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Wednesday, 1 May 1957

Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -

1.   Have native villages in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea been denuded of their ablett lie! mc:-. through 0\..r recruitment of labour by the agents of private companies?

2.   If so, has a serious social problem been created?

3.   Does the recruitment of labour in some villages exceed 80 per cent. of the total male population?

4.   Is it a fact that, in accordance with the terms of the Native Labour Ordinance, a medical examination as to a native's fitness for recruitment should be made by an Administration medical officer?

5.   Has the examination been conducted in some instances by doctors in the employ of the private company recruiting the labour?

6.   If the position is as stated, what corrective action has he taken, or does he propose to take?

Mr Hasluck (CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Territories) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   No.

2.   No.

3.   No. In twenty villages in eight areas of Madang, Central and Western Districts recruitment of numbers up to, but not in excess of, 80 per cent. of the able-bodied adult males - not the total male population - occurred. The details of the occurrences, and of consequent action, are as follows: -

(a)   Over-recruitment in eleven villages in the Madang District was first reported in March, 1954, and re-examined until August, 1954, and the villages were closed to further recruitment in October, 1954, until further notice. They are still closed.

(b)   Over-recruitment in one village in the Sepik District was reported in May, 1954, and the village was closed in July, 1954, for twelve months.

(c)   Over-recruitment in two villages in the Central District was reported in August, 1954, and the villages were closed in December, 1954, for twelve months.

(d)   Over-recruitment in three villages in the Western District was reported between March and June of 1955, but they were not closed because of the early repatriation of many labourers. Subsequent reports during 1956 were examined by the Department of Native Affairs in December, 1956, and showed general over-recruitment. After a further examination in January, 1957, almost the entire Balimo sub-district, including the Lower Fly, Aramia and Bamu River basins were closed to further recruitment.

(e)   Over-recruitment in three villages in the Central District was reported in September, 1956, and they were closed in December, 1956, for twelve months.

4.   The Native Labour Ordinance provides that an authorized officer shall not sanction an agreement until a medical officer or a medical assistant has certified on the agreement that the native is fit to perform the class of work specified in the agreement. However, section 34 (4) of the ordinance provides that where a medical officer or medical assistant is not available to conduct a medical examination of a native about to execute an agreement, the authorized officer may sanction an agreement, but if he does he shall suitably endorse the agreement and the native executing the agreement must be medically examined at the first visit to the place of employment of a medical officer or a medical assistant who is required to inform the authorized officer of the district of employment of the fact of the examination.

5.   Yes, but such medical examinations are conducted in accordance with the Native Labour Ordinance, section 10A of which provides that the Director of Health may appoint a person registered as a legally qualified medical practitioner under the Medical Ordinance to be a medical officer for the purposes of the Native Labour Ordinance. Two private practitioners hold appointments under section 10A.

6.   No corrective action is required. The details supplied in answer to question No. 3 indicate the vigilance of the Administration and the measures that are taken from time to time to prevent overrecruitment.

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