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Wednesday, 2 June 1915


Mr PIGOTT (Calare) .- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks made by the honorable member for Cook, but at this stage I do not intend to discuss the matter referred to by him. Having been a visitor to Norfolk Island, I understand that the Commission which has recently visited the island will shortly bring down a report, together with a recommendation.


Mr Joseph Cook - Tell us about that robbery.


Mr PIGOTT - Some honorable members appear to be anxious to know about the robbery to which I referred, but I think, on reflection, that it took place four or five days before we arrived there. I believe it involved an amount of about £200, and it caused a great stir in the island.


Mr J H Catts - It was quite an isolated instance.


Mr PIGOTT - Yes, and it galvanized the whole place, for there had never been anything of the kind on this island before.


Mr J H Catts - Did you see any necessity for police there?


Mr PIGOTT - No; I think one policeman would be quite enough, but he has other duties to perform. However, it is not my intention to discuss that question just now. I intend to direct the attention of honorable members to what we are doing with regard to the Northern Territory. I think, in the first place, we have been endeavouring to develop the Territory quite from the wrong angle, and that we should have followed the example set us by the other States, by paying more attention to the pastoral industry, allowing the development of the mining industry and " farming to follow in their natural order. Instead of doing that, we have been trying to develop the farming resources of the Northern Territory, and I think it would have been a good thing for the Northern Territory, as well as for the taxpayers of Australia, if we had never spent a penny in starting those Utopian demonstration farms. Up to the present something like £30,000 has been expended on the Batchelor farm, on the Daly River, and I find there has been an expenditure of £7,944 on machinery alone for these farms, whereas in South Australia the expenditure last year for similar farms was only £8,068, and Western Australia, which is fast developing into an agricultural centre, only spent £3,014. In view of all the circumstances, I am not surprised that settlers should feel reluctant to go to the Northern Territory. The net gain last year, according to a report recently submitted, was only one settler. I have been looking through the reports, of the managers of the demonstration farms, and could not help thinking that they read like a page from the Arabian Nights. If a man had an idea of settling in that country, I think he would certainly be discouraged after reading the reports. I now intend to entertain the Committee for a few minutes while I read a few extracts. The manager of the Daly Demonstration Farm states -

Corn planting had to be delayed till the grasshoppers disappeared, as they demolished the young plants as they cams up. The wet weather set in very suddenly after this, and prevented the sowing of ground that had been ready before the advent of the grasshoppers, and it was necessary to replough the land on account of the weeds.

Then in regard to cattle he remarks -

Seventy full-grown bullocks and four brokenin workers were purchased for the purpose of supplying working bullocks for the settlers, but were not availed of. Fourteen of these have been killed, and the meat sold to settlers and to the men's mess.

Turning now to the Batchelor Demonstration Farm, I find that the report sta te s -

On the retirement of Mr. C. N. Woolley, Mr. J. E. Syme was appointed acting manager on 9th June. His first duties were the sorting out and accumulating of machinery, much of which was in the paddocks owing to the strike. A. new staff had to be collected. This and various other initial work occupied until 20th

June, when the traction engine started ploughing in the railway paddock- 65 acres. Fortythree acres were ploughed, at a cost of 15s. per acre.

Further on I find that there was trouble in ploughing, owing to the hard nature of the land, and the report states -

Also water had to be brought from Adelaide and Darwin Rivers by rail, and was supplied in leaking tanks, much of it being lost.

Fancy supplying water in leaking tanks in a country like that !


Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - In South Australia I saw men who were carting water twenty miles from the railway line.


Mr PIGOTT - The report states further-

The remaining 22 acres in this paddock were ploughed with the new oil tractor, and also cost 153. per acre. . . . This can be understood when it is borne in mind that it is green timber country, full of roots, hard and compact by heavy rains and sun, with a heavy growth of suckers and seedlings and deeprooted grass, that in a favorable season grows 8 to 10 feet high.

Turning now to sorghum, I find the report states -

Another area of 5 acres was sown on 10th November in paddock C, thesoil being a sandy loam. The seed used was " Planters' Friend," 10 lbs. to the acre. As there was not enough " Planters' Friend " to finish the area, the remainder was drilled with Sorghum Saccharatum, the seed being sownat the same rate. This crop germinated evenly, but the parrots destroyed a lot by pulling it up, and the native annual grass grew so strongly as to choke the sorghum.

The experiments regarding cotton are thus described -

An area of 5 acres was sown down with Caravonica cotton on 25th November, in squares 10 feet apart, and germinated well, but as the annual grass grew so strongly it was decided to scarify and resow, which was done on 30th December.

Lucerne is referred to as follows -

About 14 acres have been sown down in lucerne. This land was ploughed twice at a depth of 7 inches. Five acres was heavily manured with stable manure, which was spread over the land before the second ploughing.

Now, how could it be expected that land could be heavily dressed with stable manure in the Northern Territory? Oats, I find, are referred to in the report as follows : -

An acre was sown in the experimental plots on 8th November with Algerian oats.

I have never yet heard of a farmer putting in oats on 6th November. The report continues - 1¾ bushels being used, with 56 lbs. superphosphates -

We know that the effect of superphosphates in a hot climate would be to burn the seed - but did not germinate. This seed was obtained locally, and was not good seed.


Mr Joseph Cook - Are these things which the experts did up there?


Mr PIGOTT - These are the things which the experts have been doing in the Northern Territory. I have marked thirty or forty passages of the report, but I shall not weary the Committee with them. I venture to say that if these reports were published in pamphlet form and circulated among our farmers, they would prefer them for reading matter to the Bulletin or Punch, but they would not be encouraged by them to go to the Northern Territory. We have heard a great deal about the suitability of the Northern Territory for cereals. I should be disposed to agree with the honorable member for Wakefield that the Macdonnell Range country and other elevated parts in the centre of the Northern Territory would be eminently suited for cereals, but to attempt to grow wheat near Darwin in a tropical climate would be ridiculous.


Mr Fenton - Surely the honorable member does not say that wheat will not grow in tropical countries.


Mr PIGOTT - I do say so.


Mr Fenton - There is plenty of wheat grown in India.


Mr PIGOTT - That may be so, but it is only on the highlands. I have been in Ceylon and India, and I never saw a grain of wheat grown on the lowlands. I admit that there is a great deal of wheat grown on the highlands of India, but the climate there is similar to the climate of Bathurst and Orange, in New South Wales. According to Mr. Knibbs, the net result of all the efforts of farmers in the Northern Territory, including those on the experimental farms, was the growth of 1,350 bushels of maize; oats, nil; rye, nil; wheat, nil; other cereals, nil ; lucerne,1 ton ; other hay crops, 80 tons; beans, 100 bushels; sweet potatoes, 20 tons; pumpkins and melons, 24 tons. I think that the possibilities of the Northern Territory are very great, but they should be developed in the right way. I have said that Canada and Russia settled and developed their big empty spaces by first of all building railways through them. The Canadian railway connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic ran through a vast empty country, which now, under the occupation of teeming millions, has become one of the granaries of the world. The same may be said of Siberia. The effect of the construction of the trans-Siberian railway has been really wonderful. Only the other day in Sydney I was informed by an agent of the Massey-Harris Company that they sell more agricultural implements in Siberia than in any other part of the world. This shows how fast that country has been developed, and it has been almost entirely owing to railway extension. Looking through- Mr. Knibbs' figures, I find that in the Northern Territory there were 22,792 horses, and 1,181 were exported in the year. There were 417,643 cattle, and 57,289 fat cattle were exported in the year. There were 67,109 sheep, and 11,296 were exported, and there were 1,018 pigs in the Territory. I think the Government made a big mistake in the selection they made of sheep for the Territory. They secured a big flock from Avon Downs, and took the sheep towards Port Darwin. I consider that the country there is quite unsuitable for merinos. The class of sheep for which that district is suited would be a cross between 'the Romney Marsh and the merino. For quality of wool, length of staple, and robust constitution, the Avon Downs flock is not excelled for merino sheep, if it is equalled by any other flock in Australia, but those sheep are quite unsuitable for the Darwin district. We must have there a cross with the Romney Marsh sheep that are immune from foot-rot and fluke. I venture to say that if you put- merino sheep on that country, and leave them there for any length of time, they will develop foot-rot and fluke, and none of them will be left in a few years. I cannot say how much wool was grown in the Northern Territory, as the records do not disclose the facts, but I was pleased to find that in 1913-14 the Territory exported minerals to the value of £44,626. That is a good nucleus to start with. If such results could be obtained for mineral development without the assistance of railway communication, how much better results might be obtained with an extensive railway system ! The honorable member for Wakefield quoted Lord Kitchener as saying that for strategic purposes the railway should be extended from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin.


Mr Richard Foster - No, I did not. I said that the railways should be pushed on to connect with Brisbane and the other big cities on the eastern coast.


Mr PIGOTT - I am glad to have that correction, because that is what I was prepared to suggest myself. I advocated from the platform during the Federal elections that the railway should be extended to the Katherine River, and from there as close as possible to Cloncurry and Camooweal, and that there should be extensions towards the Territory from Longreach, Charleville, Bourke, and Broken Hill. That would link up the Territory with the whole of the railway systems of the eastern States. We should bring the railway system of the Northern Territory as near as possible to centres of the population and the seaboard. In travelling through Queensland a few years ago, I noticed that at Townsville, Rockhampton, and many of the eastern coast towns, extensive freezing works have been established, and it is above all things necessary that we should find a market for the produce of the settlers in the Northern Territory. If we do not, we cannot expect to have any settlement there


Mr Webster - Did the honorable member suggest that to the late Government?


Mr PIGOTT - I have always suggested that on the platform and, I think, also in this House.


Mr Webster - Did the late Government adopt the suggestion ?


Mr PIGOTT - No Government has so far adopted it. If the honorable member for Gwydir agrees with the suggestion, I hope that I shall have his support in recommending it to the present Government.


Mr Webster - What is the honorable member's influence worth when he could not get the late Government to move in the matter?


Mr PIGOTT - I have a vote just as the honorable member for Gwydir has. On the question of settling the interior of the Northern Territory, I may say that I was only last week reading an article on Siberia published in the Nineteenth Century. I find that the Russian Government, in settling people there, went so far as to give them a freehold title to a certain area of land for themselves, and for each of their children. In addition, they allowed them the timber necessary to build their houses with ; they defrayed the expense of cultivating the land for one year, and further advanced the settlers sufficient money to equip them with a good agricultural plant. It is all very well for us to show people how to grow various produce, but the trouble in the Northern Territory is to find a market for the produce grown there. I gave a lecture some time ago in the "Wingham district of New South Wales on the subject of bee-keeping. The editor of the local newspaper was good enough to publish my lecture in three different issues, and some few years later Mr. Gale, the Government expert, visitedBlayney, and lectured there. During the course of his remarks he stated that at Wingham some years previously a bank manager had shown the people how to grow honey. They had paid so much attention to his counsel that they produced tons of honey, but, unfortunately, he had not told them where they would find a market for it. That appears to be our position in respect of the Northern Territory to-day. It is idle to grow cereals there unless there is a market for them. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has said that wheat and hay can be produced in the Territory. If the Government wish to stimulate the production of these commodities, let them say to the people, "We will pay you 6s. per bushel for all the wheat you can produce in the Territory, and so much per ton for your lucerne and hay."


Mr Webster - The honorable member wishes to socialize all industry.


Mr PIGOTT - I do not wish to socialize anything. To my mind, the Government might well take a leaf out of the book of the late Government of Queensland. That Administration has assisted settlers in the central western parts of Queensland - which comprise some of the best wool-growing country I have ever seen - to put down more than 2,000 artesian bores. Yet, in the southern part of the Northern Territory we have only one artesian bore. Certainly, we have subartesian bores, but not artesian bores which go down thousands of feet. The result is that in the portion of Queensland to which I have referred bores are now to be found running freshly like English brooks, and instead of the sheep having to travel to the water the water travels to the sheep. The honorable member for Wakefield spoke of portions of the Terri tory which have a rainfall of only about 10 or 11 inches.


Mrs Webster - Why, in some parts, they get a rainfall of 70 inches.


Mr PIGOTT - I admit that near the sea-board the rainfall runs up to 70 inches. But there are other portions of the country in which it varies from 4 to 10 inches. I consider that the Minister of External Affairs should place a sum upon the Estimates for the purpose of testing this country for artesian water. So far as the mining industry is concerned we have a big asset there.


Mr Webster - Why, we have spent £35,000 in prospecting without securing a decent show.


Mr PIGOTT - We have expended £35,000 in prospecting there, but in the year 1914 alone the returns from minerals aggregated a value of £44,626. This sum was made up as follows: - Diamonds, £482; gold, £13,250; silver, £2,228; tin, £25,526 ; and wolfram, £3,140. I believe that there is untold wealth in the Northern Territory - wealth which only requires to be developed. When I was in the Kalgoorlie electorate some time ago I learned that millions of pounds' worth of gold had been taken out of a very limited area. That circumstance should encourage us to try and locate these rich mineral deposits. In the Northern Territory I find that there are engaged in the mining industry only 90 Europeans and 530 Chinese. If the Government will only endeavour to develop this country upon right lines, and by closing up the experimental farms, I venture to say that the taxpayers will be much better off.







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