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Tuesday, 24 February 1959


Mr CASEY (Minister for External Affairs) . - The matter of our relationships with the Netherlands and Indonesia in respect of western New Guinea is not one that has arisen in the last few weeks. It has been an active matter of public discussion over a great many years, and has been debated at length in the United Nations General Assembly on a number of occasions. Over that period it has been elevated in the minds of the people of Indonesia into a prime issue disturbing relations with a number of other countries.

In consequence, the Australian Government considered it most important that, during Dr. Subandrio's visit to Australia, we should join in any effort designed to put the matter into proper proportion and to allow co-operation between Indonesia and Australia to proceed fruitfully and constructively, irrespective of any continuing difference about Dutch New Guinea. I believe that this objective has been advanced, and that Dr. Subandrio's visit, his talks with Australian Ministers, and the joint announcement that concluded the meeting, will all contribute to better relations between Australia and our nearest neighbour.

In the course of our many discussions, we made it clear to Dr. Subandrio that Australia has not only recognized but continues to recognize Dutch sovereignty in western New Guinea. We said we would not propose any change in that sovereignty. But Dr. Subandrio asked another question. He asked what Australia's position would be if Indonesia, by lawful and peaceful means, were to come to an agreement with the Netherlands in regard to western New Guinea. The nature of that agreement was unspecified, and naturally so. Nor could the Australian Government be expected to enter into any discussion with the Indonesian Foreign Minister as to the nature of such an agreement because the question is a hypothetical one. In any case, continuing to recognize as we do, Netherlands sovereignty, we were not prepared to enter into discussions with the Indonesian Government on a possible regime to replace the Dutch.

But, faced with a direct question as to what we should do if, peacefully and lawfully, the Dutch and the Indonesians came to an agreement on western New Guinea, there was only one answer we could give. We would recognize the agreement or, as the joint announcement said, we would not oppose it. But we made it clear to Dr. Subandrio that we would take no initiative in advising the Dutch to enter into negotiations.

There are, in the broad, two aspects of the western New Guinea question on which we are at variance with the Indonesians. We recognize Dutch sovereignty, whereas the Indonesians claim it for themselves. We also believe that there should be preserved for the people of western New Guinea the opportunity for selfdetermination, whereas Indonesia wants to incorporate western New Guinea as an integral part of Indonesia proper. These points of variance are explicitly set out in the joint announcement that Dr. Subandrio and I made at the conclusion of his visit to Australia, in the following terms: -

There was a full explanation of the considerations which have led each country to a different view over West New Guinea (West Irian), with Australia recognizing Netherlands sovereignty and recognizing the principle of selfdetermination. This difference remains.

Of these two matters - sovereignty and selfdetermination - I have already discussed sovereignty. Australia recognizes Dutch sovereignty. But on the matter of selfdetermination I shall say something more.

The Dutch, in administering their territory in New Guinea, accept the provision of Chapter XI of the Charter "of the United Nations, which is a declaration regarding non-self-governing territories. Under this chapter, members of the United Nations with responsibilities for the administration of territories whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount. They accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the Charter, the well being of the inhabitants of these territories. They agree, among other things, to develop self-government and to promote constructive measures of development and also to report regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, certain information on the territories. Thus in accordance with Article 73 of the United Nations Charter the Dutch give the United Nations an annual report which is discussed every year in the General Assembly.

The Dutch have set as their goal eventual self-determination for the indigenous people of the territory. This policy has been asserted many times by the Dutch. For example, Her Majesty The Queen of the Netherlands, on 16th September, 1952, stated that her Government would promote the development of western New Guinea so that in due course the population would be enabled to decide on its future. In October, 1956, the Netherlands Government stated that the Netherlands would promote the development of the territories to such an extent that the application of the principle of self-determination would be accelerated. These statements have been reiterated and confirmed by Netherlands spokesmen in the United Nations General Assembly.

This objective - that is, the move towards self-determination - lies behind the jointly agreed principles enunciated by the Australian and Netherlands Governments on 6th November, 1957, eighteen months ago, relating to co-operation between their respective administrations in the territories of New Guinea. As suggested to Dr. Subandrio, and as I stated in this House last Thursday, this programme of administrative co-operation with the Netherlands in New Guinea will continue. The Australian and the Netherlands Governments have, in fact, recently accepted the recommendations prepared in Canberra last October by officials of the Netherlands and Australian administrations in New Guinea designed to give effect to our agreement on administrative co-operation.

In short, the Australian position of recognizing the right of the Dutch to make an agreement on the future of their territory is stated against a certain background. That background consists of repeatedly declaring Dutch attitudes towards the rights of the inhabitants. In the face of these statements it would be somewhat gratuitous for the Australian Government to offer the Netherlands Government public advice about the interests of the inhabitants at a time when there is no indication of a change in Netherlands policy.

As I have said, we did not, in our talks with Dr. Subandrio, discuss any alternative to the present Dutch administration. The Dutch are there; they have pledged themselves, both by their own efforts and in co-operation with Australia, to work towards self-government and selfdetermination for the peoples of western New Guinea; their sovereignty is recognized by Australia; and we are working actively with them in pursuance of many common interests. As I said in this House, on 18th February, the clarification of our attitude contained in the joint announcement " represents no new departure in policy ".

The simple fact is that the parties principal in this matter of western New Guinea are the Netherlands and Indonesia. As I have said on many occasions, Australia is no more and no less than a very interested third party. As such we can, in international law and practice, not prohibit direct discussion between the parties principal, and we would have no firm grounds on which to oppose any arrangement freely reached under the circumstances we have described by the parties principal. But this does not mean that we would be indifferent or without a view which we would express during any such negotiation, if it were to take place. Indeed it would be inconsistent with all that we have said publicly in the past if we were silent in such circumstances.

Tn conclusion, let me repeat what I said at the start: Dr. Subandrio visited this country at the invitation of the Australian Government in order to promote understanding and co-operation between our two countries. His visit was very useful. He and his party made an excellent impression here. We were able to explain our respective positions - and relations between Australia and Indonesia have undoubtedly benefited.







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