22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question concerning the legislation known as the Ministers of State Bill 1956, which was recently considered by this House. Has the Government decided to alter that legislation and not to press on with the proposal to increase the salaries of four Ministers of State, which is to be one effect of the legislation ?
– I understand that that legislation is now before another place where, no doubt, it will be dealt with.
– In explanation of a question that I now direct to the Minister for the Army, I point out that a few days ago an allegation was made by an Australian Army sergeant that there were 200 or 300 children in Japan whose fathers were Australians and whose mothers have been left without support. Will the Minister make an investigation to see whether this allegation, which was made at a court-martial, is correct and, if it is correct, will he advise the Parliament what practical help can be given to the children ? I ask that question because I believe that this country has some obligations in the matter - if not legal obligations, then certainly moral obligations.
– I shall answer the question. The honorable member’s question is a rather strange one because, although such allegations have been made from time to time about Australian forces in theatres of war overseas, and elsewhere, it has never been assumed that they were correct. Indeed, to that extent, no action has ever been taken by an Australian government to conduct such an investigation as has been suggested by the honorable member.
I will certainly have a look at the matter, and if I find that there is a necessity for an investigation to be carried out, I will see that it is carried out.
– I remind the Treasurer that it is now over a month since he announced the terms on which two private trading banks, one Australian and one foreign, could engage in the business of savings banking. Can the Treasurer say when he will reply to the request by the Premier of New South Wales for the State trading bank also to be allowed to engage in the business of savings banking? Can he explain why he was able to make an announcement after two months’ consideration in the case of the private banks, but has not yet done so after three months in the case of the State bank? Is he withholding an announcement, as he did in the case of the trading banks, until the afternoon before the State bank opens for savings bank business ?
– The alleged application from the Premier of New South Wales could only be made by means of a communication between the Premier and the Prime Minister. The matter has not come forward in that way. The New ‘South Wales Government is a party to an agreement that has been entered into with the Commonwealth Government. If the terms of that agreement are to be varied or modified in any way, that must be done at the request of, and by way of negotiations entered into on a proper basis by the Premier of New South Wales with this Government.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question with reference to the projected visit of Australian Victoria Cross winners to the United Kingdom. In view of the fact that the Victorian Government has agreed to contribute half of the cost of such visit for each Victoria Cross winner, will the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth Government will assist in this laudable honour, conferred by Her Majesty the Queen on these heroes, by making a contribution on a £ 1-f or-£l basis towards the cost of the trip for them and their wives? As it is necessary for passages to be booked now, will the Prime Minister make an early decision, if one has not already been made?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member is not quite so uncomplicated as it seems at the beginning because the proposals made by the ‘Government of the United Kingdom, as I understand them, include a substantial number of persons other than the actual winners of the Victoria Cross. T have had the matter gone into. I expect to get a decision from Cabinet as to what we will do about it at the earliest possible date, realizing, as I do, the truth of what the honorable member has said, that passages have to be booked and, therefore, arrangements have to be made soon.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is in a position to state whether the Government is planning to make any new survey of the state of the economy and, if so, whether, as has been reported, it is intended to consult an expert committee in which representatives of business and industry will be included.
– The Government some two or three weeks ago decided that it ‘would have great benefit if it could secure the advice of a panel of people on economic problems broadly, the whole idea being to get a series of views derived from various skills and experiences outside the normal sources of expert advice available to the Government. We therefore appointed a committee. We gave no publicity to it at the time because we believe that such committees do their best work without undue publicity; but we invited a number of gentlemen to act in an advisory capacity. I may say, in view of some statements that have been made, that they were all invited at the samp time, and all accepted at the same time. There has been no change in the committee since it was established. The committee includes distinguished civil servants, some of whom have had special economic training, and representatives of outside financial and business affairs.
Those who come from the Public Service itself include the permanent head of the Treasury, Sir Boland Wilson, the head of the Department of Trade, Mr. J. G. Crawford, the Governor of the central bank, Dr. H. C. Coombs - strictly speaking he is not a civil servant - Mr. R. J. Randall, of the Treasury, and Sir Allen Brown, the Secretary to the Cabinet. In addition, we invited Mr. L. G. Melville, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University and a very distinguished economist, Professor T. W. Swan, also of the Australian National University. Sir Daniel McVey, who is very well known to a great number of members of this House and is eminent in private industry to-day, Mr. A. S. Osborne, the chief general manager of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney-
– Who is he?
– If the honorable member has never heard of him it is indeed a. confession of ignorance. Other members of the committee are Mr. C. N. Williams, who was until recently the president of the National Farmers Union and one of the advisers who went to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade conferences at Geneva, and Mr. F. E. Lampe, who was formerly the head of Manton’s in Melbourne, and has an unsurpassed knowledge of the retail trade in Australia.
M.’r. Ward. - It looks like another Premiers plan to me.
– I do not know what it looks like to the honorable member because I have never been able to put myself in his place. This is, if I may say so, an admirable committee and its members have been working assiduously, almost daily, ever since its appointment two or three weeks ago. When they have thoroughly examined and discussed various aspects of our economic problems, they will then confer - and indeed it has been arranged for next Monday - with members of the Government.
– The upper or the lower part of the Cabinet?
– The honorable member will be very disappointed to know that they will confer with a bit of each. What a blow ! The Government’s economic committee will exchange views with them. This is not designed to transfer the responsibility of the Government to any other body but to broaden the base upon which advice coming to the Government can be obtained. In due course - and when I say that I mean as a matter of urgency - the Government itself will formulate ideas on these matters and, after the normal processes have been observed, will submit its proposals to the Parliament and to the people.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me of the Government’s intention in relation to the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Act? The act, as the Prime Minister knows, will expire in June of this year and the industry generally is anxious to know whether the Government intends to extend the operation of the existing act or replace it with a more generous one.
– The Gold Mining Industry Assistance Act, as the honorable member knows, provides for a subsidy on gold to be paid during the two year3 ending June, 1956. Naturally, we have had representations about the matter from various quarters, and I know that the honorable member himself is profoundly interested in it; but he will be glad to know that we have already listed this matter for consideration because we have needed no persuasion to agree that the future treatment of the industry must be announced well before the expiration of the current arrangements.
– In June of last year, I asked the Minister for Civil Aviation a question concerning the personnel who, at the time the Commonwealth took over Qantas Empire Airways Limited, were working in that service, became Commonwealth employees and were transferred to Trans-Australia. Airlines. I asked the Minister whether the rights of those employees with regard to long-service leave and other things were being protected, and would be continued. The Minister told me that he would give me a detailed answer to my question at a future date, and I now ask him to inform the House whether any decision has yet been made in this matter, and, if not, when a decision may be expected.
– I remember the honorable member asking me that question, and I remember that the whole subject referred to in the question was of a complex nature. The matter involved Treasury procedures and all sorts of considerations. I am sorry that the honorable member has not yet received a reply to his question. I did not know that a reply had not been given, and I shall inquire into the matter and inform the honorable member accordingly as soon as possible.
– Is the Treasurer aware of the long delays that occur in the Treasury in meeting claims for Commonwealth compensation made by injured workers in Brisbane? I have been informed that two employees of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, in Brisbane, have been waiting for sixteen weeks and seven weeks respectively for payment of compensation. In view of the long delay that has occurred in making payments to these employees, and the consequent injustice that they arc suffering, will the Treasurer take immediate steps to ensure that payment is made to them without delay? If the right honorable gentleman desires the names of the employees concerned, I shall be pleased to supply them to him.
– If _ the honorable member will give me details of the matters that he has complained about, I shall be pleased to have inquiries made expeditiously.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. I ask the Minister whether means will be available to take upper air samples to determine the amount of radio-activity that drifts over this continent subsequent to any future atomic explosion test. Arc such samples taken at regular intervals in the United States of America, Great
Britain and Japan, and shall we in Australia eventually have permanent equipment and facilities to carry out similar tests ? I finally ask the Minister whether be is aware of any considered opinion of the departmental experts of the Department of Supply, concerning the popular and growing theory that atomic and other explosions are having an effect on our general weather conditions.
– It has already been announced that after atomic tests take place, sampling of the upper atmosphere for radiation is carried out by an organization whose members are drawn chiefly from the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. I do not know what the position is in Japan, except from what I have read in the newspapers, but I am aware that similar arrangements operate in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It is a fact that Australia has set up a permanent organization so that regular samples and tests of the sort mentioned by the honorable member may be made. With regard to the last part of the question, I have heard it suggested that there is some connexion between weather conditions and atomic tests. According to the best scientific advice that we can obtain, there is no truth whatever in those suggestions. After all, there were meteorological disturbances long before atomic tests took place. I can remember that some years ago, in the 1930’s, there were thirteen consecutive wet week-ends in Sydney. One of the theories then was that it resulted from too much enthusiasm in ecclesiastical quarters in praying for rain. I suggest that both theories are incorrect.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that in the engineering branch of the General Post Office, Melbourne, instructions have been given that no replacements are to be made of any members of the staff who leave their employment, and that the existing staff must be reduced at the rate of 150 a month. Further, if this is true, will it mean that applicants for telephones of A and B priority only will receive them in the future?
– The honorable member for Yarra has asked me a question concerning the staffing position in Melbourne. Speaking on the spur of the moment, I say that there is no policy for a steady reduction of personnel in the Postmaster-General’s Department. If the honorable member has any particular information which he thinks bears on this subject, I shall be glad to look into it, but there is no policy for general retrenchment within the department.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to inform me when some finality may be reached in relation to the payment of moneys to ex-prisoners of war through the International Red Cross %
– I regret to say that I am not. I have not had an opportunity of looking at that matter of late, but I know the honorable member’s interest in it. I will at once have a statement prepared as to what point has been reached in this matter.
– Has the Minister for Trade had time to examine the sterling import licensing position as it applies to capital equipment required by Australian industries for expansion and replacement purposes? Is the Minister aware that the majority of applications for licences in these categories are being refused or deferred, despite the urgency and importance of requirements? If the Minister has not yet been able to study this side of sterling import licensing, can he assure the House that he will do so in the near future, and, if possible, provide a greater amount of sterling exchange for such vital imports? Will the Minister also inform the House regarding the number and value of applications for licences to import capital equipment for expansion and replacement purposes on hand at the end of December, 1955, and the number and value of such licences approved during the quarter ended the 31st December, 1955?
– I have not yet had an opportunity to have a full consideration or, in fact, any substantial consideration at all of the policy aspects to which the honorable member refers. The actual mechanism of import licensing control is still, by arrangement between the Minister for Customs and Excise and myself, being continued by the Department of Customs and Excise until the 31st March next. However, in conjunction with the Government’s general policies, I, with my colleagues, will be making a study of all the policy implications of import licensing. Nevertheless, it is not to be overlooked that no matter how worthy or how desirable cases may be, the facts are that we are constrained in this matter by the sheer arithmetic of the overseas resources of foreign exchange that we have. There is no escape from that.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the British Government is shortly to conduct atomic tests in Australia, and in view of the fact also that the true significance and nature of this new development should be known to as many people as possible, it would be practicable, consistent, of course, with security, for representative members of the Australian community to have the opportunity of viewing these tests and certainly for honorable members of this House, I think preferably drawn from both sides of the House, to have the opportunity of viewing them.
– The suggestion made by the honorable member commends itself to me in principle. There are, perhaps, mechanical problems that I would need to discuss. For example, one test might be incapable of observation except from the sea, and that would necessarily affect the possibility of having spectators. Other tests might be conducted on land, where the problems would be much simpler. However, the honorable member may take it that I shall discuss with my colleagues the possibility of having honorable members put in a position to witness these experiments, provided that the mechanical problems can be overcome and suitable conditions are observed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister will know that Queensland is quickly becoming a major exporter of wheat. Last year, owing to bumper crop3, there were considerable problems associated with the storage of export wheat. Will the Minister advise me whether his new department is watching the position and whether adequate storage will be provided in Queensland, and in other States, for this year’s and next year’s crops?
– About two weeks ago, a paper was prepared, I think for the Australian Agricultural Council, dealing with the problem of the storage of both this year’s and next year’s wheat crops. I think the problem arose because of the fact that this year there will be an export surplus of about 110,000,000 bushels, so that the crop will be a big one for Australia. I think that in every State, with the possible exception of Western Australia, storage facilities will be just about adequate. In Western Australia, the position will be rather tight. I should not like to take the part of a prophet and try to forecast seasonal conditions or the acreage that might be planted next year, but I can assure the honorable member that this problem i3 receiving constant attention and will not be forgotten. I should like to mention to him also that only recently the Australian Government approved experiments in new methods of air-tight storage, both above and below ground, and an expert from Western Australia visited the Argentine to ascertain whether the latest methods used there could be employed in Australia. I am aware of the honorable member’s interest in this problem. If he wants further information on it, he can ask me, and I shall give him a detailed reply.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that some anxiety has been expressed in various quarters at the lag in the training of technologists and technicians in both the United States of America and Great
Britain, especially in comparison with Russia ? Will the right honorable gentleman have appropriate inquiries made into this matter in Australia, and will hu inform the House about the situation in this country and about any action that may be contemplated to correct the position, if it needs correcting?
– I shall be very glad to ascertain whether information of that kind can be collated and made available to the House.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. What was the extent of the Government’s part in the choice of the 27 delegates to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Industrial Conference in London under the sponsorship of the Duke of Edinburgh? Is it correct that only four men with any industrial or union background were chosen among the 27? If this is a fact, is it not a farce that only one-seventh of the Australian delegation represents industrial unionism in a conference where human relations between employer and employee, and in management generally, are to be the main purpose of the discussion? Who meets the cost of this one-sided delegation?
– The Government’s role in this particular matter was a limited, but, I hope, a helpful one. The actual selection to which the honorable member refers was carried out by a series of independent committees established in each of the States, on which, so far as I am aware, the various sections to which the honorable member refers were adequately represented. All the indications so far received by me have been that those selected, far from having given any cause for dissatisfaction, have been p4od as both representative and admirable people to go from Australia for the purposes of this conference. I understand that the selections were immediately approved by the committee in the United Kingdom which had the final say in these matters and which had given an indication of the sort of representation it wanted to see coming from Australia.
The Government did make a contribution to the cost of the passages and other expenses of the delegates, but industry generally and the trade union movement participated in the financial contribution, with the result that it now appears that the expenses will be covered from all those sources.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In view of the fact that, in order to preserve London funds, the Government already controls the amount of sterling an overseas traveller may spend, will the Minister remove the present irksome restrictions, which interfere with the liberty of the subject and prevent a traveller from buying, out of his sterling allocation. and bringing to Australia, say, a motor car or furniture, while allowing him to buy and bring clothing or some less useful object?
– It is correct that the application of more stringent import licensing restrictions has affected the capacity of travellers from Australia abroad to buy motor cars and bring them back as their personal property. It has been affected in this way, that unless the agent for the particular type of car is prepared to allow a traveller to buy a car and have it debited to that agent’s import quota for the current quarter, an import licence is not granted to the traveller. The honorable member for Sturt has put to me with considerable force the argument that as a traveller’s funds are restricted, he. should be allowed to spend them on what he pleases, and if he chooses to import a motor car with part of them it should not, affect the overall import licensing position, and he should be allowed to bring it back. I have not been able to agree with his argument for this reason, that if every traveller from Australia were allowed to buy a motor car with part of his travelling allowance, it is certain, I think, that a larger number of motor cars would be imported, and that travellers would, in general, spend up to the full limit of their travelling allowances when they were abroad. In other words, there would be an additional use of Australian sterling funds in the import of motor cars. While the present stringent restrictions apply, their purpose would be defeated if the honorable member’s arguments were accepted.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade, or whoever is the appropriate Minister. Is it not a fact that restrictive trade practices, in the form of cartels which limit competition, are operating in this country? Is the Minister aware that the British Government is contemplating bringing down a bill which aims to wipe out restrictive trade practices in Great Britain? In order to offset the bad practices which arise from the operation of cartels in this country, will this Government consider bringing down a bill similar to that which is to be brought down by the British Government?
– The administrative matters with which I am normally concerned arise from the Government’s activities and interest in the export trade. If the honorable member has any particular issues in mind and will advise me of them, I shall examine them to see whether they are within the ambit of the authority of the Commonwealth.
– I address a question to the Minister in charge of war service land settlement. If an exserviceman holds a current qualification certificate for war service land settlement in Victoria, can he be excluded from participation in ballots for land on the ground that he is resident in another State? If such action is taken, will it render the State of Victoria ineligible to receive the Commonwealth special assistance promised on a £l-for-£2 basis?
– I am not quite certain of the answer to this question, although I did sign a letter yesterday in which I gave the answer to another honorable member. But I have been signing so many letters lately, on matters which are quite new to me, that I hope I shall be forgiven for not being able to give too precise an answer now. Relying heavily on my memory, I think the mere fact that a person who is eligible in Victoria takes up residence in another State does not debar him from getting land in that State in which he put in his application. It may, however, be a disadvantage in preference as the matter is one within the jurisdiction of the States. If it happens that that answer is incorrect - I pray that it is not - I shall let the honorable member know.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me how many men have been given notices of dismissal by the Commonwealth Department of Works at Moorebank in New South Wales? Will he inform me also how many skilled tradesmen are among the men who have been given notices of dismissal?
– I am sorry that I have no specific information regarding the question asked by the honorable member. I shall look into the matter, and let him have the figures in due course.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Supply, relates to the subject raised in the question asked by the honorable member for Mitchell - that is, the taking of samples of air at various levels after an atomic explosion. Is there an international organization for controlling this work? If so, will the officers of the Department of Supply work with it?
– There was established recently, under the United Nations, a committee to examine the whole question of radiation as a result of atomic activities. Australia was, if not a promoter, at least an active foundation member of that organization. Perhaps I should put it the other way round. We were actively concerned in the creation of the committee and we are one of the foundation members. The committee will examine the whole problem of radiation, not only as it affects this country, but also as it affects all countries in the world. The problem is of long-term rather than short-term concern. The best scientific advice available is that nobody need have any anxiety at present. But it is true that a great increase in the level of gamma radiation throughout the world could create genetic problems in the future. It is on that footing that the committee proposes to examine the problem.
– In view of a number of nasty rumours circulating in the lobbies of Parliament House, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the former Minister for Health, the Minister far Works and the Interior and the PostmasterGeneral were removed from ministerial rank because of age, ill-health, or incompetency, or as a result of the Prime Minister’s personal dislike, or did they voluntarily resign?
– It has never been the practice in my time to discuss reasons for Cabinet changes. In fact, the only time I can remember when a reason was assigned for a temporary Cabinet change was when, the honorable member for East Sydney was suspended by his own Prime Minister.
– I was not.
– He then went before a royal commission and pleaded privilege and went away fast. Notwithstanding that lurid example, I propose to adhere to the normal practice.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs arrange for the purchase of original paintings by prominent Australian artists to be hung in Australian embassies, High Commissioners’ residences and offices abroad? Perhaps the Minister, with his personal interest in art, will agree that the existing practice of the Department of External Affairs of providing only reproductions of such works, in the form of rather cheap prints, is unbecoming to the dignity of overseas missions. Does not the Minister also consider that such- a move would be of practical assistance to the cause of art generally in this country?
– The honorable member’s proposal is a reasonable one, and I shall certainly be glad to discuss it with the Prime Minister who has, I understand, the assistance of the Art Advisory Board in these matters.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Questions have been proceeding for three-quarters of an hour, and only one honorable member in this corner of the House has had an opportunity to ask a question. I hope that in the reorganization of the seating of honorable members, Mr. Speaker, you have not overlooked that this section of the House represents the Australian Country party. I hope we are not being overlooked or treated as the Opposition.
– Order ! During the time that questions have been asked, the honorable member for Maranoa has been called. The only other member of the Australian Country Party whom I have seen rise was the honorable member for Wide Bay, who rose only quite recently. I have not seen any other honorable member rise in that section of the House, but T did not think that my worst enemy in this place would accuse me of overlooking the Australian Country party.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether it is a fact that 50,000 British people desire to migrate to Australia, but are prevented from doing so by lack of sponsorship? If this is so, has the Government given any consideration to altering the sponsorship requirements in order to ensure that no suitable person in Britain who desires to come to this country shall be prevented from doing so?
– I am pleased to have the opportunity to clear up some misunderstanding which apparently exists in relation to this aspect of immigration. It may be a fact that there are some tens of thousands of desirable people in the United Kingdom who wish to come to Australia but who, up to the present, have not been able to obtain a sponsor. That does not mean that they are in any way prohibited from coming to Australia. If they find their own fares, there is nothing to prevent them from catching the first available ship. That distinguishes their situation from that in which non-British potential immigrants are placed. Even if those persons are able to pay the full fare themselves, they must still obtain a sponsor and secure the approval of the Department of Immigration before they can come to Australia. In addition to permitting British people to come here at any time if they are willing to pay their own fares, we have a scheme of assisted passages, on which no limitation of numbers has been placed, for those who can secure nominators in Australia. Further, we have introduced a scheme of government nomination for certain British people who, though lacking sponsors, are still, in our opinion, of such value to a developing country that we have included them in a government sponsorship scheme and given them accommodation of a temporary nature in our hostels. It will be seen, therefore, that British immigrants continue to enjoy not only first priority from this Government, but the most favoured treatment of any nationals.
– I should have informed the House earlier that my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), is, unfortunately, in hospital. He has undergone an operation and will be absent from his duty for some weeks. In his absence, he will be represented by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison).
– by leave - When I last spoke in the House about foreign affairs the meeting in Geneva of the heads of government of Great Britain, France, the United States of America and the Soviet Union was not long over and the world was going through a state of at least temporary optimism. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and I had both felt it necessary in public statements to recommend caution in coming to too rosy conclusions at that time. I told the House that it would be premature to assume that all was well by reason of the Soviet smiles at Geneva. These reservations have unfortunately been justified by what has happened - and what has not happened - since then. I said that, though the heads of government had been able to agree on certain general observations, the test would be when these general statements had to be applied to particular issues such as German unity, European collective security, East-West contacts and disarmament. The first testing times have passed - a session of the United Nations Disarmament Subcommittee, the November meeting of Foreign Ministers, and the recent General Assembly of the United Nations. All these meetings have shown that, when it comes down to specific issues, the Communist attitude is fundamentally unchanged from what it was before the heads of government met at Geneva. It is now clear that the Russians meant to reduce surface tensions only, without giving way on any of the specific matters that created the tensions.
Let us look at those specific issues. Although many of these matters directly concern the European area, the results of them have direct relationship to our own situation. The Asian area is part of the whole world picture, and is influenced by events and tendencies occurring anywhere in the world. The minds of men in Asia are influenced by the apparent successes or the apparent failures of the democratic side or the Communist side in any part of the world. With instantaneous, world-wide communications, the minds of people in any particular area are influenced by events in any part of the world. The minds of uncommitted individuals in Asia are swayed by democratic successes or Communist gains in countries half the world away. The battle for men’s minds in South-East Asia is not a self-contained one. The free world is one, and is faced with an aggressive antagonist that never sleeps.
On the question of the unification of Germany, the Russians have made it quite clear that they will not agree to the unification of Germany through free, all-German elections. They are, in fact, more interested in keeping the eastern part of Germany under Communist domination titan in permitting German unity in freedom. And until there is agreement in Germany, there can hardly be any agreement on the second big outstanding question in Europe - collective security.
The next question before the Foreign Ministers in Geneva was disarmament. There, too, practically no progress has been made either in Geneva or elsewhere. I will speak about this great problem of disarmament again a little later.
The Foreign Ministers had also been asked to consider the development of closer contacts between the Communist and non-Communist countries, in order to make some advance towards peaceful co-existence. No advance was made on this, in spite of strenuous efforts by the Foreign Ministers of the three democratic countries. The inescapable conclusion is that the Communist countries are afraid of free, uncensored contact between their peoples and ours. They fear that the rigid, controlled regimes that they have built up cannot stand the light of free intercourse and discussion.
What we can say is that, since the death of Stalin, Communist tactics in international affairs have changed, but the basic philosophy and objectives remain. The aim is still world domination. In this new phase of East-West relations, Communist pressure on the free world is being vigorously exerted in new and more subtle forms, which are harder to detect and harder to counter. The crude assertion of Soviet power has given way to more subtle methods, by which communism seeks to present itself in the most attractive light to the non-Communist governments and to the ordinary people of all countries. Indeed, the Communists themselves scarcely bother to conceal that, whilst they have turned away from crude forms of expansion, their basic aim of world domination is unchanged. Mr. Khrushchev himself has made this clear in a speech to the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the 29th December - only eight weeks ago. He said -
If certain politicians think that our confidence in the victory of socialism, in the teachings of Marxism-Leninism, is a violation of the Geneva spirit, they obviously have an erroneous notion of that spirit. They ought to remember, once and for all, that we have never gone back and never will go back on our ideas, on our struggle for the victory of communism. They need never expect any ideological disarming on our part.
This question of the ultimate aims of communism is a matter of the highest importance. If words mean what they say, then the Communists have never wavered from 1917 to the present day in their aim of communizing the world in due course. There are those who say that practically every faith has begun by airing its determination to become universal and by expressing intolerance and hostility towards other faiths, but that, in the course of time, this attitude has smoothed off into tolerance and more or less friendly co-existence with other faiths. Those who use this parallel say that we should not be too much concerned at the sinister Communist threats of world domination. Such a comfortable philosophy might be all very well at some time in the future when the beginnings of such tolerance were in sight - but this is not so to-day - and it would be suicidal folly for us to let down our guard in to-day’s circumstances. In the meantime, the Communists are going all out to win a new place for themselves, particularly in Asia and in the Middle East. In these areas, they are using the Communist tactics, so frankly expounded by Lenin, which make use of nationalist movements, merely as a prelude to their destruction and the ultimate imposition of open Communist domination.
Let me say a word about the tense and dangerous situation in the Middle East. Australia’s interest in the stability of the Middle East is long established. Now, as a member of the Security Council, Australia is directly concerned in the efforts of the United Nations to solve the ArabIsrael problem. At this stage, every effort must be made to avoid further border incidents or provocative action by either side. This was our objective in the Security Council discussion a month ago, when we joined in a resolution of censure upon Israel for its action against Syria in the Lake Tiberias region. Rut no permanent settlement of the ArabIsrael problem seems possible unless mutual fears can be reduced, and Israel’s right to exist is recognized by her neighbours. On the other hand, Israel has an obligation in respect of the tragic situation of nearly 1,000,000 Arab refugees from what is now Israel. Each side must recognize that the other has interests, and that the reconciliation of interests is something negotiable either within or outside the United Nations. Fear is a dangerous thing and the present situation is explosive. It is being exploited by the Soviet Union, which has abandoned any pretence of impartiality and is endeavouring to mislead Arab people into the belief that the Soviet Union alone is their friend.
Soviet Russia has also tried to promote discord in respect of the Kashmir question. The Russian leaders spoke recently as if the Kashmir question was already settled, thereby prejudging an issue which is before the United Nations Security Council and which cannot be brought nearer a solution by gratuitous and partisan intervention by outside countries. The Security Council has endorsed the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under United Nations auspices to decide the disposition of Kashmir. Both parties have agreed in principle to accept this method, but have unfortunately not been able to agree on the way to put it into effect. Australia’s concern is to see this outstanding issue between two Commonwealth countries settled by peaceful means which give full weight to the wishes of the people of the disputed territory. The United Nations resolutions point the way to such a settlement ; the Soviet intervention, which shows a complete disregard for established processes of peaceful adjustment through the United Nations, cannot fail to make the search for a permanent settlement more difficult.
Let us look at the record more generally. Throughout the world the Communists denounce “ colonialism “ and “ imperialism “. This is good international political talk and a. good deal of sympa thy can be gained by so doing. A century ago the Russian author Turgenev wrote -
If you wish to put your enemy in the wron” or to damage his reputation, blame him for the very vice which you feel in yourself.
This is exactly what the Communists do when they denounce “ colonialism “. Yet it is the Soviet Union which can be regarded as the new imperialism.
The simple fact is that the Soviet Union is the only country which emerged from the Second World War with increased territory-in Europe and in Asia.
If colonialism means - as I believe it means - the subjecting of people of one nationality or religion to the rule of another, then there is no doubt that there is in the world to-day only one great colonial empire - that of Russia. All the bad features of nineteenth century colonialism - which for the West is a thing of the past - are to be found in Moscow’s rule over the populations, both inside and outside the Soviet borders, whom it has reduced to what can only be called a colonial status. The results of this new imperialism may be seen in the systematic destruction of the national life of the Baltic republics, of the Eastern European countries, and in the exploitation of the Asian republics of the Soviet Union.
Russia’s Central Asian dominions, nearly 4,000,000 square miles of territory lying northwards of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, include five Soviet republics with a total population of nearly 17,000,000 people. The Soviet constitution guarantees to each of the republics which make up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a long and superficially impressive list of rights, including the right to secede from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In practice, these rights do not exist. In all matters, great and small, they are rigidly controlled from Moscow. Their administrations and economic machinery are filled with Russians in key posts. Every care is taken to ensure that their economies remain dependent on that of Russia. Everywhere Russians and the Russian language enjoy a privileged position. Local national feeling and the Muslim religion are persecuted as “ reactionary “. This is the work of the real “ colonialism “ of our time.
While the Soviet Union has been making its presence felt in southern Asia, the policy of the Chinese partner in the Communist coalition has been developing along similar lines. The Peking regime has made many declarations of peaceful intent, and, since the Bandung conference, which marked a turning point in Chinese Communist tactics, its official statements and propaganda have assumed an apparent air of moderation. Again, however, there has been little sign of a genuine willingness to compromise or negotiate contentious major issues. Although the Chinese Communists have made many declarations of peaceful intent since last year, they do not seem to have changed their policy on Formosa and the Pescadores, and on the off-shore islands which have been the centre of friction for some time. Indeed they have openly stated that they are prepared to “ liberate “ Formosa by force, if necessary, and that they are pressing ahead with preparatory work for this purpose.
Until we know with more certainty that Peking has renounced the use of force and subversion in the Formosa area and towards the countries of South-East Asia, it is difficult to see how progress can be made. It is sometimes suggested that the “ realistic “ course would be to recognize the Peking regime as the Government of China and as the legitimate representative of China at the United Nations. At this stage, I shall merely say that it does not appear “ realistic “ to abandon to the mercy of the Communists the island of Formosa with the Republic of China Government and 8,000,000 antiCommunist inhabitants, which is in effect what the Communists continue to demand. Such is the attitude which the Communist bloc presents to the free world.
In the light of the events of the last twelve months, I would believe that the probabilities of the immediate future are as follows: -
It is clear that, in the face of the Communist offensive, an essential part, though by no means the only part, of the free world’s strength must be armed strength. The vast expenditure on armed forces and armaments throughout the world is one of the basic problems of our time. The world is oppressed with a burden of warlike preparation. In the hydrogen bomb, there has been developed for the first time a weapon capable of mutual obliteration. The division of the world between Communist and free countries, with the hydrogen bomb in possession of each side, represents the limit in mutually destructive possibilities. This dreadful dilemma leads some people to believe that the solution lies in a simple banning of atomic and hydrogen weapons.
The monopoly of nuclear weapons which the West enjoyed for some years was itself almost a guarantee of peace. No realist aggressor will move against an adversary that he knows to be greatly stronger than himself in retaliatory capacity. West European defensive strength was built under the protection of Western atomic power. But the Western monopoly of atomichydrogen weapons is no more. Russia possesses the hydrogen bomb. It is clear that a saturation point will be reached in the near future, if indeed it has not already come, when each, in any all-out war, would inevitably destroy the other. It is thus more vital than ever before that war should be avoided. It is clear that Russia as well as the West, recognizes this. The Russian leaders would not lightly risk their own destruction and that of their country.
On the 3rd November, 1953, in the House of Commons, Sir Winston Churchill said - . . I have sometimes the odd thought that the annihilating character of these agencies may bring an utterly unforeseeable security to mankind … It may be that . . when the advance of destructive weapons enables every one to kill everybody else nobody will want to kill any one at all.
To the Communists, the present situation is an opportunity for attempted expansion by all means short of the risk of a great war. This is a highly dangerous situation. A peace founded on a balance of terror is a fragile thing. It is at the mercy of mistakes and miscalculations, which have so often precipitated wars before. The border incident, the inevitable reprisal, the reaction to that - and things may have gone too far to draw back. Then the Russian use of the veto in the Security Council, and the chain reaction of understandable human action and reaction - and a great war may have started from small beginnings. Surrounded by tinder, the Communist leaders persist in playing recklessly with fire, in all the troubled areas of the world. As their recent actions combine to show, they will constantly pursue their aim of expansion by all means short of raising the international temperature beyond the decisive flash point. If they avoid any fatal miscalculation, the problem that remains for the free world is still very great.
It is essential for the democracies to retain the deterrent power of nuclear weapons as long as they remain in the hands of the Communists. But this is not enough. Mutual ability to deter all-out war may be regarded by the Communists as a kind of umbrella beneath which they can bite off pieces of the free world without the risk of provoking full-scale retaliation. Although the defence of the free world is far more than a military problem, it is essential that the military strength of the free world must be of something like the same order as that of the Communists. The strength of the democratic countries must be varied and flexible. To rely exclusively on atomic and hydrogen weapons would be folly. If a bee lands on your friend’s neck you are poorly placed to help him if your only weapon is a sledge hammer. A shield of conventional forces is still necessary to meet the threat of piecemeal aggression, for which the Communists, with their great land armies, are so well equipped. We must avoid a situation in which the aggressor enjoys freedom to choose the time, the place and the scope of conflict resulting from aggression. He will be robbed of that freedom only if those that are menaced are prepared to retaliate at any time on the scale appropriate to the aggression.
The ideal would be to be able to rely on the United Nations to deter, or to cope with, aggression. This is not possible, for reasons that we all know, so that we have had to create machinery consistent with the Charter, but outside the scope of the veto. A series of regional mutual defence arrangements has been established, based on the right of individual and collective self-defence, which is consistent with the United Nations Charter. Australia is taking a constructive part in developing such collective defence machinery.
At the heart of the grand alliance of free nations are the United Kingdom and the United States, linked with others through Nato and with others again through Seato. The present absence of open conflict in the world has been possible only because of the constructive and generous way in which these two great partners have used their strength and resources to serve the free world as a whole. It is of vital interest to Australia and every other free country that Britain and America should maintain and strengthen their great partnership with each other and with other likeminded nations.
I have spoken of the dangers of Communist armed strength and what must be done to counter it: But, you may say, rather than thinking in terms of counterthreats, should we not be devoting ourselves to an effort to remove the dreadful threat of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth? Since the hydrogen bomb carries within it the greatest possible danger to mankind, would it. not be logical and right to get rid of it? The answer to. this simple question is not so easy as the Communists want us to believe. First of all, it would be folly to enter into agreements to ban nuclear weapons without a water-tight and mutual system of inspection and detection of stocks of nuclear material. At present, it is the fact that, as the Soviet Government has itself admitted, science has not yet discovered any sure way of detecting stocks of nuclear weapon material. An agreement to destroy or ban nuclear weapons would to-day be no more than an exchange of paper pledges between the democratic and Communist countries. It is obvious which side would be taking the greater risk. Pledges and undertakings are worthless if there are no means of ensuring that they are carried out, just as laws are worthless if there are no policemen. Secondly, even if nuclear weapons did not exist, the Communist bloc would have a vast preponderance of conventional strength. There can be no question of abandoning or limiting the use of nuclear weapons unless we have achieved a properly supervised and controlled reduction of conventional arms and forces to better balanced and much lower levels. An examination of last year’s Russian disarmament plan does not encourage any one to believe that an early agreement for such a reduction is likely.
So that nuclear disarmament is, for the time being, impossible. I emphasize “ for the time being “. Every effort is being made in the free world to find some means of detecting nuclear material that would be capable of being policed. Meanwhile, can nothing be done internationally to reduce the burden of armaments and the risk of war? The answer is that it certainly could, given goodwill on both sides. President Eisenhower’s “ open skies “ plan sought to guard against massive surprise attacks and so reduce the danger of general war, thus creating an atmosphere of increased trust that might make further progress possible. The Russian leaders have shown no constructive interest in this remarkable offer. Indeed, it may well be that the Russians have concluded that the Soviet Union runs no risk of being attacked by surprise by the democracies. No democratic nation thinks in terms of aggressive war - “ preventive “ or otherwise.
I believe that the lifting of the iron curtain would advance the prospect of disarmament. Given that we cannot have foolproof scientific systems of detecting the existence of nuclear weapons, our objective must be to find other bases for trust. We might create sufficient trust to proceed further with disarmament if we had ready access to each other’s territory and free discussion and observation by people of all walks of life. But again it is the Communists - not we - who have the power to unlock this door.
Other hopeful plans have been put forward - but nothing from the Soviet side that will begin to stand up to examination. Australia is a member of the United Nations Disarmament Commission and is participating actively in the search for practicable and enforceable disarmament measures, but it would be suicidal for the West to reduce its own defences without being sure that the Communists were doing likewise.
I have spoken about the United Nations, which in its first ten years has become a unique and indispensable factor in world affairs. We have just had the benefit of a visit by the distinguished Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Hammarskjoeld, which provided opportunities for many stimulating and useful discussions.
The plus and the minus of the United Nations are well known. It cannot be sure to stop wars breaking out, or be at all sure of stopping them when they have started. Nor have the public deliberations of the United Nations always tended to reduce international tensions and frictions. The United Nations cannot counteract the corrosive effects of the cold war. United Nations machinery can be fully effective only if all those who operate it show goodwill, as its freeworld members do. Nonetheless, even with these limitations, it has a valuable role to play. Its authority and effectiveness may he expected to increase in future, and Australia will continue to support it. One important recent development was the admission of sixteen new members, which we warmly welcomed and for which we worked actively. Unfortunately, Japan was not admitted, but it is hoped that her entry will not be long delayed.
The admission of the new members makes it logical to enlarge the Security Council and remedy the present situation in which no Asian country outside the Commonwealth is likely, in practice, to get on to the council. At the same time we do not favour any increase in the numbers of permanent members of the Security Council. Australia strongly objected to the use of the veto in questions relating to the peaceful settlement of disputes, and in the admission of new members. This use of the veto has in many instances prevented the Security Council from playing its full part in the maintenance of international peace and security, and has frequently frustrated the wishes of the majority of the United Nations. To extend permanent membership of the council so that the power of veto in its present form would be extended to other countries would he inconsistent with our principles.
I have spoken about the international background of East-West relationships. Against this background, what is the present outlook for the area to which Australia geographically belongs, and of which we are trying to be a friendly and helpful member? Since the war, SouthEast Asia has been going through a revolution as far reaching in its effects as the French revolution was in Europe. Colonial links, some of them centuries old, have been, and are being, abruptly severed. New Asian nations have appeared and their numbers are growing. Asian leaders have had to repair the effects of the last war which affected every country in the area ; run-down economies have had to be restored; the tasks have had to be faced of building modern nation-states without many of the essential skills and the necessary money. And over the whole area, including Australia, lies the shadow of Communist expansionism. We must expect the present revolutionary phase, with its problems, to continue for many years ahead. Considerable progress has been made ; rice shortages have been largely overcome; much of the devastation of war has been impaired; appreciable economic progress has been made. General elections have recently been held or will be held shortly in, I think I am right in saying, practically all the countries of South-East Asia.
Malaya and Singapore, our near neighbours, are making striking constitutional advances. We warmly welcome this peaceful evolution of these two Commonwealth partners. As they advance towards a new status we are anxious to co-operate with them in solving the new problems that they will meet. At the Malayan constitutional talks which ended recently in London, agreement was reached on a programme providing for internal self-government now and independence within the Commonwealth by August, 1957. In the period before independence, the United Kingdom will retain control over external defence and external relations, consulting the Federation Government in advance about any substantial changes in the size or character of defence forces. It has been agreed that after independence there will be a treaty of defence and mutual assistance which will cover the continued presence of United Kingdom forces and the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve and the provision of necessary facilities for them. We shall do all we can to help Malaya in meeting the varied tasks which confront the country in this new constitutional phase and in its long-term social and economic development. Malaya’s peaceful progress is complicated by the
Communist minority which persists in its campaign of terrorism in spite of generous offers designed to end the bloodshed. We are aiding the fight against this ruthless foreign-supported minority.
In Indonesia, an historic stage was reached towards the end of last year with the holding of the first national elections in that country of nearly 80,000,000 people. A new government with a popular mandate arising from these elections will shortly be formed, and we look forward to developing friendly ties and closer contact with it.
In Indo-China, fighting was brought to an end in July, 1954, though not before the Communists had made considerable gains and inflicted much misery on thu people. The Geneva Agreement provided the basis of a peaceful settlement and international commissions were set up in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Lao3 to supervise the armistices. Two Commonwealth countries, Canada and India, are contributing notably to this work. However, no final political settlements are yet in sight in Viet Nam and Laos. In North and South Viet Nam the two parties have been unable to reach agreement on the basis for free nation-wide elections, while in Laos the Communists are resisting the restoration of the Laotian Government’s authority in certain parts of the country. En these circumstances, it is important to maintain effective international machinery to ensure that hostilities are not renewed.
In South Viet Nam itself considerable progress has been made. The Government has established authority in its own territory and has resettled more than 750,000 refugees, who fled from communism in the north. Elections in South Viet Nam for a National Assembly will be held shortly. In Cambodia and Laos there are elected governments determined to maintain their independence. These governments need understanding, help and co-operation from the free world to ensure their continued .integrity.
These are some of the achievements and problems of South-East Asia to-day. To solve these problems we are striving to develop the strength of the area to which we belong - not only its defensive strength but its economic strength and its strength to resist ideas which would destroy its independence and integrity. Economic stability is very closely related to political stability.
The task of helping to preserve the security and stability of South-East Asia is far from being a simple military problem. Nevertheless, the problem of physical defence is clearly of the first importance. That is why we have joined with others in the creation of Seato, under which important and promising mutual defence machinery has been set up. Of the eight countries which make up Seato, some are Asian, while the others, though outside the threatened area, have recognized the common defence interests which they share with the countries of the area, and have committed themselves accordingly. So far as Australia is concerned, co-operation of this kind is the only realistic way to help to defend the region to which we belong, and to protect our own shores. It is important that the forces of every member of the Seato organization should be developed to an adequate level of strength and effectiveness and used to the best advantage in the defence of the whole area. Self-defence must be both individual and collective.
I shall shortly be attending, on behalf of the Government, the second meeting of the Seato Council at Karachi. The meeting will review the general situation in the South-East Asian treaty area and the work done by Seato, which is a unique experiment in international co-operation as between countries of widely different situations and stages of development. Much work has been done in the past year in building up effective Seato machinery and methods of consultation, and in studying the problems of the area. The Seato Council representatives, including Australia, have held more than twenty meetings at Bangkok in the last year. In addition to the formal meetings of the Seato military advisers at Bangkok and Melbourne, there have been seventeen meetings of specialist representatives of the Seato countries, including Australia. These specialist meetings have included such subjects a.military planning, military intelligence, training, anti-subversive measures, economic co-operation and information. These meetings have been held in Bangkok, Manila, Singapore, Karachi, Melbourne, Auckland and Pearl Harbour. The preliminary work at chiefs of staff level has now largely been done, and we are entering a new phase in the development of the Seato organization.
Seato is already established as a deterrent to aggression. Its importance is not confined, however, to military security.’ Its political purpose is the preservation of the integrity and independence of the people of the area. The treaty calls for co-operation among its members in solving the economic and the cold war problems of the area. The Australian Government means to play a positive role in this aspect of the Seato organization’s work.
The main danger in South-East Asia to-day is probably that of Communist subversion and infiltration. An important feature of the treaty is the provision which it makes for co-operative action to combat subversion, as well as open aggression. Much is in fact already being done in this sphere but much remains, and every member of Seato must be prepared to make an increasing contribution. The problem of defending the integrity of the free countries in the S’outh-East Asian area, is, as I ha”ve said, not merely a military problem. The countries of South and South-East Asia are not short of man-power - their populations are increasing by something like 10,000,000 each year - but they are short of the means to make man-power as productive and labour as rewarding as it can be. They are short of capital and short of skills. Capital for development can be accumulated only by savings out of income, and the incomes of the Asian peoples are so low that there is little margin for saving. In many parts of Asia primitive methods make possible only a bare subsistence from hard and unremitting toil. That is why the economic development of Asia must be aided by non-Asian countries which have already raised their own production and living standards high enough to have resources available. We can understand these developmental problems, for they are our own, but they are on a much more formidable scale than our own.
An immediate and urgent need for Asian countries is to increase their resources of technical skill and technical equipment at all levels of production. Increased technical “ know-how “ is essential not only to increased productivity from immediately usable resources, but also to make it possible to implement much needed large-scale developmental projects.
The machinery through which Australia makes its main contribution towards the technical progress and economic development in free Asia is the Colombo plan, which is now in its fifth year, and which has proved itself as a means of helping the Asian Governments to help themselves. It is too soon to look for spectacular results in the shape of visibly increased living standards, for much of the effort has been channelled into large multi-purpose projects which have yet to come to maturity, but which will later provide the essential foundation on which the expanded economics will rest. We are also training large and increased numbers of young Asians in a wide .range of modern skills and professions. This helps create a reservoir of professionally and technically trained personnel which will make its impact on the social and economic advancement of the area for a generation and more ahead. Incidentally, a point of considerable importance has been confirmed by reason of the presence of some thousands of young Asian students in Australia over recent years, and that is that it is established that there is no racial feeling in the Australian population.
A further source of valuable help to Asian countries in the economic sphere is the United Nations technical assistance programme, to which Australia contributes substantially. Just over a third of United Nations technical assistance funds are spent in southern Asia and the Far East. Whilst we realise the needs of other areas, Australia has constantly been concerned in the United Nations to ensure that an adequate proportion of the available United Nations technical assistance funds should be devoted to the Asian area, which contains more than 50 per cent, of the population of the areas covered by this programme, although it gets only 33 per cent, of the funds. It is also the fac: that the needs of the peoples of South Asia are substantially greater than those of other areas, by reason of their low standard of living. It i3 obviously not possible to allot technical aid simply on a population basis, but it would seem that some further increase in the proportion devoted to Asia is logical, desirable and justified. In this regard we shall continue to give our sympathetic attention to Asian needs.
I have spoken at some length on our efforts to help the countries of South and South-East Asia to improve their standards of living. Whilst this is a matter of principal concern to the free Asian countries themselves, it is not confined to them. Lack of economic stability in Asia would have harmful effects far beyond the Asian area. There is an obvious link between economic stability and political stability. We must find means of speeding up the rate of economic growth of free Asia. I am not without hope that some other of the European countries whose economies are in good order, might join with the others of us in co-operation with free Asia, perhaps under the Colombo plan, and so create a new relationship between Asia and Europe in place of the old. And in all this, let us not forget the simple human fact that no one likes taking something from someone else as a gift. The Asian Governments are composed of proud people. Having gained their independence they want to stand on their own feet and not be beholden to others. It is for this simple human and understandable reason that we attach no strings or conditions, nor do we look for fulsome thanks for whatever we are fortunate enough to be able to do for others. We are not trying to buy friends. There is nothing patronizing in what we are trying to do. We are performing a duty to those less fortunate than ourselves and for our mutual good. We must steadily and energetically pursue this objective. Australia has a part to play, not only herself, but in emphasizing to those with greater resources than we have, the needs of the countries of free Asia.
Defence and economic problems are an important part of the picture, but not the whole. One outstanding problem of our time is the question of the attitude of mind that is in course of being formulated in the minds of the governments and peoples of free Asia. It has been my constant endeavour, on behalf of the Government, to try to achieve a proper understanding of the aspirations of our Asian neighbours and to bring friendly and constructive interest to bear on their problems. To this end I have made a point of frequently visiting their capitals and of arranging fo,r reciprocal visits to Australia, which will continue. I like to think that I have served my apprenticeship in this regard, and that there is progressively better mutual understanding between the countries of South and South-East Asia and Australia. On the other hand, I hope and believe that, the free Asian countries will not be misled by the sympathetic interest which the Communist countries claim to feel for them. The free Asian countries are a target area for Communist political and economic diplomacy and propaganda which is part of the pattern of Communist power politics.
At the same time, we should not believe that the evolution of the political, social and economic pattern in the free Asian countries should necessarily, or even probably, be on the same lines as our own. Each of these countries has its own long-established tradition and culture. Their environments and economies and religions are different from ours. All of these factors will have their influence on the development of their individual institutions, the nature and structure of which will no doubt deviate from the established order in countries like our own. None of us can live to ourselves alone. Individuals and nations are in a constant process of influencing and being influenced by their environment and their neighbours.
In what I have said to-day I have been concerned to state to the House what T believe to be the main influences determining the international situation, the situation to which our foreign policies have to be addressed. I have not set out to recapitulate the fundamental principles of our foreign policy which have been repeatedly stated in this House and outside it, and no honorable member needs to be reminded of the significance to Australia of our ties with Britain nor of the value which we attach to our other Commonwealth partners, and. of course, also to our great American partner.
I conclude by referring to what I might describe as the “ working rules “ by which this Government conducts the management of our relations with the rest of the world. These “ working rules “ are -
– by leave - I am obliged to the House, Mr. Speaker, for granting my request for leave to make a statement at this stage. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has covered a great deal of ground in the time that he occupied. As he is leaving this country, I think, to-morrow, for one of the meetings of Seato, I consider it would be better that a few remarks should be made about his speech to-day. Although, inevitably, there is an area of agreement in many of the matters to which the Minister referred - the policy of aid to Asian countries, the operation of that plan which, although it was not called the Colombo plan, was originally initiated under the Government of the late Mr. Chifley and which we have supported, and other matters in the same category - what strikes me, frankly, about the speech, as a whole, is the rather jolly way in which the right honorable gentleman closed the door against practically every attempt that might be made at international conciliation at this very crisis in the world’s history. I should like to read a short passage in connexion with nuclear weapons from a leading article in The Times, of London, of the 14th January last. The problem of experimental explosions is attacked by The Times in this way -
It is sometimes argued that fears about the harm ful effects of the tests are exaggerated but even if there were no harmful effects at all the tests would still be undesirable. So far, there seems no maximum point where bigger and better bombs are concerned. No sooner is one bomb let off somewhere than there begins the long and exciting process of preparing to let off another. Each nation claims it is ahead of the others and then feverishly presses on in case it may not be. Atomic teste of one kind or another are a kind of dragon’s teeth. Washington has already announced a new series of tests in the Pacific in the spring. British tests are to take place on the Monte Bello Islands in April. The Russians make. no announcements beforehand. Could not the Prime Minister and President make some new proposal to show to the world that far from relishing “walking along the brink”–
The reference there is, of course, to Mr. Dulles’s article inLife magazine - the free powers still desire to rid the world of its sickness and its madness.
The words “sickness” and “madness” are a very strong condemnation of the passive attitude which the Minister displayed at all crucial points in his speech. He said in effect, “ We cannot at present give up atomic weapons or hydrogen bombs by agreement, because they constitute a deterrent “. Then he added, “ Of course, we cannot give up conventional weapons either because in that field theRussians are fairly admitted to be our superior “. This conclusion is that one can do nothing.
In support of our view to the contrary, I can cite not only Labour’s declarations of policy, but also the great change that has taken place in world opinion during the last year or two. It is extraordinary that gradually, but none the less effectively, the responsibility for conciliatory moves in international affairs is being assumed by church leaders. They see the political leaders paralysed and unable to grasp the fact that at some time or other there must be agreement or the tragedy that threatens the world will eventuate. In association with this series of articles in The Times in January, there was a discussion in which church leaders took part. One sees contributions from the Bishop of Exeter and other leaders of the Church of England and of the various Protestant churches. Similarly the Pope, a month before, had made an even more definite and forthright statement.
Why cannot the problem always be treated as open to solution ? If one looks at the whole tone of the Minister’s speech, one concludes that it is defeatist.I looked through it in the lunch-hour and I have listened carefully to the Minister in this chamber. The speech was couched in question-begging phrases, and there was no cold analysis of what might be done. When Bulganin and Khrushchev went to India they had, according to our standards, no right to criticize colonialism. They were strongly attacked for doing so, and the Minister has done exactly the same thing here. I am not complaining about his action in this instance, I consider it right to criticize people whom one thinks are wrong. Of course, the Minister does not apply that principle to all countries or all persons. I consider it the proper line to take, but one can check his speech by giving perhaps one illustration. He dismissed the Middle East in ten lines. He said, in effect, that the Arabs really ought not to be too tough with the Israeli people and the Israeli people, on the other hand, must not be too tough with the Arabs. There it is. The Minister’s view is, “ We wish them well. We are a member nation of the Security Council “. That is not the kind of advice that this House seeks. We want to know a little more. This Government supported the vote of censure against Israel in the Security Council but my opinion, after considering the events of the last four, five or six years, is that the Arabs are at least equally to blame because of their determined effort, ever since 1949, to get even with the people of Israel.
– We mentioned that before the Security Council.
– One cannot look on at great nations pouring arms into that area and say, “ Well, they are just trading “. Can Australia not give some lead in this matter? To us, the Middle East is a long way off compared with Asia, but I believe that a world war might easily commence there, so it is a very important point.
I turn from that to the Minister’s reference to China, because I believe that there is something that should be said on that subject. The Minister said -
The Peking regime has made many declarations of peaceful intent, and, since the Bandung Conference … its official statements and propaganda have assumed an apparent air of moderation.
The Minister’s view about countries like China is that if they speak moderately we cannot trust them; but if they speak roughly we cannot trust them either, so it does not matter how they speak.
It is quite correct for the Minister to say that we of the Labour party have advocated the admission of China to the United Nations. I am speaking of continental China - Communist China if you like, at any rate the only China that exists on the continent, Asia, in other words. It is the China of to-day. The Minister said -
It is sometimes suggested that the “ realistic “ course would be to recognize the Peking regime as the Government of China and as the legitimate representative of China at the United Nations.
Then followed the Minister’s condemnation of that country : -
At this stage I shall merely say that it does not appear “ realistic “ to abandon to the mercy of the Communists the island of Formosa with a Republic of China Government and 8,000,000 anti-Communist inhabitants, which is in effect what the Communists continue to demand.
It is quite obvious that if China were admitted to the United Nations, Formosa, under its present control, might also be granted membership of the United Nations. Certainly the safety and security of persons living there would be a responsibility of the United Nations. That misinterpretation is fairly typical of the Minister’s wrong approach to one of the great problems that must be tackled.
The Minister then quoted from Sir Winston Churchill’s famous speech of November, 1953 in which he said -
I have sometimes the odd thought that the annihilating character of these agencies–
That is, the nuclear weapons - may bring an utterly unforeseeable security to mankind. It may be that . . . when the advance of destructive weapons enables every one to kill everybody else nobody will want to kill any one at all.
That merely revealed Sir Winston Churchill’s fondness for antithesis. He was not putting as a serious proposition that one should pursue the manufacture of nuclear weapons without cessation because it is a deterrent. The Minister admits that we have reached the stage when mutual destruction will follow the use of these weapons by either side. Is the continued manufacture of nuclear weapons a deterrent to their manufacture by other people? Just the reverse is the position. It is the spur that drives manufacture to new heights. A new height is reached and then the particular nation says, “ We cannot stop now. We must go higher “. In this way an impasse is reached. It is not an easy problem to solve. No one seriously advocates the cessation of experimental explosions except by consent, and by international regulation. The Minister mentioned the safeguards. I do not accept his view that it is impossible to detect whether agreements are broken. I consider that great work can be done by such agreements. Honorable members on this side of the House sincerely desire to contribute to a solution of the problem mentioned by the Minister.
The Minister stated, and this, of course, is not a new thought, that one way of advancing international friendship is to lift the iron curtain. The iron curtain was a phrase originally coined by Goebbels, Hitler’s propagandist, who used it for his own purposes, largely in the way the Minister has used it. The use of the phrase came back into prominence after the movement began to set aside the agreements of Potsdam and Yalta, and it is a fair description of Russia’s decision to forbid communication with free countries outside the Russian sphere. However, it is true that to-day communication between Russia and the western democracies is on a better footing than it has been for generations.
If honorable members read the English and Continental newspapers, they will discover that more visits by individuals on all official levels are being made from Britain, for example, to Russia than has been the case for many years. A parliamentary delegation has visited Russia. There have been exchanges of visits by military officers and naval units. Small fleets representing various countries of the west have visited Russia, and vice versa. The interchange also extends to the realms of sport and science, and altogether, except with regard to Australia, a fairly free exchange of visits is developing between Russia and the west. However, if we want to sell wheat to Russia, according to this Government apparently nothing can be done about it. That is in spite of the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand visited Russia and arranged for the sale of certain New Zealand commodities, and the Canadian Minister for External Affairs has acted similarly. Of course, the iron curtain should be removed, but I suggest that Australia should take its part with the other countries in helping to remove it.
Why does not the Minister for External Affairs do what the Government practically promised during the last Parliament that it would do and arrange for a delegation of members of the Parliament to visit the countries of Asia? I suggest that the delegation should visit all the countries of Asia and not merely the Seato countries or any particular group. Of course, the Minister will do a good job in connexion with Seato, but if a delegation of members were arranged to study Asian conditions they could form their own judgment about Asian affairs. India is not included in Seato, but the Minister regards India as one of the greatest nations of Asia. I also believe it is, but Burma, and China, both continental China and Formosa, and nations like Korea, both north and south, as well as Japan, should also be studied by this Parliament. A study of such countries by a delegation of members of this Parliament should certainly be attempted, so that some honorable members could learn at first hand something of the Asian situation, and all honorable members benefit through their studies.
The Opposition, in short, seeks a new approach in Asian matters. It is not enough for the Minister for External Affairs to be fully acquainted with the leaders of the Asian countries. He knows that we have studied this problem for a long time. He is a man of goodwill, but I think that, like many other men of goodwill, very often he comes to the wrong conclusion. He is going to the Seato conference under an agreement made under United Nations auspices. After all, all such agreements come within the jurisdiction of the Security Council. Within the United Nations it is possible to have regional arrangements for mutual protection in a particular area. Seato is such an organization, but its validity as an agreement depends on the arrangement being in consonance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations; and the primary purpose of the United Nations is not organization even to put down aggression - although it includes that - but the prevention of war, the prevention of fighting, by means of conciliation. It is the process of peaceful adjustment of disputes which is the No. 1 approach of the United Nations. When Seato was proposed in this House we pointed out that that approach had not been emphasized; and, indeed, nothing of the kind has taken place Recently, demonstrations have been carried out in Thailand. Marches have been staged as a show of force. I do not know what deterrent effect such action will have on other countries. But, certainly, Seato should organize itself not merely on the political, or military, level only, but should make an attempt to improve the relations of the Seato powers with the other Asian powers instead of remaining limited to a comparative few. That might be regarded as a somewhat negative policy, but it is the view that we put forward. If the Minister’s speech is to be taken as a statement of Government policy, then the gap on foreign policy between the parties in this House is widening still further. Conciliation and peaceful intervention is of the very essence of the United Nations, and the validity of Seato depends on the Seato powers pursuing such a policy.
The Minister has referred to IndoChina. A truly appalling situation arose in that country, because five or six years ago it was decided, possibly by the great powers or possibly by France itself, not to refer the dispute in that country to the United Nations. Had that dispute been so referred, it would have been settled on terms that were in accordance with the greatness and dignity of France, and Indo-China would have been given self-government, which had been promised to it by the leaders of the United Nations during World War II. The chance to have that dispute settled peacefully was let slip. The Labour party took a similar view about the situation in Malaya. Malaya is now moving towards selfgovernment, and the view of the Labour party about the employment of Australian forces in Malaya now appears to have been accepted generally by the people of Australia. According to a public opinion poll, the result of which was published recently in the Melbourne Herald, there is considerable opposition to the retention of Australian forces in Malaya. What is Malaya’s attitude towards Australia? We are thinking of our attitude towards that country. It has always been one of friendliness. I believe that the sending of Australian troops to Malaya was a blunder, and that it would have been wiser and more correct to have adopted Labour’s policy, not so much for the sake of Australia as for the principles of the United Nations in this part of the world.
I now desire to refer again to the attitude of the Opposition about atomic weapons. Great scientists throughout the world, including Einstein who put forward the view almost at the moment of his death, stated that the fate of all peoples of the world was at stake. They were filled with a sense of desperation at the paralysis that had seized upon all political leaders when faced with the possible use of atomic weapons. When they said that, they were referring to Russian leaders as well as the leaders of the west. The situation can be likened to that arising in an industrial dispute. Because a dispute cannot be settled in a day, we should not say that it will never be settled. We should ensure that three clays later, three weeks or even three months later, another effort is made to settle the dispute. A solution must be pursued all the time. We must never give up the attempt to solve the problem of how to avoid atomic war. The continual attempt to solve the problem does not mean that we are appeasing anybody, because it is never wrong to meet other nations at the council table. It is scandalous that from 1945, after the Potsdam agreement, until 1955, the great nations of the world did not meet at the highest level. Of course, we have all heard people who have come to this country, including those from Great Britain, and have said that an agreement was made but that it could not be relied upon. The Minister has taken credit for saying at the time that it could not be relied upon; but anybody could have said that.
The road to international friendship is long and difficult, but we must travel it to the end.Dr. Nansen, who encountered appalling difficulties in his pioneering exploration work in the Arctic, once said that a difficult thing is one that can be done immediately, but that the impossible takes a little longer. All he means by that is that you never give up the attempt, that you go on. and I think that this document, looked at as a whole, and fairly judged, is not a contribution that is really worthy of the Australian Government, this Parliament, or the people. No doubt there will be further discussion of it. The subject-matter is contained in His Excellency’s Speech, although in a slightly different way. I am obliged to the House for giving me the opportunity to speak briefly on it, because I feel certain that if the Minister looks at it again he will revise a great deal of what he said in his statement this afternoon.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the following paper be printed: -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 22nd February. 1956.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wentworth) adjourned.
Dr. DONALD CAMERON (Oxley-
Minister for Health). - by leave - I feel sure that the House will be interested in a brief statement on the precautions which are being developed to ensure that the Salk poliomyelitis vaccine is completely safe. Nowhere in the world has greater progress towards the control of paralytic poliomyelitis, through vaccination, been made than in Canada. The Canadians have demonstrated to the world how the vaccination programme may be safely, effectively and quickly put into practice. In 1955, the Canadians manufactured nearly 2,000,000 cubic centimetres of a safe and effective poliomyelitis vaccine and promptly administered it to almost 1,000,000 Canadian children without mishap or suspicion that the vaccine may have induced any case of paralytic or non-paralytic poliomyelitis. The major reason for the success of the Canadian vaccination programme is attributed to the insistence of high and thorough safety testing standards, which eliminate chance of mishaps. All lots of vaccine produced at the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories in Toronto have been doublechecked for safety, both at Connaught and at the Health Department’s Laboratory at Ottawa.
In the United States of America, all vaccine used in the 1951- field trials was triple-checked by testing at three laboratories and in those trials there were no mishaps whatever. It was the 1955 vaccination programme which ran into trouble and then it was only the product of one manufacturer out of five which was suspected. The vaccine used for the 1955 United States programme was not always independently tested and was safety tested, for the most part, only by the manufacturer producing the vaccine. Since the Cutter incident, the United States health authorities have instigated a system of independent laboratory inspection.
In Australia, we have taken full advantage of the Canadian and United States experience. The Australian vaccine goes through all stages of production at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. At each stage of manufacture, tests for safety are carried out and, as soon as the manufacturing process is completed, fullscale safety tests are begun. These tests consist of taking numerous samples of the completed vaccine, inoculating them into culture media and incubating them at the correct temperature to see if there is any life left in the vaccine. At the same time, samples of the vaccine are inoculated into a large group of monkeys and after four weeks’ time the monkeys are killed and a full post-mortem is carried out. At the same time the brain and spinal cord are examined microscopically. If in either of these tests there is any indication whatever of growth of the culture or disease in the monkey, the whole batch of the vaccine is destroyed.
While these tests are being undertaken at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, a similar series of completely independent tests will be undertaken at the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Virus Laboratory under the charge of Dr. Ferris. I should point out to honorable members that this hospital is an institution with a staff of very great experience and reputation in the field of infectious diseases. The Commonwealth has provided the necessary equipment and will make available any moneys or materials required. When the Fairfield Hospital tests are negative, the vaccine can be regarded as perfectly safe and only then will it be released for use. The House may rest assured that no vaccine will be distributed from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories until the tests at the serum laboratories and the Fairfield Hospital indicate complete safety.
It is expected that supplies of the vaccine will be available in quantity in about three months’ time. Federal and State health departments will co-operate in its use, and administrative arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States are now being finalized. Inoculations will be free and, of course, voluntary. I might say that I have recently visited Dr. Bazeley’s laboratory and seen the work that is being carried out there. No one could fail to be immensely impressed by the very obviously high standard of care and efficiency that exists at those laboratories. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Salk Poliomyelitis Vaccine - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Edmonds) adjourned.
Motions (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Clark, Mr. Allan Eraser, Mr. Freeth, Mr. Galvin, Mr. Joske, Mr. McLeay, Mr. Morgan, Mr. Swartz and Mr. Turnbull be members of the Privileges Committee, five to form a quorum.
Eraser, Mr. Hulme, Mr. Morgan, Mr. Opperman and Mr. Webb be members of the House Committee.
That Mr. Speaker, Mr. Bryant, Mr. Downer, Mr. Drummond, Mr. R. W. Holt, Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Wentworth be members of the Library Committee.
That Mr. Dean, Mr. Drury, Mr. Freeth, Mr. E. James Harrison, Mr. Leslie, Mr. McIvor and Mr. Stewart be members of the Printing Committee.
That Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Clark, Mr. Costa, Mr. E. James Harrison, Mr. Joske, Mr. Makin and Sir Earle Page be members of the Standing Orders Committee; five to form a quorum.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, viz.: - Mr. Speaker, Mr. Costa, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Allan Fraser, Mr. Opperman and Mr. Turnbull.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, viz.: - Mr. Barnard, Mr. Bland, Mr. Cope, Mr. Davis, Mr. Hulme, Mr. Leslie and Mr. Thompson.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz.: - Mr. Bird, Mr. Bowden, Mr. Dean, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Watkins.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for External Affairs from moving a motion in connexion with the establishment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, the consideration of such motion, and the subsequent appointment of members to serve on the committee.
.- The Opposition violently opposes the motion. Why is there any need to move for the suspension of the Standing Orders to deal with this matter to-day? Is it because the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is once more about to peregrinate, perambulate, or whatever the word is, around the world?
– The honorable member has not the right word.
– I agree. I do not think there is a word that could aptly describe the various goings and comings of the Minister. If the action proposed is taken merely because the Minister is going abroad, the Government should not presume upon the loyalty of its supporters by attempting to have passed a motion of this sort, which really abrogates all the rights and privileges of Government supporters and other honorable members. We are entitled to have notice of a motion of this kind and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) should not ask the House to agree to this proposal just because the Minister for External Affairs happens to be going away. When a similar proposition was put forward in 1954, the Minister was well abroad before it was finally agreed to. He would treat the House justly and observe its traditions if he would give it notice of what he proposes to do and allowsome other Minister to put the matter through quickly at an appropriate time. We are now being asked to rush this proposal through in the same way that we were asked last week to rush thro.ugh a bill, without the slightest debate or discussion, and without honorable members being allowed to see the terms of reference of the proposed committee.
– Order ! The honorable member may not deal with last week’s bill.
– I have passed over that matter. The Minister for External Affairs wants to suspend the Standing Orders without allowing honorable members first to see the terms of reference of the proposed committee, and then to put his proposal through immediately. I suggest that I am entitled to protest against such action, and also against the cavalier attitude towards the Parliament adopted for the second time in a week by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in advancing a proposal such as this. The Opposition will not agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders. If the Government presses the proposal, we on this side of the House shall vote against the motion. We now register another protest against the further deterioration in parliamentary standards for which the Vice-President of the Executive Council and his fellowtraveller, the Minister for External Affairs, are responsible.
Question put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for External Affairs from moving a motion in connexion with the establishment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, the consideration of such motion, and the subsequent appointment of members to serve on the committee.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority.
– I move -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
three members of a subcommittee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee;
This is a motion generally in the same terms as others that I had the privilege of moving in this House at the start of the last two Parliaments. The terms of the motion do not vary in any really important aspect from those of the resolution which was carried during the last Parliament and on which the Foreign Affairs Committee was based. However, there are two changes, one to increase the size of the committee from a total of nineteen honorable members and senators to twenty, by reason of the increase in numbers in this House of the two parties supporting the Government, and the other to clarify the position regarding invitations to persons to give evidence before the committee. I think that the great majority of honorable members know very well the purpose of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It has been in existence now, I think, for nearly five years, and I believe that it has been a successful body. It has enabled a considerable number of honorable members and senators - unfortunately, only from the Government side in the two Houses - to obtain an increasingly intimate knowledge and appreciation of international affairs. Countless meetings have been held, a great number of which I have attended myself, and the senior officers of the Department of External Affairs have attended whenever they have been asked to do so by members of the committee. I have placed no restraint whatsoever on the individuals who were invited to appear before the committee, nor have I placed any limitation on the information and papers provided to the committee, both at its request and on the initiative of the department. The servicing of this committee has entailed a great deal of additional work for departmental officers, but that has been a labour of love, and they and I are very glad indeed to continue it. I am quite sure that very soon we shall be invited to listen to an earth- shaking speech by my friend, the honorable gentleman who has the honour to represent Melbourne in this Parliament.
– A very great honour, indeed !
– Indeed ! I hope that that is appreciated.
– I hope it long continues.
– This speech which the honorable gentleman will make is known almost by heart by many gentlemen on this side of the House. He will make some captious criticism of this Foreign Affairs Committee. He will call it - what is the phrase?
– A study circle.
– I had forgotten it for the moment - a failing memory ! He will call it a study circle. He will complain that it has no power, that it has not the power to frame foreign policy. He will not use precisely those terms, because that would not be right, but that will be the effect of what he will say. He will complain that this committee is not a body which makes policy. In that respect I should like perhaps to anticipate him and say in advance, as I have said in answer to his strong orations here in the past, that the committee is not supposed to form foreign policy. That is the privilege of the Government, and the Government, of course, must continue to exercise it. This committee is a body set up to enable, I would hope, members of all parties in both Houses of the Parliament to gain what I think I can rightly call an intimate appreciation and knowledge of international affairs, and, in particular, any aspect of international affairs that the committee itself elects to study. I do not, nor do the members of the Department of External Affairs, dictate to the members of the committee the subjects they shall study. The members themselves choose the subjects, and then either I or the senior officers of the department appear before them and give them a frank story of our relationships with the particular countries or areas that they have elected to discuss and study. In practice, there is almost no limit to the information that is provided for the members of the committee.
Perhaps I am a little biased, because it might be said that this committee is my baby. But I invite the members of the Opposition to discuss the matter with honorable members who have sewed on the committee in any one or more of the last four or five years, and ask them whether this has been a valuable body. I am pretty sure what the answer would be. Up to now, unfortunately, the Opposition has elected not to be represented on the committee.
– Would the Minister like us to join it?
– I shall repeat the invitation in the most formal terms. I should be infinitely glad if the members of the Opposition in this House and the other place were to elect to be represented on this committee. They would discover for themselves, individually or collectively, how useful the Foreign Affairs Committee is. I believe that it is of very great use indeed. When I say that, I do not refer only to its ability to report. That is of some consequence, but I do not think it is really important. The usefulness of the committee lies in the fact that it provides a means by which honorable members who are not, for the time being, members of the Government can inform themselves about international affairs, just as well as, and indeed rather better than, any member of the Government, except, possibly, myself. The opportunities are provided.
As I have said, there is, in practice, almost no restraint on the amount of information that the members of the committee can get. There are very few secrets that must be kept from people of goodwill and integrity. There are, of course, certain secrets that are not our secrets. They are the secrets of other countries. I do not pretend that the members of the committee are told about those matters. As they are not our secrets, it would not be right for us to make them known to any other body. But they are, in most cases, evanescent matters. They are here to-day but they have disappeared within a few days. In the broad, there is, practically speaking, no limit to the opportunities available to members of the committee to inform themselves in the most intimate way about what is going on in the world in the most important sphere of international affairs. As I have said on countless occasions in the past, I hope very much that the members of the Opposition in this House and in the other place will take advantage of this opportunity to join the committee.
There are three ways in which this motion differs from those of the past. I have already referred to the proposed increase by one of the membership of the committee. On behalf of the Government, I have sought to clarify the conditions under which the committee will be able to call for people to appear before it as witnesses. Under the terms of previous motions, the committee had to seek the approval of the appropriate Minister - that is, myself - before it sent for, as the wording was, individuals to give evidence before it. On behalf of the Government, I have altered that. The proposal now is that, provided I am so informed, the committee may invite anybody it pleases to give evidence before it. In practice, I have found that I cannot conceive of any individual to whom I should object if the committee asked him to appear before it. The wording has been altered slightly. Instead of the words “ send for “, which suggest an element of compulsion, I have used the word “ invite “, which I think is more appropriate. After all, the committee cannot compel any one to appear before it if he does not want to appear. If the committee does manage to get some one to appear before it, it cannot compel that individual to speak. So I think that it would be more appropriate to speak of the committee being able to “ invite “ people to appear before it. There are two other consequential amendments which follow from that amendment, but they make no alteration to the sense.
In respect of the committee’s ability to call for individuals to give evidence before it, I must make an exception in the case of the officers of the Department of External Affairs. They will be able to appear before the committee only with my approval or consent. That, of course, is the case in respect of the officers of any department. No public servant can be called to give evidence before any body, except with the consent of his Minister. However, I cannot conceive of any situation in which I should refuse that consent, except on the score that there was, for the time being, more urgent work for which the particular officer was needed. That is a matter of adjustment which, I am sure, will not cause any difficulty, but I must make that one small proviso.
I shall not go into the statistics relating to the number of meetings that the Foreign Affairs Committee has held during each of the last two Parliaments, the number of documents that have been specially prepared for the committee by the department, or the numbers of people who have been invited to appear before the committee and have so appeared. Honorable gentlemen may be sure that the numbers are quite impressive. This has been an active body, and I have every confidence that it will continue to serve a most useful purpose during the life of this Parliament. I commend the motion to the House.
.- The Opposition opposes the mot-ion. In order that the House may determine the suitability or otherwise of members of the Opposition serving on this proposed committee, I should like to remind honorable members of certain allegations which were made during the recent federal general election campaign by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and one of the lesser lights in the Ministry, the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), which are typical of the false and unfair campaign of misrepresentation and distortion which Liberal party and Australian Country party Ministers and members waged against the Labour party and its candidates during that campaign. We are being asked to join the Foreign Affairs Committee after the Prime Minister, on tha 23rd November of last year at Hobart, claimed that there was an extraordinary parallel between the policies of the Communist party and the Labour party.
Government Members. - Hear, hear !
– If honorable members opposite agree that that is so, then the offer to us to join this committee is spurious and dishonest. How can the Minister honestly put forward a proposal to the Labour party to join the Foreign Affairs Committee if the Prime Minister was right, as honorable members opposite claim he was, when he said there was a parallel between the policies of the Labour party and the Communist party ?
– We might have to give you a security check.
– That is equally offensive. That is just the sort of remark one would expect from a former Governor of Bengal. The Minister asks us, not merely to join his committee, but also to share all his secrets. He says, “ There are not many secrets, but you can come in and share the lot”. As that is the Minister’s attitude to-day, either what the Prime Minister said in November last was wrong or the Minister’s offer to-day is next door to treason, because if we are sympathizers with communism and the Communist party outlook, obviously we are persons who ought not to be invited to share the Government’s secrets - not merely ordinary secrets, such as the secret of the appointment of the eight economists, but secrets about international affairs.
The allegations that were made in the election campaign were completely scandalous. It was not just a slip of the tongue, as it were, or a flight of fancy on the part of the Prime Minister when he spoke as he did in Hobart on the 23rd November, because in a national broadcast from Perth, five days later, also during the election campaign, he again charged the Labour party with having adopted substantially the same programme as the Communist party. That was mild compared with what the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) said. All the statements were outrageously false. Yet we are asked to swallow every insult and now join their committee. We are told by implication that that was merely so much election propaganda which can now be heavily discounted. It appears that members of the Labour party are as loyal as anybody else and are only accused of being Communists when there is an election in progress.
Sir Eric Harrison interjecting,
– I am trying to answer the Minister for Externa] Affairs. I am not concerned at the moment with the outpourings of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. On the same night, the 2Sth November, on which the Prime Minister spoke in Perth, the Minister for External Affairs, who has the temerity to put forward this proposal to-day, preached in Sydney the same hymn of hate as the Prime Minister preached. He made the shocking allegation that Australia’s allies feared that if the Labour party was returned to office the new Labour Government would compromise with international communism and sell the fort. Would any Opposition with any self-respect at all do other than what we are doing? We cast his proposal back in his teeth and tell him that we will not swallow his insults. If that is what he thought about us then he can have his precious committee, and we will have nothing to do with it. We will have nothing to do with any proposal of this nature. The smears of the Minister for External Affairs during the last election campaign could not have been equalled or improved on even by Senator McCarthy.
The Minister for Air had something to say in Hobart on the night of the 24th November. He said that Labour’s views on foreign affairs were an insidious influence on Australia’s security. Of course, the Minister for External Affairs now says, in effect, “ Forget all that. We have three years of a Parliament before us. Please come in and give us a hand on foreign affairs because we are in just as great a mess there as we are in the economic sphere and in other ways “. Honorable members can see just how insidious, unbridled and concerted was the propaganda carried on against the leader of the Labour party and its members throughout the election campaign. If we are what the Government says we are, if we are what the socalled Anti-Communist Labour party - the Government’s breakaway allies and now their washed-away allies - had to say about us during the election campaign, it would be a treasonable act for this Government now to put members of our party on the proposed Foreign Affairs Committee. That is, of course, if we were prepared to join the body, which we are not prepared to do. They are right now or if they were right during the election campaign, they are wrong - even worse than wrong - for asking us to join this committee now. If they are right now, they were wrong then. That is all I wish to say to the professional antiCommunists who line the Government benches in this Parliament on that point. They call us Communists and Communist sympathizers, yet in 1954 they sent the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), and in 1955 the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) as fully accredited members of the Australian delegation to the United Nations organization. Is it suggested that the honorable member for Bendigo or the honorable member for Adelaide is a Communist or Communist sympathiser?
– Who selected them?
– The Labour party selected them and the Minister for External Affairs accepted them and was glad to get them. They did, at least, adorn each delegation and brought intellectual strength to the very weak team that had been selected from the Government side in each instance.
To rehearse this story of the committee once more, let me say that the present Minister was not the first to put forward a proposal for a foreign affairs committee in this Parliament. A. proposal put forward in March, 1950, by the then Minister, Mr. Spender, contained certain suggestions. In December, 1950, the same Minister narrowed them greatly but even in their narrower form the Spender proposals were much more liberal and therefore more acceptable to the Labour party than are this Minister’s proposals.
– That committee had the right to initiate matters.
– I do not propose to go through the clauses of that proposal, but as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said, the members of the committee under the Spender proposal had the right to initiate matters. They did not have to go to the Minister for everything. Even under that proposal they did not have to tell him when they intended to bring persons before the committee.
– They do not have to tell that to me now.
– Yes. they have. The Minister does not know his own proposal.
– They do not have to obtain approval.
– They have to tell the Minister. The clause reads -
Subject to the Minister for External Affairs being informed, the committee would have power to invite persons to give evidence before it.
The Minister does not seem to know what is in his own proposal. He has altered it slightly on last year’s terms. Instead of having to get his consent they now have to inform him of what they are doing; and he says that is an improvement on his previous proposal. The Labour party criticized the terms of the Spender proposal because we wanted something that would make the Foreign Affairs Committee a real foreign affairs committee. The present Minister is stubborn and unyielding in this matter. He will not change his mind on any vital particular in the proposal. We have discussed the matter with him in conference, but he has arrogantly rejected every proposal that would enable us to join the committee.
– What does the Labour party want?
– He has rejected every proposal that would have enabled us to join the committee. We do not think the committee should sit in camera or that information obtained by the committee should be confidential to the committee only. We think they should have the right to advise members of their own party. If the committee is to be the important body that the Minister makes out it will be, a claim we greatly doubt, perhaps he might be entitled to say that everything is confidential. We have admitted that certain information should be confidential. Now that the Minister has reminded me of my description of his precious committee, let me quote his agreement with my description of it as recorded in Mansard of the 25th August, 1954. He said -
But lot us not burke the point; this is an educational committee, not an executive committee.
– Definitely. I repeat that.
– The quotation continues -
– A study circle?
– If the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) chooses so to describe it, I shall not proclaim against that description.
So the Minister agreed that it was merely a study circle but he goes on pretending that it is a body that is really concerned with formulating policy and advising the Government. He said that the Government must, in the final analysis determine foreign policy, and I think that is right; but the committee itself was appointed to advise the Government. If it was not appointed to advise the Government but merely to study certain questions and hear what this or that ambassador has to say, and waste its time at the public expense, with a few trips overseas being dangled before it as a bait, it has all along been a worthless body.
– The honorable member’s party has always valued trips overseas.
– We have been offered about two in the space of six years. Members of this party have gone overseas and have acquitted themselves with distinction. It would be better for Australia if more members of the Opposition and fewer from the Governmentside were sent overseas. The Minister pretends that the Parliament can get something out of this committee if the Opposition will only join it. At the back of his mind, he has the idea that Australia can develop a bi-partisan policy on foreign affairs. It never can do so. It never did, and it never will. There has never been a bi-partisan foreign policy, that is one that was accepted by the Government and the Opposition, in the history of federation in Australia. It may exist in other countries, but it has never existed here.
– That is to the discredit of the present Opposition.
– It is to the discredit of this Government. In the middle of the war period, at the most dangerous stage of World War II., when this country was liable to attack after the Pearl Harbour affair and the Labour Government brought back to Australia three divisions from overseas, those who protested, and who denounced the Labour Government of that day for this decision, were the members of the Opposition of the time, those who now support the Government. Some of them later walked out of the “War Cabinet and expelled Mr. Spender, now Sir Percy Spender, and the late Mr. W. M. Hughes from the Liberal party because they would not walk out with them.
I have said that I do not believe there can be a bi-partisan foreign policy, but in the past we have been prepared to consider serving on this committee if the Government would be reasonable in considering our objections. But the Government has made the position impossible now because of the scandalous slanderous attacks made upon the Labour party during the last general election campaign. We would not demean ourselves now to take seats on the committee after the charges that were made against us. Unless they are withdrawn, and unless the Minister for External Affairs and all other Ministers concerned apologize for what they said, we will not have anything to do with them.
Let me indicate just where we differ, as an Opposition, from the Government in the matter of our foreign relations. We have always taken a distinctly Australian line. * We have been called isolationists because of it in the past. I do not worry much about that ; so long as the Labour party’s line has been strongly pro-Australian I do not care what our opponents call us. Our opponents have always favoured an Imperialist line, and under the control of the present Minister for External Affairs our foreign policy has developed a most extraordinary character. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week, the Minister agrees with London. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, he agrees with Washington, and that is what he calls his foreign policy. We prefer to consider Australia’s interests first all the time. The gap that separates the Opposition and the. Government in this case is of the Government’s own making. It is so wide that we could not join the Government’s Foreign Affairs Committee. In fact, the gap is as wide as that of the Grand Canyon of Colorado.
– I shall not detain the House long in discussing this matter. I believe that the speech we have just listened to from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is one which the House will regret. I hope the Labour party will regret it, and I am certain that the honorable member for Melbourne will regret it in retrospect when he comes to realize what he has said. Surely there are some things regarding which we can be Australians. It may be that we can differ about what is a proper policy, but surely there are some things regarding which we should have all the goodwill of every Australian. A few moments ago, the honorable member for Melbourne stood at the table and said that the Opposition would oppose the Government on every point concerning this committee, whether the matter were right or wrong. He said that the Opposition’s idea was to oppose. It would not consider matters on their merits. That is a shameful thing.
I direct attention first to the matters raised by the honorable member for Melbourne in relation to the loyalty of the main political parties. He said that the loyalty of the Australian Labour party was impugned by supporters of the Government during the last general election campaign. That is both true and, in a sense, untrue. We did impugn the loyalty of the policy officially espoused by the Labour party. We did - and I certainly still do - impugn the loyalty of certain individual members of the Labour party, but I do not impugn the policy of all members of the Labour party by any means. Let me say there is one person whose loyalty I would not impugn and his remarks, therefore, I regret all the more. I refer to the honorable member for Melbourne. I think he has let his tongue carry him away. T am sorry that sometimes, in his excess of party zeal and because of the obligation, no doubt, he feels upon himself in his present circumstances, due to his unexpected election to the deputy leadership of the Labour party, he believes he has an obligation to his leader to support the proCommunist policies of that leader, even though be himself may disagree with them. I do not need to go back to the last general election to illustrate the points I shall make. Let me illustrate them by events which occurred in this House only an hour or two ago. Honorable members heard the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) rise and, in n statement on foreign policy, take very cleverly and very subtly the Soviet line.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss that statement.
– It was not in debate, Mr. Speaker, and therefore I believe that I am entitled to discuss that statement. The right honorable gentleman showed himself then as a man who is prepared to go on assuring the country that the Trojan horse is, in point of fact, wood all through. That is his line. If you will not allow me to traverse it, Mr. Speaker, I shall not be able to go into details to establish what I am saying. I hope that I shall have an opportunity to do so at another time. It is of no use for Opposition members in this chamber to say that they are not running on the Communist line when they listen in silence to a cleverly angled speech such as that delivered by the right honorable member for Barton in this House earlier this afternoon. I am sorry that I shall not be able to develop that point. Having obtained the adjournment of that debate, I hope that I shall have the opportunity to discuss at length the points to which I am now making a passing reference.
It was obvious, was it not, that there was a contradiction between the arguments put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne? On the one hand, he said that there could be no bi-partisan policy in Australia. I regret that statement because I believe it to be untrue. On the other hand he said, in effect, “ Give this committee more power, make it an executive committee and then we will come into it “. Is it not obvious to the veriest simpleton that those statements are completely contrary? If the honorable member for Melbourne believes in the possibility of a bi-partisan policy, there is perhaps more weight for making the committee more of an executive committee. But if he is right in his statement - and he must be right as to the present intentions of the Labour party - there is no reason why the committee should be made an executive committee on which both sides of the House would be represented. He has said - and I suppose that he speaks for his party - that the policy of the Labour party is to oppose at every point, whether it thinks the point at issue is right or wrong, or whether it concerns a matter of foreign or domestic policy. I believe that the committee performs a valuable, though limited, function. I hope that its functions will increase as it gains the stability of tradition and becomes a more established part of our institutions. It is immature. I think in many ways it could amplify its functions, but most certainly it cannot act in the way in which the honorable member for Melbourne wants it to act, as an executive body, if it includes members of the party which, in the words of their own deputy leader in this House, is out to sprag the Government at every point, whether it be on matters of foreign or internal policy. I believe that if this is to be only a study circle - and I hope it will be something more, even if it is nothing more at. the moment - then the inclusion of members of the Opposition in it will do something towards changing their minds - not necessarily changing their outlook on individual points, but changing their intentions so that they will act on matters of foreign policy in this House not as members of the Labour party but as Australians. I believe that, as Australians, we are in a difficult situation, and are living in a dangerous world. If we are divided in intention, we are unlikely to survive in that world.
While I think the committee can still be developed, I believe that it is only, at the present moment, in its immature form. It is still a valuable committee, and insofar as it is an educational and not an executive committee there is no reason why the Opposition should not be represented upon it. It could be, of course, that the same frankness that we have had from the Minister in the past would not, or perhaps could not, be accorded to us in the future if the committee included members of the Opposition who happened, individually, to be people whom the Government did not think were loyal. But that is a matter of individuals. There are rotten apples, we think, in the barrel, but not all the apples are yet rotten.
Results would depend, as far as the Government is concerned, on the frankness with which it would treat the committee, even if the Opposition were represented on it, and would depend very largely upon the individual nature of the members of the Opposition who were on that committee.
Sir, 1 support the motion, and I regret very much the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne. I withdraw nothing that I have ever said in relation to the pro-Communist orientation of certain aspects of the Labour party’s policy, and the pro-Communist inclinations of certain members of the Labour party ; but I do not think by any means, and I have never thought, that every member of the Labour party is pro-Communist. I regret very much, indeed, that the Opposition is not taking the opportunity to come onto this committee, to show itself Australian, and to take advantage of the limited facilities which are, and should be, available to it under the motion.
.- What a curious double set of standards and special pleadings have been advanced by the two speakers from the Government side in seeking the inclusion of the Opposition on the Foreign Affairs Committee. If any of us on this side of the House need to have strengthened our resolution not to join any foreign affairs committee, it lin* been done for us by the immoderate speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne, (Mr. Calwell), set out with references that he had collected to prove from political statements during election time, which, of course, are sometimes exaggerated, and in most cases have been exaggerated, why the Opposition should refrain from even the slightest contact with the Foreign Affairs Committee. He proved up to the hilt that certain things were said by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr, Casey) that ought to drive horns the resolution in our minds that we should not touch such a committee with a 40-ft. pole. The honorable member for Wentworth got up and, resorting to McCarthyism and smearing, directed the attention of the House to barrels of apples, not all of which were rotten; certain members of the Labour party - not all of whom were Communists; and poured out vituperative lies about the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). If the Government wants the Opposition to join this committee, that is the worst way ever of attempting to get a reconciliation. As far as getting the Opposition on the committee was concerned, the honorable member’s remarks were all wrong. Indeed, they were amusing, and must have been perplexing to the Australian people. Let us have a look at the two approaches. On the one side we have the Minister, who reminds me of a kind of international man about town. “ Will you come into my parlour ? “ says this spider to the Opposition. .We were spoken to in the softest key - the key of C - which is the international key, I suppose. Then he went on to explain that the committee was, after all, practically no more than a study group in its present form, and that it could never become more than Casey’s cozy conversazione unless we joined it. I could feel myself almost melting under his blandishments, and even began to think, that we might have been a little harsh with the Minister. Some of us of a more kindly temperament, and particularly the new members, were feeling that, after all, we could not hold out forever.
And then the picture changed ! Up jumped the honorable member for Wentworth, ejecting sulphurous fumes; he was almost radio-active, and away he went! He could almost have been Mephistopheles in the flesh. He said, in effect, “ We want you to join us. Some of you should come over and help us get a policy, because it is apparent to the rest of the world that we have not got any, and are not likely to have any “. But there is a serious side to it, as well as the humorous side. The approach of the honorable member for Wentworth was a very different approach from that of the Minister. He said, in effect, “ You have us in a dither, and we do not know what to do about it “.
What is behind the desire of the Government to get the Labour party on this committee? In the past, as the Hansard record shows, we put up six quite valid and reasonable amendments, not one of which was agreed to. On that occasion - I will stand corrected if I am wrong - they were gagged before we could discuss them. So where do we get on these things ? If the committee is to be merely a study group, what sort of study will it undertake? Will it be a study of character assassination, a study of policy, or a study of documents issued by the Department of External Affairs, marked “ Top Secret”, and then placed on the table of the Library for anyone to read? The honorable member for Mackellar asks us to be represented on the committee, but on the first day it sat he wanted it - not to inquire how we could have peace in our time, not how we could improve our relations with the peoples of the world so that we could take our place in the United Nations to ensure universal peace - but to accuse a former member of the staff of the Minister for External Affairs of treason and to have him investigated.
– Who was that?
– That man was Dr. John Burton. Everybody knows that. Do honorable members opposite think that such conduct is likely to encourage the Labour party to join this committee? They seem to have got into an extraordinary state of flux. On the one hand, there is the desire that we must join the committee at any price, and on the other hand, the Government does not want us at any price. I think it is simple enough to conclude by saying that the original decision of the Labour party - which I have sometimes questioned in my own mind and in my innermost thoughts - is correct, and that there is no hope of any useful work being clone between us at this time, because the differences of policy are so vast. Those differences are widening and becoming more apparent because of the conservatism of the Government.
Although the Minister for External Affairs spoke for 45 minutes during a previous debate which I know, Mr. Speaker, you will not allow me to mention, except in passing like a flash, he said nothing new. I have heard of a necklace of cliches, but I have never heard of a carpet woven in patterns of cliches, such as that which theMinis ter wove this afternoon. He told us nothing fresh. If the study group can provide the Government with nothing worth while saying,I am sorry. The whole point of the matter was brought to a climax by the honorable member for Melbourne, who showed the incompatibility of the approach to this matter. That state of affairs really goes back to the cavalier treatment of our first six proposed amendments.
If the Government wants to put teeth into this committee, if it wants the committee to work and to be more than just a study circle, it will have to give us the right to do certain things. As the Minister has said, it would be absurd to think that we should get top-secret information, but a committee working in close contact with the Minister could do useful work on both sides of the House. The committee will not do such work if it is purposely and religiously cut back to size, or if it becomes a forum for earnest natterers on foreign affairs who dare not get a new thought, because if they did so it would explode in their minds. The whole situation has been made impossible of solution by the summary rejection, six years ago, of the six proposed amendments of the plan for setting up the committee. Those amendments, if adopted, would have given us some format to work upon. As it is, we still say that the committee is a study group and that there would be neither rhyme nor reason in our participation. Because of that, I support the honorable member for Melbourne in his opposition to the motion that we join the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– in reply - This has been a grievous debate, first, for the disappointment, as far as I personally am concerned, because of the fact that the Opposition in this House will not join the Foreign Affairs Committee.I know of foreign affairs committees in twenty countries of the world. They vary in composition and in purpose, but broadly speaking, their common purpose, all over the world, in every democratic country, is the same as is the purpose of the Australian Foreign Affairs Committee. No foreign affairs committee of any civilized country that I know of is on substantially different lines from those of the committee here in Australia, nor is any one of those committees such that it could frame policy and impose that policy on the government. That is not the purpose of any foreign affairs committee that I know of anywhere else in the world where the government is responsible to parliament.
The second disappointment - and this is very much more than a personal disappointment - is the statements that have fallen from the mouth of my friend - I think I can call him my friend - the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who said that a bi-partisan foreign policy in Australia was impossible. That means a great deal more than the words imply. It means that there is no Australianism in the Australian Labour party; that there is only party political striving for advantage. It means that party political advantage is the line to which the Australian Labour party adheres, and that the interests of Australia as a whole could never be threshed out by the two sides of this House, nor could they come to agreement on what is in Australia’s best interests. That is the simple inference to be drawn from that statement. It is a dreadful inference and one that, I think, will not be lost on the majority of the Australian public.
My friend, the honorable member for Melbourne, raked up a number of things that were said - and meant - during the recent general election campaign. They were meant not in respect of the Labour party as a whole, as I think every one of us on this side of the House appreciates. Almost every one of us who spoke during the campaign said that, amongst certain members of the Opposition, there was this tinge of partiality towards the things that the Communists stand for. We all said that, and for my part I would repeat it. But nobody was foolish enough, or unfair enough, to try to brand the whole of the Australian Labour movement, and its supporters in this House and throughout Australia, as standing for that sort of thing. We know very well that they do not stand for those things. But after all, the experience of the world from 1917 to 1955 must mean something. The experience of the world during that time has been that you cannot do business with the Communists. I say that those who talk of conciliation with people who are sworn to our destruction are not friends of democracy or of this country.
The remark of the honorable member for Melbourne may have been thrown off without proper consideration - I can only hope that it was so, in all charity. The remark that there can never be a bipartisan foreign policy in Australia is, in my opinion, one of the most dreadful remarks to be made during my political lifetime. I do not know of any other country in which such a remark could be made and got away with. It means that there is no Australian interest, as such, but only a series of party political interests. I do not say that we are the fountainhead and source of all political wisdom in all matters. Neither, of course, and with still less force, could honorable gentlemen on the other side say so; but we have done our best, as good Australians, to frame an Australian foreign policy.
– A very poor effort.
– The honorable gentleman is mouthing, without any knowledge or information behind his statement. I think that this is one of our saddest days. If the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, means what he says and is supported by his party, it is a poor lookout. It means that we shall have to cease to take the views of the Australian Labour party into account in framing a policy based on what we believe are the real interests of Australia. If the honorable member for Melbourne is supported by his party, then the gauge is down. I should imagine, after what he said, that there is no chance of agreement and that it is of no use my using any blandishments of which I might be capable to try to get the Opposition into the Foreign Affairs Committee. I think that day has passed, and I am very sorry to have to say so. If that is so, then I must concert with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and my colleagues to decide whether or not we should not complete the membership of the Foreign Affairs Committee from honorable members on this side of the House, so that at least an increasing number of honorable members of our side of the House may have the obvious and clear advantages that flow from membership of a committee such as this.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 126) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you received a notice from me couched in the following terms : -
I submit the following matter to the House for discussion as a matter of urgent public importance, namely: - The urgent necessity of the Government giving the House and the country a firm assurance that there isno intention of interfering with the operations of the Australian Whaling Commission at Carnarvon, Western Australia, or of disposing of any of its assets.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I did receive that communication from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), under the terms of Standing Order 106a, which allows an honorable member to propose the discussion of a matter of urgency. However, I cannot accede to his proposal to debate this matter because Standing Order 10 provides that -
No business except of a formal character shall be entered upon before the Address-in- Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech has been adopted.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
.- Although I do not always agree with your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I accept it as probably correct and in the circumstances I therefore move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent, before the AddressinReply is adopted, the immediate discussion by the House of the following matter of urgent public importance: - The urgent necessity of the Government giving the House and the country a firm assurance that there is no intention of interfering with the operations of the Australian Whaling Commission at Carnarvon, Western Australia, or of disposing of any of its assets.
It is somewhat unusual for an honorable member to move the suspension of the Standing Orders as I am now doing, and I understand that, as a rule, the Government is not agreeable to it. Although the debate for the adoption of an AddressinReply is normally of some importance, in this instance there are circumstances which make it necessary for every responsible member of this Parliament, particularly those representing Western Australia, to be given an opportunity to express his opinion on the proposal to dispose of the assets of the Australian “Whaling Commission at Carnarvon, Western Australia. I consider that all good men and true in this Parliament will want to do that.
– The honorable member should address himself to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Since when has the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) become an authority on the Standing Orders?
– The honorable member for Lalor should at least be goodmannered.
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member foi’ Lalor is not entitled to debate the subjectmatter of his communication to you, but should address himself to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Order ! The debate must be confined to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Although the honorable member for Lalor considers that the subject of the disposal of the Australian Whaling Commission’s station at Carnarvon to be a matter of urgent public importance, the scope of the Address-in-Reply debate is wide enough to allow that matter to be dealt with. There is no limit to that discussion, and it could include even the consideration of whale oil.
– With all due respect to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I submit that this is hardly an instance in which you should point out that I should discuss this matter during the Address-in-Reply debate, when you have already ruled that it is in order for me to move the suspension of the Standing Orders in order that it may be discussed as a matter of urgent public importance. An obligation now rests on me to prove to the House why the matter is urgent, and why a debate on it should take precedence over the AddressinReply discussion. One cannot prove the importance of this matter until he states the facts, but immediately I proceeded to do so a member of Her Majesty’s Government obtruded the observation that I am not entitled to state the reason why it is a matter of urgent importance, and why the Standing Orders should first be suspended so that I may have the opportunity to do so. Now, sir, I suggest that the two points of view just do not fit together, and therefore if I am to be given a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate justification for the suspension of Standing Orders I must be given reasonable latitude to state the circumstances that have impelled me to move for their suspension. Those are the facts-
– What would be the value of having the Standing Orders suspended if the honorable member were to be permitted, in discussing the motion for their suspension, to discuss also the substance of the urgency matter which he desired to raise?
– I am not here to be submitted to an inquisition by the new Minister for Primary Industry. I am not answerable to you at all.
-Order ! Address the Chair, please.
– I am endeavouring, and Mr. Speaker is trying to help me, to address this House, and I shall not submit myself to cross-examination by the Minister for Primary Industry. I submit that it is incumbent on you, Mr. Speaker, to give me reasonable latitude to acquaint honorable members of my justification for moving for the suspension of the Standing Orders. I do not wish to tell you what your duties are, because you no doubt know them better than I do. Even though honorable members opposite are in office, and such motions for the suspension of the Standing Orders emanating from this side of the chamber are not ordinarily agreed to, I think that in this instance honorable members will agree that there is a good case for the Standing Orders to be suspended. I have learned that in Western Australia in particular, there are very strong rumours abroad that this Government intends to sell the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets, by, I understand, a process of negotiation with people who, in the past, as a result of their interest in this kind of commercial operation, have had it brought to their notice that the conduct of a whaling station by the Commonwealth has been very successful and that their ownership of that industry would be highly advantageous to them.
– I desire to move, Mr. Speaker, that the question be now put.
– There is no question before the Chair, because the motion to which the honorable member for Lalor has been speaking has not yet been seconded.
– Then, I shall continue. I understand that this situation has reached such a pass in “Western Australia and, for that matter, in the Commonwealth
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.4 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to second the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders that was so ably moved this afternoon by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The object of the honorable member for Lalor was to clear the way to enable him to extract some definite information from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) in connexion with the whaling industry, which was established by a Labour government, and which has proved such a success.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot debate the merits of the proposal. The motion moved this afternoon was for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, I use my argument in order to support the honorable member for Lalor and to show that the Standing Orders should be suspended in order that the people of this country may know what this Government intends to do with the people’s assets at Carnarvon. This venture, as I have already mentioned, has proved a huge success and it is an asset to the north-west of Australia where population is so sadly needed.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The ground upon which we base the claim of urgency in this matter is that there is danger that this property of the Australian Whaling Commission will be sold quickly, and before the House has had an opportunity to consider the proposal fully. My remarks are addressed solely to the question of urgency, to which you, Mr. Speaker, have limited debate. It is not as though honorable members have had an assurance from the Government that nothing will be done pending consideration of this matter by the Cabinet or the Parliament. We asked for that assurance the other day, but it was not given. We have asked for it again to-day, with a similar result. The closure has been moved and every advantage has been taken of the Standing Orders to prevent the matter being discussed.
We have asked the Government to give the Parliament and the people an assurance that the people’s property, this successful enterprise, will not be dealt with in the way we fear. One cannot state the figures, but this is a very valuable property and we want an assurance that it will not be sold behind the backs of Parliament and of the people. The Opposition has brought this matter before the House so that it can be fully considered and an assurance of the kind sought by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), can be given. The Government has admitted that this is a profitable undertaking. It is a classic example of a successful national enterprise being conducted by the Australian Government in conjunction with the people of Western Australia. To dispose of it quickly and stealthily, without giving the people and the Parliament a chance to consider the proposal, would be an abuse of parliamentary government. My colleagues and I shall see to it that every step possible is taken to prevent such a public scandal.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent, before the Address-in-Reply is adopted, the immediate discussion by the House of the following matter of urgent public importance: - The urgent necessity of the Government giving the House and the” country a firm assurance that there is no intention of interfering with the operations of the Australian Whaling Commission at Carnarvon, Western Australia, or of disposing of any of its assets.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 16th February (vide page 95), on motion by Mr. Chaney -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Youn Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- The motion that the Address-in-Reply he agreed to was moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) and seconded by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), and this House had the pleasure of hearing two eloquent speeches delivered by those honorable gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to hear the maiden speeches of new members of this House, and 1 believe that the House will agree with me that both honorable members should be congratulated upon their speeches and that we should wish them well for their future careers in this House.
The Governor-General’s Speech adverted to the economic problem which this community has been discussing for some time, and various points of view have been put forward by many people - some very learned, and some, perhaps, not quite so learned. The problem is one of prosperity, and whatever course the Government may take to solve the problem, it is essential that nothing should be done which would in any way injure the prosperity of the period through which the community is now passing. The Government’s policy has been designed to bring about that prosperity, and it has been brought about after a long period of troublous rule by the Labour party. Prosperity must be maintained at all costs, and I believe that it is the intention of the Government to take such steps, economically, as will ensure that prosperity shall continue.
The problem has been posed in this fashion in the budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). He has said that there is a boom of consumer spending and private investment. It has been described in simpler language as too much money chasing too few goods. Among the measures to overcome our difficulties which have been discussed in the community is the proposal that immigration and development should be gradually eased down. I do not believe that either immigration or national development should be eased down because both are essential to the future greatness of this country. Unless we have continuous development wo shall not have progress, and unless we have continued immigration we shall be unable to take the proper steps that should be taken for defence and development. I suggest that both immigration and development are essential for Australia. It should be - and as I read the Speech of the Governor-General it is - the policy of the Government to maintain both immigration and development along the same lines as have been pursued by the Government in the past.
It has been said that immigration is inflationary, but I suggest that perhaps it would be better to use the word “ expansionary “ rather than “ inflationary “, because there are various counter inflationary elements in an immigration programme. For example, the immigrants are usually very hard workers. They are usually very saving people, and they are able to contribute a great deal to the development of the economy of this country. Indeed, as has been pointed out, Canada which also has an immigration policy, does not have the inflation from which we have been suffering in Australia. The Government, very wisely, has always had our production needs, and the necessity to increase production, well before it. One of the great aims of the Government has been to ensure greater productivity, and there is no doubt that production has increased over the years as a result of its efforts. It is very wisely aiming at still greater production, and with that end in view has recently appointed a Minister for Trade and a Minister for Primary Industry. It is the duty of those two Ministers to see that production increases at an even sweater rate in this country than it has done formerly.
One of the problems confronting increased production, particularly the production of exports, is the fact that there are various agreements with countries outside Australia under which the export of our goods becomes difficult. Although these agreements have their advantages, they also have their disadvantages, and the disadvantages may appear rather to outweigh the advantages at a time when we are anxious to export more and more of our goods. Actually, this is not so. I believe that the trade agreements which the Government has entered into have been wise agreements although as a result of them we may not be able to sell as much as we would like to sell abroad immediately. In other words, this policy of greater production will have good results, but they may not be felt in the very near future. It is because of this that the Government has been driven to adopt, other measures such as the imposition of import restrictions. The imposition of import restrictions is an abhorrent policy to the members of this party, because it means government control of industry, whereas this party holds the view that we should refrain from government control of industry so far as is reasonably possible. In any event, the general effect of import restrictions in the long run has been to increase prices, and that, in turn, leads to further inflation, although import restrictions were imposed in the first instance in an effort to avoid inflation.
It is necessary to trade with other countries. They will not buy our goods unless we trade with them and buy their goods. That is a further reason why a policy of import restrictions cannot be carried very far. Further, a great many of the imports are raw materials and goods for our manufacturing industries. I understand that about 60 per cent, of our imports is represented by raw materials and goods used for manufacturing here. That being so, if we place too great a restriction upon imports, we shall do damage to our local manufacturing industries. So a policy of import restrictions cannot be carried on for too long. It is a policy which should be eased gradually. The restrictions must be lifted as soon as conditions permit. In those circumstances, we must look to other methods of dealing with inflation, and this brings me to a further point that has been debated in very high quarters. It is the question of heavier taxation. The Government has been urged by learned professors, among others, to embark upon a policy of heavy taxation. Let me say at the outset that I believe that it would be a great mistake to do so. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, this has been a prosperity government; it has brought about prosperity, and a policy of heavy taxation could only do damage to the community. Heavy taxation removes incentive. It prevents the expansion of existing businesses and deters people from starting new businesses. It generally results in a degree of unemployment. Further, those who pay the heavy taxation pass it on to other members of the community. The manufacturer adds the tax to the price of his goods with the result that we have increases in prices. In other words, inflation is not stopped by such a policy. Apart from all that, it simply means draining money from the pockets of the private individual and channelling it into the pockets of the Government. The Government then proceeds to spend that money, so heavy taxation does not cure inflation. For those reasons, I urge the Government not to accept the views of those learned professors and others who advocate that policy.
Another matter that has been given some attention, but not a great deal of attention, is the question of savings. It is generally agreed that a policy of savings is desirable, that the effect of savings is to drain off the extra amount that is now being utilized in excessive consumer spending. Far too little attention has been given to this problem of savings. I call it the problem of savings because it certainly has become a problem in the Australian community under present economic circumstances. At the moment, Government loans are looked upon as a very poor investment with the result that the money which should be forthcoming through them for public works is not being obtained. Because this avenue is not attracting the investors that it should, the Government has had to resort to a policy of heavy taxation in order to finance public works. This heavy taxation, of course, comes from the pockets of the poor old taxpayer. He is the one who suffers.
The big question is how we are to induce people to put their money into savings. This involves a consideration of how public investment can be made worthwhile. We have to . consider how savings can be made worthwhile and how to make the community more savingsconscious. As to how public investment can be made worthwhile, let me point out that if a person invested £1,000 in government bonds in 1939, that £1,000 to-day would be worth something like £300 or £400 based on 1939 values, whereas if he had bought a house with his £1,000 in 1939, that house to-day would be worth anything from £3,000 to £5,000.
Recently, the Australian Loan Council was called together for the purpose of reviewing the loan market. At the conclusion of its proceedings, it appealed to the public to invest in government loans, urging upon them that it was their” patriotic duty to so invest their money and that they paid good interest, and the security was good. It is very difficult indeed to induce a person to believe that it is his patriotic duty to invest in bonds when he can point to the fact that if he had invested £1,000 in bonds in 1939, the effective value of that £1,000 to-day would be something between £300 and £400, whereas if he had bought a house for £1,000 in 1939, that house to-day would be worth between £3,000 and £5,000. In other words, bonds are no longer the gilt edged investment that they once were. The interest is regarded as too low, and the security is not looked upon as good, because the value is not found in them. Apart from buying houses, there are many good industrial and other investments which are regarded as being far better investments to-day than the purchase of government bonds, and for that reason, attention should be given to the question of how we can greatly improve the conditions under which government bonds are made available to the public.
Certain proposals have been made, lt has been suggested, for example, that the interest rate should be higher and that bonds should be issued for shorter periods or at less than par. In addition, it has been proposed that a new form of savings certificate, akin to the former war savings certificate, should be issued. No doubt all of those are proposals that would be well worthwhile. But the question is: Do they go far enough ? The real attraction that government bonds once had was that they attracted taxation remissions, but the rate of remission has remained static for many years. There has been no endeavour to give better taxation remissions. Honorable members will recall the tremendous taxation concessions allowed by this Government to the man on the land for the purpose of encouraging production. That was one of the ways in which we endeavoured to solve the problem of inflation. Those taxation concessions were so generous that the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) told honorable members that a man could become rich nowadays only by going on the land and taking advantage of the tremendous taxation concessions that were given to people on the land. If the Government wishes to make its bonds popular so that people will buy them, it must make very much greater taxation remissions than it has given in the past. If big concessions can be made for the purpose of encouraging production, they should be made also for the encouragement of savings, which are to-day equally important. In fact, the weak point of the Australian economy at present is the low status of public investment, which results in people not buying bonds.
The bond market could be improved also in other ways. For example, bonds could be accepted in payment of Commonwealth estate duty at face value. Such a procedure would not cost the Government very much, but it would be the sort of inducement that would weigh very heavily with a person who wanted to buy bonds. He would consider that a very substantial concession. Another way of improving the bond market would be for the Government to refrain from going into the market and buying its own bonds at less than par, thereby indicating to the public that it did not think its own bonds were worth the full face value. I am perfectly well aware that the economist Keynes was in favour of that being done by governments. However, Lord Keynes was a man whose views varied from time to time and who was always clear in his views to the extent that he believed they could be adapted according to the time, place and circumstance. In the Australian economy, the buying of bonds at less than face value by the Government does harm to the bond market and does not improve the status of Commonwealth bonds. However, it is not sufficient merely to make public investment popular in the sense that it is financially worth-while. In addition, we must make savings popular. But how can they be popular when the age pension, is £4 a week for one person, and £8 a week for a married man and his wife? In order to receive £4 a week on an investment at the bond rate of 44 per cent., a man would need to invest more than £4,500, and double that amount would bp needed by a married couple. A single pensioner who has £1,750, or a married couple who have £3,000, may not receive the pension. It is simply not worth while saving at present. It is much better to adopt the policy: Eat, drink, gamble and be merry, because to-morrow one can obtain the pension and be much better off.
– Abolish the means test!
– Abolition of the means test was once the policy of the Australian Labour party, or at least of its leader, but only for a very short period indeed. No one believed that it was really the policy of the Australian Labour party. The means test has a bad effect upon the Australian economic structure because, as a result of it, people will not save. There is no reason for them to do so. It is worse for them if they save than if they do not. If the Government wishes to make its bonds popular it must introduce a form of national superannuation scheme under which, when we pay our income tax, we shall also be paying our superannuation premiums, and under which, when we attain a certain age, we shall be entitled to an adequate retirement allowance or superannuation. Once this abhorrent means test disappears, people will be willing to save and invest their savings in government bonds. I realize that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) may ask where he is to get the money to abolish the means test and to make additional taxation remissions on interest from government bonds. The answer is to be found in the fact that the Government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money on public works because too little is being invested in government bonds. That money will Le available for the granting of taxation remissions and for the purpose of abolishing the means test. A Liberal leader recently suggested that it is time the Liberal party re-examined its policy. I have advanced the views that I have put forward to-night as a practical way in which the problem of inflation can be dealt with and the policy of the party re-examined.
.- May I, first, express my appreciation of the honour conferred upon me by the electors of Yarra in electing me to the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General referred to three main problems; first, the constitutional problem, secondly, the problem of foreign policy and, thirdly, the economic problem. Like the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), I shall direct my attention mainly to the economic problem. I think I shall come to something like the conclusion reached by the honorable member - the conclusion that the Government can take very little action to solve the problems of inflation. The main features of the Governor-General’s Speech, and of the remarks of Government supporters, were exhortations and appeals to the people to produce more and save more, and to do better in other ways. This approach has characterized the Government’s attitude to the problem for some time. I suggest that it ignores altogether the important factors that determine much of the behaviour of the community to whom these appeals are addressed. I suggest that these are factors upon which lectures about how the people should behave can have very little real effect. Many of these matters are under the control of the Government or are subject to Government policy, and have been so since 1949.
Man is very much the creature of his environment. When he lives in an acquisitive society in which self-interest is raised to the level of a social philosophy, as it is in ours, then man will bear very much the marks of conflict and self-interest, as he does in our community. 1 suggest that it is useless to speak as if all members of the community were in exactly the same position. Not all members of the community can afford to take the same advice. Waterside workers are not in the same position as shipowners. Age and invalid pensioners are not in the same position as company directors. Even privates in the Army - I am sure that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) and the. honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) will agree with me in this respect - are not in the same position as officers. This being the case, we cannot expect all people to react in the same way to the advice and exhortations given out to them. The honorable member for Perth said that apart from armed strength it is the quality of the citizens that is the final determining factor in any struggle for existence. This is something that deserves emphasis in these days, when we appear to reply so much upon armed strength alone. I think that the nature of the society in which people live has a good deal to do with their quality and the way they behave, and a society in which there is considerable injustice, inequality, and oppres sion, a society wherein the people do not govern themselves, a society in which serious departures from wage justice occur as they have occurred in ours in recent years cannot be a society in which the citizens exhibit all the qualities that please democrats and liberals. And if this is so, it is because of these conditions and not because of any moral fault that some may be able to find in these people.
What the Parliament can do about the quality of our citizens is, I suggest, very much limited to what Parliament can do about these social conditions. It is hardly the function of Parliament to preach to the people. It is the function of Parliament to make and unmake social conditions. It is only too apparent - indeed, it has been made clear in the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral - that one of the most important problems which affects Australian social conditions and which may be solved by Parliament or by parliamentary leadership, is the “ economic problem as it was referred to. It is equally clear that the economic problem we face to-day is the problem of inflation. Recently, eight professors of economics said that even if expenditure in 1956-57 does not increase, imports, and therefore the available supply of goods, will be £200,000,000 less in the coining year. The result, they pointed out, will be a cut-back on demand by the haphazard and unfair process of inflation, a continuation of what has been happening for some considerable time. The December issue of the Review of the Australian Institute of Public Affairs states that the position has been compared favorably with the balance of payments crisis of 1952, but in fact, the Review states, the situation to-day is more intractable and deep-rooted than was the situation in 1952. .In view of the experience of the Government in 1952, this surely must be little consolation in 1956.
Indeed, when the Speech of His Excellency is taken into account, one may seriously ask whether the Government is aware of the seriousness of the problems of inflation to-day. However, the Government certainly does know that inflation exists. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his budget speech in August of last year said -
The your 19.54-55 brought gathering signs or strain in the economy . . . The deficit in our external trade . . widened rapidly and our overseas exchange reserves ran down. By the end of the financial year wc had around us the unmistakable signs of active inflation.
The Treasurer had at that time been in office for nearly six years. Then he went, on to make this quite remarkable statement -
The spiralling of prices and costs can be expected to go forward in real earnest.
This inflation, which in August the Treasurer seemed to accept as an inevitability, is one described in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General as threatening to inflict deep injury upon our prosperity. Recently the London Economist wondered when the Australian Government might need a policy to win an election. Actually, the Speech of the Governor-General has not revealed even the slightest sign of one. Although we are faced with an inflation which, on the Government’s own admission, would inflict deep injury upon the community - indeed, it has done so already - there are only three minor points in the speech which have any bearing at all upon the direct control of inflation. The first is the creation of a Department of Trade to increase our export earnings. I suggest that the Government can be complimented for having set up now a department, the proposal for which appeared in the policy speech of the leader of the Labour party at the last election, but not that of the leaders of the Government. The second is nothing more than a “ careful study of the ways and means of increasing production”. The third is an appeal for restraint in expenditure, an appeal directed alike to all members of the community, irrespective of whether they are living in poverty - and many are - or whether they are the wealthiest of the community. These proposals, which could make hardly any impact at all upon inflation, are all that the Government appears now to offer to combat an inflation which is, I suggest, the main cause of the poverty and degradation of many thousands of age and invalid pensioners throughout the Commonwealth. It is the main cause of the shockingly bad housing conditions of more than two-fifths of the people. It is the main cause of the falling standards of food and clothing of fully one-third of the working people of this country. It is the main cause of the totally inadequate supply of schools, education, power, light, water, and other essential public services. Surely we have a right to expect a more constructive approach to these problems than that which we have witnessed, especially as the nature of inflation has long been recognized.
I think it is worthwhile at this stage to examine the inflation of the immediate past, because there are lessons in it for the future. It is a commonplace statement that inflation comes about because of a sudden and large addition to purchasing power which cannot be matched by an equivalent quantity of additional goods. I suggest that it is useless to rely upon a faster increase of production to cure inflation, because inflation occurs only at a time when we have had such a large increase of purchasing power that production cannot be increased sufficiently to match it. The Treasurer recognized this in his budget speech in 1950. He pointed out that production had increased at a very satisfactory rate. Indeed, in recent times production has increased more rapidly than wages. It is not on the side of production that inflation can be cured, because inflation always arises as a result of such a large and sudden increase of purchasing power that no conceivable increase of production can match it.
The most significant of the increases of purchasing power that have taken place in Australia were a result of the export boom. In 1950-51, there was a £370,000,000 increase of export proceeds. That was followed, in 1952-53, by an increase of £300.000,000. This was a direct increase of 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, of the existing national expenditure. As no conceivable increase in production can be more than about 5 per cent, a year, it can be seen quite clearly that something else must be done than talk about increasing production.
Fluctuations in export proceeds have always been the dominating causes, not only of inflation but also of depression in Australia. So, if the Australian economy is to achieve a desirable level of stable development, the distribution of export proceeds must be stabilized. The Government is now proposing to stabilize, so to speak, a downward trend in export proceeds, as is indicated by its intention to introduce legislation for a stabilization scheme for the dried fruits and vine industry. This is the very time to emphasize that we must also stabilize on the way up, if inflation is to.be kept under measurable control. The consequences of not doing that were quite clearly recognized as early as 1950. The Treasurer, in the budget speech that he delivered in October, 1950, said -
This rise in wool prices will add to our international reserves and from that standpoint it can be counted a national advantage because of the larger quantity of imports we will be able to buy. The internal consequences, however, could be very disruptive unless firmly controlled. To make a further great addition to the volume of purchasing power, not matched by an equivalent quantity of additional goods, would increase competition for available supplies and divert resources still further from developmental activities into less essential uses.
All those things have happened. The Treasurer went on -
This would tend to disperse and weaken the national effort at a time when it should be more and more concentrated. Moreover, there would be direct effects on the cost of living because of higher prices for clothing and meat, and this in turn would lead to higher wage costs, throughout the whole economy. Within the wool industry itself, property values would soar to boom levels and wages and other working costs would rise, thus weakenin the long-term position of an industry whose strength throughout the years has lain in its ability to produce wool at competitive cost levels. The Government will, therefore, bring down measures to restrain the effects which this excess purchasing power would have upon the economy.
But, unfortunately, the Government did not do so. The greater part of the £670,000,000 increase in export proceeds that occurred in two separated years was allowed to be spent, and the result was what the Treasurer had anticipated.
But. that was only the beginning. The Government proceeded to amend the banking legislation, so that it would not have power to control private trading bank credit creation. As a result, over £150,000,000 was added to our purchasing power by increased new loans by the trading banks in the twelve months that followed. The Government, according to whether it has a deficit or a surplus, can influence the amount of expenditure; but, in the period following those vast increases in spending, the Government made use of £150,000,000 worth of treasury-bills to finance its own operations - that is to say, it added another £150,000,000 to the total purchasing power.
In 1954-55, faced again with much the same problem, the Government found that, its 1951-53 amendments of the banking legislation, changing the base date for the call-up of funds into special accounts at the Commonwealth Bank and fixing the amounts against advances instead of deposits, had deprived it of almost all power. So it turned to another method. Instructions were given to the trading banks to maintain their cash reserves at least at the level of 25 per cent, of their liquid assets and securities. But, by June, 1955, only one of the six main trading banks had cash reserves in excess of 25 per cent, of its liquid assets and securities. In the case of four banks, the percentages were lower than when the instruction was given, and in the case of two other banks they were as low as 10.9 per cent, and 6.3 per cent. So it is apparent that the control of inflation in Australia requires at least the full re-enactment of the 1945 banking legislation of the Chifley Government.
There can be little doubt that the main originating causes of inflation in Australia are uncontrolled export booms, excessive treasury-bill finance by the Government and uncontrolled private bank credit creation. The cost level in Australia has been permanently raised by those factors. That is at the root of the problem which the Government now finds to be insoluble, but it has a tendency to blame others for the present situation. Last October, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), made a statement in the House in which he said -
Our prosperity is ill-founded to the extent that it is eating into, largely for consumption purposes, our vital international reserve.”. This makes it perfectly clear that the present, position is much more accurately described as a consumption boom than as a developmental boom.
Of course, wages and consumption have increased, but the increase is a consequence of inflation caused by other things. If wages and consumption did not increase in the face of rising prices caused by those other things, the real living standards of wage earners and others would fall seriously. Indeed, despite the increases that have taken place in wages and total consumption, the real living standards of many wage earners have fallen. Since 1953, the value of the federal basic wage has fallen by 16s. a week. This affects, fully and directly, about a half of the wage earners in Australia. Further, about 60 per cent, of the people working on federal margins now have a marginal wage which, in terms of real value, has fallen by from 50 per cent, to 100 per cent, since the margins were adjusted in 1950. The case of the watersiders is perhaps the most typical and best known case. Their margin in 1949 was 11-Jd. an hour. After nine applications to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration it is still Hid. an hour although it should be 2s. if it were to have the purchasing power now that it had in 1949. I felt it an honour to support the waterside workers in their recent strike because the margin above the basic wage of £2 in that industry is a margin which today has fallen in real value to £1. It is true that wage increases have taken place, but all the statistical measures indicate that wage rates have not risen as rapidly as productivity and the wage rates for a large proportion of wage earners have not retained their real value. These circumstances show that “age increases have not been the cause of the inflationary trend, and I suggest that on this point the Treasurer agrees with me because in his budget speech in 1950 he pointed out that direct factors affecting the cost of living were the other inflationary causes I have spoken of, namely higher prices for clothing and meat which in turn have led to a higher wage cost throughout the whole economy. One was a consequence of the other.
The statistical evidence suggests that inflation in 1956 is the result of a relatively new factor. The inflation of today is a profit inflation because of the excessive rates of profit investment. Nett sales for private investment in 1954-55 rose from £789,000,000 to approximately £958,000,000, an increase of £169,000,000 or about 22 per cent, in one year. Investment is a good thing. Progress is a good thing, but we are suffering from a large overdose of it at the present time. Prices are now rising more rapidly than costs, and the record profits reported by hundreds of companies on the Stock Exchange are proof of this. In the circumstances we have placed before us three main alternatives. The alternative proposed by the Labour party to control inflation is to reduce the expenditure of big business concerns which could be achieved by increasing taxation on large companies and corporations, and the income earners in high income groups. The Government, in the terms of the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in October last, has asserted that excessive expenditure by the consumer is the main cause of inflation. But the eight economists, seeking apparent justice, have said that the expenditure of everyone - rich and poor alike, those whose expenditure causes inflation and those whose expenditure does not - should be cut.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As the youngest member of this House - in passing I should like to say that if I remain a member it will take me 33 years to reach the average age of members of the Cabinet - I appreciate the honour that the electors of Wannon have shown me by returning me as their representative. We have just heard a clever, learned and academic speech from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). However, I feel that he has over-simplified an extremely difficult and intricate problem. One of the major factors which he has neglected in his argument is that over the last few years the Government has pursued a vigorous policy of development which has placed great stress upon our available supplies of labour, capital and materials, and this, I believe, is one of the principal causes of the inflation which we are at present experiencing.
I was very happy to note in His Excellency’s Speech that adequate mention was made of defence, the necessity to maintain our armed forces and to develop them in the years to come. I think every Australian at present realizes that we cannot just sit down in our corner of the world and expect other people to allow us to remain quietly by ourselves. We owe a duty to ourselves, to future generations of Australians, and to the rest of the free world to play our part in the maintenance of world freedom and peace; and any effective foreign policy directed towards that end must, quite obviously, envisage an effective defence force. There is, however, a far more enduring kind of defence which we have been pursuing over the last few years and which, I believe, we must continue to pursue more and more vigorously. That is the development of this great continent of ours. At present we have slightly over 9,000,000 people in Australia, and when we consider that this country is equal in area to the United States of America, which has over 150,000,000 people, we must realize how sparsely inhabited this continent is. We may not have the same natural riches as the United States, but every honorable member will agree that the possibilities for development in this country are very great indeed. I am sure that I shall live to see the day when we shall have 25,000,000 people in Australia and then we shall be able to look the world in the face far more boldly and play a more effective part in the maintenance of world peace and freedom. Then, we shall not be independent^ but we shall be far less dependent on outside help in times of national emergency.
The development which I envisage and which has been taking place over the last few years has been undertaken in two spheres. First, there is the work that private people, groups of people or private companies can do. In my own part of the world, I have seen great examples of this in the agricultural and pastoral spheres. Three blades of grass have been made to grow where formerly there was only one. Three and four sheep are being carried to the acre on land that formerly carried only half a sheep. Private people are doing this throughout the whole country and it is adding to the national wealth of Australia and thereby making it possible for this country to support more people and, at the same time, maintain a large exportable surplus of primary products. Large companies are helping in this work. The Australian Mutual Provident Society scheme in South Australia will eventually bring into production over 2,000,000 acres of former unproductive Crown land which will be sold to individual settlers. That scheme is an example of adding to the national wealth of Australia.
In the industrial sphere we are manufacturing things now which a few years ago we had to import. The more we can manufacture for ourselves the less dependent we shall be on the vagaries and ups and downs of world trade. The policy of the Government over the last few years has greatly encouraged overseas countries ar.d investors to send capital to Australia so that we may build things for ourselves. Public bodies have an important part to play in our national development because many things are too big in scope or too important for private people or even groups of people to undertake alone.
I should like to say a few words about projects that are being carried out at present inluding one which I believe must receive the attention of the Federal Government in the not too distant future. First, there is the Snowy Mountains scheme about which many honorable members have a far more intimate knowledge than I possess. Eventually this scheme will produce more power than is at present produced throughout the whole of Australia. The first unit is already supplying power to homes and factories in New South Wales. I refer to the Guthega project. Eventually, enough new water will be sent down the Mumimbidgee irrigation system to increase the capacity of that scheme fourfold. Great quantities of new water will also be diverted into the Murray River for the Murray irrigation system. This is one of the best examples of Government action because it is providing new spheres of enterprise and activity for private people. The power from the projects will be used by private people in their homes or by companies to produce goods which we in Australia need for ourselves or for export. The water that will come down the two irrigation systems will be used again by individual farmers and add to the national wealth. That work shows partnership between the Australian Government and the people. Both play their part.
I wish to speak now for a few moments of a State scheme. I believe that it merits some attention from this House because it will have effects beyond the boundaries of any one State. In Victoria, a new harbour is being built at the port of Portland. In two years, the first, new berth, protected by a new breakwater stretching 2,000 yards into the sea, will be completed. Eventually, when the port is finished, it will be fitted with the most modern and efficient equipment for dealing with all kinds of primary products for despatch to the markets of the world. The port of Portland will be designed to serve western Victoria and eventually, parts of Western New South Wales and south-eastern South Australia. This port will be more necessary than ever in the years to come because development in Victoria is already overcrowding the ports of Melbourne and Geelong. When the port of Portland is used more extensively as an exporting and importing centre for the nearby hinterland, it will greatly relieve the congestion in the other ports.
The need will become more apparent as progress is made with the great developmental works that are already proceeding in that area. I shall give honorable members one or two examples to illustrate my point. About 80,000 acres of Crown land lie3 between Dergholm and Apsley. When we are able to bring this land into production and hand it over to settlers, the output from that area will be greatly increased. Within 50 miles of Portland, there is another area of between 70,000 and 80,000 acres where experiments were started by the former Victorian Minister for Lands, who is now the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. P.. W. Holt). The object of those experiments was to determine how grasses could be grown best in that locality. Those experiments were brought to a successful conclusion quite recently, and we know now how to produce grasses that will increase the productivity of that land. I believe that in the not far distant future, produce grown in that area will pass through Portland to the markets of the world.
However, Portland will not be only an experimental centre. I expect to see superphosphate works established at Portland within a short time. Primary producers will then be encouraged to go to Portland to buy their requirements and to export their produce. The output of wool from the area is increasing, and eventually wool sales will be held in Portland. That will not happen in the immediate future: it may be some years away. When that does happen, it would be worthwhile to remember that during the war years, the Australian Government built a wool store at Portland and it could be used for its original purpose.
I wish to direct my attention now to the north of Australia where large areas are, as yet, hardly touched. In the Kimberleys area there are two river valleys, those of the Ord and the Fitzroy rivers. They have a good rainfall totalling about 26 inches a year, but, unfortunately, it all falls at one period and quickly runs to waste in the sea. When those rivers are dammed, and I say “ when “ sure in the knowledge that this project must eventually receive the attention of the Australian Government, it will be possible to develop irrigation farms in the areas below the dams. I believe that is a national project which must be tackled by the Australian Government before long. When the work is done, new communities of Australians will spring up where now there are a few sparsely peopled and extensive cattle stations. They are run efficiently enough under existing conditions, hut with irrigation and increased productivity, those areas could support a much greater population and add almost unlimited wealth to the national income. Already experiments are being conducted in the Lower Ord Valley to determine what animals and crops can be raised there efficiently.
Any plan of development would be incomplete without communications. In that connexion, it is worth while to remember that almost 2,000 years ago, when the Romans made a conquest, they followed up their victories with the construction of some of the best highways the world has known. Supplies flowed along those roads and settlers followed in the wake of the armies. Any great and vigorous plan for national development that is undertaken in Australia will require eventually a national plan for the provision of communications, especially in the north of Australia. In fact, a national communications plan would be very good for Australia because more than 30 per cent, of our income is spent on transport. Such a national plan would help to overcome existing anomalies, particularly that created by the break m railway gauges in the various States. If the States are willing, I believe that the Australian Government must eventually direct its attention to such a national plan.
The development of what I have spoken requires two things to be successful, whether it is undertaken by private individuals, companies or by the State and Federal governments. First, we need an adequate supply of man-power. 1 was glad to note in the Governor-General’s Speech that the immigration policy is to be implemented vigorously, to the limits of our economic capacity, in the years to come. Secondly, major developmental works require capital equipment. The policy of this Government over the past few years, and its success in raising loans overseas, have made possible an increase in supplies of capital equipment. In the last resort, however, the amount of capital equipment we can have, the rate of investment and of development, depend upon the relationship between consumption and investment. Our total national income is divided between the normal consumption items of e very-day expenditure and what we can put aside for private or public investment.
A few years ago, the very high prices we received for our products overseas enabled Australians to become accustomed to a high level of personal consumption. At the same time, we were able to set aside a substantial amount for major developmental projects and for investment. Now our income has been greatly 1 educed, and Australians have to choose whether they wish to continue the present high level of consumption, with less investment and lower returns, in the years to come, or whether they will make some sacrifice now so that investment in Australia, may continue to support undiminished. If the choice is put fairly before Australians, I believe that they will not hesitate. The challenge that faces us is the challenge to develop Australia. If we accept the challenge, the challenge of what we are going to do with this country, we must be determined to expand by every means at our disposal, to increase our population to 25,000,000, to develop the country so that we can support our greater population, and to maintain a high standard of living. If we are to obtain those objectives, any sacrifice in the present would be well worth while. Again, if we tackle these problems, not as six independent States, not as different groups of people pulling in different directions, but as one nation, as the one people that we are, we cannot fail.
There is one final thing that I should like to say. I was too young to fight in the last war, and I owe a debt of gratitude to those who (ought in World Var I. as well as in World War II. But I am not too young now to fight for my faith and belief in the future of this great nation, in which the individual is, and always shall remain, supreme. I have spoken to-night of power and the prosecution of State and Federal works. I have spoken of increased population; again I believe we shall achieve a population of 25,000,000 people in this country. But all these things will mean nothing if one thing is ever forgotten - that the individual happiness of each citizen is, and must remain for ever, the first thought of our national leaders.
.- I hope that in this, my maiden speech in this House, 1 shall evince such energy and evident sincerity as did my two predecessors in this debate, lt is my honour to represent the people of Brunswick and Coburg in Victoria who, during the past 50 years, have consistently elected to the Parliament men who have kept the Labour party on the straight and narrow path. So, unlike the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who said he thought it was necessary for the nation to re-affirm its faith in the system of private enterprise, I should like to commence my parliamentary career by reaffirming my belief in Labour’s socialist philosophy.
I believe that this Parliament is the means by which we shall be able to achieve the good for every individual, the desire of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser). When we think of private enterprise, and we are asked to re-affirm our faith in it, we must have regard to the interests of the nation. Private enterprise has never shown any tendency to put the national interest first if it conflicted with its own. Therefore, I urge the Government not to consider selling, or giving away, any of our national assets, whether they be ships or the whaling enterprise, because this Parliament cannot afford to surrender any of the powers that it possesses. First and foremost, we must realize neither this speech, that of the GovernorGeneral, nor the good wishes of honorable members on both sides will mean anything unless we recognize the fact that the Constitution, as it stands at the moment, hamstrings us and prevents us from ruling the nation adequately. Repeatedly, we are confronted with the fact that this Parliament is not empowered to make laws in relation to certain matters. I shall therefore direct the attention of the House to what I consider should be done in relation to our constitutional problems. Parliament House attracts the attention of a great many tourists. I understand that on Sunday last, about 400 people visited this building. It is becoming a place of increasing national interest. That, in itself, is a tribute to the importance of the Parliament, and should make us proud to be members of it. The Opposition believes that the sovereignty of the nation should reside in the Parliament, and we should strive to ensure that it does.
The Governor-General mentioned three deficiencies in the Constitution : first, the relationship between the two Houses of the Parliament; secondly, the conflict between the State and Federal arbitration systems ; and thirdly, the lack of adequate power to deal with inflation. It is important that we should turn our minds to these matters. Over the last few years, many people have abandoned all hope of amending the Constitution. I believe that in the past we have proceeded too hastily when seeking to alter it. Previous governments, upon encountering constitutional problems, have almost immediately referred them to the people by referendum. If we are to commit 5,000,000 people to the task of altering the Constitution, we should not do so hurriedly. First, we must decide what amendments or alterations are desirable. I believe that, unless the all-party committee which will be established to handle this matter accepts the fact that finally all power and responsibility must rest in this Parliament, it will break down after a series of conferences without having achieved anything worthwhile. The changes that have been taking place gradually since federation, have given this Parliament most of its power, and have resulted in the States becoming almost cyphers in some respects with their representatives having to plead to the Commonwealth for finan cial assistance. Perhaps, in furtherance of that evolution, we should simply insert in the Constitution as paragraph 40 of section 51 a new section to give to the Parliament “ such other powers that it. considers it should possess in the national interest “.
In the past, when referendums have been conducted, many people have considered it would be dangerous to give additional powers to the Parliament in Canberra. Many members of this House are better known to the people of Australia than are the members of their local governing bodies, because, by means of the broadcasting system, the utterances of members of this House are literally taken into the homes of the people. At least, our parliamentary elections are more democratically conducted than are the elections of other bodies in this country. Therefore, generally speaking, the people have nothing to fear in giving additional power to the Parliament. This Parliament is just as worthy of the right to rule in an absolute fashion as is the British Parliament. Sovereignty in Australia should reside in this Parliament. Let us direct our thoughts to convincing the people in this respect.
Recently, I engaged in research to ascertain what copies of the Constitution are available to the citizens ; because, after all, it will be necessary for us to convince at least 2,500 people in a majority of the States of the necessity to amend the Constitution. Honorable members on both sides are agreed in principle on the necessity to amend the Constitution, but we must acknowledge the fact that the people of this country will not vote willy nilly on matters that they do not understand. I suggest that we should embark on an educational campaign, in order to inform the people fully of its provisions. It is not really a very lengthy document. I have before me a copy on which is endorsed “Price, 2s. 3d.”. I urge the Government to issue free an annotated edition of the Constitution, in order to encourage the people to study its provisions.. After all. only the most public-spirited citizens would be prepared to pay 2s. 3d. for a copy. In view of the developments that have taken place in the printing industry, no great strain would be imposed upon it in producing a large number of copies.
The Government ought to issue free not less than 3,000,000 annotated copies of t&e Constitution to the people. That will be our first task, and it will take us some time. I hope that we who have spoken here to-night for the first time will live to see the day when that result has been achieved. I do not think we should despair of taking new steps in the matter of constitutional development or expanding the rights of Australians generally, simply because the Constitution stops us from doing so at present.
I wish now to refer to a matter that is close to my heart - the State education systems. For twenty years, I was a member of the Victorian teaching service, and for twenty years I saw and felt the frustration caused by shortage of finance and the inadequate resources made available to the people who were teaching in the Queen’s schools. In some States those schools are called “ State “ schools, and in other States they are called “ public “ schools, but they are all the people’s schools, and they are the places at which young Australians are nurtured and trained to carry on our traditions. I believe that, in the past, they have suffered a good deal of neglect, partly because of shortage of finance, and partly because many of the people who have had control of our education system have been the products of non-S’tate schools and have not bothered too much about the problems involved. The Government should take action immediately to help to relieve the States of this heavy financial burden.
In Victoria, education takes one-fifth of the annual budget. In Australia, the. total expenditure on education this year will be approximately £60,000,000. That, of course, is not a great sum to the Commonwealth of Australia. But to the States it is of considerable importance. This problem of education is one of great urgency. In Victoria, the State which I know best, the secondary schools are jammed to the doors. The building of additional schools has been undertaken, but the children who are ready to use those schools cannot wait until the nails are driven. Education is a matter of extreme urgency and cannot be deferred. If a child is debarred, because of inadequate accommodation, from entering a secondary school to-day, or if he has to spend his time in makeshift accommodation, he will never be able to regain his lost opportunities and it will be of no use saying to him. in six or seven years’” time, that we have solved his problem.
There are many ways in which the Commonwealth could relieve the States of this great burden, without resorting to constitutional alteration. Section 96 of the Constitution, the section under which we have already started to make grants to the universities, action which has relieved the States of some of their burden, would allow the Government, if it wished, to double expenditure on education. After all, the State education systems have great sources of ability, skill and man-power trained in these matters. It would not even be necessary to create another department of State, or to appoint another Minister. The States would be quite capable of handling the matter.
There are, of course, many small ways in which this Parliament could assist education in the States. I believe that the Australian nation should be able to provide for the teachers in its schools much greater facilities than are provided at present. The Government could set up experimental schools in each State for the purpose of establishing an Australian standard of education. I am completely dissa tisfied, and I know that a great many other people also are dissatisfied, with the standard of our schools. We have all seen school grounds which are dusty, gravelly wastes, and class rooms that are drab. That is not the environment in which to raise young Australians and to hand on to them the culture that we are rapidly acquiring. The education system is the machine belt by which we can pass on our culture and the means of fostering the ideals that have been advocated by honorable members on both sides of this House. The establishment of experimental schools in the States would, therefore, be one method by which the Government could help to relieve the educational burden on the States. Another method would be to enlarge the library service. Australian history has been neglected, and it is almost impossible to obtain cheap publications on most aspects of our history. In my many years of teaching, I always found it much easier to find, in the school library, information about the number of men who landed with Julius Caesar on the coast of Britain in 55 B.C. than information about the number of men who landed at Gallipoli with the Australian Expeditionary Force in 1915.
Until 1926, the Government produced a publication known as the Historical Records of Australia, in which was to be found despatches from our early Governors, and other information to which every citizen ought to be able to turn. Although it is 30 years since publication of those records ceased the Government should take up the task of republishing them, and that it should make available to every secondary school in the Commonwealth a set of those already published. That is the kind of thing that the Australian Government could do, and that is one of the things that is needed in the field of education. I believe that it is impossible for the States, from their present resources, adequately to expand their education systems. The States are battling all the time even to build suffiicent schoolrooms, without even equipping them adequately.
It would be a good idea to send educational or cultural attaches overseas, and also to bring teachers to Australia from overseas, not to relieve the staff shortage in our schools or specially to teach their languages to our reluctant children, but simply to give to our children, in their formative years, the chance to rub shoulders with people of a different culture. One of the disadvantages that we incur is our isolation, due to our geographical position. I suppose that not many of us on this side of the House will have the opportunity to travel widely, nor will the majority of the people of Australia have that opportunity. At least, we should be able to have people from overseas come to live with us and help us to gain experience of their culture. In addition, we should get into the habit of rubbing shoulders with people who have different ideals.
Those are the thoughts that I want to leave with the Government in my first speech in this House. Others in this Parliament have spoken of ideals. I have those ideals, too. That is why I am here, and that is also why the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) are here. If one of the furthest back back-benchers on the Opposition side may be allowed to have any kind of aims at the beginning of his parliamentary career, then these are my aims. If, in the course of my stay here, I am able to alter the Constitution - with the assistance, of course, of the other honorable members of this House - so that it will be more fitting for the Australian nation and so that it will enable the Government to meet national problems as they occur, and if, also, I can help to make the schools of Australia worthy of the Australian children, then I shall feel that my duty has been done.
.- The Speaker of this House, by his re-election, has been honoured by the House, and I am glad indeed of this opportunity to join with other new honorable members in extending to him sincere congratulations. Active campaigning, during the recent election, amongst the people of the electorate that I now have the honour to represent, revealed to me more clearly than before the interest that is displayed in parliamentary broadcasts. Some people listen to the debates and question time of this House and of the Senate as a part of their entertainment, whilst others listen because of the keen interest that they have in everything political; but the majority of those who endeavour to keep abreast of the decisions of the National Parliament and who listen in periodically have been disturbed, and at times shocked, by the conduct of some honorable members. How easy it is for high standards and ideals to be drastically lowered when bitterness takes possession of us! What a disappointment it is to many electors when they see their chosen representatives decline from statesmenlike language to street invective. I am confident that you, sir, as Speaker, will do your utmost to maintain the standard of conduct in this House on a parallel with that of the British House of Commons. Honorable members should all aim at that high and difficult target. In this maiden speech I am pleased to have the opportunity of asking for your sympathetic guidance. With your assistance, I trust that, in company with my new colleagues, I shall he restrained, even when speaking with extreme conviction, and when perhaps the sarcastic retort would give me relief. I hope that I may always remember that I speak for a large number of electors who deserve the very best type of service that I can render.
By way of passing observation, let me say that it was encouraging to notice the emphasis given to certain items in the Governor-General’s Speech - among them, the fostering of manufacturing industries. Notwithstanding all the achievements of the present Government, overall Australian production falls far short of satisfying the Australian demand. I suggest that we should absorb the spirit of some of our friends overseas, find a new conception of work and lift production to a point where we shall not only meet our own requirements but we shall be enabled also to compete in markets elsewhere. Secondly, the export insurance scheme to provide cover to exporters against risk of non-payment should make a helpful contribution to increasing export earnings. Government encouragement is vital if firms are to break into difficult and competitive markets in countries with which contracts or financial adjustments may collapse.
On an occasion such as this I, for one, feel that a positive note should be sounded, and one’s contribution by way of his first speech in this National Parliament should perhaps lay a foundation for later action by the Government. I turn, therefore, to the subject of juvenile delinquency, a universal problem with which other countries are grappling on a very high level in contrast to our national planning - and jet there is the fear that they are engaged in a war which they are in danger of losing. In June, 1954, a national conference on juvenile delinquency was convened in Washington, United States of America at the call of the Secretary for Health, Education and Welfare. This conference was attended by no fewer than 475 selected persons who, by their professions or their links with a wide variety of organizations, could claim a close working association or relationship with youth.
One of the speakers was Senator Robert Hendrickson, chairman of a Senate subcommittee to investigate juvenile delinquency. He dealt with the question “ Why are we losing the fight against juvenile delinquency? “ One cannot wonder at the senator’s taking such a subject. Probably every honorable member of this Parliament has read articles or viewed magazines or films which portray the desperate situation arising out of crime among American juveniles. A special news service only a week ago contained this report -
Chicago’s teenage wolf packs are more vicious than Al Capone, according to police in America’s largest city. “ Al’s boys at least had some sort of sense to their killings,” said Deputy Police Chief Robert Ryan to-day. “ The victims were squealers or competitors or other gangsters. These kids kill indiscriminately. They just walk down the street and knock a guy off. Chicago has had twelve murders since Christmas. Four of the victims had not reached voting agc.”
But for all that has been written about crime in Chicago over the last ten years, the murder rate in Dallas has been over 30 per cent, greater than in. Chicago, and in Atlanta 48 per cent, greater. The influences which cause child delinquency are being spread throughout the whole country, for juvenile crime rears its ugly head not only in the major cities, but virtually in all communities.
In the United Kingdom, the same problem exists and skilled attention is being devoted to the field of youth. During the early years of the recent war a drastic mistake was made in the United Kingdom when organized youth clubs were absorbed in the defence training scheme. To the nation’s credit, when the error was acknowledged, youth clubs, strongly sponsored by the Government, were established on a wider scale. It has been recognized that any positive contribution to assist idle youth cannot, and must not, be looked upon as an area for economy.
In New Zealand, in 1954, the public was startled by the release of reports of immoral conduct among teenagers. So serious was the nation’s concern that a special committee on moral delinquency in children and adolescents was established, and its findings could well represent one of our most helpful and uptodate handbooks on this subject. Among many other .items, these appear in the summary of conclusions in this committee’s report -
Sexual immorality among juveniles has become a world-wide problem of increasing importance.
During recent years the pattern of sexual misbehaviour has changed: it has spread to younger groups; girls have become more precocious; immorality has been organized; thu mental attitude of some boys and girls towards misconduct has altered and there is evidence that homosexuality may be increasing.
The new pattern of juvenile immorality is uncertain in origin, insidious in growth and has developed over a wide field.
Coming nearer home, honorable members will have read with concern of the upsurge of juvenile crime in our various communities. Recently, the Australian Broadcasting Commission announced that in Queensland 32 per cent, of all solved crimes within the year related to the 17-21 years age group. At the same time, the increase of delinquent crime in New South Wales was announced as 18 per cent. In the past, .this young nation may have been considered to be removed from the direct influence of the United States of America and other countries, but the pattern of Australian life is changing rapidly. Our youth is affected by millions of copies of publications and thousands of films which portray an approach to horror and crime basically different from our own. Dress and behaviour have also been influenced by a changing population. I say, therefore, with emphasis, that we need now to accept the fact that we in Australia have a juvenile problem too. But before it gets beyond our control we have a glorious opportunity to adopt positive measures to meet it and defeat it. This nation is proud of its universal training scheme. We may believe that it is good for character building to have army cadet training in our various schools and colleges. It is also good to train our young people to know and respect our national flags. Special grants for education research and scholarships are also most commendable; but in order to produce good citizens we must go a good deal further than that.
Ours needs to be a constant, costly programme of citizenship training. In the final analysis, the overall responsibility for assistance in that direction, as has been found in the United States of America, is the National Parliament. We can no longer leave this growing problem to the States. Let us tackle it on a national basis. The time has surely come to recognize that idle youth soon becomes delinquent youth. Only a percentage of our youth will engage in specialized studies; only a fraction can be influenced to join or associate with some helpful group or social activity under our present administration of the youth field. We have long outgrown the token financial assistance from the Commonwealth approved in 1944 for the National Fitness Council. I would propose to submit practical recommendations in this connexion, and I believe that both the Government and the Opposition should take the broad view that any sensible expense to assist our youth should represent our most certain investment for continued development as a young nation. Personally, I am sure that Australia, by positive visionary action now, could well set an example for the rest of the world in dealing with juvenile delinquency and in introducing a scheme for citizenship training. All that is necessary, Mr. Speaker, is a burning conviction that youths, at all costs, must be considered, and adequate provision made for them.
What are the basic deficiencies causing delinquency? There are social handicaps which exert a real pressure upon youngsters from underprivileged neighbourhoods - overcrowded, unhealthy tenement living; discrimination, grinding poverty, lack of recreation facilities; an atmosphere of crime in the very air they breathe. But, as one professor has observed, it is the emotional tone of the home, not the plumbing, that is likely to prove a decisive determinant of juvenile delinquency. Many delinquent children have parents who can truly be said to poison the atmosphere of the home. Marital conflict between such parents is common; indeed, one authority suggests that tensions in a home where the parents are deeply dissatisfied with each other are more injurious to children than a broken home would be. The attitudes of parents towards children, and children’s conceptions of their parents, differ significantly in comparable groups of delinquents and nondelinquents. One report in America revealed that 60 per cent, of a delinquent group felt their fathers were indifferent or hostile. This was true of one in five among the non-delinquents. In eight cases out of ten, the delinquents felt that their mothers were not deeply concerned about their welfare. The comparable figure for non-delinquents was only three mothers out of ten. Of the groups studied, one-fifth of the mothers worked - mothers of delinquents as well as mothers of non-delinquents. Nevertheless, while seven mothers of delinquents in ten were found giving “ wholly unsuitable “ supervision to their sons, among the nondelinquents only one mother in ten failed in this respect.
Certain social situations can, with considerable assurance, be said to constitute fertile soil for delinquency. These are rejection, tyranny, abuse, frustration, failure, limitation of opportunity, conflict of cultures. This Government has a good record in some of the fields related to this problem. New homes are being built, and the people generally are being encouraged to acquire their own homes under home ownership schemes. Family life and education are being assisted through taxation and social services provisions. Recreation grounds and facilities are planned to-day for most communities. There is, however-, no room for complacency, for much remains to be done. Positive action by the National Parliament is essential. My concern, Mr. Speaker, is that steps be taken, before a more critical stage is reached, to place the problem of juvenile delinquency on a. national level for review, research and remedial action. There is a deplorable lack of uniformity in Australia in respect of statistics, training of personnel, court procedure and correctional institutions. I would like to see the Government convene a widely representative national conference to survey this complete field. The outcome should reveal those areas of responsibility where State and Federal action should be co-ordinated. Such an analysis of the Australian situation would, for the first time, reveal to the nation, surely, how justified is the expenditure of considerable time and finance to remove the physical faults which adversely affect our youth, and to develop and preserve democratic idealism among our young people. We should recognize that post-school youth activity, which can make such a positive contribution to the defeat of juvenile delinquency, needs, at this important stage in our history, to be given great stimulation. Only a percentage of young people respond, after they leave school, to encouragement to engage in technical or advanced education. Not very many readily associate with the established youth organizations. The result is that idle youths are to be found in every community, with the numbers increasing in under-privileged areas.
As I said before, and now emphasize, idle youth soon becomes delinquent youth. Now, sir, to meet this problem, as is also the case in almost every field, trained leadership is required. There is more to youth leadership - particularly the leadership of delinquent youth - than equipping oneself with academic study or completing a short practical course. I envisage the use, in every main city and town of Australia at least, of a specialist trained youth leader who would be available as an adviser, and also a practical leader, to combat developing gangs of delinquents. The Federal Government would be well repaid, if scholarships were awarded to selected young people prepared to devote themselves to this type of youth leadership, so that they may be enabled to gain overseas training in cities where the prevalence of delinquency is more acute than it is in our cities here.
Turning to another practical contribution which is overdue, I find myself mentioning a subject which gives concern to every thinking individual in the nation. Comic books, according to the experts, are blueprints for delinquency. In so many cases they are unabashed chronicles of violence and sex. Dr. Frederic Mertham, psychiatrist and director of the Lafargue Clinic, New York, has written on this subject in his book, Seduction of the Innocent. He says -
In 194S when I estimated that some 00.000,000 comic hooks were published in the
U.S. each month people were incredulous. Today’s circulation figure is in the neighbourhood of 90.000.000 and one crime book - a veritable primer for juvenile delinquency - claims 0,000,000 readers.
Do not let us imagine that Australia is only oil the fringe of this objectional influence. Some 400 different comic books, mostly American in origin, are available in Australia, where at least 1,000,000 copies a week are reprinted for distribution in Australia and New Zealand. The education school at the University of Melbourne recently conducted a survey of 375 of these comics, when it was found that only seven in every 100 - and they were mostly humorous - were not objectionable. The rest included quantities of sordid, ugly comics packed with sex, murder, war or crime.
At present the comics available in Australia have not degenerated to the level of the worst United States examples. Some control is exercised by the Department of Customs and Excise. The State of Queensland has its own act for the purpose of censorship, and recently some 35 comic books were banned. The Victorian Teachers’ Union, within recent weeks, was called to consider a total ban on horror comics because of their influence on child behaviour. Three Australian youngsters have hanged themselves in the past year, copying methods seen in comics. Dr. E. R. Wyeth, of the University of Melbourne, says -
We consider that comics provide the potentially delinquent youngster with a deplorable wealth of material on how to commit a wide variety of crimes. But an even more insidious danger lies in the effect that we believe sordid American comics are having on the general attitude of the teenager - on his evolving set of values, especially as regards race prejudice and sex. There is little doubt in our minds that an unstemmed flood of such vicious publications could contribute to a cumulative lowering of private and hence public morality, through fostering a thoroughly unwholesome attitude on the part of many susceptible youngster towards the true moral values of life.
I believe that any lead given adequately to deal with objectionable literature of this kind will be strongly supported by the Australian public. It should be made a federal matter with its attendant advantages of uniform procedure.
I want now to deal briefly with the only direct Commonwealth assistance to the youth of the nation which I have been able to trace. In 1939 the Common wealth Government entered the field of youth quite inadvertently by the launching of a national fitness movement, which was aimed to stimulate interest in physical fitness, particularly among the young people of the nation. Co-operation of State governments was invited and councils were set up in each State. The sum of £20,000 per annum was provided for a period of five years and courses of physical education were established at four of the six Australian universities. In spite of the war, the movement made remarkable progress and the fund was raised to £72,000 in 1944. Of this, £36,954 was spread amongst the six State national fitness councils for their work in youth service and community physical recreation. An amount of £17,000 was given as supplementary grants to State education departments to stimulate a physical education programme within the schools and the teachers’ colleges, and £12,400 was split between the six Australian universities, either to maintain courses or to provide scholarships for promising young people to train in physical education. The sum of £6,146 was retained for the establishment of a central office at Canberra, and for departmental activities within the Australian Capital Territory.
A great deal has been accomplished during the past ten years. Permanent camps and hostels for youth have been established. Associated youth committtes have brought together voluntary youth organizations, and working together on projects such as Empire Youth Sunday, youth weeks and conferences, much has been done to break down intolerance and prejudice. It is most significant to me that Commonwealth grants for this work have remained static since 1944 and, as the national fitness programme has expanded, State finance has had to increase.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I follow the debut of four maiden speakers to-night. A Paris would have to come to judgment to determine which of them made the best impression. It would suffice for me to say that they all enunciated splendid ideas, and gave a fresh approach with very great eloquence. I was very glad to hear, whether they dealt with the economy or with national development or with the Constitution or with the human problems of our population, that they took a national and a continent-wide view. That is, they did not take a restricted or a negative view of the functions of this Parliament and of this Government; but they took an expansive and a positive one.
I should like to refer to the vital point which was put forward by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) in respect of child delinquency. I suggest that there are three positive steps which the Government might take. Child delinquency is very largely due, as the honorable member himself stated, to the fact that, in an increasingly industrial civilization, it is very difficult for parents to give to their growing families the attention that they would like to give. With our increasing industrialization, we are having the same troubles which have appeared for some time in the United States of America and the United Kingdom; that is, in order to maintain a decent standard of living, the mother has to go to work as well as the father when the youngest child goes to school. The first step that I suggest the Government might take is to see that child endowment for children still at school is at least doubled, because child endowment has not increased during the term of office of this Government. The Government still pays child endowment at the same figure as was paid when the basic wage was half what it is at the moment. I suggest that, with increased child endowment, more mothers would be able to stay at home and look after their children when they come home from school, as I am sure most of them would desire to do.
My second point is that the Government ought to ask the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to determine a decent basic wage in this country; that is, the Government should ask the court to restore the cost of living adjustments each quarter as, two and a half years ago, it asked the court to abolish those adjustments. Then, if the average income in this country rose, as it would rise automatically, by about 15s. a week, another contribution would he made towards having mothers stay at home.
My third suggestion is that a greater contribution ought to be made to see that families are able to secure adequate housing within their means. Although statistics can be quoted to show that Australians, in general, have sufficient rooms and sufficient houses, there is no doubt that those rooms and houses are extremely maldistributed. The people who suffer most from the maldistribution are those with young families because they are the most needy and the ones who feel the pinch through not being able to purchase houses with decent long-term loans at low interest rates. It is perfectly open to this Government, as it has been throughout its six years of office,’ to see that housing is made more readily available, that wages are more adequately adjusted, and that family allowances are more promptly and adequately adjusted also.
I wish to refer to the remarks by the Governor-General on the Senate. There was no great novelty in the GovernorGeneral’s reference to the subject, with all respect to His Excellency. As a matter of fact, the last time that he made a speech opening the Parliament, on the 4th August, 1954, he stated -
A proposal will be submitted to the Parliament for the appointment of a committee of the Parliament representing both Houses and all parties, to review certain aspects of the working of the Constitution, and to make recommendations for its amendment. Among other matters which it is hoped that committee will consider is the method of ensuring in the future some coincidence between the dates of elections for the House of Representatives and of elections for the Senate.
Then, on the 30th September, 1954, the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) asked a question, in reply to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
That matter has engaged the attention of Cabinet, and all that is needed now is that I should find an opportunity to have a talk with the Leader of the Opposition, with whom I should like to confer on the subject . . .. As soon as that is done we shall proceed.
On the 10th November, 1954, at the end of the session, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) asked a question of the Prime Minister, and that gentleman replied -
I regret that there has been some delay in relation to this matter, for which I accept responsibility. I hope to say something about the matter quite soon.
The session ended and the Prime Minister had said nothing. On the 10th January, 1955, the right honorable gentleman said that legislation to appoint the committee would be introduced in the next session of Parliament, probably in April. The proposals, he said, would be sent to the Leader of the Opposition. Towards the end of the next session, on the 27th April, 1955, the Prime Minister said, in answer to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) -
There has been some delay, for which I accept responsibility, in connexion with this matter, but I hope that before long we may be able to establish such a committee and get on with the work.
The Leader of the Opposition, with the commendable patience which he always shows, on the 13th September last asked the Prime Minister another question on the subject. He was told -
I owe the right honorable gentleman an apology in connexion with this matter.
I must say that in my experience of this Parliament it was the first occasion on which the Prime Minister had offered an apology to the Leader of the Opposition. He continued -
Following our oral exchanges, I should have sent him a memorandum in writing before now. . . . However, I shall do so within the next few days.
The session ended and the memorandum had not been sent. Six weeks ago, when the final Senate results were in and it became known that the Government would not, after June of this year, enjoy a majority in that august chamber, the Prime Minister said that he would write on this subject to the Leader of the Opposition. Needless to say, the Leader of the Opposition has not yet received the promised letter.
I have quoted these pleasantries at some length because they show all too well how clearly the Prime Minister appreciates many of the problems which face Australia’s Parliament, and how slowly he grapples with any of them. This, of course, is a problem that has been known to the Government for the last five or six years. In fact, the Government made certain suggestions regarding it in 1950. The Senate appointed a committee, which, under the chairmanship of Senator McKenna, took admirable evidence and furnished an admirable report on the subject of deadlocks between the two Houses. Once, however, the double dissolution of 1951 had given the Government a majority in the Senate, the matter was shelved. We know the anomalies that can arise from having two Houses and having a Senate elected under proportional representation. Such a Senate is very likely to be evenly divided and therefore unable to pass legislation sent up to it from this chamber. The Government is not worried so long as it has a majority in the Senate, but it panics as soon as the Senate is evenly divided or has a majority of senators opposed to the Government.
I must add that I do not share the apprehensions, which many people affect to feel, that the Government will be in a dilemma in the Senate after next June. There will then be in the Senate two persons, belonging to a splinter group, who will be kept adequately on side, one by being treated as the leader of a party and the other by being treated as a deputy leader, both being given male as well as female secretarial assistance, adequate transport allowances and the perquisites pertaining to such positions. For those reasons I would think that the Government had protected its flank very well.
The position in the Senate should have been rectified at a referendum held coincidentally with the Senate election of April, 1953, and therefore more economically than is now possible. It could have been conducted in association with the House of Representatives election in May, 1954, or with the elections for. both Houses last December. Therefore, the proposed referendum will be not only a little belated but also a little expensive. Despite all this, it will be welcome if it provides for real reform of the Senate or, still better, the abolition of the Senate. If it does so, the Government can depend upon the whole-hearted support of Opposition members in this chamber, and probably in the other place as well. One member of the Senate was heard to say recently that it had grown in stature. I think that it would be more accurate to say that the Senate, since its numbers increased six years ago, has grown in girth. As long as there are two Houses of Parliament there will be occasional differences between them.
Wo either give our little Senate laws,
Or sit attentive to its loud guffaws.
The Senate is either superfluous or obstructive, a mere ornament or a sheer impediment. Therefore, I would hope that when the new relationship between the two Houses is put to the people, they will also be able to consider the alternative proposition that the chamber should be abolished.
I hasten to assure honorable members, particularly as I notice that there are in the gallery some gentlemen from another place, that I yield to no one in my admiration for the body of senators as a whole, and for each as an individual. I would say without hesitation that the Senate contains persons as active in the public interest as any in this chamber. I should think that the interests of retiring senators would be adequately safeguarded by providing that, until their 70th birthday, or the termination of the period for which they were last elected, whichever might be the later, they would receive the same perquisites as are received during that period by members of this chamber.
In suggesting the abolition of the Senate one is not doing anything that has not been suggested and, indeed, put into operation, in most other parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, the House of Lords, which I believe holds a comparable position to that of the Senate in Australia, has only the power to delay legislation for one year. In New Zealand, a Nationalist government did away with the legislative council. In the Australian federation we find that Queensland, with only one House of. Parliament, is no less well governed than are the other five States, which have two Houses. In the Canadian federation we find that Quebec, with two Houses of Parliament, isno better governed than are the other nine provinces, which have only one. In the American federation, Nebraska, with one House of Congress is just as well governed as are the other 47 States, which have two. Therefore, the abolition of the Senate would merely bring Australia into line with enlightened political practice in other democracies of the English-speaking world.
The referendum could also seek a public decision on two major problems that were enunciated by His Excellency. In referring to the need for restraint in expenditure, he said -
My advisers want to make it clear that, limited as their powers may be, they will be prepared to use them to the full to counteract an inflation which threatens to inflict deep injury upon our true prosperity.
Those are eloquent and ominous words, and they are also completely vague. What are the Commonwealth’s powers to deal with inflation? We have unlimited power to impose taxation on whatever scale and in whatever fashion we wish. We can place an embargo or any lesser restriction on imports and exports. We can, through our banking power, cut off bank credit. We can, through our domination of the Australian Loan Council, decide the public expenditure of State governments and local and semi-governmental bodies. Wo can also manipulate the currency. No other economic power can be exercised by the Commonwealth. The only clear economic power of the State governments is in relation to securities on land.
Is the problem of inflation in Australia not due very largely to the unbalance between investment in the public and private sectors ? The honorable member for Yarra pointed out the very great increase in gross private investment expenditure. 1 shall give the figures from the year after that in which the horror budget was brought down because one might concede that that year was exceptional. In 1952-53 gross private investment expenditure was £467,000,000. Last year, it was £953,000,000, more than twice as much. Yet public expenditure has been, as the Governor-General said, “ approximately static “. By those words, His Excellency meant that it has been declining. In 1952-53 the State governments received, for all their activities, £190,000,000. Last year they received £180,000,000 and this year they will receive £190,000,000. In 1952-53, local government received £128,000,000 for its public works programme ; last year it received £90,000,000 and this year it will receive £80,000,000. When one compares any sector of private investment, one finds that there has been a very great increase. I believe that it is correct to say that at the present time public investment by the States amounts to less than 4 per cent, of the national income, and three or four years ago it amounted to more than 6 per cent, of the national income.
When we remember that a great deal of our prosperity depends on investment in public services - two incontrovertible fields are transport and power - can we be satisfied with the way in which the economy is being run? How do we meet the position? I suggest that at the same time that the referendum is held to reform, or to abolish, the Senate, there should be a referendum to arm the Commonwealth with powers over interest rates and over capital issues. By obtaining such powers, we can ensure that investment is made in valuable private concerns instead of ‘ in a great number of very trivial matters in which at present investment is greatest. I am not talking of all private concerns when I say that. I concede very readily that some of the big concerns in this country like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited have followed probably a too cautious investment policy. At least they have made vast investments in our basic industries. If we were to have this power over capital issues, although it may be difficult to get it by referendum, and particularly over interest rates, we could ensure that investment was directed into valuable fields and not trivial ones. Eight professors of economics have advocated increased taxation and increased interest rates. In the presence of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) I do not propose to say more about these professors of economics, two of whom are on the Government economic committee. Increased interest rates appear to be a policy of despair. The mere fact that the Commonwealth and States cannot control the interest rates allowed on debentures or shares or sundry borrowings does not mean that we must have increased interest rates on bank overdrafts for whatever purpose or on housing or public loans.
This Government has already shown the folly and ineffectuality of such an interest spiral. Ever since the depression, the overdraft rate in this country in the case of the Commonwealth Bank had been 4^ per cent, till the 29th July, 1952, when it went up to 4f per cent, and at the same time the savings bank interest rate went UP by i per cent. Again in January of last year it rose a further per cent. Commonwealth loans which had always been filled during the war and the postwar period under the Curtin and Chifley Governments at 3J per cent., indeed under the Chifley Government at 3$ per cent., had their interest rates raised to 3f per cent, in August, 1951, and to 4i per cent, in November, 1952. At the same time the interest rate in respect of housing went up, and everybody had to pay more on an existing or future loan from a building society or trading bank. In furtherance of the same trend, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was referred to in His Excellency’s Speech, there will again be an increase of the interest rate of 1-J per cent, for people who buy housing commission houses.
There is no future in just increasing the interest rate on vital and sound investments in order to get some investment in those fields. The proper thing is to seek power over interest rates and capital issues and thus see that investment is directed into essential things, and diverted from unessential things.
Another field in which I suggest the Government should seek authority by referendum is in connexion with industrial powers. I last suggested that there should be a referendum on this subject on the 1.2th November, 1953, shortly after the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, for the first time in a generation, did away with the quarterly costofliving adjustments in its awards. It was then already plain that some of the States would follow the same policy in their awards and that some would not. All the States have followed the policy of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court except Queensland and Victoria, and, in the last quarter, New South Wales. This experiment was followed and failed. The result is that we have a provocative diversity in industrial conditions in Australia.
There is no way to cure such a situation until this Parliament has power over industrial conditions. The power has been sought on about six occasions by governments of various political complexions - Labour and Liberal - including governments under the various aliases adopted by the Liberals from time to time. I must confess that some Labour people have not supported the grant of industrial powers to this Parliament, when the Liberals have advocated them, but there have been some others like the late Mr; Chifley and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who have publicly proclaimed that they have never voted against the grant of powers to the Australian Parliament. There is no need to be defeatist about the prospects of such a referendum, because in 1946 the majority of the people voted that this Parliament should have power over industrial matters, and the Parliament did not get the power only because there was a majority in only three of the six States. It has been stated by a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir John Latham, on a very great number of occasions that it is necessary for this Parliament to have that power. Therefore, we could try that referendum again, and after the experience and chaos of the last two and a half years, the Australian people would probably repose that power in the Australian Parliament. If a government abused the power, it would go out of office at the next election. 1 now refer briefly to the biggest single contribution we can make towards eliminating unnecessary expenses, and that is in the sphere of transport. As the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Eraser) pointed out. one-third of the national income is now spent on transport. It is therefore high time that powers over many forms of transport were reposed in this Parliament. That became plain in November, 1954, when the Privy Council threw out State legislation on interstate road transport, legislation which had successfully withstood challenges in the nigh Court for a quarter of a century. As a consequence, that legislation could no longer he availed of by the States to improve interstate highways. In June last, legislation which the States had introduced in substitution was declared invalid by the High Court, and since then none of the States has been able to devise valid transport legislation.
The only way in which roads can be effectively financed - inter-capital roads are the chief ones - is through an excise tax on fuel, which this Parliament alone can impose.
We can introduce greater efficiency on the waterfront. It is high time that the people who man the terminal facilities on the wharfs were placed on the public pay-roll, as are those who handle the terminal facilities on the railways. If the wharf labourers were put on the public pay-roll, we could select the mel who were to go into the industry, instead of leaving the selection to union officials, of whom many are Communists. We would also ensure that the people in a vital industry were given security in employment instead of being, alone among major transport employees, merely employed on a casual basis. We would, above all, obtain efficient and responsible management.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fairbairn) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to take this opportunity to direct the attention of the House to a most serious matter. That is the improper use of the security service in an endeavour to intimidate a citizen exercising his democratic rights to interview a member of this Parliament in order to bring a matter to his attention. This particular gentleman evidently has a very interesting story to tell, but time will not permit me this evening to relate all that he may tell. He is a gentleman who is known to the Government. He is particularly known to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) because, away back in 1951, this man wrote to the Prime Minister. I do not intend to mention his name at this juncture, but he said that he wrote to the Prime Minister asking for the assistance of the Government in forming an international democratic alliance for the purpose of combating communism in Australia. This chap is a new Australian. I understand that hi3 object was to form this organization to organize new Australians to oppose the growth of communism in this country. He duly received an acknowledgment signed by Mr. A. S. Brown, secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department. Nothing happened for about four months, until the 19th March, 1952, when he received another communication signed by Mr. A. S. Brown, secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, in which he said - 1 refer again to your representation in connexion with your proposal to form an organization entitled The International Democratic Alliance.
I understand that a Commonwealth Security Officer has since been in direct touch with yon concerning this matter.
The security officer did not discuss the proposition with this new Australian, but he did induce the new Australian to do some work for the security service. This is the work upon which he was engaged. He was given to understand that Dr. Bialoguski had under surveillance h member of the Russian legation whom it was hoping would defect at an early date. Strangely enough, the security service doubted the bona fides of Dr. Bialoguski. It was not satisfied as to whether he was working genuinely for the Australian community or the Australian Government or whether he was in fact a Russian agent, and it put this other new Australian on to watch Dr. Bialoguski, who was employed by the security service watching Mr. Petrov.
In order that this new Australian might be able to carry out his work more effectively, he joined with Dr. Bialoguski in the distribution of liquor which was obtained improperly through diplomatic channels. On one occasion when Dr. Bialoguski was asked where he was obtaining these supplies of liquor, he said he was getting them through diplomatic channels with the aid of “ that thief Petrov “. This particular gentleman was known to the New South Wales police as being engaged in this traffic, but it was also known to the New South Wales police that he was working on behalf of security and, therefore, he was not apprehended, although they knew that this was going on.
Now I come to the point to which 1 want to direct the attention of the. Government. The security service has an important function to perform in this country, but, in my opinion, it is not part of the duty or work of the security service to intimidate Australian citizens, whether they be new Australians or old Australians, who want to interview a member of this Parliament in order to bring any matter to his notice. This particular gentleman, no doubt encouraged by the success that Dr. Bialoguski and Mr. Petrov had had in selling their story to the Australian newspapers, approached the Daily Mirror in .Sydney, and the Daily Telegraph, to publish his story. They were interested at first. There is correspondence in existence to indicate that they were interested in the story. They had been interested in the earlier stories published by Dr. Bialoguski and by Mr. Petrov and Mrs. Petrov. But suddenly, after he had interviewed tha representatives of the newspapers, he was visited by security officers. Those security officers questioned him as to whether it was a fact that he had approached a member of this Parliament, and they wanted to know what he had discussed with the member of Parliament. They further indicated to the chap that they knew he had been to two of the newspapers to sell his story. According to my information, they said, “ We are not worried about Dr. Bialoguski; you can say what you like about him ; but do not say anything about the Commonwealth security service “. Strangely enough, after this interview, the newspapers lost all interest in the story.
There is no doubt in the world that security had been informed about what was happening. I should like this gentleman to be given the opportunity of telling his story. Where is this great vaunted freedom of the press that we hear so much about from time to time? There was any amount of space available in the daily press to publish the story of this scoundrel Bialoguski. There is no doubt that if this chap is allowed to tell his story it will be proved. This gentleman is well known to security and to the Government. I understand he served with British security overseas before he came to this country. His work was known. I suggest to the Government that it ought to make some investigation. L do not know the names of the Commonwealth security officers who interviewed this gentleman. If I knew the names, I would give them to the Government, but it ought not to be very difficult to find out who it was who interviewed this particular chap to intimidate him and to mako it plain to him that as a new Australian he should do certain things. I do not know whether he is naturalized as yet, or whether it has been said to him that unless he does what security wants him to do and refrains from telling his story to members of this Parliament, he may be sent out of the country, but I understand that that is one of the suggestions that have been conveyed to him.
I want the Government to investigate this matter. I want it to discover who were the security officers who approached this particular man. I likewise want it to :v.r::cate to this Parliament exactly what type of work this man was supposed to be engaged upon for security. It could check up on his bona fides. I am prepared to let the Prime Minister or any member of the Government who cares to investigate it know the name of this particular man. I told the Government some considerable time ago. There is no doubt in the world that if the Government is game enough to have an investigation, it will prove that my allegations are based on facts. My allegation is that for a period great quantities of spirituous liquors were being brought into this country through diplomatic sources, free of duty, and were being peddled on the Australian market at great profit to the people who were engaged in this particular traffic. The Government would not do anything about it because the particular gentlemen in whom it was interested at the time - Dr. Bialoguski and Mr. Petrov - were the gentlemen who were securing supplies of liquor to be placed on the Australian market. It is known to the New South Wales police, as it is known to many other people, that they were engaged in this traffic.
Let me say finally to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table, that my purpose in rising to-night is to protest against this im- prover use of the Commonwealth security service. I think it is a most serious thing in a democratic country. Lt is a tactic that one would expect to be employed in a police state. The security service is endeavouring to intimidate Australian citizens. It does not matter how long they have been in this country. Whether they have been here long enough to become naturalized British subjects or not, they are Australian citizens, and they have a right to approach any member of this Parliament if they want a matter ventilated. I suggest that the Government ought to regard this as a very serious matter, and conduct an immediate investigation into the allegations that I have made.
– I. have a matter that I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon). As the Minister is aware, certain woolgrowers have been deprived, over a period of six or seven years, of their share of joint organization profits by reason of the litigation known as the Poulton case. Briefly, the facts are that, during the war, certain dealers were allowed to buy wool direct from growers and subsequently submit it for appraisal, Some of those dealers, in order to induce the growers to sell wool to them, promised that, when the wool was sold by the acquisition authority, if the profits were paid to the dealers, they would pay those profits back to the wool-growers in any event. As the Minister will recall, the present Government passed legislation directing that the profits should go to the growers in any event, and not to the dealers. Some of the dealers took legal action, with Mr. Poulton as the nominal plaintiff, to contest the validity of that legislation.
One thing that has always puzzled me is the delay that has occurred in bringing this litigation to finality. Although Poulton and his colleagues have professed that they want, this money, there does not seem to have been any great hurry on their part at any sta:e to obtain a legal decision. Indeed, I think that, when the matter was first before the High Court of Australia, it was the Australian Government that took action to have it brought on for hearing. Since the High
Court decided in favour of tile Government, there have been indications that application will be made for leave to appeal to the Privy Council. But. again, there has been a long period of delay. The net result is that a total of some £2,000,000 has been tied up. That may not seem much to a government that deals in thousands of millions of pounds, but it means a great deal to individual woolgrowers to have £500, £600, or even £1,000, tied up over a period of six or seven years. We are now beginning to see why the private dealers who agreed to pay this money back to the wool-growers in any event have joined in this litigation and are actively engaged in keeping the money tied up. lt seems that they hope by some means or other to claim commission. If the money is paid through them to the growers, instead of directly by the Commonwealth to the growers, the dealers may hope to claim commission. Thai., of course depends on the original bargain with the woolgrowers from whom they bought their wool.
There is one aspect of this matter that is a little more disturbing. It was recently brought to my attention that one firm in Western Australia had circularized growers offering to release the Australian Government from any liability to the dealers - in other words, to free the money tied up by the Poulton case, if the growers would undertake to pay commission of 3 per f-ent. on that money when they received it direct from the Commonwealth. Of course, a farmer who has been waiting six or seven years to collect £500 or more, which he would gladly use on his farm at any time, is subject to great temptation to accede to the request. If he did so, he would get his money immediately instead of having to take the chance of litigation - and I suppose that, although the High Court decided unanimously that the Commonwealth legislation was valid, there is a chance that that decision may be upset, and the grower might then have to pay commission to the dealer in any event - or having to wait, possibly for an indefinite period, to receive the money from the Australian Government without any deductions. In those circumstances, there is a great temptation tor the growers to yield to the pressure of the dealers, pay them 3 per cent, now, and let them give a release to the Australian Government, which will then pay the money direct to the growers.
I suggest that the Minister should inquire into the situation that has arisen and that, if he finds what I have said to be correct, he should make a clear and positive statement that the matter will be brought to finality as soon as possible. If possible, he should give some indication of the date by which it will be brought to finality, and he should state in clear terms that there is no obligation on any of the growers to pay commission to the private dealers. If the growers are prepared to wait for a little while and take their chance on the result of the litigation, I should say that there is a good chance that, they will get the money without the deduction of any commission. As the litigation has dragged on for so many years, and is apparently approaching finality, the dealers seem to be trying to cover themselves by collecting some commission. Though their action may be perfectly legal, it seems grossly unfair that dealers who have been partly responsible for farmers being kept waiting six or seven years, or longer, for their money, should now try to cash in and extract commission from the farmers. Therefore, I ask the Minister to publicize the exact position. The farmer who is in urgent need of the money will probably pay the commission, but, if publicity is given to the matter, farmers will at least be encouraged to wait a little longer and not suffer the deduction of commission from money that is realy theirs.
– I am very glad to see that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who is about to relinquish control of the War Service Homes Division, and his successor designate, who is at present in the position of having power without glory, are both present in the House to hear about a very serious matter. I refer to the distress that has been caused by the backlog of applications for assistance from the division. Let me say to the retiring Minister that his administration and the administration of the division are not challenged at the administrative level, although the ‘Government’s policy is challenged. The net result of that policy is to drive the ex-serviceman seeking a home, and already in receipt of approval for a loan from the division, into the hands of the black-market interest operator who exacts a charge of 10 per cent. I have a simple but effective case to put before I lie Minister. I do not raise the matter from the viewpoint of Labour visavis Liberal, or Opposition vis-a-vis Government. I ask the Minister and his successor designate to try to find a formula that will assist these ex-servicemen who suffer real distress after they have received advice from the War Service Homes Division that their application for assistance is approved, but that they must wait for a specified period before the money is available to them.
Let us get down to reality in these matters. Let us consider the statistics and see whether, between us, we can arrive at a solution of the problem. The War Service Homes Division has received an allocation of £30,000,000 for the current financial year. I am sure the Minister will agree that that is so. I believe the division’s allocation last financial year also amounted to £30,000,000. The last advice that we in this House received was that there were 30,000 applicants for assistance, to 11,000 of whom advances were made. That leaves a backlog of between 19,000 and 20,000 applications. Let us leave it at 19,000.
– Only 60 per cent, of the applications are effective. The honorable member has the wrong figures.
– The figures I have used are those that were given to the House. If we accept the Minister’s statement that only 60 per cent, of the applications are effective, we are left with about 10,000 applicants still waiting for assistance. This makes the case I am going to present all the more direful in its implications of the lack of imagination on the part of the Government and of lack of fluidity of advances to ex-servicemen for the essential requirement of home building. The interest rate on advances from the War Service Homes Division being low, there is a growing desire to take advantage of assistance from the division.
This is what happens in one aspect of the division’s activities. I shall not deal to-night with the question of new homes built by the division and occupied by exservicemen. I shall deal now with the man who is in a desperate position, and who lives in a flat, or with his in-laws, and whose housing is perhaps sub-standard and out of all consonance with Australian living standards. In his desperation he clutches at a straw. He does even more than that. By the combined efforts of himself, his wife, his friends, his sympathizers and his local member of Parliament, he obtains a house somewhere in the electorate, or even elsewhere. He ascertains the valuation of the house. It is inspected and a loan is approved by the War Service Homes Division. They then say, “ Your £2,750 loan is made available, but you have fifteen months to wait “. The Minister agrees that that is the procedure. I want to know why, in the name of sweet reasonableness, there should be a lag over that period. Is it because the provision of £30,000,000 for this purpose is inadequate, as very obviously it is? I notice that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is in the chamber. Is it because the Government has become terrified of inflation? If the Government, or the Deputy Leader of the Government tells me that it is afraid te invest in housing for ex-servicemen, the sort of capitalism which the Government represents is finished; it could not be otherwise. Considering the matter from the aspect of the infiltration of communism, treatment of this kind produces discouraged and disheartened men. The points I want to make can be made clearly in the cases of Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. They are ex-servicemen in my electorate, and I do not want to use their names. The first man says -
I am an ex-serviceman, and my problem is with War Service Homes and the delay which is occurring in the settling of claims. My loan of £2,750 was approved last March, and my builder went ahead, and now the home is finished, to be precise, it is finished to-day. After contacting War Service Homes, they advised me it would take a further eight to twelve weeks for this money to be paid over to my builder and to discharge the mortgage. Having been assured that the money was immediately available I contracted with the- building society, which is now charging me f 5 a week until I get into occupation of my home. My advice is that whether I repudiate this amount or not I am legally obliged to pay this to a week, and I am wondering where the cheap interest rate and the service to exservicemen comes in from the present Government.
Mr. Y, who is a technician in a Sydney factory, by the combined efforts of Robin Hood, little Joan of Arc, and Hercules, got himself a house in Sydney, an existing property, at a reasonable price, and after being assured by the department that it would be another twelve or fifteen months before the money would be available, although the loan was granted, he did what the normal man would do and went to the local branch of the Commonwealth Bank where he has an account. A sympathetic manager said, “Yes, I think we can do something for you. There is a provision, or a government instruction in relation to these cases. I will look it up”. He looked it up, and he came back and said, “I am sorry, old man. If it will take longer than nine months to get your money from the War Service Homes Division we cannot do a thing for you “. Who fixed the period of nine months? Who put the X there, because the whole matter is so ridiculous? In very few cases is the waiting period less than between twelve and fifteen months.
The case of Mr. Z is the same as that of Mr. Y. This is the position that we arrive at, which applies only to existing properties. The Minister knows cases of this type, because he has handled so many of them. These people get a house and they obtain approval of an advance. They think, “ If I could only get the money instead of the promise of the advance, I would get into a home”. There are two aspects of the matter. There is the domestic aspect, because the family is overcrowded, concerned and in difficulties, and there is the financial aspect. They resolve one difficulty. A house is ready for occupation because of the sympathy of the occupier, who is prepared to get out. But they cannot get the money from the War Service Homes Division. Where do they get the money, instead of waiting for fifteen months? It is, of course, ridiculous to think that any vendor would wait for that period of time. They do get the money, but they get. it through the black market at 10 per cent. I say that the war service homes legislation, which has stood in two wars, has been degraded and desecrated by the Government’s failure to face up to what appears to me to be a simple problem of loosening this money. What happens? These people go to the Commonwealth Bank and they are told that the money can be advanced to them if the waiting period is only nine months. The War Service Homes Division says, “ You must wait fifteen months “. They go to their solicitor, who says, “ It is bad, but I have a trust company which is prepared to lend you the money”. I have statutory declarations, which I am prepared to give to the Minister, that show that in no less than 15 cases of residents in my electorate, applications have been made and money has been loaned from trust funds at 10 per cent. If that is not disgraceful, I should like somebody to tell me what is.
The Treasurer and Government supporters talk about their eight economists. There i3 a black market in interest and the first victim of it is the ex-serviceman in his necessity, and he ought to have a better go than he is getting. I do not think that it is an impossible problem. I just cannot understand that the difficulties are so immense that they cannot bo overcome. I know that the Minister has been most sympathetic and I know that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who will become his successor, will in turn be most sympathetic, but we want something more than sympathy. We want some dynamic action. We may get some explanation from the Treasurer as to why the problem cannot be met. The provision of £30,000,000, of course, will not meet requirements. What is wrong with £60,000,000 or £90,000,000? Will it wreck the economy to have these things done? All that the Government would be doing in return for the work of the exservicemen would be providing them with a home at a low rate of interest under a scheme that has worked successfully since the original legislation was introduced. The sad and horrible thing is that the pressure on the home-seeker is at its highest peak on the ex-serviceman, who is being mulct to the tune of 10 per cent.
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Mallee proposes to discuss another subject.
– The Minister may speak only once in reply. He does not know what is coming.
– Although we have many honorable members from industrial areas, and we hear many glowing speeches about productivity in those areas and what it means to Australia, I believe that there is not the slightest doubt in the mind of any man who looks into the matter that Australia is still dependent on its primary industries. I believe that everything in this country has been built from primary production, and our present prosperity is due, not largely but almost wholly, to the products of the soil. To-night, I desire to draw attention to something which is vitally important to the continuance of prosperity at r, high level. I refer to the need for the Government to make an early announcement of the extension of the depreciation allowance far primary producers as a special taxation deduction. “What is the history of this allowance? It operated for some years up to the end of last June, and it was then extended by the Government for twelve months. That period concludes at the end of June next.
– Who introduced this depreciation allowance?
– I can answer that readily. The present Government introduced it. Labour never thought of it, or never put it into operation. The depreciation allowance has done much to foster primary production, which we need so much at this stage of our history. At present we want to boost our primary production so that our trading may he brought into balance. On the 27th October, 1955. in this chamber, I raised this matter, and I might be excused for quoting the last few words of what I said on that occasion, so that the House will know that this is not the first time I have brought the subject to its notice. On that occasion I said -
I hope that the Treasurer will give early consideration to a further extension of the application of the special depreciation allow ance to primary producers. I think it should be extended for at least another three years from the end of next June. Five years is sometimes thought to be too long a period for which to extend such a provision, but three years is certainly not too long. I also wish to point out the wisdom of making a decision on this suggestion as’ early as possible, because primary producers have to plan their programmes ahead and an early decision on my suggestion would assist such planning and benefit Australia.
Every one in Australia, knows that the primary producer has to budget sometimes for two years ahead. If the announcement is made tonight, he will know it only about four months in advance.
– What announcement?
– The announcement that the Government will continue to extend the depreciation allowance to primary producers. If it is said that this if a matter of policy, I believe that the Government’s policy is to foster primary production. I am happy to see both the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) in the chamber, because they surely consider the fostering of primary production to be Government policy. This allowance has proved to be one of the greatest benefits to primary producers, and it must continue. As the member for Mallee, a great primary producing electorate, I have many constituents coming to me to ask, “What is the Government going to do about it? “ All that I can say is, “ I brought the matter up last October, but I have heard nothing in the meantime “. I think the time has come for the Government to say whether it is going to extend this allowance. If it is going to do so, the primary producers should know now, so that they can plan their programmes. Any primary producer who wants to plan for full production must know the Government’s decision at the earliest possible moment.
Everybody knows what a great benefit to primary production an extension of the allowance would be. We want greater primary production. I ask the Treasurer, the Minister for Primary Industry and other members of the Government to give this matter early consideration, so that primary producers will know where they will stand in the future in relation to this special taxation allowance which has proved to be so beneficial in the past, not only to primary producers but. also to the whole of Australia.
– I assure the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) that this matter is receiving consideration. Consultations are taking place between the Treasury and the Department of Primary Industry. It is, of course, a matter of policy that must receive the consideration of Cabinet, but I assure the honorable member that it is on the agenda for consideration at the earliest possible moment.
– My’ colleague and friend, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), raised the question of the Poulton case, which I have been considering during the last few days. I think we could very quickly prepare a statement that would satisfy him, setting out the facts and giving some indication to primary producers of the date on which the case is likely to be finalized before the Privy Council. I think, too, that other useful facts can be set out, so that primary producers will not be beguiled into obtaining advances from dealers at discounts of between 2 per cent, and 3 per cent. As soon as I have had a paper prepared which I think can be used for general distribution, I shall consult him. If he thinks it would be wise to distribute it, I shall have it distributed and, if necessary, published in the newspapers. I do not want to commit myself on this matter, but I think it is hoped that a decision will be made by the Privy Council in the very near future.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to war service homes. I think he knows the facts just as well as I do, because towards the conclusion of the last Parliament I went to great trouble to assemble all the facts and present them to the House. I did so because I thought there was an obligation on us to let the Opposition know just as much as was known by the department. One cannot divorce the problem of providing homes for ex-servicemen from the problem of providing homes for people in other sections of the community, nor can we completely ignore the general position of the building industry in this country.
I think it would have been wise if the honorable gentleman had looked at the problem of war service homes in the light of the position of the building industry. If he were to look at the problem in that way, I believe he would come to the conclusion that this is not a time at which any government would be willing to provide extra funds for building. If it did so, prices would be boosted and it is very doubtful whether many more homes would be provided with the extra funds. I mention to him, as one example of a way in which the building industry has developed, perhaps to an unnecessary extent, during the course of the last few years-
– These are existing houses. They have not got to be built.
– The honorable gentleman asked whether we were frightened of inflation. So long as he is content that an answer has been given to one of the questions he has asked, I am happy. If lie asks a question, he will get a reply to it, even if he does not want one. Let me remind him that in 1953, there were 99,500 people employed in the building industry and that to-day there are 120,000. There has been an increase by 21 per cent, of the number of people employed in the building industry since June, 1953, but there has been only a 7 per cent, increase of total civilian employment throughout the Commonwealth since then.
I could go on in this way for a considerable time. I think the facts indicate that it would be a mistaken policy for this Government, or any other government in Australia, to pump further money into the building industry at present. In fact, the sensible course would be to try to get some reduction of the building industry throughout the Commonwealth. I put the matter in this way. If very much more money were pumped in, whether for expenditure on home building, civilian building or public works programmes, the probability is that costs would rise and inefficiency would creep in.
– Money is still being pumped in, but interest is charged at 1 0 per cent, instead of 3$ per cent. The money comes from moneylenders. The Government does not stop that, so it is creating super-inflation.
– I do not know about that. The honorable gentleman referred to the purchase of existing homes. Although I have heard many accusations about usury, it is an amazing thing that, so far, not a single member of the Opposition has bought a concrete case to me and asked me to look at it to see whether anything could be done. The honorable gentleman says that he has fifteen statutory declarations relating to his own electorate. Let him give them to me. If he does so, I shall look at them to see whether I can do something.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) made some extravagant accusations and said he could mention the name of an individual. When I asked him, by interjection, whether he would give me the name, he turned tail, funked it, ran to his corner and refused to give the name. This is an extraordinary practice. Allegations are made in the House, but when I ask honorable members opposite to produce a case to me so that I can have a good look at it in order to find out if it is a case of real hardship, and so that, if it is, I can make a sincere and honest attempt to do something to relieve the hardship-
– Hern is the name. It is in the document that I hand to you.
– The honorable member would not give it to me before. He had to be forced to do so against his will. If these cases are given to me, I shall have a look at them. I should like to have the fifteen statutory declarations made by people living in the electorate of the honorable member for Parkes. I wonder whether he can produce them. I ask him to show me fifteen statutory declarations dated before to-day. It will be very interesting to see them, if he has them. If he has the interests of those people so much at heart, what an amazing thing it is that he has not already presented the documents to me and asked that the cases be looked at ! Let me deal with the provision of funds. This Government is making a record allocation of £30,000,000.
– That will build about half as many houses as £30,000,000 would have built in 1949.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must remain silent.
– This Government has made substantially greater amounts of money available for the provision of war service homes than any previous government. I cannot cover the whole of this subject to-night, but I shall repeat a statement that I have made before. I think it should be repeated whenever the Opposition raises its voice on this problem. Between June, 1950 and June, 1955, this Government has provided 74,000 homes for ex-servicemen. During the period from the 6th March, 1919, to the 30th June, 1955, only 91,000 homes were provided, at a cost of £169,000,000. Rome was not built in a day. We cannot provide everything for the ex-serviceman when he asks for it. I have had the good fortune to sit on the ex-servicemen’s committee of Cabinet for the last three years. I venture to say that the leadersof the ex-servicemen’s movement will be prepared to enter the Cabinet room and advise the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) and those who sit around him that never before have they had a better deal than they have received from the Menzies Government during the period from 1950 to 1955. We are proud that we have been able to do this job, and we shall continue to do it because we are proud to have the responsibility of providing homes for exservicemen. We do not think for one instant that we can solve all their problems in a moment; but we believe that the problems are being rapidly solved, and we hope that by the end of the term of this Government there will be very few exservicemen who do not own their home.
.- I desire to say a few words about the war service homes problem, and to strip the matter of all the evasion that has been indulged in by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon). The plain fact is that this Government adopts the attitude that it should not make available more than a specific sum of money annually for the provision of war service homes, but, at the same time, it informs the ex-servicemen’s organizations of this country, and ex-servicemen individually, that if an ex-serviceman, -pending the arrival of the end of his waiting period, can raise finance from an outside source - a bank or a building society or through trust funds - he can go ahead and commence to build his house provided he assures the War Service Homes Commissioner of his intention and provided that his plans are satisfactory.
– Does that refer to old homes or new homes?
– Whether an old home or a new home is involved is beside the point, A so-called old home is considered to be old only because a private contractor has built it. It may not be more than three months old. In some instances, it may not be more than three weeks old. Nevertheless, the War Service Homes Commissioner will not purchase such homes because the funds made available to his organization are inadequate; and as a result the soldier has to wait fifteen months. He can get a home constructed almost immediately if he is lucky enough to have a rich uncle in Fiji, if he is prepared to pay high interest rates to a banking institution or if he knows a solicitor with trust moneys to invest. In those circumstances the pressure is not lessened on the available supplies of labour and material but is actually accentuated, because contractors are building in anticipation of ex-servicemen being able to get private finance. Consequently, the reply given by the Minister that if the Government makes more finance available it will increase the pressure for materials and labour is sheer humbug and does not square with the facts. The private contractor knows that if the ex-serviceman can arrange private finance, or if the contractor himself can supply it, he can go ahead with the construction of houses, and thus he increases the pressure in the building market for both men and materials. The net result is that in this country to-day thousands of exservicemen are paying higher interest rates to outside organizations than they would be obliged to pay to the War Service Homes Division which was established in this country to give to the ex-serviceman the benefit of lower interest rates and other concessions in the purchase of homes.
If the statement of the Minister squared with the facts and no funds were being made available from outside sources at higher interest rates, he would be justified in saying that the Government will not make available additional funds because it seeks to prevent inflation and pressure on the building market. All the Government is doing to-day is helping private banking institutions, solicitors with trust funds to invest, and all sorts of people to lend funds at higher interest rates. These people, of course, are helping ex-servicemen to a degree; but, nevertheless, they are depriving ex-servicemen of the lower interest rates and concessions which the people of Australia believe they are entitled to. That is a damning indictment of the Government’s attitude in this matter, and it is high time that members of the Parliament who are ex-servicemen jacked-up against the Government and ejected it neck and crop.
– It is a racket.
– Of course, it is a racket. The need to make additional funds available for the construction of war service homes has nothing whatever to do with inflation.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 36
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Mb. Townley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice - 1, Are rural automatic telephone exchanges yet being manufactured in Australia or are all units still being imported?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Administrative Building at Toowoomba.
z asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.No.
z asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice - 1, Have arrangements been completed for the erection of the hangar which was transferred from Maryborough to the Cairns airport?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Oil Pollution of Western Australian Beaches.
Air. Webb asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Western Australian beaches are being polluted by oil dumped in the sea from ships V
Has Great Britain ratified an international convention aimed at preventing pollution of the sea by oil and passed the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, which provides for a maximum penalty of £-1,000 for this offence?
Will he state whether it is intended to seek ratification of this convention and whether legislation is proposed providing for penalties for this offence?
Air. Townley. - The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following answers : -
. There have been several cases of oil pollution in Western Australia.
Discussions are now proceeding with State authorities on the measures necessary in Australia to enable the convention to be ratified by the Commonwealth.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 February 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560222_reps_22_hor9/>.