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Thursday, 19 March 1931

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Senator Daly has, to some extent, cleared up one point that was raised by Senator Colebatch in the early part of his speech this afternoon. He has shown quite clearly and convincingly that he did give effect to a promise that was made by him in this chamber, so far as he was able to do so, by legislation. Unfortunately, so far as

I am able to learn, that legislation has not been implemented by the Government of which he was a Minister, even during the time that he was Leader of the Senate. I regret intensely that he is not still acting in that capacity, but I suppose that that is neither his fault nor mine.

Senator Daly - It certainly is not mine.

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - One of the causes which led to the annoyance resulting from the promulgation of this regulation is that other regulations, which contain provisions similar to those of section 16, of this ordinance have been put into force, without, so far as we know, being laid on the table of the Senate. They were most drastic in their nature and had been the subject of negotiation between the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association and the Government. The Minister suspended their operation at the express request of that association ; but, finally, they were enforced, without being laid on the table of the Senate, notwithstanding the provisions of Ordinance No. 13 of 1930. They refer specifically to the half-castes and aborigines in the territory. That is partly the reason for the motion by Senator Colebatch. However, it is not the whole story by any manner of means. Though I have no pecuniary interests of any nature in the Northern Territory, I have been the chairman of the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association since its inception, and I know that the regulation to which I refer was the subject of negotiation between my association and the Government. At the present time, not one station property in the Northern Territory is showing a profit. Indeed, there is not one that is not losing money. In the circumstances, we asked the Government, as a special favour, not to make these regulations dealing with accommodation of employees; but especially requested that if the Government was determined, despite the condition of the industry, to impose further handicaps upon it, not to proceed beyond a certain point. Our request was not unreasonable. The proposals to which the association consented were, I think, quite reasonable, although perhaps they did not go quite so far as similar regulations in

Queensland. I am perfectly certain that there was nothing in our recommendations to which any reasonable employee could take the slightest exception. Ignoring the request made by our association, the Government, without any further refer ence to it, swept aside all its objections, and brought in these ordinances which, iti some respects, go a great deal further than regulations governing similar classes of employment in Queensland. Senator Daly, comparing the conditions obtaining in Toowoomba and Rockhampton, suggested that, if uniform regulations applied to the pastoral industry in two places so far apart in Queensland, there should not be any objection to similar conditions being imposed on the industry in the Northern Territory.

Senator Daly - I did not say that. What I said was that the pastoral conditions at Wave Hill should not be dissimi lar from the conditions elsewhere in the pastoral areas of the Northern Territory.

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Wave Hill is part of the Northern Territory. The whole trouble, in connexion with these ordinances, is that if they are not disallowed, they will impose very heavy burdens upon large numbers of stationowners. Even if single cubicles for the accommodation of employees were erected on any station in the Northern Territory, they would not be used for ten months in a year.

Senator Carroll - And they would be eaton by the white ants.

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - They would not be used because the men do not want them. It would appear, therefore, that the lessees are put to all this expenditure for a perfectly useless object. If the pastoralists were rolling in money, if their industry were prosperous, there might be some reason for the making of these ordinances; the Government might have wanted to give more employment. But, as I have stated, not a station in the Northern Territory is, at the present time, paying its way. It may interest honorable senators to know that this week four to five year old fat bullocks were sold in the Claremont district, in Queensland, at £7 per head on trucks.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - What would that mean at Camooweal?

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What would it mean to the station-owner at Wave Hill ? We have only to examine the condition of the industry to realize that it is the height of folly to place any additional burden upon it. Our objective should be to populate and develop the Northern Territory. We shall not attain this objective if the Government brings in aggravating ordinances of this kind. We had, first of all, ordinances relating to the aborigines, then ordinances dealing with the half-castes, and now we are considering ordinances governing accommodation. All these hampering restrictions will make the lot of the man on the land in the Northern Territory quite intolerable. The whole object and aim of the Government should be to do everything possible to lighten the burden of the pioneers wherever they may be. If, however, the Government continues te make ordinances of this kind, at the behest of a few men who are living in Darwin - because that is what it amounts to - much of the country at present being developed in the Northern Territory will be abandoned. These ordinances have not been brought in because they are really necessary, hut because the Australian Workers Union in Darwin has made up its mind that the Minister must do these things.

Senator Dooley - Evidently Chief Judge Dethridge thought that they were necessary.

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know that he did. But I do not think he has any practical knowledge of the conditions under which the people in the Northern Territory are making a living.

Senator Dooley - He had the evidence before him.

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In this Ministry there are men who have had some practical experience in the pastoral industry. They must know that these regulations are useless, and that, if not disallowed, they will impose an unnecessary burden upon the pastoral industry. The Senate should be grateful to Senator Colebatch for having submitted the motion. I shall vote for it.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland) [5.43]. - All honorable senators will agree that reasonably good accommodation should be provided for employees in any industry if the industry can afford to do so; but as Senator Greene has pointed out, these ordinances relating to North and Central Australia will hamper development to an extent not appreciated by those who approve of the Government's action. Most of the complaints made by honorable senators supporting the Government this afternoon have related to the wool industry. Not one speaker on the Government side raised any objections to the conditions obtaining in the cattle industry, which is vitally affected by these ordinances. Practically the whole of the Northern Territory is occupied by cattle stations. Section 4 of the ordinance relating to North Australia, states -

This ordinance shall apply only to buildings, structures, and premises used for or in con- nexion with -

(a)   any cattle station: and

(b)   such works or occupations as the

Governor-General from time to time by notice in the Gazette declares to be works or occupations to which this ordinance shall apply.

Although it refers specifically to cattle stations, the whole of the remarks of honorable senators supporting the Government, have been directed to the conditions existing on sheep stations. Men are employed in numbers on a sheep station for perhaps one month in each year; but on cattle stations the employees leave the home station twice a year to brand cattle on distant parts of the run, and during that time in the Northern Territory they live in the open air, even without a tent. Senator- Greene referred to the conditions in Queensland and Northern Territory as being geographical in their nature. I am sure the honorable senator will agree that the difference between such places as Claremont and Wave Hill is much greater than the difference in conditions at, say, Toowoomba and Rockhampton. Distance from market, and the cost of transport and stock travelling are important factors. A cattle-owner in the Barkly Tableland, or at Wave Hill, would incur an expenditure of at least £3 a head to deliver cattle at Claremont.

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would cost him more than that.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.It would cost him at least £3 a head. If he had to sell his cattle on trucks at

Claremont for £7 a head, they would not be worth £4- per head at Wave Hill, or on the Barkly Tableland, because he would have to pay for droving and trucking, and allow for wastage in condition and other losses. Employees in the industry have not made any demand for such regulations as are to be found in these ordinances. We may assume, therefore, that certain union officials in the Northern Territory have been interesting themselves in the matter. The employees are contented with their lot. One never hears them complaining about their conditions, and in view of the position of the industry, the imposition of these hampering restrictions is the height of folly. We must remember, also, that conditions in the Northern Territory to-day are practically pioneering conditions. If any attempt had been made to impose on our pioneers such restrictions as are to be found in these ordinances, the development of Australia would have been seriously retarded. With other honorable senators, I am grateful to Senator Colebatch for having submitted the motion to disallow the ordinances. It will have my heartiest support.

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