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Wednesday, 23 November 1938

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) (Assistant Minister) . - I crave the indulgence of the House to make a statement which, I think, will be of interest to honorable members generally. It has to do with the decision of the Government concerning the establishment of a new administrative capital site in New Guinea. As honorable members are aware, the Government has had this matter under consideration for a considerable time. It will be recollected that, following the disastrous volcanic eruption which occurred at Rabaul, the capital of the territory, in May, 1937, investigations were made by scientists as to the safety of the area with a view to determining whether it wouldbe wise to retain Rabaul as the chief administrative centre of New Guinea. The scientists reported, after visiting the area, that on account of the possibility of volcanic eruptions near Rabaul, reasonably early evacuation of the site as the main administrative centre must be seriously considered, and they expressed the opinion that the risks involved in the maintenance and extension of the town were incomparably greater than the immediate loss inescapable from early abandonment. Acting upon that advice, the Government decided, in November, 1937, that the administrative head-quarters should be removed from Rabaul to a site in the territory to be selected, and a committee was appointed to visit the territory and to advise as to the location to which the head-quarters should be transferred. The committee, after investigation, submitted a report in which the following recommendations were made : -

1.   Lae (on the coast in the Morobe district on the mainland of New Guinea) be the site of the administrative head-quarters.

2.   Salamaua (also on the coast about 20 miles in a direct line from Lae) be the port for the administrative head-quarters, and to bedeveloped as the chief port of the territory.

3.   A roadway (estimated length, 45 miles) to be constructed to connect Lae and Salamaua.

The estimated expenditure involved in the committee's proposals was as follows : -

Transfer of administrative head-quarters from Rabaul to Lae, including houses and other buildings at Lae, £248,000.

Lac-Salamaua road, £150,000.

Rabaul district services - provision for district staff to be in a safe place near Rabaul - £45,000.

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