Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 7 May 1970

Mr BARNES (Mcpherson) (Minister for External Territories) - 1 am sorry to change the subject of this debate but I propose to refer to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who introduced the subject of Papua and New Guinea. It is quite easy to understand why he spoke on that subject: He did not want to talk about the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. You would think that on the day before the Campaign is to reach its height - a Campaign about which this Government has clearly stated its views - the Leader of the Opposition would come out and give a lead to his Party. Instead he sidestepped the issue. He said not a word about the Moratorium. I suppose he thought that all he had to do was get out in front of Parliament House under a couple of Vietcong flags and address the crowd. There he was safe from members of this House taking him to task about things he said. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) started his speech very gamely - and very lamely - on the subject of the Moratorium but quickly changed to another subject. 1 congratulate him on his foresight. 1 think every Australian is aware of the damage done to our dependent Territory of Papua and New Guinea by the recent visit there of the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition was very concerned because at a recent Press conference I was asked whether I considered that morale in Papua and New Guinea had declined following the visit of the Leader of the Opposition. I replied that undoubtedly it had. I have had representations from many people in the Territory asking that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) go to the Territory and reassure the people that they will not be pushed into self-government and independence by 1976. What concerns many people of the Territory, as I mentioned at the Press conference, is that the average Papuan and New Guinean does not understand our particular form of government and the relationship of the Leader of the Opposition to the Government. The average Papuan thinks that the Leader of the Opposition is part of the Government and has a hand in forming Government policy. Because of this the people of the Territory were left confused by the visit of the Leader of the Opposition.

The honourable gentleman's predecessor, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), was greatly respected in the Territory. He had the confidence of the community. The Opposition's present policy of pushing the Territory into self-government by 1972 if, of course, it gets into power - a big 'if - and independence by 1976 represents a drastic change from the policy pursued by the right honourable member for Melbourne Our policy is 1 of political change sanctioned by the people of Papua and New Guinea through their elected House of Assembly. The visit to the Territory of the Leader of the Opposition has caused them great concern. I do not want to stress only my views on this matter so 1 will read from the 'Age' a statement by Mr Lokoloko the most distinguished Ministerial Member for Health, who said:

Economic development must come first. We agree with the Australian Government's policy that the timing of independence is a matter for the people of the Territory to decide for themselves. The move for independence is being made by the Pangu Party, which has 10 members in the Assembly and claims to be a national party. Its voice does not come from the people. Its members who speak of independence have no experience of PapuaNew Guinea and have never ever worked with the people of Papua-New Guinea. Mr Whitlam has made a bitter attack on the wishes of the people of the Territory. He is trying to impose his own wishes on them. I am afraid his words may encourage more pressure from the Afro-Asian bloc at the United Nations to foe critical of what Australia is doing in Papua-New Guinea.

This is just what happened. The Leader of the Opposition has helped to rubbish by misrepresentation and innuendo the image of Australia in the world.

Mr Beazley - What have you done by your tear gas and batons?

Mr BARNES - If the honourable member for Fremantle will listen and not disturb me I will give him the story about wages - a subject on which he has so much to say. Tonight the Leader of the Opposition invited the people of Australia to read the answers given to questions which he had placed on the notice-paper. I think he has placed about 102 questions on the noticepaper, all but 10 of which have been answered He did not make use of those questions. He was like the old gold prospector panning away looking for a trace of colour; tonight he did not get pay dirt with any of his questions. The only one to which he referred was an example of- his complete misrepresentation of the facts. He referred to the low cash wage in the Territory. By referring simply to the low cash wage he misrepresents the true position. It sounds like a big issue if you do not take all other factors into account. Certainly there is a cash wage. The officers of my Department went to a great deal of trouble to ascertain the wages paid in various under-developed countries.

Tn Papua and New Guinea the minimum wage is 81c per day - cash 18c, rations 53c, and accommodation 10c.

Mr Beazley - Princely!

Mr BARNES - Let me continue. In the British Solomons it is 60c per day cash. This is not a minimum wage. This is the genera! wage. Accommodation is supplied but not included in the value I have quoted.

Dr Klugman - Ghana?

Mr BARNES - The Opposition is trying to distract me. Honourable members opposite do not like this sort of thing. In Ghana the wage is 68c per day and it is an all cash wage. That is the lot; they get nothing else. You can have a wonderful life on 68c per day and nothing else. In Kenya the wage is 46c peT day cash plus the value of accommodation. In Tanzania it is 48c per day, and it is an all cash wage. These are not minimum wages; this is the general run of wages. In Ceylon it is 47c per day cash, plus the value of rations. Accommodation is supplied but it is not included in that value. In the Central African Regublic the daily rate is 30c cash plus accommodation. In Malawi it is 25c per day cash and a daily meal is supplied. But these cash wages in underdeveloped countries are misleading. Honourable members must understand the sort of products that these people produce. They are similar to what is produced in Papua and New Guinea - copra, cocoa and coffee. They are products produced by the countries with the lowest standard of living in the world. These are labour intensive industries. The prices for these products are subject to very considerable fluctuations. This is thi basis of prosperity in all these countries. Most reluctantly, we have to accept this. The Leader of the Opposition has not said how he would push up these wages and thereby put everyone out of business.

Mr Whitlam - I quoted Mr McMahon.

Mr BARNES - The Leader of the Opposition would put everyone out of businessThere would be no alternative.

Mr Whitlam - You pay less than anybody else in the South Pacific.

Mr BARNES - I did not interrupt you. Kindly keep quiet.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Leader of the Opposition will refrain from interjecting across the table. All other honourable members will refrain from interjecting. I think that yesterday I requested the Lender of the Opposition to refrain from interjecting and talking across the table. 1 suggest that he should comply with that request.

Mr BARNES - I can understand the concern of the Leader of the Opposition because he has misrepresented. He has been condemned.

Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, I ask that that remark be withdrawn. I am not sure whether you were in the chair earlier when 1 was speaking, but I quoted from ministerial answers given to me. What I said on this subject was a quotation directly from last Tuesday's Hansard report of what was said by the Minister for External Affairs concerning plantation wages in the South Pacific area.

Mr SPEAKER -The Leader of the Opposition cannot debate the point of order.

Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal of the statement that I misrepresented the position.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Leader of the Opposition may tell me what his point of order is.

Mr Whitlam - I ask you to require the Minister for External Territories to withdraw his remark that I misrepresented the position when in fact I was quoting directly from an answer given by the Minister for External Affairs which appears in last Tuesday's Hansard.

Mr SPEAKER - I do hot think there is any substance in the point of order. The Minister for External Territories is replying to the Leader of the Opposition. If the Leader of the Opposition states that he made these statements in this debate in the manner in which he did, then what the Minister is saying is legitimate comment in the course of reply.

Mr BARNES - The Leader of the Opposition when be was in New Guinea said that the wages paid were the lowest in the world. I do not see how he can deny that statement.

Mr Whitlam - Your colleague says that they are the lowest in the South Pacific.

Mr BARNES - I showed the Leader of the Opposition the figures and I am going to stick to them. I will refer now to economic development. We have made great efforts to get the people of Papua and New Guinea into an economic situation and we have succeeded. Australia's efforts in this regard are magnificent. No other underdeveloped country has advanced to the same extent as Papua and New Guinea. When he was in the Territory the Leader of the Opposition commented that there was no economic development controlled by indigenes in, I think, 5 towns. Incidentally, he stayed at a motel at Rabaul which cost $120,000. Local indigenes have a large shareholding in it and there are 4 indigenes on the board of directors. I will detail some of the operations in Port Moresby. There is the Kila Kila Cooperative Society, the Elavala and Tonabada Co-operative Societies and a very considerable shoe repair shop.

Mr Birrell - And a barber shop?

Mr BARNES - The Opposition does not like to hear these things. It says there is no economic development in the Territory. This shoe repair shop is a very large operation which has been financed by the Development Bank. Three New Guinea people took over this shop which had been operated by Europeans. They are building it up into a very excellent business. Members of the Opposition do not like to hear this. Then there is Allied Enterprises, a metal fabricators and furniture making business. There are SO small stores in villages within the urban area. Now I refer to Rabaul where there is the Palnamadaku Furniture Manufacturing Co., the Tolai cocoa project and the New Britain Co-operative Association Ltd. The Tolais hold 700 trading licences and there are more than 1,000 native owned vehicles in -the Gazelle, most of which are used for commercial purposes.

In Lae there is the Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd headquarters with a Territorywide organisation having branches at Moresby and Rabaul. In Mt Hagen there is a garage and guest house owned by the local government council. At Madang nothing is wholly owned but Namasu is 40% owned by the Mission and the remainder by indigenes.

On the agricultural side in Papua and New Guinea 40% of the entire produce is produced 6y native people. Here again it is important not to accept the view of the Leader of the Opposition; otherwise some people might suspect my views. Rather I shall quote from the report presented to the United Nations Trustee Council. This is a completely independent body which is not altogether favourably disposed to Australia. An independent mission went to the Territory at the end of 1968 and prepared a report from which I will quote. Actually it is a precis of the views expressed by this mission. It states:

The Trusteeship Council welcomes the 5-year Economic Development Plan which the Administering Authority announced in September 1968. The Council believes that this plan is a step which should accelerate the Administration's basic goal of increasing the economic self-reliance of the Territory and thus prepare the way for the meaningful exercise of self-determination.

The Council is impressed by the $l,000m level of expenditure envisaged by the plan over the 5- year period and by the important dual emphasis on increased production and on increasing the role of the local population in all aspects of the Territory's activities.

Not only would the Papuan and New Guinean interests be protected in all enterprises which might be instituted, but the Council also notes the major effort that would be devoted to education and training so as to provide the skills necessary for active participation.

The Council notes that the indigenous involvement in the activities of the plan had been instituted from the start with its submission to, and approval by, the House of Assembly.

The Council recognises that even under the plan, major changes will take time, but it requests the Administering Authority to report to the Council at its 37th Session regarding the progress made during the first year, particularly in the matter of indigenous participation.

The Council notes with approval the Administering Authority's continuing effort to attract from outside sources the additional capital required for the Territory's development while at the same time continuing its policy of protecting indigenous interests and consulting them as appropriate.

The Council is pleased that the Administration has pledged not only to consult the Administrator's Executive Council on investment matters, but has also promised to seek the approval of the House of Assembly for particular projects.

It goes on in that vein and I feel that one can accept it as a quite independent view in favour of our operations there. In agriculture it says:

The Council notes the efforts made by the Administering Authority to increase indigenous participation in the production of major agricultural products, particularly cash crops for export, and urges that this programme be expanded. The Council ako notes that in response to its earlier suggestion the Administering Authority is working actively in the field of agricultural research and is seeking new cash crops which might be successfully introduced in the Territory.

The Council looks forward to further reports on the.'e questions especially indigenous participation in agriculture.

This includes fisheries, forests, land tenure, industry and so on. lt covers aH the social advances. If the Council was concerned about the wage structure surely it would have mentioned this in the report. There is no mention of it in the report. The document goes on:

The Council continues to endorse the recommendations of the 1968 Visiting Mission in this field as set forth by the Council in the report of the 35th Session. The Council notes the efforts to expand the labour inspectorial staff and hopes they will continue and that greater use will be made of indigenous staff.

The Council welcomes

This was part of a Press statement and it is available to honourable members. Of course, no-one takes any notice of this because it spoils an argument against our efforts in Papua and New Guinea. 1 could go on with this point but I do not think I have to do so, because the Leader of the Opposition has condemned himself. He is condemned by the people of Australia for his visit to Papua and New Guinea. We do not have to do anything. It is all his own work.

What concerns the people of Papua and New Guinea is this drastic change in Labor Party policy relating to New Guinea. At least the Leader of the Opposition is consistent. He went up there in 1964 and he said: 'Independence by 1970'. So he is consistent. Then he went on this visit. He was kind enough to acknowledge my assistance. I hoped he would go and see for himself; I hoped for better results. One would think the leader of a large political party would be careful in making his pronouncements, that he would observe and listen to what people had to tell him. that he would make a survey for himself. But what did he do? The very day he stepped on New Guinea territory he had a policy preconceived here in Australia and evidently supported by the Labor Party. The Labor Party supports this policy of self-government by 1972 and independence by 1976. This is the pronouncement. The indigenes do not have a say in the matter. The Labor Party would impose this on them whether they like it or not. 1 conclude with those remarks.

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - J claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes).

Mr SPEAKER -Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr WHITLAM - Yes. The Minister for External Territories claimed that in New Guinea and again tonight I had misstated the wage position of plantation workers in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I have here a text of what I said in Port Moresby on this subject on the last day I was there, 12th January. I referred to the following urgent needs. A reasonable minimum wage; an arbitration system for plantation workers and all labourers; an end to the shame whereby Australia's name is associated with plantation wages of S5 a month or less, the worst wages in the Pacific and probably the worst in the world. Tonight in speaking on this Appropriation Bill I quoted from the Minister's answer to me yesterday, which appears in Hansard at page 1760, and from the answer which the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) gave me the previous day, which is reported at page 1653 of Hansard. The Minister for External Affairs gave me a list of the countries in the South Pacific where there are plantation workers and I showed from his answer how in each case the wages paid to plantation workers were higher than in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Yesterday the Minister for External Territories gave an answer to this question:

Can he cite any country in which plantation workers are paid less?

He quoted several African and some Asian countries; be quoted only 1 Pacific country, namely the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. On that I need say no more than that his figures for the Solomon Islands do not tally with those given to me the previous day by the Minister for External Affairs.

Mr Barnes - I stand by what I said.

Mr WHITLAM - And I stand by what the Minister for External Affairs said.

Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.

Suggest corrections