Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2527


Mr BENNETT (Swan) - I thought that the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) made a very relevant point when he referred to the fact that Australian banks have been established in Papua New Guinea. He made the point quite strongly that the Territory has no national banks. In fact, I do not feel that we Australians have given them anything which they can call their own, let alone a nation. They own nothing and I think that that is in fact the crux of the problem facing us in Papua New Guinea today - our investment from outside and no national interest. I am appalled at the apathy which exists in Australia and in the Government ranks about what we are doing to a nation entrusted to us by the United Nations to administer not only for the benefit of Australia but primarily for the benefit of the local population of Papua New Guinea, to give them nationhood in a responsible manner and to allow that nation to take its place in the world community of nations.

Let us remember that Papua New Guinea will be our nearest foreign neighbour with an equal say in the world community. What memories will they have of us? Let us not delude ourselves about the attitudes of the local population or of those in authority in the Territory. Let me quote from the House of Assembly debates of the Parliament of Papua New Guinea from 1st March to 19th March 1971. On 16th March 1971 at page 4030 Mr Paulus Arek, the member for Ijivitari - I ask Government supporters to look very closely at this speech - said:

Mr Lapunhas introduced the motion and I support il. The motion reads very clearly on the subject, but during Mr Lapun's speech he was frightened and 1 think be has no faith in Papua and New Guinea. Why is be frightened? Does he think we will be fighting among ourselves? I would like to know which country in the world has developed without disputes, bloodshed and chaos. Do you think to get self-government we will have to raise our hands to heaven and that God will give us self-government and independence without war? We will achieve it whenever we are ready and we have to prepare for it. Do not think that there will be no bloodshed and chaos when we want self-government. This is false talk. People in England fought for independence, Americans fought for independence and many other countries fought before getting independence. We must not be frightened, for this will happen to us.

That was said in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea. His reference to their readiness to fight for independence should make us think. Here we are speaking to estimates of money to be spent in a country where they do not in fact want our physical presence. We should be speaking instead about a grant to be issued to and spent by their own Parliament and by their own departments in a manner totally decided upon by the voice of the local people. We in Australia would be speaking as Mr Arek spoke if the same decisions we are imposing on Papua New Guinea were being debated in the British House of Commons in relation to Australia, In defence of the perpetuation of these decisions we of course say that they are not ready and by some mysterious judgment of the wise man say that at some future, distant, undefined date they will be ready

What will we have to do? Will we have to sacrifice the lives of some of our young people conscripted under the National Service Act to suppress a population aroused by such incredible actions as this Government's decision to make separate wage systems for Papuans and New Guineans and expatriates? According to Mr Warren Dutton, the member for North Fly when opening the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly 'This system has saved the Australian Government more than $100m'. This is a dreadful expose of cheap labour exploitation for which we will have to answer in the future. This decision alone has caused more harm and more division between races than any other decision that has been made by the Government. Further, when one considers that the Australian Government in 1969-70 spent $1,226 for every person in the Northern Territory and yet in the same year spent only $71 a person in Papua New Guinea one cannot wonder at the bitterness of the local people who see, rightly or wrongly, the white man enjoying a superior wage structure for the same work and winning positions in the Public Service ahead of local men. According to the rules applied, this must be upheld. But one successful appeal against this system can do untold harm in race relations. We have done all these things as an autocratic administration trying to transplant our system ' to another country and using the local population as servants.

On a recent visit to New Guinea I was confronted at the front door of my abode by a fine strong healthy young man of approximately 30 years of . .age seeking house work. The reference he handed to me stated that he was a good worker but was apt to borrow things. I should think he would borrow because if he had a family to support, the miserly amount paid to him as a domestic would be quite inadequate. Fortunately he could not read the reference himself, but somewhere, sometime it will be read by a more literate friend and this man will become another potentially resentful citizen, as must a large number of these men who have been forced to take the only available work as servile servants with a backyard garage type building for accommodation. These people will be the voters and the decision-makers of our nearest neighbour. What memories they must have.

When we speak to those people who will communicate and who have some authority, we find that they use, as a yardstick of our sincerity towards them, the standards which we have set for our own Aboriginal population. They claim that we have dispossessed the Aboriginal of his land, of his birthright, and that our general attitude is to treat Aborigines as second rate citizens. This is something tangible which they can see and on which they can judge us, as does the rest of the world. It is not a very pretty sight and it offers no reassurance to them. Recently I had the honour of representing this Parliament and laying a wreath at an Anzac Day ceremony in a New Guinea town. 1 was impressed by the way in which almost the total population turned out in pouring rain and the manner in which the local ex-servicemen paraded together with expatriate ex-servicemen. But I was not impressed to find that 2 servicemen's clubs existed - one a substantial, well appointed structure for expatriates, and another structure, which was unlined and had a plain cement floor, for native ex-servicemen. I was proud to attend both clubs because the ex-servicemen of both clubs had fought for the freedom of their country. But I repeat that I was so bitterly disappointed at the disparity in treatment that it was difficult not to make further ill will by complaining whilst there. This Parliament is the proper place in which to seek to have this type of discrimination eliminated.

The legislation on wages only furthers this type of disaster. We have been lax in coming to grips with the problem. We have treated it as though time does not matter. The basic education facilities in Papua New Guinea are insufficient in quantity or quality to cater for all of the population. There is a crisis in education there which is even worse than that which exists in Australia. I admit that the Government has established higher educational institutions, but it is a matter of too little too late. Too much is left to the missions and to other voluntary agencies. To illustrate this point, one of the establishments proudly shown to me was a returned servicemen's school. It was housed in a good building by tropica] standards for that area. It had just been completed. It had a cement floor, an iron roof, asbestos half walls and openings for windows. It was a palace compared with the building which the pupils had just left, which had a dirt floor, a thatched roof, woven walls and bush timber. This is the situation some 22 years after the closure of the Second World War. The just completed building was constructed of some secondhand material by voluntary labour using donated money. All this is being done for the sons and daughters of ex-servicemen who were our allies and to whom we owe so much.

All this aroused my interest in the state of the basic book stock of the libraries. At that time some of the libraries did not possess a modern set of reference encyclopedias, others had a fair standard of stock, but none was in any way equal to what we would expect to be available to Australian citizens generally. Here I might add that the expatriate population must suffer, although those attending the higher educational institutions would have access to modern material. But this materia] would not be available to those who depend in the restricted general system of public libraries. In fact, I wonder how many of the indigenous population receive sufficient education to appreciate and use the library system in a country in which there is little else to offer to those seeking extended learning or self-education, or insufficient income to finance the library system. This is a system which, with self-government, the country will inherit. We give these people little to look forward to. The buildings are old and inadequately stocked. But this is common. The attitude has been to mould Papua New Guinea to a situation in which maximum profits flow to Australia. One political party has even gone so far as to attempt to perpetuate the situation by sending a political organiser to Papua New Guinea. I am sure it is to protect the interests of its members Who are expatriates in that country.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







Suggest corrections