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Wednesday, 21 August 1912

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I congratulate honorable senators on the reasonable criticisms in which they have indulged with respect to the object of this Bill, t was somewhat amused by the remarks of Senator St. Ledger, who talked of " one fleet, one flag, one cheer," and all that sort of thing. Does the honorable senator mean to exterminate Germany. Russia, France, Japan, and all the rest of the world, so as to secure one flag? If he does, we should require £500 000.000 on the Estimates, not to speak of a paltry £1.000.000 or so. T wish to refer very briefly to some remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, it is difficult to please honorable sena tors opposite. At one time they complain that we do not spend enough, and at another that we spend too much. Through the whole gamut there is nothing right. I suppose it is their duty to find fault with everything. The Leader of the Opposition directed his attention to the expenditure proposed in the Northern Territory. There is a vote of £^2,000 put down for bores and wells. The honorable senator must know that this is only for preliminary work, and does not disclose the intentions of the Government for the development of the Territory. He knows that it is impossible at present to fully estimate what will ultimately be required for water conservation. There is another vote set down for wells and dams, and the Leader of the Opposition ought to know that there is at the present time, in the shape of wells and dams, a very inadequate system of water conservation in the Territory. The £3,000 asked for is necessary to repair them and put them in a condition in which they will be serviceable to the public.

Senator Millen - Do the Government put charges for maintenance under the heading of " New Works and Buildings "?

Senator McGREGOR - No; .but addi-. tions and repairs of this kind cannot be regarded as maintenance in the Northern Territory.

Senator Millen - Repairs are regarded as maintenance everywhere else. .

Senator McGREGOR - Much the same may be said of the other votes to which reference has been made. A sum of £2 1,000 is put down for the building of cottages for employes of the Government. That amount will not build very many. Those who have visited the Northern Territory, and understand the conditions existing there, are prepared to admit that private enterprise has not, up to the present time, made proper provision even for the present population, let alone for any addition to the population which may be expected in connexion with the new Administration. Then, with respect to the vote of £1,100 for the laundry, those who have visited the Territory, and those with whom I have conversed, and who have resided there for some time, have .always declared that there is no one to do anything of this kind hut the Chinese, and that they do the work very imperfectly and at a very exorbitant cost. If the Government can do anything in the direction of supplying a long-felt want, and something which will improve the health and comfort of those residing in the Northern Territory at present, or likely to reside there in the near future, no reasonable man should find fault with them. So far as the workers' cottages and the laundry are concerned, they will be paving speculations, and no one has any need to be alarmed about the money that ts proposed to be spent' on them. With respect to the vote of £4,200 proposed for the survey of a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, I have the authority of the Minister of External Affairs to say that nothing will be done with this vote until a Bill has been introduced providing for the permanent survey of the line, and some idea may be formed of the cost of its construction. With respect to the development of the Northern Territory by the construction of further lines, the Leader of the Opposition referred to some Committee that is to he appointed. The Committee is to consist of one railway expert, one rivers and harbors expert, and one land expert, and ' their duty will be to advise the Government with respect to the routes which lines of railway should take, and the harbor improvements that may be necessary to induce settlers to go to that part, of the Commonwealth. I need not now refer to rambling statements which would have been more appropriate to the debate on the Budget, which has already been opened in the Senate; but I am sure that Ministers will be only too glad to give honorable senators all the information they may desire about the various votes proposed in this Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 postponed.

Clause 3 (Appropriation of Supply).

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