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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4113

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - I join with the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison), speaking as the Minister for External Territories in this Parliament for the last time, and his predecessor, the former Minister for External Territories, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), in endorsing on behalf of the Australian Country Party the message to be conveyed to the people of Papua New Guinea through the House of Assembly of warm wishes on the occasion of their self-government. Of all the qualities which go to foster relations between people and between countries, good will is paramount. In the relationships that have evolved between Australia and Papua New Guinea it is that quality above all others which has distinguished the successive relationships at a ministerial level, at a parliamentary level and at a personal level between Australians, Papuans and New Guineans both in peace and at war.

On 1 December a significant event will occur not only for Papua New Guinea but for Australia. We are as a parent to a child moving out into the world on her own. The relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea is almost as close as that personal one. We have had a very close involvement in the past, and I believe we should maintain - and there is the will to maintain - a similar close relationship in the future. It has been a personal involvement not only by those who are today in this Parliament and in the House of Assembly in Papua New Guinea but also by those who have been in the Ministry or in the Department of External Territories over the years. I would like in particular at this time to compliment the present GovernorGeneral, a former Minister for External Territories; my colleague, Mr C. E. Barnes, another former Minister for External Territories; the honourable member for Kooyong and the present Minister on the way in which the goodwill between our 2 peoples has been maintained. But in particular to Sir Paul Hasluck and to Mr Barnes, I think, the credit must go for the capacity of the people of Papua New Guinea to take the step which tomorrow represents.

The present Minister said in his statement in the House today that he believes it was the visit to Papua New Guinea of the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that served as a catalyst for change. I do not believe that that statement is accurate. To me it is regrettable that there should have been that type of visit at a time when, through a progressive support of the actions and the initiatives of which the people of Papua New Guinea were capable, there had been a remarkable transition from a state of complete dependence on Australia to a state in which economically the people of Papua New Guinea were more and more able to sustain their own future development. I believe that through a process of gradual transition there has developed a feeling of confidence in the future which would not otherwise have been possible. It was that confidence in the future which was unfortunately so violently disrupted by the actions and statements of the present Prime Minister as Leader of the Opposition when he visited Papua New Guinea in 1970 and 1971.

However, I believe that it is important that, Papua New Guinea having attained selfgovernment, the good will that has been in existence between our 2 countries is preserved during this next transition stage in the move towards independence and in the period thereafter. It is important that there be no feeling on the part of the Government, the Parliament or the people of Australia that we will force upon the people of Papua New Guinea decisions which they themselves do not desire to take. One would hope that in this transition to independence a capacity is developed within the people of Papua New Guinea which will enable them to accept the greater responsibilities which the final step will involve.

To all those who have been officers of the Department of External Territories under its several names I also pay credit. Both the Minister and the honourable member for Kooyong have made reference to the contribution that these men have made. Their actions both in the past and in the present represent the highest contribution that men can make within the obligations that are theirs as members of the Australian Public Service. I believe that their contribution to the self-government and to the status of Papua New Guinea must be a great tribute to their own personal efforts. To Michael Somare, the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea and to his parliamentarians the responsibility for the future is now passed. It is a step of gradual transition. One would hope that this step is seen not as one of violent change but rather as one of progressively taking on a wider burden of responsibility. I believe that in Michael Somare and his Ministry there is the capacity for the guidance of Papua New Guinea in the future in a sound and constructive way. Indeed, in the remarkable contribution which he has made towards unifying the country since he has taken up his present responsibility, I believe there are signs and symptoms of a man who is a great leader at a time when his country needs him.

To all those in Papua New Guinea, to those in the House of Assembly, on behalf of the Australian Country Party I wish the very best for the future. It is with a real feeling of a significant time in history that I give my own personal endorsement to the motion moved by the Minister for External Territories. So it is that on this last occasion on which a Minister for External Territories speaks in this House the Minister moves a motion with the complete endorsement of all honourable members. 1 believe it is a motion which will lead not towards the severance of relations between our 2 countries but rather to the fostering of a closer and a permanent relationship which will give to both the people of Australia and the people of Papua New Guinea greater promise for tomorrow than might otherwise have been the case.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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