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Thursday, 10 November 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - To pronounce .the Government's policy is not quite so easy as the honorable senator may imagine. I have 'had a staff working on ten Ordinances for at least the last three months. For the past fortnight, "because of circumstances over which the Government has no control - a want .of confidence motion in the other House - no public business has been done. The Ordinances are complete, and are awaiting only Cabinet's approval. In regard to the criticisms put forward by Senator Duncan, the Commonwealth Government took over the stores in the Mandated Territories. The position in Papua, I think, is different; it is under the control of the Home and Territories Department. When the Government took over the stores in the Mandated Territories, it found an army of fleecers putting up the prices. Practically two merchants in Sydney did all the business in Government stores. The Government stopped them, as any honest Government ought to have done. It established its own wholesale buying agency. At that time no population was allowed to go there, and the Government had to carry the responsibility of feeding the army. When the Government took over the stores it was itself a victim of the people who charged excessive prices.

Senator Duncan - The Government has done good work.

Senator RUSSELL - Senator- Duncan has referred to Mr. Neill, but I understand that the agency is controlled by

Mr. Harvey,who is temporarily in Rabaul. The action of the Government has effected a wonderful improvement; goods of a- better quality have since been obtainable at a cheaper price. For what has been done, I, as the Minister administering that branch, take the full responsibility. I know nothing of the position in Papua. Statements have 'been made that certain companies were allowed to be formed. I do not know of any company that was .permitted to be formed. They have been prohibited from forming until the time when every man will get an equal opportunity. ' The mining Ordinances are ready subject to approval, which should be granted in a few days. Then all people will nave an opportunity to go to the Territory of New Guinea and engage in mining under equal conditions. The Government has been particularly hard and rough on the man who wanted tr- get in in advance. There are keener men than returned soldiers in Australia who desire to get in first. The Government wants to be able to say to every man and every woman that all will have an equal chance. I do not want to commit 'the Government definitely, but I think that, in a fortnight or three weeks, the Territory will be ready for occupation. The Ordinances will include every form of activity. I do not think they will deal with oil.

Senator Keating - Has not the Government a special agreement! with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in regard to oil?

Senator RUSSELL - Yes. The company is operating now.

Senator Elliott - 'Will prospecting for minerals other than oil be permitted?

Senator RUSSELL - I think there will be all the ordinary Ordinances. They will be based largely on the lines of those operating in Papua, and should be proclaimed and gazetted within a fortnight. They will come into operation immediately they are proclaimed.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Defence Department.

Proposed vote, £229,200.

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