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Wednesday, 4 March 1970

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) - I want to express the appreciation of the Opposition to. the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) for the fact that he gave us a very early copy of the statement which he intended to make and thus enabled it to be studied. It is desirable, because of the enormous difficulties of one people ruling another with justice, that there should be as much consensus as possible in this House as to what should be done in Papua and New Guinea. The early supply of the paper, indicating the Minister's courtesy towards the Opposition, is the sort of thing which may help that to occur. But the statement does not indicate that it is the intention of the Government to reduce in any degree the real power in Papua and New Guinea - expatriate power; nor does it establish the responsibility of Ministerial Members to a parliamentary majority in the House of Assembly.

There should now be a clear reduction of expatriate power. The establishment of the responsibility of Ministers to a parliamentary majority, if it is the Westminster system that is the aim, is an essential change, and this change was expressly disavowed. The Minister at no stage suggested that there was any power. He constantly used the word 'influence'. I draw attention to the following words in the Minister's statement:

This increase in the power and influence of the Council is qualitative in character. It is not to be measured in terms of specific powers, individual acts of administration or areas of policy or increased financial delegations, but it will be apparent by the degree to which the Administrator's Executive Council in future influences the Government's attitude on important issues.

That may be influence; it is not power, lt is essential at this stage that the Ministerial Members should be trained in the exercise of power, not in the exercise of influence. The statement marks a further evolution of the Administrator back towards the position of a 19th century governor and his executive council, yet the Minister imagines that this is progress towards self government. It is not even really a further step towards the Westminster system. Yet it shows a complete un awareness of a possible line of constitutional development that has been asked for by the Speaker of the House of Assembly and shown in the questions asked of witnesses by the members of the House of Assembly committee investigating the constitutional structure. This is a possible development of a presidential system of government.

The Commonwealth Government thinks it is teaching a Westminster system. If the Government wants to do the job on Westminster lines, it really should do it by providing for ministerial responsibility to Parliament. What the people are getting de facto is education in a presidential system while being told that it is evolution towards a Westminster system. This is the worst of both worlds. Whilst I do not want to refer to it any further, there is also in the system of Papua and New Guinea a dash of the Swiss arrangement in that Ministers are elected trans-party in the House of Assembly. This is a characteristic of the Swiss constitution and no other. But this system is inevitable if, while the Government says it is assisting the Territory towards a Westminster system, it is in fact discouraging parties and especially Opposition parties. If the essence of power is in expatriate hands, Oppositions are in opposition to expatriates and that we will never encourage. 1 want to stress the .point on the education that the Government thinks that it is giving. Julius Nyerere, Milton Obote, Hastings Banda, Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta were all ostensibly, in the mind of the British, given an education in the Westminster system. But what power did they in fact aspire to exercise. Not that of a Prime Minister whom they never saw and therefore could not model themselves upon, but that of a governor with a plenitude of power. So what has happened is that after 70 or 80 years of rule of their country by absolute power in the hands of the Governor, that is the model they had in mind and those are the powers they in fact now exercise. For 80 years before Papuan and New Guinean eyes, whether demonstrated by the Germans or by ourselves, the model of government they have seen is a governor or administrator exercising absolute power. At this stage when we imagine we are stepping forward towards the Westminster system, we have an explicit statement of the responsibility of Ministers to the Administrator in his Executive Council. lt is no wonder that men like John Guise say: 'What we want is a presidential form of government*. That in fact is the form of government they have had. The Administrator and the Governors in the past, choosing their advisers, corresponded very much more closely to an American president choosing his cabinet from outside Parliament or Congress than they ever did to a British Prime Minister with a parliamentary Cabinet within the Westminster system.

Mr Giles - How would they elect a President under that system?

Mr BEAZLEY - That is a matter for John Guise to explain if he likes. All I am saying is that the education is coming not from your words but from the form of government that you are in fact operating as a model before their eyes. This happened in Africa. There the people have gone back much more closely to an approximation of a 19th century governor than to a British Prime Minister. The Ministers and the Assistant Ministers in the House of Assembly are left completely unable to accept the sort of responsibilities that Ministers usually accept in Britain and Australia. Expatriate power overriding them ensures this and this is destroying them. Their prospective defeat at elections is expected everywhere just as the defeat of the Parliamentary Under Secretaries occurred in the 1968 election. The belief of the people, and it is a right belief, is that power is actually in the hands of expatriates and members who reach one of these key ministerial member positions are expected to make representations to the real Government - the Administrator and his expatriate staff - seeking what they want but that these members do not go back often enough to the constituency to find out what the electors want. That is the criticism the people had of the former Parliament Under Secretaries, who were defeated holus bolus, and that is their criticism of the present Ministerial Members. On this basis the defeat of the Ministerial Members is expected everywhere. They cannot make real decisions in the interests of their people.

If the Government wants a Westminster system, it must encourage parties. But the real attitude of the Government towards the Pangu Party and to those who go into opposition to what the expatriates are doing is that any sort of criticism of what we are doing in Papua and New Guinea is fundamentally very ignorant or ill willed and that these parties are quite wrong and really should not exist. Of course, nothing is done to abolish them - I am not suggesting that - but the whole attitude discourages parties. The Government is not moving towards a Westminster system if it discourages parties, because without parties we cannot have the responsibility of Ministers to a clear majority in the House of Assembly. The Government actively dislikes dissent and this dislike tends to the systematic misleading of the House of Assembly.

I sat in the House of Assembly and heard the official members saying in effect to the native members: 'Now, do not rock the boat on these Bougainville arrangements. The copper there is not all that valuable and if you make too many criticisms the company might go away.' Well, the 'Australian' mentioned deals on Bougainville copper worth $ 1,700m in its mining reports last week and I very much doubt whether the company would want to. go away. The information available to Ministerial Members and other members of the House of Assembly when making decisions, which were all subsequently repudiated, was completely misleading. The company was prepared to pay very much more than the Administration was prepared to seek on behalf of the people. I am afraid that the Ministerial Members will become a new form of facade. The House of Assembly has practically no access to libraries and no independent access to information, and almost no information except what is given it by the Administration, and so we have policy going round in a circle. It seemed completely true to Oala Oala-Rarua, judging by his speeches, that $105 an acre for the land at Bougainville was fair and all that could be expected. Why? Because that is what he had been told. The people who said it was utterly unfair were discussed as though they were bad, disaffected people and ultimately, after the clashes, the whole policy had to be reversed.

A further point is that the Administration divides the nation. I say this with regret; I have said it in the House before but I will say it again because I regard it as being deadly serious. It made my blood run cold when I saw what happened after what might be called intellectual coastal natives made some demands on behalf of their people. After all we are training the House in the language of demand. The standard procedure of the nominated members of the House of Assembly was to invoke the highland majority and say: 'What will happen to you fellows if they get what they are seeking? You do not have nearly as much in the highlands.' If a highland administration party is not being created by these methods, I do not know what a party is. However, it is not called a party. All I want to say as a warning is that the British did this in Nigeria. The nice, Moslem uneducated people of the north could always be invoked against the Ibos of what later became Biafra. So long as the British wanted to rule Nigeria, they fanned the divisions and we have all seen the consequences. All I say to the Administration in Papua and New Guinea and to the planters in Papua and New Guinea who think they can build privilege on nice, docile, backward highland members is to stop fanning divisions in the country. That is what is happening there now.

Constant claims are made by the Government that whatever it does is what the people want. If. the Government had chosen to establish an American presidential system, there would have been no criticism. Does the Government seriously suggest that the villagers are saying: 'Now the time has come for the Ministerial Members to take the changes set out in the approved changes mentioned by the Minister'? Of course they are not. We are expected to know what government, is. The models put forward by Australia are accepted.

There was once a gallup poll on the TaftHartley Act, which was a labour law in the United States, and 75% of the people said that they were against it. Then the same gallup poll asked them about every clause of the Act, and never less than 70% of the people said that they were for every one of them. But Taft-Hartley had become a bad label. We have found that in Papua-New Guinea self government has become a bad label, because the Government in its utterances has not made a clear distinction between self government and independence. The Labor Party delegation asked the people there, including Ministerial Members, if they thought the House of Assembly should control education, agriculture and fisheries and so on, and listed what amounted to the whole structure of self government. They said yes to every power. The only things they did not believe in controlling were defence and foreign policy. Of course, if the House of Assembly and a Cabinet had control over defence and foreign policy they would have complete independence. They were in fact universally in favour of seu! government as a list of powers. But the words 'self government' had been made fear words. Whatever the Government wants, it says, is what the people want. Where the Government dares not claim this, as in the Bougainville attempted land seizures in Bougainville and in the reduction of the wage scales of local officers in the Public Service, it says: This is for their good'.

The expected inability of Ministerial Members to hold their seats is a point I mentioned earlier. There is confusion in Papua-New Guinea on nearly everything. There was confusion about taxation. We in Australia first heard that there were going to be prosecutions of various residents of the Gazelle Council area. Then - horror of horrors - it was found that the taxes that had been imposed for a few years were illegally imposed and the House had to be assembled hastily to give retrospective validity to the laws. There was confusion in the House of Assembly on the Bougainville question and there is confusion on native councils. The Administration is playing a dangerous game in ordering the exercise of force against a section and getting all other sections to applaud. When the Administration sent the police to Bougainville the majority of the House of Assembly applauded. It also applauded the complete change in policy.

I want to warn the Government that it cannot with impunity use the House of Assembly as a weapon against indigenous people on a question like land. The House was really a mask for what the Commonwealth was doing.. The High Court has ruled that the Government could take all the land of Papua-New Guinea. I do not mean that those words were used. The High Court has ruled in effect that the exercise of sovereign power over land by the Germans before us and by us now is established as valid. We can take land, but we have preferred to do it through the House of Assembly. The issue of land is a very deep one among the people of Papua-New Guinea. Land is the one thing that they possess when the expatriates possess all else.

II the Government uses the House of Assembly as an instrument to deprive the people of their land it has Buckley's chance of maintaining a united Papua-New Guinea. In Bougainville and in New Britain secession movements are developing. I think that by the exercise of force the Government has reached the point where the best thing it can hope for in the future is a federation, with local government or provincial government in some of these areas exercising power over land as a means of defending the areas against Port Moresby. Otherwise Ministerial Members will be blithely saying as they say in conversation, if not in the House of Assembly, that they are going to share out the wealth of the people of Bougainville. But if one should go to those same Ministerial Members and suggest that the Government should take their land there would be a violent reaction in the other direction - a denial of powers to act or of justice in acting.

If the Government wants to give training to a future government of Papua-New Guinea in dispossessing expatriate businesses I imagine that the training given in Bougainville could not be bettered. I warn honourable members that the native people will model themselves on what the Government does and not on what it says. If an extreme exercise of sovereign power is possible and if land is taken by force at a price which the Government chooses to nominate it will be fair enough if that is done by a future native government to Burns Philp or someone else. I do not advocate that. I am just warning the Government of the force of the example of the exercise of government power which it in fact has given.

The members of the House of Assembly are confused about self government and independence, and they are being kept that way. Instead of transferring power, the prime concern seems to be with new ways of concealing what is essentially expatriate power. There is a widespread folly in Papua and New Guinea in criticising an entity called the United Nations and in encouraging all the indigenes to do that. The entity of the United Nations might be very unworthy, but by 87 votes to none and by about 127 votes to none the instructed delegates of other governments at the United Nations have said that Papua-New Guinea ought to be independent. As Australia is one of the crowd which chases Rhodesia, do not let us forget that there may be a similar crowd chasing us. I do not flout the opinion of the world; I do not say that this opinion is the final determining consideration; but if the only answer to United Nations criticism is the form of consultation we maintain with the people of Papua and New Guinea now, our position is weak. To weigh against the opinions of 127 nations, including the United States of America, our present intentions, I think is a mistaken approach to the world.

There is a fear that an independent government will make mistakes. Papua and New Guinea must make mistakes. The Australian Government made very bad mistakes in Bougainville and it has made another bad mistake in relation to the Mataungans. The only way in which the Papua and New Guinea government will learn to govern is by making its own mistakes and achieving successes. It has to be allowed to make those mistakes in the period before independence, when some of the mistakes may not be so serious and when Australian can perhaps assist in rectifying the blunders. It is not right to hold before the local people the idea that the coming of self government or independence means the abandonment of Australia's interest in them. That needs to be made clear if we are genuinely seeking uncoerced expressions of their opinion of the various stages of constitutional development.

Debate (on motion by Mr Calder) adjourned.

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