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Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2223

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:

To what extent does the agreement signed in Tokyo between the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the JapanNew Guinea Timber Company Ltd conform to the recommendations of the United Nations Visiting Mission, 1971, concerning encouragement of indigenous participation in forestry enterprises and in particular to the recommendation that as has happened with forests in other developing countries, the first forestry permits could be granted to joint associations of indigenous inhabitants and expatriates.

Mr Barnes (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for External Territories) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

Timber permits for small scale operations have been granted to Papuans and New Guineans for many years and the Government is continually exploring ways of further increasing their participation in the development of the forestry resources of Papua New Guinea. At this stage however, there is some danger In actively promoting investment in the timber industry by Papuans and New Guineans as many of the small expatriate operations are marginally pro* profitable and unable to compete on the export market due to cost disabilities.

The Government believes that large scale operations, such as that being undertaken by the Japan New Guinea Timber Co. Ltd in the Gogol timber area near Madang are the most effective means of developing the vast timber resources of Papua New Guinea.

In negotiations between the Government and the Japan New Guinea Timber Co. Ltd the need for maximum participation by Papuans and New Guineans was given first importance. The project will provide direct employment for up to 1,400 persons, mainly Papuans and New Guineans, and the Agreement provides for many of these to be trained in special skills. The Agreement also makes specific provision for the replacement of expatriate technicians and skilled workers by Papuans and New Guineans under a programme agreed with the Administration. The Administration will have an option to take up 20 per cent shareholding in the operating company, for later disposal to Papuans and New Guineans. The operating company will make substantial royalty payments for the timber harvested, in .addition to the normal company tax committments.

The Gogol woodchip venture is a substantial enterprise involving an investment of about $12m. Woodchips, veneers and sawn timber worth over $5m annually will be produced for export to Japan and elsewhere. The agreement represents a major breakthrough in the utilisation of Papua New Guinea tropical hardwood resources. After many years of scientific research by the CSIRO and Japanese paper mills, an opportunity is available for assessing the quality of PNG tropical hardwood chips under commercial conditions.

Vietnam: Prisoners Captured by Australian Forces (Question No. 3987)

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

How many prisoners have been captured by the Australian Forces in Vietnam since the answer by a former Minister on 13th October 1970 (Hansard, page 2073).

Mr Fairbairn - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

Between 1st August 1970 and 31st August 1971 30 prisoners of war were captured by Australian Forces in Vietnam. A total of 199 prisoners have been captured since June 1965 when the first Australian battalion arrived in that country.

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