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Friday, 12 December 1913

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - I am at a loss to understand the object which the Government have in view in bringing forward this Bill. I am not aware that they have given substantial reasons for it.

Senator Clemons - I did; but I do not quarrel with the honorable senator, because he was not present.

Senator FINDLEY - What is the reason?

Senator Clemons - One of the chief reasons is that the island is doing no good, and another is that the Government of New South Wales have specially requested the Commonwealth to take it over.

Senator FINDLEY - If the island were doing all right, New South Wales would not be willing to hand it over to the Federal Government.

Senator Clemons - The honorable senator knows that that is not so. The Commonwealth has greater power for dealing with the island.

Senator FINDLEY - We took over the Northern Territory at a time when there were heavy responsibilities connected with it. The people of South Australia had shouldered the burden for a long time, and apparently came to the conclusion that they had had enough of it. They thought that the burdens of the future ought to be shifted on £o the shoulders of the people of the Commonwealth.

Senator Clemons - There is no financial burden here.

Senator FINDLEY - Apparently, it is not what may be called an asset. If it were a good thing, I do not imagine that' the Government of New South Wales would be extremely anxious that the Commonwealth Government should take it over.

Senator Clemons - The surplus of revenue over expenditure last year was 10 per cent. The revenue was £2,500, and the expenditure £2,300. Those are the enormous figures.

Senator FINDLEY - Leaving that aspect of the question for a moment, I wish to say that I am strongly in favour of Senator Rae's proposal that no further Crown lands in Norfolk Island should be alienated. It is a fundamental1 and basic principle of the Labour party that we shall oppose the alienation of Crown lands. Whether the area be small or large, the principle is the same. Although we are told that only 1,300 acres are involved, nevertheless, it is our duty to do all we can to further the principle which I and every other member of the Labour party conscientiously believe in. There is another matter, which may appear very small, but which I should like honorable senators to consider. Clause 15 of the Bill provides that -

Duties of Customs will not be chargeable on goods imported into Australia from Norfolk Island if the goods (a) are the produce or manufacture of Norfolk Island ; and (b) are shipped direct from Norfolk Island to Australia ; and (c) are not goods which if manufactured or produced in Australia would be subject to any duty or Excise.

That means that the Government are prepared to do for the people of Norfolk Island what they are not prepared to do for the people resident in other Territories under the control of the Commonwealth.

Senator Stewart - The Norfolk Islanders might produce sugar, and send it here free of duty.

Senator FINDLEY - I proposed to refer to that. I am not aware of the total population of the island.

Senator Clemons - The total population is 985, composed of 568 males and 417 females.

Senator FINDLEY - Can the Minister say how many whites and how many coloured people there are there ?

Senator Clemons - I doubt whether there are any coloured people in the ordinary sense on Norfolk Island.

Senator FINDLEY - I wish to point out that if there are coloured folk on that island, and we permit the alienation of the 1,300 acres of land still unalienated there, persons interested in tropical or semi-tropical production may secure it, and employ cheap labour on the island in the production of sugar or other dutiable articles to be imported to the Commonwealth.

Senator Clemons - What does the honorable senator mean by saying that they might employ cheap labour there? If we take over the island, we shall govern it by our own Ordinances, and will be in a position to control the labour question.

Senator FINDLEY - Yes; and we know how it would probably be controlled. Will the Government accept an amendment of the Bill to provide that the same industrial conditions shall prevail in Norfolk Island as obtain in Queensland? We know that sugar or other tropical produce grown in Papua cannot be introduced into the Commonwealth free of duty.

Senator Clemons - We can make an Ordinance applying to Norfolk Island in the same way as we do as to Papua.

Senator FINDLEY - The Bill before the Senate definitely provides that no duties of Customs shall be levied upon produce grown in Norfolk Island and imported into the Commonwealth.

Senator Clemons - Cannot this Parliament legislate to meet any case that may arise ?

Senator FINDLEY - It may miss the opportunity to do so. I hope we shall get some assurance from the Government that tropical products grown in Norfolk Island by the labour of coloured folk there, and brought into competition with the products of the Commonwealth, will not be treated differently from imports into the Commonwealth from Papua.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Progress reported.

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