22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr; SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs: Has he any additional information to give to the House in relation, to the internal position in Indonesia and the position of Australians in Indonesia?
– There is no other information of real consequence that would be at all new to the right honorable gentleman or to the House. The press, I think, quite reasonably reflects the present situation. I have already told the right honorable gentleman and the House the approximate numbers of Australians and their distribution throughout Indonesia. There is still no menace of any sort to Australians, of which we have: become aware. Our Ambassador in Djakarta has complete power and authority to take any action necessary to protect Australian lives or property, and the Indonesian Government, when approached by our Ambassador, accepted full responsibility for looking after Australian citizens in Indonesia. There has been no dramatic turn, particularly so far as Australians are concerned, in Indonesia in recent times. The news, such as it is, is broadly as reported in the press. There are rumours of greater military activity at the instance of the Djakarta Government, but we have, necessarily, no confirmation of them,
– Has the Minister for Air reached a decision regarding the objections of the Werribee Shire Council, and other representative bodies, to a proposal of the Department, of Civil Aviation to acquire additional land at Laverton, Victoria, for the extension of airstrips?.
– The Department of Air has not reached any decision about plans of the Department of Civil Aviation, nor has it any reason to do so. The honorable member may be referring to plans which the Department of Air did have for the extension of the Royal Australian Air Force runway at Laverton. I recall that the honorable- gentleman introduced to me a large and very representative deputation of Werribee citizens at Laverton last year. That deputation put forward a case for not1 extending the runway in the direction contemplated, because to do- so might interfere with local development. I regret that I have not been able to inform the deputation of the position earlier, but I am glad to tell the honorable member that the matter has been fully reconsidered and that the Air Force has decided not to proceed with plans for the extension of the present runway. A considerable sum will be spent before very long in improvements of the existing- runway, but that will not in any way interfere, with the projects contemplated by local citizens. I must add thatany plans that the Department of Civil Aviation may have for developments in that, area are not within my responsibility. I have read in the press of some plans, but I am otherwise unaware of them.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Some time ago, the Minister mentioned - I think at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council - the fact that a committee was to be appointed to investigate the quality ofthe wheat produced in Australia, and ways and. means, if any, of improving the quality of our wheat. Has the committee com:pleted its investigations? If so, is a report to hand, and can. it be made available to honorable members at some stage?
– The honorable gentleman is quite right. A quality committee was established to consider the production, of .quality wheat in Australia. At the same time, another committee, was established to consider the marketing of the various qualities of wheat to be produced. The quality committee prepared an interim report, which is now in my hands. The marketing committee has not as yet submitted its report. I will find out whether the report of. the quality committee can be released to the. honorable, gentleman and I will let him know as soon as possible.
– I direct my question, to the Treasurer. The right honorable? gentleman may recall that, at the time of the presentation of the last Budget in 1957, the Prime Minister received from the Australian Automobile Association a telegram requesting a reduction of sales tax on motor vehicles and spare parts and the removal of the additional 3d. a gallon petrol tax imposed in the supplementary Budget of 1956. Now that the next Budget is being prepared for presentation to the Parliament, I ask the Treasurer to give an assurance that the request will be considered, or that the additional 3d. a gallon petrol tax will at least be used for road purposes. I realize that this is a matter of policy, but I ask the Treasurer for an assurance that the request will receive serious consideration.
– Yes, the request will be considered along with dozens of other requests that have been made for consideration in conjunction with the Budget.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he can give the House any information about the cyclone warning system on the Queensland coast, with particular reference to the recent cyclone in the Bowen district. Has the Minister received any information from Queensland following the official inquiry by an official of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology in relation to the siting of the radar warning system at Bowen?
– With reference to the behaviour of the meteorological warning system, particularly in relation to the cyclone at Bowen on 1st April, I am still awaiting a detailed report from officers of the Bureau of Meteorology who were sent to Bowen to investigate every aspect of the performance of the warning system at the time of the cyclone.
I think that I should put two thoughts to the honorable gentleman and the House. One is that the installation of a radar storm warning network does not necessarily give us all the information required to predict the behaviour of cyclones. The cyclone that did such damage at Bowen was of a rather peculiar type, having a very tight core of gale force winds, the core being roughly 50 miles in diameter. Normally, the gale force winds associated with a tropical cyclone extend over a radius of 200 or perhaps 300 miles from the low pressure centre of the cyclone. In this case, although the radar system allowed us to track the course of the cyclone, in the absence of sufficient upper air observations from seaward, we were not in a position to predict the actual force of the winds. It was not until preliminary reports had been partly confirmed by messages, first from Hayman Island, and secondly from the vessel “ Iron Wyndham “ at sea, that the bureau felt justified in making any cyclone prediction at all, and then made a rather venturesome suggestion that the winds would reach 60 miles an hour. I say that because, at that stage, there was certainly no indication of winds of greater force. As for the siting of the radar equipment, there is at the moment a radar storm warning centre operating at Townsville. It is true that a radar shadow is cast to seaward because of Castle Hill but, unfortunately, the top of Castle Hill, which is a restricted area, is fairly fully occupied by radar and signals equipment operating, I think, for the local government electricity authority, the police, the Department of Civil Aviation and so on- We are looking into the question of whether or not it would be possible to shift our storm warning system to that point, but to do so might well interfere with the other services already operating there. I should point out to the honorable gentleman, to the House, and to those particularly concerned, that we are locating the next two units of the storm warning network at Cairns and Mackay.
– They were promised about three years ago.
– These are expected to operate towards the end of 1959, and the radar survey patterns of the Mackay station particularly will overlap with the set now operating from Cairns. I wish to point out to the honorable gentleman, as well as to other people who take the sort of attitude he showed by his interjection, that whilst we extend our sympathy to the people affected by the Bowen cyclone, the Meteorological Branch, like so many other departments in this country, does not operate on an unlimited budget. Just as there are definite calls for urgent equipment in Queensland, so there are similar calls for urgent equipment to deal with flood situa-tions and so on in other States. The fact of the matter is that the meteorological authorities are called upon to plan their expenditure according to their needs. On this particular occasion we have had a good deal of misfortune, but a situation such as we had at Bowen might arise only once in ten or twenty years.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Air. Is the Department of Air using pre-war models of Wirraway aircraft for training purposes? If not, is the department buying Wirraways? In view of the fact that an experienced instructor was killed in one of these machines does the Minister consider them suitable for training purposes?
– The honorable member refers to a very regrettable accident in which, as he said, an experienced instructor lost his life in a Wirraway. I am unable to say whether or not the aircraft that this instructor was flying was a war-time Wirraway. I shall find out. I think the strong probability is that it was an aircraft which was brought out of store long after the war. The cause of the accident is not yet known. The meticulous processes of assessment of the causes of accidents are being carried through at the present time and, in case they should reveal any circumstance which requires alteration of other aircraft, Wirraways are not being used for training purposes at the moment. The advice given to me does not contain anything to suggest that these aircraft will not be suitable for the training purposes for which they are at present employed in the Air Force, and for which they have been for a considerable time regarded as extremely suitable.
– Has the Minister ‘for External Affairs any information additional to that contained in his recent press statement regarding the offer to Australia by the United States of that country’s International Geophysical Year base at Wilkes in the Australian sector of Antarctica?
– There is nothing else, at this moment, that I can say in addition to what I have already said publicly on this subject. I would expect that an announcement might be made on this subject within the next two or three weeks. We are in constant communication with the United States Administration on this matter, and I would not anticipate that the United States is expecting, in the near future, to make any alteration in its policy with respect to the non-recognition of existing claims in the Antarctic. Subject to that, I think that what I would expect to be a satisfactory arrangement will be announced within the next two or three weeks at the outside.
– As the revenue of the Postal Department to the end of March in this financial year was £6,000,000 more than it was for the corresponding period of the previous year, will the PostmasterGeneral consider granting some allowance by way of commission to shopkeepers or newsagents for selling postage stamps? At the present time, it is impossible to buy postage stamps away from post offices. Many of my constituents, including pensioners, have to pay tram fares to and from post offices to obtain postage stamps.
– My immediate reaction to the question asked by the honorable member for West Sydney is to say that his proposal does not come within the scope of the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act. However, I shall have a further look at the question and give him a detailed reply.
– In explanation of my question to the Minister for Immigration, I state that I have been approached by a number of new Australians in my electorate who have applied for naturalization but have had to wait for a considerable time after having fulfilled all the necessary conditions. In some cases, more than two years have elapsed before naturalization has been granted. What is the reason for this delay? Is it necessary for so many inquiries to be made abroad before British citizenship is granted to new Australians who have already resided in Australia for five years?
– I am sorry that the honorable member has had occasion to complain about this matter. If he will furnish me with particulars of individual cases, I shall certainly have an investigation made and try to have any backlag taken up as quickly as possible. However, I think that my honorable friend will appreciate that while on the one hand we are only too glad to encourage our new Australian ‘settlers to become naturalized, on the other :ha’nd it is reasonable -that adequate investigation should “be made before this decisive step affecting their future is :taken.
– My question to the Minister for Immigration is prompted by the statement that the Broken Hill Pro”prietary Company Limited is to erect a steel works at ‘Whyalla at an estimated cost of £30,000,000. I ask the Minister whether the company has yet made an approach to the department for assistance in getting shipbuilders from the United ‘Kingdom or elsewhere to Work in the industry at Whyalla.
– I can understand the interest of my honorable friend in this matter because, of course, it affects very vitally his own electorate of Grey. As fellow South Australians, we rejoice in the fact that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has made what I am sure is an historic announcement that these steel works are to be erected at Whyalla. No doubt, part of the credit for this goes to the assiduity of that fighter for South Australia, the Premier of that State. The honorable member need have no doubt that, so far as I am concerned, every step will be taken to ensure that, when we are nearer the appropriate time, adequate immigrants, and especially shipbuilders, will be available to man this great undertaking. There is, of course, quite an intimate link between the iron and steel industry and the Government’s post-war immigration programme. I would remind the honorable member that about one-third of all those persons employed in the iron and steel industry are new Australians. Furthermore, since the war, about three-quarters of the new intake into the iron and steel industry has consisted of new Australians. So my friend may rest assured that, so far as I am concerned, everything will be done to ensure that this great essay on the part of private enterprise at Whyalla will be fully staffed by the kind of labour we expect and the kind of citizen we want to continue the building up of this great country.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any confirmation of reports that recent secret atomic tests carried out ‘by Russia have caused serious radio-active fall-out in certain parts df Europe?
– No, I regret that I have no authoritative information in respect of either the number of tests, although that has been put down by people who should know at eight or nine in the course of the last month or six weeks, or -the fall-out. I have seen public references to the fact that the fall-out is very considerable. I shall attempt to. get some more authoritative information than that and inform the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is correct that the Commonwealth Government is prepared -to contribute £100,000 towards the cost of holding the British Empire Games in Australia- in 1962, and that this amount is to be made available irrespective of which State succeeds in its application to conduct the games? Is £100,000 the maximum amount which is likely to be made available by this Government or, if necessary, can a further look be had into the matter later on and an additional amount made available?
– It is true that we have indicated that” we are prepared to contribute this amount. We regard it as a very handsome contribution and we have no thought of altering it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence Production. Following his recent visit to Lithgow, will he say what further progress has been made in the tooling-up processes to enable the FN 30 rifle to be manufactured in Australia? Further, when is the production of this essential weapon expected to commence?
– It is true that I went to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow just a week or two ago. I think the most concise reply I can give to the honorable member’s question is that the work is right up to schedule. All the profiling machines are in, and many of the components are already in production. The completed rifle will be ready to go out to the Army about the end of the year.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question regarding the Commonwealth’s financial assistance to the people of cyclone-blasted Bowen. After the cyclone occurred I sent the Prime Minister a telegram requesting financial assistance. Subsequently a public meeting was held in Bowen, at which a resolution that the Commonwealth be asked to grant a lump sum for the purpose of relief was carried, and I sent a further telegram to the Prime Minister to this effect. The Prime Minister replied by letter, stating -
The responsibility for the restoration of property damaged by natural disasters is clearly one for the State Government concerned and, in appropriate cases, for its local authorities. However, the Commonwealth is always willing to join with a State in the relief of personal hardship and distress caused by natural disasters and has already agreed to do this in the case of Bowen on the request of the Queensland Government. The relief scheme will, of course, be organized and controlled by the State Government, and at this stage there is no estimate of the amount which the Commonwealth will be called upon to provide.
There is no indication in the letter of the form this Commonwealth assistance will take. The people of Bowen are worried about it, and I ask the Prime Minister whether it is to be given on a £l-for-£l basis, or on some other basis.
– Before I received the telegram from the honorable member I issued a statement that we were prepared to observe what has become the usual rule - a rule which, if he will think back, was adopted by the government of which he was the nautical member. The position is perfectly clear. No Commonwealth government has adopted a rule of dealing with capital replacement, as such. This Government has dealt with cases of hardship. It has done that in the case of fire and flood, and is doing it now in the case of the cyclone at Bowen - because each of those types of disaster is equally unhappy, and brings about great misery. The rule followed in the past is that the State government works out its proposal, applies to the Commonwealth Government - in cases of hardship - and the Commonwealth Government matches, in such cases, what the State government does on a £l-for-£l basis.
That has been the rule adopted on a score of occasions. It is, quite plainly, the rule that is being adopted this time.
– Has the Minister for Social Services seen the report of the Church of England Brotherhood of St. Laurence in relation to the need for a special hardship pension for certain aged persons? In view of the similarity of this recommendation to suggestions made by members of the Government parties in December, 1956, will the Minister give further consideration to the matter?
– I have already seen the brochure referred to by the honorable member, and I find it a most interesting document. It is consistent in every way with all the other documents dealing with this vexed question. From time to time the Government has considered the provision of supplementary assistance to qualified cases, and that question is currently under consideration. I have very vivid recollections of the important and useful document prepared by the Government members’ social services committee. One of the committee’s recommendations was that some provision might be made for supplementary pensions. I assure the honorable member that these questions are constantly under my personal consideration.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the widespread public disquiet as a result of the reported decisions of taxation authorities in regard to expenditure upon school uniforms and clothing, and medical expenses charged by doctors who are members of registered companies, he will make a statement setting out the exact position in lucid and precise terms.
– There has been -much confusion and misunderstanding over these matters. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper I will give him a written reply.
– My question to the Postmaster-General relates to recent regulations in regard to the inspection and maintenance of telephone services erected, in part, by private persons. Will the PostmasterGeneral issue instructions that users of existing private lines may not be given less adequate facilities or, so far as inspection and testing are concerned, less assistance from the engineering section, than is to be given in respect of new installations?
– I readily give the honorable member that assurance. As a matter of fact, I think it was made plain in the press statement which I issued, and also, I believe, in the statement I made to this House a couple of weeks ago, that the plan for extended assistance was intended to cover not only the choice and erection of new lines in country districts, but also the maintenance of existing lines.
– Has the Minister for Trade any knowledge of the precarious position of the Australian flour-milling industry, caused by the decline of overseas markets? Will the Minister investigate the matter and ascertain whether arrangements can be made for overseas buyers of Australian wheat to take some portion of their requirements in Australian flour? If we have any commitments under the Colombo plan for the supply of wheat to Asian countries, could flour be substituted for some of that wheat? Will the Minister inform our trade commissioners of the desperate position of the industry, so that they may endeavour to find other markets?
– The selling of flour overseas normally comes under the control of the Australian Wheat Board, which, as the honorable member knows, is under the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry. When, however, trade practices of other countries interrupt our trade in flour, the problem is the responsibility of the Department of Trade. It is a matter that has been causing us considerable concern. The Government has kept in close touch with the Australian flour-milling industry, and, of course, is aware of the views of the Australian Wheat Board. I can assure the honorable member that the Government has been as active as possible with regard to this question. Representations have been made to our customer countries, such as Indonesia, Malaya, Ceylon and all the countries around the perimeter of the Indian Ocean which are traditionally buyers of Australian flour. We have also made representations to our competitor countries, such as France and, more recently, Germany, which countries, by reason of their governments’ policies of heavily subsidizing their flour export trade, have been encroaching - and, we feel sure, unfairly encroaching - upon an historic Australian trade preserve, gained by us in quite fair competition. The honorable member, and the industry, may be assured that we are not yet finished with this matter. We will defend at every opportunity our right to trade in fair competition in our traditional markets.
– Can the Minister for Defence Production tell me whether it is a fact that employees at the Commonwealth explosives factory at Maribyrnong are being retrenched? If it is a fact, will the Minister admit that it is due to the opening of the St. Mary’s filling factory, which will ultimately mean the closing of the factory at Maribyrnong?
– Just what the staff position is at the Maribyrnong ordnance factory I could not say. I believe there is at present a question on the notice-paper about the matter. It is quite wrong to suggest, however, that the factory will be closed down as a result of the operation of the filling factory at St. Mary’s. Certain employees from Maribyrnong may go to St. Mary’s at a later date, but the fact that the St. Mary’s factory is coming into operation will not mean that Maribyrnong will close down.
– Will the Minister for Social Services ensure that when payments to a pensioner are stopped pending an inquiry into the financial position of the pensioner, the investigation will be carried out as expeditiously as possible, so that the pensioner concerned will not be caused any undue hardship?
– I assure the honorable member for Gwydir that every care is taken to reach a decision with expedition in the application of the means test to those who apply for social service benefits. The application of the means test depends very largely on the circumstances of the applicant for such benefits. Sometimes, the investigations are most difficult. Some applicants for a pension are not in a position to give all the information that is required, and in cases that are referred to me, the delays can be explained in that way. If the honorable member for Gwydir or any other honorable member has a specific case where undue delay has occurred, I should be very glad to investigate it and do whatever lies in my power to increase the speed of the operation,
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether the department under his administration or the Australian Broadcasting Commission has definite plans for television broadcasting to begin in Hobart in 1960? Have any tenders been received from a private television company in Tasmania? Will the PostmasterGeneral’s Department provide for microwave broadcasting or for a booster station midway between Hobart and Launceston so that northern Tasmania may participate in television when it is introduced to Tasmania? Otherwise, is it proposed to link northern Tasmania with the television services from Victoria by micro-wave, or does the department intend to leave the northern part of Tasmania in a television no man’s land? My friend the honorable member for Bass is also vitally interested in this matter.
– I know that the honorable member for Wilmot and the honorable member for Bass are interested in this matter. I also know that representatives of all political parties from Tasmania are interested in it because representations have been made to me from time to time by honorable members and honorable senators. The honorable member for Wilmot has inquired about the commencement of television in Hobart. I remind him that I made a statement in this House on the matter some time ago, and also publicized it, to the effect that the second phase of the Government’s plans for the extension of television had been agreed to and was proceeding, and that it included the provision of a national station at Hobart. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department, in association with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, is proceeding with the task of preparing plans and calling tenders for the equipment that will be needed for the four capital cities which are embraced in the second phase. Provision has been maJ; also for the calling of applications for commercial licences in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart. The date for the closing of applications for Brisbane and Adelaide h,.-, just passed, and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is now moving to the hearing of applications in those two cities. The applications for Perth and Hobart will close a little later - within a few months - and those hearings will then proceed. The commercial licences to be issued for Hobart and other centres will depend on the recommendation of the board to the Government. As to the provision of television for northern Tasmania, the position there is the same as that applying in all other country districts throughout Australia; and that will be a matter for determination by the Government in connexion with the third phase of development of television in Australia.
– Has the Minister for Trade completed his examination of the position of the almond industry with a view to determining whether import licensing controls are justified on the ground of sufficient availability of supplies in Australia? If so, will he inform the House of the result of that examination?
– The honorable member knows that the almond industry is to be examined by the Tariff Board. Quite apart from any question of protecting an industry, in the conservation of our overseas funds ft is customary to pay regard to the availability of a particular product from local suppliers. I have already informed the honorable member that the department is examining every aspect of the matter. I am not in a position to give any further information at this stage, but I shall see to it that the present plans for the industry are carried out with expedition.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Has an approach been made by the Premier of New South Wales, or by the Premier of any other State, with a request for a conference to be arranged to consider expanded activities for civil defence organizations so that they can be used in national emergencies to fight bush-fires and to help- in times of flood? If an approach has been made, has any action been taken? If not, will the Prime Minister initiate early action so that, in the event of a national emergency arising in the future, adequate safeguards will be available?
– I am not aware of- any such approach. That is not to say that one may not have been made, because I have been absent from Canberra for about two weeks, during which time an approach may have been made. I will ascertain the position, and advise the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for Social Services state approximately how much money has been paid out to the organizations building homes for the aged under the legislation introduced by this Government? About how much extra money would have been paid out if subsidies had also been paid on homes for invalids and homeless children? Is it not just as desirable to subsidize the construction of such homes as it is to assist in the provision of homes for the aged?
– I speak from memory when I say that the total expenditure on homes for the aged under the Aged Persons Homes Act is, to date, £2,900,000. Within the next two or three days the amount, will, I think, exceed £3,000,000. I take great pride in the steps that the Government has taken up to this point in making this great social provision available for the first time in our social service history. The. expansion of such a project to include homeless and orphan children, homeless invalids, and other homeless people in the community, is a step that must be considered in the future, but which, up to the present, has not been exercising the mind of the Government.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has the Government under consideration any proposal to sell the Canberra brickworks, which has been conducted by the Commonwealth ever since its establishment many years ago? If it has been decided to sell the brickworks, will the Minister say what prompted this decision? If in fact it is proposed to sell the brick works, will there be any safeguard to ensure that the development of the national capital and the building of. Can-‘ berra will have first call on the bricks produced under the changed management?
– I am bound to tell the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory that, in my view, it has never been a proposition for the Government to operate an undertaking of this kind; but, due to the particular circumstances that have obtained in Canberra, we have been obliged to carry on the brickworks. During recent months some thought has been given, not so much to the sale, but to the leasing of the facilities or to some other managerial arrangement, but I am bound to tell the honorable gentleman also that those arrangements have not proceeded very far, mostly for the reasons he has raised. Of course, we must protect the supply of bricks for Canberra, but I am afraid that when we impose such a condition on any deal that may be made, it is rather difficult to interest anybody in the undertaking.
Assent to the following’ bills reported: -
Atomic Energy Bill 1958. Diplomatic Immunities Bill 19S8. Life Insurance Bill 1958. Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1958. Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1958.
Debate resumed from 25th March (vide page 617), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a very simple and quite harmless bill. It seeks to amend one of the first acts passed by the Commonwealth Parliament - the Service and Execution of Process Act - by making it possible to serve in another State a subpoena issued by a coroner in any State. Hitherto, it has been possible under section 16 of the act to serve in another State a summons or subpoena issued by a court or judge, or police, stipendiary or special magistrate in any civil or criminal trial or proceeding. In 1912, the only amendment that has ever been made to section 16 enabled a summons or a subpoena ;to be served on a person not .only to give evidence but -also to produce books ox -documents.
The reason given for this further amendment is that some coroners have taken the view that they are not conducting a civil or criminal trial or proceeding and therefore are unable, under the existing act, to have their subpoenas or summonses issued in another State. There is no question that it would be convenient and desirable for a subpoena or a summons issued by a coroner to be served in another State. There are many matters in relation to deaths or fires into which coroners have to inquire, and persons who can give material evidence before the coroner’s inquiry may be in another State or may deliberately have gone to another State or ‘taken books and documents to another State. If I may say so with respect, I should think the point has been well taken that, under the existing act, it is not possible for a coroner to have a subpoena or summons served in another State. To that extent, there can be no objection to this very simple amendment, as it would seem to be.
But, Sir, we come to what I fear might be the fatal flaw in this legislation, upon which I think the House is entitled to an explanation from the honorable and learned Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who in this place introduced this amending bill. If, as the Minister stated, it is not open, under the existing act, for a coroner’s summons or subpoena to be served in another State because the coroner does not conduct a civil or criminal proceeding, then by the same reasoning it is not possible for this Parliament “to purport to give a coroner such a power, because the Parliament’s powers are enshrined or, as some people would say, are ossified in the Constitution. Section 51 placitum (xxiv.) of the Constitution, under which the original 1901 act was .passed and the 1912 amendment to section 16 of the Service and Execution of Process Act, and various other amendments, have been made reads -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
The service and execution throughout the Commonwealth of the civil and criminal process and me judgments of the courts of the States:
If it is true that a coroner does not conduct any civil or criminal proceeding, in the words of the present act, then he cannot issue any civil or criminal process, in the words of the Constitution. If the reason that is given for the fault in this act is valid, the same reason must invalidate the whole of this proposed amendment.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation, particularly from honorable members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is one of the offenders.
– I have not said a word.
– Order! The honorable member will not be insolent.
– Placitum (xxiv.) refers to the courts of the States.
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Watson that audible conversation is out of order. I ask him to remain silent, particularly as he is not sitting in his own place. Honorable members in that corner of the chamber are very disorderly.
– It is arguable whether a coroner constitutes a court in the ordinary sense, “ a court of a State “ in the meaning of the placitum of the Constitution or a court as defined in section 3 of the act. There is no doubt, of course, that a coroner does not make a judgment in any sense whatever. The reason that the Minister has given for introducing this amendment, I should think, is also a reason for saying that no amendment is possible under the Constitution as it stands. This may be very frustrating, but the Commonwealth Parliament is used to constitutional frustrations. We cannot make an .amendment to an act, or pass an act because we want to do so. We cannot do it just because the overwhelming consensus in the community is that there should be a certain act or a certain amendment to an act. There may first be the necessary preliminary of amending the Constitution. We are now considering an instance in which it is pretty obvious, for the very reason that the Minister has given for amending the act, that we should seek not an amendment of the act but an amendment of the Constitution. This is an instance of the loopholes which continuing experience shows exist in the Constitution.
There can be no doubt that the service and execution of process in the various States and territories is a necessary feature of civilized government. This was realized before federation. As a matter of fact, the third act passed by the Federal Council of Australasia was the Australasian Civil Process Act. The council passed that act in 1886 - the year after it was constituted. The act was superseded only in 1901 by the act which we are now seeking to amend.
May I illustrate further the very frustrating loophole which is now seen to exist in the act? Not only have coroners felt that there is a hiatus in their powers, but every judge or magistrate who has held a royal commission from a State government has also felt the same way. We know quite well that royal commissions issued by State governments are valid only insofar as persons or things are within the jurisdiction of the State. It is a very common technique when a royal commission is about to be issued for persons who may be involved to take a holiday in another State or, better still, in another country. In New South Wales, which is not without experience in royal commissions, a couple of hurried amendments have been made to the Royal Commissions Act to try to deal with such situations. In 1934, two quick amendments were made to that act to enable persons who had taken refuge in New South Wales from New Zealand to be apprehended and questioned, to give oral evidence and to produce documentary evidence.
It may be thought that the situation of New Zealand and New South Wales is not apposite in the present case, but it will be remembered that, as far as the ordinary traditional law is concerned, New South Wales and Victoria are just as much different countries as are Australia and New Zealand. Except in regard to those matters listed under section 51 of the Constitution or those matters where under section 96 of the Constitution it is possible for the Commonwealth to buy the co-operation of the States, we are still eight different kingdoms - two territories and six States. Except for placitum (xxiv.) of section 51 of the Constitution dealing with the service and execution of process, we still have eight different systems of law. This position which has arisen in connexion with royal commissions and now in connexion with coroners, will persist, I submit, until the Constitution is amended.
May I here interpolate another reference to royal commissions? A few years ago in New South Wales, a royal commission inquired into the liquor industry. The general manager of one of the largest wine and spirit stores in New South Wales could, it was thought, give very relevant evidence on the disposal in large quantities and at inflated and illegal prices of many of the goods that he had a licence to sell. Realizing that position, he not only left New South Wales; he flew from New South Wales to Melbourne and there caught a ship to the United Kingdom. The evidence before the commission occupied much more time than had been expected and the commissioner took much longer than was expected to formulate his report. In the event, this general manager had to stay in the United Kingdom for two years. When at last the commissioner’s report was presented to the Governor and the commission then terminated, the gentleman found it safe to return to Australia, his health cured and his reputation secure.
In the light of the position which constantly arises in every royal commission in every State, and which arises, I suppose, scores of times in coroner’s inquiries in every year in every State, it is time that we amended not the Service and Execution of Process Act, but the service and execution paragraph of section 51 of the Constitution. I am sure that we are all looking for enlightenment on this important and frustrating matter to the Minister for Air, who is now at the table.
This is not a theoretical question; it is not something that nobody will contest. It is a matter which may be contested by the first person who is summoned to give evidence or to present documents before a coroner in another State, and who does not want to be examined or to produce documents. This amendment invites legal challenge, just as royal commission proceedings have invited challenge and have been challenged. We are engaged here with what looks an innocuous and highly desirable piece of legislation, but we may be merely deluding ourselves if we go through the serious process of passing this legislation and, in effect, throw a damp squib. The constitutional weakness of the legislation is shown in the very reason which the Minister gave in his second-reading speech for curing the weakness of the existing act.
.- This legislation provides for the service of process, particularly subpoenas, out of a coroner’s court. The act at the moment specifically provides that service of subpoenas issued by a court, a judge or a magistrate may be served outside the jurisdiction and in some other State. However, in Western Australia, instances have occurred in which the absence of the term “ coroner “ has caused coroners to think that the act was not wide enough to enable them to grant the issue of a subpoena. That, I believe, is the reason for the amendment to the act that is proposed by the Government. Unfortunately, in the course of debate both in this place and in another place, it has been put that the reason is that proceedings before a coroner are neither civil nor criminal. I am completely at a loss to understand why that reason was given. I do not understand how proceedings in a court can be anything other than civil or criminal. Indeed, if one looks at the jurisdiction of a coroner, one finds that in some matters he exercises jurisdiction in criminal proceedings and in some matters he exercises jurisdiction in civil proceedings.
It has also been put in the course of debate that a coroner does not sit in a court. However, examination reveals that the coroner’s court is in fact a court of record, which is a court of high standing. Unless a court is a court of record it is regarded as an inferior court.
The honorable member for Werriwa has accepted an incorrect reason for this bill and, without sufficient examination, has suggested to the House that constitutional power to pass the amendment is lacking. My examination satisfies me that the Parliament has complete constitutional power to pass the amendment, that the amendment is desirable in view of the practice adopted by some coroners, and that the Parliament should pass the amending legislation.
– This is a matter in which the view of the Opposition should be expressed as to the political desirability of the bill. We are unanimous that the power sought in the bill should be granted, and we shall support it. What happens in the future will be a matter for determination by the courts.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) cannot dismiss so dogmatically the point raised by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). The real point of constitutional power is whether a coroner is, in all respects, to be regarded as a court of the State. Certainly he exercises judicial power in some respects, but in certain types of investigation in which he deals with particular matters, he could hardly be called a court of the State. I am not relying on the point as to his appointment. The States may appoint courts without the statutory or constitutional rights and provisions as to term of office required of the federal courts. That is the real point. Before the bill is passed, as no doubt it will be, it would be of assistance to the House if the Minister were to inform honorable members whether, in all relevant respects, a coroner in the respective States is regarded as a court stricto sensu. That may seem an unimportant point, but if any gaps exist in the bill they may result in this amendment, at any rate in part, being declared invalid.
I am sure honorable members understand the point I am raising and I shall not, therefore, elaborate it. Within the meaning of the restrictive words of section 24 of the Constitution, does a coroner, carrying out his duties under his statutory powers, act as a court? I should judge the authorities quoted by the honorable member for Werriwa to suggest that a coroner does not always represent a court or act as a court. That, shortly, is the point.
It is obviously desirable that the power sought should exist, and the Opposition will support the bill. Its constitutional validity then may have to be determined, but that matter certainly cannot be dealt with in this House.
.- As honorable members on both sides of the House favour the passage of the amendment because of the reasons that lay behind it, and because the bill has emanated from the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan), who has the assistance of the legal officers of his department, it is highly desirable that the bill should be passed in its present form.
At the time the Constitution was drawn up there was a division of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. It is not- the function of this legislature to decide the powers reserved to the judiciary by the Constitution. That is a matter of policy on which all honorable members are agreed. Surely, the correct course to adopt is to pass the legislation and then leave it to be. tested, if it is sought to be tested, before the proper body, the judiciary.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has said the amendment is not constitutional. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has said that it is. Obviously the matter has been considered by the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, who have said that the legislation is constitutionally valid. The Opposition has announced that it favours the bill. The Government has introduced it, so obviously it also favours the bill. If it is to be tested in the future, then leave it to be. tested, by somebody who has an interest, in the way in which the judicial function of the Constitution was meant to operate, namely that a person may approach the court only if he has- an interest in the matter which he wishes to raise.
Put at its lowest level, it is at least arguable that the bill is constitutionally valid. If that is the position, and in principle and in policy the bill is supported by all honorable members, then it ought to be passed.
– in reply - As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, this bill is designed to overcome the difficulty which has arisen in Western Australia. Those honorable members- who have spoken, both for the Government and for the Opposition, have agreed that it is desirable in the public interest that the difficulty should be resolved, and that coroners in any State should have the power to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance before the court of a witness who may have relevant evidence to give, even though the witness may be in another’ State. It is desirable- to overcome the possibility of a witness; who does not’ wish to give evidence at a coroner’s inquiry, for reasons of his own feelings or convenience, travelling to another State- to avoid being called to give evidence. That is common ground on both sides of- the House.
The- honorable’ member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has raised the pertinent question as to whether the decision of a magistrate’ in- Western Australia was valid when’ he- said’ a- coroner had’ no power, to issue subpoenas for service in another State. Quite possibly the magistrate was wrong. He apparently took a narrow and restricted view of his powers. However, he- took such a view and it is possible- that the procedure followed in Western Australia may be followed in other States. The Government feels duty bound to resolve the situation and to put the matter beyond doubt.
The ‘honorable member for Werriwa’; (Mr. Whitlam) has raised a constitutional question as- to whether’ this’ Parliament has the power- under placitum1 (xxiv.) of section- 51 of the’ Constitution Act to pass this particular measure. This question has been considered by the. Crown Law authorities who have advised that, the Parliament has such, power. Any doubts of the Opposition on- this point may be set at rest.
The need for the bill arises from the particular wording of section 16 of the Service and Execution of Process Act 1901- 1950 which gives- to -tribunals the power to issue a subpoena “ in. any civil or criminal trial or proceeding “. Those words are. restrictive in: their- nature, and it was’ apparently argued in Western Australia that, subpoenas which can be served in another State are restricted: by the: words of the act to witnesses required to give evidence in a criminal trial or proceeding, and that. a. coroner’s inquiry was not- such a proceeding.
– In Western Australia a coroner’s inquiry is only an inquiry.
Mr.- OSBORNE. - A coroner’s- inquiry is only an inquiry in every State: I am inclined- to agree with my friend the honorable member for Balaclava that- the. decision was incorrect. However, that is immaterial, because the difficulty does exist and this Parliament is able to correct the matter itself.
The words of the Constitution, however, are wider: Placitum (xxiv.) gives the Parliament power to make: laws for- -
The service and. execution throughout the Commonwealth of the- civil and criminal process and the judgments of the courts of the States.
That provision enables the Parliament to do certain things. It would, I think, be construed by the High Court, or by any other competent court before which a case came-, not in a narrow- or restrictive manner. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out to the House, the question really would be: ls this a process of a court of a State? I think he was correct when he suggested that the matter turns on the question whether a coroner’s court is a court of a State. That question has been specifically considered in the past by the Supreme Court of New South Wales and was decided in the affirmative. The- matter came before the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1868 in the case of “ Chippett v. Thompson “, which is reported in 7 New South Wales Supreme Court Reports, at page 349. In effect, it was decided that a coroner’s court was a court, of a State. I do not think there is any doubt at all that under placitum (xxiv.) this Parliament has power to pass this act; and that the act will be valid.
– How did the point arise in that case?
– Not being aware that this constitutional issue would be raised, I have not prepared myself to answer that question in detail. However, the matter has been considered by the Grown Law authorities, whose advice, in accordance with the decision I have quoted - which I have no doubt would be followed - is that a coroner’s court is a court of a State and that this is a process of a court of a State.
– It might be a court of a State for some, of its functions, not for others.
– That is conceivable.
– It would depend upon the actual, controversy.
– The matter has been considered by the Crown Law authorities, who have advised that the Parliament has the necessary power. As the honorable member foc Bruce (Mr. Snedden) has pointed out, it- would, be open for any aggrieved person to test the matter. I imagine that could- be done by a habeas corpus application in a. Supreme Court of a State or in the High Court by any person who claimed that his civil rights were being infringed- by his being taken from one State to another to answer the subpoena of a coroner. He could test the matter, but I am fairly con fident that it will remain untested and that the opinion of the Crown Law authorities on the power of this Parliament to legislate will be accepted.
There is only one other thing to which 1 wish to refer. The honorable member for Werriwa was inclined to draw into this discussion the question of the limitation of the powers of royal commissioners. That, I suggest to him with all respect, is akin to the flowers that bloom in the spring. It has nothing to do with this case. Royal commissions are not courts, as we know very well. Hence, any powers that they may or may not have do not arise from placitum (xxiv.) which refers specifically to the- processes of courts of a State. The Opposition and the Government alike agree that, it is. desirable that the end which the. bill seeks to achieve should be achieved and I commend the bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read: a second time, and reportedfrom committee without amendment or debate; report, adopted.
Bill - :by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 514), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Because additional assistance is to be given to the States, the Opposition will not oppose the bill, but it does disagree with the amount of assistance, proposed. As the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has announced, the purpose of the bill is to permit additional payments to be made to the States in this financial year. When the Treasurer introduced the measure he pointed out that most of the States had budgeted for deficits, the total amount of those deficits exceeding £9,000,000. The States, of course, had to budget for deficits because the finance available to them from their own resources and: from the Commonwealth was not nearly enough to meet their increased expenditure on education, health, development and other matters, brought about by growing populations in all the States.
At the Premiers’ conference in February the Commonwealth agreed to make a special grant of £5,000,000 from revenue, £1,000,000 of the grant to be divided equally between New South Wales and Queensland for drought relief, and the remaining £4,000,000 to be distributed in accordance with the tax reimbursement formula. The £5,000,000 will finally be divided as follows -
The Premiers said that £5,000,000 was not enough. They had asked for a minimum of £10,000,000, but received exactly onehalf of what they asked for. If the full amount for which they had asked had been granted, they would have been able to balance their budgets, and, provided that the Commonwealth Government had adopted other measures to relieve the strain on the economy, our economic position would have been more favourable than it is likely to be as a result of this extra financial assistance. Although the Premiers wanted additional loan funds, the representatives of the Commonwealth at the conference expressed doubt that the loan market would respond. The Commonwealth Government did agree to the floating of a loan of £3,000,000 for local government authorities, but it is doubtful whether that amount will be raised.
I should like to refer to the National Bank of Australasia review of 14th March. 1958. That review referred to recent loans in these terms -
Results of two loans announced during the month revealed little improvement in the support for semi-governmental issues. The State Electricity Commission of Victoria’s £2,600,000 loan closed with £985,250 under-subscribed, and the underwriters were left with £168,000 of the State Electricity Commission of Queensland’s loan foi £800,000.
Honorable members can see that although provision has been made for a loan of £3,000,000 to be raised for local government purposes, there is no assurance that that amount will be available for local government purposes. It might be asked why the Premiers accepted an amount which they considered inadequate. The fact is that the Australian Loan Council has become a farce. It is supposed to be a body comprised of representatives of the States and the Commonwealth who meet to arrange the nation’s finances, but it has become instead an organization in which the States fight for the finance they consider they need; the Commonwealth finally decides the amounts that they shall receive. If any one has any doubt that the Premiers themselves were not satisfied with the amounts allocated to the States at the February meeting of the Australian Loan Council, I direct attention to their statements, as reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 14th February, 1958. They were as follows -
Mr. Cahill: I am naturally disappointed that N.S.W. did not get more.
Mr. Bolte: I will be able to make an immediate start on public works with a big labour content.
Mr. Nicklin: This is not as much as we had hoped for but it is a real help in coping with the problems we face.
Sir Thomas Playford: The amount allocated to S.A. is insufficient.
Mr. Hawke: I am very disappointed at the result. It will not allow us to provide any additional employment and will only help us to meet our deficit.
Mr. Cosgrove: The grant will only slightly reduce the delict for which Tasmania has budgeted.
It is obvious that the Premiers considered that the amounts received were not sufficient. The reason for those amounts being granted was that the Commonwealth allocation was supported by the Premiers of South Australia and Queensland. When the voluntary loan council was instituted in 1923, an assurance was received from the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, that the Commonwealth would not dictate to the States. When the Australian Loan Council was formed in 1929 with much more comprehensive machinery, it was made clear again that there would be no dictation by the Commonwealth. But as every one knows, the fact is that on the council the Commonwealth has two votes to one vote by each State, and it also has a casting vote. The Commonwealth can therefore dictate its own terms, in the long run, to the Australian Loan Council. To do so it needs the support of only two States; and it got that support at the council’s meeting in February. The Commonwealth’s strength at council meetings is often reinforced by the fact that, in the final analysis, the claimant States, owing to their much greater dependence upon the Commonwealth, have to support the Commonwealth. At least some of them have to do so, otherwise the amount proposed by the Commonwealth would not be agreed to. If there should be any doubt about that fact, I direct attention to a passage in the statements appended to the last Budget speech. On the subject of loan commitments for 1956-57, this passage appeared -
At a meeting in June, 1956, the Loan Council approved a resolution providing for a governmental borrowing programme of £210,000,000 for State works and housing in 1956-57. The Commonwealth did not support this resolution but indicated that it would be prepared, subject to certain conditions, to make monthly advances to the States at an annual rate of £190,000,000 for the first six months of the financial year, after which time the position would be reviewed and the extent of Commonwealth assistance to the Loan Council programme determined.
In October, 1956, the Commonwealth agreed to make available to Western Australia from its own resources an additional amount of £2,000,000. This increase, which had been agreed to in principle by the other Premiers at the June meeting of the Loan Council, raised the annual rate at which the Commonwealth was making advances to the States to £192,000,000.
After reviewing the position in January, 1957, the Commonwealth informed the States that it would be prepared to continue making advances for the remainder of the financial year at the annual rate of £192,000,000. At a meeting in May, 1957, the Loan Council decided that the approved borrowing programme for 1956-57 should be £192,000,000.
It is obvious that even if a majority of the members of the Loan Council thought that the amount allocated should have been greater, finally they had to come into line with the decision of the Commonwealth. The two States which supported the Commonwealth on that occasion were South Australia and Tasmania. We find that the financial requirements of the States are determined largely by the political opinions of the government in office in the federal sphere. If that government is opposed to an extensive policy of public works, then its policy becomes paramount and less funds are provided for public works. Thus the States are actually deprived of their right to govern as elected governments. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) wants to go even further. During the 1954 election campaign he said -
Just as we claim no right to interfere in State affairs, so do we say that if we, the Commonwealth, are to assume the burden of finding for State works many millions out of the taxpayers’ money, we have a duty to the taxpayers to see -that the selection of works to be done should be guided by their true order of national importance. We will therefore ask the States to cooperate in the creation of a small advisory body of highly expert persons to serve as a national development commission, acting in association with the Department of National Development, to report to both Commonwealth and States upon the economics and relative importance of particular proposals.
The States, of course, refused to surrender their sovereign rights as they were in effect requested to do. But they have lost those rights anyhow, because although the Commonwealth cannot direct how they shall spend their money it can limit the amount that is made available to them. Consequently, it can gradually strangle the States until they are forced into line. That is really what happens now.
The Commonwealth has also enforced its will on the claimant States through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. In a submission made by the Department of the Treasury to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, a reference to which is contained in the last, the twenty-fourth, report of that body, it was suggested that special recognition should be given to South Australia, because that State had adopted the Commonwealth basic wage standard. In effect, the Commonwealth was saying to the other States, “ If you follow the Commonwealth basic wage standards, you, too, can get additional assistance “. In that instance the Commonwealth was trying to dictate to the other States the wage standard they should adopt if they did not want to suffer financial loss. In effect, they were being asked to adopt Liberal party policy. In that respect, too, we find that South Australia also got more because it was prepared to spend less on social services, the average expenditure per head in that State being £16 18s. 4d., compared with the average expenditure per head in the Commonwealth of £18 ls. 9d. Therefore, South Australia got it both ways. First, it did not spend so much on social services, and then it received added financial assistance from the Commonwealth because it had not spent as much as the other States did on social services It is clear, then, that the Commonwealth is trying to force the States into line to a large extent. That seems to be the policy that is being followed by this Government.
Dealing with the bill itself, I emphasize again that the Premiers were dissatisfied.
They said very clearly that the amount allocated would only serve to meet the increasing .deficits which they . anticipated would amount to some £9,000,000. I emphasize, too, that the supplementary grants, of which this is really a portion, were introduced by the Commonwealth Government a few years ago when it realized that the tax reimbursement formula was inadequate in view of the changed circumstances that had arisen. I suggest to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Townley), who is at the table, that the supplementary grants are still inadequate. The tax reimbursements are still inadequate and so are the supplementary grants. The whole matter needs to be reviewed, so that the financial position of the States-
– The bill grants them an additional £5,000,000.
– I shall cite figures to show that the States are not, in reality, getting additional assistance. The proportion of Commonwealth expenditure on the States to other expenditure is decreasing.
– The assistance to ‘the States has been doubled by this Government.
– I shall quote figures which should satisfy the Minister on that point. Actually, the Commonwealth is ‘now providing less in supplementary payments than it did in 1951-52.
– How does the amount now provided compare with the amount granted in 1949?
Mr. -WEBB. - In 1951-52 the States 1 received £33,570,000. They now receive £23,800,000, plus the additional £5,000,000 provided in this special legislation. They also receive less under the loan programme for works and housing. In 1951-52, the amount was £223,700,000; in this financial year it will be: £200,000,000. The same applies to special grants.
I come now to the point that was raised by the Minister for Supply. In answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) relating to special grants under section 96 of the
Constitution expressed as a proportion of the total revenue of claimant States, the Treasurer said that in 1949-50, under the Labour Government, the proportion was 26.6 per cent.
– The bill before us deals, not with tax reimbursements, but with special grants.
– I shall deal with =the matter as I go along.
– Order! The bill deals only with special financial assistance to the States. It does not cover the whole field.
– I submit that it is not easy for one to subdivide the matters. In a submission that was made by the Western Australian Treasury to the Commonwealth Grants Commission in February, 1957, it was stated -
At the outset, it must be realized that Special Grants do not stand alone but must be considered as part of the general pattern of Commonwealth financial assistance to the States. This has been clearly stated by the Grants Commission in the Twenty-second Report (para. 29), wherein the view is expressed that “ special grants are continuous in principle with other transfers of Commonwealth revenue to the States.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, referred to these other payments and mentioned the amounts.
– Just in passing. The schedule tells us what it is about.
– I am quoting figures in answer to the point that was raised by the Minister for Supply. In 1949-50, special grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution amounted to 26.6 per cent, of the revenue of claimant States. . In 1955-56, the proportion was 21.3 per cent. The proportion of special grants to the revenue of all States was 7.3 per cent, in 1949-50 but only 5.7 per cent, in 1955-56. The proportion of special grants to the revenue of the Commonwealth as a whole was 2.4 per cent, in 1949-50 and 1.8 per cent, in 1956-57 - the latest figures that are available.
I should also like to mention that in 1952-53, semi-governmental and local authorities raised £98,300,000. In this financial year, taking >into consideration the additional £3,000,000, they will be permitted to raise £92,000,000. It is clear, therefore, that semi-governmental and local authorities are now being permitted to raise less money than formerly. Actually, the States are being kept poor. They have mounting deficits, while the Commonwealth becomes rich and is .enjoying increasing surpluses. Commonwealth collections of revenue have increased rapidly .due to inflation. Although in many “ instances .taxpayers are receiving more actual cash in their pay envelopes .or by way of special payments, they -are not necessarily receiving more in terms of real value, and the additional money . places them in higher income brackets for taxation .purposes. Consequently, more is reefed off them in taxation.
As I said a few moments ago, the Commonwealth’s attitude to tax reimbursements is out of date. The formula should be changed. An effort has been made to improve the position by means of supplementary grants, but that has not overcome the difficulty. In 1938, the Commonwealth received £11,500,000 in income tax, compared with £30,000,000 . received by the States. “In the current financial year, the Commonwealth expects to collect £675,000,000 in taxes, and the States, £226,700,000 plus .the additional £5,000,000 under this bill. The Commonwealth boasts of its big-heartedness, as is evident from what the Minister has said, but it is far from being big-hearted. The Commonwealth has developed the habit of raising millions of pounds more revenue than it needs and. of lending a portion of its surplus revenue to the ‘States at 5 per cent, interest. In 1956-57, £96,000,000 of surplus revenue was lent by the Commonwealth to the States at that rate of interest. In addition, the Commonwealth financed its own public works with money from the same source which, of course, it obtained free of interest. In reply to a question that I .asked some time ago, the Treasurer admitted .that the interest bill of the Commonwealth h.ad remained .stationary since 19,49-50 whereas the interest bill of the States had practically trebled during the same .period. As I have said, one reason for this position is that the States have to pay interest on their loan, moneys but the Commonwealth does not have to pay interest on money it receives in tax.
I should like to emphasize that at the present time there .are over 64,000 registered unemployed persons in Australia. I suggest to the Government that the public works programme should be increased rather. than reduced. I believe that an expanded public works programme should be financed not only by surplus revenue as at present, but also by means of public borrowing -and through the Commonwealth Bank. Nearly 75 per cent, of the public works that have been undertaken since the war have been financed from surplus revenue. Therefore, there is no need for us to worry .about the national debt. In 1938-39, the net interest payments by government authorities amounted to 5.1 per cent, of the .-gross national product, .compared with 1.7 per cent. now. Therefore, we do not have to worry about this aspect of the matter because the interest payment by government authorities, expressed as a percentage, is so much less than what was formerly paid by them.
I emphasize that there is ample scope for the Government to increase its expenditure on public works..in order to prevent serious unemployment from developing. Many big projects are .awaiting completion. As I have mentioned previously in this House, a commencement has been made with the standardization of rail gauges. The first section of the work to be undertaken is the railway line -between Wodonga and Melbourne. This will relieve unemployment in Victoria. There is no reason why further work to standardize railway gauges should not be placed in hand in other States in order to relieve unemployment. The erection of urgently-needed hospitals and schools should be undertaken. Immense avenues for employment .are available in developmental projects similar to, but not so ambitious as, the Snowy Mountains scheme. Looking at the matter from the point of view of Western Australia, I consider that the damming of the Ord River and the carrying out of associated work would do much for the north. In addition to providing a lot of employment, the work would strengthen the defences of the Northern Territory and the north-western part of Western Australia, and that is urgent.
The .trouble is that we are not prepared to come to grips with our economic ills. It may be seen from the headlines of American newspapers that the Government of the . United States of America has been pouring out dollars in order to hit the recession in that country. -In Australia, this Government is pouring out pence. The bank rate has been cut in the United States of America and in Great Britain in order to help the situation in those countries. So, although Great Britain might have about the same percentage of unemployed as Australia, the Government of that country is not treating the question as lightly as is the Australian Government.
We can save the Australian economy, but we cannot do it by providing only £5,000,000 in additional revenue for States which cannot even balance their budgets. We have to make a realistic approach. We have to make money cheaper. We have to relax credit and reduce interest rates and so stimulate the private sector of the economy. That is not the view of myself or the Opposition, but of such eminent economists as Sir Douglas Copland. Honorable members no doubt will have read articles by him on these matters, so I do not propose to quote them now. We should be getting on with public works programmes. Honorable members may think that as time goes on our public works programme will be. effective in relieving any serious unemployment that may occur; but the important point is that the blueprints take a long time to prepare. Consequently, we should be getting on with the job now.
Western Australia’s share of tax reimbursements and special financial assistance for this financial year is £14,974,000. Under this legislation, there will be an additional £315,000. The Premier of Western Australia has made a statement on this subject which has been reported as follows: -
Western Australia’s share will not allow us to provide any additional employment. The grant which we have received towards consolidated revenue will meet ordinary needs. Our consolidated revenue fund is already heavily in deficit.
He then made the point that I made previously -
Although Western Australian local authorities had been permitted to raise an extra £303,000 in loans, they were not likely to be able to raise this. They might be able to raise about a third of the extra money before June 30th.
It will be realized from this statement that the amount allocated to the State that I represent is considered to be insufficient.
In reply to a question by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has stated that whereas in the financial year 1949-50, under the whole of the Commonwealth-State financial arrangements, the Commonwealth provided Western Australia with 70 per cent, of its finances, leaving 30 per cent, to be provided by the State itself, in 1955-56, the amount provided for Western Australia represented 68.6 per cent, of the State’s finances, leaving the State to provide 31.4 per cent, itself. It can be seen, therefore, that Western Australia has been losing ground. According to the latest report which apparently appeared yesterday, there has been a slight reduction in unemployment in Western Australia. But there are still over 5,000 registered unemployed in that State, which has had that number of unemployed for some time. More finance is required in order to absorb them into employment.
Despite the special needs of Western Australia, that State will receive no special allocation out of this £5,000,000. New South Wales and Queensland, however, are each to receive an additional £500,000. Western Australia will receive merely its proportion of the remaining £4,000,000 according to the formula. I admit that New South Wales and Queensland were able to claim that they had a special need because of the drought, but Western Australia also has special needs to which consideration should have been given. For instance, last year, the Commonwealth, as a result of an expression of opinion by the Premiers conference, granted an additional £2,000,000 to relieve unemployment in Western Australia. Now, when there is just as much unemployment as there was then, nothing extra has been granted.
The unemployed in Western Australia represent approximately 2 per cent, of the work force, which is ,a greater percentage than in any other State. Western Australia is not as highly industrialized as other States and it needs special assistance. A policy, such as that of this Government, which involves restricting credit, increasing interest rates, and providing insufficient funds for State needs, must hit a State which is mainly primary producing much harder than it hits industrial States. The development of Western Australia has been mainly in the field of primary production. We have a large adverse trade balance with the eastern States. The deficit in 1956-57 was £53,000,000. At the same time, because we export our primary produce, we had a favorable overseas balance for 1956-57 of £21,600,000.
Western Australia, which is represented in this House by members on both sides, covers approximately one-third of the Commonwealth but it has a very small population in comparison with its size. Because of this small population, the costs of government and development are exceptionally high. We have a small local market and there is not the scope for industrial expansion that exists in the more highly industrialized eastern States. That is why I have said before, and I repeat, that the Commonwealth Government is wrong in applying the same economic measures to Western Australia as it applies to more highly industrialized States. Special consideration should be given to that point. Our economy is vulnerable in Western Australia and we depend largely on international prices which are now dropping. Of course, even when international prices were high, a big proportion of the income that we derived from them went to the eastern States to buy goods which were not manufactured locally.
There are many measures which should be taken to improve the situation in Western Australia. Such projects as the Australian Broadcasting Commission building should be speeded up. There is no need for the delay that is taking place in the construction of that building. I have already referred to the north-west and to the damming of the Ord River. There is room for tremendous development in that area if the Government would only come to grips with the problem. But the Government has practically brushed the matter off in the decision that it gave to the allparty committee from Western Australia. The finance provided for Western Australia in legislation introduced in this House is inadequate.
The Government has refused to do anything in connexion with the construction of a naval base on the west coast of Western Australia. The construction of such a base is important for defence reasons because Singapore broke down during the last war and would not be of real value to us in a future war. The base at Ceylon is not of any real value to us now because Britain has been told to get out of it. The dock at Hong Kong will be closed down within two years. Consequently, I suggest that the Government should proceed with the construction of a naval base on the west coast of Western Australia. Not only would this be of value in a war - although I hope that this will never arise - but it would provide assistance to Western Australia’s economy because ships which now have to come to the eastern States for servicing could be serviced in dockyards associated with the naval base.
Dealing with the inadequacy of the financial assistance that has been provided for Western Australia, I point out that the Snowy Mountains scheme is being finished two years ahead of schedule, having been financed from funds drawn from the whole of Australia. That is a scheme which, of course, we of the Australian Labour party support. It was initiated by a Labour government and ultimately will benefit the whole of Australia, although it will benefit mainly Victoria and New South Wales. This year, the scheme will cost £18,350,000, or almost as much as the total loan allocation for Western Australia - £18,840,000. I emphasize that, because there is so much in the way of development that could be undertaken in Western Australia.
I have already referred to the standardization of railway gauges. These works of development should not be confined to the eastern States but should be spread over all the States, particularly the claimant States. All States, of course, are experiencing tremendous financial difficulties with their railways. As a matter of fact, losses on the railways will account for a big proportion of the deficits which it is expected will occur in the States this year. If we could find some way to obviate railway deficits we should be on the way towards solving a great part of the financial difficulties of the States. As I have said in this place on a previous occasion, I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth should take over all the State railways, by agreement with the States. I do not think that there would be much difficulty in the way of the Commonwealth doing that. If it did so, there would be one railways commissioner handling the whole of the rail systems throughout the Commonwealth. Standardization of gauges would be brought about with more speed, and there would be diesel-electric locomotives running between the States without having to stop at State borders because of breaks of gauge.
There would be lower costs, because less rolling-stock would’ be needed, and carriages and wagons could be produced in bulk. Costs of operation would be much lower because trains could pass freely from one State to another.
Not only would overall control of railways by the Commonwealth help to solve the financial difficulties of the States, but it also would have a beneficial effect on Australia’s excessive transport costs. In 1953-54, for instance, total cash expenditure on transport was £1,305,000,000, or one-third of gross domestic expenditure at that time. I understand that the proportion has increased since then. If that figure were reduced by only one-third it would mean a saving of £435,000,000. Even so, our. transport costs would still be double those of the nearest comparable country - Canada - where transport costs are estimated at 10 per cent, of gross domestic expenditure.
An indication of the terrific burden that transport costs impose on our economy generally was given a little while ago when it was disclosed that it was cheaper to import wheat from overseas to New South Wales and Queensland than it was to bring it from Western Australia. I emphasize that Commonwealth control of railways would mean a reduction of costs generally because of the factors I have mentioned. Rail transport is very important to Australia as a whole. The problems involved are of a national character, and for that reason the Commonwealth should take over the railway systems and operate them in a manner similar to that in which it operates TransAustralia Airlines, the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Commonwealth Bank.
Because this is a national Parliament it should adopt a more realistic attitude to Commonwealth and State financial relationships. The present method of tax reimbursements and of making other financial disbursements to the States is outmoded and must, of necessity, be reviewed. Above all, this Parliament must adopt a more realistic attitude towards the less populous States. That does not mean that the growth of Victoria and New South Wales should be retarded; it means, that a much higher rate of development should be provided for the claimant States. In this respect, I emphasize the claims of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Australia cannot truly be called a nation while one-third of: it is being allowed to languish. In one-third of Australia - Western Australia - there is a population of 690,000 people, while- in the other twothirds there are 8,900,000 people. We of the Opposition ask the Commonwealth Parliament to be big enough to recognize its responsibilities to the Northern Territory and Western Australia. When it does so, it truly can be called a national Parliament.
The Opposition supports this bill because of the additional financial assistance that is being provided to the States, but it deplores the. inadequacy of the assistance.
.- The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) spent some time in reading the- complaints of the State Premiers, who had expressed dissatisfaction with the allocation of funds by the- Commonwealth; I think that the honorable- member is not lacking in human experience, and he should know that nobody is ever completely satisfied with a financial distribution. It is like the apportionment of a birthday cake - the cake is never big enough and nobody is ever satisfied until it is all eaten. The Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, has always complained about the allocation of funds, but, despite his complaints; invariably he is able to make a tolerably good job of things. Whilst the State Premiers may disagree with the system of the “ cut-up “, or allocation, of funds, we do not hear them objecting to the Australian Loan Council, because I believe that that body has produced order from confusion.
I thought that the honorable member for Stirling was not very logical when he referred to the recession in the United States of America. I hope that he does not suggest that a similar situation exists in Australia at the present time, because continued anticipation of recession does our national outlook great harm. There would be nobody more pleased than certain gentlemen of the Opposition if the present state of prosperity in Australia were to receive some form of set-back. I agree with the honorable member that there should be a Commonwealthwide distribution of works, buI thought that he was being a little parochial, or a little provincial, when he complained about the amounts allocated to Western Australia. I think that Western Australia has approximately 7 per cent, of the total population of Australia. Last year, I believe, the State received 10 per cent, of the total loan funds allocated. I understand, although I do not state the figure dogmatically, that it received 14 per cent, of the total tax reimbursements. The position is that the Commonwealth paid to the Government of Western Australia, £48 per head of the population of that State, as opposed to £23 per head in respect of the population of New South Wales.
The honorable member for Stirling and I have something in common, in that wc disapprove of the financial judgment of our respective State governments. I assure the honorable member that I, in my capacity as the member for Mitchell, will do my best to change the situation in New South Wales, and I trust that he will do the same in Western Australia. You, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, as the- honorable member for Forrest, for the last nine years have been continually advocating the claims of Western- Australia. More recently, you have been joined in that advocacy by the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) and Perth (Mr. Chaney). No doubt the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) will be able to speak for himself on this matter at a later stage. I have no hesitation in saying that, despite the gloomy forecast of the honorable member for Stirling, Western Australia’s claims have been adequately represented in this Parliament.
Leaving the rather glum forecast of the honorable member, I think that every one will agree that the grants for which this bill seeks approval are necessary. But it is worth while to ask ourselves whether we cannot devise some better basis of finance, that will obviate these frequent appeals by the State governments for assistance. The present uniform taxation system puts a premium on bad administration by the State governments. I suggest that, in fact, it may be described as a bonus system inreverse, because it provides an incentive for a government to waste funds.
Recent events in. New South Wales clearly illustrate how badly this system works. At the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council, the Commonwealth Government announced that it would make available £5,000,000 as grants to the States, of which £1,000,000 was to be for drought relief. A leading question in the Mitchell electorate is: What became of the drought relief money allocated to New South Wales? It is difficult to find out, but it seems that most of it went, directly or indirectly, to- reduce the enormous deficits of the socialized transport system - that insatiable parasite that is draining the financial lifeblood from New South Wales. That State received £500,000 for drought relief, and one clear-cut example of a field in which some of that money should have been expended is presented by the plight of the poultry-farmers and other users of stock feed in New South Wales, who suddenly found themselves faced with considerable additional freight charges on feed wheat because drought conditions had made it necessary to import wheat from other States. The poultry-farmers had already suffered serious financial losses as a result of the alarming fall in the prices paid overseas for their products, and they were in, no position to pay the additional freight. However, instead of paying the extra freight charge out of its drought relief funds, the New South Wales Government continued to impose on the farmer the crippling freight charge of 4s. a bushel for wheat. All; who bought wheat to feed stock, including, pig-farmers, dairy-farmers, and many other kinds- of farmers, were severely hit. When they raised the matter with Mr. Cahill, the New South Wales Premier, he gave the answer that he makes to every request for money, regardless of his responsibilities: “ Ask the Commonwealth “.
The New South Wales Government, in fact, has found a perfect answer to all requests for assistance, and to all criticisms. Everything that entails the expenditure of money it promptly declares to be a Commonwealth responsibility. For its failures it. has a single all-embracing excuse: “ The Commonwealth, would not give us the money “. The New South Wales Government cannot deny that any shortage of money that it claims to exist is accentuated by poor management and lack of financial responsibility on its part. Under the uniform- taxation agreement, New South Wales is not obliged- to raise the bulk of its revenue; and- it takes no risk of incurring unpopularity as an income tax gatherer. Consequently, it has no hesitation in squandering its funds in order to bolster its socialistic undertakings and finance its socialistic adventuring. Then, when the pinch conies, it goes into its star turn of demanding more money from the Federal Government. This is not a new technique, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, for it has been practised since the uniform taxation scheme came into existence. Many are the tales of how tough the late Mr. Chifley was with the States, and with men of his own political faith, when he was Treasurer and Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Whatever may have been the performances of the past, it must be admitted that Mr. Cahill has given a smooth rendition of the act, “ Pass the buck to the Commonwealth Government “.
The New South Wales Government never wearies of playing politics. It is a common occurrence, as I think most honorable members will admit, for members of the Commonwealth Parliament to be approached in their electorates for support in matters that are freely admitted to be the responsibility of the State governments. If no political advantage is to be gained in such matters, the State government sidesteps the issue by saying that the problem is too big for the State to handle, and that it is a federal matter. Even though a request for federal assistance may be justified, it is not merely a matter of the Commonwealth writing out a cheque, as so many people believe. The Federal Government knows, for instance, that the New South Wales Government, when relieved of responsibility, has proceeded to waste its funds in a most outrageous fashion. Its sole criterion for expenditure seems to be the number of votes that it can buy. This is why I say that the uniform taxation system pays a bonus for bad administration.
The Commonwealth is in a difficult position. It knows that money is needed in New South Wales for many things - for education, housing, hospitals, and, in fact, for all the functions that the State Government normally is supposed to control. But the Federal Government knows that the people will not get value for any money that it may provide. I feel that the time has come when the Commonwealth must consider seriously how long it can continue to underwrite the financial irresponsibility of some States. The position grows more serious each year. When the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitra tion, as it then was, suspended basic wage adjustments some time ago as a counter to inflation, some State governments refused to co-operate. They continued to increase wages. This left them short of money, of course, and the fields that suffered were those that were already suffering - things like education and health. Education in New South Wales is starved for money, and the position is becoming worse. Yet the New South Wales Government is not allocating more of its funds to meet the situation. Instead of spending more on education, it is actually spending a smaller proportion of its budget on this field of activity. In the financial year 1954-55, it spent 29.3 per cent, of its revenue on education, and in the following financial year, only 27.2 per cent. This reduction coincided with the high-pressure campaign engineered through supporters of the Australian Labour party in the New South Wales Teachers Federation for a special Federal grant for education. This is an excellent illustration of the New South Wales Government’s “ ask the Commonwealth “ technique.
I am aware that the States have real problems in education, and that the immigration programme is responsible for many of them. However, the root of the trouble in New South Wales is bad government, and while bad government persists nothing much can be done to rectify the situation. Victoria, for instance, has had even bigger problems than New South Wales has had, because it has had a much greater proportionate increase in its population. Yet it has done much more to solve the problems of education than has been done in New South Wales. In proof of this I have only to say that, although Victoria received £10,000,000 less in loan allocations each financial year than New South Wales received, during the five years to June, 1957, Victoria spent £5,500,000 more on education than was spent in New South Wales. And, because its administration is more skilled, Victoria gets better value for its money than does New South Wales.
South Australia’s increase of population has been proportionately greater than that of any of the States, yet it has done much more in the education field than New South Wales. Its education service is in a much better position than the New South Wales -education service, and the reason is precisely the reason I have given in the case -of Victoria.
– What about Tasmania?
– I do not know. I can rely on the honorable gentleman to state the case for Tasmania, as he has not been lacking in that respect in the past. Under our present Commonwealth-State financial relationships, the States that have made some sacrifices to meet the present inflation, and whose governments have been least wasteful, get less money from the Commonwealth. Profligate States like New South Wales, on the other hand, must get more money under the system, because they naturally need more money if their people are not to go without desperately needed services like schools and hospitals. It is understandable that the Cahill “ Ask the Commonwealth “ plan has, in the main, been accepted by the ordinary citizens of New South Wales, who see the shortage of much-needed amenities. For instance, a parents and citizens’ association which sees the need for a new school may feel that the State Government has fallen down on the job, but may not be disposed to go too closely into the question of responsibility. Long experience has taught people in New South Wales that Mr. Cahill is a financial no-hoper and that the prospects of getting anything from him are negligible. In fact, people in New South Wales have given up hope of getting anything out of him and, since they know that the Commonwealth is the tax gatherer, and should have the money, they are only too easily induced to join in putting pressure on the Commonwealth for whatever they want. They feel that that is the only chance they have of getting what they want. Their attitude is quite understandable, but I think it is shortsighted, because as long as people can be induced to accept slogans blaming the Commonwealth they are not likely to meet their responsibilities by demanding proper action from their State governments.
I repeat that 1 think the time has come when the Commonwealth should seriously consider ending this impossible situation. I know that the State governments are supposed to be sovereign within their borders, but the last few years have shown that a government which does not raise its own revenue cannot, in fact, be sovereign. The Commonwealth has already offered the
States the return of their income-taxing power, but it is quite obvious that some of the States have no intention of accepting the offer. If they do not give a straightout refusal to accept it they make impossible conditions which prevent any alteration of the present situation. That being so, the Commonwealth could very well say to the States, “ If you want money from us we must have the power to see that it is spent properly “. Things might well come to that but, naturally, some less drastic step would be preferable. I suggest, therefore, that, while still leaving to the States the determination of how they spend the money they get from the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth should insist, where it desires, on the right to inquire into that spending. It would then be able to see that the money was really needed and was being used properly and spent for the purposes for which it was obtained. Under the present system, it would be quite possible for a Premier to wage a campaign for more money for a specific purpose and then, having been granted it, switch his intention and devote the funds to other purposes in accordance with his reading of the political popularity barometer. The start-and-stop public works programme in evidence in New South Wales gives rise to the thought that financial manipulation is not unknown to the New South Wales Government.
Putting the matter in specific terms, ] suggest that the Public Accounts Committee, which frequently inquires into the spending of Commonwealth departments, should be given powers, similar to those it has in the Commonwealth sphere, to inquire, where considered necessary, into the spending of State departments. The Commonwealth could request a State which applied for a grant to give the committee such powers, and could intimate that unless the committee could get the information it wanted the money would not be forthcoming. That would have two advantages. First, it would put the Commonwealth in a better position to know what money was required and whether it was being well spent. More important still, it would let the light of day into the operation of State departments and give the public a chance to judge their performance. This, in itself, would be a great preventative of waste.
The Public Accounts Committee, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) and with such members as the honorable member -for Deakin (Mr. Davis), the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) and some honorable gentlemen on the opposite side, has done admirable work. In the course of its investigations it has brought to light some instances of waste in public spending. The public has benefited from its work even if the reputation of the Government has sometimes been affected. All govern- -ments waste money, and the best an administration can do is to keep the amount of waste as low as possible. Unfortunately, the New South Wales Government is doing nothing at present in that direction, which may be one of the reasons why it is always so short of money.
I suggest that a typical case which requires some supervisory interest on the part of the Commonwealth is the administration and expenditure of funds made available to the States under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. Since the present Government came into office it has expended £243,000,000, an average of £30,000,000 a year, in this direction. This year it expects to spend £33,160,000 under the agreement. But the Commonwealth, having handed the money over to the States, cannot stipulate where and how the money shall be spent, except that the last agreement contains a provision that for the first two years of its currency 20 per cent, of the money made available by the Commonwealth shall go to the cooperative building societies, the proportion to rise to 30 per cent, for the remaining three years. The point I wish to make is that, having handed over the money, the Commonwealth has no further authority over it. This lack of capacity has in ‘no small degree assisted the New South Wales Government, among others, with its socialistic programme of making the State the people’s landlord, producing a system where the securing of a home is wrapped up with political patronage. In many instances, too, the “States have not hesitated to use Commonwealth-State -Housing Agreement funds for party political purposes in transforming Liberal-held electorates to Labour electorates.
Unlike my friends opposite, I do not subscribe to the principle of centralized control from Canberra. Such a centralized control would reduce the State govern ments to the status of .managing councils. But I say that the Commonwealth Government’s responsibilities should not cease at the point of handing over the money to the States. As the custodian of the taxpayers’ money the Commonwealth Government should be able to ensure that, at any rate, when money .is granted for specific purposes it is wisely and effectively spent. I think something like this must come into operation if the Commonwealth is to continue as the sole taxing authority.
If any further demonstration that the present Commonwealth Government has always been ready to lend a sympathetic ear to any genuine request from the State governments for money is needed, it is to be found in this measure. The State governments talk continually about the financial tyranny exercised by the Commonwealth Government, but in actual fact, I think no one realizes better than do the State governments that they have been fairly treated. Perhaps that is why there is no real pressure from them for any change in the present system.
– The measure before us is now a hardy annual and is part of the very involved question of Commonwealth and State financial relationships. The bill deals with amounts over and above the formula grants made under the uniform tax arrangements. I think it ought to be noted that since this matter was last debated by the House there have been two rather significant changes in relation to uniform tax. The first is that for the financial year 1957- 58 the present formula, which has been in operation now for almost ten years, has reached its final basis. For 1957-58, and for each year thereafter, the whole -of the tax reimbursement grants will be distributed in proportion to . the adjusted populations of the States. Hitherto, the formula had as a basis the sum granted in 1945-46. That basis has shifted progressively until it is now on what is known as the adjusted population basis.
The second significant event that has taken place recently has been a decision by the High Court towards the end of 1957. In ‘that decision, the court substantially rejected the claims made by the States in their attempts to upset the uniform tax scheme. Although that decision reads a little ambiguously in parts, the position appears to me to be- adequately summed up in an article by a well-known authority on these matters,. Professor Geoffrey Sawer, as published in “ The Australian Law Review”, in that article, Professor Sawer says -
The court’s decision now establishes, if there was ever any doubt, that section 96 must be regarded as a permanent feature of the Constitution. The- court was also unanimous in rejecting the various possible, limitations on the “ terms and conditions “ which the Commonwealth may prescribe, saving that the terms and conditions must be such as a State can lawfully carry out.
As a member of the Labour party, I believe in the uniform tax system as the most sensible scheme for arranging our financial pattern in Australia; but it is a scheme which presents all sorts of difficulties in adjudicating between the States which must continue, under our Constitution, to bear a great number of heads of constitutional power. On the one hand, we have the States, with a vast array of constitutional responsibilities, and on the other we have the Commonwealth, which is now leading collector of revenues in Australia, and the great difficulty is in adjudicating as to how the total amount collected shall be distributed amongst the various bodies, whether they be States or Commonwealth, and, through the States, local government authorities. I suggest that the manner of the allocation of the resources so as to procure the best economic development for the nation as a whole is a problem that will perpetually face any federal system.
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) referred to the fact that the States are inclined to be critical about the arrangements obtaining at the moment. I suggest that the States have very good reasons - some, perhaps, have better reasons than others - for objecting to the present distribution of revenue and loan moneys by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Mitchell said that the States- accused the Commonwealth of being a financial tyrant. He said that accusation was without foundation because the Commonwealth made grants to the States whenever they were able to present a reasonable case. In other words, he suggested that no financial tyranny was being exercised by the Commonwealth Government.
It may be true that there is no open financial tyranny exercised by the Common wealth. Government,, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to some rather sinister matters referred to in the 24th report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I have not had the opportunity to mention them before, and, to my mind, they indicate that the Commonwealth Treasury rather than the Commonwealth Government is attempting overtly to exercise .financial tyranny over what is supposed to be an independent instrument of theCommonwealth Government. I refer to the Commonwealth- Grants Commission.
It seems to me that implicit in this report is the suggestion - whether this was done with the consent of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) I do not know - that the Commonwealth Treasury attempted to stand over the Grants Commission, going so far as to indicate to that supposedly independent commission what its basis of working should be.
It has to be remembered that, in addition to the uniform tax arrangements, we have had in existence since 1934-35 a body known, as the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That commission operates under section 96 of the Commonwealth Constitution. It makes special grants to States that claim, assistance from time to time. Those grants are made if the Grants Commission feels, for one reason or another, that a particular State possesses disabilities that do not allow it to function on the same economic standard as other States function. Traditionally for a number of years now, the three claimant States have been Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia. Recently, I asked the Treasurer a fairly comprehensive question relating to this allimportant matter of Commonwealth-State financial relations. The answer was given on 7th November, 1957, and appears on page 2015 of “ Hansard “.
I asked the Treasurer for certain details relating to the various States. I asked how much of the revenue of the States was derived by way of Commonwealth grants,, whether they be under the uniform tax arrangement or by way of special grants for roads or grants made, under section 96 of the Constitution. I asked for both aggregate, and proportion figures. The rather interesting thing that emerges from the figures is the fact that some of the so-called claimant States which one might expect to be those most dependent upon the Commonwealth
Government for the greater proportion of their total revenue are not, in reality, so dependent as are some of the States which are stronger economically.
Western Australia is most dependent on the Commonwealth, as might be expected. Its large area and the sparsity of its population are very good reasons why this should be so. In 1955-56, the latest year for which figures are available, Western Australia derived 68.6 per cent, of its total revenue from Commonwealth grants of one sort or another. Strangely enough, the next State in order of dependence was New South Wales, which derived 60.5 per cent, of its total revenue from Commonwealth sources. Queensland was the third State with 58.6 per cent., then South Australia, one of the claimant States, with 56.3 per cent., and Tasmania, with 56.2 per cent. In some years the figure for Tasmania, might rise above that for South Australia. Victoria is the State which is least dependent upon Commonwealth assistance. I am sure that my friend the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) will agree that I am right in this respect at least. In 1955-56 Victoria derived only 54 per cent, of its revenue from Commonwealth sources. I doubt .whether Victorians should take comfort from this fact, because looking back over the years one finds that in 1950-51 Victoria derived 61.8 per cent, of its total revenues from Commonwealth sources, but the proportion fell progressively until in 1956 Victoria was the State which was least dependent for its existence on Commonwealth revenues.
All States depend upon Commonwealth grants of one kind or another for more than half of their economic sustenance. I suggest that perhaps the time has come for this question to be seriously examined, because the States have to rely, for the most part, upon regressive kinds of taxation, with the possible exception of probate and estate duties, for that portion of their revenues which they collect themselves. I know that even the field of probate and estate duties is controversial. For my part, I would take even more in the form of probate and estate duties from bigger estates than is taken now.
– How much more?
– Very much more from the very big estates such as one that was left in Victoria the other day. I was glad to learn that from that estate about: £450,000 will go back to the consolidated . revenues of the Commonwealth and the- State. An amount of about £800,000 will remain to be shared amongst the relatives, of the deceased, which does not seem tome to be too hard, as they are not direct descendants but only nephews for the most part. But that is somewhat of a diversion.
Leaving out the possible field of probateand estate duties, the States have to rely on motor car taxes, stamp duties of one kind or another, such dubious fields as lotteries and other indirect taxes, which in a modern community are regarded as a regressivemeans of raising revenue, because they fall upon people’s consumption rather than upon their capacity to pay. But that is the position to which the States are forced if they want to exercise any initiative andexpand their own activities.
In the remarks of the gentlemen who compiled the twenty-fourth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission there seems to be implicit a suggestion of an attempt at outside dictation on the part of the Commonwealth. I am not clear whether it is suggested as being done in the name of the Government or vaguely through the body that is sometimes referred to as the bureaucracy - the Commonwealth Treasury. The reports of the commission are very valuable documents in a consideration of the problem of CommonwealthState financial relations. In paragraph 30 of its twenty-second report, the commission asked this hypothetical question -
In other words, the commission said, “ Surely our work ought to be beginning to be at an end now, because the Commonwealth is making greater subventions from its revenue to the States for other purposes, and therefore there should not be the same need for special grants, although it seems that the need continues “. The commission then went on to answer its question in these words -
In general terms, the reason is that costs of expansion of State services, of development of undertakings such as railways and water supply, and of general administration are relatively heavy in the States of smaller populations.
I have no doubt that my friend the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) will agree with that. The commission continued -
At the same time benefits to revenue arising from economic expansion do not flow directly to the State Governments.
Because they are collected in either income tax or company tax, these benefits tend to flow into the Commonwealth Treasury. The Commission asked a hypothetical question which it answered by saying, in a sense, “We are satisfied that the need persists because there are economic imbalances in the economy “. Apparently the Commonwealth Treasury is inclined to take the other view, feeling that there ought to be less need than there was before for the special grants under section 96 of the Constitution.
In paragraphs 15, 25 and 26, on pages 15 and 19 of the twenty-fourth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, mention is made of a document which was prepared by the Commonwealth Treasury and submitted to the commission or to the various States which made representations to it. and also of a document presented by Western Australia. These are both rather comprehensive roneoed documents. In this House I asked the Treasurer whether he would make them available to honorable members, and he gave me privately a copy of each and implied that perhaps the majority of honorable members would not be very concerned about them. I suggest that the majority of honorable members ought to be concerned about documents of this kind, because in a rather overt way, in my view, an attempt is being made to dictate what the States ought and ought not to do in the way of future economic development. The commission, in paragraph 15 at page 15 of the twenty-fourth report, stated -
The Commonwealth Treasury did say, however, that there is no presumption that, once the claimant States have been enable to raise their standards to a certain level, special grants should continue solely because standards in the more prosperous States continue to rise.
That would seem to imply that though, ostensibly, the purpose of section 96 of the Constitution was to ensure that certain States should not be obliged to function below a certain level, there should be no attempt, if other States enjoyed rising standards, to raise their standards proportionately. I doubt whether the Treasury should make an unofficial presumption of that kind. If some States, by force of economic circumstances, begin to enjoy a superior standard of living there should surely, under a federal system, be some attempt to re-distribute portion of it among the States functioning at an inferior level - especially when the inferiority is deemed, in part, to be attributable to what is vaguely called “ conditions of federalism “. That seems to me to be a sensible approach, and one that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should take, yet, by implication at least, the Treasury has suggested that there should be no attempt to push the floor level - the minimum agreed standard - closer to the ceiling level attained by the more flourishing States. It is very wrong for the Commonwealth Treasury to take such a view. Paragraph 25 of the report, states -
The Commonwealth Treasury, on the other hand, has emphasised the part’ played by the Governments of the claimant States in actively promoting industrial and agricultural development;
The States have a constitutional responsibility to promote industrial and agricultural development, but the Treasury is now querying that fact. I read further - . . thereby raising “ a most difficult and fundamental issue for the Commission, namely, the extent to which the claimant States should be enabled, via the working of the Commission, to proceed with development which may be more costly in a claimant than in a non-claimant State “ and, more generally, “ to subvert the workings of normal economic forces “.
That is put in a critical way by the commission, but apparently it has been seriously hinted at by either the Commonwealth Treasury itself, or that department speaking with the voice of the Government. It has been suggested that States should not go ahead with a certain kind of project. Perhaps I could mention, by way of example, the controversy over the setting up of the carbon black factory in Victoria. Altona does not want it - apparently with good reason. Apparently it is wrong for Sir Thomas Playford in South Australia, or Mr. Hawke in Western Australia, to say, “ If you do not want it, we will take it “, because, according to the Treasury, it may subvert the workings of normal economic forces.
– I do not think that that is implied.
– I am merely asking honorable members to contemplate what is being said here. I do not know whether they have read the document closely but, to me, it seems a very serious matter to query the right of a State to promote industrial and agricultural development. Surely it can be argued - and I have seen it argued in the columns of the Melbourne newspapers - that the proposed steelworks at Whyalla might be more economically sited in New South Wales or somewhere else. Should not the industry concerned, in conjunction with the particular State government, be able to make a decision without the Treasury querying the kind of economic development that will result? Perhaps some industries, in some States, might, on a strict economic basis, have been better sited elsewhere, but is that to be the only criterion of development in Australia? Western Australia, in common with the other States, has an unemployment problem. Surely it would welcome the opportunity to get a new industry which would absorb perhaps 3,000 or 4,000 men. I doubt whether, given that opportunity, the Government of Western Australia would seriously consider whether the industry would be more effective economically if it were situated in Altona, Victoria, rather than on the shores of Kwinana in Western Australia. I doubt whether this kind of decision should be argued in that way. I doubt whether the Commonwealth Grants Commission should be clothed with quite the authority that it has been able to assume, but it is a very serious matter when such a body, supposedly able to operate in an independent way, is dictated to by the Commonwealth Treasury. It may be that the Treasury argument is based on very sound economic grounds, but I question its constitutional propriety - and that is what should be concerning us here.
I shall cite one further paragraph because it has been suggested that I have misinterpreted what I read earlier. Paragraph 26 states -
The Commission has so far been offered no guidance as to how it should judge whether development should have proceeded in one State rather than in another.
The Commission says, in effect, “ Even if we were supposed to apply that test, we have never been told quite how to do it”. I have cited this example to indicate the very serious condition in which Australia can place itself economically and financially if it allows things merely to grow. The latest available figures show that in 1955-56 total Commonwealth grants amounted to £250,800,000. In 1948-49 they amounted to only £92,000,000. Even allowing for the effects of inflation, we have now a very different system of grants to States from the one we started out with. However, there has been very little change in the machinery of allocating these vast sums in the task of meeting the very serious responsibilities of government. The Commonwealth collects the major portion of revenue. It collects the major tax - the income tax on individuals and companies, which aggregates almost £600,000,000 annually. From that it takes what it needs for its own purposes and then debates with the various State leaders, in conference, how the remainder shall be allocated. As I have said before in this House, the States find themselves, as a result, in a condition of marginal starvation. They cannot engage in new enterprises, because it takes them all their time to obtain enough money to carry on the ones to which they are already committed. I have cited as an example the case of the Council of Adult Education in Victoria, which, when it applied to the Victorian Government for a grant of £5,000 was told, quite honestly, that the Government did not have £5,000 to spare. Yet in the Commonwealth sphere one can get £50,000 for practically any triviality. I suggest that this is an absurd state of affairs. The States must be given some initiative, because new needs must continue to arise in the States.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The legislation before the House provides for additional financial assistance for the States to the tune of £5,000,000. I should like, first, to make a remark arising out of the comments of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who made a very pertinent observation on the need to examine the activities of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, particularly with relation to legislation such as that now before us. Although he did not actually say so, he appeared to imply that he believed that, under existing conditions, if a
State is a claimant State nothing on this earth will ever change that status. In this connexion let me refer to the State which you, Mr. Speaker, so ably represent in this House - South Australia. I believe many honorable members will agree with me when I say it is rather farcical that South Australia should be a claimant State, in view of the extraordinary progress that it has made during the last fifteen or twenty years under the wise and far-seeing administration of its Premier, and having in mind its industrialization and prosperity as compared with other States. I believe this is a thought that will bear serious examination. It can, perhaps, be accepted that Tasmania, because of its geographical situation, suffers serious disability. It may also be accepted that certain disabilities are encountered by Western Australia, because of the geographical position of that State and the vast expanse of its territory. I have, however, a high enough opinion of South Australia and the progress that it is making to believe that it will not always remain a claimant State. However, those remarks are made merely in passing.
The measure before the House is designed to counteract the effect of lower world prices for our primary products and the serious drought conditions experienced, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, lt appears from this morning’s newspapers that receipts from wool alone in the last nine months have decreased by £74,000,000, or 21 per cent., as compared with the same period last year, and that income from dairy exports could fall by £11,000,000 or £12,000,000. It is obvious that these trends will have a serious affect on the amount of investment and spending money available within the Australian economy.
The legislation provides for additional assistance to the extent of £5,000,000 covering a period of four months, or at the rate of £15,000,000 a year. This is additional to the amounts provided for 1957-58 by way of tax reimbursements, which were themselves £16,000,000 greater than those provided in the previous year. It should also be remembered that provision is being made simultaneously for local government bodies to be allowed to raise by loan an additional amount of £3,000,000. This also is for a period of four months, being at the rate of £9,000,000 a year. The additional £5,000,000 is to be distributed so that £4,000,000 will be split up among the States on the basis of the formula followed in the distribution of tax reimbursements, whilst the remaining £1,000,000 will be granted to New South Wales and Queensland.
The Treasurer (Sh- Arthur Fadden) has indicated that the Commonwealth believes the money can be wisely spent in home building, which activity will, of course, provide additional employment and assist in stimulating various activities which will check any increase of unemployment. As this, I believe, is a very important aspect of the legislation, I intend to devote some time to the matter of unemployment. The measure before us is one of those introduced by the Government to meet a situation in Australia caused, first, by a fall in world prices for our export products; secondly, by climatic conditions; and, thirdly - this is a matter to which we must give due consideration - the continued necessity to restrict credit in order to damp down inflationary pressures in our economy. Other measures have also been announced, such as the release of £15,000,000 from the special account in the central bank.
I think every one will agree - except those who cannot see at all - that it is impossible for Australia to isolate itself completely from world conditions. Nor, unfortunately, in this country of contrast, can we isolate ourselves from climatic variation. Only last week I received a letter from a part of central Queensland in which I have an indirect interest, informing me that after a fall of twelve inches of rain in one week, the property in question had a fall of twenty inches in 24 hours during the following week, bringing about a flood such as has never, apparently, previously been experienced in the history of white settlement in that area. However, these are the conditions that obtain in Australia, and I believe that we have the ability and the fortitude to cope with them.
Those who expect a perfect balance in employment to be achieved, without any kind of fluctuation, are asking, I believe, for the impossible. One has only to examine the reasons for unemployment in certain fields to realize that there is a normal ebb and flow in employment. As an example of industrial changes in Australia, let me cite the case of the British Motor Corporation, which is responsible for the production, or the assembly, of Austin and Morris cars as well as other vehicles. This company decided to move its entire business from Melbourne to Sydney, involving the immediate unemployment of some 600 or 700 of its employees. Because of wise management and the efforts of directors of the corporation, provision was, fortunately, made for the re-employment of a very great number of those involved. That is the kind of situation, however, for which no legislation can provide, and it is one of the hazards involved in any kind of active industrial effort. Let me mention again the fall in overseas prices, which is reflected in the purchasing power of the farming community. Primary producers are not in a position to buy the equipment that they need to improve their properties or increase their standard of living.
To return to the question of unemployment, let me quote a passage from a slightly controversial but well known speech of the late Mr. Chifley, delivered in October, 1948, when the late right honorable gentleman said -
No guarantee can be given to anybody that they can stay put in a particular industry. It is realized that there will have to be transfers of workers, and, in many cases, transfers of whole communities to other forms of work. I am quite certain that everybody will not be able to stay at home, because there will have to be transfers of labour if there is going to be expansion.
The Australian public is extremely sensitive to any threat of unemployment. Many of the older people in the community are vividly conscious of the conditions of the depression of the 1930’s. In the minds of the younger people, this threat has been kept alive, partly for political purposes, by the Government’s political opponents. I suggest that no time is more apt to keep that in mind than an election year such as this one. In theory, the objective to be achieved would be a balance between the jobs available and those people who require work. In theory, Labour naturally desires to retain a position of many more jobs than applicants to fill them but, in actual fact and in relation to Labour’s political pronouncements, I would suggest that the success of the Labour party would be likely to depend far more on some weakness on the part of the Government which might bring about or reveal a substantial condition of unemployment.
It is obviously the desire of the wageearning section of the community that jobs should exceed the number of workers available because that condition has many implications. It implies no difficulty about re-employment if a job is lost. It implies opportunities to change employment, and to change a place of residence. These reasons have a certain appeal, but I suggest that a condition of overfull employment, or more jobs than there are applicants, has elements which are frequently disadvantageous to many persons in our community. I refer especially to consumers of the products of local industries and those engaged in our primary exporting industries, as well as the large number of persons who are users of our public services. It is not often that our attention is given to the advantages and disadvantages of this question and so, with your forbearance, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I propose to cover one or two of the major features.
It is quite obvious to anybody that overfull employment brings with it certain undesirable features. The first is an unavoidable disregard of efficiency and discipline which leads to a strong element of absenteeism, frequent changes of employment and, naturally, inefficiency. Secondly, it causes a bidding up for available labour, especially by industries with a low labour content, with serious disadvantages to industries which, possibly, are of far greater value to the community but have a much higher labour cost. It is obvious also that there is a serious financial disadvantage to the general public because of the effect of overfull employment on community services such as railways, tramways, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and those which provide fuel and power. Thirdly, overfull employment encourages and assists industries or businesses which may be of little value to the community and whose end product is of little value to the productive effort of the community because those organizations can afford higher labour costs. Fourthly, from the point of view of maintaining a satisfactory working population, overfull employment undermines the apprentice system and discourages youth from becoming skilled or continuing technical training because the rewards for unskilled labour under conditions of overfull employment are so attractive. When the tide turns and conditions become more difficult, the unskilled and the semi-skilled young men, who have neglected opportunities to become more experienced in their profession or trade, are the first to feel the chill wind.
I suggest that all these conditions add up to inflationary pressures which would affect any economy in present world conditions. On the other hand, unemployment, or any substantial condition of unemployment, has serious disadvantages. First, there is a considerable waste of available manpower and machinery and capital goods which are used in industry. Secondly, there is a substantial reduction of consumer capacity in the community. This affects particularly those who are engaged in primary industries. Thirdly, unemployment tends to encourage violent political reaction - a serious problem in any well-conducted political community - and imposes mental and moral strain with disturbing and lasting effects on the persons involved. Therefore, full employment but not overfull employment, is the policy and objective of this Government.
The measure before the House represents one step that is being taken by this Government to ensure that any strains that are brought about by conditions internally and externally will not be allowed to develop. In this election year, Labour’s propaganda possibly will not be to the advantage of those who work for wages and whom Labour claims to represent. I remind the House that conditions of employment, like conditions in the money market or other markets, are not insensitive to rumours of disaster. It is possible that Labour’s propaganda on unemployment could come home to roost to the detriment, in particular, of the Australian wage earner. Alarm and despondency which were spread in 1953 by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) went close to achieving a synthetic near depression. The Treasurer then aptly described them as “ the calamity kids “.
I wish to refer now to a report which was published recently in the Melbourne “ Age “ of a statement made in a broadcast which rejoices in the name of “ The Labour Hour”. If the labour hour which is concerned with mankind is as painful to experience as this “ Labour Hour “ must be to listen to, I can understand why there is so much feeling about the subject. A certain Mr. Schintler, a member of the Legislative Assembly in Victoria claimed, with the usual wild exaggeration of the Labour party, that the Bolte Government was responsible for large scale dismissals and that it was scraping the bottom of the financial barrel. I asked Mr. Bolte, who is the Premier of Victoria, about this statement and he said that there was no particle of truth in it, so I suspect that we should not take too much notice of statements that are made in the “ Labour Hour “ broadcast. It measures up first to a propaganda campaign in connexion with the forthcoming State election in Victoria and, of course, with an end view in relation to a possible federal election at the end of the year.
The measures that have been adopted by the Government and of which this bill is typical are showing their effectiveness. The most recent figures quoted by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) show a not inconsiderable trend towards a return to a greater level of employment. When we realise that unemployment in Australia at no time reached 2 per cent, of the work force in the last period, compared with nearly 10 per cent, in the United Kingdom and more than 10 per cent, in the United States of America, these figures are encouraging. We must also remember the statements of one or two persons who are more closely associated with this problem than I am, particularly those who are concerned with the industrial movement such as Mr. Monk and Mr. Loft. They are castigated by their fellows for being so politically naive as to spoil Labour’s propaganda. I hold no brief for Messrs. Monk and Loft, but if there were more honest people in the industrial movement in this country to-day they would be a great force in bringing about industrial peace, which would be to the benefit of everybody. It is readily recognized that the programme of national expansion and development that we have set ourselves imposes constant inflationary pressure. In the opinion of some of the better known publicists, such as Sir Douglas Copland, we should be prepared to pay less regard to a slightly rising cost level, or a slight degree of constant inflation, if it is accompanied by substantial national development. In some ways I am inclined to agree with that statement, in view of the urgent need for this country, for its own protection, to be developed rapidly. At the same time, however, we must recognize that this, constant creep of inflation affects certain people who constitute the element in the community that is least capable’ of protecting itself. I believe that this Government, whilst it might incur some unpopularity by restricting credit, would be serving the general well-being if it paid close regard to the question of controlling costs.
While dealing with the question of unemployment caused by conditions I have mentioned, I think an examination should be made of the employment record, and special consideration given to those who, through no fault of their own, either because of the transfer of industry or the closing, down of an industry, are suddenly thrown onto the labour market, with the very serious and depressing results that ensue. We should be careful not to encourage people deliberately to lose their jobs so that they may obtain some bounty. Those who are definitely a part of the continuous work force and those who unfortunately come within the category of unemployable should be dealt with in different ways. This would represent a major step forward. The determined unemployment benefit need not be carried on for any great length of time, but it would be of great value in connexion with this much discussed and very difficult matter of employment.
In Victoria, the Bolte Liberal Government, by its wise and progressive administration, has attracted world-wide interest, particularly from overseas investors, and has also encouraged Australian manufacturers to establish plants in that State. The result has been that although the cost level in Victoria has been kept under control, the rate of progress has been very significant. This has all been done while maintaining what is probably the highest level of employment in Australia to-day. Comparisons are odious, but I should like to direct the attention of the House to the condition of Labour-controlled New South Wales. 1 admit that New South Wales has suffered serious disadvantages because of a drought extending over a large portion of the State, but at present it has, compared with the rest of Australia, a comparatively high level of unemployment.
In. closing my remarks,. I should like to: refer to a statement made by Professor Downing,, who is the Ritchie Professor of Economic. Research at Melbourne University. A newspaper report of an interview. with Professor Downing, under the heading, “ Economy is Sound, says expert “, states -
Professor R. 1. Downing, to-day said that Australia was in a twilight, zone between full employment and inflation.
That was just where it would want to be, he said.
Professor Downing is Ritchie Professor of Economic Research at Melbourne University.
He was addressing a summer school on business administration. “ The present increase in unemployment is pathetically small when we look at our total work force,” he said. “ It is less than in Britain and the United States “.
And, if I may say so, considerably less.. The report continues - “ Only recently had. the workers and tradeunions said anything about unemployment,” said the Professor.
Might I suggest that the reason why they have only recently said anything: about unemployment is that they have discovered that this is election year.
I recapitulate on this note: We have an obligation to maintain full employment. It is quite obvious to anybody, except perhaps the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), that whilst that might be a pious hope, it is a physical impossibility to ensure that from month to month there will be a constant and unchanging level of employment. If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith had listened to some of my earlier remarks, which showed how difficult it is to take up slack in employment immediately, he would realize that it is almost an impossibility to ensure a constant level of employment. But this Government has, I believe, in the measure before the House, and in other measures, adopted a wise plan. The recent employment figures support this claim. The Government has not been panicked by conditions; it has not been panicked to take measures which could upset its own economic restraint.
– You approve of unemployment.
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has sidetracked me with his inane remark. If we can restrain the forces of inflation within the community, maintain our high standard of employment, continue our. development, and continue our expansion, then this Government will earn the undying gratitude of the community.
Debate (on motion by Mr; Barnard) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
– by leave. - I propose to confine what I have to say this evening to events in Asia. I will deal with other matters of more global significance on another occasion. It is not necessary to stress the importance of Asia to Australia. The map determines- that for us. Honorable members are well aware of it, and I believe increasingly aware, particularly through the opportunities for travel to Asian countries that the Government is making’ progressively available. Australia’s awareness of Asia is reflected in the fact that nearly half of all our Australian diplomatic posts are in Asia. The same proportion applies to our trade commissioners.
For myself, I believe there was no more fortunate chance than that I had the unusual opportunity to serve in an executive capacity in ar typical part of Asia not a great many, years ago - and almost the last of such opportunities. This opportunity of living, and working in a densely populated Asian area in which’ I was responsible for the well-being of 65,000,000 people, has left with me a. sympathy for and,, I believe, some, understanding of the people of Asia and their problems. I have- endeavoured to maintain and to widen my contacts with. Asia- in the subsequent years.
Before I speak of particular problems or countries of Asia, let me say that, in general, there are three words that come to mind in varying: degree in any consideration of Asian affairs - nationalism, neutralism or. non-involvement; and colonialism. The significance of these three words must be understood before any of us can get very far in our relationship with Asia. Let us take “ nationalism’” first. It is not easy for us to appreciate the intensely strong emotional appeal.- of the- concept of nationalism and independence to the people- of coun-tries that have only recently emerged from colonial status. They intensely resent anything that they regard’ as derogating in the slightest degree from their independence and equality with other nations. This results in a degree of what one might call sensitivity that expresses itself in variousand sometimes apparently contradictory ways. In some countries nationalist emotion manifests itself in a philosophy of neutralism or non-involvement in the affairs of the principal power blocs. Other Asian countries have been led by the same considerations to precisely the opposite conclusion - that of joining in collective security arrangements with other peaceful non-expansionist powers to defend their independence. It may be that this apparent contradiction stems, in part at least, from considerations of geography.
Extreme expressions of nationalism are fostered by feelings of opposition to colonialism - or even, it might be said, to the memories of colonialism. Colonialism and exploitation, rightly or wrongly, are linked in some Asian minds. Whether or not this is historically true, the present relationship of the ex-colonial powers to the Asian countries might be said to be the reverse of colonialism, and certainly the reverse of exploitation, in that large-scale economic aid is being provided by the West to the countries of free Asia without any political implications or conditions. This aid is given irrespective of whether they are linked by treaty alliances with the West or choose to remain neutral.
The real threat to-day is of Communist domination which still threatens, to a greater or a lesser degree, all the countries of South and South-East Asia. Since the Geneva Agreements of 1954, which brought to an end the fighting in Indo-China, this threat has taken the form of internal subversion rather than external aggression. However, in Malaya and Burma Communist insurgents are still in open insurrection against the legally constituted and democratically elected” governments. But, as a general rule, Communists are concentrating mostly on penetration and undermining in the economic, political, and cultural fields, and within youth and labour organizations. Behind them stands the vast armed force of Russia and Communist China. Last December, the Communists organized- a so-called Afro-Asian solidarity conference, which has resulted in the establishment of a permanent secretariat in Cairo. This is an attempt by the Communists to use the Afro-Asian movement for their own purposes.
The pattern of Communist tactics in the free countries of Asia is now quite well known. It varies from one country to another and adapts itself to the local circumstances, which indeed is the global habit of communism. Nothing could be more dangerous than the idea that communism in Asia, or in any individual country in Asia, is different from communism elsewhere in the world. They aim to penetrate and undermine organizations and, if possible, governments, frequently under the guise of non-Communists, until they are strong enough to take over. Once installed as the government of a country, they know they can count on the support of international communism. In Budapest last week, Mr. Khrushchev said bluntly that the red army would intervene if ever a Communist government in another country looked like being overthrown. He said that if he fired into a crowd of counter-revolutionaries, his bullets could not discriminate between workers and others. This revelation of Communist philosophy deserves notice in Asia no less than in Europe.
Ministers from the eight Seato countries discussed some of these questions at the Seato meeting in Manila in March. This Seato meeting was, I believe, the most successful yet held. The Seato Council described Communist subversion as “ the most substantial current menace “. Whilst speaking of the work of Seato in identifying and exposing Communist subversion in its many forms in South-East Asia, I said that Communist subversion was like a snake in a dark room. Seato is turning on the light. The man in the room still has to kill the snake for himself, but he has a much better chance of doing so if he can see it. The Seato Council discussed the advisability of creating contacts between Seato, Nato and the Baghdad pact. The Secretary-General of Seato was authorized to discuss this with the Secretaries-General of these other two regional security organizations.
The Communist menace is a global one and it cannot be other than useful for each of Nato, Seato and the Baghdad pact to be informed of what is going on in each other’s area. The separate and individual existence of Nato, Seato and the Baghdad pact is a matter of practical regional necessity. But I believe it would be wrong to let these organizations develop in watertight compartments, each ignoring the existence of the others and not co-operating at least to the extent of informing the others of hostile Communist military capacities and techniques of which they become aware and of the means developed to combat them.
As I have said before, I can almost hear a sigh of relief in one part of the world when the Communist heat is lessened in their area and increased in another. This is wrong and ignores the fact that the Communist menace is global and not regional. I spoke strongly at Manila for the creation of practical liaison between Seato, Nato and the Baghdad pact, from the point of view of continuous exchange of relevant information - and not, I may say, for any functional link-up between these regional defensive organizations from the point of view of combining them into one organization to combat communism. On behalf of the Australian Government, I announced at Manila that Australia would make available to the Asian members of Seato a further £1,000,000 for purposes generally related to Seato defence. This is in addition to £2,000,000 which Australia offered at an earlier Seato meeting.
Seato is not an organization for the distribution of economic aid. The United States, as is well known, provides both military and economic aid to any and every democratic country that is menaced by communism and which is in need of such aid to supplement its own resources and to enable it to resist overt and covert Communist aggression. As far as Australia is concerned, we endeavour to provide economic and technical aid to our friends in South and South-East Asia through the Colombo plan, but we do not provide military aid through this source.
The semi-military aid that we are in course of providing to our Asian Seato partners is a contribution to the general military preparedness of the threatened area in South-East Asia. Our semi-military aid under Seato takes a variety of forms, such as military communications equipment, military vehicles, tarpaulins, material for uniforms and the like - but not shooting weapons or ammunition. The Governments of the Seato countries have been good enough to welcome publicly what we are endeavouring to do in this direction.
At the Manila Seato conference, I had opportunities for contact and discussion with the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom and the United States and other countries, in addition to consultation with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Walter Nash.
An important factor in Asia is the growing conviction among the Asian people that a better way of life than that which they have endured for generations is now within sight. This belief - this hope - in Asia is one in which we in Australia share. But there are great difficulties in the way. These difficulties are a challenge to Asian governments - and to us in Australia - and to many other democratic countries. We have to keep in the forefront of our minds our duty to help. The legitimate aspiration among the peoples of Asia for better living standards offers opportunity to the rest of the democratic world to associate ourselves with the problems of Asia and to help by material assistance.
At the same time, we must recognize that this situation offers an opportunity to the Communists, which they have not ignored, to try to win the allegiance of the economically frustrated masses of Asia. They will try, as they are trying now, to prove by example in Russia and in China that communism offers the only road to a better way of life. It is my sincere belief - and I think that of all of us - that in Asia, as with us, personal democratic freedoms can be reconciled with the need for economic progress and human welfare, and offer the best means to their accomplishment. We in Australia gladly join with our Asian neighbours in an effort to help achieve better living standards, recognition of the dignity and rights of the individual, and expanding opportunities for individual advancement. It would be sterile for any country to base its policy merely on opposition to communism.
Most countries of Asia are faced with the need to grapple with new and complicated problems arising from a rapidly rising population, accompanied by demands for better living standards. The rising population is a reflection of one of the triumphs of this century - better conditions of health and reduced infant mortality. But a rapidly increasing population brings great economic and social problems.
Though other non-Asian countries can give economic and technical aid to Asia, the impetus for economic development and the greater part of the effort and resources have to come from within each Asian country itself. An inspiring example to the whole of Asia, and indeed to other countries as well, has been given by the Government of India with its imaginative and courageous second five-year plan. The plan has been criticized as being too ambitious. But the Indian Government believes that nothing short of such a plan can cope with the needs and demands of a rising population and a developing nation. The progress of the plan can mean a great deal for the future history of the world. India is trying to do by peaceful and democratic means, what Communist countries have tried to force through by bloodshed and dictatorship.
The countries of Asia, no less than we in Australia, are deeply concerned with the solution of the problems of economic and social growth. It is to this end that organizations like Ecafe - the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East - and the Colombo plan have been established, uniting in their membership those who are experiencing these problems - Australia no less than the Asian members - and those who can provide outside help - and I include Australia in this second category as well as the first.
One matter which is always important to Asian countries as well as to Australia is fluctuations in the prices of exported primary products. The countries of South and South-East Asia depend upon a relatively few primary products for the bulk of their foreign exchange earnings. In 1956 for example 76 per cent, of Burma’s export earnings came from rice; 89 per cent, of Ceylon’s earnings came from tea, rubber and coco-nuts; 67 per cent, of Pakistan’s earnings came from jute and cotton; 66 per cent, of Malaya’s exports were rubber and tin. This is true of nearly all the countries of free Asia except Japan. In Australia’s case, as honorable members know, over two-thirds of our export earnings come from wool and cereals.
One point that il endeavoured to make strongly .at the March meetings of both Ecafe and Seato was that one of the things that needs watching is the trend of prices for basic commodities in the South and SouthEast Asia region. There has already been some fall in prices. While there is reason for confidence that the pause in economic activity elsewhere in the world will have come to an end before the end of 1958, it is important that political leaders everywhere should be actively conscious of the considerable political consequences that would follow from further serious deterioration of commodity prices in South-East Asia. There is a definite relationship between export prices and political stability. Political stability and general progress in a country could be put under strain if a serious fall in the prices of its exports resulted in a reduction of the national income as a whole and of individual earnings in important sections of economic activity.
Last month I had the honour of leading the Australian delegation to Ecafe - the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. This year Ecafe met at Kuala Lumpur, where the Government of the new State of Malaya made most effective and hospitable arrangements for the Ecafe conference. Ecafe is an important body which carries out studies in a wide range of economic subjects that are of particular concern to the Asian countries. It does not distribute economic aid.
Ecafe is a regional subsidiary of the United Nations. .It has counterpart -bodies in Europe and in .Latin America. The existence of Ecafe represents recognition of the fact of “ regionalism “. Various areas of the world have special regional problems that do not lend themselves to global treatment. Regionalism is not confined to the economic sphere. It exists also in the fact that mutual regional defensive organizations have come into existence, such as Seato.
The annual Ecafe conferences are attended by delegations from something like 35 -countries, with a total personnel attending of round about 275 people. Of those, I should say about two-thirds were from Asian countries.
Australia has been a member of Ecafe since its inception over .twelve years ago. We attach importance to its work and have contributed what we can to .its deliberations and to its expert staff.
One .of the striking reports that was contributed by the Ecafe secretariat at the Kuala Lumpur conference was on the serious population problem in many countries of Asia, which I commend to those who wish to study this most important aspect of Asian affairs.
Ecafe has accepted an invitation which I was glad to be able to make on behalf of the Government to hold its next annual meeting in Australia, probably next March. Australia was host to the annual Ecafe conference in 1947, when a meeting was held at Lapstone. We are .glad -indeed .that we are to be host to Ecafe once again next year.
The maintenance of friendly relations with our neighbours in Asia is a cardinal purpose of Australian policy. The Colombo plan is a most useful and practical instrument in this regard, and one which I hope and believe will be a continuing one over the years ahead. However, in an effort to increase and widen the range of contacts between the Australian and Asian peoples, the Government decided two years ago to initiate a scheme to enable individuals and groups of individuals from Asia to be invited to visit Australia, and to send selected Australians to Asian countries - but with the emphasis on bringing Asian visitors to Australia.
Individuals are invited on the criterion of the extent to which their visits are likely to contribute to better mutual understanding between ourselves and the Asian peoples. Prominent among these are Asian political personalities, journalists and representatives of cultural. trade union, youth, women’s and other bodies.
The number of Asian visitors who have so far visited Australia under this scheme within the last year or so is about 50, from eight different Asian countries. The Australians who have visited Asia include parliamentarians from each side of the Parliament, trade union officials, university people and members of sporting bodies. Although this scheme was established only a short time ago, I believe it has already shown its value as a means of promoting friendly relations between ourselves and neighbouring countries.
Let me now speak about some of the individual countries of South and South-East Asia. The situation in Indonesia is ‘very much in our minds at . present. Indonesia has become a scene of active military operations, in which a considerable proportion of the forces of the Central Government of Indonesia is involved. Trade between Indonesia and other countries has been seriously affected. The possibility has been increased of international communism extending its influence as a result of these troubles, even to the extent of a government with an appreciable Communist content coming into existence in the Indonesian archipelago, which, on the experience of other countries, could have only one result. Indonesia has been negotiating for arms with several countries of the Soviet bloc, and there are persistent reports that its purchases include substantial numbers of M.I.G. fighters and other modern military aircraft. Attempts are made to inflame Indonesian public opinion by allegations that Seato is trying to intervene, which I need hardly say is a completely false allegation. All these things must be very much in the minds of other countries, quite apart from the humanitarian feelings naturally aroused by the loss of life and destruction of property. They entitle Indonesia’s neighbours to express some views.
The origins of the present situation in Indonesia are complex. Part of the trouble goes back to differences which have existed inside Indonesia ever since it gained independence, as to the distribution of authority between the Central Government and the outlying islands. A wide body of opinion in Sumatra, Celebes, and other islands believes that it has not had a fair deal from Java. Sumatra, for example, contributes not less than 70 per cent, of Indonesia’s exports, yet, at any rate in the belief of many Sumatrans, Java gets most of the foreign exchange earned by these exports. Many people on other islands also believe that Java has an undue voice in formulating policy and an undue proportion of government appointments. Consequently, there is a widespread demand for greater delegation of authority to the provinces. I express no views on the merits of any of these attitudes. It is something that the Indonesians have to work out for themselves. But we have to recognize these feelings as a factor in the present situation.
Then again, there has been a considerable and rapid deterioration in the economic position throughout Indonesia. The expulsion of Dutch businessmen and the taking over of Dutch assets in Indonesia were, in the opinion of the Australian Government, not in accord with Indonesia’9 international obligations, and were carried out in a way contrary to established international usage and to the dictates of humanity. But these actions were more than that; they were against the real interests of the Indonesian people themselves. The Indonesian people are experiencing the consequences in depressed and deteriorating economic conditions. The leaders of the dissidents have stated, as one of the reasons for their stand, the failure of the authorities in Djakarta to get to grips with the economic situation.
Communism is a further ingredient in this cauldron of strife and discontent. Over the last few years there has been a steady increase in the influence and in the electoral representation of the Communist party in Indonesia. At the last national elections, in 1955, the Communist party obtained 23 per cent, of the votes in Java; in the provincial and municipal elections last July the Communist vote there had increased to 35 per cent. Java represents 70 per cent, of the whole Indonesian electorate. There has been continuous pressure, with which President Sukarno himself has been associated, for the Communist party to be included in the principal organs of government, including the Cabinet. While so far the Communist party in Indonesia, as a party, has not secured such representation, some individual Communists and fellow-travellers are in positions of influence, including the Indonesian National Council. The Communists have been prominent among those urging resort to force to suppress the dissidents and rejecting all idea of a peaceful compromise solution. The Communists clearly hope to benefit from the suppression of some of their forthright and vigorous opponents and from the economic deterioration which the Communists are doing so much to foster. All this has brought deep distress to many people in Indonesia, including many devout Muslims who see the religious and cultural basis of their nation’s life threatened by atheistic communism. One of the reasons given by the dissident leaders for setting up a rival government in Sumatra has been their desire to keep Indonesia out of Com:munist control.
It is undeniable that apprehension at the growth of Communist influence is an important element in the present armed conflict in Indonesia. It would, however, be wrong to go a stage further and to say that the fighting represents a clear-cut clash between Communists and anti-Communists. The dissident movement appears to be firmly anti-Communist. But the Central Government is not led by Communists, even though Communists and “ fellow travellers “ are trying to push themselves forward. Moreover, there are many important anti-Communists who have not ranged themselves on the side of the dissident authorities, but are either standing on the side lines or continuing to support the Central Government.
The best thing for other countries to do is to keep out of the present fighting, and to hope that the Indonesians can settle the dispute between themselves without further bloodshed and without other countries getting involved. As soon as the fighting broke out between the Central Government and the dissidents in Sumatra and North Celebes, I declared publicly that Australia would not intervene. I said on 16th February, that Australia was naturally very much interested in the stability and progress of our closest neighbour, Indonesia. We wanted to see there a government that was based on the will of the people of all Indonesia and representative of democratic opinion. It was greatly to be hoped that, with this as their objective, the Indonesian people would be able to find a solution to the present situation peacefully. How this was to be done was a domestic matter for Indonesia. That remains our policy. Since then, unhappily, fighting and some loss of life has occurred. Nevertheless, we must still hope that policies of moderation will prevail and that a new effort will be made to unite all patriotic Indonesians in the solution of the difficulties of which the present insurrection is but a symptom.
Last week some newspapers published the report of an overseas journalist speculating that Royal Australian Air Force planes were being used to drop supplies to the dissidents in Sumatra. This report appeared once before and was denied by the Australian Government. I take this opportunity once again to deny that R.A.A.F. planes are being used in any way to give assistance of any sort to the dissidents in Sumatra.
The Leader of the Opposition has proposed that Australia should make available its good offices to mediate between the dissidents and the Central Government. As the Prime Minister and I have already said, the Australian Government does not consider that this is a feasible or a desirable course. The Djakarta government has already said that it would not be prepared to accept the right honorable gentleman’s proposal.
The possibility could arise of fighting in Indonesia developing to such an extent or in such a way that it might give rise to fears for international peace. Before deciding this was the case, there would have to be careful examination of the facts and of legal considerations, including domestic jurisdiction. 1 hope that all honorable members appreciate the need for restraint in anything we say at the present time on this subject. It would be easy for me to say something much more critical than I have said. I do not believe that such comments by me would contribute to a satisfactory and early solution of Indonesia’s troubles. There are persons in responsible positions in Indonesia who value democratic processes, who understand the menace of the real imperialism of our times - international communism - and who know that a country should respect international obligations and codes of behaviour. It is for Indonesians themselves to see that Indonesia attains a solution of this nature.
I turn now to countries of the British Commonwealth in South-East Asia. The Federation of Malaya, which achieved full independence last August, has been preoccupied with the task of consolidating the foundations of this new nation. The struggle to eliminate the remnants of the Communist terrorists who have preyed on the people of Malaya for the past ten years has been intensified. Australian and New Zealand forces, like those of the United Kingdom, are in Malaya at the request of the Malayan Government and are continuing to assist in these operations against the terrorists. A few months ago the Communist leader, Chin Peng, made a further approach to the Federation Prime Minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman, for a negotiated settlement, but he wanted terms which would permit his Communist followers to emerge from the jungle and undertake subversive activities as a political party. The Prime Minister of Malaya understandably declined to negotiate on terms other than the surrender of the Communists.
Towards the end of 1958 the island of Singapore will receive a new constitution with full responsibility for its own internal affairs. The United Kingdom will retain responsibility only for external affairs and defence. The first elections under the new constitution will probably be held towards the end of 1958 or early in 1959. The outcome of this democratic experiment is naturally of concern to us and our hopes for its success will rest upon the electors of Singapore. The Administration of Singapore must be conscious of the extent to which its future is bound up with those of other countries. The prosperity of Singapore depends on commerce. Commerce and employment depend on confidence. Singapore occupies an important geographical position in relation to the defence of all the countries of this part of the world, and it is essential for Singapore itself that it should continue in close and cordial relations with the Federation of Malaya.
The territories of Sarawak and British North Borneo and the protectorate of Brunei have reached the stage in their political development where consideration has to be given to their future constitutional status. Suggestions for some form of closer association between these three territories are under consideration. This is a matter of interest to Australia and we shall continue to watch further development in these territories with the most sympathetic interest.
Of the other countries of South-East Asia I shall mention only Laos. There, after protracted negotiations, agreement was reached last year for the reintegration into the Kingdom of Laos of the two northern provinces which had been occupied by the Communist Pathet Lao. Under the terms of the agreement two Pathet Lao ministers have joined the Laos Government while the rank and file of the Pathet Lao movement who have returned to their homes have now the right to operate openly as a political party. On 4th May - in a very short time - there will be supplementary elections in Laos to raise the strength of the legislative assembly from 38 to 59. These will be contested by can didates from the former Pathet Lao. Honorable members will appreciate our concern that the opportunity now given to the people of Laos will be wisely used to ensure that the institutions of a free democracy will not be perverted by the return of men intending to use its forms to destroy its spirit in the interests of a different philosophy. It is too early to say how the latest developments in Laos will eventually turn out. If non-Communists show resolution and discernment and if honest and efficient administration prevails the country should be able to advance on sound and democratic lines. 1 would not wish to leave the Asian area without some mention of Japan. We are neighbours in the Pacific and are both learning to co-operate to our mutual benefit. We are involved by geography in common problems and can best cope with these by co-operation. We were glad that the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Kishi, was able to visit Australia in December. We welcomed that opportunity to have fruitful discussions with him.
A further feature of our co-operative relations with Japan has been agreement on an exchange of parliamentary delegations. An all-party delegation from this Parliament visited Japan early this year and later in the year a Japanese parliamentary delegation will make a return visit.
While I was away last month I visited both Australian and Dutch New Guinea. My visit to Biak and Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea gave me an opportunity to see what the Dutch are doing to develop the country and foster the interests of the indigenous inhabitants, and to talk with the Governor and leading officials.
I outlined to the House in December the arrangements being made by the Australian and Netherlands Governments to strengthen and expand administrative co-operation between the two administrations in New Guinea. Since then further steps have been taken. A conference will take place later this year between officials of the two territories. The Netherlands Ambassador in Canberra is to have a senior official appointed to his staff to deal specifically with the problems affecting New Guinea and to assist in discussion and co-operation with the Department of Territories and any other relevant Australian departments.
It is not sufficiently known how much cooperation already exists between the two territories. I saw considerable evidence of this when I was in New Guinea. For example, in the last few months, at the request of the Australian authorities, a Dutch doctor went across the border into Australian New Guinea to help handle an outbreak of polio. Quite recently, when the Netherlands Government was faced with an outbreak of some form of disease in cattle and its own veterinary scientists were unavailable, our- authorities in Port Moresby were able to send an Australian veterinary scientist into Netherlands New Guinea. While I was in Hollandia, there was an Australian doctor spending some time in laboratories there helping to isolate a virus that was considered to be of importance. These may seem small things, but they all fit into a pattern which is to the benefit of both territories and of the indigenous inhabitants.
This mutual exchange of visits, by specialized officials will continue and expand, to the benefit of the two administrations and of the indigenous inhabitants of New Guinea as a whole. Thus the pattern of mutual co-operation will grow. The Netherlands Government is spending a considerable and increasing amount on its territory. In recent years it has been spending in New Guinea progressively and substantially more than it has been receiving from the territory. For example, in 1950 the deficit of Dutch New Guinea was almost £2,000,000 or its equivalent, which was made good by the Government of the Netherlands. In 1956 the Netherlands Government contributed the equivalent of nearly £8,000,000 towards expenditure in Dutch New Guinea. This is a considerable contribution to the advancement of the territory.
The arrangements for administrative cooperation between Australian and Dutch New Guinea are intended to keep open to the indigenous inhabitants the opportunity to determine their own future and to ensure so far as possible that development in the two parts of New Guinea does not proceed along conflicting lines that could lead to unnecessary barriers between the people on the two sides of the border. We believe Dutch sovereignty, which in any case is a legal fact, preserves for the inhabitants of
Dutch New Guinea this future opportunity of- self-determination.
After visiting Biak and Hollandia, I visited a number of places in Australian New Guinea, including Manus Island, Goroka, Bulolo and Port Moresby. I had not visited New Guinea for many years-.. One has to visit New Guinea to realize the great advances that have, been made and the. extent to which the considerable amounts of money provided from Australian revenues have borne- fruit, in the shape of greatly improved health, education and living conditions of the local population.
I” may say that, as one who has visited New Guinea, I have no anxiety about the periodical visits of delegations from the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. If any individual has any doubts about the effectiveness or the humanity of the task that Australia is doing in New Guinea, let him visit it. We can face the world with the clearest conscience. This is not colonialism. It is the reverse of colonialism-. Our record in New Guinea is that of a country that is doing everything possible to guide and advance a backward people towards a better way of life: - to bring something not far from 2,000,000 people from what was only recently a barbaric way of life to something vastly better, and to do it without any semblance of exploitation and indeed at very considerable cost to the taxpayers of Australia.
I have confined what I have had to say to Asia and very largely to South-East Asia. There is too much going on in the world to attempt to cover, it all in one address of reasonable length. Our geographical situation gives the affairs of our Asian neighbours a high priority of interest for us. Both they and we are equally concerned with the global picture in respect of which I do not believe there is any basic difference - in avoidance of war, our continued ability to live our own lives, and not to be dominated by any ideology that we do not like. I hope before long to have the opportunity to speak to honorable members on these and other matters of high and equal importance to both free Asia and to Australia.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 15th April, 1958, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes.
– I regret “that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) did not proceed this evening to a discussion of the more urgent and more vital affairs of the world, namely, the summit conference that is either pending or coming closer, and the proposals in relation to weapons of mass destruction, not only nuclear weapons, but also what are called conventional weapons, which certainly include weapons of mass destruction. Those matters affect us in our relations with Asia just as much as they affect the people of Europe. Therefore, they cannot be altogether separated. I propose, in the first instance, to follow the right honorable gentleman in his references to the situation in Asia, South-East Asia and the countries he has mentioned. Right from the beginning of his speech he was nostalgic about his association with India - and rightly so - a country in which he occupied a position of great responsibility and importance during the period of the war over millions of human beings. I was particularly glad to hear his tribute to the great Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, the conciliator, the man who, of all the leaders in the world to-day has done most for conciliation in a troubled world. That tribute from the right honorable gentleman is well deserved. But if only that tribute could be applied to some of the situations he described, it would make conditions in all these countries so much the better. One cannot, really, at one and the same time recognize the pre-eminence of Mr. Nehru in the councils of the world, in the British Commonwealth and in Asia, and not have some idea of how he would approach the problems with which the right honorable gentleman is naturally most concerned.
I will take one illustration, the situation in Indonesia. It has deteriorated since about four or five weeks ago when I made the suggestion that Australia, not intervening by force, but, as the nearest neighbour to Indonesia, should endeavour to make its contribution towards bringing together what the Minister calls the dissident forces - rebels, if you like - in Indonesia and the government. It is perfectly true that there is no power to do that, but it is perfectly true, also, that no good neighbour would refuse to offer such good offices in the affairs of ordinary life and in the affairs of the world, if the world were -properly ordered. That is what I suggested, and nothing has been indicated as to why it should not be carried out, except what the right honorable gentleman says, that this is policy resulting from a course of conduct.
The right honorable gentleman said, almost in despair, that he deprecates the situation. He is friendly with the people of Indonesia, and I pay him tribute for that. He wants the affair to settle down; he does not want intervention by other countries. He certainly does not want intervention by Russia, and I presume that he does not want intervention by force by the United States of America. The other day the Prime Minister of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, threatened to come down and take his place beside the rebels. That news was contained in authentic cables. Similar offers or threats came from Formosa, from the Chiang Kai-shek Government, or a portion of it. So, the situation was complicated in that way. But this is the conclusion of the right honorable gentleman -
The best thing for other countries to do is to keep out of the present fighting-
Everybody agrees with that, so far as the fighting is concerned - and to hope that the Indonesians can settle the dispute between themselves without further bloodshed and without other countries getting involved.
There is no difficulty in hoping that this trouble will be settled, but it might go on and involve other countries and other people. Certainly, it will involve loss of life and damage to a neighbouring country. The Government of this country turned down the proposal I made, out of hand, because it could not probably find a case just like it in the international law text books; but the suggestion is in keeping with the spirit of the United Nations Charter. It is an unusual situation, but I should have thought that it would have been the ordinary duty as between friendly countries to try to settle this terrible dispute. It is a terrible dispute, because no war is as bad as civil war. 1 make my suggestion again, because if this dispute continues it must not only cause confusion in Indonesia but also damage to Australia.
The situation I look forward to in relation to Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia is one of close and friendly relations between the three governments concerned - -the governments of Indonesia, the Netherlands and Australia. The Netherlands Government is undoubtedly entitled to the legal sovereignity of what we call Dutch New Guinea - or whatever name by which that territory is called. It is a colonial possession of Holland, until the situation is altered. In New Guinea a very important situation exists. For all practical purposes, it is the largest island in the world. It is divided into three parts and the status of each division is different. In New Guinea, as it is called, Australia is the trustee. In the trust territory, Australia was the mandatory power under the old League of Nations system. Papua is a colony which Australia has inherited from the United Kingdom. Dutch New Guinea is a colony of the Netherlands. Under the United Nations Charter, the Administration in each of the three cases has the same obligations. Although in respect of the trust territory there is a specific duty upon Australia, in its administration, to give primary consideration to the welfare of the native peoples, exactly the same provision is found in another portion of the Charter dealing with nonselfgoverning territories. Just as in respect of Holland there is a possession in West New Guinea, Australia has Papua. In other words the spirit of administration is the same in each of the three cases. Therefore, it is very important that the nations concerned - Australia and Holland -should co-operate; and close by is Indonesia.
It is perfectly true that Indonesia has made claims which we dispute and say are not warranted. Nonetheless, Indonesia is a neighbour and the view which the Australian Labour party has taken in considering this great question is that Holland, through Dutch New Guinea, and Indonesia are our very near neighbours. Australia should endeavour to get such practical arrangements not only between Holland and Australia but Indonesia as well so that Indonesian territory and the territory of
New Guinea may be administered by these countries co-operating with one another. Great help can be given by one to the other.
I do not wish to refer at length to the position in New Guinea except on one point, and I go back to the illustration of Mr. Nehru again. The Minister in surveying the Pacific, Asian, and South-East Asian countries expresses his concern when after elections in those countries some element of the left - even a Communist element - is either in government or represented in government. Let us carry that approach to its logical conclusion and see where we finish. We find two things happening in the world recently, both clearly contrary to the United Nations Charter, or at least to its spirit. You find Russia in relation to Hungary saying this: “ If there is any interference with the government of Hungary, which is Communist, we are coming in to shoot down those who are trying to alter the government of Hungary “. Khrushchev said that in particularly foul and brutal terms - quite terrible terms from the point of view of ordinary people. Yet what is the difference between that and saying to countries that are about to form a government of the Left, a socialist government, a democratic socialist government if you like, or even a semiCommunist government, as the United States has indicated on more than one occasion, “ If you form that government we shall intervene by force to prevent that government coming into existence “. There is absolutely no difference between the two things except that in one case the objective desired is to prevent a left-wing government or a Communist government and in the other case to prevent the reverse government. I am pointing out that both are quite contrary to the charter. People are entitled to govern themselves unless they break some provision of the charter. I apply it to the Indian Government.
Take the situation in Laos - that is one illustration referred to by the right honorable gentleman. How many Communists are in the government? There are two or three people out of a very large number. Well, you do not like it, you think it is wrong, but you cannot because of that alone intervene by force in the affairs of that country.
– No one is proposing to do so.
– I know, but if you do not intervene by force you go as close to it as you can; you encourage action by force.
– That is exactly what you do. That is the weakness of Seato. The weakness of Seato is that it does not confine itself, in the main, to the question of the economic welfare of the peoples and matters of that character, and conciliation between the countries of the Pacific. The Government gives £3,000,000 for the purposes of war, not for purposes of welfare. We do not oppose Seato as a conception but it is undoubted, in my opinion, that in Seato there is far too much emphasis on warlike activity.
– Quite too much! The right honorable gentleman says they are not going to intervene in Indonesia. I wish they would intervene in Indonesia in the sense I have indicated, in the sense of a representative body of nations which see tragedy stalking in Indonesia and just do nothing instead of saying to the government and to the rebels, “ We desire to tender our good offices to settle the dispute in your country “. That would be in accordance with the spirit of Seato as we understood it. You have not carried it out. I do not say the right honorable gentleman himself can be regarded as responsible for that, but it is an illustration of the way in which Seato has fallen down. If I am wrong in that, why is it that the great Prime Minister, praised correctly by the right honorable gentleman, will not join Seato? He will not join Seato for the reasons I have indicated, that is, that it has those military elements in it. India will not join it, nor will Ceylon join it, nor will Burma join it. Only three countries of Asian origin are members of Seato. One is Pakistan, which, of course, is not in South-East Asia, wherever you fix the geographical line. Another is Thailand which, as T have said before and I repeat now, is under a reactionary military government, the present government being of exactly the same character, as the Minister admits, as the military dictatorship which last year it supplanted We are left with the Philippines. The rest of Seato consists of nations which ar; really not Asian countries at all, but still less South-East Asian countries.
– There is the Philippines.
– I said the Philippines. Those are the three countries. I said Pakistan, which is not a nation of SouthEast Asia but a nation of Asia and, of course, Thailand, which has a reactionary government, and would approve of any military dictatorship in order to retain power or to prevent its political opponents from getting power. The third country is the Philippines. Those are the facts in relation to Seato. It is no use generalizing about these things. The test is what they do. In my opinion, you have clear duties to perform. Again, I take the example of the Prime Minister of India.
What is the reason for the formation of Seato? It is a regional arrangement, and under the regional provisions of the United Nations Charter, under certain conditions which those concerned seldom observe, force can be used to prevent action contrary to the charter so long as it is in accordance with the provisions of the charter and the Security Council is informed. That is possibly the way it is best put.
I also insist that the job of Seato, to be done effectively, must include the processes of conciliation or mediation between the nations of the region, and also the processes of mutual aid and economic assistance of the kind that is given, and which should not be excluded from this function. I say it is a strong criticism of the Government if military assistance amounts to £3,000,000 but assistance of the character I would like to see, accompanying any military assistance, is nil.
Behind it all, I think, is the chief problem of Asia. I refer to the problem of China. It does not matter from what island, or group of islands, you see it. That is the real problem affecting all these nations. These nations - I do not mean those belonging to Seato, but the nations that are excluded from Seato or did not join Seato - are broadly the Asian nations which recognize the existence of China. I have no doubt that some progress can be made with a summit talk but the situation can never be resolved until the existence of China is recognized, as it is by the greatest nations in Asia to-day, particularly India.
– You are speaking for the slave labourers of China - 25,000,000 of them.
– The honorable member made a statement to that effect when the honorable member for Parkes was here. I do not think he has ever proved his case. If he proved his case that there was wrongdoing of a serious character such as. he indicated in China, the best way to deal with such a situation would be to have China a member of the United Nations and to answer those charges. The United Nations, as it did in similar cases, because there have been similar cases, would appoint a commission to ascertain the facts. That is the way to deal with it, not to make-
– Have you brought the Soviet before the United Nations? You know you have not.
– Mr. Speaker, I was replying - perhaps I should not have done so - to a quite irrelevant interjection.
– It is not irrelevant. Have you brought the Soviet before the United Nations?
– I am taking the case of China, and I do not intend to be diverted by the honorable member’s interjections. ! think the final thing to be considered in relation to these nations is their attitude-
– Order! There are too many interjections. I remind the House that the Minister for External Affairs was heard in silence.
– I shall refer to a few authoritative statements on China and the necessity for recognizing and having close trade relations with China. Does anybody dispute that there should be closer trade relations with China?
– Order! The honorable member for Moreton will remain silent.
– I say that anybody with a sound and sane approach to international trade at least agrees that trading with China and recognition of China would increase- the opportunities of trade so essential to the welfare of this country. The United Kingdom not only trades with China but also recognizes China. That policy is supported, by both parties- in Britain - the Conservatives and the Labour party - and that recognition has extended over seven years. Do others follow Great Britain? No! What do they follow in .these matters? They just follow some wild, capricious view and will not listen to. the facts. Do they follow the example of the nation which, in respect of. China, I submit has acted quite correctly? It is not merely Britain but the other nations- I have referred to, including India. The other day, Sir Douglas Copland urged closer working relationships with China. He said that these relationships^ - may in the end be the central influence in the area to which we belong.
Sir Douglas Copland was Australian Minister to China for two years and now occupies an important position in Australia. He was also reported as follows: -
We have been reminded recently that we have to learn to live in peace with the Japanese people, he said to-day. “ In fact, we must go further than that, and live in harmony with all our neighbours in South and South-East Asia. That is our geographical destiny. More than 40 per cent, of these Asian people live in China, and the number of people added to the Chinese population every year is about equal to the total population of Australia. It should be clear, therefore, that the establishment of working relations with China is just .as important as our relations with Japan, or any other country of Asia. Indeed it is probably more important, because China is the most continuous force in Asia. You do not have to approve of a country’s ideology before recognizing its government. If that were so, we would never have recognized Russia. China has great prestige in Asia, and, in the end, may well be the central influence in- the area to which we belong”.
Yet, we find nations meeting and pretending that China does not exist! In the whole of the Pacific and Asian areas, relationships would be enormously improved if China were recognized. A leading article in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 16th June, 1956, Stated-
Recognition of the Peking Government would not mean the abandonment of Formosa to the Communists. The time may come - the rulers of Peking are sure that it will come - when the Chinese exiles of Formosa elect of their own free will to return to the homeland. But, until h comes, they are morally entitled to the protection of the free world: They are not, however, any longer entitled to expect the free world to bolster their pretensions to be the real masters of China.
Those are illustrations of a just and reasonable approach which could be adopted by a body like Seato and by this Government to the problems of Asia- They indicate the cardinal defects of the statements of the Minister for External Affairs. His thinking runs as follows: “ There is a terrible situation in that country. There is one Communist in the Government - one out of probably 30. What is to be done about it?”
What of it if he has been elected properly? Does the Minister propose to go in by force to get rid’ of the Communist? No. He does not propose to go in by force. Then what is he going to do? He is not going to do anything, so what is the good of squealing about it? You have to accept a democratic decision. If you want democracy, you must take the consequences of it. Threatened intervention by countries of conflicting ideologies is deplorable. On the one hand, there is the Eisenhower doctrine which advocates the overthrow of a left-wing, government by force if1 it cannot be overthrown in any other way, and on the other hand, there is the Khrushchev doctrine which advocates the overthrow by force of antiCommunist governments such as might appear in Hungary. Both sides will have to stop advancing these doctrines. Both are against the charter of the United Nations. How can the nations hold a summit conference while the United States of America and Russia believe in these doctrines? The only way to get justice among the nations is by applying it equally to all.
These two great matters arise directly out of the statement of the Minister for External Affairs. The points that I have made would be accepted immediately by Mr. Nehru as matters that went without saying. Yet, in this Parliament, which is supposed to have some democratic tradition and some tradition of fair play in international affairs, when one advances such arguments one is met by a howl of rage from people who are so prejudiced that they cannot listen to a- case being put forward. But that case will prevail. China will be recognized. This would not- mean and should not be allowed to mean the destruction of any of the people in For mosa. They should be under the protection’ and custody of the United Nations in order to ensure that they are not interfered with in any way.
Here is the proof of what I am putting forward: Take the case of Indo-China. Why does communism appear in countries such as Indo-China? It appears for one of two reasons. It .may appear because of low standards of living which are not being improved. Illustrations of that abound.. Alternatively, it may appear, as it did in Indo-China, because the people of a country who were promised self-government by the great war-time documents such as the Atlantic Charter and the Charter of the United Nations- are being denied selfgovernment. In Indo-China, the people, who were French citizens, asked for selfgovernment. It had been- promised to them, but they were denied this elementary right and the fighting went on for years. Then the Communists- came in. It was not the Communists who started the move for self-government, but they took over the case and” got support from people who were nationalists and who believed that their country was entitled to selfgovernment. Hence, the great crisis. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost because of the delay in accepting an international obligation, undertaken by Churchill and Roosevelt- and embodied in the United Nations Charter.
Contrast that with what took place in the British Commonwealth! There were, of course, some people who did not want to give India complete self-government. They did’ not want to see the liquidation of the British Commonwealth. They did not want India to be more than a selfgoverning unit. India wanted to be a completely free nation although still within the Commonwealth. Who brought- about the change? It was brought about by the Labour Government of Britain supported by the Labour Governments of Australia and New Zealand. That was a magnificent contribution to the welfare and happiness of the people of Asia, although very much still: remains to be done. That is how the crucial situation in Indo-China should have been faced: What happened in the end? Enormous numbers of lives were lost. Finally, a summit conference had to be called’ and new nations were formed, not in one great federation as one might have expected and as, ultimately, they might become, but as small nations such as Laos. The result was not what could have been expected had the planned self-government approach been made in a timely way instead of being delayed for five or six years.
The approach to these Asian questions should be to provide generous assistance in all cases of poverty, disease and lack of educational facilities. But that is only a part of the task. The Asian peoples want self-government. Every nation is entitled to self-government if it has reached a certain stage of development. Colonialism serves its purpose and at the end of the colonial period the period of self-government begins. Malaya and Ghana provide two illustrations of the great achievements of the British Commonwealth in carrying out its obligations. But sometimes such obligations are’ not carried out. Indo-China was one example. But these nations want something more than self-government. They want to be treated with respect and they want to be treated as equals. They want to have the right to put their views forward in the councils of the world and nothing can stop that process now. The division in Asia has to be ended on some such basis as I have suggested.
I agree with what the Minister for External Affairs has said about exchange visits with these countries. That is a policy to which the Labour party adhered long before it was adopted by this Government quite recently. We believe that visits, official and unofficial, must be made to Asian countries. That has to be the practical approach of the Government. It should not put any veto on such visits. Above all, Seato must devote special attention to the peaceful settlement of international disputes in this great South-East Asian area. Regional organizations of the United Nations must carry out the purpose of the United Nations, which is to ease tension. I say that Seato is not discharging that duty. It comes into existence as a regional body only on the condition that it conforms to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. One of those purposes is to mediate in international disputes, or in matters affecting the area. I believe that it would be its duty - at any rate, its clear right - to intervene in Indonesia for the purpose of settling, or preventing the spread of. the civil war which is taking place in that country. All of us hope that that war will be brought to an end, but these things generally drag on, with loss of life and loss of the objectives for which the people concerned began to fight. 1 again say that it is the right of the Government of Australia to make such intervention by itself, seeing that Seato has failed completely to make a similar intervention. 1 am not dealing now with the greater questions. We are dealing in this debate with the lesser ones, but they are all very important to Australia. The Australian relationship with all of these countries, without exception, has to be one of friendship and of association. That applies to the greater nations as well as to the smaller. It applies, it is admitted, to India, and it should also apply to China. It should apply to all countries of this area, so that it can be a source of strength to the United Nations. We should not then, in the Pacific and in Asia, have the tragedy and the dreadful catastrophe of nuclear warfare. The Asian people regard the nuclear weapon as peculiarly a non-Asian weapon - that is to say, so far it has only been used in time of war against an Asian people. It would be a tremendous tragedy for the betterment of the world, particularly Asia and the Pacific area, if a nuclear war broke out and affected the people of Asia.
I believe that the people of Asia could be won to the objectives of the United Nations Charter and to the principles of democracy and civil liberty. Many of them have not reached that standard at the present time, but there is no reason why they should not be recognized and why we should not deal with them. We should trade with them and treat them with the respect to which they are entitled as members of nations which, if not great now, are certain to become great in the foreseeable future.
.- I think that all of us were very interested in the review of Asian affairs given by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) this evening, but when the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) attempted to reply, or to make clear the position of his party with regard to the difficulties and problems of Asia, we were presented with a lot of hypothetical problems which would be interesting, perhaps, as an exercise in secondary schools or in university classes. What is the good of coming to this House and putting up a series of hypothetical problems which the right honorable gentleman knows, in his own mind, as we all know, would be quite easily settled if it were not for the fact that this is a human world? The right honorable gentleman referred to the Prime Minister of India, for whom I think everybody here has a great respect. But when the right honorable gentleman asks what the Prime Minister of India would do, he forgets that sometimes even Prime Ministers of India are forced to use military forces, as has happened in Hyderabad and Kashmir, when their own interests are involved. That goes to show that in this human world none of us is perfect.
That is the problem, very largely, with which we have to deal here. It is not a question of saying, as regards red China, that the Communists do not control China. The Leader of the Opposition himself said in 1949 that the Communist government of China could not be recognized - in the absence of specific assurances that the territorial integrity of neighbouring countries, notably Hong Kong, would be respected and that the new China would discharge all international obligations.
That is a quotation from a speech by the Leader of the Opposition. Does he suggest for one minute that red China has discharged all of her international obligations? Does he suggest that she has had proper regard for the boundaries of other nations? Does he suggest that she has carried out a “ no territorial ambitions “ policy with regard to Tibet? Does he suggest that red China is acting in accordance with the best standards of international dealings with regard to the Burma border? Does he suggest, in relation to what happened in Korea, and in respect of the volunteers, that she carried out her international obligations there? Why, even after the armistice, both in Korea and Indo-China, she has not carried out those obligations. Apparently, the right honorable gentleman has forgotten the standards which he set for himself in his wiser days. Now he says that one of the troubles with Asia is that we do not recognize red China.
I say to the Leader of the Opposition, through you, Mr. Speaker, that one of the main troubles with Asia is that we have been too weak and vacillating with regard to red China. For instance, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), on a previous occasion in this House, referred to an accusation by the United Nations - not an accusation made by the honorable member himself, but one stated in a document, produced in this House, signed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the International Labour Office - that the slave labour camps in red China contained 25,000,000 slaves. That statement has been made, not by the honorable member for Moreton alone, but not one member of the Opposition has been able to refute it. Is that carrying out international obligations?
The Leader of the Opposition says that we ought to increase trade with red China. I know that many people say that we should do so, but what is stopping anybody in Australia from trading with red China at the present time, except in strategic materials? Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that we should support and assist red China, knowing that the existence of all the other defence forces is the result of the build-up of red China’s army, navy and air force at the rate of an intake of 450,000 a year? If it were not for that build-up we would not need to have anything more than sufficient forces in our own country, and in all the countries o! South-East Asia, to provide for internasecurity. Is not one of the reasons for the build-up of red Chinese forces - although nobody proposes to attack red China - a desire to force the nations of South-East Asia to spend money on uneconomic defence measures, so that they can be prevented from increasing the standards of living of their people by spending such money on development?
Any proposal put up by the Leader of the Opposition to-night that we like to take is seen to apply only to a hypothetical case or to be without a chance of success in the world as it is to-day. I noticed that the right honorable gentleman did not get a very enthusiastic reception from his own supporters when he referred to the subject to which I come now. One of the main reasons why we have such a concentration on the cold war to-day, and why we have suggestions for summit conferences, is that those in the Kremlin know, as well as anybody else, that once there is equality in the race for megaton bombs or nuclear weapons, and there are bases widely dispersed all over the world, only a complete madman - and I do not rate even my worst opponent as that - would drop the first bomb, because everybody would know that it could not deal a knock-out blow. But the mere fact that we have reached that stage, and that there is far less likelihood of a war of annihilation, means, on the other hand, that the Soviets have concentrated on the cold war with subversion, economic strangulation, infiltration, and other methods.
We all want summit conferences; we all are prepared for closer contacts; we all are prepared to come together and discuss the world’s problems; but for goodness’ sake let us not delude our people into thinking that the job is a short-term one. It will be a long-term talk when we begin talking with the Soviets, as we found when we made our mistake in Korea. When the war: there was practically won, the only answer was to go on to the Yalu River and unite Korea. We have found, all the way through, in dealing with the Soviets, that, unfortunately, the only thing they understand and respect is strength. And they do understand and respect strength. It worries me to find, as we find to-day, a similarity between the actions of the master of the Kremlin, who uses Sputnik hysteria and nuclear fear in an endeavour to create fear complexes throughout the world, and the strategy adopted by Hitler in the middle 1930*s with his panzers and Luftwaffe. Have we not learned from the 1930’s that we cannot gain anything by becoming disunited, running for cover in fear, and looking for another Munich? That did not help us in the 1930’s, and it will not help us now. “ Newsweek “ reported recently that, unfortunately, one South-East Asia Treaty Organization military adviser had stated -
We could lose much by default in this area. . . . Many countries feel the West is adopting an “ Asia last “ policy while the Communists are pushing a policy that promises golden returns. . . The rub is the U.S. and free-world programs have lost their dynamism just at the time the Russians are sowing rubles.
That. I feel, is only too true. Many of us feel that we have been putting Asia first, but we have not been going far enough. We have been weak and vacillating when we should have been strong and courageous. Furthermore, we in Australia have not yet fully realized the changes that have resulted from the events of 1941 and 1942. Until 1941, we were able to go our own way behind the security of the British Navy. We led a pampered and somewhat privileged existence. But those times have gone, and now we have to take on our own shoulders responsibilities much greater than I think many of us have yet realized. We have had great successes, and I take my hat off to the Minister for External Affairs for the excellent work that he has done. He has ably carried on the Colombo plan, which was initiated by his predecessor as Minister. He has entered into the Anzus and Seato treaties in order to strengthen our defences. He has built up our representation in practically every country in Asia, except for Nationalist China. I do not know why we have not yet recognized Nationalist China. We have, in a sense, half recognized it, perhaps in an effort to accord with the policies of both the United Kingdom and the United States of America, but, apparently, have pleased neither. Furthermore, by not recognizing Nationalist China to the fullest extent by establishing diplomatic representation there, we have undermined the morale of the 14,000,000 Chinese in South-East Asia who control most of the trade in that part of the world. There are many things that Australians can do in their own sphere. We have said, “ We are Asians “. Do we believe it? We are gradually coming round to believing it. We are Asian, not by virtue of our racial origin, but by virtue of our geographical position, and the future of our friends, allies, and neighbours in South-East Asia governs the future of our own country.
I have said before in this House that I found, when I last went up the China coast - and I shall travel that coast again next month - the one question that one was asked everywhere was: “ Is the Western world going to be strong? We have nowhere else to go and nowhere else to live, and one cannot make one’s peace with the Communists in five minutes “. That question was asked everywhere from Djakarta to Seoul. In many ways we have been weak. As I have said, we should have gone on to the Yalu River. We were represented at the Geneva peace conference but only as observers, and at that conference there was too much of peace at any price and retrenchment at the expense of the future security of ourselves and our allies. We gave too much away. We have been weak, I think, in allowing the Bank of China to become established in places like Singapore and Hong Kong, where it is not by any means a financial institution pure and simple, but is used as a means of blackmailing many of the leading merchants and of providing funds for phony peace fronts and other Communist activities. We are not allowed to establish a bank in Peking. Why should we allow the Bank of China in Hong Kong, when they and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank rear their concrete heads side by side on the same bund to do everything they can to undermine our allies and the free world while the Hong Kong Bank does everything it can to support the free world? The situation is even worse in Singapore, and, I understand, also in Rangoon. In many respects, we have been taking things far too easily in that part of the world.
During the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, only a few weeks ago, I said I considered that Australia was in the most dangerous position in which it had been since V.P. day. I might have used much stronger language. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) supported me and amplified that point. He has had wide experience in international affairs. I say to my fellow countrymen, wherever they may be, that, to-day, Australia stands in a more difficult and dangerous position than it has been in at any time in its history - not merely since V.P. day. The situation that has been allowed to creep slowly on us is likely to make us, as somebody said the other day, a very lonely island in the South Pacific. We must plan ahead and give more support and encouragement to our allies in the Western Pacific and in Asia. We must not heed the Communist cry, “ Bring the troops home from Korea “, or the parrot cry recently heard from some V.I.P., “Singapore will not fall to-night”. If Malaya wants our aircraft and other forces there, they shall remain there - and the Australian Government has said so. However, I should like to see alternative routes provided to enable the Air -Force to get there and get home again.
We have neglected many things, and we have put many things down on paper. But I am perfectly certain that if we showed our friends and allies that the Western world was strong and would remain strong - J know that we in Australia cannot do it alone - they would not tend to step into the Communist camp on the other side of the fence. They do not want to enter it. But if we leave them in an uncertain position such as they have been in over the intervening years they cannot be blamed. Our trade with Asia amounts to about £286,000,000 a year. All our western trade routes run through South-East Asia. Is it necessary to point out in any other way what would happen to us, our economic position and our future prosperity, if all of South-East Asia went “ Com.”?
These problems are vast. I know that the Minister could have said a lot more than he did; but he is a trained diplomat, and by intuition he plays safe to a certain extent. There are members of the Opposition, just as there are many people in England, who wish to buy peace at any price; but if they think that they can buy safety in the future by getting peace at any price at the present, they have another think coming. I admire their singleness of purpose; but it is the singleness of purpose of the untutored denizen of the jungle whose hunger leads him to the food but whose singleness of purpose blinds him to the trap.
We all want to strive for peaceful coexistence, but it is not going to be easy to achieve peaceful co-existence when we get remarks from Russia’s leaders such as, “ Don’t put your pig snouts into our socialistic garden” - a socialistic garden, many parts of which have, incidentally, been taken over by the Russians after they murdered the previous owners. We will -certainly not get peaceful co-existence unless, as I have said before in this House, we follow the dictum of an English schoolmaster who, I think, first made the statement, “ In this world you have to be strong enough to command respect, wise enough to work for world peace, and magnanimous enough to share, not monopolize, this world’s .goods “.
.- We have been treated to-night to a statement from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) on foreign relations. It is remarkable, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the statement makes practically no reference to the greatest of .all the problems that are involved in foreign relations. I refer, of course, to the cold war between the Western Powers and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I think that the fear of the Western Powers, and, no doubt, the reciprocated fear of the Soviet rulers, regarding nuclear weapons, hydrogen weapons, the ancillary weapons such as rockets and guided missiles with which modern submarines are equipped, and artillery for firing atomic shells, constitutes the great problem that most Australians, in common with most people in Europe and the United States are concerned with in the immediate present. It is remarkable, therefore, that at this stage, when Australians want to know what attitude the Australian Government is taking to proposals for hastening the holding of a summit conference, and the likely attitude of the Government in regard to proposals that might be discussed at such a conference, we do not have a solitary word on that subject from the Minister responsible for our foreign policy.
May I say at the outset that I and, I think, every member of the Labour party and its supporters, believe that so long as we have in office in this country a conservative government, so long as the United Kingdom has in office a conservative and reactionary government, and so long as reactionary conservative forces dominate the government of the United States, our prospects of playing a satisfactory part in a summit conference are nothing like as favorable as they would be if the radical forces which exist in great numbers in the United States had the control of American policy, if the British Labour party dominated the political scene in the United Kingdom, and if a Labour government held office in Australia. Only if those forces had a dominating voice in those three countries would we have good prospects for an early summit conference which would adopt a sensible, fruitful and decisive policy for peace. Such a conference to produce such a result is our most ardent hope.
– Somebody says “ Bunkum “. Of course, people who are familiar with things that do not matter understand bunkum perfectly. It must be acknowledged, even by the conservative members of the Australian Country party, that the fundamental radical forces in all countries of the world are the forces that are most interested in the preservation of peace, because they have the least vested interest in the manufacture of armaments and in the profits which, under the capitalistic system to-day, flow to those who are engaged in preparations for the conduct of wars. That i9 true, in the very nature of things. That is not to say that I think that conservative individuals, and even conservative governments, do not also believe in peace, according to their own lights; but their method of aiming at the securing of peace springs from their belief that in order to achieve it they must encourage their people to arm themselves to the teeth, to be always one jump ahead of the other fellow - which, of course, forces the other fellow all the time to try to be one jump ahead of them.
I listened to-night to the Minister for External Affairs informing us of the good work being done under the jurisdiction of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. I believe that some things of a desirable character are done by Seato. I believe that the participation of Australia in the Colombo plan is a good thing. I believe our assistance to Asian nations, under the Colombo plan, should be extended. I believe that visits by members of all parties in this Parliament to Asian and other countries should also be extended. Those who have had the opportunity to enjoy trips overseas and meet people in other countries must be impressed, always and ever, with the fact that the great mass of the people in all countries are ardent believers in peace and are to-day in a state of anxiety as to the outcome of the present situation. They know that the reactionary Western Powers and the dictatorial U.S.S.R. authorities have been unable, up to the present anyhow, to arrive at a satisfactory remedy for the dangerous position in which the world finds itself. It is not a position that affects us to the extent to which it will affect unborn millions of children all over the world. The Minister has told us that the great purpose of Seato is to preserve the countries of South-East Asia from the inroads of communism - not only against military attack from communism, but also against subversion within their own borders. How foolish and how silly! In other words, while this Government is in office - things might be different if another government were in office - if some Asian power says to us, “ We are plagued with subversion within our own borders. We have strong fears that some of our citizens who believe in communism are trying to convert others to a belief in Communist ideologies “, we are committed, under the terms of the Seato treaty, and because of the way in which this Government would like the treaty to operate, to participate, perhaps forcibly, in preventing the subversion of those people in that country. Recently 1 had the opportunity to spend a few days in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, where I saw everywhere around me smiling, happy, well-fed and apparently contented people. Thailand is one of the countries which are parties to Seato. What are the facts as we in this democracy know them? When I was in Thailand there was a government in office administering every phase ot the economy of that country. Less than one month after I left Bangkok, I read in the world press that another gang of a few individuals had come along and confronted the Prime Minister and his fellow Ministers with a gun. The Prime Minister was told to get out, that he was no longer Prime Minister. Another member of the government was told that a diplomatic post carrying a handsome salary awaited him in some other Asian country. Overnight, without an election, without consulting the people of Thailand, the government of that country was changed!
Is it suggested that if the deposed government had sought aid from Australia under those circumstances Australia should have been committed to send forces to Thailand to its assistance? As a matter of fact, the people of Thailand themselves have the right to decide how they will elect a government, when they will have a change of government, whether they will tolerate a certain government or whether they will not. To-night, after the happening I have related, we are told that £3,000,000 of the Australian taxpayers’ money has been allocated for use by some South-East Asian countries in preventing subversion. When we ask for an explanation of the manner in which these funds are to be used, we are told by the Minister for External Affairs that it will be used to supply, not weapons such as guns, artillery and munitions, but vehicles, no doubt to be used for the carriage of persons who will have been supplied with guns by the United States or some other member of Seato. Further, these countries are to be supplied with tents, uniforms and no doubt many other items too numerous for the Minister to detail in the time at his disposal to-night. If the supplying of military vehicles, tents, uniforms and all these other articles which have no doubt gone to the Asian members of Seato is not just as bad as supplying arms and ammunition, I do not know what is. After all, even though a country has arms and ammunition, it cannot very well fight a war or combat subversion unless some other member of the organization is prepared to supply the necessary equipment. So we are in an extraordinary position.
The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) spoke of the situation that he believed should have obtained in Korea. Had he been the leader of the government, he would have attempted to commit the United Nations forces to advancing to the Yalu River in Korea. Let me say emphatically at this stage that I believed from the beginning of the Korean conflict that the man most responsible for that unfortunate conflict in which millions of men, women and children in Korea lost their lives, and in which, worse still, thousands of United Nations fighters lost their lives, was Syngman Rhee. He had hundreds of members of his own parliament in the prisons of Korea when the war started. It is believed by some that people closely allied to him actually precipitated the border raids which took place from time to time, and which were not confined to any one section of the Korean people either in the north or the south. At this moment, members of parliament are languishing in the gaols of Korea simply because they are opposed to the policy adopted by Syngman Rhee.
We have been told in this chamber tonight that Syngman Rhee has offered to intervene in Indonesia and other places in South-East Asia where there might be trouble. No doubt he makes that offer in the hope of reaping some handsome reward from the people who might be prepared to let him intervene in those countries. I do not think for one moment that by pursuing these methods we can hope to get anywhere in encouraging greater friendship and greater understanding or creating greater opportunities for peace between the democracies and the people who are to-day dominated by Communist governments and Communist forces.
Three years ago, it was heresy to argue, and one was immediately looked upon as a Communist if he argued in this chamber in favour of the recognition of red China. One is not so regarded to-day. In the meantime, the Japanese people have been recognized by us. Trade with Japan has been sponsored and fostered. Yet Japan treated the Australian people in a much viler manner than red China has ever treated them. We are trading with Japan to-day, and rightly so. The present fight for the diminution of hostility to the admission of red China to the United Nations and the advocacy of the abolition of the bar to trading with that country, together with the increasing tendency to favour restoration of diplomatic relations with red China come mainly from the forces in this .country which support the Australian Country party and the forces behind the great manufacturing industries that see enormous markets awaiting their products in red China. Everybody knows that Japan which in the past imported virtually no wheat at all is to-day one of Australia’s best customers for wheat. It is believed that exports of wheat to Japan will increase in the. future. Everybody knows that in recent months the Australian Wheat Board’, which is dominated and directed, if necessary, by the Government, sent a representative delegation to red China in an endeavour to sell wheat to that country. Does the Minister deny that? Qf course he does not! Everybody knows that people in Australia are strenuously urging that we trade with red China, mainly for the purpose of disposing of the surplus products grown by Australian farmers. I do not object to that, but it is significant that those people who, a few years ago, called any one. who advocated trading with red China a Communist, are silent to-day.
I have said that the people representing the great manufacturing interests are becoming articulate. Sir Douglas Copland has recently urged the opening up of trade, with red China. Sir Douglas is a director of an institution which is charged with the responsibility of training personnel for managerial positions in the great industrial enterprises of this country. Those great industrial enterprises see in red China great markets for the future.
Let me now prove the stupidity of the argument that we should not trade with red China because that country might require from us goods that might be of strategic value to it. I asked members of a delegation that went to red China - to wit, some of my own colleagues - what red China was doing in the way of turning out machines. I was informed that red China was turning out heavy lorries, no doubt suitable for military purposes if necessary but possibly intended mainly for the development of industries. I was told also that red China was turning out motor cars. I asked what type of plant red China had for turning out motor cars and motor trucks, which, after all, are being turned out by most countries in plants in which automation performs the main functions. I was told that red China had multiple drills and the latest mechanical equipment for turning out trucks, motor cars, and no doubt tractors and other types of machinery. When I asked where this plant and equipment came from, I was told it came from red Russia.
The Russians were supplying red China with all the industrial equipment required to turn out the best motor cars, the best motor trucks and, no doubt, the best tractors! Why have, not the Australian people, the Australian workers, the Australian manufacturers and those who supply the raw materials been given an opportunity to compete with red Russia in supplying essential industrial equipment of that type? We on this side are living to see the day when the people who were formerly scornful of recognizing red China will openly favour its recognition. Some favour it how, especially the gentlemen in the corner on my left, and recognition is desirable.
To-night the Minister for External Affairs said that a profitable price for primary products was essential for the perpetuation of good relations between the peoples of Australia and South-East Asia - including, no doubt, red China. He went on to say that the export products of Burma, Ceylon, and other Asian countries played a large part in their economies. He said that it was essential that price factors should be taken into consideration and that prices should be good. We agree with that. Unless prices are good for the people of
South-East Asia the outlook of the basic industries of this country, particularly the primary industries* will be very grim indeed. Markets are closing in the United Kingdom and in Europe generally, hut they could be opened in South-East Asia. With the opening of markets in South-East Asia I believe there would come a better under. standing and a greater- prospect of preserving peace in this quarter as well as in other parts of the world.
One can only be disappointed at the Minister’s statement, which sounded like a very nice essay. We hope that in future he will be more specific and will tell the Parliament what course, of action his Government will follow in the. crisis more immediately confronting the Australian people and the rest of the Western world.
.- I am sure that every honorable member listened with a great deal of interest to the statement to-night of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). The right honorable gentleman discussed the countries of SouthEast Asia, and Australia’s general approach to these countries, which are of such vital importance to us. Immediately, of course, there followed criticism from members of the Opposition that he had not covered the particular subject which they said was of paramount importance to us. I shall come to that later on, but I think it is obvious that statements on this matter have been made by the Government, the Minister, and honorable’ members on this side of the House on many occasions.
The Minister mentioned events now occurring in Asia which, in spite of the views of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), are just as vital as any discussions on nuclear weapons and the possibility of their use in war. Current events in South-East Asia, as stated by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) are of great importance to Australia and as a result of them we face a dangerous situation.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that his suggestion that Australia should negotiate between the rebels and the Djakarta government had not been taken up by the Minister. I understood the Minister to say that the proposal was not acceptable to the Djakarta government. t also understand that on more than one occasion the Indonesian rebels have offered to negotiate with the Djakarta government. Dr. Hatta, who is, I think, acknowledged by ali to be a moderate, fair-minded, reasonable and intelligent man, offered on a number of occasions to negotiate, but his offers’ were rejected, because one of his stipulations was that the Communists should not be allowed to have so much control in the affairs of Indonesia. The Communists recorded a vote of 35 per cent at the last elections, which was rather high, but the percentage of active Communists in Indonesia is very low. Yet that small percentage is able to dictate to a government and a president! That is something which we should pause to consider.
I think it is obvious that this is an election year in Australia. Of course, I have not been in the House on every occasion on which the Leader of the Opposition has spoken, but this is the first time I have heard him emphatically criticize Russia for its actions in Hungary and in the satellite countries. This evening he spoke with tongue in cheek. He said that Khrushchev’s statement about intervention in Hungary was a brutal statement. Far more brutal was the action taken in suppressing the counter-revolution against the Communist government of Hungary eighteen months ago. As I said-, it is obvious that this is an election year, but I do, not think that the people of this country will be misled by the statement of the- Leader of the Opposition this evening. He went on to say that the United States of America was quite willing to intervene by force in any country which seemed to be establishing a government contrary to the type of government established in the United States, but he did not cite a single specific instance. He said that Seato did not confine itself to the economic sphere but was purely a militaristic organization. Can he name one occasion on which Seato has been used in a militaristic manner since its inception?
– It has nothing to do with Seato. It has to do with the Eisenhower doctrine, though.
– The right honorable gentleman says that it has to do with the Eisenhower doctrine. He cannot have it both ways. His statement was that Seato did not confine itself to the economic sphere but acted in a militaristic manner. Can he point to one instance in which it has acted in such a manner? No such instance can be cited. Here again are insinuations, halftruths, and half-baked suggestions put forward purely and simply to cloud the issue. This is the type of thing that is being done constantly by the Leader of the Opposition. Seato was established as a defensive measure, in the same way as a man erects a fence around his house to keep animals or persons from coming into his garden.
The Leader of the Opposition said that China should be admitted to the United Nations organization. That suggestion was answered effectively by the honorable member for Chisholm, who pointed out that the statement made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) in regard to slave labour in China had not been disproved. If the Communist government is so well established in red China, why are so many repressive actions taken against the people? Why was Lord Lindsay not allowed to enter red China? He was lauded as a great supporter of the regime, yet he was denied entry when he criticized the Government. He had family connexions in China and he would have been able to ascertain the truth without having the wool pulled over his eyes, as happens to so many people who visit that country. He would have been able to tell the truth about what was happening behind the iron curtain in red China.
The Leader of the Opposition asked why red China was not made a member of the United Nations and then haled before that body. I point again to the happenings of eighteen months ago in regard to Russia. Russia was haled before the United Nations in relation to its actions in Hungary, and a vote was taken. The result was that 60 nations were in favour of condemnation, ten were against it, and ten abstained from voting. Yet Russia took no notice. Neither Russia nor Hungary would accept Prince Wan as a representative of the United Nations to investigate the happenings in Hungary. Why did they want to stop Prince Wan from entering their countries if they were not afraid he would see what was happening there? Reference was also made to a need for closer trade relations with red China. We could increase our trade with red China to a negligible extent only. There is no bar to such trade at the moment - except in respect of strategic materials and, as the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has said, no one would wish to hand quantities, of these to a potential enemy. To-night, we have seen further evidence of the way in which the Australian Labour party jumps on the band waggon to suit itself at one moment, and in the next moment jumps off again. That type of thing has been happening all along.
What has Soviet Russia’s policy been in Korea and Germany? It has created divided nations in the hope of strengthening Communist influence. As I have said previously, we cannot forget Munich. On that occasion there was a desire for peace, backed by all the sincerity and good will in the world, but it did not prevent war. Surely, in this year of 1958, we should remind ourselves of that lesson.
The honorable member for Lalor and the Leader of the Opposition have referred to the proposal to suspend nuclear tests. They have asked why a statement has not been made in regard to it, and have suggested that the “ reactionary and conservative “ Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia will prevent the success of the proposal. If that is true, why is United States labour as strongly against the banning of nuclear weapons as is any conservative government? United States labour is against it because, as any one with intelligence realizes, the nuclear weapon is one of the greatest deterrents to war. It puts us in a position of strength, and enables us to hit back if Soviet Russia should strike. It is only logical to suppose that an aggressor, knowing that an enemy can be easily overrun, will attack him. Conversely, if he knows that that enemy will hit back he will not be so quick to strike.
How many men lost their lives in the early days of World War I. and World War II. because, as a result of our adherence to peaceful principles, we did not have certain equipment, or had not had time to train them? Members of the Opposition have been guilty of promoting the great fallacy that nothing was done to prepare this country for a second world war. Anyone who remembers the line that Labour took between the two wars, both here and in the United Kingdom, “will know that it always opposed action to protect the Empire. In Australia, Labour opposed all attempts to increase the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force - one of the most vital facets of our defence structure. Notwithstanding this, honorable members opposite have the hypocrisy to come here and say that they saved the country during World War II. As I have pointed out previously, the mere establishment of the empire air training scheme was proof that preparations for defence were made long before the Australian Labour party came to office. Those preparations were made long before war was declared - although, unfortunately, not long enough.
The honorable member for Lalor said that reactionary and conservative governments were opposed to peace, but I remind him that the greatest military power in the world to-day is Soviet Russia. I remind him of the nuclear development and armed strength of this socialist and Communist government. The honorable member said that Syngman Rhee was largely responsible for the Korean war; that it was just a trap designed to make the United Nations fight in that area. If that is so, all I can say is that those who perpetrated the trap could have had no intelligence at all because the North Koreans, backed by the forces of red China, quickly threw back the Roks, and were able to do the same to the United Nations forces before they became established. Surely any trap would have included preparations for adequate defence on the part of the South Koreans.
In the few moments left to me I want to say a few words about the proposed summit conference, and the “ magnificent “ call by Khrushchev for a halt to nuclear testing. It would suit Soviet Russia if that happened. In the last three months it has tested more bombs than have all the countries of the West put together. Soviet Russia’s attitude is, “ We have done all the damage that we can, let us call it a day “. In 1946 the United Nations was presented with a world disarmament plan by the United States. In November, 1948, the General Assembly accepted that plan by 46 votes to 6. In 1953, President Eisenhower, in a speech before the General Assembly, put forward what was called the open skies proposal, and followed this, in 1955, by a similar proposal at the Geneva summit meeting. I remind honorable members opposite that all these attempts have failed. Any one with any appreciation of the international situation will realize that this has come about because of the refusal of the Russians to co-operate. Their tactics always are to present further proposals which cannot be accepted. In 1957, as honorable members know, I was at a meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. A vote was taken on a proposal to increase the membership of the Disarmament Committee to 25. That number was regarded as too high, but in an attempt to go along with the Russians it was accepted. The Soviet then refused to have anything to do with it unless the number was increased to 81. The full membership of the United Nations was 82 - 25 would have been too many.
The latest proposal by the Russians is, purely and simply, propaganda, and completely lacking in sincerity. The way in which Soviet Russia has broken almost every agreement with the West is further proof of its insincerity. Soviet Russia breaks an agreement, moves forward a few yards, offers to negotiate, gets what she wants, breaks the new agreement, moves forward again, and so on. She continues to make advances, knowing that we will do everything we can to keep the peace. Any one with experience of war knows its horrors and dangers and wishes to avoid a further conflict. The Russians play upon such emotions, and break agreements with impunity. I should like now to quote a statement from “Time”, the American news magazine, concerning nuclear testing -
A much heard argument against nuclear tests is that since H-bombs are already powerful beyond comprehension, it is useless to go on developing bigger and deadlier specimens. But Teller points out that the U.S.’s purpose in testing nuclear weapons is not to make them bigger, but to make them smaller, more versatile and less dangerous to people outside the target area. Starting with the assumption that the West absolutely needs nuclear weapons to deter or defeat Communist aggression, he holds that it would be “ completely inexcusable “ to fail to push ahead with development of “ clean “ nuclear weapons with little or no radioactive fallout.
As director of the Atomic Energy Commission’s laboratory at Livermore, Calif., Teller is directly involved in AEC’s clean-bomb project, and he assures his readers that it is “well on the way towards success.” Last week President Eisenhower announced at his press conference that the U.S. has invited the United Nations to send scientist observers so that they may “ witness at the Pacific proving ground this summer a large nuclear explosion in which radio-active fallout will be drastically reduced.”
Believing that the Russians could and would cheat on any disarmament promises, Physicist Teller feels that U.S. weakness would invite Communist aggression. “ If we stay strong,” he said recently, “ then I believe we can have peace based on force. Peace based on force is not as good as peace based on agreement, but in the terrible world in which we live, it may be the only peace that we can have.”
Following the statement that has been made by the Minister for External Affairs and the evidence which the Government has given of its programme since it has been in office, I believe that we can show that if the Russians start a war we are strong enough to defend ourselves. I have in mind especially our eight years of assistance to eastern nations through the Colombo plan, and the strengthening of our defences by our close relationship with friendly nations, especially the United Kingdom and the United States. This country, through this Government, is making a contribution to peace. Peace based on force may not be a good thing, but it may be the only kind of peace we can have. If we allow the Russians to become so strong that we cannot counter any attack they make upon us, then what we pass on to future generations will be merely the kind of hell that has been introduced into many countries now behind the iron curtain.
.- I am amazed at the utterances of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock). On a previous occasion I followed the honorable member in a similar debate, and I can say again that he has hardly made a constructive suggestion as to how we can introduce some kind of common sense into the insanity that prevails in the world to-day. When an honorable member contends that we can have peace only by force, after all the world has gone through in recent years, I tremble for the future of this country and for civilization as a whole. Have we gained not one constructive, common-sense idea after experiencing during the last 50 years the results of the kind of policies that have been advocated in the House to-night? We have had conferences, diplomatic alliances and preparations for war. Millions and millions of pounds have been spent on defence. We have produced aeroplanes, aircraft carriers, submarines and rifles - even the FN rifles which will not be available for use for another eighteen months. These are the things that we have done during the last 50 years, and there has not been one new idea put forward to-night by the honorable member for Lyne, who claims to be a man of peace, but who has merely given us all the old clichés in saying how we should achieve peace. History has shown that we can never have peace by preparing for war. If we continue to think in the way in which the honorable member for Lyne obviously thinks, and endeavour to achieve peace by preparing for war, war will come to this world as surely as the sun will rise to-morrow.
This country has spent £1,200,000,000 on defence since 1950. Let us consider the position of India, with all its poverty and tragedy. It has no health services to speak of, and practically no sanitation. Cholera strikes down millions of its inhabitants every year. Yet that country spends 45 per cent, of its national income on defence! Pakistan is still struggling to achieve an elementary standard of living, but is spending 55 per cent, of its national income on a so-called defence scheme. Australia spends 20 per cent, of its national income on defence. All the Western countries are falling for Russia’s clever strategy, and are pouring out money on the manufacture of weapons that will become obsolete within eighteen months. Russia does not care how much we spend on defence. Its policy is to induce the Western countries to spend as much as possible in this direction, and we are falling for the Russians’ plan like a lot of school children. One of the most potent weapons that Russia has is that which results in economic strangulation of the Western nations through their crazy expenditure on defence year after year. Our expenditure in this direction has risen to phenomenal levels, but it has never been and never will be proved that we can have peace by preparing for war. We are prepared to take all kinds of risks in time of war in order to win the war on the battlefield. Why are we not prepared to take a few calculated risks in time of peace in order to to win the battle for peace?
The foreign policy of this Government, as outlined by the Minister to-night, is one of typical cast-iron conservatism. The Australian Government has gone so far to the right that the British Government will not agree that it belongs in the same political category. It is not surprising that the Asian countries are wondering where this Government is going and what it stands for. Those countries have been ruled by conservatism for the last 300 years - conservatism built up under what we call the colonial system. This Government is pursuing a policy of cast-iron conservatism, the very thing that Asian countries are trying to throw off in their rise to selfgovernment and security.
We on this side of the Parliament strongly criticize the kind of policy advocated by the honorable member for Lyne. We can engage in no more unrewarding debate in this House than a debate on foreign affairs, because what we say to-night will probably be disproved to-morrow. We. can never get a complete answer on matters of international affairs, and. we can never bring ourselves up to date on these subjects, because history is being written too quickly. Events seem to run away from us all the time. We can talk only in generalities and speak of events that have passed into history, giving the pros and cons, the causes and effects. We do not know for sure what will happen in the next week or the next month. We can only make assumptions.
I must challenge the honorable member for Lyne on one point. He said that the Labour party, before World War II., was opposed to the building- up of Australia’s air- force. That I categorically deny. That statement” is a complete untruth. I do not know whether the honorable member has read the story of the late John Curtin as I read it. I never met the right honorable gentleman, because I came to this Parliament after he had. passed away. He made it perfectly clear, however, that an air force was vital to this country. He made many prophecies that came true. He said that Japan would attack Singapore from the north, and he was laughed at. In the same way, Mr. Ogilvie, the Premier of Tasmania, was laughed at in 1938 when he returned from Europe, having seen Hitler and his regime, and said that we must build’ up our air force until the sky was black with planes. The government of the day laughed him to scorn. I am now speaking of two Labour men who, according to the honorable member for Lyne, would have nothing to do with building up the air force.
We must realize that half the world’s population is within 24 hours’ flight of Australia. There are 1,200,000,000 persons in the countries to the north of us, and not one of. them is white. Ours is the only white nation in the Asian area, and there aTe only 10,000,000 of us. There are, of course, one or two small groups of people who might be called near-white. We have a. tremendous- destiny to fulfil as a white nation in this Asian area. We know that the Communists, after their war-time struggle, have now determined on a policy of dividing the world on the basis of colour. They have been using the hatred of whites by coloured people as one of their powerful weapons in building up the Afro-Asian bloc. We have to counter this policy with a new - a completely revolutionary - attitude towards the Asian people. We must dissociate ourselves entirely from the old policies that ruled Asia for 300 years and which helped to spread communism in those countries.
I have listened to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) many times in this Parliament. I agree with 85 per cent, of what he has said with regard to the Asian problem. He often disagrees with the Government. He is far ahead of his. Government with relation to Asia and international affairs generally. I shall never forgive this Government for the way it treated the honorable member for Chisholm who gave valuable service to the Parliament as a Minister. He is head and shoulders above, other supporters of the Government in his thinking about Asia.
Japan has a population of 90,000,000. There are 600,000,000 in China, which is still not recognized by this Government. There are 10,000:000 people in Formosa, 90,000,000 in Indonesia, 400,000’,000 in India and, in addition, great populations live in Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon, North Viet Nam, South Viet Nam,. Laos, Cambodia, New Guinea- and Borneo. Practically all those nations are military nations.
Another important’ factor- in Asian problems is religion. Only two nations in the whole of Asia - the Philippines and Australia - claim to be Christian nations. Of 1,200,000,000 people living in the whole of Asia, only 34,000,000 people live in those two countries and claim to be Christians. The others are Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of other faiths. We have to find a common platform on which the people of all those religions can meet to solve the problems of Asia. Anybody who believes that the problems of Asia can be solved without regard to religion is beating the air and wandering in the dark. Religion is part of the framework of life and thinking of the people of Asia, and we cannot by-pass religion in relation to Asia without ending in a cul-de-sac. We must show a sympathetic attitude to the religions of the peoples of Asia.
We must be sympathetic also in our attitude to their colour and I am proud of Australia in that respect. Many Asian students come to Australia and mingle with Australians in the universities, in the street, in sporting organizations, homes and churches. Nearly all of them return to their countries with one thought - there is no colour bar in Australia. That is something to our credit and we must build on that attitude and on the goodwill that has developed among those students.
Australia is well fitted, geographically and psychologically, to be the leader in the rebuilding of Asia on democratic lines. It is all very well for supporters of the Government to criticise members of the Australian Labour party as though we believed in the Communist cause or were fellow travellers. That is cheap stuff. Every one knows the evils and tyrannies of communism. The Opposition has no truck with its ideology The fact is that we must know the Communist ideology thoroughly if we are to fight it successfully in Asia. Unfortunately, we will not win the battle against communism in Asia because we are using only military, economic and physical weapons. The ideological weapon has not been used on a national scale to combat communism in Asia, although the Communists are using that weapon there with tremendous effect.
Since World War II., Russia has captured about twelve nations without firing a shot. I was in Japan three years ago and visited Hong Kong and Singapore as well. I spoke to leaders in those countries, and
I was told about some of the methods that, the Communists are using to win the mindsof the people of Asia. Once they accomplish that, they have won Asia without, any military effort. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, one of the weaknesses of Seato is that it takes nocognizance of ideological warfare although that is one of the main weapons of Communist advance throughout the world. It is time we learnt from the Communists in. that regard.
Parties of from 60 to 70 Japanese, all. leaders in various walks of life, are invited, periodically to visit Moscow. They do not. have to pay a penny for visits lasting from three to six months. The Japanese are accepting the invitations, and they areshown the best that the Communists canoffer. It is all propaganda and ideological” warfare. Trade missions, 25 strong, visit Japan from Communist China. Everymember of those missions knows Japanesecustoms and habits and speaks Japanesefluently. They have been trained for fiveyears in Peking for one single mission toJapan. One of those missions visited Tokyowhile I was there. It was given wide publicity and it sought to build up trade withred China. Those missions have a tremendous psychological effect in Japan. The Communists are also using drugs on the Japanese.
– They are using drugs in the Philippines also.
– That is true. In fact, they are using them in every part of Asia. They are boosting the drug traffic in an attempt to wear down the mental and moral resistance of the Cambodians, the Indonesians and Malayans. I found that inSingapore the Communists are using the universities and the schools to recruit supporters and further their regime. They have taken over many of the schools in Singapore and leaders of governments there have had tremendous fights, physical and otherwise, with Communist leaders in the schools. One of their techniques is to select a likely recruit among the school leaders. They tell him to fail in his examinations so that he can stay at school year after year. Naturally, he becomes a leader and his only task in staying at school is to lead a Communist cell or group. He uses his influence in the school to bring others within the scope of Communist propaganda. These supporters travel around the city in lorries fighting for the Communist party at election time.
The Australian Government has supported the despatch of troops to Malaya to fight the terrorists in the jungles. That is one of the most tragic stories of the years since World War II. We have been fighting a physical war in Malaya for ten years. It has cost Great Britain £150,000,000 a year, and her troops are still there. The war is costing the Malayan Government a considerable sum. About 80,000 armed men have been fighting, at the most, 5,000 Communists, who now number about 1,600 under arms. There could be no better illustration of the failure of military action against ideology. How are we going to beat those Communists unless we kill every one of those 1,600 men? We must wipe them out one by one, but others will rise for every one that falls. This ideological problem cannot be solved by killing those men with physical arms.
– They murder innocent people.
– That is true; but surely we are not reverting to the old law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That is the Old Testament idea which Christ rejected 2,000 years ago. If the honorable member wants to go back to the Old Testament, he can do so alone. We shall have to do much more than the Minister for External Affairs has outlined to-night if we are to win the battle against he Communists in Asia. We must emphasize these methods of combating it and of helping those vast areas towards real self-government and the destruction of colonialism for all time. We must recognize the needs of the Asian people. We must look upon them as individuals, not just as members of a vast area. We must give them complete friendship - friendship that gives, not receives. We must offer them friendship that entails some sacrifice on our part and is not merely a friendship for the sake of what we can get out of it. It must be unconditional friendship. We must co-operate with them in their rebuilding programme, and I have in mind India’s five-year plan. We must imbue them with the ideology of democracy. We must give them practical help through a bigger and better Colombo plan, spending more in that way than we are at present on Seato. We must give them economic and technical aid to the nth degree. These things we must do if we are to further the cause of democracy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wentworth) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Snowy Mountains Scheme.
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
To how many persons in each of the twelve most numerous nationalities has citizenship been (a) granted, (b) refused, and (c) refused on security grounds, in each of the last five years?
– In the table hereunder the information requested by the honorable member is set out for the years concerned under the following headings: - (a) Number of persons .naturalized; (b) applications for naturalization refused or deferred, and (c) applications for naturalization refused or deferred on security grounds -
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The I.C.E.M. movement programmes for 1958 for each member government are at present in course of revision. Consequently, firm .estimates in respect of the Australian assisted programmes for the 1958 calendar year will not be available until about the middle of this year.
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Why did the Director-General of Social Services expressly exclude special benefits to immigrants in reception and training centres from the tables in his report for the year 1956-57 which set out (a) the number of special benefits granted for each of the last six financial years, and the expenditure thereon; (b) the number of persons on special benefit at the end of each of the last six financial years; (c) the average number of persons on special benefit at the end of each week during each of the last six financial years; (d) the number of special benefits granted during 1956-57 in each State and the expenditure thereon; (e) the number of persons on special benefit at 30th June, 1957, in each State; and (f) the average number of persons on special benefit at the end of each week during 1956-57 in each State?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As I explained to the honorable member in letters which I sent to him on 16th and 28th August, 1957, certain immigrants are placed in reception and training centres for brief periods on their arrival in Australia where they are given a short introduction to the Australian way of life, language, &c, to facilitate their placement in employment and assimilation into the community. They receive special benefits during this period. I also mentioned that the number of these benefits in force varies with the arrival of immigrant ships, and that the fluctuation in the number current was the principal reason for the decision to exclude them from the other special benefit statistics which are subject to little or no variation. In view of the fluctuations in the intake of migrants into reception and training centres, no particular significance can be attached to variations in the number of special benefits payable to such people at various times. The Director-General of Social Services accordingly refers to these benefits in the text of his annual report instead of including them in comparative tables.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the amount of the balances outstanding under retail hire-purchase agreements made by (a) finance companies in which the trading banks hold shares and (b) other finance companies?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician show that the balances outstanding under retail hire-purchase agreements made by finance companies in Australia as at 31st December, 1957, totalled £262,886,000. More detailed information of the kind sought by the honorable member is not available.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Bank has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
The reduction in 1956-57 followed the establishment of the three private savings banks, whose new lending to co-operative building and housing societies in that year would appear to have been greater than the reduction in approvals by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice: -
Has the Government given further consideration to the question of introducing legislation to declare parliamentary privilege and make provision for appropriate procedure for dealing with breaches and the imposition of penalties which will be in line with modern conditions?
– Not yet.
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister foi National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Prior to the change in policy in April, 1956, second assistance was costing, approximately £1,500,000 per annum. The amount was increasing progressively as the number of homes on the books of the division increased. In many cases applicants were selling their first homes at substantial profits and as a result were in a sound position to obtain another home without the assistance of the division. The Government decided that it was equitable thai ex-servicemen who had not received the benefit of a War Service Homes loan should do so in priority to those who had already done so.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 April 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580415_reps_22_hor18/>.