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Friday, 31 August 1928


Mr KILLEN (Riverina) .- Honorable members must agree that, in view of the deficit, the adverse trade balance, the unsatisfactory condition of business generally, and the heavy taxation which is imposed, there is a pressing necessity for the exercise, both publicly and privately, of the strictest economy. I should like the Government to set an example in practising economy, and I feel sure that it effects savings wherever possible.

I am a fairly frequent user of the road between Canberra and Goulburn, and am as anxious as any honorable member that it should be a good road ; but I do not think we should be justified in incurring the expenditure necessary to lay a concrete road. At the present time the road has a fairly good surface, and the expenditure of from £5,000 to £10,000 would be ample for all present requirements.


Mr Ley - How long is it since the honorable member travelled over it?


Mr KILLEN - I have been travelling over it constantly since this Parliament has been sitting in Canberra, and in my opinion it is not a bad road. A road from Canberra to Tumut, on the other hand, ought to be constructed, because that would give the most direct route to Victoria. I do not advocate the expenditure of a large sum on such a project; but I contend that it is more important to provide a direct highway to Victoria than to reconstruct the Goulburn road at a considerably greater expense. A road to Tumut would open up large areas of land and induce further settlement. No further settlement will result from any expenditure upon the Goulburn road.

The ultimate expenditure on a war memorial in Canberra will probably be in the region of £300,000 or £400,000. I do not consider that there is any necessity to proceed with that work at the present time. We are all anxious that the heroic sacrifices of our glorious dead should be commemorated in a fitting manner; but I point out that that has already been done by the erection of war memorials throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It may be a perfectly right thing to build a memorial in Canberra when our financial condition improves; in its present state the expenditure cannot be justified.

The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) discussed at considerable length last night the question of the development of the Northern Territory. I agree with a good deal of what he said. There are portions of the Territory such as the Barkly tableland and the Victoria River country, which is worthy of development ; but, apart from those sections, the greater part of the Territory is absolutely incapable of commercial development.


Mr Theodore - That argument can be applied also to large areas in Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland.


Mr KILLEN - It applies with far greater force to the Northern Territory, in which 80 per cent. of the land, apart from those portions to which I have specifically referred, is not worth developing, and cannot be put to any other than its present use. The honorable member for Dalley said that the Territory is held in very large areas by only a few people. I consider that the Government is fortunate in having such country occupied at all, because it is suitable only for blackfellows.

Judging by a question which he asked yesterday, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) wishes to bind the Government to provide railway communication right through the Territory, at a cost of at least £10,000,000 or £12,000,000.


Mr Parsons - The Government is already bound, morally, and in every other way, to the construction of such a line.


Mr KILLEN - Perhaps so; but not within any stated time. The greater part of the country which that line would traverse is not capable of being developed commercially. The country is incapable of carrying an extensive population. Many persons in Adelaide who are keenly interested in the project have never seen the country which the proposed line will serve, and there are many who know as well as I do that if the line is constructed, it will always be a white elephant. It will never be of any benefit to Adelaide, because the traffic to be handled will not be sufficient to justify such a heavy capital expenditure. The railway to Oodnadatta, which has been built for about 35 years, has not been responsible for additional development. In fact, there are fewer settlers in that locality than there were before the line was built. At present one passenger train every fortnight is sufficient to cope with the traffic offering. It is true that the line is of some convenience to those transporting live-stock to the southern markets, but a continuation of the existing line from Oodnadatta will not be of any benefit, because the farther the line extends north the greater will be the transport charges, which will consequently result in comparatively small returns. I agree with what the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) said concerning the Barkly Tableland, which I admit is the best portion of the Northern Territory, and that most capable of commercial development for a comparatively small expenditure of capital. The amount of £250,000 which it is proposed to expend on the construction of a national war memorial at Canberra would be sufficient to build a railway from Rocky Island to Borraloola, which would enable the greater portion of the Barkly Tableland - which I estimate capable of carrying 8,000,000 sheep - to be stocked. Surely the construction of such a railway or the making of a good road is of greater necessity than the immediate erection of a national Avar memorial? In the circumstances, I consider that it is the duty of the Government to reduce the expenditure proposed on reconditioning the road between Goulburn and Canberra, and at least to temporarily postpone the expenditure of a large sum of money on a war memorial.







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