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Wednesday, 21 October 1964


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable senator will show respect to the Chair or he will be ordered to resume his scat.


Senator CANT - I believe that unless this Government is prepared to take a greater interest in primary education it will be useless to provide a university. These people have been brought up for centuries with the idea that they should live in their own tribal areas and not leave them. They cannot understand that New Guinea and Papua is to become a nation of one people. Unless we can educate them to a standard where they can understand one another they will not progress in nationalism.

I desire to mention one other matter that was particularly noticeable to me when I was in Papua and New Guinea, and was probably noticeable also to other honorable senators who have been there. The headquarters of the Department of Civil Aviation has been shifted to Lae. Within 50 yards of the aerodrome at Lae is the main central hospital. How can sick people be properly treated and how can doctors perform successful operations in these circumstances? It seems to me that it is a waste of public money to have a large hospital in such a position where the patients and staff are constantly being disturbed by the noise of incoming and outgoing aircraft.

In the papers that were presented to us by the Minister I find that £37 million has been spent on oil search in Papua and New Guinea. One of the matters that disturbs me is: Who is to own the oil if and when it is found? If there is a national asset there, what part of it will be passed on to the indigenous people? Are we at this stage subsidising a country in order that it shall achieve nationhood and attain political freedom only to find that in the final analysis it has political freedom but not economic freedom? The same comment applies in respect of tea plantations, to which the Minister has referred. The main tea plantation will be at Mount Hagen and will be owned by the Carpenter organisation.

This is the sort of thing that is happening throughout New Guinea. The only industry I saw which was part-owned by the indigenous people was the plywood mill at Bulolo. It is to the Government's credit that it has retained 51 per cent, ownership of that mill. AH of the other industries are being operated on foreign investment. I think that the people of New Guinea are entitled to receive some foreign investment because they will not progress unless they receive it, but if there is not a degree of ownership by the indigenous people and by the Australian people of the industries that are to be established, wc will find that, although the people may have political freedom, they will not have economic freedom.

I was privileged to attend the opening of the New Guinea Parliament. Some of the things I saw on that occasion disturbed me considerably. It is inherent in the upbringing of the people of the Territory that they will live in tribal areas. They cannot understand that people should be able to move from one tribal area to another because they have not been educated to the fact that they are of one nation. They cannot understand that people from the various areas of Papua and New Guinea could be centralised in the one place. They do' not even understand one another when they speak together.

Another thing that disturbed. me was that there is a division amongst the people. There was no attempt made by anyone to weld them into one force, but there was a movement to keep them divided. Certain ambitious people are attempting to keep the indigenous members of the Parliament divided for the purpose of controlling the Parliament. This is not a good thing. It is not the way to build a nation and give the indigenous people the opportunity to govern themselves when the time is ripe. If the people are to be welded into one nation, they have to be able to understand one another. If these ambitious people are left in the Parliament to split and divide the indigenous members and to keep them divided, it will be many years before Papua and New Guinea is able to become a selfgoverning nation, and the interests of the indigenous people will not be served.

These are matters that the Australian Government should look at when it spends the money of the Australian taxpayers. If these matters are not looked -if. the money of the Australian taxpayers will continue to be spent ad infinitum. But if particular interest is taken in these people and if they are led along the path to nationhood, it will be only a short time before the Australian taxpayers will be relieved of the burden of continuing to" support Papua and New Guinea.







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