23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct a question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. I ask the honorable gentleman: Under what provisions of the United Nations Charter or the United Nations Security Council or General Assembly resolutions is Australia authorized to take action, in concert with the U.S.A. and other countries which participated in the Korean War, in dismissing and replacing Syngman Rhee’s Liberal Government in South Korea?
– I think the answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is simple: None.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that, because of the narrow field of application allowed by the Commonwealth, less than £900 of the £300,000 granted to Queensland by the Commonwealth Government for the relief of personal hardship and distress, following last year’s disastrous cyclone in north Queensland, was used for that purpose? Will the right honorable gentleman consider having a review made with the object of laying down a more generous scheme for the relief of hardship and distress in such cases? If he is prepared to do this, will he also have a statement prepared and issued to the State governments, particularly because of Tasmania’s present disaster, defining clearly what are cases of personal hardship and distress, and in what circumstances affected persons may qualify for such grants?
– I am not personally familiar with the Queensland situation, but I will make it my business, in the light of the honorable member’s question, to bring myself abreast of the facts and see where we go from there. I would hope, when the Commonwealth provides money for relief of personal hardship, that the Commonwealth itself would not unilaterally lay down conditions or limitations. That seems to be properly a matter for consideration between the Commonwealth and the State government concerned.
– I wish to direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. I desire to know whether the Acting Prime Minister is able to furnish an explanation of the Government’s inconsistency in opposing the trade union application for an upward adjustment of the basic wage to meet increased living costs although Ministers had argued for increased parliamentary salaries and allowances before the Richardson committee. Further, is it considered conducive to industrial peace for the judges who rejected the trade union application to have previously accepted substantial increases in their own salaries and pension rates?
– I think the honorable member knows as well as any one in this House that, in respect of salary entitlements, no section of the Australian community has exercised greater restraint than have the members of this Parliament. Indeed, in 1955, when there was an inflation of costs of living in this country, the only section of the Parliament which restrained itself from participating in an increase in salaries was the ministerial bench. With respect to the attitude that the Commonwealth has taken in relation to the wage issue that the honorable member raises, this Government understands that there is more at issue than the rate of wages. The capacity of industry and commerce to provide employment is at least as significant to the wage-earner as the rate of wages. The business of the Government is to see that there exists a general economic climate which will ensure, above all other things, that there are continual opportunities for people to get jobs and, from that point, the industrial tribunals will determine the appropriate amount of wages. The Commonwealth has no other thought in its mind in this regard than the general public interest.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, in view of the everincreasing road toll, the Government will consider introducing legislation in line with that at present operating in Canada and shortly to be introduced by the Victorian Government making it an offence within the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth to drive with ability impaired by alcohol.
– If the honorable member will place this question on the noticepaper I will consult with my colleagues who are more particularly concerned with this matter and see that he is provided with an appropriate answer.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that a few days ago the Victorian Police endeavoured to secure accommodation in a home for the aged for an elderly lady whom they had found ill and alone, living under deplorable conditions in the bush, and that admission for her could not be obtained as all the homes for the aged in Victoria had very long waiting lists of applicants for admission? Will the honorable gentleman secure for me the numbers on the waiting lists for admission to homes in the various States of those who are unable adequately to care for themselves?
– I regret to inform the honorable member for Scullin that I am not in a position to provide him with the information that he requires. Honorable members will know that the Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction over homes for the aged whether run by the State social welfare authorities or the churches and charitable organizations. These places receive applications from people requiring accommodation from time to time and they are usually filled to the limit of their capacity. In Victoria the Commonwealth Government has tried, within the limit of available resources, to assist the churches and the charitable organizations to extend accommodation of this kind. The Commonwealth has contributed some £2,250,000 to various organizations in Victoria in the last few years.
– Last year the Minister for Trade announced that a trade agreement had been signed with the Federal Republic of Germany which incorporated assurances of reasonable access to the German market for some important Australian export commodities. Can the Minister say whether there has been any improvement in Australia’s exports to Germany since the signing of the trade agreement?
– The terms of the new trade agreement between Australia and West Germany have operated from 1st July, 1959. There has been a quite measurable increase in trade. In the first half-year of the trade agreement the value of Australian exports to West Germany was £19,000,000 compared with £11,000,000 for the corresponding period in the previous year. It is true that some of that increase arises from the higher value of wool and, to that extent, not from additional purchases.
On the other hand, in the case of items such as grains, dairy products, canned fruits and some other products, there has been quite a noticeable increase in purchases in the first half-year - something in excess of £4,000,000 compared with just a little more than £1,000,000 for the same items in the comparable period of the pre-agreement year. 1 think we might regard the agreement as having got off to a good start with measurable advantage to Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Air: Is it a fact that approval for the departure of a chartered civil aircraft from the Williamtown air base on Friday night last, 22nd April, was refused by the Royal Australian Air Force officer-in-charge? It so, is the Minister able to give an explanation for that decision? If not, will he have inquiries made with a view to obtaining this information?
– The responsibility for the operation of civil aircraft from Williamtown base lies with the Minister for Civil Aviation and his department. Because the base is operated by Air Force personnel, consultation between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Air is, of course, necessary. But the granting or refusal of approval lies with the Department of Civil Aviation and it was that department which, in this instance, withheld approval although this was done after consultation with the Department of Air. 1 should point out to the honorable member that Williamtown is primarily an Air Force base and that its use by civil aircraft is, of necessity, limited to periods in which personnel are available and the base is not being used for operational purposes by R.A.A.F. aircraft.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. As the new issue of the pharmaceutical benefits book for approved chemists has proved to be of inferior quality and more inconvenient to use than the previous issue, can the Minister inform the House when a new issue is likely to be made and whether better quality paper can be used?
– There have been some minor difficulties associated with the new edition of the book of instructions for approved chemists. One has been that the pages have come loose from the binding. Steps are being taken in the production of a new edition, which will shortly be issued to chemists, to overcome this difficulty. I am sure they will find that this book will be a great improvement on those that have been previously in use.
– My question to the Minister for Trade is based on the procedure of his ministry, which is unique in the Cabinet, of answering representations made to the Minister through his parliamentary secretary. Is there any value in writing to the Minister at all? Does he see the letters, or would it be a more realistic procedure for honorable members to write directly to the parliamentary secretary? Finally, I should like to know whether this offhand procedure is extended to members of all parties?
– I think it will be understood that the Department of Trade, which I administer, is one which deals with great policy issues and also an immense variety of detail. It is in the general interests of all those who have business with the department, be they commercial people or members of Parliament, that there should be some sharing of the burden of dealing with these issues. So, I am very glad to have the aid of my friend, the honorable member for Darling Downs, who has acted with great ability and great devotion over the years, often in difficult circumstances. I believe he has given a very great deal of satisfaction in personally interviewing members of Parliament from all of the three parties, as well as people representing outside interests. The honorable member keeps in close touch with me and the appropriate departmental officers so that he is as familiar with the prevailing policies as I am myself. Any replies that he gives will be just as authentic as they would be if they came from me.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government has yet considered sending a wedding present to Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, and, if so, what gift has been decided upon as being truly representative of Australia and fully expressive of the warm congratulations and good wishes of the Australian people on this happy occasion.
– I am happy to be able to advise the honorable member and the House that an appropriate gift has been chosen for presentation on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia to Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret and Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones on the occasion of their wedding. An announcement about the nature of the gift and the occasion on which it will be presented will be made in due course.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the criticism that has arisen, particularly in Victoria, on the subject of Commonwealth aid for roads, and having regard to the fact that substantial amounts of this money are being spent in rural areas, will the Minister investigate the provisions, of the act relating to allocations and see whether it is possible to have a much more generous grant made for city areas? Will the Minister also examine the provisions under which these moneys are dispensed on the £1 for £1 basis by the State government departments and see whether the terms can be made more flexible, as many municipalities find that the time period does not allow them to raise the finance to take advantage of conditions with which they are expected to comply in order to obtain these grants from the State governments?
– I point out to the honorable member for Gellibrand that the new Commonwealth aid roads formula gives a very generous allocation to the States. Over the next five years, an additional £100,000,000 will be made available and will be allocated on the basis of area, population and number of motor vehicles. This formula has come into operation only in the last twelve months, and in the future it will undoubtedly lead to an improvement in roads. The honorable member asked specifically about the allocation of money to city and country areas. The money is allotted to the States with the sole condition that at least 40 per cent, will be spent on rural roads. After that condition has been met, the States are left to decide how the remainder of the money shall be spent. I have not the actual figures in my mind at the moment, but it does seem that in some instances there is a lack of balance, with the country areas being most favoured. However, that is a matter for the States.
The honorable member also asked about the provisions relating to money for municipalities. That again is a State matter. While I know of the honorable member’s great interest in the roads in his district, because of his municipal experience, again we have the position where the £1 for £1 grant is made available by the States. In this first period of twelve months, the municipalities may find some difficulty in raising the money in sufficient time, but they will have the flexibility he seeks from now on. In the next twelve months, they will be able to raise their funds and obtain the matching £1 for £1 grant. However, the Commonwealth cannot impose any conditions, except to require that a minimum of 40 per cent, shall be spent on rural roads.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question. Does the right honorable gentleman recall saying, when answering a question on pay-roll tax submitted to him by the honorable member for Robertson, that he would like at some stage before the next Budget to supply honorable members with a detailed statement of all the aspects of this problem, which is a very important one? Will he be able to have that statement compiled and supplied to honorable members before the House rises some time next month in order that we may study the statement during the winter recess?
– I remember giving to the House the kind of undertaking described by the honorable member. I desire all the more to carry it through in view of a rather unhappy series of distortions of what I said in the House at the time which appeared in some sections of the press. I have done some more work on a draft and I hope to have it in a form suitable for distribution to honorable members well in advance of the end of this sessional period.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the shares of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are now quoted on the stock exchange at £4 and that the most recent rise in the price of those shares was approximately 4s.? Is he aware that recently the company substantially increased the prices of its iron and steel products, thereby substantially increasing primary production costs and building costs in this country? In view of the very high price of the shares of this company and the recent increase in the price of those shares, does the Government propose making a protest or taking legislative or other action to ensure that the prices of iron and steel products in this country are reduced to a level commensurate with the apparent costs?
– The thinking that is inherent in the honorable gentleman’s question is a warning to Australian industry that if Labour were in office there would be a very poor climate for the encouragement of expansion. In comparing the market value of the shares of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is a great Australian company, with their par value, the honorable member clearly overlooks the fact that this great company has been established in this country for some 50 years now and that the value as well as the earning capacity of much of its assets has increased, just as the value of the honorable member’s home or farm and of the assets of every one else in this community has increased.
– What about the wage and salary earners? The Government opposed increases for them, but it does not oppose this increase of prices by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– May I remind the honorable member that the average weekly earnings of workers in Australia to-day are probably not less than nine times as great as they were when this company was established.
– No, not that much.
– Of course they are.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. In abandoning the Blue Streak project, has the United Kingdom Government decided to experiment with a solid-fuel-propelled long-range ballistic missile? In view of the heavy costs associated with missile defence and in view of the supreme desirability of countries of the British Commonwealth preserving their sovereignty in defence matters, will the Australian Government consider advancing a plan whereby all British Commonwealth countries would contribute to meet the cost of missile defence planning and preparation?
– The cancellation of the Blue Streak project is a matter that is essentially the concern of the United Kingdom. It is the United Kingdom’s weapon, and the United Kingdom will decide what to do with it. There is a tremendous amount of experiment and development going on in relation to solid propellants for missiles. Whether Australia could initiate a Commonwealth-sponsored programme I do not know. Such a proposal would have to emanate, I should think, from the United
Kingdom primarily. However, the matter is worth raising with the United Kingdom, and I will make it my business to mention the honorable member’s suggestion to the United Kingdom High Commissioner.
– My question to the Acting Prime Minister relates to his use of the term “ public interest “ in his answer to an earlier question this morning. Will the Acting Prime Minister at some time give this House a clear definition of the term “ public interest “? Will he indicate whether or not “ public interest “, taking into account the Government’s policy as reflected in the last basic wage case, is. regarded by the Government as meaning the pegging of wages at a level lower than that at which they should be according to the C series index? Is the Government’s interpretation of the term “ public interest “ to have an adverse effect only on people in the lower income brackets?
– I repudiate immediately the suggestion that in using the term “ public interest “ I was limiting its application to any one section of the community. I tried to make it quite clear that the only interest of the Government in this regard is to sustain a general economic climate in which there can be such a measure of confidence throughout the entire community that we can rely on an expansion of industry and commerce. With an increasing population it is only through an expanding economy that there can be an assurance of jobs for all. I think that the Labour Party would be taking a very narrow view of the interests of that great and important section of the Australian community which works for wages and salaries if it thought that some tribunal should stipulate wage rates without considering whether or not the general circumstances of the economy ensured that jobs were available. The Government has both these matters fully in mind.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the recent international conference in Geneva which discussed the allocation of wavelength frequencies, to which Australia sent an official delegation. Was this delegation the only one from an English-speaking country which was in favour of restricting the wavelength bands available to amateur radio operators? If this is so, has the delegation informed the Minister of its reasons for taking this course of action, and can the honorable gentleman tell the House what they were?
– This is a matter to which some prominence has already been given. I am informed by my departmental head that there is really no basis for the suggestion that Australia in some way acted against the opinions and the interests of the United States and Great Britain, and lined up, in the voting, with Communist countries. The actual position, Mr. Speaker, is that the full report of the delegation has not yet been presented to me. I expect to receive it quite shortly. However, I am informed that a motion was put forward and supported, I think, only by the United States and Great Britain, for the rescinding of a resolution previously carried in which we were interested, and which we had supported.I understand that a considerable majority of the countries represented at that conference voted with Australia, and there can be no suggestion that Australia was alone in its stand on this matter. I would also point out in general terms, Mr. Speaker, that the International Telecommunications Conference and other conferences such as that of the Universal Postal Union are attended by representatives from all the countries. These bodies have been functioning for very many years. Their deliberations have no political bias, but have the objective of ensuring that their recommendations will be of international value. However, I expect to obtain shortly from the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs further detailed information on this matter and I shall be glad to relay it to the honorable member for Robertson and other honorable members who have made similar inquiries of me.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. Has any consideration been given to the formulation of uniform legislation in relation to sanitation, water supply, gas installation and other matters associated with the health of the community, including the right of parents, in some States, to refuse to permit blood transfusions although these are considered necessary by medical men to save life?
– I am not quite sure how the honorable gentleman imagines that uniform legislation could be formulated. There is uniform and constant consultation on matters of public health through the National Health and Medical Research Council, which includes representatives of all the State departments of health. A matter such as compulsory blood transfusions would come within the sovereign powers of the States, and I imagine that an alteration of the Constitution would be necessary before the Commonwealth Government could take any part in the formulation of legislation on the subject.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that on the seventh of this month, during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I suggested that he call together representatives of wool-growers’ organizations with a view to assisting them to reach agreement on wool marketing? If so, what is the Minister’s reaction to this suggestion?
– I am aware of the honorable member’s intelligent contributions to the debates of the House, particularly in relation to the wool industry. Conferences have been held between the woolgrowers’ organizations themselves. Quite recently there was a conference between the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, but the representatives considered it necessary to report back to their organizations after the meeting because they felt bound by the decisions that had been made by their respective annual conferences. We have heard nothing positive from them since then. I hope that the organizations will confer again and arrive at a unanimous decision on policy. As to the request that the Government call a conference of the organizations, I shall have to consider that in view of the negative results which have been obtained on so many occasions.
– In addressing my question to the Acting Minister for Territories, I ask him not to be influenced by reports from Papua that Rugby league is too rough a game to be used as a substitute for tribal warfare in the Territory. I ask him also to remember that spectator participation, which occurs in both soccer and Australian rules games, would defeat the very purpose for which Rugby league has been adopted in the Territory, thereby resulting in a resumption of tribal warfare with disastrous results to the peace and good order of the realm.
– I very much regret that I did not hear the beginning of the honorable member’s question, but as I take it that it deals with weighty matters of national importance I will give due consideration to it when I receive the report of his question.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General in his capacity as Acting Minister for External Affairs. Has he been informed of the setting up of a Soviet Organizing Committee for a World Youth Forum? As this follows the same pattern as previous socalled world youth assemblies which have been nothing n ore than Communist-front conventions, will he release a statement to guide all Australian youth organizations which may be subjected to propaganda and pressure to attend this forum?
– I think the honorable member knows very well what my attitude is towards these Communistfront organizations. I will look into what he has brought under my notice, and if I think there is a risk of Australians being misled in this way I shall have something to say.
– Has the Acting Minister for External Affairs received a report on events in Korea during recent weeks, and will he inform the House of the latest developments?
– The Australian Government has, of course, followed events in Korea very closely, and most of those events have been fairly fully covered in press reports. The Australian people have been associated fairly closely with Korea since 1948, and we have been represented on the various United Nations commissions. In addition, we have a representative on the present commission for the re-unification of Korea; and he has been very active during recent times and has acted in quite a distinguished manner. At the present moment, however, our best information is that there is a distinct move towards political stability in Korea. This we naturally welcome because during our associations with the Korean people we have come to respect the robustness of the South Koreans, and we are therefore pleased to see this movement towards political stability. We will keep ourselves informed of events in Korea from time to time. I would like to say, lastly, that the American State Department recently called a conference of the sixteen nations that were represented in the United Nations forces during the Korean war. At that conference opportunity was taken to review the whole of the events in Korea, and I think the honorable member will have seen the communique which resulted from that conference.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for External Affairs, and is supplementary to the questions asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Lilley. I ask the Minister: In view of his statement that the Commonwealth had no authority to make any advances to the Korean Government in regard to the management of the affairs of that country, under what authority did the Australian delegate to a conference in Washington a week or two ago agree to a resolution of the United Nations organization that pressure should be placed upon the Korean Government either to democratize itself or give consideration to the wishes of the people of Korea who were demonstrating against what they regarded as a rigged election?
– I very much regret to say that this question, as well as the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition earlier, is founded on a false premise. The meeting of the 16 nations did not resolve that any pressure should be brought to bear on Korea.
– Then the newspaper reports are wrong?
– Maybe. It the honorable gentleman would like a copy of the actual communique issued as a result of the meeting I shall see that he has it; but it was not a communique to say that pressure would be brought to bear.
– On what authority was the conference called?
– The conference was called together informally, and not in a legal sense. It was a meeting of the 16 nations who had been represented in the United Nations forces in Korea and who, of course, had undertaken to supply forces again if there were aggression from North Korea. Naturally, those 16 nations had some mutual interest to sit down and review the situation. That they did, and no more.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Has the Government been informed of the plans of the Netherlands Government to strengthen its defences in Dutch New Guinea? Can the Minister say how those Dutch forces will co-operate with Australian forces in the area, and will this co-operation extend to the joint use of bases and facilities?
– Mr. Speaker, the Australian Government was not consulted in advance on the movement of vessels or other equipment by the Netherlands Government; but the Australian Government has no reason to think that there is the slightest aggressive intent in what the Netherlands Government proposes. There is no arrangement of any kind for co-operation between Australian forces and Netherlands forces, or for any common use of bases.
– My question without notice is directed to the PostmasterGeneral. Has he seen an advertisement which appears in the postage stamp booklets issued by the Post Office which recommends to customers that they patronize the A.N.Z. Savings Bank? If the Minister has seen the advertisement, does he approve of it? In view of the fact that in practically every town in Australia where there is no special branch of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, the Post Office is the agent for the Commonwealth Bank, will the Minister give instructions that the Commonwealth Savings Bank shall be given an opportunity of advertising its services to the people?
– Mr. Speaker, I have not seen the advertisement referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, but I think it is pretty obvious that it is simply an advertisement which has been accepted and inserted in the booklet for the usual purpose of defraying some part of the cost of the publication. Similar opportunities would be available to any other instrumentality, bank or private concern desiring to advertise. I point out that our postal directories are used for advertising purposes by many people, including banks, as are other publications by the Post Office. Therefore, there is nothing new in the particular matter to which the honorable member has referred, nor does it indicate any preference by the department for the interests of those who advertise.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That leave of absence for one month be given to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on the ground of public business overseas; and to the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas.
– I move -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) on the ground of ill-health.
I am happy to be able to say that the honorable member, who has been ill for some time, is recovering and hopes to take his place again in this House in the Budget session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).I have received a letter from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The unfortunate effects of the Government’s policies in national health, including the imposition of undue financial burdens on the sick, particularly through increased charges for accommodation, treatment and medicines in public hospitals.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places; -
– The terms of the matter that has been submitted by the Opposition have been outlined to the House by you, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not repeat them. I submit, however, that there should be common agreement on the Opposition’s contention that the Government’s health policies - or at least some of them, I will not say all - are imposing great hardship on far too many people in Australia and particularly upon those who, on both physical and financial grounds, are least able to shoulder that responsibility. I believe the Government realizes the situation, but it has not moved to alleviate the plight of so many persons who are affected by illness and consequent loss of earning capacity, and are now faced with the additional burden of heavy hospital costs. I believe that even the most conservative member of the government parties will be bound to concede that this burden has now reached almost fantastic proportions. Every member of this Parliament who is fully conscious of his duties as an elected representative of the people, must be aware of the hardships that these costs are imposing on the sick. One could refer to specific cases, but I do not believe that it is necessary at this stage to prove that point.
One need only analyse the present socalled health plan to appreciate the difficulties which, under existing circumstances, must be inflicted upon those who have the misfortune to suffer a serious illness. Con sider for instance those who are to-day in receipt of a social services pension of one kind or another, whether age, invalid or widow’s pension. They comprise that section of the community which probably has the greatest need for the specialized medical care and attention to which they are entitled. I challenge the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to deny the Opposition’s assertion that there is no justice or hope for large numbers of pensioners under the existing scheme. When the Minister introduced the National Health Bill in 1959 he said that the charge of 5s. which was to be imposed on all future prescriptions for health-giving and life-saving drugs would be made to persons other than pensioners. That is not the position at all. Only a percentage of pensioners are to-day enrolled in the pensioner medical service.
I know that the Minister is well aware that his predecessor who, I have no doubt, is proud of the fact, imposed a means test which this Government has continuously and vigorously applied since 1955. Income of more than £2 a week in addition to the pension excludes a single person and additional income of £4 a week excludes a married couple from receipt of the pensioner medical benefits. To be more precise, income of exactly £2 a week would exclude a single pensioner should there also be bank assets to the value of £10 or more, because, as I am sure the Minister is aware, bank interest also is taken into consideration by this Government, through the Department of Social Services, in assessing a person’s eligibility for the issue of a medical entitlement card. Therefore, any bank interest when added to a weekly additional income of £2 excludes pensioners from benefits which they should have and which they certainly need. A married couple who have an income of £4 a week from sources other than their pension are in the same position. Should they also have a bank account, the bank interest, which is taken into consideration by the Department of Social Services, would exclude them from the issue of a medical entitlement card.
It is difficult to understand how Government supporters can tolerate this discrimination against those people who are least able to protect themselves from the anomalies that have grown out of the health scheme fostered by the present Government. The recent amendments to the legislation dealing with pharmaceutical benefits, particularly that which compelled chemists to make a charge of 5s. for all health-giving and lifesaving drugs, have certainly proved that the all-round charge of 5s. for each prescription imposes a great hardship on those least able to bear it. People in the lower income groups as well as those with young children are most disadvantaged by this amendment.
The assurance given to the Opposition when this matter was being debated towards the end of last session that the special needs of chronic sufferers would not be overlooked has not been honoured. We were told then that persons requiring additional supplies of drugs to relieve pain and maintain health would be able to obtain them without having to pay for the prescriptions to be dispensed. That promise has not been kept. The new pharmaceutical charges are a serious blow to those who are already in need.
The Minister for Health has tried to justify these discriminatory attacks on the basis of the sharply increased cost to this country of conducting the pharmaceutical scheme. It is true that whereas in the financial year 1951-52, the scheme cost £7,600,000, by 1958-59 the cost had risen to £21,000,000. For this financial year, £25,000,000 may have to be found, we are now told, to continue the scheme, even with a restricted list. But I suggest that if we are comparing the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for 1960 with its cost in the first year of operation, 1951, other matters should also be taken into consideration.
I believe that the Minister for Health and other Government supporters, when referring to these matters in the past, have overlooked the fact that the cost structure is very likely to be related to two factors which they probably do not regard as being of any importance. The first factor is the general increase in the cost of living which, after all, has been just as effective in forcing up the cost of health services as it has been in forcing up the cost of essential food and most other consumer requirements. Therefore, the fact that the cost of administering the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is now more than 2i times the cost in the first full finan cial year of operation, 1951-52, does not, in my opinion, justify the Minister’s contention that the scheme is either a successful or a popular one. Not at all. I believe that rises in prices have been largely responsible for increased charges now being incurred by the Health Department. There are very few members on this side of the House or on the other side of the House whose attention has not been drawn to the statements that have been issued by the British Medical Association referring to the extravagant and, on occasions, wasteful prescribing practices adopted by some doctors.
It is true that only a minority of doctors in this country have been guilty of such practices, but the fact remains that the Government, knowing the facts, sought the easy way out and levied a 5s. charge on all future prescriptions with the result that further financial burdens have been imposed on the sick. It is all very well for the Minister to talk about the additional financial benefits that may be available when major operations have to be carried out. This Government has never attempted to provide any relief, help or assistance for those who are unable to meet the financial commitments that have been imposed under this scheme.
The Opposition does not deny and has never attempted to deny that the medical benefits scheme may have a useful place in our society for those who can afford to belong to it. When the original scheme was evolved we were told that its main purpose was to provide up to 90 per cent, of the cost of general practitioner and specialist services. The Opposition accepted that statement in good faith. Certainly, it had no reason to doubt the intentions of the responsible Minister. But what is the position today? Contributors are now finding up to 40 per cent, of their medical costs whether they can afford to or not. That is the position despite the fact that this Government gave an assurance in this Parliament that members of funds would be able to cover themselves to the extent, at least, of 90 per cent, of medical costs.
Many of the people in the categories to which I have referred, if they are faced with a serious illness, will be expected to pay fees ranging from £1 16s. to £3 a day, or £21 a week, for accommodation in the public wards of public hospitals. I shall bc extremely interested to hear the Minister explain how people in those categories - the widows, the pensioners and those in the lower income groups - can be expected to cover themselves against that cost. Before this Government came to power, first-class medical treatment was available in public wards of public hospitals to any one who required it. That situation applied until 1953 when the Page scheme was foisted upon the people of this country. We, on this side of the House, do not contend that the Chifley scheme was 100 per cent. successful but, at least, it was the beginning of a national health service that provided for free hospital accommodation, medical treatment and medicaments to patients occupying beds in the public wards of public hospitals.
I am sure that the people of this country now have good cause to remember the days when they could enter a general public hospital and know that, in the anxiety of their health, there would be no fees to pay and therefore no cause for worry as to how they would meet them. I am sure that they also remember that that hospital service was paid for with a social services tax spread over the whole community based on ability to pay. In other words the principle then, which this Government has always rejected, was that the strong should bear the infirmities of the weak. It is on that basis that the next Labour government will again negotiate with the States to ensure that throughout Australia there shall be no charge and no means test for patients occupying beds in wards of public hospitals. That was the situation which applied in this country before 1953, and I believe that that is what the people of this country would require again if they were given the opportunity to state their opinion at this stage.
There is no justice or merit in a scheme which compels patients to insure with a hospital benefits organization in order to qualify for the higher of two Commonwealth contributions. I know that the Minister will argue that there is no compulsion in these matters, but the fact remains that the economic threat persists just the same. Members of the Opposition contend, on the other hand, that the payment of this benefit should not be conditional upon a contributor being a member of a medical benefits fund organization.
Such a position was enjoyed by the people of this country prior to the advent of the health policy which has been foisted upon this country by this Liberal-Australian Country Party Government. There is a very definite need for medical services in Australia for all who require them but at such a cost to the individual that it will not prove to be a burden to him or seriously prejudice his financial position. Especially is that so for those whose incomes are limited or who have dependants. But under the existing scheme, for the average wageearner
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Clark).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is always rather curious to hear members of the Australian Labour Party attacking the national health service. I want to begin what I have to say this morning by reminding honorable members that although the Labour Party is always eager to attack the national health service, its members, when in government, and possessed with a legacy of great wartime powers, were completly unable to produce any national health service at all. They proved themselves unable to grapple with the problems of a national health service.
Let me refer to some of the terms of this proposal. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred, first of all, to the hardships of the cost of insurance. I wonder if he knows what the cost of this insurance is? That cost, for a single person to receive 36s. a day in hospital benefits, is 9d. a week. For a married couple, with or without children, it is1s. 6d. a week Those are very low figures.
The honorable member went on to talk about pensioners. May I again remind him and the House that although this Government has introduced the pensioner medical service which caters for the needs of about 700,000 pensioners and their dependants, providing them with a general practitioner service from the doctor of their choice either in their own homes or in the doctor’s surgery, the Labour Party produced for those pensioners nothing whatever. Under Labour rule if a pensioner wished to consult a private doctor he paid the full fee unless the doctor remitted it for him. lt is a remarkable thing that a party which could produce nothing for the pensioner should now complain about the inadequacies of the present pensioner medical service.
The honorable member spoke about tolerating such a state of affairs. The Labour Party was prepared to tolerate a far worse state of affairs. He then went on to talk about the hardship imposed by the arrangement under which pharmaceutical benefits cost the recipient, other than a qualified pensioner, 5s. Let me point out that the position is that whereas from 1st March recipients of pharmaceutical benefits have paid 5s. per prescription for the benefit, they will have received also, from that date, a great number of prescriptions for 5s. for which they previously paid much more than 5s. It may very well be that when the figures are obtained at the end of perhaps the first year of operation, it will be found that the average cost to the ordinary member of the community, who previously had to pay for everything other than a limited list of pharmaceutical benefits, has been very considerably reduced. The honorable member has no figures whatever to support his contention that the community is worse off by paying the 5s. All the indications are that the individual members of the community will be, on the average, better off. But nobody can yet produce the figures because the scheme has been operating only since 1st March last.
The honorable member proceeded next to talk about hospital charges. The terms of the honorable member’s proposal refers to the undue financial burden on the sick, particularly through increased charges for accommodation. Can we get this picture into perspective and revise in our memories what is the position of our hospital charges? Hospital charges are imposed by the States, not by the Commonwealth Government. It is entirely within the discretion of a State government how much it will allocate from its revenues to its hospitals and at what level it charges those who enter them. I point out to the honorable member that never before in the history of the Commonwealth have the State governments received so much, either absolutely or relatively, towards their total revenues from the Commonwealth Government, as they do to-day. The amount which they allocate to hospitals is entirely within their own discretion.
Previous to the introduction of the present national health insurance scheme, the State governments made no charge but the Commonwealth paid 8s. a day to them for each occupied bed. What was the result? When this Government came into office the hospitals throughout the States were bankrupt. It was quite obvious that hospitals could not possibly function on this basis and that it was an unsound system. This Government accordingly introduced a different system.
It adheres to the principle that total payments are made by the Commonwealth to the States and within those total payments the States themselves decide, as sovereign States, how much will be allocated to hospitals, to transport and to their other affairs. But the Commonwealth Government has introduced a national health insurance scheme to make it possible for those who insure themselves to meet their hospital expenses which are imposed by the State governments within their discretion. I merely add that the State governments have pursued no uniform policy. In fact, in Queensland to-day the State Government makes no charge for those admitted to hospitals. In the other States, varying charges are made at different levels according to the discretion of the State governments.
What do the hospitals receive as a result of the national health services and of the hospital benefits? In the last year, they received from hospital benefits just under £15,000,000 from the Commonwealth Government and in addition another £9,700,000 was paid out to those who had incurred hospital expenses. The vast bulk of this amount, of course, finds its way into the revenues of the State hospitals, because it is paid only to those contributors who have incurred a hospital expense. So, here we have almost £15,000,000 in hospital benefits and almost another £10,000,000 in fund benefits, all provided through the medium of the Government’s national health insurance scheme, available to the State hospitals. It seems a little curious to hear complaints being made about increased charges as a result of the Commonwealth Government’s national health insurance scheme. Any increase in charges, of course, is due entirely to other causes, and if the State governments, varying their charges as they do, complain about the amount of money that they receive for hospitals, I merely remind the House that the amount they allocate to hospitals is within their own discretion.
The subject raised for discussion deals also with medicines in public hospitals. Some of my colleagues will deal with this in more detail, but 1 put to the House the point that the medicines supplied in public hospitals, insofar as they are pharmaceutical benefits, were previously paid for by the Commonwealth Government. With the new arrangements, the Commonwealth Government made an agreement with the States, which they willingly entered into, under which they would be reimbursed on a formula that left them no worse off and indeed a little better off than they were before. The position of public hospitals now as regards charges to their patients for medicine is that, so far as Commonwealth finance is concerned, they are a little better off than they were before. Nothing prevents State governments from imposing further charges on top of what they receive from the Commonwealth, if they desire to do so, and there is certainly nothing in the legislation enacted by this Parliament which either compels or urges them to do so. Whatever honorable gentlemen opposite may have to say about the increase in hospital charges, it must be perfectly plain not only that those charges are not brought about by the legislation which this Parliament has passed but indeed that the cost to those upon whom these charges are imposed is greatly diminished by the national health services.
I want to point to something else that the national health scheme has done in providing further assistance to State governments. I refer to the tuberculosis arrangements. Under these arrangements, the State governments received last year and over previous years millions of pounds which they have been able to use not only for the construction and capital expenditure of chest hospitals, which has been entirely borne by the Commonwealth, but also for the main tenance and running expenses of those hospitals. It is entirely foolish to imagine that the arrangements made under the national health service have done anything but supply the greatest measure of assistance ever known to State governments and indeed the most satisfactory measure of assistance to individuals in the community.
The honorable gentleman, when speaking about hospital insurance, alleged that it was improper that contributors should have to join a fund in order to receive Commonwealth benefits. I wonder whether he realizes what the alternative is. The alternative, of course, would be for some government department to be greatly expanded to cope with the administration that is at present, under government supervision, done by the various funds. I hope that those who hear the honorable gentleman and his colleagues announcing that they would abolish this necessity to contribute to funds will realize that such a proposition would mean the end of the present insurance funds and that the great friendly societies which operate these benefits could shut up shop to-morrow, if the Labour Party were in office; there would be no further use for them. The medical benefits funds which cater for millions of people throughout Australia could close down; there would be no further use for them. All this would pass into the hands of some government organization. So, when the honorable gentleman brings up this question, which I may say his leader also brought to light at the last election, I hope that all who listen to him will realize that what he is doing is serving notice to the benefit funds, to the friendly societies, to all those organizations, that if Labour comes into office they can shut up shop and go out of business because in future everything will be in government hands and there will be no place at all for voluntary health organizations.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- To call this scheme a national health scheme, to my mind, is a complete misnomer. But it is even more of a misnomer for the Government and the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to call it the best scheme in the whole world. Honorable members opposite have only to talk to some of the English immigrants in this country to get some kind of appraisal of what people who have experienced an alternative scheme think about our socalled national health scheme. The Government is quite properly entitled to take some credit for some of the things that it has done. It has made a contribution to national health. But I hope that the Government will not be so niggardly as to refrain from giving some credit to the Australian Labour Party for having sown the seed in the public mind of the need for a national health scheme. It was the Labour Party in this country in the post-war world and the Labour Party in Great Britain which sowed the seed, as it so often does. The parties which now form the Government can take some credit for having continued some of the schemes that have been initiated by the Labour Party. But it would need a very complacent and smug government to say that we in Australia have either a very good national health scheme or a comprehensive national health scheme. The present scheme has some laudable features; it does give some help to those who need it. It also gives a certain amount of freedom between patient and medical practitioner, although this freedom is not as great as the Government persuades itself that it is.
On the other hand, the present national health scheme seems to me a very complex scheme, and it is very difficult for the ordinary person in the community to understand. But, apart from this, the scheme has five other major faults. First, it is markedly inadequate in the provision for Commonwealth assistance, particularly in the sphere of hospitalization. The Minister for Health said that that is a State responsibility. But the very fact that the Commonwealth Government pays a subsidy of 8s. a day indicates an acceptance of some responsibility apart from what the State does. The Commonwealth has been paying 8s. a day since 1948, and the same basic rate continues to apply. I admit that additional subsidies, with which I shall deal in a moment, may be obtained where the patient belongs to a friendly society or a benefit fund. First, therefore, I say that the Commonwealth assistance is total I v inadequate.
Secondly, I say that the scheme does not provide a comprehensive coverage. Not only does it not provide for dental care, but also it does not provide for specialized needs in the community, such as hearing aids, which are very much needed by pensioners and other people. It does not provide for the needs of spastic centres. In New South Wales, at the present time, people interested in the welfare of spastics are carrying out an appeal known as Operation Desperation. The fact that private citizens have to go from door to door begging for help to enable them to keep a spastic centre going indicates the total inadequacy of this socalled national health scheme.
Thirdly, I say that this scheme does nol relieve sick people of their worry and anxiety over the cost of medical and hospital treatment. As time goes by, sick people are required to find more and more of their personal medical and hospital expenses despite this so-called national health scheme and the heavy contributions made by State governments.
Fourthly, I say that, in certain respects, the scheme gives most help to those who are best able to help themselves. That is the essence of it. Instead of a humanitarian scheme which helps those who most need help, this Government’s scheme heavily subsidizes the people who are able to insure tor benefits at the highest rates. It gives the most help to those who are best able to help themselves. Many of the people who are not able to insure in order to obtain fund benefits, and who, therefore, are unable to attract additional Commonwealth benefits, are the people in the community who are most in need. I have been asked to make representations to hospital boards on behalf of people in that position who cannot afford to pay their fees, but the hospital boards, in their own interests, have to try to recover the moneys owing to the hospitals. I was not a member of this House when the present scheme was introduced by the Government, but I remember clearly that the scheme was supposed to end all the troubles of our public hospitals. That was one of its great alleged virtues - that hospitals, for the first time, would : be on a safe financial basis. Let any honorable member ask a representative of any hospital board what is its position to-day, despite the national health scheme.
Fifthly, I say that the pharmaceutical formulary greatly curtails the professional status of doctors and chemists. Ten minutes for my speech does not allow enough time for me to deal fully with all these matters in a discussion of this kind, but I should like to dwell briefly on this point now in case I have not time to deal with it afterwards. The pharmaceutical formulary restricts the doctor’s right to prescribe certain drugs. The formulary is prepared on the advice of a certain body of experts - I do not think we can question their expert standing - who may have determined that a certain drug is not suitable for the treatment of people with a certain illness. But the fact is that other eminent physicians, who are themselves experts, treat individual cases in which the patient does in fact benefit by treatment with a particular drug not h the formulary. There is nothing to prevent the doctor from prescribing the drug, but the patient has to pay the full cost and does not receive any benefit under the national health scheme. There is nothing to prevent a doctor from prescribing Prednisone for a patient suffering from multiple sclerosis, as happened in one case that I know of. The health scheme does not prohibit the doctor from doing this, and he may observe to his satisfaction that the drug is doing the patient good that he would not derive from treatment with any other drug. But if the formulary does not include such a drug, the patient receives no benefit under the national health scheme if that drug is prescribed, and, somehow or other, the unfortunate sufferer has to try to find £4 a week, perhaps, in order to pay for the drug with which he is being treated.
I come back now to some of the things that the Minister particularly mentioned in respect of pensioners. I admit that the pensioner medical service is probably the best part of the national health scheme, but, unfortunately, important shortcomings have to be acknowledged. The answer gi-.-en yesterday to :i question on not’-c asked by one of my colleagues indicates that 58,421 pensioners still do not receive the benefit of the pensioner medical service, because they receive £2 a week income in addition to the pension and, under an amendment of the National Health Act made in 1955, they are therefore not issued with pensioner medical service entitlement cards. To this figure, of course, we may add all the persons who are debarred completely from a pension and who are actually worse off than are those who receive the pension.
Under the pensioner medical service, pensioners may receive free hospitalization in public wards - if they can get into a public ward. Almost the greatest problem in the world arises in trying to get a person into a public ward. And the problem of keeping a patient in such a ward is even greater. A very close friend of mine died recently. After four days in a public ward he was told, “ You will have to get out. We cannot keep people like you here. “ He was moved to a private hospital and then again to another private hospital where he had to pay 30 guineas a week. This is the sort of difficulty that arises. The great pity is that, as people in Victoria and South Australia know only too well, hospitalization in a public ward costs 60s. a day. What is the position of people who insure with benefit funds under the special account provisions? They are limited to a benefit at the standard rate of 16s. a day, plus £1 a day from the Commonwealth, making a total of twelve guineas a week. The Minister shakes his head. Does he suggest that people who insure under the special account provisions receive a total of more than twelve guineas a week? He indicates that he does not. How can a person who receives a benefit of only twelve guineas a week afford to pay £21 a week for a bed in a public ward? These are the people who most need help. They are the people who have chronic and long-term illnesses and who have to spend more than 84 days a year in hospital. After paying their taxes and contributions to a fund, they still have to find more than eight guineas a week for a bed in a public ward.
These are only some of the difficulties which arise under the present nation= health scheme. I do not know J-.-w t’.:e provisions with respect to non-recognized hospitals are working out. I have a’rea:’ dealt with one or two cases in which patients in nor.-recognized hospitals are still being refused fund benefits although they have to belong to a fund in order to attract Commonwealth benefits. Will the Minister please note this: Despite recent amendments to the National Health Act, there are still people who, although they are compelled to belong to a fund in order to attract Commonwealth benefits, are denied fund benefits because they are in a non-recognized hospital. Can any one think of a worse situation than that? We have at times heard talk about conscription. This is conscription in order to attract back the Government money which represents benefits paid out of tax proceeds, and people are being conscripted into private benefit funds.
– They should come up to Queensland.
– A lot of people are in favour of the Queensland system. A Labour ideal is at work in Queensland.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) told us how much migrants from the United Kingdom liked the United Kingdom national health scheme, but he failed to point out, also, how much they liked paying in Australia a very much lower rate of income tax than they had paid in their home country. Nor did he tell us that Australians who had lived in this country all their lives rejected the scheme that Labour tried to introduce in 1948 and that they very much prefer the present Government’s national health scheme.
Whenever we discuss health schemes in this House, we see the most radical division of opinion between the Opposition and ourselves. To-day, as always, the Government and the Opposition approach this subject from completely opposed points of view. We on this side of the House believe, first of all, that the people of Australia prefer a system of voluntary insurance to a system of thorough-going compulsion such as was represented by the McKenna health scheme of which we have heard so frequently. We on this side of the chamber believe that the majority of Australians greatly appreciate the way in which, over the past few years, they have benefited under the Page health scheme. They have come to appreciate the benefit of providing in advance against future sickness. That is the first thing. The second thing we believe in is the operation of the means test so that people who can afford to pay more for treatment do so, and people who cannot afford to pay obtain treatment at a very much reduced charge. Thirdly, we believe in the operation of a general practitioner service rather than of a purely public hospital service as advocated by the Opposition. We believe that the first place in which health treatment should be administered is the consulting room of the general practitioner, near the patient’s own home. Patients should not be required, as under the United Kingdom health service, for instance, to attend a public hospital for treatment. Fourthly, we believe that success is based on voluntary co-operation by the doctors and the chemists - the people who have to administer the scheme. The doctors and the chemists prefer to work under the scheme we have established rather than under the system of compulsion advocated by the Opposition.
Also, we believe in the federal system of government in this country, whereby the Government does not dictate to the States how they shall spend their money. We do not tell any State that it must spend a certain amount of money on hospitals and a certain amount on education. When we make funds available to a State we leave that State to decide how the money shall be spent in order to produce the greatest benefit for its people. That is the first and essential difference between the scheme we have established and the scheme advocated so often by the Opposition.
Now let us examine this matter which the Opposition has proposed as something requiring urgent discussion. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said that the matter requiring the most urgent consideration was the undue financial burden on the sick, particularly in public hospitals. But from start to finish the honorable member hardly mentioned public hospitals. Let us examine these alleged increased charges in public hospitals. Who are the people who are being affected, and how much extra are they having to pay in hospital charges? The first point is that the States decide their own policies on hospital charges. That is not the responsibility of this Government. Let us see what is happening in Victoria, for instance, in relation to hospital charges. On 1st May public hospital charges in Victoria are to be raised from 36s. a day to 60s. a day - a total of £21 a week. Who are the people who will have to pay that increase, and what remedies have they? Under the legislation enacted by this Government last year it is possible for a person to insure for a maximum benefit of £4 a day. It is only a question of a single person increasing his or her premium from9d. a week to1s. 9d. a week in order to obtain complete coverage for any charge that is at present being levied by any public hospital in any State. For a family man the premium will rise to 3s. 6d. a week from its present level of1s. 6d. Can anybody claim with justice that the majority of families in Australia to-day cannot afford to pay 3s. 6d. a week in order to insure themselves under the hospital benefits scheme?
At the same time, the benefits payable in respect of operations at public hospitals are increased. The honorable member for Bass said that the scheme covered only 60 per cent. of the total charges. The whole reason for the bill that the Government introduced last year was to increase that coverage. From my experience in the hospital of whose board I am president, I know that under the new premium rates 90 per cent. of the fee charged by a hospital would be covered. In my opinion the honorable member for Bass has been telling us of what was the position last year, and not of what the present position is, because increased coverage is now available as a result of the higher premiums that peopls may now pay. As always, honorable members opposite cannot distinguish between theory and practice.
Let us see what is happening in a public hospital in Melbourne - the Eye and Ear Hospital. Forty per cent. of the patients attending that hospital now pay no charge at all. Another 25 per cent. have their charges partly remitted, and of the remainder the majority are fully insured and therefore will not really suffer from the increased charges to which the Opposition refers.
The honorable member for Bass mentioned pharmaceutical benefits in hospitals. I would say that no charge has been levied on any bed in any public hospital in any State for pharmaceutical benefits. No patient in any public ward has had to bear the charges he mentioned.
The important thing about increased charges by public hospitals is that the increases will enable the hospitals to balance their budgets, while the public will not suffer, because at very small cost people will be able to insure against the increased charges. That is the essential feature of the policy of the Government, and nothing put forward by the Opposition can detract from my statement. So I think that the whole of the Opposition’s argument is false, because the fact is that there is no public hospital whose patients are bearing the increased burdens in the way claimed by the Opposition. Increased hospital charges are not being levied on people who cannot afford to pay them.
To sum up, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would say that there are few increased charges against which the public cannot insure at the very reasonable cost of about an extra 1s. a week. The charges are related to the capacity to pay of the people who use the services. We are not doing as the Opposition would do, and levying a general charge on the taxpayers, as in the United Kingdom, where the cost of the national health scheme is in the region of £593,000,000 a year, necessitating a higher level of income taxation which destroys the incentive to earn. Australia prefers its own system.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Let me say at the outset that I am pleased to support the Opposition in its contention, on behalf of the people of Australia, that the present scheme is totally inadequate and unsuitable for Australian conditions. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has been most unconvincing in his references to public hospital finance. I should like to ask leave of the House to incorporate a very comprehensive statement on this matter, provided by the New South Wales Minister for Health, the Honorable W. Sheahan. This statement contains the answers to the Minister’s short statement to-day, and I think that in the interests of truth it is desirable to have it incorporated in “ Hansard “.
– Is the honorable member asking for leave to incorporate the statement?
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is noi granted.
– There you are! There is another example of the fact that this Government is determined to ensure that the people shall not know the facts about this scheme. I want to say at the outset that it is not really a national health scheme. As has been said, visitors from overseas - from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and some Scandinavian countries - feel that there are gross inadequacies in the scheme. Only about three-fifths of Australians have had any coverage under this scheme and, as the Minister has pointed out, not all of them have had coverage at the maximum rate. Contributions to hospital funds have varied from 3d. to 2s. week for single people to 6d. to 4s. a week for married people, and contributions to medical benefits funds have been from 9d. to ls. 6d. for single contributors, and from ls. 6d. to 3s. for married contributors. Of course, those who pay the smaller amount do not have anywhere near the coverage of those who pay the higher contribution. I think most people recognize that even those who pay the higher amounts have not had any real social security in relation to health matters. They have always been possessed of anxiety and social insecurity because the scheme is most incomprehensive.
There are many eventualities for which the scheme does not provide, and reference has been made to-day to some of them. One is mental illness. Will the Minister for Health deny that this scheme is inadequate in relation to mental illness? Of course it is! Then there is the matter of convalescence after illness. It often happens that people, after having been in hospital for an extended period, go into a convalescent home upon leaving hospital. Does the Minister deny that? Can he possibly contend that those people are covered by the provisions of the national health scheme? There are many inconsist encies. Is there one iota of coverage in the field of dental care? The Minister could not contend that there is. We go around our electorates and see spastic centres and other organizations running raffles and trying to raise money by devious means to look after the most handicapped people in the community. We see our ambulance services running lucky number competitions and chocolate wheels in an endeavour to raise money. And the Minister contends that this is one of the best national health schemes in the world!
There are grave deficiencies in relation to optical care. Even our young children are not afforded adequate optical attention. There are lots of little pin-pricking items contained in the application forms for medical benefits. Hospitalization for alcoholics and treatment for persons suffering from addiction to drugs are not included in the scheme. There is a great number of technicalities which deprive those unfortunate people of the benefits of the scheme.
One almost needs a lawyer these days to ascertain whether one is covered by the national health scheme. It is so detailed that one could fall foul of many of its complicated provisions. How many times have honorable members received a constituent who has complained that he has paid into a fund and has fallen into arrears for a short period, and when he has been sick he has not been covered?
The period for which benefits may be received under this scheme has been limited to 84 days. The Government has said, in effect, that if you are sick enough to be in hospital for 84 days you are not to receive benefits at the end of that time. The funds also have adopted the Government’s attitude. That provision has applied until recently. Then there is a limit of 14 days coverage for confinements. Any woman who is involved in a confinement extending over a longer period than 14 days obviously is entitled to some sympathy. But that has not been forthcoming. The limit has been set at 14 days and the most necessitous people are deprived of coverage after that period. Those women who find it necessary io go into mothercraft convalescent homes such as Karitane and the Tresillian and other homes, are not covered by this scheme unless the child is ill. Very often mothers seek attention in these establishments following feelings of anxiety and feeding problems which may arise after child-birth, but they are not covered by the scheme.
Many other people are excluded from benefits for financial reasons. A case was reported to me a short time ago of a youngster who had been covered by the family contribution but, on turning 16 years of age, he did not immediately join a fund as a separate individual and, when the occasion arose, he was excluded from benefits. The Government claims that pensioners are covered by a scheme. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has stated to-day that 58,000 pensioners are not covered by the scheme. He has claimed that that figure is authentic. Apparently it was supplied to him by thu Minister in reply to a question. Until November, 1955, they were covered by the scheme, but now, if a single pensioner has an income exceeding £2 a week, or if a married pensioner couple have an income exceeding £4 a week, apart from their pension, they are excluded from the free medicine scheme and are required to pay 5s. for each prescription, in line with every other citizen.
This Government recently imposed a fee of 5s. on each prescription to retrieve some of the cost of the national health scheme. The unfortunate thing is that we are ali required to pay the same amount regardless of our income. This principle is not applied in relation to social services. We pay varying amounts to finance the widows and age pensions, child endowment and maternity allowance, according to our capacity to pay. What is the justification for placing a flat rate for each prescription on every member of the community, regardless of income? There can be no justification in any circumstances! The fee has resulted in higher hospital charges. In New South Wales there has been an increase of, I think, 3s. a day - £1 ls. a week - as a direct consequence of the prescription fee. I cannot possibly reconcile the figures which the Minister has given in relation to hospitals. When the Chifley Government was in office the contribution towards the maintenance of hospitals in New South Wales was made on the basis of 33i per cent, each by the Commonwealth, the State and the patients. Accord ing to the Minister for Health in New South Wales, the Commonwealth now contributes only 13.73 per cent., the State contributes 52.6 per cent, and patients’ fees and revenue account for 33.67 per cent. As a further direct consequence of the prescription fee, some of the major funds in the States have already increased the contribution rate. One of the largest funds in New South Wales requires new contributors to join at table J and to pay 4s a week for a family.
The average family in Australia is paying £8 a year to the various funds. People in the higher income bracket are recovering most of their contributions in the form of tax rebates but those on the lower incomes are not having the same kind of success. Contributions to funds may be claimed as a deduction for income tax purposes. In another place a short time ago it was revealed that a man with an income of £5,000 a year receives a deduction of £7 12s. on his income tax, so he is involved in an actual charge of only 8s. a year for the funds. But because the basic wage earner does not receive deductions from income tax at the same rate, he pays £7 4s. a year for his medical benefits. That is the kind of provision which this Government favours. It has claimed that the 5s. prescription fee was imposed because of spiralling costs. But we should remember that a short time ago this Government even contemplated the sale of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, a great people’s organization which has been responsible for stabilizing the cost of pharmaceutical products in Australia. This Government wanted to dispose of that great organization. The Minister apparently is not concerned with rising prices.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Opposition speakers have each in turn stressed the fact that a number of age pensioners are not included in the pensioner medical scheme. However, on the figures which have been supplied by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to an honorable member opposite - I think it was the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) - only 58,421 out of a total of 703,569 age, invalid, widow and service pensioners and tuberculosis allowees are not entitled to this benefit. The honorable member stated this morning that when a married pensioner couple receive income in excess of £4 a week over and above their pension, or when a single pensioner receives £2 a week in excess of his pension, they are excluded from the benefit. The Australian Labour Party claims to represent the underdog in Australia. Honorable members opposite have stated that so often that many of us are beginning to disbelieve it. What will the Labour Party do about the basic wage earner who is endeavouring to raise a family on a wage which is less than the age pension plus the £4 a week which a married pensioner couple may earn? And most members know only too well that a very big proportion of those 58,000 people are in receipt of a pension and income totalling somewhere near £16 per week. How is the Labour Party going to equate those facts when it talks of offering these hand-outs to the unfortunate people concerned? It is an absolute disgrace that members of the Opposition, representing the electorates which they represent and supposedly possessing a fair amount of intelligence, should come here once again with some hackneyed grandiose scheme to help pensioners - a scheme which would never work. What about 1948, when they tried to introduce a national health scheme?
I remind the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) that all sections of the Parliament supported the referendum in 1946 for the introduction of social service benefits, and I also remind him that out of the mouth, of his own leader at that time it was said that it was never intended to be a free medical scheme and that the people would have to make some contribution towards it. I remind him also of the attempt to bring it into operation and of the fact that the High Court gave a decision in favour of the British Medical Association, because that scheme involved the conscription of labour. Throughout the length and breadth of the country not only were the chemists and doctors opposed to the ideas of the Labour Party but the people also were opposed to them, as was shown by the way they voted in 1949. Honorable members opposite know only too well that the schemes which they have mentioned as operating in Great Britain and
New Zealand have run those countries into colossal financial difficulties with the issuing of free spectacles, dentures, and so on, with the natural corollary that the subscribers to those schemes, the taxpayers, have had to pay more and more.
We have heard from the last two speakers, in particular, that we need only talk to people from overseas to find out what they think of the existing scheme. An honorable member opposite is interjecting, but my voice is just as strong as his. Long before the honorable gentleman came to this Parliament and, in fact, when this scheme was first introduced, world authorities on this question of hospitalization, from America and other places, commented more than favorably on the scheme which was introduced by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). I had the opportunity to go overseas and talk to people there and I remember speaking to a doctor, a member of the House of Commons in Canada, who said in regard to our scheme that the proof of the pudding was in the eating, for the simple reason that the people of Canada were introducing an exact replica of our scheme. This scheme has worked remarkably well. We have heard from honorable gentlemen opposite that we should do various things for spastics and hosts of others who ought to be considered. I agree. Yet these extras can only be tackled step by step. I remind them that the amounts spent by the Labour government on tuberculosis and other scourges in this country were very limited. Even in its last year of office, up to 30th June, 1950, that government spent only the paltry sum of £340,000 odd, whereas in the first year of the present Government, the right honorable member for Cowper jumped the figure up to almost £2,000,000.
Honorable members opposite say that the man in the lower income bracket cannot afford to cover himself for hospital benefits, but as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) pointed out a few moments ago, the single man by the payment of an extra ls. a week and the married man by the payment of an extra 2s. a week can cover themselves for hospitalization in any hospital in Australia. Those extra payments would represent totals of ls. 9d. and 3s. 6d. respectively. What does this mean? For 3s. 6d. per week a married man and the whole of his family could be in hospital at once and receive benefits at a cost less than that of three middies of beer per week. One of my friends opposite has interjected that these people should not have to deny themselves anything. Although I like a beer occasionally I practise self-denial some times, and go without it. Here we have honorable members opposite coming along with the old story that the man in receipt of a large income can afford these things and get a tax rebate for those deductible allowances. I remind honorable members opposite that those in the higher income brackets pay higher contributions in taxation and therefore make it possible for the Commonwealth Government to pay out large sums of money to the State governments for hospitals ar.d so on. As the Minister has pointed out, the figure was about £15,000,000 this year, or more than that, plus almost £10,000,000 going to the States under the benefit funds.
Honorable members . opposite have never before heard of such hand-outs. I remind them that while we are making these large payments to the States to cover tuberculosis control, hospital benefits and other things associated with national health, we do not hear very much from those members, supposedly representing the underdog - as they are only too prone to claim - about the State governments increasing hospital charges to the people. I wonder whether the position of the States would stand analysis in respect of State hospital charges bearing in mind the fact that they can buy their pharmaceutical needs in bulk, and also the charges they make to individual patients.
This subject has been raised by honorable members opposite to try to make the people think that the present Government is not doing the right thing in regard to pharmaceutical benefits. What is the position? When the Labour Party was in office there was a formulary and it was enlarged when the present Government took office; and it has since been enlarged again, so that it is now possible for people who are suffering ar.d require various drugs to obtain them on the payment of 5s., whereas formerly they had to pay 17s., 18s., 20s., or whatever the charge might be. The formulary has been widened, as the Minister has pointed out; and because of that fact the
States themselves are in a better position in regard to the pharmaceutical payments under the new set-up than they were under the old one. That must be so, otherwise it would be strange that they accepted the present position as they have, willingly and without dissent. Obviously, it is not a worse arrangement than that which was previously in operation. The Minister has never run away from the fact that there are some drugs that doctors desire to give their patients and-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I warmly support the proposal submitted to the House by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). It is strikingly appropriate that he should be identified with an expression such as he has made this morning in this House, seeing that his father, as a former Minister, helped to develop the basis of the original scheme of social services and medical care. Therefore, I give this proposal my warmest support. Honorable members opposite never tire of praising this Government in regard to its social services. Yet, when we analyse the existing scheme we find it is surrounded by all manner of difficulties, restrictions and charges which deny real benefits to those in need of assistance of this kind. I was deeply concerned recently when I read of the plight of many persons who fear that they are suffering from cancer. The publication I was reading indicated that if those persons could have skilled examination and medical care in time, many of them could be cured. But I have no doubt that many of them are denied those benefits by the fear of the cost involved, particularly if they have to undergo hospital treatment.
The fact is that hospital and medical costs are too high for the average person on a low income, and for pensioners. If it were generally understood that the people must pay for any services rendered to them, we could understand this situation. But in these days of advanced ideas on social services, it is generally conceded that the sick should enjoy the most generous social service benefits commensurate with our prosperity. Therefore, it is desirable that we should regard the provision of medical care and hospital treatment as a national responsibility. Of course, this Government always claims that such matters are the responsibility of the States. It has always taken cover under that excuse whenever State administration has been involved in matters of mutual endeavour designed to give service to the public. Although the Commonwealth Government has power to levy on communities for services to the people, it tries to impose on the State authorities responsibilities that rightly lie with the Commonwealth. Therefore, I wish to express my deep concern at the manner in which the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) seems to have denied to the people the opportunity to obtain services and drugs that are essential to them.
The Government has shown a miserably mean spirit by imposing further charges on the people for pharmaceutical benefits. Honorable members have said sufficient in this debate to condemn this Government for its administration of health services. It has denied to the community advantages that are essential to the health of the people. Some of the practices imposed upon the medical profession by the Government are creating confusion among general practitioners and causing the loss of valuable time that they could have used to better advantage for the benefit of their patients. For example, a patient has to visit a doctor to obtain a prescription and then take it to a chemist for dispensing, and if an injection is involved, the patient must then return to the doctor.
I direct the attention of honorable members to an editorial statement published in the “ Spectator “. It is a church paper and I believe that it represents a substantial body of worthy public opinion and is capable of assessing the value of public policies. The “ Spectator “ published this statement -
Whatever we may think about the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, two facts seem to be quite beyond debate.
First, the all-round prescription charge of 5s. will create the greatest hardship for those least able to bear it. The people on lower incomes and especially those with young children will be most disadvantaged by the scheme. It certainly increases the distress of the “ fixed income “ groups.
Secondly, the chronic sufferers have been heartlessly overlooked. When the amended scheme was first announced, it was promised that people suffering from chrome complaints would receive special consideration and would not have to pay 5s. for their repeat prescriptions. This promise has not been fulfilled.
Further, we find that such a worthy and distinguished cleric of his church as the Reverend Rex Mathias had this to say about the scheme and the difficulties it has created -
If I state the facts in one case, may we not assume that there are probably quite a few other cases in similar plight? It will be no answer to say that the scheme should not be amended for the sake of a few cases ….
The present situation includes the following facts. One lot of tablets, costing £2 3s. 6d. pei 100, is used at the rate of six a day. These tablets are not on the 5s. list in the new scheme.
Another drug, prescribed for tranquillizing effects, is not on the 5s. list.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- In initiating this debate, the Opposition seems to be capitalizing on two things - the 5s. charge on prescriptions and the recent increases in hospital fees. Now, Sir, in the few minutes available to me, all I can do is touch on the principal matters raised in the debate. By exploiting discontent over these two matters, the Opposition suggests that things would have been far different had it been able to implement a national health scheme along the lines of that which operates in the United Kingdom. Members of the Opposition have suggested that United Kingdom immigrants to Australia are in favour of that scheme as against ours. I. think most of us know that the United Kingdom migrants who come to this country regard the things to which they were accustomed in the Old Country as being, generally speaking, better than the things they find in the colonial society to which we belong.
But I think one honorable member speaking in the course of this debate hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that while, on the one hand, the immigrants from the United Kingdom would like to have all health services free, on the other hand they forget that in order to get the United Kingdom scheme, there must be very heavy taxation. If you can divorce those two things in your mind, you are all in favour of our taxation system and their health service. Unhappily, in the real world, you cannot divorce the two things. The fact is that in the United Kingdom the set-up is very different from ours. There is a unitary government instead of a federal government. In this country the States have their own particular place and traditions in the health system. Again, we have to contend with a medical profession and its attitudes and practices in the past and its attitudes for the future. This is the framework within which any government sitting in Canberra must implement any health scheme. It is a very different framework from that in the United Kingdom.
Dealing with the principle to which we adhere - the principle that insurance is better than heavy taxation for a comprehensive scheme - I would say that I prefer our system, quite apart from the constitutional framework, because, under it, people know what they are getting for their money. When they pay into a common tax pool, the money may be handed out for all kinds of things that are of little benefit to them. I believe that people prefer to know that they are paying for a specific benefit and I believe that that is the Australian attitude of mind.
The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) raised the question of whether it is fair and proper for everybody to contribute at a flat rate to a hospital or medical insurance scheme. He pointed out that, for some people, the insurance payment was a small burden but that to others it was a great burden. That statement entirely overlooks the fact that those who have higher incomes are obliged to contribute enormously through taxation to the health services for the less fortunate in the community. The Commonwealth hands out about £15,000,000 in hospital benefits each year and the contribution towards that amount of those on the higher incomes is very much greater than the contribution of those on lower incomes. Therefore, even if uniform contributions are made to an insurance scheme, the overall contribution by the people at large to the cost of health services is not at a flat rate because of the heavy taxation paid by the people on higher incomes.
As far as the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is concerned I think that the following facts should be made plain: The States at one stage were complaining that they would have to impose a charge of 5s. per prescription on all hospital patients whether in public, intermediate or private wards. The position is this: In the past, drugs that were on the free list - the so-called lifesaving drugs - were supplied to State hospitals free of charge. For other drugs used by those hospitals for patients, whether in public, intermediate or private wards, the State government had to pay. The arrangement that the Commonwealth Government has now entered into with the State governments simply means that the Commonwealth will continue its past practice of meeting about 50 per cent. of the cost of all the drugs used in hospitals. So any claim by a State that the Commonwealth has forced it to impose a charge for drugs in hospitals is completely unjustified and there can be no excuse for such a procedure. I should like to have dealt with a number of other matters but time simply does not permit this, and I shall content myself with the few words that I have been able to say.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 31st March (vide page 196), on motion by Mr. Calwell -
That this House -
Prime Minister will be construed as Australian condonation of the South African Prime Minister’s statements and attitude;
Minister drew between South Africa’s treatment of the natives in the Union of South Africa and South-West Africa and Australia’s treatment of the indigenous inhabitants of the Commonwealth and its territories because Australia’s policy in Australia and PapuaNew Guinea is not apartheid nor does it require and never has required the carriage of passports governing their movements inside their country by indigenous peoples;
Upon which Mr. Menzies had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “this House profoundly regrets the loss of human lives occasioned in the recent incidents in South Africa; is distressed that such events should have occurred in a member country of the Commonwealth of Nations; expresses its sympathy with those who have suffered; profoundly hopes that order may be re-established as soon as possible; and earnestly hopes that the adjustment of all disputes and differences will be achieved by orderly and lawful processes for the common benefit of the people of South Africa “.
.- I rise to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on recent events which have occurred in South Africa and to oppose the amendment to that motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on behalf of the Government. These events in South Africa have rightly assumed great importance for the people of the world, and particularly the people of Australia. I think it proper that they should assume that importance. Any undemocratic, cruel or harsh performance of any government, whether it be in South Africa, Hungary or any other country should be the concern of the people of this country and also of this Parliament, and we should endeavour to use whatever influence we can to see that fair and decent circumstances are established in those countries where undemocratic and harsh procedures have been carried out.
On this matter there is general agreement in this House and elsewhere on several aspects. Some of them have found their way into the Government’s amendment. It expresses profound regret at the loss of human lives in South Africa; it expresses distress that such events should have occurred in a member country of the Commonwealth of Nations; and it expresses sympathy with those who have suffered. No one can find fault with those three propositions. Every one supports them, and we are very pleased to find that at a very very late hour in the discussion on this matter these propositions have found their way into the amendment moved on behalf of this Government. But the rest of that amendment is weak and cannot be accepted by any one. But the Nationalist Government of South Africa would accept the Government’s amendment. One phrase expresses the profound hope that order may be reestablished. Does any one think that the Nationalist Government does not want to see order re-established?
Further, the amendment expresses the earnest hope that the adjustment of all disputes and differences will be achieved by orderly and lawful processes for the common benefit of the people of South Africa. The South African Government wants to see that occur. It wants to see the people of South Africa accept apartheid; it wants them to accept the racial policy that it is enforcing. There is nothing in the Government’s amendment which criticizes or calls into question in any way the South African law or the policy of apartheid. That is basically why we should oppose this amendment. The Nationalist Government of South Africa believes in what it is doing. It believes it is lawful - and indeed, it is lawful according to the law of South Africa. So what is the good of saying, “We want to see the matter settled in a lawful manner”? The law is lawful and it is South African law that is being applied to this subject.
The Nationalist Government of South Africa believes that what it is doing is for the benefit of the people of South Africa. It has said so. It believes that apartheid is for the common benefit of the people of that country. But this Government’s amendment says nothing to the contrary. The Prime Minister, at least half a dozen times in this House, has deliberately avoided expressing an opinion upon the racial policy of the South African Government; and this amendment says nothing about it. In the first place, the Prime Minister said nothing at all about conditions in South Africa. Even when the question of Sharpeville was raised he said he did not know the facts; he was waiting for the report of a judicial committee appointed by the Nationalist Government. Now it turns out that that judicial commitee has broken down. It has not been able to carry on, and there are reports from every quarter that it was nothing but a white-washing committee.
Then, when the matter was raised, finally, the Government moved this amendment which says nothing about the basic policy which is producing these conditions. It says nothing whatever about any action that we might take. The Government’s attitude on South Africa is soft. If it is not sympathetic to the South African Government, then its attitude has been interpreted as being sympathetic. These interpretations have been taken all over the world. Yet, in the face of these interpretations, the Prime Minister and the Government have said nothing to contradict them. If the Government and its supporters are not sympathetic to what the South African Government is doing, why do they not even get up and say so? I challenge members on the Government side: If you are not sympathetic to apartheid, when I am finished get up and say that you are not sympathetic. If you reject apartheid, get up and say so when you have the opportunity.
South African newspapers which are favorable to apartheid have praised the Prime Minister of Australia. South African business people visiting this country, one of whom is Dr. Brasch who is in favour of apartheid, have praised the Prime Minister. But not one word has been said by any Government representative as to whether the Government accepts that praise or rejects it. Now Government members will have the opportunity to say whether they do or not. The position is that others have accepted this interpretation. Newspapers in Malaya, Ceylon and India have all said that the Australian Government, in substance, has come down on the side of the South African Government. The former Minister for External Affairs, Lord Casey, is reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ to-day as saying -
The South African situation had disturbed the goodwill built up between Australia and Asian countries over the past 10 years.
No one has contradicted that statement. I might say that Lord Casey seemed to contradict it in the latter part of his statement reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. But there is no question that many newspapers in Asia have taken this view.
Why has the Government refused to reject apartheid? The answer is that it suggests that this is an internal matter of the South African Government, and that it would disturb Commonwealth relations. Let us have a look at these two points. The first is that it is an internal matter. This arises from clause 7, Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, of which I will quote relevant parts. It says -
Nothing contained in the present charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.
The phraseology is not just “within the jurisdiction “ but “ essentially within the jurisdiction “.
– How do you determine that?
– By the facts. The world has discussed South Africa. The United Nations General Assembly, by 67 votes to 42 made a decision on it. The United Nations Security Council by nine votes to two last week made a decision on it. On 8th April the British House of Commons unanimously made a decision on it, condemning apartheid and calling for action at the Prime Ministers’ conference in London. This is why I say that this is not an internal matter.
– Who said that the British House of Commons unanimously made a decision condemning apartheid?
– I said it. If the honorable member, who does more interjecting than speaking, will listen to me I will read to him the text of the motion unanimously carried by the House of Commons on 8th April. It was moved by Mr. Stonehouse, Labour, and carried unanimously by all members including members of the Conservative Party. If the Conservative House of Commons could do that, why cannot the conservative House of Representatives in Australia do the same?
– Because it is too conservative.
– I summarize the evidence in support of the view that this is not an internal matter. I will give the main points of the motion moved in the House of Commons if the honorable member for Hume cares to listen to me. The first point was a proposition deploring South Africa’s racial policy and a condemnation of apartheid. If the House of Commons could do that why cannot this Parliament do the same? The motion also deplored the fact that the South African people have no democratic rights. If the House of Commons could do that, why cannot this House do it also? The motion referred to the fear that events would endanger the security and welfare of all people in South Africa and the good relations between members of the Commonwealth. If the House of Commons, with a special responsibility for the British Commonwealth, can do this, why cannot the Government in this far distant part of the colonial world express an opinion, because in these matters it is colonial? The House of Commons resolution urged the Government to take the opportunity to have this matter discussed at the Prime Minister’s conference. The House of Commons did the very thing that our Prime Minister said he would not do. The unanimous decision of the House of Commons favoured the action that our Prime Minister said he would not take.
– That does not make it right.
– I think it is an argument in favour of it, and you will have an opportunity to rebut it. The United Kingdom Parliament does not agree with the Prime Minister and this Government that the South African evil and tragedy is an internal matter. Of course it is not an internal matter. The United Kingdom Parliament has rejected apartheid. It has voted unanimously to have the matter discussed at the Prime Ministers’ conference, as of course it will be. Why should we not support action to have the matter discussed there? This is not a South African internal matter. It is being discussed and action is being taken in all parts of the world. We are considering here resolutions which involve protests. While protests and resolutions in various parts of the world have been proper and have had an effect, the time for resolutions has passed. The Bishop of Johannesburg was reported in the London “ Times “ as saying -
The day is past when we should keep on moving resolutions. We need action. Action might be taken by groups of people rather than by calling for economic sanctions at Government level.
– What sort of action?
– I will tell you in a moment; I know that you have no patience. The bishop directs attention to this kind of action. First, he points out that the arms being used by the Nationalist Government in South Africa are substantially provided from outside the country, and predominantly by the United Kingdom Government. He points out that capital investment is going into South Africa, and that trade is continuing with South Africa. The action that I think should be considered is to cease providing arms for the South African Government to kill the African people in the way that they did at Sharpeville. Investment should be discouraged and trade should be curtailed. It is no good saying that this will hurt the people of South Africa. Of course it will and they know it will hurt them, but they are prepared to face this injury because they know it will hurt the rich rulers of South Africa more.
The London “ Times “ reported that the South African business leaders made an appeal to the South African Prime Minister, Dr. Verwoerd, for an interview, and expressed their frustration and anger after adding up the cost of the crisis so far. They want a radical change of policy. I suggest that if this pressure is maintained on the Government of South Africa, it will be forced to change its policy. The African people, who are resisting the National Government, have little or no effective power. They have no vote and they are under what is in substance foreign domination. They live under a system which has no semblance of democracy and which has been described by the Bishop of Johannesburg and the Archbishop of Capetown as a police state in which there is no possibility of achieving change by peaceful means. Only outside influence can help the people of South Africa to-day, but the Government of this country is deliberately denying the assistance that it could give to them when it adopts the purposeless, almost meaningless and worthless amendment that is now before the House.
I suggested that we must consider adopting economic measures, and the Prime Minister retorted by saying that the boycott is dead. But it was not dead on 25th September, 1956, when he called in this House for full-blooded economic sanctions against Egypt. The boycott was not dead then when pride and pounds were involved. But in the mind of the Prime Minister it is dead when people are involved and when we ask that the boycott be used in defence of people. Rather than use sanctions against Egypt in a matter of pride and pounds, he went further and he supported an armed intervention which was a terrible failure. Economic action is necessary on this occasion, and although we should support resolutions, they are now not much good. I have a question on the noticepaper and I hope that the Government will not sidetrack it as it sidetracks most questions on the notice-paper. The question asks the Minister for Trade -
The purpose of that question, if we can get an answer to it, is to allow the Australian people to know just what goods come from South Africa so that if they want to exercise their free choice not to buy them, they will be able to do so. A number of organizations such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions have said that they will support such a boycott, but the difficulty is to know what goods not to buy. I have asked the Government to supply information as to these goods so that we will have an opportunity to exercise a free choice to help the people of South Africa. I say that action must be taken. It is not much good saying that, in the interests of the British Commonwealth, we should do nothing. It is not much good saying that we should not act because this is an internal matter. I have shown that it is not an inter nal matter. This is a matter that has been discussed all over the world and decisions have been taken upon it by almost every Parliament except this Parliament. This is not a matter in which we can endanger the British Commonwealth. The only way we can ensure that the British Commonwealth is not endangered is to see that the policy of apartheid of the South African Government is terminated as soon as possible. The only way to ensure that the interests of the people of South Africa are safeguarded in the holocaust that will come from this if something is not done is to take action. A letter which was received only yesterday from a lady in Johannesburg had this to say -
We are certainly living in historic times here. I believe that it’s the beginning of the end - but how far or how near the end is I hate to think, perhaps it is sooner than we believe. The government is obstinate, afraid to lose face, and it is bound to come to a fight. We are in for much more rioting, more unpleasant episodes and tragedies, before any change in policy is made. The Nationalists don’t seem to realize that they are dealing with human beings - and human beings cannot be squashed by bans, imprisonment and beatings. The bubble will go on bursting in one place after another, each time more dramatically.
We want to stop that happening. We deplore the position in which our Prime Minister has to be dragged into the House and asked to express an opinion on this matter. Even then, he will not express an opinion on this terrible policy which has created this situation in South Africa. He will not take any action that might influence the situation. He will not now have Dr. Verwoerd in London to whisper quietly in his ear. He does not favour bringing the matter to the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers.
For all the reasons that I have given, we oppose the timid and useless amendment that has been moved to the motion that the Opposition put before the House. The amendment makes no reference to apartheid. It does not point to any possible connexion between the policy of apartheid and the situation that now exists in South Africa. It is a soft amendment, sympathetic to the South African Government. It does not deny the imputation of sympathy to that Government, although such sympathy has been rejected in the greater part of the world. It proposes no effective action. I say that we must support effective resolutions not only against the shootings in South Africa but also against the policy of apartheid which produced the shootings. I say that we have to take whatever action we can in the economic field, because the time for resolutions, as the Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg says, is perhaps past. In order to take effective economic action, we have to know what goods are imported from South Africa by this country. 1 have asked a question on notice which is calculated to obtain that information. Is the Government going to answer that question so that people will be free to act if they so desire?
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– On a point of order: I request that the letter just read by the honorable member for Yarra be tabled.
– No point of order is involved. The Chair has no power in the matter.
– Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to sit in this House to-day in the present state of this South African affair and to listen to a member of the Australian Labour Party earnestly suggesting that all communications and trade both ways between Australia and South Africa be terminated. Any one who poses as a champion of the people of South Africa on either side of this trouble and who, at the same time, suggests that they be cut off from communication in this hour, which, for them, no doubt, is a dreadful hour, is simply a hypocrite. I know that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) is too smart to offer such a solution to this House unless he has other ideas. We know who would benefit by a boycott of South Africa. It would not be the natives;. It would not be the Europeans, lt would be those people who want to subvert the economy of the country in order to throw it into complete disorder such as would make a climate suitable for Communist subversion. That is the sort of thing that was offered to the House in the speech to which we have just listened.
The problem in South Africa, we all would1 agree, is an intensely human one, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for
Yarra and some other members of the Australian Labour Party seem to imagine that there is only one side to that problem - that there are people only on one side. We ought to remember that there are people on both sides in this difficulty. Secondly, this generation of those who are in government in South Africa did not create this problem. They inherited it. We ought to sit here very humbly and feel grateful that we did’ not inherit a similar problem.
This problem no doubt needs solution, but none of us, including the honorable member for Yarra, has such wisdom as to be certain of the solution, and I am quite sure that nobobdy who sits in this House can possibly understand the nuances of the local circumstances. Which one of us would like to be judged by a man who had never stood in our situation - a man who did not know what the facts were? Who would like to receive the detached report of the honorable member for Yarra on a problem of which he was singularly ignorant? None of us would. But we all are very brash, are we not? We rush in and we say to the people and the Government of South Africa, “ You are necessarily wrong in the solution that you have, up to date, thought to be the right solution for what is undoubtedly a dreadful and terrifying human problem “. For it is certainly a dreadful and terrifying human problem however we look at it.
The Australian Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has taken the stand - and I should like humbly to support him - that this is not a matter into which we, at this distance, can rush, offering condemnation or even criticism.
– Does the Minister think it is all right to shoot the natives?
– I shall come to that in a moment. The honorable member need not worry about shooting the natives.
The Prime Minister has said that this is a domestic matter. The honorable member for Yarra said that it is not a domestic matter. I listened carefully for one reason in support of his view, but his only reason is that somebody else has passed a resolution about the matter. This House will decide for itself. Australia can stand by itself - sometimes - in a matter of principle and form its own views, and it is no shame on us that every one does not agree with us.
– You are left with Portugal and France.
– They are better than are some other countries that I know. We say that this is a domestic problem of South Africa, and surely it is. Who can solve it except a lawful government of South Africa? You will not solve it by cutting off supplies and laying the path open to subversion. That will not solve anything. And no international body can solve the problem, however much any international body may discuss it. The honorable member for Yarra said that the laws that will be enforced will be, of course, South African laws. They cannot be any other laws. This must be a domestic matter in the long run.
I think that honorable members who quietly reflect on this matter will say, with me, that we should do a great disservice to the people of South Africa on both sides of the quarrel if we were to come in and take the course that the Australian Labour Party has suggested, because the problem of the people of South Africa at this moment needs careful and sympathetic treatment, particularly by those who are their friends. Australia, after all, has a great name for comradeship, and the time when you need a comrade is not when you are dead right; it is when you may be wrong. That is the moment when you need sympathy. If the British Commonwealth of Nations means anything - and it has become a very wide and diffused body - at least it means that, in times like this, we can stand by. We should do well if we were to say to the people of South Africa, “We doubt the wisdom of your policy. Let us talk about it quietly “. But we should do ill if we came out and condemned their policy. That, however, is what the Australian Labour Party suggests we should do.
Since this matter was last before the House, there have been significant changes, Mr. Speaker. There has been a resolution of the United Nations Security Council, which ended, so far as anything effective was contained in it, by calling on the South African Government to begin policies designed to bring about racial parity. It suggested that the Secretary-General of the
United Nations should see whether something could be done to uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter. Since then, the South African Government has itself suggested to Mr. Hammarskjoeld, the SecretaryGeneral, that its representative meet him in London in order to fix a time at which he can go to South Africa and, unlike the honorable member for Yarra, not sit in criticism from thousands of miles away, but look at matters for himself right on the spot. That does not look to me like the action of a government that is determined to do wrong at all costs. That rather looks like the action of a government that is faced with a very great problem and is terribly anxious to solve it. Whether or not the solution that it at present favours is the right one, the South African Government seems to be bona fide wanting a solution.
Since the adoption of the Security Council resolution, the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers has come closer. It is imminent now. It is not, in some sense, a very happy thing that we discuss this now, with the Prime Ministers’ conference so close, but that may be unavoidable. 1 am quite sure that you will find, when the Prime Ministers’ Conference develops a little, that the attitude of our own Prime Minister will be adopted, and that many of the other Prime Ministers will agree with him that the proper approach to this problem - the sympathetic, sensible and brotherly way in a community of nations such as ours - is to sit down quietly and bring it out on the. table, where feelings will not become heated and the difficulties be thereby exacerbated.
You will notice, Mr. Speaker, that recently Mr. Nash has recognized this as a domestic problem for South Africa. I think that that points to the way his mind is shaping as he faces this conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. No doubt nothing could be better for the South African Government than to have the benefit of the great wisdom of our Prime Minister and of other Prime Ministers in talking the matter over very quietly. I know that there is a noisy little group in the Opposition which has a lot to say about this subject. I really wonder whether they have asked themselves what the problem in South Africa really is. I doubt whether they have.
Something was said here about some shooting. I thought, when I read very carefully the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), that the honorable gentleman realized that there were two separate matters present here. One was a more or less temporary thing, which arose out of police action; the other was a deeper and perhaps much more difficult thing, which would take a much longer time to settle - the policy of apartheid itself. Towards the end of his speech, the honorable gentleman said that his real complaint was about the policy. Well, now, so far as the police action is concerned, I suppose nobody in this House who has had any experience of a disciplined force, or partly disciplined force, will fail to know that many an incident can occur when a group of law enforcement people is faced by overwhelming numbers. If somebody makes a mistake then, of course the consequences are very severe. I have no doubt that all of us deeply deplore the loss of life, and regret the fact that human beings, in a moment maybe of panic, should resort to weapons in order to make people obey the law.
Deep down, I think this House will realize that the only thing that protects freedom in the long run is the rule of law, and it is no good thinking that you are stepping into freedom by putting the rule of law down. There are proper ways to go about things, and improper ways, and if mistakes were made in this incident, I think that that is not cause for uncharitable thought, but is cause for saying to yourselves, quietly and honestly, “We are very lucky that our disciplined forces are not given the chance to make like mistakes “. In the long run it will probably be found that the incident resulted from mistakes. I think it is a very poor business that when there is some real human suffering as a result of this police action, a party, for a tawdry political advantage - because that is what it is - should try to get on the band wagon.
I rather think, Mr. Speaker, that the Labour Party would have shown itself to much better advantage had it said, as we say: “There are human beings on both sides. We cannot be sure, because we cannot know, of all the rights and wrongs. These people are within the Common wealth of Nations, of which we are proud and which we would like to see continue, and we will not try to put the boot in when one side might seem to be down.” It would not be very Australian to put the boot in, in such circumstances. It seems to me that it would have been far better for the Labour Party to support the Prime Minister and admit, with great charity, great wisdom and good sense, that it does not know the facts. If this incident had happened in Australia, round about us, we would know exactly what to do. Not one of us would have a bar of apartheid in this country. That does not necessarily mean that we can condemn it elsewhere, because our situation is entirely different from that of South Africa. For my part - and I think that the acting Prime Minister made it quite clear in his speech - I say that we on this side of the House feel that racial segregation is abhorrent in our circumstances. But who among us here will pick up the first stone and say that of necessity, and in all circumstances, and maybe as a temporary measure, others may not honestly and rightly think otherwise? I think, Mr. Speaker, that the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister ought to be supported by this House.
The Labour Party’s motion falls into three parts. First, it deplores the loss of life. We all share in that sentiment. It then makes a bit of political by-play on the Prime Minister’s statement about New Guinea, very plainly misrepresenting it, and then tries to turn its misrepresentation to some temporary political advantage. In the long run it suggests that resort should be had to two places - the United Nations and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference. Well, by now, Mr. Speaker, resort has been had to both of those places. And what is the suggestion of the Labour Party now? There is not a word in the motion about its present suggestion. The Labour Party’s new suggestion comes most significantly from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). He says, “ Let us have a boycott”. In effect, he suggests that we do what we can to throw South Africa’s economy into such a flap that that, added to the present situation, wi! make things ripe for those who would like to subvert that particular economy. 1 would say that the Prime Minister’s amendment adequately expresses the opinion of the Australian people, who would like to go forward in the British Commonwealth of Nations as comrades willing to help and, when they know all the facts, willing to criticize, even perhaps to condemn, but at the moment wanting to know precisely what is the problem and how best it may be solved.
.- It is now more than a month since the world was startled by newspaper announcements such as that in an Australian newspaper reading -
Sixty-two died. Mangled bodies of men, women and children lay sprawled on the roadway when police turned machine guns on rioting crowds near Johannesburg yesterday. At least 56 Africans were killed and 162 wounded at Sharpeville in one of the worst riots Africa has known. Later at least six natives were shot dead and 30 wounded at Langa, an African township near Capetown.
The article went on to say that the local police commander, pointing to a 3-in. scratch on the mudguard of his car, said, “ My car was struck with a stone. If they do these things they must learn their lesson the hard way.” Since that time the world has witnessed in South Africa events marked by the use of club, whip and bullet by nationalist racial fanatics, similar to the brutal behaviour of Hitler and his Nazi regime in days gone by.
The sorry story of sadistic gaol beatings, of whippings, of street shootings, and the use of tanks, and the terror that hangs over the head of every native man or woman in South Africa, has brought a feeling of horror and shame to every member of the British Commonwealth. It has brought forth denunciations from people and governments in such countries as the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain, as well as Asian nations. The inhuman treatment of the natives of South Africa is exemplified in a statement to the South African Parliament on 22nd April by the South African Minister for Justice, that 1,567 people were being detained under the emergency regulations of 30th March, but none of them had as yet been charged. Of those people, 94 were whites, 1,450 Africans and 25 half-castes. At Sharpeville alone, 72 African men and women were killed and 1 60 wounded. Twelve more were killed at
Langa. Conflicting reports have indicated, however, that the number of people who have been shot and killed in South Africa because of these riots is over 100.
That, Mr. Speaker, is the tragic state of affairs for which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) apologizes but supports in Great Britain to-day, just as he supported it in this Parliament through the apologetic speech which we heard a few moments ago from the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). To the everlasting shame of this Government we go before the world to-day as the only people who are prepared to stand up for the shameful policies of the South African Government. Therefore, I can understand the Attorney-General’s discomfort when he delivered his speech. He stated that there must be certain standards, and that we are not to judge. But South Africa is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and it is South Africa’s responsibility to comply with the same standards of justice and the same tolerance of law and order as do Australia and other members of that great Commonwealth community. If South Africa does not expect to live up to those standards it is our responsibility, through our Prime Minister and the spokesmen appointed for him, to express clearly and distinctly the point of view of the Australian people and, on this issue, of the free world. We oppose South Africa’s policies.
The Attorney-General said that this was a domestic matter and that it has nothing to do with Australia. As the Asians have said, the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral are like Pontius Pilate - they have washed their hands of their responsibilities. It is no good the Attorney-General apologizing and saying that we are trying to make political capital out of this. Why did the Government not introduce into this Parliament a resolution similar to that which has been introduced in other Commonwealth and Asian countries? The Government sought to dodge the issue and it was only when the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) raised it in this Parliament that the Government came out of its burrow, as it were, and was prepared to debate the matter, and then only for a limited time. We should impress on the Attorney-General that it is unfortunate that a man of his great capacity should stand alongside Australia’s Prime Minister on this issue - unfortunate for himself and for the people of this country, because the Prime Minister has placed Australia in an intolerable position among the nations of the world.
This Government never wanted to discuss this issue. The honorable member for Lang first brought it before the Parliament by way of a question. A few days later the Prime Minister, replying to a question which he had inspired one of his own supporters to ask, stated that whilst he viewed with sympathy the situation in South Africa, it was a domestic matter and he did not intend to do anything about it. Since that time the Government has sheltered behind technicalities. Even when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) introduced a motion which, I believe, stated to perfection the views of the Australian people on this matter, the Prime Minister continued to refuse to raise it during the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers which is to be held in London next week. Undoubtedly, this has given the impression to the world that Australia supports the abominable policies of the South African Government, particularly in relation to racial segregation. This is scandalous in the extreme, and has been responsible for expressions of praise in the South African papers and expressions of condemnation from our Asian friends and other Commonwealth nations, as is apparent from newspaper reports which have appeared recently. On 4th April, 1960, the Sydney “Sun” carried an article bearing the headlines, “Square Behind Us - Africa Thanks Menzies “. There is a photograph of the Prime Minister and a photograph of the South African Premier on the same page. The article reads -
Johannesburg, Monday. - A leading South African paper yesterday thanked Mr. Menzies for his attitude to recent racial slayings in the Union.
What a tragic thing for the people of this country! The article continues - “ Mr. Robert Menzies, of Australia, has ranged himself four-square behind the Union”, said the paper which backs South Africa’s apartheid policy to the hilt.
Scandalous in the extreme! No wonder to-day we are in disgrace in the eyes of the world!
It would be interesting to know the reason why the Government dodged a debate on this issue for so long. We may well ask, “Why has the debate been brought on to-day when, before he left for England, the Prime Minister refused a request for a resumption of it? “ The Leader of the Opposition made this request on Wednesday, 6th April, as appears on page 921 of “ Hansard “. On that occasion the Prime Minister said -
If I thought that a debate in this House would have any beneficial effect on these matters, I would welcome it. But I doubt whether this debate would have any beneficial effect.
But within fourteen days of the Prime Minister’s departure for London his colleagues have instituted the debate! Has this happened because there is a revolt in the Government ranks and because the more enlightened Ministers are concerned with the bad impression which has been created among our Asian and African friends by the Prime Minister’s fence-sitting? Or is it because, on his arrival in London, the Prime Minister found himself in complete isolation and treated with contempt by other representatives of Commonwealth countries because of Australia’s shameful stand? Did the Prime Minister cable to Cabinet and to the Attorney-General to bring on the debate and thus endeavour to save face? I believe that that is what happened. At any rate, we now have an opportunity to draw attention to the world reaction to the shameful stand which was taken by the Prime Minister and the Government, and which has placed Australia in a false position. The Parliament now has a chance to express an Australian point of view by adopting the resolution which has been submitted by the Opposition on this South African crisis.
The Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral have stated that this is a domestic matter and, therefore, not one for the concern of the people of this country. This point of view will have little support amongst the nations of the world as the South African Government, by its actions, has earned the contempt of free peoples who are appalled at the foul deeds which it has perpetrated. Sheltering behind technicalities and the rule of law does not help the unfortunate 9,000,000 Africans who are denied access to law and justice as we know it. As the Leader of the Opposition said in submitting his motion to the Parliament, the Labour Party and, I believe, the people of Australia, are opposed to brutality everywhere and, as such, events in South Africa are the concern of the free peoples of the world and of the United Nations.
The United Nations Security Council, quite contrary to what the Attorney-General said a few minutes ago, has condemned fairly clearly the attitude of the South African Government. I should like to read the resolution of the Security Council which is in these terms -
Taking into account the strong feelings and grave concern aroused among Governments and peoples of the world by the happenings in the Union of South Africa,
Recognizes that the situation in the Union of South Africa is one that has led to international friction and if continued might endanger international peace and security;
Deplores that the recent disturbances in the Union of South Africa should have led to the loss of life of so many Africans and extends to the families of the victims its deepest sympathies;
Deplores the policies and action of the Government of the Union of South Africa which have given rise to the present situation;
Calls upon the Government of the Union of South Africa to initiate measures aimed at bringing about racial harmony based on equality in order to ensure that the present situation does not continue or recur and to abandon its policies of apartheid and racial discrimination;
Requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Government of the Union of South Africa, to make such arrangements as would adequately help in upholding the purposes and principles of the Charter and to report to the Security Council whenever necessary and appropriate.
Surely that is proof of the condemnation by the Security Council of the South African Government’s policies! That is the attitude of the Security Council to what the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have said is a domestic matter. If we want to learn the Prime Minister’s view on what the Security Council has said, let us remember his statement in this House on 6th July, 1950, during a debate on the Korean situation when he said -
In one breath to speak of our allegiance to the United Nations Charter, and in the next to ignore the resolution of the Security Council would be either hypocrisy or cowardice.
So to-day the Prime Minister stands condemned on that score alone. This is not a domestic issue. The Security Council of the United Nations has arrived at a finding which is opposed to the attitude of the South African Government and to the statements which have been made by the Prime
Minister, and1 he, with other members of the Government, should realize now that this is not a domestic issue. The Prime Minister has a responsibility to state clearly before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference Australia’s attitude on one of the most disgraceful events which has happened in the British Commonwealth in our time. Clearly, the Security Council has endorsed the attitude of the Opposition on this issue which, we believe, represents the attitude of the Australian people. Because of the Opposition’s motion, the Attorney-General was forced to inroduce this face-saving apologetic amendment. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has said, it does not incorporate the principles which were enunciated in the Labour Party resolution and, as such, cannot be supported1 by members on this side of the House. But the fact of the matter is that the Government was forced at the point of a gun, as it were, to give an expression of opinion on a matter on which the people of all nations to-day are expressing their abhorrence, particularly those people to our north. Let us see the effect of the Government’s attitude. The attitude of the Prime Minister and the Government has placed Australia in an intolerable position among the nations of the world. In addition, it is apparent that the Prime Minister is completely out of step with Great Britain and other Commonwealth countries on this important subject, particularly as both the leaders of the Government and the Opposition in those countries have expressed their views in no uncertain terms. In Asia, because of Mr. Menzies’s statements aligning himself with South Africa, the goodwill of 1,400,000,000 coloured neighbours to our near north has been destroyed. The friendship being sponsored through the Colombo Plan, exchange systems and other methods mean little at this stage because Australia is, in their minds, because of the statements by the Prime Minister, ranged alongside South Africa in the battle of black versus white. That is quite clear, but Country Party members do not like it. They never do like it, because the truth always hurts. This is quite clear from reports appearing in the press on deliberations in Asian parliaments, and from statements by the Prime Ministers of those countries. I will quote a few instances for the benefit of the House. In the Sydney “Sun” of 27th April, 1960, we read -
“Fence Sit” on Africa.
Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, was strongly attacked by the English language newspaper to-day for “ fence sitting “ on the South African issue. The “Singapore Free Press” said Mr. Menzies must be told, “His stand on Africa is regarded by Asians here as White Australia supporting White Africa “. In an editorial, the newspaper said Mr. Menzies had taken a “ fence sitting “ pose on the Sharpeville massacre. He called the atrocities an internal affair. Menzies is an enigmatic, and changeable as a tropical chameleon.
Then the newspaper refers to Pontius Pilate, and says -
If Mr. Menzies wants the friendship of SouthEast Asia, as he has often professed, he must understand Asia feels strongly for Africa and very strongly for Africans, who are, after all, our companions in sorrow. He must understand, too, that Asia has no time for Australians who play at Pontius Pilate.
Does any one here, therefore, doubt that we are in disgrace in Asia to-day because of the Prime Minister’s statements. I could quote reports from churchmen and leading journals and newspapers throughout the British Commonwealth and Asia and other places in condemnation of this policy in regard to South Africa and the events that are taking place there to-day.
The Leader of the Opposition has submitted a motion to this Parliament indicating, I believe, quite clearly the views of the Australian people. If the Prime Minister will not state where Australia stands on this issue, Parliament should do so in order to let the world know that Australia and its people stand for humanity, justice and toleration. Therefore, this motion should be supported by all who believe in humanity and freedom throughout the world. The events in South Africa have horrified people in the civilized world. If support of the racial discrimination and the sadistic and repressive practices of the South African Government is the price of its membership of the British Commonwealth, the sooner that country is expelled from the Commonwealth the better it will be for our people and for the world. I am also in agreement with the final comments of a leading article in the Adelaide “ News “ of recent date, in which it condemns the attitude of the Prime
Minister of Australia and, at the same time, the vile methods of the South African Government with the words “ For with evil that is based on intolerance, arrogance and brutality, there can be no compromise “.
– Apparently members of the Labour Party are concentrating their attack on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) seems to be very fond of Pontius Pilate; but I remind him that the founders of the four great religions were all Asians who would not be allowed to enter Australia to-day under Labour’s immigration policy. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) said that because the Prime Minister was praised by a South African newspaper he therefore necessarily approved of the policy of apartheid. I remind the honorable member that he himself has often been praised by the Communists. Does that mean that he agrees with the policy of the reds? If he forms his judgment of other people on that basis, then he will so be judged. He advocates the boycotting of South Africa and the application of economic sanctions. Perhaps he might have some justification for that were he not one of those who favoured increased trade with red China after what happened in the “ Hungary “ of the Himalayas and the genocide action in Tibet. He also favoured increased trade with Russia after what happened in Hungary. Why does he single out this particular line of action in this particular case? As far as I know, no member on either side of this House agrees with the policy of apartheid.
– Then why don’t you say so?
– I am saying so. Cannot the honorable member listen instead of acting as a dogmatic Don Quixote; he is tilting at windmills of his own construction. I did not interject, but listened while he was speaking. I do not think any honorable member agrees with the policy of apartheid. I think every one realizes some of the difficulties, dangers and human problems which are involved in all of Africa south of the Sahara. I do not think the honorable member has been there, and I only wish that I had been there; but I have not and therefore I have some trepidation in putting forward suggestions as to how these problems should be solved. The terrible tragedies, trials and tribulations of South Africa are not just something which blew in on a wind storm yesterday. They are the cause and effect of events which have been happening for some time. 1 believe the honorable member for Yarra did a course in history at the Melbourne University. He may remember that in 1947 a book was published in England by Professor Arthur Keppel-Jones, Professor of History at the Witwatersrand University in South Africa. The book was entitled “ When Smuts Goes. A history of South Africa from 1952 to 2010”. In it there appeared almost item for item prophesy of what was going to happen in South Africa between 1950 and 1970, and nearly all of it has already happened between 1950 and 1960. What is perhaps even more significant is that his ultimate prophesy was that in the year 2000, or 2010, disease would wipe out half the African population and the rest would be returned - to quote the Professor’s words - “ to the original state of slavery “. Half of the prophesy contained in that book has already come true and no one in this House or anywhere else in the world wants to see the other half of it come true. But we will not help to stop it coming about by getting up and debating a very difficult problem with heat, with petty party jealousy or in the way in which members of the Opposition have taken up this discussion to-day, just as they will not join the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in the same way as they seem anxious to obtain some petty party advantage rather than even suggest some constructive ideas as to how this problem can be solved. Even if we solve the problem of South Africa we will not solve the problem of all of Africa south of the Sahara. If we could wave a wand to-day and remove all Europeans from South Africa we would simply create misery and unemployment, and the position would become still more difficult. No one has mentioned so far the fact, in relation to this policy of apartheid with which I do not agree - nor do I think anyone else here does - that there are in South Africa certain native areas which no European, except perhaps a professional man such as a doctor, is allowed to enter.
Honorable members opposite have misinterpreted the Prime Minister’s statements; they have exaggerated them and boomed them up into headlines. If there was any misunderstanding or misinterpretation it should have been removed by the amendment which the Prime Minister has moved to the Opposition’s motion. Nobody can say that the words of the amendment support the policy of apartheid. On the other hand, honorable members opposite say that the question of South Africa ought to be put on the agenda of the Prime Ministers’ Conference in London. I point out that there is no agenda at the Prime Ministers’ Conference and that no resolutions are moved or votes taken. It is just a friendly meeting, with frank discussion around the table of problems in various Commonwealth countries.
Recently, standing almost in the place where Lam standing now, we had a South African talking on South African problems freely and frankly at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference, and yet it is now suggested that the Foreign Minister from South Africa has gone to London just to sit dumb and take no part in the official or unofficial discussions on the difficulties of his country! It is suggested that he will just listen to the advocates of other countries and say nothing. That is just too silly. The criticism of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is equally absurd. He cannot be criticized for hoping that law and order would be restored, even if honorable members do not like the law. The Opposition does not like it and I do not like it, but you must have order; you cannot do anything while chaos exists.
I was one of those who had to make a pretty quick decision in 1924 when otherwise law-abiding citizens suddenly went mad in Melbourne, and I myself might be standing in the same box being accused by members of the Australian Labour Party for having approved of action stronger than they considered necessary. But in such circumstances the people on the spot have to make the decisions and take the criticism as well as the responsibility.
Therefore, the first requisite, even if you want to alter the law, is to have law and order restored. The second point is that policy, to a large extent, is an internal matter because it can only be made and unmade by the government of the country. Thirdly, the influence of world opinion can and should be brought to the fore if world opinion considers that the policy is wrong. We have seen that in recent years. In the case of the Suez incident, it was influential. In the case of Hungary, there was no visible effect. In Tibet, it was laughed at and they have gone ahead there with the policy of genocide. In other words, it is only in civilized countries - so we say - that world opinion can influence policies. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has pointed out how world opinion has already influenced the South African Government, and I do not wish to repeat that statement.
But there is another factor, and we see how what is happening in South Africa affects us vitally. There is the effect of an internal policy on external affairs and problems. In this particular case, the internal policy will have a very wide effect outside the boundaries of South Africa itself. It is so easy, Mr. Speaker, to be critical. It is so necessary at times to exercise a certain amount of caution, and perhaps it is possible to be too cautious; but it is terribly hard to be constructive, and I have not heard one constructive proposal put forward by members of the Opposition in this debate. In this age of emotional nationalism, where legal and logical arguments, and even reasons, are often overridden by emotion, it is very difficult to be constructive.
If you survey the scene in Africa south of the Sahara, you will see that there are a very large number of Commonwealth countries. To give only a few there are Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, British Somaliland, Uganda, Tanganyika, and Northern and Southern Rhodesia as well as South Africa. All of them have either achieved independence or are at various stages along the road to independence. The British Government and the British Commonwealth of Nations have done a great deal to try to help those countries along the road of progress. But I myself would hope that there is a possibility that the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London will be able to organize something - call it a summit conference for Africa if you like - such as a Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference of all the African and European leaders in those British countries south of the Sahara. Such a conference could be called with the idea that possibly it would be able to lay down the basis of equality of partnership for all nations or all races based on a common standard of citizenship which, in the first place, would probably have to be an educational standard. The race is not to the educated, Mr. Speaker. As H. G. Wells said in the early 1920’s, and said very truly -
It is a race between education and chaos.
Unless you can put forward some constructive proposal and give the help that is necessary, Africa is in danger at the moment of being broken up into a lot of small tribal areas, not viable in themselves, and the net result will not be Africa on the march, but Africa sliding back into barbarism. It is not a case of Africans against Europeans, but tribe against tribe.
Honorable members will not have forgotten that in 1949, an Indian bus driver in Durban had the misfortune to run over a Zulu child. As a result of the race riots which followed, hundreds were killed before African and European policemen could restore order. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) did not mention that in recent riots - I am only citing one instance - one African taxi-driver was hauled out of his taxi by a mob and an iron spike was driven through his nose because he had taken a European fare. He did not mention terrorism and the fact that those Africans who kept working asked that they should not be paid because their money would be taken from them by the mob before they got home.
In Ghana, the Prime Minister, Mr. Nkrumah, started off as the leader of a democracy, but rightly or wrongly he has had to abrogate the writ of habeus corpus and a man can be imprisoned there without a trial on the ground that he may be a risk to the State and he has deported Opposition leaders. On the other hand, when he realized the danger of the tribal set-up and suggested a federation on the Gold Coast, the Premier of Togoland said: “ We have been fighting for our independence. When we get it, why should we hand it to Ghana? “
In Kenya there are four different sets of tribes. The Kikuyus, with 3,500,000 have the greatest number, but there are three other areas, in one of which there are about half a million Masai, half in Tanganyika and half in Kenya, who were loyal during the Mau Mau disturbances. If any honorable member has read the Mau Mau oaths, he will realize that it is difficult to know how you could apply the principle of one man one vote to the Kikuyus. The tribes want to know what will happen to them if British protection is withdrawn and the Kikuyus are given control. There are the Somalis in the north, the nomads, who would prefer to go in with the Somalis next door rather than with the Kikuyus. With all these peoples you are facing terrific problems.
Unless the African and European leaders like the Prime Minister of South Rhodesia can get together and lay down a basis of equal partnership on a common standard of citizenship I have great fears for what will happen in Africa. But the problem is not only African. There are race problems in Ceylon and Fiji and Indonesia. The Malayans are making remarkable strides towards overcoming their problems, but they are not prepared to give the primitive Sakais in the hills the privilege of one man one vote. In Hawaii where there are no primitives to deal with, there has been the greatest success with multi-racial coexistence, I suppose, of anywhere in the world. Let us sit down and remember these problems.
I do not suppose that even the honorable member for Watson who is interjecting would propose to follow the principle of “ one man one Vote “ among the bushmen of Africa. If he would, he had better try being a tribal chief and see what happens. I mention this to try to point out the difficulties of the problem. Let us try to be constructive. Example is better than precept and practice is better than preaching. Even if South Africa did not feel inclined to join in, if we could do as I have proposed in some of the other countries, perhaps we could help Africa along the road far better than by criticizing each other on a party political basis as we have been doing in this House. The United Nations itself should tackle this problem, but not merely in respect of one country. Multiracial co-existence is the greatest problem in the world to-day. We remember 2,000,000 casualties on the partition of India and various other incidents of that nature. Such incidents still occur. Therefore we also should be a little hesitant about criticizing other nations for not adopting a British form of democracy. It is not easy for them to do that, lt took us a long time. The foundations of British democracy are in local government. Pakistan is not allowed to send a representative to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association because that country has not even a council with a majority of elected members. Yet Pakistan is trying to put in the foundations of democracy by establishing elected village councils, and then provincial councils. Ultimately, when the people have been taught to rule themselves in local councils and provincial councils, Pakistan will return to the parliamentary form of democracy.
In the matter now under debate, we are dealing, in the first place, with Europeans. There is the question of the best form of government for South Africa - how to bring it about, and how, if common standards of citizenship are to be laid down educational facilities can be increased so that as large a number of people as possible can attain to those standards in as short a time as possible. That is a vast problem to which we should give more than the passing thought which seems to be so evident in the speeches and criticisms of the Opposition and it is a problem which very obviously is in the mind of the Prime Minister in making his statements on this subject.
Finally, do not let us forget that if the disputes continue and South Africa breaks up into tribal areas, the Communists are sitting on the sideline, waiting to pick up the pieces. A £12,000,000 broadcasting station is being erected in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, which will cover the continent of Africa from Capetown to Cairo as the Peking radio covers the whole of Asia. There are direct air services from Conakry to Moscow. Both in Ghana and Ethopia the Communists are infiltrating with the idea of using those countries as their head-quarters in the east and west of Africa for conquest by the cold war.
Maybe I am an idealist in proposing the conference that I have mentioned, but I invite honorable members opposite who are critical of the idea to put forward a better constructive proposal. My ideas are not the only ones by any means, but unless we can work together and solve this multiracial and multi-tribal problem, we have many more difficulties and dangers ahead of us. The solution of the South African problem is not necessarily the solution of all the problems of Africa, and there are similar problems in many other places in this world. So while we disagree strongly with the policy of apartheid, while we sympathize with those who have been tragically affected, and while we hope that out of evil will come good, do not let us forget that this problem extends far beyond the one incident on which this proposed resolution concentrates.
– Mr. Speaker, is it not possible for members of the Liberal Party to face these issues squarely and to understand the basis of the discussion? First, there is the question of apartheid in South Africa. Although the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Huges) has produced some sort of reasonable solution out of an unreasonable attitude on the part of the Government, he is the only one who has stood up fairly and squarely and said that he is opposed to what is happening in South Africa. We want the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Menzies) to say that fairly and squarely. We want the people of Australia to be represented by a man who speaks for and on behalf of Australian sentiment and spirit. So while the policy of apartheid is the first matter under discussion, an even more important matter under discussion is the role of the Australian Prime Minister. Assuming, as he does, a nomadic role in world affairs, and assuming, as he has done, the extra role of spokesman in international affairs, he purports to speak for all of us. He is not just Robert Gordon Menzies, barristeratlaw, or just the right honorable member for Kooyong, or even Minister for External Affairs. He is the Prime Minister of Australia, and when he speaks he purports to speak for every one of us including myself. But for myself, and on behalf of people who think as I do, I want to lay down fairly and squarely that he does not speak for us. The Opposition is forthright about this matter because we want to make it clear to the people of Australia and of the world that the sentiments expressed by our official spokesman are not the sentiments of the average Australian. We had the great opportunity, a few weeks ago, during the La Trobe by-election, to canvass people. One of the things that we found to be really offensive to the people of Australia is that they have been severely let down by their Prime Minister on the matter which is under discussion to-day.
The honorable member for Chisholm may well have been reasonable in his approach. He outlined the problem. He went round the world and pointed out where similar problems existed. He said that a solution could be found, but that the solution was not for us to decide. According to him, the Opposition is taking a party political point in raising this matter. But who else would raise it? Is this not our role? The Labour Party has raised this matter, first as its national duty, secondly as its parliamentary duty, and thirdly as a simple matter of plain humanity. The honorable member for Chisholm talked about law and order. What law? The Government of South Africa wants its laws to be imposed on a majority of people by a very small minority. This has been the basis of power over the people since the dawn of time. This has been the reason for power and persecution and political domination since man began to form a political unit. There has always been somebody who could produce legalism and sophistry to explain why it is just and proper for one man to be another man’s master.
We, on this side of the House, demand that the provisions of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights shall prevail - that all people shall be treated as equal. Positive steps should be taken towards seeing that people are treated on a basis of equality. 1 want to remind the House of the basis of the motion and the proposed amendment. Our motion represents a criticism of the Prime Minister for his gauchery and the way in which he has placed Australia in an invidious position and isolated us from world opinion. We want to express sympathy for the people of South Africa, particularly those who are suffering as a result of incidents such as those at Sharpeville. We want to make it clear that it is time for action to be taken, particularly in the
United Nations. We want to make it clear that we strongly object to the idea of racial discrimination. Therefore, we strongly oppose most aspects of the amendment that has been proposed by the Government. This is a singular technical victory on the part of the Opposition in this House to force the Government into producing an amendment to an Opposition proposal. The Government has done this to try to get itself out of the invidious position in which it has placed, not only itself, but the people of Australia. This is why I object to the amendment. It is symbolic of the whole approach of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is also acting Minister for External Affairs, and of the Prime Minister, our nomadic Minister for External Affairs. The amendment reads -
Order! The order of a prison or the order of a cemetery? There is order in both. The amendment continues - . . earnestly hopes that the adjustment of all disputes and differences will be achieved by orderly and lawful processes for the common benefit of the people of South Africa.
That is nice enough, but that is the way in which paternalism and political despotism have maintained power for centuries. Law and order! It is not law that is on trial. It is not order that we are seeking, but justice and humanity. Where there is no justice or humanity but violence in the assertion of law and order, there will be chaos and civil war and, finally, bloodshed and great disaster.
It might be just as well to read part of a statement issued at the time by Mangaliso Sobukwe, President of the Pan Africanist Congress, published in the English paper, “ Tribune “. It is as follows: -
At this stage of our struggle we have a choice before us. Are we still prepared to be halfhuman beings in our fatherland or are we prepared to be citizens - men and women in a democratic non-racial South Africa? How long shall we called Bantu, Native, Non-European, Non-White or black stinking Kaffir in our fatherland?
When shall we be called, sir, Mr., Mrs., Miss, ladies and gentlemen? How long shall we stay in the squalors of Windemere or the Sahara Desert of Nyanga West? How long shall we rot physically, spiritually and morally?
How long shall we starve amidst plenty in our fatherland? How long shall we be a right Jess, voteless and voiceless 11 million in our fatherland?
On what meat doth this our Oppressive-White Man Boss feed that he has grown so great? Sons and daughters of Africa - There is a choice before us. We are either slaves or free men - that’s all.
The general tenor of that appeal from this leader among the Africans was for a nonviolent demonstration of their demands for rights as human beings. That was apparently the whole tenor of the approach of the Africans to this question. They wanted equal rights for themselves. It was their approach to the burning of their passports. It was a symbolic approach of these people which had been made for centuries, for political rights. There was no reason or cause for violence to be used against them. But that was part of the symbols of power, the infliction, first of all, of an unjust law imposed by what is only a front of democracy - a minority government - supported by police and soldiery. This has been a symbol of man’s dominion over man since the dawn of history. It has to be asserted in order to overcome the difficulties which the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has stated are world-wide.
But we must make it clear that we want freedom and equity for all men. This is a singular role that we can play in world affairs to-day. What has been the Prime Minister’s role? He is completely stuck with legalism. He must have sovereignty; he must have order, he must have his laws and judicial processes. He says that we must accept a judicial inquiry. The Leader of the Opposition rightly asked whether the Prime Minister would accept the findings of a judicial inquiry on Hungary. Of course, he would not, because he knows that the judges themselves would be steeped in the local environment and would produce a result which satisfied their own upbringing.
No judicial process can solve the problem of justice to humanity. This is a political matter and it can be solved only when people have political rights and equality. Law can easily be a symbol of the oppression of humanity. Consider the role the Prime Minister has played in the last ten or twelve years. Support of legalism has been his role in international affairs since he first started to be a spokesman on these matters. If we consider his attitude on Suez, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) pointed out, he was first into the fray. I understand that during a television interview in England he said, “ We must be robust, sensible, firm “. He advocated full-blooded economic sanctions. Why? Because some 60 or 70 years ago an agreement had been made. In his view an agreement made two generations ago transcended the rights of human beings. So he was prepared to support what was, after all, an act of barbarism to protect an economic asset. He supported the assault upon Egypt by the British and French armed forces in which the British admitted that they killed 800 and the Egyptians claimed 8,000 killed.
These are the actions which cannot be supported and which must be prevented from happening. We must oppose them on all possible occasions. But the Prime Minister’s approach to these questions has been that we must not interfere because this is an internal domestic matter. That is more or less in accordance with the terms of the United Nations Charter, which says-
Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.
But what is “ essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state “? The demands of humanity must transcend sovereignty. I say that it must here, and that view is held by the majority on South Africa. But the Government there does not represent the majority. Statistics show that something like 9,000,000 or 10,000.000 are pure natives. Another 1,000,000 are of mixed blood. About 3,000,000 are Europeans and it is this minority which dominates the remaining 10,000,000 or 11,000,000. Therefore, this is not a domestic matter; it is one of common humanity. Are we to allow boundaries of the past to transcend the human rights of to-day? Certainly not. Therefore, it is up to us to assert exactly where we stand in these matters and to demand action on an international plane if it can be achieved.
But even then we have a role to play in making clear where we stand because Australia is in a difficult and dangerous position in the world to-day. The honorable member for Chisholm mentioned something about our immigration policy, and said it was Labour’s immigration policy. As far as I can see this Government is following the policy of previous governments on immigration. But we are in a particular position geographically and culturally - or politically to put it more correctly. Although we say we are Europeans, we are at the tail end of Asia, and therefore we have a particular responsibility to act as a link between East and West.
– Would you give jurisdiction to the Security Council to deal with this matter?
– We gave the Security Council jurisdiction over part of New Guinea in the Trusteeship Council. But this is a matter not of sovereignty but of humanity. We have to proceed along the lines that humanity must prevail. In this particular field we are in an isolated position. We are in a particular geographical position and we cannot possibly allow ourselves to be associated with racial discrimination. The Government has admitted in all its policy speeches and the honorable member for Chisholm clearly stated to-day that racial discrimination with the conflict it raises is one of the great problems facing the world. We cannot allow ourselves to be lined up with the European tradition of power and dominion over other people.
It is an historical fact that over the last 300 years Europeans have given the world many good things. They have given a facade of democracy in many places and have made great material advances. Bui they have also exercised dominion over millions of people, and that domination is now only being taken away. Some nations are surrendering it with grace. Some are accepting the rights of man as being fundamental. In this way Great Britain has led the way in the matter of common humanity and in other matters. It was Britain which was responsible most, perhaps, for the abolition of slavery. It was the British people who, through the exercise of their own laws and their own sacrifices paid indemnities to slave owners so that slaves might be free; and so they set an example for the rest of the world to follow.
In these matters Australia can also set an example. We must make it clear what we regard as more important. We want to make it clear that we do not want to be lined up merely as a vote in power politics.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) pointed out that during the last ten years we have associated ourselves, in increasing isolation, with the policy of the present government of South Africa. In 1952, when this matter was dealt with in the United Nations there was only one vote in favour of South Africa and 42 against. Australia was among the fourteen powers which abstained from voting. In 1953, there were eleven in favour of South Africa. These included Australia. Thirty-eight nations voted against its policy and eleven abstained. In 1954, ten nations, including Australia, voted for South Africa’s policy and 40 against. In 1955, the voting was six in favour, including Australia, and 41 against. In 1956, when five voted for South Africa Australia was among them, but 56 were against its policies. In 1958, five, including Australia, supported South Africa and 70 were against it. In 1959, three supported South Africa but they did not include Australia because it was one of the seven powers that abstained from voting. But 67 were against South Africa. These figures, if set out on a graph would show how Australia has been standing against the current of world opinion although more and more people have begun to see that where racial discrimination is practised upon a majestic scale, as is happening in South Africa, it becomes more than a matter of domestic jurisdiction; it i9 one of humanity.
I understand some of the problems of the Government of South Africa. It has inherited old1 systems that have grown up in an environment which we could not tolerate or understand. But we cannot give it any aid or any comfort. The political facts of South Africa are very simple. We have the jerrymandering of the electorates and the weighting of country electorates so that even if there are 3,000,000 Europeans there, only a minority of them have a voice in the Parliament. These are simple political facts, but they are facts which must gain a good deal of sympathy from the Liberal Party here. This is the way that the Liberal Party runs South Australia and it is the way that it maintains Legislative Councils in various parts of Australia. This country has seen a persistent struggle to gain political recognition and political equality, and to try to obtain some semblance of the principle of one vote one value. I suppose on that basis we can understand this Government’s sympathy with the South African Government, which is a minority government, even if on its own premise of European domination.
We must, however, consider the other 9,000,000 people who have no rights and who for more than 50 years have been deprived of them. They have personal access to only 10 per cent, of the land in South Africa and they are the reservoir of unskilled and underpaid labour which provides the reason for the high standard of living of Europeans in South Africa. We cannot tolerate this situation nor can we in any way favour policies that support it. But our Prime Minister has failed us. He has not merely failed the Parliament; he has failed the people of Australia and I believe that he has failed the whole of humanity. We in this country are particularly fortunate. I shall not debate here some of the aspects of our policy towards aborigines, but we are a singularly homogeneous community. For the last 100 years, we have been gradually developing towards equality in social status and equality for human beings as such. This is one of the few communities, perhaps, where people are free in this way, and we have a singular role in world affairs to ensure that policies of toleration, understanding and humanity obtain increasing support. We must always adopt the correct approach to these problems.
Racial discrimination has scored the blackest pages of history. In the last ten or fifteen years, there have been countless examples of political and racial domination which was justified in the minds of those who were responsible for it. We have had massacres, whether in Madagascar or the Celebes after the war. We have the example of Chiang Kai-shek’s occupation of Formosa. We have the example of suppression in Hungary and Poznan, and we have the recent riots in Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo. It is all the domination of the mind of man, not on the basis of justice, but on the basis of power. This Government has continually lent support to some of the nastiest and most mischievous characters this side of the North Pole. We have Syngman Rhee, a brave and courageous character. Ten years ago, it was almost treason to say anything nasty about him.
But the Government remains silent now in face of present happenings in Korea, although I have noted odd contradictions that have arisen. This morning we were told that Australia did participate in discussions on Korea. Apparently the internal affairs of Korea, where Korean shoots Korean, are some concern of Australia, but when European shoots non-European in South Africa, it is not the concern of Australia.
– Australian forces served in Korea.
– Humanity is the principle that you must learn to bring to bear in these matters. The Treasurer no doubt will argue that since 1900 we have had the right to send military forces into South Africa because our men served there in the Boer War.
These are simple principles which the Labour Party demands that the Government shall adopt in world affairs. We have no great power; we cannot send battleships, regiments, divisions and squadrons of aircraft. We can merely exert our influence as free people. All through history, we learn that weight of battleships or even weight of numbers has not decided the future of countries. Some 300 years ago, England was just a small island off the coast of Europe, not much larger than Tasmania. But its influence has transcended all else in history. In military matters, political matters, the creation of democratic institutions and the flow of trade, it has had its influence in the furthermost corners of the world.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am gravely disappointed that this debate has again arisen. I am also very disappointed at the tenor of the speeches of Opposition members. I have been advised on very good authority that this resolution came before Labour caucus recently and the executive advised caucus that it should support the amendment of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). After an impassioned speech by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), the executive lost by 27 votes to 26, and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was the man who went across to join the rebels. I have very good grounds for believing this. We need only look at the members who have been chosen to speak for the Opposition on this matter. 1 do not want to be unkind to them, but I ask the House to recall who they were. We had the honorable member for Yarra, the great demagogue, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), a notorious left-wing man, and then two other speakers who are not so bad. The last speaker, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) is known for his extraordinary childish outlook on life. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton) also spoke, but I cannot describe him because we know little of him.
The fact that these men were chosen to speak on this matter proves that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has caught the tiger by the tail. After all, when he was Minister for Immigration, we had the case of Sergeant Gamboa, who was not allowed to visit his wife and children in Australia. Yet the honorable member for Wills can rise in this House and speak about human rights. I remind honorable members that a Labour Party was in office when this case arose and it was also in office when we had the matter of Mrs. O’Keefe, the mother of eight children who was denied the right to stay in Australia. Out of office, Labour members are a bunch of demagogues, trying to obtain political advantage from a tragic situation.
How many people know anything of South Africa? I do not, but I took the trouble to inform myself on some of the problems that exist there. I know quite a lot about Kenya, for I lived there for many years. I served in war with members of the Bantu tribe, which is the tribe concerned in South Africa, and I formed a very great affection for them. I know something of the great problems facing the people in Africa. But here these tragic problems are used for political purposes. If Opposition members really believed in humanitarianism, they would have raised the matter of Hungary, when boys who were concerned in the 1954 revolution were shot on reaching the age of eighteen years. But they did not interfere in that matter and they do not interfere to-day in the affairs of East Germany, although 4,000 to 5,000 refugees a week leave that country. But still the honorable member for Wills speaks about human rights. In his childish way, he invites us to look at the charter of the United Nations, which received so much support from his former leader. We can see the provision that nothing contained in the present charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of a state. That is the attitude that we adopt. We do not agree with the policy of apartheid, but it is a domestic matter entirely within the jurisdiction of South Africa.
The motion of the Opposition on this matter speaks in unctuous terms about a passport not being required by natives in Papua and New Guinea. But this was repealed only a year ago by this Government, although the Opposition speaks as though the provision never existed. Passports were required all through the administration of Labour. Again, we read in the press that the Labour Premier of New South Wales has accepted an invitation to open a swimming pool for aborigines at Moree. They are not allowed to go to a swimming pool for white people, so the Labour Premier will open a swimming pool for them.
– The honorable member knows that his remark is completely unjustified. The press points out that the pool was constructed by the Apex Club.
– Yes, it was built by the Apex Club. Mr. Heffron said that he did not agree, necessarily, with what had been done.
– You would make anybody sick.
– Of course, Mr. Heffron’s remark would make anybody sick. The New South Wales Premier accepted the invitation to open the pool. He did not decline it.
I do not support the South African apartheid policy. However, I know, from information that I have received recently, that the African in South Africa is probably better treated than is any other African, and probably has a higher standard of living. On the political side the situation is different, but the natives are developing self-government in their own areas. I do not propose to defend the South African Government’s policy. If one does defend it, one’s words are misconstrued and used against one, because this debate, on the part of the Opposition, is in the hands of the left wing. I believe that a lot of the recommendations of the honorable member for Yarra are deliberately designed for a specific purpose - to break down the British Commonwealth of Nations. In to-day’s press, we see that the “ Times “ is talking about the possibility of the dissolution of the British Commonwealth on this very ground. But the Commonwealth has a tremendous influence on world affairs, and it is the duty of every one of its members to try to preserve it as a great force in the world. This is the second time that the “ Times “ has come out in this fashion. Honorable members will recall that, when the Berlin question was under discussion, the “ Times “ suddenly came out with a suggestion that Mr. Selwyn Lloyd would be replaced as Foreign Secretary in the next United Kingdom government. That newspaper was wrong then, and I sincerely hope that it will be wrong on this occasion. If we were to take the advice of the honorable member for Yarra, the British Commonwealth of Nations would dissolve immediately. And to whose advantage?
The problem of Africa is an enormous one, Mr. Deputy Speaker. South Africa has great problems with its 3,000,000 whites and 9,000,000 blacks. Let us not forget that, of the native races, 5,000,000 are Christians and 4,000,000 are pagans. In South Africa, you have the white race in a great black sea. I have a very high regard for the Africans, but the whole problem is of formidable proportions. I have not a solution and nobody else here has produced a solution. But things are not quite so bad as the press would have us believe. We all know that South Africa has suffered from a very bad press for many years. It has always been put on the wrong side by the press.
At a seminar recently held in the Nigerian university town of Ibadan, African politicians and intellectuals decided that the Western system of democracy, which allows for the representation of minorities, would not suit the black races. They talked about one-party government and said they believed that minorities should be eliminated. That attitude is borne out by action that has been taken recently in Ghana. On 23rd March, a report in the “ Bulletin “ - a similar report appeared also in “ Time “ magazine - stated that sixteen members of the opposition party in Ghana had been sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment and, subject to high court approval, to twelve lashes, for having caused disturbances during polling for the election of the Ashanti Council last October. Honorable members may recall that the honorable member for Yarra caused a disturbance at a polling booth in Melbourne at the last Victorian State election. Had he been an opposition member in Ghana, he would have been sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment and twelve lashes.
The Africans are going a different way from the white races. That is one of the problems that has to be faced by those who live in South Africa. So we can see that it is not very easy of solution, and that the existing situation is very dangerous. What knowledge of South Africa have the Opposition members who have already spoken in this debate? They have none. I believe that the increasing self-government being given to Africans in their own areas in South Africa represents a great improvement in the situation that has existed. As we know, in their own areas, the natives have their own councils, and those councils work under a parliamentary system.
I should like to read to the House the words of one of the Bantu leaders. Addressing the chiefs and headmen of the Trans.keian Territorial Authority, in 1959, Chief Isaac Matiwane said -
I now exhort you, my friends, to rejoice with me that the old phase of life is gradually passing away, that the calamity and disaster of leading an aimless life which has stalked our people over the years, will soon be a thing of the past and that the bugbear of illiteracy and ignorance will soon disappear.
We know that by 1963, all children in the Bantu areas in South Africa will be at school, and it is hoped that, in ten years’ time, there will be 95 per cent, literacy among the black people of South Africa. So we see that they are making progress. But I still say that I do not approve of the apartheid policy. However, I do not know the solution to the problem. Those who will find the solution are the people concerned.
The honorable member for Wills and others who are like him commit a great hypocrisy when they pass criticism on the handling of problems which face their own kith and kin in South Africa and say that here in Australia we have been a homogeneous race since our inception. When the Labour Government was in office, India and Pakistan were separated. I know both the Indians and the Pakistanis, because I served in the war with regiments from both countries. Both are fine and cultured peoples. Yet, when the two countries were separated, 2,000,000 people were killed and 10,000,000 were injured in disturbances. Did the Australian Labour Party raise its voice and talk of intervening in India and Pakistan when that happened? Of course it did not. Why did it not do so? It did not talk of intervention because that was an internal matter between the two nations concerned. A similar problem is now facing South Africa. I agree entirely with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) that affairs in South Africa require our sympathetic consideration. We have expressed our views. We do not believe in racial discrimination, but we do not know the solution to the problem. So we must let the South African people try to find the solution.
Let me turn for a moment to Malaya. The Malayans are a delightful people. They are people with whom one can mix easily, and they are cultured and have many fine qualities. But we notice that when the independent Federation of Malaya was formed Singapore was excluded. Why was it excluded?
– That is easy to answer.
– The answer is simple. If Singapore had not been excluded, one race would have dominated the other. Although we live in a fairly secure world, we face these great problems. Only the other day, the United States Congress passed a civil rights bill after a tremendous fight against it by southerners in the Senate. Until this bill was passed, tens of thousands of coloured people who belonged to a race that had lived among white people for 300 years, and who were cultured, were denied the vote in many parts of the United States of America. Yet we sit back and criticize other people. I suggest to Opposition members that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
One of the things that I do not like about the proposals made by the Australian Labour Party is the possible effect on the opposition party in South Africa. So far, the Opposition there has supported the Government on the issue of returning to law and order, although the United Party, which is the opposition party, does not approve of the policies of the Nationalist Party, which is the government party. If we criticize South African policies, we shall unite the South African nation against external criticism. However, if we express sympathy with the South Africans in their problems and allow them to follow normal democratic processes, the situation will change. There is no doubt that, at present, a great many Nationalists in South Africa disapprove of the apartheid policy. If we allow them to work for their own salvation, all may come right. If the Nationalists go out of office at the next general election, the United Party will probably be in a position to alter the laws introduced by the Nationalists. But these are domestic matters, and we should not interfere in them. I wholeheartedly support the Prime Minister’s amendment, which, as I have said, is supported also by about 49 per cent. of the Opposition. That amendment expresses sympathy with the South Africans in their problems, and the hope that, under law and order, they may find a solution to the great problems that they face in their present circumstances.
I have mentioned that I do not think that any member of the Labour Party is aware of the progress made by the Bantu under the Government of South Africa. None of them is aware that the Bantu have universities, that they have many hospitals and schools, and the best social services available to any African in Africa. These are provided by the South African Government, and are very largely financed out of taxes paid by white people. The Labour Party’s supporters will no doubt twist my words and say that I support the shootings that occurred. I do not. Like every other Australian I deplore them. But more than that, I deplore intervention in the domestic affairs of a sister dominion. The South Africans will solve their problems. These problems will be solved, not by criticism, but more as a result of sympathy and understanding.
.- We have had, in this debate, some extraordinary speeches from Government supporters. They seem to have one thing in common. They all begin by saying, “We do not approve of what has happened in South Africa, but- “. Then they go on to give reasons why there should be no interference with the government of that country.
I admit that I was unable to follow the logic - if there was any - in the argument advanced by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). But he did make a statement. He said that we must remember that of the 9,000,000 natives in South Africa 5,000,000 are Christians and 4,000,000 are pagans. I did not appreciate the point he was trying to make, because the fact is that it does not matter whether a native in South Africa is a pagan or a Christian. If a man in South Africa has a black skin he is treated just as brutally by the South African Government if he is a Christian as he would be treated if he were a pagan.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) was a little more frank thanother honorable members on the Government side, because he made it quite clear that in this Parliament, despite all the protestations, there are many Government supporters who are in absolute sympathy with the South African Government and what it is doing - that they themselves have a colour prejudice. Here is what the Attorney-General had to say, in effect, “ We are not prepared to condemn. We are not even prepared to criticize.” He asked, “ Who are we to judge? “ If I know anything of the English language, that indicates support for what the South African Government is doing.
It is quite true, as the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) said, that this trouble in South Africa has been going on for some time, and was only recently brought to a head by the tragic happenings in the vicinity of Johannesburg. But what has been the trouble in South Africa? We all talk about the policy of racial segregation. Has anybody examined it very closely? Very few members on the Government side of the House have examined what is actually happening in South Africa. The Government argues that this is a domestic matter for the South African Government and that we should not intervene. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) used a most extraordinary argument. He said that it would be a mistake for Australia ever to agree that what is happening in South Africa is anything other than a domestic matter for attention by the South African Government alone. He said that if we once accepted as a principle that nations may interfere in the affairs of other nations our own immigration policy, which has come under criticism in the United Nations, would be a case in point in regard to which we could be placed at a disadvantage, because we would have admitted the right of other nations to dictate our policy. That is a most fallacious argument. I could suggest a better example concerning whether other nations should have the right to intervene. If we set out in this country to follow a policy, initiated by the lawfully elected government, to massacre our aborigines, would not other nations have the right to intervene? Or would we expect other nations to say that this was a domestic matter entirely for the Australian Government? Of course it would be ridiculous to suggest that that would be the case.
Let me deal briefly with what is happening in South Africa and what has brought the trouble there to a head. Honorable members have heard the story of the internal passports which natives are compelled to carry, on pain of a severe penalty for failure to do so. The pass laws in South Africa provide that natives born in that country are not permitted to move from one place of residence to another, or to change their employment, unless they first obtain the permission of the authorities to do so. Those restrictions are imposed on the natives merely because they have coloured skins. Even women have to carry these permits, and can be subjected to a check on a number of occasions during any one day. If they have lost their permits, or have left them at home and are unable to produce them, they can be arrested and imprisoned. In many instances when women have been arrested and imprisoned their young families have been left to care for themselves, while the mothers are in gaol merely because they could not produce permits when these were demanded by a South African official.
In South Africa there is arrest without warrant, and imprisonment without charge or trial. When a native youth reaches the age of eighteen he has to get a permit in his own right, or he cannot remain in the home of his parents. A married daughter who is quartered in another area from her parents cannot visit them unless she gets a special permit to do so, and if she gets a permit the visit must not extend beyond 72 hours unless she obtains a renewal of the permit. White and non-white people cannot even have a cup of tea together in South Africa unless they have a permit to do so. At this very moment, according to the South African Government’s own figures, there are 1,600 natives in gaol without any charge having been preferred against them.
Natives in South Africa have no right to hold freehold land in their own country, even in the areas reserved for natives. The Government talks about the lawfully elected Government of South Africa. As pointed out by many speakers, the South African Government is a minority government. The great body of the natives in South Africa are denied any say as to what government shall rule them.
Now I turn to the recent happenings in the vicinity of Johannesburg. The AttorneyGeneral said that a mistake could have occurred. He said that we must not condemn the South African Government for some act by one of its officials which may have been done as the result of a mistake. Is it not on record that in the South African Parliament, before the magnitude of the calamity at Sharpeville was known, one Government representative said that he regretted there was only one fatality. Were not the police commended in the South African Parliament for the action they had taken?
One of the great fears of the white people in South Africa concerns the supply of native labour. They have to have this great reserve of cheap labour, as the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) pointed out, in order to maintain the living standards of the European population. So we find thai in that country black natives who are in prison can be drafted out to white employers to finish their sentences. There is no doubt that in this country in past years there was great evidence of colour prejudice. I remember reading in a book on the early history of Tasmania that it was customary for the white population to go out at weekends “ nigger-hunting “. In this country - Australia! I realize that we have passed beyond that stage now, and that nobody would ever suggest or permit such a thing now. But that is typical of what is happening in South Africa to-day. Unless newspaper men who go to South Africa to report the happenings there report in accordance with the wishes of the South African Government they are gaoled. The gentleman who was imprisoned recently was given his freedom only on condition that he left the country and wrote no further adverse reports, lt is even an offence in South Africa for the wife of a native who has been arrested and imprisoned to mention the fact that he has been imprisoned. If she does, she commits an offence and is liable to severe penalities. Then there is the right of entry without warrant looking for natives who probably have not received a permit or who have moved outside the area in which the permit operates.
To show where the sympathy of the Government lies, I should like to repeat something which I was told on very good authority. Some few years ago when the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) led a Commonwealth delegation to Africa, he is reported as having said during the course of a speech that if he lived in South Africa he would support the policy of apartheid.
What solutions of this problem are available? It can be solved, first, if the South African Government observed the decision of the United Nations, and secondly, if some pressure were applied to the South African Government to respond to pressure from the British Commonwealth of Nations. If the problem cannot bc solved by those two bodies, how else can it be solved? By South Africa itself! What does that mean? Inevitably, it must mean great slaughter and loss of life. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said that the British Commonwealth of Nations might dissolve if we departed from the policy of noninterference in what is regarded by the Government as a domestic affair. The British Commonwealth of Nations to-day includes Malaya, India, Pakistan, Ghana and Ceylon. Representatives from those countries, where the population is non-white, attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conferences. If they believe that the British Commonwealth of Nations will act on the basis of white supremacy, how long do you think that they will remain in the British Commonwealth? Why have millions of pounds of the Australian taxpayers’ money been expended on the Colombo Plan? They have been expended because we were told that it would build up goodwill in the Asiatic countries in the vicinity of Australia, and help them to solve their problems. All that money has been wasted if to-day the policy which has been enunciated by the Prime Minister is accepted.
Let me deal now with other remarks which have been made by Government speakers. The honorable member for Chisholm in trying to show that the policy of the South African Government is fair, said that it must be remembered that no white person other than those who have authority to do so is allowed to enter a native area. Why are the whites not allowed to enter the native areas? Because the people whom the Government wants to keep out of the native areas are the whites who are sympathetic towards the natives and who want to go into their areas to meet them, confer with them and help them.
I saw recently a TV session in Sydney regarding a delegation from Great Britain, comprising members of the British Parliament, which went into South Africa to obtain the facts first-hand. The members interviewed representatives of the native and Indian population - there is an Indian population in South Africa - who had to wear hoods during the interview so that they could not be identified because nf the action which would be taken against them by the South African Government. According to the honorable member for Chisholm, you must obey the law of the country even though you may not like it.
In South Africa, the natives do not have a vote - there is no democratic franchise - and if they do not protest, how can they hope to correct the adverse laws about which they are complaining? They can only rise and attempt to overthrow the government which is imposing those unfair laws upon them. The honorable member said that law first must be restored. How is law and order being restored in South Africa? By the use of the whip! That is what the Prime Minister’s amendment asks us to approve. In Australia, despite the efforts of the Government, we still recognize the right of industrial workers, as a final resort, to stay away from work if they cannot have a grievance rectified in any other way, but in South Africa if the natives refuse to go to work as a protest against their treatment, the government sets the police on them with whips to whip them back to work. How long can you stand for that sort of thing?
The Attorney-General has suggested that a mistake may have occurred at Sharpeville. Is it not a fact that an Anglican bishop - I think it was Bishop Reeve - had a conversation with the superintendent of a hospital in South Africa who was suspended because he had released the information that many of the men, women and children who had been shot at Sharpeville had been shot in the back. Do Government members here approve that sort of thing? Do they say that we should remain silent because we may embarrass the South African Government?
The honorable member for Chisholm has said that the Opposition has refused to appoint representatives to the Foreign Affairs Committee. If anything ever has supported and justified the action of the Opposition in this regard, it is this debate. Why did the Government want to get us on the Foreign Affairs Committee? It has said that there should be no party division in foreign affairs and that we should speak with one voice as members of the Commonwealth Parliament? The Government wanted to tie the minority Labour Party in this Parliament to the foreign policy which it is pursuing. If we had joined the Government on the Foreign Affairs Committee we, as the minority, could quite easily have been represented, by resolution of the committee, as supporting the present policy of the Prime Minister on this issue. It is quite evident that we do not support it.
The Attorney-General has said that a solution can come only from a lawful government? What does he mean by a lawful government? I remember the Hungarian affair. I am not suggesting that the Hungarian Government was democratically elected, but you must admit that it was the lawful government of the country - it was in control - and it did not accept the intervention which was suggested on that occasion by Government supporters. Has this Government refused to recognize the lawful Government of China? Does anyone suggest that the government of mainland China to-day is not the lawful government? It is the lawful government to the extent that it is in complete control of the situation. The Attorney-General spoke about comradeship. He said that the British Commonwealth of Nations is a gathering of representatives of the various sections of the British Commonwealth who meet in a spirit of comradeship. He said that instead of being critical and opposing, we should help a man when he is down. Who is the person who needs assistance to-day? The native of South Africa! He is the poor unfortunate who is down, because he is being attacked and victimized by the government of his own country - a government in which he has no say.
The Attorney-General has spoken about the rule of law. Whose law! In South Africa is it the law of the whip; the law of the rifle; the right of entry into the homes of natives; the right to search without warrant and to arrest? Does the Attorney-General suggest that the natives should sacrifice all their rights? Where do you think it will end? Do you think that you can drive the natives into compounds and use them as cheap labour when you wish without giving them any rights in their own country, meanwhile airily talking about the growth and spread of freedom in that country?
Government supporters have spoken about members of the British Commonwealth of Nations who have obtained their independence. Let me say that if a Conservative government had been in control in England at the time, there would have been no independence to-day in India, Pakistan, Burma and the other former
British possessions. These parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations obtained their freedom only because a Labour government was in power in the United Kingdom at the time.
Finally, this Government and this Parliament must realize that it has shown itself to the world as being alined on the side of white supremacy over coloured people. That is against the teachings of Christianity. If we believe in Christianity, should a person be penalized because of the colour of his skin? A coloured person is a human being and should be treated as such. This Government is creating tremendous difficulties and enmities where they should not exist. It is a good thing that this discussion has been allowed to continue so that the Labour Opposition - the next government of this country - can make it clear that it does not share or defend the policy of the Government but, instead, stands for justice and humanity.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would carry much more weight in debate if he did not take such obvious pleasure in the misfortunes of his country and of its allies. I say at the outset that I deplore unequivocably the things that have happened recently in South Africa, just as we must deplore the tyranny of a minority over a majority or the tyranny of a majority over a minority. Let us approach this question with the values of a single standard and not a double standard which the Opposition apparently employs in this matter, hoping to court favour in some quarters. I deplore also the consequences of the South African policy - the riots, disorders and deaths - but in deploring those things let us make certain that we do not aggravate, that we are constructive in what we say and that our words cannot be used by our enemies in order to increase disorder and the excuse or, indeed, the necessity for repression. Let us not forget that the right is not all on one side in regard to these riots. Let us remember that there has been the tyranny of the agitators over a minority of the coloured people and the tryranny of coloured against coloured. This does not excuse or condone the tyranny of white against black or of black- against white, but let us remember also that this question is not just as simple as some people would like to make it appear. Let us not ignore either the real difficulties or problems of South Africa or the attempts, which in some respects at least have been praiseworthy, to alleviate these problems.
It is true - and this is part of the problem - that South Africa has in the past few years accorded a far more liberal degree of education to its coloured people than was the case ever before. And this is one of the reasons for the present troubles, because it is now felt for the first time that the process has not gone far enough, and the native has become articulate. Let us remember that although the standards of living of the natives in South Africa are lower than those of the whites, they are higher than those of native peoples in other parts of the Commonwealth. And indeed, this again is one of the causes of the difficulty, because the influx of people outside South Africa’s borders, attracted by the higher wages there, has created problems of housing and unemployment and has been one of the real reasons behind the introduction of the system of internal passports, although I would agree that the administration of that system has not been, as far as we know, completely bona fide. I repeat that this is still a vexed question, so let us try to be constructive about it.
I deplore also the attitude of the Opposition in this matter, because it has been trying all too patently, and with side glances at La Trobe, to get political capital out of this very unfortunate situation. I believe that what members of the Opposition have said for party political purposes has been to the disadvantage of Australia and has not helped our position in the international sphere. It has been to the disadvantage of South Africa - both the white and coloured people there - because it has exacerbated the situation and has poured oil and not water on the flames. Whatever the hypocritical pretence behind it, it has been to the disadvantage of human freedom, because it has ignored the real factors in the situation and has tried to force a so-called solution which could only lead to more trouble. T am not an isolationist in this matter. I feel that this is an appropriate question for international concern and, as I hope to show in a moment, a proper matter for a certain kind of international intervention; but I do not feel that the Opposition has made any reasonably constructive proposals in that regard. 1 feel, in particular, that in deploring what has happened in South Africa - and we do deplore it - we should not lead ourselves to illogical or untenable conclusions in regard to the facts of modern racial science, because this is a real problem, as the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent-Hughes) pointed out. The South African affair is only one facet of the much wider problem which does not affect Australia internally, because we have virtually a homogeneous people, although it affects our international relations because we are a people of one race isolated geographically from our fellows of the same race. There is the fact of multi-racialism, which is perhaps unpleasant but which, whether this House faces it or not, history will face and unfortunately uphold; and that is that two groups cannot live in intimacy, equality and amity unless they countenance intermarriage without stigma on either side. This, unfortunately, is a fact of history and it seems to be ineradicable in human nature.
We find that those multi-racial societies which have succeeded have allowed intermarriage without stigma. New Zealand is a case in point, as is also South America. We find that those multi-racial societies which have become homogeneous, as we have, have obviously only been able to get over the repression of one group by another when intermarriage made the two groups one. It is not necessary in the transitional stage, of course, for intermarriage to be universal. What is necessary, if there is to be a multi-racial society living in intimacy, equality and amity, is that the concept of intermarriage should be accepted without stigma on both sides; and I emphasize “ on both sides “, because this is not a case of white being better than black, black being better than white, yellow being better than brown and so on. It is a case, unfortunately, of the way in which human history seems to work. Because the races are recognizedly different it does not follow that one is better than another or that it should take the pride of superiority in being better than another. Unless we recognize this, our policy, whether it be in South Africa. Africa or Asia, will fail. Indeed, we do recognize this, because in Australia we have such a homogeneous group and we do not practise a policy of apartheid. We do not believe that we should have in our community groups with whom intermarriage on either side could not be accepted without stigma. This is the basis of our policy and it is why we are free from the kind of troubles with which South Africa is afflicted. And this, after all, was the South African error; and the Opposition, I think, has said this quite rightly, that they did allow their economy to become dependent upon cheap coloured labour. This coloured labour was not there originally. It was immigrant labour in general and in the main, but they did allow, first, their gold economy, secondly, their industrial economy and, thirdly, their domestic economy to become dependent upon the 9,000,000 coloured people. That is the state of South Africa from which its tragedy has flowed.
It is a mistake that we avoided in Australia. Honorable members will remember that there was a period when we had Kanaka and Chinese labour in Australia. We decided that this state of affairs could not continue. We did not want to be dependent upon cheap labour internally in Australia and, by a policy which was undertaken many years ago, we did free ourselves from the kind of troubles which now afflict the unhappy South Africans.
These matters are the concern of the world. There is no point in taking refuge in legalism and legalities and saying that, under the law, this is or this is not. In point of fact, the races of the world have to learn to live together. They can do that in one of two ways. They can do it either by living to some degree apart and in amity; practising apartness in that they are separated by one thing or another, and recognizing themselves as equal, but different. Alternatively, they can permit intermarriage between the general welter of races and create one race. I am not suggesting that either one course or the other is correct. What I do suggest is that there is no other course which can succeed. The policy of endeavouring to create a multi-racial society in a country where inter-marriage is not accepted on both sides must result in repression and failure, and the kind of thing that is happening in South Africa.
In condemning South Africa, we would make a very grave mistake if, at the same time, we embraced a policy which could only be disastrous when applied on a world scale and which we ourselves have no intention of applying in Australia because we do not intend to admit groups where intermarriage is not accepted. I am not saying - and I emphasize this - that by taking such a separatist view we are saying that the white race is better than the black or the black race is better than the brown. We take the view - and are entitled to do so - that races are different, but can live on terms of equality and amity provided they do not try to live on terms of intimacy, and are prepared on both sides to accept intermarriage without stigma.
I do feel that not only in this House, but also elsewhere disastrous views have been expressed in regard to this matter. I feel that we are forcing on South Africa - or endeavouring to force on South Africa - a policy which must fail and must, indeed, lead to disaster. But I say again that this is not simply now a domestic concern. This is a world concern. It has been made such by the resolution of the Security Council and by the facts of history and life; but let the intervention of the United Nations be for the help of South Africa and not for the hurt of South Africa. South Africa is faced with a tremendous problem. What would we think here if we were told that we would have to do without our wool industry? Yet if we tell South Africa she has to do without cheap coloured labour, we are telling her that she also must do without her gold industry, and that is as important to South Africa as the wool industry is to Australia.
South Africa is making a notable attempt to create independent native states. I am not certain that it has been altogether a bona fide attempt, but it has required great self-sacrifice and exertion. Let us help South Africa to achieve that end. In other countries, the United Nations is intervening with help. For example, it is helping India with the Indus waters scheme. Why should we not say to South Africa, “ Here is your problem. We know it is difficult and will require almost superhuman efforts. We are here to help in a moral and material sense.” This is the sort of thing in which the United Nations can help in a constructive way.
It is notable that when the United Nations would have sent its officers to Hungary to find out the facts, they were not allowed to enter that country. It is notable that, at that time the Opposition could not be dragooned into joining in any protest. By contrast, now the United Nations officers will not be prevented from going to South Africa and finding out the facts. But they should not be going there merely to condemn South Africa, although I am sure the House condemns the present application ot the South African policies. They must be going to South Africa to recognize the difficulties and the appalling problems with which South Africa is faced, and to offer her a measure of moral and material help so that she can get out of those difficulties or, if she cannot get out of them, can remove the sources of weakness which to-day concern the whole free world.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said that the Opposition could not be dragooned into joking in a protest against the refusal to allow United Nations’ officers to enter Hungary. I cannot recall any occasion when the Government protested against that very thing. Why, therefore, did the honorable member try to draw a red herring across the trail? Why did he say that the Opposition could not be dragooned into a protest? The honorable member made only one profound statement in his speech and that was the view he expressed that this question could be resolved only by the races learning to live together. That is precisely what the Opposition has been saying throughout the debate. The debate has been warranted by the failure of the Prime Minister (Mr. Merzies) to accept responsibility as Australia’s national leader in connexion with this international problem. The Government is also remiss in failing to take a positive and unequivocal stand as a member of the United Nations and the British Commo-wealth of Nations. Indeed, the Australian delegates to the United Nations for a long time supported the stand taken by the South African Government. It was only last year when the Australian delegate abstained from voting that Australia did not commit itself to supporting the South African stand.
On 6th April, the Prime Minister, in answer to a request from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) for a resumption of the debate replied that he believed that no beneficial effect would flow from d continuation of the debate. However, the Government must have changed its mind and decided to allow the debate to continue to-day. For this, the Opposition is grateful because we wish to discuss matter:, of great concern to all. We criticize the Prime Minister for having gone to London on one of his annual pilgrimages, which will include the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, without divulging whether his Government had a clear-cut policy on South African questions which were of vital interest to other nations of the world and particularly important to Australia. There was no equivocation by the Prime Ministers of Canada, New Zealand or India regarding their attitude to this problem. They did not seek to shelter behind old platitudes as has our Prime Minister.
The justification for world opinion on South Africa lies in the fact that its racial problems have been before the United Nations for a number of years. Instead of progress towards settlement of these problems, we find progress towards revolution. This has been hastened, of course, by the attitude and conduct of the present South African Government which has resurrected all the racial fanaticism of Hitler’s Nazis and has applied many of the methods of the Nazi regime that horrified and offended people throughout the world. The policy has its genesis in the unfortunate belief in apartheid - the segregation and suppresion of the coloured races. This evil has produced, from* prejudice, arrogance and suppression, some of the worst evils in the calendar and ranks high with the brutality of the Communist regime, the Nazi regime and most other dictatorships. It is a complete negation of the concept of democracy and freedom as subscribed to by members of the United Nations Organization and enunciated1 in the Charter, and the Declaration of Human Rights.
The South African Government has failed to measure up to its responsibilities under the free world charter and has substituted the sadistic evils of gaol beatings, street shootings, slave labour camps, arrests without trial, and the suppression of the freedoms of association, marriage, worship, political organizations and agitation, voting rights, education, movement and domicile, and the occupation of land- and premises for religious, cultural, social and recreational purposes. These suppressions and prohibitions can only build up resentment and violent opposition. That violence begets violence is still a truism in our social structure. The laws associated with all these matters are productive of a bitterness by virtue of which racial conflict will almost certainly result in armed conflict of black against white.
The Christian concept that all men are entitled to equality of opportunity is completely ignored and, in the process, we must reasonably entertain the fear that the present situation is drawing us headlong into ultimate revolution. Let me emphasize that it is not only the Australian Labour Party that has raised its voice in protest on the South African question. Newspapers throughout the world have quoted persons in high places, in addition to their own opinions. Governments have overwhelmingly opposed the South African Government’s policy. Independent eye witnesses and practically every known Christian Church has spoken unanimously against the inhumanity practised and condoned by that Government.
– With the exception of the Dutch.
Mi. SEXTON.- Yes- with that one exception. In addition, there is constant terror and tension among 9,000,000 coloured people living in South Africa. One Government supporter, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), said that the motion before the House was purely a political party stunt by the Opposition. In view of the fact that all the authorities and organizations that I have mentioned have spoken in similar tones to those of the Australian Labour Party, how can the honorable member accuse the Australian Labour Party of embarking on a purely political party campaign of propaganda? Surely he does not attack the churches for their stand, which is quite clear and unequivocal. I believe that we can dismiss very quickly that argument which has been put forward by members on the Government side of the chamber.
It is revolting to read of this sort of happening in a largely Christian democratic country whEn boasts membership of the British Commonwealth and” of the United’ Nations. There has been story after story of the disappearance of any one who dares protest or criticize the government. It is no wonder that feeling is so strong among the peoples of other countries of the British Commonwealth. For Australia, there is the very important question of our 1,400,000,000 coloured neighbours to our near north. Their co-operation, goodwill and understanding are vital to us and to the generations that will follow us. Already, the Prime Minister of Malaya has reflected the feeling of our coloured neighbours. A statement that he made this week has been reported as follows: - “ Prime Minister Menzies was fence sitting over South Africa. Mr. Menzies called the Sharpeville massacre an internal affair. His many statements and declarations form a jarring pattern to the ears of other coloured races. His glaring incapacity to understand the Asian mind was exemplified by his utterances on South Africa, and his refusal to support the Malayan Prime Minister’s move to bring up the whole question of apartheid at the forthcoming Prime Ministers’ Conference in London did not go unnoticed. If Mr. Menzies wants the friendship of South-East Asia as he often professed he must understand how Asia feels about South Africa and Africans who are, after all, our companions in sorrow,” said the Malayan Prime Minister.
This opinion will be repeated many times during the next few weeks by leaders of the coloured nations.
It is obvious that the Prime Minister has not taken into account the damaging effect of his attitude on our relations with our Asian neighbours. In his desire to give no offence to South Africa, he has not taken into account the offence that South Africa is giving to the rest of the civilized nations. The Prime Minister is the only British leader who has done nothing to counter the shame brought upon the British Commonwealth by the South African policies. This is a question of humanity, Mr. Speaker. Are we to accept that a coloured human being is inferior to a white-skinned human being? 1 think not. Are we to say that the killing and bashing of unarmed South African natives is purely a domestic affair when similar action in a white country is an outrage against society and humanity? No, Mr. Speaker. Injustice and brutality must be condemned whenever and wherever they occur.
I believe that the amendment moved by the Government is quite innocuous. It does not contain any declaration of the kind that should flow from a member of the
United Nations. In other words, it is a neutral statement that would only serve one purpose at this stage, and that is the defeat of the Opposition’s comprehensive proposal. Members of the Opposition believe that the feelings of our fellow-citizens are properly expressed by the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) . If the Prime Minister’s amendment is put to the House in its present form, members of the Opposition will vote against it and support the original motion. They will do so because they cannot conscientiously believe or hope that the disputes and differences in South Africa will be adjusted by applying the laws which prevail in South Africa or by restoring order by the methods which are used by the Government of that country. The Opposition supports law and order when they are accompanied by peace and justice. Even at this late stage I would appeal to the Government to incorporate in its amendment a recognition that just and peaceful methods will be used in resolving these problems in South Africa.
– Has the honorable member got his leader’s authority for making that proposal?
– I hold no authority other than that of a member of this House. I am trying to bring a little bit of logic and common sense to the final stages of this debate. We have before us a comprehensive motion moved by the leader of the Opposition. It criticizes the Government, and it is not likely that the Government will accept it. On the other hand, we have before us also an amendment moved by the Government which is a neutral sort of resolution, and, as I said earlier, does nothing other than blot out the motion moved by the Opposition.
We are seeking to brighten up and give a little authoritativeness to the amendment of the Government so that if it becomes the decision of this House, it will at least command some respect in other quarters which will be interested. For that reason, I have made my final plea to the representatives of the Government to accept some altered version that will give emphasis to the questions of justice and peace in the final decision which this House will make. I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of the point I have made, and that it will give favorable consideration to that request.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have come into this debate because I believe that emotional reaction is a human quality which has always been well in advance of good sense and judgment, and it is time that the good sense and judgment following the calm analysis and cool reflection which the leader of this Government brought to this matter should again be re-asserted. I would be tempted, in view of some of the things which have been said in the course of this debate, to engage in a party argument about what is before us. Honorable members opposite have allowed their own emotional reactions - which, in the case of one or two, have bordered on hysteria - to be heightened by the opportunity which appeared to them to take some political advantage of the situation in which they found the Government placed.
I do not propose to pursue that line, because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has the advantage over the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and myself in this matter. He has the advantage, so far as I am aware at least, of never having been to South Africa himself, and of never having had to carry the responsibility of representing this country at a conference of Prime Ministers. So, Sir, without that knowledge and without that responsibility, he has given the House, on behalf of his party, the kind of argument to which we have listened. I might add that, so far as I am aware, none of the members of his party has visited South Africa or studied its problems at close quarters.
Let me, for my part, try to see if a balance of justice can be restored. I should like to see justice done to our own Prime Minister, whose motives in this matter have been distorted, whose words have been twisted, and who has been cast in a role for Australia which is unfamiliar to any Australian who has studied his actions over past years. Now that there has been time for a little calm appraisement of this matter, the Prime Minister is found to be standing precisely where Mr. Macmillan, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stands and also where Mr. Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister of Canada, stands. I believe it is significant that, in a matter touching one of the member countries of our Commonwealth of Nations, although criticisms have been expressed by heads of other governments and even suggestions have come from them that the Commonwealth would be better without South Africa, a consistent line has been followed by the three senior and most experienced Prime Ministers in our Commonwealth at this time.
I feel, too, that justice has not been done to the Government and people of South Africa. Who in the course of this debate has drawn attention to the improvements which have occurred in the situation of the Bantu people in South Africa? Who has attempted to put, in a balanced way, the developments in relation to the standards of these people? To hear critics speak, not only in this Parliament but also out of it, one would gain the impression that they were a degraded and depressed people whose standards were being deliberately held down, whereas all the facts, according to those who have had any chance to study this matter at close hand, demonstrate quite remarkable improvements in the situation of the people there.
I say this as no apologist for the Government of South Africa. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has quoted me as having been in sympathy with the policy of apartheid. I say, as one who saw something of that policy in action, that to me as an Australian, with my own background and experience, I do not approve of it; 1 do not like it. But I am not in a position to say, if I were a South African, how much I would improve on that policy or how much I would be able to adopt of it. There are certain principles which I would hope to adopt and they were voiced very articulately by Mr. Macmillan in his significant “ Winds of Change “ speech which he made before both Houses of the South African Parliament in February of this year. He said -
I am sure you will agree that in our own areas of responsibilities we must each do what we think right. What we think right derives from a long experience both of failure and success in the management of our own affairs. We have tried lo learn and apply the lessons of both.
Our judgment of right and wrong and of justice is rooted in the same soil as yours - in Christianity and in the rule of law as the basis of a free society.
This experience of our own explains why it has been our aim, in the countries for which we have borne responsibility, not only to raise the material standards of living, but to create a society which respects the rights of individuals - a society in which men are given the opportunity to grow to their full stature and that must in our view improve the opportunity to have an increasing share in political power and responsibility; a society in which individual merit, and individual merit alone, is the criterion for a man’s advancement, whether political or economic.
Finally in countries inhabited by several different races, it has been our aim to find means by which the community can become more of a community and fellowship can be fostered between its various parts.
Those are principles which I endorse and which I would hope to see applied in any country of whose government I was a member. But if we were to take the stand that we should get rid of a particular country in the Commonwealth every time we felt some disagreement, however strong, with the particular course of action it was following at that time, then we would have no commonwealth left. I have no doubt that honorable members at one time or another have studied developments in Ceylon, with the discriminatory treatment of the Tamils there, in Pakistan which to-day is functioning under a military dictatorship, in India where disturbances have occurred over one matter or another in recent years, and in Ghana where at this time we have the sort of development that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) referred to a little earlier in the afternoon. But if every time one of these matters arose, we said “We deplore that; you must get out of our Commonwealth “, where would we be?
This is a great Commonwealth. It enshrines some of the highest principles of mankind and is making a great contribution to the peace, prosperity and security of mankind. It would be an evil day for this world if the Commonwealth dissolved, and it will most assuredly dissolve if every time there is some powerful ground of disagreement between one member country of the Commonwealth and others, those others turn upon the dissenting ‘member and wish to eject it from our company. This great Commonwealth is held together by understanding, by a study of the problems of others, by help where help can be given, and by the adoption of a comradely attitude by fellow mem bers. It is not held together by a process of mutual abuse, and that is the danger that I have detected in some of the things that were said not only in this Parliament but in other parts of the nation on this issue. It is true that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said that he did not want to see South Africa out of the Commonwealth, and I hope that he speaks for all honorable members sitting behind him because great practical interests, as well as the ideals that I have mentioned, can be served by the continued membership of South Africa, and indeed by the continued membership of our fellow members of this great family of nations.
A little earlier I spoke about the lack of justice done to South Africa and its Government. We have yet to learn of any reasonable presentation of the various matters which affect the Bantu community. This is not a simple matter of the difference in colour between one section and another. The South African community is a complex of racial and ethnic types. It consists of people of different language and of different customs. If any honorable gentleman opposite would care to know a little more about the problems of that country, I invite him to study a document by a very distinguished South African, Dr. Eiselen, M.A., Ph.D., on “ Harmonious multi-community development”. I do not pretend to adopt everything he has said, but he speaks as one of the company of sincere and earnest men in South Africa who are to be found on both sides of the Parliament in South Africa, conscientiously trying to find a decent and satisfying way through the terrible and complex problems with which they must cope there.
He points out, for example, that in the composition of the population there are 9,600,000 Bantu. The Bantu is a generic word describing the natives, who themselves consist of many different tribes, many different customs and many different languages; and hundreds of (thousands of whom perhaps had no native origin in South Africa. Then there are 3,000,000 whites, and again there are differences in their composition which are familiar to honorable gentlemen here. There are 1,300,000 people known as coloureds. They are people of mixed blood, mainly the product of the intermingling over the centuries of people from shipping and commerce who have entered South Africa. Finally, there are 440,000 people of Asiatic race in the community. All these have somehow to be welded together into a society which has no parallel so far as we can detect anywhere else in the world. Dr. Eiselen said - . . I know of no other part of the world where there are at least a dozen different communities living within the boundaries of a single modern State, each having its own social ideals and levels of economic and cultural development. Some of these groups, indeed, do have certain ethnic, linguistic and historical ties, whilst others have no such links.
Despite these problems, the South African Government has applied itself energetically to improving the standards of the people. The industrial revolution in South Africa attracted native labour from all parts of Africa, not only from South Africa. No control was exercised over their entry. They came in tens of thousands and squatted on any farm or waste land that they could find around the cities. To-day, there are some 750,000 of these foreign natives, and 25,000 a year are still entering as illegal immigrants. Apparently, they are not deterred by the conditions alleged to exist there. The houses built were boxes and bits of iron, and these formed shacks with no sanitation or water service. Vice, filth and disease flourished in this atmosphere. The municipalities were helpless. They could not turn the natives out, because there was nowhere else for them to go. So, the South African Government had to build homes, and it has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into this project. It has built over 100,000 homes and hostels in an effort to cope with the problem.
The level of literacy in South Africa is higher than in other parts of that continent. It has grown from 12 per cent, to 35 per cent, since 1946. The wage level, while admittedly low by our standards, is high by African standards. If we are to take the evidence of the Year Book of the International Labour Organization for 1958, we find that the South African hourly rate is about double that of Ghana, more than double that of Northern Rhodesia, double that of Southern Rhodesia, and double that of Nigeria. Nigeria and Ghana, of course, have their own native rule.
I do not put these matters as an apologist for the South African Government. I do not dissent from those who deplore the tragic episode at Sharpeville. But I say, let us as fellow members of the Commonwealth at least try to have some understanding of the problems which exist there. Let our leaders of our Commonwealth, by friendly discussion together, by the discussion of men of the ripest experience and judgment, help to find a way through these difficulties. I referred a little earlier to Mr. Macmillan’s “Winds of Change” speech. The phrase is most apt. Undoubtedly, the winds of change are blowing through Africa and I believe that they are affecting people in South Africa at all levels, whether they be in the Government, in the Parliament or in the church. In my view, justice has not been done to the Dutch Reform Church, judging from statements emanating from that body, which itself has called for an uplift in the standards of the native people. So I say that these winds of change are having their effect. Let us encourage them as favorable winds. Let us not transform them into some disruptive tempest which would destroy not only any prospect of future happiness and progress for natives and others in South Africa but also any prospect of harmonious development inside our Commonwealth. Let us be under no doubt as to where we stand on the tragic events that have occurred. In the speech to which I have referred so extensively to-day, Mr. Macmillan said -
What Dr. John Donne said of individual men three hundred years ago is true to-day of my country, your country and all the countries of the world:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know
For whom the bell tolls:
It tolls for thee.
It is not an original quotation, but it is one that is as apt in the circumstances of Sharpeville as it is in any other part of the world.
In order that we, as a Parliament, could reach at least some degree of unanimity, I would be willing to accept the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton). It is undesirable that a difficult and serious debate on a great issue affecting a fellow-member of our Commonwealth should end in an atmosphere of rancour and disagreement. We should find it possible to come together on the amendment which the Prime Minister has moved, which could incorporate the words proposed by the honorable member for Adelaide, to which I take no exception. I believe that if we act in that way we shall be doing far more to further progress in this matter than if we seek to gain partypolitical advantage from events which we all deplore.
Motion (by Mr. Pearce) proposed -
That the question be now put. (The bells being rung) -
– I ask that this motion, by leave, be withdrawn. 1 give suitable notice that the motion will be repeated after the next speaker has concluded. The purpose of putting the motion was to enable the procedural stages to be concluded by six o’clock. At the time when the motion was put, 1 was under the impression that we would1 need the remaining time for that purpose.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in making a rather ragged case for the Government in regard to the incidents in South Africa, concluded by referring to a poetic gem to the effect that if the bell tolls for me, it tolls for all humanity. That is the very point that the Australian Labour Party is making. We cannot condone bloodshed and massacre by making apologies for what we call a partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations by saying that that partner is facing a hard struggle. The Australian Labour Party denies strongly the suggestion that it is trying to make political capital out of this matter. The Government itself must have been shame-faced because of the cavalier manner in which it dealt with the matter earlier. At any rate it has now brought the matter back into the House. It speaks well for the liberal - spelt with a small “ 1 “ - attitude of the Leader of the House that he has taken this action. We in this country should not act like the seven sleepers, and we should not believe that everything is all right in this best of all possible worlds. We must have some regard to the appalling changes that have occurred and to the difficulties that have arisen all over the world. The Australian Labour Party, therefore, is supporting strongly the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
It has been said that Labour has not made out a case. In fact, it has made out an overwhelming case. There cannot be tyranny or apartheid in the British Commonwealth if it results in bloodshed and massacre. We join with the rest of the world in making outraged comment upon what happened in South Africa, but when we do so we are charged by the Government with engaging in emotionalism. Is it emotionalism to refer to a negro lying with his mouth in the dust outside the police station at Sharpeville? ls he not a tragic question mark placed against what is happening in South Africa? We could be listening to the sound of the first shot in Armageddon while this Government sleeps its weary time away. It will be removed in due course by the anger of the people. The writing is on the wall. Events in La Trobe show that that is so.
The worst features of the Government’s attitude to the events in South Africa are the apologetic remarks about partners in the Commonwealth, the weary sort of disputation about whether what happened was a good or a bad thing, and the mumblings by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about domestic matters. Would the Government regard civil war as a domestic matter? Would it regard the slaughter of minorities as a domestic matter? Of course, it would not. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) pin-pointed in his speech the cheap legalism - of which there is too much in this House - involved in the Government’s attitude. We have heard the footling phrase, “the rule of law”. What is the rule of law in South Africa, where negroes who did nothing more than take their passbooks, their leave passes, quietly to a police station as part of a campaign of civil disobedience, were shot down by some jack-booted fascists, more or less with the1 approval of the bystanders? Is it any wonder that the whole civilized community was outraged?
Then we had the Government’s piddling attack upon our proposal. Its small-minded attitude is that we must try to keep this thing within the family. We cannot keep it within the family. The whole world is screaming about it, because what was done was bad. The history of apartheid is bad. There is apartheid in our own country, if this Government were permanently in power, it would have as bad a record as that of the South African Government. We have seen the gaoling of Tudawali, the persecution of the genius Namatjira, and other similar actions. I read in this morning’s newspapers that there are to be two swimming pools, one for white people and one for aborigines, in Moree, in the electorate of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan).
The Government’s philosophy is laisserfaire - let it rip and say nothing. Therefore, any attack or indignity perpetrated on the human spirit is to be observed as something that must not disturb the even tenor of our ways. The main offender in this matter has been the Prime Minister, who creates figures for us to adore. He created an enormously respectable figure for us to admire in Syngman Rhee, whose name now stinks in the nostrils of all civilized human beings in all civilized countries. The Prime Minister created for us an emblem of dignity out of Chiang Kai-shek. Now he speaks, with devotion and in his cheerful after-dinner manner, about what Dr. Verwoerd has done in South Africa.
The honorable member for Mackellar, who is now interjecting, fills me with amusement. His solution of the problem is for everybody to marry off someone else. His approach is reminiscent of that of his great grandfather, who created what was known as the bunyip aristocracy in New South Wales. The honorable member’s approach to the problems of South Africa is completely stupid and makes no contribution to the solution of them. Neither did the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is temporarily charged with the administration of external affairs, put before us to-day a case good enough even to get off a man on a drunken driving charge in the Burwood Police Court. If that is the Government’s attitude towards this serious, dangerous and galling problem of man’s inhumanity to man, this Government will very soon die of its own inertia. Certainly there has been nothing very forthright in any of the statements made for it.
We on this side of the House maintain what was put up by the Leader of the
Opposition about the inhumanity of the conduct of the South African Government towards the Bantu people. It is because this conduct has worked through apartheid that we are opposed to apartheid. People would think, if they believed the words of some Government supporters, including the Treasurer, who spoke before me, that we are opposed to the great peoples of South Africa and of other countries. Not so! Governments are governments only under the will of the people, and surely government actions may be criticized within the ambit and scope of the British Comonwealth of Nations. But the African people have been more vociferous, more biting, more scandalized and more horrified by these occasions than we have been. One of the weakest things that I have ever seen in my long period as a member of this House was the casual way in which this matter was first treated - the way in which, despite the vigour of the Opposition, its attack was allowed to fall a victim to the Standing Orders with the intention of the object of the Opposition’s motion being defeated by the effluxion of time. I think that, in a general sense, we have done something useful and for the good of the fair name of Australia by our basic attack in this matter.
We are a prosperous and young country under the Southern Cross, and we have no colour problem of any magnitude. But boiling up to the north of us are the attitudes and feelings of more than 1,000,000,000 people. What has happened to the povertystricken negroes of South Africa? I heard one Government supporter say that, although their standard of living is not extremely high, it is much higher than that of some other people. That observation reminded me, as I remarked to my leader at the table, of the Russian proverb which says that to the midge everything looks big. In this case, the midget wages of the native in South Africa look small by all standards.
I have taken the point that the Australian Labour Party came vigorously into this debate in order to prove something. We wanted to prove, first, that there is a warm heart in the Australian community, that we resist tyranny wherever it occurs, and that we will speak sharply to our friends and neighbours if we feel that what they are doing is maliciously designed to impose tyranny, hardship or suffering upon other people. In this respect, we find that there is a charge against Dr. Verwoerd. When he was a professor at Stellenbosch University, in South Africa, he went to Germany to study, under Rosenberg, the apartheid of the Germans - the apartness. We know that, among South African governments, there has been, for some strange reason, a reluctance to admit Jews to the country - almost a fascist attitude. Jews are - or were - denied entry under the migration schemes that let other people in with great freedom. Furthermore, there is the treatment of South-West Africa, which is a trust territory and which is held under a sacred trust from the United Nations. It is not domestic territory of the Union of South Africa. When Verwoerd took over the South African Government, he imposed his apartheid policy in South-West Africa, quite unconstitutionally and illegitimately. This is indicative of a bad mind in regard to the future of the natives.
As a companion nation in the British Commonwealth, we say, with respect to this problem of the races - the resurgent East and the resurgent African and Bantu - that there must be - not “ will be “ - and there must be immediately, a better way of doing things than has been adopted in South Africa in the past. To accuse us of being sentimental in this matter is to talk nonsense. Sentimentality does not motivate honorable members on this side of the House in their urge to say things that should be said and to say them with strength. I abhor the logic of the lawyer who, dry as dust, comes coldly to the table and tries to dissect what is a human tragedy as if he were operating upon a man of straw. If we adhere to the great and revered institutions of the British people, then we hate tyranny, wherever it occurs, and we hate what has happened in South Africa. The Australian Labour Party is a party of the people with a connotation of humanity and a charter of humanity higher than that of similar parties elsewhere in the world to-day. We record our protest at what has happened in South Africa because we feel that a protest should be made. To say that we are cheer-chasing and taking advantage of an opportunity to gain political kudos out of this matter is to be completely wrong.
The serious thing is that, although the Opposition has had an opportunity to make a second attack in this matter, the Government has given no answer. It has declared itself to be vacant in mind and lackadaisical in body. It has not moved itself in any way to indicate what it actually feels about the position in South Africa. This is not the end of events there. It is but the beginning. Recent events are just the beginning of a serious civil disobedience campaign, and we do not know what other things may follow. Reluctantly, because its hand is being forced, the Government of South Africa concedes one little point first, and then another. But that will not satisfy the liberty-loving Bantus, the negroes, the Kaffirs, the Zulus and the other natives in South Africa, all of whom are looking for their place in the sun. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) certainly made a reasonable proposal when he suggested that the combined ingenuity of man, as called together in the United Nations, might be made available in order to prepare a plan and select some place or country where the black men of Africa could have a place in the sun. Other men have kept their freedoms. The people of China, India and other countries have won change. Assuredly, the people of Africa as well will win their way.
The speech made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) was indicative, sadly enough, of the attitude of members of the Australian Country Party to this problem. Their philosophy is that of master and servant. The honorable member referred to events which have no relation to the matter now before us. He talked as if these offending black men should have no rights at all. He mentioned things that had happened a long time ago, and generally gave an impression of having no concern whatsoever with the problem in South Africa, deep and abiding as it is. The honorable member took time, even though he had only a short time in which to address us, to attack the Australian Labour Party, which, he said, had no policy on this matter and was simply trying to create a furore in order to help itself at a by-election. Nothing could be more lying or more silly, because the whole of the policy of the Labour Party is definitely involved with human factors and has been made clear over the years. That policy is read avidly by the Liberals, who steal what they consider to be the best parts of it and deride us for the remainder. The Labour Party would not be a party of any calibre, strength or power at all if it did not, in a manner of speaking, get up on its hind legs in this Parliament and protest, with all the vigour displayed by its leader, its deputy leader and the other Labour members who followed them, at the injustices meted out to the natives in South Africa.
As a member of the company of nations in the much-vaunted British Commonwealth of Nations, have we to be a stooge? Have we to be merely a sort of figment of the imagination? Has the Government to keep friendly with its mates in the Conservative club? Dare it not speak out? Does it not think that South Africa would welcome an honest comment? Malaya has made an honest comment. India has made an honest comment. Coloured people throughout the world, in all their serried ranks and rows, have made their comments about what has happened in South Africa. They did not become emotional over the matter. They came to the point.
Here is a history - a bad history - of a government which excludes people. First of all, it excluded the Jews. Later, it arrogated to itself a power to impose apartheid in a United Nations trust territory. This government imposes apartheid by the sword, the gun, the smoke bomb and the knout, and it flogs its subservient people into a condition that is not compatible with the heart and soul of the African continent. We would be a very poor Labour community and a very poor Australian community if we did not press, and press hard, the point of view that we feel. We have no intention of hurting these African peoples or their representatives, but what sort of a comrade would you be - the word used advisedly by the acting Minister for External Affairs - if you did not warn your friends of the disaster, the holocaust, the Armageddon that could be created by the mishandling of this problem. If you have the wrong man or the wrong method, surely it is the essence of the community of British nations for members to warn each other, to cheer each other, to fortify each other and to help each other with problems of this nature.
For this reason the Labour Party believes that the Prime Minister has been incredibly weak. He came tootling into the House and talked about the South African problem being a domestic matter. He found that did not work and he tried to get out of it by a good speech with plenty of rhetoric But the sense of humanity was never apparent in the speeches made from the Government side; the sense of urgency that something had’ to be done before this tidal wave of error sweeps over humanity was not conveyed to us. No man can rest in his bed at night if he knows that tyrannous conduct of this nature is being condoned. I think it has been to the eternal credit of the Labour movement, as well as to the Labour Party here, that we have pressed and pressed our resolution in this House.
Because the Minister has been kind enough to allow me to say these few words, I shall not attempt to speak at length, and I shall now summarize the Labour Party’s attitude in this matter. I think I can conclude by saying that the usefulness of the debate in this House has been enhanced by having it repeated, as it were. The things that we have said here to-day have been truthful, moving and deeply sincere, and I think the public will appreciate that fact and that the electors will see it. If anybody in this House does to-day reflect the thinking, the understanding and the humanity of the Australian people, it is each member of the Labour Opposition.
We reiterate that we believe that this House should record this censure of the apartheid policy which creates this intolerable situation of man against man. There must be emerging, very soon - even in our lifetime - one world and one standard’ for men, no matter whether they be black, brown, white or yellow. This negative, disastrous, grotesque policy of the jungle where you keep the weak man under by the greatest power that you have to hold him in travail must be dissipated. We must exercise common sense and have a proper understanding of the truth that all men are brothers and that the tragedy of Africa is the tragedy of civilization. We must try to resolve it together, and in that spirit this motion has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
Motion (by Mr. Pearce) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted.
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House profoundly regrets the loss of human lives occasioned in the recent incidents in South Africa; is distressed that such events should have occurred in a member country of the Commonwealth of Nations; expresses its sympathy with those who have suffered; profoundly hopes that order may be re-established as soon as possible; and earnestly hopes that the adjustment of all disputes and differences will be achieved by orderly, just, lawful and peaceful processes for the common benefit of the people of South Africa”.
Question “ That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted “ resolved in the affirmative.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Flax Industry Act Repeal Bill 1960. Meat Export Control Bill 1960.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to increase the salaries payable to the holders of certain statutory offices.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McEwen and Sir Garfield Barwick do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to a decision of the Government to increase the salaries of the holders of the statutory offices included in the schedule to the bill, the salaries of which are provided by special appropriation.
As honorable members will know, salaries for members of the Public Service were recently reviewed by the Public Service Board and substantial increases were provided. The board’s authority does not apply to statutory offices or to offices in the First Division of the Service, but the increases which were approved in the lower divisions have led the Government to review the salaries of statutory offices, offices of the First Division and the amount necessarily available under section 182 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1959 for the payment of remuneration and travelling allowances to the chairmen and members of the boards of review appointed under that act.
Except for lay commissioners and conciliators and chairmen and members of the Taxation Board of Review the increases amount to £900.
Increases to lay commissioners and conciliators also include recognition of the status and responsibilities of these positions in existing circumstances. In effect, these salaries have been increased by £250 per annum for the senior commissioner and commissioners and £150 per annum for conciliators. These new salaries have then been further adjusted in conformity with the basis applied in the Second and Third Divisions of the Public Service.
For chairmen and members of the taxation boards of review, the salary increases proposed also have had regard to the general adjustment followed in the Public Service.
In assessing the salaries appropriate to these several offices, the Government has considered not only the general increase in salaries within the Commonwealth Service; it has considered also the general trend of salaries for high executive positions as well as the responsibilities and complex duties of the positions concerned. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to increase the number of Judges who may be appointed to the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill proposes an alteration in the number of judges, in addition to the chief judge, who may be appointed to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The alteration is to increase the existing number by one - namely, from two to three, making, with the chief judge, four judges in all. The need for the proposal springs out of certain current circumstances, coupled with certain constitutional limitations. I shall explain both these elements, if I may, and as briefly as possible.
This Parliament found it necessary in 1956, by reason of the decision of the High Court of Australia in the case which is now generally known as the Boilermakers case, to divide the functions which had formerly been performed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and to segregate the judicial functions from the arbitral functions. Parliament then adopted the course of constituting two bodies, one a commission - now the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, to which was assigned the arbitral function - and the other, the Commonwealth Industrial Court, to which was assigned the judicial function of the enforcement of the law in relation to awards and other matters incidental to the maintenance of the arbitration system.
It was thought at that time that a bench of three judges would be adequate. The legislation provides generally for a quorum of two judges in relation to the functions of the court, though in certain limited respects a single judge can exercise the jurisdiction of the court. As the court is to exercise federal judicial power, its judges, of necessity, are appointed for life. A most significant result for present purposes of that circumstance is that, according to the decision of the High Court, it is not possible constitutionally to appoint to the court an acting judge at any time that one or more of its judges is or are unable to act or when the volume of work, perhaps in a temporary surge, is more than three judges can cope with.
Mr. Justice Dunphy, a member of the Industrial Court, will be proceeding on extended leave of absence from 1st May for the ensuing six months, this being leave to which he is entitled. Thus, only two judges of the court will be available as from Monday to do its work. As I have indicated, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides, in respect of many matters, that the jurisdiction of the court shall be exercised by not less than two judges. It would be unsatisfactory to have only two judges available as, in the event of the illness of one, or some other call on his time, a court of two judges could not be constituted.
However, Mr. Speaker, there is a further complication. For some months past some of the judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court have been performing the functions of the judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. They are enabled to do this by virtue of commissions issued to them as “ additional “ judges under section 7 of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act 1933-1959. The reason that these judges have been asked to do this work has been the ill health of the judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, Mr. Justice Simpson. Mr. Speaker, to the great regret of the Government and to his many friends both within and outside the legal profession, that ill health rendered it necessary that His Honour should take leave of absence over a period of some months. It had been hoped that relief from his daily duties and a sojourn away from Canberra would so restore His
Honour that he could resume his place on the Supreme Court bench. But, unfortunately, His Honour has found that his health has not so far improved as to permit this course. I much regret to say that I have now received from His Honour his resignation from office and his request that this resignation take effect as from the end of this month.
It is proper, Mr. Speaker, that I place on record the great service His Honour has done the Commonwealth, not only as judge of the Supreme Court for fifteen years past, but also prior thereto in military service during both world wars, reaching the rank of Brigadier in World War II., and during the latter part of that war, after service in the Middle East, as Director-General of Security for the three years 1942-45- His Honour was also Judge Advocate-General of Army and Air Force from 1946 onwards. The Commonwealth has every reason to be and, if I may say so, is most grateful for so much loyal and generous service, and His Honour and his family have reason to be very proud of it.
Until another appointment is made to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, the judges of the Industrial Court will be asked to exercise the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in Canberra. This court is a superior court of general jurisdiction, civil and criminal, and is also a court of appeal from the decisions of the magistracy in the Australian Capital Territory. Its work has been steadily increasing and diversifying, due, no doubt, to the increase in population and of the complexity of life in Canberra.
Mr. Speaker, by reason of amendments made in 1958 to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act, judges of a federal court may be appointed additional judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Thus a judge of the Industrial Court can be given a commission as a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and may exercise its jurisdiction. But a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory cannot be appointed to perform the functions of the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
Mr. Speaker, I regret these lengthy prolegomena but they have been necessary to explain clearly why it has been found necessary to present this bill at this time. The present situation is that, as from Monday, there are only two judges available for the work of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and for the work of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Experience has shown that there should always be three judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court available. Consequently, apart from the work of the Supreme Court there is need for another judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. As the law stands the gap cannot be filled by a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. The Government has decided therefore to provide for an additional judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court - which is the purport of the bill before the House. But. bearing in mind that on Mr. Justice Dunphy’s return there will be four judges available, I do not propose at the moment to replace Mr. Justice Simpson. The judges of the Industrial Court will continue for some time to do the work of the Supreme Court, and can also be enabled to do the work of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island. This may prove at times a burden until Mr. Justice Dunphy’s return but it has seemed to the Government the best solution at the present time. The position on Mr. Justice Dunphy’s return will thus in substance be restored to what it was when the Commonwealth Industrial Court was set up and Mr. Justice Simpson was exercising the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. There will be four judges doing the work usually done by four judges.
Mr. Speaker, I have now explained the reason for the presentation of this bill. I might mention before I close that for some time I have had under consideration the question of what further jurisdiction of a genera], as distinct from an industrial, character could conveniently and appropriately be added to the jurisdiction now vested in the Commonwealth Industrial Court. If and when any such jurisdiction is added the question of the number of judges necessary to perform the court’s work as thus enlarged can be reconsidered.
Mr. Speaker, I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6th April (vide page 953), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seeks to repeal five acts under which the Commonwealth Government, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, collects dues from vessels which, on their way to Australia, have derived benefits from the British lighthouses, buoys and beacons in the West Indies. This month the United Kingdom Government has ratified the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. Under Article 18 of that convention no charge may be levied upon foreign ships by reason only of their passage through the territorial sea. Therefore, the United Kingdom Government no longer can levy dues on vessels passing through the West Indies, and it has asked us to discontinue the collection of those dues on its behalf.
The Opposition does not oppose the bill. There is, however, one point on which I seek elucidation from the Minister. Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the date on which Australia and 43 other nations signed the convention. The United Kingdom Government has now ratified the convention, but Australia has not yet done so. Can the Minister indicate when Australia will ratify the convention, and the reason for the delay in doing so? Australia is one of the ten principal trading countries of the world, and all our imports and exports travel by sea. We have the largest navigable coastline in the world, and we have valuable pelagic and sedentary fisheries. The best, and in many cases the only, way to secure our commercial fisheries and navigation rights is by international convention. There is no other country in the world which has so much need to promote international conventions in the maritime sphere. We should set a good example by promoting such conventions and by ratifying them promptly.
– in reply - I am glad to learn from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that the Opposition will not oppose this bill. I can appreciate his point concerning the necessity for Australia to ratify this particular convention. We are not unaware of the necessity to do so. The International Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone is one of the four conventions which followed the conference on the law of the sea in 1958. It involves many legal and administrative matters which are of interest to the Department of the Navy, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of Customs and Excise as well as to the Department of Shipping and Transport. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because of his knowledge of legal matters and the attention that he gives to navigation acts and conventions, will appreciate that these things do not move quickly despite the attention that is given to them. The views of the departments on the subject of ratification have been sought by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I have been in consultation with my colleague, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) and I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that action is being taken to ratify the convention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th April (vide page 1107), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
. Mr. Speaker, first I should like to register a protest on behalf of the Opposition at the manner in which this bill is being debated. I think I am entitled to register such a protest on this occasion because the bill was introduced into this House only at about this time last evening. The Government has taken some time to prepare the bill, but, because it has no other business to be dealt with, we are asked to debate this bill this evening. That is a most unfair request, particularly as this bill is an important one providing for an increase of 100,000,000 dollars and 133,000,000 dollars respectively in Australia’s contributions to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Involving such large amounts of money as it does, this bill is surely worthy of a little more consideration than we are able to give it at such short notice. I also indicate at this stage that the Opposition is opposed to the legislation for reasons that I will briefly outline during the course of my remarks.
This measure, which, as I have said, was introduced last night by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) relates to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. During his speech the Treasurer reminded us that about a year ago a measure was introduced into this House providing for Australia’s contributions to those two institutions to be increased. On that occasion our subscription to the International Monetary Fund rose from 200,000,000 dollars to 300,000,000 dollars and it is now proposed that we should further increase our subscription to 400,000,000 dollars. The bill which was formerly before the House provided for Australia’s contribution to the International Bank to be doubled from 200,000,000 to 400,000,000 dollars. The Treasurer indicated that those increases were part of a general move in which all fund and bank members were entitled to participate - a fact well known to honorable members. The purpose of the increases was to enlarge the resources of those two international institutions. The Opposition did not object to the former measure because it was in government when these two great institutions were established. They were established, particularly the bank, which is called a bank for reconstruction and development, in the hope that adequate aid could be provided to countries whose economies were disrupted during the war. It was hoped that these institutions would aid such countries more quickly to rehabilitate themselves. It was hoped that following the period of post-war reconstruction the bank could perhaps aid development in countries whose economic fortunes were not as good as those of some other parts of the world. I think that, basically, was the reason why a Labour government participated in these institutions. Therefore, we had no objection to participating in a move that was being followed by all countries that were members of the institutions - a move to enlarge the resources of the institutions generally and to enable them more adequately to play their roles. But the increased subscriptions provided for in the present measure are something that Australia sought separately and for the reasons given by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech, in which he said -
In January of this year the Government decided to apply for a further increase in Australia’s quota. It was obvious that such an increase, if it could be obtained, would represent a considerable strengthening of Australia’s external financial position, and would enable the Government to move with greater confidence towards the freeing of imports from quantitative restrictions. Also it was felt that the fund board could be expected to receive sympathetically an application by Australia for an increase because of the exceptionally wide swings to which the Australian balance of payments is subject.
That was the reason for the introduction of the measure that is now before us. It was not to aid development in countries whose economic development is lagging but to increase Australia’s capacity to borrow currencies other than her own. This is part of the pattern that is being followed by this Government. Instead of attending to the national housekeeping - instead of endeavouring to earn enough from our export industries to pay for the imports that we require - we have been living on a flow into this country of capital at the rate of £200,000,000 a year from other parts of the world. Ostensibly that capital has been channelled into Australian industry. I say ostensibly because when we examine the statistics on this subject it becomes increasingly obvious that a large part of the funds that are flowing into the Australian economy are what the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited describes in its quarterly survey for January, 1960, as unidentified private capital flow. In other words, it is impossible to pin-point the reason why a large part of this money is coming here. And I suggest that a large part of it is coming here purely on a speculative basis to do things which it is quite competent for this economy to do for itself. A large part of these funds is to-day finding its way into such unnecessary things - so far as foreign money is concerned - as real estate development in some of our large cities. It is accentuating that crazy kind of system which exists, at least in the great metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney, where a young married couple, if they wish to buy a block of land anywhere adjacent to where they work, have to pay never less than £1,000 and perhaps as much as £2,000 before they can place a stick of construction on the land or put a piece of furniture into their home. That sort of thing is being openly encouraged in both Sydney and Melbourne by daily advertisements in the press; and nobody knows where these so-called public benefactors obtain the funds which they use to open up these areas. By the time they have finally sold all the land that they bought initially they have lined their pockets very satisfactorily for themselves and have loaded a debt for life on the future families of Australia.
I repeat that an increasingly large part of this capital inflow into Australia is unidentified. The statistics published by the Government are nothing more than the difference between our imports and exports and the invisibles which can be found. They look at the London funds and if those have not fallen they call the difference capital inflow. There is no identification, and there is increasingly less identification as to where that money ultimately finds itself placed. There are at least two projects going on in the heart of Melbourne at the moment in the building of two luxury hotels which, if they are necessary, could have been built entirely from the resources of this country. But instead of properly looking after the nation’s economy this Government is seeking every possible channel it can find through which to borrow money from overseas, because once it has a credit from overseas that allows the Government to authorize more imports. And now, with the removal of import licensing, those concerned can import anything at all, whether or not it is already satisfactorily produced in this country and whether or not it is needed in a national sense so long as some person who calls himself an importer thinks he can foist it on to the Australian public and sell it.
The time has come when this sort of thing ought to be more strictly examined. There is no doubt that if we examined the Australian economy properly we could not to-day be importing into this country as much as we were until recently, with the existence of import controls, if it were not for this private capital inflow. I do not think anybody denies that, and it has even been stated authoritatively enough in one or two places in government publications. For the information of honorable members, I will quote something which I quoted the other evening. I refer to the last report of the Tariff Board, tabled in this House on 28th August, 1959, in which the chairman said -
Tt would not seem prudent to rely on capital inflow continuing to increase at a sufficient rate to permit further expansion of imports.
That, of course, was written before the import restrictions had been lifted, but that step was taken even in defiance of that warning. He continued -
Capital inflow and non-repatriation of funds invested in Australia cannot be taken for granted.
In other words, if a lot of this money is of the speculative kind and those concerned think that conditions to-morrow will not be as good as those when the money was brought into the country, it will simply go back again and we will be in a rather serious position. Perhaps that is what the Treasurer is looking to in bringing this measure before us. To indicate the speculative and unexpected nature of this sort of thing, the Tariff Board said that the increased inflow in 1958-59, for example, was unexpected. In other words, at the beginning of the year it had not been thought that it would have been of the order it ultimately was, because it was greater than was expected. And what did the Government do but lift the restrictions when the Tariff Board said itself - whether that was the original intention or not - that the effect was that a large part of Australian industry was being protected by reason of the import restrictions; and when restrictions were lifted - as they have been - existing Australian industry became vulnerable to assault from what the board in its report calls low cost countries, particularly Japan. That of course means, if the thing works out without any stay upon it at all, that large bodies of Australian workmen could find themselves without work, because the goods they produce could not compete on the markets with what can now be brought in as a result of the removal of import restrictions. Yet the Government is apparently going to continue this policy, because one of the reasons given by the Treasurer when he introduced this measure last night was that it would help, as it were, to get us over the initial difficulties; and he said we would be able to do away with import restrictions permanently.
Nobody likes restrictions which are not necessary; but when we have a situation such as we have in Australia, with what we call a dependent economy where imports that we are normally able to pay for depend upon our production and sale of a number of commodities, mainly in the primary producing field, it is subject to considerable fluctuations. As recently as 24th November of last year, Mr. John M. Burnett, at the fifty-sixth annual meeting at Industry House, Canberra, of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, speaking as president said -
Nevertheless last year’s current account showed a deficit of £187,000,000, and it was only a heavy increase in capital inflow which prevented a serious deterioration in the level of our overseas reserves.
He continued -
We must avoid at all costs an off-again on-again atmosphere in our import licensing administration. Because of its widespread effect on the business community import licensing should be characterized by prudence and orderly consistency.
Like the Tariff Board, apparently, as late as November of last year, he had no idea that the whole structure of import licensing was to be abandoned. He was referring to the experience which we had before when the controls were taken off to a degree and about twelve months later they had to be re-imposed - the off-again on-again theory. There is a distinct possibility of that sort of thing happening again, because we must face the reality that the deficit, the difference between imports and what are called invisibles and the amount we earn by exports, leaves a gap of about £200,000,000 a year. That is the economic reality, and surely it is a fool’s paradise where we bridge the annual income deficiency by a capital fund. On accountancy grounds .alone, it is a crazy way of approaching the situation because, as I have pointed out, this deficit is increasingly being made up not by items that we can identify, or by motor firms, petrol firms or engineering firms that we know have brought in money, but more and more of it is of this kind which the bank typifies as unidentified private capital movements. In the year 1959, of the net annual dollar investment in Australia, amounting to £65,600,000 Australian, £29,000,000, or nearly half, was of this unidentified kind. Nobody knows where that investment is going. Many transactions which at the moment are masquerading as local transactions may in fact be cover-up transactions for take-overs by foreign undertakings.
I suggest again that that is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. To-day, even with companies that invest here from Great Britain, there is no certainty that they are British companies. Quite often we find that they are American companies. Recently, in my electorate I happened to pass, while travelling in a tram, an industrial undertaking called Australian Timken, an engineering auxiliary of some sort. I read in the “Economist” of Great Britain only a month or two ago that a firm called British Timken, which existed in Great Britain, had been bought by a firm called American Timken. That raises the rather interesting speculation whether Australian Timken, if it is, as I suspect it might be, an affiliate of British Timken, is now an American-owned undertaking. That is the kind of thing that is going on in our economy because we have no means at our disposal of ascertaining whether such things are occurring.
As a result of recent tax laws passed by this Parliament, we have a situation in which there is an economic inducement, or an advantage, for a British taxpayer, provided his income is big enough, to buy shares in well-established Australian companies. During the last session of the Parliament I cited several companies, such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited and G. J. Coles Limited, as examples of wellestablished undertakings in which an investor in Great Britain, taking into account his taxation position in his own country, would benefit by buying shares, even if he had to pay prices higher than the current market prices. Of course, that kind of thing tends to force up the prices of shares in Australia. Such transactions are entered into because of a tax law passed by our own Parliament.
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the time has come when there ought to be a serious examination of this situation. That is the reason why we on this side suggest that this particular measure ought to be opposed. It is not seeking to do what we hoped might have been done. I thought, when reference was made to the introduction of an International Bank Bill, that we were going to have a bill to provide for the establishment of the institution to which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) referred rather glowingly in a speech that he delivered in this House on 10th November, 1959, on the subject of international finance, trade and development. In the course of that speech the right honorable gentleman mentioned a new international bank that was in the process of being established, to be known as the International Development Agency, now widely referred to by the initials I.D.A. The Treasurer said that the purpose of the I.D.A. would be to promote, by financing sound projects of high priority, the economic development of less-developed member countries. Such an association might be a worthy object of Australian assistance, but it is not the purpose of the bill before us to provide assistance of that kind. It seeks merely to increase the ability of Australia to borrow, although there is already too much unidentified borrowing going on. In our view, that is something that ought not to be countenanced.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ unidentified borrowing “?
– I mean the kind of thing that is going on, whereby people in Great Britain or the United States simply make payments of money which find their way into Australian hands, the transaction being ostensibly a local one, although in fact the local man is only a go-between for some unidentified foreigner who really owns the transaction. I suggest that that is what is meant in the reference in the bank analysis to which I have referred, where the words “ private capital not yet identified “ are used. For the life of me, I cannot see why, in a country like Australia, where such things could be controlled by the central banking machinery or by the Reserve Bank, every item of foreign capital cannot be identified when it enters the country. Yet, each year, in connexion with transactions that affect Australia’s overall balance of payments position, there is an unidentified capital inflow. Apparently, nobody knows where the money has come from and to what purpose it is being put.
The position in regard to exports and imports is different. In that case there is an exchange of goods at the international barriers, but that is not so in the case of capital inflow. Not only the Federal Treasurer, but also various State Premiers have gone to New York and other places and have asked industrialists in those places to establish industries in Australia. In those circumstances, at least you know what is being done. But there is an increasingly large volume of capital investment about which we know nothing whatever. One can almost envisage waking up one morning and finding that the country has been bought out or taken over by gentlemen whom we did not even know had any great hold on Australia at all. A large part of the transactions that go on in the circles known as “ high finance “ is mysterious enough at any time-
– This bill has nothing to do with that.
– It has something to do with it, in the last analysis. I am trying to indicate that the only concern of the Government appears to be to ensure that at the end of a given period the London funds should be much the same as they were at the beginning, despite the fact that, on a physical basis, we are roughly £200,000,000 down every year. The London funds at the end of the year could stand at the level attained by them at the beginning of the year only if there had been the capital inflow to which I have referred. The time has come to call a halt to some of this capital inflow, but the avowed purpose of this bill is, on the contrary, to increase our capacity to absorb such capital.
– But all these loans are identified.
– They are not identified. If the honorable member has a look at the statistics he will see that it is becoming increasingly more obvious that large amounts are coming in here and are being used by Australian operators who are not the real owners of the funds. I suggest that that kind of thing is particularly relevant to this measure, because the measure is a part of the Government’s overall national housekeeping. Instead of looking at the weak point, the Government is camouflaging it by further borrowing.
I wish to refer to something which I think ought to cause some concern in this community. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has suggested frequently that Australia is all the time encouraging the export of manufactured goods. I wish to invite the attention of the House to a serious and weighty document entitled “ Economic Monograph No. 16 “ issued by the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand, Victorian Branch, in October, 1959, and particularly to a survey made by Mr. G. R. Webb entitled “A Statistical Estimate of Manufactured Exports - Postwar “. He points out something which 1 suggest is very serious. When you subject our export trade figures to a little correction by reason of the fall in the value of money, you find that there has actually been a decline in Australia’s secondary industry exports. The figures given do not go beyond June, 1957, but they show that at the end of the ten-year period ending then, there was a greater reliance than ever before on primary production as the source of Australia’s exports.
I suggest that that is a serious matter which should be examined by the Government. Basically, what we are able to import, in a balanced sense, depends on the fortuitous situation in the primary industries. In primary production, there can be fluctuations due to drought or flood and, above all, because of prices, yet there does not seem to have been any serious attempt by this Government to obtain any stability in the pricing policies as applied to our major export industries, which, I repeat, are the primary industries.
Mr. Webb’s analysis shows that total exports in 1946-47 were valued at £304,000,000 and that in 1956-57 they were valued at £447,000,000. I remind honorable members that these figures have been corrected to make them accord with 1946-47 prices. In 1946-47, exports of secondary products were valued at £73,000,000, the total value of exports being £304,000,000. In 1956-57, although total exports had risen to £447,000,000, the value of secondary products exported had fallen from £73,000,000 to £58,000,000. That seems to me to indicate that some of the claims made in purely monetary terms by this Government about improvements in trade will be found to be largely misleading when subjected to analysis.
I suggest that these things should be examined by this Government. Many of the serious problems which are apparent in the economy must continue to exist because of the very nature of our economic framework; but instead of getting down to fundamentals and facing up to these serious problems, this Government is chasing, year after year, to Switzerland, Canada, Germany and America to get 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 dollars. Members of the Government feel that they have been very successful when they convert loans in London that were issued at 3 per cent, to loans at a rate nearer to 7 per cent. That is considered to be prudent housekeeping by this Government. The last London conversion loan was a 3 per cent, loan, and I think the effective interest rate after conversion is nearly 7 per cent.
– You will make a good Treasurer.
– I suggest that the Treasurer check these figures himself. Apparently he takes great unction to himself because this loan was filled in a matter of minutes. No wonder it was converted in a matter of minutes if the investors could get 7 per cent on a government loan! I suggest that this is very poor housekeeping. Of course, it means an increase in the interest charge every year.
– They are unanimously agreed to by the six State governments.
– With the economic gun in your hand pointed right at their heads, they have no choice.
– Who loaded the gun?
– You loaded it. The Treasurer does not know how to share out properly what he takes from the States. I am not here to argue th? virtues of uniform taxation. I suggest it is a sensible system, but it is not being sensibly administered by this Government and, unfortunately, the States are glad to take anything they can get. They have very little say in the terms of loans.
– Do you think the States should get more?
– I think they should get very much more than they are getting. I can think of schools, hospitals and plenty of other things on which any State treasurer would be glad to spend more money. The Treasurer is a little touchy to-night.
I protest again at the haste with which this measure is being put through the Parliament. It was brought before the House last night and we are asked to debate it to-night. The Labour Party opposes the three measures for the reasons I have indicated. These bills represent an ac! of expediency on the part of the Government, which is not facing up to our real economic problems. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the measure at the appropriate time.
.- Perhaps I can bring the House back to what this bill is really about, instead of wandering through the economy and touching on uniform taxation and various other matters. The proposal ii to increase Australia’s International Monetary Fund quota from 300,000,000 to 400,000,000 dollars. There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the mind of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) as to the potential borrowing in this connexion. Borrowing from the International Monetary Fund is purely to meet fluctuations in our balance of payments position - fluctuations in the ratio of earnings to payments from year to year. The longest period of a loan is from three to” five years.
Also involved in the increase of the quota from 300,000,000 to 400,000,000 dollars - this has not yet come out in this debate - is the question of Australia’s representation on the board and consequently its influence in the counsels of the International Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Perhaps I may jog the memory of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports about a predecessor of his on financial matters in the Australian Labour Party - a former Treasurer, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley. There were two things in which Mr. Chifley was interested in connexion with the International Monetary Fund. One was borrowing from the fund to meet temporary balance of payments difficulties. At a critical time, he was instrumental in borrowing 20,000,000 dollars. He was also interested in obtaining a seat on the board of the fund for Australia, and in keeping it, to ensure that Australia’s voice was heard in the financial counsels of the world. What is really involved in this bill is not a general borrowing programme or a perambulation through the economy, but the ability to borrow for short terms during a crisis in our balance of payments situation. Secondly, there is involved our capacity to elect, in conjunction with our partners, a director to the board of these two institutions. It is very doubtful whether £300,000,000, in conjunction with the quotas of our two partners in the International Monetary Fund - South Africa and Viet Nam - continue to be enough in future to secure the election of an Australian director. These are the two main issues - ability to obtain accommodation in the event of a balance of payments crisis, and the maintenance of our representation.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed again and again to the danger of private capital inflow being cut off. I can imagine circumstances in which, under a Labour government, capital inflow might well be cut off. That is the very moment at which we would be in most need of this kind of borrowing capacity. So, far from reducing our need to have this potential up our sleeve, private borrowing increases the need for it. Therefore, the danger that could arise through a cessation of private borrowing is being partly eliminated by this measure. It is important to recognize that this increase in the quota of £100,000,000 is a big increase, and that it would not be, by any means, granted automatically by the International Monetary Fund. Every increase in quota involves an increase in voting strength and increases in voting strength are jealously watched by all the countries represented. It is a considerable tribute to our negotiators on the spot that they were able to obtain this large increase for Australia.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports protested about the shortness of notice of this measure but at least it can be said that there was a press notice which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) undoubtedly saw. The issues involved are at their finger tips. They do not need a week to study the situation, and if their companions in the Labour Party had a month to study it, they would still be no wiser. It should be pointed out, in relation to the statements that are continually made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports about capital inflow, that a large part of it is “ errors and omissions “. He complains that the details are not available. If he can produce some scheme by which our statisticians and officials can easily follow all these transactions and eliminate “ errors and omissions” from our balance of payments statistics he will be performing a considerable service. But no one yet, in this field, has been able to discover ways and means of doing this without tying up almost every transaction which has occurred.
The honorable member went on to deal with this matter of capital inflow. It is noteworthy that within the ranks of the Labour Party in New South Wales there are responsible authorities, including the Lord Mayor of Sydney, who make special trips overseas and do their utmost to increase the capital inflow into this country by inducing overseas industries to establish undertakings in that State. That is the practical, direct way of increasing Australian development. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to low cost countries. That is a far call from this measure, but it is noteworthy that employment in Australia is much higher now than it was when the Japanese trade agreement was signed, and that our exports to Japan, which provide employment for some of the best Australians, have continued to increase.
The honorable member referred to the Timken deals. It is true that the organization is international. But every highly industrialized country has many interests that are owned by other countries. A large part of the insurance business of the United States is owned in the United Kingdom. But that hardly puts the United States in pawn to the United Kingdom. There is throughout Europe, in England and Germany, as well as in the United States, a great interchange of international investment. A factory is established and ownership is spread among the nationals of many countries. Any country which cuts itself off from this essential international process of specialization, such as the establishment of Timken factories, to produce specialized goods will suffer a very considerable lowering of its standard of living. To subject this whole complex process to a very narrow and petty nationalism would take Australia back 25 years.
Again, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports attacked our borrowing programme - a tar cry indeed from this particular measure which deals with the increases in the International Monetary Fund quota, but an attack which, once again, calls for an answer. Apart altogether from increasing the pace and scope of Australian development, the present volume of imports means that the current level of income and the standard of living enjoyed, not just by capital in this country but by the workers in industry, would be very much lower. If you cut down imports by £200,000,000 a year and cut off the capital inflow, not only development but the standard of living enjoyed by the workers of this country would fall.
– It depends on the imports that you restrict.
– I know that the honorable member for Scullin would like to restrict many imports. Somebody might be able to do without them but imports of capital goods make up our great capital investment in industry and imports of consumption goods consist mainly of items which we probably do not produce ourselves. If we did produce them, we would not be able to produce other things because our resources are fully employed now. Any imports that were cut out could only be replaced locally at the cost of resources which are now much more profitably employed.
However, there are one or two things which should be noted in connexion with the advantage of being able to draw, at will, large sums from the International Monetary Fund. If we did have a balance of payments crisis, the fact that we could, at a pinch, to tide us over a short-term difficulty, borrow up to nearly £200,000,000 is a very great safeguard for future employment and for the stability of the Australian economy. If the capital inflow were cut off to-morrow for any reason, we would immediately face a tremendous employment crisis and economic dislocation which, if we had no source upon which to draw, would be very serious.
Of course, by borrowing abroad, we run risks. Nobody would deny that. The fact that the capital inflow is so high and that it might be cut off is a big risk to run, but it is being run in the cause of general expansion and the rapid development of Australia. For that reason it is basically worth while. To cover that risk the best thing that we can do is to insure against any adverse trend. That is precisely what this measure does. It directly increases our borrowing power.
The lending operations of the International Monetary Fund, in those circumstances, are of considerable significance. Since its inception a relatively short time ago, the fund has poured 3.4 billion dollars into circulation internationally to sustain the flow of trade. Some of our trading partners with whose economic welfare ours is very closely bound up have been amongst the heaviest borrowers. The United Kingdom has borrowed in times of difficulty 861,000,000 dollars. Let us face the fact that if she had not borrowed that sum at the times she did our capacity to trade, particularly with the dollar area, would have been very seriously diminished and our industries, which rely on supplies from North America, would have been very adversely affected. India has borrowed 300,000,000 dollars. That is another important country in the sterling area which enjoys the same basic international financial arrangements that we do. We ourselves have in the past borrowed and repaid 50,000,000 dollars, and those dollars, including the 20,000,000 borrowed in the time when Mr. Chifley was Treasurer, did in fact play a vital part in sustaining the imports necessary to keep our economy going. lt is unfortunate that these facts are not sufficiently well known to members of this House. That they are not well known to them is quite apparent. One of the publications of the International Monetary Fund is a mine of information on everything to do with international statistics in the trade and financial spheres. It contains a section on Australia which gives a far better set of statistics for easy reference, a far better statistical cross-section, than you could find in almost any Australian publication. Nevertheless, whenever one goes to the library to look for this publication, one finds that it is at the Administration Building and has to be brought over. This shows that some of the valuable work of the International Monetary Fund, outside the direct financial sphere, is not appreciated.
In the fund and in the bank there is a great body of knowledge and understanding of the economies of the world. In the two institutions you would find at least ten people who have not seen Australia but who have a deep knowledge of economic life in this country and of what goes on here, together with an understanding of and sympathy for our problems which are not often found even in our own country. It is to be hoped that the Government will take whatever measures are available to it to increase the understanding of the operations of these institutions, because it is hardly credible that a forward step such as is contemplated in this legislation, giving us the power to borrow on a short-term basis in a time of international crisis, should be opposed by the Opposition, if in fact the issues are widely understood.
Coupled with this question, although perhaps a minor matter in this context, is the increase in our quota of contributions to the International Bank, which in the past has been of considerable service to us. The Opposition’s attitude would be understandable if it opposed long-term borrowing from the International Bank. After all, if the Opposition’s policy is to be content with Australian development proceeding at a rather slow pace, while not laying up debts for the future, then it is understandable. But to oppose a measure which would give us the capacity to raise money quickly in conditions of international crisis would seem almost madness. It is difficult to understand why the Opposition should oppose this measure, when a previous Labour government found similar powers extremely useful in times of crisis.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned the International Development Association, known as the IDA.
This is an organization through which Australia will contribute its share of largesse in the interests of world development. The clear reason why this association is separate from the International Bank - and this is a question I heard raised at one stage by a member of the Opposition - is that the bank is a straight-out commercial borrowing institution, while the IDA is - let us face it - much more of a charitable body, in the sense that it gives aid in the form of grants. Its purpose is to cope with the kind of situation for which the bank is not equipped.
Let me repeat, finally, that this matter of increasing our contribution to the fund and the bank is separate altogether from the question of borrowing abroad. This legislation does not involve borrowing abroad for long-term development. Whatever view one may take of that kind of exercise, what this measure does is to provide Australia with a means of raising more ready cash in times of crisis. For that reason the bill should be supported, and to oppose such a potential benefit for this country can only be sheer madness.
.- The Opposition opposes this bill. Before dealing with the reasons for doing so, and particularly some reasons not already mentioned, I would like to refer to a couple of points raised by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), arising out of the speech made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said it would be very desirable to have more information about the nature and extent of moneys borrowed by Australia from overseas, and the honorable member for Wentworth asked how we would get such information. There was a time when we did not know what our overseas funds amounted to, and the private trading banks provided very strong resistance to the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank when they were asked to give this information. But pressure was brought to bear to find out what overseas funds Australia possessed, and finally we were able to obtain reasonably approximate figures. All the money that is borrowed comes through one or another bank, and it is possible to find out from those banks how much money is involved and where it comes from.
If the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) would use some of his powers under the Banking Act to obtain this and other information, the statistics could be made very much more adequate, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggests they should be. But of course we cannot expect the Treasurer, who is a servant of business in this House, to use those powers to embarrass his friends, the trading banks, just as we could not expect the Commonwealth governments that were in office when we had no knowledge of the extent of our overseas funds to embarrass their friends, the trading banks, at that time. It was not until we had a Labour government in office in 1942 that we were able to get accurate figures. That is the answer to the honorable member for Wentworth. The information is obtainable from the trading banks and the Commonwealth Bank if the Treasurer wishes to exercise his powers to obtain it.
The honorable member for Wentworth said also that when we criticize overseas borrowing we must remember that a number of Labour Premiers, and also the Lord Mayor of Sydney, have gone overseas to try to obtain funds. We all know, of course, that Labour premiers, and, in the case of Sydney, a Labour lord mayor, have gone overseas for this purpose. They have had no alternative. In a situation in which the Commonwealth Liberal Government is in control of the Australian Loan Council and has the power to levy taxes, the Labour premiers and lord mayors are forced to go begging overseas if they wish to obtain adequate funds for the essential services they have to provide. They are placed in this position because of the refusal of this Government to accept its responsibilities in the matter of taxation.
It has always been the policy of the Labour Party to keep borrowing overseas - and at home, for that matter - to a minimum, because if a government borrows it then has to do two things. It has to pay interest on the money borrowed, and it has to face the problems that arise from borrowing when .a crisis occurs. The experience of this party has been that the greatest difficulties experienced by this country arise from precisely this kind of situation. For these reasons we intend to keep borrowing to a minimum and to make adequate use of the powers of taxation.
It has been raised in this bill and I should like to refer the House to the enormous capacity for increased taxation proceeds in this economy. In 1951-52, 11 per cent, of the gross national product was obtained in income tax on individual incomes, but to-day only 7.2 per cent, is obtained through that channel. The return from individual taxation has fallen by practically 4 per cent, in that time. When we take other taxes into account, such as company tax and indirect taxes, these too have fallen, in the aggregate. In 1951-52, 26.6 per cent, of the gross national product came in in the form of tax proceeds whereas in 1958-59 only 22.2 came in in that way. The point is that as the Government increases tax proceeds it takes more money from the well-to-do people. This Government will not face up to that action. It is not prepared to take more money from the well-to-do people so it goes all over the world in an attempt to borrow money to plug the deficiencies in its Budget and in the balance of payments.
Of course, this borrowing process is not leading to the spending of more money on essential services, and as a consequence Premiers and lord mayors have to go overseas because their field of expenditure is suffering. I will refer the House to evidence of that. The amount of the gross national product spent on public works by States and local government authorities in 1951-52 was 10.2 per cent, and in 1958-59 it was 8.4 per cent. Essential services in these fields have remained stable at a low level or the level has fallen. When the Government relies upon borrowing it is not directing funds into fields where the Premiers and lord mayors, if they are concerned about their responsibilities, have to find money. That is the answer to the point raised by the honorable member for Wentworth.
The honorable member said also that if the suggestions of the Labour Party were adopted with relation to the International Fund for Reconstruction and Development and the International Bank we would be cutting ourselves off from this most valuable international process. There are two things which we say in answer to that proposition. The first is that this valuable international process was not designed to allow this Government to live vastly beyond its means.
It was designed for the purpose of assisting backward and undeveloped countries where poverty, distress and starvation if not remedied are likely to lead to disturbances, riots and war. This valuable international process, as the honorable member for Wentworth rightly calls it, has been misused. It has been used by the present Commonwealth Government, living vastly beyond its means, to allow a flood of unessential imports to come into the country which is, itself, starved of funds for essential expenditure. We do not say that we are cutting ourselves off from this process, but we say that it has been very much misused in recent times.
This bill increases the contribution made by Australia to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank. Australia contributes to both those funds and as a result is able to draw amounts, which are related to its contribution, from the fund in certain circumstances and can also borrow from the bank with the approval of the bank. The quota at the present time for Australia is 300,000,000 dollars to the fund and 400,000,000 dollars to the bank. This bill provides for an increase in those amounts to 400,000,000 dollars for the fund and 533,000,000 dollars for the bank. This is not the only increase in the respective quotas that has taken place in recent times. Only last year the quota was increased from 200,000,000 dollars to 300,000,000 dollars in the case of the fund, and from 200,000,000 dollars to 400,000,000 dollars in the case of the bank. In other words, in the space of less than a year this Government has seen fit to raise its quota to the fund from 200,000,000 dollars to 400,000,000 dollars - twice the amount - and to the bank from 200,000,000 dollars to 533,000,000 dollars.
It seems to me that this action is being taken in preparation for some kind of emergency. The Government is taking special steps to prepare for something; and I shall return to that point in a few minutes. But it would be a mistake to think that this quota is provided in hard cash or something of that kind. The present increase of 100,000,000 dollars in the quota to the fund will be paid only to the extent of 25,000,000 dollars or about £11,000,000 in gold or dollars and the rest of it will simply be a note or security to the extent of 75,000,000 dollars and an uncalled liability. In the case of the contribution to the bank of 133,000,000 dollars, only £600,000 of that amount will be gold or dollars and there will be a note or security to the extent of £5,000,000 and the balance will be uncalled. Hence, as a result of this manoeuvre, Australia puts in about £12,000,000 or 26,500,000 dollars in gold and dollars and the balance of £92,000,000, or 196,000,000 dollars, is a debt or uncalled liability.
So this bill, as well as increasing Australia’s capacity to draw from the fund, increases our debt or uncalled liability to the fund and to the bank. Australia’s increase in capacity to draw is enlarged by £211,000,000, or 403,000,000 dollars, and it might look like a profitable transaction to acquire, in an emergency, an increased capacity to draw to the extent of £211,000,000 for the payment in gold and dollars of £12,000,000 immediately.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his speech said -
The increase in Australia’s fund quota represents a sizeable addition to the country’s total international reserves. The amount of assistance a member country can obtain from the fund is directly related to the size of its fund quota. Under the fund articles of agreement, a member may apply to the fund for drawings of foreign currencies up to an amount equal to its fund quota plus that part of its subscription to the fund which it has paid in gold. The special increase in Australia’s quota to 400,000,000 dollars will increase Australia’s potential drawing rights on the fund to 473,000,000 dollars or £211,000,000.
Australia’s own holdings of gold and foreign exchange, which represent our first line of international reserves, stood at £547,000,000 at the end of December. With potential drawing rights in the fund of over £200,000,000, the total of our first and second line reserves will amount to some £750,000,000. We are therefore placed in a strong position to meet future fluctuations in our balance of payments.
What is the reason for the Government building up this very strong reserve? It already has £547,000,000 in overseas funds, our first line of reserve; and it is choosing, by this bill, to add £211,000,000 to our capacity to withdraw. The purpose of this fund, as the honorable member for Wentworth said, is to allow the country to withdraw from the fund if it is in difficulties about its balance of payments.
The first thing I recognize is that there is no difficulty about balance of payments to-day. Our first line of reserve, the Government says, was £547,000,000 in December, 1959, and although there has been a very substantial deficit in the current account - £177,000,000 in 1957-58 and £187,000,000 to-day - we have been getting finance overseas and have kept level by borrowing. This is where the observation made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports becomes relevant. The position is that we do not need this capacity to draw funds because of our current situation. But our current situation depends upon money that we are borrowing privately and publicly overseas. Possibly the Government is increasing this capacity to draw because of its recent lifting of import controls. Imports have been falling in recent years. Whereas they amounted to £847,000,000 in 1945-55, they fell to only £793,000,000 last year. During recent months, however, they have shown an increase of between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 a month. Nobody seems to know or even be able to guess what the increase in imports will be as the result of the removal of controls from more than half of the goods which have been controlled hitherto. It may well be that this Government is preparing to put itself in a position to be able to draw more from the International Monetary Fund1 in case it should find itself in difficulties due to the adverse effect of the lifting of import controls.
There does not seem to be any real need at the present time for a bill to make provision for an alteration in our quota from either the fund or the bank. That is why the Opposition opposes the bill. What need is there for it? Why add to the reserve now when there is no apparent need1 to do so, especially in view of the fact that we added a very substantial amount last year? If there is any need for it - and there may well be one - it lies in the fact that we have kept our overseas accounts financial by borrowing overseas. I have pointed out already that this practice has created an uncalled liability or debt of £92,000,000, and1 our uncalled liability or debt to the fund must be in the vicinity of £376,000,000. If there is a need for this bill, we say that need should be made apparent to us now. Why choose 1960 to add substantially to our capacity to draw, especially when we added a substantial amount to it last year?
I turn now to our quota from the International Bank. The criticism I have offered in connexion with the fund may be offered even more strongly in connexion with the bank. According to the official publication issued in connexion with it, the International Bank was set up for a particular purpose. I quote the following passage from page 4 of “ The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development “ prepared by the staff of that bank: -
The participants at Bretton Woods realized that, at the conclusion of hostilities, there would be a pressing need for international capital to finance both the reconstruction of productive facilities destroyed by the war and an increase in productivity and living standards in the underdeveloped areas of the world.
As to technical assistance, this publication tells us that as a result of the experience it had accumulated in the development field the bank has been increasingly called upon to supplement its investment activities by providing advisory services of various kinds to its less developed member countries. When we examine the record of the bank, we find that it has not commenced to assist the under-developed countries in the way set out in its original charter. Here I refer to a reprint from the “ New York Times “ of 14th February, 1960, which says -
Most people would find it hard to believe, however, that the main source of the World Bank’s loan money to-day is not the United States but foreign nations.
The international lending institution is now a fully developed two-way money mechanism, one that is sucking in capital from all over the world in one breath and diffusing capital all over the world in the next. Oddly enough, the Bank’s biggest single creditor is the post-war central bank of the West German Republic: - the Deutsche Bundesbank.
Australia has borrowed 318,000,000 dollars from the International Bank, and our present debt is of the order of 250,000,000 dollars. As was indicated by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) this is not current borrowing; not emergency borrowing; it is relatively long-term borrowing.
The point that emerges from all this is that foreign countries, not the United States, are contributing substantially to the capital of the International Bank, and not the under-developed countries but the developed countries like Western Germany and Australia are receiving the lion’s share. We say that this was never the intended purpose of the International Bank. We oppose this bill as an indication of our disapproval of the way in which the International Bank has been used.
There is one other point in connexion with the International Bank which I think has considerable significance. It is that Australia is in the position of owing the International Bank 250,000,000 dollars, and this loan will probably be increased. Honorable members will recall the opposition from this side, from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in particular, when these matters were being considered recently.
Speakers on the Government side have sought to justify the measure by stating that we need a reserve upon which to draw in case of a crisis, in case of need. What type of authority do we find this International Bank to be? On page 43 of the publication to which I have just referred we find this -
Complicating judgment in every case is the fact that credit-worthiness is not determined by economic forces alone; within fairly wide limits, it is determined, too, by the intangible factor of the country’s traditional attitude towards its foreign debts. A country which shows a willingness to maintain debt service at the expense, if necessary, of short-term domestic interests is plainly a better credit risk than a country, even with a potentially somewhat stronger economy, which does not treat its foreign obligations with equal seriousness and which may therefore be unwilling, in times of stringency, to make sacrifices in consumption standards to maintain debt service.
The International Bank is founded upon the principle that in case of difficulty a country is expected to make sacrifices in its consumption standards, its level of employment and its level of output in order to meet overseas obligations. That is the kind of body with which we are doing business and I think we should realize that fact. In 1930, Australia was in precisely that situation. She had to consider her level of consumption at home, her level of employment and her level of output as against her international obligations. She was told by the associated banks, and by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank - the Commonwealth Bank then was really one of the associated banks - that Australia had to pay her overseas obligations first. I repeat that that is the kind of bank with which we are doing business. And we are building up our overseas obligations rapidly! The Opposition considers it has a duty to warn the people of Australia of exactly what is involved.
All this becomes relevant because this bill is justified as a device for providing a reserve to meet an emergency. That is the kind of emergency that we are likely to face, and that is the kind of principle that we are likely to come up against if we are faced with an emergency. I suggest that the Government is wrong in turning to overseas borrowing of the kind visualized by this bill because it is, in effect, living carelessly and beyond its means. It is borrowing funds overseas without taking any reasonable precautions or action to see that those borrowings are used for special purposes. These borrowed funds may be used to buy capital machinery and equipment which is not available elsewhere. They may be used for the importation of consumption goods which make no contribution whatever to the development of the economy. The removal of import controls by the Government makes it even less likely that overseas funds will be used for purposes of development in this country. In some cases, it is quite obvious that there is no need whatever to borrow funds for development in Australia. It is quite evident that there was no need to go to the International Bank and attempt to borrow funds for the Mount Isa railway project. Incidentally, that application was turned down by the International Bank. We say that we do not propose to facilitate borrowing overseas by this Government in the way it is doing. We do not propose to help the Government to provide emergency measures such as those proposed by this bill for the purpose of meeting a crisis which this Government has done so much to create. We say that it is not sufficient simply to approve a bill which provides emergency measures of this kind unless we direct attention particularly to what the Government is doing. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out that the Government was really concerned to bridge the gap in its balance of payments and in its Budget. Rather than adopt the necessary sound economic measures within Australia to bridge the gap, it follows the easy course of borrowing overseas.
– What would you do?
– If the honorable member for Barker had been in the House a little while ago, he would have had the satisfaction of hearing me say what I would do. I am not going to repeat my remarks for him. The honorable member can look at my speech in “ Hansard “ when he receives his copy of it.
The ability of the Government to bridge the gap by foreign borrowing is diminishing. As the relevance of this matter to the bill has been clearly demonstrated, I shall inform the House of what is happening to this ability to bridge the gap in the balance of payments by overseas borrowing. This bridging is achieved through the difference between the inflow of capital and the outflow of funds to service the capital. The amount that is credited to the balance of payments is not the amount that flows in but the difference between the amount that flows in and the amount that flows out. I shall give the House the figures relating to what has come in and what has gone out in recent years. Between 1950-51 and 1957-58 inclusive, £431,000,000 of funds flowed into Australia and £236,000,000 flowed out in servicing the loans that had been obtained up to that time. The difference or the gain between 1950-51 and 1957-58 was £195,000,000. The Government, therefore, says, “What a wonderful thing this is! Because of our successful efforts in borrowing almost everywhere overseas in these eight years, we have gained £195,000,000, and this, together with drawing on our accumulated funds, has kept us solvent.” That situation does not look right, even superficially, because any government that keeps itself solvent by borrowing is in an unsound position.
But a further weakness is involved in this: If we look at the difference between the inflow and the outflow for each of these eight years, we will find a most disturbing situation. In 1950-51, £46,000,000 came in and £16,200,000 went out, a gain of £29,800,000. In 1951-52, £62,300,000 came in and £16,100,000 went out, a gain of £46,200,000. In 1952-53, £7,500,000 came in and £22,600,000 went out, a loss of £15,100,000. In 1953-54, £38,800,000 came in and £32,400,000 went out, a gain of £6,400,000. In 1954-55, £72,700,000 came in and £35,500,000 went out, a gain of £37,200,000. In 1955-56, £77,800,000 came in and £34,100,000 went out, a gain of £43,700,000. Then the fall begins. In 1956-57, £56,000,000 came in and £36,200,000 went out, a gain of £19,800,000. In 1957-58, £59,400,000 came in and £44,000,000 went out, a gain of £15,400,000. The outstanding feature of the transactions for the last three years is a fall from £43,700,000 to a net gain of £15,400,000. The largest gain for a year was in 1951-52, when the difference was £46,200,000.
What is apparent is that the Government is living, in its balance of payments and in its budgets, upon money borrowed overseas, and its capacity to gain money in this way has shown a striking decline in the past three years. We can see then why the Government is concerned to increase its reserves; it needs these reserves so that it can draw upon them in an emergency. We consider that it is our responsibility to inform the Australian people of the situation, and we do so by opposing bills of this kind which, unnecessarily in the circumstances, provide an increased opportunity to draw on overseas funds. The Government is willing to use these funds carelessly rather than to take the necessary economic measures to provide a healthy economy within Australia. For those reasons, 1 believe that we should oppose the bill.
.- It is obvious from the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) that he would prefer to use the old methods favoured by Labour when it was in office to raise money for the development of Australia. He would see us go back to the days of capital issue control when people were compelled to place their money into one receptacle. Money was so channelled that development was stifled and the ordinary citizen who had private capital to invest was prevented from doing so in this country. I am not so much concerned about that aspect of his speech, but I want to comment on other remarks that he made.
The honorable member obviously was somewhat mixed about the difference between the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank. I think he drew a rather horrible inference when he cited the charter of the bank and suggested that if Australia wanted to avail itself of the opportunity to borrow from the fund in a crisis, it must be prepared to reduce its rate of consumption and the amenities that have been gained by the community over the years. He hinted in this way that we could revert to the days of the 1930’s. Nobody in this House knows better than does the honorable member for Yarra that the bulk of the borrowing so far made by this Government from the International Bank has been used so that the States could go on with their normal development programmes. So, on the one hand this shrewd gentleman condemns the Government for obtaining funds overseas so that the States could continue with their development, and on the other hand says that the Government should find more money for the States to do their work. We have had him at this sort of thing time and time again. But I think the most dangerous inference to be drawn from his comments to-night arises from his remarks about the International Bank. He referred to the Government as a spendthrift government; yet it was able to go to the bank and obtain vast sums of money over the years since 1950.
– He said it was living beyond its means.
– The honorable gentleman knows, as does the honorable member who is interjecting, that before the International Bank will grant any loans to any country, it makes certain that the funds will be spent properly, that the country has a potential, that it will increase the development of its resources and that its government is stable so that when the times comes it will be able to repay the loan, because the money is borrowed from other countries.
– It is taking a great risk here, then.
– It would be if the Opposition ever regained the treasury bench, but fortunately we have seen your contention disproved ever since 1950, because on not one occasion has an application for funds by this Government been rejected by the International Bank.
The honorable member for Yarra made great play on the reason for increasing the quota to both the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank. But bless my heart and soul, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the whole picture is presented here. The honorable member very conveniently skated over this. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his second-reading speech - . . such an increase, if it could be obtained, would represent a considerable strengthening of Australia’s external financial position and would enable the Government to move with greater confidence towards the freeing of imports from quantitative restrictions.
Only a few weeks ago, members of the Opposition were attacking the Government on the question of inflation. If we are to develop and move ahead at all, we must have a measure of inflation. The Government, in a move to hold inflation where it is, has lifted restrictions on imports so as to ensure a greater availability of goods for the consuming public. Now, the honorable member for Yarra, after the Treasurer himself has made quite plain the reason for increasing our International Monetary Fund quota, says that the Opposition wants to know the idea behind the move, insinuating that there is some sinister motive in the mind of the Government in increasing the quota. The Treasurer went on in the next sentence of his speech to say - it was felt that the fund board could be expected to receive sympathetically an application by Australia for an increase because of the exceptionally wide swings to which the Australian balance of payments is subject.
Surely to goodness those two reasons are sufficient in themselves for making an approach to the fund to have our quota increased. Anybody who takes the trouble to understand the matter knows quite well that members of the fund can get loans only for very short terms, say, from three to five years, to cover financial crises, and that when it comes to development loans they have to go to the bank to obtain their requirements, with a much longer period for repayment.
I support this legislation at this juncture because I am very concerned about the position of our overseas balance of payments. This country has been blessed with favorable seasons over the last fifteen years. There have been occasions when one State or another has had a drought or a flood, but, by and large, the continent of Australia has been blessed with good seasons for this period. We have also had the benefit of good prices, although there have been fluctuations. There was one period when the price of wool went right up through the ceiling and another when it dropped considerably, but, by and large, prices have been reasonable.
We have also been very successful in encouraging overseas capital to come to this country. I am wondering what would be the position if we were afflicted with droughts or floods at a time when the inflow of overseas capital started to dwindle. I hope that that possibility is one of he reasons why the Government has sought to be allowed to increase its quota. With an increased quota, we would have another line of protection. In a crisis, we would be able to go to the fund to get whatever we could to assist with our balance of payments. One would imagine, therefore, that members of the Opposition would support this proposal, because if it were possible to obtain extra cash from the fund to help us in our balance of payments we would have a greater chance of steering very far away from such happenings as those of 1930, for which he have heard members of the Opposition down through the years criticize those persons who were politically opposed to them.
While I support this legislation now, I hope that such measures will not be adopted by the Government down through the years. The Minister said -
With potential drawing rights in the fund of over £200,000,000 the total of our first and second line reserves will amount to some £750,000,000. We are therefore placed in a strong position to meet future fluctuations in our balance of payments.
I think most members will agree that our balance of payments is dependent, in the main, upon our exports. If we take the trouble to look at the position over the past few years we find that between 1956-57 and last year - no figures are available yet, of course, for this year - had it not been for the inflow of overseas capital we could have been in a more serious position. I think the Treasurer will agree that the inflow of £178,000,000 or £180,000,000 of overseas capital last year reduced our imbalance considerably.
If, as we are all prepared to admit rightly, our exports are the things we have to watch, it is necessary not only for the Government but also for every individual in the country to give cognizance to the position of the primary industries. Whilst these are not in any way unfinancial or insolvent, they are not in the sound position in which many people believe them to be. As the Division of Agricultural Economics has pointed out, if we take the years 1951-52 to 1954-55 as one bracket, and the years 1955-56 to 1958-59 as another bracket, we find that between the two periods the value of rural production increased by £99,500,000, or 9 per cent. Unfortunately, however, we find also that material and services required by the primary industries increased in cost by £88,750,000 in the same period. Therefore, the increase in the value of primary production has been almost completely absorbed by the increase in the cost of the materials and services required by primary industries. Total costs increased between the two periods by £139,500,000. I do not know what percentage that represents. Although value of production increased to the tune of 9 per cent., the income of farmers decreased by 14.2 per cent. because of the increase in costs and price fluctuations. If farmers’ incomes continue to decrease in that way - I am glad to be able to say that there is a slight uplift this year - we shall find ourselves in a very serious position in the not far distant future. I am somewhat scared by the possibility that we are living in an era similar to that of the 1920’s, when those engaged in primary industries thought that they were in a happy position. Then the collapse came. Admittedly, we are in a better position to-day for governments of the world have learnt more about catering for that sort of eventuality. It was most disturbing to governments, primary industries, and the people of Australia to find, as a result of the Gepp inquiry in the thirties, that the wheat-growers alone of this country were in debt £155,000,000 to the financial institutions.
I commend the Government on taking this action to meet any sudden fluctuation in our balance of payments. Everybody realizes that for our exports we are dependent on climate, labour, services and a host of other things. We all know that the economic well-being and the very livelihood of our people are in the main dependent on the primary industries because they export the goods that earn the overseas funds that provide 80 per cent. of the imports required to enable secondary industries to function satisfactorily. But we must take full cognizance of their position. Whilst I commend the Government on its attitude to the International Monetary Fund and its desire to have another line of defence, reserve or bulwark on which we can depend in a crisis, I sincerely trust that a very serious study will be made of the position of our primary industries. It is much better for all of us in every sphere to have solid primary industries functioning properly and exporting to their utmost than to be dependent on the palliative or synthetic arrangement of increasing contributions to the fund so that we may draw more if the occasion should arise.
I take the liberty of reminding the Treasurer of what he said when we were debating the Japanese Trade Agreement in this House. I was very pleased to hear him say then, after having heard him say something else away back in 1947, that we all are very much better off when we know that the farmers’ incomes are on the up and up. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will fully realize that over the next few months and that, if it is at all possible, he will do something by way of legislation, or at any conferences that may be planned, or in the preparation of the Budget, in order to see that this continual rise in farm costs is curbed. I am certain that, if that is done, this country will be in a very sound position for many years to come. If we give the primary industries the wherewithal to do the job, they will do it. With pasture improvement and so forth, they are able to produce valuable crops, even though the season may be a little lean, in order to enable us to . export primary products in order to earn the funds that we need if we are to be able to pay for the goods from overseas that Australia requires in plenty for its people.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I join with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) in opposing this bill. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) began his speech in the fashion of a brave hero, as he always begins, by attacking the Opposition, but he concluded by prodding the Government and its Liberal Treasurer. Indeed, he was critical of the Government. The honorable member said, among other things, that the honorable member for Yarra was not quite clear about the difference between the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. However, the honorable member himself talked only about the fund, although this bill relates to both bodies. For the honorable member’s benefit, I point out that the fund makes short-term loans at a low rate of interest in order to assist borrowing countries with balanceofpayments problems or to help them in the event of a famine or some other catastrophe. Those are emergency loans. The bank, on the other hand, makes long-term loans at a high rate of interest for the purpose of developing backward countries. lt was the Labour Government which introduced the International Monetary Agreements Bill 1947 in order to provide for Australian membership of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank. When that bill was introduced, the Labour government stated what it would do and indicated that the Australian Government would not have to borrow from the bank, because we believed that institution was to bc a bank for the reconstruction of countries devastated by the war and the development of the under-developed countries. It was to be an institution of peace. On moving the second reading of the International Monetary Agreements Bill, on 13th March, 1947, as reported at page 590 of volume 190 of “ Hansard “, Mr. Chifley said-
The purpose of the bill is to seek approval by the Parliament of Australia becoming a member of the International Monetary Fund and of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. These institutions form part of the general structure for peace, security and welfare in the postworld war. . . .
As reported at page 592 of that volume of “ Hansard “, Mr. Chifley went on to say -
The purpose of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is to provide a source of capital funds for the reconstruction of countries devastated by war and for the development of industrially backward countries.
Mr. Chifley said further
It is unlikely that Australia would itself require to borrow from the bank.
I shall now tell the House how much this country has borrowed from the International Bank. Up to date, it has borrowed 317,730,000 dollars.
– Is the honorable member against such borrowing?
– Yes, I am against it, because I believe, as Mr. Chifley believed, that the International Bank’s function is to help the backward countries of the world. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) intimated, in a press statement made only the other day, that it has now been decided that an International Development Association will he formed in order to assist backward countries. This is a gimmick.
– Will the honorable member support that?
– Of course I shall support it if this Government will live up to the true principles of it. However, may I remind the Treasurer of the time, only a few months ago, when, in this very chamber, he addressed representatives of some of the backward nations of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Those countries were pleading for money, and the Treasurer said that they had to offer a good investment before the International Bank would invest in them. The truth is that this Government drags red herrings across the trail. It will say this and that, but it will not help these backward nations. T have quoted Mr. Chifley and, with all due respects to the Treasurer I think that Mr. Chifley was a greater authority than is the present Treasurer. Mr. Chifley said that we would not borrow from the International Bank, but here are the details of our borrowings from it. This Government borrowed 100,000,000 dollars in 1950; 50,000,000 in 1952; 54,000,000 dollars in 1954; 54,500,000 dollars in 1955; and 9,230,000 dollars and a second amount of 50,000,000 dollars in 1956. The honorable member for Canning said that the Australian Government had never been refused a loan by the International Bank. All honorable members know that that is an untruth. I could use another word for it, but you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, might make me retract it.
– With regard to the loan for the Mount Isa railway-
– I hear a Bandidt by name and by action interjecting with reference to a loan to Queensland that was refused. The truth is that application was made to the bank for a loan. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer made a trip overseas seeking a loan from the bank, but it was refused. “ Hansard “ of this House of 28th April of last year shows that I challenged the Government on the need for that loan. That was at a time long before the loan was refused. I asked why the loan was needed and pointed out that we had the necessary men and materials in this country and that we could have rehabilitated the railway to Mount Isa with our own money, our own men and our own materials. I showed that we did not need a loan from overseas for the purpose. What happened in the end? The Government had to adopt the policy that I had suggested.
This is a borrow-or-bust government which depends on overseas capital. Why does it need overseas capital? It is not needed for development. It is needed for the balancing of payments. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Yarra have elaborated on this, and I shall elaborate on it a little more. There was a trade deficit of f 259,000,000 in the financial year 1954-55, and £238,000,000 in 1955-56. The Government had a favorable trade balance in 1956-57, but, in 1957-58, there was another trade deficit of £177,000,000, and there was a deficit of £187,000,000 in the financial year 1958-59. This money has been needed to close the gap and to pay for capital outflow - I will elaborate that point later - as the result of foreign investment in this country. This Government has borrowed not only from the International Bank but from wherever it could get money overseas. It has borrowed 318,000,000 dollars or, expressed in our money, £142,000,000 from the International Bank. Let me say in passing that on that loan of 318,000,000 dollars and on the six loans in the six years between 1950 and 1956 the Government has had to repay nearly £40,000,000 in interest alone to date. From New York the Government has borrowed another 190,000,000 dollars, from London £92,000,000 sterling, from Canada 15,000,000 dollars, from Switzerland 240,000,000 francs, and from the Inter national Bank another 30,000,000 dollars. That is just portion of the borrowing by this Government. In the second-reading speech of the Treasurer we find the real reason why the Government has brought in this bill. The Treasurer said -
The special increase in Australia’s quota to 400,000,000 dollars will increase Australia’s potential drawing rights on the fund to 473,000,000 dollars or £211,000,000.
The Government is simply wanting another channel from which it can borrow and attract foreign investment.
The Opposition is well aware of the position. It knows that the Government has tried everything in an attempt to solve the inflationary trend in this country. In 1951- 52 the Government introduced the horror Budget, in 1956 it brought down the little horror Budget, and the latest thing it has done is to ease import restrictions and thus open wide the gate to foreign imports. There are only two ways in which we can live within our budget. We must depend on capital inflow or foreign loans. I have heard many honorable members opposite argue that foreign loans are better than capital inflow. That may be so if the foreign loans are used effectively. The Labour Party has made its position definite in regard to capital inflow. We say, “ if we cannot export sufficient goods to pay for our capital equipment or technical know-how, it may be necessary to have foreign loans.” However, we do not agree with the indiscriminate raising of loans in which this Government has engaged year in and year out. Its record is a disgraceful one.
I desire to quote some of the foreign borrowings by this Government, but before doing so let me mention the loan position that existed when the Curtin Government and Chifley Labour Governments were in office. From 1941 to 1949 the Labour governments reduced Australia’s debt in London by £78,000,000 sterling. Those governments fought a war yet they reduced the overseas debt by that amount. The same governments reduced our debt on the New York Exchange by 15,000,000 dollars during that time. What did this Government do when it came into power? Al 30th June, 1949, our overseas debt in New York stood at 196,000.000 dollars. On 30th June last, the figure stood at 505,000,000 dollars. Since then the Treasurer went abroad and, like the little boy he is, he said on his return to Australia, “ We have borrowed another £22,000,000.” He was very proud of the fact. The point is that he is putting the country deeper and deeper into pawn. The Treasurer has talked about the wonderful inflow of capital and how prosperous the country is under this Government. I claim that the Government is giving great privileges to overseas capital, and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has warned us of what the future holds. We should heed his warning because the outflow of capital from this country is getting more serious each year. The recent easing of import restrictions will aggravate the position.
We should be extremely jealous about what we import. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) interjected earlier in the debate that we need to be selective in our imports. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) spoke about our farmers battling to build up our export trade. It is true that we do need to build up our export trade, and the honorable member warned the Liberal - the conservative - elements of the Government of the need to do so. He warned them that the capital coming into this country for developmental purposes is not benefiting the farmers and is not really helping to develop this nation. The truth of the matter is that a great deal of our borrowing overseas is for the purpose of enabling us to send remittances out of Australia. As the honorable member for Yarra said we have to borrow in order to balance our extravagant living. We should be jealous about everything that comes into this country. We should be selective in the matter of our imports because the workers of Australia have to toil hard in order to produce the goods we export. We should not put ourselves in pawn with overseas investors and thereby jeopardize our future.
I now wish to quote a few figures to illustrate the growth of the outflow of capital. In 1949-50 profits remitted overseas amounted to 16 per cent, of all dividends. By 1957-58 they had risen to 20.6 per cent, and the amount is rising day by day. The Treasurer knows these figures quite well. The inflow of capital from the United States last year was only £5,800,000, but the capital outflow amounted to £16,800,000. I notice, too, that since the taxation agreement with the United States became operative only £48,000,000 has come into Australia from that country whereas £66,000,000 has gone from Australia to the United States. Approximately £25,000,000 of the £66,000,000 is represented by tax concessions in four years resulting from the taxation agreement. The period 1953-54 to 1957-58 is the latest for which figures are available and those figures disclose that the United States has saved £25,000,000. During that time the capital inflow has fallen year by year. In 1953 it was £23,300,000. The next year it dropped to £12,000,000, and the next to £6,800,000. It has now dropped to £5,800,000. At the same time as the capital inflow is dropping the capital outflow is increasing. That is the problem facing this country. The Opposition has warned the Government that it should be wary of the capital inflow and should not allow anything to come into this country that will draw money out of it. The country should not be put in pawn. 1 notice that the Treasurer is most upset. I do not think he should have control of this portfolio. He is only a little boy.
I wish to refer to the interjection of the Treasurer when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) was speaking about capital inflow. I ask you to note these figures, Mr. Treasurer. In 1949-50 the capital inflow from the United Kingdom - I state it for your information, otherwise you would be a little lost - was £42,100,000. In 1957-58, the last year for which figures are available, it was only £41,300,000. Let us examine that position. I should say that the £42,000,000- to give it in round figures - in 1949-50 would be worth about £80,000,000 to-day.
– Oh no!
– Of course! The basic wage has doubled, and I would say that that £42,000,000 would be worth about £80,000,000 now. That means that in the last year of the Chifley Administration about £42,000,000 came in from overseas. But in the last year under this Government for which figures are available only £41,000,000 came in. So let us examine the position regarding the United States of America, the great friend of the Menzies Government. In the last year of the Chifley Administration £6,100,000 came into this country from America. In 1957-58, the last year for which figures are available, only £5,809,000 came in from that country. As I said earlier, I think that the £6,000,000 or so that came in in 1949-50 would be the equivalent of about £12,000,000 now. Therefore, the capital inflow has not been maintained. If one examines the tax concessions that have been given by this Government, which has sold out to foreign investors, one can realize that members on the Government side have to give a great deal of thought to what is happening because, whether or not we like it, this foreign investment in Australia is colonialism all over again; but instead of the old kind of colonialism we now have quislings manipulating things for the benefit of foreign investors in this country.
I am pleased that this side of the House is opposing the bill. We supported the original conception of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank because we wanted to see those bodies helping undeveloped countries. There are great problems in the world to-day, and great assistance is needed. Only twelve months ago when it was proposed to double the funds of these organizations we supported the necessary legislation; but to-day it is a question of Austrafia as an individual country, under the present Government, building up its assets in these organizations so that the Government can raise further loans, increase the capital inflow, and be able to increase our borrowing overseas.
We believe that the International Bank should be used for the purposes for which it was originally founded - the reconstruction of the devastation of war and assistance to backward countries. Australia comes within neither of those categories. It was not devastated in war, and it is not a backward nation. We of the Labour Party have great faith in this country. We believe that pur national wealth should b,e used to develop this country and that we should not put ourselves in pawn, leaving future generations to pay for our misdeeds.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wilson) adjourned.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 1).]
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 April 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600428_reps_23_hor27/>.