Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 24 November 1905


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia) - There has been little or no discussion on the official report which has been made on British New Guinea by the Secretary of External Affairs, and therefore I propose on the item of ,£20,000 for the Possession to shortly discuss its contents. I read the report with great care and pleasure. I think it will be generally admitted that it is a seasonable and valuable contribution to our knowledge of the conditions and the difficulties which surround us, in connexion with the Possession, and also the difficulties with regard to its development. I believe that if Mr. Hunt's recommendations generally are carried out, we shall gradually inaugurate an era of prosperity. I was especially pleased that he insisted that the welfare of the natives should be our paramountcon.sideration. He contended that the natives should be confirmed in the ownership of all land which they occupy, or are likely to require. He strongly opposed the introduction of coloured aliens. He advocated a thorough reform in the land laws, the removal of "irritating delays," "cumbrous procedure," the " reference of matters to head-quarters, and the re-reference of them, to the local authority." He recommended a system of industrial development as regards mining and agriculture. He suggested the institution of Government experimental stations and State nurseries as an aid to the development of the Possession. Each and every one of these recommendations I have strenuously urged upon the Parliament for the last two years and a half. As the result of my visits to British New Guinea and other tropical parts, I believe that if such a system were carried out, it would be of great benefit to our Possession. The conclusions of Mr. Hunt coincide with mine in so many respects as to practically constitute an offi cial confirmation and vindication of what I have been urging for years. I have suggested to the Parliament a policy for the Possession, and, now that we have this official report, I hope that it will lay down a definite policy, and see that it is carried out. I shall not detain the Committee by pointing out in detail the many points, of agreement between Mr. Hunt and myself, but adopt the shorter expedient of briefly indicating the matters on which our opinions differ. I am strongly opposed to any direct taxation of the natives, at any rate while the present conditions are in existence. It is a great mistake to imagine that the natives of New Guinea are not taxed. They pay in indirect taxation three-fourths of the total revenue of the Possession. This is easily apparent to honorable senators when we remember that the only taxation in British New Guinea, with the exception of licences and fees, is paid through the Customs House. The amount of taxation last year was £14,800. If the whites had paid this taxation, it would have meant that they would have paid through the Customs £26 per head, and that on a lower Tariff, and with a larger free list than we have in the Commonwealth, where the revenue derived from Customs taxation amounts to £2 5s. 5d. per head. But, making a very large allowance for the fact that the white population of New Guinea consists almost entirely of adult males, it will be seen that my estimated apportionment of the taxationbetween the natives and the white people is under-estimated, if anything, on the side of the natives. We must bear in mind that the wages of the 4,000 odd indentured labourers in British New Guinea are paid principally in dutiable goods ; that the, imported foodstuffs that they consume are largely dutiable; and that the trade which is carried on with the natives throughout the coastal lands is also conducted in goods which are more or less dutiable. Therefore, it will be seen that the natives are the principal taxpayers in British New Guinea at the present time. As a matter of fact, the natives are called upon to pay every tax that the white people pay, provided, of course, that they engage in the same avocations. But whether they engage in the same avocations or not, they pay exactly the same rates of Customs duties, and are, in consequence, the chief source of local revenue.


Senator Dobson - Does Mr. Atlee Hunt propose to tax them specially?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Yes.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - How?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Either by forced labour, or by means of a hut tax. Why. should we specially single out one class or race for taxation that we do not impose on others? Why should we impose a tax on the coloured people that we do not impose upon the whites, seeing that the coloured people are paying the same taxes as the whites at the present time? We should never forget that while werecognise the native ownership of all the land in British New Guinea, we have acquired, and we shall acquire, all the land that is necessary for the use of the white people at a price which practically amounts to obtaining it for nothing. We take possession of any of their land that we want, provided that they do not require it for themselves. Further, we impose upon the natives a duty which we do not impose upon the white people. We insist upon them keeping open the tracks between the various villages". Undoubtedly the keeping open of those tracks is principally in the interests of the natives, but if they were not kept open it would be practically impossible for us to develop the Territory, to control it, or to get about from one place to another. So that the natives have imposed upon them the forced labour - which I think is quite right - of keeping open the tracks for their own benefit, and, incidentally, for the benefit of the white people. Mr. Atlee Hunt quotes Java as an illustration in support of his argument for taxing the natives. We can learn more in respect of tropical cultivation from Java than probably from any other country. But the "culture system" of taxation which Mr. Atlee Hunt mentions has been gradually relaxed, and practically discontinued, since the year 187 1. That culture system by which the natives had to cultivate a certain portion of their plantations for the benefit of the Government was undoubtedly a success as is revealed by the fact that in thirty-five years not only did Java pay its own way, but contributed £40,000,000 to the Treasury of Holland. By the corvee system, which is a system of periodical forced labour, they covered Java with magnificent roads and fine public edifices, and contributed largely to the success of that Dutch possession. But both of those systems- the tropical culture system and the corvee system - are, even in the opinion of the Dutch people, intolerably oppressive. Therefore, they themselves have discontinued them. The system now in force in Java is a poll tax, and the verponding which is a tax on the value of house property and industrial plant. During the last twenty-five years the revenue of Java, and its possessions has not equalled the expenditure, and for the five years ending 1898, there has. been a deficit of no less an amount than ,£5,000,000. Mr. Atlee Hunt says in his report -

Perhaps the best method would be to require that each village should furnish annually a certain number of young men for plantation service, to be performed as a national duty, as military or naval service is in France and Germany, the Government deducting, if thought desirable, a certain proportion from their wages as the tax of their village.

This means the inauguration of a system of forced native labour. I do not think that that system is enforced or allowed in any part of the British Empire. It is true that Mr. Atlee Hunt suggests the payment of wages. But the object of the wages is principally to create wealth by which the tax can be paid, and therefore the differ: ence in essence is sma-11 between that and the corvee system, which is forced labour without payment. That corvee system, as I have explained!, has been universally condemned in every civilized country in the world. It is slavery, periodic instead of continual, with the State as the taskmaster. It was abolished in Java nearly 100 years ago, though there was a recrudescence of it for a certain period later on. It was abolished in Egypt when the British occupied that country. The corvee was .also one of the contributory causes of the great French Revolution. I do not for an instant intend^ to impute that Mr. Atlee Hunt had any such motive as to advocate a system of veiled slavery. I know personally that no one is more desirous than he of avoiding any such! practice. No one is more desirous of conserving the interests of the natives. In fact, the whole of Mr. Atlee Hunt's report is eloquent testimony to that desire. His object is to benefit the natives, and to prevent them from lapsing into that sloth and lethargy which are undoubtedly deteriorating them mentally and physically. But I think that the true remedy is to compel the natives to plant 00- coanuts for their own benefit and for the use of their children. That was the reform that was inaugurated by Sir William McGre gor. Any special taxation upon the natives. - no matter how it may be applied and safeguarded - will undoubtedly mean veiled slavery, because the natives have no assets tolevy upon, and it is impossible to extort a tax from them when they have not assets of value to Europeans with which to pay the taxation. The result would simply bethat they would go to .gaol. They would, be given a certain term of imprisonment, with the result of being made for a certain time slaves simply because of their inability to pay the. taxation imposed. With regard to the suggested increased" subsidy for British New- Guinea, I have to say that I do not think it is necessary lo make the Possession a greater burden on the Commonwealth than it is at the present time. It must be remembered that the local revenue combined with the subsidy gives the administrators an annual sum of £42,000 to spend. Sir William McGregor carried .on the Government of the Possession for £15,000 a year. He stopped inter-tribal wars on the coast,, he established new stations, he built residences, he purchased vessels, and he inaugurated a magnificent system of development - certainly in its rudimentary stages- - -which has unfortunately not been pursued since he left. It is true that two or three fresh stations have been established, but the revenue at the present time is nearly three times the amount Sir WilliamMcGregor possessed when lie had all that difficulty and expensive initiatory, work tocarry out. Since he left there has practically been no development in British New Guinea. When we inquire the reason for the increased expenditure and the lessened results,, it is not difficult to find many avenuesin which a reduction of expenditure could be effected without injury to the Possession. There are many directions in which . expenditure could reasonably be curtailed. I will take one instance. The Merrie England cost's us ,£7,317 a year in working expenses, and we have spent something like £2,000 in repairs lately. What would any sensible man or any honorable senator think of a Possession with a local revenue of ,£22,000 a year spending £8,000 a year on an obsolete steam-ship, which eatsup one-third of the revenue of the Possession. Last year the Merrie England steamed 10,000 knots - practically six weeks continuous sailing. So that for the whole twelve months the vessel was only sailing continuously for about six weeks. Yet she costs about one-third of the revenue of the Possession, and £2,000 in addition for repairs. 1 do not think anything more absurd than the retention of that vessel could possibly be imagined. I do not intend to make any detailed statement as to the. economies that are possible, but in my opinion, that is a glaring case. We could, obtain a smaller, more serviceable boat, with a lighter draught. The Merrie England draws fifteen feet of water, and from that point of view alone is totally unsuitable for British New Guinea. We could obtain a vessel which could be maintained at a quarter of the present cost, and the saving thus made would largely assist in a proper policy of development.


Senator Drake - The Merrie England was necessary at one time, but may not be so necessary now that we have a subsidized' mail service.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I think the vessel was necessary at one time. But as I stated in my first pamphlet on British New Guinea, one advantage of a subsidised mail steam-ship service is the saving that could be made in respect of the Merrie England. I do not think that this Commonwealth will counsel a proposal to lend British New Guinea £300,000. It would be a poor way of celebrating our adoption of this daughter of, the tropics to put round her neck at the very inception of our rule a load of debt which certainly would not tend to advance her interests. We ought tb try to keep this Dependency, the revenue of which is three times what it was under Sir William McGregor*, free from debt, and out of pawn. If the proposal of Mr. Atlee. Hunt were carried out, the increased subsidy, the subsidized steam-ship service, the local revenue,, and the proposed loan paid in instalments of £15,0*00 a year, would mean an income of £62,000 a year, which, I am afraid', would lead to rash experiments. No work is more difficult than that of tropical development - no work requires to be carried out with greater care and greater "knowledge - and such a revenue would, in my opinion, lead to extravagance. Mr. Atlee Hunt urges the advisableness of encouraging mining, and suggests that a good means would be to establish a prospecting vote. That is a mode of encouragement [ have strongly advocated, and, if the money were judiciously expended, it would greatly assist in the development of the gold-fields, which have not received that consideration they are entitled to by reason of the fact that they are practically responsible for the whole revenue of the Possession. Mr. Atlee Hunt says that the miners are a fairly rough lot, but that, on the whol'e, they are law-abiding. I admit at once that the miners in British New Guinea are not like polished, high-bred city men. But if it were not for "those miners and others who draw the wealth from the soil, who have pushed their way out into the wilderness, and transformed it into a valuable country for white people, there would be no high-bred city men. In my opinion, therefore, the miners who have developed the country, are entitled to the chief consideration. Mr. Atlee Hunt advocates that the prospecting vote shall be raised by an export tax on gold; he proposes to tax the mining industry, in order to provide the desired assistance for miners. That seems to me very much like cutting off the bottom of a garment, and adding it to the top, in order to make the garment longer. I warn the Committee that such a tax might result in the closing up of every mine on Woodlark Island, and thus throw 120 white men out of employment. These mines, at the present time, are barely earning expenses ; and on the mainland, ' where there are four alluvial gold-fields, I can say from my own knowledge that half the miners are making no more than " tucker." As mining is responsible for nearly the whole of the revenue, directly or indirectly - as it employs twothirds of the white people directly or indirectly, and three-fourths of the indentured labour - surely the prospecting vote might . be provided out of general revenue, and not by means of an extra tax on the mining community. Mr. Atlee Hunt says -

The majority of those I met were unanimous in expressing their belief that the inability to obtain a freehold tenure would act as a serious hindrance to the opening up of the Territory.

I admit that practically the whole of the official c'ass is opposed to the leasehold system. While the opinion of the officials may be perfectly honest - and I believe it is - I regard it as being more due to prejudice than the result of actual knowledge and investigation. An impartial study of the history of tropical colonization reveals the fact that the leasehold system is the better. F shall cite the case of Java, which Mr. Atlee Hunt approvingly quotes. There the leasehold system is universal, except in regard to a small area that was alienated in the early days.


Senator Dobson - Does the honorable senator know how often rents are reappraised in Java?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - In Java the leases, I believe, run for sixty years.


Senator Stewart - Without reappraisement ?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I think the rents are not re-appraised. Mr. Henry Scott Boys, late of the Bengal Civil Sendee, and a trained and experienced administrator under the British Government, in his book entitled Some Notes on Java and its Administration by the Dutch, says: -

He was startled to find that the great mass of agriculturists in Java were manifestly in a far better material condition than our own ryots. This is unquestionably the case, and the fact undoubtedly proves that our treatment of the great questions relating to land tenures which 100 years ago were partly similar to those which have from time to time arisen in Java, have not been dealt with in a manner best calculated to secure the happiness of the people. The denationalization of the land, which from the time of Lord Cornwallis till the present day, has been more and more completely effected, has resulted in the aggrandizement of a class of wealthy landlords and middlemen at the expense of the cultivator of the soil.

I could quote many other instances, where, in tropical countries, the leasehold system is in operation, but I think that Java affords sufficient illustration. It is well known that Sir William McGregor favoured the leasehold system. Samarai, the commercial capital of New Guinea, and the most flourishing town, is entirely leasehold, there is not a square foot of freehold land in the place. The system has not militiated in any way against the prosperity of the town; in fact, I believe) the result has been quite the opposite. Sir William McGregor instituted a system of long leases for cocoanut land, under which a peppercorn rental had to be paid until the trees began to bear, when an annual rental was imposed; and though he made freehold permissive, he did not encourage that tenure. Of course, New Guinea was a British possession' ; and the general policy of the British Government is to grant freehold, though the policy of other nations is, in many cases, to grant leasehold. We ought' to give the planters a perpetual lease, subject to revaluation, at stated periods, on the unimproved or scrub value. The rental -would be small, but it would enable the Government, for all time, to have control over the planters - a con trol impossible with a freehold tenure - -and. would enable us to see that they not only improved their holdings, but maintained i.hem in proper condition. I had interviews with only ona or two of the planters and others who" were applying for land, but those I saw informed me that they would be satisfied with a perpetual lease. Under the circumstances I do not regard the opinion of the official class as a true indication of the general feeling in regard to the leasehold system. However, if the official class are convinced that leasehold will not be efficacious - well, probably it will not be efficacious. Section 50 of the Papua Act was introduced at the instance of Mr. Mahon in another place, and is, in my opinion, a very desirable provision, 1 Under that section 10 per cent, of the total land revenue is devoted to the support of infi irm and destitute natives. It is an unfortunate fact that in the eastern division venereal diseases are spreading very rapidly; and the best way to counteract them is to establish lock hospitals in various places, so as to segregate the sufferers. By this, means we should be able to stamp out, or reduce to a minimum, the hideous wrong which some white people have perpetrated on the natives, and there is no reason why a portion of the money should not be used for the purpose I have indicated, because the word " infirm " is descriptive of any person who is s.ick or suffering. Speaking generally, I regard Mr. Atlee Hunt's report as excellent. In stating the points on which I disagree with that gentleman's conclusion, I do not claim for one moment that I am necessarily right, and that he is wrong. If Mr. Hunt had had more time at his disposal, and greater opportunities for inquiry, I am certain that he would- have modified his opinion in regard to the matters with which I have dealt.


Senator Dobson - In a new country ought not capital to be invested wisely at the beginning in order to give, the place a s.tart ?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Undoubtedly we should encourage the investment of capital in New Guinea, but with the stipulation that all land taken up should be improved. That is the system followed on the Solomon Islands, and it has been most successful in German New Guinea. In the both Possessions any land, may be taken up provided that it is. not required by the natives, and that it is improved by the holder. It is most undesirable that land should be taken up and allowed to lie idle, to the hindrance of progress and development. I should mow like to say a few words about the development of British New Guinea. Since Sir William McGregor left the Possession, eight years ago, there has practically been no industrial expansion of any kind; the energy of the Government has been exclusively employed in maintaining law and order, and extending their jurisdiction over the natives. In that department of government, the authorities have undoubtedly done well, and deserve great credit. I am particularly pleased to observe that the natives have been treated with great kindness and consideration ; and for this, much praise is due to the Acting Administrator, Mr. Barton, the magistrates, the miners, and the traders, without whose co-operation this happy result could not have been achieved. Gold-mining is practically the one industry in British New Guinea.


Senator Stewart - Is there any. gold there ?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.There is plenty of gold; but there are not so many white miners there, now as there were in the time of Sir William McGregor. Certainly the Gira and Aikora field have been opened up since, but they have been developed by the pluck and pertinacity of the miners in the face of the most terrible disabilities; little assistance has been given by the Government except in -the maintenance of law and order. Sir William McGregor, with his long experience of tropical development, rightly appreciated the great value of cocoanut growing, and endeavoured to develop that industry in every possible way. He passed an ordinance compelling the natives along the coast to plant cocoanuts wherever the land was suitable; and if that magnificent law had been carried into effect, and continued, the greater part of the coast today would have been waving with cocoanut palms, and the exports would probably have been doubled. The natives would not suffer from those periodical famines to which thev are now liable if that ordinance had been insisted on. Cocoanut growing provides useful work for the natives, and prevents them from sinking into a state of sloth and lethargy. If thev had to plant each year so many cocoanuts, and keep them " clean," as the ex pression is, they would be provided with continuous light work. They could sell the copra, as the Solomon Islanders do, to the traders, and would thus be enabled to promote their own prosperity, and purchase many comforts. Mr. Campbell, the Resident Magistrate in the Eastern Division, has, since last January, given orders for the planting of cocoanut trees by the natives living around Samarai. Sir Wm. McGregor also issued instructions that the large amount of prison labour should be utilized on State plantations. The use o£ prison labour is always a difficult question to deal with ; but there can be no objection to its use on these State plantations, where it does not dome into competition with any other labour. He started several State plantations, but since he left not a single tree has been planted, and some of the plantations have been allowed to become overgrown with weeds. He encouraged planters to take up land by offering them easy conditions and quick possession. He off erred sixty years' leases at a very low rental. That Ordinance has never been annulled, but it has been strangled by redtape circumlocution and absurd centralization. I could mention instances where men have had to wait for from twelve to fifteen months from the time they have applied for land before they have been able to get a title. No man can live in a tropical country like that and wait so long for >a title for land. I had a letter onlylast mail from a well-known man in British New Guinea, who states that he ap-' plied for land in 1898, and has not got his title yet. Mr. Atlee Hunt says -

So far as expansion is concerned, the Possession is now at a standstill.

As I have shown, it has been at a standstill for the last eight years. The exports of copra from British New Guinea last year were valued at £1,700, and the total exports of the Possession, exclusive of gold, were valued at £5,500. In the case of the Solomon Islands, which are only oneeighth the size of British New Guinea, and which have been a British Protectorate only for the last ten years, the export of copra last year was valued at £40,000, -whilst the cost of government was a little over £2,000 a year.


Senator Stewart - How many people are there there?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - There are from 100 to 150 whites at the

Solomon Islands. The exports from British New Guinea, to which I have referred, confirm my statement that gold-mining is practically the only white man's industry in the Territory. The only agricultural industries in which any success has been achieved are the planting of cocoanuts and rubber. There is in New Guinea a very valuable indigenous rubber plant, the Ficus Rigo. Our object should be to encourage these industries in every way. There are undoubtedly very many economic plants which can be grown profitably in New Guinea. In regard to these it would be foolish to indulge in blind experiment. If we were to induce planters to embark on untried industries which would result in disaster, we should have them coming back to Australia, discrediting the Territory, and so retarding its development for a very long time. Very great care is necessary in dealing with this question. We must consider the character and industry of the natives, the fertility of the soil, and the climatic conditions. It is not necessary that we should learn, as the result of repeated failures, what crops can be successfully grown in British New Guinea. We need not learn wisdom by the practice of folly, because every one of these tropical industries has been the subject of exhaustive experiment in other countries, and all Ave have to do is to avail ourselves of the advantage of their experience. We have magnificent object-lessons in tropical cultivation all around our territory, and if we desire to develop the Possession we * should ascertain what economic plaints have been grown successfully in places like Ceylon, the Straits Settlement, Cochin China, the Philippines, Java, and Polynesia.


Senator Dobson - Will not almost all tropical' fruits grow in New Guinea?

Sentaor Playford. - There is no market for them.

Senator 'STANIFORTH SMITH.We must consider the temperament and disposition of the people, as well as the rainfall and general climatic conditions, and quality of soil of the country, in order that we may establish in British New Guinea some of the industries which are being successfully pursued in Java, Sumatra, and such other tropical countries.


Senator Dobson - Is not New Guinea suitable for bananas?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Yes; but the banana would not be a payable crop there. We should study the industries of tropical countries where progress and development are evident. To show how able management can convert failure into success, I may give an illustration from the experience in Cochin China. In eight years, between 1877 to 1895, France had to make up deficits in connexion with that country amounting to 40,000,000 francs. In the last thirtyfive years, during which France has been in occupation of the country, it has cost her £30,000,000. Under M. Paul Doumer, who was appointed GovernorGeneral of Cochin China in 1896, radical changes in the system of government weremade. Progress and development have followed, and in the last five years the Government in that Colony has not only paid its own expenses, but has contributed 40,000,000 francs as a military contribution to the mother country, France. The energy and enterprise of the people of the United States are proverbial, and they have recently appointed two Commissions to travel through the East and study tropical development and agriculture, that they may be enabled to inaugurate an enlightened system for the development of the tropical Possessions they have lately obtained. The report presented by Professor Jenks, one of the commissioners is a very valuable 'one. The Dutch Government has assisted its people greatly in Java, not only by the creation of new industries, but in the establishment of a special Government Department for procuring machinery for mills, giving advice and instruction to planters, and obtaining the best books which have been written om the subject of tropical agriculture. In this respect the State experimental stations and nurseries I have advocated would be invaluable. One of these should be situate/:! in the highlands, because there are certain economic plants which cannot be grown successfully on the low coastal lands of the Territory. We should also obtain an expert in tropical agriculture, preferably from Ceylon, - the Straits Settlement, or Java, who could supervise the experimental stations and nurseries, supply planters with economic plants, and give advice and instruction in regard to their cultivation. We should import, and plant at the experimental stations, and nurseries, such economic plants as have led to the establishment of successful industries in contiguous tropical countries whose climate and soil are similar to those of New Guinea. We should especially devote our attention to the establishment of industries which do not require skilled labour. That is a very important consideration. In the Philippines the growth, and export of hemp has developed into a great industry. The export of hemp comprises 60 per cent, of the total exports of the Philippine Islands, and amounts in value to no less than £4,500,000 annually. Hemp is of the same botanical genus as the banana or plantain, the botanical name being MusaTextilis. It can be grown by unskilled labour, and is therefore not in. the same category as tobacco and sugar, which are also exports from those islands. In Ceylon, they grow successfully cinchona, from which quinine is produced, cocoa, and tea plants. In the Malay States, rice, rubber, pepper, liberian coffee, nutmegs and fibre plants are grown ; and in Java, indigo and other products. We should obtain economic journals published in. the English language in American and British Colonies, and should keep ourselves in touch with the latest developments and successes in all tropical countries. In the tropical centres I have visited, I have specially studied on the spot the growth of cocoanuts, rubber, cocoa, nutmegs, vanilla, kapock, cloves^ cotton, tobacco, and coffee. Some of these will undoubtedly be successfully grown in New Guinea, though others will not. The growth of tobacco has been an absolute failure in German New Guinea, and has been practically discontinued. The reason I assign is the lack of the skilled labour necessary, not only in the cultivation, but in the preparation of the tobacco leaf. Mr. Rochford, a very enterprising resident of British New Guinea, wrote to the British Cotton-growers' Association with regard to cotton -grow ing in the Territory. He sent a detailed statement of the rainfall, and the secretary of the association wrote back to say that the continuous rainfall would militate somewhat against the successful growth of cotton, as it required three months of comparatively dry weather to produce the best results. In German New Guinea, I saw cotton-fields, and found that in some cases the plants had died. This was attributed to the belief that they had been attacked by some insect or disease. In the circumstances, it is necessary that we should experiment very carefully with cotton before any attempt is made to induce people- to embark in cotton- growing in New Guinea. We should have the fullest knowledge of the various economic plants to which I have referred, before we induce planters to undertake their cultivation in New Guinea. Whilst we should pay great attention to the production of exotic plants of economic value, we should by no means neglect the veryvaluable indigenous plants of the country, The sago-palm covers an immense area of British New Guinea, chiefly in low-lying and swampy grounds, and there is undoubtedly enough sago growing there to supply the whole of Australia. Then there is the pandanus tree, which grows in millions in New Guinea, and produces a veryvaluable fibre which, I have no doubt, would be found excellent for rope-making. The pandanus fibre appears to me to be very much like the hemp fibre we get from Manilla. I submit a sample of it for the inspection of honorable senators, and they will, I am sure agree that it ought to make a very excellent rope. No doubt if a proper botanical examination nf the country were made other valuable indigenous plants would be found. In the development of its industries great care, time, and knowledge are required in order to insure success.


Senator Dobson - And some capital.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Undoubtedly. It is of no use to ask men 10 embark in an industry unless we can practically assure them it will not be a failure, otherwise we shall discredit the whole Possession. This requires care, lime, and knowledge, and as the onlyproved industries are the cocoanut and rubber industries, which take from live to seven years to develop, we should get planters who have already planted these trees to utilize comparatively small areas in the cultivation of these other products, and let them gradually ascertain whether they can be grown, not only successfully, but profitably. I make no apology for taking up the valuable time of the Committee in -going somewhat fully into the economical development of the Possession, because it is a matter of the greatest importance. The success or failure of the Possession rests absolutely upon its economical development. I have given considerable attention to the subject. I have studied the conditions in. all tropical countries which are controlled by European powers or the United States, both as regards systems of government, methods of administration, and modes of development. I have spent some months in New Guinea and other tropical parts in order to inform myself better on those subjects. A question of great importance in connexion with the development of the Possession is the provision of good roads. This is a matter of the greatest urgency. Mr. Alleyne Ireland, a great authority on tropical development, has expressed his views on the importance of roads in these words -

The reduction of India to a state of peace and order unknown in its pre-British history, the suppression of dacoity (highway robbery) and the immense development of industrial prosperity in Burma, the astounding growth of the Federated Malay States, the great commerce of Java, the recent improvement in French Indo-China, may be attributed more to the influence of good roads than to any other single agency.

In the Malay federated States there are 1,000 miles of metalled road over which a motor car can be 'run. Honorable sena..tors may be surprised to hear that the Government have also built 300 miles of railway out of revenue. When a loan was offered by the British Government for the purpose of constructing the railway, they replied that they could build it out of revenue. They have no debt of any kind. For the last ten years their net revenue has been £1,400,000. While, of course, the mining and export of tin is a large factor, (here are many things that we can. learn from such countries which would be of immense value in developing British New Guinea. At Herbertsöhe, in New Britain, there are* scores of miles of well-made roads on which vehicles can be employed, and persons can travel on horseback. In British New Guinea, however, there are no roads. There are no tracks which are good enough for pack-horses or pack-mules except between Port Moresby and the coffee plantations at Sugeri and the Loloki River. I admit that it is a most difficult thing to establish roads for vehicular traffic. But there is no reason why tracks should not be made to the mining- fields so that packmules could carrY up the stores. We have an enormous area of rich auriferous country stretching from the source of the Fly River to the Mambare and Gira rivers.


Senator Dobson - Is there no sign of coal ?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not know that a coal seam of an important nature has been found. . .The miners have to contend with the greatest possible difficulties and obstacles. The rich alluvial fields which are known are hardly payable. On the Yodda field we have less than forty white men, whereas, if reasonable facilities were afforded, we could have a prosperous field with perhaps 400 men working there. I complain that on the gold-fields there is a want of sympathetic treatment on behalf of the Government. Everything has to be carried to the fields for a distance of seventy miles on the backs of natives, and the expense to the miners who employ several native labourers is about £40 a month. I am told on the best authority, both official and unofficial, that a track could have been made from Buna Bay to the Yodda field, a distance of seventy miles, for about £300. I advocated this work two and a half years ago, but nothing has been done. Whitton Bros., the storekeepers, have offered to put on pack mules if the track be made. It would reduce the price of provisions by about one half, and convert a " tucker " field into a prosperous gold-field. It would give a greater variety of food, bring better conditions to white and coloured people, and lead to less sickness. It could be accomplished for about £300. Although it has been advocated locally, and by myself, still the work has never been put in hand.


Senator Givens - How is the total revenue spent?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I gave the expenditure on the Merrie England . as an example. From the Mambare River to the Aikora field it is possible to . discover a new track upon which pack mules could also be put, although I am fain to admit that the present track, over portion of which I have travelled, is too rough even for pack mules. There is another advantage in regard to mule transport. The native porterage is the hardest, most disagreeable, and monotonous work which the natives are called upon to do. Mr. Atlee Hunt mentions that desertions occur chiefly from the Northern division, where the carrying is principally done. When the natives tire of their burdens, they throw them down in the bush and escape, sometimes into hostile tribes, and fall a prey to their enemies, or if thev are caught they are fined to the value of the pack. thrown down. That punishment is necessary, otherwise the. natives would be more careless than they are. In mv opinion, the conditions could be improved to a considerable extent. We could not do away with human porterage, at any rate for a long' time. But the weight of a load and a distance of a day's journey could be regulated, and proper resting houses could be established by 'the Government at distances of, say, twelve or fifteen, miles, which would be dry and comfortable for the natives, and would tend largely to reduce the present alarming death-rate in the Northern gold-field. According to the last report, it was 19.14 per cent., or, at any rate, 191 per thousand annually. Besides that twenty-seven natives are missing and unaccounted for, possibly killed by hostile tribes, when they have been endeavouring to escape. If mv suggestions were adopted, the conditions would be so alleviated that there would not be anything like the present number of porters trying to escape, or anything like the same number of loads thrown away- I do not intend to deal with the system of government, because I dealt with it fully in an article in the Review of Reviews of last June. In Sarawak, which is under the control of Rajah Brooke, the Government have made wonderful progress, and are working together splendidly. He has instituted a General Council, which meets every third year, and is composed of the chief officers of the Possession, "who come from all parts of the Protectorate. Their functions are purely advisory. They are constituted for the purpose of keeping the central Government informed as to the general condition of public opinion, and with regard to any important change proposed to be made in general policy. I think that great good would result if a similar meeting of officials were held annually in Papua. They could discuss the methods of administration, the rate of progress, and the plans for the future. I believe that it would infuse a spirit of friendly rivalry, and induce more strenuous efforts than are now put forth. I anticipate that it would establish an esprit de corps, and a patriotism which' would tend to promote the development of the Possession very much, and make each official feel that he was to a certain extent responsible for the general welfare. And the collective views of these experts would be available for the Government in framing their ordinances. Before I conclude, I wish to touch upon the question of the British New Guinea museum. It may be in the knowledge of honorable senators that Sir William McGregor recognised the great importance, from a scientific point of view, of forming.: a collection of curios and such matters - connected with the Possession. TheQueensland Government generously agreed!! to place a hall in its museum at." the disposal of British New Guinea for the display of its curios. Many valuable, curios, representing the arts, ceremonies, customs, and weapons of the people, and the fauna, flora, and geology of the Territory,, were placed there by Sir William McGregor. Owing to the natives stopping the manufacture of weapons, some of these curios could not now be replaced. The collection belongs to the Possession, and* probably it will eventually find a place in the Federal Capital. It is most unfortunate that it has been absolutely neglected since Sir William McGregor departed. Collections of weapons, dresses, and curios have been scattered over Europe, in public and private collections, over the United States, and in various places, and there is now no truly representative aggregation of Papuan curios which would enable scientists ito obtain most valuable information with regard to theethnology and characteristics of the natives, and possibly of tracing their origin or descent. Honorable senators will have learned from the annual report that last year some ancient pottery and human remains were found four feet below the ground on the site of an old village. It is stated that they evidently belonged to a pre-existing race. The pottery was much superior to anything which is to be seen in Papua to-day ; yet, on the volition of the Resident Magistrate, to whom it was given, it was sent to the British Museum, where probably it will be put away and absolutely forgotten. That is only one of other incidents of a like nature. The miners on the Yodda gold-field some time ago found a pestle and mortar. The natives could give no explanation as to its origin, and did not understand the workmanship. The curiosity was handed over to the Resident Magistrate, who sent it on to the British Museum. It was a very interesting find, and gave evidence of a higher! and older civilisation in British New Guinea than exists to-day. We ought to pass an Ordinance providing that the Government should have the first claim upon all finds of this description. They, should be put in the Brisbane Museum until we are able to establish a Commonwealth museum in which to display them.

As it is, they are scattered about the world in a. way that makes it impossible for scientific men to study them. Although I have taken up a good deal of the time of the Committee I hope I shall be excused in view of the importance of the subject. What I feel is, that as we have taken over the government of British New Guinea, it rests with us whether we shall make a success of it or not. I have endeavoured to address myself principally to the question of how we should develop our great Possession. That development, in my opinion, should take place not in the direction of costly experiments, but in the direction of establishing and developing proved industries. We should carefully study the conditions surrounding tropical countries, study the methods of development, and ascertain what economic plants have enabled successful industries to be established in similar countries. We should have experimental farms and State nurseries. We should have an expert on tropical agriculture to superintend those establishments, and to give advice and instructions to planters who wish to cultivate. We should follow the methods which have been so successful in Java and in the Malay Settlements. I believe that if we are ready and anxious to learn from what has been done elsewhere we can make British New Guinea - not for some years, perhaps, but in time - absolutely self-supporting., as are some contiguous tropical countries. If we succeed in that, we shall have done something which will relieve Australia from its present financial burden. At the same time, we should regard it as our principal obligation to see that the rights of the natives are not interfered with. The native people of British New Guinea are entitled to recognition of their rights in the land which they have occupied from time immemorial. They should be protected in the occupation of any land that they can utilize. I sincerely hope that in the control of British New Guinea by Australia, we will not remain the laughing-stock of surrounding countries. There is no reason why the Australian people should not inaugurate a system of development at any rate equal to that of our neighbours ; and in so doing we shall make our new Possession a prosperous country.







Suggest corrections