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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr FALKINDER (Franklin) .- Quite recently, I was privileged, as a member of a parliamentary delegation, composed of members of this chamber and of another place, to visit New Guinea. For me, it was a memorable experience, inasmuch as 1 had not been to New Guinea before and I had. as I quickly discovered, very little conception of what the Territory is like to-day. 1 am sure that the average ex-serviceman who served there during the war would find conditions to-day very different from his memories of the " green hell " of the jungle. It is quite evident that tremendous progress has been made in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea during the last seven or eight years. My first impression of the Territory was that there exists, both in the Administration and in private enterprise, a tremendous spirit of go-ahead. It was quite remarkable to see, at the £20,000,000 project of the Australasian Petroleum Company at Middletown, which is situated in the delta area in the south-west, some of the most modern equipment imaginable. Very modern equipment is also installed in the jungle at the Bulolo pine mill - which produces some of the best plywood in the world - and at the Bulolo Dredging Company. These three plants demonstrate the terrific progress that has been made in the Territory.

I should like now to direct my attention to a decision that was taken recently by the United Nations Trusteeship Council, on a vote of eight to six - including the United States of America in favour - to ask Australia to suggest a date by which there should be either self-determination or selfgovernment by the native people. I can only say that those who voted in favour of such a proposition have a very scant knowledge, indeed, of what is going on in the Territory at present, and of what the Administration is doing. That vote indicated a remarkable lack of knowledge in this respect. To begin with. I have had some experience at first-hand of a similar kind of administration in other countries, but I have never seen elsewhere an administration that is so humanitarian and dignified in its approach to the native people as is the present administration in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Of course, there are still large areas of the Territory that are uncontrolled. One can visualize the awful chaos that would result if. within a reasonably short period, selfdetermination and self-government were given to the Territory. Much of the good that has been done, and which is continuing to be done, would be undone. I emphasize that the vote to which 1 have referred indicated a very considerable lack of knowledge in certain quarters of what is going on in the Territory. One would have expected the United Nations Trusteeship Council to go out of its way to commend the manner in which Australia has conducted its trusteeship.

Mr Chambers - I remind the honorable member that a delegation from the United Nations Trusteeship Council visited the Territory.

Mr FALKINDER - I was coming to that. The parliamentary delegation of which I was a member asked native leaders individually whether they would prefer to continue under the United Nations Trusteeship or to be with Australia completely. Without exception, they said that they preferred to be with Australia completely.

Mr Calwell - Hear, hear! That is right.

Mr FALKINDER - Whilst I was in the Territory 1 frequently heard remarks about the United Nations Charter that were not complimentary. I came away from the Territory with a firm conviction - the natives made no bones about the matter - that the natives of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea want to come, as they put it, under the Australian flag.

I wish now to deal briefly with Dutch New Guinea, to which the previous speaker, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) addressed himself at some length. In my opinion, we should be utterly foolish not to take the strongest possible stand against New Guinea becoming a part of Indonesia.

Mr Calwell - Hear, hear! You can say t'hat again.

Mr FALKINDER - 1 should be surprised if any member of this Parliament had a different opinion. Although many people in New Guinea feel that there is insufficient interest taken in Australia in regard to this particular problem, I think that they can be assured that, at least in this Parliament, there is a very strong desire to maintain in Dutch New Guinea people who are very friendly towards Australia, because New Guinea can be described as our front doorstep. I turn now to several' individual matters that impressed me while I was there. I do not imagine for one moment that in such a short visit one could become an expert, but certain things become apparent very quickly. The first has relation to land. The general principle applied by the Minister is that the natives shall not in any way be dispossessed of their land unless they want to sell or unless the Administration is satisfied that it is proper that they should sell. I am bound to say that I agree with that principle in general, but, on the other hand, it seems to me that certain areas could be made available for opening up by private enterprise, by Europeans, but which are not being made available sufficiently quickly. It is self-evident that in certain areas, such as the Chimbu Valley,, where the density of population is high, it would be utterly foolish to allow Europeans to settle; but there are areas where the density of population is very low indeed and where there are tracts of arable land.

Mr Costa - Does the honorable member mean that the land should be taken from the natives?

Mr FALKINDER - 1 certainly do not mean that it should be taken from the natives'. 1 do not think that anybody would suggest that. It must be opened up after proper negotiations, but time may not be very much on our side in connexion with this matter, and unless we develop these areas as quickly as possible we may never have the opportunity to do so.

In case there are some who still think that the Europeans are exploiting the natives there, I point out that the farmers in the highlands around Goroka have formed what is known as the Highland* Farmers and Settlers Association. They have drawn up a rather lengthy charter, and as the time available to me now is so short I shall not be able to read it; but it sets out very clearly that its members believe that they must live side by side with the natives,, that they must not dispossess them of their property without warrant but must live with them and help them to advance as they themselves progress. Talking to the white settlers there I found constantly that they were not out to abuse or exploit the natives. I discovered that they wished to live with them and work with them so that both might be enabled to make a living.

Another matter about which I should like to speak relates to roads. What has been achieved in the highlands with the absolute minimum of equipment is astounding. There, they have constructed something like 600 miles of roads, and almost every foot of those roads has been built by natives using nothing but pointed digging sticks. What has been achieved there is even more astounding when we appreciate the fact that the patrol officers and district officers there have had to perform the duties of surveyor, engineer' and overseer all in one. There is no doubt that what they have done in that extremely difficult and precipitous country is amazing. There is, of course, an obvious and urgent need for mechanical equipment to assist those people in that work. A few tip-trucks and a grader would lead to a tremendous increase in the volume of work done, but. at the same time, what has been achieved is a monument to the district officers and others who have been responsible for it.

Speaking generally of the work of the Administration, the sympathy and understanding which it has in carrying out its duties is outstanding. There is mutual respect between the Administration and the native leaders. The Administration does not follow the old colonial method of being, as it were, standover men telling the natives what to do. lt works in a different wa\ said, as a result, there is profound mutual respect between it and the natives. Another -gratifying feature is the magnificent work -done by the young patrol officers m the uncontrolled areas where the inhabitants were completely primitive and savage not only in appearance, but also in performance on occasions. I have not seen those areas at first-hand, but I have seen the natives in the semi-controlled areas, and I know how these patrol officers work. One -cannot help but feel proud of the fact that Australians are able to carry out such excellent work.

As, I suppose, is the case in almost every service, there are certain matters in this field which give rise to some concern. Unfortunately, there is a gulf of discontent between Canberra and Port Moresby on the -one hand and between Port Moresby and the Administration officers working in the field on the other. I know that the Minister has this matter in mind, because I have discussed it with him; but I do suggest that (the gulf between the field officers and Port Moresby could be narrowed by the establishment of some intermediary between the Port Moresby Administration and these field -officers.. On the other side, I suggest that, in the long run, it would be of distinct advantage if it were possible to bring the Administration officers from Port Moresby to Canberra reasonably frequently and vice versa. In my view, such a policy would make for better administration.

Another matter to which the Parliament -should give some thought is the citizenship -status of Asian people in New Guinea. There are some 2,000 people of Chinese and 2,000 of other bloods in that Territory. They are now Australian-protected persons, and this Parliament ought to consider whether we -should grant full citizenship status to them. If that is to be done, there will undoubtedly "be some difficulties of an obvious nature in connexion with those people who may have a British passport at the moment and who may be only temporary residents there; but we should give consideration to extending -citizenship status to those of the nonindigenous people who have been there for perhaps three generations now.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding in Australia about New Guinea's problems. 3 do not imagine for one moment that, in the short time I was there, I was able to gain a full appreciation of them, but I suggest that it is essential that we, in this country, realize how important New Guinea is to us. There is still a considerable division of opinion as to whether the administration of the Territory should be carried out on the old colonial style or on the anti-colonial policy which is being pursued by the Minister at the present time. There are probably faults in both methods, but nobody can doubt that the present policy is by far the more preferable of the two. Nobody doubts the sincerity or ability of the Minister in this respect.

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