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Friday, 28 October 1904

Mr McDONALD (Kennedy) - I am thoroughly in accord with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Maranoa. We are being asked to take upon ourselves a responsibility that we have no right to assume. The honorable member for Lang, has certainly furnished us with a great deal, of interesting information. But if the islands are of such great importance as has been represented, from a strategic point of view, I think the British Government should take action, and not leave us to spend our money in conserving what are really their interests. We are being asked to grant, under the guise of a payment for a mail service, a subsidy with the object of increasing trade relations with the New Hebrides. If it is right for the Government to grant a subsidy with the object of promoting, the development of the New Hebrides, they should be prepared to assist in a still greater degree in the settlement of the northern parts of Queensland, where there are not 'merely 245, but over 100.000 Britishers. The whole of the influence that has been brought to bear in connexion with the increase of the subsidy for a mail service to the New Hebrides has been based upon the ex parte statements of missionaries. Of the British residents in those islands, thirty-four are missionaries, and there is no doubt that they have been the principal sources of the information derived by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and others who have spoken in favour of the subsidy. I think that, under the circumstances, we should have had more complete information placed before us. The honorable member for Lang told us that the British Government had been exercising control over the New Hebridies for forty years, and that the total re: sult of all their efforts had been the settlement of 245 Britishers in the group. The French have exercised a share in the joint protectorate over the islands for the last twenty years, and the total number of settlers of that nationality now residing in the islands is 255. In addition to copra, the New Hebrides settlers produce a considerable quantity of maize.

Mr Kelly - The maize is raised whilst the cocoanut trees are growing.

Mr McDONALD - During the recent serious drought, most of the maize produced in the New Hebrides was imported into Australia, and brought into direct competition with that produced by our farmers in Victoria, Tasmania, and Northern Queensland. The maize produced by means of white labour within the Commonwealth was brought into competition with that produced by means of black labour in the New Hebridies. The settlers there employ the islanders at a rate of remuneration which is very little more than equal to providing them with food. I shall be no party to subsidizing a service which is intended to bring into competition with our products maize grown by means of ' black labour. When the honorable member for Darwin asked that a mail service should be established between King Island and Tasmania his request was refused, and many other instances might be quoted in which the most reasonable re- quests for mail facilities have been refused on the ground that they would prove too costly. In Northern Queensland, which has a population of, roughly speaking, 100,000, mail communication in many places is not what it should be. For instance, there should be a much improved service between Brisbane and Townsville. But when it comes to a question of assisting some persons who are altogether outside of our control-

Mr Crouch - Not absolutely yet.

Mr McDONALD - At the present time there is a joint protectorate by France and Great Britain over these islands. A Commission has been appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the land tenure there, but we do not find that the Home Office is taking any special interest in the matter.

Mr Kelly - The ownership of the islands will eventually be decided upon the basis of occupation.

Mr Johnson - Some of the people at home are under the impression that Sydney is situated in Melbourne. That evidences their knowledge of this part of the world.

Mr McDONALD - I dare, say some people may think that, but I am satisfied that the Home Office does not. That Department is just as alive to the position of the New Hebrides as we are in Australia. It is quite true that a Queensland Premier some years ago practically annexed New Guinea.

Mr Johnson - His action was promptly repudiated by the Imperial authorities.

Mr McDONALD - Exactly, and they have been sorry for it ever since. With a lesson like that staring them in the face, I think we may be satisfied that they will look after their own interests in these islands. To my mind the Government are going out of their way to assist certain people in connexion with the trade of the New Hebrides, whom we have no right to assist. We are all aware what an octopus Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. have proved in the north of Queensland for many years.

Mr Johnson - But these are Australian settlers and British subjects.

Mr McDONALD - I admit that they are British subjects, but I cannot call them Australian settlers when they settle outside the Commonwealth.

Mr Reid - Upon that basis, we should never have had a British Empire, because all our people would have remained in the counties of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Mr McDONALD - I presume that they all come to Australia to better themselves, and I take it that those who settle in the Commonwealth regard themselves as Australians. If they do not, I think very little of them. I intend to record my vote against the payment of this subsidy.

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