21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to give me information about any arrangements that have been made for Mr. Clement Attlee, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the British House of Commons, -to meet and, if possible, address members of the Parliament!
– The honorable member for .Hindmarsh asked me about this matter yesterday, and I said, in reply, that I -would advise him. of the position. I now advise him that the Government does not propose to hold a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, but will give a luncheon at Parliament House in honour of Mr. Attlee on Thursday, the 9 th September. All honorable senators and honorable members will be invited to attend that function. I have also invited the State Premiers to be present on the same occasion. .Therefore, Mr. Attlee will have an opportunity to meet and address honorable senators and honorable members, as was the case last year when the Vice-President of the United States of America, Mr. Richard Nixon, was with us.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information to give, to tho House about a meeting which is said to have taken place at The Hague between Dutch and Indonesian authorities concerning ‘ relations between the governments of those two countries ? Was the status of Dutch New Guinea involved in any way in those discussions?
– A full scale conference has been held at The Hague in recent week between representatives of the Netherlands Government and the Government of Indonesia, and has resulted, in effect, in the dissolution of the union that was brought about, I think in 1949, by the round table conference. We have not any precise particulars or any formal information about that conference, but I gather that the constitutional link which was created by the union has now been dissolved, and that the relationship between the two countries is now the normal relationship that exists between any two foreign countries. By reason of the close association of the Dutch with Indonesia in the past, there are provisions which are executed by a series of agreements between the two countries on a very wide’ range of subjects, but the relationship diplomatically will now be that between ambassadors and not that between High Commissioners. The question of the status of Dutch New Guinea was not raised at the conference, so the sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea remains, as before, undisturbed in. the hands of the Netherlands. I may add that the relations between Australia, and the Netherlands sand Indonesia,, are not altered in any way, and I hope and believe that they will continue on the same friendly terms as in the past.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question about his declaration to the effect that the Government is prepared, as the result of its intention to join the proposed South-East Asia Treaty Organization, to accept commitments to provide armed forces for overseas service. Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government intends to rely solely upon the method of voluntary enlistment to obtain the required number of personnel ? If insufficient men offer for service, does the Government intend to resort to conscriptive military service in order to make up the deficiency, or does the Prime Minister propose to allow Australian citizens to exercise the right to make their own decisions in the same manner as he did in World War I.?
– The Prime Minister, on a matter of policy.
– In reply to the honorable and gallant member, I do not propose to discuss policy at this stage.
– In view of the incident which is reported to have occurred last night in the corridors under your control in this building, Mr. Speaker, will you consider amending the Standing Orders so as to provide that matters of this kind may be settled amicably on the floor of the House, which would be in the interests of honorable members who have ringside seats?
– The first point is that any proposal to amend the Standing Orders is not a matter initially for my consideration. Such proposals are for the Standing Orders Committee and the House to consider. However, there is a Standing Order which provides that the
House shall intervene to prevent quarrels between members. The most offensive incident that came to my notice last night was one in which one honorable member was invited to join the French Foreign Legion. I have no personal knowledge of anything that took place in the corridors, but I simply warn honorable members, as I had occasion to do once before as a result of an incident in the House, that, if they have any belligerent feelings towards one another, their disputes should be settled outside this building.
– What about a gymnasium ?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will never get a gymnasium from me.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been drawn to a very interesting survey published in booklet form by the Victorian Employers’ Federation, in which it is claimed that 2,100 disabled but employable people in Victoria alone have remained unemployed over the past five years at a needless cost to the community of over £5,000,000 because of the inadequate facilities for their rehabilitation, and that a contributing factor thereto U the lack of co-ordination and proper liaison between the Department of Social Services and the Commonwealth Employment Service, employers, trade unions and various philanthropic organizations interested in the welfare of such persons? If these findings by such a responsible body are well founded, will the Minister investigate the problem at once with a view to enabling such disabled persons to become rehabilitated and play a useful role in the community? Tn particular, will he give effect to the recommendation of the federation for the establishment of a permanent advisory committee on such subjects?
– This problem has engaged the attention of the Government, and a paper dealing with all aspects of the matter that the honorable member has mentioned will shortly be submitted to Cabinet. The rehabilitation of such persons will, we think, pay immense dividends. It will relieve a lot of suffer ing and will put people back into useful employment and make their days really worthwhile. I challenge one aspect of the statement that the honorable member embodied in his question. He in some way blamed the Department of Social Services for not carrying on the task of rehabilitation. I have read the booklet very carefully and I did not get that out of it. The writer says there is a lack of co-ordination between the trade union movement, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Labour and National Service and employers. That problem has been considered, and I hope shortly to be able to submit an outline of a proposal regarding it to the Prime Minister. It will receive the most careful consideration, and I hope that we shall be able to do something positive for this worthy section of the community.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate, in view of the possibility of further outbreaks of the grasshopper plague in New South Wales this spring, whether any joint Commonwealth and State action to institute control measures is contemplated, or is listed in any agenda for consideration?
– This is a matter which has been under consideration by the Australian Agricultural Council over the series of recent meetings of that body. At the last meeting of the council, which took place about a month ago, the governments of the mainland States and the Commonwealth agreed on the need for a plan to maintain a control over the areas subject to outbreaks of grasshopper plague, and that when an appropriate opportunity occurred, which would not be until after the present outbreak had completely subsided, a trial control should be undertaken. It was also decided that, based on the results of that trial control, a plan on a broader basis was to be arranged to try to minimize this danger to the pastoral industry. The Australian Agricultural Council agreed, I think in anticipation of approval by the governments concerned, that the Commonwealth and the mainland States should share the costs.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me of the value of imports to this country for the month of July this year, and the value of exports for the same month ?
– That is obviously a question for the notice-paper.
– I thought it was so important a matter that Ministers would have the details at their fingertips.
– It is a question for the notice-paper, but I shall see the Minister for Trade and Customs and arrange for the statistics required by the honorable gentleman to be made available
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture advise me of any possible alleviation of the present serious position which confronts some of our exporting industries, which are facing extinction because of the keenness of overseas competition? I refer particularly to the industry that produces such milk products as full cream powder and skim milk powder. I understand that a demand for these products still exists overseas, but we cannot sell in overseas markets because of Australian production costs. Can the Minister suggest any means to assist in the disposal of those commodities, at least until we can increase absorption of them in the home market?
– The honorable gentleman has referred to a problem that has engaged the attention of the Government, and particularly of my own department, for some time. It is true that whilst world demand for many of our export products has not diminished, our overseas markets have fallen off. The primary explanation for that is that our exporters of processed food products are, in respect of a number of lines, unable to quote prices that are competitive with similar exports from other countries. This condition must be traced back, in part, to the Australian cost structure. Government officers have been engaged in a study of such problems and, in respect of processed milk products, the Government has been in consultation with the
Processed Milk Manufacturers’ Association of Australia Limited. In fact a conference was held in Canberra last week, and another conference will take place at an early date. Every possible step within the control of the Government is in contemplation, and will be taken as quickly as possible to help in this situation. I issue a word of warning to those who think that a simple solution of this problem is for the Government to buy surpluses and give them away to what are called the food hungry sections of the world’s population.
– That is a simple solution.
– I remind the House, and interested parties, that although we have some very modest undisposable surpluses of some products, the United States of America has a positive mountain of them. If the world should engage in a give away campaign, all our normal trade would be completely dislocated, because the United States of America would also engage in a give away campaign in our traditional markets. I see the prospect of nothing but chaos for a number of Australian industries if we surrender our status in argument against such a campaign as that which exists to-day, because we have refrained from giving away goods, and face such a campaign as that I have referred to.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question that is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Gippsland. I realize the complexities of the situation, but with thought to the giving of assistance to Asian countries through the Colombo plan and also to the special needs of southern Viet Nam owing to the recent influx of large numbers of refugees into that area, will the1 Minister investigate the possibility of making available to southern Viet Nam a quantity of processed milk, thereby providing food for the unfortunate people of the area’ and at the same time assisting the dairying industry?
– The honorable member has put that point of view to me on a number of occasions, and I have had some study given to it. It appears to hold some possibility of aiding the Asian countries which, are members- of the: Colombo plan and, at the same time, aiding, perhaps, the processed, milk industry in this country without infringing, the general principle to which I referred a little while ago on whether the Government should indiscriminately purchase and’ give away foodstuffs., I hare had discussions with the: Minister for External’ Affairs on the matter. If those Asian countries were to, ask for basic products, such, as processed) milk, and were prepared to offset the cost, of such products against the financial assistance that is given, to them under the Colombo plan, perhaps that would be a- feasible arrangement. As I have said, the- matter’ is. being studied by the- Minister for External Affairs- and myself.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will give serious consideration to the payment of a commission to- newspaper vendors and’ other shop keepers who are willing to sell postage stamps. At present any person who wishes’ to give this service to the public is compelled to pay 2s. 6d. to obtain a licence, although he has no chance of recovering the licence-fee. Many people in my electorate are compelled to pay a sixpenny tram fare each way in order to get to the nearest post office to buy a stamp. If the Minister will not consider the payment of a commission for stamps sold, will he consider attaching a stamp machine to’ each public letter posting box?
– I am afraid that I cannot consider the payment of such a commission, because to have stamps on. sale in a shop attracts custom to that shop and,, indeed, shop keepers are very glad to have the right to sell stamps. I shall consider the other question that the honorable member has. asked.
– Some time ago in this House I asked the PostmasterGeneral why the royal cipher had been removed from postal vans, and whether he- would consider replacing this emblem on> postal vans and. other, post office property in. accordance with, the old
British tradition that, for many years has been, preserved in British post offices throughout, the world. The. Minister replied on. a note of approvaL Will he now advise, me of the progress that has been made in this, matter?
– Inquiries and investigations are being made- by the PostmasterGeneral’s. Department to ascertainthe cost of changing from the. old emblem; to the; cipher of Queen Elizabeth the Second. At present I have not sufficient information to be able to indicate whether the- change will be made.
– My question is directed to- the Minister for Supply.. What progress1 has been made in settling the claims, of property holders: with mineral, rights in the Northern Territory?. Is it the intention of the- Government to. insist on the- six months period! for lodging claims as set out in the1 minerals ordinance of the 17th April, 1953? If so, is that considered just in the case of people who neither live in the Territory, nor read the Commonwealth Gazette ?
– My recollection is, and I speak subject, to my recollection, that the six months limit in the mineral ordi-nance refers to minerals other than “ prescribed substances “, that is to say uranium. I shall check up that matter and give the honorable member an answer in that respect. On the general question of claims for uranium, all I can say is that the. matter is extremely complex and that the law officers have been, investigating it. We are hoping to be able to work out a basis for the compensation which, subject to the ordinary rules of law, could be claimed under the legislation of 1946, and having worked out that basis, perhaps make offers with regard to compensation to interested parties. That does not mean that anybody who owns a piece of land in the Northern Territory which he thinks has uranium on. it is likely to get compensation. In my opinion, offers of compensation, if they are made, should be limited to people who own land upon which uranium, has actually been discovered.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which arises out of my statement on the adjournment of the House last night, which the Minister heard. Is it the intention of the department to repair, widen and reseal the two miles of road leading to the Western Junction aerodrome, from the main Launceston highway?
– I do not think so. The road that goes past the aerodrome at Western Junction is the same road that goes to Evandale and then through the Nile back to the main road. The fact that the road passes the aerodrome, which used to be the Launceston municipal, airport, has nothing to do with the Commonwealth authorities. The maintenance of the road is the responsibility of the local council or the State Government. If the road is in the deplorable state described by the honorable member, the local council should improve it. The Government has given it the money with which to do the work.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior which refers to the land settlement of ox-servicemen on tobacco farms in the south-west of Western Australia. Does the Minister admit that that project waa largely experimental and that it was based on technical advice that was received from the State Government? Is it now recognized that in many cases tobacco farming could not be carried on there with much hope of success? Where ex-servicemen have left their properties after having incurred heavy financial commitments over many years, will tho Minister indicate the nature of the action that the Government thinks is reasonable in relation to those debts? Is it true that one ex-serviceman was told that he could not obtain a home from the War Service Homes Division because of his war service land settlement debt? Will the Minister have regard to the hardships that have been suffered by those men and their families in trying to rehabilitate themselves since the end of World War II. and will he, as a matter of urgency, remove the miserable obstructions that have been placed in the way of those men?
– I do not think it is fair to say that those tobacco farms were entirely experimental. They were experimental in the sense that tobacco had not been grown in those parts before. The very best technical advice was sought before that move was made and it was thought that in certain selected areas there was a very good chance of success. In the Karridale area the leaf has not been acceptable to buyers because of a condition known as “ boardiness “. I am not an expert in such matters, but that leaf condition is being investigated. Tobacco farms in that district are being converted into dairy farms and the debts that have been incurred by the settlers in their unsuccessful experiment in tobacco growing will be written off. Because of seasonal factors, most, if not all, of the war service land settlers who have been growing tobacco in the Manjimup and Northcliffe districts have been operating at a loss, but it is thought that there is still a reasonable chance of their growing tobacco successfully. The Government is investigating the losses that have been incurred and I do not think there is any doubt that they will be written off. However, I do not think it is fair to say to a man “ We will write off your losses on a block of which somebody else is now making a success “. The merits of each case are being investigated. I shall confer with the Minister for Social Services in relation to the question of war service homes, because that matter does noc come under my administration.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that many new Australians are unhappy about the lapse of time, which in some cases is six months or longer, between the completion of legal formalities and the holding of naturalization ceremonies? If the delay is due to the fact that local governing bodies are unable to arrange ceremonies, will the Minister, after making investigations, consider whether it is possible to arrange for one of his officers to conduct naturalization ceremonies, and will he request local bodies to arrange functions, at intervals of perhaps six or twelve months, at which all persons naturalized during the preceding period may attend?
– I have received no complaints about this matter. I shall make inquiries to ascertain whether there is a basis for complaint, and shall let tha honorable member have a reply in due course.
– Is the Minister aware that the inclination of European immigrants to confine their social activities to their fellow nationals is a major deterrent to their applying for naturalization, because in consequence they find it difficult to pass the language test? Does this apply particularly to the mothers of young families? Will the Minister discuss with representatives of the States the possibility of providing a form of adulteducation for these people to encourage them to apply for naturalization so that they may become mire intimate^ absorbed into the Australian way of life?
– These inevitable difficulties tend to delay the assimilation of foreign immigrants into the Australian community by discouraging them from applying for naturalization. I shall examine the matter to ascertain whether the action suggested by the honorable member can be taken.
– Having regard to the Government’s expressed concern at the international situation and its proposal to increase the defence vote, will the Treasurer consider assisting the Queensland Government to complete the construction of the Burdekin River railway bridge by taking action to provide materials that are in short supply, and man-power, by making additional finance available for the project, or by both means?
– This Government has treated the Queensland Government and the governments of the other States very liberally. The Queesland Government has its own resources.
– What about the defence value of the Burdekin River railway bridge?
– The Labour Government of Queensland, for the 22 years that it has been in office, has had its own resources available for projects of this sort.
– Will the Postra aster-General tell me the number of applicants who are waiting for telephone services in Launceston? Is it the practice of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to refuse applications in Launceston, pending the installation of the automatic exchange in that city? If the answer to my second question is in the affirmative, will the Minister undertake to have the project completed at the earliest possible opportunity, and to advise me of the date upon which it is expected that the new exchange will be in operation?
– I shall give the honorable member the information that he seeks concerning the number of outstanding applications for telephone services in Launceston. A very high priority has been given to the Launceston automatic exchange, and the work will be expedited as much as possible.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me of the number of outstanding applications for telephones in the Ballarat area? When will the building alterations be commenced for the installation of the new telephone exchange at Ballarat, and when is the exchange likely to be completed? Will the Postmaster- Genera.1 also advise me whether the same high priority as will be allotted to the Launceston telephone exchange will be allotted to the Ballarat telephone exchange ?
– I should say that the high priority accorded to the Launceston telephone exchange was allotted a considerable time ago. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department has an appreciation of the needs of Ballarat, and the representations of the honorable member will be given consideration. I shall be glad to supply the information about the number of outstanding applications for telephonies in the Ballarat area.
– In response to a request that has been made to me “by a body of responsible citizens in my electorate who are attempting to raise funds to assist sub-normal children, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the News and Information Bureau would make a film, in consultation with the best authorities available, along the lines - of the very fine films that have been made in order to assist deaf children and spastic children. Committees have been set up in many areas throughout New South Wales for the purpose of raising funds to assist sub-normal children. If films of the kind that I have suggested were made they would enable such committees to make their appeal on a nation-wide basis.
– All proposals for the making of films are placed before the National Films Board which determines the priority of films to be made each year. On the last occasion that I saw the list of suggestions that had been received by the board it covered five foolscap pages of typescript. The number of such suggestions that is received is almost incredible. I shall be pleased to place the honorable member’s suggestion before the National Films Board. However, I believe that it is more a matter for State film centres than a matter for this Government, having regard to the fact that the States have the direct responsibility of making provision in their hospitals and schools for sufferers from ailments of the kind to which the honorable member has referred.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the statement made in this House by the honorable member for Wannon to the effect that industries m his electorate, particularly at Warrnambool, are most unstable as the result of action that has been taken by the Australian Government. I ask the Minister whether it is possible that -the honorable member for Wannon has overlooked the alarming strangulation of the policy of decentralizing industries as a result of the action of the Victorian Labour Go vernment ‘in imposing road ^transport restrictions and record high railway freights.
– :The honorable member himself has provided an excellent and completely accurate answer to his question.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) .agreed to-
That Standing Order 2.1 bo amended n.« follows: - After “ Chairman of Committees,”’ insert “ the Leader of the House, the Deputy Lender of the Opposition,”.
– I ask for leave to amend my notice of motion in relation to the appointment of the Standing Orders Committee by adding the words “five to form .a quorum”. In explanation I point out that Standing Order 27 -provides that the quorum of a standing committee shall be three unless otherwise ordered. Lt is considered that a quorum of three is inconsistent with the importance of the Standing Orders ‘Committee and its increased membership of eleven and that, as nas been done in the case of the Committee of Privileges, the quorum should be fixed at five.
Motion (by Sir ERIC Harrison) as amended, agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader df the House, the Deputy Leader df the Opposition. Mr. W. M. Bourke, Mr. Tom Burke, Mr. Clark, Mr. Costa, Mr Joske and Sir Earle Page be members of the Standing Orders Committee; ‘five to form a quorum.
Debate resumed from .the 11th August (ride page 162), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bil] be now read a second time.
– The importance of this bill is great. I think the House should understand that the measure contains no fewer than 28 clauses to deal with one specific royal commission. The validity of the commission was attacked in the High Court of Australia by Lockwood, one of the witnesses; and the decision, was. given in favour of the Commonwealths I mention, in passing, that it was. an ex parte, application. The Commonwealth was not called upon to justify the validity of the. act. In view of all the circumstances, it is. important to see why it is necessary for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to introduce: the bill in this form, with the adoption of all the sections- of. the Royal Commissions Act that are thought to be necessary and the. application of them solely to this one royal commission.
We. can. sum. up the. difference between the existing law on the subject- and the provisions of this bill in a few words. The bill provides- for the alternative penalty of imprisonment to the- penalty of a fine that may be imposed by a magistrate under the act in connexion with offences, such as the offence of refusing to answer relevant questions or not attending in obedience to a subpoena. But I do not think that, in itself, can be the reason- for the- introduction of this bill. I am now dealing with the illustration’ which the’ Prime Minister took in his speech. Lockwood, refused: to answer a question. If it was a relevant question, he was: liable to prosecution for his refusal to answer. Proceedings were taken in the High Court, and the case was dismissed. Therefore, so far as validity was concerned, the matter was free to be taken to prosecution. Indeed, this bill expressly provides that antecedent breaches of the law can be made the subject of legal action. If there is a genuine intention on the part of the Government to- enforce those provisions of the law, why was not Lockwood prosecuted? It may be that, in this case, the Government seeks the penalty of imprisonment. The Government wants answers to the questions which arc directed to witnesses. Lockwood was1 liable, I think, to a fine of £500 under the original act. But, nothing’ was done..
I believe that the reasons for the introduction of this bill must be sought elsewhere. One of the reasons may be that the question asked of Lockwood was about his authorship of a documentknown as exhibit J.
– Order ! I am not prepared to allow the right honorable gentleman to discuss matters that are happening before the royal commission.
– I am merely saying exactly what the Prime Minister has said. He has! mentioned this- particular matter.
Me. SPEAKER.- As I remember the matter,, it has been, in the High Court before Mr. Justice Fullagar.
– With great respect;. Mr. Speaker., that is not so. The, refusal of a witness- to answer questions, followed by the High Court, proceedings, was referred to by the Prime. Minister in his secondreading speech. I Submit that I am entitled to the same rights as have been accorded to the Prime Minister in this debate. I refer to the matter, because exhibit J was a document mentioned by counsel assisting the royal commission as a farrago1 of fact, falsities arid filth.
-Order! The right honorable gentleman is now obviously dealing with certain things which were said before the court.
-If the right honorable gentleman desires my ruling on tho matter’, I will give, it to him now.
– But, Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! Will the right honorable- gentleman resume his seat? On the- 25th _ February, 1949, the House was considering a bill introduced by the then Prime Minister, Mr. J. B. Chifley, .to facilitate the proceedings’ of the royal commissioner appointed to hold an inquiry with respect to certain matters in relation to timber rights in the. Territory of Papua-Kew Guinea. An attempt was made by the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to deal with the proceedings before the royal commission. My predecessor in the chair, Mr. Speaker Rosevear, in the course of his ruling, made the following statement: - 7,1, is is a very unfortunate occasion. During thu course nf an. inquiry by a royal commission and other legal proceedings, a bill that requires- full discussion has come before the House. Freedom- of speech and the right tradiscuss a bill are unlimited” in this Parliament, but there are well established precedent’s to the effect that, when- a ease is before a court, nothing should be said in this House to prejudice the case one way or the other.
Therefore, I say that we cannot deal with the proceedings before the royal commission.
– On a point of order, I submit that, if you will look at volume 201 of Hansard again, you will see at page 650 that the Prime Minister at that time introduced a bill for the purpose of placing beyond doubt the power of that royal commission to compel the attendance of witnesses and the answering of questions. The debate was resumed by the then Leader of the Opposition, who is the present Prime Minister, while the royal commission was sitting. That is shown on page 705 of the same volume. The Leader of the Opposition concluded his second-reading speech by proposing to move an amendment for the purpose of widening the terms of reference of the royal commission. The proposed amendment was ruled out of order only on the ground that it was not relevant to the bill.
– No. It was ruled out of order because it “was not relevant to the leave given to introduce the bill.
– The Hansard record shows that a full-dress second-reading debate on the royal commission took place and that, during that debate, statements’ based upon facts and evidence before the royal commission were made. There was no question at any time of the right of the Parliament to discuss the commission and its terms of reference. Honorable members were left at liberty to introduce matters, and the question whether such matters were likely to prejudice any proceedings in the courts of justice was left for them to decide. There was no ruling on that point, and I submit that the very instance that you have cited establishes our right, in debating this bill, to discuss the royal commission, which is not a court of justice but an administrative agency. The purpose of the bill is to give additional power in respect of the royal commission. One of the reasons for the introduction of the amending legislation was the refusal of the witness I have mentioned to answer questions. Surely I am entitled to deal with that matter and to examine the real purpose behind certain provisions of the clause to which 1 referred earlier.
– I rise to speak on the point of order. I must say that, on this occasion, I find myself inclined to agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to page 706 of volume 201 of Hansard, to which reference was made earlier, and to the reported remarks of the then Leader of the Opposition, who is the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In the second column on that page, you will find that the right honorable gentleman discussed matters that had occurred before the royal commission insofar as he judged them to be germane to the bill then before the House. I realize the grave difficulty of applying rulings in the case now before the House, but I suggest to you that, where the matter before the commission is of such a character that it must necessarily be discussed for the proper appreciation of the bill before the House, it should be possible so to discuss it. I realize that, in applying such a ruling, it would be difficult to judge each particular ease, but I think that the principle might be kept in mind. Having studied the documents and the volume of Hansard to which reference has been made, I repeat that I am rather inclined to think that the Leader of the Opposition is correct on this occasion.
– My view of the position is that the previous Parliament passed an act to establish a royal commission and handed over to that commission powers to make a certain investigation. It appears that there was some lack in the powers, as I think the Prime Minister foresaw there might be when the bill was introduced. Consequently, the Government now seeks to remove any doubts on the validity of the .powers of the commission. I am prepared to allow full debate - in fact, I must do so - on the question whether the commission shall or shall not have these powers, but I am not prepared to allow any reference to the proceedings before the commission itself. Proceedings which took place before a justice of the High Court and are now completed are open to discussion, but that freedom will not apply to proceedings before the commission until it has completed its work. I think we should leave it to the commission to carry on.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Does the honorable member wish to raise a further point of order ?
– No, sir, I wish to move dissent from your ruling. Will you give me time to frame the motion?
– Certainly. We have all eternity ahead of us.
Espionage Activities in Australia.
– I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made repeated references to the royal commission in his speech. He said that the commission was cramped because of a decision of the High Court and furthermore, that it needed the additional powers for which the bill provides in order that itmight compel witnesses to give evidence, and so on and so on. Surely, in the circumstances, we are entitled to canvass the proceedings before the royal commission in respect of the refusal of persons to give evidence.
– The honorable gentleman wants an open go.
– We do not want an open go, but we want a fair go. We want to be able to say what we think in respect of certain matters that should properly be discussed, such as the long time that the commission is taking to get down to business, the necessity for the protection of innocent people whose names might be mentioned, and the desirability, in our view, of the whole of document J, which has been made public in part, being made entirely public. We do not believe that the contents of document J and document H should be mentioned in part without everybody knowing everything that is in them.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are going rightoutside the terms of his motion.
– Your ruling prevents us from saying these things in the second-reading debate on the bill.
– The honorable gentleman must not take advantage of this opportunity to say them.
– I am trying to show why we consider that your ruling is wrong. If it is going to be purely an argument on technicalities,the debate is not going to be worth very much. There are big issues involved in this question of the punishment to be meted out to people who refuse to answer questions or to do certain other things. The Prime Minister himself has said that the bill does not provide for the amendment of the law dealing with royal commissions generally. He has brought forward a specific proposal to deal with a specific situation. We do not disagree with the line of action that the right honorable gentleman has taken, but we wantto make certain observations that have some bearing on events that have taken place before the royal commission, not in relation to persons, but in relation to the procedures that have been adopted. Surely, as the whole question of the royal commission is now under review again, as it ought to be, we should be able to say at least that we should like the proceedings to be streamlined so as to obtain a quick result and to have action taken to deal with any persons who have been guilty of espionage. But we cannot even say that under your ruling.
– Order ! I have not ruled in that way.
– That could be the effect of your ruling.
– Order ! The honorable member is trying to put interpretations on my ruling which will not fit. He might as well confine himself to the matters with which he disagrees. Otherwise he had better take his seat.
– Surely I am entitled to say what I think your ruling means, Mr. Speaker.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is going right outside the scope of my ruling. I believe that he knows the English language sufficiently well to understand it.
– I know it perfectly, but I fear that if your .ruling is upheld now, points of order will be .taken that will preclude the Leader of the Opposition from putting a fair case for the Opposition in relation to certain clauses of this bill. We think it would be completely wrong, therefore, for your ruling to be upheld.
Mr. Calwell having submitted .his objection to the ruling in writing
– Is -the motion seconded?
.- Tes, 1 second the motion of dissent from your ruling, Mr. Speaker .that has been moved by ‘the honorable member for .Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I do so because I consider that the result of the .ruling, if it be upheld, must inevitably be that the Leader of the Opposition will .automatically be deprived of the same rights as were enjoyed ‘by the Prime .Minister -(Mr. Menzies) when he introduced and explained ‘this measure. If my memory serves me correctly, :it is -undeniable that the Prime Minister, in his second-reading speech, mentioned .a name which -has been mentioned in the proceedings of the royal commission. It -was, in fact, ;the name of -a man who has been a witness before the commission.
– Lt was the name of an individual who was concerned in proceedings in the High Court.
– Inevitably in .the minds of some people, there flows .from mention of that name something that could be prejudicial to that witness, and in the minds of other people, something that might build him up. It follows therefore, that, as the name of this particular individual has been mentioned, it is essential, in order that this matter can be debated correctly and fairly, that the document, the details of which you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled may not be referred to, should -also, if ‘so desired by honorable members, be discussed here. Otherwise the -full facts and the reason for the amendment to the legislation cannot .be given with ample clarity. It is all very fine for the Prime Minister to interject that we want a debate on .something that is invisible, but he had no hesitation .in mentioning <the name of a witness and perhaps prejudicing him. When the right honorable gentleman .submitted .this measure to the House he could merely have stated the essential necessity for it, and need not have gone beyond “that point.
– He need not have referred to the name of the individual who had appeared before the commission and thereby perhaps prejudiced “him either favorably or unfavorably. ‘The point is, that the Prime Minister having been given that right, or at -least not having been deterred by you, Mr. .Speaker, from mentioning the name of .that witness, it is essential that this matter should be thoroughly debated. It is obvious that the Prime Minister did not bring down this legislation because of his awareness that at the time he introduced the preceding bill some weaknesses were contained in it. He brought it to <this Parliament, rightly so because of his own opinion-
– Order-! The honorable gentleman is getting right outside the scope of the motion of dissent from my ruling.
– I shall come hack to it. It is obvious that, as a result -of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, we are to be embarrassed in our attempts to discuss ‘the legislation amply. It is quite obvious that the measure has been brought forward
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not deal with the motives =of the Government. He may deal only with my ruling.
– Very well. I consider that your ruling will prevent the Opposition and, indeed, the honorable member for Mackellar, from discussing the bill fully. God forbid that I should ever see the honorable member for Mackellar prevented from giving vent to his feelings on such a matter as this. I appeal to you now, Mr.. Speaker, to give all honorable members an opportunity to discuss this measure -in the widest possible sense. Nobody in this ^chamber desires to prejudice anybody, but the Opposition should be given the opportunity to discuss the bill amply. You allowed the Prime Minister to name a particular witness who appeared before the commission, and unless the Opposition and the honorable member for Wentworth are allowed to discuss the particular matters involved - and that involves the Parliament’s right to discuss document
JET, or document J, or any other document - we shall be unfairly trammelled in our discussion of the measure. For these reasons I support the motion of dissent from your ruling.
Sir ERIC HARRISON (WentworthVicePresident of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production) [11.30J. - Candidly, I cannot understand all the heat that has been generated by honorable members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), by his interjection across the table, when the Royal Commission Bill was before the House, showed he was aware that there were possible weaknesses in that measure This bill has been designed to repair those weaknesses. That fact was made manifest when, during the proceedings of the royal commission-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman had better confine himself to the motion.
– Let ils examine this argument about the use of the name of Lockwood, with which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has made so much play. The Prime Minister used that name in connexion with an application that had been made to Mr. Justice Fullagar in the High Court. That is the point. He did not use it in connexion with the proceedings of the royal commission, and all the twisted arguments “that may be devised by the honorable member for Lalor have no weight. The bill is designed to allow the commission’s inquiries to proceed freely without obstruction. If the House were to support the arguments that the Opposition has advanced, not only the whole of the commission’s proceedings up to date, but also the documents and the proceeding* with regard to a number of witnesses, could be debated in this House.
– That is so.
– The Leader of the Opposition says that that is correct. In view of his knowledge of High Court procedure that observation rather astounds me when it is considered in conjunction with the arguments now advanced by him. Is he seeking to prejudice the various witnesses before the commission ? I suggest that he is, because it is easy to foresee what is likely to happen in this House. We can foresee the loose observations that will be made by honorable members, and the criticisms that will be indulged in with regard to witnesses before the commission.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman should confine himself to discussing the motion of dissent from my ruling.
– If the House supports the arguments advanced by the Opposition, it cannot help but do a disservice to the free flow of justice in this community. I put it to you therefore, Mr. Speaker, that the reference made by the Prime Minister, upon which the Opposition is basing its case, was to an application for an injunction that was made to Mr. Justice Fullagar in the High Court, and in no way conflicts with your ruling.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I think that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has, in part, misrepresented my remarks. I did not say that the proceedings of the commission were endangered by the debate in this House. I thought I was very careful and hae! framed my words exactly. I said that matters which were germane to the consideration of the bill before the House should not be ruled out of order merely because they had been mentioned before the commission. I think that that is a logical stand to take. I do not wish to invade the privileges of the commission in any way. I referred only to discussion in this House that is germane to the bill. I said I considered that in that case - and I made it clear that I included no other instance and I know that it is always very difficult to rule on the question of fact - that I thought that, in this case and in this case only, discussion should not be barred in this House merely because certain matters had been mentioned before the commission.
– I think, Mr. Speaker, that you should dare to be a Daniel in this case. In the first place, the paramount consideration is that this Parliament is continually sub-editing its own privileges. All that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and honorable members on this side of the House ask, is that the matters contained rather widely in the original legislation should be dealt with in the same tenor as they were dealt with when that legislation was before us. You, Mr. Speaker, should leave it to the members of this Parliament who, at least in this regard, are able to decide, : s representatives of the people, whether they should discuss these matters. Why should not the members of this House be able to consider this issue in its proper perspective, free from the rigid rules of debate? The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) said that he believed that because this measure was designed to correct a legal anomaly, debate should be circumscribed. However, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that the measure is a large bill, that he had inserted many clauses in it, and, that, in order to draw up those clauses, he had investigated legislation passed as far back as 1923, 192S and 1947. Then, after having loaded the measure to its plimsoll line with all the clauses that he considered necessary, be said that the Parliament must discuss only the legal requirements. I say that there must be a fair inquiry, because there is a legitimate desire for knowledge on the part of honorable members. The whole issue boils down to the place of the Parliament in relation to inquiries such as the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia. We constantly talk of privilege, and the right of honorable members to express their opinions in an unfettered fashion. But instead of being allowed to do so, we are subjected to a spate of dog latin about sub judice, abracadabra, and so on.
This is a Parliament elected by the people to discuss everything relevant to the well-being and safety of the community. Is the honorable member for Mackellar, for example, to be tied down to a narrow piece of stoogery by hia leader, and confined within the narrow walls of legalism? I say certainly not. It has been pointed out time and again that matters should be considered in the Parliament in a way that is free from restriction. The people of Australia are listening with great interest to the discussion to-day, but what may come out of this motion? The bill deals with a royal commission of extraordinary importance, and we, the elected representatives of the Australian people, are being handicapped by a judgment of yours, Mr. Speaker, which is not relevant to the case.
– Before I put the motion to the House, I again point out that the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia exists because of a decision by a previous Parliament. That was a unanimous decision. As for document J, which has been imported into the discussion in this House, the House does not know anything about that document except what it has learned from the press. Only the royal commission knows the contents of document J, and that commission, set up by an act passed earlier this year, has not yet reported to the House on document J. Until that has been done, I consider that I should be failing in my duty if I allowed any discussion about matters that have been deliberately handed over to the royal commission for investigation.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . .10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 219).
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders he suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) from concluding his speech without interruption.
The House divided. (Ms. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) he granted an extension of time.
– When the Royal Commission on Espionage was mooted, we on this side of the House pointed out that the chief object of a government in dealing with espionage or offences against the safety of the country should be to secure the prosecution of the guilty parties, that innocent people should be cleared, and that all possible action should be taken to ensure that the good names of innocent persons should not be injured or smeared. We understood that the Government and all concerned concurred in that view. These factors in proceedings before this royal commission, and others of a similar type, depend entirely upon the discretion of the commission. It is essential that the procedure adopted in giving notice to persons, and acquainting them with the allegations against them, shall as nearly as possible conform to the principles that prevail in courts pf justice throughout the British Commonwealth.
I do not suggest for a moment that the royal commission is not a court. It might appropriately be called an investigating authority sitting in public, whereas the police and the security service, doing similar work, act in private. But in this instance the investigating authority is composed of judges who were appointed because it is thought that they will observe the practices and principles that are acknowledged to be vital to the processes of British justice. In this instance, the Government seems to take the opposite view that, because this inquiry is not a court, the distinguished commissioners shall not apply the rules that hundreds of years of experience have proved to be necessary to the administration of justice under our judicial system. I shall not elaborate by referring to details of the evidence. Action will have to be taken either by the royal commission, or by Parliament through future legislation, to ensure that the punishment of guilty persons shall not be set aside, as has happened in some of the States, in which royal commissions almost invariably achieve nothing, and also that the persons who are named iri the proceedings of the Royal Commission on Espionage and are proved to be innocent shall not be ruined merely by their being called before the commission. We must keep those points uppermost in our minds. Clause 16 concerns the power to sit in private. That power should be available in certain rare types of case, but it is well established as a principle of law that it is serious to adopt this procedure. I quote from a decision of the Privy Council, the highest court of justice in the British Commonwealth of Nations, as follows: -
It is needless to quote authority on this topic from legal, philosophical, or historical, writers. It moves. Bentham over and over again. … In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice.
It follows from that decision that selective justice denies complete justice. I quote further -
Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial.
That is the very basis of justice. It is the reason why, at an earlier stage, I referred to the disclosure of portions of documents little by little. The public knowing nothing of them, rumour takes charge of the situation and names are mentioned. That must not be allowed in a British country. The full contents of the documents are sure to come out in the end. A summary of a notorious document is now in circulation, and I believe that the complete document is in select circulation, though the commissioners will not allow publication.
– Why have they refused to allow publication?
– They have made their decision and I cannot canvass it. Publicity ensures that justice shall be done. The quotation from the Privy Council decision to which I have just referred concludes as follows: -
The security of securities is publicity.
The Argus newspaper, a leading Melbourne journal, declared recently -
The Argus does not doubt the sincerity of the judges who form the Petrov Commission, but it does not agree that the discrimination they arc practising in permitting public mention of some names, while concealing other names, is justified by any argument.
We believe that most Australians are puzzled, if not angered, by the Petrov Commission’s exercise of its powers to protect some individuals, while other individuals are “ smeared “.
Is public opinion going to tolerate this thing?
My observations are not intended to constitute an attack on the measure by the Australian Labour party. The royal commission is bound to proceed, and the bill is almost a replica of the Royal Commissions Act 1902-1933, under which witnesses who refused to answer relevant questions might have been prosecuted. Why have they not been charged ? What will happen to the two witnesses whose names were mentioned by the Prime Minister? I believe that they have not been prosecuted for the reason that if they were charged the complete document would be submitted to the court before which they would be taken, and no court of justice would convict a man for refusing to answer a question relating to a document that was not relevant and the contents of which were not made known to the public.
I pass now to the consideration of the important rules relating to contempt of court. The bill seeks to alter the provisions of the existing law relating to this question. I do not object to the heavier penalties and the alternative punishment proposed if it is thought fit that they should be inflicted. A magistrate would not necessarily inflict imprisonment for a first offence. A penalty was already provided in the principal act. The basic rule relative to contempt of court in pending proceedings is that no newspaper or individual may publicly organize and promote the case that is to be put in the court by a particular witness or witnesses. But since the proceedings of the Royal Commission on Espionage began, the Government and the security service have been flouting this rule. The two main witnesses have been glamorized, and, if their photographs, by some mischance, do not appear in the first editions of the daily newspapers, it is announced at the week-end that a threat to assassinate them has been made. Those two witnesses are continually boosted and vamped up. The real question before the royal commission is the extent to which those witnesses have told the truth, and this can be tested only by crossexamination and probing on all points. 1 say advisedly that the probe necessary to get at the truth has not been made. It is not a question whether evidence has been concocted, but it may be a question, whether parts of the evidence have been unduly emphasized or partially distorted. Every one experienced in’ the law courts knows that this is a most important consideration. The facts must be ascertained by probing. The Australian Labour party wants to ensure that the guilty persons shall be punished, and it does not want innocent people to be smeared. It is not sufficient that, many months after a person’s good name has been called into question, it might be cleared by the royal commission’s report. In the meantime, ruination faces innocent people.
– Did the right honorable gentleman think of that about the Australia First bunch?
– Yes; and but for me they would not have been released. The Vice-President of the Executive Council himself, and the Prime Minister, paid a tribute to me for the action that I took in that matter. I suggest that the VicePresident of the Executive Council should cultivate a memory in spite of the seniority that he now enjoys.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s extended time has expired.
– I desire to move -
That the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) be granted a further extension of time.
– Order ! That course cannot be followed under the Standing Orders.
– Then I should like to move for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– A motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders for that purpose has been defeated.
.- As one who has practised in the courts for a period of nearly 40 years, I place implicit faith in our judges. They are doing their duty to the best of their ability to preserve the time-honoured traditions of the administration of justice. The proceedings before the royal commission which is covered by this bill are taking place before three judges of Supreme Court standing, and a great part of the remarks which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has just made really amount to criticism of the way in which the commissioners have been conducting the commission. I do not believe that the right honorable gentleman, if he still retained those judicial qualities which it was at one time believed that he possessed, would be capable of making criticism of that kind. But, of course, when one descends - I use the term deliberately - into the political arena, one, apparently, forgets the high principles which a judge possesses. I do not think that any one who appreciates the high regard in which judges are held by most people in the community, will agree for one moment that the Leader of the Opposition had any right to make the derogatory remarks which he has made with respect to the royal commissioners.
Clause 24 of the bill provides that a person shall not by writing or speech use words calculated to bring the commission, or any member of the commission, into disrepute. This measure has not yet become law, but I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition went beyond the scope of fair criticism and that, in fact, he endeavoured to bring the commission into disrepute. It is a well-recognized fact that members of a royal commission in the course of carrying out their duties are liable to criticism, even severe criticism, provided that it be fair and based upon the facts; but once one goes beyond the bounds of fair criticism one becomes guilty of an offence, and, properly, becomes liable to punishment. That distinction should be borne in mind. When this commission was about to be brought into existence the judges of the Supreme Court of Victoria refrained from accepting an appointment of one of their number. Basically, it was considered that judges by becoming royal commissioners rendered themselves subject to criticism of a kind that might affect the prestige of the Bench. That conclusion on the part of those judges was based largely on the ground that if they accepted such an appointment they would enter the political arena and would be criticized not in respect of the way in which they had done their work as commissioners but on the basis of politics. They concluded that those whose politics had been hurt by their findings would criticize them in an unfair and improper way with the result that the prestige of the Bench might be injured. Indeed, the bar of the State of Victoria upheld that view in a published statement; and it is unusual for the Committee of Counsel of Victoria to make a public statement except when it feels that such action is well warranted. The committee believed that on this occasion it was well warranted.
I believe that it is proper for judges to accept appointments as royal commissioners. Indeed, I think that the Leader of the Opposition himself appreciated that point. It i3 a matter of history, accepted over the centuries, that judges should accept appointment as royal commissioners; and judges have acted as royal commissioners in respect of many important, and political, subjects. One need only instance the trial of the Princess Caroline when she was charged with misconduct. On that occasion the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice of England were among the royal commissioners appointed. I recall also that three judges sat on the Parnell Commission which dealt with a subject that was extremely political. One could cite many other instances.
The view taken by the judges in Victoria is understandable and will receive a great deal of sympathy. Nevertheless, it appears to me to be too narrow altogether. Such views are based partly on the ground that judges should only be called upon to give decisions as between parties and that the general power of inquiry should not be given to them. That view is not entirely accurate even from a strictly legalistic point of view, because in many inquiries, for example, under the Companies Acts, the judge sits merely as an investigator. The other point is whether the prestige of the Bench is actually affected through judges sitting on royal commissions. Although it is conceivable that that prestige can be affected in the opinion of people who believe that criticism should never be made of judges, nevertheless the persons best qualified to act as commissioners in respect of matters of great public moment and matters affecting national security are judges. It may be said that an eminent barrister, or a retired judge, would be equally suitable. I doubt the wisdom of that contention. I believe that an eminent barrister or a retired judge does not enjoy the standing possessed by a judge who is on the Bench when he is appointed to a royal commission. The reason the public expects judges to be appointed to royal commissions is that judges in carrying out their duties in the administration of justice invariably act with decorum, detachment, impartiality and independence. That is always to be expected of judges. Indeed, the fact that a judge, in accordance with historical practice, sits on a royal commission, indicates that the public is most satisfied. The appointment of judges to a royal commission is not likely to affect the principle so long as they exhibit the qualities that I have mentioned.
I believe that the people consider that this royal commission has been conducted properly and that the prestige of the Bench will be enhanced by reason of the fact that the judges, who are members of the commission, are rendering a public duty. The fact that a man becomes a judge does not absolve him from his duties as a citizen, and he should continue to carry out those duties which, as a matter of constitutional practice in this country, have been commonly carried out in the past by judges.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that he considered that people were being smeared in the proceedings before the royal commission. Almost in the next breath, he objected to the conduct of proceedings in private. That is a matter entirely at the discretion of the commissioners. No doubt, they have perfectly valid reasons why they should hear certain matters in private, and certain matters in public. At any rate, that is not a matter for this House. We have given the commissioners authority to sit in private, should it become necessary and proper for them to do so. It is for the commission to decide how it will conduct its proceedings. Provided the proceedings are conducted in accordance with the decorum, detachment, impartiality and independence that I mentioned earlier, no criticism of the commission should be forthcoming from this House.
.- I frankly admit that I do not profess to possess the great legal knowledge that has been acquired by men like the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) or the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). However, the layman and the laywoman, in this instance, are as deeply concerned about espionage activities in Australia as are members of the legal fraternity, and, therefore, this debate should not be restricted to a discussion of the legal position. The speech of the honorable member for Balaclava contained evidence of a great division of legal thought about the course that proceedings are taking in the hearings of the royal commission. An analysis of his speech reveals that he took the Leader of the Opposition to task because the right honorable gentleman had dared, in perhaps a covert way, to offer some criticism of the royal commissioners. The honorable gentleman then dealt with what I describe as some legal technicalities when he referred to the refusal of justices of Victoria to make themselves available for appointment as royal commissioners.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. The honorable member for Balaclava said that, in his opinion, the attitude adopted by the Victorian justices was wrong.
– I said that I sympathized with them, but-
– But the honorable gentleman proceeded to point out that, in his view, their decision was wrong. There are no degrees of judicial integrity. Either we believe in the integrity of judges, or we do not. The honorable member for Balaclava has made that position clear. If we believe in the integrity of judges, we should ask ourselves this question : Why did the Government hand-pick the judges whom it appointed to the royal commission, and say that certain other judges, who were recommended to it, were, in its view, not suitable for appointment? This Government claimed, from the outset, that there were degrees of good judgment among judges. The Government did not accept the recommendation of a judge by the government of a sovereign State. The Government cannot run away from that fact. It is the first authority in Australia to cast a reflection upon our judges. I shall refer briefly to the circumstances. A State government recommended to the Commonwealth a judge whom it believed to be best fitted to sit on the royal commission.
– The original recommendation was made by the Chief Justice of Queensland.
– I was about to mention that fact. The Menzies Government is the first authority in Australia to throw a cloud over the integrity of our judges.
– That is not true.
– It is true. This Government has decided that all judges are not equal.
– I challenge any honorable gentleman opposite who is a member of the legal profession, to express his view about the passing over of a Queensland judge, who was recommended by the Chief Justice of that State for appointment to theroyal commission.
– What was the Government’s objection to Mr. Justice Townley?
– Before any brickbats are thrown in this matter, let the Government examine its own house. The honorable member for Balaclava claims that our judges are above criticism. I state emphatically that when espionage is involved the people’s government of Australia should make provision for a thorough examination of the whole matter.
– The Government is doing so.
– Let us examine the bill, with particular reference to clause 8, to see whether the Government is doing so. The paramount matter to be borne in mind is that the subject of this debate is espionage, and not aliquorinquiry in New South Wales. Espionage is one of the highest matters of national importance to every citizen. The Royal Commission on Espionage can be inquiring into the activities of the emissaries of only one enemy, a political enemy of the worst type that the world has ever known. I refer to communism, and its infiltration into Australia.
– Does the honorable member propose to discuss clause 8 of the bill?
– I shall do so now. The clause reads, in part, as follows : - (1.) The Chairman of the Commission may, by writing under his hand, summon a person to attend the Commission at a time and place named in thesummons, and then and there to give evidence and to produce any documents, books or writings in his custody or control which he is required by the summons to produce.
In my view, the ambit of that clause should be widened to provide that the commission must - not may - summon before it every person who is named in any of the documents in its possession.
– What is the difference between “may” and “must” in this matter? The honorable member is splitting straws.
– Because a document is in circulation in many parts of Australia to-day, as a consequence of Communist propaganda, that is said to be similar toa document in possession of the royal commission. I daresay that every honorable member has a copy of it. The document is circulated for public perusal, and three members of this Parliament are concerned in it in some way or other, because theirnames are before the royal commission.
– Upstairs or downstairs ?
– I am not concerned about that, but a high principle is involved in this matter. Those three honorable members should be named, and summoned to appear before the royal commission, regardless of the consequences.
– How does the honorable member know that they will not be summoned to appear before the commission ?
– The responsibility for that matter should not be left to the discretion of anybody, evan a royal commission. The .great difference between espionage, and almost any other matter, is that national security is involved in espionage activities. This Parliament should issue a direction to the effect that every person who is named in the documents must appear before .1 he royal commission, and declare his attitude. The Prime Minister nas stated that the Government has preserved, in the main, in this legislation, the ordinary rules in relation to royal commissions. When a matter of paramount importance, such as espionage, arises, those provisions are insufficient. Some elements of national security are more important than others, ‘and the ascending order of importance may be likened to the rungs of a ladder. In such a comparison, espionage, in relation to national security, may be described as the top rung of the ladder. This Parliament should insist, by legislative enactment, that every person who is named in the documents shall appear .before the royal commission. The faith of the people in our .democratic institution may well be. shaken if such a provision is not incorporated in the Ml. Those honorable members whose names have been besmirched by rumour may well regret, in the years that .lie ahead, their failure to insist that the innocent be protected and the guilty brought to justice. Surely nobody can be happy while .the names of Australians mentioned in Communist documents submitted to the royal commission are withheld from the public. For all I know, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), Who sits opposite me at this table, may be named in one of the documents “before the commission. There may even- “be two Harrisons on the list. Both the Minister and I may be involved. At any rate, I, for one, want to know whether the other Harrison in this chamber is mentioned, and, if so, what part he has played in relation to Petrov and his activities.
– One Harrison used ito he in the New Guard.
– He could not be on both sides, surely!
– It is all very well to bandy words .across the chamber, but this is a serious matter. The Minister has said that he could nor be on both sides. Let us analyse that remark. The nian who is the backbone of the royal commission has been on both sides, and even now may be secretly on both sides. I am not satisfied that Petrov is not still playing the Communist game in Australia.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot discuss that issue.
– I am sorry if I have offended, Mr. Speaker, but there is no game ‘so low that the Communists will not play at it. That is why I say that the normal procedure of royal commissions is not sufficient to deal with .communism in Australia. 1 agree with the Leader of the Opposition
– The honorable member is having a ‘bit each way. j thought he disagreed with his leader.
– ] agree with what the Leader of the Opposition .said about .clause 16.
– What does the honorable member think of clause 23?
– I shall discuss clause 23 and clause 24 later. Let us not hurry over clause 16, because it is important. It provides that the commission may take evidence in private. I believe that any inquiry into communism, whatever form it may take, should be .completely open to the press and the people of Australia.
– So .that the whole of our security organization could be exposed to the Communists’? The honorable member is not concerned with security.
– I had intended to ignore interjections, but I shall reply to that challenge. If the security service had been doing .the job for which it was established, Petrov would not have reached the stage in his espionage activities that he did reach. He could not have done so if our (security organization had been .sound.
– Read the evidence.
– We are not allowed to read the evidence.
We trust our judiciary, but we must remember that Communists will descend to any depth, and it may well be that evidence taken in camera and withheld from the public would be counteracted by the truth if it were brought into the open where everybody could read it. People with knowledge of the facts would be able to come forward and tell the truth. During the course of this week, the House has debated at length the general subject of international affairs, and honorable members on both sides have freely acknowledged that communism is the menace that we have to face. Had this Government been sincere, it would have insisted that all facts related to espionage and communism which were made available to the royal commission should be presented as publicly as possible. If light were thrown on everything said in evidence before the commission, the people of Australia would be made to understand the danger of communism and espionage. I do not propose to quote from the opinion of the high British authority that was quoted by the Leader of the Opposition in support of his plea that the procedure of other royal commissions in taking evidence in private does not justify secrecy on the part of the Royal Commission on Espionage. I maintain that secrecy in this inquiry is wrong.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has asked me to state my views on clause 24. That clause goes further than the existing provision in the Royal Commissions Act on the subject of offences against a commission, but clause S and clause 16 will not confer upon the Royal Commission on Espionage any greater powers than are already contained in the Royal Commissions Act. If it be necessary to extend the normal procedure in clause 24, I submit that it must be equally necessary to extend the provisions of clause 8 and clause 16. It is inconsistent to declare that the existing law is inadequate in one respect without facing the realities and acknowledging the inadequacies of the law in other respects. Especially is this so when we are seeking to deal with espionage and communism.
Section 6o of the Royal Commissions Act lays down a penalty for any person who, by writing or speech, uses words false and defamatory of a royal commission. Clause 24 of the bill provides that there shall be a penalty for any person who by writing or speech uses words calculated - . . to bring the Commission or a member of the Commission into disrepute.
We had in this chamber to-day a classic example of such misconduct when the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) suggested that the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition might well come within the terms of that provision.
– Hear, hear!
– Let us analyse that statement by the honorable member for Balaclava. The Leader of the Opposition based his speech on two main points. The first point was the necessity for conducting the commission’s inquiry in the open instead of behind closed doors. In support of his argument on that point, the right honorable gentleman quoted the views of one of the highest authorities in the British Commonwealth. The honorable member for Balaclava said later that, by quoting that authority, the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition fell under the terms of the provision that I have quoted from clause 24.
Honorable members on the Government side of the House should not imagine that they can defeat communism by using the methods of Communists. The terms of clause 24 betray a fear on the part of the Government that there will be a smear campaign against the royal commission by the Australian Communist party. The Royal Commissions Act 1902-1933 apparently does not. go far enough in the Government’s view in relation to offences against the royal commission, but the Government appears to believe that, in other respects. the act is adequate. I do not wonder that the judges of Victoria adopted the attitude towards serving on the royal commission that the honorable member for Balaclava mentioned. They showed sound sense in making their decision.
– Perhaps they had a crystal ball.
– At any rate, whether they had a crystal ball or not, they knew the sort of government that would be in control of the commission. They did not want to have anything to do with the inquiry because they thought that it would become a political affair.
– The honorable member is making heavy weather of it.
– On the contrary, the Opposition has clear and definite reasons for its attitude to the bill. We say without hesitation that the whole inquiry should be thrown open to public scrutiny. We say that those persons who are named in documents that have been submitted to the commission must be brought before the commission. Members of Parliament whose names appear in any of those documents should be examined, whether they sit on the back benches of the chamber or hold office as Ministers. We object to the fact that they will not be called before the commission and. publicly examined.
The three members of Parliament named in one of the documents are probably the most important people in Australia in relation to this inquiry into espionage. They were elected to this Parliament by the people, and they should be the first persons to be examined before the royal commission. This is not a minor matter. It affects the safety of the nation. I know that Government supporters will say that the provision in clause 24 to which I have referred is copied from our industrial arbitration law. I am aware of that fact, but does it mean that the Royal Commissions Act 1902-1933 is not strong enough to protect the judges ? Section 6o of the act states - (1.) Any person who … by writing or speech uses words false and defamatory of aRoyal Commission . . . shall be guilty ofan offence.
Why is that not wide enough to protect the Royal Commission on Espionage ? Is the Government afraid of criticism from some source other than the Communist party? If it were not, it would have insisted that everybody named in any document submitted to the commission should be brought to book and made to prove himself innocent or otherwise.
– Ah ! The onus of proof !
– The onus of proof in this inquiry should rest upon persons named before the royal commission. Government supporters appear to be losing sight of the fact that espionage at this stage of our history can be associated only with communism. That was the burden of my remarks at the outset of my speech. It is communism that we are trying to deal with. The Government is too weak in its approach to this matter. That is why it has provided that at least some of the proceedings of the royal commission shall be conducted secretly. But that suits the Communists.
– Why did the Labour party oppose the Government’s plan to ban the Communist party?
– Make no mistake about it, before we are finished with Communists in Australia, we shall have to control them in one way or another.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.47 to 2.15 p.m.
.- This is a bill to make possible the effective functioning of the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia. It is, of course, an auxiliary to the original act that was passed in the closing stages of the last Parliament. That bill was passed by this House unanimously, but it is nevertheless fair to say that it was passed with very litle show of enthusiasm by honorable gentlemen opposite. The royal commission, as we know, and as the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrision) has pointed out, is dealing with a matter that is of the greatest importance to this country. Our security and our very existence as a democracy are dependent on the degree to which we can protect ourselves against treasonable activities. To me it is simply staggering that with a measure of this great importance before us - and honorable gentlemen opposite admit its importance - we have not heard from the once great Australian Labour party in this place one single word of support for the royal commission, or for these additional actions that are necessary to make it effective.. Neither from the. Leader of: the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) nor from the honorable” member for Blaxland was there one word of commendation of this allimportant measure. As for the right honorable gentleman himself^ unfortunately, and entirely by his own doing, we heard very little of what he proposed to say, because, with the assistance of honorable members beside and behind him, he wasted his speaking, time arguing against the ruling of the Speaker. So, unfortunately, we did not hear very much from him-
– That was the fault of the Government side of the House.
-Whether it was our fault or not, we can endure the result. Only at one stage did he reveal his true feelings about the bill and the actions that preceded it when, in. the closing stages of his. remarks, with all the passion, fury and indignation that he could command, he threw charges against- the royal commission. Never did- he express support for the royal commission or for the measures that are to be put into effect. Indeed, no man has more reason to support this, measure than has the right honorable gentleman, who might have been Prime Minister of this country if things had turned out differently. I say straight out that the attitude of honorable, members opposite, to this bill is amazing, in view of the importance of the measure. Their attitude, however, is understandable in view of some of their affiliations.
I think it is high time that somebody opposite got up and said straight out whether the Labour party supports this bill or not. The two- members of the Opposition who have spoken so far in this debate - the Leader- of the Opposition and the honorable’ member for Blaxland - have suggested that the commission smeared certain people and that, as a result of the passage of this additional legislation, certain characters appearing before the commission will have their- reputations smeared. “Well, why not?’ The commission is conducting an inquiry into treason in this country, nothing more nor less than that, and it is to me unthinkable that its inquiries should fail because of lack of power to compel people to’ come before it and give an honest, straightforward answer j “Yes” or “No”, about their activities. It is too bad if people are smeared. They will- be more than smeared, let us be clear about that. Reputations will, be completely destroyed, 1 trust, when the activities of certain people have been exposed as a result of this inquiry. If. honorable gentlemen opposite fear that, let them say so. I am quite certain, and it becomes more appa. rent as the debate goes on, that that is their real objection to this legislation. They object to it because it will make the inquiry really effective and enable us to find something out as a. result of it. As far as I, and other honorable members on this side of the House, are concerned, there is nothing new about the principles of the bill. Broadly, they will compel people to answer questions under penalty of imprisonment for three months or a fine of £500, and will give counsel certain protection, which, as the law stands, they do not now have. “What possible valid objection can there be to those provisions? I am waiting for honorable members opposite to tell us why they are unable, at this juncture, to come clearly out in support of this measure or, if not, to advance some reasonable objections to it. We do not know a great deal about the attitude of honorable members’ opposite except that they certainly have not expressed support for the measure. However, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who comes from what I might describe as the “red corner”, will soon be making, his views on this subject perfectly plain to us, and I have no doubt that he will follow his usual tactics of sneering at the judiciary and general smearing-
-Order ! The honorable’ gentleman may not anticipate what the honorable member for East Sydney may say.
– I am sorry about that, Mr. Speaker. I think it can hardly be described as anticipation, because what I have forecast is, reasonably certain, as we both know. Still. I might ask the honorable member for East Sydney whether he will be speaking for the labour party on this subject. “Will he make clear whether or not his party supports the bill? We hear a great deal about the existence of certain antiCommunist elements in the Labour party, and I know that .among honorable gentlemen opposite .there are many who have worked against communism within the trade unions *and within their own party. T think it is fair to say that these people should not keep quiet at this juncture. They should support the bill, or advance some reason for not supporting it.
I see no cause for a long debate on the bill because it is such a simple measure. As I said at the outset, it deals with something about which nobody who has the real security of this country at heart can have any doubts. It is to me a matter of great alarm that we have heard to-day no expression of support for the measure from those who sit as Her Majesty’s Opposition in this House. This is the third occasion in the life of the Government on which criticism of action that the Government wished to take to combat communism has been voiced. I think that it is time that honorable members opposite cleared their minds, and for once supported the Government in relation to a measure that is designed to deal with a great threat to our national security.
.; - It has been .enlightening to listen to the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). I thought that we were attempting to gain some degree of unanimity here. The honorable member’s remarks, however, seemed to be designed to egg on the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to make statements .about judges. I thought that the honorable member for Henty was in the House when the Leader of the Opposition .(Dr. Evatt) spoke. If i.e was, and did not understand the burden of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, I tell him very definitely that we on this side of the House support .this bill absolutely.. I could not say more than that. I. can also say to ‘the honorable member that the Leader of the Opposition has said the same thing -though perhaps in not quite the same .terms. Honorable members opposite laugh at that statement. I remind them that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) used a large number of words in 11is speech, .but I cannot recall for certain that he stated that .he supported the measure, lie had a great deal to say -about the integrity of the judiciary, and alleged that the Leader of the Opposition had attacked either the judiciary or the royal commission. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition did anything of the sort. Unfortunately, the rules of the House, and your ruling, Mr. Speaker, deprived the Leader of the Opposition of the opportunity to explain his case fully. I am not blaming you for that, Mr. Speaker. The rules of the House are to blame. The speaking time of the Leader of the Opposition was taken up . by debate on a motion of dissent from your ruling, and on a division. I have heard the Leader of the Opposition make at considerable length, in the Labour party room in this building, certain statements regarding the bill, that, if made in this chamber, would be applauded by the people generally.
There has been nothing to complain about in the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition to this measure. All honorable members, whether they see eye to eye with him or not, know that the Leader of the Opposition is one of the great protagonists in this country of the rights of the individual. We all remember that during his term of office at the United Nations the right honorable gentleman was famous as a champion of the rights of the individual. In this House to-day he was again attempting to protect the rights of individuals. I do not always agree with the right honorable gentleman about the lengths to which we should go to protect certain people. Honorable members know that I am not exactly the ‘kind of person who is looking for a fight. But I take the view that strong measures are necessary to deal with people who play underhand or mean tricks. I know that if a man struck me below the ‘belt before I had an opportunity to protect myself, I would not hesitate to strike him in return. This bill refers particularly to Communists. The Communist believes that the end justifies the means, and is prepared to use any means to -achieve his aim. Treasonable activities are a matter of extreme moment to the security and defence of this country. Defence against people who would undermine us is is of the greatest importance. We must protect the interests of our country and ensure that people who may be attempting to undermine it are properly dealt with. An exRussian official has made a statement which contains imputations against all sorts of people. When the Prime Minister told the House of it and said that the Government considered that a royal commission should be appointed to investigate the matter, we on this side of the House unanimously supported the proposal. We believe that it is necessary to get to the bottom of these things, and take such action as may be necessary. At the same time we must not forget that too much reliance must not be placed on all statements made by a man who has admitted that he was prepared to go to any lengths to obtain in Australia information that would be valuable to his own country. It is necessary to be careful not to put too much trust in anything such a person might say in order to gain safety for himself. Some honorable members in conversation with me have described the man concerned as a “ grouper “. He was with the Beria group in Russia and when that group was destroyed by another group that came into power-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now starting to discuss the main witness before the commission. That is a matter which is in abeyance in this place. It was handed over to the commission as a result of legislation passed by this Parliament.
– I understood that this bill was to make provision for an inquiry into something that had happened. I do not want to enter into any controversy or discussion about that man, but I submit that there is a section of this bill which we consider gives too much power. The Leader of the Opposition wanted to direct the attention of the Government to the fact that the terms of the measure might intentionally injure somebody. One honorable member said to-day that every name on a certain document before the royal commission should be broadcast. I do not. claim that any name should be broadcast. We have set up a commission of gentlemen of the highest integrity, and surely it is for them to decide whether they will publish certain names to the world, and whether, if they do so, they will injure innocent people.
The honorable member for Henty asked whether the Opposition was supporting the bill. The position is that the Leader of the Opposition said that there were 28 clauses in the measure, and that only one sub-clause of one clause needed further consideration by the Opposition and the Government. I say that that sub-clause may be dangerous. Of course, we all may have different opinions about that, but the Leader of the Opposition is a very learned legal gentleman, as is the honorable member for Balaclava, and 1 would not attempt to set my opinion against theirs because of the small amount of knowledge that I have of judicial proceedings. But I say that we have to be careful when putting into a measure an important power, the operation of which may injure some innocent person. The Leader of the Opposition stated that in the Royal Commission Act, which set up the Royal Commission on Espionage, power was given for action to be taken in summary jurisdiction against anybody for refusing to answer a question. Now the Government proposes, by this measure, to give power to the Royal Commission on Espionage, or to the High Court itself, to take the action that could previously be taken only in summary jurisdiction. Possibly the Government’s legal advisers may believe that it is necessary for the court and the commission to have this power in order that it may conduct its proceedings in a proper way, and achieve the results that it was set up to achieve. But I point out that honorable members of the Opposition were quite honest in their opinions that further consideration should be given to paragraph (e) of clause 24. We put it up to the Government that it should further consider that matter, and if upon further consideration it should decide that the sub-clause is necessary we are prepared to accept the measure and pass it. The honorable member for Henty stated in this House, and, through the broadcasting system, to the nation, that the Labour party’s attitude in this regard had something suspicious in it.
– Of course it has.
– Some honorable members on the Government side are like some of those on the Opposition side who had also said that there is something queer in this measure. Some honorable members of the Opposition believe that this bill is not a real measure to deal with espionage in Australia, but is merely an instrument to attack the Labour party. I do not say that, but I put it to the honorable member for Henty that just as be believes some honorable members of the Government think that the Labour party’s attitude towards the measure is rather suspicious, so do some members of the Opposition believe that the measure itself is suspicious. After hearing the attack made by the honorable member for Henty to-day, we are entitled to wonder whether the Government is concerned only with espionage, or whether this measure is merely another attempt to vide the old horse of communism against the Labour party. The honorable member for Henty said that the honorable member for East Sydney came from a red section of Sydney. The honorable member for East Sydney represents an industrial electorate in Sydney, and part of the Sydney waterfront is in that electorate. I am in a similar position in ray electorate of Port Adelaide. My electors are the same type of people as are those of the honorable member for East Sydney, but there is no question about their support for me. They do not support me because I am a Communist. In fact the Communists write their slogans against me on footpaths and fences right throughout my electorate. They call me “ Thompson the strike breaker “ and write letters about me. Yet I do not suppose that at the last general election any honorable member was returned with a greater majority than I had. Sometimes a Liberal candidate stands against me and sometimes not. When a Liberal candidate does not stand against me the votes that are cast for the Communists in my electorate increase in accordance with the proportion of Liberal votes that would have been cast against me. I regret the element that has been imported into this debate by the honorable member for
Henty and others, merely in order to throw suspicion on the Labour party and to deride the Leader of the Opposition, who is living up to his reputation of the protector of the man at the bottom against any attack that may be levelled at him from the top.
We must carefully watch the position of communism in this country. After this Government had set up the Royal Commission on Espionage, in the closing stages of the last Parliament, and certain evidence had been taken before the commission and certain statements made by it, I wondered if a Communist candidate would stand against me for election. However, he did, and at the polling booth that was strongly Liberal at the previous election the Communist vote increased from IS to 74; This time _ a Liberal candidate did not stand against me, so it is pertinent to ask where the additional votes for the Communist came from.
– Order ! The honorable member must return to a discussion of the bill before the House.
– I submit that my statements are relevant to the measure. The honorable member for Henty was given enough latitude to attack the Opposition and to insinuate that we were not anxious to fight communism, so surely it is just for me to refute those allegations. I am always ready to take up any challenge of that sort. I hope that this bill will be passed, and that the Royal Commission on Espionage will be given full power to do whatever is necessary to deal with espionage in this country. If there is anything in this measure that should be reconsidered, and the Leader of the Opposition has stated that there is, then I hope that the Government will take notice of the Opposition’s warnings. Of course, the Government may say that a provision similar to paragraphs (e) of clause 24 was inserted by a Labour government in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1947. I admit that, but it is quite apparent that no harm has come from it. However, in different circumstances the same type of provision may operate differently. It may have no harmful effect in one measure, but may be the means of interfering with innocent people in another.. Personally, I support the bill, and the Labour’ party supports it. We do not- want to see this country undermined in amy way. We do not want any foreign espionage here.. At the same time we must be careful to ensure that we do not injure the reputation of innocent people..
– May I assure’ the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) that I agree that within the ranks of his party there are a number of members, even a majority of members, who are sincerely and genuinely opposed to communism. Indeed, I believe that there is a smaller proportion of members who are even prepared to fight against it. But I think that there are other members who can be said to fall into neither of those categories. We should remember that the Royal Commission on Espionage was not set up with the primary objective of punishing the guilty, although we hope that they will be punished. Nor was its primary objective the clearing of the innocent, although it is important that the innocent should be cleared. The commission is more important than that. It is directed to the safety of Australia by seeking’ the truth about, those who are fighting against us, and against the free world. The act is concerned with the factors that make for the life of our people^ or with countering the factors which make for the death of our people. Justice is important, indeed it is vital; but in all cases we should not condone the greater injustice in order to guard against the lesser. Where is the justice in children, women and men lying dead in the shambles plotted against us by our enemies ? Can we be too tender about a small thing, if in fact the life of our nation and of all the individuals who comprise it is in jeopardy?
I was impressed in this debate, as I had been previously impressed by The speeches of the members of the Opposition, with the existence of a double standard in these matters. There is an extraordinary tenderness for the full technicalities’ of justice when there is any question of curbing Communist activities’. In the other issues’ of life, there is not the same fine1 feeling for- the nicer points. It is1, important that people should not be smeared1, but if there- is some temporary smearing it will be. removed as the royal commission proceeds. Is that a reason to impede the effective working of this commission,, which is concerned with something, that touches the lives of all of us and which is one of our protectors against injustice to our millions of people? The ordinary administration of justice carries these same risks. Do we say that there should never be an action at law because the witnesses might be innocently smeared? Do we say that no prosecution should ever be. launched because an innocent man might be accused? We know that those possibilities are inevitable in all the affairs of life. We cannot avoid all injustice, but we must avoid in every case the greater injustices. We do scant service to ourselves, to Australians and to our moral feelings, if we promote the greater injustice for the sake of the lesser. The Labour party always has this double, standard in dealing with communism. That it does nol; invoke that standard in any other matter is one. of the things to which this House, and the country, might well direct attention., In regard to the royal commission, which is the subject of this bill, we have a duty to do two things. The first i= to set for the commission clear, unequivocal and sufficient terms. The second is to invest the commission with the necessary powers and protection for the proper exercise of its authority. I, and all other right thinking honorable members, will sincerely welcome this bill because, of its approach to those two matters.
As the Prime Minister (Mr; Menzies) explained in his second-reading speech, the legislation which this bill is designed to amend was. rushed through the Parliament because of an imminent general election. It was necessary to act’ quickly before the Parliament was dissolved. For that reason, we have, had to take- two bites at. the cherry: I am wondering- whether we should not take greater precaution lest we are called upon to take a third bite. I refer in particular to clause 5, which empowers the commission to proceed in the terms of certain letters patent which are set out in the schedule. During thi inquiry other matters, which we- cannot foresee,, may become relevant because various witnesses offer certain evidence from time- to time. If that is so and if it becomes necessary to extend the letters patent, I am not certain that clause 5 would apply to the new letters. In those circumstances, it might be necessary for the Parliament to take- a third bite at- the cherry and pass further legislation. I make that statement with some reservation. Doubtless honorable members have read sub-paragraph (a) of the letters patent. That sub-paragraph refers to -
The information given to the Commonwealth by Vladimir Mikhailovich Petrov as to the conduct of espionage and related activities in Australia and matters related to or arising from that information.
I shall indicate soon why I think that, in at least one respect, we should be going a little beyond that and omit the words “ in Australia “. It may be that some of the statements that Petrov will- make to the commission are relevant to events outside Australia. It. is perfectly true that the act could be amended at a later stage if it became necessary to take that third bite at the cherry, but the Parliament is. not always in session. International events move rapidly at times. We should avoid the risk of any emergency that may be caused by the necessity to extend the letters patent when the Parliament is not in session.
I make those statements knowing very well that I am not trained in the law and that I am ignorant of the details of the laws of evidence. I do not remember even having heard the name “Petrov” before it was. mentioned to the House last April: But I think that I can claim reasonably that I have made a study of and have a certain knowledge of the general principles that guide the Communist party and the mechanism of subversion which they employ. We may find that the terms that are outlined in the letters patent are not wide enough. One of the guiding principles of the Communist party is the combination of legal and illegal activity. Any one who has not studied the application of that principle cannot effectively oppose^ the Communists. They claim to be acting legally when it suits them and they act illegally when it does not suit them’ to act legally. The combination of those two activities becomes- very difficult to combat in a democracy such as ours: It is not sufficient to think that we can deal with communism always in terms of the established concept, because the mechanism of Communist subversion has been designed specifically to operate within that established concept. In some cases, new methods may be necessary to combat this virulent force. It is; of no use to us to think that we are winning this fight. Both here and elsewhere we are losing it, and we shall continue to lose it while we confine ourselves to those, weapons which the Communists want us to use and which Her Majesty’s Opposition demand that we alone shall use in the fight against communism.
The combination of legal and illegal activity has been witnessed in the Communists’ conduct before the Royal Commission on Espionage and in their conduct elsewhere. I shall not discuss the documents that are before the commission, but the Communists’ idea is to bring forward charges that are fallacious but smearing in the hope that something will stick. The Communists, by accusing people of being implicated in their plots, have sought to confuse the issue that is before the commission. That is the Communist line, and it .becomes very potent when there are legal forms which require the publication of information and propaganda that they wish to disseminate. Some of the documents that have come before the commission have been written with a view to publication. It is a little distressing to find Her Majesty’s Opposition falling, perhaps in all ignorance, for the Communist line and demanding that the things which the Communists are trying to do should be done. Perhaps honorable members opposite have done so because they have not studied the Communists’ tactics, because they do not realize the ends that the Communists are trying to achieve and because they do not realize that in the proposition which they have submitted to the House they have played into the Communists’ hands. Either honorable members opposite have learned from the Communists or, to some extent, the Communists have learned from them, because some honorable members opposite, in particular the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) make a practice of employing similar tactics in this House and of making personal attacks that have no relation to political matters in order to cut down their opponents. It is fair to say that, both in this chamber and out of it, the honorable member for East Sydney has worked so assiduously in that manner that he deserves to be called the Lockwood of the Australian Labour party.
We must understand also the Communists’ habit of splitting their activities into various parts. That has been seen in relation to espionage in Canada. It was disclosed that a person might be a full agent but still be ignorant of the operations of another full agent at his right or left hand. I hope that those who are conducting this inquiry into espionage in Australia will keep in mind that principle of organizing compartments or cells, which is one of the evil but powerful methods by which the Communists promote their ideas and influence. I am reminded that even in Czarist Russia there was a security service which was remarkably well informed about the movements of Communist agents and all the little details of their lives. The one thing that it did not know was the nature of the Communists’ activities in principle. The result was that the whole system, including the very basis of the security service, was struck down by the advancing Communists. It is essential that, not only should we know the details, but also that in interpreting them we should know something of the principle they are following. Espionage does not consist merely in the communication of information to the enemy. It has a darker and more sinister side. Tt consists partly in the moulding of top policy and public opinion in the manner in which Communists want them to be moulded. If the Communists ensure that the policy which we describe as being antiCommunist plays into their hands, they gain their point. They give us little victories if they are defeating us on the bigger front. There was a time, and one time only, a few years ago, when the communication of information in relation to atomic research was of vital and primary importance to Russia. In general, the communication of that information is not now Russia’s main instrument of espionage. Its main instrument of espionage has become the control of conscious or unconscious instruments in top places and the control of the public approach to the main issues with which Russia is really concerned, quite apart from the camouflaged issues with which she would seem to be primarily concerned.
I remind the House of the history of Alger Hiss, who was an American traitor and Communist agent. He projected himself into the good graces of President Roosevelt, who was a sick man and who in his closing years clearly did not know what he was doing or what was being done with him. Alger Hiss went to the conference at Dumbarton Oaks, which was the conference that preceded . the establishment of the United Nations organization, as ‘head of the American delegation. There he managed to have advanced as an American idea the veto plan that Russia really wanted. If honorable members read Churchill’s account of the Yalta conference, they will see that Roosevelt’s supposed great victory over Stalin at that conference was the forcing on him of the “ American “ plan for the veto. That was really a Russian plan, put forward by an agent of Soviet Russia as an American proposal. That is the way in which Communists work. Let us think also of Professor Owen Lattimore, whom a most responsible committee in the United States of America has described as a conscious, articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy. Professor Lattimore controlled the policy on Chinese affairs of the State Department of the United States of America until Nationalist China crumbled and the way was left open to. the Communists to achieve dominance, which they have now done. The agents of the Communists work in these big fields, and not merely in the small matters of obtaining documents here and there. If we think only of the details, we shall continue to lose ground against communism. Let us think rather of the main principles. The real point of the current inquiry into espionage is not whether documents were given to Communist agents and whether there was a minor spy here or there - though I have no doubt that there was - but whether Communist operatives have controlled our high policy and national thinking as expressed in public opinion. That is the sphere in which the operations of Communist espionage agents are most dangerous. If we concentrate only on trifles we shall be destroyed by our failure to counter their operations in this main sphere. lt is sometimes difficult to distinguish clearly between the guilty initiators and the innocent persons who are misled. No one would think, for example, that Mr. Roosevelt was not completely innocent of evil intent. It is plain that Alger Hiss, on the other hand, had a clear evil intent and that throughout his machinations he was inspired by evil motives. Many instances in which one can detect clearly a pro-Russian policy, publicly expressed in action, must remain on the border line because one cannot determine clearly whether the person who expressed that policy was its initiator or was merely the tool of someone else. Some people do more harm than they intend, and others intend the full harm that they do. It is not always easy to decide which is the case, but sometimes small incidents mark a person as undoubtedly a member or agent of the Communist party, and it is to be hoped that small matters revealed by the proceedings of the Royal Commission on Espionage will enable the royal commission to determine the larger issues.
The commission might be able to obtain evidence about events that have happened outside Australia. It is not impossible to conceive that Mr. Petrov, who in China, during 1937 and 1938, obtained experience as a cipher clerk in the service of the Soviet Union, might know the provable truth about the Lattimore affair and about the activities of other Communist agents in the State Department of the United States of America. It is important that, if this be so, Mr. Petrov should publicly reveal the truth. The influence of Communist agents can be checked only if the public is aware of their identity and their activities. As I have indicated, in my view the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on Espionage might preclude investigation into that type of matter upon which, for all I know, Mr. Petrov might have information that would be of inestimable value to the free world if it were revealed, not secretly, but publicly, so that the people may learn who were the pawns in the game and who moved them about the chessboard of international affairs.
It is no secret that in Australia and elsewhere the Communists have paid particular attention to their relations with the press. We must not over-estimate the number of Communist agents in the press. They are probably very few, but if through ridicule, personal influence, or selection, they can control the treatment of reports in the newspapers, their influence will be extensive. Let us consider the ascertained facts of the Lattimore and Oppenheimer affairs in the United States of America, and not attempt irrevocably to decide whether Professor Lattimore and Dr. Oppenheimer are innocent or guilty. How could what has been established in inquiries in the United States appear in the Australian press in the form in which it was published ? That is a big test, but it is only one test. It reveals the discrepancy between fact and the reporting of it, and the apparent bias makes it apparent that somewhere Communist influence has been exercised, though it does not follow that a conscious Communist agent has been responsible throughout. The. influence that has been exercised is the primary consideration. It is important that, in our examination of these questions, we turn our attention also to activities in Parliament and to government policy. I shall now repeat something that I have said often in this House, and I am sure that my remarks will carry more weight now than in the past. An analysis of the public policy on international affairs of the right honorable gentleman who is now the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in the Australian Parliament reveals the underlying continuous pro-Communist bias throughout.
– The honorable member is a little lying hound and an agent provocateur.
– An attempt at camouflage is often made in these matters by taking superficial anti-Communist action, which hides the effective policy. Pro-Communist bias was evident throughout the right honorable gentleman’s foreign policy. I do not suggest that the Leader of the Opposition was always aware of this bias.
– A dirty little liar
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw it.
– And apologize to the House for such unseemly conduct.
– I apologize. I object to being insulted, and I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you should prevent such insults.
– Order! Honorable members are responsible for making their own statements. The Leader of the Opposition shares that responsibility.
– I am not dealing with trivial or personal matters, and I make it clear to the House that I do not impute any conscious guilt on the part of the Leader of the Opposition. I merely point out that an analysis of his observed foreign policy reveals proCommunist tendencies. The explanation for this bias may not De hard to find. Honorable members are aware that the right honorable gentleman appointed as his chief adviser in international affairs a certain Dr. John Burton, whose character and predilections are well known. I have been interested to observe in the right honorable gentleman’s statements on international affairs, made during recent weeks in this House and elsewhere, strange little overtones of the “Burton alternative “. I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition is still in close association with the man who advised him and members of his staff, and helped to mould and control his policy as Minister for External Affairs. I shall not trespass on the functions of the Royal Commission on Espionage. I say again what I have said before.
– Order ! The honorable member’s’ time has expired.
.- Several matters concerning the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) should be put straight immediately. I believe that the honorable member’s right to sit in this chamber might be challenged under a particular section of the Constitution, but I hesitate to make a challenge, because it would be a shame to remove from this institution its chief entertainer and clown.
– Order ! The honorable member may not use the term “ clown “.
– I withdraw it. Let u.s examine the record of the honorable member for Mackellar. He referred to me in terms to which you, Mr. Speaker, took no exception. Neither did I, considering the source from which the remark came. I shall content myself by exercising my right to tell the Australian people of the type of person who i3 making unworthy aspersions against me and other members of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member said that I and other members of the Australian Labour party were adopting the tactics of the Communists and that we were smearing people and denying them the opportunity to answer the charges made against them. I propose to give the House several illustrations of the tactics that have been adopted by the honorable member for Mackellar in various matters. A man named Dobson, who was at one time well known in this country, participated in an affair of which the honorable member knows a great deal. Dobson, who had become associated with a particular organization in New South Wales, some years ago alleged that he was thrown into Sydney Harbour from a Manly ferry by three Communists.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is quoting from document J, referred to in the proceedings of the Royal Commission on Espionage, and I ask for your ruling, sir, on his right to do so.
– Order ! I have no knowledge of the contents of document J, and I do not know whether any honorable member is aware of them.
– Dobson alleged that an attempt was made upon his life. He was eventually charged and convicted of creating a public nuisance. It became well known at the court hearing, and throughout Sydney, that Dobson was a very close associate of the honorable member for Mackellar. It was even suggested that Dobson spent the night before the alleged attempt at murder in the home of the honorable member. If the justice of which the honorable member now voices such great admiration were done in this country, he and Dobson would have been tried on a charge of conspiring to frame innocent men. That is one example of the activities of the honorable member.
– I rise to order. Shall I have a chance of refuting these falsehoods now?
– The honorable member may make a personal explanation al; the proper time. There is no point of order.
– The honorable member for Mackellar has attempted to smear the name of Dr. John Burton, a former secretary of the Department of External Affairs. The honorable member attempted to frame Dr. Burton over an alleged, leakage of information from the department, in the following circumstances. After the honorable member had conferred with the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and, by arrangement, certain questions had been asked in this House regarding an alleged leakage of information from the department, the Minister, having spent an enjoyable evening at the Russian Embassy in Canberra, declared in this House that he had discovered a nest of traitors. What happened to the investigation? What action was taken? It was eventually discovered upon investigation by the Commonwealth investigation officers themselves that that alleged leakage of information was a hand-out from the Department of External Affairs. So, we see right along how this particular gentleman has indulged in his particular type of frameups. When the honorable gentleman makes his personal explanation, I should like him to tell us how he obtained declarations at the Mascot aerodrome when he invited Australian citizens to make statements which, on the known facts, were false. He had with him forms on which he asked Australian citizens to swear falsely that certain things were said and certain events had happened at Mascot.
The honorable gentleman, in his smear campaign, does not concentrate entirely upon members of this Parliament. On one occasion he addressed the widow of a Victoria Cross winner in an insulting manner. This lady was the widow of a man who had won the highest decoration for valour on the battlefield. Unlike the honorable member, he did not serve merely as a member of the Volunteer Defence Corps on the south coast of New South Wales. What did the honorable gentleman do? I am referring to a well-known authoress in this country, Susannah Pritchard, who in private life is Mrs. Throssell, the widow of a Victoria Cross hero. And this worm from Mackellar-
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that term.
– I withdraw it. This individual from Mackellar referred to that woman as the “ alias Mrs. Throssell “.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– I heard the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) use the term “ dirty mongrel “. He must withdraw that term and apologize.
– I withdraw and apologize to the mongrel.
– Order ! The honorable member must make an unconditional withdrawal.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman offends again, .1 shall name him.
– This individual from Mackellar declared that the widow of the late Mr. Throssell was “alias Mrs. Throssell”. I shall not develop that matter, because the honorable member for Mackellar will have an opportunity to answer for his action in the courts of this land.
– Order! If the honorable gentleman is now referring to a matter that is the subject of litigation he is out of order.
– I am about to pass from that ‘matter. The honorable member for Mackellar smeared another Australian authoress, Miss Kylie Tennant. He had to apologize publicly to that lady when she called his bluff. That is the type of individual who talks about Communist tactics. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), drawing himself up stiffly to his full height of 4 feet 2 inches and clicking his jackboots preparatory to giving what I would imagine to be something like a fascist salute, said that the honorable member for East Sydney, if he got the opportunity, would smear the judges who are members of the royal commission. I shall disappoint the honorable member on that score, because I shall do nothing of the sort. However, I shall criticize the powers that are conferred upon the royal commission and also the methods which the Government has taken to deal with the threat of espionage in this country. There is not a member on the Opposition side of this House who does not believe that any one who is guilty of espionage must suffer the full penalty of the law. Every member of the Opposition stands by that principle. But let us test the sincerity of the Government in this matter. It is true that the Opposition voted for the measure under which the commission was established. But what were the circumstances ? The honorable member for Mackellar gave the show away. He said that the Government had to act with haste because there was an election pending. It had to act with haste because, otherwise, this particular matter would be of no value to the Government parties during the general election campaign.
Let us examine the situation that existed at that time. The Prime Minister, in my opinion, acted improperly and certainly not in accordance with established practice in this country. Neither he nor the security service advised the Leader of the Opposition about what was happening. The Prime Minister came into this House without the knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition, and after making certain statements, declared that it was the Government’s intention to appoint a royal commission to investigate these matters. Once the declaration was made to the Parliament and to the people that the Government possessed certain information, the real damage was done; and there was no turning back. The only alternative was to establish a royal commission. But let me suggest a course of action which, I believe, would have been much more effective, straightforward and acceptable. When the Government became possessed of information, regardless of the source from which it was obtained, that espionage was being carried on in this country, the essential thing for it to do at that stage was to keep that information perfectly secret, while the security service proceeded with its investigation and gathered evidence, and when the officers had obtained information that incriminated certain people they should have raided the premises of those people and seized all relevant documents. This action should have been followed by the laying of specific charges against the persons concerned. But what did the Government do? It appointed a royal commission. That body was established some months ago, and it will be many more months before it makes its report. In the light of that report, the Government will decide upon the action that it will take. But if anybody has been engaging in espionage, the result of appointing a. royal commission will have been that those people have been given prior notice of what the Government intended to do. If any incriminating evidence was in existence at the time that the Prime Minister made his announcement, what may have happened to it in the meantime? I express no opinion about the information that the Government claims that it has in it3 possession because I do not know the nature of that information; but, whatever it may be, the Government used it to create a situation favorable to it in order to gain a party political advantage and in doing so, jeopardized the security of this country. I make that challenge to the Government.
Let us now consider the peculiar action of the Government in appointing the royal commission. I shall not reflect upon any member of that body. The commissioners have been appointed. But has there not been a departure in this instance from established practice in this country in the appointment of that commission? I have always believed that when the Australian Government desired to appoint a royal commission and wanted a State to make available a judge, or judges, for that purpose, the practice was to approach the Premier of the State concerned, who, in turn, referred the request to the Chief Justice in that State and then the Chief Justice decided whether a judge of his Bench could be made available. What happened with regard to Mr. Justice Townley? The Prime Minister approached Mr. Gair, the Premier of Queensland. Incidentally, Mr. Gair did not select Mr. Justice Townley as honorable members opposite, who have taken part in this debate, have implied. That is not so at all. Mr. Gair referred the Prime Minister’s request to the Chief Justice of Queensland, Mr. Justice Macrossan, who agreed to make Mr. Justice Townley’s services available. However, for some undisclosed reason - the people have not yet been informed of it - Mr. Justice Townley was deemed by the Prime Minister to be unsuitable to sit on this royal commission. Whether Mr. Justice Townley is unfitted for that task, I do not know. In fact, I had not even heard of him prior to this matte]- arising. But if he is deemed to be unfit to sit on a commission, he must necessarily be unfit to sit in any jurisdiction in this country. The Prime Minister’s rejection of Mr. Justice Townley reflected not only upon Mr. Justice Townley, but also upon Chief Justice Macrossan, of Queensland, who selected him for this purpose. Why has not the Government made some statement on that matter?
When we are considering a bill under which it is proposed to extend the powers of the royal commission, we must necessarily examine the manner in which the members of the commission are discharging the powers that have already been vested in them. I direct the attention of honorable members to the schedule to the bill in which appears the letters patent. We find that the commission is charged to inquire and report upon, among other things -
The information given to the Commonwealth by Vladimir Mikhailovich Petrov us to the conduct of espionage and related activities in Australia and matters related to or arising’ from that information.
How did that information come into possession of the Government? What moneys were paid over, and for what purposes were they paid? The Government is as silent as the grave on those matters. When I have asked the Prime Minister, time and time again, to inform the House of the date on which he became aware of the payment of thi3 money and whether he authorized such payment, the right honorable gentleman has replied that it is a matter of security and is now the subject of proceedings before the royal commission. The people will want to know the circumstances under which that money was paid, why it was paid and whether the payment was made with the Prime Minister’s authority. When did he become aware of what was happening? The commission will not perform its functions properly unless and until the Prime. Minister is called to give evidence before it and be submitted to crossexamination in respect of those points. When he made his announcement in this Parliament, without giving any indication of the nature of his declaration to the Leader of the Opposition, he suggested that he had not been able to advise the Leader of the Opposition because he himself had practically only just become aware of what was happening. If we can ascertain when this money was paid over, it can be proved one way or the other, whether the Prime Minister had some prior knowledge of the matter. Is it seriously suggested that £5,000 of the taxpayers’ money was paid over by a Commonwealth officer without the Prime Minister knowing anything about the matter? I do not believe that that was the case. The Prime Minister must have known about the matter because surely such a large sum of money could be paid over only with his authority.
I shall not refer to proceedings before the royal commission. I pass to a particular document which counsel assisting the commission declared to be a “ farrago of lies, filth and falsities.” I am wondering why the Government is so anxious that the full contents of that document should not be made known. If it is what it has been declared to be, why has reference been made to selected parts of it? It is amazing that a declaration of that kind should have been made at the outset of the commission’s proceedings.
– Order ! The honorable member is now dealing with a part of the proceedings before the commission. He has quoted certain terms that have been used by counsel. He is not in order in proceeding along those lines.
– Is this not one of tie things that the commission was to investigate? Until the commission has some evidence to refute the information contained in the document, the document should not be ruled out entirely. But counsel has gone through the document and selected one or two names which indicate that the source of some of the information contained in it were certain members of the staff of the Leader of the Opposition. I point out that it has been said that the names of 70 persons are mentioned in that document, and every one of those persons, or none at all, should be mentioned or called before the commission to give evidence.
I also make reference to the fact that certain evidence can be heard in camera at the discretion of the commission. Why are some witnesses able to exercise such great influence that they are able to keep their names from publication, and give their evidence in private? The same right is not conceded to other persons.
– Order! The honorable member is now reflecting on the proceedings of the royal commission, and is not in order in doing so.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your comment, because it supports my concluding argument, which is about clause 24 (e) of the bill. That provision is the real danger in this measure, and is the basis of one of the great criticisms that the Labour party makes of it. Clause 24 (e) provides that a person shall not, by writing or speech, use words calculated to bring the commission or a member of the commission into disrepute.
– I thought that the honorable member would like that provision.
– I remind the honorable member for Henty that the clause does not state that the penalty shall be imposed only if a person falsely writes about, or by speech reflects upon, the commission. Criticism of the commission could be truthful, and based on fact. I have in mind criticism of some of the things that I have mentioned, such as the action taken to suppress the names of certain persons mentioned in documents before the commission whilst the names of others referred to have been published. Even criticism of that type will not be permitted when this legislation becomes law. It is most important for the Australian public to be informed of the position. No member of the Labour party believes that a member of the commission or a citizen should be falsely defamed, or that a person should be permitted to make defamatory statements which can be proved false. But what is to become of proper, truthful criticism based on fact? Surely, every honorable member believes in the freedom to offer legitimate and honest criticism when he believes that it is warranted. What is to become of our vaunted democracy if that is not the principle upon which we act on all occasions?
I remind Government supporters that the royal commission already has power to enable it to deal with persons who falsely defame members of the judiciary, or any citizen. The purpose of the Government, in introducing this bill, is to stifle any criticism that may be offered of its own actions in the matter or of the conduct of the commission. Suppose I wish, when this legislation becomes law, to say outside this House that, in my opinion, the commission is wrong because it does not publish the names of every person who is mentioned in any document placed before it, or reveal the whole facts. If I make such’ a statement, I shall be liable to a penalty under the act. If I criticize the method adopted by the Prime Minister in the selection of the judges to sit on the royal commission, even though I do not reflect upon the commission, I shall be liable to a penalty. Members of the Labour party do not wish to say anything untrue or unfair about the commission, but we certainly do not desire to restrict our opportunities, if the necessity arises, to criticize some action that we regard as improper, or against the best interests of the Australian community. I hope that the majority of honorable members will take a second look at this legislation, and will make it clear that its purpose is not to stifle honest and truthful criticism of the commission.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) lost no time in justifying the name that T apply to him which is, “the Lockwood of the Labour party “. He made a number of false statements, and, in addition, be quoted a number of falsities circulating under the name of Lockwood. I do not know whether that is evidence of connivance, or of the honorable member’s state of mind.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to a personal explanation.
– The story about Dobson and myself, which the honorable member for East Sydney has told, is entirely untrue, and has been denied previously in this House. I think that the honorable member knows it to be untrue. The honorable gentleman also said that I had framed, or attempted to frame, Dr. Burton. I should think that nothing could possibly convict Dr. Burton more than his own published writings and statements. They are quite sufficient. Reference was also made to Katharine Susannah Pritchard. She is a foundation member of the Communist party, and has always remained so, and so was named by me. I did mention, as I am entitled to do, that she used two names, her maiden name and her married name. I shall not develop that matter, because it is before a court, but
I think that, I should set out the facts in this House, because the honorable member for East Sydney has mentioned them. I made a mistake about Kylie Tennant, and having made the mistake, I did what, so far as I know, the honorable member for East Sydney has never done in similar circumstances. I made a full retraction, and took steps to waive my parliamentary privilege in regard to the matter. A mistake was made, and having made it, I acted as generously and as fully as lay within my power to do. I have not descended to personalities in this House. Every time I have mentioned a matter about an honorable member opposite, it has been in a political connotation, and has been a proper matter for consideration in this chamber. One, at least, of those falsities which have emanated from the honorable member for East Sydney, has been used by him previously in this House, and has been denied by mo. I think that there is nothing more that I can, or need, say.
– I do not intend, in my speech, to follow the lines taken by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), other than to comment that it was remarkable that he rose to speak, when the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) resumed his seat, with fully prepared notes about him. Those notes contained charges and smears which the honorable member for Mackellar has since refuted. I admire the knowledge, sincerity and courage of the honorable member for Mackellar in placing matters before this House, as he has to-day, relative to the methods, techniques and machinations of international communism.
This bill should not produce a great deal of debate. When the Royal Commission Bill 1954 was introduced a few days before the dissolution of the last Parliament, it was passed, without delay, on the voices. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), on behalf of the Labour party, gave the bill his full support. But the Labour party, whenever it says that it will give a bill its full support, makes mental reservations, and withdraws that support in the course of time when propaganda has been able to influence public opinion in the way that certain individuals in the Labour party wish.
The newspapers report that the honorable member for East Sydney made a similar speech to caucus yesterday, and that caucus rejected his contentions and announced publicly that the Labour party would support the bill, but would allow each honorable member to express hisviews on it as he thought fit. It is evident that the majority of the members of the Labour party support the bill, and have no time for espionage activities in Australia. We expect such an attitude from every loyal Australian. The purpose of this bill is to enable the royal commission to probe certain charges to their depths, and to elicit the facts, irrespective of who may be hurt in the process, whether it be the Leader of the Opposition, or a person favorable to the political parties represented on this side of the chamber. The honorable member for East Sydney has denied that he wishes to smear the commission, or say anything derogatory about the judges, but he is attempting to create the right atmosphere for his purposes. If the report of the royal commission is adverse, the groundwork will already have been laid for a destructive smear campaign against the commissioners. He has directed attention to the three judges, all of whom occupy a high place in the estimation of the people of Australia. Indeed, the honorable gentleman should be grateful to Mr. Justice Ligertwood, of South Australia, the royal commissioner who inquired into a certain New Guinea timber matter. His Honour gave the honorable member for East Sydney a clean bill of health. If any one should appreciate the virtues, character, honesty and integrity of that member of the commission, it should be the honorable member for East Sydney. Yet he has laid the groundwork for an attack, in the future, upon members of the commission.
The bill is designed to enable the commission to deal with witnesses who refuse to answer questions. I. recall that one witness, who refused to answer questions, changed his mind the following day. We have no evidence of the reason why he changed his mind, but we may well guess that he was so advised by a high authority,
-Order! The Post.masterGeneral is now dealing with the proceedings before the royal commission. He is not in order in doing so.
– I shall not continue along those lines. This bill will confer on the royal commission power to compel a person, who has been summoned to appear before it, to give evidence on matters relating to the inquiry. We, as a democratic people, will no longer be humiliated by persons who take advantage of the constitutional processes of this nation, whose Constitution many of them are pledged to destroy. All the hubbub that has been raised by the honorable member for East Sydney and the Leader of the Opposition in his long speech this morning-
– His speech occupied only ten minutes.
– The Leader of the Opposition had the full time to which he was entitled, and also an extension of time. He attempted to evade the Standing Orders in order to obtain unlimited time. The motion submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was for that purpose. If that honorable gentleman’s intention had been endorsed, the Leader of the Opposition could have taken up the whole of the time for this debate, if he had wished, with an interminable speech, in order to blanket out speeches by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The Leader of the Opposition, when he appeared before the Privy Council in the Banking case .made an interminable speech and two judges collapsed before a decision was given.
I have stated that this bill does not call for much debate or comment. This is a matter of rooting out a nest of traitors, to which reference was made in this House some time ago, and rooting out persons who would give information to a potential enemy for the purpose of destroying democracy and, in the process, this nation. I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything more than that. The commission must be given unlimited powers in relation to the matters that it has been called upon to investigate, and the people of Australia will demand that those powers be given to it. I am sure that the bill has the full approval, not only of every honorable member on the Government side of the House, but also of a majority of the members of the Labour party. There are certain notable exceptions on the Opposition side of the House, and we have seen them in action to-day. We always expect such conduct from that quarter. The bill will go through regardless of the opposition of those honorable gentlemen, and I trust that it will do so speedily.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I had the advantage of hearing what was said by one honorable member about the way in which the Royal Commission on Espionage was constituted and about the personnel of the commission. Reference was made to Mr. Justice Townley, and as the reference was, if not designed, at any rate calculated, to do some injury to that learned judge, I think I should tell the committee exactly how the membership of the royal commission came to be established. When the Government of the Commonwealth promotes the Governor-General to appoint a royal commission, it accepts, of course, its own responsibility. No government risks some other government to appoint a royal commission. If we wish to appoint a royal commission to inquire into a matter of great national importance, we naturally accept the entire responsibility for the selection of the royal commissioner or royal commissioners. That has been the practice of governments in my experience, which, no doubt, is limited - it goes back only for a quarter of a century - and certainly it is a practice from which I would not dream of departing. Since the charges that I have mentioned have been made, it is now necessary for me to tell the committee and the country quite plainly what the facts are.
When it was decided to appoint a royal commission, I first of all had discussions with the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. The High Court of Australia has maintained a steady practice over the 50 years of its life, broken only in one instance in the case of a private war-time investigation, that it will not make its judges available for royal commissions for a variety of reasons, one of which has been well illustrated in this case. That reason is that, if legal proceedings by way of appeal or challenge are instituted, they will go to the High Court, and the High Court ought not to be the body dealing with legal points arising from the inquiry and, at the same time, through one or several of its members, the body investigating the facts. Very well. I accepted that situation. I then conferred with the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), and we discussed what would be a balanced and representative royal commission to make this investigation. We decided that it would be a good thing to have a commission consisting of Mr. Justice Owen, a very distinguished judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, as chairman; Mr. Justice Philp, of the Supreme Court of Queensland ; and Mr. Justice O’Bryan, of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
I then proceeded to carry out what I believed to be the strict and proper procedure in such matters, because I pay some attention to proper procedure in dealing with these things. First of all, I rang the Premier of New South Wales. He was out of Sydney for a few hours, and I asked the secretary of his department to go personally to where he was and tell him what I wanted. My message was this : “ I should like to be allowed to ask Mr. Justice Owen to be the chairman of this very important royal commission. If you, Mr. Premier, are agreeable to my making this approach, I will then, of course, speak to the Chief Justice of New South Wales, and then, if he is agreeable and it can be done consistently with the work of the court, I will approach the judge “. The Premier of New South Wales agreed quite promptly that this should be done. I then rang the Chief Justice of New South Wales, and I secured his permission to speak to Mr. Justice Owen. I then rang Mr. Justice Owen and asked him whether he would be agreeable, the Chief Justice and the Premier both having agreed, to accept the appointment. He said he would like to think it over for an hour or two. Naturally, these requests are not to be answered offhand. That evening, according to my recollection, I heard from bini that he would he agreeable to act.
I then rang the Premier of Victor: :i. I am just saying these things so that honorable members may see that everything was done very strictly according to the rules, or at any rate what I believe to be the rules. I rang my friend, Mr. Cain, the Premier of Victoria, and told him that I had in mind the learned judge to whom I have referred but that, of course, I would not approach the Chief Justice until I had Mr. Cain’s approval. That was on about the Friday of that week, Mr. Cain said to me, “Well, this is a matter that I should, need to discuss with my Cabinet, and I do not have a Cabinet meeting until Monday. I shall let you know as soon as I can “. I rang Mr. Cain again on Monday afternoon and asked him what the position was. He, being a personal friend of mine, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) knows-
– Rut no more.
– But no more? Nothing could be more than that. What a marvellous thing to be an old friend of mine, like the honorable member for Lalor ! Mr. Cain said, “ You appear to be in a bit of a hurry”, and I replied, “Well, I am, because time is marching on. I shall be glad if you will let me know as soon as you can “. He, in the meantime, had communicated with the Chief Justice, who indicated to him, on behalf of the Victorian Supreme Court judges, that none of them would he willing to serve on a royal commission, for reasons which they have stated and with which honorable members are familiar, so that no such judge would be available. That eliminated the prospect of getting the Victorian Supreme Court judge whom we had chosen.
In the meantime, before that answer was obtained on the Monday, I had rung the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair.
Perhaps it is unfortunate, but it is quite true that I did not name the actual Supreme Court judge for whom I wished to ask. What I said was: “I want your permission to approach one of your Supreme Court judges to serve on this royal commission “. Mr. Gair replied, “ Well, I do not want to answer that offhand ; could you give me a day to think about it “, and I said, “ Certainly He rang me a day later. In the meantime, no doubt, he had completely misunderstood what I had said. He said to me, “I can let you have a judge. I. have spoken to the Chief Justice, and he has nominated Mr. Justice Townley “.
– Why was not that good enough for you?
– Wait a moment. Do not be any more impetuous than you usually are. I said to Mr. Gair, “Well, that is very kind of you, but the judge that we had’ in mind, because we are collecting a balanced royal commission, was Mr. Justice Philp “, and the Premier then said, “ That is a little embarrassing “. I remark at this stage that I may have met Mr. Justice Townley, but nothing more than that, and that everything I have heard about him is good. The Premier remarked, as I have said, “ That is a little embarrassing”. I said, “It is, too, but if I speak to the Chief Justice and then speak to Mr. Justice Townley and explain how this contretemps has arisen, will that be agreeable to you and may I then approach Mr. Justice Philp ? “ Mr. Gair said, “ Yes “. Honorable members will observe that the task of assembling a royal commission is a long job.
I then rang the Chief Justice, whom I have the great honour and pleasure of knowing, and told him how the situation had arisen, and he said, “It may be a little embarrassing, because Mr. Justice Townley has been approached “. “ Well “, I said, “I will ring him up and talk to him about that”, and the Chief Justice said, “Right. I agree”. I then rang Mr. Justice Townley, who was on circuit in one of the western towns of Queensland, and told him what had happened. I must say that he said at once, “ I understand; that is quite all right. I do not suffer from any embarrassment “.
– Nobody in Queensland worries about it.
– But I come now to the nub of the story. When Mr. Justice Townley said, “I understand; that is quite all right”, I said, “I am terribly sorry that you should have any embarrassment about this matter “. He replied, “ There is no embarrassment to me because– “.
Mr.Clyde Cameron. - What else could he say?
– If the honorable member will listen, he will learn. Mr. Justice Townley said, “ There is no embarrassment to me because there has been no public statement about my having been approached. Therefore, nobody knows except myself. So, Mr. Prime Minister, you need not feel embarrassed at all “. I then approached Mr. Justice Philp, whom we had originally chosen. It is just puerile to say that there is some insult to any judge who is not approached or chosen, because to do so is to say that, by selecting three Supreme Court judges, we offer an insult to about 30 Supreme Court judges whom we have not approached. That is so puerile that it does not bear examination. Mr. Justice Philp agreed to accept the appointment, and the commission was set up.
I admit that I was shocked a few days later to learn that the Premier of Queensland had thought fit to embarrass Mr. Justice Townley by making public the fact that he had been chosen by the Chief Justice but not by the Australian Government. I thought that was a shocking thing to do, but I must confess that, shocked as I was by that, I was more severely shocked to hear the fact proclaimed in this House. Was it an attack on Mr. Justic Philp? Oh no! Quite unctuously, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said, “ I am not criticizing any member of the royal commission “ ! Well, if it was not an attack on Mr. Justice Philp, it was a deliberate attempt to make political capital out of what had occurred, with reckless indifference to the decent feelings of a distinguished judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland, Mr. Justice
Townley, who merely happened not to be the Supreme Court judge for whom we had decided to ask for the purposes of this commission.
Finally, as I have told honorable members, when the Victorian Government indicated on the following day that no Supreme Court judge of that State would be available, we approached the Premier of South Australia, the Chief Justice of South Australia and eventually Mr. Justice Ligertwood, who very generously accepted an appointment to the commission. I have merely stated these facts, which are beyond any controversy, in order to show what a lot of strange things can be said by people about a royal commission of which, in fact, theyare terrified.
– I want to say only a few words about this matter that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has mentioned. What the right honorable gentleman has said only proves that the statements by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), which were based on the remarks of the Premier of Queensland, were substantially correct and that the royal commission was personally selected by the Prime Minister. In fact, that comment was made by the Prime Minister, and I think the statements of the honorable member for East Sydney have now been proved to be completely true.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th August (vide page 205), on motion by Mr. Menzies) -
That the following paper be printed: -
– The debate so far has shown that a considerable degree of unanimity exists between the Government side of the House and the Opposition in relation to foreign policy. However, whilst not much ground for disputation has been apparent so far, it seems that there has been no clear statement from the Government about possible future trends in this country’s position internationally. On Tuesday night the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) began his contribution to the debate by suggesting that this was not the time for party politics or for amateur strategy on the part of people who had never learned to stand to attention. I am sorry that such a note has been introduced into the debate, because if we are to believe the statements made by the Minister later in his speech, and by other honorable members opposite, there exists a real and present danger to Australia. That being the position, this is not the time to suggest that only those who have stood to attention know anything about the national requirements of Australia. We agree with the Minister for the Interior that we are facing a national crisis. It is, in fact, possibly a world crisis, because we all accept, as a fact, the division of the world to-day into two clearly denned political spheres. One of them is the Western bloc consisting of the democracies. The second sphere is the Communist bloc, or, as it might be called in cricketing terms, “ The Others “.
Australia is perhaps in a less favorable position in relation to this world political division than are most of the other democracies, because of the smallness of our population compared with the immensity of the land that we occupy. Because of our geographic isolation from the rest of the world we have to look to ourselves mainly for our defence. The Minister for the Interior mentioned the tide that had to be taken at the flood in 1914. He mentioned that on the 4th August last this National Parliament had another flood to face, which, as he put it, was a “ creeping, dangerous, insidious flood”. He was referring to the flood of communism throughout the world. The great difference between the 1914 flood and the 1954 flood is that the 1914 flood was of a military character alone, whereas the flood in 1954 is mainly nonmilitary. Had it not been for the prompt action of the United Nations, on a military level, the Korean war would have been settled very quickly in favour of the Communist aggressors. We do not agree that an approach to the international problem to-day as it effects Australia necessarily involves the sending of Australian troops to light abroad. That is one of the factors that must be fully discussed in this Parliament before any action is taken in that direction. I know that it can be said that there must be two ways of meeting this insidious Communist flood that stands in the way of freedom and democracy. In seeking the alternative approaches let us not think with the minds of 1914. Let us not consider merely the military approach, and think that our problem can be settled in the same way as the problem was settled in 1914-18, by a resort to arms’; because there is a. groat deal of difference of opinion about what is the best approach. We think, of course, in terms of the great United States of America coming to our aid as it did on the last occasion. We think in terms of that great nation being perhaps the bulwark of our defence in the Pacific.
We listened carefully and with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) last night about the obligations of Great Britain. Surely nobody in this House, at this time, is not perturbed by the realization that to-day we have no naval force at Singapore, to halt an aggressor from the north. Whilst Singapore may not have been all that we desired during the early days of the war with Japan at least there was a British naval force there then, but there is none there to-day. It is for that reason that we must be disturbed to find some division of thought even in the Republican party, which now holds office in the United States of America, regarding the policy to be followed by that country. I am not unmindful of the fact that a former president of the United States of America, Mr. Herbert Hoover, only this week criticized what was done during the period which marked what he described as “ the spread of communism over the earth “. He suggested that the United States of America could be charged with the responsibility for the action taken in 1933 that was the forerunner of the “ opening of the headgates to a torrent of traitors “. If we view those remarks along with present happenings in America we cannot help but recall the lack of thought in the approach of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) to international affairs. I was astounded by his attemptto imply that every man in Australia who was not prepared to don a uniform and shoulder a rifle was deserving of the greatest criticism. That is not the answer to our problem. This week, the President of the United. States of A m erica said frankly that in his opinion a preventive war was unthinkable. Let us realize what that statement means. The President, with his normally very sound .”judgment, said that a preventive war is impossible to-day. He asked how there could be a preventive war if one of its features was several cities lying in ruins. We should pause to examine the implications of that statement. Surely nobody in this chamber, or in this city, failed to appreciate what happened when the United States of America carried out its last atomic test. Were the missile that was exploded on that occasion used on the City of Sydney it would not only destroy that city but would also virtually destroy all life as far south as Canberra, as far west as Orange, and as far north as Newcastle.
I think it is to the credit of the United Nations that the great American democracy, despite the present world position, has decided to continue with research into the use of atomic energy for productive purposes, even if it cannot gain agreement with Russia on atomic weapons. The fact that the United States of America has taken such action spells some hope for the world. I believe that if free thinking people in this atomic age could convert atomic energy to productive purposes, Asia could be fed in a way that would destroy Asian communism in a few years. It is on that point that I wish to dwell. I do not think for a. moment that the South-East Asia Treaty Organization can be of value to Australia if it is merely to be on a military level. It has been reported that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) proposes to attend the first meeting of Seato. I hope and pray that if he does so the deliberations of the organization shall be directed towards obtaining a solution of our problems by peace rather than by war. I believe that because of our geographical position and our small population, we must strive with all our might to preserve ourselves by developing our internal resources. When the South-East. Asia Treaty Organization comes into being, and we all believe that there should be some regional organization for defence, that organization should take notice that Australia has vast uranium deposits, and that this country can become one of the focal points of a world defensive organization. Of course, it can only do so if it is properly developed.
I urge the Government to take into account that with our uranium resources, atomic energy should play an enormous part in the development of this country, and its emergence as a bastion of defence. We have the uranium, and I believe that with American and British aid we can develop our uranium in this country and become probably the ‘greatest energyproducing country of the world. I do not believe that the present time is a time to rattle the sabre and click the jackboots. I quite realize that we shall perhaps never reach a state when we can accept the word of the Communists in any agreement, but the Government seems to think in terms of the very thing that the President of the United States of America says is unthinkable, that is, a preventive war. A war to stop wars is not the answer to the problems of the world, and certainly not to those of Australia. The future welfare of the world will depend upon the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes rather than for war. Therefore. I firmly believe that if we develop our uranium resources with the greatest expedition we shall go forward to our destiny in peace.
I believe that if this matter is put up to the American people, they will endorse the viewpoint of Australia and help us to become a great bulwark of peace in the world. We have the uranium, and America and Great Britain have the know-how. With the aid of America and Great Britain, let us develop our uranium deposits in this country, rather than send the uranium abroad. I do not believe that alone we have any chance of defending Australia for the next two decades, however fast our population may increase.
If war should ‘break out again, I believe that the first blow will fall in Europe, and in the general turmoil we may be forgotten. Development is the keynote of our future, and our great uranium deposits should make rapid development possible. Indeed, we shall be able to give a lead to the world if we secure the help of America and Great Britain. “When the South-East Asia Treaty Organization comes into being that viewpoint should be put before it. Uranium will develop this country as a great and strong nation, while war may destroy it.
.- It is hard to over-estimate the importance of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) regarding the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, and I appreciate the opportunity to put my case briefly with ragard to that statement. I support it absolutely, and I believe that all Australians should support the pledge by the Prime Minister that our men, aircraft, ships and equipment will be put together with those of our allies in this treaty organization that will be set up to ensure the peace of the world and stop the march of communism. The Prime Minister detailed the actions of the Communists throughout the world, and showed that through their cold-war tactics, and by taking over nations one at a time, they have now reached the stage when they are threatening Australia. Honorable members already have some knowledge of the activities of the Communists, but the Prime Minister’s statement brought it home to the people that the Parliament of the Commonwealth is concerned about this matter. I had long believed that there was no way of stopping the Communists except by strength of arms. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E, James Harrison) said that Australia could become a great bulwark of peace, and that war with the Communists or anybody else was unthinkable. If the Communists continue to push forward, what are we going to do if we do not support a plan such as that put forward by the Prime Minister? If we do not offer such support, everything will be lost ; because even if the enemy came to our very gates apparently the honorable mem ber for Blaxland would do nothing but talk about peace and negotiations.
I listened with interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on this matter. He agreed that we should join a treaty organization and he then put in a few ifs and buts. He said that if the matter had been taken to the United Nations, perhaps everything would have been settled satisfactorily. However, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) pointed out that because of the abuse of the veto power by Russia, any action by the United Nations would be futile. The Leader of the Opposition then said that the United Nations had been successful in Korea, and that after peaceful negotiations had failed to show results, words were backed with armed force. I was astonished when he spoke of armed force, because I have always found that the Leader of the Opposition is quite capable of negotiating, but when it comes to backing up the result of negotiations he is found wanting. When the Government needed men for the Korean force, not one honorable member of the Opposition stated that Australians should join that force. After negotiations have been concluded the Labour party and its leader are also finished. If the Opposition were in office at present, I do not believe that it would put a force in the field at all. Therefore, it is quite wrong for the Leader of the Opposition to try to claim some credit for the United Nations in regard to the Korean force that left this country to support the decisions of that organization.
After the 1951 general election I stated that the Leader of the Opposition had not supported the recruiting campaign for troops for Korea. Then the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) said that he had done so and I said “Yes, but you won’t do it again “. In fact he has not done so since, nor have any members of the Labour party. While peaceful negotiations are proceeding the Opposition is the champion of the United Nations, but when there is a show of aims they do not speak one word. Eastern nations are very respectful to a show of arms. You have to show yourself strong in order to get their support. Until Singapore fell, millions- of people in
Singapore and Malaya were behind the Allies. Australian flags and Union Jacks waved everywhere. But when the Allied prisoners were being taken from Singapore to Changi, out of nearly every window fluttered a Japanese flag. Three and a half years later, when the Allies were again on top and prisoners were being released and brought down to ships, British flags were flying ‘out of all the windows once again. I know that occurred, because I saw it. The moment that a nation shows weakness the Asian nations desert it. We can feed them or do anything else for them, but we must show strength. If we show strength we shall win many Asian people to us, but unless we show that we are prepared to stop the march of communism, we shall continue to retreat.
I deplore smear campaigns in this Parliament from whichever side of the House they may come. To-day, there have been one or two incidents that have brought no credit on the Parliament. If T speak against the Labour party’s policy E mean nothing personal in regard to the honorable member who put forward the sentiments that. I attack. I have been a member of the Parliament for about eight and a’ half years, and I do not think that I have attacked anybody personally or disparagingly in that time, although I have attacked the policies to which I am opposed on many occasions. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) said that he believed that the worst peace was better than the best war. I believe that that is a dreadful statement, because the worst peace can only mean slavery. Our men have fought in- two world wars for freedom. They have been able to keep the fighting out of Australia, and that is why we now want to send forces overseas to combat communism. Let no one misunderstand me. The Prime Minister said that the forces that would back up the opinions of the free nations would not operate until all peaceful negotiations had failed completely. We cannot continue peaceful negotiations too long, otherwise the Communists will penetrate ever closer to our shores. If that should occur, what must be the next move?
America is now more active in SouthEast Asia, and intends to send more aircraft and troops to that area. We must act now. The Opposition has asked, “ Does this mean conscription ? “ If this country must be protected, everybody must ‘fight for it. When the Japanese or the Communists have poured into other countries everybody has had to fight. Warfare is different from what it was years ago. When I suggest that all of Australia’s man-power must be utilized, I do not mean that the Government is thinking about the introduction of conscription; probably nothing is further from the mind of the Prime Minister. But Australia cannot approach this threat in a half-hearted manner. The Government must have the support of the men of Australia and it must have strong forces to fight for our liberty.
I have heard the statements of honorable members and of persons outside the House twisted into meaning something that they were not intended to mean. In particular, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) twisted the speech that Abraham Lincoln made at Gettysburg. Surely that speech is so well known to honorable members that the honorable member for Melbourne cannot get away with his rendering of it. He stated that the world would never have peace until, as Abraham Lincoln said, we had government of the people by the people for the people, but he took the words out of their context. The speech to which he referred was delivered at Gettysburg, where there had been a great battle for the preservation of peace. Lincoln had said that America could not long endure with its population half slave and half free. The American army had forced the acceptance of the principle of government of the people by the people. On the Gettysburg battlefield, when the dead were being honoured, Lincoln used, amongst others, the following words: -
Did not the honoured dead of Australia, in two world wars, give their last full measure of devotion? We must highly resolve that they shall not have died in vain and that the freedom and democracy for which they fought, which means government of the people by the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The idea that a nation should not go to war in order to preserve peace and freedom is false. Surely any honorable member opposite who says so has had no experience in these matters. Australia may have to go to war in order to preserve peace and honour. Throughout the centuries, the countries that have not been prepared to fight for peace have sunk into degradation and slavery. Surely the British people in Australia will not permit a similar fate to be imposed upon them. It has been stated that the United Kingdom has to protect itself and that we may be neglected. The United Kingdom must protect itself, but do honorable members not realize that, if the Communist march in South-East Asia has to be stopped by force, there may be a world war? Do they not realize also that, in that event, the United Kingdom would be keeping Russia very busy on the other side of the world? If the United Kingdom could not send us the forces that we wanted, it certainly would be engaging a Russian force of the same size that otherwise would be engaged in SouthEast Asia. It has been stated that Australians may be used as shock troops. They may be used as shock troops sometimes. It has been stated also that Australia was saved because the Allies won the Coral Sea battle, but there has been no suggestion that Australians had been used as shock troops at that time. Yet any thinking person knows that, during World War II., the invasion of Australia was prevented not by the winning of the Coral Sea battle, but because the Eighth Australian Division delayed the Japanese on the Malayan peninsula for five or six weeks. If Japan had not concentrated its efforts on the Malayan peninsula and if the Eighth Australian Division had not delayed those forces, there would not have been a Coral Sea battle, because the American naval forces would not have had sufficient time in which to reach that area. The Japanese would have been in Australia if they had chosen to come here rather than go to Malaya. Shock troops were used in Malaya on that occasion, and it may be necessary to use them again. The Government has been asked where it will get the men. Surely this country has not become so degraded that, if it were necessary to defend its liberty, our men would not rally to the flag. I still have faith in the manhood of this country and I believe that, if a real threat existed, again they would not be found wanting. Someone may say, “ The honorable member for Mallee is just a warmonger. He wants these things to take place”. Nothing could be further from the truth. T believe in peaceful negotiation, but I do not believe in taking it to a dangerous extremity.
I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to take immediate actio it. I should like the Australian Government and the governments of America and the United Kingdom and other nations that join the proposed organization to issue an ultimatum to the rest of the world and state clearly where we stand. If that is not done, soon there will be further Communist aggression. If we adopted the suggestions of honorable members opposite, the Communists would continue to creep down on us. We may send as much food as possible to Asian countries, but we must remember that to send wheat to the people of Malaya and other Asian countries, when they do not know how to use it, would not achieve any worthwhile result. Those people want rice. . Honorable members should not forget that, when we are fighting battles overseas, we are not fighting in our own land. We do not wish the hardships that have been inflicted on the people of countries that have been overrun to be inflicted upon our men and women. Surely it is not asking too much of Australians to lend their full support to the Prime Minister’s statement. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) is now in the chamber. I had intended to ask the honorable member whether he had supported any campaigns for the recruitment of national service trainees after he was elected to the Parliament. I did not wish to ask that question when he was not present. Let honorable members support the campaign for national service training. Not one honorable member opposite has approved of the national service training scheme. I invite any member of the Opposition to indicate the degree to which he has helped to prepare Australia for war. The Opposition does not believe in compulsory military training. The honorable member for Ballarat shakes his head. Perhaps he is not opposed to such training, but he is overwhelmed by the other members of his party. If the Opposition approves of compulsory military training, I invite the next Opposition member who speaks to say, “We support the training of our young men so that in this country we may maintain the freedom which in the past has cost us the sacrifice of so many of our loved ones “.
.- It is obvious that honorable members on both sides of the House support the establishment of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. It is true that the Government bas announced only the principle of the establishment of such an organization and that the details will be worked out at a later stage. I do not propose to refer to past events, but I do propose to refer to the future position of this country. The discussions that have taken place since the fall of Indo-China have been directed almost exclusively to the position in Asia and very rarely to Australia’s military and political security. The relationship of Australia to South-East Asia is not the same as it was before 1945. We are only 8,500,000 people, and we are virtually a white nation in a coloured sea. Three principal factors governed the maintenance of European civilization in Australia. The first of those factors was the preponderance of European military power in Southern Asia and in South-East Asia, which served as a bastion between Asia, which was overpopulated, and Australia, which was under-populated. The second factor was that there were British armies in India, Burma and Malaya; there was a British fleet at Singapore, a Dutch army in the Dutch East Indies, a French army in
Indo-China, and an American force in the Philippines. The position now is quite different.
The third factor that must now enter into our calculations was that no heavy industries capable of maintaining a modern army and of building a modern fleet or air force existed on the mainland of Asia prior to Japan’s entry into Manchuria in the early 1930’s. Following that event the position changed greatly. The Manchurian city of Harbin was developed as a vast centre of heavy industry capable of maintaining modern fighting forces. When Japan lost control of Manchuria at the conclusion of the war in 1945, the heavy industries that it had developed in Manchuria were taken over by the Russians, who have continued to extend them. Manchurian industrial power is now capable of fitting out and maintaining a large fleet of warships. It is suggested that Communist China has no battle fleet capable of seriously challenging Australia’s independence, but at the Siberian port of Vladivostock, Russia maintains at least 200 ocean-going submarines. This is a formidable force. In 1915, Japan’s potential as an aggressor was less than that of Communist China to-day, and I remind the House that in the brief span of 25 years - a very short time in the life of a nation - the J Japanese were able to build up a fleet of warships that in 1941 successfully attacked the American port of Pearl Harbour, in the Hawaiian Islands. Units of this fleet came very close to Australian shores. China has already developed considerable heavy industry, for which it is able to provide all types of raw materials. The population of China is approximately four times that of Japan, and, in addition, Chinese man-power is supported by Russian “know-how”. This is a dangerous factor that has developed in SouthEast Asia since 1945.
The military vacuum that was left by the disbandment of European forces in South-East Asia has been largely filled by the development of Communist forces in various countries, and notably in China. The Communists have initiated this development principally by seizing control of nationalist movements. This pattern was followed in China, though we heard at the time that Mao-Tse-Tung had withdrawn and re-organized his forces. The policy of the Chinese Communist party is to unify the Chinese people and to impose upon them its own policy and doctrines. Since the Communists achieved dominance of China we have witnessed the intrusion of Chinese forces in Korea and Tibet and an upsurge of Communist activity in Burma. Last, but not least, the war that raged between the French forces and a Communistdominated nationalist movement in French Indo-China for seven years has been concluded favorably to the Communists. On the 5th May of this year, President Eisenhower of the United States of America announced to the world that, in an effort to stem the southward movement of the Red forces in SouthEast Asia, he proposed, through his emissaries at Geneva, to ask the other interested nations to join with the United States of America in the formation of a South-East Asia Treaty Organization along the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We, on this side of the House, support the proposal because we realize that a threat to Australian security in SouthEast Asia is ever present. The dangers that existed in 1945 have been increased by the defeat of the forces opposed to communism in Indo-China.
Australia would be an attractive prize for any world power. Its economic importance is undoubted. At present Japan imports annually between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 worth of Australian wool. This fact demonstrates the interest that Asiatic nations take in our staple product, and it is reasonable to suppose that they are equally as much interested in other raw materials that are available here. Uranium, particularly, is of prime importance in the world to-day. I recall that on previous occasions I have addressed the House about the attractiveness that Australia’s uranium deposits lend it in the eyes of other nations. We are about to enter the uranium, or atomic, age. Every month, scientific journals reveal further progress towards the atomic age. Extensive deposits of uranium have been discovered at Rum
Jungle, in the Northern Territory, and indications of deposits near Mount Isa have been revealed. I am confident that if the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) will make available a DC3 aircraft fitted with a scintillometer for use in the search for uranium, further deposits of this valuable mineral will be discovered in North Queensland. Mount Isa is situated on the Cloncurry mineral field, in which every known mineral has been discovered. The ChillagoeEtheridgeEinasleigh field is another extensive mineral belt in North Queensland in which every known mineral except uranium has been found, and it is natural to assume that deposits of uranium also will be found there.
Australia faces a challenge from Asia, which has largely rallied round communism. This country is an important base for the democracies in their fight against the progress of international communism towards world domination, and the Communists will do their utmost to put such an important base for defensive operations completely out of action. We all are aware that during World War II. Australia became, as it were, the springboard for. the American forces in their drive to roll back the Japanese armies. In the years that lie ahead, the Communist powers, which apparently are bent on world domination, will be ever conscious of the vital role that Australia played in World War II. - a role that this country will inevitably play again in any contest with communism. Thepolicy of the Communist nations indicates that they are aware that their principal opponent is the United States of America, and that the’ subjugation of theallies of the United States of America in the Pacific will force the Americans back to Pearl Harbour. Let us not be pessimistic. I am neither a warmonger nor a jingoist, but I am highly conscious of recent developments in that part of theworld which is known as the Far East, and of the disappearance of the protectiveumbrella of European forces that formerly existed to the north of Australa.
Only four years ago the Prime Minister(Mr. Menzies) informed this Parliament that Australia had three years and nolonger’ in which to put its defences in. order, and expenditure on defence now amounts to £200,000,000 a year. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) endeavoured yesterday, in this debate, to place before the House the thoughts and expressions of opinion of the people of north Queensland. He referred to their criticism of a statement that was made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who was at the time Minister for the Navy, when he visited north Queensland prior to the general election campaign. The residents of north Australia are aware of the great potential of the Bum Jungle and other uranium fields and of the likelihood that oil will be discovered in payable quantities in the north of Western Australia. They are acutely aware, also, that the northern parts of Australia are sparsely populated, and they believe that the Government’s im migration policy has failed. Those whose job it is to advise governments have told us forcefully that Australia must increase its population to 25,000,000 as quickly as possible. Great developmental works that would be of inestimable value for defence are urgently required in the northern parts of the continent. In the face of developments in the Far East, and particularly of the resurgence of China under Communist control, what is the Government doing in northern Australia to assure our effective defence?
– - Nothing!
– As the honorable member has pointed out, the answer is, “Nothing”. The residents of northern Australia have a just complaint about the manner in which they have been neglected. It is all very well for the Government to talk about its expenditure of £200,000,000 annually on defence. Most of this sum is absorbed in the construction of palatial buildings and munitions factories at disproportionately high costs. The citizens of northern Australia are acutely aware of their geographical position and of the attractiveness of the rich northern areas to other nations, and they demand to know what action the Government proposes to take to establish permanent defences in the north. Australia can make its most worthwhile contribu tion to the proposed South-East Asia Treaty Organization by establishing permanent defences in the northern portion of this continent.
.- This debate has lasted for some days. It is pleasing to note, from the view-point of the outside world, the general agreement among honorable members on both sides of the House on the basic thesis that the Prime Minister (Mi’. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) put forward.’ Most honorable members, quite obviously, support the Prime Minister’s historic statement. He gave a realistic and factual appreciation of events in South-East Asia, and I have not heard any honorable member seriously quarrel with his forebodings for the future and his plan to meet it. I listened to the strictures that the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) made on the Government’s defence policy. Of course, one could pick flaws in any administration’s defence policy, but the fact remains that this country is more prepared than it has ever been before in a time of peace. If criticism of Australia’s defences must be made, it is singular that it should come from members of the Opposition, because when the Government sought to recruit support for its enlistment campaign for the army not so long ago it was met with sneers and a. blank refusal from honorable members opposite. Yet, those honorable members now try to castigate the Government for allegedly leaving this country in a state of unpreparedness. Never before has this House, on so great an issue, been treated to such hypocrisy.
If honorable members will bear with me for a few moments, T shall return to the point at which this debate was commenced and give a brief review of the very parlous situation in which we now find ourselves. The only satisfaction that any of us can derive from the truce in Indo-China is that the frightfulness of war has stopped. In terms of grand strategy, it represents for the democracies a military and diplomatic defeat of considerable magnitude. It is, undoubtedly, another nail in the coffin of white prestige in Asia. After seven year3 of fighting, involving great loss of life and the outpouring of huge subsidies from the United States of America, our ally, France, has been driven to seek a negotiated :peace. In the result, Indo-China is no longer to be held. It is to be relinquished by instalments - most of Viet Nam now; the remainder, one must assume, after the elections in 1956. The majority of the Vietnamese population has already passed under Communist control. Partition, on the model of Korea, is explicitly denied. However, it is scarcely conceivable that in the elections that are to be held in 1956, the Communists, with their superior military might, their propaganda and their crusading zeal will not win. Let no man imagine that this settlement is final. Is international communism to renounce its ambition at the seventeenth parallel? To assume that, would be contrary to all previous experience. Viet Minh pressure on neighbouring Laos and Cambodia will continue relentlessly, despite what was said and settled a fortnight ago at Geneva. Already, the Viet Minh are masters of a considerable degree of territory contiguous to Siam and Burma. “Who can doubt that these two countries are not next on the list to be struck down? Coming further south, is it not reasonable to suppose that Malaya will shortly be affected? We can anticipate once more a recrudescence of terrorism throughout that peninsula. Who of us can view with equanimity the internal state of our nearest foreign neighbour, Indonesia? The Government of that country is riding uneasily in the saddle, unable to exert its authority throughout its own domains ; whilst the Indonesian Parliament still lacks the sanction of popular elections.
The Prime Minister is wise in assuming that the Viet Minh victory, confirmed at Geneva, will strengthen the Communist cause throughout Asia. He is also right in affirming that there is not a moment to lose so far as the Anglo-American powers are concerned. The war, indeed, has ceased, but the torrent of which war was the expression progresses. In common with the great majority of Australians, I welcome the intense interest shown by the United States of America in a theatre so vital to Australia. It is unnecessary to argue now whether
Mr. John Foster Dulles was right in seeking a South-East Asia Treaty Organization before the Geneva conference was held. There were obvious objections to such a move, but, at least in defence of the American Secretary of State, it can be said that he was realistic. Whatever honorable members may feel on this question, it is as clear as summer sunlight that a joint defence organization must be established forthwith having the United Kingdom as its cornerstone, and buttressed by the United States and Australia.
Let us all support the Prime Minister in trying to persuade those nations in Asia, which arc as interested as ourselves in opposing Communist imperialism, to become partners in this grand alliance. Happily, Siam and the Philippines appear willing. Perhaps Burma, with its experience of red insurrection, and because of its natural fear of Communist penetration, will regard its true friends with a less suspicious eye. The Minister for External Affairs has told us of his attempt to interest the Governments of India and Pakistan in this scheme. We are naturally disappointed that they are apparently viewing it coldly. One must respect their motives anc? their reactions, but it is not too much to hope that in the coming months they may revise their estimates and be prepared to join the organization at a subsequent stage. In discussing this matter we should emphasize how wrong it is of any section of Asian opinion to interpret Australian support for Seato as a reactionary attempt to restore so-called colonialism in the East. It is regrettable, for example, to find the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala, only last week using the phrase, “ a revival 0 western imperialism”, in connexion with this proposed pact. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that colonialism, as such, is a phase of the past. It has gone into history. No European nation is thinking along those lines to-day. Long before World War II. - the Leader of the Opposition, if he were more just, might have emphasized this point - British policy throughout the Empire aimed at self-government by progressive stages. During a great period, British administrators gave those over whom they ruled, tutelage, and an increasing share of local administration. Since the end of World War II., Great Britain has shown a generosity, an enlightenment, and a recognition of national aspirations, unparalleled in the history of any imperial power. India and Burma were granted their independence. Ceylon has received dominion status. The Gold Coast and Nigeria are on the point of attaining a similar prize. Greatly enhanced authority is now being conferred on the legislatures of Malaya and Singapore.
This liberal, understanding spirit is not confined to the Mother Country. It, likewise, animates Australia’s approach to our northern neighbours. We have shown over the years a strong practical sympathy with their needs. The Colombo plan, be it ever remembered to the credit of this Government, was launched in 3950. Its contribution, it is true, has so far been limited, but it proclaims an important principle capable of great expansion. It shows plainly to the five con li tries which we are succouring that, far from seeking to dominate them, we wish to elevate their living standards nearer to our own. I believe that the Government will do more in this direction. It is obvious that it should. I also hope that the Australian people, both on grounds of humanity and of national interest, will sanction an increasing diversion of the proceeds of taxation for this purpose over a period which, inevitably, will endure for many years.
No discussion of Australia’s Asian policy can be adequate without reference to the contentious subject of China. I have been surprised that in this debate practically no honorable member, with the exception of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), has alluded to this phase of our international relations. Honorable members are sharply divided as to the attitude we should adopt towards this ancient nation, now recovering like a giant from 40 years of internal disorders. We should, I suggest, distinguish between short-term’ and long-term policies. It is unreasonable of Mr. Chou-En-Lai to expect diplomatic recognition at this stage by the United States of America, Australia, or any other democratic country. British experience in this respect since 1950 has been anything but encouraging. Moreover, the Chinese have been declared aggressors in Korea by the United Nations; and their intervention in Indo-China is a matter of common knowledge. Before China can expect diplomatic recognition and admission to the United Nations, it must first prove itself a good neighbour, and willing to conduct itself according to the principles of the Charter. Hitherto, China’s conduct has been the reverse. The Peking Government is symbolized by those pirates who, from time immemorial, have infested the Canton River.
Nevertheless, it is folly for us to ignore China. After all, Australia is a Pacific power, and we find ourselves, broadly speaking, in the same ocean as the Chinese. It seems probable that the Communist regime has come to stay. We cannot depose Mao-Tse-Tung and his armies by our own actions. Neither can we disregard indefinitely the rulers of one-fifth of the world’s population. Without prejudice to the creation and maintenance of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, it will be in Australia’s interests to aim ultimately at achieving a modus vivendi with Peking. However repugnant this may sound to many people, we are confronted by these facts. First, China is rapidly gaining strength. Its troops in Korea have proved themselves to be of high quality. Reports from Australian servicemen returning from Korea are disconcerting and disturbing. China’s intervention in Indo-China has been largely responsible for France’s defeat. Secondly, there will be no stability in East Asia, so long as China is bent upon disturbing it. Thirdly, it will be wholly contrary to the Chinese character to become simply the echo of Moscow. China will evolve its own form of communism, suited to its needs. Marxism diluted, Orientalized, may well assume different expressions from those of Russia. One of the cardinal precepts of Anglo-American policy must therefore be the breaking of the Moscow-Peking axis. Fourthly, over the centuries, there has been contact between the British and Chinese people. Not only our ancestors, but those of us who have had personal experience of the
Chinese, both in peace and war, have found them compatible as a race. They possess characteristics in some respects sympathetic to our own. We shall be wise to use this friendly predisposition as a springboard for political understanding.
In the long run, we may have more to gain by reaching an accord with China, than by continually urging the rearmament and military resurrection of Japan. China may soon emerge as the dominant power of the Orient. It is just possible that it will prove more trustworthy than the arrogant, scheming and ambitious Japanese. In making these observations, [ do not wish to be misunderstood. This is not a plea for recognizing red China this year or next year. Nor am I arguing for compromising over Formosa, or bargaining from our present condition of embryonic South-East Asian union. But I do ask honorable members to distinguish between short-term and longterm objectives, and not to close their minds to establishing relations with Peking whenever that government has displayed convincingly its good intentions. During the coming years, whilst preparing for the worst, let us seize any fruitful opportunity of making contact with the Chinese, as the British Foreign Secretary did so successfully last month at Geneva. In our right hand we must carry a sword, but in our left hand we should also carry friendship.
.- This is not a time for flowery speech, rhetoric and the calculated phrase to arouse public feeling, but it is time for members of this Parliament to consider dispassionately the problems facing Australia. The words uttered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), couched in language more diplomatic than practical, have little relation to the problems confronting Australia at the present time. The people of Australia look to the Government for something better than double talk and language which gives no positive lead to the nation. At present, we need from the Government leadership of a kind that will give confidence to the people of this, our land.
The problems facing the people of Australia are real and grave. No one will deny that our position is fraught with grave danger. Our great poet, Henry Lawson, wrote that -
By our place in the midst of the farthest seas
We are fated to stand alone.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 August 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540812_reps_21_hor4/>.