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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - As it seems quite probable that a vote may be taken on some of the provisions of the measure in Committee, I desire to make a few remarks so that the Minister may clear up some doubts in my mind when he is replying. I have a perfectly open mind on the only question which honorable senators are at variance, and that is as to whether the administration of the Northern Territory should be placed under the External Affairs Department or the Home Affairs Department. Although that is a matter of detail, still it involves a very big principle. It did seem to me peculiar that clause 3 should define " the Minister " to mean the Minister of External Affairs, seeing that geographically the Territory is within the boundaries of what is known as the Commonwealth. But, on consideration, it appears to me possible _ that the reason for this palpable anomaly is that, whereas the Home Affairs Department has quite enough work for one Ministerial head to look after, the External Affairs Department has not nearly so much work to do. In my view, the Minister of Home Affairs has just as much work as any Minister can reasonably be expected to control. At the same time, I think it must be palpable to everybody that the work attached to the Ministerial head of the External Affairs Department has not attained to anything like the same dimensions. The Home Affairs Department has to carry out all the arrangements in connexion with Federal elections. At a very early period it will be called on to carry out the works in connexion with the Federal Capital and the Federal Territory. It has also been indicated, although in a shadowy way, that in the very near future the Commonwealth will engage in the work of railway construction. I take it that the control of such work must be placed under the Home Affairs Department.

Senator Rae - How will it be if railways have to be constructed in the Northern Territory ?

Senator O'KEEFE - As Commonwealth works they must be under the control of the Home Affairs Department, unless a railway department is created with a Ministerial head. All the works in connexion with the Postmaster-General's Department, defence buildings- in fact, all works required for the Commonwealth - are carried out by the Home Affairs Department. I think that honorable senators will admit that they have more to do with the Home Affairs Department than with other Departments, and that it is a very busy one compared with the External Affairs Department. It may be that, in his reply, the Vice-President of the Executive Council will enlighten the Senate on the point I have submitted. Another point was brought into the discussion when Senator Long interjected, " After all, is the Northern Territory a portion of the Commonwealth in the same sense as are the six States?" Of course, anything in connexion with the States must necessarily be under the control of the Home Affairs Department. But just as Papua is a Territory taken over by the Commonwealth, so is the Northern Territory a Territory to be taken over by recent legislation, but not yet within the Commonwealth in the same sense as are the six component States. That consideration may have influenced Ministers in placing the administration of the Northern Territory under the control of the External Affairs Department, though on looking at the matter hurriedly, one would immediately say that it ought not to be under that control. I think that the discussion has clearly gone outside the real question at issue. I do not think that we ought to consider who is the Minister for the moment controlling the External Affairs Department. It does not seem right to assume that, because its present head happens to be a South Australian, he will administer its affairs in a manner which, will benefit South Australia to the detriment of other portions of the Commonwealth. It has been stated by Senator Givens, and supported by Senator Stewart, that the underlying reason for placing what they called this obvious anomaly in the Bill is the fact that Mr. Batchelor has the interests of South Australia more at heart that those of any other portion of the Commonwealth, and that he will administer the Northern Territory, if it is possible to do so, in the interests of that State.

Senator Millen - Does not the honorable senator trunk that it is possible, without making any personal inputations, to allow for such a factor as unconscious bias?

Senator O'KEEFE - That is quite possible; but does not the honorable senator also know that the personnel of Ministries changes frequently? In the history of Commonwealth Administrations, we have witnessed frequent changes of Ministers at the head of Departments. Mr. Batchelor is Minister of External Affairs to-day. He may be in control of some other Department to-morrow.

Senator Rae - Why is it necessary to name the particular Department in the Bill?

Senator O'KEEFE - It is surely necessary to name the Department which will have control over the Northern Territory. Do honorable senators who object to the proposed arrangement think that if, in the course of twelve months, or thereabouts, Mr. Batchelor is transferred to some other Department, a Bill will be brought down altering the administration of the Northern Territory, so as to allow of that South Australian Minister retaining charge of it? For my own part, I have sufficient faith in the Ministers whom I voted to place in office-

Senator Sayers - When did the honorable senator vote for them?

Senator O'KEEFE - Honorable senators know very well that I voted for Ministers in that awful place known as the Caucus. Our cards are all upon the table. We do not Keep them up our sleeve. I do not say that I voted for Mr. Batchelor ; whether I did or not is a matter between me and my conscience.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator means that he has sufficient confidence in those Ministers for whom he did vote?

Senator O'KEEFE - I have sufficient confidence in the men for whom I voted, and in the men who have been placed in these honorable and responsible positions by the majority of the party to which I belong, to believe that, whatever States they represent, they will administer the

Departments committed to their charge, not in the interests of particular States, but of Australia as a whole.

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