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Thursday, 3 November 1910

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - I am in favour of the proposed amendment, because it appears to me that under it the Government are not compelled to take over all the public officers in the Northern Territory. It will be possible to leave some of the officers in the hands of South Australia and let her pay them. The history of the Northern Territory has been one of gross mismanagement from beginning to end. I am not prepared to say whether the fault was entirely that of South Australian Governments or whether it was the fault of officers in the north. It may have been partly the fault of the Governments and partly that of the officers. But, at all events, when I was in the north I found that there was nothing but condemnation for the officers with the exception of a few notable men such as the Government Resident. There was nothing but condemnation for the whole system of government there. If you go into the history of the Northern Territory you will find that gross mismanagement has occurred. The large cedar forests on the Coburg Peninsula described by Earle as far back as 1845 or 1850 have all disappeared. They have been cut down. The pearl shelling industry has gone down, and cultivation on the Daly River has disappeared. A smelter was put in at the Daly River settlement, and the South Australian Government sent up a man to look after it who made a hopeless muddle of the business for a considerable time. The same thing applied to the western coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. There is excellent land there, which has never vet been properly surveyed, and no attempt has been made to open up that country tor settlement. Whether some of the local men or some of the Adelaide officials are to blame for these things, it cannot be denied that there is something rotten in the Civil Service of the Northern Territory.

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator is going beyond the difference between "may" and "shall."

Senator CHATAWAY - On an amendment of a clause dealing with the taking over of the public servants of the Northern

Territory by the Commonwealth, I am surely entitled to express my opinion of those public servants.

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator is talking of a hundred-and-one other things.

Senator CHATAWAY - I have referred to the attitude adopted by the public servants of the Northern Territory towards the development of its resources, and I say that, so far as history and information obtained on the spot can guide us, the whole of the public servants in the Northern Territory should not be taken over by the Commonwealth. The VicePresident of the Executive Council need not have complained, because I agree in this matter with the Government that they should be at liberty to exercise some discretion. They should be in a position to take over public servants who have proved themselves capable administrators and officials, and to refuse to take over a certain number of men of whom the less said the better.

Senator ST.LEDGER (Queensland) [3.2j. - .1 have no objection to the amendment, but I should like to point out that when honorable senators on this side have suggested the substitution of the word "may" for the word "shall" in various Bills, their suggestion has been laughed at by the Government. When such an amendment is proposed from the other side, the Government take an altogether different view of the matter. Where they have said "shall " in this Bill, they are now invited to say " may," and this is one of the little compensations for the hard fighting of honorable senators on this side. I indorse the remarks which have been made by Senator Chataway. I admit that I have only a short personal acquaintance with the Northern Territory, but I found that, without a single exception, everybody there, public officials as well as private individuals, desired to get out of the hands of the South Australian authorities. In view of the fact that we have been unable to prevent the imposition upon the Commonwealth of one incubus, in the shape of the proposed railway in the Northern Territory, I compliment the Government upon some little wisdom displayed in refusing *o impose upon the Commonwealth the burden of officials and the traditional policy that has been responsible, directly or indirectly, for one of the greatest howling failures of Australia. If the Commonwealth must be saddled with an enormous debt in connexion with the Northern Territory, it is well that we should be in a position to prevent the transfer of those who may have been responsible for the mistakes of the past in its management. Nothing struck me so much when in the Northern Territory as the utter hopelessness of public servants, as well as of private individuals, under the existing Administration.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator never saw anything there. He was there only for about twenty-four hours.

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