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Thursday, 15 October 1964


Mr UREN (Reid) .- The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson), in giving some of the historical background of the proposal to establish a university in Papua and New Guinea, said that Sir Hugh Foot arrived here on 8th April 1962. However, he did not say that the Government refused to accept the suggestions made by the Opposition when it proposed a definite matter of urgent public importance for discussion on 11th April 1962, when Sir Hugh Foot was in the chamber. The matter was raised by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), and it was in these terms -

The need, as one factor in preparing the people of Papua and New Guinea for selfgovernment, to establish a University of Papua with faculties designed to meet urgent needs and with residential colleges; and with ancillary high schools and technical schools to give secondary schooling adequate to prepare the undergraduate students of the University for University courses.

The Government refused to accept the suggestions of the honorable member on that occasion. We have been told tonight that the establishment of a university will still be pushed off until 1966, and it has been said that the people of New Guinea have just come out of the Stone Age. I remind the Committee that the people on the coast of Papua and New Guinea have been out of the Stone Age for over 100 years. It is true that the people in the highlands are very primitive, but it cannot be said that the people on the coast have just come out of the Stone Age. This is not true.

We should not lose sight of the fact that the first university established in Australia in the early 1850's commenced with fewer than 10 students. It is important that we get on with the task of educating the people of Papua and New Guinea. This is one of the great challenges to the Government and to the people of Australia. It is important that we provide education for the people in the Territory up to university standard. I would like to speak on this subject in detail, but time will not permit it. I would mention, however, that when Mr. Tom Mboya was here he said that until education in the Territory reached university level there would be no national movement and no unity of the people in Papua and New Guinea. It is foolish to suggest that the establishment of a university in the Territory should be put off until 1966. This is the time to establish the university. Breezes are blowing through the world and they will not be halted. We must go forward and we must try to hurry the development of the Territory along. We must realise that we have great responsibilities and we must face those responsibilities. If necessary, we must make great sacrifices in this country to assist the people of Papua and New Guinea to prepare themselves for self-government.

I rose to speak to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Fremantle. He moved -

That the proposed expenditure for the Department of Territories be reduced by £1.

He then set out an instruction to the Government, which contained nine clauses. In clause (iv) he said -

To inquire into the deaths of 500 Aboriginal infants in the Alice Springs area in the last three and a half years, to show that the Government reacts to this, one of the highest infant death rates in the world, as it would to a similar death rate among European infants and takes drastic steps in hygiene, living conditions and housing to reduce the rate.

The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs), who is a medical practitioner, was rather critical of the honorable member for Fremantle, and the honorable member for Fremantle has made a personal explanation. However, I can give further facts and figures. Dr. F. Lancaster Jones in his work "A Demographic Survey of Aborigines of the Northern Territory " said that in central Australian settlements the infant mortality rate was 208 per 1,000 live births and that this must be one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. His overall estimate was a rate of 176 per 1,000 in the Northern Territory, with a rising tendency. The honorable member for Fremantle has said that 500 Aboriginal infants died in the Alice Springs area in the last 3i years. I think it is worth while reading from a letter written by a missionary in the Northern Territory. He said -

The Registry of Births and Deaths at Alice Springs covers from Tennant Creek south to the South Australian border, and within this area there are approximately 6,500 aboriginal persons. This figure was given me by Welfare. Amongst this population, and under the age of four years from October 1963 to the beginning of October 1964, there have been 1 19 registered aboriginal deaths. During the same period ar.d covering the same population there have been 359 aboriginal births. Therefore, over the last 12 months there has been a death in the district of an aboriginal child for every three that have been bom. You will be shocked as you read this: it is truly a staggering figure. It is given to me by the Registrar.

These are official figures from the Registrar at Alice Springs. The honorable member for Bowman, as a medical practitioner, is dedicated to help those who are suffering and to prevent death wherever he can. How does he explain this large number of deaths of Aboriginal children? In his speech he said that this infant mortality rate was similar to the infant mortality rate in the United Arab Republic. Let us consider the reaction of some of the farmers in the Australian Country Party if some disease resulted in the loss of one in every three calves born on their properties. They would call on the Government to assist them in some way to try to wipe out the plague or disease that was killing their stock. But of course we are now dealing with the deaths of Aboriginal children, and all that honorable members on the other side can say is that the infant mortality rate amongst Aboriginals is the same as the infant mortality rate in the United Arab Republic.

I think all honorable members have great respect for the work of the honorable member for Fremantle. 1 refer with pride to the work he has done, to his research and to his sincerity. His views on problems affecting Aboriginals should be heeded by all honorable members, and particularly by the honorable member for Bowman, who should have some understanding of the human feelings of these people and of the challenge presented by the problem of infant mortality. The infant mortality rate amongst these people is a blight on Australia and we should do what we can to reduce it. We should also try to raise the standards of the Aborigines in the Northern Territory.

In the few minutes remaining to me, I wish to discuss the estimates for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This financial year, £28,496,000 is to be voted. Even though there is an air of urgency, the time is short and the eyes of the world are on us and the job that we are doing in this Territory, the vote is being increased by only £2,606,700, although the defence vote is being increased by something like £40 million. If we consider the matter, surely we must realise that the development of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea represents one of the most important defence projects that we could undertake. We know that the Afro-Asian nations are greatly concerned about our attitude to the people of the Territory. We must make sure that it is properly developed. 1 believe that a vote of £28,496,000 for the Territory this financial year is insufficient.

We must ask ourselves: Can we do the job of developing Papua and New Guinea on our own? Can Australia cope with this gigantic task of preparing the people of the Territory for self-government in the short time available? I believe that we cannot do the job alone and that we must call on the United Nations and its specialised agencies such as the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation. We must speed up the development of the Territory. For some reason or other, the tabling in this Parliament of the report of the survey by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea has been long delayed. It is necessary for us to get from the International Bank money to help promote the development of the Territory, but it must not carry an interest rate of 6 per cent. We shall need to obtain money from the International Development Association, which is a new organisation, and we need to get it at an interest rate of about 1 per cent, or less. An under-developed country like Papua and New Guinea could not carry an interest burden of 6 per cent.

Our record in relation to one aspect of the problems of developing the Territory is not good. The people are divided. There is no national unity. Mr. Tom Mboya pointed this out. The Australian Government and the Australian people have not promoted unity among the people of the Territory. A visitor from the south who talks to a local employer will be told that the employers in the Territory do not want all their workers to come from one tribe or one clan, but like to split their work force among the members of a number of clans so that members of one clan will tell on those who belong to other clans. The local employers believe that this helps them to get their work done. They constantly use members of one clan against those of another. They play off the Tolais against the natives from the Sepik area and the Motus against the Kukukukus. This is one of the great difficulties encountered in the Territory. In many instances, local interests have fostered divisions between the people of Papua and the people of New Guinea or between the people of the coast and those who live in the highlands. Divisions of this kind have been widely encouraged by the so-called administrators - men who are senior officers. They do not seem to be trying to break down the barriers between the various groups in Papua and New Guinea. Unless the indigenous people are brought together and an attempt is made to break down the barriers between them and remove their differences, great problems will occur when self-government is achieved.


Mr Gibson - What about West Irian?


Mr UREN - One of the great problems of honorable members opposite is that they all seem to fear other nations. Let us have faith in the people of East New Guinea. Let us show them that we put our faith in them. Let us say to them: " You will govern yourselves. You will guide your own dentiny." When they achieve selfgovernment they will make up their own minds and decide whether they want to be independent, whether they want to link up with Australia or whether they want to join with Indonesia. That will be their business. I have read with interest the terms of the resolution that was read to us today by Mr. Speaker. I agree with that part of it which states that the indigenous people of Papua and New Guinea will eventually have to determine their own future. But this is not to say that the outside pressure brought to bear in the United Nations has not helped to speed up the development of Papua and New Guinea. I have visited the Territory three times since I was elected to this Parliament some six years ago. It appears to roe that most of the progress that has taken place has occurred in the last five or six years and that very little was done before. We have as yet only a fewindigenous people of the Territory reaching the stage of university training. A crash programme of education will have to be adopted as a matter of great urgency.

Over the many years for which we have administered Papua and New Guinea, development of the Territory has lagged. It has not even a decent road system. The principal all weather road, I suppose, is that from Lae to Wau, a distance of 80 or 100 miles. New Guinea is one of the largest islands in the world. Yet it has only about 100 miles of all weather road. There are plans, of course, to construct an all weather road from Lae to Mount Hagen and from there across to Madang on the north coast. A good system of all weather roads in the Territory is needed. Has there been any real development of the Territory? How long will it take us to build a national road system there?

We must show some concern for the right of the people of Papua and New Guinea to self-determination. When they achieve political self-determination, will they achieve economic self-determination? We know that three major companies control the great wealth of the Territory. These are Burns Philp and Co. Ltd., W. R. Carpenter and Co. Ltd. and Steamships Trading Co. Ltd. These companies are moving into more and more fields and taking more and more control of Papua and New Guinea. I am greatly concerned for fear that when political freedom comes to the indigenous people they will fail to achieve economic freedom.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN -

Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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