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Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2535

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - 1 also wish to say a few words on the appropriation for the Department of External Territories, particularly as it affects Papua New Guinea. I do not wish to make it a political football in the way that the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) has done but I am unfortunately put in a position where I must answer one criticism which he made. If my recollection is correct, he said that the Pangu Party does not want self government.

Mr Pettitt - I did not say that at all. 1 said they did not want it before they were ready.

Mr ARMITAGE - 1 should like to quote from an article in the 'Post-Courier' of Thursday, 21st October. The article is headed 'Urgency Theme for 1972 Policy' and states:

Urgent preparations for early self-government will be the main theme of the Pangu Party's campaign for the 1972 House of Assembly elections. The Party leader, Mr Michael Somare . . . revealed this in the Pangu election manifesto he released in Wewak.

I think that answers the statement of the honourable member for Hume. Having recently visited Papua New Guinea after an absence of 8 years I expected to see great change. However, unfortunately my impression of the greatest change was the dramatic growth in racialism and I left the Territory very concerned about Australia's future relations with it, as I believe it is of paramount importance, not only to this generation but also to the future generations of Australians that a sound and friendly relationship and understanding of the problems of the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia should be forged. I am sorry to say that my impression is that a great deal of the blame for the growth of racialism rests with the attitudes of the great majority of the Europeans in the country, particularly those in commerce and industry, who have only their own self-gain in mind and who are not concerned with the problems of the indigenous people or with Australia's relationship with them in the future. I do not suggest that this statement covers all the European people in the Territory as there are many, particularly in the Public Service, who are very dedicated and who are a good advertisement for Australia. But I believe that at least 75 per cent - to quote some old-time Australians who have been there for many years and who have made it their life's work to help to develop the country- of the Australians there are not a good advertisement for our country and it is a pity that some way has not been found to cull them out and send them back to Australia in an endeavour to reduce the growing racial tensions.

I visited remote areas as well as the more sophisticated districts in both the coastal regions and the highlands, including Rabaul. I arrived at Rabaul just as the civil disturbance was occurring at the airport, which honourable members will recall hearing of last July. Three hundred police were marching up and down the airport in accordance with the old gunboat technique and my impression was that there was an almost complete lack of dialogue between the Administration and the more radical indigenous organisations such as the Mataungans. I found it almost impossible to make contact through the Administration with Mataungan leaders. I also obtained the impression that a great deal of the responsibility for the serious situation which exists there rests with the Secretary of the Department of the Administrator, Mr T. Ellis, who, I was advised by some of the small band of dedicated and sincere kiaps which exist in the Territory - unfortunately this is by no means all the kiaps - has continually insisted upon a hard line being taken towards the Tolai people, with a resultant difficulty in obtaining or maintaining a worthwhile dialogue with them. I impress that this information was only given privately as no-one seemed to be game to give it in front of a third person.

Honourable members will recall the incident in the House of Assembly last November which involved Mr Ellis and, to refresh their memory, I quote from an article in the 'Australian'. The article states:

The head of the Papua New Guinea Administrator's Department, Mr T. W. Ellis, was crawling around the House of Assembly floor on all fours. For the second time on the last day of the November sitting Mr Ellis was expressing his rage at the honourable member for Kokope on the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain, Mr Oscar Tammur. Mr Ellis had suggested that Mr Tammur wanted the Administration to crawl like a dog and dropped down to mime out his precise meaning, as stunned members - who are often told that a Parliament must have dignity - looked on.

Surely this display of arrogant racialism by the most senior Public Servant in the Territory can only do irreparable harm and I believe that the sooner the policies, which this man is helping to frame, are completely reviewed, the better it will be for Australia, the people of the Territory and our relations with them.

On the question of education, I believe there has been a complete misuse of resources. There is a dearth of students with secondary education to fill th positions required by the necessary step-up in localisation in commerce, industry, the public service and the teaching profession, not to mention the need for undergraduates at both the University of Papua New Guinea and the Technological Institute at Lae. For example, the Technological Institute has not been able to find sufficient students to fill their classes in some faculties, even though they know that there will be a demand in the Territory for more graduates than they are teaching. Therefore, the localisation campaign is being seriously impaired by this shortage of persons with secondary education.

On the other hand, with regard to primary education, the great mass of the students who leave primary school - say, after completing second to sixth class primary education - have no job to go to. If they try to go back to the village, they are considered 'big-heads' by the older men and so a great body of them simply wander around the towns such as Port Moresby, Rabaul, Lae and Hagen with nothing to do. In other words, they simply cannot fit into either their old or the new culture. To put it another way, there is a massive unemployment problem in the Territory; and is it any wonder that the result is stoninga of Europeans, crime, vandalism and great discontent?

Whilst there is some secondary industry developing in centres such as Lae, nevertheless the Administration does not appear to have adequately tackled the problem of providing industries which will give employment to this huge, unskilled work force which is at present unemployed. Perhaps honourable members can see what I mean when I say there has been a misuse of resources.

On the question - a very vexed question - of land, I believe action must be taken by the Administration to help overcome the great land shortage of the indigenous population before independence is granted. I say before. For example, the Administration should acquire plantations in and around Rabaul from Europeans as quickly as possible and cut them up into smaller blocks for the indigenous people. I cannot understand why action has not already been taken on this question as I met one plantation owner who has been trying to get the Administration to enter into negotiations to buy his property for some considerable time, without avail, and he assured me he is only one of many. They know that the days of plenty are past and that their days of being white plantation owners amongst an indigenous population are numbered. Furthermore, the very vexed problem of the land title system is also so great that I believe that, if some demagogue arises in the country and undertakes to overcome the land title and land shortage problems, he could unite the country under a dictatorship. This would not be in the interests of that country or Australia.

I also believe this Federal Government should have an early look at the question of the border of Australia and Papua New Guinea, because it should be remembered that the nearest island owned by Queensland is only approximately 2 miles from Papua. Why cannot honourable members see the problems that this could raise after independence?

On the question of self government and independence, the Territory now virtually has self-government as Canberra is not using its right of veto. So far as indepen dence is concerned, I cannot help but subscribe to the proposition that it is far better to get out too early than too late, as if we wait too long we will see an ever increasing demand by the indigenous people for local autonomy. If we insist on staying as a policeman, we will see great damage to our chances of influencing the policies and development of the country after independence, plus bloodshed, growth of racialism and hostile country as our nearest neighbour. It is better to take chances on an early independence than face these inevitable happenings.

Mr Deputy Chairman,1 suggest that the Government should look very carefully at the problems at present being encountered in the Territory. I believe that we have made serious errors in the past and I think it is essential that there should be a complete review of policy to see that those errors are corrected in the future.

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