19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.80 a.m., and read prayers.
– Oan the Minister for the Navy state whether it is & fact that the building known as the Quarter Deck at Jervis Bay will be taken over by the Navy ana whether it will always be available for use by local sporting bodies and tourists? Will the local airfield always be available for use in civil aviation, especially for aeroplanes on the proposed Sydney-Jervis Bay-Canberra service? In view of the fact that naval personnel have been playing on Jervis Bay golf links -recently and causing damage to the greens despite the fact that they have been told by one of the greenkeepers that the links were closed due to heavy rains, will the Minister state whether the golf links are the property of the Department of the Navy? Will the Minister make a definite statement with regard’ to the housing of civilian personnel other than civil servants in Jervis Bay?
– The honorable member has raised these points on several other occasions and I have already assured him that as soon as the House rises, if it over does, I shall visit Jervis Bay in order to investigate them. I shall be pleased if he will accompany me on the inspection after which I shall give him a full reply to his questions.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question which arises out of an answer he gave yesterday to the effect that the men who install telephones will be expected in future to report whether there are already telephones at the addresses at which they are making installations. Is it a fact that applications for the installation of telephones pass through a number of hands in the Postmaster-General’s Department, including those of senior officers, and. that the man who ultimately installs the telephone is merely a creature, as it were, of the decisions of others? Has not the Postmaster-General’s Department a very effective check on the number of telephones that are installed on all premises? Is the Minister’s decision . the result of recommendations that he has received from higher officials in his department who have been responsible for some people being able to have a dozen telephones installed for betting purposes whilst others have not been able to have one telephone installed? Is it not possible for a check to be made by higher officials of the department on the duplication of telephone services without placing the responsibility on the least-considered men of the department - the men who install the telephones?
– It is very hard to close all loopholes against trickery. For example, a person may have applied for the removal of a telephone from one street to another. As that is a perfectly normal proceeding in the Postal Department, removal has been granted if it has been at all possible. But what we have found is that in instances under review a person has applied for the removal of hia telephone and all that has gone has been the telephone. The person has remained in his original house. Evidently some transaction has taken place between the person who previously had the telephone and the person who wanted it.
– I do not think the Minister understands my point.
– I understand the question completely. It is very difficult indeed in handling the tens of thousands of applications made in the city area alone, .to follow up a matter to ascertain whether the person who has applied for the removal of the telephone also goes to the address to which the telephone is transferred. That has frequently not been the case. Consequently, the most effective check that can he made is for the mechanic, when he installs the telephone, to report to the central office whether other telephone lines are connected to the building. That throws no responsibility on the mechanic, because he can see at a glance whether other lines are connected, and it is the most effective check that we can devise.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to say whether he has given consideration to my representations for improved services at the Hornsby telephone exchange?
– I realize that the position at the Hornsby telephone exchange is acute, and following representations by the honorable member, I have had a special inquiry made there. I find that approximately 350 applications for telephones are outstanding at that exchange alone. It is hoped that about 100 of those applicants will be provided with a service within the next three, four or six weeks. We are also making arrangements at Hornsby for the installation of a 600- unit automatic exchange. It will be erected progressively. About 200 units will be put on at a time. The first 200’ units should be available within the nexttwo or three months, and, thereafter, itshould not be long before the other unitsare provided.
– On Tuesday the right honorable member for Bradfield asked me whether I would table a statement concerning the number of telephones manufactured in Australia, the total shortage of telephones and their place of manufacture. I have ascertained that there is no shortage of telephone instruments at present. Telephone instruments are obtained from manufacturers in Australia and the United Kingdom. Orders outstanding with Australian manufacturers amount to 217,000 telephone instruments of all types. The existing rate of production in Australia is about 120,000 telephone instruments a year. The great bulk of those made in Australia are manufactured by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Because of the expansion of the departmental programme of new works to overtake arrears, it is proposed to place further orders to ensure the continuance of adequate supply of telephones and an increased rate of delivery to the public. We hope, therefore, so far as the instruments themselves are concerned, to keep well in advance of requirements.
– My question to the Minister for Health relates to the difficulty being experienced by hospitals in New South Wales in obtaining modern equipment. I particularly refer to the McLeay District Hospital, Kempsey. That hospital has had difficulty in obtaining X-ray equipment which has been on order for more than two years through the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales. Will the Minister confer with the New South Wales Minister for Health to ascertain whether it is possible to give some help to. speed up the delivery of such equipment which is so urgently needed for providing the most modern facilities for the treatment of country people, who otherwise would have to travel many miles for such treatment. Such travel might, cause delay in treatment, and, consequently, more serious complications which might have been avoided.
– The matter of providing equipment to hospitals is one entirely for the States, but insofar as any obstacles are placed in the way of obtaining this equipment, I shall be pleased to follow the honorable member’s suggestion and discuss the matter with the New South Wales Minister for Health.
– Has the Minister for Immigration any information to give the House regarding the conferences that have recently taken place between an officer of his department, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia on the question of the employment of new Australians in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited’s industries? Has the matter been settled to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned?
– I was advised last week that the officials of the Federated Ironworkers Association were objecting, for reasons which were indicated to me, to the placement of an additional 100 migrant workers at the Newcastle works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I arranged for -a senior executive officer of the department, Mr. Marsh, to proceed to Newcastle to confer with the interested parties. Those conferences have been taking place over the last few days. I am now glad to- be able to inform the honorable member that it has now been agreed upon by the parties that the additional 100 migrants shall be accepted at the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the spirit of co-operation and common sense which the officers of the union and the management of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited have shown throughout these negotiations.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the vessels Aldinga, Iron Warrior, Iron Master and Iron Duke are immobilizedat Newcastle, Mungana at Sydney, and Ulooloo at Adelaide as the result of a shipping dispute. Is the delay seriously retarding the production of steel? Are the ships concerned fast vessels that are capable of making quick trips between Adelaide and Newcastle? Has anything been done to settle the dispute?
– Yes; my department has not been idle. The delay was first brought to my notice on Friday by representatives of the shipowners, who considered that some concerted action had been taken by officials of the Seamen’s Union at various ports in order to hold up the movement of certain vessels that were only partly manned. Some of them, were short of only a few members of their crews. The law provides that the ships cannot be taken to sea unless they are fully manned, and it was suggested to me that the union officials had been deliberately restraining their members from offering for work on the ships. I immediately communicated with Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and asked him if he could indicate whether concerted action had been taken to delay the vessels and, if so, what were the reasons for such action. It appeared to me at the time that it was possible that reprisals were being taken as the result of the logging and fining by the owners of seamen, as the result of their demonstration against the anti-Communist legislation some days ago. On Monday, Mr. Monk assured me that the result of his inquiries suggested that concerted action was not being taken. Men could not be compelled to offer for work on the ships, and there was a general shortage of labour for those vessels. There has been some improvement of the position since then, as Mr. Monk promised. However, four vessels containing steel for shipment to other States have been delayed at Newcastle. Mr. Hamilton Knight, the conciliation commissioner who deals with this section of industry, has called a compulsory conference of the parties for this morning, and, in those circumstances, I do not propose to comment further at this stage.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a press report which states that a mob of wealthy graziers, with record wool cheques burning holes in their wallets, will flock to Ansett’s hotel, the Royal Hayman, after “ Artie “ Fadden opens it on the 3rd July?
-Order ! The honorable gentleman must refer to honorable members by their proper titles.
– I was quoting a newspaper reference to the Treasurer, sir.
– Honorable members are not supposed to base questions on newspaper paragraphs. I have made that clear time and again.
– After the Treasurer has opened that luxury hotel, which, according to a newspaper, has 60 luxurious suites with twin divan beds, Chinese carpets and a private bathroom for each bedroom, will he undertake to refer to the guests and the people who have been responsible for the erection of the building the situation of the many thousands of people who are living in slum areas of the capital cities and suggest that the building materials used in the hotel might have been used to provide homes for such people?
– In the first place, the licence under which the Hayman Island establishment will operate has been granted to its owners by the Queensland Labour Government. In the second place, in thu light of my experience of luxury establishments, I expect that most of the rooms at the hotel will be occupied by Labour sympathizers and supporters.
– I am informed that some of the Government’s munitions factories are engaged in the production of civil goods on order from commercial firms. Will the Minister for Supply inform me whether that. is so ? If it is so, will he state the extent to which they are competing with private industry?
– It is true that, in peacetime, government munitions establishments must of necessity, either cease operations completely or take civilian orders so that they may maintain the key men in the industry and meet, at least to a certain degree, the’ upkeep expenses, which are very considerable. I think that that applies to about eight munitions factories in Australia, and they are making civilian goods, such as tractor parts and other things, for private industry. However, I assure the honorable member for Denison that they are not competing with private industry in any way. The prices which are charged for their manufactures are not less than those charged by private industry for similar goods, and, indeed, the work which the government munitions establishments is undertaking, is being done at the request of private industry in order to supply goods which are in short supply.. That position is now changing, because with our increasing defence needs, those factories are being occupied more and more with purely defence production.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether gum boots and winter uniforms have been issued to postmen in Victoria ? If they have not yet been issued, will he state when they will be provided, particularly to postmen in the outer metropolitan area and country districts, who are obliged to work in water and in slush, under conditions which are detrimental to their health?
– I cannot state precisely when gum boots and winter uniforms will be issued to postmen. I realize, of course, that in Victoria, gum boots are essential-
– That is a very sticky subject.
– Out out the mud-slinging!
– I shall obtain the information for which the honorable member has asked.
– Yesterday I was asked a question by the honorable member for Cook in the course of which he referred to allegations that had been made by certain members of the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Men and Women that postings of the legion’s newspaper were being interfered with in the mail branch of the General Post Office, Sydney, and that upwards of 10,000 copies at a time were being diverted by alleged Communists. I have ascertained that postings of the newspaper have been irregular, both as regards dates and volume. This is a fortnightly journal and the following are the round figures concerning the number of copies lodged for posting during this year: -
The failure to lodge copies between the 19th January and the 20th February indicates that a complete issue was not posted. One published statement that employees of the General Post Office were intercepting and destroying 10,000 copies a month is obviously false, as the above figures show that the total number of copies lodged for posting during some months did not reach 10,000. Considerable difficulties have been experienced in financial dealings with the publishers. On several occasions consignments that have been delivered to the bulk postage section of the General l?ost Office have not been accepted because funds for payment of postage were not provided and the carter has bad to return the packages to the printers. On another occasion an attempt was made to lodge a bulk posting at a suburban office, on a claim that funds for payment had been lodged at the General Post Office. The officer at the suburban post office telephoned the General Post Office to verify the statement and was informed that no funds were held. I think that those facts dispose of the allegations that have been raised.
– Has the Treasurer seen the recent statement of the Commonwealth
Statistician, Dr. Roland Wilson in which attention is directed to the fact that, because of a drop in Australia’s exports to the United States of America and Canada, only one-half of the amount of dollars were earned in April compared with the earnings in March? Does the Government contemplate any action .to correct that undesirable state of affairs.
– The Government docs intend to take such action as the honorable member has indicated. It will do everything possible to increase the export of dollar goods to the United States of America.
– In view of the contemplated reduction of staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service will the Minister for Labour and National Service assure the House that ex-service men and women employed by that branch will be given preference over other employees remaining in the service, and will exservice personnel whose services it is found to be necessary to dispense with, be retained in their positions for a specified period in order to give them the opportunity to obtain other employment ? Will the Minister also consider retaining the physically handicapped section of the service which is doing a particularly good job for incapacitated ex-servicemen?
– I assure the honorable member that the Government has no intention of abandoning the physically handicapped section of the Commonwealth Employment Service. With respect to the other matters that he has raised, I shall ensure that the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act relating to preference are applied in the retrenchment, or transfer, of employees of the service. Generally speaking, however, employees who are displaced should not find it difficult to become absorbed to their satisfaction in the general economy because, as the records of the Commonwealth Employment Service disclose, more than 100,000 vacancies are registered at present.
– Does the reply given by the Minister for Labour and National Service to the question asked by the honorable member for Lilley mean that a final decision has been made to disband the Commonwealth Employment Service ? If that is so, will the Minister, in view of the very great work performed by the officers of that service, be prepared to arrange for this House to be informed about the future of those officers?
– I am glad to have this indication from all parts of the House that the work of the Commonwealth Employment Service has been valued correctly ‘by members of the community generally. I ‘believe that it has done very excellent work and that it is at the present time performing a most valuable community service. That has been particularly so since the problem of placing our immigrant labour became a very real one. The Government has no intention of abolishing the Commonwealth Employment Service. “What I have said in this House means that an overall retrenchment of approximately 10 per cent, will be made in the number of those engaged in the service, but I do not think that there will be a corresponding loss of efficiency. So far as Queensland is concerned it is fair to say that the Queensland Government has never been anything more than lukewarm in its attitude to the service, and indeed it has been critical of its existence. That fact, however, has not prevented the Queensland Government from making extensive use of it for its own purposes. However, if any honorable member considers that the general opinion in his electorate is that the action being taken in a particular district would prevent a proper service being given, I shall be glad to examine any representations to that effect, because” I personally do not want to see the community deprived of the benefit of an agency that is performing very useful work.
M r. EDGAR RUSSELL.- On the 27th April last, I directed a question to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Health, in which I requested that the Government should &et up a special board of scientists to undertake research work with it view to discovering the origin of poliomyelitis and also evolving the most modern methods of treating that disease.
The Prime Minister assured me that he would bring the matter to the notice of the Minister. I now ask the Minister whether he has taken any steps in the direction that I have indicated ?
– I made a point of attending a meeting in Melbourne of the National Health and Medical Research Council which, at my request, appointed a highly qualified team of men to investigate the whole subject to which the honorable member has referred. Those experts will determine the best sites for laboratories and will also evolve methods by which all research work in relation to poliomyelitis in Australia might best be co-ordinated.
– Will the Minister for National Development indicate what stage has been reached in geological and geophysical survey work in the search for oil in Queensland and Western Australia and also in test drilling in those areas? What are the prospects of the discovery of liquid crude petroleum in payable quantities in the Australian region? As exploratory work has been proceeding for some time in New Guinea, are details yet available regarding prospects in that region? Further, as two fields are now producing oil in Dutch New Guinea, a fact that must have some influence on the demands being made >by the Indonesian Government that that country be included in the United States of Indonesia, can the Minister inform the House of the quantity of crude petroleum that is imported by Australia from that area and whether arrangements have -been concluded with the Dutch Government to ensure continuity of supplies?
– Geological survey work has been proceeding in the Kimberley basin in Western Australia and in the north-west ‘basin for the last three years whilst geophysical work has been going on in the Roma area in Queensland. The Bureau of Mineral Resources is supervising that work and that body will commence, a geophysical survey of the north-west basin this year. All this work is being undertaken as a preliminary to final testing by drilling. The bureau has not yet reached the stage at which it can commence a drilling programme in any of those areas. The surveys are essential to elucidate the prospects - I repeat the word “ prospects “ - for the discovery of crude petroleum in Australia and I believe that the work is well worthwhile. I shall obtain information with respect to the position in New Guinea and advise the honorable member later.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the surf life-saving clubs of Australia are doing wonderful work by saving hundreds of lives each year in the surf? Is it also a fact that many of these clubs are in financial difficulties and are not able to provide the necessary gear for the saving of life on our beaches? If these are facts, will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of subsidizing the clubs so that they may be able to purchase essential equipment to carry on their good work? Will he also introduce legislation to compel insurance companies to contribute to the funds of such clubs?
– The granting of financial assistance to surf life-saving clubs is a matter for the State governments. The Commonwealth Treasury is, however, at present investigating the matter to ascertain On what lines, and to what extent, the Australian Government can assist such a worthy cause.
Marketing Arrangements with United Kingdom Government.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the review of the contract prices for Australian mutton and lamb sold in the United Kingdom for 1951 will be concluded in time to enable the new scheduled prices to operate from the 1st July? Will producers be given an opportunity to indicate what they consider to he fair prices before the Australian Government enters into negotiations with the United Kingdom authorities?
– It is hoped that the negotiations which involve the annual review of contract prices for mutton and lamb in the United Kingdom will be concluded in time to allow the new scheduled prices to operate by the 1st July. The industry has been given an opportunity to express its views on the matter at two different levels. I have invited the Australian Meat Board, on which there is a majority of producer representatives, to inform me of the prices which it considers we should seek to negotiate with the United Kingdom Government. The negotiations are being initiated on the basis of the advice of the board. The Acting High Commissioner for Australia, Mr. McCarthy, will be the principal’ Australian negotiator; but I have arranged that Mr. Shute, the chairman of the Australian Meat Board, and Mr. Williamson, a Western Australian producer representative on the board, shall be present in London during the negotiations to act as consultants. The industry was consulted prior to the first approach to the United Kingdom Government, and its representatives will take part in the negotiations in London. That is the policy I intend to pursue in all commodity negotiations. First, the statutory marketing board in Australia will be consulted and later its chairman and a producer representative will take part in the negotiations. That practice will be followed in negotiations affecting the sale in London of not only mutton and lamb but also beef, pig meats, eggs and other primary commodities. Such a policy is already in operation in relation to dairy products.
– In view of the importance of Egypt in any scheme of British Commonwealth defence, and particularly in view of its importance to Australia and of the increasing part that oil supplies from the Middle East will play in our economy, will the Minister for External Affairs say whether the British Government has sought the opinions of the Australian Government concerning Field Marshal Sir William Slim’s visit to Egypt which is allegedly for the purpose of discussing a new Anglo-Egyptian treaty. Will he also say whether the Government is being kept informed of the progress of whatever negotiations may be proceeding?
– We have been informed that Field Marshal Slim is proceeding to Egypt, but I am unable to give the honorable member any further information except that when Field Marshal Slim is in Egypt a number of questions will probably be discussed in relation to Egypt’s desire for the evacuation of British troops. I can only say in reply to the honorable member’s second question that we are kept informed of events as they occur, but I have no specific information that I am able to give him.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister in relation to the Constitution Alteration (Avoidance of Double Dissolution Deadlocks) Bill 1950. During the debate on the bill suggestions were made by honorable members on both sides of the House that the matter dealt with by the bill should be considered on a non-party basis in relation to the general question of the Senate and of disagreements between the Houses. Has the Prime Minister or the Government given consideration to those suggestions, or is the Opposition to take it that, as the bill has been passed by this House, all those suggestions havebeen rejected by the Government?
– Speaking for myself, I have not yet given any consideration to the suggestions to which the right honorable gentleman has referred, but I propose to do so in the next day or two, largely so as to inform my mind about their precise terms, because unfortunately I was absent from the chamber during a good deal of the debate.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether there is any truth in a press statement that Royal Australian Air Force personnel posted to the Malayan area are to receive no more than 5s. extra living allowance as a pay recognition for service in that area?
– The question of the payment of additional allowances, especially to members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are serving in Malaya, is now under discussion with the Royal Air Force authorities in that area in order to determine an appropriate rate. When advice has been received in this regard the matter will be discussed with the Treasury and a rate will be fixed.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Interior a question which, as it refers to a state of affairs that has existed over a long period, is obviously not intended as a criticism of his administration. I refer to the statement made by Dr. C. E. Cook, a high official of the Department of Health, at a conference on medicine in Brisbane at which he said that the natives of northern Australia were a reservoir of infection and that as a result of their diseased condition they were ostracized by the white community and were therefore caught in a vicious circle of ignorance, squalor, vice and disease. Has the department of the Interior taken any action in regard to that statement and has the department any intention of sending a team of medical men to the Northern Territory to cope with what Dr. Cook has stated to be a very great problem?
– Perhaps I might speak for the Minister for the Interior who has been dealing with this matter for six months. An arrangement has been made between the Western Australian and the Queensland governments and the Commonwealth to investigate the conditions of natives in northern Australia. Representatives of the three governments are examining the present position and by the time that they have prepared all their data Sir Henry Newland, a very eminent surgeon of Adelaide who is going to London to discuss this question of tropical diseases with the British colonial administration, will have returned to Australia and it will then be possible to define a policy in respect, not only of the Northern Territory, but also of the whole of northern Australia.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject : -
School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Sydney - Proposed extensions.
Ordered to. be printed.
– by leave - On the 23rd May, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in the course of his second-reading speech on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950, narrated an incident which he understood had occurred a week previously at a suburban cafe in Adelaide. It had been alleged that, during dinner, two men who claimed to be security officers had interrogated the proprietress of the cafe and others. The incident has now been investigated, as the honorable member asked that it should be. It has transpired that the incident was a mere prank which was carried out by two young ex-servicemen who were out on a frolic. I regret to say that investigation indicates that they had been celebrating some mutually happy event and had dined not wisely but too well. After the story had appeared in the newspapers the two men concerned, neither of whom has ever had anything to do with the security service of the Commonwealth and each of whom is in private employment, volunteered statements to the Commonwealth authorities. Some of their statements can hardly be accepted in detail because it is clear that they bad both been drinking and that at the cafe they were in an irresponsible condition. Neither of the two men has any connexion with the Commonwealth, and it is, therefore, not proposed, under the circumstances, to take any punitive action against them. Pranks of that kind are always stupid and in critical times they can be dangerous because they give rise to unnecessary alarm and avoidable suspicion. In the present circumstances it has been decided not to prosecute these two young men, but it should be realized by them and hy others that such conduct may expose the participants to quite serious charges, and jio one should assume that this type of frolic can be imitated, consciously or unconsciously, with impunity.
– by leave - In my statement in the House on the 9th March, on Australian external relations, I said that, for security and strategic reasons, Australia had a vital interest in the question of the future status of Dutch New Guinea. Since then, the claim for Indonesian sovereignty over the territory has been publicly repeated, and it is essential that Australia’s interest in the future of the territory should be clearly restated and established.
Dutch New Guinea was not included in the agreement reached at The Hague last year for the transfer of sovereignty in Indonesia from the Netherlands to the United States of Indonesia. From the beginning of the negotiations which led up to the agreement, the Netherlands maintained that it did not regard western New Guinea as falling in the area the subject of the negotiations. At The Hague conference, however, the Indonesian delegation made the claim that western New Guinea should be included in the new State. As neither side would change its attitude, the conference was deadlocked on the New Guinea question until, on the suggestion of the United Nations Commission for Indonesia, it was agreed that the issue should be deferred for one year, during which time the Netherlands and the United States of Indonesia would try to find a settlement by direct discussion.
The separate and distinct nature of western New Guinea was recognized by the Dutch under the Netherlands East Indie* Administration. In fact, because of the affinity of the territory with the rest of the mainland of New Guinea, the Netherlands, in respect of western New Guinea, is a member of the South Pacific Commission. When, therefore, a claim is made which would completely alter the existing status of the territory and incorporate it into the United States of Indonesia, it is not reasonable to exclude from consideration the interests of any other country - in this case Australia - which feels it is affected.
In other words, it is our view that, should discussions between the Netherlands and Indonesia tend towards any arrangement which would alter the status of western New Guinea, the matter is no longer one merely for those two parties themselves. This is not simply an assertion. Quite apart from Australia’s interest, one obvious consideration is the interest and desires of the people who inhabit this area, their ethnic origins, their affinity with the people of the rest of New Guinea, and other related factors. Our information is that the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of western New Guinea are of the same race, with the same ethnic origins, the same characteristics and in the same state of development as those who inhabit Australian New Guinea and Papua. Indeed, I understand that the President of the Republic of Indonesia in one of his recent statements, referred to these people as “ Papuans “. Furthermore, under the procedure arising out of The Hague Agreement, a joint NetherlandsIndonesian commission of investigation is at present in New Guinea and will report later in the year to the NetherlandsIndonesian Council of Ministers, where further discussions on the future of the territory will take place. It is agreed that the commission will submit its report also to the United Nations Commission for Indonesia. In this way, therefore, it seems to us clearly recognized already that the question of the future of the territory is not one solely for Indonesia and the Netherlands, but is potentially also a matter of wider concern, and it is the view of the Australian Government that, in this, Australian interests should be taken into account.
One cannot escape from the conclusion that, by all its characteristics and from the nature of its people, western New Guinea is an integral part of New Guinea as a whole. Moreover, from the aspect of the security of Australia, the territory is naturally integrated with the rest of New Guinea and other adjacent island territories which experience has shown to be strategically vital to our defence.
Australians who fought along the Kokoda
Trail and elsewhere in the defence of this country and of its people will need no reminder of this; nor will those who were, by their efforts, saved from the devastation and misery which would have descended upon our country had the Japanese not been halted when within only a few miles of Port Moresby. We cannot alter our geography which for all time makes the mainland of New Guinea of vital importance to our security. It would, we think, be both unreal and unreasonable that any change of status for the territory should occur which disregards the interests of the indigenous population and those of Australia.
This attitude need not run counter to the proper national aspirations of the Indonesian people. But it cannot be conceded that the claim to extend indonesian sovereignty over western New Guinea is in any way relevant to the accomplished achievement of political independence by the Indonesian people themselves. In the future of western New Guinea, Australia has direct and vital interests, and feels strongly that those interests are entitled to be considered. It is proper, in the opinion of the Government, that our viewpoint should be stated fairly and frankly before any step may be taken which could alter that status to her detriment.
We have, as a Government, placed special emphasis upon our relations with the Republic of Indonesia and with its people whose friendship we value and wish to see become progressively closer. We have, on many occasions, afforded ample evidence of our desire to advance and improve those relations. It would, in our view, prove ultimately prejudicial to those relations were we to remain publicly silent upon the President’s statements and not make clear our views.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Dutch New Guinea - Indonesia’s Claim of Sovereignty - Mi ni steri n 1 s statement and move -
That the paper be printed.
.- I think that something should be said about the subject-matter of this statement at once. Yesterday, during the debate on the adjournment, the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) on the Government side, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and myself on this side of the House stated views which I think run parallel to the views which have just been expressed by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender). It is most important, as the honorable member for Chisholm said, that the views of this Parliament, as a parliament, should be made clear. The problem is of tremendous importance. Primarily, this is a matter between Indonesia and the Netherlands. In. other words, there can be no change in the status of New Guinea without the consent of the Netherlands Government. But I entirely agree that the interest of Australia in such a settlement is not indirect, but very direct. That interest should and can be adequately safeguarded. The sovereignty of the Netherlands in western New Guinea is undoubted, and, if the Netherlands Government wishes to retain that sovereignty, the situation cannot be altered except by acts of aggression on the part of Indonesia, in relation to which, of course, United Nations intervention would immediately result. I also agree with the Minister concerning what might be called the merits of the claims that have been made on behalf of the Government of Indonesia.
The first point that I emphasize, apart from security, which I shall discuss later, is that Australia’s duty and its rights in relation to New Guinea correspond. “We have complete sovereignty over Papua and effective control and sovereignty over the trusteeship territory of New Guinea. Our duty in relation to New Guinea is to advance the interests of the native peoples and, broadly, the administration of Papua has .been conducted by all Australian governments with the same object in view. How would that duty be affected by the taking over of Dutch New Guinea by Indonesia? An Asiatic race would be coming into direct contact with the natives of New Guinea, in all aspects of their life, because there is no substantial difference between the natives of western New Guinea and those of the rest of New Guinea. That would be to the obvious detriment of the peoples of New Guinea. The Charter of the United Nations emphasizes that the duty of the signatories, including Australia and the Netherlands, and also including Indonesia if and when that country becomes a member of the United Nations, is to. advance the interests of native peoples. I believe that the interests of the natives of New Guinea would be most detrimentally affected by the vesting in any Asiatic power, of sovereignty over western New Guinea. The tribal life of the natives would gradually disappear. Australia has adopted this attitude in connexion with the trusteeship territory of New Guinea, and especially in connexion with Nauru, where there was a great influx of Chinese for the purpose of working the phosphate deposits. The Nationalist Government of China objected to the Australian point of view, but that point of view is absolutely correct and in the best interests of the natives. of Nauru. Australia has always insisted upon the return to their homeland of labourers who have gone to Nauru to work for a comparatively short time. I consider that the Government could well emphasize this point of view and, if necessary, invoke United Nations action on that count alone.
The Minister emphasized a further point, as also did the honorable member for Chisholm last night. All experts in this field agree that there is a sharp line dividing the whole of New Guinea, including Dutch New Guinea, from Indonesia proper and the rest of the Malay Archipelago. The line is variously drawn, but in every attempt to lay down a division, whether it has been the “ Wallace “ line or some alternative line, it has been made clear that all ethnic considerations preclude the attachment of western New Guinea to Indonesia. As the honorable member for Chisholm pointed out last night in detail, Dutch New Guinea is completely different in every respect from Indonesia. I agree entirely with what the honorable member said. When the South Pacific Commission was formed some years ago on the initiative of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and myself, we went, into this matter very carefully.
Honorable members will understand that the South Pacific Commission was established for the purpose of advancing the welfare of the native peoples of the South Pacific. The United States of America was directly interested in respect of Samoa, and New Zealand was interested in respect of Samoa and other parts of the ‘South Pacific region. France, the United Kingdom and Australia were included on account of their interests. Finally, the question of Dutch New Guinea arose. Was it proper to include the Netherlands in the scope of the commission? All the authorities agreed that it was proper and that western New Guinea had no relation to South-East Asia, but was part and parcel of the South Pacific. That unanimous view completely bears out what the Minister has said this morning and what various honorable members agreed upon last night.
I have left the question of security to the last. In referring to security, I do not mean only the security of Australia, although that is a primary consideration. I have in mind the whole scape of international security in this area. There might be a very grave threat to security if there were any change in the status of New Guinea. Although the Minister stated Australia’s views, he did not - and, I suppose could not at this moment - indicate what, practical steps ought to be taken to assert those views and ensure that the final solution should be satisfactory. It is clear that the unanimous wish of the Australian people and of the Parliament is that any change in the status of Dutch New Guinea should he a change of which Australia approves. That being so, I submit that the Government should indicate to the Government of Indonesia and also . to the Government of the Netherlands, which is the other negotiating party, that Australia desires to take an active part in the negotiations. lt may be said that the matter rests entirely between the Netherlands and Indonesia. In one sense, that is true. It is technically true. But, in order to illustrate the force of my contention, I shall cite a hypothetical case that will bring home to honorable members the important considerations that I have in mind. The case that I shall state is not a likely example, but it serves as an effective illustration. Let us suppose that, as the result of a treaty between Germany and France, Germany was granted access to or sovereignty over the channel ports. That might be said by some people to be a matter entirely between France and Germany. But obviously it would affect the vital interest of Great Britain. In the same way, any change in relation to Dutch New Guinea must be a matter of direct concern to Australia because it is the trustee of a great portion of New Guinea, because it has sovereignty over Papua and also because its security would be affected, perhaps very directly, by the change. Therefore I suggest that the Government make a direct and open request to those two governments, with which it is on friendly terms, to allow Australia to participate in their talks immediately.
– The right honorable gentleman may rest assured that these matters have been attended to.
– I accept the Minister’s statement, realizing that I am not aware of the details.
Two other steps might be taken. There is a possibility of United Nations intervention on the grounds that were indicated during the adjournment debate last night by the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck), whose name I should have mentioned earlier because he summed up the situation very succinctly. The United Nations has an interest in the dispute, and there is a possibility that it may intervene.
Let me make this final point. There can be no change without the consent of the Netherlands. The matter is clearly not covered by the agreement which was made between the Netherlands and Indonesia last year and which is now being carried into effect. I should like to see, for the native peoples of Dutch New Guinea at least, some form of United Nations trusteeship, which would indicate United Nations interest, and in which Australia would be either the trustee or one of the trustees. I do not see why it should not be possible to work out a scheme which would ‘be satisfactory to the Netherlands, to Indonesia and to Australia. I think that Australia ha« much more experience than any other powerhas relative to these Pacific problems, and I believe that a suggestion like that would bear fruit. Suppose that it cannot be achieved, and that the Netherlands Government wishes to dispose of this territory. I do not say that the Netherlands Government desires to do so. I should imagine that if the Netherlands adheres to its sovereignty in New Guinea, everybody must and would accept it. But suppose the Netherlands Government is anxious or agreeable to part with the sovereignty over Dutch New Guinea. I suggest also to the Government that it may be possible to arrange for the purchase of that territory by Australia. I do not see why that arrangement should not be possible, and I mention it and include it among other suggestions because, although this matter at first sight seems to cause a situation of peril - I believe that it does - there is in that very situation a possibility of the future of New Guinea being assured, not only for the security of Australia and for the preservation of international peace in this important area of the world, but also in the interests of the native peoples of New Guinea, which, in all these matters, whether it is a trust territory or our own sovereignty in Papua, are our primary consideration. I am glad that the Minister has made his statement to the House, and I should like to say again that all honorable members who spoke on this subject during the debate on the motion for the adjournment last night agreed upon the vital importance of this subject.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Why should the debate be adjourned? The Opposition requires a division on the motion.
– Why does the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) require a division?
– Because it is a shocking surrender.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That this House is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government, exercising a national responsibility for the welfare of the whole Australian people, should co-operate with the State Governments in measures for the social advancement as well as the protection of people of the aboriginal race throughout the Australian mainland, such co-operation to include additional financial aid to those States on whom the burden of native administration falls most heavily; and the House requests the Government to prepare proposals for submission at the earliest opportunity to a meeting of State Premiers and, in preparing such proposals, to pay due regard to the principles of («) State administration of native affairs and (6) co-operation with the Christian missions.
I propose, first, to attempt to give a broad description of the present circumstances of aborigines in Australia, and, secondly, to put forward several general propositions, and on the basis of those propositions to pass to an explanation of the precise terms of the motion and the purposes which it is intended that it shall accomplish. As, under the Standing Orders, I shall not have sufficient time to give a comprehensive description of the conditions of aborigines, I shall be bold enough to make the initial assumption that honorable members are not satisfied, with the present treatment of aborigines in Australia and the conditions under which they are obliged to live at present. I am confident that honorable members who in their own electorates or from personal interest have direct contact with and first-hand knowledge of the problem will readily endorse that statement. I ask those honorable members who have not first-hand knowledge of the problem to accept the assurance of those who have, and also to accept the verdict which they will find recorded in numerous papers and reports indicating that native administrators, government departments and aboriginal welfare associations are by no means satisfied with the conditions of aborigines at present. I do not intend to raise a scandal or to apportion blame in any particular quarter. If there is cause for blame, I do not think that it can be placed upon any administration or official. The neglect of this social problem in the past has been neglect on the part of the Australian community as a whole. The community as a whole must, therefore, bear the blame. The purpose of my motion is not to place the blame upon administrations, but to arouse the Australian nation to some sense of its responsibility for its short-comings in this matter.
According to the census that was taken in 1944, there were then in Australia 71,895 persons who were classified as aborigines. That total included 24,881 who were classified as halfcastes. Approximately one-third were classified as nomadic and slightly less than one-third were classified as being in employment. Of the remainder, also approximately one-third, the majority were either in supervised camps or were looking after themselves in various stages of transition from bush life to the life of the white community. Those figures do not give an accurate picture of present conditions of aborigines, but they underline certain points. The first is that at least two-thirds of the aboriginal and half-caste population in Australia have already come so closely in touch with the ways of European life that their future cannot .be considered any longer as being that of a primitive people living their own tribal life in the remote parts of this country. They are already closely in touch with the ways of Europeans and are living on the outskirts of white settlements. For either good or ill, the future of those aborigines lies in close association with the white community. Indeed, many of the remainder who are classified as nomadic have commenced the process of transition from tribal life to life in contact with white settlers, and already the tribal practices and beliefs which give vitality to a primitive people are being sapped and are losing their force. Therefore - and this is my second point - the problem to-day is not a problem of protection. In the old days when they were a primitive people living under primitive bush conditions, the problem chiefly was to set up a barrier between them and the invading white community. Those days have gone, and the nation must move to a new era in which the social advancement rather than the crude protection of the natives should be the objective of all that is done in this sphere. We must either work for the social advancement of the aborigines or be content to witness their continued social degradation. There is no possibility now of our being able to put at least two thirds of the aborigines back into bush life. Their future lies in association with us, and they must either associate with us on standards that will give them full opportunity to live worthily and happily or be reduced to the social status of pariahs and outcasts living without a firm place in the community. In other words, we either permit this social evil to continue or we remedy it.
The third point is that a total of approximately 72,000 aborigines living in an expanding community of approximately 8,000,000 whites is so small that it is manageable. We have on our hands a serious but not a frightening problem. The total number of aborigines constitutes a social group within but not of the white community. Therefore, that group can, and must, be managed. Unless we tackle this problem now it will increase in seriousness. I can illustrate that point from my own personal knowledge of the conditions of the half-caste population in the southern part of Western Australia. In 1934 and 1936 I conducted an investigation of the conditions of life of those half-castes and published a certain amount of material upon the subject. At that time, just after the depression, there was a social problem that affected 4,000 half-castes in that district. To-day, in exactly the same region, after a lapse of only sixteen years there are 6,000 halfcastes and their condition is far worse at present than it was in 1934 just after the depression. That is not a reflection upon the present administration. That deterioration has come about in spite of improved administrative efforts within narrow limits in recent years, but it illustrates that a manageable social problem may very quickly become unmanageable if it be not tackled immediately and with determination.
The fundamental point to be recognized is that in this matter we must deal with not one problem but several problems. I shall illustrate that point by referring to the conditions of those natives, approximately 20,000, who are classified as being in employment. That number can be sub-divided into six, or seven, classifications. First, there are those natives who live on cattle stations in the north under tribal conditions and whose subsistence with that of their families is provided by station owners. They live a bush life and during a large part of the year when they are not needed for mustering, they go walk about and resume their full tribal habits. In the north-west of Australia natives are employed mainlyon sheep stations. Because of their tribal background many of them are attached by their own choice to particular stations. They receive wages and largely follow the habits of white workers, although their standards of living are certainly far below those of any white stockman or boundary rider. In the areas farther south the natives in the sheep country may be contrasted with those living in the agricultural areas under conditions roughly approximating those of the white workers, but enjoying a lower social standard, and suffering the disability of social outcasts. There are also natives who are under the protection of missions or government settlements. Then there are those who find regular employment, receive award rates of wages, and live in their own homes. Finally, there are natives who, perhaps, not being so steady in their habits, follow seasonal labour or take contract work, as the fancy moves them or as their need for some new commodity arises. These are only some instances that indicate the wide variation in the types of employment followed by natives classified as “employed” and the extent of this national problem. Any uniform plan to cover all natives in employment which disregarded these wide differences in the competence of various groups of aborigines, their conditionsof work and their manner of life would be certain to cause conflict and confusion, and would give neither satisfaction to ourselves nor benefit to the aborigines. In considering this problem we must be conscious, first, of its diversity. Because of its diversity we must remember that we cannot deal with it by adopting a single and uniform policy. The task of solving the problem must be worked at patiently and conscientiously, and with a risk of a certain amount of disappointment, stage by stage in the different parts of the Commonwealth according to the different groups of natives and the different degrees to which they have entered into relations with the white community. We must have regard to local problems of health and tribal customs, and the degree of contact between black and white, which vary bo widely from the north to the south of this continent.
Another point that emerges from a further examination of these figures is the inequality of the distribution of aborigines between the various States. Of the grand total of approximately 72,000 aborigines, three-quarters are in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Thus, the burden of administration falls most heavily on a few States. In order to point the contrast, and give it full meaning, I mention that whereas Victoria, with an annual consolidated revenue of approximately £45,000,000, expends only £5,000 a, year on aborigines, Western Australia, with, an annual consolidated revenue of approximately £20,000,000, expends dE70,000 on their administration and care. At .present the responsibility is unequally distributed among the people of Australia although, as I shall attempt to show, it is a responsibility which should Mot be shirked by the whole of the people. “Having given that broad account of the present condition of aborigines, I shall attempt to establish, as my first “major proposition, that the whole Australian community has a responsibility for their welfare. As the Australian Government is the only government that can speak in the name of the whole community it has a special obligation to ensure that the nation shall accept that responsibility. I know that the Australian Constitution leaves responsibility for aborigines with the State governments, and! that the direct legislative and administrative powers of the Commonwealth in respect of aborigines do not extend beyond Commonwealth territories. I do not propose to enter into a constitutional argument or to develop any novel thesis about the situation. Keeping to a practical political level, I merely ask the Commonwealth Parliament as the supreme voice of the Australian nation, to ensure that, irrespective of where the constitutional powers lie, the practical task of the betterment of the conditions of the natives throughout the Commonwealth shall be undertaken. There are many reasons why we should be more emphatic and more co-operative in this matter than we have been in former years.
Some of them may be shortly summarized as follows: First. the pattern of contact between whites and natives has changed in the 50 years since federation. Whereas in 1900, the number of aborigine? closely in touch with settlement was roughly the same in all States except Victoria, to-day the special burden on two States and on the administration in the Northern Territory has become more marked. Secondly, the financial autonomy of the States has changed very greatly. The States are not able to undertake the financial commitments that they were able to accept in the years immediately after federation. Without a recognition of a special need by the Australian Government it would be beyond the practical capacity of any State, even in times of the greatest prosperity, to make proper provision for its relatively greater responsibilities for its aboriginal population. Thirdly, the Australian Government, through its acquisition of the Northern Territory, shares a common problem with the States iri the administration of the aboriginal population in the Northern Territory. These are all arguments why it is necessary to make a re-appraisal of the role of this Parliament in the problem of native welfare and to give a lead in the formulation of a joint national programme.
There also seems to me to be other arguments why the Australian Government should make its voice heard in this matter. The Commonwealth Parliament is the custodian of th<: national reputation in the world at large. Our record of native administration will not stand scrutiny at the standard of our own professions, publicly made in the forum of the world, of a high concern for hum-art’ welfare. We should be condemned out of our own mouths if those professions were measured by the standard of native administration accepted in Australia to-day. When we enter into international discussions, and raise our voice, as we should raise it, in defence of human rights and the protection of human welfare, our very words are mocked by the thousands of degraded and depressed people who crouch on rubbish heaps throughout the whole of this continent. Let us cleanse this stain from our forehead or we shall run the risk that ill-intentioned people will point to it with scorn. When we have done that we shall be able to stand with greater pride and more confidence before the world as a self-respecting nation.
In the course of our participation in international discussions we have allied ourselves with solemn declarations and in the case of the charter of the United Nations have made positive commitments to promote the welfare of depressed peoples and to uphold human rights. So, by international undertaking, we have acquired this additional responsibility as a national parliament to ensure that these obligations shall be fulfilled. Over and above the division of powers between the Commonwealth and the States, and unlimited by it, is the conception of the people of Australia as a whole. When the welfare of the Australian community is under consideration - and by the term “ Australian community “ I mean all the inhabitants of this continent - we as a national parliament have an obligation far more extensive than that of any single State parliament to ensure that that welfare shall be promoted. In matters such as defence, in relation to which the Commonwealth has clearly defined powers, we can legally take action to ensure that those powers shall be exercised. In relation to matters in which this Parliament has restricted power, such as the welfare of the aborigines, I suggest that it is our responsibility to initiate steps that will produce co-operation between the various administrations and so ensure that action shall be taken and that the authorities in whom the powers are vested shall have the means to make such action effective. Those are the arguments why this Parliament should accept some responsibility in the matter.
My plea for action by this Parliament is reinforced by a consideration of the attempts that have been made in the past to do precisely what I am now suggesting this Parliament should do. The subject of native affairs was raised at the Conference of Commonwealth and ‘State Ministers in 1936, and in 1937 a conference of Commonwealth and State representatives in
Canberra drew up a number of admirable principles and made some exceedingly sound recommendations. Any action that may have followed that conference was so slight as to bear little relation to its decisions. Again, following discussions that took place at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1947, when this subject was raised by Mr. Ross McDonald, the Minister for Native Affairs in Western Australia, a conference of Federal and State officials was held at Canberra in 1948. That conference made recommendations that all members will agree were fundamentally sound and showed its recognition of the seriousness of this problem. Once again, the action that followed bore little relation to the extensiveness of the recommendations. With those past experiences in mind, I submit that, if we agree, as I hope honorable members do agree, that this Parliament should act in this matter, we should consider more than the simple passing of another resolution or the initiating of another conference. We should consider starting a new era in which direct, positive and effective action is likely to be taken. It seems to me, from the lessons of the past, that among the reasons why the action taken previously was less effective than the solemn professions that were made indicated that it would be, was that the discussions in each instance took place without sufficient preparation. The subject of the conditions of the aborigines was left for discussion at the tail-end of the proceedings of the various conferences. It was treated as one of the left-overs rather than being made at any time the principal matter for discussion. Another reason was that permanent administrative arrangements were not made to give effect to the decisions of each conference so as to maintain co-ordination among the authorities that had participated in the discussions. A third reason lies in the fact that hitherto two problems in connexion with such discussions between the Commonwealth and State authorities had not been properly resolved before the conferences were held. I refer to State rights and finance. For a new conference to succeed and to result in effective action being taken, it would be necessary from the outset for a clear understanding to have been readied on those two matters. TI,e States should be assured that local administration will not be disturbed, and the Commonwealth and States should agree that when extra finance is needed, and is not obtainable from the normal sources of revenue, such finance will be available in accordance with the need for it.
Before concluding I wish to refer to the work of the Christian missions in Australia. The 50 government institutions care for 9,300 natives and 54 Christian missions care for approximately the same number of natives. Government institutional staffs total 283 and mission staffs total 219. It is plain, therefore, that if it were not for the Christian missions Australia would be doing only half as much in respect of the welfare of the aborigines as it is now doing. In addition such voluntary organizations as the Flying Doctor Service also extend their benefits to aborigines. I realize that there are good missions and some missions that may not act as wisely as they might, but generally speaking all missions bring into the field of native administration a body of devoted and zealous workers whose zeal and sense of vocation cannot be, and never will be, matched by the ordinary methods of Public Service recruitment. Any government should accept with gratitude the services of so dedicated a body of people. Furthermore, the Christian missions enlist behind their efforts the support, interest and sympathy of the whole community.
The motion before the House attempts to cover the grounds that I have rapidly sketched in brief outline. In the first place it is based on two propositions which are as follows : - (a), that the Australian Government exercises a national responsibility for the welfare of the whole Australian people and therefore should co-operate with State governments in promoting the welfare of aborigines; and (b), measures of native welfare should be directed towards the social advancement as well as the protection of aborigines. The motion then goes on to say that cooperation should include additional provision of finance. It then asks that in order that effective administrative action may follow, the Government should prepare definite proposals to place before the State Premiers and thus accept the role of co-ordinator and energizer in matters relating to native administration. Finally, the motion lays down the principle that due regard should be paid to the following: - (a), State administration of native affairs; and (b), co-operation with the Christian missions. It does not attempt to prescribe the methods that the various administrations should adopt. Any one who has had firsthand knowledge of the native problem will agree that the present conditions of the aborigines are so diverse, and the possibilities for their advancement are so dimly seen, that the programme can best be worked out in relation to the day-to-day tasks of routine administration. We cannot hope for a sudden transformation or to hit upon a single plan that will transform the position overnight or that will immediately reform this great social evil. We know that discouragement will be encountered and that the response to various demands will be different from what we may hope for, and that in such circumstances this programme for the benefit of the aborigines will have to be worked out bit by bit and day by day over the course of several generations. If the House adopts the motion, what I hope to see is chiefly that the responsible Minister for the Australian Government shall at once apply himself to the preparation of a plan for further Federal-State co-operation and that such a plan will be presented to and be accepted by the Federal and State representatives and will lead to the improved care of the natives and an improvement in the carrying out of the precise tasks of native administration under a truly national programme in the course of the next two or three generations. I also hope that that programme will be directed to the social advancement of the native people. I do not seek to attempt to sketch the details of such a plan, but I suggest .that it might include among other things a plain declaration of the objects of native administration in Australia and clear definitions of the tasks that have to be done immediately.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– In seconding the motion I should like to say that I am pleased that this matter has come before the House and I congratulate the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) on the able way in which he has presented his case. In North Queensland the aborigines and the halfcaste people are, in many instances, living under very poor conditions. The missions are doing a very fine work there. Their people are enthusiastic. They work long hours and try to bring to the native people European amenities and methods of living that they themselves wish to have. In many instances, finance is very scarce and the work of the missions is limited by that fact.
The purpose of this motion is to urge the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, to apply itself to the uplifting and betterment of the aborigines. The Australian and State governments should confer in order to provide the money that would assist in the better housing, clothing, feeding, education, and employment of these unfortunate people. Dr. Cook, a Commonwealth Medical officer who at the moment is carrying out a medical survey of the conditions under which these people live, stated in Brisbane that the Northern Australian native population had become a reservoir of infection which endangered the tropical white population. That is a very good reason why the Commonwealth should, with the utmost rapidity, draw up a scheme for the purpose of assisting these people. The findings of Dr. Cook should be accepted and everything possible should be done to alleviate the sufferings of these natives in their own interest and in the interest of white people. The honorable member for Curtin has dealt with the case very clearly and I shall not, therefore, say any more on the subject.
.- The honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) is to be congratulated on introducing this motion which I hope will result in action being taken by the Commonwealth. Consideration of the question of which government is responsible for the aborigines reveals just one more aspect in which the Constitution has become obsolete during the last 50 years. Section 51, sub-section 26, of the Constitution gives the Commonwealths power to legislate for the people of any race other than the aborigine race in any State for which it is deemed necessary to> make special laws. The forbidding of Commonwealth authority over iheaborigines is so explicit as to extend even-, to the Commonwealth census. Birt thehonorable member for Curtin is correct in. suggesting to the House that,, whatever theconstitutional position, the moral responsibility of the Commonwealth is great: and that the provision in the Constitution! has been either an alibi of or an impediment against a long successionof Australian governments when thematter has been one of legislating foraborigines. This provision was placed im the Constitution because it was recognized, by the founders of federation that if theCommonwealth Parliament had power to» legislate in respect of these people, itr would have power to acquire land and it was feared that the Australian Government would acquire great slices- of: territory for aboriginal reserves from the; States. Those who argue - and the honorable member for Curtin did not - that the Australian Government should have full sovereign control over the aboriginal problem, know that a succession of Australian! governments have a wretched record! in respect of the aborigines who havereally been under their control in Commonwealth territories. One can- go to therecord room of this Parliament and obtain, two reports, one of which is by Bleakley,, and I think was made in 1928. Theother is by Dr. Donald Thompson and it: was made in 1937 or 1938. Concerning: the health of the aborigines in theNorthern Territory those men said verymuch what Dr. C. E. Cook has said. Dr.. Donald Thompson reported on the prevalence of yaws and tropical ulcers in 1937.. He wrote of the deadly effect of thedisease of yaws on the aborigines and told? how relatively simple it was to cure it by injection, but, although that was fifteen years ago, it appears that no effective? organization has been established in Commonwealth territory to carry out the relatively simple treatment that he mentioned. So the disease continues. Bleakley made all sorts of administrativerecommendations, some of which mayhave been implemented, .but none of which has -touched the fundamentals of the problem. There is no continuous interest *in this Parliament or in State parliaments in the subject of aborigines. In the State of Western Australia, with which I am most familiar, the former director of .the Department of Aborigines, Mr. A. -O. Neville, complained that year after year he had presented detailed reports to parliament concerning the aborigines, and in his last report he inferred that he was irresistibly driven to the conclusion that no member of the Parliament ever bothered to read his reports. Certainly his reports never had much effect on policy, just as Blaekley’s and Thompson’s reports had very little effect on the policy of the Australian Government. I speak purely from personal conviction when I say that the time has come to provide for the represenation of aborigines by an aboriginal in this Federal Parliament. I recognize that there would be difficulties in organizing an aborigines’ constituency, but I believe that only an aborigine would “have constantly in his mind the problems o’f his own people and those people who live as aborigines even though they ‘have an admixture of European blood. I believe that if there was an aboriginal representative in this Parliament, speaking constantly when this Parliament is broadcasting, he would do much to sting the conscience of a completely indifferent nation to the wellbeing of his people. I hope that the representations being made by cultured aborigines such as Pastor Doug Nichols and Harold Blair for representation for their people will ultimately be accepted by some Australian Government. This Parliament will not then be able to sink into its normal state of indifference with, respect to the aborigines. I do not make that as a partisan statement. I merely say, as a cold fact, that I have never heard honorable members within whose constituencies there are full-blooded aborigines or half-castes, raise the subject of the conditions of those people in this House. I do not make that as a selfrighteous or condemnatory statement, but. I do say that honorable members are pressed by other problems and that therefore the aborigines should have people of .their own race in this Parliament in order to prevent honorable members from forgetting them.
Three problems are connected with this matter. The first relates to those aborigines who are still in the tribal state. They are not immediately subject to the disabilities that have been inflicted on those aborigines who have been unable to adapt themselves to our economy. Theirs is a problem on which only missionaries and anthropologists who have talked with them can speak with any authority. It appears to me that, in the first place, this Parliament should interest itself in the detribalized fullblooded aborigines and those of mixed blood. They are a part of Australian society. The persons of mixed blood in the Great Southern area of Western Australia of whose problems the honorable member for Curtin is especially qualified to speak because of. the researches that he made as a special reporter ‘ for the West Australian some years ago aspire to be absorbed into the Australian community as equal members of it. As the honorable member for Curtin pointed out, there cannot be any question of their reverting to the bush state. They cannot go back to their native conditions and it has to be decided whether they shall be brought into full membership of our society or be allowed to rot. Irrespective of the political party in power in Western Australia, and irrespective of whether or not it was a financial difficulty th.it stopped previous Western Australian governments from dealing with these people, the fact remains that, they have continued to rot. The road boards in the Great Southern area have drawn attention to the plight of the aborigines, not because of any sharpness of conscience in the first place, but because the problem has become so great that it has made, conditions unpleasant for the white communities which alone have been represented in local government areas and they have held meetings and asked for an extension of financial aid to the State Government for the purpose of improving the conditions of the aboriginees, The deepest aspirations of the native women and those of mixed blood whom I have met have been to have a decent home, to see their adolescent daughters given some training -in domestic science, and to see their children growing up in an environment that will enable them to live a civilized life; but in Western Australia these people live in wretched camps. The children are dirty and, therefore, white parents object to their presence in schools. Consequently their schooling is made unpleasant, their tendency to remain ignorant, and what Dr. Cook described as a vicious circle of ignorance, squalor, vice and disease is constantly being set in motion. From my experience as a teacher, I believe that the innate intelligence of children of mixed blood is equal to that of the average Australian child but, as they advance in their schooling, they constantly fall behind for two reasons. When the white child is granted the background of his home and the reading material that is in it the teacher is given a certain amount of unearned increment. The child has what we call “ background “.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! This debate must now be interrupted under Standing Order 108.
Motion (by Mr. McBride) agreed to -
That the time for the debate be extended.
– The second and more deadly consideration, which concerns one of the saddest aspects of this matter, is that as these people grow older they find no way in which to apply their acquired knowledge. They find no places for themselves in our society, and they can only expect to become agricultural labourers. I do not say that as disparaging agricultural labourers, but they have nowhere to apply what they have learnt in the realm of literature or mathematics of the more advanced kind. Consequently they lose interest in those subjects. The whole point seems tobe that we should ask the States to do something for the aborigines and be prepared to finance them in that work. We should request the States to launch a total offensive against the conditions of aborigines and people of mixed blood. The offensive should relate to housing, education of adult half-castes in trades and education of adult half-caste women in domestic science. That should be done to establish for these people a background of education and culture. They should be assigned their own land to farm on their own account. If there are too many people for the allotment of living areas, they should be given smaller areas and be able to supplement their incomes in other ways according to their training. The State of Western Australia is too poor to finance a policy necessary to cope with the great native and half-caste problem with which it is confronted. Therefore, the suggestion of the honorable member for Curtin that more financial assistance should be given by the Commonwealth to the States should be supported by every honorable member in this House. It is the sustained experience of every honorable member of this House that the Parliament tendstoforget these people, and I believe that they should have some representative who will not allow it to forget.
.- I believe that this House, and the country generally, are indebted to the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) for having raised at this time this very important matter. I was pleased by the moderate way in which he expressed his views. He is an honorable gentleman who has studied deeply the problem of the Australian aborigines, and is therefore competent to speak with some authority about them. I was also extraordinarily pleased that the honorable members who followed him, the seconder of the motion and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) also approached this matter as it should be approached - in a completely non-partisan and objective spirit. I am sure that all honorable members of this House, and also the people of Australia, will appreciate the spirit in which this national problem has been approached. The problem of the destiny of the Australian aborigines has exercised the minds of the authorities in the States and the Commonwealth for many years. Although there have been differences of action, I think it is generally conceded that governments, no matter of what political party, and people of all sorts of political allegiance, feel that the aborigines of this country are a national responsibility and one which cannot be shirked under any circumstances at all. Therefore, during past years a number of conferences have been held about these people. The State governments and the Australian Governments have discussed this problem with the idea of trying to arrive at a satisfactory solution. I agree that whilst as the result of these conferences very admirable principles have been wholeheartedly accepted, unfortunately the implementation of those principles has not been so admirable. However, I believe that a public consciousness of the responsibilities of parliaments and peoples towards the aborigines has gradually awakened. Consequently, the discussion in this House to-day will more than ever concentrate attention on this very important problem.
I do not intend to discuss at length the matters that have been raised by the honorable members who spoke, except to mention the analysis made by the honorable member for Curtin and dealt with by the honorable member for Fremantle and the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Gilmore). I suggest to them, having accepted the principles that they enunciated, and having expressed our desire to have them implemented, that the implementation of them is hot so simple as it may seem. It is beyond doubt that the Australian Government has a prime responsibility towards the natives of the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth has found difficulty in giving effect to principles that have been acceptel at various conferences, some having been evolved in my own department. In any case, it is beyond doubt that it is the desire of the Australian Government to give effect to the general principles that have been evolved. It was suggested to-day that the main impediment to the fulfilment of these principles is lack of finance. As far as the Australian Government is concerned, I reject that suggestion. I do not believe that governments, through the years, have willy-nilly whittled down the financial requirements of the aborigine programmes. I admit that all proposals are examined and put into their proper perspective with other proposals that have been brought forward, but I believe that it is correct to say that the succeeding governments in the Commonwealth sphere have wished to improve the conditions of the natives of the Northern Territory. Indeed substantial steps have been taken towards the improvement of their conditions.
One of the great impediments so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, and I assume that the position is similar in the States, is the inability to get trained personnel to carry out the programmes that have been decided upon. In the last few years real attempts have been made to train people for such positions. Young people have been encouraged by the Australian Government to study anthropology at the Sydney University to equip them to take on the job of dealing with aborigines in the Northern Territory. Owing to that prescience we are now getting a few qualified people who will help enormously in the carrying out of our programme in the Northern Territory. Whilst those matters constitute problems for the Commonwealth, they also disturb the States. On the subject of the financial resources of the States to undertake what they decide to do for the aborigines in their own areas, it has been said that the Commonwealth should make money available to carry out their programmes. No one will deny that, but it has not been shown, and I should have liked some evidence on this, that whatever deficiencies have existed in the States have been due to lack of financial resources. It has been stated that we should make more money available, but I do not know upon what basis. I assume, however, that it would be on the basis of carrying out a generally accepted plan. The States have had, by one means or another, particularly over recent years, means of obtaining the necessary money to carry out their very desirable programmes.
– The problem has been lack of interest.
– I shall not accuse the States of lack of interest at all. It may be lack of enthusiasm or energy, but I do not think that it is lack of interest. It is well to recognize that a larger number of aborigines live in Western Australia than in any other State. Of 21,000 nomadic aborigines 14,000 are located in Western Australia. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Curtin, of a total of 72,000 aborigines in Australia, 27,000 are located in Western Australia. Therefore, the financial burden would weigh very heavily on Western Australia when it dealt with any programme for the benefit of the aborigines. It is competent for the Western Australian Government, having undertaken what it considers a desirable expenditure, to approach the Australian Government through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I have no hesitation in saying that whatever expenditure was incurred by the Western Australian Government in carrying out its policy in regard to the aborigines, that money would be recommended for reimbursement by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. No evidence has been produced to make m* believe otherwise.
– I do not think that that is wholly correct. The way in which the Commonwealth Grants Commission works does not seem to justify that belief.
– Until evidence can be put forward to show that legitimate claims made by the Western Australian Government for re-imbursement of moneys spent in pursuance of its aborigine policy have been rejected by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, I shall assume that money was not so expended in the State of Western Australia and that consequently the accounts were not presented to the commission. Queensland, which is a much richer State than Western Australia, has over 13,000 aborigines. The accounts for expenditure upon a policy to ameliorate the conditions of aborigines in that State could have been presented to the Commonwealth under the re-imbursement system. When allocations are made to the States, each State has a right to present what it considers to be its legitimate claims for reimbursement. Whether any such claims have been made by the Queensland Government I do not know. I assume that either they were not made, or they were not rejected by the authorities who deal with such re-imbursements. I only mention these things to show that whatever deficiencies exist in the national sphere, this Government cannot be accused of impeding the development of proper State policies in respect of aborigines by withholding finance. I assure honorable members that the Government is alive to its responsibilities in this matter. It is willing to co-operate with and help the States, and it hopes that in the future the States will take more interest in the welfare of their aborigines.
– Order ! The extended time for this debate has now expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.4.5 to 2.15 p.m.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1950, and Additional Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services Involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1950, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That the following additional sum be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1940-50 for the services hereunder specified, viz.: -
That the following additional sum be granted to His Majesty for the purposes of additions, new works and other services involving capital expenditure, as specified hereunder, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on Resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fadden and Dame Enid Lyons do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The budget for 1949-50, which was presented by the previous Government in September last, provided for revenue of £544,000,000 and expenditure of £579,000,000, the difference of £35,000,000 to be chargeable to loan fund. The Estimates have now been revised, in the light of the figures for the ten months ended the 30th April, and, whilst any conclusions at this stage must be tentative, they suggest that the budget figures may be exceeded by about £32,000,000 of revenue and about £27,000,000 of expenditure. Consequently the gap to be financed from loan fund will be reduced from £35,000,000 to about £30,000,000. In addition to the increase of £32,000,000 in revenue, there are savings on votes approximating £8,000,000. This total of £40,000,000 is being expended on services for which additional appropriation is required. The necessary provision is made in this bill and in the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2), the introduction of which will immediately follow.
Improvements of revenue have been due principally to customs, £17,500,000; excise, £2,000,000; and sales tax £6,000,000. These items reflect the effect of a greater volume of imports, rapidly rising incomes and larger business turnover. On the expenditure side, the budget is continuing to feel the impact of continued increases both of Australian wages and other costs and of prices of materials and equipment obtained overseas. In the defence services, there has been some lag of expenditure due to delays in obtaining equipment. Under the head of War (1939-45) Services, a further payment of £2,800,000 in respect of Australia’s contribution to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development was necessary because of the revaluation of sterling. Payments of price stabilization subsidies will exceed the estimate by about £4,000,000, and credits arising from war disposals and recoverable war expenditure will be rather less than anticipated. Provision of about £5,000,000 will be required to cover the increase of the proportion of war expenditure now to be charged to revenue in lieu of the loan fund.
The budget estimate for expenditure by the Postmaster-General’s Department will be exceeded by £8,500,000, this being due in part to wage and salary increases and also to faster deliveries and the higher cost of equipment from overseas. The latter factor has necessitated a further advance of £3,000,000 to the Stores Trust Account, from which purchases of stores and equipment are initially financed. Capital works and services, for which appropriation amounting to £11,000,000 will be sought in a separate bill, include an additional £2,500,000 for war service homes arising from the greater number of homes made available to applicants and higher building costs. Advances under the Coal Industry Act to the Joint Coal Board, which will be expended mainly in the purchase of plant and equipment, will be £2,000,000 above the estimate. This expenditure is recoverable. Further items relate to the purchase of materials and equipment for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the construction programme generally. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my second-reading speech on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) I indicated that it was necessary to seek an additional appropriation of £11,000,000 for capital works and services. This bill will give effect to that appropriation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majestyfor or towards defraying the service of the year 1950-51 a sum not exceeding £77,000,000.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on Resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fadden and Dame Enid Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to secure an appropriation of £77,000,000 which is required to carry on the necessary normal services of government other than capital services for the first four months of the financial year 1950-51. The provision may be summarized under the following heads: -
The bill provides only for the estimated requirements to carry on the essential services on the basis of the provision in the Appropriation Act which was passed bythe Parliament for 1949-50, and the additional estimates for 1949-50 which were recently presented to the Parliament. The several amounts provided for ordinary services represent, with minor exceptions, approximately one-third of the 1949-50 appropriations for such services. The amount of £14,073,000 for Defence Services provides for expenditure on the post-war defence plan, whilst the amount of £9,459,000 which is provided for War (1939-45)Services covers expenditure on repatriation and rehabilitation and other charges arising out of the last war. The amount of £16,000,000 for Advance to the Treasurer is somewhat larger than usual, mainly because of the decision of the Government to continue grants to States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act, which expires this month, until new legislation is passed by the Parliament. Provision is also required to enable the payment of special grants to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to be continued pending receipt and consideration of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure. No provision has been made for any new expenditure, and there is no departure from existing policy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the service of the year 1950-51 , for the purposes of additions, new worksand other services involving capital expenditure, a sum not exceeding £25,000,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fadden and Dame Enid Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for an appropriation of £25,000,000 to enable Commonwealth works in progress at the 30th June, 1950, to be continued pending the passing of the budget by the Parliament. A policy of comprehensive long-range planning for capital works, covering from three to five year periods, has been adopted by the Government in the Defence Services and in departments such as the Department of Works and Housing, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Department of Civil Aviation. To enable these programmes to be continued successfully, it is essential that funds be available without interruption for the purchase of materials in advance, both in Australia and from overseas, and to ensure continuous employment to be maintained on the many projects.
The bill, therefore, provides for four months’ expenditure on works based approximately on the expenditure programme of £79,000,000 included in the Capital Works Estimates 1949-50 and the Additional Estimates 1949-50. In accordance with the usual practice in submitting a supply bill, no provision has been made for any new service.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ended the 30th June, 1949, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
Resolutions agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fadden and Dame Enid Lyons do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoingresolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for a supplementary appropriation of £5,053,994 to cover additional expenditure on certain services dur ing the financial year 1948-49. The amounts, as detailed, were expended out ofa general appropriation from revenue of £10,000,000 made available to the Treasurer to make payments which could not be foreseen when the original appropriation was approved by Parliament. It is now necessary to obtain parliamentary approval to cover the several items of excess of expenditure.
Full details of the expenditure for which approval is now sought were shown inthe Estimates and Budget Papers for 1949-50. These publications show the amount voted for 1949-50 together with the actual expenditure for the previous year which is included for information purposes. Details of the items concerned are also included in the Treasurer’s Financial Statement for 1948-49 which was tabled at the commencement of this session for the information of honorable members.
The Supplementary Estimates detail the items under which the additional amounts were expended by the various departments. Expenditure under the various Parts of the Estimates in round
Further details of the various items of expenditure will be made available at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
During the financial year 1948-49 appropriations totalling £47,371,000 were passed by Parliament covering capital works and services under specific items. The actual expenditure was £42,394,703 that is, £4,976,297 less than the amount appropriated. However, due to requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, expenditure under certain items showed an increase over the individual amounts appropriated, and it is now necessary to obtain Parliamentary approval to these increases. The excess expenditure on the particular items totals £4,387,511, which is spread over the various works items of the Departments as setout in theschedule to the bill.
Any further details which honorable members may require will be furnished at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
Aircraft Accident near South Guildford.
Debate resumed from’ the 8th March (vide page 496), on motion by Mr. White -
That the following paper be printed: -
Aircraft Accident near South Guildford, Western Australia, 2nd July, 1949 - Report and Findings of Air Court of Inquiry.
– The unfortunate accident with which the report deals occurred nearly twelve months ago, and three months have elapsed since the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. , White) presented the report of the Air Court of Inquiry upon which he made a statement. The accident which resulted in the death of eighteen persons, including fourteen passengers and’ four members of the crew of the aircraft, naturally aroused considerable criticism at the time. Air accidents involving heavy loss of life for those who travel in passenger aircraft are comparatively rare in Australia, and I venture to say that road accidents of equal seriousness would not attract nearly as much publicity. I agree that publicity and criticism when accidents occur is desirable, but in many instances the criticism voiced is of such a nature that it tends to confuse the public mind on where the responsibility for an accident should lie. Those who are. familiar with air operations realize that it is very difficult after an aircraft accident to spotlight’ the exact cause of it.
Immediately after the accident at South Guildford an investigating panel, which consists pf highly qualified aviation experts1 and technicians, commenced an inquiry.., , The panel presented its report to the department in October last, and as I was Minister for Civil Aviation at that time I, must accept responsibility for any undue; delay .that may Have been involved in the conduct of that inquiry. However, I assure the House that no such delay occurred. The investigating panel was engaged in its inquiries from the 2nd July to the 10th October, on which date it presented its report. The report, which consists of 120 pages including exhibits, indicates that the panel conducted a very thorough investigation. During the period of eight and a half years when I was Minister for Civil Aviation I had nothing but admiration for the way in which the investigating panel carried out its work. However, after the panel presents its report, the Minister of the day has the responsibility to decide whether an Air Court of Inquiry should be set up to inquire info ,an accident. It is not unusual for the investigating panel to be unable to ascertain the cause of an accident, and as it was unable to do so in this instance, I felt it to be my duty -.to establish a court of inquiry to examine the matter further. That court was set , up in December last and its investigations occupied eight days, but the. court also was unable to ascertain the “exact cause of the accident.
Generally speaking, . no criticism can be levelled at the statement that the Minister has presented. However, the House is entitled to be informed whether any action has been taken on the riders that the court added 4°,. its report. The first of those riders directly affects departmental administration. The court consisted of men who were highly qualified to conduct the investigation. There have been occasions in Australia in recent years when several air accidents have been under investigation at the same time. A team of men qualified to undertake the investigation of air accidents must always be available so that the ,air accidents may be investigated with a minimum of delay. The Chief Inspector, Accident Investigations, was sent especially from Melbourne to inquire into this accident. The Air Court of Inquiry which made a subsequent investigation made findings which will not enlighten the public about the cause of the accident. Its report was drafted with great clarity after an exhaustive inquiry in which all available evidence was thoroughly sifted. Although it was unable to reach a definite conclusion about the cause of the accident its findings were very much in agreement with those of the departmental committee, except that it indulged in some criticism, as it had a perfect right to do, of what it regarded as some unsatisfactory aspects of the operation of the service by the company concerned. The court consisted pf a highly skilled legal gentleman, Mr. Justice Wolff and two assessors who have no authority to express opinions, but were appointed to give advice only.
The constitution of such courts is a matter to which I direct the attention of the House. Some time ago consideration was given by me, and I hope by the officers of the department, to the desirability of altering the regulations to provide that assessors appointed to an air court of inquiry should affix their signatures to the report, and thus participate in its conclusions and findings instead of merely advising the court on technical matters. There is a common belief among the people that the assessors agree to the findings of such a court. That is not so. In this instance the assessors appointed to assist the court were Captain E. H. Cooper, a very experienced pilot and Chief Pilot of Trans-Australia Airlines, and Mr. D. B. Hudson, who has several degrees, and is a very highly qualified man and is Deputy Chief Engineer of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. The report was well prepared and documented and was not difficult to follow. The court had the assistance of eminent counsel in Mr. M. P. Durack, K,C, from Western Australia and Mr. R. J. Leckie from Victoria. Mr. G. A. Pape appeared for the company, MacRobertson Miller Aviation Company Limited, and Mr. K. J. Brown appeared for the Civil Air Operations Officers Association of Australia. Later, the court permitted the appearance of Mr.’ C. A. Parslow, of the Western Australian Bar, to represent the Western Australian Branch of the Australian Air Pilots Association. Air pilots should be entitled to be represented at every investigation of this kind. If the regulations need to be amended in order to permit that to be done, they should be amended without delay.. I had contemplated the making of such an amendment when two or three accidents occurred within a very short, period while I was Minister for Civil Aviation. Airline pilots deserve at least that consideration. and they could make a very valuable contribution to the investigations of the court. They are always available to assist such a court. No matter what may be done by regulation or by other means the captain of an airline aircraft must always have the final responsibility foi- the safety of his passengers. He performs a most important task and must carry very great responsibilities.
The aircraft involved in the . accident at South Guildford, as has been stated by the Minister, was of the DC3 type, which is regarded by most people as one of the safest aircraft in operation for use in all sir conditions in any part of the world. It is a comparatively safe aircraft for the operation of a service such as that conducted by the company concerned. The aircraft involved in the accident had not been in service for excessive flying, hours. Before it was taken over by the company it had been flown for a total of 2,931 hours, or the equivalent of one year’s flying. In the service of the company its total flying hours reached 9,078, or the equivalent of three years’ flying. It had been weighed three ‘ times prior to the accident. Its all-up weight at the time of the accident was 26,200 lb., which was within the stipulated safety limits.
The court has criticized various aspects of the manner in which the company had conducted the service. One criticism was levelled at the pilot, Captain W. G. Norman, who, prior to joining the service of the company, had served with the Royal Australian Air Force. While I was Minister for Civil Aviation I did not at any time yield to pressure placed upon me to criticize the captain of an aircraft that had been involved in an air accident. Those who occupy important positions, such as captains of ships and the crews of important passenger trains, are always liable to commit a human error. I should be reluctant to suggest that the captain of the aircraft, involved in this accident had committed an error except on very definite evidence or unless it could be proved that prior to the accident a defect had developed in the aircraft which he might have remedied. The court questioned his appointment as captain of the aircraft. An examination of his record shows that during the earlier period of his service with the company he had been below average. La tei’, he was classified as conforming to average standards. Apparently, hi3 knowledge and skill increased. Reports on his handling of aircraft from time to time, however, were not satisfactory. Whether the department could do more than it is doing at present to see that airline captains possess the highest possible qualifications, I do not know. Indeed, I do not know whether the department could exercise such an authority. The qualifications of an airline pilot is a matter for the companies concerned. The wisdom of the company in promoting Mr. Norman to the position of captain of an aircraft was questioned by the court. I have no desire to quote from the report at any length. Indeed, the restrictions placed upon me by the Standing Orders would not allow me time to do so. I commend the report to honorable members, however, because it contains many pertinent matters which should be examined by them. We all are anxious to ensure that the air services of Australia shall be placed on the safest possible basis. The Minister for Civil Aviation will, I am sure, agree with me that the air services of this country are as safe as are those of any other country. All reasonable precautions are taken to ensure that airline captains are properly qualified. All of them are examined from time to time to ensure that they maintain the requisite standard of fitness. I have consistently urged that airline operators should employ only the highest qualified personnel for the control of aircraft, particularly of aircraft that carry large numbers of passengers. I realize that the safety of a single life is just as important us that of a large number and that any lowering of accepted standards would be very unwise because it would reduce public confidence in air travel. I do not know that there has been any diminution of accepted standards except that in this instance it was clearly pointed out by the court that Captain Norman had at one time not complied with the standards laid down by the company that employed him, although the criticism then levelled against him may have resulted in raising the standard of his efficiency.
As far as I can ascertain from a thorough examination of the report, the principal matter involved was the loading of the aircraft. The accident at South Guildford was, in some respects, comparable with the disaster that occurred at Bilinga more than a year- ago which involved the loss of the passengers and crew of the aircraft. The accident at Bilinga, took place in daylight. That which we are now considering occurred at night in difficult weather conditions. At the time of take-off, the captain of the aircraft and the aerodrome control staff regarded conditions as satisfactory for the flight. There seems to be some room for dissatisfaction about the precautions that are taken .by airline companies to ensure that the loading conditions laid down in the Air Navigation Regulations are strictly complied with. It was obvious from the findings on the Bilinga disaster that some infringement of the loading regulations had taken place in connexion with the aircraft involved. The disaster occurred in the electorate of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis), who rightly asked many questions about it in this House, lt is clear from the report of that disaster that at the time of the accident, air conditions were satisfactory, but the loading of the aircraft had given rise to some anxiety. It is possible that faulty loading also caused the accident at South Guildford. The evidence produced before the investigating panel and the Air Court of Inquiry, indicates that the aircraft was “tail heavy”; in other words, that a greaterload was carried in the aft portion of the plane than in the nose. Although the court has not found that faulty loading caused or could have caused the accident, there can be no doubt that it would have an influence on the performance of the aircraft. From such, evidence as could be pieced together - and in air accidents there is not usually much evidence to be obtained - it seems likely that the faulty distribution of the load had a bearing on the cause of the accident.
The court, in its report, stated that some consideration should have been given to the suspension of the licence of the operating company. The Minister has not taken action iri that respect. If the licence of an airline company of the magnitude of the MacRobertson Miller Aviation ‘ Company Limited were withdrawn, air services in the area served by the company would be interrupted. It would be difficult for other airline companies to fill the gap and a grave injustice would be done to people living in the area. The company operates a service between Perth and Darwin and serves the northwestern areas of Western Australia. Some people in Western Australia believe that the Government acted unwisely in not suspending the company’s licence. Whilst I am not subscribing to that opinion I consider that something should be done in cases of this kind that will make it clear to the companies that they cannot afford to allow any laxity whatever in this matter. [Extension of time granted.]
I realize that I cannot possibly hope to do justice to a report of this magnitude in the time available to me, but I do not want to have to omit reference to any of its salient features. I say quite frankly that some time and-1 interest should be devoted by the House to a consideration of accidents of this kind. -When I was Minis<t’er for Civil Aviation I had no objection to such a procedure because I considered that anything that could be elicited from the discussions of this House in respect of such matters might lead to still greater aviation safety than we have had up to now. I shall deal with the riders that were added to the court’s finding in’ the order -in which they have been presented. The first rider dealt with the establishment of the panel that is referred to in the Minister’s statement, which would represent the operating companies and the Department of Civil Aviation and would’ have the duty of examining the position. I should like to know whether the recommendation contained in that rider has been implemented and with what result. I consider that the Australian Airlines Pilots Association should be represented on such a panel because obviously it is to its interest as well as to the interest of the public to have the safest possible conditions established. That association could add valuable data and’ information to any consideration that’’ might be given to such a matter. I’ advance “that suggestion as one’ which I consider this House should deal with on a non-party basis. I do not know whether the Minister now at the table is prepared to furnish any further information but I should like to know what has been done regarding ‘that first rider.
The second rider deals with the maintenance manual and the Minister said in his statement that the Department of Civil Aviation is following that matter up and that a maintenance manual for all practical purposes has now been approved. I should like to know whether it has been approved for this particular company. It may be a matter of some importance to the House to be informed whether that has been done.
The third rider has relation to the maintenance methods of the companies. It states that the court’s findings and records were not complete, and the Minister admits that fact. The company’s maintenance methods were to have been the subject of special investigation and I should like to know whether the recording of faults and proper maintenance are now being carried out. It was quite evident that at the time the company was behindhand in these matters, which probably gave rise to some criticism, as that fact received a good deal of publicity in the Western Australian press. The Department of Civil- Aviation sent an aeronautical engineer and ah aircraft surveyor to Western Australia to be located permanently in Perth for the purpose of giving some assistance in that direction. The company’s position in that matter was to be the subject of continued examination a’nd the Minister stated that he would not hesitate to act with respect to the suspension of licences if the rules were not complied’ with. That matter should be strictly followed up because, this is not the only fatal accident in which the MacRobertson Miller company has been involved, although I shall say now that that company has not a bad “record in that respect. In fact, no airline company in Australia has a bad record in that respect Compared with the records of similar companies overseas. It has to be admitted that we have the good -fortune in Australia to have a very favorable topography for civil air operations, and we also have climatic conditions that are probably better than those elsewhere. Taking all these things into consideration we have a fine saftey record and we must not allow anything to interfere with it. We must not allow companies .or corporations to slacken in their adherence to the conditions laid down, and if experience shows, as I consider that it has shown in this case, that alterations of the regulations or the making of fresh regulations may help to improve conditions, then we should be failing in our duty if we did not accept an opportunity to take the necessary action. The Minister has a wide knowledge of aviation and he will probably be willing to take such steps. I admit, however, that such matters are not as simple as they appear to be. I know something of the difficulties that exist and I am prepared, therefore, to make allowances for whatever delays may occur, but no avoidable delay should be permitted.
The fourth rider refers to procedures in loading and it was found that “ the company was not complying with the procedures laid down. I was Minister for Civil Aviation at the time that the accident occurred and I should not like to attempt to evade responsibility with regard to that matter. I know, however, that owing to the rapid expansion of air services the Department of Civil Aviation at that time was meeting with very great difficulty in obtaining sufficient expert technical men to enable a strict adherence to the procedures to be ensured. However, it should now be overtaking arrears. The number of expert staff of the Department of Civil Aviation has increased since the cessation of hostilities and is now about five or six times what it was when the incident occurred. That fact was admitted by the Minister who said that a snap check one week prior to the 25th June showed conditions to .be unsatisfactory and that instructions were issued on the 30th June, but apparently the company did nothing to ensure that the procedures .were observed. I think that is a subject for criticism that should be followed up. .
The fifth rider deals with the compulsory insurance of passengers. It was stated in the Minister’s remarks that.that matter was being submitted to the Attorney-General’s Department for con sideration of whether legislation can be enforced to control it. The House is entitled to know what the AttorneyGeneral’s Department has advised in relation to that highly important matter.
Some reference was made, although not in the riders, to the question of control locks in aircraft and the Minister stated that the officers of the department were investigating that matter.” I “read recently a report on the development of patent devices which ensure that an aeroplane cannot move until the control locks are removed. Failure’ to remove control locks can be a source of danger, as everybody realizes. I cannot cover the report completely even after having been granted an extension of time, but other speakers will probably deal with points that I have missed. Quite frankly I am dissatisfied about the matter of control of loads exercised by- airline operators. I consider that they should take no risks and should always under-load aircraft rather than run the risk of overloading them. If any act of carelessness or failure to observe the regulations occurs, it is worthy of the- censure of the department, which must accept the responsibility for it. After a study of the findings of the investigation panel and of the court, I am driven to the conclusion that no amount of investigation would have discovered the cause of the Guildford accident. The riders to the court’s report cover matters that in my view require action which, if taken may help more clearly to indicate the cause or probable cause of accidents, in future. Perhaps steps have been taken by the department to give effect to the views expressed in the court’s riders, or perhaps there are reason’) why effect cannot be given to some pf the .riders. I hope that, the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation will be able to inform the House of what has been done since the report was made, and if action has not been taker., the reason why, and also whether action is in progress.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s extended time has expired.
, - The honorable member for . Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has gi.yen, u.-‘ a fairly wide dissertation upon this unfortunate accident. He has covered a great deal of the history of the company involved in it and I do not propose to repeat it. I should like to say, however, that during the course of his remarks he made a most moderate approach to the subject and I commend him accordingly. I shall deal with the particular points that he raised. The first to which I shall direct my attention is the question of the representation of the Australian Airlines Pilots Association on any board or panel that is established. Personally I agree with the honorable member’s suggestion in that respect. He indicated that he had such a matter under consideration when he was Minister for Civil Aviation. I am also sure that the present Minister for Civil Aviation will regard the honorable gentleman’s suggestion favorably. The next matter to which I shall refer concerns the pilot who was involved in the accident. I am very glad to say that the former Minister did not take the course, that some people had taken previously in such instances, of attacking the pilot. The statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation dealt with the actual position. I shall quote two extracts from that statement, the first of which reads as follows : -
The first deals with the qualifications of Captain Norman, Captain of the aircraft, and makes recommendations for improving the licensing system for captains of passenger aircraft. In dealing with this matter the Court, in its own words, says : - “ The Court has found that it can not, on the evidence before it, assign a reason for this accident. In dealing with the qualifications of the Captain, it is not doing so with any intention of suggesting obliquely that he was to blame.”
The Court takes the view that Captain Norman should not have been promoted by the Company to the position of Captain because such records as there are of his tests made the Court question his flying ability and aeronautical experience. The Court makes a detailed analysis of the record of Captain Norman but, nevertheless, states that the provisions of the Air Navigation Regulations had been complied with, in that all necessary licences for the operation of the aircraft by Norman as Captain had been obtained by him.
I consider that that states the position clearly. The honorable member raised the question of loads. On this point I quote from the actual report as follows : -
The Court has already found that this aircraft was improperly loaded so that the centre of gravity was between 2 ,pcr cent, and 4.7 per cent, aft of the permissible rear limit M.A.C.
Experiments carried out by the investigating panel showed that an aircraft loaded in this way is not necessarily dangerous but it must be emphasized that the limits for the centre of gravity specified in the certificate of airworthiness are dictated by experience.
The real essence of the matter is contained in the riders which were added to the court’s general report and therefore I propose to answer in detail some of the points raised by the honorable member about them. The first rider related to the qualifications of the captain of the aircraft and made recommendations for an improved licensing system for airline captains. The substance of the court’s proposal is set out in the following two extracts: -
It is suggested that when it is proposed to promote a pilot to Captain in command of an aircraft, such as a D.C.3, a special review should bc made by the Department of Civil Aviation of the whole of his record and the reports of tests which have been made on him from time to time.
The onus should be on the applicant for the licence to submit the record and reports to the department, or they are lacking in information, no licence should be granted.
Although the court does not feel it incumbent to state the method by which better control of the licensing of first-class passenger aircraft pilots should be achieved, it makes a suggestion that a panel of experienced persons might he appointed consisting of representatives of the operating companies to be nominated by them and a representative or representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation.
At the moment, an air transport pilot ascends the ladder of promotion from third-class to first-class airline transport pilot. The standard required for a captain of DC3 type aircraft is that of first-class airline transport pilot and the qualifications required to obtain this class are 2,000 hours’ total aeronautical experience which should include 500 hours as a pilot on Australian regular public transport aeroplanes or experience of a substantially similar character approved by the DirectorGeneral and logged within the three years immediately preceding application. This time can be made up of 500 hours in command or 1,000 hours as co-pilot or any combination thereof. One hundred hours’ night flying, 30 take-offs and 30 landings by night, are also required. The standard demands 100 hours’ instrument flying, at least 50 hours of which should have been under actual or simulated flight conditions. It is necessary to have spent 100 hours in command of regular public transport services under the supervision of a first-class airline transport pilot, acting as co-pilot and to hold a first or second class aircraft radio telephone operator’s licence, together with an instrument rating.
The proposal of the court is that the department should make a special review of the record of a pilot before he is made a captain. This is, in fact, what has been done in the past and it is being done at the moment, except that the examination of the whole of the record in regard to routine checks .made by the check pilots of the company concerned is r.ot carried out. It is proposed to include these assessments as part of the licensing procedure. It is to be noted that the Department of Civil Aviation must rely on reports and statistics supplied by the operating companies in regard to the pilots employed by them because the department would have to employ an extremely large staff to do otherwise. Naturally it is in the interests of the companies to ensure that their pilots are competent, but the department does not depend on this factor alone and calls upon companies to undertake periodical tests conducted by company check pilots of their own personnel and to keep adequate records of the standard of their pilots. In addition, the department checks a percentage of the pilots of each airline. The appointment of captain must remain the responsibility of the company as the appointment depends on more than pure pilot ability. Once the department is satisfied that a pilot is competent to he a captain, as is instanced by the issue of a first-class licence, and competency is maintained as required by periodic checks and recent experience requirements, the actual appointment to captain becomes the responsibility of the company.
The second rider dealt with maintenance methods. The company’s methods of maintenance were lax but. the produc tion and approval of their maintenance manual has now brought system to their organization, and it can be said that the company is now using a system of maintenance which is quite safe.
The third rider dealt with the maintenance of instruments and the recording: of such instruments. This formed the subject of a special investigation by the Department of Civil Aviation of the company’s methods and records and it was found that the maintenance methods and records were proper and complete. The court quoted a case of the climb and descent indicator fitted into the subject aircraft and the poor records kept in?, regard to that instrument. Unfortunately, the court did not have the complete story as it did not have the releasenote that was issued when the instrument was completely overhauled and returned to store, virtually a new instrument. The reference to this release note appeared on the record before the court, but, apparently, its significance was not known to the court. During the special investigation that was conducted by the department it was found that all instruments had been correctly overhauled and main- tained and that all records were completed. It was in this rider that the court criticized the Department of Civil Aviation for failing to find out “deficiencies “ and it stated -
Had periodical checks been made, the department could not have failed to discover the gross irregularities now brought to light.
The department did in fact, undertake regular checks and as there were no irregularities it follows that none were brought to light.
The fourth rider dealt with loading procedure and showed the lax methods used by the company. These formed the subject of a special investigation by the department and the company has now adopted methods that have been specified by the department.
The last rider dealt with the question of insurance of passengers. The court recommended the adoption of some compulsory form of insurance, the maximum to be fixed at £2,000. Why the court introduced this item is unknown but it. may have been under the impression that
Civil Aviation. [REPRESENTATIVES.]
Civil Aviation. the* subject company did not carry insurance because the court includes the following comment : -
Some of the larger operators in Australia already have such a form of insurance. However the subject company did, in fact, insure its passengers for £2,000. In fact, the subsidy paid by the department to the company includes an amount of £2,520 which has been debited’ to ‘passenger insurance. This whole matter has now been referred to the AttorneyGeneral for examination.
I feel that no purpose can be achieved by raking over such an unfortunate case but perhaps some lesson may be learned from this accident as lessons have been learned from previous accidents such as that in which the Lutana was concerned. If honorable members can maintain the debate on the present dispassionate level some real good may be achieved from it.
.- The subject under discussion to-day relates to one of the few blemishes upon the very proud record of Australian aviation. On the Sunday morning on which the report of this accident was released the news shocked the country. An exhaustive investigation has been made into the disaster.’ As the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has said, when these things happen the best that can be hoped for is that a lesson may he learned from the experience which will prevent such tragedies from occurring in future. ‘
The detailed examination of the circumstances disclosed that the company had departed from the standards that have been laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation and that it was probably unwise, to say the least, in appointing captains for its aircraft iri ‘the way it appointed them. The MacRobertson Miller Aviation Company Limited has a very good record in service and in operation. At the time that it began to service the north-west route in Western Australia there were not very many services to that area to relieve the isolation and hardships of the people. From that time onward the company has had a very good record indeed. For that reason I am glad that the Minister and the Government have not seen fit to follow a suggestion that the licence should be - withdrawn. ‘However, it should be made clear to all airline operators that any departure from standards that may be discovered before or after a crash will render the organization immediately liable to the revocation of its licence. If that warning is given no organization will have any warrant afterwards to complain of any action that may be taken.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), the honorable member for Franklin and the Minister have made it clear that the deceased pilot was not condemned by the investigation. In oases such as this it is too easy ,to say that the deceased pilot was responsible for the tragedy because of his lack of knowledge or by reason of his action or inaction. It might have been very easy for a man on whom the tragic responsibility is placed to have disproved any allegations, but, of course, he is not able to speak in his own defence. So it is completely satisfactory in this case that the pilot has not been indicted for the unfortunate happening. It has been said that the pilot was not, perhaps, of the highest grade that might have been employed. That may or may not be so. It appears from the evidence that he was not of the highest standard in all types of operation. However, no matter how proficient a pilot may be and no matter how carefully he may perform his duties accidents can happen with results such as those that we contemplate to-day. The pilot was not perhaps at the very top of his profession. The company had not observed the highest standards in the ordinary loading and operation of its service nor in its maintenance and manuals. Because of that one must blame the company rather heavily for this loss. It should be made clear to the company that any further departure from the standards laid down by the Government will not be tolerated in any circumstances.
It appears that there was laxity so far as the Department of Civil Aviation was concerned. Of course, there is likely to be laxity when, over a long period, a service operates without paying, perhaps, the most strict and detailed consideration to all the requirements of the regulations but carries on free from accidents; but that is no reason why any departure from the proper tests and investigations of the department should be allowed to take place, so the heaviest responsibility must be placed on the airline company itself. If every phase of airline operation is to be policed by the Department of Civil Aviation at every stage from day to day, and from week to week, a staff of employees bigger than that which could be justified by the services that are being operated in this country would be required. That is why the companies must be made to carry out the full requirements of the law under strict and stringent penalties for failing to do so.
It has been said that the failure to remove the control locks may have been responsible for this crash. That has not been clearly demonstrated nor proved beyond doubt. The matter was discussed with me some time ago by a very distinguished veteran pilot who is now operating his own airline -in Western Australia. Captain “ Jimmie “ Woods told me that he believed that DC3 aircraft are almost fool-proof in operation once they are in the air. He said that their record has been highly satisfactory. He also said that if these control locks could make an electrical circuit and break it when they were inserted and removed, the pilot would be given an unmistakable indication when he began to leave the ground whether all locks had been removed. Captain Woods suggested that trial locks might be made with metal ends so that when they were inserted they would break the circuit as well as when they were removed. An electrical device would therefore indicate immediately whether all locks had been removed. The honorable member for Franklin made an important contribution to this debate, and he may know whether that is ‘a practicable suggestion. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, because of his long experience in the Department of Civil Aviation, may also be able to give a valuable opinion on the practicability of that suggestion. Captain Woods is well known as one of the real veterans of Australian flying and that is the suggestion that, he put to me.
The final matter that I wish to bring to the attention of the House is the staffing of the department. I _ believe that the staff used for. ..the servicing- of planes and for attention to regulations is mainly of a very high standard. In general, except for the conditions created by lack of staff, they have done a very fine job. Throughout the whole of Australia most of those who service aircraft, such as mechanics and the like, are only temporary employees of the department. Because of that fact, and because aircraft usually fly and land normally, perhaps they have not given the detailed and continuous application to their duties that might be expected of permanent employees. It could also happen that as there is a great demand for. skilled artisans at the present time, those employed in the department could be attracted to other industries throughout Australia. I therefore suggest to the Minister that the very minimum number of temporary employees should be employed in the Department of Civil Aviation. As soon as convenient, and when all permanent vacancies have been filled, those at present employed as temporary employees should be absorbed into the department as permanent employees with all the rights and privileges that that term connotes. I believe that this matter has been discussed in the correct spirit. While we all deplore the very unfortunate accident, we may, as the honorable member for Franklin said, still learn something from this tragic occurrence.
.- Following the lead given by other speakers on this motion, I desire to put forward one or two observations, not in a contentious way, but so that some lessons may be learned from this very sad event. One point that appeals to me in the discussion of this matter, and the official inquiries into it, is that the element of accident has been overlooked. The court of inquiry in the first place set about finding the rea’son for the accident. It tried to determine the exact causes of the. tragedy. Failing to do that, in pursuance of its terms of reference, it continued .its search and ended by making a number of observations regarding certain conditions which, in its view, prevailed at the time of the crash. The speech made by the Minister, and the observations of the honorable member for “ Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), the honorable-, member for Franklin’ (Mr. Falkinder) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), indicate that the positiveness of the court of inquiry in some of its findings have been called into question by persons, perhaps better qualified to judge than the court, who considered the matter subsequently and in considerable detail. This court of inquiry was constituted by a Supreme Court judge, of admirable training in the law, of legal standing and of high probity, but without knowledge of civil aviation. He was one who came to the task of inquiry with possibly some preconceived notion that any aircraft disaster must be the result “of some definable cause. He would be confirmed in that approach to the inquiry by a judicial training which placed its chief value on the letter of the law rather than on the practice of an industry. “When one attempts to explain actions in “She light of whether or not they are breaches of certain regulations, it is possible that one may lose the essential truth of the matter. What appeals to me about the whole of our discussions on this aspect is that we have been able to detect breaches of the regulations but have not “been able to reach any firm conclusion or see any clear picture of the causes of the disaster. All honorable members who have spoken will appreciate that.
When we look at the regulations which have been called into question we are conscious of the fact, that they were drawn up mainly to suit the requirements’ of main route operation. The airline company in question operates what might be termed a subsidiary route, that is to say, a route that, in the nature of its traffic and general character, is not the same as the main line routes principally serviced by Trans-Australia Airlines. Yet these regulations, which are made the whole text upon which the court of inquiry based its finding, were drawn up rather hastily when Trans-Australia Airlines commenced operations some three years ago. One of the ancillary lessons to be learnt from this event is that in the drawing up of civil aviation regulations a close knowledge of problems encountered by the smaller operators on subsidiary routes is necessary so that the regulations may be applicable in all circumstances. The second point to Which further emphasis could be given is the record of the MacRobertson Miller Aviation Company Limited. International statistics show that from the time of its inception until this accident, this particular company had the second best operating record throughout the whole of the world, not merely throughout Australia. It had a remarkable record of freedom from operational accidents. The company had flown safely and with proper regard to all the requirements of the Department of Civil Aviation over a great number of years with a record that all airline companies should, envy. Another point is the record of the captain. He is not here to defend himself, and it is in the spirit of all Australians that at this stage no charge should be made against him. When the records of the inquiry are examined it is found that the strictures which were passed upon him by the court of inquiry were based in some instances on its imperfect appreciation of the evidence and of the circumstances in which the pilot had served the company. For example, part of the evidence . on which the court based its remarks was that Captain Norman had flown as second pilot on the 9th January, 1948, although he had not the minimum of five hours’ flying necessary for the operation of DC3 aircraft. The company’s records show that on the occasion to which the court referred he, in fact, travelled as a supernumerary for the purpose of familiarizing himself with the aircraft and the route. The actual flying crew on that occasion consisted of Captain Campbell and a second pilot named Baker. Captain Norman was not the second pilot on that occasion. The court also seems to have based its remarks about Captain Norman largely on written records. That method is certainly essential with a large airline operating with a large staff when the only way. in which track can be kept of the operational flying of the pilots is through au index system or record sheets. In a smaller company, where there is a far more intimate relationship between the staff and the chief pilot, there is no need for a paper record. The chief pilot knows the men, what they have done and the nature of their ability. That was the cause in this instance. The checking of Captain Norman’s capacity was done by the chief pilot because he had flown alongside him, known him, seen his work and had had frequent opportunity for testing it. Although there had been imperfections in the early days of his flying, attention had been drawn to them n nd they had been corrected. The court of inquiry overlooked those particular elements which applied to this situation and relied far too much on a system of checking records, which might be applicable in a larger company but which could not be applicable in a smaller one.
The same comment applies to the matter of loading. The court criticized the practices in regard to the loading of the aircraft. There again my information is that the court overlooked some of the practices which were applicable and which had worked with perfect safety on this route. As one example, the freight usually carried on this route, which serves the northern part of the State, is freight of a different character from that carried on mainline routes. It is of much higher density than that carried on main routes. The court, in expressing an opinion that such and such a load of freight must have been disposed in such and such a way, overlooked the factor of the specific gravity of the articles in the cargo. Those of higher density would get less space than is customary with articles of lower density. Another factor that the court overlooked completely was the matter of excess loading. It spoke of excess loading of 20 lb. at the take-off, but that comment was apparently made without regard to, or in ignorance of, the allowance of 50 gallons of petrol used in warming up and effecing the take-off. The evidence before the court, taking that and other factors into consideration, indicates that in fact overloading did not occur, although the court commented to that effect. When the court referred to the distribution of the load it made a comment which indicated that there had been faulty distribution. In the opinion of. the company and of all other qualified people who have examined the evidence, that conclusion was not reached on sound grounds. But even if it was soundly based, I am informed that an officer of the Department of Civil
Aviation admitted in the coroner’s court that a subsequent test had proved that, with such a loading, another aircraft of the same type had flown quite normally. He declared that the effect of the centre of gravity being thrown to the rear was quite negligible. Of course, as the aircraft and its freight were destroyed, there was no chance of ascertaining the exact state of the load after the crash and the question remains in dispute. The element of doubt would play against the court just as strongly as it would against the company.
The subject of free insurance was mentioned by the honorable member for Franklin. The court implied, even if it did not state explicitly, that the company did not have free insurance. In fact, the company had free passenger insurance in the amount of £2,000 for each passenger.
– For death?
– But not for injury.
– The implication contained in the court’s report was that the company had no free insurance at all. As I have said, it provided free insurance of £2,000 for each passenger.. The object of my remarks has been to draw back into perspective some of the facts that seem to me to have been distorted and thrown out of perspective as a result of the perfectly innocent proceeding of a court that was highly skilled judicially but had no practical knowledge of civil aviation. As a result of its judicial .background, the court was inclined to give its attention almost exclusively to the letter of the regulations and to give little attention to actual conditions of operation.
– Has the honorable member read the court’s report and does he know the identity of the advisers ?
– Yes. A fact that 1 want to emphasize is that the regulations upon which the whole inquiry was based were drawn up for main air routes and not for subsidiary routes. No great profit can be gained by trying to apportion blame at this stage, and perhaps we ought to recognize the element of accident that enters into human affairs from time to time. However, like other honorable members who have spoken. I am in favour of maintaining the strictest supervision of all civil aviation operations in order to ensure that flying shall be safe. Australia has an almost unique record of safe civil flying. We ought to guard that record jealously, but, in doing so, we should pay particular attention to the actual conditions under which flying operations are carried out.
Mr.BEAZLEY (Fremantle) [4.4].- In discussing this air accident, which caused the death of eighteen people, we are dealing with a subject that may we’ll involve the political conflicts that have raged in this House during the last few years over the advisability of conducting air services by government enterprise instead of by private enterprise, and therefore we should speak with exceptional care. In my opinion, the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) was misguided in constantly depreciating the work of the Air Court of Inquiry. I realize that he spoke of the court in terms of respect but, when he implied that, in following legal procedure, it was likely to be led astray on technical questions, he ignored the presence in the court of the two assessors, Captain F. H. Cooper, who is the chief pilot of TransAustralia airlines, and Mr. D. B. Hudson. whois the deputy chief engineer of Qantas Empire Airways limited. Having no technical knowledge of flying, I shall not presume to elaborate upon the critical findings of the court concerning the conduct of the company. The honorable member for Curtin implied that there should be a distinction between a company that operated on main air routes and one that operated on subsidiary a ir routes. What happens, in fact, is that, in one case, a DC3 aircraft that is fitted tocarry 21 passengers takes off from Perth to go to Darwin and, in the other case a similar machine takes off from Perth to go to Kalgoorlie and then to Adelaide. As 21 lives may be involved in either ease, I cannot see any logic in the argument that a different set of standards should be established for the operation of either machine. A feature of the court’s report that disquieted me was the disclosurethat a high official of the operating companyhad expressed concern about the pilot’s knowledge of the use of certain instruments in taking off and landing and had engaged in an argument with the pilot on that subject.
The main point that I wish to raise relates to an incident that occurred prior to the fatal crash. One of the witnesses in the inquiry had been a passenger on the same machine on an occasion when, as the result of some technical defect, it started to plunge headlong to earth and flung passengers from their seats with the result that he hit his head against the roof and sustained an injury for which he had to undergo treatment over a long period of time. It transpired that the company had no form of insurance, to provide adequate compensation forthat kind of injury which, in this instance, put the man out of employment for some time. I recognize that the company, in common with other airline companies in Australia,pays compensation of £2,000 in the case of death. The Minister put aside the question of insurance against injury, and I am afraid that he must have overlooked that point, to which the court referred as the result of that man’s evidence, though perhaps it did not make its intentions sufficiently clear. I consider that the passenger insurance arrangements made by all airline companies should be closely scrutinized by the Department of Civil Aviation in order to make sure that adequate compensation shall be payable for injuries that may cause a person to be deprived of his livelihood over a long period of time. I am certain that, if the Government airline had been subject to such strictures, the Minister would not have been so gentle in his treatment of the matteras he was when he made a statement on this case.I plead with the Government to give close attention to the subject of the insurance of air passengers with particular attention to the need for providing compensation for injuries as well as death. Australian standards in that respect could well be improved.
.- My majorconcern arises from the fact that the summary of findings of the Air Court of Inquiry contains inconclusive statements of a variety of possible causes of the accident. This leads me to believe that we in Australia, who have had the good fortune to experience very few fatal air accidents, lack experts with sufficient knowledge of air accident investigations to enable them to locate precisely the causes of accidents in different circumstances. I make that statement without any intention of depreciating the work that was done by the court in this instance. Accident investigation work requires a considerable background of experience. The officers of the allied air forces that dealt with such matters in relation to operations over Europe in World War II. gained vast experience of crashes, and the proportion of accidents in which the American and British authorities were unable to arrive at a definite conclusion was extremely small. Two crashes of a similar nature have occurred in Australia within fairly recent months, yet inquiries have not been able to establish definitely the cause of the accident in either instance. One possibility that does not appear to have been thoroughly tested is failure of the automatic pilot. My own limited experience leads me to believe that, had the crash in Western Australia been caused by any misuse or failure of the automatic pilot, an experienced eye would have been able to detect the fact no matter how badly the aircraft or the instrument had been damaged. Similarly, I believe that, had an elevator lock been left on the aircraft, the fact could have been determined, unless it had dropped off between the aerodrome and the scene of the crash, and that should have been ascertainable because the wreckage was spread over a relatively small area. My remarks are not intended to be critical of the air courtof inquiry, because I realize that the facts in cases of this kind can be determined only by highly skilled men of great experience. I have seen air accident investigators at work in the United Kingdom, and I realize that one must see them in action in order to realize the highly scientific nature of the work that they do and to appreciate the remarkable deductions that they are ableto make and prove to be accurate from slight material evidence.
In fairness to Captain Norman I mention one other point which arises from the accident. I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) that, although the assessorsin this case were experienced men,it is difficult for somebody not closely connected in some way with flying to make accurate findings for an air court of inquiry. All the legal knowledge in the world would not be of such great assistance as would be the practical knowledge of the flying assessors.
– The honorable member’s comment suggests that theassessors should be given the right to sign a report and accept responsibility for it.
– I believe that the assessors definitely should be given the right to sign a report. The assessors in this case mentioned that, in some ways, they considered Captain Norman was unsuitable to be the captain of the aircraft. They referred to his record and stated that, when he was first trained as a pilot, he was graded as being below the average. The only comment that I make about that is that some of the finest pilots that World War II. produced, including many who lasted the longest in operational flying, began their careers with a below average assessment. Thatis a remarkable fact. There was no justification for the court to make a reflection of that nature and to take it seriously into,consideration in determining whether Captain Norman was fit to be the first pilot of the aircraft, if in fact, it did so. Obviously Captain Norman had had considerable experience after he first qualified as a pilot. One of the most serious features of the accident was the failure to carry out all procedure in connexion with the flight correctly. Certain omissions were disclosed by the court of inquiry. I believe, again, that that canbe attributed to the fact that we in Australia are most fortunate in respect of our flying weather. We have not the constant necessity for attention to detail thatisrequired under more difficult flying conditions. The Department of Civil Aviation should insist that close attention be paid to all those forms of procedure. If necessary, let the department conduct an investigation, and eliminate nonessentials. But if the department considers that something is necessary in the interests of passengers, it should be rigorous in ensuring the observance of its instructions. A humanelement is also involved, because constant repetition tends to make one careless. I contend that it behoves the department to see that, wherever possible, carelessness shall be eliminated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 9th May (vide page 2267), on motion by Mr.
S 1’.EN DEll - flint the following paper be printed: -
Foreign Policy - Ministerial Statement, 9 tb March, 1050.
– in reply - In the statement that I made to the House on the 9th March last, I endeavoured to present not only the broad global picture as it appeared to the Government, but also our special interests in certain aspects of it, and our relations with existing international organizations. I shall not attempt to cover that ground again, or to touch upon all the many and important suggestions that were made during the course of the debate by various honorable members. All I can attempt is to comment on a few of the major points to which honorable members have directed attention, and to inform the House of relevant developments that have taken place in the meantime.
I believe that it was the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) who remarked that a general omnibus debate on international affairs was, to seme degree, unsatisfactory because of thi? vast area that it covered.
– The Minister has sui en rectified that position.
– That is so. I have sought to rectify it by making statements to the House on particular matters, thereby confining debates to specific areas. I hope that a remedy for the cause of the honorable gentleman’s dissatisfaction will lie in future in more detailed discussions of particular topics by the Foreign Affairs Committee, to which I referred in my opening speech, and which the Government wishes, and proposes, to establish. As the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) knows, I have been seeking to reach finality on the appointment of that committee. I am not being critical of the delay that has taken place, because I. know that members of the Opposition have been engaged upon what to them is, perhaps, a much more important matter, but I hope that we shall be able to reach finality next week. Unless we do so, T shall be obliged to submit a motion to the House for the establishment of that committee, and it will then be for the Opposition to determine whether or not it will participate. However, I feel sure that, in the meantime, we shall reach an agreement on the matter. i feature of the debate on international affairs has been the substantial agreement among honorable members on both sides of the chamber on the fundamental approach that was adopted in my statement. Such agreement substantiates my belief that to a large degree, foreign policy should be above party interests and party politics. Of great significance also was the publicly expressed approval by the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Acheson, of the six principles of the Australian Government’s policy that I presented at the end of my statement. The United States press has dealt sympathetically with Australia’s special position and problems, and I have a strong belief that the two countries have a remarkably similar approach to most of the present-day problems of the world. In particular, it is apparent that serious thought is being given in the United States of America to the need for urgent action to meet the situation in South and South-East Asia. I have already announced on behalf of the Government its desire to work out policies and plans in those areas in conjunction with interested and friendly powers. We shall watch with great interest the development of American policy in this area, and look forward to the closest possible cooperation with it. I have already given a statement to honorable members on the plans of the British Commonwealth Consultative Committee for Economic Aid to South and South-East Asia. That, I think, will be the next subject for debate in the House. In the course of that state- . ment, I expressed my satisfaction with the announcement of the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Acheson, to the effect that the United States Government would attempt to co-ordinate its efforts in South and South-East Asia with the efforts of the British Commonwealth. I think that honorable members will agree that that is a most encouraging response from the United States of America, because, as I made clear in my statement upon that matter, without the assistance of that country, and the tremendous effort that it is able to bring to bear upon these problems, we can do no more than deal only partially with a vast problem. The Government is greatly encouraged by this response from Mr. Dean Acheson.
The United Kingdom, the United States cf America and “France have taken the initiative in defensive arrangements in Europe that are designed, both by economic and by military aid, to secure that, important group of advanced industrial states from totalitarian influences. Situated as it, is in South-East Asia, Australia is concerned lest there be an overconcentraton of emphasis on Europe. Or nur na rt. we are naturally conscious of the vital importance to us, and also in terms of world politics, of preserving peace and stability among our Asian neighbours. A policy that is designed to meet the requirements of Europe does not, necessarily altogether meet the situation that confronts us in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. T mention that matter because I think that, it is always possible that we in Australia may over-emphasize the position in South aird South-East Asia. If we were situated in Europe we might have a tendency to over-emphazise the situation there, and to view it solely through European eyes. I believe that our view should be that there should not be an over-emphasis or concentration upon the problems of Europe lest it exclude the very important problems which arise in this area, and which may, in the - immediate future, have a more direct bearing on world peace than anything that is likely to take place in Western Europe.
In relation to the Pacific Pact, I said in my earlier speech that, in framing our policy, we must take into consideration the aspirations and the fears of the States among which we live. We are faced with the fact that there is a reluct ance on the part of many of those people to be drawn into rival blocs whose preoccupation, their leaders believe, are primarily European. Some honorable members have referred during the course of this debate to the possibility of forming a Pacific pact on similar lines to those of the North Atlantic pact between the nations of Western Europe and of North America I should say, at the beginning, that if we speak of a pact, we recognize that another nation, or other nations in addition to Australia, must join it. As I pointed out in my speech on the 9th March last, it is easy to say, “ We think that a pact is desirable, and we indicate our readiness to join in it “, but we must get a response from other nations, particularly the United States of America, without whose assistance, again in the military sense, any pact would bc meaningless and unreal. Few honorable members would deny the desirability of a pact or agreement between the nations of the Pacific area for the preservation of peace in this part of the world, and for mutual defence against aggression. The achievement of such a pact, however, as 1 warned in my speech that initiated, this debate, presents not a few difficulties, because the conditions that favoured the development of the North Atlantic Pact are not present in Asia. In Europe and North America, there is a group of countries that have the same kind of political institutions, the same economic structure, the same kind of armed forces and a common Western European culture. No such common background exists among the countries of Asia, which show a marked divergence in their political institutions, economic development, culture and religion, and in their ability to assume military commitments. Thus the development of a common defence policy will, of necessity, be slower in Asia than in Europe, although I believe that the matter is of great urgency in terms of security and of the peace of the world.
In my opening remarks in this debate, I stressed, that any pact that aimed at the preservation of peace in the Pacific area would need to embody specific military provisions. I also made it clear that, in my opinion, no such pact could hope to succeed without the support and cooperation of the United States of America. Before that country can be expected to assume responsibilities in connexion with the defence of Pacific countries, some of the other nations must give evidence of their willingness to unite in their own defence. The immediate need, then, is for some initiative from among the countries of the Pacific area. In my earlier speech, I expressed the hope that the countries of the British Commonwealth might take the lead and form, the nucleus of a Pacific alliance. [ mention, in passing, that it is proper that T should say that some of them have exhibited not merely reluctance but opposition to any such conception. That is one of the factors that we must bear in mind. The suggestion that I made about the British Commonwealth taking the initiative was not intended to exclude other initiatives. Any government that would contribute to the development of an effective regional organization in the Pacific area should be encouraged and supported; and we say that Australia alone, if we have a response from the United States of America, will be quite prepared to enter into such a pact with that country because wo believe that it would be of great importance to both the United States of America and Australia, to the stability of the world, and particularly to the sta.bility of the area in which we are geographically placed.
The Baguio Conference, it will be remembered, was called by President Quirino, and the Australian Government decided to send a delegation of which the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs was a member. The visit that I paid to the Republic of the Philippines recently strengthened my belief in the correctness of the policy of approaching many of our problems on a practical regional basis. I had warm and extensive discussions with President Quirino, during which we explored the various means by which, our respective countries could contribute to the welfare of South-East Asia, and relieve the tension that is now developing. Throughout my visit, I was impressed by the desire of ‘ the Philippines Government to co-operate on a friendly and good neighbourly ‘basis with Australia, and by the degree to which it shared our wish for stability and. prosperity among our neighbouring countries. The Baguio Conference was a., useful meeting of representatives from Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Siam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia. The recommendations were aimed at extending the scope of mutual consultation and cooperation within the South and South-East Asian areas, and whilst those recommendations do not give a lead for any specific or practical steps to be taken, nonetheless they do represent an acknowledgment by the peoples of this area of the importance of endeavouring to work out their common problems in consultation. As important as the formal conclusions of the conference, however, was the experience that was gained ..by all the countries that were represented there in discussing their problems on a basis of equality and responsibility.
Some honorable members expressed the opinion that the Government was not giving to the South Pacific Commission the support that should be accorded to it. That suggestion was entirely without foundation, as my remarks will indicate.
– That suggestion was made by the press.
– It was made by the press, and it was repeated in this debate. The Australian Government is taking an active interest in the work of the South Pacific Commission. We regard it a* an example of practical, regional co-operation that can do much to improve the living conditions of the peoples of thiSouth Pacific area. It should not bc expected, however, that its short term results will he spectacular, because the economic and social problems that confront the region are too complex for that. Nevertheless, a number of problems that are common to the island territories in the South Pacific are now .under examination by the” .commission’s teams of specialists in the field, arid there are already’ indications that their recommendations will be” pf great value to the responsible governments and administrations.’ At, the ‘fifth session, df the commission,!’ which’ was held recently in Suva - and this is an earnest of the Government’s desire to see the commission’s work prove more successful - the Australian Government proposed that the commission should recommend the carrying out of its own technical assistance programme. Similar recommendations have been made in respect of the South and .South-East Asian areas and the proposal was advanced on my instructions in respect of the South Pacific area. “We also proposed that the commission should recommend that it should be provided for that purpose with a special fund to which Australia would contribute an amount over and above its contribution to the annual budget of the commission. The generous interest of the Government of the United States of America in this programme of technical assistance for the South Pacific area, and, indeed, its warm support of the South Pacific Commission’s activities as a whole, encouraged the Australian Government to put forward this proposal which, if it is adopted by all member governments of the commission, will have a stimulating effect upon the commission’s current projects by extending their scope and making speedier results possible. The Australian territories of Nauru and Papua and New Guinea were represented at the first meeting of the South Pacific Conference which met at Suva recently. The delegates chosen from the indigenous people of all the island territories in the South Pacific area profited from the opportunity for exchanges of ideas and opinions on the broad social and economic problems that confront their territories.
The first South Pacific Conference, which was unique in the history of this region, produced resolutions on a comprehensive range of topics which the commission, as a consultative and advisory body to the member governments, has referred to them for their consideration. It has also undertaken to make a further study of recommendations that call ‘for initial action by the commission itself. The commission in making this study will draw upon the expert advice of the members of its research council, which is to meet in Sydney in August. The council is composed of specialists who are chiefly medical officers, directors of education, agriculturalists arid qualified technical men with’ actual knowledge ‘ and experience of the island territories. The fact that the representatives of the peoples of the island territories discussed these subjects will help to develop a sense of common interest among them. At the same time, it will do much to confirm their confidence in their respective administrations because they will have seen that the commission as the agent of the member governments is motivated by one consideration, namely, the advancement of their territories in partnership with their peoples.
Honorable members understandably paid considerable attention during the debate to Indonesia, which is our nearest neighbouring sovereign state, and I should like to. mention briefly some of the political and economic problems with which the new republic has been preoccupied since the transfer of sovereignty to it by the Netherlands Government in December, 1949. First there is the problem of the thousands of young Indonesians who, as a result of the Japanese occupation and the subsequent civil strife in Indonesia, have never known any occupation but that of arms. The new government is faced with the urgent and difficult task of providing means whereby these young men can be effectively rehabilitated to civilian life. Young Indonesians of this kind were prominent in the rebel movements of Westerling in West Java, and Abdul Azis in Macassar. In the meantime, the government has taken measures against the forces of disorder which threaten the stability of the new state. For this purpose an efficient army must be moulded from the best elements of the various armed groups which fought on different sides in the recent struggle between the Indonesian Republic and the Netherlands.
Another great problem that faces the new State is that of its future “ constitutional structure. Sovereignty was transferred to Indonesia on the basis of a provisional federal constitution, but there has since been n political struggle between those who desire to maintain the federal system and the advocates of a unitary Indonesian state. Further, the new Indonesian Government faces the task, of rationalizing the. country’s governmental machinery, which has been under particularly heavy ^strain during the past four years of internal struggle and which has now to be adjusted in the light of the country’s change from colonial to national status. [Quorum formed.] In the economic sphere, the new government faces problems equally acute. The Japanese occupation, and the subsequent years of internal warfare, practically brought to a standstill the machinery of production. If the new government is to offer its people reasonable and improved living standards it must ensure a speedy resumption of production of the many valuable commodities which Indonesia can supply and which the world urgently needs. Only when production in Indonesia is reestablished, probably with the aid of outside capital, will its Government he able to deal effectively with the serious problems arising from an unbalanced budget, acute shortages of foreign currency, a shortage of essential imported consumer goods and the subsequent internal monetary inflation. [Extension of time granted?]
In the broadest terms, those are some of the problems which have faced the new Republic of ihe United States of Indonesia since sovereignty was transferred to it just over five months ago. The situation is still confused and it is too early to judge the extent of the Government’s success in dealing with its problems. A few developments, however, are worthy of note. In the military sphere, some progress has been made in the amalgamation of the various armed groups in Indonesia into one national army. In the sphere of internal security, there have been some disquieting incidents, including the fatal shooting of ,an Australian citizen in Djakarta a few weeks ago. As I informed honorable members on a previous occasion, representations have been made in respect of that incident to the Indonesian Government with a view to obtaining a satisfactory settlement and to protecting the interests of Australians generally.
The movement to establish a unitary state in Indonesia, in place of the present federation, engendered some bitterness. A commission has been established to work out the details, particularly in relation to amendments of the constitution. Iri order to meet its economic problems, the Government of Indonesia has taken several measures. New regu- lations for the control of imports, exports, and foreign currency have been introduced in an endeavour to stimulate exports and improve the country’s balance of trade and its adverse foreign currency position. These regulations were followed by a drastic deflationary measure whereby onehalf of the currency in circulation, and one-half of all bank balances above a small amount, were frozen in a compulsory government loan. So as to provide immediate funds for urgent rehabilitation, the Indonesian Government has negotiated a. loan’ of 100,000,000 dollars from the United States Import and Export Bank. It has also arranged for a loan of 200,000,000 guilders from the Netherlands Government. Provided the new Government can retain the confidence of the western world, it seems fairly clear that it will be able to obtain financial assistance for rehabilitation of its economy. Another step designed to assist the economic recovery of Indonesia was the recent conclusion of trade agreements with a number of European countries, including the United Kingdom. These agreements should assist in stimulating Indonesia’s foreign trade and easing its foreign currency position.
With a view to regulating future Netherlands Indonesian relations and ensuring the closest co-operation between the two countries, it was agreed at the round table conference at the Hague that a NetherlandsIndonesian Union, a free association of equal and independent nations, should be established. Iri March, 1950, the union commenced to function, when Dutch and Indonesian ministers met at Djakarta as the “ Conference of the Union “ to discuss outstanding matters arising from the recent transfer of sovereignty. The success of the union will be a most important element in ensuring the closest co-operation, not only between Indonesia and the Netherlands, but also between Indonesia and the western world generally. To sum up, I should say that it is of concern to this country that the new government of Indonesia should be successful in its efforts to restore law and order within its territories and to resuscitate that country’s shattered economy. Otherwise it would be open to the inroads of communism. It is to be Loped that the Indonesian Government will be able to surmount the difficulties which confront it.
In Malaya, which is of supreme importance to this country, British territories, for the last two years, have been torn by a ruthless attempt, on the part of an alien Communist group, to bring down the present British administration of the country and to establish in its place a Communist dictatorship. It may be useful for honorable members to consider shortly the background of this struggle, and the progress made by the British administration in Malaya in its efforts to restore peace and order. Prior to the war there was in Malaya a small but active Communist party, membership of which was largely Chinese, and which owed its inspiration principally to the Communist party in China. Its members were, almost entirely, recent immigrants from China who had little in common with the real inhabitants of Malaya, and who owed no loyalty to the government or institutions of that country. Early in its career, the Communist party in Malaya was declared an illegal organization. However, it carried on underground, and was responsible for a series of labour disturbances, culminating in a wave of strikes in 1937.
Following the entry of Japan into the war in 1941, the Malayan Communist party made an offer to co-operate with the Government of Malaya in operations against the Japanese. The reason for that action, of course, was obvious; the Communists in Malaya, as in this country, intended it to serve another purpose.’ The offer was accepted and groups of Communist irregulars were organized and armed. Following the Japanese conquest of Malaya these groups played a leading part in the underground resistance to the Japanese occupation forces. The M.P.A.J.A., or “Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army”, which conducted extensive guerilla and espionage operations against the Japanese, was, despite its- name, predominantly Chinese in composition and was organized bv the Malayan Communist party. At various times during the Japanese occupation, British forces flew arms, ammunition and officers into Malaya to assist the guerilla forces to continue their resistance. This may well have been the principal source of the arms which are now being used so ruthlessly against British troops and civilians in Malaya, although I am inclined to suspect that they are also getting arms from elsewhere. Following the Japanese surrender, British military authorities in Malaya endeavoured to disarm and demobilize the Communist guerillas. Some handed in their arms, but most did not. They were then in a stronger position as their prestige had been considerably enhanced among the rank and file of the population by their war-time anti-Japanese activities and also, I believe, by the recognition of Communist China. For a time they were recognized as a legal political organization.
Numbers of trade unions were organized in Malaya immediately after the war. This development was encouraged by the British Government as a move to improve labour conditions and industrial relations in Malaya. The Communists quickly obtained control of the most important of the unions, and of the labour federations which were also established at the time. These were the Singapore Federation of Trade Unions and the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions. In the immediate postwar period in Malaya there were many factors, including shortages of food and consumer goods and the administrative confusion following the Japanese collapse, which helped extremists to expand their influence. Their endeavours, however, were directed, not merely towards an improvement of labour conditions, but also to the promotion of labour unrest for political objectives and their tactics included violence, extortion and the intimidation of more moderate labour leaders and their followers. Their objectives were to disrupt industry and commerce, to prevent rehabilitation of the country’s basic industries, and ultimately to drive British interests and British administration from Malaya.
In an endeavour to curb the disruptive activities of the Communists within the unions, the Federation of Malaya, in May, 1949, amended its legislation relating to trade unions so as to restrict office-bearers in any union to persons who had had not less than three years’ experience in the particular industry, and to debar persons who had been convicted of extortion and intimidation. The Communistdominated unions were unable to comply with these requirements and were deregistered. The annual report of the Federation of Malaya for 1949 explains the Communist reaction to this effort to curb their influence in these words -
Their labour infiltration, tactics had failed, and they turned to their other weapon, violence.
In June, 1948, leaders and rank and file members of the Malayan Communist party, including many former so-called union leaders, deserted the towns and other centres of population and took to the interior. Here they recovered the arms and ammunition they had hidden, and directed a series of murderous attacks against rubber estates, tin mines, isolated police station and villages, and individuals of all races. The Government declared a state of emergency on the 16th June, 1948, and this has remained in force ever since. It appears that the original objective of the insurgents was to obtain control of a sufficiently large area in which they could declare a Communist Republic of Malaya and set up a rebel administration similar to that established in Vietnam and Vietminh.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s extended time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Ryan) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) from concluding his speech without limitation of time.
– I thank the House for its patience. It is important that these matters should be placed before it in order to show the attitude . of the Australian Government to the problem that confronts us. The insurgents having been compelled to abandon that ambitious project, they concentrated on attempts to disrupt the rubber and tin industries, which are vital to the country’s economy and to the livelihood of thousands of its inhabitants, and to terrorizing the population, particularly those in outlying areas. Since June, 1948, that is, for two years, the British authorities in Malaya have been engaged in a campaign against the Communist insurgents in an endeavour to restore law and order and. the peaceful processes of economic rehabilitation to that country. The insurgent forces originally numbered between 3,000 and 5,000. In a population of over 5,000,000, that is an insignificant minority. At the beginning of the emergency, British military and police forces were inadequate to deal with the situation. Since then, the regular forces have been reinforced, the police force has been expanded, and special police, auxiliary police, estate guards and other emergency forces have been enlisted from among the population.
Honorable members may wonder why a force of not more than 5,000 partlyarmed and partly-trained guerrilla fighters is able to defy British police and large regular army forces and to spread fear and destruction throughout the rich territory of Malaya. The answer is that the physical conditions of Malaya, with its jungles and mountains, favour protracted resistance by armed gangs of desperate men. The insurgents have located themselves in, or on the fringe of, the dense jungle, which covers great areas in Malaya. The jungle offers protection from attack, and from it small groups are able to make constant forays, causing considerable damage and bloodshed and spreading terror and uncertainty throughout the country. To establish an effective defence against an enemy of that type would require static guards in adequate strength at every village, town, mine, plantation or other installation throughout the length and breadth of Malaya. That of course would be almost impossible. Many possible targets must therefore be unguarded from time to time, and the insurgents are able, by carefully selecting the soft targets, to do considerable damage without engaging, ‘largescale security forces. They are also assisted by the fact . that there are in various parts of Malaya, communities of Chinese squatters, . in many cases peaceful law-abiding citizens, who are. growing their rice and vegetables, and living in their -poor huts, on the edge of the jungle, isolated, from the: centres of population.
These squatter communities provide cover for Communists, who are able to intimidate their inhabitants into providing them with shelter and supplies. The estate raided, or the ambush successfully completed, the bandits by night can,become apparently peaceful squatters by day, and there is little . doubt that, although the number of full-time rebels is not more than 5,000 or so, there is at least an equal number of part-time bandits or active sympathizers located principally in the Chinese squatter camps.
The bandits have …been foiled in their major objectives of proclaiming a Communist, Re public in Malaya, and of setting^ up a unified command of their ‘ forces. They have been kept on the move, their camps have been destroyed, and their supplies have been cut oft, and the constant heavy drain of casualties lias increased their difficulties. However, although the Communists have been harassed and hampered, they are indeed far from being exterminated, and their raids continue to take a toll of lives and to spread terror and destruction. Static defence against an enemy of that type being out of the question, the only alternative is an active offensive to exterminate the rebel Communist forces. This i4 the British authorities have attempted to do, but despite some notable achievements, their operations have not, so far, met with the success that was hoped for.
During the last few months the British Government has shown an awareness of . the dangerous manner in which the situation is developing, and a determination to deal with it. Substantial reinforcements of regular troops have been sent to Malaya, and General Briggs has been appointed as Supreme Commander for the conduct of all operations against the insurgents. The Prime’ Minister . (Mr. Menzies) has already told the House of the Australian Government’s decision to assist the United Kingdom in Malaya by the provision of transport aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force. A substantial and, we hope, an effective contribution can be made in that way to the British effort to maintain law) and order in an area of the world which is no less important to us than to the United Kingdom.
I want particularly to direct the attention of honorable members to some aspects of the operations in Malaya. The leaders and most of the rank and file of the insurgent forces are members of the Communist party, whose aim was originally to establish an independent Communist State in Malaya. Furthermore, the movement is not based on the nationalist aspirations of the peoples of Malaya, but is an attempt by foreign rebels to impose their will on those peoples. The fact that the insurgent forces are nearly all Chinese can be strikingly demonstrated by figures. From the beginning of the insurrection to the end of February, 1950, the insurgents suffered a total of 2,485 casualties, including killed, wounded, captured and surrendered. No fewer than 2,194 of these casualties, or approximately 88 per cent., were Chinese. Of these, the vast majority were born outside Malaya. The remainder of the casualities was made up of 239 Malays, 27 Indians and 75 others.
– Were any” of them Japanese?
– A few of the unidentified 75 may have been Japanese. I have no information on that point. The rebels do not enjoy the support of the peoples of Malaya. The Malays, who compose about one-half of the population of Malaya, have opposed the Communists from the outset, and thousands of Malays are actively engaged in the fight agains them as members of the army or the regular police force, as special or auxiliary constables, or as estate guards. The attitude of the peoples of Malaya towards the rebellion was demonstrated in a striking way by the response to the Government’s recent appeal for Malayan peoples’ “anti-bandit” month. Nearly half a million people of all races, and from all walks of life, volunteered to assist the Government to prosecute the fight against the Communists. From all the evidence available, it is clear that what is in progress in Malaya- is a minority attempt, by means of ruthless violence and the destruction of property and - human life, to disrupt the administration of the country, to ruin its economy, to drive out the British and to impose Communist dictatorship over Malaya.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who does not often express his views on international affairs, speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Tuesday last, said -
The Labour party has made a statement indicating its attitude towards that matter, and my own opinion, which is, I .believe, the opinion of the majority, if not all, of my colleagues, is that the Malayan question should he referred to the United Nations for some examination. ] well recollect that during the Indonesian trouble the Indonesians, who are now regarded as having been engaged in a nationalistic movement, were at that time referred to by members of the present Government parties as being Communist-dominated or actually Communist forces. But to-day they are a recognized government. Their conflict was resolved sensibly as a result of the intervention of Australia in having the matter referred to the United Nations. Some effort ought to be made to settle the Malayan position peacefully.
The inference that can be drawn from that statement is that the situation in Malaya is an exact counterpart of that which existed in Indonesia during and after the conclusion of hostilities with Japan. As I have said, first, the present insurrection in Malaya, is not nationalist in any sense, the insurgents being almost entirely Chinese and foreign born. Secondly, it is sponsored and led by the Malayan Communist party, whose members also provide the main insurgent forces. Thirdly, it is a minority movement with no more than 5,000 active participants and possibly a like number of passive supporters. Finally, it has been disowned by the most influential representative bodies in Malaya, including the United Malays National Organization, the Malayan-Indian Congress and the Malayan-Chinese Association. The views that have been expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney are identical with those now being advanced in the cold war by those who engage in Communist propaganda in Malaya. It is appropriate that I should place on record the fact that there is no resemblance between the situation that existed in Indonesia and that which exists in Malaya. The movement in Malaya is by no means a national movement. The suggestion that it is a movement of that character is made solely for the purpose of distracting attention from the need for this country and the United Kingdom to do their utmost to destroy the Communist attempt to take control of Malaya.
I propose now to say a few words about the situation in China. The Government will continue to watch closely developments in that country in order to ascertain to what degree the new regime in Peking intends to live up to international obligations in both its internal treatment of foreigners and its external noninterference in the affairs of neighbouring states. Several Opposition members have advocated the early recognition of the new regime as the Government of China. The Government has no present intention of so doing. I remind the House that this matter first became an issue of policy at the time when the present Opposition occupied the government benches, and I am not aware that the same advice was then given by those honorable members. Since I made a statement to the House on international affairs on the 9th March, an increasing number of reports has been received concerning the famine which is sweeping the provinces of North China. Information points to the efforts of the Peking regime to alleviate the situation by the movement of food supplies from the north-eastern and north-western provinces where crops have been more plentiful. Nevertheless the situation appears to be acute. I believe that we should face such a situation of human suffering with feelings divorced as far as possible from political preconceptions. The moving spirit behind relief works should not be one of opportunism. The great post-war relief projects such as Unrra and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund were motivated by the principle of nondiscrimination.
The United States Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson, has indicated that serious thought is being given to the possibility of sending surplus United States food to China. He has remarked that, if it were decided to send relief, shipments would not be handled directly by the United States Government in view of its official difficulties with the new regime. Mr. Acheson has said that the strongest argument in favour of sending food is the humanitarian desire to help the suffering people in China, although he admitted that it would be difficult to make sure that food shipments would reach the people who needed them. The despatch of relief food supplies to China, irrespective of political differences, might do something to counter the anti-democratic propaganda that is now being sponsored by Soviet influence. It would be a practical means of conveying to the Chinese people the continued sympathy and interest of the democracies in their personal as distinct from their political welfa re.
The right honorable member for Barton has raised the question of whether the establishment of the British Commonwealth Consultative Committee for South and South-East Asia will not duplicate the work of the existing United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Ear East. I assure the House and the right honorable gentleman that it is not the intention of the Australian Government to weaken the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East or to try to limit the field in which it can usefully operate. However, to condemn the consultative committee because it is concerning itself with problems similar to those with which the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is concerned is rather unrealistic. In the first place, there are special reasons why the Commonwealth should co-operate in international economic questions. A Commonwealth Liaison Committee has already been established in London to deal with one field of economic questions. The consultative committee which I have described to the House would fill a conspicuous gap in an area of profound interest to Australia and to other Commonwealth Governments. Consultation among Commonwealth Governments is all the more necessary in view of the fact that the trade and future development of the area are very much tied up with the exchange and financial policies of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth governments, and it is proper that those governments should discuss among themselves the broad implications of a programme in South and South-East Asia.
Let me now examine the role that might be performed by the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. The first point to note is that the membership of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East includes China and the Soviet Union ; it does not include Canada, nor is Ceylon a full member. The functions of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East are to “ initiate and participate in measures (i) for facilitating concrete and concerted action for the economic reconstruction of Asia and the Far East; (ii) for raising the level of economic activity in Asia and the Far East; and (iii) for maintaining and strengthening economic relations “of those areas both among themselves and with other countries of the world “.
It was never intended that the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East should be an executive agency for the area. Clearly, however, it has valuable functions, and its members will no doubt wish its activities to be coordinated with Commonwealth consultative machinery. The Consultative Committee, by its terms of reference, is to co-ordinate its efforts with existing international organizations. Already the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East has made valuable studies of the economic problems of the area and the results are available to all countries in assessing the possibilities of their developing a programme of assistance. The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is a valuable forum in which representatives of the countries of the region can express their views on matters of common interest. It is most important that countries should exchange views and make known to each other their plans for the future and their experience in economic policy. The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is a body before which countries, many of them potential recipients of international assistance, may discuss the principles that may properly be applied to their relationship , with countries outside the region.
The institution of an international programme of economic development of an area, for the long-term mutual benefit not only of the area itself but also of those countries which are able to contribute capital and technical assistance, raises many important political and economic questions. Countries which are likely to receive capital and technical assistance from others are likely to wan to establish certain safeguards for their own independence and their right to a control of the course that their economic development is to take. On the other hand, the countries whose investors are being encouraged to assist in the development of new industries and public utilities and the like will, on their part, properly ask for certain safeguards against discrimination and unfair treatment. Those are questions which can usefully be discussed in an international organization, in which most of the countries concerned in the area have a voice.
The. Australian Government hap already ‘had an offer by the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East Secretariat * to assist in any efforts that can be made by Commonwealth countries to contribute to the development of Asian countries, and I am confident that the governments of the Commonwealth will agree to work in close harmony with the Commission and will exercise their function as members ‘ of the commission in a way that will best contribute to the economic stability of the area. In fact, I can report to the House that they welcome our initiative and have indicated that they are prepared to work in the closest collaboration with us.
The right honorable member for Barton has asked for clarification of my statement that support will be given to the operation of the United Nations “ so long as the United Nations operates in accordance with those principles “ - that is, the principles of the United Nations Charter. I can illustrate more specifically what I had in mind by referring the right honorable member to Article 2 of the United Nations Charter which sets out the “ principles “ in accordance with which the United Nations shall act. All of these principles are relevant, but I shall cite only one - that contained in paragraph 7 which is as follows:: -
Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the TJ.N. to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII. i-
I have noticed, particularly in* connexion with the last session of the General Assembly, an increasing tendency of the General Assembly to overstep its competence in relation to non-self-governing territories, of which Papua is one. Such territories are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of administering powers except insofar as those powers have voluntarily accepted certain obligations under Chapter XI. of the Charter. Australia has on more than one occasion sought to keep the General Assembly within its constitutional limits - in preventing it, for example, from demanding political information on the territories, or from making recommendations in respect of individual territories. I assure the House that we shall do our best to help to make Chapter XI. of the Charter work constructively as long as the United Nations itself observes its limitations and the principles to which I have referred.
I have also noted that many responsible States consider that the United Nations is tending towards an exaggerated interpretation of its powers and of the duties of members in relation to the provisions of the Charter’ that deal with human rights and fundamental freedoms. It wa’s always assumed that the general human rights provisions of the Charter would be “ spelled out “ in a detailed covenant that would both specifically define these rights and at the same time set the limits of permissible international intervention. If a satisfactory convention is drafted there will be a much better definition of the extent of these powers and duties. I could cite other particular illustrations but what I had in mind was something wider. The basic objective of any world organization must be the maintenance of peace. The purposes of the ‘United Nations are well expressed in Article 1 of the Charter: in the short term, the removal of threats to the peace ;.. in the Jong term, the adjustment of economic and social tensions that lead to war., B.ut there is danger of the United Nations losing sight of these overall objectives through embarking on activities which are not strictly in accord with these objectives; through ill-considered intervention in situations without carefully considering its own limitations and adapting its approach to those limitations; and through dissipating or duplicating its energies over fields of little or .no return.
Nothing is so calculated to produce a world reaction of frustration and disillusionment as the tendency to use the United Nations as a sounding board for propaganda. .Some items are placed on the agenda of United Nations organizations, or are discussed, not so much with a view to their solution as to afford an opportunity for attack or counter-attack in the ideological cold war. Whilst this observation is provoked principally by the exasperating propaganda repetitions and irrelevancies of the Soviet Union and its satellites, other States have not been guiltless of a tendency to misuse the United Nations in this direction.
In my original statement I praised the success of some interventions by the United Nations. I do not go as far as the right honorable member for Barton, who is inclined to view all United Nations interventions as unqualified successes. As the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) pointed out, this youthful organization has shown a tendency to .rush into any situation brought before it and to assume responsibilities when it has not carefully weighed all the consequences. For example, where great power interests are directly in conflict, the United Nations should consider soberly whether its role should not be that of bringing the pressure of world opinion to bear on the parties rather than that of taking over from them responsibility for resolving divergencies that they themselves have been unable to reconcile. A succession of failures will only discredit the United Nations and impair its effectiveness as a keeper of the peace.
There is another way -in which the United Nations is tending to lose sight of its basic purposes and principles. That is in some of its activities in the economic and social field, where there are other organizations better, equipped or where the results of the activities are not of “very gr’eat<- importance in terms of practical results or authoritative advice to governments. Fiscal studies, studies of housing and of town and country planning, are interesting to some nations, but the United Nations should weigh more carefully in the future the necessity of having an elaborate system of commissions and staffs and committees of the Economic and Social Council and the Assembly to discuss those matters. That is what I have in mind when I say that Australia will support the operations of the United Nations so long as the United Nations operates in accordance with those principles. I do not believe there will be much difference between the right honorable member for Barton and myself on this matter, although the Government may differ from him in the judgment of what are the kinds of projects which the Australian Government should oppose as being not- strictly related to the Charter and the development of which is not worthy of the expenditure of money and skilled man-power.
I want to say a further word’ about the tendency of international organizations and conferences to proliferate’.’ As regards the organs of the United Nations, the Economic and Social Council has established a large number of functional and Regional commissions. There are now functional ^commissions upon employment and economic activity, transport and communications, statistics, human rights, status of women, narcotic drugs, populations, fiscal affairs and social affairs. Some of these commissions have in turn established sub-commissions. Five regional bodies are now in existence, and some of them have a considerable number of standing committees in various fields. It is a matter of doubt whether some of these commissions- and sub-commissions should have been established in the first place. It must be remembered that much of the machinery was established virtually on the day on which the United Nations came into existence. Governments tried to look ahead to see what sort of structure would be required in future years. It would not be astonishing if some errors of judgment were made. Now that these bodies have been operating for some time, I think we should profit by experience, and get rid of those that we do npt need. We can also stop the spread of new agencies and new expensive units of a secretariat that already employs 4,000 individuals into fields that have little to do with major international questions.
One matter to which insufficient attention has been given is the overlapping of activities that is to be found in the establishment by the Economic and Social Council of both functional and regional commissions. The functional commissions and their subsidiary bodies were originally intended to be composed of experts who would present recommendations for consideration by the governmental representatives who sit on the Economic and Social Council. Partly owing to the attitude adopted by the Soviet Union that experts must always be governmental representatives they now in most cases consist of representatives of governments who act pursuant to instructions. The result of this change in the conception of the functional commissions is that certain areas within the jurisdiction of the Economic and Social Council are reviewed by at least two bodies of governmental representatives, and often by four such bodies if the particular matter under discussion first goes to a sub-commission and finally to the General Assembly. Broadly speaking, the governments effectively represented upon each body are the same. The work is duplicated and often is done three or four times. Proliferation and duplication of effort have also occurred in the specialized agencies that are affiliated with the United Nations and in the relationship between them and the United Nations. The list of the specialized agencies is now becoming formidable. Eleven such bodies are at present in existence. Two others are in an embryonic form. Almost all of then have a large array of regional committees and special bodies to study particular problems. Those agencies continually resist any attempts to undermine the degree of their independence with the result that their functions inevitably overlap. This has also led to duplication of administrative and financial services throughout the United Nations and the agencies. Not one 6f the specialized agencies has its head-quarters m New York and they are scattered throughout the world, despite efforts towards centralization made by the Secretary-General. This means that each agency has to have its own documents staff, its own translators, and so on. There is something to be said, of course, in favour of some decentralization of inter-governmental organizations but this principle has been carried to extremes.
There exists also a large number of inter-governmental organizations that operate side by side with the United Nations system and perform similar or related functions in various fields. In the economic and social fields alone there are 70 such bodies. The United States Government is also concerned about the problem of the proliferation of international agencies and lately Congress has been examining the matter. It was reported to Congress that the continued existence of these organizations “ can result only in a dispersion and duplication of effort and a waste of public funds “. With this conclusion the Australian Government whole-heartedly agrees. What I have said regarding proliferation and duplication of effort in the activities of international organizations does not mean that the Government underestimates what these organizations can do and have done to achieve international co-operation. What is needed from these bodies, however, is the maximum degree of .co-operation by the most efficient and economical methods. These methods have not been employed in the past. In concert with other governments this Government will endeavour to see that they shall be employed in the future. Pursuit of such a policy on the part of the Government will not impair the effectiveness of international organizations. On the contrary, it can only serve . to increase their strength and vitality.
Australia was deeply concerned recently by the heightening of tension between two other members of the Commonwealth, India and Pakistan, on account of accusations and counter accusations about the treatment of racial and religious minorities that live within the limits of the respective States. The Government was greatly relieved, therefore, by the results of the meeting between the two Prime Ministers in Delhi at which Pandit Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan on the 8th April reached an agreement. This was in two parts, the first providing for a guarantee of fundamental rights for minorities while emphasizing that they owed allegiance to the State in which they were situated, and the second giving detailed measures for preventing communal disorders in the States of the two .Bengals, Assam and Tripura.
There remains, however, the vexed subject of the future of Kashmir. This long-standing source of dispute has been before the United Nations Securtiy Council, which has now obtained the acceptance by both India and Pakistan of the Australian mediator nominated by the Council. Sir Owen Dixon, a justice of the High Court of Australia, is now engaged on this extremely onerous and responsible task and our best wishes go with him for the success of his mission. Needless to say, we have everything to gain from the restoration of friendly and harmonious relations between India and Pakistan, from whose co-operation we expect a substantial contribution to the stability of Asia.
In the course of the debate, some honorable members mentioned the subject of Palestine and in particular the status of Jerusalem. The principal task of the Trusteeship Council at its session which ended, on the 4th April was the revision of the draft statute for Jerusalem. Honorable members will recall that the General Assembly on the 9th December, 1949, restated its intention “that Jerusalem should be placed under a permanent international regime which should envisage appropriate guarantees for the protection of the ‘ Holy Places ‘ “ and requested the Trusteeship Council to complete the preparation of the statute, approve it and proceed immediately with its implementation. The Council completed the first two steps in this process by revising and approving the statute. Each of the revised , articles was approved - usually by a vote of ten in favour, with one abstention - the United Kingdom. The twelfth member of the Council - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - did not attend the session. The statute as a whole was approved by nine votes with the United Kingdom and the United States abstaining. The Australian representative was instructed to approve the statute as a necessary step in the carrying out of the Assembly resolution. On the approval of the statute the Council adopted by ten votes, with the United Kingdom abstaining, a resolution jointly sponsored by Australia, Belgium, the Philippines and the United States under which the President of the Council was requested - (ft), to transmit the text of the Statute for Jerusalem to the two states at present occupying the area and City of Jerusalem; (b), to request from the two governments their full co-operation; and (c), to report on these matters to the Trusteeship Council in the course of its seventh - the next - regular session. The Government of Israel recently conveyed its views to the Council in terms which amounted to a rejection of the proposal for a corpus separatum under international sovereignty. Israel suggested instead that a body should be set up whose sole function would be. supervision of the “ Holy Places “. This reply, and the views of the Government of Jordan, will be considered by the Trusteeship Council which has just commenced its seventh session. Having regard to the lack of co-operation by the occupying powers there seems no alternative except to refer the problem once more to the General Assembly.
Germany, the most potent political and economic factor in pre-war Europe, has been unnaturally divided owing to the ideological conflict between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Western Powers. In the Eastern Zone of Germany, a Communist police State has been set up under Russian control. Working through their own Control Commission under General Chuikov and the German Communist party, known as the S.E.D., the Russians in their zone appear, on the one hand, to be suppressing middle class elements who refuse to accept the “ party line “, and on the other, to be whipping up enthusiasm for a unified Germany by means of a movement known as the “ National Front “, which already includes former Nazis. More sinister than, these developments is the formation of a strong body of People’s Police - VolksPolizei - within which there are armed cadres, the so-called Alert Squads - Bereitschafren - and of the Free German Youth Organization -which resembles the Hitler Youth. Although their ultimate aim is a matter for speculation, one cannot escape the conclusion that the Russians are endeavouring to promote a spurious unity of Germany by encouraging the Germans, including ultra-nationalist elements in “Western Germany, to take direct action through the National Front which is under Communist domination. The success of this tactic must depend to some extent on the withdrawal of the occupation forces from all the zones and, in particular, from Berlin. The fundamental aim of the Western Powers on the other hand, which is supported by the Australian Government, is to foster the growth of democratic elements in Western Germany through association with the Western democracies within the framework of the Council of - Europe. In pursuit of this aim the Western Powers encouraged the establishment of a freelyelected democratic Government for Western Germany and it is hoped that the attraction of free institutions in Western Germany will be so strong as eventually to bring Eastern Germany into the German Federal Republic. In’ order to give to the republic the1 maximum responsibility consistent with security, the Western Powers concluded late last year the Petersberg Agreement which granted to the Federal Government wider powers in relation to economic and external affairs and provided for the admission of Western Germany to the Council of Europe as an associate member, and membership of the Ruhr authority which exercises control over German heavy industry. Signs of a resurgent German nationalism have recently been witnessed in German politics and the recent French Agreement with the Saar regarding the control of the Saar coal-mines, provoked bitter criticism in the Federal Republic. There has been much German criticism, too, of the Ruhr authority and of economic controls imposed by the Western Powers’. ‘ However, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic, Herr. Adenauer, has shown his anxiety to have done with the old feud with France and to co-operate with the West. He has obtained the approval of his Parliament to Germany’s entry into the Council of Europe and has welcomed the proposal of the French Foreign Minister, M. Schuman, for the pooling of heavy industry in Europe. This proposal is of course a far-reaching one and it is too early to say whether it will prove practicable. It is, however, an indication of the strenuous efforts that are being made by Western European leaders to achieve unity and stability in this area.
The Western Powers do not, of course, overlook the danger that ultra-nationalists will seek to regain influence in Germany and are determined that the healthy democratic elements shall thrive at the expense of the extremists. The Allies base their main hope for a democratic Germany on a close association with the free countries of Western Europe, and in the opinion of the Australian Government, there is nothing in the recent trends in Germany which would lead it to alter its belief that, in close co-operation with the Western democracies, a democratic Germany is possible of achievement. The Australian Government, however, shares the belief of -the control authorities that the; democratization of Germany will be a lengthy process and that for the time being it is necessary that the security controls exercised by the occupation powers shall be maintained.
The Australian Government continues to believe that a peace treaty with Germany is desirable, but does not regard it as a practical possibility at present. Faced with the alternative of a treaty on Soviet terms with a Germany whos’e government must be subservient to Russia, or the development of a free Western Germany to which the Western powers will have access, the Australian Government has chosen the latter course. It supports the recent proposal of the three Western Powers for the free and democratic election of a single German Government by all the people of Germany, but until, such times as the Soviet will accept this solution, it will continue- to support the democratic -Government of Western Germany. The Government has recently accredited an Australian representative to the Allied High Commission at Bonn and is giving practical support to the policy of developing closer German relations’ with the “West, by encouraging trade with the Federal Republic.
In conclusion, I must state with regret that, since the 9th March when I opened this debate, there has been no substantial change for the better in the broad global picture to which I directed the attention of honorable members. Now, as then, it is necessary to recognize the unsolved differences which exist between the Western democracies and other nations which follow the democratic tradition on the one hand, and, on the other, the Soviet Union and the Eastern European and other countries over whose foreign policies the Soviet Union appears to exercise effective control. Since the 9th March, the prestige of the United Nations has been still further reduced by the action of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its Communist-controlled associates in walking out of many other United Nations instrumentalities on the ground that Communist China should be represented thereon instead of Nationalist China. Although in these bodies there is no right of veto, 4he wishes of the majority of the countries represented have been flouted and the work of: the United Nations as a whole made much more difficult.
The visit to Moscow of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, Mr. Trygve Lie, has so far produced no tangible results in bringing East and West closer together, although it was hardly to be expected that he could produce any sudden solution of these stubborn problems. I have not yet received officially the memorandum which Mr. Lie has addressed to member governments. From the available reports, however, it is .clear that he has summarized what he considered to be the central issues in the United Nations on which the Great Powers’ agreement’ is desirable. If, as Mr. Lie states, the United Nations remains a primary factor in the foreign policies of President Truman, Mr. Stalin, Mr. Attlee- and Mr. Bidault, and if the Foreign Ministers of these four powers are prepared to attend “the’ Security Com- cil in person the prospects for elimination of existing tensions will be greatly improved. Meanwhile, however, agreement between the Great Powers on such subjects as a peace treaty with Germany, Austria or Japan, the reduction of armaments, the abolition of atomic weapons, and the cessation of the “ cold war “ is no closer.
If, however, there are few grounds for viewing the future. optimistically, it does not follow that the Government must be reduced to a policy of pessimistic inaction. Absence of agreement between the Great Powers on a common policy should not preclude the possibility of securing their agreement to live and let live - in other words, to pursue their own internal policies without interference from outside. In any event, this is a minimum objective to which all lovers of peace, including Australia, must direct their best efforts. In the meanwhile, the real democracies must proceed with the task of organizing political and economic stability in the areas which they control and to which their influence, extends. Their achievements already have been outstanding. The economic recovery of Europe from the chaos caused by war; the military integration of the North Atlantic pact countries ; the first steps towards securing a permanent improvement .of living standards in South and South-East Asia that is evidenced by the help being given in thi9 area by the United States, and the decisions of the recent Commonwealth Consultative Committee which met in Sydney - all these facts demonstrate the determination of the Western Powers and their associates to work and sacrifice in their common interests. The House can rest assured that the Government for which I speak will spare no effort in taking individual or collective action, within the British Commonwealth or in the wider sphere of the United Nations, with a view to securing international collaboration in the broader sense, upon which alone can peace and prosperity be based.
I thank honorable members very much for their forbearance and patience. .
Question resolved in the affirmative*
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500608_reps_19_208/>.