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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr DRUMMOND (New England) . - I propose to address my remarks if not entirely, almost entirely, to the subject of Papua-New Guinea. Two very thoughtful contributions have been made to this subject this afternoon and I want to refer particularly to that which was made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). The delegation which recently visited New Guinea was led by that very distinguished gentleman, and I know that he was properly summed up by the interpreter who described him as the " One fella big master No. 1 man ". He did an excellent job and I am quite sure that I voice the opinion of all members of the delegation when I say that we felt duly appreciative of his efforts and of the arrangements which were made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and his staff. The experience of that delegation convinced me, not for the first time in my political career, that men of different political parties can meet on common ground, investigate fairly with open minds, and arrive at a fair measure of agreement about problems which are common to this country of ours. The party was a very happy one, and I may say that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) brought to the proceedings a light touch which we all appreciated.

In the very limited time at my disposal, I want to direct attention to the point made by the honorable member for Franklin about certain criticisms, implied and otherwise, of the Administration of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea. In doing so, I wish to direct the committee's attention to some statistics. In 1939, the total public finance provided for the Territory was £42,500. By the end of 1956-57, it will have grown to £9,250,000, which reflects an increasing appreciation of the importance of the Territory. Figures provided by the Minister show that, in 1948-49, the total public expenditure was a little over £4,000,000, whereas for the current year it is estimated to be £13,500,000. Of these amounts, local revenue provided £1,200,000 in 1948-49, and will provide £4,250,000 this year, or roughly 31 pei cent, of the total public expenditure. This is a very remarkable performance, having regard to the stage of development. Trade has grown in value from £5,300,000 in 1938-39 to £11,600,000 in 1948-49, and to £33,100,000 in 1955-56. Imports have increased from £1,850,000 in 1938-39 to £19,800,000 last year, when exports totalled £13,250,000. 1 think that these figures speak tor themselves. They should be better known by those persons who are, or ought to be. interested in the Territory. I wish to refer to one or two major items of expenditure in the total of £13,500,000 to which this country is committed this year. In 1955-56. we expended approximately £2,000,000 on hospitals in the Territory. In 1948-49, the Administration had 154 hospitals; now it has 1,005. The missions then had 265 hospitals and now have 357. Over that period the number of private hospitals has dropped from five to four. The total number of hospitals shows the remarkable growth. When this Government took office there were 424 hospitals in the Territory, whereas to-day there are 1,416. The hospitals vary widely in type. In New Britain there is a native hospital which is estimated to cost £495,000, and in Port Moresby one to cost £463,000. There are small European hospitals such as the one at Lae and primitive hospitals in the most remote areas we visited. Some criticism was directed at the type of hospital provided in some of the outlying areas. 1 discussed this matter with very experienced medical officers, who put to me - I think their statement is indisputable - that the response of a patient to medical treatment depends a great deal upon environment. If natives are projected straight from primitive surroundings into a European-type hospital, they are far less likely to have a quick and ready return to health than if they are put in a good type of native building in the surroundings to which they are accustomed and treated with the same life-saving drugs. The Administration apparently is working up steadily from that type of primitive establishment to the very expensive hospital to which I have referred. 1 shall refer now to education in the Territory. Six years, almost to the day. from the time that I left on this trip, I went with the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), under official imprimatur but otherwise freelance, into the Territory. I was given every opportunity of availing myself of the services of the Administration, but I was not attached, nor was my colleague, to an official party. We had the advantage of a great deal of freedom and made easy contact with all soils of people, but there are also very marked advantages in the kind of tour which f made six years later, because all arrangements were made to a split-second schedule. We saw an enormous tract of country, from Daru Island, which, incidentally, is less than 100 miles from the tip of CapeYork Peninsula, right along the mainland, and on to the main parts of New Britain and New Ireland. We saw and we met people in every possible environment. When I went back there six years afterwards, 1 did so with an appreciation that the people in charge of the Territory at the time that this Government took over had to contend' with an administration which had been> shattered by war. It included some misfits and suffered because of mistakes - perhaps bad mistakes - of policy by the previous government. But I do not want to touch on that matter. I believe that any government that had the task of administering the Territory immediately after thewar would have had a colossal job. The change from the position that I saw six years ago to that which I saw on the recent visit was very close to miraculous, both in respect of what had already been achieved' and what was being done.

Let us take education, for instance. T am sorry that I cannot give the committee comparative figures, but 1 know something of this subject and I also know how poorly 1 was impressed with what I saw in 1950. To-day, there are 23 non-native schools; there are 150,000 native children, mainly in mission schools; and in the administration schools there are 8,300 children, most of whom are in the secondary stages ot education. The training of teachers is proceeding apace, and, in this connexion, do not let us underrate the difficulties that confront the Administration, because it is dealing with a people Who have at least 40 separate languages - not dialects, but languages. They have no common language, and there are no written languages. Perhaps by mistake, they were taught pidgin, which is not of much use to them in trying to govern a modern community, ft has been set aside. As I have said, the training of teachers is making good headway. In 1955-56 there were 326 teachers, and there are at present 227 in training, most of whom will go into the service this year. The training of teachers includes teachers for normal schools, technical schools, localgovernment clerks' schools, and agricultural schools, those being the broad classifications.

Australia has every reason to be proud of the white senior teachers in its service, and of their attitude to the native populace. I do not in any way reflect on the junior teachers, but I do wish to pay a tribute to the men who are the leaders. Because the people of New Guinea depend so greatly upon the way in which these teachers approach their task, the matter is an important one. Australia has every reason to be proud of the kind of leadership that is being given. I support entirely the policy of availing ourselves of the mission work in the primary stages of education. Nevertheless, we need to take care that, in all of the schools, there is a standard which is acceptable to the - Administration, and the Administration, in return for its subsidy, should insist on such a standard. I feel that the Administration is doing a great job in the Territory and is doing it as quickly as is humanly possible. In addition, it is going about its task in a realistic way. I mct certain native people who were very well advanced, and the standard they had attained impressed me greatly. The honorable member for Franklin, who was the leader of the party, has already told the committee that the population is approximately 1,680,000 and that, of that number. 55,200 are in private employment and 13,300 in government employment - a total of approximately one in every 23 of the total population, including those not under control.

In the last few minutes at my disposal. I wish to refer to the point made by the honorable member for Franklin regarding citizenship rights for certain people of the Territory. I was tremendously impressed by the standard of the young Chinese, many of whom had been educated in our bes schools. As I pointed out to the Minister six years ago, these people apparently hang between the heaven of the white person and the definite status of the native. Thanks to the administraion of the present Minister, they now have a better status. Since they are relatively few in number and as many of them were born in the Territory, and most are eager to come under our flag, I believe that Australia should give serious consideration to according citizenship of this Commonwealth to them, and also, perhaps, to a limited number of the Malays who live there, and so tie the loyalty thai I believe that they are prepared to give. I know that that might raise certain difficulties insofar as the native-born people are concerned, and one may well ask whether we can give citizenship to one and not to the other. In my opinion, we should devise a formula for admitting native people, of a suitable standard of education, in proportion to the number of white people who take up permanent residence in the Territory. By that means, we could disarm criticism that otherwise might be fatal to us, both inside and outside the Territory. In conclusion, I congratulate the Minister who, I believe, has been the inspiration and driving force behind the policy, on the magnificent job that he and the Department of Territories are doing.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden - Order! The honorable gentleman's time has expired.

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