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Thursday, 3 June 1926

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - I move -

That, in the opinion of the Senate, New Guinea Ordinance No. 5 of 1926, relating to the establishment of an Advisory Council, should be amended by inserting at the end of subsection (2) of section 4 the words, " and 'wo representatives elected by the adult white residents."

In order to place the matter fully and clearly before the Senate, I shall read the ordinance referred to in the motion -

There shall be an Advisory Council of the Territory of New Guinea. The Council shall consist of the Government Secretary, the Treasurer, the Commissioner of Native Affairs, the Director of Public Health and the Director of Agriculture.

My desire is to add to the ordinance the words " and two representatives elected by the adult white residents." Honorable senators will recollect that some time ago I moved a similar motion, but on that occasion it was opposed by the Government, mainly on the ground that the white population of the Territory was employed either by the Expropriation Board or the Administrator of New Guinea. It was considered undesirable to extend to them any direct representation on the Advisory Council. Since that time considerable changes have taken place. The Government decided to dispose of .a certain number of plantations in New Guinea, and on the 31st March last, in response to tenders which had been invited, 25 plantations, realizing £258,458, 71 trading stations realizing £10,954, as well as four areas of virgin land and one place of business for which £2,952 was offered, were disposed of. I have been

Unable to ascertain the number of adult white residents who will be either the owners of those holdings, or employed on them j but assuming that in each case there will be the owner and his wife, 100 white persons who, according to the opinion held by the Government when I brought this matter before the Senate some time ago, will be entitled ' to vote for the election of a. delegate to represent them on the Advisory Council, will be resident on them. Moreover, it is intended to offer for sale on the 15th instant thirteen more plantations and 24 trading stations in New Britain. Those holdings are estimated to be worth over £200.000. It is therefore probable that 200 adult white persons entitled, in the opinion of the Government, to vote in connexion with appointments to the Advisory Council, will be resident on these holdings in the near future. The Expropriation Board has, as yet, offered no properties for sale on the mainland of New Guinea, in the outlying islands, or in New Ireland ; but I understand that any land made available in New Ireland would be keenly sought after. It would appear that before long the bulk of the plantations in New Guinea will have passed into private hands. I consider, therefore, that the time is opportune for something to be done along the lines indicated in my motion. I remind the Senate that only after considerable agitation did Parliament grant representation in the House of Representatives to the Northern Territory, the population of which is to-day about 3,000. In the mandated territory of New Guinea the white population numbers about 1,300. I am not advocating that the mandated territory of New Guinea should at this juncture have direct representation in this Parliament, although I think that in the near future both that territory and Papua should have representatives in this Senate and in the House of Representatives. The people in those territories are more or less subject to the laws of the Commonwealth, and they, therefore, should have some representation in the Parliament that makes the laws by which they are governed. While I am not asking that these pioneers should be granted immediate representation in Parliament, I consider that in view of the hardships which they experience they are fully entitled to direct representation on the Advisory Council. Except for the high power wireless station at Rabaul, and a steamer which calls about once a month, they are practically cut off from all communication with the Commonwealth. The adult white population is composed of well-educated men and women, who are fully competent to act upon the Council themselves or to elect their representatives. About two years ago I visited this Territory, and while there I realized the keen desire of the residents to have a voice in the control of their own affairs. Their request is reasonable. At present they are not being treated as they should be. Given some control of their own affairs, they would be able to let this Parliament know their requirements in a way which is now impossible. It is the proud boast of the British Empire, that it has always given the right of self-government to 'its dominions as soon as they have been capable of exercising it. The greatest gift in history was made when Great Britain handed this country, containing 3,000,000 square miles, to a mere handful of its citizens, asking no payment in return. Complete home rule was granted as soon as the request was made. The powers of the Commonwealth have not been restricted ; it therefore seems strange that there should be any reluctance on the part of this Parliament to extend similar powers to the territories under its control. The Boer War was scarcely over when Great Britain granted the right of self-government to the conquered people. We saw the same thing recently in Egypt; and it is only a question of time when the people of India will also have home rule. After many years of agitation, home rule was granted to Ireland. Today we see nothing in the daily press about the troubles of Ireland, whereas before the granting of selfgovernment the position was vastly different. It is regrettable that people who enjoy the freest form of government in the world should hesitate to extend similar privileges to enterprising Australians who are doing the pioneering work in New Guinea. It has already been decided to give a modified form of local government to Papua. It is true that the Government does not contemplate giving a system of self-government to the proposed new divisions of Central and North Australia; but already North Australia is represented in another place, and, I think, should be represented also in this chamber. There is in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea a population of about 1,300 Australians. At present they have no voice in the government of that Territory, notwithstanding that, to all intents and purposes, they have become permanent residents, and are carrying out a valuable pioneering work under great difficulties. Whilst I was in New Guinea I made careful inquiries into this subject, and I believe that the time has arrived when definite action should be taken. I submit the motion in the hope that the Government will give it sympathetic consideration. I am satisfied that if the motion is agreed to we shall be taking a step in the right direction, and in the interests of a deserving section of our people.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sir Victor Wilson) adjourned.

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