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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1425

Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) - I had hoped to continue my remarks last Thursday on the 4 Bills now before the Parliament, but of course this is the first opportunity I have had to do so. At that stage I was referring to the lack of information provided by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) about the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. Last week I referred to the Force as the Pacific Islands Regiment and I am grateful to the Minister for reminidng me that in fact on 26 January an announcement was made that thereafter it would be referred to as the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. I believe it is more than time for the Minister to advise this Parliament on the stage of negotiations reached between Papua New Guinea and Australia on the future structure, deployment, size, etc., of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. I referred to some of the considerations that ought to have been placed before us and to some of the discussions which undoubtedly were held and about which we ought to have been advised. I referred, for example, to consideration of organisation, training and other matters relative to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force which could be accomplished now without prejudice to its size and shape. I referred to the need for study and consultations with and increased responsibility by Papua New Guinea authorities in defence matters right up to the time of independence. Papua New Guinea now has a Minister for Defence, Mr Albert MaoriKiki. Undoubtedly he will be wanting to play a real role in the House of Assembly in Papua New Guinea.

We need to be advised of the concepts for the future role and deployment of the Papua New Guinea forces in a post-independence situation as it is seen by both the Papua New Guinea Government and the Australian Government. The former Australian Government was criticised continually for not making sufficient statements on the future role of the Pacific Islands Regiment, as it then was, although we were referring to it consistently. We have heard little or nothing from the Minister for Defence about either the matters I have mentioned or the financial arrangements on defence between Papua New Guinea and Australia in the period of internal selfgovernment and at independence - that is, between 1 December and whatever date is agreed upon for independence.

That leads me to a couple of points of criticism that I make of the present Government relating to independence. Honourable members are singularly uninformed on the date of independence. All we have is statements about independence in the life of the Australian Parliament - that must have as much relevance to the progress of Papua New Guinea as has the life of the Norwegian Parliament - and statements earlier in the year by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) that independence would be reached some time in 1974. That was contradicted, and properly so, by the Chief Minister who said that he wanted to experience a period of selfgovernment before determining the date of independence. We have had statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that Australia will share equally in the determination of the date of independence. That, to me, is a classic colonialist attitude.

The date of independence must be determined, at least in the practical sense, by consultation between Papua New Guinea and

Australia; but the prime determinant must be the desire of the people of Papua New Guinea, as expressed by the leadership group. The Government of Papua New Guinea must determine the date. Australia ought to respond to the date that the members of that Government determine. After all, it is their country and their future, not ours. We ought not to be imposing the date of independence on Papua New Guinea. To me, that smacks of a colonialist attitude. It is a phony approach by a party which says that it is anti-colonialist. It seems to me to be placing stresses on Papua New Guinea instead of easing it along the road towards independence and continuing the smooth and orderly transition towards self-government which was being carried on under the previous Government's administration of the Territory and, in fairness, under the moves towards selfgovernment by this Government. As I said on Wednesday, we must distinguish between selfgovernment and independence.

A further criticism that I have regarding independence is that it is inconceivable to me that this Government should allow Papua New Guinea to be shortly approaching the stage of independence without determining what the basic relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea will be when that country reaches the stage of independence, or when the watershed actually occurs. It will not occur on self-government; it will occur on independence. Will we stop, look at one another and say: 'Now let us discuss what our relations will be'? We ought to be determining our basic approach now. To me it is the height of foolishness and crass stupidity, apart from maladministration, to be thinking that we can reach a date for independence and then determine relations as if we were pressing a computer button. We must determine the basic approach and be guided particularly by the attitude of Papua New Guinea as to how it sees its relations with Australia as well as its relations with other countries.

After 1 December Papua New Guinea will be responsible for all domestic matters. I do not quibble with that. After all, the decision was reached by the previous Government in conjunction with the coalition Government in Papua New Guinea. Between 1 December and independence Australia will be dealing with defence and foreign affairs matters on behalf of Papua New Guinea but in conjunction with it. It is well to bear in mind that we ought to be distinguishing now between Australia's relations with Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinea's own foreign relations. We have to develop our relations with Papua New Guinea having proper regard to Australia's national interests, and we should expect Papua New Guinea to do precisely the same. In particular, we should not expect her to look to us to decide what her national interests are. Nor, as I have said on previous occasions, should we expect that over the years Papua New Guinea's national interests, as they are better defined and as Papua New Guinea's political leaders become more conscious of them, will not become more and more divergent from those of Australia. This is something to which the Government ought to be directing its attention and on which it ought to be preparing papers and information for this Parliament. It should do so in the execution of the fundamental duty that we have had to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. We are being given sparse information as to what relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia after independence are foreseen.

It seems to me that yet another breakdown in relations was the way in which there was fighting over whether Papua New Guinea would be allowed to join in the AustraliaJapan ministerial talks in Tokyo. We understand now that Mr Albert Maori Kiki will be allowed to attend the Australia-Japan ministerial committee. To give credit to the Minister, from the leaks I have heard around this Parliament it would appear that it was only through his strong representations that Papua New Guinea was allowed to attend. Where was the Prime Minister? Why was he not agreeing to the move that Mr Albert Maori Kiki be a participant in these discussions? Surely increasing investment and improved relations between Japan and Papua New Guinea alone would dictate that Mr Albert Maori Kiki be allowed to represent Papua New Guinea. Surely the close and abiding relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea should have dictated that Mr Albert Maori Kiki be present at the AustraliaJapan ministerial committee.

This is another example of the wishes of the Papua New Guinea Government being secondary to the determinations of individual Ministers or the Prime Minister. This has happened not only in relation to these talks and the talks on independence which 1 mentioned a little earlier in my speech, but also in the disagreement over the airport proposals and the disagreement over the nature of aid programs. This is the way in which relations between the 2 countries have diverged. This does not affect the date on which selfgovernment will come into operation but it may jeopardise relations in a postselfgovernment pre-independence situation. I hope it does not. I trust it will not. We have been too close to Papua New Guinea for too long to allow this to happen.

I stress again the necessity to distinguish between Australia's foreign relations interests and the proper regard that she must pay to her national interests when making those assessments and the fact that Papua New Guinea will be making similar considerations. Therefore mutual discussion should be held now to determine the form which relations with other countries should take as well as with Papua New Guinea in a postindependence situation. It is not good enough to wait until after self-government before holding these discussions. After all, as I have said, Australia's relationship with Papua New Guinea is in the process of changing fundamentally. In working towards selfgovernment and later independence, we are discarding the former relationship of an administering authority and an administered country. Prior to this Government taking over the process had been achieved largely without bitterness or recriminations from either party. Relations between our 2 countries are still reasonably well founded on a sound basis of goodwill and mutual trust. I earnestly hope that that situation will continue. Speaking personally, I always valued a close association with the Papua New Guinea Government and I hope that Ministers in this Government - I mean Ministers in the plural - will see that that situation continues. I agree with what is contained in the article written by Mr Creighton Burns which appeared in the 'Age' yesterday. He said that the Ministers of this Government ought to be in Papua New Guinea continuously to reassure the Government of Papua New Guinea about the aid programs and helping it during this sensitive time. They should be there to stress that so far as Australia-Papua New Guinea relations are concerned Papua New Guinea will occupy a special place as a recipient of aid from Australia in the future.

Some people would regard Papua New Guinea's movement towards independence at the present moment as exciting. One can imagine a situation some time in the future in which Papua New Guinea, independent and developing, has close and friendly relations with Australia that have stabilised into a permanent reality. But let no one dismiss the sensitive period towards which Papua New Guinea is moving now. I have the utmost confidence in the future of Papua New Guinea, provided the government of the day in this country, whichever Government it may be, gives the assistance requested by Papua New Guinea and does not impose its views on Papua New Guinea. The association between our 2 countries cannot end at independence. We ought to be taking steps now to determine what our relations with Papua New Guinea will be after independence. Events of history and factors of geography have dictated that our 2 countries must have a close relationship. We are too important to each other for it to be otherwise and for it to be to the detriment of both countries. I am confident that provided there are efforts by men of goodwill in both Papua New Guinea and Australia we can achieve that goal. We must recognise that she will be taking decisions primarily in her interests. This means that she will weigh up the relations between herself and Singapore and herself and Indonesia. In other words she will look to both the Pacific and South East Asia as she has not had to do before and we should be preparing ourselves - not simply Papua New Guinea - for the time when that stage is reached.

I have said that I am optimistic about the future of Papua New Guinea. I am sure that the Chief Minister would be as cognisant as most members of this Parliament are of the difficulties she faces. We do not underrate those difficulties. We want to give all the assistance we can give. She has domestic problems of management, a small number of Papua New Guineans in high positions in the Public Service and a small indigenous tax base. She therefore is heavily reliant on expatriates and foreign investment. We would hope that this will change over a lengthy period, but it cannot be changed overnight. There are problems of secession movements, but I do not want to exaggerate them. There is the question of the Papua-Queensland border. One would hope that that matter can be resolved by negotia tion. People in Australia do not seem to realise the deep sensitivity of the question of the Papua-Queensland border and what it could cause internationally and within Papua New Guinea if it were unresolved. I hope an earnest endeavour is made not to shout from the Federal Parliament to the Queensland Parliament that the decision will be taken unilaterally but that cognisance will be given to the provisions of the Constitution and that negotiations will be held between the Queensland Government, the Federal Government, the people of the Torres Strait Island and, in particular, the people of Papua New Guinea. After all, the colony of Queensland in the late 1890s resolved to change the boundary. It did not go ahead. There seems to me to be a prima facie case but that does not mean that the Australian Government should bludgeon the Queensland Parliament into doing as it sees fit. I think it was within 2 days of taking over Government that the Prime Minister said that the boundary would be changed. He should have known that he had no power to change it and it was wrong to mislead the people of Papua New Guinea in that way. The way to resolve all these sorts of problems is by goodwill and mutual discussion. This should be taking place now.

Mr Hurford - I hope you will talk to the Queensland Government.

Mr PEACOCK - I have already expressed my views earlier in this House along the same lines and members of the honourable member's Party supported the view I am now putting forward.

Mr Hurford - I congratulate you on the view you are putting, but I hope you will persuade the Queensland Government.

Mr PEACOCK - I am pleased that your remarks will be written into Hansard. I congratulate the honourable member on this mutual exchange of goodwill in this House. We must accept that the movement to self government, which has been described in this Parliament on a number of occasions, is reaching its end. We must look beyond the stage of self-government and, as I stressed to the Government, beyond the date of independence itself. We should not wait until the break occurs in relation to the execution of our duty to the United Nations. We must recognise that Papua New Guinea will be independent and looking to Asia and the Pacific. We must recognise that by 'independent' we mean just that. There will be stresses and strains and we, in this Parliament, will need to be tolerant of the relations that occur between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

What I want to say in conclusion calls for a degree of self-congratulation, not personally but of the previous Government and, to an extent, this Government. 1 believe that no other administering power in the world has been able to bring a country to selfgovernment with such close relations between it and the administered area as has Australia - no country, except perhaps Britain with Fiji, but that might be the only example, and even that I would challenge. I think that Australia can be proud of the role she has played in moving towards self-government and independence for Papua New Guinea but that does not mean that she should be looking for thanks from Papua New Guinea. It was a proper execution of a legal and moral duty. The fact that we have tackled the process of winding down and have done it properly does not mean that we should look for selfcongratulation or gratitude. We have done our job. We should be proud of what we have done. We should be thinking beyond the stage of carrying out our duty and looking to the stage of relations between an independent, friendly country north of ourselves.

I would like to give my final congratulations to the Department of External Territories because it, after all, evaporates on the date of self-government and its personnel move to various other departments. I have mentioned once before the debt that Australia owes the Department and successive Administrators in Papua New Guinea. Extraordinary tasks have been handled by them. A large amount of credit should go to officers of the Department for rapid movement and transition towards self-government which has been carried out so smoothly and in such orderly fashion. It would be wrong to conclude my remarks without referring to them. At the same time, on behalf of the Opposition - and I am sure that those honourable members who follow me in this debate will say the same - I wish well the Government of Papua New Guinea and the institution of the House of Assembly in their relations with this current Australian Government as they move towards independence.

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