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Thursday, 26 February 1959


Mr ASTON (Phillip) .- We have just listened, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to a speech of a kind to which this House is becoming accustomed. As usual, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has not dealt with the matters referred to in the Governor-General's Speech, but has clowned his way through a speech devoted entirely to other matters. That is something to which the House is becoming accustomed where he is concerned. It is rather strange that a man who introduces personalities into this House should talk of unity, when he himself has been one of the prime movers in what is called the right-wing group of the Australian Labour party, and has done much to cause the disunity that exists in that party to-day. It is rather odd, too, I think, that the honorable member should criticize Ministers who travel overseas on behalf of the Government, when he himself was given the nick-name, " DillyDally ", while he was overseas. He stayed there without the permission of his party and then was ignominiously removed from the position of Whip of the party to which he is alleged to be pledged.

Mr. Deputy Speaker,I, as previous speakers have done, want to congratulate the new members of this House who have already spoken, and who, I believe, on both sides of the House, have made quite an impression. Their contributions have been of a high standard which indicates their high calibre, and I wish them all well during their stay in this House. I also wish to congratulate Mr. Speaker on his election to office, and I remind the honorable member for Grayndler that Mr. Speaker was elected unanimously by the House.

I wish to convey my thanks to the electors of Phillip, who have once again elected mc to represent them in this Parliament. 1 appreciate the honour that they have bestowed upon me, in spite of many forecasts that I would not be elected.

In his Speech His Excellency the Governor-General referred to the visit ot Dr. Subandrio to this country. That visit is of momentous importance to Australia, as is also the announced intention that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will venture to Indonesia later this year to have official talks with the Indonesian Government. This is, of course, a recognition by both governments of their desire to cement the friendship that exists between the two countries. Talks at the highest level, such as those that have taken place and will take place, undoubtedly allow of free and frank discussion and should result in a clearer understanding of each other's point of view. Indonesia is our nearest neighbour, and I am sure that honorable members, bearing in mind the particular problems that beset her, and the problems that beset the countries of South-East Asia in combating the growing influence of communism in their area, will agree that it is all the more important that Australia and Indonesia should respect each other's point of view. It is to be hoped that, from the further discussions that will take place, the main difference between the Indonesian and Australian governments - Australia's continued support for Dutch sovereignty of West New Guinea - will be respected by the people and the Government of Indonesia. That appears to be the main point of difference between Australia and Indonesia, but it should not be forgotten that there are many other points on which we are in complete harmony.

It is well that we should examine, without any emotionalism, why we support the Dutch. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has made our attitude quite plain by repeated statements of our policy and, indeed, we have made our attitude quite plain to the world by our various statements in the United Nations. Indonesia's claim is based on the interpretation of words, but if words mean anything it is quite clear that the agreement reached at the round table conference held at The Hague on 2nd November, 1949, between Indonesia and the Netherlands defines where the sovereignty of West New Guinea lies. I quote from the draft charter of transfer of sovereignty, drawn up at the second plenary meeting of the round table conference, held at The Hague. Article I. states -

The Kingdom of the Netherlands unconditionally and irrevocably transfers complete sovereignty over Indonesia to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and thereby recognizes the said Republic of the United States of Indonesia as an independent and sovereign state.

Article II. reads -

With regard to the residency of Dutch New Guinea it is decided -

(a)   in view of the fact that it has not yet been possible to reconcile the view of the parties on New Guinea, which remain therefore in dispute . . .

Paragraph (f) of the same article states -

The status quo of the residency of New Guinea shall be maintained with the stipulation that within a year from the date of transfer of sovereignty to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia, the question of political status of New Guinea will be determined through negotiations between the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

An exchange of letters then took place between the Indonesian and Netherlands delegations, and on 2nd November, 1949, the chairman of the Netherlands delegation at the conference, Mr. J. H. van Marsder forwarded a letter to the chairman of the delegation of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, which read -

I have the honour to inform you that the Netherlands delegation to the round table conference states that the following has been agreed upon by the delegates to the conference. The clause in Article If of the draft charter of transfer of sovereignty, reading " the status quo of the residency of New Guinea shall be maintained " means-

And this is the important part - " through continuing under the Government of the Netherlands ".

On the same day the Netherlands received an acknowledgement, couched in similar terms, pointing out that Indonesia recognized that sovereignty remained in the hands of the Netherlands.

In accordance with the agreement, that is, that negotiations should take place within :a year between the two parties, negotiations were held in an endeavour to reach a decision on the future of New Guinea. Several conferences were held but proved of no avail. On 15th August, 1950, at a time when the year set for the negotiations had barely run half of its course, President Soekarno issued a statement in which he said -

After this year neither of the parties will be bound by this round table conference decision.

Shortly after this the Indonesian Government stated -

Article II of the charter of transfer of sovereignty does not provide -any grounds for continuation of discussions.


Mr Ward - !-I wish I could follow the honorable member's argument.


Mr ASTON - My argument was good enough for the honorable member to quote ad lib recently.

In November, 195.2, .President Soekarno said -

From now . on .we will . discuss the future of New Guinea exclusively amongst ourselves. We will take unilateral measures on the basis of our own plans and will no longer discuss these matters with the Dutch.

In 1956, Indonesia declared that she no longer considered herself bound by the agreement and repudiated all agreements reached at the round table conference. It is clear, then, that as no- further negotiations have taken place, sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea unquestionably remains with the Netherlands Government.

Since that time, however, the attitude of the Indonesians has changed, and it is well to observe the comments of Dr. Subandrio on 3rd March, 1957. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is very conversant with this statement. Dr. Subandrio said -

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

On 7th November of the same year Presi- dent Soekarno said -

So far, we have pursued the struggle for West Irian's freedom through the United Nations. However, if the United Nations fails us, we will resort to methods which will startle the world.

So it is quite evident that Indonesia has now repudiated the agreement reached -at the round table conference held at The Hague, and her spokesmen and her President have made it quite clear that unless she gets, her way in the United Nations she will take some other action - and I repeat - " which will startle the world ".

These repudiations show a complete disregard by Indonesia of agreements. How, then, could we rely upon Indonesia, if it were by any chance to obtain the territory of Dutch New Guinea, to honour the obligations and responsibilities set out in article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations? These include working towards the political progress of the population, while ensuring just treatment and protection against abuses, the maintenance of peace and order, and the making of vigorous efforts for the cultural, social and economic advancement of the local population.

On the other hand, the Netherlands has given to the inhabitants a solemn promise to grant them the right of selfdetermination as soon as they are able to express their will and to decide their own political future for themselves. The Netherlands has announced this intention quite unequivocally to the world. I think it is important to contrast this attitude with the statement of Dr. Ali Sastroamidjojo, who was Prime Minister of Indonesia in 1953, that Indonesia was not willing - . to consult the population of West Irian, as to whether it is really prepared to accept association with Indonesia

The Netherlands cannot and will not comply with Indonesian demands for annexation of Dutch New Guinea, nor will it enter upon any negotiations concerning the future status of the territory, without its inhabitants having exercised the right, granted to them by the Netherlands, to decide their own political future.

It is well to remember that, during the course of the Dutch occupancy of Indonesia, the inhabitants, through the efforts of the Dutch, were brought to a standard where they could exercise the right of selfdetermination. I think that this provides very valid reasons for the Australian Government's continued support for Dutch sovereignty, for we too have a responsibility in our own portion of New Guinea, and we work in .close co-operation with the Dutch to ensure that the natives are brought as quickly as possible to a standard where selfdetermination will be possible. Selfdetermination is not regarded as something remote. It can be reckoned not in centuries but in decades. What could be more calamitous to the interests of the inhabitants of this area than to give them, or virtually to throw them to the world at large when they would be at the mercy of Communist nations for exploitation, infiltration and propaganda? They should not have the right of self-determination prior to their being educated to the standard which will enable them to take their place in the councils of the world. Stone-age people cannot be brought out of their caves and put for teaching into the universities of. this country. Of necessity, the process must be slow and gradual. To talk of giving these people the right of self-determination now is to be unrealistic, and to have no regard for the ultimate destiny of the people of Dutch New Guinea or even of the Australian portion of this island.

I believe that, when self-determination comes to the people of Dutch New Guinea, it is most likely that they will take the natural course of. throwing in their lot with the people on the eastern side of the artificial boundary that now separates, east from west. It is only an artificial boundary, and the peoples can mix freely. There is, of course, a language problem, over 500 different dialects being spoken in our own territory alone. The people are associated racially, ethnologically and historically, which makes for an easier unification of the two sections.

The situation between the Netherlands and Australian Governments is as before. The Australian Government has not altered its policy in any way. We have always conceded that nations are legally entitled to make separate agreements with one another, and Australia has no legal right to oppose any negotiations to that end, provided, of course, that they are within the framework of the United Nations. It should be stated clearly that we have done nothing other than to recognize Indonesia's right of negotiation-. We have not granted any concessions. Time and time again the Dutch Government has shown its willingness to have talks with Indonesia on problems outstanding between the two countries, in. relation not only to DutchNew Guinea but also to Indonesia itself. We. would have no objection, if negotiations started from the basis that the sovereignty of the Dutch, was recognized. I do not. think that any honorable member will dispute that that sovereignty over West New Guinea is firmly established.

However, the Indonesian Government' bus never been prepared to accept this asa basis for talks. It has gone on, willynilly, stirring up world opinion, and, within its own country-, under the guise of an upsurge of nationalism, stirring up hatred' of the Dutch and of the Australian attitude to the upholding of Dutch sovereignty in' this area. But the attitude of the Dutch Government has undergone no change in this matter. I believe that we should make* quite clear that, although we have no legal: or moral right to the territory in dispute, we are keenly interested in what becomes of this important island, and that any attempt to disturb the status quo by the' use of arms or force, from wherever it may come, will be resisted. We must continue our present policy of supporting Dutch sovereignty where it rightly exists, and. we should lose no time in assuring the Netherlands Government of our continued support for the policy of self-determination by the people of Dutch New Guinea in accordance with article 73 ot the United Nations Charter.

The Netherlands Government hasaccepted as a sacred trust the administration of this territory and the bringing of the people to the standard where they can determine for themselves their own political destiny. With three other honorable members, I had the privilege in 1957 of touring Dutch New Guinea and seeing developments with my own eyes. Each of us, of course, was able to make his own inquiries. I believe that Australia is indebted to the Dutch Government for the magnificent job that it is doing.


Mr Curtin - Flogging the natives!


Mr ASTON - We were informed of the details of the Netherlands Government's first three-year plan, which was put into operation. If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith were prepared to listen, he might form a different concept of what is going on in the world. The Dutch have in recent years established many airfields throughout the area, at Sorong, Biak, and Manokwari and other important places. They are building eight airfields in the hinterland, which will enable them, by using Beaver, Norseman and similar aircraft, as well as helicopters, to take field officers and missionaries into the interior. They are establishing airlines in country where white people are unknown and where aircraft, and any of the other things that go with civilization have never been seen before. Access to these areas is very difficult. For example, it took us three days to traverse an area of Dutch New Guinea by land, but we were able to return from one of the new airstrips put in by the Dutch in only twenty minutes. That will give honorable members some idea of the terrain in which the Dutch are operating for the benefit of the indigenous people. Highway development has forged ahead, and macadamized roads are to be found in the larger cities of the area. Travelling through Biak is like travelling in some of our cities of this Commonwealth.

At Hollandia there is one of the world's finest harbours. It is being deepened, harbour facilities are being provided, and employment is being given to the natives in that area. This employment is not, as honorable members opposite may think, of a lowly kind. Natives can learn to become carpenters, bricklayers, and so on. They are given hospital training and on a prominent hill overlooking the harbour a hospital costing more than £2,000,000 is being built. It will house both natives and Europeans. The Dutch are encouraging integration of Asian and European. There is, as a result, much intermarriage. Education is proceeding apace. The technical schools are magnificent. They contain expensive lathes and modern machinery. This enables the natives to learn engineering and upon returning to their villages assist to solve housing and building problems.

My time is limited so I must pass on. Indonesia, as it is now constituted, ls a young nation, and we wish her well. However, if she is to enjoy the respect and confidence of the world she will find it necessary to regard an agreement as something more than a mere piece of paper which can be disregarded at will. As an act of good faith she could well take up the question of Dutch reparations and deal with that matter as quickly as possible. She could give fur ther proof of good faith by ceasing, in the guise of nationalism, the whipping up of antiDutch and anti-Australian feeling. Above all, she could show to this country and to the world her very clear desire to rid herself of her Communist element. She professes to be doing this already. She should take some real and positive steps to combat the spread of this cancerous growth in her territory.







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