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Thursday, 5 July 1906

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister of External Affairs) . - The submission of this motion is a very proper proceeding on the part of the honorable member who has introduced it to-day, and it is but natural that it should receive the cordial support of the honorable member for Barker, who, during the present session, has already addressed himself to the question upon the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. In looking up the first discussion in 1901-2, I was not surprised to find the names of the honorable member for Grey and the honorable member for Barker bracketed together, or to observe that upon that occasion both displayed the same knowledge of the subject, and the same interest in pressing it upon the attention of the House, that they have exhibited to-day. If I may be permitted to digress by referring, to an interjection on the part of the honorable member for Coolgardie, I notice that he also spoke during the first discussion; and, although the honorable member for Wentworth had not at that time the inestimable privilege of being a member of the House, he seems, by some mysterious process, to have inspired another honorable member to make the same interjection which he made to-day, and to which practically the same answer was given by the honorable member for Coolgardie.

Mr Tudor - It is a matter of history repeating itself.

Mr DEAKIN - Without detaining the House too long, may I be permitted to reca pitulate briefly the various steps which have brought us to our present position, because I think that, naturally, and yet unwittingly, the honorable member for Grey has conveyed an impression of backwardness on the part of the Commonwealth, which is not justified, if we take into account the various intermediate stages through which this question had to pass. I find that it was on the 18th April, 1901, that you, sir, as Premier of South Australia, submitted the first offer of the Territory to the Commonwealth Government. As you will doubtless recollect, owing to the loss of certain papers which you had ordered to be transmitted, some five or six weeks elapsed before they were traced through the Post Office to another destination, recovered, and placed in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. Copies of your letter were made, and the Cabinet took the matter into immediate consideration. Then, consequent upon your acceptance of a seat in this House, you retired from the Premiership of South Australia, and your successor, Mr. Jenkins, indorsed the views of the Cabinet of which you had been the head. In other words, it was not until July of that year that we were really faced with this proposal in a definite shape. In the same month one of the representatives of South Australia in 'this House, Mr. V. L. Solomon, tabled a motion favouring the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. Having lived for a length of time in the Northern Territory, the honorable member was peculiarly qualified from personal experience to speak with regard to its conditions and prospects. He moved a motion which was debated at various intervals until the following year. It was in July that Mr. Jenkins agreed to the proposal, and as early as December, 1901, the Legislative Council of South Australia closed a debate upon this subject with a declaration that not only the liabilities of the Northern Territory should be paid bv the Commonwealth Government, if it accepted the Territory, but that the boundary of South Australia should be altered, and that' the Commonwealth; Government should guarantee to complete the Transcontinental Railway. This was followed shortly after by the introduction of a measure into the South Australian Parliament providing for the construction of a transcontinental railway on the land-grant system. This was debated, and its effect was that in September, 1.Q02 - and I refer honorable members to Hansard of that year, page 15898 - the honorable member for Grey said -

Both in the Legislative Council and in the House of Assembly of that State a resolution has teen carried which, if it does not altogether repudiate the offer made on behalf of that State by you, sir, when you were Premier, certainly approaches very closely to it.

At the close of his remarks On that occasion, the same honorable member said -

Undoubtedly South Australia has repudiate*! the offer then made, and is attempting to dictate terms which were never mentioned when this proposal was before the State Legislature some years ago.

The honorable member for Barker, entirely in sympathy with that view, said -

It is true that the offer made by you, sir, as Premier of South Australia has not actually been -withdrawn, but practically it has been withdrawn. That is proved, I think, by the action which has recently' been taken by both Houses of the South Australian Legislature. Under these circumstances, I am not at all sure that it is wise for this House to further debate the question.

The actual position which the Commonwealth then occupied was that, while the acceptance of this Territory was under discussion, though no limitation had been imposed as to the terms on which it might be taken over, the South Australian Government and Parliament thought fit to alter their view, and to take action which, as was pointed out at the time, was quite inconsistent with the offer which had been made to us. Correspondence followed in which the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, put the question plainly to the Premier of South Australia, and after the interchange of a letter or two the Premier of South Australia made an admission which he put in "terms that were not altogether complimentary to the Commonwealth. Writing on the 1st December, 1902, he said -

The construction of the Transcontinental Railway is a matter of such vital importance to the State of South Australia that the Government does not feel justified in committing the decision thereupon to the Federal Parliament, which may possibly be hostile to a scheme which has the almost unanimous support of the people and Parliament of this State. Until, therefore, the time allowed by the Act for the receipt of tenders for the construction of the railway has expired, you will please consider that all negotiations concerning the transfer of the Northern Territory are suspended.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did they get any tenders ?

Mr DEAKIN - There were, I believe, some inquiries, and some speculative offers, but no tenders worthy of the name were received. I am not contradicting the honorable member for Grey, but pointing out that unless his sketch of the history of this transaction were supplemented by a knowledge of the intermediate facts, it might be assumed that the Commonwealth had been remiss in not dealing more expeditiously and favorably with the original proposal from South Australia. As a matter of fact, directly the offer was made, it was taken into serious consideration, and directly it was re-indorsed by a new Government who had come into office its discussion was commenced by this House. Before we could arrive at a decision upon the subject, the attitude of South Australia was altered. Still we persisted in our endeavour to carry a resolution, and succeeded in leading this House to express the willingness of the Commonwealth Parliament to accept the Northern Territory on just terms. I venture to submit that in view of the fact that this was done in the very earliest days of the Commonwealth Parliament, when we were overburdened with legislation for Federal organization, in connexion with the Tariff, and a number of other urgent questions, it cannot be said that any undue deliberation or any unwillingness to deal with this matter was exhibited. On the contrary, the feeling of this Parliament was entirely in favour of the proposition being reduced to a business basis. South Australia alone is responsible for the withdrawal of the offer made in 1901.

Mr Poynton - I never suggested otherwise.

Mr DEAKIN - I know the honorable member did not, but honorable members fresh to the consideration of the subject, and thinking merely of the time that has elapsed, might infer that this delay was due to us. The question did not come before us again until within the last few months. There was a break, for which we were not responsible, from the dose of 1.902 to the close of 1905. At the end of 7905, the House of Assembly of the South Australian Parliament carried a resolution, practically repeating the very resolution passed by the Legislative Council of South Australia in 1902, that caused an honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, to desire to withdraw the motion he had moved in this House. It also led to the honorable members for Grey and Barker to use the remarks with reference to repudiation to which I have already referred.

Mr Johnson - There was an interval of three years.

Mr DEAKIN - Yes, but after that interval the South Australian House of Assembly carried practically the same resolution as that which I have shown was not favoured by the honorable members to whom I have referred. The South Australian House of Assembly first advised the South Australian Government to re-open negotiations with us. In the second place, they asked for the payment of the total amount expended by .South Australia, not only in connexion with the settlement, but with the administration of the Northern Territory up to the date of its transfer. The next condition they proposed was that the Commonwealth Government should agree to construct the Transcontinental line from the southern border to the present terminus at Pine Creek, which, as honorable members will recollect, is the inland terminus of the line! constructed from Port Darwin. They then went on not only to ask for the construction of the railway, but to say what the line of route should be - within 1.00 miles east and west of the present Overland Telegraph line, and to recommend where the termini should be. They finally sought to impose a condition that the construction of the line must be commenced within twelve months from the passing of the necessary Acts by the State and Commonwealth Parliaments, and that the results of such negotiations should be submitted to the South Australian House of Assembly. Consequently, they asked for more than the South Australian Legislative Council had previously asked.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - " Ask and ve shall receive, that your joy may be full."

Mr DEAKIN - I think their joy would have been very full and even overflowing, if they had obtained an acceptance of those terms.

Mr Poynton - I think the Legislative Council's resolution limited the area to be handed over.

Mr DEAKIN - Yes; in their resolution they asked that the boundary should be extended northward to the 21st parallel of latitude. Of course this was only the commencement of negotiations, and every one knows that a preliminary offer of this kind is not intended to represent the final minds of the parties. The last resolution was passed in December, 1905, and was forwarded to us on the 3rd February this year, with a statement from the leader of the South Australian Government -

I shall be glad lo receive an expression of the views of your Government, as Ministers may feel disposed to submit the question for discussion at the forthcoming conference of Premiers in Sydney.

So far as I am aware, it was not submitted at the Conference. An appendix, containing a very valuable statement, appears at page 214 of the proceedings of the Conference, to which honorable members car* refer if they so desire, showing the prospects of the Territory, according to Mr. Brown, the Government Geologist of South Australia, on the nth April in this year. But no proposition, so far as I am aware,, was made to the Premiers, and certainly not to the Commonwealth Government at that Conference. The South Australian Government wrote on the 3rd February, and on the '23rd February we replied in a letter to which reference has been made. We pointed out that in 1901 they offered us the Territory, including the railway and all the other assets, for the liabilities, which then amounted to £2,800,000. That offer this year meant the taking over of liabilities amounting to £3,400,000. We said that during the five years which had passed since the original offer was made, the price the Commonwealth was asked to pay had been increased by over £500,000, and, in addition, a new obligation was introduced binding the Commonwealth to construct a railway estimated to cost several millions) sterling. We said, further, that -

Under these circumstances, it is natural to inquire what has happened to justify this remarkable enhancement. When the Government of your State in 1902 withdrew the offer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, it was in the belief that private enterprise would be prepared to construct the railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek on the consideration of grants of land tothe extent of about 75,000,000 acres, and in addition any profits which might be made from running the line. That project was extensively advertised throughout the world, but, so far as this Government is aware, no offers were made to undertake it on the terms proposed.

Then we proceeded to concur with them that the settlement of the Territory was an enterprise of national importance. We supposed that it would1 involve a very large investment of public money to make it thoroughly remunerative, and to populate it. but we recognised the obligation to consider it in the interests of Australia, and said -

Any transactions in relation to it ought not to be entered upon in a narrow spirit of barter, but with due regard to the interests of the whole of our people.

We then put to them one or two questions as to whether they indorsed the proposal for transfer, and the extent to which they adoptedthe terms of the resolution passed by the House of Assembly, and also the pertinent inquiry -

Why should the proprietorship of an area apparently rich in potentialities of wealth and progress imply annual deficits?

The 6th of April is the date of their reply. from which the honorable member for Grey has made some extracts. In this letter they point out that -

The proprietorship of the Territory does not imply annual deficits if in the hands of a Government unhampered by restrictions such as are imposed upon the State by Federal legislation, in the shape of the bar against the importation of white labour under contract, and the nonadmission of railway plant duty free.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who wrote this letter ?

Mr DEAKIN - This is a letter from the Government of South Australia, signed by Mr. Kirkpatrick, as Acting Premier.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does he raise the white labour difficulty?

Mr DEAKIN - He points out that-

This Government has conditional offers to construct a railway on the land grant system. The conditions relate to the prohibition of the importation of contract labour, and exemptions of Customs duties on plant and material.

Having shown the reasons why he alluded to these conditions, he says, further -

Our reasons for asking a higher price than was named in 1901 are : - The additional cost incurred since that date, and the fact that we are offering a greater area than was then offered. Moreover, we have now to construct the railway from the present terminus, Oodnadatta, to our northern border.

Then he says that they are particularly desirous of having the overland line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek completed. On the 30th April we replied in a letter which does not appear to have reached the honorable member for Grey, and which, perhaps. I ought to read -

In continuation of my letter of the11th inst. acknowledging the receipt of yours of 6th idem., on the subject of the Northern Territory, I have the honour to inform you that the second paragraph of that communication contains the first reference which has reached this Government to the alleged disabilities placed in the way of successful administration of the Territory by reason of Federal legislation.

2.   There appears to be some misunderstanding with respect to the difficulty of importation of white labourers under contract. I enclose a copy of the Contract Immigrants Act, passed during the recent session, and invite your attention to its terms.

3.   If the proposed immigrants are of British birth or descent, all that is necessary is that the contracts relating to their employment shall be filled before their admission, and that such contracts shall show that the men are not brought here in contemplation of an industrial dispute, and that the terms of their agreements are not unfair.

4.   If the proposed contract labourers are not British, there is an additional proviso to the effect that it must be shown that a sufficient number of men suitable for the work are not to be found in Australia.

5.   No application has been received by me for the registration of any contract for labourers to work on the proposed railway, nor has any application of a preliminary character been made to ascertain whether Ministerial approval would be given to any special terms.

6.   Under the circumstances, therefore, this Government cannot admit that the Federal legislation with regard to contract labour has any effect whatever on the Northern Territory or the proposed railway..

7.   Similar remarks apply to the admission of railway plant duty free. No request has reached this Government for any concessions in this direction, and in any case the amount of money involved would surely be a comparatively small item in the very heavy expenditure which the construction of the railway would involve.

8.   Further, the force of your argument that the difficulties imposed by Federal legislation, presuming them to exist, bear more hardly upon the State than upon the Commonwealth is not apparent. Because the Commonwealth Government is charged with the duty of administering the laws which have been passed by the Federal Parliament, it is not therebyrelieved from the obligations of complying with those laws in precisely the same manner that is obligatory upon every other Government, corporation or individual within the Commonwealth.

9.   I shall be glad to be favoured with par ticulars respecting the conditional offers which I learn have been made to your Government to construct the railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek.

10.   I regret that in response to my request for the reasons which have induced your Government to require higher terms from the Commonwealth than were named by your predecessor, Mr. Holder, when making an offer of the Territory in 1901, the only contentions you now put forward are : -

(1)   That additional cost has been incurred since 1901 ;

(2)   That a greater area is now offered ;

(3)   That you have to construct a railway from Oodnadatta to the northern boundary of your State ;

(4)   That your Government is particularly desirous of having the overland line completed for the reason that it will enhance the value of the Crown lands passed through, and will improve the earning capacity of existing lines.

11.   In considering these I shall be glad to know in regard to -

(1)   Whether the additional cost referred to has improved the facilities for the settlement of the Territory ; i.e., has it been expended in promoting development, or has it not rather been in the nature of payments of accumulated interest on previously existing debts?

(2)   What greater area is now offered? Mr. Holder in 1901 intimated the readiness of his Government to offer "the territory known as the Northern Territory." Your letter of 3rd February refers merely to the Northern Territory. Will you kindly say whether the boundaries have been altered in the meantime, and if so, by what means and to what extent.

(3)   In what way the position of the State has altered ? In the 1901 offer there was no mention of any railway, and consequently no obligation of the Commonwealth to construct one either wholly or in part. Any benefit to your land or railway revenues is hardly a ground for enhancing the price you now ask from us.

12.   The figures showing revenue and expenditure in the Territory have not yet been fully considered. It appears possible that further information may be required by the auditors in regard to the practice of crediting the proceeds of land sales to revenue, and also as to the extent of the allowance, if any, made for depreciation of plant, &c, on the Pine Creek railway.

13.   I shall be glad if your Government will give further consideration to the question, and submit an offer more nearly on the lines of the one made by Mr. Holder. If you can see your way to take that step, this Government will undertake to bring the proposal before the Parliament without delay, with a view to ascertaining whether it is willing, on behalf of the whole Commonwealth, to undertake the important and onerous duty of attempting to develop the resources of the Northern Territory.

We wrote that, as I have said, on the 30th April, and more than two months have elapsed since. I am not complaining of the delay, because the questions we asked are searching, and this is a matter involving a great many other considerations besides those mentioned. The Government of South Australia are quite justified in not committing themselves hurriedly to an offer to which it would not feel sure of obtaining the' support of both Parliament and people. We were always anxious to be prompt, and at no stage has there been any delay on our part. Our replies have not only been quick, but, as I think the House will see, they have been direct.

Sir Langdon Bonython - I do not think there is any accusation of delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government.

Mr DEAKIN - I rather understood that was implied.

Sir Langdon Bonython - I do not think so.

Mr DEAKIN - Within the last few days the South Australian newspapers have published a cablegram, containing the following : -

A number of strong financiers have made a proposal for the completion of the Transcontinental Railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, to connect Adelaide with Port Darwin. They are willing to pay down a deposit of ?50,000 as a guarantee for the satisfactory carrying out of the work, and ask for a twelve months' option. They are anxiously awaiting the decision of the South Australian Government. They are confident of a successful issue for their scheme if the consent of the State is not delayed.

On this Mr. Price was interviewed and reported by the newspaper asfollows: -

Mr. Pricecannot understand the statement that the financiers are anxiously awaiting the decision of the South Australian Government, because it was cabled to the Agent-General last week. The reply was that the offer could not be entertained because of the negotiations which are going on between the Federal and the South Australian Governments for the Commonwealth to take over the Northern Territory. When reminded of the fact that the Transcontinental Land Grant Railway Act is still on our statutebook -

That is the South Australian statute-book -

Mr. Pricepointed out that its operation had virtually expired, and that its provisions are in force only at the discretion of the Government.

Mr. Pricewent on to say

However, I have laid this and other proposals before Mr. Deakin, so as to prove to him that in taking over the Northern Territory the Commonwealth would be acquiring no dead horse.

It will be observed that the Premier of South Australia has been cabling to the Agent-General of that State with reference to a large financial proposal connected with the Northern Territory, and, consequently, one reason for his delay in replying can be understood. I have not yet received any information as to this offer, but fail to see anything in the negotiations now proceeding with the Commonwealth which ought to really embarrass the Premier of South Australia in dealing with any offer as to the railway which he thought he ought to entertain. Apparently there is an option for twelve months, because there has to be a deposit within that time of ?50,000 as a guarantee for the satisfactory carrying out of the work. As I read the cable, this money will have to be returned if the operations are not undertaken -within twelve months.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - Is it not the other way - that the syndicate shall forfeit the money if they do not carry out the agreement ?

Mr Poynton - Mr. Price referred to the fact that there might be failure after the twelve months, and he wanted the £50.000 first.

Mr DEAKIN - I think the honorable member is right. Mr. Price, speaking to the newspaper said -

The proposal was that the financiers concerned should have, he believed, a twelve months' option, and that during that period the£50,000 should be deposited.

Mr Johnson - So that the syndicate have twelve months in which to make up their minds.

Mr DEAKIN - I do not think that a proposal of that kind need be at all affected by the fact that there have been tentative negotiations with the Commonwealth. If a bona fide proposal for the construction of an overland railway on terms which either the State or the Commonwealth, or both, could accept were made, one would have supposed that it would have been communicated to us. Nothing more was nceessary. Taking into account the anxiety expressed for the railway, one would expect, whether the Commonwealth took over the Territory or not, that promising negotiations would be pushed on by so shrewd a business man as the Premier of South Australia. Therefore, I am as yet not personally impressed - though there may be a great deal more of which we have not been informed - with anything of which we are aware in connexion with the offers made to construct an overland railway. That, of course, leaves us still face to face with the original question. If I have established my first point, that any review of the various stages in these negotiations show that the Commonwealth has not been backward in any way, on the other hand the action taken in South Australia appears to suggest a divided opinion.It is part of our business, as Federal representatives, to read as many of the leading newspapers as we can, and I make it my business to keep an eye on the South Australian newspapers - one in particular - to learn what is transpiring in that State.Judging from letters which ap pear in that newspaper, the South Australians are not yet unanimous as to parting with the Northern Territory on any terms. There are South Australians who take a sanguine view of the material possibilities of the Territory.

Mr Watson - The Territory is a pretty big burden upon their finances.

Mr DEAKIN - Yes ; but those gentlemen who, so far as I know, have no financial interest in the matterbeyond that of taxpayers, take so hopeful a view of the possibilities of the Territory that, with evident sincerity, they declare that it should be retained by the State.

Mr Poynton - Mr. Darling was strongly of that opinon, and he is a shrewd man.

Mr DEAKIN - Under the circumstances, the hesitation which has been displayed by the South Australian Government may be natural. Apparently, the people of South Australia, or their representatives, have not yet entirely made up their minds unless, indeed, they can get such terms as are suggested by the last resolution ; in which case, I cannot imagine there is a person in South Australia who would not jump at a settlement. That, however, does not dispose of the case put by the honorable member for Grey. For my own part, I do not wish to refer to the debate of 1902. when it was my fortune, in consequence of the absence of Sir Edmund Barton, to speak on this question, and to consider the undoubtedly great prospects of the Northern Territory. Of course, we are confronted by the difficulty to which the honorable member for Lang called special attention. Taking over the Territory would raise directly a problem, which, as yet, only affects us indirectly, that is, the question of the labour to be used in its development. But it is also true that such a difficulty is greatly exaggerated by most of those who discuss it. That part of the Northern Territory which is now utilized, and likely to be utilized, for pastoral pursuits, is a plateau.

Mr Watson - Where there is a splendid climate.

Mr DEAKIN - Itis admitted by all observers that the climate there, far from being likely to impair the vigour of the white man, is excellent. Then, again, I am told that mining with coloured labour in the Northern Territory is actually dying out - that mining with white labour, so far as the prospects admit, has not suffered, and that there is nothing to prevent the whole industry from being carried on without the assistance of coloured labour.

Mr Johnson - j was speaking in view of the report of the Governor of South Australia.

Mr Watson - The Governor of South Australia says nothing against the climate.

Mr DEAKIN - I am not disputing what the honorable member for Lang said, but merely narrowing down the problem to its actual limits. As in Queensland, the problem relates only to the low-lying coastbelt, where there is a moist heat, and where the land is, no doubt, peculiarlysuitable for tropical cultivation. Even there the problem in the Northern Territory is not that of coloured labour against white labour. Even in those parts which are suitable for tropical agriculture, the choice is between the northern European and the southern European. The question which will have to be considered is whether, if our own countrymen will not take the land up, it is not to the interests of Australia to people it with those inhabitants of southern Europe, who are accustomed to a climate, at all events, approaching that of the Northern Territory, and who are, by nature and practice, agriculturists. Many of those people, who are leaving for the United States and South America, have been agriculturists for generations, and are practically never known to turn to other occupations.

Mr McWilliams - The experience is that southern Europeans are not agriculturists in the United States.

Mr DEAKIN - I am perfectly aware of that, but am guarding myself bysaying that my statement refers to the present immigration of southern Europeans to the United States and South America. To my own knowledge, a proposal to bring similar agriculturists to this country has been made to one State, and is about to be made to another State. These immigrants are men of splendid physique, and of good character, and they are so thoroughly country dwellers that, as I say, they are scarcely ever known to leave the soil. Of course, like all other European people, they require to adapt themselves to Australian conditions, but, before we give up the idea of cultivating these low-lying tropical lands, it would be worth the while of any State, or the whole of the States, to try whether, if people from

Great Britain will not undertake the work, people from southern Europe will do so. If by those means we solve the one problem that remains--

Mr Kelly - How could we keep those people there?

Mr DEAKIN - We should not requireto keep them if they are agriculturists.

Mr Kelly - Land would be given to them ?

Mr DEAKIN - They would requireland. When the honorable member talks of keeping the immigrants there he must remember that probably a generation or twowould pass before there would be any movement among a people who, above all tilings, cling to the land, and satisfy their ambition in becoming landed proprietors. If their occupation is remunerative to them, one should not expect, in the light of the experience in South America, to see any movement on their part for some time.

Mr Liddell - - The Prime Minister does not object to the introduction of those people ?

Mr DEAKIN - I never have objected. Undertaken with caution and guardedly, and subject to reasonable conditions, I have always been in favour of the introduction of such people in a case of this kind. Indeed, as a last resort, anything would be better than to leave this territory entirely unoccupied as it is to-day.

Sir Langdon Bonython - The Prime Minister proposes to give effect to the suggestion of the President of the United States ?

Mr DEAKIN - Yes. The President of the United States, if I may say so, used words of wisdom when he told us to fill our cradles and our continent. Nevertheless the problem in the Northern Territory need not be nearly so severe as many assume. Yet the problem is there. and beyond it is the greater problem of increasing the white population there and everywhere in Australia. I do not think any one can complain of the South Australian policy, which has been spirited and liberal. One of the most discouraging features in connexion with the Northern Territory is the fact that, although land has been offered by the South Australian Government on the most favorable terms - although great encouragement has been given, and public money for many years has been spent liberally in the attempt to establish tropical agriculture - the effect of all' this effort has practically resulted in next to nothing. The South Australian

Government may have made mistakes, and, no doubt, has done so; but, sofar as tropical agriculture and pastoral pursuits are concerned, I do not know any Government that has given more encouragement ; and yet the result has been unsatisfactory. It is no reflection on South Australia to-day that the Northern Territory is not a great success. In the time and with the means at their disposal, they have done everything that couldbe expected of them. Of course, different methods prevail to-day. We have made advances. We must believe that a country so obviously rich in mineral and agricultural resources, if settled in the right way, is capable of being utilised in such a manner as will be satisfactory to the people of this country, whose money will be spent in its development.

Mr McWilliams - Has any explanation been given as to why people do not go into the Northern Territory as readily as they go into Northern Queensland?

Mr DEAKIN - We must remember that Northern Queensland is less remote than the Northern Territory. It is easier to gain access to it, the shipping facilities are greater, and there is also the great advantage that at the back of, and close to, the low lying tropical country of Queensland, there is an elevated plateau, in which wage-earners can find employment in farming or mining, and can. with ease, transfer their services to a good climate, where they can be profitably employed. But we have always to recollect, as to the Northern Territory, when we are speaking of tropical agriculture, that we are quite close to some of the cheapest and richest countries in the world. I allude, of course, to Java and the Straits Settlements, about which Senator Staniforth Smith has recently written so interesting and valuable a report. At our very door, so to speak, we have countries possessed of the richest kind of soil, with the cheapest labour. In view of those facts, we must always bear in mind, in considering the possibilities of tropical agriculture in the Northern Territory, that the Commonwealth must consume nearly all that can be produced there, and must take care that special provision is made in our Tariff to give such aids as are necessary to producers in that part of the country. I do not wish to discuss the possibilities of the Territory from the point of view of meat export and horse raising, to which the honorable member who moved this motion re ferred. They are very encouraging at the present time. We are all glad to know that the great primary industries of the Northern Territory are prosperous, and believe' they will continue to be so. Of course, there is a great deal that might be said upon the subject of the resources and possibilities of the Territory, but I need not discuss them now. It seems to me that we are entitled to ask the House to give sympathetic consideration to the motion which has been submitted. Even the amendment moved by the honorable member for Coolgardie does not appear in any sense hostile. The honorable member for Grey realizes, as we all realize, that this is a question that has to be discussed as a matter of business. I do not say that it is only a matter of business. We are justified in saying that it is a national matter, which should be looked at in national aspects. But when we come to deal with South Australliai - a State renowned for the great economy and the sound lines on which its finances have been conducted by successive Premiers and Treasurers of distinguished attainments - we have to remember that we are dealing with very competent business people indeed. The honorable member for Coolgardie takes up a position of cautious reserve towards the South Australian Government offer. Apart from its terms, I think that we ought to come to business, and that the sooner we do so the better. If the South Australian Government will reply to my letter of 30th April, and will furnish the information desired, we will not prolong the correspondence. If they come down with a practical proposal, we will with pleasure and promptness submit the matter to this House. What we want to get from them - if I may be pardoned for saying so, with every respect 'for their previous letters on the subject - is a reasonable offer. I look upon the proposal, directing us to construct a railway, and dictating conditions with regard to it, as not being such an offer as we ought to be asked to consider. Whatever terms we may discuss with the South Australian Government, after we come into accord with them, will have to be submitted to both the State and the Commonwealth Parliaments. Neither of uscan be caught napping. No hard bargain can be driven by either. If South Australia will make up its mind that it really does wish the Commonwealth to take over this Territory on fair terms, and will submit a general offer to us, I believe that this House will authorize this Government to meet the South Australian Government, and to discuss those terms with a view to arrive at an arrangement. We believe that it is in the interest of Australia as a whole that the Territory should be under the control of the Commonwealth, and that we should be responsible for it. Even though in the beginning it may involve burdens, we must look forward, within a reasonable time, to its becoming self-supporting. In fact, in my opinion, it ought to become selfsupporting, under a vigorous policy of development, in ten years. We want, I say again, to get a reasonable offer from South Australia - an offer sufficiently reasonable to enable us to consider it apart from abstract questions like railway construction.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not an abstract question.

Mr DEAKIN - I am referring to it as abstract or impossible, because it must be known we are not prepared to entertain them. If an offer is submitted to us without such conditions attached, we shall be ready to take action.

Mr Mcwilliams - If the Government is in agreement with it, what is the use of this motion?

Mr DEAKIN - I understand that it is submitted for educational purposes. The honorable member for Grey recognises that, unless he and those who sympathize with him bring this matter before the House - although it was previously brought under notice in the debate upon the GovernorGeneral's speech - it will be apt to be dropped out of the memory of those who are not immediately interested. The people of South Australia hardly realize that our attitude to this question is favorable, and always has been. Under the circumstances, I hope that the honorable member for Grey will consent to some honorable member moving the adjournment of the debate, so that, in the meantime, we may have an opportunity of receiving a reply from the Government of South Australia. I trust that we shall soon be able to deal with a business question in a business-like manner.

Debate (on motion by Sir Langdon Bonython) adjourned.

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