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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) . - I am not personally acquainted with conditions in New Guinea but I have been sufficiently interested in its problems to inquire from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) at question time what action was being taken to move the capital of New Guinea from Rabaul, and also to investigate different aspects of the matter. I regret that the Minister has not placed at the disposal of honorable members facilities to enable them to acquaint themselves with various reports submitted to the Government on this subject. I have just received from the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) the report of the committee which was laid on the table only this morning. If honorable members are expected to cast an intelligent vote on this measure they are entitled to full access to such reports.

Mr Hughes - The report of the committee mentioned by the honorable member does not deal with the construction of a road from Salamaua to Wau. That committee was appointed to advise the Commonwealth only in relation to a newsite for the administrative head-quarters of New Guinea.

Mr ANTHONY - It amounts to much the same thing. The terms of reference to that committee required it fully to inquire into all aspects of the removal of the head-quarters of the New Guinea administration from Rabaul, and to report as to the most appropriate location in the territory for such head-quarters. I take it that the administrative headquarters are now to be shifted to Salamaua.

Mr Hughes - Certainly, but this measure deals solely with a proposal to construct a road from Salamaua to Wau.

Mr ANTHONY - My point is that the contents of this committee's report are a mystery to honorable members because we have not been given an opportunity ~to peruse it. We may agree, or disagree, with the committee's findings, but we have not been given an opportunity to study them. From a cursory glance at its report I find. that the committee recommended that Lae should be the administrative head-quarters. I have every confidence in the ability of the Minister to deal with this matter, but I should like a full explanation from him as to the reasons which actuated the Government in departing from the committee's recommendation. This matter is very important, because it involves the establishment of a new capital of what promises to become a very great country some day.

Mr SPEAKER - This bill does not deal in any way with the administrative head-quarters of New Guinea.

Mr ANTHONY - That subject is involved in the discussion. I trust that the Minister will make a fuller explanation than, he has so far made of the reasons why the Government disregarded the report of the special committee.

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