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Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2533


Mr PETTITT (Hume) - I am appalled as I sit in this place tonight and listen to the uninformed nonsense that is being spoken by some of the members of the Opposition - 5-minute visitors to Papua New Guinea who have no understanding and no knowledge of the position there. Some of them have gone there recently for 5 . minutes and have become experts without any appreciation of the problems of the people or of what the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) has done over the years.


Mr Armitage - Are you one of them?


Mr PETTITT - The Australian Government has done a tremendous job in Papua New Guinea. The Government's aim has been to discharge to the utmost of its capacity the obligation that Australia accepted under the United Nations Charter - to promote the political, social, economic and educational advancement of

Papua New Guinea and its progressive development towards internal selfgovernment and independence with freely expressed wishes of the people.

To one uninformed interjector on the opposite side of the chamber I say that my first experience of the Territory was back in 1942 or 1943. I do not claim to be an expert, but I have been back to the Territory continually. I know something of the people, something of the problems and something of the Territory. To say that this country has set out to exploit the people of the Territory is to show a complete lack of appreciation of what has been done over the years by this country. We are pouring into the Territory about Si 30m annually of Australian taxpayers' money to help these people with the sole objective of helping them towards selfgovernment and eventual independence. We have developed their industries; we have developed roads, we have developed transport. We have done a tremendous job, and what is more we have done it with their co-operation. That is something that these people who have no real knowledge of the Territory do not appreciate. I thought that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was the most ignorant man who ever went to the Territory, but I am beginning to wonder whether some of his supporters are not even more ignorant - and that is saying a great deal indeed.

The United Nations was critical early in the piece of Australia's handling of Papua New Guinea because some of the nations represented on the committees that visited New Guinea were critical. But I would ask honourable members to read the last United Nations report and see what that independent committee ' said about New Guinea and what has been done over the last few years. It gave Australia a tremendous commendation for what it had done for the people of the Territory. Those of us who were there during the war remember what those people were like 30 years ago. They were completely primitive people. Today we can go back and see some of the development in which they have taken part. Only last week we had down here 5 Ministerial Members of the House of Assembly, every one of them an able man and every one of them proud of his country and grateful for what has been done. Of course there are problems. There always will be problems in the development of a backward nation such as New Guinea.

Under the constitutional development approved by the House of Assembly and approved by our Government the people of the Territory have been given a tremendous amount of self-government. Today they virtually have self-government in almost all areas. There are only very few areas where they do not have it. The Ministerial members and the Assistant Ministerial Members make the final decisions in many areas such as education, public health, tourism, co-operative societies, business administration, posts and telegraphs, Territory revenue, taxation, shipping, civil defence, and corrective institutions, which is a tremendous responsibility that they carry out very well indeed. The Commonwealth has retained control in only a very limited area, namely, in the area of law and order, internal security, international affairs, defence and international trade relations and civil aviation. The Commonwealth exercises some supervision over developing projects where it is needed. Many leaders in the Territory, including Michael Somare, have said to me: The worst thing that could ever happen to this country would be if we lost the support of the Australian people, if we lost the services of the experienced expatriate officers before we are ready'.

Only last week a member of the Press said: 'Shortly, when a Labor government comes into power, Papua and New Guinea will have self-government overnight'. I quickly jumped in and said: 'You are jumping to conclusions'. A Ministerial Member sitting beside me said: 'We do not want self-government until we are ready'. This was said to me by members of the Pangu Party and by members of all the other parties up there. They said *We want it when we are ready for it, not when Mr Whitlam or somebody else dictates to us'. These are proud and able people. We recently interviewed in Papua New Guinea a number of local government councillors and when one expatriate who was a teaching sister on one of the councils suggested that the difference in payment was a big problem and could cause jealousy between the expatriates and the indigines, several members of the council got up and said: How foolish can you be? We need these people. They have a different standard of living. They come up here at a considerable disadvantage. We are prepared to pay them until we have trained people to take their places'. These people understand the position and as I said, they are people with tremendous ability and a shrewd assessment of the situation.

One of the great problems in Papua New Guinea is that there are so many ethnic groups. Some 700 languages are spoken. We must try and weld these people together into a national unity because if it is to be a successful nation, there must be some sort of national unity. This is not easy. The highlanders have different interests to the people around the coast. The people in the Gazelle Peninsula have different interests to the Bougainvillians. There is no question that most of the trouble in Papua New Guinea in recent years has been aggravated, as was mentioned earlier, by the visits of some irresponsible members of the Opposition. The most irresponsible member of all was the Leader of the Opposition. If honourable members do not believe this, let them go to Papua New Guinea and talk to the New Guinea people themselves. He is the man who spoke in the streets and very nearly caused riots and had to be walked off the streets by a District Commissioner because of his irresponsible statements and his encouragement of lawlessness by people who have yet so much to learn.

There are tremendous projects being developed in Papua New Guinea. The people have educational facilities. There are high schools all over New Guinea. They have primary schools, technical colleges, a university and an institute of technology and they are keen to fit themselves to take over control of their country as quickly and as soon as they are able. However, they are aware that they are not yet ready. There are tremendous developments in forestry and there is great potential for the export of wood chips and the supplying of timber. The beef industry has also expanded. From virtually no cattle at all, there are now about 79,000 head of beef cattle and slaughter houses have been established in places like Port Moresby,

Lae, Goroka, Mount Hagen and Madang The oil palm industry has been a successful enterprise and one in which the indigines themselves are taking a great part. The company which has been the main developer of this industry has gone to considerable lengths to assist and finance indigines and has provided them with their own areas so that they can become proficient. While the tea industry is certainly still in the hands of expatriates, tremendous efforts are being made to train and teach the indigines to develop and harvest tea. Fisheries have a great potential in Papua New Guinea and, of course, there is mining at Bougainville. There are other areas where there is tremendous potential for these people to develop an export industry so that they can become independent. Australia cannot forever pour money into this country at the rate of $!30m a year.

Land presents a great problem as it does all over the world. Even in Australia land problems create quite a lot of tension. Wealthy professional men and business men boost the price of land. It seems to be inherent in human nature that people want to own land and the people of Papua New Guinea also want to own land. They have a very involved system of land tenure and one that we have endeavoured to accommodate so as to encourage them to handle their own land problems. This also is not an easy matter. There is a great problem with roads and highways and the transport system in a country with a terrain like Papua New Guinea. The New Guineans have co-operated in the building of aerodromes in remote areas as well as highways over almost inaccessible places. A tremendous job has been done in Papua New Guinea over the years by cooperation between the New Guinea people and the Australian Government. I cannot too highly commend the Minister for his cool direction, despite unfair and unjust criticism, in a very difficult situation.

I believe that these people have a great future. We should not forget that they live very close to us. It is important to Australia for many reasons that they remain our friends and that we remain the friends of the people of Papua New Guinea. I know many New Guinea people; I have known them for many years. They are very fine people indeed and it makes my blood boil to hear uninformed criticism of what Australia has done and what these people are doing for their country. I commend the Minister and the Government for doing a great job in difficult circumstances. There are some members of the Opposition, such as the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), who do understand the situation and who must be embarrassed by what has been said.

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







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