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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1432

Mr WHITTORN (Balaclava) - This Bill relates to the bringing of Papua New Guinea into self-government. As the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) has said, 4 Bills are being debated cognately. The basic intention of these Bills is to ensure that

Papua New Guinea attains self-government by 1 December next. We on this side of the House are in agreement with that intention simply because it is a decision which we made last year when in government and which has been ratified by the present Government. However, I feel that the present Government is forcing Papua New Guinea into an international void by pushing it too fast towards independence. This has been done not in legislative form but in the form of statements made by the Minister at various times this year. The statements were made not to the House but to newspapers and the like.

The Minister, in his second reading speech, said that the Bills were more symbolic than substantive. Certainly the Bills are very symbolic because a country, for which we have had a tremendous responsibility for a number of years - a United Nations trust responsibility - is being brought towards selfgovernment. We see the fruition of the work done by previous governments and ratified by the present Government. The statement that the decision is not substantive is one with which I cannot agree. First of all, the country will be brought to self-government. I believe that it is ready for it. But to force it into this international void of independence early next year - I believe this is the Government's proposal - is certainly substantive. I am certain that we will get a reflection of the Government's decision in the months ahead; in 1974 we will feel the results of what this Government proposes to do.

I believe that there is no sincerity in what the Minister has said. He has informed the Press rather than the Parliament. He and his Party feel that unless and until they get rid of this responsibility they will be branded by the Third World as colonialists. Nothing is further from the truth. I believe that the nations of the Third World, in particular the African and Arab nations, have told this Government to get rid of Papua New Guinea and the responsibilities which the Government has for it. I believe that this Government has acceded to that request and said: 'We will make certain that Chief Minister Somare, his Ministers and his Government reach independence in 1974'. For many years past the Government of Papua New Guinea has needed the advice, guidance and assistance given by previous administrations. I believe that it will need the same help for at least several years in the future. When my Party was in government we gave that help willingly because it was our responsibility. No political gains were to be made by any government in Australia which was helping Papua New Guinea. It was a job which had to be done as a responsibility to the whole world and because the United Nations had signified that Australia should do this job. I believe that the work which has been taking place from early post-war years should continue for at least 2 or 3 years.

Earlier this year - I believe it was in March or April - the Treasurer (Mr Crean) introduced 2 Bills concerning overseas loans to be raised by the Government of Papua New Guinea. From memory, the first loan was for $40m. The Australian Government made a loan of approximately J 10m at cheap interest rates to the Government of Papua New Guinea. However, the balance had to be obtained overseas and it is my understanding that we advised the Government of Papua New Guinea that deutsche marks would be available if it applied for them. In the economic area we are forcing the Government of Papua New Guinea to go on to the open market to obtain loans when our coffers in Australia are full and overflowing. It was my deep regret earlier this year that Australia did not see fit to make these loans available in full at cheap interest rates to a government that is endeavouring with our assistance to bring its country into the 20th century.

I believe that the present Australian Government is endeavouring to dictate policies to and the future of the Government of Papua New Guinea. For proof of this statement, we need only to read reports of the dispute that arose in connection with the airlines policy in Papua New Guinea and the problems in that area. The present Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) made it quite clear to everybody in Australia that he rigorously opposed Ansett Airlines of Australia having any truck with an airline to be set up in Papua New Guinea. Is self-government as envisaged by the Australian Government a means by which we can dictate our form of independence and our policies to the Government of Papua New Guinea? I say that it must not be. I feel realIy pleased that the Government of Papua New Guinea ultimately made its own decision on the airlines problem. The difficulty in this matter highlighted the deteriorating relations between the Australian Government and the Government and people of Papua New Guinea. I believe that our present policy should be carried out, as the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) said earlier today, more by way of listening to Ministers of the Government of Papua New Guinea and in advising, guiding and helping them, as has been the practice in the past.

We read in the newspapers - I cannot confirm what I am about to say, but I believe it to be correct - that militant trade union officials were castigated on at least 2 occasions by Ministers of the Government of Papua New Guinea for interfering in union matters in that country. We are quite wrong to a.'low Australians to interfere with the internal affairs of Papua New Guinea. I believe that the Government of that country should make independent decisions regarding its airlines and its trade union relations with management and the like. If it asks us for advice, we should give it willingly and without charge. But until and unless the Government of Papua New Guinea reaches the point where it asks for that advice, we should let it tread its steps first to self-government and ultimately to independence in its own way.

I feel certain that there is in Australia a rising feeling of opinion that the present Australian Government is forcing independence on Papua New Guinea. There is a general uneasiness in Australia and most obviously in that country about the weakening of ties between the 2 countries. The uneasy feeling is held that the Australian Government is casting adrift its responsibilities with respect to Papua New Guinea. We are severing the umbilical cord between our 2 nations without any real reason for such action except that a Labor Government is now in power in Australia and people and governments throughout the world obviously are criticising that Labor Government for the continuing colonial trends or tendencies with respect to Papua New Guinea.

I know that Chief Minister Somare is suspicious of the Minister for External Territories even though he is a nice fellow. Mr Somare is suspicious of him because of some of the statements that he has made this year. The Minister is reported in the 'Age' of 3 April of this year as saying that:

Independence for Papua New Guinea would be little more than a tidying up exercise as independence flows on readily from self government.

This statement indicates not only to Australians but also to the people of Papua New Guinea that there is very little difference between self government and independence. But in fact we heard the previous Minister for External Territories, the honourable member for Kooyong, say that there were certain areas in Papua New Guinea that still . have not been tidied up. With the attainment of self-government in Papua New Guinea Australia will still look after defence and foreign affairs but there is the matter of internal security. The Chief Minister, Mr Somare, made a statement to the House of Assembly and the present Prime Minister quoted from it in a speech he made within the last 12 months. In a speech which he made on 9 May 1972 and which is reported in Hansard at page 2203 the Prime Minister, when talking about selfgovernment and independence for Papua New Guinea, said:

It is certain that the assumption of an increasing measure of responsibility will accelerate the desire and ability to accept total responsibility. In this sense it is true that the people of New Guinea will decide their own timetable for independence.

That is a straightforward statement. Those words were used last year by the Leader of the Opposition who is now the Prime Minister of Australia. In other words the people of Papua New Guinea would decide when they should reach independence, not the Minister or the Government in Australia. I have already quoted what the Minister for External Territories said on 3 April this year. He went on to say:

You will have deduced from what I have said that the Australian Government does not favour a long interval between self-government and independence, . . .

There is no mention in that statement of the Government of Papua New Guinea. There is only mention of the Australian Government. That statement is in contradistinction to what the Prime Minister said on 9 May last year. I ask the Minister for External Territories: What are we doing to this country in forcing it quickly into independence when obviously the people are not ready for it? There is no mention of Papua New Guinea in the statement made by the Minister and reported in the Age' of 3 April this year. There is only mention of what the Australian Government wants. I deduce from that that the Australian Government wants to get out of its responsibility as soon as possible. It wants to throw the Government of Papua New Guinea to the wolves. It wants to throw that Government on to the international arena as far as foreign affairs, defence, internal security and currency are concerned. I do not have any notes on currency but it is my belief, having been in New Guinea from 4 to 6 times in 14 years, that New Guinea uses the same currency as does Australia. What are we doing as far as currency in Papua New Guinea is concerned? We have revalued the Australian dollar twice since December last year.

Mr Edwards - Three times.

Mr WHITTORN - Three times, as the honourable member for Berowra has reminded me - because there was a devaluation of the United States dollar. In other words, on 3 occasions we have affected the purchasing power and selling ability of the people in Papua New Guinea. We have a currency that is highly sophisticated. Australia's currency is recognised throughout the world as a very solid currency. But how do our revaluations affect the spending power of the people in Papua New Guinea? How do they affect their ability to import goods which the people in that country so sorely need? We have done nothing about this. In fact when the decisions on revaluations were made I think, from memory, that 2 Ministers of the Government made the decision. Therefore they did not discuss this very vital problem with the people, the Ministers, or the Parliament of Papua New Guinea.

I believe that this Government ought to do much more than has been done in the past in discussing these problems with the Ministers and with the House of Assembly before decisions of these sorts are made. I said earlier and I repeat that I believe the present Government is being very selfish and self.opiniated about these decisions in saying that something will flow from them and it hopes it will be good. This is not the way to run our relations with Papua New Guinea which has depended on Australia for aid, assistance and guidance since the early post-war years. We all realise that the Chief Minister from Papua New Guinea came to Australia for discussions to be held from 16 to 18 January last. As a result, a joint statement was issued on 17 January which, in part, said:

.   . assured the Chief Minister that Australia would follow the timetable agreed upon by previous Australian governments for self government on 1 December 1973 or as soon as possible thereafter.

We cannot cavil at that because the decision was made by the previous Government. In other words, we entirely agree with it. However, the statement went on to say that Aus tralia would work towards independence early in 1974. No mention was made in the statement that Chief Minister Somare would agree with this. Finally, the statement indicated Mr Somare's lack of enthusiasm by stating:

During the discussions the Chief Minister emphasised that until Papua New Guinea had progressed further towards self government his Government would be reluctant to enter into any firm commitment on a date for independence.

As I have said, there was no enthusiasm, no agreement at all, on the part of Mr Somare. He wanted time to sort out the problems that he knew from his experience would result from self government coming to his country on 1 December next.

In fact, the Chief Minister wrote an article which appeared in the Melbourne 'Herald' on 12 March this year in which he said:

Independence is a word that, in a colony, should be a word of hope and promise.

How true that is. As far as Mr Somare, his Ministers, the Parliament and the people of Papua New Guinea are concerned, independence should be a word of hope and promise. The article goes on to say:

But to many in Papua New Guinea it is a dirty word. To us independence is a new word and that in itself is sufficient to worry about. They fear that all Australians will leave when independence comes, taking with them .their moneys, businesses and expertise.

Here is a man - the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea - imploring Australia not to throw them to the wolves, not to cast them aside, and we have done nothing about it since he wrote this article for the Melbourne Herald'. All we have done has been to say that independence must come early in 1974. There has been no discussion with the Government of Papua New Guinea in relation to the date of independence or in relation to the decision. Yet he, the Chief Minister, has all these problems and realises that Papua New Guinea could be in dire trouble unless Australia or some other country gives them guidance, aid and assurance.

I wonder whether that country will be Australia. I heard the honourable member for Kooyong say this morning that certain negotiations are taking place with Japan. It could be Japan that will provide Papua New Guinea with the aid and assurances that we as a country have given them in the past. I read quite recently - I think it was last week - that a company in Japan is setting up a shipbuilding yard at Madang. This could easily be the first step for any country in taking over the responsibilities that Australia accepted as a United Nations trust responsibility after the Second World War.

Many matters require decision and assistance by the Australian Government. I refer, for example, to internal security. The honourable member for Kooyong mentioned that this morning, but the matter was specifically excluded in the statement made by Chief Minister Somare to his Government in September last year. There is the matter of currency. Obviously, Australia is affecting the ability of Papua New Guinea to buy, sell and trade because we are making the decisions regarding currency. These things cannot be left in the melting pot. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) has a responsibility to himself, to his Government and certainly to the people of Australia to do a lot more about these matters than he has done hitherto.

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