20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. .Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 ‘p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. WARD presented a petition from some thousands of Australian citizens praying that the House express its opposition, on behalf of the majority of the Australian people, to the proposal to rearm Japan, and instruct the Government to oppose this rearmament by every possible means.
Petition received and read.
– On Wednesday last, after an incident in the House, the honorable member for Dalley said -
May 1 direct your attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that during your occupancy of the chair earlier this week the word “ garbage “ was’ used tit least 50 times and von did not take notice of it.
I have had the script strictly examined, and I find that the term “garbage tin” was used on three occasions by the VicePresident of the Executive Council during a speech that he made, but in no instance did the honorable gentleman use the term in a personal sense. The incident to which I took exception °was one- in which an honorable member addressed the VicePresident of the Executive Council as “ Lord Garbage “. He was clearly out of order on two counts, the first being that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is not a lord, and the second being that he will never be garbage.
– I address to the Vice-President of the Executive Council a question which concerns the conduct of the adjournment debate at the termination of proceedings each day. I remind the honorable gentleman of a case, to which I drew his attention, which concerned a man with one leg amputated at the thigh and the other amputated below the knee who, on the technicality that he was not a double amputee, a description which applies to people with amputations above both knees, was denied certain repatriation benefits. I raised that case on the adjournment when the. VicePresident of the Executive Council was the Minister in charge of the House. I ask him whether, when such cases are raised on the adjournment, he takes them up with the relevant Ministers who may be absent from the chamber at the time that the questions are raised, or whether one just raises them on the adjournment and nothing happens?
– It is customary for me, on an occasion like that, to give the honorable member who raises the matter an assurance that it will be brought to the attention of the Minister concerned. Such matters are drawn to the attention of the Ministers concerned, and I have no doubt that the departments of those Ministers go into action to deal with them.
– I ask the Treasurer-‘ and in spite of his politics and policies, we are all glad to see him back in the House, and well - whether at an early date, by which phrase I mean within a short time, he will make a statement to the House on the general results of his financial conferences in London with representatives of other members of the British Commonwealth.
– My first duty is to report to Cabinet, which will decide the course of action to be adopted by me.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether a deputation representing the Radio and Telephone Manufacturers Association of New South Wales waited upon him and pointed out that sales tax and credit restrictions had caused the dismissal of thousands of skilled workers from those industries and that more were to be put off. Is not that industry vital to defence organization? Did the Minister promise the deputation that from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000 worth of government contracts for electrical goods were to be let shortly ? Does he not consider that it would have been better had the Government first placed those defence orders before it decided upon its policy of credit restriction ? Is not the present method of credit restriction likely to prove a further deterrent to production in other defence industries, such as the clothing and footwear industries? Have those industries also made representations with respect to the Government’s credit restriction policy.
-The part of the question that deals with policy is out of order.
Mar. ERIC J. HARRISON.- Part of the question deals with high governmental policy and I do not propose to answer that aspect of it. The amount of work that is available in the electronic industries for defence purposes, is now being processed through the relevant departments.
– By way of explanation of a question to the Minister for the Army I state that the new Citizen Military Forces regiment which is quartered at “Wollongong has been unable to secure proper training grounds for its purposes, and that the new trust which manages the Wollongong showground has caused difficulties for the Army in this respect. Can the Minister do anything to assist in obtaining the grounds required ?
– The honorable member was good enough, towards the latter part of last week, to direct my attention to the matter that he has just raised. Subsequently, when I was in Sydney farewelling the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment prior to its departure for Korea, I discussed the subject with the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command, Lieutenant-General Secombe. He has arranged for an officer to go to Wollongong, either to-day or to-morrow, to continue negotiations on the matter, and I am hopeful that when I receive a reply I shall be able to accede to the honorable member’s request.
– I desire to address a question to the Vice-President of the Executive Council in the absence of the Minister for the Interior, due, I understand, to illness. I point out, by way of explanation, that it has come to my notice that quite a number of Army personnel, who are married and have young families, have been forced to pitch tents in backyards and on the river banks at Seymour in Victoria, because stoves have not yet been placed in some of the houses that are being provided for men at Puckapunyal camp. Will the honorable gentleman take action to ensure that the stoves will be installed without delay so that such an undesirable state of affairs, in which military personnel have to camp in the town, will be terminated as early as possible?
– I shall ask the Minister for the Interior to ascertain whether the situation which has been described by the honorable gentleman exists, and to supply him with an answer.
– I preface a question that I wish to address to the Treasurer by pointing out that in Victoria there are creches where children of widows and widowers are cared for during working hours for a small sum. These centres are conducted mainly by honorary committees and are financed by contributions from the public. Some of them are now in danger of having to close down because of lack of funds. As the State Government cannot afford to make available adequate finance for the support of these creches, and as the quality of mercy is twice blessed, will the right honorable gentleman make a grant from bis abundant surpluses for the purpose of enabling them to continue their worthy work ?
– I agree with the honorable member that the organizations that he has mentioned are worthy of assistance, financial and otherwise; but, at the same time, I recognize that the financing of them is a responsibility of the State Government and that the Commonwealth as a matter of principle cannot make funds available for that purpose.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of a proposal to increase food production which includes appreciation of the Australian £1 to sterling? Does he know who is sponsoring the proposal, or whether it is supported generally by primary producers ? I point out that the proposal was explained to a public meeting that was held last week at Shepparton.
– Order ! The honorable member is going outside the scope of a question,
– Can the Minister indicate how this policy is being received generally by primary producers?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not in order in asking a question that relates to policy; and he may not base a question on a matter of opinion.
– This proposal deals with food production and is very important.
– The honorable member has asked me whether I know anything about a movement-
-Order! I have ruled that, portion of the question out of order. Last week I ruled a similar question out of order. The Minister is not responsible for the opinion of his party.
– I am not responsible for it; but I have been asked whether I know anything about the matter.
– Order! That is another matter also for which the Minister has no responsibility.
– I have some responsibility for food production.
– Order !
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the very serious food shortage in Australia and the fact that the wheat yield for the coming season threatens to be the lowest for 50 years, which is clearly indicated by the small area of country that has been fallowed, will the right honorable gentleman, if requisite powers are not vested in the Australian Government, request the State governments to purchase large estates which are not being fully used for food production, and which in many instances are being held only for speculative purposes ? Will he also request the State governments’ to place practical men, farmers’ sons and returned soldiers, on such farms with a view to the maintenance of a balanced economy?
– The question obviously relates to policy and it would not be suitable for treatment at this stage.
– Can the Minister for Air inform me whether radio and radar equipment for use by the Royal Australian Air Force has recently been ordered or imported from dollar sources? If orders have been placed for such equipment, or if it has been imported, will he indicate why it was considered necessary to purchase it from dollar sources in view of the excellent production record of the Australian electronic industry, and the availability of local productive capacity?
– No radio or radar equipment has been imported from dollar sources during the last few months. Perhaps the honorable member for Paterson has in mind the. fact that for both the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force authority has been given for the placement of orders for cryptographic and other kinds of equipment. The great bulk of the orders will be placed with Australian factories. A very small proportion of the equipment needed, which cannot, I understand, be obtained here, and, therefore, orders for it will be placed in dollar sources.
– Last week, the Prime Minister, in reply to a question, said that the application by the Queensland sugar growers for an increase of the price of sugar had not yet been placed before the Cabinet. Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether his statement means that a decision will not be reached on the application during the current parliamentary sitting period? If his answer is in the affirmative, will he say whether he told the deputation, which waited upon him to discuss that matter, that he appreciated the urgency of the situation, and whether he gave an assurance that it would be dealt with during this sessional period? If we are not to be given an opportunity to deal with the price of sugar before the forthcoming recess, how does the Prime Minister reconcile the assurance which he gave to the deputation with the decision not to submit the matter to the Parliament during this sessional period ?
– I stated quite accurately a few days ago that the matter to which the honorable member for Herbert has referred had not been before Cabinet. It had, in fact, gone to the relevant Minister and the relevant department in the first instance. The matter has since engaged the attention of Cabinet, and the decision of the Government upon it will certainly be announced with the next 12 or 24 hours. I indicated to the members of the deputation that I realized that, whatever our decision might he, they should have it early. It is in that sense that I indicate that I shall be in a position to make it known this afternoon or to-morrow morning.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that he will be in a position to make an announcement within the next 24 hours with respect to the price of sugar, will the right honorable gentleman, before making the announcement, have inquiries made to discover whether there is at present held in store in Victoria 13,000 tons of mill white sugar, which is quite suitable for table and other domestic uses and is being withheld from public distribution and consumption? If such inquiries disclose that this sugar is at present being withheld from the public, will he take the necessary steps, if he has the power to do so, to prevent the exploitation of housewives, by excluding such sugar from the effect of any price rise granted?
– Beyond saying that I. shall communicate the honorable member’s remarks to the Minister for Trade and Customs, since the matter that he has mentioned is not one of which I was aware, I have nothing further to say except that I shall be making a statement in relation to the price of sugar.
– Is the Treasurer aware that building societies, which in the past have been the means of providing many hundreds of citizens with the opportunity of acquiring their own homes, are having to consider the need to wind up their operations? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that this state of affairs has been brought about by taxa tion coupled with the regulation by the Government of interest rates? Will Che Treasurer consider giving building societies taxation concessions, such as ure given in England and were formerly given in this country, in order that the societies may continue to operate and be the means of providing homes for citizens ?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a matter of Government policy, which will be considered when the next budget is being framed.
– In view of the grave and dangerous effects of the Government’s policy of high taxation, which is crippling industry and destroying the incentive to produce, I ask the Treasurer whether the Government will give urgent consideration to a complete review of the whole field of taxation so as to restore public confidence and foster the production of food.
– The honorable member purported to ask a question. In fact, he made a completely inaccurate statement based on wrong premises.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by stating that I have a pamphlet that was published by the Australian Country party and which contains twenty questions and answers. This pamphlet was handed to me by a member of the Australian Country party, who asked me why question No. 21 was not published in the booklet. I address question No. 21 to the Treasurer, in these terms: (1) Have the trading banks been instructed not to grant overdrafts for the payment of provisional taxation? (2) In these days of vicious inflation, how can a taxpayer pay his current income tax assessment when he is required to pay more than twenty shillings in the £1 of his income ?
– I know nothing about the pamphlet to which the honorable member has referred. It was not intended for his use at all events and, as my leader has remarked to me, it was addressed to thoughtful people.
– I ask the Minister fo-r the Army whether it is true that national service trainees who serve with the Army will be drafted compulsorily to Citizen Military Forces units on completing their initial long period of camp training. Did the Minister yesterday declare that the distinction which formerly existed between the Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Forces no longer existed ? Does this mean that national service trainees, upon being drafted compulsorily to Citizen Military Forces units, will automatically become liable for overseas service, if required by the Government, whether or not they volunteer for overseas service? If the Government has decided that national service men in Citizen Military Forces units are, in effect, conscripted for overseas service, will the Minister inform the House of this decision? If it has not decided that they shall be liable for overseas service, unless they volunteer, how can it be said that the distinction between the Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Forces has been abolished ?
– Had the honorable gentleman read the full statement that I issued, and not a partial report that appeared in a newspaper, he would not have asked the questions that he has put to me. If he wants to study the full text of the statement, I shall be delighted to supply a copy to him.
– Read it.
– I shall be very happy to read it in full if the House will give me permission to do so. This Government does not propose, and has never proposed, to introduce conscription. I emphatically deny the suggestion on which the honorable member based his questions. My statement yesterday made a comparison between the situation that existed during World War II., when we had forces that were liable to serve overseas because they had volunteered to do so as well as large numbers of young men who had been called up and were not liable to overseas service but who, ultimately, were required to go almost as far as the equator, and the situation that exists to-day. Every member of the permanent army to-day, with the exception of a few old and holds”, has volunteered for service anywhere in the world. The exceptions to whom I have referred are men who would not be required to go overseas in any circumstances because they are approaching the maximum age limit. In addition to the permanent army, we have the Citizen Military Forces, whose members also have volunteered to serve overseas. Thus, both forces have volunteered for overseas service. Under the national service training scheme, trainees of eighteen years of age who have completed a period of three and a half months training in camp are allotted to appropriate Citizen Military Forces units with which they are required to serve for three years, after which they are transferred to the reserve strengths of those units. Those trainees are not under any obligation to serve overseas unless they volunteer to do so. I emphasize that fact.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House of the daily average cost of holding, ships at ports and harbours in Australia? I refer to the cost of holding ships of average size. My question arises from the fact that ships are continually being delayed in Australian ports on frivolous pretexts. These delays add considerably to the costs of cargoes and thus add greatly to the cost of living in Australia. Is the Minister of the opinion that such stoppages are of Communist origin, and in many cases are endorsed by certain honorable members of the Opposition in this House.
– I do not know how far you will allow me to go, Mr. Speaker, in giving my opinion about this matter. I shall endeavour to obtain some information for the honorable member regarding the cost of such stoppages to the country: I have no doubt that the cost is very great, and that frivolous hold-ups on the waterfront of the Commonwealth do add substantially to the price of the goods unloaded from the ships so held up. If. I can get more detailed information for. the honorable member I shall do so.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that a closed conference of chemists was held last weekend in Grafton, a town in the right honorable gentleman’s electorate? Does he know that it has been reported that at that conference chemists expressed alarm at the quantity of drugs and proprietary preparations which have no pharmaceutical value that were being sold to the public? Does the Minister know that it was suggested that a bureau of accreditation should be established so that the health value of drugs and preparations could be assessed before they are allowed to be sold to the public, who, it was claimed, are being continually fleeced? Will the Minister examine this report and take the necessary action to protect the interests of the Australian people against any racket of this sort?
– The honorable member will be pleased to know that the list of drugs for use under our pharmaceutical benefits scheme is constantly under the strict scrutiny of, and are subject to the advice of, a body of the most competent specialists in Australia, whose services we are fortunate to have obtained. All drugs on the list are products of proved value. The sale of other pharmaceutical products is entirely a matter for State control. There is no authority in the Australian Government to control such drugs. I have not seen the report mentioned by the. honorable member but I shall peruse it, and possibly send it for examination to the State Government concerned.
– Can the Minister for Immigration guarantee that the admittance of persons to Australia, for the purpose of performing or broadcasting for the Australian Broadcasting Commission or commercial broadcasting stations, has not been granted to any person who has had previous Nazi affiliations ?
– The only person who would come within the category mentioned by the honorable member is a distinguished visiting pianist who recently arrived in Australia. Without mention ing names, I feel that I should inform the House that a full inquiry was made into the background and record of the gentleman concerned, and it was directed among other facts that the office of the United States Military Government had advised in January, 1949, that this gentleman’s record had been thoroughly checked and he had been found never to have been a member of the Nazi party or affiliated organizations. He was appointed to a professorship of the Saar University, which is in the French zone of Germany, in 1946, and he still holds that position. I understand that he has recently been received with great appreciation by musical audiences in London.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply with reference to the textile mills, particularly those in the country areas, which are not working to full capacity at the present time. Will the Minister consider bringing forward defence contracts so that those mills may be kept in full production?
– When I spoke in the House of Representatives several days ago, I mentioned that the ability of the Department of Supply to help the textile industry in its present difficulties by providing defence contracts was limited by many factors. One of those factors, and an important one, is that defence contracts do not account for more than 10 per cent, of the national textile production. I said then, and I repeat now, that I have given instructions for the entire question of defence textile contracts to be examined to determine whether some of those which normally would not come forward for a year or more could be advanced so as to assist the industry. No conclusion will be reached on that matter for some weeks at least. As soon as a decision is reached, I shall advise the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that Australia’s great need is for increased primary production? Oan this increase be brought about by intense cultivation in settled areas rather than by opening up virgin country far removed from the rail head and sea-board? Does the Minister know that in these settled areas, roads have become rough and uneconomical for travel and haulage? Will he confer with the Treasurer in an endeavour to have the formula under which portion of the petrol tax is distributed to the States suspended for three years to allow the heavily populated States to catch up with their road construction and maintenance programme?
– No, I will not do so. The distribution of petrol tax is designed to provide an opportunity for road construction in sparsely populated areas and in sparsely populated States. If this country is ever to be. fully developed that principle must be observed. I know that there is an agitation for the expenditure of petrol tax funds in the highly populated States to the full extent that it is collected there. If that were done, Melbourne and Sydney could have gold-plated streets and the rest of the country could have ruts.
– By way of explanation of a question to the Treasurer I state that I have received two letters from shire engineers which claim that the roads in their districts are breaking up because of lack of funds to enable them to get their machinery working, and that new road work is out of the question. As the increase of the Commonwealth aid roads grant of £2,000,000 provided in the last budget is not sufficient to meet the statutory increases of costs of labour an material, will the Government consider the allocation of additional funds to help the States with such problems?
– The answer is “ No “.
Mr. Osborne having ashed a disallowed question,
– As the character and conduct of the person whose name was used in my question were not involved, and as the use of the name was purely incidental, and the question is equally applicable without the name being contained in it, is the question out of order?
– I have ruled that when the name of a person who is not a member of this House is used in a question asked without notice, the question at once becomes out of order. All such questions should be placed on the noticepaper. I shall adhere to that ruling until it is upset by the House.
– I direct to the Minister for Territories a question regarding the now defunct North Australian Development Committee, which was appointed during the term of office of the Chifley Government and which investigated an area of 1,500,000 square miles of country in the north of Australia. In view of the importance of fully exploiting the mineral deposits, together with the urgent need to develop the beef potential, of the area as a national necessity, will the Minister state whether a report was received from the committee before its disbandment, and, if ohe was received, will he outline the steps that the Government intends to take to implement the recommendations of the committee ?
– The report in question is not at present under my notice. The Government considers it’ a more practical method to develop the Northern Territory by means of all the facilities that the Territorial Administration can give it, . and with the assistance of the population of the territory. That method affords a more immediate and practical approach to the problems of the territory than would a method that involved wait-ing for the reports of committees. .
– I preface my question to the Minister for Territories With the statement that last week ‘ I asked the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth would render any assistance .to the Government -of Western Australia for the development of. a deep water port at Derby, which is the natural outlet ofthe beef country in the East and West Kimberleys. The right honorable- gentleman replied in the negative. The Minister for Territories, in: a reply to. a question just .asked by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, has indicated that the valuable work of the Northern Australia. Development Committee is no longer under consideration. I hope that I did not hear the Minister correctly, because if the work of that committee is no longer under consideration I can assure this House that great disappointment will be felt by people who are interested in the development of the Kimberleys in Western Australia. The Northern Australia Development Committee was a non-party committee-
– Order ! The honorable member should ask his question.
– I desire to bring the seriousness of this matter before the House. The Northern Australia Development Committee was a non-party committee which devoted considerable time Lo the consideration of the development of the Northern Territory. If the Government has thrown the work of that committee overboard, residents of the ^Northern Territory will be greatly disappointed.
– I may have expressed myself badly in my reply to the question by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I did not desire to convey the impression that the work of the Northern Australia Development Committee which, I understand, was set up during the last war, had been discarded. What I wished to convey, and what I stand by, is that in the day-to-day problems of the development of the Northern Territory, I look to the Northern Territory Administration and to the people who live and work in that part of the Commonwealth-
– And the Kimberleys.
– My administrative responsibility extends only to the Northern Territory. I look to the Northern Territory Administration and to the people who reside in that part of the Commonwealth to do those practical day-to-day things which result in development, and to put forward those practical day-to-day proposals on which the Government can act. The information collected by the committee, to which the honorable member has ‘ referred, as well as information collected from other sources, will be available at all times to those engaged in administration, but no committee can perform the actual tasks of administration. The honorable member must realize that the difference between the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys is that, under our present constitutional arrangement, the Kimberleys are under the administration of the Government of Western Australia and the Northern Territory is under the administration of the Commonwealth.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say whether any progress has been made in securing immigrants for employment in our rural industries? What are the qualifications and experience required of such immigrants and from which countries are we expected to gain this urgently needed rural man-power? How will such immigrants be allocated to employment in rural areas when they arrive in Australia ?
– I have already given the House some information on this matter. For some considerable time we have been selecting immigrants overseas with a background of rural experience. We have not been able to obtain rural workers in any appreciable number from the United Kingdom in which country, as a matter of fact, there is also a shortage of rural workers. The countries to which we have so far had to look principally for workers of this category are Holland and Italy. We hope, however, that such immigrants will be obtained from some other countries also. I have stated publicly that some immigrants of this type are already in Australia, and will be available after the seasonal harvesting has been completed. Farmers who are interested in securing the labour of some of these immigrants have been invited to consult their local district employment officer who will ascertain whether it is possible to satisfy their needs.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that much discontent exists at the hostel for immigrants at Balgownie, near Wollongong, because the Department of Immigration insists that occupants take their meals in the community (lining room? I point out that many immigrants have large families, and that communal feeding is not suitable for them. Is the Minister prepared to allow immigrants at that hostel to cook their meals in their homes if they prefer to do so? “Will he fix a rental for the dwellings, and provide small electric cookers for the persons concerned? Much discontent will be removed if those reforms are made.
– Some time ago I read a public reference to that matter, and I think that it was attributed to the honorable gentleman who has asked the question. During the Citizenship Convention last January, I discussed the subject with the local representative of the New Settlers’ League, or the Helping Hand Committee, which has been active in that area. I was informed that the view which had been put forward as representing the view of the majority of the immigrants at Balgownie did not, in fact, represent the majority view at all.
– Let the Minister make personal inquiries into that matter.
– I arn merely giving the honorable member the information that has reached mc from a disinterested source which is doing useful work in an entirely honorary and public-spirited capacity. I do not consider that it is practicable to make the kind of provision for which the honorable gentleman has asked. The hostel accommodation is not meant to be more than temporary accommodation, and it is impracticable to reproduce in that way the kind of home life that is possible when a person is occupying his own home. However, I shall examine any complaints which the honorable gentleman cares to place before me, but I suggest that they should come from a representative and authoritative source.
– I direct to the Leader of the Opposition a question about his own activities as Leader of the Opposion in this House, in relation to the struggle of the Australian Labour party Industrial Group in the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia. Can he point to any single thing that he has done to assist the cause of the opponents of communism in that union? Has he lifted a finger or uttered a word in their support or is the widely held belief that he has scrupulously refrained from giving any offence to his Communist supporters correct?
– I ask for an apology and withdrawal of the honorable gentleman’s last statement, because I consider it offensive. I take objection to it.
-The right honorable. gentleman objects to the statement?
– In what sense f
– I object to the statement that was contained in the last sentence of the honorable member’s question.
-Order! If the Leader of the Opposition takes exception to a statement on the ground that it ls personally offensive, I must ask for a withdrawal of the statement.
– I rise to order. This matter has arisen in the House on previous occasions and I submit that it is desirable that we should have some clarification of it from the Chair. I submit that when an honorable gentleman takes exception to a statement by another honorable gentleman on the ground that it is personally offensive, it must be for the Chair to say whether the statement is offensive. The mere fact that an honorable member claims that a statement is offensive to him personally should not entitle him to demand that it be withdrawn.
– I should; like to have a closer look at the matter, before I rule upon it. It is a matter which,. I believe, ought to be settled. The custom in this House which I havefollowed in the past is that whenever I have heard a statement which I have considered to be offensive, I have requested that it be withdrawn forthwith. If an honorable member has taken exception to a statement that I have not considered to be offensive I have regarded it as a matter in the hands of the honorable member who considered that he had been affronted. If an honorable member claims that he has been affronted, that is a matter within his discretion, and if he asks that it be withdrawn I have no option but to ask that it be withdrawn.
– May I ask, Mr. Speaker, that you give consideration to this matter and give a formal ruling upon it at a- later date because it is of considerable importance.
– I . shall willingly comply with the honorable member’s request. After I have given my ruling I shall ask the House to make up its mind on the matter.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the statement. I have no desire to hold up the proceedings of the House, but am genuinely anxious to hear the right honorable gentleman’s answer to my question. I now ask whether the widely held belief is correct that be has carefully refrained from giving affront to the opponents of the Australian Labour party group in the union that I have mentioned ?
– I objected to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, because it was offensive and was intended to be offensive. In reply to the remainder of it, I have to say that the policy, of the party which I lead is that elections of office-bearers in’ a trade union should be freely determined by its members. The group that the honorable member has mentioned is acting in accordance with an act of parliament passed by a Labour Government in which I was a Minister. Mr. Short won his election because of that act.’ What Mr. Short needs is protection from the support of anti-Labour and anti-trade union politicians ‘like the honorable member for Evans]
“Mr.: WARD.- In view of the claim by the’ Minister for External Affairs that papers are missing from the official files relating to the negotiations that took place between /the Government of the United States :of America ‘and the Australian Government for the use’ by the United States of America ‘ of Manus ‘Island as a naval base, I ask the Prime Minister: Is it intended to appoint a royal commission to ascertain the truth, or otherwise, of the Minister’s statement? If not, does the Government propose to hold any other form of inquiry into this allegation with a view to clearing the names of public servants charged with the care of those files and upon whom a grave reflection has been cast? If no action is to be taken in the matter, can the Government’s failure to do so be regarded as an indication on the part of the right honorable gentleman that he regards the charge as being baseless and irresponsible ?
– I am not aware that my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, made allegations that files were missing-
– Papers off a file.
– Or that papers off a file were missing. I am not aware that any such allegation was made by my colleague. If it were made by somebody else somewhere else in this House, I shall be glad to receive particulars of it. Whether a royal commission should be appointed in those circumstances would depend, in my judgment, very largely upon the source of the allegation. I have a vivid recollection that when the honorable member for East Sydney, who has just put the question, himself claimed vociferously that there was a file missing in connexion with an allegation that he made associated with the recent war-
– Papers off a file.
– A missing file or a portion of a file. All I know is that when his own Prime Minister, who was not a man to be bullied, took that allegation so seriously that he appointed a royal commission to investigate it - there is no occasion for the honorable member, or member, for East Sydney to become offensive - and the commission sat, the member for East Sydney, who had made the charge and thereby endeared himself to certain people, attended, pleaded privilege and crept out like a dog.
– Has the Prime Minister received a request from any State government that the Australian Government appoint a royal commission to inquire into the financial disabilities of local government bodies throughout Australia with a view to ascertaining whether it is necessary and possible for the Commonwealth to grant monetary assistance to those bodies which are now embarrassed in trying to carry out their normal functions ?
– I think that I am right in saying that I recollect that one State Premier has written to me on the matter that the honorable member has raised. If I verify that recollection, I shall be glad to make available to the honorable member that Premier’s letter and my reply to him, in which the matter will be fully set out.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that there is a considerable amount of speculation in Brisbane about the exact unemployment position there? As he has apparently given instructions that unemployment figures are to be released only to him, will he give the House the accurate statistics for Brisbane at the earliest possible date?
– It is not correct to say that I have given instructions that unemployment figures are to be released only to me, in the sense that I am the only person who will receive them. I have instructed the employment officers not to make figures from, the Brisbane office available to any person who inquires about them, lest a distorted picture of the situation be obtained. The office is required to submit figures periodically for the consideration of the Department of Labour and National Service and myself, and it would be thrown out of its normal routine in the collection of those figures if every inquiry was to be met in that way. I propose to do in future as has been done in the past, and that is to make available periodically to the public up-to-date figures regarding the employment situation in as full detail as can be managed. I hope to have by the end of this week a statement that reflects the latest position as far as we have been able to discover it. Honorable members are doubtless aware that it has been the practice of the Department to release an official monthly statement of employment figures, and it is virtually impracticable to secure from the whole Commonwealth accurate figures on a much more regular basis than that. However, I try to keep myself as well informed as I can about the situation from day to day, and to release official statements on the position from time to time.
– I inform the Minister for Health that I have received a letter from the Parents and Citizens Association of Quirindi, in which it is pointed out that the Quirindi Hospital is in a deplorable condition. I believe that the Government of New South Wales promised to rebuild it ten or twelve years ago, but up to date nothing has been done. Will the Minister inform me whether his department can take any action to expedite the work of rebuilding that hospital ?
– The hospital position throughout the Commonwealth is well “ in the red “, and hospitals generally are in a deplorable financial position, but this Government has formulated definite plans which, if they are given effect to, will provide additional revenue of between £10,000,000 and £12,000,000 for those institutions. If the Government of New South Wales and other State governments join in that plan, money will be available for hospitals at Quirindi and elsewhere.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Having in mind the fact that the second contingent of Australian manhood left for the war in Korea yesterday and that certain statements have been made from time to time in relation to the desirability of continuing the war in Korea, not by members of this House but by leading militarists in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, I ask the Prime Minister whether he can make any statement to the House concerning the possibility of a peace settlement being effected in Korea? If, for security reason, the right honorable gentleman considers that it would be unwise to make such a statement at an open sitting of this House, will be give consideration, if he has any information to impart, to the calling of a secret sitting in order that members of the Parliament may be told the facts?
– There is nothing of substance that I should be in a position to add to what the honorable member reads from day to day in the cable messages. There has been a very great delay in arriving at an agreement on a truce in Korea and the prospects of success in that regard are still merely a matter of judgment. I should certainly not prefer my judgment to that of the honorable member.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services arises from the gravest discontent among miners due to the fact that the Department of Social Services reduces the age pensions of miners who receive mine-workers pensions from the State. Such instances occurred recently as a result of the increase, by the New South Wales Government, of the pensions of mine workers. Through the operation of the means test the increase of mine-workers’ pension has led to a decrease of the amount of age pension received by the recipients of both pensions, and I have been requested, because of the unrest among miners that this action has caused, to ask the Minister if he will meet a deputation of mine-workers affected.
– The honorable member’s question raises a. problem that arises constantly. Certain limitations of property and income govern the entitlement of a person to a pension, and whatever the source from which extra income is derived, it is followed by an automatic reduction of the age pension. We could not possibly have a special provision made for people who had been engaged in one industry, such as the mining industry, and leave the remainder of the community operating under other provisions.
Formal Motion for ADJOURNMENT
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The Government’s failure to meet the imperative need to increase rates of age. invalid and widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, and other social service payments, to meet present living costs.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I hope for a most favorable reception of my representations from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) because, at the outset, I remind him of these words -
If the Government does not soon do something further for the pensioners it would probably be kindness to shoot them rather than let them starve slowly to death.
Those are the words of the Minister as quoted in the Sydney Sun in a halfpage article devoted to eulogizing the Minister and picturing him as the champion of the pensioners.
– Does the honorable member say that I was quoted as having made that statement?
– Yes, in the Sydney Sun within the last three weeks.
– I made .no such statement.
-Order! The Minister is not the subject of this debate.
– The Minister was quoted in a half-page article in that newspaper as having made that statement. No denial has since been issued. On the 6th February the Minister also said publicly -
I am acutely aware of the hardship endured by some pensioners at the present time in trying to live on their existing incomes.
But on the same day, the Prime Minister said -
I am not able to hold out any hope that during the currency of this financial year any alteration will be made in the provisions in relation to age and invalid pensions.
It is a fair assumption that that statement by’ the Prime Minister means that the Government does not intend to touch pension rates before the next budget is presented to the Parliament. If that is correct, then, according to last year’s timetable, the payment of increased rates to pensioners cannot occur before next November.
The sufferings of pensioners are already terrible, but the possibility of many more months of inaction, with food prices still rising, is literally too terrible for contemplation by anybody who has a sense of responsibility towards the aged and the sick members of this community. “ No hope,” says the Prime Minister ! “ I can hold out no hope ! “ No hope through the winter stretching ahead of these aged and sick people! “Keep alive till Spring”, says the right honorable gentleman, “ and you might get something.” ! The old folk and the sick folk really must he given something now. They must be given bread, vegetables, eggs and meat - not much, because they do not eat much, but a little, at any rate. Their needs can be measured literally in terms of insufficient bread, meat, vegetables and eggs. We hear talk in Australia to-day of a food shortage. It is a subject for learned articles, for debate and for study by expert committees. But for the elderly man or the elderly woman trying to keep body and soul together after paying room rent, it is a physical fact, not next year or ten years hence, but to-day and every day. The Opposition has not initiated this debate in order to press for some, new improvement of the living standards of pensioners and others who are dependent on social services. The immediate need is to lift them back to their former standard of living. They may well be entitled to a higher standard than that, but their desperate need is to be restored to the meagre standard that they formerly enjoyed. This motion has been submitted to the House in order to impress on the Government the dreadful cut in the living standards of pensioners that has been made by inflation; the actual cut already made in their basket of food and their supply of clothing; the further cut that is being made by steadily rising prices; -and the additional cuts to be apprehended from the further increases of the prices of bread, eggs, sugar and butter, the staple foods upon which the pensioners depend for their existence, which have been forecast.
It may be objected that the Opposition need not occupy time in directing attention to these facts because these evils of inflation are well known to everybody in the community. If that he so, and if the Government is already clearly aware of these facts, there can he no excuse for its continued inaction. Does the Government claim that it knows of the sufferings and hardships of the pensioners, as the Minister for Social Services has admitted, but that it cannot alleviate them because it cannot raise the necessary money? Does it say that it knows that the meagre living standards of the pensioners have fallen during its term of office but that it lacks the ability to restore them to what they were when it was elected? If it does say that, it should be ashamed. The amount that could give relief to these people is not one hundredth part of the Government’s £1,000,000,000 budget. It is not one tenth part of the forecast budget surplus, much less of the probable actual surplus. It is not one twentieth part of the amount that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) said the other day would be expended on that arm of the armed forces alone. Or does the Government claim that it has compensated the pensioners for the effects of inflation on their living standards? It is scarcely possible that it could make such a claim in view of the official figures, to which I shall refer.
The figures show that the value of the age pension in terms of food, clothing and shelter, has fallen substantially during the last two years. The increases of money payments - the first of 7s. 6d. a week and the second of 10s. a week - have not kept pace with the price increases that the pensioners have had to bear. That is the basic cause of their present’ distress and suffering. The last adjustment made by the Chifley Government in the latter half of 1948 brought the rate of pension to £2 2s. 6d. a week. The basic wage was then £5 16s. a week. The effect of that adjustment was to maintain the ratio of the pension to the basic wage at 36 per cent. No one in this House at the time claimed that it was too much. Both Liberal and Australian Country party members claimed that it was not enough. Every honorable member supported the adjustment then made and agreed that 36 per cent, of the basic wage was little enough to pay to a pensioner. In fact, an amendment was then moved by the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to provide additional benefits by making the payment of the increase retrospective. Towards the end of 1949, when the general election took place, an increase of the cost of living had occurred that was sufficient to justify a further pension adjustment, although such an adjustment would not have been comparable to the cost of living increases that had occurred. Nevertheless, after the 3949 general election a responsibility would have rested upon whichever government might have been returned to office, to make a further adjustment in pension rates. Indeed that responsibility was clearly recognized by the present Prime Minister, and publicly acknowledged by him in statements that he made during his general election campaign. I shall quote later the statements made at that time by the Prime Minister. “What has happened since that time? The pension rate has been increased from £2 2s. 6d. to £3 a week, but the basic wage has increased from £5 16s. a week, at the time when the Chifley adjustment was made, to £10 16s. a week at the present time. The pension that was then 36 per cent, of the basic wage, and considered by all to be little enough to give a meagre standard of existence to pensioners, has since decreased to 28 per cent. of the basic wage. There would need to be an increase of 30 per cent, of the present pension rate, from £3 to £3 17s. 6d. a week, in order to restore the purchasing value of the pension, in relation to the basic wage, to the figure that existed at the time of the last Chifley adjustment - that is, to restore it to 36 per cent, of the basic wage, which everybody in this House agreed was the minimum standard that pensioners should be’ expected to try to live on. In the meantime, the lot of the pensioners has been made worse and their poverty has been increased, although many sections of the community have enjoyed unexampled prosperity.
It was never the intention of the Australian people that the aged, the sick and the recipients of social services should be made victims of inflation. It was never the intention of the Australian people that such persons should have to pay for the inflation out of which so many other people reaped such rich profits. Nor was it the intention of the Prime Minister, if the pledges that he made to the people during the 1949 and 1951 general election campaigns are to be accepted as having been honestly made. If those who now sit behind the Prime Minister, and who endorsed his promises at the time, honestly intended to endeavour to carry them out in their public life and in their service in this Parliament, then it was not their intention that the pensioners should carry 3ii ch a heavy burden. In his 1949 general election policy speech, to which the Australian Country party leader subscribed, the Prime Minister said -
Existing rates of pensions will, of course, be at least maintained.
They certainly have not been. He said further -
We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
That promise was to increase the value of the age and invalid pensions. In contrast to that promise, the value of the age and invalid pensions has been reduced. It is now demanded that if the Prime Minister will not increase the value of the pensions, at least he should restore it to its former standard. In the 1951 policy speech the Prime Minister said -
We understand the difficult problem of the pensioners in a period in which prices are rising. The pensioners need not be led away by election cash offers. We will look after them. We may be relied upon to do full justice to their needs as we have done before.
The fact is that the Government has allowed the purchasing value of the pension to fall so low that a 30 per cent.’ increase would be necessary to restore even its former purchasing capacity. The Prime Minister promised to do full justice to the pensioners. He is not being asked to-day to do even that. He and the honorable members sitting behind him are being asked to remedy injustice to the pensioners to whom so much was promised. The most striking reference to pensioners may be found in the Governor-General’s Speech that was delivered to the Parliament on the 22nd February, 1950. His Excellency said -
Application of the Government’s financial and economic policy will result in improvement of the purchasing power of the currency so that pensioners as well as other fixed income groups will benefit.
That was a clear and definite statement of the Government’s intention. The miserable, unfortunate, unhappy failure of the Government’s financial and economic policy is now melancholy history, but the duty towards the pensioners has not been swept away by that failure. Indeed, in the last two general election campaigns a picture was drawn for the pensioners and for many others, of the ease, comfort and freedom which would descend upon them if only the wicked Labour administration could be removed from office. Now the whole of this appeal has been exposed as a fraud. The danger is that not only liberalism, but also democracy itself may be made to appear fraudulent, and, therefore, the obligation is on the Government for this reason as well as for many others to make some attempt to honour its promises. Does the Government deny that it can afford to do this? “Would the Government dare to withhold cost of living increases amounting to 30 per cent, of the basic wage from coal-miners, shearers or wharf labourers? Of course it would not. Is the Government then only moved by the pressure that groups can exert upon it? Is it not moved at all by considerations of justice, honour and public pledges to the pensioners? ‘[Extension of time granted.] The aged and the sick cannot go on strike. Their only recourse is to die, and many of them are being reduced to such a state of undernourishment and sickness that death very often is the only way out of their sufferings.
We have heard a lot about’ the necessity to abide by arbitration in the fixing of remuneration, but that presupposes that the arbitration tribunal is fair and just and that it has regard to prescribed standards. This Parliament is the arbitration court of the pensioners because they have no other court to which they can go. The Parliament is the body charged with the duty of acting fairly and justly and in accordance with prescribed standards towards them, and every honorable member of this House who has put himself forward as recognizing the immediate justice of a pension which is 36 per cent, of the basic wage, and who endorsed the policy speeches of the leaders of the parties at the last general election, has an obligation as a member of the pensioners’ arbitration court to restore to them that measure of immediate justice. Perhaps some honorable members and Ministers are still not satisfied about the genuineness of the pensioners’ claims or of the depth or extent of their sufferings. Perhaps they think that the pensioners are not really suffering. Perhaps they think that the pensioners are putting on an act and that they are really doing very well indeed on their £3 a week. If that is so, let two pensioners be brought to the bar of the House and be examined. Let us have an elderly man and woman here to tell honorable members how they live, how much they spend on breakfast, lunch and tea, how many eggs they can buy at 6d. each, how much steak at 5s. per lb. and how much milk at lid. a pint. Then let them be publicly cross-examined at the bar of the House by the most skilful lawyers in this chamber. I venture to suggest that the pensioners would receive their increases immediately by the unanimous vote of every honorable member.
Immediate action is needed. In a day or two days this Parliament will go into recess, but the dreadful plight of the pensioners will continue and it will grow worse from day to day. The Government should grant an increase in social service payments before this sitting of the Parliament ends. It may be argued that the legislation could not be prepared in time, but it could be done in five minutes. Honorable members may argue that the legislation could not be passed through the Parliament in time, but I think that the Government could rely on the Opposition to co-operate in passing such legislation immediately. I hope that honorable members will not hear in this debate the paltry excuse that free medicine makes up for everything and that although the income of pensioners may be reduced in terms of purchasing power, the loss is made up by free medicine. In effect, that would be telling the pensioners that when they collapse from malnutrition, they will be given free medicine to restore them. If the free medicine is to be counted against the failure to restore the value of pension rates then it is not free medicine at all. In that case the pensioners are paying for the medicine over and over again.
The Minister for Social Services was reported yesterday in a radio news service as having made a bitter attack on the means test. “When the Minister makes such attacks outside Parliament he is shadow sparring. He will not be really tackling the problem until he makes an attack on it by legislation in this House. While the Minister claims to abhor the means test he is tightening its provisions weekly and is reducing the effective rate of pension that is drawn by tens of thousands of people. At the time of the last adjustment by the Chifley Government a pensioner couple could receive £7 5s. a week, including £4 5s. for the pension and £3 permissible income, 30s. a week of which could be earned by each pensioner. That total compared with a basic wage of £5 15s. To-day a pensioner couple may receive £9, made up of £3 in pension for each pensioner and 30s. each in permissible income, compared with a basic wage of £10 16s. In effect, the means test has been tightened every time the cost of living has risen without a corresponding adjustment in the pension rate being made. The position that applies to age and invalid pensions applies with equal force to other social service rates. In 1947, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), dealt with child endowment and he said -
The financial difficulties of family life must he eased.
He has done nothing but increase those difficulties because since then household costs have risen.
– Order ! The honor able member’s extended time has expired.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) began his speech by quoting from a newspaper which reported that I had said that pensioners would be better off if - they were shot. I have never made such a statement. If any person should be shot, he is the man who said that I was guilty of saying such a thing.
-t-an FRASER - It was contained in a half-page article in the Sydney Sun.
– I come from a civilized place, where the newspapers are accurate. The honorable member made one statement which I did not expect anybody of intelligence to voice. That was his statement about the pension in terms of proportion to the basic wage in 1948 and to-day. The argument on that point is completely irrelevant. Since 1948, the basic wage has been placed on a completely different footing, because the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has introduced such factors as prosperity loadings and the capacity of industry to pay, and they have destroyed all relevance to any form of comparison between the basic wage and pensions. When I consider a motion such as the one before the House, my first impression is that the mover and the sponsors have prepared a case without having made a complete study of the subject. The care of the physically, mentally and socially handicapped persons in the community has the strongest emotional appeal to all honorable members. I would not differentiate between one side of the House and the other on that point. But just as there are very strict limits to what we may do for other people with whom we may come in contact in the course of our private lives, so there are also specific limits in the national sphere. The lengths to which we can go to assist any section of the community are limited, no matter how great their need. We may search our consciences, but we have also to examine our purses.
I wonder if honorable members and many persons outside the Parliament realize bow much money is expended on social services. To-day age and invalid pensions and payments to widows, dependants and others total £72,000,000. Pensioner beneficiaries undergoing rehabilitation receive £365,000. Other payments are: Child endowment for 2,452,000 children, £46,250,000; maternity allowances, £3,100,000; funeral benefits, £270,000; repatriation benefits, £44,000,000 ; Commonwealth health benefits, £18,600,000; hospital benefits, £7,200,000 ; pharmaceutical benefits, £5,000,000; tuberculosis allowances, £3,180,000; nutrition of children, £1,500,000 ; medical services to pensioners, £1,000,000; mental institution benefits, £550,000; miscellaneous, £173,000. In all, Australia is spending £1S4,000,000 each year on social services benefits of one kind or another. In addition, there is also State expenditure for the same purposes. The States expend approximately £50,000,000 a year on social services within their province, and that sum has, of course, to be found by the Commonwealth. On a conservative estimate about half the population of this country is receiving some form of government benefit. Considerations of the future must impose a limitation on that tendency. For every age pensioner there are 5.5 male workers, and in another ten years, if the present trends continue, we could quite easily bc in the position in which we should have only 1.7 workers to support each agc pensioner.
– The Minister is referring to the figures in relation to people in the pensionable group, and not to pensioners.
– I am speaking of pensioners. Those figures will make any responsible person ponder seriously about the future and wonder where all the money required will come from. Under such conditions the welfare state could easily become the poorhouse state unless we are careful. We could go to the extremes to which Great Britain went. The British people were provided with free false teeth, and they ended up with no meat to chew with their free teeth.
The Opposition contends that the Government has not done enough for the pensioners. I shall remind the House of all that the Government has done for pensioners since it took office at the end of 1949. In its first budget the Government increased age pensions by 7s. 6d. a week to £2 10s. a week. That was the biggest single increase ever made in the age pension. A year later we increased the age pension by 10s. a week, which was again a record increase. It cost £13,600,000 a year. In addition, we raised the permissible property limit of a pensioner from £750 to £1,000. That figure was quite apart from the value of a pensioner’s home, personal effects and furniture. We also increased the limit of special exemption in relation to the surrender value of life insurance policies from £200 to £750. In our social services legislation last year, we introduced a discretionary power which the DirectorGeneral of Social Services may use to afford relief to owners of properties who are unable to obtain possession of them. Under an extension of that power, we are helping pensioner home settlements to use the money that belongs to pensioners to provide them with homes. We increased the pension rate of inmates of benevolent institutions from 15s. to 21s. a week. That increase was in the same ratio as the increase of age pensions. The means test in relation to the income of invalid pensioners was also moderated, and an invalid pensioner’s permissible income of 30s. a week in addition to his pension was raised by an amount of 5s. a. week in respect of each dependent child under the age of sixteen years, without interference with the payment of child endowment in relation to such a child. In relation to invalids between the age of sixteen and 21 years, the amount regarded as representing adequate maintenance from the parents was raised from £3 to £4 a week, which meant that an invalid under the age of 21 years is not now disqualified from receipt of a pension, unless the income of his parents is at least £12 a week. Under the previous Government the disqualification operated if the parents had an income of £9 a week. An additional £2 a week of income is allowed in respect of each dependent child under the age of sixteen years. We increased the allowance to the wife of an the invalid pensioner, or of a totally incapacitated age pensioner, hy 6s. to 30s. a week. The allowance for the first child under the age of sixteen years was increased by 2s. 6d. a week to lis. 6d.
The permissible income which a blind pensioner may receive in addition to his pension was raised from £5 17s. 6d. a week to £10 a week. A blind pensioner may now receive a total of £13 a week in income plus pension before his pension rate is affected.
– Where could he earn such an amount?
– Many of them are earning it. The following table shows the increases that we have effected in relation to widows’ pensions: -
The property test for widows has been liberalized. The limit of property that they may own without affecting their rate of pension has been raised from £1,000 to £1,250 for a class A widow. We made another special exemption in relation to the surrender value of life insurance policies, the exemption having been increased from. £200 to £750. The exemption in relation to the value of reversionary interest was increased from £500 to £750. We increased the permissible income of 30s. a week which may be received in addition to pension by 5s. a week in respect of each dependent child under the age of sixteen years. The annual expenditure on widows’ pensions has been increased by £1,600,000 a year. We endowed the first child of a family in spite of great opposition by the Labour party at a cost of £15,000,000, which brought the annual expenditure on child endowment up to £46,250,000, and the total number of endowed children to 2,452,000. The waiting period of twelve months to qualify for endowment, which applies to children living temporarily in Australia, has been waived in respect of the children of members of the United Kingdom naval, military and air forces serving with the Commonwealth forces. The period in which child endowment may be claimed without loss of arrears has been extended from three months to six months after the birth of the child. The DirectorGeneral has discretionary power to extend this period even further in special circumstances. The period in which a maternity allowance may be claimed has also been extended from three to six months after the birth of the child and the Director-General has the same discretionary power to extend, the period.
The scheme for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons has been widened by extending from two years to three years the period during which a person may be given treatment and training and by bringing into the scheme claimants for invalid persons between the ages of sixteen and 21 years, who are disqualified from receipt of the pension because they are adequately maintained by their parents. The previous government steadfastly refused to do this. The training allowance has been increased from £1 to 25s. a week, and in addition a rehabilitation allowance is paid at rates equivalent to an invalid pension plus a wife’s and child’s allowance. Increases have also been made in the rates of living away from home allowance. Wider powers have been given to the DirectorGeneral to reimburse people in respect of fares and living expenses incurred by a person seeking treatment or training, and also for an attendant where necessary. The annual expenditure on the rehabilitation scheme has increased to £365,000, and as a result of the scheme about 3,70Q physically handicapped persons have been restored to -earning capacity and have been placed in suitable jobs in which they have taken their places as independent and valuable members of the community.
Since the Government took office the total annual expenditure on social services provided under the Social Services Consolidation Act has increased by £50,000,000. In addition, the annual expenditure on health benefits has increased by £12,500,000 to £18,600,000. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that he hoped that the Government would not mention the free medical services and free pharmaceutical benefits scheme for pensioners, but I shall mention them because they are of tremendous benefit to old people. These services are costing us about £1,000,000. a year.
I have outlined the Government’s contributions, in the short period in which it has been in office, to a solution of the problem of the pensioners. There is a growing tendency in the community to believe that the Australian Government is the only authority that has responsibility to aged or physically handicapped persons. ‘[Extension of time granted.] Many people, however, realize that the Government is not the only authority with that responsibility. There are many individuals, including many honorable members themselves, who have made provision for themselves by means of insurance policies and so on. There are a number of public bodies, including the great churches of the country and other charitable organizations, which do what they can to assist needy and afflicted people. I could name 129 different organizations that provide some form of shelter for various kinds of aged or indigent people. I have mentioned before that people in many charitable institutions are comfortable and are adequately maintained. I have visited a’ number of such charitable institutions. In one that T visited in Queensland recently elderly people are living privately in their own small homes and have free medical attention and everything they want for a payment of £2 a week. Some of them have never been so well off in their lives as they are now. The payment of £2 a week leaves them £1 a week from their pensions for pocket money, and a pensioner couple in such an institution may earn between them £3 a week in addition.
I consider that it is in the direction of charitable effort that the responsibility has not been accepted. I am particularly inclined to that belief when I consider the money that is spent in this country on fun and games. Australia’s bill for liquor and tobacco according to the most accurate figures that I have been able to obtain, amounts to £240,000,000 a year. I wish I had some of that money to expend on the pensioners. Only a few weeks ago evidence was given before an inquiry in Tasmania that fifteen tons of prime quality beef was fed to greyhounds every week in Tasmania. On that basis the figure for meat fed to racing dogs throughout the Commonwealth would be 400 tons or 500 tons a week, while, as one honorable member has interjected, many of our pensioners cannot get enough to eat. An amount of £5,000,000 was paid in entertainment tax in 1948-49 in respect of the admission to places of entertainment of 164,781,503 people. A Melbourne newspaper states that Australia’s expenditure on gambling is probably considerably more than £300,000,000 a year. That figure was issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and is honest and reliable. I remember an expert giving evidence at an inquiry in Victoria to the effect that at least £90,000,000 is spent in Victoria each year in off-the-course betting. When I see such figures I wonder whether the responsibility for pensioners which some people wish to lay solely on the Commonwealth, should not fall in other directions.
There is no country on earth, nor has there ever been any country, where any government has suggested, directly or indirectly, that the money paid by way of a pension is designed to be sufficient to keep the recipient adequately and completely. It is meant to be a national minimum on which other people or organizations, such as charitable organizations, public spirited citizens and the recipients themselves by their own individual effort, may build. The level of assistance given by the Government must be determined in line with the Government’s other commitments. It is a measure of assistance and not a sura that either this or any other government would deem to be sufficient to care for these people adequately. “When the community is spending over £240,000,000 annually on “booze and baccy “ and is wasting between £500,000,000 and £1,000,000,000 on all forms of fun and games, the Government in providing nearly £200,000,000 to aid pensioners has practically met its responsibility in this respect. The Government is doing its share and it is time that the community realized its responsibility in this matter.
– I welcome this opportunity to discuss the important matter to which the motion relates. This debate will help to enlighten pensioners about the Government’s attitude towards them. After hearing what the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) has said, they can take it that the Government believes that they are now receiving quite sufficient by way of social services benefits. The Minister introduced the matter of expenditure by the community on liquor and gambling. That was, in effect, the only answer that he. made to the charge that the Government has failed in its responsibilities to age and invalid pensioners. I have a high personal regard for the Minister, who, I believe, has great sympathy for the pensioners. However, I cannot reconcile the statements that he has just made with statements that he and the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) made during last week. In a radio broadcast, the Minister for Health declared that the time has arrived for the abolition of the means test; and, subsequently, the Minister for Social Services made a statement to the same effect. What would the abolition of the means test involve ? Obviously, the Government would have to make available for social services benefits a sum considerably in excess of its expenditure for that purpose to-day.
All the Minister’s talk about what the community is spending on “ booze “, gambling, fun and amusement is not an answer to the urgent questions that pensioners continually address to honorable members. Recently, I attended a gathering of pensioners at which I was asked whether anything could be done to relieve their plight. I was asked whether the Government intended to increase the rates of pensions. In effect, the pensioners exclaimed, “ What shall we do for clothing and wood for the coming winter ? “ The Minister has replied, in effect, that if pensioners cannot afford to purchase sufficient food they must tighten their belts and if they cannot afford to purchase wood they must go cold. The Minister referred to the fact that pensioners were being very well cared for in certain establishments in Queensland. The number of pensioners who obtain admittance to such establishments is not .1 of 1 per cent, of the total number of pensioners. In my electorate the Methodist Church authorities are endeavouring to provide a home for distressed pensioners. At present, there are thirteen inmates at that institution, but the superintendent of it told me that a far greater number of pensioners had to be refused admittance because of lack of accommodation. The increases of age and invalid pensions that the. Government has granted arc totally inadequate to enable them to meet the increases of costs of necessaries that have occurred in recent years. My attention was directed to a typical case a few days ago. It was that of a woman who said to me, “ My husband is in hospital and I have to keep the home going. Now, the State authority has increased my rent from 12s. to 18s. a week “. She asked me what I could do to help her, and I had no option but to reply that I could do nothing. How can pensioners afford to pay a rent of 18s. a week out of a pension of £3 a week? Indeed, many pensioners are paying a higher rental for only one room. I have not the slightest doubt that honorable members who represent Sydney metropolitan electorates have brought to their notice almost daily several cases of pensioners who are obliged to pay in rent for only one room at least one-third of their pension. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that if the rent charged for any house constructed under it exceeds one-fifth of the tenant’s income, the Government will subsidize the balance of the rent.
It is time the Government took notice of the plight in which many pensioners find themselves at present. I am aware that some pensioners receive a superannuation benefit of £3 a week and, in the case of a married couple, a combined age pension of £6 a week, giving to them a total income of £9 a week. I am now making a plea, not on their behalf, but on behalf of the 80 per cent, of pensioners who have no income apart from their pension. The great majority of pensioners do not own the house in which they live and, therefore, must pay rent. In many instances an aged couple, thanks to frugal living, own the house in which they live and are not obliged to pay rent. They also receive free medical benefit. Such pensioners are not in difficulties, but they are comparatively few in number. The great majority of pensioners do not own the house in which they live but must pay rent out of their meagre pension.
The Opposition has been completely justified in sponsoring this motion. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated in this House about three weeks ago that there would be no further increase of the rates of pension during the current financial year. The object of the Opposition in bringing forward this motion is to show that the Government has absolutely failed to meet its responsibilities towards the pensioners. The Minister made much of the fact that the Government had increased the rate of pension from 42s. 6d. a week to 60s. In the meantime, living costs have continued to increase. Yet, the Government says it cannot do anything further to help the pensioners. However, at the same time, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) says that in this matter the Government must study its purse and not be actuated solely by sentiment. Did the Government study its purse when it recently increased taxes? No. It budgeted for a surplus of over £100,000,000. Let it make available a portion of that surplus in order to help pensioners. Many age pensioners are widows, or widowers, and many invalid pensioners, are unmarried. In such instances, the cost of rent, fuel and lighting cannot be shared as it can be in the case of married couples. I do not know how single pensioners manage to subsist on their meagre rate of pension. I do not claim that members of the Opposition have a monopoly of sympathy for the pensioners, but I have intimate knowledge of the position of many pensioners of the kind to which I have referred and any honorable member who is in possession of similar knowledge must, unhesitatingly, make an urgent plea to the Government on their behalf. It is all right for the Minister to speak in general terms about the welfare state. The fact remains that the pensioners are not receiving sufficient to enable them to make ends meet. Time and time again pensioners approach me and say “ What about my clothing ? All I have is what I have been able to get from charitable institutions, or from charitable individuals “. Does the Minister believe that pensioners should be obliged to rely upon charitable institutions for supplies of clothes and footwear, which, in all instances, would be second-hand? The Government has a responsibility to make available adequate funds from its huge revenues in order to enable pensioners to live decently. I have not the time to deal with other aspects of the plight of pensioners. However, I point out that the sickness benefit, which was 25s. in 1948, has not been increased since this Government assumed office. If that rate of benefit was justified in 1948, should it not be further increased now in order to enable recipients to meet increases of living costs that have occurred in the meantime?
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Almost daily, during the current sessional period, the Opposition has moved adjournment motions for the purpose of discussing matters which they have alleged to bc of urgent public importance. It has been made clear that the object of each of those motions has been to gain some party-political advantage for the Opposition. On this occasion members of the Opposition have acted cruelly. All of us realize that the conditions under which pensioners are obliged to live are not so favorable as we should like them to be. However, the Government’s record proves that it has done more in the interests of pensioners than any other previous Government has done. It is cruel for the Opposition to exploit the difficulties of people who are in distress and to try to upset them at a time like the present merely in order to gain some partypolitical advantage. Members of the Opposition are now trying to swing a few votes among the pensioners and are endeavouring to play up to them in an effort to lead them to believe that they are their friends. They are parading themselves in this House as the friends of those who are suffering economically, but when they were in office and had the opportunity to prove their sincerity in that respect they were not prepared to stand up to the things that they now advocate in the interests of pensioners. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) dealt with certain matters about which we are aware. He referred to the food shortage and to the suffering of many pensioners. We know that they are suffering as a result of high prices of food and because of inflation generally.
Opposition members interjecting,
-Order! Since I gave the call to the honorable member for Bennelong, members of the Opposition have continually interrupted him. I ask them to cease interrupting.
– Does the Opposition claim that the Government is responsible for the present inflation which, obviously, is world-wide? That is complete nonsense. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) also “dished up “ some voluble nonsense. He said that members of the Labour party are here to speak on behalf of the pensioners, as though they are the only persons in this chamber who are qualified to do so.
As my time is limited, I shall be able to refer only briefly to the history of pensions. It is a well-known fact, although it is almost invariably avoided by Opposition members, that the age pension was introduced in 1909 by the Deakin Government, which was a nonLabour government.
– The age pension was introduced by the Deakin Government under pressure from the Labour party.
– That is immaterial. It was a non-Labour government that introduced the legislation to grant some measure of assistance to aged persons. The Menzies Government in 1940 not only increased the age pension but also formulated a provision for the adjustment of the pension in accordance with variations of the cost of living. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) dealt with the relation of the age pension to the cost of living at various times. I remind him that the Curtin Government in 1944 repealed the section of the act that provided for the automatic . adjustment of the pension in accordance with fluctuations of the cost of living. Had the Curtin Government not repealed that section, perhaps pensioners would be in a different position to-day. In 1945, the Curtin Government increased the age pension by 5s. 6d. a week. Two years later the Chifley Government increased the pension by 5s. a week, and granted a similar increase in the following year. The pension was then £2 2s. 6d. a week. The Menzies Government, in its first’year of office, increased the age pension by 7s. 6d. a week, which was the biggest increase that had been given since the introduction of age pensions. Last year, the Menzies Government increased the pension by 10s. a week. In other words, the present Government has increased the age pension by 40 per cent, in two years. The preceding Labour Government increased the pension by 15s. 6d. a week over a period of five years, yet the Menzies Government has increased it by 17s. 6d. a week in only two years.
Opposition members interjecting,
-Order! If the House will not hear the honorable member for Bennelong in silence, I shall have to take action.
– I ask Opposition members, in all sincerity, bow they can expect to substantiate their charge that this Government has not been completely aware of the position of pensioners. Indeed, this Government has a fine record in respect of social services. Its achievements prove that it has been conscious at all times of the needs of the people. I remind Opposition members that the Menzies Government introduced child endowment in 1941. The means test was not applied to the payment of that social service.
– The Menzies Government introduced child endowment in 1941 against the wish of the Labour party.
– That is so. In 1950 the Menzies Government, in accordance with its pre-election promise, introduced legislation to provide for the payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years. On the hustings, and later in this Parliament, the Labour party strongly opposed the principle of endowment for the first child. Yet when the Government announced its determination to honour its pre-election promise, the Opposition hypocritically proposed an amendment, the purpose of which was to increase the rate of endowment for the first child from 5s. to 10s. a week. I charge Opposition members with being guilty of complete hyprocrisy in the debate this afternoon. I also charge them with having attempted to use the pensioners in order to advance their party political aims. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) has given to the House many details of the Government’s achievements in respect of social services. That the Government has the interests of the people at heart is demonstrated by its free medical service scheme. The House has not forgotten the turmoil that occurred when the Chifley Labour Government endeavoured to force its health service upon medical practitioners and pharmaceutical chemists. This Government has also introduced a scheme to assist persons who suffer from tuberculosis, and has organized the provision of free milk for school children. Australia is fortunate, and this Government is fortunate, that a man of the calibre of the present Minister is in charge of social services. Throughout this country, he is known to be a thoroughly humane man.
– Order! I have already informed the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that the Minister is not the subject of this debate.
– But he is the representative of the Government, and administers the Department of Social Services. The Opposition attempts to “ play up “ a matter of this kind, and to show that some pensioners are suffering hardship. We know that, unfortunately, they are; but the age pension is not intended to be a complete living allowance. The Minister has dealt with that aspect. I admit that certain anomalies have arisen in the social services legislation, but I believe that the Minister is investigating them and, if possible, will rectify them. Australians may expect some changes that will be of permanent benefit to them.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Order ! I shall put that motion in accordance with the arrangement that was made late last year for the termination of a debate of this kind, but I point out that another standing order provides that the closure may not be moved until a motion has been submitted, seconded, and stated from the Chair. I hope that the whole position will receive attention early in the next parliamentary period.
– I wish to support the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), and-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has not received the call.
– Is there no British justice in this House ?
Government Supporters. - . Irish justice.
– Order ! Honorable members must remain silent.
Question put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 29th February (vide page 648), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I support the security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America. Indeed, I believe the treaty will have the support of all honorable members, including even the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), because no honorable member of the Opposition would dare to speak against it, whatever his private opinions of it might be.
The Opposition appears to have confined its discussion of the pact to two main points. The first of these is that the treaty, in its view, is not sufficiently definite. The second may be described briefly in the phrase, “ The grapes are sour Honorable members opposite are worried because this Government has been able to achieve what the Labour Government tried unsuccessfully to achieve, and they do not like to consider their own failure. They have said that the treaty is not sufficiently definite. They do not realize, apparently, that definite commitments on one side require definite commitments on the other side, and that Australia is not in a position to give substantial undertakings in a far-flung global battle. We are, it is true, giving support to the United Nations in. Korea, but, in the scale of world affairs, that support is not, perhaps, substantial. Members of the Opposition who support the thesis that we should not send Australian troops too far afield - I do not know whether their limit now is Australia’s territory or the equator - must realize that we are not in a position to enter into substantial commitments. Therefore, the treaty with which this bill deals is in the form that best suits our present circumstances. It has been framed in accordance with the 1 Ill ted Nations principles and it is based upon an assumption of the continued friendship of Australia and the United States of America. It reveals a recognition of a new situation in the Pacific.
The short-term threat to us now comes from Indo-China, where the Communist thrust is inching towards us and from where the Communist party hopes, I fear, that it will succeed in touching off troubles in Indonesia. That is the dagger that is now aimed at Australia. This treaty will achieve as much as is possible towards warding off that danger. We are aware that Indonesia is turning its attention to Dutch New Guinea. That may not be described as a threat, but I believe that every honorable member wants to hold off Indonesia’s approach to that territory, and we must have the friendship of the United States of America if we are to do so. Therefore, this treaty immeasurably strengthens Australia’s position. From a long-term stand-point, the Pacific does not stand aside from the global struggle. We shall not survive without the survival of a free Europe. We have in this treaty a parallel to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It will be of advantage to us in any struggle. One may ask why such a treaty was not concluded earlier. We know that the Labour Government, when it concluded the Anzac pact in January, 1944, expected that agreement to be followed closely by another pact. But the United States of America was unwilling to become a party to such a pact. This bill is evidence of the first reversal of that American policy. I shall tell the House frankly why, in my opinion, the United States of America was reluctant to conclude such a treaty, notwithstanding the blandishments of the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he was Minister for External Affairs. The truth, perhaps, will not please members of the Opposition.
Every country that considers the facts objectively realizes that Australia could not be trusted under the leadership of a Labour government. Although there are within the Labour party numbers of men who are loyal in every sense of the term, the party also carries within itself seeds of disloyalty that would make it an untrustworthy party to any alliance against Russia. A Labour government in Australia would be a government in which traitors would have a large part, though perhaps they would not have control. That fact was demonstrated during the early stages of World War II. Prior to June, 1941, there was a considerable movement of a treasonable character within the ranks of the Labour party. It aimed at cooperation with Russia, which was then a partner with Germany. June, 1941, witnessed a change in that situation because Russia ceased to be Hitler’s ally and became our ally instead. The Curtin Government took office in October, 1941, three months after the Communist switch. That Government, therefore, was not embarrassed by the pro-Russian faction that had hampered the war effort of Australia earlier. It was able to present a united front because Russia was our ally. It must be obvious to negotiators in the United States of America that, if Russia is our enemy - as it is - the Australian Labour party, carrying within itself that considerable segment of treason, cannot provide a government that could give security to Australia or that other nations could ever trust. During the period when the Curtin Government was in power, its pro-Russian faction happened by accident to be onside, but that faction will not be onside if the present world situation should reach a crisis.
I shall prove my point by recalling the events of March, 1940. On the 22nd March of that year, a conference of the New South “Wales branch of the Australian Labour party, a body which was in full communion with the federal organization, passed the infamous “ Hands off Russia “ resolution and declared -
We demand all energy be used to end the war.
That was explained by a commentator, Mr. Evans, an official of the Australian Labour party, who is a well-known Communist, in these words that he published in the official organ of the party on the 27th March-
My appeal to the Australian people is to keep Australia and the Australians out of the war.
The full meaning of that statement can be realized only when it is remembered that an effort was being made at that time to negotiate a peace. Russia, as Hitler’s ally, sponsored generally this movement, and the Communists and the allies of the Communists in the Labour movement sponsored it in Australia. The movement was advanced by Mr. J. R, Hughes, Mr. Lloyd Ross and other members of the Communist party, who denied that they were Communists but were actually within the Labour organization at that time, just as there are undercover Communists in the Labour organization to-day and just as there are in this House members of the Parliamentary Labour party who have a little more than a sneaking regard for communism.
Opposition Members interjecting,
– Honorable members can perceive quite clearly why the American Government was wary of having a pact with Australia while it was controlled by a government which, in the event of war with Russia, would have had within it a considerable treasonable faction. I want to illustrate that by referring to some remarks that were made in this House on the 21st August, 1941, by the right honorable member for Barton, who is now the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members will remember that that was shortly before the government was changed, and they will also remember how the Leader of the Opposition has always tried to pass himself off as the Simon Pure opponent of everything Japanese. Now let us consider what this gentleman said on the 21st August, 1941, just two or three months before Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and thus entered the war. At that time he referred to the apprehension of the Government about a war with Japan, and said that its fears wereexaggerated. It is reported in Hansard, volume 16S, of the 21st August, 1941, at page 92 that the right honorable member for Barton said -
My colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred to the make believe, and the build-up. The Prime Minister was in Adelaide. Cables were expected. The situation was supposed to be deteriorating hour by hour, and day by day. Before this House and the country, I say that, whoever was responsible, that was an untrue build-up; it was an exaggeration which did damage toAustralia. It probably’ damaged our relations with powers that count.
What powers could he have had in mind? He continued -
It was a perfect example of what may be described as “ playing at politics “. The war effort could not be injured more greatly than by alarming the people of Australia unnecessarily . . .
A little later, when an honorable member from the Government side interjected -
With 48 Japanese war ships proceeding to Saigon, would not the honorable member regard the situation as deteriorating?
Dr. Evatt replied ;
It is clear from the press, and from what the House knows, that the situation was exaggerated; and not accidentally. No more was heard about the crisis over Thailand, and the imminence of war, until the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) repeated last Monday -
-Order ! The honorable member has referred again to the personal name of another honorable member of the House. That must not be done.
– I am reading from Hansard. The Leader of the Opposition went on -
The Minister for Commerce repeated last Monday a statement that Australia was in imminent danger of invasion. I suggest that that was an exaggeration … I say again that an atmosphere of alarm ought not to have been created.
All that was said at a time when Russia and Japan were faithful allies. At all events, the right honorable gentleman took that view at that time. Now there are large numbers of honorable members opposite who at that time - in 1939, 1940 and the early part of 1941 - whether they know it or not were engaged in the treasonable activities of the Communist party to sabotage our war effort. It is true that when they formed a government in October, 1941, they were clear of those difficulties because at that time the war had turned into a holy war as far as the Communists were concerned, and the Communists wanted to help the allied war effort as much as possible. They no longer hindered it as they had done, and as they had been helped to do by some honorable members opposite. Therefore, one does not wonder at the attitude of the United States of America when faced with the possibility of an alliance between Australia and itself in a war against Russia, Australia being led by a government composed of honorable members of the Opposition. As the Government could not be trusted at that time, it is obvious that while the present tension with Russia remains, honorable members opposite can never be trusted to govern Australia.
I refer now to a matter that has loomed large in this debate. That is the matter of Manus Island. A great amount of pother has been raised by honorable members opposite about what they have called illegitimate disclosures of certain papers. I have not seen the file, but I have seen the articles to which honorable members of the Opposition have referred, and I should think, having compared them with the sources that were available contemporaneously in the United States of America and Aus tralia, that they could have been pieced together by a competent journalist. There is no doubt that the sources were available. It was a work, perhaps, of some ingenuity to collate them as completely as was done, but sources existed in contemporary publications in 1945 and 1946. Even if that had not been so, the importance of policy which depends on the revelation of the contents of these documents far outweighs anything else. Documents in the hands of a government are secret only for a certain time. There is plenty of precendent for the truth of that statement. Winston Churchill, in his memoirs, quoted ad libitum many Cabinet documents and memoranda. Numerous documents have been issued from the White House, and the published papers of Harry Hopkins have revealed the contents of many official papers and minutes. Therefore, the sanctity which the Labour party so hypocritically tries to wrap round certain docments does not really exist. The truth should be told about this matter, and the time has now come when it will be told. Only a few days ago the Leader of the Opposition adopted that attitude and I do not blame him for having done so. It had been said that negotiations with the American State Department must be conducted on a bilateral basis. The Leader of the Opposition then said, in his speech in this House, “ I do not know who made that decision; it was probably made by office boys in the State Department because from- conversations that I had with the United States President and Secretary of State I cannot believe that they were aware of it “. In the interests of history I suppose that he was entitled to reveal private conversations. Indeed, in the same speech he referred to Cabinet records which he said would show that “ we were advised in a certain way by our military chiefs of staff”. The right honorable gentleman is quite right, but sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Having done it himself he should not blame others for doing it.
Let us now return to Manus Island. At about the end of 1938 I published a book in which I suggested that one of our greatest defence measures would be the establishment of a naval base somewhere to the north or north-east of New Guinea. I envisaged it in the Solomon Islands, and I shall return to that matter shortly. As honorable members know, Manus Island was a strongly defended base which lies to the north of New Guinea and commands the passage, which is some 700 or 800 miles wide, between New Guinea and the line of bases which the United States of America has in the Carolines. Such a base is of tremendous importance to us because it protects the passage through which might come an attack from Indo-China if the Communists are successful there. It is clear that such a base, while meaning very little to America except that it was a fully developed base, which it is no longer, could be. of vital importance to Australia is; protecting us from a short term thrust which is all that we need fear at the moment. The loss of such a base has immeasurably weakened Australia’s defence position. It was a fully developed base, and as such it was important to us providing the United States of America would have used it as a base to fill the gap between the Caroline Islands and New Guinea in order to protect Australia from any thrust from the west. In that regard I agree with the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) who suggested that a thrust from the west, not from the Pacific, might be one of our main dangers. To Australia, a base at Manus Island might mean life or death because it might mean that we would either be included in the American orb of defence, or excluded from it. Such a base might have been only a headache to the United States of America, but it would have been one that it would perhaps have been willing to suffer because of its friendship with Australia during the dark days of the war. A base, at Manus Island could have protected us from any hostile activity directed towards New Guinea from the north. “We have lost that base.
What has been the attitude of the Government in these negotiations? Let me remind the House of what happened. The Leader of the Opposition based his policy, for right or wrong, on the proposition that Russia was going to be our friend. Only a few months before these events took place in October, 1945, he said in New York -
Thu great question now is - will all this be allowed to happen again, That depends upon whether the victorious nations can retain or regain the spirit of comradeship without which this war could not have been won and without which the peace will certainly be lost. Unless there is a will to co-operate successfully, to give as well as to take, our objectives cannot bc carried into effect.
The right honorable gentleman bases his policy on friendship with Russia. That might have been a reasonable attitude at that time, because many well-informed people came, to the same conclusion. The only thing wrong about it is that it has turned out to be incorrect. Russia is not our friend, Russia is our enemy. Therefore, the policy of the Leader of the Opposition was a wrong policy.
Approaches in regard to America taking over the base were made in February, 1946, when the Australian Government first became aware of them. On the 13th March, 1946, the Leader of the Opposition, knowing very well what he was doing, but knowing that because the documents were secret the consequences of his action might have been lost on the country, made a remarkable speech which actually amounted to striking America across the face. That might not have appeared to be his intention to those who did not know what was contained in the documents, but those who had such a knowledge realized that the Leader of the Opposition was really rebuffing and insulting America.
In that statement to this House on the 13th March, 1946, the right honorable gentleman said -
In particular the Australian Government will not be a party to any hasty arrangements for the reallocation of territory or the disposition of military bases in the Pacific. The Australian Government does not recognize the claim that the acquisition of territory by force of arms confers a right to the retention of that territory.
He was telling America in effect, “Give me what I want or I will cut up rough “. The true significance of the exchange may not have been evident to people outside, but it was evident to the United States Government, which realized at that stage that it was face to face with somebody who was out to treat with the United States of America in a spirit of party bargaining and who was not averse to jeopardizing world opinion in order to get his way.
The next event was the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in Great Britain. In his speech, the Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to mislead the House by telling honorable members that the decision of Great Britain that there must be an overall arrangement was more or less forced on him by the unanimous consent of the other members of the Commonwealth. He wants to hide behind them. But in order to dispel that idea I refer now to the contemporary account of that conference on the 24th April, 1946-
British policy inclined sharply towards that of the United States of America and in principle Britain would support many of America’s requests for important bases in the Pacific. When the British representatives began putting the case for American control of Pacific bases, they were bluntly told by the Australians that they were foolish to listen to what President Truman and members of the Congress were saying. The forthrightness of the Australian statement caused a shock to the British Minister.
That is a contemporary statement of what occurred. It is quite obvious that the present Leader of the Opposition was in fact deliberately trying to mislead the House as to his part in those negotiations. His speech on this measure several nights ago was not a truthful speech. His policy has been, in effect, that unless he can get exactly what he wants, he will obstruct everything. So far as I know he did not bother to negotiate in detail on the American plan. Parts of it might have been acceptable and other parts might have been unacceptable. Perhaps it could have been adjusted in the interests and safety of Australia, but he stood pat. His attitude was that unless he got everything he wanted he would not talk of anything else. By adopting that attitude he brought ruin on Australia. It is quite natural that if the enemy against whom we were to defend ourselves was to be Russia. the United States of America would have been consulted. But there appeared in the columns of the New South
Wales Standard Weekly, the official organ of the Australian Labour party, a stream of anti-American filth. I shall read one or two extracts which are fairly typical.
– Who wrote them?
– H. W. Oxford, who is described as the foreign editor of the Standard Weekly. In discussing bases in the Pacific, he stated -
Use of these island bases is one occasion when Empire collaboration is absolutely imperative; but at all costs let us refuse to give, sell or lease them to America or to any other foreign power.
That writer often referred to the possibility of war between the United States of America and the British Commonwealth as one of the reasons for that attitude. The same writer published in the issue of the Standard Weekly of the 10th May, 1946, an article headed “Socialism is Failing in International Affairs “ in which he stated -
Socialism is closer to communism than it is to capitalism.
That is an authoritative article written in the official journal of the Australian Labour party on the 10th May, 1946, while these arrangements were in progress. That is not an isolated instance. Can it be wondered that the United States of America distrusted any Australian Government in which the present Leader of the Opposition had a part, or which was under his control.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has followed the party line that has marked the contribution of the Government to this debate, and to every similar debate that has taken place in this chamber in recent months. On this particular issue, Government supporters have continued their attempts to misrepresent the position of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). They have continued their theme of personal villification of him which has become so characteristic of their approach to all things with which he is associated. It appears that some honorable members on the Government side have a pathological hatred of the Leader of the Opposition and many of them do not conceal their intense personal hatred of him. In this debate they have attemped to misrepresent the position of the Labour party in its dealings with the American nation. The honorable member for Mackellar said -
You could not trust a parliament led by the Labour party.
He said that that was the reason for the American approach to any dealings that the Americans had with the Labour party.
It is interesting to go back and find just what the relationships were between Australia and the United States of America when this country was led by the Labour party. I believe that it is well also to point out that many members on the Government side have suddenly discovered the virtue of the United States of America and the Americans. I recall that during the regime of the Curtin Government, the Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, stated in unequivocal terms that the time had arrived when Australia, in its own defence, had to cut the painter. He meant that it was impossible to look to England for aid. Help had to be sought in other fields and the Labour party was the first government in the history of Australia that turned to the United States of America. As a result, help came from that country and the combined forces of Australia and the United States of America made a substantial contribution to the war effort not only in the Pacific but also in other parts of the world.
The Labour party supports the bill that is before the House because it believes that the treaty in itself will tend to provide more security for Australia. As an individual, I am grateful for the fact that during this session we have been able to devote considerable time to the subject of international affairs. It is a pity that more attention, time and interest have not been devoted to the subject because I believe that if we- cannot secure ourselves externally, we are fooling ourselves by talking about internal development. Unless Australia and New Zealand can get support and aid they are two nations of white people living in the Pacific on borrowed time. Because this pact strengthens Australia’s position in the Pacific, the Labour party supports it, but not in the same fashion as honorable members on the Government side have done.
This debate has indicated that honorable members opposite seem to be overwhelmed by the might of the United States of America. The approach of members of the Labour party is not so much in relation to the might of the United States of America as to the rights of Australia. We do not feel disposed to surrender any of those right3 or to take them lightly. Honorable members on this side of the House have stated in this debate and on every matter that has come before the House in relation to international affairs that they are not prepared to surrender an inch of Australian territory. Members of the Government parties have misrepresented and distorted the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, but I challenge them to state whether they are prepared to surrender any Australian territory. When they can answer that question they will be equipped better to talk about Manus Island. On that matter, the attitude of the Labour party has not changed since it was first proclaimed in 1946. In that year, the following statement appeared in the Melbourne Argus of the 6th September -
Behind the Federal Government’* determination to retain control of Manus Island, in the Admiralty Group, is the long-range view that it might be needed some day as an Empire base in a Pacific war not involving America.
-day. Dr. Evatt, External Affairs’ Minister, had said in Sydney the Australian Government would never consent to handing over an inch of territory under its control.
Mr. Chifley said, “ Dr. Evatt was voicing Cabinet views decided before he went abroad. We are quite agreeable to America having the use of Manus facilities if reciprocal arrangements can be made for the use of facilities’ in American territory. Americans do not want to be mixed up in outside wars and Australia may some day find itself alone in a war where Manus might be a needed base. No agreement will be made which will deny us in any way the full use of essential bases “.
Mr. Chifley said there could be no real peace unless the Empire and America maintained the closest friendship. “ Britain hag become extremely vulnerable to modern warfare, and the Empire’s future strength must come increasingly from the Dominions, particularly Australia and New Zealand “, Mr. Chifley said.
So the attitude of the Labour party and the part played by the leader of the party to-day stand as they were in those days when the matter was first raised. The Government has tried to outwit the Opposition in its approach to Australia’s relations with the United States of America. Earlier I referred to the volte face that has taken place on the part of the Government. I recall the days when the Americans first came to Australia and the attitude then adopted by several members of the present Government who were then in Opposition. The Labour party has not changed its attitude. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has said, we shall not be servile, in relation to this matter or make an abject surrender of our rights. The fact that relationships between the United States of America and Australia stand on such a high plane is not due to any efforts that the present’ Government has made but is the direct result of the comradeship in arms of Americans and Australians during the war. So it is absurd for honorable members opposite to claim that this Government alone is responsible for the happy relationships that exist between the two countries. In criticizing American policy the Opposition has exercised its right of criticism and will continue to do so. The criticism has not been directed only at the United States of America because we have also been critical of British policy. The Opposition also admits that, just as Britain and America have made mistakes, so also has Australia. “We do not claim that by subscribing to a doctrine a country surrenders its ‘rights. There are, no doubt, people in this country who do not like Americans. Perhaps that feeling is reciprocated by some Americans. In spite of that, however, the general Australian opinion of Americans is that they are a friendly and courageous people who are endowed with initiative and enterprise. The overwhelming majority of Australians remember with gratitude America’s contribution to the saving of this part of the world from the aggressors. At the same time, however, do not let us forget that Australia itself made a magnificent contri- bution in the same direction. I think it was General MacArthur who said that Australia had made a greater contribution per head of population to the prosecution of the war in the Pacific than America had made. On the other hand we have such people as the American, General Kenney, who wrote a history of the war in New Guinea in which he made caustic criticisms of Australians. However, people who know exactly what occurred in New Guinea strongly discount his opinions and prefer to accept the testimony of General Eichelberger who wrote, in his work, Jungle Road io Tokio-
In a fight and when the going is tough, there is no better mate than the man from “ Down Under “.
That was his appreciation of the Australian soldier in the New Guinea jungle. Similarly, Australians who fought alongside the Americans came to appreciate their value as fighters. However, whilst appreciating the Americans as allies we must not make an abject surrender of our rights but, instead, must state those rights unequivocally. It would be foolish to claim that the United States of America has not made mistakes on policy and strategic mistakes.
– Order ! I remind the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that conversation across the table such as that in which they are now engaging is normally audible in the broadcast of proceedings.
– For instance, the Americans insisted that a united front government should be established in China, yet, at the same time, resolutely set their face against the formation of a composite government of the same kind in Greece. In the field of strategy also the Americans have been the subject of considerable criticism for their attitude to the conduct of operations in Europe in 1944. It has been said, by people more competent than I am to judge that if the Americans had accepted the advice of Viscount Montgomery during the invasion operations in Normandy, victory in the “West would have come more quickly and with a smaller loss of life than proved to be the case when the tactics of
Eisenhower and Bradley were followed. I could justify the Labour party’s attitude to this pact by citing similar examples. Our view is that Manus Island is Australian territory and that Australia is not prepared to surrender it, because its retention is absolutely vital to this country. Nevertheless, the conclusion of the proposed pact will give to Australia a degree of security. Australia and New Zealand, with their 11,000,000 white people, face a potential threat from the north, and anything that may buttress our position in this part of the world is worthy of support. For that reason we support the proposed pact.
In view of the Labour party’s record in Australian and American relationships it is puerile for honorable members opposite to claim that we are antiAmerican. Our attitude is consistent, as it has always been, in that we are not prepared to surrender one inch of Australian territory. Australia’s ‘war record entitles it to certain rights in the Pacific. As a result of that record Australia should not be patronized in any way by the larger powers. Our contribution in the war entitles us to be heard as equals and not as inferiors. We welcome this treaty because it will increase, our security in the Pacific and our confidence in the face of the difficulties that may beset us in the future. Let us not forget that if we were to be. completely isolated in the Pacific the foe that would be attacking us might easily be turned to an attack on the American mainland itself. Therefore, America, by strengthening the defensive capacity of nations in this part of the world, is making a contribution to its own defence. Whilst the Government appears to be overwhelmed with the spectacle of the might of America we say that the rights of Australia are superior to the might of America or any other nation.
– I support the bill because I consider it to be a great accomplishment of the Government to have been able to reach such a treaty with the United States of America. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) told us that we must not be servile. It is not possible for Australians to be servile. The Government is dealing with this matter not in any servile manner but as a partner in a pact designed to ensure peace in the Pacific and to increase our capacity to hold this continent as a white man’s country. When the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) started to speak in the debate I was heartened because he appeared to be repentant and to have changed his mind. It appeared to me that we were to receive the wholehearted support of the Opposition for the treaty. As he proceeded, however, it became apparent that he was merely damning the treaty with faint praise. The government of which he was a member restricted the movement of Australian troops northward to the equator and refused to allow them to accompany American troops in their victorious advance to Japan. Vet, the same government permitted many Australian lives to be lost at Wewak and Bougainville at a time when the Americans had sealed off the Japanese at those places and had virtually made prisoners of them.
Whilst we shall gain certain privileges under this pact, at the same time we must accept certain responsibilities. In view of the luke-warm support that the Opposition has given to its ratification, I emphasize that in return for such privileges we shall be expected to pull our weight under the treaty. Even to-day the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked a lengthy question which threw doubt upon the efficacy of the Government’s national service training scheme and from which one could only infer that the Opposition is prepared at any time to make party political capital out of defence matters.
Honorable members opposite have said repeatedly that they will not agree to the giving away of one square inch of Australian territory and that, for that reason, the Chifley Labour Government refused to allow the United States of America to share control of Manus Island. The fact is that the Americans did not want to gain complete control, but simply wished to share control of Manus Island, on which they had expended millions of pounds in establishing a base during World War II. At the time at which the negotiations to which I refer took place, the installations at that base were in fairly good order, but, mainly because of the attitude that the right honorable member for “Barton adopted, the American request was refused. The right honorable gentleman may have made an honest mistake in that respect. If he did he should have admitted frankly to the House that he had overplayed his hand in the belief that the Americans would abandon the base to Australia while it was still in working order. However, when the Americans had had enough from this little man from Australia and decided to pull out, they offered with characteristic generosity to sell the equipment to Australia at a comparatively low figure, but the then Labour Government apparently acted on the assumption that if it haggled over the transaction the Americans would simply let it have the equipment for nothing. But what happened ? After a proportion of the equipment had been made available to Chiang Kai-shek’s forces the remainder was destroyed.
When the Americans first made their offer to the Australian Government most of the installations, including airfields, could have been restored at comparatively small cost. Subsequently, when Manus Island was chosen as the venue’ for the trials of Japanese war criminals, the Government was obliged to construct huts to house the personnel concerned in those trials. At that time, the jungle had encroached upon the airfields on the island.
That was the attitude of the Opposition when it was in office. Yet, it now says that it will not agree to the giving away of one square inch of Australian territory. Let us see what the Chifley Labour Government did about New ‘Guinea and Papua. Whilst Papua was directly controlled by Australia, Kew Guinea was administered by us under a mandate from the League of Nations. Yet, following World War II., when the Leader of the Opposition was President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, he agreed that both Papua and New Guinea should be administered by Australia under a trusteeship from that organization.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. Those territories are vital to our defence, yet under that trusteeship representatives of any member of the United Nations, including Russia or any of its satellites, are entitled to inspect our defence preparations in that area. Honorable members opposite are responsible for our dilemma in that respect. They never cease to talk about the rights of small nations or to claim that they will not agree to the giving away of a square inch of Australian territory, yet they were instrumental in placing the vital territories of New Guinea and Papua under that trusteeship. To-day, we entertain fears about what might happen as a result of the disagreement between Indonesia and Holland concerning the control of Dutch New Guinea. We know very well that the Indonesians were able to form a republic and to eject the Dutch from Indonesia mainly because of the help that was given to them by the Chifley Labour Government. It has been said that the waterside workers dictated the policy of the Department of External Affairs when the right honorable member for Barton was Minister for External Affairs. I prefer to believe that the waterside workers actually carried out the policy of the department. The Indonesian Republic was formed with the blessing of the Chifley Government on the ground that small nations have the right of self-determination. That claim was groundless because that Government allowed the Indonesians to assume control of the island of Ambon against the wishes of the Ambonese who were regarded as being more Dutch than the Dutch themselves. To-day, as the result of action that the Chifley Government took at that time, the Ambonese are now being suppressed by the Indonesians. Approximately 17,000 Ambonese are living in Holland because they know that if they returned to Ambon the Indonesians would persecute them. In view of those facts one must doubt the sincerity of members of the Opposition when they plead for the rights of small nations and proclaim that they will not agree to the giving away of a square inch of Australian soil. The Chifley Labour Government was asked not to give away Australian territory but to share the control of Manus Island with an ally.
The honorable member for Martin alleged that some supporters of the
Government, when they were in Opposition, opposed the Curtin Government’s action in appealing to the United States of America for assistance against the Japanese in 1942. Such a claim is ridiculous. We remember the famous appeal that was made on the 26th January of that year to the effect that we must forget our attachment to Great Britain and look to America for aid. But what were the facts? Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Great Britain and the United States of America had agreed that Great Britain should assume chief responsibility for operations in the Atlantic and that the United States of America should be responsible for the defence of Allied interests in the Pacific. That fact was well known to the Curtin Government, but before it made its famous appeal to the United States of America, American officers had arrived in Melbourne to make preparations for the reception of American troops. This treaty is of immense value to Australia. However, I repeat that we cannot merely sit down behind it as the French sat down behind the Maginot line after the outbreak of the recent war. We must pull our weight, under this treaty. We must be prepared to defend ourselves and, if called upon to do so, to give effective assistance to our Allies.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. W. M. Bourke) adjourned.
– by leave - I inform the House that Cabinet to-day considered the claims of the sugar industry for approval by the Commonwealth of an early increase of the retail price of sugar. It found, first, that there was considerable difference of opinion about the cost movements since the last price adjustment, and, secondly, that a competent, impartial inquiry into the economics of the sugar industry was overdue. Cabinet, therefore, has made two decisions. The first is that representatives of the industry should at once be invited into conference with the relevant Commonwealth departments to discuss the measure of cost movements since the price rise in 1951, and what price increase, if any, is urgently warranted by those movements. This conference is to report to the Government within fourteen days, so that a prompt interim price adjustment can then be made.
The second decision is that a committee of inquiry be set up to examine the economics of the sugar industry. It will consist of the Commonwealth Prices Consultant, Mr. M. E. McCarthy, who will be the chairman, an officer of the Commonwealth Treasury, an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs, and, we propose, a representative of the Queensland Government. I have already been in communication with the Premier of Queensland on that matter. Evidence will be called, and the co-operation of persons who are able to assist the inquiry will be welcomed. The proposed terms of reference of the committee are as follows : -
The investigations of the committee should include a general survey of all branches of the Australian sugar industry, and particular examination of-
The investigation of the committee will be conducted in public, provided that the committee may accept information in confidence when, in the opinion of the committee, such a course is in the public interest. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Sugar - Price Increase - Committee of Inquiry - Ministerial statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
.- I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that one of the members of the committee of inquiry should be a representative of the Australian Workers Union.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed(vide page 732).
– The purpose of this bill is to ratify the security treaty that was signed by the representatives of Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America at San Francisco on the 1st September, 1951. This treaty is of the greatest importance to Australia, and all of us welcome it. At the beginning of the debate, I considered that, as this important treaty would affect the security of Australia in the Pacific, Government supporters would take the opportunity to state a constructive foreign policy for this country. However, they have not done so; instead, the House has witnessed a most disgraceful exhibition on the part of Government supporters who have devoted practically the whole of their time to personal attacks and vituperation against Opposition members, and particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
This afternoon, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made some completely absurd statements in which he accused members of the Labour party, all and sundry, of being guilty of treason in 1941-42. Of course, there is no need for me to reply to his absurd charges ; nevertheless, I point out that the Australian people when they had the opportunity to voice their opinion upon that matter at the general election in 1 943, expressed it in no uncertain manner by returning the Labour Government under the leadership of John Curtin with a record majority. The conduct of the war was entrusted by the people to the Labour Administration under Mr. Curtin, and the policy of that government in the following years of the war showed that the trust had not been placed in vain. The Labour Government lived up to its trust most adequately.
I do not propose to be side-tracked by the attacks made by Government supporters against the Leader of the Opposition regarding Manus Island. When the right honorable gentleman was Minister for External Affairs, he refused to surrender Australian sovereignty over that Pacific outpost, or to hand over Australian territory to another nation, unless it were on the basis of some general regional agreement covering all spheres of the Pacific. Because the right honorable gentleman was not prepared to surrender Australian sovereignty over Manus Island, he has been villified in this debate. Of course, no real evidence has been adduced to justify the charges made against him.
I shall now deal with the bill. Clause 2 states -
The Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America signed at San Francisco on the first day of September, One thousand nine hundred andfifty-one (being the treaty set out in the Schedule to this Act) is approved.
The provisions of the security treaty are set out in the schedule. Some of the recitals to the treaty are most interesting. They recognize the fact that Australia and New Zealand have obligations to the British Commonwealth of Nations and that all the signatories have wider obligations to the United Nations. The recitals read as follows : -
Recognizing that Australia and New Zealand as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations have military obligations outside as well as within the Pacific area.
Desiring to declare publicly and formally their sense of unity, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that any of them stand alone in the Pacific Areas.
Those words bring pleasure to the heart of every Australian. The recitals continue -
Desiring further to co-ordinate their efforts for collective defence for the preservation of peace and security pending the development of a more comprehensive system of regional security in the Pacific area.
The operative articles of the treaty are three in number. Each of the parties pledges itself, by means of continuous and effective self-help, to maintain and develop individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack. They agree to consult with one another when the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of them is threatened. Article IV. is, perhaps, the crux of the treaty, and is of the greatest importance to Australia. It states that each party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific on any of the parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety, and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its own constitutional processes. No provision in the treaty specifies action that, may be taken by any of the parties in the event of aggression in the Pacific, but the underlying principle is that an attack on one of the parties will be considered to be an attack upon the other parties. That is to say, the United States of America underwrites the defence of Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific.
I regard this document as a land-mark in the history of Australia. It is actually what the Labour Government was striving to secure when the future of Manus Island was under consideration. Australia and other members of the British Commonwealth were then endeavouring to obtain regional agreements covering the whole Pacific. Let us cast our minds back to the dark days of 1942, after Pearl Harbour, when Mal ava had been overrun and the Japanese were sweeping through Indonesia. Let us consider what the fate of Australia might have been had the battle of the Coral Sea. not stemmed the tide of the Japanese advance. When we remember those matters, we have reason to feel that this treaty is, indeed, an important land-mark in the history of Australian foreign relations.
The battle of the Coral Sea is worthy of special mention in this debate. A Japanese fleet, with many transports, was sweeping round the western tip of New Guinea. Some Allied experts say that it was bound for Port Moresby, whilst others believe that it was heading towards the coast of Queensland. Whatever its destination might have been, there is no doubt that, had it continued on its way unmolested, Australia would have been invaded by the Japanese, who would have occupied at least the northern part of our country. The Japanese landing was prevented, because American air and sea power was thrown into the battle, and smashed the Japanese fleet. Of course, we played our part after that battle. At Milne Bay, our soldiers were the first roops to check the Japanese troops on land, and the enemy was pushed back. But we must recognize, anc! I take this opportunity to direct public attention to the fact, that the United States of America saved Australia in those days.
Looking at the world to-day we cannot feel confident about the future. I do not consider that there is any danger of an immediate cataclysm in Europe. It. appears that, if serious trouble is to occur, the danger spot is South-East Asia. Geographically, Australia is closely related to Asia, and if trouble occurs in the southeastern part of that continent, we shall be close to the seat of it. We have only to read the news about events in IndoChina to realize that an explosion may occur in South-East Asia. If it should happen in Indo-China we shall be too close to the trouble to feel comfortable. I do not propose to discuss in detail the events in Indo-China. French troops have been resisting strongly, and have suffered heavy casualties. Whether that situation will develop into general trouble, or whether it will remain localized will depend largely upon decisions made in Peking and Moscow. Evidence points to the fact that well-equipped Chinese Communist troops are massed upon the common border between Indo-China and China. They apparently have the latest Soviet radar-controlled anti-aircraft artillery, which has had a deadly effect on French aircraft. They also appear to be equipped with American artillery captured by the Communists in Korea and sent to Indo-China. All the indications are that the forces that are threatening to break through in Indo-China are equipped, guided and controlled by Communist China and Soviet Russia. Should Indo-China fall to the Communists, there is little doubt that Burma, Thailand and Malaya would follow suit and that Indonesia would be in jeopardy. That would bring the threat very close to Australia. Because of these dangers and their proximity to us, it is essential that we should clarify our thoughts on foreign policy so that we shall know exactly where we are going.
I take this opportunity to state briefly what appears to me to be the principles upon which our foreign policy should be based. Australia is now a nation. Admittedly it is a small nation, but the conduct of our fighting forces in two world wars, which achieved results out of all proportion to their small numbers, has won for us a place beside the larger nations. Therefore, we should work out a foreign policy. I summarize our foreign policy under five headings. First, we should maintain the closest possible “co-operation with Great Britain and our fellow members of the British Commonwealth, particularly Canada, which is a Pacific power, and the new dominions of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, which are our close neighbours. Secondly, we should continue to support the United Nations in its efforts to establish a world security system that will maintain peace. Thirdly, we should recognize the fact that we are essentially a Pacific nation and that, therefore, our interests, and perhaps our very existence in the generations ahead, are inextricably interwoven with the interests of our near neighbours in Asia - those 1,000,000,000 coloured peoples who live to the north of us. Fourthly, we should recognize the fact that we are a small nation with a small population and small resources. Therefore, in the event of any world-wide conflagration, we could not stand alone. Fifthly, we should maintain the closest possible ties with the United States of America.
I deplore the attacks that are so frequently made in Australia upon the United States of America, and I take advantage of this opportunity to state my view in this Parliament. We hear a great deal of nonsense talked about United States imperialism. That line of propa ganda is being peddled constantly in Australia. Much of it emanates from the Communist party and the remainder is disseminated, perhaps, by persons who have been deluded by the Communists. This abuse of the United States of America is unwarranted. Undoubtedly that country has made a number of mistakes in international affairs since, the end of World War II., and weaknesses have been apparent in its policy. For example, I believe that the blunders that the United States of America committed in post-war China were catastrophic. The ineptitude of United States foreign policy contributed to a great degree to the Communist successes that have clamped a military dictatorship upon China. The Labour party hopes that the United States of America has not made another great blunder in discontinuing the occupation of Japan and granting to that country the right of unlimited rearmament. Nevertheless, it is fitting that we should pay tribute to the United .States of America for the great contributions that it has made to the peace, progress and security of the world since the end of World War II. So-called American imperialism is vastly different from the sort of imperialism that we read about at school. During the last few hundred years, the imperialists were regarded as those people who penetrated backward countries, exploited native populations, and took all the wealth that they could obtain without putting anything back in return for their gains. Various European powers indulged in imperialism of that type, but that era has now passed.
There is an imperialism of another type in the modern world of which we hear very little. That is the Red or Russian type of imperialism. Since 1939, the Soviet Union has annexed outright 180,000 square miles of territory populated by 18,500,000 people. That territory once included three fine little democratic countries - Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia - which were swallowed and incorporated in the Soviet Union. The annexation also included parts of Poland, Finland, Roumania and China. The Soviet Union has taken complete control of Eastern Europe through satellite countries and thereby has gained power over an additional 100,000,000 people. That is the imperialism that threatens the world today! The United States of America, which has been accused so freely of pursuing an imperialistic policy, has handed over billions of dollars in order to provide economic aid for other nations. It poured its money into Europe so liberally that Europe was enabled to rehabilitate itself. It has bolstered the economies of all the free nations of the world. Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have not heard the full story of America’s aid to other countries told in this House. Details of this American programme are contained in a booklet entitled Fifty Facts on Foreign Policy, published by the Labour party of Great Britain. It summarizes the facts in these few short, sharp sentences -
Since the war America has contributed over 30,000 million dollars worth of goods to other countries : 18,000 million dollars in Unrra and Marshall Aid. 9,000 million dollars in various loans and credits. 3,400 million dollars to the International Bank and Monetary Fund.
Britain alone received £1,800 million.The 1946 loan gave us £11,000 million for vital food, machinery and raw materials.
In 1949 Marshall Aid was 2.5 . per cent of Britain’s national income and bought us 12 per cent of all our imports, 67 per cent of all our dollar imports.
The figures are not up to date, but they tell an impressive story.
Where has this money come from? It does not grow on trees in the United States of America. All the money that has been poured out in an attempt to restore stability to a battered world and strengthen the forces of freedom has been provided by the American taxpayers. Those taxpayers, I imagine, are not different from Australian taxpayers, and they are protesting against the high rates of tax that are imposed upon them. The Melbourne Herald yesterday published a despatch from Washington that included the following statement: -
President Truman will broadcast this week to explain to Americans why he wants them to give an average of £24 each for arms and dollar aid for other countries of the free world.
In other words, on the average, every United States citizen will contribute £24 during the current year in order that this programme of assistance to other countries may be continued. The United States of America has made a magnificent contribution to peace and stability in the world and, notwithstanding the errors that it has made, it deserves great praise and the gratitude of the free world.
From the Australian point of view, the Opposition welcomes the Pacific pact. The United States of America has given to our country a guarantee that, in the event of aggression in the Pacific, it will come to our aid. We welcome that guarantee because we regard it as the corner-stone of our security in the Pacific. Co-operation and friendship between Australia and the United States of America is vital to us. From a world point of view, looking at international affairs on a broader canvas, I believe that close co-operation between the United States of America and Great Britain is the corner-stone on which world peace will rest. Those two great powers are divided by certain differences of policy, but we sincerely hope that those differences will be ironed out and that there will be permanent co-operation and friendship between them. The United States of America has great material resources and it has been placed in the position of world leadership. But it has been elevated to that position very recently, and American directors of foreign policy and diplomats lack experience in exercising the great influence that they are now able to wield. A combination of the United States of America and Great Britain augurs well for the peace and prosperity of the. world. The experience, tact and knowledge of British diplomats, which have been acquired over many years, combined with the great resources and power of the United States of America, can do much to achieve lasting peace and give to the peoples of the world the opportunity to achieve freedom and to seek happiness.
– The physical security of Australia depends upon a number of factors. It depends upon adequate population and development within its shores; it depends upon our willingness to make the sacrifices that are. necessary to provide for our defence hy denying ourselves civil requirements; it depends upon our having strong allies; finally, it depends upon the continued existence of a condition of international affairs in which we shall not be threatened by the presence of a hostile power in our near north. Having regard to the importance of the final factor, I propose to refer extensively to New Guinea.
New Guinea has enormous significance for Australia because it can well be said that he who holds New Guinea holds Australia. Therefore, when we consider the security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America with which this bill deals, our policy in respect of Papua and New Guinea must come under searching examination. Such an examination throws light on the deeds and the omissions of the. present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) during the period when he was Minister for External Affairs. It can only give rise to wonder and the utmost condemnation. New Guinea and Papua are not two separate lands. They are in the same relationship to one another as are New South Wales and Queensland, except that there is no fence between, merely jungle and mountain range. How is it that Papua is ours as sovereign territory, and New Guinea is not?
I consider it to be necessary to trace the historical background of this matter. In 1880, there was no Commonwealth, but the defence importance of New Guinea to Australia was then realized by the State Premiers. Strong representations were made by the Premiers of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to the then British Government to annex to the British Crown this territory, only 100 miles from Australia - it can almost be seen across the Torres Strait - which, apart from Dutch New Guinea, was then open to seizure by the first country that wished to take it. The British Government,, however,. 13,000 miles away, and with little understanding of the Australian point of view and of New Guinea’s importance to us, was adamant in its refusal to do anything. It was deeply involved already throughout the world, particularly in Africa, and finally, when London would do nothing, the Queensland Premier of the day, Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, despatched an expedition under Mr. Henry M. Chester to New Guinea under orders to take possession in the name of Her Majesty “pending decision “ by the Imperial Government, and on the 4th April, 1883, Mr. Chester hoisted the Union Jack at Port Moresby. Sir Thomas McIlwraith decided to go further and annex the remainder of the unclaimed territory, but was again restrained by London, which had already disapproved of his action. It is interesting to recall that it was the white-hot sentiment that was aroused throughout Australia over the New Guinea affair that caused the beginning of the movement which led finally to federation. That movement began in 1884.
While this controversy between the States and London was proceeding, the German Chancellor, Bismarck, acted swiftly and planted the German flag at Rabaul and on the mainland. We had lost our first chance of unifying Papua and the remainder of New Guinea under the sovereign authority of Australia. The Australian legislators of that day, who had done their utmost, had failed, hut nol because of lack of foresight. The story moves then to the next stage. The first world war broke out on the 4th August, 1914, and an Australian expeditionary force was immediately despatched to Rabaul. The first Australian blood shed, in that war was spilled there. The first Australians who died in that war lie buried there. We were not to be permitted to remain there without challenge after the war. At the Versailles peace conference in 1919 Australia’s representative, the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes, secured the mandate, but only after weeks of strenuous opposition. That is a story worth telling some day, but time does not permit of its being told to-night. If ever a country owed a debt to a single individual in respect of a single act, Australia owes one to William Morris Hughes for his valiant efforts at that time. Suffice it to say that we got the mandate. Twenty-five years’ later,’ iti’ 1939, World War II. broke out and it was our toehold in New Guinea, secured for us by Sir Thomas Mcllwraith and Mr. W. M. Hughes, our toehold at Port Moresby and Milne Bay, which prevented Japan from establishing a final springboard which would have enabled it to invade Australia. But the price that we paid to hold New Guinea was high. The price was 6,000 Australian dead. No nation had a greater right to claim territory that is essential to its security than nas Australia to claim New Guinea.
The end of World War II. provided us “with another opportunity to secure New Guinea for Australia, free from all the involvements of trusteeship, and to make it sovereign Australian territory as is Papua. We sacrificed the chance. We passed over the real authority in New Guinea to the Persian, the Egyptian, the Cuban and the Pole - to the representatives of any nation that might for the time being be a member of the Trusteeship Council. The responsibility for that state of affairs rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the then Minister for ^External Affairs. With the ending of World War II., the League of Nations went out of existence. It passed its final resolutions, which dissolved itself, on the 18th April, 1946, and among other resolutions was one in these terms -
Takes note of the expressed intentions of the members of the League now administering Territories under mandate to continue to administer them for the well being and the development of the peoples concerned.
Has there ever been any question about the integrity of Australia in the administration of New Guinea or about its concern for the people under this authority? This date, the 18th April, 1946, is important. The new organization, the trusteeship ‘Council of the United Nations, was not then in existence. It did not come into existence until six months later. New Guinea was one of the first territories voluntarily delivered into its trusteeship, the agreement having been signed on the 13th December, 1946. It should be noted, too, that this agreement was not presented to the Parliament until March, 1949, more than two years later, when it was too late for the Parliament to <do anything about it. This period between the demise of the old master and the emergence of a new was the time of Australia’s opportunity. We were free at last to act as we considered our interests required. New Guinea automatically was ours. South Africa under Field-Marshal Smuts - and can anybody say that he was not a world figure or that he had no sense of moral obligation? - saw its chance and took it. It refused to place German South-West Africa under further trusteeship. Cuba, Persia, Egypt and so on took South Africa to the International Court of Justice at The Hague to compel it to hand over the mandates. In July, 1950, the court decided that the provisions of the Charter were applicable to the territory of SouthWest Africa in the sense that they provided a means by which the territory might be brought under the trusteeship system, but did not impose on the Union of South Africa a legal obligation to place the territory under the trusteeship system.
Our case was far stronger. We should have said, “ New Guinea has been bought by our blood ; it is essential to our security; we intend to hand it over to no one “. But despite the fine words of the Leader of the Opposition on Thursday last, when he said, “I cannot understand the mentality of Australians who do not want to retain Australian territories “, we did hand it over. We received the plaudits of Argentina, Venezuela and Guatemala. We took a conditional lease where we should have insisted on a freehold title. Australia lost New Guinea but an Australian became President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Australia was the only country which thus disposed of strategic territory. Ruanda, Togoland., Tanganyika and Western Samoa, held by Belgium, France, Great Britain and New Zealand respectively, and placed under trusteeship, have not the remotest similarity in relationship to the national security of those countries as has New Guinea to Australia. Even the United States of America, in respect of the former Japanese mandate of the Marshall and Caroline Islands, which are 4,000 miles from its shores, refused to vest them in the Trusteeship Council. Japan insisted on strategic provisions which are annexation in all but name.
By contrast, Australia’s authority over New Guinea is now strictly limited. We must each year secure approval of the Trusteeship Council to our every action. The representation on the Council changes from time to time. To Irak, China, Egypt, Russia and Poland, among others, we have to submit our accounts. Periodically, representatives of these countries inspect New Guinea to see what we are doing - possibly also to observe our defence measures.
Article 76 of the Charter of the United Nations, the second of the articles in the Charter relating to the trusteeship system, is -
The basic objectives of the trusteeship system . . . shall be: Section (ti)- - To unsure equal treatment in social, economic an<l commercial matters for all members on the United Nations and their nationals. . . .”’
We have had reason to have that clause interpreted. It means that we cannot give commercial preference to our own nationals in the. development of the territory that is not equally available to the Russians, the Chinese or anybody else even though the Australian taxpayers are finding millions of pounds a year for our administration. Last year the cost to Australia was approximately £7,000,000. We should never have been placed in this position. That we are, is an indictment of those responsible.
– We can always withdraw.
– There is no provision in the Charter of the Trusteeship Council for withdrawal. We are fixed there permanently. I shall now refer to Manus Island, which is also a part of the New Guinea trusteeship territory. When the Americans recaptured Manus Island in February, 1944, they converted it into a huge naval and air base to mount their attack against Hollandia and the Philippines. In this prodigious effort, the Americans spent more than 200,000,000 dollars or between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 Australian currency. The work included wharfs and floating docks, four great air-fields, living quarters for 150,000 men and a 3,000 bed hospital, great engineering works and huge stores of fuel and supplies. Their establishment included also two huge floating docks each capable of handling 40,000 ton battleships. Those docks have disappeared.
When the war ended, the United States of America began negotiations with the Australian Government for. the permanent retention of Manus Island as a base and as one of a chain of such American bases stretching from the Aleutians through Guam and tha Marianas to Manus. Such a network; of bases would screen not only the west, coast of America but also the northern’ gateway of Australia. The Americanshad long had this conception and theAmerican Congress was so intent on implementing such a plan that it despatched a congressional committee to report in 1945 even before the war ended. The committee travelled over 20,000 miles in the Pacific. Among other recommendations, it reported in favour of Manus Island as a permanent base if agreement could be secured with the Australian Government. The report recommended that Manus and other suggested Pacific bases should be kept in a state of preparedness. All this information is obtainable from the documents of the United Nations Organization, the American Congress, the League of Nations and other authorities. At a press conference in Washington on the 6th September, 1945, a week or two after the Congressional Committee’s report, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Henschel,, named Manus Island as a base on which the United States of America was prepared to spend the large sum of money necessary for maintenance. But -
The. best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.
The United States of America had reckoned without the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who was then Australia’s Minister for External Affairs. America did not ask for annexation as honorable members would be led to believe. It merely asked for rights of establishment without reducing Australia’s authority in any way. It would have paid Australia a million times over to agree. Australia has neither the resources nor the military, naval and air power to do the job itself. Unfortunately, at that period Australia’s Minister for
External Affairs pf the day was emerging as an architect of the United Nations and he had grandiose ideas. The Australian Government would not consider the United States request unless America was prepared to become a party to a regional defence pact. Australia apparently thought that because America was anxious, it could hold a gun. The United States of America refused to comply with its wish. A regional pact would have involved it in other entanglements which at that time it was not prepared to accept.
About that time the terms of the proposed New Guinea trusteeship were being canvassed and the United States of America suggested that under such trusteeship agreement permission should be sought by Australia for the United States of America to share the Manus Island base. Could anything have been more reasonable and more advantageous to Australia? At no time did the United States of America ask to have sole control of Manus Island, to deprive Australia of territorial sovereignty. All that it asked was the right to share in the defence cf the Admiralty Islands. But the Chifley Government continued to harp about regional agreements and reciprocal rights, and was even able to secure the endorsement of this view at a Prime Ministers conference in London in 1946. It is noteworthy that no other government had any real interest in this matter except those of the United States of America and Australia. Did the United Kingdom Government call a Prime Ministers conference and seek endorsement when it entered into the North Atlantic pact with the United States of America? Finally, after the United States of America had negotiated for a whole year, its patience broke and in January, 1947, Admiral Louis Denfeld visited Canberra and informed the Australian Government that the United States of America had changed its strategic conceptions and was no longer interested in Manus Island.
Last August I visited Manus Island. There is a small Royal Australian Air Force detachment there and a handful of men looking after one runway. The other runways have been overgrown by the .jungle. In the harbour where SOO ships once rode only a single rickety jetty remains. A small group of naval personnel looks after some buildings and some officers of the Works and Housing Department, who are handicapped by lack of labour and materials, are slowly trying to rebuild as far as our resources will permit us to do so; Decay, corrosion, rust and ruin greet the eye at every turn. Huge fuel installations are rusty scrap iron, penetrated with holes, and except for small areas that are being maintained by stout efforts, the jungle creeps over all. Australia could never do in a generation what the Americans could do in a few months with the vast resources at their disposal. They were anxious to stay, but we froze them out. Our northern gateway is opened. What could have been a mighty bastion of our defence is once again just another coral island with a harbour. On one man, and one man alone, responsibility for this tragedy rests. That is the Minister of the day, the exMinister for External Affairs, who is now the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I am the seventeenth speaker in this debate and all of us support the bill. But we support it for different reasons. Because the members of the Government parties have not seen fit to speak the truth about the negotiations in regard to Manus Island, it has been necessary for one member of the Labour party after another to answer their grotesque and numerous misrepresentations. This is a treaty which, honorable members are told, will preserve peace in the Pacific. To honorable members on the Opposition side this treaty is merely a sop that has been given by the United States of America to Australia and New Zealand in return for the easy compliance of the representatives of those nations with the American request that they should sign along the dotted line. There is no evidence of any struggle having been put up against the rearmament of Japan, these representatives were told that if they signed the document, the United States of America would agree to negotiate a treaty with Australia. The United States of America has not yet ratified that treaty or the Japanese peace treaty. We have no guarantee that it will ratify either or both of them.
But the wording of the Pacific treaty, which is the subject-matter of this debate, differs widely from the wording of the North Atlantic pact which was passed by the American Congress. There is an obligation on the United States of America and on all the other participants in the European treaty to go to each other’s aid. The only guarantee that is given in the Pacific treaty is that the nations will consult in common and that they will discuss the matters that affect their common well-being. There is no real obligation in the treaty on anybody and on some grounds it would be better to have no treaty at all. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said recently that Australia and the United States of America did not need written agreements as to what their respective attitudes would be in the event of a Pacific war, because the United States of America came to our aid after Pearl Harbour and Australia gave back all that it could give in return to win the common victory. In any future cataclysm that may occur, the United States of America will not find Australia wanting.
What every honorable member on this side of the House protests about is the effort of the anti-Labour forces in this Parliament and of their press backers to present this document as being one of tremendous international and world-wide importance when, as a matter of fact, it was merely thrown at the representatives of Australia and New Zealand in return for their agreement that our former Japanese enemy should be rearmed. And that might mean that he will ravage this country at some future date. Honorable members on the Government side are extraordinary people, Mr. Speaker. You know it better than I do because you have been here longer than I have been and have more intimate associations with those honorable members than I ever want to have. They cannot see Australia as a free and independent nation equal in membership with every other member State of the British Commonwealth of Nations. They have satellite mentalities. They have to be either satellites of Downing-street or satellites of Wallstreet. They always require a master to tell them what to do. They can never think or act independently, and their conduct in the course of this debate and of a previous debate is typical of their attitude throughout the war years and in the pre-war years. Those people who complain about our not having given away Manus Island to the Americans are the very people who did not want to bring the three Australian divisions back from North Africa to Australia in 1942 to defend this country in the islands in the neighbourhood of our homeland. Although they say that we should have given away Manus Island they are the very people who say also that we should have annexed New Guinea. What confused thinking is involved in that proposition? The Postal asterGeneal (Mr. Anthony) argued in favour of the annexation of South-West Africa by the Union of South Africa. He said that Field-Marshal Smuts was responsible for that action, and that it was a good action.
– It was disallowed by the Permanent Court of the World Court at The Hague.
– Yes. The World Court ruled against the whole proposition. Such actions represent only a reappearance of imperialism, and a form of Mafeking imperialism at that. The Postmaster-General has the imperialism of Mafeking Night, although that night passed into history more than 50 years ago. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not seem to know the exact position of Australia in the world to-day. We are a nation. We have not sacrificed New Guinea. The Australian flag still flies over New Guinea. The Australian administrative writ still runs in New Guinea. When the Postmaster-General said that we should have annexed New Guinea just as Field-Marshal Smuts annexed German South-West Africa and, in effect, told the United Nations that we did not care what it thought about the matter, he was speaking the language of anarchy. If this Government believes in such policies then why has it troops fighting under the United Nations flag in Korea at the present moment? Why has it such a contempt for the United Nations, and why is it so much opposed to that organization? Australia still holds New Guinea. When the Postmaster-General talks about the deeds of Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, and about the marvellous thing we did in annexing without bloodshed that part of New Guinea which we know as Papua, he forgets that the man that he has praised in that connexion was the’ very same man who brought kanakas into the sugar-fields in Queensland. He is no hero for Australians to remember. The Postmaster-General forgets also that the anti-Labour Legislative Council of South Australia in the 1870’s offered the Northern Territory to the Japanese. Fortunately for Australia the Japanese Emperor was otherwise engaged at that time or we might not now hold this country. Honorable members opposite did not want the Statute of Westminster either. They just cannot think with an Australian outlook.
I shall now refer to that famous newspaper article that has been mentioned already, make some observations upon it and point out its peculiarities. It was published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st January, 1951, and the information on which it was based either was stolen f vow. the Department of External Affairs, was given by some official of that department to the Sydney Morning Herald to enable it to make an attack on the present Leader of the Opposition and the Government led by the late Mr. Chifley, or was handed out by Mr. Spender, the predecessor of the present Minister for External Affairs, who is now our Ambassador in Washington. It certainly did not, of its own motion, walk out of the files in Canberra and find its way into Hunter-street in Sydney. The article read -
The American proposals for use of Pacific bases was discussed in London at the first post-war Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference in April-May, 1046.
The Prime Ministers rejected the idea of bilateral agreements with the United States.
That is the statement. Commenting upon it, some honorable members opposite have said, “What an anti-British mob they were ! “ They were referring to the Prime Ministers of the nations of the British Commonwealth. The article continued -
Sources close to the conference then said that the Prime Ministers favoured instead the establishment of “ regional arrangements “ for security in which the United States should be “ invited to participate.”
What was wrong with that, when equals were dealing with equals? What could have been wrong with it in 1951 when, in 1952, we are being asked to approve a regional agreement? The article continued -
But when America was “ invited to participate “ in four-party talks to this end, the Secretary of State politely rejected the invitation. The United States, he said, was not interested in establishing any system of regional defence i” the South-West Pacific.
So if the United States of America has changed its mind, the people who inspired that article for the purpose of attacking the Leader of the Opposition were wrong. The Leader of the Opposition was the first and only president of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I do not see any honorable member on the Government side who is ever likely to be a candidate, let alone a successful candidate, for such an office. The article also stated -
On March 20, 1046, the American Department of State presented to the Australian Legation in Washington a memorandum suggesting informal conversations with representatives of the Australian Government concerning the desire of the United States to obtain in the Admiralty Islands long-term base rates to be shared jointly with Australia Two documents were attached to the memorandum. The first was a preliminary draft of a proposed agreement on bases between the United States and Australia. The second was a draft of clauses for inclusion in any trusteeship agreement for New Guinea, proposed by the United States as “a State directly concerned “. (Manus formed part of the old New Guinea mandate, and now forms part of the New Guinea trusteeship.)
How did the Sydney Morning Herald know that? Documents exchanged between governments are not normally given to the press. The Sydney Morning Herald could have gained cognizance of the document if it had been presented to it by some one in authority who misused his office. That is our charge, and we shall find out, when we regain office, the identity of the person who gave that document to the Sydney Morning Herald
– You will find out in a quarter of an hour.
– I shall if you supply me with the documents concerning the matter.
– Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will please address me.
– I have been doing what I thought sensible, Mr. Speaker. The Minister interrupted me and I merely told him that when we come into power we shall find out all the facts about this document. If the Government will not appoint a royal commission to inquire into the matter, then we shall appoint our own body to investigate it, and we shall bring the present Australian Ambassador to Washington back from the United States of America - by the scruff ofthe neck, if necessary.
– Order !
– Well, sir, we shall. The article from which I have been quoting continued -
After the Conference of Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth, Dr. Evatt went to Washington.
What an offence ! The article continued -
There, in June, 1946, he discussed the question of bases with high American officials.
What a further offence ! It read further -
The newspaper report said - “ He swept aside American suggestions for ‘piecemeal bilateral arrangements about particular bases’, and made it plain that Australia would only consider granting American post-war rights in Manus on two conditions:
Thatsuch an arrangement should form part of a wide regional defence pact.
That the arrangement should not be ‘ onesided ‘, but that Australia should have reciprocal rights in American Pacific bases.
He pointed out to the Americans, notfor the first or the last time, that Australia’s position as a major Pacific Power entitled her, in effect, to full equality of treatment in any such arrangement.”
In the eyes of the Government and of the Sydney Morning Herald he is to be condemned for that. In the minds of all right and clear thinking Australians he is to be commended for the stand that he took on the matter. He was not alone in his point of view because, unfortunately for the members of the Government, his stand was supported by no less a figure than the late Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blarney, then General Blarney. Is FieldMarshal Sir Thomas Blarney to be regarded by those people who have maligned and misrepresented the stand of the
Chifley Government on this matter as having been anti-British or antiAmerican? Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blarney went on record, in the Melbourne Argus of the 10th April, 1946, as having said -
Australia must retain control of Manus Island to the north of New Guinea at all costs.
Surely Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blarney knew more about the matter than do a number of people whom I might mention. Surely his opinion in relation to such a proposal was worth more than that of the former Minister for External Affairs, whom we suspect of having given the document to some of the armchair generals in the office of the Sydney Morning Herald.
– I shall answer that later.
– The Minister will have to do so. The article in the Argus continued - “ One glance at the map will show that Manus Island is of no use to America as a base against any Asiatic enemy,” General Blarney said. “ It is 2,000 miles south of a line drawn from San Francisco to Tokyo. America controls islands for bases against attacks from Japan to Asia. Manus Islandwould be suitable only for a base to stop an attack from Australia, or, in the other direction, as a base for an attack on Australia. Geographically, Manus Island stands as a dagger threatening New Guinea and Australia.”
General Blarney said his comments must not be construed as unfriendliness towards America. A realistic, long-range view must be taken on matters of national importance.
Who would dispute the late Field Marshal’s opinion in that connexion?
– The honorable member has done it before now.
– No, I have not. The article continued -
Australia must control Pacific bases south of the equator. A brief study of history showed how, within say 50 years friendship between nations could change. Possession of a strategic base close to Australia by a powerful America might some day be a reason for unfriendliness.
I much prefer to accept Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blarney’s opinion on the matter than that of any of the muckrakers in any newspaper office, government department, or ministerial office, who would seek to exploit a situation such as that created by the former Minister for External Affairs to the detriment of this nation. We are entitled to our rights as a nation and should not subordinate them to those of any other nation, no matter how friendly we may be with it or how friendly we may wish to remain with it. Not only FieldMarshal Sir Thomas Blarney supported the stand of the Leader of the Opposition. Admiral Sir Louis Hamilton, who was Chief of the Naval Staff in Australia, a distinguished British officer who remained here until after the war, also supported that view, as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) who was Minister for the Navy during the war, could tell the House. Admiral Hamilton told his Minister at the time -
Australia should never let go of Manus Island, because it is the Scapa Flow of the Pacific.
What were we to do? Were we to disregard the advice given by our first soldier and our first sailor, who were advising the Chiefs of Staff in London, of which the Australian .Chiefs of Staffs formed a component part, at the Prime Ministers conference in 1946, that we should continue to hold Manus Island? If we had disregarded that very sound advice we could justly have been attacked for deserting the best interests of Australia. Because we did follow their advice we ought to be supported for what we did, and not attacked by those people who now find something wrong with the United Nations. It is a strange mentality which makes them talk on one day of the United Nations as a foreign power and, on another day, about money that comes from Great Britain as foreign money. They have a queer mentality, and, as I am reminded by my leader, the Korean war negatives everything they say against the United Nations. As a Labour government, we made our decision clear on this matter, because in 1946 Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, declared -
Behind the Federal Government’s determination to retain control of Manus Island, in the Admiralty Group, is the long-range view that it might bc needed some day as an Empire base in a Pacific war not involving America.
That view is sound, too. We cannot be certain that the United States of America will always be with us, and if we surrendered Manus Island and an isolationist group were in control of American foreign policy in Congress we should have to fight with Manus Island as a danger instead of its continuing to be what it is at present, a protection to us. Mr. Chifley continued -
Dr. Evatt, External Affairs Minister, had said in Sydney the Australian Government would never consent to handing over an inch of territory under its control. Dr. Evatt was voicing Cabinet views decided before he went abroad. We are quite agreeable to America having the use of Manus facilities if reciprocal arrangements can be made for the use of (facilities in American territory.
Americans do not want to be mixed up in outside wars and Australia may some day find itself alone in a war where Manus might be a needed base. No agreement will be made which will deny us in any way the full use of essential bases.
I suppose that supporters of the Government will not deride the name of the present Prime Minister of Great Britain. I suppose that on occasions they will quote him as having said that he was not going to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire. I take this extract from the Argus of the 2nd February, 1946, when Mr. Churchill was engaged in a controversy with Mr. Attlee -
Mr. Churchill was once heard to say that we entered both world wars with no thought of territorial aggrandisement; but that our record was such that he was damned if we had done anything to deserve to part with any of our territories.
If Churchill would not give away any part of British territory, why should we give away any part of Australia, which is an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations? It is idle for supporters of the Government to invoke the name of the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) in respect of the part that he played in keeping the Japanese out of New Guinea after World War I. He showed- in a speech in a recent debate that he was opposed to the Japanese and that, generally, he thinks along the same lines as does the Opposition with regard to them. He does not trust the Japanese; neither do members of the Opposition. The Japanese may rise again and Manus Island may become of great importance some day-
– Not in the condition in which the Labour Government left it.
– We let the Americans use Manus Island, and when we tried to make an agreement with them they handed over a considerable quantity of equipment to the Chinese on terms that the latter accepted. If the view that was expressed in 1946 by Mr. Magnusson, who was a member of the American House of Representatives Naval Affairs Subcommittee on Pacific bases, can be taken as any guide, the Americans wanted us to cede to them Manus Island and every base which they had used in the Pacific during World War II. Under the League of Nations trusteeship we could not fortify Manus Island before World War II. Under similar trusteeships, the Japanese did fortify islands in the Pacific, but they did so in defiance of the League of Nations. We did not fortify territories which we controlled under trusteeships that we held from the League. Under the trusteeship arrangement that we now have with the United Nations we can fortify these territories. Only a few days ago, the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) complimented the Chifley Government for having established a Royal Australian Air Force base on Manus Island and proudly declared that he was going to extend that base. With equal pride he announced that he would arrange for a delegation of members of all parties in this House and in the Senate to visit Manus Island in order that they might learn what the Chifley Government had done and what the present Government is doing.
At any rate, we upheld the Australian point of view. We kept the Australian flag high. We have not the inferior complex exhibited to a certain degree by the present Minister for External Affairs and to a much greater degree by his predecessor. We did surrender Australia’s rights and hand over Australian territory. We did say, in effect, to other nations, whether they be big or small, “ You can take something else and then some day maybe you will help us to defend this country against attack”. We believe in the principle of Australia first and in that of maintaining our position with dignity and honour. Nothing that the Labour party has done with regard to Manus Island, by the verdict of history, will be regarded as anti-Australian or nonAustralian. Honorable members opposite, who have used this debate as an opportunity to attack the right honorable member for Barton, have done a grave disservice to Australia. There is a good case for this treaty and we are glad that at long last the Americans have come round to the view that the right honorable gentleman advocated in 1946 when he was Minister for External Affairs. If the Americans had listened to him then, we could have made a mutual arrangement with regard to Manus Island; but many people in the United States of America, in the full flush of victory, wanted to dictate. We put our position calmly and dispassionately. We now have the satisfaction of knowing that what we did, we did with the backing of all the Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth of Nations and of the Chiefs of Staff of the fighting forces in Great Britain and in all the Dominions. That being so, what we did could not have been wrong.
– in reply - I should think that any member of the Australian public who may have been listening to this debate would be in somewhat of a quandary to know what this House has been discussing because from members of the Opposition there has been too little reference to the matter at issue, which is the tripartite Pacific security agreement. Honorable members opposite have concentrated almost entirely on the subject of Manus Island, and it would be a little difficult for the average member of the public to realize that the House has been discussing a bill to ratify the Pacific pact between the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand which is probably the most important single measure that has been introduced in this House since the end of World War II. It would be very easy for me to adopt a “highly controversial note in winding up the second-reading debate on this bill. Heaven knows, the debate has been one-sided enough from the point of view of honorable members opposite; but I have no desire to follow their example or to exacerbate feelings in this discussion. It has been fairly dreadful generally so far as the contribution of almost all honorable members opposite are concerned. I believe that if I were to give myself free rein in expressing myself I should derive a certain degree of personal satisfaction, because quite untenable things have been said that should not have been said, about myself and the Government. But I shall endeavour to exercise a considerable degree of restraint, because I still believe that it is of great importance that the foreign policy in every civilized country in its major aspects should be put as far as possible outside the bounds of party political controversy. That is the attitude that is adopted in Great Britain, in the United States of America and in almost every other civilized country. I shall deny myself a considerable measure of personal satisfaction by refusing to “ let my hair down”. The public interest will best be served if I adopt the attitude of restraint and avoid taking advantage of many of the opportunities of the kind to which I have referred that are now presented to me. That is not to say that I shall accept many of the statements that have been made by honorable members opposite. As far as it is humanly possible to do so, I shall adopt a non-controversial attitude; but there .are a number of things that have been thrown up by the Opposition which I shall have to answer.
I must apologize to the House if I am obliged, particularly in the early part of my speech, to say much about Manus Island because honorable members opposite have devoted at least threequarters of their debating time to that subject. Without naming individual members of the Opposition, I say that charges have been made that they were asked by the Americans to hand over Manus Island, to give up Australian territory unconditionally and to give away Australian territory. None of those charges against the United States of America even begins to be true. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), when referring to Manus Island, used the terms - “ Hand over “, “ Give Australian territory away unconditionally “, and “ under conditions under which Australia would not have the right to use Manus Island in the future “. He also said that he would not agree to Australian territory “ being taken out of our control “. Those terms were used by not only the Leader of the Opposition, but also some of his colleagues. The simple facts are that the United States of America, in the person of the American Secretary of State - not through the mouth of any office boy in the department; - suggested in formal discussions in early March, 1946, that the United States of America might be given long-term base rights on Manus Island to be shared jointly with Australia. Those are the terms of the American request; and words mean what they say. The United States of America asked for the joint use of Manus Island. It did not ask for sovereignty, or that we should divest ourselves of any Australian territory.
What happened when that request was made by the American Secretary of State? I am choosing my words with care and am not speaking in any controversial spirit. A proposal had been made by the United States of America for the joint use of this great base in which the Americans had invested not 200,000,000 dollars, as has been said, but from 500,000,000 dollars to 600,000,000 dollars, and the Leader of the Opposition, who was then Minister for External Affairs, taking his cue from this request replied with the proposal, for which I do not blame him, that the matters to be discussed should be broadened into the reciprocal use of a number of bases in the Pacific, some of which, I think, he named. He attempted to get a broad regional arrangement in the Pacific with the United States of America.
– That is quite correct.
– That, if I may say so with great respect, was a perfectly justifiable thing to attempt. The United States of America was then, as it is now, the most powerful single nation on earth, whereas we were, and still are, a relatively small nation numerically although we have an importance that far exceeds that of our numbers. The matter went on for fifteen months in the atmosphere of discussing, not whether this joint use of Manus Island should take place, but solely whether it should be broadened into a regional arrangement in the Pacific. For practical purposes the joint use of Manus Island was not discussed again. I do not blame the right honorable gentleman for that condition of affairs. It was an ambitious approach. Had it come off, it would have been a feather in his cap. But it did not come off. The United States of America was in no mood and temper in 1946 to broaden its responsibilities in the South-West Pacific. If I may make any charge against the right honorable gentleman, and I do so with great restraint, it is that he over-played his hand. He aimed too high, and misjudged the temper and mood of the United States of America at that time. It is not to his discredit that he failed to get a regional arrangement in the Pacific. The Americans cooled off. Within a year or fifteen months, they said, in effect, “ Well, please forget what we suggested in March, 1946. We do not want to pursue it any more “. So Australia lost what I think was a tremendous opportunity to retain the militant interest of the world’s greatest power in a position of immense value to us in Australia - a position which is, roughly speaking, half-way between this country and the great continent of Asia.
The right honorable gentleman and some of his colleagues have mentioned the conference of Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth of Nations in April-May, 1946, and the fact that America, while making the approach to Australia in respect of Manus Island, also made to Great Britain and to our fellow dominion of New Zealand approaches in regard to the sovereignty of a dozen or twenty islands in the Pacific. I am not without knowledge of this matter, because when I was a public servant in what was the Department of External Affairs 27 years ago, such approaches were current. For a generation, the United States of America has challenged the claims of Great Britain and New Zealand to sovereignty over a dozen or twenty islands scattered throughout the Pacific.
One of the earliest happenings that I remember in 1925, when I was’ a public servant, was this matter, and it has been raised ever since at intervals of two, three or four years. The Americans would formally make a claim in which they disputed British sovereignty over a number of named islands scattered about the Pacific. That was the matter which was discussed largely at the conference of Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth of Nations in April-May, 1946. Of course, it was turned down, as it has always been turned down, because Great Britain and New Zealand have always been convinced that their claims to the sovereignty of those islands arc valid. But there was nothing wrong about the action of America in submitting its request. It will probably make a similar request in a few years’ time. However, I emphasize that it was such a request that was rejected - and rightly so - by the conference of Prime Ministers in 1946.
I have tried to traverse the story of Manus Island fairly, and without party political motives. I now ask the following question, and it is not a rhetorical question : “ Is Australia stronger or weaker as a result of the fact that America is not a joint user of Manus Island with us now ? “ There can be only one answer. We are very much weaker indeed. What is Manus Island? What was Manus Island? I shall discuss those questions because the right honorable gentleman, no doubt in the heat of the debate, said that Manus Island was, after all, never a place of very much importance and was nothing much more than a staging base.
– In the war.
– Yes. I say- and I am fortified in this by a report that I received yesterday from the Department of Defence - that Manus Island was a firstclass naval base during the latter years of the last war. It had two floating docks, each of which was capable of taking the largest battleship afloat or the world’s largest merchant liner of 80,000 tons. Those docks were supported by the necessary shore-based repair facilities for a great fleet. It was on a major scale. I shall not bore the House with all the details of that immense establishment, but I noint out that Manus Island had probably one of the greatest and safest harbours in the world in which, prior to the attack on Leyte, a great armada of 1,200 vessels of war was safely ensconsed For aircraft, there were five air stripe capable of taking what were then the largest bombers in the world. Other strips had been made for fighter aircraft. In all there were eight or ten air strips. Fer the purposes of the military, every conceivable kind of establishment was constructed and amenities were provided for tens of thousands of troops. Manus Island was a naval, military and air base on a grand scale, compared with which Gibraltar was a flea-bite.
– Yet the Leader of the Opposition said that it was a staging base.
– Yes, heavens alive, a staging base ! America paid every cent of the cost of the construction of the base, which amounted to, not 200,000,000 dollars as one of my colleagues modestly stated, but between 500,000,000 and 600,000,000 dollars. All that money was spent by the Americans in the last few years of the war on that immense establishment. It was just when that base was at that stage that we were asked, of our great goodwill aud generosity, to allow the Americans to continue, with us, to use the establishment. Was that wrong?
– It is not a fact.
– It is absolutely a fact. I can support every word that I speak about it. I again ask, was that fair ? The greatest power in the world had just spent, that Himalayan sum of money on Manus Island, and then asked us humbly whether it could share the use of it with us in future. We, in effect, said, “ No, wc are sorry. You may be the greatest power in the world, and you may have expended that vast sum of money on the establishment. We admit that we did not expend a penny on it. You may have built the greatest military, naval ana air base in the world, but you cannot use it any longer. The war has been won, and that is that. You get out “.
– What about the missing papers ?
– I shall deal with that matter, because I am aware that the honorable gentleman has a knowledge of that sort of thing and will respond to what I am about to say. But before proceeding with that subject, I shall describe what Manus Island is to-day. I have obtained the description from the Department of Defence, but I shall not use it, because I should be dreadfully ashamed to do so. When I make that statement, I do not imply that our three services have not done their utmost, within the limits of their resources, to make something of Manus Island. But if I were to tell honorable members, and the world, what this base is to-day compared with its condition five years ago, I think that they would go red with shame. Where there was provision for 10,000 men to be utilized by any one of the services, there is probably room for ten men to-day, or something of that order. That is what we have lost. It can truly be said that Manus Island to-day is a sentry box without a sentry. Compared with what it might have been, it is just a useless fleabite.
I shall now refer to the article published in the Sydney Sunday Herald on the 21st January. I did not hear about that article until reference was made to it in this debate, but I have since examined it with the greatest possible care, and questioned my departmental officers about it. Having read the article, I am able to say that there is not a word in it that could not have been put together by any one of a dozen pressmen in Australia. Any pressman worth his salt, with a few days’ research among the published records, could have written an article of that sort or, if I may say with great respect to the man who wrote it, even a better article, because mistakes occur in it which a pressman, who had access to the files and the papers, could not possibly have made. I shall tell honorable members what those mistakes are. First, the writer of the article stated that the .base cost £50,000,000, whereas it actually cost £250,000^000. Would a pressman have loaded the dice against himself in that way? Of course, he would not have done so. Then again, the date of the communication from the American Secretary of State has been given in this debate, and was given by the right honorable gentleman five years ago, as the 20th March, 1946. I have examined the files, and I find that the actual request was made on the 14th March, 1946. The date the 20th March appears in the newspaper article. Any pressman worth his salt, had he gained access by some means or other to this file, would certainly have written the date as the 14th March of that year. Yet he wrote the 20th March, which was the date used by my right honorable friend in this House in answer to a question. When .1 saw that date, I wondered, because I had no knowledge of it. My right honorable friend, when he was Minister for External Affairs, answered many questions about Manus Island, and I find that he gave the date, not as the 14th March, but as the 20th March, 1946. The pressman got the date from the published reply, and from no other source. There is nothing in that newspaper article that any intelligent pressman who knew his job could not have written.
But I have not been content to leave the matter there. I have questioned the officers of my department, who, I point out, are now to all intents and purposes the men who were the senior officers at that time. I give to the House and to my right honorable friend the assurance that these papers were not given, made available, or talked about, to any pressman by any section of the members of the Department of External Affairs. The rather dreadful accusation has been made that my predecessor in office, Mr. Spender, who is now the Australian Ambassador at Washington, for some purposes which I cannot understand, gave the files to some pressman, who used them as the basis for his article. I reject that accusation completely. I regard it as a dreadful slur on an honorable man. Such an action is quite out of keeping with his character and record. Had he made that file available, the pressman would have written an infinitely better story than was the case because the file was simply full of material that would have made any pressman’s mouth water. So the accusation that has been made against my predecessor in office cannot be sustained. I am really greatly astonished that the Leader of the Opposition should have seen fit to make that charge against my honorable predecessor. I reject it completely.- There is no evidence of its soundness. Possibly it was made for party political reasons. I have assured myself about the matter as a result of personal discussions with my senior officers, who were also the senior officers in 1946, and I completely exonerate them.
– What about the missing papers? The Minister said that they were not on the file.
– I do not think that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) really wishes to quote me as having said that there were missing papers. I made the following statement : -
I am not suggesting that papers have been taken off the file. I do know that a great many stages in the business that concerned Manus Island were done verbally, and there was no written record of them.
That is what I said. I made no charge.
– Were there no missing papers ?
– I have repeated precisely what I said in this chamber. I have never made any charge of that sort. That is all I propose to say about Manus Island. I hope that I have not adopted the language of undue controversy in speaking on that subject. I greatly regret that this debate has not been used, particularly by the Opposition, to discuss this tripartite Pacific security pact. I regard the treaty as the greatest single achievement for a. long time. I can say that with proper modesty, because I am not the originator of it. My predecessor in office, Mr. Spender, has that honour. This arrangement represents the greatest single step forward that Australia has made for many years in the field of international relations. I do not think that the Opposition contests that fact. I would have wished, therefore, that honorable members opposite might have paid a little attention to it because it is worthy of attention. I should have liked to hear the agreement discussed, particularly against the background of the American-Philippines pact and the American-Japanese defensive arrangement. This pact is linked with those agreements. The three pacts go together. They have been designed for the same purpose. They are not directed offensively, or even defensively, in any particular direction. They have been designed as a deterrent against aggression, wherever it might arise.
The Leader of the Opposition has a fixation on this matter. He persists in saying that the security pact between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America has been designed against a resurgence of Japanese militarism. That may be so. But long before Japanese militarism can possibly emerge as a menace, this pact will act as a deterrent against international Communist aggression. That is the immediate menace. As one of my colleagues has said, a man must be blind if he cannot see the direction from which Australia is menaced to-day. In South-East Asia the Communist forces are trying inexorably to move southwards. As I have said before, the security of Australia is at stake, not in ten years’ time as a result of any possible resurgence of Japanese militarism, but next month perhaps, next year possibly, and in the years immediately ahead certainly, as a result of the advance of international Communist aggression. The Pacific pact is the first real bulwark and safeguard that Australia has had against that menace and, as such, it should be acclaimed by every Australian as the greatest step forward that we have made in international affairs in many years.
Honorable members opposite should exhibit a little generosity. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) was the only member of the Opposition whom I heard speak about the pact as a pact. He also had the grace to say a few kind words about the United States of America. I do not yield to anybody in my regard for the United States of America, as I have proved in a number of ways. The achievements of that country on behalf of democracy since 1945 have been colossal. The honorable member forFawkner cited some of those achievements and referred to some of the Himalayan figures of American financial aid to other countries. He very properly pointed out that those tens of billions of dollars came out of the pockets of United States taxpayers. They were not surplus funds, or the fruits of surplus production, but the dollars of American “ yous-and-mes “. It is only right that we should give credit where it is due. What the condition of the world would be to-day but for the United States of America I tremble to think. Have we not enough generosity of spirit to acknowledge the fact now and again? Are not the difficulties of international relations made easier if we acknowledge the truth and give generous credit where it is due? I thank the honorable member for Bourke for what he said about the United States of America.
There is not much else that I want to say about this measure, although there is a great deal that I could say about it. The point is that the Pacific pact is not being attacked by the Opposition, although listeners outside this building may well begin to wonder when, after hearing the hullabaloo that the Opposition has raised, they learn that it is going to support the pact. Various intelligent speeches have been made by honorable members on this side of the House. For my part, I could score debating points by the dozen against individual members of the Opposition, even including, perhaps, the Leader of the Opposition. But I shall not do so because the scoring of personal points, in the long run, would probably be extremely bad value from the national point of view. I simply commend the tripartite Pacific security pact to honorable members and to my fellow Australians outside this chamber as an agreement that represents perhaps the greatest single contribution to Australia’s future security, and to peace in the Pacific, that has ever been made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I propose to discuss several matters that I think the committee should consider before the bill is finally passed. First of all, I make it perfectly clear, as I have done before, that the Opposition supports the agreement. I point out again, though it is unnecessary for me to do so because of what was said during the second-reading debate, that the conclusion of some such pact has always been a cardinal object of the policy of the Labour party. The only criticism that can be levelled against the agreement from our point of view is that Japanese rearmament is too heavy a price to pay for such a pact. The Government’s contention, with which I agree, because the facts are clear, is that the pact has been made primarily for the purpose of resisting Russian, or Communist, or Chinese militarism. Nevertheless, as a result of the rearmament of Japan, a second danger will be brought into the Pacific because Japan is a proved aggressor.
Two other matters require our consideration. I shall refer to them only briefly because I am allowed only a short time in which to address the committee. One relates to New Guinea. The Chifley Government, as the successor of the Curtin Government, has been attacked because Australia agreed to a trusteeship system over New Guinea. The facts are simple. Whilst the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) is praised because Australia was granted a mandate over New Guinea as a result of World War I., the present Government and its supporters, for party political purposes, criticize the former Labour Government because it secured a far better agreement in relation to New Guinea as a result of World War II. Under the first agreement, Australia was not permitted to fortify any portion of its mandated territory. Under the trust agreement, Australia’s authority, which includes Manus Island to take one example, is unlimited. That represented a tremendous step forward from the point of view of defence. To say, as has been said, that Australia should have torn up the mandate at the end of World War II., is com pletely contrary to every known fact. It has never been said that Australia should have followed the example of South Africa.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The Leader of the Opposition is making a second-reading speech. Furthermore, New Guinea is not mentioned in the bill.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).The right honorable gentleman’s remarks are in order.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony)’ held up South Africa as an example. The truth is that South Africa attempted to tear up the mandate in respect of south-west Africa and was haled before the permanent court, which ruled that South Africa could not escape the obligations of the mandate. Australia agreed with Great Britain, New Zealand and all other members of the British Commonwealth that they should continue their mandates in the form of trust agreements. That decision applied to Great Britain’s mandates in Africa, New Zealand’s mandates in the Pacific and Australia’s mandates in the Pacific. The best illustration that occurs to me is that of Nauru, in respect of which Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand jointly agreed not to dishonour all the promises that had been made to dependent peoples in the Atlantic Charter but to honour them, and, at the same time, to guard our security.
I shall refer briefly to Manus Island. I shall not argue over words. The proposal that the United States Government made to the former Australian Labour Government, if carried into effect, would have taken the control, or a part of the control, of Manus Island away from Australia. In the event of a war involving Australia in which the United States of America remained neutral-
– We should have been in a bad state then.
– That has happened twice in two world wars. In such an event, Australia could not have used Manus Island. The Australian Government took the view, which all Prime Ministers at the British Commonwealth conference took, that it would be better and proper to make a regional security agreement for the whole Pacific area somewhat on the lines of the present pact. It was never suggested then that Japan should be rearmed as the consideration for agreement to such a pact. It is true that those who made that proposal did not persevere with it for the simple reason that the United States of America received from the United Nations, by way of strategic trusteeship, many islands north of the equator. A security pact such as we are now considering can succeed only if we realize that, up to the equator, Australia and New Zealand have a special responsibility and a special opportunity. Manns Island, as FieldMarshal Sir Thomas Blarney pointed out, is vital to Australia’s defence far more than it is to America’s defence.
All the talk that we have heard about Manus Island being a station with permanent installations has been completely misleading. During the Pacific war, bases like Finschhaven accommodated as many as 500,000 men. Such a state of affairs could not continue in peace time. That applies equally to Manus Island.. It is true that, in war time, all the fleets of the world could have been collected in its harbour. That was the primary feature of the defence of Manus ‘Island. But the exaggeration of the position at that base merely for party political purposes has been unfair and scandalous. The fact is that both the Chifley Government and the present Government in turn have proceeded with the development of the Manus Island base in the interests of Australia. That is the proper course to take. Enormous numbers of troops could not be stationed in a tropical area like that. The United States of America sent its Seabee forces there. Probably 500,000 men were at Manus Island, but they only passed through it. That is why I have referred to it as a staging base. The docks were removed and most of the movable equipment was sold. Mr. Chifley claimed for Australia every piece of movable property that could be of any value to us. The Chifley Government acted correctly and the present security agreement is a vindication of its policy.
I shall not discuss the details of the pact. It will work satisfactorily, provided that Australia maintains an inde- pendent foreign policy. It must recognize the leadership of the United States of America in the Pacific, of course. America’s leadership was fully recognized during the war. In fact, Mr. Curtin was attacked by many of his opponents because co-operation with the United States of America was a feature of his Government’s policy. But while recognizing American leadership, Australia must express an individual point of view and maintain its own foreign policy. If that is not to be the position, this pact may turn out to be disastrous for Australia and New Zealand as well as the United States of America. It will not so turn out if Australia maintains an independent policy based on belief in the principles of the United Nations. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) has said that to place a trust territory under the United Nations, when the sole power of the United Nations is to inspect, is to give away Australian territory to a foreign power. Is that the view of the Government in relation to the United Nations? Of course it is not. This pact carries out the policy at which the Labour Government aimed, but it does not go far enough. I should have liked to see a broader agreement, one that was not limited to three nations. For instance, the United Kingdom should be a party to this pact because of its great possessions in the Pacific. The next Labour government will attempt to extend this pact to -include the United Kingdom. I am in agreement with what has been said by my colleagues in another place, that is that it is the duty of Australia to defend its own territories, and not to shelter behind another nation no matter how great and powerful and friendly that nation might be.
– Order ! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has been giving us the kind of .dissertation that he no doubt gave to the American negotiators when they were endeavouring to obtain the use of Manus Island. He has twisted the facts of the case and has endeavoured to lay a heavy smoke-screen over the whole of his activities in regard to Manus Island and the trusteeship agreement. For instance, he said that 500,000 or 600,000 American troops were in Finschhafen harbour at one time, but that the Americans did not indicate a desire to establish a base at Finschhafen. He said that the only place, they talked about was Manus Island. The Americans did not build 200,000,000 dollars’ worth of defence works at Finschhafen, they spent next to nothing in that area. One has only to visit Manus Island to obtain an idea of the prodigious nature of the work that was done there by the Americans. Now, four or five years after the conclusion of the war, everything movable has been removed and the remaining works are rusted and ruined.
The right honorable gentleman said that the Chifley Government took away from Manus Island everything that was movable. That is not a fact. Any one at Manus Island will tell a visitor that the Chinese Nationalists, to whom the defence equipment was sold after it was offered to Australia at a bargain price, sent a vessel every day for a period of from fifteen to eighteen months to carry away the goods and the equipment that the Americans had left on the island. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has the audacity to say that the Chifley Government took away everything movable. As a matter of fact, the conditions of the sale of the goods and equipment to the Chinese included a right to the Chinese to take everything but fixtures. The purchasers soon made sure that there were very few fixtures left by using bulldozers to turn into movable goods such things as huts and hangars. The remnant of a 200,000,000-dollar investment is now covered by the creepers of the jungle.
It has been said that Australia got a better deal under the trusteeship agreement than under the mandates, and that this Government advocates the tearing up of mandates. I repeat to the Opposition that the mandates did not exist at the time the Leader of the Opposition delivered this territory into trusteeship. The League of Nations had been dissolved, and Australia was responsible to no one for these territories. Yet the right honorable gentleman spoke of tearing up a mandate that did not exist. He referred to South Africa, and to what was said by the International Court of Justice. The International Court said that it believed that South Africa had a moral obligation to put its territory under trusteeship, but that it had no legal obligations. The right honorable gentleman has argued in favour of legal obligations in numerous cases before the High Court of Australia. His attitude has always been to ignore other obligations and to get at the legal obligations. Indeed, it is his profession to establish legal obligations. In spite of South Africa’s attitude to trusteeship, the International Court of Justice, in a judgment dated the 11th July, 1950, said that none of the nations in question had any occasion to deliver their territories to any one else. I refer honorable members to Article 77 of the Charter of the United Nations, which reads -
The trusteeship system shall apply to such territories in the following categories as may be placed thereunder under trusteeship agreement.
I refer honorable members particularly to the use of the word “may”. That Article of the Charter is dated the 22nd October, 1945. I shall refer now to the copy of the trusteeship agreement signed by the Leader of the Opposition and dated the 13th December, 1946. The fourth schedule to that agreement reads, inter alia -
The Government of Australia now undertakes to place the Territory of New Guinea under the trusteeship agreement system.
I stress in that the word “ undertakes “. There was no mandate then; we placed the territory under the trusteeship system of our own free will. However, the right honorable gentleman says that we got a better deal than we did under the mandate system; that we now have the right to fortify, which we did not have under the mandate system. It was because of the limitations of the overlordship system of the League of Nations or the United Nations that we were prevented from doing as we wanted to do with this territory when it was under mandate. “We could not fortify it when it was under mandate.
– Order ! Honorable members who want to speak will get an opportunity to do so later.
– A gentleman is leaving this city to-night to report to the various nations which compose tha Trusteeship Council about how we are discharging our trusteeship. There are many limitations placed upon Australia in its administration of New Guinea. For example, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) knows something about the Bulolo forests. He probably knows, because he gave a great deal of attention to this matter when he was Minister for External Territories in an endeavour to have those forests worked by an Australian company, that there were severe legal difficulties because of the trusteeship agreement. I spoke to-night to the delegate who will attend at Lake Success, and he said that every time he visits the United Nations he is asked about our immigration policy and why we will not permit this, that, and the other nation to send emigrants into New Guinea, Year after year he has to defend Australia’s judgment on that matter. If the character of the United Nations Trusteeship Council changes enough, there may come a day when it will recommend to the General Assembly that New Guinea be thrown open to general immigration from the whole of the East. We should hold this territory just as South Africa held German South-West Africa.
The Leader of the Opposition said that Great Britain handed over Tanganyika, Belgium handed over certain territory, and France handed over territory. I point out to him that all those territories were in the centre of Africa and were not remotely connected with the defence of the countries that handed them over. It is true that New Zealand handed over Western Samoa, but that island has never been regarded as an integral part of New Zealand’s defence. No country in the world handed over territories of such importance to it as was New Guinea to Australia. Therefore, there is a very marked difference between the action of other countries in respect of trusteeships, a difference insofar as it relates to the defence, of those countries. The Leader of the Opposition will not deny the stature of General Smuts, who was Prime Minister of South Africa when that country took the action that I have spoken about. Until a few years ago, South Africa, although it denies the authority of the Trusteeship Council in certain ways, sent its delegate to Lake Success to make a report. Then South Africa got so fed up with answering stupid questions about German SouthWest Africa that for the last two years it has refused to send a delegate to the Trusteeship Council.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Neither the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) nor his offsider, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who has just spoken, will come to the point that Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blarney and Admiral Sir Louis Hamilton both said that Australia should not surrender Manus Island to any foreign power. The Postmaster-General said that we have surrendered it to the United Nations. I never heard more arrant nonsense advanced by way of argument to support an indefensible case. Manus Island is Australian territory held under trusteeship. The Australian flag flies there. The Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) exercises control there. The Royal Australian Navy sails into Manus Island and no other navy sails there. The Royal Australian Air Force has a flight or two stationed there and no other power has the right to send any air forces there.
We surrendered our mandate over that territory to the United Nations because it was acquired by right of conquest in World War I., and the right of conquest is no right at all to a man who believes in democracy and in government by the will of the people. We shall hold that territory, as all civilized nations hold the territory of colonial people, until such time as the people themselves are fit to govern. We are holding it in their interests and not as exploiters or imperialists. To hear the PostmasterGeneral talking one would think that we are back in the swashbuckling colonial days. The honorable member would
Lave done very well under Lord Olive in India. He would have been a great force with Admiral Perry when his fleet opened the gateway to Japan. He would have been a great man before the Boxer rebellion in China. When he tells us that we surrendered this territory to a foreign power he is talking piffle, and he knows it. When you surrender territory to a foreign power you surrender your sovereignty to a power that flies another flag and exercises another control. lt may be an enemy or a foreign power, but to describe as a foreign power the United Nations, under whose flag Australian soldiers have been fighting in Korea for several years, is a gross misuse of the English language. In any case, the view of the Postmaster-General is in opposition to that of the late FieldMarshal Sir Thomas Blarney and Admiral Sir Louis Hamilton. Those mcn are worthy of more consideration than is a Minister who is trying to justify a vote that he cast in this House in 1949.
The. CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! That has nothing to do with this matter.
– It has a close relation to the matter that is before the committee. The Postmaster-General said that Australia should never have surrendered to this trusteeship. That was put to a vote in this Parliament and he voted against the decision of the Government at the time. Therefore I say that he is trying now to justify a vote that he cast in 1949, and thai the facts do not support him. He stated, in effect, that after World War I. Australia should have fortified New Guinea just as Japan fortified the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands. But that would have been a violation of the treaty that Australia had signed. What are treaties to this Government? They are to be broken when it is possible to do so. The justification that is offered by the Postmaster-General for the action of General Smuts, which was supported by Dr. Malan, is that the World Court at The Hague stated that they were legally justified in what they did but were not morally justified. To honorable members on the Government side, a legal justification is more important than a moral one. With any man of decency and honour, moral justification counts most. Any system of society that has no moral foundation is built on something that is inherently rotten and bad. Legal justification has often been claimed in support of rapine and the ravaging of territories, but no action is justified if there is no moral justification for it. I am grateful to those who governed this country in the past that. Australia did not follow the example of the Japanese. If the PostmasterGeneral believes that the example of the Japanese is worth following, he is speaking only for himself.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable gentleman said by inference that the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands were fortified by the Japanese and that Australia should have done the same thing in New Guinea.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is completely misrepresenting me. I did not refer to the Marshall Islands.
– The honorable gentleman may make a personal explanation later if he believes that he has been misrepresented.
– The PostmasterGeneral said that under the treaty Australia could have fortified those islands.
– I did not mention the Marshall Islands.
– The honorable gentleman did say that by implication. That was the logical outcome of his argument, but I have never found that the honorable gentleman has been able to follow a logical argument very far. He spoke of the plight of the representatives of the United Nations in standing against those who wanted to bring Japanese immigrants into New Guinea. If this Government lasts much longer it will surrender on that point also and will allow the Japanese into New Guinea because it fears that it will forfeit some nation’s goodwill if it does not do so.
– Order! The honorable member for Melbourne should get back to the schedule.
– I am meandering after the Postmaster-General.
The CHAI’RMAN. - The honorable gentleman is meandering far beyond what the Minister said.
– He did use the argument that the representatives of Australia had to defend themselves against attacks by the United Nations in the matter of Australia’s immigration laws. He said people from the East - and that included the Japanese-
– I did not say the East.
– Order! The Minister has already spoken.
– I suggest to the Minister that he should read again what Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blarney and Admiral Hamilton said. The Australian people will accept their opinions in preference to those of the Minister.
– I have been misrepresented and by leave will make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Melbourne put into my mouth words which I did not utter. He said that I was prepared to tear up the treaties as the Japanese did with the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands. I did not refer to the Japanese action in the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands and I did not suggest tearing up treaties. What I did say was that there was no treaty and no mandate at the time that out possessions were delivered to the trusteeship of the council.
– The Minister complained that Australia could not fortify New Guinea.
.- In endeavouring to make a second-reading speech, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has exhibited a guilty conscience. Thousands of words have been uttered about Manus Island, and no matter what proof is brought forward, I am quite sure that the members of the Opposition will take no notice of it. The Leader of the Opposition is very much like Queen Mary 1. of England who said as she was dying after Calais, the last British possession in France to be lost, that they would find Calais engraved upon her heart. The Leader of the Opposition has a guilty conscience about Manus Island and when he dies the word Manus will be found engraved upon his heart, if he has one.
.- I take this opportunity to correct one or two misstatements that have been made by honorable members on the Government side. While accepting the pact, some honorable members on the Opposition side are not very enthusiastic about it because they do not regard it as being anything more than an innocuous document, which states in general terms what might be the exact position if Australia and the United States of America became involved in the defence of some territory. If an antiLabour government should be in control at such a time, great dangers could faceAustralia because honorable members opposite, who are so belligerent, believe that Australia has the resources to solve every problem that exists in the world. I can easily imagine the difficulties that might arise because the pact is not confined to the defence of the metropolitan territories of the signatory countries but applies to the defence of all their territories. The situation could easily arise in which the United States of America might annex Formosa so as to prevent its falling into the hands of the Communist Government of China. Then the anti-Labour Government would want to use Australian troops in defence of that territory. As the British Government has recognized the Government of China, such a conflict could cause other complications for this country. So the pact itself will present certain dangers to the Australian people if its provisions have to be interpreted at any time by an anti-Labour government.
Although the pact recognizes the position of the United Nations in world affairs the Postmaster-General (Mr, Anthony) attacked the United Nations on both occasions when he spoke in the debate. Whereas he advocated the tearing up of treaties, he spoke inconsistently of the advantage of Australia becoming a party to this treaty. I was the Minister for External Territories for a period during the recent war, and I remember that a great deal of equipment from Manus
Island came to Australia, and a considerable quantity was also utilized in the territories for the rehabilitation of the inhabitants. The Chinese received a share only after the Australian authorities had made a selection of the material that they required for their own use. Why did the Americans make it available to the Chinese? More or less because at that time the American nation was backing the corrupt Nationalist Government of China and utilized this material to support it in the conflict with the Communist forces of China. It is ridiculous to blame the Australian Government for any of that material having gone to Nationalist China, because it was under the control of the American authorities.
Why is the Postmaster-General opposed to the trusteeship system? As a member of a government when these matters were under discussion, I favoured the placing of not only New Guinea but also the Territory of Papua under the trusteeship system. It is interesting to note that under the trusteeship system there is no limitation or restriction on the measures that might be taken by the Australian Government to defend those territories. The Labour Government adopted an attitude in respect of trusteeship different from that of the present Government. The Labour Government’s attitude was that it had a charge and an obligation to look after the welfare of the natives, to improve their living standards, to help to develop them to the stage where they could become self-governing, and to make friends of them. .The PostmasterGeneral has attempted to ridicule certain small nations which are members of the United Nations organization, but only a few nights ago honorable members on the Government side were citing them to show that the acceptance of the Japanese peace treaty had strong support among the nations. The names of 48 signatories were mentioned.
– Order! The honorable member knows that he cannot refer to that subject.
– I am merely showing that, in actual fact, certain nations have been mentioned in an endeavour to support the argument that Australia has been placed in a humiliating position in having to report to an organization of which they are members. The PostmasterGeneral is opposed to the trusteeship system because the enlightened nations of the world would not agree to a continuance of the conditions of labour in the external territories that existed under anti-Labour governments before the war when the natives were paid from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a month. All that the trusteeship system agreement provides to-day is that an effort shall be made by the nation holding the trusteeship to raise the standards of the native peoples. In order to ensure that they are honouring their undertaking and that the natives are not being unduly exploited under a slave-labour system, provision is made for an inspection. If the Australian Government is carrying out its trusteeship as it should do and is expending money on improving the standards of the natives, what cause has it to be afraid of an inspection? Why should there be any objection to an officer of the Department of External Affairs going to Lake Success to give a report on what the Government is doing? If the Government is doing its duty under the system, it should be proud to announce its accomplishments to the nations of the world. My purpose in engaging in this debate is to make it clear that the Government is opposed to the trusteeship system, not because of any lack of legal power to fortify these territories, but merely because it believes that there may be pressure from other member nations of the United Nations to force it to do the things that it has undertaken to do in accordance with its agreement to improve the standards of living of the natives of the external territories of Australia.
– In spite of any efforts that I might have made to get this debate on to the subject of the Pacific pact, honorable members opposite, from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) down, still persist in talking about Manus Island, which has nothing to do with the bill before the committee.
– The Minister himself first introduced the subject.
– Actually the subject wis introduced as a result of an interjection that was made when the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was speaking during the passage of another measure, the Treaty of Peace (Japan) Bill. He picked it up and in his opalescent way, threw it about and made a speech about it which brought a certain amount of fire from me. Since then honorable members opposite have to some great degree concentrated on the subject of Manus Island. It is not the wish of this side, of the committee that a debate on a bill that deals with a matter of great national importance should become a discussion of a completely different subject. Thu Leader of the Opposition, while defending himself on the Manus Island issue, said that if he had taken up the American proposal Australia would have lost control, or part control, of Manus Island in time of war. I say with great respect to the right honorable gentleman that that statement just does not begin to make sense.
– What about the opinions that were expressed by the Chiefs of Staff?
– I shall come to that. I am quite sure that if the American proposal had been adopted, or if it had been pursued even to the lesser, but still great, objective of the joint use of Manus Island by the United States of America, an arrangement could have been made under which we should not have lost the use of Manus Island under any possible forseeable conditions. The honorable member for Melbourne has again raised the matter of the advice that he says the Chifley Government received from Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blarney and Sir Louis Hamilton. My answer to that is that the matter of Manus Island was, and is, entirely a political one. It is unfair to ask Chiefs of Staff to express an opinion on such a matter because of that fact. The right honorable gentleman and his friends have continued to decry the degree, of importance of Manus Island as a. base. I have six pages of descriptive matter here, which I shall not trouble to read to the committee, which sets out what a great base Manus Island is. I do not believe that there was a greater base in any corner of the world than that which our American friends, with their characteristic energy, built up in a relatively short time at Manus Island although, of course, at vast expense. Manus Island now, compared with what it was in the last two years of the war, presents the aspect of a castle that has been torn down to make a blackfellows mia mia.
– Do not make it too hot.
– That is just about what it is. It is dreadful to have to listen to some of the statements made by honorable members opposite. We apparently cannot get away from the subject of Manus Island, because, after all, it takes two sides of the chamber to get away from a fixation. As we cannot get away from it I can only say that I hope very much that the day will never dawn when Australians of this generation, or of the next generation, will regret with blood and tears the fact that we lost Manus Island and all that went with it at the end of the last war.
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has said that the matter of Manus Island and its disposal was a political one, and not one for the strategists.
– Yes, certainly.
– Surely strategy was involved in “the future of Manus Island. Surely the leading generals and admirals of the armed services were entitled to give an opinion on the position of Manus Island in any and every future possible combination of circumstances in which Australia might find itself involved. But, if it was only a political matter and not a strategic one-
– It could be solved politically.
– The decision made at the time was in accordance with the opinions given by a Prime Minister’s conference of 1946, every member of which said Manus Island ought not to go out of the control of the British Commonwealth. Were they wrong?
– Yes, dead wrong.
– Ob., every Prime Minister of the British Commonwealth was wrong. The only person in step was the present Minister for External Affairs, who, at that time,-‘ was Governor of Bengal. ‘Churchill was wrong. Mackenzie King was wrong. Smuts was wrong. Chifley was wrong. Peter Fraser was wrong.
– They did not discuss the subject of Manus Island.
– They did.
– They discussed Pacific islands generally, and not a particular island.
– They discussed tha future of every island in the Pacific held under mandate. They discussed the whole strategy and political future of every British possession in the Pacific islands, and they said that we ought not to surrender any of them-. They acted on the advice, as I have said, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Australia was represented at the councils of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But now we have from the mouth of the Minister the opinion of members of the Government front bench although, I am certain, not of all Government supporters, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were wrong, the Prime Ministers were wrong-
– And the honorable member is wrong.
– Everybody was wrong except the Minister and his predecessor. I do not think that contemporary history will support them. When the Minister talks about future generations paying in blood and tears for the decision on Manus Island, I tell him that future generations of Australians will pay in blood and tears for what he and his predecessor have done in regard to the Japanese peace treaty under which Japan is permitted to ‘rearm. I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman went into that phase of the matter, but as he has done so I am justified in putting the position to him correctly. We have always been worried about the future of our own territories in New Guinea. We have been worried about the future of all the British islands and possessions in the Pacific that seem to form the bastion between us and the only people in Asia we have ever had reason to fear - the Japanese. That matter arose in this Parliament in 1939, when the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) expressed fears about a threat to Australia from the north. Speaking on the Supply and Development Bill he said, according to Hansard, Volume 159, at page 632 -
There are honorable members of this House who would give the territory north of the Tweed to the Japanese or any other potential enemy, if it meant the wellbeing of the rest of Australia.
If honorable members opposite had some doubts in those days about what was going to happen to Australia in the event of a threat from the north in World War II., we certainly have grave reasons now to worry about what would happen in the event of a third world war breaking out. We think that we should hold Manus Island, because America may enter the next world war very late, as it has done in other wars, on account of what is to us its strange governmental set-up. Manus Island has to be held. We are holding it now, and for the Minister to describe it as a blackfellow’s mia mia is to cast a reflection on his own colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and on the former Minister for Air in the Chifley Government (Mr. Drakeford). Manus Island is far from being a blackfellow’s mia mia. It is being used to the full extent that it is possible for us to use it with our straitened resources. In holding it we are doing a service to the British Commonwealth. It is all very well for the Minister, who waa at one time Australian Minister to Washington, although he did not stay there long, and for his predecessor, who is now our Ambassador in Washington, to talk about giving away Australian territory. Australia will not support such an action. We accept the leadership of America, and we wish to have the closest friendship with that country, but we are not going to support putting Australia in a position of subordination.
– Who has asked you to do so?
– The Government has done so and is still doing so.
– ‘The honorable member is still talking nonsense.
– Abuse is no proper alternative to argument. A vitriolic outburst is no substitute for reason. I tell the right honorable gentleman again that, whatever we did, we did it in concert with the Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth on the best military, naval and air force advice possible, and when the Minister says that we were wrong and they were wrong-
– Yes, all wrong. They did not give that opinion about Manus Island.
– The Minister knows that such opinions were expressed about Manus Island, because they were printed in an article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 21st January, 1951, which I believe to have been based on a stolen document. We acted on the best possible advice, and we are not going to accept the dictum of this Minister who is temporarily in charge of the portfolio of External Affairs, or of any other Minister, in opposition to the considered opinion of people who knew their business, which is more than can be said of the Minister or any of his supporters.
– I do not think that any honorable member takes seriously the remarks of that lovable old schizophrenic, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I must direct his attention to the real happenings at the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers to which he has referred, and in order that I may do so I shall quote newspaper reports of the 24th April, when the council was in session. One report read -
British policy inclines sharply towards that of the United States, and in principle Britain would support many of America’s requests for important bases in the Pacific.
When the British representatives began putting a ease for American control of Pacific bases, they were bluntly told by the Australians that they were foolish to listen to what President Truman and members of Congress were saying.
In that quotation is to be found the truth of that matter. Foolishly, or weakly perhaps, the British representatives allowed themselves to be persuaded against their convictions and came round to the view forced upon them by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Honorable members opposite have told us about strategic concepts and the reports of various high-ranking officers. I believe that it would be quite fair to say that these reports were based on the presumption, as indeed they could only have been sensibly based, that Manus Island would be maintained as an efficient base. If it was not so maintained, then the whole Opposition argument collapses. As a result of the actions of the Chifley Government it was in fact not maintained as an efficient base.
Let us look at this matter from the standpoint of fact and see how completely the Leader of the Opposition has destroyed his own case by his mention of such matters as Finschhafen. I believe it to be clear that Manus Island unfortified, as it virtually is to-day, has no very great value. There are many bases, including Finschhafen itself, which would be of equal value. Indeed, if we act on the presumption of American neutrality, which is the only presumption that the Opposition even pretends to base its arguments on, then the base we want is not Manus Island, but a base further to the east in the Solomon Islands, for example, Finschhafen. A glance at the map will show the validity of that argument. Manus Island is important to us on the presumption, and only on the presumption, that America will be fighting on our side. This matter is one of geography. What did the Chifley Labour Government achieve by rejecting the American offer? It got nothing that was of any great value to us. An unfortified Manus Island is neither here nor there; but a fortified Manus Island was a different kettle of fish. That Government lost in return for something that is of no substance at all an advantage that would have been of immense value to Australia, namely, the establishment of an American base to the north of New Guinea that would command the passage between New Guinea and the Caroline Islands, and the opportunity of Australia being brought within the American defence orbit. Manus Island is virtually useless, or, at any rate, of little use, to us to-day.
It will be of use to us only on the presumption that the United States of America is engaged with us in a war in the future. That is the strategic concept. When one looks at the matter coldly and dispassionately one realizes that we have gained nothing but have lost much.
The Leader of the Oposition made great play upon the fact that we must never give away Australian territory; but, in the next breath, he said that Manus Island was not Australian territory at all, but was administered by us under a United Nations mandate. Although our moral right to take measures for our security and our complicated legal rights, whatever they may have been, were waived, it is quite certain that we could have done much better in the negotiations than we succeeded in doing. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked, in effect, why the Government does not place all Australian territories under United Nation trusteeships. I wonder whether he has read the relevant provision of the Charter of the United Nations? Article. 8 of our present agreement with respect to New Guinea obligates us to do a number of things including - . . insuring the equal treatment in insuring the equal treatment in social, economic and commercial matters of all members of the United Nations.
That includes Russia. Would America be very much interested in a base which must, under our agreement with the United Nations, be open to Russian inspection? Whatever the legal position may be, Russia had been expelled from the League of Nations and held none of the rights under the mandate that we held from the League. One result of that arrangement with the United Nations was to bring Russia into the picture. Then, the honorable member for East Sydney in an excess of loyalty said that if he had had his way he would have brought Russia into Papua, which is really Australian territory. I believe that he would have brought Russia into territories that are more really Australian than is Papua itself. We are met with a curious strategic argument which will not hold water. What is the sense of the idea that if we became engaged in a war in which the United States of America was neutral, the presence of Manus Island would be of no use whatsoever to us? On the one hand, members of the Opposition say that they will not agree to the giving away of Australian territory, but on the other hand, and in the next breath, they tell us that Manus Island was not Australian territory at all. I wonder what can be. the motive for such an attitude. I think the whole matter can be summed up by saying that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) always looks upon the map of Australia as being simply a “ background for Bert “.
.- I have been listening to the voice of admiralty as expressed by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who has asserted that the whole problem with respect to Manus Island is resolved in his hands. When he spoke with certain authority on these matters, the thought ran through my mind that, perhaps, he has been thinking in terms of the days of his grandfather or of those of the grandfathers of other honorable members, because he placed so much reliance upon the value of land bases. To-day, when, in the theory of war, all strategy has been shot to pieces, surely we should think in terms of the atomic age. If we talk in terms of strategic bases, we have failed to learn the lesson of Singapore. That lesson has been entirely lost on the honorable member for Mackellar and on members and other supporters of the Government if they believe that land bases will be of importance in a war in the future. When the honorable member became too involved in his talk about strategy, he rounded off his argument, as he usually does, by attacking the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). I believe that the. Chifley Labour Government did the right thing with respect to Manus Island and that if the matter were put to the people by way of referendum that would be their judgment also. A light tossing away of the suggestion that we have no right to give away Australian territory is unreasonable. The government of the day had no right to make a major decision with respect to territory which it administered under trusteeship. Furthermore, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out, that Government was supported by experts, including the Field-Marshal of the Australian forces and the Admiral-in-chief of the Pacific campaign, who would be conceded to be superior authorities to the honorable member for Mackellar.
We now find ourselves repeating the discussions that took place on the motion for the second reading of the bill. I felt impelled to rise at this juncture because I believe that the committee is losing the thread of the real issue that is at stake. The Opposition defends the attitude that the Chifley Labour Government adopted and is prepared for the Australian people to pass judgment on that matter. The truth is that the present Government is not Australiaminded. It has some queer colonial quirk which it refuses to abandon. Its attitude is, “What will the neighbours say ? “ We believe that, no matter what the neighbours may say, we must be guided by a principle in respect of foreign policy that is far more important than an attitude of being nice and decent. The committee must be fair towards the right honorable member for Barton and recall the long and tedious negotiations that he undertook in order to win recognition for Australia as being something more than a spot on the map.
– Is the honorable gentleman trying to excuse his leader ?
– I am trying to explain something which honorable members opposite seem to be incapable of understanding. This matter has become muddied at its source. The question of Manus Island has been resolved. The committee should recognize the real service that the right honorable member for Barton rendered to the community in the broad international sense. Whilst we bandy words about in this chamber and, in the democratic tradition, attack each other savagely, there is a point at which such attacks become persecution. The honorable member for Mackellar is a prey to two obsessions - the “ reds “ and the right honorable member for Barton. The argument has been advanced that land bases are still of supreme importance. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has said that by reading current literature anybody would be enabled to write, a circumstantial story such as was published in relation to Manus Island ‘in the Sunday Herald, and that by reading Current Notes, for instance, one would probably come to the same con: elusions as were set out in that article. But is it not a fact that the value of land bases is diminishing in the overall strategy for the defence of the Pacific? Is it not correct to say that taking the Japanese into partnership in the stock-piling of atomic weapons would be more dangerous than that Manus Island was, or was not, dealt with correctly when the Chifley Government refused to give control of it to the Americans as a gesture from a grateful people? Singapore refutes the argument that honorable members opposite have advanced about the importance of land bases. If Manus Island as a base afforded protection for the whole of the Australian continent their argument would be valid. This debate is less than useless if the committee overlooks the implications of the atomic age.
The Chairman having declared that the oil! had been agreed to,
– I rose to speak before the Chair put the question.
– That is not so. I had put the question before the honorable member rose.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- 1 direct the attention of the House and of the Government to a melancholy event of great significance that occurred on the south coast of Kew South Wales last month in the withdrawal from the coastal trade of one of the two vessels that remain of all those that previously plied between Sydney and south coast ports. Now. only one vessel is engaged in that service. This event is indicative of the state of coastal shipping in New South Wales and, I believe, throughout the Commonwealth. At one time, many vessels were engaged in a thriving trade from Sydney to ports to the north and south of that city. The bulk of goods destined for coastal areas in New South Wales was carried by sea. The virtually complete disappearance of this trade within the State has had a profound effect and it shows the lamentable condition of transport in New South Wales and in other parts of Australia. It is no wonder that the railways are unable to carry the volume of goods assigned to them, and that the roads are in a deplorable condition as a result of being torn about by the constant movement of heavy vehicles, when the sea trade, which is the natural means for th, carriage of goods round the Australian coast, has been abandoned. I have pointed out to this House before, and I shall probably do so again in future, that no country in the world is better fitted by nature for a coastal seaborne trade than is Australia. Our population, industry and resources are all round the coast, our coastline is long, and our ports are numerous and good. Nevertheless, our coastal trade is constantly declining, a fact that has had and is having a grave effect on the economy of the country. I shall not elaborate this point, as my time is limited. The reason why the ships have been withdrawn is that the trade is no longer profitable. The high cost of running the ships, their slow turn-round in ports, and particularly the excessive costs occasioned by delays in ports through crew shortages are, I believe, the main factors which have increased the costs of running coastal vessels to such a degree that the business is no longer profitable. In this situation, we find the hand of the Communists.
The Seamen’s Union of Australasia is a Communist-controlled organization. I do not suppose that a single member of the House will dispute that statement. It has been obvious for some time that the method of the Communists in the Seaman’s Union of disrupting seaborne trade is to deny crews to ships, and thereby hold up their sailing. The Communists can carry out that policy at will, and with impunity. It is true that some improvement has occurred in recent weeks in supplying crews to our coastal ships, but this Communistcontrolled union can turn that supply of labour on or turn it off at will. The improvement in recent times is part and parcel of the better industrial conditions in Australia, which have occurred since the present Government has been in office, and for which it is to be congratulated, but I am concerned that the basic means by which these stoppages are caused still exist, and continue to be available to this Communist-controlled union whenever it likes to use them. I consider, therefore, that it is time the Government looked closely at the machinery by which the maritime industry is controlled in Australia. In the first place, I believe that it is generally detrimental to the industry that the administrators of its affairs should be divided, as they are, between two Commonwealth Ministers. The bulk of shipping affairs comes within the control of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), but the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is also greatly concerned in the industry, because the Maritime Industry Commission comes under the control of his department.
I invite the House to consider the Maritime Industry Commission for a moment. It is difficult at first to find out very much about its operations. The commission, apparently, makes no annual report. That fact, in itself, is a matter of great importance. Honorable members will recall that the first annual report of .the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which was made some time ago, led to a blaze of publicity and a close public examination of the affairs of that industry, which was entirely beneficial to it. Those events were followed shortly afterwards by the Basten report, the recommendations of which will, I hope he carried out by the Government shortly. But the Maritime Industry Commission is not obliged to make a report and, so far as I can ascertain, has not done so. However, with some research, one can find out from the Commonwealth Year-hook and other sources that this commission was established during the war years under the national security legislation, and continues to function. The latest issue of the Year-book states that consideration is being given to the establishment of the commission on a permanent basis. So we discover that even the constitutional validity of that body must be in doubt in this day and age, six years after the war, when it is still dependent on national security regulations. The purposes for which the commission was established are said to be -
The securing during the war of the adequate and efficient manning of Australian merchant ships and the improvement and safeguarding of the conditions of all persons serving therein.
Are not those among the purposes for which the ‘Commonwealth Arbitration Court exists? There might have been a case for such a commission during the war. As a matter of fact, I doubt it, because I believe that the establishment of such a commission during the war was due to the fact that the Chifley Government found it convenient to appoint such bodies to provide a means of giving in to the constant demands of militant unions during the war. They bad to be appeased and kept quiet, in order that industry might continue in motion. That, in my belief, was the real reason for the establishment of such a commission. If that is so, there is no reason for its retention at the present time. I believe that commissions of this kind are harmful by their very nature, because they have the effect of taking the control of industry away from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and removing an entire industry from the arbitration system. That practice, if it is extended or even maintained, must ultimately undermine, our arbitration system. Surely the essence of that system is that the principles governing our industrial relations shall be hammered out in the settlement of individual dis- putes by an impartial, judicial tribunal. To vest powers to govern and control an industry in a commission subject to political control is the negation of this system.
I offer no criticism of the members of the Maritime Industry Commission, with one exception. I believe that they are able, serious persons from all sections of the maritime industry, and are doing their best to carry out a difficult, if not by its very nature, an impossible job. The exception to whom I refer is the well-known Communist, Mr. Elliott. If any good can be expected to come from a body controlling an Australian industry on which a known and practising Communist sits, I should like to know what it is.
There is another matter of significance to which I should like to draw attention. Considerable progress is being made by moderate groups in dealing with Communists in Communist-controlled unions. The House is well aware of the successful activities of Mr. L. Short, the secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association. Great successes have also been gained by moderate elements in the mining unions in recent months. No progress however, appears to have been made in dealing with the Communist element in control of the Seamen’s Union. That organization is one of the bodies which is subject to the Maritime Industry Commission, and I suggest to the House very earnestly that only good can come from throwing the fullest possible light on the activities of the seamen’s union, and returning the control of it to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. T consider that the Maritime Industry Commission should be abolished, and I hope that the Government will take the necessary action to do so .at an early date.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the Government to the effect of the national service training scheme on food production. I am sure that honorable members who represent rural electorates have already received a number of genuine representations from parents who wish to obtain exemption from training for sons who are assisting them to work their properties. For example, a widow may be carrying on a mixed farm with the assistance of her son. Such a case has been submitted to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), and a most sympathetic reply has been received from him.. I am able to speak with feeling about this case. I should now like to ask the Minister and the Government to give earnest consideration to the effect of the national service training scheme generally on primary production. All of us realise that the need ,for increasing food production is of paramount importance. It is so vital that the Government has already given food production equal priority with defence requirements. A proper balance should be maintained between these two requirements. Very few sons of farmers are left on the land to-day. Many rural workers have moved to the cities, and farmers are having a desperate struggle to cultivate their present acreages without adequate man-power. As food production is of first importance, and as we have suffered from droughts, fires, and bad seasons generally, anything that the Government can do to help to grow one more bushel of wheat, oats or barley, one more gross of eggs, one more gallon of milk, one more ton of cheese or one more bag of potatoes should be done promptly and efficiently.
I support national service training in principle, but I urge the Government to review the effect that the scheme is having on our primary industries. The number of farmers’ sons and other rural workers who are eligible for national service training is probably not large, and it should be possible to meet the needs of primary production without interfering unduly with the training scheme. Anybody who believes that a man can be taken from a farm for a period of three months without interfering with production on that farm misunderstands the true position. Work on a mixed farm simply cannot be stopped for three months. There are no breaks in the routine, which goes on month after month. I suggest that arrangements be made for rural workers who are eligible for national service training to carry out their basic training in three periods of one month instead of in one period of three months. Such arrangements might require a little organization, but they would enable many farmers to maintain normal production. Large grazing properties are not greatly affected by the calling up of workers for national service training, but small mixed farms are seriously handicapped. If this Government sincerely wishes to increase production, which I sometimes doubt, it will give its earnest attention to this problem. We have heard more words from this Government in a few months on the subject of food production than we have heard from other governments in years. But it is only talk. I am submitting a practical suggestion for the Government to examine with the object of increasing production.
I shall describe the conditions on one farm in my electorate in order to demonstrate the seriousness of the position. This farm is situated in an excellent locality where chocolate soil predominates. It covers 320 acres of cleared bushland. This year two brothers and the son of one of the brothers have raised 18 acres of oats, 20 acres of wheat, 28 acres of barley, 48 acres of potatoes, 40 acres of blue peas, and 26 acres of clover seed. The wheat crop returned from 60 to 70 bushels to the acre. In addition, 1,000 bales of meadow hay were taken from the property, which carries 120 head of cattle. The men must soon sow 100 acres to produce winter feed. The young man has been called up. He has been granted one deferment, but he must go eventually. One of the farmers told me frankly that, if the lad goes to camp, they will have to cut out most of the cereal crops and turn to sheep grazing. Our rural economy to-day is top heavy. Hundreds of farms have been diverted from cereal production to sheep raising and we want more wheat, harley, oats, blue peas, potatoes and crops of that sort. The calling up of young men from mixed farms such as I have described must have a severe effect on our total volume of food production. Deferments are granted for periods of perhaps three months, and, in some instances, further deferments are granted upon application to courts of summary jurisdiction. By this means, call-ups may be delayed for as long as a year, but such delays do not solve the problem because the young men must go into camp at some time for a period of three months.
Mr. Jeff Bate interjecting,
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to talk. He is supposed to be a leading member of a rural committee that the Government has appointed, but he sneers at my remarks. He cannot tell the Government how to produce more food and he has no right to sneer.
– Order ! The honorable member must address me.
– I am not often roused, but I cannot stand for that sort of thing.
Rural production would not be so seriously affected as it is at present if young workers on farms of the type that I have mentioned were called up in groups for periods of one month at a time. One woman whom I know is carrying on a dairy-farm with the help of one son. How can a woman alone manage twenty cowa while her son is in camp for three months ? There are many such farms throughout Australia.
– Farmers are not expected to do such work without help.
– Perhaps not, but under the present system the young men cannot escape the obligation to go into camp. They can arrange to have their call-up deferred, but that does not solve the problem. I ask the Government to review the general effect of the national service training scheme on the rural section of our economy because on that section depends out prospects of increasing food production.
.- The formula under which a portion of the revenue from the petrol tax is distributed to the States has, in present circumstances, ceased to be in the best interests of Australia and should be suspended for at least three years. The present circumstances are that Australia, as never before, requires increased primary production. It is a recognized fact that quick production of many essential foodstuffs can be achieved more readily by means of intense culture in settled areas where water is available than by opening up new country in places far removed from rail heads and the sea board. Roads in those settled areas are now in a deplorable state, because the formula operates harshly on the most densely populated States. Petrol tax revenue is related to the quantity of petrol used. Consequently heavy traffic in the States where the major portion of the petrol tax is collected has made the roads of many of those settled but not fully productive lands almost impassable. A suspension of the formula for three years would allow those States, particularly Victoria, to overtake the lag in their road construction and maintenance programmes. With the improvement of roads in the areas that I have mentioned, an effective food production plan could be brought into operation with the greatest chance of success and the least government aid.
The object of the formula is to develop Australia and, in normal circumstances, it should fill that requirement. But our present national need is not to pioneer and clear virgin country in isolated lowrainfall areas but to make the best possible use of the land that is now ready for the plough. Good roads are more than an adjunct to primary production; they are an absolute necessity to it. The following table shows the percentage of revenue that is collected from the petrol tax compared with the percentage that is expended in the various States: -
The suspension of the formula for three years would allow each State to expend on road construction and maintenance 6d. for every gallon of petrol sold within its boundaries. That would cause no undue hardship to any State. To illustrate what could be done, I point out that there are thousands of acres of fertile country on each side of the
Murray River. Government assistance to develop those areas could be granted out of the defence vote. As I have pointed out to the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) on several occasions, to-day, as in the days of Napoleon, an army marches on its stomach. I have also pointed out that the expenditure of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 from the defence vote on food production, would have a dual advantage. If the food were not required for war purposes - and let us hope it never will be - it could he used for the benefit of the community generally or canned for export. Therefore, the money expended would not be a total loss. Although Australia requires food urgently, the Government appears to be quite uninterested in the great natural productive assets that lie so close at hand. Roads to those areas are rough and do not permit economical travel. If they were improved they would very soon be used much more extensively to transport people and produce, and this nation would be the richer. Can we afford to continue to collect from Victoria 31.18 per cent, of revenue from the petrol tax, and allow that State to expend only 17.4 per cent, of it ? I say that we cannot do so. I suggest therefore that the formula under which the petrol tax revenue is distributed should be suspended for three years. Then Victoria would receive 31.17 per cent, of the allocation instead of 17.4 per cent. I realize that legislation would be required to give effect to this proposal and that the scheme would raise a tremendous howl, even from some people who are advocating greater production. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), for instance, would say that Tasmania’s allocation was insufficient. At present Tasmania yields only 3.49 per cent, of the revenue for the petrol tax but receives 5 per cent, of the allocation. Similarly, although collections in Western Australia amount to only 7.41 per cent., the amount expended in that State is 19.2 per cent. The fact is, however, that in New South Wales and Victoria, which together provide more than 60 per cent, of the total revenue, roads are deteriorating so rapidly that the yield from the petrol tax will become less and less because people will refuse to travel by road. If the revenue from the petrol tax is to be maintained, the roads in these States must be improved. Otherwise, the formula will cease to be a national asset. It is only a national asset as long as the more densely populated States provide substantial revenue for distribution. If the other States agree to the suspension of the formula for three years to allow roads in Victoria and New South Wales to be improved, they in turn will benefit through increased petrol tax revenue that will be available for distribution after the expiration of that period. It is a fair national proposition. The formula has a national objective but the deterioration of roads is seriously reducing its benefits. I trust that my proposal will be given serious consideration in the interests of greater production of foodstuffs, better roads, and the future success of the formula.
– I draw the attention of the Government to a monstrous ‘imposition upon the people of this country. A lady recently purchased a pair of shoes in a shop in Bendigo. About two days later the soles were worn through. She complained torepresentatives of the boot trade organization and representatives of that organization purchased shoes in MelbourneThey were found to he so scandalously made that they cannot adequately be described, and I have brought them, into this chamber to show them to honorable members. One pair which cost 35s. in a Melbourne store apparently has a half-inch sole of crude rubber,, but an examination reveals that the sole consists of one-sixteenth of an inch or less of poor crude rubber, with a poorly constructed cork sole inside. The most important part of the shoe, the shank, which in Australia is made usually from steel or some other solid material, is a piece of pliable cardboard. If the wearer of such shoes walked down stairs the shoe would be almost certain to snap between the heel and the sole and even if stairs are avoided, within a day or two the shoeswould be no longer wearable because the one-sixteenth of an inch of crude rubberwould be worn through. This shoe was imported from Italy and retailed for 35a. The other one that I am showing honorable members was worn through in a couple of days. Such shoes are priced at 39s. 6d. a pair. I have other shoes here that were imported from Malaya and retailed for about £3 a pair. These shoes have thick rubber soles, but they are so constructed that if the wearer walks about in wet weather the water soaks through between the lower and the upper sole and almost immediately the shoe becomes waterlogged and useless. Shoes have also been imported from Czechoslovakia, and people are being robbed by the retailers or manufacturers of those shoes, or by both. It is the duty of the Government to protect the people from unfair practices such as the selling of shoddy shoes, and this Government can do it, despite the fact that the officials of the Department of Trade and Customs have said they cannot do anything about the matter. They have said, “ If people buy these shoes we cannot help it “.
I am holding an imported shoe which costs about 358. and an Australian shoe which costs 26s. It is obvious from the appearance of those shoes that the average woman would buy the imported shoe. However, the Australian shoe would last months compared with a very much ‘ shorter time for the imported article. I suggest that the Government should amend the customs law to require these articles to be branded to indicate to merchants and consumers the quality and thickness of articles so branded, or, alternatively, the Government should amend the Customs Act to make it an offence to import articles or commodities not reasonably fit for the purpose for which they are to be sold. That could be done, and should be done by this Government. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) told me to-day that our overseas funds diminished by £270,000,000 last year. We cannot afford to allow Australians to be deceived by articles such as these or the Government’s overseas funds to be wasted on rubbish. This footwear has been entering Australia at an alarming rate. In 1938-39 194,000 pairs of shoes and slippers were imported into Australia. In 1949- 50 640,000 pairs were imported. In 1950- 51 1,400,000 pairs of shoes and slippers were imported and for the three months ended 31st September, 1951, 409,000 pairs were imported. Probably in the next full financial year over 2,000,000 pairs of shoes representing millions of pounds will be imported. I protest against the admittance of such shoddy goods, and as a kind of Sir Galahad I am attempting to protect the fair young maidens of this land who are being deceived by articles such as those that I have shown and described to honorable members. I appeal to the Government to take the action along the lines that I have suggested.
.- I have here a petition signed by eighteen residents of the area of Westbrook in the division ‘ of Paterson protesting against the proposal to reduce the frequency of roadside mail services in country areas. Such a proposal arose from departmental policy. and I raise my voice in protest against it. It has been the policy of the Postal Department that roadside mail deliveries should be of a frequency equal to that enjoyed at the centre from which the deliveries originate. In calling for tenders for roadside mail contracts in recent months the PostmasterGeneral has invited alternate bids, one for a service of the same frequency as that at present operating, and the other for a greatly reduced service. That gives a clear indication of the direction of departmental thought on this matter. Inquiries have been made concurrently around country towns to sound out what the public reaction would be if there should be a general reduction in mail and postal services. We can all guess the reaction to that proposal and I agree with those in country areas who have protested against it.
In times past the district postal inspector was a member of the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board and was able to bring to the meetings of the board a deep understanding and sympathetic appreciation of the problems of rural areas. But that has been changed and the board in future will be composed of departmental officers, located in city areas, who will bring to the consideration of tenders the government policy of economy. We are all aware of the parlous state of the finances of the Postmaster-General’s department, and during the last year or two the cost of rural mail deliveries has doubled. We must all applaud the energy of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) in seeking avenues of economy, but I hope that his department will leave intact the services to country towns until every avenue of economy in the city areas has been explored. I should be unwilling to see any city versus town quarrel develop out of this matter, but we must develop our services to the country people. We all appreciate that country people are denied access to markets and must pay the freight on goods which come to their farms as well as carry the cost of freight on goods they send to market. The cost of installing a telephone in a country home is high, and must be borne almost entirely by the subscriber. Moreover, the maintenance cost is high and most telephone calls are trunk calls.
No one can doubt that a frequent mail service to rural areas is an added economy and a help to lighten the burden of isolation. Those who know the country well will not overlook the fact that the mail contractor is, for thousands of Australian housewives, a general buying agent who saves them a tremendous amount of time and money. Reduction of mail services will be a tremendous blow to the amenities of country life and it is imperative that every encouragement should be extended at this time to prevent the movement of people from the country to the city. The time has come to equalize, as far as possible, social conditions as between the town and country, not only in the interests of greater rural production, but also as a matter of common justice. It would be better for the Postal Department to be run at a loss, which could be met by the general community, than for it to curtail services which add so materially to the comfort and convenience of that section of the community upon which we will all depend increasingly as time goes on. I refer, of course, to the primary producers. Therefore, I appeal to the Postmaster-General to draw upon his own deep knowledge of men on the land, and to consider favorably the case which time does not permit me to develop more fully now, but with which, lam sure, every honorable member of the House sympathizes.
.- I wish to protest emphatically against the action of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in replacing the theme tune Advance Australia Fair by an overseas composition. It seems that all the efforts of this Government are being directed towards one end of avoiding anything that savours of Australian sentiment. Overseas syndicated material is being broadcast day after day, and is polluting the minds of young Australians. When I raised this matter last week, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) was shocked that I should mention the names of the chairman and the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In his mind, those superior persons are sacrosanct, and everything they do must have his support. I wonder whether he is prepared to applaud their action in bringing a Nazi pianist to this country when they would be better employed furthering the interests of Australian writers and song-writers. The Australian Broadcasting Commission uses two fanfares in its news session, and a theme tune is played before, parliamentary broadcasts. It is interesting to note that both fanfares are the composition of an English composer who lives in England. His name is Charles Williams. It is also interesting to note that to royalties paid to this composer an extra 25 per cent, must be added for exchange, so that Mr. Williams gets quite a good rake-off at the expense of Australian ex-servicemen who are composers and song-writers. This is an important matter, and something should be done about these superior persons on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I note that the chairman, Mr. Boyer, said that the act under which the commission operates provides that the commission is free to use its own discretion in political or controversial matters without challenge from any quarter, but the right is reserved to a responsible Minister to prevent the commission from broadcasting matter which is not in the public interest. I do not think that most of the syndicated matter, for which dollars must be paid, can be said to be in the public interest. It should be banned by the Government in favour of good Australian songs and good Australian tunes played over the air for the benefit of good Australian children. I believe that this matter should be ventilated, particularly in the interests of ex-servicemen. The Government professes to feel deep concern for the welfare of ex-servicemen. Of course, we know that members of the Government are merely paying to them lip service,’ but if they were ready to do something to help ex-servicemen the people might come to believe that they are sincere in their loud-mouthed assertions.
I wish now to comment upon an insult which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. The filth and muck that was printed in a leading article in that newspaper last Saturday does mo credit to the editor and owner of the journal. It is evident that the owner spends all his time chasing a title, in pursuit of which he is prepared to bow and scrape to any overseas musician, whether a Nazi or not. Anything that is anti-Australian is sure to receive full support in the columns of this gutter newspaper. The Sydney Morning Herald should offer a public apology to the deputy leader of the Australian Labour party (Mr. Calwell) for the damnable stuff it printed last Saturday in its leading article.
– Read it out.
– The honorable member may do that himself.
– Well, sing it then.
– That is what the article suggested - that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I should sing “ Advance Australia Fair “ in the House as a duet. I am sure that if the House were agreeable,- the Deputy Leader and I would have no objection to doing so. The proprietor and the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald should be proud at any time to raise their voices in singing “ Advance Australia Fair “. There should be an inquiry into the unAustralian attitude of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the Government should ensure that young Australians shall be able to hear clean and healthy music.
– /To-day, a question was asked in this House about a German pianist who is visiting Australia. The question was obviously based on a rumour that this man had Nazi affiliations, and in his answer the Minister made it clear that investigations had been made of the man’s character, and that he had been cleared of any charge against him. However, in spite of that assurance, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has continued to attack this distinguished visitor, who has no redress in this House. This morning, his name was cleared.
– By whom?
– By the Minister who replied to the question. The action of the honorable member for Watson shows that he is prepared to jump on any band wagon for the sake of notoriety, and does not hesitate to besmirch the name of an innocent person. Altogether, his was a pretty poor show, and decent members of his party should dissociate themselves from his action.
– I shall reply briefly to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). When national service training was under consideration by the Government, the matter of occupational exemptions was carefully considered. The Government decided that it was the obligation and the duty of every young man to learn in time of peace how to defend his country. Accordingly, no occupational exemptions are provided for under the national service training scheme. To every young man in Australia of the appropriate age is given the opportunity and the privilege of learning to defend his country. However, so that justice may be done to everybody, and the least possible inconvenience caused, and in order to encourage young men to take an interest in their training, arrangements were made under which any trainee may make an application to have his period of national service training deferred. The honorable member for Wilmot referred to potato-growers, fruit-growers, and growers of blue peas. If any of those producers is planting or gathering crops during the period when he is called upon to render national service, he may apply to have the period of training deferred to another time. If the honorable member for Wilmot brings to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) any particular case, I am sure that he will facilitate his making application for deferment through the court if the circumstances justify such action. The scheme has been administered with even-handed justice to every section of the community and at no time in the history of the country has any form of service been so readily received.
– in reply - The matters that have been raised by honorable members in speaking to the adjournment motion have been diversified. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) spoke of the ships that trade to the south coast and the abolition of the Maritime Industry Commission. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) spoke of the petrol tax and its distribution. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) directed attention to faulty footwear and the necessity for the branding of such goods. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Pairhall) spoke of mail deliveries and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) referred to the broadcasting of parliamentary debates regarding the defence of Australia. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Peace) raised several matters. I assure those honorable members that the several matters raised by them will be placed before the Ministers concerned, who will no doubt give to them due consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Beaufort, South Australia.
Nuriootpa, South Australia.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - B. F. Hussey.
Health - S. S. Alexander, M. A. Bundock, J.R. Cornish, C. M. Gilbo, G. A. McLean, L. Sefton, J. M. Thompson, S. D. Watsford.
Postmaster-General - D. G. Geddes, N. S. Middleton.
Repatriation - A. A. Page.
Works and Housing - T. G. Leonard.
Wool Products Bounty Act - Second Annual Report for 1951.
House adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Flood Damage and Relief.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions, are as follows : -
Snowy Mountains Scheme.
s. - On the 26th February the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked -
In view of the dismissals that are reported to be taking place on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project, will the Prime Minister give the House an assurance that there will be no slowing down of work on this vital and urgent project which is so essential to the development of Australia?
It is true that the number of men employed on the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric project has been reduced from 2,450 to 2,000 during the pa3t month or so. But the reduction has been made, not by dismissals, but by not replacing men voluntarily leaving the authority’s employment. The only dismissals have been those due to misconduct or unsatisfactory work on the part of the employee concerned. In addition to men employed directly by the Snowy Mountains Authority, some 700 are employed by private contractors and approximately 170 by “ State government departments. The number fluctuates according to the contract work available. The Norwegian firm of Selmer and Company, which is constructing the Guthege project and which has now some 250 men employed, will for instance, add another 100 workmen to its staff during the next week or so. The 1951-52 appropriation for the Snowy Mountains project is £9,000,000. Such a large appropriation, which will all be spent, indicates that the Government is not slowing down the work. The manner in which the appropriation is spent and the number of men engaged upon the project from time to time will depend upon the nature of the constructional work upon which the authority is engaged.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value of all types of textiles and all manufactured articles of apparel imported during 1939, 1945 and 1951, respectively, and for the three months ended the 31st January, 1952?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following information: -
Statistics for the month of January, 1952, are not available. The figures are furnished for financial years instead of calendar years as the normal method of recording is in financial years.
s, - On the 6th February, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked -
Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether it is a fact that J. and A. Brown Proprietary Limited intend to extract pillars of coal from under the township of Pelaw Main? I point out that as there is only coverage of from 25 feet to 30 feet there, such extraction would undoubtedly cause subsidence and the ruination of the homes of thousands of people living in that area. Will the Prime Minister request the Joint Coal Board to take steps for the proposed extraction of pillar coal at Pelaw Main to be deferred until the completion of negotiations for the provision of alternative housing for the people that I have mentioned?
As I promised, I brought the honorable gentleman’s question to the notice of the Minister for National Development, who has advised me in the following terms : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Will the report of the Joint Coal Board for 1950-51 be made available at an early date?
y. - The fourth report of the Joint Coal Board for 1950-51 is dated 6th December, and has been forwarded by the Board to the Prime Minister and to the Premier of the State of New South “Wales. The report is now in the hands of the printer and it is expected that printed copies will be available about the 3 5th March.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
. What was the amount of Australia’s overseas funds on the 30th November, 1949, and what is the amount at the present time?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Commonwealth Bank’s holdings pf “ Gold and balances abroad “, which constitute the major part of Australia’s total international reserves, are published each week. For comparative purposes, the figures for the Commonwealth Bank’s holdings at the end of June, 1949, 1950, and 1951 are given below together with the holdings at the 30th November, 1949, and at the 20th February, 1952, the latest date available.
a asked the Minister for Commerce end Agriculture, upon notice -
Will he indicate when payments, in either whole or part, will be made from Joint Organization funds to persons who have left the wool-growing industry and are in difficult circumstances?
Mr. McEWEN - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
I announced on Monday last that the Government had decided to make a further interim distribution of £25,000,000. This distribution, which is expected to take place before the end of March, will include all growers untitled to participate in the profits. Therefore, those persons who have left the industry will receive almost immediately a portion of their profit entitlement. The full entitlement of those who left the industry before the 1st September, J94H, will be paid as scon as possible after settlement of the Poulton case, the implications of which I have previously explained to honorable members.
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : -
D asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The West Australian Pearl Shellers Association made representations to the Government alleging that their industry faced extinction unless they could secure Japanese for work as divers and crew on pearling luggers. The implications of the claim made by master pearlers, that their industry could not survive because of the inefficiency of available labour, were considered serious enough to warrant prompt investigation. Accordingly, it was decided to send to Broome a mission of inquiry., consisting of an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture who had had considerable experience in the industry, a. representative of my Department of Immigration and the Superintendent of Fisheries of the Western Australian Government. The mission’s investigations were not directed to the specific question of the employment of Japanese, but to the broader issue of the volume and type of labour required for the survival and development of the industry. The mission proceeded to Broome at the end of January and its report, which has just come to hand, is still under consideration. At this stage it seems likely that further inquiries overseas, in regard to sources of labour other than Japanese, will have to be made before any decision is reached on the representations made by the master pearlers.
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Does this impose a strain on accommodation in Newcastle and, at the same time, tend to create unhappiness in the migrants’ home life?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :- -
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t. - On the 26th February, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked me the following question : -
T am prompted to ask my question of the Minister for Immigration as a result of the appalling number of fatal road accidents among European immigrants when riding motor bikes. In many instances the victims are survived by widows and children. Many of these accidents are due to ignorance on the part of immigrants of our road geography, traffic codes and language and also because licences are not difficult to obtain. In view of this great loss of life will the Minister confer with State police departments to see whether regulations can be gazetted to prohibit the issue of motor cyclists’ licences to European immigrants until they have been resident for at least three to six months in Australia, by which time, duc to instruction and experience, they can assimilate our language and traffic codes? I point out that in Holland traffic proceeds on the right side of the road whereas in Australia it proceeds along the left side.
I now inform the honorable member that in all parts of Australia, outside Commonwealth territory, the issue of a licence to ride a motor cycle or to drive a motor vehicle is a matter for the respective State departments. Inquiries made by my departmental officers have shown that in each State an applicant for a licence to ride a motor cycle or to drive a motor vehicle is required to pass certain tests determined by the traffic and police authorities in that State. In Commonwealth territories, an applicant for a licence to ride a motor cycle or to drive a motor vehicle is required to pass both a written and a practical test. I am glad to be able to assure the House that for its part the Commonwealth has already taken step: to instruct European migrant?, on Australian traffic rules and for the need to observe particular care on the highways; Warnings have repeatedly been published in the Department of Immigration’s monthly newspaper, the New Australian, which is distributed free to all European migrants. At the present time my Department of Immigration is preparing a special booklet dealing with the rules of the road in Australia for the instruction of European migrants. The booklet will be well illustrated, will be written in simple English and will give instruction on the elementals of road rules - such as “ Keep to the Left “ and the. meaning of road signs - which are not available in any other publication already in use for members of the Australian community. This booklet has been prepared . in collaboration with the traffic authorities in each State, and its production has been commended by these authorities and by road safety councils which will be coopted to assist in the distribution of the publication. The honorable member will be interested to know that the Road Traffic Council of Tasmania has expressed the view that this booklet will serve a very good purpose. The police authorities also consider that the booklet will be of great value.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520304_reps_20_216/>.