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
Thursday, 14 March 1968


Mr JARMAN (Deakin) - Mr Deputy Speaker,I was gratified when listening to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General to note the importance that was placed upon the future development of Papua and New Guinea. During the recess I spent some weeks in New Guinea observing the elections for the House of Assembly. I was most impressed with what has been achieved by the Australian Government and the Administration in that country. It is not generally realised by the Australian public that the Australian Government, by both direct grants and departmental expenditure, is contributing over $100m per annum to the development of Papua and New Guinea. When one realises that Melbourne has been shelving an underground railway for decades because of lack of finance - yet this could be built for far less than one annual contribution by Australia to New Guinea - and when one considers how many Ord River and Snowy Mountains schemes could be financed with this money, one cannot help but feel proud of what Australia is doing to develop New Guinea, a land of some 178,000 square miles and some 2.2 million people.

His Excellencystated that the Government had decided to reconstitute the Department of Territories as the Department of External Territories, transferring administration of the Northern Territory to the Department of the Interior. I believe this to be a wise decision. It is a recognition by the Government that the present problems and the future destiny of Papua and New Guinea differ greatly from those of the Northern Territory. It will enable the Minister and his Department to devote all of their energies to the development of New Guinea. The policy of the Government is to develop the Territory for selfdetermination. It will become a selfgoverning country if and when the majority of the indigenous population clearly indicate that this is their wish. While I was in New Guinea I spoke with a large number of people, both indigenous and Australian, including many candidates for the House of Assembly elections, to obtain their views on independence. Almost without exception they expressed the view that New Guinea would not be ready for independence for some 10, 15 or 20 years, and most were critical of the United

Nations for endeavouring to foist upon them what they termed premature independence.

While I was at Mount Hagen I met Mr A. F. Caine, the Liberian delegate to the United Nations Trusteeship Council. Bearing in mind the scathing attack that had been made by Mr Eastman, a previous Liberian delegate, on Australia's efforts in the Territory, I questioned Mr Caine on democracy in his country. He told be that elections were held every 4 years but admitted, on being questioned, that there was only one party in his country. When I asked him whether his party put up two or three candidates so that people could have a choice, he said: 'Oh no, they only have one candidate'. When I pointed out that this did not seem very democratic because people could not vote against the Government if they wished and did not have any choice, he replied: 'But that is the way the people want it'. Is it any wonder that, under this system, President Tubman has held office in Liberia for 25 years. I must say, in deference to Mr Caine, that unlike his predecessors, he admitted to the Chamber of Commerce in Mount Hagen while I was there that excellent Australian guidance was evident in the area. I shall be very interested to hear whether he says the same thing when he gets back to Liberia. I was staggered to realise that the United Nations would send to New Guinea to investigate whether we were bringing democracy to the Territory adequately a man who comes from a country which obviously does not practise democracy itself. But then, when one looks at so many of the decisions of the United Nations one realises how this august body, for which most of us once held such great hopes, has been allowed to deteriorate almost into a propaganda organisation for the so called emerging nations and the Communist powers. Their insistence that we must give early independence to Papua and New Guinea while putting the seal of approval on Indonesia's annexation of West New Guinea is just one manifestation of this attitude.

The vote of 64 to 8 in the United Nations Trusteeship Council last December criticising Australia for discriminatory practices in the Territory and demanding early independence irrespective of the wishes of the people is another. I must say, Mr Deputy

Speaker,that, for my part, I saw no discrimination against any person because of race or colour while I was in the Territory. When I was at Mount Hagen, meetings were held, both there and at Wabag, between the United Nations delegation and the local population. At Mount Hagen one of the local councillors said: 'All our fathers did was fight. Now the Administration is here the people do not fight. Australia is the only country helping the Territory. If the United Nations is so concerned, why do not they themselves provide assistance to New Guinea? In Wabag, 300 tribesmen met the mission. Mr Tei Abal, the local member of the House of Assembly, told the United Nations visitors: 'Independence is not something for the United Nations to push Australia into and it is not something for Australia alone to decide. We do not want Australia to hurry us too much because early independence could end in chaos.' This was largely the view of the mountain people, who seem to feel that early independence would result in their domination by the more sophisticated people of the coastal regions. But even in the coastal regions I found great reluctance to have early independence. The uniformity of this view was striking. When one realises that there are about 1,000 different tribes in New Guinea speaking some 750 languages, it is not difficult to understand that the people prefer the paternal administration of the Australian Government, with which they are familiar, to the unknown consequences of independence at the present time.

During Australia Day weekend I attended in Canberra a conference on independence for New Guinea that was sponsored by the Australian Institute of Political Science. At this conference I heard a New Guinea delegate, the Secretary of the Pangu Pati, Mr Albert Maori Kiki, tell the 700 delegates present that Australians in New Guinea made the indigenous people lick their boots. He made other attacks on the Australian administration. As I said earlier, I saw no evidence to support these remarks. Most people in New Guinea with whom I discussed these incidents were annoyed at the damage that this sort of irresponsible talk could do. One opinion was that Mr Maori Kiki saw himself as the future President of New Guinea and wished only to hasten the day when he could take control. This, I believe, highlights the need for Australia to make sure that when self government is granted to the Territory the continuation of the democratic process which we have set in train in New Guinea is assured.

Possibly the most interesting highlight of my visit to New Guinea was the opportunity to observe the elections for the House of Assembly. The fact that 484 candidates, who each had to put up a deposit, were prepared to stand is a very healthy sign. So, too, is the fact that about 10% of the contenders were European and Chinese. Over 900,000 electors, many of them unable to read or write, will elect new members for the 69 open and 15 regional electorates. Voting has been in progress for 4 weeks and will continue until next Saturday. During the next 2 weeks, absentee votes will come in and preferences will be distributed. When one realises the enormity of the task which the Administration has performed with remarkable precision in 1964 and again at the present elections, one cannot help but admire the dedication and devotion to duty which are shown by the officers of the Administration.

While in Lae I travelled some 50 miles up the Markham Valley to see Jim Benson, the son of the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson). Jim was conducting an election at a village called Tereren. Most of the voters were unable to read and write and relied on what is known as the whisper vote. Photos of the canadidates were prominently displayed in the polling booth. The elector would point to the photograph and the Returning Officer would mark the ballot paper accordingly.


Mr Curtin - I would do all right there.


Mr JARMAN - I dare say the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith would be reelected every time. This system is not perfect but to date it has worked very well. However, there is a danger that if, following independence, an unscrupulous government wished to remain in office, that government could appoint returning officers who would see that only government candidates were elected. But this, I believe, is a problem for the future. Another interesting fact was mat the candidates were reluctant to identify themselves with the five parties already in existence and the people seemed reluctant to vote for party candidates, preferring the independent whose loyalty was, they believed, to the electorate rather than to the party.

I was impressed with the work of the local councils. There are in Papua and New Guinea some 140 councils, each with an average of approximately 30 councillors. These councils tax the local population and with the funds so acquired build schools, and roads, and provide first aid posts and various other community services. When I was in Rabaul, I felt that democracy was really on the way. The local Council had just raised taxation from $8 per annum to $16 per annum and the ratepayers were protesting. It was very much like home. Consideration of developments in New Guinea would not be complete without due attention to economic development. Primary industry is expanding daily with products such as coffee, cocoa, tea, rubber, pyrethrum, copra and passionfruit. The livestock industry has been established and fishing and forestry are well under way. But secondary industry also has not been neglected. During my visit I inspected a furniture factory which was run and staffed completely by indigenes. The chairman of directors was himself an indigene. I saw also a cement brick making factory at Rabaul, a refrigerator assembly factory at Port Moresby and a tobacco factory at Madang. Expansion of economic activity has been vigorously pursued toy the Administration and renewed emphasis will be given in the future to increasing the role of Papuans and New Guineans in economic development.

I cannot speak too highly of the Administration and its officers in the Territory. I gained the impression that all whom I met are dedicated men anxious to advance the country in which they work. They have done much with limited funds. Schools, hospitals and roads have been built. Their construction is steadily expanding. As I said earlier, this is a wonderful contribution by Australia, bearing in mind that we ourselves are a developing country. But much remains to be done. We must continue with our efforts to encourage indigenous people in the Public Service of the Territory to attain positions of authority. The next step in constitutional development is to bridge the gap between a fully representative parliament and fully responsible government. I welcome the announcement by the Governor-General of legislation to amend the Papua and New Guinea Act to increase the participation of the people of Papua and New Guinea in their government. These proposals will introduce a system of limited ministerial responsibility for a number of elected members and the setting up of an Administrator's Executive Council to be consulted by the Administrator on major executive decisions.

The administering of a portfolio such as Territories, or External Territories as it is now known, is not easy. It is not surprising that in the past Ministers holding this portfolio have been criticised. But the proof of the success of the policies of the present Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) and his predecessor, who was Minister for Territories, is self-evident. The State of New Guinea today is a tribute to both those men.

Australia does not expect undue praise for the work it has done in training a stoneage society to take its place in the modern world, but neither do we expect undue criticism from outside countries which themselves do not know the meaning of democracy. What we are doing in New Guinea is morally right. We must not allow ourselves to be stampeded by outside pressures into forcing independence onto New Guinea until the people of the Territory clearly show that 'they themselves desire it.







Suggest corrections