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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2099

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Australian Country Party supports the Bill before the House and does so because it believes that the assistance which the Bill proposes for Papua New Guinea is a correct approach. Of course, we are dealing with this measure at a time which precedes selfgovernment for Papua New Guinea. We are providing for a financial arrangement which will carry over after that date. I believe that this is right and proper. Australia's part in international aid is well known, but I believe that there is a very great need for every Australian to recognise our special interest in Papua New Guinea. Of course, that special interest will be all the more important to Australia and to Papua New Guinea after self-government. For this reason I believe that this guarantee must be regarded as an indication of Australia's intentions. For that reason alone it deserves the support of this Parliament and of the- Australian nation.

It has long been a part of the policy of this side of the House to support the economic development of Papua New Guinea. In fact, the 2 previous Ministers for External Territories, the Honourable C. E. . Barnes and the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) I believe set a very good pattern in this regard. They set a basis which gave confidence for development in Papua New Guinea both in the government sector and in the private sector. In respect of private investment, there has been a tremendous forward movement. Without this it would be very hard to foresee political development and ultimate self-government succeed. Other countries which have attempted to rush into self-government without considering the important ingredients of economic stability have failed miserably. We do not want to see that happen in Papua New Guinea.

There has been some reference in this debate to certain matters relating to the future of civil aviation in Papua New Guinea. I hope there will be no clumsy approach in this direction. I was very disturbed to read some of the statements made in the last week or so. Australia has played a part second to none in comparison to any other country's assistance to a developing section of Asia. The section to which I refer, of course, is Papua New Guinea. If one compares Australia's action to what has been done in any other part of the Asian region I think that Australia's record stands out very clearly as one of success and one of which we as a nation can be very proud. But we need to be careful that we do not occasion the kind of reactions which we saw occur in the statements made outside Parliament in the last week or so in the matter of the future of civil aviation in this area. You, Mr Speaker, have requested that we should not deal with this matter directly and 1 certainly will not transgress your ruling in this regard. But I want to make the observation that the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) has said that this is a delicate matter. I see no reason for it to be a delicate matter. I believe that it is clear cut and it is one which should have been resolved without the need for drama.

Mr Morrison - Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Might I again refer the House to your previous ruling. Perhaps the honourable member who is now speaking will act in accordance with the ruling which you made previously.

Mr Peacock - I rise on the same point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the honourable member for Cowper has already bowed to your ruling, has referred to it and has said that he just wanted to mention the matter in passing because it affected the proposed loan under consideration. I think that he ought to be allowed to complete his sentence. There is an obvious sensitivity in the Government ranks on this question. We have seen that, we appreciate it and we do not. want to dwell on it. But the honourable member ought to be allowed to complete his sentence.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Kooyong is debating the question. I think the honourable member for Cowper in passing might have mentioned the matter. But I hope that that time has passed over and he will get back to the Bill.

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill quite clearly indicates that the proposed loan is for the purpose of the Government of Papua New Guinea financing public works and services. It was said last week that the Government of Papua New Guinea may be required to meet the full responsibility for airports and civil aviation. I will say no more than that. I shall relate the remainder of my remarks to the matters of public works and services. It is obvious that in the immediate future, if we are to see a satisfactory economic development, a considerable expansion in the expenditure on works and services will be necessary. This will apply to transport and to the general services, no matter what they are, that are administered by the Government of Papua New Guinea. A Budget of something in excess of $200m is not very big. The 1971- 72 Budget of Papua New Guinea was $208m of which Australia provided $36m and in the same year it provided loan assistance of $10m. Papua New Guinea's Budget last year was slightly larger. When we add that assistance to the support we are giving to the extent of $A14.3m it comes to a considerable sum of money. But let us look at the expenditure requirements. For example, the cost of works on the Southern Highlands Highway is something like $21m. Other propositions for expenditure on roads range from single projects involving $3m to smaller projects which do not involve less significant amounts. The requirement for the maintenance of transport is something like $18m. That is merely to maintain existing communications. There is a requirement of $15.6m for the maintenance of roads and bridges. The power generation requirement amounts to $24m. I think those figures indicate the kind of basic expenditure that is necessary in the government sector to provide a basis for a continuation of the economic development that is rapidly occurring in Papua New Guinea. I am sure that this Parliament will fully support this objective.

Reference was made by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) to what he mysteriously described as some possibility of revaluation or devaluation at some future obscure time. The honourable member went on to advocate that a country such as Papua New Guinea should undertake devaluation. I would hope that the honourable member's philosophy will not be the one that is followed by those who have the responsibility of looking after the interests of Papua New Guinea in the immediate future. There are problems enough without creating them and certainly devaluation would be following a philosophy that brings in its wake all of the miserable things of the underdeveloped world that we do not want to see happen in Papua New Guinea. The suggestion that what goes on in the People's Republic of China could be followed in Papua New Guinea leaves one wondering where the basic philosophy on the other side of the House is coming from these days. Certainly we want none of it in Papua New Guinea. I believe that thinking people will see clearly that the existing standards can be maintained and that with proper leadership Papua New Guinea will not find itself engulfed in the kind of difficulties that have confronted other similar regions in the world.

Likewise there is a need on the part of Papua New Guinea and the present Australian Government to be mindful of what might, be described as the 'risk of overindulgence' in the field of investment which is allowed into that country from outside. I read figures yesterday which I will quote. I am not able to substantiate them but I believe that they are figures that are worthy of debate in this House and perhaps they could be clarified at some future time. The information given was that 2 years ago Japanese investment in Papua New Guinea stood at $2m and that today it stands at $3 5m. If this is correct I believe it indicates 2 things: First of all there is a near takeover of certain industries justification for it. Secondly, that perhaps there is justification for having a look at how it can be farmed out to greater advantage. Certainly the assistance given by the Japanese must be acknowledged but we want to be sure that a situation does not arise in which there is a near takeover of certain industries or certain enterprises. This would be a bad thing for the Territory if it were allowed to run at too strong a rate in a manner that would subsequently create a backwash.

Of course, the important consideration is the earning capacity of whatever industry and development takes place and the benefits that flow from that earning capacity within the country. In other words, I refer to the employment levels and the standard of employment or to use another descriptive term, the 'rate of pay' for those who are employed. I am not talking about individual pay rates. I am talking about the number of people employed and what it means to a community because at this stage of development the important considerations are the numbers and the spread of employment rather than individual standards. Individual standards must be considered in terms of a basic aspect of the matter. But today in Papua New Guinea there are hundreds of thousands of able bodied people who are keen and anxious to enter into employment. Whatever we do in the government sector or in the private sector in respect of employment must have as its objective that as many people as possible get the benefit so that there is a greater level of useful employment. This is the key for the future of Papua New Guinea. I support the Bill before the House and I hope that this will only be the forerunner of many things that we will do in this Parliament to assist the development of Papua New Guinea.

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