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Thursday, 15 October 1964


Mr BARNES (McPherson) (Minister for Territories) . - 1 have been most interested in the remarks that have come from honorable members on both sides of the chamber. Obviously there is great interest in the territories which my Department administers. I notice that there is considerable interest in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea. In view of some of the criticisms that have been expressed by honorable members opposite, I think it is just as well to get the situation in PapuaNew Guinea somewhat in perspective. We in Australia embarked on a degree of nationhood only in the 1920's. In the 1930's, of course, we were pretty well encompassed by the worst depression this nation has ever known. This is not an excuse; I am only putting the facts. In the 1940's, of course, we had the worst war the world has ever known and in Papua-New Guinea the whole area was pretty well devastated. I think one hospital remained after the war. So, in a sense, we started again from scratch. I would say - and when I say this I have in mind my predecessor, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) - that the advancement of PapuaNew Guinea, when it is realised that it is in the category of the under-developed countries, has not been surpassed anywhere in the world.


Mr Clyde Cameron - Rubbish.


Mr BARNES - Rubbish, you say. I should like to see another country which has developed as well.


Mr Clyde Cameron - What about these wage rates? What have you to say about them?


Mr BARNES - You do not build a country on wage rates. If we are going to embark on a sort of cargo cult, which is virtually what is suggested by the Australian Labour Party, we will be leading these people down the drain. Australia has been built up by the hard work of every person who came out here. Our ancestors had to put up with all manner of difficult conditions. They were faced with a completely foreign environment from what they had experienced in their own countries in Europe. They met these challenges. They were not given handouts in the form of high wages, universities and all the rest of it. They built this country by building new industries. Consider our early settlers who crossed the Great Dividing Range into a very arid country. They came from the lush fields of Europe into this vast arid country. One wonders what sort of hearts they had to enable them to do so. By their endeavours they built one of the great industries of the world - the great wool industry of Australia. We have lived on the sheep's back in Australia. That industry was developed and it made us. To the wool industry we have added all sorts of other industries. This has all been done by hard work. You do not get anything other than by hard work.

In Papua-New Guinea we are endeavouring to advance the people to standards far beyond what they have been used to, and in this we are succeeding admirably. At this stage I should like to express my appreciation of the remarks of honorable members from both sides of the chamber who have given credit to the officers of the Administration, and not only those in Papua-New Guinea, but to the officers in all the Territories under my Department. Those officers have done an excellent job in advancing the people of those Territories, and I think that if the people of Australia could see what the officers are doing, and the spirit in which they are doing it, they would be very proud.


Mr Clyde Cameron - They ought to have a good look at Burns Philp.


Mr BARNES - The honorable member for Hindmarsh seems to be obsessed with the idea of these wage scales. Wage scales are an important thing, but a wage scale has to be adjusted to the economy of a particular country. He has suggested that we should put up the wage scales because Burns Philp, W. R. Carpenter and a few more are making profits, but what about the thousands of people in the Territory who are making just a bare living. You will ruin them. I will now read a statement which was presented to me on a recent visit. It was a motion introduced in the House of Assembly by the local government councillor, Maiak, who said -

Mr. President,I would like to move that we ask the Minister for Territories to say to the Prime Minister of Australia that all Councillors of Sumgilbar Council say " Thank You " to the Australian Government for helping the people in Sumgilbar. The Sumgilbar Council builds aid posts, schools and feeder roads from tax money collected from our own people. However, we know that the Australian people send tax money to pay for teachers, medical orderlies and for building roads and bridges. They have recently completed a bridge over the Sumerang River and the road is now open for us to advance.

Our children are at school and later we will be able to cope with all work but for the present Australia must strengthen us and I would like the Minister to bring this statement to the Prime Minister.

From my knowledge of the areas that I have traversed in Papua-New Guinea, I think that is a true expression of the feelings of the people up there. This does not mean that we are by any means complacent about what we are doing. A lot has to be done. Another thing to be remembered is that Australia is a developing country itself. Every £1 we have to spare we could use here in Australia, but we have accepted the responsibility for developing New Guinea - and let me remind you that the Australian taxpayer is subsidising New Guinea to the extent of 2s. of every 3s. that is spent there.

I have great hopes for the people of New Guinea. I believe they have the ability to advance their country. They have the disadvantage that they have not the industries that Australia has, such as the wool industry and the beef industry. However, they are fast going along the road to building up industries suitable to their environment and the climatic condition. I might remind honorable members that these industries are producing tropical products which, in a general sense, are in over-supply in the world - copra, cocoa and that sort of thing. We are going to develop other industries there. A large company in Papua-New Guinea is going to embark on a tea industry, and this will add to the standards of living of the people who live there.

I do not want to take up much of the time of this Committee, because we have a lot of business to get through, but I should like to touch on a matter which was brought up tonight by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley); that is, the public service wage scale. As I mentioned in answer to a question, this scale is designed for the situation when the local officers - that is indigenous people of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea - take over from the present expatriates, the overseas officers of the New Guinea public service. I think it would be completely dishonest of us to profess that they are going to be able to choose the time when they should become independent and then saddle them with a public service built on Australian standards. The per capita income of the people of New Guinea - and this includes the incomes of

Europeans and the earnings of the companies there - is £70 a year, whereas the per capita income in Australia is £658.

If you are going to load a public service or a community or an economy with a burden like that the people will never be independent. I know this sort of thing has difficulties and we may have to alter this arrangement. I do not say it is perfect by any means and the Government will certainly alter it if it can. But I would subscribe to the basic policy that this is right. I would like to make this absolutely clear: At the present time there are only very few indigenous members of the Public Service in Papua and New Guinea. We are doing this early in the piece before we get large numbers coming into the service. I would also like to make it clear that no single indigenous public servant will suffer a loss in his emolument. He will suffer a loss in his salary but he will receive an allowance to bring it up to his present rate and in some cases will receive more because in the change over from the old classifications he will move up into a higher wage scale.


Mr Whitlam - What would be the position where a clerk had taken time off to qualify as a teacher? Would he, on becoming a teacher, be paid the old clerk's scale or the old teacher's scale or the new teacher's scale.


Mr BARNES - Off hand, I could not say. If he had already been accepted and engaged he would get the old teacher's scale. But if he was just going into the position he would have to accept the new scale. If he had been given to understand that he would receive the old scale I feel that we would have to do something about it; but he would have to satisfy us as to those circumstances. Students are in the same position. I am going to have a look into this matter. I am expecting a report from the Public Service Commissioner. A similar set of circumstances exists in the Northen Territory. But before I leave Papua and New Guinea, I would like to point out the scale of assistance being given by the Australian Government to Papua and New Guinea. In 1952-53 the grant from Aus tralia was £5,473,000, In 1964-65 it is £28,496,000. The revenue to the Administration has increased from £2£ million in 1952-53 to £12,700,000 in this coming year. I think that is a pretty extensive advance.

As far as the Northern Territory is concerned, we are faced with a completely different circumstance. The Northern Territory is in the geographic region of northern Australia. The problems of the Territory are in line with those of the States of Western Australia and Queensland. The economy of the whole north of Australia has been based mainly on beef and minerals. I would remind honorable members that the north really had a set back in 1922 when the price of cattle dropped from about £20 a head to about £3 a head in the south overnight and, in the far north, were virtually unsaleable. The north had its greatest set back when that occurred. Unfortunately it was at a time when most of the great mineral areas seemed to peter out - the copper areas of Cloncurry, Charters Towers and many others.

Now we have another surge of hope in that area, particularly in the Northern Territory where we have great prospects with the development of manganese ore and iron ore. There are also prospects for bauxite in the Gove Peninsula and also increasing income from our cattle industry. Unfortunately, there is a very severe drought in the centre, as was mentioned by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon). This is one of the worst features of a very large part of Australia, in fact two-thirds of Australia. I suppose that Alice Springs is one of the centres of this arid area and it represents a very typical part of Australia.

There is a lot we have to learn in this part of the world as regards the seasons. It is very hard to know what a normal season is in the centre of Australia around Alice Springs. This particular area was blessed with good seasons in the early fifties. Since that time there has been a great series of droughts. In recent years the cattle population has dropped from about 300,000 in the Alice Springs area to about 130,000 now.

But there is one very great change in this part of the world, and that is the benefit of motor transport. It enables people to move cattle from drought areas, either to agistment areas or to where they can be be sold in the more fortunate areas in the south. This situation has been aided, of course, by the Government's efforts to put beef roads into most parts of north Australia, not only the Northern Territory. It would be very hard to assess the millions of pounds that have been saved to the cattle industry through these beef roads over the last three or four years. We still have a long way to go with our beef roads programme and one of the problems in the north is our resources of manpower and machines to build these roads which are so necessary. But we are making headway. For the first time, there is an abattoir at Katherine and there the man on the land can get quite an adequate price on the spot for his cattle. This has made a great difference to those people in the far north.

There are other advances being made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and other research enterprises in that particular area. I am very hopeful, particularly, of what the future holds as far as our Townsville lucerne and some other pastures which are going to mean very much to the carrying capacity of that particular area are concerned. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), with his great knowledge of that country, is very concerned with its development. He mentioned projects such as rice. Of course, we have not found all the answers in regard to these things but the research areas and some of the pilot farms that we have going will reveal some of them. The suggestion that we should put tens of thousands or possibly millions of pounds into advancing these projects before we have the answers to the questions would, I think, reflect a completely irresponsible attitude to our taxpayers. The honorable member for Fremantle embarked on a very serious criticism of infant mortality in central Australia. I think be was very effectively answered by the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs).


Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - Rubbish.


Mr BARNES - He answered the honorable member far more effectively than I could, or could the honorable member for

Yarra, because the honorable member for Bowman happened to be connected with the medical service of the Northern Territory. I know the honorable member for Yarra regrets that he cannot use these figures against Australia. The honorable member for Bowman quoted other figures from other parts of the world to show that these figures did not support the case of the honorable member for Fremantle.

The interesting point about this factor is that the honorable member for Fremantle quotes the figures for Alice Springs, but he does not quote the figures for the other parts of the Territory. The Alice Springs area is probably one of the most difficult areas, climatically, that one would find in Australia. As the honorable member for Bowman pointed out, with his experience of the Northern Territory, there are flies and other things, but the Aborigines will not accept our ideas of hygiene. These are some of the things in which we have to educate them, and it is not an easy matter. We are trying to bring them into our community, to take their place as equal partners. Just as it is difficult to bring them in on the economic and social sides, it is also difficult to bring them in on the hygiene side. In Alice Springs, as anybody who has been there knows, the variations of temperature are very considerable. The day temperatures are very high and the night temperatures may be around freezing point. That is a very serious matter for infants.

I am particularly disappointed in the honorable member for Fremantle. I thought he was sincere in the attitudes that he adopts. In a speech that he made in this chamber recently, he stated that the health situation in the Northern Territory was extremely poor. That is a very grave reflection on the devoted staffs on our settlements. I point out that in our settlement hospitals the Aborigines have the benefit of the 24-hour service of a trained sister and the flying doctor is within easy call if a serious case arises. Serious cases are taken into a base hospital. On the settlements the Aborigines have three meals a day and infants are put on diets suitable to their ages.


Mr Clyde Cameron - Fancy that. How lucky can you be?


Mr BARNES - I know that the honorable member does not like to hear this. He is out to knock Australia. He is happy if these statements are reported all over the world. That is his objective. The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) also delights in this sort of thing, and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) is in that category, too.

That is one illustration. But the best illustration is that, whereas in the past the Aborigines were considered to be a dying race, today they are increasing by hundreds every year. I believe that that is a great indication of what we are doing in the Northern Territory. But we are not complacent about what we are doing. We have all sorts of problems to solve. We will face up to them in the spirit of Australians. We will not do that by giving handouts, as suggested by the Labour Party. The Labour Party is given to that sort of cargo cult. Its figures are plucked out of thin air. We saw that happen in the last election campaign. In that campaign the Leader of the Labour Party promised the people hundreds of millions of pounds, but he could not tell us where the money would come from. That is really a cargo cult brought to Australia. I do not see why we should criticise the people of New Guinea when we have a cargo cult right here on our doorstep. The interesting point is that the candidates in the recent Papua and New Guinea election who advocated cargo cults really went down the drain, just as honorable members opposite who subscribe to that sort of attitude will.

Before I finish my speech I should like to comment on some remarks made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson). I know the interest that he has in Norfolk Island. There are great difficulties on that island in relation to the hospital and social services. But I point out that the people on the island have an elected council; that they do not pay income tax; and that they pay a very small customs duty. If they are to benefit from our social services and the other things that exist in our economy, I am afraid that they will have to come into our taxation system. When they are prepared to face up to that sort of thing, I will certainly consider their position.

Question put -

That the amendment (Mr. Beazley's) bo agreed to.







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