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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr BLAIN (Northern Territory) - I direct attention to the item - " Northern Australia survey, contribution towards cost, £10,000 ", which is included in the proposed vote for miscellaneous services in connexion with the Prime Minister's Department. Last week the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) tabled the report for the period ended the 31st December, 1937, of the "Aerial geological and geophysical survey of Northern Australia ". I have not yet had time to read it thoroughly, but I must confess that I am disappointed with the work that has been done so far. I made my maiden speech in this Parliament on this subject, but I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth has not, so far, received value for the money that it has expended in this connexion. A different policy should have been adopted. I am not unmindful of the work that the survey party has done at Tennant Creek, in locating anomalies at depth in connexion with iron ore deposits, but some of my constituents feel that their particular " shows " have not been given the attention that they should have received, in view of the fact that during the three years ended the 31st December last, £128,335 was expended in this work. They feel that they are more or less justified in considering that the survey party has been in the nature of an organized gang of spies to ascertain what assets the miners possessed,' but without extending to them any real help. I know that is strong language, but that is how my constituents express themselves. I should not go so far as that, for I know that good work has been done also at Tennant Creek in estimating the value and dispositions of gold at depth. But prospectors engaged in practical operations on various fields in remote parts cif the Northern Territory were entitled to expect that something more effective would be done to assist them in determining the value of their " shows ". In view of the remarkable lecture delivered by Sir David Rivett on this subject four years ago, in which he told the people of Australia, in no uncertain terms, how Australia's debt could be taken out of the ground, we are justified in being somewhat disappointed at the results of the survey to date.

Mr Casey - I do not think he told us where we could get the gold.

Mr BLAIN - My complaint is that the survey party has not put a pick into the ground in an effort to discover gold. The report states -

The primary object of these reports is to draw the attention of mining investors to the results which have been obtained, in the hope that the development of the north will be stimulated.

My constituents feel that something more should have been done to help them to sink shafts and do cross-cutting to prove the value of their properties. They should be considered more than some of the shilling-a-share option companies that have been formed by city speculators. Undoubtedly, a good deal of the work of the survey party has been nebulous. Many unfortunate prospectors in the north have had to live on damper and wallaby for a good many years while they have been trying to prove the value of their properties, and it is time that the Government came to their assistance. If this survey had been properly conducted it could have proved for these men whether values existed at depth in their various mines. Last year £25,000 was expended ou this survey, and it is proposed that another £10,000 shall be expended this year. Some of the companies that have been formed to exploit certain areas in northern. Australia are well able to pay for the pioneering work that must be done, but many unfortunate miners who are working their own " shows " need help in shaft-sinking and cross-cutting. Some of them have spent half a lifetime living under deplorable conditions, in the continuing hope that they may at last "strike it lucky". Under such circumstances I am entitled to ask the Government which is spending so much money in work of this description to come to their assistance. In the various States the State geologists are the supreme authority in these matters, and they determine whether holes shall be sunk in the ground or not. The Commonwealth Geologist, Dr. Woolnough, may be said to act, in connexion with Commonwealth territories, as the State geologists do in connexion with State territory, and I hope that the Treasurer will take steps to see that instructions are issued to him to make the decision whether shafts shall be sunk or not. To the best of my knowledge the survey party has not sunk a hole in the ground anywhere except in a remote part of the Daly Eiver district, where excavations only a few feet deep were made. I do not wish to be unduly critical, because I understand that where deposits of iron ore occur, the methods of the survey party have proved successful. They have, as I have said, been invaluable at Tennant Creek. Seeing that the individual prospectors on whose behalf I am speaking are willing to pay for any service that is performed for them, a percentage of the gold won each year, it should be a good business proposition for the Government.

I now wish to refer to the item " Duty, remissions under special circumstances, £2,600 ", in the proposed miscellaneous vote for the Department of Trade and Customs. I should now like to know to what that refers.

Mr.White. - It relates to missions, and the like.

Mr BLAIN - This seems an appropriate occasion for me to repeat requests that I have made on frequent occasions, that outlying districts should be granted regional tariffs. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have advocated that newlydeveloping areas should not be placed on the same tariff footing as well-settled areas in which substantial economic progress has been made. This matter is referred to in the Payne-Fletcher Report - a document which, it seems to me, has been dumped.

Mr White - It has not been dumped.

Mr BLAIN - So little action has been taken in connexion with it that I feel justified in making that statement. I direct attention to paragraph 4 of the report, in which the subject of regional tariffs is discussed.

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