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Friday, 28 October 1904

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must not discuss the motion standing in his own name upon the notice paper.

Mr JOHNSON - I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to avoid trenching on the matter dealt with in that motion, but I have been led to give this information in reply to the honorable member for Coolgardie and others. A great deal of what I have said has been called for by the nature of the interjections, but I have reserved much, that may more properly be considered when the motion in question is before us. Another reason why we should be very careful in dealing with this matter is shown by a paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago, under the heading of "Viewing the Coveted Land." The paragraph is as follows : - " Viewing the Coveted Land." - Advices received by the last mail from the Islands state that Mons. Picanon, the Governor of New Caledonia, has just returned to Noumea from another tour of inspection in the New Hebrides Group. This is the fourth visit paid to the Group by His Excellency within twelve months, and is another indication of the very great interest which is being taken by the French authorities in the progress of the New Hebrides. Hitherto, however, Mons. Picanon has confined his inspections to the central and northern islands of the Group, where the French populationis concentrated, but on the last occasion a cruise was made for the first time round the southern portion of the New Hebrides, which is entirely British. "Mons. Picanon has been viewing the coveted land," writes a British settler in the Group to one of the Sydney shipping houses. The cruise was made in the French warship Meurthe, which was at the island of Aneityum on September 20. From there the Meurthe proceeded to Tanna, Erromanga, and Port Vila, and was due back at Noumea on September 29.

The CHAIRMAN - I would remind the honorable member that the Estimates do not refer to the acquisition of land in the island. I would ask him, therefore, to deal only with the question of the mail service, and the ordinary trading that is likely to ensue.

Mr JOHNSON - I referred to this action on the part of the Governor of New Caledonia only to show that the French are giving this question serious consideration.

Mr Page - The honorable member has supplied the very information which the Minister should have given the Committee.

Mr JOHNSON - I trust that the Chairman will allow me a little latitude.

The CHAIRMAN - I am bound by the Standing Orders.

Mr JOHNSON - I think I shall be in order in showing the desire evinced by, British settlers in the islands for Australian intervention by reading an extract from a petition for the remission of import duties on produce sent into the Commonwealth by Australian settlers, which they presented to the Prime Minister. I shall read only that portion of the petition which bears on the question immediatly before us. The petition reads -

To the Honorable

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