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Friday, 15 November 1935

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West ern Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [3.37].- I move-

That the hill be now read a second time.

The bill contains some minor amendments of the New Guinea Act which experience has shown to be desirable. As honorable senators are aware, the New Guinea Act 1920 made provision for the acceptance of the mandate for the Government of the Territory of New Guinea and for the establishment of civil government for the territory. That act provided for the appointment of an Administrator of the territory, who is charged with the duty of administering the government on behalf of the Commonwealth. Provision was also made for the Governor-General to make ordinances having the force of law in and in relation to the territory. Amendments of a minor nature for the purpose of facilitating the administration were made to the act in 1926.

In the New Guinea Act 1932 a measure of local government was granted to the territory. The power given to the Governor-General in the principal act to make ordinances for the territory was repealed, and legislative functions were entrusted to a Legislative Council. The amending act also made provision for an Executive Council to advise and assist the Administrator. Ordinances passed by the Legislative Council are not in force until assented to by the Administrator or by the Governor-General, and ordinances assented to by the Administrator may be disallowed by the GovernorGeneral. The New Guinea Act 1932 came into operation on the 9th May, 1933, and the Executive Council and the Legislative Council were established from that date.

The proposed amendments are set out in clauses 2 and 3 of the bill. Clause 2 amends section 12 of the principal act. This section provides for the appointment of an Executive Council consisting of nine members, who are to be appointed by the Governor-General, and who are to hold office during his pleasure. Eight of the members are to he officers of the territory and onemember is chosenby and from the nonofficial members of the Legislative Council. If the non-official members of the Legislative Council fail to choose one of their number for appointment as a member of the Executive Council, the Governor-General may appoint a nonofficial member of the Legislative Council, or any other person not an officer of the territory, to be the non-official member of the Executive Council.

Under section 12, the GovernorGeneral may, in the event of illness or absence from the territory of an official member, appoint a deputy. Such deputy has all the powers of a member. There is, however, no power to appoint a deputy non-official member. Meetings of the Executive Council' are held at Rabaul, and it has been found that the nonofficial member may, on account of absence from the territory, from Rabaul, or on account of illness, not always be available to attend such meetings. It is,' therefore, proposed that provision be made for the appointment of a deputy non-official member to act in the place of the non-official member when he is unable to attend owing to illness" or absence from the territory, or when he lias been exempted by the Administrator from attendance at any meeting of the Executive Council. It is further proposed that, when a deputy of a non-official member is attending a meeting of the Executive Council, he shall exercise all the powers and functions of a member of the Executive Council. He will be selected in the same manner as is the non-official member, and will be appointed by the GovernorGeneral.

The next amendment concerns section 25 of the principal act, which authorizes the Legislative Council to make standing rules and orders "with respect to the order and conduct of its business and proceedings. Pursuant to that authority, the Legislative Council made standing orders which included a provision to the effect that the Administrator should appoint such times for holding each session of the council as he thought fit, and for proroguing the council from time to time. The standing order also provides that there shall 'he a session of the council at least twice in each year. The Crown Law authorities have expressed the opinion that such a standing order is beyond the scope of the authority vested in the Legislative Council to make rules, and that the power purported to be given by the standing order is a matter which should he dealt with by legislation. The Legislative Council had its inaugural meeting convoked by instruction from the Governor-General on the 3rd May, 1933.

In the absence of provision in the act in relation to the fixation of .times for meetings of the council, an instruction must be issued by the Governor-General to the Administrator upon each occasion it is desired that the council should assemble for the conduct of business. .It is most desirable' that the Administrator should be in a position to call the council together for business when he deems it advisable. It is therefore proposed that provision be made to authorize the Administrator, by notice published in the New Guinea Gazette, to appoint such times as he thinks fit for holding sessions of the council. He is to have power also to prorogue the council. Honorable senators will appreciate that there is nothing very contentious in the bill, and I commend it to the favorable consideration of the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.

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