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Wednesday, 9 June 1915

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I cannot let the statement made by the honorable member pass uncorrected. The honorable member has always been an uncompromising opponent of the Northern Territory. I admit that there is a great deal of doubt as to whether that portion of Australia will ultimately be a success; but we have to make up our minds to make it either a big success or a big failure. We are now piling up a large debt by the accumulated interest which is falling into arrears every year, and we do not see any hope of getting an adequate return for our investment unless we propose to go further. What encourages me in my desire that we should go further is the fact that we have heard said about many other parts of Australia just what the honorable member has said to-night about the Northern Territory. A number of years ago it was said that all the country in Western Australia between Beverley and Southern Cross and towards Kalgoorlie was utterly useless, yet to-day we know that in an ordinary season this country is one of the best wheat fields Australia possesses. From what I have heard from men who have had experience in tha Northern Territory and in pastoral and agricultural pursuits in other parts of Australia, a great deal of the Territory, if it is provided with adequate means of communication, will be found to be remunerative. I do not say that the whole of it is good pastoral, or good agricultural, land - as in every other part of Australia, belts of poor country lie between belts of good country - but I venture to say that, taking it right through, it is of the same average quality as is the rest of Australia. What is. keeping it back is partly its inaccessibility, and partly the fact that an adequate reward has not been held out to those who are willing to pioneer it.

Mr Webster - I suppose that you want some more millions for that purpose?

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If honorable members say that rather than hold out a reward to those who are willing to develop the Territory they would prefer to see it remain waste, to be ultimately taken possession of by other nations who are land hungry, I have nothing to say; but we- can only populate the- Northern Territory by opening it up by good means of communication, and by holding out adequate rewards to the people who are willing to sink their capital in it.

Mr Webster - What form of reward would you suggest? .

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not care whether it is freehold tenure or any other form of reward; but I do say that we must hold out an adequate reward to the man who is prepared to risk his capital there. The honorable member says that the Territory is useless, and that any man prepared to put his capital in it is bound to suffer loss.

Mr Webster - I did not say anything of the kind.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know what other interpretation could be placed on the honorable member's attitude. He tells us the Territory is no good, and that it would be infinitely better to leave it unoccupied for all time, because we can never hope to get an adequate return from it. I say that if any one is prepared to sink his capital, risk his own enterprise, and. perhaps, a considerable part of his life, in the Northern Territory, the honorable member should be the very first to- offer him the fullest reward that we can possibly give.

Mr WEBSTER - Quite a number of men have already done it.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Everything that the honorable member says in that regard is another reason for saying Chat we should give to any one who goes to the Northern Territory and takes all those risks the fullest reward that 'lies in our power. In regard to the much-discussed scheme of railways, whilst I admit the existence of the agreement with the South Australian Government in regard to the north and south railway, it seems to me that it is a matter of no moment to the people of South Australia, from a commercial stand-point at all events, provided the Commonwealth builds a line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges whether, after that, the Commonwealth develops tha Territory from the railway standpoint in any other way. It must be perfectly obvious to anybody who looks at the map that, after a 'certain point in the Territory is reached on the journey south from Darwin or on the journey north from Adelaide, there must be one point where it would be better to send produce either north or south, and if any honorable member looks at the map again, he will see that point about 50 miles north of the Macdonnell Ranges, which is about equidistant from Adelaide and Townsville. It seems to me, therefore, inasmuch as most of the good territory lies to the eastward, that it would naturally be very much better to take the produce from the portion of the Northern Territory that does not go directly north to the ports in the Northern Territory, through Queensland,, and that it would not pay in any circumstances to use the port of Adelaide. I do not believe produce from that district will ever go to Adelaide. " Necessarily, from its geographical position, all the trade that will ultimately develop in the ranges will go south, but after that I believe most of the trade .will either go east or north, if the means of communication were similar in every respect. While we are pledged tq go on with the development of the Northern Territory with railways as being the only means that make it possible to open up the Territory, yet I think we should be fulfilling the letter and the spirit of the' agreement with South Australia if we built the line from Oodnadatta .well into the Macdonnell Ranges, and then developed our railway policy from the north, so as to permit the settlement which I believe will ultimately take place to draw the north and south lines together. I think that will be the wisest and most economical policy, and that it will develop the Northern Territory quicker than any other. 'My view is that the only course open for us to pursue in regard to the Northern Territory is a forward one, We cannot retract the step we have taken. Whether that step was wise or unwise is not a consideration that we can enter upon now, and we should, at all events, make a serious effort to try to turn he Northern Territory into a commercial proposition. I have great faith in that, being ultimately accomplished. It may take a good number of years, but I believe it will ultimately be done. I recognise the truth of what the Minister said a little while ago, that, whilst this great war is in progress, and that whilst necessarily the whole energies of the nation are being devoted to the fulfilment by Australia of her full share in it, it is practically impossible for us to go on with big developmental schemes; but I would suggest in the meantime that the Minister should go into this matter as fully as he possibly can, so that, when the time comes that money is available, We shall be able to start immediately upon a strong, forward, progressive policy in the development of the Territory.

Proposedvote agreed to.

Progress reported.

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