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, 11 October 1956

Mr JOSKE (Balaclava) . - During the debate to-day a number of speakers dealt with the Northern Territory, but I do not believe that a complete modern picture of the territory can be presented without some reference being made to the excellent report that has been furnished this year to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) by Mr. Wise, the former Administrator of the Northern Territory. Mr. Wise was sent abroad by the Minister to investigate lands having similar characteristics to parts of the Territory, and how those lands could be used for the purpose of primary production. His report to the Minister was based upon the result of the information that he obtained on his trip overseas, and it definitely indicates that the potentialities of the Territory are much greater than have been indicated in the speeches of certain honorable members this afternoon. However, I do not intend to speak at length about the Northern Territory; I propose to direct my remarks to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

At the outset I should like to say that the committee is to be congratulated upon the fact that the leader of the parliamentary delegation which visited New Guinea earlier this year was the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), who has already spoken in this debate. The honorable member for Franklin - as leader of the delegation - upon his return to Australia made a factual report, which appeared in the press. It was of a thoughtful nature, and it indicated that great praise was due to the administration of the Territory. At the same time, from the standpoint of constructive criticism, it indicated that there were certain quarters to which attention should be directed in order that the administration might be improved. That was not done in any destructively critical sense; it was designed to be constructively critical.

To-day, honorable members had the pleasure of hearing the views of the honorable member for Franklin about the Territory, which appeared to be very sound and which showed the great value of members of the Parliament visiting our territories or even taking trips overseas. It is rather too common in this community for parliamentary trips abroad to be regarded as merely in the nature of pleasure jaunts, but, as we all know, honorable members go abroad in order to seek information and they come back far more knowledgeable than they were before they left this country. The new knowledge that they have obtained as a result of their trips abroad is then used for the benefit of the Australian people in general, and for the information of other honorable members of the Parliament in particular. It is quite clear from the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin that the recent New Guinea trip made by members of this Parliament was of the utmost value.

I desire now to refer to the importance of the wise administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This is so because the United Nations has before it, on each occasion when it assembles, reports on trust and non-self -governing territories. These reports come before the Trusteeship Committee or, as it is known within the assembly itself, the " No. 4 Committee ". This is a committee which submits a report on each non-self-governing territory that comes under the scrutiny of the United Nations, including our Territory of Papua. At the tenth assembly last year, which took place shortly after the Geneva conference when what was known as the " Geneva spirit " was very much abroad, it was thought by delegates that there existed an improved international tone, and that as a result it should be possible to diminish greatly the cost of armaments to the world and thereby enable more money to be spent on such territories. As we know now, the talks on disarmament in the United Nations did not get very far at the tenth assembly, and there has been no opportunity for more money to be saved for expenditure in the way that the assembly originally hoped. But that was the spirit in which the assembly met and viewed the administration of these particular types of territory.

As a result of the critical eye cast on the reports, as much as possible was raked out of them with a view to criticizing the administration in non-self-governing and trust territories throughout the world, including Papua and New Guinea. We met the criticisms that were levelled in the case of the Territory of Papua, and in order to show how slight they were, and how splendid the Australian administration of that Territory has been, it is only necessary to look at the criticisms and the manner in which they were completely answered. The first criticism regarding our administration of Papua, which came from one of the Asian countries, was to the effect that we were practising racial discrimination there through a system of segregation in schools, and had established schools for natives only. Any one who knows what goes on in that Territory, and the primitive nature of its inhabitants, knows that native schools were established with a view to assisting the natives, and that the last thing in the mind of any one connected wilh the Administration was to have a system of discrimination between natives and whites. Of course, nothing of that sort has occurred, and it was therefore easy for Australia to answer that particular criticism.

Then there was criticism from the Soviet Union, which had examined the report and noted that the expenditure on health services in 1955 in the Territory was slightly, though not very much, below the expenditure in the previous year. The explanation given in answer to that criticism was that in the previous year a large amount of money had been spent on the stockpiling of medicines, drugs and other medical supplies, and the existence of that stockpile made it unnecessary to spend in 1955 as much on such medical supplies as had been spent in the previous year. It was also explained that during this Government's term of office, in the period from 1949 to 1955, the expenditure on health services in Papua had tremendously improved year by year, and was continuing to improve.

Another criticism advanced in respect of our administration of Papua was to the effect that neither the number of schools nor the number of pupils being educated in the Territory was so large as in the previous year. In answer to that criticism it was pointed out that the difference was not very great, and that although some private schools had been closed down there had been an increase in the number of government schools. It was also explained that the slight difference in the number of pupils was due lo the fact that there had been a period ot very full employment, and that a number of those who would otherwise have continued their schooling had seized the opportunity to take exceedingly remunerative employment.

The question of our administration of the Territory of New Guinea was dealt with at a later stage, and the Soviet Union again, in an indirect way, advanced certain criticisms which the Australian delegation answered completely. As criticism on these minor matters was the full extent of the criticism regarding our administration of those Territories, advanced after the delegates of the nations had heard elaborate reports, this committee will realize how little can be said against Australia's administration, especially when the little which was said was shown to be thoroughly unfounded. I think it is of importance to the committee, and to the community generally, to know how satisfactory our administration of the Territories has been and to realize that we are able to hold up our heads before the rest of the world in respect of it.

Another matter which the honorable member for Franklin mentioned was the self-government of those Territories. One has to realize that in the United Nations there are represented some nations which have only recently been freed from what they describe as " colonialism ". They have a complete phobia about " colonialism ", and at the same time they are exceedingly young nations politically, and exceedingly starry-eyed. They have no real conception or knowledge of the primitive nature of the inhabitants of Papua and New Guinea, and they imagine that because they themselves have just been freed from " colonialism ", and because they desire that all peoples of the world shall obtain self-government as they have obtained it, all peoples are fitted to have self-government. The vote that was recently taken by the United Nations on this matter cannot, be regarded as a vote, in any real sense of the term, founded on proper knowledge of the conditions in the Territories and the primitive nature of the inhabitants. To try to set a date within a comparatively few years when those Territories will be fit for self-government is entirely absurd and incongruous, having regard to the actual conditions in the Territories. I was very glad to see, therefore, that when the matter was drawn to the attention of the Minister for Territories he made it quite clear that he regarded it as entirely inappropriate.

Suggest corrections