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Tuesday, 22 August 1972
Page: 259

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill repeals the New Guinea Timber Agreement Acts of 1952 and 1953. In May 1972 it was announced that the Commonwealth Government had approved the sale of the Commonwealth's 50 per cent shareholding in Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd to the Investment Corporation of Papua New Guinea. On 29th June 1972 these shares were transferred to the Investment Corporation. A condition of the sale of the Commonwealth's interest in Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd was that upon transfer of the shares to the Investment Corporation the other major shareholder in Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd - Placer Development Ltd - would arrange an amalgamation of all other wholly owned Placer assets in Papua New Guinea with those of Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd. To this end an amalgamation agreement with Placer Development Ltd has been endorsed by the board of Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers, with the result that the respective shareholdings in the consolidated company, which will still be known as Common- wealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd, will be held 65 per cent by Placer and 35 per cent by the Investment Corporation. This arrangement is a most satisfactory outcome to the sale of the Commonwealth's assets in Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers. Ltdto the Investment Corporation.

It is the Government's policy in the long term interests of Papua New Guinea that overseas companies operating in Papua New Guinea should provide opportunities for Papua New Guineans to participate in their ventures at all levels. In line with this policy it is the intention of the Investment Corporation through equity acquisitions such as Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd. to afford the people of Papua New Guinea an opportunity to share in the ownership and control of major enterprises largely financed from outside Papua New Guinea. For this purpose the Investment Corporation is concentrating on building up a diversified portfolio of investments in Papua New Guinea. As a result the people of Papua New Guinea will, possibly in 1973, be given an opportunity to participate directly in these investments through unit trusts or similar arrangements.

Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd can be expected to continue to make a substantial contribution to the economic growth of Papua New Guinea in the field of plywood manufacture, and now also in cattle production and mineral development. This in turn will provide further opportunities for Papua New Guineans to obtain employment and training in these important activities. In this regard it is interesting to note the degree of progress which has been achieved by Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd over the past decade in the training of Papua New Guineans to accept positions within the company which demand considerable skill and ability. Throughout the past 10 years the level of employment of Papua New Guineans in Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd has averaged approximately 500. In 1962 only 26 of these were classified as skilled whereas today this number has increased to just under 200. Positions of skill include tradesmen and apprentices in most of the crafts, complex machine operators in the plymill, plant and equipment operators in the logging operations as well as clerical positions in the administrative functions of the company. At present there are 13 cadets undergoing training for the more advanced levels of management and the company is confident that Papua New Guineans will become more and more involved as opportunities occur. The successful partnership between the Commonwealth and Placer Development Ltd, which originated with the New Guinea Timber Agreement Acts of 1952 and 1953, has now come to an end. and this Bill proposes the repeal of the Acts which approved the 1952 Agreement and brought this partnership about. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.

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