Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Speech by the Minister for External Territories

Download PDFDownload PDF




20 MARCH, _ 1969,

I welcome the interest shown by the Honourable

Member for Batman in the constitutional arrangements for

Papua and New Guinea.

So that this House may consider the motion it

is. necessary to have regard to the long term political

development of the . Territory.

I summarise the Government's policy in this

matter under four points:-First - the chnice of their future form of government

is one for the people of the Territory to make. It is for them

to decide the pace of political development and the nature

of that development.

Second - changes which the majority of the -people d not

want-will not be imposed on the Territory..

Third -- it is the prerogative of the Territory pee-pie to

terminate the present Territory status and to take independent

status if they wish to do so. Should the people wish to remain

in association with Australia after self-determination this will

require the agreement of the Australian Government of the day.

Fourth - we do not know the time in the future at which

the question of association between Papua and New Guinea and

Australia may arise or whether they will arise. If, however,


decisions decisions are required by Australia about the kinds of

association that would be acceptable to Australia those

decisions cannot be made now. It is the Government's view

that they will have to be made at the appropriate time by

the Government of the day in the light of the circumstances

then existing.

In carrying out its policy, the Government has for

some time now been preparing the people of the Territory for

the responsibility of self-government. Local government

councils now represent nearly 85% of the population and the participation of the people in Local Government offers good

experience in the responsibilities of political and economic


In 1964 the first House of Assembly was established

as a representative legislature in place of the earlier

Legislative Council. The second House of Assembly, which

met for the first time in June last year, was enlarged in

numbers to give more effective representation of the people

of the Territory. It consists of 84 elected members and 10

official members representing the Administration.

In addition to the changed composition of the House

of Assembly, in 1968 the system of Ministerial Members was

introduced following the amendment of the Papua and New Guinea

Act. Under this system seven Ministerial Members drawn

from the House of Assembly are each responsible jointly

with the departmental head for the overall activities of

particular departments, and for the framing of policy

proposals including proposals for expenditure. These

Ministerial Members, along with one elected member of the

House nominated by the Administrator and three official

members make up the Administrator's Executive Council

which will play an increasingly important role in developing

policy in the Territory as well as in major executive

decisions of the Administration.

But the task of developing Papua and New Guinea

is as much an economic problem as a political one. The

Government's aim is to help the inhabitants of the Territory

to become self-governing as soon as possible and to ensure

that when this aim is reached the Territory will, to the

greatest extent feasible, be able to stand on its own feet


We are not saying that self-determination must

wait on c3mplete economic self-sufficiency. We recognise

that aid must continue after self-government is achieved.

But we think that there must be a reasonable balance between

outside aid and internal economic resources if self-government

is to be a reality.


Consequently, we place great stress on the need

for the economic development of the Territory and on the

need for P apuans and New Guineans themselves to play an

increasingly prominent part in its political and economic

life. They are doing this. Their efforts, together with

those of the expatriates who have assisted and continue to

assist in the development of the Territory, will ensure

that the rapid progress achieved in recent years will


The Government's policy is to seek an economically

self-reliant people who can assume the responsibility of

self-determination with confidence and dignity. As part

of this policy the Government announced, in September last

year, its five year Economic Development Programme. This

Programme envisages that nearly 1, 00011+ will be spent by

the Administration over a five yeas period. : nphasis is

placed on increasing production, providing secondary and

tertiary education and creating greater opportunities for

employment in private industry and in administration in the


The policy is based on mutual co-operation between

the Australian Government and the people of the Territory.

The Government endorsed the proposed objectives and targets

of the programme as a basis for planning, subject to a similar


endorsement by the Territory House of A sembly. The

House of Assembly by resolution in November 1968 supported

this approach of mutual co-operation. On the one hand,

the Government has recognised that the development programme

will require increased Commonwealth financial contributions

to the Territory over the period of the programme; on the

other hand, the House of Assembly has indicated it is

prepared progressively to increase the Te=ritory'e financial

self-reliance by raising the level of Territory revenue and

loan receipts as much as practicable over the period of the


This development programme is not only a programme

of economic development. It provides also for development

to meet social needs such as in the fields of education and


In all these ways and through a variety of other

measures a policy of balanced political, economic and social

progress is being carried out.

It is the Government's practice to consult the

Administrator's Executive Council on major policy questions

that concern the Territory. The House of Assembly itself

provides a full opportunity for the expression of views

through its debates and committees, and private members'


In these ways there are ample means for the

views of the people of the Territory to be brought to

the attention of the Australian Government and through the

press to the Australian Parliament and public.

There is no need, therefore, to appear to seek

to influence the natural course of the Territory's

development by providing it with representation in this


When the people are ready to choose their own

form of government -- when the stage of self-determination

has been reached - then they may seek independence or they

may seek some form of association with Australia. As I

have said before, any request by the people of the Territory

for a form of association with Australia will require the

agreement of the Australian Government of the day.

Criticism is levelled by some people at this

policy on the grounds that it is vague and indecisive. This

is not so. The Government's view is that there are various

possibilities which, in the light of later events, may turn

out to be wanted by both countries and of advantage to them

both. Neither do you make firm arrangements now which in

the light of later events might turn out not to be wanted.


It would not in the Government's opinion be

appropriate to discuss one or more possible forms of

association between Fapus and New Guinea at this stage.

It would not be wise to explore one possible element of

such an association - representation in the Australian

Parliament - without having regard to the other possible


Representation of the Territory in the Australian

Parliament could tend to influence the way in which the

people of the Territory would eventually choose the course

they wished to follow. This decision, taken now, would

almost inevitably have an effect on the possibilities open

in the future. It is the Government's policy to avoid

this situation.

As I said before the form of Government chosen

by the people at self-determination must be a form

acceptable to the majority of the people of the Territory.

Ioreover the Government has been satisfied that the changes

made in recent years have reflected the wishes of a majority

of the people and there was no indication when these changes

were under consideration that arrangements of the sort

proposed in the motion now before the House were desired

by the people of the Territory.

This factor is highlighted by a motion passed

by the House of Assembly last week at the instance of a

Papuan elected member. The full text of the motion will

be brought before the House in due course through the


usual channels. The motion gives expression to the view

that :; the people and the people of the Territory

alone should be allowed to decide when the time is right

for self-government in Papua and New Guinea, the form

that such Government will be taking and the people's

further conviction that the road to self-goverment can

best be travelled with one guide and that guide the

administering authority^^:

The Government's basic policy for Papua and New

Guinea is to develop it for self-determination. I have

referred to some of the principal steps already taken along

this path. Clearly these steps are directed to the

development of political and social and economic institutions

that belong to the Territory itself and are capable of

progressive evolution to the point ti vhere the people of

the Territory are themselves able to make their own decisions

about their future, standing substantially on their own


If in due course the people of the Territory

decide that they wish to have some form of association

with Australia the kind of arrangement referred to in the

motion before the House might be one of the elements to

be considered. The Government however does not consider

that this House should express a view on the matter at

this time.