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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr BARNES (McPherson) .- I think it is unfortunate that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has not followed the example of his leader (Mr. Calwell). I think most honorable members on this side of the House will agree that his remarks have been provocative and mischievous and, I believe, insulting to General Nasution in suggesting that we are unable to accept his word. The honorable member for East Sydney suggested that we should go to the United Nations, regardless of the negotiations that have taken place between General Nasution and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). If we did that, we would immediately provoke Indonesia. I think the honorable member implied that we should adopt some further measures, such as threats, just in case the present assurances are not recognized.

I think every one who has listened to the debate to-night - I hope many thousands have done so - will be very grateful that these negotiations were handled by the Prime Minister and not by the honorable member for East Sydney. But one never knows; some day the Opposition may be the government. If the honorable member for East Sydney is ever Minister for External Affairs, it will be a most unfortunate day for Australia. We can congratulate ourselves that we had some one of the tremendous capacity of the Prime Minister to handle this most delicate situation. Our relations with this very large nation to our north have been very friendly and our trade and cultural relations in the area are very much bound up with the future of Indonesia.

In holding the view that we do about West New Guinea, I believe that we have right and world opinion on our side. As the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) has pointed out, under the Charter of the United Nations the people of West New Guinea must eventually decide their own destiny. The honorable member also pointed out that they are related in every respect to the people in the remainder of the island of New Guinea. These people in no degree belong to the people of Indonesia. They belong to the great Asian group of Melanesians, and some day a sort of federation of Melanesia may be formed. However, that is very far in the future and probably does not warrant speculation at this time.

Unfortunately, there is a degree of urgency about our efforts to bring selfgovernment to these people. We have speeded up our plans to prepare the people in our portion of New Guinea for self-government. But it is very difficult for these primitive people of the jungle suddenly to accept the responsibilities of self-government. This contention applies also to the people in the Dutch area. Apparently the Dutch have planned to move out of West New Guinea in ten years and to give self-government to the indigenous people within that time. Recent evidence shows that the people in

West New Guinea who are able to express a considered opinion have no desire to be associated in their government with Indonesia.

We must, however, respect the ideas and the claims of Indonesia. We have met General Nasution in Australia and I am sure we are all very relieved to hear of the undertaking that no armed conflict is likely to take place in this area. I believe that the statement embodying this undertaking is most important, both for the people of Australia and for the people of Indonesia. We should try to avoid armed conflict; after all, friendly negotiations will undoubtedly lead to a solution.

The main claim of Indonesia to West New Guinea rests on ancient historical factors. The. Leader of the Opposition suggested that the ancient rulers of Indonesia took slaves from West New Guinea. I would not condemn them for that, because in comparatively recent times our blackbirders did much the same sort of thing in the South Sea Islands. However, if we project the historical claim of Indonesia to other parts of the world, we would at this time have some most embarrassing conflicts. Great Britain, for instance, on an historical basis, could claim considerable portions of France. Although we must respect Indonesia's claim, the historical basis seems to us to be rather flimsy.

Economically, there does not seem to be any really strong reason why any nation should want West New Guinea. Geologically it is a tangle of huge mountains and deep gorges, and considerable areas of it are swamps and jungles. There is no indication of mineral wealth, except that oil was found in the Vogelkop in the western end of New Guinea. Pre-war, this was a very promising field, but subsequently it proved to be only a very minor one and it has now been abandoned. West New Guinea probably has timber resources. But the area of land suitable for cultivation is very small and there would be great difficulty in supporting a very large population. On the other hand, if this was part of a combined nation of New Guinea, the position would be altogether different. The richer eastern end would help to support the people in the poorer western end.

Another important factor is the boundary between eastern and western New Guinea.

This follows a meridian of longitude that cuts right across the island. Many tribes or peoples belonging to the same cultural group and probably speaking very similar languages are separted by a line that is arbitrarily drawn on the map. That is another reason why I do not think it is right to separate the people of West New Guinea from the people on the rest of the island. Of course, other factors must be considered. Undoubtedly one of the chief factors influencing Indonesia's claim to the western end of the island is the political factor. The transfer of sovereignty over the Dutch East Indies from the Netherlands to Indonesia involved considerable political difficulties, and we know that a number of armed conflicts took place shortly after the Dutch left that area. I think Indonesia's claim to West New Guinea was initially a means of rallying the people of Indonesia to the new government there. To annexe West New Guinea became a firm policy of certain leaders in the new Indonesian Government and that policy assumed great emotional significance amongst the people of Indonesia.

I should like to express the very great pleasure that all of us must feel now that Sierra Leone has become a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Sierra Leone is one of the oldest British territories. Let us hope that it has based its new government on the best traditions of British government - the most successful form of democracy the world has ever seen. Let us hope that the actions of the new Sierra Leone Government will be in the best interests of the people.

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