18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr.J. J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether the four great powers have given any thought to the final declaration of peace with Germany and Japan, seeing that it is just on four years since hostilities ceased ?
– The Potsdam Agreement, which was reached in 1945, provided that the great powers would draft a treaty of peace with Germany and Austria, and would subsequently submit thedraft to all the other powers which had been actively engaged in the war against those countries. That is the business upon which the great powers have been engaged for so long, and of which the Berlin situation is merely one aspect, hut no draft treaty has yet been prepared. It is not within the province of the four great powers to conclude peace with Germany and Austria. Countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which were actively engaged in the war, are entitled to participate in the peace conference. Japan is in a somewhat different position in that it was never decided that the great powers should prepare a draft treaty of peace with Japan. There is a Ear Eastern Commission representative of the eleven powers which took an active part in the war against Japan. In the case of Japan, all the nations concerned will participate in the drafting of the treaty, as well as in the actual peace conference. I propose, with the permission of the House, to make a statement on international affairs early next week when I shall discuss this matter in greater detail.
Mr.BEALE. - On two previous occasions, I have asked the Minister for the
Interior to make available to the House the report of the select committee of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory upon medical and health services in the Territory. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the report in a recent speech in the House. So far, the Minister has either declined or omitted to make the report available. Inasmuch as the report was completed by the committee in Darwin at the beginning of this year, and was ordered by the Legislative Council in February of this year to be printed, I now ask the Minister why he will not make the report available so that honorable members may find out what the medical and health conditions in the Territory were and are ?
– I told the honorable member for Parramatta, when he raised the matter previously, that I would confer with my colleague, the Minister for Health. I have given further consideration to the honorable member’s request, and I am not prepared to table the report.
– I wish to ask a question of the Prime Minister, and I preface it by a very brief observation. A Legislative Council has been set up for the Northern Territory by an act of this Parliament. The Northern Territory itself is within the sole jurisdiction of this Parliament. We have been informed that a select committee of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory was set up, and that it has made a report. Does the Prime Minister accept the view that the report, though it must be disclosed to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, is to be concealed from this Parliament?
– I have heard some echoes of a story that a select committee set up in Darwin has inquired into certain matters. Questions have been asked about it in this Parliament. I have not gone into the matter fully, and do not know the details. I understand that the report of the committee has been submitted to the Legislative Council, and that a copy has come to the Minister for the Interior. So far as I know, it is within the discretion of the Minister whether or not he makes the report available. As the Leader of the Opposition has raised the question, I shall discuss it with the Minister for the Interior with a view to learning whether there is any reason why the report should be made available. The Minister seems to think that there is no reason.
– If land in the Northern Territory is set aside for settlement by ex-servicemen, is the Minister for the Interior prepared to grant new settlers assistance to put down bores and to do necessary fencing, the money to be advanced at 3 per cent, interest, and to be repayable over a period of twenty years? This would make it unnecessary for the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, which is interesting itself in the matter, to make specific provision for assisting the settlers.
– The Government has a policy for the settlement of exservicemen in the Northern Territory. As the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has explained, there are difficulties associated with the settlement of ex-servicemen in the territory because the land has to be held in big areas for cattle raising. The Government has undertaken to give every assistance in settling ex-servicemen, but in their own interests it is not desirable to place them on large areas unless they have the experience, equipment and capital necessary for development. I am prepared to consider any proposals which the honorable member for the Northern Territory wishes to advance for the settlement of ex-servicemen, or anybody else, in the Northern Territory.
– In view of my previous representations to the Minister for the Interior that land be specifically set aside in the Northern Territory for exservicemen, and in view of the fact that the chairman of the departmental committee which was established to investigate this matter, Mr. McLaren, has now been appointed secretary of the Department of the Interior, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction instruct Mr. McLaren to confer with, the Director of Lands in the Northern Territory Administration and arrange for the next parcels of choice land thrown open in the Northern Territory to be specifically set aside for ex-servicemen in conformity with the practice adopted in the States?
– I certainly shall not give any instructions to Mr. McLaren. That gentleman is the chairman of the committee which the honorable member has mentioned, and the matter to which he has referred is at present under consideration. I again point out to the honorable member that the settlement of ex-servicemen in the Northern Territory would require considerably more capital than that which is required to settle them on better lands in other parts of the Commonwealth. In my opinion, we should exhaust the opportunities to settle ex-servicemen on the better class of country before we attempt to establish them on the land in the Northern Territory.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has the Government any information regarding the Cominform conference being held at Prague, and the activities of three members of the Communist party now overseas, namely, Dixon, alias Walker, president of the party; Thornton, of the Federated Ironworkers Association; and Lockwood, of the Agitprop department? Is the Government aware that the Australian Communist party is raising a fighting fund of £100,000, the purpose of which, according to the organizing secretary, J. C. Henry, is to enable communism to carry out its full aims in Australia? As those aims embrace the overthrow of constitutional government in this country, and involve international action such as is now being planned in Prague, will the Government review its policy of granting passports to enable Australian Communists to move freely to and from the head-quarters of world revolution? Did the passports issued to the Communists whose names, I have mentioned specifically permit them to go to Soviet Russia, Czechoslovakia and other Communist-controlled countries, amd extend to them the protection of tha Australian Government during their travels? Is the Government aware that Dixon and Thornton each paid £5S0 for a one-way plane ticket to Europe? Are funds being made available overseas by the Australian Government for their return tickets, as these tickets were not paid for in Australian currency?
– I know nothing of the movements of the three gentlemen to whom the honorable member has referred, nor do I know anything in relation to the Cominform conference which the honorable member states is being held at Prague. The honorable member seems to be very closely associated with the Communists because he has no difficulty in obtaining information about what they are doing. I am aware that some of the gentlemen whose names have been mentioned are no.w overseas. I know that Mr. Dixon is abroad, but what conference he is attending I do not know. With regard to passports. I have on several occasions made it perfectly clear in this House that any Australian citizen has a right to obtain a passport to leave Australia and go abroad. The Government has no intention of changing the law in that respect. The honorable member has stated that the Australian Communist party is raising a fighting fund of £100,000.’ I have not heard of that, either. If there is a suggestion that money is being made available to finance subversive activities designed to bring about the overthrow of constitutional government in Australia, the honorable member may rest assured that that matter will be referred to the proper authorities for investigation.
– What about the funds for the return fares of the three Communists whose names I have mentioned?
– The Government is not paying the fares of any of them.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inquire through the appropriate channels whether the Communist headquarters in Sydney has ordered leaders of the industrial branches and the Eureka. Youth League to complete the organization of a commando or strong arm unit, to be known as the workers’ protection squads, for the protection of Communist leaders in Australia? Will the right honorable gentleman ascertain whether those units are to be given lessons in rough tactics by former instructors in unarmed combat, and wrestlers, and whether a number of university students have attended those courses? After the Attorney-General has made the necessary inquiries, will he inform the House of the result?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the security service, and in the light of the advice that that organization tenders to me, 1 shall decide whether any information can be made available to the House.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any further information to give to the House about the. dispute at Iron Knob, in South Australia?
– This morning I received from the Melbourne office of the Department of Labour and National Service a report intimating that Judge Mtn (an, flip President of the Industrial Court r>f South Australia had refused to a ‘tfr Mie award that he made at the previous hearing. The honorable member for Grey will recall that the judge awarded an amount of 3s. 4d. a week in lieu of transport up the hill at Iron Knob. His Honour did not alter that decision yesterday, and the delegates of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association and the Australian Workers Union are still considering whether or not they will accept that award. I under- 5-tnvf’ that the Broken Hill Proprietary Col1pany Limited, which was to have put -)(T a large number of its employees, is staying it? hand until the result of that meeting is known.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been directed to a report in the Melbourne Argus of the 10th June last, which asserts the accuracy of a report in the previous day’s issue, despite a denial by the Minister? The report refers to an officer of the International Refugee Organization and a passenger on the migrant ship, Fairsea, who allegedly stated that some of the passengers aboard that vessel had shown “very communistic” sympathies, and that there was a danger of Communists entering Australia because the political screening was not so thorough as it should be. As both men have since denied that they made the statement attributed to them, and as the reporter concerned has made a statutory declaration that they did make that statement, is the Minister in a position to clarify the matter?
– Immediately the first report was brought to my notice, I communicated with Major-General 0. E. M. Lloyd, the chief of the International Refugee Organization Mission in Australia, who reported to me that he had seen Mr. Oppenheim, the International Refugee Organization officer, and Francis Pongra.cz, the displaced person migrant, to whom the statement had been attributed. Both persons categorically denied having said anything of the sort, and both complained that the Argus report was false in fact, and a complete fabrication. A report of my denial was printed in the Argus last Friday, together with a statutory declaration by G. T. Clancy, the reporter, who stated that his report was an accurate account of the alleged statement. Major-General Lloyd informed me yesterday that Mr. Oppenheim had left Australia on Fairsea, but that before his departure, he had made a categorical denial in writing of what was published by the Argus. Pongraez, who is now at Bonegilla, has made a statutory declaration emphatically denying the statements atrributed to him in the Argus. Major-General Lloyd, whose reputation is so deservedly high and who held the appointment of AdjutantGeneral of the Australian Military Forces in the latter part of World War I T., assures me that he is completely satisfied that the men did not make the statements, and so strongly does he feel about the matter that he has written to the International Refugee Organization headquarters advising them to instruct all escort officers on International Refugee Organization ships coming to Australia to refuse to give interviews to the press in view of the very great danger of misrepresentation. Major-General Lloyd has also stated that Clancy will not be allowed on any future International Refugee Organization ships if he can prevent it. The political and security examinations of European migrants to Australia is most elaborate and every avenue is explored to prevent undesirable types from coming here. It is carried out by highly qualified Australian Military Intelligence officers who are specially posted in Germany for that very purpose. In addition to their own thorough examination of migrants selected for Australia, these officers also have access to the records of the British and United States Military Intelligence forces. Moreover, they work under the direction of Major-General F. G. Galleghan, head of the Military Mission in Germany. This officer, in addition to being a gallant, soldier of two world wars who earned high praise for his conduct as a prisoner of the Japanese in Malaya, was Director of Security in New South Wales prior to his present appointment, and is, consequently, no mean expert in matters of military intelligence and security screening. It must be obvious, therefore, that the Argus reports are doubly false, firstly, in attributing to two men concerned statements which they have since denied and which I am satisfied they never made, and, secondly, in maintaining the truth of these alleged statements in the face of the denials made by the victims of a newspaperman’s misrepresentations and the true facts of security screening of migrants which I have often emphasized in the past.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Immigration to a statement which appeared in strong black type in the Communist party newspaper Tribune of Saturday the 11th June, last. The statement reads as follows: -
State and Federal governments value proFascist Baits who served Hitler as death camp guards more highly than they do decent Australians who went to battle to rid the world of Fascism and all its foulness.
The article then goes on to criticize the provision of hostels for migrants. In asking this question, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not questioning the right of anybody to oppose immigration or to criticize the allocation of building materials, but I direct the Minister’s attention to the Communist generalized assertion that these displaced persons have served Hitler as death camp guards. I ask the Minister whether, under powers incidental to the Commonwealth power over immigration and over aliens, he may introduce legislation to prevent malicious and untruthful campaigns directed at racial groups, whether they be antiSemitic campaigns or oblique incitements to violence, such as the suggestion that these Baltic people were death camp guards? Under the same incidental powers, can he introduce legislation to require that people who use such expressions in print for public circulation shall prove their words or suffer the penalty for malicious invention?
– I have seen the article to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I have also seen similar articles, in almost the same language and with almost the same punctuation marks, in other publications, including the organ of the Lang party. A diabolic frenzy seems to be animating some people in pursuing these unfortunate Baltic people. None of them are ex-death guards or exNazi guards, and any statements to that effect are vicious lies. I have already indicated, in answering a question upon another matter that was addressed to me by the honorable member for Boothby, that the people who select displaced persons to come here are reliable, honest and decent Australians, who serve under the leadership of Major-General Galleghan. The suggestion that any ex-Nazi guards have crept through the screening process is a grave reflection upon the efficiency and probity of those officers. Although I dismiss these allegations as most vicious lies, the constant propaganda against our displaced person new Australian citizens that appears in the Communist press and the Lang press will doubtless have a certain effect. I do not know whether the immigration power in the Constitution, or any power incidental to it, is sufficient to enable me to do what the honorable gentleman has suggested. I shall consult with the Attorney-General and ask him to advise me on that matter. It may be that some action could be taken under the Crimes Act. I would not hesitate to take action, if it were possible to do so, against all people who attack others on the grounds of race or religion and who spread disaffection in the community. I know of one other honorable member of this House who has also maligned these unfortunate people. It is the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who has said that a lot of them are ex-enemy nationals. That, too, is a vicious lie.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented.
– Order! The honorable member will have an opportunity to make his personal explanation a little later.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Immigration said a few minutes ago that I had made untrue or incorrect statements because I had said that, among the displaced persons who are being brought to Australia, and for whom accommodation is being found, there are ex-enemy aliens. I think the Minister was referring to somethingI had said in a speech that I delivered about a month ago. The speech was replied to by an anonymous spokesman from Canberra who, in a statement released to the press, declared that there was no truth whatever in what I had said, and that no former enemy aliens were among the displaced persons. Adjoining my farm there is a camp which, as the Minister for Immigration knows, is being used to house displaced persons. Both he and the Minister for Work? and Housing must be aware that labour and materials are being diverted to provide accommodation in that camp, which is known as No. 3 camp, Tatura area, for the housing of displaced persons. During the week-end before last I was at home, and spoke to six of the men who had just been brought to the camp. One told me that he was a Hungarian. Another told me that he was an Austrian. Austria was part of Germany at the outbreak of the war. Two others told me that they were Czechoslovakians, and another said that he had come from the Sudeten area. If their statements to me were correct, they are ex-enemy aliens.
– I deny that there are ex-enemy aliens among displaced persons in Australia.
– The Minister maybe correct. I am explaining the grounds on which I said that labour and materials were being used to house ex-enemy aliens. I now ask the Minister for Immigration whether he will have inquiries made at No. 3 camp in the area referred to in order to find out whether or not exenemy aliens are there.
-Order! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of a personal explanation.
– In the Melbourne Herald last night there was a report from the Australian Associated Press correspondent in Johannesburg, the relevant portion of which was as follows: -
The South African Government fully intends to go through with its Citizenship Bill, which abolishes British citizenship in the Union and imposes a five-year waiting period on British immigrants for full Union citizenship.
Cheers greeted the Prime Minister (Dr. Malan) when he announced this in Parliament to-night.
Dr. Malan said that the bill would be on the Statute Book this session. It applied decisions reached at this year’s Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference in London.
I do not need to read the rest of the report. I do not raise this matter for the purpose of invoking discussion, because there is a motion on the noticepaper that covers it. I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether he has received official advice on the nature of the statement by the Prime Minister of South Africa. If he has not, could he obtain at the earliest possible moment a report of that statement for the information of honorable members?
– I have not seen the statement. The conference of Empire Prime Ministers in London did not discuss matters of the nature referred to in the report. The character of citizenship legislation that might be passed by any dominion was not considered. We have received official information that it was proposed to introduce a citizenship bill in South Africa, but we have not yet received a copy of the bill or a report of the statements made by Dr. Malan. I shall try to obtain copies of the bill and of Dr. Malan’s speech as soon as I can; When they are received, I shall let the right honorable gentleman have a copy of both.
– The right honorable gentleman has in mind that on the noticepaper there is a motion for the printing of the following paper : -
Indian Constitutional Changes - Declaration by governments of the British Commonwealth - Ministerial Statement.
It would be desirable to have that information when the debate on that motion takes place.
– I shall endeavour to get it.
– There is reason to believe that when appointments as drivers for the Commonwealth car pool in Tasmania are being made, preference is not being given to ex-servicemen. Will the Minister for the Interior say whether it is the policy of the Australian Government that preference shall be given to ex-servicemen when appointments to positions in the Commonwealth service are made, and whether special preference is given to maimed ex-servicemen ? Will the honorable gentleman cause inquiries to be made to ascertain the position in Hobart at the present time?
– The reply to the honorable member’s question regarding preference of employment to exservicemen is “ Yes “. That is definitely and distinctly the Government’s policy. The honorable member has suggested that that policy has not been followed in Hobart. I shall inquire of my colleague the Minister for Supply and Development -and let the honorable member have further advice at a later date.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has undertaken to provide free land-lines to commercial radio stations for transmission of the commission’s news service? How many commercial radio stations are at present taking advantage of this offer of free land-line facilities? Will the Postmaster-General provide free land-line facilities for news services other than those emanating from the Australian Broadcasting Commission? I ask this question in view of the heavy extra charges that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will soon pass on to the public so as to increase its revenue.
– I believe that something similar to what the honorable member has described is taking place. I shall inquire how many commercial radio stations propose to take, quite voluntarily, of course, the splendid and independent news service supplied by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There is no obligation upon any commercial radio station to take any news or other item from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the commercial stations, which are taking or intend to take the news service from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, are doing so, and will do so, because they are dissatisfied with the poisoned news that they are receiving from privately-owned press agencies.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing what the position is regarding the Queensland- New South Wales border irrigation scheme. Has the Australian Government an interest, in any way, in the scheme on the Dumaresq and MacIntyre rivers? If not, will the Government show the same practical sympathy and interest in it as it is evincing in the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme?
– The scheme to which the honorable member has referred has not been examined by the Commonwealth, because the Commonwealth has not been invited to do any work connected with it. As the honorable gentleman knows, water conservation and irrigation are matters for the respective State governments. The Commonwealth has an interest in the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, first, because of a request that was made at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for it to make investigations in connexion with the proposal to harness the waters of the Snowy River; and, secondly, because of the right granted to the Commonwealth under the Seat of Government Act to use of certain waters in connexion with the development of the Australian Capital Territory.
– Can the Minister for Information say how many persons were employed by the Prime Minister’s Department doing publicity work during the regime of the Menzies Government? Who were those persons ?
– The number of persons so employed during the Menzies Government’s term of office varied, but at one time three persons were so employed. They were - the late Mr. C. C. Dawson, from the 11th October, 1938, to the 29th August, 1941; Mr. M. W. Byrne, from the 2nd September, 1940 to the 29th August, 1941; and Mr. J. Winkler from the 3rd March, 1941 to the 29th August, 1941. The last date was the date on which the Menzies Government resigned.
Alleged Illicit Introduction into Australia.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to recent allegations by customs officials in Melbourne that thousands of pounds worth of art treasures looted from the French, British and American occupation zones of Germany are being smuggled into Australia? What information hasthe Government, to the effect that customs officers recently seized dozens of costly art pieces, such as complete silver plate collections and valuable paintings from displaced person migrants who are said to be paid collossal sums to carry out these illegal transactions? What action is the Government taking to destroy this illicit traffic?
– I have not read anything about the illicit introduction into Australia of art treasures, butI shall place the honorable member’s question before my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I ask the PrimMinister, in the absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, whether it is true that passengers to Australia on an Air Ceylon Skymaster were ordered to leave the aircraft at Singapore, and travel the rest of the way on a Qantas aircraft, with the result that the plane from Ceylon travelled empty to Darwin? What was the reason for requiring this to be done? Does the Prime Minister approve of the action of the Minister for Civil Aviation in this connexion, and does he consider that it conduces to friendly relations with the dominion of Ceylon, which is running its service with crews provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited ?
– It is true that a Skymaster, carrying passengers, some from London and some from Rome, arrived at Singapore on the way to Australia, but without permission to enter Australia. The position in respect of such aircraft was made clear to the Government of Ceylon some time ago and there has been no difference of opinion over it. The Government of Ceylon recognizes that permission must be obtained before a plane can be allowed to enter Australia. There was a previous case of the kind, and the Government of Ceylon gave an undertaking that no planes would be despatched to Australia without prior permission having been obtained for them to land here. It was made clear to the authorities in Ceylon that unauthorized planes could not he brought on to Australia.
– Because there is a regular air service for the carrying of passengers to Australia. I have seen a cable in which it is suggested that a further breach of regulations was committed in connexion with the plane from Ceylon, but that will have to be investigated later. It is true that permission was refused for the plane to bring its passengers on to Australia, and [ agree with the decision of the Minister for Air in that regard.
– In the absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will state the reasons for the heavy increase of freight rates between Adelaide and Darwin since Guinea Airways Limited was forced off that route and the service taken over by Trans- Australia Airlines ?
– I understand that some increase of freight rates has been made due to the general rise in costs.
– Freight rates have increased from 6d. to 2s. per lb.
– Offhand I am not able to give detailed information concerning the increase. 1 shall obtain full information on the subject and furnish it to the honorable member at an early date.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject : -
Erection of a multi-story block and associated buildings at the Macleod Repatriation Tubercular Sanatorium, Melbourne.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Department ofRepatriation - Medical Services - Summary of recommendations made by Special Advisory Committee, dated 19th November, 1946.
The statement covers nineteen recommendations. Most of them have already been put into effect either wholly or in part.
– by leave - In a statement made in this House by leave on the 2nd June, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said that he was not convinced of the accuracy of my previous statement of the 25th May that the petrol which had been offered by certain companies from Middle East sources against payment in sterling would in the ultimate have to be paid for almost entirely in dollars. In particular, he referred to an offer of the 24th May by Ampol Petroleum Limited and said that, after I had made my statement, the managing director of the company, Mr. Walkley, had telephoned New York to confer with the American suppliers of petrol from Bahrein Island in the Persian
Gulf. The right honorable gentleman stated that the New York office of the supplying company had informed Mr. Walkley that sterling currency earned from its sales in Australia was placed in its resident London account to which “ no tags or dollar convertibility conditions “ were attached. There has been a good deal of misunderstanding about these offers of so-called sterling petrol from Bahrein, and I believe that I should clear up any doubts which the Leader of the Australian Country party or any other honorable members may still entertain about them. The letters I have received dealing with the subject are -
All of these letters relate to proposals to purchase petrol against paymentin sterling from the California Texas Oil Company Limited or its associate, Caltex Oceanic Limited, which, in turn, would purchase the petrol from the Bahrein Petroleum Company Limited. The financial transactions involved are thus somewhat complicated. In a letter dated the 6th June, 1949, Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited set out in detail the banking procedures followed by it and by Caltex Oceanic Limited. I have no reason to doubt the good faith of the companies. The information given to me by them was accurate as far as it went. I was nevertheless satisfied from authoritative information already supplied to me, that, although the initial payments were made in sterling, almost all of the amounts so paid were ultimately converted into dollars to meet the dollar obligations of the Bahrein Petroleum Company Limited. To put the matter beyond doubt, however, I cabled the letter of the 6th June, 1949, from Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited to the Acting
Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Mighell, and asked him to obtain the comments of the United Kingdom authorities. The full text of the telegram which I received in reply from Mr. Mighell is as follows: -
Have had conference with Treasury and Ministry of Fuel and following is text of written statement handed to us on conclusion of meeting: -
The Bahrein Petroleum Company Limited, the refiner of this oil and producer of some of it, though registered in Canada and operating on the Island of Bahrein, which is in the sterling area, is wholly American owned by the Standard Oil Company of California and the Texas Company. Its executive office is in New York. The same American group of companies market Bahrein petroleum products through the California Texas Oil Company Limited, which has its registered office at Nassau, Bahamas, but also has its actual head office in New York.
The present accounting practice is that Bahrein oil shipped to sterling area territories is treated similarly to a product of the sterling area and is therefore paid for in sterling by the receiving territories and such purchases are not recorded as a part of the territories’ hardcurrency expenditure. This may have created the impression that oil supplied from Bahrein is sterling oil in the narrow sense of the word. The facts, however, are that, in spite of the appearance to the contrary created by the procedure just outlined, such oil supplies involve the sterling area dollar pool in approximately 90 per cent. dollar expenditure. While it is correct that the local exchange controls approve in payment for such oil only sterling remittances to the special “ resident “ account in London of the California Texas Oil Company Limited such payments are (as remittances to American oil companies London accounts frequently are) merely preliminaries to a request in London in a substantial proportion of dollars.
In this particular and more complicated instance almost all sterling so received is used by California Texas to pay the Bahrein Petroleum Company for oil. In turn, about 90 per cent. of the gross earnings of the Bahrein Petroleum Company are at present required by the company in the form of United States dollars to pay for crude oil supplied to Bahrein from the Arabian mainland, for tanker transport of refined products, for equipment, materials and supplies from the United States, for American technicians’ salaries, for depreciation allowances in respect of capital expenditure incurred in the past and for profits. Expenditure in sterling, local and other currencies accounts only for the remaining 10 per cent.
Thus under the present (and in many respects unsatisfactory) procedure, a change over in the California Texas Oil Company’s source of oil imports from the refinery on the Arabian mainland to the refinery at Bahrein, which has been taking place in some territories, only shifts the dollar burden from the consuming territory directly on to the central dollar pool. Unlike the change over to British-controlled sterling sources, it does not mean a significant dollar saving to the sterling area as a whole.
That is the end of the statement. Mr. Mighell concluded his telegram with the following observations: -
The only comment I need offer is that financial procedure outlined in Caltex letter is substantially correct as regards that company’s own operations, but statement is incomplete and consequently misleading, since it does not indicate to what extent sterling credited to resident account of Bahrein Petroleum Company Limited is disposed of. As is explained in paragraph (3) of Treasury memorandum Bahrein Company’s receipts are needed to pay for production costs, &c., 90 per cent. of which are incurred in dollars.
Debate resumed from the 15th June (vide page 1055), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I desire to correct certain statements that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made last night about proposals for the development of the Northern Territory, and the transportation of fat cattle from that area to processing works. The honorable member referred to a remark which I had made, when speaking on another bill, to the effect that, during the period he was Minister for the Interior, he did not leave any mark of progress in the Northern Territory and that, during the whole of that time, the meatworks at Darwin had been closed.
– The Minister said that, during that period, the meatworks were closed.
– The honorable member stated that I had a scant knowledge of the history of the matter, because the works had been closed for more than twenty years before he became Minister for the Interior. I desire to correct that statement. The meat works operated for a period in 1925, or twelve years before the honorable gentleman became
Minister for the Interior. In a brief space of time, the difference between twelve years and twenty years is important.
Shortly before the honorable member for Indi became Minister for the Interior, the Lyons Government received the Payne Report. The investigations that led to the compilation of that valuable document were ordered by the honorable member’s predecessor, Mr. T. Paterson. The report was presented to that gentleman in October, 1937. It is regarded as the charter for the Northern Territory.
– How does the Minister relate the Payne Report to new works and services, which the House is now considering?
– The Payne Report has a close relationship to new works, because this Government, seizing the first opportunity that has presented itself since the end of World War II., has provided money to enable some of the works that are recommended in that report to be undertaken. Some of the recommendations in the Payne Report have been carried out by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), and many more have been approved and the necessary money made available. In some instances, the physical work itself is proceeding at the present time. The honorable member for Indi, who has criticized the Government’s so-called inactivity in the Northern Territory, had the opportunity to put the Payne Report into practical effect when he was Minister for the Interior. The report contained a recommendation that the meatworks at Darwin should be re-opened. According to that document, the mechanical equipment, freezing chambers and ramps were in good order, and only certain repairs to the timber were required. The report also stated that the re-opening of the meatworks would be a major contribution to restoring vitality to the meat industry in the Northern Territory. I need hardly remind the House that the honorable member did not act on that report. Now, he derives considerable delight from criticizing the activities of this Government in the Northern Territory.
The honorable member for Indi also delivered an interesting talk about the various means of developing beef production in the Northern Territory. He stated that if the Government would construct the necessary roads, a large tonnage of fat beef could be obtained from that part of the Commonwealth. That statement is entirely misleading. As I have not had an opportunity to peruse the report of the honorable member’s remarks, I speak subject to correction, but I believe that he specifically mentioned the stations atRockhampton Downs, Brunette Downs and Anthony’s Lagoon. Actually, those three properties already have the advantage of good roads. Rockhampton Downs has a good road to the bitumen road from Tennant Creek to Mount Isa. That is a first-class road, and the average motor car can travel along it without difficulty at 40 miles an hour. I know, because I used that road not long ago. Brunette Downs Station also has a very good road that leads to the Mount Isa road. By going slightly north of Brunette Downs Station and then due west, a person can reach the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Darwin. Anthony’s Lagoon Station also has a good road, and the average motor car can travel along it at 50 miles an hour.
– I referred to road trains, and not to motor cars.
– If a motor car is able to travel along one of these roads at 50 miles an hour, a road train can use it. No road train would need to travel at more than 25 miles an hour.
– It is a matter of creek crossings.
– There are no creek crossings from Brunette Downs through to Anthony’s Lagoon, or from Anthony’s Lagoon to the Black Strip.
– A person who travels in that direction is going away from Darwin.
– There are no creek crossings as a person travels southwards.
– Of course there are.
– A road train has already used that road. Indeed, the road train to which the honorable member referred last night has moved cattle from the properties that I have mentioned. Therefore, the problem is not the construction of roads. Of course, additional roads would improve the position in some of the outback areas. In my opinion, unless it is possible to operate the meatworks in Darwin and move the cattle northwards to that town, additional roads alone will not increase the production of beef in the Northern Territory to any great extent. The problem is a physical one. The first difficulty arises in the handling of station cattle which are, to say the least, in a semi-wild state. Because of the tick position, those cattle must be untrucked twice and sometimes three times before they reach the railhead. During the handling and trucking south to Adelaide, the cattle become bruised and their hides are damaged. The wisdom of moving cattle south from the Northern Territory to Adelaide has yet to be proved. This Government has already done a great deal to develop the western section of northern Australia. It has made £1,000,000 available to the Government of Western Australia for the building of a road to Wyndham where there is a meat-works. It has also made money available to provide a crossing at the Ord river which will allow six or eight weeks more killing time for the Wyndham meatworks. It was made a grant to the Government of Western Australia to enable it to bring the Turkey Creek to Halls Creek stock route up to standard, with water every eight or ten miles. In a practical way, we have implemented the recommendations in the Payne commission’s report. All that governments of which the honorable member for Indi was a member did was to pigeon-hole the report.
.- I rise to protest against what I regard as the almost criminal negligence of the Department of Civil Aviation. 1 refer to the air accident at Bilinga, Queensland last year. Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) whether he intended that a public inquiry into the accident should be held, and his reply was, in effect, “No; we have had a departmental inquiry and we are satisfied that the aircraft was badly loaded. Therefore, there will be no public inquiry “. A coroner’s inquest into this tragedy in which 21 persons were burnt to death is now in progress. The aircraft took off, stalled, crashed and caught fire. I propose to show why the department, in my opinion, has shown gross negligence. The officer in charge of the fire brigade made the following report : -
At 11.15 a.m., Thursdays 10th March, I received n call from the Tweed Heads Exchange, that a plane had crashed on the aerodrome at Bilinga and the services of the Brigade were required.
He relates the circumstances and tells how the unfortunate victims were trapped and burnt to death. This is his comment -
When a trainer plane landed with a broken undercarriage on the 20th December, 1947, I submitted a report to the Board at January meeting and made certain recommendations for improvements at the aerodrome in case of crash landings. Among these were the installation of a telephone and crash tender.
A copy of my report was forwarded to the Department of Civil Aviation during the month nf January.
At the monthly meeting of the Board held on 2nd March, 1948, a letter was received from the District Superintendent of Civil Aviation, advising, that in reply to the Board’s letter on 27th January, 1948, that provision for fire fighting equipment at the Coolangatta aerodrome was” under consideration and that the Board would be further advised on the matter in due course. fs it not tragic and criminal that at that aerodrome there is no telephone? How often have we heard the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), in his capacity as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) in this chamber, boast of the number of telephones that have been installed and the prosperity of Australia that has enabled them to be installed. Many deserving people still cannot get telephones, but this is what a fire brigade officer reported -
I think that the Aviation Department is very lax in allowing planes carrying twentyone passengers to land and take off on any aerodrome without adequate protection against accident or fire, and especially no telephone.
If a telephone were installed precious mim tes could he saved in calling the Ambulance or Fire Brigade in cases of emergency. This should be installed immediately.
Phones have been granted and installed fo, persons whose calling is not important and in some cases unnecessary and used only on certain days of the week, while the aerodrome has planes landing and taking off with passengers on board and the nearest telephone, a quarter of a mile away.
That, I presume, is a public telephone, although I do not know, but it is disgraceful that there should not be a telephone at the aerodrome. I do not think that such an omission could be paralleled anywhere in the world. “When honorable members on this side of the chamber are critical of the control of civil aviation, their criticism is received with a certain amount of contumely. I have very often praised the Department of Civil Aviation. I know that it has done good work in the control and regulation of civil aviation, but it is not perfect and, over and over again, I have asked for a public inquiry into every major aircraft accident. There is no need for a public inquiry into every minor accident. But who will say that, when 21 lives are lost in a crash, it is not a major disaster? At a public inquiry, people are free to come forward and say what is wrong and offer suggestions for improvement. A public inquiry was held into the Lutana disaster. The judge who conducted the inquiry made caustic comments on ground control by the department. Before we had read the report, the Minister for Civil Aviation tabled his department’s opinion of it. That document criticized the judge’s findings. Now, we have the Minister actually telling us that he is satisfied that, because his department says that the aircraft that crashed at Bilinga was badly loaded, no further inquiry is needed. That is not a finding. It would not satisfy any civilized country. There must be a public inquiry. How can any departmental committee be sure of the truth of its findings when all the members of the crew and all the passengers were killed? It is common to say, when every one has been killed in an air accident, that the accident was due to a pilot’s error. For this accident, the whole blame was put on to some one else. But when an aircraft has been consumed by fire and every one in it has been killed, how can members of a committee of inquiry be sure that the aircraft was badly loaded, especially when it was an aircraft the size of the one involved in the Bilinga crash? If the machine took off and climbed too steeply and the cargo was badly loaded it could have crashed, hut I think the odds are rather against that having happened. The point that I stress is that there was a lack of facilities at the Bilinga aerodrome. The fire engine had to travel a great distance and then had to cross ditches on the aerodrome before it could get to the burning aircraft. Those short-coming3 are not minimized in the simple report of the fire officer. The Government must act. I am not prepared to accept a statement from the Minister that the department has inquired into the accident and that he is satisfied. Air accidents to-day are fewer than they were, but they are more tragic because of the larger number of passengers carried. I venture to say that 80 per cent, of the casualties in aircraft accidents are due to fires. I have asked in the House, when bills dealing with civil aviation have been debated, that the Government offer some inducement to persons to invent appliances that will minimize the fire risk in aircraft. The amount of air travel to-day is enormous throughout the world and the proportion of accidents to miles travelled and passengers carried is small. Nevertheless, the fire risk is real, and the Government must do something to minimize it. It is very remiss of the Department of Civil Aviation to allow an aerodrome so ill-equipped as was the one at Bilinga to be used by passenger aircraft. A public inquiry must be held to ascertain the (reason for the accident. Such an inquiry might be the means of averting other accidents. Australia has a good civil aviation record. Our air crews and aircraft are as good as those in any other part of the world, but our ground organization is not so good. The inquiry that was held into the Lutana disaster showed that our directional aids are of a type that was condemned in 1942. Defective directional aids were not the reason for the accident at Bilinga aerodrome, but the lack of fire-lighting equipment and the absence of a telephone there cannot be excused. I express my sympathy with the relatives and dependants of those who were killed in this accident. In justice to them, and in the interests of the safety of civil aviation in Australia, the Government must see that right is done. Right can be done only by the holding of an open inquiry. A departmental investigation will noi suffice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
.- 1 am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) is not in the chamber. The honorable gentleman constantly talks of the millions of pounds that are being expended upon ex-servicemen’s pensions. Such payments are noi really pensions, but are compensation for disabilities. Many anomalies exist. No ex-serviceman who served in the 1914-18 war and who married after 193S can obtain a pension for his wife or children.
– Order! This bill relates to works and services. The honorable gentleman is not entitled to deal with pensions.
– Some of the men to whom I have referred are inmates of repatriation hospitals. Those hospitals may be discussed under this billAlthough men in this category are admitted to repatriation hospitals, their dependants do not come within the provisions of the act.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman must confine hi» remarks to works and services.
– I shall defer my remarks until another bill on the noticepaper is under discussion.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th May (vide page 18), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I should have thought, as this measure is one of such importance, that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), would have been present in the chamber.
– The honorable gentleman need not comment upon the Minister’s absence.
– I am about to make some observations to which I think the Minister should listen. It is useless for me to make helpful suggestions unless some attention is paid to them. This is a machinery measure. It is a bill to appropriate £21,000,000 for the purpose of war pensions. Apparently that sum is a mere bagatelle, in which the Minister is not interested. It does not mean a thing to him. This bill affords the House an opportunity to discuss the general administration of the Repatriation Department, but how can we discuss that matter properly when apparently the Minister does not consider the measure to be of sufficient importance to warrant his presence in the chamber? However, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is at the table, will doubtless take notes of the discussion and inform the Minister for Repatriation of what has been said about his department. Not only does this measure provide an opportunity to discuss the general administration of the Repatriation Department
– This is a bill for the appropriation of a anm of money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and its payment to the War Pensions Fund. That is the only matter that the honorable gentleman is entitled to discuss. It will not be in order to discuss the general administration of the Repatriation Department.
– I propose to discuss the administration of the department in relation to pensions. This is a bill for the appropriation of a sum of money with which to pay pensions. It affords the House an opportunity of discussing the methods of assessing the rate of pensions payable to people who belong to what I regard as a forgotten section of the community. Labour administrations are noted for their lack of sympathy for returned servicemen.
– I reiterate to the honorable gentleman that he is not entitled to discuss the general administration of the Repatriation Department.
– I am referring to pensions.
– The honorable gentleman is not entitled to deal with any matter that is not dealt with in the bill. This measure is a very short one. It deals with the appropriation of a sum of money and the payment of that money to a fund. That is the only matter that may be discussed.
– I rise to order. I ask, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether it is permissible for honorable members to discuss pension rates. That is what the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is leading up to.
– The Chair rules that honorable members are entitled to discuss only the actual appropriation of the .sum of money mentioned in the bill.
– How can we do that ?
– The honorable gentleman must work that out for himself. The Chair will tell him if he is out of order. Honorable members are not entitled to discuss the administration of pensions, rates of pensions, or any other matter of that kind.
– I wish to be clear on this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do I understand that we are not permitted to say whether we consider that current rates of pensions are adequate?
– That is so.
– Do I understand that we may not discuss the matter of the’ rates of, for instance, widows’ pensions?
– That is so.
– All we can say, then, is whether this amount of £21,000,000 is an adequate sum or otherwise. If that is so, how can we give reasons to support our claims, if you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, rule the reasons out of order? How can we give those reasons unless we can discuss matters that definitely relate to the expenditure of that sum?
– Order ! The Chair did not make the Standing Orders but it must interpret them. Opportunities are given at other times for honorable members to discuss the actual rates of pensions paid and all other circumstances connected with pensions. The House is debating a measure that provides for the appropriation of an amount of money, and only that appropriation may be discussed.
– I know that the Chair must interpret the Standing Orders, and if that is the Chair’s interpretation of the Standing Orders governing this particular instance my remarks are left in a truncated form, as I may not discuss whether the amount of money available for pensions is satisfactory in connexion with certain allocations or not. All I can say is, that in the light of the representations that have been made to me and to the Minister for Repatriation by ex-servicemen’s organizations, this amount of £21,000,000 is ineffective and inadequate, and makes no provision for the increase of the cost of living and of the basic wage. Pension rates do not approximate, for example, the increased wages paid to workers in industry or the percentage increase of the present basic wage compared with the rate for earlier years. I have figures showing those increases that, I hope, the Chair will permit me to use.
– I shall query any attempt to use such figures.
– Very well. If I am permitted to do so, I shall proceed to make the other remarks that I intended to make on general administration and on the subject of whether or not we are paying pensions that are adequate in money value. The position of those who have a pension entitlement can be understood by making a comparison between the pension rates now paid and the present cost of living, and also between the pensions paid and the basic rates paid to war pensioners.
– Order ! The honorable member is attempting to evade the ruling of the Chair. He is endeavouring to discuss the actual rate of pension paid to returned soldiers.
– I was mentioning the present rate.
– The honorable member cannot evade the ruling of the Chair by mentioning that matter.
– Then I shall put it this way. The increase of 5s. a week that is to be made in the rate of pensions payable to war pensioners will come from this appropriation of £21,000,000. Does1 the Chair rule against my mentioning that?
– If that is the case. I find it impossible to discuss this matter as I had intended. All that I can say is that the basis of the pensions that will be paid from this appropriation of £21,000,000, according to all the reports that we have received from outside organizations, and all the research work that has been undertaken, bears no comparison to the present level of the basic wage. All the evidence that one can adduce by comparing the pension rates payable to ex-servicemen with the increased wages paid to workers in industry, shows that this appropriation of £21,000,000 is entirely inadequate.It does not represent the amount that would be required to put war pensioners on a comparable basis with workers in industry. It appears that that is as far as I may go with the observations I had intended to make on this bill, and I shall content myself with voicing my protest.
.- This is a bill to approve of the appropriation of £21,000,000 and the Parliament is entitled to know whether that amount is adequate or not, and whether there are anomalies in how that amount is to be expended. Two days ago I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), when he was dealing with the question of widows of former civil servants in New Guinea who were killed during the Japanese invasion, why they were not receiving full repatriation benefits. He said that the responsibility was only partly his. If he were here now he might be able to elucidate the question of where the blame lies for the fact that those widows are not receiving full benefits.
-Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– The Minister said that the Department of External Territories was the responsible department. I wrote to the Minister concerning this matter some months ago but I have not yet received a reply. I have here a letter regarding pension rights from the widow of one of those civil servants, and she points out that-
– Order ! The honorable member must not proceed along those lines. I do not desire to have to order him to resume his seat, but I shall do so if he continues in his present strain.
– I should like to know how far I may go in this debate with a discussion of whether British exservicemen are entitled to a reassessment of their pensions in Australia. I have received correspondence about that matter. I have previously urged in this House that the Government should make representations to the United Kingdom Government with the object of arranging that a delegation of powers be made by that Government to the Minister or one of his commissioners so that his position can be dealt with. The position at present is that a British soldier living in Australia, or an Australian who served in the British Army and is now living in Australia, is not entitled to a reassessment of his pension in Australia.
– Order ! As that matter concerns administration, it may not be dealt with in this debate.
– I consider that it is more than just a matter of administration. It is a very human problem.
– Order ! [f the honorable member attempts to evade the ruling of the Chair I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I desire to discuss that matter because it is important.
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss it during the present debate.
– Some of the money to be appropriated by this bill is to be spent on the tribunal that will consider-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– This bill has nothing to do with the adequacy of pensions. It is the custom, once every twelve months, to appropriate a sum of money to be paid into a trust account from which pensions are paid. The matter of whether pensions are adequate or not is not relevant, because pensions are paid on a scale that has been decided upon by the Parliament under other legislation.
– Order ! The Minister must not discuss that subject. The Chair has already ruled such discussion out of order.
– I was only proceeding to point out that it is within the competence of the Parliament at any time during the next financial year to increase this appropriation of £21,000,000 if it does not prove, sufficient for the purposes for which it is to be appropriated and therefore a discussion on the adequacy or inadequacy of pension rates is not relevant to the bill. The amount appropriated for the trust account last year was £19,000,000. There is a small balance, available in the trust account which is only sufficient to pay pensions up to the middle of next month. The amount now proposed to be appropriated, together with the small amount at present remaining in a trust account, will probably be sufficient for the next twelve months. If it proves to be insufficient the Parliament, at some future time, may appropriate a further amount.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th May (vide page 96), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seeks the approval of the Parliament for the ratification of the International Wheat Agreement which, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has explained, is an international agreement arrived at after discussions in Washington, United States of America, on the 23rd March last. The parties to the agreement are five countries with a surplus of wheat to sell, and 36 countries with a deficiency of wheat. In short, it is an agreement between five seller countries and 36 buyer countries. Incidentally, two of the seller countries - France with an estimated surplus of 3,000,000 bushels and Uruguay which expects a surplus of 2,000,000 bushels - represent such an unimportant contribution to the estimated total surplus available for export of 1,000,000,000 bushels, that it may be fairly said that this is a proposed agreement between three seller countries and 36 buyer countries. The whole purpose of the agreement is to rationalize world trading in wheat, and to ensure stability in dealing with quantities and prices. The agreement is to operate for four years, commencing from the 1st August next.
Let me say at this point, quite unequivocably, that both the Opposition parties support the principle of an international wheat agreement designed to stabilize the wheat-growing industry, and to provide reasonable terms and assurances to countries which are regular buyers of wheat. I remind honorable members, and others who may listen to this debate, that the Opposition parties were the first Australian political parties to attempt to achieve an international wheat agreement. That was when they were in government in 1933. Any controversy about this bill, therefore, is not over the principle of whether Australia ought to be a party to an international wheat agreement, but it will be related to whether, having regard to the terms of the agreement, and to all present and foreseen circumstances, this proposed agreement is in the public interest and, particularly, in the best interest of those most concerned in Australia - the 60,000 odd wheat-growers and their families, and the many more scores of thousands of people whose living standards are dependent on the stability and the profitableness of this great, industry. In order to remind honorable members just how important the wheat industry is in Australia’s economy. I point out that had the wheat crop during the last financial year been sold at public auction, as was the wool clip,, the money from wheat sales would hariexceeded the return from wool. Of course, growers have not asked, and would not a.’ much as suggest, that wheat should be sold at public auction, but the statement of fact which I have made provides :i basis of comparison.
The Parliament is now asked to ratify this international agreement; in other words, to make Australia a legal party to it. At this point, I remind the House that, this being an international agreement, the Parliament will have no opportunity to vary it. I do not think that any one would seriously suggest that it should have such an opportunity. Our choice is to accept it or reject it. There are two tests which ought to be applied to such a proposal as this. The first and most elementary one is whether the proposed contract is drawn in terms which are capable of being enforced. The second is whether the contract is in the public interest, and whether it is in the interest of the wheat-growers whose commodity we are asked to commit for a period of four years. Upon very strict examination, and after mature consideration, the Opposition parties conclude, for reasons which I shall explain later, that this is not a contract capable of being enforced. We have not the slightest doubt that whatever party or combination of parties may govern Australia during the next four years, this country, if committed to the contract, will honour it in the letter and in the spirit. Thus, if we have the wheat, it will be available to the buyer countries at a price within the upper and lower levels stipulated in the schedule to this bill. Australia will be bound by the agreement because our obligation is simple to interpret, and our ethical standards will ensure that we shall honour the agreement in the letter and in the spirit once we become a party to it. However, I make it clear that the obligations of the 36 buyer countries are by no means simple to interpret. Each, one of them will have no fewer than 35 opportunities to “ pass the buck “, and to escape or avoid or delay the discharge of the obligations which they have accepted. 1 propose to examine the agreement through the eyes of a wheat-grower, to whom it represents a commercial transaction. No one has seriously suggested that it has diplomatic implications. If the Government wants to deal in wheat for diplomatic reasons, it should buy the wheat at its true value, after which it could dispose of the wheat as it wished. However, this agreement is represented to us as a commercial transaction. The grower will ask whether he will get more for his wheat under the agreement or less than he would without it. Of course, the immediate effect . of the agreement will be that he will get less, but will acceptance of this lower price offset the risk of a serious fall in prices during the later years of the period in which the agreement will be in force? Surely the judgment of the wheat-grower, and his chosen leaders and representatives, should provide an answer to that query.
This brings me to the first and most devastating criticism of the Government’s handling of a commodity which belongs to private individuals, and was produced on their own initiative, with their own labour on their own land and with their own equipment, after facing all the risks which are notoriously associated with wheat-growing in Australia. Within the last eighteen months, two international conferences have been held to discuss this subject. There have been available for consultation and advice, so that the views of growers may be ascertained, two separate bodies, the Australian Wheat Board, upon which there is a majority of growers’ representatives, and the growers’ own association, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. No representatives of either of those bodies were taken to Washington while the negotiations were being conducted, either during the most recent negotiations, or during those which took place about fifteen months ago. The Australian Wheat Board was treated con temptuously by the Government in connexion with this enormous financial transaction. The board was never consulted. No member of the board was taken as an adviser or consultant, and I gather from public statements of members of the Australian Wheat Board that the hoard was never allowed to see or study a copy of the proposed agreement until Australia was committed, or, at least, until the Government had committed itself. When the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) goes abroad to an international conference, he surrounds himself with advisers, including officials, representatives of organized bodies, such as women’s organizations, and chosen clerics: but for a conference dealing with the disposal of our wheat, not one representative of either the statutory body, the Australian Wheat Board, or of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, was taken along to act as an adviser. The federation asked the Government to take one of its representatives to Washington as an adviser, but the request was refused. The federation then asked the Government to facilitate the presence in Washington, at the time of the negotiation, of one of its representatives as an unofficial adviser, the federation offering to bear the expense entailed. It pointed out that the organized growers of Canada were represented at Washington, and were recognized by the Canadian Government. The Australian Labour Government would not even agree to the growers sending their own representative at their own expense as an unofficial consultant and adviser. This reveals a state of affairs which must surely carry a message to many persons other than wheat-growers in Australia. It shows that the Australian Labour Government is prepared to negotiate and sell the product of four years’ work and investment, which belongs to an important section of the community, while denying that section an opportunity to express its views when the product of its labour is the subject of barter. If the Australian Labour Government will do this to the wheat-growers, who will say that any section of the community may not find its property and labour disposed of just as arbitrarily? Of course, in the end, after the agreement had been concluded and brought back to Australia, the Australian Wheat Board was allowed to have a peep at it - and I mean, literally, a peep. The executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation was hastily summoned, and asked to declare whether it would support the agreement, the alternative being no agreement. Some important members of the executive did not attend that meeting, and a kind of approval was indicated. A full meeting of the executive of the federation was held in Canberra two or three weeks ago when, after a lengthy discussion with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), it was resolved by a majority decision that the federation would accept the agreement under protest. Frankly, I do not know exactly what that means.
– Neither does any one else.
– When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was suspended from the service of the House recently, the Opposition parties accepted the suspension under protest, but I do not think that that could be construed as approval. I hope that the Minister will not claim that a majority decision of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation to accept this agreement under protest is to be interpreted as approval of the agreement by the federation.
Let us examine the agreement itself, bearing in mind the question whether or not it is an enforceable document and whether it embodies a good commercial transaction. Let us not forget at any stage that this is the biggest commercial contract of our day, and that we are asked to legislate and, by a process of law, to sell the product for four years ahead of 60,000 Australian workers - 60,000 farm-owners, some of whom have inherited the land which they farm, but the great majority of whom are in the course of purchasing their land from the Crown or some person or company, paying off a mortgage or bank overdraft as well as meeting their commitments to machinery merchants and oil companies, and, who, in addition, are committed to pay wages to employees. Finally, let us not forget that these people are engaged in an industry than which there is none more risky, with all the chances of weather and disease. We are to take their product and sell it for four years within a bracket of prices. The workers who take all the risks have never been asked by the Government whether they want their product sold in this manner. Every one in this Parliament and outside it who considers this legislation should bear in mind how serious a step this is, not only because of the growers immediately affected but also because of the precedent which it creates. The proceeds of the sale of the wheat is just as directly the wages of the wheat-growers as is the contents of the pay envelope the wages of a wageearner. I ask wage-earners to consider how they would like this Government or any other government to conclude an agreement which determined their rates of wages, within upper and lowe*1 limits for a period of four years ahead, without allowing them or their chosen representatives to have a word to say in respect of that wage agreement. We all know that no Australian government would dare to do such a thing, and if it tried to do it, no organized body of workers would tolerate it for a moment. This is the background against which we should examine the terms of this contract, if, indeed, it merits such a description.
The broad terms of the agreement have been stated by the Minister. They are that, from the 1st August next, five seller countries, Canada, the United States of America, Australia, France and Uruguay, engage to sell, if they have produced the required quantity of wheat, certain stated quantities annually to 36 buyer countries. This provides for an annual sale and purchase of 456,000,000 bushels. This contract is like many others. The most important aspects are not the provisions included in it, but the omissions from it. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that exportable supplies of wheat have beer and are likely to be for a year or so of the order of from 900,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 bushels. The honorable gentleman mentioned 700,000,000 to 750,000,000 bushels as the prospective international trade in wheat. On that basis this agreement purports to deal only with one-half of the world export surplus, and with not very much more than one-half - say, twothirds - of the Minister’s estimate of the minimum world trade. So, there is to be an immense volume of wheat produced, bought and sold outside this agreement. A very great proportion of this excess production and trade will be in the hands of the countries which are parties to this agreement, and a very big quantity will be in the hands of countries which are not parties to it. Argentina, Soviet Russia. and, in due course, the Danubian countries which historically have been wheat exporters, are not contracting parties. All of these countries have, or, in due course, will have exportable surpluses. How then is this commercial instrument to be operated in these circumstances ? The 36 buying countries represent the overwhelming proportion of importers of wheat. Collectively they are committed to buy 456,000,000 bushels a year within a bracket of prices. Yet the Minister expects them to buy, all told, 750,000,000 bushels. So, we have the spectacle of a vast volume of wheat being produced for export by Argentina and other countries which are not parties to the agreement, and a vast quantity of excess wheat expected to be produced by the exporting countries which are parties to the agreement, all of which is to be outside the ambit of the agreement. This wheat has been referred to as free or, as I should describe it, non-quota wheat. There is no provision in the agreement which states whether or not a country must sell its quota wheat before it sells its free wheat, and there is no stipulation that a buyer country must purchase its quota wheat before it purchases free wheat. These are some of the circumstances which will make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to get a uniform interpretation of the obligations of the respective parties to the agreement.
A general agreement that 36 buyer countries will each purchase a stated quantity of wheat from five seller countries, without particularizing front which of the five sellers the wheat is to be obtained, is not an enforceable, or, in fact, a properly interpretable commercial instrument. The council which is to be established under the agreement may tell a seller country that it should sell to one or more buyer countries at the maximum price, or, vice versa, the council may tell one or more of the buyer countries that it should buy a stated quantity of wheat from one or more of the seller countries; but the council cannot enforce its wishes. All that it can do is to deprive a defaulting country of its vote on the council, or, perhaps, in the last resort, to expel it. So, this document, which we are asked to translate into legislation, is not an enforceable contract. On that ground alone the agreement, as drafted, stands condemned. Not only can Australia be left without real protection by this agreement, hut we could also find ourselves committed in certain directions which could react most seriously to our disadvantage.
We are committed to sell, if produced, 80,000,000 bushels a year, and to carry over a reasonable additional quantity into the following year to provide against the contingency of a low crop year. That is my interpretation of our obligation. It can easily be seen that even with good will and a reasonable interpretation of the agreement, having regard to the great disparity between the 456,000,000 bushels dealt with under the agreement, and the 750,000,000 bushels which the Minister estimates to be the minimum expectation of world trade, there is legitimate opportunity for very vast trading outside the agreement. It may easily happen that no country wishes to take up our quota of wheat for many months after it has been harvested, while nevertheless being willing eventually to accept it. In the meantime, in accordance with our obligation under the contract, we would have to hold the wheat. Almost every consuming country tries in practice to get its native wheats into consumption before it buys elsewhere. We could not meet such a situation without great expense and loss. Our bulk storage facilities, terminal and country, are not designed to hold anything like a season’s production. Cornsacks are becoming dearer and dearer and might very well increase the price of wheat by a ls. or more a. bushel during the forthcoming harvest. There are also heavy losses associated with the prolonged storage of bagged wheat.
– -Has the honorable member an idea of our total storage capacity ?
– Every one associated with the industry knows that our wheat trade has been carried on traditionally on the basis of getting wheat from the farms to the seaports as quickly as possible, of maintaining rapid turnover at silos, and of regular shipment. The Australian wheat trade has always met these circumstances by arranging or maintaining a steady flow of wheat for export, commencing immediately the crop is harvested and providing a regular rhythm of delivery by farmers to country silos, regular transport by railways to ports, and regular despatch from terminal elevators into a constant succession of steamers for export. For the reasons which I have already explained, this agreement could easily result in all this being dislocated by our being required to store the 60,000,000 bushels of wheat which we need for home consumption, the 80,000,000 bushels which is our export quota under the agreement, and a reasonable but unstipulated quantity to carry over into the next season. I have no hesitation in saying that it would be impossible to hold that quantity of wheat undisturbed for many months. But the agreement can be interpreted literally to require us to hold the wheat undisturbed, and we may be regarded as being in default if we do not comply. Even if it were physically practicable to hold the wheat for a period, it would certainly be unbearably costly to do so. If Australia should be required, in such circumstances, to maintain its stocks under conditions tor which it is unprepared, who will bear the cost, and meet the losses which, as the whole of our history has shown, are associated with the prolonged holding of stocks? Is the Government to carry the cost ? No provision in the agreement, and no part of the Minister’s speech indicates that the Government will undertake that obligation. Therefore, the clear inference is that this agreement is an instrument, which, on that particular point, could involve wheatgrowers in further heavy losses. If then the buyers should require us late in the season to deliver the 80,000,000 bushels quickly, anybody who has pondered the situation knows that our rail way systems could not cope with the traffic. Even disregarding t±ie problem of coal supplies, the shortage of locomotives and rolling stock would not allow us to move quickly such a volume of grain. Those problems could easily involve wheatgrowers in heavy losses. They are disadvantages which, if not completely unavoidable in this agreement, could at least have been reduced to a minimum. The necessary protection could have been provided had the Government consulted the experienced men who are available in various phases of the wheat industry, and who are well represented on the Australian Wheat Board, the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and other organizations such as the Australian Primary Producers Union.
Speaking on the proposed international wheat agreement a year ago, I pointed out that the ratification of that agreement would have the legal effect of varying contracts that had already been made for the sale of huge quantities of wheat, thereby reducing the return to growers by an amount of between £12,000,000 and £13,000,000. By a stroke of good fortune, wheat-growers were saved from that extortion, because the United States Congress refused to ratify that agreement. But the agreement now under consideration will involve wheat-growers in a further loss through a similar variation of contracts that have already been made. Fortunately, on this occasion, the reduction will be less than £12,000,000 or £13,000,000. I am not able to calculate the exact figure, but Mr. J. S. Teasdale, the representative of the Western Australian wheat-growers on the Australian Wheat Board, and Mr. T. C. Chapman, the representative of the South Australian wheat-growers on that board, have publicly revealed the manner in which this Government has gratuitously intervened to deprive growers of substantial proportions of the value of their products. The Victorian newspaper, Countryman, and the South Australian Farmer have published articles by Mr. Chapman and Mr. Teasdale on this subject. Those two gentlemen have set out, step by step, the definite, factual explanation of the machinations of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Government in the matter. I shall not read those two articles to the House, but any honorable member who is interested in the subject may peruse them in the Parliamentary Library. In substance, Mr. Chapman and Mr. Teasdale exposed the fact that the sale of a large quantity of wheat was taken out of the hands of the Australian Wheat Board and transferred to ministerial or departmental authorities at Canberra. They, in turn, made their decisions in consultation with the Australian High Commissioner in London. The results were progressive. When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture first intervened, the Australian Wheat Board’s estimate of the value of our wheat was 15s. 6d. and 16s. 6d. a bushel, according to the port of destination. Pakistan was prepared to pay 16s. 6d. a bushel for a very large quantity of Australian wheat, but its representative was sent away almost emptyhanded. Honorable members will be interested to note, in passing, that Pakistan is not a signatory to the International Wheat Agreement now under consideration. At the end of the year, the Australian Wheat Board advised the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that, in its judgment, the value of Australian wheat for sale to the United Kingdom was 14s. 5½d. a bushel. Following a message from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and argument by the representative of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the board agreed to offer the United Kingdom 60,000,000 bushels at 14s. a bushel. Mr. Chapman, who, I emphasize, is the elected representative of the South Australian wheatgrowers on the Australian Wheat Board, revealed that the Minister disregarded that offer of a reduced price, and arbitrarily offered the wheat to the United Kingdom at 13s. 8d. a bushel.
– And the Australian Wheat Board concurred.
– That is correct.
– - I am glad the honorable member admits it.
– Mr. Chapman revealed that the board, the majority of the members of which were representatives of the wheat-growers, was overridden by the Labour Government, at a cost to the wheat-growers of about £1,000,000.
But that is not the end of the story. The next proposal originated from the United Kingdom Government that the price of 13s. 8d. a bushel should apply only to wheat shipped before the 1st April, 1949, and that a lower price of 12s. 10½d. a bushel, to which this Government finally agreed, should apply to wheat shipped between the 1st April and 31st July, 1949. I invite honorable members to note that the original deal was understood to cover 60,000,000 bushels.
– That agreement was reached on the recommendation of the Australian Wheat Board.
– The Minister knows that it was not.
– I shall read to the honorable member the board’s letter on the matter.
– Order! The Minister will have an opportunity to reply to this debate later. I ask him not to interject now.’
– If the Minister likes to make a duet of this debate with me; I shall not mind. I know that he will point out, in his reply, that the Australian Wheat Board did not propose that arrangement, but he will prove that the board concurred in the Government’s proposal.
– I shall say that the board made a proposal, which the Government concurred in and forwarded to the United Kingdom Government.
– Mr. Chapman has explained the circumstances in which the Australian Wheat Board concurred in the proposal. In my opinion, they were tricky circumstances. A deal had been made for the sale to the United Kingdom of 60,000,000 bushels at 13s. 8d. a bushel, and every one believed that the transaction was complete. Then, out of the blue, as it were, it was suggested that a meeting of the Australian Wheat Board should be convened. Long explanatory telegrams had to be sent to the growers’ representatives who, it was possibly known, could not attend the meeting. In fact, four of them were not able to attend it. They were suddenly apprised of the proposal to reduce the price. How can the Minister suggest that the Australian
Wheat Board proposed the reduction of price, when those four members had to be advised by the secretary of the board of the proposal to be submitted to it? Obviously, the proposal emanated from the Government. Three of the four representatives of the growers sent telegrams to the effect that they disagreed with and would not approve of any reduction of the price. The fourth representative telegraphed that he would concur in the decision reached by the majority of the representatives of the growers at that meeting of the board. Those are the facts. Mr. Chapman has publicly rebuked his colleagues and himself for having been absent from that meeting. He is a supporter of the Labour party.
– To my knowledge, Mr. Chapman is not a supporter of the Labour party, and I hope that he is not, because he is a humbug, like another gentleman that I can name.
– Mr. Chapman is a well-known supporter of the Labour party in South Australia.
– That is a “beaut”.
– That is the first I have heard of it.
– Mr. Chapman has publicly rebuked his three colleagues and himself who, through circumstances beyond their control, were not able to be present at that meeting of the board. A majority of members of the board, but not the full board, agreed to a resolution approving the price of 12s. 10½d. a bushel.
– Mr. Chapman will not be a supporter of the Labour party after the interjection by the Minister.
– Very few people continue to support the Minister after they have suffered at his hands. As Mr. Chapman pointed out, that decision was another political decision, or had its origin in political reasons. The new proposal will cost wheat-growers £800,000. Wheat-growers are indebted to Mr. Chapman and Mr. Teasdale for their courage and frankness in revealing the circumstances to the interested public. However, that is not the end of the story. The effect of this legislation will be that wheat not delivered by the 1st August next will be sold at11s.1d. a bushel.
Whenever this Government intervenes, the wheat-growers suffer a loss of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000. I am not able to calculate the additional loss to wheatgrowers which will result from the reduction of price to11s.1d. a bushel, but no doubt it will be substantial. I remind the House that under this agreement any wheat delivered by Australia after the 1st August will be reduced in price from 12s. 10½d. to11s.1d. a bushel.
At that point, a very extraordinary aspect of the agreement comes to notice. Not only has Australia contracted to sell wheat to the United Kingdom, but Canada has also contracted to sell to the United Kingdom 140,000,000 bushels of the last crop at 2 dollars a bushel in Canadian currency, which is approximately 12s. 6d. a bushel in Australian currency. There is a special proviso in the agreement, which was drafted in the presence of representatives of the Canadian wheat-growers, that deliveries of Canadian wheat to fill that 140,000,000- bushel contract will not suffer a reduction of price. The Canadian wheat-growers will go on getting their contract price, but our growers will have 1s. 9½d. a bushel clipped off their price. The American growers, of course, will not be affected. American wheat sold for overseas delivery will be sold at a lower price, but, under American domestic legislation whatever difference is involved will be made up to the American wheat-growers. So, leaving out France and Uruguay as unimportant countries for the purpose of the agreement, we find that the Canadian growers are protected by a special clause. Their special contract price is not to be reduced. The American growers are protected by domestic legislation. But the Australian growers, under the Australian Labour Government, are to have their return reduced by at least1s. 9½d. a bushel. I ask the House to contrast this protection with the Australian Government’s political decisions in stultifying, disregarding and overriding the Australian Wheat Board with progressive reductions of price and by refusing to allow the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, even at its own expense, to have one of its representatives present at Washington as an unofficial adviser to the Australian negotiators.
Even this very large monetary loss is perhaps not the most serious aspect that should concern all Australian primary producers. The most serious aspect is that the Government, having set up a statutory board with the principal and explicit duty to effect the orderly selling of the primary product concerned, has not hesitated to disregard completely the considered opinions of that board and to transfer the sale of a crop into the arena of purely governmenttogovernment negotiations, where it is, I am sure, reasonable to presume that factors other than the intrinsic value of the product concerned have been taken into account in arriving at the sale price. In short, we now have the .spectacle of statutory boards being set up to control completely all wheat, meat, dairy produce, fruit and poultry products and at the same time with the experience of the Labour Government showing that it will barter the whole of each and every one of those products for political or diplomatic considerations. Diplomatic considerations may be of a high order or of sentimental import, such as the desire to help the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the wheat-growers will never forget - and I hope no other primary producers will ever forget - that the present Australian Labour Government has been prepared to arbitrarily sell the products of producers, as it did in the notorious New Zealand wheat transaction, for as low a motive as the mere convenience of another Labour government. Having done so, it not merely withheld information but had its Owl] Ministers in this Parliament lie about the transaction repeatedly and unashamedly until the details were finally revealed in the New Zealand Parliament.
Government control of bulk commodity selling, whether it be wheat or meat or any other commodity, is the very foundation upon which the objectives of the socialists, as affecting primary producers, can be built. Has the Government entered into any undertaking, pledge or promise to hypothecate any percentage of the export surplus of wheat to any country, or has it in any way entered into any arrangement that will have to he taken into account by the Australian Wheat Board within the next four years? I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to say, when he is replying to this debate, whether the Government has, by commitments or by any form of hypothecation, bound the Australian Wheat Board in its freedom to transact business in the next four years? Just as an arbitration court award determines rates of pay and conditions of labour for workers, so government bulk-selling determines the return to producers, which in turn determines their financial reward, conditions of living, and the value of their properties. But an arbitration court wage award is made only after a full hearing of the case for the workers. Arbitrary government bulk-selling, motivated by considerations of political or socialistic policy or by diplomatic considerations, is, on the record of the present Government, to be practised without hearing the point of view of the primary producers, or in sheer defiance of their view.
I said at the outset that there could often be more important implications in what is left out of a contract than in the provisions written into it. That certainly applies time and again in this instance. This whole agreement is founded upon prices stated in Canadian dollars. Our price therefore becomes dependent, first, upon the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and sterling; and secondly, upon the exchange rate between sterling and the Australian £1.
– The agreement is based on the exchange rate between sterling and the American dollar. No alteration of the exchange rate between sterling and the Canadian dollar can vary the agreement. Depreciation of the Canadian dollar cannot affect the agreement, because it is based on the ‘ American dollar.
– I do not quite follow the Minister.
– In effect, the agreement is based on the American dollar.
– But the agreement declares that the basis is the Canadian dollar.
– But it is also provided that on the depreciation of the Canadian dollar the price to be paid will not be affected.
– I realize what the Minister is driving at. It does not conflict with what I have said. If the Canadian dollar depreciates or appreciates, the agreement is not effected. I accept that, but that is not the point that I was making. Our growers pay their debts in Australian pounds and sell most of their wheat for sterling pounds. What I said was that the agreement is founded upon the valuation of the Canadian dollar. I accept what the Minister says about maintaining parity, for the purpose of the agreement, between the Canadian dollar and the American dollar, but there could be - and I am sure the Minister will not contradict me - an alteration of the exchange relationship between sterling currency and dollar currency and an alteration of the relationship between sterling and the Australian £1, either or both of which could affect the return to the Australian producers.
– The return to the Australian producers would be affected by that with or without an agreement.
– I admit that quickly. Without an agreement, the return would be affected; but the point is that the agreement is represented to be a good document, because it is designed to ensure some stability to the Australian wheat industry. I point out that on this most important aspect it contributes nothing to ensure stability. If there should be a reduction of the exchange rate between sterling and the Australian pound, the producers will suffer very seriously. We all know that there are strong rumours that the sterling pound may be devalued. The Minister should be as familiar as I am with those rumours. What foundation they have I do not know, but they are so frequently repeated and emanate from such authoritative sources that I am sure that not even the Minister would doubt that some influences are seeking to devalue the sterling pound. Whether they will succeed or not I do not know. All I do know is that if the sterling pound is devalued the Australian growers will not get for their wheat sold under the agreement what they have been told they may expect to get. They could get substantially less. This agreement could operate perfectly in its mechanism and yet it could still happen that the growers, for the reasons that I have been canvassing, would receive vastly less than the return now contemplated under the agreement. This question of sterling or dollar currency could, on the other hand, operate to our very great advantage. It is notorious that the world is hungry for dollars to buy commodities which can be purchased only from dollar areas. Australia is the only country in the sterling area with a great surplus of wheat and for the sheer motive of conserving dollars for purchase of essential goods not available in the sterling area, there are buyers, such as India, the Far Eastern and Middle Eastern countries, and, indeed, some European countries, which would prefer to pay more in actual price for Australian wheat and settle in sterling rather than buy at a cheaper rate in North or South America and settle in dollars. This places the Australian wheat trade in a position of very great advantage at the moment. This agreement completely abrogates that advantage. Again, much wheat going to Europe will be paid for by the American administration under its European recovery programme. [Extension of time granted.] There is an American Congressional act which provides that if a commodity produced in the United States of America is declared to be a surplus product and if supplies of that commodity are required for the servicing of the European recovery programme, American money must first be spent upon the purchase of the American surplus product. With increased mechanization, wheat may be declared to be a surplus product in the United States of America during the next four years.
Under this agreement, Canada is, by special provision, authorized to maintain 2-dollar sales, while all other countries must go back to 1.80 dollars. America has a backstop in the provision to which I have just referred concerning European recovery programme purchases. Argentina is completely free, and will not be a party to the agreement and that country is reported to have sold wheat to
Brazil some weeks ago on the basis of 27s. a- bushel Australian currency. Soviet Russia may in any year enter the world market without restrictions, as may the Danubian countries. Australia, however, has surrendered its great advantage of being the only wheat seller in the sterling area. In those circumstances, it appears that, from whatever angle the agreement is viewed, our negotiators have been outsmarted.
There are some interesting points that wheat-growers will doubtless be glad to have cleared up. How does the Government regard the recent contract to sell wheat to New Zealand at 15s. a bushel? I! understand that, under the terms of the contract, 2,500,000 bushels have still to be delivered. According to the figures at my disposal, we have enough wheat to fulfil our obligations under the International Wheat Agreement and also to deliver 2,500,000 bushels to New Zealand as free wheat. In those circumstances, we are entitled to sell that 2,500,000 bushels for whatever price we can get for it. We have contracted to sell it to New Zealand for 15s. a bushel. Does the Government intend that the sales to New Zealand shall continue to be at 15s. a bushel? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicates that it does. I am glad that that matter has been cleared up. It is pleasing to know that the Government will not reduce the price from 1.5s. to lis. Id. a bushel. I understand that Ceylon has withdrawn from the London Food Council and will in future negotiate its own wheat purchases. Authoritative statements have been made that in the near future Malaya will act as an independent buyer on a commercial basis rather than continue the practice of having the United Kingdom cover its requirements. There are many indications that the tight system of governmenttogovernment transactions is starting to dissolve.
The points of overshadowing importance that determine the Opposition’s attitude to this proposal are, first, that what purports to be a contract does not carry within it affective provisions for the enforcement of the contract; secondly, that the Government is dealing on a gigantic scale with other people’s property without having consulted the owners of the property; thirdly, that all the weight of evidence is that Australian wheat-growers will, over the terms of this agreement, receive a much lower return than they would receive if there were no agreement; and fourthly, that the agreement will, beyond question, be interpreted by the Government as giving it a warrant to continue to override the statutory body that has been established to conduct the handling and sale of Australian wheat, that is, the Australian Wheat Board.
– Does the honorable gentleman want speculators to handle Australian wheat?
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) is as silly as that interjection suggests that he is. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party - and I am now speaking on behalf of both of them - do not stand for the handing over of wheat to speculators, but for a continuance of the orderly handling of wheat by the Australian Wheat Board, which, incidentally, was established,, although not in its present form, by a government led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).
– With merchant control.
– That is completely untrue. I was saying before the honorable member for Hume made his silly interjection that the Government will undoubtedly interpret this agreement as giving it a warrant to continue to override the Australian Wheat Board. In short, it will continue to do what it has done in the past, that is, to prostitute what was established as a growers’ marketing organization by using it as a political convenience to take further strides along the path to socialism.
.- When the bill for the ratification of the previous International Wheat Agreement was before this House last year, I said that the agreement was just an experiment. That is also true of this agreement. It has been stated in the press that the agreement has been ratified by the American Senate. “When the ratification measure was before that body, Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a leading Republican, said distinctly that the agreement was on trial in the United States of America. There is not the slightest doubt that that is so. The difference between it being on trial in America and in Australia is that American wheat-growers have a greater degree of a government protection than have Australian wheatgrowers. At any time after a harvest, American wheat-growers can deliver their wheat to the wheat authority and obtain a loan of 90 per cent, of the purchase price, which is calculated on an index figure. During the last few years the price has been 2 dollars a bushel. This loan can be repaid if the wheat is sold for more than that amount a bushel, otherwise it stands as a purchase price. Australian wheat-growers, however, receive only a proportion of that sum. After this agreement has been ratified by the Parliament, as it will be, the price of wheat will sharply then slowly decrease. When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) made his second-reading speech on this bill, he referred on one or two occasions to the fact that the minimum price of wheat under this agreement slightly exceeds the minimum price under the previous one. It appears that the Minister believes it to be probable that the minimum price will be the operative price for almost the whole of the period during which the agreement will be in force. If that be so, although the Australian wheatgrower may at first receive approximately lis. a bushel for his wheat, he will soon be receiving only the minimum price. If I gave a man a job and paid him £11 a week for the first year, £10 a week for the next year, £9 a week for the following year and so on down to £7 a week, he would not be very pleased at the yearly reduction of his wage. The Australian wheatgrowers will not be pleased when the price of their product falls from lis. to 7s. a bushel, but they will have no opportunity to make other agreements with the nations of the world or to sell their wheat on the open market. I believe that this international agreement will have a great effect upon world parity, because the maximum price that it envisages is approximately 3s. a bushel less than the sum that the wheat-growers are now getting. Last year the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was eager that the Parliament should ratify an international wheat agreement. The Parliament did so and, but for the action of the American legislature in refusing to ratify that agreement, it would have come into operation. The action of the American Congress paved the Australian wheatgrowers millions of pounds. For a long time the Minister has been saying that the wheat market is going to decline. Indeed, if the Minister continues to make statements of that kind he is bound to be right eventually. This international agreement relates to only a portion of the wheat that the world can produce under normal conditions in a year. It provides for the sale of 450,000,000 bushels. It is interesting to note the quotas that have been allotted to the wheat-exporting countries. The two smallest exporters have a combined quota of only 5,000,000 bushels. The Australian quota is 80,000,000 bushels, the Canadian quota is 203,000,000 bushels and the American quota is 168,000,000 bushels. The voting strength of each exporting country is calculated on the basis of the size of its quota. Therefore, the voting strength of the United States of America is twice that of Australia, and the Canadian voting strength is greater than that of the United States of America. If the council discussed a matter upon which a vote was taken, Australia would be in a very weak position because it could be out-voted by either Canada or the United States of America. It is deplorable that the Australian Government should have put the wheat-growers of this country into that position.
It seems to me that this agreement will have repercussions extending beyond wheat. The Government has hailed the agreement with enthusiasm because it will enable Labour to implement part of its policy. From the time that I entered the Parliament I have spoken in opposition to multilateral agreements, which I do not consider to be in the best interests of Australia. However, owing to the legislation that the Government has forced through the Parliament, it is becoming increasingly necessary for Australia to participate in such agreements. Following the passage through the Parliament of the International Trade Organization Bill, we cannot make bilateral agreements with the United Kingdom or enter into reciprocal Empire trade arrangements unless we extend similar concessions to other countries. The Minister will point out, I have no doubt, when he rises to speak, that the Australian Government had to accept this agreement, otherwise Australia would have been in a worse position than it is in now. He has already said that the agreement is’ not all that he would like it to have been, and, of course, I would expect him to make that statement. Some weeks ago, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) asked the Minister whether he would consult the representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation before the agreement was ratified. The Minister said that he would consult them in the same way as he had consulted them before the previous agreement was ratified. Let us go hack and see what happened when the representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers. Federation met the Minister on that previous occasion. We do not know what happened inside the room in which the Minister conferred with the representatives of the federation, but we know what happened when the president of the federation, Mr. George Evans, and th» secretary, Mr. Stott, came out of the Minister’s room. They made a joint press statement. I can remember it quite well, because it amazed me. They said -
The Australian Government will ratify the International Wheat Agreement whether the growers like it or not.
That statement showed what scant consideration they had received from the Minister during that conference in his room.
– Would the honorable gentleman tell me where I can find that statement?
– I can produce it. It appeared in the press.
– I think that the honorable member has become tangled. They said that there would be an international wheat agreement whether they liked it or not.
– I repeat that the statement they made was -
The Australian Government will ratify the International Wheat Agreement whether the growers like it or not.
That statement is not difficult to find, because it was made not very long ago. The fact is that the Australian Government’s representative overseas decided that he would put his name to the agreement, probably after consulting the Minister. Was there any chance then of this Government failing to ratify the agreement? I should say that there wat not the slightest chance. Once the agreement had been signed by the Government’s representative, after consultation with the Minister, it was as good as ratified, and the same thing applies now as applied last time as far as the wheatgrowers are concerned. In other words, it does not matter what the wheat-growers think about it, the agreement will be ratified. That is the view I take of it and I believe that it is the correct view. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation asked for a representative to be allowed to accompany the Government official to Washington and act in an advisory capacity. The Minister did not agree to that suggestion. The least that could have resulted had a representative of the wheat-growers been present in Washington when that agreement was considered was that some good could have accrued to wheat-growers. The presence of a representative of the wheat-growers certainly could not have done any harm to the wheat-growers’ interests. But when we have a Government and a Minister who will not allow the wheat-growers’ representative to attend a conference even in an advisory capacity the results are sure to be in accordance with the Government’s political outlook rather than in accordance with the interests of those who grow the wheat. Certain events have occurred in America that make it appear that prices generally will fall. The priceof wheat may come down.
– Of course it will!
– I am sure that not even the honorable member for
Riverina (Mr. Langtry) can forecast what future seasons will be like. One small country, France, which has a very small wheat harvest, is a partner in this agreement. I do not think that the size of France’s wheat crop will make any difference to the world position, but it has been reported that that country’s wheat crop will be much smaller than was anticipated. America and Canada, being in the dollar area, are finding it hard to sell their commodities. Week after week in this House we hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) speaking about the scarcity of dollars and telling us that we cannot buy all manner of things, including petrol, motor cars and tractors, because they cost dollars. Do not honorable members think that other countries in the soft currency area are facing the same difficulty? Do they not think that America and Canada would find difficulty in continuing to sell their wheat? Could not Australia sell its wheat to greater advantage to countries in the sterling area than to countries in the dollar area? Of course it could. We have two hard currency countries in a lop-sided agreement with Australia, and of course, those two countries are in a strong position while Australia is in a weak position throughout. Prices under the agreement will be receding all the time. Has the Minister made any provision for a reduction in the price of goods that are used by primary producers? Irefer to cornsacks and other goods that should be reduced in price according to the reduction in the price of wheat under the agreement. I have not heard anything about that from the Government side of the House. I should like the Minister, when he makes his speech in reply to this debate, to tell us what provision he is making for a reduction of prices of essential commodities such as machinery and goods used by the primary producers. What will happen if the world prices for wheat fall? The honorable member for Riverina holds the view that they would come down in norma] circumstances. I venture to say that there is no person in this Parliament who can state whether prices will fall or not, and certainly no one on the Government side can do so. The Govern ment has been telling us ever since the wheat agreement with New Zealand was signed that wheat prices would fall, and has been proved substantially wrong. That shows how out of touch the Government is with this subject. Under the international agreement there is to be sold 450,000,000 bushels of wheat at a price 3s. a bushel lower than the present world price. What will happen if prices fall further and Australia has to accept the minimum figure mentioned in this bill? The other countries of the world would then very soon be buying at the lowest possible price. Many importing countries that have ratified this agreement have not in the past had a very high standing in the world of commerce. I believe that those countries will buy their wheat on the cheapest market that they can find. We must look at all sides of this question. If world parity remains at its present level the wheat-grower will receive only the maximum amount provided in the agreement, while other countries will have the benefit of the higher prices operating throughout the world. It appears to me, therefore, that whichever way it goes the Australian wheat-grower will get no benefit from the agreement.
– Will he not gain stability ?
– Only by losing millions of pounds that he could otherwise get from the higher prices now operating. The price of wheat may come down to 7s. a bushel. The cost of production is now 6s. 8d. a bushel, and as we are expecting a rise in the cost of production which is expected to be announced, on the 1st December next, it is likely that at the end of four years the wheat-grower will be receiving less than the cost of production for his product. Only recently the honorable member for Riverina asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Australian guaranteed price of 6s. 8d. a bushel would be affected by the International Wheat Agreement. The Minister said, “ No “. But why did the Minister not correct the honorable member for Riverina when he asked about the guaranteed price of 6s. 8d. a bushel? There is no guaranteed price. It is only aprice based on the cost of production, and if the cost of production falls, then the so-called guaranteed price will fall, and .could come down as low as 4s. 6d. a bushel or even lower, according to production costs. Some of my constituents have gathered from the Government’s statements the idea that the lowest price to which wheat can go is 6s. 2d. a bushel. That is wrong altogether. There is no guaranteed floor price. It is only a figure associated with the cost of production.
– Seventy-five per cent, of the wheat-growers voted for stabilization.
– Quite a lot of them thought, when they voted, that what is called stabilization would fix the floor price at 6s. 3d. a bushel, but there is no floor price, and the honorable member knows it. Why did the Minister, in answer to the honorable member for Riverina, who mentioned a guaranteed price of 6s. 8d. a bushel, not correct that honorable member and point out that that was only the present homeconsumption figure? It has been pointed out that, under this bill, if certain countries do not buy the wheat for which they have contracted we cannot do anything about it. If honorable members read the bill closely they will note that the International Wheat Council is to be notified when countries have not bought their contracted amounts, and that it is to issue a notification to importing countries to that effect. But if wheat prices fall and a country wants to buy its wheat on the Russian or any other low market, where it can get it at lower than the minimum price provided under the agreement, we cannot do much about it. As a result, while the agreement operates, the Australian wheat-growers will be losing money while prices remain high, although they could be obtaining high prices for their wheat on the world market. Many wheat-growers in my electorate do not like this agreement. I have received letters that I can show to the Minister asking me to speak against it. I have spoken in this House against every multilateral agreement that the Government has brought forward.
– Will the honorable member vote against this bill?
– I believe thai what the Government is attempting to do is to bring the community down to the level of an average world standard, whereas what I work for all the time is greater strength within the British Commonwealth of Nations. If the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) could speak authoritatively on this matter he would do so, but all he can do is to interject, and that also applies to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). They have nothing of value to say about this bill, so all they do is “ chip in “ when other honorable members are speaking to it.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– When we examine certain statements that the Minister made in his second-reading speech, it is obvious that he was more or less excusing the Government for making this agreement, because the Minister himself realizes that it is not in the best interests of Australia. We cannot amend this agreement. We must either ratify it as a whole or reject it. We cannot amend parts of it. Some parts of the agreement may be all right, hut other parts of it are not all light. The Government representative overseas has signed the agreement and it must be ratified and, of course, the Government will ratify it. The wheatgrowers are not safeguarded under it. The Minister appears not to have given any consideration to the question of the purchase of machinery although it it obvious that he should do something about making an arrangement that will cope with the rising cost of machinery. There is nothing in this bill to protect the wheatgrower against rising prices for the commodities that they use in the production of wheat.
.- While listening to the two previous speakers, I was astonished at their hypocrisy. One might be excused for thinking, after hearing their speeches, that the wheat-growers of Australia were not in favour of the International Wheat Agreement. The fact is that the growers voted on the stabilization plan, and endorsed it by a large majority. About a year ago. this Parliament ratified another international wheat agreement, which, unfortunately, did not come into effect, because it was not ratified by certain other countries. All the proposals put forward by this Government for the stabilization of the wheat industry have been opposed by members of the Australian Country party, the so-called representatives of the primary producers. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. I have been a member of this Parliament for nearly nine years, and hardly ever, in all that time, have I heard a member of the Australian Country party support any proposal which was designed to benefit the man on the land. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) have been Ministers in previous governments. Let me ask a fair question. What did they ever do to assist the wheat-growers when they had the opportunity to do so? Absolutely nothing! While they were in office the growers were forever threatened with bankruptcy. Now, the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) condemn the Government’s wheat stabilization plan. The honorable member for Indi said that the wheat-growers did not want any one to sell their wheat for them. That is a deliberate misstatement. Before ever I became a member of this Parliament, I put forward a proposal that the Government should guarantee growers 4s. a bushel for their wheat, but the request fell on deaf ears. Under the stabilization plan put forward by the right honorable member for Cowper, provision was to be made for a crop of only 140,000,000 bushels at a fixed purchase price of £26,750,000. Under that plan, if the crop had been say, 153,000,000 bushels farmers would have received 2s. 5£d. a bushel. On a harvest of 200,000,000 bushels, the return to the grower would have been only ls. 8d. a bushel, as all handling charges were to come out of the fixed provision of £26,750,000. Of what use would such a plan have been two years ago when the crop was 204,000,000 bushels? The right honorable member for Cowper said that a surplus was not expected. I agree that no one can say what the yield will be in any year, or what the price will be. We have seen wheat sold at ls. 6d. a bushel, yet honorable members opposite say that 6s. 8d. a bushel is not enough. I should have been very content to get that price during all the years that I have been growing wheat. I have sold wheat for as little as ls. a bushel. It is true that we do not know what the price will be in the future, but under this agreement the growers know that they will receive a payable price during the next four years. That is good, and I compliment th, Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) upon his efforts on behalf of the wheat-growers.
The honorable member for Indi devoted a good deal of time to the reading of correspondence between the Australian Wheat Board and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The Minister explained all that a few days ago when he was speaking on the Supply Bill. Some deliberate misstatements have been made on this subject both inside the Parliament and outside it and some of them have been made by a former member for Riverina. Thi: honorable member for Indi said that the price of wheat might remain at its present level. I hope it will, but seeing that the Government has entered into an agreement that will assure a payable price over the next four years, we ought to ratify it, especially since the growers will be assured of that price no matter what the world parity price may be. Under the present proposals, the growers cannot lose, and they displayed excellent judgment when they voted in favour of the stabilization proposals. After all, the Government will bear any loss associated with the stabilization plan. Some honorable members opposite complained because the Australian Wheat Growers Federation was not consulted before the agreement was concluded. Nothing could be gained by consultations until Canada and the United States of America, the other two great wheat-growing countries, had entered into the agreement. Had they remained out, Australia would have been left high and dry which, of course, is what honorable members opposite would like. It is beyond my understanding how members of the Australian Country party can find it in their hearts to condemn the agreement. The honorable member for Wimmera said that he had received many letters from growers opposing the agreement. I cannot claim to have received any letters, but I have spoken to many growers who have expressed warm approval of the stabilization proposals, and they were not all my own followers. Many of them were dyed-in-the-wool followers of the Australian Country party. I am not referring to the official spokesmen of the Farmers and Settlers Association, because they are our avowed enemies. That does not go for all members of the organization, of course, because there are many fine men in their organization, as there are in all others. The Government has shown that it sincerely wishes to work for the welfare of the wheat-growers. The honorable member for Wimmera said that we did not know that the price of wheat would fall, but the indications are that it will do so. Every one in Australia knows that the price of wheat and wool must come down. It may happen in six months, or twelve months or two years, but it will certainly happen. It must be remembered that Argentina and Russia can produce many millions of bushels of wheat at short notice. The world has been wheat-hungry during recent years, but that will not last forever. Under the agreement, the growers may, if prices keep up, receive as much as lis. 3d. a bushel for their wheat, and they cannot receive less than 7s. 3d. for what is sold overseas. Surely the growers are justified in grasping at this opportunity with both hands. Honorable members will recall that I asked the Minister whether, if the world price for wheat collapsed, the Government would guarantee a homeconsumption price of 6s. 8d. a bushel for four years. Honorable members heard the reply, and it is clear, therefore, that the growers have all to gain and nothing to lose by supporting the policy of this Government.
Growers in the Commonwealth endorsed the stabilization plan by a majority of 13,542. Who, I ask, are the best judges of what is in their own interests, the growers, or the mouth-pieces of the commercial houses? The honorable member for Indi recently bestowed much praise on Mr. Teasdale, who accompanied him on a tour of Victoria to try to induce the wheat-growers to vote against the stabilization proposals. They were severely rebuffed by the growers, and it is untrue to suggest that the growers did not understand the proposals. Everything was explained to them and, by a large majority, they endorsed the stabilization plan. In the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, are some very fine men with a thorough knowledge of the industry. They are men who, like myself, have endured hard times when we have had to sell our wheat at ls. 6d., and even ls. a bushel. We do not want that sort of thing to happen again, and while a Labour government is in office it will not happen. Since this Government has been in office, primary producers have been better off than ever before, but in its efforts to help the producers, the Government has received no assistance from honorable members opposite. In years gone by, the farmers’ paddocks were full of sheep and the silos were full of wheat, but thousands of farmers went bankrupt. This Government will do everything possible to prevent a repetition of those conditions. The history of the wheat industry has been traversed in this chamber on many occasions. The same old stories have been retold many times. It is regrettable that some members of this Parliament should oppose every measure which is introduced by the Government to guard the interests of the wheat-growers and the well-being of their families. I congratulate the Government for its splendid achievements on behalf of the man on the land. I compliment it for its decision to sign the agreement thus safeguarding the taxpayers of this country should the bottom fall out of the wheat market at some future time. I do not want to return to the old conditions under which wheatgrowers were forced to accept 2s. or 2s. 3d. a bushel for their product. I trust that this Government will remain in office for many years to continue to guard the interests not only of the wheat-growers but also of every other section of th, community.
.-] am in favour of the stabilization of the wheat industry and, like the wheatgrowers of Australia, I am prepared to accept under protest the International Wheat Agreement as draf ted if we cannot amend it The great majority of our wheat-growers favour a world wheat stabilization scheme and are determined to formulate one if it is possible to do so. Wheat-growers generally are very dissatisfied with the action of the Government in accepting a lower price for wheat than was necessary in an attempt to bolster the tottering socialist Government of Great Britain. I heard an honorable member opposite say that I am antiBritish.
– Who said that?
– I know who said it. lt is the kind of slur one would expect from a man of his type.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. lazzarini). - Order! The honorable member must discuss the bill.
– Surely I am entitled to reply to an insulting interjection of that kind. This Government and other governments throughout the world have attempted to detract from the stable position which wheat has enjoyed in the markets of the world. They have done this solely because they want cheap wheat for workers who themselves work only 40 hours a week but expect wheat-growers to work from 60 to 70 hours a week in order to meet the requirements of other sections of the community. This Government recently concluded agreements to supply wheat to the United Kingdom and India at a price lower than that recommended by the Australian Wheat Board. Its decision to do so was largely influenced by Sir Stafford Cripps, the negotiator for the socialist Government of the United Kingdom. Honorable members will recall that it was Sir Stafford Cripps who said that the socialist Government of the United Kingdom was determined to carry out its socialist programme even if the British Empire were destroyed in the process. Lord Listowel, a member of the same Government, said not long ago that the Burmese people were quite capable of governing themselves. How wrong he was is demonstrated by the fact that since British troops have been withdrawn from
Burma there has been a veritable blood bath in that country. This Government is committed to a policy which is designed to bolster the socialist government in Great Britain just as it bolstered the New Zealand Government by negotiating a sale of Australian wheat to that dominion at a price which shocked this country. It was originally intended that the wheat-growers of Australia should bear the loss incurred on that sale.
– That is not true, and the. honorable member knows it.
– Twelve months after the negotiations had begun the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) was still denying- that a wheat agreement with the New Zealand Government had been contemplated.
– Order! There is no reference to the New Zealand wheat agreement in this bill.
– I point out, with respect, Mr. Acting. Deputy Speaker, that that agreement has a very definite bearing on this bill now before us because it represented an earlier attempt by this Government to destroy the security of the wheat industry.
– Order! The honorable member must discuss the bill.
– The history of the New Zealand wheat agreement has been recounted in this chamber on many occasions, and with each successive recital the agreement is looked upon with greater distaste by honorable members. In November last the United Kingdom Government was prepared to negotiate an agreement with the Australian Wheat Board for the purchase of Australian wheat at 15s. 6d. a bushel, and India and Pakistan were both offering 16s. 6d. a bushel. In February, however, the board wa3 instructed by the Government not to proceed with the negotiations, because an agreement would be made with the United Kingdom and India on a government-to-government basis. Negotiations on behalf of the United Kingdom Government were carried on by Sir Stafford Cripps and finally an agreement was made to bolster the crumbling economy of Great Britain under a socialist government which cost the Australian wheat-growers no less than £1,500,000. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council contend that the loss on that agreement is to be borne by the community in general? In reaching its decision about the price at which the wheat should be sold the Government said, in effect, “ We consider that it is essential to provide wheat for the British people at a price less than world parity”. The whole community and not one section of it should carry the burden involved in applying such a policy. But the wheatgrowers will have to sustain the loss. The Australian Wheat Board had been asked to advise the Government what it considered to be the lowest price at which wheat could be sold to Great Britain, having regard to the economic position of Great Britain and the fact that Australia was the only important sterling seller of wheat; but behind the back of the board negotiations on a government level were continued. Correspondence passed between the Australian Government and the High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, and Sir Stafford Cripps and the British Ministry of Food. The Government disregarded the advice of the board to make the sale at 14s. a bushel, and finally sold the wheat at 13s.8d. a bushel, thus giving away 4d. a bushel on 60,000,000 bushels of wheat. By endeavouring to destroy world confidence in the stability of the wheat market the Government is assisting purchasing countries to bring about a serious recession in the price of wheat. The success of the wheat industry, like that of the wool and other primary industries, depends to a great degree on the maintenance of confidence in the world markets. If buyers believe that there is likely to be a fall in the price of wheat or any other commodity, they will hold off the market. If there appears to be a possibility that world prices for wheat will fall, wheat purchasing countries will say, “ We have sufficient wheat to meet ourrequirements for the next three months. We will stay out of the market for that period”. In such circumstances the wheat speculators in Chicago and Fort William immediately begin to sell and the world prices drop rapidly. The fact that this Government has taken the initial step to destroy confidence in the wheat market will affect Australia detrimentally in the future. This country enjoyed a particularly favorable position because it is the only seller of wheat in the sterling area. Both India and Pakistan, with very large sterling balances in London, were anxious to buy wheat in the sterling area. Australia needs large quantities of jute. Why did not the Government take advantage of our strong bargaining position in those countries to obtain concessions from them in respect of our requirements of jute? Pakistan and India have agreed to sell 350,000 tons of jute to Argentina, one of the two great wheat-producing countries outside the sterling area that are not parties to this agreement. The other principal wheat-producing country which is not a party to the agreement, Russia, is endeavouring to wreck the economy of the western powers, and like a crow on a fence waiting to pick the eyes out of a dying sheep, Argentina is waiting to get its pickings. Our representative at the discussions at Geneva, Mr. McCarthy, was given very definite instructions by the Government. The Government would not permit representatives of the wheatgrowers to take part in the negotiations or to facilitate the attendance of an advisor. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 9th June (vide page 810), on motion by Mr. Calwell -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Before I address myself to this measure, I suggest to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we should be permitted to debate the Immigration Bill and the War-time Refugees Removal Bill together. They deal with the same subject-matter, but they deal with it in two different ways arising from different powers. I. think that it would be convenient if the Chair were to permit the one debate to cover the two bills.
– Hear, hear!
– I think that debate on the two bills would cover the same ground. If it is the wish of the House, the two measures may be taken together.
– I object. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) made a second-reading speech on each of the two bills.
– If leave is not granted, the two bills must be taken separately.
– The position may be met by suspending so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the two bills being taken together.
– The Chair will allow references to both bills, so the debate on the two measures can substantially be conducted on the Immigration Bill, which is now before the House. However, the bills will be voted on as separate measures. The Chair will allow this debate to cover the two bills.
– That was the idea that I had in mind when I made my original suggestion. I realize that there are two bills, and that the two bills must be voted on separately at the secondreading stage, in committee, and at the third-reading stage; but, broadly, they deal with the same subject-matter. I think that the Minister for Immigration will agree that, but for certain recent events, this legislation would not be before the House. However, two bills have been introduced. One of them is based upon one power dealing with the removal from Australia of certain people, and the other is based upon the immigration power and seeks to amend the Immigration Act. I do not propose to make two second-reading speeches. I shall make one speech on behalf of my colleagues in the party which I have the honour to lead, and myself.
In the course of these bills, the Minister has, if I may use such a picturesque expression, given his now celebrated imitation of Ajax defying the lightning. He is saying, in effect, that critics of his administration must be opponents of the White Australia policy. As he has adopted that attitude, it becomes neces sary for me to state, I hope clearly, and certainly, quite shortly, the attitude of my colleagues and myself towards Australia’s national immigration policy and its administration. Ever since the legislative expression of that policy 48 years ago, it has been administered and upheld without major amendment by Labour governments for something like sixteen years and by non-Labour governments for something like 32 years. When I state those periods, I speak, not by the book, but subject to correction. However, it will be seen that all political parties have stood, in relation to this policy, on completely common ground. In those circumstances, the attempt that the Minister has made from time to time to raise a party issue where none exists, and to create outside Australia an impression that there is in this Parliament a general Opposition attack on the. national policy, is as gratuitous as it is mischievous.
What was and what is the policy) I do not need to put that question to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). He knows all about it. Our answer to that question is that the policy has been to maintain - and here I am on completely common ground with what the Minister himself has said - the homogeneous character of the Australian population, omitting for this purpose, of course, our own aboriginal population, by confining new migrants from abroad to those people who are assimilable. That has meant, in effect, the confining of migration to those of European blood or descent. So that no unnecessary affront may be offered by an act of the Parliament to races outside this policy, there has never been at any time in the history of the Commonwealth a ban legally based upon race or colour; the ban has depended merely upon a dictation test.
Having said that, I pause to interrupt myself, as it were, to make an observation about another matter. Some reference has been made in recent discussions, chiefly discussions outside this House, to the supposed desirability of a quota system rather than something that operates as a straight-out prohibition. Oddly enough, in view of that discussion, there is already in the Immigration Act provision for a quota. If honorable members will read section 3k of the act, which was introduced in 1925 by the Bruce-Page Government, they will find a provision for a quota. It was introduced specifically as the result of the adoption of a quota system by the United States of America. It was thought that the adoption of a quota system by the United States of America might cause a flow of migrants to Australia in numbers which it would be beyond our power to absorb. The then PrimeMinister, Mr. Bruce quoted to the House a report that had been made to the United States Congress, and I shall read one passage from it. It is as follows: -
An impelling reason for the change is that it is desired to slow down the streams of the types of migrantswhich are not easily assimilable.
The change referred to was the change in American policy. The Immigration Act was amended by this Parliament in 1925, and the Australian quota law still stands. The Minister does not propose, in this legislation or otherwise, to repeal it. I think perhaps that it will be useful if I read to honorable members section 3k of the Immigration Act. It is as follows: -
1 ) The Governor-General may by Procla mation prohibit, either wholly or in excess of specified numerical limits, and either permanently or for a specified period, the immigration into the Commonwealth, or the landing at any specified port or place in the Commonwealth, of aliens of any specified nationality, race, class or occupation, in any ease where he deems it desirable so to do -
Any person who enters the Commonwealth in contravention of the prohibition contained in any such Proclamation shall be deemed to be a prohibited immigrant.
The case for the long-established migration policy, a migration policy which is not under challenge in this House, is, by common consent in Australia, and by that statement I mean the common consent of the overwhelming majority of Australians, complete. Viewed in practical terms, and considered as a policy for practical people in a practical world, the case is unquestionably just and proper. Members of the party which I lead, support the national policy. It is a grave misfortune that that policy should so frequently be rested, by some of its defenders at least, upon purely economic reasons, because economic reasons in a nation where all citizens may be compelled to observe the law, may well be regarded as quite transient in their character and their disappearance would render this policy vulnerable. I emphasize that point to honourable members, who will not have failed to notice that there are distinguished leaders in one or more other countries, who have said, in effect, “ So long as this policy rests on economic grounds, we have no challenge to make to it “. It is very unwise for us to rest the policy on economic grounds when, in truth, it rests primarily on quite another ground. The truth is that the policy is based primarily on broad and proper considerations of race, hut not on racial superiority. The idea of racial superiority, as it may be expressed by us towards any other race involved in this issue, is absurd, offensive and ignorant, and we all should denounce it. There is no question of saying to the people of another race, “ We are superior to you “. The only thing that we say is, “ We are basically a different race, and, therefore, for certain reasons we apply this policy “. The real test is assimilability.
Let us be quite plain about this matter. Experience in other countries shows that we are basically different races. European races and negroes in the United States of America, and Europeans, South Africans and Indians in South Africa live side by side in the one national area. Great problems of social and racial prejudice arise, and those problems are to the advantage of neither group, and are the cause of much avoidable bitterness and unhappiness. The South African example is an eloquent one. It deserves close study, and anybody who studies it carefully cannot fail to realize that there is an overwhelming case for a homogenous community so long as we can maintain it.
So much for the national policy and so much for its rationale. We are on common ground. These things are not under challenge in this House. But another question of great gravity at once arises about our policy. How can we preserve it? That is vital. It is a good thing to have a basic national policy. It is most important to preserve it. How can we preserve it? That question deserves a frank answer. That means one or more, as we understand this problem, of several possible answers. The first is this : Our policy may be challenged by or at some international body such as the United Nations. We shall then be in the hands of a jury most of whose members have in the past freely accepted masses of migrants of different races and colours. If we are to satisfy that jury we must not only provide logic by justifying our policy in the broad; we must also make friends by avoiding the provocative or unreasonable application of that policy in individual cases.
The second answer is this : It may be challenged by direct demand from some Asian country, accompanied by an open or tacit threat of armed compulsion. If we are to talk plain language let us face up to that. In that event, it is clear that with 8,000,000 people we could not successfully defend ourselves or our policy without the active aid of powerful friends. That means the nations of the British Commonwealth and the United States of America. Great Britain does not restrict migration; though, as it has more or less reached its maximum population, the point is of no moment. South Africa has a majority of people of non-European origin. India, Pakistan and Ceylon, all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, are all, as we are increasingly aware, critics of our policy. The United States has a negro population of many millions, and would, therefore, experience much internal resistance to any proposal to intervene to protect the racial purity of Australia. These are bald facts, very baldly stated, but we should not forget them.
The third answer that may be made is this: It may be challenged by a process of propaganda, general or particular. The answer to such propaganda is not to ignore it, but to recognize its true nature.
Insofar as it is general propaganda, that is, insofar as it relates to the general nature of our policy, that policy can be adequately justified, as the Minister himself pointed out in his second-reading speech, for reasons which should be understood in countries, most of which nowadays adopt some exclusive immigration policies of their own. But insofar as the propaganda is particular, that is, insofar as it relates to allegations of harshness or pedantry in the application of the policy to particular cases, it can be answered only by wise and sensible administration, which occasionally overlooks an individual case or claps the telescope to a blind eye, and does not lie awake at nights worrying whether one act of humanity, which does not alter the law but merely decides not to insist upon it? rigour, might become a monstrous precedent. This is where the present Minister has failed; not frequently, I concede - J am not proposing in any way to overstate my case - but in a few cases which have attracted wide attention and have given rise to damaging misunderstandings. His declared attitude seems to be that there is no discretion, but an inflexible duty to enforce a law of hard and universal application. But this is a complete and dangerous misapprehension. A short study of the Immigration Act will show that. If honorable members will look at the Immigration Act as it stands and has stood for many years, they will find that it involves discretion at “many points. I shall not weary the House by reading the text of the sections involved, but I shall refer to them in brief terms. Under section 3 (») the application of the dictation test, which is the great test by which we control immigration, is a matter of discretion for the officer concerned. The section describes as a “ prohibited immigrant “ -
Any person who fails to pass the dictation test: that is to say, who, when an officer or person duly authorized in writing by an officer dictates to him not less than fifty words in any prescribed language, fails to write them out in that language in the presence of the officer or authorized person.
I recall with a certain amount of whimsy that before the act was amended in those terms, the words “ in a European language” were used. At one time, one of the languages prescribed was Gaelic, and it was chosen under the prescription in the legislation of any spoken European language, and the High Court, if I may refer to that body with profound respect, decided that Gaelic, mark you, was not a European language. I bow to that decision, but I remember it. Anyway, the only point that I have to make at the moment is that the Minister is not bound to apply a dictation test. He could apply a dictation test to every one who tried to come into the country and hold up business for several years. It is a matter of discretion. Then again the Minister has a discretion, under section 3j, to prevent an intending migrant from entering the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that a certificate of health has been issued to him. Under section 3k, the Government has a discretion to prohibit by proclamation or to fix immigration quotas. Under section 4 there is a discretion to issue or cancel a certificate of exemption and thereafter a discretion to deport the holder of it. The certificate of exemption is granted to a visitor, some one who comes here to engage in business or to go to a university or to fulfil some other reason. There is discretion as to whether the certificate of exemption may be cancelled. There is discretion as to whether the original holder of it should be deported. Under section 8a there is a discretion in the Minister to order the deportation of certain persons. I remind the House that section 8a deals with people who have been convicted of certain offences, who have been inmates of an insane asylum or who are persons who advocate by force or violence the overthrow of the established government of the Commonwealth or of any State. In other words, there is power to deal with the case of a revolutionary agent, such as, the active Communist agent who seeks to enter Australia. In that case, there is discretion in the Minister to order his deportation, with the proviso that, if he comes within the words of the section relating to subversive activity, he has to be charged before a board with his revolutionary actions, and the board will determine whether he is to be deported. Under section 8aa there is a discretion, in the Minister, in the event of a serious industrial disturbance, to summon a person concerned in the disturbance, but not born in Australia before a board to show cause why he should not be deported. Those are all matters of discretion set out in the law as it stands,
It is interesting to note that the recent cases which have attracted most attention - on only one of them have I spoken in the House - were cases in which the Minister was being invited, not to alter the law, but to exercise his unquestioned discretion. In each case all that waa being sought was a certificate of exemption. Unfortunately, the Minister has become quite non-discretionary, and therefore tends, on these matters, to become inflexible and therefore unjust. Take the 0’ Keefe case. In the name of common sense what harm would have come to Australia or to a policy supported by every Australian political party if Mrs. O’Keefe and her children had been, allowed to remain here for some years longer, or - I face it - even permanently? The Minister was under no obligation to cancel a certificate or refuse a renewal oi to deport. On each matter he had a discretion. The possession of a discretion usually means that he could say to himself: “Are there any special facts here which should induce me not to apply the general principle in all its rigour ? “ If the Minister cannot or will not consider this question, what does the act mean by giving him a discretion ? It must mean something. Were there any special facts in the O’Keefe case? There were. They appear clearly and tersely in the language of the law reports. The Minister was good enough to give me the typescript of the judgments, but they are printed in the Argus Law Reports for 1949. In the course of the remarks of the Chief Justice, which appear on page 364, His Honour, who upheld the legal position of the Commonwealth, said this -
The plaintiff was born at Monado, Celebes, on the 17th December, 1908, and was a Dutch subject.
With her then husband and family of seven children she escaped from the Japanese forces in the islands and the whole family was brought to Australia by the Australian corvette H.M.A.S. Warrnambool on the 18th September, 1942. She was registered as ar alien under the National. Security (Aliens Control) Regulations on the 28th October, 1942.
The Dutch Government took charge of the family and provided for their care and maintenance.
A child waa born in Australia to the plaintiff and her husband on the 27 th August, 1043.
Her husband, after receiving special training in Australia, rendered service with the Intelligence section of the Dutch Army and was killed in the crash of a Dutch transport plane in September, 1944.
Later His Honour said -
On the 14th June, 1947, the plaintiff married John William O’Keefe, a British subject. She thereby became a British subject - see Nationality Act 1946, Sec. 18.
Here is no case of general application which could become a precedent for hundreds of thousands of others. An order of deportation would do three things in this case. First, it would remove a British subject from a British country. Australia; secondly, it would expel from Australia one child, a natural-born Australian, unless somebody chose to separate the child from the rest of the family and keep it in Australia; and, thirdly, it would inflict great hardship on the family of a man who had served in th« Dutch Army, and had therefore served Australia, and had been killed in the course of that service. I say at once, because I am not going to put any case beyond its proper limits, that there may be some other facts. That is why I do not profess to be dogmatic about any particular case. But the real point of the criticism is that the Minister, on his own showing, declines to exercise discretion, although the very law that he invokes imposes that discretion upon him. On the 9th February of this year, during an adjournment debate on this matter, the Minister made the following observations, which I quote from page 63 of Ilansard of that date -
Mrs. O’Keefe and her children are not important; it is the precedent that is important. If we allow these people to stay we shall h» ve to leave the floodgates open to any Asiatics who want to come here.
I make an allowance for that statement as one made impromptu in the course of debate; but as a statement it is, of course, illogically fantastic. To say that to allow somebody to romain lien; under special circumstances is to abandon the policy of excluding certain people from coming here is a completely illogical observation, but it illustrates perfectly the Minister’s determination - and there is no doubt that he adheres to it - that there is to be no discretion and that no special circumstances merit one minute’s consideration.
We on this side of the House, agreeing entirely with the national policy, take a very different view of the ministerial discretion. That discretion should be exercised, not only in the light of the general national policy, which is a sound one, but also in the light of the special facts of any individual case. Decisions that produce obvious injustice or hardship are a danger to the national policy. A foolish or stiff-necked insistence upon a good general rule in all cases and all circumstances is calculated only to bring the general rule into undeserved discredit and avoidable attack.
In addition, the Minister’s speeches reveal a curious state of mind. There was almost a touch of megalomania about his declaration in his second-reading speech on the War-time Refugees Removal Bill. The honorable gentleman said -
Let me give this warning. I am determined that no matter who criticizes or wlm complains; no matter what un-Australian activities the haters of this Government and this Government’s maintenance of our immigration restriction laws and practices may resort to, those laws and practices will remain, unchanged and unchangeable.
Yet in the very bill that the Minister was then introducing, which is called the War-time Refugees Removal Bill, in clauses 4 and 5, we find that he has created a new discretion in himself which includes an unfettered discretion to deport an Englishman who came to Australia from Hong Kong or Singapore during the war and is still here, and that in the case of that deportee or proposed deportee there is no form of appeal and no board to go to, though under the principal act, as I have pointed out, if he had been of a different type and had been charged with subversive activities instead of just being an Englishman who came here during the war, he would have had a right to go before a board and to be judged by it. I direct the attention of the House to the words that were used by the Minister in his secondreading speech on the bill to amend the Immigration Act. They were -
The wide use of the very misleading term “the White Australia policy” by newspapers and others has been largely responsible for the misconception that has arisen in regard to the policy. The term has no official basis and wherever possible I have avoided its use, not only because it describes our immigration policy inaccurately but because it can be regarded as offensive to non-Europeans.
Those are good words. I approve of them. The Minister said later -
One of my first actions as Minister for Immigration was to stress on my new department that the language used in official correspondence must make no reference to this term or to any other expression concerning the pigmentation of other people’s skins or anything else that could give offence. I would earnestly urge that this lead be followed by others.
To show the hollowness of this belief and to lend point to my criticism of the provocative character of certain administrative decisions, I have only to quote two passages from the Minister’s own defence, delivered in this House, in relation to the O’Keefe case. The first passage, which is reported in Hansard of the 9th February, 1949, at page 63, reads as follows: -
Honorable members opposite do not stand for a white Australia; they stand for a black Australia. There are, unfortunately, far too many of their type in Australia to-day who want to break our laws.
That is an example of earnestly urging that this lead be followed by others. At page 66 of the same issue of Hansard, the Minister is reported as having said -
We can have a white Australia, we can have a black Australia, but a mongrel Aus tral in is impossible, and I shall not take the first steps to establish the precedents which will allow the floodgate* to be opened.
Government Members. - Hear, hear!
– Are honorable gentlemen opposite agreeing with the language or with the sentiment? There is no ambiguity about where anybody in this House stands on the sentiment. The Minister has advised the House that we should avoid the use of these wounding and unfortunate terms. It is very odd that, when I quote a monstrous example of their repeated use, his own followers say “Hear, hear!”
There are two observations that I think should be made about the bills themselves. The first is that it would have been impossible, even after much research, to discover a more internationally offensive title for one of the bills than “ The War-time Refugees Removal Bill “. There was a time during the war when we shared a common danger with these people. They had all met the shock of the enemy’s attack long before we had. Many of them served in the armed forces. Nevertheless, they are now to be lumped together as something that must be “ removed “ from Australia. It is a deplorable title. The fact that the Minister has made a special statutory feature of the non- Australians who came here during the war, and in some instances have remained here, is significant. Exceptional cases require exceptional treatment. That is the essence of the case that I am putting. How many aliens answering to this description are still here, with Australian wives or husbands or Australian family responsibilities? At the very most, although I do not believe it for a moment, there may be a few hundreds; it is much more probable that there are only a few score. Never before in our history have we in Australia experienced such war-caused circumstances. They may never occur again, and we all pray that they will not. That being so, does it not seem to honorable members to be an act of folly to invoke the solemn machinery of either the existing laws or of a specially amended law to force them out, quite indiscriminately and without any discretionary consideration of each particular case? If the Minister feels that he cannot, or would prefer not to deal with these matters himself, let him appoint a small committee to advise him.
There is no question of putting aside the national immigration policy. We already have quite a number of thousands of non-Europeans who are Australian residents and, in many instances, Australian citizens. To accept a handful more under these exceptional and non-recurring circumstances can be described as a threat to the national policy only by an abandonment of common sense. The second observation I make is that this Immigration Bill, which closes up the loop-hole that has been found to exist by a majority of the High Court in the O’Keefe case -
I agree it is a loop-hole - is made retrospective in all cases. There are, no doubt, circumstances in which it is right to give a law a retrospective effect, and I make no generalizations because I believe that particular cases should be considered on their merits; but there will be a widespread impression in this country that Mie Minister, by not making an exception in the case of the O’Keefes is not only taking away from them at one stroke the fruits of their successful appeal to the law of this country and to the High Court as its interpreter, but is also engaging in a singularly unpleasant process of victimization.
.- At the beginning of his speech the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that we are on common ground so far as the White Australia policy is concerned. If the history -of the controversy of the last few months is examined, it will be found that that statement is not strictly accurate. One would be more likely to believe what the right honorable gentleman has said if this were not an election year and honorable gentlemen opposite did not fear the consequences of some -of their actions during the last six or seven months. This re-affirmation of faith is rather tardy. If we are on common ground with regard to this matter, why was not there a common defence of the Minister’s administration of a policy that the Leader of the Opposition has described as a national policy upon which there is general agreement? If we are on common ground with regard to the immigration policy, why is Lt that cartoonists and journalists employed by newspapers that support the Liberal cause have engaged in a scurrilous campaign of vilification of the Minister. I have no apology to make for any statement that I may utter to-night on the White Australia policy because I feel very keenly on this matter. There has been a loss of faith on the part of the Opposition because of the hard row we have had to hoe in relation to this policy. Circumstances now are vastly different from those of 48 years ago. The British Fleet is no longer the power in tha Pacific that it was then, .and there have .been other circumstances, of which we are all fully aware, which make the maintenance of the White Australia policy, not an offence to any nation, hut a dedication to our own nation. There was no doubt in the minds of the fathers of federation, and those who entered this House as a result of federation, on any aspect of what we term White Australia. The admirable research facilities available in the Parliamentary Library provide any honorable member with the opportunity of seeing where our predecessors stood. Indeed, they stood on common ground on both sides of the House.
– Hear, hear!
– They believed in White Australia. The Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, used the term White Australia on many occasions, and so did Mr. Deakin and Mr. Hughes, who is still happily with us. It shows the measure of our history when we have with us still an honorable gentleman who was in the original Federal Parliament. Some of his conclusions on the White Australia policy, made 48 years ago, I expect him to revindicate to-night or at a subsequent date. As the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has said in his opening remarks on an immigration bill -
I should like it to be clearly understood that the .purpose of this bill is to maintain what every Australian has understood has been the law of the land for the past 48 years.
He was referring to the Immigration Restriction Act and the sloganizing of the policy contained in that act into the term White Australia policy. Nobody knows -who coined the term White Australia. I see nothing offensive in it. This queasiness that has developed over the years is a sign that we are moving away from the honest facing-up to the situation that distinguished our forefathers 48 years ago. In a Hansard report of a debate on this matter on the 7th August, 1901, there is so sign of any equivocation about the policy. There was a solid, unified approach to the matter on both sides of the House. The bill being debated was the Immigration Restriction Bill and it was pointed out that it was the first bill of principle to come before the House. Most of the other bills with which the House had then dealt had been machinery bills. The
Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, said at the time -
If a measure of this kind . . . proves ineffective then we are not going to rest upon failure but march forward to success. Honorable members . . . may take it as being one certainty, that if we remain in office and lind a measure of this kind effective we shall bring down legislation which will make it thoroughly effective. 1 ask honorable members to compare that statement with the performances of the present Minister for Immigration. They will find out that his actions constitute a dedication to the White Australia policy. Continuing, Sir Edmund Barton said -
This is why I ask for power in broad terms. . . We are all extremists on the White Australia policy in this House.
The then Leader of the Opposition, Sir William McMillan, in that very notable debate which produced several magnificent speeches on the White Australia policy, made an extremely fine speech although he took some points of difference with the Government, as- Opposition members do. He concluded by saying -
Upon this matter all party spirit is dead. We speak with one voice.
Mr. Alfred Deakin, who has often been described as a silver-tongued orator, said -
White Australia is the Monroe doctrine of Australia. It is tha first principle of federation.
Notice the reiteration of the words “ White Australia “ made quite unselfconsciously. Remember, in those days we were at war with the Boers and there was opposition in. the British Parliament to any suggestion that we implement, and send to Britain for the Royal Assent, a bill making any differentiation regarding the people who might come into this country. Behind all that, however, there was the surging anger of the people who remembered the introduction to this country of kanaka labour. The people of Queensland remember that as a vivid and leprous part of the past. Every one who has read his school books remembers the influx of Chinese to the gold-fields in the last century. The people in those days had some Australianism behind them. They were on common ground with the present Minister for Immigration. They were behind Barton then; they would be behind Calwell to-day. To make that point more definite I remind honorable members again that Mr. Deakin said -
White Australia is the Monroe doctrine of Australia. It is the first principle of federation.
I say that the Minister for Immigration has shown great dignity and sincerity in connexion with this first principle of federation. He has been vilified and made the object of ridicule. Second-rate minds in second-rate newspapers have tried to put a wrong construction on the job that he is trying to do. It takes a man sure of the Tightness of his actions to face up to that. The Minister realizes that he has to “ take it on the chin “, not for himself, not for his party, but for the future of Australia. We are confronted with tremendous problems in connexion with the White Australia policy. I shall quote once again from the speeches made in 1901 in this House during the debate on the Immigration Restriction Bill. Mr. Deakin said -
Honorable members will know that this is not the last word. It is not finality. Far from being the last word, it is the first word.
Mr. Deakin made that statement because he had vision and foresaw the impending struggle over the White Australia policy. He continued -
It has the advantage of being immediately operative.
Mr. Deakin wanted to stop something immediately. He wanted to stop the influx into the goldfields of Chinese who were subversive both economically and from a racial point of view to our young country. He left an implication in his words that we of the future had to carry the torch and must not become queasy when some pink professor or colourful vicar, or some anthropologist or newspaper writer poked his finger in the pie and said “ We don’t like the White Australia policy.” Mr. Deakin knew that we were dedicated to that policy. That is the way I see it although I may be ultranationalistic about this matter. We find that in those days there was great unity of purpose over White Australia. Sir George Fuller, who was then the member for Illawarra and who became the Premier of New South Wales for once had a glimmering of understanding and caught a glimpse of the truth when he said -
I am pledged to White Australia.
Then we come to a genius who garnished his lyrical speeches with many beautiful illustrations. I refer to Mr. King O’Malley. Speaking about what happened in California in connexion with the immigration of Chinese he said, in effect, “ I have a warning to issue to you about this business. You know the position in California regarding the increase of the Chinese there. There are lots of wellmeaning people and dear old ladies in America who said, ‘0 come ye to the waters and the wine and the milk and we will feed you ‘ “. He said that they came to the wine, the waters and the milk and the Californians woke up one morning to find that there were 80,000 Chinese on the west coast of America. Then it was a case of “ O come ye to the American Congress “, and of saying to the Congress, “ O come ye to the Barbary Coast, where the boom towns are packed with all this aggregation of humanity which is being exploited by American businessmen and which lacks even ordinary facilities in their own houses “. Congress came, in effect, and passed an act excluding Chinese for 25 years. About that time Australia was still celebrating the achievement of federation. Amongst our distinguished guests was a Mr. Moor from Natal. As everybody knows, most of the phraseology of the legislation that provides for a dictation test for immigrants was copied from the Natal act. Mr. Moor said, in’ a statement that was quoted in the House by Prime Minister Barton -
You are to get a policy in relation to Asiatics and yourselves. Well, let mc tell you this: Be early in this. Do not shut the stable door after the horse is out. In fact, we in Natal have been too late. We have locked up the wrong horse - the dark horse.
As I said earlier we have in this House an honorable member who has the distinction of having been a member of the first Federal Parliament. I refer to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). In the early days of this Parliament he was the honorable member for West Sydney. He changed from the more crowded side of (he City of Sydney to the more salubrious north side of the harbour. That was a political omen. That change wrote in the sky his future political destiny because he went from Labour to the Opposition benches. He may hotly contest that statement because he said he went to form a party of his own. The right honorable member has survived political life valiantly. I know that he is still having tournaments, some times with the Government and sometimes with his own side, but I feel sure that he will be able to stand up to his past, and I am sure of his earnestness about the White Australia policy. I shall quote from a speech that he made on the 12th September, 1901, during the debate on the immigration Restriction Bill. He waB contending with the then AttorneyGeneral. He said -
The Attorney-General says that this is the beginning of a series of bills - a series which is to end, probably, in the total prohibition of coloured aliens. If we are not to end there, where are we to end? And if we are to end there why should we not begin there?
It still seems to be the same phraseology. He continued -
Why should we hesitate! I can understand the attitude assumed by Her Majesty’s Government when it is very well known that Her late Majesty the Queen entertained a personal affection for her Hindoo subjects which grew on her with advancing years, and caused her to have a personal antipathy to signing anything that would have the effect of excluding, them as a race from a part of her dominions. But I have yet to learn that even the personal likes or dislikes of a sovereign of the realm is to guide the destinies of a free people. And further, I have yet to learn that His Majesty the King entertains the same disinclination as did Her late Majesty the Queen. This, however, is merely a theoretical way of looking at the question of a refusal to give the Hoya! Assent. As a matter of fact it is the disinclination of His Majesty’s Ministers to recommend the giving of the Royal Assent, because it might involve European and general difficulties. That is at the bottom of the whole thing. It is notorious that to-day Great Britain stands almost without an ally. She is now driven into a corner, and she is dependent upon the support, tardy and reluctant, of Japan. Amongst all the nations of the world Japan is the only one in support Great Britain . . .
And there are people who say, “Do not offend the Japanese, because if we are driven into war they will remember it against us “. Was that attitude of any help to us during the last war? The honorable member for North Sydney, away back in 1901, was working out a tortuous argument to the effect that we had to be friendly with Japan. I continue the quotation: -
We want a White Australia., and are we to lie denied it because we shall offend the Japanese or embarrass His Majesty’s Ministers? I think not. The honorable member for Wentworth wished to disclaim any wish - as do we all - to consider the question of what would happen if the Government of Great Britain refused to agree to such a measure as we desire. For my part, I do not desire, «nd I do not think there are 5 per cent, of the people of this country wlm desire separation from Great Britain, but while I do not wish it, 1 do not fear it. If it is to come it is to come from no act of mine, and it is to come from no act on the part of those who think as wo do j hut it is to come because we are denied that which we have an inalienable right to have. We arc to work out our destinies unaffected by that terrible blot . . .
So, even to the point of separation, which was a. vital issue at that time, the right honorable member for North Sydney gave his testimony in favour of the White Australia policy. I come back to the honesty of honorable members opposite. When the Leader of the Opposition said that we were on common ground, he looked like a man in a mine field, one who was, in fact, on uncommonly explosive ground. He was not allowed to select his own battle ground. It was selected for him by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) about whose political generalship I could say much. He could teach raw recruits of the Opposition a great deal without getting off his chair. The Leader of the Opposition was very uneasy. This is an election year. There is a feeling among members of the Opposition - they may deny it if they like - that there should be some alteration to the White Australia policy. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition was full of wise saws and modern instances. Unfortunately, just as he rose to his feet, the black-out in Sydney, which had lasted for some time, was lifted, but I cannot say whether there was any connexion between that and the White Australia policy. I remember when a public man, in the person of Mr. E. S. Spooner, made the crass .statement from a. church forum that the White Australia policy should be looked at and adjusted. Mr. Spooner said that, although the policy was beyond question, it should be more elastic. It should be looked at again, he said. That confirms the impression that there has been an attempt on the part of the Opposition to gain political capital out of what has been properly described as an article of faith for all Australians. The attitude of the Australian people on this question is inflexible. It may be an expensive thing for us in the national sense. God knows what our future is. We are Australasians, with the accent on the “ asians “. One hundred years ago we might have described ourselves as Europeans, but our lot is cast now in the Pacific, and among the nations of the Pacific. Australia, a nation of something more than 7.000,000 people, has every right, since we developed this country, and since our forefathers discovered it, to lay down a policy for the future development of the country. The peoples of Asia should remember the remarks of General Smuts, who said -
For Asia, this question of white and black may be question of dignity. For us, it is a question of survival.
That may be said of Australia, also. We may well ask what the nations to the north of us have done in the way of putting their own houses in order, seeing that they are falling for the second-rate propaganda of unworthy Australians, that we should let the gates down, and let the flood come in. That would be just as tragic for the Asiatics coming here in unrestricted numbers as for the race at present in occupation.
The Leader of the Opposition said that when specific cases arose, we should be gentlemanly, and treat them as .special cases. He said that the Minister had discretion which he should exercise. According to the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister is supposed to have discretion only to say “ Yes “. So far as Mrs. O’Keefe was concerned, the Minister had no choice if he supported the attitude of his predecessors, because the White Australia policy is a passion in this country. And why, we may ask, is it a passion among the usually unemotional Australians? The answer is that it affects our survival. We were told in flamboyant tones that the challenge to a White Australia would come with the gleaming sword. That was poetic licence. In actual fact, the challenge came from a little Ambonese woman with, seven children. I am sorry for her, but she, and the Minister for Immigration, were caught up in something bigger than themselves. She was a refugee, and, under the agreement into which she entered, we were bound to repatriate her. Was there anything wrong in sending a woman back to her own country, a woman in comfortable, and even affluent circumstances? She had said that she intended to return eventually to her own country. A lot of strange underground engineering went on in connexion with this case. This woman was able to obtain British nationality by her marriage to a man of Irish extraction. I pay a tribute to the ineffable chivalry of the Irish for the lost causes they espouse. Out of consideration for them and for the lady concerned, I say no more on that point. The fact that some war refugees, not of the coolie class, loved this land so much better than their own that they had to be dragged screaming from Australia is a reflection on the mis-government in their own countries. “We sympathize with them, but a greater objective must be kept in mind. Mil’s. O’Keefe has had plenty of advice.
The White Australia policy, let me say, it sacrosanct in this country, it is the political ikon to which all. do reverence; but political barristers, and others doing diplomatic and quasi- diplomatic work in Australia, attempted to show the Minister for Immigration a point. He cannot be shown any points. He is not a little man. He is an able and a generous man who is- dedicated to a task, and as such he must suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The whole case of Mrs. O’Keefe and her sojourn in Australia smacks of conspiracy. Seeing that there was an honorable contract between a refugee and the Minister for Immigration, where was the crime in asking the refugee in the terms of the contract to go back to her own country? Her former husband was something of a
War hero who played a valiant part, and met his death by misadventure. The best thing was to- repatriate her, but there was some evasion. The Minister, acting in the spirit of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, could do neither more nor- less than- he has done.
Having decided on that hard duty-,, he has met with nothing but vilification and misrepresentation in the press, and at the hands of cartoonists. One of the cartoonists, Mir.. Molnar, who works in Sydney, came to Australia during one of the worst of Hitler’s purges. Almost every day he dedicates a cartoon to what he hopes will be the destruction of the Government of the country which extended sanctuary to him. No questions were asked, and permission was granted to him to enter Australia under the terms of the Evian agreement. So the campaign against the Minister grew until the O’Keefe case made the news. The Minister was slaughtered in the O’Keefe case in order to make a journalistic holiday, and to make copy for a section of the press which I should call the “ larrikin “ press. I refer to only a section of the press and to the section of politics to which it belongs. I should take a little longer to find the- correct descriptive: word. Let us leave the O’Keefe case, with all its; implications, where it stands to-day. The High Court has made a decision on this matter.
Let us come now to- the Gamboa case. I refer again to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, who had left the mine-field at that stage, had left common ground and had come to the propaganda ground of the Gamboa case. The right honorable gentleman waxed lyrical about that case, and made a better job of his argument from then on because he had made his posture to the people of Australia that everybody believed in the White Australia policy. That policy was not involved in the Gamboa and O’Keefe cases. What was involved was the so-called crassness, the dourness and the persecution complex of the Minister against two or three foreigners who wanted to remain in Australia. When the Gamboa case was beaten up, no protest was made by the Government of the Philippines, although we heard time after a time that serious official protests were expected from that country. No protest was made by General MacArthur, although we heard that protests were to come from that source. There was no general protest. Some newspapers beat up the story and again we were told that this was another instance of white versus black or of white versus Indonesian, and again the Minister was in deep water. The honorable gentleman sustained himself with great dignity, constantly keeping before him the ideals which he has striven to achieve. The Gamboa case was not a tragic case. There were certain reasons why Gamboa should not come to Australia, notwithstanding that his wife was here. The Minister fully explained the legal position, and there the matter rested. We then began to find out who were our enemies and the enemies of the White Australia policy. I remind honorable members that the statesmen of the past who planned and voted for the immigration restriction legislation were neither afraid of the term “White Australia” nor of the word “ restriction “. They came to their decision under the stress of circumstances. The Minister has also come to a decision, but under the stress of different circumstances. The prophecy of Mr. Deakin that this was only the beginning and that there would be more to follow has been fulfilled.
If we are to believe that the Government and the Opposition are on common ground on the White Australia policy, let us ascertain who are our enemies. They are the correspondents of the foreign press. The Singapore press has retracted some of its statements. It now says, “ There may be something in what the Minister has said “. Thinking of the possible effect on trade the Singapore press now says, in effect, “ We should not cut off our nose to spite our face But a section of the Malayan press has viciously attacked us notwithstanding our efforts to protect Malaya during the war. Before the war the Malayans were terribly “ pukka “, :f polo “ and what have you. When, however, it came to the big job of defending that country during the war it was the Australian soldier who undertook part of that task and he did his job valiantly. To malign Australia on any subject does not redound to the credit of the Malayan press. As far as Malaya is concerned we have surely earned the right to do just as we like in our own country. We went unselfishly to the aid of Malaya. The Aus tralian fighting soldier was not fully equipped and well knew that he might be the sacrificial victim in that struggle.
– The honorable member is praising the soldiers. What did he do?
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has just made an interjection to which I take the strongest exception, and I ask that it be withdrawn. I did not know that the honorable member had a proprietary interest in our soldiers.
– Does the honorable member for Parkes regard the interjection as offensive?
– Yes, but I shall let it go as my time has almost expired. It was an unfortunate remark made under cover, but if the honorable member for Wimmera does not want to withdraw it, I leave the matter to his conscience. If these writers, anthropologists and other correspondents fear that there is some offence to the world in the White Australia policy, why do they not tell the whole story? Why do these defamers of Australia invariably tell only a part of the story? I sum up by saying that throughout the nation there is a feeling that the White Australia policy is as solid to-day as it was when the Immigration Restriction Act was placed on the statute-book. Those timid Australians who feel that they cannot sustain the dangers associated with adherence to that policy should get out of the country. With those internationalists who love every star but their own, who “would rather live under the Russian star than under the star of their own country, we share no common ground and we never will do so. Let them talk. If they want to understand the philosophy of this matter let them Te-examine, not my remarks nor the eloquent statements of the Leader of the Opposition, hut the sober record of the utterances of out elder statesmen, who, with the exception of the right honorable member for North Sydney, are no longer here. I have taken a section of the press and also certain so-called intellectuals to 1 ask. There are others with high academic qualifications and with a profound knowledge of this country who feel as avidly as I do that the White Australia policy must be sustained, because, as Smuts has said, “ For us, it is a question of survival “.
As a tail-piece, may I add that there are journalists who, although they are opposed to the Government, are courageous enough to give expression to their unbiased views on the White Australia policy. With them we are on common ground. I can do nothing bettor in this connexion than to read the followsplendid leading article which refers to discussions in the House on Australian Immigration policy and which appeared in the Canberra Times under the heading, “Who Fanned the Flames?”:-
There is no doubt that during the last few mouths there has been a sustained campaign, which, whether calculated for the purposes or not, could hae no other result than that of inflaming feeling abroad against Australia.
That is my complaint against the members of the Opposition. The article continues -
Many Australian newspapers must share a guilty shame, and some Australian politicians have been more mischievous than useful in their subordinating a sense of national duty to the temptation to play politics.
Further on the writer of this editorial who is just as courageous as the first protagonists of the “ White Australia “ policy and keeps the flame just as carefully trimmed, continues -
The notion that either the Australian Government or people cherish hatred or view with superiority any other peoples is a misrepresentation so palpable as to provide its own refutation. Every country is entitled to its own immigration laws, and comparison of Australian laws with those of many other countries in the Pacific is all in Australian favour.
The Minister for Immigration has made that point on many occasions. The article continues -
The test of whether Australian policy is’ unfriendly to any other peoples, and whether it is not supported by Australians as a whole, will shortly be tested in our Parliament. It remains to be seen how many members of Parliament will vote, particularly in an election year, against the amending immigration bill to be introduced this session. It remains to be seen, too, how many are prepared to come into the open in any sphere of Australian activity and admit that they have been fanning the flames which threatened to engender heat in relations between Australia and friendly peoples
That is a definite challenge by a newspaper which is not distinguished for its Labour sympathies. There was also a distinct challenge in the Minister’s secondreading speech when he said, in effect, “ If there is any question of amendment do not let the wording of the act intimidate you “. Thus, the honorable gentleman issued an open invitation to honorable members to suggest amendment? which may appeal to them. In its editorial on this matter the Canberra Times has spoken for the Australian people. 1 endorse every word of it. The Minister, too, speaks for the nation as a whole. It remains only for honorable member? opposite who have quibbled about the Government’s immigration policy and the White Australia policy, and have used every little side issue in an attempt to whittle away the dignity of that policy, to stand up and be counted in the face of public opinion.
.- Normally, in the course of debate it becomes the function of honorable members to make some reply to the arguments advanced by their opponents. I listened with close attention to the very long speech which has just been concluded by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I have, no doubt that to some persons it may have been interesting, but to many of us on this side of the House it was boring. Some persons who are likely to be excluded from our country under the law which is the subject of this debate will no doubt regard it as a most offensive speech. The honorable member contributed nothing that I could understand that could lend to the improvement of the legislation now before us. He treated us to a long historical review of utterances made by persons in one place in 1901 and by others at another place in 1905. That review may be interesting, but it was not particularly apropos of the legislation now before us. I believe that Australians are more concerned with conditions to-day. The honorable member was more on the beam when he referred to the report of a statement by Mr. E. S. Spooner, a former member of this House, although I understand that he was not a member of this chamber at the time he is said to have made the statement that was quoted.
– Mr. Spooner is a member of the Liberal party.
– The honorable member carefully selected his quotations. He avoided reminding the House that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) once stated that he was in favour of abandoning the White Australia policy. That statement was not made in 1903. At the time the honorable member for Hunter expressed that view he was a member of this Parliament. I shall not attempt to deny a counter-assertion that the honorable member for Hunter, in voicing that opinion, was completely out of step with the policy of the Labour party.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Hunter made that exact statement.
– He did. It is on record. In recalling that matter, I am merely directing attention to the fact that the honorable member for Parkes carefully selected his quotations.
The great political parties of Australia have no differences of opinion on the major issue of the so-called White Australia policy. The Labour party makes it clear that it stands for the maintenance of that policy. This evening, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has made it unequivocally clear that the Liberal party is for the maintenance of the White Australia policy. Speaking for the Australian Country party, I make it equally clear that we stand where we have always stood on this issue, and that is for the maintenance of this traditional policy. The only party which, to my knowledge, is opposed to the maintenance of the White Australia policy is the Communist party. However, members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party do not need to prove that they support the White Australia policy. Those two political parties governed this country with subtantial majorities, for 23 years out of the last 33 and have never shown the slightest disposition to abandonor weaken the White Australia policy. That is the com plete answer. No person can say, allege or accuse, for mean party political purposes, that any inference can be drawn from our speeches or votes on this issue. Our attitude is reflected in our record of government. We maintained the White Australia policy. That is where we stand. Each of the three great political parties in this country supports the White Australia policy for the same reasons. Our vast, sparsely populated continent occupies a peculiar geographical position almost on the edge of Asia. We desire to avoid the minority problems that have rent other countries internally. We want to avoid economic problems which have assumed crisis dimensions in other countries. Nobody in Australia would derive any advantage from the abandonment of the White Australia policy. Those are the basic reasons why all of us stand for that traditional policy.
Our reasons are not related to creeds of racial superiority or racial inferiority, which have no place in the attitude of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party towards this issue. The Australian Country party agrees with every word that the Leader of the Opposition has uttered this evening about Australia’s immigration policy. On this issue, I am happy to say, the right honorable gentleman has spoken with a voice as acceptable to the Australian Country party as it is to the party that he leads. He has made it perfectly clear that, whilst we stand for this policy as a basic policy, we emphasize that it has been administered throughout the years as a flexible policy. It was designed to operate as a flexible policy. There is no need for me to stress that point, because the Leader of the Opposition has directed attention to a series of provisions in the immigration law that authorize the Minister to exercise a discretionary power. How do coloured boxers enter this country if they are not admitted through the exercise of that discretionary power? The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and I have also exercised that power. The three great political parties have administered the law, as it was designed to be administered, by the application of the test of common sense, and with a degree of flexibility.
This basic policy of the general exclusion of people of Asiatic origin, when administered flexibly, has been understood in- Asia. Until recently, that law was never challenged. But in the O’Keefe case, and certain other cases, the Minister has, by his administrative acts, projected a touchy law into the arena of international controversy. To that degree, he has done a disservice not only to the Government but also to Australia. I am not unwilling to attempt to make political -capital on -many issues, but this is not an issue on which any of us can afford to score politically off one another. A few million Australians, isolated in this part of the world, simply cannot afford to arouse acrimony in Asia against themselves. I regret that the Minister, by his administrative acts, has, for the first time, projected the White Australia policy into the arena of international controversy. By that action, he has endangered the whole policy. If that policy is administered harshly, so that it cannot stand up to the judgment of the people of other countries, it will not endure. If this issue becomes a burning subject of international controversy it may eventually be debated in the forum of the United Nations. We could not prevent the White Australia policy from being debated by the United Nations even if we tried to do so. Who are we, a mere 7,000,000 people in a world of 2,000,000,000, to justify the White Australia policy in the General Assembly of the United Nations if others who challenge it are able to cite case after case of harsh administration? For that reason, ! consider that the Minister has endangered the whole policy.
Indeed, the Minister has more than endangered the policy.. We have accepted this traditional policy for simple and understandable reasons that I have stated. For many years, Asiatics did not take offence at it. Seven million Australians, living in isolation, cannot afford to offend 1,000,000,000 Asiatics who live in comparatively close proximity geographically to us. But the Minister appears to be oblivious of the spirit of nationalism that is developing steadily in Asia. The Immigration Bill and the
War-time Refugees Removal Bill have been introduced because he insists upon having his own way. He made an administrative decision about the deportation of Mrs. O’Keefe. That lady considered that she had legal rights,, and the High Court considered the case. The verdict was contrary to the decision of the Minister. Not being willing to accept the decision of the court he has brought in a bill with, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, the offensive title of “ A Bill for an Act to provide for the removal from Australia of certain persons who entered Australia during the period of hostilities “. That title is calculated to offend. The bill provides for the removal from Australia of a few war-time refugees. I do not know whether this has become a mania of the Minister. If it has, I can only hope that the disease will run its course and that he will get over it. But I am not so sure that the legislation has not been framed and introduced in the hope and expectation that it will prove a trap for the Opposition. Well, it has not the elements of a trap. Our stand on immigration is too well understood, too clear cut, and too well established by the record of our own administration. There is no likelihood of the Opposition being trapped. There is no chance of proving that it is against the White Australia policy. What silly nonsense it is for the Minister to think that he can pounce upon some spoken word of mine or of some one else to prove that we are against the policy. How stupid it is for him to think that he can trap the two political parties in Opposition by calling for a division in the House and then, by producing the division list, prove that the Opposition parties are against the White Australia policy when we have governed Australia for 23 out of the last 42 years. We administered this national policy of Australia, but we administered it with the flexibility that the originators of the policy intended it should have. The flexibility of the policy is as important as are its basic elements. It was never conceived that there should be, to plagiarize, an iron curtain. It was conceived in the original Immigration Restriction Act, which has been reviewed and amended from time to- time, that there should be ways through this curtain when circumstances warranted it, and, all through the years, the policy has been administered^ not according- to the strict terms’ of law, but according; to its spirit. The law was not offensively designed and because it has been administered according to its spirit, it. has’ been as well understood in Asia as it has been understood in Australia. So it has stood unchallenged through the years. Therefore, if this is an attempt to trap the Opposition, it is a silly, illconceived one and one that will achieve nothing. If. this legislation, has been introduced! in pursuance of the mania of the’ Minister to try to prove that no one can beat him. notwithstanding that the High Court has said that he has acted contrary to the law, it is unworthy of the Government, which otherwise, I concede, has a good record in respect of immigration. This is more likely to contribute to the establishment of a state of affairs in which we shall not be able to sustain, in the face of world opinion, the White Australia policy than it is likely to contribute to a more rigid enforcement of it.. The parties on this side of the House stand where they have ever stood. We believe in the traditional policy of Australia,, but we believe that it should be administered, as it was designed to be administered, with science, humanity, reasonableness, common sense and discretion.
.- In the four years I have served in this Parliament, I have known of no other d’ebate in which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the spokesman of the Australian Country party, in this- case the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) each spoke for 45 minutes without declaring whether they supported or were against the bill before the House. The Opposition may or may not be going to vote against these bills. I do not know, and no one in the country could possibly surmise from what has been said whether the Australian Country party supports them or not. The honorable member for Indi described as: vindictive the action of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) in. bringing down this amending legislation to remove certain weaknesses; in our immigration* law that have been revealed by the High Court. He should have listened) closely to the speech of the Leader, of the Opposition, who mentioned that under the existing Immigration Act any man of foreign birth involved in an industrial dispute may be deported and that that amendment was put into the act. in 1925. It was a very unfortunate reference in view of what the honorable member for Indi was about to say.- The Bruce-Page Government had attempted to deport two trade union leaders named Walsh and Johnson. The case went to the High Court, which decided that they were not immigrants, and, therefore, could not be deported. The Bruce-Page Government, in which a distinguished colleague of the honorable member for. Indi, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), waa Deputy Prime. Minister, thereupon amended the Immigration Act in precisely the same way as the Minister is now attempting to amend it in order to remove the weaknesses revealed in the High Court’s decision. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned another decision wherein the High Court refused honorable, gentlemen opposite the right to deport Herr Egon Kisch on the technicality that the dictation test that he had been given had been in Gaelic, which was not a European language.
– A scandalous decision !
– The honorable member for Barker may consider that it was a scandalous decision. The Minister for Immigration has- not expressed the opinion that the High Court’s recent decision was scandalous, but he has- said that it reveals weaknesses in the law. The point was that Mrs. O’Keefe wa« deemed not to be an immigrant in that she had not been subjected to a dictation test or any other exclusion test when she came here and could not therefore be deported. It is that technicality that these bills seek to cover. One could not have guessed it from the speeches of the Leader of tb» Opposition and the honorable member for Indi. The more controversial bill relates to persons who came to Australia during the war and, under the High Court’s decision, are not classified as immigrants. This bill reclassifies them as alien immigrants and subjects them to the law that applies to all other alien immigrants. There is something particularly naive in the assumptions about the O’Keefe case in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. He expressed the view that the deportation order issued by the Minister for Immigration was an unreasonable exercise of ministerial authority. There will always be a difference of opinion on the exercise of the authority of the Minister for Immigration. The right honorable gentleman was Attorney-General in the Government that would not permit the entry of Mrs. Freer, an Englishwoman, who came to this country.
– It was right, too.
– It may have been right or wrong; I am not arguing that. The right honorable gentleman made play on the hypothesis that an Englishman from Hong Kong could be excluded from or deported from Australia under this legislation. If he meant to pretend that that is something new in our immigration policy, it was a dishonest pretence. As in the case of Mrs. Freer, we have power under the Immigration Act to exclude an Englishwoman or an Englishman. The Minister who was in charge of immigration in the government of which the right honorable gentleman was Attorney-General decided to exclude her. Many people took the view that that was an unreasonable exercise of the power of exclusion. Many newspapers took the same view. But at least we were spared the hysteria campaign that we have experienced lately. The case of Mrs. Freer was not elevated abroad to a general principle, as has been the O’Keefe case. The Australian Associated Press has played a prominent part in elevating the O’Keefe case to a general principle.
I wish, when honorable members were contending that our policy is offensive to Asia, they would not accept the assumption that Asia is pure and innocent in immigration policies. We have heard a great deal about Malaya and the singularly vicious press of Singapore. Let us look at Malaya. There is a large section of the Malayan population whose policy of exclusion of Europeans is to murder them. Do we have the Singapore Free Press discussing the wickedness of that kind of racial discrimination ? Of course not! I hope we shall not be apologetic in excluding Malays from- Australia, in view of the record of Malaya. To be apologetic would be too absurd. Malaya until recently accepted Indians to work on plantations. It now excludes them. There are frequent instances of Malays, with their peculiar temperament, running amuck and conducting mass pogroms of Indians in their country. They have also conducted mass pogroms of Chinese in their country. More recently, some of them have been conducting mass pogroms of Europeans. If, in the view of some honorable members opposite, the Minister for Immigration is to he asked to kneel in front of the Singapore Free Press, because a few people are to be deported, after having been humanely treated in Australia for nine years, it seems to me that they are getting things singularly out of proportion.
Let us turn from Malaya and look at recent events in India. The Minister was subjected to a campaign of vilification when the tension in India first arose in 1947 before the Mountbatten declaration, because he practised a very generous policy towards a very distinct section of the Indian population. I refer to the Eurasians. The Eurasians were subject to the same sort of violence as Indians directed at Europeans at that time and I might add, as Indians have directed at one another on many occasions. Those Eurasians, partly Indian and partly European, and partly British, came to Australia in refugee ships. The Minister in that connexion was accused of breaking down the White Australia policy. He was confronted with a most difficult situation. To the Indians the Eurasians were Europeans and were destined for exclusion. I do not think any Australian government need be very apologetic towards any Indian government or Pakistan government, because their policy provides for the exclusion of Europeans. They have great difficulty in controlling some members of their populations. I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that within the last two months British electricians have been thrown into the ovens of the hydro-electric generating stations in Madras.
I turn to tie Philippines. The case of Gamboa has high-lighted the criticism of the application of our immigrant policy to the citizens of that country. The Filipinos exclude Chinese from the Philippines by law. The Chinese have no right of immigration to the Philippines. Those of them who are there are subjected to special restrictions. They may not trade in the main cities or the main trading centres. Not only do the Filipinos exclude Chinese from their country, thus adopting a policy of exclusion directed at one race, but those Chinese who have got into the Philippines are subjected to serious restrictions. Honorable gentlemen opposite have not been slow to tell us about the Indonesians and their policy. Let us examine what happened in the Netherlands East Indies, even in the days when the Dutch rule there waa undisputed. There are 2,000,000 Chinese in Java. In 1929, there was a rising of Indonesians there, which resulted in a pogrom. The Chinese formed the business community of Java. Many thousands of them were murdered, and, as a result, the Dutch Government waa obliged to adopt an immigration restriction policy directed against the Chinese. The Asian peoples, who invented the term “ foreign devils “ and some of whom, at the time when this country adopted the White Australia policy, were engaged in the Boxer Rebellion and attempting to drive out Europeans, have no record in regard to racial discrimination which enables them to criticize this country with impunity. Since our policy has not been implemented by murder or violence, as their policies have been in many instances, we have very little for which to apologize to them.
The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Indi are mathematically obsessed. They talk continually of 1,000,000,000 Asiatics and 8,000,000 Australians. The assumption that underlies their statements is laughable. It is that 1,000,000,000 Asiatics, are perpetually looking at Australia and desiring to migrate here. It would be probably true to say that the vast majority of the illiterate millions of Asia have never heard of Australia and have never considered migrating to it. If it is suggested that the desire to emigrate has been the cause of any war in history other than tribal wars, I should like honorable gentlemen opposite to name one. No war in the eighteenth, nineteenth or twentieth centuries was caused by the desire of people to emigrate. If anything has been characteristic of Asia in the past, it has been the desire of the Asian peoples not to emigrate, lt is rather out of keeping with the times for honorable gentlemen opposite to emphasize the ability of Asia to interfere with us. They were quite uncompromising on the White Australia policy before the last war, when one Asiatic power, Japan, had the third largest navy in the world and in 1939 could concentrate a fleet in the Pacific larger than that which could be concentrated there by the United States of America or Great Britain. To-day, no Asiatic country has a navy equal to the Royal Australian Navy. No Asiatic country, with the exception of Japan, which is under military occupation, has achieved internal peace or is in a position to engage in predatory action. This eternal apologia and these constant statements that we must go quietly and be careful because Asia is looking at us, are rather untimely. The Leader of the Opposition has said that we must consider the possibility of Asia trying to break down our immigration laws by armed force. If we are ever attacked by an Asiatic power, our immigration policy may be used as an excuse for the attack but it will not be the reason for it. Does any one suggest that the recent exhibitions of Japanese imperialism directed at China, the Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines, which were not fields of Japanese migration, had anything to do with migration ? The attacks on those countries were made with the object of seizing their resources. They were clearly examples of economic imperialism. It is foolish and wildly exaggerating the position to speak of our immigration policy as being a possible cause of war.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that at international conferences propaganda damaging to ourselves could be directed at us because of our immigration policy. That is perfectly true. Propaganda could be directed at us for all kinds of reasons, quite apart from this policy. The most sustained propaganda that is being directed at us at .present on this matter comes from the Communist party. Two years ago, some Malayan seamen were deported. Most of them had three or four deserted wives in Malaya, but they had married Australian girls. Their deportation was strongly objected to in certain quarters. There was an immediate stirring up of trouble in Malaya and hostile criticism was directed at Australia. That was before the Communist rising in Malaya. The Malayan seamen who were deported were mostly Communists. At the same time as criticism of Australia’s immigration policy increased in Malaya, identical criticisms appeared in the Workers’ Star in Western Australia and in the Tribune in Sydney. There have been many examples of such organized propaganda throughout the world. The propaganda has nothing to do with lofty doctrines of racial tolerance on the part of the Communist party. The Russian Government does not permit its subjects to marry foreigners. The Malayan Communist party, at the time when these Malayan seamen were deported, was engaged in a systematic policy of murdering Europeans. If the right honorable gentleman would come out of the clouds, if he would cease to talk in the abstract of propaganda directed against this, and if he would come down to earth and realize that the propaganda that has been indulged in during the last two or three years has emanated from one political source, he might be less fearful. The amendment of the Immigration Act that is now being proposed is designed to strengthen the meaning of the expression “ immigrant “ and to enable the Minister to declare a person to be an immigrant who is not excluded under the present legislation. The Minister has been lectured on many occasions by the Opposition on the fact that he is administering a flexible policy. The honorable member for Indi throughout his speech deliberately confused the temporary right of access to this country and the right of permanent residence. In referring to the case of Mrs. O’Keefe, at no stage did he admit that what she is seeking is the right of permanent residence. In mentioning the flexibility of the policy in the past, he dealt on every occasion with temporary admissions.
Under the present administration of the immigration policy, we are for the first time allowing Asiatic students to come to this country to study in Australian universities at the expense of the Australian Government. Because our universities are crowded, the Government has been subjected to abuse for what has been termed its excessive tolerance in that regard. Some people contend that this action will win us goodwill in Asia, but they are as naive as the people who contend that a particular case of exclusion will earn us ill will in Asia. We have only to think of Asiatic students who have gone to universities in Holland, (he men from Java, or those Indian Congress leaders who were educated at British universities and who used their knowledge and their training to lead their people against the countries where they had received their education. I think we may dismiss as nonsense the contention that these particular exceptions are winning us goodwill in Asia. That does not mean that I am opposing it being done, and it does not mean that I think it not justified. In all these countries where there are primitive standards of hygiene it is a good thing if we train their people. It is plain common sense from an international health point of view if we train their people in medical practice and send them back to their own country to serve their own people. The policy is justified on humanitarian grounds. I do not believe in a policy of self-deception or of pretending that Asia, this great abstraction of 1,000,000,000 people, very few of whom know much about the outside world, is either impressed by our tenacity in 2,000 odd cases of individual Asiatics who were admitted to Australia under temporary permits or offended by our strictness in the case of those deported.
– Some are.
– That may be so, but the great majority would not be informed one way or the other on the subject. If we have realistic views that is how we should look at it. The criticism of the English language press in Singapore would be quite beyond the great majority of Malayans, because they cannot read the English language. The purpose of the bills now before the House is to- strengthen the Immigration Act in a way which the recent High Court decision has shown the principal act to be weak and to extend the definition of the word “ immigrant “ to all of those refugees who came to this country during the war. “We have yet to learn whether the Opposition is supporting or opposing the strengthening of the law in these directions. The honorable member for Indi, having condemned what he thought were the historical discursive methods of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), remained in the safe sphere of history himself right throughout his speech. This legislation is not explosive. It is simply expanding the practice of the immigration policy; it is not even necessarily binding the Minister to apply it. The Minister is still left with discretionary power to extend or not to extend the period during which certain people may stay in this country. The recent High Court decision revealed that an absurd position exists in the present immigration legislation, and as this legislation will remove the anomaly to which the High Court has drawn attention it should be supported. Honorable members opposite have suggested that there is something unusual in the action that the Government is taking. When the High Court makes a decision on a question involving the Constitution that is the end of it so far as the Australian Government is concerned, unless it appeals to the Privy Council. The High Court decision in the matter now under consideration was not a constitutional decision which should not be flouted. It was a decision which revealed weakness in certain legislation. The existing law is valid. The Commonwealth power to legislate on immigration has not been questioned, but a weakness has been revealed and the Government is seeking to rectify it. The contemptible pretence that it is somehow flouting the High Court, and trying to use an unconstitutional practice to confuse the House and the country is, of course, quite untrue. All governments amend laws when court decisions show those laws to be weak. The High Court was not operating in this case as the final court of constitutional appeal, but as an ordinary civil court of the land. In this debate there has been much ado about nothing. These bills are purely machinery measures designed to strengthen the definition of the word “ immigrant “. Although we do not know whether or not the Opposition is supporting these proposals, it would be very surprising to me if they dared to call for a division, or if any of their number dared to be specific in their speeches to the country and said whether they supported them or opposed them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Calwell) read a first time.
Debate resumed (vide page 1133).
.- Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was discussing the position that had arisen at the international wheat conference at which a public servant, Mr. McCarthy, was the sole representative of Australia. At that time he did not have any advice from the people who owned the product. Although the Australian wheat-growers’ organizations had asked to be represented, and had even offered to pay the expenses of their own representatives, they were not allowed this privilege. The Canadian wheat-growers had representatives with the Canadian Minister. It is obvious that if representatives of the Australian wheatgrowers’ organizations had been at the conference they would have demanded that the agreements that had been made with Great Britain, India and Pakistan should not be whittled down in the matter of price. They would also have drawn the notice of our representative to the fact that we had a good bargaining weapon with relation to Australia’s requirements of jute, linseed oil and cotton goods. The Government was very remiss when it gave away that wonderful bargaining point without gaining any corresponding advantage. Government members have referred to the marvellous things that the Government has done for the wheat-growers. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) has told the same old story about the marvellous things that the Government has done and, no doubt, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) will claim that the Australian Labour party is responsible for the fact that wheat is still worth about11s. a bushel, whereas in 1937 it brought only 3s. a bushel. I do not doubt that the Government will trot out that story. Apparently, then, they also caused the war. Apparently, too, they are responsible for the deaths of 20,000,000 of the young able-bodied men of the world.
– The honorable member for Bendigo is being silly.
– The honorable member, himself, is being silly. He makes stupid statements over and over again, but he has not a leg to stand on. The Government has taken £80,000,000 from the wheat-growers of Australia.
– Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– The Government has taken £80,000,000 from the wheatgrowers. That is a very conservative estimate. If it had had its way last year, it would have taken more. Fortunately for the wheat-grower of Australia, the American Senate refused to ratify the previous International Wheat Agreement. That is the only reason why the wheatgrowers obtained a few additional million pounds for their product. Therefore, I warn the wheat-growers of Australia to be careful of the Government. Beware of the Greeks when they come bearing gifts, or so-called gifts. The Government is depriving not only the wheat-growers but also the dairymen and meat producers of money that they should receive. It puts over the old fable that it is paying subsidies. It takes money from the pockets of the producers with one hand and gives them back a little of it with the other. Although it robs them it says to them, “We are giving you a production subsidy “.
– The honorable member would not do even that.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that past governments subsidized the wheat industry to the extent of £17,000,000 over and above the world parity price. This Government has never paid the wheat-growers the world parity price. When it could have sold wheat at 26s. a bushel it sold it at 18s. 6d. a bushel; when it could have sold wheat at18s. a bushel it sold it to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel, and “stuck” the taxpayers for £7,200,000. When it could have sold wheat this year at 15s. 6d. a bushel to England and, at 16s. 6d. a bushel to India and Pakistan it sold it for 13s. 8d. a bushel to those countries. Yet, when we object to such sales the Government says that we are anti-British. I would remind the Government that the Opposition parties have always stood behind the British people.
– At a price!
– At the price of our blood when the honorable member’s party was not prepared to conscript one man.
– Order! That has nothing to do with the bill before the House.
– Possibly it has nothing to do with the proposed wheat agreement, but it has a great deal to do with the suggestion made by certain honorable members-
– Order! The honorable gentleman will obey the Chair, or he will be made to resume bis seat.
– I thought I was keeping very close to the wheat agreement. As a matter of fact it does not matter if I am not allowed to continue, because I think everybody knows quite well what I intended to say. I remind honorable members that these people, led by Sir Stafford Cripps, who want to get Australian wheat and products at less than world parity prices - led by a man who was prepared to smash the British Empire to get through this stupid socialistic policy-
– Order !
– And who wanted wheat from Australia, under an international wheat agreement, at below world parity - do not hesitate to charge us £2,100 for a motor car that is worth under £1,000. They do not hesitate to hit Australia for the very highest prices they can get for machinery or for any product that they produce, but they want to get Australian wheat under an international wheat agreement with the assistance of 36 other consuming countries at under world parity prices. So although we arc prepared to accept this hill because we know that the Government has the numbers to carry it through, and that we cannot get anything-
– The honorable member can easily vote against it.
– If I was as stupid as the Minister, I might.
– The honorable gentleman must use parliamentary language in the House.
– I do not consider that there was any blasphemy or bad language in what I said. It was a plain statement of fact. I would advise people to be careful of thi3 Government. The wheat-growers, although they are prepared to accept this agreement because they cannot get anything better, are very disappointed with the treatment they have received. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, said that the Government had not wanted to accept the prices under the agreement. Apparently Sir Stafford Cripps and other people in England put the screw on him and the Government accepted the agreement. Then he said that, after examining the situation and consulting with the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, it had been decided to accept the agreement.
– What part does the honorable gentleman think-
– Order ! The Minister must cease interrupting.
– What part does the honorable gentleman think that the
United States and Canada play in the agreement?
– Order ! The Minister must cease interjecting.
– It is not solely a matter for Great Britain.
– Order !
– We are in the sterling area, and do not forget that in this case we lost the right to export 5,000,000 bushels of wheat. The Minister said in his second-reading speech that, after consultation with the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, it had been decided to accept the agreement. I should like to know why the Government did not consult the federation before its representative, Mr. McCarthy, signed the agreement on behalf of Australia.
– The Government did so.
– The story that I have been told is that the Government did not do so. Why did the Government not also approach the Farmers and Settlers Association in New South Wales? That is a very big wheat-growers’ organization.
– It is a Liberal party and Australian Country party organization.
– I am not concerned with its political views. All I am concerned with is that it represents the wheatgrowers, who have proved their confidence in it by electing two of its members, quite recently, to be the only two growers’ representatives from New South Wales on the Australian Wheat Board. Why did the Government not consult the Australian Wheat Board, which has majority grower representation, before it made its decision, or at least before it allowed a public servant, who knows nothing about wheat except what he read in a book, to decide the future, for the next four years, of the wheat-growers of this country? I accept this- agreement under protest. We have no option but to accept it. It is the best we can get, but I say to the Minister and the Government that they have sold the men who have worked hard in the interests of people like Sir Stafford Cripps, who is a traitor to his country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McLeod) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior - B. H. Brockman.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Byford, Western Australia.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Llanherne, Tasmania.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1948 -
No. 2 - Licensing.
No. 3 - Medical Benefits and Hospitals.
No. 6 - Stamp.
No. 8 - Licensing (No. 2).
No. 9 - Licensing (No. 3).
No. 3 - Matrimonial Causes.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at East Bentleigh, Victoria.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
g asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The various matters raised in the honorable member’s question will receive consideration and replies will be furnished in due course.
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a.) The Government intends to place as many migrants as can be absorbed in the open-cut coal-mining industry with the full co-operation of all sides of the industry and this intention has already been realized at Leigh Creek, South Australia, Bacchus Marsh and Yallourn, Victoria, where all the displaced persons who can be accommodated and employed have been. moved into the industry. The introduction of displaced persons into open-cut mines elsewhere is the subject of continuing negotiations.
The Government’s immediate concern so far as the building industry is concerned is to employ all displaced persons on the production of bricks, tiles, storm pipes, cement, timber, gypsum and other basic materials, in order that the supply of building materials may be such that the best possible use is made of skilled building workers already available in Australia and so that costly and wasteful interruptions due to shortages on the job can be eliminated. As this object is attained the way will be opened for the training of additional Australian skilled workmen and the absorption of additional qualified tradesmen from both within and without the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth Commissions and inquiries: Fees and Costs.
g asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he furnish particulars of (1) allowances, fees or expenses allowed to members of State judiciaries in connexion with the following inquiries: - (a) New Guinea Timber; (b) Alien Classifications; (c) War Crimes;(d) Land Sales Control; (e)Grovelly Camp; ( f) Darwin Bombing; (g) BrisbaneBine; (h) Coal Commission; and (i) Kyeema Inquiry; and. (2) allowances, fees or expenses paid to members of the Commonwealth or State judiciaries in connexion with (a) the Good Offices Committee in Indonesia and (b) the War Trials in Tokyo!
– The information will be obtained from the various departments concerned and furnished to the honorable member as soon as it is available.
Mi. Lang asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
l. - The Australian Broadcasting Commission has supplied the following information : -
Earle Page and Right Honorable W. M. Hughes.
– On the 7th June the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked the following question : -
Con the Minister for Information say whether the inquiries that are being made at present by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board concerning the broadcast of political talks over commercial radio stations are being undertaken with a view to restricting such talks?
The Postmaster-General has informed me that the inquiries, which are being made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, are not being undertaken with a view to restricting political talks over commercial radio stations, but for the purpose of enabling the board to determine whether any alterations in existing practices are necessary, having regard to the provisions of section 6k of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942- 1948, which requires the board to ensure that facilities are provided on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter.
Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
t. - On the 9th June the honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked a question as to the number of cases, dealt with and disposed of by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in each year from 1944 to 1948 inclusive. The honorable member was then informed that the information would be obtained for him.I am now able to furnish the following information:-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490616_reps_18_202/>.