Northern Territory, and one of whom shall be a mining mau “ be inserted.
, - I ask Senator Benny not to move such an amendment. Of course, all members of advisory councils will be Northern Territory residents, but any restriction providing that one member must be a mining man would create difficulty. What the Government proposes is to let the election take place first. If two mining men were elected, why should we then have to add another mining man?’ On the other hand, a commercial man and a wage-earner from Darwin might be elected, in which case the Government would nominate a mining man and a pastoralist. It desires the council to be representative of all interests. The class of representatives elected by the residents would influence the Government in selecting the members to be appointed by the Minister.
– Is there anything in the bill providing that the members of the advisory council must have mining experience ?
– No ; but they would not be elected unless they were residents of the Territory.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 45 to 47 agreed to.
Clause 48 -
The Seat of Government of North Australia shall bc established as soon as practicable at Newcastle Waters, and until the seat of government is so established it shall be at Darwin.
, - I propose to ask the committee to agree to an amendment providing for the establishment of a seat of government at Darwin. I am at a loss to understand why Newcastle Waters should be selected. Darwin is recognized as having one of the finest harbours in the world. It affords wonderful shelter, and I believe it is the third or fourth harbour from the points of view of excellence of situation and accommodation. Moreover, Darwin with its massive, wellconstructed “ buildings has suitable conveniences for a capital. Since South Australia went to the. trouble and expense of establishing the administration at Darwin, we should hesitate before launching out on a proposal to form a new capital at Newcastle Waters-. I move -
That the words, “ as soon as practicable at Newcastle Waters, and nutil the seat of government is so established it shall be,” be left out.
– This clause, of course, is merely a placard, but I think it will be very useful. One of the disadvantages of administration in Australia is that the various seats of government are practically all on the sea-board. It would have been very much better for Australia if its state capitals had been established inland, and in more central situations. If honorable senators glance at the map they will see how centrally situated Newcastle Waters is with regard to the northern portion of the Northern Territory. Its advantages as a seat of government will be many. Any roads or railways that may be constructed connecting North Queensland with Western Australia will almost certainly pass through Newcastle Waters, and any railways connecting North Australia with the south must pass through it. The stock routes running north and south and east and west converge on this spot. Its situation is elevated compared with Darwin, and its more healthy climate will be conducive of more vigorous administration.
– What is its altitude?
– About 900 feet. I camped there for two nights, and each morning the dew on my sleeping bag was frozen. In Darwin, so far as I am aware, blankets are never required. Officials residing at a place which has a bracing atmosphere are more likely to be vigorous administrators than if they are stationed in a place having a humid climate such as Darwin possesses. Newcastle Waters has a good permanent water supply. The rainfall has never been known to fail, and it averages from 20 to 25 inches per annum. The district is a good one, and I think that Newcastle Waters will be recognized as the natural geographical site for the seat of government of North Australia. It seems desirable to establish the capital in that part of the Territory where there is most hope of development taking place. Darwin, as well as having the worst climate, has the poorest soil.
– One has to go a long way from Darwin before reaching the good country.
– Yes. One must travel at least 200 miles before reaching comparatively good country, whereas Newcastle Waters has the Victoria- River district on the west, the Barkly Tablelands on the east, and the MacDonnell Ranges to the south. Although, as I said, this provision amounts only to a placard, I take it as an expression of the view of Parliament that as soon as practicable Newcastle Waters should be made the seat of administration.
– I cannot agree with the view expressed by Senator Benny, nor do I approve of the clause as it stands. Once a capital is established in any particular locality it seems to remain there indefinitely. I propose to move to amend the clause so that it will state definitely that the capital shall be established at Newcastle Waters. No mention should be made of. Darwin. If it is allowed to be declared the temporary seat of government, it may remain so for an indefinite period to the detriment of the best interests of the Territory.
– Is not Darwin so established now ?
– Yes; but the mere fact that South Australia established it as the capital, and made such a mess of the Territory that it was only too glad to hand the country over to the Commonwealth, is no reason why this Parliament should follow in the footsteps of that state. Here is an opportunity to cut out Darwin definitely. We should make it mandatory on the commission to sit at Newcastle Waters.. Undoubtedly the land in, that vicinity is. far superior to that around Darwin.
.- I hope that Senator Benny will not press his amendment, since all the facts are against his contention. One of the great drawbacks that Queensland has suffered has been the establishment of the seat of government in the south-eastern portion of the state, and on the coast. I am well acquainted with the central parts of my state, and when I visit the districts served by the waters of the Thomson, I find that the people complain about Rockhampton in the same way as fault is, found with Brisbane in the south, and Townsville in the north. Most of the Australian capitals are located ob the coast,, and the people suffer disadvantages on account of it.. Darwin will remain the port of North Australia whether it is the capital or not. It is an excellent idea to establish the seat of government in the heart of the Territory, where there is the best prospect of development taking place.. While it will be a good thing for Newcastle Waters it will also be a move in the interests of the whole of North . Australia. The pastoralists, who have suffered great hardships in the past, will no doubt be greatly encouraged in their efforts to develop the country through having the administration established in their midst.
– Notwithstanding the remarks’ of Senators Reid and J. Grant, I hope that my amendment will be agreed to. P’eople who have bad a. wide experience of the Northern Territory are practically of one opinion as to the desirability of retaining Darwin as the capital’. It is practically the gate to the commerce of the world. It is an open gate to- emporiums of the East. We hope that there will be a strong flow of foreign trade there. We have a capital ; let us stick to. it.
-(Senator Newland). - I point out that if Senator Benny’s amendment is agreed to it will not be competent for Senator J. Grant to move the amendment he has indicated, namely, the deletion of the words, “ as soon- as practicable.”
– Will Senator Benny withdraw his amendment temporarily ?
– On the understanding that I shall have an opportunity . to move my amendment later, I ask leave to withdraw it temporarily.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move-
That the words- “ as soon as practicable “ be left oat.
If that is agreed to, I shall move to further amend the clause so that it will read -
The seat of government of North Australia shall bo established at Newcastle Waters.
I have already protested against the indefinite wording of this clause, and have pointed out that it might, cause an indefinite postponement in the removal of the capital from Darwin to Newcastle Waters. 1 feel quite certain that if the clause is agreed to as it stands, the transfer of the capital to. Newcastle Waters will, on one pretext qf another, be delayed year after- year. We all know that the establishment of the seat of the Federal Government at Canberra has been postponed many years’ longer than was- at first intended. Here is an excellent opportunity for us to prevent anything of that kind from happening- in respect to North Australia.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The committee divided: -
Ayes . . . . 9
Noes . . . . . . IS
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Benny) negatived -
That the words, “ at Newcastle Waters and until the seat of government is so established it shall be “, be left out.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 49 (Appointment and tenure of Government Resident).
– The Minister stated in his second speech that it was proposed to appoint advisory councils, partly nominee and partly elective, and also Government Residents. I should like some information on the duties that will fall upon these Government Residents.
– I indicated earlier in the day that the Government Residents would discharge duties appertaining to the administration of justice, police, aborigines, mines, fisheries, health, and so on.
– I should also like to know what salary it is proposed to pay these officers, and the term for which they will be appointed..
– The salary will be between £500 and £800 per annum. A definite term of appointment has not been stated for the reason that the Government hopes to secure the services of a doctor in one case and of a lawyer in the other, and the fixing of a definite term of appointment sometimes limits the selec tion in such cases. However, the term will probably be three or five years.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 50 -
[5.491. - I move -
That alter the word “ ordinances,” second occurring, sub-clause (1), the following words be inserted : - “ other than ordinances relating to the administration of Crown lands “.
This amendment is similar to that made earlier this afternoon in clause 44. It is really consequential.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 51 and 52 agreed to.
Clause 53 (Application of Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1921).
– The clause reads -
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1921 shall apply to industrial disputes -
in North Australia; and
in Central Australia, as if from the definition of “ industrial disputes “ in section four of that act the words “ extending beyond the limits of any one state “ were omitted.
What will be the position of members of federal industrial organizations working in North Australia or Central Australia if the words “ extending beyond the limits of any one state” are omitted? Will the Minister explain the meaning of the clause?
– Those words are omitted because we have full power in the Territory.
– Supposing an industrial dispute, which extended beyond the limits of one state, existed between members of the Australian Workers Union and the employers, would the members of that organization in the Territory then become involved ? Does it mean’ that the Government will have the power to deal exclusively with members of all industrial organizations in the Territory ?
– There are constitutional limitations upon the powers of the Commonwealth, which are expressed by these words m the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Commonwealth has power to legislate in regard to industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one state. A similar principle applies in connexion with the Australian Industries Preservation Act and the Secret Commissions Act. We are constitutionally hedged in, and have to make lhat admission in the law itself. In the Northern Territory, however, we are not under any such disability. In other portions of the Commonwealth the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act can apply only to disputes which extend beyond the limits of one state; but in the Northern Territory any industrial dispute which arises can be dealt with under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, because in that instance we are in the same position as a state, and therefore the limitation mentioned in the act will not apply.
– Any industrial dispute in the Territory can come before the Federal Arbitration Court.
– Yes. If a dispute, for instance, at Alice Springs, did not extend beyond that centre it could be heard in the Federal Arbitration Court, because we would be the sole authority. As development in the Territory extends, it will be necessary to provide local tribunals, but until that is necessary the Federal Arbitration Court will deal with all disputes.
– Until the Territory becomes a state.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 54 and 55 agreed to.
Clause 56 (Application of Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1916).
– I invite the attention of the committee to the proviso of this clause, which reads-
Provided that, in determining the compensation to which the owner is entitled under that act, the value of the land shall be taken not to exceed the unimproved value of the land, or the interest therein of the owner on the date of the passing of this act, together with the value of his interest in the improvements on the land at the date of the acquisition of the land.
This introduces a new departure, as it is provided that land acquired at some future date will be paid for, not at the price at which it is then valued, but at the value attaching to it at the passing of this act. It is proposed to give the owner the value of his interest in the improvements on ‘ the date of the acquisition of the land, but he should also be entitled to receive the value of the land at the date of its acquisition.
– I think the honorable senator is getting astray.
– Is not the honorable senator slipping ?
– In this instance I am right.
– In consequence of the work of this developmental commission, the value of the land will be increased. The honorable senator now asserts that ‘the increased value should belong to the owner.
– In the Minister’s youthful days, when his intellect was unclouded by the opinions of those with whom he is now associated, he would have advocated the complete appropriation of any added value given to the land in consequence of the progress of the community ; but the right honorable gentleman, like others who have imbibed too freely in the pernicious doctrine of Protection, which is the national policy and upon which the Government relies for revenue, allows the owners of the land all over the Commonwealth the added value created by public expenditure. In this instance, the Government appears to think it is doing something wonderful in pouncing upon one or two unfortunate individuals in Northern Australia, and robbing them of something to which they are fully entitled. This is an indication to the owners of the land in North and Central Australia that the value of the land at the date of resumption will not be taken into account. The price the Government will pay will be that assessed as at the passing of this act. I have no particular objection to the wording of the clause, although it is a tardy and microscopic recognition of what I term justice, but in regard lit) lands in other parts of the Commonwealth the Government remains discreetly silent. Recently the Government acquired land at Kirribilli Point, on Sydney Harbour, at the rate of £32,000 per acre. No protest was then made by -the Minister or Senator Ogden and other honorable senators who interjected. They believe that it is right to pay for the resumption of that land at its present value, not at that at which it was originally sold or that at which it stood when the Lands Acquisition Act of 1906 was passed. That does not concern the Minister or Senator Ogden, who now think that something wonderful is being done.
– Is this principle right or wrong ?
– It is not right to single out certain individuals for special treatment. Personally, I think it is unconstitutional. The Government have no objection to paying £32,000 an acre for land at Kirribilli Point.
– What was the amount paid for that land ?
– £4,000 for oneeighth of an acre.
– It sounds a lot whenthe honorable senator speaks of £32,000 an acre.
– I have quoted the rate per acre. Personally I have no objection to this departure, but I do not see why it should not apply to the whole Commonwealth. The Minister should explain why there has been any discrimination.
.- Wo are entitled to some explanation as to why it is intended to discriminate in this way. Such a provision will hamper the sale of land in the Territory, because at some future time the Government may propose to acquire an area at the price it is to-day. I support Senator Grant’s contention in this respect, because I do not see why the whole of Australia should not be treated alike.
– I did not rise to reply to Senator Grant because I thought he was only taking advantage of this opportunity to refer to the purchase of the land at Kirribilli Point, which he has mentioned. I did not think ho wished me to speak concerning a principle of which he approved. This is a similar clause to one’ we passed in a bill dealing with Federal Capital Territory, where we took over 900 square miles of country at practically prairie values. We paid £2 10s. or £3 per acre. Recently the Government sold leases at Canberra at a valuation of from £3,000 to £4,000 an acre. That was made possible entirely by the establishment of the Federal Capital Territory and the expenditure there of public money.
– Does the Minister propose to resume land at its prairie value ?
– No. We now resume land at Canberra, not at its presentday value, but at the value which existed when the act was passed in 190S. There is very little freehold in the Northern Territory, and ‘the value is slight. The Government proposes to expend a large sum of money in providing means of communication and constructing public works. That expenditure will be a charge against the rest of the Commonwealth. As the enhanced value that must follow will have been created entirely by that expenditure, and not by any activity of the local people, it is proposed that the Government shall have the right to resume at the value existing at the time of the passing of the act. If, however, a person has effected improvements on his property, those improvements will be paid for at the value they hold at the date of resumption.
– Does the Minister not think that persons should1 be encouraged to go to the Northern Territory and live there?
– This provision will not be a discouragement. The greater productive power that will be given to the land will be an encouragement. ‘ At present it is impracticable to run sheep in the ‘ Territory, because the produce cannot be sent to market and commodities obtained at a sufficiently cheap rate. That will be altered when improved means of communication are provided, and the holder of land in the Territory will get a greater return because of the higher productivity of his land. I do not think that in respect of land required by the Commonwealth he should also obtain the enhanced values that will result from the construction of railways and other public works that are carried out at the expense of the community generally.
– Is it not now the custom, outside the Territory, when land is being resumed by the Commonwealth Government for public purposes, for a certain sum to be offered to the owner, and, if he is not satisfied, to refer the matter to arbitration?
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories [6.9]. - That is the machinery of the Lauds Acquisition Act. The principle contained in the proviso to this clause does ‘not appear in that act, but it is in the Federal Capital Commission Act.
– According to the proviso, there will be no need for an arbitrator..
– Oh, yes, there will be. The machinery by which land will be acquired is that which is laid down in the Lands Acquisition Act.’
– The arbitrators will determine whether the offer is a proper one? .Senator PEARCE. - Yes.
– Those with blocks which are resumed by the Government will fare worse than those who sell to private purchasers, because the latter will be able to obtain the added value. This will lead to ;a great deal of underground engineering aud many undesirable practices. The sooner the Government sees that the whole of the value which is acquired by land is appropriated for public purposes, the sooner will the Commonwealth commence to make progress.
Clause agreed to
Clauses 57 to 61 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments. Silting suspended from. 6.17 to S p.m.
Debate resumed from Sth July (vide page 737), on’ motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a brief bill of three clauses, the last of which contains a very vital principle, inasmuch as it proposes to enable the Government to sell leasehold land in the Northern Territory, so that it may ultimately become freehold. The leasehold system was adopted by a Labour Government, of which the present Leader of the Senate, Senator Pearce, was a member; and I am wondering why the right .honorable gentleman is now sponsoring a measure which seeks to establish the freehold system of laud tenure in the Northern Territory. When the right honorable- gentleman’ was. moving the second reading of the bill he told us that the power of Parliament to tax freehold land was equivalent to the adoption of the leasehold system, and that therefore even in respect to freehold land Parliament was really the landlord. It is true that under the freehold system the Commonwealth Government may l..e the landlord ; but it does not own the property, whereas under the leasehold system it does not part with the ownership in the land. This bill proposes to give away government-owned land to private individuals.
– To give it away I
-HAM. - At least, ‘the Government, will no longer continue to own the land. The honorable and gallant, senator will no doubt contend that the Crown can always resume land, but he knows as well as I do that it takes a considerable amount by way of compensation to satisfy the claims of persons from whom freehold laud is acquired. When the Crown parts with land under the freehold system it is no longer the landlord in the true meaning of the word. It is certainly true, as the Minister contends, that the Government can tax freehold land, but it can also tax leasehold land. In fact, it has already done so, although recently a doubt has been raised on this point, and -the right to tax Crown leaseholds is now the subject of an inquiry by a commission. My opinion is that the Government should retain all its rights in respect of any land in the Northern. Territory. Senator Pearce pointed out in his speech that the passage of this bill would help to develop the Territory. The inference to be drawn from that remark is that the development of the Territory has been retarded by the operation of the leasehold principle. My opinion is that the stagnation which has existed in the Northern Territory under different administrations is due, not to the existence of the leasehold principle, but to the long delays associated with communications between the Administration in the north and the responsible Minister at the Seat of Government. In justifying the passage of this bill Senator Pearce pointed out that although the leasehold principle would still apply to the Federal Capital Territory, the two propositions were entirely different. I fail to follow his line of reasoning. I cannot see how the Federal Capital Territory in this respect can be regarded as being different- from the Northern Territory. Senator Pearce has not suggested that the existence of the leasehold principle has in any way retarded the. work of the commission which has been appointed by Parliament to administer the Federal Capital Territory. We have no evidence whatever that it has done any injury to the Federal Capital Territory t or handicapped the Federal Capital commission in its administration, and I fail to see how it can be contended that it would handicap the commission proposed to be appointed to control the Northern Territory. Senator Pearce claimed that the banks would not come to the assistance of people working land under leasehold, and he quoted the Federal Capital Territory as an example. He said, in referring to settlement in the north -
Imagine the reception which would be given to such a settler who went to any of our banking institutions to obtain an advance on the * security of a leasehold, in order that he might cultivate it! Many of us know from bitter experience that it .is not easy to obtain advances even on freehold land, but it is absolutely impossible to do so in respect to leasehold land. Country lands are regarded less favorably by bankers than are town lands. It is unfortunate that it should be so, but the fact remains that bankers seem to prefer the security of town rather than rural lands.
Why did not the Commonwealth Bank come to the assistance of the leaseholders in the Federal Territory? It was established by a Labour Government, of which Senator Pearce was a member, and one of. its objects was to give advances on leaseholds in Commonwealth territory. I know that during the old regime it probably did not do so, and now that amending legislation has entirely altered the character of the bank, making it a bankers’ bank, and not the people’s bank it was intended to be, the difficulty of obtaining advances on leasehold securities has been intensified.
I object to the bill because it proposes to adopt the freehold instead of the leasehold system of land tenure. I contend that the leasehold system has not retarded the development of the Northern Territory, and that its retention ought to facilitate it. Therefore, I hope the Senate will not agree to the second reading of the bill.
– I regret very much that the Government proposes to depart from a principle which was adopted and embodied in an act passed by this Parliament a few years ago. All the arguments now put forward by Senator Pearce in favour of the adoption of the leasehold system were at that time advanced by him in support of the principle of the non-alienation of Crown lands. We know that land is the source of all wealth. If we could settle the land question, the settlement of all other matters would be comparatively easy. The private ownership of land is primarily responsible throughout the world for almost all the ills to which the flesh is heir. Of course, we all know that the Government has the power to tax land to its full economic limit. This Parliament has always had unlimited power to- tax the lands of the Northern Territory to the extent the Minister says may be done if this bill is passed. The granting of freeholds will not make for progress in that part of Australia. The commission which the Government proposes to appoint will undertake big works with the approval of Parliament, and all the money it will spend will go to enhance the value of the land.
– It could do very well with a little enhancement just now.
– We know how government effort and expenditure have advanced the value of land in every part of the world. The extension of tramway facilities ‘ throughout the metropolitan areas in Victoria has increased land values by millions of pounds. The building of railways, roads, and bridges, and the construction of irrigation and other public works have had a like effect. The added value created by the expenditure of public money belongs to the community, .and the people should reap the benefit of it.
– That is the way to talk.
– I know that the honorable senator speaks feelingly on the land question, and so do I. It is proposed to part with the fee-simple in town, agricultural, garden, and tropical lands, and to continue to apply the leasehold system to pastoral areas. If it is advisable to adhere to the leasehold principle in regard to large areas, what is wrong with applying it to small areas? It seems to me that the Northern Territory is the best of all places in which to give the leasehold system a thorough trial.
– For what period should the trial be made ?
– It has had a trial there for about a century already.
– Not at all, when one remembers how inaccessible the land has been for many years. North Australia will continue to suffer because of its isolated position. But since it is now proposed to ameliorate that condition by the construction of railways, the making and maintenance of roads, the provision of telephonic and telegraphic facilities, and by water conservation, the value of the land will be considerably increased. Ministers may reply that the increased land values can be taxed. Of course, the Commonwealth has unlimited power in regard to taxation, but ‘ it is foolish to imagine that the Government will, take, by way of taxation, all profit from land or business enterprise. No Government has done that or attempted to do it, and it is folly to believe that the Government will give back to the community that to which the community is entitled : the added value which will be created as the result of this effort. Private ownership of land cannot be justified, and in equity it does not exist. The Government is supreme, and if it wants any land for public purposes it can acquire it. There is no analogy between land which was intended by the Creator to belong to the people for all time and other forms of property which are the creation of effort and industry. Parliament has adopted the principle of leasehold in regard to the Federal Capital Territory, and I do not suppose that any honorable senator opposite would oppose it. In years to come considerable revenue will be derived from that territory because the Government has not parted with the freehold of the land. I believe that the revenue from that source will go a long way towards meeting the expenses incidental to government so far as that area is concerned.
– The honorable senator is an optimist.
– It is certain that a few years after the Seat of Government has been established at Canberra land values there will be a good deal higher than aif- the present time. The Minister (Senator Pearce) says the Northern Territory is the last place in which an experiment should be instituted to determine the merits of the freehold as against the leasehold system. But I believe that if I searched Hansard I should find that in introducing the bill which established the leasehold principle in the Northern Territory, arguments quite the reverse were advanced by the Minister. It will certainly be to the advantage of some people if they can acquire the freehold of land in the Northern Territory, but it will be to the disadvantage of the community generally. At every opportunity I shall oppose the principle of parting with the freehold of the land belonging to the people! If the commission proceeds with its work in a businesslike manner, a new era will dawn for this part of Australia and its inhabitants. If good progress is made, a largely increased population can be hoped for, and increased population will, of course, mean increased land values. No sound argument has been advanced to show why the leasehold system should be superseded. Some members of the Ministry believe in the private ownership of land, while other members of it, when they were associated with another party, held views just as strongly as I do to-day in support of the leasehold principle. The land problem is of paramount importance to the people. If we could settle it, there would be little or no unemployment. Stagnation in business and financial stress are more or less traceable to the private ownership of land. During the war period and after it, there was a land boom, and fabulous prices were paid. Orchard and other lands were at a premium, and there was a “Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford” spirit abroad. Such high figures were paid in Victoria and the other states that many men now on the land are in financial difficulty.
– Could there be no land boom under the leasehold system ?
– No, since the land is leased for a specified period.
– Leasehold properties boom just the same as freehold land. Everybody knows it.
-When the land belongs to the people the Government can get the benefit of the increased values which private individuals secure to-day. Many of the difficulties in which men on the land now find themselves are due to the high prices which they were charged for the freehold.
– That is equally true of leaseholds.
– If leasehold is as profitable to some people as freehold is from a selling point of view, it is remarkable that leaseholders have time and again made efforts to obtain the freehold of their land. I enter my protest against this proposal to abrogate a sound principle that is acceptable to an overwhelming majority of our people. The Government should at least give the electors an opportunity to express themselves on the matter. The efforts to revert to the freehold system ave being made in behalf of a few interested persons. We have a golden opportunity in the Northern Territory to make a new departure in land policies. It is well known that governments, anti-Labour as well as Labour, have, at some time or other, had cause to regret that their predecessors parted with certain lands which later have had to be resumed for closer settlement, at great public expense. Land parted with for a mere song, to use a hackneyed phrase, has had to be repurchased by various governments at abnormally high prices, with the result that all land in proximity to the resumed areas has been enhanced in value. So much was paid for some of the land resumed for repatriation purposes that the soldier settlers are unable to make a living on their blocks. It must be remembered that land is only worth what it will produce. The best landlord is the Government; it is never a hard taskmaster, and is always willing to tide a. settler over his difficulties. The Government could carry out some useful and ‘ necessary experiments in the Northern Territory in growing cotton, rice, and tobacco. It could place men’ on experimental farms, and after it had proved certain districts to be more suitable than others for specified crops, it could make the land in those localities available for settlement at a merely nominal rental. If this measure is agreed to land trafficking will- become as great a curse in the Territory as it is in the more settled parts of the Commonwealth. This will certainly be so if the Government spends a good deal of money in developmental work there.
– The Territory will be prosperous then.
– No one who gives a moment of serious thought to the matter can say that the Territory will become prosperous by substituting the’ freehold for the leasehold system of land tenure.
– It will be prosperous if the land increases in value. What gives land a high value but the prosperity of the people?
– Population and the expenditure of public money on developmental works will considerably enhance land values and bring prosperity to land-owners. Land in the Victorian Mallee areas is worth twelve to fourteen times more to-day than a few years ago. Its value has increased in consequence of the expenditure of government money on the construction of railway lines and roads, the erection of public buildings, and the provision of water conservation schemes.
– The building of a railway across the Barkly Tablelands would bring similar prosperity in the Northern Territory.
– I have no objection whatever to the spending of public money on railways and other developmental works in the Northern Territory, for I wish to see something substantial done; but I must object to the Government surrendering its hold on the land there. It is said that leaseholds in the Northern Territory are not worth very much, but I am convinced that whatever may be the result of the present Government’s developmental efforts, the land will be worth considerably more in a few years’ time than it is now. People have no incentive to go into the Territory at present, and a freehold title to land will not be a magnet to draw them.
– The leasehold system has had a good trial.
-Neither it nor anything else has had a fair trial in the Northern Territory. I venture to assert that, even if the freehold system had been in vogue there in the last few years, the state of the country would have been exactly what it is now.
– A lot of money has been spent there.
– Yes, millions.
– And if we expect to develop it we must spend many millions more. “We must provide railway lines. The line from Darwin to the Katherine River, and that from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta are of very little use as they are. The Territory has no up-to-date roads. I am particularly concerned with its development because ib belongs to the Commonwealth. My faith is unshaken in the leasehold system, and I strongly object to’ any departure from it. I am inclined to believe that if the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) were not associated with ‘ihe present Government, he also would object to any proposal to ‘depart from it. The reasons that impelled Parliament to adopt it have been strengthened with the passing of the years, and we now have more justification than, ever for retaining it. I am convinced that this proposal will not make the difference between progress and stagnation in the Northern Territory. I submit that the people should be given an opportunity to express themselves before we depart from what has for many years been the settled land policy there. I shall vote against the bill, and I feel sure that the great majority of the people are against it.
– Although the bill before us is a very short one, it provides for an amendment of a very important provision in the original act. Section 11 of the Northern Territory Administration Act of 1910 reads -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this act.
As I wish to refer later to the position in the Federal Capital Territory, I desire to quote section 9 of the Seat of Government Administration Act of 1910, which reads -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this act.
These sections are identical. The present Government has deliberately, wilfully, and maliciously crucified Canberra as far as impossibly can.
– Order ! The honorable senator is mot entitled to apply such a term to the actions of any government or minister. He must hot impute motives.
– I shall say, then, sir, that the Government has adopted a policy in regard to Canberra-
– The honorable senator will not be in order in referring to Canberra, except by way of illustration.
– That is what I am doing.
– The honorable senator must allow me to be the judge of that.
– If you, Mr. President, rule that I am not allowed to refer to Canberra even by way of illustration, I shall dissent from your ruling, quick and lively.
– I have given no such ruling. The honorable senator must not argue with the Chair.
– I shall claim the right to refer by way of illustration to the procedure in the case of the Federal Capital Territory.
– The” honorable senator will be in order in referring to the Federal Capital Territory by way of illustration; but I remind him that during the time he has been speaking he has not made any reference to the bill itself.
– I have been speaking for only about two minutes. I shall, however, refer to the Federal Capital Territory later. I wish to show what the Government intends doing in regard to the land in the Northern Territory.
– Why not use the leading article in to-day’s Argus?
– I am sorry that I have not read the leader to which the honorable senator refers. The latest figures in regard to the Northern Territory are not published in the Commonwealth Year-Booh; those available are only up to 1921. Under the heading, “ Alienation and Occupation of Crown
Lands in the Northern Territory” in 1021, it is shown that 476,508 acres were sold and 48 acres granted for public purposes, or a total of 476,556 acres alienated. Of the leased land, 356 acres- were with the right of purchase, and 119,069,760 were for pastoral purposes. Other leases comprised 18,606,537 acres, making a total of 137,676,653. The area of unoccupied land consists of 196,963,591 acres. The total area of the Northern Territory is 335,116,S00 acres. I propose later on to quote similar figures for the whole of the Commonwealth, but in the meantime wish to direct attention more particularly to the Northern Territory. The Government is proposing to depart from the principle embodied in the Northern Territory Administration Act for the past fifteen years. Although that principle lias been in operation for some time, I do not say that it should not be liable to review. I am at a loss, however, to understand why the Government should now decide to make a change, as the adoption of the proposal now before us will be the means of placing in the hands of certain people in the Commonwealth the legal right to fleece and rob future generations. I saw a glaring example of this principle only yesterday. A returned soldier suffering almost the maximum of disabilities, when he returned to the Commonwealth, found that, under our glorious system of freehold- - which the present Minister (Senator Pearce) and his ardent followers support - before he could procure a home, he had to pay a land-jobber nearly £100 for land on which to erect a dwelling. That is a condition of affairs which the Minister and his supporters desire to see perpetuated in the Commonwealth. If the amount I have mentioned were paid to the Crown it would, I think, be too much, but to allow it to be paid to a private individual, who has the right to legally rob this mau, is beyond my comprehension. The value of gratuity bonds or of the pensions paid by the Commonwealth is placed in the - pockets of these land speculators. This condition of affairs prevails to-day all over the Commonwealth, and honorable senators opposite know that that is the principle which they advocate.
– Does not the honorable senator hold freehold land?
– I do, and so does the honorable senator. I am holding freehold land because I cannot obtain leasehold. Any man in this country who desires to make a home is compelled, in quite a legal manner, to approach one of these land-jobbers in order to secure possession of a building site. People have to mortgage their wages or to borrow money, and pay a sum for the land which, in normal conditions, would he sufficient with which to build a home. That is what Senator Thompson advocates.
– Why would not the honorable senator soli a block of his land ?
– I would if I had it to sell. That is a principle the honorable senator favours.
– That has nothing to do with the point.
– The honorable senator should not introduce personalities.
– We admit these things.
– The honorable senator stands for legal robbery.
– Under this form of legal robbery, which Senator Thompson supports, the gratuities and pensions which we pay returned soldiers are- taken from them.
– I rise to order. As Senator Grant’s remark is offensive to me. I ask that it be withdrawn.
- Senator Thompson having stated that he ‘ regards the remark as offensive, it must be withdrawn. 1 ask Senator Grant to withdraw it.
– I withdraw. I used the expression merely because I could not find, any other language sufficiently strong to convey my meaning. Soldiers who fought in France, Gallipoli, Palestine, and Egypt-, on their return to the Commonwealth, many in a maimed condition, found that they had. to part with the money they received in order to secure land . on which to erect a home. Such conditions should not be tolerated in a civilized community, and, if our returned soldiers and sailors dealt with these questions as they should be dealt with, we would not have the spectacle of thousands of men walking the streets unemployed, in a state of destitution.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not, under cover of discussing the bill, make a speech dealing with the position of returned soldiers. The bill relates to the sale of land in the Northern Territory. I have allowed the honorable senator considerable latitude, and I ask him now to confine his remarks to the bill.
– It is laid down in the Bible that the land shall not be sold for ever. Even in ancient times it was recognized that the land should remain the property of the people; that those who held the land controlled the country and, therefore, the lives of the people. What do we find in Great Britain and in other parts of the civilized world? The position is as was pointed out by Senator Findley. There is unemployment, low wages, doles, and soup kitchens. Why? Because all over the civilizedworld the principle of private ownership of land is establishe/1, and under it certain individuals have the legal right to fleece their fellow citizens. I saw in the press the other day that a certain lord acquired all the land in Bootle. a town in Lancashire, in consequence of which the residents had to pay the owner for the privilege of living in England. Whilst it is true that, the British Crown has parted with the freehold of land in Great Britain, it must be remembered that most of the land is held by a mere handful of people. They most religiously and determinedly hold on to the freehold, because it enables them to extract rent from other -Britishers who are continually “ sidling “ that they never will be slaves. That is the condition of affairs that members of the government party desire to introduce into the Northern Territory, and to see continued in other parts of Australia. I do not wish to see it introduced in the Northern Territory.. I should like to see continued there for all time die present policy relating to land. If the freehold principle is introduced every mile of railway that is built there at public expense will increase the desirableness of the land. Once that occurs the price of land will immediately advance. Increased land value is rarely brought about by those who own land. Once you obtain possession of land you can go to Timbuctoo or anywhere else, and remain away for years. If the population increases and the demand for land becomes greater, you will probably find on your return that your land has doubled, trebled, or even quadrupled in value. That added value should belong, not to the man who owns the freehold title, but to the community, which is entirely responsible for the creation and maintenance of land values. The desire to occupy and use land must be present, otherwise it will not have any value; and that desire can be maintained only by the community. If the population of the Northern Territory were increased to 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 persons, the land which to-day produces a mere bagatelle in the way of rent would become a most valuable asset. If we introduce the freehold system that valuable asset will belong, not to the Commonwealth, but to the few individuals who now own extensive leases, that are measured by parallels of latitude in that great country. They will reap the whole of the advantages that will follow the construction of railways and public works, and an increase in the population of the Northern Territory. They will have the legal right to systematically fleece their fellow citizens. I do not stand for that principle. In the United States, in every country in Europe, as well as in Australia, there is to-day an army of unemployed. Those persons cannot obtain- access to land unless they pay the owners what they choose to ask. It has been very truly said that the Northern Territory is stagnating. The simple- and all-sufficient reason is that the majority of the people of Australia believe that they can obtain better conditions in other parts of the continent. The moment they become convinced that they will be better served in the Northern Territory they will go there and remain there. The question of a freehold or a leasehold title will not enter into their considerations. Under a proper system of leasehold, land .speculation would absolutely cease. The lands should be valued annually, and the added value should be annexed by the state. for public purposes. Until that has been done we shall not have the slightest chance of dealing effectively and permanently with the unemployed problem. All other schemes excepting this have already been tried. It was laid down fifteen years ago that the leasehold principle should be applied to the lands at Canberra, but systematically one government after another has taken steps that have absolutely prevented settlement at Canberra. They have deliberately fixed the upset price of each building site at a figure so high that the public will not purchase. That is the sole reason for the lack of progress at Canberra.
– That is not an illustration of any of the conditions that exist in the Northern Territory. The honorable senator is making a very serious allegation of maladministration on the part of the government in dealing with the lands of the Federal Capital Territory, but that has nothing to do with this bill. Even though h’e repeated it a thousand times it would not be relevant to the bill.
– In the Federal Capital Territory the lands are controlled under the leasehold system. Yet the progress that should have been made there has not been made. The Northern Territory is in a similar position. The reason for its lack of progress so far is that it is far removed from the main centres of population. The people believe that they can get a better return for their labour in other parts of the Commonwealth. The Northern Territory will not make any progress in the future if- some persons are given the right to rob their fellow citizens. In Canberra the government will not make allotments available except at a figure that the public will not pay. The public knows better than the Minister the value of the blocks there.
– The honorable senator would be quite in order in drawing a comparison between the application of the leasehold principle in Canberra and in the Northern Territory; but he may not make an allegation of maladministration in connexion with the government’s handling of the lands at Canberra, because that is not relevant to this bill.
– Anything that can be said regarding the principle of leasehold at Canberra, in the Northern
Territory, or elsewhere, will, I think, have an effect upon honorable senators when they come to vote upon the proposal to destroy the leasehold system in the Northern Territory. The action of the government in the Federal Capital Territory has ‘ had a damaging effect, and for that reason I have referred to it. I should not be surprised to see introduced a hill to amend the law relating to the Federal Capital Territory. The Government is endeavouring to introduce this principle in the Northern Territory, because it is so far removed from the large centres of population. Its object is quite clear. It desires to make sore that the added value which is given to the land by increased - population and public expenditure, and which should go to the community, shall be passed on to some of those large land speculators, who, I believe, are the greatest curse that the world has ever produced. Its desire is to encourage them to take possession of the lands of the Northern Territory. That is, possibly, the most retrograde step- that has so far been taken by the present Ministry. .No one knows better than I do the extreme difficulty of securing the imposition of such taxation as will recover to the public at least some of the added value that it gives to land. The people in this and every civilized country are prepared to tax anything and everything except their respectable landlords. They appear to regard those individuals as sacred and outside the operations of the tax-gatherer. Why that should be I do not know. It is said that the granting of a freehold title is not a matter of very great importance. The contention is that, even though the freehold of the land is given, the state does not part with the right to tax the owners of the land. That is quite true ; but very good care is taken in every taxation measure to see that they are practically exempt. At the present time the whole of the land-owners of the Commonwealth pay a paltry £2,000,000 to the national revenue. Senator Findley very properly said that the land question is the basis of all our troubles. In the state of New South Wales the other day, under the freehold system, the Government made available three small blocks of land in the Grafton district. The following paragraph appeared in a paper that is published by my honorable and learned friend.- Mr. A, G. Huie, secretary of the Single Tax League in New South Wales : -
The Grafton Land Rush.
Three blocks of land having been made available in the Grafton district. 2,230 applications were received. The Lauds Department claims that this is not a proof of genuine land hunger. It would bo interesting to know what the department defines as “ genuine land hunger.” It is a matter of common knowledge that a great many nien have for years sought to acquire farming areas in vain. Even many who succeed in getting farms only do so after heartbreaking experiences. The fact of thu matter is that there is but little good Grown land reasonably accessible. The population is growing, so that >n increasing number of people are after a diminishing supply of Crown lands. To say that such a condition of affairs docs not represent a genuine demand for land seems to us to be absurd. These land rushes, from time to time, no doubt, include many speculators, .hut the real demand is there all the time. And it will continue until we insist that land shall be put to full use. Tax land values so as to cut out the speculative element, and genuine land seekers will have a chance.
If the full . annual rental of the land in the Northern Territory were appropriated by the Commonwealth Government, land speculation would be cut out, because no one would want to own land there merely for the sake of holding it. One’s sole reason for acquiring land is that it places one in a position to legally rob one’s fellow citizens. When the Duke of Manchester, out of money extracted from his victims in Birmingham, became the owner of land in Sydney North, he and other “ shrewdies “ associated with him, built a bridge across an arm of North Harbour. But. before he was able to pass the land on to the expected victims, the so-called land boom burst, and he “ fell in.” Since then, however, the population of Sydney has increased, and land which at that time was worth only 5s. a foot, is now worth £25. The Duke of Manchester did not get the increase, but others did. Under a system of leasehold, all that increment would have become the property of the nation. I cannot understand why we should seek to continue in the Northern Territory a condition of affairs which has created such ill conditions in other countries. I am informed on’ very good authority that housing accommodation is very scarce in Melbourne. I know it is scarce in Sydney. Overcrowding is more prevalent there to-day than it has been at any time in its history. Despite the Fair Bents Court, rents are higher than they have ever been before, and the price of land is higher to-day than it has ever been. Yet we are asked to agree to the abolition of the leasehold system in the Northern Territory, and to perpetuate there conditions which are a disgrace to our capital cities. Our boasted intelligent Australians are compelled to live on small, miserable, contemptible, microscopic allotments, 20 feet by 100 feet, and it takes them all their time to pay the licence demanded by some land speculator, even for the right to occupy such small areas. The state Parliaments have done every thing they can to protect, land speculators from taxation, and now the Federal Government calmly proposes to uproot the very legislation its most prominent members were a few years ago responsible for placing on the statute-books. I venture to say that there are on the Ministerial bench to-day four honorable senators who were most active in insisting on the application of the leasehold principle, not only to Federal Capital Territory, but also to the Northern Territory. Evidently pressure has been brought to bear upon them from some unseen source, and they now propose to root out. the legislation for which they themselves were responsible a short fifteen years ago. On page 216 of the Commonwealth Year-Booh of 1921 we are told that in 1921 there were 774,126,28s acres of land still in the possession of the Crown. Honorable senators opposite talk about migration. Why do they want migrants? It is because they stand behind the people who own the land.. Their sole reason in advocating the granting of a freehold title to land is not that people may own blocks, but that the vacant land owned by their friends may become more and more valuable. And, not content with having the rest of Australia at their disposal, they want to lay their hands on the Northern Territory. The freehold system has -been a failure everywhere. Why should the Northern Territory be singled out for this special attention? There has been no demand for this change, exceptperhaps from a limited number of land speculators or land-holders in the Nor- thern Territory. There is no weapon so powerful as the ownership of land. The land-owner has others absolutely at his mercy. Honorable senators supporting the Government are willing to place, not only those who are now in the Territory, but others who may come there, at the mercy of, land speculators. There is no justification for the proposed change. It will not increase population in the Territory.
– How much land is likely to be taken up under freehold in the Northern Territory? The pastoral leases cannot be taken up as freeholds.
– It- is impossible for me to say how much land will be taken up in the Northern Territory under the freehold system, but I have no’ hesitation in saying that if the land in the Territory were put up to auction tomorrow, it would all be taken up.
– It is not-‘ proposed to do that.
– It might not be all taken up if it were submitted at- an upset price fixed by the Government, but if the Government would put up the land in the Northern Territory to the highest bidder under the freehold system, it would see a phenomenal rush of buyers - not settlers, but speculators eager to settle the people coining after them. That is the reason for the introduction of this bill, and therefore I oppose it.
– I desire to place on record my protest against handing over to private individuals what should belong to the people of Australia. Alienation of Crown lands always appeals to me as daylight robbery. I am not saying that the Government is consciously acting as Ned Kelly would have acted, but, in effect, it is taking something from the people of Australia and handing it over to individuals who have no right to it, and who are not likely to develop it.
– How does the honorable senator know that? He does not know who will buy the land.
– I regret that Senator Payne places himself behind those who are, in effect, highway robbers. I am sure that the honorable senator would not have the courage to place a gun at the head of an individual at a street corner late at night.
– Neither would I buy a block of land in the Northern Territory.
– If the honorable senator saw an opportunity of making any money through buying a block there he would certainly do so; and if any other person of some standing wished to buy a block the honorable senator would be ready to lend him money at 12-J per cent.
– He would want a better security than land in the Northern Territory.
– Interest rates have nothing to do with the bill under discussion.
– I believe that the Minister (Senator Crawford) would be prepared to advance money for the purpose at 10 per cent., but Senator J. Grant, who occasionally has a little money over and above what he donates to charity, refuses to charge more than 5 per cent.
– Order ! Such remarks are entirely irrelevant to the bill, and I ask the honorable senator not to proceed further along those lines.
– I suggest that the interjections to which I was replying were irrelevant.
– I shall protect the honorable senator from interjections. “ Senator McHUGH. - I thank you, sir. In a- few years, no doubt, railways will be built in the Northern Territory, and if the great development takes place, which men who claim to be far-seeing predict, land values will considerably rise. I do not know whether the Government proposes to sell these lands at Darwin, Newcastle Waters, Alice Springs or Adelaide, but in any case many people will find it inconvenient to attend the sales. Plans will be distributed presumably, and an auction sale may be held. I am afraid, Mr. President, that you are unable at the moment to say whether my remarks are in order or otherwise.
– Order ! The honorable senator, will resume his seat. He must not reflect on the chair. If any honorable senator wishes to make a communication to me he is entitled to do so. Senator Foll had a communication to make to me, and was entitled to make it. I warn Senator McHugh that the methods he is adopting will not be tolerated any longer.
– Whilst I am speaking, Mr. President, I am entitled to’ your ear. If somebody else comes along and has your ear I cannot have it at the same time.
– I have to pay attention to the Senate generally, as well as to the honorable senator who is addressing the . chair. 1 ask Senator McHugh now to discuss the bill. I shall not ask him again to do so.
– I arn discussing the bill, sir. I have no doubt that all Government supporters will know when and where the auction sale is to be held, and they will be in a position to “ buy in.” Afterwards railways will be built, and, of course, added values’ will be created, just as has happened in the past in other parts of Australia. I have in mind a town in South Australia. Certain people knew that a railway junction would be built there. The upset price of the land sold was £10 a block, but within two years it was worth £300 a block, and when the Government wanted some of the blocks for its own use it had to pay an extortionate price because it had parted with the freehold. I see no reason why development should not take place under the leasehold system. You, Mr. President, like myself, will be dead 100 years hence, and if we have the use of the land we may require -during our lifetime we should ask nothing better from the people of Australia. Why should we, by reason of knowledge we may acquire, be enabled to hand down to others laud, the value of which has been built up, not by our labour, but by the efforts of the people of the Commonwealth? I ask you, Mr. President, as one who has taken a great interest in friendly societies, why they will ‘ not sell a freehold to any individual in Australia, but will only grant a building lease? That is what this Government should do. The friendly societies naturally and logically say that the brothers who come after them are entitled to consideration, and .that the societies are greater than individuals. Similarly, I maintain that the Australians who will succeed us are entitled to our consideration. No Government should give away the birthright of this young country. Years ago, when the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) belonged to it, the Labour party had a song which I believe I. have heard you, Mr. President, sing. I have heard Senator Newland sing it. The words aro -
The land, the land ! It was God who gave the land;
The land, the land, the land on which we * stand.
Then why should we come begging with a ballot in our hand, When God gave the land to the people?
Now we have a Government that wishes to take away that God-given right. It wants to give to private individuals the right to hand <3own to other persons, worthy or unworthy, the land of this Commonwealth. Not one acre of it should be alienated, for it belongs to the people. The construction of railways builds up land values. In one or two portions of South Australia land has been sold at £1,500 a foot, although it was almost given away in the early days at £10 an acre. The added value was not created by the present owners, but was given by the expenditure of public money. Why should a few individuals in every city of Australia, by reason of the added value that has accrued to land, be able to dominate the Parliaments of the country to such an extent as to practically control the destinies of the people ? These individuals have . never produced anything, but the people have produced a great deal for them. I have much faith in the central portions of Australia, and it is regrettable to find that the present Government is’ prepared to deprive the people of the benefit of the increase in value which will result from the expenditure of public money there. Many other lands in Australia have already been given away. Unfortunately, the Northern Territory pastoral areas have been alienated until 1965, and now the Senate is asked to agree to give other portions of the Territory away in perpetuity. I am afraid that when the Government secures the passage of the present bill, as it no doubt will, for it has the necessary numbers, it will proceed to alienate the pastoral lands, too, in perpetuity. The Government will do anything for those who find its party funds.. A railway line and the development of this great territory do not count with them, and the people of Australia do not count, so long as they can help those who provide their party funds and who dominate their political machine. It was said by interjection this evening - I think by Senator
Greene - that a leasehold was in the nature of a freehold. I disagree with that view, for the reason that leasehold land may, if an honest government be in power at the time of the expiry of the lease, revert to the government, whereas freehold land never can. If a weak government be in power at the time a lease expires, the land invariably reverts to those who were in possession of it. It is a fact worth noting that station hands, almost without exception, in their advanced years have to apply for the old-age pension, whereas pastoralists, generally speaking, are worth anything from £100,000 to £250,000 at the time of their death.
– And some “ go broke.”
– Can the Minister name one who has gone “ broke. “
– I could, but I do not think that the honorable senator ought to expect me to.
– I told Senator McHugh that I would protect him from interjections, and I must ask the Minister not to interject.
– That is right, sir; but you are now protecting the Minister. Se says that he knows some who have, become bankrupt, but he cannot give their names.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not continue in that strain.
– I am very sorry for any man who becomes bankrupt. It is not good for the country that he should. I am obliged to say, however, that any pastoralist who knew his business and became bankrupt in the last ten years was himself to blame. I do not suggest, of course, that pastoralists who will not work will not become bankrupt. Every man who will not work is liable to suffer that fate. Senator Wilson would become politically bankrupt if he did not do his work. His leader would quickly take him to task on that score. I suppose, however, that he is really becoming tired of ministerial office.
– The honorable senator’s remarks may be interesting, but they are not relevant to the bill.
– I was about to connect them, sir. When Senator Wilson becomes tired of his ministerial duties he may make up his mind to become a pastoralist. In that case I have no doubt he would be successful, for he. would work.. He would doubtless get a good price for his wool, and we would see his face wreathed in smiles.
- Senator Wilson’s smiles have nothing whatever to do with the bill. I have warned the honorable senator several times that he must confine his remarks to the measure before the Chair. I want him to be relevant and to avoid tedious repetition. I shall not warn him again.
– I am not so conversant with the standing orders as some honorable senators who have been here for a number of years.
– lt is quite easy for the honorable senator to make his remarks relevant to the bill. That is all I have asked of him, but he has failed lamentably.
– I thank you, sir, for your instruction. I do not know that I can do> anything more than that. I desire to offer a few words of wisdomto honorable senators opposite. If my bush way of doing so ‘does not please you, I am sorry.
– I only ask the honorable senator to be relevant.
-“ Relevant “ is an extraordinary word, sir - something bike the word that we were arguing about this afternoon. It is capable of many interpretations. I have endeavoured to master the’ English language, but I fear that I have not been able to interpret this word.
– I ask the honorable senator once more to speak to the bill.
– I do not desire to incur your displeasure, sir. I know, that you must have enough sleepless nights without my assistance. I shall endeavour to obey you. The bill opens up a vast field of debate. Something was said this afternoon about soldier settlers. I know many ex-soldiers who would like to secure a lease of some land, but they have not been able to do so. Senator Wilson knows that the South Australian Government has had to pay extortionate prices for land which it resumed for repatriation purposes. The patriotic individuals who were so anxious for our boys to go to the war asked £10, £12., £14, and even £15 an acre for land which cost them no more than £1 an acre, notwithstanding that they knew it was required for soldier settlement. The millstone of over-capitalized holdings has been hung around the neck of many soldiers. If the leasehold principle were iu general operation we should gradually escape the necessity of re-purchasing laud for closer settlement purposes. If in 60, 70, or 80 years another war occurred the government of the day would be able, when the time for repatriation arrived, to settle the returned men on advantageous terms. It would not be met by flagwaving individuals who said in effect, ‘ Let the boys go away to the war and we will look after them when they return. We have some land that we wish to dispose of, and we will, so to speak, hang it round their necks as a millstone for the rest of their lives.”
– Order ! I have already warned the honorable senator that he must make his remarks relevant to the bill. This bill deals with the administration of the Northern Territory, and it cannot be regarded as a mere peg upon which to hang a dissertation about anything and everything. I direct the honorable senator to resume his seat on the grounds of his irrelevancy and tedious repetition.
– There are only two points in the debate to which I wish to refer. One was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), who pointed out that the principle of leasehold was applied to the Northern Territory some fifteen years ago by a Labour Government, of which I was a member. He appeared to derive considerable satisfaction from pointing out that I am now responsible for bringing forward a bill in which it is proposed to apply the freehold principle to the Territory. I freely admit that that is so, I am fifteen years wiser than I was fifteen years ago.
– That is an old story.
– I can quite understand some honorable senators opposite ridiculing the statement that one can grow wiser as one grows older, for they have had the experience of growing older without growing wiser.
– Some grow crooked.
– A crooked mind always imagines crookedness in others. I suggest to the honorable senator that he should be the last in this chamber to refer to any one growing crooked.
– You are crooked.
– I have been very patient with the honorable senator for some time. I must ask him now to be good enough to maintain order.
– I ask that Senator McHugh shall withdraw that interjection, for it is grossly offensive and untrue.
– If a remark by any senator is offensive to another honorable senator it must be withdrawn. I ask Senator McHugh to withdraw the words complained of.
– I withdraw.
– Fifteen years ago the leasehold principle was applied to the Northern Territory. Since that time the Territory has not progressed. It is quite true with regard to a great part of the Territory that this stagnation is not due to the principle under which land is held, but it is likewise true that that portion, of the Territory suitable for agricultural purposes, which is adjacent to the existing railway, has also been stagnant. Agricultural land lying alongside the railway line has been available for leasehold under the most generous terms, but it has not been taken up. I believe that that is an indication of the failure of the leasehold principle as applied to agricultural lands. It has convinced me that it is so, and it is because of that that I have changed my opinions in regard to leasehold land for agricultural purposes in the Northern Territory. If we are to induce people to undertake agricultural pursuits there we must give them more generous and favorable conditions than prevail elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
– But this bill does not apply solely to agricultural land.
– It relates to agricultural and town lands, and not pastoral lands. This open confession no doubt carries its own conviction to honorable senators opposite, because they cannot see that it is possible for men to honestly change their opinions when they find themselves in the wrong. I would suggest that honorable senators opposite look back upon their own careers. If they do they will remember that they have changed or profess to have changed their opinions, not because the system which they once advocated has been demonstrated to be a failure, but simply because it has become unpopular amongst a certain section of the community. There was a time when they advocated universal compulsory military training. Where do they stand now!
– I rise to order. Are the remarks of the Minister concerning compulsory military training relevant to the bill 1
– The Minister is entitled to reply to any definite charges made by honorable senators, and to use any relevant illustration.
– I do not propose to pursue that subject, but I could very easily give further illustrations of a very unpleasant character to honorable senators opposite.
– The bill relates to all lands in the Northern Territory.
– It does not cover pastoral lands. The other point upon which I wish to speak is one mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), Senator J. Grant and Senator Findley, all of whom seem to think that as soon as it becomes known that the Government intend to grant freeholds for agricultural purposes in the Northern Territory there will be a rush of land speculators. Senator J. Grant supplied proof to the contrary when he said that there are 467,000 acres of freehold land in the Northern Territory today, most of which is near the principal town in the Territory and is adjacent to the railway. What is the value of that land to-day?
– Practically nothing. I doubt very much if it could be sold for 6d. per acre. According to the glowing stories of Senator J. Grant one would think that it would be worth so many pounds per acre; but, as a matter of fact, it has little or no value. Instead of speculators rushing to the Territory they seem to be keeping away. Whenever land speculators turn their attention to land values in the Northern Territory it will be because the Territory has become an agricultural proposition. It is not going to be without the assistance of human agencies. We have to induce men to go there to cultivate the soil and to demonstrate its value for agricultural purposes.
It will never bc worth more than it is to-day until that is done. To imagine that we are likely to induce men to go to the most distant part of the Commonwealth under most unfavorable conditions, and take up leaseholds for agricultural purposes, when they can go to any state in the Commonwealth and obtain freehold land which they can work and upon which they can bring up a family under the most congenial conditions is, to say the least of it, unreasonable.
– Large areas in the Northern Territory have been taken up under the leasehold system. -
– For pastoral purposes, and they will continue to be held under the leasehold system. We shall never get the enhanced value of which Senator J. Grant speaks until we first attract the population, and that cannot be done under the leasehold system. I remind honorable senators that in the case of the Federal Capital Territory mentioned by Senator J. Grant the banks are to-day refusing to advance money .on leasehold blocks there. If that is the case there, where leasehold land is almost equivalent to freehold land, is it likely that the financial institutions will advance money on agricultural land in the Northern Territory, which is admitted to be the most risky and doubtful agricultural proposition in the Commonwealth.
Question - That the bill he now read a second time- put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 August 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1925/19250819_senate_9_111/>.