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Thursday, 10 March 1932

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- Although I know very little of the circumstances of the case presented by the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), the matter evidently warrants investigation by the Government. When the method of distributing the last unemployment relief grant was questioned in this House, the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Parkhill) was horrified at the suggestion that more money was being spent in one electorate than in another, and he demanded an inquiry into the matter. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has made some startling charges against men holding public offices. There must have been extraordinarily weak administration of the affairs of the Northern Territory if men were allowed to take up land at ls. a square mile, with no resumptions for fifteen years, and no stocking conditions.

Mr Nelson - There are stocking conditions.

Mr RIORDAN - Then returns would be necessary, and the department should be able to trace this Mr. Bennett. The North Australia Commission, which cost this country about £100,000, should have seen that the stocking conditions were observed. Some time ago, a man wrote to me, and said he would like to take up laud in the Northern Territory. I got into touch with the Home Affairs Department, which communicated with the commission. A reply was received from the commission saying that it had interviewed the managers of Alexander's, and another station in the territory, to see if they were agreeable to give this man a piece of land. Later he wrote to me again on the same subject. To-day the Northern Territory has a population of about 1,000 whites and the administration of it costs the Commonwealth £100,000 a year ; yet people who want to go into the Territory to develop it are debarred from doing so. Gaden has spent his whole life in the pastoral industry, and when last I met him, he was managing a station for Kidman in the Gulf country. He was thrifty, and having saved a little capital he desired to start on his own account in an industry which he perfectly understood. Being unable to get suitable land in Queensland, he decided to settle in the great undeveloped Northern Territory, of whose potentialities we hear so much from politicians. Notwithstanding the expanse of vacant land there, Gaden, according to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), had to pay £950 to a set of crooks in the employment of the Commonwealth. Gaden was then asked to pay the rent owing to the Crown. Surely somebody in authority at Darwin must have known the former leaseholders; when the application for the lease was granted rent for the first year must have been paid, and when the second year's rent was not forthcoming, the Government officers failed miserably if they neglected to ascertain the reason, and whether the stocking conditions had been carried out. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has told us that the applicants had paid the first year's rent, and then for two or three years " eaglehawked " for a buyer, probably circulating optimistic reports regarding the extension of the north-south railway or the construction of one towards Camooweal. Eventually they caught Gaden, and enjoyed their rake-off. I have travelled across the Barkly Tablelands down to Lake Nash, and along that portion of the Territory which adjoins my electorate. Cotton and Company, the owners of Barkly Downs, have hawked their leases for years in the endeavour to get English investors interested in cattle, sheep, or cotton cultivation. The best of the pastoral land in the Territory is held in big leases. This House should demand that the allegations made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory be immediately investigated by an officer who has no association with the departmental heads at Darwin, and if the charges are proved, the offender should be brought to account.

Mr SPEAKER -The honorable member's time has expired.

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