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Thursday, 10 June 1915

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I am delighted to see Senator Stewart in the new role of a constructive statesman. His ability in destructive criticism of previous Administrations was so much admired that to see him developing in the other direction gives me great hopes of him. I can easily understand, after listening to him, how that great victory was recently won in Queensland, when the honorable senator was enjoying his month's leave of absence on account of urgent business. The honorable senator suggested that the Commonwealth should grow sheep and cattle, and go into the business of production generally. There can be no question that there will be no cheap meat in Australia while the Meat Rings are allowed to control the market; and I believe there is no power outside the Commonwealth Government itself that can control the Meat Rings. So far as concerns the Government undertaking the retail business, I am pleased to learn that in New South Wales each suburb is to have its cart carrying fish to the people. Already their bread carts are running. This is coming right down to the food question, and until we have Unification I am a good enough Federalist to leave to the State Governments the things they can do most effectively. I hope to live to see the time when some Government will give full effect to Senator Stewart's proposals for utilizing the Northern Territory. His remarks, recall to my mind a statement credited to the late Pierpont Morgan in addressing a gathering at a banquet to celebrate the organization of some great ring in America.

Speaking to the money magnates, who had organized the Ring, he said that -

They were the advanced Socialists, as they had discovered that combination, not competition, was the secret of success in trade, and that they would take the profits of combination until the people were sufficiently intelligent to take them for themselves. I am looking forward to the time when the people will be sufficiently intelligent to take the profits themselves.

As the Territory undoubtedly offers a grand opportunity for the Government to undertake work of this kind, I have interested myself in the historical records of New South Wales, and can assure honorable senators that it will be found thatgrowing wheat, mutton and beef was a Government undertaking in that State 100 years ago.

Senator Bakhap - We have evolved beyond that.

Senator GARDINER - I know the honorable senator's idea of evolution. He would like the Government to undertake everything unprofitable and expensive, leaving all the profitable arrangements to private people. He questioned, this afternoon, whether the people would get the meat at the Government cost, indicating, by his emphasis on the word " Government," that it would be higher than the private cost of production. Within the last twelve months we have had the finest possible object lesson of the cost of Government and private enterprise in connexion with the eastwest railway. It cost the Government, through a private contractor, 7s. a yard to shift earth out of the cuttings. It cost the Government on the next succeeding 14 miles only 2s. 3d. per yard. It cost the Government by the contractor £21,000 to build embankments on the line, and it cost them by day labour nothing.

Senator Bakhap - Have the Government yet had any earnest that the line will be constructed for the amount originally estimated)

Senator GARDINER - I am sure that, had the private contractor had his way, the estimate would have been exceeded, measuring the rest by that 14 miles, by many millions of pounds, but subject to the ordinary alterations there will be no very great difference between the estimated and the actual cost of the line when completed. Senator Stewart asked what was being done in the Northern

Territory. If nothing great has been attempted, or if no policy has been put forward this year, the war and its cost are an all-sufficient reason. The calls upon the taxpayers are such as do not warrant the Government at present entering into the consideration of any large schemes for the development of the Northern Territory, but the railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River is going on expeditiously, the development of the country . in other directions, by experimental farms, is proceeding, and I have private information from Dr. Jensen, one of the best geologists in the world, holding out very high hopes with regard to the future of mining in the Territory. All the old claims, some of which had ceased working, are again working; many new shows are being developed, and, although there is nothing much to " blow " about yet with regard to mining in the Territory, solid pioneering work is going ahead, and we shall yet see the Territory progressing in a way creditable to all those responsible for it.

Senator Millen - It is a pity he did not include that optimistic statement in his official . report.

Senator GARDINER - I was under the impression that he had done so. His official report regarding the Mount Bonney mine and the Maranboy field bears out exactly the statement he made to me. We cannot go very fast in a country of that kind, and Senator Stewart knows that we have no constitutional powers to enter into the retail business. I hope we shall get them.

Senator Stewart - You can lay the foundations before you get the powers.

Senator GARDINER - It would be better to get the powers first, and lay the foundations afterwards.

Senator Bakhap - Could you not sell meat in the Northern Territory?

Senator GARDINER - There would be a fine opening for business there if we only had the meat and the people to buy it. I believe from what I have read that there is excellent country in different parts of the Territory.

Senator GRANT - How is it held ?

Senator GARDINER - Much is held on long leases issued by the South Australian Government before the Commonwealth Government took possession.

Senator Grant - The Commonwealth Government has no control over that, it is private property.

Senator GARDINER - The conditions of those leases will have to be considered, and if their terms have to be varied, that will be done with due, fair, just, and honest consideration to the holders.

Senator Bakhap - With due confiscation !

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator talks to-day of confiscation. Yesterday he talked of conscription, with the old Tory idea that individuals are the property of the lord of the manor, and to be sent to the front to fight for the country at his behest. The honorable senator would take men and make them fight, but I doubt whether he would take the wealth of the lord of the manor to supply the wherewithal for fighting. He would confiscate men, and not property.

Senator Bakhap - You are avowedly out to confiscate. I am willing to tax equitably.

Senator GARDINER - If we, as a party, are to be judged by our actions, the people of the Commonwealth will realize that during this war we have refrained as much as it was possible for any Government to refrain from interfering with business men or with capital. Our taxation has been as moderate as it was possible to make it to carry on the responsibilities of government, and however much the honorable senator may accuse us of being out to confiscate, our actions speak louder than words. Our attitude is not only that it must be " business as usual," but that business must be prosecuted in a sane manner, calculated to create, and not dispel, confidence. That is what we are out to do. I am not out to confiscate either men or property, but should it come to the question of the last man and the last shilling, and of which is to be thrown in first, so far as I am concerned, the last shilling goes in before the last man. The question of the development of the Northern Territory is necessarily slow of solution. All developmental work must be slow, but the railway construction authorized by tho previous Parliament, and set on foot by the previous Government, is being actively carried out. Farming and other experiments are being made, and the reports regarding mining and other propositions are satisfactory. As Senator Stewart forecasts, the war will not last for ever, and we hope that within the next year or two peace conditions will return.

Senator Millen - Only the next year or two?

Senator GARDINER - I am sorry I cannot hope for anything better, but I hope that even before then we shall have a definite scheme for the development of the Territory, and that by that time the Commonwealth will have sufficient constitutional powers to put it into effect in the most up-to-date manner possible.

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