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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator COHEN (Victoria) .- When the debate was adjourned last night I was addressing some remarks to the absence from the estimates for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea of any provision for implementing the recommendations of the Currie Commission on Higher Education in Papua and New Guinea. The Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) conceded that there was no such provision in the estimates which the Committee is now considering. That is very disappointing. The report of the Currie Commissionwas very comprehensive and very mature. It dealt with what the Commission described as being the real needs of the people for training to fill all the positions which will develop as the Territory advances towards modern statehood.

After a very comprehensive and detailed investigation of the higher educational needs of the Territory, the Commission made certain specific recommendations, particularly for the setting up of an institute of higher technical education as a matter of high priority and also of a fully autonomous university within the Territory. The Commission went further. It set out a time table within which various steps should be taken for the implementation of those recommendations. The Commission thought that a number of specific steps should be taken in 1964-65. But here we are almost at the end of the sittings of the Parliament for 1964 without having had any indication from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) that the Government intends to adhere to the time table recommended by the Currie Commission. Indeed, the Parliament has not had any intimation that the Government has decided to adopt any of the recommendations of the Commission. It is clear from statements made by the Minister outside the Parliament as reported in the Press that, so far as the Minister is concerned, there is no particular hurry about the implementation of the recommendation for the establishment of a university in Papua and New Guinea. He said, I think, that its development will have to be fitted into the general picture of development in the Territory. The Minister has seemed to approve generally of the proposed institute of higher technical education as desirable, but he has made no announcement about accepting the recom mendation or about thetimetable. It is quite clear from theabsence from the estimates of any provision for these facilities that the Government regards this as being a long term project rather than anything that must be undertaken as a matter of urgency as recommended by the Commission.

The Currie Commission recommended that the following specific steps should be taken in 1964 or in 1964-65: That a principal and other necessary officers of the proposed Institute of Higher Technical Education be appointed in 1964-65; that the first contract for buildings for the Institute adjacent to the proposed university site at Port Moresby and on the Konedobu model be let in 1964-65; that a preliminary year should be taken in the proposed University of New Guinea and that it should be given for the first time in the existing Administrative College, beginning if possible in 1964, with the assistance of seconded staff; that a registrar, staff architect and clerical staff for the University be appointed in 1964; that a Dean of Education and a librarian for the University be appointed in 1964; that an Interim Council of the University be constituted and that it should, at the earliest possible moment, appoint a Vice-Chancellor.

We are met on this question with a wall of silence from which we can take it that the Government has no intention of moving within this short term period as suggested by the Currie Commission Are we to assume that this report is to be pigeon-holed, along with the report of the Constitutional Review Committee - which was submitted in 1959 - and with the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, which will have its first birthday later this month? Although the report of this Select Committee has been debated at length in this Parliament and 1 1 senators have spoken on it, not one Minister has yet addressed himself to its contents or given any indication of the Government's attitude to it.

We are not dealing in New Guinea with merely a local matter but with a matter in which the eyes of the world are upon Australia. Indeed, the Foot Visiting Mission, which visited us in 1962 and made some important recommendations concerning what might be done with the trustee Territories, specifically recommended that steps in the field of tertiary education were of high priority. Amongst other things, the Mission suggested that Australia should begin immediately on a programme to produce at least 100 graduates a year in the Territory.

Senator Cormack - Foot has been laying eggs in everybody's nests all his life.

Senator COHEN - He is now a Minister of State in the newly formed British Labour Government and will be the permanent representative of the British Government at the United Nations.

Senator Gorton - So what?

Senator COHEN - -The Minister says, " So what ".

Senator Gorton - What does that mean?

Senator COHEN - It means that he is a man of the highest possible international standing. Obviously he is a man who has the full confidence of the incoming British Labour Government

Senator Gorton - And he is still subject to criticism by Senator Cormack or by any other senator.

Senator COHEN - Of course he is. I do not know of anybody who is subject to criticism and who can complain if he is criticised in this place or in world politics anywhere. I am referring to the high standing of the Chairman of the Foot Visiting Mission. We had an opportunity to debate some of the Mission's recommendations when the last Papua and New Guinea Bill was before this chamber last year.

Senator Kendall - Does he say who is going to use this university when it is built?

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Mackellar).Order! There are too many interjections coming from both sides of the chamber.

Senator COHEN - I do not propose to answer any further interjections.

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