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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr BAMFORD (Herbert) .- Papua is in close proximity to the district I represent - in fact, under -the new subdivision, a portion of my electorate obtrudes upon New Guinea waters. I have for a considerable time past taken a deep interest in the Possession, and I feel impelled to give the motion my hearty support. In view of the fact that the Government have opened up negotiations with Sir William McGregor, with a view to inducing him to again take up the administration of New Guinea, we may discuss the whole question without any special delicacy, so far as the acting administrator is concerned. I assume that Captain Barton will certainly be removed from his present position.

Mr Deakin - That does not follow.

Mr BAMFORD - I should imagine that it must follow.

Mr Deakin - Captain Barton has been an acting administrator.

Mr BAMFORD - So far as Sir William McGregor is concerned, I have nothing to say of him, except by way of commendation. I have read some of his reports, and I must admit that his conduct, at any rate in relation to the natives of Papua, was of the most admirable character. He acted most tactfully and carefully in all his dealings with them, and any little friction that may have ta[ken place was not due to any fault of his. It must be recollected, however, that during the time Sir William McGregor was administering the Territory no development took place, and the interests of the white settlers were to some extent disregarded. That complaint has frequently been made, and an old resident of the Territory, whom I met recently in Northern Queensland, told me that Sir William McGregor was very unsympathetic towards the miners and the white population generally. I should like to read an extract from a report, dated 30th March, 1886, and written by Mr. Seymour Fort, who acted as private secretary to Sir Peter Scratchley. There is much interesting reading in the report, but I desire to quote one very pertinent paragraph. Mr. Fort says -

Having been annexed, it is the duty of the annexing power to protect the natives.

No doubt Sir William McGregor carried cut that policy.

It is doubtful if the country can ever be selfsupporting. Nothing can be done towards systematically administering the country and* developing its resources, until it is made an integral part of the Anglo-Australian political system, and the position of the officer administering its government, both with regard to the country itself, and also the authorities to whom he is responsible, shall have been more definitely determined.

I think that the position of the Administrator has been definitely determined by the measure recently passed by us, and that his responsibility has to a great extent been increased. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that we should appoint as LieutenantGovernor a man capable of administering the laws in the interests, not only of the natives, but also of the white settlers. In view of the past administration of Sir William McGregor, T do not think that he would be sufficiently in sympathy with the policy of this Parliament under the altered circumstances. If he did not go to Papua in the first instance with preconceived notions, he left it when the policy which he had initiated was in full swing, and it is only reasonable to suppose that he would still be imbued with the ideas he had when he departed from the Possession. We desire that the Territory shall be developed to a far .greater extent than it has been in the past, and we shall not be content to perpetuate the policy pursued by Sir William McGregor. I wish to refer somewhat fully to the report prepared by Mr. Atlee Hunt. In his remarks, with regard to the policy for the Possession, he says -

It will be generally agreed that the time has now arrived -when a goal should be set up to the attainment of which the Government officials should be 'instructed to employ their best endeavours.

I do not think Sir William McGregor, in view of his past associations with New Guinea, would be the best man to act as is there suggested.

Mr Deakin - I am very much afraid that we shall not be able to secure him.

Mr BAMFORD - I do not regret that,, but I hope that the cause has no relation to Sir William McGregor's health.

Mr Deakin - No; it is due to the Colonial Office.

Mr BAMFORD - Mr. Huntcontinues -

In the following paragraphs I set out different policies that have at various times been suggested : -

(a)   Having achieved ownership, to remain content with the fact that foreign nations may not use the territory as a base from which operations against Australia might be organized and conducted.

This, he says, is impracticable. One suggestion which has been made is that the Territory should be handed over to a chartered company, and I am pleased to learn that Mr. Atlee Hunt does not indorse it. Another recommendation which, he makes is that the natives should not be interfered with, and that the Government should limit their interposition to cases in which it is necessary to secure protection to white settlers. That has also been done to the fullest extent. I now. come to the question of the land laws of the Possession. Owing to the courtesy of the Prime Minister, I have been afforded an opportunity of seeing some of the Ordinances which are now under consideration in this connexion, but, so far as I am able to judge, those which are at present in existence are ample,, provided that the administration is what it ought to be. . The fresh Ordinances which it is proposed to issue are very desirable indeed, so far as a layman can judge, but,, of course, it must be understood that they involve a great many legal points. There is one matter, however, to which I must take exception. As honorable members areaware, we allow no freehold in land in thePossession. But leaseholds may be granted, and it seems to me something in the nature of a contradiction that a Higher rate should' be charged' for a short leasehold than for a long one. I think that the reverse ought to be the case. If a man is given security of tenure he should pay for the advantage which he enjoys.

Mr Cameron - Are any persons taking up the lands of the Possession under leasehold conditions?

Mr BAMFORD - I believe so, but the honorable member must recollect that the Constitution Act of Papua is not yet in operation. Mr. Hunt further says -

The colonization of a .large territory, inhabited more or less thickly by a difficult race, is a serious task, and one whose completion must occupy many years ; one, moreover, which, if it is to be carried out properly, demands the expenditure of substantial sums. In Australia millions have been and are being spent in opening up the country to prepare it for occupation. It would be unreasonable, therefore, to expect that we can open up Papua, a country where natural obstacles are far greater than in most parts of the Commonwealth, by spending a very few thousand pounds each year.

I desire to point out that if we increase the expenditure, as suggested by the loan of so much per annum for a definite period, it is very desirable indeed that the administration should be such as to inspire confidence in those who_intend to invest their money in the Possession. I do not suggest that they would not have confidence in Sir William McGregor, but the development which has taken place has not been sufficient to justify the expenditure of very much money in developing new industries in the Territory. Mr. Hunt's report contains one very significant recommendation, which, I think, is worthy of the special attention df honorable members, particularly in view of the terms of the motion. Upon page 20, he says -

It is of course not money alone that is necessary, but I feel confident that we in Australia can find the men possessed of the foresight, industry, and ability necessary to guide this great enterprise to a successful issue.

I commend that statement to the notice of the Prime Minister and of those who oppose this motion. Great value has been set upon Mr. Hunt's report by the Prime Minister and others. That officer was specially despatched to New Guinea to investigate the conditions which obtain there, and to furnish a report, and when he states that we can find the men who are possessed of the necessary foresight and ability I quite agree with him. There is no reason for us to go further afield. Moreover, it is not fair for us to ask Sir William McGregor, at his time of life, to come from ,ai 'temperate climate into a torrid zone, and to spend the remainder of his days, there. It must be recollected that he is now well up "in years - he must be almost 60 years of age - and! that he has spent most bf his time in the tropics. Surely he deserves something better than to be sent back to New Guinea. Personally, I think that he should be granted a retiring allowance. At any rate, in his own interests it is better that he should not return to the Possession. As I have already said, . the administration of the Territory in regard to mining has not been as sympathetic as it might have been. In referring to mining, Mr. Hunt says -

The matter has received my best consideration, and I have come to the conclusion that the mining industry ought to be encouraged, and that the best means of encouragement at the disposal of the Government is the establishment of a prospecting vote, to be employed as I have indicated. Further, that to provide the necessary funds an export tax on gold ought to be instituted.

Evidently the mining industry has not been fostered under previous administration to the extent that it might have been. There seems to have been in the minds of the administrators the idea that the native was being taken advantage of by the miner. I give credit to past administrators for having protected the natives in every way, but from information which I have received from men who have worked in the Possession the natives have been very well treated indeed. At any rate, there has been no attempt made to obtain their services through the influence of drink. The miner, equally with everybody else, has been careful to prevent the natives from- obtaining intoxicants. Mr. Hunt, upon page 22 of his report, points out that certain things should be done - the assumption being that in the past these things have been neglected.'* IA11 these comments constitute an indictment of past administration. Mr. Hunt complains that, owing to the easy conditions of life which obtain in the Territory, the natives there are becoming lazy and unwilling to work. He therefore suggests the imposition of a hut tax. I should strongly oppose any tax of that character. It seems to me that civilization is working in cycles. The imposition of a hut tax is suggested as a means of compelling the natives to work. Io other words, they are to be required to work for the settlers, in order to obtain money with which to pay that tax. The object of the settler, I need scarcely point out, is to secure sufficient money to enable him to dispense with work, and' it certainly seems curious that a man who is able to dispense with work,owing to the conditions under which he lives, should be obliged to labour for an individual who desires to possess sufficient means to enable him to do without work. In South Africa, and in western Africa the imposition of a hut' tax has produced great trouble, and I should be very sorry to see a similar tax levied in the Possession.

Mr Deakin - Should not the native pay something towards the cost of protecting him? We have stopped war in the Territory, and wegive him perpetual peace and just tribunals.

Mr BAMFORD - But the native enjoyed the tribal wars in which he was formerly engaged. They were the spice of life to him. Moreover, it was not at his request that we have assumed certain duties. We have gone to the Possession quite voluntarily to occupy his land.

Mr Deakin - We give him a judicial system, and protect him from plunder.

Mr BAMFORD - But there are people who do not desire to be protected in that way. We are told that in India the British Administration has removed war, but we have reason to believe that the Indian would prefer to live under his own system of Government - as it previously existed - and be permitted to engage now and then in a row, and, in short, to cut his neighbour's throat whenever he felt inclined to do so. Mr. Hunt goes on to say -

An important question facing the intending New Guinea settler is, where he is to sell the product of his labours.

A few days ago when the honorable member for Lang submitted a motion in favour of abolishing the fiscal barrier which exists between Australia and the Pacific Islands, I objected to the inclusion of Papua.I did not object to the Tariff wall being entirely removed so far as Papua was concerned. Imerely objected to the first portion of the motion, and I felt thatif I allowed it to pass without dissent it might be held that I was desirous of seeing the fiscal barrier removed from the whole of those islands instead of from a part of them. I think that we ought to abolish that barrier so far as Papua is concerned. The Administration should provide bounties for the production of certain commodities -especiallyrubber. We should also enact that rubber shall not be exportedanywhere but to Australia. A similar policy has been adoptedby the UnitedState's in respect to the products of the Philippine Islands and of Cuba.

They have so framed their Tariff that not a pound weight of hemp can be exported from Manila except to the United States. We should be following a very good example if we provided that the products of New Guinea should be exported only to Australia. There is no doubt that there is a splendid field in Papua for the production of rubber and other tropical products. I do not think I need comment upon Mr. Hunt's report much further. He recommends that in future those to be employed in the public service of the Territory shall be between the ages, of 21 and 25 years. That is a significant recommendation in view of the fact that the Government contemplate offering Sir William McGregor the position of Administrator. If it be desirable that only young men shall, be employed in the minor positions of the public service of the Territory, it is surely equally desirable that young men should fill the superior positions. It may be urged that if a young man were appointed, he would have to gain the experience already possessed by Sir William McGregor, but we need not necessarily appoint as Administrator a gentleman not more than 25 years of age. We might materially increase the age limit without departing from the spirit of the recommendation. At the same time, I think that the suggestion is worthy of notice in this connexion. I do not propose to refer further to Mr. Atlee Hunt's report, but I have received most opportunely a letter from a valued correspondent in New Guinea, which I shall hand over to the Prime Minister, so that he may satisfy himself as to the bona fides of the writer. The gentleman in question has resided in Papua for twenty years, and, therefore, it is only reasonable to assume that he knows something of what is going on there, and that he should be competent to express an opinion as to what is necessary in regard to the future administration of the Territory. He complains that Mr. Atlee Hunt, during his visit to Papua, was, to some extent, under the thumb of officialdom. Having regard to the fact that Mr. Hunt's stay on the island was not a lengthy one, one can well understand that at was difficult for him to obtain information from other than official sources; but. at the same time, it is unfortunate that he could not go beyond them.

Mr Deakin - He did his best, but he admits that he had not an opportunity to see all whom he would have liked to meet.

Mr BAMFORD - My correspondent writes -

There are here two main causes 'for the state of affairs as they are at present found, viz. : - The unwillingness or incapacity of our Government to either open up the country itself, or to assist in any way even by information, or the making easy the acquirement of land to outsiders in their efforts towards' that end. This, together with the pull back policy which has been always the object of our controlling mercantile . firm, Messrs. Burns, Philp, & Co., has up to the present successfully prevented anything in the shape of settlement in the Possession.

It is, to say the least, peculiar that every one speaks of Burns, Philp, and Company's connexion with New Guinea in most condemnatory language.

Mr Deakin - They are giving a very much better service.

Mr BAMFORD - That is so, so far as the mail service is concerned, but the writer was referring to something more. He goes on to say -

That the Government service is utterly demoralized has been already shown in the Richmond and other cases, and at present all the departments seem conducted on the principle of " pull baker, pull devil." Our Lands Department seems to be in an utter state of chaos. As to what lands, are available for settlement, no information can be obtained, nor is any description of the country or particulars as to where certain classes of country may be found available. The ridiculous system of delay that has been general has in many cases so disheartened would-be settlers that they have abandoned their intention, and sought investment for their capital in other parts.

He then proceeds to justify this statement by giving, not only his own experience, but that of another man who applied for land -

A.   Gabriel, a coloured man, was granted a section of land, with building improvements. His improvements, he was told, were satisfactory, and when he wished to pay up the purchase money, he was told that notification would be sent him when his deed was ready, and he could pay then. He resided on the section for three years, and then went west. About a year after he had been here he received a notification to clear out of the section, and remove his house within 30 days, or the Government would throw it away.

I presume that that expression is commonly employed in dealing with coloured men -

I took the matter up, and went to Port Moresby, and after much trouble got the man his title. If this man had had no one to speak for him, he would have undoubtedly lost his land, as it was currently rumoured that some other party had been promised the land by a high official here. This was the matter over which the Richmond episode of the altering of minutes arose, and there seems little doubt but that Richmond was right in his allegation.

The House is aware of the nature of the allegation to which he refers -

Here is an instance where the Government not only waste a considerable sum of money, but fail to assist in providing profitable employment for the natives, which is now a most serious trouble here. We outside traders are always at a difficulty to find employment by which new tribes that we bring into connexion may be able to obtain trade. In New Guinea is found an unlimited supply of sago, more especially in this Gulf district. This is a food greatly esteemed by all the natives, and can be supplied in any quantity in a condition in which it will keep good for years. I have on three occasions written the Government on the matter, offering to supply at a price that would cost them about one half what they now pay for rice for the prisoners and the police, and the rice bill of New Guinea is a big item. Once I was deigned an answer to say that the Government did not want sago, other twice I received no reply. When the Governor (Captain Barton) was once west at Orokolo, he saw sago being dried by the missionary (the London Missionary Society use it throughout all their stations, manufacturing it at Orokolo, and from thence distributing), and asked him if he would supply the Government. Note the Government could not deal with a trader. He promised at a price arranged to send some five tons. He sent one ton, explaining that it was an order from His Excellency, and the officer in charge of the store department wrote back and told him to send no more, as he did not want to handle sago. These sort of things go to show that our present head of affairs is a man not strong enough for his position, and it is current talk that not he, but a certain unpopular Government official, is the actual power. This sago preparation is eagerly sought by all white men having constant native labour, and as before stated, is the food staple throughout the stations of the London Missionary Society. We have had in the Central Division a very dry season, and 'native gardens are failures. The Government will be in all probability compelled to supply some food assistance, and in April last to a village called Kaili, where, in addition to their food failure, they suffered by fire, the Government donated two tons of rice. Now, two tons of sago would have done just as well, would have cost half the money, and would have assisted in the only hope of holding these natives after they came under white influence, viz., the providing them with some congenial employment.

That is to say, it would have provided them with congenial employment in the cultivation of sago.

Mr Deakin - Sago is grown there.

Mr BAMFORD - Yes, it is indigenous to New Guinea. My correspondent continues -

Here is a trivial matter, but which shows how utterly careless the Government are as to how things go. Last year a number of boys went from this district to the Mambare to work ; some few died. About a month since a Government officer visited us, and, sought out the relatives of the dead boys for the purpose of handing over the pay that had accrued. Now this pay is handed to the Government by the employer in cash, but when the money reached the native here, who, as a matter of fact, has not the remotest idea of the value of money, it was in the shape of Government cheques drawn on Brisbane. Two cheques came to me at the same time, one for 16s. 3d., and one for £5 14s. ird. The natives simply knew they had a piece of paper that was worth something, and asked me to give them what I would for them.

It is absurd that a cheque should be given to a native on the island. In the eyes of these natives the two pieces of paper were exactly alike, but whilst one man received a considerable quantity of goods ir. exchange for his cheque, the other obtained comparatively few stores -

To the natives the two papers represented exactly the same thing, yet one man got only a few things, whilst the other became a millionaire, much to. his astonishment. I have been amongst these people many years, and they know me, and were, I believe, satisfied that I had not robbed them, but it is not a position that is advantageous to a trader, and it is a most outrageous absurdity to pay almost untaught natives in cheques upon Brisbane. One thing I was surprised to notice was that the cheques were not made payable to order.

Then follows something so uncomplimentary to the administration that I shall suppress it. I intend, however, to hand over the letter to the Prime Minister, and I hope that he will read it carefully.

Mr Deakin - Hear, hear.

Mr BAMFORD - The writer proceeds -

Absolutely nothing has been done in the way of making roads by the Government, and men who have to get inland have yet either to cut their own tracks, or use the native trails. Had the prison labour even been used for this purpose with any degree of common sense, by this time many parts of the interior would have been thoroughly prospected. Now there are no people here to do it. All who could have cleared out of the country, mostly financially broken, and all utterly disheartened.

That is owing to the maladministration -

Even round the capital there is not a decent road to be found -

For twenty years we have been spending considerable sums of money in British New Guinea. The first vote, to which Fiji and New Zealand contributed, amounted to ^5,000. That grant was subsequently increased to ^20,000, but notwithstanding these votes, and the expenditure locally of the revenue derived from British New Guinea, a considerable sum, there is not a good road to be found there -

Even round the capital there is not a decent

Toad to be found, and it is a journey of pain and discomfort, even from the town to the Government House. One of our most serious difficulties is the matter of the great expense and delay in getting our produce to Sydney.

That, however, is a personal matter to which I shall not refer. I would emphasize, .however, the point that the writer is thoroughly competent to speak of the position in regard to the administration of New Guinea. Another matter with which I desire to deal relates to the petition from a number of white settlers which was presented to this House last session, and in which we were asked to grant elective representation and trial by jury to the white people of the Territory. If, when the Papua Bill was before us, . I had been in possession of the information now at my command, I should have urged the Government to give the white settlers at least two or three representatives in the Legislative Council. They are honestly entitled to such representation. It has been clearly shown that the officialdom, such as exists in the" Territory, is practically under the control of one man, and is not beneficial to the country. The white settlers are subject to great disadvantages, and if we gave them elective representation we should largely remove the feeling of dissatisfaction that now prevails. When the Bill was before us, however, we did not have that information which we ought to have possessed. As a matter of fact, we had no means of obtaining it unless we had paid a special visit to Papua, and that, of course, was out of the question, so' far as the bulk of the House was concerned. But a suggestion has 'been made to the Prime Minister, by- which elective representation can be extended to these men in a roundabout, although perfectly legitimate, way. If a plebiscite of the miners were taken, three of their number might be selected to make recommendations to the Prime Minister, and those who were nominated

Or elected might then be given seats in the Legislative Council of Papua. In that way I think we could get rid of the present dissatisfaction. It may be urged that the process would be a costly one, and should be provided for in an Act; but I do not think that it would be any more costly to initiate now than it would have proved if we had provided for it in the original Act. When at Townsville some time back, I was waited on by a resident of New Guinea, who pointed out to' me that it would be a great convenience if a bank were established at Samarai for the convenience of miners, traders, and others. I, therefore, wrote to the Prime Minister on the subject. He replied to my letter, and, later, forwarded me a copy of a letter received from the Administrator of New Guinea, together with the report upon the proposal of the Acting Treasurer of the Territory. The Administrator's letter is dated 5th May, and in it, referring to the report of the Acting Treasurer, he says -

It will be seen that he regards the establishment of any such bank here as impracticable, and I share his opinion. In paragraph 7 he hints at the possible feasibility of an arrangement to enable the Government to buy gold from the miners, or sell it for them on commission ; but the objections he foresees to such an arrangement are sufficiently forceable, in my opinion, to render it undesirable.

The Acting Treasurer says -

I do not consider the establishment of a bank by the Government to be practicable.

To be of any use, branches would need to be at Tamata, on the Yodda, on Woodlark Island, at Samarai, and a head office at Port Moresby.

Only one bank is asked for, although this officer assumes that banks are required all over the Possession. I see no reason for so many. He continues -

The resident magistrates and assistant resident magistrates could not be expected to carry _ on banking business in addition to their other duties.

I have taken the trouble to look over the civil list of New Guinea, arid it seems to me a very full one. In my opinion, there might very reasonably be additions to their present duties.

Mr Deakin - Magisterial functions occupy only a comparatively small part of the time of these officials. They are really administrators and residents, representing all the Government activities.

Mr BAMFORD - The Acting Treasurer, continues -

One reason being that they could not give the close, attention that is absolutely necessary for such a business, and another being that they know nothing about banking.

Possibly there are several other things about which they do not know much -

It would be necessary, therefore, that new officers should be got to perform the duties.

That is a very good suggestion. If we decided to establish a bank, it would, no doubt, be necessary to place in charge of it some one conversant with banking business. It is stated. By residents of New

Guinea that a bank at Samarai would pay. The letter continues -

A great number of the miners lead a sort of* hand to mouth existence, and depend on support from the storekeepers an the fields, who advance them stores on no security, and receive the gold found in payment.

It would be much better if the miners and traders could sell their gold 'for cash, and pay what they got into a bank, instead of having to resort to a system of barter. The Acting Treasurer is .of opinion that -

The bank could not possibly meet half its expenses from commissions and exchanges, and I see no other business it could do.

The fact that none of the banking companiesin Australia have thought it worth while to openbranches in British New Guinea goes to show that there is nothing to be made at it.

It might possibly -be arranged that the Government buy gold from the miners, or sell it for them on commission ; but this would probably be considered by storekeepers and others to be a gross interference with " private enterprise."

That is a remarkable reason to put forward' in an official document. The writer concludes -

To do anything else, however, in the way of banking seems to me quite out of the question.

The honorable member for Brisbane thisafternoon dilated to some extent on the advantages of a Commonwealth note issue, and the proposal to establish a bank at Samarai affords an opportunity to take advantage of his suggestions. In my opinion, banking business might very well be provided for in connexion with the post' office, something in the nature of a savings, bank being established. At the present, time, the miners have no way of banking, any money received from gold, and thus saving it, and possibly they are inclined to spend it in ways which are of very little profit to them. In conclusion, I wish tomake a strong appeal to the Prime Minister in support of the proposition that a man conversant with the conditions of New Guinea, who would go there as an enthusiast, though not filled with the enthusiasm of ignorance, shall be appointed to administer the affairs of the Territory. Whoever is chosen should be acquainted with the conditions of the country, and should be willing to bend his best energies to its development. I am perfectly certain that men who possess all the necessary acquirements for thepost are to be found in Australia; menwith the requisite tact, experience, and physique, who would be prepared to work hard, and to shoulder all the responsibilities of the office. Such men would be much better able to satisfactorily acquit themselves of the duties attached to the position than would men taken from the Public Service of the old country, who would, to some extent, consider themselves in exile while at their post, who would find their surroundings uncongenial, and whose only desire would be to get away again as soon as possible. I am sure that if the motion goes to a vote, the House will carry it, and I hope that the Ministry will take that as an indication that honorable members wish to see an Australian appointed. I am certain that as capable-a man is to be found in Australia, if proper search be made, as could be found elsewhere. I also wish to urge upon the Prime Minister the necessity of providing for trial bv jury, at any rate, so far as the white settlers of New Guinea are concerned. Speaking as a . layman, I think that there is nothing in the Act to prevent that being clone. It could be provided for by an ordinance, and the people living there are entitled1 to it. I also trust that the honorable and learned gentleman will see if steps cannot be taken to provide for electoral representation. Recently, when in Cooktown and Cairns, I met men with whom this was a burning question. They regard it as a blot upon a democratic institution that this Parliament, which has been elected on the votes of the people of the Commonwealth, has not given representation to the residents in New Guinea. Practically all the white men living in New Guinea formerly resided in Australia, and most of them in Northern Queensland, and they desire to enjoy the electoral advantages to which they were accustomed in that State. I hope that this small boom will be granted to them.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Hume Cook) adjourned.

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