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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr McCOLM (Bowman) .- J" find it rather strange, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) should suggest that the- statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is the first statement made by a Government spokesman setting out clearly Government policy in this matter, particularly with regard to the issue of selfdetermination. If it is contended that the Government should have long ago done the things suggested by the honorable member, and if the Government is to be criticized for not having done them, then I contend that the Opposition has had an equally pressing duty to bring to the attention of the Government the necessity to do these things. This is the first time I have ever heard any member of the Opposition suggest any action other than that the matter should be put before the United Nations, and I am quite sure that " Hansard " will bear me out in this regard. It is interesting to note that honorable members on the other side of the House from time to time have been quite critical of the Government on the ground that it has not taken an independent line of thought. Yet, on this occasion the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken the Government to task for. being the only country in the world which, in his opinion, has an independent line of thought with regard to New Guinea.

I think it is reasonably fair to say that until very recent times Australia was one of the few countries which Had any thoughts at all about New Guinea or any knowledge of the conditions in that part of the world. Australia was not the only country in that position, but it was one of a very few. One of the tragic aspects of the discussions which take place on this subject in the United Nations from time to time is that the great majority of the delegates have not the faintest idea of what they are talking about when they discuss Western New Guinea or New Guinea generally. That comment applies to countries of the Western bloc as well as to those of the Afro-Asian and Communist blocs. They simply have no knowledge of the area. I think that many more representatives of those countries should go to New Guinea and see for themselves the conditions there.

I am sure that it gave the House very great pleasure to hear the Prime Minister's statement to-night. It is also pleasing that the debate, on the whole, has been conducted in an atmosphere of unity of objective. So much ground has been covered,

Mr. Speaker,that there is no need for me to speak at length on some of the points that have been made. Because people tend, in the course of debates such as this, to forget the exact nature of statements that have been made earlier, I think it is important to remember that the Prime Minis,ter reiterated statements that were made at the time of Dr. Subandrio's visit. At that time, the Australian Government said three things. First, it said that there should be no recourse to armed force, whether by major or minor operations - that is, by armed infiltration - to give effect to Indonesia's territorial claim. Secondly, it said that any negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands should be voluntary and free of any threat of duress, and thirdly it said that any agreement made as a result of negotiations so conducted would be fully respected by Australia.

In the circumstances, Sir, I think it would be impossible for any Australian Government to say, " We will not accept a decision which is made by a government whose sovereignty we have respected and whose sovereignty is respected_by the great majority of the other nations of the world at the present time ". It is no doubt true that such sovereignty is respected by the great majority of nations. It is a great pity that this matter was not taken to the United Nations at an earlier stage, and that the arguments that are being put forward at the present time were not put forward then. They are not new arguments. I have heard them over the last three or four years.

If Indonesia maintains the attitude that she has no intention eventually to give selfgovernment to West New Guinea, I think it should be clearly pointed out to the member countries of the United Nations, as it should have been pointed out quite a long time ago when this matter first came up, that what in fact Indonesia is trying to do is the complete opposite of what the AfroAsian bloc is trying to do. lt should be pointed out that in fact it is the opposite of what the Communist countries claim they are trying to do. As we know, those countries claim that they are trying to abolish colonialism in all its forms; but Indonesia, by its claim to West New Guinea, makes it quite obvious that what she wants to do is to colonize. There is not the slightest doubt about that.

If Indonesia says, in effect, " There are three-quarters of a million people, but we are not prepared at any time to give them the right to determine their future ", then I think that that is nothing but an attempt at colonization. I know that some of our friends say that this is not a question of colonization but of autonomous government, or of government in autonomous regions, or some such clap-trap; but basically, it comes down to a matter of colonization.

On the one hand there is the argument that we should not permit any more of this wicked colonization, and on the other hand we have so many of the member nations of the United Nations, which know nothing whatever about the immediate problems, tending to support the extension of a form of colonialism. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, 1 think it should be clearly put to the United Nations that what Indonesia has in mind is, in effect, to cut off the life of an ancient people in an embryonic stage of development. Whether those people could ever be completely independent economically is, of course, a matter for great conjecture. I believe that the statement which the Prime Minister made to-night is an important one in that it quite clearly puts the views of the Australian Government and, as we have found during the debate, the views of a great many members of this Parliament. In fact, I am sure that they are undoubtedly the views of a majority of honorable members.

There are two matters which I think have to be borne in mind in a consideration of the questions that are before us. One is that there is in Australia a very considerable emotional feeling on this question of West New Guinea and the possibility of Indonesia taking over that area. I am not suggesting for one moment that that emotional feeling has a sound basis in logic. I, personally, do not believe that it has; but it would be foolish to deny that it exists. I think it would also be foolish for any government of Indonesia to fail to realize that there is a very great emotional feeling in Australia regarding West New Guinea.

The other point that I think we should bear in mind is one which gives me a little cause for concern. I sometimes wonder whether, while we respect Dutch sovereignty, we should not ask ourselves whether the Dutch are proceeding too quickly. We may say, " Right. You have every reason to go ahead and do what you think should be done in West New Guinea, in view of your intention to give the people the right to self-determination." T am relying only on newspaper reports when I say that it is likely that self-determination will be granted in about eight years' time. I wonder whether the Dutch may not be going a little too quickly in specifying a term of eight years. In my opinion, if selfdetermination is achieved in eight or ten years, it will have been achieved too quickly, because with the greatest respect to the peoples of West New Guinea, I do not believe that in eight or ten years' time they will be ready for complete selfgovernment. In that time, it is quite possible that they will be able to say with something like one voice, "We want selfdetermination ".

That is said at the present time, of course, but we have to bear in mind that only a small number of the people of West New Guinea and Papua actually say it. Although many of them may think that they should have the right to self-determination, it must be recognized that probably a vast number know nothing whatever of this particular problem. They do not know what decisions other people are seeking to make, either to their advantage or their disadvantage, because, as the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) has already said, a considerable proportion of the population is not in direct contact with the administration. So, Sir, I. am a little afraid that the Netherlands may be proceeding too quickly with the idea of self-determination.

If honorable members consider that the matter should be placed before the United Nations for determination, I wonder what they have in mind. I should hope that the United Nations would decide on the establishment of a trusteeship and that it would not attempt to carry out a referendum amongst the inhabitants, because I think it would find that some of them would be inclined to be a little warlike and to throw more than eggs.

Mr Cope - There will be an opportunity for that in New South Wales on Saturday.

Mr McCOLM - I am prepared to admit that some of the people who will vote "Yes" in New South Wales on Saturday will be as well informed as are some of the people of Papua.

Mention has been made of the fact that Australia, in appearing to stand alone in its attitude to West New Guinea, has not received the support of some fellow members of Seato. I do not think that is at all strange because, to my mind, the Seato agreement is designed basically to prevent a further spread of communism in South.East Asia. Indonesia's claim to West New Guinea is not a matter which can be said, with any degree of accuracy, to be one that directly involves the spread of communism in South-East Asia and I do not think it strange, although it is very unfortunate, that some of our colleagues in Seato do not agree with us in relation to West New Guinea. A lot more information must be given to the United Nations before it will be able to come to a sensible decision on this question. I commend the Prime Minister for his statement on New Guinea. lt was very welcome but, I am inclined to think, a little overdue.

The portion of the statement which deals with Laos contains some important points which honorable members should bear in mind. One of the most important is in this section -

It is out of the question to confer on ways and means of ensuring the future independence and neutrality of Laos - a policy of noninterference by Western powers and Communist powers alike - if fighting is continuing in Laos and new military threats are added to the recent series of offensive operations by the Pathet Lao.

There is no doubt about that. The Prime Minister's statement gives us reason to believe and to hope that there can be a peaceful solution to the problem in Laos, but we must bear in mind the very great dangers which exist. The Prime Minister stated -

The Australian Government has long been determined to support genuine negotiations of a peaceful solution of the Laotian problem. At the same time we have made it clear by out recent association with the Seato communique' of 29th March, that we are united with our allies also in our determination to prevent armed Communist domination of Laos. This being clear, there is now a better prospect of coming to an agreement, by negotiation, on a solution which will satisfy all legitimate interests and avoid war.

We certainly hope that that will be the case. May I conclude by joining with those honor able members who have expressed their pleasure that Sierra Leone has come into the Commonwealth of Nations.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.

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