10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea - Ordinances of 1926 -
No. 1 - Loan.
No. 2 - Quarantine.
No. 3 - Native Administration.
Plans, Books of Reference, Estimates and other information in connexion with the proposed extension of the Port Augusta - Oodnadatta Railway to Alice Springs.
I now desire to furnish the following reply:-
Only . Australian wines and spirits were used in the Australian section of the exhibition. In other sections Australian wines and spirits were used wherever practicable.
I may add that, for all practical purposes, that practice was honoured by the British authorities in charge of the exhi- bition. On many occasions they came to me to ask where they could get stocks of Australian wines and spirits, and they lived up to the ideal that the exhibition was for the furtherance of Empire trade.
– On 15th January, Senator Graham asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : - 1.£ 26 5s. per day.
[3.5]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have already laid on the table of the Senate the plans and data which have guided the Government in deciding to proceed with the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. Copies have also been made available to honorable senators. In a very simple form they provide a great deal of information concerning the proposition now before the Senate - a proposition which is of vast importance to the development of the Commonwealth. Last night I moved the second reading of the Railways (South Australian) Agreement Bill, covering three railway projects to be undertaken by the Commonwealth in the State of South Australia. One is the extension of the existing railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, a second is an extension of the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, and the third is a proposal to lay a third rail between Red Hill and Adelaide. The bill, the second reading of which I am now moving, deals only with that portion of the agreement which relates to the extension of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
– There will be no immediate action in regard to the other projects? The agreement simply gives to the Commonwealth a right to do certain things which it may or may not exercise?
– The other projects have first to be referred to the Public Works Committee, and it is proposed to refer them to that committee without delay. The agreement covering these three projects was made on the 18th September, 1925, but the building of a railway to Alice Springs is actually in compliance with an agreement made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia, the negotiations for which began in 1907. It cannot, therefore, be contended that this is hasty legislation. As a matter of fact, it has been before the public and the Commonwealth Parliament since 1907, and very few public men have not given it some consideration. However, no definite attempt has hitherto been made to finalize the matter. When the agreement was made between the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth undertook certain obligations. In business it frequently happens that one of the parties to an agreement seeks to get the better of the deal, but I do not think that that consideration should enter into agreements or negotiations between governments for national development. Legal gentlemen have differed considerably in regard to the interpretation of the agreement embodied in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910. For instance, no definite time limit was set down for the construction of the north-south railway, but fair-minded people hold that it has to be constructed within a reasonable time. At any rate, that is my view.
– That is the legal interpretation.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON.I have read many legal interpretations of that part of the agreement.
– They all agree on that point.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON.It is very pleasing, indeed, to find that lawyers do agree” on something.
– What is’ a reasonable time ?
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON.Much depends upon the circumstances existing at the time. Consideration would have to be given to the money and labour markets and also the seamons. There are numerous factors to be considered in determining what is a reasonable time. When ; the South Australian Government agreed to transfer the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth it was provided in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act that the ‘ Commonwealth should construct or cause to be constructed as part of the transcontinental railway, a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect with the transcontinental railway on the northern boundary of South Australia proper. On the other hand the South Australian Government undertook to authorize the Commonwealth by legislation to do all that was necessary to enable the Commonwealth to make - surveys, acquire the necessary lands, and construct or cause to be constructed a railway in South Australia proper from any point on the Port Augusta railway to a point on the northern boundary line of South Australia proper, to connect with that part of the transcontinental railway to be built in the Northern Territory from Port Darwin southwards to the northern boundary of South Australia proper and to’ maintain and work such railway when constructed. Honorable senators may hold different opinions on matters of detail, and as to whether the proposal of the Government is one which will meet with the requirements of the different States, but the honorable compact entered into by the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia is now being given effect to by this Government. If a line is constructed from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs it will not be long before branch lines or feeders will have to be constructed to the northern portion of Western. Australia and into Queensland.
– They are sure to come in time.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON. Yes, I cannot believe that this huge territory, will remain undeveloped for any time after the proposed railway is completed. In moving the second reading of the Railway (South Australia) Agreement Bill yesterday, I referred to the large tract of territory in South Australia, which a few years ago, was known as the Ninety Mile Desert, in which land could bie taken up for almost nothing as it was regarded even by pioneers as practically useless. Today it is one of the most prosperous farming districts in the State, and in fact values have increased during my lifetime to such an extent that land which a few years ago was sold at from 20s. to 30s. per acre is to-day bringing from £7 to £10 per acre. Under our present scientific methods of farming, wheat can be grown with a comparatively low rainfall. A few years ago when experts said that wheat could not be grown on the South Australian Murray lands with an 8 inch or 9 inch rainfall they were laughed at. Wheat is, however, being successfully grown in that locality and those conducting farming operations there are doing well. Even when the proposed line is constructed further development in the Territory will be principally by pastoralists who will have control of fairly large areas, but with the construction of other lines smaller holdings will doubtless be taken up. It is true that wheat at present cannot be profitably grown in the Northern Territory, but when the land is subdivided into small pastoral areas the future of the Territory should be particularly bright. I do not think for a moment that the country to be served by the proposed line is the best in Australia. The ex-Prime Minister (the Right Hon. W. M. Hughes) when replying to a deputation a few years ago said that God never intended us to retain the Territory unless we were able to use it. That is a statement to which all reasonable men must subscribe. We must either settle the country with a white population, preferably British people, or allow some one else to do so. Considering the demand for Australian wool and the prices obtained for this product in the world’s market, there should be a splendid opportunity in the Territory for an extension of the pastoral industry. Such a work should be undertaken by enthusiastic, experienced young men, as the hardships and difficulties to be encountered at the outset will be great, but not insurmountable, provided they have a reasonable amount of capital and are supplied with sufficient facilities to enable them to handle their stock, particularly in periods of- drought. In the present circumstances, it is exceedingly difficult and costly to obtain plant and foodstuffs, which in many cases have to be carried by camels. It is also difficult to obtain suitable labour.. Many city business men complain if they have to travel 2 or 3 miles to the city by tramcar, but men required on pastoral areas in the Northern Territory have sometimes ‘ to travel for days and weeks on camels before they reach their destination. The freight on goods from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is approximately £18 per ton.
– It is £22 per ton.
– I thought I would underestimate rather than overestimate the amount. With such a high rate prevailing for the transport of goods, there is little prospect of any great development taking place. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) has introduced the Northern Australian Bill, in which provision has been made for the development of the Northern Territory. The right honorable gentleman referred to the difficulties of transport prevailing at present, and also to the need of improved water supplies. It is impossible to settle any such country without adequate transport facilities and water supplies.
– Water is the first essential.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON.Yes, and the policy of the Government as outlined in the measure to which I have referred includes the sinking of necessary bores in the Northern Territory as a preliminary step which will encourage those who desire to take up pastoral country in the north. -During the last two or three years large numbers cf South Australians have settled in Western Australia. At Burra, an important sheep-farming centre in South- Australia, I was informed the other day that about a dozen sons of- some of the most successful sheepbreeders in that district were anxious to take up ls.nd but were unable to obtain the land they required. There was never a more opportune time than the present for young men to engage in the pastoral industry in a small way on outside country. Owing to the high cost of stock and plant a man must have £7,000 or £8,000 before he can take up the business of a pastoralist on inside areas. He must look to the outside country, and it should be the business of this Parliament to provide all the necessary facilities to induce people to go outback. I am satisfied that with the construction of this railway all available blocks in Central Australia will be over-applied for by young men with the necessary experience and capital. If any honorable senators are inclined to doubt this statement I remind them that there are hundreds of applicants for pastoral leases in both Queensland and New South Wales, and that large numbers of men are unable to secure land. We should therefore (push on with developmental works of this nature, for not only shall we be honouring our compact with South Australia, but we shall also be doing something to develop “our portion of the Empire to the best of our ability. Exhaustive inquiries were made by experts concerning the best route, and honorable senators have before them plans of the alternate schemes. They will observe that the proposal to construct a line on the standard gauge from Kingoonya to. Alice Springs is estimated to cost £4,500,000, whilst the extension ot the 3 ft. 6 in. line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is estimated to cost £1,700,000. The Government, after careful consideration of all the available facts, decided in favour of the extension fca Alice Springs. Honorable senators have the whole of the details of both proposals before them. I compliment the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), and the officers of his department on having prepared plans which convey so much information of value to honorable senators. Whilst I do not wish to rush the measure through the Senate, I trust that it will have a speedy passage. It is a very important proposal, and, as I have already said, it honours the compact made by the Commonwealth Government with. South Australia. As public men we should always seek to fulfil our obligations.
Senator Thomass.Like the proposal to establish the capital at Canberra.
– Senator Thomas never loses an opportunity to remind me that when I was a private member I criticized Federal Capital works. I did so because I believed we should first develop a country and allow that country to develop its capital city. I have never wavered in my views on this matter. I believe that this measure for the construction of a railway to develop an immense area of valuable country in Central Australia, should go hand in hand with any scheme for the development of .the Seat of Government. May I also remind Senator Thomas that work at Canberra is well in hand, and I regret that I may not be privileged to go there. But let me return to the bill. In 1920 the Government of the day arranged for proposals to construct railways in and to the Northern Territory to be considered by the Public Works Committee. That body recommended an extension of the existing railway to Daly Waters, and the construction of a light, low-level line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. Parliament authorized the construction of a railway from Emungalan to Daly Waters, and I understand that arrangements are being made by the department to let the contract. The Oodnadatta to Alice Springs extension must play an important part in the development of Central Australia. Critics of the project have objected that there is no water in the north-west of South Australia, and that pastoral development must be fraught with the greatest danger. Only last year, Mr’. Britten Jones, a recognized authority in South Australia, was sent out to report upon that country, and my son was privileged to accompany him. They made a careful examination of 24 wells out on the MacDouall-Peake run, and reported that a new well on the homestead area was one of the best ever discovered in that portion of the State. A study of the proposed route, from Kingoonya discloses that, for 150 miles, the railway would pass through poor country; it then improves. After the first 60 or ‘70 miles the line would be within 50 or 60 miles of the existing line. With modern means of road traction, ‘ and with reasonably well-made roads, settlement 50 or 60 miles from a railway is quite feasible. In these days, also, there are the added conveniences provided by telephones and wireless. I am sorry that it is necessary, for economic reasons, to make the gauge of the line 3 ft. 6 in. No one regrets that more than 1, but the decision to have that gauge is dictated by circumstances beyond our control.
– What is the annual rainfall in the area to be served by this line?
– I have no statistics in my possession at the moment, but it ranges from 7 to 10 inches.
– Up to 12 inches at Alice Springs.
-I am confident that given railway facilities, this country can be developed.
– Good markets are needed for what is produced.
– 1 am certain that good markets will be obtainable. If there is one thing that will market itself it is Australian wool, I anticipate that the wool-growing industry will be as prosperous in the future as it has been in the past. The present railway is at a dead end when it reaches Oodnadatta, and for a number of miles beyond, the country, which produces noth- . ing, and is never likely to produce anything, is worthless. Owing to that bad stretch of country it is difficult to get fat stock through from the good country beyond. Unless we provide facilities for people to market what they produce, we cannot expect them to undertake the development of the country. Many old settlers have been carrying on from year to year in the hope of getting railway facilities, which will do much to make life easier and happier for them. In times of drought one of the greatest assets a settler can have is . the iron horse to remove his stock to more favoured districts. I have never submitted to the Senate a bill that I felt was of greater importance to the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27th January (vide page 369), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill he now read a second time.
– In supporting this bill, with a few reservations, I take this opportunity of pointing out that the Notice Paper of the Senate is largely given up to the interests of South Australia.
– The Northern Territory, not South Australia.
– I should not be representing Senator Newland’s feelings if I did not say that South Australia, and
Senator Newland himself, have a real and fatherlyinterest in the development of the Territory. That being so, I feel warranted in remarking that South Australia is havin in this Parliament a very fair share of attention, and appears to be the centre of attraction at present.I do not grumble or complain about that. If the Commonwealth wants a central State, it is just as well that South Australia should be that State. We are discussing one of those interests incidental to the welfare of South Australia, but in my opinion it is. of far greater consequence to the people of Australia as a whole. The proposal is of national importance. Although South Australia may not have suffered in a fiscal sense by having control of the Territory, that State rendered good service to the Commonwealth by shouldering the burden of controlling the Territory at a time when theState of New South Wales was no longer willing to share it. In accepting a burden which, in view of its financial state, it could hardly support, it did a great service to past and future generations in this country. While she controlled the Northern Territory, South Australia was free to indulge in the tendency of the time to use coloured labour in an attempt to secure more rapid and more successful exploitation of the area. She certainly dallied with a proposal to that end, but she did not embrace it. Much to her credit, she did not follow the lead of Queensland and some of the other States, when they said that their sub-tropical and even cooler areas couldnot properly be developed without the aid of black labour. Among the greatest problems that the statesmen of the United States of America have to solve are those associated with its coloured population. South Australia might have handed, over to- the Commonwealth with the Northern Territory a coloured problem the solution of which was beyond the . ingenuity of our best statesmen. To her Credit, she did not do so, and we should appreciate that fact.
The time has come’ when we must do something to develop the Northern Territory, or else be regarded as self-confessed failures. By continued inaction we shall lay ourselves open to the charge of being scared by the magnitude of the problem orby the responsibility that its solution would involve. The Government should show a firm determination to develop this undoubtedly neglected portion of the Commonwealth. I am at a loss to know the reason for the stagnation that is so manifest in the Northern Territory, for I am convinced that the country holds untold wealth. It cannot be said that unsympathetic Federal Governments have been in office since the Territory was taken over from South Australia. As a matter of fact, the reverse is the case. There is a type of Northern Territory citizen, however, whose chief qualification and purpose in life seems to be to growl continually about the socalled shortcomings of the Government. I readily admit that there are two classes of people there. One of these is the true type of pioneering stock that Australia has always been proud to honour. The other is the type of malcontent that I have already described.
– It must be confessed that no very tangible results have followed ‘ the efforts ‘ of successive governments to develop the Territory.
– But it has not been for the want of trying or of sympathetic interest.
– Vesteys tried hard to do something for the Territory, but they received very little encouragement from the people.
– The more one conconsiders the position, the clearer becomes the fact that the territory contains two distinctly different classes of people. It cannot be denied that since it became a Commonwealth responsibility various governments have been anxious to develop it. The best test of government sympathy with any project is probably the spending of government money on it. If that standard be applied to the Northern Territory, it will be found that its meagre handful of people have had more spent on them per head than the people of any other corresponding part of Australia. I recollect seeing a return that indicated that the amount that had been spent there averaged upwards of £100 per head of the population. Two” other parts of Australia are practically identical in all their conditions with the Northern Territory. I refer to the parts of Queensland and Western Australia that lie in the same latitude: Although it might be said that the people resident in these two areas have their State Governments to look after them, the fact remains that nothing like the same amount of money has been spent there as in the Northern Territory. The people in the Northern Territory have been given almost unlimited practical sympathy by various Federal Governments. It is astonishing that in spite of all the money that has been spent to develop it, the only result has been stagnation. Industries that once seemed well established have disappeared or dwindled until they have become inconsiderable, and the population has decreased. That this should be the only result of the lavish expenditure of public money there is most puzzling to me. Popular discontent, which was rife there, is at any time a most curious phenomenon. Sometimes it arises from prosperity, sometimes from adversity, and sometimes from a rankling sense of wrong. It cannot be said truly that any of these circumstances exist in the Northern Territory. The people there have never been either very rich or very poor, and, in my opinion, they have suffered from no serious Avrongs. When I was there some time ago, I asked some representative residents to point out the . reason for the discontent. I was told that the Federal Government was at fault; but when I asked for details of its misdoings they could not be stated. Then I was informed that unsuitable officials were sent there. If that is the real reason for the lack of development, it can be remedied, for officials may easily be changed. The fact of the. matter is that there is no real reason for it. Discontent of this kind has disappeared from other places in the past, and I believe that ultimately it will disappear from the Northern Territory. It is purely ephemeral. I well remember that 35 years ago, when I was in North Queensland, a vigorous agitation was on foot for separation from the south. . What was called the Brisbane Government was said to be all wrong. The people in the north of Queensland at that time were prosperous, and this, perhaps, was the reason that they were discontented. The poorer workmen could engage in tin mining in the Herbert district, or in auriferous mining elsewhere. The agitation achieved no useful purpose, and ultimately it was forgotten. I sincerely trust that, it will disappear from the Northern Territory.
In other parts of Australia we have had corresponding outbursts of popular feeling. We had them on the Western Australian gold-fields, but they died out in due course. It is generally recognized that in distant outposts where discontent arises it has a substratum of justification iu the fact that the people there are situated far from the seat of authority, and are mostly forgotten. Favours are showered more closely: around the throne than they are in the distant outposts. That was the condition of affairs which obtained in the old days before we advanced to that stage at which, owing to the provision of the means of communication, the edicts of the Government were communicated as speedily to the outlying posts as they were to the cities themselves. My remarks in this connexion are for -the purpose of drawing attention to the criticism indulged in in the Northern Territory about the want of sympathy on the part of the Federal Government, and about its duty to take upon its shoulders all the wrongs of the Territory. Summing up the whole case against the Federal Government, I contend that there is no justification for this criticism; the facts of the case do not warrant it.
We are quite aware, however, that the time has come when the development of the Northern Territory must be taken thoroughly in hand. We cannot continue folding our arms, and merely looking at the proposition as it stands to-day, one of the unsolved problems of Australia. The present condition of the Territory is no> credit to the Commonwealth Government. The bill before us represents a further attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to discharge its obligations, stand under the burden as it should do, and, above all, give a lead in the field of progressive development of that area. I hope that it will be progressive development. I . know that this proposal has critics. I am well aware that there are men who criticize the Government’s policy, not only on the ground of its unwarranted proportions, but also because of the shortcomings of the Territory itself. Senator Barwell has aptly summed up the two classes of critics. As a matter of fact, the Territory suffers an almost chronic form of injustice from these two classes of critics. On the one hand we have men who say that the Territory is a land of flowing bounties, on the other hand there are men who say that it is no good at all. I believe that the truth lies between the two, but certainly these two sets of men by their talk do no good to the Territory. We have to be careful not to be rashly optimistic. On the other hand, we have to guard against that deadening form of pessimism that has been found in the past in every form of governmental activity. There has hardly been a progressive work in Australia extending over a number of years, especially in. the Federal sphere, that has not had its complement of pessimists. If I had my way I would enact a law to deport pessimists. The Northern Territory has had its share of pessimists. They have told us that the country is- no good, and that the proposal of the Government is unwarranted at the present time. I am one of those who believe that the country can be settled effectively. At the same time I realize that the racial issue impinges upon this question. .We have been told on the authority of medical men that the Territory is not a white man’s proposition, and that all the expense that will be incurred in an attempt to settle it with a white population will be lost. We are asked to believe that it is idle to indulge in any wellcalculated policy unless it embraces the importation’ of a cheap type of labour. In other words, the problem of the Territory is an ethnological one. It may also be a hygienic one.
I believe .that there are two causes for the stagnation’ of the Territory to-day. It is quite obvious that there is an absence of good land on the seafront. So far as our knowledge of tropical cultivation is concerned, there is a poor fringe of land at the back of Darwin and along the sea front generally. If in the neighborhood of Darwin or the Daly River, or on the western fringe of the Gulf of Carpentaria there were land equal to that in the neighborhood’ of Cairns and Mackay and other parts on the Queensland littoral, long before this there would have been a thriving population on the shores of the Territory, and in the immediate hinterland. The other cause is a climatic one. Men do not go to the Territory to earn a living unless they have firmly implanted in their minds the idea that they will make a living quickly and then retire to more pleasant spots in the Commonwealth. I believe that idea is implanted in the minds of 90 per cent, of the people there.
This opens up the racial issue and raises the question whether our population is fit to develop that Territory. There is a wide difference of opinion on the point. We know what the medical school has told us. We must also be guided by those who have studied the question from the records of history. From the historical viewpoint I must confess that the records of tropical and subtropical countries in the northern hemisphere penetrated by white men do not help us very much. The white man - has not done very well in those countries; he has not left on them a very enduring mark. We are, therefore, obliged to confess that history does not sustain the conclusion that a. white population can settle in the Territory and rear a white race. I merely mention this fact for the purpose of impressing on the minds of those who have any doubt upon the point the necessity for applying every alternative properly in order to try out this proposition with a white race. My own opinion is that it is perfectly feasible to rear a white race in the Territory. I have lived in the tropics for a certain time, and I have seen children reared in them. I remember Senator Pearce telling us on his return from the Territory- of the healthy and virile white families he saw there. They had been reared in the Territory. Medical opinion and history to the contrary, our experience is sufficient to warrant us in believing that we are entitled to give our race an extended trial in that country.
Linked up with this question is our right to hold it as a white race. Although what I am now about to say may be slightly unconnected with the subject matter of the bill, I hope that I may be allowed to quote certain figures that have an important bearing upon the fitness of a white race to settle the Tei,ritory. We have an empty country there which we are fencing around and holding for no possible or known purpose. Meanwhile there are people in other lands who claim that by virtue of the density of population in the Territory as compared with the density of population in, say, the teeming East, we have no right to hold it. There is, however, a little comfort to he found in some statistics I have culled from the ^Canadian Year-Booh. There is a delusion that has done service down the years about the “ teeming millions of the East.” There are no teeming millions of the East. If there are teeming millions anywhere, they are to be found in Europe. The density of population in Asia to-day is less than “one-half of what it is in Europe. China, which is held up so often as an example, and as a country that is entitled to a place in the sun, is not the over-populated land we have always been led to believe it’ is. Neither is Japan or India. There are twenty progressive front-rank countries in Europe, whose density of population is far greater than that of China. There are, in Europe, about six leading countries, whose density of population is far greater than that of Japan, and five or six other countries, whose density of population is far greater than that of India. The density of population in China is 111 per square mile. We know how resourceful the people are in that country. They live on- tampans, and on other water craft; but until they develop their land, as Europe has been developed, there is no warrant for the declaration that we should make room for them in Australia.
– What are the figures for Japan?
– The density of population in Japan is 297 to the square mile. Contrast the density of population in. China with that of Germany, 326 per square mile; the United Kingdom, 388- per square mile; or Italy, 362 per square mile. So much for the cry about the necessity for relieving the congestion of the teeming East. We have arrived at the point w3ien these people should be reminded to look to their own households first. This country was discovered by people >of the Occident. The people of the Orient were far in advance of others in navigation’ and the science- of astronomy. Before our forefathers left off wearing skins and going to war in painted chariots .these people were . skilled in navigation and astronomy, but they left this country undiscovered. As Australia was first found by white men, I am placing Europe and Australia together, and -comparing the density -of population in both . countries. As this question may be raised again, it is -only right to remind these -people, who hold the old mistaken view, that they should revise their view-point, and to tell them that they should not shelter under a delusion that has done duty for so long. I mention these facts, not as a justification for not doing anything in the Northern Territory^ but rather to direct attention to arguments which have served their purpose far too long. These facts ought to be faced, as they show that if sympathy is needed for any particular nationalities, it should be extended to Europe and the countries which constitute it.
The bill itself is well thought-out and well-balanced, except that it rather seeks at the outset ito overload the official list in the Northern Territory j but I presume that as population increases that objection will no longer exist. As a result of further development, increased population will follow, and the people will be brought face to face with the working and power of government, and will be more contented. They will then centre their attention upon doing their duty as patriotic citizens, instead of finding fault with governments. “When that stage is reached, we can look for better results. There is one point to which I think the Government could give attention. It is proposed to appoint a commission, which, to all intents and purposes, will be the eyes and ears of the Federal Government, and will take upon its shoulders the care and responsibility of making suggestions for the development of the Territory. This responsibility will include the carrying out of many important and costly works, and the bill as I read it embodies a circumlocution which could very well be dispensed with. It is proposed to do away with investigation into proposed public works by the Public Works Committee as ‘ an instrumentality whereby the rights or wrongs or the justification or otherwise of any given work should be determined, and to place in its stead the commission to be appointed. If the commission is armed with authority to go into the features of every rival scheme, there will be no harm in exempting public works in the Northern Territory from the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act ; but if the commission makes up its mind to construct a railway from, say, Point “A “ to Point “ B,” without considering the prospects of rival routes, it will have absolute power, it seems to me, to recommend that that route be followed. When once a recommendation is made, the Minister of the day will invoke the aid of the Railways Department, which will re port upon the question, not from a railway view-point, but from the view-point as furnished to the Minister of the day. The position seems to be that responsibility is placed upon the shoulders of the commission to inquire and report upon a certain railway proposal, which responsibility is in turn handed over to the Railway Department by the Minister, and the recommendation of the commission considered as such, quite -apart from the suitability of the venture from a railway view-point. The Railways Commissioner is supposed to adopt a neutral attitude, and will merely carry out instructions in the matter of surveying the route and adopting a certain grade. If the Railway Department is not to be asked to report upon other proposals which may, in the opinion of some be equally attractive, it is a distinct blot upon the bill. When the proposal is sent back to the commission, that body will ask for approval to carry out the work, and a bill embodying the undertaking will then have to pass both Houses of Parliament. The initial weakness of the proposal is that the commission will have a practically free hand. There will be no occasion to hold any strong fears in this regard if the right type of men are to be appointed to undertake this important work. If their capacity, rank, experience and disinterestedness is such that they are fully qualified to carry out the important duties devolving upon them, I shall have very little to say, but there “have been one or two noted exceptions in the matter of appointments1 in recent years which raise the possibility of unsuitable appointments being made. In this connexion I am reminded of one officer who appeared as a witness before the Public Works Committee, and who told us in the course of his evidence that the wharf at Port Darwin was likely to be blown down in the first storm. The members of the committee examined the wharf and, although .this gentleman was supposed to be an expert, we proved, not only by personal inspection, but from evidence of other experts, that the wharf was goo’d enough to last for 20 or 25 years. The utmost care needs to be exercised, and men of undoubted and unchallengeable ability should be selected to carry out their important duties . in a thoroughly competent way. If the right men are selected I feel sure that the Territory will progress.
Senator Barwell referred to the fact that the Northern Territory was rich in pastoral and agricultural resources, but the possibilities of extensive mining development must not be overlooked. I cannot agree with the honorable senator’s contention that the results obtained from mines are always in an increasing ratio. If that is so, it is contrary to mining experience in other parts of Australia over a number of years.
– He meant only in that particular case.
– The experience throughout Australia is that as mining increases the returns decrease. That does not, however, convince me that the possibilities in the matter of mining development in the Northern Territory are limited. My opinion is confirmed by Mr. Tom Laurie, of Tanami. The original discoverer of the Tanami, field was Mr. William Laurie, who, unfortunately, died in harness, and who in writing to me a few years ago said that his camels in straying from Tanami - one of our most outlandish outposts - wandered a distance of 60 to 80 miles to the south, where he eventually discovered them, as fat as whales, on excellent feed. He also told me that on his return journey he found traces of gold on the creeks in that locality.
– All that land is still in the hands of the Crown.
– Yes. It is hard to estimate the mineral possibilities of the Northern Territory, but we have ample justification for hoping to successfully develop the mineral resources in that locality on a larger scale. Mr. Laurie also wrote concerning the possibilities of cereal culture in the Tanami country, and said that some of the grain contained in packages of goods after remaining on the ground for some time had grown to a height of 3 feet. I obtained from Dr. Richardson, who was at the time the agricultural expert of the Victorian Government, a small parcel of wheat of a type which he thought would thrive’ in that country, and which I dispatched to Tanami, but, unfortunately, a proper test was not made. It will be seen that wheat can be grown in that locality, but I do not know that it could be profitably undertaken on a large scale.
– Does not- the rain fall at the wrong time of the year?
– The rain is subtropical. There was, in the instance I quoted, sufficient moisture to bring the grain to maturity.
– That was a fluke.
– Everything is a fluke in the minds of some pessimists. It was once said that wheat could not be profitably grown at Southern Cross in Western Australia, but it is now being successfully produced notwithstanding what the pessimists said at the time. I mention these facts to show that we should go forward full of hope and confidence with the work of development. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill, though it is not without certain defects, which I have mentioned. I am not without hope that if we can get the right type of men for the commission the measure will work for the prosperity of the people in the Territory. I commend the Government for having introduced the bill, and I sincerely hope that it will have a speedy passage.
– When this measure was before the Senate, in the closing session of the last Parliament, we had an interesting discussion, and, although varying opinions were expressed, I think I can say, speaking for myself and in a measure for other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, that, whilst at times we have strongly criticized other legislation introduced by this Government, we approached the consideration of this bill with fairly open minds. We are all agreed that the present policy of drift and stagnation in the Northern. Territory must ‘not be allowed to continue. For a considerable period this lonesome land was in the possession of South Australia. In the earlier years of its history South Australia., like other Australian colonies, was ambitious. It believed that by linking up Adelaide by rail with Darwin a new era would dawn for the Territory. In 1877, it completed the survey of a railway route from Darwin to Pine Creek, but subsequently decided that the cost would be too great. Later, however, the Government commenced building the line, which was completed about eleven years later. It also undertook the construction from the southern end of the North- South railway, but the proposition proved too big, so it left a gap of about 1,200 miles. It has been said that when the Northern
Territory was transferred to the Commonwealth, in 1911, many people in South Australia gave a sigh of relief at the thought that they were ridding themselves of their liabilities and responsibilities. Unfortunately, a number of people have a prejudiced and jaundiced view of the Territory. Others have a fairly open mind as to its possibilities, . and others again - I include myself in the number - are optimistic concerning its future. We know that it has attractive pastoral and agricultural possibilities, and that it is a highly mineralized country. It also possesses some of the best navigable waterways in the Commonwealth. I find confirmation of this in the following extract from a pamphlet containing special articles written for the South Australian Register, and reprinted by the South Australian Government in pamphlet form for circulation at the Sydney Exhibition in 1879: -
Northern Australia, as before indicated, is remarkable for the number and size of its rivers. Some of the principal of these run their course within the boundaries of the Territory. There is the Adelaide, which empties itself into Adam Bay, and is navigable for a distance of 50 miles; the Roper, which flows easterly, and finds its way into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and navigable for nearly 100 miles; the Victoria, in the western portion of the Territory, which can be navigated by. small craft at least 100 miles, and 40 by large ones; the Liverpool, the South and East Alligators; the Daly, which discharges itself into Anson Bay; and many others, into all of which rivers of less magnitude, but nevertheless fine watercourses, find their way. The Daly was traced by Mr. McMinn for 240 miles. It may fairly be said that no portion of Australia is better watered than the Northern Territory, and the advantages of such splendid means of communication when the country becomes settled cannot fail to have a wonderful influence in the rapid development of its riches.
– Unfortunately, the rivers referred to in the pamphlet are in the poorest- part of the Territory from the point of view of land development.
– Apart altogether from the rivers mentioned there is ample evidence of the existence of artesian and sub-artesian water in various parts of the Northern Territory. Then the question arises how is it that the Territory has not made substantial progress? We realize now that it is impossible for that vast, country to be developed without railways, roads, water conservation, telegraphic, telephonic, wireless and air services. Of course, I am not foolish enough to believe that the building of a railway will, per se, bring prosperity to the Northern Territory, but I believe that substantial progress will be made under this legislation if the right type . of men be appointed to the proposed North Australia Commission. I am afraid, however, that the remuneration provided in the bill will not induce the best men in Australia to apply for the positions: The sum mentioned, £6,000 a year for three commissioners, is not, in my opinion, enough. We have never been confronted with a problem of greater magnitude than the peopling and developing of the Northern Territory. We are paying to the three Federal Capital Commissioners approximately £7,000 a year, including £’3,000 to the chairman. ‘ Is there any comparison between the magnitude of the task that must confront the members of the North Australia Commission and the duties to be discharged by the members of the Federal Capital Commission? For the development of the Northern Territory we want to secure men born and reared* in the Australian atmosphere, men with the highest qualifications and credentials, men with big ideas and lofty ideals, men with courage and determination to make this great lone, sunny region, a white man’s country for all time and a valuable asset of the Commonwealth. Apparently we expect this to be done by three men for a total sum of £6,000 a year. The remuneration should be a secondary consideration. The type of men to be appointed is all important. I am doubtful if we shall be able to get the right men for the salaries specified in the bill. I said just now that some people regard the North ern ‘ Territory with a prejudiced and jaundiced mind because it has made no progress for the last 40 or 50 years. I remind them of what was said of other parts of Australia. ‘ Only 50 years ago a meeting was held at Bendigo, or Sandhurst as it was known then, in Victoria, to protest against the Government handing over to a number of squatters in South Australia an immense area of Mallee land. The people believed that the Mallee was auriferous country and that if the squatters got possession of it the gold mining industry of Victoria would be seriously handicapped. Later the Mallee was thrown open for selection in smaller areas. It comprises about eleven million acres, and those who took it up years ago had to undergo great hardship and privation.. Time and again the question was asked in the newspapers and in Parliament, “ Is the Mallee worth saving?” In the same way some persons are asking to-day, ‘ ‘ Is the Northern Territory worth while?” There were many people in this State years ago who honestly believed that the Mallee was a barren waste, but to-day 8,000,000 out of 11,000,000 acres are under cultivation. The wheat harvest of the Mallee last year was about 27,000,000 bushels. There are 2,500,000 sheep there, and the annual value of the wool, wheat, and stock produced is £4,500,000. Prior to closer settlement the value of the Mallee was about £3,000,000; to-day it is £55,000,000. The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission has reticulated the Mallee with 4,500 miles of water channels, and that work, with the provision of roads and railways, has enormously increased the population and value of that portion of the State. The seemingly impossible task of developing the Mallee has been accomplished, and to-day it contains some of the most progressive and prosperous farmers in any part of Australia. There are people who say that because the Northern Territory is in the tropical zone it cannot be developed by white labour, but I ask myself, “Who did all the best pioneering work in every part of Australia? Was it coloured labour.” No. I have yet to learn that the coloured man can do in Australia what the white man cannot do. I know that the climate of the Northern Territory is not so pleasant as that of the temperate and sub-tropical parts of the country, but when I was in certain parts of the Territory a few years ago-, I met people who had lived there for a large number of years, and who said that when they went south for a holiday they were glad to get back to the Territory. It is true that some persons who leave the more temperate zones for the Territory become more leisured than they were previously, and do not take sufficient exercise to keep them in health. I have not heard any honorable senator say that the Territory cannot be developed without coloured labour, but such statements have been published in the press and doubts on the question have been expressed by the Eight Rev. Gilbert White, D.D., Bishop of Willochra in his book, Thirty Years in Tropical Australia. Inthis work, published in 1918, Dr. White, in dealing with the Territory, writes -
It was originally the Northern Territory of South Australia, by which it was administered: at an annual loss of £80,000, until some seven years ago. when South Australia succeeded in selling its white elephant to the Commonwealth Parliament, whose members were anxious to have some land of their own to play with, for the modest sum of £4,000,000. Since then the Commonwealth has administered the Territory at an annual loss of some three or four times that of South Australia.
– What is wrong with the statement that the Northern Territory was a “ white elephant “ to South Australia ?
– It was not a “ white elephant.”
– The average reader would conclude from the statement I have read that the Commonwealth ‘ bought a “white elephant” from South Australia, and that it is still a “ white elephant.” It is not true that the Commonwealth took over the Territory because it wanted some land to play with. I do not want to see any ‘ ‘ playing ‘ ‘ with this proposition. It should be dealt with in a businesslike way. When, in days gone by, I seriously put’ forward my views . about the way the Territory should be developed, some persons replied that it was impossible, because it would mean the expenditure of millions of pounds. Admittedly it would. £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 spent on business lines in the Territory will, in my opinion, make that part of Australia one of the most valuable propositions in the Commonwealth. It may be asked, “ Where can the money come from?” People lost their breath anterior to the war if we talked in millions, but that is not so now. This Government is apparently embarrassed with riches, and has “ money- to burn.” It has set aside £20,000,000 for road development in the States, and it proposes to set aside some thousands of pounds to assist prospecting. It is doubtful whether, in that respect, the Government is acting constitutionally. No State is likely to object to assistance by the Federal Government, but if the Government has abundance of riches it should look after its own territory first. If it were wise, it would not continue to do what it apparently has set out to do, as it is trespassing more and more on the domain of the States, and indirectly, and in a measure directly, hastening unification. How is it proposed to raise money for the development of the Territory ? It is of no use appointing a commission unless the Government looks ahead and is prepared for the expenditure of large sums of money. The “ go-slow “ policy in the development of the Territory has been disastrous.
– It has been disastrous wherever applied.
– I am speaking of administration by the Government. Labour hoped to be victorious in the recent elections, and, had its hopes been realized, the country would have seen something of a “ go-quick “ policy in legislation. The Minister, a little while ago, drew a very fine picture of what may take place when the railway has been completed. I cannot draw such a picture until I know what policy the Government has for the development of the Territory. We have been told that after the bill has been passed the appointments will be made, and that when the appointments have been made a policy will be formulated. Honorable senators may rest assured that that policy, if it spells progress, will necessitate the expenditure of millions of pounds. To-day the Government has an overflowing treasury, and it proposes to make available to the States millions of pounds for road work, and to enter into other spheres of activity that rightly belong solely to the States. I wish to remind it that it has work at its own door on which it could spend its money.
– Does not the honorable senator believe that road construction is a national concern?
– Our Constitution vests certain powers in the Commonwealth and leaves other powers with the States, and I venture to assert that its framers did not for a moment contemplate that the Commonwealth Government would enter the State domains, and make available Commonwealth moneys for State purposes.
– I think the honorable senator is confusing interfering with the States and assisting the States.
– If the honorable senator thinks that our Constitution is so elastic as to permit the Commonwealth to assist the States in matters that are entirely outside its scope, I cannot follow his line of reasoning. Does he think that the Commonwealth is entitled to aid the States in any direction whatever ?
– If it would be helpful to the Commonwealth, yes.
– Then I take it that he would agree to Federal money being made available for State educational purposes.
– Are not the States able to carry out their educational programme satisfactorily?
– In Victoria many of the schools are overcrowded, according to reports I have received.
– I must ask Senator Findley not to allow himself to be drawn away by interjections from the question before the Chair.
– I submit, sir, that ‘the matters I am discussing have a direct bearing on the bill.
– State education has nothing whatever to do with the bill.
– I am pointing out that the Commonwealth Government is spending upon State projects money that could very well be used to develop the Northern Territory.
– The honorably senator is entitled to make passing references to such matters, but he is not entitled to discuss anything and everything in the course of his speech.
– I have no desire to do that. I am quite satisfied to discuss the bill. I am keenly interested in the Northern Territory, and am earnestly desirous to see it properly developed. It is regrettable that it has made little or no progress since it was transferred to the Commonwealth in 1911. This bill may mean the dawn of a new day for it and its inhabitants. I believe that the Leader of the Senate is wholehearted in his desire to do something practical there. When he was a member of the Labour party he was just as earnest in that direction, and I think he will admit that the members of his party were as keen as he was.
Senator Elliott.But was anything dona ?
-Yes; among other things the Labour Governmentestablished experimental farms. Senator Foll may laugh; but success is often built up on failure. This commission, when appointed, will need to experiment. I remind the honorable senator that the man who never makes a mistake never makes anything.
– If those experiments had been persisted in, they would have been successful.
– I am glad to hear that remark from an honorable senator on the same side of the chamber as Senator Foll, and from a gentleman who was his colleague on the Public Works Committee. Some honorable members in another place may, as stated by the Leader of the Government in this Chamber, (Senator Pearce), be concerned about their own constituencies and constituents, and the same may bo true of some honorable senators, but my concern is about the development of Australia. I give place to no man in my desire to do all that I can in the interests of the Northern Territory. It has been neglected far too long. In the past a great deal of money has been wasted there, but I trust that the days of wasteful expenditure, are over. The Leader of the Senate, who has toured the Territory and investigated its possibilities, believes that the appointment of a competent commission will result in more rapid and more effective development there than has been achieved since the Commonwealth assumed control. I do not know that I agree with the bill in its entirety, but T shall not oppose its second reading, for the reason that I want to see something done. If honorable senators on this side of the Chamber think that it can be improved they will endeavour to amend it in committee. When it is agreed to by this Chamber - which I trust will be very soon - I hope that it will have a speedy passage through another place. When the Government is able to do so, it should lose no time in appointing the commision ; but if the right men are not available, I trust that it will wait until they are. Unquestionably the success of this pro*ject will depend upon the members of the commission. They will be confronted with one of the biggest problems that Australia has ever had to face.
.- It waa gratifying to hear the honorable senator who has just re sumed his seat supporting this bill so vigorously.
– Has any one on this side opposed it?
– I have not heard any opposition to the measure from honorable senators opposite. Senator Findley certainly criticized some of its details, but, underlying his remarks, it was easy to detect a whole-hearted desire to see the Northern Territory developed. It is lamentable that such enormous sums of money have been spent in the Territory ‘ without any return. The time is certainly ripe for some definite step to make it profitable. I should agree to even millions of pounds being spent to achieve that object. I spoke <m this subject when a similar measure was before the Senate last year, and for that reason I shall not discuss this bill at any great length. There are one or two points, however, which I wish to emphasize. The Government is acting wisely in seeking to remove the Territory from departmental management, and to place it under the control of commissioners, who will be subject only to the Minister. I have not had the good fortune to visit the Territory, but from whatI have heard from those who have been there, and from what I have read of its possibilities, I feel sure that it is capable of great development and of carrying a very large population. The pastoral industry is expected to be the chief source of revenue for some time to come, but I expect agricultural developments at ‘ no distant date. If transport facilities are provided - and they are badly needed - I can see no reason why agricultural pursuits should not be successful in certain localities. The cotton-growing industry has been established successfully in Queensland during the last few years, and I think it not unreasonable to expect that before very long North Australia and Central Australia should be able to increase considerably Australia’s production of cotton. The industry is capable of employing a great deal of labour at a reasonable remuneration. If we can escape the pests which, unfortunately, have so disastrously affected the American cotton-growing industry, we should be able to make a large contribution to the world’s cotton output. I was glad that Senator Findley emphasized the necessity of appointing to this commission men of the right type, and I have confidence that the Minister in charge of the Department will not sanction the appointment of “ duds.” As a representative of Tasmania - and I feel sure that I am speaking for other representatives of that State as well as for myself - I wish to say that the development of the Northern Territory is of just as great interest to me as to the representatives of the mainland States, and I shall welcome anything that promises success. I trust that the measure will be given the support that it merits. In committee the details of the bill can be discussed more fully than on the second reading. A feature of the measure that commends it? self to me more than anything else is the provision for co-operating with the States of Queensland and Western Australia. When the work of the commission extends, the hearty co-operation of these two States will be essential and the results achieved ought to be much more satisfactory than they could be without it. The development of the Territory will undoubtedly be of great advantage to both Stares. We are assured by the Minister that this co-operation will be forthcoming, and provision is made for it in the bill.
– I am pleased with the . unanimity with which this bill has been received by honorable senators. As one who has taken an interest in the Northern Territory from boyhood I am convinced of its great possibilities and of the need for the central government to develop them to the utmost. I have had an opportunity of visiting the Territory, but I am not one of those who say that they know all about a country through which they have made a dashing trip in a motor car for about a month. When one senator said this morning that he would like to go through the Territory, I said I would be very pleased to ask for leave of absence for thr.ee years for him, because it would take him that time to go through the country and study it from all its different aspects. Men who have been in this portion of Australia from 20 to 40 years have assured me that they have still a great deal to learn about it. It is difficult of access. There are very few tracks. It has no roads. To study a country covering half a million -square miles is not a matter of a trip extending over a month or two.
We must be guided by what we are told by experts. During my visit I went to the trouble of taking voluminous notes of features that struck me and on my return to Adelaide I collaborated with men who had been in the Territory and knew a great deal about it. In that way I gathered a lot of useful information. The country from Marree to a. point about 200 miles north of Oodnadatta is of very little use. The Minister for Markets and Migration (Senator Sir Victor Wilson) told us this afternoon that two essentials for the development of the Territory are water supplies and means of transport. As the party of which I was a member travelled north from the poorer country we made inquiries in every direction. We saw many good supplies of water, and we were assured b)’ the settlers that water could be found almost anywhere along the route we traversed. There are good sub-artesian supplies, but we were also told that if bores were sunk to a great depth unlimited quantities of artesian water could be obtained. Those who have been through the Territory know that there. is not much in the way of heavy timber. Some one asked me this morning what glasses were to be found there. In the first place mulga abounds.
– Mulga is not a b”ad ‘ grass ‘ ‘ !
– It is not a grass, but in times of drought it is capable of keeping stock alive. The honorable senator knows that it is very useful for stock in the back country. In addition to mulga there are salt bush, blue bush, cotton bush, Flinders grass, spear grass, Mitchell grass and several other varieties of fodder grasses. In parts of the Territory we traversed, we found that, with mulga, the stock could be kept alive during a drought so long as they had water. We were assured in one place that they had been kept alive on mulga for two years, but they were fortunate in having a good supply of water. I have no desire to enter upon a discussion of the carrying capacity of the country, but we were assured that the average safe carrying capacity of this portion of the Territory would be about two head of cattle or twelve sheep per square mile, and that with railways and better water facilities this could be in- creased by from 50 to 75 per cent. Further north, the country becomes a lot better and the rainfall improves. Whereas the average rainfall is about 5£ inches at Oodnadatta, it is about 12 inches at Alice Springs. We had some pastoral experts in our party, and they declared that the Burt Plains, north of Alice Springs, were equal to any other pastoral area in Australia.
– What is the area of the Burt Plains?
– They are 100 miles long and from 30 to 40 miles wide.
– We went through about 100 miles of this country and it did not seem to vary. We went as far up as Ryan’s Well, and were assured by people who had been through to Darwin that the country right through was equal to the Burt Plains, and that some of it was even better. There was no sign of any drought on the Burt Plains when we were there, and I saw there some of the finest cattle that I have ever seen. They were fat and in extraordinarily good condition. As we shall have the railway bill before us shortly, I do not ‘intend to say anything about the railway to Alice Springs at this stage. I think that the land ordinance which was considered by the Senate during last Parliament should have been held over until the commission was appointed, because under it the Government has given leases to men until 1965. If vast sums of money are to be spent on the development of the Territory, we should at least have had the opinion of expert commissioners as to whether leases should be handed over to people until 1965 and as to whether or not the areas were sufficiently large or too large.
– If the lessees surrender the areas held under the South Australian laws and take up leases under the new ordinance, we shall have power to resume a quarter of the area in ten years, and another quarter in the next ten years.
– It is something to know that half of the leases may be resumed within twenty years, but I still think it would have been preferable to allow the commission to get right down to business and advise the Government as to what was the best thing to do.
– Would the honorable senator have held up applications in the meantime ?
– No. I should have allowed the old system to continue until the new commission was appointed, and the commissioners, as experts, could go into the whole question and report to the Government. I do not regard as an expert an honorable senator who has visited the Territory on a couple’ of occasions, and I agree with other honorable senators that we should get the very best men available to act as commissioners. They will have a big project to handle. I do not think that the amount to be paid to them as salaries should weigh with us very much. Australia has lost the services of good men because it would not pay them adequate salaries. For instance, we lost the services of Mr. C. F. G. McCann, who is now being paid £8,000 a year by a big Argentine meat firm. He was acting for the South Australian Government in London, at a salary of £750 a year, but this Argentine firm saw what he could do, and offered him £5,000 a year as a start. Therefore, I hope the Government will not be parsimonious in the matter of salaries, and that we shall get the very best men available. Honorable senators of the Opposition are anxious- to see the Territory developed under White Australia conditions. My personal opinion is that it will gradually be developed from the south, and, as the people become acclimatized, and rear families, they .will eventually work from the south to the north. I do not think we shall get much in the way of development from Darwin southwards. As the people in the south become acclimatized, and gradually work up to the north, the Territory will be developed without black labour or labour of any inferior race. Honorable senators of the Opposition are prepared to give the bill a trial. They all hope that it will be a success. It is time something was done with the Territory. We have dallied too long with this problem. I am not finding fault with any government, South Australian or Federal, nor with what has been done in the past. Let the dead past bury its dead. It is our task now to get right down to business and develop this great heritage of ours. I do not cavil at what past governments have done. It has been said that the South Australian Government has done very little in the direction of developing the .Northern Territory, but that State, considering its small population, has achieved a great deal. South Australia constructed the overland telegraph line connecting the north with the south, a project which, even in those days, cost approximately £250,000. With its somewhat limited resources it also constructed a railway as far as Oodnadatta, not with the idea of its terminating there, hut in the hope that it would ultimately be continued. That, however, is a national work and should be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. I believe that not only the Northern Territory, but also portions of Western Australia and Queensland will eventually have to be taken over by the Commonwealth and developed at the expense of the whole of the people. The appointment of a commission is a step in the right direction, and if it is found later that it is not the success we anticipated, some alternative will have to be found. Personally I am prepared to give the proposal a trial in the hope that it will be a success, because I am convinced that the Northern Territory with its wonderful possibilities is in need of immediate development.
– I shall be brief in my reply, because honorable senators have been generous in their criticism, much of which has been of a helpful and not of a destructive character. Senator Thomas’s main objection to the measure seems to be that he considers a continuance of the present system preferable to that proposed. I do not suggest that the fact that we are dispensing with the present system is in any way a reflection upon or a want of appreciation of the capabilities of officers of the Public Service. I suppose that the officers of the Home and Territories Department compare quite favorably with those of any other department, but they were not selected for the positions they occupy, because of their particular qualifications for this kind of work. They entered the Public Service in the ordinary way after passing the prescribed clerical examination, and not because they possessed any particular knowledge of developmental problems or of those associated with the opening up of unsettled country. A change of policy is not a reflection upon them or any public official. Senator Lynch referred to a discontented section of people in the Northern Territory, but I am sure the honorable senator would be the last to apply his remarks to those valiant settlers who are battling away in the interior. They have every justification for being discontented.
– I thought I made the distinction quite clear.
– I do not think the honorable senator did, but knew that it was not his intention to refer to them. Those in the interior have every justification for being discontented, and upon that point I am sure Senator Lynch will agree with me.
– What about Vesteys.
– I am not speaking of those on the coast. I agree with what Senator Lynch has said concerning some of the people in the Territory. During my visit to the back country I met men rearing families who had never had an opportunity to send their children to school. The only facilities of education these children possessed were supplied by a correspondence course. I also met men rearing families, who received a mail only once in three months, and who would be satisfied if they got a mail every month. Such people have every reason to be discontented. We wish to make their living conditions easier, and in that I am sure I shall have Senator Lynch’s support. Senator Lynch also offered objection because the Public Works Committee would not have the right to conduct inquiries into proposed works to be undertaken by ‘.the commission in the Northern Territory. When the bill was before the last Parliament, the clause relating to the Public Works Committee was, as a result of discussion, amended so that Parliament could, if it so desired, refer any particular question to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. Under this bill, proposed works are not automatically referred to the committee, but Parliament may if it thinks fit, refer any work proposed by the commission to that committee.
– Such reference will be made by Parliament, and not by the Minister.
– That is what is done now.
– Yes, but under the Public Works Committee Act every work, the estimated cost of which is over £25,000, has to be investigated by the committee. Under this bill it is not obligatory to refer any work to the committee; but Parliament may direct that any particular work in the Northern Territory shall be referred to it. I do not think Senator Lynch was quite correct in his reference to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. The honorable senator said he did not think it was of any use to bring a matter under the notice of the Railways Commissioner unless that officer had an opportunity of expressing his opinion from a railway point of view. If the honorable senator will refer to sub-clause 2 of clause 21, which deals with railway construction, he will find that -
Upon receipt of any such report (from the commission) the Minister may refer the matter to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for the purpose of having investigations, inspections and preliminary surveys made of the route of the proposed railway.
In clause 22 it is provided that the Minister shall require the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to transmit, among other things, the following information : -
Apart, altogether, from the technical matters upon which he is to advise the Minister, he is invited to express his opinion, from a railway point of view, on the probable effect of any proposed line. I was very interested to hear the criticism of honorable senators in regard to the salaries to be paid to the members of the commissiou. The maximum of £6.000 has been fixed to provide for the payment of the three commissioners. It is the desire of the Government to get che best men possible for these positions, and the opinion has been expressed, in some quarters, that the salaries proposed are inadequate. If that is the opinion of the Senate, the Government . will not very strongly resist an increase.
– Why not leave out the limit?
– I shall give some reasons why the Government hopes to get men capable of doing the work at the salaries provided. The Government has in view the type of commission required to deal with these particular sets of problems. We shall, in the first place, need the services of an expert in railway construction, especially in connexion with developmental lines. We should be able to get a man - preferably from one of the existing railway in Australia accustomed to the construction of railways in similar class of country - for about £1,500 a year, which would probably be a good increase in the salary such an ofiicer is now receiving. There should be in the service either of the Commonwealth or of a State a competent man to whom such a salary would be attractive; and who would be capable of dealing with that particular branch of the commission’s activities. As we are placing the administration of the land under the commission, we need the services of a man conversant with’ the settlement of pastoral land in particular, and with also, if possible, a good knowledge of agricultural land. At present we have as members of the Land Board two men who were in the employ of the Government of Queensland and Western Australia, who are receiving salaries of less - one much less - than £1,500 a year. One of these officers was recommended by the Pastoralists’ Associations of Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia, as, in their opinion, the best man available to direct the land policy of the Northern Territory under the Land Board.
– Has the board done anything ?
– It has done. good work. I gave the board’s report to the press a few days ago, and a perusal of that document will show that it has done very good preliminary work. We should be able to get men of that type - I do not say the same men, but men of equal capacity - for something in the neighbourhood of £1,500 a year. That would absorb about £3,000 of the total of £6,000 provided. We now have to consider the third member, who will be the chairman, and therefore the most important, as he will be the main executive officer. After all, the other two will be the technical assistants of the chairman, and the Government will, therefore, be free to offer approximately £3,000 a- year, or possibly a little more, to him. I believe that we should be able to get in Australia ait that salary a man with a knowledge of the problems to he faced.
– If such a man cannot be obtained in Australia he cannot be got elsewhere.
– This is a job for Australianswho know Australian conditions. If, after this, explanation, the Senate feels that the scope of the clause should be widened, the Government will not object to the amount being omitted altogether, or increased, but I suggest that we should be able to get suitable men at the figures I have mentioned.
– Is it the intention of the Government to place the two members acting under the chairman on the same, salary ?
– Yes, because they will be dealing with subsidiary problems under the direction of the chairman. The work of selecting a chairman is that which is giving the Government the most concern. I doubt very much whether an additional £1,000 a year to the chairman would very much widen our choice. If honorable senators know of any person likely to satisfactorily fill this most important post. I trust they will let me’ know, because I shall welcome suggestions. I thank honorable senators for the very generous reception they have given the bill, and I join with them in the hope that it may prove the success we anticipate. At any rate, it is an attempt on the part of the Commonwealth Government to provide the machinery - that is all it does - to tackle this problem. After doing this we must give the commission the power to carry out its work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee -
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
– I move -
That the words “ North Australia Commission “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ Provisional Council, consisting of three members elected by the people resident in the area proposed to be controlled, and three members nominated by the Governor-General in Council “.
I recognize that this is a vital clause of the bill, and that if the amendment is accepted it will mean the reconstruction of the measure. It will be necessary to move a further amendment adding the following : - (1a) The Governor-General in Council shall appoint one member to be the chairman of the provisional council.
I submit the amendment because honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe in the elective principle, which is incorporated in clause 44 of the bill, relating to the creation of the advisory councils for the respective divisions of. the Northern Territory. . That clause states that the advisory councils shall consist of the Government resident and four members, two of whom shall be appointed by the Minister, and two elected by the people resident in the respective areas. We take the stand that the elective principle should also be applied to the appointment of the commission. The second-reading debate was conducted on a very high level. All honorable senators appeared to be actuated by the desire to assist the Government in the passage of a measure that would ensure the satisfactory development of the Northern Teritory. I am afraid, however, that the bill will not prevent those administrative delays which hitherto have been such a severe handicap to Northern Territory development schemes. The proposed provisional council should be given carte blanche to act. Parliament should set aside a sum of money and authorize it to go ahead with its schemes of development over a given number of years without being obliged to seek parliamentary authorization from year to year. The hest men are. wanted. Notwithstanding the doubts expressed by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) I think we can expect to find them in Australia.
– I said that all three positions should be filled by men with Australian experience.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - And the Minister also expressed a doubt about finding them in Australia, and said he would welcome suggestions as to the appointment of a good chairman. Under my amendment the governing body will be enlarged. Instead of three members of a commission, as proposed in the clause, there will be a provisional council of six, including three to be elected by the people resident in the area proposed to be controlled.
When I moved this amendment last session, honorable senators supporting the Government took the view that we should not be justified in giving this power to the small number of people living in the area to be controlled. I pointed out then that their choice need not be restricted to residents in the area, but that it would be Australian wide.
– Brockman. - Not in practice.
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity to show in what way the amendment would not be practicable. The clause gives power to the Government to appoint three men from any part of Australia. There would be the same wide range of selection under my amendment.
– How could residents scattered over such a wide area have any’ knowledge of ‘the qualifications of the applicants?
– I may answer the honorable senator’s question by asking another. How can the people scattered over such a wide area have any knowledge of the qualifications of candidates at a general election ? When this measure was before the Senate last year, Senator Kingsmill expressed the view that the Northern Territory should be governed in the same way as the Crown colonies are controlled. I hope the honorable senator is not of the same opinion now, because I can assure him that the idea of a Crown colony is abhorrent to the people of Australia. We believe in self-government, and in the elective principle.
– Senator Needham made a very naive admission when he said, in his opening remarks, that if the amendment were carried the bill would, have to be redrafted. The amendment would completely alter the purpose and scope of the bill. The honorable senator is attempting the second step in the process of development before the first step has been taken. Before adopting the elective principle, it is necessary to have the electors. The aTea of the Northern Territory is about 500,000 square miles, and I suppose that two-thirds of its population is living within an area of less than 1,000 square miles. It is obvious that the elective principle cannot be applied until there is a reasonable sprinkling- of people in the area to be controlled. We must reach that stage of development before we proceed to give the people the right to govern themselves. I ask the honorable senator not to press his amendment. I feel sure that it will not be carried, not because we are opposed to the elective principle, but because it is not applicable to the position we are facing in the Northern Territory to-day.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [5.50]. - I entirely disagree with the amendment. I do not think that the Right Honorable the Minister fully understood what Senator Needham said. He said he would make the elective principle Australia-wide, and would not limit the choice to the people in the Northern Territory. Apparently he would make the whole of Australia one electorate for the choice of the commissioners.
– No; the honorable senator has misunderstood me. I said I would make the choice, not the vote, Australia-wide.
– Then the vote would be restricted to the people in the Territory. Even so, I entirely disagree with the proposal. Senator Needham believes in the elective principle, and therefore urges that this commission should be an elective body. 1 do not for a moment think so. Everything connected with the future development of the Territory will depend on the commission. It will depend,particularly, on the appointment of the right men. The application of the elective principle wij.1 not guarantee the selection of une right men. We know that from the result of the application of the elective principle to Parliament. Some electorates return to Parliament men who have made a dismal failure of their own affairs, who could not run a lolly shop, but who are sent here by persons who think they are qualified to run the affairs of the State. But the elective principle, as the Minister has pointed out, is not applicable in this case. Every one who has been to the Northern Territory knows how scattered the population is, and how difficult it would be to apply that principle. I agree entirely with the Minister as to the qualifications required of the men to be appointed to the commission. One man must be an expert in railway management and construction; another must know the pastoral industry from A to Z; and the chairman must be an administrative genius. If the elective principle is applied those who think these positions lucrative, but who know nothing of railway construction or . administration, will canvass the electors, and a man who is well known to the electors, but who has no qualifications for the position, may be elected. No greater error could be committed, than to make the commission an elective body. I have no doubt that the Government will have the greatest possible difficulty in selecting men for the commission; it will have to scour Australia, and even countries beyond Australia. There are few men in this country fitted for the position of chairman of the commission, who must have outstanding ability, and be an administrative genius capable of taking charge of a great pioneering work. If we appoint a man whose only qualification is that he is popular with the electors, we cannot hope for success.
– Senator Needham did not suggest that all the members of the commission should be elected.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL. I know he did not, but we require a commission every member of which is an expert. A commission of six would be too large. If men with local prejudices are appointed the undertaking will be a failure. I hope that Senator Needham, on reflection, will see that his proposal is a great mistake.
– On the contrary, on reflection I intend to persist in my amendment. I am quite convinced that Senator Barwell has misunderstood the purport of it. I have moved for the appointment of a provisional council consisting of three members nominated by the Governor-General, and three elected by persons resident inthe Territory.
– What executive power would the honorable senator give to the second section?
– I find, also, that Senator Andrew does not understand the amendment. There is no second section. The provisional council would be the executive body.
– Does the honorable senator propose that the six members shall appoint their chairman?
– Senator H. Hays, again, does not understand what I propose-. I said that if the amendment were carried it would be necessary to move a further amendment that the GovernorGeneral in Council appoint a chairman. We should thus have a provisional council consisting of seven members, of whom three would be nominated by the Government, three elected by the residents of the Territory, and one, the chairman, appointed by the Governor-General in Council. In other words, there would be four nominees of the Government, and three representatives of the people. The point at issue between my honorable friends opposite and me does not relate to the number of members, but to the principle on which they should be elected.
– If it is a question of principle, why not move that all the members be elected ?
– Because I am endeavouring to follow the lines laid down in the bill. I direct the attention of honorable senators to clause 44, which reads -
There shall be an Advisory Council for North Australia to advise the Government Resident in any matter affecting North Australia.
Surely that is a most important part of the bill. The clause further provides -
The Advisory Council shall consist of the Government Resident, and of four members, two of whom shall be appointed by the Minister, and shall hold office, during good behaviour, for a period of three years, and be eligible for re-appointment, and two of whom shall, subject to this Act, the elected for a period of three years, and be eligible for reelection.
The same principle could well be applied to the election of the administrative body. The Minister has said that the amendment is a few years too early, but the hill proposes that the members of the advisory councils shall be elected.
– The advisory councils will not have power to expend money, but the commission will.
– That interjection is an attempt to side-step the issue. The councils have power to advise, and oh their advice certain things will be done.
– May or may not be done.
– The responsibility will rest on the advisory councils. Those who will elect the members of the advisory council would also have power, under my amendment, to elect the members of the provisional council. Senator Barwell was entirely at sea in regard to my suggestion that Australia should be made one electorate. I said that the choice of the electors in the Territory would be Australia-wide. Residence in the Territory should not be a necessary qualification for nomination for election.
Question - -That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Needham’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … .. 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
The remuneration of the chairman and the’ other two commissioners shall bo at such rates as the Governor-General thinks fit, but shall not exceed in the aggregate the sum of £6,000 per annum.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [6.3]. - I move -
That all the words after “ fit “ be left out. It would be better not to tie the hands of the Government by limiting the amount of salary to be paid to members of the commission. As I stated in my second-reading speech, I am of the opinion that everything depends on- the personnel of the commission. The best possible men should be secured, and the Government ought to be free to pay whatever salary is necessary to obtain their services. The Minister may get, say, a man with railway ex perience for £1,500, a man with experience of land laws and the pastoral industry for £1,500, and a chairman for £3,000 a year; but, on the other hand, it may be necessary to pay £2,000 a year for each of the two subordinate positions. This would not permit of an adequate salary being paid to the chairman, since the Government, under the clause as it stands, would have only £6,000 for all the salaries. An amendment of the measure would be necessary to permit more than that to be paid. It would be better to leave the matter to the discretion of the Government.
[6.51 - As there appears to be a general feeling that the Government should be given a free hand in regard to the salaries of members of the commission, I shall not divide the Senate on the amendment. After all, the salaries will have to be provided for in the Estimates, and so Parliament will have the final voice.
– Although I believe that the very best men should be secured, I am not prepared to give the Government carte blanche in regard to salaries. Parliament should control the public purse. It would be quite easy to amend the bill, if it should be found necessary to pay more than £6,000.
– It would be easy if Parliament were sitting.
– If Parliament were not sitting at the time the Government could do as it has done before - act first and obtain parliamentary sanction afterwards. We should state in the bill what we consider to be a fair remuneration for the services to be rendered.
– I am inclined to agree with Senator Barwell, but with regard to the propriety of drafting he could achieve his object in a better way. It would be more desirable, in my opinion, to strike out the whole of clause 9 and insert a new sub-clause in clause 10 as follows : -
The remuneration of the commissioners shall be such as the Governor-General thinks fit.
– It does not matter which way it is done.
– Personally I prefer to do it as I suggest. To adopt the honorable senator’s. amendment would be to make clause 9 a piece of poor drafting.
.- I expressed the opinion in my secondreading speech that the best men should be secured irrespective of salaries, but I am not agreeable to leave the remuneration unstated in the bill. Some amount should be mentioned. Although £6,000 is to be provided for salaries for the commissioners, nothing is said about allowances.
– The commissioners will be paid travelling allowances.
– The cost of living in the Northern Territory is abnormally high, and the conditions generally are totally different from those in any other part of the Commonwealth. Seeing that the chairman of the Federal Capital Commission, who lives in a most invigorating climate at Canberra, is paid £3,000 per annum, the salaries provided in this bill are not by any means extravagant.
– The cost of living was, no doubt, considered . when the amount of salaries was fixed.
– In all the circumstances, £6,000 for the three commissioners is not very much; but if more money is desired, the amount should be stated in the bill.
– The honorable senator would know when the Estimates were before us what salaries were being paid.
– That would be late in the day. The appointments would have been made for a period of five years, and if the Government had agreed upon a salary higher than Parliament thought proper, a very awkward situation would be created. It is not a business-like proposition to let the bill gd through without fixing the salaries.
– If the sum to be paiS in salaries is fixed at an arbitrary amount, the Government may find itself in a difficulty. It may not be able to obtain the men it desires for the amount provided. There are precedents for allowing the measure to go through without stating an amount. The salary to be paid to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank was not mentioned in the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– I think it was; £4,000 per annum was specified.
– In any case, a great deal of bargaining was done before the Government of the day was able to find a suitable director.
– The salary of the High Commissioner is also fixed in the act authorizing his appointment.
– I am not able to say, off-hand, whether that is so or not; but there are cases in which the Government has been given liberty to pay whatever salaries it likes for important officials. If we are afraid that £6,000 is not sufficient to secure the services of the most competent men, surely we ought to be willing to leave the Government free to pay more money. I feel quite sure that no man of proved ability would, for £1,500 a year, take a position which obliged, him to reside in the Northern Territory, yet it will be impossible to pay much more than that to the two subordinate members of the commission if a proper ratio is to be maintained between the salary of the chairman and that of the other commissioners. Either we should be agreeable to omit the amount from the clause, or we should substantially increase it.
– There seems to be a consensus of opinion that £6,000 is insufficient; but I am not prepared to leave the figure absolutely to the discretion of the. Government. The principle of stating the amount of salary to be paid to important officials has been adopted on many occasions. When the Seat of Government Administration Bill was before us, we definitely fixed the salaries of the Federal Capital Commissioners. If £6,000 is not sufficient in this case, why not increase it to £7,000, or even £8,000? Surely we could get men capable of filling these positions for £8,000. At any rate, I prefer a stated sum to giving the Governor-General power to pay the commissioners whatever salary he chooses. Parliament should always retain the control of the public purse. We shall find ourselves in queer street if we establish the precedent of giving the Governor-General carte blanche to pay whatever salaries he chooses. Surely the committee can make up its mind as to what amount should be paid. We should not depart from the principle hitherto adopted. I quite admit that we shall not be able to get three men to carry out the work, as we want it to be carried out, for the amount set out in the clause. Sir John Monash, Chairman of the Victorian Electricity Commission, is paid ?3,500 a year, and the work he does is nothing in comparison with what the chairman of the Northern Australian Commission will be expected to do. In order to test the feelings of the committee, I shall move an amendment to omit the word “ six “ and insert the word “ eight “ in lieu thereof.
- (Senator Newland). - There is already an amendment to strike out all the words after “ fit “ in the previous line.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [6.23]. - I shall, ask leave to withdraw my amendment. I agree with Senator Kingsmill that from a drafting point of view, if we are not to make provision for a maximum amount to he paid to the commissioners, it will be better to omit clause 9 and add to clause 10 the words, “ The commissioners shall be appointed at such salary as the Governor-General thinks fit for a term not exceeding five years.” The question is whether we should do that or adopt the suggestion of Senator Needham and increase the amount. T am opposed to the honorable senator’s suggestion, because, if the amount is fixed at ?8,000, there will be a big temptation to the Government to say, “Here is ?8,000 to be divided among three commissioners,” and proceed to make payment at a remuneration which will absorb the whole sum. On the other hand, if there is no fixed amount, the Government will use its own discretion,and will try to ascertain at what amount the most suitable men can he obtained. In a matter of this kind I think it far better to give the Government this discretion. In respect of most appointments it has to make, it can give whatever salaries it thinks fit. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment, because I think that, from a drafting point of view, it is better to delete this clause, and insert in the next clause the words that I have already indicated.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I hope that the committee will not strike out this clause. I am not opposed to the payment of salaries commensurate with the work, performed by the men to be appointed, but I protest as strongly a3 I can against any Government being given an absolutely free hand in regard to the remuneration to be paid to appointees. We all agree that the work the commissioners will be called upon to perform will be of great magnitude, but, instead of adopting Senator Barwell’s suggestion, I think it will be far better in the interests of the Territory and of the people of Australia to advertise far and near, not only the qualifications required of the applicants for the positions, but also the salaries the Government is prepared to pay. If we adopt Senator Barwell’s suggestion, applications will be sent on to the Government, and after personal interviews are secured and. different agencies are set to work in order to reach the ear of the Minister, Cabinet will consider the applications and the amount of remuneration to be paid.
– Could not Cabinet agree on the amount of salary to be paid before inviting applications?
– Cabinet has already considered this matter and has come to the conclusion that ?6,000 is sufficient. Just as there is a difference of opinion among honorable senators, there may also have been a difference of opinion among members of the Cabinet upon this point. I do not remember any other bill that has given the Government the power to pay any salary it feels disposed to pay to appointees.
– Is the honorable senator sure that that power was not given in the case of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank?
– I am of opinion that provision was made in the Commonwealth Bank Bill for the payment of a fixed salary to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. In all measures brought before Parliament for the appointment of boards or commissions, provision has been made for the salaries to be paid to appointees. Why is there a desire to make a change in the case of the North Australian Commission?
– It was the honorable senator’s speech which caused me to change my views on the point.
– All that I said was that I did not think that the men with the best brains and the best ability could be secured for the amount mentioned in the bill.
– Yes, for £6,000; I quite agree with the honorable senator on that point.
– I do not think the best men would bury themselves in the Northern Territory for that amount.
– I do not think so. At the same time, I think it would be wrong to. strike out the clause altogether. flitting suspended from G.SO to S p.m.
– Senator Barwell has withdrawn his amendment and now asks the committee to negative clause 9, which provides that the remuneration of the members of the commission shall not exceed £6,000 per annum. The honorable senator proposes to secure his objective by amending clause 10. Prior to the adjournment, Senator Findley stated that, if the suggestion of Senator Barwell were adopted, it would give the Government the right to pay whatever salaries it desired. In the act under which a High Commissioner was first appointed, it was specifically provided in clause 6 that the salary should be £3,000 a year; but the law has since been amended, and the salary now paid is, I believe, £6,000. In 1924 the Seat of Government Administration Act was passed, under which the Federal Capital Commission was appointed, and in section 7 of that act it is expressly provided that the chairman of the commission shall receive £3,000 a year, and the other two members shall be paid fees as prescribed, which shall not exceed £4,000 a year. As such a precedent has been established,’ there is no reason why the Government should in this instance be given a free hand. The Minister (Sena..tor Pearce) said that the Government had given grave consideration to the bill, and it is quite evident, from the informative and .interesting speeches which the right honorable gentleman has delivered on two occasions, that due attention has been given to the important problem involved. The Senate has also devoted considerable time to the discussion of the measure, and the important work which the commission will have to undertake has been fully realized. Having given every attention to the bill, Cabinet has limited the expenditure to £6,000 per annum, which is the value it places upon the work to be performed by the three commissioners. Earlier in the debate Senator Findley said that he did not think the amount provided in the bill was sufficient, and other senators also consider that it is inadequate. Senator Barwell now wishes to go to the other extreme and give the Government the right to pay whatever salaries it thinks fit, and later to seek Parliamentary approval of its action. Senator Barwell is ‘ too experienced a politician not to realize that if his suggestion is adopted it will open the way to, shall I say, “log rolling’.” Many things could happen under such an arrangement. Parliament would have no control. If the Government . finds that suitable men cannot be obtained at the salaries stipulated, what is to prevent it adding an additional thousand pounds or so. Parliament, however, should fix the maximum. In New South Wales and Victoria the railway systems are controlled by three commissioners, the chairman in each instance being paid a salary fixed by Parliament; the other two commissioners who occupy somewhat subordinate positions, receive less. The question arises whether the. work of the commissioners who are to control the development of the Northern Territory will be as important as the work of the chairman of the Railway Commissioners in New South Wales and also Victoria. The Government prides itself on being a business administration, but when business men solicit applications from persons prepared to fill a position, not only the. duties to be undertaken but the salary to be paid is specified. I believe that the consensus of opinion is that £6,000 a year is too little, and .1 am willing to support an amendment to increase the amount to £8,000. If a majority of the committee wishes to go further they can do so, but Parliament should retain control. . I am anxious to preserve the authority of Parliament and to follow the precedent laid down in the acts I have already mentioned, particularly in the Seat of Government Administration Act. The commissioners ‘ appointed under that act have, in a sense, to undertake work somewhat similar to that to be performed by the members of the North Australia Commission. When speaking on a previous occasion, I was incorrect in saying that the Commonwealth Bank Act, which was introduced by a Labour government, fixed the salary to be paid to the Governor. I hope the committee will, as suggested by Senator Barwell, negative the clause. If higher salaries have to be paid to induce the best men available in Australia to undertake this work, the rates should be stated in the bill.
– Although I should have liked to see the bill defeated on the motion for the second reading, I shall not raise anyfactious opposition to it. I agree with Senator Barwell that the salaries proposed to be paid to the three commissioners is insufficient, if the best men are to be obtained. It is rather interesting to note that a section of the Commonwealth Bank Act, to which reference has been made, provides that -
The Governor and the Deputy Governor shall be paid such salaries and travelling expenses as are fixed by the Governor-General in Council.
That was passed by a Labour government. We were told by Senator Findley that the act fixed the salary to be paid to the Governor of the Bank. The ‘act under which a High Commissioner of Australia was first appointed was also passed by a Labour government, but the Seat of Government Administration Act, which was also mentioned by Senator Needham, was passed by a Nationalist government. It was a Labour government, of which Senator Findley was a distinguished member, that decided to leave the salary to be paid to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in the hands of the responsible Minister. I think that was an admirable proposal.
– But there was a general agreement as to the amount to be paid.
– Nevertheless the arrangement enabled Mr. Fisher, the then Prime Minister, to secure the services of a first class- man in the late Sir Denison Miller. When approached on the subject, Sir Denison Miller told Mr. Fisher that he had no objection’ to the salary offered, but that in becoming Governor of the Commonwealth Bank he would be losing certain pension rights as” an officer of the Bank of New South Wales, and he thought that the Government should make up to him what he was losing. Mr. Fisher accepted the suggestion and Sir Denison Miller was appointed. In this matter we might very well follow thelead given by a Labour Government on that occasion and allow the Minister a. free hand in the matter of salaries to get the very best men available for the North Australia Commission. I agree with Senator Barwell that everything depends upon the calibre of the commissioners to be appointed. If they prove first class men we may expect development in the Northern Territory. If, on the other hand, they prove inefficient, then failure will attend our efforts. I do not believe in advertising for applicants when positions such as these are to be filled. I- am afraid that first class mem will not care to make application.
– How otherwise may we obtain them?
– By adopting the course taken by Mr. Fisher when he approached the late Sir Denison Miller about the governorship of the Commonwealth Bank. I am sure that if Mr. Fisher had advertised that position Sir* Denison Miller would not have applied for it. I doubt also, if the Governmentadvertised when it appointed the members of the Federal Capital Commission.
– But .the amount of salary to be paid.was fixed in the act.
– That is so. I prefer to trust the Government. If the Minister .has. a good man in view he should be free to approach him and make the necessary arrangements about the terms. I presume that the chairman of the commission will be paid a higher salary than the other two commissioners, and will have greater ability. It is rather too much to expect to get three first class men. Are we to understand, that although the chairman will be presumed to have greater ability than his colleagues, he may be’ over-ridden by the other commissioners in the event of a difference of opinion ? If only two are sitting, and one happens to be the chairman, the latter will have his way, because he will have both a deliberative and a casting vote; but if the three commissioners are sitting, there is the danger that the chairman may have to give way to his colleagues. In South Austrafia I understand there is only one railways commissioner, to whom the Government is paying t a good salary. That, in my opinion, is a satisfactory arrangement.
–At present there are two commissioners, but one is about to retire, and then there will be only one.
– Were applications called for that position?
– I favour the amendment indicated by Senator Barwell, because -it will enable the Government to make the best arrangements possible to secure the most suitable men.
– I should like to know whether the Leader of the Senate: (Senator Pearce) has made up his mind with regard to the suggestion put forward by Senator Barwell. It would be helpful to the committee if the Minister indicated the intention of the Government.
– I thought I had made our position clear to honorable senators. We desire to get the very best men available, provided their services can be secured “for reasonable salaries. There appears to be a feeling among honorable senators on this side that if the bill were carried in its present form it might not be possible to 2et, the most suitable men, because of the limitation in salaries. As I indicated when that view was expressed, if honorable senators believe that by striking out the limitation in salary there will be a wider choice, and the possibility of getting better men we shall have no objection to such an amendment.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [8.26]. - There seems to be a general feeling that the amount fixed mav not be sufficient to attract the best men for these positions, and that it may be advisable to adopt an amendment. There are two. alternatives : one to alter the amount, as suggested by Senator Needham, and fix the aggregate at £7,000 or £8,000, instead of £6.000; the other is to strike out the clause, thus leaving the amount of remuneration to be fixed bv the Government. Senator Needham thinks that Parliament should take the responsibility and fix the amount. But the Government is responsible to Parliament, and I am sure the responsible Minister may be trusted. I would be prepared to trust a Labour government to get the best men available for whatever sum it was necessary to pay to secure them. If the aggregate amount fixed in the clause proved to be too low, there would be delay in making appointments, because the Government would have to approach Parliament for authority to pay a higher sum. The act would have to be amended. If, on the other hand, the. aggregate be fixed at £8,000, there is the possibility that good men who might otherwise be available for less, would stand out for the higher amount. Senator Needham said that if the amount were not fixed we should be establishing a precedent. I think it is . rather a departure to fix the amount to be paid by way of remuneration for these important positions. I am sure that many appointments have been made bv the Commonwealth Government without this limitation of salary. We may safely trust the Government to pay only as much as may be necessary to secure suitable men for the positions.
Senator McHugh (South Australia) [8.30]. - I hope the clause will not be deleted. Speaking on the second reading of the bill, I said I was in favour of getting the best men available.. I believe in paying for good men, but I see a danger in giving the Government a free hand in a matter like this. Whilst I do not wish the Government to be parsimonious, there is the possibility of their paying excessive salaries to persons strongly recommended by Government supporters. How can we let men all over Australia know that these positions are vacant unless we advertise the fact? There may be. a man in the northwest of Western Australia who can- do this work better than any one in any of the congested cities of the Commonwealth, and who, unless the appointments were advertised, would not know they were to be made. The appointments should be given the fullest possible publicity. A notice should be inserted in the Commonwealth Gazette and advertisements in every newspaper in Australia. It is fair to tell applicants for the position the amount of salary they will receive. If no salaries are fixed, will the Government call for tenders, and ask applicants to state how much they will do the job for? The most business-like way is to advertise the positions, and tell the applicants what the duties and salaries are. I shall be prepared to vote for the clause if the amount is altered from £6,000 to £10,000. I am quite sure that competent men cannot be obtained for £6,000. While I am prepared to vote for £10,000, I nevertheless think that it would be bad policy to give the Government a free hand in spending the taxpayers’ money. I am not prepared to allow any Government ‘ to spend money without the sanction of Parliament. A similar principle was discussed eighteen months ago, when it was proposed to give the Minister for Markets and Migration a free hand in the expenditure of money in connexion with the marketing of dried fruits. Honorable senators on this side contended that it would be a dangerous principle to adopt. The Government should state the amount of money it requires, and set it out in the bill. If it is found later that more is wanted, the Government can ask Parliament for it. It has been suggested that Parliament might be in recess, but I expect that we shall be sitting here, with a few adjournments, for the next five or six months. That answers the suggestion that Parliament may not be in session when the Government requires additional money.
– Senator Barwell has misunderstood me. It is not ,a question of trusting this or any other Go’vernment. If a, Labour government was in power and this bill was being discussed, my attitude would be the same as it is now. In this matter I try to leave party politics on one side. The question at issue is whether Parliament shall have control of the public .purse ; and that is the main point of my disagreement with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and Senator Barwell. The Government has assessed the value of these three positions at £6,000, and the Senate is prepared to allow the Govern.ment to assess their value higher. Rather than have a vote taken on the question of the deletion of the clause, I shall move an amendment, which will assist the Government in fixing the commercial value of these three men. The Government had recent experience of appointing men to the Federal Capital Commission, which is analogous to the commission to be appointed under this bill. The sum fixed in the case of the Federal Capital Commission is £7,000. As all honorable senators agree that £6,000 is too little for the North Australia Commission, I move as an amendment -
That the word “six” be left out, with a view to insert in lien thereof the word “ nine.”
The Government can give the commissioners £3,000 each, or the chairman, say, £3,500, and proportionately less to the other two. If the amendment is adopted it will give the Government more latitude, but will still leave the control of expenditure in the hands of Parliament. The Government should certainly advertise the positions. I hope that the advice of Senator Thomas to appoint men without advertising will not be accepted. As Senator McHugh has said, there may be a man at some point of this continent far removed from the haunts of civilization, who is competent to fill the position, but who has not access to Ministers of the Crown. If advertisements are published in the Commonwealth. Gazette, and in the principal newspapers, and sufficient time is allowed for applications to be sent in, such a man will have at least a chance of applying.
– Would the honorable senator limit applications to Australians ?
– I have already said that I wish Australians to be appointed to these positions. No one outside Australia can understand the conditions in the Northern Territory. If my amendment is carried, and the Government calls for- applications, I can imagine that the Cabinet will do what any commercial board would do - appoint a committee to examine the applications and decide upon the best men. For the Government to appoint a man or men without advertising the positions would be a sort of hole-and-corner method. Every man in Australia, who thinks he is competent to do the work should be given an opportunity of applying. The same arguments were advanced in 1924, when the Senate was discussing the Seat of Government Administration Bill. On that occasion we heard all about the importance of the work, the necessity of appointing the best men available, and the anxiety of every one to make the Capital the envy of the world. That commission is analagous to the one provided for in this bill. The expenditure on salaries for the Federal Capital Commission is limited to £7,000, but as I think that the work of developing Northern Australia requires better men than are on the Federal Capital Commission - and I make no reflection on them - I move that the amount provided for salaries be increased by £3,000.
– I quite agree with everything that has been said about the necessity for appointing good men to these positions. Their task will be important and difficult, but I assume that the Minister in charge of the bill, who is also the Minister in charge of the department administering the Northern Territory, must have made some inquiries before this clause was drafted. I am anticipating that the Minister will make a statement on that point before the amendment goes to a division. I want to be assuredthat the Cabinet, before agreeing to this clause, gave the matter full consideration. If that is so the Minister should stick to the clause, unless he has been convinced that the amount provided is insufficient to meet the case.
– I have been convinced. I have admitted that.
– I always thought that a Minister in framing a bill of this character would be guided by those competent to advise him.
– I regard the members of this Chamber as quite competent.
– I cannot agree with the Minister. I understand that a Minister of the Crown has, at his elbow, officers’ who are competent to advise him.
– What does the honorable senator think that the amount should be?
– I should not like to hazard a guess whether men could be got for £2,000 a year, or whether £3,000 a year would need to be’ offered. I take it that the Minister has had full inquiry made on that point.
– How could I have full inquiry made unless I was in a position to go to a man who was seeking the appointment and ask him whether he would undertake the work at a particular figure ?
– I would far rather see an amount stated in the bill than leave it to the Minister to fix. I agree with the observation by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) that Parliament should completely control all public expenditure. If the Minister desires to increase the amount from £6,000 I shall be willing to support him, but I object to leaving the amount out altogether.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out be left out - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - ‘That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 10 -
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South. Australia) [8.55]. - I move -
That the following words be added to subclause (1) : - “ and at such rates of remuneration as the Governor-General thinks fit.” This is really a consequential amendment.
– I desire to move an amendment that will need to be submitted before that moved by Senator Barwell. In my opinion, the term for which these commissioners’ are appointed should be three, and not five, years. It is clear that the committee is extremely anxious that the very best officers it is possible to obtain should be engaged. I am sure that would also be the wish of the people generally, if they could express it. Doubts have been voiced by more than one honorable senator whether gentlemen with the necessary qualifications can be secured in Australia. It would be wise, therefore, to limit the term of appointment to three years. If the appointees fulfil all our expectations and make good, they will be quite certain of re-appointment at the end of their term; but if they do not come up to expectations, and . their policy is not progressive and satisfactory, a term of even three years would be too long for them. I have advocated more than once, when proposals were before the Senate to create new positions, that the term of the first appointees should be limited to three years, which is the time for which honorable members in another place are appointed.
– Has the honorable senator read clause 11?
– That clause seta out the reasons for which an officer may be suspended. Similar provisions are inserted in every bill.
– It has to be remembered that a man may have to give up a business to accept a position on this commission.
– If the term is limited to three years, the difficulty of securing the best men will be increased.
– A term of three years would probably be an incentive to the members of the commission to do their very best to satisfy the Government and the people generally, so that there would be no doubt about their reappointment. For that reason, I desire to move -
That the word “ five “, sub-clause (1), be left out, with a view to insert iu lieu thereof the word “ three “.
The CHAIKMAiY (Senator Newland). - The honorable senator cannot move that amendment unless Senator Barwell’s amendment is withdrawn.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment temporarily.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move–
That the word “ five sub-clause (1), be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “three”.
If a period of three years is sufficiently long for the appointment of members of the House of Representatives what is wrong with fixing a similar period for the men who. will be appointed as commissioners for Worth Australia? Every member of another place . has to face the people at the end of three years. If he makes good, and pleases the electors, it is pretty certain he will be re-elected. If, on the other hand, he does not make good, he runs a very good chance of losing his seat.
– If the period is fixed at three years we will not get the best men.
– I do not see why we should not. We are starting out on a new proposition. If the men appointed have the qualifications that are necessary, and carry out their work to the satisfaction of the government of the day, there will be no doubt about their reappointment. If, on the other hand, they do not come up to expectations during the three years, and do not perform their work to the satisfaction of the powers that be, they ought not to get a further period of re-appointment.
– Did not the late Governor of the Commonwealth Bank stipulate for a period of seven years?
– Yes. He was appointed for seven years by the Government of which Senator Findley was a member.
– I am not concerned about that for the moment. I am concerned about the fate of my amendment, and I submit it in the hope that’ the committee will agree to it.
– It is provided in clause 7 that each commissioner shall devote the -whole of his time to the duties of the office or offices held by him under the Commonwealth. ‘ Furthermore, in clause 11, as Senator Payne has pointed out, it is provided that the Minister may suspend a commissioner from office for inability, inefficiency or misbehaviour, or neglect or failure to carry out any of the provisions of the act or the regulations. Let me show the position that will arise if Senator Findley’s amendment is agreed to. Some man possessing qualifications which may make him a success as a commissioner may be approached and asked to accept an appointment. The possibility is that he will be in some business. A misfit floating around and. doing nothing will not be the man for the position. Obviously a man who is fit for filling the position will be doing something that is bringing him in a pretty good remuneration. If we offer him the position for three years he has no guarantee that the next Government will renew his appointment, no matter how well he may have carried out his duties during the period. He knows very well that governments change. He knows also that sometimes they do not take a very high or exalted view of these things. They may have political friends whom they think are quite as capable of filling the position as the commissioner whose term of office has just expired, and they may want to put one of them in his place. Governments have done this sort of thing in the past, and they may do it in the future. The man to whom the position is offered would naturally regard that as one of the risks, and would say that it would not pay him to give up his prospects and go to North Australia _ for three years at the salary offered. But he might accept a five years’ appointment, and the extended period would give him a longer time in which to make good and show that he was the man for the office. In a position like this, I doubt if anyone could make good in three years. The commission will have a heavy task, and it will take the whole of the first five years to show that it is proceeding on right lines. I hope that the committee will reject the amendment.
Amendment (by Senator Sir Henry Barwell) proposed -
That the following words be added to subclause 1 : - “ and at such rates of remuneration as the Governor-General thinks fit.”
– Even if I were inclined to support the amendment moved by Senator Barwell, I should object to the way in which it has been drafted. The Governor-General has no power to’ do .anything. I should like to see the words “ in Council “ inserted after “ Governor-General.”
– Under the Acts Interpretation Act, “ Governor-General,’ as used here, means “ GovernorGeneralinCouncil.”
– I hope the Committee will not agree to the amendment. ‘ It will simply give the Government power to pay any sum it likes.
– The honorable senator suggested that the amount should be ?9,000.
– But under this amendment the Government could pay the commissioners ?15,000, or anything they liked.
– Did a similar provision in the Commonwealth Bank Act lead to any difficulty?
– The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, for whom I had the greatest respect, has gone to his reward, but we cannot compare his appointment with that of the North Australia Commission. Let us rather compare the present proposal with that to Which Parliament agreed in the Seat of Government Administration Act, passed in 1924.
– (Senator Newland). - I ask the honorable senator not to allude further to that other statute and others to which he and other honorable senators have already referred so often during this discussion. If he does I shall have to ask him to resume his seat because of tedious repetition.
– I trust that I am not guilty of tedious repetition, bw if I am to be so charged Senator Lynch should also be called to account for tedious repetition of interjections re- .lating to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. I think I can refer to the
Federal Capital Commission without being ruled out of order. It is our last legislative effort dealing with, the appointment of a commission similar to that proposed to be set up by this bill. In the Seat of Government Administration Act, the maximum amount to be paid to the commissioners was set out.
– The two cases are not on all-fours, because two of the Federal Capital commissioners were to be remunerated by fees, and not by salaries.
SenatorNEEDHAM.- But even the fees, it was provided in the bill, should not exceed a certain amount. The remuneration to . be paid to the chairman of the commission, and the prescribed fees payable to the other commissioners, were not to exceed £7,000. If Senator Barwell’s amendment iscarried, the Government will be given carte blanche to pay whatever it likes.
– The principle was decided by the previous vote.
– That may be, but Senator Harwell will discover that here we may discuss clause by clause, and amendment by amendment. He will not seek to put the closure on us because the committee has come to a determination on a previous clause. It is just probable that, since then, the committee has changed its mind on the point at issue. I hope that it has done so, and that the amendment will be rejected.
Question - That the word proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
.- During the second-reading debate I asked the Minister (Senator Pearce) if it were possible for the machinery provided under this bill to be brought into operation by a gradual process. I am anxious to ascertain if it will be possible for the bill to become operative before the full commission is appointed. If so I suggest that an amendment be inserted whereby the administrative machinery can *be set in operation when only the chairman of the commission has been appointed. There does not appear to be any immediate need to appoint the other two members. After the chairman has been appointed he will have an opportunity to personally investigate the conditions which exist and should be able to render valuable assistance to the Minister in selecting the other two commissioners.
– I think the suggestion is a good one, and it will probably be followed. The bill when it becomes an act will not operate immediately; a proclamation will have to be issued bringing it into effect. That is deliberately provided for. The preliminary work will be done before the act is proclaimed. That course was followed in connexion with the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission, the chairman of which was selected before the act was proclaimed, and it is quite probable that in this case we shall select a chairman and consult him as to the appointment of the two other members with whom he is to work. The suggestion is a good one, and will be borne in mind at the proper time.
– Can the commission be fully constituted by the mere appointment of one man ?
– It is provided somewhere in the bill that two shall form a quorum.
– I did not wish to create the impression that the chairman could act as the commission. I understood Senator Foll to ask if it was the intention of the Government to first appoint a chairman and then consult him as to the other two appointments. The three commissioners must be appointed, when the act is proclaimed, but there is nothing to prevent the Government appointing the chairman and consulting him in regard to certain preliminary work before the act is proclaimed.
– I am anxious to ascertain if it is possible to go further than the Minister suggests, because it might be desirable for the bill to become operative with only one commissioner.
– That cannot be done.
SenatorFOLL. - The experience of the chairman over a period of six or eight months might lead him to recommend the appointment of a certain type of man to fill one or other of the vacancies on the commission. Would the Minister agree to an amendment whereby the act could be proclaimed when only the chairman had been appointed ?
– That would be inadvisable, because, as I indicated on a previous occasion, the collective opinion of the three members of the commission is necessary. Whilst it may be desirable to appoint the chairman first of all, we cannot place upon him the . responsibility of the Government as to the selection of the other two members. After all, the Government must also choose the two other members. As has been pointed out, when the three commissioners are sitting as a commission two can out-vote the chairman. The Government has to take the responsibility of appointing the three commissioners, and until they are appointed the commission cannot function.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Powers of Commission).
.- Will the Minister (Senator Pearce) state if the- officers of the commission will be under the Public Service Act ?
– They will not be. That point is covered by sub-clause 2 of clause 15, to which the committee has just agreed.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [9.22]. - In speaking on the second reading I referred to the, powers of the commission, and asked whether they might not be extended. I was not present when the Minister (Senator Pearce) commenced his reply to the second reading debate, and therefore do not know whether he referred to the question I then raised. I asked whether, as. we were setting up an expensive commission of experts, the powers conferred by the bill were as wide as they might reasonably be. Incidental to the development of the Northern Territory, is the development of the mining industry there. I asked whether the commission should not be given power to control aboriginies. within the Territory, and also be given control -of police, education, and various other services which I think could be dealt with by men on the spot, possibly more effectively than by a central administration in Melbourne or Canberra. I should like to have the views of the right honorable gentleman upon this question.
– I do not know that I dealt with . the matters to which the honorable senator has referred but I would point out first of all that in paragraph / of sub-clause 1 of clause 17 it is provided that subject to this act the powers of the commission shall extend to -
Such other matters in relation to the development of the Territory as are specified in any regulation made under this Act.
That gives power, if necessary, to extend from time to time the scope of this . commission. There are a number of administrative functions which are not delegated to the commission - that has been done designedly - including those of education, justice, police, mining, and the protection of aboriginies; Leaving out mining for the time being, and dealing with questions which are purely administrative, I may say that there is nothing of a developmental nature in connexion with education, aborigines, justice, or police except insofar as they are aids to development. There are, however, a lot of “finicky “ administrative details under these headings which should not be handled by the commission. We do not wish this controlling authority to be tied down to Darwin or anywhere else, and to remain there dealing with petty administrative matters -details that owing to the smallness of the population will, for many years be of a trifling nature. These should be dealt with by the Government Resident who will have under him an advisory council.
– Does the Minister include mining?
– Yes ; but I shall deal with that separately.
– What of the Land Board ?
– The administration of lands will be under the control of the commission, because we recognize that land administration must operate side by side with land development.
– It is not shown in the list.
– That is provided for in sub-clause 4. For the reasons I have stated the Government do not wish to load this commission with unnecessary administrative work. Our desire is that it shall concern itself with the big question of development, and actually carry out a policy with that object in view. There are two aspects of mining development. There is in the first place the purely administrative side, relating to the issue of mining licences, miners’ rights, and the granting of leases. We do not wish the commission to be burdened with that work.
– That will be carried out toy other officers.
– Yes; under the Government Resident. There is not sufficient of such work to occupy the full time of any officer. As Senator Barwell knows, there are officers in the Northern Territory who function in halfadozen different capacities. Work, such as I have mentioned, should be done by the officers acting under the Government Resident, and not by the commission it- self. In most cases in country districts it is- done by police officers. I think it will be admitted that the issue of miners’ licences, the appointment of wardens, and the control of aborigines is purely administrative work.
– The obtaining of details will be done by the officers of the commission.
– We wish to keep the commission on the one job of development.
– Mining is developmental work.
– Yes ; but there are two sides to mining, one of which is the purely administrative side, which is done by the Government Resident, and the other the development of mining fields. The first thing to be done in connexion with the development of mining is to provide transport for plant and goods by railways or by road. That will be the work of the commission, but there is no necessity la occupy the time of the commission in issuing miners’ rights of appointing wardens.
– What of grants?
– That will be entirely a matter of administration. The Government Resident will make a recommendation to the Minister, who will, in turn, make a recommendation to Cabinet. This is to he a works commission. We do not want it to be concerned with the administrative ‘ side of the business. The commissioners should be free to devote the whole of their energies to the development of the Northern Territory, and allow the administrative matters to be dealt with bv the Government Resident!
– Will the Commission have authority to establish new industries, such as, for example, the fishing industry ?
– We are hoping that new industries will be developed by private enterprise, but it will be the business of the commission to carry out whatever developmental works may be necessary to encourage the establishment of industries. In the case of “ the fishing industry, for instance, the commission might authorize a survey of the coast, or carry out other necessary work, but it would not be the business of the commission actually to establish the industry.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) r9.341. - I was about to ask questions similar to those put to the Minister .by Senator Barwell, and the Minister’ has to some extent anticipated what I was about to say by his references to the matters that may be specified under paragraph / of the sub-clause, which provides that the powers of the commission shall extend to -
Such other matters in relation to the development of the Territory as are specified in any regulation made under this act.
Almost everything concerning the development of the Northern Territory could be dealt with by the commission under this paragraph.
– It will be possible under this paragraph to give the commission more power if necessary.
– As the Minister indicates, it is possible to give the commission very wide powers under this paragraph. I notice, also, that the concluding clause is the familiar one authorizing the Governor-General to make regulations not inconsistent with the act. We have heard mention of the mining, forestry, and fishing industries, and I notice that the bill specially provides that the administration of Crown lands shall be retained by the commission.
– Because Crown lands administration is intimately interwoven with the development of the Northern Territory. As time goes on, it may be necessary to entrust the commission with other administrative powers.
– Mining may develop into a . very important industry in the Territory, and it may be advisable to vest the commission with’ administrative powers over it. Will it be possible to do that?
– Does not the Minister think that this power will be rather circumscribed by the limitations imposed under clause 61 ?
– Clause 61 is very wide.
– The bill authorizes tho Governor-General to make any regulations not inconsistent with the act.
– If, as the Minister assures the Committee, power, either expressed or implied is retained to the Government, as I wish it to be, to place these activities “ under the care of the commission, well and good.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 and 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (By-laws).
– This clause empowers the commission, subject to the approval of the Governor-General’, to make by-laws the penalties under which may not exceed £50 or imprisonment for three months. Is there any danger of the powers of the commission clashing with the powers of the existing judiciary in the Northern Territory ?
– The clause is practically taken from tho Railways Act. Under that act the Railways Commissioner has power to make by-laws and provide for certain penalties, but there must be a prosecution for a breach of the by-law before the penalties can be imposed. As one of the functions of the North Australia Commission will be to manage the railways there, the clause merely gives to the commission the same power that is vested in the Railways Commissioner. Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 (Preliminary investigation of proposed railway route).
– I point out that . certain provisions of clause 22, which deals with the procedure for the authorization of the construction of railways, should more properly appear in clause 21, which states that if the commission is of the o)pinion that the construction of any railway in North Australia is desirable it shall report to the Minister. The Minister may then refer the matter to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for investigation, inspection, and preliminary survey. It seems to me that it is desirable to insert in clause 21 the ‘provision in paragraph b, sub-clause 2, of clause 22, which states -
A book of reference in which shall be Bet 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.
Paragraph h of the same sub-clause, which requires a general statement of the primary and other industries and the possibilities of the district to be served by the proposed railway to be furnished to the Minister, should also appear under clause 21. I am afraid that, if we pass the clause in its present form, unnecessary delay may be occasioned in connexion with railway construction works. All the information, in my judgment, might very, well be furnished in the preliminary report by the commission.
– I think Senator Elliott is under a misapprehension. If the North Australia Commission deems it desirable to have a railway connexion between two points it will make a report to the Minister, to that effect, and’ the necessary inquiries will be carried out by the’ Railways Commissioner. We do not want the North Australia Commission to be saddled with a complete railway construction staff, because it will only be concerned with railway construction works from time to time. The Railways Commissioner, being responsible for railway works in various parts of the Commonwealth, has the necessary staff to carry out all surveys. Under clause 22 he will prepare a plan and estimate for the. guidance of the Minister and Parliament. It is quite true that the book of reference mentioned by Senator Elliott could be more readily compiled by the North Australia Commission, because the land will be under the jurisdiction of that body, but we are bound to follow the procedure laid down in the Railways Act, which governs the presentation of railway proposals to Parliament. In this case the information will be sent on by the North Australia Commission to the Railways Commissioner to enable him to prepare his report, so actually there will be no duplication.
– Will such railway works be referred to the PublicWorks Committee for report!
– Not unless Parliament so decides. If Parliament is of the opinion that the Public Works Committee should inquire into a proposal, there is power in the bill for that to be done. Otherwise the North Australia Commission will take the place of the Public Works Committee and obtain the evidence which the Public Works Committee would get. The proposal will then come to Parliament with the report and recommendation of the commission.
Senate adjourned at 9.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 January 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260128_senate_10_112/>.