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Thursday, 15 July 1926

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - The committee is entitled to a fuller and clearer statement from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) respecting the duties that the commission will be called upon to undertake. The right honorable gentleman has made many statements regarding this body, and some of them have been to a certain extent contradictory. One statement that he made was that the commission would be called upon to see that the expenditure was economical and wise. He was referring to the ?34,000,000 that is to be loaned by the British Government. That is a liability which will have to be borne by the various States. It is a reflection upon the capacity of the governments of the States and the different local bodies throughout Aus tralia to say that the money for which they will be liable may not be wisely or economically expended by them. Earlier in the day the Leader of the Senate said that a number of valuable reports were pigeon-holed in the various States, and had become more or less musty and fusty. He added that it would be a duty of the commission to go to the various departments, ferret out those reports, digest them, and then advance proposals based upon them for the development of Australia. Senator Reid contended that this would be an all-powerful commission which would develop Australia's unlimited resources and unbounded possibilities. If he is correct,' it will do what no Government has been capable of .doing in the history of Australia. If there are in Australia such intellectual giants, men with such an- immense business capacity and broad vision, compared with whom other men are mere pigmies, it is a wonder that the Government did not discover their existence sooner and appoint them to the North Australia Commission. In the Northern Territory there is work awaiting big men, and no one would cavil at high salaries being paid to such men. But for months the Government has taken no action to appoint a commission to develop that portion of Australia, which is six times as large as the State of Victoria. The Leader of the Senate has many times told honorable senators of the latent resources of that lonesome land ; its vastness, and its immense pastoral and agricultural possibilities, and of the danger with which Australia is confronted because of its emptiness. The North Australia Commission will be entrusted with the development of the Northern Territory, and this Migration Commission also will have the power to outline a policy for the development of that portion of Australia. There is also a Land Board, which it was said would be superseded by the North Australia Commission. Although it was appointed eighteen months ago, no regulations have been drafted for its guidance, and no leases or licences have been granted, because the board is powerless to act. That there is not a strong desire on the part of the Government to have the North Australia Commission appointed is evidenced by the fact that the Estimates which we shall shortly have to consider make provision for payments to members of the Land Board. At an earlier stage, I said that any scheme would have to be recommended by local bodies of experts, then approved of by Parliament, and, after having been investigated by this commission, the blessing of both the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government or its representative would have to be bestowed upon it. The Leader of the Senate said that that was an incorrect statement of the position. I quote from Hansard to show that it is correct. The following question was asked by Senator Barwell : -

Has Mr. Bankes Amery full power to approve on behalf of the British Government?

Senator Pearcereplied

I cannot say that he has;, but no doubt he will advise the British Government from time to time, and, if they express their disapproval of any scheme, they will refer the matter to the Commonwealth Government.

It will be a never-ending procedure. Local bodies will recommend schemes; State Parliaments will approve of them ; this super-Parliament will endorse them, and they will then come before the Commonwealth Government and the representative of the

Imperial Government. If the representative of the Imperial Government does not approve of them, the Imperial Parliament will be consulted, and they will then be referred back to the 'Commonwealth Government. The right honorable gentlemansaid that the Governmentwanted to push on with the appointment of the commission because schemes were awaiting its consideration. I have heard similar tales many a time and oft. By whom are these schemes to be considered? By four gentlemen, who are to do more for Australia than the Commonwealth Government is able to do - by men who, according to the Leader of the Senate, will be able to do what no existing bodies that have been appointed by the 'Commonwealth Government can do. What will the . commission be able to do that is not being done efficiently and well by local bodies and Parliaments? The members of the commission will be mere novices compared with the men who are on existing bodies that deal with migration and developmental works. The Government of the State of Victoria makes every possible provision for land settlement, railway construction, and irrigation works. It is a reflection upon the capacity of the gentlemen who fill high and responsible positions on local bodies to say that this super-Parliament will be able to do the work "better than they are doing it.

Senator Reid - Why, then, nave all the States except one signed the agreement?

Senator FINDLEY - I referred to that aspect of the agreement yesterday. The State Governments experienced considerable difficulty in finding money for developmental purposes. The money obtainable under this agreement will certainly assist them for a time ; but it is not cheap money. The whole liability will rest on the States. If, at the end of ten years, the loan has . not been repaid, the interest will have to be borne by the taxpayers of Australia.

Senator Reid - By that time sufficient additional taxpayers will have been brought here to pay the interest.

Senator FINDLEY - Because of the operations of this commission, Australia, according to the Minister, is to advance by leaps and bounds. The commission, so it is stated, will be expected to assist in the establish ment of new industries ; to find in the different States land suitable for settlement; to show those engaged in industry the way to run their businesses, and to reveal to the world the opportunities offered by Australia. One would think that people engaged in business do not understand what they are doing. Is' there a British manufacturer of importance who is not familiar with the possibilities in Australia from a business point of view'?

Senator Reid - There are hundreds of them who are not.

Senator FINDLEY - Most big English manufacturershave their representatives in Australia, who are able to keep them well informed as to the conditions in this country. Senator Pearce says that there is a possibility of discovering a mineral, which shall be nameless. Apparently, no geologist in Australia is aware of its existence. Yet this nameless mineral is 'to bethe means of establishing mighty industries in this country. It would appear that all the geologists of Australia are Rip Van Winkles.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.

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