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Friday, 12 December 1913

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . - If, after the hard matter-of-fact proposals that we have been discussing, honorable senators had either the time or the inclination to allow appeals to be made to their imagination, I do not know of any Bill which would lend itself more readily to such efforts than that which is now before us. Anybody who takes the slightest interest in Norfolk Island will recognise that there is the glamour of romance about the whole of it.

Senator Findley - Sad romance.

Senator CLEMONS - In some respects it is sad, I admit, but not in all. There is, I venture to say, ample material in the history of Norfork Island for the pen of a Robert Louis Stevenson. While I am not going to dwell upon that aspect of the matter, there is no reason why I should not appeal to every honorable senator to read - as I am sure he can do with great interest to himself - the early history of Norfolk Island. Its constitutional history is all set out in the preamble of this Bill, which has been written by a man who appeals even to this Senate - I refer to the Minister of External Affairs. In this measure we have adopted a procedure, which is a very welcome one, by inserting in it a long and interesting preamble which will tell any honorable senator who chooses to pay more than passing attention to it what has been the previous political history of Norfolk Island.

Senator Rae - A preamble mainly consisting of Orders in Council.

Senator CLEMONS - The honorable senator cannot enter into the spirit of what I am saying. The preamble deals with much more than Orders in Council. It tells us, in a comparatively clear and concise way, what has happened to this island from a constitutional point of view-

Senator Rae - Taken from Orders in Council.

Senator CLEMONS - No sooner do I wish to deal with the Bill in an absolutely non-party way than Senator Rae interjects something about Orders in Council. I appeal to him not to introduce party considerations into a Bill of this description.

Senator Rae - I have not done so.

Senator CLEMONS - The reference to Orders in Council seems very much like it. Norfolk Island was discovered about 140 years ago. As the preamble states, its control has been bandied about between far and away the two most important States of the Commonwealth, namely, New South Wales and Tasmania. Tasmania formerly had control of the island, and in those early days she said, " We will let New. South Wales assume control of it." That State did so, and at a later period said, in effect, " Excellent as our control of the island may be, we believe that Tasmania is able to manage it, and, therefore, we will hand it back to that Colony." Still later, by a sort of reciprocal arrangement, the control of the island was again vested in New South Wales. The present position is that the Governor of that State represents the Commonwealth, and it is desirable that Norfolk Island should be placed under Commonwealth control, just as Papua has been placed under our control.

Senator Findley - It is a valuable asset when the New South Wales Government wish to get rid of it.

Senator CLEMONS - It is an extremely pleasant little island, and it would conduce to the better behaviour of all of us if we had an opportunity for six months' quiet reflection there. It would be a handsome investment on the part of the Government if some persons - I will not mention names - could be induced to take a six months' holiday on Norfolk Island, especially between the months of July and December. The Bill contains similar provisions to those to be found in the Papua Act. There are one or two items in it which may be seized upon by my honorable friends opposite as subjects for debate, and, therefore, I propose to draw attention to them. First of all, there is the question of land tenure. Let me tell honorable senators what is the position in the island to-day. The total area of Norfolk Island is 8,500 acres, all of which, with the exception of 1,300 acres, has been alienated. As the island has been more or less developed for over 100 years, there has been in force there the usual process of selection. The result is that the 1,300 odd acres which have not been alienated represent the very poorest land. I mention this circumstance deliberately, because I wish to ask honorable senators opposite whether it is worth while to raise in connexion with this Bill the question of leasehold versus freehold .

Senator Mullan - The honorable senator need not raise it.

Senator CLEMONS - I am making a pathetic appeal to Senator Mullan and others not to apply their views in respect of leasehold tenure to these 1,300 odd acres of the very poorest land in Norfolk Island. Another matter which may be in dispute in the Bill relates to what we should drink, and where we should drink, if we lived on Norfolk Island. May I sum up the position thus : This is a Bill which has the approval of the best teetotaller in the Commonwealth Parliament.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'loghlin. - That is a high distinction.

Senator CLEMONS - An honorable senator interjects that I will make Senator Pearce jealous. I will withdraw my statement, and say that the Bill has the final approval of the soundest teetotaller to be found in Australia - I refer to Mr. Glynn. I am not surprised at the chorus of approval with which that remark is greeted. I do hope that the question upon which I have just touched will not be made one of serious debate.

Sitting suspended from 1 to £.30 p.m.

Senator CLEMONS - I recognise that, at this stage of tho session, it is impossible for a Minister, in introducing a Bill, to occupy the time, however concise he might be, which he would probably occupy with a fuller latitude. In these circumstances, I throw myself upon the mercy of honorable senators, if they feel inclined, and I hope that they will not, to accuse me of treating them abruptly. I have to risk that accusation, because I desire to save time. Moreover, I wish to set an example in the hope that it will be followed. This Bill contains two clauses, which are important to Norfolk Island. The first of them is clause 15. Norfolk Island presents a very strange example to men who care to dip into economic problems that engage the consideration of self-supporting countries, and the question of the balance between imports and exports. Here is a little island which to-day finds itself importing, as nearly as possible, seven times the value of what it exports. Yet it continues to exist.

Senator Pearce - It lives on what it owes.

Senator CLEMONS - It is a very interesting problem in economics how any country can go on living under those conditions. The Bill proposes to help that state of things. Clause 15 provides that no duties of Customs shall be chargeable on anything imported into Australia from Norfolk Island - that is, there shall be Free Trade from Norfolk Island to the Commonwealth - under certain conditions. The first condition is that the goods are the produce or manufacture of Norfolk Island; the second that the goods are shipped direct from Norfolk Island to Australia; while the third is that they are not goods which, if manufactured or produced in Australia, would be subject to any duty of Excise. I submit that, with these precautions, no man, whatever his fiscal views may be, can possibly object to the stimulus which such a provision will give to manufacture, trade, and production, chiefly, of course, to production in the island. Clause 16 of the Bill deals with the liquor traffic. I can best, I think, put that question before honorable senators by telling them shortly what the present condition is. The clause reads -

The manufacture, or, except in accordance with the provisions of the laws at present in force in Norfolk Island, the sale or supply of alcoholic liquor is prohibited.

There is a strong definite teetotal pronouncement; but it is proper that I should explain the alternative, which is embodied in the words - except in accordance with the provisions of the laws at present in force in Norfolk Island.

Senator Rae - It means that nearly everybody can get drink.

Senator CLEMONS - The honorable senator is an impetuous man. I propose to read the conditions underwhich he alleges any one can get drink at present -

2.   All beer, wines, and spirits landed on any part of Norfolk Island shall be consigned to, or to the care of, the Chief Magistrate, and will, on landing, be taken possession of by him, and will not be issued by him except in pursuance of a permit.

3.   Permits will be granted either for the sup ply of liquor to be issued by the Chief Magistrate on demand by the holder of the permit, or for the periodical supply of liquor to be so issued in small quantities to such holder for a period not exceeding one month.

First, the Chief Magistrate has all discretion; and second, there can be no liquor issued for a longer period than one month.

Senator Rae - A man can get a renewal, though.

Senator CLEMONS - The Chief Magistrate controls the quantity, and also the period of issue -

5.   Permits to the Melanesian Mission and to the Cable Station will be granted only on the condition that liquor shall not be supplied to any person not being a member of the mission, or permanently employed in the mission or ¬©able station. The heads of the mission and of the cable station respectively will be responsible for the observance of this regulation.

8.   Permits to persons other than the Melanesian Mission or Cable Station will only be granted on and in accordance with a certificate signed by the Government Medical Officer in charge that the liquor is required for medical purposes only, in case of sickness, old age, or other debility.

Here is the concluding comment of the Minister of External Affairs, in introducing the Bill in another place, on the regulations at present in force -

The effect of these regulations is to practically make the island a teetotal one.

I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

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