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Wednesday, 2 October 1912

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - I have considered this Bill from the point of view of the future development of the Northern Territory by railway, and, as far as I can see, no matter what railway policy may be adopted in the future, the portion of line now proposed to be' surveyed will be necessary. If it be finally decided that the proper way to develop the Territory is by means of a railway from Port Darwin to Port Augusta, this must be a portion of the line. If, on the other hand, it be determined to develop the Territory from the Port Darwin end, the line will be equally necessary. Therefore, I do not see why so much noise should be made in disparaging this harmless little measure for the survey of a few miles of railway.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - At a cost of half-a-million pounds.

Senator GIVENS - I am not in a position to know what the cost will be until the survey is completed, nor am I aware that Senator Gould can speak with authority. We have heard a great deal from certain honorable senators, as to what the proper policy ought to be. The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has laid down the emphatic dictum that the only way in which the Northern Territory can be developed is by a railway proceeding northward from Port Augusta. I should like to ask Senator Shannon how

South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, developed their territories? Did they develop them by going to the other side of the continent and running a line of railway right across Australia to the countries to be developed? Not one of them pursued such an utterly fatuous policy as that. The proper way in which to develop the Territory is to make the country accessible, and the best way in which to do that is to open up the various ports - and I understand there are several good ports on the coastline of the Territory - and then run railways inland from those ports into the centre of the country in all directions, instead of having one line going right across the continent and traversing for much of the distance through practically desert 'country. Let me refer to what has been done in Queensland, the State with which I am most familiar. We have there at least five lines of railway which do not centre in one place,' but run from several ports along the coast .almost straight west into the interior cf the country., and we have other lines radiating from them. The people of Queensland did not go over to Western Australia, to the Northern Territory, or down to New South Wales to begin railway construction for the development of their own State. If they had done so Queensland would to-day be probably as deserted as is the Northern Territory.

Senator Vardon - The Queensland people did exactly what the Government are proposing to do in the Northern Territory - they ran their lines right into the country..

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator and his colleagues from South Australia .all desire to begin railway construction for the development of the Northern Territory, not in the Territory itself, but wi South Australia. From a national and every other point of view, the proper place to begin is in the Territory which is to be opened up. I am not now discussing the question of defence. I leave it to experts to say whether for that purpose it is essence I that a line should be constructed from north to south. Honorable members have addressed themselves to this Bill from the point of view of the development of the Northern Territory, and looking at the matter solely from that point of view, for the purpose of my present argument, I say that the proper policy is not .to begin railway construction in South Australia but in the Territory itself. Queensland is the most highly developed tropical portion of Australia, and it was developed by first of all opening up the ports along the coast, and then by sending railways into the interior from those ports with side lines radiating in all directions from them into good country. Further, the Queensland people paid large subsidies to steam-ship companies in order to secure an efficient steamship service to connect the ports along the Queensland coast. We have in Queensland a line running practically straight west from Brisbane for a distance of over 500 miles; another line running due west from Rockhamption for a distance of over 500 miles ; a third line running due west from Townsville almost to the border of the Northern Territory, for nearly 700 miles. We have another line running almost due west from Cairns for about 300 miles; and further north still, there is a line running west from Cooktown. Then right around in the Gulf of Carpentaria we have a line running .through the Gulf country south from the port of Normanton. If we had adopted the policy advocated by Senator Shannon for the development of Queensland, we should have started our railway construction at Port Darwin, or over in Western Australia, and constructed a line right across the continent. A more ridiculous idea was never promulgated in .an assembly of intelligent people.

Senator Chataway - :A line from Normanton to Brisbane would toe about thesame thing..

Senator GIVENS - It would not be .soridiculous, because for its greatest length, it would go through the territory it was intended to develop. I repeat that thebest policy to adopt for the development of the Northern Territory is to make the country accessible. I am prepared to votefor the expenditure of a considerable sum of money to secure regular steam-ship communication between the various ports of the Northern Territory. This would givepeople an opportunity to get to them and away from them at any time in comfortable boats. We should spend .sufficient money to provide decent shipping accommodationat four or five of the most suitable ports, and we should then build lines of railway from those ports into the Territory. Inthat way, we should make the Territory, not only accessible, but popular. The difficulty under existing conditions is that if a man desires to go to the Northern Territory, it is almost impossible for him to go to anybut one place, and that is .Port Darwin-

When he gets there, it is even more difficult for him to get away should he find it necessary to do so. If the country possesses anything like the merits that some people claim for it, and which I am not prepared to dispute, I say that if it is made accessible it should, in a short time, be as well peopled as is the northern portion of Queensland, which is the best developed tropical portion of Australia, although it has no communication with any of the great capital cities. Only a few years ago, central Queensland and north Queensland were entirely separated from the southern portion of the State, so far as railway communication between them was concerned.

Senator Chataway - They were developed from the coast.

Senator GIVENS - That is what I am advocating for the Northern Territory, namely, that it should be developed from the coast. Some people have an idea that oceans separate countries. There could be no more fallacious opinion. As a matter of fact, they connect countries. Would any one say that the United Kingdom could as easily obtain the huge supplies she draws from America if, instead of bringing them over 3,000 miles of ocean, she had to transport them over 3,000 miles of land, and most of it desert country? The cost of land carriage would be prohibitive. So that the Atlantic Ocean, instead of separating the United Kingdom and America, really connects them, and makes communication between them easy. We have one of the safest and best sea tracks in the world between here and the Northern Territory, whether we go round by the western or eastern coast of Australia. There is no reason why we should not subsidize a line of steam-ships to secure communication with every one of the ports in the Northern Territory. It would be preferable, from my point of view, to establish and conduct such a line of steam-ships of our own for the purpose of developing the country. If they called at the ports of the Territory once a week, a man might visit or leave any of those ports in any week, if he chose. If, at the same time, we had lines of railway constructed from those ports into the interior, we should find that the Northern Territory would become as familiar to the people of Australia as is any portion of the States. With that familiarity, all the feeling of aversion to living in the Territory would entirely disappear. We find no unwillingness on the part of the people of Queensland to go and live in the Cloncurry district, though it is 600 or 700 miles from the coast, and is in exactly the same latitude as the Northern Territory. Cloncurry is to-day one of the liveliest centres in Australia.

Senator Walker - How far is Cloncurry from Normanton?

Senator GIVENS - Speaking from memory, I think it is 230 or 240 miles from Normanton; but honorable senators must remember that the Cloncurry mineral field comprises an enormous area. The point I wish to emphasize is that there is no reluctance on the part of the people of Queensland to go there, though it is in the same latitude as the Northern Territory, is from 500 to 700 miles from the eastern coast, and is not connected with any capital city by railway. It is connected with a provincial town by the railway to Townsville, but any one desiring to go from Cloncurry to one of the capitals of the Australian States, must take a steamer from Townsville. The Cloncurry mineral field carries a very large population, but I can inform honorable senators that before the railway from Townsville was constructed to within 200 miles of Cloncurry, every inch of that country was fully occupied, from a pastoral point of view.

Senator Story - What is the population of Cloncurry ?

Senator GIVENS - I could not tell the honorable senator without a reference to the latest census returns.

Senator Vardon - Is it 500 ?

Senator GIVENS - There are more than 500 men working in several of the mines of Cloncurry. As I have said, the mineral field comprises an immense area of country, and some of the mines are distant from the Cloncurry railway station 70 or 80 miles.

Senator Walker - The Oxide Mine there was floated for £^100,000 only the other day.

Senator GIVENS - No doubt the development of the district will be very great in the future. I repeat that, apart from the attraction of mining, when the railway was 200 miles from Cloncurry, the country was fully occupied from a pastoral point of view. It was not because it was connected with any capital city, but because it was accessible. Stock and the other products of the district could be regularly sent to market. and there was a regular and certain means for supplying the requirements of the settlers. That is what we must provide in the Northern Territory if we are to develop it at all. We must secure to the settlers there a means of getting their produce to market, and provide that they shall never be stuck up for supplies of the necessaries, and even of some of the luxuries, of life. We cannot do that by compelling them to drag everything across the continent of Australia, or to send all they produce across the continent. We can do it by opening up the various ports of the Territory and making them accessible by a good line of steam-ships, and by constructing railways from those ports into the interior.

Senator Shannon - Could we do it better than by connecting Port Darwin with Port Augusta ?

Senator GIVENS - Undoubtedly, we could. The honorable senator cannot have been listening to what I have been saying. There are four or five decent ports on the coast of the Northern Territory which might be considerably improved. Port Darwin is an excellent port. I say that we should develop the Territory by opening up those ports and establishing regular communication with them by a line of steam-ships.

Senator Chataway - Which ports did the honorable senator mention ?

Senator GIVENS - I did not mention any in particular. I cannot say from personal knowledge which are the best ports on the coast, but four or five of the best might be opened up. I have been twice across to the Northern Territory, but have never been round the coast. I believe that a good port might be made at the mouth of the Macarthur River, and another at the mouth of the Roper River. The whole of the coastline is indented with ports more or less capable of development. Senator Shannon told us that there are not enough cattle in the Katherine River district to keep a South Australian butcher going for twentyfour hours. If we were to believe such a " stinking-fish " cry as that, we should abandon the Territory altogether.

Senator Guthrie - There are over 500,000 head of cattle there now.

Senator GIVENS - I know of one small portion of the Territory - the Barclay tablelands - which is capable of supporting, not 500,000, but 2,000,000 head of cattle.

Senator Chataway - And it would be much better for sheep and horses.

Senator GIVENS - As Senator Chataway has reminded me, it is ideal sheep country, and any one who knows anything of the pastoral industry is aware that where the country is suitable sheep are more profitable than cattle. There is over 500,000 square miles of country in the Northern Territory, and to say that we cannot grow enough cattle in the Territory to supply a surplus which will keep one freezing works going is to cry " stinkingfish " about the country in a way which must dishearten any one who has any hope for its future.

Senator Shannon - I never said anything of the kind.

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator plainly said that a freezing works would not be required there for years and years.

Senator Shannon - Not at Darwin, certainly.

Senator GIVENS - Then they want a freezing works at Port Augusta or Adelaide ?

Senator Chataway - Put it on the Victoria River.

Senator GIVENS - I believe that if the country be opened up in the way I am advocating, we shall have plenty of freezing works by-and-by, and in the best places, too. I do not know which is the best place now for establishing a freezing works, and I do not think that there is any one who can speak with authority on. that point. But I do know that the best place for a freezing works, apart from a particular locality, is where you will be1 nearest to a supply of cattle and to a market. That is not in Port Augusta, and I defy Senator Shannon or any one else to say that it is. It is either Port Darwin or some other of the ports in the Territory, because honorable senators must know that one of the most profitable markets which we hope to have for our frozen meat in the future is in the East. About the most profitable places that Queensland has now for getting rid of surplus stock in the way of frozen meat are the Philippines and a few other places in the East. Apart altogether from being nearest to the market, have Senator Shannon and other senators from South Australia ever considered the. difficulty of railing cattle over 1,000 or 1,500 miles of country, as they apparently desire when they want them brought through the heart of Australia to Port Augusta? How are you going to do it? You would have to get the cattle out of the trucks twice on the journey, in order to give them a drink.

Senator Story - Who proposed to do. that?

Senator GIVENS - If my honorable friend was not here to listen to the enlightening and illuminating statement of Senator Shannon, that is not my fault; but his colleague has advocated that not less than five, minutes ago. My honorable friend,, too, thinks that the way to develop the Territory is not to build railways in the Territory, but to build them in South Australia.

Senator Story - The only rational way is to do it from the south. Senator GIVENS. - According to the honorable senator, everything is a great national, and also a rational,, policy if it will bring grist to his mill, if it will help him in the game of grab, if it will assist him to get at the people, of the Commonwealth. But I am not advocating that any State should get at the Commonwealth or obtain any profit out of the Territory. What I am advocating is that we should seriously tackle the problem of developing the Territory for its own sake and that of the Commonwealth at large. The point I was making just now was that, in order to get cattle economically to the freezing works, wherever they may be established, it is essential that they must not have too long a train journey. Cattle can be carried fairly well for about 500 miles without derailing; they will generally travel that, distance. But I would point out that on a railway where there is any considerable traffic it is very difficult to fit in fast cattle trains, and it is essential for the successful carrying out of a. cattle trade on railway lines! that there must be fast trains.. The. only way iti which it. has been done, in Queensland has been by running the cattle trains at night. That enables the cattle to travel in the coolest portion of the twenty-four hours, and also enables the trains to run as quickly and with as little interruption, as possible. That is the only way in which they have been able to successfully carry cattle for 500 mites without de-trucking, in order to give them food and drink. But if you have to carry cattle for 1,500 miles - right across Australia - that will not be possible. By the time you got the cattle to Port Augusta half of them would be dead, and most of the others would be very much deteriorated. Of course; the cattle from the Territory now travelled1 to Adelaide, have to go through Queensland, in order to get down to Adelaide.

Senator Guthrie - No.

Senator GIVENS - Yes, they do; and from the Kimberley district, in Western Australia, they have to go through Queensland in order to get to Adelaide. Scores of times have I seen cattle from the- Territory passing through Charleville. All the men who make their living by taking cattle very long journeys- from the Territory are just as familiar with that route as Queens^ landers themselves. That is the route which they invariably travel, because it is the only one on which they can be sure of getting a constant supply of grass and water. I do not propose to discuss this matter at greater length.. I have enunciated what I think is. the proper railway policy for the development of this country, and! other honorable senators, of course, are at equal liberty to hold and express their opinions as freely as: I. have done. I have no quarrel with any one. on that score, but I consider that honorable senators, being charged with the interests ot the Territory, and of the Commonwealth as a whole,, should get rid of the. petty parochial idea of bringing grist to the capital of. their State, and letting the Territory go hang. We heard a. great plaint from Senator Shannon that all we wanted was an extension of 25 miles to carry the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway into improving country, and that a. little farther om the country was splendid. L interjected " The pity of it was that the South Australian Government did not make that shortextension in aQl these years."

Senate Shannon. - It is a pity..

Senator GIVENS - Yes, it is. They had the opportunity, and never thought it worth while, to do so. Yet Senator Vardonis not here five minutes when he immediately howls that the Commonwealth did not do it, although it is. only twenty minutes' comparatively speaking- since it took over the control of the Territory.

Senator Chataway - And the Tanges are still in South Australia.

Senator GIVENS - I am not prepared to say, because I know nothing- of the ranges, except from hearsay. Experts cannot yet say with certainty what that particular country is like, because none of them has ever seen it, except for a short period. A man needs- an acquaintance with the country for a term of years beforehe can actually say what it is capable of. I know from my own experience what the northern portion of the Territory is like; and I know from the experience of men who have lived there for many years, and;. made a living, and many of whom have taken up country there, that portions of the Territory are equal to the pastoral country that we have in the west of Queensland, which, everybody knows, is not surpassed in any portion of Australia, and which is all fully occupied. If we radiate railways from the ports into that good country, we shall easily populate the Territory, and if we once get a population established there, the major portion of the problem in regard to the Territory will have been solved. I am prepared to vote for the Bill in pursuit of the policy which I have been advocating. I welcome the Bill so far as it goes. I hope that the Government will seriously consider . t he necessity of developing the Territory in the same way as every State has been developed, not by starting4^ the other side of the continent to build railways through it, but by starting at its own ports, and building railways into the interior.

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