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Thursday, 28 November 1912

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) - I must congratulate Senator Story upon the admirable manner in which he brought this matter before the Senate. I can assure him that the Government are prepared to do everything they possibly can to carry out the agreement that has been entered into with South Australia with reference to the transfer of the Northern Territory. I have already dealt at some length with what has been done in connexion with the construction of the railway from Port Darwin to the Kathe rine River. I honestly admit that the sooner the Commonwealth is in a position to construct the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges the better we shall be pleased. But it must be recollected1 that we have enormous works in hand at the present time; and although we are earnestly anxious that the Northern Territory shall be developed as expeditiously as possible, still there are limitations even to the means of such a vast institution as the Commonwealth of Australia. The Government are at present endeavouring to obtain information with respect to the character of the country, and the investigations that have already been made. We understand that South Australia has made surveys of the Territory between Oodnadatta and the Macdonnell Ranges. We are endeavouring to obtain those surveys. If they are found to be efficient and sufficient, the further expenditure of money in that direction will be unnecessary. But if the preliminary, and even the permanent, surveys that have been made by the South Australian Government are not found to be all that is necessary in connexion with the proper investigation required for the construction of a line from Oodnadatta northward, the Government will take steps to see that a proper survey is made.

Senator Vardon - Are the Government in favour of the direct route?

Senator McGREGOR - The policy of the Government, as far as I can understand, is to carry out honestly and earnestly the contract that has been entered into with the South Australian Government; and I can see nothing for it but the adoption of the direct route, which must be the best route. The agreement with South Australia provides that the line shall run from north to south.

Senator Vardon - Not to the Queensland border.

Senator McGREGOR - I do not think that the honorable senator has ever heard any responsible person connected with the Government, or even in Parliament, seriously suggest anything in that direction.

Senator St Ledger - They may hear it now.

Senator McGREGOR - From whom?

Senator St Ledger - From me, as a senator from Queensland. If the VicePresident of the Executive Council puts the matter in that way, he will have a fight forthwith.

Senator McGREGOR - We are never afraid of anything that Senator St. Ledger can do. He is very voluble, but quite harmless. It is unnecessary for him to begin to threaten the Government.

Senator St Ledger - The Minister was provoking it.

Senator McGREGOR - The Government have always been honest in this direction, and I hope our honesty will receive its due reward from the people in the near future. I am aware of the great possibilities of development in the Mac donnell Ranges. I know what scope there is. I fully appreciate the opportunities presented. It would be a foolish Government indeed that would attempt to do anything to divert the railway into country that would not have the same developmental possibilities as a line in the direction of the Macdonnell Ranges would have. I again congratulate Senator Story, and hope that in the near future something will be done to show the bona fides of the Government in the direction of the development of the Northern Territory.

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