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Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2543


Mr BRYANT (Wills) - I thought that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) ended up on an odd note. One of the great problems of education in Papua New Guinea is simply to get education to the people. What the honourable member wants - I think that I am right in my interpretation of what he had to say - is to ensure that the people of Papua New Guinea have a freedom of choice, that is, that they can send their children either to a State school or to a non-State school.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The honourable member for Fremantle said that he did not consider education opportunities as playing a major role in the long-term considerations in Papua New Guinea.


Mr BRYANT - That is fair enough. But what we are pointing out is that we have not extended education opportunities throughout the whole of Papua New Guinea. Now, the honourable member apparently wishes to create 2 systems, neither of which would be effective.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - No, that is not right. We should step forward both ways.


Mr BRYANT - I will debate it with the honourable member some time in Brisbane. Personally, 1 thought that the achievement of uniformity, if we can call it that, between the 2 systems in Papua New Guinea was an achievement of some magnitude and that the living together of church schools and Administration schools or State schools - call them what we will - was an achievement of great social importance. Surely it is possible inside an education system to preserve these values which the honourable member for Griffith apparently treasures so much as, I suppose, we all do. But the important thing about education in Papua New Guinea is that there are so many people who still are getting none at all.

What I wish to say first of all is that I hope that all Australians are starting to realise how important is our work in Papua New Guinea. We are developing a nation which geographically, I think, is spread over at least twice the area of New Zealand and which has a population probably a fraction larger than that of New Zealand. So, we are creating in Papua New Guinea, if this is the term which we should apply to this social and political exercise in which we are engaged, a nation of some international significance. It is important that in all our relations with Papua New Guinea we realise that this is the case, and that every step that we take which produces negative results can be fraught with danger and difficulty for the future. If any step produces positive results in our relations with the people of Papua New Guinea, no matter what is its cost it is well worth while.

I believe we have still to surrender a lot of the paternalism with which we treat this country. As an example, take our relationship with the House of Assembly. The House of Assembly is the Parliament of Papua New Guinea. It ought to be at least as significant as any State parliament in this country. In fact, it is as significant as the Parliament of New Zealand with which I have drawn comparison already. As I understand it - and the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) will correct me if I am wrong - earlier in the year a resolution was passed by the House of Assembly in Papua New Guinea asking for a committee of this Parliament to visit Papua, I think it was, to have discussions on the grounds - let me put it that way - of some of the problems associated with it. This was, as I understand it, a resolution of the Parliament itself. That was not asking much.

The House of Assembly asked that we should by acceding to this kind of request acknowledge it as an equal partner in the area. Their Parliament and our Parliament should treat one another in this way. As I understand it, the Minister did not see eye to eye with the House of Assembly. The result was that some members from that House came here and visited the Minister. I have a great respect for the Minister - not as a Minister but because of the sort of man that he is. But I have no respect for his judgment in this matter. Those members came here last week. We were not paid the courtesy of being invited to meet them. I believe that we must start to treat these people as equal partners in this area. They have embarked on an enterprise of great significance to the security of the whole area. That is my first point.

My next point is this: What are our relations to be with Papua New Guinea? Are we to continue to treat the people of

Papua New Guinea as a race apart. I know it is fraught with all sorts of problems for the Australian community. It happens that they have one distinct difference from us: They are black - most of them. As my friend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) pointed out, unless a person is jet black some people would regard him as not being black but a redskin. They can have the same sort of attitudes as we do. Now, what are we going to do about their right to travel to and from Australia? Earlier this year I came back to this country and the only person picked out of the airplane load of people to be examined thoroughly by officers of the Department of Customs and Excise and Immigration in Brisbane was a little girl from Papua. Why was she picked? Well, she was black. We cannot carry on like that.

How will we treat the members of the House of Assembly? The only difference between them and us is perhaps in the colour of their skin. I know that this is a great problem as far as many Australians are concerned, though no Australian ever admits to being racist. I do not think Australians are racist, but they are frightened their next door neighbours might be. It does not matter much in the long term perhaps how we treat the people from Central Africa, or from Mongolia or from India; they are thousands of miles away But these are our next door neighbours and we have to find some greater rapport with them as regards the right to travel to and from. We might have simple relationships where they pass resolutions about what their people can do and we pass equivalent resolutions stating that no Australians can go and live there freely but they can visit fairly freely. If we can do that so should they be able to do it. In the long run we will not be able to treat the people of Papua New Guinea differently from the people of New Zealand. I hope we will not find the solution to our problem as the British did when they clamped down on everybody.

It is not too early to start thinking about it and talking to the people up there because it will have to be a communion of spirits that finds a solution. I do not believe that countless thousands of them will want to get up and come and live in

Australia but I do think that they ought to be able to come and go as freely as anybody else. It is time we started to resolve this question. I do not know what the answer is. I do know that I feel offended on their behalf when they find that they are unable to travel to this country as freely as they should. This applies particularly to all those thousands whose education and so on has committed them to the same life style as ours.

On the other side, we have to think about what our trade relations will be. Are we going to isolate them more than we isolate some other countries? What are the fields of co-operation in this area? There are another 24 to 3 million people scattered throughout the islands. I think one of the lessons of recent times is the growing importance of our island neighbours. The people of Papua New Guinea, the British Solomons, Tonga and all the rest - all the people associated with the South Pacific Commission, for instance - are people with whom we have to find a new relationship. We are vitally important to these people as, indeed, I think they are important to us. There are not so many of them. While there are 2 million people in Papua New Guinea the population in other places is relatively small - 100,000 here, 20,000 somewhere else. We ought to concentrate all our expertise, diplomacy, social endeavour and so on in finding some way of living side by side with these people and getting complete rapport with them. I put it to the Minister that only by the employment of all the skills, resources and personnel of this House will we do it. That is why I am disappointed that our relationship as a Parliament with the Parliament of Papua New Guinea has been so peripheral. We are allowed to go there. We can go up there once a year now - an act of great grace. It costs one a fortune to stay in the hotels and so on, of course, but I think it is important that this Parliament itself - I have been saying this for years as have my colleagues on this side and others - that we should get closer to them.

As we have all pointed out, there is of course a certain nonsense about the debate on the Estimates. We have 10 minutes to cover these great areas. That is not the fault of us all but the fault of those who voted for restrictions in speaking time. What are some of the things we ought to do? First of all, we ought to get rid of any suggestions of racism in our administration up there. There is racism in the administration of housing. Honourable members can describe it how they like, but that is how it looks to the customer. There is racism in the payment of wages and in other areas. We should be saying: 'What can we do for you? What would you like?' For instance, would it be worth while putting a satellite in orbit above the Territory for communications purposes because communications are vital to the Territory. I understand that this might cost $20m but it would solve-


Mr Irwin - You would look very good up there.


Mr BRYANT - I thought it had seeped through even on your side of the House that this is the way it is done round the world. The same applies in relation to roads and television for educational purposes. Of course, there is a feeling abroad that the provision of television is very expensive. But, by the expenditure of $250,000 we could probably put it into places such as Rabaul and the Highlands, where there are quite large populations, for educational purposes. I wish the Parliament could get around to examining these matters more closely. Surely we do not intend to leave all these questions of real difficulty and requiring proper examination to the Senate. It is time that we ourselves did something. We could do something about the exploitation of the people of Papua New Guinea by the Australian airlines. The Australian airlines charge nearly twice as much in Papua New Guinea as they do here.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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