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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr JAMES (Hunter) . - I wish to make a few observations, in view of the conditions which I am led to believe prevail in New Guinea in connexion with native labour. I understand that this road is to be constructed under contract. The Minister has said that it will cost £150,000, and that the grade is to be 1 in 9. Others place the cost at approximately £200,000. That the cost of maintenance will be heavy, will be appreciated. But I am not concerned about the maintenance cost so much as I am about the exploitation of native labour.

Mr Hughes - The cost of maintenance will, of course, be an ordinary charge on the administration.

Mr JAMES - I understand that native labour will be employed in the construction of the road. The Minister has not so far indicated to the House the average payment made to native labour engaged by plantation owners. I have been informed that the custom is to recruit this labour in the native villages, and that it is utilized not only in connexion with gold-mining but also on plantations, the owners of which make contracts with the natives, who speak of " making paper with the white man ". Although they do not understand the conditions of the contract, they are bound by its terms. I believe that some plantation owners pay as little as 5s. a month. The Minister should be able to say what is the prevailing rate paid by white men who utilize native labour. I could not consent to these unfortunate people being exploited as they have been in the past. I have mentioned in this House the illtreatment meted out to these natives. Some of them have actually been beaten to death by white men. On such a charge in New Guinea one white man was sentenced to imprisonment for ten years in New South Wales.

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