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Tuesday, 22 March 1927

Senator GRANT - Then I should like to known how many men are employed, and what progress is being made. 1 have repeatedly urged that the residents of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea should be granted some form of local government; but for reasons which I cannot understand the Government have steadfastly refused to entertain the suggestions I put forward. A somewhat indefinite promise was made some years ago to the effect that the Government had some intention of bringing in a form of local government under which the local white residents would have a voice in the election of members of the advisory council, but up to the present nothing has been done. That is particularly unfair to the white population which has increased considerably since the first sale of the expropriated properties was held. As a form of local government is extended to the white residents in Papua, the men and women in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, who have the same ideals and aspirations as those in Papua, and who, I believe, are more numerous, should be considered. These persons who are carrying out important work far removed from centres of civilization, surely have' a right to elect representatives to the Advisory Council. The residents in the Mandated Territory are very dissatisfied as the regulations and ordinances are framed by officials in Rabaul or in Melbourne. Before the next sale of expropriated properties is held legislation should be introduced giving them the right to elect representatives on the Advisory Council. They should also have direct representation in this Parliament. As the Government has repeatedly refused to give them any form of local government, I understand they have placed their position before the British Government; they rightly contend that they should have a voice in framing the laws under which they live.

It is quite evident that the Government and the Federal Capital Commission are determined to continue to prevent the settlement and progress of Canberra by steadfastly refusing to make available a sufficient number of building sites to meet local requirements. Two sales have been held, but many of those who purchased building sites at the first sale had either no intention of building or acquired blocks with a view to disposing of them to others who might wish to build. According to information supplied by the Home and Territories Department, 252 residential blocks and 104 business blocks had been allotted up to August 1926, and up to the same date twenty residential and three business blocks had been transferred by the original lessees. That information was supplied on the 15th February this year, but it gives the figures only up to the date mentioned. I am not acquainted with the subsequent transactions, but, in any case, the Government or the commission, whichever is responsible, by its refusal to make available a sufficient number of building sites, has retarded the progress of the city. Up to date, 356 building sites have been disposed of. Of these many have been transferred at high premiums, notwithstanding that no buildings had been erected on them. In one instance, I believe that a premium exceeding £1,000 was paid in respect of one block. It was never contemplated that that would be possible at Canberra. The general belief was that a sufficient number of building sites would be made available to meet requirements. Were the disposal of land in the Federal Capital City in the hands of private enterprise, leases would be made available to the highest bidder.

Moreover, the Government, by providing that reappraisement shall not take place for twenty years, has prevented fair rentals from being obtained for the land. Even in connexion with the forthcoming sale early in April, it is provided that a period of twenty years shall elapse before reappraisement takes place. In fixing an upset price for the blocks, the commission has made a mistake. The leasehold of the land should be disposed of to the highest bidder, and a sufficient number of blocks made available to meet requirements. Because of the policy adopted in connexion with building sites at the Federal Capital, greater progress has taken place in the neighbouring town of Queanbeyan than at Canberra. It is true that the commission has built a number of houses, but it should also have made better provision to enable persons desiring building sites to obtain them. I hope that the matters to which I have referred will receive the early and earnest attention of the Government.

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