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Friday, 27 September 1912

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - I would have thought that, in proposing to expend ^500,000 in building a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, the Government would at least have outlined their policy in regard to settling people there. But the fact is that we have no more knowledge of their intentions, now than we had at the time the Territory was taken over. Instead, they ask this Parliament to sanction the survey of an extra 56 miles of railway. This line will stop at the Katherine River, the bridging of which will cost a further sum of ^250,000.

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator is always thinking about " the man on the job."

Senator SAYERS - Whatever question comes before the Senate, the VicePresident of the Executive Council knows that he has a solid majority behind him, and he treats all criticism with levity. There has hardly been a question as to which he has not met opposition with sneers and jeers. It ill becomes the Minister to behave in such' a manner. If he continues to conduct himself as he does, we shall cry shame upon him. Instead of endeavouring to conduct the business of the Senate with some sort of decorum, he sets an example of levity. It is only right that the people of this country should know what the policy of the Government regarding the Northern Territory really is. Here we have a railway that will cost, in the long Tun, halfamillion of money. The bridge crossing the Katherine River will cost ^£250, 000.

Senator Clemons - Is that the Government estimate?

Senator SAYERS - £10,000 per mile is supposed to be the estimated cost for 50 miles, and the bridge over the Katherine River would cost another quarterofamillion.

Senator McDougall - A man can cross the river at this point without taking his boots off.

Senator SAYERS - One can cross the Burdekin, in Queensland, dry-shod sometimes, but, nevertheless, the bridge over that river cost pretty nearly a quarterofamillion, though it is only a quarter of a mile wide. There is sometimes heavy rainfall in the Territory, and when the river is running a banker, the bridge will have to be high enough to let the water flow under it and keep the railway going.

Senator McDougall - I have walked across the river bed myself at this point.

Senator SAYERS - That is not the question. The excuse made is that a railway is required for carrying stock that cannot cross a bad belt of country.

Senator Chataway - There is no stock to travel.

Senator SAYERS - That may be; but what I object to is that the Government bring forward this proposal without an outline of their policy. Are we going to keep on spending money and sending officials to the Territory without having any policy formulated? The population of the Port Darwin district has dwindled from 8,000 or 10,000 whites, which was the number at the time of the Port Darwin rush, to about 1,000. But the Government bring before us no scheme for settling people. All they do is to send up a lot of officials. Surely, during the forty years that the Territory was administered by South Australia sufficient information was acquired. I am satisfied that there are officers in Adelaide who have been in the Territory, and who could give most valuable information. But it is not really the object of this Government to settle the country. Their object simply is to make positions for favorites. Their whole aim is to send up a number of their friends whom they think it advisable to put out of the way, giving them good screws, and building a laundry, so that they can get their washing done.

Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator ought to go there.

Senator SAYERS - I am well acquainted with territory similar to this. I know the country in north Queensland, which closely resembles the Northern Terri tory. I have visited the Norman and Flinders country, and that round our Gulf, which is very similar. I have also talked with men who have made their living out of cattle in the Northern Territory for the last thirty years, and I would take their opinion before that of any honorable senator who has paid a flying visit to the Territory. They remind me of " globetrotters " who come to Australia, spend a few weeks here, and write books about their experiences. These honorable senators are too cautious to give us their views on the floor of the Senate, but whenever any one else gets up to speak, they make silly and irrelevant interjections. Some of those who pose as experts never went outside a city in their lives, until they became members of Parliament, and were able to take a few cheap trips.

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