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Thursday, 9 December 1965

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is in order.

Mr Webb - The honorable member for Bowman should see a doctor.

Mr WHITLAM - I think, "Physician, heal thyself", would be more apt. I was saying that Papua and New Guinea is now the largest colony in the world outside Portuguese jurisdiction, but there are many other small islands. Nauru, with Papua and New Guinea, is annually subjected to the scrutiny of the world through the Trusteeship Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations. Every three years, so long as Australia continues to enjoy a Trust, there will be a visit from a mission from the Trusteeship Council. There are other small islands which are not held under trusteeship, although all non-self governing territories are covered by other sections of the United Nations Charter. Right on our doorstep is the British Solomon Islands Protectorate and French New Caledonia. A little further away is Fiji. Then there are other islands still further away which until recently were under the surveillance of New Zealand. I refer to Samoa and Niue Island which have been given self government by New Zealand. There are others which are still ruled by France and the United States. Nauru and the rest of these islands which I have mentioned all come within the purview of the South Pacific Commission whose functions are limited to economic, social and educational advancement. Political advancement is excluded from the functions of the South Pacific Commission. This area of the world will be the last part to secure independence or even self government. Accordingly it is impossible for the House to consider the position of Nauru in isolation. It is impossible for Australia to decide the destiny of Nauru without considering the views of other nations. For over 50 years we have undertaken obligations to report to the world on our trust in Nauru. Furthermore, it is impossible to decide the destiny of Nauru without considering the destiny of a very great number of islands in this area similarly situated. Nothing would be worse than if we had an ultra-Balkanisation of the South Seas. We are fortunate, however, in this area, in having America, Britain, France and New Zealand, our closest partners in the world, associated with us in similar economic and political responsibilities.

I shall not dwell at length on the. features of the island because they have been reported to us in great detail - although, one would think, with unpardonably scant detail as regards the indentured labourers. Annual reports have been tabled while we held a mandate from the League of Nations and since then while we have held a trust from the United Nations. Except during the Second World War, there has been an annual debate, first in the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations and then in the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. The rest of the world has directed a considerable amount of attention to this matter even if this Parliament has not. The affairs of the British Phosphate Commission come before the Parliament only in a paragraph contained in the Auditor-General's annual report. The South Pacific Commission, similarly, makes reports which are available to members. A more searching analysis, however, has recently been made by Dr. Helen Hughes of the Australian National University in the " Economic Record " of December last year and the new magazine: " New Guinea " of September this year. Honorable members should know and care much more about Nauru than would appear from their contributions as recorded in "Hansard". As I have said, except for the solitary instance in September 1960 when my colleague the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), raised the subject of indentured labourers, this particular matter has never been raised in the Parliament. When, in 1963 and 1964, we were considering the resettlement of Nauruans in Australia, no mention was made of the indentured labourers on the island.

I wish to conclude with some references to the attitude and function of the Department of Territories. The function of the Department of Territories is to preside over its own dissolution. When the Department has done its job, the Northern Territory will have self government to the same extent that all the Australian States have it; Papua and New Guinea will be an independent country, and, one would hope, a member of the British Commonwealth.

Mr Barnes - But when?

Mr WHITLAM - I think it could be done by 1 970, and this is the general view of the Trusteeship Council, as the Minister knows. We are concerned here mainly with Nauru. The Minister frequently uses the ready made formula: " We shall grant independence to Papua and New Guinea when the people ask us to do so ". It is unfortunate that it should always be thought that Australians will abandon any interest in

Papua and New Guinea when it gets its independence. There are more Britishers in India now than ever before, and it is to be expected that Australians will still be welcomed in Papua and New Guinea as neighbours and experts when that Territory has its independence. The genuineness of the Minister and his Department in this matter is shown up by the fact that the Nauruans have asked for independence, lt cannot be said that they are illiterate. They are not. They have the best educational and health services in Oceania. The standard of living of the Nauruan natives, if not that of the indentured labourers, is the highest in Oceania.

Nauru represents for us two explosive issues - national independence and national resources. Australians have become sensitive to the question of the use of their own national resources. The Australian Government, however, has always taken the attitude that the national resources of Nauru belong to the British Phosphate Commission.

Dr Gibbs - So they do.

Mr WHITLAM - Is that the honorable member's considered opinion?

Dr Gibbs - That is the considered legal opinion.

Mr WHITLAM - It is legal, but not just. This is the same evil doctrine as we have adopted in New Guinea. There we say that because we acquired or confiscated property from our former enemies, the Germans, we hold full title to that property. Would we tolerate that attitude towards our national resources of oil, bauxite, iron ore and coal?

Dr Gibbs - We have to.

Mr WHITLAM - I do not accept the honorable gentleman's view that we have to. I have mentioned that the Minister did not refer to independence in this House. I shall quote the recommendations of the Trusteeship Council last June on this subject of self government, or independence. It is this -

The Council notes that at the Canberra Conference the representatives of the Nauruan people proposed that a target date of 31st January 1968 should be established now for independence and that the Australian delegation to the meeting indicated that the Administering Authority did not consider it appropriate to establish now, ahead of any practical experience of the operation of the Legislative Council, any specific target dates for independence or complete selfgovernment. The Administering Authority did, however, propose that after two or three years' experience of the working of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council, further discussions should take place regarding further political progress.

The Council reaffirms the right of the people of Nauru to self-determination, which includes fie right to independence. The Council urges the Administering Authority to accede to the desire of the Nauruan representatives that the further discussions on the question of independence be held in 1967 and hopes that at these discussions a solution satisfying to the Nauruans will be found.

This resolution was supported by all our partners - the United States, Britain, France and New Zealand - who have similar responsibilities in this area and who are members of the Trusteeship Council and the South Pacific Commission. I shall read further the recommendations, including the amendments made by the British representative on the Trusteeship Council concerning the phosphate industry. They are -

Noting the agreement on a slightly higher extraction rate for 196S-66, without prejudice to the Nauruan position in any subsequent negotiations, the Council urges that agreement should be reached between the representatives of the Nauruan people and the Administering Authority on an extraction rate for future years on a basis that will safeguard the future interests of the Nauruan people.

The Council notes that in relation to the ownership of phosphates at Nauru, the representatives of the Nauruans maintained their position that the British Phosphate Commissioners could not validly work the phosphate on Nauru without the agreement of the Nauruan people, while the Australian delegation restated the view of the Partner Governments that the rights were legally vested in the British Phosphate Commissioners. The Council hopes that the forthcoming negotiations between the representatives of the Nauruan people and the Administering Authority will resolve this problem. The Council believes that every effort will be made to adopt a solution in conformity with the interests of the Nauruan people.

This Bill makes provision for the political advancement of the Nauruan community. It makes no provision for the political, economic, social or educational advancement of the indentured labourers in Nauru, lt makes no provision for - in fact, it expressly excludes everything relating to - the phosphate industry. I should think it quite clear that after 50 years the Nauruan community - or rather the inhabitants of Nauru - should have a full partnership in the British Phosphate Commission. The Australian and Nauruan communities need the labour of the indentured inhabitants. The Nauruan community needs the income from their national resources. Australia, Britain and New Zealand are obliged to make a proper contribution to the political and economic advancement of all the inhabitants of this island.

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