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Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2523


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) - In his speech to the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1971-72 the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) expressed the view that in the long term Australia would be judged by the way in which it performed the task of economic development which he chose to describe as more complex than political development. This is a glib oversimplification of the kind which all too often characterises the Government's policy on New Guinea. Unless Australia helps to create a realistic political structure with active political parties working with a dedicated and capable public service all economic development will prove to have been in vain. However, even on the Minister's own limited and narrow terms the performance of this Government, and its Administration in New Guinea, in economic development deserves critical scrutiny. The Minister's office has again this year issued a set of notes for its Estimates debates as well as a glossy publication titled 'Papua New Guinea ... a guide to growth'. These documents contain no acknowledgment of the problems and difficulties in economic planning and achievements in New Guinea. In the world of the booklets there are no failures to reach targets, no sense of urgency, simply selfcongratulation. To understand what is happening, and not happening, in New Guinea's economic development, we have to turn to the publication The Development Programme Reviewed' which was presented to the House of Assembly in August this year. However, the document itself can be understood only by comparison with the original economic development programme announced in September 1968 to cover the 5-year period 1968-73.

Appropriately enough, a substantial section of the review is devoted to the prospects for the rural sector. But the programme ignores one of the crucial problems confronting New Guinea, that of land hunger in certain areas, in particular the Gazelle Peninsula. The planners implicitly assume the maintenance of the status quo in expatriate land ownership. On their projections, by 1975 there will be a slight increase in the acreage under coconuts held by expatriate planters. In cocoa, expatriate acreage in 1975 will still be 3 times that of New Guineans. In rubber it will be also almost 3 times and in tea 650 per cent. Only in coffee will the existing trend of local domination be maintained. There are a significant number of plantation owners prepared to assist in the transition to local ownership. There are others who are simply running down the plantations, achieving maximum profit now at the cost of future development. The time to act is now. The Government's policy of inaction in this area is destroying the chance for partnership during selfgovernment and after independence. For too long we ignored the development of political intelligence in New Guinea and now the Government is making the same mistake in relation to land hunger. It is an insult to the intelligence of this Parliament for the Minister to flourish the figure of 3 per cent land alienation in his notes for honourable members. This figure is a percentage of the entire New Guinea land area - swamp, jungle and mountain, as well as arable and pastoral areas. I will refer later to Professor Salisbury's recommendations on land problems in the Gazelle Peninsula.

Another extraordinary omission in the Minister's notes is the failure to refer to problems posed for New Guinea rural industries by Britain's pending entry into the European Common Market. The development programme itself makes no attempt to assess the effects of the loss of Commonwealth preference on the British market for copra, coconut oil and coffee, but merely hopefully comments that representations to EEC members for special accommodation 'are continuing'. The serious shortfall in recruitment for professional and sub-professional officers for the Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries, on which I commented last year, is still unsolved. The target set in 1968 was for the hiring of 280 officers in the next 5 years. By December last year only 68 had been recruited. There is also a grave staffing failure in the Department of Forests. During the first 2 years of the programme the target for recruitment of overseas officers was 27, but only 16 were recruited. The target for local diplomates was 108 by 1975, but has now been cut back to 56. These 2 Departments present a very different picture from that presented by the Minister of unchecked progress. But this failure to reach targets is not confined to those 2 departments. In education a significant and important policy shift has been glossed over. The 1968 programme set a target for primary education enrolments of 249,000 by 1973. This year's result shows the 1973 figures as not available. When we read the fine print, however, we find the programme stales:

It is unlikely that the resources available for primary education will permit any . significant expansion in the two-years to 1972-73.

In plain words, further expansion of primary education where there are still substantial numbers of children unable to attend primary school has been cut off. This is confirmed in the Minister's notes, where the now available figure turns up as 223,500.

Secondary school enrolments have shown a significant increase, but the programme gives no explanation for the target failure for form 5 and 6 students. In 1968 the projection was for 450 form 6 students. Now the figure has been revised to 255. For form 5 students the comparable figures were 550 and now 375. This failure presents a threat to the very necessary localisation targets, modest as they are, It is depressing to find that only one in seven civil engineers will be New Guineans by 1976, one in six electrical engineers, one in five surveyors, one in seven lawyers and only 29 per cent of doctors. It is an extraordinary reflection on past planning that by 1976 there will not be a single New Guinean architect. I welcome the appointment of a committee of inquiry into higher education which is re-examining priorities and 1 trust that it will not be too leisurely.

Unfortuntely the same melancholy picture confronts us in the field of apprenticeship. The latest figures available for June last year show only 1,280 New Guinean apprentices. Of those 370 were working with one body - the New Guinea Electricity Commission^ which deserves very great praise for its far sighted planning. Only 543 apprentices were employed in the private sector. Unless some improvement can be shown in this vital area more stringent measures should be considered to ensure active co-operation from private industry. There are, one supposes, explanations for the failures. There always are. There are very substantial achievements - the fruit of the dedication and commitment of many. Australian and local public servants. But what is disconcerting about the review of the development programme and the tone of the Minister's speech and notes is the absence of urgency. Even the most conservative views concede independence by the end of this decade, but the Government appears to he living in the past decade rather than planning for the next.

No comment on New Guinea estimates can exclude discussion of the situation in the Gazelle Peninsula. The tragic death of Mr Emmanuel has unfortunately exacerbated feelings, both locally and in Port Moresby. Several exchanges in the House of Assembly in recent months have done nothing to mitigate bitterness. However, the administration is fortunate in having the report from Professor Salisbury of McGill University on the problems of the Gazelle Peninsula. The relevance of the report is strengthened by the fact that Professor Salisbury was in the Gazelle at the time of Mr Emmanuel's death. The response of the Administrator's Executive Council, or perhaps the response of the dominant clique, has been luke warm. While the professor recommended that priority should be given to assistance for the purchase of under-utilised freehold land, AEC merely noted that a general investigation into the purchase of freehold land, not necessarily in the Gazelle, was already under consideration'. Professor Salisbury present a careful argument for the concentration of high level Tolai public servants in the Gazelle but this was dismissed peremptorily on the grounds that 'adoption of such a policy could lead to similar demands in other parts of Papua New Guinea'. Professor Salisbury anticipated this objection in his report when he said:

Localisation of Public Service can be tried out to the full here in the Gazelle, and its snags ironed out If it does not work here, the prognosis for an independent New Guinea is not good, but it should be tried.

As he argues later, the central government in New Guinea has always been strong on central decision making and weak on explanation and responsiveness to public Opinion. The continuing crisis in the Gazelle cannot be resolved by dictation from Port Moresby. It can be resolved only by the Tolai people. Professor Salisbury's recommendation for full-scale localisation is extraordinary, but so is the situation in the Gazelle.







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