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Thursday, 13 October 1949


Mr WARD (East Sydney) (Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories) . - The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) complained of the slow progress that had been made in the development of New Guinea and Papua. He said that, before the war, New Guinea was a selfsupporting territory, whereas now it was not. Let me point out that anti-Labour governments, which were in power before the war, had no plans for developing Australia's external territories. They expended only a few thousand pounds a year in Papua. The criticism of Australia's administration of Papua and New Guinea, which has taken place at various international conferences, including the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, should more properly have been levelled at those governments which preceded the present one. Such criticism should not have been directed against the present Government, which has plans for developing the territories, and for improving conditions for the native population.

The honorable member for Franklin complained that hotels had not been restored since the war, and that only twelve houses had been built. Such a charge is ridiculous. I do not suggest that the honorable member wished to mislead the committee, but I say that those who advised him gave him inaccurate information. It is true that difficulties have been encountered in connexion with housing, and with building generally, in Papua and New Guinea, but many more buildings have been erected than the honorable member said. The difficulties have been due to shortages of materials. A Commonwealth department controls the export of building materials and equipment, but the Government has no power to direct manufacturers in Australia to send goods to territories overseas, any more than it has power to direct distribution of production in Australia itself. The manufacturers and their agents decide what materials shall go to the territories. The Government is making every effort to improve the situation. One of our greatest difficulties has been to find accommodation for the officers who are to put the Government's plans into effect. I admit that I am not so worried about hotel accommodation as the honorable member for Franklin apparently is. I am not so much concerned over the comfort of those whose stay in New Guinea would be temporary as I am for the comfort of those who reside there permanently. That is not to say that we are indifferent to the need for providing adequate hotel accommodation. We recognize that some people have occasion to visit New Guinea for business purposes, and it is necessary that they should have a ccommod ation.

The honorable member for Franklin was on doubtful ground when he spoke about the hotel at Lae. No difficulty has been placed in the way of the lady who conducts the hotel in building on the site allotted to her in the new town plan for Lae. The trouble is that she objected to the site allotted to her, and did not wish to build there. Now, she has been given permission to remain on the present site for a further five years.

The Administrator has reported that the wharf at Rabaul is in a much better condition than at any time since the end of the war. It must be remembered that; many of the wharfs in this area were erected for war purposes. Piles were not sheathed, with the result that they quickly deteriorated. A plan for the reconstruction of wharfs has been approved, and the Department for Works and Housing is proceeding with the job. It is not regarded as an economic proposition to construct a permanent wharf at Rabaul, because it is intended to shift the town to Kokopo, where a new wharf will be erected. The new wharf at Lae is under construction. Steel piles are being driven, and the necessary material is being accumulated. It is hoped that the wharf will be completed within twelvemonths. Materials are also being assembled for the wharf at Samarai, and work will be begun shortly.

It is true that the cost of living in. Papua and New Guinea has increased compared with what it was before the war; but the same is true of the cost of living on the mainland. However, most of the estimates of the increase have been grossly exaggerated. Critics have taken certain items, the price of which has increased considerably, but they have disregarded those items upon which the increase has not been so great. For instance, rents charged Administration officers are very low compared with rents in Australia. It is not true that the cost of living in Papua and New Guinea has increased by as much as 100 per cent.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke).- Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Papua and New Guinea, and Norfolk Island has expired.

Proposed votes agreed to.

Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -

That the following resolution be reported to the House: - That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges lor the year 1949-50, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £164,1 52,000.

 

Resolution reported and adopted.

In Committee of Ways and Means:

Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -

That, towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year1 949-50, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £92,594,000.

Resolution reported and adopted.

Ordered -

That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.







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