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Tuesday, 16 October 1962


Mr L R JOHNSON (Hughes) .- The time available to honorable members to speak on such important subjects as the Territories of the Commonwealth is very limited, particularly at this time when the United Nations visiting mission to the Trust Territory of New Guinea has brought down such an informative report on that Territory. It is the kind of report that deserves a great deal of notice. The report of the United Nations visiting mission to Nauru also deserves some special consideration. Many honorable members, like myself, would like to spend a considerable time in talking about the injustices which prevail in the Northern Territory but, unfortunately, time will not permit us to do so. However, all honorable members are most certainly aware of the remonstrance which has been presented to this Parliament on behalf of the people of the Northern Territory and of the strong feeling in that area about the neglect that has taken place over a long period.

It is regrettable that we have not had a United Nations mission visiting the Northern Territory and making the same sort of recommendations about it as have been made about Nauru and New Guinea. Implementation of such recommendations would mean great advancement for the Northern Territory and could possibly bring it into the orbit of the free world so that the Australians living up there - some 27,000 of them - and those very indigenous Australians, the 16,000 aborigines in that area, might be able to have democratic rights.

What a regrettable thing it is that, although as far back as 1890 the people of the Northern Territory had full voting rights as electors in the electorate of Grey, when the Territory was under the control of South Australia, they no longer have such rights. The people of the Northern Territory have not had a representative in the Senate since 1911. So we certainly hope that a breath of the wind of change that is sweeping across New Guinea will find its way into the Northern Territory, which will be a very good thing for Australia, for the progress of that place and for. the people who live there.

A worthwhile recommendation has been made about the Trust Territory of Nauru. We know that some 27,000,000 tons of phosphate have been taken out of Nauru over a long period. Nauru is not a large place from the stand-point of population. There is good reason to believe that the world is starting to think more of minorities and is not concerning itself these days only with places which have large numbers of people. There are about 2,500 Nauruans, about 1,000 other Pacific Islanders, about 700 Chinese and 324 Europeans on Nauru, making a total population of about 4,500. They are a sturdy people who have benefited by the events of history. The island was overrun and occupied by the Japanese in 1942. I had the privilege recently of meeting Hammer de Roburt, the Head Chief of Nauru, and some of his associates who visited the United Nations. It is a good thing that they went there. They are most adamant that some special consideration should be given to the Nauruans when the phosphate runs out. Enormous profits have been taken out of Nauru. If the Nauruan people had benefited by the enormous sums of money made out of their island they would be able to buy another island. They could pick a paradise for themselves, for that matter. But they receive only a share of the wealth won from the island, and they are now to a large degree dependent upon the good grace of this Government for their settlement in some other place.

I have mentioned Nauru because the position of the Nauruans will become an appropriate matter for the consideration of this Parliament. The Minister has been actively engaged in arranging visits by various representatives of the Nauruans to parts of Queensland and the northern coast of New South Wales so that they may inspect alternatives to their present homeland. They have looked at a number of islands, some of which, I dare say, belong to the States and not to the Commonwealth, so it is not unlikely that in the not too distant future we will be bogged down in constitutional problems on this matter. I am sure that if the problem is to be satisfactorily resolved there will have to be some real action taken by the Commonwealth, lt is possible that a State will have to relinquish sovereignty over an island to the Commonwealth. It is possible that the Commonwealth cannot take an island belonging to a State. Those matters must be taken in hand, and before the phosphate deposits cease to be a realistic consideration for the support of the Nauruans thought will have to be given to housing these people so that Australia will be able to hold its head up before the world.

I turn now to the subject of New Guinea. Most Australians know that whereas Papua became a British protectorate in 1884, and became the responsibility of the Australian Government in 1905, our tenure of the Territory of New Guinea has been nowhere near so long as that. That Territory was occupied by the Germans in 1884 and it was not until 1920 that it was ceded to us under Article 22 of the charter of the League of Nations. In view of the time that has elapsed since then there is reason for the world to ask us what we have done about New Guinea. We voluntarily link Papua with New Guinea when we provide reports to the United Nations on the Trust Territory, although our obligation is to provide a report on New Guinea alone. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea we have something like 2,000,000 people who, justifiably enough, can be expected to aspire to nationhood. Many of us in Australia would have liked to see the emergence of something like a Melanesian federation in that area, because it is foolish to draw an arbitrary line across a large island like New Guinea - 3s we have done between the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the Territory of West New Guinea, and to say, " Here is one nation, and there is another ".. There is much to be said for having uniformity originally of the peoples in the two parts of the island, particularly had it been their desire. Unfortunately, our hopes of ever achieving that have been dashed, substantially, I think, as a result of vacillation on the part of the Commonwealth of Australia. We should have strongly advocated the unification of these areas so that the conditions would have been present for the people of West New Guinea and Papua and New Guinea to proceed to unification should they finally decide it was desirable. Unfortunately, Australia's representatives at the United Nations were in structed by the Government to restrain themselves, and not even to speak in the United Nations on matters pertaining to the future of West New Guinea. Why did we not move in this matter? Why did we not preserve for the West New Guineans the right to decide their own destiny by establishing in the interim period a trustee arrangement?


Mr Mackinnon - Because we had no say in it.


Mr L R JOHNSON - I believe that we had a say and failed to avail ourselves of it. 1 know that there are many Australians - and many of them strong Liberal Party and Country Party supporters - who feel sadly let down because of the Government's failure to act in this regard.


Mr Chaney - What are you actually advocating?


Mr L R JOHNSON - We of the

Australian Labour Party have always stood for self-dependence, and we believe that if the indigenous people of a country are incapable of this, then a United Nations trusteeship should be established until they become capable of it. In this case we have fallen down and it is apparent that this Australian Government can be fairly and squarely indicted and condemned. Now that the horse has bolted we must give very serious attention to our responsibilities to Papua and New Guinea, and look at the question in a realistic way. Of one thing 1 am certain: It is not realistic to gear the development of the United Nations trusteeship territory of New Guinea, or of Papua, to the Australian economy. I am convinced, as the United Nations mission was doubtless convinced, that there must be a faster rate of development in Papua and New Guinea, and particularly in New Guinea, which is more directly the responsibility of the United Nations, than we have so far been able to achieve, or than we can afford with our economic resources. The Labour Party realized this a considerable time ago and expressed the view that it is necessary for the nations of the world to use their voices through the United Nations, and to " dob in ", if you like, to make some contribution to the emancipation and the uplifting of the people of that Territory.


Mr Hasluck - Get Russia to pay her Congo bill!


Mr L R JOHNSON - I am not here to argue the division between the Eastern and Western blocs, and I hope the Minister will not be deterred from a realistic consideration of these matters because of the existence of this unfortunate division. If one of the blocs fails to do the right thing, are we to be deterred from advocating that it should be done? I certainly hope not, and I believe that the Minister will agree with that view. It would be unbecoming of him not to. After all, we are all aware of his wholesome attitude towards these questions.

Mention has been made of the Foot report, but I am afraid I have not time to go into that report in detail. It made some comments about discrimination and I am very pleased to note that grievances arising out of discrimination are being rapidly redressed. Only last year seven ordinances were repealed with a view to eliminating discrimination. I remember the Minister saying something last year to the effect that the Opposition was exaggerating in its contention that there had been discrimination, but at least the Opposition's agitation has resulted in these corrective measures. That is a very good thing, in my view.

Discrimination, of course, is still indulged in. I do not want to over-emphasize this for world consumption, and so do Australia a disservice; I make the point merely in the hope that we will see the same kind of result next year that came about this year from our agitation of last year. To refer to just one example of discrimination, I might mention a question that was asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and answered by the Minister. The question and answer are recorded at page 978 of " Hansard ". They refer to the Bulolo Timber Company. We control the Bulolo Timber Company, the Commonwealth Government holding 50.00006 per cent, of the shares in the company. This is a big concern, with capital amounting to £1,500,000, and the Minister told us that profits for the year 1960-61 amounted to £277,155. It is certainly not without some alarm that we find that 205 natives working for that company have been given only 8s. 9d. a week each and their keep. At the same time, the average European wage was £30 19s. Id. a week. There are also large numbers of other natives receiving £1 8s. 6d. a week, together with accommodation and rations, but the average payment, according to the Minister's answer, for this large number of 205 natives was 8s 9d. a week.

The visiting missionary referred to discrimination in relation to the sale of liquor and one or two other matters, and we are pleased to see that such discrimination is being broken down. 1 hope that further progress will be made in the future in correcting these wage anomalies to which I have directed attention.

There is still much to be done. My colleague, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), spoke about education. The Minister has announced a five-year plan. He intends to increase school enrolments to 350,000 by 1966-67, but at present, of course, only 200,000 people in Papua and New Guinea are receiving education, out of a potential total of 540,000. These are the Minister's own figures.


Mr Reynolds - The proportion is 36 per cent.


Mr L R JOHNSON - Is it? I did not think it was quite as high as that. However, the position is obviously most unsatisfactory, and the United "Nations mission has directed attention to this deficiency in the field of education.







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