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Thursday, 15 October 1964

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) .- I support the amendment moved by the Opposition. The amendment contains nine points of criticism of the Government's administration of the Northern Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I should like to say at the outset that I appreciate very much the resolution conveyed to this Parliament by the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea. The unanimous resolution from that Assembly indicated that people in the Territory did not want to be pressured into independence but wanted to take the responsibility upon themselves to decide when they were ready for independence. I believe that that resolution conveys to the Australian people the feeling of those in the Territory, their attitude of responsibility and that they are prepared to trust us in this matter. Before I start on my speech proper I want to say that I, as one who has had an opportunity of visiting Papua and New Guinea - admittedly it was a couple of years ago - have a tremendous admiration for the many officers who carry on tasks in all stations of life in the Territory. I refer to teachers, medical officers, research workers, agricultural assistants and a whole variety of people who go up into that Territory with, I am sure, no great expectation of large remunerative rewards but with a real missionary zeal. To see them do their work in difficult conditions in many cases is an inspiration to anybody who has had the pleasure to witness it.

Tonight I feel compelled to make some critical remarks about our performance in respect of education in the Territory. The Government has told us that in Papua and New Guinea today about 179,000 of the estimated 540,000 indigenous children are attending schools of standards recognised by the Administration. Taking those figures in relation to each other we find that almost exactly one-third of all the indigenous children in Papua and New Guinea are receiving some kind of education that meets the minimum standards required by the Administration. I believe that the Government expects to have about 350,000 children in those schools by 1967. However, we need to remind ourselves that by 1967 there will be many more children and so, although the proportion attending school will be somewhat greater than now, it will not be as great as many of us would like. This means that there are great tasks in front of the Administration in respect of education. There are qualitative aspects of education in the Territory, apart from the quantitative ones I have just mentioned, that aggravate the problem.

This year the Government has allocated £4.63 million for the running expenses of education in Papua and New Guinea. This amount is only £672,000 - 17 per cent. - more than was allocated last year. It is just a little over £500,000 more. We are supposed to be seised of a sense of urgency in helping to educate the people in the Territory. We have a big backlog of educational endeavour to make up, and, to my mind, we will not do it by progressing at such a snail's pace. Although we have increased our running expenses in respect of education by only that amount we find when we look at the capital expenditure for education for the current financial year that we will be spending £1.2 million, which is £388.000 less than we spent last year. I will be interested to hear from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) under what pretext and under what consideration we will have 32i per cent, less capital expenditure for schools and educational facilities in Papua and New Guinea this year than last year. One would have imagined that the position would have been the complete reverse, that we would have been responding to the pressures of the United Nations, of world opinion and of what is happening in West Irian alongside us and would have been increasing the pace of our endeavours.

In addition to this expenditure by the Administration, £570,000 is to be made available to the mission schools. The bigger part of our educational endeavours in Papua and New Guinea is being carried out by the mission schools, which receive a subsidy from the Government for that purpose. The £570,000 to which I referred is £81,000 or 16 per cent, more than was provided last year. That is a paltry increase, even when it is considered on its own. But when you take into account that in the meantime higher rates of subsidy are now being paid to qualified mission teachers it means that we are probably subsidising no more teachers for mission schools than we were last year. I am forced to the conclusion that we are still very much dragging our educational feet in Papua and New Guinea.

I said that besides the quantitative problems there were qualitative problems affecting our educational advance in Papua and New Guinea. One problem is the neglect of secondary education. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) said that there would not be enough students coming forward for tertiary education by 1966 or a little later. If we continue to perform the way we are in respect of secondary education his argument will become valid. However, I am sure that that is not the way that he would wish it to become valid. I have had a communication from the National Union of Australian University Students which sent a team of investigators to the Territory to make their own independent inquiries. They reported that they felt that our performance in respect of secondary education left much to be desired. Among other things, they said, there was little or no guidance available to secondary students in the choice of a career. There are virtually no scholarships available to secondary school students to keep them on at secondary schools. Of course, what is happening is that the brighter secondary students are being pressured to leave school and go into private or public employment. Naturally, their parents being in a poor economic position, they find the attraction of immediate remuneration very hard to resist. If we want to ensure a supply of students for technical and tertiary education we must make it possible for them to withstand this temptation, this urgent need to seek immediate remunerative employment. Therefore, we need to back up our present system by introducing a solid system of secondary school scholarships and allowances. We should provide residential quarters to allow the students to attend school under the best possible conditions conducive to the best possible educational achievement.

There are numerous other aspects of secondary schools that I cannot refer to tonight, but the fact is that we still have about 5,500 students in our secondary schools in Papua and New Guinea when we should have many more. It has been mentioned tonight that two or two and a half years ago the Foot Report told us that it was necessary for us to get on with the task of training professional people, the people who will take over the leadership positions - political, economic and social - in Papua and New Guinea. If the Territory is to aspire to independence in the foreseeable future it will be absolutely necessary for these people to be trained. It has been acknowledged that our policy has been one of uniform development at a comparatively slow rate, more or less leading everybody up at the same pace. That is not good enough. We must go into this problem now and produce an educational elite that will give leadership in architecture, law, education and in all the other fields. We will not achieve this if we continue to carry on what seems to be the policy of the Government to hasten slowly, as the honorable member for Denison said.

Every newspaper of any consequence in (his country and every editorial has expressed misgivings about the Government's reaction to the report of the Currie Commission. The Currie Commission has asked us to have a university in being and in operation by 1966 and it drew attention to this urgent need of administrative and professional staffs among the indigenous people of Papua and New Guinea. Yet we have heard it said openly tonight - we have suspected this for a long time - that the Government is not anxious to go on with this task, despite the fact that the former Minister for Territories said two years ago that we were going to establish a university college in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Two years have gone by and still there is no sign of a university college. Now we have the report of the Currie Commission - the result of a careful investigation made by eminent men who ask us to get on with the job and to establish first an institute of higher technical education and secondly a university.

The Commission asks us to start immediately. It says in respect of the institute of higher technical education that we should be in a position to begin diploma courses in civil engineering in 1967. Nobody needs to be told how important civil engineering would be in a place like Papua and New Guinea. The Currie Commission asks us to appoint a principal of the institute immediately and to appoint other officers in the current financial year. I ask the Minister for Territories to give us some idea of the Government's reaction to the Commission's report. We do not want to hear that the Government thinks the report is interesting. We want to know what the Government intends to do in the immediate future. The Commission thinks that a university should be in operation in the Territory by 1966. In order that this may be so the Commission asks us to appoint a registrar and certain staff this year. Well, it is already October and very little has been done. The Commission asks us to appoint a Dean of Education and a librarian in 1964. It asks us to set up an interim council for the university immediately and to appoint a vice-chancellor so that matters may get under way. The Commission suggests that if we do not think we can do these things ourselves we should seek the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. If one looks across the border of the Territory one finds that in West Irian, that part of the island controlled by Indonesia, a university is already functioning. About 200 students attend that university.

Mr Gibson - What about independence for West Irian?

Mr REYNOLDS - That is another issue. You say it is not possible to establish a university in the Territory by 1966. It is estimated that by 1973 Papua and New Guinea will need 200 university graduates a year. Where will they come from?

I want to say a few words now about the Northern Territory. In that Territory education is provided by the South Australian Department of Education. My talks with various educationists during my recent visit to the Northern Territory lead me to the belief that the sooner we get away-

Mr Nixon - Were they teachers?

Mr REYNOLDS - No, they were not teachers. They were members of the community who are dissatisfied with the present system of education that is controlled from South Australia. Teachers are appointed to schools in the Northern Territory for a period of two years. Almost as soon as a teacher has learnt something about the customs and make-up of society in the Territory he is on his way back to South Australia. Even the Superintendent of Education in the Territory is appointed for only a three-year term. Imagine if this were the situation in Canberra - that teachers were appointed to schools here for only two years, except in the case of teachers who voluntarily stayed longer, and then whizzed back to some distant place in order to obtain promotional opportunities. I hope that before long we will establish a Commonwealth educational service which will provide a service not only to the Northern Territory but also to residents of other Commonwealth Territories.

The people of Darwin complain bitterly that air conditioning will not be provided in the local high school before the end of this year. The school was built to accommodate 500 pupils but there are more than 600 in it already, and the number is increasing by 25 per cent. each year. There is no school counselling service available to the children in the Territory. This is disgraceful in an area where the social fabric of the community is not as happy as it is in some other areas. In the Territory there are more problems associated with the breaking up of marriages and illegitimacy than there are in other parts of the Commonwealth. It is essential that a local school counselling ser vice be established soon. The only counselling service available at present comes from distant Adelaide. These people want this service in the Territory. It is necessary to have someone who knows the conditions in the Territory and the type of product that the Territory wants to turn out. There is still no technical college in Darwin Technical courses are done by correspondence from Adelaide.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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