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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in using that term. He must withdraw it. Under the Standing Orders, he is forbidden to refer in such terms to legislation which has been approved by this Parliament.


Senator STEWART - I withdraw the term. I will say that the Minister of External Affairs took a very prominent part in driving a hard bargain with the Commonwealth.


Senator Sayers - At any rate, we think it was a hard bargain.


Senator STEWART - Exactly. Under this Bill, the control of the Northern Territory will be entirely in his hands.


Senator Story - He is a very good man, too.


Senator STEWART - I do not say that he is not a good man for South Australia. But I doubt very much whether we shall get from him administration of the Northern Territory in the interests of the Commonwealth. We know that he is a very keen South Australian, and that he is much interested in giving effect to the policy of that State in regard to the Northern Territory. We know that he is anxious that the policy of development which is pursued in the Territory shall be in the interests principally of South Australia.


Senator Story - That is not true.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator must withdraw that remark.


Senator Story - Senator Stewart made an untrue statement-


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator must withdraw his remark.


Senator Story - If it be necessary to do so, I withdraw the statement.


Senator STEWART - I think that the administration of the Northern Territory by the present Minister of External Affairs ought to be regarded with the closest scrutiny by members of the Senate. We know that that honorable gentleman has an unconscious bias in favour of South Australia as against the Commonwealth.


Senator Story - It is easy to slander a man in his absence.


Senator STEWART - In his absence? That is the purest " tommyrot " that I have heard uttered here. If honorable senators may only refer to persons when the latter are present in this chamber, they will not have a word to say about anybody. I am not talking of the Minister of External Affairs as an individual, but as a Minister. I say that the control of the Northern Territory has been wrongly placed in the hands of the Minister of External Affairs. As the present occupant of that office is a South Australian, who took an active part in pushing through the agreement for the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, I hold that his administration of that Territory must be viewed by the Senate with a certain amount of suspicion. We require a man to control the Northern Territory who will administer it in the interests of the Commonwealth. But so far as we can judge from his past performances, the present Minister of External Affairs will take good care that anything which may be done there will be done primarily in the interests of South Australia. The Commonwealth will come in as a very bad second.


Senator Needham - That is a slander on Mr. Batchelor.


Senator STEWART - It is not a slander. Politicians are only human beings.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! I must ask honorable senators to stop this continual fire of interjections. Senator Stewart has the right of speech, and honorable senators can reply to him after he has resumed his seat.


Senator Needham - It is an absolute slander.


Senator STEWART - We know that politicians, like other persons, are human beings. We know that as much corruption has been carried on in political life in Australia as in any other circle, and what has occurred in the past may probably take place in the future. If those who believe in purity of government think that there is any fault or flaw in any proposed act of administration, they are quite right in pointing it out.


Senator Long - The honorable senator seems to overlook this point, that the actions of the Minister will be reviewed by this Parliament, and not by the South Australian Parliament.


Senator STEWART - That is all right. We know perfectly well what will happen if any acts of the Minister of External Affairs are brought up here. The honorable senator will be one to follow the Government and see the Minister through,, and more than a dozen will follow his example. There is not the remotest chance of carrying, anything against a Minister of the Crown whatever party is in power ; no matter whether it be the Labour party, the Conservative party, or the Liberal party. The majority of any party will see its Ministers through, no matter what they do, even if there is the grossest corruption. I have seen it myself, and I believe that I shall see more of it in the future.


Senator Needham - Do you allege that a member of this party would support corruption ?


The PRESIDENT - Order !


Senator STEWART - I have said that I have seen that in the past.


The PRESIDENT - I ask Senator Needham to cease his interjections.


Senator Needham - Will you also ask other senators to cease their interjections ?


The PRESIDENT - Yes, I have asked honorable senators to cease their interjections, and to allow Senator Stewart to continue his speech in silence, as he is entitled to do under the standing order.


Senator Needham - Why did you single me out?


The PRESIDENT - Order ! I did not single out the honorable senator.


Senator Needham - You did.


The PRESIDENT - I asked two or three times that the running fire of interjections should cease.


Senator Needham - Other senators interjected, why single me out?


The PRESIDENT - Order ! I have not singled out any honorable senator. I asked that Senator Stewart be heard in silence, as he is entitled to be heard, but the honorable senator took no notice of the request.


Senator Needham - But other senators did the same as I did.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! Senator Stewart.


Senator STEWART - I have said all that I desire to say in connexion with this matter. Senator Needham desires some explanation, and I am quite willing to give it.


Senator Needham - But you were asked several times before, and no heed was paid to the request.


Senator STEWART - The honorable senator seemed to think that I had accused members of the Labour party of supporting corruption in this Parliament. I never did anything of the kind. What I said was that a majority of every political party, whether it be Labour, Conservative, or Liberal, always sees its own Government through, no matter what acts of corruption it is guilty of. That has been my experience. I do not see any particular reason to alter that opinion. There is another matter I desire to refer to, and that is the disposal of Crown lands. The clause which deals with the subject is very vague. It reads -

No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold, except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this Act.

I wish honorable senators to remember that monopoly is just as possible under a system of leasehold as under a system of freehold, indeed, very much more so. We have an instance of that in the Northern Territory. There is land leased for the period of forty-two years, which can only be resumed by the Crown on the payment of very swingeing compensation to the lessees, and it is leased for the price of a mere song. If the land were held in freehold, the Commonwealth could immediately by land value taxation proceed to get the community-created increment, and deal in that way with monopoly. By means of taxation, it could compel the land to be placed to its best use. While I favour leasehold, my attitude depends on the kind of leasehold. This clause leaves it in the hands of the administrator to say what kind of leasehold there shall be - whether land shall be leased for forty-two years with revaluation at the end of every seven, ten, or twenty years. It is to be leasehold of some kind or other. If it is not leasehold of the right kind, then we shall give a monopoly of a much worse character than would be possible under a system of freehold. I think that the Government ought to explain clearly what sort of tenure it is intended shall prevail in the Northern Territory.







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