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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - Surely we may assume that the Government, who will be responsible for the successful administration of the Northern Territory, have given full consideration to the question as to which Minister should be given charge of its affairs.


Senator Sayers - We have been told that the matter was never mentioned in the Cabinet.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Surely the Minister who introduced the Bill knows which member of the Government has most time at his disposal to devote to this work.


Senator McGregor - That question does not enter into the matter at all. The control of the affairs of the Northern Territory goes automatically to the Minister of External Affairs.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - What we have to consider is how we are going to treat the Territory when we take it over. I assume that we are not going to accept it as a new State. In my judgment, it will not have reached that dignity for another quarter of a century.


Senator Sayers - That is the opinion of an honorable senator who supported the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I should be very glad if it were possible to recognise the Northern Territory as a new State within two years, but I realize that we have big problems to face in the Northern Territory, and, personally, I should like to see a new Minister intrusted with the sole responsibility of administering its affairs. I remind honorable senators that the External Affairs Department has already had some little experience of the control of a Territory which is not on exactly the same footing as a State, whilst the Home Affairs Department has had no experience of that kind. The administration of a huge tract of country like the Northern Territory is a very different thing from the purchase of a block of land in Victoria, or in New South Wales, for a post-office. The External Affairs Department at the present time, if not underworked, is certainly not overworked, and should, I think, have sufficient time at its disposal to organize a special staff for the administration of the affairs of the Northern Territory.


Senator Needham - The honorable senator would treat the Northern Territory as foreign to the Commonwealth?


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I certainly should not, but I am not prepared to treat it as a State of the Commonwealth, nor do I believe any other member of the Committee is prepared to .do that. It should not be beyond the capacity of the External Affairs Department to administer the Northern Territory. This is merely a provisional measure, and if, after a little experience, we find that the External Affairs Department is capable of administering the Territory in a manner satisfactory to this Parliament, we might overcome the objection to the Minister of External Affairs by adding to his title that of "Minister for the Northern Territory." '


Senator Givens - Why should we not place the administration of the Territory in the hands of the Department of Home Affairs ?


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Because I believe that it would be completely outside the scope of the present Home Affairs Department, which 'is, after all, a Public Works Department.


Senator Givens - What about the Census Act, the Electoral Act, and the many other measures which it administers?


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have never known the Public Works Department of a State to be intrusted with lands administration, and, in my opinion, the administration of the land will be one of the biggest problems we shall have to solve in the Northern Territory. I believe that the External Affairs Department has most time at its disposal, and is capable of organizing the administration of the affairs of the Northern Territory. I may not be so optimistic as are some honorable senators, but I believe that for several years to come we shall require to have a Department specially created to administer the Northern Territory. Though that might be difficult, I should like to see a new "Minister appointed for the purpose.


Senator Sayers - We have two Honorary Ministers.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Surely the honorable senator would not hand over the administration of the Northern Territory to an Honorary Minister?


Senator Millen - We might have a separate Department without an extra Minister.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The affairs of the Territory might be managed by one of the existing Departments for a time, but ns we undertake considerable expenditure in the development of the Territory, we may alter this provisional legislation, and put a Minister solely in charge of it.


Senator Givens - Is the honorable senator arguing that the External Affairs Department has not enough to do?


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am arguing that that Department is quite capable of administering the affairs of the Northern Territory until this Parliament is prepared to take the responsibility of spending considerable sums of money there.


Senator Givens - Does not the honorable senator think that the Home Affairs Department is equally capable of managing the Territory?


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - No, I do not. I believe the Home Affairs Department have plenty of work to do, and that the administration of this Territory would be altogether outside the scope of its proper work. 1 accept this measure as merely provisional, and I hope that in the not far distant future, we shall have a special Department created for the administration of the Northern Territory, and that the responsibility for its administration and the spending of considerable sums of money in the Territory will be in the sole charge of one member of the Government.







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