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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1436

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - I would like to make it clear that these Bills are part of a consistent policy by both the former Government and the present Government in the move towards complete independence by Papua New Guinea. The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) seemed to indicate - I think he even said this - that we were in danger of pushing Papua New Guinea into an international void. I do not believe that this will happen. One of the things that give me a great deal of hope in this regard is that earlier this year I was privileged to take part in the first all-party parliamentary delegation to visit Papua New Guinea. I am well aware that many members of this House have paid many visits to Papua New Guinea and know a great deal more about it than I do; but I think it was important that the Australian Parliament was represented in this way as Papua New Guinea approaches very shortly self-government and finally independence. I was very impressed by the way in which this delegation, representing all political parties in this House, approached the task which had been entrusted to it. I certainly learned a great deal not only from those members of the delegation on my side of the House but also from members on the other side of the House representing their particular party, and for this I express my gratitude.

I do not believe that we will force Papua New Guinea to do anything that it does not wish to do. I recognise that in the highlands and in other parts of Papua New Guinea there is a feeling among many people that we could be moving too quickly; but this is understandable when we consider that many of the people in the highlands of Papua New Guinea were living literally in the Stone Age at the time of the Second World War. The advances which they have made and the advances which have been made possible by Australian administration over a period of time, I believe, stand to the credit of all concerned. Independence will come to Papua New Guinea when the people of Papua New Guinea decide that it is time for them to have it

The principal Bill in this series of Bills merely sets out that the time for formal selfgovernment will be 1 December. As the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) said in this second reading speech, to all intents and purposes self-government exists now. The Ministers in Papua New Guinea who will be charged with making the decisions in governing their country make those decisions now. The principal Bill is a symbolic Bill; it is an historic Bill. The Territory has the sort of self-government which I think we want to see it have. I was impressed by both the political leaders and the administrative leaders whom I met when we visited Papua New Guinea. They arc first class. I believe that they will do the job which will be theirs, if not now then in the future. I recognise that there is still a long way to go, and in this regard Australia bears a heavy responsibility. We will need to assist with the development. I do not think we will sever the umbilical cord that ties us together. We will still need to give Papua New Guinea both the intellectual and financial nourishment it requires.

I was impressed when we visited Mount Panguna, site of the copper mine on Bougainville, to see the effort that had been put into establishing technical education. The facilities that have been provided by the company are first class. Sometimes we are bound to criticise the fact that large corporations come into this country and other countries, but I think that we should balance it by saying that in many cases they do good things. I believe that this is one of the good things that Bougainville Copper has done on Bougainville. I understand that shortly 82 per cent of the persons employed in what is a fairly technical operation will be indigenous people. We cannot give up our responsibility to provide the necessary finance to Papua New Guinea. This is a continuing obligation upon us.

I would like to mention briefly the local government situation and the feelings of trepidation that we , noted about the approach of independence. The structure of the local government council is very well developed. I think the people there were impressed by the fact that an all party delegation from this Parliament could express very similar views that, no matter what government was in power in Australia, it would continue to support them. This is an obligation that has been undertaken by all parties in this Parliament. I am quite sure that given that sort of assistance and assurances the move both to self-government and to independence will be a relatively smooth one. We should do everything within our power to see that extreme nationalist movements are not given the food they could feed on eventually to undermine the stability of the country. I think it is the right, and I uphold the right of anyone, to express strong opinions in government but I hope that these strong opinions are expressed in such a way as to lead towards the unification of the country and not to emphasise the separateness which is also evident to many people. This Parliament has a great responsibility in this matter. The way in which the Bills that come before this House are discussed will have an influence on the way in which the people of Papua New Guinea approach the tasks which lie before them. In the structure of local government there is a firm foundation upon which to build. Soon Papua New Guinea will achieve independence. I hope that when it occurs it will receive the help and support of Australia. Papua New Guinea will have to work out its own destiny but it is up to us to see that the path is smooth.

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