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Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 448

Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) - This is a much more involved Bill relating to the Territory of Papua New Guinea. I intend to move at a later stage an amendment to the motion That the Bill be now read a second time' in the following terms:

Leave out all words after 'That', insert - the second reading be postponed pending the renegotiation of the affairs of the Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd to provide for an indigenous equity of at least 50 per cent'.

People who may be listening to this debate will understand the tenor of it when I say that in his second reading speech the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) said:

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 Developments 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 bythe board of Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers, with the result that the respective shareholdings in the consolidated company, which will still be known as Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd will be held--

This is the punch line - 65 per cent by Placer and 35 per cent by the Investment Corporation.

In other words, 65 per cent is to go into the hands of expatriates and . 35 per cent or less is to go to the local people. The Minister went on to say;

This arrangement is a most satisfactory outcome to the sale of the Commonwealth's assets in Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd to the Investment Corporation.

He went on to make a few other remarks. My colleague in the other place, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), when introducing the Opposition's argument in the second reading debate had this to say: we feel that there is an important principle to be stated in relation to it. In 1952 the Commonwealth and a private company, Placer Development Ltd, created Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd. The Commonwealth and Placer Development Ltd both held 50 per cent of the shareholding in that company. The Commonwealth is selling out its shares and passing them over to the Investment Corporation of Papua New Guinea, which is an instrumentality of the Government of Papua New Guinea. So far so good. But to this new company will come other interests of Placer Development Ltd so that the Government of Papua New Guinea will have a 35 per cent shareholding and the. private sector of the company will have a 65 per cent shareholding.

Mr Minister, I am referring now to the Minister for Works , in your generosity you are giving away to your friends 65 per cent of the investment in this company. A statement has been made by an expert in New Guinea, Terrence Stokes, in these terms: . . Mr C. E. Barnes . . has given foreign monopolies in New Guinea the following assistance. No restriction on the transfer of profits and capital from New Guinea; credit for taxes paid by companies on profits transferred to Australia; special tax concessions for mining, timber and agricultural production; complete exemption from income tax for a period of 5 years for new operations as, for example, Bougainville Copper together with exemption from tax on dividends paid from income from such companies; tariff protection; duty-free entry of plant and materials used in manufacture and credit available on reasonable interest rates from the Development Bank.

To whom does all that go? To the big business monopolies, the friends of the Australian Government, with the possible exception of one-quarter of one per cent. The Papuans and New Guineans make up 981 per cent of the total population and people of mixed blood and white people make up the other li per cent. Most of the people of mixed blood are of Chinese origin or pure Chinese. Fifty per cent of all industries and businesses established in the Territory are owned completely by foreigners and 95 per cent of all profits made there go to expatriates. Ninety per cent of the land is virgin country so there is a wide open field for anybody who wants to exploit the Territory.

Let us look at primary industry in the Territory. Fifty per cent of the profits goes to 981 per cent of the population and 50 per cent goes to H per cent of the population - that is to people who are not locals. The vast majority of the natural resources are owned by Australia, the United States of America, Japan and Britain, and there are some other foreign shareholders. Let us look at the fields in which expatriates, the friends of this Government, have placed their investments. They own all the private banks. They own all the insurance companies. So much for local investment. They also own all the hotels. I remember saying to a representative of the hotel association in New Guinea: 'What are you doing with your profits?' He said: 'Ploughing them back'. Guess what they were ploughing them back into? Taverns. They do not even have to provide beds to be able to sell grog to the local population. Ninetyfive per cent of export and import companies are owned - do not guess, Mr Minister - by your white friends. Almost every service station In the Territory is owned by the monopoly petrol companies and are operated by white people - -OMO white. Who owns all the shops? White people or Chinese, with an odd shop here and there owned by a local person.

The total value of manufactures to the end of the financial year, as far as can be calculated, is in excess of $100m and the vast share of that has gone to expatriates. Of the land in use, 5,200 square miles are owned by the colonial Administration and 850 square miles plus by Australian lessees and other white people. Copra, cocoa and rubber are dominated by foreigners. Coffee is the only local industry - and to a lesser degree now, palm nuts - in which the indigenous people have a reasonable share. The tea industry - remember this, Mr Minister - is a comparatively new industry in the Territory. Probably close to 8,000 acres in 11 foreign owned plantations are given over to the production of tea. What do you think the locals own? Many of them own a total of less than 1,000 acres in their own country.

Eighty-five per cent of the beef cattle in the Territory are on expatriate owned holdings, and at this moment further holdings for this purpose are being granted by your Government, Mr Minister. In the general field of prospecting, an area of 58,000 square miles is involved. There is no need to guess who owns the prospecting leases. Very few of them are owned by indigenous people. When we consider all the leases - oil, gas and everything else - the area involved is well in excess of 100,000 square miles. Let us consider the example of Bougainville copper.

Senator Wright - I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President.

Senator KEEFFE - Oh, not another point of order. Do you not like listening to criticism?

Senator Wright - I do not like listening to you at any time. You are rubbish. But it is not a question of what I like; it is what the Senate has ordained by its Standing Orders, and that is that there must be some relevance to the Bill. During the last 5 minutes of his speech the honourable senator has been completely astray from the Bill.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - The Bill before the Senate is the New Guinea Timber Agreement Act (Repeal) Bill. On looking at the second reading speech of the Minister for Works I have noticed a number of references to industry. However, I think, Senator Keeffe, that you have been straying further than my interpretation of the terms of the Bill would permit. Therefore I ask you to keep more within the confines of the terms of the Bill.

Senator Keeffe - Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek your ruling on a point. I have quoted from the second reading speech of the Minister for Works to show that the Government is giving away to its expatriate friends 65 per cent of an asset in Papua New Guinea. I have endeavoured to prove that this is only part of a pattern which has been in evidence for a long time. Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask you with all deference whether I am entitled to produce material in support of my argument.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - As I understand it, you are entitled to produce material in support of your argument in relation to the timber industry and other industries but I ask you to confine your remarks to the substance of the Bill.

Senator KEEFFE - Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. You have given me the green light. The sorts of things contained in the Minister's second reading speech are completely consistent with everything the Government has done over the last 23 years. But the Government is a little scared at the moment because there is a possibility that Papua New Guinea will in the future, although certainly not while the present Government is in office, become an independent country. The Minister for Works fears that if his Government gets another term of office there will be ructions with Papua New Guinea. So he has put sugar coating on this Bill to make it look good.

The Opposition is not asking for a great deal. All it is asking for is that the Bill be postponed. Surely to goodness it would be possible for further consultations to be held with representatives of the House of Assembly in Papua New Guinea in order to make sure that they and we know that nobody will be touching them. If members of the House of Assembly were then to state that they were satisfied with the provisions of this Bill then that would be their business. But I think that if they can work out, as I am sure they will be able to do, the manner in which they have been touched by this Government for 20-odd years they will approach this Bill with a great deal more caution. There is nothing in the second reading speech of the Minister that says what royalty will be paid. Is that a close secret? The Minister knows that Japan and other countries have been operating in Papua New Guinea for a long time. He also knows that a large proportion of the Australian businessmen in Papua New Guinea are raping the country. They are taking away its natural assets to line their own pockets.

The Minister knows that most of the trouble in the Highlands has been caused by the planters deliberately fomenting disturbances because they want to hang on to their timber assets and to their plantations as long as they can. If a few of the local people get killed in the process how many planters would worry? None. At least half of the trouble in the Highlands today would not have occurred but for the presence of the planters who have been raping the country for so long and who now object to having to get out. Whom do honourable senators think supported the United Party at the recent election? Whom do honourable senators think found the funds for it to fight ah election? The Central Intelligence Agency and the planters did that. That is how that political party has been able to remain in existence. Its big worry is that the Pangu Pati - the party of the workers-has been able to form a government. I suggest that it is in the interests of the people of Papua New Guinea and the interests of the Government to postpone the second reading of this Bill for long enough to permit an examination of it to make sure that the Government is not just following the old colonial pattern of selling out everything that belongs to people who are black.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Senator Keeffe, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Clerk has suggested to me that the wording of the amendment you have foreshadowed be changed to comply with the forms of the Senate. The amendment you have circulated reads:

Leave out all words after That', insert - the second reading be postponed pending a renegotiation of the affairs of' the Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd to provide for an indigenous equity of at least50 per cent'.

I suggest to you that it should read as follows:

Leave out all words after' That', insert - the Bill be withdrawn pending a renegotiation of the affairs of the Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd to provide for an indigenous equity of at least SO per cent'.

I have been advised that that is more in line with the forms of the Senate and would have the same effect as the foreshadowed amendment.

Senator KEEFFE - As I believe that this is merely a technical matter, I would have no objection to the amendment being changed, provided I have the concurrence of Senator Murphy.

Senator Murphy - I agree with that course being adopted.

Senator KEEFFE - In those circumstances, I move:

Leave out all words after 'That', insert - the Bill be withdrawn pending a renegotiation of the affairs of the Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd to provide for an indigenous equity of at least 50 per cent'.

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