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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr ASTON (Phillip) .- To-night we have heard a most informative statement, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) which, particularly in respect of Dutch New Guinea, I believe will receive the warm approbation of the people. It does not reflect any great change of attitude on the part of the Government. On the contrary, it represents a continuation and reiteration of the policy that we have stood by now over a period of years. I was particularly pleased to hear the sentiments expressed to-night by the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who said that the views stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) were almost identical with those of the Opposition. As his speech progressed, I found that to be so. He said that there was one point of disagreement. That was where he suggested that if the Dutch and the Indonesian people came to an agreement and we recognized it, we would be more or less selling out the right to self-determination of the indigenous people of Dutch New Guinea. I want to remind the honorable gentleman that we have said that we would recognize the agreement if it took place between the Netherlands and the Indonesian governments. We did say that we would recognize an agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia as the parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles. That is indeed an important fact and one which 1 hope the Leader of the Opposition inadvertently overlooked especially when we appreciate that if the words, " internationally accepted principles " mean anything at all - and they are set out to some extent in the United Nations charter - they mean that ultimately these people should have the right of self-determination. If the Leader of the Opposition accepts that, and if that is his only disagreement with the Prime Minister's statement to-night, I feel that he should be in complete agreement with the statement which has been made with respect to West New Guinea, lt has been obvious that, during the talks between the Prime Minister and General Nasution, there has been no doubt in each man's mind concerning the attitude of the other's government. It is quite clear that the general has again plainly set out the desire of the Indonesian Government to annex West New Guinea. It is equally clear that we have said that we will recognize Dutch sovereignty over New Guinea.

Here it is interesting to look at the claims of Indonesia to Dutch New Guinea on political and historical grounds, as mentioned by the Prime Minister. We know that a claim based on geographical grounds cannot be supported. We also know that a claim based on ethnological grounds cannot b supported because anyone who has been to Dutch New Guinea and seen the people there, even those living in that part closest to Indonesian territory - Ceram - as well as those further down on the island of Japer will have noticed the distinct difference between the people ethnologically. I do not think anybody in this House would endeavour to establish a claim based on ethnological grounds.

But we might have a look at the historical claim. Whatever claim Indonesia might have historically must go back some 400 or 500 years and perhaps even further to the time when, as the Leader of the Opposition said to-night, the Sultans used to come across, get slaves and take them back to work. If the claim has a more recent origin it must go back to the time when the original orientation of Dutch New Guinea took place - the time when the Dutch took over that territory in the first instance - and that was many years ago. Surely, if the Indonesians base their claim on that, then they are basing it on a claim of colonialism which the Indonesian Government itself is the first to decry. In any case, over this period, the world has become a little more accustomed to disputes between countries. We have set up the United Nations, and we have endeavoured at all times to reach some peaceful solution of disputes. We know that colonialism to-day is not the selfish thought of a few individuals, and that it is gradually dying out. So if we examine Indonesia's claims on historical grounds, I do not think that it can be substantiated in the present circumstances.

The other question which I wish to raise is that of sovereignty, and here we stand firm. We recognize Dutch sovereignty over this area, and it is interesting to see why we do. We recognize it because, as far back as 2nd November, 1949, a conference known as the Round-Table Conference was held between the Dutch and Indonesian Governments at the Hague. At that conference, the Indonesian and Dutch leaders got together. It was their task to produce a charter for the transfer of sovereignty. Article I. of that charter reads -

The Kingdom of the Netherlands unconditionally and irrevocably transfers complete sovereignty over Indonesia to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and thereby recognizes the said Republic of the United States of Indonesia as an independent sovereign State.

So far so good1. Article II. of the same charter reads in part -

With regard to the residency of Dutch New Guinea it is decided -

(a)   in view of the fact that it has not yet been possible to reconcile the view of the parties on New Guinea, which remain therefore in dispute. . . .

There is no need for me to remind honorable members of the events which followed as a consequence of that, but I think they should be placed on record during this debate because this is an historic occasion on which we have once again confirmed our policy in relation to this matter. Paragraph (f) of Article II. (a) of the charter to which I have referred reads -

The status quo of the residency of New Guinea shall be maintained with the stipulation that within a year from the date of transfer of sovereignty to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia, the question of political status of New Guinea will be determined through negotiations between the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Those two paragraphs are quite explicit. An exchange of letters then took place between the Indonesian and Netherlands delegations. On 2nd November, 1949, the chairman of the Netherlands delegation at the conference, Mr. J. H. van Marsder, forwarded a letter to the chairman of the delegation of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, which read - 1 have the honour to inform you that the Netherlands delegation to the round-table conference states that the following has been agreed upon by the delegates to the conference. The clause -in Article 11 of. the -draft, charter Qf -transfer of sovereignty, reading " the status quo of the residency of New Guinea shall be maintained " means -

And this is the important part - through continuing under the Government of the


On the same day, the Netherlands received an acknowledgment couched in similar terms and pointing out that Indonesia recognized that sovereignty remained in the hands of the Netherlands. This was an agreement duly signed by the Dutch and Indonesian Governments under which the Indonesian Government recognized Dutch sovereignty over West New Guinea. So, if we accept the fact that a claim cannot be established ethnologically, historically or politically and we come back to endeavouring to establish it on the grounds of sovereignty, then, surely, any attempt to do so would be tantamount to abrogation of an agreement which was made between the two governments because the Dutch have always shown and still show a willingness to continue to negotiate within the ambit of the agreement and the charter.

But the Indonesian Government has said straight out that it will not continue or re-commence discussion on this subject.

Unless the Indonesian Government is willing at least to meet the Dutch on the question of sovereignty, I fail to see how any agreement can be made. Since the intergovernmental talks, Indonesian spokesmen have continually said, " We shall decide this matter for ourselves ". They have gone on record from time to time to point out that if difficulties confronted them they would even use force of arms. It is partly re-assuring to have from General Nasution a statement that force of arms will not be resorted to and that all efforts to obtain West New Guinea will be by peaceful means. If the Indonesians are genuine in their statements, I suggest that there is no higher or more impartial authority than the International Court of Justice to which to resort. However, Indonesia has consistently refused to place its claim before this body, which is the supreme adjudicating authority of the United Nations for resolving disputes between nations. If the court were to decide for Indonesia, we would respect that decision. If it were to decide for the Dutch, likewise we would respect the decision. I believe that Indonesia's unwillingness to submit its. case to a judicial body which is above reproach weakens its case substantially.

Throughout the last four or five years Indonesian diplomats have made goodwill visits such as that which we have had from General Nasution. I believe that goodwill visits of this kind are excellent. They promote better understanding and frank exchanges of views that cannot be obtained other than by personal contact. They permit a greater understanding of the interests of one another. The benefit of the recent visit to us has been that we were able to assure the general that we have no military pact with the Dutch. This is important. Just as important and valuable was the assurance given to us by General Nasution. However, I do hope that such visits are solely goodwill visits and not attempts to persuade other nations to come to aid or to pursue Indonesia's claim to this territory. I hope that they are not made in an effort to obtain international sympathy for the Indonesian cause. The Australian people have' a great interest in New Guinea. In many of us this is an emotional interest. I feel sure that any attempt by Indonesia, after receiving encouragement and sympathy from any part of the world, to take any portion of

Dutch New Guinea other than by peaceful means would be greatly resented by the majority of the Australian people.

The Dutch have accepted the principle of self-determination as a cardinal point of the policy that they administer in Dutch New Guinea. This is a policy which I believe deserves the commendation of this House. 1 have been to that territory and I have seen the expansion of their influence into the hinterland. The establishment of air fields, hospitals, technical training, and other facilities for educating the native people is going on apace. By these means the Dutch hope to bring the native people to the stage of self-determination within a reasonable time. That is the big difference between the policies of Indonesia and the Netherlands. We ourselves believe in the policy of self-determination and we want to see our own Territory of Papua and New Guinea reach that stage. It is indeed very gratifying that just recently, both in our territory and in the Dutch territory, steps were taken to establish legislative bodies whereby the native people can gain experience in conducting their own affairs and can learn to be self-reliant.

It is not easy to educate these indigenous people quickly. The process is long, slow and tedious. If we were to hasten it, lt would not be in the best interests of the people. Just recently in other parts of the world we have seen the difficulties of people who perhaps were not ready to take over the responsibility and reins of selfgovernment. To have such things happen at the front door of Australia would be a calamity. The achievement of self-determination tor New Guinea, no matter how quickly we would like to see it come to pass, must of necesssity be slow. By contrast, Indonesia's policy in relation to West Irian, as it is known to Indonesians, is one of annexation. I can find no statement that the Indonesians will give the people of Dutch New Guinea self-determination. We believe that self-determination is an important principle. We uphold it and we shall do our utmost to see it implemented.

In view of all these matters and having attempted to demolish the various claims one by one, I fail to see that Indonesia's claims to Dutch New Guinea hold water. First, T again urge the Indonesians, if they are sincere in their claims, to place this matter before the International Court of Justice. Secondly, we require from them a public pronouncement to the effect that the people of West New Guinea will receive the opportunity of self-determination in accordance with the policy that the Dutch have already put into operation.

I should like to conclude where I began by saying that this matter should be above the making of political points against one party or another. I was particularly pleased at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, which to my mind increases his stature. The matter is so important that it should be put above party-political considerations. I hope that other honorable members will follow the lead given by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and endeavour to keep the debate on a high plane. The matter is of such great interest to our country that we should not endeavour to score cheap political points over persons or parties.

I should like to join with the Prime Minister in congratulating Sierra Leone upon the achievement of its independence and to welcome it as an additional member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. In recent months we have seen the departure of one Commonwealth country.

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