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Tuesday, 9 May 1961


Mr NELSON - I do not know, but I do know that not many of them are supporting the development of northern Australia at the present time. I wholeheartedly support Sir Douglas Copland's proposal because I believe that it is beyond the financial and physical resources of the States to develop all the areas that he mentioned. We know that only a body having the whole of the resources of the nation behind it could undertake the development of the north-west of Western Australia, northern Queensland and the Northern Territory. Not only should a body of this nature be established, but a Minister should be appointed to handle the problems associated with this great work.

In the early days of the reign of this Government, honorable members on this side, including myself, convinced the Ministry that no worth-while results were being obtained from the administration of the Northern Territory by the Department of the Interior and, in the course of time, the Government improved the machinery of administration. The Ministry of Territories was established to administer both the Northern Territory and New Guinea. I believe that the next logical step that should be taken in the process of making a determined attack on a developmental problem that is crying out for something to be done is the creation of a new ministry to be responsible for the development, not only of the Northern Territory, but also of the whole of the north of Queensland and the north-west of Western Australia. This ministry could come to an arrangement with the Queensland Government and the Western Australian Government to take over the developmental problems, while daytoday problems associated with the areas - the local problems - would continue to be handled by the local authorities and institutions. The main developmental works - those embracing roads, railways, harbours, water conservation schemes and so on - would be handled by the ministry, but a commission would be created to do the actual work involved. If such a ministry were created and such a commission appointed, a determined attack could be made upon many of the problems that confront the north to-day.

No development of any consequence is taking place in the north at the present time. The futility of continuing this Government's present policy is apparent from the population figures. There is actually a drift of population away from the Northern Territory. The natural increase of population in the Territory is at the rate of about 600 per annum. In the last year for which figures are available, the result of movements of people between the States and the Territory was that the Territory suffered a loss of 290 adult people, but the population showed a net gain, due to the very high birth rate, of 350 persons. These figures show that the adult population of the Northern Territory is moving out. I am sure that the figures for the next quarter and the quarter after that will show that the Terri tory is losing the battle to maintain its work force and its adult population. That is the position in the Northern Territory to-day. I believe a similar position exists in the north of Queensland, if one excludes the populations of Mount Isa and Mary Kathleen. Such a position certainly would exist in the north-west of Western Australia. This indicates how deficient is the present policy in relation to the development of the north. It is not imaginative enough to cope with the situation.

Superimposed on this problem is another problem that has been created by the credit restrictions imposed by this Government. There is unprecedented unemployment in the Northern Territory at the present time. According to advice that I received recently from the Secretary of the North Australian Workers' Union, many single men in the Northern Territory, particularly in Darwin, are getting only three days' work a week to provide for their sustenance. Married men are being provided with a full week's work. Such a state of affairs has not been experienced in this land of ours since the dark days of the depression. It is a scandal that such a thing can recur at a time like this in a country which is crying out for development.

Where are all the national developmental works which have been promised? With a bit of imagination and determination this is a Territory that could be made productive. The Administrator himself has admitted within the last few days that unemployment in the Northern Territory is unprecedented since the days of the depression. Fewer houses are being built. Nothing is being done to create a healthier economy or to arrest the unemployment trend. The Department of National Development recently announced a scheme of developmental roads for Queensland. This was to be a great scheme that would overcome the problems associated with the development of the outback. But nothing was said about developmental roads for the Northern Territory, yet here is country which is crying out for development and for the means of access which only roads can provide.


Mr Harold Holt - That is not true. You know that we said that the scheme was to extend over the north of Western Australia.


Mr NELSON - It was said that it was to extend over the border but no definite plans have been announced for developmental roads in the Northern Territory. It is about time that the Government announced its intention in that regard because it is six weeks since it announced the construction of developmental roads in northern Queensland.


Mr L R Johnson - It is building up its voters in Queensland.


Mr NELSON - That is apparently the reason behind it. There are more votes to be had in Queensland than in the Northern Territory


Mr Harold Holt - Have you ever had a look at the financial provision for the Northern Territory under the Labour Government?


Mr NELSON - 1 know that the provision for the Northern Territory at the present time is equivalent to the amount mentioned in a recent take-over transaction involving two breweries in Victoria and Queensland. Where are the public works that we have been promised? Where are the water conservation schemes, the railways, the roads and the mining development? The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) said recently, in opening a conference of scientists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and agricultural experts in Darwin, that the Government had enough information at its fingertips to implement a developmental policy for -the Northern Territory as soon as the Cabinet made funds available. We have not heard much about that.

I now want to draw attention to a couple of educational matters concerning the Northern Territory. One is the imposition of a means test on exhibitions or scholarships won by children of the Northern Territory schools. I think that the position can best be set out if I read a letter addressed to me by the Darwin High School Parents' and Citizens' Association and another one from the Alice Springs counterpart of that association. The letter fom the Darwin association reads as follows: -

Dear Mr. Nelson,

Our association would like to draw your attention to the unfair situation which arises out of the application of the means test to N.T. Students awarded the Intermediate Exhibitions. It is not applied to South Australian students with whom N.T. students compete in public examinations.

Each year twelve exhibitions, each worth £40, are allocated to the N.T. for the top twelve placegetters in the Intermediate public examination. Because of the means test they are seldom awarded to the top twelve students but are passed on to students who often have only a mediocre pass. Indeed, we understand it has happened that an exhibition has been awarded to a student who has failed English, a compulsory subject.

The top twelve students' names are never publicized and in this regard they receive no credit for the hard work they have done during the year to gain their places.

We feel the application of the means test is resulting in an entirely wrong sense of values being put on the Intermediate exhibitions. We feel they should be awarded to the students who are capable of higher education to act as an incentive to them to continue regardless of family income.

This year only four of the twelve exhibitions available to the N.T. were awarded. The situation has been similar in previous years. One year we know only seven were awarded.

Moreover we are disturbed that nobody seems able to tell us what happens to the money not distributed. Last year the amount which might have made the difference to eight students continuing to higher education was £320

This anomalous situation has now extended to the Leaving Standard. As you are aware, N.T. students wishing to do Leaving Honours must leave their homes, board in the south and attend a southern school. Accommodation is costly (our own son's accommodation in Adelaide costs six guineas a week) and an allowance of £80 a year is granted towards it.

After questions asked in the Legislative Council by the Crown Law Officer, Mr. Withnall, last year, an investigation was made by the Government and prospects were bright for an increase. The increase was made, but in the form of a £50 scholarship to Leaving students subject to a means test This means that only an odd student can benefit. . . .

I am sure you can see what a fantastic situation it is.

We write to you as our Member to register a strong protest with the Minister for Territories. We hope you may be able to improve the situation.

So far I have had no reply to a request to the Minister for Territories on this matter. I hope that, as a result of the representations that I make in this House now that something will be done to rectify the position. As a result of this means test we penalize only the children themselves. The parents are not penalized in any way but the children are handicapped. We have promising children in the north who are unable to go on to higher education because of this penalty of the means test. It is time that it was abolished. It does not apply in South

Australia, although the South Australian Department of Education runs the educational system for the Northern Territory.


Mr L R Johnson - Why does the department discriminate against the Northern Territory?







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