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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) - The Minister neither affirms nor denies the authenticity of what was declared to be an Administration circular which in effect says that the Warmaram group, while an instrument of reconciliation, has an ulterior motive to reduce and destroy the influence of a Mataungan leader, John Kaputin. The Minister knows the Opposition did not come down with the last shower. He knows that we must conclude that if he could deny it he would and that the document is authentic. So far the Opposition has done nothing on this matter but to ask questions and patiently await his reply. The Minister has not been attacked. He has been asked for the facts and the truth. He will neither affirm nor deny the truth of certain revelations of the attitude of the Administration to the Mataungans, and specifically to a Mataungan leader, John Kaputin. The Minister's statement is a depressing abdication of his obligation to face how Australia's relationship with the Tolai people is being conducted. The Minister is satisfied because the House of Assembly, loyal to the Administration even in its blunders, has voted to exculpate the Administrator from his own statements, at any rate from his own statements as inadvertently revealed by Mr Newby, Director of Information and Extension services. The Minister has avoided altogether the devastating passage in the memorandum of Mr Newby to the Manager of Rabaul radio station on 11th May. The passage read: lt was mentioned (hat Warmaram could be regarded as a scheme devised by Robin Kumaina to improve h:s position if he should wish to stand for the next House of Assembly elections in 1972. Thi' Administrator said this was a risk to be taken. He said a major concern of the Warmaram group was to reduce ami destroy Kaputin's standing.

If the Warmaram group is a group of intelligent conscientious people trying to bring back unity to the Tolai people - and 1 believe that to have been the intention of ils founders- ils work has been grievously undermined by the publication of thai passage in the document. If the work is a work of reconciliation the Administrator should never have formed the intention of using it for the purpose of reducing and destroying Kaputin's standing. The Administrator's intention should have been to let reconciliation find its own path. That is the real tragedy. In default of straight motives of reconciliation it can be argued that the Administrator should never have said openly that his aim was to destroy Kaputin's influence: that having said it it should never have been put to paper; that having been put to paper part of it should never have been given in the way it was to the Manager of Radio Rabaul; that having been given around it should not have been leaked to a news service: that having been leaked to a news service it should not have been published.

I do not make those secondary criticisms. If the administration of Papua and New Guinea is a democratic administration its intentions should be known. It is a government, not a structure of clever deceit. If the intention of the Administrator is to destroy and reduce John Kaputin's influence as a Mataungan leader then let that fact be published to the world. My criticism is the primary one. If the Administration was conveying to the people of Papua and New Guinea that the Warmaram group was engaged in a vital mission of reconciliation then let its task of reconciliation proceed without being made to serve as camouflage for any other intention. There is a tendency to suggest that what was afoot was Warmaram versus the Mataungans. Oscar Tammur. MHA and representative of the Tolai people in the House of Assembly, has pointed out that 2 of the members of the Warmaram group were Mataungans. A mortal blow has been struck at their standing if it appears that they were not engaged in reconciliation but in an intrigue against another Mataungan leader, lt is pretty plain that thai was not their intention.

It is also inescapable that if the Administrator knew that the major concern of the Warmaram group was to reduce and destroy Kaputin's standing, the Warmaram group was being manipulated for purposes other than those some of its members thought it had. The Warmaram group could have such an intention if it chose, but it should not then have had administrative backing. The material revealing the motive to reduce and destroy Kaputin's standing was put in the hands of somebody, and apparently it was also conveyed to Radio Rabaul, to explain that the Warmaram group was to bc given full radio publicity while radio publicity would be denied to the Mataungans. If the Mataungans objected it was to be explained that the Mataungans were political and not entitled to radio time, whereas the Warmaram group was not political and was entitled to radio time. lt appears to me that the comment upon this of Mr Percy Chatterton, MHA, during the House of Assembly debate is valid. He said, inter alia:

But the really damning part of this paragraph as I see it is the statement that a major concern of the Warmaram Group was to reduce and destroy Kaputin's standing. Now there might be some people who think that this -was a worthy objective. This is a matter of opinion. But there can be no doubt at alt that it is a political objective.

The indigenous civil servants condemned the use of the civil servants in the Warmaram group for a political objective. A special meeting of the executive of the indigenous officers of the Public Service Association held on 1st June issued a statement saying that participation by public servants in Warmaram contradicted the proper role for public servants. The statement said that relaxation of restrictions in the Warmaram case was 'inappropriate, ineptly performed and will be detrimental to the interests of public servants'. It went on to say that the Administration, by actively encouraging the group, was now likely further to widen the gap between the Administration and the Mataungans. They also criticised the use of public money in support of the Warmaram group. I want it to be quite clear that their criticism was not of the use of public money in an authentic work of reconciliation: their criticism was of the use of public money if the purpose of the group was to destroy the standing pf the Mataungan leader, which is a political objective.

Let us be clear on what the Opposition is saying. If the Warmaram group, which included the Mataungans, were a bona fide effort to bring peace and reconciliation to the Gazelle, the Administration may not have been well advised to back it but morally no criticism could be made. If, on the other hand, the Administration used public funds to destroy and reduce the influence of a Mataungan leader, to give the attack on his influence the privilege of radio time while denying any reply, and if it gave leave for public servants to carry out these activities while purporting to be engaged in a work. of reconciliation, then the Administration misused the civil service, the radio and the information service, and engaged in deceit. There has not been the slightest attempt to deny that the Administrator let it be privately known that a major concern of the Warmaram group was to reduce and destroy Kaputin's standing. Today's Melbourne 'Age' justifiably heads its sub-leader on this matter 'White Man's Bluff', and its comment 1 quote in part: . . there is a wide gap between legitimate encouragement of a native movement and undercover attempts to interfere in New Guinean politics by deliberately loading the 'dice. The confidential letter issued by the Administration and published in the Press, contains instructions for spending public money to support the Warmaram for providing a biased service on the local radio, and - worse of all - for reducing, the standing of Mr Albert Kaputin, a leading stirrer of the Mataungans.

His name, by the way, is 'John*. The article continues:

Release of the letter may cause great damage, but the damage was caused when the instructions were devised and committed to paper. As the Territories Public Service Association has stated, the Administration's action was 'inappropriate, ineptly performed . . . and detrimental to the interests of public servants'.

Worse than that, it has probably widened the rift in the Rabaul area and reinforced the suspicions of the angry Mataungans. The Administration's radio service was created to spread education and teach the elements of politics, agriculture and a broad range of social services to the indigenous people. The programme was necessary and it was honourable. To use this Governmentcontrolled medium for political purposes is unjustifiable.

The' article goes on to say, inter alia:

The Minister . . . has failed to answer one argument. If the Mataungan Association is a political body - which it obviously is - any group formed to counteract its influence is a political body too. In the next few years we may expect more splinter groups to form in New Guinea. Unless we set an example of honest dealing, what hope have we that an independent New Guinean Government will have learned the basis rules of free speech and fair play? The example of Africa should give us the answer.

I ask the Minister, the Department of External Territories and the Administration of Papua-New Guinea to look where they are going. They would be well advised to let Mataungans alone for a year and then to have another try at sanity. There has been a disastrous series of blunders which only incredible blindness can shrug off. Some time ago a Rabaul magistrate, Mr Paul Quinlivan, did not convict 3 Mataungan leaders. It has never been denied that an Administration instruction went forth that he was not to hear future Mataungan cases. Mr Whitlam and I learnt of this instruction from Mataungans. We visited

Mataungan leaders on a prison farm. Subsequently Mr Justice Minogue in the Supreme Court of the Territory held that there had been 'denial of natural justice' and 'gross miscarriage of justice' in cases in connection with the affair which led to their imprisonment. Subsequently on that same prison farm the Administrator has had to deplore and regret the use of leg irons. Then there have been suspensions of European police in Rabaul for alleged cell bashings of indigenes. The Administration reversed itself over a referendum on the multi-racial council. Now finally we have an effort at conciliation regarded as camouflage for an attack on a Mataungan leader, and virtually so characterised by the Administrator in his reference to destroying and reducing Kaputin's influence.

One does not have to be in any way a supporter of the Mataungan to see that blow after blow at the credibility of Australia in the Gazelle Paninsula area has been struck by the Administration itself. This is a vital and inflammable area. Its people are advanced. They have lost 40% of the arable land to expatriates. There has been an Administration policy of harassment. The Tolai. who in 1939 had all the taxi licences of Rabaul, now have none. Some Tolai, opposed to the Mataungan philosophy but desiring a new spirit, set out on a. work of reconciliation. They have been undermined.

The Administration needs a holiday from the affairs of the Gazelle Peninsula, lt looks as if its policy is forgetting that independence is coming, lt can mobilise the House of Assembly to vote that its actions, patently wrong, are right, just as it could mobilise the, House of Assembly to vote for tear gas and batons to enforce a policy in Bougainville which was later repudiated. What happens with every vote is that it makes the future unity of Papua-New Guinea more difficult. It has already produced a secession movement in Bougainville. It will produce one in New Britain if it puts concealed purposes to reduce and destroy influence behind what is ostensibly reconciliation.

Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.

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