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Tuesday, 24 February 1959


Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- As an Australian, every time that this Government, under its present leadership, has to make a decision on an international matter affecting the security of Australia I become terrified. I have every reason to adopt that attitude, judging t by our past experience of the administration of such a govern ment through the perilous days of the war. There is no doubt in the world - and the Government cannot escape the fact - that when this issue was first mentioned in this chamber there was unanimity on both sidesof the House that, in the event of the Dutchleaving New Guinea, the Australian Government should seek a mandate over that territory.

Yet the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), contrary to all his earlier statements, has now said that this is purely a matter of sovereignty between the Dutch and the Indonesians and that we are only an interested third party! He said that the Government had a view-point and that if negotiations were to eventuate it would want to express that view-point. But the Minister, who recently had talks with Dr. Subandrio, did not even secure for Australia the right to express a view-point during any subsequent negotiations between the Netherlands and Indonesia. He declared on behalf of the Government that this was a matter wholly and solely for the Governments of the Netherlands and" Indonesia.

That is not the viewpoint of the Australian Labour party. It is strange to note that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in entering this debate said, "We want the Dutch to remain in control in West New Guinea ". Why does the Government want the Dutch to remain in control? If it is adopting an attitude of neutrality and disinterestedness and says that it is only a matter between the Governments of Holland and Indonesia, what right has this Government to. express that view? I have very definite views concerning the attitude of the Government. The first is the opinion expressed by Mr. Yeo, the president of the New South Wales branch of the Returned Servicemen's League. He declared this agreement to be a sell-out of Australia's interests.

If vital Australian interests are involved - and I emphasize the word " vital " - should this Government be adopting its present attitude of disinterestedness? On 20th April, 1950, the Minister for External Affairs had this to say -

Australia has vital interests in the trustee territory of New Guinea which it would in no circumstances relinquish.

The area of Dutch New Guinea involves somewhat similar considerations.

In 1950, the Minister said that Australia's vital interests demanded Australia having some say in the future of the mandated territory which it then controlled and also that it should have some say in regard to the future control of West New Guinea. During this debate we have heard Ministers mouthing all sorts of terms and phrases such as " self-determination " and " the rights of the natives must be paramount". They have used these expressions to tickle the ears of the electors.

Let us examine how far the Government is protecting the rights of the natives. When the Indonesians were fighting for their independence the Australian Labour party and the trade unions of this country did their best to assist them because we believe in self-determination. When the parties which now constitute this Government were condemning the Labour party and the trade unions of this country as acting in a traitorous manner by helping the Indonesians to obtain their independence, they were all for supplying war materials to the Dutch to help them retain their control over Indonesia. The Labour party believes in independence for the people of Indonesia, but that does not mean that we must support Indonesia's claim to West New Guinea. The people living in West New Guinea to-day are not Indonesians and just as we were in favour of Indonesian independence so we are opposed to Indonesian imperialism. We want the natives of New Guinea to also have the right of self-determination.

The Minister says that the interests of the natives must be paramount. Can any one believe that under this arrangement into which the Government has entered the interests of the natives will be fully protected? At what point of time will the natives of New Guinea be given the right to determine whether they want to continue their association with Australia or any other country, or whether they want their complete independence? There are 700,000 of them in West New Guinea and Ministers and other speakers on the Government side have frankly admitted that Indonesia's purpose is not merely to get the right to act as trustee for New Guinea until such time as the West New Guinea natives themselves can determine their government, but that it proposes to add that territory to the Indonesian empire and retain permanent control over it At what point will the West New Guinea natives get the opportunity to have self-determination? The Indonesians, I should imagine, propose to use this territory as an outlet for the surplus population of some of their islands, and in no time the West New Guinea native population will be completely submerged. If they ever did get an opportunity to be heard their voice would not be strong enough to win for them the right to have the final say in what should be the future of their own country.

When the Labour party set out to restore civil administration in New Guinea, the parties now forming this Government adopted a most peculiar attitude. Despite their talk about the rights of these people to self-determination, they will recollect - as members can verify by checking the " Hansard " reports - that when I, as Minisfor External Territories, brought before this Parliament a measure dealing with New Guinea, members who now support the Government were loud in their criticisms and said that what the then Labour government was doing was wrong. I stated on behalf of the Labour government that it was our intention to advance these people as rapidly as possible in education and establish industries so that they could in the shortest possible time reach the point where they would be capable of making a decision as to whether they wanted to retain their association with Australia or have complete independence. The parties opposite talked about the Labour government acting against the best interests of Australia. Now, they have completely somersaulted and have declared themselves, unconvincingly, in favour of self-determination. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) quoted Mr. James Mossman, a " Sydney Morning Herald " correspondent, who made a very significant statement which, I imagine, the Government would have answered if there was any answer to it. That is why I doubt the Government's sincerity concerning its claim to believe in self-determination for these people. Mr. Mossman stated that the Commonwealth Government was under criticism for not pushing on with the political development of the people of the territory so that they would rapidly reach the point where they could undertake the government of their own country if they so desired.

Let us examine this matter from the strategic viewpoint as it affects the security of Australia. I do not suggest for a moment that at this time the Indonesians are unfriendly to Australia. But we must recognize, as the honorable member for Parkes has pointed out, that the control of Indonesia is not in the hands of a democratically elected government which speaks for the people of Indonesia. It is controlled by a dictatorship established under the presidential control of Dr. Soekarno who, himself, was a collaborator with the Japanese during the last war. According to the Minister no harm has been done; the situation has not been altered and this Government still supports Dutch sovereignty over West New Guinea. Everybody knows that within a month or two elections will be held in Holland, and nobody can say whether the present Dutch Government will be returned or be supplanted by another. Either the present Government of Holland or its successor may decide to give the game away, because this territory of West New Guinea is said to be a poor country and a drain on the revenues of Holland. It would not be unusual if the Dutch, now believing as a result of the Prime Minister's statement that the Australian Government is adopting an unfriendly attitude towards Holland, decided to get out of West New Guinea. As the honorable member for Parkes has said, the Netherlands Government may make a package deal in which it will be concerned with preserving Dutch assets or securing compensation for the loss of assets in return for sovereignty over West New Guinea.

As far as I am concerned, the sooner colonialism disappears from the world the better. I can understand the Indonesians fearing the return of the Dutch imperialists because they had many years under that type of control. They, no doubt, believe that if the Dutch had the opportunity of remaining in that area there might be some possibility of a military build-up and of this area being used as a springboard for operations designed to restore their sovereignty over Indonesian territory. I do not believe that that fear is based on reality to-day, but it could be an understandable fear in the minds of Indonesians. The Indonesian

Government and people should be satisfied to know that the territory of West New Guinea would be put under a trust and that the countries entrusted with the care of this territory and its peoples would merely develop it to the point where the natives could determine their future for themselves.

Let us look at the Australian position. I have heard some of the experts in this Parliament and have viewed them on television talking about New Guinea being no longer strategically important to Australia. I do not claim to be a military authority, but within the last few days a number of people who are qualified to speak have been expressing their opinions in the press. General Robert Eichelberger, of the United States, who had lengthy service in the New Guinea area, said -

Even if you give the new enemy missiles, he has to have a base from which to launch them. He therefore needs New Guinea.

That viewpoint was supported by MajorGeneral Eather and Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett. If we match these opinions against those of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and those who support him, we are justified in believing that we can accept the advice of these men in that particular field. The honorable member for Mackellar has spoken about sovereignty over land and people. We do not accept that. As I have already said, we believe that colonialism must disappear from the world, and the Labour party has very firm ideas on what should be done to bring this about.

I should like to quote, while I have the opportunity, the views of the Minister for External Affairs on this matter of protecting the natives. This is relevant to the question whether the Minister believes that the position of the natives is going to be affected by this agreement into which he has now entered with the Indonesian authorities. This is what he said in this Parliament a few years ago -

The Australian Government will for its part oppose not only a transfer of sovereignty but will also vote against any resolution which has a transfer of sovereignty as its ultimate objective. It is, to say the least, improbable - especially in view of the trend of political developments in Indonesia since 1949 - that if West New Guinea were transferred to Indonesia, the peoples of West New Guinea would ever be allowed to have a voice in their own political future.

Of course the Minister now refers to a legal process with regard to the taking over of West New Guinea, but in the statement that I have just read to the House there is an admission that the rights of these people to determine their own future, at some time when they have reached a sufficient standard of education to warrant it, may be sacrificed.

Let me now turn to one or two other aspects of the matter. The Minister has laid great stress on the fact that Dr. Subandrio has repeatedy stated that Indonesia has no intention of using force, and that it proposes to settle this question by peaceful means. The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) is a very vocal member of this Parliament, and I shall quote from his speech delivered in this chamber on 14th November, 1957. This is of particular interest because the honorable member read to the House some remarks of Dr. Subandrio. The honorable member for Phillip said -

Indonesia cannot genuinely establish its claim to Dutch New Guinea on either ethnical or geographical grounds. The validity of its claim cannot be substantiated, for several reasons. It is an emotional claim and has no realism in its substance. Yet Indonesia has, for the third time in a very short period, brought its claim before the United Nations and its various spokesmen have repeatedly expressed a desire for a peaceful solution of this important problem. But, on the other hand, repeated statements have been made which do not in any reassuring way make Indonesia's motives quite clear. For example, the press statement which was made recently by Dr. Helmi, the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, was, to my mind, a mere propaganda sheet. In it, he attempted to justify this statement which was made recently by Dr. Subandrio at the United Nations -

The only question is whether the United Nations is the place where the solution to the West New Guinea problem may be forged or whether we must embark upon another course, even at the risk of aggravating the position in South East Asia and perhaps inviting cold war tensions to further muddy the waters of peace in that region of the world.

So it is quite obvious that if the Indonesians are determined to secure West New Guinea, then Dr. Subandrio envisages the possibility that, some time in the future, if they fail by peaceful negotiation, they will have to consider the question of going to war in order to secure this territory. That could be a most serious matter for Australia. The honorable member for Phillip went on to say -

Dr. Helmisaid he believed that no impartial mind could fail to understand the true spirit in which Dr. Subandrio spoke. What is this true spirit? Is it one of co-operation, or is there, by innuendo, a threat by Indonesia?

What is the situation that exists to-day? Every one in Australia must be disturbed at the recent turn of events. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) quite rightly asked: What game are the United States of America and the United Kingdom playing in respect of this transaction? We have to live in this area, whereas they are far removed from it. lt is all very well for those countries to be negotiating and making trade pacts and trade deals involving certain concessions, but what we are primarily concerned about is the security of our own country. Every day we read in the press about the build-up of arms in Indonesia. Surely no sensible person would believe that the great build-up of arms that has taken place in Indonesia, with Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States all competing with each other to win the friendship of that country with gifts of arms, has been necessary to subdue the rebels who, we were told a few months ago, were already defeated.

I declare, therefore, that this Government has betrayed the Australian community in these talks, these negotiations, and in the agreements that have been made. We ought to declare in unmistakable terms what we stand for. I would like to see the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea merged with that of Dutch New Guinea, so that the whole of New Guinea could be administered as one territory. Then let us push on with the work of building up the country to the stage at which it will be advanced and powerful enough to stand on its own feet and make its own decision as to whether in the future it wants to be an independent nation.

Motion (by Mr. Pearce) put -

That the debate be now adjourned.







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