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


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- There is a world of difference between the attitude of the Opposition and that of the Government on the future of West New Guinea. We have just listened to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) put a point of view which conflicts with that of the Government. He quoted

Sir PercySpender, our former Ambassador to Washington and the Government spokesman at the United Nations in 1957, whose views then are entirely different from those put to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). But Sir Percy Spender did not speak only once on this question. I shall quote from " Current Notes on International Affairs ", as did the honorable member for Chisholm. The issue for January, 1955, contains extracts from a statement made by Sir Percy Spender in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, Ninth Session, on 24th November, 1954. He said -

At the outset I would wish to say that the Australian Government regards with deep regret the inclusion of this item on our agenda.

He was referring to Dutch New Guinea. He then went on -

The Australian people without any division are confirmed in the view -

First that the Indonesian Republic has no claim whatever to West New Guinea.

Second that the indigenous people of West New Guinea must not be allowed to be handed over to any nation - whether it be Indonesia or any other nation - but that within the terms and the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, they shall be permitted to determine their own ultimate destiny.

Nothing will shake us from this view.

That was our view then, and it still is, but the Government has run away from it to-day. Of course, if honorable members opposite claim that they have not run away from it, words mean nothing. In his statement to-day, the Prime Minister said -

But should Indonesia and the Netherlands come to some agreement in the future about sovereignty, we will recognize and respect it . . .

That means that the Government will let Indonesia blackmail Holland into surrendering control over West New Guinea, and will say nothing about it if the blackmail succeeds. Yet five years ago the Australian Ambassador, speaking in the name of his Government - this Government - said that nothing would shake them from the view that Indonesia would never have its claims for control of this territory recognized. There is a complete change of view, and it is for the Government to explain why it has changed its view.

The Prime Minister's speech was full of excellent sentiments. It contained many noble thoughts. He offered friendship, and of course we agree with him in all that he said about the desirability of Australia's living peacefully in this area of the world in which we share a common fate with the Indonesians. We have no hostility with the Indonesian people; we wish them happiness and success. In a well-deserved tribute recently, Dr. Subandrio described the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) as the midwife of the new Indonesian nation. But at the time that the Australian Government, in which the right honorable gentleman was Minister for External Affairs, was attending the birth of the Indonesian nation, members of the present Government were attacking us and accusing us of being pro-Communist and of wanting to harm and weaken the Dutch people. We believe in the right of self-determination for all peoples. We believe in the right of the Indonesian people to self-determination. And we believe in the right of the 700,000 native peoples of Dutch New Guinea to self-determination.

There is a vast difference between Indonesia and Dutch New Guinea. Historically, ethnically, religiously and culturally, as well as geographically, they are different entities. Scientists have drawn what they call the Wallace line, which shows that there is no relationship even in the matter of trees, fishes and birds between Indonesia and the whole island of New Guinea. In the talks that the Leader of the Opposition and I had with Dr. Subandrio, we put the point of view that the Leader of the Opposition put in his policy speech at the last election. We will not recognize the right of Indonesia to Dutch New Guinea and we do not believe that the Dutch have any right to hand the country over to Indonesia anyhow. Merauke was a main point in the defence of Australia in the last war. If it was important in 1941, despite the opinions of some of the amateur strategists who have been offering their views lately, it could be just as vital in 1959.

We told the representatives of Indonesia, in friendly fashion but quite frankly and bluntly, that they have enough to do to look after the 3,000 islands that constitute the area of the Indonesian Republic - enough not only for to-day and to-morrow but for the next 50 years. We want to see the whole island of Papua and New Guinea, as we put it, developed so that ultimately when the people there have been raised to that degree of development and civilization where they can determine their own future, they will say whether they want to be an independent republic or to be included in the British Commonwealth or to go with Indonesia and form a new Melanesian federation, or do anything else that they want. But the decision is for them alone to make. We are opposed to the proposals that have been made by this Government which mean that it can wash its hands of the whole problem, provided that Indonesia and Holland come to agreement in respect of the future of this disputed territory. Pontius Pilate has a lot of descendants around the world; they crop up in every country and in every age. There is a crop of them revealing themselves in Australia to-day in respect of this proposal that the problem of West New Guinea has nothing to do with Australia, provided the Indonesians can blackmail the Dutch into getting out of New Guinea. We will have none of that!

As I said, the Leader of the Opposition dealt with this matter in our policy speech. We repeat that we have not changed our view at any time. The Leader of the Opposition said then -

In relation to the problem of New Guinea, Labour believes that a solution in the interest of the peoples of the island and in the security interests of Indonesia and Australia could be evolved and agreed upon by discussion and negotiation. As we see it at present, we must contemplate the possibility of eventual administration of the whole island of New Guinea as one unit under the supervision provided for by the Trusteeship Council together wilh some administering authority.

In that same policy speech, delivered on 15th October, 1958, and not answered by the Government, the Leader of the Opposition posed this question -

In what way does the policy of the Labour party differ from that of the present Government? Fundamentally, it differs because we in the Labour party have always accepted the equal rights, the equal humanity under God of all human beings. We believe that it is our duty to assist the peoples of New Guinea to achieve prosperity and selfdetermination through their own energies and their own talents.

Then he went on to say -

If the Netherlands abandoned Dutch New Guinea the case for Australian administration of the whole island would be just as strong if not stronger. We seek friendship with the Indonesian people and the Labour party policy favours the establishment of a regional pact between Australia, Indonesia and Holland for the security and development of the future of New Guinea.

We offer a treaty of security, defence and welfare. What does this Government offer? A treaty of friendship and culture! Can anybody define what " friendship " and " culture " mean? If we are friendly with the Indonesian people, do we need a treaty of friendship? And what is the cultural development that is to take place after we have a treaty? Is it merely the exchange of scientists and university professors, and the like, or is there to be something else more real and worth while?

Sir, weknow how emotionally the Indonesians have been stirred in this matter. But we know also that Sir Percy Spender spoke for Australia in 1954, and I quote his words again -

And from the last war, when Japanese aggression swept swiftly like a plague over the part of the world in which we and Indonesia live - we learned through blood and heavy sacrifice that the security and future of New Guinea was not unconnected with our own security and future.

We still say that, and it is not for the Dutch, even if they wanted to do it, to evacuate that territory and allow the Indonesians to move in. Sir Percy Spender continued -

It is difficult but important to bring home the intensity of Australian feeling aroused when the security and future of New Guinea are brought into question. Emotion is no substitute for logic and we rest secure in our belief that it is demonstrably obvious there is no logic or validity in the Indonesian claim to Western New Guinea.

But it is well to try to convey something of the emotions which make Australians so sensitive about the future of New Guinea for we want the world to know them.

First of all, there are the sacred trusts which Australia has assumed on behalf of the indigenous peoples under the Australian flag - peoples precisely similar to those which Indonesia now asks should be handed over to them - people whose friendship and gratitude found such loyal expression in the war against Japan. Then there is grateful remembrance of the supreme sacrifice made by some of our finest young men in the costly struggle for this vast island. And finally, there remains the bitter lesson taught by the Japanese that New Guinea will forever be a potential invasion springboard to Australia.

Sir PercySpender said that, and it still remains the fact. Can it be wondered at that the Australian people feel so annoyed and so outraged at the Government's decision to sell out on this issue under some sort of pressure? And the pressure has been on for some time. We had a visit to Australia a few months ago by Mr. Kingsley Martin, of the London " New Statesman ".


Mr Killen - A weak authority.


Mr CALWELL - He was a sufficient authority to be able to say that a compromise in New Guinea could be arrived at. The "Sunday Times", of Perth, on 1st February, reported -

A compromise on Dutch New Guinea that would satisfy both Australia and Indonesia is foreshadowed by Kingsley Martin, editor of the independent British review, the New Statesman.

The communique on this issue, which is now becoming notorious as the CaseySubandrio statement, was not the product of a few talks in the Cabinet room. It looks as if there was some pressure put on by England and the United States of America. They have their problems in Europe as they are face to face with the Russian threat. And they still have in 1959 the same mentality that they had in 1939. In 1939, their attitude was, " Beat Hitler first". In 1959, their attitude is, "Beat Khrushchev first ". They are not concerned with the future of the Commonwealth in these areas. We are still expendable in the future, in the view of Washington and some sections of Whitehall, as we were expendable in 1939, and Indonesia, in return for a promise of a declaration of neutrality, has been led to believe that she can expect to be given Dutch New Guinea. Two days after the Minister for External Affairs had issued his statement, we found the Australian press reporting that BrigadierGeneral Mustopo, chairman of the West Irian (New Guinea) Liberation Front, in Indonesia, had said that Indonesia could expect to have West New Guinea handed over by August at the latest. About the same time, encouraged by what this Government is doing over West New Guinea, Mr. Kishi, the Prime Minister of Japan, said that a plan to develop New Guinea with Japanese technicians and man-power deserved serious consideration.

The Government having given way in relation to one part of New Guinea, is going to find itself pressed to hand over the other part or reach an agreement with the Japanese or somebody else that will enable the Japanese to come into this other area of

New Guinea. After all, it would be a logical thing for the Government to do, because, once West New Guinea is handed over to the Indonesians - now, to-morrow, or at some other time in the future - inevitably, the Indonesians will flood that country with their people and the local people will be dispossessed, after which it will not be long before they are crowding in on the rest of New Guinea. Even if we were prepared to trust Dr. Soekarno, Dr. Subandrio and the others who are in power in Indonesia to-day, could we trust another Indonesian government, if the Communist party were to come to power in Indonesia? If that were to happen, of course, our plight would be grave indeed.


Mr Haylen - What about the Japanese?


Mr CALWELL - If Indonesia took over West New Guinea, there would be nothing to prevent the Indonesians from allowing the Japanese or some other people - Chinese Communists or some other potential enemy of this country - to flood in and become a menace to the future security of the people of Australia as well as all other peoples of South-East and South-West Asia.

Sir, onthat ground, this Government has kt Australia down. The charge that it has sold the nation out is well founded and well justified. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia and other responsible bodies with big memberships have spoken out clearly and unequivocally, and all that the Government can call to its support is a few press editorials that really do not represent the opinions of anybody except the Government's press backers.

We take our stand on two points, Sir. The security of Australia and its future defence require that the present arrangement be scrapped. The security of the New Guinea people themselves, and their future right to self-determination - about which the Prime Minister uttered a lot of platitudes - demand that the agreement be scrapped. I am sure that everything that the Leader of the Opposition has said expresses the view of every member of the Australian Labour party, and I think I express what the Labour party feels about the matter when I say that the Labour party will never weaken or abandon its stand on two main principles - first, that the main tenance of the present position in Dutch New Guinea is essential to the security and defence of Australia, and, secondly that the indigenous people of Dutch New Guinea have the right - the inalienable right - of self-determination and are not to be the subject of a trade deal between an old colonial power and a new one as if they were just 700,000 head of cattle.







Suggest corrections