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Friday, 25 November 1938

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- The matter of defence has been exercising the minds of honorable members this week, but I point out that no defence of Australia is complete without the defence of Australia's territorial outposts. Yet we have the immense and fertile territory of New Guinea, with its gold, copper, rubber and tropical production as well as its untapped resources of raw metals, absolutely undefended, a small number of native police being the only organized force. We all know that, under the terms of our mandate, New Guinea cannot be fortified, but, definitely, we can fortify and defend Papua. Australia's first claim to the New Guinea territory came in 1SS3 with the landing there of a small force of Queensland artillery. The territory became known as British New Guinea and, later, as Papua. Wing.Commander Hewitt, who flew to Australia on the record-breaking Royal Air Force flight from Ismalia, said that he who masters New Guinea is the master of Australia. I put it to the House that it is only a matter of common sense that our territorial outposts should be defended. In 1936, when I was at Thurs day Island, a deputation of about 40 returned soldiers pointed out to me that the island was completely undefended, despite the fact that there were more foreign nationals of one race on it than white, and thr^.3 times as many of them as there were coloured people of other races, lt is to the credit of the then Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) that, when I made representations to him, he had machine guns sent to Thursday Island and authorized the formation there of a machine-gun section. What happened to a recommendation that I made that Port Moresby should be made a defended port, I have not heard. The residents of Port Moresby would temporarily supply the men for a garrison if garrison guns were provided. It is obvious that any nation that chooses to occupy New Guinea controls it, and is able to establish a base there for further operations towards the south. In New Guinea there is the nucleus of a splendid auxiliary to the Air Force in its aerial services. The Lutheran missions also have their own air-craft. Just over the horizon from New Guinea are the Japanese mandates which are reported to be naval bases and which are fortified. Yet this second largest island in the world remains defenceless.

Mr Gregory - In the last six years the honorable member has missed a lot of opportunities.

Mr WHITE - Whilst one is a Minister one cannot publicly criticize the Government. In 1936, I wrote a full report on this subject. Apparently the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) did not hear me say that earlier. We have in New Guinea splendid settlers who would render a good account of themselves if any attack should come. In the interests of tactics and strategy Port Moresby should be garrisoned. It would then be a rendezvous and haven for our naval vessels. The existing air port at Port Moresby is inefficient and, in the interests of defence, it should be improved. I consider also that an air force squadron should be established there. Other air force machines should frequently visit it so that the pilots should gain experience and the residents inspiration from the flag which is occasionally shown by the Navy. If Port Moresby were fortified it could be an arsenal from which war equipment could be dispatched quickly to New Guinea in the event of its being attacked. I counsel the Government to pay heed to what was said by WingCommander Hewitt, and hope that the Government will realize that the time is overdue for it to do something towards protecting our territorial outposts.

I read in the press remarks made by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Harrison) last night about the amalgamation of the territorial services of New Guinea and Papua. That problem presents a great deal of difficulty, but it will be of advantage if it .is solved. Prominent in the plans for the defence of Australia should be plans for the defence of New Guinea, but I have never seen any mention of it in plans for Australian defence.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Inreply to the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I point out that no motion has ever been submitted in the House to fix the times during which the sittings of the House should be suspended for meals. By consent, the decision has always been left to the Speaker or to the Chairman of Committees, who have always given consideration to the convenience of honorable members, and to the business at the moment before the House, and it is the Government which controls the business before the House. The Chairman of Committees, I understand, announced yesterday and. to-day that the chair would be resumed after the expiry of a shorter interval than is usually allowed for meals, and, fis no voice was raised in protest, assumed, as I have done in the past, that there was no objection on the part of honorable members. In 1912, exactly the same question was raised. The Chairman of Committees had resumed the chair at a time earlier than the usual time, and his action was challenged on a motion of privilege; but, after a long debate, it was upheld by the House. I agree that the fixing of meal hours should not be left to an arbitrary decision by the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, and, in the absence of any standing order dealing with the matter, I suggest that a motion should be submitted at the start of each session fixing the time for' which sittings may bc suspended for meals.

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