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Thursday, 10 June 1915


Mr PALMER (Echuca) .- I desire to say a few words in regard to the vexed question of the administration of Norfolk Island. At present the island is controlled by an Executive Council, consisting of two elective members and five Government nominees. The residents of the island claim that they should have a much larger share in the government. * Indeed, at a public meeting we attended, they claimed complete autonomy. Of course, while the Commonwealth provides the money for the administration of the island, we cannot admit that claim. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon the Government to give the islanders a considerable measure of redress. The recommendation of Mr. Atlee Hunt was that there should be an Executive Council of twelve members, six to be elected and six to be nominees. Possibly, for the time being, that would be a fair solution of the difficulty, and would go far to satisfy the residents, especially if they were also given the assurance that gradually they would be given the preponderance of representation. That scheme would be reasonable, because the island can be made self-supporting, and the residents would be inclined to put much greater effort into the work of production if they were given a larger measure of responsibility. They strongly object to any increase in the cost of government. Rightly or wrongly, there is an increase this year, because a secretary has been given to the Administrator. I formed a high opinion of Mr. Murphy as an Administrator. He is the right man in the right place, and if he has time to devote to the development of the country he will very soon be able to so encourage the settlers that greater effort will be made to increase the production from the soil. The industries of the island are numerous, and they can be fostered. Now that this island is under our control, we ought to extend to its settlers every possible consideration, and I think that we can legitimately go to the length recommended by Mr. Atlee Hunt. I believe, too, that we may fairly act on the assumption that at a later stage we shall be able to afford its people a larger measure of self-government. The other night a statement was made in this chamber by the honorable member for Cook to which

I take exception. He declared that certain Pitcairners laboured under a substantial grievance in that they had been ejected from houses in which they had been permitted to dwell uninterruptedly for nearly fifty years. I desire to point out that these people were allowed to occupy those houses, which were in the vicinity of the gaol, by the Imperial authorities for so long a period that they began to claim them as their own.


Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - They were their own.


Mr PALMER - The island belonged to Great Britain, and proof of that is to be found in the fact that the titles which its settlers hold to their lands were issued by the Imperial authorities. The settlers petitioned the late Queen Victoria to grant them the absolute ownership of their dwellings. The Crown Law authorities of Great Britain would not accede to their request. They insisted that the settlers should sign a lease. The settlers were badly advised by a local lawyer, and declined to sign the lease, with the result that the Imperial Government insisted upon them vacating their premises.


Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The New South Wales Government.


Mr PALMER - It was the British Government. I have a copy of the lease which they refused to sign.


Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - That was not done until the New South Wales Government had taken over the control of the island.


Mr PALMER - The New South Wales Government did not have control of the island at that time, which was under the administration of Great Britain. It has been stated that these settlers were improperly thrust out of their homes. I hold that the Crown had no option but to insist upon their acknowledging its ownership of the houses in question or vacating the premises. All the islanders to-day recognise that they made a mistake. Had they signed the lease offered to them they would have had the houses at a peppercorn rental for three generations. They were not unfairly treated.


Mr Bamford - What are they going to do about it?


Mr PALMER - I do not know. Today the houses are vacant, and are falling into disrepair. This shows the difficulties which the Minister experiences in dealing with a simple-minded people who are easily led. If the Executive Government were altered to some ex tent to suit the views of these islanders, it would be a great encouragement to them, and if they are sufficiently encouraged the island is capable of producing a great deal in the way of coffee, lemon-juice, &c. Since last Christmas no less than 700 barrels of lemon-juice have been despatched from the island. In the matter of whale oil the Executive Government can be of great assistance by providing the settlers with proper marketing facilities. A good deal has been said by the honorable member for Calare in regard to the necessity which exists for improved harbor accommodation. Next in importance to that is the establishment of proper marketing facilities for the settlers. Over and over again these people have failed to get anything like the true value of their products because they prefer to accept for those products whatever cash they can obtain from traders, to sending them to market. There is great scope for the Administrator to exercise himself in the direction of affording the people greater trading facilities. This is the first occasion on which we have had an opportunity to discuss the conditions which obtain on Norfolk Island. To my mind, there is a considerable future before that settlement. Whaling can be profitably carried on when adequate market facilities have been provided. The production of lemon juice can be largely augmented, as can also the supply of coffee. We are now appropriating £3,000 towards the cost of the Executive Government of Norfolk Island. I trust that in the course of three or four years it will have become selfsupporting.







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