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Wednesday, 2 June 1915


Mr WEBSTER - You are now blaming your own Government.


Mr SAMPSON - I am not discussing the question from a party stand-point. It is a question which belongs to this Parliament, and, indeed, to Australia. As this Parliament undertook the great and serious responsibility of settling the country, it should take the problem in hand and deal with it in a way which would give some results, or would, at any rate, lay down, the foundations of an effective scheme. I believe that there is a good deal of misconception regarding the Territory. In my opinion, its development is one of the most perplexing and difficult problems which could be laid upon the shoulders of any Minister. The Minister of External Affairs should take the Committee into his confidence. He should launch a general policy, so that we could have an opportunity to discuss the various aspects of the question and come to a final determination. I agree with the remark made by the honorable member for Gippsland this afternoon, that a policy for the Territory is a matter which cannot be taken hold of piecemeal or paltered with. I consider that we can only induce persons to go to the Territory by expending probably millions of pounds on public works. I would not confine the expenditure to the mere building of railways, but would expend the money in the construction of public works generally, with the view to inducing settlement. We have heard a good deal to-night to the effect that this country can only be settled by the grazier penetrating the interior, and that the grazier will only establish grazing areas when railways are constructed to provide him with the means of transport. I would like to know how it is that the grazier has not penetrated the interior of the Territory in the same way as the grazier penetrated the back country in the early stages of the settlement of every State of the Commonwealth. There must be a very sufficient reason why the pioneer settler has not gone into the back country of the Territory and opened it up, in order that it might warrant the construction of railways.


Mr WEBSTER - All the country that is any good is occupied to-day.


Mr SAMPSON - I think 'that there is a good deal to be said in support of the interjection from the grazing standpoint.


Mr Mathews - That is why South Australia got rid of the Territory.


Mr SAMPSON - If it is worked out on something like a systematic basis it will probably be found that its grazing capacity has been largely tested already.


Mr Richard FOSTER - I told you that men do not go into the Territory because they cannot get stock to market.


Mr SAMPSON - If you question the large graziers in Queensland and the Territory you will find out that the transport of bullocks or cows is not a very difficult matter if there is water on the road, and is a very much cheaper method of getting stock to market-


Mr RICHARD FOSTER - But they have not got water.


Mr SAMPSON -If it is a wellwatered country there should be water on the road. I know that the transport of stock from the Barclay Tablelands, which are now producing most of the cattle, is through the north, and that the farther north they go the better is the rainfall and, therefore, the water supply. If the Territory is ever going to be developed it must have a coastal trade, which, of course, can only be established by having freezing works. We know that the honorable member for Angas, when he ' was Minister of External Affairs, came to an agreement to establish freezing works somewhere within the influence of the port, in order that we might create an export trade. To open that country we need to copy the policy of railway construction adopted in the different States, that is, to run our lines out from suitable ports into the interior, and tap the best country, and thus encourage people to open it up. I do not say that the north to south line will not need to be constructed. We have to carry out that work, and we should do it as the first line to connect the north with the south. When the proposal to take over the Northern Territory was before Parliament, I contended that our hands should not be tied by the obligation to build that line; but I hold now that, having agreed to take over that Territory, honorable members did so with all its responsibilities, and it is a solemn obligation upon us to construct the line from north to south. There is only one method by which we can have anything like dense population in the Northern Territory, and that is by the establishment of agriculture, and agricultural settlements can only be established in the most tropical parts where there is a good rainfall, and where there are rivers enabling water to be conserved, thus facilitating intense cultivation. No one has attempted to show that my contention in that regard is wrong. The honorable member for Grey has spoken of 80,000,000 acres of land on the Barclay Tablelands suitable for raising cattle, and no one disputes his statement. He also said, _on the authority of the honorable member for Kennedy, that the area would probably need to be cut up into stations of about 20,000 acres - I believe that the limited rainfall there would necessitate its being held in very large areas - which means that it will only carry a population of 4,000 or 5,000 people, the population of a good-sized village. At Darwin the rainfall is 62 inches, and 200 miles south, at Katherine River, it is 40 inches. There are 70,000 square miles between Darwin and Katherine River.


Mr Richard Foster - All the rain falls in the hot weather.


Mr SAMPSON - That is why it must be conserved, so that an agricultural population may use it all the year round. There is sufficient rainfall, with an extensive river system between Darwin and the Katherine River, to carry an agricultural population, and probably the greatest proportion of the mineral deposits situated within that tropical portion of the Northern Territory. There is a further area of 50,000 square miles from the Katherine River to Newcastle Waters, 150 miles further south, where the rainfall is 20 inches. The distance between Newcastle Waters and the southern boundary of the Northern Territory is about 550 miles, and the rainfall drops from 20 inches at Newcastle Waters to 5$ inches at the southern boundary. I think every one will agree that this lower portion of the Northern Territory, with so light a rainfall, can only support a population on very large holdings, on which the number of sheep or cattle must be relatively small. It is doubtful whether it will pay to run a railway through that country except as a great national artery connecting the northern with the southern part of the continent. The future hone of the Northern Territory lies in agricultural settlement. There is no reason why we should not have some dairying under a system of irrigation along the rivers.


Mr Webster - And feed the cattle on spear grass.


Mr SAMPSON - No, on lucerne. The honorable member apparently does nol know that there are irrigation settlements in Australia equal to anything in the world. There are, in South Australia and in Victoria, several irrigation areas. The only way to have the Territory developed will be by close settlement on irrigation areas devoted to the growth of fodder, mixed farming, and a system of dairying. There is plenty of markets available for dairy products. Great Britain at present imports milk products to the value of about £33,000,000 per annum.


Mr Richard Foster - But a great deal of that land is often 6 feet or 7 feet under water.


Mr SAMPSON - That is quite true, and on those flats there is no reason why we should not grow all the rice we require in Australia. I am not speaking of this matter from a theoretical point of view. I have been in the Northern Territory, and have seen the country about which I am talking. I believe that there are flats along the Adelaide River that could be put under rice in the course of time.


Mr Webster - Saltwater flats.


Mr SAMPSON - No ; freshwater flats. There are flats which could be inundated by the fresh water of the river which receives its supply from the higher landa of the Northern Territory.


Mr Joseph Cook - What about the economic position?


Mr SAMPSON - If we had the old system of the wooden plough and the reaping-hook in the Mallee we could not compete in the world markets with India or any other low-wage country, but we do so by the use of the latest agricultural implements and labour-saving machinery. I see no reason why jute should not be grown in the northern part of the Northern Territory. We ought to be able to do it by the inventive genius of the British devising new appliances enabling us to compete with the lower pan labour of other parts of the world. However, I have no wish to discuss details. We have a great burden of responsibility resting on us, and it remains for the initiative and genius of this Parliament to find some means of settling the Northern Territory. We can only achieve a satisfactory result by every honorable member attempting to suggest some constructive policy applicable to country of this kind. It has been denied that irrigation can be successfully undertaken in a tropical country; but India supports almost twothirds of her population by means of irrigation. In the Herbert division, about 40 miles from Townsville, a splendid example of what can be done with irrigation is afforded by the sugar plantation of Messrs. Drysdale Bros., one of whom is an engineer. They have put down spear pipes into the sand, and they also pump from the lagoons. The plantation is situated on the delta of the Burdekin River.


Mr Page - Where will you get those conditions in the Northern Territory?


Mr SAMPSON - In the Northern Territory water can be conserved on the surface. Messrs. Drysdale Bros. are cutting up their land, and selling the freehold in conveniently-sized blocks to cultivators whom they supply with water, and probably not even in Utah is there a better system of water control. The settlers are sure of a permanent supply of water, and the plantations are among the most successful in Queensland. Something of that kind can be done in the Northern Territory. Knowing, as I do, what is done in the Murray Valley, I can testify to the value of the application of water to the land. I should like to touch on a number of other points, but time does not permit now. I ask the Minister if I may continue my remarks.


Mr Mahon - The honorable member has made two speeches.


Mr SAMPSON - There are several particulars regarding rainfall that I wish to bring out.


Mr Mahon - What the honorable member has said about irrigation is largely a repetition of his previous speech.


Mr SAMPSON - I wish to emphasize my views. The Minister told me on a previous occasion that he was willing to look into the possibilities of irrigation in the Northern Territory, and to obtain from India, or some other place where large experience of irrigation has been gained under tropical conditions, an expert engineer to report on the subject. We could afford to pay £4,000 or £5,000 to an expert for a report on the possibilities of the Northern Territory. Such a man would show us how we could best establish agriculture by means of irrigation. The utilization of the whole of the grazing area within the Territory can afford a means of livelihood to only a few thousand persons at best. If the Territory is to carry anything like a dense population, agriculture must be fostered there, and for that irrigation is necessary. The bulk of the mineral deposits of the Territory, excepting those on the Macdonnell Ranges, lie on each side of the line from Darwin to Pine Creek, which runs through about 140 miles of country. English capitalists have spent a million pounds at least in prospecting that country, but have abandoned operations because they could not find deep lodes. We shall have to spend a great deal of money if our search is to be more thorough than theirs has been.


Mr Glynn - Bottomley's company found a lode at 700 feet.


Mr SAMPSON - The lode has generally ended with a dyke formation, and the companies would not go lower, because there was no chance of getting payable gold. I do not say that there are not large mineral deposits in the Territory, but it must be admitted, after the work of the British companies, that the prospects of mineral development are not bright.


Mr Richard Foster - How many places were tried?


Mr SAMPSON - They established an iron blow, and four or five companies were operating at different places.


Mr RICHARD FOSTER (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -All the money was spent on the surface.


Mr SAMPSON - Because they could not find deep lodes. The area of Australia is about 3,000,000 square miles, of which about one-third has a rainfall of less than 10 inches. The alienated area comprises 102,000,000 acres, which is about 5¾ per cent of the whole.


The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member has reached the time limit.

Progress reported.







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