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Thursday, 15 October 1964


Mr NELSON (Northern Territory) . - I support the amendment moved by my colleague, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I wish to confine my remarks chiefly to the estimates for the Northern Territory. The notes and tables that have been circulated by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) convey quite a bit of information on the estimates as they relate to development and other aspects of Northern Territory affairs. I was disappointed with the very small increase in the overall vote for the Territory. At this stage when the Government is asserting that we are making efforts to develop this part of Australia, the overall vote for this year represents an increase of only about £H million on the expenditure last year. That increase will only take up the slack caused by the increase in costs. It will not result in any great additional work being carried out in the Territory.

I do not believe that the developmental services are receiving the attention that they should receive. The Mines Branch is very important. In my opinion, it is the branch that will give the most value in terms of return on capital expenditure in the north. The appropriation for the Mines Branch this year represents an increase of a little more than £1,000 on last year's expenditure. That is a shocking state of affairs, when we remember that mining could play a very important part in the development of the country. It brings in its wake large numbers of people, whom we really need. I do not think the increase in the proposed expenditure is good enough. In the Northern Territory some very important prospects are now coming under notice. I refer, for example, to the Gove Peninsula bauxite deposits. The Government is trying to interest overseas organisations in them. There has been some talk of atomic power being used to treat the bauxite on the spot. This would be a worthwhile contribution to development.

But many other aspects of mining are not receiving the attention that they should. We have vast mineral deposits at Mr Isa. We have silver and lead deposits under the control of Territory Enterprises Ply. Ltd., which is an offshoot of the Zinc Corporation. We have copper deposits in the centre which were recently discovered and are being worked by Aborigines in the area, strangely enough. Interest is being shown in these deposits by American firms and we hope that they will be developed in the near future. However, the Administration is not giving a lead and is not giving sufficient encouragement to the development of existing deposits and the discovery of further deposits. We already know that Australia contains large mineral deposits and it is reasonable to assume that other deposits must exist. But the amount allocated to the Mines Branch in the Northern Territory has been increased by only £1,000. This would not maintain the present tempo of work in the Branch; the increase in the basic wage and other rising costs would easily absorb all of this small amount.

In agriculture the amount allocated for agricultural research and development has been increased by £85,500. The two main activities of the north on which development can be based are minerals and land development, but only an additional £85,500 has been provided for agriculture. It is only recently that the Government has adopted a scheme of pilot farms, although such a scheme was recommended some years ago by the Forster Committee. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) was a member of the Committee and played a prominent and energetic part. I do not know what he feels about the work he did as a member of the Committee. However, very few results aTe flowing from what was a most comprehensive, informative and useful report. The members of the Committee might just as well have stayed at home for all the attention that has been given to their report. As I say, only recently one suggestion of the Committee has been adopted and pilot farms have been established to try to determine the economics of agricultural production and mixed farming. This should have been done years ago, but we are happy that a start has been made now. We badly need to have this type of activity speeded up. Instead of three or five farms, we should at this stage be creating hundreds of farms.

I am not the only one concerned about the slowness of development in the north. I recently had sent to me a very informative leaflet distributed by the Victorian Employers Federation. It is a mid-week report produced by the Federation. The Federation cannot be said to support the Australian Labour Party. It is concerned about what it terms the vacuum in the north and in its leaflet it states -

There is a marked difference between State and Commonwealth activities in those parts of Australia most vulnerable to hostile opinions from overseas observers.

This is a very interesting point.


Mr Nixon - Commonwealth money is being used in Queensland and Western Australia.


Mr NELSON - That is right, the States are getting in for their cut, but the Commonwealth is badly lagging and is not pushing its own interests.


Mr Nixon - That is right.


Mr NELSON - It is. The Victorian Employers Federation is not a friend of the Labour Party but it is very upset about the efforts of the States to put their proposals before the new Northern Division. When the estimates for the Department of National Development were being debated recently, we were told that not one proposal had been put before the Department by the Department of Territories. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) told us then that not one submission had come from the Department of Territories for developmental projects to be implemented or even considered. But the States certainly have their men working and have put forward proposal after proposal. If the present trend continues, we in the Northern Territory will find that very few crumbs of the cake are left for us. The Victorian Employers Federation also said -

Finance supplied from Commonwealth coffers is not alone sufficient action for development. The Commonwealth must accelerate its own operations in its own Territory.

I heartily agree with that view. The Federation continued -

Melbourne based National Council for Balanced Development (N.C.B.D.) considers the North must be treated as a whole.

The V.E.F. agrees with this concept and seeks the support of southern interests for urgent action to create an authority and get on with the job.

The Federation is not satisfied with the Northern Division that has been created. This Division is certainly a step in the right direction, but we have always felt that this does not go far enough.

The Federation is concerned at the sorry stateofaffairsinthenorthandhasundertaken to do something about development Itself. It has applied to the Administration fora grant of land of some 100,000 acres. At one stage it was reported that the Federation was seeking some 9 million acres, but I believe the size of the area has been reduced to 100,000 acres. The Federation is willing to do some of the developmental work that should be the responsibility of the Government. It will, of course, draw heavily upon the experimental resources of the Administration and of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I do not know of any reason why the Commonwealth Government should not take advantage of the experimental work done by these bodies and make land available to settlers in the Northern Territory at the cheapest possible rate. Obviously, when the Federation's undertaking becomes established, it will be sold. Establishment costs will be pretty high and will have to be passed on to the buyer.

We have nothing in the nature of a soldiers' settlement scheme in the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth Government should be planning to implement a scheme of this nature in an effort to create a stable and prosperous agricultural industry in the Northern Territory. No-one can say that this cannot be done. We have seen the results at Humpty Doo, at Katherine, Daly River and other selected areas. All that is needed is the will and some money; production would follow. The markets are available in the East for the rice and other commodities produced in the north, but they must first be grown. An agricultural industry can be established and will eventually be established, in conjunction with the fattening of beef in the northern high rainfall areas.It is true, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) said, that the centre is in the grip of a shocking drought. But we cannot do much about that.

Recently, a Select Committee of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory was established to inquire into the possibility of establishing an agricultural industry. I ask the Minister for Territories to take prompt steps to implement the recommendations of this Committee when its report is placed before the

Government. I have listened to the proceedings of the Committee and have appeared before it and I am sure that it will produce a report containing many useful suggestions. But it is useless for the Committee to make a report if somebody does not act upon its recommendations. It is up to this Government to act on the select committee's recommendations at the earliest possible time.

I believe that one of the main points that the report of the select committee will make will be that provision should be made. for long term credits. This is one of the most vital matters that the Government will have to consider. A branch of the Commonwealth Development Bank should be. established immediately in the Northern Territory so that prompt attention can be given to the needs, not only of pastoral and agricultural industries, but also of small secondary industries that have to be established there. We all know that long term credit would form the basis of any scheme of development, whatever might be its nature and whatever might be its objectives. So I ask that the Government consider earnestly the report of the select committee of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory immediately it becomes available.

At present, the operations of the Commonwealth Development Bank in the Northern Territory are divided. In the northern part of the Territory, the Bank's operations are administered from Brisbane. In the southern part, they are administered from Adelaide. The people of the Territory and I consider that, to ensure prompt action to meet the needs of potential borrowers, a branch of the Bank ought to be established in the Territory without delay. Every State has a branch of the Bank within its borders. Only if the Bank establishes a branch in the Territory can action be taken promptly when applications for advances are received.

In the few moments that I have left, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I want to place before the Committee a matter of great concern to the people of the Northern Territory. This is the proposed execution in Darwin of a recently convicted person. The people of the north are incensed at the thought that capital punishment will be carried out there, and they have asked me to raise the matter in this Parliament and voice their protest. They wish me to place before the Parliament their request that the sentence be commuted to imprisonment for life. While on this topic, I should like to mention another matter about which there is great concern in the Territory. We all know that in Alice Springs recently a lad of 12 was sent to gaol for misdemeanours. He was confined in a gaol because there was no other institution in the Northern Territory to which he could be committed. There is an institution in Darwin, but it is more of a receiving home, and it caters for children who are to be in custody for only short periods.







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