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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1183

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - I am delighted to be able to support the new

Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) in his proposals before the House to set up a Joint Committee to inquire into and report on such matters relating to the Northern Territory as are referred to it by the Minister for the Northern Territory or by resolution of either House of the Parliament. I have read that part of the motion because nobody who listened to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and indeed the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) could be blamed for not knowing what we were debating this evening. I congratulate the Minister and the Government not only upon this proposal but also upon a number of measures which can do nothing but improve the lives of those who are living in the Northern Territory.

We all know - already sympathy has been expressed from both sides of this House in this debate - that tremendous disadvantages are suffered by the people who live in remote areas. Remoteness is the No. 1 disadvantage. We must confess that their representation is something from which they have suffered. In spite of what may be thought by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who is seeking to interject, I am not reflecting on the type of-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! I ask the honourable member for Adelaide to direct his remarks to the Chair.

Mr HURFORD - Through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, may I say that I am not reflecting on the honourable member for the Northern Territory. I am referring to the fact that that part of Australia is a couple of thousand miles away from Canberra and that most of the decisions which are taken in relation to the Territory are made in this Parliament. Not every honourable member has the advantage which, for instance, I have had as the member representing Adelaide to visit that part of the country often and to know the sort of problems which exist there. This, of course, is the main reason why the proposed Committee is to be formed. Many more members of this House will be able to visit the Northern Territory. The Committee will have before it important issues affecting the Territory and its members will become informed so that when debates take place in this House we will have more information and education on the subjects under discussion.

I know that the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) is to follow me in this debate. The honourable member's activities as Chairman of the Public Works Committee in the last Parliament enabled him to make frequent visits to the Northern Territory. Other members of the Public Works Committee are in the same category. I am very pleased to say that the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) also will participate in this debate. He is another honourable member who has detailed knowledge on the Territory. But he would be one of the first, as would the honourable member for Wakefield, to understand that the more honourable members who know about the problems of the Territory the better. As I said, this is one of the many advantages in setting up this Joint Committee.

I also have said - and I want to follow this argument through - that this is only one of a number of things that this Government has done in order to improve the lot of those who live in that part of Australia. Let me mention the fact that we do have a Ministry for Northern Development. In spite of the remarks of the honourable member for Gwydir surely he understands that when it comes to Cabinet decisions we now have not only a Minister for the Northern Territory but a Minister for Northern Development. Both are interested in that area. We do not now suffer from an inner and outer Cabinet. The previous Minister for the Interior, who had many other duties to perform in addition to looking after the Northern Territory, was not even in the inner Cabinet; he was in an outer Cabinet where he seldom had a say as we can see from the results as they have affected the lives of the people of the Territory.

I turn now to the amendment which has been moved. If this amendment were passed the advancement of political responsibility and constitutional reform for the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory would be one of the main issues to be examined by the proposed Committee I feel that this is a very appropriate issue to be discussed; but it is not appropriate that it should go into a motion setting up the Committee. I believe that there may be difficulties about this amendment at this time. It would be unfortunate if we jeopardise the chances of this sort of development taking place in the Northern Territory by giving this issue as the (first job to this Joint Committee too prematurely. I believe that this is the wrong time to include this in a motion for the setting up of this Joint Committee. I know that the Minister will have more to say about this. I give notice that the Government will not be accepting this amendment on this occasion. I repeat that it is not an issue which must be discussed as a first issue.

The honourable member for Gwydir has explained what attention he has already given to the matter. I know there are many members of the Legislative Council who are extremely interested in this issue and if and when it comes before the proposed Committee they will have a vehicle whereby they can express their views to a wider audience. The only vehicle they have had in the past was a deputation of a few of them to this Parliament to see one Minister.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Mr HURFORD - Mr Speaker(Quorum formed). I want to complete the remarks that I was making on the motion to set up a Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. At this stage I would like to say how pleasant it has been to take part in this debate in which there has been a great deal of unanimity on both sides of the Parliament in contradistinction to the shocking episodes we witnessed earlier today when members of the Opposition abused the forms of this House. Even the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), as has been his usual practice since we returned to this new Parliament, has called quorums causing members to be taken away from other important business, committee work and so on. The honourable member, of course, is feeling very disappointed that he polled so badly in the Opposition leadership contest. I notice that the honourable member is now conferring with the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), another disappointed member who also has been abusing the forms of this House in every way possible in recent weeks. I make these remarks only to distinguish between the sort of debate we had earlier today and that which took place prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner during which the problems of the Northern Territory were discussed.

Before the suspension of the sitting I congratulated the new Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory on what he has achieved so far. It is wonderful for the people of the Northern Territory to know that they have a Minister who has to divide his time only between the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister for the Interior in the previous Government had many other duties to perform, such as dealing with services and property, police matters and many other areas.

Mr Peacock - Perhaps I could make a helpful interjection. Actually the honourable member is wrong because by some strange method the present Minister is also administering Norfolk Island.

Mr HURFORD - I thank the honourable member for Kooyong for advising me that the Minister is also administering Norfolk Island. I congratulate the Minister on the work that he has done there because I know for a fact that he has visited Norfolk Island and applied his attention to that important area as well.

I support the motion and I have no sympathy with the amendment, which represents an attempt by the honourable member for the Northern Territory to get into the act, if I can use that common expression. This Labor Government has done much already for the Northern Territory. As I have said, it has a Minister who is dividing his time only with the Australian Capital Territory. In addition the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) is interested in that part of the world. I made the point before the suspension of the sitting that both of these Ministers and others are in the one Ministry as opposed to the performance of the previous Government where the Minister for the Interior not only had to divide his time and responsibility among so many other duties but was, of course, only in the outer Ministry.

I will not detain the House any longer on this matter because I covered most of the points prior to the suspension of the sitting. I end on the note that I trust that all members of Parliament who serve on this Joint Committee will spend much time in the Northern Territory. I trust also that the establishment of this Committee will mean that more members of this House will be able to educate themselves in the affairs of the Northern Territory and will thereby be able to make recommendations to the Government which will result in policy decisions that will improve the lives and the standard of living of those who live in the Northern Territory.

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