Opinion Number. 1634


new guinea Proposal for Department of Defence to lease land at Lae in the Territory of New Guinea for use for aerodrome purposes: consistency with league of nations mandate: prohibition of establishment of military bases: proposal for separate Territory-incorporated body to hold land for these purposes

Key Legislation

LEAGUE OF NATIONS MANDATE FOR THE TERRITORY OF NEW GUINEA dated 17 December 1920 (Official Year Book of the Commonwealth No 31-1938) art 4

The Secretary, Prime Minister

I am in receipt of your memorandum, No. J.808/1/1, dated the 4th April, 1938, with respect to the desire of the Department of Defence to lease certain land at Lae, Territory of New Guinea, for use for aerodrome purposes.

I am unable to point to any legislative provision under which the Commonwealth Government or the Department of Defence is authorised to enter into a lease of lands in the Territory of New Guinea.

In this connection, I would point out that article 4 of the Mandate forbids the establishment of military bases in the Territory and the leasing of land by the Department of Defence for the purpose of an aerodrome might be considered to fall within the terms of the prohibition.

It is desirable that the authority in whom the title to the land should be vested should be incorporated and this view appears to be supported by the Acting Administrator (who was also Chief Judge). It seems to be inadvisable that in view of the terms of Article 4 of the Mandate that any branch of the Department of Defence should be the lessee of the land.

If the Civil Aviation Board or any other branch of the Department of Defence became such lessee it would give rise to the suggestion on the part of critics that the aerodrome was really a defence establishment under the guise of accommodation for civil aviation.

If some authority of the Territory were incorporated by Ordinance and given power to hold lands for the purposes now under consideration, it would definitely negative any such criticism.

[Vol. 31, p. 399]