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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - This discussion must be as interesting to other honorable senators as it is to me, but I venture to say that it is somewhat beside the question we are now called upon to decide. We have not to ask whether the External Affairs Department would be the worst or the best Department to administer the affairs of the Northern Territory. The question before the Com,mittee is : Shall we retain in this Bill words which mean nothing? '

Senator Rae - But which might mean something.

Senator MILLEN - They might mean something to restrain us. but their retention will not assist us to enlarge our opportunities.

Senator Givens - It is like a chip in porridge.

Senator MILLEN - Yes, with the chip just long enough to cause one inconvenience. If we strike out the portion of the clause to which I have referred the administration of the Northern Territory will still fall under the Department of

External Affairs. As long as the proclamation remains in existence, that Department will administer the Northern Territory unless this Parliament chooses to take some drastic action. Nobody has suggested that it should take action of that character.

Senator Rae - Senator E. J. Russell has suggested the creation of a Minister to specially control the Territory.

Senator MILLEN - I do not call that drastic action. It is heroic. But I am not sure that Senator E. J. Russell has not indicated the lines upon which in the future we shall have to travel. Before very long, I think, we shall find it desirable to create a special Department to administer the affairs of the Northern Territory. In the first place, the VicePresident of the Executive Council recognised that there was sufficient virtue in the arguments which have been advanced to induce him to agree to strike out the clause. But now that we find it is necessary to retain a portion of the clause, he insists upon retaining the whole of it.

Senator McGregor - How does the honorable senator account for the fact that in the Act relating to Papua the Minister of External Affairs is specially mentioned as the Minister who is to control that Territory ?

Senator MILLEN - How does the VicePresident of the Executive Council account for the fact that in the measure dealing with the Federal Territory the Minister who is to control that Territory is not mentioned ?

Senator McGregor - Because that Territory can never become a State of the Commonwealth.

Senator MILLEN - From my point of view, whether this portion of the clause is retained or not will make no difference. But seeing that there is a possibility that in the future it may tie the hands of the Government it should be struck out. The only argument advanced by the VicePresident of the Executive Council against the adoption of that course - and it was an argument which was not worthy either of this Chamber or of the honorable gentleman - was that it might be regarded as a reflection upon the present Minister of External Affairs. That suggestion is too absurd for serious consideration. Nothing that has been said here to-day was in any sense a reflection upon that gentleman. As it is obvious that by retaining these words we may restrain the action of Ministers in the future, I move -

That the words " ' the Minister ' means the Minister of State for External Affairs" be left out.

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