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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2818


Photo of Whitlam, Gough

Whitlam, Gough

Period of Service: 05/12/1972 to 11/11/1975

More information about Whitlam, Gough on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 18/02/1973

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2818

At a Dinner attended by the Government of Papua New Guinea.
PORT MORESBY 18 February 1973
Mr Chief Minister, I suppose one would be less
than human if one did not feel some measure of gratification
at the recent changes in our personal and political situations:
all I need say, Chief Minister, is that we have both come a
long way from the lounge of the Sepik Hotel at Wewak in
January 1970, when we were both virtually under seige and
when we were both deemed in certain quarters to be committing
political suicide by daring to talk about early independence
for Papua New Guinea.
I may say, Chief Minister, thatthe courage and
foresight you showed in those years marked you as a coming
man and as a genuine leader of your people. It is a deep
personal pleasure to me as well as a matter of great pride
that you and I shall be working together in the coming years
in the great work of creating a new nation in the South
Pacific, this nation of Papua New Guinea.
In the whole of modern history there is only a
select band of men and women to whom such a task has been
entrusted, and you Chief Minister, have joined with lustre
and honour the chosen few who have led their people to
nationhood. In the few short years since 1970 when even
self-govenrment, much less independence, was scarcely to be
mentioned in polite circles, Papua New Guinea had a piece of
unexpected good fortune. I refer to the appointment of Andrew
Peacock as the Australian Minister for External Territories.
I am glad, here, to pay my public tribute tL-o him and his work,
as I have in Australia. I have been lable to appoint an
admirable successor in Bill Morrison who, one way and another,
has had a remarkeable record in working himself out of a job
and that, of course, is the duty of the Minister for External
Territories. I was never a believer in the idea that the
Australian political parties should adopt thfroughout the early
a bipartisan approach on the future of Papua New Guinea.
I am convinced that the attempt to do so did great harm in
those years. Too often, Australian apathy, Australian arrogance,
Australian indifference masqueraded as a national consensus.
Nevertheless, what was a disadvantage in the ' 60' s could well
be an advantage in the mid ' 70' s as Papua New Guinea emerges
towards independence. Andrew Peacock did go a long way towards
restoring the consensus a genuine, progressive, concerned
consensus, not the phoney consensus of the
There are now three great areas of agreement among
the Australian political parties about Papua New Guinea's future.
The first is that a timetable for self-government and independence
must be set, and that essential elements for the timing of the
decision are the views and wishes of the House of Assembly. / 2

As the Chief Minister and Mr Peacock agreed,
resolutions of the House on important issues should be by
recorded vote and by a substantial majority representative
of the nation as a whole. My Government reaffirms that
position. I cannot stress too often that the decision for
independence is not only a decision about Papua New Guinea.
It is about Australia and Australia's view of her own proper
role in the world. Australia is no longer willing to be the
ruler of a colony. And my Government is determined to divest
itself of that role in the lifetime of the present Australian
Parliament. The second area of firm agreement is that
Australia's aid to Papua New Guinea will continue after
independence. You will recall, Chief Minister, that in
my visits in 1970 and 1971,1 made the most solemn pledges
to your people on this matter. The pledges that I made to
your people ae as binding upon me, my Party and my Government
as any undertaking I have given to my own people in seeking
their support. I am acutely aware of the fact that if I had
not given these undertakings in 1970 and in 1971, the cause
of independence could never have made its spectacular progress
in the past three years. I repeat thzt-undertaking now.
The Australian Government has decided to give the
Papua New Guinea Government an assurance of continuing aid over
the period of the three year Improvement Program beginning in
1974/ 75. The detailed arrangements to give effect to this
assurance will be formulated in connection with the preparation
of the Improvement Program. These arrangements will, of course,
need to provide for review during the period of the Program as
necessary in the light of changing circumstances.
Papua New Guinea will have the first call on our
substantially increased foreign aid programme. We shall be
working with the Papua New Guinea Government through a specific
and guaranteed ' programme.
The third area of complete agreement between the
Australian political parties is that it is Australia's duty
and responsibility to hand over to the Central Government and
the House of Assembly a united Papua New Guinea.
My Government's policy, and it was the policy of
the late Government, is to hand over our remaining powers to
a national and representative government, freely elected by
the people of the whole of Papua New Guinea and able to
represent the wishes of the majority of the people. Relations
between our two countries will be conducted through the National
Government in Canberra and the Central Government of Papua New
Guinea. Australian aid will be allocated solely through the
Central Government. / 3

On 20 December 1971 the United Nations General
Assembly, by resolution, urged Australia to discourage separatist
movements and to ensure that the unity of Papua New Guinea is
preserved throughout tne period leading up to independence.
On 14 December last year the General Assembly again reaffirmed
" the importance of ensuring the preservation of unity."
I know we cannot underestimate the difficulties in
maintaining unity. I know the strength of tribal and regional
feelings. These ties and loyalties are themselves valuable
an essential ingredient in the life and culture of the nation.
But if Papua New Guinea is to survive, if it is to progress, if
it is to find an honourable and honoured place among the nations
of the world, if it is to have an effective voice in the affairs
of our region, then the Central 6overnment and the House of
Assembly must have sufficient powers over the whole nation to plan
for the nation and to speak for the nation.
I hope you won't think it patronising of me to
remind you that Australia herself a federation of states
has problems in dealing with national matters. For example,
you will know the difficulties and delays we have met in
carrying out our determination to negotiate between our two
countries in the Torres Strait. Even in a country as developed
and sophisticated as Australia, one hears from time to time
rumbings and mumblings about secession. But it is folly for
anybody to believe that any section of Papua New Guinea would
serve its interests by going it alone. For it would truly mean
going it alone. Soon I shall be leaving for a visit to our great
neighbour, Indonesia. It's worthwhile reflecting that that
country has faced similar problems of diversity of cultures
and customs and suspicion from time to time of the Central
Governm1~ ent. But Indonesia is an example of one of the
outstanding facts of the post-colonial era. Newly independent
countries in Asia and Africa have made extraordinary exertions
to maintain the integrity of the borders inherited from their
colonial rulers. For such countries those borders are regarded
as the very foundation of the legitimacy of their government,
as the very guarantee and symbol of their independence, and of
their nationhood. It must be so with Papua New Guinea.
The members of this Government and the members of
the House of Assembly have, as I have said, a tremendous and
difficult task ahead. But it is a task of great honour and
privilege to be in truth the founding fathers of your nation.
You are writing a great page in your nation's
history. In Australia you have an assured friend and I believe
we shall forge a true partnership to the great advantage of
both our countries and for the welfare of both our peoples.

Transcript 2818