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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1440

Mr MORRISON (St George) (Minister for External Territories) - in reply - I believe that it has been encouraging for all of us to see the sense of responsibility with which this House has approached what is in fact an historic act in providing for the self-government and eventual independence of the Australian colony of Papua New Guinea. One of my colleagues referred to my experience in the Australian Foreign Service for some 20 years. Those of us who have had such experience know that decolonisation in other parts of the world has been both depressing and disastrous. I think this flowed from the attitude of mind of colonial powers. Because of this reluctance Indo-China, Algeria and elsewhere throughout Africa were reluctant to give up their position as colonial powers. Because of this reluctance the colonies had to resort to armed conflict and subversion to gain what they considered their inherent right. The people of those colonies considered they had the right to make decisions affecting themselves in their own way. We members of the Australian Labor Party, mindful of this experience, decided not this year but several years ago that our policy would be to bring Papua New Guinea to self-government and independence not through conflict but by the colonial power saying: 'We believe that you have a right to make your decisions in your own way. We will assist you in achieving independence. We will not resist your movement to independence. We will provide all the facilities for you to gain self-government and independence'.

In 1970 the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), as Leader of the Opposition, went to Papua New Guinea. He went again in 1971 and as a newly elected member of this House I had the privilege of accompanying him. Those visits proved to be the watershed of the development we are witnessing today. We said then that Papua New Guinea was ready for self-government and that independence was not that far off. This was at a stage when the previous Government, although recognising under

United Nations pressure the possibility of selfgovernment and independence, treated it with no degree of urgency and provided no timetable for the achievement of either self-government or independence. In 1972 there was a change of portfolio - this was another watershed - when the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) became Minister for External Territories. At the same time there was a change of government in Papua New Guinea and Mr Michael Somare became the Chief Minister in a national coalition government. We had met Mr Michael Somare when he was in Opposition in Papua New Guinea and we were in Opposition in Australia. We talked to him about his hopes, his ambitions and his aspirations in 1971. He campaigned, as the leader of the Pangu Party, for self-government and eventual independence. What happened in 1972 was that the then Government had the presence of mind to accept the inevitability of that which we as the Labor Party in Opposition had put forward and that which the new Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea had put forward. What we are doing today is the logical extension of a process that started many years ago. The process has been followed in a steady, deliberate and determined way. I think that as Australians we can all be proud that we are bringing Papua New Guinea to independence not through conflict or violence but through constitutional procedures in this House and in the House of Assembly of Papua New Guinea.

Much of the debate on these Bills was very good humoured. There was, I suppose, an element of shadow-sparring on the part of the Opposition, for example, concerning the extent to which we should consult with, take notice of and act in conjunction with the Papua New Guinea Government. I reiterate that all steps taken to date and all steps planned for the future have been agreed between the Papua New Guinea Government and the Australian Government.

In the period that I have been Minister for External Territories there have been 4 substantial changes in the approved arrangements under sections 24 and 25 of the Papua New Guinea Act. Each of these changes has been at the request of and in consultation with the Government of Papua New Guinea. I have made frequent visits to Papua New Guinea. I will be visiting the country next week. That visit will be my ninth as Minister in the last 9 months. Discussions have been held not only with Government leaders and leaders of the coalition, party, but also with members of the Opposition, members of the Constitutional Planning Committee and town councillors throughout the length and breadth of Papua New Guinea. We have agreed in consultation with the Government of Papua New Guinea that there will be a 2 stage development in Papua New Guinea in which the opportunity would be given to the Constitutional Planning Committee and, through it, the House of Assembly for a home grown constitution. This should come to pass in April of next year.

Our policy is that the date for independence will be achieved in the closest consultation with the Government of Papua New Guinea. It will be subject to the endorsement of the House of Assembly /as representing the view of the people of Papua New Guinea. I wish to place on record the resolution of the United Nations Committee of Twenty-four, which was agreed to unanimously on 21 August 1973. The Committee had this to say:

The Special Committee notes with satisfaction that Papua New Guinea is making steady progress towards the achievement of the goals proclaimed in resolution 1514 (XV) and that progressive steps to this end are being taken by the administering Power.

It went on to say:

The Special Committee endorses the view that the House of Assembly, as the duly elected representatives of the people of Papua New Guinea, in consultation with the administering Power, should decide the date for the attainment of independence of the Territory in the light of General Assembly resolution 2977 (XXVII) of 14 December 1972. Pursuant to that resolution, the Special Committee calls upon the administering Power, in consultation with the Government of Papua New Guinea, to prepare a timetable for independence.

Perhaps I might recall the words of a former Leader of the Party which is now in Opposition. I speak of Sir Robert Menzies who, back in I960, I think, made the observation that if there is to be independence for Papua New Guinea it is better sooner rather than later. I agree wholeheartedly with that view of a politician whom we all respect.

The accusation has been made, somewhat lightly, I suppose, as there was not a great deal of sincerity in the viewpoint put by various speakers, that we are rushing into independence and that we are not providing sufficient opportunities and facilities for Papua New Guinea to play its part. It has been our policy, it is our policy and it will continue to be our policy to give Papua New Guinea an international identity not only before independence but also before self government.

We as a Government have sponsored membership by Papua New Guinea of such international organisations as the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, the Asian Development Bank, the World Health Organisation, the South Pacific Commission and the International Labour Organisation. The Chief Minister, Mr Somare - and we have encouraged him in this - has paid formal visits to Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and New Zealand. In each country he has been accepted as the elected leader of an emerging nation. We have sought to encourage other countries to take an interest in Papua New Guinea. Indonesia has recently established a consulate in Port Moresby; the United Kingdom has done likewise. Other countries such as New Zealand, Germany and Japan are discussing with Papua New Guinea the establishment of representation in Papua New Guinea ahead of independence. We have established also in the last few months a Ministry of Foreign Relations and Defence.

We have accepted the most urgent need for Papua New Guinea to enter nationhood in a harmonious relationship with its neighbour, Indonesia. I might recall that a Committee of this House in the previous Parliament - the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs through its Sub-Committee on Australia's Relations with Indonesia - recorded in its report the importance of this close relationship being developed between Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. We said in that report:

In the determination of the boundary between West Irian and Papua New Guinea and in the negotiations on a border regime, the Committee recognises the importance of the active participation of the representatives of the Government of Papua New Guinea. Australia's role in resolving these two matters is to ensure that relations between Indonesia and the new state of Papua New Guinea are established on a firm and harmonious basis and that Australia in discharging its responsibilities maintains the respect of and cordial relations with both countries.

Nothing was done by the previous Government to implement those recommendations. But, on assuming responsibility for this portfolio, I immediately put arrangements in hand and the border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia has now been delineated. The Chief Minister, Mr Michael Somare, visited Indonesia and initialled that agreement. Discussions are taking place this very day in Djakarta on the border arrangements between Papua New Guinea and West Irian.

Throughout the whole range of our activities, we have been planning not just for self- government but for independence. The Prime Minister announced last week the establishment of a Commonwealth aid agency known as the Australian Development Assistance Agency. One of the primary responsibilities and tasks of this aid agency will be continuing assistance to Papua New Guinea. We have accepted the special relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea. We have expressed our viewpoint that the aid should be over a 3 year period of the improvement program to commence 1974-75. By this commitment to a timetable for assistance, Papua New Guinea will be in a better position to plan its own development. We have stated also that Papua New Guinea will have first call on Australia's foreign aid. We accept the responsibility to ensure that Papua New Guinea is in a position to develop for the good of its own people in the way that the elected representatives of the people of Papua New Guinea, and not of Australia, should so decide.

Several references were made in the course of the debate to defence. This is one of the reserve powers which distinguishes a self governing country from an independent country. We have made it very clear that, in this period, we will operate in the closest consultation with Papua New Guinea. It was for one of these reasons that the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Defence was established. I might point out to honourable gentlemen opposite that it was because of their complete neglect and their complete incompetence that the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) and I have had to put a great deal of effort into ensuring a sensible program in the defence relationships between Australia and Papua New Guinea in the future. In a recent article, Professor J. D. B. Miller of the Australian National University said:

Australia has been gravely at fault in delaying so long a separation of the armed forces in Papua New Guinea from those of Australia.

He went on to say that frantic efforts were now being made to separate the 2 armed forces but it was proving to be more difficult than it would have been even a few years ago. But we still accept the responsibility. It was a responsibility that should have been accepted by honourable gentlemen opposite when they had the opportunity to do something about it. But we have moved quickly and one of the first acts of the Government, in January, within a month of taking over power, was to redesignate what used to be called the 'PIR', the Pacific Islands Regiment.

We called it the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. As my colleague, the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, said on that occasion:

This re-designation parade is an important and historic occasion in the development of the armed forces of Papua New Guinea and of the identification of the forces within the country.

We have had these discussions with Papua New Guinea through the Minister for Defence as a result of his visit there within the first month - in January - of assuming office. In these discussions with the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea it was agreed that consultations on defence matters would commence in March between officials of the Papua New Guinea Government and the Australian Government. We have made it our firm view - our firm conviction: - that the ultimate decision concerning Papua New Guinea's defence capability, its structure and role will rest with the Papua New Guinea Government. Our role in these consultations has been to advise and to assist in the decision making processes and to bring to the attention of the Papua New Guinea authorities all factors relevant to the formulation of a suitable defence policy for an .independent Papua New Guinea. So all the questions of organisation, role, size, localisation and training of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force is now a matter for close and continuing consultation with the Papua New Guinea Government.

In fact in May 1973 the Papua New Guinea Government issued policy guidelines in proceeding with the defence arrangements after the achievment of independence. The Minister for Defence has been in close consultation with the Papua New Guinea Government and we are convinced that this is the right way to proceed because the nature of the Defence Force for Papua New Guinea is primarily a matter for the Papua New Guinea Government itself to decide. So what we have had to do in 9 months was due to the neglect and incompetence of the previous Government in this very important area.

There is one other point I wanted to mention. It relates to the ministerial arrangements after 1 December 1973 as this is all part of the forward planning to ensure the smooth transfer from self-government through to independence and independence and beyond. I believe these ministerial arrangements are a measure of the degree of forward planning for which this Government has been responsible in the approach to this very important matter of the independence of Papua New Guinea. (Exten- sion of time granted) I thank the House for its courtesy. In this period between selfgovernment and independence there will be a Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in regard to matters affecting Papua New Guinea. As of 1 December this year the office of the Minister for External Territories will go out of existence. The Department and the Minister for Foreign Affairs will assume the responsibility for Australia's relations with Papua New Guinea. Because of the importance that we attach to the smooth transfer, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in regard to Papua New Guinea matters will be given the responsibility for coordinating all the matters relating to Papua New Guinea. Other Ministers who have statutory responsibility in Papua New Guinea, such as the Minister for Defence, have been asked by the Prime Minister to consult with the Minister Assisting in discharging their own responsibilities so as to ensure adequate coordination. The Minister Assisting, in consultation with other Ministers who have a responsibility for particular subjects involved, will co-ordinate the negotiation of such agreements between Australia and Papua New Guinea as may be needed between now and independence. The Minister Assisting will also coordinate the activities of the relevant Australian departments in regard to the final stages of the handing over of powers to the Papua New Guinea Government and the final steps to independence.

Although the main workload for specific functions will fall on relevant departments and the Australian Development Assistance Agency, the Minister Assisting will have a small unit to assist him in the interim period to independence. This will be known as the Papua New Guinea Office. It will be staffed by officers with experience in Papua New Guinea affairs now serving with the Department of External Territories. It will depend on the Department of Foreign Affairs for administrative support but will not be a part of the divisional structure of that Department. The head of the Papua New Guinea Office, who will serve the Minister Assisting, will chair the standing interdepartmental committee on Papua New Guinea. The High Commissioner in Papua New Guinea will be appointed as at 1 December 1973 to take the place of the office of the present Administrator and during the self-government period he will be responsible to the Minister Assisting for all the matters undertaken by the Minister.

This concludes the debate on the Bills before the House. As I pointed out in my second reading speech, these are historic Bills but I believe that with the co-operation of all groups within Australia, with the continuing cooperation of the Government, the House of Assembly and the people of Papua New Guinea we can bring about an orderly transfer of authority from a colonial power to its former colony. I believe that if this process is achieved we will all be able to say that this has been a job well done.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills together read a second time.

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