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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr HAWKER (Wakefield) .- It is regrettable that the House is likely to adjourn this week without the Minister in charge of Territories (Mr. Hughes) giving to members the opportunity to study the report of the committee appointed to investigate sites for the capital of New Guinea, and to learn the reasons which led the Minister to override a recommendation of the committee, and to favour a proposal which it rejected only after careful examination.

Mr Beasley - Does not the honorable gentleman think that the site of the capital should be decided before a proposal to guarantee money for the construction of a road in its vicinity is authorized ?

Mr HAWKER - Yes. If we knew the route which the road will take, we should be in a better position to form a sound judgment as to its cost. In the report of the committee three different routes are proposed. They vary very considerably in length and traverse much different country - from a road which merely serves the gold-fields to one which would assist in the settlement and development of country likely to be permanently productive. I have a very high opinion of the Minister's judgment in these matters, and think it unlikely that I would differ from the conclusion he has reached, but I feel sure that he would rather have the conclusion of Parliament based on a confirmatory investigation than on blind acceptance of his opinion. There has very definitely been a difference of opinion in regard to some of these matters. For example, on page 26 of the report of the committee, of which General Griffiths was chairman, the following statement is made : -

The Administrator personally favours Salamaua as port and capital, or Salamaua as the port and the capital at an inland site in one of the high river valleys.

The Administrator there referred to is General McNicoll. The opinion of any person who has had very much contact with the residents of New Guinea is that the opinion of General Griffiths would be much safer to follow than would that of any other man who has been in charge of the administration of New Guinea. The committee of which he was the chairman weighed up the different proposals and reached a conclusion that was at variance with that of the Administrator. I should very much like to hear the reason why the opinion of General Griffiths is being set on one side and that of the present Administrator adopted. The opinion of both men is entitled to respect, but by tho appointment of General Griffiths as chairman of the committee the Minister adopted him, to some extent at any rate, as the best authority it was possible to engage on the subject; yet, when his finding differs from that of the present Administrator, that of . the latter prevails. There is another reason for the comparative unsuitability of Salamaua ; it is discussed in the report at some length. The town of Salamaua, and the part which would have to be developed as a port, is subject to a certain degree of earthquake disturbance and tidal waves. In the year 1888 a tidal wave 30 feet high swept over that part of the coast of New Guinea. It would therefore be necessary to develop the new headquarters at some distance from the seaffront. The report further points out that there is not. much high ground at the back of Salamaua. It says -

There is elevated land at Parsee Point and also at Kila Point, but we doubt that there are sufficient areas at these points for the needs of the seat of Administration as it now stands, let alone the future growth which must be anticipated.

The committee further points out that there are considerable areas of malarial swamps between the port and those sites, and says that, in spite of a good deal of work which has been done in an attempt to check the fever the place has always been heavily infected with malaria of a particularly malignant type. It is regrettable that, in order to obtain quicker development of the centre near the commercial port, tho more remote desirabilities are given second place to the immediate convenience of having the administrative buildings near the port. General Griffiths has expressed doubt as to whether there is sufficient high land near the coast to accommodate a capital of the size required for the existing ad- ministration. It would be a pity if there should be the slightest doubt concerning the temporary requirements, and that the future development of a country which has such great possibilities as New Guinea should be entirely overlooked and a second move of the administrative centre should have to be made, say, 25 or 30 years hence. Each move would involve the taxpayers of the territory and possibly of this country also in a good deal of expense. Further, loss would be occasioned to the smaller business people. The big firms which have branches in a large number of centres would not be under much expense in transferring the centre of management from one branch to another, but it might mean almost ruin in the case of the smaller business people. The best interests of the territory would not be served if, in order that the Government might reach the cover of recess within a few hours, this very important matter were not given full consideration by this House, and the different interests affected by the change from the recommendation of General Griffiths' committee to the decision of the Government were not given sufficient time to express their views concerning it. I agree most definitely with the Minister that the interests of the people on the gold-fields should be one of the major considerations. That is where most of the Australian citizens are located ; they are living in comparatively healthy surroundings. If it were a matter of their interests being disregarded by the establishment of the Capital at a more advantageous site for the eventual administration of the territory, I should certainly agree that it was more important to establish it at the most suitable point, at any rate until the gold-fields were worked out. But there appears to be no doubt that a good .road from the coast can be built to serve the gold-fields, passing somewhere near Lae, and meeting the requirements of the Markham Valley, with its possibilities of permanent development, almost as well as a road over the mountains from the gold-fields near Wau direct to Salamaua. The report of the committee which investigated the matter states that the mining community is quite favorable to Lae as the capital, provided a road is built to the coast at either Lae or

Salamaua. Therefore, it does not seem necessary to put the long-range considerations on one side in order to meet the present requirements of the very important community on the gold-fields. Still, circumstances being as they are, I do not propose either to vote against the bill or to make any other effort to delay its passage. I merely express the hope that every opportunity will be afforded to the various interests affected to express their views. In thus refraining from pressing for delay in the passage of the bill through this House, I have very great confidence in the Minister's personal judgment in the matter, and also believe that, should further evidence be adduced, adjustments will be made before it is too late.

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