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Thursday, 11 December 1930

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - This measure constitutes a further effort on the part of the federal authority to tinker with .the Northern Territory. Honorable senators are aware that about fourteen years ago the Federal Government assumed control of the Northern Territory, which, at that time, was administered by the South Australian Government with the assistance of. an administrator. When the Federal Government assumed control, it thought that the administration of the territory could be improved by appointing an advisory council to assist the administrator. That officer, with the assistance of the council, satisfactorily carried on up to a certain point ; but a time arrived when a change was made as outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). The Northern Territory was then divided into certain sections, in each, of which a local authority was given power to control its own affairs. The present proposal involves undoing all the work that has been done, and reverting to the position which obtained fourteen years ago. As this is to be the fourth change in the system of administration, is it not time we asked ourselves if we do not know our own mind? The population of the Northern Territory, which has never been large in comparison with its immense area, is rapidly diminishing, but that is not due to lack of government. There have been three changes, and a fourth is now proposed. If anything is helping to kill the place it is the constant changes in the form of administration, which it would appear are made merely for the sake of making a change. Forty-four years ago, I was engaged in gold-mining at Croydon in Queensland, a few hundred miles from the Northern Territory border; the men with whom 1 was then associated were not in the least concerned with the form of government. All we were interested in was the necessity to get on with our job. Every man in the locality would have been delighted with the' prospect of having his mine floated in the south because there would have been a possibility of introducing capital to assist its development. At that time employees and employers worked harmoniously together and there was a general desire to develop the country. Later a new generation arose, conditions changed and the Vestey's meat works, to which Senator Guthrie referred, were established, when a period of persecution commenced. A form of government then existed in the Northern Territory, but what authority had it over those men whose actions finally resulted in smashing the concern and turning a million pounds worth of buildings and plant into a heap of scrap iron. In walking through Vestey's buildings my heart ached to think that such a splendid undertaking, which meant so much to the prosperity of the Commonwealth and particularly to the men in the interior, had been ruined. The form of Government then in existence was not responsible for that destruction. It. was the action of wild, lawless men who actually took possession of the Northern Territory, and who instituted their own form of control, /is the result of which those fine works, which cost, over £1,000,000, are to-day idle and rusting. Does the Government think that a reversion to a system of administration which was in force fourteen years ago, and which was a failure, is likely to lead to progress and make that country blossom like the rose? What is wanted is a re-modelling of our ideas and that employers and employees should work amicably together. We should endeavour to encourage the investment of money in tropical Australia, and not regard the person possessing capital and who wishes to employ it for developmental purposes, as a kind of social enemy bent upon the destruction of the workers. Why do not those who have charge of minor affairs, which are after all of major importance, create a sound and friendly relationship between the two elements? They should take a leaf from the book of the Federation of Labour in the United States of America, where capital and labour work in complete co-operation to produce as much as possible, and when the maximum point of production is reached, set about a division of the returns upon an equitable basis. In Australia the first desire appears to be to destroy. They ought to be proud of their handiwork. If a better relationship existed between capital and labour so that capital would be invested in the Northern Territory its prospects would immediately commence to improve. The form of government in existence does not make the slightest difference. What is needed is a different spirit. Better relations could exist, as was the case with the miners of Croydon, without the sacrifice of one's independence. We need a change of heart.

While the Commonwealth is playing with this vast territory, and particularly the tropical and subtropical portions, which are capable of carrying very many settlers, the eyes of the world are upon us. A glance at the map will show that Darwin is only slightly north of Timbuctoo and corresponds with a large area of country in Africa between the 15th and 30th parallels, from which sprang those nations which brought the Roman empire to its knees. We should get down to a proper recognition of what is needed. It will not be long before the League of Nations will be asking what 6,000,000 of people are doing with this country. 1 oppose the bill because I do not believe in tinkering and making changes merely "for the sake of it. Even though the retention of the commission may necessitate the expenditure of £7,000 or £8,000 annually, a skeleton organization should remain, so that when prosperity returns its work can be carried on. Years ago an army of men was sent out to survey the territory. The data then collected is still available, and has since been added to. We should preserve the skeleton organization and endeavour to get back to the spirit which obtained in Australia 40 years ago, when there were better men in the territory than many who are there to-day. As the Government's proposals, if adopted, will not be of the slightest benefit, and will be the means of undoing much good work that already has been done, I oppose the bill.

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