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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1429

Mr KERIN (Macarthur) - I wish to make only a few simple points on the Bills before the House. Despite the great and growing appreciation of the prospects and problems of Papua New Guinea by the 2 major parties in this House there still remains in the community at large too many stereotyped and simplistic views on the country. I am often amazed by what some of my constituents say to me about Papua New Guinea. Many still assume that unless Papua New Guinea is identical in form to Australia that country will not be ready for self-government and independence. I think that all of us in this House appreciate that this is an absurd point of view. I wish to direct most of my comments to some of the simplistic views about the country.

Despite the mild criticisms expressed by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) I think he largely agrees with what the Government is doing and the Opposition is not opposed to these Bills. The die was cast when the honourable member for Kooyong was the Minister for External Territories, and I think the casting has resulted in this collection of Bills, particularly the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973. As the honourable member has fairly stated these Bills are a progression of policies initiated by the previous Government. However, I want to point out that letting her rip is a different task from seeing it through. This Government in the months that it has been in office has seen the matter through. I think we all appreciate the clever way in which the honourable member for Kooyong has put forward some criticisms and we appreciate that he has given the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) ample opportunity to reply to them and to trace out the progress that this Government has made.

During the recess I had the privilege of being a member of the first all party parliamentary delegation that has made an official visit to Papua New Guinea. I think that this in a way is a reflection on the Australian Parliament. I want to pick up something that was said by the honourable member for Kooyong about the interest shown by Prime Ministers in Papua New Guinea. I point out to the honourable member that the previous Prime Minister did not go to that country and that the present Prime Minister who has a great interest in Papua New Guinea was there within 2 months of gaining office. In many ways the interest in this country on the part of the present Prime Minister has been one of the catalysts which has brought these Bills about. The Prime Minister before the previous Prime Minister, of course, only went up there with a gun on his hip.

I do not suppose that all members of the delegation agreed on the background of everything that we saw but I am sure that we all agreed on the beauty and the potential wealth of the country as well as the intelligence of the people. I believe they are possessed of enough talent, ability and skills to handle selfgovernment and independence. There may be a lot of problems but Australia has plenty of problems and I am quite sure that we do not envisage that Papua New Guinea will be faced with anything like the problems of such a sophisticated nation as Northern Ireland. I think the stage simply has been reached where there are few problems which cannot be solved better by the people themselves. I would put myself down as only a 6-day expert and I do not know anywhere near as much on this matter as one of my colleagues in the delegation, the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), who was a great guide to us. But I did form many opinions.

The reason why the honourable member for Morton (Mr Killen) often alludes to the ancients in regard to politics is, of course, that political attitudes are pretty general and have been that way through the centuries. In our tour of New Guinea we visited many local councils. There, in the members of the Council, one could sec just about every political attitude that is exhibited in this House. There seemed to be a Country Party in microcosm, with the attitudes towards the land. There was a mutual suspicion of Port Moresby as a sort of central power. Everyone wanted more money for local government and a lot of people, of course, wanted the localisation process to give more autonomy in setting up budgets to the regions themselves. The only difference was that the opinions being expressed by the Council members tended to be more overt, more open and perhaps less subtle than we have in our own parliaments. But every political attitude was there. The people knew what they wanted and they knew what they were about.

I think there were about 155 local government councils in Papua New Guinea. Some of them go back many years. Many of the councillors are very skilled men indeed, particularly in committee work. I went there possibly a little more pessimistic than I came back, because certainly I came back feeling optimis tic, despite some of the problems we saw. One is dealing only with elites in developing nations. Of course there are a lot of tensions. But many of these tensions can be very creative as well as potentially destructive. I came back with two major impressions with respect to the so-called troubles and the way of the highlanders. I felt that the recent troubles had little to do with the coming of self-government and more to do with the change in the degrees of control and changes in the basis of authority. There is the constant problem of land, but this again would be best solved by the Papua New Guinea people themselves.

We were privileged to see also one of the land commissions of inquiry in action at a village level trying to work out what recommendations it would make to its own Government. The other thing is the problems of the highlanders who supposedly are opposed to self-government and independence. I do not think this was an opposition in any sort of traditional conservative terms at all. It seemed to me to be just a hard-headed appraisal of the situation. The highlanders worried mainly about money and a continuance of Australia's role in providing funds and the wherewithal for what they have seen in their own lifetime. Many men there could remember seeing the first European coming into the valleys. Since development has accelerated since about 1966, they have seen roads, hospitals, schools and all those things come in. They simply do not want to take the risk of the provision of these improvements ceasing in any way. I think that we have to assure the people of Papua New Guinea as much as possible that Australia is committed to continuing finance in the future. The present Budget was a record Budget and much of the various allocations were negotiated between the Papua New Guinea Government and the Australian Government.

I thought also that there was a much greater need for dissemination of information. Communications are still poor in most areas, as many people realise, with problems of language. There still has to be a lot more communication, I think, and there should have been a lot more communication from the Australian Government to the people to prepare them for changes. They are in a society that has been enmeshed in change for a long time. It is pretty reasonable to expect that there will be over-reaction to some changes when they are in a society that is so much in flux. 1 do not think there has been so much a problem of law and order as a problem in specific areas - great problems caused by the diversity.

As the Minister said, this Bill is historic. I should like to make just a few blunt and rather didactic statements. I think there is much value in speeding to self-government and independence as soon as possible. I think we need to have a situation where those who actually take a decision are legally responsible for it. I think that delay means shadows, a shadow line, grey areas, uncertainty as to who has the power and who has the responsibility. This must be avoided. Law and order have been trotted around Australia as well as in Papua New Guinea, Law and order is a cliche. Law is a social device and I want to speak more of it as a social device. There is a need to seek public order and harmony within the community. But I think that the Papua New Guinea Government, the Australian Government and the Australian people must not ignore the underlying social tensions. I think there is a great need for the Government to be magnanimous. I do not think that police should be used simply to alienate some of the community problems that the people may or may not have. The police must not enforce unjust laws when the laws are seen by the people to be unjust. I do not think that the constabulary and the Army should be assumed to be the first and only answer to problems. I think that there should be a lot more emphasis on funding of the police rather than the Army.

I agree with Professor J. B. D. Miller, who said in a recent issue of the 'Australian Outlook' that Australia has been gravely at fault in the past in delaying the separation of the armed forces of Papua New Guinea from those of Australia. The Army and the Police Force in fact are at best only short term expedients. We all agree, I think, that the future will be one of turbulence and excitement. This is natura! and to be expected; it would be curious if it were any other way in a new nation which has such great vitality. I think the country needs now a vigorous assertion of legal power. The power of a foreign derived law, as it has had, could itself precipitate an anti-Australian movement within the country. I think it must get its own laws as soon as possible which would be more in keeping with the mores of society. There have been a lot of headlines in the Australian newspapers and in papers in Papua New Guinea about certain riots. A brigadier - I forget his name - when giving evidence to a Senate committee spoke about a possible bloodbath up there. I think that these headlines and these generalisations are not desirable. One heard a lot about the Port Moresby riots following a football match but not too much about the fact that the Mt Hagen show, which was attended by an enormous number of people, went off without any incidents whatsoever. We heard a great deal of publicity about Josephine Abaijah and the movement she leads, and that is fair enough; attention should be paid to her ideas. However, it seems that emphasis was not put on the fact that the death of Matthias Toliman had united the people in their grief for one of their leaders.

I think we have to examine what evidence there is in reality of a breakdown in law and order. I shall quote from the most learned article on the subject which I have read recently. It was written by Nigel Oram and appears in the journal 'New Guinea', Volume VII, June 1973. He traced some of the evidence that is available and quoted from the Commission of Inquiry into Alcoholic Drink. He certainly could point to evidence that crimes associated with drunkeness had increased dramatically but that this was more a problem of the town and migrant populations and not of the villages. Some of his conclusions were that nowhere in Papua New Guinea has public order ever broken down completely but that there are distinct problems in different areas. What is needed is an analysis of supposed crime or of law and order in the social context of the society and an analysis of social control. Administrative control or administrative action is concerned with authority whereas political action is concerned with power relations and decision making. We have to define the 2 problems - the dichotomy of legality and legitimacy. It is very hard to say that the colonial regimes had any legality; but when one talks of legitimacy, one is talking of a wider matter. Legitimacy really gets down to the socialisation of the society itself, the mores and the values of the society. Societies depend for their existence on the presence in the minds of its members of a certain system of sentiments by which the conduct of the individual is regulated in conformity with the needs of the society. Customary values, beliefs and techniques of society grow up over centuries.

I have little time in which to describe the clan society of Papua New Guinea and the kinds of leaders with which it has grown up; one could possibly describe them as ascribed leadership and achieved leadership. But the society itself did evolve means of settling disputes, and probably one could boil this down to saying that the big men talk the problems out. With the European administration came direct rule by Kiaps which largely meshed into the traditional system in some way; but imposition of the English legal concepts and European concepts was always poorly understood. I would, if I had time, try to trace the progress of legal administration in a society which largely went along as if it were along colonial lines until 1965. Since then there have been great changes in legal administration in the country. And, of course, the great change in the impact of European administration also has to be understood in terms of the way in which the patrol officers and district commissioners and others set up the administration. This, of course, went back to the 1880s. Great changes have been made in the society by the impact of Europeans, monetary economy, Western education and Christian religion.

I think the attempt to introduce the Australian legal system was not a matter of replacing chaos with the rule of law but of replacing one type of social control with another. The Western concept of abstract justice and punishment for offences is not uniformly accepted in conceptual terms - and why should it be? The Papua New Guinea Government is now developing its own ideas about laws which will have country-wide applicability. While I was in Papua New Guinea a report was brought down in the Parliament on the first thoughts about the development of these laws. I think the old certainties of village life have disappeared and the Papua New Guinea society is in a constant state of trying to adapt to changing conditions. The roles of the luluais, tultuls and village constables have changed in the space of a few short years. The Native Village Councils Ordinance of 1948 provided for a situation where the councils themselves were responsible for the maintenance of order in their areas. But in 1963 the powers in a local government ordinance relating to law and order were removed as a result of recommendations made by Professor Derham in 1961. The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary has filled this gap. I often think in sociologi cal terms about whether that was any great advance. I think it could be argued that the old council kin relationship was possibly better than the police as a means of enforcing law and order.

I think the same sorts of stresses and changes have occurred with respect to the administration of justice, as I said before. Unfortunately I have not time to go into this aspect. To sum up, I do not think that there is so much a law and order problem in Papua New Guinea as a number of specific fields in which stresses within the society threaten public order. Tensions have developed throughout societies in Papua New Guinea as a result of rapid change. But I maintain that if they are recognised by the people in those societies they are often socially and economically productive. I am optimistic about this occurring. I have great faith in Michael Somare and his Government and in their perceptions of their own society. As the honourable member for Kooyong has just stated, it is the people of Papua New Guinea who have to make up their own minds and we have to let them go ahead and do so. When they do get independence it has to be total independence. I think the so-called law and order issue is best handled by the people of the country itself. This Bill goes part of the way towards making the power formal. This Bill will allow Papua New Guinea to have its own home-grown constitution. It will not in any way pre-empt any of the decisions of the Government of Papua New Guinea or of the committees working out these things at present.

To sum up my attitude, I think that there is a need for Australians - the people to whom I addressed myself at the beginning of this short speech - to understand the society sociologically. Alarmist statements by newspapers and the media do little to help but only serve to disguise the real issues. Attitudes of Australian politics have little to do with the underlying factors and the qualities and initiatives of the Papua New Guinea people and their past, present and future leaders. I commend the Bills to the House.

Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.

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