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Wednesday, 23 November 1927

Mr NELSON (Northern Territory) . - If there is one thing more than another that is engaging the minds of the people of Australia, it is the populating and developing of Australia, with a view to making it self-supporting, selfcontained, and capable of being selfdefended. "We are aware of the conges- , tion that is taking place in our capital cities, and we know that the flocking of a denser population to the cities is disintegrating our country areas. We also know that the capital cost of land is so high that it taxes the energies of settlers to pay interest only. The hope is entertained that, by sympathetic administration and considerate assistance, an area in northern Australia, running practically from Thursday Island and across the north-west portion of Western Australia, will he thrown open and developed. That area, if the scheme is intelligently undertaken, will absorb millions of settlers. Endeavours have been made during the last few years to settle the area, but no regard has been paid to the fundamentals of development. Those attempts have failed, and they always will fail if similar methods are pursued. The failures were attributable, not to the infertility of the land or to the lack of natural resources, but purely to the lack of transport facilities. This Government appointed the North Australia Commission which, it was said, would provide a panacea for all the ills of that territory. It was expected that in a short time the commission would initiate a scheme which would expeditiously and economically develop these huge tracts of fertile country. We have waited long, and in vain, for the materialization of that scheme. The commission has been appointed for over twelve months, and no report is yet forthcoming from it. Undoubtedly the North Australia Commission reigns supreme as an exponent oi the go-slow policy. There would be some excuse if the members of that commission were totally ignorant of the conditions that obtain in that section of Australia; but that is not the case. One member was, for many years, chairman of the land board in the far north of Australia, and, when carrying out his duties in that capacity, visited every corner of the teritory. He is familiar with the reasons for its retarded progress. A second member has traversed the Northern Territory for a number of years in connexion with his duties, and is thoroughly conversant with local conditions. In the circumstances one was justified in expecting that the commission would put forward a virile policy for the development of that country, and very expeditiously, too. Apparently, all their previous experience has been useless, for the commission has again gone from one end of the country to another. As it controls the activities of the Land Board, the whole of the work of that body has been hampered for about six months. I have endeavoured to ascertain the whereabouts of the members of the board, in order that prospective settlers might be assisted to obtain land, and to enjoy the advantage of the low prevailing price of stock, but in vain. Instead of being a benefit to the area, the commission .has actually been an incubus. The grand old pioneers in the area have battled against colossal odds, in the hope that some reasonable development might take place, and, although they have been sadly disillusioned, they still hope against hope. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a. prophet, but I think I can foretell what the commission will recommend. Means of transportation are essential to the development of every new country, and as this area of 500,000 square miles is without railway, road, or shipping facilities, it stands to reason that these will have to be provided before any extensive development can occur. At least two of the members of the commission are known to be favorable to the construction of a railway from Camooweal to Newcastle Waters.

Mr G FRANCIS (KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND) - They are all favorable to it.

Mr NELSON - That makes it all the more certain that one of its first recommendations will be that the line should be built. The appointment of this commission was really unnecessary, for Parliamentary parties, royal commissions, and official and private visitors to North and Central Australia have, on innumerable occasions during the last 50 years, reported that transport facilities are the first requirement of the country. In my opinion, the commission was appointed by the Government to delay the spending of public money there as long as possible. This is at least one of the 7S boards, commissions, and tribunals which the Government has appointed during the last few years, and which could have been done without. It appears to me that the

Government appoints these bodies "with the object of evading its responsibilities. "Whenever a Minister is questioned respecting the activities of any of these subgovernmental bodies, he invariably replies, " That is a matter for the board ; but I will have an investigation made into it." I cannot understand why the North Australia Commission has not, through the Government or otherwise, placed some settlement schemes before the Development and Migration Commission, which has £34,000,000 to spend on developmental works in Australia. I placed a number of suggestions before the commission, which it considered sympathetically, though it gave me to understand that it could not take any action until it was moved to do so by the Government. There is room in North and Central Australia for thousands of migrants, as well as for all the land-hungry Australians who find it impossible to take up rural enterprises because of the inflated value of real estate in the settled areas. The safety of Australia demands that no time shall be lost in populating this country, as the following cablegram, which appeared in the Melbourne Sun on the 14th inst. indicates: -

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