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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr DEAN (Robertson) .- To-night the House has had the great advantage of listening to an important and most interesting statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). First, he referred to his talks with General Nasution. The right honorable gentleman then brought the House up to date on the position in Laos. Finally, he expressed our good wishes to Sierra Leone on gaining its independence to-day. I am sure that all of us in this place support the Prime Minister in the good wishes which he offered. The greatest part of the Prime Minister's statement was devoted to the discussions that he lad with General Nasution and the West New Guinea problem. In one sense, it seems to me that that report was sufficient unto itself and little more need be said about it. But as the debate has continued, I should like to take part in it and make some comments on the points raised by honorable gentlemen opposite.

I do so for several reasons. One of them is that I have visited Indonesia on two occasions. The first occasion was at the end of 1956 when the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and I formed the first Australian parliamentary delegation that went to Indonesia. Again in December, 1959, I had the honour of accompanying the Prime Minister on his first official visit to that country. Earlier this month, as a member of the Australian parliamentary delegation, I went to Netherlands New Guinea to attend the official opening of the newly constituted Nieuw Guinea Raad or legislative council. I believe that I should make a report to the House on the discussions that I was able to have during thos3 three visits.

On several occasions during my last visit to our neighbouring country, Indonesia, our hosts were good enough to discuss with me in an unofficial way their claim to Netherlands New Guinea, or as they refer to it, West Irian. The Indonesians, as I understood them, believed that the Dutch formally committed themselves to transfer the territory at a date to be determined, during negotiations preceding the actual transfer of sovereignty over the remainder of the Netherlands East Indies to Indonesia. Reference was also made to West Irian being included with parts of Indonesia ns territory dominated by former potentates. They believed that they could put into operation good and sound developmental and educational programmes. I was told quite clearly that the issue between Indonesia and the Netherlands was one to be resolved by peaceful means. They believed that armed force should not be used by countries as a means of settling territorial disputes. There were expressions of genuine desire to maintain strong, friendly ties with Australia, and it was acknowledged that close co-operation between our countries would be of benefit to both countries. That is a very short summary of the discussions I had with my friends in Indonesia.

As I have said, the Australian parliamentary delegation went to Netherlands New Guinea earlier this month to attend the official opening of the newly constituted legislative council in Hollandia. From my discussions with our Dutch hosts I understood that the Netherlands Government has a genuine desire to bring self-government to the people of West New Guinea and that the administration believes that its most important task is the education of the Papuans. In that belief I feel sure that there is a realization that although the intelligence of the Papuans is the same as ours they use their intelligence to create a life with the things they find in nature, and that with the introduction of western educational methods a radical process is under way which will develop primitive communities into a new Papuan society capable ot fulfilling the functions necessary for progress in this modern world. I also understood from the Dutch that their education programme includes public health, farming, housing and training for participation in government affairs. That is a very short summary of the discussions I had with our Dutch friends.

While in Netherlands New Guinea I had an opportunity to talk with some of the Papuan members of the Legislative Council. Some of the things they told me were that they, the Papuans, were eager to have self-government some time in the future, that when self-government was obtained they wanted a sound economy with a stable form of government, that they did not want to obtain self-government only to be dominated shortly afterwards by another country, that their desire for future independence was not incompatible with having good friendly relations with neighbouring countries and, indeed, with all members of the United Nations; and that their two pressing needs were the education of their people and the development of the country so that it could have its own financial stability without relying on outside help.

These reports of my discussions are necessarily short and they need no further interpretation. But I believe that I should provide some background comment. First, we should remember that because of the inaccessibility of many parts of the Territory many tribes have been kept imprisoned within small areas and isolated from the outside world, and in many cases from one another. Because of this isolation hundreds of different languages are spoken and there is very little, if any, form of communication between those tribes. It is estimated that there are 700,000 Papuans in the Netherlands portion of the large New Guinea island. Administrative officers have informed me that they have made reasonable contact with approximately 270,000 of those people and that they have registered a total of approximately 400,000. In addition, there are approximately 18,000 Europeans and 18,000 Asians. Those Asians are of mixed origin; some of them are of mixed European and Indonesian blood, and some are Chinese.

Most of the Papuans live in villages which are based mainly on what I describe as subsistence agriculture. They do very little trading. They grow coffee, coco-nuts, nutmeg and cocoa. They are being encouraged by the Administration to cultivate large areas and to indulge in trading with one another, and to produce for export. So in the future there will be some commercial activity amongst the Papuans themselves. In relation to the personal problem of the Dutch people, it is well known that the flow of oil on the north-western tip of their territory is declining. I was told when 1 was in the Territory that approximately 50,000 Papuan children go to primary school. There are about 1,100 such schools. In addition, there are thirteen secondary schools and seventeen vocational schools. Those figures indicate that the Netherlands Administration is making good progress.

I desire to express great appreciation of the work that is being done by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), the Administration and the officers under their control, and of the great progress that is being made in our half of the island of New Guinea. If I may make a personal plea, I ask that neither the Dutch nor the Australian Administration be hindered in its work. Some people within the United Nations Organization and some outside it are asking us to set target dates for the giving of selfgovernment to the Papuans. The problems of New Guinea cannot be wiped out by the passing of resolutions. It is well known that the Communists want these developing countries to be left to themselves long before they are ready for self-government so that the Communists may come in and take over during the confusion that is certain to take place if self-government is granted before the people are ready for it. The people in these developing countries must be given as much time as possible to prepare for self-government. Democracy is not brought to people simply by presenting them with a ballot-box. Democracy cannot exist in New Guinea when more than half of the voters are regarded as chattels. I refer to the womenfolk in the greater part of the island, making an exception of those in certain coastal areas. So let us help the Papuans to achieve their goal as quickly as possible, but let us not rush them. I discovered that the Papuans themselves realize the danger of too much haste.

As an example of what is being done in New Guinea, I point out that in the current financial year- the Dutch are" "spending in Netherlands New Guinea the equivalent of approximately £12,000,000 in Australian currency. It is their intention to increase that sum by equal instalments until in three years' time they will be spending the equivalent of approximately £18,000,000 in Australian currency. Speaking from memory, during this financial year Australia proposes to spend more than £19,000,000 in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The people themselves, especially those who are members of the respective legislative councils, realize that at present they have no form of trade to replace the subsidies that are being paid to stabilize their economies and that there is no sign of their being able to conduct sufficient trade in the near future to increase the sums that I have mentioned.

The problem before us is not one of judging whether the Netherlands or Indonesia is more suitable to assist the people in West New Guinea. The world has been told by the Dutch what their programme is. The Dutch have been quite frank about it and we realize what they are trying to do. I believe that if our Indonesian neighbours wish to proceed with their claim to West New Guinea they should tell the world what their programme will be. to help the people of West New Guinea to advance along the lines they desire.

I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to extend thanks to Dr. Platteel the Governor of Netherlands New Guinea, and his officers, for the way in which they received the Australian delegation and put themselves at our disposal to answer our many questions, and also to congratulate them on the manner in which they organized the establishment of their newly-constituted Nieuw Guinea Raad. I should also like to express appreciation to Indonesia and to General Nasution personally for his visit to Australia. I have vivid recollections of my visit to that country. I found there a genuine and widespread feeling of great friendship towards Australia and a genuine desire that this close contact with our country should continue.

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