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Thursday, 7 May 1970


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) - When the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) was in New Guinea last weekend to open the Public Service Association's 15th Annual Congress, he made some comments which reveal more about his attitudes than about the actualities of New Guinea. He said, for example, that he had 'evidence of a drop in morale at all levels' following the visit made in December and January by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and me. He claimed that the people were uncertain about their future because my colleagues and I had put forward proposals for New Guinea which departed completely from those of the Government. He further claimed that the people were not sufficiently aware of the difference between Government and Opposition and that indeed in some quarters my colleagues and 1 were regarded as speaking for the Government.

I wonder whether the Minister realises the implications of his claims. In effect he is saying that Australia has been so remiss and ineffectual in fulfilling its clear obligations to prepare and educate the people of New Guinea for political independence that even the basic concept of Government and Opposition in a parliamentary democracy is not understood there. One could not imagine a more complete confession of failure. I have been highly critical of many aspects of the Australian Administration and Australian attitudes to New Guinea but 1 have never made, and would never make, so sweeping a condemnation as the Minister himself: because, if the Minister were correct, it would mean complete failure in the crucial part of our New Guinea task - the political part. What the Minister's weekend statements really illustrate is his continuing failure to recognise and encourage a feeling of self-confidence in the people of New Guinea, their confidence in their own ability, their own dignity, their own manhood, their own nationhood. He persistently betrays this attitude of paternalism; he actively encourages a feeling of dependence and he desires to perpetuate that feeling of dependence. He rebukes and rubbishes those who would assert themselves, and encourages and elevates the colonial cringe.

The Minister claims that political debate itself is the cause of uncertainty in New Guinea. If there is to be any political debate at all in New Guinea itself or in Australia, it is inevitable that deep differences of opinions and of policies will emerge. This is what the political processes are about. To assert that such debate creates confusion is to deny that there should be any debate at all. If the object of the exercise is to prevent confusion arising from the expression of different viewpoints, then all views which differ from those of the Administration and the Government must be suppressed. The Minister speaks about uncertainty in the Territory. My colleagues did indeed find great uncertainty in the Territory. Far from creating that uncertainty, we felt it our duty to allay it. The uncertainty we found was not about the question of the readiness of New Guinea for self-government and independence, not about the timetable that might be applied by this Government or by a Labor government, but about the role in terms of money and men that Australia would be willing to provide for a self-governing New Guinea and subsequently an independent New Guinea. This is what is creating the uncertainty and this is where the people of New Guinea require reassurance.

It is astonishing and disturbing how widespread is the impression that independence, self'government even, will mean an end to Australian help in money and men. The idea is deliberately fostered by some expatriates, including sections of the Administration. The Minister himself has done nothing to counter this destructive propaganda. Indeed, only recently he used this fear to stifle critical Press comment in Australia and in the Territory itself. In an article in the December issue of the publication 'New Guinea', he wrote:

In regard to Australia's record in the Territory, the danger, as I see it, is that if sections of the Australian Press persist in denigrating Australia's efforts there the Australian taxpayers who are footing the bill are very likely to lose patience and, perhaps, decide that the effort and expense are futile and want to opt out.

It is not because of failures of the Press that the danger of public disillusionment could come. It could only come through the failures of the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament to provide proper leadership. It is not only the people of New

Guinea who have to be educated about New Guinea; so do the people of Australia. If the people of Australia fail to appreciate where their true interest Tes in our future relations with an independent New Guinea, then it will be because of our failure as members of Parliament to rise to our responsibilities. It is beyond question that aid in men and money to New Guinea will not only continue but will increase, probably for the rest of this century. It will increase along with our aid to the other countries in this region. The Labor Party has clearly accepted this obligation for any government that it may form in the future. It would be contrary to the voting record over 20 years of every member of the Liberal and Country Parties who, along with every member who has been in this place, has supported the quadrupling of Australian aid in the past decade if a similar guarantee could not be given on behalf of the Liberal and Country Parties. The Government parties should lose no time in giving such assurances because it is in this area that the most damaging uncertainty exists in the Territory. This will be the most important question the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) will be asked if he goes to New Guinea in June. If he fails to give unequivocal assurances on behalf of his Party and that section of the Australian people it represents, if he appears to hedge on this matter, to be confused, to be woolly, he will gravely contribute to the uncertainty about Australia's future role which does exist and which my colleagues and I did our best to allay. To emphasise the solemnity and sincerity of our undertaking, we have suggested that Australian assistance should be made part of treaty arrangements between the constitutional government of an independent New Guinea and the Government of Australia.

There are 4 basic propositions which should govern Australia's attitude to New Guinea. The first is that it is their country, not ours. Australians in New Guinea have to realise that they are not in their own country. Whatever opinions may exist about the timing of independence, it has to be realised that any prolongation of our colonial rule is inherently artificial. The onus of proof is not on New Guinea to show that it is ready for independence. The burden is wholly on Australia to show cause why it should be deferred. The second basic proposition is that the obligation we assumed to bring New Guinea to independence is one which we sought ourselves. Australia would not have been permitted to remain in New Guinea as trustee had she not promised to prepare New Guinea for independence.

The third basic proposition is that, alone of all the colonial powers - and we are the biggest remaining - our colony is our nextdoor neighbour. In the history of European civilisation, no other nation has had this relation with one of its colonies, with the ominous exception of French Algeria. Therefore we are dealing not merely wilh the emancipation of a colony but the creation of a neighbour nation. And the fourth basic proposition is that the number and calibre of New Guineans now coming forward in their own country for service in and for their own country is greater and higher than is coming forward from Australia for that particular task. We too frequently confuse ourselves and New Guinea by drawing a comparison between the skills available for Australia as a whole and the skills available to New Guinea. The true comparison is the skills available in New Guinea among New Guineans with the skills Australia is able or willing to make available to New Guinea.

Australia's over-riding objective in New Guinea is to ensure that an independent New Guinea is a friendly neighbour. The crucial question in all that we do in New Guinea is whether our actions and policies are such as to promote good relations between our two countries. Because this is the crucial question, it is quite misleading for the Minister for External Territories to assert that the matters of self-government and independence for New Guinea are matters for New Guineans alone to decide. This will not be a unilateral decision because the interests of Australia and the responsibilities of Australia are deeply involved. Superficially the Minister's reiterated statement that 'independence is a matter for New Guineans alone to decide' looks like a simple and straight-forward statement of the principle of self determination. The Minister knows very well however that in the case of voluntary decolonisation as opposed to revolutionary and enforced decolonisation, the key decisions have to be made by the colonial authority. The rate of advance towards political independence is determined by that authority. This in fact is exactly what has happened in New Guinea under our rule. The decisions to establish the old Legislative Council, to enlarge it, to replace it with the House of Assembly, to draw up a common roll, to set up open and regional electorates, to create ministerial members, to establish local government councils - that is, all the decisions which the Government would claim as being designed to prepare New Guinea, for independence - were decisions of the Australian Government. Advance in these matters is neither uniform nor spontaneous.

In making these decisions, the Administration has doubtless applied a policy which it believes is best for the people of New Guinea; but equally we have to apply a policy which is best for Australia, lt is totally unreal, if not hypocritical, to suggest that while Australia holds all the power the decisions will be made only by New Guineans. Decisions are made where the power resides. The power resides with Australia. In New Guinea the decision which has to be made is not merely when New Guinea will be ready to assume power over herself, but when Australia is prepared to hand over her power, and that is a decision for Australia to make. Further. Australia is not an entirely free agent in this matter. Our obligations and responsibilities are not to New Guinea alone; they are to the United Nations for whom we are the trustee. And the United Nations is overwhelmingly in favour of immediate transfer of political power and economic power.

The uncertainty of which the Minister complains is very largely the creation of his own policies and attitudes. The refusal to lay down any framework at all for the timing of self government and independence is itself a recipe for uncertainty and confusion. As the honourable member for Fremantle has frequently pointed out, the Government uses confusion and frequently promotes confusion about the practical meaning of self government and independence to delay self government and defer independence. Again and again one will find iri New Guinea leaders who will express objection to immediate self government in the abstract but who desire local control over every item and instrumentality of government which in sum make up actual self government. If self government is put in terms of concrete powers and functions instead of constitutional abstractions, one finds among New Guinea leadership a very general readiness to accept real responsibility now.

I repeat, the basic object of our policy in New Guinea is to ensure good relations between our two countries. The fundamental divergence of opinion between the Government and the Opposition is at this point: The Government believes that the longer independence is deferred the better the prospects for good relations will be; we believe that the longer it is deferred the worse the prospects will be. We believe that none of the problems facing New Guinea and Australia's relations with New Guinea require colonial rule for their solution or easing. On the contrary, we believe that most of them will be worsened the longer we maintain our position as rulers. The clearest examples of this are to be found in race relations and industrial relations. As long as we are rulers there, every Australian who goes to New Guinea, whatever his calibre or character, is automatically a member of a ruling class, a ruling elite. With the best will in the world, no Australian can avoid having this role foisted on him, however unwillingly. There is consequently an inbuilt distortion of the relations between the two races and that distortion will persist as long as we arc there as rulers rather than helpers and neighbours. In industrial relations the distortion is almost total. Overwhelmingly the employers are expatriates, mainly Australian. Thus every industrial dispute is automatically a dispute between an Australian or an Australian company on the one hand and New Guineans on the other. One would have to be totally innocent of all knowledge of history or human nature to believe that such a concentration of political and economic power could persist undisturbed.

The Minister for External Territories chose a most curious occasion - his visit for the Public Service Association Congress - to make his charge about undermining morale, because these are the very people, both the expatriate and local officers, who are in the best position to know the truth. The Public Service Association has drawn the Minister's attention to the decline in morale at all levels long before our visit. The root of uncertainty lies in his own policies. The Government has delayed the implementa tion of necessary measures to protect the future security of permanent overseas officers in the Public Service. Although a White Paper on this issue was published on 7th June 1966 and an Ordinance based on the Paper was issued as No. 2 of 1968, that Ordinance still has not been put into operation.

In a letter to the Minister on 14th February last the Public Service Association wrote:

The discontent among permanent overseas officers is manifesting itself in frequent resignations of competent men, generally low morale, which will be attested to by any perceptive visitor who travels in the Territory.

The executive of the Association listed the first source of low morale as concern for job security and provision for retirement. At the same time the progress of localisation is being crippled by the failure to lay down a coherent policy on conditions for New Guineans working for Commonwealth departments in the Territory. There are no retirement benefits for indigenous employees. There are no promotions appeal provisions. The number of local employees who have only temporary status is quite disproportionate. The Prime Minister himself was not aware, when I asked him without notice on 18th March, that 4,000 indigenes are employed in the Commonwealth Public Service itself, for which he is the responsible Minister. I am still awaiting a reply to my question to him which I put on notice the following day, 7 weeks ago. In the meantime the Minister for External Territories has been able to answer 40 questions for me. A letter from the Public Service Association of Papua and New Guinea drawing attention to this situation on 23rd October last year has not yet received any written reply. At June last year, only 175 of the 13,218 local officers were on salary ranges concluding with SI, 950 or above.

If there is dissatisfaction among those who earn their living as public servants, either in the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea or in the Public Service of the Commonwealth in that Territory, then how much greater must be the dissatisfaction among those who earn their living as plantation workers. Honourable gentlemen can get the details, which I will now summarise, from answers which 1 received yesterday and the day before. The wage, apart from accommodation and rations, paid to plantation workers in Papua and New Guinea is $52 a year for the first year, $58.50 for the second year and $65 thereafter. In the Solomons workers receive $19.32 per month on copra plantations and on other plantations the predominant rate is $18 per month. In the New Hebrides plantation workers receive $34 to $60 per month. In Tonga the rate is $20 to $24 per month. In Fiji they receive $1.03 per day and in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands $1.20 per day. I repeat that in New Guinea they receive $52 per year. In each case accommodation and rations are additional. If one looks at the average rates for city indigenous workers, they average out at $6.50 a week.

What arc the prospects for indigenes setting up in business? First of all, consider the businesses which depend on the grant of land. The Land Board consists entirely of expatriate officers. In the last 10 years in all gazetted towns leases for commercial purposes were granted to 400 expatriate and 20 indigenous tenderers, and leases for light industry purposes were granted to 572 expatriate and 15 indigenous tenderers. In the last 10 years 312 business and industrial sites have been leased or sold in Port Moresby, 12 to indigenes. The respective figures for Lae are 142 and 4; Rabaul. 18 and 1; Madang. 70 and 1; and Kavieng, 16 and none. The members of the ExServicemens Credit Board, which functioned from 1958 to 1968, were always expatriate officials. This is the Board which granted 126 indigenĀ« i loans of an average amount of S 1 ,700 for blocks of an average size of 29 acres and on the other hand granted 148 expatriates loans of an average amount of $46,225 for blocks of an average size of 528 acres.

Let me give the instance of those who want to set up business in the transport field. Some honourable members who have taken the trouble and have exercised their right to visit New Guinea will know that most of the rural transport - the transport of plantation products - is in the hands of individual indigenes or families of indigines, and they earn out the job very successfully. City transport is in the hands of the Transport Control' Board, also composed entirely of expatriates. The Board has received 3 applications for bus licences from indigenes in the last 10 years. None was granted. As recently as January last year applications were called for 5 bus services in the Rabaul area. They were received from a partnership of indigenes and from 2 expatriate companies. One of the latter was successful. Almost all taxi drivers in the Territory are indigenes, but only 2 taxis in the whole Territory are owned by indigenes, while before the war there were a great number of taxis owned by indigenes, for instance in Rabaul'. Again, there are many occupations and businesses which cannot be pursued without a licence. In the last 10 years the number of typical licences issued to expatriates and indigenes respectively has been: liquor, 548 and 50; picture theatres, 11 and none; barbers, 151 and 10; drainers, 950 and 15; plumbers, 803 and 15; electricians, 374 and 18. Such are the economic opportunities which we, with our Australian constituted boards, have given indigenes to set up business on their own either by granting teases or issuing licences.

The pathetic attempt by Government members from the Prime Minister down to pin blame for past and future developments in New Guinea on the visit made by my colleagues and me - and for the first fortnight of this year's session they spent most of their time in this effort - has failed; it has crashed, lt shows a striking contempt for the intelligence of the people, both of Australia and New Guinea, that such an attempt should ever have been made. The statistics I have quoted in the last 5 minutes are entirely drawn from written answers to questions I had put on the notice paper. Every fact I have derived, therefore, from ministerial replies. The truth is that there has been a complete and repeated vindication of the basic truth of all that my colleagues and I said there only 4 short months ago on the eve of the revolution which has now been set in train. It was inevitable, just because it was the truth. Let members read the Minister's own written answers to me on Will'iam Scott Bloxam's case on 8th April and again today, and on Damien Kereku's case last Tuesday and on Councillor ToRangis's case yesterday. Let them await the answer to my question No. 873, put down on 23rd April, on the leg irons case.

Why the visit by my colleagues and me aroused an hysterical reaction in some quarters was because we dared to speak thi truth. For too long New Guinea has been shielded from the truth. For too long Australians have been shielded from the truth about some of the things that are being done in their name. It was not the honourable members for Fremantle and Oxley and I who created the situation where plantation wages are $5 or less a month and where urban wages are often no more than S6 a week. We have not presided over the decline of all workers associations - with the exception of the Public Service Association throughout the Territory. It was not wc who ignored for months and months wage claims from officially recognised registered workers associations. It was not we who have foisted the multi-racial council on the Tolai people and enabled it to lake over their economic assets, lt was not I but the Acting Chief Justice of the Territory who found a gross miscarriage of justice in tincase of Damien Kereku. It was not we who sent more police to Rabaul than there are in any Australian city except Sydney and Melbourne, and- hired helicopters for them to patrol the peninsula for weeks at a time. It was not we who excluded local police from the police briefings at the time of the disturbances last year and who recruited police from African countries - notably Rhodesia. We did not attempt to impose a blatantly unjust settlement on the people of Bougainville. We did not impose charges for primary and secondary education. It wa> not I but the Public Service Association itself who complained of uncertainty and loss of morale in the Public Service, long before our visit. The problems of New Guinea are real. These incidents are real, lt is not on those who expose them but on those whose policies and attitudes have created them that the blame rests.

It is quite clear thai our visit has led to a reappraisal by the Government. 1 welcome thai reappraisal and 1 welcome the decisions which have already been made as a result of it, such as the new appointments announced this week. Mr Johnson will return to New Guinea with widespread goodwill. Nevertheless, we cannot delude ourselves that the problems of New Guinea are principally problems of personnel. They are problems of policy, of national and international policy. I am convinced that we shall only move towards real resolution of those problems when we accept that all we say and do about New Guinea and in New Guinea is on the basis that we are dealing not only with a colony but with a neighbour nation.







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