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Tuesday, 29 June 1937

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I listened with interest to the remarks of other honorable senators who have preceded me concerning the development of the Northern Territory. Since it is Commonwealth territory, members of this Parliament are responsible, through the Government, for the measures taken to develop it. I congratulate the Government upon the interest which it has evinced in this problem during the last twelve months, and I approve of the appointment of the present Administrator, Mr. Abbott. The appointment of the Land Board to inquire into and report upon schemes for its development is also a step in the right direction. My feeling is that the greatest measure of success is likely to result from the exploitation of the natural resources of the territory. The pastoralists there have not, up to the present time, received the consideration to which they are entitled. Rentals are considerably higher than in the adjoining States, and what is equally important, they have not the same fixity of tenure.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The honorable senator's statement about land rentals is incorrect. Rentals in the Northern Territory are lower than in Queensland or Western Australia.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I accept the correction from the Leader of the Senate. I was certainly under the impression that land rentals in the Northern Territory were higher than those in Queensland or Western Australia. Apparently I - was wrong, but I know they are higher than in South Australia, and I repeat that their grievance about fixity of tenure is substantial. Under a proposal made some years ago for the closer settlement of the territory, lessees will be required to surrender a portion of their leases at the end of a fixed term of years. Several pastoralists have written to me complaining that under this arrangement they will be obliged to surrender those portions of their properties which are most highly developed and upon which they depend for permanent water. As regards the appointment of the Administrator, I disagree with many critics of the Government. I know of no one better fitted to discharge the important duties of that office than is the gentleman who has been appointed. I say, without reservation, that Mr. Abbott propounded the only practical scheme that has ever been presented for the development of the Northern Territory on sound lines. I do not mean that I approve of all the details of the proposal which he outlined, but 1 am in agreement with its general principles. Mr. Abbott quite properly concentrated on plans for the development of the cattle industry. I feel sure that if his recommendations were adopted we should soon establish a good overseas* market for chilled beef raised on Northern Territory pastures. His proposal involved the expenditure of about £1,000,000, but when we take into consideration the fact that many millions have been already expended on developmental schemes for the Northern Territory, and apparently without success, the venturing of an additional £1,000,000, with a view to establishing an export trade in beef, seems to be well worth while. Mr. Abbott's proposal includes the transport of cattle in the Northern Territory by motor vehicles and the erection of meat-works at Vanderlin Island. The idea of transporting cattle by motor vehicle is not so fantastic as some people 'believe it to be. Thi? system has been in, operation for many years in Argentina, where thousands of cattle are handled yearly. The adoption of such a scheme in the Northern Territory would enable us to compete successfully in the British market with what is known as baby beef - cattle from two to three years old - which is in such demand there. I am sure that Mr. Abbott's heart is in his work and that he will do everything possible to make his term as Administrator a successful one. One honorable senator spoke this evening of roads and bridges as part of a scheme for development. The honorable gentleman apparently has had no experience of conditions in the territory, or he would know that the construction of concrete roads would be entirely unnecessary. For about ten months of the year, Northern Territory roads are fit for motor traffic, and all that is required is to concrete the bottoms of creeks which, when in flood, are of immense width, rendering the construction of concrete bridges quite impracticable. Flood waters come down in such great volume that very few structures could withstand the impact of water and debris. To give honorable senators an idea of how rapidly flood waters rise in that class' of country I may mention that, some years ago, Mr. Scott, manager of the Mount Leonard station in Queensland, was overwhelmed and drowned in flood waters which came down one of the creeks on his property. When the water had subsided his body was found entangled in the branches of a gum tree 30 feet above the normal level of the creek. I sincerely trust that everything possible will be done for the development of the Northern Territory, and again I congratulate the Government on the appointment of' Mr. Abbott as Administrator.

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