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Friday, 27 September 1912

Senator MILLEN - I call an army the appointment of ninety-nine officers, according to the .answer given yesterday by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.

Senator McGregor - Oh, that was a mistake.

Senator MILLEN - According to that answer, ninety-nine officers have been appointed to the Northern Territory from outside the Public Service, and four have been appointed from within the Public Service.

Senator McGregor - That number was for the whole of the Commonwealth.

Senator MILLEN - I must accept the Minister's statement, but the answer he gave yesterday, as "clearly set out in the proof which I obtained from Senator Chataway, who asked the question, was that ninety-nine officers have been sent up to the Northern Territory. But whether ninetynine or only one-half of that . number, there the fact remains that within the short space of twelve months the Government have run up the administrative cost of the Territory from .£84,000 to £240,000, exclusive of' the charges in connexion with the debt, which would be tha same in any circumstances. I am entitled to ask the Government to tell us what we are getting for this enormous increase in the expenditure, to put their hand on any serious developmental work which they have undertaken. .

Senator Rae - You do not expect to reap a crop the day, after you have sown the seed.

Senator MILLEN - I expect to. see some preparation, of the land for the purpose of sowing the seed, and not to merely see a huge sum devoted to the erection of buildings for an army of public officers.

Senator de Largie - Do you not think that they should have some places to live in?

Senator MILLEN - That . interjection clearly indicates the fatal mistake which the Government are making in dealing with this

Territory. Their one idea seems to be that they must send Government officials there to look after their wants. Here is to be found the marked difference between the methods which have been adopted by Great Britain and those which have been adopted by all other European countries in their attempts at colonization. The Germans have never succeeded as colonists, for the simple reason that they have set out with the idea with which the present Government are obsessed, namely, that of putting everything under the control of officials. Beyond having made these appointments, and having increased the cost of administering the Territory threefold, they have done nothing. Nobody would object to that increase of expenditure if the money were being expended in a way that would solve the problem which confronts us there. But the total amount which is set down for works there is £58,000, and, out of that sum, £22,000 or £23,000 is to be expended in building houses and erecting a steam laundry, clearly for the accommodation of more Government officials. The houses which it is proposed to build cannot be intended to accommodate the officials who are already there, because they must have a roof over their heads now. Clearly, it must be the intention of. the Government, when these houses have been built, to appoint more officials to occupy them. We are entitled to ask from the Ministry a skeleton plan of their policy, to show that they appreciate the problems with which we are faced there. Senator Symon was absolutely correct when he stated that we have no right to ask the Government to immediately carry out all necessary works in the Northern Territory, but that we have a right to demand from them a recognition of the problems which confront us there, and some evidence that they are prepared to face them. Nobody can pretend that the speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council indicated any collective policy. All he stated was that under this Bill it is proposed to extend the railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek to the Katherine River, a distance of 56 miles further south. But the most extraordinary feature about the whole thing is that, whilst the Government are asking Parliament to approve of the survey of this railway, they are still looking round for the services of three gentlemen who will be able to advise them what to do. What is the good of all the officials who have been sent to the Territory if we have now to look for others?

In the meantime, and without waiting for these gentlemen to report, the Vice-President of the Executive Council has submitted to us a proposition for the survey of a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. Does not that suggest putting the cart before the horse ? If this investigation is to be made at all, surely we ought to have the report of the Commission in our hands, not merely in regard to this first step, but in regard to the ultimate and complete scheme of railway construction, which we could then proceed to attack piece by piece. What has been the history of railway construction in every State? That immediate necessity has determined what lines should be undertaken, without the slightest regard to the future.Numerous examples of this are to be found in my own State, and in other States. Looking at the map, I am not prepared to say whether the proposed transcontinental line ought to follow a route by way of the Katherine River or not. But I do say that if the Government attach the slightest importance to the proposed Commission of Inquiry, that body ought to have been set to work before we were invited to approve of any railway extension whatever. There is one other matter to which I would like to refer. The VicePresident of the Executive Council intimated that it had practically been decided to establish freezing works at Port Darwin. I was rather surprised to hear Senator Symon question the wisdom of adopting that course, on the ground that there were no cattle there to freeze. I can recall the time when Senator Symon and his colleagues used to tell us what magnificent cattle country the Northern Territory was. They were wont to affirm that it was the finest stock-raising country in the world, and, consequently, it was with some surprise that I heard him deal in a spirit of banter with the Government proposal. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, I repeat, said that the Government had practically decided to establish freezing works at Port Darwin, on the recommendation of the Administrator. I wish to suggest, with all due deference, that full consideration has not been given to this question. The statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council clearly indicated that all the Administrator had in his mind when he submitted that recommendation was a comparison between one seaport and another. In this connexion, we are faced with the question of country killing versus killing on the sea-board. In New South Wales, the trouble is that in the past all industry has been centered in Sydney, with the result that trade has established itself there, so that, while everybody admits that the proper thing is to kill in the country, and to carry down the carcass by rail rather than on foot, the people are handicapped by the fact that trade has settled itself in the channels I have indicated

Senator Clemons - That is what Senator Symon meant.

Senator MILLEN - Perhaps he meant that freezing works should be established in the MacDonnell Ranges, with the view to sending the meat south. But, even if there were no cattle in the Territory, if anything is to be done with that country, it will not be long before there will be stock there. I venture to say that it will not be very long before the southern and eastern portions of Australia will not only supply sufficient stock for their own requirements, but will have an abundance for export. To talk of dragging that stock half way across the continent, with a view to exporting it to the East from our southern ports, seems to be an absurdity. Looking ahead, we have to conceive of the whole of the machinery for handling the cattle grown in the Northern Territory being established at some northern port. Consequently, the question arises, "Where should the cattle be slaughtered?" No practical man will dispute the statement that we ought, as far as possible, to provide for country killing. That consideration opens up the question of whether Port Darwin is the proper place at which to establish freezing works. I venture to say that the Administrator has never considered this aspect of the question, and I make that statement on the authority of the utterance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. There are two reasons why it would be wrong to establish freezing works at Port Darwin. In the first place, it is too remote from the pasture from which the cattle will be carried, and, from that point of view, would involve an economic loss. Secondly, cattle would deteriorate very materially whilst undergoing a journey of that kind. Further, Port Darwin - whatever may be said to the contrary - does not possess an ideal climate for men to live and work in. We know, however, that the climate experienced on the highlands of the interior is superior to that experienced on the coast. If we are to establish meatfreezing works in the Territory, it necessarily follows that we shall have a big population around them. Where, then, is the right place at which to establish such works? On the low-lying coast of Port Darwin, or on the highlands to the south ? There can be no argument about the matter. There has been an utter absence of knowledge displayed by those who are responsible for this unfortunate suggestion. Although the Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that a decision has practically been arrived at to establish meat-freezing works at Port Darwin, I hope that the Government will reconsider that decision. Not being egotistical enough to suppose that they will be guided by my opinion, I ask them, before committing us to any expenditure in that direction, to pass over their own officials, and to seek the advice of persons who have a practical knowledge of this question - persons who are to be found in Queensland and South Australia.

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