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Thursday, 15 October 1964

Mr KING (Wimmera) .- Mr. Temporary Chairman,I begin my remarks by suggesting to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) that he examine the " Hansard " of the House of Representatives of 11th April 1962, at page 1549, which records a proposal for the discussion of a matter of definite public importance submitted by the Opposition. The subject was education in Papua and New Guinea. If he turns to page 1562, he will note that the Opposition did not even have enough regard for the urgency of the matter to call for a division on the motion for the calling on of the business of the day, which terminated the discussion on the proposal. I suggest that, if it is worth while proposing a matter for discussion, it is worth while also calling for a division on a motion designed to terminate the discussion. The honorable member, I think, said that the Government would not support the proposal.

I wish to discuss the estimates for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which appear at page 144 of the Bill. I begin by complimenting, first, the Government and, secondly, the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) on the wonderful work that has been done in Papua and New Guinea. I should like to congratulate also the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), who was previously Minister for Territories for a lengthy period. I believe that we may justifiably be very proud of our achievements in the Territory over many years. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) said that he sympathised with the present Minister because, as a junior Minister, he had such a tremendous task to perform. I assure the honorable member for Batman, knowing the ability and capabilities of the present Minister, that there need be no fear. Like other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I am confident that the present Minister will discharge his responsibilities ably and efficiently.

If we look at page 144 of the Bill, we find that the proposed expenditure for the Territory this financial year is to be increased. This is in line with the increase in activity that has occurred in recent years. Expenditure will increase from £25,890,000 to something like £28,500,000. There will be an increase of just under £3,000,000. This, as I have said, is in keeping with the usual practice of gradually increasing the amount each year.

Domestically, to some people at least, New Guinea may not seem of any great importance, but I believe that nationally it is of extreme importance, and in the international field Australia is being judged by many other countries on its activities in this Territory. It is unfortunate that many of the people who express criticism are among those who know the least about the subject. Some of them have not even visited the area and they do not know the problems that exist now or the ones that are likely to crop up in the future. Many do not realise that the value of exports from New Guinea - and when I speak of New Guinea I include Papua - is only two-thirds of the value of imports into that Territory. I do not know how many of our critics are aware of the increasing expenditure that we make in the Territory from year to year.

As I said at the outset, in this financial year we are putting something more than £28 million into the Territory by means of direct grants. Naturally there will also be other moneys infiltrating into the area.

The expenditure we are making is a very good thing. Some people ask themselves whether these allocations that are made from time to time represent an efficient method of providing finance, but I believe the important point is that we are constantly increasing our grants for the Territory. In my opinion it is far better to make constant increases than to provide a huge sum in one year and a reduced amount in the following year.

The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) in his speech earlier today was rather critical of some of the things that are taking place in Papua and New Guinea. He spoke of problems with salaries and he mentioned hospitals. But I do believe that the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) adequately answered the honorable member for Macquarie in that connection. The honorable member for Macquarie went on to say that Australia was being shown up in a bad light through her activities in the Territory, but I suggest that it would be far better for the honorable member to concentrate his remarks on Australia's achievements in the Territory than to concentrate on criticisms, because many of the criticisms cannot really be considered constructive suggestions.

In regard to education the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) spoke at some length, and spoke very well, on the importance and value of universities. I agree with much of what he said, but I would like also to direct attention to the increases and improvements that have been made from time to time in educational facilities. I think the honorable member for Reid said that very little had been done in this field in New Guinea until the last four or five years, but I believe we are advancing at a fairly rapid rate in education. The number of registered and recognised schools has increased from about 250 or 270 some years ago to more than 1,000 today. The number of Administration schools has increased from about 40 in 1950 to more than 400 in 1962. But we must also remember that because of the lack of educated parental guidance it is not easy to stress upon the people, and have them understand, the value of education. Some of them work on the principle that if they attend a school for 12 months or so they will be automatically educated. This presents a mighty big problem, as the

Minister for Territories knows only too well. This is another of the problems that we have to try to solve.

I believe also that in recent years there has been a great improvement in the health situation. Today there are more than 100 hospitals whereas at the conclusion of World War II only about two hospitals were left standing. There are more than 500 maternity and child welfare centres. These figures are not to be sneezed at. They do not point to a country that is not playing its part in furthering the advancement of the area. There are quite a number of aged persons' centres scattered throughout Papua and New Guinea. I agree that there could be a shortage of medical practitioners, but this is a problem that is not confined to New Guinea. I think most honorable members, particularly those from rural areas, will agree that there is a critical shortage of medical practitioners in country districts on the mainland. I know that there is in my electorate of Wimmera, and I am sure that the situation is much the same in the electorate of my colleague, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). As I have said, the shortage of medical practitioners is not confined to New Guinea.

We must also remember that the Territory covers a very large area and that it has a rather small population. As most of the natural exports, particularly in the agricultural field, are of a tropical type, the Territory has to compete in the export field against various other tropical countries in the vicinity, including northern Australia. So it is not easy to establish a new industry or to expand an old one, because you must face the problem of exporting your produce once you have 'grown it. There is naturally a limit to the early potential of secondary industries. We must remember that some of the people are not far removed from the cannibal stage, and there are not many of them who can be placed in secondary industries. When faced with that problem it is only natural that there is a difficulty in expanding secondary industry as rapidly as we would like to see it expand.

I have just been reminded of one other matter. Perhaps it does not bolster the point I have just been trying to make, but it will be of interest to honorable members. We had some discussion this afternoon about the

Ansett organisation, and I would like to tell the committee that the Ansett company in New Guinea has at last been able to give one of the natives a position in the aviation industry. We must first congratulate the Ansett organisation for giving this help to one of the local inhabitants, and we should also congratulate the lad himself.

I believe we have made magnificent strides in the development of New Guinea. Australia has accepted a commitment to undertake the trusteeship of the area and to provide the necessary assistance in its development. Australia has honoured all her commitments. We are working for the social, educational, economic and political advancement of the inhabitants, so as to bring them to a stage at which they can clearly choose their own future. We will protect the rights of the inhabitants to make their own choice, and when that choice is made we will certainly respect it. Most importantly, we have pledged ourselves not to leave the Territory until the indigenous inhabitants wish us to do so. I compliment the Government on its activities in this area, and I believe that time will show that the decisions we are making today are the correct ones.

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