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Tuesday, 9 May 1972
Page: 1468


Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - Mr President, I refer to an article appearing on page 14 of 'The Bulletin' dated 6th May 1972. This is the first opportunity in this parliamentary session that I have had the opportunity to refute the allegations made by this article. 'The Bulletin' is a magazine published in New South Wales, printed by Conpress Printing Ltd of 168 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, at 61-63 O'Riordan Street, Alexandria, for the publishers Australian Consolidated Press of 168 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. The references in the article to me are untrue and are unfounded and in my opinion will defame my character. From comment made to me already the article is most harmful to me personally. In a wider sense it will cause untold damage to the results of many years of endeavour in aspects of work which I regard as of great importance to me, to certain Australian national institutions and to the Australian national interest, as well as to the interest of the people of the Territory of Papua New Guinea. This article has caused me harm in my political life in both Slate and national political circles and in the Territory of Papua New Guinea. My lifelong association with important philanthropic institutions has been harmed and - this is of significant importance to me - my close relationship with people of overseas countries in public and private life has been impaired.

The Bulletin' article conveys to readers an impression that I would not wish to be seated in an aircraft next to certain types of natives. It conveys to readers that I find little in common with certain types of natives and that in pursuance of that attitude 1 moved to other seating on an aircraft flight from Rabaul to Lae. The article is untrue. While my recent trip to Papua New Guinea was officially to represent the Commonwealth at Anzac services held in the Territory, the main purpose for me personally was to pursue matters associated with the expansion of establishment and developmental work for the National Young Men's Christian Association of Australia. Yet the work and interest may be wider than the Australian body as the Vancouver YMCA of Canada and the Canadian Government have a direct interest in the work which has been conducted for many years and which was being pursued during the visit to which this article refers.

During 1962 and 1963 the National YMCA of Australia carried out a survey of the existing needs for such an organisation in the Territory. I took part in that survey. In 1963 the National YMCA, a body representative of all associations in Australia, sent a secretary to Port Moresby to commence work and lay a basis for acceptance of typical YMCA activity. This work was difficult. The traditional activities of this body in those areas of physical, mental and spiritual uplifting was impaired by the attitudes of various ethnic groups and individuals in the local community. The problems were not insignificant. Our secretary lived with the indigenes and encouraged them to pursue endeavours conducive to a well organised society. The movement has spread its work to many areas in the Territory. YMCA officials wrote the whole of the physical education programme accepted by the Administration of the Territory of Papua New Guinea. Young men who have shown ability as leaders in the community have been further involved in YMCA activities and have been given advanced training in the National YMCA's Youth Leadership College in my State of Victoria. Some are doing this training at the present time.

The community and business leaders in the Territory, and in Port Moresby in particular, have been encouraged by the grassroots work which the YMCA conducted to supply funds for the continuing work of the YMCA. The Territory Administration has been prompt in its encouragement of this elevated body in that it has acquiesced in grants of land for YMCA facilities in the Territory and, along with other like organisations, has seen to it that the continuing work is assisted with limited current funds. I have been party to the negotiations which have brought these matters into being.

Significant in the encouragement of these services to the indigenous youth of the Territory has been the involvement of business leaders and of trading companies in Port Moresby and other areas of the Territory. Companies with head offices on the mainland and with branch interest in New Guinea have seen the wisdom of this YMCA operation amongst the young indigenous population. One could go to great lengths to indicate the wide area of public interest which takes part in this YMCA work. The main financial assistance comes from the work of the various YMCA clubs throughout Australia - and they represent a very wide body of public opinion in Australia. All these areas of philanthropic interest are for continued encouragment of the indigenous youth of Papua New Guinea.

The article published in 'The Bulletin' harms that interest. 1 have been the chairman of the New Guinea Committee of the World Work Committee of the National YMCA for the past 10 years and have had the closest relationship at the highest level with all those aforementioned bodies, particularly the indigenous youth. I have entered into the sporting activities of indigenous youth in the Territory. I have eaten with them on many occasions and have travelled with them throughout the Territory.

The untruthfulness of this article conveys harm internationally. The Committee which I have the honour to chair has taken part in encouraging overseas interest in the Papua New Guinea project. I make it clear that this interest has taken no encouragement from the Commonwealth Government or its agencies. The interest of the YMCA in Vancouver, Canada, and thereby the interest of the Canadian Government and the people of Canada, was prompted by the YMCA in Australia. These 2 overseas bodies are contributing not only a personal interest in YMCA activity in the Territory but are allocating Canadian dollars to assist in the development of YMCA services there. I suggest that no other country is making such direct financial assistance to the Territory and this, I may say, has gone very much unrecognised in this Commonwealth. Within the next year or so this aid could reach well over S250.000.

This international interest is placed in jeopardy by the written article. I have encouraged Canada and its YMCA. I have played a part in arranging special contracts in the Territory which involve Canadian financial support and I have personally reported on activities to individuals in Canada. My chairmanship of the Committee heading this work for these past 10 years is continuing at the present time. My view of this work is that it has little peer in any work done by this nation as part of its various overseas aid programmes. It has not received great publicity. I am dismayed that the work of the YMCA is now prejudiced and considerably damaged. I am distressed not only on a personal basis. As a member of Parliament, one meets fairly frequently with untruthful reports in the news media. But, once written, an article such as this will be of untold detriment to YMCA work. As mentioned, I have chaired the Australian committee extending YMCA services. My relationship with all those areas of interest has been without mark or strain. 'The Bulletin' article can be calculated only to do untold damage to this service. I ask the proprietors of 'The Bulletin' for a prompt apology and for the apology to be printed in their magazine in a prominent position and in like space to the article to which I take objection.







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