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Thursday, 11 September 1958
Page: 1207

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- I should like to make a few remarks about the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and Norfolk Island, and also to refer to the matter of education in the Australian Capital Territory. A hundred years ago, this country was a colony of the United Kingdom, and the history of the relationship of many colonies with the United Kingdom is the history of objection to the fiscal policy of the Mother Country, to the mercantilized conception of conducting trade relations with the colony. Australia was one of the centres of protest at times early in her history. It seems to me that in relation to Norfolk Island, and Papua and New Guinea, we, as a colonial power, repeat many of the policies to which historical objection was taken by the people in the colonies long ago. The original reason for the annexation of these territories in the 1880's, and subsequently for the taking of German New Guinea in 1914, was the strategic convenience and security of this country. The colonial premiers, before federation, urged upon Britain the annexation of British New Guinea for strategic reasons, and therefore we have acquired in Papua and New Guinea a defensive position which is of enormous value to this country, as was shown during the Second World War.

It seems to me, therefore, to be quite reasonable that we do make a very heavy expenditure from the contributions of the Australian taxpayer on welfare in New Guinea. There has been an increase of about £1,000,000 this year in the vote of £12,000,000. But there seems to me to be some aspects of our relationship with these territories which are mean and petty. There was a time, for instance, when Norfolk Island had a flourishing fruit industry. We are very often reminded about how manufacturers lean to tariffs, but whenever there is a suggestion from our colonial territories that some of their primary products should come into the country, we get a very marked Country party tariff attitude. The fruit industry of Norfolk Island a good many years ago was completely ruined by the exclusion of its fruit from this country.

If we are to undertake responsibility for these territories, one of the aims of government surely ought to be the fostering of self-respect among their peoples. Selfrespect comes not merely from receiving grants from this country which may foster education or carry out necessary works in the territories; it also comes from a sense of paying their own way and having a viable economy. It seems to me that we ought to revise our entire attitude towards our trading with these colonies and make them part of the Australian fiscal area, if we are really to further the development and self-respect of the people who live in them.

The second thing that I think we ought to get rid of is the tax which has created a kind of crisis, upon which no comment will be made because it is sub judice - the poll tax in New Guinea. It seems to me to be an undignified tax, a mere per capita tax that has nothing to do with the prosperity or lack of prosperity of the person concerned. It is a tax which is redolent of all sorts of old colonial relations. You had very great difficulty in working out the position of the native people, so you counted heads, and on each poll you put a tax. It seems to me that we ought to take a look at that tax as we apply it in New Guinea, and see if there is some better method of raising revenue, if it is felt that a contribution should be made by the people on the spot to the expenses of immigration.

Mr Hasluck - This particular one was recommended by the Trusteeship Council.

Mr BEAZLEY - I am not sure whether that necessarily makes it wise. 1 do not think that the Government would regard many of the comments of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations on any subjects as being wise. Some of them portray all sorts of attitudes, which are really propagandist attitudes. The Trusteeship Council is not at all like the equivalent council for mandates under the League of Nations, which acquired some real colonial experience and a scientific and analytical approach to the problem. I feel that the Trusteeship Council is not a body which the Minister should quote as expressing the last word of wisdom on these subjects.

The question we ought to ask ourselves is whether as a form of tax the poll tax is fair. Prima facie, it seems to me not to be fair. I feel also that we ought to be sensitive about this tax in view of the old slogan, which I think is valid - " No taxation without representation ". I know that there is some sort of representation in the legislative councils in New Guinea, but we would not say that the natives are fully participating in governing themselves at the present time. On that basis I think we ought to be sensitive about the approach that we make to them in taxation matters.

I wish to make just one or two comments on the Australian Capital Territory. First, I should like to speak about the grant to the Canberra University College. I think it is time that we established in Canberra a university of Canberra. We have the Australian National University for the postgraduate students, but the elevation of the Canberra University College to the status of a full university, with all the faculties of an undergraduate university, would be immensely valuable, both for the Australian Capital Territory, which in some respects has a selected population, with probably a higher than average number of parents expecting to put their children through a university, and as a regional university for northern Victoria and southern New South Wales.

Secondly, I should like to speak about the grant of £1,872,000 envisaged for educational purposes in the Australian Capital Territory. I refer to Division No. 280, item 11, "Private schools - Reimbursement of interest on capital borrowed for construction and extension of school buildings, £15,000 ". I feel that the Government has been torn by two forces in this matter. It has desired to recognize the fact that it is transferring large numbers of people to the Australian Capital Territory, uprooting them from Melbourne and Sydney, and that -many «of them are civil servants who send their children to private schools for religious or other reasons. The Government ds transferring them to the Australian Capital Territory and creating a crisis in the private schools for parents who want to send their children to those schools.

So there is a kind of gesture of justice in this £15,00.0 to meet interest. But it is a sectarian nettle which the Government has, I think, hesitated to grasp firmly. I think we should say quite unashamedly that if the Commonwealth Government is creating in this Territory a problem for parents, it should itself help to overcome the school crisis which it has created in this Territory more generously than it is helping at the moment. At present I have my own children in the Australian Capital Territory, and they are going to a public school, the Forrest school. It is a new school which has a beautiful building and the facilities in it are a credit to the Government. I think that the Government has met pretty faithfully the position of parents whose children go to the public schools. But I think that the provision of £15,000 for private schools in this Territory which have become overcrowded as a result of Government policy in transferring departments here is not a very gerenous recognition of the contribution which those schools have been making.

I understand that the Government has come under a considerable amount of sectarian fire on this matter. I am not a Catholic, but I think it is a question of simple justice for any sort of private school in the Territory that if, in the cities from which people are coming, they have had the habit, through their own convictions, of sending their children to private schools, and a crisis has been created by the transferring of population, the Government, whose policy is to transfer the population, should be prepared to pay to overcome the crisis.

The last point I want to make concerns the establishment of the National Library.

The National Library, of which the Parliamentary Library is a part,, is custodian for the nation, to some very great treasures. The Nan Kivell collection of Australiana and many, other treasures are comparable with the collections possessed by the Mitchell Library in Sydney. Those treasures are very unsatisfactorily housed. They are scattered all over the Australian Capital Territory in all sorts of unsatisfactory sheds and other forms of accommodation. It is time that the Government accepted its responsibility as custodian of these national treasures and housed them in an adequate National Library building. A kind of igloo is being erected in Canberra for the Australian Academy of Science. I do not object to that. I understand that it is a private society with a considerable amount of Government backing; but of equal importance to this community is the safeguarding of the great collection of books, prints, "early colonial records, and early records of the Commonwealth of which the National Library is custodian. I think that we should be prepared to spend £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to build an adequate National Library, which could become a centre for research. As these facilities stand at present, it is extremely difficult for scholars to mobilize them, or for the public, which has at very great expense acquired them, ever to see them, except those portions that are sometimes put on exhibition in Parliament House, when the proper place for such exhibitions should be an adequate National Library.

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