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Thursday, 13 September 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) -- I always listen with, great respect to anything that Senator Smith has to say in regard to Papua, but I do not think that the honorable senator is right in supporting this Bill. I doubt whether there is any country in the world where electoral representation can be found in conjunction with a population of 642 whites, of whom only about 350 are males. Senator Smith quoted figures, which did not give all the information we desire, but showed, at any rate, that in British Guiana there are 16,724 Europeans; in Barbadoes, 199,154 black and white population together ; in Jamaica, 14,6.92 Europeans; and in the Leeward Islands, 5,670 Europeans. In Papua, on the other hand, there are only 642 men, women, and children, and, as we have been told, there are 150 women, we may take it that there are 150 children, which means that there are only 342 males. 302 of whom are miners. We all approve of democracy, or, if we do not, we pretend to. The democratic movement is one which catches hold of everybody ; but it would be democracy run mad to apply the representative principle to Papua under the present circumstances. It had struck me that if the authorities had the slightest gumption they would take care to nominate for the Legislative Council one or two miners, storekeepers, or others in whom the public had confidence; and I now find from Senator Smith that that is exactly what has been done. -That honorable senator informed us that a couple of miners at the head of their business, and thoroughly representative of the other miners-

Senator Staniforth Smith - I said nothing about .their qualifications. I know nothing beyond their names.

Senator DOBSON - I understood Senator Smith to say that the nominations had given satisfaction.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I was then quoting certain remarks by Mr. Deakin.

Senator DOBSON - Then we have it from the Prime Minister that those nominations have given satisfaction. I can hardly imagine the Administrator appointing members without taking care that they are men who stand at the head of the class they represent. This is the first Territory which has fallen to our care, and, judging from the number of miners, it is one that will require the greatest care and skill in developing. I have always understood that the representative principle was not applied in any country until there was a settled population with settled industries ; and we know that a mining population is anything but settled. Let us suppose for one moment that some fifty lawyers, who could not make a living in> Sydney and the other capitals, packed themselves off to New Guinea to take up land, and so forth. Under such circumstances, where would be the sense in applying the representative principle? We might depend upon it that the lawyerswould unconsciously perhaps, make laws to suit themselves. I have no doubt that the miners in Papua are just as honest as are miners elsewhere ; but it mav well be supposed that, either consciously or unconsciously, thev would shape the mining laws to suit their own interests. I cannot see any good in applying democratic principles when practically there is no democracy to which to apply them. It is of vast importance that the Government of this country should be on. a sound and proper basis. I am intensely interested in the question of the liquor traffic, and if I had my way, in spite of the missionaries, I should have prohibition and ask the 300 male whites to sacrifice their drink for the sake of the half million blacks. I know that miners work hard and live hard, and they have a right on that ground to every consideration. But I do not contemplate with satisfaction or confidence the idea of 300 miners practically influencing the Administration of Papua in regard to the liquor traffic.

Senator Millen - Do I understand that the three non-official members are to be non-representative of the white population ?

Senator DOBSON - They are representative now, although they are nominated. What I mean is that there are not enough classes and industries to warrant the application of the elective principle. I see a danger that the miners may regard the liquor traffic, and gambling, and horseracing, it mav be, from their own particular point qf view, and that they will not represent the views of the people whom we hope to see in Papua.

Senator Millen - Have they not the same right to a " Tattersall " as Tasmania?

Senator DOBSON - Yes, if the honorable senator believes in " Tattersall."

Senator Millen - I do not.

Senator DOBSON - Senator Millenhas supplied me with a good argument. As the honorable senator seems to be "a Tattersall " man, I ask him whether he would like to see the population of Melbourne governed by Mr. Judkins, Mr. Worrall, and men of that sort ? I do not say that these gentlemen have not done a great amount of good. I admire their work, and hope they will not cease from it until they have secured some amendment of our wretched gambling and licensing laws. What I ask Senator Millen is whether he would like to see a city like Melbourne represented by one or two classes ? We desire to lay the foundation of good laws for Papua and the population we hope to see there in the future. In the circumstances of a new Territory like this, even more attention has to be given to the laws than in a settled country, because the laws in such a place as. Papua can do more good, and may do more harm. The Constitution is a very fair one, and I do not see how we can accord representative .government now without doing more harm than good.

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