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, 9 May 1968


Mr ARMSTRONG (Riverina) - It seems rather odd for the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) to criticise the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), the Government and the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for accepting the report of the Select Committee on Constitutional Development. The Select Committee comprised predominantly indigenous people. Approximately half of the indigenous people on the Committee were Papuans. As set out in its report of June 1967, the Committee was appointed 'to consider ways and means of preparing and presenting, and to draft for the consideration of the House, a set of constitutional proposals to serve as a guide for future constitutional development in the Territory*. There were two other minor considerations. Nothing could have been fairer or could have given the Committee more scope. There has been a lot of criticism of the proposals before us. The recommendation to appoint seven members with ministerial responsibility and ten assistant ministers, with an additional standing committee of five members to make budgetary recommendations, is a step in the right direction. This will give the indigenous people experience in self-government. Unless I misinterpreted the observations of the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) about the five members of the House of Assembly who criticised the acceptance of these recommendations, I believe it was not their right to criticise. But perhaps there is wisdom in the way they put their criticism. The fact that Mr John Guise, who was the Chairman of the Committee, chose to criticise the decisions of the Committee was rather odd. The 'South Pacific Post', which is printed in Port Moresby, is a newspaper that is by no means free from criticism of the Administration. It published a leading article on Monday, 6th May dealing with amendments to the Papua and New Guinea Act. Although, it is a rather long article, I will read it all as I would not like it to be thought that certain points that are emphasised are out context. It is as follows:

Amendments to the Papua and New Guinea Act presented to the Australian Parliament last week should result in more prestige and authority for the House of Assembly. The appointment of seven ministerial members and up to ten assistant ministerial members will be a major step in the development of ministerial government in the Territory. The seven ministerial members, together with three official members, will form the Administrator's Executive Council.

The amendments also provide that the Administrator can nominate an additional elected member of the House to serve on the Council even though the member was not a ministerial member.

When introducing these amendments the Minister for External Territories, Mr Barnes, said: 'In matters of budget policy and planning, the Council will have the final responsibility in the Territory for advising the Administrator.'

The success of this measure will depend to a great extent on the calibre of the members chosen by a five-man nomination committee when the House meets on June 4. But intellectual attainments and previous experience should not be the only criterion used to select ministerial members.

Because this measure is designed to help train Papuans and New Guineans in ministerial government, the choice should also be made with an eye to the future. This will mean blending experience with potential in the final choice. But it is important that the nomination committee should know that all members are available for appointment as ministerial members.

It would be a tragedy if this measure were subverted by suitable members rejecting or boycotting appointment as ministerial members, whether it be for fear of their political survival or for party reasons. This is a responsibility that should not be dodged by any elected member.

At the same time the success of the measure will also depend on the degree of co-operation the ministerial members receive from their department heads. The ministerial members are entitled to expect full co-operation from all the staff of their departments.

I think that article speaks for itself. I arn quite certain that a lot of people who visit Papua and New Guinea misunderstand the situation because they visit only Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul. The fact is overlooked that half of the population of the Territory live in the Highlands. These people had never seen a European until Taylor and Leahy went into the Wahgi Valley in 1934 and a large percentage had never seen a European until after World War 11. In fact, until Jim Sinclair and his assistant, whose name escapes me at the moment, took patrols into the Southern Highlands in 1956, there were large numbers of indigenous people who had never seen a European. That is only 12 years ago.


Mr Curtin - They did not miss much.


Mr ARMSTRONG - No, they may not have missed much in the case of certain people, and 1 will not be disrespectful and say at whom 1 am looking. The progress that has been made in the last generation is a great credit to Australia. When people criticise the progress that has been made and criticise the fact that this Bill does not go far enough towards giving the people of Papua and New Guinea selfgovernment. I am certain that they are expressing views that cannot be based on a full understanding of the situation in Papua and New Guinea. The complete contrast between the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) was most notable. As usual, the honourable member for Fremantle made a very good and enlightened contribution to the debate, but I wonder whether he may be in the category of those to whom I am referring and perhaps not have the wide knowledge of the village people that he perhaps should have. Some of the statements that he made led me to suspect that that is the position. The village is the focal point in New Guinea life.

It was well put by the honourable member for Hughes when he said that the thing that has enabled the indigenous people to make great strides and develop better understanding of governmental systems is local government. There are 86 councils in Papua and New Guinea at the present time and 32 of them are entirely administered by indigenous people. That is a great tribute to our Administration and anybody who reflects on the sincerity, ability and dedication of the people in the Administration - and I say this unhesitatingly - speaks without a wide or a close knowledge of them. Anybody who has lived with the indigenous people in the outer areas understands their ways and knows that they are men and women of high calibre.

The fact that there are more than 600 dialects spoken in Papua and New Guinea is a great handicap in getting understanding between the native peoples. Education is the quickest way that we can achieve understanding and great strides have been made in this field so far. After all, these people virtually have come from the stone age to the atomic age in a short space of time. Anybody who has seen the teachers college at Goroka for instance, will appreciate the efforts being made to educate these people, particularly to teach them the English language. Those who have been in the remote areas of Papua and New Guinea will appreciate the difficulties that are being faced and will realise that great progress is being made with the facilities that are available. In passing I pay a tribute to many of our mission schools for their fine efforts in this regard. They are making a great impact in the Territory and are doing a tremendous amount of good.

The Highland people are basically very different people from the coastal people. Unfortunately they have an inherited fear and distrust of coastal people. Another unfortunate mistake that people make is to think that the coastal people and the Highlanders in New Guinea are alike. They are not. This fear and distrust of the coastal people by the Highlanders Ls something that cannot be overcome quickly; it has to be done gradually, lt will best be achieved by the education of these people. Mention was made today - I think by the honourable member for Fremantle - of the Pacific Islands Regiment. Army service is a great method of integrating these people.

The raising and lowering of the flag in Army units is about the only thing that is done all over New Guinea every day. Army service is also a medium for broadening their education, particularly in technical and mechanical fields.

The Leader of the Opposition referred to the economic situation in Papua and New Guinea. His reasoning was most difficult to understand. He said that all investors who put money into New Guinea took more money out than they put in. That is one statement which is not founded on fact. In any case, as was well said by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), how can money be invested anywhere for development unless a degree of profit is obtained? This is extremely dangerous talk. It is the sort of talk which leads to the proposition of requiring insurance against capital in case it is lost. I have referred to two instances previously in this House and I shall refer to them again. The first concerns a man who had reached nearly 60 years of age when he was able to retire. He invested large sums of money in what is now one of the most magnificent tea plantations in the world. His name is Mr Ivo Manton. He went to New Guinea and bought 1,000 acres of land which was a swamp.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He bought it?


Mr ARMSTRONG - He bought the lease of it.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - How much did he pay?


Mr ARMSTRONG - Let me digress for a moment. The Administration will allow people to buy only a lease of land, not the alienation, only if it is quite satisfied that the natives will never want the land. There are many instances, particularly in the highlands, where the Administration has prevented people from buying land because it believed that in the foreseeable future the land may be of some use to the natives. But returning to the tea plantation, at the present time there are 1,100 acres of tea coming into production on this plantation. The tea is being treated in one of the most up to date and largest factories in the world. It is giving employment to hundreds of indigenous people and is providing them with excellent working conditions.

The other instance to which 1 have referred many times relates to the development of a cattle property in the Leron Plains. This cattle station was developed on an area on which, according to the memories of Europeans, there had never been a native farm or a native garden or a native village. The land was taken up in 1960 at a competitive tender by the Bulolo Gold Dredging Co. Today there are 5,000 cattle on that property.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Was the land taken up. at 6d per acre?


Mr ARMSTRONG - It was taken up on a 50-year lease at £1 per acre. The land has been developed. The company had an opportunity of putting capital into properties in Queensland, but it expressed the wish to develop this area in the Leron Plains in order to provide better conditions for its employees in the Bulolo mill.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It was already developed. It was a' Commonwealth experimental station.


Mr ARMSTRONG - The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is making a deliberate misstatement. It was an open area and it was completely undeveloped. The honourable member does not know what he is talking about. The area to which he is referring might be up the river. This land was covered with kunai grass. The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) very rightly drew the attention of the House to the difference between independence and nationhood. There is a very big difference between the two. In another speech the honourable member referred to the revival of the Japanese commercial interests since the second World War and he said that the Japanese could handle the economic problems because they were trained. No nation can succeed with political independence unless it has economic viability. It is interesting to note that the criticism levelled at Australia, that we are not moving rapidly enough towards granting New Guineans and Papuans complete independence, comes mainly from the African nations in the United Nations. These nations have become independent in the last generation, but only two of them have governments which have any semblance of democracy. These nations are not capable of doing what they suggest we should do in Papua and New Guinea.

I consider that the personal and vicious criticisms which were levelled by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) at the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) were most unbecoming and unconvincing. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Opposition rather reminds me of the boundary rider who, after being bucked off his horse, would not get on again because he could not trust anybody else to hold the horse. I think that what we are asking Papua and New Guinea to put into operation is a very good experiment. It is difficult to know how it will work. It is certainly right and proper that it should be tried. Whether the people in Papua and New Guinea are quite sophisticated enough to understand its full implications and to put it into operation remains to be seen. I commend the Minister and the Government on the action that is being taken in this Bill.







Suggest corrections