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Tuesday, 1 October 1935

Mr LYONS (Wilmot) (Prime Minister) . - by leave - A question appears on the notice-paper to-day regarding action by the Administrator of New Guinea with a view to the erection of an aerodrome at Rabaul, and my attention has been drawn to the published statements relating to the matter. I have been advised by the Administrator of New Guinea, Brigadier-General W. R. McNicoll, that the allegations in the published statements are extravagant and misleading. He has no knowledge of any disorderly disturbance, and he denies categorically the existence of any serious native trouble. He also denies that there was a march of hundreds of native inhabitants upon Rabaul. The facts of the matter are that the Administration, seeking a site for an aerodrome close to Rabaul, had made a preliminary survey of certain land. The natives in a quiet orderly manner protested on the ground that the resumption of the area selected by the Administration would cause interference with their food supplies. The survey marks were removed by the Administration, and the Assistant District Inspector was instructed to make a full inquiry in the villages affected, and to furnish a report. The report made consequent upon these investigations indicates that the natives of Matupi cannot afford to lose the area tentatively selected by the Administration as suitable for an aerodrome site, unless suitable cultivable laud is made available for them elsewhere. Inquiries are now being made to select such land or alternatively to secure another site for an aerodrome.

In a question, without notice, recently addressed to the honorable the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) alluded to our obligations under the mandate in relation to the natives and in regard to fortifications. No question of fortifications is involved in the matter under review, and the rights and needs of the natives are being in this, as in all other matters, adequately safeguarded. Such alarmist and misleading statements as those which appeared in a section of the press are strongly to be deprecated. The Administrator of New Guinea and his officers are fully seised of the importance of the requirements and welfare of the natives, and the Minister-in-Charge of Territories (Senator Pearce), during his recent visit to New Guinea, was greatly impressed with the trust and good feeling shown to exist between the officials of the Administration and the natives.

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