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Wednesday, 19 May 1965


Senator SIM (Western Australia) . - Like Senator Webster, I regret very much the circumstances under which I entered this House. Senator Vincent, my predecessor, was an old and valued friend, a person who was recognised as having made a notable contribution to this Parliament and to the public life of Australia. His untimely death was deeply regretted by us all.

I express my appreciation to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and the members of his party for their courtesy in forgoing their right to speak first in this debate on the Appropriation Bill to enable Senator Webster and me to make our maiden speeches. This illustrates that although we all fight hard for our beliefs there exist among honorable senators on both sides of the chamber many courtesies and friendships. Since entering this House I have received from Senator McKenna and members of his party, as well as from my colleagues on this side, many courtesies and a friendship which I deeply appreciate. I do not know whether we work on the principle that we must live together lest, should the worst come to the worst, we hang together, but in any case, courtesy and friendship are among the things that make life in this Parliament worth while.

Tonight I propose to express some views on Papua and New Guinea. At the outset, let me say that I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this subject. In the years that 1 spent there during the war, and particularly during my service with the Pacific Islands Regiment, I developed a very deep interest in the Territory and its people. Therefore, I welcomed the opportunity to revisit the Territory recently as a member of the parliamentary delegation for Anzac Day. This enabled me to renew, in a small way, my association with the people of the Territory, to discuss with them directly, through a knowledge of pidgin English - a limited but nevertheless a very expressive language - and with officers of the Administration, the future of the country, to see at first hand some of the remarkable development that has taken place, and to appreciate the problems that lay ahead.

I returned from the Territory far more confident of the future than I had been before my visit. In discussions with the natives I was able to confirm the strong expression of opinion presented to the United Nations Mission that the people there realise that they are not yet ready for self government and desire the Australian Administration to remain to lead them towards this goal. I think their attitude is best expressed in the statement of a native at Madang. When one of the members of the United Nations Mission constantly referred to self government, this native walked the length of the hall and, speaking in pidgin English for some 400 of his people - I will translate it into Australian - said: " Australia came here and planted a seed. It has now grown to a tall straight tree and is about to blossom ". After a short pause he went on: " We do not want any insects to destroy this tree ". Similar views were expressed by many unsophisticated natives throughout the Territory.

There is little doubt that today we hold the goodwill of the people of New Guinea. While not attempting to predict the unpredictable, I am confident that provided we push ahead with education, economic development and training the people to accept responsibility, we need not fear for the future. In this respect the local government councils are providing a wonderful training ground in government. I had the opportunity to meet at Madang the executives of one of the oldest and strongest local government councils.

It is interesting to know that in the Madang area alone there are seven such councils. One of them, the Ambenob council, has within its area a population of 12,500 people, and its revenue totals some £15,000. The seven councils embrace about 60,000 people in their districts. It is expected that in the coming year another 25,000 people will be brought under local government councils. Their total revenue at present is £47,000. When meeting these people and discussing with them the problems confronting their councils one could not help being impressed with the sense of responsibility with which they are facing their problems. After meeting them and hearing their views I came away with the strong feeling that the future of this country, particularly when you have regard to some of the younger people who are now coming forward, will eventually be in good hands.

The Government's endorsement of the five year programme proposed by the mission or the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is, I think, art assurance that the objectives to which we are pledged will have a reasonable prospect of success. I propose to deal more specifically with the report of that mission at a later stage. Before doing so I intend to refer to several matters which should be aired and in which T should like to make my position clear.

In these days, anything that smacks of colonialism is regarded by some Australians as being rather dirty. There are some who seem to have feelings of guilt about our presence in Papua and New Guinea. 1 cannot share those feelings. We are there by right. We have accepted the responsibility of leading the people of the Territory to self government and independence. I can do no better than to repeat the words of the former Minister for Territories, the Honorable Paul Hasluck, whose enlightened policies have laid a firm foundation for the future of the Territory. Speaking at Port Moresby on 1st September 1962, he dealt with the historical aspect of our presence in Papua and New Guinea. He then went on to say -

There is thus no dispute nor is there any ground for dispute, on the Australian authority in these two Territories.

Do not let us or anyone else forget that we have our rights. We do not have to be either offensive or unfriendly when we insist on our own rights. We do not have to be apologetic. It is proper that we should declare our rights and maintain them.

I subscribe to those views. I do not wish to be at all controversial but I must refer to the habit of some Australians to go to New Guinea and express views which, in my opinion, render a great disservice to the Territory and cause grave feelings of insecurity among many officers of the Administration and among investors and others.

Very many people set a date by which they believe independence should be given. Some people have expressed the view that unless we give independence quickly, we will be kicked out of the Territory. Such statements, made very often with the authority of responsible positions, show a strange lack of knowledge of the Territory, in my view and, I am confident, of the wishes of the people. The lack of security created - and this was expressed to us on many occasions by senior Administration officers - is causing the loss of young and able officers who are not renewing their contracts. This can have only a nullifying effect on the recruitment of new officers. The importance of this aspect is underlined in the Minister's statement. He said -

Moreover, economic development over the next few years will require a substantial increase in the number of administrative, professional, technical and managerial personnel both in the Public Service and in private enterprise. Much is being done to accelerate the education and training of native people in the necessary skills. This process will take time and meanwhile to achieve the required progress in the immediate future there will need to be a concentrated effort in recruiting increased numbers of professional and technical personnel from Australia for service in the Territory. . . about 2,000 more officers will be needed from outside the Territory, including about 500 qualified agricultural, livestock and forestry officers and 500 teachers for Administration secondary schools.

This is a gigantic task. In my view, formed after speaking to Administration officers and after discussions with native leaders, a minimum of 10 to 15 years is required to lead the people to self-government without problems of a grave and embarrassing nature developing.

One of the essentials of self-government is national unity. The lessons of the Congo and the problems of Nigeria and other African countries should not be lost on us. There is no sense of national unity in New Guinea. There is loyalty to tribes and an age long distrust and even hatred of other tribes and groups. Danger exists in New Guinea because there is no sense of unity or affinity between New Guineans and Papuans or between one tribe and another. This point was made very clear to us in discussions with native leaders and was confirmed by Administration officers. The great hope is that education will break down these barriers and that the generation now benefiting from the education programme will provide leaders who possess a sense of national unity. It was most encouraging to hear from present day native leaders in New Guinea - the older generation - that they believed such leaders would emerge. They said: " While we do not accept Papuans, we believe that our children will and then we will become one nation ".

I turn now to the Mission's proposals for economic development. Few would quarrel wilh the recommendation that priority should be given to primary industries. This, of course, is true of all underdeveloped countries, as it was true of Australia. I am not so sure that the specific programme recommended - particularly its references to coconuts and cocoa - is on firm ground. I would like to be assured that the Mission made an investigation of long term world marketing trends for these products. Cocoa, for example, is already in over-production throughout the world and grave marketing difficulties have resulted. I hope that the Government will give close study to individual industries before recommending increased production. Uneconomic development would have most serious consequences.

The Mission's report is on firmer ground in relation to the cattle industry and forestry. I support the view that there is a future for both of these industries. It has been said that a tenfold increase in cattle numbers in 10 years is possible. I believe that result can be attained. I was most impressed by the research being undertaken at the research station near Kanantu in the Eastern Highlands. The progress being made in the introduction of tropical legumes and grasses is impressive. The estimated carrying capacity of large areas of the Territory is one beast to the acre, which is equally impressive. However, I stress that a great deal more research is required. I hope that provision is made for an intensification of research, not only into tropical legumes and pastures, but also into cattle types. Most of us who are aware of the work being done in Queensland on zebu cattle and their crosses in hot tropical climates believe that there may be a future for this breed in New Guinea. I do not doubt that there is a close liaison between the work being done in tropical Queensland and in New Guinea. Whatever is done, there is always a need to adapt to local conditions. Before leaving the subject of the cattle industry and agriculture generally, I wish to say that I would like some assurance that the Government has in mind the need for trained extension officers in this field. I am aware that recently an agricultural college was opened near Rabaul. This is a very valuable start in training the natives.

The Currie Commission did not recommend the early establishment of a faculty of agriculture at the proposed university. I have an open mind on this question. Perhaps it is wise to wait because of the shortage of people with the education necessary to enter upon such a course. It may be preferable to send them to Australian universities for training at present. However, there is a need to train the natives in tropical agriculture and I hope that that is being borne in mind. Perhaps the proposed university in Townsville will provide such a course and the post-graduate training which is necessary. I believe that the industry will not face a bright future unless there are first class advisers who understand the agricultural problems and can advise on the production of cattle and of agricultural products in the Territory. Already natives are producing about 50 per cent, of the coffee crop. Although complaints have been made about the poor quality of the coffee produced, great difficulty is experienced in getting the message over to the natives and in advising them of better methods by which to produce the crop. It seems to me that this matter should have an urgent priority.

I had the opportunity to see exciting progress being made at Bulolo in the development of softwood forests. I was impressed by the method of planting forests. It is confidently expected that the trees will reach full development in 25 to 30 years, whereas in Australia 40 years is required. It is also expected that a correspondingly shorter period will be necessary before thinning out takes place. Indeed, thinning out is being undertaken now. The clearing and planting of new forests is being conducted on a gigantic scale and reflects great credit upon those persons responsible. In addition to the sawmill and plywood factories there are plans, I was informed, for a pulp industry. This emphasises the great importance of forestry in the development of the Territory. Not only is there a high ratio of employment in the forestry industry, but it leads to the development of other industries with a relatively high labour content. Avenues of employment are opened for the increasing number of natives being trained. Opportunities are created for the local people to acquire special skills, lt was very encouraging to note the number of natives operating intricate machines, not only in the sawmill and the plywood factory, but also in the cigarette factory at Madang. We were told that the natives very quickly acquired the necessary skills.

The Mission proposed various measures for the development of secondary industries. I believe this must be a very long term development which will require an education system to be built up so that the local people can acquire the skills required. I am happy to note that the Government supports the Mission's view that high priority must be given to education at all levels. Indeed, I would go further and say that education must have the highest priority. I had the opportunity to visit primary and secondary schools and a teachers' training college, and I pay a tribute to the work being done by both Australian and native teachers and to the keenness to learn of children of all ages. This was really impressive. After seeing the willingness of the young people to learn, it was not surprising to be told that the degree of absenteeism is very low - much lower, I believe, than in many Australian schools.

In my view, the key to our success in New Guinea lies in education. This is recognised by the older generation of the natives, who frequently express the view that it is the children of today who will provide the leaders in an independent New Guinea and that the granting of self government will depend on the availability of sufficient educated leaders. Whether we can move faster in education is difficult to say, but these figures are very impressive: From 1958 to 1963 the number of Administration schools advanced i rom. 276 to 449 and the number of mission schools from 309 to 1,444. The number of teachers increased from 726 to 1,571 and the number of pupils from 28,549 to 112,459. There are also 790 native students engaged in teacher training. I urge the Government to move with all possible speed, without lowering the standards.

The success of economic development and education - indeed, the very success of our policy - depends on Australians working in the Territory. In this respect I hope that before very long these people will be guaranteed some security in the unlikely event of the worst happening. Otherwise, I can see some dangers ahead. It is very necessary to ensure that Australians who go into the Territory are of the highest quality. Simple acts of arrogance by Australians could undo much of the magnificent work that is being done by Administration officers. I trust that the Department is constantly reminding people responsible both in government departments and in private enterprise of the need for great care in the selection and recruitment of persons to go to the Territory.

I should like to say a word or two on defence. There is today a concern - I think a natural concern - about Indonesia's intentions. I make one point to my good friend, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge). The best soldiers to defend New Guinea in the type of warfare that would happen in the Territory are the New Guineans themselves. I hope that the Pacific Islands Regiment will be extended. I saw it on parade and it is an excellent body of men. I was proud that at one time I had served with them. Whether they are better than when I served with them, I do not know, but they certainly were very impressive. Having been with them, I believe that in guerrilla warfare they would be admirably suited to defend the Territory.

In my view, we have the goodwill of the people of New Guinea and we must maintain it. They frequently expressed appreciation of what was being done for them by Australia. I hold strongly the view that it would be dangerous to name a date for independence. We should move steadily forward, never giving any doubt of our will to grant independence or of our sincerity.

We should try to stay one jump ahead. I would fail if I did not make clear my admiration for the work being done by officers of the Administration. If New Guinea escapes the miseries that independence has brought to so many countries, a debt will be due to these men, especially the officers in the field. Flexibility of policy is necessary. 1 believe that we have that, and we must maintain it.

Before concluding, I should like to make a brief reference to two matters in which I have always had a great interest and about which the Senate will no doubt hear me speak more in the future. One is agricultural research. I was very gratified to note that in the Martin Report there was a recommendation for an advisory body to be established to co-ordinate all research in Australia. I for one have been very concerned for a long time at the strong evidence existing that there is in Australia a wasteful duplication of research amongst our many research organisations. I would hope that the section dealing with agriculture will be able to bring about closer co-ordination of research. Magnificent work has been done, but evidence of jealousies and refusal to exchange research findings of organisations are too prevalent for us to be entirely satisfied that all that could be done is being done.

I make a brief reference also to extension services. It is of little use for our research officers to find new means of developing pastures and stocking, &c, unless we have advisers who are capable of advising on the practical application of this research to farming practices, lt is no secret that we in Australia are lagging far behind in our extension services. I do not think that this reflects very much credit on many of those who have been responsible for this matter over the years. Not only do we lag behind in numbers because of the lack of attraction to this work but also we sadly lag in training for this very specialised field. I could best illustrate this by saying that in Western Australia, which leads Australia in the development of farm management services, out of 40-odd services which have been established, only two Australians have been found suitable for this work. The remainder have been recruited from New Zealand, the United Kingdom and other overseas countries. ine simple fact is that Australians do not possess the knowledge or training for this very specialised field. Quite frankly, I think that this is a pretty disgraceful state of affairs. I and others have taken a move fairly recently for the establishment of a post graduate course in farm management extension within the University of Western Australia. We have done this because this university is particularly well equipped to handle this type of post graduate training. We have been most disappointed at the reaction from our State Government to the recommendations, and I take great hope in the fact that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has now indicated that he will discuss this matter with State Ministers at an early opportunity. I stress this because I believe that this type of training is essential. The University of Western Australia has received from all over Australia and from overseas inquiries as to where such a course is available. When we consider that today we have many farm management clubs in Western Australia which are unable to obtain advisers as the supply of skilled staff from overseas is drying up and that soon we will have to take the second best, it can be seen that the position is fairly serious. I merely mention this matter and make a plea that this objective bc supported from all sides of the Parliament. I have no doubt that in future I shall have more to say about it.

Finally, may I thank the Senate for the courtesy that it has extended to me.







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