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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I wish to deal with a matter that is of great concern to me and ought to be of great concern to the people of Australia. I refer to the action of the Administration in New Guinea in refusing to allow representatives of the press to attend a meeting of leaders of the native people of Papua and New Guinea that is now being held near Rabaul, lt seems to be extraordinary that action should be taken to prevent the press from being present at a meeting of this kind - the first ever held - at which leaders of the native people have assembled to discuss their problems with each other and with the officers of the Administration. One is entitled to assume that the Administration is afraid to allow the press - which means the public - to hear what the native people think of the Administration in New Guinea. Indeed, one of the officers of the Administration has stated that the reason why the press had been prohibited from attending this conference, which is expected to last a fortnight, was that the Administration was afraid that some of the native leaders might say things-

Mr Anderson - Bunkum!

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable member calls it bunkum. T am reciting to the House the text of an official reply to a question. The official reply is to the effect that the Administration was afraid that the native leaders might say something that would be, as the officer put it, misinterpreted. I am very concerned that this Government should be so fearful of what the native people are thinking of the Administration that it has decided to place a black-out on news emanating from this conference. If we have nothing to hide in New Guinea, why are we preventing the press from attending the conference? No one can doubt that a bad press is better than a press without freedom. With all the faults of the press - no one could be more conscious of its faults than I am - at least-

Mr Murray - Where is the conference being held?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In Rabaul. One thing must be said: If it were not for the press of this country this Government, arrogant though it is already, would be even more so because, as a result of the campaigns that have been waged by the newspapers, whenever they are aware of things which they believe to be wrong, the Government has been forced to toe the line. It was the press campaign against the vicious features of the Crimes Bill that forced the Government to accept some of the amendments that the Opposition proposed. Only by allowing the press to hear what the native people have to say will we, as a people, ever discover how well or how poorly the Government is doing its job. 1 am very suspicious of some of the things that the Government is doing in New Guinea. I am wondering whether the press was prohibited from attending the conference to cover up some of the misleading and evasive answers that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has given to the Parliament, these answers no doubt having been supplied by the officers of the Administration. I am beginning to wonder whether some of the Administration officers, whom I have credited with doing an excellent job and with being dedicated men, are perhaps not so dedicated to their job as I at first thought. When I asked the Minister to tell me whether it was true that the Administration was using unpaid forced native labour to maintain certain roads in

New Guinea, the answer was "No". I then asked this question on notice -

Are native villagers responsible for repair and maintenance work on the Minj -Goroka road in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea free to refuse to perform this work?

The answer was -

Yes, except for obligation as the occupier of land adjoining a trunk road to clear drains and cut grass and secondary growth on the length of the road adjoining his land, under Section 9 of the Roads Maintenance Ordinance.

The Minister did not answer, but evaded, my question, which was whether the natives were free to refuse to do this work. The plain fact is that they are not free to refuse. The District Commissioner told me that every native on these locations in New Guinea-

Mr Hasluck - And every European, too.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am talking about natives doing work for nothing and being obliged to maintain the roads that go through their villages.

Mr Kelly - We have to do that.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, but you get paid for it. If I catch any persons not being paid for doing road work in Australia, I shall report them to the unions concerned and see that they get paid. There is no union in New Guinea to whom one can report such people. I also asked the Minister -

Are these natives required to carry river stones and gravel by hand from river beds to the job on which they are working?

The Minister's answer was -

See answer to 1.

That answer was, " No ". 1 knew that that answer was not correct, so I asked the question again. The question was -

Do they now carry this material by hand?

To-day, I received the following reply: -

Road-making material must be carried by hand from the river bed to the point of loading for a motor vehicle. This varies mainly from 10 to 50 yards and the estimated longest haul, which is exceptional, is about500 yards.

That is just not true, because there was no sign of a motor truck anywhere on the road that I travelled with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I also asked the Minister whether the natives had requested that a motor truck be made avail able to assist in carrying the material along the road, and the Minister's answer, on 8th November, was " No ". He said that no such request was made. I have the authority of no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition to refute that. No one will accuse him of being anti-planter or anti-Administration. He will verify the statement that I now make that in his presence and in the presence of Senator Dittmer the District Commissioner was requested by a native working on the road to provide a motor truck and that the District Commissioner said, " What do you want this for? ls this only to save yourself some work, so that you will not have to work so many days a month or that you will not have to do so much work? " That was beside the point. It did not matter whether it was to save work. Of course it was to save work. They ought to be saved work. Fancy, in this day and age, human beings being compelled to go into the river bed and carry metal on a piece of bark from the bed of the river, up the bank of the river, and along the road - not for 50 yards, 100 yards, or 500 yards, but for at least a mile from the river, because the nearest river bed from the point of disposal was a mile away. What an archaic state of affairs! Is it because the Minister is afraid that at this conference of native leaders that is now being held the press might hear some objections by the native leaders, or that the native leaders might ask that a small grader be provided, and that a motor truck be provided in order-

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order!The honorable gentleman's time has expired.

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