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Thursday, 1 August 1912

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The motion of the honorable senator deals with the disallowance of an Ordinance which has been made under the power of an Act of this Parliament, but he is now, I understand, proceeding to discuss the provisions of the Act itself.

Senator MILLEN - I must apologize if I have allowed myself to depart from my usual good behaviour in that respect. I raise the issue now, not with any hope that this portion of the Ordinance will be modified in any way, but in order that it shall be made abundantly clear that honorable senators on this side, by their silence, are not assenting to that proposition. We who object to this portion of the Ordinance be lieve that there should be an amendment made holding out to every man who ventures into the Northern Territory the prospect, under certain conditions and safeguards against aggregation, of being able to call his farm his own.

Senator Rae - Would you not hold out a similar prospect down here?

Senator MILLEN - Certainly, and 1 do so whenever I can.

Senator Gardiner - Would you hold out to the land-holder the prospect of taking the values which the rest of the community create?

Senator MILLEN - My honorable friend tempts me very much now to discuss a most attractive subject, sir, but he will pardon me if I pass that to-day, seeing that I have no desire either to tax your patience or my own strength. This issue marks very strongly the difference between the two parties on this subject. It is for that reason that I wish to address a few words t.o the Senate. It seems to me that our first business with regard to the Northern Territory is to get the land settled, and ia doing that we ought to pay a very great deal of attention to the method of land settlement which is likely to prove most attractive. We should not regard the Northern Territory as a. mere laboratory for the purpose of carrying out experiments. We have taken over this country, and I believe that most of us were impelled by the fear that if it were left open much longer it would become an imminent danger to Australia. We are, therefore, under the strongest of all obligations to adopt the policy which is likely to prove the most effective in bringing in as quickly as possible a considerable number of desirable settlers. I approach the matter from that stand-point. Which of the two policies is likely to be the more attractive?

Senator Rae - Leasehold, I think.

Senator MILLEN - I rather thought that Senator Rae would make that remark.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I do not think that under the terms of his motion the honorable senator will be justified in discussing the question of freehold versus. leasehold, or any matter of that description. The Ordinance can be disallowed1 by the Senate, but the method of settlement has been laid down by Parliament in the Act under which the Ordinance was made.

Senator MILLEN - I should like to submit, for your consideration, sir, before you give a final decision, that while it is quite true that there is an Act dealing with the subject, the Act is inoperative until this Ordinance is given effect to. If the Senate should carry my motion, it will, for the time being, suspend all that is contemplated by the Ordinance, and it does contemplate the granting of land under leasehold tenure. [ am asking the Senate to call a halt, or, in other words, to say that it will not do what is proposed at the present time. It is the only way in which I can go to work. If the Ordinance is disallowed, what will happen? The leasehold system will be suspended for the time being. It appears to me, sir, that, inasmuch as I am asking the Senate to suspend the leasehold principle by disallowing the Ordinance, I am entitled to point out the disadvantages that would result from the Ordinance.

The PRESIDENT - The position, I take it, is that under an Act of this Parliament the Government have issued this Ordinance. The Act provides that the Ordinance must lie on the table of the Senate for a certain period, during which it is open to any honorable senator to move that the Ordinance be disallowed. The motion before the Senate may, or may not, be carried. If it is carried, although it will, for the time being, as stated by Senator Millen, prevent settlement in the Northern Territory for which authority is given in the Act, it will not alter in any way the method which has been laid down by Parliament for dealing with the land.

Senator Millen - It will stop settlement.

The PRESIDENT - That would not justify the Chair in allowing a debate to take place on a matter which is not covered by the motion.

Senator MILLEN - I do not disguise from myself that one of the reasons which moved me in submitting the motion was a disbelief in the sufficiency of the leasehold principle for the ultimate and permanent settlement of the Northern Territory. However, I am less concerned about discussing the rival systems, because, as I said at the commencement of my speech, I have no hope of getting any sympathy for that portion of my remarks from the other side. Now that the motion is largely shorn by your decision, sir, of the significance which otherwise might have attached to it as to the difference between the two systems, I can with greater confidence appeal to honorable senators opposite to bring their practical minds to bear on the several problems to which I have referred. I ask them to consider the problems impartially, without any party feeling.

If they will do that, I feel quite satisfied that there will be very material alterations made in the Ordinance. If there is any way in which the alterations can be secured, and save any appearance of a party triumph on the one side, or a Ministerial defeat on the other, I am quite willing to move in the direction which is most agreeable to my honorable friends on the other side. All that I want the Senate to do with regard to these land regulations is to try to avoid the mistakes which have been committed from time immemorial in dealing with land in the various States. I want to see that the land administration in the Northern Territory is started on safe, sure, and sound lines, because every mistake which may be committed to-day will ultimately throw a burden, not on future Parliaments alone, but on the people whose task it will be to develop this country. For these reasons, I submit the motion, and sincerely trust that honorable senators will join with me in endeavouring to make the Ordinance equal to the very important purpose for which it was designed.

Debate (on motion by Senator McGregor) adjourned.

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