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Wednesday, 17 February 1971


Senator McMANUS (Victoria) - The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the motion that has been moved by Senator Greenwood. Frankly, we do not see how anyone could oppose a motion which merely asserts that self government or independence should not be imposed upon the people of the Territory contrary to the freely expressed wishes of the people through their parliamentary representatives. There has been some discussion on the question whether the people of New Guinea are ready for independence. There has been a suggestion that anybody who hints that they are not is not playing the game. I think independence is inevitable and I think it will come soon. However, I also want to make it clear that I do not believe that independence will come because New Guinea is united or ready for indepencene. I do not believe it will come because the Government of this country believes in its heart that New Guinea is ready for independence.

In New Guinea today there is a large number of completely unsophisticated people who would not know the meaning of independence if you were to mention it to them. There is a more sophisticated section which has some understanding of what is involved. The latter group is vocal, but not over-vocal in expressing its opinions. At the moment the people of that section are inclined to go for independence Got so much because in their hearts many of them believe that they are entirely ready for it, but because they think that it must come and that outside world opinion will force it on them. Therefore they think that they must accept it.

I believe that independence for New Guinea is inevitable and within a very short period. Of course, it is easy to impose independence upon a country. It will be a very different thing when that country has to be govern mentally and economically viable. I have no hesitation in saying that I do not think that New Guinea is yet ready to become governmentally or economically viable, but I accept the situation that the people of New Guinea will be given their independence regardless of whether they are ready for it. Independence will be imposed upon New Guinea, not because of the attitude of the people there and not because of the attitude of the Australian Government. It will be imposed upon New Guinea because of international pressures, particularly from the United Nations.


Senator Mulvihill - That is a nineteenth century attitude.


Senator McMANUS - Some people were accused of having a nineteenth century attitude when they said that parts of Africa were not ready for independence. But what is happening in Africa today? I invite honourable senators to study the type of government in power there.


Senator Mulvihill - Mistakes have been made there.


Senator McMANUS - Mistakes are being made. They were made in Africa by people who were infinitely surer that Africa was ready for independence than are the people who talk about independence for New Guinea. New Guinea today does not have the requirements for a united country. There are about a thou- sand tribes and about 700 languages. There is no conception of nationality.


Senator O'Byrne - They may not want to be united.


Senator McMANUS - As Senator O'Byrne points out, a number of them do not want to be united. Already the people of Bougainville are wanting to break away. I would like the people who talk so glibly of independence for New Guinea to show me that when independence comes New Guinea will not break out into another Congo. I would like them lo prove to me that the violent antagonism between the highlanders and the people in the large towns on the coast will not burst forth into extreme violence. 1 would like them to prove to me that New Guinea will not follow the course of events in Africa and end up under the dictatorship of an army trained soldier from the Pacific Islands Regiment, or under the dictatorship of a number of others who have been trained in that field.

In the circumstances, and conceding as I said before that because of pressures from outside which we were not game to resist independence will come, I want now to refer to statements made by Mr Whitlam to show that in my view they have been injudicious and reckless and have not contributed to the welfare of the people of New Guinea. I do not know why he made those statements. I assume he made them because of his problems with the left wing of his Party and the feeling that New Guinea was one field in which he might be militant enough to conciliate the left wing without regard to the consequences. He has assured the people of New Guinea of independence by a definite date. That is a remarkable promise.

He did not say to them: 'In the event of a Labor government taking office we will do so and so.' He made the people of New Guinea a definite promise that they would be independent by a certain date. He went even further and informed them that there would be no problems about money with independence because Australia would pick up the bill. I contest the right of any Australian leader to give a blank cheque io people who, he says, will be independent of this country within 2 or 3 years. I believe that the Australian taxpayers would regard such a promise with a good deal of reservation. Is it wise to say to the people of a country approaching independence that an outside body will pick up the bill?


Senator Mulvihill - Holland is still doing that with Indonesia.


Senator McMANUS - Surely Senator Mulvihill is not suggesting that Holland today is paying all the expenses of Indonesia.


Senator Mulvihill - It is a Creditor nation.


Senator McMANUS - Many nations are providing loans and other forms of credit for Indonesia. I would like to know how many nations today which have granted independence to countries formerly under their control have informed them, as Mr Whitlam has informed New Guinea, that once those countries become independent their bills will be paid for them. Look at the situation in New Guinea today. No doubt Australia's attitude has conduced to that kind of promise. Last week I spoke to a man with some knowledge of the affairs of New Guinea. He pointed out to me that under the kind of self-government which New Guinea has at present Australia is providing about $300m a year in aid and works. 1 have not checked that figure, but whatever it is, his claim was that a considerable sum was being provided. My informant told me that the Australian Government has relinquished any right Co say how that money shall be spent. The determination of that money which Australia provides is now, in bis view, in the hands of the self-governing people of New Guinea. How many senators would be prepared to say that as costs rise and more money is wanted we will underwrite such a system, and that we will provide the money without any say as to how it will be spent? That is the kind of promise that has been made to the people of New Guinea. I think it is entirely unrealistic.

When the people of New Guinea become independent we will continue to give them aid. I think we will always do that, but to say to them that there will be a blank cheque available for their expenses once they become independent is not the kind of promise that ought to be made by an Australian leader. It can give rise only to hopes and expectations which the people of Australia may fulfil in the future but which many of them would be unlikely to want to fulfil. I believe, therefore, that in talking to the people of New Guinea we should explain to them particularly the economic facts of life. We should inform them that if theirs is to be an independent country it will be necessary for it to a big degree to be economically viable. We should point out to them that this will involve many problems. Independence is not a matter of breaking out a flag on a mast and then declaring a party; independence is something that involves very serious problems. When independence is given to a country, one of the first things required by that country is an administrative class or group. Where are the administrators in New Guinea today? There are some who, 1 am pleased to see, have been given positions of considerable importance, but there does not exist in New Guinea today anything like the number of trained administrators that would be necessary to enable independence to function.

One of the things which obviously would be required if a country such as New Guinea were to function would be a proper system of education. But what is the situation at present? I spoke to some members of the highlands group of parliamentarians when they were in Australia and they informed me that in their view there had been a most unfair allocation of Australian assistance to Papua and New Guinea. They pointed out that because the urban proletariat, if they could be so called, in the urban cities near the coast were more vocal than others, in those areas of New Guinea there were secondary schools, technical schools and even a university. Yet up in the highlands, apparently because the people were not so vocal, they did not have primary schools even. Everybody is in favour of independence for Papua and New Guinea, but let us not fail to recognise the immense difficulties of running an independent country in a place where the problems of economic viability are very considerable, where there is not an administrative class and where education has not attained a standard at which the great bulk of the people can understand even what independence means, let alone function under it.


Senator Mulvihill - Education shot' Id be speeded up.


Senator McMANUS - I am nol in favour of speeding up education in the case of people such as those in Papua and New Guinea. To some degree in some areas these people are still stone age people. It may seem all right to some people to speed up education for people of that kind and to plunge them into a twentieth century civilisation overnight, but experience has shown that when that happens it is not altogether to the advantage of the people concerned. I want these people to be given every assistance and I want them to be educated, but I do not think that we can turn them into functioning democrats overnight.

The attitude of my Party is that whether or not we think the people of Papua and New Guinea are ready for independence, they are going to get it. We must face the facts and be realistic; they will gain independence in the very near future. What is the best way to deal with the situation? My Party accepts that independence will come, but my Party says that any attempt to have a centralised government controlling the whole of the area is bound to fail. lt can result only in bitterness and hate between different groups, it will cause tribal fragmentation and, in some cases, civil war. The attitude of my Party is that we must introduce a federal system of autonomous States that would provide for cases such as Bougainville that want independence. Let us introduce a decentralised scheme of independence of autonomous States. Those States could have a central council for the discussion of common problems. We do nol believe that an independent New Guinea could function effec- lively under any system other than one where there was a federal system with decentralised control. Bearing in mind that we accept that independence is coming in the near future, our view is that a system of the kind I have mentioned will have to be introduced.







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