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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr COSTA (Banks) .- 1 wish to discuss Norfolk Island. A parliamentary delegation visited Norfolk Island this year, and that visit coincided with the centenary celebrations there on 8th June. This Parliament elected six delegates to accompany the Minister there, and I had the extremely good fortune to be one of those selected. It was the first parliamentary delegation to visit Norfolk Island, and I was pleased to be a member of it. When the Norfolk Island Act came into force on 1st July, 1914, Norfolk Island was accepted by the Commonwealth as a territory under its authority. We are responsible for this territory, just as we are responsible for NewGuinea, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), the Cocos Islands and the Northern Territory. Australia is responsible for the welfare of its people, whom I found to be most hospitable and very loyal. I understand that almost every able bodied man on the island served in the forces during World War II.

The island is governed under an ordinance prescribed under the act and an Administrator is appointed by the GovernorGeneral. The Administrator is responsible to the ' Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). The people are represented by the Norfolk Island Advisory Council, which has eight members. The island is divided into four wards, and the members of the council are elected in the same way as members of other councils, but they are advisors only. I stress that, because I found that the people" would like the members of the council to be more than advisors. The Minister has power under the act to veto any decisions made by the council. This island is such a beautiful, salubrious place that it would be difficult to feel unhappy there, but. of course, the people expect more than environment. They feel that they should have a bigger say in the government of the island.

I did not go to Norfolk Island merely to find things about which to complain when I returned to Australia. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent there. I enjoyed the scenery and the abundance of hospitality shown to me. But I went there to try to help the people who had kindly invited me. I listened to their explanations of matters that they considered to be problems and decided to say something about them when 1 came back to Australia. As a member of the parliamentary delegation to this island, I feel thai it is my bounden duty to express my views on what I found there. The residents of the island have no elected representative in this Parliament and they feel that they should have a voice here.

Mr Chambers - How many people reside on the island?

Mr COSTA - There are about 880 people there. The residents of Lord Howe Island have a voice in this place, through their very excellent representative, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue). They are also represented in the New South Wales Parliament by the member for the State electorate of King. I believe that the residents of Norfolk Island should have similar representation. I know that the Minister will look after them to some degree, but the islanders would be very happy if they had a representative in this Parliament.

The members of the advisory council are a little upset because they have not the power to implement any of their decisions. The President of the council said to members of the delegation, " Give us some responsibility, some rights to make decisions and power to implement our decisions ". At the moment the island is going back. The tourist traffic and the population are declining. At one time 1,500 or 1.600 people were resident on the island; now there are only half that number. Norfolk

Island has no industry to help maintain the population. Another point brought to my notice was that our social services are not extended to residents of this place, and the islanders felt that some social services should be provided for old people. The soil is most fertile and a person with energy could produce almost enough food for his requirements. But there arc old people who are beyond the stage where they can produce for themselves. Some provision should be made for them.

No telephone service is available. 1 believe that under the present system the doctor's residence is connected to the hospital and one or two other points may be connected, but no exchange service is available. The existing service is available only at a very limited time. I heard discussion in this chamber to-day about the rural automatic exchanges. Possibly such a service could be considered for the people of the island, lt would be very suitable for them.

Mr Hasluck - An investigation was made to ascertain whether such a service was suitable, but the number of potential subscribers was not large enough.

Mr COSTA - I thank the Minister for that information. The possibility of such a service being provided was mentioned to me when I visited the island. Another complaint is that the public facilities are too far away from what might be called the small business centre. They are about two miles distant. The administrative offices are at Kingston, at one end of the island. Public services such as the post office, bond store and the library are located there. The people in the little business centre feel that they should be closer to those facilities and that the possibility of transferring them should be considered. A suitable electric light system is not installed on the island. The existing system could be extended to some of the people in the business area.

Another matter that was brought to my notice concerned St. Barnabas Church of England. I know that this matter is not within the jurisdiction of the Government, but I desire to refer to it. St. Barnabas is an historic church and was previously the head-quarters of the Melanesian Mission in the Pacific. Another Church of England, AH Saints, is located near the administrative block. The two churches are about three miles apart. For sentimental reasons, most of the people who belong to the Church of England go to All Saints Church. There are not sufficient people on the island to maintain St. Barnabas. It is an historic place. The interior is an absolute gem, with a variety of stones and mosaic fittings on the altar and mother-of-pearl plaques on the pews. The beauty in that church probably could not be equalled anywhere else in the world. But the roof is deteriorating and quite a bit of maintenance work is required. If possible, some way should be found to preserve this church because of its historic value. If it was accessible, I am certain that hundreds of thousands of people would visit it to see its beauty. I would say that St. John's Church in Canberra would not equal St. Barnabas Church, but very many people visit St. John's.

Norfolk Island has no harbour facilities. The only way to get to the island is by air. The lack of harbour facilities makes it difficult for ships to take freight to and from the island, and the carriage of freight at present is very expensive. It costs about £18 a ton. A proposal was made that a harbour be constructed at Ball Bay. I do not know whether that proposal has been shelved or whether any prospect remains of Ball Bay ever being developed, but the opportunity is there for a harbour to be built.

Mr Morgan - A breakwater could be constructed there.

Mr COSTA - Yes, it is possible to have a breakwater there. 1 understand that during the war, the Americans examined Ball Bay. If the Japanese had not been defeated so quickly we may have had a harbour there.

The tourist attractions of the island should be developed. It is a beautiful place with magnificent scenery. The climate is sub-tropical and it is possible for one to walk around in an open-necked shirt and sports trousers during almost the whole of the year. It is disease-free. There are no flies, and one can walk into the thick meadow green at any time and not find snakes. From many points of view, it is the perfect place. I think that the " Bounty " mutineers said that from a mutiny came a paradise, and that word sums up the place.

I have given some points of view which I desire to bring to the Minister's notice. If an opportunity occurs in the future for a delegation to go there, honorable members should accept the opportunity and be assured of a very pleasant experience. Some industry is developing in the form of a whaling station. Since I left the island, I have not heard of the station's progress, but I understand that it provides an opportunity for the employment of about 60 islanders. I hope that this enterprise develops satisfactorily. The station may possibly be used for fishery purposes later. I should appreciate anything that the Government can do to solve the island's problems. We were invited there as delegates, and these problems were put to us in good faith. I commend these submissions to the Minister in the spirit in which they were made to me.

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