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Wednesday, 18 February 1959

Dr EVATT (Hunter) (Leader of the Opposition) . - by leave - The statement just delivered by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is extremely important. lt is quite correct, as the Minister said, that an opportunity was given to my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and myself to discuss questions of common interest with the visiting Minister for Foreign Affairs from Indonesia. We did discuss them and we stated the position frankly as we understood it, and I propose to say much the same to honorable members.

I.   think there is a complete misconception of the position on the part of the Government. There has been no real achievement in what has been done unless it is to say that if Indonesia obtains a grant of sovereignty from the Netherlands Government, Australia does not object. Of course, that is only the tiniest portion of the problem. Whose sovereignty and whose selfdetermination are involved in this question? Is it the sovereignty and self-governing rights of the people of western New Guinea? Because that is the real core of the matter.

Our view is that we have to look at this problem in the light of other facts. The outstanding fact is that New Guinea - and I refer to the whole of the great island of New Guinea, consisting as it does of the Trust Territory of New Guinea, formerly German New Guinea, Papua, which is Australian territory, and Dutch New Guinea - constitutes territory and territories which, during the war against Japan, were proved to be absolutely vital to the security and defence of Australia. 1 think that is so obvious that one need not develop the matter further. The Australian Labour party decided, through its governing body, that the immediate purpose in connexion with Indonesia should be -

A mutual regional pact for security and welfare-

Honorable members will see that it is for both objectives. Security is one thing, and the welfare of the peoples concerned is another. They are equally important. The proposal is that this pact - 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 standards of life for all the peoples throughout this area - so vital to Australia.

If I may, I shall detail what I have said. We have the three territories - Papua, an Australian possession; western New Guinea, a Dutch possession; and the trust Territory of New Guinea. They are the three integral parts and their interests are the same, whether they arise through the trust principle embodied in the Charter of the United Nations or through the provisions of Chapter XI. of the Charter, which is the declaration regarding non-self-governing territories. These, of course, would include both Papua and Dutch New Guinea. Very much the same principle is contained in each of those provisions of the Charter, which is part and parcel of the United Nations itself. Article 73 applies clearly to our Territory of Papua and to the Dutch territory of western New Guinea. It reads -

Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligations to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the Present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:

(a)   to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social and education advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;

(b)   to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples . . .

The peoples there referred to are not the inhabitants of Indonesia or of Holland; they are the inhabitants, in this instance, of western New Guinea, and the principle relates to them. It may take many years, but in the end they are the people who will have sovereignty over the various territories. Australia is the trustee of two of the three territories, but all three are connected. The article continues - . . and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of such territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.

The Minister seems to suppose that, if sovereignty over western New Guinea resides in the Netherlands, it can be transferred at the will of the Netherlands to Indonesia, and that will be the end of the matter. But it is not! An obligation of the character that I have mentioned, making paramount the interests of the native peoples, cannot be evaded. It is an obligation under the charter of the United Nations, and it must be recognized. Therefore, it is not a question merely of a bargain between Indonesia and Holland, as the Minister seems to suppose. That is a complete misconception. It is quite true that Dr. Subandrio came here and put his views courteously and very ably. What I have said to the House, my colleague the honorable member for Melbourne and I said to him. We told him that Australia was interested in the territory, not for the sake of obtaining a possession for Australia but to protect the interests of the native peoples of all parts of New Guinea. That consideration must be paramount. We said that clearly and we also said, quite frankly, that in the war against Japan the whole of New Guinea was vital to the security of Australia. After listening to Dr. Subandrio, I believe that there was a chance - there may still be a chance - of getting him to see our point of view. That is one of the reasons why the Australian Labour party favours an agreement between Holland, Indonesia and Australia regarding the welfare and security of the native peoples.

The Minister seems to think that referring the question of sovereignty to the International Court might be a solution. But who really suggests that sovereignty is not in the Netherlands? The parties made an agreement in regard to western New Guinea some years ago, and it is plain from their own document that sovereignty over western New Guinea does not reside in Indonesia. If the question went to the court, the court would unhesitatingly and immediately decide that sovereignty, so far as the oldfashioned idea of sovereignty applied, still remained with Holland. Therefore, there is nothing to decide. The Minister could have gone ahead on the assumption that there is nothing to decide. Sovereignty rests with the Government and the people of the Netherlands. It is true, as the Minister said, that we want friendship with a democratic and truly independent Indonesia. That is our aim. The Minister said that few important questions divide us, but this is an important question that divides the people and I do not think it can be solved by simply leaving it where it is. I am sure that the Netherlands would not agree to a change in management and control which would prejudice the very purpose of the charter in the terms that I have mentioned. This is a vital question.

We want a debate on this matter in this House. This matter affects Australia's defence, security and welfare very vitally, and the Government should immediately reconsider its policy on a basis of frankness with Indonesia. The case for what I am putting is overwhelming, I submit, and I do not think that there is any question of sovereignty. In the old technical and legal sense, sovereignty resides where it has resided since 1949 - with the Netherlands. The vital question is: In what interest is this territory to be governed? It must be governed according to the charter of the United Nations, which means that it must be governed in the interests of the native peoples. But there is not a suggestion of that in the statement made by the two governments.

Mr Haylen - It would be a change from colonialism to colonialism.

Dr EVATT - In one sense it might be a change of colonialism for colonialism; but let us get closer to it. Let us try to bring the Indonesian and the Dutch people together to see whether an agreement of the character we have indicated could be reached. That would be not only a permanent protection for the native peoples of western New Guinea but also a great reinforcement of the principle that we should provide for the protection, advancement and welfare of the native peoples of Papua and New Guinea, for whom we are directly responsible. Those matters have not been considered. The interests of the native peoples of western New Guinea should remain paramount.

It has been suggested that agreement on sovereignty between Holland and Indonesia would solve the problem. It would do nothing of the kind. It would aggravate the problem and make it very serious indeed from certain angles. I think that the Minister who visited Australia has a fund of goodwill towards this country, but he must really see our point of view. We hope to have a debate on this matter in the near future so that the views of honorable members on this side of the House can be put.

Mr Harold Holt - May I just clarify a point? The right honorable gentleman has sought an opportunity for subsequent debate. Would he prefer that to be in the form of a motion that the statement be printed?

Dr EVATT - I do not mind what form it is, as long as the House has a chance to debate it.

Mr Harold Holt - The subject could be raised in the Address-in-Reply debate.

Dr EVATT - We do not want to curtail debate on other matters during the course of the debate on the Address-in-Reply.

Mr Harold Holt - If the Opposition prefers it, the debate could be on the motion that the paper be printed.

Dr EVATT - That might prevent a decision.

Mr Harold Holt - It would not preclude reference to the subject in the course of the debate on the Address-in-Reply.

Mr Calwell - That is not good enough. We will move a motion of censure, in due course, if necessary.

Mr Harold Holt - At this stage you do not want a motion for the printing of the paper?

Mr Calwell - No.

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