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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) . - This bill guarantees a loan to build a road in New Guinea. Unlike the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), I have not been to New Guinea, and consequently, I have no first-hand knowledge of the route to be traversed. I am concerned that the Commonwealth Government is to guarantee money to enable contractors to carry out certain work in New Guinea. The Minister in Charge of Territories (Mr. Hughes) says that the road will cost £150,000, but judging by his description of the country through which it will pass, and the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes, that estimate appears to be low. As, no doubt, native labour will be used, the contractor will most likely receive a considerable rake-off. I have no objection to native labour being used in New Guinea, because the inhabitants of the country are entitled to participate in any developmental work that may be undertaken. They are more entitled to do so than are white men who are not natives of the country. I am not objecting to the employment of native labour, butI am concerned that the natives should not be exploited. Wherever the white man has gone, slavery, misery and desolation have followed. That is the history of the treatment of native races by the white race. It is true of all white men, irrespective of nationality. The Minister says that the natives will be paid the ruling rates of wages. Does he mean that each man will be paid about 10s. a month, as is paid by the big mining companies to natives employed in the mines? The Minister does not answer, but I hope that he will do so when he replies to the second-reading debate, and not attempt to sidetrack the question by saying, as he did earlier in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that the wages paid will be greater than some white men receive in other countries. I know that even in Australia, white men are paid wages insufficient to support them decently, but that does not dispose of my question. I wish to know definitely whether the ruling rate payable to natives will be 10s. a month.

Mr Hughes - I do not know the rates, but I do know that the payment will include food and medical attendance. Regard must be had to all the circum-

Mr LAZZARINI - This National Parliament should not guarantee money to enable contractors to make big profits by exploiting native labour. Judging by the description of the country through which the road will pass, it would appear that only by the exploitation of native labour can It be built for £150,000. I have not a great knowledge of road construction, but I know sufficient to realize that roads are not easily constructed in difficult country such as that along the proposed route.

Mr Anthony - Where will the contractor get labour if not native labour?

Mr LAZZARINI - Had the honorable gentleman been in the chamber listening to my remarks, he would know that I have already said that I do not object to the employment of native labour in New Guinea. I repeat that the natives are entitled to participate in the development of their own country. I do object, however, to their being exploited.

Mr Anthony - How does the honorable member know that they will be exploited?

Mr LAZZARINI - I ask for an assurance that they will not be exploited. Even in Australia native labour is scandalously exploited by the "squattocracy." As I have said, native labour is exploited in every country where the white man rules. I am concerned that the Commonwealth Government proposes to guarantee a loan for the building of a road by contractors whomay exploit native labour in order to make profits. The Minister in charge of the bill says that the natives will receive medical attention and food as part of their payment. I desire to know what kind of food they will receive.

Mr James - Probably their clothing will consist of loincloths.

Mr LAZZARINI - We have not been told what the ruling rate of wages in New Guinea is. Until we have that information, we cannot say whether or not there will be exploitation.

Mr Hughes - I object to the honorable member's statement if it means that I am in favour of exploiting the natives.

Mr LAZZARINI - I do not say that the right honorable gentleman is in favour of exploiting them. I merely want to ensure that the expenditure of Commonwealth money will not be associated with exploitation.

Mr Hughes - I am as strongly opposed to the exploitation of native races as is the honorable gentleman.

Mr LAZZARINI -When the right honorable gentleman rises to reply, I hope that he will be able to say what the conditions of employment will be. I want some guarantee that contractors who undertake work, payment for which will be guaranteed by the Commonwealth, shall not be able to make profits by exploiting the native population of New Guinea. I urge the Minister to watch that phase of the subject carefully. As the work proceeds we shall have means of ascertaining the conditions under which the natives are employed. Should it be found that they are not amply protected, more will be heard on the subject in this House.

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