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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2465

Senator WILKINSON (Western Australia) - This is a Bill which seeks the approval of Parliament for the Commonwealth to guarantee borrowings by Papua New Guinea from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The Bill has only 9 clauses but a wealth of information is contained in schedules and schedules to schedules. In order to get the best interpretation of what is involved in this Bill I think we can refer to the second reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). The Minister pointed out that there were 2 major matters under consideration. The first one was a guarantee by the Commonwealth of $8.4m which would be borrowed by the Administration of Papua New Guinea from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the second was a guarantee of a credit that would be given to Papua New Guinea by the International Development Association which is an affiliate of the International Bank.

We find that the purposes of the Bill are set out more clearly in the Minister's second reading speech than they are in the schedule of the Bill. The first section proposes a guarantee by the Commonwealth of $8.4m. It states: lt includes the provision of about 13,500 lines of local automatic exhange equipment, including the replacement of 3,300 lines of existing equipment; the associated distribution plant and subscribers equipment; about 650 additional long distance circuits on existing routes; the installation of telex exchanges with a total capacity of about 600 lines and the provision of about 500 teleprinters.

I was interested in that part of the Minister's speech because it dealt with telephone equipment. It brought to mind the fact that some years ago a measure was introduced to provide funds for the installation of telephone equipment. I refer to the Papua and New Guinea Loan (International Bank) Act of 1968. The schedule to the Act shows that a loan of $7m was guaranteed. It was to provide approximately 10,000 lines of local automatic exchange equipment with associated buildings, etc., an ultra-high frequency radio long distance system connecting Port Moresby, Lae, Madan, Goroka and Mount Hagen and very high frequency and high frequency radio long distance links which would connect 26 more remote exchanges.

I refer now to the Papua New Guinea report for 1970-71. It has just been dis.tribured to honourable senators and, I would take it, to members of the other place as well. On pages 121 and 122 there is set out the work that was to be done as a result of the loan in 1968. It lists the exchange equipment. It was: A new 1,000 line automatic exchange at Arawa, a new 530 line automatic exchange at Panguna, 1 new 200 line automatic exchange in the industrial area of Bougainville, a 400 line automatic exchange at Kieta, a 1,000 line exchange at Goroka, a 1,000 line automatic exchange at Mount Hagen, a 600 line automatic exchange at Wewak, a 400 line automatic exchange at Waigani and a 1,000 line automatic exchange extension at Boroko. In addition the allocation of funds was to be used to install a number of telephone channels; I will not go through all of them. The number to be provided in the scheme was 756. That was quite a large installation. The concluding note on page 121 states:

Note - All the above items are part of the World Bank Section of the Department's programme and, as such, are scheduled to be completed in the 1971-72 financial year.

So I take it that these items are almost at the point of completion. I referred to the exchange items, the automatic equipment and the extra 650 long distance circuits mentioned in the Minister's speech. If we look at the present Bill we see that, although the Government has not very much say about what Papua New Guinea is doing, it is installing a very sophisticated communication system in Papua New Guinea. I would say that the system is probably in advance of much of the equipment that Australia has. The equipment referred to in the present Bill will be in addition to the equipment that was to be installed as a result of the 1968 Bill.

I wonder to what extent the equipment which is being installed in such considerable measure is being maintained correctly.

This is one of the major problems to be faced when sophisticated equipment is introduced into a country which has not been trained in the proper use of it and has not the large number of technicians and engineering staff required to maintain that equipment. I remember particularly the case a few years ago when Carrier channel equipment was installed in Pakistan by America, on loan. A senior PostmasterGeneral's Department technician was sent there to instruct the people there on the use and maintenance of that equipment. The Carrier equipment which had been installed had 15 telephone circuits on one pair of wires. The technician found that, instead of repairing a fault which occurred on one channel, they switched that channel off. So after a few months of operation they were back to their original open wire circuit and none of the channels was working. This surprising thing could happen in a country which has sophisticated equipment and not the ability to maintain it properly.

I am not saying that there are not qualified people in Papua New Guinea who could maintain the equipment, but the installation of equipment of the type that is envisaged at present will require quite a lot of trained personnel. At page 122 of the Papua New Guinea report the number of trainee enrolments as at 30th June 1971 are set out. The number is tremendous! It is: Technicians, 1st year, 16; 2nd year, 4; 3rd year, 13; 4th year, 7; 5th year, 4. How on earth they can maintain and keep in good order a very large installation such as that envisaged in the Bill is beyond me. I speak as a person experienced in this field. We have no way of preventing the expenditure, and I do not think we should, but I am drawing attention to the difficulties that might be faced in a country such as this when there is to be such a large installation.

The Commonwealth will guarantee a credit of $7.7m for improvements to the ports of Port Moresby, Lae and Kieta and the construction of a new small port at Alotau. I found it difficult to discover any mention of this expenditure in the Bill. I looked through the Bill. I looked to see whether it was a carry over from the 1970 Bill, which dealt only with the provision of roads. I looked at the schedule to that Bill to find om what was involved. Roads were being constructed in Papua New Guinea then. Quite an extensive network of roads was under construction, including new ones. The amount provided under the Bill was $US9m. But the Bill contained nothing about an extension of ports. As I have given the details of the 1968 Bill in which there was nothing about ports I wonder whether the improvements to ports and the construction of a new port are actually under consideration in this Bill. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten me on that because J cannot find any reference to it. My remarks are a criticism only of an attitude that might be adopted on occasion. 1 mentioned what happened in Pakistan. I know that for a fact. It could happen in this case as a result of the expenditure of the loan from the International Bank, lt is a situation that ought to be watched. We are guaranteeing the loan. For that reason, I think we have some responsibility. We are guarantors and therefore 1 think we have some responsibility.

While I am on my feet, I express appreciation of the interest rate that will be charged. I think that the low interest rate for what is just a holding credit is very satisfactory, Then there will be a rate of about 7 per cent to pay when the money is used if called upon by the administration of Papua New Guinea. I think this is to be commended. 1 so commend it. The Opposition is not opposing this Bill. With those points that I have made, we will give the Bill a speedy passage.

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