Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 11 December 1914

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I agree with Senator Lynch as to the class of settlers who ought to be sent to the Northern Territory. There is no part of the Commonwealth where greater care should be exercised in that regard. But I remind the Minister that it would be futile to send persons to the Territory to settle unless some steps are taken to provide facilities for them. I fullY expected that long before this practical steps would have been taken for the construction of a railway into the Territory. In the schedule to this Bill a sum of £30,000 is set down for the office of the Administrator. What is he doing for the sum? What has been done for the Territory with the money t We criticised very freely previous Governments, ana contended that they had not done witu the Territory what they ought to have done; but are our own Government doing one bib better ? I venture to say that they are not. Last week I inquired of the Minister what was being done in regard to the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. I asked what steps were being taken to provide water, and I received the usual departmental evasive reply. It is quite a mistake for Ministers to think that honorable senators on this side are going to be satisfied with an evasive reply. If we do not receive a satisfactory reply to a question on one day Ave will come back for a more satisfactory reply on another day, and if it is not received on that day, we will move the adjournment of the Senate and -call public attention to the fact. I distinctly resent a reply being presented to me from an official whose particular business, apparently, is to frame replies conveying as little information as he possibly can. I have had a large experience of evasive replies.

Senator Gardiner - It must be a South Australian experience.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is typical of every State Parliament, and the Commonwealth Parliament is no exception to the rule. I asked what steps had been taken to provide water for the construction of the projected railway, and I was told that these matters were receiving careful consideration. That is no reply at all. The same thing applied to the construction of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. No provision was made beforehand for supplying water, and the Department have to carry from 40,000 to 80,000 gallons of water along the line every day for the supply of their plant and the men. In the Northern Territory, for the first 200 or 300 miles, the railway will run through a proved artesian basin, where unlimited supplies of water can be procured by boring. Unlimited supplies of water are being procured to-day along the telegraph line, but it is scarcely possible that the railway will follow that route.

Senator Turley - Not down where they are running the railway from Pine Creek.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am talking more of the southern end of the railway than of the northern end. If the Department can get artesian water, as I believe they can do as far as the Barklay tableland, that will take the line 300 or 400 miles north. If they provide water for a distance of 300 or 400 miles, by the time they get there they will be able to make provision to take them over the rest of the route.

Senator Turley - The Barklay tableland is not on the route of the railway.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The railway will tap the Barklay tableland, and go right through the Macdonnell Ranges, where artesian water is found in abundance to-day. We have very little uptodate information concerning the Northern Territory. Certain gentlemen, I believe, were employed to go over the country exploring and surveying. They were supposed to furnish plans and reports as to the character of the country over which they travelled for the information of the

Commonwealth generally, but I am told that no reports have been received from them yet. On the notice-paper to-day I had a question on the subject, and I find no fault with the Minister for asking me to postpone it, because I recognise that the information I seek cannot be obtained in a day. My protest against the inaction of the present Government is very largely because they have not very many facilities for providing work for the people. The railways will be the largest employer of labour it is possible for the Commonwealth to have. Here we have a scheme that ought to be undertaken without delay. When the Territory was taken over the construction of this railway should have been put in hand. It will employ at least a couple of thousand men if precautions are taken to obtain an adequate supply of water along the route. At a time when the unemployed question is so acute in Australia the Government ought not to delay by one hour the commencement of such an important work as the north-south railway. The work of construction should be taken in hand at once, and the first act should be to provide an abundant supply of water, so that, during the course of construction, the Department will not be put to the heavy cost of hauling water for a great distance to supply the men and the plant, as has occurred in the construction of the other transcontinental line. I find that whilst over £30,000 is set down in the schedule for the Administrator of the Northern Territory and his office, for railways and transport there is set down £10,475 under the head of salaries, and £8,520 under the head of contingencies. Considering the amount which it costs the Commonwealth to run the Territory it is almost time that steps were taken to secure some revenue from the Territory, instead of allowing it to be a drain on the Commonwealth.

Senator Bakhap - Link it up with the Queensland railway system, which is only 120 miles from the border.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I remind my honorable friend that there is in existence " a scrap of paper " - an agreement with a very strong reference to the construction of a railway which should not be made to link up with Queensland in the first instance. I admit that linking up with Queensland, Western Australia, indeed with the whole continent, will follow, but first and foremost must come the contract entered into with South Australia that the railway shall be constructed as due north and south as possible.

Senator Turley - The agreement does not say that.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I hope there are very few honorable senators who will attempt to get out of an agreement by saying what Senator Turley has said.

Senator Mullan - Was there anything in the agreement opposing a connexion with Queensland)

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Nothing whatever. The agreement had nothing to do with any projected linking up with Queensland afterwards. That will come before very long; indeed, I expect that it will proceed almost simultaneously with the construction of the railway through the continent. My principal reason in rising was to ask the Government to do something immediately to develop the Territory, because, in developing the Territory, we shall be developing the property of the people of Australia.

Suggest corrections