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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2432


Mr MORRISON (St George) (Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories) - imove:

That the Bills be now read a second time.

The purpose of this legislation is to give effect to a series of decisions reached jointly with the Government of Papua New Guinea. These are to transfer responsibility for the Public Service and for auditing the accounts of Papua New Guinea to local executive authority, to implement the recommendations of a report on the future of overseas officers in the Public Service and to make minor amendments to the description of Papua New Guinea in conformity with the terms of the border agreement between Australia and Indonesia signed in February 1973.

There are 2 Bills involved. One is to amend the Papua New Guinea Act. The amendments proposed have 4 objectives. Firstly, they will remove the power of the Minister for External Territories under section 30 to appoint officers and engage persons on contract for the Public Service, thus enabling Papua New Guinea to legislate to develop its own national public service - an essential authority for a country approaching full selfgovernment and independence. Secondly, they will repeal section 30a, which guarantees the payment of certain benefits for overseas officers. This section will be superfluous with the passage of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill, to which I will refer later. Thirdly, the amendments provide for the cessation of Australian responsibility for auditing the accounts of Papua New Guinea. In this regard it will be noted that the transfer of responsibility is to apply to accounts in respect of transactions occurring after a date to be fixed by proclamation. This will retain authority for the Australian Auditor-General to complete his final audit, and enable the Papua New Guinea Auditor to commence his responsibilities at the beginning of an appropriate financial period. Fourthly, the amendments will give effect to certain provisions of the border agreement between Australia and Indonesia signed earlier this year. The agreement provides for the recognition of the 14 border markers erected by a joint IndonesianAustralian border survey team in 1966-67. The amendments to the descriptions of the Territories of Papua and of New Guinea are in accordance with the Agreement, concluded with the concurrence of the Papua New Guinea Administrator's Executive Council and signed on behalf of Australia by the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea. It provides that the boundary is to lie along the geodetic lines linking the border markers except where the border follows the course of the Fly River.

I now turn to the Bill titled the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill. This Bill is complementary to the proposed amendments to the Papua New Guinea Act and is designed to come into operation on the date on which responsibility for the Public Service is transferred to the Papua New Guinea Government. At the present time there are some 5,000 permanent and contract overseas officers of the Papua New Guinea Public Service and the Police Force who were appointed as permanent officers or engaged on contract by the Minister for External Territories. The Papua New Guinea Government has indicated that it wants to retain the services of many of these officers and that it sees a continuing need for staff from Australia for some years beyond independence. The Australian Government has given an undertaking to Papua New Guinea that the help of Australians will be available for as long as that help is needed and desired. The Papua New

Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill provides the framework under which this may be accomplished and gives effect to the recommendations of a report on the future employment security of overseas officers in the Public Service.

The report on employment security arrangements sprang from an independent inquiry into the employment security of overseas officers and the provision of future staff by Australia. The inquiry was set up by the previous Government in August last year and was carried out by Mr A. M. Simpson, C.M.G., a leading Adelaide businessman. His report was accepted in principle by both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments and was published. Copies are available from the Parliamentary Library. The Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill, in giving effect to the Simpson recommendations, reflects a decision taken jointly by Papua New Guinea and the former Australian Government and endorsed by the present Australian Government. Its provisions will result in major changes to the existing framework under which the Australian Government provides staff for Papua New Guinea.

Under the Bill permanent and contract overseas officers and temporary overseas employee superannuation fund contributors in the Public Service and the Police Force, and staff of the Electricity Commission of Papua New Guinea who are supperannuation contributors, will be separated from their respective Papua New Guinea services and will become part of an Australian Staffing Assistance group. The persons in this group will not be members of the national Public Service of Papua New Guinea and they will not compete with local officers for promotion within that service. They will however be made available to occupy and carry out the duties of established positions in the Papua New Guinea national Public Service and in other areas of public employment until there are Papua New Guineans available to fill these positions and their services are no longer required. Their employment under the Australian staffing assistance legislation will then cease and they will eventually rejoin the Australian work force. The Commonwealth Teaching Service will shortly be recruiting teachers for service in Papua New Guinea and for the period of that service they will form part of the Australian staffing assistance group. Similarly, staff seconded from other areas of Australian public employment will also serve in the group in line with Australia's undertaking to provide continuing staffing assistance to Papua New Guinea. The Bill provides for the prescribing by regulation of the terms and conditions of service and the superannuation, retirement and employment security benefits of the overseas officers who will make up the staffing assistance group. Removal of these matters from Papua New Guinea legislation and their prescription under Australian legislation will meet the assurances given to these officers by the Australian Government that their terms and conditions of service would not be altered without the consent of the Australian Government. The Australian Government will, therefore, as part of its aid program be accepting full and direct responsibility for the cost and payment of the remuneration and other benefits of employees in the staffing assistance group.

Other changes recommended by Mr Simpson relate to employment security arrangements for employees in the staffing assistance group. Modifications will be made to the employment security scheme for permanent overseas officers to update its benefits in line with rising costs since 1966 and to provide officers with certain options as to pensions, compensation or alternative employment on premature termination of their careers. A scheme of compensation for premature termination of contracts of employment made by the Minister under the Papua New Guinea Act will also be introduced. These matters will be prescribed by regulation. The Bill itself is designed to provide the basic framework under which the Simpson recommendations may be given effect. Pending the introduction of regulations prescribing terms and conditions of employment it provides for the continuation of the relevant provisions of appropriate Papua New Guinea Ordinances and the regulations and determinations made thereunder. In so far as superannuation, retirement and employement security benefits are concerned the Bill continues certain provisions in the existing Papua New Guinea law and preserves the continuity of pensions and the rights of contributors. The regulations to be made by the Governor-General will provide the detailed mechanism necessary for the effective administration of the Act, and will set out the terras and conditions of employment and other benefits available to persons to be absorbed into the Australian staffing assistance group. It is essential that the provi sions of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill and the necessary regulations to be made thereunder become operative on the date on which responsibility for the Public Service is transferred to the Papua New Guinea Government. This is scheduled for 1 August 1973. The Papua New Guinea Government is proceeding with complementary Papua New Guinea legislation to establish a national public service and the object is that both the Australian and Papua New Guinea legislation will commence concurrently. I commend the Bills to the House.







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