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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr WHITLAM - Yes. I was misrepresented during question time by three honourable members and by three Ministers including the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), all on a new subject in this House - New Guinea. The third question was a maiden one by the new honourable member for

Warringah (Mr MacKellar). He based it on some remarks I was alleged to have made about the German as compared with the Australian administration of New Guinea. My only comments on this matter, Sir, were made on the 4th of last month at the annual council meeting of the National Union of Australian University Students at Melbourne University. This is what I said:

It is a chastening experience for an Australian to be told before 11,000 people by an 80-year- old New Guinean that the Germans were preferable to the Australians.

The New Guinean concerned had been educated and employed by the Germans as a didiman, a German term, which is retained in Pidgin, for an agricultural officer. That is the only reference I have ever made and it was a quotation.

The second question asked came from the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) alleging that 1 had paid tribute to the coffee grown in the Gazelle Peninsula. It is true, Sir, that coffee was grown there before the war. I pay tribute to the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), who has competence and interest in agricultural matters, that efforts are now being made to resuscitate the coffee industry in the Rabaul area, in the Gazelle area at Keravat. We do in fact already get New Guinea coffee in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. We have done so for years. We get it from the Highlands. It is not the Robusta coffee which is now being grown once again in the Gazelle; it is the Arabica coffe being grown in the Highlands. In Rabaul I paid tribute to the cocoa industry there. I said that the Tolai people could take pride in the fact that the Tolai cocoa project, until the recent council changes, was the largest fermentary project in the world, larger even than any in Ghana.

The first question was asked by the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) who alleged - you, Sir, and I know the value of his allegations in such matters - that he could verify the accuracy of a newspaper report.

Mr Beazley - It was a completely false statement. I heard the original statement.

Mr WHITLAM - And so also, did the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden).

MrDobie - He has not commented.

Mr Beazley - Vouching for a lie.

Mr SPEAKER - Order!

Mr WHITLAM - The reports presumably stem from a meeting that the honourable members for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and Oxley and I had - the third such meeting - with the new council in the Gazelle Peninsula. It was attended by about 11 members of that council, all indigenes, and we had a full discussion on every matter which they raised. In answer to their question I did give, as an instance of the disquiet which we found in the Gazelle, the contrasting treatment by the courts in two cases. The first concerned some indigenes charged with assault who were refused bail pending their trials before a lower court and refused legal aid in pending cases. The other case was that of an expatriate patrol officer charged with wounding - not, I recollect, with accidental wounding - who was released on his own recognisance. He was not required to find bail pending his trial before the Supreme Court. I shall not refer to the circumstances of this officer's case because he is yet to stand trial. I will not pick up the challenge by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) to give the circumstances of the case because this officer has not yet been tried. The expatriates were interviewed by my colleagues and me. The patrol officer accompanied us throughout the Gazelle Peninsula. Since our visit, the indigenes have been released on bail and the previous decision to refuse them legal aid has been reversed. I have made no other public reference to the operations of the present courts or law authorities in New Guinea. I have written to the Minister for External Territories about another case which worried us. He will recollect it as the Ragis case. We have withheld comment until we receive his reply. If there is any motion that the House note the statements that the magistrate made on this matter or on the Mataungan cases in general - to note, for instance, his judgments - then, on this side, we will do everything to facilitate a subsequent debate on them.

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