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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator will not be given an opportunity to do so. He will continue with his speech.

Senator COHEN - I want to get on with what I intended to say. That is that the Currie Commission was specifically asked by the Government to recommend a timetable for higher education in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It is no good being hypocritical about this matter. Either the Government is serious about the question of higher education in the Territory or it is not. I want to quote from the terms of reference of the Commission as follows -

Any recommendations in respect of the establishment of new institutions in the Territory should be supported by proposals regarding the location of such institutions, a timetable for their establishment, proposals regarding the form of government of such institutions and estimates of cost.

All those things are covered in this admirable report by the Commission and one cannot get " boo " out of the Government; one cannot even get " No " out of the Government. What sort of conduct is this? A highly qualified commission of three was appointed comprising Sir George Currie, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, Dr. John Gunther, the Assistant Administrator, and Professor Spate, a distinguished professor from the National University. They were entrusted with a far reaching task. They were asked to make specific recommendations, not only about " what " but about " when " and " how much ". Then their report was ignored.

This Parliament is entitled to know what the Government intends to do in regard to this matter. It is no good the Minister making a speech outside Parliament to the effect that it is necessary to fit the matter into perspective. We want to know whether the Government intends to do something about these proposals for higher education in Papua and New Guinea or whether it does not. A timetable is specifically requested in the terms of reference. Now, what is going to be done about it? The year 1964 has almost gone. If the timetable or the proposals are to be scrapped, if they are to be ignored, and if they are to be rejected why are we not told so? Is it because the Government wants to go along quietly, hoping that its inactivity will remain unobserved? It surely cannot hope that that will be the position.

Every honorable senator realises that a university is not built overnight and that you do not get a sudden stream of students for it. Such a university could not hope to get a large intake of students in its early days; but unless the institution is set up then what stimulus is there to create interest in higher education? I think everybody who has been to the Territory will have been struck by the insistence of the leaders of the indigenous peoples that what they want as a first priority for the people in the Territory is education.

Now, we reach the stage at which, after a thorough investigation of the position, a good report is presented - a most impressive document which I think it would be uncharitable for anybody to suggest was not a document of the highest significance - and yet it does not appear to be receiving serious attention on its merits. Its consequences, and its implications seem to be being evaded. lt' the reason for the Government's hesitation is the substantial financial commitments involved then we should be told that that is so.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable senators time has expired.

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