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Thursday, 17 August 1972
Page: 365

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) - I move:

That the second reading be postponed pending a renegotiation of the affairs of the Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd to provide for an indigenous equity of at least SO per cent.

I do not want to delay the House over this Bill but we feel that there is an important principle to be stated in relation to it. In 1952 the Commonwealth and a private company, Placer Development Ltd, created Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd. The Commonwealth and Placer Development Ltd both held 50 per cent of the shareholding in that company. The Commonwealth is selling out its shares and passing them over to the Investment Corporation of Papua New Guinea, which is an instrumentality of the Government of Papua New Guinea. So far so good. But to this new company will come other interests of Placer Development Ltd so that the Government of Papua New Guinea will have a 35 per cent shareholding and the private sector of the company will have a 65 per cent shareholding.

The trouble with so much in Papua New Guinea is that there is insufficient provision for indigenous ownership. It appears that as the economic trend of planning and so on is developing independence will come with expatriates owning about 90 per cent of secondary industry and indigenes owning about 10 per cent or less and expatriates owning 50 per cent of the value of agricultural production. As expatriates represent only a very small percentage of the population this is an unhealthy situation.

We believe, therefore, that where there is government action and ' where ' we are consciously handing over to the Government of Papua New Guinea a Commonwealth Government equity in any Papua New Guinea enterprise, and especially where we ourselves have had a 50 per cent holding as a government in relation to the private sector of a company, the indigenous equity should not be less. We regard this as an important principle. I am not sure of what the status of the agreement is when one moves an amendment of this character. But we believe that this principle should be stated and we are anxious that in all possible arrangements the Commonwealth Government can make between now and independence it should do its utmost to develop an indigenous equity in investment in Papua New Guinea.'

There will be a very large Japanese stake in the development of Papua New Guinea. Very few Australian businessmen are awake as early as Japanese businessmen and all of the actions of Japanese businessmen are co-ordinated by the Government of Japan. Japan has the most successful partnership between government and business that exists anywhere in the world. It is fair enough to call that country, 'Japan Ltd*. There will be a government coming into power in Papua New Guinea very inexperienced in the business field. I think it is quite important that we, in our relationship with Papua New Guinea, should give the example when we are setting up a company, such as the one set out in the Bill, of ensuring that they have a decisive equity in that company because if they are to go into partnership with businessmen as astute as some of those operating around the world at the present time they may find that they will run into very serious trouble within a very few years of their independence. That is why we believe it is important to affirm this principle.

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