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Wednesday, 2 October 1912

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - The debate has been very satisfactory from the point of view of the Government. I have been a good many years in Parliament, but I have never seen a Government so fortunately situated in regard to a matter of policy before. Every Government supporter is in favour of this measure. Even Senator Stewart is not prepared to oppose it. Every member of the Opposition has declared his intention of voting for the survey.

Senator Clemons - No.

Senator McGREGOR - There is one exception which proves the rule. The Government are to be congratulated, however, on having secured, practically, unanimity. 1 shall refer briefly to the opinions expressed, not only by honorable senators sitting in opposition, but also to those of Government supporters who are not opposing the Bill.

Senator Chataway - They dare not; the matter has been settled in Caucus.

Senator McGREGOR - That statement is not exactly in accordance with the facts.

Senator Chataway - The honorable senator should let us know what happens in the Caucus.

Senator McGREGOR - I shall be pleased to inform the honorable senator, but on all occasions when information has been imparted, members of the Opposition have not seemed to be satisfied. Although they are all supporting this Bill from different, but, I have no doubt, legitimate, motives, yet by interjection and insinuation there has been made apparent a certain amount of hostility to which honorable members opposite are not prepared to give direct expression. During nearly the whole of the debate to-day, when different aspects of the question have been under discussion, Senator Gould has, by interjection, shown himself to be opposed to almost every feature of the proposal.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - It is hardly fair for the honorable senator to say that.

Senator McGREGOR - I have no wish to be unfair to the honorable senator, but nearly every interjection he has made has indicated that he is not satisfied with everything that is being done.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Hear, hear !

Senator McGREGOR - I am aware that some honorable senators are unbelieving, and sometimes pugnacious, and that it is very difficult to satisfy them. I wish, first of all, to refer to an aspect of the question which has been dealt with by honorable senators on both sides, and which was to some extent the subject of an amendment which has been ruled out of order. It has been contended that the Government, in bringing down this Survey Bill, should have declared a policy with respect to the Northern Territory. Some honorable senators have referred to a policy in a general sense, and others have spoken of a policy so vaguely and indefinitely that it is impossible to decide whether they referred to a general policy, or a railway policy, for the Northern Territory. I shall deal first with the question of a general policy for the Territory. If honorable senators will consider for a moment the history of this session, they cannot honestly say that the Government have not already declared a policy for the Northern Territory.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - But their policy with respect to land legislation has been withdrawn.

Senator McGREGOR - No, it has not been withdrawn. An Act has been passed with respect to a policy for the Northern Territory, and the only thing that has not been definitely proceeded with is a certain portion of an Ordinance for dealing with the lands of the Territory.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I understand that it is hung up until an opportunity is afforded to the Government to try again.

Senator McGREGOR - The honorable senator will know all about it in due time. A policy for the Territory has been included in an Act already passed, and has been further promulgated through statements made by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - There has been nothing definite.

Senator McGREGOR - The principle has been embodied in the Northern Territory

Act that the lands of the Territory shall be dealt with under the leasehold system. Is not that the first part of any policy which any Government could submit?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - That is a very small portion of a policy.

Senator McGREGOR - We must have a beginning. The Government, proceeding on that Act, came to the conclusion that the lands of the Northern Territory should be classified. Officers have been appointed for that purpose, and the classification is now being made. Is not that a portion of a policy?

Senator Sayers - Was there no classification done by the South Australian Government?

Senator McGREGOR - There was no classification that would be satisfactory to the Commonwealth. Surveys were carried out in the past by the South Australian Government, but, so far as I know, no attempt was made to systematically classify the' lands of the Territory. That is the first duty of any Government in dealing with the Territory.

Senator Sayers - Then the South Australian Government failed in their duty?

Senator McGREGOR - I have no doubt that Senator Sayers has been a very good citizen of Australia, but I am sure he would not be vain enough to declare that he has done everything he ought to have done, and has left undone everything he ought not to have done. If he is not prepared to claim infallibility on his own account, why should he carp at the South Australian Government if, in the past, they have not done everything which, in his opinion, they ought to have done?

Senator Sayers - I was referring to the honorable senator's argument.

Senator McGREGOR - I am arguing the question fairly, as the honorable senator will know before I have finished. The Government have adopted the classification of the lands of the Northern Territory as part of their policy. They have appointed officers for the purpose, who are now engaged in the work. Much has been said on the subject of the appointment of officers in the Northern Territory, and in this connexion a serious mistake was made the other day, due, possibly, to inadvertence on my part. When I was enumerating the number of officers who were appointed outside the Public Service, it was said that there were 95 officers appointed outside the Public Service to positions in the Northern

Territory. I am not sure that I said such a thing, but, if I did, I never meant to do so. I was referring to the number appointed outside the Service throughout the Commonwealth. But there has been an attempt to make it appear that an inordinate number of persons outside the Public Service have been appointed to positions in the Northern Territory.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I think that the honorable senator led us to believe that that was the case.

Senator McGREGOR - I am making this statement in order to clear up any misunderstanding on the point. The officers who have been appointed in the Northern Territory to carry out the policy of the Government are only sufficient for the work. When the lands of the Territory have been classified a certain area of each class of country is to be allotted on leasehold to settlers. That is another part of the Government policy. Then when we are looking for settlers we propose that the first 5,000 shall be given leaseholds of the different classes of land for which they may apply for twenty years or for life, as seems desirable. That is also part of the Government policy. If honorable senators will still persist in saying that we have no policy I can inform them that already, in moving the second reading of this Bill, so far as a railway policy is concerned, I stated that the Government are appointing three officers with special knowledge on different subjects for the purpose of examining the lands and advising the Government as to the possibilities of those lands in order to enable us to finally determine our railway policy. When that is done it will be found to be in accordance with the honorable understanding between the South Australian Government and the Commonwealth. The Bill we are now discussing is a portion of that railway policy. Every member of the Senate, not even excepting Senator Clemons, who is going to oppose the Bill, is agreed that the section from Pine Creek to the Katherine River must form part of any railway policy for the Northern Territory which will in future be adopted by any Government.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - What is the policy of the Government after we get to the Katherine River?

Senator McGREGOR - What does the honorable senator want with that now?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The Government have no policy.

Senator McGREGOR - Let us go back to the history of New South Wales. When the New South Wales Government decided to construct a line from Sydney to Parramatta,, did the members of the New South Wales Parliament at the time object to the survey of that line because the Government did not inform them that at some future date it would be taken across the Blue Mountains to Orange ? Was it found necessary for the South Australian Government, when they proposed to construct a line from Adelaide to Gawler, to set out the whole of the railway policy which has been followed in South Australia up to the present time? In Victoria, when it was proposed to construct a line from Melbourne to Ballarat, dic- any one ask, in connexion with the survey of that line, that the Victorian Government of the day should develop the whole railway policy of the State? Cannot honorable senators opposite see the absurd position in which they place themselves? The Government come down with a proposal for the survey of a section ot railway which is admitted to be, not only necessary, but which must form a portion of any railway development policy carried out in the Northern Territory, and honorable senators object because we are not prepared to make a statement of a railway policy for the whole of the Territory.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The Government will not say whether the railway is to be continued from the Katherine River, south, or east to the Queensland border.

Senator McGREGOR - Why should they say that? Have I not already stated that officers have been appointed to investigate the whole question, not from Port Darwin to the Queensland border, but from the Western Australian border to the Queensland border, and from the north of the Territory right through, the MacDonnell Ranges to Oodnadatta, and then advise the Government as to which would be the best routes, and everything else necessary for the development of the Northern Territory, having in view the honorable understanding which has been entered into between South Australia and the Commonwealth. Why should we be required to go any further than that statement in connexion with the construction of this short line? That is quite sufficient at present so far as our policy for the' Territory is concerned. When the-- officers already appointed have gone so far with their work that the Government can throw the lands open for settlement, not only to Australians, but also to persons from all parts of Europe, and even America, honorable senators must acknowledge that the development of the country is going on. There is another point to be considered. A number of . honorable senators, particularly those from South Australia, have stated that the Government are in error in the way in which they are going about this business, and that for the development of the Territory, we should commence at Oodnadatta, and work northward. The distance from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta is nearly 400 miles, while the distance from Port Darwin to Pine Creek is only 148 miles. When honorable senators are talking about the economic construction of a railway for the development of the country they must take distances into consideration, because all the necessary material for the railway will have to be imported from somewhere.

Senator St Ledger - Not the timber, for instance.

Senator McGREGOR - The timber will have to be imported from somewhere, so far as the Northern Territory is concerned.

Senator St Ledger - I was thinking of importing from outside of Australia.

Senator McGREGOR - So far as I understand, there is not in the Northern Territory a sufficient quantity of timber which would be impervious to white ants to construct 100 miles of railway ; and, consequently, there are only two ports at which that material can be landed, namely, Port Augusta and Port Darwin, and both are good ports.

Senator de Largie - What about Wyndham?

Senator McGREGOR - There is no railway to Wyndham from Pine Creek. The honorable senator, of course, has an eye upon his own State, as he has a perfect right to do: Wyndham is a place of very great importance, so far as the north-east portion of Western Australia is concerned, but it is not connected by rail with Pine Creek. The honorable senator can surely see the absurdity of suggesting that we should ship the sleepers at Fremantle or Bunbury, in Western Australia, or in Tasmania, or some other portion of Australia, and land them at Wyndham.

Senator de LARGIE - You could land them at Derby.

Senator McGREGOR - That is what I was about to say. We will land at Port Darwin the sleepers for the northern por tion of the line, and at Port Augusta the sleepers tor the southern portion. What applies to sleepers, also applies to rails, bolts, fishplates, and everything else of that description, and we will land these things either at Port Augusta or Port Darwin.

Senator Chataway - The Roper River is the best place at which to land them.

Senator McGREGOR - Yes ; but there is no railway from the Roper River to the Katherine River, and, according to Senator Shannon, there are not enough bullocks in the Territory to cart the material over to the latter place. ,

Senator Chataway - You landed all the material for the overland telegraph line at the Roper River.

Senator McGREGOR -.- Yes; it was just as easy to carry the material on camels or horses, or by dray, from the Roper River to the centre of Australia as it would have been to do so from Port Darwin, because there was no railway at the time. But, seeing that there is now a railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, the officer who would recommend the Government to land the material for a railway ' from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, at the Roper River, would want to say his prayers pretty often to keep out of a lunatic asylum.

Senator Chataway - Then you could land the material at the Daly River.

Senator McGREGOR - You could land the material at the Daly, the Katherine, or the Adelaide River; in fact, in dozens of places.

Senator Chataway - You could not land the material at the Katherine River, unless you took it overland.

Senator McGREGOR - The Government will land the material at the place where it can be put on railway trucks and carried to where it is to be used. The honorable senator knows that, and he is only joking when he makes an interjection about the Roper, the McArthur, the Adelaide, or the Alligator River. Seeing that the material will have to be shipped from different portions of Australia, America, and Europe, and even from Great Britain, so far as shipping is concerned, it will make no difference whether it is landed at Port Darwin or Port Augusta. If you want to handle your material economically, you will land it at the port whence it will have to be carried the shortest distance by railway afterwards. Consequently, until we get the line' from Port Darwin 500 or 600 miles into the interior, it will be cheaper to land material there and construct from that end. Honorable senators have referred to the action of the Government from a defence point of view. I know, as well as any honorable senator knows, that if there were any sign of danger - and there is no necessity to advertise it - the worst thing which the Government could do would be to build from the northern end, because it would be giving our enemy an opportunity of seizing the railway, and we should be cut off from our southern base. The Government have taken all that into consideration, and in due time, when their policy is developed, they will be prepared to go on from the south as well as from the north. But, on account of the arguments 1 have used m connexion with the carriage of material, the most economical and the most effective way is to build from the port nearest to the scene of operations. I think I have said enough with respect to the point of commencement to show honorable senators that the Government are taking up the right attitude at present. I believe, with other honorable senators, that there are great possibilities of development in connexion with the MacDonnell Ranges. [ hope that the Government will not be so neglectful of their duty as not, in the very near future, to do something so that that country may be developed from, not only a mineral, but also a pastoral and agricultural point of view. As much of their policy as is really necessary, and as they have really completed, they have already disclosed to both Houses of Parliament, and to the public, and all this talk about the want of a policy is moonshine. Some honorable senators have raised some fanciful objections with respect to the statement I made in my second-reading speech about the establishment of freezing works at Port Darwin. Some of them have said that there are no cattle there. Even Senator Shannon declared that a butcher could kill them all in one day. I do not know whether he meant in twenty-four hours or eight hours. I think that a more absurd statement, coming from a South Australian, could not be .uttered. When honorable senators come to realize that in the Territory - and that is mostly on known country which has been dealt with by the South Australian Government - there are 513,000 head of cattle, they will admit that he would he a very expert butcher - unless he used dynamite - who would kill all those cattle in a day.

Senator Chataway - And in Queensland there are 10,000,000 head of cattle.

Senator McGREGOR - I am not talking about Queensland, in which there are many freezing works and many establishments, for dealing with not only live, but also dead cattle. The development of the Northern Territory is only in its infancy. I think that Senator Chataway, and other honorable senators, must recognise that 513,000 head of cattle is a fair number to make a start with. Of course, I could not make honorable senators hear if they were not present when I was speaking to the second reading ; but I mentioned then that the Government have come to the decision that Port Darwin is the best place for freezing works, on the recommendation of the Government Administrator, who arrived at that view from information which he had gained in the Territory. We know that Senator Sayers gains information from the man on the job, the man in the train, the man on the boat, the man on the plain, and the man on the mountain.

Senator Chataway - He gets it at first hand.

Senator McGREGOR - Ves ; but it is like the information which is got from the man who met the man who met the man who said that he saw the devil. That is the source to which I attribute all that sort of information. Senator Sayers was not the only honorable senator who made the statement that the proper place for the freezing works is in the interior where the cattle are running. Senator Millen made the same statement, and so did other honorable senators. I think that Senator Walker remarked that the works ought to be established at the Katherine River.

Senator Chataway - Yes; where it junctions with the Adelaide River is a good place.

Senator McGREGOR - That is very like the information which comes from " the man on the job," or the man in the train, or the man in the boat.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - " The man on the job " is pretty' stiff for you.

Senator McGREGOR - If the man on the job did his work at less than the estimated cost, and if at Cobar, or elsewhere, they always got it done in that way, they would be quite satisfied. The honorable senator's information resembles information which is obtained in that way. It is unreliable. The 'Government, and sensible Government officers, prefer to .be guided by the experience of the past, and by the evidence which can be obtained at the present time. I ask Senator Sayers, or Senator Gould, or Senator Walker whether, in the settled States of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, or South Australia, freezing works have been established in the interior? Are they not always established at the port of export? Why ?

Senator Chataway - Because the climate is colder.

Senator McGREGOR - The climate is not always colder. But it is quite cold enough in the freezing works. The carcasses are put aboard the vessels in a frozen condition. If a hundred chilling works were established in different parts of Australia, we would still require to establish freezing works at the port of shipment. Wherever requests have been made to establish works inland, those requests have always been to enable chilling operations to be undertaken.

Senator Chataway - Is not chilling taking the place of freezing nowadays?

Senator McGREGOR - Yes. But in a new country like the Northern Territory we must first establish our freezing works at the port of shipment. I am aware that live cattle have been shipped from Port Darwin before to-day, and probably they will be shipped from there again. But the establishment of freezing works at the port of shipment marks the commencement of the business.

Senator Chataway - The commencement of the business is the production of the cattle.

Senator McGREGOR - People will not breed cattle unless they can see a method of getting rid of them. But as soon as freezing works have been established they will begin to grow both mutton and beef for export. Senator Chataway must be very young, or very forgetful, seeing that he has not recognised that in the early days, before freezing works had been established in this country, sheep were only grown in the_ interior, and then only for their wool. It is true that a few were grown to supply the people with mutton.

Senator Givens - The carcasses were boiled down in those days.

Senator McGREGOR - Yes ; but as soon as steps were taken to establish freezing works, people began to grow lambs and beef for the export trade. It will be seen, therefore, if one' regards this matter from a common-sense stand-point, that our first step must be to establish freezing works at the port of shipment, so as to enable stockbreeders to secure an outlet for their produce.

Senator Chataway - Is not the complaint to-day that too many sheep are being grown for wool, and too few for mutton?

Senator McGREGOR - It would be a waste of time on my part to enter into an argument of that description. I am not going to deny the statements which the honorable senator choses to make by way of interjections, which are out of order. My argument is that the establishment of freezing works marks the first step which must be taken in the development of this Territory.' The Administrator, in tendering advice to the Government, has intimated that he is arranging for a guarantee to supply the works with 10,000 fat cattle per annum to begin with. Up to the present time he has obtained a guarantee from one firm, which has scarcely commenced to develop yet, to supply them with 5,000 fat cattle per annum. The other guarantees are coming in. Honorable senators will recognise how necessary it is to secure guarantees of that description from stockbreeders if we are to commence this new industry in the Northern Territory. The first development in a new country is the breeding of cattle. When they have eaten down the rough country, sheep are brought in, and they prove much more profitable than do the cattle. Consequently the Government are endeavouring to induce development of that kind, and to encourage the production of cattle and sheep in the Territory. I hold that, in establishing freezing works at Port Darwin, they are acting wisely. If the development of the Territory proceeds in the way we hope it will proceed, if the land policy of the Government proves successful, and if, as a result, we secure population and produce in that country, it will then be time enough to establish chilling works in places where the cattle are bred in large numbers. Some honorable senators have objected to the Bill on the ground that the line proposed to be surveyed will pass through comparatively poor country. That is admitted. But that is the reason why the line is necessary. The stock-breeding portions of the Northern Territory are to be found on the tablelands. Stock are healthier, and thrive better there than they do on the low-lying lands of the coast. Honorable senators know what coast disease is, and they are aware that in various places horses and cattle have to be removed from coastal districts to higher latitudes at certain periods of the year. The purpose of this Bill is to authorize the survey of a line which will ultimately be constructed. The survey will be made this year, the Bill to authorize the building of the line will be passed next year, and its construction will occupy a couple of years. Consequently, breeders will take care to have their stock ready by the time it is completed. All the arguments go to prove the necessity, not only of surveying this line, but of constructing it as soon as possible.

Senator Guthrie - And the rest of the transcontinental line, too.

Senator McGREGOR - Certainly. Tt would be very foolish for this Parliament to permit any delay in the development of the Northern Territory by means of a transcontinental railway. But honorable senators must know' that the Government are /bing their best at the present time with the funds at their command. So far as the great loan policy is concerned, which Senator St. Ledger is anxious that the Government should embark upon, I suppose that will come in due time. He and other honorable senators are labouring under a very serious misapprehension when they imagine that the Labour party have ever declared themselves absolutely opposed to borrowing. They have never done anything of the kind. The policy of the Labour party has always been that they will not borrow for works of a non-productive character - for defence purposes, or for anything of that kind - under ordinary circumstances. But when a country has to be developed, and when there is a possibility of that development ultimately paying, the Labour party will be just as willing to borrow as will any other section of the community.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council upon giving us some enlightenment.

Senator McGREGOR - We have made the same statement for the last ten years, but honorable senators opposite have chosen to ignore it. Their attitude in this connexion is on all-fours with their attitude towards the Labour party on the question of immigration. They declare the policy of the Labour party in respect to immigration, notwithstanding that they know no more about it than does Tommy Walker, the king of the black- fellows. The Labour party are just as earnest advocates of a proper system of immigration as are any honorable senators opposite. But they are not going to induce persons to come to Australia by means of false pretences, so that, upon their arrival, they may walk about our streets doing nothing. We wish the country to be opened up, and we desire that there shall be possibilities ahead of immigrants, so that they will write home to their friends, saying, " Come along ; this is God's own country."

Senator Givens - Are immigrants going to build this railway?

Senator McGREGOR - We do not know what will happen in the near future in respect of the settlement of the Northern Territory. There may be a rush there which will surprise my honorable friends opposite. I have clearly stated the intentions of the Government with regard to the line. It i& absolutely correct that it will be surveyed and constructed to carry a 4-ft. 8$-in. railway. It would be very foolish to tear up the line from Darwin to Pine Creek that can be availed of for carrying material for the 3-ft. 6-in. line. We are doing just as has been done in the case of the railway from Brisbane to Tweed Heads, which will be made into a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge line when New South Wales is progressive enough to carry her railway far enough north. We shall build a line capable of carrying a 4-ft. 8j-in. railway, but under existing conditions and circumstances the line will be built on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.

Senator Chataway - Do the Government propose to convert the culverts and cuttings on the line from Darwin to Pine Creek to 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge?

Senator McGREGOR - We are prepared to lay a 4-ft. 8 1/2. in gauge line, but there is no necessity at present to do so. It would only be laying out money that might more profitably be used in some other direction for the time being. I hope the Government will never be foolish enough to do anything of that description. I think I have now given a very fair answer to some of the supposed arguments that have, been advanced from the other side.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 -

The Minister for External Affairs may cause a survey to be made of a route for a railway in the Northern Territory from Pine Creek to the Katherine River.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTis it provided in this clause that the survey is to be made by the Minister of External (Affairs? Should it not be made by the Minister of Home Affairs?

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