22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer, whether it is a fact that the Prime Minister is at present indisposed owing to alleged fatigue resulting from his recent tour of Eastern countries. Is it a fact also that, on the evening following the right honorable gentleman’s arrival in Canberra from overseas, he returned to Sydney to attend a gathering of business men? If so, did the physical exhaustion which is preventing the right honorable gentleman from attending in the Parliament begin to manifest itself only some time after his return to Australia?
– I refuse to answer the question.
– I wish to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Has the right honorable gentleman seen a report of a public statement by the Leader of the Opposition that “ the time was ripe for a brave assertion of moral leadership in the banning of nuclear tests “? If the Minister has seen a report of this public statement, will he indicate the Government’s views on such a proposal?
– I did read of the statement with some astonishment. I think it was just before Easter that the Leader of the Opposition not only appeared to advocate, but did in fact advocate, unilateral abandonment of nuclear weapons tests. The simple fact is that we cannot have nuclear defence without testing nuclear weapons, just as we cannot develop new tanks or aircraft without testing them. This Government’s policy is that nuclear defence must be maintained by all countries that are in a position to maintain it, unless and until there is an internationally agreed scheme for the limitation of both nuclear and orthodox armaments, accompanied by a rigid and water-tight system of inspection so that, once the scheme has been agreed upon, neither side can depart from it and, in popular parlance, do the dirty on the rest of the world. The most strenuous possible efforts to achieve disarmament have been made, in particular by Great Britain anr1 the United States of America, for a number of years now. I commend those efforts and the many proposals that have been advanced for the attainment of this end to the attention of not only the Leader of the Opposition but also of Opposition members generally.
It is always possible, of course, to have what is called peace if you are prepared to give in to the other side. I do not believe that the democratic side, as exemplified in particular by our Mother Country, Great Britain, and the United States is willing to give in to the other side. The inference of the Leader of the Opposition’s statement just before Easter was that if our side were to make a high moral gesture and give up nuclear tests, this would be followed by a moral gesture from the Soviet Union. Well, I know of no evidence whatsoever to give one the slightest hint that Russia would follow a moral lead of that nature. I do not believe that Russia is motivated by moral considerations at all. Anyone who is in any measure of doubt on that subject might consider what went on in Hungary in October and November.
– I rise to order. The Minister is making a statement on the question of control of nuclear weapons. Under the Standing Orders he may do that, but he should not abuse the hospitality of the House by inspiring questions so that he can make long-winded speeches.
– -The Minister is in order.
– I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Speaker. It is not guesswork to say that the propaganda that is going on throughout the world now against the British nuclear weapon tests at Christmas Island, in the Pacific, is motivated by Soviet Russia. I draw the honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that Soviet Russia has been exploding nuclear weapons at the rate of about one a week over the last month or so. This world-wide agitation is intended, presumably, to appeal to the minds of people who have not given this matter any very great consideration, and it is an effort to stop Great Britain emerging as a nuclear power. ‘
Sir, I have every reason to believe that what I have said represents the policy of the Government. I believe that it would be entirely suicidal to yield to the clamour from certain quarters for the cessation of nuclear weapon tests at a time when Great Britain is emerging as a nuclear power. I believe that if we were to do what the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition has recommended publicly, it would be suicidal for the democracies and in particular for our Mother Country. I can well believe that the statement of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition may be good politics in certain quarters, but I am quite certain it is not good statesmanship.
– Will the Treasurer, when he is drafting the budget for 1957-1958, give deep consideration to the plight of the surf life saving clubs of Australia? Will the right honorable gentleman give earnest thought to the difficulties facing these clubs in their efforts to carry out their obligations to the tremendous crowds which visit the various beaches during the summer months? Does the right honorable gentleman realize that the high cost of equipment necessary for the saving of lives has placed this equipment beyond the reach of the surf clubs? If so, will the right honorable gentleman increase the present Commonwealth grant to £50,000 in the forthcoming budget? Further, will the right honorable gentleman grant to all members of surf clubs the protection of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, in view of the dangerous nature of their work and the tremendous risks involved while they are on duty? This would give the necessary impetus to the recruiting of new members, which is essential to restore all surf clubs to full strength.
– I remind the honorable member that this is the only Government that has ever given any practical consideration to surf clubs. Whether the grant should be increased or reduced is a matter for consideration when the next budget is being prepared.
– Is the Treasurer aware of any constitutional obstacles which would prevent the imposition of pay roll taxes by the States in the event of the Commonwealth vacating the field?
– I am aware that no constitutional obstacles exist to prevent the States introducing pay roll taxes. As a matter of fact, pay roll tax was introduced first as a method of taxation in Australia by the Lang Government in New South Wales to finance child endowment in that State. I have little doubt that, if the Commonwealth vacated the field of pay roll tax to-morrow, the States would be into it like a chicken into a stable.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it true that in South Australia recently one or two officers of the Department of Taxation were gaoled for malpractices within that department? Is it true that those officers have since given the names of several other officers in the Department of Taxation in Adelaide who they allege are guilty of similar practices? Have investigators visited Adelaide and discovered some thirteen or fourteen instances in which officers of the department have been guilty of completing taxpayers’ returns and then acting as assessors for those returns in their capacity as officers of the department? Is it true that among them is a person who has only one year’s service remaining and that this person has threatened that, if he is suspended, he will disclose the names of several other officers in the Department of Taxation who are guilty of the same practice? Is it true that, as a result of this threat, the officer is not to be proceeded against?
– The subject of the question raised by the honorable member is a matter of administration. I know that the Commissioner of Taxation has had an investigation carried out and is very concerned about disclosures of the position generally in South Australia. I shall see what information I can obtain for the honorable member and pass it on to him.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, is supplementary to a question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Maranoa on the fifteen-year meat agreement. Is it a fact that recently a Japanese trade delegation visited this country to try to negotiate beef purchases, but were unable to do so, as we have no free quota of beef left until about September? Is it also a fact that a valuable market for beef exists in the Philippines, but we are allowed to ship nothing but second-quality beef to that country under the meat agreement? Has the Minister tried to increase Australia’s free meat quota so that we may send small shipments to the Far East and thus gain a foothold in this important market, which would be useful when the meat agreement expires?
– It is true that a deputation representing Japanese meat interests visited Australia some weeks ago to try to purchase Australian beef to be processed and canned in Japan for shipment to other destinations. We had a look at the problem, and it was unfortunate that at that time we were not able to make large quantities of meat available. However, I think the honorable member will be glad to know that the New Zealand Government has been able to look at the problem, and the indications are that New Zealand producers will be able to supply this very valuable market. The Meat Board is conscious of the need to develop export markets in the Far East. Therefore, as soon as it is practicable, it will try, with the free quota that is available under the longterm meat agreement with the United Kingdom, to see if additional quantities of the free quota can be directed to the Japanese market. Everything practicable is being done by the Meat Board, the Commonwealth Government, the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry to foster trade in meat products with Japan.
So far as the Philippines are concerned, markets are available there. If further quantities of export beef can be made available, that will be done. In the case of livestock on which there is no restriction, recently representations were made to me to permit the export of live-stock to the Philippines and in the last couple of days approval has been given for that to be done.
I should like to make this additional comment. If anyone asked the export beef producers of Queensland whether they thought there were enormous advantages in the long-term meat agreement, I am quite positive that, by a vote, they would say, “ Yes, we think that it gives us considerable advantages “.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether 4,466 persons were registered as unemployed in Western Australia at the end of March, 1957, compared with 3,211 at the end of March, 1956. If this is a fact, will the Minister advise whether the Commonwealth Government intends to take any action to ease credit restrictions in Western Australia or to stimulate public works, either by giving financial assistance to the State Government or by commencing urgently needed Commonwealth public works, to take up the slack of unemployment?
– I am not able to say, offhand, whether the figures, in the precise detail given by the honorable member, are those which have been released by the Department of Labour, but I can check them. As to the Government’s general economic policy and programme and the effect it may have on Western Australia, the Prime Minister will shortly be making a statement on the condition of the Australian economy, and I understand that subsequently the periodical conference of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Premiers of the States will be held to determine the loan programme for the coming financial year. I have no doubt that the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred will be in the mind of the Government’s advisers.
– Has the Minister for Supply seen a report attributed to the Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Linus Pauling, which stated that Britain’s proposed hydrogen bomb tests could cause 1,000 fatal cases of leukemia throughout the world? The report further stated that if hydrogen weapon tests were not banned, the coming generation would give birth to an additional 200,000 feebleminded children. As this report must have caused the deepest distress to the relatives or parents of leukemia victims who have undergone extreme suffering before death, will the Minister please make the necessary inquiries at the highest level so that all may know the truth or otherwise of this distressing report?
– I did see the report mentioned by the honorable member, and my impression was that the professor in question was speaking more about what he thought might be an increase in leukemia as a result of a general rise in the level of radiation throughout the world - due, by the way, to background radiation rather than to specific tests. There is a great body of scientific opinion on this matter. In response to the honorable member’s request, I will ask the Government’s advisers to prepare a statement on the matter and let him have it as early as possible.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the worsening employment situation in this country, he will consider having the Commonwealth Bank exercise, to the fullest possible extent, its power under the Commonwealth Bank Act to maintain full employment in Australia. If he has not already done so why, in view of the urgency of the matter, is this so?
– The Commonwealth Bank’s policy has been directed to the very aspect to which the honorable member has referred.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the Russian Defence Minister Zhukov has warned the smaller Nato countries against permitting the establishment of atomic bases in their territories. If so, can the Minister inform the House whether Western nations have similarly advised Soviet satellites of the danger of allowing Russia to establish atomic launching sites in their territories?
– I have read of these attempts on the part of Soviet Russia to intimidate some of the free Western countries in the last month or two. I do not believe that any reciprocal intimidation has been indulged in by the Western Powers. Very sensible and courageous replies have been given by, I think, all the countries that were targets for this intimidation. They are greatly to be congratulated upon their courage and common sense in resisting this obvious propaganda. I have not heard of intimidatory threats by our side being directed at the Soviet satellites.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he will give early and full consideration to a suggestion, made editorially in the “ Canberra Times “ yesterday, that legislative provision should be made in the Australian Capital Territory to control the rates of interest charged under hire-purchase agreements. In giving consideration to that matter, will he have in mind the fact that new legislation in the State of New South Wales limiting rates of interest will come into effect on 1st July and will, of course, apply in townships and areas adjacent, or contiguous, to the Australian Capital Territory?
– I seem to recall other occasions on which we have been under some criticism for having followed too slavishly what has been done in the nearby State of New South Wales. However, I appreciate the problem raised by the honorable gentleman. I will give it consideration, but without giving any undertakings.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. I remind the Minister that on 25th March last he announced Government plans to encourage the use of indigenous materials in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. Amongst other things, he stated that the Tariff Board would be asked to recommend appropriate action. Can the Minister indicate whether the Tariff Board has yet been requested to make its recommendations? If so, can he suggest when appropriate legislation to give effect to the Government’s plans will be introduced?
– The honorable member has always shown a very great interest in sulphuric acid and pyrites production in Australia. I welcome the question for this reason: Immediately the Government made the decision to which he has referred, the sulphuric acid committee, an interdepartmental committee which the chairman of the Tariff Board attends, prepared terms of reference for the Tariff Board. Of course, that came to the knowledge of the chairman of the Tariff Board because he was present at the meeting. So the matter is in train. The chairman of the Tariff Board has indicated that he cannot say when his own findings will come forward.
That is understandable, because the board is a very busy body with a great deal of work to do, but as soon as the recommendations come forward they will be considered by the Government. My recollection is that the Government’s decision was to ask the Tariff Board to determine an appropriate level of a bounty with respect to an extended period of the act. The act does not expire until 1959, but immediately we get the recommendations of the Tariff Board the Government will consider them.
– But the Government will not do anything about it.
– We have been doing a great deal about it.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Interior a question in his capacity as Minister administering the homebuilding research station at Ryde. As the retiring chairman of the Institute of Engineers in Canberra is reported to have stated that Australia was following the methods of the United States of America and England in air conditioning and heating of buildings, and was purchasing equipment not particularly suitable for Australian conditions, will the Minister inform the House whether any investigations are being made into the possibility of using sun heat, as absorbed by special roofing material, for the purposes of heating and cooling? If no experiments are being carried out, will the Minister cause an investigation to be made with a view to making available to Australian citizens a cheap method of heating and cooling their homes?
– I am unaware of any research of that sort being carried out by the building research organization. It is more appropriately a study for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and a good deal of work has been done on the problem of sun heating by that organization. The building research station is more appropriately concerned with building materials and building techniques. However, I shall get the honorable gentleman more specific information on the point that he has raised.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs enlighten the House on recent negotiations with Egypt for the management of the Suez Canal? Can the Minister say whether there is any truth in the much publicized suggestion that the British Government is about to advise British shipping to use the Suez Canal and pay canal dues, under protest, to Egypt? Does the right honorable gentleman consider that, in the long run, expediency is preferable to principle in our dealings with President Nasser?
– The story recently has been that Egypt, about a month ago I think, produced a draft statement on the way in which it proposed to run the canal in the future. This statement was circulated, not to all countries, but to selected countries and principal countries. It fell far short of the six principles that Egypt had agreed upon only a few months before. This was followed by negotiations and discussions in Cairo between the American Minister in Cairo and the Egyptian Government, and these went on for a number of weeks. Then the United States of America, I think at its own instance, took the matter to the Security Council by reporting to the Security Council on the result of the discussions. In the Security Council meeting which, I think, took place about a fortnight ago, several countries, including the United States of America, took the view that the Egyptian draft proposals should be given at least a trial. Another group of countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, believed that that was not good enough - that it was too far from the six principles, and that there should be further discussion with Egypt in order to try to evolve a regime that would conform to the six principles, which were believed to be the minimum on which any fair system of running the canal could be based. Anyhow, the Security Council came to no conclusions and adopted no resolutions; it merely noted the various views expressed and the American report, and adjourned in order to meet again.
Any official information that I have is that the British recommendation to British merchant shipping is not to use the canal. I have no official information other than that, although I realize that other things have appeared in the press. As to the question of expediency and principle, I am not sure that these terms can really be used properly in this instance. I do not believe it is possible for the United Kingdom to adopt a unilateral policy in respect of the canal. The policy has to be one agreed upon by at least the principal users of the canal. In any event, this is a matter for Great Britain. Australia has not an oceangoing merchant fleet, so we are not concerned from the shipping point of view, although we are very much concerned from the trade point of view. However, I repeat, this is a matter for Great Britain. We are in consultation with the British Government on this subject, and such reports as we can make we are making to the British Govern ment. There was a meeting of the Canal Users Association in the last few days the result of which, I am afraid, I have not yet heard; but, no doubt, the principal users will make up their minds on the sort of question that is clearly exercising the mind of the honorable member for Angas.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, in respect of the Standing Orders relating to questions without notice. I direct your attention to Standing Order 144, which reads, in part -
Questions should not ask Ministers -
for an expression of an opinion;
Continually, during the present session, questions asked of the Minister for External Affairs, in particular, seek a ministerial opinion. They are asked by honorable members who, apparently, value the right honorable gentleman’s opinion much more than I do. Are not such questions definitely out of order and a waste of the time of this House?
– I rule that the question which the honorable member for Angas asked the Minister for External Affairs was in order and also that the Minister was in order in replying to it.
– The Minister for
Labour and National Service will recollect that earlier this week my colleague, the honorable member for Hume, put a question to him concerning a proposal of the Waterside Workers Federation to use retaliatory measures against some of its members in Hobart who had refused to pay a compulsory levy towards the Labour party’s funds. Has the Minister any further information on this subject?
– I indicated to the House when the question was asked earlier this week that I would make inquiries. I have done so. It appears that two members of the Hobart branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, a father and son named, respectively, Mr. F. J. Hursey and Mr. D. V. Hursey, are members of the AntiCommunist Labour party.
Opposition Members. - Ah!
– I gather that Mr. Hursey, senior, was a candidate for election under the banner of the AntiCommunist Labour party.
– You must protect them, then.
– I do not know whether we must protect them. That is a matter for this Parliament to decide. The honorable gentleman has raised a very interesting point as to whether or not a man’s political opinions and activities should lay him open not merely to personal victimization, but also to the deprivation of his job, because he has the courage to express his political views. It appears that the Hobart branch of the Waterside Workers Federation decided upon a levy of 10s. by way of contribution to the funds of the Australian Labour party. The Hurseys, not approving of the policies of the Australian Labour party, and, indeed, being in opposition to them, have refused to pay the levy. That has now led to action for their expulsion, and their expulsion from this industry which, as honorable members know, enjoys a monopoly of the supply of labour on the waterfront, will mean, in effect, their expulsion from the occupation of their choice.
Various other aspects of this matter could be mentioned. It is open to persons affected in this way to exercise certain rights which are given to them by our arbitration legislation. If the levy is made under a rule of the organization, it is open to them to challenge the reasonableness of that rule. At the point of expulsion, there is an opportunity for such a challenge to be made, and it may be of interest to honorable members to know that in the Ironworkers’ case in 1948, the Arbitration Court disallowed a rule providing for a political levy on the ground that it imposed an unreasonable condition of membership. But, of course, that case does not decide that a rule providing for a separate political levy is necessarily one that should be disallowed. That is, presumably, a matter which would have to be determined by the appropriate tribunal, lt is not without interest, however, for this Parliament to know that this matter has been dealt with by legislation both overseas and inside Australia. In New South Wales, section 107 of the Industrial Arbitration Act is of long standing and has been maintained in force irrespective of the political affiliations of the government of the day. lt provides that a trade union registered under the New South Wales Trades Unions Act may provide for the application of its funds to the furtherance of political objectives, so long as the rules of the union provide that any such payments are made out of a separate fund; that contributions to such separate fund shall not be a condition of admission to membership of the union; and that a member who does not contribute to such a separate fund shall not be excluded from any benefits of the union, or placed under any disability or at any disadvantage as compared with other members of the union, by reason of his failure so to contribute.
That, I think, would be accepted by most honorable members in this place as being a reasonable provision. I am now considering whether it is desirable for us to include in Commonwealth legislation a provision somewhat along those lines which would apply to members of both employee and employer organizations in this country.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service reconcile for the House his defence of the principle of protecting a man from penalty because of his political views with his wholehearted support, in 1951, of a measure called the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, which would have penalized a man for his political opinions?
– I think that the honorable gentleman and myself might disagree on the definition of treason in this country. The Communist, party’s activities, in the view of many people, are subversive in that they are directed to the undermining of the democratic institutions of this country, to the expropriation by force of the assets of private citizens, and generally, against the principles for which most people in Australia declare themselves and for which they stand. Our attitude towards Communism is on the record. We has’e not recognized the Australian Communist party as a political party in the normal sense. The very fact that its activities are largely underground and subversive would, I should think, have distinguished it, in the eyes even of honorable gentlemen opposite, from other political parties which conduct themselves in the normal way in this country.
– I address to the Minister for Air a question concerning the need for adequate training centres and equipment for the Air Training Corps. Is the Minister yet in a position to say whether, in view of the drastic reduction of national service training, adequate accommodation can be provided for the Air Training Corps flight at Orange in order to enable it to continue its fine national work of providing voluntary training for youths?
– The question touches on the need for accommodation for Air Training Corps flights in Orange in particular, and in the country generally. In this matter I have considerable sympathy for the corps. I know of the situation of the flight in Orange. The Department of Air has been able to provide one hut for the flight in recent times, and if it were possible to provide a second, as the corps has requested, to meet its needs, I should gladly make the necessary arrangements. Unfortunately, however, the needs of the Air Training Corps throughout the country are very considerable, and the amount available for this very commendable activity out of the Air Force vote is limited. The available money must be spread as widely and as effectively as possible. Indeed, I know of some schools which are ready and anxious to form Air Training Corps flights, but we are unable to set aside sufficient funds for the purpose at the present time. I have examined this matter carefully and sympathetically at the instance of the honorable member for Calare, and I very much regret that at the present time it is not possible to provide a second hut for the Orange flight of the Air Training Corps.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Supply to a question that I placed on the notice-paper on 2nd April. It concerns a survey of radio-activity, and is in the following terms: -
I now ask the Minister when I may expect to receive a reply to that question.
– I can give the honorable gentleman a short reply now. The answer is “ No “. I can perhaps supplement that by saying that, owing to the amiable activities of the Opposition recently, there are on the notice-paper fourteen questions directed to myself. It takes some time to have detailed answers prepared, and in those circumstances, the honorable gentleman’s question has had to take its place in the queue. However, I can assure him quite emphatically that the surveys being made are not being undertaken because of danger resulting from Australian tests. They are being made in accordance with the Government’s general policy of obtaining the best scientific information on this whole problem of radiation, partly, also, because we are under an obligation to supply that information to an international body. The honorable member may sleep tight safe and deep in his bed; there is no danger from what we are doing. I shall give him a detailed answer to his question in due course.
SUPPLY. (“ Grievance Day “.)
Australian Capital Territory Rural Areas - Local Government Loans - Broadcasting - Dried Fruits - Fruit Juices - Pharmaceutical Benefits - Means Test - Northwest of Western Australia - Security Service - Atomic Weapons - Pensions - Trade Union Levies.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
– I use my opportunity to grieve to do so on behalf of the residents of the country areas of the A.C.T. I think it is true to say that far too many people think only of the City of Canberra when they think of the A.C.T., and tend to neglect or forget the surrounding rural area of some 900 square miles which contains substantial villages and farming settlements, many of which were in existence long before the national capital was established. Today’s farmers in these communities are the grandsons and great-grandsons of those who pioneered the area within the Territory. It is true that considerable expansion and substantial building development are taking place within the city itself. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) and I do not always agree on the extent of that development, but it is true that major development is being undertaken within the city. Too often, when worth-while causes are advanced on behalf of the country centres and farming settlements of the A.C.T., the official answer is that the necessity to meet substantial expenditure in the city area for the time being prevents the consideration of necessary expenditure in the country areas. This has led to a lag in the development of the country areas and to unbalance of Commonwealth expenditure within the Territory.
As an illustration of this, I should like to mention the position of the village of Hall, which is situated about 12 miles from Canberra on the road to Yass, and which was in existence long before the capital city was established. For years, not only during the term of this Government, but also during the terms of previous governments, the people of Hall, through their elected representative on the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, and their local progress association, have sought to have the water supply - a very necessary facility - extended to the village. Over the years, promises were made, not only by this Government, but also by previous governments. Unfortunately, those promises were forgotten, or for some other reason were not honoured.
Several years ago, when the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) was Minister for the Interior, the people of Hall were told that, if they were prepared to pay for the extension of the water supply to the village, they could have it. On the basis of an estimated cost of £14,000, the people of the village undertook to pay, on the basis of a yearly assessment on each occupied block and each unoccupied block of land in the village, a sum that, collectively, would meet the interest charge on a borrowing of £14,000. Unfortunately, delays occurred, not through the fault of the people of Hall, but within departmental administration, and when the matter was again considered after two or three years had elapsed, the estimated cost had almost doubled. The increase obviously put the scheme beyond the means of the individual land-holders in the village to finance, and as a consequence, Hall is still without a facility which it needs, which should be provided, and which the Bush Fire Council itself has advocated as being necessary in that area. Within the last couple of months, voluntary workers, aided by departmental employees and machinery, fought a difficult battle to stop a bush fire which burned to within 100 yards of the village, and would have swept through it if had not been stopped. Occurrences of this sort are a very important reason why the water supply should be extended to Hall.
The village of Tharwa is a settlement that existed long before this national capital was established. Formerly it was under shire administration and the residents had the right to vote at shire council elections and so govern themselves in their daybyday affairs. As a result of that they have the most magnificent bridge in the Australian Capital Territory. That is an example of what can be done under local government authority. But the people of Tharwa have put up two proposals for the provision of water supply to that village, one by pumping from the Mumimbidgee River and the other by gravitation from Sheep Station Creek to an eminence in the village and reticulation from there to properties. Those people are still waiting for that. They are still waiting for the provision of other facilities not under the control of the Minister for the Interior. One is a rural automatic telephone exchange.
It is interesting to contrast the lack of provision in these villages - properties at Hall are in the main freehold although there are some blocks under leasehold - with the forestry settlement of Uriarra, which is controlled by the forestry section of the Department of the Interior, and where all the land is owned by the Commonwealth. In that village, which is much newer than the other two 1 have referred to, provision has already been made for water supply and provision is now being made for sewerage. I suggest that the fact that this is a Government settlement and that the people there are employees of the Government should not, in the main, give them any advantage over the residents of the other villages 1 have mentioned. I hope the Minister will give early consideration to the provision of those facilities at Hall and at Tharwa.
I would like to express my appreciation of the work of the electricity section of the Department of the interior, formerly administered by the Department of Works, in carrying electricity supply to the rural areas of the Territory. But here again, I must mention the delay that has occurred after promises have been given over the years. No electricity has been supplied to the farming areas of Naas and Booroomba. Supply to these areas has been promised over the years. Various reasons have been given - shortage of copper wire, shortage of materials, shortage of man-power - but I believe that those limitations no longer apply, and that this facility, which means so much to the farmer in the working of his farm, and particularly to the housewife in providing her with ease and comfort in living on the properties, should be supplied. Everything possible should be done to encourage these people to remain on the land.
Perhaps the greatest grievance of the people of the rural areas is the condition of the roads which traverse the A.C.T. Here the expenditure on the city area contrasts most sharply with the money that is expended for the benefit of the rural community, which, after all, is a producing community. It is a community which, in the main, pays very highly in income tax towards the revenues of the Commonwealth, and which might expect a more equitable level of expenditure from the Commonwealth. In general, the roads in the Territory are not good. Admittedly, the Department of Works has embarked on a programme of improvement, but it is not quite rapid enough. The road to Tharwa was to have been sealed when Her Majesty the Queen was coming here as Princess Elizabeth. It was to have been sealed because Her Majesty was to stay at Cuppacumbalong station. However, that visit did not eventuate, and the road was not sealed. I suggest that that work should be done. We might have another Royal visit.
I suggest also that the Weetangerra road - the major road on the north side - should be sealed and as far as possible the Department of Works should endeavour to provide at least pipe crossings or culverts on all the roads serving the producing areas of the Territory. Let us also have a bridge over the Murrumbidgee River in the vicinity of Point Hut crossing. It would mean so much to the areas around Tidbinbilla. Let us have some action, too, on the construction of a bridge on Smith’s road over the Gudgenby River to serve the productive area between the Gudgenby River and the Murrumbidgee River.
Those are all works that have been listed, and I hope some force will be put into carrying them out. I realize that very little can be done to dirt or gravel roads in a dry period such as we have experienced. I hope that when the rain comes the work I have suggested will be put in hand. It is work that should no longer be delayed, and in delaying it we are not doing justice to a very substantial portion of the Territory people who are in fact the producers of this area.
[11.25j. - Mr. Speaker, I will not intrude into the time which I know members value highly to deal with their grievances, but I would advise the honorable member for the A.C.T. (Mr. J. R. Fraser) that I will look into the matters he has raised. He will appreciate the magnitude of the task which lies ahead of my departments and I am certain that he will also appreciate that people who live in country areas must always suffer certain disadvantages, although there are some compensating advantages in the form of valuations and, of course, lower rates. Nevertheless, this Government appreciates the need for better roads and bridges to provide easier access to the areas to which the honorable member refers. I shall look into the matters he has raised and see what can be done, but I would not like to give any definite undertakings at this stage.
– I desire to discuss what the attitude of the Government should be towards local government throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I know it can be said that local government is not the constitutional responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament, but nevertheless I think that we have reached a stage in our national development where we must have another look at local government and decide whether the States have sufficient financial capacity to help the municipalities. Nobody disputes the contention that local government bodies make a positive contribution towards the wellordered existence of this community and that should local government fail in its functions there would be an immediate and serious deterioration of the people’s health, comfort, and general welfare. To-day, unfortunately, local government in every State, irrespective of whether it is controlled by a Liberal council, a Labour council, or an independent council, is in grave danger of breaking down. The reasons are quite obvious. The outmoded method of finance cannot stand up to the insistent and urgent demands made on the very limited resources.
All over Australia local government has been forced to increase rates beyond the capacity of the ratepayers to shoulder, and we read frequently reports in the daily press that in this municipality or in that municipality a meeting of ratepayers has been held to protest against what they consider to be inordinate increases. This is not peculiar to one council; it is common to councils everywhere. That presupposes that there must be a reason for this state of affairs and the reason is that the present method of financing local government cannot measure up to modern requirements. As I have said, there has to be a complete reorientation of our thinking in this regard. One reason why local government has broken down - the main reason I submit - is that the range of local government activities has been considerably broadened in recent years. Benefits now extend far beyond the property-owners, but the propertyowners nevertheless are expected to shoulder all the financial responsibilities. These benefits now extend right throughout the community, irrespective of the wage.earning capacity of the people vet the property-owning section of the community is expected to finance projects which should be the responsibility of the community as a whole! Now the stage has been reached - in fact it was reached some years ago - where the coffers of local government must be augmented by a share of general taxation revenue. The Commonwealth should seriously consider making money available to the States for the specific use of local government. I know that at the present time money cannot be handed from. Commonwealth sources to local government authorities in any one particular case. It has to percolate through the State governments, but I suggest that the making of Commonwealth funds available for local government purposes out of general taxation revenue is now the unquestionable moral obligation of the Commonwealth Government. It is the unquestionable obligation of the Government to give financial assistance to local government bodies to help them meet the burden arising directly from national policy implemented by the Parliament. The immigration policy, which is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament, makes demands for more roads, expanded health services and amenities generally throughout Australia. These obligations cannot be met from the depleted resources of an already impoverished local government system.
Another disability suffered by local government bodies at present is that the annual loan allocations are being reduced at a time when local government activities are expanding and the demands for services increasing. Local government bodies apply to various loan authorities for increased loans to meet their added responsibilities, but are met with the extraordinary and paradoxical situation that their loan allocations are decreased each year. Public bodies must be in a position to provide public services such as roads, water, electricity and buildings vital to community needs. Community activities create demands for such services. Surely, the Commonwealth Government, which is the Government of the people as a whole and their chief taxing authority, should assist local government bodies to provide such services which are the responsibility of the community at large. But local government bodies, with a limited taxation field, are expected to find all the money needed to carry out these very essential obligations.
When the next loan allocations are being made, the Government should consider providing £10,000,000, £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 from loan funds for local government purposes in the various States. It is virtually impossible for local government authorities to obtain sufficient loan funds on the open market or from State sources. I speak with some knowledge as a councillor in Victoria. When a council approaches a financial institution with a request for a loan to carry out services which would be of inestimable value to the public, the manager of the bank or the insurance company just laughs. No consideration is given to requests for local government loans which are issued at such a low rate of interest that they cannot compete with other avenues where money is lent at a far higher rate of interest. That, of course, suits the financial institutions, but does not suit local government. Surely, the rights of local government authorities should be recognized; they are carrying out a most essential task for the community. It is high time that this Parliament recognized it as such and made a suitable loan fund allocation each year for that purpose.
Another way in which the Commonwealth could assist local government authorities would be by the payment of rates on Commonwealth properties wherever they may be situated. At present, rates are paid only on Commonwealth property used for commercial purposes or for purely residential purposes. The payment of rates should be extended in respect of other Commonwealth property. Rates should be paid on post office buildings, immigrant hostels and Commonwealth administrative offices wherever they are situated. After all, municipal councils are called upon to provide very expensive services for such buildings. Yet, because the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall not be compelled to pay rales, the Government does not do so. It is not precluded from paying rates if it so desires, and I hope that the Government will do the right thing by these very public-spirited bodies. Councillors are not paid any remuneration for their services; they act in a purely voluntary capacity. It is high time that the Commonwealth Parliament, which is in possession of unlimited funds - I say that deliberately - did the right thing by local government bodies and paid rates on properties for which it expects numerous services to be provided by local government bodies.
If the Government decided to pay rates, the additional amount would assist councils on whom the burden now unjustly falls and would give a lead to State governments which are also remiss in this regard. State governments also refuse to pay rates to municipal councils. But unless something is done, municipal councils will fall by the wayside. The Government should recognize that the survival of local government is at stake. Failure to acknowledge this basic fact will cause a complete breakdown of activities in that sphere. I am not an alarmist, but, if the Government inquired into the financial position of any local government body it would find that that body is on the threshhold of a complete breakdown. Unless the Government, with its unlimited financial resources, recognizes that fact, the repercussions will be to the detriment of the community. This Government must face the inevitable fact that, because of the gross inadequacy of financial resources-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The minister’s time has expired.
.- In the short time at my disposal I wish to deal with several subjects. First, I want to make some remarks regarding the inconsistency of broadcasting regulations. Every one knows that if a broadcaster were to announce the starting prices at a race meeting before the end of the last race, he would run the risk of being banned from broadcasting in Australia. However, I have heard on numerous occasions announcers who broadcast boxing and wrestling bouts make special mention of the -number of bouts won by competitors from the red corner or the white corner. In addition, when football scores are being given in metropolitan areas, special mention is made of the highest and lowest scores of the day. Why is special mention made of these details, which appear to be unimportant?
– They are very important.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) says that they are very important. I want to know why they are very important. I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to ascertain whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission and broadcasting stations are in this way giving vital assistance to illegal betting.
I shall now deal with a matter that has arisen recently in the dried fruits industry. On 18th April last, the “Sunraysia Daily” of Mildura published the following item -
Dried fruit-growers are paying 6d. sales tax on every dozen hot cross buns they buy to-day, because, they contain dried fruit.
There is no sales tax on dried fruits, but when the fruit goes into bread or buns it is taxable.
The sales tax on buns baked in Mildura to-day will bring the Government £100.
The buns retail at 3s. 9d. a dozen, including tax. The value of the fruit is less than the amount charged in tax.
Bakers worked throughout the night to fill orders for 4,000 dozen buns, and they used more than half a ton of dried fruits.
Bread and dried fruits are not taxable, but a raisin loaf or a hot cross bun is subject to sales tax at the rate of 121 per cent. During budget debates, honorable members make long speeches about what should be done, but every one knows that no government since federation, having made its financial and other commitments at that stage, has ever changed them as the result of budget debates. If one wants something to be done under the budget, the time to raise the matter is now. I have returned to my electorate during a budget session and have been asked, “ How will the vote go? What will happen? “ I have sat in this House in Opposition and I now sit behind the Government; and I know how the vote on the budget will go, and every one else knows. Therefore, the budget debate is the greatest farce we have in this country, because a current budget will never alter the legislation. The time to get the Government to do something to change its methods is now or during the supply debate that will take place shortly. When the budget is before us, it will be too late. We hear of pensioners leaving Melbourne to come to Canberra to interview the Government about a rise in pensions. Labour members meet them in certain places and after talking to them say, “ Good-bye and good luck “, but every Labour member knows that those people have not a dog’s chance of getting anything done, because the Government, whether it be Labour, Liberal or Country party, has already entered into its commitments. I contend that the 12* per cent, tax on dried fruit which is put into a bread loaf should be abolished.
– The honorable member is -supporting a government that has continued that tax.
– 1 am supporting the Government, but I am not so narrowminded as not to put forward a case contrary to Government policy when I consider that I am justified in doing so. When the honorable member for East Sydney was sitting on the Government side as a Minister I put up a case on housing. I mentioned a family living in a tent near Geelong and said that when Christmas-time came they had to move out of the tent they occupied because the man who had loaned the tent to them wanted it for his holidays. I received no support from the honorable member for East Sydney on that occasion. Although I support this Government, I do not think that everything it does is right, but the honorable member for East Sydney thought that everything done by the Government of which he was a member was right. If that was not his opinion, he was prepared to stifle his conscience. He sat there and did nothing when I brought up the vital subject of housing. 1 ask the Government to look into this matter of the 121 per cent, tax on dried fruit used in a fruit loaf. There is no tax on dried fruit or on plain bread, but when the two are amalgamated a tax is imposed. Why should that be done?
In the brief time that remains I wish to deal with another subject. The American consumption of fruit juices has increased from 0.6 lb. a head per annum, before the war, to more than 7 lb. a head per annum now. It is stated, on reliable authority, that Australian imports of pure and aerated fruit juices have increased, but exports have declined in recent years. Is the Government contemplating some means of fostering the development of the fruit juice industry in Australia, especially regarding exports? I should like the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to confer with the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and examine the effect of the 12i per cent, tax on fruit juices containing up to 25 per cent, of Australian fruit juices, with a view to abolishing that tax.
Naturally, in the very short time now at my disposal, I cannot go into all the matters that I wish to raise. There is one vital subject that I shall have to deal with on a future occasion. I am always glad to see the honorable member for East Sydney here. He is always on the wrong track and I can point out where he has been most inconsistent in his political actions during the eleven years that I have been a member of this House. When he states a case, he states it just to please himself and the party that he represents, irrespective of its effect on the Australian community.
.- The matter that I wish to raise comes within the scope of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). I have noticed that, unfortunately, the honorable gentleman has been absent from the Parliament for all of this week. I believe that most honorable members will agree with me that the Government should amend the pharmaceutical benefits regulations applicable to age and invalid pensioners to enable those of them who are suffering from serious ailments to receive, free of cost, drugs prescribed by doctors which are not included in the list of free drugs.
Many age and invalid pensioners are being deprived of the right to a reasonable standard of health because of this injustice. As an illustration, I quote the case of an elderly lady whose sole income is a pension of £4 a week. This lady lives by herself in George-street, Waterloo, which is in my electorate. She is suffering from a very advanced heart and nerve condition which requires permanent medical attention by her doctor. This doctor prescribed many drugs included in the list of pharmaceutical benefits, but they were unsuccessful in relieving her serious illness. So, in his wisdom, he prescribed a drug in tablet form known as equanil, which is a proprietary line. The tablets cost 27s. 6d. for a week’s supply, but equanil is not included in the pharmaceutical benefits list. In reply to my representations to the Minister to supply these essential tablets free to this lady, J received a letter, from which I will quote the relevant portion. It is as follows: -
The tablets to which Mrs. Moore refers are a proprietary preparation and as such, may not, under the provisions of the pharmaceutical benefits regulations be supplied as a pensioner pharmaceutical benefit. However, the Pharmaceutical
Benefits Advisory Committee, whose recommendation is necessary before I may make any additions
That is the important part - to the list of benefits, has at present under consideration the question of inclusion in the list of general pharmaceutical benefits of this type of drug, but until I receive a recommendation that they be made available as a pharmaceutical benefit, I regret that there is nothing I can do to assist Mrs. Moore.
That, in effect, means that until such time as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee makes a finding on whether a drug such as equanil should be included on the list, this lady - probably there are many other pensioners in similar circumstances - will be deprived of drugs which have been prescribed by a doctor. It could be that the lives of some people will be shortened by the callous and indifferent attitude of the Government shown in the pharmaceutical benefits regulations. From time to time it has been stated that some doctors are indiscreet in prescribing drugs for pensioners, but surely no one would suggest that all members of the medical profession could be placed in that category. I suggest that the act be amended to give the Minister discretionary powers to permit such prescribed drugs to be made available, free, to pensioners in extenuating circumstances.
There is one other matter which I contend should be reviewed. It, also, comes within the scope of the Minister for Health. I refer to the means test and its effect on the availability to age and invalid pensioners of pharmaceutical and medical benefits. Most honorable members will recall that late in 1955 the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who was then the Minister for Health, amended the pharmaceutical benefits regulations applicable to age and invalid pensioners, with the result that persons granted age or invalid pensions from 1st November, 1955, were excluded from receiving any pharmaceutical or medical benefit if their income, including the pension, exceeded £6 a week in the case of a single person, or £12 a week in the case of a married couple. The means test is causing grave hardship to many pensioners, especially those who receive invalid pensions. Most honorable members will agree that these people have great difficulty, even if they receive a maximum of £7 10s. a week, in paying for doctors and medicine. A large number are permanent patients of doctors.
There is no doubt that this amendment was made strictly for reasons of economy. The then Minister for Health, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir EarlePage), suggested that he was more or lessbringing the married pensioner in line with the married man on the basic wage. However, I remind honorable members that elderly people require much more medical attention than even those young people who are on the basic wage.
If the right honorable member for Cowper wished to practise economy he. should have kept that in mind when he decided to make alterations to his room in Sydney. When he resigned from the Ministry he was given a room on the eighth floor instead of the seventh. It had been, occupied by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who is now Minister for Air; but it was not good enough for the right honorable member for Cowper, and approximately £1,400 was spent on alterations. All the old furniture and carpets were thrown out and replaced. The right honorable member comes to Sydney only three or four times a year. This huge expenditure was absolutely unnecessary. Any honorable member, whether he be a Labour or Liberal supporter, should see that economy begins at the top and not at the level where people are battling for their very existence.
– I also wish to refer to something that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said in the Address-in-Reply debate. The right honorable member mentioned, in a somewhat cursory fashion, that part of Australia which lies north of the twentysixth parallel. Honorable members will recall that the twenty-sixth parallel runs across Australia approximately along the border of the Northern Territory and South Australia. The right honorable member for Cowper said that in the area north of that line there were some 400,000 people. The most alarming feature of all is that if the line is drawn in a different direction, from Haddon’s Corner at the extreme right of the border, up to Cape Melville in Queensland, one finds that in that area there are only about 4,000 people, or about as many as one would expect at a thirdgrade or fifth-grade football match in one of our capital cities on a Saturday afternoon.
– Order! The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will refrain from raising his voice.
– The Western Australian section of the Territory north of the 26th parallel constitutes oneseventh of the continent but has only 7,000 residents. If we are to continue to speak about developing Australia to the best of our ability and denying it to the people of other parts of the world, the time is long overdue for the Commonwealth Government to make a much greater contribution to the development of that area.
Since 1901 that part of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel has seen only a very slight increase in population. In that year, Australia’s population was 3,700,000, and that of the area of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel was 6,200. Ten years later the population of Australia had increased by 700,000, but the population of that part of Western Australia had increased by only 200. The population then declined until 1940, but built up between that year and 1947 to a slightly higher figure. The population of Australia was then 7,500,000 and that of the area of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel only 6,800. In 1 953, the latest year for which figures are available, the population of the continent was almost 9,000,000, but there were still only 7,700 people in this vast area. To all intents and purposes, one can say that the population of this area has remained static for 50 years. The slight increase of 1,200 or 1,300 has no doubt been attributable to the establishment of one or two large industries in the area.
At present the non-taxable allowance in this area, which is in Zone A, is approximately £180. This, of course, has a varying effect on people at different levels of income. To the man who pays 15s. in the £1 it represents a rebate of £135. To the man who pays ls. in the £1 it represents a rebate of only £9. The solution of the problem of developing the north-west of Western Australia has been voiced in this House by Western Australian representatives on numerous occasions. It is that, for a certain period, the area should be declared a completely tax-free zone.
– But not for absentee owners.
– The honorable member and I do not agree on that point. Some of the people who are now absentee owners have done more than has any one else to develop the parts that have gone ahead. They have now retired in the Perth area, but they suffered the rigours of the northwest when communications were extremely bad and air travel was not available. I do not see why they, too, should not reap some reward. One could say, I suppose, that the asbestos undertaking at Wittenoom Gorge, which is primarily the concern of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, has an absentee owner, but I believe that if we are to have development we cannot worry about whether the person who owns the undertaking is present or not. We must go all out and offer tax-free conditions.
Production in the north - and the north is capable of production in many fields - has, like the population, been static or has declined. In the 50 years since federation the value of copper produced has fallen from some £12,000 to £8,000 annually. If we take the relative prices into account we will see that that is a very great drop indeed. Tin production has gone up slightly. Gold production has dropped from 17,000 ounces to about 7,000 ounces. The number of sheep was 2,000,000 in 1901 and rose to some 3,000,000 in the ‘thirties, but apparently the industry has never recovered from the depression, because the number is still only 2,000,000. Many of those who were developing the area for pastoral pursuits found that it was much better to open up land in the southern part of the State, to the detriment of the northern part. The number of cattle has dropped from 650,000 in 1910 to only about 500,000 to-day. In the Northern Territory, however, it has increased by 100 per cent, in the same period. While I doubt whether development comparable with that in the Northern Territory would occur even if the Commonwealth were to take over the whole of the area above the 26th parallel, I believe that the solution does lie in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. It would cost only about £500,000 per annum to relieve every person who resides in that area of income tax. I arrived at that figure by dividing the total taxation paid in Australia, both personal and company tax, by the total population, thus getting an amount of tax per head which I think works out at about £70. It is quite obvious that, for a small amount such as £500,000, we could attract people to this area by giving them freedom from income tax. Some incentive must be provided to induce people to live in a place where conditions are so far removed from those which exist in the centres of civilization. They have not the amenities and attractions that are available to a person who works in the southern part of Australia.
As the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has pointed out, once the budget is brought down in this House it will be too late to do anything about this matter. But if we are interested in oneseventh of the area of this continent, and if we are to go on with our policy of restrictive immigration, we cannot afford to keep an undeveloped territory and deny the use of it to other people. We have to make up our minds about this. Since I am a staunch supporter of the restrictive immigration policy I must press the Government to give some assistance to this part of Australia, which is capable of much greater development, and we shall be well repaid for any concessions granted by the Parliament of the Commonwealth to the people living there.
Mr. WARD (East Sydney) [12.21.- I desire to take this opportunity of ventilating a couple of matters which I regard as being of great importance. Honorable members will be aware that on a number of occasions in this House I have mentioned the name of Mr. George Marue. Mr. Marue has claimed - and the claim has never been denied, although it has been made on a number of occasions - that for a period he was employed by the Commonwealth security service, and that his work was that of watching Dr. Bialoguski who, in turn, had been employed by security to aid in the defection of one Vladimir Petrov. Ever since Mr. Marue decided that his side of the story should be made known to the Australian public, he has suffered attention from the Commonwealth security service designed, in my opinion, to intimidate him and create conditions under which the Government might seek his deportation. Undoubtedly, the security service regards. Marue as being a very dangerous person from the Government’s point of view because he knows too much about what previously transpired.
Mr. Marue, probably realizing that the Government might act against him, sought my aid some time ago in respect of an application that he had made for a certificate of naturalization. When I took the matter up with the then Minister for Immigration, I eventually received a reply, after a great deal of persistence on my part, advising me that a certificate of naturalization had been approved. Strangely enough, Mr. Marue heard nothing further also it this naturalization. He asked me to make further inquiries. I was then advised in the letter, which is marked “ Confidential “, but which I now regard as no longer being in that category, of the reason for the delay in granting the certificate of naturalization. In this communication, which is dated 2nd October, 1956, the then Minister for Immigration stated -
Mr. Marue has come under adverse notice since the 29th June last when I advised you thai I had approved of the gram of naturalization in his favour. Mr. Marue appeared before the court on 11th July on two charges of obtaining money wilh cheques which were dishonoured, but was acquitted cn both counts.
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. I should like your ruling as to whether the honorable gentleman is in order in quoting from a document which he himself admits is marked “ Confidential “, and which he received from a Commonwealth Minister. If this practice is pursued I believe that there will be no alternative but for Ministers to restrict the information that they give honorable members with respect to individuals. I suggest, with great respect, that it is entirely wrong to make public a document marked “ Confidential “, a classification which it is expected will be observed. Otherwise, departmental and ministerial communications with honorable members will, I would expect, be very much restricted in future.
– On the point of order. Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, as I mentioned, I did regard the communication as confidential for the period during which I believe that it ought to have been kept in that category. The quotations that I now make refer to matters that have now been completed. In my opinion, it cannot be still regarded as confidential. The date of the letter is 2nd October, 1956. In view of subsequent happenings, I am confident that the then Minister for Immigration himself would no longer regard the letter as confidential.
– I submit that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is quite wrong in substituting his own judgment for that of the Minister in regard to what is confidential or not. If he were completely satisfied that the matter was no longer confidential, surely it would be simple for the honorable member to get the Minister’s permission to have the document reclassified as being no longer confidential. But for the honorable member to say that he, in his own judgment, no longer regarded it as confidential is something which no Minister could accept.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! I am not going to allow this matter to develop into an argument. Honorable members must keep their remarks strictly to the point of order.
– My contention, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, is that you may not rule the honorable member out of order for quoting this document. When a document is marked “ Confidential “ it is so marked with a feeling of assurance that the man who receives the confidential document will not divulge its contents. If it gets into the hands of some one who will not stand by what we may call a “ gentleman’s agreement “, there is no redress.
– May I, without presumption, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, for the benefit of your judgment in this matter, suggest that the word “ Confidential “ was put on this document because it contained what might be regarded as derogatory references to an individual of whom I, personally, have no knowledge. I believe that that circumstance is not affected by the aspect of time. I would not think it relevant whether a few months or a few years have gone by since the document was written. The then Minister for Immigration marked the letter “ Confidential “ because he believed that remarks which were highly critical of a certain individual should not become public knowledge.
Although I and many honorable members may feel that when a document such as this is marked “ Confidential “ it should be kept so, I believe that it must be left to the good sense of the member who is in possession of the letter to decide whether its contents should be revealed. If the honorable member for East Sydney believes that his action is in good taste, and if he is prepared to take the results which may accrue from his quoting the contents of the letter, I rule that he is in order.
– I rise to order.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.Is it the same point of order?
– I think it can be regarded as another point of order. Clearly, the honorable member for East Sydney is claiming privilege in this case; but, if he regards the claim for privilege as overriding the classification that the Minister put on his letter, then we can expect the honorable member for East Sydney to have a very much more restricted source of information through ministerial channels than he has had in the past.
– Order! What is the point of order? No point of order has been raised by the Minister.
– 1 think when I quote the letter honorable gentlemen will realize that, at this stage, no reasonable person would regard it as confidential. The reason the Minister marked it confidential at the time it was sent to me was that certain court proceedings were pending. I regarded it as confidential at that stage. But those court proceedings have now been concluded, and. therefore, what is contained in the letter is public knowledge. The Minister wrote to me in this letter, dated 2nd October, 1956, as follows: -
Mr. Marue has come under adverse notice since 29th June last when I advised you that I had approved of the grant of naturalization in his favour. Mr. Marue appeared before the Court on 11th July on two charges of obtaining money with cheques which were dishonoured but was acquitted on both counts. He again appeared at the Central Police Court, Sydney, on 31st July on charges of passing valueless cheques and he was then committed for trial. It is expected that these charges will be dealt with by the Court during October.
Until such time as the charges against Mr. Marue have been disposed of it is not proposed to proceed further with his naturalization.
Those facts are known. There is nothing to be worried about in their being related in this House. 1 mention them merely for the purpose of my argument, which is that, since the conclusion of the trial in which he was acquitted, Mr. Marue is now completely clear of any suggestion of guilt on any charge. But when he applied, after his acquittal, to the Department of Immigration in Sydney and made inquiries about his naturalization certificate, he was told by the officer who interviewed him, “ That is not going to come to hand for some time, if at all”. Mr. Marue asked, “Why?”. The reply was, “ Because we are still hoping to be able to get something on you “.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I would like to mention something which, I think, should be engaging the attention of the House. I refer to the negotiations which are taking place on what is known as the “ Open Skies “ proposal, originally made by President Eisenhower some years ago in an attempt to obtain some world-wide and watertight inspection system of atomic facilities. 1 believe that is of prime importance to every person in the world and to every member of this House; and it seems to me extraordinary that the House is spending its time on matters of less, or little, significance, and not turning its attention to this main thing which is happening in the stream of human history.
It is now years since the American President made his proposal, adoption of which has been thwarted at every turn by Soviet intransigence. Now it would appear, in the last few days, that there is some rift in the clouds and a little light corning through. I feel, and I believe my opinion would be shared by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), that this, unfortunately, does not betoken any change of heart on the part of the Soviet Government; but it does, perhaps, imply some recognition of the new state of affairs that is coming into existence, because bomb stocks are now becoming so large that, in the event of a major war in which all the bombs in stock were detonated, the very existence of the human race would be imperilled.
If honorable members will study the issue of the “ New York Times “ of 17th
April last, which is available in the Parliamentary Library, they will find there recorded some remarks by a Mr. Van Zandt a member of the United States House of Representatives and of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy. Mr. Van Zandt estimates that the stock of bombs held by the United States is 35,000. That is not an official figure, but it comes from a good source. Furthermore, it is not a figure which is without substantiation from independent sources. We know, from published figures, that something like 20,000 tons a year of uranium is passing into the isotopic separation plants and reactors, in the United States, and if that uranium contains 1 part in 140 of fissionable material, and if 1 part in 200 of that is recoverable, which is the right figure, then you get something like 100 tons of fissionable material being produced annually from those reactors and separation plants. That is enough for a production of not far short of 10,000 bombs a year, so that an accumulated stock of 35,000 bombsin the hands of the United States, which a member of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy refers to as reported in the publication that 1 have mentioned, is not an unreasonable estimate.
The same source, and I think with reason again, although with perhaps less surety, talks of Soviet bomb stocks being of the order of 10,000 bombs. Have honorable members any idea of what those figures imply? Do they not see that they outmode in many respects our strategic and international thinking? Is not the existence of those bomb stocks perhaps the reason why the Soviet, faced with the stern atomic facts, is now becoming a little more reasonable, not through any change of heart, but because the Soviet, equally with us, does not have any desire to see a depopulated planet? If the last contradiction in the dialectic should result only in universal death then, from the Marxist point of view, that would be unsatisfactory because from the Russian point of view, to advocate it or to advocate a course leading to it, would be a crime against Marxism. For that reason, I think, and not from any change of heart in the Soviet or because there is any greater goodwill towards us on the part of the Soviet, Russia is now perhaps being a little more reasonable. It is up to us to exploit this position, to make the best of it for our own sakes and for the sake of humanity as a whole, including the Russian people.
I feel that the free world was guilty of a grave dereliction of duty in the years when it held the atomic monopoly in not using those golden years to assure universal world control of atomic energy, universal peace and permanent prosperity for the human race, lt is no good, however, crying over that spilt milk, because those opportunities have now been lost; but there is still, perhaps, if we approach this wisely and fairly, an opportunity for solution. I do not believe that the Soviet offer, made the day before yesterday, is a bona fide offer, or a fair offer; but I believe the fact that it has been made is perhaps evidence of some weakness in the Soviet intransigence and of the possibility of our having some justifiable hope that the Soviet will be a little more reasonable.
It is up to us to start thinking about ways and means whereby we can get this “ Open Skies “ system in a reasonable form. The Russian offer is a loaded offer; it pretends to give a great deal more than, in point of fact, it does give. But in criticizing its unfairness, and in drawing attention to the fact that this is a loaded offer, do not let us make the fatal mistake of believing that no composition is possible, because either composition or death is certain. Those are the only alternatives between which we have to choose; not only between which we have to choose, but also between which the Russian people have to choose. Their weakness is our weakness, and our weakness is their weakness. It cuts both ways. If we are firm and just, then there is no longer the hopelessness that nothing can happen. 1 suggest that we think in terms of starting with a limited area of inspection and extending it according to a pre-set formula, so that within two, three or four years there will be complete inspection. It will be the test of Russian good faith if they are prepared to accept some such plan as that. Our leaders have let us down because they have allowed the Russians to confuse the issue and to present it in a confused way to our people. Our cause was right, but the presentation “of it has been very bad, so that we have got off wrongly on what is called the peace front. We were completely right, but our presentation was completely inept. To some extent, we lost the sympathy of our own people.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I take this opportunity to refer to a social services matter which has been raised in this House many times. As the current sessional period of the Parliament probably will end within the next few weeks, this is perhaps the last opportunity I shall have before then to speak on this matter. It will be of little use to come back here in August or September, when the Parliament has re-assembled and when the budget has been framed, and say what should be done in the social services field. In the meantime, the Treasury will have decided what increase, if any, is to be given to pensioners, of whom there are many in my electorate. It may be that my remarks to the Government will fall on deaf ears. I point out, however, that last Tuesday week, in the Glebe Town Hall, 108 pensioners met with the object of pressing the Government to do something for pensioners generally. The matter was left to Mrs. O’Brien and Mrs. Lambkin, the secretary and treasurer of the branch of the relevant pensioners’ organization, to do what they could. Next Saturday week I shall attend a meeting at the Coal-lumpers Hall at Milson’s Point, at which there will be an attendance of 120 or 130 people.
The pensioner has four great needs if he is to live and die as a human being. The first is food, the second clothing, the third shelter, and the fourth, which is left to the Treasury, is his burial. Surely all honorable members will agree that from a pension of £4 a week there would be very little left to meet the cost of burial. From that sum, the pensioner has to provide his food, clothing and shelter. Of course, the pensioners are not solely dependent on the Federal Government for assistance. Yesterday, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr., Luchetti), said-
Mi. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.-
Order! Will the honorable member for West Sydney please take his seat for a moment? I have warned the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) about speaking in a loud voice. I can hear his voice over that of the honorable member for West Sydney, who is between the honorable member for Wilmot and the Chair. If I hear the honorable member from the chair again, 1 shall name him.
– In the short time at my disposal, I am trying to stress the point that this is the time, before the budget is presented, to make representations on behalf of pensioners. As 1 have said, the Federal Government alone is not being asked to care for these people. Voluntary organizations also are doing much to help. The Lord Mayor of Sydney has adopted a plan that was introduced by the previous Lord Mayor and is serving “ meals on wheels “ to pensioners in the Sydney area. The St. Vincent de Paul Society in Sydney provides 14,000 meals each month for people who need them. Every Wednesday, at St. Benedict’s Church, in George-street, Sydney, more than 150 people are supplied with meals and with clothing that is available to be given to them. lt is unpleasant for me to have to come here and speak in this manner about Australians who have made this country what it is. We should not need to come to this Parliament and plead in this way if we had a government that was sincere in its wish to do something for the pensioners. Approximately two years ago, the Minister for Social Services introduced legislation concerning the building of homes for the aged. I contend, however, that that legislation is unfair in that it provides that voluntary organizations which are prepared, perhaps, to give 24 hours of the day to the welfare of aged people, must find 50 per cent, of the money for the building of accommodation. The provision of £1,500,000 for the erection of homes for the aged is most laudable. I commended the legislation when it was introduced, and I still support it, but as I say, it should not have attached to it a tag saying that for every £1 provided by the Government the voluntary organizations must go and beg from door to door for another £1. Why not give these institutions a straight-out allotment of the money instead of binding i hem to finding 50 per cent.?
I am glad that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is in the chamber at the moment. If he does not take this opportunity to help the pensioners in the community and make such provision in the forthcoming budget, I think that this will be his last opportunity to do so. The people will not give him another chance. Recently, when the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, was explaining the policy of the New South Wales Government in cases where destitute people die in other people’s houses, he said that if a destitute stranger, without relatives, died in some one else’s home, the police would arrange for burial at the State’s expense. He went on to say that the householder might be liable for the cost of burial if he made arrangements with an undertaker without first consulting the police. That means that people who have rooms to let, in Sydney and all over the Commonwealth, will be dubious about letting those rooms to pensioners, because if a pensioner should die in one of those rooms it could be the responsibility of the householder to bury him. The Federal and State governments should have a definite policy to assist the pensioners, who have worked so hard for this country, and to ensure that they will at least receive decent burial. At the present time, an allowance of £10 is made to meet funeral expenses. It is impossible to buy a grave site in the cemeteries at Newtown, Rookwood, Botany, or anywhere else in New South Wales for that amount, much less meet all the incidental funeral expenses as well.
The Treasurer talks in terms of millions of pounds, and estimates that, in the current financial year, the Commonwealth will have a surplus of approximately £50,000,000, although we know very well that, when the accounts are finally cast, it will prove to be more like £100,000,000, and the Government year after year budgets for an expenditure of almost £200,000,000 on defence. If it can do that, surely it can provide for the needy people on whose behalf I speak. I do not object to the expenditure incurred in assisting Asian countries under the Colombo plan. Australian expenditure under this plan already totals some £30,000,000, and it is estimated. I understand, that, in the next few years, a further £12,000,000 will be spent. If we can undertake that expenditure, well and good. Perhaps we all agree that it is sound, but the Colombo plan should not operate at the expense of the pensioners, and we should not deny a proper burial to good Australians who have reared families and sent sons all over the world to defend this country.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- My grievance to-day concerns a levy of 10s. imposed on waterside workers to supplement the funds of the Australian Labour party. Last Tuesday, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) a question about the refusal of two waterside workers to pay this levy. 1 know that Opposition members will say that I am opposed to trade unionism. I have made my position clear many times. I am not opposed to it. Indeed, I believe in free trade unionism. It is only a week to-day since nearly every member of this House and of another place attended functions to commemorate Anzac Day, the main purpose of which is to do homage to those who fought for liberty in the two world wars, in which most members of this House took part. It may seem a small thing to impose a levy of 10s. to supplement political funds, but it is not a question of the amount. It is a question of principle. So long as I remain a member of this Parliament, I shall firmly maintain here that there is no legal or moral right for any political party, by intimidation and extortion of any kind, to obtain funds from men who are forced to join a trade union in order to make a living.
I firmly support the trade unions, which have a history going back to the old craft guilds of the Middle Ages from which trade unions in their modern form have developed. If any one thinks that a modern society can exist without trade unions, he is a fool. Trade unions are necessary, but they should preserve the freedom of their members. Compulsory unionism exists in Queensland and New South Wales. The Australian Labour party, at its recent conference in Brisbane, removed compulsory unionism from its platform. This is the first and only departure from the Communist unity line that it has taken. Instead of compulsory unionism, it adopted something that is exactly the same - preference for unionists.
I believe that all workers who are engaged in a trade or calling should join the appropriate union, but this should not impair their freedom. I believe, equally sincerely, that employers also are entitled to form free employers’ organizations. But the extortion of money - and that is all that the levy on the waterside workers amounts to - is a direct infringement of personal liberty. A great many honorable gentlemen of the Opposition are members - probably very good members - of an ex-servicemen’s association which has adopted as its motto the sentiment that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. It is the bounden duty of every member of the Parliament to do his utmost to prevent all these minor attacks on personal liberty. I want to demonstrate to the House the danger of allowing any one to ride roughshod over personal liberty and ignore principles of justice. An example is to be seen in our failure to fight for the principle that Israeli ships should be allowed to use the Suez Canal without hindrance. Israeli ships were entitled, under the terms of an international agreement, to free use of the canal, but we did not insist that that right be observed, and to-day we are suffering the penalties.
The Australian Labour party, in the recent re-affirmation of its .policy at the Brisbane conference, set out the objectives that it hoped to attain by democratic socialism. Social justice and economic security are at the head of the list. How can Labour reconcile social justice with a compulsory levy on a person who, perhaps, hates the very hide of the Australian Labour party, in an attempt to force him to subscribe to its political funds? Is that what Labour men call social justice? That would be anathema not only to members of the AntiCommunist Labour party, but also to tens of thousands of supporters of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party who, in this way, would be forced to subscribe to the funds of the Australian Labour party which espouses a socialist philosophy that they regard almost as degrading. The Australian Labour party stated that it hopes to achieve by democratic socialism freedom of speech, education, assembly, organization and religion. How can Labour reconcile that double-talk - for that is all it is - with its policy of compulsory unionism or preference to unionists?
Labour hopes to secure by democratic socialism free election under universal franchise, with government by the majority, and recognition of the rights of minorities. At the same conference, the party called for the repeal of our legislation providing for secret ballots for the election of union officers if a small proportion of the members of a union applied for a courtcontrolled ballot - that is, if a minority within & union applied for it. Labour seeks to repeal that legislation, although it claims to recognize the rights of minorities. How does it reconcile those two aspects of its policy? We know that all people who follow material creeds are inclined to resort to double-talk because they are not bound by spiritual values and principles as the Government parties are.
I believe in free trade unions, and I consider that any one who thinks that a modern society can exist without them is guilty of careless thinking, and, as I have said, I believe that employers also are entitled to form free organizations. I would not have any association with an organization which, during a shearers’ strike, for example, brought pressure to bear on employers to induce them to use non-union labour. But in order to be free one must preserve the right to freedom. In the United States of America at the present time, State legislation is being directed increasingly towards the removal of what I consider to be the -evil of the closed shop. If a man wants to work, he is entitled to take a job wherever it is available. I believe that about 28 States of the United States of America have included in their legislation the right to work. That is, there can be no closed shops, and I do not think any government in a free country should offer employment to anybody who is forced to join a trade ;union in order to obtain employment. 1 am glad to see that in the United States they are rectifying that by including the right to work in state legislation, and 1 would like to see it in our own federal legislation.
In the United States at the moment a very unfortunate investigation is proceeding into racketeering in a great trade union, The Western Teamsters Union. I am sorry to see this. That union has done a great deal for its members, but by applying force, it has allowed corruption to enter into its affairs. Whenever force has been applied in the history of the world, inevitably corruption has stepped in. It is stepping into certain trade unions in this country, and I ask those members opposite who have great influence in trade unions to have a good look at this and see whether a lot of their political troubles do not stem from this very cause. If one has principles one should stick by them. In the long run that pays. I do not believe for one moment that, because a man has to join a trade union in order to get any employment, there is any legal or moral right on that man to subscribe to a party.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 have listened with interest to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), and whilst 1 can appreciate the views he has put forward, I assure him that he has very little knowledge of either the functions or the administration of a trade union when he makes the rather reckless statements he has made here to-day. I shall not have an opportunity, in the few minutes left for this debate, to deal with all the matters raised by the honorable member and I simply content myself with dealing with one, namely his statement that trade unionists are compelled to pay levies or separate charges to a political party.
The honorable member mentioned the fact that New South Wales legislation provides that a political levy must be paid with the consent of a member. My own organization, which has somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 members, has never had one member who has declined or refused to pay the levy of ls. that has been fixed for political purposes, in most States, union contributions are fixed at so much per quarter or per year, and the organization itself decides what money shall be made available from those contributions for political or other purposes. Before any funds are voted in any trade union the approval of the members has to be obtained at a properly controlled and democratically called meeting. That is something which we, as a community, believe in.
I suppose that I have had as much experience of trade unions as most people. I have been in the trade union movement in the State of Victoria for 47 years, and I have never known payment of a sustentation fee to the Labour party to be objected to by members. In the main it has always been agreed to unanimously. Once or twice I have known of cases in which members have not been satisfied that the Australian Labour party was going fast enough.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 928), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It is appropriate for me to say that, before I rose in my place, the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) said to me across the table that we, as an Opposition, were not opposing the bill; in other words, that the Labour party was not opposing this measure.
-I asked the honorable member.
– The Minister asked me, and I said that my attitude would be disclosed. When he said that, it occurred to me that there is a general opinion among the public that an Opposition, no matter what party it may be, always opposes measures brought down by the government of the day.
– That is pretty true of this Opposition.
– That is not so. If the records of bills brought before this House were perused, it would be found that whether the Opposition is Labour or Liberal-Australian Country party, there is overall general agreement in principle on at least 50 per cent. of all measures introduced.
The Opposition supports this measure, which is a bill to amend the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954, just as in 1954 it supported, with some criticism, of course, the measure then introduced by the government of the day. The bill appears to be relatively unimportant; it is a small one, but examination reveals that it deals with a most important factor in Australia’s welfare. This community could not exist satisfactorily in a civilized society as we know it without sulphuric acid. That means that we, as Australians, are confronted with two problems. Sulphuric acid is readily available to some other countries because they have in their own lands substantial quantities of sulphur, which is the base material generally from which sulphuric acid is manufactured. Australia has no deposits of raw sulphur. Consequently, we are absolutely dependent on other countries unless we use alternative materials which are available in this country. It is not generally known that 95 per cent. of the world’s supply of brimstone, which is raw sulphur, comes from the United States of America.
– From Mexico now.
– And from Mexico. Some small supplies have been available in the past from Sicily. It is as well to look at the form in which raw sulphur, or brimstone, is obtained from the Americas and, for that matter, from Sicily. In America, supplies of the raw material are available in what are known as the sulphur domes of America. Bores are put down to very great depths. The rocks contain sulphur in almost pure form. Surrounding the casings that are put down in the earth are steam jackets and at the surface immense plants pump steam into the bowels of the earth, melting the sulphur, which in due course flows up through another pipe into dams on the surface. We are not lucky enough to have sulphur available in that form. Sulphur and its manufactured product, sulphuric acid, being so necessary, it is essential that we adopt all means available for the production of sulphuric acid in this country. Fortunately, we have available to us very large quantities of pyrites, a by-product of the metalliferous industries. By encouraging the production of sulphuricacid from pyrites, we shall ensure eventually that we are 100 per cent, independent of imported supplies of sulphur and, consequently, sulphuric acid.
As far back as 1923, steps were taken by this Parliament to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of sulphuric acid in Australia. With the experience of the war, of course, it became obvious to governments that much more drastic steps should be taken to ensure that eventually we were 100 per cent. independent in this respect. It is pleasing to know that to-day we have reached almost 90 per cent. independence of outside supply. That has been done only by the enterprise of Australian manufacturing industries.
– Private enterprise!
– The honorable member for Franklin says “ private enterprise “. If he will search his memory he will realize that the task was of such great magnitude and quality that it required socialistic enterprise to enable private enterprise to function in the production of sulphuric acid. Private enterprise was not prepared to take the risk of investing vast sums of money in the manufacture of sulphuric acid from pyrites. Consequently, private enterprise approached the Government and said, in effect, “ The production of sulphuric acid in this country will involve a capital expenditure of anything from £10,000,000 to £12,000,000. We are prepared to try it but we are not prepared to risk our capital. In fact, we cannot raise the capital. If the Commonwealth will give us a guarantee on bank overdraft, we are prepared to install the necessary plant and equipment to produce sulphuric acid in Australia.” The government of the day, by a socialist act, undertook to guarantee the overdraft to enable the construction of these vast plants, which have been almost completed. They are now at the point where, before very long, we will be almost independent of imported supplies.
Not only has that been the case, but, indeed, private enterprise was not prepared to produce in competition with supplies that might be brought from overseas at a substantially lower price than that at which sulphuric acid could be produced in Australia. Therefore, it was necessary for the Parliament in 1954 to pass legislation to provide for a more generous bounty than had hitherto obtained. The Government guaranteed a bounty of £600,000 on the production of sulphuric acid from pyrites but not from any other material, and limited that bounty to payment on sulphuric acid used only in the production of superphosphate in Australia. The Government has now found it wise to extend the payment of the bounty to the production of sulphuric acid not only for the manufacture of fertilizers but also for the use of industry generally in the various productions for which sulphuric acid is used. The uses of sulphuric acid range over a very wide field and have a particular application to the production of textiles, tyres, chemicals and many other products essential to the welfare of this country.
Apparently, it is the desire of the Government under this bill - and we do not quarrel with it - to extend the application of the bounty to cover those other purposes for which sulphuric acid is manufactured. The amending bill provides for that to be done. It is proposed - and I think it is a wise proposal - that if the demand for and the production of this commodity is such that £600,000 would be insufficient to cover the cost of the bounty payments, there shall be available an amount sufficient to cover the extra cost involved. That is to say, manufacturers will not be faced with the position that they increase their production and thereby suffer a reduction of the bounty payment per ton of sulphuric acid. We do not quarrel with that proposal, but ] should like to say that, in view of the fact that vast sums of money are involved, the House should have been furnished with a great deal more information than was given in the Minister’s second-reading speech. We know that the principal act contains a provision that a manufacturer shall not be entitled to payment of the bounty at the full rate if it is shown that his profit exceeds I2i per cent. I want to know: Has there been any case in which manufacturers of sulphuric acid were, as a result of the efficiency of their manufacturing processes
– That limitation is noi affected by this bill.
– I did not say that it was.
– Why should it be covered by this bill?
– In view of the fact that this subject is related to the profits made by the firms concerned and that their profits will be made safer than ever before by the payment of the extra bounty, I am asking the Minister whether there has been any case so far in which the manufacturer’s profits have risen to 12i per cent. I think that is a relevant question. This bill will give a greater security to the manufacturers, and there may be cases in which the limit of 1 2i per cent, has been reached. I notice that the two Ministers are having a private conference on the other side of the table, but when they have finished-
– Have we to listen to every word?
– I do not want the Minister to listen to every word. I should be just as happy if he left Parliament altogether. As soon as any question is raised that irritates the Minister, he becomes upset and annoyed. That is why I should not mind where he went. I know that, to a very great extent, this matter has been investigated by the Tariff Board. Tariff Board inquiries were made in 1952 and I believe that they are proceeding again. To that extent we have some protection. I think it was in 1954 that I criticized the proposal that manufacturers should be allowed a profit of 12! per cent, before the bounty payments to them were altered in any way. This new enterprise is receiving the protection of U:e people of this country. It is an enterprise in respect of which the people are paying a bounty which may reach £1,000,000 a year, and have given a guarantee at the bank to the extent of £10,000,000, but it is proposed that the manufacturers shall bc allowed to make a profit of 12i per cent, before their bounty payments are reduced in any way. In the circumstances, that is an excessive margin of profit.
However, that will not prevent the Opposion from supporting and consenting to this measure. I am glad to see that the position continues under which, as I understand it, the British Phosphate Commission will still be the importing medium, and in some cases the distributing medium. It is to be responsible for the distribution to superphosphate manufacturers–
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! There is too much audible conversation at the table.
– it seems to me that conversation is going on all around, but 1 do not mind it in the slightest. These are important matters. It is good to know that the Government has had the foresight to encourage this essential Australian industry.
– Good government!
– No. It is only a display of the minimum of common sense that sometimes comes the Minister’s way.
– I will settle for that!
– The Minister for Supply is obviously pleased that he is not receiving the opposition that he expected. It is true that in many of these matters the Opposition adopts a constructive attitude and is wholeheartedly in support of government measures. When I was a member of the Labour government, I found a similar attitude in the Opposition of that time. I say that because an opinion appears to be held by the public that such is not the case.
I leave the matter at that. I can only hope that before very long Australia will be entirely independent of imported supplies of brimstone - in other words sulphur. I shall leave it to my colleagues who will speak on the measure to make a detailed examination of its provisions from various other angles. 1 trust that we shall make a success of this enterprise. 1 feel sure that ihe undertakings mainly engaged in the industry - which include one of the great concerns in this country - will bring the enterprise to complete success, in the interests of the people of Australia, and that in due course it will no longer be necessary for the Government to subsidize these manufacturers, as it has been doing recently to the tune of more than £400,000, with a limit of £600,000. I hope that the limit will not rise lo more than £1,000,000 before the manufacturers are able to produce this important commodity without the assistance of the people’s backing.
– It is a great pleasure and privilege to follow my friend from Lalor (Mr. Pollard) after such a placatory speech. Every honorable member is aware of the importance to Australia and Australian industry of the successful outcome of this legislation. The bill is very brief and covers two main points. The first proposal is to remove the limit of the bounty payable on the production of sulphuric acid. It was restricted by the provisions of the principal act to £600,000 in one year. The second proposal is to remove the ban on bounty payments in respect of the production of sulphuric acid for purposes other than fertilizers. I think that both of those proposals are extremely valuable. I wish to compliment the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) and the Government on the introduction of this amending legislation. It has been introduced, I believe, at the request of the industry as a whole.
In studying the question of sulphuric acid production, one’s mind naturally turns to its importance to the great fertilizer industry of Australia. As honorable members know, approximately 85 per cent, of the tonnage of sulphuric acid manufactured in Australia is devoted to the production of fertilizers. As one who has the privilege of representing a vast and important primary producing area of Australia, which relies, very considerably, on the availability of fertilizers, I give earnest thought to this problem.
Two points arise. The first is the availability of future supplies of sulphuric acid which will be required for normal manufacture. Coupled with that, from the point of view of the consumer, is the effect on price levels of this legislation. The honorable member for Lalor covered, fairly briefly, the background of this legislation. At the time when the principal act was passed there was a definite threat that throughout the world supplies of raw brimstone - or sulphur, as it is known - were reaching the stage of exhaustion. There was also the unfortunate effect of the Korean campaign on the availability of supplies of sulphur. There was, in effect, a war-time shortage.
Those of us who have some interest in primary production had to consider two main factors- first, the price of imported brimstone and, secondly, its future availability. With the relaxation of tension in Korea, there was another extraordinary turn in the fate of brimstone. This was the discovery in Mexico, which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has mentioned, of enormous deposits of brimstone which could be mined on the same scale, and in the same manner, as those in the United States of America. Indeed, equilibrium in the world supply of sulphur was restored and the necessity for expensive development of pyritic manufacture in Australia was partially removed. However, taking the longer view, and considering the welfare of our primary industries, one cannot ignore the possibility that the situation could once more become tense. We hope that it will not, but if it does, and the difficulties associated with global conflict are once more experienced, the Government will have acted wisely in encouraging the use of the available pyritic supplies in Australia. That is an essential part of the legislation which we must look at. We must balance future strategic needs against the more immediate question of price levels.
As every one knows, the plant necessary to produce sulphuric acid from the normal pyritic material available in Australia is extremely expensive. Much more elaborate machinery must be provided, and the labour content of production is higher. The manufacturer needs driers, roasters, gas cleaners, calcine disposal equipment and many other features of the production of sulphuric acid which are not involved in the use of brimstone. I have been informed that on present figures it would . cost not less than £2,000,000 for plant with which to produce approximately 100,000 tons of 100 per cent, sulphuric acid per annum. I understand that that information is correct, and I mention it because it touches on the point that was raised by the honorable member for Lalor in connexion with the restriction of profit.
As honorable members will realize, section 10 of the 1954 act places a definite limit of 12i per cent, on profit. If that is exceeded the bounty disappears. If we cast our minds back to what has happened in a number of plants where machinery for the production of sulphuric acid from Australian material was installed in the prewar and war period and written down in cost, we find that it would be reasonable to expect a plant capable of producing 100,000 tons of sulphuric acid per annum at a cost in the vicinity of £500,000. If the 12i per cent, limit were applied in a modern plant, with new and elaborate machinery, and a capital of £2,000,000, profit would be restricted to £250,000. The older plant, with a written-down capital of £500,000, would be limited to a profit of £63,000. The profit allowable would work out at £2 10s. a ton in the modern plant as against 12s. Id. a ton in the old plant. Honorable members will see that there is a very big differential between the production cost of sulphuric acid in the modern plant and that in the old plant. The older plant would thus be precluded from obtaining the full benefits of the bounty.
I want now to go into the actual costs because I feel that honorable members do not realize the enormous difference between the cost of production from pyrites and brimstone. In Victoria, pyrites from Mount Morgan cost about £1 1 a ton. As it takes 2.35 tons of pyrites to make 1 ton of sulphur, the cost of the pyritic sulphur would be £26 a ton. To this one must add the extra cost of using pyrites. So, the cost of pyritic sulphur would be in the vicinity of £33 a ton as against the present figure of £21 10s. a ton for imported brimstone. I hope that the House will forgive me for quoting these figures, which I have not had time to check. It takes approximately .4 tons of sulphur to make 1 ton of fertilizer. One hundred per cent, sulphuric acid contains approximately 33 per cent, of sulphur, so the difference in cost works out in this way: There is a differential of £11 10s. a ton between pyritic sulphur at £33 a ton, and imported brimstone, at £21 10s. a ton. The 33 per cent, sulphur content of the sulphuric acid used in manufacturing a ton of superphosphate results in a difference of £1 13s. a ton as between brimstone and pyrites, to the advantage of brimstone.
The Minister, in presenting this bill to the House yesterday, gave the figures for the bounty payments that have been made during the operation of the measure. They vary from £2 12s. to £1 9s. a ton of sulphuric acid. This gives a bounty of between 8s. and 4s. 6d. a ton on the acid content in superphosphate, as against a price differential of £1 13s. a ton. Honorable members will pardon me for quoting these figures, but they help us to realize that there is a very substantial saving to the industry, and to consumers as a whole, in the use of brimstone.
I turn now to the recommendation of the Tariff Board in the report upon which the 1954 legislation was based. The honorable member for Lalor referred to the allowable profit on capital. At page 18 of the report, the Tariff Board’s comment was as follows: -
Tn this instance the Government has been urging manufacturers to convert their plants to the use of indigenous materials and there is no limit to the profits that may be taken by any manufacturers who may choose to postpone conversion or who may decide not to convert.
That prompted the following recommendation: -
The Board considers that present circumstances justify the removal of the restrictive clause (on profit), that the whole matter should bc kept under observation, and that if there should be any tendency on the part of manufacturers towards excess profit-making, consideration should be given to some practical method of its restoration.
It has been traditional to include a restriction on profit in bounty legislation, but I believe that in legislation such as this, in which we are asking manufacturers to install most elaborate and expensive plant, thus adding very considerably to their costs of production, with the knowledge that this cannot avoid raising to some extent the price to the consumer, we would be right in following the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Further on, the report covers a more complicated aspect. In justification of its recommendation, the Tariff Board said -
Isolation of the profits from acid would be difficult: and isolation of the funds in acid production would also be difficult. In the second place, nearly all, if not all producers of acid from pyrites also produce acid from brimstone, and superimposed on the difficulty of isolating acid profits would be that of isolating profits from pyritic acid. In South Australia where a plant is being installed for acid manufacture only, these problems would not arise, but in other States they exist at present.
In case honorable members do not realize it, the reference there is to the fact that over the period most manufacturers of superphosphate and fertilizers generally, in addition to using acid made from brimstone, have also used a certain amount of acid made from pyrites. With your great knowledge of finance, Mr. Speaker, you will realize the extraordinarily difficult bookkeeping that would be involved in differentiating between profit derived from the pyritic content of acid production and profit derived from the brimstone portion of production. So I think that the reasons that the Tariff Board submitted were sound, cogent and logical. I feel that the Government would be well advised to have another look at the question of limitation of profit, bearing in mind the point made by the board regarding profit limitation -
If there should be any tendency on the part of manufacturers towards excess profit-making consideration should be given to some practical method of its restoration.
Perhaps 1 have a more definite interest in this problem than have other honorable members. I want to mention one of the greatest superphosphate-producing concerns in Australia, the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited, which is situated in the well-represented electorate of Corio. This company has had a greater influence in restraining increases in the price of superphosphate to the consumers than has any other concern in Australia. It pays dividends only on a limited preference share holding. The returns to ordinary shareholders are only in the form of a rebate, which the shareholders receive as consumers of the company’s product. By virtue of the rebates which the company has made available to shareholders, and by virtue of most efficient and progressive production, the company has had a tremendous influence on the price of superphosphate throughout the southern parts of Australia.
T do not think, that anybody could rightly say that I am putting the case for a concern which honorable members opposite would describe as big business. This concern is giving its profits back to the people who are producing food and raw materials for the benefit of the Australian economy. There can be no question about the tremendous impact that the company has had on costs of production throughout primary industry by its action in restraining increases iri the price of superphosphate. If honorable members will examine the price of superphosphate in other parts of the world they will realize, as I realized when I was in Great Britain, that we are buying better superphosphate in Australia at about half the price that is being paid for it in the United Kingdom. So I make no apology for mentioning this concern, which has made a tremendous contribution to primary industry.
Just before 1 rose to my feet, it was my intention to ask for the postponement of a certain clause in this bill in the committee stage, because I sincerely believe that the limitation of profit is the greatest factor in the restriction of pyritic manufacture in this industry to-day. However, I have received, indirectly, an assurance from the Minister that the company to which I refer, because of the nature of its capital holding, would not be liable to the limitation of profit, and hence would not be affected by the clause which mentions the figure of 12i per cent. If this is so I hope that the Minister will be able to give that assurance, and I shall be glad to support the bill, as a whole, as best I can.
.- The principle that underlies this bill is the protection of an industry that is essential to the economy of this country. That is a principle that I support. I support it, not merely in its confined and limited application to sulphuric acid production, but to production by every industry in this country. Unfortunately, the Government is not prepared to apply this principle generally. It applies the principle in one industry but does not necessarily apply it in another industry that may play a similar part in the development of this country.
The bill relates to two important points. One is that the bounty was brought into being in a period of necessity. The shortage of brimstone from overseas manufacturers and the difficulty of obtaining it in Australia practically forced the Government to pay a bounty to assist the expansion of the industry and meet the requirements of the country. I agree that that step was most desirable. But it is also most desirable that the policy should be persisted in, irrespective of the ability of outside nations to supply our requirements. I can visualize the time when supporters of the present Government, particularly members of the Australian Country party, if sulphuric acid can be secured overseas more cheaply than it can be manufactured in Australia, will demand that the overseas product shall be sold upon the Australian market at the lowest possible rate. Of course, that is in accordance with the traditions of the Australian Country party.
– Forget it!
– Despite the fact that the honorable member says, “ Forget it “, I cannot conceive of members of the Australian Country party agreeing that Australian manufacturers of sulphuric acid should continue to receive a profit of 12i per cent, if it is possible to secure sulphuric acid from Japan at a lower rate than that at which it is obtainable in Australia.
– Can it be so secured?
– Of course it cannot be secured abroad at a lower price at the present time, but we cannot foretell what the future may hold. I take advantage, as I am entitled to do, of the opportunity to point out, when this Government introduces a measure based on a sound Labour principle that that measure is so based, and to endeavour to impress upon honorable members how essential it is that the application of that Labour principle should not be confined to one product, but should be made generally applicable over the whole economy and in respect of every commodity produced in Australia that is essential to our development in time of peace or to our security in time of war. But that, of course, is not being done.
In my opinion, a profit of 121 per cent, is a very good rate of profit indeed. It was such a profit in the days of Francis Bacon that caused that famous essayist to produce an essay on usury. I believe there should be a limited price for a commodity, and a limited profit made on its production, when that commodity has been protected by tariff or its production subsidized by way of bounty paid by the people of this country through taxes. It is, of course, a corollary that when the people of this nation subsidize an industry, or protect it from overseas competition by means of a tariff barrier, the margin of profit in that industry should be determined by the people. The subsidy or protective tariff enjoyed by the industry should not be used as a means whereby those who produce the protected commodity can indulge in exploitation of the people. That, of course, is the Labour policy as regards protection. The Labour party stands for tariff protection and for assistance to industries by means of subsidy; but it also stands for the protection of the consumer. Where the people give protection to an industry because the existence of that industry within our borders is essential either in peace or in war, then the maximum profit that may be made on the sale of the commodities produced by that industry shall be so determined by the people that the money which the people provide through taxes shall not be used to foster opportunities for exploitation, by the industry, of the community.
– Does the honorable member want some sulphuric acid?
– I am discussing principles, and it is obvious that the honorable member for Canning would not understand principles, because he is a member of the Australian Country party. Three parties are represented in this Parliament. One is the Labour party, which stands for the utilization of the resources of this country for the benefit of the people, even when that means control and interference by the Government. There is also the Liberal party, which stands, in this Parliament, for private enterprise - private enterprise unfettered. There is also the Australian Country party, which stands for political opportunism. Whereas, on this occasion, it supports a socialistic method of assistance by bounties and tariff protection, on another occasion it supports free trade - unbridled and unlimited free trade. Members of the Australian Country party are opportunists par excellence in the game of politics. Their ideas of political life are not founded on principle, and, therefore, the honorable member for Canning could not possibly appreciate a discussion on political principles.
However, to get back to the matters contained in the bill, it is a corollary that where a government or people subsidizes or protects an industry, the Government, representing the people, should also control the margin of profit made by that industry. In one case this Government allows a margin of profit on sulphuric acid, produced with the benefit of a bounty, of 121 per cent. But when it comes to the protection of the flax industry, the bounty provided cuts out when the profit reaches 10 per cent. I do not know whether it is necessary for the manufacturer of sulphuric acid to have a bigger margin of profit and a bigger income than the producer of flax. However. I shall not argue about the 12£ per cent., because I know that there are much more abnormal profits than that being made in Australian industry to-day; but 1 desire to say that when the margin of profit rises above 121 per cent., whereupon the bounty is withdrawn - and that is the only impediment suffered by the industry that has been receiving the bounty - then the community should have the benefit, in lower prices for the commodity, of what it has done to put the industry on its feet. Some big organizations in this country such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited could easily, under present conditions, have been subsidized to the extent of millions of pounds from public money until their profits reached 121 per cent., when the subsidy would have ceased. I submit that when a profit exceeds 121 per cent., not only should the subsidy be withdrawn, but also the price of the commodity produced should be so determined that the people, whose taxes provided the subsidy that put the industry on its feet, would be, in effect, repaid by having to pay lower prices.
Honorable members opposite hold that if an industry can make a profit of 25 per cent, or 30 per cent., or any such abnormal profit, it should be allowed to do so. I disagree with them on that point for the reason that, as I have stated, an industry which has been strengthened by the protection of the public purse till it reaches the point where it can stand on its own feet, has a moral obligation to limit its margin of profit thereafter and by that means pay back to the community the public assistance given to it in its less prosperous days. That is but ordinary equity; it is but ordinary morality. But the members of the Australian Country party, with the opportunism that I have described, would complain that the adoption of such a principle would be government interference with private enterprise. Apparently, according to members of the Australian Country party, it is all right to interfere with private enterprise when private enterprise is struggling, and especially when such private enterprise is serving the interests of the constituents of members of the Australian Country party; but when the struggling infant has reached lusty manhood, no longer should the Government in any way interfere with private enterprise, according to members of the Australian Country party. They hold that it should then havethe right of unlimited exploitation, although in its early days it had to be nurtured by the State.
Members of the working class and other members of the community have to contribute, through taxes, to bring such industries to the position where they are enabled to expand. As I said before, I agree with public support of essential industries so as to establish them on a sound footing, but I hold also that that principle implies a responsibility on the part of the industry, once it has reached maturity, to repay to the community, by way of reduced prices, some part of the financial contribution made to it by the community in its early days and so that other industries that are essential to our economy can be nurtured and enabled to expand.
I would say to the Government that there are other industries besides the sulphuric acid industry and the flax-producing industry that are essential to the development and progress of Australian industry. One such industry is the shipping industry. When that industry has reached maturity it should not be allowed to strangle other industries in this country by the imposition of heavy freights on the goods that we export or import, or on the goods that are sent by sea around our coast. So, having established the Labour principle in regard to the sulphuric acid industry and the flax industry, we should apply it also to the shipping industry. The application of that principle to the shipping industry would be more advantageous to primary producers than the payment of bounty on the production of sulphuric acid or flax. We should subsidize a shipping line so that we may serve the interests of our primary producers and manufacturers. We should enter into competition with the organizations that are strangling Australian industries and taking an intolerable toll of the industry of the worker, of the capacity of the manufacturer, and of the indefatigable energies of the primary producer who is misrepresented in this Parliament by people like the honorable member for Canning. I think I have said enough to convince at least those who understand principles and who believe in principles that the party to which I belong will continue to fight for principles, in season and out of season, and continue to fight for the application of a principle not to one industry, but to all industries, so that Australia may progress and develop as it should.
.- When the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) rose to speak on this bill I suspected that he would know very little about the subject, and he has ably demonstrated that to be so. The tirade that we had from him was entirely unwarranted, because it did not touch on the points that are involved. This is a most serious matter, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was careful to point out in his well-balanced remarks.
The bill that we are considering to-day proposes to amend legislation which was introduced in 1954 as part of a programme to ensure that Australia became as independent as was possible in the supply of sulphuric acid for the manufacture of fertilizers. Other legislation also has been introduced to bring about this desired result. Before the Government introduced the act as it now stands, the matter was referred to the Tariff Board, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has mentioned. This vexed matter of the 12! per cent, profit, which has agitated the mind of the honorable member for Scullin, and also that of the honorable member for Lalor, became the subject of serious discussion before the Tariff Board. Section 9 of the 1939-1944 act provided that there should be a profit limitation of 10 per cent, on the depreciated capital cost of the plant manufacturing the sulphuric acid. When the matter came up for review by the Tariff Board, the manufacturers and the producers presented a case to the board based on the ground that this profit margin was operating against the use of indigenous materials for the manufacture of sulphuric acid. They presented their case in such strong terms that the Tariff Board expressed itself very clearly and definitely in regard to this profit limitation.
First of all, I should point out for the benefit of the honorable member for Scullin, who may read my remarks, but who cannot hear them because he has left the chamber, that the 121 per cent, profit provision is based on capital investment which means, as the honorable member for Corangamite has pointed out, that it is an eighth of the profit on the whole of the capital investment. If a modern plant, with a capital investment of £2,000,000, wishes to partake in the bounty it has to show a profit of less than £250,000, but a company that has been producing sulphuric acid from indigenous materials all along with a depreciated plant, and whose capital is only £500,000, is excluded from the bounty provisions when it reaches only a fraction of that profit. Consequently, in seeking to make Australia independent of overseas supplies of materials for the manufacture of fertilizers, the Government has not reached anything like the objective that was set in 1950. The Tariff Board recognized that fact. It appreciated that the limitation set by the old 1939-44 legislation put a brake on the use of indigenous materials, and so it said, at page 18 of its report, that the provision in the Sulphur Bounty Act which limited profits by recipients of bounty to 10 per cent, of the funds employed was no encouragement to investors of capital or to conversion of plant, particularly as the net return after such provision would be very low.
The board considered that the circumstances in which assistance was being sought by this industry were different from those usually associated with an industry seeking tariff protection or assistance. The board admitted that it had before it a new set of circumstances which were peculiar to this industry. In its report, it went on to say -
In this instance, the Government has been urging manufacturers to convert their plants to the use of indigenous materials and there is no limit to the profits that may be taken by any manufacturers who may choose to postpone conversion or who may decide not to convert.
Some manufacturers have decided not to convert and have said, in effect, “ lt would be more profitable for us to use imported brimstone or elemental sulphur in the manufacture of our sulphuric acid “. Consequently, they have ignored the bounty provisions altogether and have gone their merry way, using imported brimstone.
The report of the board went on -
The strongest argument for the maintenance of the profit provision in the Act is that some manufacturers will, on the figures available, be obtaining bounty in excess of actual needs. The Board believes that some of this excess, if not all of it, will be used to reduce the price of superphosphate.
There is no doubt that we in Australia to-day are enjoying a very favorable price for superphosphate. The manufacturers, in Victoria and elsewhere, have never been called blood suckers-
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– The honorable member for Lalor has never had any cause for complaints about the manufacturers of superphosphate. They have played the game and have done a very good job. The confidence of the Tariff Board in them is reflected in the paragraph of the report that I have been reading and which continues as follows: -
The Board considers that present circumstances justify the removal of the restrictive clause, that the whole matter should be kept under observation and that if there should be any tendency on the part of manufacturers towards excess profittaking, consideration should be given to some practical method of its restoration.
The board supported its arguments in this regard by a definite recommendation. In the second column on page 18 of the report, the following appears: -
TARIFF BOARD’S RECOMMENDATIONS.
The Tariff Board recommends -
Repeal of section 9 concerning the limitation of profits.
When the case was presented to the board., it recommended that, for the benefit of the industry and Australia the profit limitation clause should be repealed entirely. Then, in 1954, the Government introduced legislation which included the provisions of section 9 of the 1939-44 Sulphur Bounty Act as section 10 of the 1954 act, so that we perpetuated the mistake that was made in the 1939-44 legislation. Events that have taken place since then have shown that the Tariff Board was entirely right in its judgment, because we have not attained the desired degree of usage of indigenous materials. Events that have transpired since the current legislation was introduced have shown that the Government was completely wrong in inserting this 121 per cent, profit limitation provision at that time. It may well be argued that a certain degree of conversion to the use of pyrites has been attained. I agree that there has been fairly substantial conversion. But the use of indigenous materials has not reached the target that was set many years ago.
I say emphatically, with some knowledge of the subject, that the target cannot be achieved while this profit limitation remains n the principal act, because the manufacturers who need the bounty will not be able to get it as the act stands. I have never found any indication - the matter has not been carefully explained to me - why the 121 per cent, limitation was introduced. Why was the figure not left at 10 per cent., as it was in earlier legislation? Why was it increased to 121 per cent.? There is no logic in it, and there seems to be no reason for it.
– Does the honorable member intend to move an amendment for the purpose of reducing it?
– The Tariff Board recommended that the limitation be removed altogether, but the Government decided to raise it to 121 per cent., for no substantial reason. Indeed, no reason was given, except that it was the practice to place a limitation on profits in industries to which bounties were being paid. I believe that the argument advanced by the Tariff Board in .1954 was , that there was an unusual set of circumstances revealed by the evidence given to it, and it considered, therefore, that there should be no limitation of profit’. We now see the ludicrous spectacle of a government that is seised of its responsibility to make Australia independent of overseas supplies of sulphur, knowing that we have, in Australia sufficient indigenous material to make us independent of supplies from overseas, perpetuating in this bill a blunder that was made in the 1954 measure. The continuance of the profit limitation will gain nothing. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) asked whether I intended to move an amendment. I consider that this matter should be examined, and I foreshadow that, at the committee stage, I shall move an amendment and do everything possible to have the matter reconsidered and rectified before the measure becomes law.
This problem has very serious implications for Australia. I have said before - and I think my opinion is shared by many honorable members - that, so far as Australia’s defence is concerned, we are already living on borrowed time. We have not sufficient time to waste any in monkeying about with these things. If we are to discharge our most important responsibility in the event of war or a serious threat from the north - the responsibility to maintain primary production at a high level - Australia must be as independent as possible of overseas supplies of materials essential to primary production. Adequate supplies of superphosphate are essential for the maintenance of primary production and the supply of foodstuffs and other important commodities in any war, especially a long one. Therefore, we must ensure at all costs that we are independent of overseas sources of supply.
What is the present position in the sulphuric acid industry? The plants that manufacture sulphuric acid from pyrites and other indigenous materials are situated mainly in the southern part of Australia. Some of the important sources of raw materials are in the south, but almost all are many miles distant from the factories. Materials produced at the Lake George mine at Captain’s Flat, fairly close to Canberra, must be transported over long distances to the coast. Yet this source of supply of the indigenous materials used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid is probably closer to the manufacturing establishments than are most of the other sources of supply. This bill will not help in any way to reduce the transport difficulties experienced by the manufacturers. Pyrites, zinc concentrates, or whatever material is used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid must be transported, usually over long distances, to the factories. Some of the greatest supplies of pyrites now available are in north Queensland, more than 1,000 miles distant from the nearest factory, and a considerable distance inland. Transport must be improved so that the raw materials from those sources can be landed at the factory at an economic cost, especially where the manufacturing plant is in the south. I do not know how we can improve our transport quickly enough in the short time that we may have available before we are threatened or hostilities break out. because our transport services, by rail, road and air, are already strained to the utmost. The new rolling-stock required for the railways alone could not be produced in the matter of a few weeks only.
The entire problem must be examined immediately. 1 warn the Government, with all the emphasis at my command, that if we neglect the problem until we find ourselves in a desperate position, we shall find that we have not enough time to improve the transport of these materials from the inland to the coast and to the factories. Therefore, we must give the manufacturers an incentive now to use greater quantities of our indigenous materials. 1 think it was the honorable member for Lalor who said that we might have to pay as much as £1.000,000 a year in bounties. 1 suggest that he compare that sum with the cost to our economy of a breakdown of superphosphate supplies at a time of desperate need and danger of attack from without. Compared with what we should suffer in such circumstances, a present expenditure of £1,000,000 would be infinitesimal. Governments can, perhaps, create money, or, at least, credit, but the raw materials for the manufacture of fertilizers cannot be dragged out of the ground by the wave of a magic wand, and crops cannot be forced to grow without adequate application of fertilizers. We should do everything possible now to induce the manufacturers of sulphuric acid to use only indigenous materials so that we may become completely independent of overseas supplies. We are very foolish not to establish factories at points closer to the sources of the raw materials. 1 have never been able to understand the crazy attitude of the Queensland Government.
– Which party does it represent?
– There is only one government party in Queensland, but it is infested with white ants, and borers and parasites, as they were called last week. Over the last 20 or 30 years - far too long, anyhow - one party has been in office in Queensland. Since 1949, the Queensland Government has realized that the sugar industry needs adequate supplies of fertilizers for the cane-fields. The price being paid for sulphate of ammonia at the present time is prohibitive. Yet, although there are at Mount Morgan adequate supplies of pyrites that could be used for the manufacture of ammonium sulphate, close to the centre of the sugar industry, the Queensland Government has not established a sulphuric acid plant near to the source of the raw materials in order to produce fertilizers at a reasonable cost and reduce the production costs of the important sugar industry. Although such a proposal has been submitted to the Queensland Government time and again, it has taken no action, and a stalemate seems to have been reached. Fortunately, it appears that the wheel has now turned full circle, and that the split in the Australian Labour party in Queensland will make it possible for that State to elect a new government within the matter of a few months. That will be a change very much for the better. At any rate, it could not be for the worse. I am hopeful that a new government in Queensland will acknowledge the national need for the establishment of a fertilizer factory in the Rockhampton area to use pyrites which are available in unlimited quantities at Mount Morgan. This would be to the advantage of every one, and I hope that, when a good Liberal party and Australian Country party government takes office in Queensland one of its first acts will be to establish such a plant.
I do not think that there is much sense in labouring this point. I just want to say bluntly that I appreciate all that the Government has done in its endeavours to stabilize the sulphuric acid industry and to make Australia independent of overseas supplies of superphosphates and other fertilizers. 1 appreciate its goodwill. But I cannot for the life of me understand why it ran counter to the Tariff Board’s report and included in the 1954 act the profit limitation of 121 per cent. I cannot understand why it was not able to see, when it was preparing thi”, om. i events since 1954 have not led to theattainment of the goal at which we aimed or even a near approach to it, and thatthe main obstacle to the attainment of the goal was this stupid profit limitation of 12½ per cent. So, as I said earlier, I foreshadowthat when we reach the committee stageI will move an amendment to try to delay this measure so that the Government may take another look at it and endeavour o correct the mistake made in 1954.
.- Nobody in the House dissents from the proproposition that if we are to maintain our primary production and if we are to increase our industrial production Australia must have greater supplies of sulphuric acid, and preferably from indigenous materials. I, therefore, would certainly like more information than either of the t wo Ministers now at the table have been able or prepared to give on this bill.
– I have not spoken yet. I have not had a chance yet.
– Do you want it done by way of interjection?
– What do you mean?
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) is not at the table. lt would be a more critical problem if he were. One of the Ministers at the table spoke yesterday on this and did not make reference to the Tariff Board’s report of 1954. to the report of the Sulphuric Acid Committee to Cabinet, or to the annual reports which are made under the existing act. The Minister gave us no information to show how the Government was succeeding in the objective, to which we all subscribe, of producing more sulphuric acid from Australian sources.
– On the contrary, the matter is covered in the second-reading speech.
– Since the Minister interjects again, I reiterate that he has not referred to the Tariff Board report of 1954; he has not referred to the report of the Sulphuric Acid Committee to Cabinet; and he has not referred to either of the annual reports which the Comptroller-General of Customs has had to make under section 22 of the existing act, and has in fact made. That is, the two reports from the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and the report by the Tariff Board, all of which have been befo-e Parliament, have not been referred to or brought up to date. The report which should have been before Cabinet and, on application, lesser Ministers, has also not been referred to in this debate. We are asked to give a blank cheque to remove any limitation on the payment of bounties, without being given any information as to how the Government’s objectives are being achieved by the present bounties. I hope that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), within whose purview this matter falls administratively as well as scientifically, will at least give us some of this information, in the committee stages.
Let me indicate its relevance. It has been stated departmentally that the Government’s sulphuric acid conversion programme has been a comparative failure. It has also been stated that there are very considerable difficulties under the present legislation in promoting an increased conversion of Australian materials into sulphuric acid. In view of the way bounties have to be administered by the Commonwealth Parliament, all available information should be given to honorable members.
– Bounties have to be uniform.
– Precisely. I was coming to that, and if I may anticipate, I think it is partly the answer to the questions which have been raised by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon). It answers first the question why the Tariff Board in 1954 recommended the repeal of the limitation on profits and secondly the question why the Parliament did not eliminate that limit on profits but raised it. Now the only information which the Parliament can go on is in the two reports made under the existing act, by the Comptroller-General of Customs, and they show a varying position which deserves further explanation. It is true that in relation to the over-all position we can derive some satisfaction. In 1.954-55 the quantity of sulphuric acid in respect of which bounty was paid to producers under the existing act was 132,000 tons. The quantity in respect of which it was paid in 1955-56 was 237,000 tons - an increase of 80 per cent., and a very satisfactory figure one might think. But the position of individual producers - and there were only five and seven in the respective years - varies in a way which I think deserves explanation. One Western Australian company for example, Cumins
Smith and Mount Lyell Farmers Fertilizers Limited, was paid in respect of 20,000 tons in 1954-55 and in respect of 42,000 tons in 1955-56. The other Western Australian producer, Cresco Fertilizers (Western Australia) Limited, was paid in respect of 29,000 tons in the former year, but in respect of only 21,000 tons in the latter year. Why is there more than double the production by one company and 30 per cent, less by the other company?
This might highlight the difficulty to which the Minister for Supply adverted by interjection - the fact that in Australia bounties payable by the Commonwealth Parliament have to be uniform, despite the fact that the cost of producing or manufacturing goods in various parts of Australia may very greatly vary. This is particularly the case in regard to sulphuric acid components. At Norseman, in Western Australia, there are very considerable resources of pyrites. This material is eminently suitable for conversion to sulphuric acid, and yet the cost of converting it to sulphuric acid at Norseman or anywhere in Western Australia is very much greater than it is in the eastern States. Whichever way you look at it, it is greater. If one puts in a conversion plant at Norseman one still has the very great problem of conveying the acid - always a difficult and dangerous thing on narrow-guage railways - over some hundreds of miles to thi ports. It is dangerous on any railway, but particularly on narrow-gauge railways, where, it is common knowledge, derailments are very much more frequent. If, on the other hand, one conveys the pyrites from Norseman to some plant at the seaboard, or, say, at Kalgoorlie, there again one has the very heavy and expensive task of conveying bulk cargoes over some hundreds of miles. I think it is common knowledge that in Western Australia, therefore, it is not as profitable to convert pyrites to sulphuric acid as it is in the eastern States. One therefore has the problem that in order to achieve any return at all to the companies which are doing this national job in Western Australia, one has to guarantee perhaps an excessive return to some of the companies which can cheaply perform it in the eastern States. Under this flat rate of bounty, in order to provide a 2i per cent, return in Western Australia, which is a very small return on a heavy mineral plant, it might be necessary to give a return of 22i per cent, in the eastern States. Also, whereas a profit limit of I2i per cent, as under the present act, or 10 per cent, as under the previous act, might permit a very adequate return to plants in eastern States, the Western Australian plants might be unable to make any profit at all on the flat rate of bounty.
This is a matter with which the Parliament is not powerless to deal. It is true that, under section 90 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament has exclusive power to grant bounties and that, under section 51 (iii), those bounties must be uniform throughout the Commonwealth; but there is a way out in section 91 of the Constitution. If we are to use the sources of pyrites in Western Australia properly, we should avail ourselves of them by using section 91 in conjunction with section 96, which, as honorable members know, is the section under which this Parliament grants financial assistance to the States. I suggest that the proper way is for this Parliament to make grants to the States under section 96 to encourage sulphuric acid production and to pass a resolution under section 91 consenting to the States making such a bounty. I refresh the recollection of honorable members by reading section 91, which is in these terms -
Nothing in this Constitution prohibits a State from granting . . . with the consent of both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth expressed by a resolution, any aid to or bounty on the production or export of goods.
– This is as important as the gold bounty to Western Australia.
– That is so. Western Australia was built on its minerals. What gold was to Western Australia, and silver to Broken Hill, and what base metals are to the Carpentaria and Northern Territory areas, pyrites may also be to vast areas of Western Australia. If we are to have a balanced development of the whole of Australia, and if we are to foster fully the production of sulphuric acid, which is basic to increased primary and industrial production, we should not resort to a flat bounty under section 51, which we have done now for many years, and on which the department is known to have expressed the confidential opinion that it is has not succeeded or is not satisfactorily achieving its purpose. Let us sink our pride and say that a flat bounty throughout Australia is not appropriate in the case of sulphuric acid production and that we will not pay the bounty ourselves. Instead, let us make grants to the extent that is necessary to increase Australia’s production of sulphuric acid, and resolve that the States to which we make grants can make bounty payments for this purpose, albeit that they will not be at a flat rate. If we pass a resolution, there is nothing to prevent each of the States paying such bounty as is necessary to increase the production of sulphuric acid from all the Australian sources available.
I hope that, in the committee stages at any rate, some Western Australian members - and I notice that at present in the House there are members from that State in each of the three parties - will move appropriate resolutions. Honorable members opposite who have already spoken should then be satisfied. There will be a very real difficulty for many honorable members and there will be a very great resentment in the community if the Parliament removes any limitation on profits as high as 121 per cent. Many honorable members and a majority of people in the community think that 121 per cent, is a reasonable return on investment. This is not a hazardous investment, because, in every part of the world which is engaged in industrial production and in most of the progressive parts of the world which are engaged in primary production, increasing quantities of sulphuric acid are being used. No one can foresee the time when sulphuric acid will not be required in ever-increasing quantities. Therefore, people who are investing in plants to convert pyrites into sulphuric acid are investing in a certainty. It is not a hazardous or relatively superfluous form of mineral or industrial investment, as one might say gold production is. From the point of view of most people, gold is a luxury but sulphuric acid is not.
I do not think that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) would achieve his objectives by asking for the mere removal of the section which stands in the 1954 act although, from his point of view, it is better than the section which preceded it in the 1939-1944 act. He would achieve his objective, and Australia would be more equally developed in all parts where there are these resources, if we were to adopt the method I have suggested. The Western Australian companies, which have just as good pyrites available to them but must carry the raw product or the distilled product over longer distances than companies in the eastern States, would also be able to make a profit of 121 per cent., 10 per cent, or whatever figure was determined as a fair one. I suggest, therefore, that in the committee stage, if nobody is prepared to do so at this stage, we should move amendments which will achieve the proper utilization of this very important national asset and which will make available more supplies of this essential product.
While I support the general objective of this bill, I do not think that it is being properly achieved. That would become quite manifest if we had the further information before us which the Cabinet has, which Ministers who are not members of the Cabinet can have if they ask Ministers who are, and which the Parliament should have. However, on the information which we already have, our objective is not being achieved. I have suggested a method by which it can be achieved for the benefit of the whole of Australia.
.- I will not detain the House for very long, but I must express the thought that the House is indebted to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), for his comments. I know that the manufacturers of superphosphate in Western Australia will certainly appreciate his remarks. Some time ago, in another place, a move to have this bounty altered was made by a senator from Western Australia. I recall listening to the debate and later reading it. A great legal battle developed between the then AttorneyGeneral and some others in another place, and nothing eventuated; the move was defeated.
As the honorable member for Werriwa said, the superphosphate manufacturing firms in Western Australia endeavoured to assist the government of the day when we were finding it most difficult to obtain brimstone from overseas for the manufacture of superphosphate. They engaged in the task of converting their plants to treat pyrites that were available at Norseman, some 400 miles from the superphosphate works. The honorable member for Werriwa’ is also perfectly correct when he said that that loaded a terrific charge on those superphosphate companies. They either carried the bulk from Norseman to Bassendean or “North Fremantle, or they set up a plant at “Norseman and made sulphuric acid there. However, there was a danger in conveying the acid to the seaboard. As a section of the Constitution gives us an opportunity to overcome the differentiation between companies in the various States, the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) that clause 2 of the amending : bill be delayed would give the Government an opportunity to consider this aspect of the legislation.
I recall very well, and no doubt the Minister knows of the position, that in the eastern States some of the companies - though not all of them - said they would not bother to convert their plants to use pyrites when they could get away without doing so.. They find now that it may be a little more difficult. 1 hope the Minister will act upon the remarks, of the honorable member for Capricornia and have this measure delayed until the Government has an opportunity to look at the Constitution and decide whether it is possible to make a differentiation in the bounty. When the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) was making his contribution to this debate, he took the opportunity of deriding, the Australian Country Party by saying that it was not interested in these matters. If he looks back, through the past few years, he will find that the Australian Country party has. been vitally interested in this matter.. An honorable senator of this, party has made a great study of it and has offered some valuable contributions. I remind the honorable member that in his discourses on the 124 per cent, bounty and other matters, such as shipping freights and so on, apparently he was unaware that the more some companies use pyrites for the manufacture of sulphuric acid which, in turn, is used for the manufacture of superphosphate, more brimstone will be made available for conversion into sulphuric acid for use by the steel companies and other industrial enterprises which employ great numbers of workers. Those arc the people who the honorable member for Scullin oft times claims are represented only by the Labour party. If the honorable member ever does any thinking about the use of pyrites for sulphuric acid, he will realize that, despite the profit motive or anything else, the use of pyrites for manufacturing sulphuric acid clears the field, and leaves the restricted imports of brimstone - they have been restricted at various times - freely available to the industrial enterprises which employ so many of the workers whom the honorable member claims his party, alone, represents. It ill behoves the honorable member to speak of profit motives when referring to the 124 per cent, limitation, because in 1948 the Labour party, as it has admitted, was making 16! per cent, profit from running a radio station. Goodness knows what that profit is to-day as a result of inflation and other factors! No doubt it is about 32 per cent.
I urge the Government to examine the suggestion offered by the honorable member for Werriwa. We have had some other information, which is available to the Government if it cares to investigate the matter. If the honorable member’s suggestion were adopted it would avoid the squabbles that have arisen over this bounty. The Senate, eighteen months ago, rejected a plea to have this differentiation in the bounty established.
[3.481. - As Minister in charge of sulphuric acid production in Australia and, therefore, directly concerned with this bill, I am somewhat between the upper and nether millstones. Some honorable members on the Opposition side say that the 124 per cent, profit limitation is too high, but honorable members on the Government side say that it is too low and should be abolished altogether. In those circumstances, I can do no more than to put before the House what I think are the facts and leave the House to decide.
As honorable members know, there is a bounty of something like £2 a ton on acid produced being paid to all acid manufacturers in Australia who use indigenous materials in its manufacture. The purpose of the bounty is to encourage the use of indigenous materials, chiefly pyrites, in place of imported sulphur. That has been going on since 1923, because it has always been government policy to encourage the use of local material. Great emphasis was given to this need in 1950 and 1951 when there was a dramatic shortage of brimstone as a result of the war crisis of that period and the operation of the International Material Conference which acted - I will not say in a panic - in a way that was very disadvantageous to Australia and some other countries at the time. As a result, Australia was faced with grave threats of shortages of sulphur and the government of the day took action to try to ensure that as soon as possible thereafter, and in the future, Australia would have an industry which would be substantially independent of imported raw materials.
It was never the intention of the Government, as I remember - and I took the first addendum to the Cabinet in 1950 because at that time I was in charge of sulphuric acid production, ministerially speaking - that there should be a complete changeover to the use of indigenous materials. But the Government did want to change over as much as possible. At that time, it contemplated that there would be as much as a 65 per cent, conversion to local materials by 1956 or 1957.
– Does the Minister know how the various States reacted to that?
– I will come to that and I will speak subject to correction and as a matter of recollection rather than from documents before me. As I said, some measure of success was achieved. At present, raw materials are being used to the order of 57 per cent, and a capacity usage to the order of 65 per cent. That represents quite a considerable change for the better from 1950 onwards. It is not as great a change as the Government had hoped to see between 1950 or 1951 and the present time, but Cabinet has examined this problem periodically and decisions have been taken. One, which was taken in 1954, resulted in the amendment of the act, to which honorable members have adverted. Last February the matter was reviewed again.
It can be said that, up to a few weeks ago, there was a degree of pessimism as to whether the Government would achieve what it desired by way of conversion because it was somewhat discouraged by what had been achieved. Although the conversion was fairly substantial, nevertheless when Cabinet examined the position last February it made some further important decisions to which I shall refer in a minute, and I believe that they are the answer to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). As a result of those decisions I believe that there will be a further movement towards the conversion of plants to use local materials, certainly in relation to the expansion of existing plants and the erection of new ones. If the Government’s expectation is realized, the result will render unnecessary, at the present time, the proposal which was made by the honorable member for Werriwa, and at this stage the Government would not accept his suggestion. However, time will tell.
This is one of these difficult matters which the Government, by encouragement rather than by mandatory action - because it has not much power to take mandatory action - is trying to persuade a great industry, or a network of industries, to change from the normal way of carrying on business - not for their own benefit, because they do rather better by using imported sulphur - for the benefit of the nation. It is for that purpose that the Government has invoked the bounty system.
In February of this year, the Government decided on further conversion, especially with respect to expanding existing plant capacity and the creation of new plants. The process of conversion was to be further encouraged and, if possible, brought about. The Government realized that the ceiling of £600,000 which had been placed on the bounty should be abolished, and in the bill now before the House there is to be a ceiling no longer. That is one improvement, and we hope that it will be an encouragement to many manufacturers, that it will enable them to share in the bounty and thus encourage them to change over. The Government decided also, as is provided in the bill, that the manufacturers should be entitled to share in the bounty of £2 a ton which is paid at present irrespective of the use to which the acid manufactured is to be put. Formerly it was for superphosphate, fertilizer and munitions purposes only. Now that limitation has been removed and manufacturers are to share in the bounty, no matter to what use the acid is put.
– What do you consider is a reasonable profit for them to make?
– The Tariff Board, in the report which the Government considered a few months ago recommended, in this disputed matter of margin of profit, the removal of the 10 per cent, limitation. A limit of 10 per cent, had operated since 1923. The Tariff Board said that, for certain reasons, this limitation should be removed. In answer to my charming friend from East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who wants to know what I think is a reasonable limit, I say that the Tariff Board thought that in the particular circumstances 10 per cent, was not enough. It wanted, for the time being, to allow the manufacturers somewhat more. The Government also considered the matter in great detail and with great care, having the whole picture before it. It considered that 12i per cent, was enough. Therefore, I can re-assure my charming friend from East Sydney that this is at least one occasion on which he cannot accuse the Government of favouring the big battalions in contradistinction to the Tariff Board, which was prepared to be kinder to them than we were.
The Tariff Board had particular reasons for recommending the lifting of the 10 per cent, limit for the time being. One was that those who were not using the local material were not subject to any profit limitation at all. That discrimination seemed to the board, in its wisdom, to be a little unfair. A second reason was the difficulty which the board saw in regard to “ mixed “ plants, which were using partly local material and partly imported material. The board thought that it might be a good idea to remove the limitation, but to watch the whole position closely. We came to a slightly different conclusion. We thought, “Let us retain the profit limitation of 12i per cent, at present. Let us administer it in a reasonable and liberal way. Then, if it does not work, we can look at it again.” I believe that it has worked. I have before me a minute from the Department of Customs to the effect that the whole of the £600,000 has been used up, so apparently no one has been deprived of the bounty. Secondly, we are told that in no case in which application was made was the profit above the 124 per cent, limit.
– Can the Minister tell us to what extent the bank guarantee was taken up?
– I am afraid that I have not the figures with me. The Government’s caution in this matter appears to have been fully justified. The board did not recommend removing the limitation on the ground that 124 per cent, profit was inadequate, but because of the special circumstances that I have described. So far as I know, only one company has protested. It is the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited, to which the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), made reference in a very moderate and reasonable speech. He said that he did not propose to move an amendment because an assurance had been given to him that his company was not liable to the profit limitation. I think that I ought to correct that impression. I gave no such assurance. The honorable gentleman refers presumably to a minute from one of my officers offering the opinion that as this is a co-operative organization it would not seem to be subject to the limitation. I have not given that assurance at all.
– In view of the good record of the company and the fact that it has kept the other people in their places, the Minister ought to give that assurance.
– I cannot give such an assurance if that is not the law. In view of the way that this matter of the relationship of profits to capital has been administered, I do not think that any of the acidproducing companies have real cause for complaint. As I said earlier to-day, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), the Tariff Board has been asked to look at the bounty, with respect to both amendment of the act and future period of operation. The board will then report to the Government and, among other things, will no doubt advert to this question of profit limitation.
I must tell the honorable member for Capricornia, the honorable member for Corangamite and other honorable members that I believe that that would be the best time to consider whether we can accelerate the change-over to pyrites production by altering the profit level. I hope that the honorable member for Capricornia will accept my suggestion that his proposal is a little premature. We have just embarked upon a new and orderly plan to stimulate conversion, and until that plan has been given a chance to work it would b2 premature to do as he suggests. I hope that wiser councils will prevail and that, in his great wisdom, he will not press his point for the moment.
– The Minister is making it very hard for me!
– I am sorry that the Government cannot accept the honorable member’s proposal at this stage. We shall continue to look into the matter and take action, if necessary. We believe that, although not necessarily 100 per cent. conversion, a greater degree of conversion than has so far taken place is desirable. I am sure that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was himself a Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and is experienced in these matters, will know what a complex industry he is dealing with and how very difficult it is, by this indirect means, to persuade these great units of private enterprise to do as we would like them to do. After all, they must look after their own shareholders’ interests, and the stability of their undertaking. I believe that indirect methods are the only methods which we should adopt, but they are difficult to apply.
I do not criticize any of the companies for anything that they have done. They are merely looking after their own commercial interests. But if they do not, this country will suffer. We must try to persuade them that it is in their long-term interest, as well as in the best interests of this country, to switch over their plants. Moreover, we are making it a little difficult for them to do otherwise. From now on, when people make application for import licences for sulphur which, after all, does involve us in very heavy dollar expenditure, applications will be considered on the basis of essentiality, and the respective needs of new plants as compared with those of existing plants. As 1 have said, all that is part of what we hope is an orderly and sensible attempt, without hurrying too much, and without hurting any one too much, to persuade the industry to change over to local production. I agree that, although the improvement which has been achieved up to date is considerable, it is not as much as we had hoped. But I believe that the new plan, which was announced last February or March, and to which I have referred to-day, will result in a quite substantial improvement in the future.
I notice that the Opposition has indicated its approval of the bill. I hope the bill will go through the House without dissension, and that we shall be able to get on with the business of making this industry more and more an industry which will operate on Australian-produced materiel.
– Has the Minister any information on the conversion carried out by the various States and companies?
– I shall try to get that information for the honorable gentleman. 1 have not the information with me now, but I shall write to the honorable gentleman and let him have it.
– Can the Minister give us information on all the companies concerned, and the amounts that they have spent on conversion work?
– I cannot do that now, but I see no reason why I could not give the information to the honorable gentleman later on.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.- I move -
That consideration of clause 2 be postponed, as an instruction to the Government - to re-examine the Tariff Board’s proposal in regard to section 10 of the principal act.
Section 10 of the principal act concerns the limitation of profits. I should like to say how much I appreciate the remarks of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). I think he is a very moderate sort of fellow, too. Probably, if he had been in charge of the manufacture of sulphuric acid all through, we might have got somewhere, but, as it is, we have not got anywhere. The facts of the case are that while we have a capacity to produce 100,000 tons of sulphuric acid a year and 95 per cent. of this capacity is being used, less than 40 per cent. of production is taking place from indigenous materials. We were so informed in the second-reading speech of the Minister. We have been dealing with this matter as a parliament since 1950, to the best of my recollection, but we have achieved very little in regard to it. If our aim is to enable 65 pex cent, or more of production to take place from indigenous materials, then I believe that the provision regarding limitation of profit must be eliminated, as recommended by the Tariff Board.
There is no desire on my part to enable big profits to be made in this industry, nor to set myself up as an oracle in connexion with it. I base my remarks on the report of the Tariff Board. The board considered all the evidence before it in 1954, when the circumstances were almost identical with those that exist to-day. The board’s recommendation was that profits should not be limited, and that recommendation was added to the report at the time. I reiterate that by fixing a profit margin we put a brake on the use of indigenous materials. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has spoken on behalf of an Australian company that has played a major part in keeping down the price of superphosphate to the farmers.
– Order! The honorable member may not make a second-reading speech on a motion for the postponement of consideration of a clause.
– 1 am stating the reason why 1 ask for the postponement, which is that the Government should examine the profit margin, the limitation of which is restricting the use of sulphuric acid manufactured from indigenous materials in Australia. 1 do not want to make a secondreading speech on this subject. I ask the Government to have another look at section 10 of the principal act. and examine the Tariff Board’s report. I have not submitted this motion in condemnation of the Government, the aims and ideals of which have been good, although somewhere along the line it has had bad advice, lt has adopted a policy which it now proposes to continue, but it will not aid the industry. Therefore, 1 have moved that the clause be postponed as an instruction to the Government to re-examine the limitationofprofit section of the legislation.
Mr. POLLARD (Lalor) 14.10].- On behalf of the Opposition, 1 would be prepared to support the postponement of the clause, not m order to enable the Government to review the profit limitation-
– That is the only reason why the honorable member for Capricornia wants the postponement .
– I know, but 1 am prepared to use the honorable member’s proposition for another reason which could achieve the same objective, possibly, that the honorable gentleman is seeking, but by a more satisfactory method. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) made an interesting and sound suggestion in regard to the same matter. He suggested a different remedy. The honorable member pointed out that there are accumulations of pyrites in Western Australia which it is not economic to work because of the freight problem. Probably, it is also due to the freight problem that it is not economic to work certain stacks of pyrites in Queensland. As pointed out by the honorable member for Werriwa, it would be possible to overcome a constitutional difficulty by the Government’s providing in its giants to Western Australia sums of money which would enable the bounty to be sufficient to encourage the use of the Western Australian stockpiles.
During the war, Western Australian pyrites were used and, to some extent, are still used for the production of sulphuric acid. In one case, the limitation of profit probably prevents the stockpiles from being utilized to the extent that they should be. It is not right to remove the profit limitation provision from the bill in order to help one company if the removal of that provision would enable other companies, which are more fortunately situated, to profit unduly. But it would be sound to apply some other method, as suggested by the honorable member for Werriwa, whereby the States could be given an amount to assist the people who have operated stockpiles to achieve what is, in effect, an evasion of the Constitution by obtaining a bounty which would enable utilization of their materials. Looking at the question from the national point of view, what State needs assistance more than Western Australia? The production of gold in Western Australia has been assisted by a bounty that has resulted in gold being dug out of -i hole in the ground in Western Australia and put into another hole in the ground in the United States of America or Great Britain. However, the gold bounty is essential to the State of Western Australia.
Likewise, it can be said that a pyrites bounty of sufficient amount or of a differential nature is possibly justified for
Western Australia. Consequently, the Opposition supports the postponement of this clause in order to enable that proposition, and the propositions of the honorable members for Werriwa and Capricornia, to be considered. We will support the proposition of the honorable member for Capricornia in order to obtain a postponement not for the motives for which he wants the postponement, but for the motives for which we want it, although in both cases the same desirable result may be achieved. In these circumstances, the Opposition will support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia.
.- I cannot quite follow the reasoning of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). I do not think that he has given a very clear reason for this motion. Hisargument entirely depends on the Tariff Board report. As I recollect the situation, it was before the Korean war, when supplies of sulphur were very limited in Australia, that we speeded up the production of sulphuric acid. This was done, originally, in order to assist primary production, but also because- sulphuric acid is probably a most valuable commodity for many of our industries. It was conceded that the use of pyrites might be achieved by the conversion of certain existing plants, which were producing sulphuric acid from brimstone. As an encouragement to manufacturers to do that, the Government guaranteed quite a large amount of money, which was provided through the Commonwealth Bank. As a quid pro quo, the Government gave producers a bounty and, at the same time, fixed a rate of profit. I believe these facts are substantially correct. It cannot be said that the manufacturers have been very generous to the farming community. Their attitude is largely that they are producing a product required by the farmers, that they make a certain quantity of it in the year, and that if the farmers want it they can send their cheques along with their orders and can take delivery when the manufacturers are prepared to let them have it. That cannot be said to be a very generous attitude to the consumer. As a matter of fact, in one place I visited, the manufacturing company was asked whether it had sought to increase the consumption in its territory so that its production might be increased. The company said, in effect, that it was producing all that it felt disposed to produce, so there was no point in trying to increase consumption by encouraging the farmers to use the product. Until such time as the manufacturers are willing to produce more of this article, which is so vital to Australia, I am not prepared to support an amendment to make any alteration in respect of the limitation of profits.
– The Government will not accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). First, I think it will have no effect; and secondly, I think the real nub of this matter is not an examination of the position now, or any action that might be taken now, but an examination a little later when the effects of our present proposals have had a chance to be evaluated. The Government is hopeful that, as the result of the new proposals, further conversion of plants will take place because, remember, we are not here for the purpose of giving anybody increased profits. The purpose of giving a bounty, limited to profits up to 121 per cent., was to encourage the conversion of plants. If, as I believe, the abolition of the ceiling will not accelerate conversion, then there is no point in removing the ceiling. I think, therefore, that it would be wrong to do that at this stage. If conversion does not go ahead as we hope, it may be necessary for some other step to be taken in the future.
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) asked me to provide him with some figures, if I could, about the production in the various States. I believe the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) also wanted some figures.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! That should be discussed in relation to clause 3.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman.
.- The Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) has given reasons why he will not agree to the amendment; but he has not said anything about why he will not agree to the amendment on the basis on which I have indicated the support of the Opposition for it. I ask the Minister now what real reason there can be for refusing to postpone this matter so as to give the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and other honorable members on both sides of the House an opportunity to see whether it is’ not desirable to incorporate in the measure a provision whereby Western Australia, and, for that matter Queensland, could provide a bounty adequate to encourage owners of stockpiles of pyrites in both these States and put them on a more even basis with the owners of stockpiles in other States. I know that during the war Norseman pyrites were used to a greater extent than now. They are still used, but the producers are not in as favorable a position as those in the other States. This Government ought to give members of this Parliament an opportunity to explore the matter. We have been reasonable. We have supported the bill and its general principles. All we ask for is a short delay. Surely, the Government is not so pressed for time that it cannot agree to a delay of a week. We support the amendment to the degree I have indicated.
– I do not want to appear to be reflecting on the motives of the Opposition in supporting the amendment, but I point out that when the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) moved the amendment he did so on the sole basis that it was an instruction to the Government to remove the profit limitation. Now, up gets the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and, supported by his party, says that the Opposition is dead opposed to the principle that actuated the honorable member for Capricornia, but will support the amendment for another reason. In those circumstances, although I value and respect the honorable member for Lalor, I do not think his speech is worth any reply, because it does not do him or his party any credit, and has no relation to the point at issue.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 954), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure, the purpose of which is to amend the National Service Act, brings to a close the attempt made by the Goverment to get some sort of universal training scheme working in this country. Since the measure is practically machinery in nature arising from the general statement on defence made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), we shall assist the Government to get rid of what, patently, it desires to get rid of; and we shall do so by moving at the end of my speech an amendment that will seek the complete abolition of universal training.
When the act now being amended was originally before us we were told that the attitude of the Opposition in this matter was completely unpatriotic and unrealistic so far as its effect on our defence was concerned. Yet, years afterwards, we find, whether there has been a lack of administrative skill or a desire to change a plan, or whatever the reasons are, that the Government has now come substantially at least through its Ministry, if not through all of its members, to the same conclusion that was arrived at by the Opposition some years ago. That conclusion was that there were extreme difficulties in relation to a call-up of young trainees, aged eighteen years and upwards, the questions of manpower and administration being paramount among those difficulties. Now, we find that it has been decided to an almost Gilbertian degree to retain universal training while limiting the numbers to be trained. How will the chancelleries of Europe react to the fact that the new scheme will embrace the training of only 12,000 men annually? Either it is this, or it is that; either the scheme is useful, and can be proceeded with or it has been proven to be unmanageable, and something ought to be done about it. So, I suggest that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) ought to find some pleasure in accepting the amendment which I shall move, in a little while, to relieve him of an obligation which perhaps he would like to fulfil but has not been able to fulfil.
We do not intend, at this stage, to debate the merits of compulsory training under the universal training scheme, because the Government itself has abandoned it, at least in principle. This reduction of the numbers to 12,000, and the birthday ballots that will take place and which I shall explain later, are an instalment towards the eventual elimination of the scheme, which will become a thing of the past.
So, we find nothing to say about the bill other than to remind the House that the Labour party’s attitude during the debate on the principal act, which provoked all sorts of strange charges being made about the party’s attitude to the defence of Australia, has been proved to be logical and correct. The main point of the measure is that training in the future will be confined to the Army, that the Navy and Air Force can look after themselves with enlistments and, therefore, that the Army shall have these 12,000 lads. The number actually trained will be reduced from 33.000 to 12,000. The actual training time with the Citizen Military Forces will be reduced from 176 to 140 days and will be spread over four years, instead of three. So there is gradually a whittling away of this and that. We noted the embarrassment of the Minister for Labour and National Service in his speech. Usually he is most dynamic; he is in, possession of his facts and rolls them round with a great deal of clamour. There was also the web of honeyed oratory of the right honorable gentleman’s leader.
– Not honeyed - oleaginous.
– Honeyed or oleaginous. We have our choice of words. I should like to be fairly reasonable at this stage about this matter, which I consider to be very important. The national service scheme, which was the banner with a strange device, the excelsior of all military organization and planning, has now been dropped quietly overboard.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in another statement, referred to the fact that it has been a great social success. But I thought it was intended to train men for -war or, at least, for defence in case of attack. But all that the Prime Minister can squeeze out of it, as from the tail-end of a tooth-paste tube, are the ideals of personal discipline, loyalty, and service. They are splendid ideals. But how much has this scheme cost? You can get that sort of training in the Young Men’s Christian Association for nothing. It was as a stern military measure that we called up the kids for military training. The intention was to give them a balanced idea of the country’s difficulties and to put them through a regimen of military training. Personal discipline, loyalty and service are ideals, of course, but soldiers must also be able to fight.
The Minister for Labour and National Service also said that the scheme was a success socially, as it was. I think it was a splendid thing to bring the young men of the community together. You can live in a suburb foi- most of your life and get to know only the people next door, the church folk and a few others. You get the great amalgam of Australianism in many places, but one of the surest places is a military camp or a service camp, where men develop what we call the Australian spirit of service. In that way, the National Service Training scheme has been useful. But that was not the idea, I take it. Now we find that the Minister has decided - I thought I detected a note of reluctance in his voice - that he would rather be rid of it. In this connexion, 12,000 is a paltry number. It would not mean anything in war. It cannot have any real reference to defence. As a final gesture, the Government has decided on 12,000 before the dissolution of the scheme, which has failed. We said that it would fail, and we derive no pleasure from our accurate forecast.
In my personal opinion it failed because boys of eighteen were drafted to the Citizen Military Forces. The administration was unable to cope with two utterly dissimilar sets of people - the youngsters of tender years and the men who enlisted in the C.M.F. to become soldiers. Those men wanted wet canteens and the usual rugged life in the Army, and would have been pleased to have them. They had the essential qualities of a soldier. The boys were conscripts. Their parents were anxious about them. Political and other pressures were brought to bear on those who had to decide what the curriculum or syllabus should be. I think it is reasonable to conclude that the administration broke down because it could not handle the two sets of people. I am fortified in that from an unusual source. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ had this to say yesterday in its leading article -
The military usefulness, therefore, of maintaining an annual intake of 12,000 national servicemen is precisely nil.
– Evidently that paper is as ill-informed as you are.
– That is an unfortunate remark, because I had decided not to read what it said about the Minister for Defence. I will still be good, kind and charitable, because I do not believe it entirely. I think he means well, but he has not quite got what it takes. The article went on -
Worse than that, it makes it very difficult - if not virtually impossible - to build up the volunteer component of the C.M.F. The volunteers have fallen away steadily since the introduction of national service, because the presence of eighteen.yearold conscripts in the ranks changed the whole character of the C.M.F., besides bringing unwelcome restrictions.
So long as national service trainees are incorporated in C.M.F. units, so long will the volunteer hold off. Yet without a very large recruitment of volunteers, the C.M.F., like the proverbial old soldier, will simply fade away. It does not seem, as it the Government has faced that fact.
That is the conclusion that we on this side -of the House have arrived at. In order not to miss the bus, and because we believe that it would help the Government at this stage to get rid of the debris of a scheme that has definitely failed, I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place -thereof: - “ because the compulsory training -scheme is to all intents, being abandoned by the reduction of annual intake of 33,000 to 12,000 youths, all of whom are to be drafted to the Army alone, and because youths are to be selected %y a system of ballots, the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the abolition of com.pulsory military training”.
As the scheme is staggering to- inevitable doom, a bold proposal for its abolition is, (perhaps, a negative approach, but we believe that if the Government does abolish it, and then takes more interest in getting recruits for the C.M.F. a lot of good will be -done. There are many young men of eighteen years and over who would enlist in the Army if conditions were more attractive. Let us have a planned publicity campaign of some value. We should not dress the men up in lollypop uniforms. Give them a realistic, soldierly appearance. If there were some realism in relation to pensions and living standards and if the men were treated as professionals, then, despite the tug of full employment and the desire of many people to leave soldiering out of the scheme of things, we should get a solid core of the right type of people in the C.M.F1, and we should have resolved at least one problem which, apparently, the
Administration could not handle - that is. what to do with two groups of people dissimilar in approach, dissimilar in age and impossible to weld into a composite body, which, as every unit commander knows, is essential to create what we used to call esprit de corps.
I think the Government can see that we are not attempting just to take advantage of a problem with which it is faced in relation to defence. This matter is too important for that. The game is not lost. There can be a greater concentration on the C.M.F., with benefit to all concerned. If I may interpolate here, at least on the question of numbers we know that, in an atomic war - which we hope will never come - numbers are not pre-eminently important as they were in the past. The Prime Minister said so in his statement.
There are some quaint adjuncts to this final demise of the compulsory training system, such as selection by ballot on your birthday. This is the first time that the military authorities have invoked the horoscope either to dissipate or gather their numbers together. It all depends on the luck of the draw and on whether you happen to have been born in the merry month of May, or in the winter of our discontent, in the midst of July. The Minister for the Army will have a collection of lottery lads in the Army who, no doubt, will be called the “ballot boys”, or the “ballot battalion “. I know that the Americans do this, but it is not necessary always to attempt the American system.
– This sounds like conversion to a corps de ballet!
– Yes, my word it does. Perhaps if some of these lads are not very careful and show a leg, just as the corps de ballet does,, they may be out of the Army in due course. But is this scheme useful? I suppose there is not very much else that the Government could have done about it, but the ballot system is really a bit off, a bit un-Australian. There is going to be a terrific roar in the electorates, and we will all have to share the opprobrium when little Willie comes within the call-up and little Jackie misses out. The trouble will spread” beyond the bounds of party politics and will disturb the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) just as much as it will disturb me and other honorable members. It will look to the citizen as though a certain preference has been shown. A young man may upbraid his parents for his being born at a certain time, and may even say to them, “ If you had shown a little reticence here and there I might not have been in the Army “. Honorable members can see how far it will go and how extremely dangerous it may be. Of course, this brings to mind the old Army song about the captains and the kings within the Army itself. However, it is not a laughing matter, and it may be quite serious. I view with some apprehension the forthcoming parade of mothers to my rooms at Campsie from 9 to 12, every Monday, to see me on this matter.
I do not think that the Minister has much of an opinion himself of the ballot system, but, as I have said, what can be done about it? Then, of course, there is the question of numbers. I think it is correct to say that most of the rural residents will not be in the services at all. It is a curious thing that, in all of these call-ups, the presence of a drill hall is the conditioning factor. With motor cars everywhere, perhaps the country fellows would like to participate in military training. If we look at the history of the first Australian Imperial Force and the second Australian Imperial Force, we see that the list of decorations won by countrymen is very long. Because of their rural training, men from the country are pretty good soldiers. I would go so far as to say that they are terrific soldiers. A lot of them will be excluded, but perhaps some of them will be volunteers. It seems that most of these 12,000 will consist of defaulters and accidental soldiers. It is going to be a polyglot, the most extraordinary group the country has ever produced.
– That is a most extraordinary reflection to cast on the youth of Australia!
– I am not referring to the youth of Australia. The Minister should not get angry with me, because he said, and so did the Minister for Labour and National Service, that the defaulter would not be considered as having a birthday at all. All the planning that went to his creation is to be dismissed by this legislation, which says that if you are not in a birthday group you may be in your birthday suit before the doctor and slammed into camp because you defaulted. Every defaulter must answer the call. It is true that the Minister for Labour and National Service did say that the figures in relation to defaulters were not high, and they could be smaller, but they are certain, no matter what the horoscope says, of being placed in the Army.
– Does the honorable member think that it is fair?
– I would not like to say anything about defaulters, because everybody has his own history. Some people did fall in and some people did not when the bugle sounded “ Be a defaulter as long as you like, as long as you answer the call “. I see an answering gleam in the eye of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). But there are defaulters and defaulters. In this instance, there may have been a lot of reasons for taking this course. I do not want to push this thing to an absurdity. Other speakers from this side of the House will deal with other aspects of the matter to try to help the Government with this problem. Since the Navy and the Air Force can manage, and as the Army is to have these 12,000 trainees as a sort of token, could not we get rid of the scheme altogether and adopt once again the voluntary system?
– It is a necessary adjunct of the militia.
– Yes, I know that you have to think of something different. In the strategy of to-day, as to how to gather bodies which are not sufficient in this country, the essential problem is, “ Where do you get the man-power “? The problem also involves the question of trainers, of how many people can be absorbed from the Regular Army to train these lads. The Government had one problem based on another, until the edifice collapsed. Everybody can see that plainly. But there must be another way out without these 12,000. I think that the Government should give that a thought.
– You would assist voluntary enlistment for the first time?
– We have always insisted on voluntary service, but we do not support, and we never have supported, compulsory service. I suggest that the Minister read “ Hansard “ and keep himself up to date. We have not a negative approach to defence in this matter; we have a positive approach, with very positive and firmly based ideas of our own on it. This change of outlook by the Government is tardy recognition of that fact. The Minister should see that that is so. In return for our interest in defence matters we have been called a lot of “ reds “, and accused of having an unrealistic attitude. Now, the Government has come round to Labour’s view that the scheme cannot be sustained. Nevertheless, honorable members opposite still say that we have an unrealistic attitude and that our attitude is contrary to the Australian interest.
This matter goes beyond the call-up of youngsters. It covers the whole question of enlistment in the forces of this country. But it seems that it will be the Army which will get these 12,000 trainees, and I think that that will not, in the long run, contribute anything to defence generally.
I have touched on the subject of deferment, and I have also touched on training. I am pleased to see that in the matter of apprenticeship, which has been mentioned by the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) so frequently, the Government has had a change of heart. I think it is very reasonable for the Minister to decide that now, because of the limited time of training-
– A death-bed repentance!
– A death-bed repentance, yes, but it is nice to see them repenting, even at the death-bed, in a political sense. Apprenticeship has posed a real problem, and I do not think that the apprenticeship commissions really understood how acute it was. But the hard work and the persistent questions of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, amongst other things, have brought a result. We are quite satisfied with the circumstances which now surround the position of apprentices in this matter. As the Minister has said, with the alteration in training and the shortening of the period, these provisions should be reviewed. It also has been pointed out that the call-up will come in January, with a chance that universities and technical colleges will be closed until late in February. Some businesses, too, have a three-week lay-off at that time, This is a very sensible plan. In fact, it is about the most sensible side of the proposals.
I have said all I want to say on this matter, because the real essence of the thing, the essentials of it, should be debated, and probably will be debated, later to-night when defence proper is discussed. This matter is a simple one in that the bill seeks to reduce to 12,000 the number of national service trainees in any year, and in doing so it creates a kind of Gilbertian situation. Surely, the 33,000 were few enough! 1 conclude by saying that the amendment moved in my name represents the point of view of the Opposition in regard to this matter. It has not been moved just to be in opposition. It has been moved because the Government, obviously, is in a dilemma. It has not had the courage to abolish the scheme entirely, but hopes that it will die because of lack of numbers, for one thing, and because of the lack of a proper spirit in relation to the training of our young men for service in the defence of this country. I leave it to other honorable members from this side of the House to touch upon other aspects of the matter, but I, myself, reserve the right, as i think I may, to deal with it in relation to matters referred to by the Prime Minister in the paper on defence which will be debated later to-night.
– I second the amendment.
– The National Service Bill is probably the most important bill that we have had before us in this sessional period, and therefore I regret very much that it has been used in this fashion as a stop-gap. I know that the Government announced the general principles some time ago, but the bill was brought in only yesterday. The debate was supposed to take place to-day but I understand that it is to continue only until 6 o’clock. I do not think the streamlining of parliamentary procedure to that extent adds to the dignity of Parliament. It does not add to the standard of debate and, in the same way it endangers the preservation of what I would call, for want of a better term, the democratic ideal. Therefore, I can only strongly protest against such an important bill being handled in this way. because members of Parliament, and also the outside public want to know, not only the general principles, but also the details of the new scheme. They are entitled to know these things because so many people are affected throughout the community.
The National Service Bill was first introduced on 21st November, 1950, and the Minister who introduced it said then that the first reason for its introduction was the contribution that could be made in that way 10 the defence preparedness of the country. The second reason was that it would improve the physical fitness of our young manhood - using that phrase in the widest sense. We all agreed with him and to a very large extent, so far as the physical fitness and training of national character is concerned, the scheme has been and is an unqualified success. However, as far as its contribution to defence preparedness is concerned, unfortunately I am amongst those who feel that in its present form it is an unqualified failure. The Opposition need not think I am going to be lured into supporting any motions it may move, just becauseI happen to approve of certain things that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has said. When one considers the Labour party’s defence policy as outlined in Brisbane, one arrives at the conclusion that it is not a defence policy at all. It is merely a case of “ get out of everything you possibly can, spend your defence money in other directions and leave it to others to look after your security in the future”. That will not help this country or its people in any way whatsoever.
Nevertheless, having said that, at the outset, in order to make my position quite clear, I admit that certain errors with regard to judgment - and as far as I am concerned I take my share of the responsibility of that as a member of this party - were made in November, 1950. Perhaps, at that time, we should have looked a bit further ahead and not instituted quite the scheme we did. but I still say that it has been of very greai value and if it has got to go, I am very sorry to see it go. I should like to see the scheme continue, because the best education I ever received was after I left school, during my first six months in the army, when, as the “ dear old sergeant “ of the Greasy Point platoon from Williamstown, the wharf lumpers took me in hand. It is an excellent education for all of us, no matter from where we come, to be put through a course of what is known as “ shuffling up the pack “. In that sense and in that respect, in teaching us discipline or in teaching us many useful things the national service training scheme, if it could be continued in relation to civil defence, or something of that nature, as I hope it may be, would be a very good thing.
Do not let us fool ourselves that it hasadded anything to our defence potential.. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated very clearly that we are no longer able to count defence potential in terms of numbers of partly trained men. In other words, the national service training scheme helps to’ make good citizens, tut it does not help, unfortunately, in this day and age to make good soldiers. I said before and I reiterate that a defence policy which means that we cannot put a division in the field in under six months is hardly appropriate or useful, particularly when we are dealing with partly trained men who have not volunteered for overseas service and are therefore no longer of any real value.
Personally - and I will deal with the matter later - I hope that the Defence Act will be altered because it is high time we dropped this business, “ We are good fighters, but we do like to fight at home It was an accusation made with a great deal of truth during the last days of World War II. In some ways the idea of continuing the national service training scheme as part of the defence policy, is, I think, a dangerous delusion because it leads people to adopt the attitude of mind that we are really doing something in regard to our defence policy. It might add a little to it but so little as not to be of any value. It is rather like in the early days of last war when we put light horse units into camp. As a lighfhorseman of World War I., I have a very great love for the tradition, history and everything else connected with the light horse, but the light horse was of no use at all in the last war.
It is no use allowing our perspective to be distorted by our affection for the Citizen Military Forces and the tradition that lies behind those units. That is a grave mistake. I should like to say one thing with regard to the C.M.F. A calm, cold analysis of the result of six years’ experience with national service training, proves that the C.M.F. has not benefited, but on the contrary that national service training has been very much to its detriment. Diluted as it is with national service trainees, C.M.F. volunteers have fallen off, and the enthusiasm which was once its main characteristic has seriously deteriorated. If it can be carried on as before with volunteers and thereby help to provide leaders, officers and non-commissioned officers who cannot be trained in six months* so much, the better. I must say that enthusiasm _ becomes dampened and efficiency slowly disintegrates when you carry on series after series of what is known in the Army as. “ tewts “ - tactical exercises, without troops. Therefore in some small way the revised scheme may provide some of the troops for the training of our leaders.. After all, one has to remember that it takes much longer to train leaders than it does to train the rank and file. If any honorable member has any doubts on that matter I suggest he read a book written by one Field Marshal Sir William Slim, entitled “Defeat into Victory “. Certain passages of this book would be very enlightening to those who have any doubts as to the length of time it takes to train officers, non-commissioned officers and men and to convert them into a hard-hitting efficient mobile fighting unit.
I do not know what the Chiefs of Staff think of the Government’s proposals. The Parliament cannot know what they think. Not so very long ago, I dreamed that a Chief of Staff was invited by the Cabinet to give his frank opinion on such things as national service training; and he did.
– That was not a dream; that was a nightmare.
– Perhaps it was. He asked, “ Is it desired only to be able to put one division into the field after six months? “ I do not know at what intervals other divisions were to follow, but we shall say that there was to be a second one in nine months, and so on. The dream went on until he was asked to appear before Cabinet a second time. At that stage, I woke. As with most dreams, a clear recollection of everything has not remained. I have forgotten the name of the Chief of Staff in question, and I am unable to say whether there was any reality in the dream.
The Government is responsible for defence policy, and no Chiefs of Staff can in any circumstances run counter to government policy. The Parliament itself has a responsibility to tender advice to the Government in matters of this kind, and even individual members may tender advice on policy if they disagree with what is proposed. The national service training proposals are only part of the Government’s plans for defence re-organization. Although I consider that parts of the Government’s plans are inconsistent and unrealistic, 1 think that the proposals that were placed before the House by the Prime Minister on 4th April represent a great advance on the existing scheme of things. Having said that, I go on to say that I have very grave doubts about the national service proposals. I cannot see why, if 25,000 national service trainees a year would not suffice, we should do any better with 12,000, especially as such trainees have not volunteered for overseas service and cannot be sent abroad. This brings me back to the point that no one wants war. Nevertheless, we must have a defence policy, in the present state of the world, either as an insurance policy or as a deterrent. If it is to be an insurance policy, let it at least be realistic and worthwhile. As to its being a deterrent, I suppose that there are many aspects of the defence proposals that it would not be in order for me to mention in the debate on this bill.
I remind honorable members again that we should compare the expenditure for every head of the population in Australia with that, not of older countries that are well developed, but of younger countries such as Canada. I think that, in these terms, our expenditure is only about 50 per cent, of that of Canada. Some honorable member may say, “ No one is criticizing us abroad “. Have honorable members read to-day’s newspapers? One headline is -
Australia must play bigger part in Pacific defence says Admiral Stump.
I would describe Admiral Felix B. Stump, the United States Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific, in good old British terms, as a gallant sea-dog. Here he has spoken in diplomatic words, but any one who cannot read between the lines is blind only because he does not want to read. Admiral Stump said also -
No matter what happens in the world, the United States and Australia will have to be on the same side.
He also made the following comment: -
The United States and Australia are in the same pot, whether they like it or not . . .
I think we like it. I do, and that does not weaken my ties with the Mother Country, as I. have already said in this House. But Australia should not be just the flavour of gallic rubbed round the edge of the pot, or a small pinch of herbs tossed into the siew. In plain terms, 1 think we should consider this matter a little more closely than we have done in the past. Does Australia expect the younger generation in Britain, Canada, and the United States of America to fight for, and the taxpayers of those countries to pay for, our security in the future?
– Australians have never indicated that before.
– They have not done so, but they have a moral obligation which, perhaps, the honorable member may not understand. If we wish to call on the aid of our allies, we have a moral obligation to share the burden. This was stated very clearly by the Prime Minister in these words - . . I want to give emphasis to the belief of the Government and, I am sure, of the Australian people-
He might very well have added “ irrespective of the honorable member for KingsfordSmith “- that we would not, except at our peril, think of the defence of Australia as a purely local matter, confined within the Australian coastline . . . We cannot expect the defensive assistance of the great democratic Powers unless we are ourselves prepared to take a proper part in the common defence.
Those are excellent words, which we as a parliament must translate into deeds and not allow to remain only as excellent words. This is where I think the re-organization of the national service training scheme and the Army falls short of what is worthy of the Australian nation. One can hark back to the past, if one likes, and say that other people have made mistakes. Those of us who can cast our minds back to World War I. can recall some of the criticisms that we heard then. We can still hear echoing down the corridors of time the cry, “ You were too proud to fight “, which, at the end of World War I., was directed at nationals of one country, and that of “ You fellows are grand fighters, but you do like to fight at home “, which was directed at nationals of another country in World War II. Each of. us can decide for himself whether there was any justice in those emotional criticisms which we all want to forget. No one wants to bring them up again. We must rise above them, and remember that Australia is a very responsible member of the family of free nations in the Pacific. Assuch, it is not sufficient for us to be prepared only to provide, from national service training, a partly-trained reserve sufficient only for support and reinforcements for one brigade group and one battalion group. That is not enough, because 12,000* partly-trained men a year will be of no more value - and, indeed, of rather less value - than 25,000. We have to look at the problem in that light.
In the midst of the Coral Sea Week celebrations, to which we have invited Admiral Stump as guest of honour, is any member of this House going to say that we should merely give lip service in the praise that we give to our own servicemen and those of our allies who fought in the Coral Sea Battle which we are now celebrating, and which saved us from our enemies in those days? Shall we say, in the midst of this week of commemoration, that the tasks of defence should be left to taxpayers and the younger generation of our friends and allies in Britain, Canada and America who, for some years past, have been subject to two years or eighteen months of compulsory military training with obligation for overseas service? The Australian Labour party will never have at any price compulsory training for overseas service. We saw that during World War II. The Labour Government established Australia’s line of defence on the footpath in front of our house, as it were, and refused to allow our troops to go beyond this artificial line.
Surely, in a time such as this, we shall not so reduce our national service training scheme and our establishment of permanent troops as to permit us to have available for service overseas only one brigade group and one battalion group! If what the Prime Minister said about the dangers of communism in South-East Asia is correct - it is on record for honorable members to read - this brigade group will have to be composed of supermen to be able to carry Australia’s full responsibility. Therefore, we must ask ourselves what this revised national service training target of 12,000 trainees a year will achieve. I think it represents the worst of both worlds. It neither constitutes a scheme of universal training, nor does anything to increase our defence potential except so far as it releases a certain number of permanent army men from training duties. In a lighter vein, I do not know what we will do with all the sergeant-majors. Perhaps we shall have to tie them up in bundles of ten and return them to the stores. However, that is another problem. But if 2,000 men are to be released by reducing national service training, then 4,000 would be released, if we eliminated national service training; and 4,000 is the strength of another brigade group. They may not all be suitable. The sergeant-majors have done a wonderful job and do not let it be thought that I am slinging off. They have done the job excellently and I am sorry for them, because it will be hard to know what to do with the surplus non-commissioned officers. But if we wiped out national service training, practically 4,000 men would be released and that would provide a second brigade group. That is something which has to be taken into consideration, because what is the proposed partly trained reserve going to do?
First of all, if an emergency breaks out - and I hope it never will - men in reserved occupations will have to be sorted out. How many of them will there be? Then we will have to call for volunteers, because unless we alter the Defence Act - I believe it should be altered - only volunteers can go overseas. Then we will have to start all over again with a re-organization of units from scratch. Therefore, we might as well start off voluntary recruiting in the first place without bothering about all this administration and sorting out, and still have a division trained for service within six months providing we have the officers and non-commissioned officers.
– There are the volunteers.
– As I said earlier, I hope we can carry on the Citizen Military Forces with volunteers, but I think the Citizen Military Forces are sliding down hill in the present circumstances. Therefore, I think it is better to abolish the scheme than to delude ourselves that this outward and visible form is something worthwhile in defence whereas it has no actual substance in fact. We are still going to ask other young men of our allies and the people we look to for support to do what we are not prepared to ask our young men in Australia to do. If we are to drop completely the universality of national service training - it was curtailed to a certain extent a little while ago - I would rather see a selection by ballot of lads who would go in for eighteen months, be properly trained instead of partially trained, and also be available for overseas service. But do not ask them to give up such an amount of their time without compensation by way of rehabilitation. Ask any exserviceman on either side of this House what it meant to try to start off again in the face of handicaps which confronted him when he returned home. Even with rehabilitation, good as it was, the ex-serviceman had a very difficult problem compared to those who had not been away.
The plan I have suggested would provide at least a division - head-quarters, ancillary troops and three brigade groups - in two years and then they would go, fully trained, into reserve and others would take their place. If such a proposal is adopted it will be necessary to institute some form of compensating rehabilitation benefits as has been done in other countries. I think it would be right and proper.
Although I know we have no actual legal commitments with regard to Seato, should we not ask ourselves what our allies in Seato think about this limited effort on the part of Australia? A country of 10,000,000 people can only produce one brigade group and one regimental group for service overseas! I know there are other aspects of the defence policy, and we can discuss those when we discuss the main defence statement; but one brigade group is only playing with the problem. At least we could have two brigade groups by wiping out. national service training altogether and a whole division by instituting the scheme that has been operating in Great Britain and America for several years past. I know the difficulties with which this Government has been faced. To my knowledge it has been struggling with them for at least two years, if not three; but it is no good producing a scheme that is not workable. This scheme may be workable, but it is certainly not useful even though it may please the largest number of people. If we can retain national service training for civil defence or for citizenship, that is all right, but do not put it down to defence expenditure. In trying to placate the greatest number, I think we are making the worst case possible for the Army itself. It is now seven months since this defence re-organization was undertaken, if I remember rightly, and all we have achieved is a certain number of general principles. But the world moves much faster than that these days. I do not want to deal with the full picture on this bill, but 1 do say that we should either completely abolish national service training or reorganize it on the basis that has been operating in America and Britain. We could then have at least two brigade groups, and possibly a whole division, with the fully trained reserve. If that were done we would be taking some steps to enable Australia to play a bigger part in Pacific defence. Otherwise we shall be leaving it all to the other fellow and getting away with an expenditure of £20 a head as against £109 in America and £53 or £54 in Canada. I am certain that the people of Australia, if given the right lead, will agree to one of the two schemes I have suggested, and also to end this limitation of overseas service to volunteers.
I have not made these remarks in any spirit of carping criticism of the Government. I know the difficulties facing it, par.ticularly the difficulties that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has been up against. He was most unfairly criticized in a “ Sydney Morning Herald “ leading article recently. I have reason to know certain things and I have a reason for saying that. I appeal to the Government and to members on both sides of the House. The last defence policy of the Opposition was practically to wreck the whole show, and T appeal to honorable members opposite to lake a more realistic view. We have not been doing what we as a nation should do, and therefore I would ask the Government to have another look at this problem before it institutes a foreshortened system of national service training, which to my mind - and I feel this very strongly - is partly a waste of money and largely a waste of effort.
[5.131. - I listened with interest to the address by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes). It can be seen at a glance that there is a conflict of opinion in the ranks of the Government parties on this matter. First, the honorable member said that he thought the national service training scheme was an unqualified success. Then he said that he had to admit that it looked like an unqualified failure. Just what did he mean? The honorable member also said that no reference was made to a defence policy at the great Labour party conference recently held in Queensland. Those men gathered together in Queensland to formulate a policy for the Labour party for the futureHaving regard to the national economy, they recommended the abolition of compulsory military training for home defence. That recommendation was made by men of ability, men with a patriotic outlook, men with a great love for their native land, men who were called up in 1941-42 when the government of which the honorable member for Chisholm was a member walked out of office and left Australia to its fate. I reiterate that those men who met in Brisbane to formulate a defence policy are men who have great faith in their native land.
The honorable member for Chisholm also said that we must have an insurance policy. The Army is our insurance policy. Let me inform the people of Australia that ii is the dearest insurance policy on record, because in six years of peace it has cos* Australia £1,200,000,000. To-day the military heads, or the “ brass-hats “ as they are generally called, have seen fit to recommend to the Government that the national service training scheme should be restricted. Why have they done that? What ha& become of the money? They say the scheme is very costly and cumbersome, but the Australian Labour party said that in 1951.
The honorable member for Chisholm posed this question: Will Australia have to go hat in hand to other nations of the world? That was an insult to the Australian nation and to the Australian fightingman who has never gone to any one hat in hand, and never will. Seven hundred thousand Australian men volunteered for service in 1939 and succeeding years. That is my reply to the insult that was offered V t!:c honorable member to Australian fighting men and Australian citizens generally.
– 1 rise to a point of order. I did not insult any one. I happened to be one of those who volunteered in 1939, but the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith was not.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– The honorable member for Chisholm says that he happened to be one of the 700,000. All credit goes to him. but that does not give him the right to insult the rest of the men who volunteered for service overseas, nor does it give him the right to offer an insult to the qualified technicians who had to remain behind, of whom I was one. I was protected by the Parliament, which passed an act to prevent me and other qualified men from going overseas. Of course, the country may have been able to spare the honorable member for Chisholm and to send him away. He may have been of no use here, but. I was of some use, and they thought it better to keep me here and to send the honorable member overseas. I was prepared to go, but I repeat that the authorities decided that I was of more use here. Would the honorable member for Chisholm have been of more use in Australia than out of it? Seven hundred thousand fighting men will bear that insult in mind.
Australia’s reciprocity to the assistance that she received in 1941-42 was much greater proportionately than that of any other nation. One in every eight persons was called up for service, and the rest of the population worked behind the lines. I think it was no other celebrity than General MacArthur who said that Australia, man for man, was the greatest nation in the world.
The introduction of the National Training Bill 1957 is a further attempt by this Government and its defence advisers to cover up their ineptitude and to wipe out all trace of their colossal, costly blunders in assessing Australia’s defence requirements. We all know what a great military authority the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), to whom the honorable member for Chisholm referred, was and is. In 1951, he came back from London hot-foot and said, “ We will have a war in three years. We must be prepared.” In fact, he gave a written guarantee that we would have a war in three years. The Government, panic-stricken, rushed in with the National Service Bill 1951. Not far behind him came the then Vice-President of the Executive Council, Sir Eric Harrison, who, also having rushed hot-foot back from
London, said, “ I will guarantee a war in twelve months “. These men seem to have to go to London, unlike the Labour party men who attended a conference in Brisbane and who had the knowledge without having to go to London to acquire it. Great hysteria prevailed in 1951, the military heads rushed in with their advice, and the national service training scheme was born.
I shall now quote the answer of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) to a question that I directed to him in 1951. I should like honorable members to take note of this matter, because during this debate a lot of reference will be made to the very important question of the training of apprentices, who are our technicians of the future. On 24th October, .1951, I asked the Minister -
Will he consider making provision under theNational Service Act for all time lost from work by apprentices attending camp for training to be counted as time worked for the purpose of their apprenticeship?
Having served my apprenticeship, I knew what the apprentices had to put up with, how their parents had struggled to pay for their apprenticeship, and how eager their masters were to exploit them at all times. The Minister, being a great authority on everything at the time, replied to me in the following manner at 11.18 p.m. on 1st November, after I had again raised the matter: -
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) referred to one aspect of the national service training scheme. Before I discuss that aspect, let me say that if there is one act of government policy which has proved conspicuously successful
And I ask honorable members to bear those words in mind - and a credit to all those participating in it, including the Government and the lads called up for training, it is the national service training scheme.
One reason why it has proved so successful is that consideration has been shown at all stages of training for the welfare of the lads themselves. The Government has kept in mind the fact that the young men are required to make some contribution to the security of their country by giving up part of their time over a period of three years so that they may be trained.
An apprentice, of course, gives up his time over a period of five years. The Minister continued -
We knew when the scheme was introduced that it would make demands upon young men drawnfrom every section of the community, and engaged1 in all sorts of occupations. No person has been relieved of the obligation to serve by reason of occupation, whether he be a professional student, an employee in business, a farm lad-
They were exempt - a mine worker, or an apprentice. But just as certain demands are made upon young men, so also are demands made upon employers and upon the taxpayers in general, who have to foot the bill for what is a very costly scheme.
The Minister admitted that. He admitted also that the employers had to pay tax as a part of their contribution to the defence of the country. The apprentice was asked not only to pay; he was also asked to learn how to defend his country and how to handle a gun, while, at the same time, he was endeavouring to learn how to make equipment necessary to fight a war. The apprentice was obliged to learn to defend his country in three ways, but the employer was asked only to pay a portion of the tax necessary.
An apprentice called up at eighteen years of age lost three months; and the employer, who needs protection for his property at all times, was prepared to dock that boy for the time he served in the Army. In addition, when an apprentice reached nineteen years of age and was entitled to his annual increase, as the law prescribes, the employer took advantage of the fact that three months of his period at eighteen years of age had still to be worked. Before the boy could get his annual increment, he had to work for three months in his nineteenth year and again in his twentieth year. When he was a journeyman, after he had reached the age of 2 1 years, he had to work for three months as an apprentice to make up for the time he had lost in his twentieth year. The injustice done to the boy in that period is obvious. The Minister has now decided that an injustice was done and deferment will be granted at long last. It is a death-bed repentance. At long last some justice will be given to the apprentice, who is the man who will be most competent in the future. Despite the fact that we have called for thousands of soldiers, the most important man is the technician.
When the war hysteria was at its height, honorable members on this side of the House pointed out that the scheme was cumbersome and unworkable. That proved to be true and showed once again the great vision of members of the Labour party. This view was resisted by Government supporters generally, and especially by the
Minister responsible for the present attempt to water down the national service scheme to the ridiculous proportions proposed in this bill, that is, from 33,000 to 12,000. In addition, service with the Navy and the Air Force is to be eliminated. Australia, being a continent surrounded by water, is dependent for its overseas trade on waterborne transport. What protection will be available when ships are out of the range of land-based aircraft? What protection will be provided for our native land under this scheme? I am only a plain layman, but I ask the Minister to search out his experts, the nabobs and “ brass hats “ who lay down these schemes for him, and ask them what provision will be made to protect those essentials carried by water. This Government squanders millions of pounds with no regard to the taxpayer. All it does is to promote scare headlines in the press about what is happening here or there or somewhere else and what President Eisenhower or a Middle East king said. The Government scares the people out of their wits and then taxes them beyond their means in the holy name of defence.
At this moment, it is appropriate to mention that £1,200,000,000 has been spent on defence in the short period of six years. The Prime Minister said that next year defence expenditure may be £190,000,000. However, after spending £1,200,000,000 with nothing to show for it, the Government proposes to reduce the national service training period as a sop to the people prior to the introduction of the forthcoming budget. The period will be cut by one-third, but will be spread over four years instead of three years. The Government intends to increase the spread of the training period by 25 per cent. I should like to know why it has decided on that action. The Army estimates brought down with the last budget show that we have a top-heavy Army management which should be investigated. We find that our Regular Army has a Chief of Staff, and two lieutenant-generals.
– There are three.
– The Chief of Staff receives £4,750 a year. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) should note that there are only two lieutenant-generals, each of whom receives £4,150 a year. Eleven major-generals - whatever they do - receive a total of £44,814 for their salaries alone.
We have 24 brigadiers, 45 colonels, 216 lieutenant-colonels, 2,801 majors, captains, lieutenants and second lieutenants, 2,364 warrant officers, 777 staff sergeants, 2,770 sergeants and 4.919 corporals. The total number of officers and non-commissioned officers is 13,930. Then, we have only 12,070 lance-corporals, privates, gunners, sappers and drivers. We have one officer for every man. These figures are taken from the Estimates. The total cost for this arm of the defence services, without equipment, guns, rifles or ammunition, is f 23,541, 000. The new Minister for the Army, who wanted to make a great man of himself, immediately he got into office said, “ I will show them how to defend the Pacific “.
– Did he?
– Of course he did. He was going to form a Pacific islands regiment. He said, “ Its members will not need boots, for a start. We will economize “. The Pacific Islands Regiment, of course, has gone out of existence. The Minister for the Army was taken to task by the Prime Minister, who, by the way, does not like anybody making suggestions - he prefers to make them himself - and the Minister went back into his shell for five or six months.
I return now to the bill. The huge cost of the military nabobs’ advice, which varies from time to time and runs the country into no end of debt, gives the man in the street some food for thought. These experts go on to say that the composition and organization of the whole of the military forces must be such as to provide a nucleus of trained and partly trained personnel against the requirements of an emergency, a prime element of which would be speed of mobilization and deployment. Surely there must be some conflict of opinion within the ranks of the brass-hats when they decide that we need only speed of mobilization and deployment in the Army of 12,000 men, plus the 12,000 we propose to get annually from the national service training scheme. What is this conflict of opinion? Will there not be any need for an air force? Will not that air force want auxiliaries? Or is it the intention of our Government, when buying planes overseas, to follow the usual technique of bringing with them air force personnel, of course under pressure from other countries? The
Government says that the latest machines will be bought for the Air Force. Does that mean that with the machines will come the crews? Is that part of the plan, and will there not be any need for air force personnel? I pose that rude question to the Government, and in the interests of the people of Australia the question should be answered. Will there not be any need for partly trained personnel, for mechanics for the Air Force, and for the technicians about whom I have been speaking? Just what is behind it? This island continent will also need some sort of a navy. We know that we have admirals, who are without ships, walking round Garden Island. We have eight admirals with nothing to do, but they are still on the pay-roll.
– They look well.
– They look well in uniform, as the honorable member for Lang has said. Just what is the future of our Navy? Have we arrangements overseas? Have we an arrangement with the American nation? Was it planned to bring this bill, and the ministerial statement on defence, which will be debated to-night, before the House during the visit of American warships to Australia? Is it coincidental, or has it been planned? Hysterical headlines in the press are preparing and softening the people for some such occurrence. This bill makes no provision for an air arm or a naval arm.
We come now to the method that the Government proposes to adopt in choosing these trainees. A selective system of ballot will be used. We have been opposed at all times to the selective system. We know that the Minister did not use a selective system previously, but succumbed to the pressure of the Australian Country party in regard to deferment from training. The sons of graziers, squatters and others in rural industries had their training deferred, but there was a proviso that they must reside a certain distance from a Commonwealth training centre. That proviso was easily overcome by the wealthy, and we know that much skulduggery went on in country districts to ensure that the sons of the wealthy were not called up for national service training.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that the selective ballot would prevent manipulation. He has a suspicion that there might be manipulation. The ballots will be based on dates of birth. He said that the system of selection will work in this fashion -
Out of the total number of birth dates which can occur-
The phrase “ which can occur “ is significant - for any group to which a ballot is being applied, a certain number of birth dates will be drawn by ballot.
That is rather complex, but it means that all the birth dates - there may be none on 29th February - will be put in a barrel and dates will be picked out. The Minister hastened to assure us that some well-known and respected citizen would preside and make each draw. Very likely it will be the president of the Liberal party. He will preside and make the draw. He will have to be a dual personality. Those whose birthdays do not fall on the dates drawn will be granted indefinite deferment. They will be informed immediately of their deferment. If their birth dates do not go in, they cannot come out. That is the manipulation that can go on in quite a simple fashion. Those notified of deferment may, if they wish, volunteer to undergo training.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented. I have been so long in Parliament that I do not feel inclined to allow a misrepresentation to go unchallenged when I am sitting in the House at the time it is made, although perhaps I ought to apologize to the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) for not having been more explicit in what I said. Certain events of the past are just as fresh to me now as the day they happened, and I was forgetting that perhaps other people were not so familiar with them. What I did was not insult members of the Australian Imperial Force, who to me are the very salt of the earth. What I did criticize was the government which put the shackles on their legs, when they were part of the Pacific defence forces, which prevented them from moving out of a certain restricted area or region, an action which led to criticism from some of our own allies. I wanted to make that point quite clear.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Stokes) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Beale) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Beale) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Since the Parliament passed the Explosives Act in 1952, some doubts have been raised on the correct legal interpretation of certain terms relating to the berthing of ships and also whether the act makes sufficiently certain the power to require by regulation that a berth provided by a port authority for a vessel berthing by order is suitable for the purpose specified in the order. Sub-section (l)(b) of section 6 of the Explosives Act 1952 provides that the regulations may empower a person to direct, by order, that a vessel in which Commonwealth explosives are, or are to be, loaded may be “ moored “ or “ berthed “ in a port specified in the order. Some differences of opinion have arisen as to the correct legal interpretation of the words “ moored “ and “ berthed “ appearing in this section. J should have thought, having had some slight experience in the matter, as my colleague the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has had also, that when a vessel is moored, it is moored in a stream, but when it is berthed, it is berthed alongside a wharf. Apparently, however, we did not know what were talking about when the legislation was passed and a great deal of uncertainty has arisen as to whether the word “ moored “ has the connotation of being alongside, apart from being in the stream. That is how the trouble arose.
– Do they attach the mooring lines to fixtures?
– Apparently the mooring lines are attached to the fixtures on shore and, therefore, a vessel is deemed to be moored, although most sailors would assume that mooring means something done to the vessel out in the stream.
– When the vessel is tied to a wharf, it is berthed but only “ moor “ so.
– That is so. There is no clear differentiation between these terms, and it has been suggested that as matters now stand the requirements of an order would be met if a vessel were moored at an anchorage. The purpose of the provision in the act, however, is to ensure that to meet defence requirements a vessel shall be berthed at a wharf where the facilities are available for handling that particular consignment or for handling other cargo when Commonwealth explosives are on board a vessel.
The bill before the House will resolve these differences of opinion by leaving out the word “ moored “ entirely. It will also place beyond doubt the power to ensure by regulation that a vessel is provided with a berth which is suitable for handling the cargo it carries. The effect of it all is that the land lubbers have won the day in this legal argument.
Since the passing by the Parliament of the Explosives Act 1952, it has been found necessary on 50 occasions for orders to be made directing that a ship in which Commonwealth explosives were loaded, or were to be loaded or discharged, should be berthed in a specified port. This action was necessary for three principal reasons - first, because the normal facilities provided by the State could not be made available to handle the quantity of Commonwealth explosives in a particular consignment because it would result in serious delay to shipments of commercial explosives. In such cases, State authorities have requested that the vessel be berthed at a commercial wharf under authority of an order. Secondly, action was taken because a ship carrying Commonwealth explosives had to berth at an intermediate port to work ordinary commercial cargo, and thirdly, because an urgent defence requirement could not be delayed for the time which it would take to load by lighters.
Orders made on these occasions have been tabled in the House as is required by section 6 of the act.
In every other case of Commonwealth explosives being shipped through Australian ports where the particular circumstances previously mentioned did not apply, the explosives have been handled through the explosives anchorages or wharfs established by the State authorities. In all cases, the port authorities are consulted before an order is made, and recognizing the paramount needs of defence, the port authorities generally have co-operated fully with the Commonwealth departments concerned to provide berths suitable for the loading or discharge as the case was.
While it is proposed to continue to consult the port authorities before an order is made, it is felt that the importance of ensuring the expeditious and safe handling of explosives needed for the defence of the country demands that any doubts existing as to the efficacy of the Commonwealth’s authority to require by order that a vessel be provided with a suitable berth should be placed beyond doubt. In the case of some made-up explosives required at Woomera, the explosive content is small, but the mechanism is so delicate that offloading into lighters at an open anchorage could cause extensive damage. Only the defence authorities are competent to judge the need for berthing at a commercial wharf and the bill proposes, therefore, to provide for the making of a regulation which will ensure that a suitable berth is provided where necessary.
Before regulations under this sub-section are promulgated, the Port Authorities Association will be given the opportunity, as is provided for in section 5 (3) of the act, to make recommendations to the Minister. It is not proposed to vest any officer with unrestricted authority to exercise the power contained in sub-section (1a). The regulations will provide that these powers will only be invoked in the case of failure on the part of a port authority to provide a suitable berth for a vessel loaded with, or to load, explosives urgently required for the defence of the Commonwealth. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) - by leave - agreed to -
That so rauch of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) speaking for periods not exceeding 45 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively, on the motion to print the Ministerial statement on defence.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 4th April (vide page 579), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper be printed: - Defence - Ministerial Statement.
.- The resumption of the debate is on a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) which has been printed and circulated to members of this House. It refers to the new and, I think, the fifth or sixth defence plan that has been brought down by the Prime Minister. It is well bound and presented as a useful parliamentary document, but I must say that anybody seeking a solid, integrated defence plan would be bitterly disappointed with the document because the “ lead-in “, as newspapermen would call it, is some dissertation upon total war, global war and all the planners’ language in relation to war which takes up at least one-third of the first section of the document. The lead-off, of course, is an attack on the Communists when this country desires only to exist and, in order to exist, must co-exist.
So somewhere in this volume there is a slim content of what the Government hopes to do in the future, and to that section of it I will bend my remarks. It is not so much what the Prime Minister has said but what he has left out that requires some elucidation. The first question that springs to the mind of every Australian whether he supports those on this side of the House or those on the treasury bench is this: What has happened to the £1,000,000,000 that has been expended in defence in the last six years? Echo answers: “ What indeed? “ Because, on the admission of this statement, there is no defence worth a tinker’s damn in Australia to-day.
– You were told in the budgel what had been done with the money.
– Never mind that. What is important is what I am telling the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) now, and I. want the Minister, as one of the service Ministers, to listen because this is above party and above politics and is of vital importance to the people. A huge sum of £1,000,000,000 has been dissipated in six years, and there is nothing to show for it.
– That is not true.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order!
– Are we reverting slowly to the position that existed in 1939-41? The Prime Minister is a perfectionist in slipping backwards. In 1939-41, we heard the same remarks. Everything in the garden was lovely. The oratory was there, but the tanks were not. Now we are in the same position, with strategy shot to pieces and everybody worrying themselves to death about what sort of war we will be fighting if it comes. Everywhere there is fear of what the awful consequences will be, but even in the essentials, the old accepted ideas of defence, we are sadly lacking.
Let us take the Army first, and the Minister should listen to this carefully. He cannot be happy about the abject failure of the national defence scheme. A few hours ago this House buried it gently and without ceremony. On this side of the House we pointed out that an army of 12,000 trainees is just nothing to shake the chancelleries of Europe as Australia’s defence plan. That is what it has come to now.
This was another scheme about which the Prime Minister made a magnificent oration. He is always the expert entrepreneur, promising a good performance, but he walks away and there is no performance. That is the situation that the Minister for the Army has had to face up to to-day. I leave that matter now and will revert to the situation facing the Minister for the Army later. The Government substituted the volunteer system which in our day was good, strong and vital, and now the system of calling up the youngsters has failed, simply because the Army administration could not carry it. It was eating the heart out of other sections of the Army - the Citizen Military Forces and the Regular Army which must provide the personnel to train the youngsters. Thus, we come back to the bitterness of birthday battalions and lottery lads going into the Army! The Minister cannot be proud of that, lt was a terrible performance.
Now I turn to the Navy. The Navy is a good, solid service, but I did not see a line in the Prime Ministers statement to suggest that the Navy is concentrating on submarines as it should be doing. I am merely a student of war - probably a poor one - who tries by study and as an amateur to understand the elements of defence. As Clemenceau has said, “ War is too important to leave to generals “. I think that perhaps because of our geographical position we will be sorry that we have not thought more of submarines.
The modern trend is not to abolish the Navy. You just put it under the water where it can be protected against atomic attack. The Russians have done that ami other nations, particularly the United States of America, have followed the same policy, but we have only the pathetic story of H.M.A.S. “Hobart”. It cost £2,000,000 to refit so that it could be made modern if possible. The old girl could not stand the changes. She is at Walsh Island wrapped in cotton wool and quite useless. So, £2,000,000 has been wasted. That is No. 2 indictment on the Government. Nothing of that appears in this document.
The Army is shot to pieces. It does not know where to turn on problems of strategy. The next move is to have 4,000 troops of a crack division in order of brigade, and I shall deal with that and other prospects later, as they seem to be a bit more feasible.
The Royal Australian Air Force has been waiting for years through the administration of various Ministers and various planners to know when it is to be reequipped, and with what. That has been the position year after year. Now we hear that the Air Force is to be equipped with Starfighters. The trouble with the planners in the Air Force - and not so much the personnel who are ready to do their job as usual - is that they are struggling with the words obsolete and obsolescent. The Government buys an aircraft for £1,000,000 and it is obsolete or obsolescent before it reaches this country. Technically there is not much difference in the definitions of the two words obsolete and obsolescent, but definitions can mean everything to the man who has to fly the aircraft. His sense of definitions fc extraordinarily acute.
So, we have nothing for the Army; the Minister himself admits that. In the Navy, we have the horror of what happened to H.M.A.S. -i Hoban” and the general waste of money. That is where the £1,000,000,000 has gone. In the Air Force we have this dickering to see what it will be equipped with next. Nothing is heard of the most important defence measure. During the days of the Curtin-Chifley Government the aircraft building industry was really something. It was important inasmuch as it engaged technicians. It was important in our scheme of full employment, but it was doubly and trebly important in the fact that it gave us a chance, if we could get by those first terrifying hours of total war to rebuild our cargo planes, for example, and so on. That has been touched upon lightly by the Prime Minister in his report. You can feel the same thread running through his discourse, of opportunities missed and apologies in profusion. The Army, the Navy and the Air Force all have their sad story to tell. A huge sum of £1,000,000,000 has been wasted and the people are asking where is the defence that we should have obtained from those millions that they have provided.
Then we come to administration. That will be dealt with by a member of the Australian Labour party, the gallant and honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee. He can tell this House plenty about what was revealed to the Public Accounts Committee on administration when Sir Frederick Shedden, then the top man in administration in the Department of Defence, appeared before it. “ When can we mobilize? “, he was asked. Sir Frederick had not heard the word. It was something new to him. Honorable members will remember the furore that was created when one of the members of the Public Accounts Committee asked Sir Frederick, “ How soon can we mobilize - instantly? “. Sir Frederick shook his head sadly. “No”, he said. “When, then?”, he was asked. He could not say. There it is. Even at this stage we hear how reluctantly the bureaucrats have been dragged out of Melbourne - the “ top brass “- to come to Canberra and sit down and get closer to the Ministry to belt out a defence scheme for us. The civilian is at a disadvantage with the “ brass “. As I found out when I was a full buck private, the best way to deal with the “ top brass “ was to get stuck right into them. All that can happen is what usually happens when a private attacks a general. It is of no use to tinker. I pass that advice on to the Minister for the Army in case he is having difficulty.
An amount of £1,000,000,000 has been spent and the Prime Minister just rubs his hands in front of the eyes of the assembled public and makes it disappear. It has gone, and we must look to the future. The same sad story applies to administration of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. We feel justified in asking: “ Does history repeat itself? “ Must the terrible history of 1939-41 repeat itself? Is the Government drifting, drifting, drifting and sinking, because of its own incompetence, back to what happened in the early days of World War I.? It is well to remind ourselves of what the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, said in his policy speech on the 27th July, 1943 about the strength, disposition and condition of Australia’s defences when Labour took over in 1941. He told us that in those days we had several warships in overseas theatres. We were 20 per cent, short of rifles for initial requirements - not the requirements of the accelerated war effort launched by the Labour government. Let me pause here to say that Labour makes no claim that it won the war, as a government. That distinction belongs to the people of this country, to the exservice men and women, and to the second line of defence, the people in the factory and on the farm. Between them they built up a war effort which was second to none. One man in every eight was in the armed services and there was a correspondingly severe man-power restriction and call-up. No government other than a Labour government would have been able to obtain such co-operation from the Australian worker. The present Government knows that.
To-day, despite all this rosy talk of preparedness, the same ugly picture of 1941 obtrudes. It inserts itself into the pattern of to-day. As I have said, in 1943 the then Prime Minister told us that we had been 20 per cent, short of rifles for initial requirements. Honorable members will recall the stories of rifle butts and no barrels. Mr. Curtin also spoke of a 28 per cent, shortage of sub-machine guns, a 48 per cent, shortage of light machine guns, a 21 per cent, shortage of anti-tank guns, a 9 per cent, shortage of anti-aircraft guns and 56 per cent, shortage of field guns. These are all cold, hard statistics, but what a tragedy lay behind that deficiency! How perilously near we were to total extinction as a democracy because of it!
We had five Royal Australian Air Force squadrons, all outside Australia, and no fighter aircraft. Honorable members will remember the Wirraway trainers which took on the Jap Zeros. We had only ten light tanks, mostly used for war loan rallies. What a war effort! We fear that this may come again, and for that reason we are asking the Government to consider what has happened in the past. Surely it could present us with a document more in keeping with the times.
– Do you want us to spend more money?
– I do not care what money is spent but I would like to see a plan.
– Will you remember that? You do not care what money is spent.
– Order! The Minister for Air will refrain from interjecting.
– What we want from the Government, and cannot get, is realism. Here we have the continent of Australia - 3,000,000 square miles of vulnerable territory, with very little to protect us. Geographically, our strategical position is very bad indeed. We want to know what the Government’s plan is. Everybody else has a plan. Government supporters tell us that they are anti-Communist and are going to do this or that little thing, and we agree that they are frustrated by a shortage of man-power, money and materials, but some eventual plan must be decided upon.
The British Government is facing up to things better than we are. One of the things that the Prime Minister of this country and his military advisers should read is the speech of Mr. Duncan Sandys, the soninlaw of Churchill, who is Minister for Defence in Britain. They should look at his courage in facing up to a situation and regard it as a pattern for the Australian
Government, and for all of us. I shall quote from the report of that gentleman’s speech in the London “ Times “ -
The policy, says Mr. Sandys, is founded on the recognition of two basic facts. First, that in present circumstances it is impossible efficiently to defend this country against air attack with hydrogen bombs, and, second, whether we like it or not, we could not go on devoting such a large part of our resources, and in particular our man-power, to defence.
That is Britain’s attitude. The report continues -
Since it must now be accepted that adequate protection against all-out nuclear attack was impossible, the Government believed that the British people would agree that the nation’s available resources should be concentrated, not upon preparations to wage war so much as upon activity to prevent this catastrophe ever occurring.
That was the speech of the Minister for Defence in a Conservative government. If it were made by any member of this House he would be slated as a red and a .proCommunist wanting disarmament. Of course he would! Government supporters are leaning over backwards to do that, and this may serve as a halting note to the Government. Mr. Sandys continued -
There will be no real safety in the world until there is disarmament.
We agree with that entirely. It ought to have been incorporated in the Prime Minister’s statement to the nation. Continuing, Mr. Sandys said, and this is extremely important -
During my visit to Russia-
– When did he make that statement?
– He made it towards the end of last, month and it is reported in the London “ Times “. Do you think he made it in Sanskrit or Hindustani? He made it in the House of Commons and this is a fair report, taken from “ Hansard “, complete with interjections -
During my visit to Russia last summer I saw something of the vast programme of social and industrial work upon which the Soviet Government is engaged. With these immense schemes of domestic reconstruction on hand, it is hard to see how the Russians, any more than us, can have any interest in war or any desire to go on spending so much of their substance on military preparation. We must find a way of creating some measure of confidence between these two countries.
That is a profound, sensible and realistic statement on the position. Armament today is not so much a matter of expensive nuclear equipment which eventually every one will get. It is something stronger than that. The greatest weapon in the world to-day is friendliness between nations - the hope to bind us together so that we shall not perish together. To-day we heard the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) answering a question by blackguarding the Soviet side in this situation, which is on the razor’s edge of war. If I may interpolate something into my analysis of the Prime Minister’s pathetic statement on defence I would say that we must first of all get the right conscience, the right attitude, the right set-up and this must come, as Mr. Duncan Sandys has said, out of a proper appreciation of the position.
If a war comes - and pray God it will not - it will not be a matter of winning for civilization. No one will win. The result can only be the epitaph and extinction of civilization.
What plans have we before us now? Pathetically enough, they are not big, but as I come from the City of Sydney and wonder what will be the reaction of the people there, I would like to quote one passage from the Prime Minister’s statement. The right honorable gentleman had been talking about the far warning system and the chain of warnings that go through the country - reminding us that when the bell tinkles the first bombers into the air will achieve victory. This should take only three days and there will in any case be casualties amounting to between 11,000,000 and 16,000,000, depending upon where the bombs are dropped. In regard to the provision of guided weapons, the Prime Minister said -
The Guided Weapons Unit will be located in the Sydney defence area and will therefore be used for air defence training in a place where a modern control and reporting unit has alreadybeen established.
Those are cold, logical and sensible words, but what do they mean in the drama of war? They mean that Sydney is the “ target for to-night “ or any other night. There is not a more vulnerable city in the world. Stretching as it does now from the outskirts of Newcastle to Wollongong, it is the sitting shot of the world and we talk about lacing that area with atomic equipment! The rockets are ready to go up into the air, and because of the stupid planning of Sydney - partly due to this Government - we have an extraordinary set-up. On Botany
Bay we have Bunnerong, the “ sleeping lizard “ of the old aborigines. We have there the smoking stacks of our electric power installations. On the other side of the bay we have the tragic Caltex oil installation - oil tanks where Captain Cook first set foot in this country. I have never liked it, but it happens to be, for the purposes of this argument, yet another vulnerable spot. A little farther inland, in the electorate of the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), we have the Menai reactor. Farther in still, but close enough to be within the perimeter, is the St. Mary’s munitions factory, the greatest target of all time. All these things are gathered together on the foreshore, despite our warning to the Government when the Menai reactor was being built, and despite what we said about the old-fashioned factory costing umpteen millions of pounds to fill cartridges at St. Mary’s. Talk about Rip Van Winkle! I have never heard anything so disgraceful in my life! Therefore we have now, as an adjunct to our happiness, and to make us sleep tight in Sydney at night, a so-called perimeter of defence made up of guided weapons which will be a warning post, a reporting post for air defence and a training post.
The Americans faced up to this position in respect of such places as San Francisco. They knew that they had a vast, vulnerable coastline, and they did not hesitate about the matter. They tried at once to put their equipment, their vulnerable resources and essential services behind the mountains, in behind the high Sierras. They took, and are still taking behind the mountains, the good targets. If the enemy should succeed in destroying the things that feed and power a city, we hope at least they will not destroy the flesh and blood of the citizens. We sincerely hope that the enemy concentrates on destroying the potential to defend, for that is logical. I see nowhere in the Prime Minister’s statement any suggestion of deep underground caverns for protection against the ray, nor do I see any suggestion for putting vital industries behind mountains. No, the Government proposes to let them gather like a lot of hens and chickens on the beaches of Sydney where they are completely vulnerable even to an old-time bomber with one “ egg “. Yet Ministers talk in terms of atomic energy and the defence of this country! Have they made preparations to store food and to get the know-how on equipment? If we do escape - it is all a great question mark - an atomic attack, we have to return and build our industries again. Preparation for all this has been made in America, but there is no word of any such planning in the Prime Minister’s statement. There is no word whatever of preparation except a few vague phrases. Look at what happened in connexion with the F.N. rifle. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr.. Luchetti) has repeatedly asked questions in this House as to when this rifle will be in production. It will be another two years, will it not?
– It will he 1959.
– -We have had great headlines in the press, reverberating headlines, 48-point headlines and 60-point streamers about our new scheme of defence in which we are integrating our arms with America’s. But when will this be done? The F.N. rifle - take up thy musket. Sam - will not be ready for two years yet. The planes will not be ready for two years yet. Goodness knows how long it will be before we are ready with guided missiles! The Government is not courageous enough to tell us it has made no preparations for that dreadful interval between 1957 and 1959. The Government must answer that query, and it cannot be answered with incompetence or by reference to such performances as organizing the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The Minister for Defence Production made an astonishing statement that really hurt the susceptibilities of the average Australian. In an address to the Fellowship - I repeat “ Fellowship “ - of the Congregational Union in Sydney, he said -
We hope to preserve peace by mutual terror.
Has anything so disgraceful or so distressing been heard for years? Of course, he was speaking from the script, and there it is. On the one hand, we find that there is no preparation made. The Minister, himself looking very glum, has been taken to task by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ for not getting up and going places.
– I think the honorable member has been taken to task by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ before this.
– That, as the Minister knows, is the price of fame. I suggest that he get a little more publicity because it could help him in the future.
I was referring to the Minister’s remarks relating to mutual terror. That is a nice breakfast meal for the Australian people; it is nice black coffee in the headlines to be told we are keeping ourselves out of war by mutual terror.
– That is Churchill’s phrase.
– Of course it is Churchill’s phrase, and so is the iron curtain. After all, we can see now that our defences are not in very good trim, that our preparations are also of the Kathleen Mavourneen variety - it may be for years or it may be forever. Then we come to the good hard core of the planning that, has taken place. The Government has decided that we are to have a force representing a brigade of about 4,000 men. It may be increased later, ft is suggested that this is to be a sharp, well-equipped striking force, and that is all we are to have, except the Regular Army of some thousands.
There are many things in the Prime Minister’s statement, such as economic policy and immigration, which have to be considered. For instance, could we not use some of this £100,000,000 to finance the construction of more strategic roads to enable citizens to get away from the bomb if it should fall? Could not we have had some organization to use that money for the construction of ports, roads or shelters or something of that sort? But it has been confessed, although not in so many words, that the money has been expended in administration, or it has been spent more in administration than in the purchase of equipment and materials. So the standardization of our equipment with that of the United States of America is an admission that we are not able to carry on, so what do we do? We simply integrate ourselves with the Americans, and become, in effect, the 49th State of the Union. That will be our future under the policy of this Government. We shall completely dissociate ourselves from Britain, and integrate ourselves with the United States of America. My suggestion on that matter is that we should proclaim that we are a democracy with tremendous limitations in regard to our man-power. There is nothing wrong with having a courageous force devoted to peace. That is something that I would like to see consummated before I leave politics or shuffle off this mortal coil. I think it is one of the finest contributions that the Government could make to the welfare of this country.
All that the Prime Minister has said about defence does not touch the situation now because strategy, as I said before, has been shot to pieces. There is not a piece of brass in the country, clever or otherwise, who knows what would happen in a future war. In the old days the general, sitting at his desk, knew that if he deployed his forces in a certain way and turned his flank in a certain direction he could work out his own offensive. But to-day, the atom bomb is the great question mark. We have to ban the bomb. The Government says, “ Russia has the bomb and we have it “. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has said, “ Since we are just reaching parity with Russia in the development of the atom bomb, it would be a terrible thing to deny us the right to build up our stocks”. This is not a matter for nations any more. It is a matter for the whole of the world, and the atom bomb must and will be banned. Scientists have now come to their senses. A certain amount of spirituality has come to experimenters with atomic bombs. One by one they are coming to the penitential stool and admitting that they have been mistaken.
Last night, we celebrated a certain occasion with the representatives of certain exenemies of this country, the Japanese. Surely all of us thought of the cross-roads of death that is Japan to-day. On the one hand there is atomic fallout from Russia dusting itself over the hills, valleys and rivers and beaches of Japan. On the other hand there is the threat of Christmas Island. The citizens of fourteen cities have protested that something should be done in relation to atomic power. The Prime Minister had no time to see those people when he was in Japan. But this is the cry of humanity: “ Save us lest we perish “; because they are in the vulnerable wind drifts of the world. As a protest, with that kamikaze attitude that they have to life, the Japanese have sent their humble fishermen to the vicinity of Christmas Island. I remind honorable members that another group of humble fishermen were also called upon to make extreme sacrifices. Those Japanese fishermen will be the victims of atomic fallout as a great national protest against the madness of atomic bombs and atomic experiments. We have to come to a realization of this position. Everybody feels that, finally, common sense will prevail as far as the atomic bomb is concerned. Surely it is not written that man shall extinguish man in the brutal manner in which this can be done by the atomic bomb. We have wreaked enough misery already, and will have to get down to sanity again. Some people will have to be humble rather than proud. That jungle saint, Dr. Schweitzer, gave up money, position, a musical career, a scientific career and the opportunity to accept many excellent positions in order to go into the jungle of the equatorial Congo to nurse the sick natives who did not know that there were merciful white men who would cure them of their ills. And from his holy monastery of the jungle he has sent a message to the world - “ Destroy the atom bomb before it destroys civilization! “ I would rather listen to that man because of his story than to any other man in the world to-day. He has gathered a galaxy of witnesses behind him who are saying, “ Let us ban this thing! “ We cannot continue in our present course. The peoples of the world are gradually rising to say that this must stop.
The subject of defence must be lifted from the level on which it is asked, “ How many rifles, how many guns, how many bodies and how much brass and how many sergeant-majors have we? “. The question must be asked, “ How many friends have we in a hostile world? “ We have not many. I had had the privilege of talking to two journalists who came here from
Singapore and other eastern countries. They were delighted with the friendliness of Australians, at the kindliness shown to them in this House and with the kindliness shown to them at the Snowy River Authority. There was kindness every where. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and were glowing under the treatment that they received, and one of them said a significant thing. He said, “ Is it not a pity that you do not do this internationally? In your own country you are able to explain the White Australia policy without heat. But you are misunderstood in connexion with the Middle East and you have not the friendship of the nations in that area “. It is a myth to say that we have any friends. Such arrangements as Seato are only constituencies of protection. It is necessary for us to have a wider field of friendship. We must make friends in our own hemisphere and in our own ocean. It is all right having some* delightful friends in Greenland’s icy mountains, but I would settle for a few friends in Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, Ceylon, and all points east and west. That is the situation in regard to defence. I am bitterly disappointed that the Government has offered no explanation of the thousands of millions of pounds that have been wasted. I am bitterly disappointed that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are in the doldrums. I fear that we will return to the state of affairs which existed from 1939 to 1941, when we found that we had rifles but no butts to go with them. History could tragically repeat itself. I am dismayed to know that the City of Sydney is to be the sitting duck for the atomic experiment. It is a pity that Sydney must be the first experimental point, and it will fill people with dismay to know that at some distant date Sydney may be the target for to-night.
The essence of defence in the new strategy in the world is to have faith in the other fellow’s motives as well as in your own. It is no use deciding to hate everybody because continued existence is coexistence. I know that the Government hates such slogans, because they may smack at some place it does not like. But it is not possible to live except in one world. If one part of that world is bitterly opposed to our section of it and we are bitterly opposed to the other part, the result will be total extinction. I commend to the Government a change in its attitude to Eastern countries in the issuing of its public statements, which have been vulgar, irrational and completely ineffectual. In order to live and maintain ourselves in this country, we must have human dignity. Within the compass of our own man-power and materials and our brains and capacity, we should do all we can against the threat of atomic bombs. We should do all we can to convince people that we have peaceful and pacific intentions, and we want to live in peace and amity with the world. The man who can bring that about will be the greatest Minister for Defence that Australia has ever seen.
– I am sure the House and the people of this country will be extraordinarily surprised to know that the speaker on behalf of Labour, in discussing the defence programme that has been placed before this House, had not enough to say to occupy the time that he asked this House to grant him. It is perfectly certain that the spokesman who got up to state the attitude of the Opposition to the statement given from the Government side of the House found it so difficult to occupy his time that he meandered all over the world. He discussed all kinds of subjects, but, with all of them, he could not fully occupy his time.
Now, I have two matters I want to discuss at some length; but before I do so I wish to correct the misstatements that are continually being made by members on the other side of the House as to what Liberal Governments have done over the years in respect of defence. The simple fact is that in 1929, when the Scullin Labour Government came to power, it immediately suspended national service training and destroyed the whole of the defences of this country on the plea of economy. The Lyons anti-Labour Government came into office in 1931, and on every occasion on which it allocated money for defence there was criticism from the Labour party in this Parliament about the alleged waste of money. I well recall that on one occasion one of the Labour party’s leaders in this House said after Munich that defence expenditure was war-mongering. Yet, these people have the hide to criticize what was done by anti-Labour governments during thai period and to criticize Australia’s defence preparedness when Australia entered the war in 1939.
We have heard some quotations by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) from statements made by Mr. John Curtin on the defence of this country even before he became Prime Minister, and also after he became Prime Minister. I think that the House, and the people of Australia, should hear them again. On 12th October, 1941, shortly after Mr. Curtin took office as Prime Minister, he said in the Sydney Town Hall -
I have to pay tribute to the Government which preceded my own for the constructive work they have done in defence and the foundations they have laid. When I came into office the Navy was at its highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by the notable exploits of its ships overseas.
– He was only bluffing the Japs.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will refrain from interjecting.
– Mr. Curtin continued on that occasion -
The home defence Army was well trained and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect of home defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Air Scheme. The equipment of the Air Force had also been much improved. Finally, munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
I have repeated those statements by Mr. Curtin in direct rebuttal of the statements made by the honorable member for Parkes about the condition of Australia’s defences when the Labour Government came into office in 1941. The honorable member talked about strategic appreciations, and what the Prime Minister had to say. I shall give a very brief survey of the basis of our new review of the nation’s defences. I say, quite categorically, that the changes we are now introducing flow from our reassessment of the present strategic position as it affects Australia. I should like to restate the main factors quite briefly.
First, because of the nuclear deterrent, it is believed that global war is unlikely, though it could occur from miscalculation. Limited war is generally more likely than global war, and could break out with little or no warning. At the same time, the Communists will continue to exploit every opportunity to achieve their aims by cold war techniques.
– The Minister should not have to read his speech.
– Well, my speech will be accurate. It will not be like some of the speeches made here this evening. Secondly, this assessment of the international outlook, and our limited resources available for defence, dictate certain priorities of effort. We have concluded that preparations to enable Australia to participate effectively in cold war activities, and to increase her preparedness to participate in limited wars, should take priority, in that order, over measures directed solely to preparedness for global war. The probability that any wars in the future will be of shorter duration than previous wars is a major factor in determining peace-time preparedness and allocation of resources.
Thirdly, South-East Asia is of great strategic importance to Australia, and our primary effort will be directed to that area in cold, limited or global war.
Fourthly, the defence of South-East Asia and Australia is to be sought through the concept of collective security. For this reason we are participating in regional arrangements such as Seato, Anzus and Anzam. I need hardly remind honorable members that such arrangements are entirely in accord with the United Nations Charter. .
These strategic considerations determine the nature of the forces required by Australia to fulfil our role in all likely situations. For the cold war we must have trained regular forces available for use in areas of interest to us. Our participation in the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya is a highly important cold war activity. We must also be in a position to meet our obligations under the United Nations Charter, as in Korea. For limited or global war, to meet our regional obligations, we must have the ability to make a prompt and significant contribution of forces in the critical opening phases, and to follow these up with further forces as necessary. Appropriate forces are also required for defence of communications and other home defence tasks in accordance with the assessed probable form and scale of attack. The scale of civil defence preparations is likewise based on this assessment, and the resources that can reasonably be devoted to civil defence as part of overall national defence preparedness.
Our defence requirements can best be met by hard hitting, flexible, mobile and readily available forces. The decisions which have been announced by the Prime Minister are designed to achieve this. Our modifications of the national service training scheme and the building up of the brigade group of the regular field force, are in line with the priority that must now be given to highly trained, immediately available forces. Mobility, which is already a characteristic of the naval and air forces, will be further developed for all services by our plans to purchase modern medium range transport aircraft. The provision of modern equipment, and the re-arming of the Royal Australian Air Force with a new fighter aircraft, which is to be built in Australia, will greatly increase the hittingpower of the Australian forces.
Now, I want to say a few words about the control of nuclear weapons, about which we have heard so much from the Opposition to-night, and also over the last few months from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) himself. With the advent of nuclear weapons, the nations which now possess them have the means to wage war on a terrifying and devastating scale. As the President of the United States has stated, science has brought the world to a point “where war does hot present the possibility of victory or defeat . . . only the alternatives in degrees of destruction “. We all wholeheartedly agree that the elimination of nuclear weapons is an essential objective to be pursued. But no responsible person thinks that this can be achieved by unilateral action on the part of the democracies. However much we may deplore it, the grim fact must be faced that if the great democracies can no longer possess the nuclear deterrent, the whole of the free world would undoubtedly fall victim to Soviet and Chinese Communist aggression.
We are all agreed that there will be no real safety in the world until there is disarmament. But nuclear disarmament “by itself would be completely disastrous to the free world, since it would give decisive military superiority to the Communist bloc, which would always be able to maintain much larger conventional forces, and thus be in a position to enforce its demands by orthodox military means.
The British Labour party has a realistic attitude to this problem, as evidenced by the following passage in a resolution of its National Executive Committee two years ago: -
Hitherto, only the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have possessed the hydrogen bomb. Labour believes that it is undesirable that Britain should be dependent on another country for this vital weapon. If we were, our influence for peace would be lessened in the councils of the world. It was for this reason that the Labour Government decided on the manufacture of the atom bomb and that we support the production of the hydrogen bomb in this country.
The solution does not therefore lie in a simple banning of nuclear weapons. The kernel of the people of the free world’s position in this matter is stated briefly in the following basic principles which have governed their approach to the problem of disarmament: -
The history of the protracted disarmament negotiations since the end of World War II., shows that the democracies have made repeated proposals to achieve the introduction of a worthwhile scheme of disarmament, based on the essential and reasonable safeguards to which I have referred. These have all been met by political manoeuvres on the part of the Soviet. The Communists, on the other hand, have never put forward any proposals for the control of nuclear weapons, which were accompanied by enforceable guarantees that they would not use them themselves.
I would remind honorable members that America’s foremost authority on Russia, Ambassador Bohlen, told American correspondents before leaving Moscow on 19th April, that the fundamental aims of Soviet communism remain unchanged despite veering tactics. Mr. Bohlen summed up Russian policy as “ Peace at no price - to itself “.
It is of interest to note that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), during the course of a speech in New York in July, 1946, when, as Minister for External Affairs in the Labour government, he was chairman of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, made the following remarks on the United States plan then before the commission. I want the House to note particularly that the right honorable gentleman said, when he was in a position of responsibility -
The offer by the United States to give up this new and tremendously powerful weapon is, I think, an act unparalleled in history. The insistence of the United States representative that, as part of one general plan a control system must not only be commenced but made effective, is absolutely justified in the interests not only of the United States itself, but of all peace-loving nations. To pretend otherwise is sheer humbug.
– What is wrong with that?
– I am in complete accord with it, but the Leader of the Opposition must have travelled a long way to the left since then. These remarks represent a sounder and more realistic approach to the problem of nuclear disarmament than many of the more recent statements by the right honorable gentleman on this subject.
The five-power sub-committee of the United Nations Disarmament Commission is currently meeting in London to consider a new series of proposals which have been formulated by the various parties. They are of a comprehensive nature, and cover the general question of nuclear disarmament, both as to manufacture, stocks and tests, and inspection and control. It is the earnest wish of the Australian Government, and of all peace-loving people, that this meeting will be successful in widening the area of agreement between the major powers. As honorable members know, reports have just been received of new Soviet proposals, the details of which will require close, expert examination before they can be properly evaluated. The free world is seeking, sincerely and painstakingly, to arrive at a basis for real world disarmament with the Communist bloc, but until such a system is agreed and effectively working, we cannot, in the interests of world peace and the security of all free people, afford to see the Communists gain an ascendancy.
Mr. Speaker, I turn now to the specific question of nuclear tests, and I should like to comment on this matter from two aspects. First, as I have stated, in the absence of an agreement for comprehensive disarmament, the security of the free world must continue to depend on the nuclear deterrent. To maintain this effectively, testing is essential. Moreover, it has now been established that a test limitation agreement could not to-day be effectively enforced, for technical reasons, nor could breaches of it be surely detected. Does any one seriously believe that the Western Powers should suspend their tests, without sure knowledge that the Soviet will do likewise? This would imperil the democracies’ present lead in the field of nuclear weapons, and thereby weaken their power to guard world peace. All honorable members are aware that the Soviet has been conducting an extensive series of nuclear tests. As the Prime Minister asked in this House on 9th April, do we want the Soviet Union to have the monopoly of knowledge and experience in this field? If the Soviet Union is to have the monopoly, then what defence have we? Despite the concern of the Japanese Government about the forthcoming United Kingdom tests in the Pacific, they appreciate this aspect of the problem, as indicated by a statement made in New York the other day by Mr. Matsushita, the special envoy of the Japanese Prime Minister. He was reported as saying that it was “ politically impossible for one nation to stop nuclear tests unless all the atomic powers did likewise”. He went on -
If I were” Prime Minister of Britain or President of the United States, I would not do it unilaterally.
The cessation of nuclear tests is, therefore, not a matter that can be pursued in isolation from general nuclear control agreements of the kind which the democracies are seeking to achieve in their disarmament proposals.
I should like now to say a few words on the medical aspects of this problem. What I wish to refer to relates to the possible medical effects of nuclear tests because much has been said recently about this matter. Obviously this is a matter on which we must rely for advice on the best and most authoritative scientific advice available. At the request of the United Kingdom Government in 1955, the British Medical Research Council appointed an independent committee of the highest scientific authority to report on the medical aspects of nuclear radiation, including the genetic aspects. About the same time, the United States National Academy of Sciences appointed a group of scientists to investigate the effects of radiation on living things. The reports of both these bodies, which were published in 1956, are available in the Library, and I commend them to honorable members.
– Read us what the “ Lancet “ said the other day.
– I am reading what these two authoritative bodies, which were set up in the United Kingdom and the United States, have said. I will not try to summarize the reports, except to say that they both stress that every one is subject to natural background radiation due to cosmic rays, radio-active material in the earth, &c, and that the effect of increasing the radiation to which men are exposed is likely to be harmful. However, the radiation to which people are exposed from nuclear weapons tests is very small compared to this natural background radiation. The reports draw attention to gaps in scientific knowledge, particularly in regard to genetic effects of radiation; but both groups of scientists concluded that, at the present rate of firing, any biological damage to mankind from nuclear tests would be very slight indeed.
– I know that my friends of the Opposition do not like the truth. They prefer to exaggerate the position to try to put fear into the hearts of the people. They want political advantage rather than the truth. I am endeavouring to relate the best authoritative opinion that is available on this subject to-day.
The United Kingdom report states that “ the present and foreseeable hazards from external radiation due to fall-out from the test explosions of nuclear weapons, fired at the present rate and in the present proportion of the different kinds, are negligible “. Biologists are convinced that the population runs more serious risks from indiscriminate diagnostic X-ray examinations than from the fall-out from nuclear tests.
There has been much recent comment, particularly on the potential hazard of internal radiation from radio-active strontium which tends to accumulate in the bones. Both the United Kingdom and American reports deal at some length with this aspect and state that measurements of strontium 90 in human bones indicate that the amounts which have been absorbed from nuclear tests are only one-thousandth, or less, of the amount that is considered dangerous. The present strontium 90 levels in our large cities are well known and are quite safe.
Much was heard during and after the tests at the Monte Bello Islands last year of the radio-active fall-out at Marble Bar. The Australian Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee had a monitoring station nearby during the tests and it showed that the radiation received by an individual from the fall-out was less than that from a luminous wrist-watch over the course of three or four years. I do not want to belittle the possible hazards of radiation. On the contrary, I believe we must continue to keep a very careful watch on radiation arising from any source, whether it be from nuclear weapons testing, from peaceful uses of atomic energy, or from the use of X-rays or similar equipment.
The Government has, accordingly, decided to establish an independent and authoritative body to advise it on radiological surveys and measurements in Australia.
This body will be known as the National Radiation Advisory Committee and will report to the Prime Minister. It will include eminent scientists in biology, in medicine, and in nuclear physics. Sir Macfarlane Burnet, the distinguished director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and as honorable members know, a medical scientist of the very front rank, has accepted the Government’s invitation to be chairman of the committee. The names of the other members will be announced shortly. This is not to say that this question of radiological hazards has not, up to date, been given the fullest possible attention, because the Government has been fully and most competently advised by various individual committees and authorities, such as the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee, and will continue to be so advised. But the continuing and rapid development of the relevant activities makes it desirable for the Government to establish this separate and somewhat special body which will .be in a position to advise on overall radiological aspects - in other words, a national authority on radiological effects.
The Government’s defence proposals represent broad decisions on the organization and composition of the Services, on the basis of which the departments concerned are preparing detailed programmes. As stated by the Prime Minister, the Government has concluded that the cost of the defence programme for the year 1957-58 should be of the same order as that provided for defence during the present financial year, that is, £190,000,000. The Government believes that its proposals provide for a positive approach towards the development of a balanced overall defence effort, as determined by present strategic requirements, and within the limits of available resources. Our plans do not involve discarding the present structure of the Armed Forces, but rather building on what we already have, and establishing sound priorities for the future.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to make one or two observations about the comments of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), both before and after the suspension of the sitting. I thought it was extraordinary that he should criticize our proposal for a guided weapons installation at Sydney on the ground that it would make
Sydney number one target. Of course, Sydney is already number one target. Are we to assume from the comments of the honorable member that the best way to avoid a conflict is not to have any defences at all?
– He did not say that.
– Obviously, he implied it. It was obvious that he wanted no defences at all for Sydney.
The only other matter I want to mention, and I shall do so briefly, is one of some importance, that of national service. A great deal has been said about the alleged inadequacy of the national service scheme that we inaugurated, and it has been stated that as a result of the scheme being commenced, the number of volunteers for the Citizen Military Forces has fallen away. But what are the facts? When Labour went out of office, the strength ,of the C.M.F. was nominally 17,000 and I stress “ nominally “. lt was a matter of names on books. Despite all that has been said to the contrary, we find that to-day the strength of the CM.F. is 14.000, so that in those five years there has been a relatively small drop. In contrast to that, sir, we have had an establishment for the CM.F. which has given an opportunity for the training of the .officers and noncommissioned officers who will control and direct the forces in case of war. My service people will agree that Citizen Military Forces with a proper establishment are a very much better training ground .than are Citizen Military Forces which are under strength.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The only criticism offered by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) of the speech made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was to the effect that the honorable member did not use the full time allotted to him. At least the honorable member for Parkes was able to place on record the viewpoint of the Opposition on this most important question, and he did so most admirably and in direct contrast to the dreary and uninteresting statement read by the Minister. T believe, Mr. Speaker, that it might be said with truth that the Labour party would not oppose, but rather would approve, specific measures placed before the Parliament which had a real bearing on the defence of Australia; but because we on this side of the House do not believe that the Government has, in the past, approached these matters in the way that they should have been approached, we have been bound consistently to oppose previous defence measures which this Government has introduced. Since it assumed office in 1949, the present Administration has regularly presented honorable members in this House with prepared statements dealing with Australia’s defence potential. Almost as regularly, Opposition members have had to point out that the Government’s thinking in terms of defence has been limited to the number of sailors, soldiers and airmen which it believes should and could be trained in this country during any given period, but has completely ignored the hopeless inadequacy of the equipment available to them, and has failed to understand the enormous impact that defence preparations must have upon the economy of the country. In effect, what has happened in the past is that the Government has said to the. Defence Department, each year, “ Here is. a sum. of money approximately equivalent to one-fifth of pur national income. You spend it, because apart from some definite principles, we are not concerned with the details, except to state that if and when the war breaks out then we must be ready tq meet it at once “.
To substantiate what I have just said, 1 remind honorable members of a previous statement made in this House by the Prime Minister when he was speaking during a debate on defence. He said, “ We must be ready to meet this contingency by the end of 1953 “. Therefore, year after year, enormous sums of money have been expended by the Defence Department in this same happy-go-lucky spirit, but at the end of 1956, the permanent head of the Defence Department publicly stated that Australia not ready for war in 1953. In point of fact, Australia was in no better position six years after the. date upon which the Prime Minister had made his dramatic announcement, despite the fact that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money had been expended by one defence department or another. To substantiate what I have just said in regard to the statement made by Sir Frederick Shedden, T refer the House to the twenty-ninth report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which deals with the defence services and the Estimates.
In effect, that is what the head of the Defence Department said when being questioned before the Public Accounts Committee. In answer to questions, he informed the committee that Australia had not been ready for mobilization in 1953, and that that was still the case in 1956, which meant, in fact, that Australia was not ready for war in 1956, just as it was not read) for war in 1953. If ever there was a serious indictment of a government foi irresponsibility in these matters, I suggest that lt is the statement by Sir Frederick Shedden as head of the responsible department.
In examining the legislation before the House, I should like first of all to comment upon one or two salient facts that have emerged from the reasons given by the Prime Minister for the introduction of this legislation. The first one is the complete acceptance by this Government of the principles of the five-year defence plan inaugurated by the Labour party, a plan which was to operate from 1947 until 19.5.2. The plan provided for an expenditure, pf approximately £300,000,000, certainly the largest amount that had been made available by any administration during peace-time. Broadly, the plan was to provide for scientific research and to ensure that Australia kept abreast of the development in modern weapons as well as to provide for the establishment of a long-range guided weapons project as a joint undertaking with the United Kingdom. It should be said, to the credit of this Government, that it has during its period of office carried out the latter project; indeed, I believe it has enlarged it.
The principles of the plan laid down by the Labour party in 1 947 were not accepted by this Government when it took office in 1949. In reference to the plan, I should say that it provided, further, for a complete re-organization of the naval section to enable development of naval aviation, and to this end provision was made for the purchase of aircraft carriers as well as other units. But of far greater consequence was the proposal in regard to the Royal Australian Air Force. The plan was for an air force trained in the techniques of modern warfare and equipped with the latest jet aircraft and providing for both operational and citizen air force squadrons.
When the Liberal-Australian Country party Government assumed office in 1949 it immediately scrapped that plan, believing, no doubt, that if it introduced a system of compulsory military training as opposed to the pre-war principle of voluntary enlistment, there might be some people in this country who would applaud the fact that some thousands of young men were receiving a basic recruit training. The fact that there are at this moment 118,000 young men who have received a basic recruit training would possibly, from the Government’s point of view, constitute a complete answer to our defence problems; but those who are prepared to look at this matter in its proper perspective must immediately assume that in a war of movement there .is no alternative to mobile forces equipped with the latest weapons. That is exactly what we have not got in this country to-day.
It may be appropriate to point out at this moment that this Government has yet to learn the very important lesson that when a country has acted upon that conception in peace-time it has inevitably suffered invasion, defeat, and, in many cases, annihilation during war-time. Not infrequently such governments have refused to face up to the important fact that ability to withstand attack is not measured in terms of the number of men they can place in the field, in the ships or the air, or for that matter the number of aircraft that can be maintained in the air. These things are intrinsically bound up with a country’s economy, and my experience of these matters has been that in attending to the first, governments have inevitably neglected the second. Those countries were not prepared to give consideration to national development as well as industrial expansion. In short, they neglected their economy and the result has inevitably been defeat.
In 1950 when the National Service Bill was introduced into this Parliament the Labour party warned the Government that the plan was an extravagance which could prove disastrous financially as well as in other respects. In my opinion, that contention has since been borne out by the Government’s decision to reduce the number of national service trainees from 37,000 to 12,000 a year. But, as a consequence of that 1950 legislation, millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been expended while the country remains in a state of complete unpreparedness.
Let me now examine the second of these salient facts to which I referred a few moments ago and which, according to the Prime Minister’s statement, implies that Australia is now preparing against the possibility of war in South-East Asia by streamlining its forces to fit in with those of the United States of America. I suggest there is nothing extraordinary about that statement. Indeed, I believe that it would have the general approval of all Opposition members, because it is a practical approach in terms of general defence policy, provided that we do not in the meantime overlook the important fact, which has been emphasized so often by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), that the basic and overriding principle in all these matters should be, and must be, the maintenance of peace. If it is a question merely of general defence policy, I say at once that it is a further example of the Government’s facility in turning complete political somersaults. It is not so many years since, in times far more critical than those in which we live now, the present Prime Minister was levelling all manner of charges at a Labour administration for having, as he suggested, the temerity to invite assistance from the United States of America. I say unhesitatingly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it was just as well for Australia that the Labour Government took that course. Today, there is in progress a basic change from British to American standards. Apart from the several comments that I have already made, I do not suggest that the reasons for this change are anything but practical.
Let me turn once again to the question of national service training. The Minister for Defence said at the outset of his remarks that when the Scullin Labour Government took office it immediately scrapped the national service training scheme that had been in operation. I remind the Minister that that is what this Government is doing at the present time, with only this difference: In order to save face, it has refused to take the final plunge and abolish national service training completely. The Army intake is to be reduced to one-third of the former figure, and national service training for the Navy and the Air Force is to be terminated completely. This means that approximately one in five of the youths in the eighteen-year-old group will be called upon to undertake national service training, and these will be selected by ballot. Ballots may be popular and reasonably fair in certain circumstances, but I have no hesitation in saying that in other circumstances they can be both unfair and unpopular. In my opinion, the proposed system of balloting for the selection of national service trainees definitely belongs to the latter category. How can this or any other government reasonably suggest that a decision which could have a profound effect upon the lives of many young men should depend upon the result of a ballot? It is a fantastic proposal, and it reflects little credit on the Government that conceived it. But I suppose that the Government’s decision in favour of it is understandable if one measures it by the standards of the sense of responsibility that this Government has shown in these matters in the past.
During the past six years, we have spent more than £1,000,000,000 on defence. Although we have been able to provide many of our requirements, we are still not in a position to put into the field quickly either the armed forces or the equipment that we should need in a conflict, or to provide a civil defence corps adequate to meet any of the emegencies that could be expected. It is an unfortunate fact that although the Minister for Defence is prepared to talk in general terms of the serious consequences of a nuclear war, the Government has provided no more than a miserable sum of approximately £234,000 for civil defence purposes in this financial year out of an estimated budget expenditure of more than £1,000,000,000. Obviously, the Government believes that fear of the appalling damage which all countries must expect to suffer in a nuclear war has acted as a deterrent and reduced the likelihood of such a war. I say at once that the Government has gambled in a shocking way. and that its recklessness may have dire consequences for the people of Australia in the years that lie ahead. In the meantime, despite assurances to the contrary, the Government’s approach to the reorganization of the Air Force remains, as it has been in the past, haphazard and sluggish, and, in many respects, reeks of plain inefficiency. Towards the end of 1956, it culminated in a reduction of the tempo of aircraft production, and the dismissal of hundreds of employees from the aircraft industry. The strength of the Air Force is largely concentrated in New South Wales, and, to a lesser extent, in Victoria, and the other States are neglected intolerably.
– What- is the position in Tasmania?
– I remember asking the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) a question about it during the last session of the Parliament. I was informed that the strength of the Air Force in Tasmania was one officer and three other ranks. I repeat that our air forces are largely concentrated in New South Wales and Victoria, and that the other States are neglected intolerably.
I suggest that, despite the deficiencies of this defence statement, there is much in it that is in line with Labour’s policy. Therefore, I hope that it will not be another document that is presented to the Parliament, debated, and promptly forgotten. Although there are deficiencies in it, it embodies some things that have been consistently advocated by Opposition members who have continually opposed the retention of outmoded and costly defence ideas such as the building up of a large but inadequately trained reserve army, the greater part of which could not possibly be used in any war now conceivable, with the expenditure of enormous sums of money each year on costly and wasteful administration. To emphasize that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 should like to refer, once again, to the twenty-ninth report of the Public Accounts Committee, which deals with the Defence Services and the Estimates. The report states that Army maintenance expenditure for the financial year 1955-56 totalled £48,980,000, and that capital expenditure amounted to £12,466.000. This means that about 57 per cent, of the entire Army vote of £84,761,000 was absorbed in administrative costs. Other points mentioned in this report also support what I have said.
– Order! The honorable members time has expired.
.- My remarks on the Government’s defence proposals will indicate clearly that 1 have certain criticisms to make of fundamental aspects of the decisions made by the Government and announced to the House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 4th April. Certain of the phrases used by the right honorable gentleman in making his statement may be described as key phrases, and I propose to discuss some of them. The Prime Minister said, amongst other things -
Our chief task-
That is, the task of Australia - would be to co-operate with our allies and to take our share on a basis consistent with our interest, our resources, and our sense of responsibility.
Because I believe that our responsibility is growing in South-East Asia, and because I believe that that responsibility is of profound significance to the future of this country, I consider that we are, by the present proposals, in fact reducing our national defence effort. I believe that the minimum acceptable army should include two brigade groups. I believe that a twoyear draft scheme similar to that operating in the United States is needed to produce the necessary numbers. Th other words. I believe that the voluntary system is no longer adequate and that, as I have said before in this House, to place a burden upon that section of the community which is prepared again and again to come back and carry that burden is grossly improper. The defence of this community is the responsibility of all persons in the community and there is an obligation upon the Government to see that that responsibility is fully accepted.
Numbers are still of profound significance in war, and steps must be taken in peacetime to obtain adequate forces. Honorable members have all listened with a great deal of interest to the many speeches on these matters in recent times. Again and again we hear this theme, that Australia needs fewer servicemen because fire power is the answer and will make up for the reduced national effort as far as numbers are concerned. It is, therefore, with interest that I ask this House to consider what we know to be the truth in relation to the forces of our potential foe. The Australian Government has. in its archives, information which will show that the Chinese leader, Mao Tse-tung, has stated publicly that the intention of the red government of China is to have an army of 2,000 divisions by 1965. It is significant that 1965 is a period which is generally agreed upon as being the stage when the intercontinental ballistic missile will become an established and common operational weapon in most nations of the world. If we bear in mind figures that will be given to us by other honorable members of the enormous power of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and of the tremendous effort being made by that nation, then we must surely have in our minds some degree of doubt as to the validity of the suggestion that numbers are no longer as significant as they were.
I suspect that there is some good reason behind the statement, to which reference has already been made, of the CommanderinChief of the American Navy in the Pacific, who is at present visiting Australia. I suppose it will be contended that we do the Parliament no great service in making reference to this matter, and I apologize if it appears a little rude to mention it, but I feel that it is of such extreme political and general significance for Australia, that reference must be made to it. Here is a report of an interview with that highranking officer of our great ally, who is at present in this country for the Coral Sea battle celebrations -
American Admiral Felix B. Slump said 10-day America would like to see Australian forces playing a greater part in Pacific defence.
That is interesting. The report continues -
I am going to get my fingers burned, but the more Australian allies we have the better.
So it would appear that perhaps Admiral Stump feels there may be some authorities in Australia who would not react in the best fashion to the suggestion that we are not pulling our weight with quite the efficiency we should be displaying. The Admiral went on to say that the free world was showing too much complacency in the fight against communism. He said that the Russian submarine menace was increasing in the Pacific, and added -
We would like to see the Australian Navy play a bigger part in Pacific defence - and the Air Force and Army. too.
This man, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Navy in the Pacific, was giving a frank, serviceman’s reply to questions asked of him and we in this country should now have the moral courage to admit the full justification of the grounds that obviously motivated the Admiral’s statement.
I express that view because I believe it to be important in this place that if one feels that the national effort could be better, one must come out in the open and say so. In the United Kingdom we have been confronted with the position referred to so eloquently by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and spoken of recently by the British Minister for Defence. Mr. Duncan Sandys. The reduction of Britain’s forces from 800,000 to 400,000 came at a time when the first three divisions of the new German army were going into North Atlantic Treaty Organization ground forces and when Lieutenant-General SpeideL who, as we all know, was the distinguished chief of staff to Field Marshal Rommel, assumed command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ground forces. I cannot believe that it would be a military reason that would permit the United Kingdom to reduce its own effort whilst, at the same time, congratulating the Germans on their increased effort. it would seem to me that the constant references made by Mr. Duncan Sandys to the economic necessity for the United Kingdom to reduce its defence expenditure were by far the most significant reasons. The fact is that the £400,000,000 or £500,000,000 that the Suez Canal affair cost the United Kingdom has resulted in an enormous demand being put upon the British economy. If Britain is to maintain its position, it must, like an athlete suffering from loss of breath, say, “ No, we will stop quietly and re-gather our strength “. It is true, as the Minister for Defence said, and as the President of the United States has made clear, that if we had no deterrent the Western nations would go under to defeat by the conventional means of war. It is elementary that the reason why the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is so capable of fighting on conventional grounds is that it has made the effort. No nation can expect to survive in a world such as this and with people like the Russians unless it is prepared to make an effort to compete. Our scientists were ahead of theirs in nuclear knowledge and in planning the production of nuclear weapons, but that lead is rapidly being overtaken-. They are making more and more effort. Again and again Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev have made it very clear where they stand. In recent weeks, they have said to certain countries in Europe, “ If you acquire atomic weapons, we shall regard you as being potential enemies and threaten you with an immediate attack with nuclear weapons “.
– They added, “ If you use them”. If the honorable member reads the press reports, he will note that that was made very clear.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to reconsider his interjection. The significance of the nuclear weapon- is its enormous power. Surprise is vital. It borders upon lunacy to say, “ I will use a nuclear weapon against you only if you use one against me “. If I were to plan a war, obviously 1 would plan to achieve the maximum degree of surprise and to use the weapons that would give the desired result, [f the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics engaged the Nato countries in a nuclear war, no warning would be given. It is because we believe that that country is capable of doing such things that we have our own armaments. We simply do not trust those people. We do not regard them as being worthy of the consideration that we would give - and, in fact, are giving at the present time - to the Germans and Japanese, who were our enemies some years ago. The fact is, as I have said, that Russia has made the effort; its conventional forces have been maintained at very high levels. It has demanded that effort of its people, with the result that it is able to face the world with enormous, powerful forces. In Hungary, just before last Christmas, the world could clearly see in the Russian commanders a greater ruthless determination than has ever been displayed by any enemies that we have faced in the past.
As I said earlier, Western Germany, not France or Britain, is providing the backbone of the Nato ground forces. Germany, in which are situated Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Bremen, all of which were bombed and blasted during World War II., is the country 0 that has had the’ moral fibre to regain its strength and, within a little more than ten years of the end of World War II., to provide what will be the backbone of the Nato ground forces. That is why a German general is now the commander of those forces.
I now wish to refer to defence taxation. Probably most honorable members have read in “ Hansard “ a reply to a question that I directed to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), which reflects fairly well the relative effort of various countries. In the United States of America, defence taxation amounts to £109 per head of the population; in Canada, £54; and in Australia, £20. If those figures do not bring any sense of shame to this community, by all means let us congratulate ourselves upon having reached a situation where we are confident that the job that must be done will be done. We have stated that we are going to concentrate upon development for our own benefit, and we propose to make a defence effort which I regard as being not good enough. I have reason for suggesting that my view is the same as that of the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet. Therefore, I think that the Government should immediately consider plans that could come to fruition within the next few months, when the next budget is presented.
I suppose it is politically unpopular to advocate increased taxation, and I have no doubt that my old friend, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), would look sideways at me if I did so; but I believe that, if increased taxation is the only proper means of meeting our defence commitments to our allies, then taxes should be increased. What did the other members of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization say at the recent conference? What do the senior people in the United States of America really think? Surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that we in Australia, with the record we have and the traditions we have established, should make an effort of which we could really be proud.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) were members of a Cabinet which decided to send Australian divisions into a battle that was of purely political significance. No one who has a knowledge of the military situation in 1944-45 can seriously contend that an invasion of Borneo was a vital part of the military plan of that time, but the then Cabinet made the only decent decision that could have been made. They said that they were not prepared to have our people lose all part in the Pacific war, and their decision was well and properly made. All I ask is that the same kind of thinking be employed at the present time.
I should now like to say a word or two about people, because I am a little worried about the suggestion that once we have the deterrent we need not worry. It is people who win wars; they survive. We survive if we can sustain our national character, and that was the great military advantage of the national service training scheme. That scheme did something for Australia’s national fibre, and for that reason it was of enormous military value. We would have been defeated in 1940 if some innate quality had not existed in the people of the United Kingdom. We all know that inadequate arms were available at that time, so a spirit of determination was employed in order to survive. We should think about that, because if the national service training scheme was expanded properly, not only would it be of great military significance, but also the social significance would effectively permeate every walk of life in the community.
Finally, there are grounds for our having a deterrent, if we can obtain one. The Government has given an indication of what is to be done. Apparently the honorable member for Parkes assumed that we should obtain it, because he made a direct reference to the nuclear weapons with which the new mobile force is to be equipped. We have not been told a great deal about that, but if we had a stockpile of atomic bombs, we would need a strategic bomber force to deliver them.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The changes in our defence policy that are being discussed to-night are of transcending importance to Australia, because the results of those changes could . involve the future existence of our sovereignty. I regret to say that the Government’s approach to the whole defence question has been most peculiar. Last year, the Parliament was asked to approve the allocation of £190,000,000 for defence purposes for the present financial year. The Opposition was in doubt as to whether that money would be spent advantageously. We moved an amendment that expenditure be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to reconsider the defence problem. Of course, our amendment was defeated. Then, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced that the defence programme would be completely revised in the light of existing circumstances. That was a clear-cut and detached admission by the Prime Minister that Parliament had been asked to vote £190,000,000 for an out-moded and obsolete defence system. No other conclusion could be reached from his statement. In that statement he expressed his underlying dissatisfaction with the existing defence administration.
On 4th April, at long last, we heard the Prime Minister’s revised ideas on defence. As one who has a great deal of love for his native land, I regret that the revised programme does not meet my requirements or, I should say, the requirements of the Labour party. The Prime Minister’s statement is clouded with confusion and uncertainty. Large portions of it are vague generalities clouded with ambiguity. I regret also that some of the plans have already gone astray. The Government’s plan in respect of the rifle has fallen before it has reached the first hurdle. The Prime Minister said -
In our consideration of the Army, we have, in accordance with the principles I have already described, decided to provide modern equipment standardized or compatible with that used by the U.S. . . . These plans include provision of the new F.N. rifle and its related ammunition and the U.S. 105 mm. field artillery equipment.
They were laudable sentiments, because the Government, among other things, wanted to standardize the rifle equipment. I have no quarrel with that concept at all; it is eminently satisfactory. However, in the Melbourne “ Herald “ to-day, the following statement appeared: -
It had rejected the Belgian FN rifle - adopted by Britain and Australia - in favour of a weapon developed at the Springfield, Massachusetts, Armory.
The Government’s grandiose plans for standardizing with American equipment are no longer practical or feasible, because America has left us far behind. If this is to be a forerunner of the Government’s policies in relation to co-operation . and standardization with America, this Parliament may expect some rude shocks in the very near future. We must not have the same untenable position arising in respect of the decision to standardize equipment in the Air Force. The position with the rifle shows that the Government did not make sufficient inquiries about the future intentions of the American Army in relation to the F.N. rifle. If it had, doubtless the United States Government would have made it clear that it was contemplating the introduction of the new T44 rifle. I do not know whether the F.N. rifle is better than the T44 rifle. It may not be a matter of the greatest importance, but the statement indicates that the Government’s policy in relation to rifles has fallen by the wayside before it has reached the first hurdle.
The Labour party - the record speaks for itself - supports to the utmost the provision of adequate and modern equipment. In addition, we say that a comprehensive defence scheme would envisage a number of other important and vital factors. The Government, in statements made in this House and outside, must give leadership to the people on our defence programme. Any defence scheme must, of necessity, be innocuous if it does not give a positive and practical lead by the nation’s leaders. Whilst there is room for honest difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition - and between supporters of the Government - there must be no ambiguity about the direction in which Australia is headed when it prepares its programme for defence.
I should very much like to hear more specific details about the Government’s intentions with respect to the future of the aircraft industry. When the Prime Minister referred in his speech to the Royal Australian Air Force, he was most vague in relation to what the aircraft industry is expected to do. He said - I suppose that this was included to show that he had some interest in the matter -
Production of the Jindivik, pilotless aircraft in Australia is continuing. Deliveries have already commenced against orders placed by Sweden, and inquiries have been received from other overseas countries.
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the factory of the Department of Aircraft Production at Fishermen’s Bend. I saw the Jindivik in production, but the impression I formed was that the programme was almost finished. I should have thought that the Prime Minister’s defence statement would have included some mention of the Government’s intention with regard to its own very efficient aircraft production factory. It is true that, since the Prime Minister made his statement, we have heard an almost equally vague statement from the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) to the effect that Australia would re-equip with a supersonic jet fighter which would be made in Australia. When he was questioned in the House about what his statement meant and who would construct the aircraft, the Minister said that it would be constructed by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. We have heard nothing at all about the Department of Aircraft Production. We have a third aircraft factory in Australia, De Havilland Aircraft Proprietary Limited, which has not made as many aircraft as the Department of Aircraft Production or the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, but, nevertheless, has done a good job on the work given to it.
I indict the Government on its treatment of the aircraft industry during the last twelve months. Because of its lack of deci sion, this industry has suffered a grievous blow. Every one knew that, according to the plans, at a certain time the Canberra jet bomber and the Jindivik programmes would be completed by the Department of Aircraft Production and that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was in the last stages of constructing the Sabre jet fighters. But the Government, with its general policy of procrastination and dilly-dallying in these matters, did very little about them. All that was done was to engender in the minds of those employed in the aircraft industry a feeling of complete lack of confidence as far as the future was concerned. Unfortunately, the result was that there were a large number of dismissals brought about by the lack of confidence of employees in the future intentions of the Government, This Government, knowing that the aircraft production programme would be terminated early in 1957, should have made plans twelve or eighteen months ago for the aircraft industry to tool up for another project. I understand from newspaper reports and from discussions I have had from time to time with people in the Liberal party that there is some divergence of opinion in Government ranks on whether Australia can afford an aircraft industry. I hope that the Government will not take much notice of those people who have such little faith in Australian workmanship and achievements. There are far more important fac* tors to be considered than the actual cost of an aircraft, because the future of this country could depend upon Australia’s capacity to produce an efficient frontline machine. If we are, for the purposes of economy, to decide that we cannot build such an aircraft because it can be built cheaper overseas, all I can say is that the effect upon Australia’s destiny could be disastrous.
The position, of course, is that Australia has placed its defence emphasis on air power. This is our fundamental policy for future security. World War II. proved that Australia could make modern aircraft exceptionally well and at a reasonable price. It is all very well to cite the price of an individual aeroplane constructed in this country and make comparisons with the price of an individual aircraft constructed, say, in America or Great Britain. Certain cost factors that go into the computation of the price here and the prices in those countries are not comparable. In addition, the aircraft industries in those other two countries are heavily subsidized by the governments. Therefore, from that point of view there is not as much in the argument as some of the anti-Australian opponents of our local industry would have us believe. lt is true, of course, that we can buy aircraft cheaper overseas, but if that had been the policy in relation to the whole of our manufacturing industries we would not have a factory in this country. However, tariff protection has looked after us in that direction.
I should very much like tq know the Government’s intention in regard to the production of the supersonic jet aircraft. Is it to be made only at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation factory? Are the two -factories of the Division of Aircraft Production at Fishermen’s Bend and Avalon to be thrown to the wolves? Are we to be told in three or six months that because of lack of work we are to sell them for a mere song, possibly to private enterprise? Not even the most ardent supporter of private enterprise would say that those two splendid examples of public enterprise, or socialistic enterprise, have not proved eminently successful for the purpose for which they were created. I defy anybody, either inside or outside the House, to say that the workmanship and production of the Division of Aircraft Production factories have been in any way inferior to those of any privately owned aircraft construction company. I am not suggesting that the Government would say that, but if anybody has any ideas about saying it, he should think twice and inquire into the achievements of the aircraft factories in this country.
Is the Government to purchase a number of the supersonic jet fighters and then make some here, on licence from America? It may be that those are the Government’s intentions, but it had similar intentions in regard to the F.N. rifle, and that idea has t>een exploded. I hope that the Government will not have the same experience with these aircraft. Or is it the intention of the Government to bring out the parts and then assemble them here? What are the Government’s intentions? I submit for the consideration of the House that it is most essential that our aircraft factories should not be allowed to suffer any more wastage of skilled technical staff.
From the stand-point of spare parts, the local aircraft industry should be retained. Original air-frames and engines represent only a portion of the total requirements for keeping a military aircraft at peak efficiency. Air-frames are damaged and become worn. Engines require overhaul and repair, and new modifications have to be undertaken to maintain aircraft at their peak. The local industry is the only body capable of doing this essential work. Unfortunately, the heavy dismissals last year, which were brought about by the Government’s complete inefficiency or lack of appreciation of the future requirements of the industry, have lowered the morale of the staff. Resignations of virtually irreplaceable staff have taken place and are still taking place, because the management does not know what is in store. When a man approaches the management of the Division of Aircraft Production factories and asks about the future prospects, the management cannot give him any information. Surely the Government could have looked at this matter some time ago.
I hope that nobody gets into his head that one can take an ordinary fitter, turner, sheetmetal worker, or other tradesman employed in ordinary engineering industry, put him into an aircraft factory, and make him an efficient worker in that factory io two or three weeks. That is not possible. In that particular work he has, in effect, to serve a new apprenticeship, and it takes at least nine or twelve months to produce an efficient aircraft industry worker, irrespective of his qualifications when entering the factory. Yet, because of the policy of the Government, which has shown a marked apathy, to say the very least, about the future of the industry, such lack of confidence has been brought about, first, by very heavy dismissals, and, secondly, by the complete reluctance of the Government to let the men in the industry knowits future intentions, that it will be impossible to collect again the staff which has been dispersed, because the men will not be caught a second time. They have sought other employment as a result of dismissal or apprehension of the future, because of the Government’s complete indifference to them. They have gone to other jobs, looking for security for the future. If the Government does decide to build up the activi- ties of the Division of Aircraft Production - and I have never heard any suggestion of it from a responsible member of the Government - it will suffer a severe handicap because of the reluctance of former aircraft workers to go back into a factory, when in a year or two their employment might again be jeopardized by the Government’s most peculiar approach to the whole aircraft industry.
I hope that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, which has produced the Wirraway, Boomerang fighter, Mustang fighter, and more recently the Sabre jet, is given a complete assurance that there are years of work ahead for its employees, because it is an efficient industrial enterprise which has already proved its capacity to measure up to requirements. Our own Government enterprises, the Division of Aircraft Production factories, have produced the Beaufort fighter and bomber, the Lincoln bomber, and now the Canberra jet bomber and the Jindivik. It is a very efficient industry. What is its future?
I hope that during the debate we will hear something from the Government so that we may reassure the men who are employed in these undertakings. Every week they ring me and ask their chances of future employment. They receive offers of employment in some other branch of the engineering industry, and they ask whether they should accept the offers or stay with the Division of Aircraft Production. In the interests of the men, the industry, and the future of this country, the Government should make up its mind and tell the people just what it intends to do in relation to the aircraft industry.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think that most of us on this side of the House agree substantially with what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has said about the importance of retaining the highly trained men in the aircraft factories of Australia. I hope that nobody in the chamber, or listening to the broadcast of proceedings, will think that the Government has not high praise for and pride in the workmanship of the men in those factories. As we know, aircraft production presents a difficult problem, and machines date very quickly, but in a statement issued after the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Government said that it intends to produce fighters in our Australian factories. The statement on defence by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is a very important and very sober document,, but the members of the Opposition have given it scant attention. Why they have done so, I do not know, because they have no serious defence policy of their own. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led for the Opposition, was very scathing about it. He said that it was the production of brass hats and that he, as a “ buck private “ thought the best way to deal with it was “ to get stuck into them “. Such a statement gives us some idea of the quality of the criticism of the honorable member who led for the Opposition. Privates are very important in any army, and so are corporals. In fact, corporals usually win wars. But officers are important also. Each man is an important part of an organization. Every man plays his part in the operations of an army. The honorable member for Parkes said that his experience of the Army led him to believe that he should “ get stuck into the brass “, but I do not think he believed that. I should like to see his conduct sheet.
This statement on defence is a very sound summing up of the defence problems of Australia. In army parlance, it is an “ appreciation “. This appreciation was undertaken to decide the strategic basis for the Australian defence policy. It divided war into three categories - global war, limited war and cold war. A global war would be one in which atomic and thermonuclear weapons were used. I express only a personal opinion when I say I feel that the world will never be faced with such a war because of the deterrent effect of the hydrogen bomb. We cannot ignore the possibility of a global war, but there is very good reason to believe that no nation would willingly start such a war. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) made a statement in which he said he thought that a global war would start only as the result of an accident of a miscalculation. When he said that, an honorable member on the Opposition side interjected, “ Well, that is lovely! Who said that? “ As it happens, the Minister summed up the strategic thinking of the best military brains of the United States of America. The Minister simply repeated what Mr. Dulles and the American chiefs of staff have said - that a global war is unlikely and that it could start only as the result of a miscalculation. That is the opinion of the best military brains on our side.
I was rather amused when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that the smaller countries should not have atomic bases because Russia would not attack a country unless it had atomic bases. Here, indeed, is careless thinking. Would it be possible, in a conflict in which atomic weapons were used, that Russia, on the receiving end, would be able to recognize which bomb came from where? Such ridiculous and loose thinking indicates the sort of ideas that are held by members of the Labour party. My conception of a global war is that it would be one in which the Russian directional staff would know every area from which atomic weapons could be launched and every base of ours would be covered by the Russians in their first attack. We would know where their launching sites were and would take retaliatory measures. Consequently, there would be a stalemate. But it would not be possible to say whether an atomic bomb came from Iceland, Poland or anywhere. However, I honestly believe that it is doubtful that a global conflict will take place.
As the Minister has said, the Labour party in Great Britain takes a much more realistic attitude to this matter than does the Australian Labour party, but is divided on it. In the British Labour party’s “ shadow cabinet “ a gentleman called Mr. “ Volubility “ Brown is the prospective Minister for Defence. He is entirely in favour of Great Britain having the hydrogen bomb for deterrent purposes.
The next type of war mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement is a limited war. My personal opinion, for what it is worth, is that that is the kind of war we will have to face. I would remind honorable members
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member for KingsfordSmith will subdue his voice.
– If honorable members will recall-
Order! The honorable member for Werriwa will find himself outside if he continues his present behaviour.
– After World War I. there was a horror of gas. Honorable members will recall that during that war gas was used and caused great casualties. Between that war and World War II. more deadly types of gas were developed, but the horrible results were so feared that during World War II. they were never used. I want honorable members to think on that point. Because of the danger of retaliation with such gases, World War II. was fought with conventional weapons, admittedly more powerful than in World War I. Both sides had all forms of gas, but they were never used. Since that war we have fought in two or three major conflicts.
Order! If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith continues with his offensive behaviour, I will name him.
– Both sides in the Korean war had nuclear weapons, but they were not used. Again, in Egypt, no nuclear weapons were used. There is a war going on at the present time in the French territory of Algeria and in other parts of the world, but atomic weapons have not been used. If a limited war breaks out, there is no reason to think that atomic weapons will be used. One of the major points of the new defence plan is to have a strong, active, well-equipped mobile striking force so as to try to limit wars which may break out. Therefore, the view of the Government is that such wars may occur. As to the extent of them, I cannot venture an opinion, but anybody who talks about “ push-button “ wars is not realistic.
We heard one honorable member talk about bows and arrows in relation to national service training. I would recommend him to try using a bow and arrow against the average boy who has completed his course of national service training. Those lads who pass through the national service training course are turned out as useful soldiers. I hold the view, personally, that in any wars in which we may be engaged man-power will be important, and the availability of trained personnel may decide Australia’s future.
The third type of war referred to in the Prime Minister’s statement is the cold war. I feel that this is, so to speak, one of the most dangerous weapons that the Russians are using against us. I feel, also, that we are manufacturing our own destruction by contributing enormous sums of money for defence. In the United States of America, the people are contributing £109 a head per annum for defence. That is a tremendous amount of money. It is used not only for arms, but also for aid. This is where the Russians may achieve their objective, because if governments of the free countries go on dragging enormous taxes out of their people, the people will come to dislike the conditions under which they are working and will lose confidence in the system which gives them their freedom. That is a point which must be carefully examined. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said that people must not forget that wars are won, not only in the battlefield, but also in the economic field. Then I interjected - I very seldom do - and asked the honorable member to name one country to support his argument, and he turned to another matter. He was only talking platitudes. However, the honorable member struck the right note. Every country on the Western side is developing its economy. One of the reasons why this country is not spending more money on defence is that we want money for our development purposes.
When we are discussing defence policy we naturally expect criticism of the Government’s policy by the Opposition, but it is reasonable to expect from Her Majesty’s Opposition some alternative plan. The only plan submitted by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led for the Opposition, was to call the proposed brigade force a United Nations force. The Opposition’s foreign policy is to rely on the United Nations. Opposition, members believe that it should be the responsibility of the United Nations to guard the security of every man, woman and child in Australia. They believe that we should rely on that polyglot force although 32 nations in the United Nations organizations do not have democratic governments. Eight of those nations are military dictatorships, yet that is the foreign policy and the defence policy of the honorable member for Parkes.
Several times 1 have heard members of the Labour Opposition talk with some sort of pride of the extraordinary strategy that was evolved when they took over the government in 1942. They called upon the United States then for 25 divisions, yet time and time again they have boasted of that policy with pride. That was their strategy - to import American forces to defend. Australia. 1 agree with the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) that we should play our full part in the defence, of our own soil.
The honorable member for Parkes talked, about co-existence. He said he believed in living together, and implied that if that were done, eventually the problems of all nations would be solved. We have to look at the people who are causing the trouble in this world. Admiral Stump has said that a large number of submarines have been detected in the Pacific. We know that the Russians have an enormous submarine force. Is it necessary for Russia to have submarines? Honorable members should ask themselves that question. Russia is a large land mass, entirely selfsufficient and with no external trade. Why is it necessary for Russia to have large forces of submarines? Why is it necessary for Russia - a land mass with no external trade - to increase the size of her naval forces? She has the second largest naval force in the world, and is far ahead of any other nation in numbers of submarines.
Honorable members should consider this aspect of the speech that has been made by the honorable member for Parkes: He has suggested co-existence with people who are building up enormous naval forces. With the position of Russia as it is, they can be only offensive forces. So far as we are concerned, naval forces are needed to defend our lifelines, but Russia has no external lifelines. If she intended only continental defence, she would need no naval force. Her enormous land forces are not needed for possible co-existence. It is nonsense to delude ourselves when we are faced with such an ugly force. It is an ideological force we have to fight because there is a fundamental difference between the Russian way of life and ours. It is absolutely impossible to break down the physical barriers between the authoritarian socialists and the capitalists. Why is that so? We can have the authoritarian socialists come to our country, but they cannot tolerate large numbers of capitalists going to theirs because they know that their system would break down. We cannot live together until one of us changes our philosophy.
Can honorable members imagine free trade to Poland and Hungary or enormous -numbers of tourists travelling between Australia and Russia? Would the Russian system last five minutes if large numbers of Russian tourists came to Australia? Obviously it would not. Why is Russia continually spending money on defence? While that great expenditure continues we have to see that the cold war is not won by Russia on the economic front. We must try to break down the Russian system.
During this debate on defence, many speakers on the Opposition side have derided the forces we have to-day and what we have obtained for the money we have spent. What have we obtained for it? We have had security for six years. What is the position of the Navy? We have an effective Navy completely competent to fulfil its task. In this programme we say that we intend to speed up the production of various classes of vessels. We have two aircraft carriers fully equipped. We have a trained force of about 11,000 personnel. In the Army we have a force of regular troops numbering 21,000. They cost money to maintain, and a great proportion of the expenditure on defence has been for maintenance. We have a reasonable amount of equipment for them, and now we are trying to create an active force for immediate operations overseas.
It is unfortunate that we cannot have a
Tegular army and still maintain our national training. That is a tragedy because I have had the unfortunate experience of having to lead men who were not trained. The basic training of national service trainees will always be invaluable to them when any call is made upon them. In the Air Force, we have a squadron of modern Canberra bombers. We have effective Avon Sabre jet fighters. We have quite an effective force at present but, in the light of new thought, we have to alter some of our thinking. I believe that the plans envisaged here are good. The only criticism I have is this: I believe our main task will be in the field of limited war, and we should increase our regular forces to a greater degree. Once we have that force ready for our immediate commitments, we should- look at the suggestions made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) and the honorable member for St. George, that national service in some form for two years, or eighteen months, should be adopted in this country as it is in Great Britain.
I should like to see the position of the Citizen Military Forces improved. That is our main army. The C.M.F. is composed of patriotic men who give their time and go to considerable trouble to train themselves. We should make that force more popular. The C.M.F. formed the spearhead of our forces in 1939, and was invaluable to us. We would not have survived the war without them. The members of the C.M.F. should be encouraged, and must be encouraged, by such means as granting concessions on their pay. Every effort should be made to build up an effective C.M.F. I believe that the force is at present in good morale and fairly well trained, but a greater intake of volunteers should be encouraged.
So far, the Opposition has made no constructive proposals for our defence policy. Personally, I look to the future with great confidence. I do not believe in taking counsels of fear. I believe this Government’s policy, with the minor alterations J have suggested, will prove an effective defence policy for Australia. I should, however, like to see more effort, and I am prepared to pay more taxes to meet its cost. I suggest that the Regular Army should be kept up to full divisional strength.
We must tell the people that we cannot hope to look to the future without continual expense on defence. That is obvious if we realize the possibilities that confront us. If atomic war comes, we must still have ground forces to occupy our own territory or that of our enemies. Inter-continental missiles cannot be sent to Sydney to take over the city. To do that an enemy must have forces. If we are defending our country, the more trained forces we have the better. I look to the future with great confidence. I do not believe an atomic war will take place except by accident. It is up to us and to every able citizen in the Western nations, for we have the security ot the world in our charge, to pull his weight in the defence of freedom.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Honorable members will recall that some time ago the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Townley), in his capacity as Minister for Air, did me the honour of granting permission to a committee which I was forming in Brisbane to have custody of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith’s famous aircraft, “ Southern Cross “, so that it could be adequately enshrined at the Brisbane Airport. Because I feel that “ Southern Cross “ and the memory of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and his exploits are emblems of Australian tradition and symbols of Australia’s very gallant part in the pioneering history of aviation throughout the world, I think it is only right that this Parliament should be informed of whether that committee is discharging its obligations to Australia adequately. My purpose in rising to-night is to inform the House of the steps that have been taken to see that “ Southern Cross “ is enshrined as a memorial to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and those aviators in two world wars who carried on the tradition of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.
I should like to inform the House that we have formed a committee in Brisbane and have appointed the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Groom, as its chairman. The members of the committee besides myself are the secretary to the Lord Mayor, Mr. Jim Johnson, who is acting also as honorary secretary to the committee; Sir Edwin Tooth, who is a wellknown Brisbane citizen; Mr. M. R. Hornibrook, who is well known as an engineer and a prominent citizen of Brisbane; Mr. Ted Bray, managing editor of the “ Courier-Mail “; Mr. Syd Spurr, who was a close personal friend of the KingsfordSmith family; Mr. Carl Bishop, who is well known in service organizations and a prominent Brisbane citizen; Mr. Drury, manager of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in Brisbane; Mr. MacKenzie, manager of Trans-Australia Airlines in Brisbane; Mr. Ron Adair, chairman of directors of Queensland Airlines; and Mr. Jules Moxon, another prominent
Brisbane citizen. We had with us at our meeting on one occasion Eric KingsfordSmith, brother of Sir Charles, and we have maintained close contact with his elder brother, Wilfred Kingsford-Smith. We havealso had the privilege of the attendance at meetings of Mr. Harold Affleck, of the Department of Civil Aviation, thanks tcthe co-operation given to us by the Minister and the Director-General of Civil Aviation.
I have brought with me to-night an architectural drawing of the plan of the memorial as it will be when completed, and I ask your permission, Mr. Speaker, to table it in the Library next week so that honorable members will be able to look at it and see the manner in which “ Southern Cross “ will be enshrined in Brisbane.
The cost of the structure is estimated to be in the vicinity of £35,000. That is the minimum. It might cost more than that. In planning a campaign for raising funds, we have seen the Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. McGovern, who has agreed that contributions to this committee from firms and others interested will be treated as deductions for tax purposes. The reason for that is that this shrine will be a memorial to those airmen who served in two world wars, as well as to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, and indeed it will be the Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith War Memorial.
The committee considers that we should be able to raise the sum of £25,000 from overseas firms and others associated with “ Southern Cross “. Already we have had a considerable amount of co-operation from Mr. Diepen, who is commercial director of the Fokker Aircraft Company of Holland. He is acting as an agent for the committee overseas and is contacting those firms that were associated with the manufacture of the aircraft. The other day, we received a letter from the British General Electric Company of the United Kingdom, intimating that that company was most eager to be associated with us in our project. This letter was the result of a visit by Mr. Diepen. A recommendation has gone from the firm in Australia to the parent company in the United Kingdom which suggests that the contribution that we will receive from that firm will be of very generous proportions. Mr. Haymanson, of Melbourne, who is the Australian representative of Curtis Wright, which manufactured the J5 Whirlwind motors with which “ Southern
Cross “ was powered, has already made a considerable donation from his own resources, and has approached his company in the United States of America. We can also expect a substantial contribution from that company. The British General Electric Company, by the way, was the firm which manufactured and supplied the radio set that was used in “ Southern Cross “.
We have not yet approached the oil companies, but it is our intention to do so. We intend to approach the Atlantic Oil Company, in particular, as we understand that the fuel used on the trans-Pacific flight, which was possibly the most notable of all Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith’s flights, was Atlantic. Another company, the Vacuum Oil Company, also supplied fuel, and it is our intention to approach it in the hope that it will assist in the work of seeing that “ Southern Cross “ is adequately enshrined. We hope that if any other firm in the field of aviation which had any connexion at all with “ Southern Cross “ is Aware of the work we are doing, it will take the opportunity of communicating with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and indicating that it is interested and is eager to assist.
That is as far as the committee has gone m the moment. I wanted to make sure the House was fully informed of the work that has been done. Again I ask, Mr. Speaker, that you allow me to table the architect’s drawing in the Library so that those honorable members who are interested may take the opportunity of going to the Library and seeing the plan.
– There are two matters to which t wish to refer. One concerns the Department of the Army. I have had brought to my notice the case of a sergeant in the army in South Australia, at Central Command Workshops at Keswick. He is about to complete six years’ service with the Army in Australia. He was enlisted from the British Army. He had twelve years’ service with the British Army, and he is desirous of signing on for another six years’ service with the Australian Army. He is 48 years of age and is, of course, reaching the stage where, I understand, he will soon be entitled to some pension. He is due to go out of the Army on the 8th of this month, and he cannot get any logical or proper reason given to him for the decision to terminate his services, other than the fact that he has had some personal differences with a Captain Webber. This captain has, no doubt, put in an adverse report about him and, as so many other officers have done to men beneath them, he apparently is using his position as an officer of the Army to place this unfortunate person in a position where injustice can be done to him and he has no means of redress. There is nothing new about Army officers taking advantage of their position in the Army to mete out harsh treatment to the people beneath them. I do not know all the facts, but this appears to be another case in which this age-old complaint has arisen.
I have spoken to ohe of the senior officers, who has assured me that this man is a very good soldier. He has told me that the man is a studious type of person and in every way satisfactory. But he made one mistake. He decided to appeal to the general, General Wilson, over the heads of his senior officers. When he was paraded before General Wilson, General Wilson allegedly did something which I find it very difficult to believe of the general. I know him personally and I cannot help but say that if the general acted in the manner in which I have been told he acted, he was acting quite out of character. It is regrettable that the records indicate that the general refused properly to consider the claim on the grounds that the man was cheeky to him. I should like the general to tell the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) the exact nature of the insubordination. I have met the sergeant concerned and he is anything but cheeky. I shall give his name to the Minister in a minute. I want to know whether there is any way in which a soldier can get a right of appeal and redress. I know about the Military Board, but that avenue of appeal has been cut off. What will the Military Board do and what will the Minister do? This is the tragedy of “ the Army “. No wonder people will not join the Army.
– He can come straight to me.
– Yes, but what will the Minister do?
– I will go right into the case. .-
– Yes, the Minister will go right into it. He will write to General Wilson first, and then to Captain Webber. 1 am bringing this matter up to show what a waste of time it is for these people to try to get redress. Even if such a matter is brought up in Parliament one cannot get redress. This case will prove that. The Minister will go to the officers concerned, who have already passed judgment, and ask them what they think about it. The officers, in order to justify their first wrong, will perhaps tell untruths. What is the excuse on this occasion? The general has said that the sergeant was cheeky. Good God, what is an Australian soldier supposed to be? Cheeky, they say. What a terrible offence! He was cheeky to the general! Good God!
– What sort of a government have we got? What sort of an army have we got? Apparently it is necessary to bow and scrape and behave like a whipped cur in the presence of a general in order to be even heard. A soldier in the Army has not the same rights as a civilian who is employed by the Government. Whereas a civilian has the right to have an appeal heard by an impartial authority, a soldier has no such right. He has a technical right. He has what may be called a “ paper “ right for the redress of wrongs, and then a right of appeal to the Military Board. But he is not supposed to go to a member of Parliament or he will get into trouble.
– He will not.
– Of course he will. This man has only come to me because he has nothing to lose. In any event he will finish his period of service on the 8th May and the fact that he has come to me cannot make the position any worse. He has adopted the attitude of all desperate men and said, “ It cannot be any worse than it is. I will go to a member of Parliament in the faint glimmer of hope of having my wrong redressed “. I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is possible for him to inquire into this case. It is perhaps too much to ask the Minister to see the man personally.
– You can send him to mp
– Will you. pay his fare?
– Order! I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I think that the Minister should pay this man’s fare. I want somebody other than those who have so far dealt with this case to interview the man. I want the Minister to call for a report from the other officers under whom he served prior to going to Central Command. That is all that the Minister has to do in order to ascertain the facts, because all the other officers say that this man is an excellent soldier. It was not until he went to Central Command that he started to get these bad reports because he was cheeky or refused to grovel in the dirt every time he saw Captain Webber. This illustrates, once again, why it is that Australians with any self-respect are not prepared to grovel in the dirt to brass hats in the Army, and that is one of the reasons why the Government cannot get people to join the Australian forces.
– The honorable member had better give me the man’s name.
– The man’s name and particulars of his case are on this piece of paper which I hand to the Minister. I should like him to look at the matter and see that something is done.
– A number of people in my electorate have asked me to bring to the notice of the Government the shortage of houses in the electorate. I have good reason to believe that these electors are not necessarily supporters of mine, but it is the duty of a member, when he is asked by a group of electors to bring something to the notice of the Government, to do so. Recently, there was a debate on housing in this House on a matter of urgency raised by the Opposition. In my opinion, in that debate the Government made out a very strong case in support of its activities in the housing field. In answer to a question which was asked in this House yesterday the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said -
Of course there are cases of hardship with regard to housing. They exist all over the world, but there is less evidence of hardship in Australia than in any other country in the world..
Whatever will be done with regard to housing will bc considered, as it has always been considered, in connexion with the financial proposals that will be contained in the budget.
I should be glad if, when a survey of housing is made, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will bear in mind the requirements of the Hume electorate. Before I conclude, I must say that I hold the opinion that, as was proved in the debate to which I have referred, housing is essentially a State responsibility.
.- I return once again to a subject which I had endeavoured to elucidate in this Parliament on a number of previous occasions. It concerns an injustice to a new Australian. This chap happens to be a very important person in the community at the moment, at least from the Government’s viewpoint. I am perfectly satisfied that as George Marue, who was employed by the security service of this country to keep an eye on Dr. Bialoguski, who, in turn, was watching Petrov, recognized that he was likely to encounter great difficulty unless he continued to do the work of security, he sought my assistance. This gentleman, recognizing that, being a new Australian, unless he secured Australian nationality he was liable to deportation at any time the Government felt disposed to send him out of the country, decided to complete naturalization formalities. There is no doubt in the world that Mr. Marue has a very interesting story to tell, which he appears determined to tell and which I shall help him, in every way f can, to tell. Mr. Marue worked for the security service. He knows all about the Petrov incident and the negotiations that preceded it, and the work he was called upon to perform. Because he has a story to tell, it is obviously in the interests of the Government to get him out of the country before he tells it. He applied for naturalization and he was held up for some time.
I made some inquiries on his behalf and, subsequently, after a great deal of delay and after a great deal of persistence on my part, I received from the then Minister for Immigration, who is now the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) an intimation to the effect that he had approved of the issuance of a naturalization certificate to Mr. Marue. But although Mr. Marue waited patiently to get advice as to when he was to attend to take the oath of allegiance and secure his naturalization certificate, he was unable to find out anything definite about when the certificate was to be issued. Again I took the matter up with the Minister, who advised me, in a letter dated 2nd October, 1956, in the following terms: -
Mr. Marue has come under adverse notice since 29th June last when I advised you that I had approved of the grant of naturalization in his favour. Mr. Marue appeared before the court on 11th July on two charges of obtaining money with cheques which were dishonoured but was acquitted on both counts. He again appeared at the Central Police Court, Sydney, on 31st July on charges of passing valueless cheques and he was then committed for trial. It is expected that these charges will be dealt with by the Court during October.
Until such time as the charges against Mr. Marue have been disposed of it is not proposed to proceed further with his naturalization.
That attitude, at that stage, can be understood. But the trial has taken place, and so flimsy was the evidence given against Mr. Marue in regard to this particular charge that his counsel, Mr. Cross, Q.C., did not even address the jury. He said he would not insult their intelligence by doing so. It took the jury only five minutes to acquit Marue
After Mr. Marue’s acquittal he went to the offices of the Department of Immigration in Sydney to find out about his naturalization certificate, and was there informed by the officer who interviewed him that it might be some considerable time before he got his certificate, if he got it at all. When he asked the reason for that,, the officer said, “ Because we are still hoping to be able to get something on you “. That is a strange attitude for government officials to be adopting towards a man in this position.
Let us look at the part played by some people, evidently working behind the scenes, in regard to this matter. The charge preferred against Marue was not preferred against him by the man to whom he was supposed to have given the valueless cheque. This alleged offence occurred more than two years before. The charge was preferred against him by the police, and now the police say they acted under instructions from certain quarters. The principal witness in the case, the man who was supposed tohave received the valueless cheque, a publican by the name of Willis, was declared: by Judge Prior to have been a perjurer. That is on record in the transcript, which [ have examined. Under cross-examination by Mr. Marue’s counsel, Willis made a most interesting admission about his evidence in the magistrate’s court. The transcript reads as follows: -
Cross, Q.C.: That answer, you knew at the time, was false.
Question: And you knew you were on oath?
On page 38 of the transcript, Judge Prior is recorded as saying to this gentleman, when he was trying to justify the false answers that he had given in the lower court -
But that does not give you authority to commit perjury in the lower court.
The charge against Marue was based on perjured evidence and the jury quickly dismissed it and acquitted him. Willis said in his evidence that he had never complained to the police at any time that the cheque given to him had been dishonoured. He said he had consulted his solicitor and that the advice of his solicitor was not to proceed. He said the police first consulted him two years after the transaction. He also said that he never took out a summons against Marue and, strangely enough, had continued to do business with Marue nine months after the allegedly valueless cheque had been passed. So, honorable members can see how somebody is desperately groping around for some evidence against this man. It would be very interesting to know who it was who actuated the police to prefer the charge against Marue. because it was laid two years after the alleged offence had occurred.
It is also undenied that Marue has already given a great deal of important and valuable information in regard to his activities when working for the security service. When he attempted to get his story published in the Sydney newspapers, some of them were very interested at the outset because, no doubt, they examined it and assessed it as newspapermen, and thought it not a bad story for publication, as the newspapers had already had the story from Bialoguski and the Petrovs and, no doubt, thought it would be interesting to get the story of the man who was the watchdog on Bialoguski. But suddenly, after encouraging Marue and asking him to leave the manuscript of his proposed story for consideration, the newspapers lost interest in it. Between the time that Marue first approached the newspapers with his story and the time he received their final rejection of it, he was visited by security officers who warned him to be very careful about what he was doing. Because of that, in my opinion, it is right to say that there is a deliberate attempt to get something on this man to justify sending him out of the country.
At the time Marue was in the Government’s employ he must have been regarded by the Government as being quite a reputable fellow, because he was given authority to publish a foreign language newspaper in this country. He also offered his assistance to the Government in the organization of new Australians, and the Government accepted his offer. It was only after he realized, as a result of his experiences, that he was doing a work injurious to this country and its people and decided to expose it and to tell the truth about it, that the Government began to set after him and that he began to experience difficulties. Now that the three charges against Marue have been disposed of completely - two of them dismissed in the lower court and the other thrown out by the jury when he appeared on trial, after only five minutes consideration of the evidence - and as there are no other charges to be preferred against him that we’ know of, unless the Government is still seeking an opportunity to have some charge laid against him, and as he has now satisfied all the requirements of the Government and has been completely exonerated, I want to know why he is still being denied his certificate of naturalization.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister for Ex- ‘ternal Affairs, upon notice -
Has any money been paid by the Government to assist in the clearing of the Suez Canal?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570502_reps_22_hor15/>.