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Thursday, 15 July 1926

Senator GRANT (Kew South Wales) . - The position, as I have stated previously, is so clear and convincing that I trust there will be little opposition to the motion. There are at present about 1,500 white residents in the mandated territory of New Guinea. The overseers on the plantations are, almost without exception, men who were formerly resident in the Commonwealth, and who have always been accustomed to vote for the election of those who frame the laws by which they are governed. These men are, I may safely say, exceptionally well educated, as also are their wives. As many of these people who are living on the outlying islands, such as Aua and others in the group, do ' not come in contact with white residents of other islands for months at a time, it is only reasonable to give them the right to elect two representatives on the advisory council. In Papua the white residents have a voice in the election of the advisory council by which they are more or less governed. The present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce), when Minister for Home and Territories, clearly and definitely promised that an alteration would be made when the white population in the mandated territories increased. Since that statement was made a considerable number of the plantations in New Britain have been disposed of, in almost every case to returned soldiers. It has now been decided to dispose of the balance of the plantations in New Britain, and at a later date similar action will be taken in connexion with those in New Ireland. When the sale is completed, the persons now employed by the Expropriation Board and by the administration will become members of the civil population, and will expect to have a voice in the election of the Advisory council. I am not asking the Senate to go to that extent on this occasion; but as a number of plantations have been disposed of in New Britain, and more are about to be sold, the time should be opportune to make the alteration I suggest. If I were asking that all the positions on the Advisory Committee should be held by men elected by the adult white population I should have no hope of carrying such a proposal. The section of the ordinance I am seeking to amend reads as follows : -

There shall be an Advisory Council for the Territory of New Guinea. The council shall consist of the Government Secretary, the Treasurer, the Commissioner of Native Affairs, the Director of Public Health, and the Director of Agriculture.

My exceedingly moderate request is to add to this the following : - and two representatives elected by the adult white residents.

No objections have been raised by honorable senators opposite to that proposal. However much some people may desire to prevent the extension of the franchise, there is to-day throughout the various nations a strong movement for local government and self-determination. In South Africa there is a strong feeling for independence, amounting in many instances to a demand for complete severance from the British Empire. In Egypt there is an almost irresistible demand for home rule. Senator Reid could tell us in a convincing manner that when the time is opportune the people of India will assert their right to govern themselves. In our Commonwealth every man and woman, 21 years of age or over, who is not otherwise disqualified, is entitled to vote at elections, for the House of Representatives and the Senate. Why should we refuse to extend to our fellowcountrymen in New Guinea the right which every other adult in the Commonwealth possesses? I expect that in the very near future a demand will come from the residents of the Northern Territory of such a character that we dare not refuse it. They have a voice, but not a vote, in another chamber, but they are not represented in the Senate. That state of affairs cannot last very long.. In New Guinea there are some hundreds of virile Australians doing the actual pioneering work required at an outpost of the Empire, enduring hardships, separated from the rest of the Commonwealth, very often separated from their families, and for months at a time seeing no other white people. Why should we deny them the right to elect two members of the Advisory Committee ? Who are we that we should select the men to administer their affairs? I think that 99 per cent, of the residents of the mandated territory are either natives of Australia or have been residents of the Commonwealth. At any rate, they are all acquainted with the responsibilities attaching to local government, and when I' visited the territory about two years ago I found on the part of the residents a strong desire to have the right of trial by jury and the right to elect representatives on the Advisory Committee. As I am only asking that they should be given the right to elect two members of the Advisory Committee out of seven, no harm could result from the adoption of my proposal. On the contrary, I think it would be highly advantageous to give to the residents of the territory something to which I think they are fully entitled, lt is deplorable that very often people who for a long time have been deprived of the franchise and have ultimately secured it are exceedingly reluctant to extend it to others. I am not one of those. People in nearly all the British dominions have the right to exercise the franchise. No good reason can be shown why the hardy, virile pioneers in the mandated territory should be deprived of the small right I propose to extend to them. Therefore I submit my proposal to the Senate, fully confident that on this occasion the modest request I have made will be agreed to.

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