23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration without notice. My question relates to migrants sponsored by groups, or Government departments, when those migrants have undertaken to repay their fares over a period of time. Many of them are experiencing much difficulty in meeting their commitments, because of the high cost of living, among other things. I ask: Will the Government, where interested, grant a concession by way of writing off the liabilities for fares? I ask this question in the light of the fact that certain fare concessions are now being granted.
– -If the honorable member for Grey will send me details of any hardship that he alleges, I will certainly have the matter investigated, and I will do what I can to help to rectify any injustice from which those for whom he speaks appear to be suffering.
– By way of preface to a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service, I explain that I understand that an application was made in June of last year by representatives of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association to the Public Service Arbitrator, for a revision of their salaries. Is the Minister in a position to inform the House what has been done in connexion with this claim, what is the reason for delay in concluding the matter, and whether there is any possibility that it will be dealt with at an early date?
– It is true that the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association did lodge a claim with the Public Service Arbitrator in July last year. At that time, however, I think that something like eighteen claims were already listed for hearing. Due to certain procedural matters, and the fact that it was not possible to get the parties to consolidate the hearings, it was necessary for the court to decide that one applicant should receive priority. It decided to hear the case on behalf of the Australian Professional Engineers. I should say, also, that the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation Commission has himself suggested that there should be a consolidation of hearings, and has also suggested a method by which the evidence should be taken. The suggestion was rejected by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. Recently that body has agreed that the Public Service Arbitrator should hear evidence on the matter of comparative wage justice and refer the evidence back to the full commission. I do not think there has been any avoidable delay, particularly as the procedure taken was selected by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association itself. I shall get further details for the honorable gentleman as to the probable date on which the case will come up for hearing. I should mec tion to him that the basic wage case, the margins case and the engineers’ case will take priority over that of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to statements made at the World Health Organization’s dental seminar which was held at the University of Adelaide last week to the effect that Australian dental services were 50 to 60 years behind the times? If the Minister has not seen this statement and the other recommendations of this seminar, will he undertake to have the report of proceedings examined with a view to raising the standards of dental services in Australia? In the meantime, will he take immediate steps to introduce a free dental service for children under sixteen years of age?
– I have not seen the statement referred to. If the Australian dental services are 50 or 60 years behind the times, services in some other countries must be several centuries behind. The answer to the honorable member’s other question about free dental services is, “ No “.
– In addressing a question to the Treasurer, I refer to the proposal made by the Commonwealth to the States that an extra £4,000,000 would be made available for local government purposes, of which 1 understand about £2,000,000 is to be devoted to the State of New South Wales. I ask the Treasurer whether there is any proposal that some of that money be devoted to public works in the northern coal-fields district of New South Wales.
– In order to reply adequately to the honorable gentleman’s question I think it is necessary to state the history of this matter. The Premier of New South Wales, following a discussion with the Prime Minister - at which I was present - on the Mort’s Dock matter, indicated that, at the present rate of loan raisings and expenditure in New South Wales, his State would not be able to maintain the existing level of activity unless some greater amount of local government borrowing were authorized. We indicated, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that we were not unsympathetic to some increase in local government borrowing this year because we felt that it would be useful at this time to have some expansion along those lines. We said that we would take up his suggestion with other Premiers, in accordance with Loan Council practice. As part of that procedure, we asked each State to indicate to us what it felt it could usefully do in this direction in the remainder of the financial year. When all that information came in it was found that an increase in the programme of the order of £4,000,000, including £2,000,000 for New South Wales, would cover the requests of all the States. We recommended a figure of that dimension to the other States and pointed out that, although New South Wales would be getting more than a normal pro rata allocation if £2,000,000 were to be allotted to it, that State had a problem on the coal-fields to which Mr. Cahill had referred in his discussions with us and which we felt justified the higher provision. No condition, however, has been attached nor is it the practice for the Commonwealth to do so. Tt is a matter within Mr. Cahill’s own direction, but T feel that it was clearly understood by him - certainly it was conveyed to the other State Premiers - that it would be possible for him to employ some of those funds in assisting -with the special problem that he has in the northern coalfields of New South Wales.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the concern being expressed by wool-growers at the slump in wool prices, due in some measure to synthetics, will the Minister tell the House whether the Government intends to introduce a promotion scheme to assist the industry? If it does, will the Minister indicate how such a scheme will operate?
– The Australian Wool Bureau has been established for many years for the very purpose of promoting wool use. It is actually in operation, and I think we can see good results. Further promotion plans are being considered. Not only does this bureau promote the use of wool within Australia; it also does so overseas, working in conjunction with the international secretariat on that account.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that in the disposal of surplus Commonwealth equipment, such equipment is first of all made available to other Commonwealth departments, then to State governments and then to local government authorities. In view of the fact that in the cereal areas of Australia there has been a prolific harvest this season, will the Minister give consideration to the practicability of making available to local government authorities which sponsor bush fire brigades, four-wheel-drive vehicles of 3-ton and 5-ton capacity, at the lowest possible price so that the pastures, grasses and the countryside generally may be adequately protected?
– The facts which have been stated by the honorable member, are, I believe, correct. Concerning the latter part of his question. I am not sure of what has been done in the past, but I think his suggestion is worthy of consideration and it will be considered at the earliest possible moment.
– In view of the importance to Tasmania and Australia of the Tasmanian vehicular ferry, which is the first of its kind in Australia, will the PostmasterGeneral consider striking a special stamp to commemorate the inauguration of this unique service in October or November of this year? Is the Postmaster-General aware that such a stamp would give Australia world-wide publicity through the philatelists’ associations in many countries? I might mention that Charles Ramsay, the Tasmanian historian, thought of this scheme and that both the honorable member for Braddon and myself have been approached to put the matter before the Minister.
– I should inform the honorable member that one of the minor problems of this portfolio is determining the basis on which the vast and increasing number of applications for the issue of stamps to commemorate certain important matters shall be decided. I agree with the honorable member that the establishment of a vehicular ferry service between the mainland of Australia and Tasmania is a very important event to Tasmania and I think that due credit should be given to the Government for its action in establishing the service.
The question of issuing commemorative stamps has become so difficult that, some considerable time ago, a definite programme was laid down to determine what should constitute the reasons for their issue. They are confined mainly to matters such as the flora and fauna of Australia, the communications system, the development of our primary industries, and so on. It seems to me, at first sight, that the proposal put forward by the honorable member does not come within the ambit of the department’s policy in regard to the issue of a particular stamp.
If the honorable member feels that the inauguration of this ferry service is worthy of some method of recognition through the Post Office to bring it within the purview of other Australians, particular postmarks can be agreed upon between the interested parties and the Post Office by means of which, over a period, the date mark carries a certain slogan drawing attention to the special event or item. This has proved to be a very valuable medium for advertising matters such as the honorable member has mentioned.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry examined the floor price system of wool selling operating in New Zealand and South Africa, and can he say whether it has been successful?
– The floor price scheme operating in New Zealand has, in effect, been on the statute-book since the Joint Organization scheme was abolished, but in actual practice it has not operated until the last two years. It would be impossible to assess its worth until wool prices improve or until the wool that has been brought in is realized upon. In other words, it is being subjected to test. As yet its true value cannot be assessed. I would like to say to those concerned in the wool industry that before the Government considers the introduction of any particular system in Australia, it would like to see the growers - and I emphasize “ growers “ - give their support to the scheme.
– I direct a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Is it a fact that C.S.I.R.O. scientists are now studying the sex life and social habits of rabbits? Is it also a fact that they have set up two big dream homes for rabbits, with all the conveniences of the modern warren, and that all day long scientists squint over the fences of the enclosures at Albury and Canberra scribbling down notes on the goings-on in the love nests? Is it also a fact that so far the scientists have discovered only that the buck rabbit is quite a boy with the ladies, keeps a harem and has his favourites? If these are facts, what is the cost of these investigations? Does the Minister realize that full information on rabbits could have been obtained from any observant member of the Australian Country party? Furthermore, would not the services of the scientists be better employed investigating ways and means of improving the living conditions of our people, particularly age and invalid pensioners, instead of snooping on the bunnies?
– It is quite true that the wild life section of the C.S.I.R.O. has been investigating for some time the social habits of the rabbit. It is necessary to be well informed regarding these social habits so that chinks in the armour, as one may call them, of the rabbit may be brought to light. However, I will certainly direct the attention of officers of the wild life section to the very sage remarks of the honorable gentleman, and I am quite sure that they will find them of immense assistance in their work.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. I refer to the recent statement by the right honorable gentleman that local authorities in some of the States had been permitted to borrow funds in excess of the amounts agreed on in the programme for this financial year. Does this apply to local authorities in Western Australia, and, if so, what is the amount agreed on? Have local authorities in Western Australia now used their full borrowing powers for this year?
– As I indicated earlier, all the State Premiers were consulted with regard to this matter. The Premier of Western Australia indicated that that State was not seeking any increased allocation at this stage. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I understand that Western Australia has not yet used its full borrowing capacity. It was agreed further, in the covering letter that went out in relation to this arrangement, that further consideration could be given later in the year to the circumstances of both Western Australia and Tasmania, neither of which was seeking any increase at this point of time, if the circumstances later in the year appeared to warrant some further provision.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that in television interviews on ATN Channel 7, Sydney, on 21st and 28th December last the honorable member for Mackellar made the following statements concerning Australia’s defence position: -
The Federal Government is living in the past in its defence policy.
The Government had shown little foresight in its defence planning.
In view of the seriousness of these statements by a senior supporter of the Government and a prominent member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to make any reply, and, if so, when.
– I cannot undertake to make any reply to a statement that I neither heard nor read.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has, up to the present, received any request from the New South Wales Government for assistance in connexion with damage caused by the recent floods on the Clarence River. If a request has been made, will the Commonwealth Government, as in the past, devote part of the money that it allocates to the New South Wales Government to the use of the drag-line, which comes from the Commonwealth Department of Works, Brisbane, to remove debris that has accumulated a second time because of the recrudescence of the floods? If no request has been received, will the Commonwealth Government give favorable consideration to any such request and ensure that money is made available? I may say in explanation that the drag-line, which has been so generously lent by the Commonwealth Government, is now being returned because the local shire people have not £1,000 a month to pay for it. They have no money available and apparently there will be no return from farm land for many months to pay additional rates.
– I do not remember offhand whether we have had such a request. I think it would be better if I gave the right honorable member a full answer to his question when the House meets to-morrow.
– My question to the Minister for the Interior refers to the milk supply in the Australian Capital Territory, to an inquiry conducted into that supply by Professor Leicester Webb, to his report presented in January, 1956, and to a statement made in April, 1956, that a departmental committee was examining that report and would report to the Government. Will the Minister ascertain what stage has been reached by the committee in its examination of the report and will he take the earliest opportunity to announce the Government’s decision on the recommendations contained in the Webb report?
– There has been a report by a departmental committee on the recommendations made by Professor Webb. I do not think it is likely that that committee’s report will be implemented in full, for the simple reason that conditions have changed somewhat. I understand that some amendments to the health regulations are pending, and that they will enable some changes to be made to the milk supply arrangements in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs: Does he consider that it is of significance that in his statement on the discussions on -western New Guinea with the Indonesian Foreign .Minister, he made no reference to the current attitude of the Dutch and American Governments? Can he say whether his Government has had any recent exchange of views with these two governments about the subject-matter of the agreement between him and the Indonesian Foreign Minister? If so, what are the views of the Dutch and American Governments on the agreement reached by him with the Indonesian Government?
– As there is to be a discussion on this general subject this afternoon, I think a matter such as this might well be left until then.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that primary producers who are facing difficult times are forced to curtail the use of superphosphate? Is it a fact that any large reduction in the use of superphosphate would seriously affect primary production? If so, will the Minister urgently consider paying a subsidy on superphosphate for these producers?
– I will certainly consider the honorable member’s request, but I want to intimate to him that this is really a matter of Government policy.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Interior, relates to the block of Commonwealth .offices shortly to be constructed near the end of Elizabeth-street, in Sydney. First, is it a fact that this block is planned to provide offices for some 4,600 public servants eventually? Secondly, has provision been made in the block for the parking of only 150 cars? Thirdly, were the plans, which were approved, I believe, in 1955, considered to be adequate to -meet the parking situation and to discharge the civic responsibilities of those who construct buildings, not merely in regard to the situation then, but also in regard to the foreseeable parking situation which will exist in the next twenty years or so during the lifetime of the building? Will the Minister have these plans re-submitted to the Public Works Committee to see whether any amendment can be made in the later stages of the building, if it cannot be made in the first stage? Finally, will the Minister confer with the New South Wales Government in order to ensure that an opportunity is not lost, as apparently it will be if nothing is done by this Government, to provide a parking station under the place in front of the building .at the end of the new Elizabethstreet extension which is at present being excavated, where the construction could most readily be put in hand now if the State Government had any foresight?
– The figures quoted by the honorable member in relation to the intended provision of parking space in the new Commonwealth offices are substantially accurate. There are two limitations on the provision of parking space with any office accommodation. The first is the limitation of cost, and the second .is the limitation of space. .As there seems to be some impression that there should be no limitation on cost in regard to Commonwealth Government expenditure, I shall not deal with that -aspect at this stage. But I remind the honorable member that the provision of parking space for one vehicle takes about as much space as does the provision of office accommodation for one officer. The Commonwealth would be faced with intolerable problems in relation .to space if we were to provide parking accommodation even for all the officers who are to work in that building. The other problem, of course, is that of traffic density in the city itself. If you were to provide in an office building parking accommodation for all the people who might take advantage of it, you would add quite considerably to the traffic problems of the city itself.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that, prior to the general election, provision was made under the Commonwealth health scheme for the extension of hospital benefit to the aged and chronically ill? Has the Minister recently been inundated with irate protests from State Health Ministers, who contend that the benefit of 16s. a day has been unexpectedly denied to a large number of patients in institutions specifically catering for cases of this type? Will the Minister say, in clear and concise terms, whether it was the Government’s deliberate intention to preclude these most deserving cases from benefit under the relevant legislation?
– The honorable gentleman’s question is based on a misconception. It is perfectly true that benefit for chronically ill patients for preexisting and chronic ailments was provided for in amendments made to the National Health Act in October last. I want to remind the honorable gentleman that those amendments were extensively debated in this House and agreed to by both sides of the House.
I also remind the honorable gentleman that I made it perfectly plain in my secondreading speech - and the act also makes ii perfectly plain - that those benefits would not extend to what were generally known as hospitals not recognized. In fact, those hospitals have in the main never enjoyed this type of benefit. They have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, Commonwealth benefit and Commonwealth additional benefit. However, the new benefits, which are not only hospital benefits but also medical benefits, will be extended to cover a great many people. The benefits are not designed primarily to assist hospitals. Their aim is to assist people who insure themselves against hospitalization. It was plain from th: start, and was understood both in th« House and outside it, that those benefits would not extend to all hospitals.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to with the concurrence of an absolute majority of the members of the House -
That so much of (he Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister from making a statement on foreign affairs and the consideration of any motion moved in connexion therewith.
– Mr. Speaker, the statement that 1 propose to make is about the problem thai was the subject of a statement by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), last week on Indonesia and the Netherlands New Guinea, which I shall refer to compendiously as West New Guinea in the course of my remarks. At the outset, I want to answer this question: What has been our policy? I ask that question because it has been said that we have made some change in our policy.
First, we recognize Dutch sovereignty of West New Guinea. We have supported, and continue to support, this sovereignty.
Secondly, we say that if sovereignty is to be changed it must be by legal methods, i.e., by some means which international law accepts and recognizes.
Thirdly, we have in the United Nations taken up the position that Indonesian submissions on this’ Netherlands territory are neither in substance nor in form within the effective jurisdiction of the political organization of the United Nations; that it is not the function of the General Assembly to interpret agreements nor to pass judgments on questions of territorial sovereignty. This did not and does not exclude a reference by the parties to the International Court.
Fourthly, we have advocated, and still advocate, the reference to the International Court of the Indonesian claim to sovereignty. The Dutch have previously expressed their willingness; Indonesia has refused.
Fifthly, we have always maintained that the paramount interest ultimately is that of the indigenous population. This view recognizes sovereignty, but looks to the future in terms of self-determination. The same goes for Australian New Guinea an: Papua.
I now ask: Has there been any change? The answer is: No.
On two occasions during Dr. Subandrio’s very welcome visit I had the opportunity of stating Australia’s position. I will put to the House that position in substantiallythe terms in which, as Prime Minister, I stated it to Dr. Subandrio -
My distinguished colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, who was with me, will agree that that is substantially how I stated this matter. The joint communique of the two Ministers was designed to give effect to these propositions.
Now, what are the complaints? The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) must face up to some specific questions: Does he regard a disputed territorial claim as unfit for adjudication in the International Court, the supreme adjudicating organ of the United Nations? For, though he says there is “ nothing to decide “, the fact is that Indonesia does claim, as against the Dutch, sovereignty over West New Guinea. There is thus a clear justiciable issue. Suppose Indonesia decided to accept the jurisdiction of the court, would the right honorable gentleman deny that jurisdiction? If so, why? If the court decided the issue of sovereienty in favour of Indonesia, would the right honorable gentleman, in my place, repudiate the decision or accept it?
Should he accept, how would the case differ from a transfer of sovereignty freely agreed upon between the two parties principal? Can the court do by judgment what the parties cannot do by free agreement or settlement? Should he reject the decision, what would he do to make his rejection effective? Would he quarrel with both the Dutch and the Indonesians, each of whom had, ex hypothesi, accepted the jurisdiction of the court? Would he really think that the United Nations would vote to overrule the court?
But pursue the matter further. Dr. Subandrio is reported to have named the Labour government of Australia, chiefly moved’ on this matter by the Leader of the Opposition himself, as “ the midwife “ of the new Indonesian Republic.
Suppose the Dutch had, at the handover, included West New Guinea with Java and Sumatra and the rest of the Netherlands East Indies in the transfer, would the right honorable gentleman, as midwife, have refused to deliver the additional child? What could or would the Labour. Government done had West New Guinea been included? And if the Dutch at some future time, exercising their own judgment - and we are clear that any decision must be made freely and not under threat or duress - were to decide to add West New Guinea to the transfer,, notwithstanding, the fact that we recognize and clearly support their claim to sovereignty, what could or would an Australian government do, except recognize the new sovereignty as lawful?
It is said that we have changed our policy. I venture to assert that it is the. Labour party which has changed its policy. On Wednesday last, the right honorable member for Hunter said -
The Minister seems to suppose that, if sovereignty over West New- Guinea resides in the Netherlands, it can be transferred at the will of the Netherlands to Indonesia, and that will be the end of the matter. But it is not!
But in 1949, the Labour Government, of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, thought the matter one between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Thus, on 7th October, 1949, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Franklin; (Mr:
Falkinder), the present: Leader of the Opposition, as Minister at that time said -
Sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea is in the Netherlands, and it is for the Netherlands to say whether Dutch New Guinea shall come into the agreement. From our point of view, the relationship of Dutch New Guinea with the Indonesian Republic and the future government of the territories concerned are matters primarily for the Dutch and Indonesian Governments. I repeat that our interest is that there should be a peaceful settlement of that question.
The whole of this controversy appears to have sprung from a mis-interpretation of the words “ would not oppose such an agreement “. These words have been twisted to mean that Australia will actually encourage the making of such an agreement. This is not our attitude, as we made crystal clear to Dr. Subandrio in the statements I have already recalled. It just could not be our attitude. For years we have not only accepted and supported Dutch sovereignty, but have also supported the Netherlands in the United Nations. So clearly have we contemplated a continuance of Dutch administration that, as recently as 6th November, 1957, the Australian and Netherlands Governments publicly defined the jointly agreed principles being followed in respect of their New Guinea territories.
These principles included a declaration of the basic importance of the interests and inalienable rights of the indigenous inhabitants; and the need for co-operation in policy and administration, having regard to the geographical and ethnological association between the two sections of New Guinea. The two Governments agreed that they would continue and strengthen their co-operation. In conclusion, they said -
In so doing the two Governments are determined to promote an uninterrupted development of this process until such time as the inhabitants of the territories concerned will be in a position to determine their own future.
Nothing that we have said or done modifies or contradicts this joint declaration in any way. If honorable members will look at the relevant paragraph of the recent communique they will see that our nonopposition, or, as I would prefer to say, our recognition, is to attach only if and after an agreement is reached - between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles.
It seems to have been overlooked by some that this communique contains at least three other statements about New Guinea which are of significance for Australia.
The first is that it is now on record in this joint document, which will be studied in Indonesia, that Australia not only recognizes Netherlands sovereignty but also recognizes in respect of New Guinea the principles of self-determination.
The second is that we have stipulated that any agreement should accord with “ internationally accepted principles “. Those principles are in some important ways expressed in the Charter of the United Nations. They certainly include a recognition of the duties to native peoples and their ultimate right of selfdetermination.
As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) pointed out to the House on Thursday last, one of the international principles which we believe to be binding on Indonesia, the Netherlands and Australia as member nations of the United Nations, is expressed in Article 73 of the Charter. We think that under that article all the inhabitants of New Guinea, West or East, whoever has the responsibility of administration, have interests declared to be paramount. These, as I have said, are referred to in the joint communique, and were emphasized by us in the discussions.
The third feature is that Indonesia expressly renounces the use of force to sustain its claim to West New Guinea. In view of some threats, and rumours of threats, we attach great importance to this statement, as no doubt will other powers concerned in the peace of South-East Asia, and the South-West Pacific.
Sir, there is another aspect of this matter to which I would wish to make a brief reference. We have stated that we will not put pressure on either of the parties to come to any new arrangement. It should, however, be understood that we are not forgetting our special relations with the Netherlands, our joint declaration of November, 1957, and the importance we attach to the development of the indigenous inhabitants of New Guinea as a whole. We therefore have a lively and continuing interest in the result of any negotiations should the Netherlands, freely of its own free will, without pressure, decide to engage in them. We would therefore naturally expect to have our voice heard on the matters which affect the future of New Guinea. We are not aware of any Netherlands intention to negotiate, but clearly any negotiation would, as my colleague pointed out to the House on Thursday, relate to a variety of aspects of the future of West New Guinea and its inhabitants.
Ft is, I think, unfortunate that our friendly and frank, but civilized talks, with a near and significant neighbour should have given rise, here and there, to such intemperate forebodings. My own Government has a clear record of friendly association with the Dutch, with whom we have, and will expand as opportunity offers, the administrative contacts to which I have referred in respect of our various sections of New Guinea. We have made it plain that the Dutch will most certainly be under no pressure from us either to negotiate or withdraw. But it would be offensive to them to suggest that they are not their own masters in these as in other things.
We have equally made it clear to Indonesia that, apart from our firmly-held views on the Dutch issues, we desire friendship, understanding and peace. We think that the recent talks advanced these desires.
Before I finish, I would like to reiterate Australia’s genuine interest in the welfare of the young and growing nation of Indonesia. We were all impressed by the visit which we have just had from Dr. Subandrio indicating, as it did, his Government’s real desire for co-operation. We were impressed by Dr. Subandrio himself, personally and as the representative of a very significant neighbour, whose scores of millions of people live so close to us, and whose goodwill is so important for our own future. I am bound to say that his friendly, well-informed and intelligent approach to us, and his explanations of Indonesian problems, have done nothing but good in clearing the air of misconceptions which may have existed in some minds. Should ill-considered criticisms of the outcome of his visit damage the relations strengthened by this visit, it would be a step backwards. I hope that there will be an end to doubts and fears now that our position has been made clear, as I hope I have made it clear. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Indonesia and West New Guinea - Ministerial Statement.
And move -
That the paper be printed.
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has in many respects, as I shall try to show, evaded the real issue in this matter. Take, for instance, his references to my statement about the jurisdiction of the International Court on the question of sovereignty over West New Guinea as between the Netherlands and Indonesia. The Prime Minister, referring to my statement, asked these rhetorical questions -
Does he regard a disputed territorial claim as unfit for adjudication in the International Court, the supreme adjudicating organ of the United Nations? For, though he says there is “nothing to decide “, the fact is that Indonesia does claim, as against the Dutch, sovereignty over West New Guinea. There is thus a clear justiciable issue.
Meaning, of course, that there is a legal question for the International Court to decide. And he expatiates on that. What did I say about the question of sovereignty? I said this -
The Minister seems to think that referring the question of sovereignty to the International Court might be a solution. But who really suggests that sovereignty is not in the Netherlands. The parties made an agreement in regard to West New Guinea some years ago, and it is plain from their own documents that sovereignty over West New Guinea does not reside in Indonesia.
It has never been brought before the court by Indonesia. In the plainest terms the agreement of 1949, referring to the question of what was called the “ residency “ of New Guinea, says that there may be negotiations between the parties. It has been open for Indonesia to take this question to the International Court if it wished to do so, but it is not an arguable point. My statement went on -
If the question went to the court, the court would unhesitatingly and immediately decide that sovereignty, so far as the old-fashioned idea of sovereignty applied-
That is, ordinary territorial sovereignty - still remained with Holland. Therefore, there is nothing to decide. The Minister could have gone ahead on the assumption that there is nothing to decide. Sovereignty rests with the Government and the people of the Netherlands.
That is the theme of what I put, and I say that talking about referring the question to the International Court, when Indonesia knows that sovereignty is with the Netherlands, is a mere sham and a waste of time. Sovereignty resides with the Netherlands because it was never transferred to Indonesia in respect of West New Guinea. Therefore, that is a question completely beside the point. Similarly with the Prime Minister’s attitude towards what is the crucial question, I think, in this matter. In his statement, the Minister for External Affairs said, quoting from the joint announcement -
This difference remains, but the position was clarified by an explanation from Australian Ministers that it followed from their position of respect for agreements on the rights of sovereignty that if any agreement were reached between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes . . .
That is, the absence of threat or force - and in accordance with internationally accepted principles, Australia would not oppose such an agreement.
That is what the Minister for External Affairs said - practically inviting the parties to make an agreement handing over the people of West New Guinea and so ending the matter. As I said before, that would not end the matter. The future of the people of West New Guinea is vital. The Prime Minister in the statement which he made to-day, admitted half a dozen times that, ultimately, the welfare of the people of West New Guinea is a paramount consideration. But the right honorable gentleman understated the position. The interests of the inhabitants of the territory are paramount now, and not merely ultimately. It is not possible for a native people to develop so as to be fit to have full selfgovernment unless the administration is satisfactory in the meantime. That is the point. The Prime Minister said -
We have always maintained that the paramount interest ultimately is that of the indigenous population.
I say that the paramount interest here, now, and ultimately is that of the native people. I shall read the sentence from the United Nations Charter which proves that beyond doubt. It is in Chapter XI., which is a declaration regarding nonselfgoverning territories. It says -
Members of the United Nations which have or assumed responsibility for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, . . .
Those interests are paramount from the beginning, not merely at the end. A native people cannot be given the right to govern their territory at the end unless they are trained in the field of self-government so that they may govern themselves in accordance with the intention of the United Nations. The Prime Minister’s use of the word “ ultimately “ was completely wrong. I repeat that a mere agreement between Indonesia and Holland over sovereignty now would not be recognized by the United Nations as an end of the matter. The United Nations would insist upon an examination of the position to see whether the interests of the native people would be protected now if an attempt were made to put such an agreement into force.
The United Nations Charter goes on to declare a principle which binds not only Indonesia and the Netherlands, but also Australia, and all other members of the United Nations. It concerns what scholars in this field of international law call an “ international multilateral contractual undertaking “. That is to say, it binds all members of the United Nations, as between each other, and not merely the two parties. Before an agreement such as the Minister for External Affairs has in mind would pass muster in the United Nations, it would have to have the consent of the United Nations. Australia is a party to the United Nations Charter. In fact, Australia was one of the countries that helped, in the United Nations, to draft this very clause because we thought that the principle of the trust should not apply only in areas where there is a trust territory such as New Guinea proper - the Australian trust territory that used to be the mandated territory of New Guinea when it was taken over from the Germans after World War I. We tried to make this provision of the Charter as far as possible, analagous to, and a copy of, the principle of the trust. The Charter states that the members of the United Nations - . . accept as a sacred trust the obligations to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:
That means now, of course, and not merely in the future. We are obliged to ensure immediately - . . their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;
Is that not essential - that they be protected at once? That is the very purpose of the clause of the Charter. Therefore, I repeat, without any fear of contradiction, that it is an obligation of the character that I have mentioned, and not a question, in that sense, for the International Court at all. Indonesia does not have any claim of sovereignty to this area. Let us face the facts: The Indonesians know they have not. Their talk about their claim is so much pretence. They know it. They have good lawyers advising them and they have never brought the case forward. But, worse than that - and this is the key to the matter so far as we are concerned - I have looked through all their literature on the question of West New Guinea and I have never seen anything discussing the question of the native people.
Let us look at the figures. In Dutch New Guinea, the native population is 700,000 and the European population is about 16,000. In Papua, there are 488,000 natives and 5,000 Europeans. In the Australian trust territory there are 1,297,000 natives and 10,000 Europeans. Those are the most recent figures I could obtain. The real interest in this place is the development of the native people. That has been the principle which the Labour party has accepted. That is why we sought a way round the problem; to get Indonesia, the Netherlands and Australia working together for a tri-partite agreement for two purposes - the welfare of the native people and, secondly, security. What could be fairer than that?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and I put this to Dr. Subandrio. The Minister for External Affairs or the Prime Minister arranged for him to speak with us. Our attitude on this matter does not arise from any dislike of the Indonesian people. After all, we did do something for them. The reference by the Foreign Minister to what the Australian Labour government did was true. We saw fighting; thousand’s of people were being killed, and we brought the matter to the United Nations which ordered a ceasefire1. The. fighting stopped and ultimately the two parties made an agreement which did not cover New Guinea at all. I refer to these points only to show that the situation is as I stated it before. Nothing that the Prime Minister has said really cut into my argument. However, I should like to quote what the right honorable gentleman said in relation to an agreement between Australia and Holland on 6th November, 1957. He said-
The two governments agreed they would continue and strengthen their co-operation.
That is, co-operation between Australia, in its administration of Papua and New Guinea, and the Dutch in their administration of West New Guinea. The right honorable gentleman added that the two Governments had stated -
In so doing the two governments are determined to promote the uninterrupted development of this process until such time as the inhabitants of the territories concerned will be in a position to determine their own future.
Is that not an agreement for the future that the two would work together for that very purpose? Agreements such as that cannot be torn up. How would the United Nations regard that? They would regard it with great indignation.
All the rest of what the Prime Minister said, is, I think, beside the point. He has admitted the case for self-determination as an objective, but he means that to be some time in the future. But will the native people be able to govern themselves when they have had no education in selfgovernment? The absence of such training is a possibility if the Indonesians take over the government of West New Guinea because they have never said a word on the subject in all their propaganda.
The agreement between Australia and Holland in 1957 shows what the Australian Government’s views were then. Why not stick to them? If Indonesia has no claim to sovereignty, what is the good of talking about the International Court when there is no case to put to it? The Indonesians would have run there if they had had a chance to do so, but there has never been a suggestion of sovereignty being vested in them. I say that this tripartite agreement is the solution. We should have an international multilateral obligation, binding not only on the parties and on Australia, but also on all members of the United Nations. The United Nations would have to be satisfied. The Government cannot shortcircuit the obligations that Holland now has to the native people simply by agreeing to the handing over of West New Guinea to the Indonesians. The United Nations, in its most majestic form - that is the General Assembly of the United Nations, will have to be satisfied.
Therefore! I say that the Government needs some assistance in this matter. It should really invoke the assistance of honorable members. We, on this side, will do our best to be on friendly terms with Indonesia. We want to have friendship with that country, but we have a duty also to see, primarily, that the interests of the native peoples are protected, not in the sweet bye and bye but here and now. We have also to watch Australia’s defence. I do not care a fig for those people who say that the question of Australian defence is not inseparably bound up with New Guinea, whatever particular changes in weapons take place. That fact is obvious and is supported by great military authorities. We must watch our defence also.
Mr. Speaker, I submit that the case stated here previously in answer to the Minister for External Affairs was sound. I and my colleagues are prepared to assist the Government, but we are not prepared to sacrifice, one iota, the interests of the native peoples in amy portion of New Guinea. They must be protected and we cannot risk endangering their interests. In addition, we feel that there is a defence security question to be considered and it is of importance also.
– I am flattered by the batting order in this debate, but I do not like the look of the sticky wicket. I have only twenty minutes in which to bat so if I have to travel fast, honorable members will understand. I think that most people realize that I have views rather different from those of the Government on this matter, but I say at the outset, with respect to any member of this Parliament or to anybody in Australia or outside Australia, that my views have malice towards none and friendship towards everybody. We all want to be on most friendly terms particularly with our next-door neighbours, as Dr. Subandrio said. We fully agree with him. In 1955, I travelled in Indonesia, as a Minister of this Parliament, from Medan in the west to Sourabaya in the east, which, I think was over a larger tract of territory than has ever been covered by any other member of this Parliament. If I am wrong in making that claim, I apologize. I met with a very friendly reception, which I have good reason to remember.
But unlike Dr. Subandrio, I do not draw any distinction or dividing line between East and West in the world of to-day. I am proud of my racial heritage; I am proud of my family traditions, and I am proud to be an Asian. Our geographical location makes Asians of us all in Australia. Therefore, I advocated very ardently at the time that we should have been represented at the first Afro-Asian conference at Bandung in 1955; and I think we made a mistake in not having a representative there.
I introduce my remarks in this way because I do not want to be misunderstood. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the last Parliament spent a great deal of time on this problem and I am sure that all Ministers have read the results of its research work and have, I hope, found the material useful. Since most of that material was confidential I had a summary made of some of the facts of this problem as far back as eighteen months ago dealing with the ethnological, geological and historical and other factors involved and copies of it are available in my office should any honorable member care to see it. This is a very difficult and complex problem.
I turn now to the main point at issue. The statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to-day in some ways cleared up matters which were previously surrounded by a fog of misunderstanding. But only in some ways. The right honorable gentleman did not do himself justice in referring to “ ill-founded and ill-considered criticism and intemperate forebodings “. These atomic adjectives do not deleteriously affect the marrow of my backbone in any way, and I do not think they will affect other people who may happen to disagree with the views which have been put forward.
I think the criticism has been fully justified by this debate to-day which is in accordance with the practice of the House of Commons; and I hope that it will provide a precedent for future debates on foreign affairs. These are matters of interest to the public, and I am only sorry that this debate cannot be extended over a whole day.
Further proof that the criticism was not ill-founded or ill-considered is provided in the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the joint communique to the effect that we are interested in any agreement and expect to be considered. In other words, the original communique does not actually mean what it says. If it is claimed that it does mean what it says, then I do not understand English; and I have read that best seller, “ They’re a Weird Mob “. If it does mean what the Prime Minister said and it is still held that there is no change of policy, then I feel that many people will still be a little mystified. But it does not matter how we interpret the communique here. What matters is how it is interpreted abroad, particularly in the light of the statement made by a former Indonesian ambassador to this country, that the Communist vote in Indonesia had increased largely because the Communists had jumped on the West Irian bandwagon. It is obvious that the Communists will use this communique in every possible way for propaganda purposes, and we know that they are excellent propagandists.
All honorable members feel that the Government’s intentions are excellent, but I am reminded of the old proverb to the effect that the road to a very unpleasant place is paved with good intentions. This is what I am frightened about in this particular matter. I cannot understand the wording of the communique as it stands, although it is better in the light of the Prime Minister’s interpretation of it, because I feel that it gives the green light for increased and intolerable pressures on Holland and, in plain English, commits Australia to raising no objection to the transfer of sovereignty of land. If there is no change of policy, as the Prime Minister suggested, then I feel that the interpretation of this communique means that neither certain Ministers nor our representatives in the United Nations really understood what our policy was in the past. I shall quote an extract from a speech made by Sir Percy Spender at the meeting of the United Nations on 25th February, 1957. He is recognized as an eminent expert on international law, but what is important is that he was speaking as the Australian representative. He said -
It is well to speak about sovereignty, but sovereignty, as we need not be reminded, is not a matter of bare territorial claims. What we are dealing with here are people. What we are asked to do is to hand over nearly a million people like so many dumb, driven cattle. On other occasions I have listened at length to the representative of Indonesia speak in glowing and arresting terms of the important human principle of selfdetermination. But I have listened in vain to find any reference to this principle in the speech which my Indonesian colleague made on this matter except, if he will forgive me for saying so, the absurd contention that in 1945 the people of West New Guinea already had determined their political desires through the Declaration of Independence of 1945, a Declaration with which they were in no sense associated and which, as has been pointed out by the Netherlands representative, never attempted to cover them.
As a matter of fact, I understand it expressly excluded them and was signed by President Soekarno and Vice-president Hatta. I have not the time to quote much more of Sir Percy Spender’s speech, but there are two further extracts. I quote first-
That their political destiny as a people, i.e., the Melanesians, may in vital respects be completely and finally compromised and foreclosed if such an unhappy event took place (transfer of sovereignty), under the authority express or implied of this great Organization, by support given to the Indonesian claim - absolute and unyielding as it is - I do not think any one here could deny.
Secondly, let me quote this passage -
The terms of the United Nations Charter dealing with dependent people point the way and nothing we do or are urged by Indonesia to be induced to do should, I submit, turn us from that way. Both the Netherlands and my own country acknowledge without reservations our obligations to these people, and the United Nations itself has in relation to them and to our obligations a constructive part to perform. I can only hope that no irrelevant considerations will lead us to make a mockery of the Charter and all it stands for by our lending ourselves to give any support - either directly or by encouraging what are so speciously called in this case peaceful means - to the transfer immediately or ultimately of these Papuan people, without their will ever being able to be expressed, from the dominion of one country to another.
It appears to me that either Sir Percy Spender did not know our policy, or we must have told him that he was all wrong. That is exhibit “ A “ which I present to this parliamentary court.
I now take exhibit “ B “. No change of policy not only makes a mockery of Sir Percy Spender’s speech, but I think it makes nonsense of Sir Philip McBride’s statement, when he issued the combined communique with The Hague on 6th November, 1957, which was referred to by the Prime Minister. It also makes nonsense of the amplification of this given later in the United Nations organization by the Australian delegate. In that statement one finds the words “ inalienable rights of the indigenous people “, as well as the last paragraph - which I shall not repeat - as it was read by the Prime Minister.
Let me now take exhibit “ C “, the Charter itself. I refer to Article 73, of which the Leader of the Opposition read paragraph (e). At the beginning of Article 73 we find these words: -
And accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost within the system pf international peace and security establish-ad by the present Charter the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories.
Holland has voluntarily accepted what amounts to a trusteeship over this area. We hold our trusteeship by agreement. Exhibit “ D “ is a report of the Netherlands Government for 1955 - I could not get a later one - presented to the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations pursuant to Article 73(e) of the Charter.
I must agree, therefore, with the Leader of the Opposition in this case - I very rarely do agree with the right honorable gentleman - that the position has changed since 1949 and that the Dutch have voluntarily accepted what in effect amounts to a trusteeship. The position has changed considerably since 1949, when they had not issued a report to the United Nations, and we had not undertaken combined “ sacred obligations “, as the charter says in the passage that I have just read. We cannot, therefore, look on the question of sovereignty as being purely a matter of territories. We cannot treat this matter as we would a real estate deal being decided in a county court, and argue it on the basis of the evidence of one witness, when we have not vacant possession of the piece of real estate about which we are arguing.
Another point to which I direct the attention of the House is this: If there has been no change, then the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has been out of step with his colleagues - and that is the most classic British understatement in all history- Let me refer honorable members to two memorial lectures, exhibit “ E “, delivered by the Minister in Perth and Sydney in 1956, and to his reiterated public statements that we are trying to develop New Guinea as one country with one common language. It is obvious either that the policy has changed or that certain Ministers do not understand it. I hope the Minister for Territories will take part in this debate, because it is a matter very close to his department.
Finally, I feel that the professorial board of the Michigan State University, which conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), must wonder whether their ears deceived them when he delivered a lecture on Australia and its foreign policy. What he said in this connexion appears at pages 13 and 14, exhibit “F”, but honorable members will have to read it for themselves, because in the twenty minutes allotted to me I have not time to quote it. That lecture was delivered in October, 1958, and I am sorry that I have not time to read it.
From all these exhibits I think it is obvious that here we have two nations, Holland and Australia, which have accepted these sacred obligations to work together for the good of these indigenous peoples who number approximately 2,000,000. which is equal to the number there were in Java when the Dutch first went there. How can we agree on a real estate deal under which we say, even hypothetically, that we will not object to certain things being done in the future, without causing permanent damage not only to our own reputation but also to those with whom we have agreed, namely, the Dutch? We cannot do this without causing permanent damage to our integrity and all other moral issues.
In case I am questioned regarding my statement about a real estate deal, I would like to direct the attention of honorable members to Dr. Subandrio’s press statement made in Britain, when he was asked about the question of the nationalization of Dme! - assets and industry. I have to thank th Indonesian Embassy for this document, exhibit “ G “, which came to me last week. He said at the interview when questioned -
After all, Indonesia, from ‘50 to ‘56 or ‘57 has never touched or nationalized or expropriated one foreign enterprise. It is only due to circumstances that we have had to do it and we regret being forced to do it.
Did we discuss what those circumstances were? It has been often said that they were the means of bringing pressure to bear to bring about the real estate deal. Why did we discuss only the Dutch compensation? After all, the assets of the Nationalist Chinese have been treated in the same way, and now the same process is commencing with British estates - and I hope my friends in Indonesia will be able to prevent such things happening. If they do, I believe it will greatly assist in the development of Indonesia, which the people of that country naturally desire to foster, as do we all. I was against the real estate deal that the British Labour Government was considering with regard to Formosa, and for the same reasons.
Let me now discuss the question of security. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and 1 do not think that West New Guinea is vital from the point of view of security in a hot war. But I would not give it away simply for that reason. I know that our Sabre aircraft cannot fly to and from Malaya without stopping at Biak to refuel, but I understand that an alternative route, although not a very satisfactory one, will be available at the end of this year, via Cocos Island and Learmonth.
When we come to the question of the cold war, let me refer to a statement of His Excellency, Mr. Tirtawinata. I am sorry that 1 am not as expert in the Malay language as our friend Dr. Subandrio is with English. His Excellency said that he felt that if Indonesia got West New Guinea it would have plenty of room for the expansion of its own population. Then we had Dr. Subandrio saying, or inferring, that if certain things did not happen other Asian countries would want to decant some of their surplus population. I realize that it is very difficult to make oneself perfectly clear in a language that is not one’s own language, and therefore I trust that we have misunderstood both of these gentlemen, and that the misunderstanding will be cleared up. If there is no misunderstanding, West New Guinea is important strategically in the cold war.
In effect, I feel that our policy has changed. We have been too hazy in the past in our long-term policy, and we have felt that time would solve our problems. But it is later than we think in this part of the world. We try to sit on the fence and we suddenly find that the top strand is of barbed wire. It perforates a very sensitive part of our anatomy and we wriggle and try to get off the barb. Why have no Australian Ministers visited Formosa? Why have they not visited West New Guinea, except for the Minister for Territories’ two visits to Hollandia - and I do not define a slop at Biak for refuelling as a visit. 1 Relieve we must show more courage, lest we be accused of cowardice or cunning, and we experience more Yaltas and Potsdams We have had quite enough of them.
I cannot agree that we are carrying out our international obligation by tacitly selling in advance any Melanesian birthright for either an Australian, Dutch or Indonesian mess of trade potage. I feel that the question of sovereignty is not confined to territory alone. You have a combined trusteeship, in effect, working in New Guinea, and as this situation has been accepted, then I suggest that any alteration should be considered and pronounced upon by the United Nations. One solution might be a wider combined trusteeship including Indonesia. We might not like that decision either, but it cannot be just a question of sovereignty of the territory. If country A is going to give country C to country B under the conditions that exist in West lew Guinea to-day, and the United Nations do not object, I feel that the United Nations Charter becomes another ideal that has gone with the wind - the cold and bitter wind of human greed and man’s inhumanity to man.
.- There is a world of difference between the attitude of the Opposition and that of the Government on the future of West New Guinea. We have just listened to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) put a point of view which conflicts with that of the Government. He quoted
Sir Percy Spender, our former Ambassador to Washington and the Government spokesman at the United Nations in 1957, whose views then are entirely different from those put to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). But Sir Percy Spender did not speak only once on this question. I shall quote from “ Current Notes on International Affairs “, as did the honorable member for Chisholm. The issue for January, 1955, contains extracts from a statement made by Sir Percy Spender in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, Ninth Session, on 24th November, 1954. He said -
At the outset I would wish to say that the Australian Government regards with deep regret the inclusion of this item on our agenda.
He was referring to Dutch New Guinea. He then went on -
The Australian people without any division are confirmed in the view -
First that the Indonesian Republic has no claim whatever to West New Guinea.
Second that the indigenous people of West New Guinea must not be allowed to be handed over to any nation - whether it be Indonesia or any other nation - but that within the terms and the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, they shall be permitted to determine their own ultimate destiny.
Nothing will shake us from this view.
That was our view then, and it still is, but the Government has run away from it to-day. Of course, if honorable members opposite claim that they have not run away from it, words mean nothing. In his statement to-day, the Prime Minister said -
But should Indonesia and the Netherlands come to some agreement in the future about sovereignty, we will recognize and respect it . . .
That means that the Government will let Indonesia blackmail Holland into surrendering control over West New Guinea, and will say nothing about it if the blackmail succeeds. Yet five years ago the Australian Ambassador, speaking in the name of his Government - this Government - said that nothing would shake them from the view that Indonesia would never have its claims for control of this territory recognized. There is a complete change of view, and it is for the Government to explain why it has changed its view.
The Prime Minister’s speech was full of excellent sentiments. It contained many noble thoughts. He offered friendship, and of course we agree with him in all that he said about the desirability of Australia’s living peacefully in this area of the world in which we share a common fate with the Indonesians. We have no hostility with the Indonesian people; we wish them happiness and success. In a well-deserved tribute recently, Dr. Subandrio described the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) as the midwife of the new Indonesian nation. But at the time that the Australian Government, in which the right honorable gentleman was Minister for External Affairs, was attending the birth of the Indonesian nation, members of the present Government were attacking us and accusing us of being pro-Communist and of wanting to harm and weaken the Dutch people. We believe in the right of self-determination for all peoples. We believe in the right of the Indonesian people to self-determination. And we believe in the right of the 700,000 native peoples of Dutch New Guinea to self-determination.
There is a vast difference between Indonesia and Dutch New Guinea. Historically, ethnically, religiously and culturally, as well as geographically, they are different entities. Scientists have drawn what they call the Wallace line, which shows that there is no relationship even in the matter of trees, fishes and birds between Indonesia and the whole island of New Guinea. In the talks that the Leader of the Opposition and I had with Dr. Subandrio, we put the point of view that the Leader of the Opposition put in his policy speech at the last election. We will not recognize the right of Indonesia to Dutch New Guinea and we do not believe that the Dutch have any right to hand the country over to Indonesia anyhow. Merauke was a main point in the defence of Australia in the last war. If it was important in 1941, despite the opinions of some of the amateur strategists who have been offering their views lately, it could be just as vital in 1959.
We told the representatives of Indonesia, in friendly fashion but quite frankly and bluntly, that they have enough to do to look after the 3,000 islands that constitute the area of the Indonesian Republic - enough not only for to-day and to-morrow but for the next 50 years. We want to see the whole island of Papua and New Guinea, as we put it, developed so that ultimately when the people there have been raised to that degree of development and civilization where they can determine their own future, they will say whether they want to be an independent republic or to be included in the British Commonwealth or to go with Indonesia and form a new Melanesian federation, or do anything else that they want. But the decision is for them alone to make. We are opposed to the proposals that have been made by this Government which mean that it can wash its hands of the whole problem, provided that Indonesia and Holland come to agreement in respect of the future of this disputed territory. Pontius Pilate has a lot of descendants around the world; they crop up in every country and in every age. There is a crop of them revealing themselves in Australia to-day in respect of this proposal that the problem of West New Guinea has nothing to do with Australia, provided the Indonesians can blackmail the Dutch into getting out of New Guinea. We will have none of that!
As I said, the Leader of the Opposition dealt with this matter in our policy speech. We repeat that we have not changed our view at any time. The Leader of the Opposition said then -
In relation to the problem of New Guinea, Labour believes that a solution in the interest of the peoples of the island and in the security interests of Indonesia and Australia could be evolved and agreed upon by discussion and negotiation. As we see it at present, we must contemplate the possibility of eventual administration of the whole island of New Guinea as one unit under the supervision provided for by the Trusteeship Council together wilh some administering authority.
In that same policy speech, delivered on 15th October, 1958, and not answered by the Government, the Leader of the Opposition posed this question -
In what way does the policy of the Labour party differ from that of the present Government? Fundamentally, it differs because we in the Labour party have always accepted the equal rights, the equal humanity under God of all human beings. We believe that it is our duty to assist the peoples of New Guinea to achieve prosperity and selfdetermination through their own energies and their own talents.
Then he went on to say -
If the Netherlands abandoned Dutch New Guinea the case for Australian administration of the whole island would be just as strong if not stronger. We seek friendship with the Indonesian people and the Labour party policy favours the establishment of a regional pact between Australia, Indonesia and Holland for the security and development of the future of New Guinea.
We offer a treaty of security, defence and welfare. What does this Government offer? A treaty of friendship and culture! Can anybody define what “ friendship “ and “ culture “ mean? If we are friendly with the Indonesian people, do we need a treaty of friendship? And what is the cultural development that is to take place after we have a treaty? Is it merely the exchange of scientists and university professors, and the like, or is there to be something else more real and worth while?
Sir, we know how emotionally the Indonesians have been stirred in this matter. But we know also that Sir Percy Spender spoke for Australia in 1954, and I quote his words again -
And from the last war, when Japanese aggression swept swiftly like a plague over the part of the world in which we and Indonesia live - we learned through blood and heavy sacrifice that the security and future of New Guinea was not unconnected with our own security and future.
We still say that, and it is not for the Dutch, even if they wanted to do it, to evacuate that territory and allow the Indonesians to move in. Sir Percy Spender continued -
It is difficult but important to bring home the intensity of Australian feeling aroused when the security and future of New Guinea are brought into question. Emotion is no substitute for logic and we rest secure in our belief that it is demonstrably obvious there is no logic or validity in the Indonesian claim to Western New Guinea.
But it is well to try to convey something of the emotions which make Australians so sensitive about the future of New Guinea for we want the world to know them.
First of all, there are the sacred trusts which Australia has assumed on behalf of the indigenous peoples under the Australian flag - peoples precisely similar to those which Indonesia now asks should be handed over to them - people whose friendship and gratitude found such loyal expression in the war against Japan. Then there is grateful remembrance of the supreme sacrifice made by some of our finest young men in the costly struggle for this vast island. And finally, there remains the bitter lesson taught by the Japanese that New Guinea will forever be a potential invasion springboard to Australia.
Sir Percy Spender said that, and it still remains the fact. Can it be wondered at that the Australian people feel so annoyed and so outraged at the Government’s decision to sell out on this issue under some sort of pressure? And the pressure has been on for some time. We had a visit to Australia a few months ago by Mr. Kingsley Martin, of the London “ New Statesman “.
– A weak authority.
– He was a sufficient authority to be able to say that a compromise in New Guinea could be arrived at. The “Sunday Times”, of Perth, on 1st February, reported -
A compromise on Dutch New Guinea that would satisfy both Australia and Indonesia is foreshadowed by Kingsley Martin, editor of the independent British review, the New Statesman.
The communique on this issue, which is now becoming notorious as the CaseySubandrio statement, was not the product of a few talks in the Cabinet room. It looks as if there was some pressure put on by England and the United States of America. They have their problems in Europe as they are face to face with the Russian threat. And they still have in 1959 the same mentality that they had in 1939. In 1939, their attitude was, “ Beat Hitler first”. In 1959, their attitude is, “Beat Khrushchev first “. They are not concerned with the future of the Commonwealth in these areas. We are still expendable in the future, in the view of Washington and some sections of Whitehall, as we were expendable in 1939, and Indonesia, in return for a promise of a declaration of neutrality, has been led to believe that she can expect to be given Dutch New Guinea. Two days after the Minister for External Affairs had issued his statement, we found the Australian press reporting that BrigadierGeneral Mustopo, chairman of the West Irian (New Guinea) Liberation Front, in Indonesia, had said that Indonesia could expect to have West New Guinea handed over by August at the latest. About the same time, encouraged by what this Government is doing over West New Guinea, Mr. Kishi, the Prime Minister of Japan, said that a plan to develop New Guinea with Japanese technicians and man-power deserved serious consideration.
The Government having given way in relation to one part of New Guinea, is going to find itself pressed to hand over the other part or reach an agreement with the Japanese or somebody else that will enable the Japanese to come into this other area of
New Guinea. After all, it would be a logical thing for the Government to do, because, once West New Guinea is handed over to the Indonesians - now, to-morrow, or at some other time in the future - inevitably, the Indonesians will flood that country with their people and the local people will be dispossessed, after which it will not be long before they are crowding in on the rest of New Guinea. Even if we were prepared to trust Dr. Soekarno, Dr. Subandrio and the others who are in power in Indonesia to-day, could we trust another Indonesian government, if the Communist party were to come to power in Indonesia? If that were to happen, of course, our plight would be grave indeed.
– What about the Japanese?
– If Indonesia took over West New Guinea, there would be nothing to prevent the Indonesians from allowing the Japanese or some other people - Chinese Communists or some other potential enemy of this country - to flood in and become a menace to the future security of the people of Australia as well as all other peoples of South-East and South-West Asia.
Sir, on that ground, this Government has kt Australia down. The charge that it has sold the nation out is well founded and well justified. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and other responsible bodies with big memberships have spoken out clearly and unequivocally, and all that the Government can call to its support is a few press editorials that really do not represent the opinions of anybody except the Government’s press backers.
We take our stand on two points, Sir. The security of Australia and its future defence require that the present arrangement be scrapped. The security of the New Guinea people themselves, and their future right to self-determination - about which the Prime Minister uttered a lot of platitudes - demand that the agreement be scrapped. I am sure that everything that the Leader of the Opposition has said expresses the view of every member of the Australian Labour party, and I think I express what the Labour party feels about the matter when I say that the Labour party will never weaken or abandon its stand on two main principles - first, that the main tenance of the present position in Dutch New Guinea is essential to the security and defence of Australia, and, secondly that the indigenous people of Dutch New Guinea have the right - the inalienable right - of self-determination and are not to be the subject of a trade deal between an old colonial power and a new one as if they were just 700,000 head of cattle.
– Mr. Speaker, I have listened with close attention to the addresses made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and I am bound to say that it is very, very hard to get a grip on anything that these gentlemen have said that is really relevant to the issue or is really capable of interpretation. The line that has been taken by them seems to be that if the spokesmen for the Australian Labour party announce often enough - and shout it vigorously enough and often enough - that the Labour party is in favour of the Dutch remaining in New Guinea, that will prove that the Government is not in favour of the idea. What nonsense! How simpleminded do these honorable gentlemen think members of the Parliament and the people are?
This is the Government that recognized the arrangement under which the Dutch achieved sovereignty in western New Guinea, and the whole of this Government’s history, its actions past and present, and the things that its spokesmen have said in the United Nations and in the Parliament on all occasions, go to show that we have adhered unfailingly to our policy that we believe that the Dutch are entitled to retain their sovereignty over West New Guinea. But the Government has always acknowledged that there is a security significance for Australia in the situation existing in West New Guinea. However, the Government has not had to turn to that aspect at all. The simple truth of the matter is that in international law the Dutch, who were our loyal allies in the last war, are the sovereign owners of West New Guinea. So far as Australia is concerned, that is the end of the matter. We have made that very clear indeed on every occasion that the subject has been raised, no matter what the forum, and we have stated the grounds on which we take that line. In his closing remarks. the Deputy Leader of the Opposition showed that the policy of the Labour party in this regard relates first to the security of Australia, and secondly to the welfare of the people of Dutch New Guinea. That is not the order used by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition, throughout 95 per cent, of his speech, discussed the welfare of the people of New Guinea, and he floated into the air an observation that there was a security significance. We have done more than float this security significance into the air. We have said that we acknowledge it.
Where does the argument that has been canvassed so thoroughly in the press, and supported by some enthusiastic patrons in this country, carry us in the discussion that has proceeded? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that it is vital to Australia’s interests that the Dutch retain control of West New Guinea. In addition, the Opposition asserts that the Dutch and the Indonesians have no right to reach an agreement, despite the fact that such an agreement, as has been pointed out by the Min’ster for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), conforms to the principles of the United Nations Charter. The Leader of the Opposition, who was so vigorous in the early days of the United Nations, says that we cannot have such an agreement between those two powers.
Frankly, nothing that has occurred up to date would lead one reasonably to expect that the Dutch will agree to give up the sovereignty of West New Guinea in the face of such world-wide support for their retention of sovereignty. But if the Dutch and Indonesians did reach agreement, this champion of the United Nations and of the rule of law would repudiate it. That is the substance of his remarks. Has he forgotten all the speeches that he made in the past about Labour’s belief in the rule of law? The Government has said that it believes in the rule of law and will stand by it. We have said that if this dispute in relation to West New Guinea, over which the Dutch have important sovereign rights is taken to the instrument of international jurisdiction and a ruling is given, we will recognize that ruling. We will not repudiate that stand. We mean it when we say that we believe in the rule of law. Apparently, when the Leader of the Opposition says that he believes in the rule of law, they are only words issuing from his mouth to support an attack upon the Government, in the hope of making some political gain by lining up with those who say that we should regard as a scrap of paper an agreement arrived at in accordance with international law. The Leader of the Opposition throws all his principles overboard when there is a chance to scramble for a few votes. Is his argument right? Of course not; it is nonsense. The entire argument of the Leader of the Opposition on this issue is without sense or logic. He says that an agreement between the Dutch and the Indonesians is incapable of being validly recognized, but he propounds the idea of an agreement that will dispose of this territory between the Dutch, the Indonesians and Australia.
What support has the Leader of the Opposition for his proposition that an agreement between the Dutch and the Indonesians, in respect of a territory over which one party has sovereign rights and over which the other party has made claims, and received some support for them, should be regarded as a scrap of paper and ignored, but if Australia is also a signatory to the agreement, it becomes a sacred document? What nonsense! This country would be laughed at in any international jurisdiction if it propounded that belief. If we did that the world would suspect that all our talk about the welfare of natives is so much camouflage, and that our aim is to get a foot in the doorway for military purposes. That would be the conclusion drawn from what the pacifist Leader of the Opposition is propounding to the Parliament and to the people. The Government is glad of the opportunity to dissociate itself from that process of thinking. Our line has been clear. We have said that the Dutch have sovereign rights. We have not only said that to the Dutch; we have said it to the Indonesians as well. We have also said it in the International Court.
When the Indonesians have occasionally made threatening noises, we have used our good offices diplomatically, in the interest of peace and the preservation of a lawful situation, by counselling temperance. We have inspired our great friends in the world to counsel temperance whenever threatening noises have been made. That is further evidence, not only of our belief that the Dutch have their rights in this regard, but of our real interest in sustaining peace throughout the world. In the interests of the natives of the area we have proffered our experience in New Guinea, which has been wider than that gained by the Dutch in West New Guinea. Within limits that I cannot describe here the Dutch have made good use of our experience gained in the administration of a backward people and their preparation to take a place in the world. At all times we have endeavoured to help in this regard and on no occasion have we weakened in our affirmation that the Dutch have sovereignty over West New Guinea. Where does the argument that Australia should not refrain from opposing an agreement, which is another way of saying that Australia should repudiate the agreement, take those who invoke it? Where does this argument take Australia? Why does not the Labour party come forward and say that if there were such an agreement, the Labour party would repudiate it if it were in office? That is the inference to be drawn from remarks made oy honorable members opposite, even if they have been reluctant to say so in those words. That is the only logical conclusion to be drawn. What friend would Australia “have in the world if we were to say that we, believing in the peaceful settlement of international disputes, repudiate an agreement that does not suit us the first time such an agreement is reached? Who would be our allies? The great powers of the world have pinned their hopes of peace upon the sacredness of agreements internationally reached between sovereign States. So we would have no friends among the great powers. In this part of the world in which it is our destiny to live - for the only thing on earth which does not change is geography - what would be the attitude of the Afro-Asian group of nations, the 1,000,000,000 people of Asia, if we were to take the line propounded by the leaders of the Labour party here, and repudiate such an agreement? If it did occur? I believe that Australia would not have a friend on earth. Yet we are talking about the security and the safety of our country. Surely, ultimately the safety of our country is very intimately related to the number of friends that we have around the world, and we could do nothing more deadly to impair our own safety than to affront our friends, to disavow what we have been declaring for years to have been our principles - the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
What word has been uttered by those who have been attacking the Government to-day about the desirability of Australia and Indonesia, their Governments and peoples, achieving a more friendly relationship? Surely it is tremendously important that a more friendly relationship should be developed between these countries. If there is anything at all new in this, it is that when our spokesmen repeated to Dr. Subandrio the policy for which we have stood for years, that is, that we adhere to a belief in Dutch sovereignty over the area, they explained to Dr. Subandrio that we had nothing but feelings of goodwill for the people of Indonesia, and that our attitude in this regard was not one that derived from any unfriendliness towards the people of Indonesia. Having had conversations myself with the gentleman, I have not the slightest doubt that the result of his visit has been a better mutual understanding. The Indonesians understand better the grounds upon which Australia stands, and I have not the slightest doubt that my colleagues of the Government and the Australian people generally will feel that, as a result of Dr. Subandrio’s visit, we understand a good deal better the grounds upon which the Indonesians took the stand that they have taken. On that, we have agreed to differ. That is all. As good friends may, we have agreed to differ, and we have agreed to accept the decision of an appropriate international umpire. Is that to be challenged? Of course, it is being challenged.
I say that this is the proper conduct for a country like ours that has these principles and has this geographical location. This country cannot afford to have it believed that what has been propounded by the Labour leaders in this Parliament to-day represents the policy of the Australian people or of the Australian Government. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken vigorously in international councils, as president of the General Assembly, and in speech after speech has affirmed the desirability of adhering to the rule of law. Here, while shying away from uttering the words, he is saying clearly, for any one who listens to him or reads his speech, that when there emerges an agreement between two sovereign powers which does not suit our book we shall repudiate it pronto. Well, he does not speak for the Australian people. He does not state the views of the Australian nation. We want to retain the respect for the Australian nation that has been built up in international councils, and I believe that our conduct has enhanced the respect of the Australian people.
All of this, however, is about a hypothetical situation. To say that this announcement has given the green light to Indonesia to put pressure on the Dutch is complete nonsense. It is completely false, and I believe that at least some ot those who utter this statement know that it is false and do it for base reasons. I believe that this whole schemozzle has emerged because some people have seen an opportunity to twist the tail of the Government. There are some who will do it on any occasion. It is done in some journals, as we know. That approach having been initiated at the level of journalism in the first place, we know what great newspapers do. They canvass people to see how many will associate themselves, by lending their names, with the charges made. This is done; we are familiar with it. Then the Labour party, not having had a view on the matter, jumps on the bandwagon when it finds that there is some criticism. I will concede quickly and immediately that these sections do not include all of those who are not in agreement with the Government on this matter. I do believe that there are enthusiastic, burning patriots of Australia who, thinking solely of the well-being and safety of our country, are capable of confused thinking, and of believing that by announcing that we would not accept an agreement if it occurs we would be contributing to the safety of this country. Of course, we would not contribute to the safety of this country. We would only establish the fact that it was a country not worth doing business with, which would denounce documents that did not suit it. That would be no contribution to the safety of this country.
On more than a few instances we have seen that the great powers of the earth to-day will not be dragged about by lesser powers. The issues of world peace and survival to-day are too great for great powers to be finally moved on important issues other than on their own decisions. Let us not think that if Australia gets herself into an unhappy or false position over any incident in this part of the world we shall drag the rest of the world with us. We have seen an instance in Suez. Surely that ought to be a lesson to the world. In taking a line that affronted Asia and the Afro-Asian aggregation of nations, we would establish the fact that our word was not good, notwithstanding all our protestations. Finally, I expose the falsity of the Labour party’s leaders in proposing that an agreement dealing with the future of Dutch New Guinea, if signed by the two principal parties is invalid, but if signed by three parties is completely valid.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has made one of the worst speeches that he has ever made in my knowledge of him. Quite obviously, if he has not prepared a brief, he does not believe what he has said. On many occasions he was nowhere near the wicket. We have watched the whole sorry programme of the Government to-day in trying to wriggle off the hook and it is doing no good for itself in its second attempt to do so.
In the first place, all that the Australian Labour party raised was the question of what should be done with 700,000 dependent people. Apropos of the whole situation, the Labour party asks, as it is entitled to ask, when has there been such charming amity between the Indonesians and the Dutch that they should make a packet deal about human beings. The Minister for Trade says that we are only trying to get our feet into Dutch New Guinea for defence purposes. I shall not even repudiate that, because the Australian people have to be very careful, despite the views of strategists like the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who says that New Guinea is no longer important. Yet the man who commanded the Eighth Division, General Gordon Bennett, has said that it still is an island of great vulnerability and great importance to Australia. Even if we leave that aside for the moment as having no bearing on this issue, we can still ask: Why has it become known, and been known for a good while, that there was going to be what we call a package deal? Why is it that one sovereign country owning the peoples of West New Guinea body and soul, was able to suggest that there should be a trade? It is as simple as that. It was simply a matter of one sovereign power decanting territory to another sovereign power.
The territory of Dutch New Guinea is wild and hazardous. It is undeveloped. But for our book, there are in that territory 700,000 people who, we hope, have to come to the same level as the rest of the people in New Guinea. The Australian community and Australian governments of all colours have been trying at much expense to create a standard of development among those natives to the north of us so that one day the whole of the island will be their exclusive territory under the rule of the natives themselves. That is the belief of Australians and those who fought with the fuzzy-wuzzies. It is the belief of those representatives of Australia who have sat in the United Nations Assembly. But suddenly, after this Government has expressed horror for years that anybody should assail the rights of the Dutch to the occupancy and sole possession of West New Guinea, all this does not mean a thing. If, according to the words of Dr. Subandrio, there is an arrangement under which the Indonesians can take over Dutch New Guinea, this Government believes that that is all right. It is as easy as that. All the Opposition asks the Government is this: Why the volte face? What was the reason for the change of face.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made a long statement which was completely unsatisfactory and only aroused the anger and anxiety of the Australian people. Then the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) made his case, which still has not been answered. Later, because of the circumstances of debate, the matter was dropped, so the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) came into this chamber to-day to make another explanation. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, “ We did not mean what we said originally. What has happened was not actually what hap pened.” The Prime Minister has tried to bamboozle the Australian people by a situation which has been created out of words and has no reality. What really happened was this: Prior to the arrival of Dr. Subandrio in Australia, it was firm policy of the government of the day to espouse the cause of the Dutch. Come weal, come woe, come hell or high water, the Dutch - the imperialistic, colonizing Dutch - had their rights, according to the Government. With that I entirely disagree. But as soon as Dr. Subandrio arrived in Australia, there was a gentle tete-a-tete in Canberra and the situation was changed completely. The Government now says, “ Of course, we did say that, but if the Dutch would like to trade this portion of the island with the vulnerable groups within it, we will not say a word “. What fools we would be as an Opposition if we did not look for the whale in the bay. What sort of dereliction of duty it would be if we did not seek the nigger in the woodpile. We believe this is another case of international diplomacy. We believe that both the United Kingdom and the United States of America were in this set-up.
Why has this situation so suddenly developed? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) cited some remarks by Mr. Kingsley Martin, the editor of the British weekly review “ The New Statesman “. Months ago, Mr. Martin was quite firm that there would be a change. He said, “ You can take it from me that there will be a change. The impasse on Indonesia and Holland will be resolved. Some way around the problem will be found.” We respect the Indonesians because they are, in their own way, a new nation, non-imperial and anti-colonial, and surely there must be in Indonesia itself now a revulsion of feeling, although the Indonesians were carried away by the emotional appeal of the cry, “ All the territories belonging to our tyrant enemy the Dutch must come to us “. When they think twice about these things, must they not consider that there is a deeper, more humanitarian and Christian claim? We do not know, and we are entitled to ask: Is Indonesia, a new country with many manifest difficulties and problems and lack of know-how, capable of doing the job that the United Nations could do?
The picture is completely mixed. We have been probing the Government to see whether we can get some explanation. Among the people who have returned to Australia from Dutch New Guinea is Mr. Mossman, a correspondent of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and a brilliant international commentator. He has told me in conversation that the Dutch have said that they have no intention of leaving Dutch New Guinea. They have built up Biak and have their naval bases. Their installations on shore are powerful. They have taken about 6,000 Ambonese to the island to do the work around the small towns and camps. They anticipate that they will leave Dutch New Guinea in about sixteen years. They were astonished to hear the story that was broken in Australia that Subandrio, Menzies and Casey had been able to make a sort of package deal which nobody anticipated and nobody knew about except some wise people who were hoping for some change of face in the Pacific.
If the ultimate goal in this matter is the protection of our own country, we must be fearless. We have to be certain that we say what we believe in our hearts and do not have any double talk or diplomatic verbiage. I am going to say what I think. I may be wrong, but I will say that the Pacific is a seething pot of intrigue at the moment. The position in the Philippines is giving the United States of America grave concern. Where is the Government going to get stable fins to put down in this new development in Asia where the AfroAsians are rising and sweeping into their own possessions. I am sure this has a sinister import. After having bashed this matter of the Netherlands right to West New Guinea, the Government finds that it has suddenly become change of sixpence. Of course it would be in some circumstances, but only if there was some deal. Does it mean an agreement with the Indonesians that some of the former possessors of that island, under a different franchise and different control, can go back to look after the vast wealth of oils and rubber of the islands because the Indonesians are finding it increasingly difficult to get finance and know-how?
If we are going to talk about who are to be the people to inhabit New Guinea, must not we, because of our love of our own people and a desire to be right at all costs, look at our opposite numbers? Could anybody be thrilled with the Government in Indonesia to-day, of which Dr. Subandrio is a member, which has brought in 37 new colonels to strengthen it. I say with great sincerity and with great respect to the Indonesians, whom I admire, that the AfroAsian finds it extremely difficult to accept, our democracy. One by one, Pakistan,. Indonesia and the others, the benevolent despots and others of Indo-China, have all dropped it. I am sure that somewhere io> the international courts of the world this position is being watched. I think that little West New Guinea has been a pawn in the game. The Leader of the Opposition asks the Government: What will you do with 700,000 dependent people? How dare you have a trade between one frankly imperialistic and colonizing power and another which is prepared for the sake of personal emotional appeal of the moment to enter into a deal with them? It is the first deal between the Indonesians and the Dutch for a long time. We must consider the overtones and the undertones. We merely ask the Prime Minister to explain these things, but no explanation has been forthcoming.
The Prime Minister came to the table and asked himself a series of questions. In each case he got a silly answer because he did not want to tell us what was actually happening. No one can say that the Prime Minister is not able to ask a rhetorical question and answer it to perfection, but in this case he was not sure of his ground. In the first place, this is what we are probing; this is what the returned servicemen of Australia want to know and what the people of Australia are asking: What has happened to change a standing principle and precept regarding both our security and the care of underprivileged peoples that the situation should be changed overnight? Is it that Dr. Subandrio proved himself to be a super-diplomatist and made fools of the Australians? Is it that they went in for a game of strip poker and lost everything including their shirts? Is it so? It looks very much like it. And now they stand naked before the people of Australia apologizing for what has been done to them by this astute gentleman from Indonesia. Then, as if to try to compensate for the losses of prestige, the Government has another case for an apology, and so the Prime Minister says that this joint communique is possible of another explanation. He starts to parse and analyse it, and to show that it did not mean what it said. Now, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition put the position right where it belongs. He said that with regard to the defence of this country you cannot play kidstakes or political checkers with the people of Australia, that with regard to issues which are permanently fixed in the minds of Australians, you cannot switch them by just changing your point of view over a lost weekend in Canberra. And to build it into the minds of the Government he quoted the Government’s top diplomatist abroad, the man who was our Ambassador to the United States and now is a member of the international Court of Justice at The Hague, but who at one time spoke with authority on behalf of the Government. He it was who said that of course the issue of first importance in New Guinea was the welfare of its dependent people.
Now, Australians have always been - and certainly the members of the Australian Labour party have been - philosophers who believe in the gospel of a fair go. Ask the average Australian in the street what he thinks. The Minister for External Affairs who is happier on wheat deals with Japan than on international affairs, said that this was a question of the rule of law. Could there be any rule of law; with the piratical colonists of the past, who went in and took the countries of other people because those people could not resist them? It was the rule of force, and if that has been broken by the circumstances that exist to-day naturally we, as Labour men and socialists, lean a little towards those who have won their freedom - in fact, we believe that that is the only solution so far as Asia is concerned.
So we get back to this problem. All was peaceful and quiet so far as the advent of the Foreign Minister of Indonesia was concerned, until he arrived in Canberra. But, having issued a joint communique which said a new deal was on, the Government has neither been able to justify it nor explain it. The Minister made a long speech which was around the subject, and although he valiantly tried to justify the things he had done, he did not relieve the qualms of the ex-servicemen of this country, of the ordinary people of this country - those concerned electors who are writing to the newspapers and bombarding the newspaper offices and asking, “ What is in this deal? What is this shabby show? Why have we suddenly decided that certain treaties between certain groups are more important than the morality of looking after dependent peoples? “ The whole United Nations has been built on the understanding that the most vulnerable should have the greatest care. But we have decided that that does not matter. When the package deal is undertaken, you can just throw in 700,000 Melanesians, Papuans, West New Guineans - if you care to call them that - and forget all about them, because there is a great new strategy, the strategy that envisages some sort of appeasement of Indonesia. So we get this sort of thing, and we do not think it is fair.
The Prime Minister read an extract from something away back in 1949, alleging that the Leader of the Opposition, who was then President of the United Nations, had made some statement regarding the Netherlands. The statement that the Leader of the Opposition made then stands to-day. There is no need for equivocation on it, but it ought not to be read out of context.
So we return to the issue that has been fought out in this debate - this strange compromise on West New Guinea. We do not understand it, and the people do not understand it. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was a most unhappy man as he made his speech. He is, on all counts, a fair man. He has great talents not always recognized by the Government he supports, and he has had the courage to get up here and say what he thinks whenever he feels impelled to do so in defence of the rights and interests of the Australian people. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is interjecting now, could make the same contribution because I am sure that, tory though he is, he could not let this thing go without a qualm of conscience, since he was a fighter in Malaya and, later on, among the Australian servicemen in New Guinea. He realizes just what those natives are who are still in the Stone Age, and that they could be exploited in the most brutal way. This matter concerns the Dutch, whom we respect, and the Indonesians, whom we respect also, but we want to put the Australian point of view which is held by Australians. The honorable member for Chisholm put that point of view, and I admire his courage in standing up among his colleagues and expressing a view separate from theirs, just as I have a contempt for the attitude of the Deputy Prime Minister, who just sat here and sawed political wood and never at any stage tried to make a case.
I conclude on the point that the Australian Labour party, through its leaders and its whole association, faces with horror the prospect of changing our entire attitude to the United Nations. The expediency of treaties! Nothing worse was ever done than when the so-called “ scrap of paper “ was torn up by Bethmann-Hollweg at the beginning of World War I. when Germany invaded Belgium. The implicit story throughout all our fights for peace in our time and the development of our nation so that men may know that brother may not attack brother, begins at the lowest level. So, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, supported by his deputy, the claim we make is that nobody has any warrant to do a trade - a shabby trade - over the counter with the lives of 700,000 people who have expected better from us.
Finally, is it not a fact - the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) himself must feel this, although he will not say so - that because of the splendid job in lifting the standards of the natives done by Australia, under trust, in New Guinea, as the result of the efforts of Australian staff, Australian Ministers, magistrates and administrators - although we did not say so it was in our mind - we hoped that we would also get the task of assisting in the same way in lifting the standards of the people of West New Guinea?
So this comes as a blow to the aspirations of the Australian people, and it comes as a shock to find that the Government, having got us into a mess of this sort has not the courage to say, “We are wrong. We misread public sentiment. We have not made a compromise, but if we have we will cancel it.” And apparently the Government has got into such a diplomatic mess that the more it talks the more confusing the situa tion becomes. This is not doing any good; for Australia, and the Government’s action certainly warrants the launching of a sharp attack on the whole sordid transaction by the Opposition in this House.
– The matter of our relationships with the Netherlands and Indonesia in respect of western New Guinea is not one that has arisen in the last few weeks. It has been an active matter of public discussion over a great many years, and has been debated at length in the United Nations General Assembly on a number of occasions. Over that period it has been elevated in the minds of the people of Indonesia into a prime issue disturbing relations with a number of other countries.
In consequence, the Australian Government considered it most important that, during Dr. Subandrio’s visit to Australia, we should join in any effort designed to put the matter into proper proportion and to allow co-operation between Indonesia and Australia to proceed fruitfully and constructively, irrespective of any continuing difference about Dutch New Guinea. I believe that this objective has been advanced, and that Dr. Subandrio’s visit, his talks with Australian Ministers, and the joint announcement that concluded the meeting, will all contribute to better relations between Australia and our nearest neighbour.
In the course of our many discussions, we made it clear to Dr. Subandrio that Australia has not only recognized but continues to recognize Dutch sovereignty in western New Guinea. We said we would not propose any change in that sovereignty. But Dr. Subandrio asked another question. He asked what Australia’s position would be if Indonesia, by lawful and peaceful means, were to come to an agreement with the Netherlands in regard to western New Guinea. The nature of that agreement was unspecified, and naturally so. Nor could the Australian Government be expected to enter into any discussion with the Indonesian Foreign Minister as to the nature of such an agreement because the question is a hypothetical one. In any case, continuing to recognize as we do, Netherlands sovereignty, we were not prepared to enter into discussions with the Indonesian Government on a possible regime to replace the Dutch.
But, faced with a direct question as to what we should do if, peacefully and lawfully, the Dutch and the Indonesians came to an agreement on western New Guinea, there was only one answer we could give. We would recognize the agreement or, as the joint announcement said, we would not oppose it. But we made it clear to Dr. Subandrio that we would take no initiative in advising the Dutch to enter into negotiations.
There are, in the broad, two aspects of the western New Guinea question on which we are at variance with the Indonesians. We recognize Dutch sovereignty, whereas the Indonesians claim it for themselves. We also believe that there should be preserved for the people of western New Guinea the opportunity for selfdetermination, whereas Indonesia wants to incorporate western New Guinea as an integral part of Indonesia proper. These points of variance are explicitly set out in the joint announcement that Dr. Subandrio and I made at the conclusion of his visit to Australia, in the following terms: -
There was a full explanation of the considerations which have led each country to a different view over West New Guinea (West Irian), with Australia recognizing Netherlands sovereignty and recognizing the principle of selfdetermination. This difference remains.
Of these two matters - sovereignty and selfdetermination - I have already discussed sovereignty. Australia recognizes Dutch sovereignty. But on the matter of selfdetermination I shall say something more.
The Dutch, in administering their territory in New Guinea, accept the provision of Chapter XI of the Charter “of the United Nations, which is a declaration regarding non-self-governing territories. Under this chapter, members of the United Nations with responsibilities for the administration of territories whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount. They accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the Charter, the well being of the inhabitants of these territories. They agree, among other things, to develop self-government and to promote constructive measures of development and also to report regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, certain information on the territories. Thus in accordance with Article 73 of the United Nations Charter the Dutch give the United Nations an annual report which is discussed every year in the General Assembly.
The Dutch have set as their goal eventual self-determination for the indigenous people of the territory. This policy has been asserted many times by the Dutch. For example, Her Majesty The Queen of the Netherlands, on 16th September, 1952, stated that her Government would promote the development of western New Guinea so that in due course the population would be enabled to decide on its future. In October, 1956, the Netherlands Government stated that the Netherlands would promote the development of the territories to such an extent that the application of the principle of self-determination would be accelerated. These statements have been reiterated and confirmed by Netherlands spokesmen in the United Nations General Assembly.
This objective - that is, the move towards self-determination - lies behind the jointly agreed principles enunciated by the Australian and Netherlands Governments on 6th November, 1957, eighteen months ago, relating to co-operation between their respective administrations in the territories of New Guinea. As suggested to Dr. Subandrio, and as I stated in this House last Thursday, this programme of administrative co-operation with the Netherlands in New Guinea will continue. The Australian and the Netherlands Governments have, in fact, recently accepted the recommendations prepared in Canberra last October by officials of the Netherlands and Australian administrations in New Guinea designed to give effect to our agreement on administrative co-operation.
In short, the Australian position of recognizing the right of the Dutch to make an agreement on the future of their territory is stated against a certain background. That background consists of repeatedly declaring Dutch attitudes towards the rights of the inhabitants. In the face of these statements it would be somewhat gratuitous for the Australian Government to offer the Netherlands Government public advice about the interests of the inhabitants at a time when there is no indication of a change in Netherlands policy.
As I have said, we did not, in our talks with Dr. Subandrio, discuss any alternative to the present Dutch administration. The Dutch are there; they have pledged themselves, both by their own efforts and in co-operation with Australia, to work towards self-government and selfdetermination for the peoples of western New Guinea; their sovereignty is recognized by Australia; and we are working actively with them in pursuance of many common interests. As I said in this House, on 18th February, the clarification of our attitude contained in the joint announcement “ represents no new departure in policy “.
The simple fact is that the parties principal in this matter of western New Guinea are the Netherlands and Indonesia. As I have said on many occasions, Australia is no more and no less than a very interested third party. As such we can, in international law and practice, not prohibit direct discussion between the parties principal, and we would have no firm grounds on which to oppose any arrangement freely reached under the circumstances we have described by the parties principal. But this does not mean that we would be indifferent or without a view which we would express during any such negotiation, if it were to take place. Indeed it would be inconsistent with all that we have said publicly in the past if we were silent in such circumstances.
Tn conclusion, let me repeat what I said at the start: Dr. Subandrio visited this country at the invitation of the Australian Government in order to promote understanding and co-operation between our two countries. His visit was very useful. He and his party made an excellent impression here. We were able to explain our respective positions - and relations between Australia and Indonesia have undoubtedly benefited.
.- As an Australian, every time that this Government, under its present leadership, has to make a decision on an international matter affecting the security of Australia I become terrified. I have every reason to adopt that attitude, judging t by our past experience of the administration of such a govern ment through the perilous days of the war. There is no doubt in the world - and the Government cannot escape the fact - that when this issue was first mentioned in this chamber there was unanimity on both sidesof the House that, in the event of the Dutchleaving New Guinea, the Australian Government should seek a mandate over that territory.
Yet the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), contrary to all his earlier statements, has now said that this is purely a matter of sovereignty between the Dutch and the Indonesians and that we are only an interested third party! He said that the Government had a view-point and that if negotiations were to eventuate it would want to express that view-point. But the Minister, who recently had talks with Dr. Subandrio, did not even secure for Australia the right to express a view-point during any subsequent negotiations between the Netherlands and Indonesia. He declared on behalf of the Government that this was a matter wholly and solely for the Governments of the Netherlands and” Indonesia.
That is not the viewpoint of the Australian Labour party. It is strange to note that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in entering this debate said, “We want the Dutch to remain in control in West New Guinea “. Why does the Government want the Dutch to remain in control? If it is adopting an attitude of neutrality and disinterestedness and says that it is only a matter between the Governments of Holland and Indonesia, what right has this Government to. express that view? I have very definite views concerning the attitude of the Government. The first is the opinion expressed by Mr. Yeo, the president of the New South Wales branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League. He declared this agreement to be a sell-out of Australia’s interests.
If vital Australian interests are involved - and I emphasize the word “ vital “ - should this Government be adopting its present attitude of disinterestedness? On 20th April, 1950, the Minister for External Affairs had this to say -
Australia has vital interests in the trustee territory of New Guinea which it would in no circumstances relinquish.
The area of Dutch New Guinea involves somewhat similar considerations.
In 1950, the Minister said that Australia’s vital interests demanded Australia having some say in the future of the mandated territory which it then controlled and also that it should have some say in regard to the future control of West New Guinea. During this debate we have heard Ministers mouthing all sorts of terms and phrases such as “ self-determination “ and “ the rights of the natives must be paramount”. They have used these expressions to tickle the ears of the electors.
Let us examine how far the Government is protecting the rights of the natives. When the Indonesians were fighting for their independence the Australian Labour party and the trade unions of this country did their best to assist them because we believe in self-determination. When the parties which now constitute this Government were condemning the Labour party and the trade unions of this country as acting in a traitorous manner by helping the Indonesians to obtain their independence, they were all for supplying war materials to the Dutch to help them retain their control over Indonesia. The Labour party believes in independence for the people of Indonesia, but that does not mean that we must support Indonesia’s claim to West New Guinea. The people living in West New Guinea to-day are not Indonesians and just as we were in favour of Indonesian independence so we are opposed to Indonesian imperialism. We want the natives of New Guinea to also have the right of self-determination.
The Minister says that the interests of the natives must be paramount. Can any one believe that under this arrangement into which the Government has entered the interests of the natives will be fully protected? At what point of time will the natives of New Guinea be given the right to determine whether they want to continue their association with Australia or any other country, or whether they want their complete independence? There are 700,000 of them in West New Guinea and Ministers and other speakers on the Government side have frankly admitted that Indonesia’s purpose is not merely to get the right to act as trustee for New Guinea until such time as the West New Guinea natives themselves can determine their government, but that it proposes to add that territory to the Indonesian empire and retain permanent control over it At what point will the West New Guinea natives get the opportunity to have self-determination? The Indonesians, I should imagine, propose to use this territory as an outlet for the surplus population of some of their islands, and in no time the West New Guinea native population will be completely submerged. If they ever did get an opportunity to be heard their voice would not be strong enough to win for them the right to have the final say in what should be the future of their own country.
When the Labour party set out to restore civil administration in New Guinea, the parties now forming this Government adopted a most peculiar attitude. Despite their talk about the rights of these people to self-determination, they will recollect - as members can verify by checking the “ Hansard “ reports - that when I, as Minisfor External Territories, brought before this Parliament a measure dealing with New Guinea, members who now support the Government were loud in their criticisms and said that what the then Labour government was doing was wrong. I stated on behalf of the Labour government that it was our intention to advance these people as rapidly as possible in education and establish industries so that they could in the shortest possible time reach the point where they would be capable of making a decision as to whether they wanted to retain their association with Australia or have complete independence. The parties opposite talked about the Labour government acting against the best interests of Australia. Now, they have completely somersaulted and have declared themselves, unconvincingly, in favour of self-determination. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) quoted Mr. James Mossman, a “ Sydney Morning Herald “ correspondent, who made a very significant statement which, I imagine, the Government would have answered if there was any answer to it. That is why I doubt the Government’s sincerity concerning its claim to believe in self-determination for these people. Mr. Mossman stated that the Commonwealth Government was under criticism for not pushing on with the political development of the people of the territory so that they would rapidly reach the point where they could undertake the government of their own country if they so desired.
Let us examine this matter from the strategic viewpoint as it affects the security of Australia. I do not suggest for a moment that at this time the Indonesians are unfriendly to Australia. But we must recognize, as the honorable member for Parkes has pointed out, that the control of Indonesia is not in the hands of a democratically elected government which speaks for the people of Indonesia. It is controlled by a dictatorship established under the presidential control of Dr. Soekarno who, himself, was a collaborator with the Japanese during the last war. According to the Minister no harm has been done; the situation has not been altered and this Government still supports Dutch sovereignty over West New Guinea. Everybody knows that within a month or two elections will be held in Holland, and nobody can say whether the present Dutch Government will be returned or be supplanted by another. Either the present Government of Holland or its successor may decide to give the game away, because this territory of West New Guinea is said to be a poor country and a drain on the revenues of Holland. It would not be unusual if the Dutch, now believing as a result of the Prime Minister’s statement that the Australian Government is adopting an unfriendly attitude towards Holland, decided to get out of West New Guinea. As the honorable member for Parkes has said, the Netherlands Government may make a package deal in which it will be concerned with preserving Dutch assets or securing compensation for the loss of assets in return for sovereignty over West New Guinea.
As far as I am concerned, the sooner colonialism disappears from the world the better. I can understand the Indonesians fearing the return of the Dutch imperialists because they had many years under that type of control. They, no doubt, believe that if the Dutch had the opportunity of remaining in that area there might be some possibility of a military build-up and of this area being used as a springboard for operations designed to restore their sovereignty over Indonesian territory. I do not believe that that fear is based on reality to-day, but it could be an understandable fear in the minds of Indonesians. The Indonesian
Government and people should be satisfied to know that the territory of West New Guinea would be put under a trust and that the countries entrusted with the care of this territory and its peoples would merely develop it to the point where the natives could determine their future for themselves.
Let us look at the Australian position. I have heard some of the experts in this Parliament and have viewed them on television talking about New Guinea being no longer strategically important to Australia. I do not claim to be a military authority, but within the last few days a number of people who are qualified to speak have been expressing their opinions in the press. General Robert Eichelberger, of the United States, who had lengthy service in the New Guinea area, said -
Even if you give the new enemy missiles, he has to have a base from which to launch them. He therefore needs New Guinea.
That viewpoint was supported by MajorGeneral Eather and Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett. If we match these opinions against those of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and those who support him, we are justified in believing that we can accept the advice of these men in that particular field. The honorable member for Mackellar has spoken about sovereignty over land and people. We do not accept that. As I have already said, we believe that colonialism must disappear from the world, and the Labour party has very firm ideas on what should be done to bring this about.
I should like to quote, while I have the opportunity, the views of the Minister for External Affairs on this matter of protecting the natives. This is relevant to the question whether the Minister believes that the position of the natives is going to be affected by this agreement into which he has now entered with the Indonesian authorities. This is what he said in this Parliament a few years ago -
The Australian Government will for its part oppose not only a transfer of sovereignty but will also vote against any resolution which has a transfer of sovereignty as its ultimate objective. It is, to say the least, improbable - especially in view of the trend of political developments in Indonesia since 1949 - that if West New Guinea were transferred to Indonesia, the peoples of West New Guinea would ever be allowed to have a voice in their own political future.
Of course the Minister now refers to a legal process with regard to the taking over of West New Guinea, but in the statement that I have just read to the House there is an admission that the rights of these people to determine their own future, at some time when they have reached a sufficient standard of education to warrant it, may be sacrificed.
Let me now turn to one or two other aspects of the matter. The Minister has laid great stress on the fact that Dr. Subandrio has repeatedy stated that Indonesia has no intention of using force, and that it proposes to settle this question by peaceful means. The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) is a very vocal member of this Parliament, and I shall quote from his speech delivered in this chamber on 14th November, 1957. This is of particular interest because the honorable member read to the House some remarks of Dr. Subandrio. The honorable member for Phillip said -
Indonesia cannot genuinely establish its claim to Dutch New Guinea on either ethnical or geographical grounds. The validity of its claim cannot be substantiated, for several reasons. It is an emotional claim and has no realism in its substance. Yet Indonesia has, for the third time in a very short period, brought its claim before the United Nations and its various spokesmen have repeatedly expressed a desire for a peaceful solution of this important problem. But, on the other hand, repeated statements have been made which do not in any reassuring way make Indonesia’s motives quite clear. For example, the press statement which was made recently by Dr. Helmi, the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, was, to my mind, a mere propaganda sheet. In it, he attempted to justify this statement which was made recently by Dr. Subandrio at the United Nations -
The only question is whether the United Nations is the place where the solution to the West New Guinea problem may be forged or whether we must embark upon another course, even at the risk of aggravating the position in South East Asia and perhaps inviting cold war tensions to further muddy the waters of peace in that region of the world.
So it is quite obvious that if the Indonesians are determined to secure West New Guinea, then Dr. Subandrio envisages the possibility that, some time in the future, if they fail by peaceful negotiation, they will have to consider the question of going to war in order to secure this territory. That could be a most serious matter for Australia. The honorable member for Phillip went on to say -
Dr. Helmi said he believed that no impartial mind could fail to understand the true spirit in which Dr. Subandrio spoke. What is this true spirit? Is it one of co-operation, or is there, by innuendo, a threat by Indonesia?
What is the situation that exists to-day? Every one in Australia must be disturbed at the recent turn of events. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) quite rightly asked: What game are the United States of America and the United Kingdom playing in respect of this transaction? We have to live in this area, whereas they are far removed from it. lt is all very well for those countries to be negotiating and making trade pacts and trade deals involving certain concessions, but what we are primarily concerned about is the security of our own country. Every day we read in the press about the build-up of arms in Indonesia. Surely no sensible person would believe that the great build-up of arms that has taken place in Indonesia, with Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States all competing with each other to win the friendship of that country with gifts of arms, has been necessary to subdue the rebels who, we were told a few months ago, were already defeated.
I declare, therefore, that this Government has betrayed the Australian community in these talks, these negotiations, and in the agreements that have been made. We ought to declare in unmistakable terms what we stand for. I would like to see the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea merged with that of Dutch New Guinea, so that the whole of New Guinea could be administered as one territory. Then let us push on with the work of building up the country to the stage at which it will be advanced and powerful enough to stand on its own feet and make its own decision as to whether in the future it wants to be an independent nation.
Motion (by Mr. Pearce) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That the number of members appointed to serve on the Committee of Privileges be increased to nine and that Mr. Clyde Cameron, Mr. Clark, Mr. Drury, Mr. Erwin, Mr. Allan Fraser, Mr. Galvin, Mr. Killen, Mr. Snedden and Mr. Turnbull be members of the committee, five to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by have - proposed -
That Mr. Speaker, Mr. Failes, Mr. J. R. Fraser, Mr. Galvin, Mr. Opperman, Mr. Pearce and Mr. Stewart be members of the House Committee.
.- We have no objection to the personnel of the committee or to the establishment of the committee, but we would like to see it given power to do many things that its members doubtless would like to do. Every honorable member who is not a Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or a Whip is pushed around in regard to accommodation in a way that is not befitting a national parliament. No private member has adequate room in this Parliament House. Whenever a new parliament is elected, the Speaker for the time being and the Leader of the Government - whether it is the same government or a new government - or his deputy has to try to reshuffle the available space. I suggest to you, Sir, and to the Government that the question of building a new wing across the courtyard, running north to south, should be seriously considered and the wing should be built quickly.
– Build a new Parliament House.
– It is no use talking about a new Parliament House. That will not be built for many years, and when it is built, I hope that it will be built on the hill behind the present Parliament House building and not down on the mosquito-ridden mud flats that border the Molonglo. That is my personal view.
The Government should consider, as an urgent matter, building a two-story wing or block intersecting the courtyard, from the chamber level upwards. It would preserve the amenities of the courtyard and would give much better accommodation than at present provided, for both Ministers and members. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) has interjected, I understand, to the effect that Ministers have too much space in this building. So they have, and it was always so in the days of the Ministry of which I was a member as well as in the days of the present Ministry. An executive building should be built quickly, and Ministers ought to go there. But the possibility of having such a building constructed also is remote, and except that my idea might be extended to cover the provision of a wing over the courtyard on the Senate side of Parliament House, I know of no means by which we can provide reasonable accommodation for members of this House, particularly those who come from the most distant States and who have to live in Canberra over the week-end.
Of course, we could dispossess the press, and I have put forward proposals on that line in the past. I think we may yet reach the stage at which one man in Melbourne and one man in Sydney will control the whole of the press of Australia, and the press barons might very well provide their own building and transfer most of their staffs to it instead of usurping the space in this building that ought to be used by members of the Parliament.
.- Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has raised this mater. It has been a burning question with me for some time. Quite a few years ago, we brought this matter up. Of course, the timid supporters of the Government are afraid of the press, and they dare not say a word in condemnation of it. Members are forced to crowd two and three to a room, and take it with a smile, because the Government is afraid to say anything in opposition to the claims of the press, which occupies 21 rooms in this building at the taxpayers’ expense.
Order! I think that the honorable member is getting a little away from the subjectmatter before the House, which is the appointment of members of this chamber to sit on the House Committee. Some reference to the press in relation to the accommodation available in the building has already been made, but I think that any reference to the press should be a little guarded.
– May 1 suggest, Sir, that the members of the House Committee should take into consideration the 21 rooms occupied by the press.
– Order! The honorable member will keep off the 21 rooms.
– May I suggest, Sir, that all accommodation in Parliament House should be allocated to members of the Parliament, and the parliamentary staffs, and that everybody else should be evicted forthwith. It is a matter of some amazement to me that rooms in this building should be occupied by outsiders at no expense to themselves, and I think that the House Committee should earnestly consider the problem. Could not Government supporters raise their voices in protest, or are they afraid of continued attacks by certain people against their privileges? Something should be done in this matter, and I wish to protest about the lack of space, because I am forced to work in a room with two other members. Through the kindness of my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I have been courteously granted a desk at which I can work in company with my colleague, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), in a room about 12 feet square. I protest at this crowding. 1 think that the press and other elements in the building foreign to the Parliament should be removed immediately.
.- I am sure that, as Opposition Whip, I have the support of the Government Whip and his assistant in supporting the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) about the inadequacy of the space available in this building for the purposes of the Parliament. Many new members of the Parliament, and even many old members, have suffered in the last few days because this building is bursting at the seams, as it were. It is unfair to members on both sides of the House that they should have to crowd as many as four to a room. I think that two members to a room is quite enough, and the allocation of members two to a room would allow sufficient space and privacy for members to do their work properly. With four members working in a room together, perhaps all of them with telephones ringing at once, one may get the idea that this place is indeed the madhouse that people outside sometimes suggest. But this is only because we are so crowded together.
There are 184 members in this Parliament, counting senators, and the building has been extended only once since it was completed in 1927, despite the great increase in the number of members of the Parliament. That one extension was initiated by the Labour government, which added an additional wing in the financial year 1948-49 and thereby enabled private members to have individual rooms for the first time. When I entered this Parliament in 1946, Sir, seventeen Labour members were accommodated in the party room which is now occupied by Government supporters. All seventeen of us had to work in that one room together until, as I have said, in 1949, we were provided with individual rooms for the first time. The work of members of the Parliament has greatly increased since that time. There is no doubt about that. Increased migration, greater Commonwealth responsibilities in many fields, and the growing consciousness of the people that we can help them in their problems all add immeasurably to our work in this place. In addition, we have much more committee work now. The volume of this kind of work over the last few years is far greater than was known when I entered the Parliament. Members to-day are working all the time that they are in this place, and yet they have totally inadequate space for their accommodation.
I suggest to the Government that the time has come when it should restrict the space allowed to Ministers in this building. I say nothing against Ministers as such, but I am quite convinced that this establishment was intended for members of the Parliament as such and not as a place that Ministers could invade, as they are now doing, nearly all of them requiring accommodation for three offices. This is fantastic, Sir, and this invasion continues in an ever-increasing stream in such a way that members of the Parliament are pushed further and further back into the rear of the building year by year, until the whole establishment could almost appear to be like the rabbit warren that was mentioned earlier to-day by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
Mr. Speaker, it is of no use to look dreamy-eyed towards the future for some magnificent building that has been planned and re-planned again and again by experts from overseas. I do not expect to be a member of this Parliament when the new Parliament House is completed.
– The honorable member will be here for the next 30 years, too.
– Even if I am here for the next 20 or 30 years, I do not expect to see the new Parliament House. I am firmly convinced, Mr. Speaker, that another ministerial block should be constructed forthwith close to this building where Ministers could abide and work without encroaching on the space available to private members of the Parliament who are just as valuable to the country as are Ministers, although they are not paid nearly so much. I earnestly suggest to the Government that the expenditure of a few thousand pounds now on a ministerial building handy to this establishment would solve our accommodation problems. We should not have to wait until the new Parliament House is built. When that building is constructed, in the dim, distant future, the ministerial block that I have suggested could easily be converted to ordinary departmental use.
I have been reminded that there are 22 Ministers in the present Government, and, on an average, each of them has three rooms in this building. So they occupy more than 60 rooms in this establishment, Mr. Speaker. We have the heads of departments accommodated nearby in large buildings, and I see no reason why Ministers also could not be quartered in a separate building nearby, from which they could reach their ministerial and departmental officers in the buildings known as East Block, West Block and the Administrative Building as readily as they can now from Parliament House. I put those views quite seriously. We are crowded out. If there were a Government tenancy officer in Canberra he would say that Parliament House was too small for the number of people using it. He would condemn it for being grossly overcrowded. It is time that the Government gave thought to building a separate block of offices for the use of the Ministers.
– in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) quite properly directed the attention of the House to some matters that require the attention of the House Committee. I think that the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) may have been a little ungenerous in charging honorable members on this side of the House with timidity because they did not raise the matter of accommodation for the press. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith should recognize that, compared with other honorable members, he has unusual natural advantages in his dealings with the press. He has a capacity that very few of us have, the capacity of being able to say the sort of thing, and be involved in the sort of scene, that makes news. Not all of us have that natural advantage.
To honorable members who have raised these matters, 1 suggest that they are eminently matters with which the House Committee can deal. I suggest that the matters that have been mentioned this afternoon, and any others that honorable members may have in mind, might be brought before the incoming House Committee. All parties are represented on that committee, and through the representative of his party any honorable member can ensure that matters are brought forward for attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, Mr. Bryant, Mr. Drummond, Mr. Forbes, Mr. Kearney, Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Wentworth be members of the library Committee.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Bird, Mr. Erwin, Mr. E. James Harrison, Mr. Lucock, Mr. Opperman, Mr. Pearce, and Mr. Stewart be members of the Printing Committee.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - proposed -
That Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Clark, Mr. Costa, Mr. Drury, Mr. E. James Harrison, Mr. Makin, and Sir Earle Page be members of the Standing Orders Committee; five to form a quorum.
Mr. LUCHETTI (Macquarie [5.50].- I sincerely trust that the appointment of this committee will be more than a mere parliamentary formality. There is a real and urgent need for the Standing Orders Committee to meet regularly so as to bring parliamentary procedures into line with the altered conditions of present day life. The committee should be an active one. Urgent consideration should be given to our parliamentary requirements.
I make one special plea, perhaps mostly on behalf of the newly elected honorable members, but almost as much on behalf or other honorable members. There is a deplorable lack of knowledge of standing orders among honorable members generally. Those gaps in our knowledge could be rectified. We could become better informed if steps were taken to have lectures given to honorable members, perhaps in the committee room or elsewhere, by the courteous and efficient Clerk of the House, Mr. Turner. I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, might discuss this matter with Mr. Turner, so that he might address honorable members and give them an idea of the workings of Parliament, the operation of the committee system, and just how honorable members might address the House on the occasions of the reading of a paper and the various phases of debate. I feel that quite a number of members, especially those sitting on the back benches, would like to say something on occasions about a matter that has been introduced into the chamber, but they are reluctant to do so because they wonder whether they are in order and entitled to speak. They tend to rely on honorable members sitting on the front benches, who may be satisfied with the situation, whereas an honorable member on a back bench may have something worth while to contribute to the debate if only he were aware of his rights at that particular time. Consequently, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you might discuss this matter with Mr. Turner, who is, I know, very kind, considerate, and helpful to honorable members generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, viz.: - Mr. Speaker, Mr. Costa, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Allan Fraser, Mr. Opperman and Mr. Turnbull.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, viz.: - Mr. Allan, Mr. Bland, Mr. Bury, Mr. Cairns, Mr. Cleaver, Mr. Cope, and Mr. Thompson.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - proposed -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz.: - Mr. Brimblecombe, Mr. Dean, Mr. Fairhall, Mr. Griffiths, Mr. McIvor, and Mr. O’Connor.
– The accommodation for honorable members in the various capital cities is neither adequate nor satisfactory, and in some cases it is woeful. I hope that the Public Works Committee will be given authority to investigate proposals for the erection of Commonwealth buildings in those capital cities where nothing has yet been started, and at the same time I hope that the works that have already been started will be completed very quickly. In that regard I have in mind Melbourne. I also hope that the work in Sydney will be commenced very soon.
I may be transgressing slightly, Mr. Speaker, but I should like to say that I was a member of the Cabinet subcommittees that arranged the purchase of the sites in Melbourne and Sydney. The recommendations of those committees met with a good deal of opposition, but I think that the sites purchased were good ones and that time has justified the decisions made. This Parliament will gain more respect from the people in the capital cities if it erects large Commonwealth buildings to house all Commonwealth instrumentalities. At present the State governments have the pick of the buildings in the capital cities. Commonwealth departments are scattered in rented properties, and the Government suffers because people must travel up and down the city looking for various Commonwealth offices.
– The private sector suffers also.
– Yes, that is another important matter to be considered. I hope that the new Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) will refer to the Public Works Committee questions concerning the erection of blocks of Commonwealth offices in all capital cities, and give that committee the opportunity to report not on piecemeal plans, but on complete plans for each capital.
.- This is not the first time that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has spoken in this House on this subject. The right honorable gentleman is very misguided in his opinion if he thinks that the Australian people will regard members of Parliament more highly if they have large buildings in Melbourne and other cities in which to do their business. The only way in which members of Parliament can earn the respect of the people is by their actions. I have always been opposed to the erection of large blocks of Government buildings. As far as the honorable members are concerned, I think that they are reasonably satisfied with their present accommodation in Melbourne. The reason is that quite a number of honorable members are moving their parliamentary offices into their country electorates, leaving better offices in Melbourne for those members who require offices in the metropolitan area.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19th February (vide page 178), on motion by Mr. Browne -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May rr Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia,in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- Mr. Speaker, I should first like to congratulate you upon your election, unopposed, as Speaker of this 23rd Parliament, and also to express my thanks to the Labour movement in Tasmania, which endorsed me, and to the people of Braddon, in Tasmania, who elected me. I am deeply conscious of the great honour and privilege of representing this electorate for the Australian Labour party for the first time since it was represented by the late Mr. King O’Malley in 1917. With all privileges go responsibilities, and I hasten to assure the people that 1 fully understand and realize the great responsibility of being a member of this National Parliament.
Mr. King O’Malley was the member for Braddon from the inception of federation in 1901 till 1917. The Liberal party then held the seat continuously until the last election. Mr. King O’Malley, with his remarkable ability and vision, was responsible for the foundation of the Commonwealth Bank - the people’s bank - the building of the east-west railway, and for many other things, including .the initial development of this great and wonderful city of Canberra. I deplore the fact that I have found here no monument to his memory, even in the naming after him of a street or suburb, and I am delighted to know that my colleague, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has made representations along these lines. I -can assure the honorable member that I shall assist him in his representations.
My electorate of Braddon is essentially rural, with dairying, cash-cropping of such commodities as peas, swedes, potatoes and barley, and sheep-raising :and timbergetting being carried on. Circular Head, in the far north-west ‘corner, is a vast aTea with a great potential. Thousands of acres of button grass plains will be brought into production, we hope, with the use of trace elements. In the towns on the north-west coast there is increased industrialization. There are food-processing factories in Devonport, Ulverstone and Smithton. The Titan works, which are associated with the manufacture of paint, ,are at Blythe Heads, and the paper mills at Burnie employ 2,000 men.
Along the west coast of my electorate are mining fields around the towns of Queenstown, Rosebery, Zeehan, Renison Bell, Tullah, and Williamsford. Some of the greatest mineral -deposits of the world are found in these areas. Copper, zinc, tin, and silver lead are mined. A great deal of exploratory work has been done in these areas by the use of helicopters for the purpose of flying in geologists and diamond drillers .to places that would otherwise be inaccessible. Mr. King O’Malley often referred to this place as the Gibraltar of democracy. It was not until I went to live with these people that I fully realized the import of that phrase, and I am proud to be their representative here in this House.
My electorate also includes King Island, which is famous for the hospitality of its people. It is famous also for the fact that there have :been 87 known shipwrecks around its coastline. Of course, a great deal of sadness was associated with many of these wrecks, but they were responsible for the stabilization of the dairying industry on the island, because the .seeds of the plant melalot came ashore from one of the wrecks. Previously, dairying was carried on in a -restricted form, because after the pastures had been eaten .out in the spring and early summer, the season was ended, but the seeds of melalot were the means -of establishing a very tough plant that withstood the rigours of the late summer. So the dairying industry was established, and it has .continued to thrive. For many years it was impossible to keep dairy cattle along the coastal belt of -the island for any length ©f time. Dairy-farmers were forced to take the cattle inland because of the peculiar wasting disease which the cattle experienced. With the help of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization .and field officers of the State Department of Agriculture, trace elements were -discovered which ‘overcame : soil deficiencies and now ‘the dairying industry on the island is assured. With it, of course, goes sheep raising, and Or interest to the House is the fact that more than 50,000 acres of land have been cleared on the island under the war service land settlement scheme (for returned men of the Second World War.
I believe that the creators of Australia’s true national wealth are the primary producers and the workers in our factories and mines. These people are turning into national assets the resources that the Creator has given to us for the use of all. These two producing groups are paramount in the .economy of this country, but in recent times both groups have encountered their difficulties. On the one hand, there have been reports of a threat to world butter prices and also an alarming slump in Australia’s wool income. The pamphlet “ Wool Facts “ issued by the Australian Woolgrowers Council, states that in the six months ended 31st December, 1958, income from wool exports amounted to £140,000,000, as against £208,000,000 for the corresponding six months of the previous financial year, which represents already a drop of 33 per cent.
The highest cost of living increases since 1956 were announced recently. The freezing of wage rates by a denial of costofliving adjustments for those persons working under federal awards, and the denial of just increases in margins have deprived half the workers of Australia of wage justice. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has submitted a claim for a substantial increase in the basic wage, with claims ranging from £1 ls. in Victoria to £1 8s. in Tasmania. It will be very difficult to deny these claims, in view of the continuing increases in the cost of living and the admitted buoyancy of some of the great secondary industries in this country.
Any increases - and I maintain that they are long overdue - must seriously affect the other group to which I have referred, namely, the primary producers, in that farmers’ production costs must increase through dearer labour, plant, and handling charges. The Government of this country must find some way of balancing the effect of wage increases on primary industry, because of downward trends in Australia’s farm export incomes. The falling economy in this field cannot be denied. Figures of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics show that farm income in ten years has fallen from 19.7 per cent, to 7.9 per cent, of the total national income. Australia’s net income from farming and grazing exports in 1957-58 was estimated at £405,000.000, which is £150,000.000 below the income of the previous year, and the lowest in the last ten years. Costs of production have risen steadily over the past few years, but the prices received for primary products are falling.
We are inclined to neglect the great contribution being made by primary producers, especially those in the marginal areas, to this great country of ours. These men have really fallen on hard times, and
I sincerely hope that the Government will give consideration to granting a subsidy on superphosphate, a subject which was mentioned in the House this afternoon. I know some men who bought properties in recent years when land values were high, and because of the poor returns in the last two years, they are having difficulty in paying even interest on the loans they raised to buy the properties.
The Governor-General referred in his Speech to the Government’s decision to set up a committee to investigate problems associated with the dairying industry. I was under the impression that this Parliament governed the nation, but if we are to have committees I enter an urgent plea for sympathetic consideration to be given to primary producers. We must export to live. If England is not in a position to pay prices for our primary products, particularly dairy products, which will give a reasonable return to our farmers, this Government should go into the highways and byways of the world to sell our products. Many primary producers, particularly dairy farmers, are not making even the basic wage when the hours they work are considered. Whether action is taken by committees or by this Parliament, we must face up to the essential fact that farm incomes must be improved this year. I am afraid to think of the number of men in the electorate I represent who will walk off their properties unless some remedial measures are introduced and unless there is some improvement in farm income in the next twelve months.
Reference has been made in this debate to the setting up of a committee on taxation. If such a committee is set up or when the Government is considering the Budget, I sincerely hope that the claims of the people of King Island for a zonal tax concession will be considered. Those people are battling against high costs brought about by their isolation and the great depreciation of plant and machinery that occurs there. One has to see the effect of the salt air on motor cars, tractors and other farm machinery to appreciate the difficulties of their position. When previous representations were made for tax concessions for the people of King Island, the former Treasurer refused the request. He said there were as many rich men on King Island as there were anywhere else in Australia. Such a reply is poor consolation to some of the older settlers and more than 120 soldier settlers who are battling against rising costs, high freights and falling farm incomes.
I am deeply concerned also about the position of the Tasmanian potato growers. The irregularity of shipping last season caused inconvenience and loss to potato growers. The instability of prices on the Sydney market which was mainly the direct result of this irregularity had serious economic repercussions for hundreds of farmers in Tasmania, and the effects were felt through all the coastal towns which are dependent to a large degree on the prosperity of the back country. This industry, which is of such vital importance in the State’s economy, is being forced out of existence by the lack of adequate shipping. The importance of potatoes on the balance of trade in Tasmania may be gauged from the fact that the average annual value of potatoes exported from that State over the last five years was £2,675,000 or approximately 4 per cent, of the average annual value of all goods exported during the same period. The area planted last year was 21,696 acres. That was the second lowest for 63 years. During the Second World War, production in one season covered 81,000 acres.
The chairman of the potato committee of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, Mr. E. A. Marshall, said in Launceston recently that indications were that the acreage under potatoes this year would be the lowest on record. This is very vital to Tasmania because it affects a wide field of employment. lt begins with the men who have devoted years to the specialized field of growing seed. In the last two seasons they have sold very little, if any, seed to growers. It affects the man who digs potatoes to supplement the wages he earns at other work. It affects the carriers and the wharf labourers and, above all, the small shopkeepers, because when the farmer is having a good time, the shopkeepers also are doing well. A shopkeeper in Burnie recently told me that he could put up outside his premises two barometers, one indicating the price level of potatoes and the other showing the amount of trade that went over his counters. He said there would be a marked similarity between the indicators on the two barometers. When the price of potatoes was stable and income was up, his business was doing well, but immediately the price of primary products fell, his business declined also. These matters are causing concern to chambers of commerce and other bodies which are interested in trade on the north-west coast of Tasmania.
Since the Second World War we have lost established markets in Queensland and Newcastle because of lack of shipping. The Sydney market can take 25,000 to 30,000 bags of Tasmanian potatoes weekly. Newcastle can take 5,000 to 7,000 sacks fortnightly. Some weeks, there are no Tasmanian shipments arriving in Sydney and consumption is thus lost. In other weeks, anything from 5,000 to 50,000 bags of potatoes are delivered. This reduces trade to a farce. In 1958, there was not one direct sailing from the north-west of Tasmania to Newcastle. A few shipments were made on ships which called first at Sydney, but these were unsatisfactory. The delay was unpredictable and Newcastle space was deducted from the limited amount available for Sydney. The delay in reaching Newcastle was unpredictable. Shipping services in the past have been very spasmodic. On sixteen occasions from March to November, 1958, ships left the Tasmanian ports of Burnie and Devonport with potatoes stacked high on the decks. No other perishable cargo is asked to carry that risk. Potatogrowers finished last season with over 50,000 bags of produce rotting on their farms because of lack of adequate shipping.
In every other State, any citizen is able to secure, at short notice, prompt transport facilities interstate for any goods he may wish to transport either by ship, road or rail. Yet in Tasmania, no potato-grower has been able during the last twenty years to secure anything but very limited shipping space when required. In every other State, trains, aircraft and road transports travel to schedule, and the time and place of delivery can be pre-determined accurately. That does not apply in Tasmania. The Commonwealth Government maintains a railway service to Western Australia because of its isolation. It also owns the largest fleet of ships on the Australian coast. It could provide adequate and regular services for Tasmania which is the only State wholly dependent on shipping for heavy transport. We have, put up with inadequate services for twenty years, and I make this appeal to the Commonwealth Government to. accept greater responsibilities to assist industries, such as the. Tasmanian potato industry and to ensure that regular shipping services, are made available. At this point, I wish to acknowledge the co-operation which the chairman of the Potato Marketing Board, Mr. C. G. Wragg, and I received recently from executive officers of the Australian. National Shipping Line, Captain Williams and Mr. Mercovich in endeavouring, to provide a ship for the Newcastle trade.
The timber industry is also passing through difficult times, not only because of unrestricted imports of cheap Malayan timber, but also because of high shipping freights. It costs more to ship timber from the- north-west coast of Tasmania to Melbourne than it does to bring timber from Malaya to Australia. I hope that the Government will give due consideration to a freight subsidy to enable Tasmanian timber to> compete with imported timber on the Australian market!. Freight charges- from Tasmanian ports are based upon cubic measurement and’ not on super, feet. This adds an extra 7s. per 100 super, feet to costs, although it is already difficult enoughfor the industry to compete with imports from low-wage countries, particularly Malaya and Borneo. Malayan timber men work a 48-hour week, and there are as many women- as men employed in theindustry in Malaya. Working conditions are more than 40 years behind those operating in Australia. This enables Malayan exporters to put timber on the Australian market at lower prices than home producers can market it, the present price of Malayan timber being 32s. per 100 super, feet below that of comparable Australian grades. These timbers are used for precisely the same purposes as Tasmanian timbers are used - for instance, for furniture, building construction, joinery, mouldings, shop fittings, home-building and so on. The characteristics of the timbers are similar in that they are light in weight and easy to machine.
As a stark fact, the production of Tasmanian timber has dropped from 151t000,000 super, feet to 129,000,000 super, feet in three years - a drop of 22,000,000 super, feet - whereas imports from Malaya have; increased by 25,000,000 super, feet in the same period. This has meant a loss to Tasmania of £1,500,000. I realize that it is probably impossible for the Government to interfere with these imports from places like Malaya, due to commitments under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and also because of other trade treaties, but I sincerely hope that it will consider the granting of freight subsidies to enable the Tasmanian industry to continue to compete with imported timbers on the Australian market.
Some reference was made in the Governor-General’s Speech to homebuilding - but not enough. As has been pointed out by other honorable members, by 1965, at the present rate, of home-building, Australia is going to be in a serious position. Immediately you embark on a homebuilding programme you. create a cycle of employment which affects whole sections of the community. The cycle starts back in the bush with the loggers and the millers. The mills go into increased production, and that increased production later provides employment. for bricklayers, tilers, plumbers, electricians and, last of all, home furnishers. That cycle influences and affects whole sections of the community. This is important when we realize that there are 81,901 unemployed people in this country and- that, through a very vigorous home-building programme, much of this unemployment could be alleviated. Two per cent, of the work force in this young country is out of work to-day, and for fourteen successive months the number of people receiving unemployment benefit has exceeded 20,000, and has generally been above 25,000. Now it is above 30,000, the highest figure in the last ten years. The link between timber, home-building and unemployment is borne out by the fact that recently a contractor in Devonport advertised for a builder’s labourer - an unskilled man - and received 76 applications for the job, many of them from skilled tradesmen in the home-building and building trades generally.
While speaking on the- timber industry, Sir, I should like to refer to the harmful effect that the restrictive credit policies of banking and other financial institutions are having on the timber industry. There is a great demand in Australia for 14-in. and 2-in. timber, but stocks held are very low, because this particular class of timber must be kept in the yards for about twelve months in order to season. Unless credit is available at a reasonable rate of interest millers are not in .a position to cut and build up stocks of this particular line, for which there will be an increasing demand.
Shipping is the life blood of any island, and I hope that the ‘Government will consider sympathetically the construction of ships for use when and where required, and will also review the question of freights in an endeavour to keep industry in production and so reduce unemployment in Tasmania. We look forward with great pleasure to the advent of the first vehicle deck-cargo vessel, “ Princess of Tasmania “, which will trade between Melbourne and Devonport later this year. We sincerely hope that reports that freights will be reduced by 20 per cent, as a result of the use of this vessel will prove correct, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will give further consideration to the issuing of a special stamp to mark this historic occasion.
– May I claim the indulgence of the House for the few minutes at my disposal in order to bring forward some facts concerning rural industry, the form of industry in which I am particularly Interested. As this is the first occasion on which I have had the honour to address the House I should like to give now a pledge of loyalty to my Queen and to the British Empire. I believe that today, with the threat of communism, and because of our various trade relations, our immigration plans and the importation of American industries, one sometimes overlooks the fact that we, as true Australians, belong to the British Empire. I should also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Those two honorable members have set a very high standard for me, as well as for other new members of the House, to uphold.
Time will not allow me to go into all the problems of rural industry, let alone the other problems with which the House is concerned, such as ‘the banking issue, social service pensions, war pensions and the matter that has been discussed this afternoon - Dutch New Guinea. So I intend to concentrate on the industries “with which I am chiefly concerned in my electorate.
Honorable members who represent adjoining electorates will realize that the Wimmera electorate is like other rural electorates in that it is fast becoming industrialized. I hope that at some future date I snail be able to discuss the problems of secondary industries in my electorate also. The two main industries in the Wimmera electorate are the wheat and wool industries, and I shall deal with them in turn. ‘We, as wheat producers, have had our ups and downs, our ins and outs, our good seasons and our bad seasons, high prices and low prices; but, thanks to the wheat industry stabilization plan, we have now a price that gives reasonable security to all growers. Naturally we trust the Almighty to produce , me crop. ‘Our major problem at the moment is the disposal o’f the crop. Here are some figures of last year’s sales: The total quantity of wheat exported was 50,000,000 bushels, ‘consisting of 34,000,000 bushels of actual wheat, and the balance in the form of flour. To .this, of course, if we add the home-consumption quantity of approximately ‘60;000,000, we have a total of 110,000,000 bushels. But to-day we see a harvest in the vicinity of 190,000,000 .bushels. Added to that, we have .the normal carry-over of approximately 1.6,000,000 bushels, which means that we have 200,000,000 bushels to dispose of whereas, last year, we disposed of 1.10,000,000 bushels.
Perhaps I know what some honorable members are thinking - that last year we did not have all the wheat that we could have disposed of. Granted - we did not. But there is one thing we must remember and that is that if a buyer for an article is lost it may be very hard to encourage that same buyer to come back and -buy the goods when they become available. This is particularly so to-day when we see in the world places such as America, Canada and France, with a surplus df grain, and we see -that those various countries are attempting to outbid us. They are out to sell their commodity wherever they possibly can. I repeat that once ‘a sale is lost because the goods cannot be supplied it is very hard to get back the buyer.
This Government must give a very high priority to the disposal of wheat and flour even, possibly, to the extent of granting overseas credits or arranging trade missions or trade agreements. I was very happy, one day last week, to hear an announcement by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that he had negotiated for the sale of 50,000 tons of flour for immediate delivery to Ceylon. This is a followup from a previous agreement for Ceylon to purchase flour at the rate of 100,000 tons annually.
The reasons for which I mention the flour industry are two-fold: Firstly, for every ton of flour that we can dispose of, there is a quantity less of wheat that we must dispose of. But just as important is the effect of the industry on rural dwellers. There is little need to remind honorable members, particularly those who understand and live in wheat areas, of the fact that, scattered throughout the wheat areas, are numerous flour mills. Those mills, over recent years, have been having a very torrid time. Those mills, years ago, were all producing flour with three shifts per day, irrespective of the size of the various mills.
What do we see to-day? We see very few mills that are operating any more than one shift a day and, in some cases, we see mills that are not operating at all. My mind goes to a mill which closed down temporarily three or four years ago. That mill has not produced one ounce of flour since that time. Naturally, the bigger the output the cheaper the product. Once again, I urge this federal Government to give a very high priority to these sales.
I might also remind honorable members of what the wheat growing industry has done for the national economy over a period of years. From the year of harvest 1940-41 to the harvest year 1952-53, the wheat growing industry has contributed to the economy £204,000,000. This amount is derived from the difference between the amount that the grower could have got for his wheat had it been exported and the home consumption price of our wheat and flour. Selecting a figure at random from my information, I see that in the year of harvest 1946-47, the industry contributed approximately £30,000,000 to the national economy by selling wheat and flour at a reduced price.
I was very pleased, Mr. Speaker, to see that the Governor-General mentioned the wool industry. I suppose that the wool industry has been on the lips of more people in this country than any other industry in Australia. That has occurred for one reason, and that reason is the price that has been paid for wool. I venture to say that the wool industry is in the most disastrous position that we have experienced since World War I. Naturally, not only does it affect the growers but it affects the whole of our economy.
The honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) mentioned some figures relative to the export value of wool. He mentioned a deficit of £68,000,000 for a period of six months during the last twelve months. I should like to mention, also, that for the seven months ended 31st January, 1958, the average price of wool was 67.72 pence per pound. For the same period this year, the average price was 46.40 pence per pound, a drop of 21 pence. Last year’s average price was well below the previous year’s average. I venture to say that, over the last three years, the average price has dropped by 50%. Surely, in view of these figures and the extent to which wool affects the economy of our nation, we must consider a very sound wool programme. We must decide whether it shall be in the form of trade agreements, a floor price or a continuation of our present auctioning system. It must be given a very high priority.
As this is my maiden speech it would not be proper if I did not mention the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, not so much in criticism as for the purpose of making some constructive suggestions. It is wellknown throughout the Commonwealth that there is a very big lag in the provision of rural automatic telephone exchanges. I may be wrong in saying that this shortage is Commonwealth-wide; it may be the case only in my own electorate, but there the shortage is most acute. I refer particularly to a settlement adjoining the South Australian border known as “ the big desert “. The Australian Mutual Provident Society is opening up this area at the rate of about 7,000 acres a year, lt consists mainly of light scrub country and has a moderate rainfall, but because of its isolation it has been neglected. It is a long way from any major or even minor town and until recently had no roads, railway or telephonic communication. The Victorian Government has assisted financially with the building of roads in this area and if telephone services were provided and, at a later stage, schools and other essential amenities, this area could develop a fairly heavy carrying capacity.
I think also of another district where, owing to the lack of telephone exchange staff it is possible that the residents will be denied telephone services. Some homesteads have had telephone services connected for 40 or 50 years, but now, because it is difficult to obtain staff to operate the exchange, it may be necessary to close it down. The only remedy for this situation is to provide a rural automatic exchange. I again strongly urge the Government to consider making more finance available for the Postal Department in order to provide telephone services which are so important in. these remote areas. Honorable members are all in accord with the opening up of new settlement areas so that the production of wheat, wool, butter, eggs and other primary products may be increased. But this can be achieved only by providing necessary amenities and services to encourage people to settle in such areas.
As a Victorian, I naturally have very strong feelings about the present petrol tax formula. Possibly my colleagues may not agree with me on this issue but I claim that Victoria is very harshly treated in this matter. I hope that at the next Premiers’ Conference some of the problems it creates will be ironed out. There are two angles to be considered when we think about allocating finance for roads. Finance is necessary first of all for their construction, and secondly for their maintenance. One has not to be a Rhodes scholar to work out that a road which carries light traffic will outlast a road which carries heavy traffic. The mileage travelled by vehicles in Victoria compared with the mileage of vehicles in other States, I think, would cause honorable members to agree that the petrol tax distribution should be on a usage basis rather than on a mileage basis. Although the tax formula may have worked quite successfully in the past I feel that it has now outlived its usefulness.
In closing I emphasize again the importance of rural problems generally and I sincerely hope that while I am the representative of the Wimmera electorate I shall be able to play some small part in bringing to the notice of the Government from time to time the problems of this great area. I take this opportunity of thanking my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me by electing me to this, the twentythird Parliament.
.- Mr. Speaker, I, too, desire to extend my congratulations and felicitations to you upon being elected to your august position in this honorable House. I feel that it is fitting on this night that the honorable members for Braddon (Mr. Davies) and St. George should make their maiden speeches. Their election came as a sharp jolt to the Government.
Since this is the first opportunity I have had to speak in this House, I should like to begin with some references to the people of St. George whom I now have the honour to represent. As everybody knows, or should know, St. George is the patron saint of England. He is depicted as a mounted knight in shining armour, his lance penetrating the body of a hideous dragon from whose mouth flames and smoke are emitted freely and furiously. In emulation of their illustrious, though mythical progenitor, the people of St. George are everlastingly in search of dragons to slay. In the absence of dragons they vent their wrath upon the hapless citizens of Sydney and of Australia in and upon the fields of sport. Who has not heard of the mighty rugby union teams from St. George - unless it be the barbarians of Victoria? But whether it be upon the field of sport or of learning, or in war, the people of St. George enjoy equal fame, and he who represents them must shoulder a great and terrible responsibility. For my part, may I say now that I am conscious of that responsibility, and will endeavour so to conduct and to acquit myself as to make them proud of me, as I am of them.
I was never so conscious of the role that honorable members play in this, the nation’s supreme Parliament, as when, by privilege,
I stood with our fighting men in the1 darknessduring the ceremony of remembrance, in the Returned Soldiers’ Hall at Bexley, where I live, on Armistice Day last year. One could almost feel, as well as sense, the spirits of the dead gathered together there with their former comrades in arms. It is then, more than at any other time,, that we become aware of the trust which the people have reposed in us. We must not fail them. Among the words uttered during this ceremony of remembrance, in the period of darkness, these words occur -
They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.
My- mind is turned to the many old soldiers and sailors who, in the haste of youth to rejoin their loved ones at the end of the First World War, concealed their inward wounds, and have now become the victims of what is called the onus of proof. Several of these cases have already been brought to my attention, and I direct this appeal to the Minister for Repatriation (Sir Walter Cooper). I suggest that he should apply a test based upon that principle of British justice that it is better that IGO guilty men should escape than that one innocent man should be punished.
Soldiers have much less chance to grow old than civilians, and so it follows, as a kind of corollary, that most of the old are, as they always have been, civilians. As president of the Rockdale Municipality Senior Citizens’ Welfare Association, I am in close and frequent contact with our old. people whom the years have overtaken, and I never cease to be amazed at their patience and fortitude in these, their final years of trial. I am sure that it is not the Government’s desire that old people who are in receipt of pensions should be made to feel that they are recipients of charity, but such, I am sorry to say, is the case. A stigma rests upon the word “ pension “, and so I make this suggestion to the Government, for what it is worth. I suggest that the Government should cease to use the words “ pension “ and “ pensioner “ in all matters concerning or relating to the aged, and substitute therefor the words “ annuity “ and “ annuitant “. An annuity is something which is conferred or received as a right, and certainly never as a charity. Our old people are proud people, and the least we can do for them is to place their right in a proper perspective by using a more properly descriptive word.
Let me say also that if the Government is really anxious to justify the title which it applies to itself,, it can take the first step, which I have just referred to, and follow that up by paying the extra 10s. a week to all annuitants, instead of the few who now receive it.. It will be readily perceived that I have commenced to practice what I have just been preaching.
The arguments in favour of my second suggestion are so obvious and so numerous and have been stated’ so frequently by members of the Australian Labour party in this. House, that there is nothing to be gained by recapitulating them. I will, therefore, content myself with the observation that if the Government will not give justice to the old, it will give justice to none.
In this House, I have ‘already heard a few references to our most important export, wool. This reminds me of the industry with which I have been associated, in the closest and most practical manner, for the past 30 years. I refer to the textile industry It is the largest industry in the world, and second in importance to none. In Australia, together with its allied industry, the clothing trades industry, it provides in normal times direct employment for at least 100,000 persons. Victoria is the State with the largest textile industry because in the latter days of the last century it was encouraged by the protectionist policy of that State, before federation. But twice in the last ten years, because of this Government’s sloth in moving to the defence of this vital and valuable industry against unfair competition from aboad, it has been subject to blows, both grievous and harmful. That it has survived, and in some cases even managed to make some progress, is high tribute to the managements and operatives who staff the several thousand mills.
In this industry incentive schemes of almost every kind, ranging from methodstime measurements to profit-sharing, are to be found in almost even’ mill of any consequence. In fact, it can be said in all truth that the textile industry, more than any other, conforms to the ideals prescribed by this Government for a perfect industry. Internal competition is intense, and efficiency is high. In one mill, situated in the district of Newcastle, the efficiency rating exceeds that of any comparable mill in the United States of America, and, I think I can say, the world. This Government took away from us a depreciation allowance which enabled the industry to discard its machinery at intervals of three and one-third years. The interval has now been multiplied by three, and in that time our competitors overseas can change their machinery three times, and on each occasion the new machines are bigger, better and faster. This makes it more difficult for us to compete. We labour under an intolerable handicap and a burden which is completely unjustified, and the while our overseas funds are dissipated upon such things as imported confectionery. If this Government will remove the shackles that bind the textile industry, Australian management and Australian operatives will more than hold their own with the textile industry of any country. One would expect that, in the awareness of these things, an industry such as the textile industry would merit not merely the approbation of the Government but indeed its enthusiastic support. I say with regret that my experience inclines me to a contrary belief.
There is a further field upon which I should like to pass some observations. Quite recently, one of the service clubs in St. George has taken under its wing, and helped to form, an association of civilian widows. It may come as a surprise to many that there is a considerable difference in the help given by the community in the hour of need; it varies according to whether the breadwinner was lost in war or in peace. The civilian widow is less fortunate than the war widow in at least two ways. First, that very wonderful organization, Legacy, with its hands completely filled with its own self-imposed burdens, is not available to them. Secondly - this applies with special reference to the widow with children of school age - I cannot help but feel appalled at the paucity of the financial assistance available to them. The class A widow is expected to exist on £4 12s. 6d. a week, with no additional allowance tor the first child and only 10s. a week tor each other child up to sixteen years of age. Some times 1 wonder whether we approach problems such as this in the spirit not of how much but of how little we can do for the unfortunate. Verily in our community it pays not to fall by the wayside!
I am not unaware of the magnitude and the complexity of the problems that plague and perplex governments, but it does seem to me that a more humanitarian and Christian approach to our social problems would yield results far transcending in value the financial costs involved. I am not, Mr. Speaker, a very deeply religious man. However, it does seem to me that, as the light of science gleams brighter, with a brilliance dazzling to the eyes of mankind - so dazzling, in fact, that human eyes are so affected that the world seems to grow darker- there is a need more than ever for divine guidance. I am pleased to observe that we commence our proceedings with prayers. I believe that the. Carpenter of Galilee was a socialist and that if He were here to-day He would want us to equate heart with brain. I believe that He would agree with us when we say that we want to see the breadwinner usefully employed in the community and remunerated at a level that would enable him to discharge his family obligations. We want to see his wife freed from the drudgery of housework, as she well may be by the application of modern science in her aid. We want to see his children properly educated in wellequipped schools and properly prepared to take their places in a rapidly changing world.
I have read that knowledge is like light, and without light there can be no progress. Yet, in New South Wales where an election is about to take place, the organs of daily propaganda have commenced their triennial assault on the Government of that State, for the reason, amongst others, that the schools, so they say, are not all that they might be. The implication is that unwise expenditure has created difficulties which otherwise need not exist. It would be amusing, if it were not so tragic. Victoria, where the nature of the Government is diametrically opposite, is in an even worse condition. Who is to blame, if it is not the parent Government playing the part of a modern Scrooge as it enforces an unnecessarily parsimonious economy in an age which cries out for boldness of thought and faith and courage in action.
As I listened last week to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which preceded and precipitated these proceedings, my impatience mounted, for I felt that never ‘before had I heard so little said at such great length. I did not hear in that address the voice and spirit of a young and vigorous Australia, with its mind teeming with ideas for a marvellous and brilliant future. It was the voice of a blind man travelling a new and unknown path. It was the voice of a government with nothing for the old and less for the new.
.- I support the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, in conveying a message of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. At the same time, I congratulate His Excellency upon his Speech. This, is the occasion of my maiden speech to the House and I must take this opportunity to express again my appreciation to the electors of Stirling for the confidence that they have placed in me as their representative. I am here to represent the entire electorate, to watch the interests of Western Australia and to serve the nation. These things I will do to the best of my ability.
I should like to touch on one or two points in the Speech of His Excellency. The first point is the Royal visit. In Western Australia, we are pleased that this country is to be honoured by the visit of Her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra of Kent. We realize that the prime objective of her visit is to attend the Queensland centenary celebrations. But at the same time we are disappointed that Western Australia has been excluded from the tour itinerary. Western Australia has a wonderful climate, together with a warmth of friendship, loyalty to the Crown and love of the Royal Family unequalled in the British Commonwealth. I do hope, Sir, that no important personage visiting Australia in the future will be denied the pleasure of visiting the golden west, and I suggest that Western Australia be considered for inclusion in all future tour itineraries.
The Governor-General referred to Commonwealth assistance to Western Australia. The development of the north-west of Australia is of paramount importance to our future progress and our defence. The Ord River scheme is one phase of development of the north-west that is well known to members on both sides of the House. The Ord River project provides for a main dam, a diversion weir, irrigation channelling and a hydro-electric power station. More than 200,000 acres of land will benefit. The north-west cattle industry in particular would benefit greatly, for the irrigated land, in conjunction with the adjoining dry areas, would be used for the breeding and fattening of stock and the reconditioning of older animals. Nevil Shute’s paper, which was read at the recent Australian Citizenship Convention, suggests that Australia could become an importer of meat in the future. That reminds us that we must consider projects such as the Ord River scheme. Western Australia is appreciative of the assistance of the Commonwealth Government, but it must be realized that we need further allocations of funds. I believe that this Government should take every opportunity, particularly from the national viewpoint, to keep the needs of Western Australia ever to the fore when considering additional States grants.
Sir, we in this Parliament are taking part in the building of a nation - a nation whose progress has been great and whose development in the past ten years has really been tremendous. But there is still much to be done. We all must set our sights, not on our political opponents, but on Australia’s present problems and the problems of the future. Let us have a national effort by the Parliament and the people as a team to solve the problems that confront us to-day, in order that we shall be better enabled to meet the demands of a fastincreasing population and the needs of the fastest-growing country in the world.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that the housing and employment figures, when compared with those for other parts of the world, are extremely good; but a house for everybody that wants one, and a job for everybody who wants to work, must be our aim. There will never be sufficient or too many houses in this country. More homes, Sir, mean more production in a hundred varied industries, and the creation of more employment opportunities. Our plans for the future must give every person an opportunity to buy his own home if he wishes so to do.
He should be given that opportunity under the easiest possible low-deposit and lowinterest terms, through either private or government-guaranteed schemes. I do not think it is fair to the individual, or economical for the nation, that money that the house purchaser could be spending on necessities must be used to pay high rates of interest on home purchase. The solution of many of our economic problems is in our handling of the housing situation.
It is essential to the future of Australia that everybody - builders, tradesmen, finance groups and governments - should make an all-out effort to bring housing production right up to present needs. Then we must look at our future housing requirements. What are our future needs in housing? We have read statements anticipating a population of 100,000,000, but it is reasonable to assume that if Australia desires to maintain her present living standards our country can contain a population of no more than 40,000,000. That figure, Sir, could be reached soon after the year 2,000.
In the years leading to the attaining of that population of 40,000,000 people in Australia, we shall be enjoying the benefits of nuclear power stations, which will provide the power to irrigate our marginal and arid lands. This development work will mean the decentralization of entire communities, and of industries, and will give Australia an opportunity to welcome greater numbers of people from abroad without disturbing the balance of employment in the metropolitan areas.
Now, Sir, Australia’s population could increase very rapidly if a sudden emergency arose in other parts of the free world. The Governments of both the United Kingdom and Australia must consider the possibility that the time could come when Great Britain, in anticipation of nuclear attack, or owing to the dangers of radio-activity, will ask this country to take some millions of her citizens, for only Australia will have the spaces in which to disperse those people suitably. We must look at possibilities of this nature, because we must face up to the realization of where the free world is heading in its fight with communism. The Soviet Union wants to divide the countries of the free world - to lull us into a feeling of false security and then to tackle us one by one, for Russia’s aim is complete world domination by economic and political means if possible, and by war if necessary. The first two are very familiar tactics to-day, and the third - World War III. - could lie somewhere ahead.
We have heard mention of Australia’s activity in the Antarctic, for this country has done a great deal of research in that area. But is every Australian aware that Soviet Russia is gradually manoeuvring into a position where she will have permanent Antarctic bases on three oceans - the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian? Russia’s objective is to dominate the Indian Ocean, and this move by her, still proceeding to her own time-table of attempted world conquest, is an emphatic reason why the establishment of a naval base in Western Australia is a defence necessity. Late in 1958, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Earl of Selkirk, reminded Australia of the need for this country to be fully prepared against the submarine attacks which we would have to meet in the event of nuclear war. The Chief of the Naval Staff has warned that submarines will be our biggest menace in a future war and he has indicated the need for more concentration on our anti-submarine defence potential. Now, Sir, knowing full well the Soviet aim of oceanic domination by the world’s largest submarine fleet - which Russia already has - and the extreme distance of any suitable naval base from Western Australia, we see clearly that the strategic defence needs of the whole of Australia, and particularly of Western Australia, would be better served by the establishment of a naval base and submarine pens on the Western Australian coast than by reliance on the British bases in Asia, which have no guarantee of permanency.
Australia is one of the world’s most outspoken opponents of communism, and, despite our size, we shall always be a thorn in the side of the Soviet Union and its fellow travellers. If Britain and the United States of America were engaged in a struggle for self-preservation against the Communists, Australia could expect an invasion attempt from one of the countries that lie to the north. When we realize the importance of the research being carried out at the guided weapons testing range at
Woomera, aiia the value of the establishment of the special tracking and observing station at the range, we must consider the possibility that Australia could be on the receiving end of inter-continental ballistic missiles aimed at this country to destroy our facilities at the Woomera range and elsewhere. Such a possibility makes it necessary that, in addition to providing adequate military defences, we should proceed with adequate civil defence plans, which should be carried out by the States and the Commonwealth acting together. The provision of underground shelters and installations, particularly for essential services, is a national duty and a national necessity.
Mr. Speaker, democracy the practice of self government - is a covenant among free men to respect the rights and liberties of their fellows. With that thought and the phrase “ the rights and liberties of men “ in mind, Sir, I feel that I should not be doing my duty if I did not take the opportunity to-night to raise my voice in protest at certain conditions existing in other parts of the world. I refer to the enslavement of millions of people in conditions of misery and suffering in the forced labour camps of the countries behind the iron curtain. There, slave camps exist, and have existed for many years - slave camps that would bring the strongest of us to tears were we permitted - and we shall not be - to see inside the iron curtain that surrounds them. I intend to protest at injustice, wherever it occurs, to help uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to help plan for a decent future for all in this world, but at the same time we must not ignore the dancer signs. We must not remain passive against these threatening leaders of other lands who, with tongue in cheek and communism in their hearts, would wish to spread their ideas and their slave camp terror tactics across the world, with their one aim the complete domination of the earth and its outer space.
Now, Mr. Sneaker, the obligations of nations under the Declaration of Human Rights have already been mentioned in this debate by sneakers from the opposite side of the House. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that honorable members on both sides of the House agree with me when I say that Australia should continue to refuse to establish diplomatic relations with those countries controlling forced labour and slave camps. We should continue to refuse to do so until such time as those countries open wide the gates of freedom to the camp inhabitants and until they can prove their acceptance in practice of the Declaration of Human Rights.
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that during the life of this Parliament consideration will be given to sending protests to the leaders of countries where these poor unfortunate human beings are known to be in captivity in camps more terrible than the concentrations camps of Adolf Hitler, camps where enslaved people are providing the unpaid labour force of Soviet expansion, and where our fellow humans may be, and probably are, used as guinea pigs in radiation and nuclear bomb experiments. Such nations place little value on human life. Their word in an agreement, treaty, or pact is worth nothing. We must realize the aims of Russia. We must anticipate her intentions and hope that we can anticipate her time-table. At the same time we must have this country well populated and ready to defend itself against any aggressor, whatever his size.
Mr. Speaker, I thank honorable members for the courtesies which they have extended to me on this the occasion of my maiden speech to the House.
.- Mr. Speaker, may I, first, take the opportunity of congratulating you, and the Chairman of Committees, on your elections, unopposed, to the positions which you hold in this House. I am sure that all honorable members will get a fair go from you and an opportunity to put their cases.
I also take the opportunity to say how proud I am to represent the Newcastle electorate, which has been held by Labour ever since federation, when a member of the Watkins family was returned as the member. He came from the New South Wales Parliament, and ultimately he was succeeded in this House by his son. I am very pleased and proud to represent Newcastle, and I hope that I will be able to give good service to the people of Newcastle. Newcastle is one of the most important cities in Australia; as a city it has everything that could be desired. It has a well-balanced economy, being the centre of a large steel industry. It is also a large wool-selling centre, and it might be called the gateway to the Hunter Valley, which is one of the richest valleys in this country. One cannot help but be proud to have the privilege of representing such a seat as Newcastle and I am happy to associate myself with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), who also represent electorates in the same area.
When I was listening to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech I was astounded that the Government, which has held office for more than nine years, could not put forward one really constructive thought as to how best to overcome the problems that beset Australia to-day. Those problems include ever-growing unemployment, housing, and the state of the shipbuilding industry. What does the Government propose to do for pensioners? This subject was very ably dealt with by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay). If one had time one could find many faults with His Excellency’s Speech, but unfortunately one’s time is limited. Therefore, I propose to deal with some matters that concern my electorate in particular.
I propose to deal with the effects of mechanization on the coal industry and workers in the Newcastle district. I listened with interest to the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) who said that in discussion with the people of Cessnock he formed the opinion that they were concerned about the calamity howlers, those people who were talking about Cessnock becoming a ghost town. I do not know to whom the honorable member was talking. He must have been talking to the coal-owners or members of the Liberal party. He certainly was not talking to members of the working class, who are now on the dole and are forced to travel long distances from their homes, up to 32 miles, in order to obtain relief work. I suggest that the honorable member was somewhat like the little boy whistling in the dark, hoping that he would fool some one with his claim that the people of Cessnock were concerned about the calamity howlers. The honorable member should talk to the Mayor of Cessnock and some of the aldermen, and to the business people who are concerned with the growing unemployment resulting from mechanization in the coal industry. The honorable member said that the people of Cessnock had nothing to worry about because they had a gas works in the town. But this Government did nothing about giving them a gas works. The people of Cessnock can thank the New South Wales Government for that. They can thank the New South Wales Government for providing the finance and the planning to erect a mental hospital there, which will provide employment not only in the building of the hospital but also in its staffing. The people of Cessnock have nothing for which to thank this Government, led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
It is important to look very closely at the effects of mechanization in the coal industry. I propose to cite a few figures so that honorable members will be aware of what is taking place. In 1927, there were 24,483 men employed in the industry, producing 11,126,000 tons of coal a year. In 1958, in New South Wales, 14,124 men produced more than 15,000,000 tons of coal. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) had the audacity to say at a Chamber of Commerce dinner in Newcastle last year that there was no crisis in the coal industry, that the coal industry was producing more coal with less labour. It is high time that the Government tried to absorb the surplus labour in the coal industry by providing employment for it, rather than expect unemployed coal-miners to seek relief work, such as road making or water board projects, the finance for which is being provided in the main by the New South Wales Government. The layoff in the industry has not finished. So far this year five pits have closed down and 787 men have lost their jobs. But I think that many more men will lose their jobs. Yesterday, Abermain No. 2 mine re-opened and took on another 80 men. Previously, that section of Abermain colliery employed 300 men. Now that it is fully mechanized, 120 men are employed. What will happen to the other 180? That is a typical example of what takes place when mechanization is introduced into the industry. Is any move being made by any one to do something about it? The position is that now that Abermain No. 2 has re-opened, another contract pit will close, because only a certain amount of coal can be consumed in any year. The Labour party, and the trade union movement, are not opposed to mechanization. We support it, because we believe that mechanization must certainly come. But we of the working class movement demand our right to share in the proceeds. Extra benefits must be given to workers in industry, such as additional long service leave, additional annual leave, and a shorter working week. Those things must flow from mechanization. That is why wc do not oppose it. We demand our share of it. It should not be a one-way ticket, with the employing class reaping all the benefits of mechanization.
I should just like to make some brief reference to a statement made, or alleged to have been made, by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) at the recent summer school of the Australian Institute of Political Science in relation to trade unions breaking away from the Australian Labour party, and also to his statement at the opening of the Arbitration Court building in Melbourne that there has to be arbitration all the way. This I interpreted to mean that the Arbitration Court was there to protect the workers from themselves and to prevent them from using their organized industrial strength to improve their standard of living and to achieve those things about which I spoke earlier, increased leave and a shorter working week. Let us see what is the attitude of the coal owners. We are asked why we cannot get greater co-operation from the trade unions and from the men on the job. One does not wonder why hatred exists between the miners and the owners when one sees the way that the owners have treated the miners like dogs over the years. At a meeting of the re-employment committee on the 13th of this month, the owners’ representative was asked the position with regard to any further laying off of men in the industry. He said that no intended dismissals were known but that deferred dismissals included ten from Aberdare Central colliery in a fortnight, and nineteen from Aberdare Extended colliery in from three to five weeks. He did not know anything about any further dismissals. What was the position next day, as shown by newspaper reports? The headlines read, “ Another pit in north to close “. These were the fellows who did not know anything about it! Of course they knew, but they were not prepared to be fair dinkum and to treat the trade union movement as an equal. They wanted to treat it as they had treated it in the past, ignoring it, and giving only as much information as they liked to give. Those are the conditions that exist.
I suggest that the Attorney-General should have a look at his aims, which are only to try to break down the unity within the trade union movement and to sever the connexions that have been in existence since the trade union movement created the party of which I am proud to be a member, the Australian Labour party. That has been the policy and the objective of the Liberal party and of the other anti-Labour-class parties that have been in existence over the years. We have never changed our name, but time and time again we have seen them change their name - the United Australia party, the Democratic party, the Nationalist party, and the Liberal party. They are still anti-Labour parties whose one objective is the furtherance of the policy that those who have it should get a bit more.
We should also have a look at industry as a whole and at what this Government is doing to overcome its problems. A committee was appointed to investigate the possibilities of a coal-based chemical and liquid fuel industry. I have a copy of its report, but I do not propose to weary the House by reading the whole of the recommendations. Anybody who wants to read them may find them at page 13 of the report. On this committee the Commonwealth was represented by officers whose names are listed. The committee members were not members of the Australian Labour party. In fact, I think the only one who was a member was the Minister for Mines in the New South Wales Government. Hon. I. B. Simpson. The recommendations which were made were, in my opinion, completely sabotaged by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). The way that he played around with the matter - I shall not spend a great deal of time on it - makes me think that sabotage was going on because this Government was aware of the proposal to establish a petro-chemical plant in Victoria, involving the investment in this country of additional foreign capital, with additional Australian money going overseas in profits from time to time. The Government was fully aware of what was taking place and therefore was prepared to sabotage this inquiry, which aimed at the use of Australian materials with Australian labour, to produce a product for consumption in Australia. The talk by this Government during the recent election campaign of “ Australia unlimited “ is just a lot of hooey put out to fool the people. The Government is continually pulling the wool over the people’s eyes, so that it is elected on catch-cries and not realities.
I am very pleased to hear new honourable members opposite criticise the Government, but they will do it for only a short time, because the Ministers on the front bench will soon roll them into line. These new members will accept their dictates, in the same way as have other new members who have come here from time to time, but it was refreshing to listen to their comments and to their criticism of the Government.
I feel that some solution can be put forward in regard to this problem of the surplus of labour on the coal-fields. I have not time to cite all of the figures, but the number of unemployed in Newcastle today is the greatest since the outbreak of war, or since the Menzies Government collapsed and went out of office in 1942 and Labour took over to provide full employment. The number of unemployed in the NewcastleMaitlandCessnock district, about 2.087, is the highest since that time, so the Government has something to be proud of! What is the solution? If the Government had a solution, it would have been put forward much sooner than this. I suggest that there should be a decentralization of industry, such as members of the Australian Country party have talked about, but about which they have done nothing. Whether these industries be in Western Australia, South Australia. Victoria, Queensland, or New South Wales, they m”st be removed from the capital cities. There are only two ways of doing it. The first is by means of a socialized economy, where industry is placed in those places where it can do the greatest Food for the greatest number of people. The second is by an extension of the system of granting tax concessions according to zones. At the present time we have a zone A and a zone B. By granting tax concessions, we can attract industry for establishment in country districts. That is a matter which can be discussed at a later stage when we have more time.
One other matter which I should like to bring forward is in relation to housing. I shall not repeat those things that were said by the honourable member for Bendigo and other speakers, but I feel that I should bring to the attention of the House just what the policy of this Government has achieved. The Government has created financial restrictions, allegedly to keep down inflation in the building industry. I shall tell the House what the result has been in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie areas. I took out a few figures with the assistance of people in the two councils in the district. The Government has caused the building of dolls’ houses. Have honourable members opposite any idea of their sizes? They vary from fourandahalf squares to five-and-three-quarter squares. In these houses, the average size of the first bedroom is 11 feet by 12 feet, the second bedroom, 9 feet by 10 feet, the living-kitchen-dining room, 16 feet by 13 feet, bathroom, 8 feet by 5 feet, and detached laundry, 7 feet by 5 feet, in all amounting to five-and-three-quarter squares.
These people have not the money to enable them to go to a bank or a co-operative building society with sufficient deposit to raise the finance they need to build a decent home to Australian standards. They have to go to these people and accept from them loans on which they pay 9 to 10 per cent, interest under the same conditions as hire purchase. That rate of 9 to 10 per cent, continues from the time they take the loan up until they pay it off. That is what is taking place as a result of this Government’s financial policy.
In Newcastle during 1958, of 717 homes built, 107 were the doll’s house type to which I have referred. The position is even worse at Lake Macquarie where 250 of them were built in 1958. Between 1954 and 1959, 451 of these dolls’ houses were built because this Government would not make adequate funds available to enable people to build decent homes. Worse still is the fact that the Government has put those people into the hands of money lenders and they have to pay 9 to 10 per cent, interest on the same basis as hire purchase. I ask the Government to examine the situation and to try to make money available so that homes of adequate size can be built. The homes to which I have referred are cheap and nasty. They come just within the absolute minimum of local government ordinances. The builders could not get them smaller if they tried.
I suggest also that the Government review the recent housing agreement with the States under which tenants have to pay the full economic rental. Pensioners are finding it difficult to pay those rentals which have been imposed under the new agreement. Under the 1945 agreement, they could pay one-fifth of their income; now they have to pay the full economic rental. These difficulties apply also to men who are unemployed or who are receiving sickness benefit.
If time permitted, I should like to have spoken also about the failure of this Government to do something positive about shipbuilding. I should like to refer also to its failure to provide Newcastle with an adequate airport or to do something about the issue of a licence for television in the Newcastle district. Many important matters have been placed before this Government from time to time and should be considered seriously.
In the brief time left to me I should like to comment on a matter to which a preceding speaker referred, that is the inability of timber companies to get timber from Tasmania to the mainland because timber can be brought from Malaya to Australia more cheaply. It is high time that we closely examined the true situation concerning wages and conditions on ships which fly a flag of convenience. In 1958, of 9,269,983 tons of shipping that was built, 1,977,228 tons was registered in Liberia and Panama. Neither of those countries built one ton of shipping, yet last year 1,977,228 tons of shipping was registered under the flags of those countries simply in order to be able to employ cheap labour and undercut Australian seamen. One of the results is to be seen in Newcastle where there are 100 unemployed seamen on the union’s books. In Australia to-day, thirteen ships of the Australian National Line are tied up because there is no cargo for them. Australia should follow the example of the United States of America. The Americans insist that 50 per cent, of their aid to other countries must be carried on ships owned and manned by Americans. We should demand that 50 per cent, of goods coming into and going out of Australia should be carried on ships flying the Australian flag and paying Australian wages and observing Australian conditions.
I should like to refer also to shipbuilding. At present, the Newcastle State dockyards have to lay off labour because this Government has not been able to make up its mind in allocating orders fairly or quickly enough so that the dockyards can plan their work. The dockyard management could not get going on several jobs recently because the plans were not in order. These matters are the responsibility of this Government, and they merit close scrutiny. I shall refer to them from time to time in this House and try to wake the Government up to what is really happening. I hope that the Government supporters will not continue to sit back like tired, lazy men, as they were referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in his last policy speech.
.- I congratulate those honorable members who have delivered their maiden speeches tonight. No doubt they have come to this place with ambitions and ideals, some general experience of life and some particular knowledge of special fields. This is a great school, and it may be that some of the new members will modify their attitudes and opinions as time goes on; but there is no reason why they should lose their ideals or ambitions. I say that after having had, myself, some years of political life. So far as their ambitions are concerned, they almost certainly will not all become Prime Ministers, Ministers of Cabinet or Ministers at all but, following the great traditions of Parliament, they will perform honorable and valuable services to their communities and to this great country.
I turn now to some of the matters mentioned by the Governor-General in his Speech. His Excellency referred to many matters, but I shall refer to only three if time permits. In the first place, His Excellency said -
My Government had important discussions over a wide range of questions of common interest with Dr. Subandrio . . .
I propose to make some reference to the New Guinea question, not to traverse the debate that we have just had but to make some observations that bear not remotely on the subject. The Australian Government has made a very controversial statement. lt has said that Australia would not oppose any transfer of sovereignty from Holland to Indonesia if this should be the result of free negotiations. I think the Government has only itself to blame if people are perturbed about the statement because they believe that it presages such negotiations and a transfer in the near future. The Government,, of course, has said that this need not necessarily be the case, but it is clear that such a statement at this time must arouse considerable apprehension.
If there is an intention to make such a transfer in the immediate future, then the Government’s decision that Australia should not oppose it is one with which we must all agree as practical people. That is to say, if we are not likely to be supported by any country in the free world, we certainly have not the armed strength to oppose the Indonesians should the Dutch transfer sovereignty to them. It is idle to suppose that we could. Let me say, however, in making that criticism that I do not respect the attitude of the Australian Labour party in this matter. They, at the time of the Indonesian rebellion against the Dutch, were not concerned as to whether West New Guinea did nor did not pass to the Indonesians and out of Dutch hands, and it is therefore idle of them to argue to-day that they are the guardians of our rights in West New Guinea.
I turn from these aspects, which are merely political, and pass to the essence of the matter.
– What you said is not factual. It is only what you imagine.
– It is factual, though perhaps not to the honorable member. Having dealt with these merely political matters I pass on to the real substance of the problem in New Guinea. As I see it, New Guinea is one island and its destiny, in the long run, whatever it may be, must be one destiny, whether it be the destiny of western New Guinea or eastern New Guinea, and it is from that point of view that I propose to examine the matter.
What is Australia’s interest in that island? Is it the old colonial interest of economic -exploitation? Clearly it is not. This Parliament provides something like £12,000,000 a year for the administration of our part -of New Guinea, and we raise from the local ; people there about £3,000,000 a year. So, on a governmental level, we make a dead loss. Of course, there is trade. In broad terms about £10,000,000 worth of exports go out of the country and about £10,000,000 worth of imports, I suppose mainly from Australia, pass into it. But even assuming that Australian citizens may profit on exports and imports, our financial interest in New Guinea is very small indeed. I do not suppose the profits would amount to £500,000 a year. So our interest in New Guinea is not basically an economic interest.
Secondly, I ask: Have we a strategic interest in New Guinea? We have heard opinions expressed by General Eichelberger, who served there during the last war and is now about 75 years of age, General Eather, who was a brigade commander in the Kokoda campaign, and General Gordon Bennett, who was concerned in another area during the war, and, of course, we have had an opinion from the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I do not propose to draw any conclusions from the opinions expressed by any of these gentlemen. It has been pointed out that should there be an old-style war, for the purpose of staging an invasion, New Guinea might be of importance. I do not know, and I do not think any honorable member knows, what style of war may come - old-style, atomic war or any other kind of war - but I propose to assume that New Guinea still has some strategic importance to Australia.
Our third interest in New Guinea is our interest as a trustee. It happens that, through the accidents of history and geography, we find ourselves in charge, as a trustee, of primitive peoples, and there are claims of religion and humanity upon us. So our interest in this island, I say, is both a strategic interest and the interest of a trustee who has charge of primitive peoples. Those are our real interests in New Guinea, and not others.
I spoke about the common destiny of eastern New Guinea and western New Guinea. Australia’s paramount need, surely, is to maintain the permanent friendship and goodwill of the native population. Simply that! How, then, is this to be done? Can we keep New Guinea as a colony indefinitely? Well, we have the example of India, Burma and Malaya achieving their independence from British rule, of IndoChina achieving its independence from the French, the Philippines from the United States, and Indonesia from the Dutch. Anybody who supposes that Australia can, world without end, maintain its control of New Guinea as a colony, is simply living out of touch with realities.
Can we then, Sir, look to the objective of New Guinea being integrated as a seventh State within the Australian Commonwealth? If so, we must clearly envisage what destiny we have in mind for New Guinea, both east and west. Let me remind the House of the defence that was made by a portrait painter whose portrait of Sir Winston Churchill was claimed to be not a very good likeness. His defence was that he had painted the man’s character as a statesman moving resolutely to an objective which he clearly envisaged. That is clearly what we have to do about New Guinea, We have to move resolutely to an objective that we clearly envisage.
The second possible objective - the integration of New Guinea as a seventh State in the Australian Commonwealth - may seem fantastic to a certain number of honorable members listening to me to-night, but it is something that has been put forward, in a rather woolly way, by a number of settlers in New Guinea, and is not to be dismissed lightly. The adoption of such a proposal would of course mean freedom of intercourse between Australia and New Guinea not only in regard to trade, but also in regard to the movement of people, which would be contrary to our restricted immigration policy. Of course, if you do not believe in the restricted immigration policy you would see no objection to having New Guinea as a State of the Commonwealth. I dismiss the idea as being simply a fantasy. Nevertheless it is one that should be destroyed, because there are some people in New Guinea who believe in the reality of it.
The third possible objective is the selfdetermination of the people of New Guinea. Self-determination means one of two things. It may mean that the people there will look forward to independence at some particular time in the future either as a republic, or a dominion of the British Commonwealth, or on the other hand to association with some other state which may be Australia, Indonesia or another country. We cannot know what form independence will take, or whether they will choose association with another State. But we must have somethoughts as to when this conclusion is to be reached. There are those who think that it may be in 100 years, those who think it may be in 50 years, and those who think it may be in 25 years. What is quite certain is that it will be in much less time than we should like, and much less time than will be good for the inhabitants of that country. It will probably be in a very short time indeed, considering the length of time necessary to bring those people to the state where they can govern themselves.
I believe that we shall not have more than 25 years at the outside. Twenty-five years I assess that figure with some degree of accuracy. As soon as you have an elite emerging there you will find them clamouring for independence, and they will be shoved from behind by the other peoples of South-East Asia who have already achieved independence, and by the Afro-Asian bloc in the United Nations. I believe that it is no use our considering delaying independence until the vast masses have achieved some degree of civilization. We must forget about the vast masses, because their achievement of the necessary degree of civilization will not come for perhaps 100 years, and we have perhaps 25 years in which to work. Therefore, we must ourselves create that elite, sufficiently large and sufficiently educated to take over the government of the country within a limited time - I suggest, perhaps 25 years. I calculate that figure this way: It may take five years to prepare for the schooling of these people of the elite, right from the bottom to the top. Then you get the children, including boys of say 7, 8, 9, or 10 years of age, and proceed to put them through schools, giving them technical, secondary and tertiary education. Later, having entered the Public Service, they must be trained for perhaps another ten years. I am envisaging that as soon as you get an elite, however small, it will begin to clamour for independence, and I am suggesting that you cannot wait to deal with the vast masses when they achieve the necessary degree of civilization, but must deal with the elite, trained in sufficient numbers in the schools and in the Public Service to take over the government of the country in a relatively short time - much shorter than we would wish and much shorter than would be for the good of the people. In looking forward to the independence of the country within a relatively short space of time we hope that it will maintain friendly relationships with us. lt is quite certain that if we allow a small elite to clamour too long for independence there may well be no friendliness towards us on their part after they have achieved independence, and we shall lose our vital interest in New Guinea as a result.
We must look to other aspects. If we are going to leave New Guinea in a relatively short space of time we must consider the question of investment. If a person has a lease of a house for 99 years and the lease has only twenty years to run, he is noi going to do much about improvements. So, if our term of control of this island is going to be limited we must look to the giving of guarantees to those who invest in it. Otherwise there will be no investment and we shall not hand over the country in the shape that we would like o because of our moral obligations.
I hope that nobody will suppose that I am one who advocates a sell-out. On the contrary, I believe that this is the only wise course. I took part in the Kokoda campaign, and I hope that nobody will suggest that I would willingly sell out after all the toil and sweat and tears that we had to maintain our foothold in that island during the war. But I would suggest that we have not spectacularly enough made a declaration, together with the Dutch, and with the British, who have possessions in the South Seas in Melanesia, of our objectives and our proposed course of conduct in New Guinea and the adjacent islands.
I have in mind that although, theoretically, there has been some integration of the Australian and the Dutch administrations, only the other day in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ Mr. Mossman, or some responsible journalist, who had just been in West New Guinea, referred to the fact that the Dutch proposed to move quickly and perhaps would hand over control in the course of about twenty years. If we are thinking in terms of 50 or 100 years and the Dutch in terms of twenty years, there cannot have been much integration or intercourse between the Australian and Dutch administrations. Malay is still spoken in the Dutch part of New Guinea, although there was some talk wish and much shorter than would be for the good of the people. In looking forward to the independence of the country within a relatively short space of time we hope that it will maintain friendly relationships with us. It is quite certain that if we allow a small elite to clamour too long for independence there may well be no friendliness towards us on their part after they have achieved in de.integrated or co-ordinated.
The other problem to which we must direct our attention is that of training schools, as I said earlier. It may be that we will have to assume part of Holland’s financial burden of administering its part of the island. It may be that the Dutch are not interested in the territory. It may be that they do propose what the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to as a “ package deal “. But we should shore up the Dutch as much as we can if we believe in this common destiny for the island. We may well have to consider financial assistance to them in their administration. Above all, I believe that the moral argument is tremendously important. We may be misunderstood throughout the world. It may be thought that we still have in mind economic exploitation or simply our security. That we should seek to be secure is nothing to be ashamed about; nevertheless we have a great moral duty.
I pass now to another matter altogether. The Governor-General, in his Speech, referred to a meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to be held in Australia this year. I want to say a little about the working of the Parliament. There has been, in recent times, a great encroachment by the Executive on the legislature. Minister and officials have, more and more, taken over responsibilities and influence that used to belong to members of Parliament. Even from the physical point of view, this has happened. Members have been pushed out of the very building of Parliament to make it into an executive office, and this is symbolic of what is happening in general. The ordinary members have very little part in the work of government. More and more, public interest is being conecentrated on a few leaders. This has been the effect, first of loud-speakers and radio, and now of television. The people may, in ten or fifteen years time, come to think that Parliament consists of six members on each side.
There has been a great growth in the power of the bureaucracy for very obvious reasons. The questions that come before Parliament and before governments have become more and more technical, the expert has become more and more important, and those who have not at their command the information provided by the experts are in great difficulty in making valid criticisms. Under our present system it is only Ministers who hear what the experts have to say. Members of Parliament do not. Therefore, a Minister who decides a matter with the aid of his experts is apt to regard members of Parliament who have not had that advantage of hearing what the experts have to say as rather stupid people. I believe that all the intelligence and all the wisdom do not reside in the front bench. There is some in the rest of the Parliament. But criticism is stultified because members cannot put a point to the experts and hear the answer.
There is a question of initiative, which may come from the people’s representatives or the expert, and a question of the examination of an initiative. I believe that the answer to these things is not difficult to find. A Minister is not a sufficient safeguard for the people as against the expert who may urge courses upon him. He may not think of the answers, or he may put up some ideas of his own and have them knocked down by the experts. I believe that there would be more wisdom in getting more of the people’s representatives into some conjunction with the experts so that the initiative and the examination of the initiative may move from side to side. I believe that the answer is in more committees and, I would like to say, in more Parliamentary committees.
We know that the Public Accounts Committee, which is presided over by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has done magnificent work. It is a great pity that the Foreign Affairs Committee has not functioned effectively because the Labour Opposition has not nominated members for it. I think that the Public Works Committee has done good work. But the scope of parliamentary committees is limited because, whether we like it or not, politics will enter into these things. In no time, politics will be found to have intruded into most parliamentary committees other than those I have mentioned as having: functioned effectively, so that matters are not discussed on their merits at all.
I should like to think that parliamentary committees would work but someexperience of Parliament, both here and in another legislature, suggests to me that they will not work. But there is no reasonwhy committees of government members, whichever parties happen to be in office, should not receive the full co-operation of Ministers. There is no reason why Ministers should not make available their experts to confer with such committees. If members of this House do not do their duty in this respect they will be gravely lacking. I believe this is the real answer to a state of affairs which has been giving concern to the people generally and to members of this House in particular.
I had hoped to make some reference tothe question of Federal and State financial relations, but my time is so short that I cannot deal with that matter now. I simply express a great disappointment that the conference with the Premiers on thismatter is to be held in the midst of three election campaigns. I wonder whether the Commonwealth and the States wish to reach any agreement If I were cynical, I would suppose that it suited both the Commonwealth and all the States concerned that the present arrangements should continue; otherwise this date would never have been selected for the conference, or, if selected, would have been altered.
If the States are content with this kind of situation it must be because they have lost all sense of self-respect. It must be because they are content to be dependent on the Commonwealth. It must be because it suits them, politically, to blame all their shortcomings on the Government in this place. On the other hand, I hope that there may be a conference after these elections are over, when, so far as New South Wales is concerned, I trust that a Liberal government will be in office. I hope that then a real conference will be held, free from political atmosphere so that these matters may be dealt with in a proper and objective way. This subject is much too important to be made, as it must be made on the present occasion, a mere plaything of politics.
.- I have been wondering, during the course of the debate this afternoon and this evening, so far as it has touched on the Indonesian question, what honorable members think will be the reception accorded to their speeches when they are reported in Asia. We are issuing ourselves with certificates of nobility about our relationship with the peoples of New Guinea and a number of -our spokesmen have accused the Indonesians of never even mentioning those people. The immediate reaction that I would expect in Asia, judged only from the kind of gruelling to which I was myself subjected when I visited that country would be the question, “ What about your aborigines? “ If honorable members are :swift to accuse Indonesia of not thinking of the peoples of West New Guinea - and I believe that that is a valid statement - at least let us be swift to note the fact that -so far none of us in this Parliament has mentioned the people for whom we are undoubtedly responsible, the people of aboriginal race. In this contemporary world they are assuming an importance which very few of us realize until we visit Asia.
We are living in an ideological age in which there are powerful ideologies which exploit race relationships. Let me put one simple fact to honorable members. Comparatively recently, M. Mendes-France, a former Prime Minister of France, gave Morocco its independence and instantly, in the French Chamber of Deputies, where the Communist party was then powerful, his Government was overturned. In theory the Communists stood for the independence of Morocco; in fact, they wanted a running sore. They wanted a bad relationship between France and her coloured subjects which could be used to heighten tension right throughout Africa and force France to concentrate 500,000 troops in Morocco, thus weakening her in Europe. The carrying out by M. Mendes-France of a policy which, for propaganda purposes the Communists stated they supported, led to his instant overthrow. But these people gained their independence.
Now we live in an age in which, so far as Asia is concerned, class war means nothing. The Communists have found throughout Asia, by experience, that their analyses of American capitalism cut abso lutely no ice with other than the elite Communists who are open to conviction; but race relationships are dynamite. If Americans choose to have capitalism, the ordinary Asian regards that as America’s business, but events at Little Rock and Notting Hill had tremendous impact throughout Asia. If you reject a man on the ground of his religion or his politics, he can change them to please you; but if you reject him on the ground of his race you have made a final and permanent rejection. It is rather a depressing thought that in the contemporary world the actions of hoodlums can be very much more potent than the actions of statesmanship. If it is thought, or can be represented that a bad racial relationship represents the attitude of Europeans, an important blow has been struck in the alienation of the mind of Asia.
About three years ago it was my privilege to visit New Zealand and there I met the Honorable E. T. Tirikatene, who is a Maori. He had been a Cabinet Minister but he was then a member of the Labour Opposition. He is now a Cabinet Minister again. He was a member of a shock force of 1,300 Maoris who comprised a Maori battalion which landed at Gallipoli. They landed 1,000 strong but only 38 survived. When they returned from the war there was no Maori representation in the New Zealand Parliament and consequently they found that repatriation benefits and all sorts of things which were accorded to Europeans were not accorded to them. My friend set out to remedy that position.
I am not impressed with people who are a majority race and who announce, as many New Zealand pakeha did, ad nauseam, how marvellous were their racial relationships - just as I have heard in the course of debates in this Parliament, statements about how wonderful our racial relationships are with the aborigines. The people who are the authorities on that are the people on the receiving end, and it is to them that we should turn to find information on our racial relationships. It is certainly they who will be listened to on such a subject in Asia.
New Zealand altered its attitude towards the Maoris and made provision for four Maori members of Parliament to be elected. When there were Maoris speaking for Maoris, not Europeans issuing themselves with certificates that they spoke for Maoris, an entirely different quality came into New Zealand legislation on this subject and enormous advances were made. I believe that it is not in the political programme of any party here that the aborigines should be represented in this Parliament. 1 am perfectly aware that the 70,000-odd aborigines in this country are not particularly politically conscious, but they are tremendously interested in aborigines. If politics tor them became focussed in certain personalities who could speak for them I am certain that there would be an alteration in the quality of thinking in this Parliament on the subject.
They are an inarticulate people but they are not without a conception of their own, dignity. There is a State school attached to the Forrest River Mission and the teacher happens to be the son-in-law of a close personal friend of mine; and the Inspector of Schools in Western Australia visited this place. One day the children at that school listened very carefully - there was only one European child among them - to the teacher while he gave a lesson on early Australian explorers. Then they asked a perfectly simple question but, if one looks into it, a deadly question which goes straight to the bubble of our self-centredness. They asked, “ Who were the black trackers who led those explorers?” Of course they were perfectly correct in seeking an answer. If we go into any deep research on the subject we will find what an important part aborigines played in the early exploration and development of our country. But that is never mentioned in our schools; it is just one of the unconscious ways in which we are utterly racially selfcentred. The children at that school started almost a campaign of questioning so that if the teacher read them any fiction on the subject he found it necessary to invent black trackers to lead the early explorers and settlers in Australia.
We have been having a great deal of constitutional discussion in Australia on this question of social services for aborigines. I do not want to make a great point of it, but I would like to hear somebody explain to me one aspect of the matter. Section 51, placitum 26, of the Constitution says that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to make laws for the people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is. deemed necessary to make special laws. On that ground it is said that if you applied social service laws to aborigines you would be making a special law with respect to aborigines, and that that would be constitutionally invalid. Will some Minister explain how it is possible to impose income tax on the aborgines without making a special law with respect to aborigines? If you can make a general income tax law which does not mention the subject of aborigines, but applies to them so as to take money from them, I cannot see why you cannot pass a general social service law, which need not mention the subject of aborigines but which might grant money to them.
I believe that we should do a lot more thinking about this problem. I am willing to admit that I do not often think of the problem, and I hope I am not pretending any superiority over other members of Parliament by speaking in this way. If I advocate the presence of an aboriginal spokesman here, it is because, if I am honest, I will admit that about one four-hundredth per cent, of any political thinking I have done has been on the subject of aborigines. I have been entirely engrossed in the affairs of my own constituency, in survival in selection ballots, in survival in elections, in survival in all sorts of other perilous circumstances. Consequently, I have not been very much given to thinking of the people for whom we are fully responsible. But if we think at all about the problem, it becomes apparent that there are several aspects and that they are all different.
We have, in the first instance, the problem of the men and women of full aboriginal blood who are living in the tribal state. In a sense, this problem is simpler than some of the problems of a close cultural contact, as it is called, though sometimes it is an extremely uncultured contact. If it be a fact that in areas such as the Kimberleys it is possible for them to live their lives as they did prior to European contact, then I think that the action of governments should be confined to policing contacts, to see that the natives do not make undesirable ones. Secondly, since they live by a hunting economy, we should make possible the existence of game through all seasons, by closer attention to water supplies, the development of water-holes and soaks and so on. If the creatures on which they rely for food can obtain subsistence, then the aborigines in the tribal state can also.
We ought to recognize that to us has been given the privilege, if we will only look at it in that way, of starting some pioneering work and pioneering thinking in the most difficult contact that one can make with a primitive people. People who have moved to the point at which they have a stable agricultural economy and the possession of land can take the impact of conquest and survive. That is why, in many respects, I think the problem of our relationship with the natives of New Guinea is simpler than the problem of our relationship with the aborigines. In New Guinea they have a stable society. They have agriculture, and they can stay in villages. But people who live purely by a hunting economy have never yet been able to take the acquisition of their land and survive. The struggles of the last remnants of the Red Indians and of our own aboriginal people should remind us of that point. I simply say, therefore, that if it be possible for some of them to continue to live in their primitive state, and if they wish to live that way, then we should provide adequate reserves, with adequate water supplies in those reserves. Likewise, anything that we can do to preserve the supply of game should be done.
Then we have the problem of the fullblooded aborigines who have been detribalized, but who may still be fairly primitive. I believe that one of our greatest needs - and in this regard I have greatly appreciated the approach of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) - is not to rush in, not to think we know. In politics it is considered important to stand up and pretend that we know how to solve the economic problems of the country, and how to do this, that and the other. That is how we get elected. But a good deal of the trouble in the past in British colonies and elsewhere, was initiated by the person who knew - to put it in the most vulgar way, using an expression which is often used, “ the person who knows the nigger “. He is the person who adopts the attitude, “ I know, and those remote colonial administrators do not “. He thinks he knows the capacities and the destiny of the people with whom he is dealing.
It is often said that the aborigines can handle animals but cannot handle machinery, but there are many men who have worked with them and have seen them handle machinery, have seen them as skilled mechanics repairing cars. I think that if we are honest we will recognize that those aborigines whose tribal contacts and background have been broken need to be given every opportunity in the way of training and education. What is more, they need to be given the right to possess, not theoretically - which, no doubt, they have - but practically, which without a doubt they have not. I have not any doubt that there are plenty of aborigines who would be quite capable of running good farms or good stations. I do not know of any who would be financially capable of acquiring them. It should be the policy of an enlightened government, I think, not merely to give training to these people, but also to give grants of land, in the same way as land is given for soldier settlement.
– That is already being done by the Commonwealth Government, and there is also a provision for financial aid.
– I wish to speak about that, but at the moment I am speaking of the problem overall. As a matter of fact. I was going to say that many of the points I am making were incorporated in the Australian Labour party’s policy in 1953, and at that point of time it was possible to say that in many respects the policy of Queensland towards aborigines was better than that of the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory. It is to the Minister’s credit that this would no longer be a true statement. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will realize that I do not want to stand up here and score points off anybody. I believe this is a subject on which we should all do some additional thinking, first, because we ought to be interested in people for whom we are responsible, and, even if we are not interested, we ought to recognize that in the modern world it is becoming dangerous and damaging not to be interested.
I believe, therefore, that to those who have been detribalized we should give the maximum possible in the way of training, and we should give thought to their right to possess property. Any step that the Government can take to make these things practical realities should be taken.
Lastly, there are the people of mixed European and Asian or aboriginal descent. I do not know enough about those who have an admixture of Asian blood, and who are mostly in the north. However, in the south-west of Western Australia we have a considerable population of mixed European and aboriginal descent. I think that in 1934 there was a very distinguished series of articles on this subject published in the “ West Australian “ under the name of one Paul Hasluck. I think those articles set out the whole problem of the people of mixed European and aboriginal descent in the great southern area of Western Australia. I do not remember a great deal about the articles, but I do remember that the author mentioned the number who could speak in the distinguished tones of legislative councillors. If they could speak in the distinguished tones of legislative councillors, I can say only that recent events have made it appear rather a pity that some of them were not in the Legislative Council of Western Australia to speak in distinguished tones for themselves and on behalf of their own people when the Citizens Rights Bill was being debated there.
– Does the honorable member advocate citizenship rights for all natives?
– I advocate the possibility of such rights for all people. I will not go into questions of drink or such problems - I know nothing about them - but I am fully satisfied that the insuperable difficulties of our relationship with aborigines, advanced by many people who have been making a fuss about these things, would disappear if we had a little bit of heart power and a little bit of thinking on the question. After all, the things I am speaking about - the training and the granting of property to them - would, I think, look after the question of citizenship rights. I do not think that chasing aborigines who are living in the tribal state through the bush once every three years with ballotboxes would be a very practical activity. If “ citizenship rights “ means the Tight to vote every three years, I can say only that for many of them it would not be very practical. But “ citizenship rights “, after all, means the things that make for dignity as a person and ability to support oneself.. They are the things I am speaking about at the moment.
In my days as a teacher, I was in the Great Southern area. I do not pretend that I bad any aboriginal or part-aboriginal children in the classes where I was at that time, but many of the neighbouring schools did have them as pupils, and many of the teachers got to know their parents. Among: the women - it is the women who, in many cases, have held together the families, who have made possible such education as they have had, who have been the responsible element and who have played a very big part in those areas - is a deep longing to own a home, a deep longing for domestic science training and a deep longing to be able to run a home properly. It is not beyond the capacity of any State government, even without the special additional federal grants that we are always talking about, to ensure that that kind of adult education is given to them. I am certain that co-operation from the teachers of manual training for the men and the teachers of domestic science for the women,, who are now in the high schools throughout the areas, would be forthcoming if it were necessary to give the adults their education at night.
I want to emphasize again that our relationship with these people is the thing that arrests the attention of Asia. Recently,, a lady whose aboriginal name is Lilardia, from the Uliupna tribe in Victoria, went tothe Philippines and was received as a queen. Right throughout the Philippines she was feted by the Government and by most distinguished citizens. She was probably the first aboriginal they had seen. One of the things that she observed was the tremendoushonour in which the people of the Philippines held, not her, but their own aborigines. We forget that all of these places, evenFormosa, have an aboriginal population, just as the Philippines has a primitive aboriginal population. It is true that they value them. It is true, therefore, that they can look critically at us if we do not value our aboriginal population. The way wethink in our relationship with these people,, which hardly seems important to us, hasbeen seized on and has been made an issue- among all the decisive intellectual circles of Asia. The honorable member for Bradfield stressed that if we thought we were going to rule New Guinea indefinitely, we did not know the age in which we lived. All I want to say in conclusion is that if we think that no notice will be taken of our relationship with our coloured subjects, if there is not a transformation in our relationship with the coloured in our community, we do not know Asia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ian Allan) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
How many full-blood aboriginals in the Northern Territory have been granted citizenship?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2.-
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Was the Commonwealth given notice to vacate the office accommodation now occupied in the Adelaide railway station by the Taxation Department?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No formal notice to vacate has been received, but it is known that the South Australian railway authorities desire the space now occupied by the Taxation Office for their own use.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 February 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590224_reps_23_hor22/>.