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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2286

Senator KILGARIFF(10.43) —I wish to speak on a matter which I believe will gain considerable momentum over the next few months and years-the political development of the Northern Territory. Whether the Government likes it or not, it will hear more and more on this subject, Over the past few years we have seen the Government, and one Minister of the Federal Government in particular, indulge in a systematic attack upon the people and the Government of the Northern Territory. I believe that the Government has decided to punish the people of the Territory because they did not return an Australian Labor Party member to the House of Representatives. It has proceeded to abandon or scale down projects in the Territory which relies on Commonwealth financial assistance, as do the States of Australia. I venture to suggest that the Government is indulging itself in this way with the Territory because it is small-South Australia, too, used to be in this situation-in terms of its population and representation in this parliament. I find it rather odd to hear Senator Elstob from South Australia and Senator Colston from Queensland, which are minority States, having words to say against the Territory. As I was saying, we are not a State, nor do we have 12 senators and a number of members in the House of Representatives to stand up for the Territory. We have only two senators and one member of the House of Representatives because we are only a Territory.

The matter I speak on, which I say will gain in momentum and interest over the coming months and years, is the development of the Northern Territory beyond its current status of a Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia to the status of a fully fledged State. The people of the Territory look forward to the time when they can throw off the traces of the Federal system. The matter has been raised in the Territory from time to time but has not developed into an issue about which most Territorians express particularly strong feelings. However, I believe that what it will take to stir Territorians into action on statehood may be the sorts of decisions which today we are seeing the Federal Government implementing in relation to the Northern Territory.

The momentum for the self-government movement was born very much out of the frustrations which Territorians felt at being under-represented and under-valued by a distant southern administration. That feeling still exists today. Those same feelings may be rekindled in the people of the Territory by this Federal Government in its present frame of mind, under which we have seen the Territory come in for some very rough and unfair financial treatment. It is only natural, when people feel that their standard of living is being downgraded and that they are receiving second class treatment, that they will ask themselves how their situation can be changed. I believe that people in the Northern Territory are being given every reason to start questioning their status and asking themselves whether they would be better off if the Territory became a State.

In anticipation of what I am sure will be an issue of great significance for Territorians in the near future I, with others, have prepared a paper which discusses some of the issues which will have to be debated within the community before there can be any question of approaching a Federal government to broach the matter of statehood. Mr President, I seek leave to table the paper which addresses itself to some of the constitutional, political and financial questions which the Territory will have to look at in its consideration of the matter.

Leave granted.

Senator KILGARIFF —The thorny question of the level of Federal representation to which the Territory would be entitled as a State will need to be resolved. More than ever before, Territorians are well aware of the need to come to a satisfactory arrangement on the financial relationship it will have with the Commonwealth as a State. A number of other matters in the paper will also be important to any proper discussion of the question of statehood for the Territory. However, to go through them all would take a good deal of time tonight and it is not my intention to do so. Finally, I stress again the belief I have that this issue will develop in a big way in the Northern Territory and in Australia and that it is not an issue with which only Territorians should concern themselves. It is one which should concern all of us for it is within the power of the Parliament to admit a Territory as a State and it will be a political decision which will determine the future of the Territory.

Senator Grimes —Put it to the vote tonight.

Senator KILGARIFF —The Minister says: 'Put it to the vote tonight'. Eventually, of course, the vote will come not from the Government's side but from the people of Australia-the States and the Northern Territory-and I would expect that even if the present Government does not realise what the future of the Northern Territory should be, certainly the people of Australia do. I have no doubt that in the future the Territory will become a State, despite Senator Walsh. It was a political decision which determined the development of the Territory into a self-governing entity. Inherent in that decision was a belief that this was to be a first step. The final step in the process, which was begun with the granting, of self-government in 1978, was to be the eventual, granting of Statehood. The Territory has come a long way since 1978 and is now entitled to start looking to its future as a State.

Senator Elstob —You should have stayed in South Australia.

Senator KILGARIFF —I am afraid that the State of South Australia will have to pull up its socks if it wants to be associated with the Northern Territory. This document, 'The State of the Northern Territory', has been prepared by me and my staff. Members of the Government may be laughing about it, but before they laugh too much may I suggest that they read it.

Senator Grimes —I will rush home and do that.

Senator KILGARIFF —I doubt that the honourable senator will do that. I doubt that his interests are in the north. I think his interests are in the more heavily populated areas of Australia where the votes are, but there we are. The foreward states:

This paper attempts to begin to consider some of the issues, which will be raised, on the question of Statehood for the Northern Territory.

It was prepared within the constraints as to time and resources, and does not pretend to fully canvass all of the matters which will have a bearing on the Statehood debate.

However, it is hoped that its contribution may be to at least provide views which, whether accepted or not, will generate further discussion of the issues and, ultimately, result in some positive action.

The contribution of my staff and the valuable guidance of Mr Alan Ashley, the Northern Territory Government's former Under-Treasurer, are most gratefully acknowledged. I realise that time is late but I think that as a result of my tabling this paper many honourable senators will read it with considerable interest. It goes into the ideas of Professor Lumb and various other constitutional lawyers. It studies the financial ramifications of the Territory. While I understand that I will have the sympathy of the Opposition, the people of Australia and the States in tabling this paper, I do not expect to have the sympathy of honourable senators opposite. As a result of what they have done in the last few weeks-in the way they have endeavoured to deteriorate the situation in the Northern Territory, in the way Senator Walsh has attacked the Northern Territory-it is obvious I will not get that support. It positively amazes me that Senator Walsh, a Minister of the Crown, bends to such a degree that he calls his integrity into question.