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Friday, 23 April 1915

Mr LIVINGSTON (Barker) . - The honorable member for Swan last night dealt pretty fully with the question of the Northern Territory; and I think that he and all other honorable members will agree that a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, right through the centre of Australia, is absolutely necessary to the development of the country. There could be feeding lines established, principally into Western Australia, through some of the best unpeopled country on the face of the earth. The retarding of progress in this portion of the continent is a blot on our history; and a railway of the kind would be of immense advantage, and should be proceeded with at once. South Australia held the Northern Territory for many years, and I am pleased to hear honorable members give credit to that State for what it did in this connexion. There were many nations who would have been very pleased to own the Northern Territory; but the handful of people in South Australia retained it within their grasp, and handed it over to the Commonwealth, with a view to its proper development. It is idle to suggest that the Territory is not good country. We are in possession of reliable reports that land in the Macdonnell

Ranges and Barklay Tablelands would carry 20,000,000 sheep, and that there are 80,000,000 acres of the best wheatgrowing country in the world, with a rainfall of 16 inches. All that is required is a railway to properly open up these tracts of land to the proper stamp of settlers. I am confident that the sons of our grand old pioneers would be pleased to take over and stock country of the kind ; but, of course, there must be proper means of communication. I suggest that all the information available in regard to this portion of Australia, from a settlement point of view, should be published in a small book for the information of honorable members and others who are interested. You, Mr. Chairman, have a motion on the notice-paper to establish a Government horse-breeding station in Australia, and I can only say that no better country than that in the Northern Territory could he found for such a purpose. Iu the time of peace, which we hope will soon be here, a great military station might be established in the Northern Territory, with provision for horse-breeding and the training of men, which, of. course, will have to continue. In the Northern Territory we have a great country with a congenial climate and a splendid rainfall, and yet we hear honorable members and others speaking as though it was the poorest and most miserable land on the face of the earth. Poor country can be found anywhere, but we must remember that country of inferior class in Canada has been satisfactorily developed by means of railways. "We cannot expect people to invest their money in n country which is described as the Northern Territory sometimes is; and I am afraid that that part of Australia is prejudiced by the utterances of men who cannot have even read the reports regarding it. There have been many reports, and the last was that given by Mr. David Lindsay. The request made to Mr. Lindsay was a unique one in the history of Parliaments. He was asked to address the honorable members of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament in the House itself on the subject of the Northern Territory, and he received the thanks of both for the information he then supplied. The Northern Territory can only he properly developed by continuity of policy. The ex-Minister of External Affairs took a great interest in the subject; and I must not be understood as here implying that the present Minister is not doing his level best for the country. In my opinion, the policy adopted by the ex-Minister was on the right track, but, as I say, it is impossible for any proper development to take place without continuity of policy. There ought to be a Board of Advice of, say, three men who are perfectly familiar with the country and its requirements, to advise the Minister and the Department. I do not say that Professor Gilruth is not a very good man for his position, but he is not conversant with Central Australia, and never has been. The right honorable member for Swan carried out his explorations in a proper way, and his reports are well worth reading. Professor Gilruth's opinion concerning the Northern Territory, to my mind, is worth very little. The Northern Territory is a great country, and we should do our best to develop it. It is a magnificent country for the raising of horses and cattle, while millions of sheep may also be depastured there. I should like the Minister of External Affairs to carefully consider what he should do to develop the Territory. I know that he has ideas of his own concerning the matter, but one suggestion that I would make to him is that he should enter upon a vigorous policy of railway construction. As Sir George Reid once pointed out, development rapidly follows the pushing out of our railway systems. I had the honour of meeting Lord Kitchener when I was in the Old Country a little while ago, and he expressed to me his delight that the Commonwealth Parliament proposed to construct a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. This is by no means a party question. I was sorry to hear the right honorable member for Swan last night refer to the honorable member for Grey as being " one-eyed " in regard to the north-south railway. The honorable member for Grey has always been a broadminded man, and has from the first supported the construction of the east-west railway. Neither he nor I desires any political movement for our own -personal benefit, and we have never advocated anything of the kind. A Federal Bureau of Agriculture would assist materially in the development of the- Northern Territory, since it would be able to give settlers much valuable information regarding the class of crops that can be most profitably raised on different areas. Many years ago a ship from South Africa was lost on the south coast of South Australia, and a quantity of seeds on board were washed ashore. These were ultimately scattered on the sand hummocks, with the result that a luxuriant growth of grass sprang up,, and bound the sand together. This grass has since proved of great benefit to the people. The Northern Territory can be made a magnificent national asset if we develop it along the right lines. It is a beautiful country, needing only the attention of pioneers. We want to settle there a body of men like the grand old pioneers who did so much to develop Australia. Let them take up the land and stock it. That is a work which can be better done by our own young men than by the people of any other race. All that they need is the assistance of a few thousand people from outside. If they be given a chance they will quickly show that they have the pioneering blood of their forefathers, and, granted proper facilities in the way of railway communication, they will rapidly develop this magnificent Territory.

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