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Thursday, 27 April 1961


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) .- The Opposition welcomes the opportunity to take part in the debate initiated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) following the Government's discussions with General Nasution during his recent visit to this country. The Prime Minister could not have reported to the Parliament very much earlier, because he returned to Canberra only yesterday after seine General Nasution off to Manila. We are glad that the people of Australia have been able to listen to the Prime Minister's statement and to know the Government's views on the future of Dutch New Guinea. We have our views, too, and in many respects they are identical with those of the Government.

Let me first tell briefly the history of the island of New Guinea, because the history of events in that area, so close to us, has some relationship to the Indonesian claim. In 1828 the Dutch occupied the western part of New Guinea. In 1895 the eastern boundary of the Territory of Dutch New Guinea was fixed by treaty. In 1884, Germany formally took possession of New

Ireland, New Britain, a portion of the Solomon Islands and that portion of the island of New Guinea lying north of Papua. On 6th November, 1884, a British protectorate was proclaimed over the southern coast of New Guinea and the islands adjacent thereto. It was called British New Guinea until the protectorate was ended on 4th September, 1888, and the area was annexed as a British possession. In 1905 Australia passed the Papua Act under which the British possession became the Territory of Papua. The act was proclaimed on 1st September, 1906. Under the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-57 the Territory of Papua, which is a possession of the Crown, and the Territory of New Guinea, which is a trusteeship of the United Nations, are administered as one unit.

One of Indonesia's claims to New Guinea is, as the Prime Minister has related it, based in part on some historical circumstance under which in other days some of the old sultans of Indonesia raided the northern portion of New Guinea and took slaves to their home territories. The other claim is based on the assertion that when the Dutch gave freedom to the Republic of Indonesia, as we know it to-day, but which before World War II. was known as the Dutch East Indies, they also surrendered to Indonesia the remnant of their Dutch East Indies empire that was always known as Dutch New Guinea. The Indonesian Government claims further that the Dutch, by an agreement reached in 1948, acknowledged Indonesia's claim to this territory.

As to the first contention, we say, as does the Government that the people of Dutch New Guinea belong to a different race, or to a variety of races which are ethically very closely related, they are a people different from the Indonesians, and therefore are entitled to determine their own future when they have reached a sufficiently high level of education to be able to make a free and' unfettered choice.

With regard to the claim that the Netherlands Government agreed to hand over Dutch New Guinea to the Indonesian Government, we say that even if there were such an agreement it would have no moral validity because the Netherlands Government has no moral right - whatever its sovereign rights might be - to hand over the people of New Guinea to any other colonial power. In our view - and this is where we disagree with the Government - the Prime Minister has not made the position of his Government sufficiently clear on that point. On several occasions in the past he has asserted - as he again asserted to-night - that if the Netherlands and Indonesia ever reached agreement on the future of Dutch New Guinea, which could involve the possession of Dutch New Guinea by Indonesia, Australia would stand aside. We did not agree with that proposition when it was first announced by Lord Casey, as he is now, and others some years ago, and we do not agree with it now. It could be claimed quite properly that the Government, having asserted the principle of selfdetermination with such strength and firmness as the Prime Minister has done tonight, has by inference abandoned it. We think the Government should be quite explicit on the point. The day 'has long since passed when dependent people can be bartered, or seem to be bartered, between an old European colonial power like the Netherlands and a neo-colonial power like Indonesia. _ - - - _ _ _ -

Whatever might be said in criticism of the Dutch and their rule in Dutch New Guinea, whatever might be thought about colonialism, and whatever time limit might be put upon the existence of colonialism anywhere, these things should be remembered: First, the Dutch have said that they hope to get out of Dutch New Guinea in ten years. They are spending millions of pounds annually - indeed something like £12,000,000 this year - on educating the indigenous people to the point where they will be able to govern themselves. The second fact is that if Indonesia ever moves into Dutch New Guinea, it will never want to move out and it will never give the native people of the country the right to govern themselves, because it claims that Dutch New Guinea always was a part of Indonesia. General Nasution has said, in effect, that to give the right of selfdetermination to the indigenous people of Dutch New Guinea would be just as illogical as giving it to the people of some other territory that is recognized by every one as constituting a part of Indonesia. We believe, too, that the Indonesian people will never want to spend any money on Dutch New Guinea or in any way assist its development. One reason why they will not give financial assistance is because they cannot. They have more than enough to do in developing and strengthening their own country and in attending to the wellbeing of the 90,000,000 people who occupy the territory of the Republic of Indonesia.

We are not unfamiliar with Indonesia's point of view.. In recent years there have been several missions from Indonesia to Australia. Dr.. Subandrio, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, was in Australia when J3r. Evatt was the Leader of the Opposition, and I understand that on that occasion what the Prime Minister has said to-night was told to Dr: Subandrio. I was present when discussions were held with Di. Subandrio and Dr. Helmi, the Indonesian Ambassador to this country, and what I am saying tonight was then said by Dr. Evatt. The position was well understood by Dr. Subandrio, although he did not agree with it any more than General Nasution agreed with what the Prime Minister told him during his recent visit. By courtesy of the Government I was present at the Cabinet luncheon .for General Nasution the other -day-, and on that occason I tried-to put the - - - Opposition's point of view to General Nasution in a few moments as I am putting it to-night. I said that all the peoples of New Guinea should be regarded as one people. They are not one people at present. In the short history that I gave of the carving up of their island, it was European colonial powers which made the division. It was not Indonesia, and it was not the people of Dutch New Guinea. In fact, I think it was the British Foreign Office, which had to satisfy Germany and Holland, which both wanted more colonial territory. The proposition that was advanced by a Queensland statesman of a century or more ago to the effect that the island of New Guinea should be retained as one entity was rejected, and the Dutch were told that they could occupy one portion and the Germans were told that they could occupy another portion.

We face the situation that this artificial division of the country exists. Every one who believes that World War I. was fought on the principle of self-determination, and every one who believes that people have the right to determine their own future, must agree that the 2,500,000 indigenous inhabitants of the island - the 700,000 human beings who live in Dutch territory and the 1,800,000 human beings who live in our Territories - must be helped so that ultimately they will be able to make their own choice freely.

At present they have no sense of nationhood. They live in tribes and they think only in tribes. Even the wealthiest tribe in the Territory, the Tolais, who live in New Britain, have no real sense of nationhood. A considerable time may elapse before they are all fit to govern themselves, but when they are fit to do so they will, as the Prime Minister has said, make their own choice and we shall respect it. As a party, we have been on record in relation to this issue for a long time. We have said that when the people of the whole island make their choice - whether they decide to become an independent republic, whether they decide to become part of a Melanesian federation, whether they decide to become a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, as we would like, or whether they decide to become a part of Indonesia, we shall accept and respect the decision, which will have been made by them and by them alone. That ought to suit Dr. Soekarno and General Nasution and everybody else interested in the question. If any person in Indonesia will not accept that proposition, then it can only be that he is using the Dutch New Guinea situation for local political purposes, and is not primarily concerned with the well-being of the people of West New Guinea. The biennial conference of the Australian Labour Party sitting in Canberra recently defined the attitude of the Labour Party on this question as follows: -

The Labor Pary asserts that the only people who have the right to determine the future of their island of New Guinea are its indigenous people.

The United Nations holds that the inhabitants of the Trust Territories of New Guinea are not yet fit to govern themselves. The Labor Party believes this to be true of the inhabitants of the rest of the island.

The Labor Party will support and co-operate in the efforts of the United Nations to resolve the present dispute over West New Guinea so as to avoid armed conflict.

The conference went on to say in reference to our own particular area -

The Labor Party declares that the sole right of Australia in Papua and New Guinea is to develop the territories to independence at the earliest possible time and that it must then withdraw.

The economic, social and political development of New Guinea involves resources beyond the capacity of the Commonwealth of Australia; consequently it will be necessary to call in the resources of the United Nations.

I pause at that point to observe that there are people in the United Nations - and they are not all members of the Afro-Asian group - who keep telling us what we ought to be doing to help the people of Papua and New Guinea in matters of health, education and everything else. The resources of this country are not limitless. Australia is spending generously and successfully very large sums of money annually on Papua and New Guinea, and the only reward or return we get for that expenditure as a people is the satisfaction of knowing the amount of good that is done. We cherish the hope that, as a consequence of the progress we see being made, and when the native people can make their decision, they will not part with us with any feeling of hate or hostility or consider that we have in any way at any time exploited them or done them any harm. The Labour Party Conference of 1957 was very concerned about the New Guinea situation and so it resolved -

A mutual regional pact for security and welfare should be negotiated between Australia, Holland and Indonesia. The pact should aim at promoting the security of the entire areas of Indonesia and New Guinea. It should also aim at improving the standard of life for all the people throughout this area - so vital to Australia.

The idea behind all that was that Indonesia and the Netherlands and the Australian Government would guarantee, under the auspices of the United Nations, to protect the safety and the well-being of all the peoples of those territories, and that with such an agreement in operation, great progress would be made in lifting the living standards of the people of Indonesia as well as the peoples of Papua and New Guinea. That idea was not acceptable to the Indonesian people any more than was the proposal that the matter should be resolved by the International Court at the Hague, and we see dangers in that proposition as we do in the attitude adopted by the Government that if Indonesia and Holland ever agree, Australia will stand aside. But at least that was a suggestion which was honestly made and that might have led somewhere.

The Indonesians have been adamant on this whole question. They say they want no United Nations control over West New Guinea unless it be based on a firm understanding that after a certain very limited time - indeed, they have stipulated only two years - the whole territory will be handed over to Indonesia. Of course, that would not be acceptable to any Australian.

Going back earlier still to the days of the Chifley Government when my colleague the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was Minister for Territories, we had under discussion various ideas by which we thought we could help to bring peace to that troubled part of the earth's surface. It was close enough to us to merit our attention. The issues were of such importance that the honorable member for East Sydney, as Minister for Territories, gave a good deal of attention to the matter. He will speak in this debate later. He knows from his own experiences as a Minister and from his own studies of the Territory, what the attitude of the Indonesians was at that time.

Of course, twelve years have passed by and Indonesia has become firmly established as a nation. We wish it well. We have no feelings of ill will towards the Indonesian people. We treated General Nasution, as we did Dr. Subandrio, with the respect and honours they deserved. We were happy to find them parting from us as good friends even if each did say when he left us that he was not satisfied with our attitude.

My interest in this question, like that of all Australians, is to see a certain number of years elapse before the people of Papua and New Guinea are asked to decide their future. If the United Nations or anybody else were to ask the people of Papua and New Guinea now what they should do, they would certainly vote for continued association with Australia. They would not vote to break their links with Australia. But we do not want to take advantage of their present strong feeling of dependency upon us. Ultimately, when they feel they are free to make a decision, when they have their own trained doctors and administrators, when they are providing their own revenues and when their industries have been developed, we will want to see them make their own choice. I worry at times when I see how other people throughout the world, knowing very little about this matter and caring possibly no more than very little, are inclined to take up an attitude which is not helpful. There was a time when the ambassador of a great nation had a scheme for handing over Dutch New Guinea to the Indonesians after a lapse of six or seven years. I was very glad to read in the press that the United States of America was not prepared to accept Dr. Soekarno's proposition, and I hope the press reports on the matter are true. I hope that the United Kingdom Government will be influenced by our thinking on this matter.

Of course, every government that is situated in Europe has a European outlook. I do not blame them for that; but we and the United Kingdom are part of the Commonwealth of Nations, and if the Commonwealth is to be maintained, we expect the United Kingdom to have some concern for our point of view. I have no reason to believe that it Would not be anxious to be identified with our point of view. The basic proposition that has been put forward ~~ to-night By" the "Prime- Minister- -on-behalf _ - of the Government and advanced by myself on behalf of the Opposition, namely, that the only people who have the right to determine the future of New Guinea are the indigenous people of New Guinea, must be accepted by all mankind as the best and right one for the people of Dutch New Guinea.







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