Blast from the past

The Northern Territory Investigation Committee has reported. Two Queenslanders comprised that Commission-Messers W. L. Payne (Chairman of the Queensland Land Administration Board), and J. W. Fletcher, of Bonus Downs.

So, another report has been added to the long table of similar documents that litter, the chequered history of development work In Northern Australia.

Close upon the presentation of the document to Parliament has come to the assurance from the Minister for the Interior that prompt attention will follow its recommendations.

If that undertaking is honoured, then at last Australia will be on its way to getting somewhere with its outstanding domestic problem, which has hitherto defied real attention and brought ridicule upon this country.

The recommendations themselves are at once eminently sane, eminently predictable, and eminently free from the extravagance of the idea that has, in the past, rather marred conclusions based on similar investigations.

The report itself is easily summed up.

The big population fallacy is given it quietus.

Two useful railway schemes are indicated to develop the limited areas that might be available for wool production.

Agriculture is rightly ruled out.

Economical land tenures are rightly indicated and certain recommendations designed to get relief from taxation and charges as compensating factors to inevitable isolation are insisted upon.

From these bases, the commission has built up a report that everyone interested in the possibilities of pastoral investment in the Northern Territory should procure and study, for it does definitely open the way to opportunities that have hitherto been circumscribed and shackled by the unseeing eye of officialdom and the sheer inertia of those in high places.

Of course, the report will not please everybody.

No worthwhile report that was ever written ever did.

But that should not be used as a pretext for any further delays.

Here, to hand is a document indicating a line of action that should be pursued resolutely.

If such action is taken then defects as they disclose themselves can be met then remedied- the hurdles can be jumped, or knocked over, or walked around as they are reached.

Hitherto the mind of authority, aided and encouraged by divided counsels in the ranks of the protagonists in territory reform, has adopted, as authourity is inclined to do, the line of least resistance and just does nothing.

That old policy of negation should not be allowed to prevail.

This valuable report should be implemented without any avoidable delay.

It offers to the Lyons Government a valuable chance of doing something.

If there is weakness in the report I would in passing, indicate two things- the failure to provide for the set up for a local advisory board, a sort of local expert council to assist the Administrator in the peculiar problems of pastoral development in Northern Australia: and the failure to make a definite recommendation for the creation of port facilities somewhere on the Gulf coast to obviate the long land haulage to Townsville and elsewhere that is now inevitable.

But these, I have already insisted, are incidental to the major problems that have been dealt with.

Hammer out the angularities of the existing system on the anvil of the report as it at present stands and these other things can be dealt with in due time.

Speed is the essence of the contract.

That is the responsibility and the obligation upon those in authority.

If they can discharge that duty as well as the Commission has discharged its duty, then much may still be forgiven.