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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I do not think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council ought to have been so severe on Senator Rae. I rather expected him to be in entire sympathy with the proposal of that honorable senator. The latter's idea is that Parliament should be intrusted with the duty of selecting the gentleman who is to fill the high office of Administrator. The VicePresident of the Executive Council takes exception to that proposal. But there was a time when the Seriate was asked to vote upon a motion affirming that the Australian High Commissioner should be selected by this Parliament.


Senator McGregor - Not with my concurrence.


Senator MILLEN - Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council recollect how he voted upon that occasion?


Senator McGregor - 1 did not vote for the motion.


Senator MILLEN - The honorable gentleman did not vote against it.


Senator McGregor - I may have been absent through illness. The honorable senator will recollect that I was absent for two or three months. But I was always opposed to that motion.


Senator Rae - Our party, as a whole, fathered it.


Senator MILLEN - And to the discredit of that party let it be said that the motion was aimed at a single individual.


Senator Rae - I do not think that the honorable senator has any right to say that.


Senator MILLEN - The statement was made at the time.


Senator Needham - The honorable senator cannot quote any statement in opposition to the selection of Sir George Reid.


Senator MILLEN - I am speaking of events which happened before the honorable senator was politically born. I am referring to the motion which was submitted in this Chamber by ex- Senator Higgs. Of course, I know - and the Committee know - what Senator Rae has in view. But the amendment which he has submitted may mean either one of three things. He proposes to make the clause read -

The Governor-General may, with the approval of Parliament, appoint an Administrator for the Territory.

In the first place, that may mean that Parliament may approve of the GovernorGeneral selecting any person that he may choose for the office. It may mean that the Governor-General may submit a name for parliamentary approval, and it may also mean that Parliament may submit a name for the approval of the GovernorGeneral. I am sure that Senator Rae does not aim at securing any one of these results. He desires that Parliament shall retain control of the appointment. But his amendment, as it is framed, would not achieve the object which he has in view. At the same time, I hope that the Committee will give that amendment a very short shrift. Hitherto we have attempted to preserve Ministerial responsibility. His amendment would absolutely destroy it.


Senator Rae - Ministers make all sorts of mistakes: In the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom.


Senator MILLEN - I am rather surprised at the statement of Senator Rae, because he must know what has happened in State Parliaments when they have attempted to fill much less important positions that that of Administrator of the Northern Territory. I cannot recall anything more discreditable than some of the attempts which have been made in State Parliaments to appoint certain members to Public Works Committees. As one who believes thoroughly in the principle of responsible government, I ask honorable senators to retain the clause as it stands rather than adopt the amendment. I think that there is a good deal more in the point which has been raised by Senator Chataway than appears to have arrested the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. This Bill is intended to be only a temporary measure. It is intended to do duty until a complete Bill for the administration of the Northern Territory is submitted for our consideration. Seeing that that is so, is it a business-like proceeding to take power under this Bill to appoint an Administrator of the Territory for five years? That officer, when once appointed, will have a legal right to - hold office for that term irrespective of what may happen in the immediate future. But the gentleman who might be selected today might not be the individual who would be selected when a Constitution for the Territory had been developed. At present, the administration of the Northern Territory, with a population of less than 1,500 Europeans, may appear to be a very small job.


Senator Rae - Does the honorable senator think that the population of the Territory will approach that of any existing State within five years?


Senator MILLEN - If it approaches even a percentage of the population of the smallest State, it will be entitled to self-government, and will not require the services of an Administrator. The Government propose to appoint a man to that office without knowing the nature of the Constitution which we are going to grant r.o the Territory. Until that Constitution has been framed, we cannot tell what duties he will be called upon to discharge.


Senator Rae - He will be like the Governor of a Crown Colony.


Senator MILLEN - No; because the Governor of a Crown Colony has a beaten track to follow. I think that the point which has been raised by Senator Chataway is well worthy of consideration. Would it not be better for the Territory, if, instead of immediately making a permanent appointment, the Government made a temporary arrangement - an arrangement under which, possibly, the present Government Resident might be continued in office, until we have finally drafted a Constitution for it? I urge the Government, in the interests of the Territory itself, to go slow, and to refrain from making a permanent appointment at this stage. It would be far better to make a temporary appointment or to continue the existing state of affairs until a Constitution for the Northern Territory has been drafted and approved by Parliament. Then we should be in a better position to invite applications from, those who are best qualified to discharge the duties of the office.







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