17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Answers to questions Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 are not yet to hand. I a in making arrangements for the- more expeditious handling -of questions asked on notice in this chamber.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
Have any plans been made to retain for the benefit of adult education in Australia, the staff and organization of the present Army Education Service?
– This matter is being considered by the Government but no specific plans have yet .been made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for “Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works and Housing has furnished the following information: -
– On the 25th July Senator Mattner referred to wheat for stock feed. I now advise the honorable senator that the Government is at present conferring with the Australian Wheat Board regarding the release of wheat in South Australia for stock feeding.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Debate resumed from the 26th July (vide page 4598), on motion by Senator Collings -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– When I was granted leave to continue my remarks, I was dealing with the competition which settlers in the Territories, particularly those engaged in the production of copra, will probably be faced with when they resume their operations. In the past, their keenest competition came from the Philippines. With the reduction of the period of indenture service to one year, and the increased costs involved in providing extra rations for native labour which will inevitably be greater than they were in pre-war days, the question naturally arises who will carry the additional costs? If we wish to encourage white settlers in the Territories and enable them to carry on operations, it will be necessary to assist them, possibly in the form of a bounty on production. I suggest that the white settlers in the Territories should also be given representation on the proposed control board.
I shall now deal with, native labour and the much-abused indenture system. Apparently, that ill-fated word “indenture “ has caused all the fuss and talk about exploitation of the natives; but such fuss is nothing more than a storm in a tea-cup. I believe that, had the ordinance been entitled “ The NativeWorkers Protection Ordinance”, which, in effect, it is, instead of “ The Native Labour Ordinance “, no one would have any objection to the use of the word “ indenture “. The indenture system is not perfect; but it was the best that could be devised in the circumstances. It has been in practice for many years, and, on the whole, has worked quite well. The system is absolutely voluntary. Any one who studies the New Guinea Handbook issued by the Government in 1937 will see that there was no compulsion under the system. Conscription of native labour was not introduced until the Army displaced the civil administration in Papua in February, 1942; and that step, of course, was due to the exigencies of war. I want honorable senators to keep clearly in mind that there was never any compulsion in the indenture system. It was voluntary. Before any one raises the cry of “ Slavery “ let him make a thorough study of the Native Labour Ordinance of the Territory of Papua. He will then see that the whole ordinance is drafted to protect native interests. The ordinance is almost foolproof. The fact that the Papuan Administration has always been branded as too pro-native shows how faithful the Administration has been to its great trust.
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– by leave - read a copy of the statement made in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) (vide page 4687), laid on the table the following paper: -
The War - Future Strength andRole of Australian Forces and their Operational Control - Ministerial Statement, 27th July, 1945. and moved -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Foll) adjourned.
– No one has been able to devise for Papua and New Guinea a system more suitable to existing conditions than is the indenture system which, I say emphatically, never meant enforced labour. Indeed, the natives of those Territories enjoy greater freedom to accept or reject employment than we in this country enjoy. That is because they are not under the same economic necessity to work as we are.
I wish now to refer to the health of the natives. It has been proved that the health of indentured natives in Papua and New Guinea is far better than that of natives living under native conditions in the villages. The reason is clear. Each native must be medically examined at the time of his indenture; he must have any necessary medical attention during the period of his employment; he gets better food and, at the conclusion of his indenture period, he is again medically examined. The deathrate among indentured native labourers has fallen steadily year by year as the following figures show : -
Those are the latest figures available. The death-rate among indentured labourers in Papua is said to be lower than in any other Pacific area. The Administration in both Territories has always done its utmost with the limited financial resources at its disposal. Its officers confirm the reports of missionaries and settlers that the natives have only the most elementary ideas of health and hygiene. They are full of superstitions, and they practise sorcery and witchcraft. Left to themselves their general health conditions are deplorable. Great efforts have been made, particularly by medical missionaries and officers of the
Administration, to improve their conditions. Their task is difficult because many of the villages are visited only once a year, whilst no visits at all are paid to uncontrolled areas. The aim has been to teach a few of the more intelligent natives some of the elementary rules of hygiene and first aid. These trainees are then given a supply of certain drugs and equipment with which to carry on their work. The system £s> not very satisfactory, and in many instances the natives lapse into superstition and native practices, if not kept under constant supervision.
At a trades and labour conference some time ago the following motion was discussed : “ That all lands not reserved for Government use should be restored to the natives “. The subject of land tenure in Papua is interesting. That Territory consists of 58,000,000 acres of which the natives own about 57,000,000 acres. Only a little over 1,000,000 acres has been bought from the natives, and most of that area is held as Grown land or leasehold land. Only 24,000 acres of the whole of Papua is freehold land. That means that the proportion of freehold to native land in Papua is 1 to 2,375. From the outset the policy of the Administration in both Papua and New Guinea has been to protect the interests of the natives in respect of land and property. In the Mandated Territory of New Guinea the only freehold land is chat which was alienated during the German occupation. We speak of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, but [ wonder if we own it. It is true that Australia was given a mandate over that portion of New Guinea by the League of Nations, but it will be interesting to see what future conferences of the United Nations will decide and the effect of such decisions on our trusteeship of that portion of New Guinea. No portion of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea has been alienated since Australia was given a mandate in 1920. Indeed, it is impossible for private interests to :buy any land there. The Administration itself cannot buy land from natives unless they wish to sell it. Therefore, the talk about exploitation of the natives, and statements that we should return all native land to them, are groundless, as those figures prove. [Extension of time granted.’] I have received many letters recently from settlers, principally returned soldiers, who took over expropriated properties, dealing with their future prospects in the Territories. All of these men served in the war of 1914-18, and some of them are fighting in this war, though most of them are now in Australia. Their average age would be about 60. They are very concerned about the future. I should like to read an extract from a letter I have received from one of them who settled at Bougainville in 1919, where, after many ups and downs, he succeeded in establishing himself. Dealing with this bill, he writes -
On the policy as at present indicated, it appears that our assets will be turned into insurmountable liabilities unless some compensatory provision be made to enable planters to meet the increased costs and to show a margin of profit appropriate to New Guinea conditions.
In the absence of some such favorable factor on the other side of the account, we are faced with extinction of our assets and of the results of the best part of our lives spent in the Territory. We will also be placed at a grave disadvantage in rehabilitating ourselves elsewhere at this stage of our lives. . . .
In this connexion I would like to say to you, sir, that I became a planter in New Guinea, not with the idea of making large profits out of the country in the form of dividends, but because the life appealed to me and because I desired to make a home on the land there for myself and my family. I succeeded in making a reasonably good home there and in establishing friendly co-operation with my labour. The fact that this feeling and cooperation did exist is borne out by our association during practically a year under Japanese occupation
Now I appear to be threatened with elimination.
Although this man is over 60 years of age, he remained on his property at Bougainville until December, 1942, when he was compulsorily evacuated as the Japanese approached that area. With 60 other white settlers, he was evacuated in a submarine, and has since been living in Australia. Who knows what sort of a mess these properties will be in, particularly the plantations, when these people return? Naturally, the men are very worried about the future. This bill does not help them very much. There is no mention in the bill itself of the property rights of the white settlers who had to abandon their properties owing to the Japanese invasion.
The schedule in the bill dealing with the oath to be taken by the Administrator provides -
I, A.B., do swear that I will well and truly servo our Sovereign Lord the King in the office of Administrator (or Acting or Deputy Administrator) of the Territory of Papua-Ne.w Guinea, and I will do right to all manner of people according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will : So help me God.
I agree absolutely with every word of that oath; but clause 11 provides that what the Minister considers to be right, and not what the Administrator himself considers to be right, will be paramount. That clause reads -
The Administrator shall exercise, and perform all the powers and functions that belong to. his office according to the tenor of his Commission and according to such instructions as are from time to time given to him by the Minister.
Under that clause the Administrator will not be given very much liberty of action.
Some discussion has taken place recently with regard to the defence of countries in the Pacific, particularly with regard to the establishment of bases which our great ally, the United States of America, may desire to set up in territories other than those which it now controls in the Pacific. Personally, I should welcome the establishment by the United States of America of bases in any of these territories. I can see that nothing but good would result therefrom. I hope that we shall support whole-heartedly any action that may be taken by the United States of America to establish bases in New Guinea, the Solomons, the Admiralty Islands, the Marshall Islands, or any other islands in the Pacific. “We should be only too pleased to help the United States in that respect, because, in view of our small population, it is almost impossible for us to defend not only Australia, but also .the Territories for which we are responsible, without the aid of our great ally, whose people speak the same language, and have inherited the same traditions as ourselves, having sprung from a common stock. I sincerely hope that the English-speaking people throughout the world will be drawn closer together in the future.
I should like now to summarize the measure. It is becoming increasingly evident that the future security of Australia may depend very largely upon a vigorous, though prudent, policy of development in Papua and New Guinea. I refer now to commercial, rather than political, development. The development of a new country is impossible without settlers, and settlers can be encouraged only by the assurance of development. The two must go hand in hand; tout when considering any development we propose to undertake in these Territories, we must bear in mind that the interests and welfare of the native races must be our first and paramount care. Let us be frank and admit that although we may theorize about the good, or bad, effects of civilization upon native peoples, and although we may issue volumes of blather about the so-called exploitation of the natives, the plain facts are : First , if we do not settle and develop these Territories some one else will do so, and the consequences could be fatal to Australia; and, secondly, if some other authority takes over these Territories the natives probably will receive a worse deal than they receive from us. If there is any real feeling behind our vocal appreciation of the natives - and. wonderful sentiments have been expressed, on this subject, in the main by people who do not really care two hoots about the natives - we should get busy and act. The quickest and most effective way to get into action is to arrange immediately for- the return of the civil administration and of those people whose good work, was interrupted by the war. We should do all we can to help them to get on with the job. After all, they are the only ones that really know how to go about it, and if we gave them a little help in place of unwarranted and ignorant criticism, we should be doing a good turn both to the natives and to Australia.
– I have much pleasure in supporting this bill and I congratulate my friend the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) for having introduced it. The United Nations Conference at San Francisco discussed amongst many other things trusteeship. We are proud that our representative, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), took a firm stand on the matter of trusteeship and eventually, I think, forced a compromise thereon. The Minister for External Territories has received many letters from all sections of the people, from all religious denominations, and from authorities of Papua and New Guinea complimenting him on this bill. It is particularly pleasant to-day in view of what happened yesterday in Great Britain, that we should be doing something practical to bring about the New Order.
– What happened in Great Britain yesterday is a forerunner of what will happen to this Government next year.
– I have hitherto credited the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Foll) with intelligence, but evidently I have been mistaken. If he is satisfied with what happened to the British Government and with the defeat of the Conservative party in Great Britain, he is the only Liberal that is. The opinions of the honorable gentleman have radically changed since yesterday. That, however, is beside the point. The Minister for External Territories has done something practical by bringing down this bill. It is- a simple bill. It i.s neither provided nor suggested that the natives should have complete independence. That is quite impossible.
– Utterly impossible !
– Utterly ! I listened to the honorable senator for an hour and a half and I do not yet know whether he is in favour of or against the bill. I agree with him that it is utterly impossible to give the natives of New Guinea and Papua complete independence. From New Guinea to the Philippines there are natives in all stages of development. The Filipinos are quite capable of complete selfgovernment. Midway between them and the natives of New Guinea and Papua we have the Andaman Islanders, who are capable of a measure of self-government. The result of the British general elections shows that the British people, like the Australian people, are determined that, having got rid of the Fascists in Europe, they shall get rid of the Fascists at home. We are determined that this war shall not have been fought in vain. It is of no use to beat about the bush. The Japanese have a strong case in their cry “ Asia for the Asiatics ! “ Dr. Russo, a great authority on Japan, broadcasting over station 2EO, said that the Japanese propaganda was much stronger than we were prepared to admit. The only way to show that we shall not go back to the status quo is by altering the ruling conditions. In New Guinea and Papua we are at least trying to do something to improve the conditions of the natives. I may have something to say about trusteeship later. It is sufficient to say now that this bill is quite simple. It deals with Papua and that part of New Guinea from which the Japanese have been expelled. It provides for one civil administration to cover both Territories, for the time being, and probably until six months after the end of the war. Previously there were two administrations, one in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and the other in Papua. The Governor-General - I take it that that means the Minister - will be in supreme control. In the Territories there were what are known as legislative councils. They cannot be restored at present, because the settlers have left and there is no one to elect a legislative council. When the Japanese invaded Papua in 1942 the settlers either had to fight or clear out. It was essential that military law be instituted. Military law has been in existence ever since. This bill provides that a form of civil administration shall replace the military rule that has existed since 1942. The main object of the bill is to ensure that the natives shall have a better deal than they have had. In the past a native could be kept away from his village for seven years on indenture. It is obvious that, after seven years’ absence, when he went back, he was out of touch with the affairs of the village and was lost to his own people. The result was that he had to return to work for his old boss or a new one. Any one knowing anything about the conditions in the Territories would know that there were professional recruiters of native labour. It is of no use to say that the natives understood. Many of them did not. They knew practically no English. By means of signs or pidgin English they were induced to enter contracts that many of. them did not understand. I think the wages were 5s. a month in New Guinea and 10s. in Papua. The bill provides that the wage shall be increased to 15s. a month. It also provides that the age at which natives may be indentured shall be increased from fourteen to sixteen years. I believe some natives have been indentured at the age of twelve years. The bill also provides that the penalties that may be imposed! upon natives for various acts shall be less severe. For having been absent without leave, a native, hitherto, could be, and almost invariably was, sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment. Sometimes the native was fined an amount out of all proportion to the offence committed.
– And out of all proportion to his earning capacity.
– Yes. A native that used abusive language to his boss was often fined £5. Remember that his monthly wage was only 5s. It is provided that a new court shall be set up to deal with the conditions governing the natives. I do not think that in the past there were such provisions as compensation. Now there will be compensation to relatives in the event of death and to the native himself in the event of injury. I take it that later the whole question of the supply of commodities produced by the natives, the conditions they are produced under and their destination will also be dealt with. I hope that we shall show such firms as W. R. Carpenter and Company Limited and Burns Philp and Company Limited that we are not fighting this war to put the Japanese out of the Territories merely for the purpose of putting those companies back in. This bill sets an example to the world. It shows that our representatives at the San Francisco Conference were not talking merely for the sake of talking, and I hope that, as the war recedes further from our shores, other measures in the pattern of this one, will be passed not only in this country but also in Great Britain where it now appears certain a Labour administration will be in office.
There must be a “new deal” for the natives of the Pacific Islands as well as for the peoples of Europe. Whatever happened in Papua and New Guinea at the time of the Japanese invasion - whether some of the natives ran away from the white people or not - it cannot be denied- that a large number of them ran away in Malaya, and would not even allow the Chinese to fight for them. In the past, some members of the “ old school tie” brigade have treated the natives as animals^ and spoken to them as one would not even speak to a dog. I believe that this measure is only the first gesture, and that it will be followed by many more equally important enactments, effecting not only the Pacific races, but also the European peoples. This Government is determined that some things at least must begin anew. This is a step in that direction. When speaking in this chamber recently, Senator Gibson asked by way of interjection, “What is the new order?” I point out that it was the friends of honorable senators opposite who first coined the phrase “’ new order “. The great masses of the people of the world are determined not only that there shall not be any more wars, but also that the root causes of war shall be removed. I regret that our foreign policy has not yet been sufficiently elucidated to indicate exactly what we propose to do. I am inclined to agree with Senator Sampson that if the Americans want naval bases in the islands to the north of this country, they should have them ; but it seems to me that the Americans fighting in the Pacific want all they can get, including the control of oil resources. There is no real desire on their part that the Australians should participate in the reconquest of valuable oil-bearing territories. The British, too, want all they can get, but they want. Australia’s assistance as well.
Honorable senators opposite do not appear to know exactly what they want. In one breath they say that Australian troops should be playing their part side by side with the Americans in the advance towards Japan, and in another, they ask that thousands and thousands of men be released from the services because the home front is being neglected. Labour’s policy is developing apace, and this morning I am delighted with the situation generally. As I have said, this measure is merely a beginning. It is the forerunner of many others which will be passed in Australia and in Great Britain, to ensure that all peoples of the world shall be given a “ fair go “. It is of no use to try to evade the issue. There is no going back The peoples who helped us to win the last war, but received no consideration from the victors when the war was over, must not be subjected to the same treatment on this occasion. We must know where we are heading in Pacific affairs. I ask Senator ‘Sampson, who seems to have made some sort of a study of this matter, what does he suggest should be done with the natives of New Guinea and Papua? Are they to be treated as they were before the war? What is to happen to the Netherlands East Indies?
– We do not own the Netherlands East Indies.
– We own them indirectly as the honorable senator would realize if he knew anything about the control of oil resources in those islands. The Shell Oil Company is associated with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the majority of the shares in which are held by the British Government. Territories of themselves, have little significance. What counts is what is in those territories. This war has shown clearly that it is not sufficient for us to say, “ We shall beat the Japanese, and when they have been chased from the Pacific islands, conditions in those islands will be restored to their previous state”. The problem cannot be solved in that way. Apparently, some honorable senators opposite at least wish to see the old order restored. The sooner they realize that that is not possible, the better. If the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Foll) is satisfied with what took place in New Guinea and Papua prior to the war, that is his business; but my view is that we must get into line with the progressive nations of the world.
I hope that later the scope of this legislation will be extended to provide compensation for those people who have been dispossessed, and that the public servants will return to their former employment in these Territories and be given jobs at least as good as they had before. We must ensure that organizations such as Burns Philp and Company Limited, W. R. Carpenter and Company Limited, and other-
– What is wrong with them?
– Our soldiers have not been fighting to clear Papua and New Guinea of the Japanese merely to enable these people to return and continue their exploitation of the natives.
– The honorable senator is hopeless.
– From the point of view of the honorable senator, yes; but if Senator Sampson imagines for a moment that pre-war conditions in Papua and New Guinea are to be restored he will be sadly disillusioned. Although I listened intently to the honorable senator’s speech on this measure, I was unable to decide whether he was in favour of it or against it. He did not say one word in eulogy of the Minister who was responsible for its introduction. On the contrary, the honorable senator by implication, criticized the Minister.
– It is neither a good bill nor a bad bill.
– The Bible says-
Because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
We must declare ourselves either with the people who produce the wealth, or with those who exploit it. Senator Sampson spoke for an hour and a half on a measure which apparently he believes is neither good nor bad. That is hardly a tribute to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Foll) who gave the honorable senator an opportunity to speak on hehalf of the Opposition on this measure.
– Parts of it are good and parts of it are bad.
– But the honorable senator did not say which parts were good and which parts were bad.
– Can Senator Grant cite some examples of exploitation of native labour?
– Yesterday, we considered a measure to provide drought relief for wheat-growers. Not many years ago there was so much grain in store that the rats and mice were eating it. This anomalous state of affairs is due entirely to the system of exploitation under which the people of the world produce more than they are able to buy. We have been an imperialistic nation, and to-day the imperialistic nations of the world are ‘fighting one another. The Japanese are fighting for territories, .the occupation of which would enable them to expand as a race. The Germans fought with the same purpose. If we are to form a barrier against the Japanese, we can do it only by inculcating in the native races which occupy the strategically important islands to the north of this country the belief that they are receiving better treatment from us, even under British Imperialism, than they would receive from the Japanese-
– That is what we are endeavouring to do.
– The honorable senator is the greatest imperialist that I know. If he knows what he is endeavouring to do he is the only honorable senator on the Opposition benches who has that knowledge. I have listened to him on many occasions during the last eighteen months, but I never know which side he is on. This is an excellent bill, in line with the foreign policy of the Australian Government. That policy has not been fully developed but probably it is as fully developed as is the foreign policy of any other country. There is no foreign policy in Europe to-day. In “the treatment of native races, Australia is taking the lead. In this bill Australia is saying that these Territories in -the Pacific are something more than places to be exploited by Burns Philp and Company Limited and William Carpenter and Company Limited. We are saying that, step by step, we intend to educate the natives and improve their economic standard. As we go farther towards Japan, I hope that the influence of Australia will be felt in other portions of the Pacific. If that be not so, the war will have been fought in vain. When we reflect that hundreds of thousands of natives said before the war, “ We do not care whether or not the British come in; they are not any good anyhow”, we have no reason for pride. That is what happened in Malaya. I do not say that it happened in Papua or New Guinea, but we must take cognizance of facts. Although Great Britain has controlled Hongkong for 100 years, hundreds of natives still sleep in the streets. At the same time, in the bestdistricts of Hongkong there are mansions, every stone in which was carried to its place on the backs of Chinese coolies. Can we say that the three or four opium wars in which Great Britain has engaged were justified? If we think that after the war the world will revert to the same conditions as before the war we are mistaken. I hope to make some more remarks on this subject when the report of the United Nations Conference at San Francisco comes before us.
I again compliment the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) on the introduction of this bill, which I believe is an example to the world, in that it shows that Australia is trying to do externally what it is endeavouring to do internally. Within Australia the Government is doing its best to eradicate the causes of war by improving the conditions of the people, but every proposal that is submitted to the Parliament is opposed by honorable senators opposite. Only recently the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said that the Government’s proposals in respect of airlines would ruin Australia. Honorable senators are probably aware that during the recent election campaign in Great Britain the electors were told by anti-Labour forces that if they wanted to send capital out of the country they should elect a Labour government, which would follow the example of Labour governments in Australia and New Zealand and socialize everything. Where that capital would be sent I do not know. Probably they had in mind that it would be sent to the North Pole. The Labour party has the faults to which human flesh is heir, but, despite its faults, it is the only party which is dealing with the fundamental causes of war. The Labour party in Australia is determined that, as far as possible, it will eradicate the causes of war both within Australia and in the external territories under its control. I have pleasure in supporting the bill and regret that Senator Sampson did not say that he, too, would support it. The honorable senator said that it is half good and half bad. I say that it is all good and I hope that after another six months legislation will be introduced to restore full civil administration in these Territories. The Labour party believes in civil administration and hopes that the time will soon come when the military control of Papua and Kew Guinea have been removed. The Minister for External Territories is to be commended on the introduction of this bill.
.- The object of this bill is to provide for the provisional administration of Papua and New Guinea under one administrator, one Legislative Council, one judiciary and one public service. Prior to the war, the amalgamation of the two Territories, though very desirable, was not possible as Papua was Commonwealth territory, whilst New Guinea was a mandated territory controlled under trust from the League of Nations. The Government is quite right in introducing legislation with the object of uniting these two Territories which are so strategically important for the defence of the Commonwealth. For the duration of the war and six months afterwards this provisional administration will function. What will happen then? Provisional arrangements’ usually become permanent. In gathering material for this bill, did the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) explore every avenue of information to ascertain what is best for the future development of these rich territories, or had he in mind only the betterment of the natives? When in doubt about what action to take in respect to a matter on which there are divergent opinions, I always hear both sides of the argument. The truth has been found between the extremes. There are conflicting opinions about the treatment of the natives. One, expressed by officials and planters, is that the natives are not ill-treated or exploited. The other opinion, expressed, by a Sydney University professor and a section of the missionaries, although not all of them, is the opposite. Apparently, the Minister has accepted the latter version. The truth lies somewhere between the two views. A ‘revision of some of the ordinances, as recommended by the special committee in 1933 by Brigadier-General
McNicoll, the Administrator of New Guinea, would seem to meet the case. 1 am told that these recommendations conform closely to the Papuan Administration which, under the late Sir Hubert Murray, is regarded? in other countries as almost ideal. The loyal, spontaneous assistance given by Papuans in this war bears that out. In many instances the New Guinea natives responded to the call for help to drive the Japanese out of their country. It would appear that this legislation is preliminary to the complete emancipation of 2,000,000 semi-civilized and .uncivilized natives speaking many different dialects. Do they want to live a life according to the white man’s standard? My information is that they would prefer to follow their forefathers’ leisurely mode of living, retaining their tribal customs and special codes of discipline. The mollycoddling of those who after their indenture service return to their tribal villages may have an unsettling effect on other natives. Anything that can be done to improve the health of the natives will prove of great benefit to the present and future population of these territories. I am a member of the Public Works Committee, which is investigating a .proposal to build a school for tropical diseases in the Sydney University grounds. The object is to train medical students, who, in turn, will pass on their knowledge to such persons, both whites and natives, as are able and willing to work to improve the health of the people in the Territories. The evidence given shows an alarming deathrate, due to primitive hygiene and reluctance in eradicating malaria mosquitoes from their breeding localities. The health of the future generations of the native population has a bearing on the Commonwealth’s obligation to defend these Territories. It is conceivable that native battalions will be maintained and trained as auxiliaries to white garrison troops. That, of course, is in the dim, distant future. A white population is necessary if we are to hold Papua and New Guinea. These Territories, particularly the rich Markham Valley, are very suitable for the .production of copra, rubber, soya beans’, coffee and tea. Gold-mining in New Guinea has been, and can still further be, developed, but it does not require the same amount of indenture labour as do other industries. Returned soldiers, who comprise 90 per cent, of the planters, have worked the formerly German-owned plantations for nearly 25 years. That they have just been able to make both ends meet, in spite of the fluctuating world price of copra, is an answer to the charge that they have exploited the natives. “When this ‘bill becomes law, the added cost of production will be so great that these settlers will be unable to carry on without a substantial bounty or subsidy. These “ diggers “ cannot be expected to pay for the Government policy of ‘a “ new order “ for native labour. In the end, the Australian taxpayer will have to pay. At an early date, the Parliament will deal with a bill for settling servicemen of this war on the land. No doubt, the responsible Minister will state that the policy is to place them on land where they can make a living. New Guinea is suitable for settlement. What hope will ex-servicemen of this war have if they try to extract from the soil commodities such as I have mentioned ? They will not risk the hardships, isolation, and over-burdening cost of native labour. In an attempt to keep in step with the pronouncements of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) at San Francisco concerning the betterment of native races, the Government has lost all- sense of balance between a fair deal to the natives and the encouragement of white men to settle and develop these two rich Territories. I may have more to say when the committee stage is reached.
– I support the bill, which indicates the attitude to be adopted by the Australian Government in the treatment of native races in Territories’ under its jurisdiction. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) and those associated with him. are to be complimented on the introduction of this measure, which sets out the policy to be followed in the treatment of the native population of Papua and New Guinea. The story of the treatment of native peoples throughout the world is a story of exploitation, greed and cruelty, of which the white race has no reason to be proud. Senator Brand suggested that the Territories of
Papua and New Guinea should be developed in our interests. I would ‘be sorry, and I believe that honorable senators generally would be sorry, if future historians could charge the Australian Government and people with having exploited native labour in the way that it has been exploited in other parts of the world. Future Australian citizens would not be proud of such a record. We remember the atrocities perpetrated by the white man in the ‘Congo in his search for rubber. We have had a sorry past in our own country, because the earliest settlers regarded the aborigines as a nuisance, and were not particular in what manner they destroyed them. The erroneous impression that native races are not intelligent is far too widespread. Evidence is not wanting that given the opportunity the aborigines possess unsuspected powers of intellect. Aborigines in certain parts of Australia have revealed artistic talents. In providing for the protection of the rights of natives in Papua and New Guinea, we are demonstrating to the world that the Australian people are prepared to give to them every opportunity to work out their own ideas. Under the bill, the natives will be enabled to develop their lands. The bill limits the proportion of the male population of a village who may be enlisted for indenture service. This will enable a greater proportion than hitherto to remain in the villages, and cultivate the village land. It is also provided that a native must be returned at the expense of his employer to his own village within a specified time. As Senator Grant has pointed out, when these children of nature are taken away from their natural surroundings and their own people and associate with white people for a certain number of years, they tend to lose their natural ideals, and often find themselves to be almost strangers on their return to their villages. In their absence a new generation has practically grown up in the villages. In such circumstances they are forced to return to their previous employment. This provision will encourage the natives to cultivate their tribal traditions and customs. Of course, all steps will be taken to prevent « recurrence of cannibalism which existed in the past among certain tribes in New
Guinea. We recall the great work performed by the missionaries in their attempts to civilize the natives and to make known to them the Christian religion. Every opportunity will be provided for missionaries to return to these Territories. Unfortunately, it has been alleged that commercial interests have turned to their own advantage the endeavours of the missionaries. Sufficient provision is made under the bill to prevent that evil. The fact that we are laying down certain codes to govern tho working conditions of the natives, providing for a 44!-hour week, increased wages and improved conditions of employment may appear, to some people, to oe fantastic. Of course, some planters will oppose these reforms on the ground that the increased costs involved will prevent them from making profit. However, when it was proposed to abolish kanaka labour on the sugar-fields of Queensland, the same cry was raised by commercial interests, hut since those days white people have been producing sugar nt a profit. I have no doubt that much the same story will be told with respect 10 the development of Papua and New Guinea. By and large, the bill realizes the great obligation that rests upon the people of Australia as the custodians of these lands, and will be an inspiration to other countries which may be entrusted with the control and care of natives in other islands in the Pacific. We know how the natives were treated when they were under the control of a foreign country.. I am proud of the fact that it cannot be said that Australia has attempted to exploit the natives of Papua and New Guinea or to destroy them. The bill provides that while a native is working for a white master, he shall be employed under good conditions, and, at the same time, be given an opportunity to develop in accordance with native ideas. I support the measure.
– I propose to make only a brief comment with which I am sure Senator Sheehan will agree. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), when speaking on this measure in the House of Representatives, referred at some length to native affairs, and expressed concern for the future welfare of the natives of Papua and New Guinea. Partly as the result of reading his remarks, I asked a question through the Minister representing the Prime Minister in this chamber (Senator Keane) concerning the care of our aborigines. I thought it opportune to remind the Senate that our aborigines also are worthy of some consideration. Indeed, they have prior claim for such consideration over the natives of newly acquired territories. I know that the care of the aborigines is primarily a State matter, and that the unfortunte handling of the last referendum prevented the people from examining this problem in its proper perspective. However, the time has arrived when, in order to support the claims advanced by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) at the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco, and also to preserve our own credit, the Commonwealth should arrive at some understanding on the matter with the States. Visitors to Australia who travel by the trans-Australian railway and see apparently badly neglected aborigines along the route would hardly commend our administration. It will be interesting to watch developments in this respect under the new system of control proposed for the Northern Territory where the Commonwealth has full control over aborigines. Everybody agrees that the time has arrived when we require a national policy for the control of the aborigines.
– I had hoped that the Government would give us a more complete picture of the plans it has in mind for the control . of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. My knowledge of those Territories is too limited to enable me to discuss in detail the part which the natives should play in their development, and to what degree the control of those Territories will affect our defence commitments in the future. I ask therefore these questions: What part will these Territories play in our defence programme? What is the view of the anthropologist, who has very decided views on the development of the natives? How do we reconcile the views of the planter, the settler and the gold-miner, many of whom served in the war of 1914-18 ? What is the attitude of the missionaries? And most important, what is the attitude of the natives themselves? As Senator Sampson has pointed out the inhabitants of New Guinea are not one nation. They comprise innumerable tribes, speaking different dialects. The dialect of one tribe may not be known to a tribe living only 20 miles away. The natives live in innumerable small villages, each of which has its own code of law and honour. The climate of Territories is most varied. Its contours cover a great variety of soils, including plains, highlands and towering mountains. Vast tracts of the country are well watered, and in some areas the native population is very dense. I had hoped, therefore, that the Government would have indicated more specifically its plans for the future. Something has been said with respect to the previous civil administration. I pay tribute to the civil administration, particularly in Papua, the settlers, and the gallantry of district officers. Unfortunately, certain members of the House of Representatives have seen fit, unworthily in my view, to impugn the courage of the settlers. The success of our armed forces in 1942 was due largely to the great knowledge and assistance made available to us by the settlers. As a body they stuck to their guns. Any suggestion that they ran away from the enemy is false. If these Territories are to be properly developed, the customs and habits of the- natives must necessarily undergo changes.
I had hoped that Government supporters would tell us their idea of how the conditions of the natives are to be improved. Under what system will they be educated? How will they fit into the scheme of things? I frankly admit that I do not know. If New Guinea is to be administered according to the Government’s way of thinking, what will happen to the native? How long will it take, with all the grand ideas we have, to change the native into a person with a national outlook as far as New Guinea is concerned ? Much has been made of raising the native’s wages, but that will not have a great effect on him. His out- look is far different from ours. His mind is not concerned with monetary values. I am convinced, from the little I know of the natives, that their outlook on life is that they want a system of work and play. They have had it, and it has operated admirably. I do not believe that a system under which the natives will be tied down to a set number of hours and fixed conditions will function properly. Food, fishing and dancing are what the native wants. It is a remarkable outlook on life, but perhaps we whites could learn a lot from the natives. The attitude to life of the tribes I came in contact with fascinated me. I wonder if our system is not a little wrong, and if there is not a great deal that the native can teach us. It gives one cause for very serious thought. However, the question is how are we to develop the country? Is it to be developed in an agricultural sense? Is it to be developed in a mining sense? Are we to have large numbers of white people in the islands? If we are, how are they to live? What are they to grow? Vast areas are admirably suited for sugar production, but it is not possible to develop sugar plantations there so long as the existing sugar regulations apply in Australia. Copra seems to be the staple product, but the price of copra varies considerably. The settlers, who are chiefly returned soldiers, have submitted their cost of production to examination. Their figures will bear the closest investigation that any one cares to make. Any one who does examine them will see that if the wages and conditions specified for the natives in this hill are enforced, the price of copra must rise. If the Government, in its wisdom, believes that it has the responsibility to increase the wages and improve the conditions of the natives by statutory act, it has an equal responsibility to bear some of the cost. The cost cannot be borne wholly and solely by the settlers, at least not in the pioneering days, and if we are to regard New Guinea as one of the outposts of our defence system, a share of the cost must be met by the people of Australia. I do not believe that it will be possible for many generations for the natives adequately to defend themselves. -I never want to see another war, but that does not blind me to its possibility. The defence of New Guinea is linked with the defence of Australia. It is, as it were, our front line. Perhaps, the greatest development of New Guinea will come in the near future if we adopt sound methods of defence.
I think the Australian Government needs a much broader outlook on the colonial empire of which New Guinea is a part. “We have relied upon’ the British Government and its colonial policy as a guide for our own, but the islands are our Territories, and I visualize the time when this Government, or a succeeding government, will institute a colonial office to deal with the colonization of our Territories. With all due deference to honorable senators, I suppose, if they were frank, they would admit that they know less about the subject of this bill than about the subject of any other bill that has been brought into this House. I say that without reflecting on any one, because, before the war, very few of us took any interest in our outlying territories. We did not have to worry about them. We have not been a colonizing people so far. Now we have these areas to administer, we shall have to have a colonial office for that purpose. I hope that in the very near future the Territory will be represented in this Parliament as is the Northern Territory. That would be a wise step and I think it will have to be taken. Certainly we shall have to lay down a definite policy for our island possessions. I hope that in the near future the Government will see its way clear to provide facilities for members of Parliament to visit the islands, because it i.s only by personal contact with the problems that the necessary knowledge can be gained. Even one visit is not sufficient to form an accurate opinion on what we should do.
I pay tribute to the late ‘Sir Hubert Murray, his predecessor Sir William Macgregor, and Mr. Leonard Murray for the great work they have done for the natives. We all know that the principles outlined by Sir Hubert Murray have been accepted’ as the finest upon which native peoples can be treated. The natives bad a wonderful regard for Sir Hubert Murray. If he erred at all he erred on the side of the natives. We sometimes hear harsh criticism of what may have gone on or is alleged to have gone on in New Guinea and Papua. I say that if hardships were imposed they were unknown to Sir Hubert Murray, because he did more to rectify abuses and ill-treatment of the natives than probably any other man associated with them. I sincerely hope the Minister will ensure that our administration of the islands will not be centralized too much in Canberra. The Murray report is very illuminating in that respect. The administrators must be allowed a fair amount of freedom and must not be tied down by too much Canberra red tape. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) told the United Nations conference at San Francisco that Australia intended to show the way to the world in regard to the treatment of dependent peoples. I hope our territorial administration will lead the world, but I am afraid that it may be a pious hope. Hopes have to bt backed up by sound administrative acts. It is very easy to say what we hope to do. Let us back up our hopes with action and let us see that that action does not benefit only one section. I trust that the action will represent the considered opinion of every one with knowledge of what should be done.
I realize that the proposed1 treatment of the natives will cost a considerable sum of money if put into operation. The white population in the island Territories will not be able to carry the burden. We have to face the fact that they must be subsidized. If the improvement intended is to be effected it will cost this country money. Very little is said in the bill about who is to provide the money or the source from which it will come. This bill I believe is a pious hope. I do not agree with some of its proposals. Let us visit the islands to see things- at first hand. This is a matter that we should not talk about and then dismiss from our minds. The islands will be an obligation upon us for all time. One honorable senator has said that to-day we are laying the foundation of a “ new order “. That, of course, sounds very nice; but surely the widely accepted necessity for a “ new order “ is not to be taken as an indication tha t everything we have done in the past is wrong. It is true that in the past mistakes have been made. Mistakes are always made when we are dealing with matters for the first time; but I consider that our past administration of these Territories has been excellent. We should not scrap that administration entirely, but should use it as a foundation on which to build in the future.
– Few honorable senators are in a position to deal adequately with the subject-matter of this legislation. Most of us have only a general knowledge of the problems involved. Therefore, we can only hope that the Government, in preparing this important bill, sought all available expert advice. I presume that that was done, and that men who have had vast experience of administration of these Territories have been consulted. Some years ago, with Senator Crawford, who was then a Minister, I spent some weeks in these Territories. One thing that impressed me more than anything else was the earnestness and devotion to duty of those charged with the administration. Many of them had not had long experience in that work, but one could not help noticing their honest desire to carry out their duties in such a way as to confer the maximum benefit upon the native races under their care. I pay tribute also to many of the men in the administrative services of New Guinea and Papua who were trained for that work under a scheme inaugurated by a previous government. These men entered the service as cadets. They were selected from amongst candidates who had passed prescribed school examinations. Upon selection, they were sent to universities where they were trained to understand the problems of the natives. That scheme came into operation twenty years ago. The first cadets appointed are now men of mature judgment who have a thorough knowledge of the Territories under their control. Some of them are now district officers and in the course of their service have been transferred from one part of the Territory to another.
It is to these men that we should turn for guidance in the control of native people.
Those Territories are extensive and their potentialities are as yet unknown, because vast areas remain unexplored. However, we realize that in those tropical lands it is to the native population that we must turn for the labour required for development schemes. An important factor, therefore, is the general health of the native people. As Senator Sampson has said, the tribesmen are child-like in many ways, but in other directions they are people of great understanding. They are agriculturists. Unlike the Australian aborigines, the natives of New Guinea and Papua till the soil. Also, they are excellent craftsmen, expert hunters and good fishermen. Their skill in the manufacture of products from the limited raw materials available to them is wonderful. They are also accomplished boat-builders. All these accomplishments indicate that however primitive those races may be to-day, at one time in their history they had reached a high standard of culture. Changes in our method of caring for those people should not be revolutionary. They have lived in their own way, observing their own customs and laws. They have their own laws controlling land. Boundaries are clearly marked, and members of one tribe may not cross the borders of the land occupied by another, without consent. For instance, tribes living in the mountainous country require salt as part of their diet. To obtain this important commodity, they make special trips to the seaside, during which truces with the lowlanders are observed. The mountain dwellers carry water from the sea and allow it to evaporate, thus producing salt. The natives also have their own moral code and discipline. Generally speaking they are a strictly disciplined people. They have a keen sense of their duty to their employers and they appreciate justice and fair dealing. It is towards the preservation of that way of life that our efforts should be directed. We must make clear to them that we regard the land as theirs, and that we are proceeding cautiously and carefully without ulterior motives. They- should be led to understand that we regard them as our friends, and that our desire is to assist them in the development of their* country. We must learn the lessons of the past. We .have black pages in our own history, with the result that we are now striving to preserve the remnants of a dying race. I urge the Government to ensure that in our desire to develop those Territories, we shall not force upon the native races conditions which are foreign and even repugnant to their way of living. Our aim should be to win their confidence. By providing medical services we must show them that our desire is to improve their standard of health.
The problems that will be encountered are many. One ia the cost of labour. The price of, say, copra should not be the governing factor in our treatment of the natives ; but our standard of living is not theirs, and our way of life would not be appreciated or understood by them. We cannot be complacent about our handling of native peoples in the past. Only recently, following the publication by a newspaper of an article dealing with the raising of the standard of living of native peoples, it was pointed out that Australia would do well to put its own house in order. Let us take advantage of the advice of men who have done a great job in the development of these Territories. . Let our actions prove that we are the friends of these native people, and that we desire their help in the development >>f their own country.
– in reply - In replying to the debate on the second reading, I shall refer inly to statements by honorable senators which indicate that they are under some misapprehension in regard to either the bill or the administration of Papua or New Guinea. In -the first place, I emphasize that the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) has done many of the things which, during the discussion, have been suggested as things that ought to have been done. Referring to the remarks of Senator Herbert Hays with respect to administrative officers, I suggest that it is unfair to say that the Government has introduced legislation without giving it proper consideration or taking advantage of opportunities to obtain full information. The Minister for External Territories visited both Papua and New Guinea and investigated conditions on the spot and the bill is largely the result of what he found there. In addition, the Minister held a two days’ conference in Sydney last December, at which administrative officers and others were consulted as to the action that should be taken.
I compliment Senator Sampson on the attention given by him to the bill, although the honorable senator was wrong with regard to one or two matters. He said that indentured labourers were engaged for a term of three years. It was possible to engage them for four years in Papua and for seven years in New Guinea. The honorable senator also inquired whether “ Angau “ would continue to function. That organization will cease to function in the area in which civil administration will be restored, but it will continue to function in areas where military control is still in operation. Although the discussion has been wide, the bill merely provides for the provisional administration of the Territories while existing conditions last. Senator Sampson also referred to the return of settlers to these Territories.Since July, 1943, planters have been free to return to Papua, and most of them have returned. As areas in New Guinea are cleared of the enemy, planters will be permitted to return to them. So far about ten planters have returned to the Madang area.
The honorable senator also referred to clause 11, which contains the words “according to such instructions as are from time to time given to him by the Minister “. Previously, the Administrator was bound to carry out instructions given to him by the Governor-General. All that this bill does is to ensure ministerial control. Senator Herbert Hays gave an effective answer to Senator Brand’s references to costs of production. Apparently, all honorable senators are agreed that the native peoples of these Territories should be given a better deal in the future. Reference was made to the Australian aborigines who may be seen by passengers travelling on the Trans- “ Australian Railway, but those natives are not typical of the natives with whom we have to deal in Australia. For the most part, the aborigines seen by railway travellers are degenerate and have been spoiled ; I use the word in its worst sense. Those who criticize the treatment of Australian aborigines should not forget that last year the Government asked for power to control aborigines, but as that power was refused, the Commonwealth now has control only of natives in Territories directly controlled by it. As to the costs of production in these Territories, it must be remembered that every attempt at reform in the history of the world has been met with the criticism that if changes are made the cost will be so great that people will be thrown out of employment. If one of the penalties that we must suffer for giving a better deal to the natives of Papua and New Guinea is that production costs will be increased, we must face that position. The Government has shown its bona fides in a number of directions, and will not be found wanting in such a situation. Even though the cost of production be raised we cannot any longer afford to have the natives of Papua and New Guinea exploited by private interests. I was pleased to hear Senator Herbert Hays say that the cost of production should not be the final consideration. I assure the Senate that the situation will be adequately dealt with by the Government. As Minister in charge of the bill in this chamber, I express my gratitude to honorable senators for their interest in the debate and the quality of the speeches that have been delivered. I am confident that they will have no cause for regret should the bill be passed unanimously.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Collings) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act applicable to a by-election for the House of Representatives as well as to a general election or referendum. It is presented now so that at the impending by-election in the Division of Fremantle, and, of course, at any other by-election that may occur during the continuance of the war, members of the forces, and others entitled to vote as such, who are on service and are qualified to vote for the division concerned, may have the opportunity, wherever practicable, of recording their votes. Apart from the formal clauses which have been drafted to ensure that the appropriate provisions of the principal act shall apply in the case of a by-election, the only variation proposed is that at a by-election the votes of qualified service electors located in a State shall be recorded in a manner precisely similar to that which obtains in areas outside Australia. Under the principal act it is necessary at a general election for the electoral authorities in the States to appoint special polling places, and the required staff of presiding officers and assistant presiding officers, at all service camps and other similar establishments in their respective areas, and the staff retained on duty from 8 a.m. Such polling places must be kept open to 8 p.m. on the day fixed by the writ for the polling - the Saturday on which the general vote is taken. Such a procedure at a by-election is entirely unnecessary. It would be inordinately cumbersome and expensive, especially when, in the great majority of cases, very few persons attached to a particular unit will be entitled to vote. Consequently, it is provided by this bill that at a by-election the required voting material shall be sent by theCommonwealth Electoral Officer for the State direct to the commanding officer of the unit concerned, who, in exactly the same manner as a commanding officer of a unit outside Australia, will designate an officer to take the votes of those entitled to vote, and will notify in orders where and when the votes may be recorded. Immediately after the votes have been recorded and placed in the voters’ declaration en- . velopes, they will be transmitted by the commanding officer direct to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State for purposes of scrutiny. By adopting this simplified procedure, the votes will be taken at a minimum of inconvenience and expense, however widely the personnel entitled to vote at the by-election may be dispersed. I commend the bill to honorable senators and ask that it be dealt with to-day, in order that the electoral authorities may proceed at once with arrangements for voting by the servicemen concerned at the Fremantle byelection to be held on the18th August.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 111.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Chapham Junc tion, Queensland.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for relief dealt with during the year 1944-45.
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Control)
Order - Papua and New Guinea (Con trol of prohibited articles) (No. 2).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 108, 109, 110.
Senate adjourned at 12.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 July 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450727_senate_17_184/>.