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Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1294

Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) - In the course of the remarks of the Minister for External Territories in his second reading speech on the 4 Bills before the House, he said:

The amendments proposed to the Papua New Guinea Act-

This relates primarily to the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973- are certainly historic, but the changes brought about are more symbolic than substantive.

That, of course, is true. What we are doing is legislating for self-government for Papua New Guinea. We are, in fact, enacting decisions which were, in the main, taken by the Government of Papua New Guinea in conjunction with the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. It is most important, however, that people recognise the fundamental distinction between self-government and independence. I recall that when I held the portfolio of External Territories I used to use a definition of internal self-government along the lines that it was a situation in which the Commonwealth had ceased to exercise executive or legislative control in the administration of Papua New Guinea in respect of its internal affairs. External affairs and defence would remain a Commonwealth responsibility. The outward sign of internal self-government would be the formal divesting by Australia of its powers by amendment to the Papua New Guinea Act. This would take place, as I used to say, in the final stages of an orderly progression. The scope of power conferred at internal self-government would probably need to reflect Australia's continuing obligations under the trusteeship agreement with the United Nations. But at the time of this divesting of powers under the Papua New Guinea Act other Commonwealth legislation affecting the bulk of Papua New Guinea's internal affairs would have ceased to be applicable to Papua New Guinea. In the main, that is still a sufficiently accurate definition of internal self-government.

When I continue my remarks tomorrow I will point out certain differences in approach between this government and the previous Government in relation to the post selfgovernment situation - in other words the preindpendence and then post-independence situation. In concentrating my remarks over the next few minutes on self-government it is well to remember that the situation we are now enacting has come about not as a result of recent and radical change in Papua New Guinea but as a result of a continuing and somewhat accelerating movement which started in 1967. In that year, on the recommendation of its Select Committee on Constitutional Development, the first House recommended that ministerial office holders be appointed from the House and that arrangements to allow for the development of a system of ministerial responsibility be provided for. I will make some remarks tomorrow about the wisdom of continuing with a Westminster system in operation in Papua New Guinea notwithstanding the deliberations of the constitutional planning committee. At this juncture I merely want to retrace the background to the legislation which is now before the House.

In 1968 the Papua New Guinea Act was amended to give effect to the request I mentioned a moment ago. In 1969 and 1970 ministerial office holders gradually assumed responsibility and became more involved in governing Papua New Guinea. In July 1970 final powers over wide areas of internal government were devolved to Ministers. The initiative for this devolution of authority and responsibility, which is a continuing one, rests with the Papua New Guinea Ministers and with the support of the House. The previous Governments policy - regrettably it is not reflected accurately to date although it has been the aim yet not the result of this Government's administration - that the initiatives for constitutional development should come from Papua New Guinea. As I said continually last year, we would not impose constitutional change regardless of the wishes of the people. Therefore we would not impose self-government or a self-government date on Papua New Guinea. I stated consistently that the Australian Government stood ready to give selfgovernment to Papua New Guinea. Its aim was to help and encourage Papua New Guinea towards that goal, but the decision to accept self-government was one for the House of Assembly to speak about or to indicate the way in which the wishes of Papua New Guinea on the question could be clearly seen. This was done, and it was agreed last year after constitutional discussions between myself and the Government of Papua New Guinea that the aim for self-government would be 1 December 1973 or as soon as possible thereafter.

What we are doing now is to ensure that Papua New Guinea can in fact and in law reach self-government on that day. We are providing for formal self-government. It is not something that has been accomplished with a single step. I think .he Minister referred to something along that line. It is not a sudden jump from one status and set of responsibilities to another but it should be seen as emerging from a series of steps which were agreed upon in advance by Papua New Guinea and the Commonwealth Government. There was some discussion last year and prior to that as to whether the power over internal security should pass to Papua New Guinea on self-government. It was thought that the power over external affairs and defence would naturally remain with the metropolitan power - the administering authority - but that it may be wise to retain some area of responsibility over internal security. I did not necessarily subscribe to that view but in any case the Government has adopted the attitude - the Government has not put it to us but we have had to glean it from a number of remarks - that internal security and the power over internal security will pass to Papua New Guinea during the period from selfgovernment to independence or prior to 1 December.

There is no hard and fast rule of constitutional practice, as I understand it, concerning the timing of the transfer of responsibility for internal security. In most former British dependencies the British Government, through the Governor, retained ultimate responsibility for internal security up until the time of independence itself, but whatever arrangements were arrived at prior to that date seem to have been based upon the particular situation in each dependency. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Constitutional Development in a statement to the House of Assembly on 17 November 1970 outlined the Committee's understanding of the sort of arrangements which might be likely to exist during internal self-government. He said then:

Basically the Committee feels that it could be assumed that external affairs and defence would remain the responsibility of the Australian Government and that as far as other areas of government are concerned arrangements would be negotiated between the Territory Government and the Australian Government at the time.

He went on to say:

While Australia would remain responsible for the Territory's defence and external affairs, arrangements might be made for sharing of some police and internal security matters between the Governments of the Territory and Australia.

He then went on to say:

The Territory might have a new name but Papua and New Guinea - as it was then known - would continue as 2 separate Territories and the Territories' constitution would remain in a Commonwealth Act, and the United Nations trusteeship agreement would continue in force for New Guinea.

That is as it was put in 1970. Of course, some changes have been made.

I would like the Minister to advise this House of the details of the transfer of responsibility over internal security. If the power is to be transferred, this House should be fully informed of the ramifications and, more particularly in the first instance, of the details of the transfer. The next matter is not this Minister's responsibility but that of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) who, I would remind the House, consistently criticised the previous Government on an unfounded basis for not making known sufficiently frequently the future standing, deployment and structure of the forces known as the Pacific Islands Regiment. The Minister for Defence referred to the Pacific Islands Regiment in but one paragraph in a lengthy defence statement in this House. He has a prime duty to advise the Parliament as to what program of defence arrangements related to Papua New Guinea is being determined by his Department, by the Department of External Territories and of course by the Government of Papua New Guinea. We must be advised of the study of arrangements deemed necessary by this Government at selfgovernment for the maintenance of internal security as a local responsibility. We need to be advised of the consideration that has been given to the organisation, training and other matters relative to Papua New Guinea forces which could be accomplished now without prejudice to their ultimate size and shape. .We ought to be advised of what study has been given to consultations.

Debate interrupted.

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