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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) .- I notice in the schedule attached to the Bill that there is a vote for the Administration of New Guinea, and a vote for the Defence Forces. I shall, therefore, be in order in speaking on matters relating to those subjects. As to New Guinea, it will be within the recollection of the Senate that when, last year, Parliament passed the Papua Act, there was astrong expression of opinion from a large number of honorable senators as to what should be the guiding principle for the future government of the country. We were led to believe by the representative of the Ministry that Papua would be governed in accordance with the ideas then expressed. It has been a matter of profound disappointment to a great number, myself included, to find, so far as we can judge from the manner in which the affairs of the, Posses- sion have been dealt with by the Government, that all our desires are being completely ignored. For instance, no expression of opinion could be stronger than that made by a number of honorable senators, that the Administrator of Papua should be an Australian, who would be able to govern in accordance with Australian sentiments and aspirations. But, instead of the Government redeeming the promise then made - because there was an implied promise that effect would be given to that desire - it went out of its way to offer the Administratorship to a gentleman who is not an Australian, and who could hardly be expected to govern the Possession in accordance with Australian sentiment and ideals. The Government, being disappointed in its desire to appoint a certain gentleman, has proceeded to shelter itself behind a Royal Commission, appointed to inquire into the present administration, and into matters connected with the Possession generally. When a Government, by its very existence, acknowledges that there is a man in Australia good enough to be the head of the Administration of this great Continent, it is quite up to that Government to recognise that there must be some other Australian good enough to be the Administrator of that small Possession. If an Australian is good enough to be Prime Minister of this Commonwealth, why cannot we find an Australian who is good enough to govern the only Possession we have outside the borders of Australia? How can we expect to get an Imperial officer, or some person from Great Britain, who has had no previous experience in opening up any new country - much less in opening up a new tropical country - and who has no acquaintance whatever with Australian sentiment, to govern this Possession as we desire to see it governed? It is not possible. The Government should not have run away from its responsibilities, but should have appointed some one in Australia to the position. I know personally, that so far as New Guinea officials are concerned, they are mostly absolute failures, who have been pitchforked into positions over there. Some officers who have been there have been the ne'er-do-well hangerson of aristocratic families, whom those families were glad to shift away, because, so long as they were nearer home, their relatives were continually afraid that they would be a disgrace to them. It may be satisfactory from the point of view of aris tocratic families that they should be able to shift their ne'er-do-well relations' to Papua in this fashion, but it is not well from the point of view of Australians, who have the responsibility of administering the affairs of the country. Perhaps some honorable senators may consider that the remarks which I have allowed to fall with regard to the character of some of these officials are a bit too strong. But they are not strong enough to cover the actual facts. I know of my own certain knowledge that one man was appointed simply and solely on the ground that he had certain highly- placed relatives in this country, and that he had to be run out of New Guinea because of his conduct there. Afterwards that same man had to be smuggled out of Melbourne by his highly-placed relatives to avoid the officers of the law. These are the people who have been appointed to positions within the gift of the Government over there. The sooner we determine to have a better system of management the better. What is the position at the present time? The Government, in compliance with a request made by the. Administrator, Captain Barton, has ap pointed a Commission to go to Papua to inquire into .the management of affairs generally. We have already had two Papuan Commissions. Last year the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs was sent over at considerable expense to inquire and report. He did so, and his report has been before honorable senators. After the Richmond case another Commission was appointed. Now we have a third appointed at the request of Captain Barton - a request which was read to the Senate yesterday, and which I say is a. very lame document on the face of it. lt is a very short statement, saying that thereare rumours going round as to dissatisfac-tion with the administration, and requesting that a Commission be appointed to inquire. No details are given. No strong reasons are put forward. But the very moment tha Government received the request it almost rushed into the arms of Captain Barton, and appointed a Commission. To me it looks very much like a " put-up job."

Senator Higgs - If Captain Barton had been ordering a dozen bags of corn he would have used as many words.

Senator GIVENS - If he had been giving an order to his valet about going out duck shooting he would have given as many details as are contained in this letter. It looks as though the Commission was appointed simply to allow the Government to shelter itself behind this device, and to run away from its obvious duty. The duty of the Government is to see that the affairs of Papua are efficiently and properly administered. I require no Commission to tell' me that the affairs of the Possession have not been well managed, because it is a self-evident fact. Any one who has taken interest in New Guinea affairs must be aware that the administration is a total and absolute failure. In addition to the revenue produced in the country, it costs this Commonwealth ,£20,000 per annum to administer the Territory, and we know that this money is spent on a little nest of officers who do nothing. There is not even a couple of miles of efficient road there yet. The white population is seething with discontent. In every respect the administration is a failure. Why go to the needless expense of appointing a Royal Commission to tell us so? And even after we have paid the members of the Commission, it is doubtful whether they will tell us the real state of affairs, because reliable evidence will not be placed before them. They will obtain evidence from the Administrator himself, and from his officers, who are absolutely dependent upon him for their positions. It is not to be expected that the Commission will obtain any really impartial evidence.

Senator Turley - Does not the honorable senator think that the Commission will go round and get evidence, independently of the Administration?

Senator GIVENS - We know further that there is a sort of reign of terror established in New Guinea at the present time, and that any man who sets himself to in any way thwart the desires of those at present administering the affairs of the country, finds' it made so hot for him that he has to clear out of it. I am personally acquainted with many men living in New Guinea, and. rightly or wrongly, that is the feeling they have. That must be admitted to be a highly unsatisfactory condition, of affairs. There is a very simple way out of the difficulty, and it is for the Government to assume their proper functions, and' to exercise the responsibility which this Parliament has placed upon them. They are unworthy to occupy their present position if they are not prepared to accept that responsibility. It is a lamentable thing to find the Government sheltering themselves on every possible occasion behind some Royal Commission. In my view, the only way in which we oan manage New Guinea is the very simplest way, and that is by the appointment as Administrator of an, Australian who will know what ought to be done in the development of a tropical country, and what is necessary to safeguard the interests of the natives of the Territory. We want a person in the position who will do something; by opening up roads, and other such works, for the development of the country, instead of sitting down in an office, drawing a salary every year, and having nothing to show for an annual expenditure of £43,000. That is the present position in New Guinea., and the- longer it is allowed to continue, the worse the position will become. There are plenty of men in Australia capable of administering the government of New Guinea,- men who' have had experience in the opening up of tropical country, in the conditions which there prevail, and who have been in the habit of dealing with aboriginal natives. They are certainly far better fitted for the thousand and one duties which would fall to the Administrator of the Possession, than any hanger-on of an aristocratic family of the old country could possibly hope to be. I hold that the Government are deserving of censure for neglecting to carry out the express wish of Parliament by proclaiming the Constitution of the Territory, and establishing an Administration. When I endeavoured to have certain 'amendments inserted in the proposed Constitution, I was told that although a majority of honorable senators were in favour of them, it would be better not to press them, because if I did, we should lose the Bill, and New Guinea would only be so much longer without a Constitution. It now appears that it would noi: have made the slightest difference if the Constitution enacted for New Guinea had been delayed for another twelve months, since it has been allowed to remain a, dead letter since the day it was passed. How long is this state of affairs to continue? How long will it be before the Government assume their proper responsibility, and rectify the shameful state of affairs at present existing in New Guinea? I am satisfied that the people of Australia, are not satisfied that things should be allowed to go on as they have been for some time past, and I warn, the

Government plainly that unless something is done to rectify the present position <:f affairs, I shall, on every available occasion, be prepared to criticise their action, or rather, inaction, as strongly as 1 possibly can. I hope that in future the Government will accept their proper responsibility in this matter, and will pay some respect to the wishes of Parliament, and, I venture to say, of the country. I hope they will undertake to put an end to the present position by the appointment of Australian officers to administer British New Guinea, in accordance with Australian ideals and sentiment. There is another matter to which I should like to refer, and that is in connexion with the Defence Department. It appears to me that so long as the government of the Commonwealth is conducted as at present, our aspiration to be considered a self-governing people will remain little more than an aspiration or a pretence. Selfgovernment should mean, if it means anything, government by ourselves in accordance with our own ideals. I have pointed out that in the case of New Guinea, instead of the Government endeavouring to govern that Australian Possession by Australians, and in accordance with Australian sentiment, they appear to desire to import Imperial officers to administer the Territory in accordance with Imperial ideas. If that be trie object in view," why did we take over New Guinea at all? Why could we not have left the Possession to the Imperial authorities to manage it as they 'pleased? Having (undertaken the responsibility, the Government have run away from that responsibility, and what in such a case becomes of the principle of selfgovernment? The same thing holds good with regard to the question of defence. The Government, instead of formulating a defence policy for Australia^ run away to the Imperial Defence Committee, and ask the members of that Committee to formulate a defence policy for us. Is that selfgovernment ? , If we are to go on in that way, we might just as well have remained an appendage of the Imperial Parliament and Imperial authorities.

Senator Henderson - That is all we are.

Senator GIVENS - Exactly; and I desire that we shall be something more than that. I believe that we in Australia should be a thoroughly self-governing community in every respect. Whilst owing nominal allegiance to the British Crown, we should exert our rights of self-government to the fullest possible extent. That, however, will be impossible if the Federal Government are content to run away from their responsibilities, and if, because of their own incapacity to formulate a defence policy, they are prepared to shelter themselves behind the report of the Imperial Defence Committee, and the reports of endless committees and commissions of inquiry.

Senator McGregor - They cannot even tell us why Captain Crouch surrendered.

Senator GIVENS - If we are to refer in these matters to the Imperial Defence Committee, self-government with us is but a farce. I am not content, nor is the majority of the people I represent content, that the great Defence Department of the Commonwealth should be conducted in any such way. The people of Australia Have ideas of their own, and desire that they should be put into practice. The sooner Ministers recognise that fact the better for themselves. If they do not, the people will soon find a Government who will. When the last Supply Bill was before us, I made some reference to the necessity for the establishment of an Arms and Ammunition factory in Australia. The Minister pooh-poohed the idea, and contended that the cost would be too great, but I say that no cost can be considered too great that is necessary to insure our safety in the hour of danger, and there is absolutely no safety for us in this respect unless we can manufacture our own arms and ammunition. The supply of arms and ammunition that can be kept in stock is necessarily limited, and might possibly not amount to more than would suffice to meet the requirements of a month or two on a war basis should hostilities actually be commenced. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that our communications oversea would be cut off, and we should then be absolutely helpless, notwithstanding the manhood of the nation, unless we were able to arm our own people. There is only one way in which we can be sure of , being able to do that, and that is by the establishment of an arms and ammunition factory of our own. It must be admitted that our provision for defence is farcical if it is not sufficient, and it should be made sufficient at whatever cost. It is somewhat peculiar for a protectionist like the Minister of Defence to contend that we should not establish a local arms and ammunition factory, because it might cost a little more per lb. to manufacture cordite in Australia than to import it, or to make or repair guns in Australia than to import them. I point out that the matter of national defence is one which cannot be governed by considerations of pounds, shillings, and pence ; that no cost can be considered too high to insure our safety in the hour of trial. I object mainly to the fashion which would appear to be coming greatly into vogue in Federal politics of the Government running away from their- responsibilities, and sheltering themselves behind royal commissions on every possible occasion. That has always been the refuge of a Government which have lacked sufficient courage and capacity to tackle any great question on their own. I object for this reason to the appointment of the New Guinea Commission, and to the various Committees, inquiries, and reports in connexion with the Defence Department. Nothing is ever done. The reports are pigeonholed, they have grown to be mountains high, and it would now be a superhuman task for any man to undertake to read them all. Any ideas which the Department of Defence might have had have been covered over with a mass of verbiage. What we require is a plain, straightforward commonsense defence policy, and if the present Minister of Defence is unable to initiate such a policy, the sooner we get a Minister who is capable of doing so the better it will be for the country. My criticism may appear to be somewhat harsh, but I have no desire to be unduly severe upon the Government. My chief desire is to induce them to do what I know the people of Australia desire that they should do. and that is to conduct the government of the Commonwealth, and of New Guinea, in accordance with Australian ideas, and to establish a national system of defence that will be satisfactory to the manhood of Australia. If the Government will do that they can be assured of the support of the country, and of Parliament, and that generous assistance will be given them by Parliament in the passing of the necessary supplies. The Minister of Defence partly promised last session that during the recess he would formulate a defence policy, but the honorable senator has not done so.

Senator Playford - I said that I hoped to be able to do so. but I have not.

Senator GIVENS - That is because the honorable senator instead of tackling the question himself has referred everything to Boards, and to the Imperial Defence Committee.

Senator Playford - I could not think of formulating a defence policy of my own without the advice of experts.

Senator GIVENS - The question has been under consideration since the formation of the Commonwealth. How many years does the honorable senator want? Can he guarantee that we shall be absolutely free from aggression while he keeps his considering' cap on ?

Senator Playford - We are free enough now.

Senator GIVENS - We are free" for the time being, but can the Minister guarantee the continuance of that freedom for one day?

Senator Playford - I think we can.

Senator GIVENS - The man who says he can is living in a fool's paradise. Senator Playford. - Oh, no.

Senator GIVENS - Every man is eating, drinking, and making merry, and when the disaster comes he will say, " Who would have thought it ?" The way in which to avert disaster is to be prepared to fight if ever the need should arise; and at present our promise of safety is a mere sham. We shall have no assurance against disaster unless we prepare to fight our own battles when the time should come. I hold very strong! v the feeling that our defence policy should be a national one, and entirely apart from the Imperial defence policy.

Senator Dobson - Would not an Imperial defence policy suit the honorable senator ?

Senator GIVENS - For Australia we should have a national policy, and if we desire to take part in an Imperial policy, that should be a separate thing.

Senator Staniforth Smith - To work in unison with the Imperial policy?

Senator GIVENS - Certainly. Any Government which fails in its duty to provide a national policy for Australia are. I am sure, courting disaster, and will meet with a very bad set-back from the people.

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