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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4111

Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) - I second the motion. This is not the occasion to express party political differences. The orderly and peaceful transition of Papua New Guinea to self-government on 1 December this year may be regarded, to a large extent, as a tribute to the policies of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. The date was agreed upon last year by the Liberal-Country Party Government of Australia and the Government of Papua New Guinea. As I said in May of last year, it is not the timing of self government or even the act of self-government itself that is of prime importance; the aim must be to achieve a self governing country and not just a legal facade.

The attainment of self government is also a tribute to successive Australian Administrators and to the officers of the Department of External Territories, both in Canberra and in Papua New Guinea, as well as the officers of other departments which have contributed to Papua New Guinea's progress towards self government. Naturally I place the greatest emphasis on those who worked for the Administrator and the Department of External Territories. Their role has been greatly understated and underestimated. Indeed it is, as the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) has said, unparalleled. So too was the contribution made by those from this Parliament who served as the Minister for Territories or Minister for External Territories. Naturally I exclude the present incumbent and myself. I refer to those who are not members of this House today.

Australia's task in the past has been to carry out the United Nations mandate to advance the people of Papua New Guinea politically, economically and socially to the position where they could run their own affairs and to do this in accordance with the wishes of the people expressed through their elected representatives in the House of Assembly. The people of Papua New Guinea, to all intents and purposes, now run their own affairs and Australia has nearly completed its task. A major step in this constitutional advance occurred in April 1972 with the election of the present House of Assembly and the exercising of increasingly greater responsibilities since then by Papua New Guinea Ministers.

The date of the next step- that of independence - has become a subject of some controversy. On this I merely wish to say today that the prime determinant of the date of independence must be the desire of the people of Papua New Guinea as expressed by the leadership group. The Government of Papua New Guinea must determine that date. Australia ought to respond to the date that the members of the House of Assembly determine. As I have said before, it is their country and their future, not ours. I said in a speech in June last year:

Independence should not represent a sudden break from one status to another. Australia has long held the view that there should be a smooth and orderly transition which establishes Papua New Guinea by the time of independence as a state able to manage its own affairs with a government responsive to the wishes of the people. There is a need to plan ahead to avoid the hangover that so often follows the intoxication of emotional independence celebration.

In most areas of government Papua New Guinea is now responsible for the evolution of policies. That has been so for some time. Indeed, the people of Papua New Guinea are uniquely qualified for this responsibility, since only they have a fundamental understanding of the fabric of life in their own country. Only they can properly develop policies that will assist the progress of national unity, the formation of further land legislation and the evolution of the legal system to marry traditional law with existing concepts of British justice.

Only they should work out national priorities in various fields, such as in the setting out of new foreign investment guidelines as announced by the Chief Minister, Mr Somare, this week and. his eight point improvement program for 1973-74, which outlines his Government's development philosophy. This philosophy envisages a more self reliant economy, decentralisation of economic activity, with emphasis on agricultural development and small scale artisan business activity, and a rapid increase in the proportion of the economy under Papua New Guinean control. In a speech I made in June of last year I quoted comments of a noted Australian economist, Mr E. K. Fisk, which are pertinent to my remarks at this moment. He said:

The aims of development are not solely or even primarily economic. In trying to direct development our concern must be first with the type of society and environment we are trying to produce. In this the economic aspects are of course important, but they are important as a means and not as an end. In the difficult process of defining goals the subsidiary status of the economic factor should not be forgotten.

So, in determining such priorities, Papua New Guinea now makes the decisions, but Australia and Australians with the necessary expertise still have a role to play in advising, not directing, policies - if our advice is sought - and of helping, not hindering, Papua New Guinea.

From this Saturday, 1 December, in the period between self government and independence the Government of Papua New Guinea will be responsible for all domestic matters. Between 1 December and independence Australia will be dealing with defence and foreign affairs matters on behalf of the Papua New Guinea Government and its people but also in conjunction wim them. This pattern of cooperation was initiated under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government when Papua New Guinea was represented, for example, at the first talks of the AustraliaJapan Ministerial Committee last year. Before that it became an associate member of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, the Asian Development Bank, the World Health Organisation and the South Pacific Conference. The recent creation of the portfolio of Defence and Foreign Relations in Papua New Guinea and the appointment to it of a Papua New Guinean Minister, Mr Albert Maori Kiki, is proper recognition of the fact that Australia will retain reserve powers in foreign affairs and defence only until Papua New Guinea is fully independent.

A new set of relations based on respective national interest and taking into account political and geographical factors affecting both countries will need to be established. The terms of this relationship will, I hope, be planned and some elements of it negotiated before the actual date of independence. We should be remiss if we found ourselves completing the independence of Papua New Guinea without adequate preparation for the post-independence world. The need to look beyond Papua New Guinea's independence to the future relationship and to the form of the future relationship between the 2 countries is urgent. Events of history and facts of geography have dictated that this must be a close one. We are mutually important to each other. Papua New Guinea will be our closest foreign neighbour; we will be her closest but not her only source of aid and expertise. It is indeed a special relationship.

On Australia's part, as long as Papua New Guinea looks to Australia for aid, it is the declared intention of both the Government and the Opposition parties in the Australian Parliament to provide such aid. The existing relationship between the 2 countries and between many hundreds, even thousands, of their peoples creates a special kind of situation where the development assistance Australia offers can be given on the basis of much greater understanding than is usual between developed and developing countries. Although it is desirable that Australia and Papua New Guinea should have a special relationship and that Australia in' particular should not lag in fostering that relationship, Australian policies and those of Papua New Guinea need not necessarily always be in tandem, nor should they be.

It is necessary to distinguish between Australia's relations with Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinea's own foreign relations. We have to determine our relations with Papua New Guinea with proper regard to Australia's own national interests. We should expect Papua New Guinea to do the same. It should be expected that each country will pursue its own national interests, sometimes complementary, sometimes conflicting. But the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea also will be a part of their broader relations - collectively and separately - with the countries of the South Pacific and with other countries in Asia. Papua New Guinea, with its 2i million citizens and its economic potential, will be a nation of consequence in the Pacific. But Papua New Guinea also will have a major interest in South East Asia, sharing a land border with Indonesia and already developing a relationship of economic interdependence with Japan. I observed in an address to the New South Wales Branch of the Institute of International Affairs in June of last year:

While Australia will remain important to Papua New Guinea, we should not seek to build an exclusive relationship based on a mistaken belief that past assistance places Papua New Guinea under an obligation to us. Looked at from Papua New Guinea's point of view, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Japan, as well as the island nations of the Pacific, will have important places in the eyes of the Papua New Guinea Governments. Other Governments will be seeking to assist Papua New Guinea. We will do well to recognise this. Not to do so might adversely affect both our and Papua New Guinea's relations with third countries.

Through close consultation with one another, Australia and Papua New Guinea could begin now to formulate policies which will make more fruitful our relationship and theirs with both the Asian and the Pacific regions. It is significant that Papua New Guinea's attainment of self-government is acclaimed by all parties in the Australian Parliament and is endorsed not only here but also in the Commonwealth and the 'United Nations. In both these international forums it is expected that Papua New Guinea, on the attainment of independence will take its rightful place as a sovereign nation.

Finally, may I say that during my period as Minister for External Territories I tried to convey an understanding of trust between Australia and Papua New Guinea, in particular a trust between myself, the Chief Minister and his Ministers, to ensure that the Chief Minister realised at all times that when one spoke of Papua New Guinea one spoke not just of a country but of its people, and that as fellow human beings we should jointly seek a 'better life and a better relationship between our peoples. I hope to some extent I succeeded, but of more importance I fervently hope that it will be the basis of a close and trusting relationship for years to come. We wish the Chief Minister, his Government and his people well in the endless human adventure that is before them.

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