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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr McEWEN (Indi) (Minister for the Interior) (12:23 PM) . - I have not sufficient time at my disposal to reply at length to the various issues raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin).

I take this opportunity, however, to assure the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who has a wide knowledge of his electorate and should be able to contribute something of real value to those charged with its administration, that his representations will receive my most careful consideration. I was particularly impressed by the case he stated for the provision of scholarships for children in the Northern Territory.

During my recent visit there, I observed personally the educational disabilities that the children suffer. I had in my mind the possibility of establishing a high school at Darwin at no distant date. That should go some way to meet the desires of the honorable member.

In reply to his request for an analysis of the proposed vote of £4,100 in respect of the electricity supply for Darwin and Alice Springs, I inform him that, in respect of Darwin, running expenses, including wages, are set down at £2,000; fuel at £450, and oil at £250, making a total of £2,700; and in respect of Alice Springs, running expenses are set down at £1,000, provision for reticulation maintenance at £100, plant maintenance at £250, and miscellaneous expenses at £50, making a total of £1,400. These figures account for the total vote of £4,100.

The honorable member complained that the Government had not yet made any statement of policy respecting the recommendations of the Payne-Fletcher report on Northern Territory affairs. I assure him, and honorable members generally, that this is not due to neglect on my part. I have been at considerable pains, with the help of the officers of my department, to prepare for Cabinet certain recommendations of a comprehensive character which, if agreed to, would go a considerable distance towards implementing the Payne-Fletcher recommendations. Necessarily, however, this policy cannot be encompassed in one financial year. The expenditure contemplated would have to be spread over several years. This made it necessary for the Government to consider the whole subject, together with its financial implications, in the, light of budget provision for future years. I give the committee the assurance that, before the session concludes, I shall make a pronouncement of Government policy respecting the Northern Territory, covering the PayneFletcher report and my own observations during my recent visit there.

Mr James - The honorable member for the Northern Territory asked for some information about the amount involved in the judgment in the Japanese lugger litigation.

Mr.McEWEN.- I have not the details available at the moment, but, in view of the interest of honorable members generally, I undertake to make a statement in the House on that subject.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to the position of the Australian aborigines, and asked for a statement of Government policy in connexion therewith. I have been preparing recommendations for Cabinet on this subject also for several months. It must be realized, however, that the Commonwealth Government may deal only with aborigines within its own territory. Constitutional limitations preclude it from taking any action in respect of aborigines resident within State boundaries. I have carefully examined the reports and recommendations of Dr. Donald Thompson, and other experts, and, during my visit to the Northern Territory, I made exhaustive personal inquiries into the whole subject. I have also consulted the Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory, and his officers, on the subject, and I was accompanied, on my recent visit to the territory, by Mr. Chinnery, who is charged with the administration of native affairs in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.

Mr Makin - Has this subject been listed for a Premiers conference?

Mr McEWEN - As the result of the reports to which I have referred I have prepared certain recommendations as regards policy on this matter, which I hope I shall have an opportunity to explain to honorable members before the conclusion of this session. Later a conference of State Ministers administering native affairs, over which I shall preside, will be held with a view to establishing closer co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States.

Proposed votes put and agreed to.

Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -

That the following resolution be reported to the House: - That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1938-39 for the several services hereunder specified a sum not exceeding £30,553,050.


Resolution reported and adopted.

In Committee of Ways and Means :

Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -

That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1938-39, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £16,379,300.

Resolution reported and adopted.

Ordered -

That Mr. Casey and Mr. McEwen do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

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