PNG 1958: Goodbye Bill; Hello Geoff
Budget provides solid support for PNG

Roscoe proposes but Gunther disposes

Around 14 October 1958, the new PNG Director of Education, Geoff [GT] Roscoe, took himself off to Canberra to see Territories Minister Paul Hasluck. He carried with him a detailed outline for a submission to introduce universal primary education in the Territory. Not trusting the Department of Territories, nor the PNG Administration, Roscoe did not show his paper to anyone before the meeting.

Roscoe, determined to impress Hasluck, prepared his submission accordingly. He later wrote to Loch Blatchford: “If you're going to talk to a man like the Minister you put all the important stuff on the top, front page; the supporting materials behind. And the more impressive it looks, the more diagrams and graphs and things there are, the better.”

When Roscoe entered Hasluck’s office, the Minister began to lecture him on universal literacy and universal knowledge of English. Roscoe pushed forward his papers. After reading a few pages, Hasluck said: “Why didn't I get these before?” Roscoe replied: “Because you didn't appoint me Director before.”

Hasluck approved the plan in principle and said funds would be forthcoming subject to a more detailed submission. Roscoe returned to PNG elated. Administrator Donald Cleland, however, was unimpressed, and Roscoe blamed Assistant Administrator John Gunther.

Gunther was a powerful figure in the Administration. Under his directorship the Public Health Department had dominated the budget for years. Roscoe was now asking that Education be given the same priority, but Gunther was not prepared to support it. Roscoe was faced with an unconvinced Administrator, Assistant Administrator and other departmental heads – all intent on promoting their own interests.

Roscoe recalled: “I went back [to PNG] and I tried to do it and I found the same old obstructions. From the Treasury, from the Department of Works, from the Administrators' Department. All obstruction.”

Mr Roscoe should have shown them his diagrams.

Footnote: In late January 1965, after annual leave, I was flying back to Moresby from Sydney on the Electra and found myself sitting beside John Gunther, gruff but likeable enough. In those glorious days, you may recall, we all travelled first class. Of course I knew who Gunther was and felt a little awed to be in such close proximity to the great man.

When the hostess offered us a drink, Gunther opted for neat Scotch. Though a beer drinker, I thought emulation would be the sincerest form of flattery, and also ordered whisky. “What’ll you have with it?” the hostess asked. “Dry ginger ale,” I replied. “No he won’t,” Gunther interpolated and, turning to me, offered a short lecture on the contaminating effect of mixers.

Source: Letter from GT Roscoe to Loch Blatchford, 27 April 1982. See ‘The Blatchford Collection 1958' in ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA.

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