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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - It would be a pity if this discussion were allowed to close without a definite answer being given to the statements which have been made by certain honorable senators to the effect that the lands of the Northern Territory have been locked up by the cattle kings. I hold in my hand a copy of one of the pastoral leases in the Northern Territory which have a tenure of forty-two years. At the outset, I may say that the Territory comprises, roughly speaking, 335,000,000 acres, of which only 473,000 acres in fee-simple have been alienated. These figures evidence the extent to which the land-grabber has seized upon the Territory.

Senator Guthrie - Most of the land alienated is in the vicinity of Palmerston.

Senator CHATAWAY - No, it is situated on the banks of the Adelaide and Daley rivers. Many years ago the South Australian Government granted these areas to certain English capitalists for making a loan to it with which to develop the Northern Territory. At the end of 1906, 88,812,160 acres of land in the Northern Territory were held under pastoral lease with a tenure of forty-two years.

Senator Ready - That is an area larger than the whole of Victoria.

Senator CHATAWAY - That may be so. I am not a geographical expert like my honorable friend. It may be an area equal to that of Switzerland, Scotland, or France. But that circumstance does not help me in the slightest. Let us get at the figures. I do not care whether the area is equal to that which is embraced by Warrnambool or by the whole of Victoria. In 1906, the pastoral permits comprised 18,787,200 acres, and the areas held under annual pastoral lease aggregated 1,219,840 acres. The total area occupied at the end of 1906 was 108,878,712 acres, leaving unoccupied 227,000,000 acres. Yet we have been told that the land-grabber has locked up the lands of the Northern Territory so that nobody can acquire sufficient land there in which to bury himself.

Senator Rae - Nobody has said that. That statement is the product of the honorable senator's own vivid imagination.

Senator CHATAWAY - I would refer my honorable friend to his recent journalistic convert - the Melbourne Age - and to the series of articles which it published on this subject in 1907. Those articles pointed out that the Northern Territory was locked up from settlement. What are the conditions which attach to these pastoral leases with a forty-two years' tenure - these leases which do not embrace more than onefourth of the Territory ? In the first place, they provide that the lessee must stock his land and keep if stocked. Secondly, that he must destroy the vermin upon it. Further, he must not cut timber upon it ; he must not obstruct any mineral or timber lessee or licensee, and he has to pay his rent. If he does not fulfil these conditions the Crown may resume possession of his land. He is entitled to receive three months' written notice of the intention of the Crown to resume it if it be required for mineral purposes, or for the purpose of a railway, or tramway, or any public work, or as the site of any cemetery, or public park. He is also entitled to two years' notice if it be required for agricultural purposes. The leases further provide that the lessee shall not be entitled to any payment in respect of any improvements after the expiration of the first ten years of his tenure, unless he has the written sanction of the Minister to make further improvements upon the land. The obvious intention is that the lessee shall effect his improvements within ten years, and that if his land be resumed within that period he shall be compensated for them. But if it be not resumed within that, period he must not continue to make improvements so that the Crown would have to pay an enormous sum for them in case of resumption. The lease also contains the following proviso -

Provided that if it shall not be conveniently practicable to give such notice prior to making such improvements it shall be sufficient if such notice shall have been given with all reasonable despatch and the improvements be sanctioned under the hand of the Minister : Provided always that in computing the compensation to be paid for the loss of or depreciation in the value of this lease if the whole or any part of the said lands shall be resumed no increased value given to this lease by reason of any public works executed after the granting hereof or by reason of any improvements in respect of which the lessee shall be entitled to payment shall be included or taken into account.

So that, in the case of these leases, the community-created value would not be paid for by the Crown. I think that these conditions were well worth quoting as an answer to the statements made by Senator E. J. Russell in reference to cattle kings, and also to statements which have been made broadcast in many quarters that large areas in the Northern Territory are locked up from settlement. Under the Acts of 1899 and 1901 the leases can be resumed and put to closer settlement whenever the people are there and make a demand for land. I do not see why we should leave out the proviso. I believe that it would be a mistake to do so. I hope that the clause will pass with the amendment 1 have moved and the one which has been foreshadowed.

Amendment agreed to.

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