36 Cabinet Submission by Ward

Agendum 1411 21 November 1947,


Territory of Papua

Settled 1884, Australian control under the title Territory of Papua from 1906. Area 90,540 square miles. Population 1941:

Europeans 1,800, Natives estimated 300,000. 1941 Revenue 189,518 (including grant of 42,500 from Commonwealth Government);

Expenditure 189,000; Imports 539,152; Exports 492,775.

Mandated Territory of New Guinea

Settled by Germany 1884, Australian control, Military 1914, Civil control under mandate 9th May 1921. Area 93,000 square miles.

Population 1941: Europeans 4,100, Asiatics 2,228, Natives 684,284 counted and further 300,000 estimated. 1941 Revenue 423,750;

Expenditure 431,791; Imports 962,129; Exports 3,247,585.

Administrative and Legislative Machinery

The two Territories were entirely separate with separate Administrations and Public Services. The administrative set-up was similar in the two Territories with Legislative councils (nominated) and Executive councils. There was an Administrator for Papua and an Administrator for New Guinea. The Legislative Councils were empowered to make Ordinances which were subject to the Administrator's assent and could be disallowed by the Governor-General. Ordinances on certain subjects were reserved for the pleasure of the Governor-General.


The question of the amalgamation of the Territory was considered:-

(1) 1919-A Royal Commission comprising three members was appointed to report on the organisation of a system of government for the Territory of New Guinea. Two members advised against amalgamation with the Territory of Papua and one member (Sir Hubert Murray) favoured amalgamation. The recommendation of the majority was accepted.

(2) 1939-A committee was appointed to survey the possibility of establishing a combined Administration of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. The Committee arrived at the conclusion that at the time a fully combined Administration for the two Territories was not desirable in the interests of the Territories or their people and also impracticable for financial and legal reasons on account of New Guinea being a mandated Territory. The report of the Committee was accepted.

European Opinion

There have been no recent expressions of opinion of European residents on the question of amalgamation. The Public Service Association of the Territory of Papua in October 1946 submitted that before any decision is made a referendum be taken within the Territories on the question of a separate or combined Administration of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. It was stated that the Returned Soldiers' League was joined in those representations.

Arrangements during Military Administration 1942-45

The Civil Administrations of the Territor[ies] were suspended on 12th February, 1942, on account of the Japanese invasion of New Guinea and part of Papua. A Military Unit (A.N.G.A.U.) carried out in the Territor[ies] such functions of Civil Administration as were necessary and possible and administered the available portions of the Territories as one unit for Administration purposes.

Provisional Administration

From October 1945, the Territory of Papua and portion of the Territory of New Guinea was transferred from military to civil control and progressively the remaining portions of the Territory of New Guinea were transferred until the whole of that Territory as well as Papua came under civil control from June 1946.

In July 1945, the Papua - New Guinea Provisional Administration Act was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament to provide for one Administration for the former separate Territories. This was a tentative arrangement pending determination as to the future policy in regard to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.

Trusteeship System

The future of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea has been determined by the Trusteeship Agreement approved by the United Nations Assembly designating Australia as the sole administering authority for the Territory. Article 5 of the Agreement permits the administering authority to bring the Trusteeship Territory into a customs, fiscal or administrative union or federation with other dependent Territories under its jurisdiction and to establish commons services if in the opinion of the administering authority it would be in the interests of the Territory and not inconsistent with the basic objectives of the trusteeship system to do so.

It will be seen that an administrative union or federation is permitted and that it is possible to establish common services for a Trust Territory and another Territory under the jurisdiction of the administering authority. Annexation of the Trust Territory in any form would not be consistent with the Trusteeship Agreement and an assurance has been given by the administering powers, including Australia, that they do not consider that the terms of their respective Trusteeship Agreements enable them to establish any form of political association between Trust Territories respectively administered by them and adjacent Territories which would involve annexation of the Trust Territory in any sense or would have the effect of extinguishing their status as Trust Territories. Amalgamation of New Guinea with Papua would not therefore be consistent with the provisions of the Trusteeship Agreement. A federation would involve separate Administrations for the two Territories. A union of the Territory of Papua with the Territory of New Guinea with common services for the two areas is favoured.

Name of Territory

Possible names for the unified Territory are:-

(1) Australian New Guinea;

(2) Territory of Papua and New Guinea;

(3) Territory of Papua - New Guinea (this is the title that has been used for the Provisional Administration).

Papua was the first extra territorial area administered by Australia under whose jurisdiction the Territory has been placed since 1906. For that if no other reason it is desirable that the name of 'Papua' should be retained. To align the Trust Territory area with the terms of the Agreement and for historical reasons it is desirable that the name 'New Guinea' should be retained. The title 'The Territory of Papua and New Guinea' is favoured for the unified Territory.


(1) There be an administrative union of the Territory of Papua with the Trust Territory of New Guinea with provision for one Administration Head, one legislative body and for common services for the whole area;

(2) The title of the Territories so united be 'The Territory of Papua and New Guinea'.

(3) A Bill for an Act be prepared to- (a) approve the Trusteeship Agreement; and (b) provide a constitution for the combined Territories and establish a permanent Administration therefor. [1]

(E. J. WARD) Minister of State for External Territories

1 Approved by cabinet on 25 November 1947. There was some suspicion of administrative unions at the U.N. and it was not until 1949 that appropriate legislation was brought down in Canberra.

[AA : A2700, VOL.35]