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Thursday, 9 May 1968

Mr HOLTEN - A man named Kenu who is a member of the House of Assembly. At Manus Island the Mission's meeting was attended by more than 1,000 people. Again the speakers were against early independence. And so the story goes on. The report issued on the meeting held when the Mission reached Rabaul, the half-way point of its visit - which was a big one and, to use the words of the report, the most sophisticated meeting held so far - states:

Points made included: They determined Territory should not be hurried towards independence or self-government by outside pressures; all stressed decision matter for people of Territory in consultation with Australian Government.

I think that sums up the situation.

Some of the comments made to the mission have their light side. Honourable members might be interested to learn that at this meeting at Rabaul the chairman of the United Nations mission said that, whilst he was impressed with the meeting, the degree of parochialism disturbed him, and the people there were more interested in their own district than in the nation as a whole. Some of us are fairly familiar wilh those feelings, and we can understand these people thinking of their own districts. I am sure that the Minister for External Territories has noted one particular point in this report and I know that something is being done about it, but it interested me that quite a number of the people were enthusiastic about educating the farmers and having an educated farming community. I know that steps have been taken in this direction. There are a few other comments in the report that I wish to quote. One person, talking about self-government, said that it was just around the corner. He said it was an inevitability, but he said also that by self-government he meant leaving foreign affairs, defence and finance to the Australian Government. 1 do not think that anyone would really call that being self-governing. He went on to say that there was a need for a sound and continuing association with Australia.

Another comment at New Hanover was that they wanted more economic development. It is interesting to note the number of members of the local parliament who attended these meetings of the mission. At Bougainville a newly elected member of the House of Assembly said that the Territory was unready for independence. The second last comment in the report which I shall mention was made at Finschhafen, where the same sort of things were said and also a comment was made that will interest some honourable members here, particularly those of my own party. A member of the House of Assembly said that it was very difficult to be a politician in the Territory. He said that candidates must be physically fit in order to wade rivers and climb mountains to reach their constituents. Apparently my colleagues and I are not as badly off as we thought we were. At the same place one of the members of the visiting United Nation mission made a point that is fairly close to the hearts of honourable members of this place, too. He said that the Territory had started growth towards self-government from the right point by establishing local government councils and now a House of Assembly. However, it was his personal view that the members of the House of Assembly should receive higher salaries, and also that they must be given more power and authority.

I think 1 have given enough examples of the feelings of the indigenous people of Papua and New Guinea on the basic issues to indicate that the vast majority of them are certainly in accord with the Government's thoughts on independence coming very gradually. While I was there I met a man named Tolaman, who was a member of the House of Assembly and who impressed me a great deal. He has been overseas on many missions representing Papua and New Guinea. I recall his saying, when I asked him about self-government: 'We must move towards it very gradually'. 1 think this sums up the position.

I finish by saying that I deplore the unfair and ill-informed criticisms by the Press of the administration of the affairs of Papua and New Guinea by the Minister for External Territories. In my opinion he has satisfied the people who really count - the local people. I say quite frankly that I think he has handled a delicate task well and that this legislation is ' another landmark in the progress of the Territory under his administration.

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