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Thursday, 22 April 1915

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .-I have risen for the purpose of inviting from the Minister some statement in regard to Papua. Recently there has been considerable unrest amongst the white inhabitants there - unrest which is directly traceable to the futility of an agitation which, honorable members are doubtless aware, commenced with the object of securing representation in the Executive Council of Papua. The demand was resisted by the Governor of the Territory, and the Federal authority refused to accede to the request of the settlers. Since then there has been a feeling which, unhappily, has assumed very considerable proportions, that the interests of the white inhabitants of the Territory are being entirely overlooked. That feeling has been accentuated by the laxity of the Administration.

Mr Mahon - Where is the laxity ?

Mr KELLY - The Minister asks me "Where is the laxity?" Yetthis afternoon when he answered a question which I put to him in regard to a crime which was committed there in July or August last-

Mr Burns - The present Minister was not in office then.

Mr KELLY - Does my honorable friend suggest that if he had been the crime would not havebeen committed? In July or August of last year a murder took place there-

Mr Burns - The honorable member's party were in power then.

Mr KELLY - Therefore our party were responsible for the crime, and we must accept that responsibility. That is the honorable member's method of reasoning. Really it is too funny. Let us examine the answer which the Minister gave to my question to-day. I asked him when this crime was committed, when the trial opened, whether it had yet been concluded, and whether the sentence of the Court had been put into execution.

Hisreply showed that the murder was committed in July or August, 1914, that three natives who were alleged to be the murderers were arrested, but that one escaped, and that the last advice received by the Department was to the effect that the trial had not yet taken place, as the necessary witnesses were not obtainable. He also stated that a telegram had been sent to the Lieutenant-Governor asking for information as to the present position of the case. In other words, a trial for murder was not yet opened, although the crime was committed in July or August last. What does that mean? We know that all over Papua we have settled in isolated places a white man or two, who employ a large number of natives. The safety of these men is absolutely dependent upon the white man's prestige, and upon that of the Government. If a white man can be murdered, and the crime can die out of native memory - because six months is a long time in native memory - what safety can white men enjoy in any isolated settlement there? It is a very serious thing indeed that this crime should have remained unrighted all these months. That is one instance of laxity of administration. I do not say that the present Minister is any more responsible for this condition of affairs than are his predecessors. But it is very unfortunate that the Government cannot act with sufficient vigour to insure the trial of the accused taking place within a reasonable period after the commission of the crime. I understand! that in the Sogeri Ranges there is a Government nursery, which Has been established for the purpose of teaching intending settlers what to plant and how to plant it - what to use in the development of the country, and how to use it. Recently in that district the people wished to sell land to the Administration, but the Administration was not in a position to buy. It seems absurd to establish the whole paraphernalia of a Government nursery there without providing intending settlers with the land upon which they may utilize the results of the experience of that nursery. To me it appears to be a question of alternatives - ofwhether we shall unlock the land in the neighbourhood of the nursery or lock up the nursery. I think that many similar instances maybe found in Papua at the present time. I do not know what the reason is, and I". am not blaming the present or any Minister; but I think, especially in view of the fact that quite possibly in the future our coloured dependencies may be very largely augmented, it is worth while for the Minister to go into this business again, and see what can be done to perfect our administration of such places. One cannot say that we are altogether. successful. We cannot compare with any satisfaction our administration of Papua with, for example, the Dutch administration of Java, not so many miles away; and what we have done compares very unfavorably with what the Germans were able to do with a less valuable adjoining possession. We could do more than we have done; and nothing more is required than a little fostering care to see that the primary intention of this Parliament is carried out, namely, that these possessions shall be administered Tn the interests principally of the native inhabitants, but with a view also to their contingent white development. Care should be taken that this policy is put into effect in a radical and energetic manner, because at present I think the administration is asleep. We require less flagpole and flag and more common 01 garden energy. So far as I can understand Commonwealth administration, the moment we come into possession of a piece of land, we place a man in control with a highsounding title. But having christened the Administrator " His Excellency," the object seems to be to starve him out of the proper exercise of his functions; and if there were less pomp and more active work, we should all be the better for it. I urge the Minister to prepare for the taking over of further responsibilities of the kind, by seeing that our present responsibilities are exercised in the proper spirit. We should do all within our power to make these possessions habitable for our own citizens as well as for the natives, towards whom we stand in the relation of trustees.

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