Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 7 December 1927

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I call attention to an item of £10,000 grant to the Administration of New Guinea to be used in the interests of native races. I spoke on this subject a little while ago, and I want to emphasize what I then said. I think this is the second year in which this item has appeared on the Estimates; but it is like a drop in the ocean when we realize the urgent need for expenditure to preserve the health of the native races ' of New Guinea.

Senator Crawford - The Administration of New Guinea also finds a lot of money for this purpose.

Senator PAYNE - That is so; but the Administrator has admitted in his report to the League of Nations that, owing to lack of funds, he has been obliged to abandon a most important campaign against the spread of venereal disease among the natives. I hope that this Government .will do all it can to assist the Administration in the preservation of native life. There are 92,000 square miles of territory populated by at least half a million natives. Already 260,000 have been enumerated. Only the fringe of the territory has hitherto been touched. It has wonderful potentialities, but there can be no further development without a supply of native labour. When we find that race after race has been decimated by a disease which may be stopped and prevented from spreading again, it is imperative that we should keep in view the principal asset we have in the Territory, namely,, its native population. I trust that, we shall never find it necessary to import coolie labour from Asia to develop New Guinea while we have these fine specimens of men, whose services can be utilized to the full provided their health is maintained. Unfortunately, however, diseases of many kinds are rampant among them. Having regard to the small funds at its com mand, the Administration provides for health purposes fairly substantial amounts, which are supplemented by the £.10,000 given by the Commonwealth. The Administration is doing very fine work indeed in preventing the spread 'of this disease. I think that this £10,000 is ' the only amount that the Commonwealth has ever been asked to vote directly for New Guinea. It is certainly true that it has lent money to the, Administration to carry out public works, one of which is a magnificent hospital near Rabaul which will soon be in occupation.

Senator Sir George Pearce - What about the Commonwealth grant of £100,000 for the maintenance of a shipping service?

Senator PAYNE - That does not come within the category of expenditure upon the material development of the Territory.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The territory cannot be developed without a shipping service.

Senator PAYNE - Certainly not; but the only grant direct to the Administration of New Guinea to maintain the health of the natives so that they may be useful in the development of the territory is this £10,000 a year. Possibly no more was as'ked for. I do not know whether the Administration has asked for more substantial assistance. Probably it does not care to ask for more money. But whether that is the case or not does not concern me. I know the needs of the territory. If we ask any medical man there if the territory is not hampered through lack of funds from a medical point of view, he will say " Yes." There are already 28,000 natives who are indentured as assisting in the development of the territory of New Guinea. There is still opportunity to recruit labour provided the natives are healthy. It is useless to recruit any but healthy men. I submit to the Government that this phase of the development of New Guinea ought to have its earliest consideration. Without native labour the territory might as well be submerged ; it would be of no use to Australia or to the rest of the world. It is far better for us to spend money in retrieving the health of the native population than to rely on coolie labour to develop this wonderful country, which, in my opinion, in years to come will bc invaluable to Australia. "Within a few days' sail of Australia, we shall have our own territories capable of producing all the tropical products we require. We are entrusted with the care of that country by the League of Nations.

Senator Reid - We have Papua, without the mandate of the- League of Nations.

Senator PAYNE - I am not talking about Papua. I should like to see the vote for New Guinea increased, and I commend to the Minister the necessity for providing more money in the direction in which this £10,000 has been voted for the last couple of years; From all accounts the money hitherto spent may be regarded as having been absolutely wasted in the instance referred to, because when a campaign of this sort is commenced, it must be carried to a satisfactory conclusion. Many other diseases affect the lives of the natives. Fifty per cent, of the deathrate is due to tuberculosis.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The honorable senator knows very well that there is a medical staff there paid by the Commonwealth, which is doing very good work.

Senator PAYNE - It is doing magnificent work. No medical staff in Australia could do better work.

Senator Cox - But the honorable senator said that the work had been abandoned.

Senator PAYNE - No. I referred to mie specific instance.

Senator Cox - The honorable senator led us to believe that it had been abandoned.

Senator PAYNE - This is what the Administrator in his report to the League of Nations says -

The central campaign of the year (1925) was that devoted to the combating of gonorrhoea. Over 1,000 natives in al! were treated for the disease, but owing to lack of funds the -campaign was unable to be pushed to a satisfactory conclusion.

That is my point. What is the use of spending money on a campaign of this kind unless sufficient funds are available to carry it to a satisfactory conclusion, I am not condemning the Government.

Possibly it furnished the New Guinea Administration with all that it was asked to grant, but I impress upon it the need for investigating the matter to see if the Administration needs more assistance. The Minister may ask why we should go out of our way to do this. My answer is this - we ought to do it because we hold New Guinea under a mandate from the League of Nations. We are supposed to make the best use of the territory and conserve the native life.

Senator Sir George Pearce - We are doing that; but the honorable senator is creating the impression that we are not doing it.

Senator PAYNE - I am not. I said distinctly that possibly the Administration had not asked for more money. It may not care to ask for more.

Senator Cox - Why does not the honorable senator find that out before making his assertion ?

Senator PAYNE - I am suggesting that it is the duty of the Government to find it out. I have been to New Guinea on four occasions, and I have looked into the position as a public man ought to do. I do not want the Minister to think that I am attacking the Government, but I feel this matter so keenly that I think the Government should take the first opportunity to confer with the Administrator.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The Minister for Home and Territories has just returned from Rabaul, where he conferred with the Administrator.

Senator PAYNE - Has the Minister expressed himself satisfied that the Administration has sufficient funds to conserve the native life? I should be lacking in my duty if I did not express my opinion on the matter. The medical staff at Rabaul is doing magnificent work. It is training hundreds of natives to act as medical assistants to assist the department in the fine work it is doing, but, after all, it is a matter of £ s. d. The territory is worth the expenditure of money, and for that reason I urge the Minister to give special attention to the need for preserving the health of the native population. I hope that, as the result of what I have said, this phase of the development of New Guinea will receive more prominent and careful consideration.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [10.58]. - The honorable senator, who has been to New Guinea, knows very wel that there is an excellent medical organization there, controlled by an enthusiastic medical officer who is doing splendid work.

Senator Payne - I agree with that.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.In regard to venereal disease, a very fine hospital has been erected at Rabaul, and in conjunction with that institution a lock hospital has been established, where the natives will be treated before they are returned to their villages. I think the honorable senator will admit that the Government is giving a great deal of assistance in the direction he desires, particularly in connexion with provision of means of communication and a grant for the welfare of the natives. That the Government fully realizes its responsibility towards New Guinea and Papua is, I think, shown, by the excellent administration we have in Papua. It is an obligation of all British Administrations in control of territories like Papua and New Guinea, to do everything possible to raise the standard of the natives, not only for economic purposes, but also for humanitarian reasons. The Government accepts that responsibility in regard to our territories, and the Administrations in Papua and New Guinea are doing excellent work. I shall bring the honorable senator's remarks under the notice of the responsible Minister, who will probably have an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Administrator when he arrives in Melbourne in a few days' time.

Suggest corrections