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Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2539


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) - It seems to me that one of the major problems in Papua New Guinea is that not enough of the leadership in the House of Assembly or in the local government councils has made a conscious, intelligent commitment to create national unity. I do not underestimate how difficult the creation of national unity, of a genuine sentiment of national unity, is in a country like Papua New Guinea. 1 do not want to go through the familiar argument that it took England hundreds of years from its tribal state to create national unity. There were figures such as Alfred who could create it but then the country slipped back into disunity; then Edward the Confessor could bring about unity again; then there was the conquest, and so on. I do not think that any country will recapitulate the history of the Middle Ages; nevertheless national unity came about in most countries because some leader and some people decided to create it.

The most disturbing thing about Papua New Guinea is that there does not appear to have been among enough leaders - if among any leaders - a conscious decision that the goal of their life is to create a united Papua New Guinea. The Pangu Party, whose name means Papua and New Guinea United, did state this goal of national unity on its platform. For perhaps good reasons and for perhaps bad reasons it has not been particularly popular with the Government.

But outside that Party there has hardly even been an articulation of national unity as an objective. One thing that I think honourable members on both sides of this House can do is to encourage the people to achieve that goal. If we say: 'How is it to be done?' the answer is: 'None of us knows!' But until somebody makes a wilful decision that that is what is going to be done it is not likely that national unity will be created.

Nor do I draw false analogies between Papua New Guinea and the difficulties of national unity in some African countries. Some African countries had very, very large disputing entities. The Ibos of Nigeria numbered some 10 million. The Haussa numbered somewhere in the vicinity of 20 million. Actually Nigeria was a compulsory union of peoples who might individually have been regarded as nations. So when there was conflict between them there was conflict on a very large scale. I do not believe that there would be any conflict on a very large scale in Papua New Guinea because the tribal units are not large enough - if the people reverted to tribal loyalties - to carry out war. The tragedy of Nigeria was that it was rich enough to be able to sustain several years of war to the utter ruin of the country. The things that seem to me to threaten unity in Papua New Guinea are relatively few. There is a tendency to say that the lack of education threatens national unity. I doubt that the illiterate villager is a threat to national unity at all. I do not think he is worrying very much what the Government in Port Moresby is doing. It is only in areas where the people have felt that the Government in Port Moresby threatened their land as in Bougainville and perhaps in the Gazelle Peninsula, that there has developed a kind of a conscious secessionist movement. This land insecurity wherever it has developed has been the basis of violence and the basis of the threat to national unity.

I have said many times that I am extremely critical of the wage structure in Papua New Guinea. I do not think it corresponds with justice. I do not want to reiterate that except to say that we are deceiving ourselves if we put forward the proposition that some entity or other called New Guinea cannot afford to pay adequate wages. There is no entity called

New Guinea paying wages anyway. If there were a system of arbitration there, the question that would arise would be whether Burns Philp and Co. Ltd, W. R. Carpenter and Co. Ltd and Steamships Trading Co. Ltd can afford to pay adequate wages. If there were any adjudication between employer and employee nobody would be going about saying there was an entity called New Guinea and what it could afford. I do not want to exaggerate this because the number of people who are in the wage economy is relatively small. It is probable that there are not many more than 100,000 in what we could call a wage or salary sector of the economy in Papua New Guinea, even throwing in plantation labour, and in a large population of 2.5 million there are very many more people who are living in a traditionalsubsistence economy and who are not affected by the level of wages.

I do not want to be complacent about that because after all. crises in nations are very rarely created by majorities. Crises in nations can come from some strategically placed sector in the community and it is quite possible that those who have come into a wage and salary kind of life are able to threaten national unity if there is profound discontent among them. We have had some great good fortune that we have no reason to believe will continue. One of the threats to social stability throughout the Pacific has been the development of shanty towns and colonies of unemployed, and these have been centres of crime and delinquency. We have been extremely fortunate in Papua New Guinea that although these places have developed there as badly as in almost anywhere else in the Pacific, the people who have come to dwell in shanty towns have come in tribal units and the tribe can sit with a pretty severe discipline on the young people of the group which has moved in. There has been somebody in the shanty towns responsible for the behaviour of younger people and there has not been to the same extent as there has been in other areas of the Pacific the breakdown of tribal disciplinary sanctions among shanty dwellers in Papua New Guinea. Nevertheless, the situation is unsatisfactory.

I was alarmed to get correspondence from missionaries in the Bougainville area whom I respect speaking about the position of migrant workers who have been taken from other parts of Papua New Guinea to work for construction companies which have been carrying out construction ancilliary to the development of the mining areas there. These workers have become unemployed when their work is finished and have not been repatriated. It is pretty well known in this House that people who originally said many years ago - and did not say it as a Black Power slogan either, but as a genuine conviction - 'black is beautiful', are the people of Buka and Bougainville, who are the blackest people in Papua New Guinea and have the habit of calling the browner people of other areas 'red men'. The unemployed who have come from other areas and are living in shanty towns developing in the Bougainville area are not terribly liked by the indigenous people of the locality and are referred to as "red men'. This tension that has developed there, according to my missionary informants, seems to be causing further receding of whatever little sentiment there was on the island of Bougainville for national unity. Of course Bougainville waa originally part of the Solomon Islands. It had some difficulty regarding itself as part of Papua New Guinea. I am disturbed at reports of the demoralisation of unemployed workers on Bougainville.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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