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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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Senator McGREGOR (South AustraliaVice President of the Executive Council) . - If no other honorable senator has any desire to ventilate his opinion in connexion with, this Bill. I have a few words to say in reply. I wish to congratulate the people of the Commonwealth upon having such champions of their rights and privileges as Senators Givens, Stewart, and Sayers. They are three stalwart champions who, when they are acting together, imagine that they possess all the wisdom, all the obstinacy, all the courage, and all the suspicion of the people of Australia. What a combination !


Senator Stewart - We know the difference between Tasmania and Papua, anyhow.


Senator McGREGOR - We shall see how much difference there really is between those two places, and how much the honorable senator knows about it. I think that the people of Australia ought to rest secure in the knowledge that, in the three honorable senators whom I have mentioned, they have men who, even when the shadow of suspicion is cast upon the fair fame of the Commonwealth, are prepared to sacrifice both the time and the privileges of this Parliament in the defence of their rights. They remind me of the three Roman heroes who, kept the bridge. I do not know which of them should really be characterized as Horatius. They remind me of the three Roman heroes, with this difference : that when the bridge fell, the three noble Romans fell into the generous waters of the Tiber, whereas, when the bridge falls on the present occasion, these stalwart champions in the Senate will fall into the sink of suspicion and into the mud of aspersion.


Senator Fraser - The Vice-President of the Executive Council must have been studying ancient history.


Senator McGREGOR - I can only judge of what will occur from what has occurred. There are other honorable senators who, without attempting to cast blame either on the Government or on the Minister who under this Bill will control the affairs of the Northern Territory, are nevertheless labouring under a misapprehension. As a matter of fact, the duties allocated to the different Departments under the Commonwealth Government, were not allocated by the present Ministry. The last attempt made in that direction was made as far back as 1906. It was then decided that one of the duties of the Minister of External Affairs should be to administer the Territories of the Commonwealth which are not States of the Commonwealth. Senator Stewart knows all about everything, but he does not payvery much attention when he might receive instruction. When he has had his own say he either absents himself from the chamber, or he remains indifferent when any information is being imparted. He is not indifferent to it when he is speaking, but he is very insulting. Now there are two kinds of territories for which provision is made in the Constitution. They are distinct from each other, and have varying possibilities. One class of territory has to be ceded to the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Federal Capital. That is a class of territory which can never become a State of the Commonwealth. In other words, it can never receive anything more than the powers of municipal government. But provision is also made in the Constitution for another class of territory - and this marks the difference between what is "foreign" and what is "external." Some honorable senators imagine that everything external must necessarily be foreign. But that is not so. There may be no foreign matter on the outside of an eggshell, but there may be external matter all the same. In the same manner there may be a great deal of land even on the Continent of Australia which is external to Australia so far as the Commonwealth Parliament is concerned. The second class of territory contemplated under the Constitution is territory which may be ceded to the Commonwealth by any State, and which then becomes a Territory of the Commonwealth. :Such a Territory is Papua, which has always been administered by the Minister of External Affairs. The Northern Territory is about to be ceded to the Commonwealth by South Australia, and consequently it will become a Territory of the Commonwealth. Under the arrangement which was made in 1906 that. Territory will be administered by the Minister of External Affairs, whoever he may be, and quite irrespective of whether he is a Queenslander, a Tasmanian, a New South Welshman, or a Western Australian. The Northern Territory will automatically pass under the control of the Department of External Affairs. No consideration has been given by the Cabinet to the question of which Minister shall control it when it becomes a Territory of the Commonwealth. The question has never been raised. I ask honorable senators who took such a lively interest in the discussion upon the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, whether they noticed the Department by whose instructions that Bill was drafted? "Was it not the Department of External Affairs? But to please Senators Stewart, Givens, and Sayers, forsooth, the Govern ment must rearrange the whole of its administrative offices.


Senator Stewart - A good job too.


Senator McGREGOR - It would be a good job in the opinion of some persons if Ministers were wiped out of existence, and a new set elected by the Caucus. But that result is not going to be brought about in the immediate future. Nothing has been done in- an underhand way, or in a way which warrants any honorable senator, who is an honorable senator, in casting aspersions upon the Government. Nothing has been done which was not done four years ago when the administrative functions of the various Ministers were arranged. I fail to understand why some honorable senators make such a fuss about the Northern Territory being administered by the Minister of External Affairs. It is a coincidence, and nothing more, that that Minister is a South Australian.


Senator Henderson - He might have been a Queenslander.


Senator McGREGOR - He might have been. But he happens to be a South Australian, and the administration of the Northern Territory naturally falls under his Department, without any action of the Government. Why it should be contended that its administration should be placed under the Minister of Home Affairs I cannot understand. Does Senator Stewart know what the functions of that Minister are? In this Parliament he occupies a similar position to that which the Minister of Public Works occupies in a State Parliament.


Senator Stewart - Why do you not name him what he is?


Senator McGREGOR - The honorable senator is as much responsible for the christening as I am.


Senator Stewart - No, I had nothing to do with it.


Senator McGREGOR - The honorable senator was in this Parliament when the title of the Minister of Home Affairs first saw the light of day, but he raised no objection. If he was not prepared to take that step at the christening feast he should for ever hold his peace. The Minister of Home Affairs has charge of all the machinery in connexion with the electoral matters, the census, and public works. It is wrong to imagine that he has anything more to do than has the Minister of External Affairs. Every Minister has his own work to do, and although the work of seme Ministers may not come so prominently before Parliament as does that of the Minister of Home Affairs, or Postmaster-General, or Minister of Defence, that is no reason why any one should imagine that any Department has not a sufficient amount of work to justify its existence. The Department of Home Affairs is not the one under which the administration of a measure of this description should come. I have already stated that the Federal Capital territory can never become a State, but any territories which are external to the Commonwealth can ultimately become States. I hope that Senators Stewart, Sayers, and Givens will live long enough to see, not only the Northern Territory, but also Papua, become States.


Senator Stewart - That is another question.


Senator McGREGOR - The same automatic course has been pursued. There never was a question as to which Department the administration of either Territory ought to come under. I have already stated that it was the ultimate aim of the Government to provide a Constitution for the Northern Territory, and that this was only a Bill providing for its immediate administration. I explained that as soon as certain inquiries had been concluded and the Government had the necessary time at their disposal, the question of granting a Constitution would be gone into, that Parliament would have an opportunity of expressing its will, and that the people of the Territory would then be placed in exactly the same position as the people of Papua. Senator Walker has. suggested an amendment to clause 3. But I would point out that, as the functions of the Minister of External Affairs are already clearly defined, there is no necessity for dealing now with them. As regards striking out the clause, it contains only two definitions, one defining " the Minister " and the other defining " the Territory." If the two definitions were struck out it would not, as Senator Millen said, make a bit of difference. It would still be the Northern Territory and administered by the Minister of External Affairs. There is no necessity to interfere with the clause. It says what it means - nothing more and nothing less. As regards clause 9, some objections have been raised by Senator Needham with respect to improvements which have never been made. I hope that there is no citizen of Australia or of a Territory under the Commonwealth who would be prepared to put in a claim for improvements which have not been made. I am quite sure that if he did he would not get anything.


Senator Millen - But the clause speaks distinctly of the improvements on the land. They must, therefore, be in existence.


Senator McGREGOR - If the improvements are on the land they must have been paid for or made by the present lessee. In the former case he has as much right to payment for them as he had to pay the previous leaseholder. There appears to be a doubt in the minds of some honorable senators regarding clause 9, which deals with leasehold as well as . with freehold. They seem to forget that if any person has an interest in a leasehold, and it is required for public purposes, it can be acquired under the Lands Asquisition Act, just as if it were a freehold. There ought to be no doubt in the mind of any one with respect to that provision. The only other debatable clause is the one dealing with Crown lands. It provides that no Crown lands shall be sold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of the Act. I am sure that Senator Stewart and others, who ought to be on this side, will raise no objection to that.


Senator Stewart - What kind of leasehold do you propose?


Senator McGREGOR - We are not proposing any kind of leasehold in this measure, which it has been declared, often enough, is of a temporary character; but the honorable senator will have an opportunity of dealing with that question when a Constitutionfor the Territory is submitted. Under this temporary measure, every member of this Parliament will have a voice with respect to any Ordinance which is passed for the Northern Territory. Every Ordinance will be duly laid on the table of each House; and if it is disproved by either House, I am sure that no Government would neglect to take into consideration its wishes by submitting a new Ordinance. I think that I have referred to nearly all the objections which have been raised.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 -

In this Act - "the Minister" means the Minister of State for External Affairs; "the Territory" means the Northern Territory.







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