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Thursday, 12 November 1914
Page: 554

Senator GUTHRIE - How does the honorable senator know that?

Senator BAKHAP - Simply because he told me so. I believe it is in contemplation by Henry Jones and Company to establish works on the same scale as those which they have established in various parts of Australia, in order to institute an important jam-producing industry in the United States of America, which will be of very great benefit to Tasmanian producers and exporters. Everything these people turn their hands to seem3 to be successful, because they possess business capacity, and are the personification of business integrity. I am satisfied that the men who are associated with this firm, and who constitute a majority of the Tasmanian fruit-growers, regard them as impeccable, and incapable of the devious practices to which Senator Ready has referred. The honorable senator might quite legitimately ask for an inquiry. He. may go to Covent Garden, and I suppose he will find there that the greater portion of the fruit marketed comes, not from Australia, but from America and Canada, and that there are keen business men from those countries looking to the marketing of the fruit who would be the very first to checkmate any attempt at chicanery such as Senator Ready suggests would be practised by the peculiar Hebraic gentlemen whose names he has quoted, and who, according to him, " rule the roost" at Covent Garden market. The inquiry might be a legitimate one, and the Emit Commission might very properly extend its labours; but the fact that something of value might be elicited at the other end of the world is not fair ground for attacking the reputation of men who stand at the head of affairs in the industry for business integrity, organizing capacity, and general commercial enterprise. Senators Lynch and Story have addressed themselves to the need for the development of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory is a large tract of country, and, no doubt, contains good and bad land; in fact, land that may be regarded as representative of Australia as a whole, but during my all too brief stay there I heard certain things which account for its backward state of development. I spoke to officials, who, of course, were very guarded in their remarks, and to European and Chinese settlers. I gathered that although the Territory is not devoid of resources, it has many drawbacks. The Chinese, who are cultivators of the soil, and come from a part of the Chinese Empire where cultivation is carried on in a very similar climate, told me that the great drawback is not lack of rainfall, but uneven distribution of rainfall. For practically six months in every year there is a drought in the Territory. This is very unsatisfactory to the cultivator of the soil, and inimical to the growth of certain crops. I have this from the lips of Chinese who have made attempts at different times to grow tropical products not far inland from Darwin. There are white ants in Queensland and other tropical countries, but I understand that they are a particular pest in the Territory, and a great drawback to its development. A young man - an official - who came down in the same vessel, told me that he lived in an isolated portion of the Territory, well down towards the South Australian border, and for months at a time never saw a white man. When one came along they had a very lengthy yarn. On one occasion he left his hat where he and his visitor had been sitting. In the morning he found that it had been eaten by white ants. I was told that on the Marrinboy tin-field pack-saddles left on the earth for a single night were attacked by white ants and often completely destroyed. These things constitute a material drawback to the development of the Territory. Senator Story spoke! of the beautiful country close to the Macdonnell Ranges, but not far from the ranges, down towards the border, there is a certain station which this young man alluded to. I shall not name it, because it is not my business to depreciate the value of any property, but it consists of 6,000 square miles, and its carrying capacity is 8,000 head of cattle, and 300 or 400 head of horses for round ing-up purposes. If it takes nearly a square mile of country to feed a beast, the land cannot be very fertile or sustaining. I believe, from what I learnt in the Territory, that the best policy to adopt will be to supply water along stock-routes, go in for artesian bores, and institute a satisfactory policy of mining development. If one or two good goldfields or profitable mineral fields are discovered, the problem of settlement will be solved. If they were able to profitably exploit the mines, a large population would follow the mining- pioneers, and if water were supplied at short stages, no doubt pioneers and prospectors would go through the Territory, with excellent prospects of discovering mineral fields that would attract the population of which Northern Australia stands so sorely in need. Senator Stewart is always harping on land monopoly. It seems singular that there should be such a thing in this young, sparsely-developed continent. A pictorial illustration is always worth a great deal of verbal argu-. ment, and I find in the CommonwealthY ear-Book a diagram indicating the amount of alienated and unalienated land. There are about 16 square inches in the diagram, and 1 square inch is sufficient to indicate all the alienated land. Where, then, does land monopoly come in ?

Senator Ferricks - That 6 per cent, may represent 80 per cent, of value. It does in Queensland.

Senator BAKHAP - That kind of argument is useful only for the purpose of showing that but a small percentage of Australian soil is fit for human habitation. It may be that, as Homer Lea says, Australia is like an atoll. An atoll in the South Seas is a coral ring, very small in area, and including a lagoon. According to Homer Lea, Australia is a ring of habitable land with an interior unfit for closer settlement, and when one reflects how closely the few million people here hug the coast, one cannot help thinking that there is some truth in that theory. Why is Bourke a decaying town ? I have great confidence in the resources of my country; but surely the reason is that at no great distance from the coast-line the soil of Australia, with the single exception of that of Queensland, is not greatly adapted for closer settlement, and you will never induce people to closely settle land which is not naturally suitable for the purpose. Why is Wilcannia decaying? Why is Bourke less thickly populated than it was ten or fifteen years ago? Why do not people go to Mount Browne ? Why do they not go to that part of Queensland adjacent to the South Australian border ? Because the land, although spacious, is unsuitable for closer settlement. There are other factors than land monopoly driving people into the cities. I believe a good deal of the soil inside the rind of the continent is not suitable for closer settlement, and when we hear a hardheaded Scotch gentleman like Senator Stewart talking about land alienation and land monopoly, we have to remember that, in his own State of Queensland, there are 490,000,000 acres of land, of which the total alienated in 1912 was 15,874,000 acres.

Senator Mullan - About 23,000,000 acres, including land in process of alienation.

Senator BAKHAP - There were 9,000,000 acres in process of alienation, making in all about 24,000,000 acres.

Senator Ferricks - A little over 5 per cent. ; but are the values given ?

Senator BAKHAP - The honorable senator can see how many million acres that leaves of absolutely unoccupied and unalienated land. As a matter of fact, Australia is empty of men, and if the land of the interior is suitable for closer settlement, which I greatly doubt, we had better make a serious effort to get it more closely settled, because the land is not alienated, and is absolutely at the disposal of the State Governments.

Senator Pearce - Do you not think we could make some progress now ?

Senator BAKHAP - When the Minister's own supporters take up the time of the Senate in circulating wild and baseless statements broadcast, the Minister must allow some of us on this side a little latitude to place before the electors a few illuminating facts in reply. Senator Stewart very adroitly side-tracked my interjection when I asked him what percentage of the land of Australia was alienated by accusing me of undue levity. He invited me to inform the Chamber myself; and I tell him now that by far the greater portion of the soil of his own State is absolutely unalienated and unoccupied.

Senator Mullan - And unavailable to the general public because of its inaccessibility.

Senator BAKHAP - That should not be the case with State lands. The Queensland Government have instituted the only sound railway policy in Australia. They have pursued a most intelligent policy of railway development, and the Queensland railway map shows that of all the Australian States she is probably best fitted to carry a large population. When honorable senators talk of spending millions on the Territory, and on a railway to connect it with the as yet only partially defended portions of South-Eastern Australia, I must point out, even at the risk of being accused of " boosting up " my own State, that if the present Tasmanian Government; - I do not care whether it is Labour or Liberal - was given one-tenth of the money that successive Administrations propose spending on the Northern Territory, it would induce more white settlement in ten years than will be induced in the Northern Territory in fifty.

Senator Guthrie - You cannot keep your population now.

Senator BAKHAP - We have the second densest population in the Commonwealth.

Senator Turley - You got nearly £1,000,000 out of the Commonwealth.

Senator BAKHAP - We should have got £2,500,000 if we had received our dues. We have a dependency in King Island, and very few Tasmanian State or Commonwealth legislators have ever visited it or Flinders Island, yet those islands are attracting large numbers of Victorian settlers. Those gentlemen who think that Tasmania has no attractions should remember that there are 14,000 or 15,000 Victorians settled in Tasmania, and that King Island is attracting a large Victorian population. It would attract more, both from Victoria and Tasmania, if better facilities in the shape of postal and telephonic communication were afforded to put them# in a better condition as regards modern conveniences. Money spent in developing King Island and Flinders Island in this direction will yield a rich return in the way of white settlement, will add to the development of Victoria and Tasmania in particular, and of the Commonwealth in general. I will conclude my remarks by again asking the Minister of Defence to take into consideration the desirableness of instituting an even more vigorous policy than we have hitherto adopted in aiding the Forces of the Empire in this great world struggle.

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