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Thursday, 27 April 1961


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) correctly stated that General Nasution's visit had certainly made a powerful contribution to our common understanding and goodwill. The statement made by the "Prime Minister to-night is "the" first that I can recollect from a member of the Government in this chamber or from an Australian representative in the United Nations which correctly and relevantly states the Indonesian claim to West New Guinea. It is the first statement that I can recall from any member of the Government in this chamber or any Australian representative overseas which has concentrated on the only plausible argument that is put forward in support of the Australian Government's attitude towards that territory. If this attitude had been expressed with similar clarity and force during the 1950's, Australia's viewpoint would have secured very much more support internationally than it has secured. Australia has a very good case for the attitude it has taken internationally in relation to the territory of West New Guinea. But that case has not been put with! any strength or consistency, and it has been over-ridden time and time again with arguments which are quite untenable. I regret that some of those arguments obtruded themselves into the contributions to the debate that were made to-night by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) and the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes). The Prime Minister avoided those untenable arguments to-night, and for the first time Australia's case emerges clearly and forcefully.

We should never overlook the isolation in which Australia has placed itself on this issue, which has come up quite often internationally and on which Australia has received diminishing support, not only among the members of the United Nations generally but particularly among our Pacific neighbours. If war were to come over West New Guinea - and some honorable members have mentioned that possibility - Australia would not be able to resort to the security treaty of 1951 between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America, which is commonly known as the Anzus pact, or to the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, which is commonly described as the Seato pact. The Anzus pact covers an armed attack within " the Pacific area ". The term is not precisely defined. The Seato pact refers to " the general area of the Southwest Pacific ". The islands between Australia and Asia, which are included in this area, are not enumerated. We can be sure that neither of these pacts, which have been made the keystone of the Menzies Government's international policy, applies to any situation which may arise in respect of West New Guinea.

The question of West New Guinea has arisen for debate in the United Nations on three occasions, and it went to a vote on two occasions. There was a debate but no vote in the General Assembly in 1955. There were debates and votes in the Political Committee of the Assembly, and in the plenary meetings, in 1954 and 1956-57 - the ninth and eleventh sessions of the General Assembly. On the first occasion, during the ninth session in 1954, the Political Committee expressed the hope that the governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands would pursue their endeavours to find a solution to the dispute. In plenary the resolution was supported by 34 nations and opposed by 23, with three abstentions. Among those nations which voted in favour were the Asian members of the Seato past - Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand - and India, another of the Asian members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Among the 23 nations which voted against were Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the United

Kingdom. Significantly, among the three abstentions was the United States. The resolution was not carried by the General Assembly because it did not receive the requisite two-thirds of the votes.

The matter was debated once again in the Political Committee at the eleventh session. The resolution on that occasion called for the appointment of a good offices commission to assist in negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands. This resolution was supported in plenary by 40 votes to 25, and on that occasion there were thirteen abstentions. Once again, among the countries which voted in favour of the resolution were the three Asian members of the Seato pact, and Ceylon and India - the two other Asian members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Among those nations which voted against were Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, as before. Among the thirteen which abstained were the United States again and, this time, Cambodia and Laos.

The significant thing is that although the United States Government; even under President Eisenhower, consistently followed the colonialist line when any of the powers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was concerned, even on the question of the Portuguese enclaves in India, that Government abstained on this issue. The United States has never supported the point of view of the Netherlands and Australia on West New Guinea. There is no question that the United States genuinely abstained, because the Latin American countries, which then were much more amenable to American wishes than ' they are now, were evenly divided between those which abstained, those which supported and those which opposed. Australia has no support from, the United States for the attitude which it has hitherto put forward in the United Nations - or anywhere else - and is it any wonder?

Trenchant arguments - and they were certainly trenchant when Sir Percy Spender put them to the United Nations in 1954 and 1955 - were advanced, on historical, legal, racial and linguistic grounds, to refute Indonesian claims. If those were the grounds on which Indonesia's claims ought to be rejected, still more readily could the claims of the Netherlands be rejected, because, on all those grounds, the claims of the Netherlands were more tenuous and less substantial than are those of Indonesia. The fact that Australia propounded those tests for rule over the territory might have encouraged Indonesia to make claims, which in fact she has never made, to eastern New Guinea, to eastern Timor, to North Borneo and Sarawak, and to Palawan and the Sulu Archipelago.

It is true that Sir Percy Spender did make a very short reference to the justification for the continuation of Netherlands rule of West New Guinea under Articles 73 ar.d 74 in Chapter XI. of the United Nations Charter. In the Subandrio-Casey communique of two years ago, once again there was a passing reference to that subject. There was no precise reference to the charter, but there was a reference to the matter of self-determination. And it was no sooner mentioned than it was dismissed. These were the terms used -

There was a full explanation of the considerations which have led each country to a different view over western New Guinea (West Irian), with Australia recognizing the principle of self-determination. This difference remains, but the position was clarified" by" "an explanation "from' Australian Ministers that it followed from their position of respect for agreements on the rights of sovereignty that if any agreement were reached between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles, Australia would not oppose such an agreement.

The principle of self-determination was stated and then dismissed.

The bulk of the communique proceeded on the basis that the question of West New Guinea could be resolved by an agreement between two competing owners. If the Netherlands chose to hand over to Indonesia the land and the tenants which it owned in West New Guinea Australia would not object. Is not that the same argument which the Prime Minister has advanced - admittedly, in a subsidiary position - tonight? Does not that criticism apply also to the argument which he advanced - again in a subsidiary position - concerning the determination by the International Court of Justice? The claim that the Netherlands has - and, in our view, rightly has - to rule West New Guinea resides in the principle of self-determination for non-self-governing people. We weaken our case, we cast reflections on the genuineness of our argument, if we say, " Oh, well, if they choose to come to an agreement, or if the International Court of Justice makes a decision, we will forget about self-determination ". In other words, self-determination will be ignored if the Netherlands and Indonesia come to a voluntary agreement or if the International Court of Justice determines the question of sovereignty in favour of one of those two countries.

The validity and the morality of Australia's case has been based, all along, on self-determination alone. If a case along those lines had been put forward consistently during the 1950's we would have had support from other countries, including the emerging countries of Asia and Africa, and, not least, those countries which belong to the Commonwealth of Nations. We have never had their support. Is that any wonder when we remember that we have not concentrated on the only argument which would have carried any weight with those countries?

Chapter XI. of the United Nations Charter, which comprises Articles 73 and 74, is headed " Declaration Regarding Nonselfgoverning Territories ". It is a declaration, in the words of Article 73, by " 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 selfgovernment ". The United Nations has said ever since the war, as the League of Nations said during the years between the wars, that the people in the trust territory, the former mandate, of New Guinea are not yet fit to govern themselves. For that reason, Australia was given a mandate or a trusteeship over those territories.

If a resolution had been proposed in the United Nations, seeking the view of that organization on West New Guinea - and we voted against the resolution and helped to deny them the necessary two-thirds majority - if the United Nations had decided to express a view on this subject, it could, in logic and in morality, have come to no decision on West New Guinea other than that which it reached on eastern New Guinea. It is inconceivable that the United Nations would have said that the people of West New Guinea were fit to govern themselves while the people in the trust territory were not. Australia could have put this argument forward, and should have put it forward, in the United Nations and in the Commonwealth of Nations throughout the 1950's, ever since this dispute arose between the new sovereign state of Indonesia and the former Dutch empire.

It is one of the tragedies - I hope that is an exaggerated term - or one of the misfortunes of this country that during the 1950's the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who has had an internal political security such as has been enjoyed by no other Prime Minister in the Commonwealth of Nations except the Prime Minister of India, was so slow to catch up with world opinion. We have seen again and again, when he has gone overseas, that he has trailed the field. It is true that after he recently received a rude awakening from the expressed attitude of the conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom he did show, at least in the United Nations, that he had finally caught up with world opinion on the South African .question, but he was the last of the Commonwealth team to do so. It is true that now, after his conversations with General Nasution, he has a fairly comprehensive realization of the relevance of the Indonesian claim and of the Dutch claim. The statement he has made to-night is the first clear statement that has been made, either by him .or by either of his two predecessors in the Ministry for External Affairs, on this subject.


Mr Anderson - That is not true.


Mr WHITLAM - On previous occasions Lord Casey, as he now is, and Sir Percy Spender made glancing references to selfdetermination, but this is the first statement in which the matter of self-determination holds pride of place and is given proper priority.

In the few minutes left to me I want to deprecate two attitudes to this question that are constantly revealed, often by inadvertence. The first involves the idea that New Guinea represents some form of cordon sanitaire between us and Asia. Those who are influenced by that suggestion should recall that there are three archipelagoes - the Kai, the Tanimbar and the Aru Islands - between West New Guinea and Australia which have been occupied by Indonesia ever since that country secured self-government, as they were occupied during the war by the Japanese and used by the Japanese in preference to alternative bases in West New Guinea.

The other idea is that for some reason we seek to promote a union between various territories in New Guinea. If we give that impression, we are demonstrating bad faith, because Indonesia claims that it should be possessed of West New Guinea, as successor to the Netherlands empire. Our justification for ruling the eastern part of the island under trusteeship or under Chapter XI. of the Charter, and the Netherlands justification for ruling West New Guinea under Chapter XI. of the Charter, is that we are both training the people for self-government, so that they can later express their own views. They may express a wish to unite, to form unions with neighbouring countries or to form separate countries on their own account. They may wish to become separate republics within the Commonwealth of Nations, or they may wish to unite with Indonesia, or with the Hebrides and the Solomon Islands. These are matters for them to determine, and we should not give Indonesia the impression that we are promoting any particular union. If we give such an impression we may cause Indonesia, our enduring neighbour, one of the most populous countries in the world and potentially one of the richest, to believe that we are promoting secession of a territory which Indonesia believes it owns.

I conclude by supporting the clear and forceful statement by the Prime Minister, made for the first time in the history of this Government, that the Dutch claim to rule West New Guinea has the same basis as our claim to rule eastern New Guinea. We are accepting obligations under Chapter XI. of the Charter - and under a trusteeship agreement in our case - that Indonesia would not accept. We believe that the United Nations should hold that all of the indigenous inhabitants of the island are not yet fit to govern themselves, and that in the meantime the whole of the island should continue to be ruled by the two countries, Australia and the Netherlands, who are committed to thai international obligation.







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