Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 24 February 1959

Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) . - I am flattered by the batting order in this debate, but I do not like the look of the sticky wicket. I have only twenty minutes in which to bat so if I have to travel fast, honorable members will understand. I think that most people realize that I have views rather different from those of the Government on this matter, but I say at the outset, with respect to any member of this Parliament or to anybody in Australia or outside Australia, that my views have malice towards none and friendship towards everybody. We all want to be on most friendly terms particularly with our next-door neighbours, as Dr. Subandrio said. We fully agree with him. In 1955, I travelled in Indonesia, as a Minister of this Parliament, from Medan in the west to Sourabaya in the east, which, I think was over a larger tract of territory than has ever been covered by any other member of this Parliament. If I am wrong in making that claim, I apologize. I met with a very friendly reception, which I have good reason to remember.

But unlike Dr. Subandrio, I do not draw any distinction or dividing line between East and West in the world of to-day. I am proud of my racial heritage; I am proud of my family traditions, and I am proud to be an Asian. Our geographical location makes Asians of us all in Australia. Therefore, I advocated very ardently at the time that we should have been represented at the first Afro-Asian conference at Bandung in 1955; and I think we made a mistake in not having a representative there.

I introduce my remarks in this way because I do not want to be misunderstood. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the last Parliament spent a great deal of time on this problem and I am sure that all Ministers have read the results of its research work and have, I hope, found the material useful. Since most of that material was confidential I had a summary made of some of the facts of this problem as far back as eighteen months ago dealing with the ethnological, geological and historical and other factors involved and copies of it are available in my office should any honorable member care to see it. This is a very difficult and complex problem.

I turn now to the main point at issue. The statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to-day in some ways cleared up matters which were previously surrounded by a fog of misunderstanding. But only in some ways. The right honorable gentleman did not do himself justice in referring to " ill-founded and ill-considered criticism and intemperate forebodings ". These atomic adjectives do not deleteriously affect the marrow of my backbone in any way, and I do not think they will affect other people who may happen to disagree with the views which have been put forward.

I think the criticism has been fully justified by this debate to-day which is in accordance with the practice of the House of Commons; and I hope that it will provide a precedent for future debates on foreign affairs. These are matters of interest to the public, and I am only sorry that this debate cannot be extended over a whole day.

Further proof that the criticism was not ill-founded or ill-considered is provided in the Prime Minister's interpretation of the joint communique to the effect that we are interested in any agreement and expect to be considered. In other words, the original communique does not actually mean what it says. If it is claimed that it does mean what it says, then I do not understand English; and I have read that best seller, " They're a Weird Mob ". If it does mean what the Prime Minister said and it is still held that there is no change of policy, then I feel that many people will still be a little mystified. But it does not matter how we interpret the communique here. What matters is how it is interpreted abroad, particularly in the light of the statement made by a former Indonesian ambassador to this country, that the Communist vote in Indonesia had increased largely because the Communists had jumped on the West Irian bandwagon. It is obvious that the Communists will use this communique in every possible way for propaganda purposes, and we know that they are excellent propagandists.

All honorable members feel that the Government's intentions are excellent, but I am reminded of the old proverb to the effect that the road to a very unpleasant place is paved with good intentions. This is what I am frightened about in this particular matter. I cannot understand the wording of the communique as it stands, although it is better in the light of the Prime Minister's interpretation of it, because I feel that it gives the green light for increased and intolerable pressures on Holland and, in plain English, commits Australia to raising no objection to the transfer of sovereignty of land. If there is no change of policy, as the Prime Minister suggested, then I feel that the interpretation of this communique means that neither certain Ministers nor our representatives in the United Nations really understood what our policy was in the past. I shall quote an extract from a speech made by Sir Percy Spender at the meeting of the United Nations on 25th February, 1957. He is recognized as an eminent expert on international law, but what is important is that he was speaking as the Australian representative. He said -

It is well to speak about sovereignty, but sovereignty, as we need not be reminded, is not a matter of bare territorial claims. What we are dealing with here are people. What we are asked to do is to hand over nearly a million people like so many dumb, driven cattle. On other occasions I have listened at length to the representative of Indonesia speak in glowing and arresting terms of the important human principle of selfdetermination. But I have listened in vain to find any reference to this principle in the speech which my Indonesian colleague made on this matter except, if he will forgive me for saying so, the absurd contention that in 1945 the people of West New Guinea already had determined their political desires through the Declaration of Independence of 1945, a Declaration with which they were in no sense associated and which, as has been pointed out by the Netherlands representative, never attempted to cover them.

As a matter of fact, I understand it expressly excluded them and was signed by President Soekarno and Vice-president Hatta. I have not the time to quote much more of Sir Percy Spender's speech, but there are two further extracts. I quote first-

That their political destiny as a people, i.e., the Melanesians, may in vital respects be completely and finally compromised and foreclosed if such an unhappy event took place (transfer of sovereignty), under the authority express or implied of this great Organization, by support given to the Indonesian claim - absolute and unyielding as it is - I do not think any one here could deny.

Secondly, let me quote this passage -

The terms of the United Nations Charter dealing with dependent people point the way and nothing we do or are urged by Indonesia to be induced to do should, I submit, turn us from that way. Both the Netherlands and my own country acknowledge without reservations our obligations to these people, and the United Nations itself has in relation to them and to our obligations a constructive part to perform. I can only hope that no irrelevant considerations will lead us to make a mockery of the Charter and all it stands for by our lending ourselves to give any support - either directly or by encouraging what are so speciously called in this case peaceful means - to the transfer immediately or ultimately of these Papuan people, without their will ever being able to be expressed, from the dominion of one country to another.

It appears to me that either Sir Percy Spender did not know our policy, or we must have told him that he was all wrong. That is exhibit " A " which I present to this parliamentary court.

I now take exhibit " B ". No change of policy not only makes a mockery of Sir Percy Spender's speech, but I think it makes nonsense of Sir Philip McBride's statement, when he issued the combined communique with The Hague on 6th November, 1957, which was referred to by the Prime Minister. It also makes nonsense of the amplification of this given later in the United Nations organization by the Australian delegate. In that statement one finds the words " inalienable rights of the indigenous people ", as well as the last paragraph - which I shall not repeat - as it was read by the Prime Minister.

Let me now take exhibit " C ", the Charter itself. I refer to Article 73, of which the Leader of the Opposition read paragraph (e). At the beginning of Article 73 we find these words: -

And accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost within the system pf international peace and security establish-ad by the present Charter the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories.

Holland has voluntarily accepted what amounts to a trusteeship over this area. We hold our trusteeship by agreement. Exhibit " D " is a report of the Netherlands Government for 1955 - I could not get a later one - presented to the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations pursuant to Article 73(e) of the Charter.

I must agree, therefore, with the Leader of the Opposition in this case - I very rarely do agree with the right honorable gentleman - that the position has changed since 1949 and that the Dutch have voluntarily accepted what in effect amounts to a trusteeship. The position has changed considerably since 1949, when they had not issued a report to the United Nations, and we had not undertaken combined " sacred obligations ", as the charter says in the passage that I have just read. We cannot, therefore, look on the question of sovereignty as being purely a matter of territories. We cannot treat this matter as we would a real estate deal being decided in a county court, and argue it on the basis of the evidence of one witness, when we have not vacant possession of the piece of real estate about which we are arguing.

Another point to which I direct the attention of the House is this: If there has been no change, then the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has been out of step with his colleagues - and that is the most classic British understatement in all history- Let me refer honorable members to two memorial lectures, exhibit " E ", delivered by the Minister in Perth and Sydney in 1956, and to his reiterated public statements that we are trying to develop New Guinea as one country with one common language. It is obvious either that the policy has changed or that certain Ministers do not understand it. I hope the Minister for Territories will take part in this debate, because it is a matter very close to his department.

Finally, I feel that the professorial board of the Michigan State University, which conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), must wonder whether their ears deceived them when he delivered a lecture on Australia and its foreign policy. What he said in this connexion appears at pages 13 and 14, exhibit "F", but honorable members will have to read it for themselves, because in the twenty minutes allotted to me I have not time to quote it. That lecture was delivered in October, 1958, and I am sorry that I have not time to read it.

From all these exhibits I think it is obvious that here we have two nations, Holland and Australia, which have accepted these sacred obligations to work together for the good of these indigenous peoples who number approximately 2,000,000. which is equal to the number there were in Java when the Dutch first went there. How can we agree on a real estate deal under which we say, even hypothetically, that we will not object to certain things being done in the future, without causing permanent damage not only to our own reputation but also to those with whom we have agreed, namely, the Dutch? We cannot do this without causing permanent damage to our integrity and all other moral issues.

In case I am questioned regarding my statement about a real estate deal, I would like to direct the attention of honorable members to Dr. Subandrio's press statement made in Britain, when he was asked about the question of the nationalization of Dme! - assets and industry. I have to thank th Indonesian Embassy for this document, exhibit " G ", which came to me last week. He said at the interview when questioned -

After all, Indonesia, from '50 to '56 or '57 has never touched or nationalized or expropriated one foreign enterprise. It is only due to circumstances that we have had to do it and we regret being forced to do it.

Did we discuss what those circumstances were? It has been often said that they were the means of bringing pressure to bear to bring about the real estate deal. Why did we discuss only the Dutch compensation? After all, the assets of the Nationalist Chinese have been treated in the same way, and now the same process is commencing with British estates - and I hope my friends in Indonesia will be able to prevent such things happening. If they do, I believe it will greatly assist in the development of Indonesia, which the people of that country naturally desire to foster, as do we all. I was against the real estate deal that the British Labour Government was considering with regard to Formosa, and for the same reasons.

Let me now discuss the question of security. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and 1 do not think that West New Guinea is vital from the point of view of security in a hot war. But I would not give it away simply for that reason. I know that our Sabre aircraft cannot fly to and from Malaya without stopping at Biak to refuel, but I understand that an alternative route, although not a very satisfactory one, will be available at the end of this year, via Cocos Island and Learmonth.

When we come to the question of the cold war, let me refer to a statement of His Excellency, Mr. Tirtawinata. I am sorry that 1 am not as expert in the Malay language as our friend Dr. Subandrio is with English. His Excellency said that he felt that if Indonesia got West New Guinea it would have plenty of room for the expansion of its own population. Then we had Dr. Subandrio saying, or inferring, that if certain things did not happen other Asian countries would want to decant some of their surplus population. I realize that it is very difficult to make oneself perfectly clear in a language that is not one's own language, and therefore I trust that we have misunderstood both of these gentlemen, and that the misunderstanding will be cleared up. If there is no misunderstanding, West New Guinea is important strategically in the cold war.

In effect, I feel that our policy has changed. We have been too hazy in the past in our long-term policy, and we have felt that time would solve our problems. But it is later than we think in this part of the world. We try to sit on the fence and we suddenly find that the top strand is of barbed wire. It perforates a very sensitive part of our anatomy and we wriggle and try to get off the barb. Why have no Australian Ministers visited Formosa? Why have they not visited West New Guinea, except for the Minister for Territories' two visits to Hollandia - and I do not define a slop at Biak for refuelling as a visit. 1 Relieve we must show more courage, lest we be accused of cowardice or cunning, and we experience more Yaltas and Potsdams We have had quite enough of them.

I cannot agree that we are carrying out our international obligation by tacitly selling in advance any Melanesian birthright for either an Australian, Dutch or Indonesian mess of trade potage. I feel that the question of sovereignty is not confined to territory alone. You have a combined trusteeship, in effect, working in New Guinea, and as this situation has been accepted, then I suggest that any alteration should be considered and pronounced upon by the United Nations. One solution might be a wider combined trusteeship including Indonesia. We might not like that decision either, but it cannot be just a question of sovereignty of the territory. If country A is going to give country C to country B under the conditions that exist in West lew Guinea to-day, and the United Nations do not object, I feel that the United Nations Charter becomes another ideal that has gone with the wind - the cold and bitter wind of human greed and man's inhumanity to man.

Suggest corrections