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Wednesday, 9 June 1915


Mr STUMM (Lilley) .- I do not propose to prolong this debate for more than a few minutes for the reason that the financial year to which these Estimates relate has almost expired, and the votes covered by them have already been expended. Another reason why I think we should deal with them as quickly as possible is that we ought to apply ourselves with the least possible delay to the great duty which the electors cast upon us at the last general election, and that is, the revision of the Tariff on a sound, scientific, protective basis. That, in my opinion, is a duty which the electors of Australia intrusted to us, and which they expect us to carry out. It is also very necessary that, instead of wasting time on what is likely to prove, shall I say, a profitless discussion, we should proceed to set our house in order. When the war comes to an end, we shall have to deal with greatly changed conditions. We shall have huge financial and industrial problems to solve, and the sooner we prepare for them the better for the people of Australia. My chief object in rising to-night is to take exception to the argument which has been repeated again and again during this discussion, that we are committed, under the agreement made with South Australia, to build a railway north and south, from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. The agreement with South Australia proves conclusively that the framers contemplated the necessity of the line making a detour from a north and south course. In that agreement South Australia bound itself to authorize, . by legislation, the Commonwealth to do all that is necessary to enable the Commonwealth to make surveys, acquire the necessary land, and to construct a railway iri South Australia proper from a point on the Port Augusta railway to a" point on fine northern boundary line of South Australia proper, to connect with that part of the transcontinental railway to be built iri the North- ern Territory from Port Darwin southward's to the northern boun'da'ry cif South Australia proper I hold that if we were to carry out the scheme foreshadowed by

Sir JohnForrest a few weeks ago ; that is, to build this railway from Newcastle Waters to near the Queensland border, and then turn southwards to Alice Springs, and thence continue to Oodnadatta - we should be carrying out the spirit of that contract.' Moreover, I believe that that is the route which the transcontinental railway should take. All the evidence we have shows that such a line would pass through tha best country. If, on the other hand, the railway is built due north and south between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek, it will traverse an immense mileage of. poor country, and even then will not develop the Northern Territory. We should still have to face the problem of developing the land between Victoria River on the one side and the Barclay Downs on the other. I cannot understand why the Queensland Government did not accept Sir John Forrest's suggestion that their railway should be extended from Cloncurry to Camooweal, and that the Federal Government should continue the Commonwealth railway from Camooweal towards Newcastle Waters, and also at a given point extend southwards towards Alice Springs.


Mr Yates - But the " also " was an afterthought, according to the letter.


Mr STUMM - The honorable member for Angas showed conclusively last week that there was no intention on the part of Sir John Forrest to dodge the agreement with South Australia. The suggestion which' the right honorable member for Swan made represents the true way to give the Northern Territory railway communication, and it observes closely the spirit of the agreement. The Commonwealth has spent an enormous sum of money 6n the Territory, because it had to take over all the expenditure incurred by South Australia, and it cannot be denied that so far very poor results' have been obtained. It is the one portion of Australia where settlement has been a failure. The other States started with difficulties quite as great as those in the Northern Territory, but at no sta'ge in their history were the prospects so discouraging as they are in the Northern Territory to-day. We have listened to most glowing descriptions of the Territory. Some honorable members have said that it is a country with a very fine climate ; another member said it would carry 20,000,000 sheep; others, in turn, have said that it is good horse country, good cattle country, and rich mineral country. We were told by the honorable member for Adelaide, in a very fine phrase, that the possibilities of the Territory are immeasurable. When we look at the statistics relating to the population, and the number of sheep and cattle in the Territory, we cannot recon"cile those glowing descriptions with the actual results. I will admit that the lack of facilities for transport is a serious obstacle. That is all the more reason why we should proceed with the policy of building railways to develop the Territory. We have wasted enough money on fanciful theories. Queensland and other -States were developed in the first place as cattle and sheep country, and along those lines We must proceed to develop the Northern Territory. The other forms of development will follow. The sooner we cease spending money on these beautiful theoretical propositions that sound so well, the better it will be for the public Treasury.


Mr John' Thomson - Would you favour the appointment of an Advisory Committee of tins House?


Mr STUMM - Not a Committee of this House, but I believe there would be a great advantage in having an advisory committee. We must admit that the remoteness of the Territory and its nonrepresentation in this Parliament give us less knowledge and less control over it than we have over other portions of the Commonwealth, and there is no doubt that the burden of the Minister is considerably increased in consequence. The thought occurred to me, when this matter was being discussed a few weeks ago, that it was not fair to ask the Minister to immediately propound a policy for the development of the Territory. It will take time and patience to produce a sound policy of that kind, but surely during the forty or fifty years that the Territory has been partially settled we have gained enough experience to put us on the right track. A few nights ago the honorable member for Oxley expressed the hope that the freezing works which Vestey Brothers are erecting in the Territory will be resumed in the near future by the Government, if they have the power to do so. I hope the Government will do nothing of the sort, but will give Vestey Brothers a fair deal in the arrangement which has been made with them. I cannot conceive of anything more mischievous and more likely to deter men with capital from coming to Australia, or those in Australia from investing their money, than indulgence in such wild and irresponsible talk. I have no brief for Vestey Brothers, but I understand they are a British firm, and are investing British capital, and if the works are a success, as I have no doubt they, will be if Vestey Brothers are left alone, that success will represent a long step in the direction of solving the problem of the Territory. Therefore, I say again, let us, for goodness' sake, be done with theoretical propositions, and, guided by the experience of the past, develop the Territory along the same lines as those on which other portions of the Commonwealth have been so successfully settled and developed.







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