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Thursday, 27 September 1973
Page: 1652


Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - I intend to enter into this debate, but before dealing with the Bill there are a few matters that I would like to reply to in respect of the remarks made by the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby). The honourable member referred to a recommendation that was made to me with respect to the acquisition of certain lands that were to be used for urban purposes on the outskirts of the city of Darwin. In my time as Minister for the Interior this recommendation was not implemented, for very good reasons. I think the Minister said that it was not implemented for various reasons. I would like at this point of time to inform the House, the Northern Territory and the nation of the principal reason why that recommendation was not proceeded with. At that point of time we were in the process of negotiations with Northern Territory Legislative Councillors on the question of constitutional advancement. We had made an offer to the Legislative Council to transfer executive responsibilities over a range of State-like issues, including urban land. At the time of the election this offer had not been debated either in the Northern Territory Legislative Council or by the Northen Territory people themselves.


Mr Enderby - My point was that you supported the proposition.


Mr HUNT - The Government supported the recommendation but it had not implemented it for that very reason I stated.


Mr Enderby - That is what I said.


Mr HUNT - I felt as Minister for the Interior that it was for the local legislature and the local people to determine whether they should accept the package that was offered for constitutional advancement in the Northern Territory. The offer that was made to the Northern Territory was a firm and a sound one. It offered an advancement towards statehood, which is something that the present Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) promised the Northern Territory prior to the last election. It is in black and white. The Minister for Northern Development on frequent occasions, to placate Mr Ward, I think it was-


Mr Calder - Mr Ward, the member for Ludmilla in the Legislative Council.


Mr HUNT - Yes, the Leader of the Labor Party in the Northern Territory Legislative Council. The Minister for Northern Development informed him that if there was a Labor Government elected the Northern Territory would get statehood. Yet after the election the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and, indeed, the Minister for the Northern Territory indicated that the Northern Territory would not get statehood. We have heard all sorts of expressions in this place about double standards. Where are the double standards? The Minister for the Northern Territory inherited a well thought through arrangement for the transfer of executive responsibility to the Northern Territory.


Mr Enderby - You should smile when you say that.


Mr HUNT - No. I do not smile because we went through a long process of negotiation and discussion with members of all political parties in the Legislative Council and they had agreed to look in depth at this matter. Their reaction initially was very favourable indeed. If the Minister is interested enough to follow this through he can look at the joint Press releases that were issued at that time. So there was a genuine attempt on the part of the former Government to transfer executive responsibility across to the Northern Territory and to have a fully elected Legislative Council. But this has been deferred for various reasons, A reference has gone before the Joint Parlimentary Committee on the Northern Territory. I do not doubt that the Minister is trying to find a formula so that some executive responsibility can be transferred to the Northern Territory. I know that in the Australian Capital Territory he is trying to get a form of government that will be acceptable to the people of the Territory. We had not gone so far with the Australian Capital Territory as we had gone with the Northern Territory. I know the Minister would agree with that. But I would like to defend the honourable member for the Northern Territory who consistently has supported, both in the councils of the Australian Country Party and in the Party room, the concept of Senate representation for the Northern Territory. I have been opposed to the concept because I believe that the Senate is a States house. Of course it is a States house. Here is the Minister for the Northern Territory, a lawyer, a lawyer of great distinction-


Mr Calder - No!


Mr King - We cannot have that.


Mr HUNT - Here is a lawyer of great distinction screwing his face up and ignoring the fact that the Senate is a States house. Of course it is a States house. To try to slip other Senate representatives into a States house by this rather clandestine way I think is destroying the whole concept of the Upper House of this Parliament. It has been for those reasons that I personally have been opposed to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory having representation in the Senate. When the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory get the equivalent of statehood, when they have their own legislatures and when they have responsibility for their State-like responsibilities, such as urban land and so on, I think it will be time enough to look at the situation. I believe that this Government has had double standards with respect to the Northern Territory. It has established a department of the Northern Territory in Darwin - we admit that - but the fact of the matter is that the administration of the Northern Territory has been fragmented among no fewer than 10 Ministers and 10 departments.


Mr Calder - As many as 10?


Mr HUNT - Yes, and the people of the Northern Territory do not know to whom they should go or to which Minister they should go in order to have some of the big problems of that vast Territory resolved.

Let it not be forgotten that the towns and cities of the Northern Territory have the fastest growing populations in Australia today, even outstripping Canberra. Why did that happen? It was because of consistent policies that were implemented by successive Liberal-Country Party governments for 23 years; that has put the Northern Territory into a position where, in the not too distant future, it will be able to take its place in the federation of Australia. I am sure that the Minister for Northern Development


Mr Grassby - You mean the Minister for the Northern Territory?


Mr HUNT - No, the Minister for Northern Development - Dr Patterson. He must be very disappointed indeed with his own Government for not having honoured a promise that he made - in good faith, I have no doubt - to the people of the Northern Territory. I take great exception to the Minister for the Northern Territory referring to the Australian Country Party as the rump because I believe that he did not say it in the nicest way. Nobody can deny that there is a rump in the Australian Labor Party and one of them - the Minister for Immigration {Mr Grassby) - is sitting on the other side of the table. He is part of the rural rump. I believe that the cheeks of that rural rump of the ALP must be blushing red at present because it has had a lot to overcome in trying to hold rural seats against a government that has shown a great disinclination to support the people of the rural areas, let alone those in the Northern Territory. So, I believe that the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory has engaged in a rather spiteful and quite unnecessary attack upon the honourable member for the Northern Territory and upon the Country Party. I think it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.







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