10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 28th January, 1926, vide page 452).
Clause 21 (Preliminary investigation of proposed railway route).
– This is one of the weakest clauses, in the bill. It reveals the defects of the’ past and purposes to perpetuate them. It provides that if the commission is of opinion that the construction of any railway in Northern Australia is desirable, it shall so report to the Minister, and the Minister will then refer the matter to the Railways Commissioner, who, after much circumlocution, will proceed with the survey. Why not vest the commission with authority to do whatever may be necessary to ensure the development of the Northern Territory? If the commission believes that a railway should be built, why should it have to report to the Minister?
– Who would provide the money?
– The people, through the Commonwealth ‘ Parliament.
We should vest authority in the commission to do everything in connexion with railway works in- the Northern Territory.
– Even to the extent of building a railway?
– Certainly. We may presume that one of the commissioners will have knowledge of railway construction. If not, the commission will act on the advice of experts. Senator Pearce said that the Government did not intend to allow the commission to create a big staff of officials . It matters little what the intentions of the Government may be. Our experience has been that, as soon as a commission is appointed, it proceeds to gather around itself a big staff, and I have no doubt that the Northern Australia Commission will do the same. Under the proposed arrangement, there will be interminable delay in the carrying out of any important public works such as railway construction, and this is what we should seek to avoid. We should not repeat the mistakes that have occurred during the whole period of the Northern Territory administration.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Minister for Home and Territories) [11.8]. - What Senator Needham really proposes is that we should give the commission authority to decide the route of any proposed railway, and proceed forthwith with its construction, leaving to the Commonwealth Government the obligation of finding the money to pay for the work. Parliament, according to Senator Needham, should have no voice in the matter at all. Neither House would allow a subsidiary body created by Parliament to load the Government with financial obligations.
– Parliament would always retain control by voting the money.
– Parliament would never agree to do as Senator Needham suggests. The honorable senator’s other point is that under the proposed arrangement there will be some delay in carrying out public works in the’ Northern Territory. I do not agree with him. The commission, if it thinks that a railway is necessary, will submit its scheme to the Minister, and if it is approved, plans and estimates must be prepared before the Ministry can get parliamentary approval. It may get the necessary information through the commission. That body would have to organize the staff of engineers, draftsmen, and other officials who might be wanted for only portion of the year. Obviously the wiser course is to utilize the existing staff in the office of the Sailways Commissioner. I cannot see that there will be any delay as suggested by Senator Needham.
– Sub-clause 1 provides that if the commission is of opinion that the construction of a railway in Northern Australia is desirable, it shall report to the Minister. Will that sub-clause override any provision in the bill for the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs ?
– No, because the commission will have no jurisdiction in” regard to railway matters south of the twentieth parallel of south latitude.
– Will the commission have jurisdiction over anything south of the twentieth parallel of south latitude.
– Yes: it will have jurisdiction over land.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Construction of public works exceeding £25,000).
– Are we to understand that the commission will have no authority to investigate proposals for works south of the twentieth parallel of south latitude ?
– Yes. That provision is in one of the earlier clauses.
– According to my reading of this clause, the commission will have unquestioned authority to inquire into and report on any work in the Northern Territory. If the position is otherwise, what authority will take its place in regard to proposed public works south of the twentieth parallel of south latitude?
– The powers of the commission are set out in the first part of clause 17.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 (Non-application of Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21 to certain works).
– Do I understand that Parliament can direct that certain works, the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000, shall be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report ?
– Parliament can, by resolution, direct that any works costing over £25,000 shall be referred to the com:mittee
– The preceding clause provides that any work the esti-mated cost of which will exceed £25,000 may be proceeded with without reference to the committee ; but if Parliament so directs, investigations shall be made by the committee.
– There is a prohibi-‘ tion in clause 23.
– That is qualified by clause 24.
– Yes. Such works will not automatically be referred to the Public Works Committee, but only by resolution of Parliament.
– That is done at present.
– No; by a resolution passed by the House of Representatives.
– The bill therefore provides that any work in the Northern Territory, the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000, shall be investigated by the Public Works Committee only after a resolution to that effect has been passed by both Houses of Parliament.
– That is so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 (Agreement with States contiguous to Territory).
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [11.20]. - I should like to ask the Minister (Senator Pearce) whether there have been any negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia in this matter ; and, if so, whether any decision has been reached in regard to an agreement, such as is covered by this clause?
.- When the bill was first drafted for presentation to the last Parliament, we communicated with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland. (We intimated the general lines upon which the bill would be framed, and asked whether, they would consent to enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth as contemplated in this clause. Both Governments said that they would prefer to defer their decision until the bill had actually been passed, and until they knew the conditions under which portions of their States might be dealt with by the commission. The Prime Minister and I have discussed this matter with Western Australian Ministers, and the understanding is that it is premature at this juncture to negotiate. I understand that both Governments are willing to take up the matter when the bill becomes law, and to deal with the conditions, if any, under which the commission considers that, portions of those States should be administered by it. A glance at the map will show that any .developmental policy undertaken in Northern Australia should have some relation to the contiguous territories of Western Australia and Queensland. It might be advantageous if certain developmental works were carried out jointly on behalf of the respective Governments. The interests of the Victoria River country are identical with those of the East .Kimberly country, and the Victoria River country has also an interest in the ports on the Western Australian coast. On the other hand, the Barkly Tablelands country on the eastern portion of the Territory has interests in common with those in the western district of Queensland, and both have an interest in possible ports on the Gulf of Carpentaria. Therefore, in any schemes of development, either by way of roads, stock routes, railway communication or telegraph lines, we have to contemplate that a joint work would assist the development of the land in not only the Northern Territory, but also portions of Western Australia and Queensland. There are many other questions to be considered, including to what extent such territories would be placed under the commission, the representation of the’ States on the commission, the financial liability to be incurred, and on whose behalf and on what terms and conditions. This clause is drafted to allow these matters to be the subject of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of Western Australia and Queensland if the Governments concerned are agreeable. I therefore suggest that it would be wise, at this juncture, not to go further and prejudice negotiations by expressing an opinion as to the conditions. It is obvious that the States have certain rights in regard ‘ to their territory, and “we cannot presume to say what those rights are. I am sure both State Governments will be quite willing to negotiate, although it may happen that we may not be able to come to an agreement. It would be in the interests of the Commonwealth and both the States to regard the problem as one.
– I think it better to wait until we know the personnel of the commission, and see how it gets to work.
– Quite so. Recognizing this, we have not pressed the Governments or communicated with them further. We prefer to wait until the bill is law, and then make the matter a subject of negotiation at a conference. I think a .joint policy desirable. The whole problem should be tackled as one, without regard to geographical lines, which are not divisions of interests, but merely arbitrary divisions.
– After the bill becomes law, what time will elapse before the Commonwealth Government opens up negotiations with the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia ? Will the Commonwealth Government convene a conference with the representatives of these States, with a view to discussing the policy to be adopted?
– My view is that the matter should be taken up shortly after the bill becomes law!
Clause agreed to.
Clause 37 (Division into North and Central Australia).
.- I should like the Minister (Senator Pearce) to explain why the control, of the Territory is to be divided in the manner provided in this clause. I was under the impression that the commission would have the same powers of control over Central Australia that it has over Northern Australia, but it now appears that the activities of the commission are to be confined to the northern portion of the Territory. Clause 17 distinctly restricts the powers of the commission to the country north of the twentieth parallel of south latitude. Will not the commission have any controlling influence over the development of the southern portion of the Territory when a division is made?
– I thought I explained that point fully when introducing the bill. I said then that it was felt that the developmental policy of what we term in this bill “ Central Australia “ could be more conveniently and more expeditiously carried out from the present administrative centre at Melbourne or, later, from Canberra. There is, for instance, a railway to Oodnadatta, and the policy of the Government is to extend the existing railway. The country in the vicinity of Oodnadatta is not cut off from the administrative centre of the Commonwealth, as is the northern portion. The Territory comprises approximately 500,000 square miles, and one-half; of that - the northern portion, which is practically isolated - is quite large enough for the commission to handle. It is obvious, however, that in the matter of land administration there can be no such arbitrary division as nature makes in regard to development, since both the land in the south and in the north of the Territory is suitable for pastoral purposes. The Government has decided that it would be wise to have uniform land administration throughout the Territory, as the one portion is linked up with the other. Land” administration in both North and Central Australia, is being placed under the control of the commission.
– If it should be considered necessary to extend the powers of the commission to Central Australia, there will be nothing to prevent it.
– No, but for the future, or for at least some years, the time of the commission will be fully occupied in dealing with the problems of the north, and the development of Central Australia will be, I think, conveniently carried out from the south.
– But the commission will be expected to prepare a scheme of development covering the whole of the Territory.
– It will not prepare a scheme for the development of Central Australia, but any scheme it prepares for the development of the north must also take into consideration the other division of the Territory.
– It will not be restricted to the north?
– No. For instance, in preparing a scheme for a railway it cannot avoid taking into consideration the fact that there is a line coming up from the south. The commission will not be entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a scheme of railway development for Central Australia, but in patting forward a scheme for the north, it must pay due regard to any railway running through Central Australia.
– It can do nothing to re-open mining operations at Arltunga?
– No. It can do nothing in that regard south of the twentieth parallel of south latitude.
– What about the development of the pastoral industry in Central Australia?
– The commission will control pastoral development over the whole of the Territory.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 38 to 43 agreed to.
Clause 44 (Creation of Advisory Council for Northern Australia).
– I should like to ask if the Government has had in the operations of the existing advisory council in the Northern Territory sufficient warrant for perpetuating this system? The people of the Territory will still have their representative in the Commonwealth Parliament, who will be able to voice their grievances; yet superimposed will be an advisory council, such as no other territory of the Commonwealth has. Broadly, I think the appointment of these advisory councils is a farce. Their powers will be very limited; they will not be able to touch any of the work of the commission, and will be nothing but the fifth wheel of the coach. We shall have in each division of the Territory a government resident to advise the Government, and to represent it in all matters outside the ambit of the authority of the commission, so that the advisory council will be reduced almost to a nullity. What will the council advise on ? In the Territory we shall have two government residents, one in North Australia and one in Central Australia. There will also be a representative in the Commonwealth
Parliament, representing a handful of population. Yet, on top of all this, it is proposed to have advisory councils at each seat of government in the Territory. Unless the existing system of having an advisory council in the Territory has been of some real public benefit I see no reason for its adoption in this bill. I think we have carried this kind of thing to a ridiculous excess in our community. The trouble is that the people who have to find the money for the development of the Northern Territory are standing off in the distance. They have no advantageous means of furthering their interests at any time. Their job is to find the money and be quiet. On the other hand, the people in whose territory the expenditure takes place, and who have the advantage of electing advisory councils are not finding any of the money in proportion to their numbers. It is a farcical position. I think the Territory would be very well looked after by bringing the authority of the Government right in front of the people, in the first place by the appointment of a commission, in the second place by the splitting of the authority into two administrations, and in the third place by the shifting of the seats of administration. On top of that, of course, is their representation in the Commonwealth Parliament. In view of the fact that the bulk of the work - at any rate all that matters - will be in the hands of the commission, with which the advisory councils dare not interfere, to my mind the proposal to appoint these councils is foolish, and will only lead to the establishment of a bureaucratic system that is not warranted. It will be carrying representative government to a ridiculous extreme. We can really go too far in this direction. The bill proposes to look after the Territory jealously enough without overloading it with a bureaucracy in both centres for a population of about 3,000 people. My advice to the Government is to give the delegated power provided for in the bill a chance without overloading it in this complicated fashion. I feel inclined to vote against the clause unless the Minister can advise us that the existing advisory council in the Territory is serving some useful purpose. If, for instance, the administrator has advised the Government that in the past he has found the advice of these men useful and in the public interests, I shall withdraw my objection, but if, on the contrary, he has not advised the Government to that effect, I see no reason for darting out into the realm of speculation by making these fanciful and unnecessary additions to the devolution of governmental power as elsewhere proposed by the bill. The people in the Territory will do very well without being saddled with this excrescence on the system proposed to be adopted.
– I can best explain the position by mentioning some of the subjects that are left out of the control of the commission, and upon which the advisory councils will have the right to give advice. They are aborigines, education, police, health, mines, and fishing. There are also such matters as stock, brands, and dingoes, which are dealt with by ordinances, and which are of real importance to pastoralists. The idea is to have two_ members of each advisory council elected.” In North Australia the probability is that the two persons elected to the advisory council will be chosen by the people of Darwin, which is overwhelmingly the biggest centre of population. Therefore, the two elected will represent the industrial section in - North Australia. In those circumstances, the two who will be nominated will represent the pastoral industry, or, perhaps, one may represent pastoral interests and the other the mining industry. The people are very much interested in the subjects upon which these councils will be invited to give advice to the Government Residents. The aborigines question, for instance, is a live matter in the Northern Territory, where there are large numbers of aborigines. Questions often arise between the Government and the residents as to the protective care exercised over the natives employed by them, and as to the conditions in which natives may be employed. The half-caste problem is also important, because it is from the halfcastes that the supply of domestic labour is obtained.
– But what will the two Government Residents be doing?
– We contemplate asking the Government Residents to act as chief magistrates. There is no magistrate at Darwin now except Mr. Playford, who is the Acting Administrator.
The Government Resident will also have the adminstration of the Government offices and all the sub-branches. He will administer affairs relating to police, mining, and education. There are quite a number of children going to school, and there is a fair amount of mining. I am glad to say it is increasing. He will have all these things under his control, and as administrative officer in the Territory he will be responsible for all of them. The advisory council will be a small body called together, say, a couple of times a year to give its opinion on the ordinances under which the people of the Territory are carrying on their work. These ordinances will affect the education of their children, their health, and matters relating to dingoes, stock and brands, all being questions of vital importance to them. The council will be able to pass resolutions giving advice to the Government Residents, which can be passed on to the Commission. A Britisher likes to have a “ say “ in the government of his country.
– But will not most of the “ say “ be from the agitators of Darwin ?
– No, because they can only have two elected members of the advisory council in North Australia.
– And they will be two bolsheviks.
– Not necessarily.. The other two members of the council will be nominated. On the other hand, in Central Australia where the pastoralists are in the majority the two elected men will probably be pastoralists, and the others may be nominated to represent the mining industry, which has great possibilities in the Macdonnell Ranges. I do not say that these advisory councils will be of great practical use at the outset, but we are endeavouring to blend into this bill the germ of future local self-government. Our Australian systems of local self-government all commenced in a small way and on the same lines. First of all, the local body was wholly nominee; later on it was partly nominee and partly elective. The partly-nominated and partly-elected councils had very limited powers in the early days of the colonies. There were quite a number of subjects over which the Colonial Office in London had complete control, and on which the local councils were not able even to give advice. Nevertheless, these local bodies were the germ of local self -government in Australia, a germ which has grown until to-day we have full power of self-government in all the States and in the Federation. The people in the Northern Territory are British, and whether we agreeor disagree with their views, they surely have a right to express them on the conditions under which they are living. We are anxious to give them some opportunity to make their voices heard, and give advice which may or may not be acted on. It is desirable in all communities to train men in the art of government, which is not easily acquired, and is mainly achieved through, a long course of training. It brings some sense of responsibility to men if they are placed in positions where they have a voice in the making of laws, and if there is a bolshevik element in Darwin, as an honorable senator has sug- gested, the best way to cure it is to ring home to it some sense of responsibility. Let us give the people there the opportunity to say what they think about things. It will not do any harm. Under the British Constitution it has alwaysbeen found that the best safety valve is to let people talk and “ blow off steam,” provided they keep within reason.
– The Minister referred to the police. Will these councils have charge of the police force?
– They will not have charge of the police, but they will advise on matters affecting the police, who will be’ under the control of the Government Resident.
– For some time there was only one police officer in the Territory? Are there two now?
– There are about 50. They are a very fine body of men.
– Are they Commonwealth peace officers?
– They are all Commonwealth officers.
Senator Sir HENRY BAR WELL (South Australia) [11.47]. - I entirely disagree with Senator Lynch regarding the advisory councils, and I go very much further than the Minister himself. The Minister said that he did not think these councils would be of much practical use, but I think they will be of great practical use. Both the Minister and I have been in the Territory, and have travelled extensively in it on several occasions, and neither he nor I would say that we know very much about its real problems. I assume that every member of the advisory councils, whether appointed by the Government or elected by the residents, will have had long experience in the Territory, and will have a good grasp of the problems affecting it. A big pioneering work is being undertaken. To the Government and people in the south the Territory is almost an unknown country. The practical problems that will have to be dealt with are problems about which the Administration here knows very little. The first-hand knowledge and information that, will come to the commission and the Government as a result of the appointment of the advisory councils will be of great value. These councils will be very different from those in the mind of Senator Lynch. Those to which he referred deal with matters that are common knowledge. In the Northern Territory, on the other hand, we have to deal with unknown quantities. I regard this clause as one of the wisest provisions in the bill.
– Will the elected members be elected on an adult suffrage?
– There will be an advisory council . for the north, and one for the south. They will consist of five members in each case. Two will be appointed by the Government, two will be elected by the people, and the government resident will preside. I feel sure that Senator Guthrie, who knows something about , the Territory, will, on reflection, agree that it is important that there should , be advisory councils. It is doubtful whether the men who will be appointed to the commission will have had much actual experience of the north of Australia, and it will take them a long time to get an insight into the matters with which they will have to deal.
– I approve of the appointment of advisory councils, but I think that all the members of them should be elected by the people in the Territory. I believe at all times in trusting the people. The people of the Territory surely know the type of men that should represent them. Senator Guthrie eats and drinks bolshevism, and dreams of it when he sleeps. Perhaps he does not sleep, for the bogy seems to be always chasing him. Whenever he comes here his mind is disturbed, and he works himself into a fury at the very mention of anything democratic. I look upon the woollen mills deal,, while he looks upon the appointment of persons, to responsible offices by the people,as bolshevism. I do not know that he has anything for which to blame the people of Australia.
SenatorGuthrie. - We are talking of Darwin, not Australia.
– Darwin is part of Australia, and people there are entitled to the same rights as Senator Guthrie, We have heard a lot from him about the disabilities under which the people there labour. They do not live in mansions, like gentlemen of Senator Guthrie’s calibre. They do not, to the same extent, enjoy the pleasures . of life and the comforts which a big fortune brings. And yet Senator Guthrie would take away from them the right to elect representatives to an advisory council, and his reason is that ‘ ‘ the men elected are sure to be bolsheviks.” There are no bolsheviks in this country. If there are any persons in Australia connected with the bolshevik, communist, or Independent Workers of the World organizations, they will be very game to remain here after the passing of the iniquitous bill introduced in another place yesterday. They cannot remain if the Government carries out the provisions of that bill. I always stand for the people having the right to elect the members of councils of this kind. The bill provides for a majority of government representatives, which is undemocratic. The Government would be well advised to alter the clause, and give the people the right to four representatives with the Government Resident as chairman.
SenatorFOLL(Queensland) [11.55]. - Senator McHugh’s remarks are most extraordinary. I remind honorable senators that this bill is one of the most generous proposals ever brought forward by any Government for the administration of any territory. He should remember that in the election of Federal and State Parliaments and municipal councils those who exercise the vote also find the money. We in this chamber represent those who will find the money for the development of the Northern Territory. Each State has to find its proportion of the money. Practically none of the expenditure in the Territory, either on administration or developmental work, will be found by the people who live there. The proposal to give the people some representation on the advisory council is good, for it will provide a safety valve for them to blow off steam. As representatives of the taxpayers of Australia, honorable senators should retain for the people of Australia proper representation on these councils.
– There is not much in what Senator Foll has said, for the real work in the Territory will be done, not by the advisory councils, but by the commission, and that will be appointed by the Government. I do not agree with the. view that because the people of Australia find the money for the development of the Territory, the residents of the Territory itself should not have any representation. These councils will be a distinct help to the commission, and residents of the Territory are best qualified to be members of them.
– All the members of the advisory councils will probably be residents.
– Probably, but not necessarily. I know nothing so. likely to spur people on, and to cause them to take a greater interest in the future of the Territory, than to give them an opportunity to elect men qualified to sit on the advisory councils. The principle is a sound one.
– Then why is it not generally applied - to the commission, for example.
– We on this side tried to make the commission, a semielective body, but Senator Lynch objected to that. We all hope that the day is not far distant when the Territory will become a valuable asset to the Commonwealth. In a few years the revenue may be so substantial that it will be independent of the rest of Australia.
– When that time comes conditions can be altered accordingly. The Territory may be given a parliament then.
– In the meantime what is wrong with fitting the people to undertake the duties of self-government? There is nothing like an election to stir up public interest.
– Because public interest was stirred up the honorable senator’s party won no seats in the Senate at the last election.
– Perhaps for Senator Guthrie’s benefit I had better discuss the woollen mills deal a little more ?
– The Labour party told so many lies about the woollen mills that the people determined to learn the truth.
– That an election stirs up interest in the Territory was proved when the first election took place there about three years ago to select a representative to sit in the House of Representatives. A number of candidates contested the election. It was a distinct departure from the settled habit of the people in the Northern Territory to take an interest in Federal election matters, but on this occasion they certainly did. At the recent election also considerable interest was displayed. The people decided that the gentleman whom they appointed in the ‘ first place to be their representative was worthy of their confidence, and they re-elected him.
– Another sad result.
– The people decided that he was better fitted to repre- . sent them than the candidate the Government supported. Apart altogether from party political views, no honorable senator could truthfully deny that Mr. Nelson is well fitted to represent the Northern Territory in the Federal Parliament.
-(Senator Newland). - This clause has nothing to do with Mr. Nelson or the recent election. It deals with the appointment of an advisory council in the Northern Territory. I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to that matter.
– I was discussing, sir, the relative merits of the nominee and elective systems, and endeavouring to point out that the latter was far superior to the former.
– The honorable senator may make only passing reference to the recent election.
– It would be better to provide that all the members of this council shall be elected by the people rather than that some shall be appointed by the Government.
– Can the honorable senator tell us how many people there are in Central Australia?
– I do 11Ot know exactly, but the population is limited.
– Very few live there.
– If people do not live there, how is it that so many voted at the last election ?
– That is what puzzles me.
– I hope honorable senators will remember these statements by Senator Guthrie. A proposal is to come before us for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the conduct of the last election. I shall request that Senator Guthrie be summoned to appear before it to give evidence in support of his statement that people voted in the Northern Territory, but did not live there.
– I did not say that; but it cannot be denied that a large proportion of the population is nomadic.
– The honorable senator cannot get away from his statement like that. I sincerely trust that the Government will agree to the whole of this advisory council being elected by the people. Senator Pearce is, I believe, whole-hearted in his desire to see substantial progress made in the Northern Territory. For many years the people there have waited, Micawber-like, for something to turn up, but disappointment has always been their lot. T know of no announcement that would be of such an inspiration to them as that the Government had decided that for the first time in history the Northern Territory should have an advisory council elected by the whole of its population.
– Would the honorable senator give the blacks a vote ?
– The blacks may in time become so humanized and Christianized that it will be possible to give even them, a vote. We desire to assist the Government in every way possible. We wish this bill to be of such a practical nature that it will mark a definite step forward.
– Does the honorable senator think that we should get better men by the elective than By the nominee system ?
– If the elective system . is adopted, four Darwin men will undoubtedly be appointed, and the rest of the Territory will not have any direct representation .
– I do not agree with the right honorable gentleman. If better men are in other parts of the Territory, they will undoubtedly be elected.
– The trouble is that the good men may not be known in Darwin.
-(Senator Newland). - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
.- If the Minister’s only objection to the elective system is that it would result in four representatives from Darwin being elected, he could overcome that by dividing the Territory into districts.
– The Government considered that, but decided that it would be too cumbersome.
– I do not think it would be. It might be a little more costly, but it would be worth the extra expense. If the Territory develops as we hope, the time will soon come when the people will demand some measure of self-government.
– Still move elections, I suppose?
– Does the honorable senator object to elections?
– I object to wasting time.
– I do not waste so much time in this chamber as Senator Lynch. The honorable senator makes periodical trips to Western Australia, just prior to which he frequently occupies a considerable amount of time in this chamber, although he has nothing of any consequence to say. When I speak I have something definite to contribute to the debate. I do not speak on a matter unless I am keenly interested in it. I trust that even at this late hour the Government will agree to an alteration in the method of appointing the advisory council. I can see no substantial objection to dividing the Territory into districts and permitting the people to appoint a representative for each district.
– If we spent the whole of to-day in discussing this matter the time would not be wasted.
– That is so. It is a peculiar thing that when suggestions are made from this side of the committee honorable senators opposite invariably allege that they come from Moscow. We must not forget that, although the Northern Territory is so far away, it is part of Australia. The people who live there are Australians, and they are permitted to send a representative . to this Parliament in an advisory capacity. I hope that the Government will allow them to elect the four members of the advisory council.
– Senator Pearce’s view is that if the elective principle were applied, only people living in Darwin would be appointed to the advisory council. It is a pity to depart from the democratic principle of majority rule. Senator McHugh has suggested that the Minister’s objection could be overcome by a. division of the country into electoral districts, so that people following pastoral pursuits would secure representation on the advisory council. Apparently the Government wishes to appoint persons not resident in Darwin. In all probability the people there know as much of the needs of the interior as do those who follow the pastoral industry.
– Many residents of Darwin have travelled over the major portion of the Northern Territory.
– That is so, and it is possible that some of the cattle ranch owners whom Senator Pearce favours for appointment are living in Darwin. . It does not necessarily follow that squatters and cattle-owners live on their runs. It is more likely that they reside in Darwin. We should stand for majority rule and the elective system.
– I am rather pleased that I introduced this subject and opened up a field for discussion. Certain honorable senators have expounded strange views. They stand, so they say, for the Moscow model of election. I believe that for this country the British model is superior- to the Moscow system. Senator McHugh, a few minutes ago, thought fit to taunt me with alleged inattention to my legislative duties. . Well, my position in this chamber compares, favorably with his. He prides himself upon the regularity of his attendance. I remind him that the waste paper basket is here every day, and that it, at least, serves some useful purpose. Even if what Senator McHugh said was correct - and that I deny - quite recently the electors of Western Australia had an opportunity to express their opinion, with the result that I am in my present position to-day. As far as this bill is concerned, I think the advisory council might very well be eliminated. Senator Barwell, a . strong advocate of consistency, accepts this proposal for a partly elective advisory council, but does not approve the principle being applied to the appointment of the commission. Admirable though the elective system may be, it hasnot always succeeded in ministering to the end in view. If we want a job well done we must, in appointing men to important posts, have some regard for their fitness for the work before them. I rose to point out that as the commission will have the sole responsibility for the development of Northern Australia, its position will be quite different from that of an advisory council, which will be engaged in the minor details of administration. This proposal by honorable senators opposite to apply the elective system to the appointment of the advisory council is not followed in its entirety even under the Soviet plan of government. Whilst it may be good enough for the provinces of Russia, the tyrants who rule that unfortunate country take very good care that they themselves do not face it. They know that if they sought election under it they would never be heard of again. The British system, which applies the principle in moderation, is an admirable one. It is proposed to adopt it in part for the appointment of the advisory councils, which, in my opinion, will be a source of friction in the governmental activities. We shall have associated with the administration four men drawn from the various walks of life, who will on occasions be indulging in a policy of pinpricks. If the advice to be tendered be good advice, by all means let us have elective advisory councils. I am afraid, however, that we are rather unnecessarily overloading the bill. The people in the Northern Territory will be called upon to devote so much of their time to elections that they will have little time to work. There will be the triennial election for a representative in this Parliament, also an election every three years for the advisory councils, and an election yearly for the Port Darwin council. The handful of people there will spend more time in electing representatives to various public bodies than do people in any other part of the Commonwealth. Let us have the scheme launched first and see how it will work. For the present, there is no need to require a population of less than 4,000 people, scattered over such a vast area, to engage in elections almost every year.
.- I fail to see why the elective principle should not be applied in its entirety under this clause. Senator Lynch’s remark suggests that it will not be long before he is entirely opposed to it. We have this system in our municipal and parliamentary government. I believe that Senator McHugh intends to test the feeling of the committee on this matter. The clause calls for criticism from another point of view. It specifies no particular duty for the Government Resident. The duties of the Government Resident are largely of a social character.
– He is the head of the administration.
– We could dispense with the Government Resident and allow the chairman of the council to advise the commission.
– There must be someone in charge of the government departments in the Northern Territory.
– Why not place the chairman of the advisory council in charge ?
– The Government Resident will be the chairman of the advisory council.
– We could easily amend the measure to provide that four members of the council be elected by the residents of the Northern Territory.
.- I move-
That sub-clause 2 be left out -with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new sub-clause - “ (2) The Advisory Council shall consist of the Government Resident and of four members who shall be elected for a period of three years and shall hold office during good behaviour and shall be eligible for re-election.”
In objecting to the clause in its present form, I have no desire to delay the passage of the bill, but I think that much better work could be accomplished by an advisory council constituted in the way I suggest. We do not wish the people of the Territory to have the impression that, because the Government has a majority on the advisory council it will not take any notice of those whom the people nominate. I was glad to hear the Minister say that the Government had considered the question of subdividing the Territory into electoral districts, and, possibly, having later a purely elective council. I trust the Minister will agree to the proposed new sub-clause.
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) [12.35’j. - I support the amendment moved by Senator McHugh. I should like to be furnished with information that’ would be valuable to me, and also to other members of the Opposition, in respect to the duties which the proposed council will perform. The work of the commissioners is fairly clearly set out in the bill. We know that* under it, as with all measures, regulations will be drafted under which, provided they do not in any way contravene the main provisions of the bill, work other than that already specified can be undertaken by the commission. It may be that regulations will be framed giving the three commissioners almost complete power to deal with any matter affecting the Northern Territory. Sub-clause (1) of clause 44 provides -
There shall be an advisory council for North Australia to advise the Government Resident in relation to any matter affecting North .Australia, including advice as to the making of new ordinances or the repeal or amendment of existing ordinances (other than ordinances relating to tlie administration of Crown lands), but not including any matter relating to tlie powers of the commission or any matter under the control of the commission.
What duties will this ‘ advisory council have to perform?
– I submitted a list when I replied to Senator Lynch and I do not intend to go over the whole matter again.
– There are some matters that could not well be dealt with by the advisory council. We do not know what regulations will be drafted by the Government when the bill comes into operation. What guarantee have we that those matters to which the Minister has apparently referred will be left ab solutely in the hands of the advisory council? Under regulations a good deal of work could be taken from the council. I rose to support the amendment, and not with any desire to delay the passage of this important bill. We are as anxious as is the Government to see this measure passed as speedily as possible. If any delay has occurred in placing it on the statute-book, the blame rests, not upon honorable senators on this side of the chamber, but upon the Government. This measure could have been on the statutebook before now. It passed through nearly all its stages in this chamber a few months ago, but the Government, in its eagerness to get to the barrier in thepolitical race, and to obtain more power, held it up.
– Why go over all that again?
– The chairman, and not the honorable senator, is in charge of the debate. Senator Sampson has not yet been elevated to the position of Chairman of Committees. When he has been, he will have an opportunity to deal with me. In the meantime, he, like myself, is an ordinary senator. I know the honorable senator is ambitious, and that a number of bouquets were thrown at him after his opening speech in the Senate.
– (Senator Newland) - Order.
– The honorable senator is supposed to be a model of what every one should be - the embodiment of wisdom !
– Why not follow him?
– I would not slavishly’ follow any one. The man who carves out his own line of life is more likely to succeed than those who endeavour to follow others. I am here to do my work to the best of my ability. When I make my voice heard in this chamber, it is in the interests of the larger section of the people of the Commonwealth. When I speak, I am endeavouring to improve the prospects and prosperity of the people, and to work for their betterment.
– I remind the honorable senator that the committee is discussing the clause relating to the appointment of an advisory council.
– That matter, which I am discussing, is of great moment to the people.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I was drawn away by interjections. I do not mind you, Mr. Chairman, applying the brake in some instances, but I do not think there is any need to do so just now. If these “pointers” would not interrupt me-
– The honorable senator knows that interjections are disorderly, and he should not pay any regard to them.
– Why do you not rule them out of order?
– I have done so.
– You have allowed two or three honorable senators to rudely interject.
– The honorable senator has his remedy if he thinks that the Chairman has not given him sufficient protection.
– I do not object to pertinent interjections; I have been accustomed to interjections all my political life. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) appears to be in a very good mood this morning. There are times when one hesitates to approach him, especially on a Friday, with any suggestion.
– I warn the honorable ‘ senator not to take advantage of the leniency already extended to him by the chair.
– I appreciate your consideration, Mr. Chairman, and I know that, as a result of your long experience of parliamentary procedure, you would not take an extreme course with men such as myself, unless under great provocation. I should like to ask if the Minister is prepared to postpone the consideration of this clause until a later hour of the day. The time spent has been well occupied, as we have been discussing a principle, which is important to me and to others with democratic tendencies. The nominee system has been tried in days of yore. Attention has recently been directed to this system, which is in operation in New
South Wales, and you, sir, may have read of the great “hullabaloo” which has occurred concerning a certain nominee chamber which it is proposed to abolish because it is a nominee house. Apparently a majority of the people in that State do not believe in the nominee system. Time brings changes in every sphere of activity. In recent years we have seen remarkable political changes in every part, of Australia. The people of Queensland showed that they had had enough of the nominee system.
– When a vote was taken on it there was a majority of 60,000 against the abolition of the Legislative Council.
– The fact remains that there is no nominee Legislative Council in Queensland.
– No, because once the Legislative Council was out of the way the Government stuffed the rolls.
– Order !
– The Government that wiped the nominee institution out of existence had later on to appeal to the people of the State, and the people returned it with increased strength.
– Yes, on a minority vote on every occasion.
– That is too hackneyed a cry to call for any reply. The fact is that there is no nominee Upper House in Queensland to-day, and if the Premier of New South Wales succeeds
– He would have succeeded if some of your ‘ ‘ coves ‘ ‘ had not ratted on him.
– In New South Wales there has been for quite a long period of years a nominee Upper House, but in all probability it will go out of existence in a little while. . I am satisfied that the people of Australia do not want a perpetuation of this nominee method of government, which is so obsolete.
– And undemocratic.
– Yes, it is absolutely undemocratic.
– Then why did the . Labour party nominate 25 new members to the Upper House in New South Wale3 ?
– Order! These interjections are disorderly, and I ask Senator Findley not to reply to them.
– I shall not reply to them other than to say that I did se» in a newspaper that 25 additional members had been nominated to the Legislative Council of New South Wales.
– That has nothing to do with this clause. I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the clause.
– With all due deference to you, Mr. Chairman, I think that the question we are now discussing
– Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator McHugh’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 45 to 52 agreed to.
Clause 53 (Application of Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act).
– Do I understand that under this clause employees of the commission or members of organizations in the Northern Territory registered under the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act will have the right to approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
.- The meaning of this clause is that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act will apply as if the limitation which the Constitution imposes as to disputes which are not interstate in character were not in existence’. That is to say, all disputes in the Northern Territory will come before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Constitution limits the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court to disputes that are interstate in character, but a dispute in the Northern Territory will be heard before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court just as a dispute confined to Western Australia is heard before the State Arbitration Court.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 54 to 59 agreed to.
Clause 60 -
Every such ordinance shall -
.- I move-
That before the words “ North Australia,” sub-clause , 1, line 4, the words “ and in relation to “ be inserted.
This is a drafting amendment. To facilitate the administration of the laws of the Territory, and overcome certain legal difficulties which are likely to arise by virtue of the laws of the Territory having force within the limits of the Territory only, it is considered desirable that the bill should be amended to enable the GovernorGeneral to make ordinances having the force of law not only “ in,” but also “ in and in relation to “ the Territory. No specific cases have yet arisen in this connexion, but difficulty may arise at any time. As regards New Guinea, for example, the Lands Registration Ordinance allows persons outside the Territory to take certain action, and it has . been found necessary to amend the ordinances relating to the Territory.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That before the words “ Central Australia,” sub-clause 1, line 8, the words “ and in relation to “ be inserted.
.- I move-
That the word “ fourteen “, sub-clause 2, paragraph c, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “thirty”.
The bill provides for the laying of ordinances and papers before Parliament within fourteen days, but sometimes it is not possible to get the necessary papers together to comply with that requirement. It is, therefore, proposed to extend the period to 30 days.
Sitting suspended from 1 to2p.m.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 61 agreed to.
Schedule, preamble, and title agreed to.
Clauses 17 and 20 reconsidered, verbally amended, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Debate resumed from 21st January (vide page 240), on motion bySenator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is a familiar friend, which was considered by the last Parliament. Although it looks innocent, it contains provisions which are of vital importance to honorable senators on this side. It seeks to abolish the leasehold system of land tenure in . the Northern Territory. In the first place it amends the definition of “ Minister “ in section 2 of the prinicpal act. That is merely a machinery alteration, but clause 3 says, “ Section 11 of the principal act is repealed.” Therein lies the sting, for section 11 refers to the disposal of Crown lands -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be held or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the’ commencement of this act.
I cannot understand why the Government seeks to abolish the leasehold system in the Territory. In the course of his secondreading speech, the right honorable the Minister (Senator Pearce) said that freehold titles would be granted only for town lands and agricultural lands, but not for pastoral lands. If the leasehold system is right for one- class of land, it is right for all classes. I wonder why it is considered necessary to depart from the existing system. I remember when the Leader of the Senate was himself a strong and staunch advocate of the principle he now seeks to abolish.
– He is older and wiser.
– He is older, but I doubt whether he is wiser. The leasehold system is just as good to-day as it was when Senator Pearce, as a member of the Labour party, advocated it. The Minister has said that freehold titles will not be granted for pastoral lands, but we have no guarantee that when this bill is passed they will not be granted for pastoral lands. The Minister has not advanced a legitimate reason why the leasehold system should be departed from. He certainly said that private banks would not advance money on leasehold properties, and he exclaimed -
Imagine the reception which would be given to such a settler who went to any of our banking institutions to obtain an advance on the security of a leasehold, in order thathe might cultivate it ?
It may be that ‘private banks are disinclined’ toadvance money to lessees, but in such a- matter we should not depend on them. We have a Commonwealth Government Bank that used to be regarded as the, people’s bank, but, as the result of recent legislation, it is no longer- a people’s bank. If that bank was functioning as it was intended to do by those who created it, it would advance money on leaseholds. Senator Pearce also asked what chance a man would have of providing himself with a home in a Northern Territory town if only a leasehold title to the land was possible. Very shortly the seat of the Commonwealth Government will be at Canberra. It will be necessary when that time arrives for many civil servants and artisans and other people who are not under the control of the Government to reside there. But the Government does not propose to give a freehold title to any land there. If it will be difficult, in the opinion of the Minister, for a man to establish a home on a leasehold allotment in a Northern Territory town, why will not the same difficulty apply to Canberra ? Why should the Government differentiate between the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory ? The only reason that the Minister gave was that, as it was proposed to spend millions of pounds in the FederalCapital Territory, it was desirable that the unearned increment in the value of the land should belong to the public, and not to a few investors. But we have just agreed to a measure which must result in the spending of millions of pounds in the Northern Territory. Why is the Government prepared to allow the unearned increment in the value- of Northern Territory lands, in consequence of the spending of this Government money, to go to a few individuals instead of the general public, when it is not prepared to do so in the case of the Federal Capital Territory? I know of no argument iu favour of the leasehold system for the Federal Capital Territory that does not apply with equal force to the Northern Territory. The Minister argued that it would not matter very much if a leasehold title were given to certain land in the Northern Territory for the reason that the Government had power to impose a land tax. The inference from this is that the freehold system is really equivalent to the leasehold system. I entirely disagree. Once the Government grants a freehold title for this land, it has lost it for ever, unless it is willing to pay a very high price to resume it. The Crown has power to tax leasehold, as well as freehold, land, and has exercised it. That the Government recognizes the possibility of having to pay dearly for any Northern Territory land that it may need to resume at any time is indicated by a provision in the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Bill, which explicitly provides that no compensation shall be paid for any leasehold land that may be required for the railway purposes. It is absurd to suggest that a country cannot be developed as well by the leasehold system as by the freehold system. Instances occur time and again that indicate that development occurs under the leasehold system. Some little time ago a newspaper report stated that there were 1,205 applicants, for a lease of 3,810 acres of land in the Gilgil parish -in New South Wales. Those people were not all foolish, nor were they afraid of leasehold land. That happening illustrates the land hunger of Australia. I could enumerate other instances of a similar nature. Not so very long ago there were between 3,000 and 4,000 applicants for some leasehold land that was made available by ballot.
– If people cannot get a freehold, they are obliged to accept leasehold land.
– The inference from that statement is that most of the land in Australia is alienated from the Crown.
– Only 10 per cent, of it is alienated.
– Senator Foll admits that people will take leasehold land without hesitation. In these circumstances there should be no difficulty in securing applicants for leasehold land in the Northern Territory if the conditions are liberal. It is unfair to the public to permit the increased value given to land in consequence of the construction of railways, roads, and water schemes, to go to a few investors. The value of privately-owned State lands has been greatly enhanced on many occasions by the building of railways. If the Federal Government builds a railway into the Northern Territory, the value of the land through which it passes will also be greatly enhanced. I submit that the enhanced value should benefit the public generally. We frequently see in our suburban areas splendid building blocks lying vacant because the owners will not sell until they can obtain an exorbitant price, that is made possible by the developmental activities of the local governing bodies.
– The land-owners have to pay their share in the ‘ taxation that makes possible the development of their land:
– That is only the case when the tax is imposed on the unimproved value of the land. Frequently, however, the tax is on the capital value. If this vacant land were available to the public, a good deal of suburban congestion could be overcome.
– It could be got over by imposing a vacant land tax.
– The only effective way that I know of overcoming it is to tax the land on its unimproved value. Last year I debated at some length in the Senate a similar bill to this. I will therefore content myself on this occasion with briefly indicating my . opposition to the abolition of the leasehold system. I wish to see it retained, for I am confident that development in the Northern Territory will be just as rapid under it as under the freehold system.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question - That . clause 3 stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
The following papers were presented: -
Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board: Profit and Loss Account for period 1st April, 1924, to. 31st March, 1925.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 14.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, Nos. 12, 13.
Northern Territory - Ordinances of 1926 -
No. 5 - Electric Energy.
No.6 - Darwin Town Council.
Debate resumed from 28th January (vide page 421), on motion by Senator Sir Victor Wilson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is the outcome of an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia, and honours the compact made many years ago when the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory. The proposal to construct a north-south railway has been before the Senate for the past fifteen years, so there has been ample time to finalize it. Whilst I commend the Government for having brought the negotiations up to this stage, credit also is clue to the South Australian Labour Government for its sincerity in the matter.
– Previous governments of South Australia have been equally anxious to see it finalized.
– I make no reflection on previous governments of South Australia, but I think the present State Government deserves credit for what it has done.
– A definite promise to build the line was made by the present Prime Minister before the present State Government took office.
– This matter, as I havesaid, has been before the public for the last fifteenyears, and I cannot help thinking that it would have been much better had the line been built ten or twelve years ago, because then it would not have cost so much. The controversy as to the route was not a legitimate excuse for delay. The estimated cost of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway, on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, is £1,700,000, and the estimated cost of the alternate proposal, a line from Kingoonya to Alice Springs, on the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge is £4,500,000. I gather from the Minister’s speech that a railway from Oodnadatta will serve a better class of country. I am not so much concerned about the route - I leave this matter to departmental experts - but I am concerned about the gauge. We have heard a great deal in recent years about the necessity for a uniform gauge in Australia, and as a result of many conferences of experts and Premiers of the various States, we fixed upon the 4.-ft. 8£-in. gauge as the standard. The Prime Minister in his policy speech said that the Government proposed to hold another conference with the States at an early date with a view to arriving at some scheme to enable further progress to be made in connexion with the provision of a uniform gauge. In my opinion such conferences are futile. The State Premiers are not experts in the matter of railway construction or gauges. A commission was appointed to consider the whole question, and it recommended a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge. In order to honour a longstanding promise, the Government is now proposing to construct a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, but it is still adhering to the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. Although I strongly object to the adoption of such a gauge in this instance, I shall support, the bill. It is to be hoped that finality will soon be reached, and that when other lines are to be constructed by the Commonwealth in any part of the Commonwealth, the fact that a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge has been recommended as the standard gauge for Australia will not be overlooked. With that reservation I support the second reading of the bill.
– I regret that my speech will, .to many honorable senators, be somewhat unpopular, as there seems to be a consensus of opinion in this Chamber that it is advisable to construct a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. At the outset I desire to pay a tribute to South Australian governments for the very important work they have performed in settling the Northern Territory, and particularly to those which were associated with its early development. It has frequently been said that South Australian governments have neglected their duty in that regard, but the work they have performed has been of great value, particularly when one considers the limited resources at their disposal. The only settlement that has really been effective in the Northern Territory has been under the guidance of South Australian governments, who realized that the only way in which to populate and develop that vast area of country of varying quality was to grant leases at low rentals over long periods. In many instances leases were granted for 42 years at rentals of ls. to ls. 6d. per square mile, and in some cases, the tenure was undisturbable, as there was no resumption power. In those days Mr. Crosthwaite and my father took up land on the Barkly Tablelands and elsewhere, on which large sums of money were spent, and these and other pioneers encountered numerous obstacles in an endeavour to develop it. In opposing the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs I trust that I shall not be accused of deprecating my own country. Some hard things have been said about me by my opponents, who have insinuated that I am a wealthy man, a beef baron, a land monopolist, and so forth: all of which is untrue. I am an Australian, and proud of it. I love my country, and when I criticize the capabilities of the outback country to be served by the proposed line, I trust hon.orable senators will realize that I am doing so only because I regard it as a duty to the people of Australia. I hope I shall never be foolish enough to say that any country is useless, because the practical experience I have had in the Mallee country of Victoria shows that such an assertion would be absurd. It is only a little over 30 .years ago that a royal commission appointed by the Victorian Government reported that the Victorian Mallee was useless, and that it would be a waste of money to build a railway into it. I have here to-day photographs of the Victorian Mallee when it was a vast wilderness. As a boy I had the unfortunate experience of seeing my father almost ruined on a station which he then held at Brim. In consequence of the advances which have since been made as a result of the application of science to industry, the property on which we were nearly ruined, which is not far north of Warracknabeal, is now worth from £8 to £10 per acre. Thirty years ago nearly every one in authority pronounced the far north-west portion of Victoria to be useless, and practically every one who took up land in that part was ruined. Later, the system of rolling down the Mallee scrub and burning it was introduced, and, owing to the inventive genius of an Australian, the stump-jump plough, which permits ploughing to be undertaken although there may be thousands of stumps in the ground, was used. Superphosphates were then introduced, and with effective ploughing and fallowing of the soil, the land is now most productive, and is regarded as one of Victoria’s most valuable provinces. In good seasons it is a veritable waving wheat field. Even in a season such as the present, which has been dry, Mallee land is returning in some instances up to 20 bushels per acre, and is selling up to £15 per acre. Having these facts in mind, it would be foolish to express the opinion that any land in Australia is valueless. Nevertheless, my contention regarding the proposed line is that the agreement with South Australia can be honoured by adopting a different route. The proposal is to con” struct a line from Oodnadatta through comparatively poor country to Alice Springs.
– Has the honorable senator been through the country ?
– The honorable senator would not express such a view if he had been.
– I arn guided very largely by the opinions expressed by explorers, pastoralists, and drovers, who have given very disappointing reports concerning the nature of- the country which the proposed line will serve’. Since 1882 I have kept a book of newspaper extracts and other records in which the opinions of explorers and pastoralists are carefully recorded. All of these show that the country is very dry, and most of it extremely light carrying,. In order to ascertain if the proposed extension is likely to induce settlement, we have only to consider what has occurred since the line was extended from Marree to Oodnadatta. Since that line has been open for traffic, settlement has actually decreased.
– The country in the vicinity of Oodnadatta is some of the worst in Australia.
– It must be, as the average annual rainfall is only about 4.47.
– The proposed line is a continuation of a transcontinental line.
-That may be so, but the carrying capacity of the country has not increased where a railway has been built. Oodnadatta is a dead-end. and when the line is continued to Alice Springs it will still be at a dead-end. The construction of the line .from Marree to Oodnadatta has not increased the productivity of the land there. Cultivation is not undertaken in the vicinity of the line, and the production of cattle has not increased.
– Because it is impossible country. For every 50 miles beyond Oodnadatta the country improves.
– The records show that the average annual rainfall at Oodnadatta has been 4.7 inches, and at Charlotte. -Waters 5.56 inches ; but as Alice Springs is approached, which is just about the tropic of Capricorn, it is 10.73 inches.
– The proposed line is not to serve Oodnadatta, but the country beyond .
– Where is the good country beyond Oodnadatta? If good country is to be served, the line should, in my opinion, be constructed towards Birdsville, and out through Queensland and the Barkly Tablelands. In doing sol, the compact with South Australia could still be honoured.
– That would not be keeping the compact.
– I cannot agree with, the honorable senator, because the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), in introducing the bill in another place, stated that the Commonwealth’s legal advisers had distinctly stated that our compact with South Australia could still be honoured if a line were constructed in the direction I have indicated. It is easy to listen to the opinions of theorists concerning the settlement of our out-back country, but all the pioneers who endeavoured to settle in the Macdonnell Ranges became insolvent. I admit there is a pocket of comparatively good looking country in that locality, but no one has ever made money there. If the land the proposed line is to serve is of good quality, why has it not been taken up before? I have had prepared by the South Australian authorities a map of the country occupied in the Northern Territory up to the date of its preparation. It shows that a few new leases have been taken up since the new land ordinance was brought in. This map will show honorable senators that a comparatively small area of land has been taken up in the southern end of the Territory around Alice Springs.
– Alice Springs is in the centre of that area.
– But the honorable senator was contending that the line would open up country beyond Alice Springs. There are millions of acres there still unoccupied which can be obtained for1s. per square mile.
– Would the honorable senator pay that rent for it?
– I would not take it if I were given it for fifty years for nothing. I do not want to lay stress on the poorness of this land, because the remarks one makes about the poorness of certain portions of Australia get into the press and are, perhaps, cabled abroad, giving people a wrong impression of this wonderful country of ours, of which I am so proud. Nevertheless, I must speak of it as a man who has had practical experience. Land settlement is part of my work. I do not wish to introduce family matters into this discussion, but my people were practically the only successful pioneers in the Northern Territory. We have sold out now, but I am still interested in land close by which this railway will pass.
– The land to the east of . the proposed route is not taken up.
– Practically every acre in Queensland, right down to Birdsville, has been taken up.
– I was speaking of the land in the Territory.
– I am suggesting that the line should penetrate the northern boundary of South Australia at Birdsville, and go through Boulia, on to Camooweal, and from that point through by far the richest portion of the Northern Territory. I refer to the Barkly Tablelands, which are equal to most of the grazing country in Australia.
– Undoubtedly that land will have to be served by a railway.
– That is the route I should like to see adopted for many reasons, which I shall explain. I understood Senator Barwell to indicate that if a line were built to Alice Springs, it would open up country. A glance at the map will show that the country he refers to has been available for fifty years, and we cannot get it taken up. Why build this railway with the idea that the land will be taken up and that there will be a revenue from it ?
– With water it will be quickly taken up.
– I do not think so. I do not think any honorable senator would be game to put his money into that country, even if he got it for fifty years for nothing. I would not do so. The cost of development is excessive and water too scarce.
– But the honorable senator has not been there.
– I have not been there, but, as I have already explained, I have read as many reports’ as possible by practical men who have been there. We have sent experts to spy out that country, and their reports to me are, “ Do not touch it, even if you can get it for nothing.”
– If that is so, why did not the Public Works Committee report against it?
– I am pleased to hear that interjection, although it throws me somewhat off the sequence of my remarks. One of our greatest dangers is that people are induced to go out into country reported on in enthusiastic terms by theorists, newspaper writers, and persons who have visited it in motor cars. I am not prepared to say . that the gentlemen who made the trip as members of the Public Works Committee were not practical men.
SenatorFoll. - We were, not practical men.
– Some of them may have been practical men, but their visit was paid to this country in the most extraordinary season Central Australia has ever known.
– Their recommendation was based on the evidence of practical men.
– The evidence given by a gentleman who had attempted the development of that country was most discouraging.
– The honorable senator should quote it.
– The committee passed through three properties held by companies, of which I am the liquidator. They reported upon it as being lovely country, well worthy of a railway, and fit to grow anything. During the year of their visit, we had 19 inches of rain there. We have not had half that quantity in the subsequent five years. The rainfall in the following year was 1.20 inches. It has not reached 5 inches in any year since that abnormal year, when 19 inches fell. I have photographs with me showing a homestead and the nature of the country surrounding it under normal conditions, and also as it was when the inspection was made by the Public Works Committee. There is no demand for land in that district, as I can show. There is no land hunger there, as Senator Needham would have us believe there is. People must not be led away by seeing country in an abnormally good season, when the grass and herbage is knee high, and when there is surface water which may not be seen again in a lifetime. We must bear in mind that there is always considerable growth in such parts of Australia after heavy rain, because the country is unstocked. I do not wish to weary honorable senators in speaking on this matter, but I have. been brought up in a pioneer atmosphere. I am the son of a pioneer who has pioneered many parts of Australia since 1849. One of his most successful ventures was in the Northern Territory, although it was a frightful struggle for 30 years. I have for the last 30 years taken a keen interest in land settlement problems, particularly in the outback, where one can get cheap country, and I have been connected with ventures, some of which have been successful in the long run, but some of which have been the reverse. As liquidator of a company, I have just effected the sale of three properties 33 miles from the railway at Marree - a most disappointing venture.
– Was the honorable senator interested in any country within the Territory.
– Yes, I was interested in a property in the Territory. It covered an area of 2,000 square miles, and we spent about £112,000 in developmental work before getting any return. We shall get nothing back from the properties which I have just sold near Marree. They cover an area of 1,025 square miles; there are three bores, and a tank of 12,000 cubic yards. In wet seasons there are plenty of lakes and swamps. In one bore there is a flow of 500,000 gallons a day. The property has a tenure of 42 years. There were over 1,000 head of cattle on it, 808 horses, and incidentally some goats. I have just sold the lot, leases, stock, and improvements, for £5,000.
– That is not in the country to be served by this line.
– No; but it is typical of the country to be served by the line.
– It is totally different country. I know it very well.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator was ever interested in it, but I warn him not to invest too much of his capital in the country where the line is to be built. The property which I have just sold is neither the best nor the worst, but it was taken up by some pretty clever men who had a lot of experience. It covers the Peachawarrina, Tankamerna, and Dulkaninna leases. We bought one of the leases from Sir Sydney Kidman, who is no fool. Experience affords practical proof of the value of that country to-day. You advertise, advertise, and advertise,, and try hard for fully twelve months to sell, and you cannot get more than the actual value of the stock on the property when you finally dispose of it.
– But that is quite apart from this question.
– It is not. I would not have gone into these personal matters if it had not been for the interjections and misleading statements that this railway will lead to land flowing with milk and honey.
– No. one said it would.
– Some have said so. It is said that the line will open up a lot of country, and that there will be a revenue from it. Where that revenue is to be obtained I do- not know. The Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910 gave it clearly to be understood that a line was to be built, but no time limit was fixed for the building of it. Therefore there is no need to rush this project. I can quite understand the enthusiasm of South Australian senators in pushing this line for all they are worth; I am a Victorian senator, but I speak as an Australian. I may he wrong in the view I take of this matter, but I am saying what I believe to be right, whether my remarks are popular or not. I shall always say in this Senate what I think is right. That is why I say now that I think it will be a flagrant waste of public money to build this line to a dead end at Alice Springs. It is not necessary at the present juncture. The Commonwealth is bound to build a North-South line penetrating the northern boundary of South Australia, but the act does not say where that northern boundary of South Australia is to be penetrated. It does not say which route the line is to take beyond the northern boundary of South Australia.
– It has to connect with the Territory railway. I can produce the opinion of at least six King’s counsel on that point.
– The Minister for Works and Railways, in moving the second reading of the bill in another place, said -
The Commonwealth, when passing the
Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910, gave a clear undertaking that the line would be built, but did not fix the time within which it was to be built, nor did it, according to the legal, advisers of the Commonwealth, set out the route . that should be adopted.
– That is perfectly true, but it does not establish the point the honorable senator is trying to make.
– It does. In 1920 the Government of the day arranged for the matter of the extensions in and to the Northern’ Territory to be considered by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The words “ in and to “ are important. They mean that the line can go into the Territory and out again.
SenatorFoll. - Of course that is so.
– That is a new interpretation.
– The legal advisers of the Commonwealth Government say that it is so.
– They say nothing of the sort, according to what the honorable senator has quoted.
– The Public Works Committee reported on the 5th October 1922, and, briefly summarized, its recommendations were: -
To extend the existing railway to Daly Waters on the understanding that it is to form part of an eventual line from NewcastleWaters to Camooweal.
That is the point I am tryingto make. I do not mind how much money we spend in Australia on developmental or reproductive works, but I maintain that the line provided for in the bill, which will cost £3,000,000, will not produce any revenue worth considering. A line through Western Australia, where there is a large area of good undeveloped sheep and other country, or through the Barkly Tablelands, to connect with the Great Western railway system of Queensland, and perhaps with an extension, of the Bourke line in New South Wales, would tap country that can be profitably settled. I wish particularly to stress the importance of Camooweal.
– What State does the honorable senator represent !
– I hope I am big enough to be an Australian, and to do the best I can for Australia without barracking for any State. The committee also recommended -
That a light low-level line be constructed from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
That these lines be regarded as forming sufficient railway development for the Territory for many years. 1 understand thatthe life of the line to be built will be 50 years, and I am willing to wager that there will be no more settlement at Alice Springs in 50 years than there is to-day. The committee also urged -
That when the time arrives for the construction of a through transcontinental railway line negotiations be entered into with South Australia to permit of an alteration of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910, by which such line may be constructed by the route then shown to be the best in the interests of Australia.
We should build a line in the interests of Australia, not South Australia. I should be the last person to suggest the breaking of the contract unless evidence can be produced that will convince - the people of South Australia,’ with whom the contract was made, that the breaking of it would be in the interests of Australia. The Commonwealth law authorities have advised that the line can follow a deviation to link up with the Queensland system. The line from Darwin to Daly Waters is 360 miles long. If the proposed (railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, is built, there will, then be 778 miles of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line in that part of Australia. On that point I wish to cross swords with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), who criticized the Government for building more lines to a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. Those members of Parliament ‘.who had the privilege of visiting South Africa during the latter part of 1924 travelled 8,000 odd miles over 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railways. The South African railway system is one of the most efficient I have seen, and is particularly good for an extensive and sparsely settled country, with so many outback problems to solve. The South African railways haul goods at cheaper rates than are charged by the Australian railways. I ask leave to continue my remarks on the resumption of the debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 3.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 January 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260129_senate_10_112/>.