19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by stating that reports have appeared recently in the press to the effect that the rates of penions to ex-servicemen are to be increased. This week a newspaper report, accompanied by a photograph of the Minister for Repatriation, stated that a bill would be brought down shortly after the Easter recess for that purpose. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether consideration has been given to age and invalid pensions? Is there any likelihood of a bill being introduced in the near future to increase them?
– All that I can say at this stage is that neither of the matters referred to by the honor.ble member has yet been the subject of Cabinet consideration,
– I preface my question to the Minister for Defence by stating that I have received many requests from ex-servicemen living in my electorate about the issue of war service medals. Will the Minister make a comprehensive statement to the House to clarify the matter of entitlement to these medals? Will the names of recipients be engraved on the back of the medals, and when will they be issued? Would it be practicable for them to he issued direct to exservicemen who have made individual applicacations ?
– I agree that there has been a certain amount of confusion about eligibility for war service medals, and that many requests have been made for inscriptions to be engraved on the reverse side of the medals. I shall have a full investigation made of this matter and make a comprehensive statement in due course.
– My question to the Minister for Health arises from an advertisement by his department seeking the services of medical officers at immigration centres, and an order forbidding foreign medical officers serving as medical orderlies to be addressed as “ Doctor “. The advertisement states that medical officers are required urgently, and offers a salary range of £978-£l,280. The order that I have mentioned is worded -
It has come to my notice that orderlies attached to your hospital are still being addressed as “ Doctor “. This is to be discontinued FORTHWITH. Disciplinary action will be taken against offenders.
Will the Minister state whether his department expects to induce any doctor to leave a private medical practice in order to accept a position at an immigration centre with a salary range of £978-£l,280? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Repatriation Department has been offering a similar salary range for psychiatrists without obtaining a response from anywhere in the British Empire? In view of the fact that medical officers are required urgently, will the Minister authorize immigrant doctors to practice among their co-nationals, bearing in mind that they did so in Europe and on shipboard, and that they enjoy the complete confidence of their own people ?
– Migrant camps are not controlled by the Department of Health. I have not yet had an opportunity to visit all of the migrant camps in this country, but in two of the camps that I have visited I noticed that migrant doctors, although not registered in Australia, were acting officially. I found that there was no difficulty so far as those doctors were concerned, and they were the only doctors practising there. As for the other point raised by the honorable member, I remind him that the salaries of medical officers are fixed by the Public Service Board. A proposal to increase salaries is at present being considered.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether the Government assents to the proposition that the most economical way to increase production is to assure the harvesting of crops and the clipping of wool that each year are lost through the depredations of rabbits? Does the Minister favour the suggestion that the Australian Government should offer a prize of £1’00,000 to any one who oan discover a method of eradicating the rabbit pest?
– The Government is very well aware of the rabbit menace, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is already investi-gating it. Recently, in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I received a formidable deputation from the Australian Primary Producers’ Union which recommended action on a very wide scale. I have passed their representations on to the Minister. The honorable member may be assured that the Government will do everything possible to cope with the rabbit menace.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say whether there is any truth in a report, which was widely circulated in Sydney during the week-end, that, at a meeting of 60 new Australians of the same national origin, they were urged by one of their number in clerical garb noi. to become assimilated into the Australian way of life? If the report is true, will the Minister see that the occurrence is not repeated ?
– The first time I heard anything about this matter was when the representative of the newspaper in which the report was published discussed it with me and with Mr. Heyes, the permanent head of the Department of Immigration, in Canberra on Thursday or Friday of last week. I told the newspaper representative that I would make inquiries in an attempt to discover whether the fact? were as has been alleged. So far, no information has reached me, but I am pursuing my inquiries, and shall acquaint the honorable member with their result.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. The Municipality of Braybrook has discovered that large numbers of new Australians, including those who have obtained their release and those who are the present inmates of hostels, are purchasing subdivisional land on the fringe of Melbourne. That is very desirable and laudable ; but it is feared that they may be exploited by land selling agents because they may be unaware that water, sowerage or electricity mains have not been reticulated to the properties being offered for sale. The municipality fears that such conditions may result in the establishment of colonies of migrants. “Will the Minister favorably consider co-opting municipalities through the formation of advisory committees which could help educational officers of the department to protect new Australians by imparting to them information with respect to land offered for sale, relating to valuations, availability of public services and any other information that may be of value to them ?
– The matters to which the honorable member has referred have not previously been brought to my notice. However, a representative of the municipal authorities attended the Citizenship Convention that was held in Canberra towards the end of January, and, broadly, we are now doing just what the honorable member has suggested, for we are seeking the cooperation of those authorities in dealing with problems that from time to time will affect migrants in their areas. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of my departmental officers and see what further action can ‘be taken on the matter.
– Will the Treasurer consider paying rates, estimated at £53,000 a year, on property owned by the Commonwealth in Sydney? Having regard to the many urgent works upon which the city council, of which I am a member, is at present engaged, the council believes that the Government should acknowledge its responsibility in this regard.
– It is admitted that municipalities have a real grievance in respect of Commonwealth property, and the matter engaged the attention of Cabinet only this morning. When the Commonwealth acquires property in a municipality, the local authority is deprived of the rates that would be otherwise payable on the property. That situation ha.> existed for some years,, and it was noi remedied by the last government. However, it is being investigated by thi Government.
– Seeing that the High Court has invalidated the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States on the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, will the Minister for the Interior say whether he has made any arrangement with the States to ensure that exservicemen shall obtain the land they have been promised ?
– Following the decision of the High Court which invalidated certain articles of the agreement made between the Commonwealth and the States in respect to land settlement, the Prime Minister in writing to the Premier of each State pointing out the difficulty that would occur and suggesting to them that a conference should be held with the Australian Government to decide what alterations are necessary in the act. In addition to that, I have had a personal interview with the Minister who administers this matter in Victoria on this question. The Australian Government has assured all the State governments that it still has power to continue the present arrangement to make money available so that land settlement will not be held up. But the Government hopes that the necessary amendments will be made to the act in the near future. 1 can assure the honorable member that there is nothing existing at present that prevents the continuance of the settlement scheme.
– Press reports indicate that the Premier of Queensland has approached the Australian Government with a view to varying the basis of valuation of land acquired for soldier settlement. As Queensland is a principal State, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether this matter is not a function of the State itself? Further, has the Premier of Queensland approached the Australian Government regarding land valuation and is the Commonwealth involved in this matter in any way?
– The Premier of Queensland has made some suggestion on the question of the valuation of land purchased for soldier settlement in Queensland. The whole question, as I mentioned earlier to-day, is one that is the subject of conference and negotiation between the Australian and State governments. I think it is necessary for the Commonwealth to have a definite agreement with the States on the question of land settlement, because the Commonwealth assumes responsibility for half of any losses incurred in the purchasing and allotting of lands to soldier settlers. Moreover, certain other benefits are given by the Commonwealth to soldier settlers and this also necessitates an agreement such as I have mentioned.
– I wish to direct a question to the Prime Minister, and in explanation I point out that last Thursday the Minister for the Army read to the House a document which purported ti be <a Cabinet minute. Having regard to the custom adopted by all previous governments, which seems to me to be a decent and fair practice, I ask the Prime Minister whether he approves of a Minister using secret and confidential documents, or documents which purport to be so, in debates in the House? Government documents submitted to Cabinet are of a purely confidential nature and the question has arisen previously whether such documents should not be subjected to security observation or investigation. Does the Prime Minister approve of the principle or the propriety of reading to this House Cabinet minutes submitted entirely for the knowledge or information of Cabinet?
– The question referred to by the right honorable member arises not for the first time in recent years. I was not, myself, in the House at the time of this incident and have not yet had an opportunity of reading the terms of the debate. I shall look into the matter and, at a later time this week, will give an answer to his question.
– I understand that during the debate on the motion for the printing of the ministerial statement on Japanese war crimes trials last Thursday, the Minister for the Army is reported to have said that there was a letter on the file from which he read an extract, on which I had written the words, “ Not to be shown to the Minister for Defence “. The Minister for Defence at that time was the former honorable member for Corio, Mr. Dedman. I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to let me see the document to which he referred ?
– Yes; I shall be very pleased to do so.
– Oan the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether the rolling strike tactics are still being used by watersiders in the port of Brisbane? If so, what effect are those tactics having on production, employment and shipping? What action is the Australian Government taking in the matter ?
– Disruptive strike tactics are currently being employed in the port of Brisbane and, following similar action yesterday, the Brisbane watersiders raised the issue of rotation of hatches to-day after the 10 a.m. smoko. Nine hundred and twenty men were dismissed, holding up ten ships. Ten ships are working because there is only one gang on each ship and there can be no dispute on those vessels about the hatches. Moreton Bay and Bodelia are being worked on the rotation of hatches scheme as desired by the men. I am asked what the Government is doing about the matter. As the honorable member will be aware, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board holds jurisdiction over matters of this kind. At the pick-up this morning, the Brisbane representative of the board explained to the men the effect of the judge’s order following previous action of this kind that had already been taken. The men were to forfeit attendance money for one month, and annual leave credits for a period of three months. He went on to say that if the offence was repeated, each man’s registration would be examined on its merits. I am informed by the chair man of the board that that body is meeting to-day to consider any f further actionthat may be necessary.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service, and, by way of explanation, I inform him that I am in receipt of a letter from one of my constituents whois a passenger on Orontes, which is en route to England. The writer claims that, while the liner was docked in Melbourne, two wharf labourers, in workingattire, entered the lounge at night and engaged in a sing-song. When questioned, one of the men stated that they were wharf labourers engaged in loading the vessel, but, as the union had supplied too many men for the j,ob, and they were getting in each other’s way, an instruction had been issued that two men were to have every second night off. The man further stated that they were being paid for the night off. When asked whether he thought that such a practice was honest, he said that it’ was not his fault, and that he had to do as the union told him. Will the Minister have inquiries made to ascertain, (1) whether the man did receive those instructions from the union, (2) whether the men were paid for the time in which they amused themselves in the passenger lounge, and (3) whether that is an accepted practice on the Melbourne waterfront?
– I shall bring the matter raised by the honorable member to the attention of the chairman of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and ask him whether he has any information that I can pass on to the honorable member.
– Bearing in mind the large number of applications for telephones, and the severe over-taxing of the present telephone exchange in Launceston, I ask the Postmaster-General whether he is in a position to indicate when a complete automatic system will be installed in that city. Will the Minister give the highest priority to such installation ?
– I visited Launceston recently, and examined the problems that the honorable member mentioned. The plans and specifications are now under consideration to provide an improved telephone service at Launceston.
– 1 direct a question to the Postmaster-General about the lack of telephone facilities in the Narwee, Peakhurst and Mortdale districts, which lie between the Illawarra and East Hills railway lines in New South Wales. Is the Minister yet in a position to state when a start will be made to erect the proposed new exchange at Peakhurst?
– I am not able to say what the position regarding the Peakhurst exchange is, but I shall obtain the information and let the honorable member have it.
– Will the Post.masterGeneral say whether it is a fact that since the beginning of the last war there has been practically v complete cessation of the extension of telephone facilities into rural districts of Now South Wales? Is it also a fact that this delay in providing extensions of government telephone lines to augment services and to lessen the load on party lines so as to provide direct communication through the principal exchanges, inflicts not only considerable hardship upon people but also interferes with the business activities of ru nil communities? If those statements ure facts, can the honorable gentleman inform the House what action is being taken to overcome the lag in the provision of these facilities?
– lt is not quite correct to any that there has been almost a complete cessation of the extension of telephone facilities in rural areas. This work is proceeding, but insufficient labour and materials are available to enable it to he- pushed ahead as fast as is desired. The Government is doing its utmost to overcome the deficiency in materials. Orders to the value of several millions of pounds have been placed abroad for the supply of materials, and Australian factories have been encouraged by the placing of orders for the manufacture of equipment, cables. &c, to the approximate value of £3,000,000. When these materials become available, we hope to step up considerably the extension of tele phone services in country areas and in the metropolitan districts also.
– I understand that some 130 non-official postmasters and postmistresses were recently asked by the Government to extend their hours of operation from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and that only six agreed to do so. The remuneration offered to them was approximately £70 per annum. I ask the Postmaster-General whether that amount could be greatly increased so that these people may have some incentive to extend their hours.
– The remuneration of the non-official postmasters and postmistresses has recently been increased. Rural automatic exchanges are required properly to provide for the needs of country districts and I hope that eventually it will be possible to provide an increasing number of these. The increasing of the remuneration of non-official postmasters and postmistresses must depend partly on the revenue collected from the services they render and I do not think it is possible, at the moment, to increase that remuneration very much without a very thorough investigation.
– In view of the fact that the Treasurer has announced that a comprehensive review of taxation i.« being made at the present time, and also in view of statements by the Minister for National Development that consideration is to be given to the granting of taxation concessions, as a means of assisting development, to taxpayers resident, in underdeveloped areas, will the Treasurer say whether the committee will review the taxation concession zones with the object not only of extending their boundaries, but also of increasing substantially the taxation deductions at present allowable, so as to fulfil the policy announced by the Minister for National Development?
– The investigating committee which has been established will inquire into and survey the incidence completely of taxation, including zone allowances, but I shall make no promise that zone allowances will be varied. That question will be a matter entirely for decision by the committee.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer with the statement that, under the present sales tax legislation, primary producers are permitted to purchase a vehicle known as the Land Rover free of sales tax, but recently officers of the Treasury ruled that shearers, who use these vehicles to travel from station to station, are not entitled to receive that concession. “Will the right honorable gentleman consider this matter and, if possible, instruct his department that shearers may be permitted to purchase Land Rovers free of sales tax in the same way as primary producers are permitted to do? If the concession were extended to shearers, it would be of advantage to primary producers, because many man-hours are now being lost owing to bad transport facilities in pastoral districts.
– I shall cause the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred to be investigated. An answer will be supplied later.
– In view of the Government’s policy of encouraging home ownership will the Minister for National Development inform the House whether houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are now available for sale in each State?
– Houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are available for sale in every State except Tasmania, where arrangements for their sale are still in train. The honorable gentleman can be assured that the Government will do everything possible in its power to encourage the sale of such houses by the States.
– Will the Minister for National Development indicate what tentative steps the Government is taking to ensure that prefabricated houses will bt constructed in areas in which basie industries, such as coal and steel, are located?
– An arrangement exists under which the Australian Government if. subsidizing the importation toy the States of up to 10,000 prefabricated houses provided, first, that the cost of such houses, including the subsidy, shall not he less than that of locally built houses; and, secondly, that as far as possible these prefabricated houses shall be erected in areas in which basic industries are located and that men engaged in such industries shall be given first, priority in occupying them.
– .Will the Treasurer inform me whether public funds are made available to the Australian National University in Canberra, through its representatives, to participate in bidding at local auction sales, and so, wittingly or unwittingly, to bid against the public? Will he also state whether the university, in its urgent and understandable desire suitably to accommodate its staff, could not be served better by negotiating through the appropriate department?
– I shall have an answer to the honorable gentleman’s question prepared.
– Will the Minister for National Development state whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that his department is inviting tenders for the supply of layettes? If 60, does that mean that the Government expects to give birth to some piece of legislation at some time in the near future?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “. The answer to the second part, is “Yes”.
– As requested by the Central-South Coast Tourist League, I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will give the utmost possible priority to the extension and improvement of the Moruya aerodrome in order that new air services may be established from Moruya to Canberra, Wagga and Narrandera and from Moruya to Parkes and Dubbo? As to the value of the Moruya aerodrome, will the honorable, gentleman confer with the
Prime Minister who had first-hand experience of its value as an emergency landing ground during the recent election campaign when ho was engaged on a tour of my electorate which contributed so happily to my electoral majority?
– Some correspondence has already passed regarding the air services to which the honorable member has referred. I remind the honorable gentleman that airlines have to run from one place to another and that aircraft cannot meander around all those places to which the honorable member would like them to go or where he desires to address political meetings. The Moruya aerodrome is being examined to ascertain whether it is capable of improvement, and consideration is being given to the request of the company which desires to operate the services mentioned by the honorable member. As new air services have recently been commenced in the region covered by the question there may not be room for an additional service.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that gliding clubs throughout Australia, particularly in Tasmania, are experiencing great difficulties in obtaining suitable equipment, including sail planes, instruments and parachutes? Is he aware that equipment surplus to . requirements of the British Air Force of Occupation in Japan is being packed and despatched to the United Kingdom? Is it a fact that flight instruments of a special and superior type unobtainable in Australia at present can be procured from this source? Will he arrange for the position, particularly in Tasmania, to be examined immediately with the object of making arrangements for Australia’s share of surplus equipment now being despatched to the United Kingdom to be distributed among the States and in that way help to re-build an organization that is not only of value in peace-time but will provide a nucleus personnel in the event of the outbreak of war?
– Gliding clubs, are being assisted by subsidies from the Australian Government. I was not aware that there were any gliding instruments or sail planes in use in Japan. If the honorable member will give me a list of the parts which are available in Japan and which would be useful to gliding clubs in Australia, I shall ascertain whether they can be purchased. Gliding clubs are, at present, quite happy with the support they are receiving from the Government.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been drawn to the enormous waste of building materials at the Jervis Bay aerodrome, which i3 being allowed to slip into complete disuse? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of salvaging some of the material contained in former hangars, workshops and other buildings?
– I shall be glad to investigate the position. There is a great need for hangars and other buildings at various aerodromes, and if the structures to which the honorable member hae referred are not needed on their present site, steps will be taken to have them moved elsewhere.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the alarming deterioration of the purchasing power of the £1 and the effect of such deterioration on the mothers of the community, does the legislation to extend child endowment to the first child make the payment retrospective to the 1st January ?
– As the honorable member will see when the bill reaches this House from the Senate, the commencing date is dealt with in one of its clauses.
– Will the Prime Minister state the conditions under which a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is eligible for recreational transport allowance? Approximately how many ex-servicemen are already receiving such a concession ?
– As the honorable member’s question relates to the administration of the Repatriation Department, I shall refer it to the Minister for Repatriation and ask that an answer be supplied.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has received any request from the Victorian Government for financial assistance to meet the loss and devastation caused by the severe flooding that has occurred in central Victoria. If not, if such a request is received will it be given sympathetic consideration?
– All I can say at this stage is that neither I, nor my colleague, the Treasurer, bae received any such request.
Broadcasting or Proceedings
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether any representations have been made on behalf of commercial broadcasting interests or newspaper proprietors that the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings should be discontinued. If so, is it the intention of the Government to comply with the request?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is “ No “.
– In view of the rapidly ‘ accelerating decline in the value of the Australian £1 since this Government took office, does the Prime Minister propose to adjust the payment of war gratuities to ex-servicemen in order to make the amount paid to them equal in value to what it would have been at the time the obligation to pay gratuity was first entered into.
– I have an inveterate hostility to dealing with matters of policy at question time, but I must say that the question comes well from the honorable gentleman! The value of money fell by 25 per cent, during his own period of ministerial office, but I did not hear him say a word about the gratuity in all that time.
– Having regard to the fact that the basic wage case now before the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court began its hear ing early in 1946 and that a final decision has not yet been given, will the Minister for Labour and National Service consider the wisdom of discussing with representatives of employers whether they might approach the court jointly with the representatives of employees in an endeavour to obtain an interim decision ? If he will not do that, will he confer with the Chief Judge on the matter or request the representatives of employers and employees totake some action to enable a decision tobe given in a reasonable time?
– During the week-end I made some inquiries into the conduct of the basic wage case in an effort to ascertain what measures could be taken to promote an earlier decision than seems likely at present: I find, however, that the employers have not yet commenced the presentation of their evidence to the court as, up to the present, the’ time of the court has been occupied’ by the representatives of the trade unions in presenting their case and placing their witnesses before the court. I understand that the employers will commence to present their case early this week and they anticipate that their evidence and’ cross examination will take a couple of months. Having regard to the- time devoted by the representatives of the unions to the placing of their evidencebefore that court, I do not know that I can usefully suggest to the employers any manner by which their own evidence can be shortened. I think the honorable member’s suggestion that the parties themselves might confer with the object of reaching an agreement in the matter is one they might consider, but the responsibility for such action will be theirs.
Australians in Japan - Pat and Allowances.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for the Army whether he had any information that he could give to the House about the sale of BOON, the newspaper of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman now has anything further to add to what he said on that occasion.
– I am preparing a reply to the honorable member’s question. BCON was sold by the previous Government.
– Some weeks ago, I asked the Minister for Defence a question about increased rates of pay for members of the armed forces. Last week, the Minister for the Army admitted in this chamber that recruiting for the Australian Army was most disappointing, probably because of the low service rates of pay compared with those ruling in outside employment. Will the Minister for Defence give immediate consideration to increasing the pay of servicemen to bring their remuneration into line with payments made to civilians employed by the services, and with wages in civil employment ?
– The proposal will be examined to ascertain whether there is any possibility of increasing service rates of pay. The matter will then be one for decision by the Government.
– I desire formally to acquaint honorable members with the details of recent changes that have been made in ministerial portfolios. The right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey) has been sworn in as Minister for National Development and will undertake these responsibilities in addition to his portfolio as Minister for Works and Housing. Senator McLeay has been appointed Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has been given the responsibility for the administration of the new Department of Supply. I take this opportunity also of informing honorable members of the changes that have been made in the organization of departments. On the recommendation of the Executive Council, the Governor-General has been pleased to abolish the following departments: -
Department of Post-war Reconstruction,
Department of Information,
Department of Supply and Development,
Department of Shipping and Fuel,
Department of Transport, and to establish three new departments, namely -
Department of National Development,
Department of Fuel, Shipping and Transport,
Department of Supply
Details of those changes were published in Commonwealth Gazette No. 15 of the 17th March. The major alterations are -
Another major change is that, in future, the Minister for Labour and National Service will have added responsibilities in regard to conciliation and arbitration generally, long service leave in the coal industry, regulation and control of stevedoring operations, industrial matters in connexion with those operations, and conditions of employment in the maritime industry. The appointment of judges to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, however, and other matters connected therewith which previously came within the purview of the Attorney-General will remain under his administration.
I desire also to announce that, during the absence of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) will administer the Department of Defence. Following upon the changes mentioned, representation in the Senate will be as follows: - The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), will represent the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence; the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) will represent the Minister for the Interior, the Minister for Air and the Minister for Civil Aviation, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ; the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) will represent the Minister for External Affairs and Minister for External Territories, and the Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration; the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) will represent the Treasurer, the Minister for National Development, the Minister for Works and Housing, the Minister for the Navy and Minister for the Army; the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) will represent the Postmaster-General, the Minister for Health, and the Minister for Supply. In this chamber, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) will represent the Minister for Trade and Customs; the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) will represent the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport; the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) will represent the Minister for Social Services; the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis) will represent the Minister for Repatriation. I shall, as formerly, represent the Attorney-General .
– In view of all the changes and reconstructions that the Prime Minister has just announced, can the right honorable gentleman indicate how many public servants will now be made available to private enterprise?
– I cannot.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the dollar deficit of Australia is steadily becoming worse. Further, will he make a statement to the House setting out the position and indicating how the Government proposes, first, to obtain more dollars, and, secondly, to save dollars?
– I do not agree with the first assumption that the honorable gentleman has made. I shall consider whether any useful statement can be made on this matter.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement in his policy speech: -
The women of Australia have established an unanswerable claim to economic, legal, industrial and political equality. I hope that the time will speedily come when we can say truthfully that there is no sex discrimination in public or private office.
Did the reference by the right honorable gentleman to economic equality foreshadow an intention to grant equal pay for both sexes in the Public Service? Did his reference to industrial equality foreshadow an intention of the Commonwealth to intervene in Commonwealth Arbitration Court proceedings to advocate equal pay for men and women? Did his reference to political equality foreshadow an intention of the Government to make representations to the State governments to amend Legislative Council voting procedures so that the wives of householders may vote? If the statement did not signify those intentions, what meaning may the House assign to it?
– At the risk of being condemned by you, Mr. Speaker, for indulging in tedious repetition, I say again that I do not regard question time as being an occasion when I should be cross-examined on policy matters or make answers on them. To the degree that policy matters are dealt with by the Government, they will be the subject of either clear public announcements or legislation.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, is prompted by the present widespread exploitation of age pensioners by proprietors of rooming houses. The rent that is payable by the proprietor of a looming house is controlled, but, unfortunately, owing to flaws in the State acts dealing with rent control, the rents that may be charged for rooms in the house are not subject to control if the proprietor provides some services for his tenants. Many lessees of rooming houses are paying only the controlled rent for their premises, but they are letting rooms to age pensioners at high rents. This is causing grave hardship to many pensioners. Will the Prime Minister make representations to the State Premiers to institute a more rigid control of the rents that may ibc charged for rooms, especially those that are let to age pensioners ?
– I am not prepared, offhand, to make any assumption against the administration of controls by State governments. However, I shall convey the terms of the question to the appropriate Commonwealth Minister, and doubtless he will, through me, ascertain from the States what they have to say on the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Mr. Lyle Moore, the president of the New South Wales division of the Liberal party, is identical with the gentleman who was a past president of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales, and who is at present a member of the federal executive of the same institute? Is it not a. fact that Mr. Moore on a number of occasions has advocated, as a member of deputations representing the New South Wales Real Estate Institute, the abolition of rent control? If that is correct, is it an indication that the Government’s policy is abolition of rent control, and if so, is that in accordance with the Government’s policy of taking value out of the £1?
– The question is one that could be evolved only by the singularly tortuous mind of the honorable member for East Sydney, a gentleman who is always popping up in the most unexpected and illogical places. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Moore once. I know nothing of his domestic or publichistory. I formed the impression that he was an entirely upright and admirableman.
– Will the Prime Minister say where the Minister for Health now is, and why he left the chamber during question time? Some honorable members, including myself, desire to address questions to him.
– The Minister for Health regretted that he had to leave the chamber, but it was necessary for him todo so because he had to attend an important conference concerning health proposals. Honorable members will doubtless agree that it is of the first importance that the Minister should confer with representative bodies upon health matters. I expect that he will beavailable to answer questions at the next sitting of the House.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate whether the Parliamentary Secretaries recently appointed to assist various Ministers have yet taken up their duties? If so, will he indicate the nature of their duties? Would the right honorable gentleman consider attaching one of these gentleman to the Minister for Health to assist him in the submission of his health legislation at an early date so that the House will have an opportunity of analysing it, and the people, including the age pensioners and others likely to benefit, will know their rights and the benefits that may accrue to them ? The people will then know what they are entitled to in the way of health services, such as free medicine, a scheme for which was originated by the Chifley Government.
– Insofar as a question was really concealed in the remarks of the honorable member for Reid, I answer it in this way: the three gentlemen referred to have taken up their duties and are all busily engaged on matters connected with the departments which have been assigned to them by the Ministers to whom they have been attached.
Presentation to the GOVERNORGENERAL.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I inform the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, at Government House at 5.15 p.m. tomorrow. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder of it, together with as many other honorable members as can conveniently do so, will accompany me to present it.
PHOTOGRAPH of Members.
– I have given permission for the taking of a photograph immediately after prayers to-morrow. It will be a photograph of the members of the new House, for inclusion in the Listener’s Guide to Parliament . The matter has been discussed by the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee. It would be helpful if honorable members are in their correct places at the time of the taking of the photograph.
– I move-
That the report of the Standing Orders Committee, dated the 16th March, 1950, be adopted, and that the proposed Standing Orders be the Standing Orders of the House to come into operation forthwith.
I am glad to he able to inform the House that the proposed new Standing Orders of the House can be approached by honorable members in a spirit of comparative amity. The House will remember that the original Standing Orders governing the operations of the Parliament came into force upon the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901. Although they were designated temporary Standing Orders, notwithstanding many efforts in the intervening years they have remained temporary Standing Orders ever since. In 1902, 1903, 1905, 1929 and 1937, proposals were made to amend them. On each of those occasions the matter was advanced a certain distance, but it failed to reach this House in the form of a recommended set of Standing Orders. However, last year, in anticipation of the enlarged Parliament, the Standing Orders Committee of the House met and produced a set of Standing Orders, which are substantially the ones that come before the House to-day. That Standing Orders Committee was one in which all sections of the House were represented, and the government of the day, the Chifley Government, had a large majority. The committee reached unanimity, and the new Standing Orders were ready to be brought before the House towards the end of the last session of the Eighteenth Parliament. However, that was not done, and now the new Parliament has to consider the matter. In the meantime, as one or two honorable members had changed their views on some aspects, because of the change of government, it was necessary to have further discussions about the form of the Standing Orders. With minor exceptions it may be said that the new Standing Orders are the same orders as were discussed and agreed to in 1949. Last week the new Standing Orders Committee of the House met, and once again I am glad to say the unanimous view of the committee was that these should be the new Standing Orders of this House. I present them as such.
– The Minister is not quite correct when he says that they are the same.
– I did not say that they were the same. I thought I made it very clear that they were substantially the same. I propose, for the benefit of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), to refer to one or two minor differences. Although it would not appear to be necessary to engage in a lengthy discussion, I understand that one or two honorable members opposite desire to make some observations. A new House, comprising many additional members, would be virtually unworkable under the old rules and it was inevitable that new ones would be required. For practical purposes, the alterations that will affect honorable members most arc those in. relation to time to be allowed for speeches. They are contained in new Standing Order 91. For the information of the House I point out that under Standing Order 91 speeches on a motion for the election of a Speaker shall be limited to five minutes, the same as previously. Speeches on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply will be limited to 25 minutes. Under the old Standing Order a period of 35 minutes was allowed. Since the honorable member for Dalley has raised this aspect, I point out that under the 1949 proposals the time for such speeches was to be limited to 20 minutes. A compromise was reached on that matter. There has been a substantial reduction of the time to which honorable members shall be entitled on the various occasions when they may speak in this House. I suggest that that is all to the good, because most of us agree that, with the exception of our own efforts, the best speeches are the shortest. I am quite sure that the House, as a legislative chamber - and certainly the listening public - will benefit very greatly by the reductions.
I shall refer briefly to the proposals contained in Standing Orders 104 and 289, under which private members will have better opportunities for airing their grievances and speaking of matters which affect them primarily. Under the new Standing Orders every second Thursday will be set aside for general business - that is business other than Government business - and the alternate Thursday for what is colloquially known as Grievance Day. As one who was, until recently, a private member, I consider that this provision should meet with the approval of the House. Private members are very important persons in this chamber. They will now have an additional opportunity to express their views. Although these new Standing Orders may not be perfect, they represent the considered opinions of honorable members on both sides, who have given a great deal of time and thought to them. The officers of the House, unselfishly, have given their time to assist the members of the House, in the light of experience. I take this opportunity to express our thanks to them for that assistance. I commend the Standing Orders to the House.
– I join, with the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) in thanking the officers of the House for the assistance that they gave to the Standing Orders Committee. The review of the Standing Orders was a big job. It could not have been accomplished within a reasonable period of time without that assistance. The new Standing Orders are the result of long effort to bring about a permanent set of rules for the conduct of this House. Probably it was not intended, but there appears to be an implied reflection on the last Government for having failed to bring the proposed Standing Orders before the last Parliament for adoption. There are two reasons why that was not done. In the first place, the drafting was not completed until a late stage in the last session of the Parliament, and the proposed Standing Orders were too voluminous, and too wide in their scope, to be considered properly in the time that was available. In addition, the Labour Government believed that it should not ask the old Parliament, as one of its last acts, to bind the new Parliament upon such a matter. It was for those reasons, and not because of ally unwillingness on the part of the last Government to deal with the matter, that the proposed Standing Orders were hot submitted for adoption. The wisdom of the last Government has since been demonstrated because, in going through the draft Standing Orders, the committee came upon a number of procedures which appeared to be redundant, or would not make for the smooth working of the House. By general agreement they were eliminated.
The times allowed for speeches in various circumstances have been substantially reduced, though not so much as was at first proposed. Due largely to the insistence of members of the Opposition, the original proposals were modified. As has been pointed out, we all agree, except when we ourselves are speaking, that the best speeches are short speeches, but the general belief amongst members of the Opposition is that the time allowed each honorable member should not be less than 30 minutes, which is regarded as sufficient for ordinary debates. Even a period of 30 minutes may not always be sufficient, and we hope that when complex or controversial matters are being discussed, the Government will not be niggardly in allowing extensions of time.
With those qualifications, the Opposition accepts the proposed Standing orders. I believe that we might well have allowed the times fixed in the old Standing Orders to be tried out for a time in the new Parliament. It is true that if every honorable member availed himself of the right to speak for the full time on every measure, the Parliament would be unworkable, but I believe that, in practice, things might have worked out well enough. Every honorable member would not necessarily speak for the full time and every honorable member would not, in practice, speak on every subject brought forward.
.- This is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament that permanent Standing Orders have been considered. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr Hughes) has waited for nearly 50 years to see the Parliament adopt permanent Standing Orders. The First Parliament adopted temporary Standing Orders, and it was hoped that in a few months or so, permanent Standing Orders would be drawn up and adopted. I am not sure that there was any need to change the Standing Orders at all. When it was proposed to amend them last year I disagreed, and I again- expressed my disagreement when the present Parliament was elected. I do not believe that it is necessary to curtail the time allowed for speeches. The committee appointed by the Eighteenth Parliament to consider the Standing Orders decided that times should be curtailed because the size of the Parliament was to be increased by 66§ per cent. I objected on the ground that the right of honorable members to be heard should not be determined by a series of mathematical calculations, and I was not prepared to accept the argument that if each of 75 members was entitled to speak for 45 minutes, each of 122 members was automatically entitled to speak for only 66 J per cent, of 45 minutes. That seemed to me to be an absurd way to determine the right of honorable members to express their views. The Eighteenth, and all preceding parliaments, could have been rendered unworkable if every member had exercised his right to speak to every measure for the full time allowed for second-reading speeches and committee speeches under the Standing Orders then existing. However, the good sense of the Parliament generally prevailed, and after a bill had ‘been considered for a certain time it was generally recognized that no further discussion was necessary. Sometimes governments, including the governments of which I was a member, applied the closure or the guillotine. That was done to overcome obstruction, not to frustrate the legitimate desire of honorable members to address themselves to measures before the House. Even under the proposed Standing Orders, the Parliament could be made unworkable if every honorable member took up the full time allowed. I cannot see the value of a time limit. The House of Commons, with more than 600 members, has no time limit at all.
– Yes, but there is a difference.
– Yes, there is the difference between 123 and more than 600.
Of course, I recognize that in the House of Commons the Speaker enjoys certain powers in the management of debates. I should prefer to have participation in debates limited to an agreed number of speakers from the various parties rather than that the time allowed to honorable members should be unduly restricted. In the proposed Standing Orders drawn up last year the time allowed for secondreading speeches was cut from 45 minutes to 20 minutes, which was absurd. It is not sufficient answer to say that an honorable member may obtain an extension of time. In such a matter all honorable members should be equal. If one is to be granted an extension of time, then all who desire it should receive it. If an extension of time is to be refused to any one, then extensions should not be granted at all, except to those previously specified, such as the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition, and one or two others.
I shall vote for the proposed Standing Orders, because it is the- wish of the Labour party that they be adopted, but I disagree with a number of proposals. One with which I disagree is the proposal that an absolute majority of the House shall be required in order to suspend the Standing Orders. The adoption of that proposal will perpetuate the ridiculous situation which at present exists, namely, that in order to suspend the Standing Orders there must be present and assenting an absolute majority of the House, whereas the Standing Orders may be altered by a simple majority of those present. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) are agreed that the proposal is unconstitutional, and they are supported in their view by learned counsel. However, the Standing Orders Committee has recommended, that we shall continue doing something that is unconstitutional. How can we expect people outside the Parliament to respect the law if we ourselves, when we think it expedient, flout the law ?
– Is the honorable member aware that the proposal represents the wish of his own colleagues?
– I am aware that it is the wish of the committee, but that it is not the wish of the Prime Minister nor of the right honorable member for Barton and I am advised by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) that it was not the wish of the Labour party’s representatives on the committee that anything unconstitutional .should be done. In my opinion, there is no particular point in the Government being adamant on that matter.
I believe that provision should be made in the Standing Orders for more permaant committees of this Parliament. The Australian practice disagrees with the practice in Great Britain and the United States of America regarding committees. Our Constitution is founded partly on the American and partly on the British experiments. We have a written Constitution as in America, and then the Australian Senate is elected on the same basis as the United States Senate. There are other similarities as well. Then there is in Australia responsible government on the same basis as that obtaining in all British communities. In Australia the responsibility of the Executive is to Parliament. The right of determining which matters shall go to committees and what shall not is vested in the Executive. It may be said that theoretically that is not so and that the Parliament can establish a committee at any time and refer any matter to it. I suppose that is true, but, in practice, no committee can function without the approval of the government of the day. I should like to see provision made in the Standing Orders to permit tha establishment of permanent committees on the American model. All bills would be referred then to the committees and all documents and papers in the possession of the department concerned would be made available for perusal by members of the committees. I hope a. constitutional amendment will be made to permit that. Such committees, like those in the United States of America, would have the right to call on officers of any government department or on any person in the Commonwealth to give evidence if required. Further, the public should have the right to appear before such committees and be heard on any proposed piece of legislation. Of course, ultimately we might evolve entirely into the American system and, if 1 may digress, Mr. Speaker, I hope some day to see the Governor-General of the Commonwealth elected by the whole of the people.
– Order ! That question is not under discussion.
– I foresaw the possibility of your intervention, sir, when I stated that I would digress. I shall make no further digression.
– Will the committees be representative of parties on both sides?
– Yes, but Government members would constitute a majority.
– Is the honorable member referring to the committee that sat last week ‘(
– No. I am referring to the committees which should deal with all legislation. The British system countenances the use of committees. Some of them are large, containing 40 members. Some committees are composed exclusively of members of Parliament; sometimes the members of the committee are all people from outside Parliament; others include people from both inside and outside Parliament. The committees are given a wide charter and are virtually royal commissions. They have done extremely valuable work for the British people and the British Parliament has found their advice of great value in its deliberations. The Australian Parliament should have made more use of committees of that kind in the past and I hope that it will do so in the future. I do not know whether provision is made in the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Great Britain for standing committees, but I think something might be attempted in Australia if the scheme that I have envisaged on the lines of the American system is not acceptable. At any rate the committee system works very well in one form or another in the Englishspeaking countries. In Great Britain there is no committee of the Parliament sitting as a whole. I understand that the committee which deliberates on bills meets in some other part of the House of Commons. Only about 80 of the 600 members of Parliament attend. They are the members interested in the measure. Very often substantial alterations are made in the draft of the bills as a result of the quiet and secluded consideration that can be given to the proposals contained in the legislation under consideration. With a House of 600 members it is probably necessary to have such a procedure because a committee of the whole 600 members would be unworkable. I should prefer to see that system adopted in this country with no curtailment of the right of private members to discuss measures on the second reading of each bill.
In considering the proposed Standing Orders, the previous Parliament was stampeded somewhat because of the imminence of the election and the enlargement of the membership of this House. It thought that certain things should be done in a hurry. It was my opinion that they need not have been done at, that time or since. This Parliament could have worked under the old Standing Orders and could have determined later what degree of alteration was necessary to make the system workable. But the Labour Government did at least refer to the new Parliament the right to establish its own Standing Orders. The proposal before the Eighteenth Parliament was that all the acumen, experience and knowledge of honorable members should be drawn upon to set down conditions under which the Nineteenth Parliament should work. At least in these proposals the honorable members of the new Parliament are being given some say as to the conditions under which they will function. My view is that the committee should not have interfered with the time limits at all. I. do not think some of the time saved will be a very valuable saving. Where the committee has recommended 30 minutes provision might very well have been made for 35 minutes, but the Government had the numbers and the Opposition was prepared to try to reach unanimity with it. The Labour party had to give way on some matters on which, perhaps it felt strongly. I hope that as time goes on there will be a return to something better than the time allotted to honorable members to address themselves to the Parliament. The question of additional time for private members might be considered. Until last year the right of . private members to submit private members’ bills or to give notice of private members’ bills bad not been used for many years. In the State parliaments, it is quite a practice for private members to give notice of their intention to introduce specific pieces of legislation. Perhaps it will be possible under the new Standing Orders for members to be heard on the question of private members’ bills. In part, the proposals have advantages. They also have disadvantages. They are like the curate’s egg - good in parts. I think they can be accepted in the hope that they will work satisfactorily, but when the wheel of fortune turns, and I hope to be in the House then, the Labour party will make whatever alterations are necessary. In the meantime I hope that the Government will be sensible of the desires of private members to make alterations to the Standing Orders that they find, by experience, are desirable, first, in order that the Parliament shall work efficiently, and secondly that the rights of members shall not be unnecessarily restricted.
.- I appreciate the tone of the speech by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), who spoke on behalf of the Opposition on the report from the Standing Orders Committee in relation to the proposed new Standing Orders for the House of Representatives. The attitude which the honorable member adopted was really the attitude that was taken by members of the Standing Orders Committee, and, for that reason, they were able to present a unanimous report. Like the honorable member for Perth, I consider that the proposed new Standing Orders should be given a trial. I believe that, in practice, they will prove satisfactory. The existing Standing Orders should be altered in order to meet the position that has been created by the increase of membership of the House of Representatives, and for other reasons, that have occurred to those of us who have had experience of their operation.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has referred to the proposal relating to the suspension of the Standing Orders. The committee discussed that matter, and I shall clarify the position and explain the reasons for the decision. It is not desirable that the Standing Orders shall be suspended, without notice, on a snap decision. We should be jealous of upholding the Standing Orders at all times, and protectingthe rights that are incorporated in them. The Standing Orders may be suspended, without notice, only by a majority of all honorable members, having full voting rights. If prior notice has been given and honorable members are aware of the declared intention to suspend standing orders, a simple majority of those present will suffice. The purpose of this provision is to protect the rights of honorable members by ensuring that no action shall be taken on the spur of the moment, and, in that spirit, the Standing Orders Committee accepted the proposal.
The proposed time limits are the matters that really concern most honorable members, and I shall refer briefly to the committee’s proposals. The second-reading debate on a bill affords honorable members a most valuable opportunity to state their attitudes to the legislation under consideration; but shorter speeches, containing more meat than many of the second-reading speeches that we have heard in the past, will be much more acceptable to every one. The proposed new time limit for secondreading speeches will not deprive honorable members of any of their rights, because they should be able to declare, in 30 minutes, their attitude to the principle of the bill before the House. In committee, each honorable member will have the right to speak twice on every clause, and, therefore, he will have sufficient time to analyse its provisions, and, if he so desires, submit amendments. I realize that the reduction of the time limit for second-reading speeches may increase our work in committee, and that effect will be desirable, because the practice whereby speaker after speaker declares his attitude to a bill in the second-reading debate, usually on party lines, produces a constant repetition of statements. If the real work is done in committee, and honorable members who so desire exercise their right to speak twice on each clause, that should suffice. The reduction of the time limit for second-reading speeches is desirable, but the rights of honorable members to state their views in committee are adequately protected. I am glad that the Standing Orders Committee has been able to present a unanimous report to the House, and I appreciate the co-operation that has been displayed among honorable members, not only in the deliberations of the committee, but also in this House. I join with the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) in thanking the officers of the House for the valuable assistance they have rendered to the committee in compiling this report.
.- It is always most difficult to amend the Standing Orders in such a way as to satisfy every one. As the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has pointed out, a number of committees, on which the Government and the Opposition have been represented, have examined the Standing Orders and some of them partly did the job, whilst others did not even begin their task. The explanation is that members of an Opposition always fear that an. attempt to amend the Standing Orders, particularly by reducing the time limits for debates and speeches, will curtail their rights in debate. That argument has had some influence, from time to time, on government representatives on those committees, who have seen force in the contention advanced by members of the Opposition that the amendment of the Standing Orders was designed to curtail debate, and that, one day, they themselves might be subject to that restriction. That attitude has largely been responsible for i,he fact that, for many years, this House has worked under a set of Standing Orders which, to use the vernacular, “ you could drive a horse and cart through “. The Standing Orders Committee has met on a number of occasions to consider the problem of amending the Standing Orders, and, for the reason that I have stated, it has been most difficult to obtain a unanimous report. I remind the Minister that members of the Standing Orders Committee, which submitted the report now under consideration, would not have been’ unanimous on these proposals had it not been for the fact that government representatives indicated that the Government was not prepared to go any further and that, if Opposition members did not agree to the proposed amendments, they would be put to the House as originally printed. The references by the Minister to the “ unanimous decision of the committee “ should be accepted in that light.
– Were not these proposed amendments to the Standing Orders drafted by the previous committee?
– Not to my knowledge. I was absent for about twelve months, and I do not know what occurred in that time. All I can say is that the committee met during that period.
The proposed new Standing Orders are the best compromise possible between the three political parties that were represented on the committee. It remains to be seen how the alterations will work in practice. Perhaps, after twelve months, the desire that inspires new members to speak will gradually abate, for a number of reasons. For instance, the Government may want to press on with its legislative programme and may remind its supporters that it does not want them to delay the passage of bills with too many speeches. Debate may also be curtailed by the application of the “ gag “, and by other methods. However, I believe that, within twelve months, the whole matter of time limits will adjust itself. In my opinion, we have pruned the time limits too severely in some important respects, particularly in relation to second-reading speeches. The allotment of more time for second-reading speeches, which are devoted to the discussion of the general principles of bills, would be preferable to much of the time-wasting that occurs in committee when measures are considered clause by clause. The best course for us to adopt now is to give the proposed new Standing Orders a trial. If, after a substantial experience of them, we find that more time can be allowed for secondreading speeches, the Standing Orders Committee should be asked to reconsider that particular matter.
An argument has arisen about whether there should be, as provided in the existing Standing Orders, an absolute majority of honorable members before the Standing Orders may be suspended. Constitutional lawyers 3tate that the
Standing Orders of the House of Representatives have been at fault. The Constitution provides that a simple majority of the House shall decide all questions. But the Standing Orders of this House require that a majority of the members of the House must vote in favour of the suspension of Standing Orders before they can be suspended. That fact means that there is a conflict between the wording of the Australian Constitution and the wording of the Standing Orders governing this matter. The position has been challenged on a number of occasions, and the attitude that various speakers have taken has been that they are here to interpret the Standing Orders and not to interpret the Constitution. Ou the other hand, constitutional lawyers hold that the Standing Orders of this House should not conflict with the provisions of the Constitution. There has been « very definite conflict between the Constitution, which says that all questions shall be decided by a simple majority, and the old Standing Orders, which said that Standing Orders could .be suspended only by an absolute majority of the members of the House voting in favour of their suspension. I consider that the provision requiring an absolute majority was, whether opposed to the Constitution or not, a real safeguard of the rights and privileges of honorable members, and therefore should be retained. Reference has been made to the system of controlling debate in the British House of Commons. But the British system is vastly different from the system in Australia. The British Parliament has about the same number of sitting days each year as has the Australian Parliament, but the House of Commons has about six times as many members as this House has. Because of the larger number of members in Britain, it is not possible to give to the members of the British House of Commons the same latitude in debate as is given to members of the Australian House of Representatives. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has indicated, a certain amount of discretionary power is left in the hands of the Speaker of the House of Commons with respect to the allotment of time. Fcu- instance, party whips submit to the
Speaker of the Commons their lists of members who desire to address the House on particular matters. There may be some member or members of a party who are particularly interested in the problems to be discussed, whose names do not appear on such lists. They approach the Speaker, regardless of their party whips, and ask him for an opportunity to speak on a matter. Sufficient latitude is given to the Speaker of the House of Commons to fix the length of time that each member shall speak on a question. Thus, if a member is particularly interested in a matter and has been omitted from the lists prepared by his party whip, he still may have an opportunity to be heard within the prescribed time. But that is because the British House of. Commons has approximately only as many sitting days as this House has, although it has about six times as many members. It would be difficult to leave any discretion of this nature in the hands of the Speaker of this House. It has always been and always will be difficult. In the House of Commons, which has such a huge number of members, one vote more or less is neither here nor there, whereas one vote in the Australian Parliament, particularly during the last Parliament when the membership of this House was 75, might be an all-important vote.
By and large, I concur with the Standing Orders upon which the parties represented in this House have agreed, but I desire to make it clear that the Labour party’s agreement was not so free as it might have been. We desired more time to be allowed for debate, but the proposed Standing Orders that the House is now considering constitute the best compromise we could get. I do not want it to be understood that we are completely satisfied with them, but we are thoroughly satisfied that we are getting more from this compromise method than we would have got if the original proposals had been placed before the House and carried on a party vote. This is an all-important matter. We have met difficulties in the past in obtaining agreement between members of the Government and of the Opposition about the degree to which Standing Orders should be amended. The present amendment of them is, in my opinion, the most far-reaching since federation. The amendment of the Standing Orders has, in the opinion of most honorable members, become necessary because of the increase of the numbers of members in the Parliament. I suggest, however, that if it is found, after a trial, that, on the average, no more time is taken up in second-reading debates under the new Standing Orders than under the old Standing Orders, the matter might be approached again with a view to meeting the views of the honorable member for Melbourne by extending the time for general discussion. That is all I have to say, I have spoken from experience in these matters. There may still be loopholes in the Standing Orders. There always have been. I consider, however, that it is better to have the Standing Orders arrived at by common agreement than to have a rigid, hard-and-fast schedule of standing orders arrived at by the compulsion of a governmental majority.
.- I propose to make two short observations on the matter before the House. I welcome the amendment of the Standing Orders. Although I agree with certain opinions expressed hy the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), it seems to me that those honorable members, when criticizing the shortening of the time available for each speaker, have not taken into consideration the effect, on the conduct of debates in this House, of the introduction of the broadcasting of proceedings. I can speak with feeling on this subject because it is the duty of a party Whip to arrange the order in which members of his party are to speak. It is quite obvious that there is a large number of honorable members on both sides of this House who regard the House as merely a medium by which they can disseminate propaganda for their particular political parties as a whole, as well as for themselves in their own electorates. As long as that condition continues it will be absolutely essential to have some form of time limit imposed on honorable members. I very much regret that there is no check on the way in which some honorable members indulge in this form of backing and filling, which goes on quite regularly in order to get certain honorable members “ on the air “ and keep certain other honorable members “ off the air “. The honorable member for Dalley mentioned the wide powers of discretion held by the Speaker in the House of Commons with res2>ect to regulating the times and the order in which members will address the House. I understood him to say also that that discretion extended even to giving equal opportunity to various members, whether they were members of parties or independent members, to express themselves. I submit that if our new Standing Orders are to work at all the Speaker of this House must have at least some similar powers of discretion. One power that I hope he will exercise is in reference to the practice of submitting to him a list of members who propose to speak. I hope that when the turn of an honorable member to speak comes, anc! he refuses to speak because the broadcasting time is not suitable to him, Mr. Speaker will not soon give him another opportunity to speak, and certainly not for a considerable time after the hour at which the honorable member was trying to obtain the call so as to have the benefit of the best broadcasting time. It is perfectly obvious to all of us that every honorable member who wants to speak at eight o’clock in the evening cannot do so. Those who continually persist in doing so deprive other honorable members of their opportunity to speak at that time. It is quite futile for any government to hope to get through the business of the House in a quick and efficient manner if honorable members will not accept the call as it comes to them or if every member of the Government who wishes to make a statement or to introduce a hill insists on having the eight o’clock call in which to make his statement or speech, no matter how boring or tedious it might be.
The honorable member for Dalley has referred to the necessity for having an absolute majority of members present in the House before the Standing Orders may be suspended. As I am sure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know, in the opinion of the Solicitor-General the imposition of such a restraint would be beyond our powers. It is clear that if we impose such a check we would be acting beyond the limits of our powers as defined by the Constitution. I support the view expressed by the Solicitor-General. Apart from the constitutional aspect of the proposal, it seems to me that the House should realize the very great difficulty that governments may have in securing the presence in the House of a sufficient number of supporters to enable the Standing ‘Orders to be suspended. Although the present Government has probably as large a majority as any other government may have in the future, it lias already been demonstrated, even so early in our sittings, that the Government experiences difficulty in ensuring that a sufficient number of its supporters shall l>e present to enable a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders to be passed.
– That difficulty could easily be overcome by contingent notice of motion to suspend the Standing Orders.
– I agree, but I maintain that such a procedure constitutes a check that should not be placed on the Government in the execution of its legislative task. In the event of sickness, or the holding of State elections, such a check might prove a very serious embarrassment to the Government in the conduct of its business.
– Many unsuccessful endeavours have been made to improve the Standing Orders for the conduct of business in this National Parliament. Governments of different political complexions have from, time to time unsuccessfully endeavoured to improve the Standing Orders to enable the business of this Parliament to proceed more smoothly. In most instances proposals for the amendment of the Standing Orders have been introduced, but have been carried no further. With the increase of the membership of this Parliament the time has arrived for an improvement of our Standing Orders, not only that which governs the time limit for speeches, but many others as well. Because the Standing Order which imposes time limits for speeches touches us so closely, other unsatisfactory phases of our Standing Orders are apt to be forgotten. The frequency with which our Standing Orders have been questioned, and Mr. Speaker has had to interpret them, shows very definitely the need for the greatest clarity in their drafting. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said, the existing Standing Orders have been so loosely drafted that one might drive a horse and cart through them. They should be clarified and brought up to date. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has advocated a system under which a panel of speakers will be selected to speak on each subject as a means by which we may avoid reducing existing time limits for individual speakers. I do not agree with that proposal. Australians at heart are a conservative people, who, “when they become accustomed to a set. of conditions, are loath to change them. That trait is apparent here. For too long we have managed to conduct our business under Standing Orders that are not suitable for an assembly such as this. I am pleased that the draft standing order that was drawn up last year imposing reduced time limits on speeches has been varied by the new Standing Orders Committee. An honorable member opposite has asked whether those draft Standing Orders had not been drafted by the previous committee. I assure him that I did not see any of the draft Standing Orders that were prepared last year until the printed copies were placed in the hands of honorable members recently. I also point out that the draft Standing Orders were recommended by a joint committee which had representatives of both sides of he House
– Labour Government members were in a majority on that committee.
– That is so, just as representatives of the Menzies Government now predominate on the new Standing Orders Committee. I join with the honorable members for Melbourne in protesting against the time limits on speeches now proposed. Under the existing Standing Orders, in a second-reading debate or a bill, all honorable members, other than the Minister introducing the bill and the Leader of the Opposition, or the honorable member deputed by him to speak first to such a motion, are entitled to speak for 45 minutes. Under the draft Standing Orders, it was proposed that that time should be reduced to 20 minutes. It is impossible for any honorable member to compress within that short time his views on important legislation which may afFect very considerably the fortunes and well-being of every man, woman and child in the community. I am pleased that the new .Standing Orders Committee has recommended that the time be extended from 20 to 30 minutes. Under the draft Standing Orders drawn up last year the time allowed, to private members who participate in the general budget debate was to be reduced from 45 to 30 minutes. I regret that the new Standing Orders Committee has not seen fit to recommend the restoration of the longer period. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that the practice of taking the two periods of quarter of an hour allowed to each honorable member on the items in the Estimates, enabling honorable members to make what is virtually a second-reading speech on the estimates of every department, is undesirable. No alteration of the existing procedure in that connexion has been suggested by the new Standing Orders Committee. It will still be permissible for honorable members to speak for two periods each of a quarter of an hour, on every department covered by the Estimates. If such a practice is persisted in the length of the debate on the Estimates will be unduly protracted. I believe that, in the interests of the expedition of business, the time allotted to each honorable member during the committee consideration of the Estimates might well have been reduced. I should have favoured that being done. The proposal to reduce the duration of second-reading speeches would indicate, at first glance, that the time to be allowed for speeches generally is to be considerably reduced. On that point I can only repeat what I said when
A similar proposal was made in the Parliament of South Australia, of which 1 was a member. I indicated that it would not worry me to what degree the duration of second-reading speeches was reduced, so long as I still had the opportunity in committee to speak for two periods of a quarter of an hour each on any question before the Chair. “Whilst we may think that we have achieved something by reducing the duration of second-reading speeches, the full value of the new provision will not be gained unless honorable members are obliged in committee to confine their remarks strictly to the question before the Chair. During the last Parliament, Opposition members, after taking full advantage of the time allowed for speeches on the budget, adopted the practice of repeating their remarks to such a degree when the Estimates were under consideration, that the Government was obliged to “guillotine” the Estimates. Therefore, these improvements will not really be effective unless honorable member play the game in debate in committee.
I appreciate the fact -that these alterations are being proposed primarily in order to meet the requirements of this enlarged House, the number of members having been increased from 75 to 123. The proposed limitations of times allowed for speeches are imperative if we are to obviate longer sessions than we have had in the past. Reference was made to the English system of selecting panels of speakers to participate in debates, but I should find it difficult to knuckle down to any system of that kind under which with the concurrence of Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees only certain speakers would get the call in certain debates. I hope that no system of that kind will be introduced here, because I believe it would be bad in .principle to give power to any one to decide arbitrarily what honorable members should speak on certain measures. We must remember that each honorable member has the right and the privilege to speak on behalf of his constituents in respect of nl] matters that may come before the Parliament. Although the proposed new Standing Orders are not wholly to my liking, I agree that in principle they will enable us to continue in this House the British system of procedure. I am reassured to know that the officers of the House, who are experienced in these matters, have endeavoured to draft the new Standing Orders in the clearest possible language. Therefore, ignoring objections that may be raised with respect to finer points of procedure, the proposed new Standing Orders should enable us to conduct our proceedings in an orderly and effective way and for that reason, I support them.
.- As I was chairman of the previous Standing Orders Committee, I should like to comment briefly upon those now proposed. They had rather a stormy passage through the committee. The present Standing Orders were drafted 50 years ago and were adopted as temporary standing orders. In the interim, they have been reviewed by the Standing Orders Committee on seven occasions, namely, in 1902, 1903, 1905, 1929, 1937, 1943 and 1949. On each of those occasions, the committee recommended various amendments, but most of those recommendations, after being submitted to the Parliament, were merely left on the business-paper. In view of that fact, I shall be pleased to see the House adopt these proposed Standing Orders which were agreed to by the committee on a basis of compromise. Although all members of the committee agreed in principle upon the objectives to be achieved, they virtually accepted many of the proposals now before us on compromise. The proposals appear to me to be sound, and I am sure that they will be helpful in the conduct of proceedings in this House.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullet), who is the Liberal party Whip, questioned these proposals from the point of view of the difficulty of keeping sufficient Government members available to withstand any challenge in a division by the Opposition. I emphasize that the primary objective of the Standing Orders should be to ensure that debates in this chamber shall be properly and fairly conducted and that legislation shall not be held up unduly. In spite of the increase of our numbers wo should be given every opportunity to express our views on every matter that is of interest to those whom we represent. I believe that the proposed new Standing Orders will enable iw to do so.
The existing Standing Orders which, as I have already said, were regarded as temporary provisions when they were framed in 1901, have been defective in many respects. Consequently, in instances in which the Standing Orders have not been explicit, the Chair has been obliged to rely upon the practice of the House and partly upon the practice of the House of Commons. The amendments now before us will remedy those defects in the interests of good government and the proper conduct of debates. I trust that the Government will, within the scope of the new Standing Orders, allow full opportunity to all honorable members to express their views and that the new Standing Orders will be fairly interpreted by Mr. Speaker, or the Chairmen of Committees, as the case may be. In the past, when anti-Labour governments were in office, Parliament sometimes met for only 30 days a year. Nevertheless, those governments took every opportunity to restrict debate and force legislation through the House. I hope that the new Standing Orders will not be used for that purpose, but that the Government will keep the Parliament in session for sufficient periods to enable it to deal adequately with the legislation that comes before it. I also hope that should any shortcomings be found in the new Standing Orders, the Government will take prompt steps to rectify them; and that we shall not have to wait for another 50 years before the Standing Orders are made effective in the light of the experience of the Parliament.
– in reply - I express to honorable members on both sides, particularly members of the Opposition, the Government’s appreciation of the reasonable and temperate comments they have made on these proposals. I am sure that Ministers will take note of the suggestion of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that what is known as the “prima donna” hour should not be taken up too exclusively with ministerial statements, to use his words “ no matter how boring or tedious they may be”. Subject to human frailty, Ministers will endeavour to give satisfaction in that respect.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) answered a comment I made about the reasonable degree of amity which prevailed on both sides of the House in reaching agreement on these Standing Orders. He used the word “ unanimity “ and suggested that all the virtue in this respect lay with the honorable members of the Opposition. I point out that this was a two-way traffic. As another honorable member of the Opposition has pointed out, the Government had the numbers, and could have introduced whatever standing orders it wished. It was in the Government’s mind, at one stage, to bring down the printed standing orders which were the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee of 1949. That committee had on it a majority of members of the Labour party and its recommendation was unanimous. However, honorable members of the Opposition who were members of the Standing Orders Committee which met a few days ago expressed a wish for a few alterations. We acceded to their wishes in several respects. They may have desired further alterations and perhaps the Government’s representatives desired other alterations, too. .But although the Government had large enough representation to have any standing orders adopted it was prepared to go a certain distance in meeting the wishes of honorable members of the Opposition on the Standing Orders Committee. Agreement was, therefore, reached on a unanimous basis by this committee and those Standing Orders now come before the House.
– The time factor was the real one in dispute.
– Yes. We were prepared to retain the Standing Orders which were adopted in 1.949. The members of the Labour party were pressing for longer times. The committee achieved a respectable and honorable compromise on the matter and I think it is a matter for commendation to all members of that committee that they were able to reach agreement.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has said that he does not agree with the time limits which are set out here. He referred to practice in the House of Commons. There are no time limits at all in the House of Commons. The time allocated to each speaker in that House is entirely a question for determination by the Speaker. It is true that the leaders of parties and the Whips exercise very great authority and that when debates are arranged there is a great deal of give and take between the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition and convenient times are chosen for those who are regarded as important speakers. . It sometimes happens that a new and untried speaker finds himself speaking at a favorable time so that if he continued very long he would encroach on time which has been allocated to a speech by some distinguished member of the Government. There is nothing to stop the new member continuing, but woe betide him if he does, because owing to ancient practice in the House of Commons, he will find that he does not seem to bc able to catch the Speaker’s eye for many months afterwards. So that ancient and well accepted practice in the House of Commons very effectively limits the length of time for which ordinary members of the House may speak.
I believe that time limits are necessary in this House. Owing to the enlargement of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, substantial curtailments of the time limits permitted under the old Standing Orders are necessary. The Government has sought to meet the views of honorable members of the Opposition and now presents to the House something to which all members of the Standing Orders Committee are prepared to give a trial. We do not pretend that these Standing Orders are perfect any more than the Standing Orders Committee which had a majority of Labour members pretended that the Standing Orders which they produced were perfect. We do think, however, that the Standing Orders now before us are better than the old ones and tha.t the members of this House should give them an opportunity to operate satisfactorily.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 16th March (vide page 924), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the following paper be printed: -
Foreign policy - Ministerial statement, 9th March, 1950.
.- As I listened to the presentation of the Government’s foreign policy by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) and to the statement made by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), it struck me very forcefully that there was an entire absence of emphasis on the personal equation in foreign affairs. It seemed to me that both speakers made purely abstract statements dealing with world movements and more or less basic principles on which both the Government and the Opposition appear to agree.
The personal element, in the final analysis, can be all important. Immediately after the first world war it could be seen that the personalities who had figured in that conflict determined the path that the world was to follow, which was ultimately to lead to the second world war. Those personalities faded into the limbo of forgotten things and counted no longer in the councils of men.
The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) was a powerful world figure in those days. He was a powerful figure at the peace conference when he assisted, with Clemenceau and others, to determine the destiny of peoples and the fate of nations. Those men, sitting in a peace conference at Versailles, acted without wisdom, without knowledge and without understanding and their actions prepared the way for World War II. and the troubles that beset the world to-day.
The primary cause of World War II. was the invasion and ultimate partition of Poland. The primary, basic, impelling idea that forced Hitler to invade Poland was, ostensibly, the recovery of the Danzig Corridor. The Polish statesmen who, at that time, openly deserted their people have been forgotten. The cause of Poland has been forgotten to-day, as have the causes of most of the countries of middle Europe. Personalities are important and, ultimately, they must count to a far greater degree than the statement of the Minister for External Affairs indicates. Pygmies are pygmies whereever they may be found. Even at the tops of the Alps, they are still pygmies. Upon these latter-day saints, these socalled leaders of political and philosophical thought who brought the world ultimately to the disaster which was the second World War, devolves a huge and terrible responsibility. There was a time when our diplomats and officers of the Department of External Affairs were the real giants of the earth. To-day, in Europe particularly, the protagonists of our modern western civilization, and of the British and American way of life, have proved themselves incapable of dealing effectively with their antagonists. We have a new school in the Department of External Affairs, a school starting with cadetships to which aspiring young diplomats are appointed. On what basis these cadets are selected I know not. Of their educational qualifications or their ability to grasp world problems I know nothing. In this country and elsewhere, the external affairs school to-day is simply an exemplification of the old school tie. Is our world, our children’s world, and the fate of Australia and the Empire, to be determined by these young apostles who, although perhaps well equipped in the academic sense, view things as from afar, and lack knowledge and experience of practical politics to guide them through the troubled seas of modern diplomacy? One night last week, I looked at some officers of the Department of External Affairs sitting on a back bench in this chamber. What struck me was that this was really a Cornel Wilde school of diplomacy on a Hollywood basis. If eligibility for a diplomatic post is to be abstract knowledge and a slightly Bohemian appearance, the best man that we could get for the job of ambassador somewhere in the Pacific would be Clark Gable. I speak with some diffidence, but claim that as a new member I am entitled to say these things because I had no part in the making or development of the foreign policy of this country. How can mere academic distinction fit a man for diplomacy? How can it help a diplomatic representative of this country who is confronted, perhaps in Tokyo, with all the intricacies, puzzles and obstacles that seem to be inseparable from a post there? How can the serving of a cadetship in the Department of External Affairs fit a man for important tasks in world politics? Young men of. the diplomatic corps no doubt leave this country with ambition to star at Tokyo or Lake Success, but they find that they have to pit their wits against those of men whose sole aim is to cause a third world war. Therefore, it is with some misgivings that I view the present practice. I am almost inordinately suspicious of people named Algernon, Reginald, or Percy. I do not think that they are very good candidates for high rank in the diplomatic field.
– What about Augustus ?
– If the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) is referring to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I point out that Augustus is that honorable member’s second name. His first name is Arthur, and that is quite a good name. We have all heard of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Socrates, not possessing a university degree, would, no doubt, be declared ineligible, according to our present standards, for appointment to a diplomatic post. In the meantime, we have “ Keith “, “ Rupert “, or some one else at Tokyo or elsewhere in the world, strutting and fuming as the representative of Australia. T am astonished that the destiny of this land and of my children should depend upon such weak reeds. Is it not extraordinary that whilst the United Nations, under the guidance and distinguished leadership of the right honorable member for Barton, has been historically successful in settling local and regional disputes, succouring those in need of aid, and providing educational facilities for the dispossessed and submerged people of the earth, it has been an ignominious failure, as even the right honorable member for Barton will admit, in settling the fundamental conflicts that beset mankind to-day? How could it be otherwise? I ask honorable members to visualize a meeting of the Ear Eastern Commission, at which Australia is being represented by a graduate of the Department of External Affairs training school. I have no knowledge of his equipment for this job, or of what positive virtues he may possess, but I do know, as every sensible person in this chamber knows, that he is confronted with antagonists of no mean order. He finds opposite him a Vishinsky or some other individual of that peculiar type who, on the slightest provocation, will invoke the veto and storm out of the assembly, thus finishing its proceedings. I ask, therefore, who are the best people to represent Australia abroad? Who are most capable of handling the diplomatic problems inherent in the world situation to-day ? Contrary to popular opinion about politicians, contrary to press assessments of this Parliament, and contrary to the jokes that are made about us, I believe that the people who are most competent to represent Australia abroad, and to do justice to British Empire policy, are members of the Parliament, preferably Ministers of long experience and with world-wide contacts such as would give them the knowledge and wisdom that’ are prerequisite to the successful performance of the task. First and -foremost amongst the world figures in this House is the right honorable member for Barton. Every honorable member, whether he be friend or foe, must concede that the right honorable gentleman is a man of world renown. He would be my first choice for the post of Australia’s representative abroad. Other names readily suggest themselves to my mind. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) also would represent this country capably. We take an unwarrantable and unpardonable risk of depriving our children of their just inheritance if we pin all our hopes upon the ability and knowledge of youthful and inexperienced, though perhaps, educationally, highly qualified officers of the Department of External Affairs.
Both the Minister and other honorable gentlemen who have discussed his statement have overlooked altogether the importance of the veto, as exercised by Russian imperialists, in the conduct of foreign affairs. Ultimately, the United Nations will prove to be just as ineffective as was the former League of Nations. Tt will become a babel of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It will lead the members of the British Empire and other Anglo-Saxon races down the path that leads to destruction unless we fortify ourselves by accepting the fact that the veto, as exercised by Soviet Russia, is aimed positively at stultifying every effort, towards peace and the settlement of the troubled affairs of the world. I noticed with regret that the Minister harped, in his statement, upon what, after all, is an unreality. The United Nations is an artificial organization and it cannot be expected to do what the League of Nations failed to do. Knowing how it is hampered by the veto and the differences of race, temperament, outlook and ambitions that divide its members, we should not build all our hopes upon its meetings. As an Australian viewing the international scene dispassionately, I prefer to build my hopes upon the foundation of the natural unity that is to be found in an association of Australia, first, with the other countries of the British Empire, and, secondly, with the United States of America. I hope that our foreign policy will rest upon that firm foundation from this day forth. Every other consideration should be subsidiary to that requirement. All the successes that have been gained by the United Nations in Iran, Palestine, Indonesia, Malaya and elsewhere were of only a local character. Our hope for the future should rest upon the methods that have been tried successfully in the past. We should unite again with those who are naturally akin to us in outlook and in every other way. Such a course would ultimately bring us to safety in a world at peace. [Extension of time granted.] I do not want to be misunderstood. I do not regard the United Nations as an entirely hopeless organization. My intention is not to engage in a wailing jeremiad of doom and despair in condemnation of it. I believe that it has a vital place in international affairs and that regional and minor disputes could not be settled without it. Reorganization could not take place in Indonesia, for example, without United Nations help, and there would be a welter of disturbances all around the globe from the North Pole to the South Pole. The point of my argument is that the organization is helpless against the basin international cleavages. Every commonsense individual in the community must come to the conclusion that the United Nations has weaknesses that prevent it from dealing effectively with the problems raised by the atomic bomb, proposals for rearmament or disarmament, and the expansion of the Russian Empire, which is proceeding daily before our eyes and which threatens to engulf Malaya and ultimately Australia. In discussing the Russian scourge I am thinking not of any political theory or philosophy, but of the concrete fact of the growth of an empire without the use of armed force and unopposed by resistance from any effective organization. Any honorable member who studies the world situation must realize that the lights of Europe have gone out. They were extinguished when those leaders whom I mentioned at the beginning of my speech allowed Poland, Hungary and other countries to go down into limbo. The initial cause of the war was cheerfully forgotten then. Poland did not matter, and Hungary mattered even less. The leaders who led the Poles and other unfortunate peoples along warlike paths faded away and saved their own skins. Now, expansion of an empire and acquisition of land by Russia are taking place on our doorstep. Who can deny that China is now fundamentally a part of the Russian Empire? To-morrow, Indo-China may become a part of it, and the day after to-morrow Malaya may be absorbed. There are 75,000,000 Indonesians poised almost on our borders. I hope that the Indonesian people will take the right view of life. I have heard slighting references made to Dr. Soekarno in this chamber, but I should not care if a man had collaborated with the devil himself, provided that, having swept one devil from his house, he did not let in seven others. I remind honorable members that the Churchills and the Roosevelts sold Europe down the drain at Yalta and Potsdam. Having swept one devil, Hitler, from the house, they let in another devil that was seven times more powerful, seven times more obnoxious and seven times more threatening to our civilization and our Christian values than Hitler. Dr. Soekarno has established a stable government in Indonesia. I hope that it will be the policy of this Government to support the Indonesian Government in every possible way, whether it be headed by Dr. Soekarno or any one else. We are confronted with a scourge in the form of the subtle expansion of an empire, and we must face the fact that that empire, which is the great intangible heresy of modern times, and is independent of the limitations of geography, speech, national patriotism, honour and pride, may one day engulf this Australia of ours.
I revert to my proposition that in selecting our ambassadors and diplomatic representatives we should look at the individuals most carefully. I remind the House that Alger Hiss - the Christian name is almost Algernon ; it will be noticed how the names recur - participated in the formation of the United Nations and was Roosevelt’s adviser at Yalta, but since then he has been busily engaged in selling the pass to the apostles of Russian imperialism. I hope that our Herberts, our Freds and others of the old school tie brigade who have inordinate ambitions in the diplomatic field will remember that they have a duty to their country as well as to a guiding light and principle, and that their main job, irrespective of what extreme radicalism may dominate their philosophies or politics, is to help us to stem the advance of the red imperialists. This is a serious moment for us. Little did I think that I should live to see the dismemberment of the British Empire, but we are seeing it now. We must value our association and brotherhood with the peoples of the British Empire and our inseparable links with America in the Pacific. We must value the fact that there is a kinship between all English-speaking peoples everywhere and that our roots lie in European, and not in Asiatic culture. We have a great heritage. We shall help to put the lights on in Europe again, but we shall not forget the Poles, Hungarians, Latvians and other peoples who are now . the dispossessed of the earth. We are a great people with vast potentialities. Conscious of that fact, we should subject our diplomatic personnel here and elsewhere to a keen scrutiny, because the destiny of
Australia and of the Empire depends ultimately upon the personality, the character and the souls of men.
.- I desire, first, to pay a tribute to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) for his masterly survey of the world situation and his clear and statesmanlike approach to the many complex international problems that confront us at the present day. For a long time I have believed strongly that our relationships with other countries should be above the level of party politics. I know that there are many men of all shades of political opinion who share that view. They will be encouraged by the decision of the Government to establish a standing committee on foreign affairs. That committee will make a special study of this important subject and will keep the House informed of developments that occur in the international field.
Since early in 1946 the dominant factor in international affairs has been the cold war that Russia is waging against the Western democracies. Russia, is clearly bent on expanding its power and upon achieving dominion over the whole of the world. It has made some remarkable strides in that direction. Its recent successes in Asia are of the greatest significance to countries that have interests in the Pacific and especially to Australia. We have no time to lose. We must strengthen our defences so that we may be ready to meet any emergency that may arise. When hostilities ceased four and a. half years ago, we all looked forward to a period of real and lasting peace. Instead, we have what I may perhaps call an uneasy equilibrium. The world is, unhappily, divided into two opposing and apparently irreconcilable camps. Whatever may be our views on the prospect of a lasting peace, it is clear that our foreign policy must at all times be founded upon the closest possible cooperation with Great Britain and other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations as well as with our great friend and ally, the United States of America. The peoples of the Englishspeaking countries must stick together in peace as closely as they did in war. Mr.
Winston Churchill, Britain’s great wartime leader, said -
Nothing will work soundly or for long without the united efforts of the British and American peoples. If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail.
This Government, whilst pledging its full support of the United Nations and the principles for which that organization stands, takes the realistic view that the United Nations and our support of it do not by any means provide a complete safeguard for our future. It is wisely seeking to negotiate a regional pact with countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific that are concerned directly with the maintenance of peace, order and good government in that part of the world. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) may rest assured that realism being the basis of the Government’s policy, its attitude generally in the international field, including that towards appointments abroad, will be based on a realistic foundation. The withdrawal of British power from India, Burma and Egypt has greatly weakened Australia’s strategic position, and the Government must cultivate to the greatest, possible extent friendly relations with our neighbours, and try to build up a store of goodwill. This country’s geographical situation as an outlying member of the British Commonwealth, alongside the heavily populated countries of Asia, places it in a unique political position among the nations. Linked as our people are, historically and culturally with the English-speaking world, this country should endeavour to become a bridge between west and east. Here is a real opportunity ; in fact it is a challenge to all of us. Let us play our full part in helping to bring about a new and a real co-prosperity sphere in the Pacific, not only for the sake of ourselves and our children, but also for the sake of coming generations of Australians.
Fears have been expressed in Australia and elsewhere that Japan, by reason of i ts strategic position, may he so strengthened as to be made a bastion against possible future aggression by the Soviet Union. It would be dangerous for Australia to accept that principle as the sole consideration in its relationship with Japan, because Japan’s aggression and treachery of the last few years remain too clearly in the minds of the peoples of the Pacific. Strong grounds exist for doubting whether there has been any real change of heart on the part of the Japanese people, despite Japan’s adoption of a democratic constitution some three years ago, and the success in many ways of the Allied occupation. The main feature of the various Allied declarations in respect of Japan, such as the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations, as well as of the actual instrument of surrender, was the establishment of a political and economic regime which would reduce to a minimum the war potential of that country. Militarism was to be stamped out, and the free development of democratic tendencies in Japan was to be encouraged in all possible ways. A peacefully inclined and democratic government in accordance with the freely expressed views of the Japanese people was to be established, a.nd certain parts of the country were to remain under occupation by the Allies until such a new order had been brought into being. Japan’s war potential was to be destroyed, and convincing evidence was to be given of a change of heart. Although certain of those objectives have been attained in some measure, the fact remains that the old feudal oligarchy still retain? a good deal of its former power. It will need at least a generation of democraticallycontrolled education before Japan will have learned to adapt itself to western ideas and institutions. The thin veneer of democracy which the Allies have succeeded in spreading over Japan during the period of the occupation will soon peel off if the occupation authorities are prematurely withdrawn. It is imperative that the peace treaty shall provide for longterm supervision of Japan by the occupation forces, while allowing political independence to the country.
Professor Macmahon Ball, who was for some time the British representative on the Allied Council for Japan, recently published a book entitled Japan, Enemy or Ally. In that book he analysed closely the present day conditions in Japan and came, to the conclusion that despite strong efforts on the part of the American authorities to reform the political institutions of Japan and despite generous economic aid, there had been no fundamental change in the country’s social structure or in the policical outlook of its leaders. The old rulers had been substantially successful in retaining their former power, in whittling down the allied objectives, in impeding the land reforms and other allied measures and in hindering the establishment of a democratic regime. During the last two years developments in the international sphere, together with a growing realization of Japan’s economic needs, have caused a change of policy on the part of the Allies. That is most clearly seen in respect of the Zaibatsu, about which an honorable member recently asked a question in this House. It is a powerful economic group in Japan, headed by the Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and other powerful families. During 1945 and 1946 the allied powers carried out a fairly rigid policy designed to break up the Zaibatsu. This policy was relaxed to some extent during 1947, and in 1948 the Far Eastern Commission, announced that the efforts directed towards the dissolution of the powerful combines had been abandoned. That is an interesting fact. The reason behind it is that most of the trained administrators, managers and technicians in Japan are part and parcel ‘of the Zaibatsu. and the activities of the organization axe so extensive and so woven into the fabric of Japan’s economy that it is virtually impossible to destroy the one without destroying the other.
In May of last year the United States of America announced that it had abandoned the demand for Japanese reparations. The emphasis now seems to be on building up Japan and making it once again the workshop of the East. The occupation appears to have reached an intermediate stage, during which control is gradually being given back to the Japanese Government, while General MacArthur, as supreme commander, still retains ultimate authority on behalf of the Allies. The American authority, T. A. Bisson in his very interesting book Prospects for Democracy in Japan, maintains that the restoration of Japanese economic selfsufficiency, whilst undoubtedly reducing the burden on the American taxpayer, might also serve to restore ‘an unstable and potentially explosive Japan which eventually could be restrained only at terrible cost. There is a distinct possibility that Japan, keenly conscious of the tension that exists between the United States of America and Russia, may seek to “ play off “ these two great nations against each other. The result of such a manoeuvre on the part of Japan could result in its emergence once again as a powerful militaristic nation. Nor should we overlook the possibility that Russia may make friendly overtures to Japan and might allow Japan to send migrants to occupy some of the vast tracts of Siberia. It may go even further by offering to train Japanese troops on Russian soil, just as German troops were trained on its soil in the period between World War I. and World War II. Only a few days ago the press reported that Russia had . made an offer to J apan in respect of the Kurile Islands. We should weigh this’ consideration very carefully.
From the short-term point of view I do not think that the safety of Australia is immediately in danger because Japan has been fairly effectively stripped of its war potential for the time being. From a long-term point of view it is clear that the future balance of power in the Pacific will be governed to a very great extent by the kind of economic policy that the Allied authorities imposed on Japan under the peace treaty which will shortly have to be considered. The Japanese economy is principally rural, and although that country is very poor in natural resources its economy has, to some extent, been stabilized during the term, of the Allied occupation by means of land reforms and various other measures. At the same time, the economic consequences of restricting the Japanese Empire to the four main islands of Japan will have to be carefully considered, particularly in view of the official estimate that by the end of 1950 the population of Japan will have reached almost 80,000,000, and in view, also, of the fact that, prior to surrendering to the Allies, Japan drew a great deal of its food and raw materials from its outer territories. Japanese export trade will have to be very- carefully regulated in order to- ensure that there will be no undue expansion, such as took place prior to the recent war. The development of the textile industry in Australia and India during the last few years will help to act as a brake in this direction. J apan’s imports also will have to be carefully controlled, as a precaution against the replacing of the war potential which at present has been effectively destroyed. The issues at stake in Japan do not concern only the Japanese people or the relationship between the United States of America and the Japanese Empire and are of the most profound importance and consequence to the whole world, particularly to the countries in the Pacific.
The decline of British influence in the Ear East, the emergence of Russia in recent years as a major Pacific power, and the vast spread of Russian control during the last year or two, have all tended to complicate the very vexed problem of effecting a lasting peace settlement with Japan. General MacArthur once said that in the future Japan would be either a powerful bulwark for peace or a dangerous spring-board for war. (Extension of time granted.] “Whilst recognizing the need for light industrial development in Japan in order to stabilize the Japanese economy and so maintain a balance of power, the people of Australia and our neighbours in the Pacific very rightly want an assurance that, as far as is humanly possible, the final terms of the peace settlement with Japan will ensure that that country will never again be able to wage a ‘war of aggression.
.- The policy enunciated by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) in his statement is so wide in its scops that it is impossible for me, in the short time at my disposal, to do even scant justice to the subject. Suffice it to say that the picture of foreign affairs changes almost daily ‘before our eyes, and, from an Australian point of view, has assumed a transcending importance that was undreamed of before World> War II. The new outlook in Asia demands the most serious consideration. It has passed from the stage of being one of mere academic interest. There must be a sober realization of the fact that the quickening of national sentiment throughout that great continent has introduced a new and very serious element into international affairs from Australia’s point of view. The extent to which the ‘rise of Asian nation- alism threatens the security of Australia is a matter for conjecture, but the fact” unquestionably emerges that the halcyon days of isolation have disappeared forever. In nearly every Asian country there is or has been a struggle for complete freedom from foreign rule. We cannot expect that there will he any diminution of agitation bv those countries for political independence, control of their own economic life, and racial equality. It may well be that the thoughts of some of those new nations will ultimately turn to aggression, that they will find themselves actuated by motives similar to those that actuated Japan in 1941. The spread of communism in China may subject the nations of South and South-East Asia to violent social and political pressure. Australia is not far removed from Asia geographically. Therefore, we are vitally concerned with the new developments that are taking place there. Because of th? vast area of this continent, and its relatively small population, our position must be continuously considered with the utmost care. The time has come for a clarification of Australia’s attitude to this important problem. The first thing we must accept is that nationalist governments have established themselves in Asia. This has already been recognized by some of the Great Powers, including the United States of America and Great Britain. It is our duty, therefore, to cultivate friendly relations with the Asian nationalists by assisting the new governments in their plans for easing social tension, by supporting measures designed to raise living standards and by showing that the demo.cratic countries are not opposed to the social progress of the new nations. Australia championed the cause of Asian nationalism when it supported the claims of the Indonesian Republic before the United Nations. The point made by the Minister for External Affairs about raising the standard of living in South and South-East Asia as a means of fighting communism will be generally accepted, but the task is so colossal that it would be impossible for the countries of the
British Commonwealth to attempt it alone. “Without American “participation, the scheme would be doomed to failure. Without the backing and the material resources of that great nation, the job ‘ would be too big. However, we have cause for believing that America will participate. The fourth point of President Truman’s inaugural address of January, 1949, suggests that an appeal to America would not fall on deaf ears. The President then said -
I call for a bold, new programme to make the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas in a co-operative enterprise in which all nations work together.
If that can be interpreted to mean that the United States will make available its gigantic resources, its technical know-* ledge and its skill for the development of areas with great potential resources, but with a low standard of living, such as those in South and South-East Asia, there is reason for optimism. However, the problem will have to be approached on a high diplomatic level. A wrong approach could easily wreck any scheme in its initial stages.
In my opinion, the success of the scheme will depend upon removing the causes of mistrust between East and “West that have operated for many generations. 1 suggest that Australia is the ideal nation to initiate proceedings, for the reasons stated recently by Professor ‘Macmahon Ball, an acknowledged authority on such matters. I quote him as follows : -
These emerging nations of East Asia are extraordinarily sensitive and suspicious about accepting guidance and help from Europe and the United States. They’ associate Europe with the evil imperialisms of the past and the United States with what they call “dollar diplomacy”. They know, however, that unaided they cannot possibly make a success of their freedom. They know that the achievement of national independence will not give ordinary people a better and fuller life unless they can get help from the West - above all in education, in technical needs, administration, science and medicine. They desperately need this help. This is an occasion in which Australia’s weakness can be its strength, just because we have no imperialistic history and are not a great power but are reasonably competent in the political sciences, in administration, in medicine and in public health, we can give invaluable help to those young nations of East Asia.
I am sure that honorable members will endorse that statement. The problem of communism and” its relation to Asian nationalism, is of particular interest. Communism, as the doctrine of Marx and Lenin, has not met with much support from the teeming masses of Asia, but as a political organization, taking its instructions from Soviet Russia, it has played a prominent part. Nevertheless, in only two countries, China and IndoChina, have the Communists led the nationalist struggle. Elsewhere, they have been in opposition to nationalist leaders who have succeeded in setting up independent States without the social and economic revolutions beloved by Communists. Actually, communism has made but a limited appeal to the peoples of South-East Asia. For example, in 1948, Communists under Muso tried to set up a Communist People’s Republic in Centra] Java, but obtained little support, with the result that the rebellion was ignominiously suppressed.
On the other hand, the overwhelming success of the Communist forces in China reaches a significant lesson. Events there have proved that no nationalist government that fails to bring about economic reforms, particularly land reform, can hope to survive. Time will determine whether Asia shall come wholly under Russian influence, but recent statements by some Asian leaders seem to indicate that there is considerable difference of opinion among ‘them on the question of whether they should hitch their wagons to the Russian star.
At the invitation of the Minister for External Affairs I propose to make a few observations about the peace settlement with Japan. I say without qualification that the time has arrived for making peace in the Pacific. I recognize that all attempts at peace-making have so far been rendered abortive by the calculated and premeditated obstruction of Russia. Nevertheless we must press forward vigorously in order to achieve a settlement that will give military security to those Pacific countries that were the victims of aggression during the war. The settlement should provide for the economic stability of East Asia, and for ii rising standard of living among Asiatic peoples. We must ask ourselves whether our ideas of a Japanese peace treaty are the same as those that we held at the conclusion of the war in 1945. At that time, we all believed that Japan should be completely demilitarized. We advocated that the old form of government should be overthrown and a responsible, democratic government instituted in, its stead. We believed that the Japanese people should possess the same civil and political rights as are possessed by the people of the Western democracies. We were resolved that the feudal economy of Japan should be abolished, and reforms instituted for the benefit of the people. It was generally believed that major social and economic reforms were to be effected.
However, in 1950, the world situation has changed. In 1945, Russia was our ally, Japan a much-hated enemy. To-day, Russia cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called an ally, whilst many people are now disposed to look upon Japan as a potential ally in an area of great strategic importance. If our interest in Japan was based on military and strategic conditions, it might appear that any dislocation of Japan’s social structure, or any serious interference with the ruling class, might weaken that country’s capacity for effective military organization. Our primary concern in any peace settlement with Japan must be to promote the best interests of the British Commonwealth, and particularly of Australia. I hope that I shall not be accused of being nationalistic when I say that we must adopt a realistic attitude to the problem and not be swayed by any sentimental approach because of our experience with Japan in the war and the hardships that were inflicted on both prisoners of war and civilians. Our primary interest in Japan must of necessity be a negative one. Australia must make certain that Japan will not regain the power to become an aggressor in the forseeable future. That attitude is understandable. It is not an impulse of revenge but merely one of self-preservation. That is all important because from what I have been able to ascertain the people who rule Japan to-day, subject to allied occupation control, belong to the same class as those who were responsible for Japan’s entry into the war in 1941 and have a similar outlook. The fundamental task of Australia in any circumstances and against any opposition, is to prevent a resurgence of an expansionist Japan. Australia must recognize that there can be no stability or peace in East Asia if there be poverty and turmoil in Japan. In designing methods for raising the standard of living in Japan, Australia may have to readjust very materially some of the ideas that were held in 1945 concerning the economic penalties that would be inflicted on Japan after its surrender. When it is decided what industries the Japanese shall be allowed to operate, the decision should be made from the point of view of military security and not from that of any vested commercial selfinterest. The view held by a current school of thought is that Japan should be built up as a military buffer between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. If Australia subscribed to that view, irretrievable disaster might be its lot in the not far distant future because there is no guarantee that Japan would not seize the opportunity so presented to make another southward drive with dire consequences to this continent.
Finally, I believe it to be imperative in Australia’s interest that immediate and concerted efforts shall be instituted by the British Commonwealth to arrive at a permanent and stable solution of the J apanese problem. If this task is neglected much longer, dire consequences could ensue. I shall await with interest further comments by the Minister upon his suggestion that a Pacific regional pact be formed for the purpose of common defence against an aggressor. The Minister was rather vague and promised to take the House into his confidence but the suggestion that participation of the United States would give the pact substance that it would otherwise lack is a most interesting one and opens up all sorts of possibilities. I hope that there is not at the back of the Minister’s mind the idea that Australia contemplates a drift away from Great Britain. If that is so, there is cause for perturbation. The Melbourne Age in its leading article of the 13th March, 1950, summarized in the following terms the misgivings that are felt in many places concerning this matter : -
Australians will be perturbed if there is to be any radical change in policy. Any departure from the existing relationship with the United Kingdom - a relationship through which there runs a blood vein of the strongest family sentiment and sustained by an enormous volume of trade - would be serious for Australia. Economically it is still the United Kingdom which absorbs the bulk of Australia’s primary products and not the United States whose imports from this country aTe a mere bagatelle by comparison. The same relationships with the United States cannot prevail. In the coming months, therefore, it will he necessary for Canberra to give meticulous care to the interpretation of Mr. Spender’s declaration on this specific point, and to watch exactly the character of these new relationships which the Government now intends to pursue in its policy towards the United States.
I trust that the Minister will give practical reasons why Australia should be interested in a pact with the United States. If Australia enters into a pact with the British Commonwealth of Nations supporting the Pacific and America, Australia’s future will be made much safer. I hope that the House will have many opportunities to discuss foreign affairs in the future, because Australia’s destiny is indissolubly bound up with what is occurring in the Pacific, and any unwise or hasty decisions by the Government could prejudice Australia’s future as a nation.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– I rise to support the motion for the printing of the ministerial statement on international affairs, and in doing so [ should like to pay a tribute to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) for the excellent survey of the foreign situation which he lias made to the House. I was gratified to hear him say that it is our constant desire that the United Kingdom shall regain its economic strength as quickly as possible.
Few people doubt the necessity for maintaining the British Empire as such, particularly from the standpoint of our own preservation. The maintenance of a strong Empire depends on two factors. The first is leadership, and the second is the advantage that can be gained from such a union by the various member nations. I believe that Britain is the only member of the Commonwealth that can lead the Empire. If that point is disputed, I suggest that no other member would be acceptable to other members of the British Commonwealth, and therefore it must be agreed that the only possible head of the Empire is Great Britain. In order to carry out its functions, Britain must give strong leadership, encouragement and inspiration so that the Empire’ as a whole can draw a tangible advantage from the union. The Empire cannot be retained as a first-class power by any other means.
We gain considerable, commercial advantages from being a member of the Empire, but apart from that fact it is vital that we should strengthen the heart of the British Commonwealth so that it can continue to be that source of inspiration which has been its role in the past. It is for those reasons that the present condition of the British economy is of such concern to us. The interest is not merely sentimental but is vital, and therefore we should direct our minds to finding ways and means by which we mayassist to solve the great problem of stabilizing the British economy.
There are already signs that the Empire may break up. Let us not overlook the fact that every member that leaves the union weakens the morale and prestige of the Empire. Egypt, Burma, and Ireland have left it, and India has nearly withdrawn from it. The British situation is not fully understood by a great majority of the people. The problem is involved and complicated. Experts have tried to explain it, and have prescribed remedies for restoring the United Kingdom to a condition of wellbeing. The problem has given the socialists an excuse to further their ruinous system. How miserably that system has failed is apparent to every one who has studied the position. If proof is needed of that fact, it is to be found .in the recent devaluation of the British £1. That action, in effect, was an admission of failure, and was forced upon the country by stern economic facts that, could be read only by those who understood the situation.
The socialists and the ill-informed say that the devaluation of the £1 has been forced upon the United Kingdom by
America, and! some people believe tha-t statement. “What possible advantage can the devaluation of the British £1 be to America? That country immediately loses its trade advantage, and even though the value of American exports to Australia may rise, no corresponding advantage is gained by the Americans, because the price of our exports, such as wool, does not become cheaper in America. The effect, indeed, has .been to cause prices to rise here, thus increasing the inflationary trend.
The Minister for External Affairs has said, very rightly, that if the people are not kept sufficiently informed of changing circumstances in international affairs, great mistakes will be made. We are not being told the truth. That deception is typical of socialist practice. This country, apart from the trade disadvantage to which I have referred, lost heavily in respect of the International Monetary Fund as the result of the increase of the price of dollars. Economists and planners try to explain that we do not lose by that kind of currency manipulation, but to me, as a layman, the problem is purely arithmetical. We had prospects of obtaining dollar credits amounting to £200,000,000, which could.have been purchased at the rate of Gs. 2d. a dollar, but the cost has now risen to 8s. 11-Jd- a dollar. Common sense, therefore, tells us that the devaluation of the currency has not benefited us in that respect.
The stability of sterling is an Empire matter, and the British Government should have told us of its intention to devalue the £1 in order that we could have re-shaped our policy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, who attended the Washington Conference last year, went so far as to say that the subject of devaluation was not even on the agenda. Is that likely to strengthen confidence in England, and the bonds of Empire? Of course, it is not ! The action of the United Kingdom Government in withholding from Australia information about its intention to devalue the £1 was no way to treat a full partner in the British Commonwealth. We are plainly in the backwash of the British socialist plan, which is ruining England and the Empire, and will ultimately be disastrous to Australia itself. The socialists are not approaching the problem squarely, and they are using the present unhappy situation to further their objectives. We must understand their problem, which is also our problem, so that we may be able to contribute to the rehabilitation of Great. Britain.
The people of England may be likened to a number of persons living in a house who are dependent upon outside sources for their food. Suddenly, because of a series of unfortunate happenings one-half of the food supply is cut off. What is the position of the people? Either onehalf of them must leave the house, or all of them must share the reduced quantity of food. The second course means that their standard of living must be reduced. The problem is not new, but has been developing for many years. It began after World War I., and, of course, was greatly aggravated by World War LT., and the socialists’ plans. Because of competition from America and other manufacturing countries, Great Britain cannot regain its industrial supremacy. America possesses natural advantages that Great Britain lacks, and the British people would indeed need to be a super race in order to be able to compete on equal terms with the United States. America has the advantage of having raw material on hand. It has power coming out of the ground, as it were, in the form of oil, and a large home market. England has little raw material. Its power has to be dug out of the ground from thousands of feet below the surface in the form of coal, and its markets are scattered throughout the world. The socialists, instead of using the vast resources of the Empire intelligently, have embarked upon a plan that has caused an impasse in our trade, and is seriously weakening Empire relations.
England and Australia are complementary to one another. England has too many people, and Australia has too few. I was astonished a few days ago when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) stated that Australia would not be able to maintain the number of migrants that the Government was bringing to this country. I believe that the immigration programme should have paid far greater attention to bringing British people to this country as distinct from other European races.
Now let us consider the British plan, the effect of which was manifested in the devaluation of sterling. The nationalization of coal and transport was a heavy load for British industry to carry. Other government regulations such as price-fixing, control of exports and similar impediments with which we are all familiar were burdens that industry could no longer carry. Due to those burdens British industry has lost its one-time supremacy. The British steel industry is next on the list for nationalization. The British socialists, in advancing their reason for deciding to nationalize the steel industry, claim that too much of the industry’s profits has been paid out to shareholders in the past, and therefore the industry should be taken over. They cite figures that show that in the ‘thirties an average of £6,000,000 annually was re-invested in the industry, whereas to-day an amount of £168,000,000 is required to put the industry on a competitive basis with steel industries elsewhere.
Honorable members interjecting,
– This is a matter of foreign affairs. This is a British problem and that is most important in connexion with foreign affairs. The reasons advanced by the socialists for the nationalization of the steel industry may sound all right to uneducated people who do not understand the position, but only half the story has been told. The rate of income tax in Great Britain is almost confiscatory. In addition to that there is a special surtax on undistributed profits which heavily discourages the reinvestment of capital in industry.
Consider what happened to the British coal industry. Admittedly working conditions in the British coal-mining industry are not attractive. British coal has to be sought at great depths, yet Britain has to compete with European countries where the coal levels are not so far underground. The taxation factor I have already mentioned applies equally to the coal industry. But the British socialists say that conditions in the British coal-mining industry have improved, and also cite figures to prove that production of coal has increased. Here, again, the whole story has not been told, because a very much larger percentage of surface coal, which reduces the average quality of all the coal mined, was included in these production figures. I was informed by Mr. G. R. T. Taylor, a director of the London Midland and Scottish Railway prior to the nationalization of that company and also one time deputy director of Vickers Armstrong Limited, that the average ash content of British coal has risen from 5 per cent. to 30 per cent. and that whereas the coal should have an average of 13,000 British thermal units a ton the thermal content has now fallen to as low as 10,000 units a ton. In addition the price of coal had risen by the end of 1949 by 17s. 3d. per ton. As all industry depends on power and transport, I shall now examine what happened in connexion with Britain’s railways.
– Order !
– I rise to order. Is a discussion of the British coal-mining industry in order during a debate on international affairs?
– I should not like to say that it is exactly in order unless it relates to some particular phase of Great Britain’s activity in playing its part in international affairs. The honorable member should not dwell very long on that particular aspect.
– I consider, Mr. Speaker, that my remarks relate to Great Britain’s international position. I thank you for your protection. Power and transport have a tremendous bearing on Great Britain’s economy because they are the two basic requirements on which industry depends. I have cited the instances of coal and steel and now I turn to Great Britain’s railways. Let us see what has happened to the London, Midland and Scottish Railawy, since the nationalization of that undertaking. This company was capitalized at £1,000,000,000, and the average annual profit over the years prior to nationalization as about £35,000,000. Each year adequate provision was made for depreciation and reconstruction. Since the nationalization of the British railways the loss on the four companies that were taken over and run as one unit has been £36,000,000. That was up to the end of 1948. Three of the companies, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, the Great “Western Railway, and the Southern Railway were previously profitable. The fourth, the London and North Eastern Railway, was run at a loss, but as that railway represented only 28 per cent, of Great Britain’s railway system it could not possibly be claimed that the whole of the loss under nationalization could be attributed to the operations of that one small company. Fares and freights have been increased, but have so far proved insufficient to bridge the gap. When I was in England the authorities were trying to offset the loss on the railways by cutting down on the programme of replacement and reconstruction. As a result, the efficiency of the railways has been considerably affected.
Devaluation, which has had such a serious effect on us, partly reflects Britain’s loss of efficiency, and it may well be asked why we have to follow Britain by devaluating our currency. The answer to that question is that our affairs are bound up so closely with those of Great Britain. All our food contracts are written in terms of sterling, so that we, apparently had no alternative. Let us consider a few instances of how we are being disadvantaged by the socialist planners.
– How much loss is the farmer getting for his wheat?
– The honorable member can find that out. Wool is possibly our greatest dollarearner, but we do not receive all the dollars that it earns. That fact is presumably the result of an incorrect valuation of the various world currencies which enables the United States of America to buy Australian wool more cheaply through other countries than it can buy it directly from Australia. Australia is therefore not. obtaining the full benefit in dollars of its wool production. Tobacco is another instance. We are short of tobacco in Australia, and when I ask manufacturer? the reason for the shortage they say. “ We cannot obtain enough dollars to buy more American leaf “. Yet the British manufacturers are able to buy tobacco-leaf from America, process it and then send it out in manufactered form to Australia where it is sold at exhorbitant prices. Australia has established a board of control to regulate tobacco supplies of our own manufacture. Now we see other commodities such as British chocolates on the Australian market. The thing is ridiculous.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting wide of the mark in a debate on foreign affairs. His remarks are very intimately connected with the exchange position in international trade, but are getting outside the scope of what is generally considered relevant to a debate on international affairs.
– I must bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I have to bring these points up because they deal with matters that have such a very big effect on the future of our imperial relations. They are serious to us, because we are an integral part of the British Empire and can do so much to assist in the general problems of that Empire. I merely desire to draw attention to some of the very foolish things that are happening. We have had the spectacle of Australian custard powder being unloaded from a ship in England and British custard powder being loaded into the same ship for export to this country. [Extension of time granted.’]
– I remind the honorable member again that he must discuss the subject of international affairs.
– While all this is going on, essential industry, which is the basis upon which British power and prestige has been established throughout the world, is short of manpower. A similar problem exists here where too much man-power is also taken out of productive industry and put into non-productive industry. The British plan to provide for increased production has failed because of American competition and it. should be scrapped as quickly as possible. A part of the plan was to develop food projects in the dominions and colonies. It is in that connexion that my remarks are relevant to the subject of international affairs. The British plan for increased production presupposes a continuation of currency control and the exclusion of American goods from this, country.
– Order ! The Chair will not allow the honorable member to proceed along those lines. Despite the fact that I have warned him on two occasions that he must confine his remarks to the subject of international affairs, he is still attempting to deal with evade, finance, and man-power. I direct the honorable member, to discuss the subject before- the Chair.
– The subject of international affairs involves, among other things, a consideration of events that are taking place in England and the United States of America. The establishment of a sterling bloc presupposes the exclusion of American trade, yet the Minister for External Affairs has 3aid that we should do everything we can do to cement the good relations that exist between Australia and the United States of America. The establishment of a sterling bloc constitutes an unfriendly net towards the United States of America ii.nd runs counter to the appeal of the Minister for the utmost co-operation between ourselves and the people of the United States of America. The production of large quantities of food in this country will not solve the British problem. England, if she goes on as at present, will be as short of sterling as she is of dollars. Such schemes are merely socialistic experiments. I have examined one of the schemes now in operation at Peak Downs, in Queensland, and what struck me most was the fact that not one British migrant was employed there. British people should have been brought here to man projects of that kind.
-Order ! The honorable member is obviously attempting to evade the miling of the Chair. I shall not permit it. The subject before the Chair is the statement of the Minister for External Affairs on international affairs v bich has no relation to immigration of British citizens or the establishment of food-producing schemes.
– These points were raised by the Minister himself when he dealt with the. need . for closer Empire co-operation. The honorable gentleman also dealt with the dollar problem. These very pertinent points must be considered in any examination of international policy. I believe that the only solution of the problem of interEmpire trade and trade with the United States of America lies in abandonment of the present currency control.
.- I have only a limited time at my disposal to deal with some aspects of foreign relationships and international obligations and understandings, and I shall therefore devote my time to a discussion of the situation in Asia. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) has, of necessity, referred to that aspect of our foreign policy only in. broad generalities. A proper understanding of the position in Asia is one factor in the Australian scene to-day which needs sober analysis if the safety of this nation is to be assured. The position in Asia has deteriorated very rapidly during the last few years and particularly in the last twelve months. An admission has been made by the great United States of America that its policy in Asia has been wrong. The slipping away of the white man’s prestige in Asia has been well highlighted in various cables in the press and in the statement of the Minister for External Affairs. We must look to Asia and its development in order to determine how we in this country shall live. If we misjudge the situation or misread the signs that are so apparent to-day history may well say in the future that for some time the white race inhabited the continent of Australia. The white man’s prestige in Asia has never before been at a lower ebb. There are many reasons for that which one need not discuss here. We have been wrong-minded and we have done many wrong -things. The American Department of State has recently issued a White Paper consisting of 1,054 pages in which there are admissions of failure in relation to China. As far as the United States is concerned, China, which has been a moral ward of the United States is in the position of a young lady who had been incarcerated in a reformatory for her own good but who has escaped and has gone somewhere else. During the war China was riven into two camps. There is only one camp in China to-day. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek is now in Formosa, while Mao Tse-tung dominates practically the whole of China. This is a matter which one must consider when discussing foreign policy as it applies close to home. There is a kind of oedipus complex in the Australian set-up - a desire to crawl hack into the bosom of Europe when our future is so dependent on what is happening in Asia. So, we must analyse piecemeal what has happened in China, Indonesia and India. China has been lost to the democracies. The reason for that is well summarized by Mr. Macmahon Ball, who in a broadcast a few nights ago said -
The trouble with so much of our foreign affairs and relationships and with so much of our discussion of these things is that we insist upon looking on the East with Western eyes.
It is obvious that the Communists are not completely Stalinists. The dissipated forces -of China have been riven into two camps, one the feudalistic camp of Chiang Kai-shek, and the other the Communist camp of Mao Tse-tung. One side or the other had to win. The great United States has admitted in the White Paper to which I have referred that its policy in China has been a tragic failure. In Indo-China, almost the same ridiculous .state of affairs exists. It has been said by Pandit Nehru, the great philosopher and leader of the Indian nation, that Asia is suspended between two worlds, one dead and the other waiting to be born. The revolt of Asia is one of the greatest single events in human history. Yet, we are talking about what repercussions may come from Europe! The problem of Asia is on our doorstep, and we must learn and understand what is happening there because every move of the resurgent peasants and socialists has ji great bearing on this country. We must look at this problem stripped of diplomatic language. One despairs of what -will happen when one hears so often in ths country our next door neighbour referred to as the “Far East”. That attitude is persisted in despite the fact that -we have suffered casualties in that area and have been threatened with invasion from it. Yet. newspapers in their editorials still speak about complications in the ‘‘Fax East”. If they were forced by circumstances to use, instead, the term “ our next door neighbour of the near North “ they would bring this vital problem much closer to Australians. China has been lost, and we shall simply have to see what can be done about that loss by investigating every aspect of the problem. In IndoChina we have tried to stem back the tide by helping to create the puppet States of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. They seem like Ruritania and like mythical kingdoms in a musical comedy of the good old “ Merry Widow “ days. How can they resist this pressure?
We have to face the proposition that there are in Asia forces that are good and forces that are against the way of life as we see it. In China itself, the. people were ^denied even the subsistence line of living .and, as the result of penetration into the north of China the Communists were able to sweep through. Indo-China may soon come to a resolution of its troubles in a way that we do not want it to do. In resurgent India we find socialists in power, just as socialists are in power in Indonesia. It is clear on evidence abounding that China, Indonesia and India must have capital, but they will never have it again on the terms of the “ white master “. They want capital in order to develop their own countries. They are intensely nationalistic and intend to develop Asia after they have thrown the white man out neck and crop. We must accept the resurgent States of Asia which are ultra-nationalistic and have programmes through which they are going to mould Asia nearer to their heart’s desire. However,, in the centres of depression, whether they be communist, socialist or nationalist, some form of stable government will gradually emerge. The Minister’s plan pre-supposes that we shall do something to assist in this set-up. The history of the white man in Asia has “been very bad, indeed. We have given handouts, as the United States of America has done,’ through Unrra. We have interfered in a military sense and the net result of that action is plain. It has resulted in the complete loss of China. If we have a new scheme to assist these new republics in Asia we must take them on their own valuation and assist them but not in order to gain political advantage or from considerations of defence considerations, because present events represent the vengeance of Asia following upon thousands of years of neglect, and the Asian people to-day place little value on life because their governments are prone to be swept away by the next tide.
– The honorable member is just peddling a lot of Communist propaganda.
– The Minister’s statement is based on broad generalities. Let ns look at the picture of Asia. Those countries have changed their outlook. I remind the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who just said that I am talking communism, that to-day China is mainly a Communist nation. However, Asia is not Communist or capitalistic; the issue is socialism or anarchy. Having won independence, Asian- leaders lack the knowledge to make it work. Centralized government is in conflict with the village council and communism is in conflict with recently established order. The revolt in Asia is a rebellion of the peasants. The proletariat means little, or nothing, to the Asian mind. The peasant wants land, and the people want food. The break-up of land ownership has been slow and tortuous, and the village councils are angry and truculent. Central government to the peasant is just another far-off power as remote as the Emperor was, and as irritating as the tax-gatherer of the bad old days was. Against the new governments in Asia are thrown the nationalists of the extreme wing who think things have not gone far enough, the Communists who want to cause a break-up as a requirement of their plan for a Soviet Asia, and the war lords who are waiting their chance for the racket and the squeeze. If the technicians and the bureaucrats with the “ know-how “ go into Asia and do not attempt to assist to make those republics work ; if land is not given to landless people, and if food is not given to the hungry and work to the workless, those republics will be merely a bridge to communism. But communism will be merely a bridge to anarchy, and anarchy will mean a return of the war lord, the sultan, the nabob and the rajah, with their soldiers and their serfs. I know that there are “old China hands “ on the other side of the House who scoff at the idea of ever being able to do anything with the East. I exclude the honorable member for Henty from that statement. But the trouble is that the countries that were our allies in the recent war, particularly the United States of America, have been dubious about supporting socialist States in the East with the white man’s outlook. The support our Allies gave in China went in the wrong direction. One farseeing American has placed that fact on record. He is Admiral Chas. M. Cooke, jun., China Coast and Ashore Commander, Seventh United States Fleet, who said -
The disaster that has overtaken the United States of America- in the Pacific to-day is pi-eater than Pearl Harbour. Much of Unrra supplies had to go to feed the Communists. With my aeroplanes I dropped 1,000,000 lb. of goods in coastal areas, an operation arranged with Nationalist permission. It all went to the Communists, none of it went to the destitute. We know that. The State Department knows that.
From my own personal knowledge, I support that statement. In Shanghai, I saw the disaster that attended Unrra. There were waste and confusion everywhere. The top Chinese got what they wanted; the workers in Shanghai got a shirt or two; the black market got new and unexpectedly welcome supplies, and the peasants got nothing. Fishing craft were left to rot, machinery was never erected and blood plasma went into the production of bigger and better watermelons in the paddy fields of the Yangste Valley. It would be amusing if it were not so tragic, and one remembers that Australia paid £20,000,000 of the taxpayer’s money to Unrra. That was a welcome change of diet for the ragged battalions of Mao Tse-tung that were moving to invest Shanghai. Yet, we talk about our plans for China. Unrra was more successful in other countries than it was in China. During 1946-47, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang forces received from Unrra 713,000,000 dollars worth of Unrra aid, 535,000,000 dollars worth of goods and 178,000,000 dollars worth of transport services and administration. Chiang Kai-shek received 855,000,000 dollars worth in war supplies and fixed installations, plus 695,000,000 dollars worth of purely military aid, the grand total of aid given to him being valued at 2,263,000,000 dollars. They are staggering figures, but they have meant absolutely nothing. It is also on record that American equipment that was sent to Chiang Kai-shek but fell into the hands of the Communists shortened the conquest of China by three years.
Despite those facts which I have briefly summarized, the masses in the subcontinent of China which are not Communist still subsist on the bowl of rice level. There is abundant evidence that the three mcn who sway the Asiatic people to-day. are highly intelligent. If Mao Tse-tung >‘ent to Moscow to study communism, Nehru went to Great Britain to study democracy and Sjahrir went to Holland to study socialism. The best evidence on what sort of people are emerging in Asia to-day is to be obtained from experts who are ou the spot. Recently, discussing the form that the new Asian republics would take, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, son of the ex-British Prime Minister and now Special Commissioner, South-East Asia, said -
I do not think thu Asian people care for communism a.s communism. Their very natures are opposed to it but sometimes it is a means to an end. But there are two great causes they believe in passionately - national freedom and the uplift of the Asian masses. If we western democracies show that we strongly support these policies Asia will never go Communist.
There is a necessity for a statement in support of those policies, not only by Australia but also by all the Pacific powers. The Minister’s statement need not be a woolly one. Let him say that he realizes the aspirations of Asia and appreciates them. He has admitted that the Government would recognize some form of communism in China so long as it was not imperialistic communism. The revolt of the East was not built on Communist manifestoes so much as on the American Declaration of Independence; not so much on Leninism as on the desire for liberty. In discussing the revolution in China we have to remember that the East is no longer inscrutable in its motives. There has never been a revolution down the ages which has been so thoroughly documented. Each one of the leaders in Asia has written a series of books. They have recorded their beliefs during the days of struggle. We can learn of the rigidity of Mao Tse-tung’s principles and we can read of the Moslem races going as socialist as Clement Attlee, Leon Blum or Benedict Chifley.
I do not entirely accept the gloomy picture that the Minister has painted, although I understand his forebodings. The Indian leader, Pandit Nehru, in a declaration to the Indian National Congress, said -
I am convinced that the only key to thu solution of the world’s problems lies in socialism and when I use this word I do not mean it in the vague humanitarian sense but in the scientific economic sense. I seu no way of ending the poverty, the vast unemployment, the degradation and the subjection of the Indian people except through socialism.
The dictatorship of the proletariat means nothing to the Indian peasant.
Sutan Sjahrir, the Indonesian intellectual, who is one of the greatest men in his country, has this to say in his book Indonesians’ Fight -
The Indonesian Republic is an instrument of the democratic revolution. All laws that are not yet perfectly democratic must be made so. We must prove that the essence of our beliefs is that our country should have freedom of thought, speech, religion, writing, choice of livelihood and education and that all governing bodies should be elected by popular vote.
Sjahrir says something about fascism. He writes -
People are wrong if they believe our military leaders will lead our political revolution. In recent years we have had altogether too much experience of military power. Our youth must never be influenced by feudal or fascist militarism.
Those are the indoctrinations of the socialists in Asia with whom we have to learn to live. They are not Communists. The man referred to by the honorable gentleman opposite as a. murderer, when he was interviewed by American topranking officers, said, “ How could I be a Communist? I, who pray every day to my God ? “ [Extension of time granted.]
Mao Tse-tung had. this- to say in his statement on. the new democracy -
Democratic government is itself the weapon to kill feudalism and socialism, can. only arise as a popular democracy.
Speaking to an American journalist in 1.944, he said -
In a later statement, he said -
We regard Marxism as a tool. Our main job is to satisfy the- peasant.
The Minister spoke of a Pacific pact. Although we have a defence organization we have to be sure that its use is integrated with schemes which have already been propounded. Any pact of a military nature can only be effective until the relationships between the nations concerned deteriorate or other substantia] plans- are- made. In entering into any alliance, we must remember that Ave have to put our military strength into the field. Out military commitment to the pact could be met by training 50,000 men for service with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. Those men could be recruited on a voluntary basis- instead of implementing the Government’s scheme of compulsory military service.
Australia has not received a penny of reparations from Japan. We have been the mildest of conquerers. We have listened to our allies and have been wheedled into accepting that Japan will be the rampart against communism in Asia. In case it is not, we can make a safeguard. If the Government makes a Pacific pact that requires military commitments, why should it not reinforce the British Commonwealth Occupation Force to the extent of 50,000 men? The British Commonwealth Occupation Force has establishments ‘ in Japan. It has everything there that the Government has not in Australia for the purpose of preparing for war. The Royal Australian Air Force in Japan is a great striking force and could be built up. It is not too much to insist that we have a standing army in Japan for the next ten years and it could solve, so far as we are able- with our limited numbers, the question of military strength for alliances. If we start peddling alliances with America and other countries which are financially and numerically strong and. we have neither money nor men it will look as- if we are going to -a strong ally and. asking for support. I suggest that there would be no opposition on the part of our allies to our keeping the strength of our British Commonwealth Occupa- tion Force troops at 50,000. It is a good thing to train, armed forces where they are likely to be employed and no one will suggest that we are going to war with the Antarctic.
Asia, should be made a live study. I suggest that the scope of the Fulbright m scheme which, has been introduced by the former Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) to bring Asiatic students to this country should be enlarged. Propaganda wins wars before they start. There are 10,000 students in the Russian universities being instructed on the Communist “ line “. There should be 50,000 students in the south-western Pacific area alone,, and 100;000 throughout the whole of. the democratic nations studying democratic methods. In- this way the young brains of China, India, Indonesia and other Asian countries could be challenging foreign ideologies and matching them before the battle starts. People, talk loosely of alliances. There are some positive things that we could do. I repeat that we. could reinforce our land and air forces where they are to-day, and thus give some- reality’ to the idea of a Pacific pact. We must supply goods and services to those democratic countries in Asia that are attempting to survive the blitz of ultra-nationalism on the one hand and communism on the other. If the lights go out in Asia, they will be out for many years to come. Under the Fulbright scheme we can bring Asian students here without conflicting in any way with the White Australia policy, and teach them the technologies, that they demand for their own countries. And what a reward there will be!
Approximately £170,000,000- worth of our goods are urgently required in Indonesia to-day. They range from motor cars to lead pencils for children. Here is a market at our very door, even if we accept it on nothing more than a basis of trade. As a young white country in Asian seas, we must remember that we have a duty to the awakening giant of Asia that is seeking a place in the world. In the time at the disposal of honorable members in this debate, one can attempt only to give a sketchy outline of one’s thoughts. I emphasize, however, that all is not lost in Asia. Communism has gained a hold in China it is true. The western nations backed the wrong horse. Through Unrra, they expended many millions of pounds upon gifts of food, clothing and equipment to the Chinese people, but most of those gifts did not reach their intended destination. The result was that the “ squeeze “ merchants and top Chinese as well as the war lords wrote disaster to our efforts. In India and Indonesia we have a spine of resistance to communism, stretching from Delhi to Djakarta. That will be strengthened by assistance given to Indonesia and other countries by the great United States of America and Australia. As the Minister has said, we must play our part in that rehabilitation scheme.
We hear of a Spender plan for the East; but what the East needs is a great Marshall plan for liberal spending to assist the Asian people to their feet, and to buttress the government. We are fighting, not only for the Indonesian, the Chinese, or the Indian coolie, but for the maintenance of democracy in Asia, and, through that, for the future of every Australian man, woman and child. We must cast our eyes on the Asian scene and endeavour to understand what the Asian is seeking. We must assist him as far as we can with goods and services, and cease, before it is too late, this ridiculous habit of looking continually to Atlantic charters, Atlantic pacts, and other similar regional agreements for our preservation. On the evidence before us, we are on our own in the Pacific. Asian nation or Pacific power, what does it matter? We are an outpost of 8,000,000 people dedicated to the task of being good neighbours to the millions of people to our north. We can, here and now, build up goodwill and strengthen the feeling that we are part of the great southern lands of Asia; that we do “ belong”; that we are not antagonistic; and that we are not a handful of white people who have come to this country to exploit it and then to get out. Our interests are those of Asia. I urge the Minister for External Affairs to provide the House, at the earliest possible opportunity, with a comprehensive report on Asia, including the Japanese peace treaty and the destination of Dutch New Guinea.
-Order ! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
.- This afternoon, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) introduced a humorous note into the debate when he criticized officials of the Department of External Affairs. He said that they were university-trained theorists and that an Australian diplomat could always be detected because his name was “ Percy “ or “ Clarrie “. That seemed to me to be a double-barrelled shot at the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). I do not think that we can be guided very much by names. After all, even the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been named after a long succession of British kings. However, the hume rous touch in the debate did not last long, and most of the speech of the honorable member for Gellibrand was on a very serious note indeed. The same, of course, m:;y be said of most of the speeches in thi:; debate upon foreign affairs, and that is as it should be because all members of this chamber, and, I am sure, all thoughtful people, realize just how uncertain is the future of the world.
Last Thursday night, this House was privileged to hear a discourse on foreign affairs by two men who are particularly well qualified to speak on this subject. The first was the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), a man of outstanding attainments, and one whose ability is recognized not’ only within the confines of his own country, but also in the forums and councils of world politics. The second speaker was the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck), one of the younger generation of Australian diplomats, but a man who, because of his professional training and wide experience, can contribute much wisdom to our deliberations. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), too, has made a brilliant speech, showing evidence of intensive thought. In the face of these knowledgeable contributions to this debate, some new members of this chamber, like myself, realize that in speaking upon such a comprehensive subject, they are running a risk of finding themselves in very deep water. However, I believe that the ordinary layman is justified in making certain comments, which I hope, will not be mistaken for criticism. The right honorable member for Barton appeared to be looking into the wrong end of a telescope. He was seeing his object, but as from a great distance. Honorable members will recall that most of the right honorable gentleman’s two-hour speech dealt with the United Nations, and that, in the course of his remarks, he quoted from several books and pamphlets. He instanced some praiseworthy endeavours of the United Nations and related some of its activities to the Australian scene. When I say that he appeared to be looking through the wrong end of a telescope, I mean that apparently the right honorable gentleman was viewing Australia’s foreign policy only as a piece of the vast pattern of the United Nations. I hope to be able to show why I think that is a wrong approach.
As I see the situation, Australia has become a nation. It is a member of a Commonwealth of Nations. We are sitting to-night in the Australian National Parliament. As governments come and go, the Parliament throughout the years does much to mould the Australian national character. Our outlook first of all must be Australian. In debating international affairs we should be guided by the fact that Australia is a nation and should formulate policies that are wholly Australian in conception and application. This emphasis i3 needed for a variety of reasons. For instance, a flood of immigrants is coming into this country. Those people are very welcome, but we must not let them gain the impression that Australia is just a branch of the International Refugee Organization, a mere department of the United Nations. They must be made to understand that Australia is a nation in its own right. Sometimes I think that our immigrants serve a very brief apprenticeship for the inheritance that they receive when they become Australian citizens. We should be very jealous at all times of the dignity of our status as an independent nation.
That point of view does not discount the importance of the United Nations. The right honorable member for Barton suggested that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) had underestimated the importance and authority of the United Nations. I disagree with that view. If there seemed to be any lack of emphasis upon Australia’s loyalty to the organization, it was merely because the fact was so apparent that it was not necessary for the Minister to lay stress upon it. Notwithstanding all its limitations, including its lack of any force greater than that of moral persuasion, the United Nations still remains the only potential instrument for establishing world order, peace and security. As the right honorable member for Barton said, our support for the organization must be unfaltering and I am sure that it will be so. However, we cannot ignore the melancholy facts and, although they may be distasteful, we must face them realistically. Right in the body of the United Nations is the one power in the world that is likely to become an aggressor. Would we therefore be justified in placing unqualified confidence in the councils of the United Nations? Despite what the right honorable member for Barton has said in reference to underestimating the power and authority of the United Nations - which attitude I have sought to show is incorrect -I submit it would be infinitely more dangerous to overestimate those powers while Russia remains a member and continues her present course. The honorable member for Curtin reminded us of the vast military alliance that was created by Russia as recently as 1948, bringing no fewer than 24 nations under Soviet domination into one tremendous force. The existence of such ‘ an alliance, coupled with the known imperialistic expansion policy, of Russia, makes the United Nations membership of those nations something of which we must be suspicious. It is arguable whether it is better to have them inside the organization than it would be to exclude them. At least while they are members we have contact with them and have some hold over them, even though that hold may be only theoretical. I agree most emphatically with the right honorable member for Barton that we should never stop trying to remove the barriers that divide us from the Communist-dominated countries. However, if Russia continues to follow its present course and remains in the United Nations, we must establish some policy in relation to international affairs that will be additional and complementary to, but independent of, our association with the United Nations. That policy must be wholly Australian, and it must be maintained irrespective of any help that we may get from the United Nations in a future emergency.
The honorable member for Curtin urged us to apply ourselves vigorously to the practice of diplomacy on a basis of stark realism. I agree with him. The need for realism in diplomacy is obvious. A revolutionary change for the worse has taken place in diplomatic procedures in recent years. In support of that statement, I quote what a former head of the British diplomatic service said recently -
There is no sphere where the downward curve has been so steep as in diplomacy. Foreign diplomacy to-day is calculated deliberately to foster bad relationships. The successful Communist statesmen to-day are those who not only create and foster bad relations but make no pretence of following the normally accepted practices of diplomacy, but are employed for the dissemination of hostile propaganda, espionage, subversion and even sabotage.
Such declarations as that are amply borne out by the United States Government’s statement on world communism and the report of the spy trials in Canada. Only to-day I read in the Atlantic Monthly an article containing statements of a similar nature. Whilst agreeing wholeheartedly with the honorable member for Curtin that we should follow every channel that is known to the diplomat, I submit that we should pack our kid gloves away in mothballs until much happier days return. If bare-knuckle diplomacy should be needed, I am sure that Australia can produce it.
I return now to my original proposition that, in debating international affairs in this House, our chief aim should be to discuss them from an Australian point of view. We know that the United Nations organization and a planned global strategy are of urgent importance, but such things are like the sea on which a vessel sails, and our principal concern should be to navigate the ship of Australia safely across that sea. The first half of this century has almost ended. Many remarkable events have occurred during the last 50 years. .Some of the most amazing progress that the world has ever known has been made in various walks of human life, and some of the most appalling catastrophes in history have . occurred during the same period. During the next 50 years catastrophes more appalling than those that have occurred before can befall us if we do not readjust our ideas. One important event of the comparatively recent past that has had a great effect upon Australia was the RussoJapanese war of 1905 when, for the first time since the fall of Constantinople, theeast triumphed over the west. Since then there has been a gradual but certain elimination of the white races from the east. Another important event is the fantastic growth of communism. Only 80 years ago two foreigners met casually in, of all places in the world, the British Museum. As a result of that meeting, communism, the greatest force that theworld has ever experienced, with theexception of Christianity, developed. Today communism controls the destinies of* one-third of the population of the world and, as we know, its emissaries arepenetrating more deeply into the remaining two-thirds. We must not underestimate this force. The Minister for External Affairs said that communism might bog down in China, and it is possible that it will do so, because similarhappenings have occurred before. The Manchus, Mongols and Turks invaded China in the past, and they wereabsorbed by the great mass of the Chinesepeople. But whether or not communism does become bogged down in China will not alter the significant fact that thecult, teaching or religion of communism, call it what you will, has provided a common bond that has united many of the peoples of the east who were previously divided by religion, colour,, customs, tribal beliefs or other factors. Because those peoples were divided, they were weakened, but now they are united and, therefore, they are stronger than they were before. It is interesting to speculate whether the teachings of Christian missionaries would have provided the basis of a common bond between the eastern peoples, if the missionaries had been assisted in their work. The great principles of democracy might have formed such a common bond if our traders and government officials in the east had practised them sincerely. Even now it may not be too late for those things to make some impact upon the peoples of the east. Those are thoughts by the way. The cold facts are that the white men have been pushed out of the east, that in many instances the eastern peoples are bound together by the unholy ties of communism, and that they are in the midst of a great upsurge of nationalism, which is often fanned and inflamed by agents of the Soviet.
Let us imagine a map of the Middle East and Asia. On such a map, if we trace the boundaries of the nations we see the greatest pincer movement that the world has ever known. One arm swings from Russia, through Germany and the Balkans and then across to Turkey, Iran, Irak and Afghanistan. The other sweeps down through China to the Malay Peninsula. Between the two arms of the pincers lies the bulk of the world’s population and much of the world’s wealth, especially oil. At the end of the eastern arm of the pincers lies this land of Australia, which is geographically isolated and separated from other concentrations of white people by thousands of miles of ocean. “With the exception of New Zealand, it is the only representative of western civilization in this part of the world. To use an Australian idiom, we are like the well known bird on the well known rock. In the lands to the north of us there live 1,000,000,000 people. [Extension of time granted.] Those lands are already grossly overpopulated, and experts have told us that within a. few years their populations will have increased by 50 per cent. “Where will this surplus population go? They cannot go north into Siberia; to the west, there are mostly desert lands and mountains ; they cannot go to the east into the
Pacific Ocean; but to the south of them lies this great empty land. When we were young we used to joke about the “ yellow peril “. We referred to some kinds of tan shoes as “yellow perils”, and we laughed when we saw Japanese sailors with their white gloves and bunches of flowers, but last week the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) told us of the day when the people in Darwin ceased to laugh, and many of us had the grin wiped off our faces in the South- West Pacific. We must ensure that that will not occur again.
It is against that background that I approach, not the details but the broad principles enunciated in the statement that was made by the Minister for External Affairs. The principal proposal is that we should concentrate our efforts upon expanding our trade with and giving economic assistance to neighbouring countries as a means of establishing permanent peace and friendship with them, based upon tolerance and mutual understanding. Trade is of great importance. It has been truly said that frontiers that are often crossed by traders are rarely crossed by armies. The provision of economic assistance to neighbouring countries to help them in their development is important for a variety of reasons, but mainly because Russia is more likely to continue the cold war than it is to start a shooting war. Under conditions of cold warfare, economic help is a vital matter.
We must face another sombre fact. Despite the fact that we may have all the goodwill, tolerance and best intentions in the world, and notwithstanding that we give to neighbouring countries all the economic assistance that we can give them, we may still fail in our efforts. Therefore the problem of defence is very important. The Minister has stated that he envisages a non-aggresive pact into the fabric of which, somehow or other, the might and power of the United States of America will be woven. It is obvious that, without the United States of America, such a pact would be ineffective. When we were in danger during the war, we called upon America and it came to our aid in a magnificent manner, but we must remember that it was not our cry but the bombs that fell upon Pearl Harbour that brought America into the war. Had those bombs not fallen, it is certain that America would not have come into the war for a long time ; and that would have been fatal for us. It is imperative that we should make arrangements now for our future security.
I had hoped to say something about atomic warfare, but there is not sufficient time at my disposal to enable me to do so in detail. Last week one honorable member stated that the atomic bomb made all other methods of warfare obsolete. That was a careless statement. I wanted to say something about our antisubmarine defences. The submarine will always be a deadly weapon so far as Australia is concerned, but we do not possess one escort vessel that is capable of catching a modern submarine travelling under the water, let alone on the surface. I wanted to say something about fast motor torpedo boats, which would provide us with a formidable line of defence in the reef-strewn waters of our northern approaches. I am sure that we are all hoping and praying that an emergency will not occur. We are all prepared to do everything we can to promote peace, especially those of us who have sons and daughters. We are waiting for the day when we can be sure that our vision of permanent and lasting peace is an accomplished fact. In the meantime we would be sadly lacking in a sense of responsibility if we did not discuss the possibility of an emergency, and be prepared for it if it should come. We should remember that defence is not aggression, and that preparedness is not war-mongering. Who of the honorable members in this House would be prepared to say “it cannot happen again “ ? If it did happen again, it would be sheer madness to rely on the United Nations, as the right honorable member for Barton said last Thursday. In all our approaches to external powers, whether they be through diplomatic, economic or developmental channels, through the United Nations or just through casual conversation in high places, it should at all times be made clear that we are men of peace and that this country is a nation with peaceful intentions. We want to co-operate, to be good neighbours and good friends with all people, and we have no desire at any time to interfere in the internal affairs of any other nation. We mind our own business. However, other nations should be warned that they must not misinterpret our peaceful ambitions for weakness. We should tei] them quite plainly that if any other power enters our lands or dares to set foot on our territories there will be no compromise; we shall fight.
.- The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) is to be congratulated on his statement in this House on foreign affairs. There is no personal criticism of him in the expression of my regret that this House is following a practice, which has developed over a period, of having omnibus debates on foreign affairs. The Minister, in a lengthy statement, attempted to survey political developments throughout the world. Honorable members might concentrate their attention on the practice of the House of Commons where specific and limited debates on one particular subject of foreign affairs are the rule. A six-hour debate might take place on the problems of Palestine or on policy in Greece, or there may be a debate for a limited time on some other individual item of foreign affairs. Such a debate gives a Minister the benefit of the reasoned opinion of the House on some specific point. The method adopted in this House is far too discursive, and is not conducive to a detailed study of items of foreign policy upon which the Government must make up its mind.
When the Minister referred to a Pacific pact, I take it that he must have had some definite scheme in mind. In his broad and general statement he did not give us a great deal of information on this important subject. Frequently during the course of this debate it has been said that party politics should stop at the water’s edge and that in Australia’s foreign policy no disagreement should occur. If this House is to confine its debates to generalizations and broad issues then that will be so, but when a more specific proposal such as the Pacific pact is introduced there may be a great deal of disagreement about the extent of this country’s economic and military commitments. Therefore, such subjects cannot usefully be debated until discussions are confined to one matter at a time. A Pacific pact is a good case in point. There should be a debate on that matter alone. All its details should be set out and the House should be able to fully debate this country’s commitments. I presume that it is the intention of the Minister to invite India to take part in such a pact. Pandit Nehru seems to have made mall y statements on the subject which all tend to confirm the view that India would not be a party to it. Hatta, one of the leaders in Indonesia, is strongly swayed by Pandit Nehru, and he may well be influenced on this question by the attitude of India. The situation in Burma is too confused for that country to be regarded as a likely adherent to the pact. There has been no clear pronouncement by the Government of the United States on this matter, although there have been press statements made in that country. The United States must have something to gain from the pact before it will subscribe to it. The relative power position between Australia arid the United States must be regarded when considering the matter of the Pacific pact. The United States would be asked to underwrite our position in the Pacific in return for our support, which would be forthcoming in any case, in an international conflict. But, any support that we could give would be of no major consequence in an atomic war. It is well to ask ourselves in view of the fact that we have had one real gain from our association with America during the last war, whether the Pacific pact would represent another gain. The real gain to this country from the last war is that the United States now has possession of the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands, the Ladrone Islands, Okinawa and Two Jima. They are all vital strategic points which, in the event of any future southern expansion on the part of Japan, would cause it to come into immediate conflict with a major power. So far -as the Pacific pact is concerned we should reserve our attitude, while welcoming it in principle, because we should know more about it and its implications.
The second interesting reference made by the Minister was to the reconstruction of South-East Asia. I imagine that that problem has been exercising his mind because I take it that the reconstruction of the South and South-East Asian areas was one of the main subjects of discussion at the Ceylon conference recently attended by the Minister. On this subject the Opposition members have been informed only by the rumours they have read. I saw in the press a rumour to the effect that Australia would be committed to £500,000 worth of economic aid to Burma, and rumours of a similar nature concerning other Asiatic countries. On that subject the Minister did not give any details. I hope that the Government’s policy will be generous towards southern Asia, but selectively generous. It seems that the key to the political problem of South-East Asia is food. The Minister mentioned that in Siam the social crisis was not so serious as it was in other parts of southern Asia, and he suggested that that was due to the higher economic standards and the better supply of food. The vital country to rehabilitate, if it is desired to restore sanity to southern Asia, is Burma. In the pre-war period that country was the granary of southern Asia. I have a suspicion that the division of the Communist forces in Burma into two warring parties, thus sowing confusion throughout the land, is part of a deliberate policy to wreck the economic reconstruction of southern Asia. During the five years immediately preceding the war, Burma exported an average of more than 3,000,000 metric tons of rice per annum. In 1947 that export was down to about 798,000 tons, and since the confusion of Burma has begun the export has dwindled further. It is true, as mentioned by the Minister that many Asiatics may live on a ton of rice. The disruption of Burma means starvation in Asia, with all the social consequences that may be expected to flow from starvation. I hope that if the Minister finally satisfies himself, that some force in Burma represents sanity he will be very generous in his policy of military aid, of economic aid, and of any measure that will assist in re-establishing order in Burma, because the consequences that will flow from such action will be a big step towards stability in South-East Asia.
The Minister made no secret of the fact that he regarded the world, as divided into two blocs, and seemed to suggest that it was automatic that we should adhere to the United States of America bloc. Although there is a large measure of truth in that statement, I hope that it does not mean that we will be uncritical followers of American foreign policy. If we are followers of the United States of America we have a duty to analyse the foreign policy of that country; In some respects American foreign policy is extremely confused. Constitutional confusion is evident in the drift of American foreign policy. There is separation of powers between the President and State departments and the legislature. Honorable members will recall the celebrated instance of the Senate of the United States of America vetoing entry into the League of Nations. We have had receipt instances where foreign economic aid has been drastically cut by the Senate of the United States of America. There is, however, a certain consistency of American foreign policy in Southern Asia, the Pacific, Indonesia, India, Indo-China. and the Philippines. Resistance to the Asiatic national movement would drive that movement in the track of communism. Accordingly the United States deliberately asked for a policy of European abdication of power in this area. It has set the example by abdicating power in the Philippines. I have no doubt that United States foreign policy in regard to that area was very enlightened. We know that India is not a country likely to go Communist. Had there been a long and futile campaign waged to retain authority over India, it is extremely likely that that country would have been driven further towards communism. The same is true in Indonesia, where we have the Minister’s rather startling certificate of respectability being issued to President Soekarno. It will be remembered that some hundreds of Indonesian Communists were put to death by military action. There is no doubt that the Americans are assisting the French to grant recognition and nation hood to the various States that are emerging in Indo-China.
While the Minister’s survey of Russian foreign policy was a very broad one, it was not altogether adequate. We ought to ask ourselves if it is Russia’s aim to establish communism because it believes that communism is the correct economic policy, and that it brings satisfaction and higher living standards to the people, or whether that country uses communis’m as a means to an end, namely, the extension of Russian power. I suggest that Russia’s foreign policy has not changed since the Czarist days, although it is using a new instrument in its foreign policy. There was a time, especially in the Balkans, when the Russians used the Greek Orthodox Church as a means of extending their power. To-day everywhere Russia uses the Communist party. We ought to recognize the fact that foreign governments are distrusted by Russia, and that this pattern of distrust extends to countries which, until quite recently were called Russian satellites. So far as governments are concerned, they are called Russian satellites, but it is extremely doubtful whether the people of those countries are in their present position as a result of their own will. In Hungary Russia pursued a policy of supporting the liberal democrat Prime Minister, Ferenec Nagy. Afterwards the policy was to get him out and go further to the left to Dinnyes. Before long Russia was hanging Communist Foreign Minister, Lajos Rajk. Whenever even a Communist government resisted the policy of exploitation expressed in Russia’s trade treaties, CommunistMinisters became unacceptable. The policy of setting up “ sovroms “ - a fusion of Russian and satellite economic interests in war companies and banks - has resulted in a lowered standard, of living for people living in the satellite country. Some Communists have resisted this. In Bulgaria we witnessed the judicial murder of Nikolai Petkov and finally the hanging of the Communist Kostov. In Poland the Communist Gromulka was eliminated, and a Russian marshal installed as Minister for Defence controlling Polish foreign policy. Finally there was distrust of any Polish national in a key position. It is only recently that the Russians have dared to attack in Poland the institution which historically has always kept separate the Slavs of Poland from the Slavs of Russia. I am. referring to the Roman Catholic Church, which historically has been the western influence in Poland right throughout history. In other countries the attack on the church came much earlier. In Poland the church is much more closely identified with the Polish nation than in other satellite countries because of the accidents of Polish history. In Rumania, Russia began with the execution of Julia Maniu the democrat, and ended with suspicion of the Communist matriarch Anna Pauker, the foreign minister of Rumania. I need not elaborate on the example of Tito. Tito has gone much farther along the road to communism as an economic policy than has the Government of Czechoslovakia, yet that government remains acceptable to Russia whereas Tito does not. The vital thing was not the establishment of communism as an economic doctrine, but the establishment of Russian power. Tito’s was a test case which shows us the working of Russian foreign policy. For the rest, what is the difference between the foreign policy of Soviet Russia and that of Imperial Russia ? Soviet Russia demands of Turkey fortifications in the Dardanelles, a demand that was made also by the Czars. Soviet Russia demands the right to exploit the Persian oil-fields, as also did Imperial Russia. Soviet Russia now has the treaty ports in China which were formerly demanded by the Russia of the Czars. Soviet Russia has its sphere of influence in Manchuria, something that was always demanded by Imperial Russia. Soviet Russia has now achieved the restoration of what was lost in the RussoJapanese War of 1904. The more it changes, the more it is the same thing. They are now using a new instrument. Insofar as the Russian policy has always been one of economic exploitation of neighbouring countries, that policy is unchanged. By its system of cartels, it controls the oil resources of Rumania. Soviet Russia has impoverished the people of all the countries with which it has established close relations. That has provoked resistance. The purges that have t taken place of those accused of political insincerity have almost always been the forerunners of action to tighten the Soviet grip on satellite countries.
However, I hope honorable members will not fall into the easy error of thinking in terms of an eastern bloc and a western bloc. The Russian leaders never look upon France as an entity. They know that there are 200 elected Communists in the French Chamber of Deputies, and they direct a constant stream of radio propaganda towards France for the purpose of enlarging the number of Communists in that country, and to weaken French resolution in international affairs. The Russians recognize that France is a key state in Western Europe. Let us not forget that never more than 17 per cent, of the Rumanian people have voted Communist. The Communists who control the Polish Government have never dared to hold a free election with an opposition party operating freely. In Bulgaria, elections were held only after action had been taken to hamstring the opposition. We should, by every means in our power, maintain contact with the people of the Russian satellite countries, even on the terms which their governments permit. We should attempt cultural exchanges, even if they are with persons selected by the Communist governments. Let it be noted how many of the persons whom those governments send abroad do not wish to go back. Probably others, who do in fact return, do so only for the sake of relatives. We should refuse to be manoeuvred into the position of imperialist enemies of these subjugated peoples. There is no eastern bloc. There is an organization of governments holding down the people, and we should base our foreign policy on that reality. [Extension of time granted.”)
The other subjects to which I wish to refer are Britain’s relations with Europe, and interCommonwealth relations, to which earlier speakers referred. It was a standard practice for members of the Government, when they were in opposition, to say : “ Australia is not a minor power. We do not want it to be a minor power, and we do not want it to be a middle power. Australia is part of a great power, the British Commonwealth of
Nations. We can exercise our greatest influence on world affairs by influencing Britain and other member states “. That is true as far as any attempt to influence European policy is concerned, and Britain’s relations with Europe are always of concern to us. I should like to hear from the Minister for External Affairs about the policy which he thinks Britain should apply in the case of Germany and Yugoslavia. I submit that Germany and the problem, of Berlin and also the problem of Yugoslavia are crucial matters in Europe to-day. They are the points at which Russian and western conflict has been most acute. Great Britain has not worked out a clear policy in regard to Western Germany. I refer to the economic policy, and to what underlies it - Great Britain’s intentions regarding what should be done concerning Germany. Britain is still proceeding with the dismantling of German industries. Those parts of Germany that are occupied by Great Britain and the other Western Allies are not economically self-supporting. Insofar as we destroy German secondary industry - which always played a vital role in Europe - by dismantling factories, we destroy Germany’s capacity to earn food from abroad. That is all right if we are quite content to have Germany dependent on our charity; if we intend that the Germans shall be fed by America through Marshall Aid. I suggest, however, that the American taxpayers will not always be content with that situation, and that the policy will have to be revised. If, on the other hand, we do not destroy German industry, we must be prepared for it to revive. There is a median policy of encouraging industries of no military significance, although even then there must be difficulty with, the steel industry. I do not know how a steel industry can be operated without its having military implications. If the Minister for External Affairs believes that Western Germany, when reconstructed, is likely to be pro-Western because it has less to fear from the West than from Russia, then our advice to Great Britain should be to allow Germany to recover economically.
I turn now to Yugoslavia, which has received economic aid from the United
States of America and Great Britain. Extensive credits have been granted by Great Britain, and wool allocated to Great Britain on credit has gone to Yugoslavia to the value of some millionsof pounds. That policy has been directed towards enabling Yugoslavia to free itself from the closely linked economic system of Eastern Europe, in which it is part of an economic pattern controlled from Russia. I should like to hear from the Minister for External Affairs his opinion on what Great Britain should do in regard to Yugoslavia.
I wish now to refer briefly to the subject of inter-Imperial relations. Jdo not know whether the Minister advocated an Imperial secretariat, or some other ready means for the exchange of information. I do not believe that the High Commissioners represent a closelyknit organization which could speed the co-ordination of Imperial policy. Great Britain itself has always shown a disposition to use the Dominion Prime Ministers as a channel of communication with Dominion governments. However, if an Imperial secretariat is envisaged, I merely point out that experience does not suggest that such a policy would succeed. Canada has always been opposed to it. South Africa, even under Smuts, was not well disposed towards it, and I would not be misinterpreting the attitude of the present Prime Minister by saying that he is even less favorably disposed towards it. India has become a republic, and is not given to emphasizing the Imperial connexion if it expresses itself in solidified institutions like an Imperial secretariat. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will develop those points at greater length than it was convenient for him to do when he initiated this debate.
– I congratulate the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) on the realistic and comprehensive statement he has made to the House. I am sure that the principles he has laid down will commend themselves to most honorable members and to the great majority of the Australian people. It is pleasing to note that the Minister’s statement placed emphasis on the problems of East Asia and the
Pacific. Both geography and polities have decreed this to be Australia’s primary concern. In my first speech in the House I do not wish to appear hypercritical of the” right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), whose abilities first as a judge and subsequently on the world stage are widely recognized. Nevertheless, one has had the feeling during the last few years that the Government to which he belonged tried to interfere in too many places and on too many occasions. Such ubiquitous diplomacy is premature. An isolated country like Australia is handicapped in obtaining sufficient information on what is transpiring in every part of the world. Our diplomatic service, in spite of what the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) said earlier in the debate, is certainly capable, but it is in its infancy. Inevitably Australia lacks experience. Yet without these prerequisites of profound knowledge and wide experience Australia will not be able to command that attention in the international forum that all honorable members would like to see. I suggest that we shall meet with more success if we narrow our ambitions and concentrate on acquiring a specialized knowledge of the conditions, the current movements and the- contemporary thought of our northern neighbours and countries such as China and Japan, which will menace Australia’s security unless we take care to avoid such a happening.
The whole problem of external relations should be approached not so much from a nationalist angle as from a collective Empire standpoint. Let each dominion specialize in matters that are, or should be, its primary concern. For example, let us, to a greater extent and with more confidence, leave to Britain the care of Commonwealth interests in the Mediterranean, in Europe and in the Middle East. Throughout the centuries the British people have acquired a knowledge of the conditions and of the people of those countries that is unrivalled by any other English-speaking nation. In problems such as the disposition of the Italian colonies, the fixation of the western borders of Germany and the fate of Palestine, the opinions of British statesmen and diplomats are, likely to prove sounder than our own.
But the converse of these facts is also true. From my knowledge of England and conditions on that side of the world, I can say that I have never seen there the same degree of interest in the problems of the Pacific and the Far East. To many British politicians, and certainly to the British public at large, those areas appear so remote as to be merely on the borders of reality. Accordingly I suggest that we shall serve our interests best by expanding as quickly and as vigorously as possible our diplomatic service throughout Asia, by multiplying our contacts with the Oriental nations, including, of course, our trade relations, to the end that Australia will become the leader of British Commonwealth interests, and the framer of Empire policy in that vast area from Java to Japan.
An Empire policy on a. regional basis cannot be evolved haphazardly but will be achieved only by deliberate intent. On the organizational side, the Minister envisaged, first, frequent meetings on a ministerial level in different parts of the Commonwealth, such as, I presume, the Colombo Conference, and, secondly, regular meetings of high commissioners. I believe that we should aspire to more than that. Some mention has been made already by two speakers in the debate of the establishment of a permanent Empire organization such as an Empire secretariat. The right honorable member for Barton was the first to mention it and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) also alluded to it to-da.y, but with much less enthusiasm, I was sorry to see, than was displayed by _ his eminent colleague. When I heard the right honorable gentleman speaking with such enthusiasm in support of a permanent secretariat, I must confess that I was delighted. It seems to me that the rapidity of events and the unprecedented nature of the problems that affect the Empire countries, require urgently that some permanent organization of that kind shall be set up. The idea is not new, as the right honorable member for Barton reminded the House. It was advanced in 1944 by the late Mr. John Curtin, and years before that by many other persons on both sides of the world. Only two yen rs ago, Lord Bruce made a powerful appeal for its adoption in the House of Lords.
The honorable member for Fremantle put forward, with some justification, possible objections to that concept. He rightly reminded the House that India, probably South Africa, and perhaps even Canada, might not look with great favour on a permanent, Empire council. But Australia should not be deterred from aiming high by the unwillingness of others to do so. I believe that public opinion in Britain, Australia and “New Zealand would sanction this experiment. I believe also that its operation would be so successful that in due time those Commonwealth countries which at first remained aloof would come into the fold and would continue to support it.
The Minister has told the House the principles on which the Government hopes to stein Communist penetration of South-East Asia. His frank statement on the necessity for military undertakings as a concomitant to economic measures should be warmly applauded. Trade agreements, loans and advisers to South-East Asian countries may not, in themselves, prove sufficient. A situation is rapidly developing in that part of the world which threatens Australia more than any other Englishspeaking, country. To allow Britain to bear the entire burden of maintaining order in Malaya against the Communist insurrection in that country, as the previous Government did, would be as unwise as it was unjust. It is true that Britain has larger commercial interests in Malaya than Australia has, but we have a greater interest from the standpoint of security. We have more at stake, and a great deal more to lose. The same is true in respect of Thailand, and of the three States that used to be called Indo-China. All those who have a practical personal knowledge of the East - and certainly those of us who fought in that theatre in the recent war - will agree that the defensive strategy of these countries is intertwined. For example, the battle of Malaya was lost, not at Singapore in 1942, but in the previous year when the Japanese gained control of Indo-China and Thailand. Further more, the development of atomic bombs and long-range projectiles heightens our jeopardy in this country to a degree that was scarcely contemplated in 1941. Accordingly, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge the necessity for entering into military commitments in this area. It is particularly unpalatable for me personally to have to say this, but I believe that we must face the position in conjunction with Britain, perhaps France, and, let us hope, the United States of America. This, in turn, implies two things. First, we must place ourselves in a state of preparedness. The Government has already announced its intentions about that matter, and, indeed, that is in conformity with the policy on which honorable members on this side of the chamber were elected. Secondly, we should lose no time in announcing our determination to intervene by force, should the circumstances warrant that, action. I hope that by now all of us have learnt the bitter and disappointing lessons of the 1919-39 period, during which so much was lost through the lack of certainty on the part of some countries about the course, that they should adopt in international affairs. For Heaven’s sake, let us profit by that dreadful example.
In considering ways and means of withstanding the southward surge of communism in South-East Asia, I beg honorable members not to make the mistake of being a party to any move for the resuscitation of Japan. For some time past, evidence has been accumulating that personages who are closely associated with the United States Government are thinking of J apan as a bastion against Russia. Doubtless, the current wave of “Red” successes on the Asiatic mainland is stimulating the idea of recreating a nation that, less than five years ago, was our deadliest foe. Moreover, many Americans seem to be accepting without question General MacArthur’s amazing pronouncements that the Japanese, as a result of the Allied occupation, are becoming a changed people, that they are embracing liberal democracy, and that aggression is dying in their hearts. To those of us who laboured for three and a half years in Oriental prisoner-of-war camps, these assertions sound absolutely incredible. The mentality of an ambitious and warlike nation cannot be changed within the space of a few years. Without presuming unduly, may I say that there are five honorable members on this side of the chamber who fell into the clutches of the J apanese during the recent war and who, therefore, may claim to possess some knowledge of the mentality of their captors. Let us admit quite frankly that the Japanese possess many attributes, which all of us, irrespective of our party political views, have been brought up to admire. They are thrifty, industrious, and extremely hardy. They are courageous in battle, they have tremendous patriotism and, what is more, they are prepared to die for their beliefs. But, as the House is aware, and, I hope, will never forget, there are other facets to their character.
At heart, the Japanese nurture unlimited ambition, combined, especially when they are in the ascendancy, with insufferable arrogance. Believing that not only their Emperor but also they themselves are in origin divine, they conceive it to be their ultimate destiny to rule the whole of East Asia ; and let us remember that when a Japanese or Chinese speaks of Asia he includes Australia. Obsequious in defeat as the Japanese are now, and amenable to the demands of their conquerors, they still nurse their ultimate objectives and, as our guards used to tell us, they will continue to strive to attain those objectives, even though the struggle may last for 100 years. With oriental patience, the Japanese bide their time. If we accept General MacArthur’s soothing assurances - so pleasant to many people - we shall make the most calamitous error of our lives. We shall be raising a giant to check the Russian leviathan - a giant with more predatory instincts, so far as we are concerned, than the Soviet.
I am not one who believes that Russia has territorial designs upon Australia. Its aspirations, so far as- one is able to discern, appear to lie elsewhere. The classical policy of Russia over the centuries has been to expand to the Baltic, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, and it is now quite clear that its ambitions extend to North-East
Asia. Its attitude towards Australia is more of the nuisance kind, using Communistdirected organization to disturb production in our heavy industries, and to disorganize our transport service to such a degree that, in the event of another war, we shall be unable to render effective aid to Britain and America. If in addition, Russia can install, as no doubt it would like to do, puppet governments in the countries of South-East Asia, it may well use those lands as bases for attacks on Australia with atomic bombs and long-range projectiles. With these weapons, it could effectively neutralize this country if the calamity of a third world war should befall mankind.
As for Japan, though bewaring of her, we have a duty to perform in relation to that country. It is not good enough merely to adopt a negative attitude. We cannot ostracise S0,000,000 people, treat them as pariahs, and condemn them to a state of perpetual subjection. Such a course would be not only folly but also unethical. Our role should be that of the missionary, and I use the term “missionary” in its widest sense. The Minister for External Affairs has indicated to the House that a conference of British Commonwealth Nations will be held preparatory to the attempted formulation of a Japanese peace treaty. I suggest that in addition to the other principles that no doubt the Minister is considering for inclusion in the treaty we should advance four principles for incorporation in it. The first of these is universal education of the Japanese on a Christian foundation. It was the general experience of prisoners-of-war, during the recent conflict with Japan, that the few Christianized Japanese encountered were far more humane and more tolerable in their treatment of their captives than were the great majority of other Japanese troops. [Extension of time granted.”]
The second principle is that we should strive to incorporate in the peace treaty, in a practicable way, the raising of the living standards of the Japanese, a shortening of their hours of work, an increase of their rates of pay n.nd a general alleviation of their social and industrial conditions so as to bring them into conformity with those of the western powers. Apart from its humanitarian aspect this particular reform would have the effect, when Japanese exports had been re-established to some extent - which must happen - of lessening the severity of savage Japanese competition with western countries for export markets. “We shall also have to face, in the not very distant future, the problem of providing an outlet for the increasing population of Japan. I believe that all honorable members, irrespective of party, agree that we do not intend to have the Japanese south of the equator. Nevertheless, the problem of Japan’s rapidly increasing population, which, I believe, is increasing it the rate of 1,000,000 a year, must be faced very soon, and cannot be baulked at indefinitely by the victorious nations.
Fourthly, the Japanese should remain thoroughly disarmed during what must be a long transitional period, except for police purposes, and should be subject all the time to close Allied supervision. I believe that by this and other methods we can eventually lead these gifted, but semi-civilized, people into the comity of nations. An undertaking of such magnitude will be costly. It will take time. It will certainly not be accomplished by one generation alone. But these are secondary considerations in the history of international relations. If by such means we can once and for all avert the most sinister threat to our security the price and exertion will be cheap indeed.
Dr. DONALD CAMERON (Oxley) 1.0.14]. - I consider that the House is indebted to the honorable- member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) for his remarks, in which he asked us to direct our minds to realistic matters and not to be influenced too much by abstractions. It is good for us to realize that the entities with which we are dealing in a debate on foreign affairs are nations, states, or empires. The position was made more /.ler r by the. honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) when he advanced a proposition with which, I consider, we can all agree - that is, that communism is being used as a weapon ii.v Russia and that it, is towards Russia l hut we should direct our thoughts even more than towards the actual system of communism itself. It is easier to relate our minds to definite entities such as a nation than to be continually concerned with the danger to our security that is presented by abstractions such as communism, imperialism or any other name that we like to apply to forces that undoubtedly exist.
It seems to me that there is also a great deal to be said for the suggestion of the honorable member for Fremantle that it would be good for us to confine our thoughts within certain limited spheres. Consequently I intend to confine myself chiefly to the consideration of what I believe to be some of the chief aspects of our foreign affairs in the Pacific. It is obvious that in the Pacific, as, in fact, in other parts of the world, two camps have been formed. On the one side is the Russian camp and on the other side that which we call, perhaps for want of a better term, the camp of the western democracies. There has been much talk, both here and in other places, about whether Asian communism is, in fact, the same as Russian communism. There appears to be no valid reason for supposing that communism in China or anywhere else is any different in essence from the communism of Russia. One fact alone that would make it appear that they are one and the same thing is that the fountainhead of the doctrine of communism is Soviet Russia. But whether or not the communism of China or of other countries is the same as the communism of Russia matters very little in the utlimate, as far as we in this country are concerned, when we face the problem of the Pacific.
The Japanese and Chinese may be confronted with two doctrines, that of communism and that of democracy. It is easier for them to be swayed by the doctrine of communism, whether or not it is in essence the same as Russian communism, than it is for them to learn the conceptions of western democracy, which is a far more complicated system of government than communism, because communism is in essence a tyranny. There is no people in Eastern Asia which has ever had the experience of democratic government.. If at the end of fearful wars and years of suffering and bloodshed two systems are offered to Eastern Asiatic peoples that give them a choice of accepting the principles of communism or of being inspired by the theories of democracy, it will be simpler for them to come under the dominance of a system that is more nearly allied to the tyranny by which they have previously been governed, than for them to absorb the complicated mechanism and ideas of western democracy. However that may be, the fact remains that in the Pacific, as elsewhere, the world is divided into two camps. In the Pacific Japan is a vast force which must ultimately be drawn into one camp or the other. There is no need for honorable members to remind me of the behaviour of the Japanese troops during the recent war. I am only too familiar with their deeds and actions. We must face the fact that in the Pacific a vast empire with a population of more than 80,000,000 which, for centuries, has followed a certain purpose and has embarked on a career of conquest, is now lying in ruins. Until recently the Japanese had never known defeat, what it means to have their whole conception of government suddenly swept away and the economic life of their nation virtually overthrown, or what it means no longer to be able to direct their own affairs. When a nation, the population of which, increasing at the rate of 2,000,000 persons annually, is confined within narrow boundaries that are insufficient to support its people, finds itself confronted by such a state of affairs, one naturally expects the reactions of its people to be explosive. They must fall into one camp or the other.
I propose now to refer briefly to the United Nations. Australians generally, and in particular honorable members of this House, are sensible of the defects of that world organization. The honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) has pointed out that many of the settlements that have been made in the world, more or less within the framework of the United Nations, were not made possible only by the driving force of that organization. In spite of the drawbacks of the United Nations and its failure to realize all that we hoped of it, and in spite of the earlier failures of the League of Nations, we must continue to use our best endeavours to transform the partial failures and limited successes of the United Nations intocomplete successes.
The second important point that we must consider in framing our foreign policy is the kind of diplomacy that we shall pursue, not only in the Pacific, but also in the world at large. Every honorable member appreciates the actions of the Minister in making personal contacts with the representatives of other nations bordering on the Pacific area. Nothing can replace such personal contacts. Even though the visits of the Minister do not bring immediate results, his personal contacts with the representatives of other Pacific countries can do nothing but good. By these visits the honorable gentleman is doing a great deal to remove the ill-feeling among our neighbours that was engendered in recent months by certain actions of the previous Government. In framing our diplomatic policy in the Pacific we must recognize the character of the Japanese people, what they have done in the past and their capacity for further aggression in the future, but the object of our diplomacy should be to prevent the unmitigated tragedy that would follow the attraction of the Japanese to the Russian camp. If Japan is added to the list of allies or satellites of Soviet Russia the maintenance of democracy in the Pacific will be gravely endangered. As a bulwark of our foreign policy we must develop a sound, practical and adequate defence policy. Such a policy will strengthen our arm, give weight to our deliberations in the councils of the world and make our voice worth listening to in any negotiations that may take place between us and our Allies or potential enemies. If we are to play our part in international affairs and be a desirable ally in any Pacific pact, we must be ready to accept all the dire consequences which may be involved. We can play our part best where we have played it in the past - in the British Commonwealth of Nations. We can play such a part only if we have developed a sound defence policy. Scientific advances in modern warfare, such as the development of the atomic and hydrogen -bombs and the perfection of guided missiles and radar, render more necessary than ever before the training and conditioning of the people for total war. This Government should impress upon the people the position with which Australia is confronted and the fact that the vast Japanese nation must eventually decide to stand on one side of the fence or the other. In framing its foreign policy the Government should have two principal objectives in mind. First, it should do everything possible to ensure that the Japanese nation shall not ally itself with our enemies, and, secondly, it must evolve an adequate defence policy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. James Harrison) adjourned.
Taxation - Pre-school Education - Pensions - Health and Medical Services - Cement.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
, - I direct attention to a serious anomaly in the method of computing income tax in respect of long-service leave payments to employees. I urge the Government to give sympathetic consideration to my representations. For some considerable time the Taxation Branch has ruled that if an employee, upon retirement from the service of his employer, is entitled to long-service leave and receives payment in respect of such leave in weekly payments he is obliged to pay income tax on the whole of that sum, but if he receives such payment in a lump sum he is obliged to pay tax in respect of only 5 per cent, of the amount that he receives. Recently I had brought to my notice the case of Mr. A. H. Campbell, of Gawler, who was employed for many years as a ganger by the Commissioner for Railways in South Australia. He was entitled to 300 days’ long-service leave. He applied for payment in respect of that leave to be made to him in a lump sum, but he was advised by the Railways Commissioner to apply for payment in respect of only 24.0 days, because at the end of that period he would be due to retire from the service on the ground of age, and would then qualify for an additional eight days’ annual leave. Mr. Campbell made two applications in those terms, and, in all, he received an amount of £3S7 in two sums. He received, first, the sum of £301 in respect of 240 days’ leave, and in accordance with instructions he had received from the Railways Commissioner, he showed 5 per cent, of that amount in his income tax return. However, he received a letter dated the 11th November, 1949, from the Taxation Branch, which, stated -
In dealing with cases such as yours, the attitude of the department is governed by the provisions of sections 26 (</-) and 20 (e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 19343-1949. Section 26 (d) of the Act provides that, where an amount is paid in a lump sum in consequence of retirement from, or the termination of, any office or employment, 5 per cent, only of that amount shall bc included in the assessable income of the recipient. On the other hand, section 20 (c) provides that the full amount of all allowances, gratuities, bonuses and similar payments other than retiring allowances to which section 26 (dl) applies, related directly or indirectly to any employment of, or services rendered by the taxpayer, shall be included in his assessable income of the year in which the amount is received.
The effect of these provisions, shortly stated, is that, if the amount is received in a lump sum in consequence of retirement, only 5 per cent, of that amount is taxable, but if it is received whilst still in the service of your employer, it is taxable in full.
Accordingly, where retirement does not actually take place until the expiration of the furlough or final leave, any payment made in advance in respect of that leave or furlough is assessable in full as income of the year in which the payment is received. Such payments represent salary or wages paid in advance for the period of the leave and have the same character as salary or wages paid for leave granted in years prior to that in which the taxpayer retires or resigns.
Subsequently, the Railways Commissioner took the case further on Mr. Campbell’s behalf, but the Taxation Branch replied to those representations in terms almost identical with those of the letter that it had sent to Mr. Campbell. The letter received by the Railways Commissioner stated -
Where the retirement does not actually take place until the expiration of the furlough or final leave any payment made in advance in respect of that leave is assessable in full as income in the year in which it is received.
I submit that the Parliament never intended that such a fine line should be drawn between those who collect the whole of their long service leave upon retirement and those who, for the purpose of qualifying for additional annual leave, decide, in theory, to remain upon the books of their employer. Mr. Campbell did not leave his employment in order to accept a job elsewhere; but, because he nominally remained in the service of the Railways Commissioner for the purpose of qualifying for annual leave, he was compelled to pay income tax in respect of the whole of the amount that was paid to him for long service leave instead of only 5 per cent, as had previously been the practice. The reason why the Taxation Branch assessed income tax on the whole amount was that a similar case had been brought to the notice of the authorities in Canberra earlier in the year and, because a decision unfavorable to the taxpayer had been given on that occasion, it was not able to make any differentiation in Mr. Campbell’s case.
I trust that the Government will take the view that in matters of this kind it is far better to be right than to be merely consistent, and that if it believes that the Taxation Branch is drawing the line a little too fine it will instruct the branch to interpret the relevant provisions of the act in a more sensible way.
– If the honorable member will supply me with the correspondence on the matter, I shall bring the case that he has mentioned to the notice of the Treasurer.
– I direct the attention of the Government to an important development in the field of pre-school education. Recently, there has been a quickening of interest in this subject for two reasons. First, there is a strong desire that a scientific approach shall be made to child development in respect of health, and spiritual, moral and mental training. The second reason, probably somewhat less worthy, is the selfish desire of a number of parents to rid themselves of parental responsibility.
I understand that last week a deputation waited on the Premier of Victoria. and asked for assistance in the establishment of pre-school centres in Victoria. It was headed by the Municipal Association of Victoria, and was supported by all unions advocating pre-school education, the National Council of Women, the Country Women’s Association of Victoria, the Council of Social Services and the Victorian Baby Health Centres. I understand that representations will soon be made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on behalf of those associations. The scheme they will outline will have the backing of the authority of the Victorian Council of Public Education and will be much more applicable to depressed areas than, to others. The scheme is necessarily costly, because a good deal of training must be arranged for the teachers who will take charge of the pre-school centres. The classes established will have to be small because it seems that preschool education can be carried out properly only in small classes. Some time ago the estimated cost of building a suitable centre for the pre-school training of twenty children was about £3,500. To-day. I suppose the estimate would be about £5,000. The scheme which has been outlined to the Victorian Premier will provide for instruction in parental responsibility. This scheme would compare very favorably with that which has been established for infant welfare in the State of Victoria. The infant welfare scheme in Victoria has been most successful because it has set out to instruct the parents in the proper method of rearing children up to about two years of age. The idea of pre-school education is to continue work done by’ such organizations as the Victorian Nursing Centres for children between the ages of, I think, two years and five years.
– I direct the Government’s attention to the deplorable condition of the age and invalid pensioners in the Australian Capital Territory. A considerable number of these people feel their position acutely, partly owing to the very high cost of living, which is probably higher in Canberra than anywhere else in Australia, with the exception of Broken Hill. With their very meagre allowance of £2 2s. a week, they are finding it completely hopeless to make both ends meet. They have not adequate homes or accommodation provided for them in any shape or form. No government in the past has accepted the responsibility of seeing that these people, who are in the sere and yellow of their lives, after having given service to this country, shall be adequately provided for. From time to time it has been suggested that convalescent cottages and other buildings shall be built for them, but they have never passed the stage of the blueprint.
During the past week the Australian Capital Territory has had more than its share of rain. This has made living conditions even more unpleasant for these old people, many of whom are living under conditions under which no Australian should be asked to live, especially in the Australian Capital Territory. The Government has an obligation to these people, and I plead with it to see that adequate accommodation shall be provided for them. They are wholly unable to subsist on the allowance of £2 2s. a week. It is most extraordinary that whilst there are discussions for increases of the incomes of other sections of the community there is no direct move to increase the pensions of these people. Nf any of them, have to go without medicine because they cannot afford to purchase it. I hope that the Government will give more consideration to the plight of these people than has been given in the past.
.- I see that there are several doctors in the House, but the doctor to whom I wish to direct my remarks, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) is not here at the moment. I had hoped to see the Minister at the table so that he might consider my remarks. Recently I have had before me two deputations of age pensioners. Their problem was the same as that just mentioned by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott). I should like to know from the Minister as soon as he is able to attend the House - and it has been my experience during the seven years I have been a member of this House that he has never been here later than 9 o’clock - whether a decision has been reached regarding the national health scheme.
On the statute-book at the moment is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. Constituents who have called on me have asked whether they can receive the aid provided for in that act. I have had to tell them that there are about 170 doctors co-operating, in the scheme throughout the nation and that the rest are not. During the general election the people were told by the Government parties, “ Return us and we shall give you a health scheme “. My constituents want to know whether this is another trick.
A lot has been said about putting value back into the £3 . What about putting some humanity back into the Government’s relationship with the age pensioners? Some 25,000 persons in Australia receive injections every day for the treament of diabetes or other troubles of a serious nature. Many pensioners are suffering from asthma and other complaints that are attendant on old age. There has been considerable delay in bringing down a new medical scheme in any form. Is it intended to discard the humanitarian legislation which the former Government introduced or to do nothing about it? The Minister will probably say, “ I have been misreported “. When honorable members wish to ask him a question they find that he is away attending to some such matter as the Nymboida water scheme. The right honorable gentleman should concentrate on this most important problem. There are thousands of aged people in this country who, no matter what government is in power, should no longer be denied the benefits of a free medicine scheme. Admittedly, the principle of free medicine has already been fully debated in. this chamber, but surely this new Government will not bypass such an important problem. During the general election campaign, honorable members opposite claimed that the principle of caring for sick people, particularly the aged, had been adopted in substance, and that it was merely a matter of finding a formula. The Government has now been in office for nearly 100 days and has done nothing. There was once a 100 years’ war, and if the Government wants another on this issue it will get it. The Government is neglecting its duty to the sick people of the community. “We have not yet had a frank statement from the Minister on the Government’s proposals. Evasion, half-truths and subterfuge are all we have had. The Government should not delude itself into thinking that this is not a live issue. Even if it were not a live political issue, it is a humanitarian issue that must be settled. If the Labour Government was crassly wrong in its approach to the problem - we were told that our scheme meant conscription of doctors and other equally undesirable things - is it not up to this Government to come forward with a concrete proposal that will satisfy the community? If it is not courageous enough to do that, let it at least repeal the legislation that is already on the statute-book or use it for the benefit of the sick. I urge the Government to consider this matter carefully. Age and invalid pensioners are the first victims of inflation. “When they go into a butcher’s shop, the butcher does not say to them, “You will get a reduction because you are a pensioner”. They pay the inflated prices, and as a result, their nutriment is diminished, paving the way for sickness. A member of the medical profession has already made a plea on behalf of these people tonight. Pensioners are slowly dying in the back rooms of the nation. That is a disgrace to a government that talks about celerity of action. Honorable members opposite will have to answer to the people for their delay in introducing a national health scheme. I ask the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), who is in charge of the House, to request the Minister for Health to come into this chamber if he can possibly spare the time and then, if it is not a matter of policy and he can for once be honest and decent, to tell us whether the Government really has plans for a health scheme, or whether it proposes to sell the old-age pensioner down the river.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government an injustice that is being suffered by the Northcote City Council because of the refusal to remit customs duty on imported cement. The council decided Som (3 time ago to embark upon a comprehensive scheme of street formation to keep pace with the construction of houses. Many people in the Northcote municipality are living in areas in which there are unmade streets, and, in low-lying areas particularly, there is water everywhere. “When the council embarked upon its street construction programme, it found that it could not obtain sufficient Australian cement to meet its requirements. It receives a meagre hand-out of only 3 or 4 tons each week, which is ha rely enough for maintenance, let alone new work. The local cement is of excellent quality, and costs only £6 a ton, but in order to maintain its programme the council has been forced to import 100 tons of Swedish cement, which, inclusive of freight and a duty of £1 7s. 6d. a ton, has cost £12 10s. a ton. An application for the remission of duty on this cement was refused. As the council is quite prepared to use local cement if it is obtainable, it seems unfair that it should be penalized in this way because the Australian manufacturers cannot provide the necessary supplies. After all, the primary purpose of a customs duty is to ensure that overseas products shall not compete unfairly with locally produced goods. In this case, however, the local supplies are unable to meet the demand.
– There is no duty on . British cement.
– That is so. The council was prepared to use British cement, but the waiting time was too long, and it decided to import cement from Sweden instead. I urge the Government to reconsider the council’s application for the remission of duty. The amount involved at present is only £137 10s., but as the street-building programme proceeds, that sum will be greatly increased. Street construction costs are already inordinately high compared with the pre-war figures, and if local-governing authorities are to be obliged .to pay duty on foreign cement, those costs will be forced up still further. I ask the Government to review its policy on this matter.
– in reply - Normally, I should say at this stage only that I should bring the various matters that have been raised by honorable members to the notice of the appropriate Ministers, but I propose to reply to some of the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). Speaking with unnecessary heat, the honorable member attacked the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). He suggested that the Minister seldom attends the House, the inference being that he does not do much work, and further that he is giving no attention whatever to the problem of relieving the sick people of this country. Those of us who know the Minister for Health are aware, of course, that both those statements are quite untrue. The Minister for Health happens to be holding discussions at present. In fact,he has been engaged in talks with the parties over the whole weekend in an endeavour to evolve a satisfactory scheme. The honorable member for Parkes was merely making party political capital out of the ill health of some people. He sought to give the impression that he alone thinks of the aged and the sick. I remind the honorable member that for a long time, governments of which he was a supporter had authority to deal with this matter, but did nothing. I should like to make it quite clear that the honorablemember for Parkes has raised this issue on the motion for the adjournment of the House, not with any sincere desire to direct attention to a matter of public importance, but in order to make party political capital out of sick people. I know from discussion that has taken place in Cabinet that this problem has been under consideration. It is a problem of some magnitude. It will not bo long before a scheme is introduced. When thatoccurs, honorable members will realize that, in a short space of time, this Government has been able to do what the previous Administration failed utterly to do in its long period of office.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations - 1950 -
No. 5 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
No.6 - Repatriation Department Medical Officers’ Association.
No.7 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No.8- -Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - N. G. Brown, E. J. Pinner.
Social Services - K. B. Crisp.
Works and Housing - K. J. Dalgarno.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 10.
Wool Use Promotion Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules1950, Nos.6, 9.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Mr. HOLT. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice’ -
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information: - -
Iiic various importing companies have been able to obtain from their normal sources of supply the petrol necessary to meet the unrationed demand. The required quantities will reach Australia as and when required. As pointed out by the Prime Minister in his broadcast on the 8th February, the removal of petrol rationing was necessary to give full scope to Australian industry and to enable Australia to make a maximum contribution as a member of the sterling area and of the British Commonwealth.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
Y - The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the f following information : -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 9th March the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) asked me a question concerning the Commonwealth Public Service list of permanent officers previously issued by the Public Service Board. The board has now informed me that to prepare and print a staff list, almost doubled in size since 1939, has become an intricate and massive task, absorbing skilled staff, clerical and printing, in months of work and that it is considering means of more adequately informing Parliament of the organization and structure of the Commonwealth Public Service than was possible in the former over-elaborated and detailed list. I have been assured that in its annual report, the hoard will continue to give Parliament the fullest information about the Public Service.
e. - On the 1st March, the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Keon) asked a question concerning the importation of comic strips. The Minister for Trade and Customs now desires me to inform the honorable member that various methods including the one mentioned by the honorable member are known to be used by importers to obtain art material for comic strips and comic papers. Inquiries have revealed that nlms and papers lawfully imported for one purpose are sometimes used as the basis for reproducing comic strips in Australia. Once such goods are imported the Commonwealth has no power to prevent reproduction. Many comic papers which have an American flavour are wholly created and published in Australia and the Commonwealth Government has no control over matters of this nature. Any imported works which unduly emphasize matters of crime are prohibited imports in terms of the Customs Act 1901-1947. Action has been and will be taken to prohibit entry of any publications which tore considered to come within this category. If the honorable member has in mind any specific items which he considers should come within this prohibition the Minister for Trade and Customs has indicated that he will bo pleased to refer thom for reexamination upon receipt from the honorable member of the relevant particulars. No import licences are issued for comic strips or material therefor nor is any dollar currency made available for payment for the material.
D asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500321_reps_19_206/>.