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Thursday, 24 November 1921

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - Like my colleague from South Australia (Senator Wilson), I regret that more opportunities are not given honorable senators to discuss the various matters referred to in this Bill. Whilst it may not be parliamentary to criticise the doings of another place, one may be pardoned for expressing regret at a certain curtailment in expenditure that has been insisted upon there. I, at any rate, entirely fail to see any justification for these reductions. I know that they will result in much disorganization in some of the big Departments of the Commonwealth, and unquestionably will throw very many men on to the labour market. Though I do not believe in retaining men in employment unless they can be profitably occupied, I deplore any wholesale and sweeping reduction in expenditure such as has been made elsewhere in connexion with this Bill.

I want now to say a word or two about a great Possession of the Commonwealth. I regret very much that only a small amount is set down in this Bill for very necessary works in the Northern Territory. No new work is provided for, and only a small sum of money is to be made available for the continuation of certain undertakings.

Senator Lynch - Perhaps we are going to wait until they sober down up there.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My honorable friend Senator Lynch is like a good many other people who know very little about the Northern Territory. I am surprised that a man of his experience should have made such a remark. I heard him say yesterday that he had voted for the transfer of the Northern Territory, knowing that the Commonwealth was making a bad bargain.

Senator Lynch - Financially.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I very much deplore that statement, and I tell honorable senators that in the transfer of the Northern Territory from South Australia the Commonwealth secured the greatest bargain that has ever been offered to any nation on the face of the earth. That is my opinion of the Northern Territory.

Senator Reid - Debts and all ?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Debts and all, the Northern Territory was handed over to the Commonwealth at a cost of about 2£d. an acre.

Senator Elliott - Would South Australia take it back?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not know that South Australia could do that. But I want honorable senators, if they can, to dissociate altogether any idea of South Australia's connexion with the Territory, because, with every other State, South Australia is paying her fair share of the burden without complaint. Under South Australian control the Territory was on a fair way to prosperity, but since the Commonwealth Government took it over it has been absolutely neglected. Honorable senators, in not familiarizing themselves with the actual conditions in the Territory, are not discharging their duty to the people of Australia. If a few more members of this Chamber visited the' Territory occasionally, they would know a great deal more about it, and probably would talk a great deal less in the strain they now adopt. It is no "white elephant" at all. I have been through the Territory from north to south, and I have also travelled through a considerable portion of it from east to west, and with a personal knowledge of the country I say there is no better land in Australia. This are/i. of good country is not confined to a few acres. There are tens of millions of acres capable of closer settlement under conditions "of intense culture.

Senator Reid - But who owns the- Territory now ?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We all admit, of course, that mistakes in regard to the land policy have been made, but I am not dealing with that aspect now. I repeat that the country in the north of Australia, right through from Western Australia to Queensland, is as good, if not better, than land in the southern areas. I could take honorable senators away up through . the great Fitzroy River district, and show them areas of land which, within five years, if the country were in the occupation . of a foreign nation, would be carrying millions of people. From the boundary of Western Australia to the eastern boundary of the Northern Territory, there are at least half-a-dozen of the finest rivers in Australia. During the wet season, which! lasts for five monthsof the year, these rivers are running 50 to 60 feet deep.

Senator Lynch - The country is all right.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is, and if honorable senators realized this, there would be less denunciation of the Territory. I want nien to speak well of that country, and I want the Government to take some steps to bring about a more effective settlement of these great fertile areas in Northern Australia.

Senator Lynch - The country would be- all right if only those who live there worked more, and talked less.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My honorable friend has in mind a few men in Darwin who have come into prominence in recent years.

Senator Lynch - The trouble is that you have not the courage to tell them the truth.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator should apply that remark to himself.

Senator Lynch - I have always told them the truth.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - So have I. Senator Lynch attaches too much importance to a few exaggerated reports about events in Port Darwin, where a few men Have done some foolish things. There are hundreds of men settled in the interior, struggling day in and day out, year in and year out, to make ends meet, and they have no complaint to make.

Senator Lynch - They are the worthy men.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And they are in Northern Territory, but not in Port Darwin. I want honorable senators to forget for a moment all about Port Darwin, and concentrate attention upon the people who are settled throughout that great Territory. In our travels throughout Central Australia, we met men who had been living for months on goat and pumpkin. Imagine that. They had neither tea, sugar, nor flour, because they could not get those commodities carted to their homesteads, the camel driver upon whom, they depended having decided to take a rest somewhere in the middle of a river. Eventually, after a delay of four or five months, the goods were delivered, but only in half the quantity originally ordered. I have seen a 50-]b. flour-bag, which, when the flour had been emptied out of it, weighed 7 lbs. This bag, with the other household commodities, bad been lying in the bed of a creek for some considerable time with a result that its contents' were practically destroyed by weevil. The people had to " kill " the flour before they could use it. Yet these men have not a single word of complaint, provided Parliament will take some small amount of interest .in them. Parliament is not aware even that these men are in existence; all it knows is that a few men in Darwin have done silly things. I am putting in a plea for the settlers, so that they may receive some consideration at the hands of Parliament.

Senator Crawford - Have you any hopes of getting consideration under the Tariff?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Tariff has, for the present, been disposed of, and I am nob one of those who hark back on the work that Parliament has done. I prefer to look to the future rather than to the past. One of the things that the Government should do is to start surveying the land in these outback places. We met one man who had built his home, stock-yards, and draftingyards, as he thought, well on his own block. His neighbour suggested that he had built on the wrong block, and a surveyor was called in. It was found that he had built 5 miles over his neighbour's boundary. When one considers that the area of country held by a man ranges from 1,000 to' 12,000 square miles, it is not surprising that such a mistake should be made in the absence of a proper survey. The Government has held this country for many years,, but has not even yet surveyed it. I am not going to find fault with the conditions laid down in the leases, because it seems to me that they cannot very well be altered.

Senator de Largie - Had the man to whom you have referred been established long?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - About eight years; but he built his house only recently. He is only one of several men who built their homes more or less on their neighbours' holdings. In regard to stocking conditions, if I had anything to do with the settlement of the Northern Territory, I would impose no other restriction.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.

T.   Givens). - The honorable senator is not in order in discussing stocking and land tenure conditions under this Bill, which relates to an appropriation for works and buildings.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I suppose the provision of wells, bores, and works of that description comes under the provisions of the Bill. Whilst we may not discuss stocking conditions, we can say that the Government ought to take steps to provide water for those men who hold back country. Even to put down a subartesian well, and to equip it, costs at the very least £2,000, and to provide an artesian well costs anything from £10,000 to £20,000. In this connexion the Government is making no provision whatever for helping the settlers. It is only fair, however, to give credit to the Government where credit is due. It has done excellent work by opening up stock routes and putting down wells. I think seven wells have been put down between Newcastle Waters and the Daly River, and wells are now being put down on the other track from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal. Tanks are attached to the wells, and serve as reservoirs for holding1 the water. Some of the land-holders have put dams on their properties. The settlers in the Territory appreciate very much what the Government has done in opening up the stock routes, but that does not help those who axe outback. They want wells put down. They cannot possibly find the money for the work, because sinking a well requires more money than some settlers possess. The telegraph and police stations in the1 centre of Australia are in a disgraceful and deplorable condition. The Government should certainly see that they are made fit for men to live in. At the present time the blacks, if they lived in houses at all, would almost refuse to live in them. They are a disgrace to the Commonwealth and ought not to be permitted to continue for another day. In many other ways the Government is failing in its duty to this portion of Australia, notably in not providing money for prospecting and for the erection andupkeep of batteries to treat ore. I hope these matters will ""be taken in ' hand immediately, and that before another Bill of this kind' is brought down some definite policy for the development of Central Australia will be formulated.

The north-western portions of Western Australia and the northern parts of

Queensland are in almost as bad a position as the Northern Territory, with the exception that they have some coastal connexion by means of which they can get the necessaries of life. There is an item in the Bill to provide for a wireless station at Willis Island. I know nothing about that. It may be a good thing. It is intended, I think, to erect wireless stations at Camooweal and Daly River, or in that vicinity. I hope that the Government, instead of installing wireless plants, will provide telephone services in that country. ' Wireless is no use in the centre of Australia except for communicating over long distances. The people are isolated, and in an emergency have no means of getting medical attention. A telephone would be an enormous advantage to them. At the present time white women cannot go there. At one place- we met one white woman and her two daughters, whose nearest white-woman neighbour was nearly 500 miles away, and whose nearest neighbour was nearly 300 miles away. We have to' make it possible for men to take their women folk to these places for more reasons than one, and it is the duty of the Government to see that facilities are provided for them. Hostels are not included in this Bill, but it is a duty of the Government to make reasonable provision for both men and women when illness overtakes them. We were told at Wave Hill, on the border of Western Australia, that during this year ten men had died of enteric. If there had been a hostel established in the vicinity of Wave Hill or Victoria Downs the lives of those men could have been saved. It .needed only certain kinds of food and skilled treatment for a few days. If the establishment of a hostel would result in the saving of one life during the year, the expenditure would be justified.

Senator Reid - If a vote for the purpose were submitted, those behind the economy " stunt " would cut it out.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is the pity of it. In my view this Parliament has listened to the promoters of the economy "stunt" in a way that it ought not. to have done. I plead for the establishment of telephone communication for the out-back settlers and the establishment of hostels for the treatment of sick men and women, and of -cases of accident to which stockmen and workers generally in these out-back districts are peculiarly liable. I met a man who had travelled about 300 miles suffering from appendicitis. He was being driven over a rough bush track along which cattle were continually travelling. Any one who has travelled over a stock route will know what it is like, and this man had to be driven 300 miles to reach a doctor at Oodnadatta or some place perhaps further on, where he could receive medical attention. These are the hardships which men and women in the backblocks have to contend against. If their mails are not delivered within a few minutes of the time at which they should be delivered, and if telephone calls- are not promptly replied to, city people are full of complaints against the Government. The people in the out-back country have complaints against the Government, but have no voice in this Parliament. I am. not saying these things in a spirit of carping criticism of the Government, but because I believe it is the duty of the Parliament and the Government to take a greater interest than has been taken hitherto in this great Commonwealth Possession. Honorable senators may put at the back of their minds the happenings at Port Darwin, because Port Darwin is not the Northern Territory. A few men are going to gaol in Port Darwin rather than pay their income tax, but there are scores and hundreds of men in the centre of Australia who are paying income tax without a murmur, and. who also, without a murmur, have paid war-time profits tax which I think they should not have been called upon to pay. These are the, people for whom I plead, and not the men of Port Darwin, who are well able to take care of themselves, and I have no doubt will do so. I ask the Government to provide more reasonable facilities for the people of those remote districts. There are a few women out there, and they are quite happy, but they say that they would like to be able to communicate with their friends occasionally, and to have a hostel to which they might go when illness overtakes themselves or their children.

There are many other matters to which I might refer, but which, because of the nature of my mission, must be dealt with in another 'place. I hope that the Government will take such notice of the matters to which I have referred as their importance deserves. I am confident that Parliament will lend a very sympathetic eai- to anything the Government may propose to do to make the lot of the men and women settled in the centre of Australia more pleasant than it is to-day.

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