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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1189

Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) - This motion, which provides for the appointment of a Joint Committee on the Northern Territory, deserves the commendation and support of all honourable members. It is pleasing to know that those who have made contributions to this debate have indicated their support. Perhaps they have expressed some reservations - an amendment has been moved - but nevertheless they have agreed that there is a need to look at the problems affecting the Northern Territory. This motion provides for the establishment of a committee to inquire into and report on matters relating to the Northern Territory and to carry out research into all aspects and problems concerning this important area. The Northern Territory remains the challenge of the people of Australia and the responsibility of the national Government of Australia. I welcome the proposal to form the committee, to which both sides have agreed, and upon which both sides of this House will be represented.

There are historic problems and accumulated grievances in regard to the Northern Territory. There is the immediate problem of 23 years of non-Labor administration, of neglect of the affairs of the Northern Territory and the need immediately to deal with these problems. It is regrettable therefore that we have had during the course of this debate some churlish reference to what has occurred over the past 4 months since the Labor Government came to office. I commend the Government for paying attention to the requirements of this great area, considering the needs of this area and having regard for the problems of the people to see what can be done in the development of the area. Let us look forward in a realistic way to the future of the Territory. There is nothing to be gained by merely going over the trails and tracks of the past, thinking of what might have been done and what should have been done. We have to go forward and prepare for the development of the Territory and its future form of government - perhaps statehood, regional or provincial government and above all local selfgovernment - so that the people of the Territory themselves may be given the opportunity to declare the type of government they want and to exercise their franchise in giving effect to their desires. It has been easy over the years to say that all these responsibilities reside here in Canberra, that the experts of the Public Service can determine these matters. This is not good enough.

I believe that there is an obvious need for regionalism in the Northern Territory, because the vast land mass of the Northern Territory differs fundamentally between Darwin in the north and Alice Springs in the centre. The people in these different areas have different problems and different approaches to the questions they meet from time, to time, from day to day. So therefore it is necessary that the people at Alice Springs under the leadership of a former distinguished member of this House, Mr Jock Nelson, who is Mayor of Alice Springs, be given an opportunity to express themselves. I would not expect any honourable member of this place to say an unkind word about Jock Nelson, the Mayor of Alice Springs, and those he is serving there at the present time. I mention his name because it is known here. He is a territorian true, one who has represented the people of the north in Parliament and who is now serving them effectively and faithfully in local government.

I want more than that to be done, and I look forward to an examination of all the problems of the Northern Territory. 1 am particularly concerned about the action that might be taken to stimulate not merely the export potential of ports and opportunities for overseas trade in the north but also development of the north in a realistic way which will help the people of this nation. With the co-ordination of the activities of the members who serve the north in a variety of ways I believe this can be achieved. 1 would like to think that with the establishment of this Committee we will be able to achieve that union of co-operation between the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), one who is so well versed in the problems of the north - the questions of development and the economy, rural and otherwise - the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) so that each may play his part in building up the north in an effective way so that it will be able to make a contribution of outstanding dimension to the development of this nation.

The Committee should examine all aspects of development in northern Australia. The broad questions of national development, minerals, natural gas, oil and all the other agencies of power and resources should be considered by this Committee. I believe that if this is done in association with the Minister for Transport we should soon see some speedy action in building the north-south railway, which is a fundamental necessity for the north of Australia. In addition to that I would like to see another trans-continental railway built from somewhere in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, through the centre of the Northern Territory into Queensland, so that the resources of the north-west of Queensland and the Centre might be joined in an effective way in building this nation. For too long we have been inclined to allow this sort of development to go without action, without thought and without coordination.

The north remains for us the great national challenge. It remains for us the great area for development. If we fail to accept our responsibility in this regard we are failing Australia, for the development of the north can bring great prosperity to the people of northern Australia; indeed, it can also secure the defence of the people of the southern parts of Australia. These are vital questions that should be considered by the Committee and for that reason, among many others, including the welfare of the people, I consider this as a vital matter. 1 believe that with adequate transport we should be able to co-ordinate the needs of the people of northern Queensland with those of the Centre and Western Australia and we should be able to blend our rich resources in one of the most imaginative and most spectacular developments that has ever occurred in this country. A Labor government can achieve this because it believes in the development of this nation. I look forward to the Minister for Northern Development, the Minister for Transport, the Minister for Min: erals and Energy and the Minister for the Northern Territory engaging in this great and wonderful development.

Welfare must be taken into consideration - the welfare of the people of the north and of our original Australians, the Aborigines, who have a special claim for attention and consideration by the Committee. This will be one of the great responsibilities of the Committee. It will not be handing over something - some give-away gimmick - but encouraging the people of the north in the practical development of their own area so that they might enjoy those things with which they have lived throughout the years it will help to make a fundamental contribution to Australia's development. Other people in the north also need consideration. I refer to those who have gone to the north to engage in developmental projects, whether they be related to minerals, harbours, mines or like projects, or in the rural industries of cattle and pastoral pursuits. These people are entitled to the consideration of the Committee and of this Parliament. All of these things will count for nought unless the Parliament is prepared to back the proposals of the Committee with finance for great and wonderful development. I hope that the Parliament will heed the Committee's reports and take those steps which are necessary for the expansion and development of this great area - a wonderland, a great wealth resource for Australia.

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