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Wednesday, 30 June 1937

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- In his speech on the Supply Bill yesterday, Senator J. V. MacDonald, referring to the pearl shell industry in Northern Australian waters, said -

Apparently the encroachment of the Japanese has arisen (because of our neglect of those waters. From time to time we have heard complaints that Japanese have not only poached in our waters but have also come ashore and conducted themselves with our aboriginal women in a manner which we should not permit in any circumstances. These incidents are happening from year to year but the Government apparently is prepared more or less to ignore them.

That is an extraordinary statement by an honorable senator who professes to keep np to date with happenings which concern Australia. I am amazed that, in these difficult days, an honorable senator should go out of his way to make provocative statements against the subjects of a country with which Australia desires to be on the most friendly terms. Had the honorable, senator kept up to date with his reading he would have known that the charges which he repeated in his speech were refuted in the press some time ago. The Government which I support is not unaware of the reports which have been circulated, nor has it been inactive in dealing with complaints regarding happenings in Northern Australian waters. As an earnest of its intentions the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) proposes to leave tomorrow on a special mission to the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, the honorable senator's speech did not end with recriminations against the Government; he charged another nation with poaching in Australian waters and the crews of its vessels with crimes against aboriginal women. I have searched the files of various newspapers to ascertain what has been published in this connexion, and I now quote from the Melbourne Herald, of the 21st June -

Captain Haultain's statement .to the Administrator that he was convinced Japanese employed on local pearling luggers, and not those from overseas, were largely responsible for interference with native women is borne out by the fact that on its way to Baucant Bay the Larrakia surprised several Darwin luggers in contact with aborigines. On one of these vessels he found an aboriginal girl no more than twelve years old. The crew of the lugger made an effort to smuggle the girl out of sight when the patrol boat approached. There had been apparently other native girls aboard, a number of aborigines were camped on shore nearby; the girls had been traded by their parents. A serious view is taken of the report by the Administrator, and it is almost certain to cause a hitch in preparations for .the establishment of watering bases in Arnhem Land. It is claimed that where local pearlers asked for the bases and pleaded that the regulations of the ordinance destroyed all their privileges, they gave an assurance that there would be no interference with the aborigines.

The report is headed "Darwin, 21st June " and evidently was communicated to the Herald by telegraph. That report makes it clear that the offending luggers are registered in Australia. The Melbourne Argus of the same date contained the following paragraph on this subject :-

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