Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 12 December 1913

Senator FINDLEY - It would only apply to those who could pay their passages to the island.

Senator RAE - I would give free passages to the others. It is possible, however, that liquor might be introduced. I am told by those who have been on the island that it is practically as easy to get liquor there as it is where public-houses are run. I am told that it is smuggled ashore in quantities.

Senator Clemons - Smuggling is another matter.

Senator RAE - We cannot help that. I have been told that the regulations in force do not prevent the free use of liquor by those who like to have it. Every ship that calls at the island smuggles liquor ashore. I am informed that the Anglican Mission, who own the bulk of the property, consume a fair quantity of liquor. I 'do not know why the frock-coated gentlemen should be the only people who are to be able to consume liquor. It appears to me that they, above all others, should set the example of not having any liquor. Again, take the cablegrammers I suppose that a good deal of the fiction that we get through the cable is due to the men at the cable station being allowed free liquor. I quite realize that it would not be easy probably to trust the inhabitants with any self-governing powers in that direction which would be any more effective than the present Ordinances. What I do object to was the refusal, in the other place, to include a clause to prevent the remaining Crown lands on the island from being sold. It is immaterial to me when the Senate adjourns. I am not anxious for an adjournment.

Senator Clemons - Others are.

Senator RAE - In my opinion, the interests of the country are above the interests of parties or individuals. While I could put in my time at home moreenjoyably than I could do here, I am not going to help to get through public business if the Senate has to swallow every piece of legislation in the form in which it is introduced. The Honorary Minister, dwelt on the fact that of the total area of the island only 1,300 acres were not alienated, and that that was land of poor quality. I can well believe it. Probably it consists of rocky eminences in the centre of the island. If it was only 1$ acres, if it was all solid rock, without an ounce of soil, I would be just as strong; in the contention that we should not sell any of the lands which remain the property of the Crown - that is, of the people. Therefore, I intend, if the Bill gets into Committee, to move an amendment to that effect, and it is absolutely immaterial to me how much time istaken up in the consideration of it. Asfar as I am able under the forms of the Senate, I shall certainly oppose tha Bill unless my amendment is accepted by the Government. If they will not accept it, I shall do all I can to delay the progress of the Bill, because I think that on every occasion we should assert a principle of this kind. I understand that the Anglican Mission own the bulk of thebest land on Norfolk Island, and that the remainder is land of a comparatively poor character. Nevertheless,. I think that we should assert a principle whenever there is an opportunity. The indorsement of the principle of this Bill might not affect many individuals in Norfolk Island, but it will be an indorsement of a principle in which many of us do not believe. We do not believe in parting with the fee simple of land anywhere. This island has a . considerable population, consisting principally of descendants of Bounty mutineers, who have amalgamated * with the native race. They will, in time, want more land upon which to earn a living. Therefore, I maintain that . we should not pay the slightest attention to the fact that only a small amount of land is left unalienated. The smaller the amount that is left the more valuable it will be, and the more reason there is for not allowing it to get into the hands of any one who wants to exploit the natives. The situation of the island - hundreds of miles from our coastline - offers few facilities for the inhabitants to spread themselves. We should be very jealous on that account of the possibility of the land coming into the hands of persons who may simply desire to exploit it for their own benefit, and to keep the inhabitants circumscribed within the area available to them for cultivation. I have never heard that there were any great demands for this Bill. I do not suppose that the islanders would be any worse off if it did not pass. The effect of it will be to extend the area of the Commonwealth by bringing under our jurisdiction an island which is now under the governorship of New South Wales. But I do not know that the inhabitants would suffer a grievous loss if the Bill had never seen the light of day. Nor do I know that the power, prestige, and glory of the Commonwealth would be much enhanced by including these few thousand acres under its rule. There would be no particular loss from the abandonment of this measure, nor would much be gained from the passage of it. Unless Ministers are prepared to adopt the principle ' that the remaining Crown lands shall be preserved to the people, I shall vote against its adoption. It has been argued that the area is so small that it will not afford a good example of the working of the leasehold principle. If that be so, it will involve no great sacrifice of principle by the Ministry to concede the point.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - Perhaps the people do not want leasehold.

Senator RAE - We are not giving the people self-government in this Bill.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - When we do?

Senator RAE - Then the land will be theirs to deal with, whereas, if it is alienated, it will not be theirs, so that the honorable senator's argument supports my point of view. If there be no sacrifice of principle on our part in allowing the land to be sold, there can be no great sacrifice of principle on the part of Ministerialists in accepting the reservation of the Crown lands from alienation. The peculiar conditions of the island, and the fact that it has a very small area under cultivation, demand consideration. The population is slowly increasing, and the people will in time want the remainder of the land, even if they do not want it now. I think, therefore, that the land ought to be preserved from the grasp of the exploiter and the monopolist.

Senator Clemons - They cannot do much with 1,300 acres of poor land in Norfolk Island.

Senator RAE - I remind the Minister that 1,300 acres of land out of 9,000 acres is an enormously larger proportion than would be 13,000,000 acres in Australia. That is an additional reason why this land should be preserved. We know that in every civilized country in the world, as the best land gets appropriated, people have to do their best with the least productive land ; so that what at one time might be considered so poor as to be almost worthless will become very valuable as population increases and the pressure on the land increases with it.

Senator Stewart - One person might take up the whole 1,300 acres.

Senator RAE - We have not been made so fully acquainted with the Government Ordinances about the land as with those relating to liquor. But the island is circumscribed, and what is left of the land ought to be preserved for the use of the native inhabitants. The historical records of which the Minister has spoken indicate, amongst other things, that years ago these islanders were living on Pitcairn Island. On account of the growth of their numbers and the pressure on the resources of the island, they were transferred collectively to Norfolk Island, where there' was more room for them.

Senator Stewart - It would be better to bring them all to the mainland, and abandon the island. - Senator RAE. - The island may be of some value as a cable station. The land question is at the bottom of all social questions. We now have an 'opportunity to apply the leasehold principle by providing that the land left unalienated in Norfolk Island shall be kept for the use of the islanders, and not sold in fee simple. It may be said that there is no present intention to sell it. But if the Government will not accept a clause which will prevent its alienation, I am prepared to fight upon the details until they give in. If the result be the abandonment of the Bill, we shall hope for a more progressive measure 'from another Government at a future time.

Senator Clemons - The clause which deals with the matter in which the honorable senator is interested is clause 10, which simply provides that the GovernorGeneral may " make grants or other dispositions of Crown lands."

Senator RAE - I want to prevent that being done. Will the Minister consent to a prohibition of the Governor-General making grants in fee simple?

Senator Clemons - I cannot answer that question at this stage.

Senator Stewart - A lease may be as bad as a Crown grant.

Senator RAE - It may be, but there is this difference : I know that there has been land speculation in regard to leases, but, at any rate, the Crown cannot take land back when it has alienated it in fee simple.

Senator Stewart - Oh, yes, it can.

Senator RAE - The Government can resume by giving compensation. That is to say, it can buy back.

Senator Stewart - It can tax.

Senator RAE - I do not think that we should consent to giving land away for the sake of taxing it afterwards. That is dishonest in principle, and neither Henry George nor any one else ,can convince me that it is otherwise.

Senator Stewart - You do not take it away; you only take away the communitycreated value.

Senator RAE - I want to preserve the leasehold principle, and am rather astonished that Senator Stewart should be fighting me from the back. I shall not enter now into the consideration of whether leases may be granted on improper terms.

Senator Stewart - A lease allows opportunities for the monopolist, just as a freehold does.

Senator RAE - I want a clause to provide that the land shall not be alienated in fee simple. That is to say, I am fighting for the leaseholder as against the freeholder. Senator Stewart is arguing that a leasehold may be as dangerous as the freehold. I do not think that it is so. In any case, leaseholding is a principle for which we should fight. If the Minister will not consent to the amendment I have indicated, I shall feel obliged in Committee to put up a fight for it. Upon the Bill generally I desire to say no more.

Suggest corrections