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Art. 12.-AUSTRALIA INFELIX: THE PROBLEM OF
THE NORTHERN TERRITORY.
1. Territoria. By David Lindsay, F.R.G.S., and A. L.
Hottze, F.R.H.S. Adelaide, 1909. 2. In Australian Tropics. By Alfred Searcy. Kegan
Paul, 1907. 3. Annual Reports by the Administrator of the Northern
Territory (Dr Gilruth). Department of External Affairs, Melbourne. 4. Parliamentary Debates. Melbourne, 1912–1921. Printed
by A. J. Mullett for the Commonwealth Government. And other works.
The region known by the vague title of the Northern Territory,' which, since the commencement of the year 1911, has been under the control of the Federal Parliament of Australia, has lately attracted an unusual amount of attention. Twice within a brief space of time its tiny capital was the scene of disturbances of a serio-comic character suggestive of the unquiet political atmosphere of a South American city. The proposal lately made by the Premier of South Australia that, in view of the lamentable failure of the policy hitherto followed, the development of the region should be attempted by means of coloured labour has excited a lively controversy. Previously the wisdom of the · White Australia' doctrine, in its extreme sense, had been challenged only by medical authorities, ethnologists, travellers, and persons possessed of lengthy tropical experience, together with a few philanthropists, whose objections to the exclusion of coloured aliens from Australia were based on purely humanitarian considerations. Such criticism does not count for much in politics. Mr Barwell is the first head of an Australian Government to question the wisdom, and to denounce the results, of the White Australia' policy, regarded solely as a policy; and his courageous utterances have caused serious perturbation in those political circles where popular catch-words, and the votes they attract, are accepted as the most convincing arguments.
In certain respects the Territory may claim unique distinction. For its size, unless indeed the Antarctic
continent be included among British possessions, it is the most sparsely populated region in the Empire. Its government, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, is also by far the most costly, and it is burdened with the heaviest public debt. The census returns issued in August 1921 gave the total population of the Northern Territory, exclusive of some 30,000 aboriginals, as 3870, of whom 2821 were males, or about one inhabitant to each 175 square miles of country. Even this pitiful total has been considerably diminished since the census was taken ; and the number includes a large non-British element, consisting of Greeks, Russians, and other foreigners, as well as about 1300 Asiatics and half-castes. According to figures quoted by Senator Pratten in the Federal Parliament, notwithstanding an aggregate expenditure for administrative purposes of 1,655,0001., * and 428,0001. more on public works (not counting 1,346,0001. which represents the accumulated interest on the public debt, amounting to nearly 4,000,0001.), the non-aboriginal population of the Territory, during the ten years that have elapsed since the Commonwealth relieved South Australia of the burden of its maintenance, has only increased by the modest total of sixty-four.
Stock-raising is at present the only really profitable industry carried on in the Territory, although about 200 Europeans, and a rather larger number of Chinese, make a somewhat precarious living by mining. The once flourishing maritime industry of pearl-shelling is now in a decadent condition, partly owing to the depletion of the beds, and partly on account of labour restrictions. But pastoral occupations are the most wasteful of land and most economical of labour of all forms of industrial activity; and the huge cattle stations scattered over the interior of the Territory (the coastal belt, as a rule, is too swampy and sour' for grazing purposes), only support collectively a few hundred white men. Native
* According to figures given in the last Commonwealth Year Book, the total revenue collected in the Territory during the year 1919–1920 amounted to 86,7351. The expenditure for the same year was 462,2641., including interest on loans. The deficit, therefore, was 375,5291. If the amount lost in connexion with the working of the Port Augusta railway and that spent on new works were deducted, the net deficit would be 254,0691.
stock-riders, in spite of the resistance of the formidable organisation known as the Australian Workers' Union, are largely employed; and a couple of white overseers, assisted by half a dozen black stockmen, can easily manage a herd of some thousands of cattle grazing over a run' equal in extent to an English county. Still, notwithstanding the fact that the Territory possesses the largest individual cattle station to be found in Australia, the property known as Victoria Downs, on which about 100,000 cattle are usually depastured, the total number of stock in the whole region, according to the most recent figures, does not yet average one animal to the square mile. Remoteness from the southern and eastern markets heavily penalises the northern grazier.
Pastoralists receive highly liberal treatment at the hands of the authorities. Nearly 90,000,000 acres of the best grazing lands in the Territory are let for long terms at the modest rates of from 6d. to 3s. per square mile per annum. The extent of the domains held by certain lease-holders, or companies, may be judged by the fact that at a recent Government Inquiry, the manager for Messrs Vestey stated that his firm alone held on lease 23,000 square miles of country in the Northern Territory, besides another 8000 square miles held on licence, and a comparatively insignificant plot of 30,000 acres near Darwin. Collectively, these holdings almost equal in extent the whole of Ireland. Four lessees in the Victoria Downs district hold between them grazing rights over 36,000 square miles of country; and seventeen enjoy similar rights over 81,000 square miles. Cattle are chiefly kept. Unlike the other great divisions of the Australian continent, the Territory so far has failed, except in a very small degree, to attract sheep-breeders. Unsuitability of the natural pastures, and lack of labour, and of means of cheap transport, are the chief obstacles to successful wool-production. Horses, however, are bred and exported in fairly considerable numbers. Altogether, according to figures given in the last Commonwealth Year Book, 610,534 cattle, 8811 sheep, and 35,539 horses, besides a limited number of camels and goats, constitute the entire pastoral wealth of the Northern Territory at the present time. There is, therefore, it will be seen, ample scope for pioneering enterprise. For lack of data no reliable estimate of the value of the mineral resources of the Territory can yet be attempted. The late Rev. J. E. Tennyson Woods, F.G.S., in a report on the geology of the region prepared in the year 1887, expressed indeed a sanguine opinion of its potentialities in this direction.
'I confidently assert,' he then wrote, that the Northern Territory is exceptionally rich in minerals. . . I do not believe that the same quantity of mineral veins of gold, silver, tin, copper, and lead will be found in any other equal area in Australia. In fact, I doubt if any provinces will be found in any country so singularly favoured as Arnheim's Land in respect to mineral riches.'
Later experience has scarcely justified this favourable forecast. During the year ending June 30, 1918, the total yield of all the mines in the Territory, according to the Administrator's last official report, was valued at the modest sum of 92,7301., tin and wolfram contributing about 80,0001. of this amount. The gold-bearing reefs at Pine Creek have so far entirely disappointed expectations; and no rich alluvial goldfield has yet been discovered. Still, all but a minute fraction of the Territory may be regarded as virgin ground to the prospector; and there is room for many Coolgardies and Broken Hills in the recesses of tropical Australia.
A brief sketch of the physical and climatic features of the Territory may possibly assist the distant reader to form some idea of its capabilities. A glance at the map will show that the whole of it, except a strip of 2} degrees wide in the extreme south, lies within the torrid zone. It forms a compact block, about 900 miles from north to south, and 500 miles from east to west, with a coast line slightly exceeding 1000 miles in length. Unlike the eastern States of Australia, the Territory possesses no coast range, the littoral being low and flat, and skirted in many places by dense forests of mangroves. As the traveller proceeds inland the country gradually rises, reaching, at about 150 miles from the sea, an elevation of 800 feet, and culminating in an eminence a little over 4000 feet in height, known as Bald Hill, near the South Australian border. This natural conformation favours the growth of great rivers, which, instead of dwindling and finally expiring in shallow salt lakes like the inland water-courses of Queensland and
Queensland and South Australia, steadily increase in volume, and at last enter the sea through broad and navigable channels. Climatically, the non-existence of a coastal range is beneficial, since the moisture-laden winds from the ocean, instead of being intercepted and almost drained by highlands close to the shore, gradually distribute their vivifying stores of water over a vast extent of country in the interior. The evils of alternate deluge and drought are consequently minimised. According to careful estimates based on actual records, about 86,000 square miles of country in the Territory, for the most part adjacent to the sea, enjoy an annual rainfall exceeding 40 inches yearly; 120,000 square miles receive from 20 to 30 inches; and over at least one-half of the remaining 220,000 square miles, or thereabouts, an annual fall averaging rather more than 10 inches—the bare minimum necessary for pastoral purposes-prevails. In no other part of Australia of equal extent is the rainfall so evenly distributed.
There are, of course, large tracts of fairly wellwatered country which, owing to their broken and stony nature, are fitted for nothing except perhaps mining exploitation. Moreover, other extensive tracts of wellwatered country near the coast have hitherto proved valueless even for stock-raising purposes, owing to the innutritious nature of the indigenous grasses and herbage and the prevalence of stock diseases. Systematic drainage and the introduction of suitable fodder plants might, however, render a large portion of this so far unprofitable country productive; and the adoption of scientific precautions against such maladies as swampcancer, red-water, and the curious walk-about' disease, as well as the tick pest, will ultimately, it may be hoped, lead to a considerable extension of the pastoral areas. But outside of, or sprinkled among, the barrens' there are tracts of abounding fertility. Marvellously rich alluvial soil covers the valleys and plains, through which the great rivers of the Territory creep sluggishly to the
These enjoy exceptional advantages for agricultural development. In such streams as the Victoria, the Daly, the Roper, the Adelaide, and the McArthur, the Territory possesses the finest natural waterways in the Australian