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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - As one who objected very strongly to the taking over of the Northern Territory under the conditions proposed, I feel that I should say something, on the matter referred to by Senator Givens. It may be only a coincidence, but it does seem rather peculiar that the Minister selected to administer the affairs of the Northern Territory should be a representative of an Adelaide electorate. Honorable senators who were strongly opposed to the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill feel that that measure was introduced and passed purely in the interests of South Australia. It may be only a coincidence that the Minister of External Affairs should be selected to administer the Northern Territory, but we might have expected that its administration would be left in the hands of the Minister of Home Affairs.


Senator Vardon - Why?


Senator SAYERS - Because the Northern Territory is part and parcel of the Commonwealth .


Senator Vardon - It is not a part of any of the States.


Senator SAYERS - Even before we take it over it is a part of the Commonwealth, held under exactly the same conditions as any other part of Australia. The administration of all matters within the Commonwealth is in the hands of the Minister of Home Affairs. We have been told that the Minister of External Affairs administers the affairs of Papua. Of course he does, because Papua is not a portion of the Commonwealth. Queensland at one time administered the affairs of Papua, but upon the establishment of Federation we took over its administration as a Territory outside of Australia, and it naturally came under the External Affairs Department. The Northern Territory is in an entirely different position, and will remain a portion of the Commonwealth whether it is taken over under the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill or not. There may be nothing in the proposal to place it under the administration of the Minister of External Affairs, but it looks decidedly suspicious, and as if the intention were that it should be administered for the benefit of South Australia.


Senator McGregor - " Suspicion ever haunts the guilty mind."


Senator SAYERS - Those who have been opposed to the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth under the conditions of the agreement" submitted in the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill have all along had more than a suspicion that the whole business was being transacted in the interests of South Australia.


Senator Story - Rubbish !


Senator SAYERS - There is not the slightest doubt that the Commonwealth is to be saddled with the financial obligation of from , £15,000,000 to£20,000,000 in the interests of South Australia and of that State alone.


Senator Story - Rubbish !


Senator SAYERS - South Australia in the control of the Northern Territory had a burden to bear which she could not carry any longer. She has been trying for years to get rid of that burden. I do not intend now to debate matters which were debated when we were considering the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, but we know that the statements of responsible Ministers in South Australia were quoted to show that South Australia desired to be rid of this burden. This Parliament has by a majority decided that the Commonwealth, should take over the Northern Territory. But before we pass this Bill it is right that those who are objecting to the transfer of the Northern Territory under the conditions proposed should say what they think of the business. I am disposed to agree with Senator Givens, and I honestly and firmly believe that this is not a pure accident, but a premeditated affair, and that the Government have deliberately handed the administration of the Northern Territory to an honorable gentleman who is a representative of the State from which we are taking the Territory. It will be impossible for that honorable gentleman, in the administration of the Northern Territory, not to be influenced by his natural feeling of concern for the interests of his own State.


Senator Story - South Australians are broader-minded than are Queenslanders.


Senator SAYERS - South Australians are just as narrow-minded as are any other people, and this especially applies to Senator Story, who has always voted for anything which he considered to be in the interests of South Australia, whether it was in the interests of the Commonwealth or not. But this is a matter which affects the whole of Australia, and I say that the administration of the Northern Territory ought to have been placed in the hands of the Minister of Home Affairs. Had that been done, I would not have uttered a word upon this Bill. Of course, I recognise that my objections will be disregarded. The Government have a majority behind them. Nevertheless, it is my duty to enter my protest against any action of theirs which I conceive to be wrong. I believe that their action in placing the Northern Territory under the control of the Minister of External Affairs is a wrong one, and I should divide the Senate upon it if there were any prospect of doing so with success.







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