23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) will attend the 1960 annual conference of the International Labour Organization in Geneva. The Minister will leave Australia on 28th May and will be absent for approximately five weeks. During that time, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) will administer the Labour and National Service portfolio.
– Before the Minister for Labour and National Service goes to the International Labour Organization conference I should like to ask him a question without notice. In view of the regret which he expressed yesterday that certain trade unions had been fined by the Commonwealth Industrial Court, does he propose to remit any of the fines which have been imposed? Can his statement be taken to indicate that the Government proposes to repeal the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– It is regrettable that the Leader of the Opposition should have either misunderstood or misrepresented what I said in the House yesterday. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he misunderstood. Naturally, I regret that it should ever be necessary for the unions, on the one hand, or the employers, on the other hand, to have recourse to the court in connexion with industrial disputes. That is the way in which I wanted to state the matter to the House yesterday, and I hope that that is the spirit which is reflected in my reply. I shall check with “ Hansard “.
As to the second point, I think that the honorable gentleman well knows that this is a matter which is within the jurisdiction of the court itself. The fines have not been large, and this year, as I was at great pains to point out-
– Will you remit them?
– I have been asked by Mr. Speaker not to argue across the table, and in deference to his wishes I shall not do so. As I was saying, I have pointed out to the House the origin of these disputes and the motive behind them. The honorable gentleman should look at the statement which I made on those points and then make up his mind as to the appropriateness of the fines.
– Are you going to repeal the provisions? That is what I asked you.
– As to the last question, that matter is not under consideration by the Government although I do keep it under constant review.
– 1 ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs a question which relates to Israel’s long struggle for its rights to use the Suez Canal for navigational purposes. Has the Linked Nations made any progress in its negotiations with the Egyptian Government for the granting to Israel of its proper rights to the use of this international water-way, or are the effects of the blow to the United Nations’ prestige to continue indefinitely? What action has been taken by the leader of Australia’s mission to the United Nations in order to accelerate the attainment of justice in regard to this flagrant contempt of the Treaty of Constantinople by the Egyptian Government?
Secretary-General of the United Nations is in constant touch with the United Arab Republic and the Israeli Government in an endeavour to bring about an agreement between them, or at least to end the disagreement. I am not able to inform the honorable member in detail precisely what stage has been reached in the Secretary-General’s personal intervention in this respect. Our own representative at the United Nations keeps in touch with the situation. As the honorable member may know, the matter is not at present inscribed as an item on the agenda of the United Nations, nor is it in discussion.
– But negotiations are going on.
– Yes. Work is being done constantly by the SecretaryGeneral, but not by discussion in the United Nations.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. I preface it by reminding the honorable gentleman of his reply to a question which I asked last Thursday about the payment of social service benefits direct to aboriginal pensioners at Point Macleay and Point Pearce mission stations in South Australia. The reply was that the pensions could not be paid direct because of the physical obstacles to the carrying out of such a proposal. Has the Minister yet checked on the information which I gave to the House, in the debate on the motion for the adjournment on the same day, that both the Point Macleay and the Point Pearce government mission stations are within 100 miles of Adelaide? Each has a post office and the aborigines living on those stations who are entitled to pensions are in all cases educated, civilized and Christians. Will the honorable gentleman now say whether, in view of this new information - if it can be substantiated - he will arrange to have pensions paid direct to the people concerned, the same as is done with other members of the community?
– With the information now given to me by the honorable member, I shall be pleased to investigate the payment of social service benefits to the natives concerned in the localities which he has mentioned. T am proud to say that no signs of disaffection or dissatisfaction are manifest in any of the other States.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen a report attributed to the Reverend W. J. Hobbin, chairman of the Australian National Committee for the United Nations World Refugee Year, to the effect that Australia’s practice of selecting only the youngest, healthiest and most highly skilled migrants had resulted in thousands of people who now need assistance being left behind in refugee camps? Can the Minister say whether it is possible for Australia to absorb larger numbers of physically handicapped persons from refugee camps in Europe?
– I have seen a report of the statement attributed to the reverend gentleman to whom the honorable member has referred. I do not think that we really have anything to be ashamed of in our contribution to the re-settlement of refugees. Taking the overall aspect of the matter, in comparison with our population, Australia has done more to help in the re-settlement of refugees than has any other country in the world. In absolute terms, we are second in total intake only to the United States of America.
As for the particular point to which my honorable friend referred, we are giving in this World Refugee Year particular attention to the problem of the residual refugees in the camps in Europe, and particularly to those who are suffering from some physical handicap. The honorable gentleman might remember that, during the Australian Citizenship Convention last January, I announced on behalf of the Government the further steps we were taking in this respect. This, of course, Mr. Speaker, is a continuing matter. The Government has not said the last word in this respect. The honorable gentleman might remember that, only two or three weeks ago, I announced that we had gone one stage further, and on behalf of the Government, I announced that we had now made provision for bringing into Australia thirteen cases of tuberculosis sufferers, including some members of family units, involving 22 persons in all. I give that to the honorable gentleman as an example of the Government’s thinking, and of how we are certainly not content at this stage with all we have done, but are continually looking to the future to see what we can usefully do to solve this very sad problem.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is aware that the Governor of New South Wales. Sir Eric Woodward, yesterday said -
Australians would prefer a greater proportion of Australian capital in overseas investments in this country.
Does the Government agree with this view? Will it take action to restrict the growing control by overseas investors over sections of Australian industry, a precaution in defence of self-government that has been taken by numerous other democratic countries?
– I am not aware of the statement attributed to the Governor of New South Wales; but I think I could not really be challenged if I said that I, more than any other public person in Australia, have been making the point that it is in conformity with general Australian sentiment that, where there is overseas investment in Australia, there should be arranged a participation by Australian industry and Australian capital. I have said this frequently, maybe to some slight personal embarrassment when the guest of the AustralianAmerican Association, but it conforms to Australian sentiment.
It is a completely different matter, however, to suggest that we ought to impose some rules that compel people who put their money into Australia to accept a minority or a majority Australian share-holding. I really believe that it would be against the Australian interest to apply compulsion in this regard. That is my judgment - and it is the Government’s judgment - on what is best in the Australian interest. I have confidence that wise overseas investors who come here to enjoy the benefits of the economic climate that exists in Australia will progressively discern that it is to their own long-term advantage to take Australian capital and industry into partnership.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the concern expressed by the Opposition as to the cost to the trade unions of fines imposed for contempt of court and illegal strikes, can the Minister, for the benefit of the House, compare those fines with the cost to industry and the general public of illegal strikes such as the recent nation-wide stoppage by members of the Waterside Workers Federation?
– I think the House will realize that I could not answer this question without detailed research and study. Nonetheless, it does raise a very interesting point, and I will try to have the details prepared and will give them to the honorable member as soon as I can.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Immigration in relation to categories of migrants from Mediterranean countries. I understand that parents and very close relatives are in the categories that may come to Australia but that relatives a little further removed, such as nephews, are excluded rather rigidly. Is this a sensible arrangement, in view of the fact that at the same time and from the same countries people are coming to Australia who have neither house nor job whereas the excluded relatives could be given both a job and accommodation amongst their own people who would assist in their assimilation? I have never been able to understand how the practice works.
– I can, in a way, understand the honorable gentleman having some doubts about this matter, but, of course, we do not, just for the fun of it, exclude the relatives of settlers from Mediterranean countries who are already here. As the honorable gentleman will realize, migrants are divided into categories because the Government, right from the start, has aimed at having a balanced immigration programme. When the Government settles the programme each year, it decides, as the honorable gentleman may appreciate, how many migrants are to come from the various countries, which form our sources of supply. Having settled the intake from the Mediterranean countries, then in the interests of achieving a truly balanced programme, it is necessary to adhere to it.
I must make it quite plain for the benefit of the honorable member for Parkes that, despite all the difficulties we have met in trying to recruit the types of migrants we desire, there is still a very great demand by many thousands of people in Italy and Greece to come here. So long as we aim, as I think we should continue to aim, at maintaining a balanced migration programme, then, as I see it, we have no alternative but to administer this policy fairly rigorously. Therefore, the adherence to categories of which the honorable gentleman complains is necessary.
– Could you not widen them to include nephews?
– Well, it may be possible-
– Hard-working young men!
– Not all nephews do work hard, as the honorable gentleman will realize. There is no absolute in any of these things, of course, and if as time goes on it is possible - I do not say that it will be - with the development of our economy, to expand the numbers coming here, the Government will look sympathetically at this matter.
– I ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been directed to statements alleged to have been made by the Premier of South Australia which are highly critical of overseas borrowing by Australian governments. Is it not a fact that before raising loans abroad the Government must have the approval of the Australian Loan Council, and is in fact in these matters acting as the agent of the Australian Loan Council, of which the Premier of South Australia is a member?
– I did hear over the national news this morning a statement that was attributed to the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford. But I have suffered too often from abbreviated accounts of what I have said to accept that as necessarily a faithful version of what Sir Thomas Playford was trying to convey. I say that in no spirit of questioning the accuracy of that highly commendable organization, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its news service. But I think we would all agree that there are sensible limits to the overseas borrowing which the Government should undertake.
However, if one examines the circumstances of recent Australian overseas borrowings we get a very different picture from the version which Sir Thomas Playford was seeking to correct. It is true, as the honorable gentleman points out, that the Australian Government acts in these matters on behalf of the Australian Loan Council. A loan can only be raised - so far as loans for the works and housing programmes are concerned - with the approval of a majority of the Loan Council. If the loan is for purposes outside the works and housing programmes, then the purpose of the loan must secure the unanimous approval of members of the Loan Council. It is a matter of common knowledge that each time the Loan Council has met in recent years the Premiers have urged upon the Commonwealth Government the raising of a greater volume of loans than the Commonwealth has felt able to support.
– Including overseas loans?
– Including overseas loans. Whilst I cannot recall off-hand any precise views of Sir Thomas Playford on this matter, it is undoubtedly true that the majority of members of the Loan Council have not only pressed the Commonwealth Government to raise more by way of loans overseas, but have also been somewhat critical that we have not been able to get more overseas.
I said there was a sensible limit. In the disastrous 1930’s, it took the equivalent of 30 per cent, of Australia’s export income to finance interest payments on its overseas borrowing. In 1939, the last year before the war, it took the equivalent of 18 per cent, of our export income to finance those interest payments. When honorable gentlemen opposite had their last full year of office in 1949, it took 3.4 per cent.; and in 1958-59, the percentage was 3.1, one of the lowest figures, I believe, in the history of this country. So, Sir, at a time when it represents such a fractional proportion of cur total export effort to import these funds, which are of immense benefit to the State Governments in the works and housing programmes upon which they have agreed with the Commonwealth Government, the States have sought the assistance of the Commonwealth Government to obtain the moneys they require.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister and is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Scullin. I do not wish at this stage to canvass the Acting Prime Minister’s decision not to legislate concerning the participation of foreign capital with Austraiian capital in investment in Australia, although 1 apprehend that this Parliament in respect of overseas capital at least could legislate for capital issues control; but I ask the right honorable gentleman to specify, not what he would prescribe, but what he would advise before the Australian-American Association and other bodies as to the extent to which Austraiian or overseas capital should participate or have a partnership in the one company or enterprise. That is, what does he advise as the best proportions between Australian and foreign capital in any of these enterprises? Should Australian capital be the minority or the majority partner or, if there is an equal partnership, whose views should prevail in the case of contest?
– My answer is a simple one. I believe I state a principle, and I would not go beyond stating a principle, which I hope would be accepted by overseas investors. Clearly the circumstances would differ in a multiplicity of cases. The decision as to the investment of savings, be it a personal investment or an investment of the money of companies - which after all, is money belonging to individual shareholders - is a very important and very private matter. To place investors under compulsion to take unknown people - foreign people - into partnership in a matter concerning their own savings would, I think, be destructive of the general purpose that most Australians have in mind: That is, that it would be to the advantage of this country if more overseas companies which have the capital resources, and also peculiar skills, peculiar knowledge and peculiar marketing outlets, could be persuaded to come here. I rest content, as the Government does, in saying that we believe that it is desirable that such companies should consider the advisability, in their own interests, of taking Australian capital and industry into partnership with them.
– My question without notice is directed to the Postmaster-General. Many country telephone exchanges bear unfamiliar names which have no obvious relationship to the districts in which they are located. I mention, by way of example, that in my electorate there is an exchange which rejoices in the name of Poiginorgoric.
Will the Minister have printed in future editions of telephone books maps on which there will be marked the locations of country exchanges? Further, could he on the same maps have the extended local service area marked in each case?
– This is a matter which has already received considerable attention, and not only in the department. Several honorable members have made representations to me on it. These have centred on the possibility of compiling an alphabetical list of subscribers in country districts rather than listing them in individual area directories, the printing of maps in directories, as suggested by the honorable member for Barker, and other matters. 1 have received a deputation on the matter, and the honorable member for Barker himself has previously asked about the possibility of having a general alphabetical list of country telephone subscribers. There is a very real problem involved there, and it is one to which the department has for some time been giving considerable attention. The problem arises, as the honorable member for Barker pointed out, from rapid development in many country areas, which has necessitated the giving of names not generally known to postal and telephone centres.
The preparation of an alphabetical list of country telephone subscribers presents many difficulties, but the printing of maps at the front of directories would not be very difficult, and I think that could be proceeded with. To the honorable member for Barker, and all those other members who have made similar representations to me, I say that the matter is currently under careful consideration, and we hope to improve the position in some way with the next issue of telephone directories.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether it is within the powers of the Commonwealth to legislate directly or to confer power on existing Commonwealth authorities, or to create some new body, to regulate profits? If the Government already has power to regulate profits from investments why has it failed to do so? If the Government lacks power to control profits why has it failed to seek additional power from the people by referendum? Is it because the only incomes which the Government considers should be controlled are those of the workers?
– I think it should be said, first of all, that it is not the policy of this Government to control the income of workers.
– Of course it is. What about the case before the Arbitration Commission?
– I am sure that there is some misunderstanding about what happens when an application is made to the commission in a basic wage or margins case. It is the commission itself which makes up its mind on the facts presented to it whether there should be an increase or not. In 99 cases out of 100 the commission agrees to an increase. The Government has only a power of intervention to put a submission to the commission.
As to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question - whether there is power in the Arbitration Commission to control profits - I should state that the constitutional way to control profits is per medium of the taxation mechanism. Companies pay tax at the rate of 7s. 6d. in the £1; private individuals pay a graduated rate of tax., depending upon their income. I think that that answers the question of the honorable gentleman. I particularly want to emphasize that decisions on wages and margins are made not by the Government, but by the commission itself.
– When does the Minister for Primary Industry expect to receive the report of the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry? In any event, as we are now close to the beginning of the new financial year, will he consider continuing the present subsidy to the dairy industry of £13,500,000 a year?
– I am not sure when I will receive the report of the Commonwealth Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry. I do know that the committee is going through the mass of evidence that has been presented to it. No doubt, as soon as it has completed that work, it will submit its report, lt is obvious that there can be no action arising from that report prior to 30th June. For the time being, action will be taken as provided in the present dairy industry stabilization legislation. The Dairy Industry. Investigation Committee is now considering costs in the dairy industry. An itinerary has been arranged under which I will meet the Dairy Industry Investigation Committee when it presents its report and I shall discuss the matter with it. Then, of course, I shall have to make my recommendation to Cabinet. Whether the subsidy will be £13,500;000 or any other amount will be a matter for Cabinet consideration.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that Newcastle City Council and a number of other local government councils are examining the possibility of erecting multi-storied parking stations? If this is correct, will the Treasurer make available from the petrol tax interest-free loans to those councils which are prepared to build these parking stations and so help them to reduce parking costs and, in time, give some relief to the motorists who pay this tax?
– The proposal has not come to my notice. This is a matter of policy and therefore a final statement should not be made on it in answer to a question. However, I can give no encouragement to the honorable gentleman to believe that there would be a favorable reaction to his proposal.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House about the resumption by the Department of Main Roads of certain land owned by the Department of the Army fronting the Pacific Highway, Hornsby, in the electorate of Mitchell which I represent? Will he also say what is the position regarding alterations being effected to buildings on this property? As local business people are apprehensive that reconstruction being undertaken will not enhance the locality, will the Minister assure me that local conditions are being taken into consideration? As it was announced that the local Citizen Military
Forces unit was to be closed, would it be possible to make this property available for commercial use?
– There is obviously a misunderstanding about the closing of the Citizen Military Forces unit at Hornsby. It is true that this small unit is to be incorporated in the unit at Chatswood, but the depot at Hornsby was used mainly by the cadet corps. It is a central depot for the issue of stores to most of the northern suburbs and therefore the need for it still remains. Recently the Department of Main Roads widened the Pacific Highway at Hornsby and resumed a portion of the front of this land. That necessitated the alteration of some of the existing buildings. This alteration was carried out at the expense, of course, of the Department of Main Roads in New South Wales. I realize that the development of Hornsby is coming in that direction and the time may well arrive when this will become a very valuable commercial proposition. But for the time being I think it should remain as it is and when development justifies it, I would then be quite prepared to discuss the question-
– But you will not be Minister for the Army then.
– Well, I hope that the future Minister for the Army will have enough good sense not to stand in the way of development, and that discussions can then take place with a view to allowing the development of Hornsby to proceed.
– This morning the Acting Prime Minister has been giving voice to the high principle of non-compulsion of people who own money, and of financiers generally in the country. While he is in that mood of high principle, I ask him: Will he confer with the Minister for Labour and National Service to see whether that gentleman can bring the same principle of non-compulsion to bear on industrial legislation and remove the penal provisions in awards?
– The high principles to which the honorable member refers are held in common on this side of the House.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. As one who is always interested in the comfort of his fellow men, could you arrange for the central heating in this building to be left on over week-ends so the staff, the numerous visitors who come here and the occasional member from a distant State who remains here can appreciate this service? As it is, there is a grave danger that visitors may think that they have been misinformed, and may imagine that they are visiting a city morgue.
-The subject-matter of the honorable member’s question will be attended to.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether opportunity will be taken in the laying of the co-axial cable between Sydney and Melbourne to provide telephone services to people in some of the outlying areas through which the co-axial cable will pass. I understand that the regulations of the department provide that where there is an existing line additional pairs can be provided to give such services. The question is whether this can be done with the co-axial cable. I understand that this matter is at present being examined by the central administration of the Postal Department, and I ask the Minister whether he will give it his personal attention so that a decision may be reached before the trench carrying the cable is dug and filled in.
– In considering how the necessary extension to services and to channels between Sydney and Melbourne should be provided attention was given to the possibility of using either micro-wave or the co-axial cable, and the decision was made to use the main new artery, the coaxial cable, because it does offer just that opportunity for servicing centres en route to which the honorable member has referred. That is an important feature and the system is being developed with the object of servicing those centres. At various stages along the cable, provision is made to take off other cables to serve these centres. Just exactly what the departmental plan for this is I do not know as yet, but I can assure the honorable member that the idea he has expressed is being given attention, and I shall get some information as to how it is being carried out in his own electorate.
– In addressing my question to the Attorney-General I refer to a report that an unauthorized person has had at his disposal a means of listening-in to official telephone conversations by telephone tapping. Are there any means of ascertaining whether this practice is going on and, if so, are there any means of dealing with the offender?
– Of course, one cannot listen to some of the speeches which are made in this House by members of the Opposition without sometimes suspecting that some unauthorized interception is going on. My bill is designed to stop that. If we catch the offenders, we shall show them no mercy.
– In the absence of the Minister for Health I direct my question to the Acting Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that New South Wales doctors, in a secret ballot which has just been conducted by the British Medical Association, have voted four to one against co-operating with the Government in its amended pharmaceutical benefits scheme? Is he aware also of considerable public dissatisfaction which has arisen from the discovery that the range of drugs on the 5s. list is not as wide as the public was led to believe? Further, is he aware that considerable confusion exists in the administration of the scheme due to the absence of preliminary consultation with State departments of health and doctors’ and chemists’ professional organizations? In these circumstances, and in view of the threats to the continuance of the scheme, will the Government make a thorough and urgent review of the scheme?
– In the absence of my distinguished colleague, the Minister for Health, who, I am sure, enjoys the confidence of the medical fraternity in Australia, I am only able to say that I believe that the attitude of the medical fraternity to the Government’s health scheme will be determined, not by State organizations but by the federal council - if that is the correct term - of the British Medical Association. We have a long experience in this federation of ours of governmental, industrialor professional organizations in the single States differing on occasions from what turns out to be the majority over-all Australian attitude.
I am highly confident that the doctors in Australia will co-operate with the Government at all times in its high purpose, which it shares with the Opposition, of seeing that appropriate facilities are available for attending to the health of the people. The Government continuously has followed the practice of close consultation with those whom it calls upon or invites to work with it in pursuance of general policies for the good of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. In view of the fact that the Russian representative at the United Nations has recently criticized Australia for not having set an exact target date for the granting of independence to New Guinea, will the Minister instruct the Australian representative that on the next occasion when this matter is raised he should inquire from Russia when it proposes to set an exact target date for the restoration of independence to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Ukraine and Bulgaria, just to mention a few of the countries which have been absorbed into Russia’s colonial empire since World War II.?
– The remark to which the honorable member has referred as suggested criticism of this country in relation to New Guinea, was made in the Trusteeship Council. Our representatives there are well instructed to look after Australia’s interests in respect of New Guinea. It is not possible to raise in the Trusteeship Council the matter which the honorable member has mentioned, but it will not be forgotten on other occasions when matters are being discussed before the United Nations Assembly.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Social Services by reminding him that many age, invalid and widow pensioners are being deprived of higher rates of pension through lack of information on the subject of annuities. Will he consider my proposal that an explanatory pamphlet on this subject be prepared for distribution through post offices? Will he take the necessary steps to ensure that pensioners and intending pensioners are afforded adequate protection from certain unscrupulous investment and insurance companies which, by way of annuity arrangements, fleece pensioners and others of their meagre savings? With a view to channelling funds into secure public investments, will the Minister consider the formulation of an arrangement whereby pensioners will be able to purchase annuities by investing in Commonwealth bonds?
– The honorable member might be good enough to consider the fact that very few people who receive social service benefits are interested in annuities. If and when they become interested in annuities, they can obtain all the relevant information from the Department of Social Services. Not only am I available at all times, not only is the Director-General of the department available at all times, but also in each of the States there is a Director of Social Services. And we are most anxious to give all the information that may be required.
– I desire to inform the House that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), will travel overseas on Saturday next, 14th May, to study at first hand overseas development in repatriation services, particularly in relation to the limbless and severely disabled. During his absence, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) will administer the repatriation portfolio, and will be represented in the Senate by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty).
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Mr. Sneaker.
– Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. A report in these terms appears in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of to-day’s date -
Mr. T. Uren (Labour, N.S.W.) said that I.D.A. was unnecessary because, to a degree, it was a continuation of the Colombo Plan. . . .
This purports to be a report of my statements during the debate on the International Development Association Bill. What 1 said appears on page 1582 of “ Hansard “ of Wednesday, 11th May. It is this -
Now we have this International Development Association which is very necessary because, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said, it is, to a degree, a continuation of the Colombo Plan. The problems of the underdeveloped countries were discussed at the recent conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. African countries, which do not come within the scope of the Colombo Plan, would like it to be extended to include them. This new organization may do something to assist certain under-developed countries but, once again, it is a case of too little too late. We have wasted thirteen years. We should have poured capital into the under-developed countries much earlier.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Cattle and Beef Research Bill 1960.
Cattle Slaughter Levy Bill 1960.
Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Bill1960.
Meat Export Control Bill 1960.
I have received a letter from the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The damage likely to be caused to the Australian economy by the Government’s decision to lift restrictions on imported goods.
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) -
.- Mr. Speaker, the present Government claims to have been conducting a ceaseless struggle against inflation since 1949. Sir Arthur
Fadden, the former Treasurer, in his Budget speech in 1950, said - . . during the war and post-war years, prices and costs in most countries rose much further and faster than here.
Prices have continued to rise much faster and much further in Australia than other countries since 1950. In his Budget speech in that year, the Treasurer of the day made it clear that the Government was making an all-out attack on inflation and that the main weapon which it intended to use was the encouragement of imports. In that Budget speech, Sir Arthur Fadden said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was himself negotiating a loan in New York in order to obtain dollars for the importation into Australia of necessary goods. In his next Budget speech, in 1951, Sir Arthur Fadden pointed out that imports into Australia had not increased sufficiently, and he said that the Government therefore found it necessary to take further and drastic action in order to encourage imports. He said - it has to be recognized that the time has come to impose effective restraints on money for goods and on the indiscriminate production of less essential goods.
He said that the measures that would be taken included control of the volume of bank credit through the special account procedures, the advance policy instructions issued to the trading banks and control of capital issues. The Government’s policy was effective. Floods of imports came into this country, and, in November, 1951, in a question, I directed the attention of the House to the diminution of our overseas funds, and I asked what the Government was going to do about it. Later, under the procedure that prevailed at the time, I moved the adjournment of the House in order to permit the discussion of that subject as a matter of urgent public importance. The gentleman who was at the time Leader of the House, speaking on behalf of the Government, said that everything in the garden was lovely, our overseas balances were all right and the imports coming to this country were not adversely affecting either Australian industries or employment in this country.
– When was this?
– I moved the adjournment of the House in March, 1952. Two weeks afterwards, when Parliament had gone into recess, the Prime Minister made a radio broadcast in which he stated that Australia’s overseas funds had diminished to such an extent as to bring us face to face with overseas insolvency, and he said that we must apply savage import restrictions in order to save our overseas balances. He did not say that those restrictions were applied in order to save from unemployment the people of this country, 100,000 of whom were at that time unemployed. The Government applied savage import restrictions on that occasion, and it has since continued a process of first encouraging and then restricting imports. After the restrictions of 1952 had taken effect, the Government encouraged imports, and it again restricted them in 1956. Indeed, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) described the Government’s policy as kangaroo economics.
The point that I want to make is that the Government, having first applied restrictions and then lifted them, had not cured inflation or reduced prices. Prices continued to rise, and the Government now comes forward with what appears to be a brand-new solution to the problem of inflation and says, “We shall lift import restrictions again. We shall remove them altogether.” What will happen when import restrictions are lifted altogether? There will be a flood of imports. If there is not a flood of imports, or even a considerable increase in imports, the object of lifting restrictions will not have been attained, and the Government will have failed. It lifts the restrictions in order that imports may increase. As I have pointed out, imports were encouraged in the financial year 1951-52, and, as a result of that encouragement, they rose to the unprecedented level of £1,050,000,000.
– We needed them.
– It is all very well for the Minister to say that. The result was that, in that year, Australia had an unfavorable balance of payments of £575,000,000. In 1953-54. we had an adverse balance of payments of £17,000,000. The adverse balances in the following years were £259,000,000 in 1954-55, £238,000,000. in 1955-56. £177,000,000 in 1957-58, and £187,000,000 in 1958-59. Those are immense trade deficits, and they have to be met out of the industry and toil of the workers of Australia. What happens temporarily, of course, is that the Government raises loans overseas, and with every loan that it raises overseas a little more of Australia’s wealth is put into pawn with overseas moneylenders. We also bring private capital to this country from overseas, and every £1 of private capital from overseas which is invested in Australia increases the measure of control and dominance over Australia exercised by overseas investors. As the volume of loans raised overseas and of overseas investments in this country increases, the self-government of the people of Australia is endangered. Let overseas interests control the economy of this country and own its industries and the Government will be impotent. That, of course, is why the Premier of South Australia - who apparently is a better Australian than are some members of the Liberal Party - is alarmed at the extent of our overseas obligations. That is why the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Eric Woodward, is alarmed at the extent of the control that overseas investors have over the industries of Australia.
What will be the effect of the Government’s policy? It has lifted import restrictions, and that action will mean an immense increase in the flow of imports. That can be seen already. Imports into Australia last February were valued at £78,000,000 compared with £58,000,000 in the corresponding month last year. That was an increase of £20,000,000 in one month and the trend is continuing. In 1951-52, imports into Australia totalled £1,050,000,000 and the adverse balance of payments was £575,000,000. With the lifting of import restrictions and the decline in exports, we can expect that in the next five years our adverse trade balance will be more than it has been in the past ten years. Does the Government believe that is sound economic policy, and that it will be beneficial to the people of Australia?
I want to emphasize that the adverse balance of payments over the past ten years has totalled about £1,050,000,000. During that period, we had a favorable balance of payments with only one country, and that was Japan. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), who is sitting at the table, apparently was so horrified to discover that we had a favorable balance of payments with Japan and an adverse balance of payments with every other country that he negotiated a treaty with Japan. The object of the treaty was to destroy that favorable balance of payments. He said in effect: “ Japan is a good customer of ours. We must enable Japan to send more goods to Australia, but it cannot do so under existing tariffs.” The Government thereupon reduced tariffs to enable goods to come into Australia from Japan so that we would have an adverse balance of payments with every country in the world. That is how the Government seeks to safeguard the interests of Australia and pretends to fight inflation.
In reality, the Government is destroying Australian industry. Its policy is to import textiles, shoes and cheap machinery from Japan and other countries; to import confectionery and watches from Switzerland and artificial jewellery and all sorts of luxury goods from every country in the world. Its policy is to put our people out of employment, destroy Australian industries and build up a burden of debt.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I listened with interest to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). Having regard to another matter that is to come before the House to-day which perhaps will be embarrassing to the Opposition, I can only believe that this matter of urgency was submitted as a time-consuming device. My colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who will follow me in speaking to this matter would, I believe, support that view. Here I stand to reply to the honorable member who led1 for the Australian Labour Party in the defence of Australian industry, and I count on the Opposition benches seven members of the Australian Labour Party, who are present to hear their own advocate.
– How many are there on the Government side?
– What has that to do with it? This matter was submitted on the Labour Party’s initiative.
– Answer the proposition. Do not be a humbug!
– This matter of public importance was submitted ostensibly as a matter of urgency. [Quorum formed.] It is interesting that the de facto Leader of the Australian Labour Party, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), should have called a quorum to attract members of the Labour Party to hear the debate that his own party has initiated. After the quorum bells had rung, there were still only seven members of the Australian Labour Party in the chamber. This is a sham debate. It is designed for no other purpose than to consume the time of the Parliament and so restrict the embarrassment of the Labour Party on another issue.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I take it that the remarks of the Acting Prime Minister reflect on the Chair, because the decision that a matter submitted for debate is of urgent public importance lies with the Chair. The right honorable gentleman has said that this is a sham debate and in my opinion, that is a reflection on the Chair.
– Order! There is no reflection on the Chair implicit in the right honorable gentleman’s statement.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I take grave exception to the reflection on me voiced by the Acting Prime Minister, who has said in so many word’s that I would engage in a timewasting process in this House. That is an absurd statement.
– Order! The point of order has no sound basis.
– The issue that is ostensibly before the House touches the general economic circumstances of the country and the policy of the Government. The Government is proud that it has so managed the economy that we have consistent, full employment and a tempo of development the like of which has never been seen before in this country or in any other country We have also maintained a level of prosperity that makes Australia the envy of the world. This is the outcome of Government policy.
It has had the effect of making Australia the focal point for potential overseas investors. This is the first country to which people turn to make a new life as migrants. In addition, overseas investors and industrialists feel that here there is economic and political stability and a certainty of growth. There is such a confidence in the whole community that people are literally clamouring to come here to share with Australia the benefits that have resulted from the policies of this Government.
These policies have been difficult to maintain because measures to ensure rapid expansion, rapid population growth and high prosperity themselves tend to generate inflationary pressures. The Government believes that it has interpreted the Australian will that it should proceed with these policies, notwithstanding that we have known at all times that within them are the ingredients of inflation. The Government has managed, despite the circumstances, to maintain such economic stability as to result in the inflow of volunteer capital from overseas because of confidence in our economy.
This has resulted from a variety of policy practices, but time does not permit me to describe them. However, to absorb into the labour force the population intake as well as the natural population growth, we have given a measure of protection through tariffs and stimulated the confidence of Australian secondary industries. There has been an unprecedented expansion of industry, lt would be a complete negation of all that we have worked to achieve if any policy action of ours to-day were to weaken the security of our manufacturing industries. We are conscious of what we are doing. With the success of our export drive and with the inflow of capital, notwithstanding enormous drawings on our overseas funds for the purpose of expansion, we have been able to stand up in the world councils and say that this young and expanding country is now able to terminate import licensing for 90 per cent, of commodities. We have retained control over the remaining 10 per cent, because we want to be sure that the instantaneous removal of licensing will not have a severe impact on Australian industry.
It is nonsense to say that the Government would consciously take action that would damage Australian secondary industries. Our industries, be they secondary or primary, have interwoven interests. The greatest importers in Australia to-day are the manufacturers. Consumer importation is insignificant when compared with importation of raw materials, components and specialized equipment. How do we pay for these imports? To pay for them we sell abroad our wool, wheat, meat, butter and the whole variety of primary products, including metals, for which we have to fight to gain markets overseas. This, as every one knows, has been an unceasing fight by the Government. It has been my fate to conduct it, but I have done so merely as the instrument of the Government. We have unceasingly told other countries that they are obliged to accept our products under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I point out here - as a fact and not as a criticism - that the Australian Labour Party committed Australia to this convention. We have said to West Germany, to Japan and to other countries, “ We call upon you to admit our products for sale because you have no balance of payments problem and you have international commitments that oblige you to accept our products “. Progressively, around the world, I have been able, for the Government and for the people of Australia, to achieve access to these countries. There is a long story to that, but honorable members are familiar with it.
If the view of the Australian Labour Party is to be interpreted to mean that we, with our present adequate overseas balances, should deny other countries the right to sell freely in Australia, subject only to a tariff barrier, and should retain arbitrary restriction by a government department, then I point out that I. or whoever may stand in my place, would not be able to argue validly along the lines that we have successfully argued in recent years. It is our intention to maintain our strength in negotiation, and the removal of import licensing is one step designed for this purpose. True, it has an anti-inflationary element.
I spoke of the expansionist policies of the Government and of its determination to sustain full employment. We have maintained these policies, notwithstanding undulating economic conditions both at home and over seas and notwithstanding the notorious fluctuations in the price of wool and in wheat sales. I remind honorable members that a couple of years ago we had a whole crop of wheat unsold. To sustain the stability of our economy, we have where necessary engaged in deficit financing - sometimes very heavy deficit financing - which has an inflationary pressure. We have weighed the advantages to all of the Australian people and the Australian sentiment for expansion against the disabilities of the inflationary pressures of deficit financing. The very thing that we have done in the interests of the Australian community, and particularly to sustain full employment is the thing that has contributed, I freely admit, to some extent to the inflationary pressures that have become troublesome in recent months.
What would be the result of policies designed to reverse this trend? They would be policies to produce artificial depression. They are the historic policies, the policies of the old world, designed to raise interest rates, to tighten credit and to shake confidence. We have not engaged in these policies. One of our actions has been to permit a freer flow of imports into Australia. This has already had some impact as an anti-inflationary force in bringing about a reduction of prices. The Government knows where it is going and is determined that it shall sustain the capacity of the Australian community to expand, to develop and to remain prosperous. It will not introduce elements of instability which would put a brake on expansion, produce unemployment and shake the confidence of overseas investors.
I conclude by saying to Australian industry that it can be confident that the Government will continue to give it adequate protection in the normal way through the Tariff Board. But where extraordinary circumstances arise suddenly, it will take emergency action, as it has done already on several occasions, to protect Australian industry pending the conclusion of normal Tariff Board investigations.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think I am known in this House as one who never interjects or wastes the time of the House. However, I desire to support the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), and because of the limitation of time I shall confine my comments to the industry which seems to be singled out for sacrifice whenever the Government is in a dilemma as to how to satisfy its friends, the importers, and at the same time encourage the sales of our greatest and most important primary product, wool. I concentrate upon the textile industry because nearly two-thirds of Japanese imports into Australia are textiles. I shall refer to some of the delays which occur in the giving of tariff protection to our industry, in order to show that the change in policy by the Government is unwarranted and dangerous. The matter of cotton piece goods was referred to the Tariff Board in August, 1957. The board reported to the Government in 1958, and the Government dealt with it in November, 1959. So the board, from August, 1957, to October, 1958, took more than fourteen months before it brought down its findings. A year and one month later the Government shook the sleep out of its eyes and dealt with a tariff board inquiry which began two years and three months earlier.
The matter of cotton canvas and duck was referred to the Tariff Board in March, 1957, and the board reported in September, 1958; but it was not dealt with by Parliament until November, 1958. It took eighteen months from the time of reference, March, 1957, before the board made its report on 19th September, 1958, and Parliament did not deal with it for a further two months. The Government will need to do more than double the membership of the Tariff Board in order to meet Australia’s need for rapid hearings. It will need to establish specialist boards along the same lines as those provided under our arbitration system, where commissioners are allocated to particular groups of industries.
I shall deal next with an agreement entered into between the Japanese Government and the Australian Government. On 30th June next, an agreement entered into between them will expire. The agreement provided, in the matter of man-made fibre piece goods, that no more than 8,000,000 square yards would be exported to Australia in this financial year from Japan. In response to a great volume of protests from all adversely affected in the textile industry, the Government graciously consented to expedite a hearing for Australian manu facturers by the Tariff Board. That hearing began on 29th February last and a report is now in the hands of the Government. As it is expected that this House will rise tomorrow week until August next, I want to know what protection against the products of low-wage countries is contained in the Tariff Board report now in the hands of the Government and, what is just as important, whether the Government will implement the report before the House rises.
In the interval before the Budget session, in August, there could be a flood of manmade fibre material into this country, with very damaging effects on Australian manufacturers and their staffs. Although only three more sitting days remain of the current sessional period, there is still no indication from the Government that it intends to act. Is the Government yielding to pressure from Japan? Is Japan threatening to purchase less wool? These two questions are particularly pertinent to textiles which appear to have been placed upon the altar of sacrifice, as can be demonstrated by the figures for Japanese exports to Australia since 1953-54. In that year, £6,500,000 worth of Japanese goods came into Australia, of which £4,700,000 worth represented textiles and apparel. In 1954-55, total Japanese imports were valued at £18,400,000, of which £9,000,000 was for textiles and apparel. In 1955-56, total imports from Japan were valued at £22,600,000, of which £9,000,000 was for textiles and apparel. In 1956-57, total Japanese imports fell to a value of £12,900,000, but more than half that amount, £7,200,000, was for textiles and apparel. In 1957-58, total Japanese imports rose sharply to a value of £23,800,000, of which £15,700,00 was for textiles and apparel. In 1958-59, a new peak was reached, with almost £30,000,000 worth of Japanese imports, of which amount more than half, £18,400,000, was for textiles and apparel.
Is it any wonder that the textile industry in Australia is alarmed? Import restrictions are the only means of safeguarding Australian industry from the competition of low-wage countries. Quantitative restriction, which is the only safe and reliable way of safeguarding Australian industry from low-wage countries, has been discarded by this Government which now declares that tariff protection must in future take its place. I have quoted these figures in order to demonstrate the apparent contempt held by this Government for a highly efficient industry in which there is fierce internal competition, and in which the inefficient cannot survive. It can hold its own against almost that of any country in the world, but not against low-wage countries like Japan.
The United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada found it necessary to impose quantitative restrictions upon the entry of goods from lowwage countries, but our Government is throwing the workers and manufacturers to the wolves. Will anybody but the importers derive any benefit from the Government’s policy? I doubt it. The pattern has been made all too familiar since this Government came to office with the blessing of the importers, who will mark up imported goods just sufficiently to keep the price below the Australian price and, at the same time, make an exorbitant profit. The ordinary people will derive no benefit from it. The grazier may for a little while sell more wool to Japan, but only for so long as it suits Japan. Japan buys our wool now because it suits that country to do so, but to-morrow, if a cheaper and satisfactory substitute is found, it will not buy another ounce of our wool. Then the sacrifices made by the Australian industry may well have been in vain. But we will still be able to sell our wool to the United Kingdom and European countries.
In the meantime great harm will have been done to Australian industry. The Government is playing this trick once too often, and it will be remembered by those who are about to suffer economic injury. What a mockery the Government makes of our arbitration system. Our workers are obliged to accept the dicta of our courts. Their hours are fixed and their wages are pegged; and .then the Government loosens this onslaught on their jobs. Goods from slave-labour countries are permitted entry at prices far below the cost of the Australian article. There can be no safety in tariffs for Australians against competition from low-wage countries. Our safety lies in quantitative restrictions, and nothing else will do.
– I do not propose to spend very much time by way of reply to honorable members opposite, nor will I attempt to make a comprehensive statement of economic policy in a debate launched in these circumstances. I say that, because I believe a matter of such economic significance would be dealt with quite inappropriately in that way when Parliament already has before it - and honorable gentlemen opposite are fully aware of this fact - legislation on supply which enables a full statement of economic policy to be made either from their side of the House or from ours. They also know that next week, in order to discuss the kind of problems which are implicit in the subject now raised by the Opposition, the Government is bringing together a very representative body of industrialists and commercial interests so that it can deal with these problems with them. But to the extent that within the limited time a statement can be made, my colleague, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), has given the kind of analysis and the kind of assurance which 1 believe the Australian community, and Australian industry in particular, would wish to hear.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have proposed this subject for discussion as a matter of urgent public importance. Yet, conspicuously, it has not attracted the attendance nor the attention of either the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) or the Deputy Leader (Mr. Whitlam); and for a considerable part of the time while the Opposition’s case was being put and the Acting Prime Minister was replying to it, only seven members of the Opposition remained in the chamber. And so, for my part, I will say only this about the economic situation: The evidence is around us that economic activities are extremely healthy at the present time. Civilian employment has continued to rise strongly. There was an increase for the twelve months to February, 1960, of 83,000 in the number of employed persons, and since then the number registered for employment has declined further by nearly 10,000. The trend of production has been strongly upwards in almost all sectors of industry, and the indications are that industrial expansion will continue in the next half year. Early in 1960, businesses expected that their capital expenditure in the half year, January to June, 1960, would be 17 per cent, higher than it was in the corresponding period of 1959.
In other statements which are to be made available to the House - in the economic survey which I will be releasing shortly - as well as in the discussion we have had on such measures as the International Development Association Bill 1960, and the measure dealing with the International Monetary Fund, the economic factors, whether overseas or at home, as they bear on Australia at the present time, have been or will be, carefully examined. The position will be presented further publicly in the week or so ahead of us. So, Sir, I turn for a moment to what I believe to be the real significance of the action of the Opposition in moving this motion.
Thursday morning, as is well known to all honorable members, is the time for general business, the time for private members’ business. How often have we heard honorable gentlemen opposite attack the Government because, they say, it makes inroads on the time available to private members? Yet, Sir, honorable members opposite having already submitted once this week a proposal for an urgent discussion by the House, and having ahead of them the prospect of the debate on Supply, which will enable them to roam far and wide, and also having talked at considerable length on the motion for the adjournment last night, we suddenly find that, without any prior notice having been given to me, as Leader of the House, before late yesterday afternoon, this motion is moved as a matter of urgency. This happened although only two days ago the most urgent matter that the Opposition could bring forward was one dealing with the housing situation.
We must look beneath the surface, Sir, for the explanation. We have no doubts in our mind, nor have many people in this place, about the reason for this discussion. It was common knowledge last night, and was reported by Labour members themselves, that the purpose of this debate is to eat into the time which otherwise would be available for the debate on the motion put on notice by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). In fact, I make this prediction now - that there will be very many more Labour members in the chamber to listen to the speech that the honorable member for Mackellar will make than have found it of consequence to be here while their own urgency discussion was taking place. So this motion, Sir, is an attempt to stifle discussion by private members and, in particular, discussion by the honorable member for Mackellar on the matter of which he gave notice yesterday. 1 am going to suggest, Sir, that in view of the bogus nature of the Opposition move, and of the tactics so clearly discernible behind it, that this House waste no further time on this particular matter, but turn to private members’ business, leaving to a more appropriate time discussion on general economic policy. With that in view, I move -
That the business of the day be called on.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to correct a statement which I made earlier, Mr. Speaker. In announcing which Minister would act for the Minister for Labour and National Service during his absence abroad I announced, as a result of a slip of the tongue, that the Minister for Shipping and Transport would administer the Labour and National Service portfolio. I apologize. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) will act for the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the truth about certain recent incidents in the Latrobe Valley should be ascertained and made public.
I find myself in full agreement with the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) that there have been deliberate stalling tactics on the part of the Opposition to prevent a full discussion of this matter. I am glad that the Leader of the House has offered to extend the time for this debate so that the Opposition will have a full opportunity to reply.
The House may ask why a small incident of this character should assume national im portance. I put the answer on three grounds: First, the Communist attempt to get control of the power supplies of Victoria by controlling the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council is a matter of consequence. Power is a key industry.
Secondly, I say that this matter is important because it is an example of the infiltration - or rather the re-infiltration - of the Communists into the Labour Party. This is a matter of national importance. I think the Premier of Queensland, earlier this week, using words, perhaps more colourful than I would, referred to Labour as a prostrate giant through whose body the red ants crawl at will. Indeed, a senior spokesman for the Labour Party, only a few days ago, said that he would rather support the Communists than the Australian Democratic Labour Party. This shows the extent to which opportunist and party considerations blind the members of the Labour Party, even to the extent that they will indulge in near treason - because supporting the Communists or associating with the Communists is near treason.
A third reason why I consider that this is a matter of importance is that there has been calculated deception by senior members of the A.L.P., which I will detail in a moment, to cover up their association with Communists and to cover up the success which Communists have had inside the Labour movement. I have spoken of the Communist attempt to gain control of the power supplies of Victoria. This is not an isolated attempt. I have here an industrial journal published in the United Kingdom only last month which speaks of a shop stewards’ unofficial committee controlled by Communists who are endeavouring to get control of the British power system. So, this is part of a world-wide Communist plot.
Let me say something about the background at Yallourn. Honorable members will know that some nine or ten years ago the Communists succeeded in getting control of the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council. They were thrown out of that control by a concerted attempt by the right wing of Labour. But since 1956 it has been no longer respectable to be right wing in Labour. The Trades Hall in Melbourne, aided very largely by a man called Brebner, has been conducting a continuous and vicious campaign against the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council and has been endeavouring to sabotage what that council has been doing.
Let me now come to some particular matters which I will take in order of date. The first date is 29th June, 1959. At that time a unity ticket was being run by certain elements in the Australian Labour Party and the Communists for the ironworkers’ elections in the Gippsland area. I shall read now from a pamphlet produced by the Federated Ironworkers Association itself -
The list of candidates just announced by the Returning Officer of the F.I.A. for the Yallourn Sub-Branch elections, reveals that despite the decision of our Union, and despite the policy of the A.L.P., members of the Labour Party in our Union have joined with the Communists and are unashamedly standing on a unity ticket. This “ unity “ ticket was “ arranged “ at a meeting in Moe, of Communists and Labourites on June 29th. The meeting was chaired by Lennie McLeod (a member of the A.L.P.) and Charlie Powling, wellknown Communist, was present and negotiated to share the ticket. (McLeod has nominated for President. Powling has nominated for VicePresident.)
Both were defeated. The information in this case comes, I believe, from a man called Taylor who is not an anti-Communist. I understand that he was present at the meeting and that he spoke rather indiscreetly. The meeting was held at McLeod’s house. He is an Australian Labour Party man - so-called - and he has been prominent, as I will show, in recent events in the past few weeks in respect of this last election at Yallourn. He was secretly arranging with Communists and holding meetings at his house with Communists concerning a unity ticket. They were defeated at that time, and they thought that more subtle tactics were necessary.
The next date to which I want to come is 2nd March, 1960. On that date, the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, through its secretary, Mr. Orr, wrote a letter to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). This letter says, in part - . . an all-out effort is being made by an organized force of Communists and so-called Labour men to take control of the Central Gippsland T.LC. . . . Failure by you to intervene can be taken as a refusal to take notice of a grave development - the seizure by the Communists of the means to control Victorian power supplies.
That was sent to the Leader of the Opposition on 2nd March. He must have received it because, later in that month, at Maryvale, Mr. Brebner, who is closely associated with him, was showing roneoed copies of that letter to people in Maryvale. But the Leader of the Opposition himself did not make any reply. He stood mute. He did nothing. He let things take their course.
The next date to which 1 come is 17th March, 1960. On that date a conference was held in Gippsland at the R.S.L. hall. This was a unity conference at which Communists and Labour men were present. This was a significant date. It coincided with one of the visits of the Melbourne Trades Hall Committee to Yallourn in order to bring pressure to bear to destroy the right wing in the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council in favour of the left wing and the Communists. I have here a statutory declaration by a Mr. Devlin, which reads as follows: -
I was present at Yallourn on March 17th when officers of the Central Gippsland T.L.C. met the officials of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council.
Melbourne officials arrived in three cars. The first contained Messrs. Llytleton (President), Brown and McNolty and a Mr. Tom Wright who is not an official of the Melbourne Council. T. Wright is Federal President’ of the Sheet Metal Workers Union and is well-known as the Communist boss at A.C-T.U. congresses.
Llytleton, Brown and McNolty left Wright seated in the- back seat of the car and moved some 25 yards away to the library hall where the meeting was to take place. The second car then arrived containing V. Stout and Halliday. Mr. Stout spoke briefly to Llytleton, Brown and McNolty and then went to the car containing Wright who was still seated discreetly in the back seat. Stout then conferred with Wright for some ten minutes. The meeting then commenced. During the rest of the day Wright was sighted only once, about 2 p.m. he was observed walking down a side street away from the meeting place.
Here is a statutory declaration that a leading Communist was taken down by Mr. Stout and conferences were occurring, at any rate outside the meeting place. I do not know whether they occurred inside the meeting place or not. This is a dreadful thing. But 1 have told only part of the story. Let me read a second statutory declaration by a man called Orr. In this case it is not such a good declaration because it recounts a conversation he had with another person. I will read it to the House so that honorable members may judge its significance in the light of other things to which I will direct attention. Here is the declaration -
I ask for leave to table this declaration.
– Is leave refused?
– I ask for leave to table also copies of the letter sent to Mr. Calwell by Mr. Orr. Is leave given?
Order! Is the honorable member seeking leave to have these documents included in “ Hansard “?
– I ask the honorable member to repeat his request.
– I ask for leave to table these papers.
– Do I take it that the honorable member is asking for leave to incorporate these documents in “ Hansard “?
– That is all right; the Opposition does not object to the honorable member tabling the declarations.
– Order! Leave is granted.
– The R.S.L. Library Hall was booked for a meeting of shop stewards. Nevertheless, some of the people present were not shop stewards and some shop stewards were not invited. It was fairly clear that the booking was phoney and that something was put across the R.S.L. Secondly, Mr. Littleton, when questioned about the presence of Wright, explained simply that “Wright came for the ride “. I wonder who was taken for the ride? Is it credible that when supposedly anti-Communist representatives of the A.L.P. were going down to investigate charges of communism and anticommunism in the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, they should take a leading Communist with them, unless they were up to something dirty?
Let me come now to 22nd March, the date on which nominations were called. Here we have a perfect example of the hook-up between the A.L.P. and the Communists. The A.L.P. wanted to get Gardiner, the Communist, in; but they did not want the odium of supporting him openly. Therefore, they arranged that they should have only one nominee for the two positions of vice-president as they could then say, “ We can tell our people to vote as they like”. As it happened - and is it not wonderful - they all voted for the Communist, Gardiner. They did what they were told. They preferred a Communist to the D.L.P. candidate. But it was a phoney arrangement. An A.L.P. representative named Finn was supposed to stand for vice-president but he did not; yet there were other A.L.P. members who could have nominated but did not do so. This thing smells to high heaven.
The next matter I come to involves another document which I ask for leave to table. [Leave granted.] This is a pamphlet issued by the A.L.P. with its how-to-vote card on the back of it. This is authorized by Wragg, Hodgkin, Jobson - they are candidates - and McLeod and Novak whom we have already heard about. McLeod was the man who chaired a unity meeting with Communists in respect of the ironworkers election. Here is the man who is now sponsoring the combined A.L.P.-Communist team. It conveniently leaves out the number for the Communist, but gives some instructions to vote for him, as the counting showed they did.
Now I come to what is perhaps the most important point of all. This is the issue of voting cards. I have in my hand a copy of the official A.L.P. voting card. The spaces opposite the names of the A.L.P. candidates are filled in, but the space opposite Gardiner’s name is left blank. I ask for leave to table this card also. [Leave granted.] From the same press, on the same sort of paper and in similar type, a replica of the card was published with all the spaces opposite the candidates’ names left blank. This was the card passed round to the trusty unity front voters. Here, by contrast, was the one for public consumption. They are both printed in the same type and on the same sort of paper. There was certainly fraud, perhaps amounting to forgery. This was done either with the connivance of the A.L.P. or against the A.L.P. Do members of the A.L.P. want this investigated or do they not? Do they want the blame sheeted home? Do they want to find out who was responsible for the issue of this card? I ask for leave to table this card also. [Leave granted.]
Between the nominations and the elections various events took place. A man named Matson, who was standing for the right wing, lost the right to represent his union as a delegate and was replaced by a known Communist. There is evidence that a man named Collins was nominated the day before but then it was found he had not been following the party line. Another right wing candidate, also called Collins, but a different person, also lost his nomination because the gasworkers union disaffiliated from the council by reason of a row connected with Communists. Because of the removal of these two candidates, the right wing had only five nominees for the six positions, and had to support another candidate to make their votes formal.
– Order! As it is now two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate is interrupted under Standing Order No. 108.
– I move -
That the time for the discussion of motions be extended until 12.45 p.m.
If members of the Opposition want the time to be extended further I will be agreeable to that course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I thank the House. We now come to the result of the election and this is interesting. There were 92 voters present and 92 votes were cast. There was a full line-up of 48 for the Communists and the A.L.P.
– That is a lie.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw lt.
- Mr. Gardiner received 48 votes as did the other members on the unity ticket with the exception of Akers who received 47 votes and thus, I understand, became the junior vice-president and not the senior vice-president. Mr. Gardiner, who was elected senior vicepresident, takes over control if Mr. Hodgkin, the president, is unavailable at any time.
The unity ticket scooped the pool except in the election of the executive committee to which six members were to be elected. Owing to the dropping out of two candidates, Matson and Collins, whom I have mentioned already, the how-to-vote cards did not correspond to the ballotpapers. Twelve informal votes were cast which otherwise would have gone to the A.L.P. unity ticket candidates, and two which would have gone to the others. As a result, the A.L.P. lost out on this election purely on a quirk of the ballot. But do not let us congratulate ourselves on this result because what has happened, in effect, is that we now have a controlling body of eleven instead of twelve because one delegate, McLuskey, lost his residential qualification. He is one of the right wingers. The controlling body has one Communist, and six other members who were elected on the Communist-A.L.P. ticket. Of those six, Shaw and Hodgkin are self-confessed dupes.
I have a copy of a statutory declaration in relation to this matter - I have not the original because it is in the post to me. The declaration reads -
That is how Communist control is exercised. Here we have two self-confessed weaklings already admitting that they vote Communist because their union tells them to do so. Of the others, we know that Akers and Wragg vote consistently for the Communist line against the Labour Party. I have not time to discuss this in detail, but 1 cite instances of this on 23rd June and 28th July last year, and 26th April this year. These are the people who will be pliant tools. I cannot go into detail because time will not permit me to do so, but now we have a seven-four line-up in favour of the unity ticket - the Communists and the people who were elected under their patronage. This is not good enough. When these things were brought up in the House last week by the honorable members for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), Phillip (Mr. Aston) and Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) what happened? The Labour Party made no reply. I saw the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) sitting mumchance and mute. He said nothing. He would not be drawn. He hoped that the matter would pass. He tried to laugh it off. He wanted to do what all these people, including Stout, have done. Stout must be lying when he says the Communists played no part in the Yallourn setup, because he was present with Wright at Yallourn on 17th March. Labour is trying to cover up for the Communists. It is trying to cover up the extent of Communist infiltration into the party.
This is a case which cries out for investigation. The Opposition may say that there are weaknesses here and there in the case which I have advanced. That may be so, because I have not had time to traverse all the details, but I have put up a case which justifies a coroner bringing in a verdict - a case which justifies the matter going to proper trial. I ask for an investigation of the facts which I have brought forward. If the Opposition is honest - this is the test - it will support me in my request. Does it want the truth, or is it trying to conceal the truth? Here is a prima facie case attested by statutory declaration. What is the Opposition going to do? I say to it that its attitude will determine what the public thinks of it as an opponent of communism. Is the Labour Party going to be honest, or has it something to conceal? If it is honest, it will support this motion. Stand up and be counted!
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has said that he has made out a prima facie case. I say that he has made out a prima fascist case. I have never listened to such a farrago of nonsense. The honorable member spent most of yesterday in the company of Senator McManus, and he comes into the House to-day regaling us with information which he obtained from the honorable senator. We have heard the voice of Wentworth expressing the views of McManus. In other words, we have had a new kind of Charlie McCarthy performance.
What are the facts? The Yallourn Trades Hall Council has been controlled for years by the D.L.P. The D.L.P. has been a very useful tool for the honorable member for McMillan. The honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) and all the others who raised this issue the other night are also beneficiaries of the D.L.P. Because we treated with contempt the observations which were made by those honorable gentlemen, we have been attacked to-day by the honorable member for Mackellar. We did not demean ourselves by answering them. They do not know what happened at Yallourn, but we do. A how-to-vote card was put out by Labour Party supporters in Yallourn which was described as the only anti-D.L.P. non-Communist ticket. All the candidates were marked on the card. The Communist candidates for all positions were put last except in the election for vicepresident in which there were two candidates. Our candidate was marked number one after another Labour candidate withdrew. If the D.L.P. wanted to keep the Communist out of the one position that he won, it should not have wasted its votes, as it did, by distributing them among three candidates. The D.L.P. put up three candidates for the position merely to confuse the issue.
– It did not.
– Is the honorable member in the confidence of the D.L.P.? He seems to know everything that happens. The D.L.P. has used that council for years as a propaganda weapon against the A.L.P. We have to defeat the D.L.P. wherever we can. We have to defeat it in trade union elections and in political elections. We have also to defeat the Communist Party of Australia in every election, trade union and political. For my part, I have always put the Communist candidate last in every trade union ballot in which I have voted. And I have always put the Communist Party candidate last in every political election.
I want to destroy the influence of the D.L.P. It has no place in Australian politics. But, while it can control trade unions and trade union councils, it can use the finances and the whole machinery of those organizations in order to try to beat us in the political arena.
– Would the honorable member sooner have the Communists use the finances and machinery of those organizations?
– I do not want the Communists any more than I want the Liberals or the D.L.P. There is only one party that can give justice to the people of Australia, and that is the Australian Labour Party. So we pursue our historic mission in spite of all the efforts that are made to destroy us.
– The honorable member is endorsing Senator Cant’s sentiments.
– I say the opposite to what is said by any man who says that he would prefer the Communists to the D.L.P. I did not say that I would prefer the Communists to the D.L.P. I said that I had put the Communist Party candidate last in every election, trade union and political, in which I had taken part. That puts my position beyond all question.
The honorable member for Mackellar knows very well that some of his political colleagues occupy their present positions because of the support that they received from the preferences of Communist Party candidates. Senator McCallum received 60 per cent’, of the Communist Party preferences in a Senate election a couple of years ago.
– It was 73 per cent.
– Yes. It was 73 per cent. At the last Senate election, 40 per cent, of the preferences of the Communist Party candidates in Victoria went, believe it or not, to the D.L.P. In Federal, State or municipal elections in the political field, and in trade union ballots, Communists have a right to cast their votes as they like and they have a right to organize and manoeuvre as they wish. We have had no co-operation at all with them in this issue as a party, and this how-to-vote ticket which I have described shows very clearly that there is no question of unity tickets with the Communists. There is no word about a unity ticket on it. If the honorable member for Mackellar had been presented with a proper brief and had read his brief correctly, he would have known that for the disputed positions - the executive positions - the Communist Party candidate was placed last in every case on our ticket. All that he can say against us is that, with respect to the vice-presidential positions, we did not mark Devlin above the Communist, and that we did not mark Kelly and Ranford - also both D.L.P. candidates - above anybody. We did not indicate any preferences. We said, “ Vote for our candidate “.
Who is this Devlin with whom the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) is so closely associated? He is not a member of the Australian Labour Party. He left us at the time of the split and went over to the D.L.P. We found out later that, all the time he was with us, he was an organizer and a paid official - he still is, I believe - of a discredited body called the movement. He is there to harm the Australian Labour Party. He is not out to benefit the people of Australia.
Now let us put the performance of the honorable member for Mackellar to the test. Is he not the man who, a few months ago, involved the security service in criticism by misusing the offices of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in order to send Brigadier Spry to Professor Stout so that the world could be told that Professor Stout would not attend a peace conference? Is it not a fact that Professor Stout, who is a buddy of the honorable member for Mackellar and, like his friend, equally anxious for notoriety, told the world that Brigadier Spry had advised him not to go to the peace conference in Melbourne, an advice which Professor Stout took? It did not matter to the honorable member for Mackellar or to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) that the security service of this country was thus brought into disrepute, or, at least, compromised.
Let me tell the honorable member for Mackellar again, after all these years, what he once said about the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - his own leader. When the honorable member is reminded of this, he will understand why his colleagues laughed at him uproarously while he was speaking and why they treated his remarks with studied contempt. He will understand why the only man in this Parliament whom they will let handle a matter of this sort is the honorable member himself. Not one other honorable member on the Government side of the House would handle this matter even at the end of a long shovel. This is what the honorable member said about his leader -
Mr. Menzies can neither call nor command as a leader. Under his leadership the party broke up and yet he refuses to co-operate under the leadership of anybody else.
– Order! The time allotted for this discussion has expired.
– I think that is a good note to finish on.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition want more time?
– I have had time enough to pulverize the honorable member for Mackellar and his colleagues.
– Order! I direct the attention of the House to the fact that interjections, especially while the presiding officer is on his feet, are completely disorderly.
The time allotted for general business has expired. The resumption of this debate will be made an order of the day under general business for the next day of sitting, and the Leader of the Opposition will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for ar act to amend the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946.
Debate resumed from 11th May (vide page 1631), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In addressing myself to this measure, which seeks “ to prohibit the interception of telephonic communications except where specially authorized in the interests of the security of the Commonwealth “, I propose first to say that I yield to no one in my loyalty to this country and to the forms of parliamentary democracy. I concede to no one a greater desire than I have to keep this country secure and free. I oppose this bill because its concept and its purpose and the practices which it will authorize are repugnant to me, as they are to all members of the Australian Labour Party.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), in his speech last night, claimed that those who had clear consciences had no reason to fear the provisions of this bill. He implied that the opposition to the measure from members on this side of the House was prompted by their personal fears that the practices authorized by the bill would be used against them. I reject that implication. I suggest that the honorable member might concede that there could be - as there are - valid grounds for loyal, honest citizens throughout this community to oppose the Government’s proposals.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) claimed last night, as he so often does, that the Labour Party had no regard for the security of Australia. He should be reminded that it was to the Australian Labour Party that this nation turned in the dark days of the Japanese threat to Australia. It was the insistence of a Labour Prime Minister that ensured that Australian troops were in position to meet and repel Japanese attacks. It was a Labour government, Mr. Speaker, which made the dramatic approach to the United States Government that resulted in the speedy dispatch of arms and equipment and men of that great ally to these shores for the islands campaign.
The honorable member for Hume should be reminded also that it was the Labour Party which established the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. It was a Labour government which took action with special legislation to protect the rocket range when its establishment was under threat from Communist subversion. It was a Labour government which took action in the 1949 coal strike, and declared that strike to be completely unjustifiable and sponsored by Communist leaders. It was a Labour government which said that that strike struck at the very fabric of our society; and it was Mr. Chifley who declared that the Commonwealth, in those circumstances, would not be moved by threats. It was he who took action which to him was necessary but distasteful, and which solved the problem and ended the strike. If we go back further, so far as Labour and the security of Australia are concerned, I remind honorable members that it was a Labour government which established the Royal Australian Navy.
So, the whole history of the Labour Party is that it has the greatest regard for the security of this country and for protecting it against attack. Having a great regard for the security and safety of Australia, I oppose this bill as an unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion into the private lives and the rights of individuals. The bill opens the way to the pimp and the informer. In his second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) said -
This bill is designed … to make the people of this country comfortable in the knowledge that there will not be any intrusion on their privacy unless there are facts which afford just ground for thinking that their telephone facilities are being used or have become likely to be used to the detriment of the security of this country.
I suggest that that is very loose speech for a man of the legal eminence of the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, because the actual words of the bill in clause 6 (2.) (b) specify the conditions which must attach to a request by the Director-General of Security for the issue of a warrant in respect of a telephone service. The bill states in that sub-clause that the DirectorGeneral of Security - shall specify the facts and other grounds on which the Director-General of Security considers it necessary that the warrant should be issued and, where relevant, the grounds on which the DirectorGeneral of Security suspects a person of being engaged in, or of being likely to engage in, activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth.
What, in essence, will be the basis of the so-called facts or the grounds for suspicion that the Director-General of Security must possess and reveal to warrant the interception of a telephone conversation? Will that basis - these so-called facts - be the malicious slanderings of the gossip, the whispered innuendo or the spiteful insinuations of an enemy or a political opponent? Will the facts or grounds of suspicion gathered by his agents be adequate for the DirectorGeneral of Security? Will the reports he receives be reliable? We have only to cast our minds back, practically ten years to the very day, when the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was under discussion in this chamber. As honorable members who were here then will remember, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), presumably on information provided to him by the security service, had published a list of names of people he had branded as Communists. Within ten days - on 9th May, 1950 - the Prime Minister had to admit in this House that people had been wrongly named and the information supplied to him had been incorrect. On that same day, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Chifley, said in this House, when speaking in the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, that the legislation - also strikes at the very heart of justice. It opens the door for the liar, the perjurer and the pimp to make charges and damn men’s reputations, and to do so in secret . . .
I believe that the legislation we are now discussing bears the same weakness and will permit the same injustice. Nothing will be made known of the tappings or the interceptions that take place, and apparently the Parliament will be given no information. Innocent people could suffer, and I make this point: Suppose, for example, I am suspect and my telephone conversations are to be intercepted. In the course of six months I speak to dozens or hundreds of people. Not only will my conversations - the conversations of the suspect - be recorded, but also the conversations of everybody with whom I speak, Why should this Government take action to record the conversations of quite innocent, quite honest, quite upright citizens? No exceptions are made in the bill. It has been suggested that the telephones of members of the Parliament should be exempt. I do not greatly concern myself with privileges as they extend to members of the Parliament; but I do believe that the constituent, the citizen, should have the right and the ability to telephone his member privately without fear of being overheard. If a member interviews a constituent or a citizen in his office, the interview is completely private. Where the telephone replaces the personal interview, it also should be private. I make that plea, not for the member of the Parliament but for the constituent. The bill makes no exceptions. It could apply to conversations between the parishioner and his priest. It could apply to conversations between the patient and his doctor. It could apply to conversations between the lawyer and his client. In the terms of this bill, everybody could come under the scrutiny of the snooper.
What use will be made of the information that is gathered? Will prosecutions result? Have there been any prosecutions from the 182 admitted interceptions in the past eleven years? In fact, it is pertinent to ask whether the recorded conversations would be admitted as evidence in a court of law. I doubt very much that they would be. It is notoriously difficult to persuade a judge or a magistrate to admit a telephone conversation. All sorts of proofs must be available before a conversation will be admitted. Or will the information merely be recorded on a dossier and filed for future reference? Will the man whose telephone is to be tapped, the man who is suspected of engaging in subversive activities, be confronted by his accusers? Will he have opportunity to answer charges and to cross-examine on those charges? We should remember that the present Government is the government which sent two men to gaol without a legal trial. Should this Government or any government be entrusted with the power that is provided by this bill? I suggest that it should not.
– Parliament sent the two men to gaol.
– It was a parliamentary decision following a decision of the executive with a majority in the House. Those men had no right and no opportunity to face their accusers. They had no opportunity to hear the charges against them, no opportunity to cross-examine, and no opportunity to be represented by counsel. This Parliament, the men sitting here, without a knowledge of the law, sent two men to gaol without any pretence of a trial. This is the Government which seeks this power now, and I suggest it should not be given to this Government or to any government.
It has been maintained for years that an Englishman’s home is his castle. It is true that a man’s home can be entered by authorized police in the course of their duties, but it is not easy to do so. General warrants are not lightly issued, and they are rarely issued to an officer below the rank of sergeant. Special warrants also are not lightly issued. The police officer holding either a general warrant or a special warrant must present himself at the house. He must make himself known » the householder. He must be there where he can be seen and where he can be questioned. But the Government’s legislation violates the home, because it allows the ear of the secret agent to intrude within the home. The unseen, unannounced eavesdropper is there to hear and to record, and this should not be tolerated in this community.
No matter what reasons are put forward by the Government, I suggest that the bill is unnecessary because the Commonwealth already has, under the defence power in the Constitution, everything it requires in time of war or in time of anticipated national danger to take whatever action it deems necessary for the defence of the country. It can, of course, with short notice, introduce security regulations, as has been done in the past, to enable it to take wide action against the spy, the subversive or the disloyal person. Under the Post and Telegraph Act, the Government has the power, which this bill seeks, to permit the technical interception that is necessary to maintain telephone services. Obviously, it is necessary, from time to time, for telephone technicians to intervene on a line to ensure that the service is functioning properly. It has power, also under the Post and Telegraph Act, to catch and to commit the pervert or the madman who misuses a telephone, but that action is taken at the request of the subscriber and is not done secretly.
I believe that the bill should be rejected, and I refer to two other matters. Clause 10 provides for records to be destroyed where conversations already recorded are found not to be relevant to security. The physical record, the tape or the disc, may be destroyed; but the overheard conversation is not excised from the memory of the man who has heard it, who has recorded it and who has reported it to his superior. It is not excised from the memory of the Director-General of Security, who must decide whether the conversation is one that threatens the security of the country. The Director-General may decide that the conversation is not relevant to security, but within that conversation there may be matters that could be harmful to the individual. Although the physical record is destroyed, these matters can live on in the memory of those who have heard them, recorded them and, as I have said, reported them to their superiors, and they could be used to the disadvantage of the innocent.
There is one other point. The honorable member for Hume last night claimed, rather proudly I thought, that the Government was taking power to intercept telephone conversations, but was not taking power, which in his research appeared to exist in the British procedures, to intercept and open letters. I suppose every honorable member knows that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has for years maintained equipment which is quite competent to disclose the contents of envelopes without opening them. This is some infra-red process, or something of the kind. It is notorious that such an attempt to discover the contents of an envelope can be literally foiled by interleaving the pages of a document with slips of foil. But what is the position to be? If this legislation is to track the spy and the subversionist, do we intend to trap only those who use the telephone? What will the spies now do? I ask the honorable member for Hume whether they will now write letters to each other instead of using the telephone?
– They will send smoke signals.
– They may even do that. What help will the provisions of the bill be to the Director-General of Security and his officers in catching the spy and the subversionist who does not have a telephone? I suppose if one looked lightly at this, one could say that the measure is discriminatory in that it discriminates between the spy who has a telephone and the spy who has not a telephone. And what is the next step if Parliament accepts this measure and it goes on the statute-book? We then give the Government power to listen in to anybody’s conversation on the telephone. If it is necessary in the interests of security to overhear conversations - and I do not doubt that security agents in all countries seek to overhear the conversations of those they suspect - at least the normal eavesdropper must take the physical risk that his action involves; but here the conversation will be overheard by some one sitting secretly and hidden away, a man who takes no risk at all. If we are to accept this proposition, what will the next step be? If we seek to hear the conversations of those who seek to overthrow and destroy, what is the next step? Shall we have secret earphones installed in the seats of all aeroplanes carrying people to and fro between the States of this country and have men sitting in the back seats listening in and recording-
– That is ridiculous.
– The honorable member for Mallee says that is ridiculous. The telephone is merely the instrument which transmits a conversation, and if it is necessary to listen to a telephone conversation between two persons, is it not just as necessary to make provision to attempt to overhear personal conversations, apart altogether from telephone conversations? Let us see what the next step will be if no exceptions are made.
– You should write a mystery story for television.
– If I could write the script for a horror film and get the honorable member to appear in it, it would be a great success. As I say, apparently no exceptions are to be made at all, and I would like to know from some one on the Government side of the House - particularly in view of the speeches made by some members on that side - whether the provisions of this bill will be extended to the telephone services maintained here by legations and embassies of foreign countries. There is nothing in the bill to say they will be exempt, although presumably they would be exempt under the provisions of the Diplomatic Immunities Act. But I think something should be said about that in view of statements made from time to time on the Government side of the House, particularly with regard to some countries which maintain diplomatic relations here. There is nothing to say that those telephones would be exempt.
– Do you think they should be exempt?
– The honorable member asks whether I think they should be exempt. I am asking the Government what the extent of the practice will be.
– You are flying a kite.
– I am not flying a kite. I suggest that when honorable members are asked to consider legislation they are entitled to know from the Government which brings it down, and from supporters of the Government who have presumably discussed it in their party room, what exemptions there are to be. I am certain that this legislation is completely repugnant to the great majority of the people of this country, and I suggest that it should be rejected out of hand.
.- lt is not without its significance that the member of the Opposition chosen to lead in this debate was the man who is known as the chief disrupter of A.L.P. tranquillity in this chamber; and we can disregard any one who follows him for the simple reason that the Opposition apparently chose their best man to lead the debate. It is not without significance that the man concerned is one whose personal record of association with the Lenin school of thought is long and vivid. I recall, as do other honorable members who have studied this situation, the attacks in this House by J. T. Lang when he was here showing that others of the same school of thought who were associated with the government of the day had the same opinions regarding particular posts throughout trade unions and government bodies to which known trained Leninist personnel were appointed. I do not wish to name them, but any one who cares to study J. T. Lang’s contributions to debates here will recall the details.
After all, we know that the honorable member concerned was intimately associated with “ Balance-sheet “ Ernie Thornton of the ironworkers’ union, Tom Wright, Norman Jeffries and Edgar Ross. We know that, like a certain biblical character, he denied his chief henchman, Jock Garden. So, I would say that the speech by the honorable member last night indicated fear - a fear that his past may catch up with him and that the future might be denied to him to undermine and destroy the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader (Mr. Whitlam) in the vain hope that he will one day lead the Labour Party to a victory.
– You are more stupid than you look.
– I know the honorable member’s background, and I say, bluntly and frankly, that he is a discredit to the party he represents. But many backbenchers on his side of the House are waking up to him.
There has been a lot of screaming and crying about what this bill will do, such as interfering with the privacy of the individual, and so on. Coming from newer members who have come here since 1949, that does not seem strange; but Opposition members who were here before 1949, and who, indeed, were in office during the war will probably remember some of their machinations. We remember the case of Stephenson, of the Australia First movement, who was thrown into gaol for eighteen months without trial of any description; and we remember what happened when his case came before the court. On the question of intimidation, we have only to look to the records which have been disclosed to this House, and again I direct members to one of the genuine old Labour Party members in days gone by - J. T. Lang. It will be found that his exposures have never to this day been answered by the old-timers of the World War II. Labour Government. There are only a few of them left, of whom the honorable member for East Sydney is one.
I come now to the question of phone tapping. Let me point out to honorable members, if they are not already aware of the fact, that for several hundred years Secretaries of State have had what is roughly referred to as the “ prerogative “ power which has never been denied or challenged - and therefore the opportunity - to investigate material for the protection of the Sovereign’s services and the Sovereign’s domains. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that under section 49 of the Australian Constitution, which deals with the powers, privileges, and so forth of this Parliament, there already exists the power to intercept telephone communications. I base that statement on the assumption that the word “ mail “ refers to an instrument for conveying a communication from one point to another. The telephone is an instrument for conveying a communication from one point to another. There is no doubt in my mind that the power expressed in section 49 can be applied to the interception of telephone communications.
I return to the bill itself, and I wish to get away from all this emotionalism indulged in by the honorable member who has just spoken. He said that if telephone tapping were allowed to continue all sorts of private conversations would be tapped, and so on. I think that any member who makes such a statement has not analysed very carefully the bill before the House. There has been a lot of talk about security, a lot of talk about listening to telephone conversations of members, a lot of talk about getting information on which prosecutions could be launched, and all that sort of thing. Anybody who understands the true functions of the security service knows that that is a lot of tommy rot. A security service does not act in such a way. It collects information so that in time of danger - for instance in time of war - persons who are dangerous to the security of the country can be dealt with. Surely the object of the security service is not to obtain information for the purpose of launching prosecutions. The thing goes much deeper and wider than that.
– There goes your 60-vote majority down the drain.
– I am not worried about that. I am quite happy to face the truth. The honorable member delivered an impassioned tirade last night about interference with the rights and liberties of the subject. I do not think that many people’s rights and liberties are being interfered with. One honorable member - I think on this side of the House - referred to the statements made in a book by a very well known supporter of the Labour Party, Mr. Don Whitington, who claimed that the honorable member for East Sydney had the best telephone tapping system in existence in this place, and was able thereby to gain official information and give it out. Sometimes the nature of the questions that the honorable member for East Sydney and one or two of his particular colleagues asked in this House would seem to indicate clearly that he has some official inside information which, according to the Official Secrets Act, he should not be entitled to give out.
– You have put tEe honorable member for Mackellar to sleep.
– That is all right, because he did a good job this morning and is entitled to have a sleep. He is at least sleeping here and not in the Library, which is a practice of some people I know. It is completely and unutterably unarguable, in any way whatsoever, that for years the honorable member for East Sydney has been the white-haired boy of the Leninists, of the Communist group in this country. There has never been published in the periodicals of the Communist Party an article in which the honorable member for East Sydney has been attacked. He has always been upheld as their champion. One of the things which, in examining this bill, the decent honorable members on the other side, many of whom I am proud to call friend-
– There are not any.
– Yes, there are, and I have a real and genuine affection for the decent ones. They should look very carefully at the point I have just made, and should ask themselves: Is it wise to take notice of the lead, or attempted lead, of the honorable member for East Sydney, when his associations with the Leninists are a known fact? Is it in the best interests of unity in their own party that they should take notice of this man?
You know, the tirade delivered last night by the honorable member for East Sydney was really terrific when you come to analyse it. He made an impassioned appeal. He said that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) had received a letter from General Blarney apologizing for intercepting a telephone conversation between the honorable gentleman and somebody else. Of course, what the honorable gentleman overlooked in pushing that incident forward is that at that point of time the Labour regime was in office. Such a thing has never happened under the present Government.
Everything that the honorable member for East Sydney has advanced has rebounded on him. His behaviour shows quite clearly his fear that, if this bill goes through, a lot of his activities will be restricted - in other words, that he may not be able to use this special phone tapping facility which, according to his friend Don Whitington, he apparently has at his disposal somewhere in this building. If the statement made by Mr. Don Whitington is wrong, then the honorable member for East Sydney should, as a matter of privilege, have Mr. Whitington called before the House and made to disclose the source of his information and the reason for his statement.
The purpose of this measure is a very simple one. It amounts to this, that whereas previous governments, Labour and otherwise, have for many years worked on the principle that interception of communications to enable the security service to preserve and protect the nation was an acceptable practice, the practice has been followed in a sort of willy-nilly manner, but is now to be put on a regular basis. I say that this principle of interception of communications has been in existence for several centuries, and I claim that power to follow the practice already exists in the Australian Constitution as one of the powers implicit in section 49. This would mean that not only the Attorney-General, as proposed under this bill, but any Minister of State at all could issue a warrant to the Director-General of Security for the purposes of ascertaining information for his uses.
If that were what the Government proposed, undoubtedly it would be the cause of some doubt as to whether the practice could be used for political purposes. But there is a definite restriction on the use of the power. No warrant can be issued except by the authority of the AttorneyGeneral of the day after he has thoroughly satisfied himself that the case presented to him by the Director-General merits the issue of that warrant. The only exception to this is where there is a case of urgency - and the decision as to whether a particular matter is urgent lies with the DirectorGeneral. Only after the most careful consideration will permission be given to tap a telephone. The Director-General may, if he so desires in a case of emergency, issue a temporary warrant having effect for a period of 48 hours, and no longer. He can issue that warrant only under certain circumstances which are very clearly set out in the bill. He must first have applied to the Attorney-General for such a warrant and between the time of his application and the time of the Attorney-General’s decision, something must have occurred to create an emergency. Even if those circumstances do exist, he must not, over the last three months, have been refused by the AttorneyGeneral an application for a warrant to tap the telephone service.
I think that the Australian public, irrespective of political leanings, can rest secure in the knowledge that there are very definite restrictions and safeguards. Members of the Opposition have screamed about the political aspects of the Attorney-General’s actions. British history has shown that, with Labour and non-Labour governments in office, this sort of power has been used by common consent, without any legislation. It has been used very infrequently, even during the war period. Successive AttorneyGenerals have agreed on restraint. But our Attorney-General has gone further. He has put certain legal restrictions in the way. He has placed on himself and the DirectorGeneral of Security certain legal responsibilities which, I submit, will not be handled lightly by any man occupying either office.
There has been a lot of talk about the Petrov case. The Opposition, particularly the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), has screamed that it was a political stunt and that no prosecutions followed it. But the Petrov commission proved that subversive activities had been going on in Australia. It brought home to the men and women in the street that these things were happening and were not merely a figment of the imagination of a few Liberal Party and Australian Country Party members in the State or Federal Parliaments. They were really happening in peace-time. The Petrov case established that point and wiped out forever the argument of the Opposition that such charges by members on this side of the House were purely a figment of the imagination.
– Why did not the Government hold the inquiry after the election?
– That would have been very nice for you.
– There have been plenty of elections since.
– Yes. That is the answer to the honorable member for Watson.
– It is not the answer to my interjection.
– Well, it proves the point. I do not mind the interjections from members of the Opposition. I like to let them have a bit of fun. They are not getting much fun out of life at present, because they have a tough case to uphold. I do not mind helping them to have a few light moments. It eases the burden of their conscience. They have to face up to problems within their party, such as the fight between the honorable member for East Sydney and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on the one hand and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) on the other. It is a terrific fight. We know too that a fight occurred amongst the executive of the Labour Party with the result that five were against this bill and five were in favour of it. Perhaps they had better find out who is phone-tapping in their own offices. We have read in the newspapers of the close voting in the Labour Party caucus yesterday on the Opposition’s attitude to this bill. So it is not a happy Opposition that sits here, torn asunder by the actions of the honorable member for East Sydney who is determined to use this bill as a peg on which to hang his ambitions.
– Mr. Speaker, 1 rise to order. I wonder if you can relate what the honorable gentleman is saying to the bill. He is talking about an alleged fight between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for East Sydney.
– 1 think he was talking about telephone tapping. That is the subjectmatter before the Chair.
– I will conclude on this point: The Opposition’s attitude towards this bill is very weak. It is designed to create suspicion of the Government, of the AttorneyGeneral, and of the Director-General of Security. It is designed, by one or two members of the Opposition to try to get all the information available about certain well-known Leninist cobbers of theirs. I am very happy indeed to support this bill because I believe that it will show the public of Australia that there is no sneaking going on. It will appeal to the good sense of the Australian people because they will know that this Government is prepared to bring this subject out into the open and restrict the power to intercept telephone conversaions. The people know that the security service must do certain things. Common sense indicates that certain security matters can never be brought to the public light. The public is concerned that what is done in this respect is done legally, rightly and not with an air of great secrecy. This bill clears completely from the public mind any suggestion that something sneaky is going on. There are certain definite legal requirements which must be fulfilled before the security service can act.
.- This bill is called-
A Bill for an Act to Prohibit the Interception of Telephonic Communications except where Specially Authorized in the Interests of the Security of the Commonwealth.
From the first words of this title one would think that this is really a bill to prohibit telephone tapping. In fact, the object of the bill is to give legal authority to do exactly what the first few words of the title say that it is aimed to prevent. This bill is like the great reform that Nero introduced into Rome when he said that no more Christians were to be thrown to the lions except on the orders of Nero himself. To put the matter in cold, stark language, the objects of the bill are to permit telephone tapping for periods of up to six months at a time, on the authority of the AttorneyGeneral himself; to permit telephone tapping for up to 48 hours on the warrant of the Director-General of Security without any reference to the Attorney-General at all; and to authorize any one else who has been given authority by the DirectorGeneral, to check upon telephone conversations.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) seeks to justify all these invasions of civil liberties by the pretence that they are necessary to deal with what he is prepared to cover by the term “ subversion “. The word “ subversion “ like the word “ Communist “ as used in the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, is a word which, if applied in an exaggerated form, or even in the literal sense as denned by the Oxford
English Dictionary, could cover the activities of every single person in this Parliament.
Let me quote to the House the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word I am talking about. It says that “ subversion “ is “ the action of overturning or overthrowing”. It is not overthrowing by violent means, or overthrowing by any particular means; it is the action of overthrowing. Overthrowing by the ballot-box would be subversion in the minds of the people who were being overthrown.
– Never mind about “ Ah! “. The honorable member for Barker knows that when proceedings are taken before a court, the court always accepts as a legitimate argument from counsel appearing on either side the interpretation given by the Oxford English Dictionary to terms in legislation. The definition of “ subversion “ in that dictionary is also given as, “ to disturb, to overturn; to overturn a condition or to overthrow an order of things, to overthrow a principle, to overthrow the law “. Those are all acts which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, are acts of subversion, and “ subversion “ is to be the word that is to determine whether or not a person is to be regarded as a fit subject to have his telephone tapped.
The position, therefore, is that we are entitled to query the real motive behind this legislation. Are any of us here so foolish as to believe that any real spy, or any actual agent of a foreign power, will be so foolish as to use a telephone to carry on his activities, especially now that he knows that it is legal to tap a telephone service? What person would be so foolish as to think that a real Russian spy would be silly enough to use a telephone to carry on his espionage, or sabotage or the other things that this bill pretends it is aimed at preventing? Can any one imagine “ Schmidt the spy “ ringing up “ Garry the Com.” now it is known that telephones are to be tapped? Of course not.
Every one knows that these people are not so naive as that. Russia and other foreign powers are not so foolish as to send people here who are so naive as to believe they can carry on their activities through telephones that will be tapped by the security service. If this bill were actually designed, as it pretends to be designed, to be a check on the activities of spies and saboteurs of a foreign power, then I believe the Government could have proved its bona fides by making some provision in the bill that a record of all warrants issued should be supplied to the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that would be a proper provision. If this intrusion on the civil liberties of the people is to be justified, the AttorneyGeneral should be obliged to supply to the Prime Minister and also to the Leader of the Opposition a copy of every warrant issued. If it is in fact aimed at preserving the security of the country, what person would say that the Leader of the Opposition is not as much entitled to be taken into the confidence of the authorities on matters affecting the security of the country as is the Prime Minister himself?
How can this country defend itself if, in time of war, the Government says to the Opposition, “ You, and the people you represent, are, in our opinion, traitors to the country and cannot be trusted “. No country can enter an armed conflict with a foreign power with any hope of success unless it has the united support of its parliament, if it happens to be a democracy. That was shown during the last war, when the Menzies Government invited the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin, and other leaders of the Opposition party to sit in the War Cabinet. In England, Mr. Churchill invited the leaders of the Opposition party to sit in the War Cabinet and share all the Cabinet’s secrets. He knew that no country could defend itself when there was a real threat to its security unless it. had the united support of every section of the community. Especially must it have the united support of the workers, because it is the workers of the country who make the bombs and the munitions and bear their share of the actual armed conflict. When Mr. Curtin became Prime Minister he, too, established a War Council. He knew that a Labour government could no more govern in time of war without the support of the Liberal Opposition than could a Liberal government without the support of the Labour Opposition.
If this were a genuine attempt to protect the security of the country, then the Leader of the Opposition would be given a con fidential report of every warrant issued to authorize the tapping of a telephone by the Director-General. But that has not been done. I do not blame the Government for not providing that that information should be given to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Neither do 1, because it would leak out.
– That is a nice statement to come from an honorable member! What he is now virtually saying is that the Leader of the Opposition, the alternative Prime Minister of this country, is such a traitor to his country that he would divulge information to a foreign power concerning its security. It is disgraceful that such a statement should come from a member on the Government side, suggesting that the Leader of this Opposition, who, one day, will become Her Majesty’s Prime Minister in this country, is such a traitorous character that he is not to be trusted with information concerning security. That is a disgraceful statement, and one that the honorable member should take an early opportunity to correct.
– I do not think that the honorable member is interpreting the real meaning of the interjection.
– I thank the Minister for Immigration for that correction on behalf of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby), and I am pleased to notice that the honorable member agrees with that correction. The interjection appeared to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition was not to be trusted. If it is now agreed, however, by the Minister for Immigration and by the honorable member who made the interjection that the Leader of the Opposition is a man who can be trusted with secrets concerning the security of the country, that makes so much weaker the Government’s case for not having given the Leader of the Opposition the right, automatically, to share in information concerning the issue of warrants.
– I supported the Leader of the Opposition right through my speech.
– Then the honorable member must support what I am now saying. The Government has not given evidence of its bona fides in this regard. The reason why the Government is not giving the Leader of the Opposition information concerning the persons whose phones have been tapped is that these phones are being tapped only for industrial and political purposes. What fools the members of the Government would be to share the information they hope to get by tapping telephones with the leader of the political party opposed to them! In this practice lies the Government’s hope of obtaining information which it could never obtain by fair means.
I believe that it ought to be recognized that when a telephone is tapped, the person doing the tapping is listening to the conversation not of one person, but of two - one of whom is usually innocent. It is possible that the conversation would be between two innocent people, because when authority for tapping a telephone has been given, the tapping goes on constantly for 24 hours a day. If people think that they can know when their phone is being tapped because of certain noises, let me disabuse their minds at once. There is now no way of knowing whether a phone is being tapped, even by noises or diminution of volume. The tapping apparatus is an automatic device which is pinned to the particular line for 24 hours a day. Immediately the telephone receiver is lifted by the other party to answer a call, this automatic device begins to operate and continues to operate until the conversation is ended and the receiver is put down, lt is automatic and complete. It taps and records every conversation on a telephone.
One of these devices is installed at the Canberra Post Office. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and I invited members of the Government to come across to security head-quarters in Canberra to inspect the phone tapping apparatus installed there. We knew what was being installed by the security service, because the telephone technicians who were doing the installation told us what I am now disclosing to the House. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and I alleged in Parliament that the telephones of members of this House were being tapped by the security service, and we went so far as to move - the honorable member for East Sydney was the mover and I was the seconder of the motion - that our allegations regarding the tapping of members’ telephones should be referred to the Committee of Privileges for investigation and action. We forced a division on the motion. The Prime Minister and every other member on the Government side voted against the proposal to have our allegations investigated by the Committee of Privileges. Do you think they did that to save the honorable member for East Sydney and myself the embarrassment which surely would have been ours if we could not have proved our case? Do you think that they did it for that reason? Of course not!
I know that although the Prime Minister has a very high regard for me, he has not such a high regard for the honorable member for East Sydney, and nothing would have pleased him more than to have been able to catch the honorable member on some allegation which the honorable member could not prove. Do not forget the risk that the honorable member for East Sydney and I ran. Had we not been able to prove our charge against the security service, by resolution of the Parliament our seats in this House could have been taken from us there and then and declared vacant. That is the risk we ran, but it was a risk that we were prepared to take in order to prove our assertion that the telephones of members of Parliament had been tapped.
– It would not be the same place without either of you.
– I thank the Minister for that. I know that not only are the telephones of members of Parliament being tapped, but also that security service agents are installed in this House to check up on the correspondence which is received by honorable members, and to search the contents of the drawers of their tables. I have made this allegation, and I have asked the Leader of the Opposition to have it investigated. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I have positive proof that a security service agent is interfering with the correspondence of members of Parliament and the written material which is contained in honorable members’ rooms.
– Let us have the proof now.
– Never mind about the proof now. The proof is being investigated, and I say no more about it at this stage. This is an outrageous state of affairs. The Minister for Immigration, who is at the table, appears to be shocked by what 1 am saying because he understands, if other honorable members do not, what parliamentary privilege means. He knows that once you destroy parliamentary privilege; once you destroy the right of a member of Parliament to stand up and speak his mind freely and express his opinion on matters which affect the welfare of the people of the community; once you take away his complete and absolute freedom to do this, you destroy the very cornerstone of democracy. A constituent must always have the right to come to a member of Parliament, to telephone a member of Parliament or to write to a member of Parliament, completely free of doubts and certain in the knowledge that no snooper or member of the security service will be listening to his telephone conversation or checking his correspondence.
If the people of this democracy lose that right to contact their member of Parliament freely in the way that I have described, this democracy will have taken on at least one of the characteristics of the totalitarian state. That is something against which we all ought to fight. For centuries our forebears fought to establish this form of government of men by men. It is a tragedy and a wicked shame that in time of peace when there is no real evidence of subversion in this country we should allow, by legislative act, this terrible intrusion into the civil liberties of the people. I have already given the dictionary definition of “ subversion “. It is so wide that it could cover the actions of a trade unionist who seeks to alter an award. It could cover the actions of any person who seeks to overthrow a government through the ballot-box, because “ subversion” in the Oxford Dictionary is not defined as an overthrow by force of a government or an overthrow by force of a law. The definition is to overturn or overthrow by any action, whether through the ballot-box or by any other means.
I believe that the Prime Minister was right in the description of the situation in Egypt contained in his letter to Anthony
Eden which was disclosed in Eden’s memoirs. The Prime Minister said that Egypt to-day is a police state and has all the characteristics of a police state. Then he mentioned telephone tapping. That became the number one characteristic of a police state in the mind of the Prime Minister when he sought to convince Anthony Eden that Egypt was a police state. Undoubtedly telephone tapping is a characteristic of the police state. It is a characteristic of what was accepted as the norm in Hitler’s Germany, and what is accepted to-day in Russia, Spain and the other dictatorships of the world. It is not the kind of thing that free men tolerate, and it is not the kind of thing that we in Australia should tolerate. Certainly, it is not the kind of thing that a democratically elected government should ever dare to bring to the Parliament. It is something on which we ought to frown forever.
Telephone tapping is as alien to our Australian way of life as pulling the knife when you cannot win a fight by any other means. A new Australian came to me on one occasion and complained that he would not be accepted for naturalization. I asked him whether he had committed any offences and he replied, “ Only a little one. 1 had p. brawl s: Hindmarsh some time ago and I pulled a knife, and now the Minister will not allow me to be naturalized.” I said “ If I were the Minister I would not allow you be naturalized either.” I said to him “There is one thing that new Australians ought to learn and that is that if you cannot beat a man by fair means you do not pull a knife on him “. Listening to telephone conversations is the parallel of pulling a knife when you cannot beat a man by fighting in the Australian way.
We do not give our civil police power to tap telephones. We expect them to track down murderers, forgers and people who engage in every other brand of crime in the criminal calendar, without tapping telephones. We do not allow them to u.’-e the third degree. We do not allow them to use the other methods that are so characteristic of totalitarianism. But I believe that if you can justify one departure from decency and from the recognized civil liberties, you can justify another. You can justify, eventually, arrest without warrant, imprisonment without trial, the suspension of habeas corpus, the third decree, and all the other methods that the totalitarian powers employ against their enemies. Once you take the first step the others seem much easier. It seems a long way from where we are now to the power to arrest without warrant, but it is not so far from tapping a telephone to arrest without warrant. II. in the name of defence, you can justify the tapping of telephones now on the ground that there might be subversion - and by subversion I mean an attempt to overthrow a government by force and not merely through the ballot-box - you can justify anything else. What person who says that he is prepared to trample on this civil liberty will restrain himself from trampling on some other liberty in the name of defence?
Once you cross the Rubicon in that regard, there is no justification for stepping back in other respects. Communists and Fascists justify, in the name of security, their violation of natural justice, civil liberties and common decencies which we hold dear. I remember reading the last words of a great Irish patriot who, standing on the threshold of death - he was about to be hanged for a crime against the State - said, “ Justice! O, what crime is committed in your name “. We might very well say, “Democracy! O, what acts of dictatorship are committed in your name “. Here we have an act of dictatorship being committed in the name of democracy. A government which pretends to believe in democracy is taking the very first step along the road towards totalitarianism.
Let us not imitate the totalitarian powers in any respect. Let us not take even the first step along the road that leads to totalitarianism - and the tapping of telephones is the first step along that road. Let us remember how true it is that he who goes far enough into the desert must keep on walking to the other side of it if thirst prevents him from going back. That could easily be the situation in which we in Australia shall find ourselves. Having taken the first step, we then take the second. The second leads to the third, and so on, until finally we are so far into the morass that we become as totalitarian as are the people whom we pretend that we are opposing.
I believe that we must always remain vigilant in our fight against totalitarianism, lest we adopt the methods of totalitarianism to such an extent as to make our methods absolutely indistinguishable from the evils that we condemn, lt would be very much like the case of the doctor who decides to kill the patient in order to cure the disease. Those are the things that I warn this Parliament to have a clear understanding on, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In short, I believe that we should let Australia remain forever a free country - completely free in every sense of the word - because it is quite possible that we may become the last bastion of what, 50 years ago, free people believed freedom to stand for.
It has been said that the United Kingdom, the United States of America, New Zealand, Canada and other countries have allowed telephone tapping to be legalized by act of Parliament. Of course they have, but two wrongs do not make a right. The fact that other countries have done something wrong is no reason why we should do something wrong. The plain fact of the situation is that the Western powers have absolutely panicked during the last few years and are now doing things which their forebears would never have tolerated. Our forebears would never have tolerated things of the kind that we are doing in the name of defence and in the name of democracy. I. believe that soon there will no longer be even a semblance of the things that we at one time understood freedom to stand for.
Whatever happens in other countries, we have to keep this country a bastion of real liberty and of real freedom. Australia should stand as a beacon light and a rallying point for people who believe in the decencies of life, in civil liberties, in human dignity and in the rights of man. Too often, we find precedents being pointed to as reasons for going still further into the morass. We ought to be determined that we shall forever remain the precedent for free men to turn to when they want to unshackle themselves from the toils into which they have fallen, so that the people of the United Kingdom and of the United States can point to Australia and say, “ We must prohibit telephone tapping in our country. Look at Australia. There is a country where telephone tapping has been prohibited. It. is still a free country and has not been overthrown.” We must at least provide the free world with one example to which other countries can turn, if they get over their panic-stricken state of mind, and say, “Let us emulate Australia”.
If we join the other countries which, as I have said, have thrown away these precious civil liberties in order to fight a form of tyranny that we all detest, what have we achieved? What do we achieve if, in. fighting communism, we finish by eventually emulating the Communists themselves? If we do that, we shall not have won anything, but the Communists will have inflicted a defeat upon us, not by their action, but by our own action. By the weakening of our own moral fibre, we shall have allowed the Communists to obtain a victory which at one time they would never have thought possible. I believe that this bill, if it is passed, will be a perfect example of one of the great victories of communism. Once we give up the right to say truthfully that the great difference between communism and democracy is that in a democracy the liberty of the subject is completely preserved - once the right to boast of absolute and complete liberty of the subject has been broken down and eventually destroyed - what argument have we left with which to fight communism?
This is one time when I should like a bill before the Parliament to be considered as a non-party measure, as was the Matrimonial Causes Bill 1959, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am certain that there are, on the Government side of the House, members - at least, the more learned of them, who know the fundamentals of civil liberties and the basic principles of justice and freedom - who would never support this bill if it were treated as a non-party measure. I cannot believe that the Minister for Immigration, who is now at the table, wholeheartedly supports the bill, although I do not blame him for voting for it, because, as a member of the Government, he has to do as the majority in the Government decides. I can only regret that the debate on this measure is being conducted on a party basis, thereby preventing the free expression of the views of many decent members on the Government side of the chamber whose minds are not yet so warped, and who are not so panic-stricken as to accept this terrible invasion of the recognized civil liberties in this country.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I agree with the opening remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in which the honorable member said that spies who were spying on Australia’s defence and who were endangering or attempting to endanger the security of this country would no longer use our telephone system for the conveyance of special messages, for fear that the telephone lines might be tapped and that information might thereby be divulged to the security authorities. That is quite true. Only the most unsophisticated spy to-day would pick up a telephone in Australia in order to transmit valuable information to a fellow spy or to another contact man. The true purpose of this bill, and its ultimate achievement, will be to ensure that no spy with any brains at all will attempt to use the Australian telephone system for the conveyance of messages, because he will know that the security service may, quite legally, be listening to his messages.
I support the bill because it will lay down the rules under which telephones may be tapped. It is high time we had those rules stated by statutory authority. It is a good thing that this Parliament has now come to consider the matter of telephone tapping. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and other honorable members have for some time been pressing - whether with or without facts, but certainly with vim and vigour - for action in this matter of telephone tapping. We have now come to the point at which we can make a decision on it, and I venture to say that this Parliament could do any one of three things. First, it could approve a bill such as this, which lays down the rules for telephone tapping, in order that the Parliament and the people of Australia may know what those rules are and by what means the Australian telephone system may be tapped at any time. Secondly, we could, if we so wished as a Parliament, pass a bill that would outlaw telephone tapping altogether. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh is right when he says that spies will now be reluctant to use Australia’s telephone service - and I believe that he is right - we should give spies an open go and a free hand to use our telephone network for the carrying out of their nefarious activities against the security of Australia if we passed a bill to outlaw telephone tapping altogether.
– They would use, not their own telephones, but those of other persons who were not under suspicion.
– If I understood the honorable gentleman correctly, he said that he was completely opposed to telephone tapping.
– That is right.
– The honorable member nods his head and says, “ That is right “. He must agree that if we passed a bill to outlaw telephone tapping every spy in Australia would be able to pick up his telephone and ring his contact man or a colleague in any other part of Australia without any fear at all. In other words, if we passed such a measure, we should make available to spies the cheapest and most valuable means possible for the conveying of information.
I have stated the first two things that we could do. We could pass this measure or we could pass a bill to prohibit telephone tapping altogether. Thirdly, we could continue along the way in which we have been going for some considerable time in relation to telephone tapping. As the honorable member for East Sydney pointed out to us last evening, telephone tapping in Australia is not new. As I recall the honorable gentleman’s speech, he said that in 1942 or 1943 - I think it was 1942 - a telephone conversation between the present Leader of the Opposition and Mr. F. M. Forde, who was at the time Minister for the Army, was intercepted and reported on. The honorable member for East Sydney stated that the Leader of the Opposition now has a message of apology from the late General Blarney for the interception of this telephone conversation. On the admission of the honorable member for East Sydney - and I believe evidence is available to establish the fact - under a Labour government, in time of war, in 1942 or 1943, the telephone of the Minister for the Army was tapped. So telephone tapping in this country goes back a long way. Therefore, we have to look at it, not as something novel and new or as something that has burst upon us and caused a crisis, but as something which has been continuing in a variety of ways over quite a long period and which has been acknowledged and accepted by governments of various political colours.
– Does that make it right?
– The honorable member for Lang has asked whether that makes it right. In the course of his remarks, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) said that this bill would encourage the pimps and stooges, and he wrung his hands and spoke about widespread innuendoes and broken reputations. I suggest to the honorable member that what he fears could not happen, but his own party’s hands are not entirely clean when it comes to pimps, stooges and widespread innuendoes and the imprisonment of men on the basis of such information.
– 1 was not talking about parties.
– I am talking about your party, which has said that it is opposed to this bill. I take the honorable member’s mind back to the illustration given by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) in a reference to the Australia First movement. If it is a heinous crime to intercept a telephone conversation without the approval of the person concerned, it is a much more heinous crime to intercept a person’s mail without his approval, and then produce that correspondence in a closed court as evidence against him. That is precisely what happened to members of the Australia First movement who were on trial. Correspondence that had been intercepted at the direction of the AttorneyGeneral of the day, Dr. Evatt, was produced in court behind locked doors and in secret. That evidence was used to condemn men who later were proved to be entirely innocent of the charges levelled against them. That was the action of the Labour Party when it was in office.
Because of widespread innuendoes and the action of pimps and stooges, these people were condemned. Only two other lines of evidence were produced against these people when eventually they appeared in the court. All the other evidence came from pimps and stooges who were told to track them down. Those stooges reported in the court behind locked doors, and the defendants had no chance to produce evidence to deny the statements made against them. The pimps and stooges were engaged by the Labour Government of the day, and were ordered to watch these men in coffee shops or wherever they went. The most damaging evidence in the eyes of the government of the day was produced by the order of the Attorney-General who was then in office - the former Leader of the Australian Labour Party, Dr. Evatt. The pimps and stooges of the Labour Party sat at a table near some of the old men of the Australia First movement and listened to their conversations. No tape recording was made of the conversations, but evidence was given from memory of what they heard while pimping on the orders of the Australian Labour Party. So much for the great manifestation of purity from the honorable gentlemen who sit on the Opposition side.
To pursue the chain of events further, we have the evidence of the honorable member for East Sydney that telephone tapping was practised in 1942 and 1943, -even to the extent of tapping the telephone conversations of the Minister for the Army in time of war. We know what happened to members of the Australia First movement. We have the gruesome fact that, in a democratic and free country, letters were intercepted and stooges were appointed -to listen to private conversations and supply information.
– Does the honorable member believe that that was wrong and this is right?
– As we proceed chronologically, we come to the time when telephone tapping was given official blessing. As honorable members know, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization was set up as one of the last acts of the Chifley Government. On 16th March, 1949, the Chifley Government gave instructions for setting up this organization. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Chifley, gave express approval to the DirectorGeneral of Security, and told him that he had full permission to tap telephones in Australia.
– Was the honorable mem- ber for East Sydney a member of the Cabinet then?
– Yes. He was a member of the Cabinet.
– Produce the evidence that Mr. Chifley approved of it.
– I am glad to have the interjection of the honorable member for East Sydney, who asks me for evidence. The honorable gentleman would not attempt to deny that his former leader, Mr. Chifley, set up the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and gave instructions and express approval to the Director-General of Security to tap telephones?
– I know nothing about it, and I do not take the Attorney-General’s word for it. I want the evidence on the table.
– Let me give the evidence to the honorable gentleman, for whom I have an almost awesome respect. I listened to him last night. He referred to an article written by one of the objective journalists in this place, Mr. Alan Reid. We do not always think that Mr. Reid is right, but at least we acknowledge that he has the courage to write what he thinks. Sometimes it is for us and sometimes against us. His pen is so powerful that I imagine his employers must retain a good legal staff to make sure that they are not involved from time to time in libel actions. For all that, I admire Mr. Reid for his forthrightness. He has produced from time to time articles which come to the attention of honorable members and gain their approval.
Last night, the honorable member for East Sydney said that some time ago Mr. Reid wrote an article about telephone tapping in Parliament House. He said that, in the course of that article, Mr. Reid stated that senior members of departments were afraid to use telephones inside Parliament House because they knew, or thought or believed that the telephones were tapped. I had some hazy recollection of this, but I also had some clear recollection of the interest of the honorable member for East Sydney in telephone tapping, so I thought I would check his statement.
The honorable member for East Sydney was perfectly correct. Mr. Alan Reid did write that article, and it was printed in his newspaper. He wrote that there was a great deal of telephone tapping going on in Parliament House, Canberra. Then I looked at the date, because it was quite important, and I found that the article was written in 1949 during the term of office of the Chifley Government, when Parliament House was under the control of a Labour Cabinet of which the honorable member for East Sydney was a distinguished member.
So if we are to accept the honorable member for East Sydney’s precis of the article written by Mr. Reid - and I do accept it - we have to accept it as true. I have searched through the “ Hansard “ reports for the remainder of 1949 to see whether anybody denied the statements in the article, and the index to “ Hansard “ shows no denial of the charges made by Mr. Reid. It becomes evident that the honorable member for East Sydney believed Mr. Reid when he stated that, under the Chifley Labour Government, Parliament House was wired for telephone tapping, and senior public servants in the know were afraid to use the telephone services inside Parliament House because of the telephone tapping.
So, taking the evidence in chronological sequence, we are now up to 1949. In that year, unfortunate incidents were associated with the coal strike in Australia. The Chifley Labour Government took very firm and decisive action to end that strike. Honorable members will recall that the Chifley Government moved troops in as strike-breakers under its orders. It is also quite common knowledge that, at that time, the miners’ leaders were afraid to use their telephones because they suspected that they were being tapped by the newly set up Chifley security organization. So if the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who preceded me, are correct in saying that telephone tapping could be used against trade unionists - and I do not believe it will ever be so used again - there is a precedent. The coal-miners’ leaders and the coal-miners in 1949 were afraid to use their telephones because they feared that the Chifley Government had them tapped by the newly set up security organization. They are the chronological events.
I should very much like to know, though I do not suppose I will ever know, how many of these 182 instances of telephone tappings occurred during the time this Government has been in office and how many of them were authorized by Dr. Evatt when he was Attorney-General. 1 would like to know how many times Dr. Evatt ordered telephones to be tapped when he was Attorney-General. I would like to know the people whose telephones he had tapped. I would like to know what information he obtained. But I should imagine that all this is lost. Dr. Evatt as AttorneyGeneral at that time was not bound as the Attorney-General of this day and of the future will be bound by the provisions of this bill. Dr. Evatt, as Attorney-General, was able to say to the Director-General of Security, “Tap Bill Brown’s telephone”, or, for that matter, “Tap Eddie Ward’s telephone “. There is no record kept and no record has been disclosed.
He had that complete power to be able to order telephones to be tapped at any time. The provisions of this legislation will lead to a much more democratic state of affairs. If the Attorney-General of the day issues a warrant, he must sign that warrant, must preserve it and must preserve the reasons that were given to him or the reasons given by him for the issue of that warrant. Future governments will be able to turn to these records and discover what happened. But what happened in the lifetime of the previous Government is not known.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh complained that the Leader of the Opposition to-day is not taken into the confidence of the Government. I ask the Opposition how many times did Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, tell the present Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition at that time, that he intended to tap thi: telephone or that telephone. The memoirs of a leading figure of that time would make very interesting reading if information on telephone tapping were included. I do not believe for one moment that the present Prime Minister was ever told that the telephones of the leaders of the coal miners were being tapped.
– You have no evidence that they were being tapped!
– I believe that the leaders were afraid that their telephones were being tapped.
– Who told you that?
– I believed the honorable gentleman, too, when he thought that telephones in this place were being tapped. I place as much credence on the belief of unionists as I do on his belief.
As I said earlier, I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the power given by this legislation will make it most unprofitable for those engaged in subversive activities to use telephones. It will be crazy for anybody who seeks to spy upon Australia to use the telephone services, and it would be completely crazy for us as a parliament to accept as an alternative to this legislation the proposal of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, the proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh and very nearly the proposal of the honorable member for East Sydney who, in the course of his speech, gave reasons why a linesman or technician of the Postmaster-General’s Department should have the power to intercept telephone conversations. Although he made that exception, his colleagues suggested that the bill should be thrown out. What would be the effect if it were thrown out? Those who would spy upon Australia would have easy access to the cheapest, most convenient and quickest means of conveying information. Is that what the Opposition wants? Is that the alternative to this measure that they seek? This bill provides a control over telephone tapping. Do Opposition members want an open go so that Australia’s security will go to the pack?
The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in the course of his remarks, said that we must watch the Russians and the Communists. I could not agree with him more at this time. They are our potential enemy and in this cold war they are our enemy. They are seeking by devious means to overthrow the economy and the security of this country, and they recognize no laws. All holds are barred. They are out to serve Russia, irrespective of whether they are Australian-born or Russian-born. They are bound by rules that permit them to act in the most unscrupulous manner, without condemnation but indeed with the praise of their organization. The instructions given to them are quite clear and should be forever a reminder to the Australian people that our enemy of to-day and our potential enemy of to-morrow is unscrupulous. 1 shall read to the House the instructions that are given to members of the Communist Party of Australia when they engage in intrigue within the Commonwealth - not within Russia but within Australia. These are the instructions - . . that names of party members in a nucleus must not be kept anywhere where our enemies can get hold of them; and in recording minutes, in discussion, &c, pseudonymns must be used, so that in the event of documents falling into the hands of our enemies, real names of party members will not be shown . . . When going to and from a factory nucleus meeting members must not carry documents or anything that would prove to the authorities in the event of an arrest or raid that the meeting is one of a party nucleus . . . If arrested give no statements incriminating any comrade, no names, no address, not a single fact that can be used directly or indirectly against the party . . . Absolute denial even when confronted with the persons and despite evidence given by police spies and agents provocateurs.
These are the people who are seeking to undermine the Australian Government, the well-being of our people and the security of Australia as a nation. We must take measures to counter the actions of these unscrupulous people who seek to sell their birthright and to overthrow the democratic form of government that we have here. They seek to replace our form of government with a totalitarian form of tyranny and murder, as they have exemplified in many nations over which they have control today. If this bill does nothing but limit the activities of some of these people, it is a good measure. Every honorable member should have a bounden duty, and should be zealous and jealous to honour it, to ensure that Australia shall remain forever secure and forever democratic. The members of this Parliament should see to it that they make good laws for the protection of the Australian people. This is our first and most important duty.
.- It is regrettable that such a young and comparatively inexperienced member as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) should be the mouthpiece of the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), who has not the moral courage to say what he asks a junior to say in this House concerning the former leader of the Australian Labour Party, the late Ben Chifley, and those associated with him. These half-truths, allegations, innuendoes and snide references prove our case much more dramatically than could the speeches of Opposition members. If we want a case to put before the Australian people, we need only put the case of this junior member on the Government side who has said the things that the Government has not the courage to ask a Minister to say from the table of this House.
We have charges to make concerning this legislation, but before I come to them I want to refer to some of the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia. How footling and useless it is to refer to the acts of a former great Labour Prime Minister, now dead, and a former Leader of the Opposition, now away from this House. All this is conjecture and creates a horrible atmosphere which honorable members on both sides of the House surely know is the complete denunciation of democracy in any shape or form. If we are to adopt this measure, we must adopt it on its merits, and, in considering it, should not concern ourselves with what happened twenty years ago or 30 years ago, as related to us in these half-truths. What happened in 1942 may have been a military interpolation or censorship, but it has no relevance to-day. In 1960, to refer to telephone-tapping that has happened over ten years by a security service that has a bad name in this country is footling, useless and serves no purpose.
This Government has a habit of rushing in, with a sort of hysterical attitude and deciding that something must be done. For instance, after spending £1,400,000,000 on defence, it finds that it has no defence, although it could well have applied its mind to this matter with the approbation of the whole of Australia. Then it suddenly decides to do something, or imagines that it will do something. After ten years of a security service that has had the approval and protection of the Government, the Government suddently comes in with a mediocre plan to tap telephones. It is anathema to the whole of the public and the Australian people; and if it is to be of any use it has to be justified. We say it is not justified on one count, and that is because the security service is not efficient. It is a catchascatchcan service, which has never caught a spy, but which has instituted a horrible cash and carry security or espionage. It taps a university student on the shoulder and says, “Would you tell us what is happening in your class-room? Would you whisper to us occasionally and tell us what sort of professor you have; and do you think he has any subversive activities or belongs to any party? “ To a man belonging to a political party it says, “ Can you give us any information about what happens behind your doors when you are . deliberating as a party? “ It asks the housewife what happened and what was said at the bridge table. Anybody who has cared to inquire, knows that these overtures have been made. So what sort of service have we? As a unit of something established for the welfare of the people or for our security, it must rest or fall on its performance; and its performance has been shocking.
I do not suppose any other country in the world has had two royal commissions come up with no spies and spend so much time and after so much publicity find nothing. To the eternal credit of the Australian people those commissions found active leftist unionists and people with fixed ideas about changing the outlook and essence of government in the world. But they did not find spies in the sense that spies are found overseas. In the Lowe commission there was a negative result, and in the ineffable Petrov commission also there was a negative result. So why descend from the Olympian heights of spy chasing beloved by E. Phillips Oppenheim and Dr. Sax Rohmer to come down to this penny or twopenny spying through the telephone? There has been a sepulchre in this House for those who have tried to interfere with the traditional liberties of the Australian people, and one man whom we can write off now as a great Australian parliamentarian is the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). He went like a wet meringue last night under the barrage from this side of the House. As he sat in his place with the dignity we expect of him with the odour of the High Court and the Privy Council on his shoulders, and was impelled to argue and interject like a street-corner bodgie, he showed the effects of the Labour Party’s barrage upon this legislation.
I attack this legislation on the practical basis that it is useless. It is not wanted, because the Australian people are prepared to take a risk for democracy. The honorable member who is interjecting was prepared to take a risk for democracy, but he is getting old now and be wants protection. He will be the heroic man he was in his hey-day, and democracy will reward him if he does not hedge it with fascist and Communist corners and edges. Democracy is not capable of being sub-edited. You have to take it as it is - warts and all. You cannot have democracy and, at the same time, a police state, informers or the rabble trying to rule the ordinary sensible people of the community. If you want that, you want fascism and communism. You can have controls and you can have security; but the security ought to be a great deal more responsible than it is to-day. We do not want the Kempei-Tai and thought control of the Japanese. That was what the war was fought against. We do not want the Ogpu, the ancient Russian Czarist police force. We do not want thought regimentation. You must have regard for the common sense of the Australian people who hate the very thought of those things.
The Attorney-General is disingenuous and dishonest in his approach. In his opening words on the bill, which I paraphrase, he said, “This is a bill to prohibit, under very heavy penalties, phone tapping in this country”. It is nothing of the sort. That is a wicked contravention of the way in which a bill should be drafted in its simplicity to instruct members of this House. This is a bill to make certain that a certain section of our unions and leftist unionists and their elected representatives can be spied on by telephone. That is one of the main reasons for it. So why not be courageous enough to say that is why this measure is being brought down? In this day and age we know there is not much effect about telephones. The average spy would use a courier, a code and his apparatus, and would have his F.M. or L.M. number or a federal member’s authority, or whatever you call it. He would ring “ Cedric the Com “ and exchange the most touching and lovable friendly talk and arrange places of meeting and plans for the future, so that some flat-foot in security could pop in the wrong door and miss both of them. That has been happening for years.
What is going to happen in the Australian community when the full impact of this phone tapping reaches the Australian people? Of course, we have not the num bers to stop it; but we have the voice and the spirit to oppose it. Is big brother Barwick going to be built into every bungalow to listen to what you are saying? Is it to be advertised as a highly desirable bungalow, with a sea view and space to hang out the washing and big brother Barwick in the belfry listening to what you are saying? Of course we do not want that in this country. And, on the other hand, are we to have “ Spry, the spy, available for small engagements at tea parties or at golf clubs. No engagement too small. Personal attention guaranteed.” Is it not ridiculous and absurd? But that is what it comes down to. It is no use the Government trying to glorify this bill. This is a low-grade spying job through the medium of the telephone. I warn the Government, which is always looking for revenue, that the problems of the Postmaster-General in relation to new installations will be certainly improved within the next few months when there goes with the installation of a new telephone all the apparatus for listening in. The cricket on the hearth will have nothing on it; you will have a perpetual visitor to record the little doings that go on in the sanctity of the home.
There is an extremely dangerous practice in this. The Labour Party, through every member, has tried to impress upon the Government its feeling on this matter. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) says, “ Look what happened in 1942. Look what happened during the coal strike and look what happened in those years in which the Labour Party had control.” All those things are presumption. They are not facts and they have not been given as facts and were not intended to become facts. They are just put there to destroy the morale and the case of the Opposition in this matter. But even accepting security and the mistakes we have made, are we not big enough, as Australians, to realize that phone tapping does not come into the apparatus of security. There are bigger and more concrete ways of protecting your country, and this mean little thing has no face. That it has been the practice in the past does not mean that it should be the practice in the future. The House of Commons is always most jealous of the rights and liberties of the subject. The British Government with great reluctance did have an inquiry by Privy Councillors, with dissentient voices on it; and it came up with many conclusions. But we find that phone tapping there was used for many other things besides security. The emphasis here is to wait and find out who is being subversive, by listening in on the telephone.
In the United States of America there were cases of crime and smuggling and one hundred and one other things; but we know there have been wise and careful men on both sides of Parliament in Great Britain anxious that this thing should not get out of hand. That is because the British people and the British Government are old and tried, whether they are Labour, Liberals or Conservatives and they have a sense of usage and history. But who would trust the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in his hysterical outburst against the Labour Party. If ever, by a slip of fate, he became Attorney-General he would set the country alight with hatred of the Labour Party and he would be tick-tacking to such effect that nothing would be heard but the sound of telephones being checked in. Similarly in the past we knew people in this House who had a veritable obsession about what other people were doing. We cannot accept that on this side because, in the words of Kipling, “ We cannot trust the old kings, because we know the breed “. Government supporters have to sit loyally by while the Attorney-General tries to make a gambit, but he is not being very successful. He is not getting the support of them all, except tacitly.
So then we come to the questions that have been raised by other members of this House in relation to telephone tapping, and whether the allegations that have come from the Government side in regard to what was done by Labour governments are correct. I return to that again because it is important. It has been thrown in as a means of breaking down the concerted attack, the strong attack, made by the Opposition on telephone tapping. It has been thrown in as an attempt to say, “ Well, this went on and you condoned it. Why did you condone it?” We have already answered that. The fact is that no Government speaker has given us, except by innuendo, one concrete example of telephone tapping under Labour, and that really is not a concrete example. You are certainly not prepared to give us the facts of the matter. Indeed, the alleged facts, as given, probably never existed. So that point is clear, that so far as the future is concerned there is no harm, but a great deal of good, to be gained by wiping telephone tapping from our minds.
If a royal commission, after days and days of sittings, with learned counsel participating, and honorable judges as the royal commissioners, could find nothing, could find no spy, what are you going to find as a result of telephone tapping?
I believe that the essence of this telephone tapping proposal is to keep a slow and merciless pressure on the trade unions of this country and on other people. I believe that that is true, and the Government has the job of proving the case to be otherwise. Honorable members opposite have made allegations, and I now make this allegation. I believe that what I have said is the purpose of the measure. I think that this purpose is tied up with the current plan to destroy the arbitration court through making it tyrannous, through making it a court of penalty which can break the unions by charging them enormous sums for contempt of court. It is all part of a plan. We are at liberty - and we can say that with as much justice as you can on the other side - to say that there have been cases in the past when governments of the day have used telephone tapping and gained information by that method. For instance there was the case of the Australia First movement.
– You can say it, but it is not true.
– Just the same as you can say things against a former Prime Minister of this country which are not true. So where do we get back to? We get back to the point that this is something in which the government has made a gaffe. This is not wanted by the Australian people. The Australian people scorn it and hate it. They think that we have lost our senses in Canberra when, at this stage, in time of peace - when on Monday of next week there is to be a summit conference attended by Communists, liberals, democrats, conservatives, to try to work out a plan under which we can have peace in the world - we, like some low-grade republic of the lower South Americas, look for some reason for which we can spy on each other by means of the telephone. The Government is behind-hand in relation to public thought on this matter. But the Australian people is not behind-hand in its attitude. If the Government took this matter to a referendum, as a challenge to the people, it would very effectively get its answer on the question of telephone tapping.
There is a well-known saying that an Englishman’s home is his castle. So is an Australian’s home. The Australian resents any intrusion on his home, which is his right from the front door to the back fence. He resents any intrusion by the bureaucracy in any shape or form, and especially when it is in the form of an insidious survey.
Man, being human, makes mistakes, and none makes more mistakes than the security service. We admit the soft impeachment that we created the security service. I believe that in those days we were a little obsessed with the cloak and dagger idea that to be anybody you had to have a security service. I do not believe that there has been anything more for the security service to do than could be done by the ordinary Commonwealth Investigation Service. But the Commonwealth Investigation Service was not colourful. It is just an organization staffed by retired policemen and police officers who are doing, and will continue to do, a magnificent job. It is penny plain. The mistake we made was to make it tuppence coloured, and once we did that we got a lot of troubles with it. For our secrets - and we do not have very many - and for our defence - which we all join in wishing to ensure - there is plenty of protection to be found in a Commonwealth department under the control of a Minister. That department is known as the Commonwealth Investigation Service.
All our problems have become enormous because of the build-up of security until it has become a sort of colourful story in consonance with the neuroses and excitements of the times. When you get round to looking at the real performances of security, you are shocked at how little security has done. What can you say when you see the enormous amount of money that goes into the upkeep of security, which has built itself a three or four story building at Kirribilli, on the Sydney Harbour front, when you think of the money that is spent - and no information is given on how it is spent - and you find that when it comes to high-level matters the organization is completely stupid? Now they are to get on to telephone tapping. I see that my time is closing, but one does not need to make a long speech-
– You still have ten minutes left.
– Thank you. I am glad to know that you are interested enough to correct my misconception of the amount of time I have available to me. I shall continue for the ten minutes left to me. I believe that, so far as we have been able to judge the evidence from this side of the House, the Government is completely on the wrong leg. The Government knows that it has just brought this thing forward to drive from the minds of the people the growing inflation, the lack of government, the laisser-faire, the absentee Prime Minister, the Ministers going and coming like sheep going to the dip. The Government decided it had to have some gimmick to please the people. It has made a particularly bad choice in bringing in this measure for phone tapping. The Government is not happy about the measure itself, and its members are now trying to find a way out. The way out that they are trying to take is an attempt to blacken and belabour the Opposition and claim that what the Opposition is saying is wrong, and that telephone tapping has been an institution in this country for some time.
It is wrong for the Australian people to be told that this country is literally lousy with spies, when there is no spy in the length and breadth of the country. It is wrong to say that there is danger to the security of this country when every second citizen knows that there is nothing in that direction at all. It is completely wrong to go, cash and carry, tapping shoulders and saying to people, “ Is there any way you can help me to get information. We have a spy organization and we are running very short of information.” That is a terrible thing to happen, and it has happened on the evidence of at least three or four members of this House - the evidence of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) in the case of a university and the evidence of an honorable member the name of whose constituency I cannot remember at the moment, in regard to a householder. Look at what happened at Salisbury, in South Australia, only a few weeks ago, where a family was intimidated because the man was on a job which required security, and because the members of the family were in the Labour Party. How sloppy and dangerous it is when you let that sort of thing go on.
Anybody may be the next to be tapped on the shoulder by security, and once you get the smear on you it is hard to remove it and restore what is the inherent right of everybody in Australia - the right to be a free man and not have to live under the suspicion of the security service. All these things are tied up in this measure.
I was utterly disappointed with the case put by the Minister. I was disappointed that his only answer to the honorable member for East Sydney who made the case - and a brilliant case I think it was - for the Labour Party, was “ Yah, yah! “ It shows that there is a fear and an anxiety. He is enough of a lawyer to realize that he is on crazy ground. He is enough of a student of public relations to realize that this is not a good thing for him to be associated with. And half-way through his speech, after having given, as I said before, a misleading lead into the bill and the connotation he put on what happened under Labour, he made no further comment except to charge us, as it were, by saying, “You did this, and you did that, and therefore this is a good bill “. Nobody could believe that and nobody would be prepared to believe it.
So, summing up, we say that this security organization was much better, and made us feel safer, and was within reason, when it was ruled by a legal man, a member of the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Reed. It got out of hand when it became a jack- booted military organization the members of which were allowed to do and say what they wanted. I have seen some fantastic things concerning security. One day while I was standing outside David Jones I saw, standing at the door, a man whom I have known slightly for many years. He is in the security service and he shall be nameless. I said to him, “ What are you waiting for?” He said, “ I am waiting for a suspect Japanese to come out here”. “Don’t you know that there are seventeen doors to David Jones? “ He said, “ This is my day to watch this door “. That actually happened as I can vouch from my own experience.
The Australian can stand on his own feet. He will protect his own country without the security service tapping his telephone, disturbing his amenities, or making him a sort of slimy fascist. But the Government is proposing to put him into the category of the men whom we fought and destroyed so that this country could remain free. We ought to have enough courage to stand up to the dangers and see that they are met without resorting to the techniques of the fascist or the Communist. The Opposition which has the overwhelming support of the Labour movement and, I believe, of the Australian people, feels that the Government is making a very big mistake. In every Government there is the tinkerer, the interferer, the man who wants to boss or run something. I feel that the Attorney-General, big brother Barwick is of that ilk. He has proved himself to be a man of little stature in more ways than one. I, as an Australian citizen, want no residents in the roof of my bungalow. I want no knocking at the door at midnight. I want none of the apparatus of Europe brought to this country just so that the Government can score a cheap political victory. The Government may score in numbers but it assuredly will not score in the minds of the people. The case made by the Labour Party is a strong one. Because of the strength and the loyalty of the Australian people, there is no necessity to cause them the embarrassment of telephone tapping. The anxious conversations of mothers, daughters, nurses and people of all other professions and callings, who like to live their own lives, who like their home to be their castle, and above all who value privacy, will all be under the all-seeing eye of security. This is too much to ask of the Australian people and even at this late hour we plead with the Government to withdraw this proposal, to get back its common sense and Australianism - if it ever had any - and to realize that it should place its faith, not in the apparatus of the snooper, but in the courage and decency and common sense of the Australian people.
.- To any one who has listened to the arguments of Opposition speakers, it is obvious that their method of attacking this bill is to mislead and misrepresent. Members of the Opposition have grossly misled and misrepresented. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) would have us believe that every one was likely to be affected by this bill. But the circumstances in which the Director-General of Security may apply to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) for a warrant are very limited.
The Opposition is endeavouring to show that this bill is a weapon of tyranny whereas it is a weapon which will protect the individual Australian from telephone tapping as it is carried out now without restriction. It will also aid in preserving our democracy in a world in which democratic processes are constantly threatened. No one relishes the idea of having his telephone conversation overheard. But in view of the aims of this bill, I think that every decent Australian will accept it as a very necessary measure. Only people with evil intent need fear this bill. The Attorney-General in his secondreading speech said -
Foolish would he be who asserted that there were none in Australia who would be pleased to see our forms of government subverted, our way of life destroyed and our capacity and our will to defend ourselves weakened. Such undoubtedly there are and they work to achieve prejudice to the security of this Commonwealth. The Government is conscious of the constant need to protect such security and to ensure that we are neither weakened nor destroyed by the breach of it.
I thoroughly support those remarks. As the Attorney-General has shown, communications are the weakest link in those organizations which would subvert our security. They are the weakest link among those people who undertake sabotage or espionage. There are people who are determined to subvert our economy by all means possible. The world organization of communism exerts a constant pressure, and the history of the means by which Communists have threatened this country are well known.
The Australian Communists realize, as have their counterparts in other democracies, that they cannot obtain effective control by ordinary democratic procedures under their own colours so they have resorted to subtler means. They have gained control over trade unions with the object of generating industrial chaos and so weakening our economy. Key unions controlling transport and coal-mining have been their chief target. All the operations are necessarily guided and controlled by a central head-quarters in this country which, in turn, receives funds and instructions from Moscow and China by devious and diverse means. As I have said, communications represent the most vulnerable link among these people. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has claimed that if the Communists know that there is some means of checking on their telephone communications, they will devise some other means of communicating with one another. But those other means are not easy to obtain, and that very restriction will make their task more difficult. The Petrov commission indicated to us most forcibly the ramifications of Communist intrigue in this country.
The party to which I belong is the only political party which has had continued opposition to Communism on its platform. The Government has a most consistent record of thwarting the Communists’ efforts to gain control of Australia. In fact, it is the only government in Australia that has consistently combatted the Communists. The act which instituted court controlled ballots for union elections - a measure which was bitterly opposed by the Opposition - brought a marked degree of industrial peace to this country, but the fight is by no means over. By the use of unity tickets, Communists are again gaining control in trade unions. The Australian Labour Party has banned unity tickets but, like most of its directives against communism, this one has been ignored.
We are most indebted to the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) for revealing how Communists have taken control of the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council and have boasted that they could switch off the lights in Melbourne at will. That is all they need to have control of the unions, when they have their unity tickets. On the unity tickets they have men who are probably not members of the Communist organization but who are sympathetic to and under the control of Communists. I am not suggesting for one moment that members of the Opposition are Communist sympathizers, but I would say that communism made its greatest advance when the Labour Government was in office. If the Labour Party had persisted right through in its opposition to communism, this bill would not have been introduced. We would not have had anything like the degree of trouble with Communists in Australia.
Recently we have seen Communistcontrolled unions such as the Waterside Workers Federation and the Seamen’s Union damaging our economy by their strikes to the extent of thousands of pounds. This has also endangered the job availability of every Australian and has hindered the progress of the whole community and our prospects of absorbing immigrants and populating this country so as to make it safe against the millions to our north. After all, these Communist-inspired strikes are not organized for the purpose of improving the well-being of the unionists involved but for the greater glory of Moscow. We have learned of seamen invading the offices of the shipping companies, jostling people and smashing furniture.
– What has this to do with telephone tapping?
– I am showing that there is a great need for a bill such as this because there is an organization in Australia determined to subvert our interests. But the Australian Labour Party is making no move to check these activities.
– What you are saying proves that the purpose of the bill is directed against the unions.
– I am complaining about the unions which have permitted, through the weakness of the Australian Labour Party, Communists to regain control of them. The Communist influence is wrecking some of the unions concerned. I instance the coal-mining industry. At last the coal-miners are waking up to the fact that they have lost most of their export markets. These are being slowly regained, thanks to the use of mechanical equipment in the mines. By this means coal can be produced more cheaply; nevertheless the industry lost a lot of ground and the coalminers have to thank the Communists for the position they are in to-day. The waterside workers are in a similar unhappy plight. They are dominated by Communists. In northern Queensland, the system of bulk loading has been instituted and as a consequence hundreds of waterside workers are losing their jobs. But what do the Communist organizations care about that? They are achieving their purpose of aiding Moscow.
Are such people to be allowed to extend their influence in Australia? We have no right to interfere in the internal affairs of Russia or China but we have an obligation to the people of Australia to preserve our security. We have an obligation also to the wage-earners of Australia, because this Government represents the majority of salary and wage earners in this country. This measure has been introduced to secure their interest, and it will assist the Government in discharging its responsibilities. I conclude by saying that no decent Australian has anything to fear from this bill. The only people who need fear it are people with evil intent.
.- I think it became very apparent during the last few minutes of the speech of the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) just what is the purpose behind this bill. When it was introduced, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) told us that it had something to do with espionage - spying - but the honorable member for McPherson devoted the whole of his speech to showing the relation between this bill and the Australian trade union movement. He pointed out that its purpose is to authorize the tapping of telephones of trade unions engaged in strikes and militant activities. He has shown the political and industrial nature of it and that its main purpose is an attack upon the trade unions and not in any way a defence of the security of this country. That has been made clear also by other speakers on the Government side during the course of this debate. When the honorable member for Mcpherson concluded his speech, he said that the only people who had anything to fear from this bill were people with evil intent. That recalled to my mind a statement made by the Prime Minister of South Africa when he was commenting on the shooting at Sharpeville early in April. Dr. Verwoerd said that the only people who had anything to fear in South Africa were people of evil intent. That was exactly the same expression as was used a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Mcpherson.
– But this is not South Africa.
– We would have South African conditions if the honorable member had his way. The purpose of this bill is to make telephone tapping legal and official. So far, it has been under cover. Ministers have been embarrassed about telephone tapping, but they will not be embarrassed in the future. Telephone tapping will be accepted, and approved, as a normal, matter-of-course part of the Australian way of life. The Labour Party is quite clear upon this. We will not consent to the normalization of telephone tapping in this country. The purpose of this bill is to make it possible for telephone conversations to be intercepted by the Director-General of Security, who, on the receipt of a warrant from the AttorneyGeneral, can proceed to tap a telephone for a period up to six months or, in the absence of a warrant, on his own decision he can tap a telephone, under certain conditions, for a period up to 48 hours.
In order to sugar-coat this un-Australian activity, the Government has introduced a bill which is said to be a bill to prohibit telephone tapping. But this is the first time in the history of Australia that official approval is to be given to the tapping of telephones. The significance of this bill is that it gives official approval to telephone tapping - not that it restricts it in any way. The historical significance of this legislation is that it is the first official approval of telephone tapping - of eavesdropping - in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia. And the credit for this goes to this Liberal Government. The tapping of telephones has been admitted by the Attorney-General as being objectionable and abhorrent. No one says a good word for it. Even the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) - no one could be much further to the right than he is - has admitted that nobody likes this bill. It is a petty, low device, glorified by a Queen’s Counsel and by references to national security. If it is needed, there is no national security at all.
But this Liberal Government, which is supposed to stand for liberty, introduces this measure - this abhorrent, objectionable measure. It is our purpose, and it should be our purpose as Australians, to resist attacks on liberty. But the attacks on liberty are coming from official sources - from the Government and those who work with it; and these things are being carried on in the name of liberty. It is wise for people to contrast the pretensions and practices of this Government with what we understand by liberty. This Government which always professes to be the defenders of liberty is always placing restrictions upon liberty. Now it is adding to its long record the fact that it is the Government which first introduced official approval of telephone tapping in the history of Australia. It is vital for any decent, democratic party, as the Australian Labour Party is, to show that it will not be associated in any way with this first official approval, this normalization of telephone tapping in this country. We of the Opposition make it clear that we shall not associate ourselves with the official approval of telephone spies. We do so because this bill is unnecessary and because security in this country has become political. It is over-dramatized, secret and mysterious but, above all, it is political. Let us consider the attitude of the Attorney-General - the man who will administer this legislation; the man who will issue warrants; the man who showed himself to be most intemperate in his interjections during the speech of the honorable member for ‘East Sydney last night.
The bill proposes yet another inroad upon the liberties of the people of this country. I want to refer the House to the leading article in to-day’s Melbourne “ Age “, which is not by any means a radical newspaper. The article states -
Protests against telephone tapping hinge largely on the interpretation of the phrase “national security “. In other democratic countries, cases have been brought to light in which legitimate political activity has been interpreted as subversion by ill-educated and overzealous security agents, convinced that the interests of the government of the day are synonymous with those of the nation.
That is the fundamental assumption which underlies the pretensions of the honorable gentleman on the Government side who is now interjecting and of the Government itself. Subversion is something which is in the mind of ill-educated and overzealous security agents, and any one who knows anything of the security service knows that the agents are ill-educated in politics, overzealous and identify conservative interests with the interests of the nation. That is the kind of upbringing which they have had in the kind of social class from which they come, and that is the kind of assumption which they express.
This bill is unnecessary because there is no evidence of subversion in this country. We have had a security service for twelve years. What cases have been brought to court? What cases have ever been detected? On 10th May I gave notice of a question to the Attorney-General which is in these terms -
I am quite sure that the Government will not answer that question. It will give us no information because no person has been prosecuted. At least, the Government could tell us the kind of acts which it has detected, but if it were to do so we would find that the acts have to do with strikes, trade unions, peace congresses and statements of political propositions such as were cited in the House yesterday by the honorable member for Hume. I guarantee that there would be no reference to any acts of subversion, espionage or spying. As I have said, if the Government were to answer my question on the notice-paper, the reply would refer to strikes, trade unions, peace congresses, industrial and political activities by the Labour movement.
– And Communist fronts.
– Of course, you would say Communist fronts. But what is a Communist front to you, a reactionary tory? Anything which is inclined to be radical or different from your point of view would be a Communist front. No information has ever been given on the matters to which I have referred. We are completely in the dark about security, yet the Government asks us in this National Parliament to agree to legislation which will authorize a reactionary and conservative Attorney-General, and a reactionary and conservative DirectorGeneral of Security, to tap telephones.
Ministers have continuously evaded their responsibilities in this matter. The record of that is a long one. But whatever you might do in relation to trade union activities, peace conferences, or statements of propositions like that which was made yesterday by the honorable member for Hume when reading from a list of the objectives of the Communist Party, you must concern yourself with realities. It is one thing for a group of people called Communists to express the belief that they will overthrow the Government in the near future. That is a political aspiration. The American Supreme Court has a long record of cases in which it has laid down the law that these things are not to be taken on their face value, but must be examined in the light of the circumstances to see whether there is any present or impending danger to justify an undemocratic procedure. But no one here ever gives any consideration to that aspect. The honorable member for Hume and his ilk come to the Parliament and repeat these propositions as though they were realistic circumstances, whether they can be realized or not. It is ridiculous for any group of people in this country, Communist or otherwise, to say that it will overthrow the Government. Goodness knows, it is almost impossible to change the Government, let alone overthrow it. There is no present or impending danger to the system of government. Therefore, we say that the bill is not necessary, because there are no conditions of espionage or subversion which would justify such an extreme measure.
– How do you know?
– How do I know? Because I move from one corner of this country to another, and I keep my eyes open. I do not have a narrow view such as you have. When the Government tried to ban the Communist Party, the Prime Minister went all over the country saying that unless he had the power to do so, there would be industrial confusion and chaos within a few months. But he did not get those powers and there has not been any industrial confusion and chaos. On the contrary, the Government claims that it has the best record of industrial peace in the history of Australia. At the time of the Petrov commission there was great talk about the need for additional powers in the Crimes Act to deal with the situation which was revealed by the commission. Has this Government made any progress towards that end? No! Those rumours were put forward for their political effect, to scare the people, to make them apprehensive and to make them believe that a vote for this Government meant some kind of security.
The Government has said that it is not concerned with the political aspects of this legislation. During the debate last night the honorable member for East Sydney said that when Labour was the Government matters of security were discussed with the Opposition, but this practice was not followed when the Liberal Party became the Government. When he said that there were interjections from Government members - at least from those who were in the House to hear the debate. I heard the words, “ there was good reason “ come from several corners, particularly from the AttorneyGeneral and the honorable members for Corangmite and Macarthur, thus inferring that the Opposition is a security risk. The Government has proved by its actions that security is political. The honorable member for East Sydney went on to say that Government members regard every strike as a subversive activity. Government supporters then interjected, “ Quite right “, indicating that as far as the Government is concerned, a strike will be a security risk and will justify the Attorney-General tapping the telephone of any person who may be associated with that strike. Apparently the same principle applies to clubs, universities and peace congresses. When the Government has obtained the power which it seeks in this bill, will the result be the arrest, prosecution and detention of people? Will the Government have any additional power to resist subversion or espionage? The information which is obtained when telephones are tapped will appear on dossiers which will be examined in the security service office in conjunction with a list which is supplied by the Public Service containing names of people who apply for employment or promotion in the service. A list is supplied also by private employers for information regarding prospective employees, and when the list is returned to the sender it will carry in the margin an entry indicating whether the person concerned is favorably or unfavorably known to security. If a person receives an “ unfavorable “ entry his chances of promotion or appointment are nil. Any person who sees some kind of security in legislation of this nature ought to be told that it is a weapon which will be used against him as it has been used for years, both in the Public Service and in private industry. We know that it will be used against people who apply for naturalization and that they will not be naturalized if they have an adverse security report.
What is an adverse security report? It is not a report that a person has been conveying information to Russia or to China. An adverse security report is a report that a person has attended a peace meeting or made in a certain place some statement which may be critical of this Government. It is a report that a person, perhaps, has been associated with a militant trade union or has been involved in a strike.
– ‘How does the honorable member know that?
– I know it for a fact. I do not care what the honorable member believes. I take no notice of his beliefs and I have no respect whatever for him. So what he says makes no difference.
I have received information of this kind of thing time and time again. These are the things that the Government regards as security. These are the things that it believes to be politically important. This is the way in which the information that it receives from telephone tapping will be used. Security has been overdramatized and shrouded in secrecy and mystery. And this has been done deliberately by the Government.
There is a long record of Government evasion and Government secrecy in relation to telephone tapping, and I shall refer the House to a few instances of this. They can be multiplied many times. On 6th
October, 1959, as reported at page 1744 of “ Hansard “ of this House, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), who is now Minister for Shipping and Transport, asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether he had heard of allegations made by a member in another place about telephones being tapped - telephones generally, not only the telephones of members of Parliament. The Prime Minister answered in this way -
I noticed in the press that it had been stated by a member of another place that his telephone had been tapped. I have made careful inquiries about this matter and I find that the fact is that there has been no tapping or monitoring of the telephone of any member of Parliament in either House of any Parliament, Federal or State.
The Prime Minister did not answer the question which had been asked. He related the question only to members of Parliament, and he avoided dealing with it in relation to the general community.
On 24th November, 1959, as reported at page 2994 of “Hansard”, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) asked this question -
Does the Prime Minister expect to be able to make a statement soon on the report of three British Privy Counsellors on telephone tapping? I understand that he intended to make a statement on this matter before the end of this year.
The Prime Minister replied -
T regret to say that I see little prospect of doing that before the House rises.
On 6th May, 1959, as reported at page 1863, volume 23, of “Hansard” of this House, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) the following question: -
That was a direct question. The PostmasterGeneral answered it in this way -
That was said by the Postmaster-General in May, 1959. But upwards of 182 telephone tappings had been made by that time. Was the Minister uninformed? Was he kept in the dark by the Prime Minister and the security service, or was he misleading this House? The House is entitled to an answer to that question one way or another.
Going back to 1953, we find that, on 1st December of that year, as reported at page 703 of volume 2 of “Hansard” of this House, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) directed to the Prime Minister a question part of which was in these terms -
Will the Prime Minister have inquiries made with a view to ascertaining whether the telephone line was tapped when I was having my conversation?
The Prime Minister answered in this way -
In the absence of the Postmaster-General, 1 have no doubt that I can say at once that the honorable member’s telephone conversation was not tapped. Such a thing would be entirely unpardonable, and it does not occur.
But it is now pardonable to bring in legislation under which the telephone of a member of Parliament may be tapped. Immediately after the Prime Minister had answered the question asked by the honorable member for Kingston, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) put this question to the right honorable gentleman -
I ask the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth security service, if it so desires, is permitted to tap telephone lines and record conversations without seeking any extension of its authority or permission from the Prime Minister. . . .
That was a general question which related not only to members of Parliament. The Prime Minister answered -
That is a hypothetical question. The authority of the security service, a very important service and a service that was established by the Government of which the honorable member for East Sydney was a member, is identical with the authority which it enjoyed when he was a Minister.
That answer completely avoided the point of the question. The honorable member for Hindmarsh immediately came in with another question, in these terms -
Will the Prime Minister deny that the telephones of private citizens or of members of Parliament have been tapped by the security service?
That was a general question. The answer given by the Prime Minister began in this fashion -
I have no knowledge of the matter one way or the other.
He said, on 1st December, 1953, that he knew nothing about whether or not telephones were tapped. In order to make the matter clear, the honorable member for Hindmarsh said -
The right honorable gentleman cannot deny it.
But the right honorable gentleman did. He immediately repeated himself in these terms -
I have said that I have no knowledge of the matter one way or the other.
But the Attorney-General, in his secondreading speech on this bill, made a statement which is in direct conflict with that. As reported at page 1424 of “ Hansard “, the Minister said -
Accordingly, at the end of 1950, the Prime Minister gave directions to the Director-General of Security with respect to telephone interception.
According to the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister directed the DirectorGeneral of Security about the tapping of telephones early in 1950. Yet, on 1st December, 1953, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, the Prime Minister said - 1 have no knowledge of the matter one way or the other.
I say with consideration, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that either the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General is a liar. One or the other has told a deliberate lie about a matter of security, and I say that if one of them has told a lie once about a matter of security he will tell another, and I for one should not be prepared to entrust such a man, either now or in the future, with powers of the kind embodied in this bill. Any honorable member who likes to take the trouble to refer to “ Hansard “ of 1st December, 1953, at page 704, and to compare what he reads there with what is reported in “ Hansard “ of 5th May, 1960, at page 1424, will find that either the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General has told a deliberate lie about a matter of security.
Let me now summarize the position in relation to this bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We say that this bill has been introduced, not in order to safeguard our security, but for political purposes. It is a lawyer’s hobby. Over a period of years, the Prime Minister was not prepared to do anything about telephone tapping, but the present Attorney-General, soon after he came into his portfolio, designed a neat bill - a lawyer’s hobby. The other motive at work was the hope in some way to divide the Australian Labour Party and throw it into difficulties. For the information of those who want to know what happened in the Australian Labour Party in relation to this bill, I may say that the decision to oppose the measure was not a left-wing decision. The most effective speech made in caucus in opposition to the bill was made by Senator Armstrong, who was recently said to have been displaced from the Labour Party ticket for the next Senate election in New South Wales because he was a member of the right wing of the party. The attitude of the Australian Labour Party towards this measure is a genuine Australian attitude which every decent Australian, whether he happens to be a member of the Labour Party or of any other organization, would be prepared to stand for.
We say that this bill is totally unnecessary, because there are in Australia no conditions which require a measure of this sort - so extreme in its features. Australia is a healthy country, politically and democratically. It is a country in which no fears need be created and in which the people may be left free to meet together in order to state political propositions, even if they are revolutionary, and to discuss peace - a country in which men may go about their ordinary trade union affairs and conduct strikes, if strikes are justifiable in their view. We say that there is no need for this bill, and we say above all that the Australian Labour Party is not willing to associate itself with the giving of official approval to the tapping of telephones in the manner provided for in this measure.
So far, as I have shown, Ministers have been continually uncomfortable and embarrassed and, in their embarrassment, they have tried to mislead the House and to hide the true situation with regard to telephone tapping. From now on, telephone tapping will be a normal part of the life of Australia. There will be no need for embarrassment over it and no need for any misleading action by Ministers, because telephone tapping will be an accepted and normal thing. It will be just another step in the restriction of the liberties of the Australian people. Every single step made in that direction makes the next step easier to take.
Most of those steps that have been taken so far have been taken by a government of the political persuasion of the present administration. Most of the inroads on liberty have been official inroads, and not those of citizens or the people of Australia, who object to interference from their own government. This measure is one of the most important examples of such interference that we have had in recent years. It is a logical projection of this Government’s general policy, but it is totally unnecessary for the security of Australia. The Government has brought down this legislation for political reasons only. That is the opinion of the Opposition and no one who considers for half a minute the matter of security and the way it is supposed to involve the activities of trade unions, peace congresses and university and A.L.P. clubs could conclude otherwise. If there is some political element in this matter, why has not the Government seen fit to take the Opposition into its confidence? Instead of having a conservative Attorney-General as the man to authorize these warrants, why could not the Government consider a committee of perhaps the Attorney-General and the Leader of the Opposition to determine these matters so that two points of view on the political issues involved would be possible. But, no, that is not what the Government wants! It wants to retain in its own possession, and in the possession of persons with conservative minds, the power to make decisions on these matters.
The Opposition believes that this bill is totally unnecessary having regard to existing conditions. We say that the security service has become more and more political since its inauguration. It is overdramatized; it is secret and mysterious, and is given far greater importance than it justifies. In these circumstances, we are not going to associate ourselves with granting to that security organization more power than it possesses at present, because that is unnecessary. Therefore, we oppose the bill and every line that is in it.
.- It is remarkable the number of members of the Opposition who have been flushed out by this bill to support the cause of the liberty of the subject. Members of the Opposition who have rarely spoken on this subject have suddenly become very vocal. In fact, their virtue on this matter has been so hastily assembled that one can hardly recognize the speakers on the Opposition side in their new guise. It is certainly a strange role for the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who has just addressed the House. We did not expect to see him adopt an argument in favour of the liberty of the subject. I thought he was very unhappy, because it is an unusual course for him to steer.
Strange things are happening in the Australian Labour Party. The honorable member for Yarra had a bite at his colleague, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and accused him of being narrow-minded. If the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is narrow-minded, I want to say that he has not that on his own among members of the Opposition. I do not know what is coming over the A.L.P. supporters. They write letters about each other. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) wrote and pimped about the activities of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). There has been a suggestion that the honorable member for Parkes will attend a summit conference embracing those who have the direction of the A.L.P., to discuss this matter. Then we find that the honorable member for Yarra is at cross-purposes with some of his colleagues in this debate.
I want to say this to the honorable member for Yarra: He cast a very grave reflection on the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) when he said that he had no respect for the honorable member for Hume. Anybody who pins a Victoria Cross on his chest has my greatest respect. If the honorable member for Yarra had half the record in peace and war of the honorable member for Hume, I should imagine our respect for him would rise astronomically.
In a characteristic speech, the honorable member for Yarra indulged in half-truths and innuendoes. He read from a leading article published in the Melbourne “ Age “ headed, “Stricter Control of Eavesdropping “. The honorable member quoted only an extract that suited his purpose and left the rest of it unread. He interposed his own comments during the reading of that extract. It is an old political trick - a good old Communist and Socialist trick - to quote something and then insert a personal view. But the honorable member did not read the final two sentences of the article. I propose to do so for the benefit of honorable members, because the “ Age “ article concluded -
The proof of the new legislation will be its operation. If it is scrupulously enforced, it should do much to clear the air and remove suspicion which might have been unfounded.
With that I entirely agree, because it will be in the enforcement and administration of this measure that we shall see whether it is well conceived, and whether it has been prepared to meet a situation which present conditions demand. Whether it be in family life, in the home, in business, in the choosing of a career or in the ordinary conduct of one’s affairs, we look for security. We all do our best to achieve it. Without it, we cannot lead a contented and peaceful existence.
In dealing with political and national security, we must not lose sight of the fact that we lay down a pattern which others are obliged to follow, to observe or to abuse. In the bill before the House, we are charged with a good deal of responsibility, and we must be sure that we act with true regard not only for ourselves, but also for posterity and the welfare of the citizens of the future. We would indeed be politically gullible if we did not think beyond the present and try to estimate the consequences of this legislation being used by a government bent on associating itself with a doctrine designed to undermine the structure of democratic practices.
Of course, the possibilities also exist of the legislation lending itself to mis-judged enthusiasm on this side of the House. Here we are asked to choose in some measure between personal security and national security. Considerations of personal security would require telephones to be completely private, and that, I agree, would be ideal. National security, unfortunately, seems to demand that there should be power to monitor the lines of those who may constitute a threat to the nation; those whose aim it is to take away all our liberties. I am afraid that, for national considerations, we must concede the power that is sought. We must suffer the indignity to prevent the catastrophe.
How then can we ensure that the power given under this bill is not misused?
Frankly, I do not know. I do not know how it can possibly be arranged, but I think the Minister has done his best in the present bill to achieve that end. The effectiveness of those efforts must depend on the standards of the government in office at any time. Suppose, for instance, that an administration bent on socialization came into office. Could not this very legislation be a valuable tool in its hands? I am sure it could.
On the other hand, the answer is that any government can misuse power, whatever legislation we enact. The present bill is not an aid to misuse; it might help to prevent misuse. Criticisms and innuendoes alleging misuse of security powers by the present Government come very badly from members of the present Opposition. Their own record while in office contains some of the worst instances of unjust treatment of the public that we have known. There was, for instance, the appalling case of Keith Bath, who was one of the men imprisoned in 1942 in what was known as the Australia First case. A loyal citizen was detained without any cause, according to the verdict of the committee of inquiry. But the then Attorney-General, Dr. Evatt, refused him any proper compensation and when Bath later sued for compensation, Dr. Evatt refused to give the court a chance to decide it. Instead, he pleaded a technical point, that the action had been commenced too late. So much for the actions of the Opposition when it was in Government.
The bill appears to be a genuine attempt to restrict official telephone tapping. The fact that it does permit telephone tapping at all, in any circumstances, is repugnant to me, as it is to most people. This eavesdropping is one of the most disagreeable of all the disagreeable necessities forced on us by the state of cold war in which we live. But security or other official tapping is very unlikely to worry the ordinary citizen; indeed, it is unlikely that it will ever touch him. The real trouble is the unofficial and unauthorized tapping which is widespread and which exercises the public mind. I believe that the publicity arising from this bill will most likely inflame the resentment. Some of this tapping is done from outside the Post Office, some from inside. I do not know how it can be stopped, because I understand that it is easy to do and hard to detect. It is not just an Australian problem. In some countries overseas, it has reached the proportion of a large-scale racket, and there are people who tap telephones to obtain commercial information and for the purposes of blackmail.
If we prohibit the security service from tapping telephones, our security officers would be the only ones without this advantage in the present underground struggle. For instance, it is safe to say that the Australian Communists now do much more telephone tapping than does the security service. The 182 instances mentioned by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) as the total tappings by the security service during the past eleven years would be insignificant when compared with the amount of tapping done by the Communists at the present time. It was understood years ago that they had a well-organized cell within the Post Office itself and that this gave them much vital information. I do not know whether it still exists. However, I should very much like the Attorney-General, when next he speaks, to tell us to what extent it is possible to police the law against tapping by people outside the Post Office and whether he can feel certain that the tapping from inside the Post Office is done only in the instances permitted.
I think most of us have heard fairly circumstantial stories about the use of tape recorders to make records of telephone conversations. This is illegal, but it goes on. Amongst other sectors of our national life from which complaints of telephone tappings have come is the business sector. Many a transaction referred to over the telephone becomes public property before even the contracting parties have reached an agreement. In the racing world, for instance, owners and trainers are convinced that telephone leakages are responsible for stable information getting into wrong hands and, believe it or not, some of them blame the security service for this leakage.
All told, I am unable to convince myself that in practice this question of telephone tapping by the security service is as important as some people would have us believe. The principle is important, but the sad fact is that our telephone service will continue to be tapped whether the security service is prohibited from doing it or not, and that is the very essence of my argument. I ask the Attorney-General to tell us of the steps that may be taken to ensure that the telephone service is tapped, inside and outside the Post Office, only in the circumstances permitted by the bill.
The conclusion I draw from all that has been said and written on this subject is that the telephone is a gay deceiver. We think that if no one is within earshot when we speak, the conversation is secret. That is a dangerous illusion. To be really safe, we should imagine ourselves always, when we use the telephone, as speaking in a loud voice amongst a crowd of people. That will remain the position whatever legislation is passed, unless the telephone engineers come to light with some radical development that will make conversations on the telephone really private. But I wonder what the actual effective result of the bill will be. Political activity can be hedged around with so much legal restriction as to prevent the objectives being achieved. I often feel in this place that an ounce of common sense is worth a ton of law. Where there is a danger of being carried away by the desire to restrain espionage, the ultimate objectives of liberty and security may be lost in the efforts to restrain evil doers. I hope that in the years to come the power given in the bill will not fall into uncharitable hands.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) said that I had alleged that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) was narrowminded. That is not so. I said that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) was narrow-minded.
– I accept that explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. By the flush on the face of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, I thought that the honorable member had referred to him.
– Honorable members opposite have referred to speeches on the bill by what they term left wing members of the Australian Labour Party. I do not know whether they would call me a left wing, a centre or a right wing member. I do not really care what they call me. I represent industrial workers, waterside workers, seamen and men who are always up to their necks in trouble with employers. 1 think, therefore, that I would be referred to as a left wing member.
I am amazed that the Government has brought in this bill at all. After more than ten years in office, during which time the security service has been operating, the Government has suddenly accepted the fact that somebody is interfering with telephones and therefore has decided to do something about it. The remarkable fact is that we have not been shown any evidence at all that this bill is necessary. Honorable members on the Government side say that this action is being taken because somebody else has taken similar action. I have never seen such a shambles as I witnessed last night when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was replying to the case put forward by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). It almost seemed as though the honorable member for East Sydney had been given about six machineguns with the points raised by the AttorneyGeneral set up before him like dummies, and he shot them to pieces.
I am not speaking now about whether there should be control of telephone tapping. I merely say that I should imagine that if the Government believed it was necessary in the interests of the security of Australia to have power to tap telephones, it could have taken action at any time during the last ten years. Whilst I agree that a penalty should be imposed for the wrongful tapping of telephones, I also agree that if the security of this country depends on the right to tap telephones or anything else it is the Government’s duty to do the job, not to ask Parliament for authority to do it after having already taken such action. Can the Attorney-General, or any honorable member on the Government side, honestly say, “We know that telephone tapping has been taking place, but we have not had the power to control it. We must have power to stop it “ ? A few years ago, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was most vociferous in his complaints about telephone tapping. The reply by the Government on every occasion was that he was suffering from hallucinations, that nothing of the kind was going on at all.
– He could give no proof of it.
– I admit that, but the Government did say that he was suffering from hallucinations. What proof has the Government given us that this bill is necessary now? The Attorney-General said that it may be desirable for the Government to tap telephones in certain cases, that this authority is desirable in the interests of security. But what proof has he given that the bill is necessary? He has told us that in eleven years there have been 182 interceptions, representing seventeen interceptions a year; but he has not told us that the results of any one of those tappings justified the action taken at the time. Not once has he told us of anything that has been discovered through the tapping of telephones. On any occasion when the security officers felt suspicious about some clever person and thought that something might be learned from tapping the telephone after obtaining authority from the Minister or somebody else, has anything of importance been learned? Can the Government point to any instance in which anything has been discovered? I do not ask for the name of any individual under suspicion. All I ask is proof that telephone tapping is necessary.
When I speak about the hardship suffered by widows, I quote instances of hardship in order to illustrate the position as I see it. In this case, the Attorney-General has merely said that the purpose of seeking the authority is to ensure the privacy of the people. I am amazed that in its ten years of office the Government has not taken steps before this to protect the privacy of the people, if authority to do this has been necessary. I repeat that there is no need for the bill. When a government is elected, it must accept responsibility for taking all steps necessary to safeguard security. I venture the opinion that to limit this, or any other, government to what is provided in certain sections of some act is to jeopardize the security of the country. I have never agreed to restriction of authority in these matters to what is contained in sections of acts. Any government, whether it be Labour or Liberal, must accept responsibility in connexion with these matters.
– That is what we are doing now.
– Can the honorable member tell this House of anything that has happened during the last ten years, or even in the last two years, which makes this bill necessary? I say he cannot.
– They are security matters.
– We have been able to carry on satisfactorily so far with present security methods. Did anything come out of telephone tapping in the Petrov case, for instance?
– That is a security matter. That information cannot be disclosed.
– The honorable member says that the information cannot be disclosed. I am not asking for such details as the name of the individual concerned. The Government has not put forward any evidence whatever that anything has been discovered through telephone tapping. Does the Attorney-General say that during all these years, while the present Government has been in office, it has not been necessary to tap telephones?
– They did it without authority.
– If they did it without authority, why deny it, as was done when the matter was taken up by the honorable member for Hindmarsh? Why was that honorable member told that his complaints were merely piffle, that telephone tapping was not taking place? The honorable member for Hindmarsh was satisfied that it was being done. I do not know whether it was being done, but that honorable member was satisfied that it was being done; and the Government denied it but could not prove that it had not been done. It merely said that it did not believe that it had been done. In my opinion, the Government has fallen into a trap on this occasion. It is seeking Parliament’s authority to do something that is not necessary. We have heard much about the freedom of the individual in all things. I am not worried about the freedom of the individual in the sense that if it could be proved to me that this bill is necessary, I would be prepared to vote for it. But I do not think it is necessary.
I come now to the assertion by honorable members on the Government side that honorable members on this side have been dragooned into voting against the bill because of a victory alleged to have been won by a section led by the honorable member for East Sydney. It has been suggested that we are opposing the measure because that honorable member was able to win out against another section of the party. Let me tell honorable members that I believe every member who attended that caucus meeting to which reference has been made would vote against the third reading of this bill if the proposal were to give the AttorneyGeneral absolute control over this matter. In the party room we also objected to power being given to the Director-General to issue a warrant even with a currency of 48 hours.
The views of a section of the caucus on this bill have been printed in the newspapers, and I am not giving away any secrets. The newspapers stated that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition moved to remove the possibility of party politics, as it were, entering into the matter by fighting for the deletion of the clause giving the Attorney-General and the DirectorGeneral of Security the power to issue warrants, and providing instead that a judicial authority should have the power. We decided that unless that provision was removed we would vote against it. I do not think the Government would be prepared to go even as far as removing that one provision, because member after member on the Government side has said: “ I am supporting the measure. I think it is necessary, and a good measure.” Honorable members opposite have a perfect right to their opinions, and as the Government has a majority in this place it has the power to enforce its will.
Now let me return to the statements made about the caucus meeting. Honorable members opposite claim that a minority over here is being dragooned into certain action as the result of the vote in caucus. I would say that the debate has shown that there are divisions in the Government parties in relation to this measure. The remarks made by the honorable member who has just finished his speech shows that he is not very happy about the measure. I do not know, but I am prepared to think, that not all members of the Government parties are happy about this bill, and that there are some who would oppose it if they could. But you people opposite do not let the newspapers know what happens at your party meetings, or the newspapers have been unable to find any way of listeningin to the discussions at Government party meetings. I do not know how the newspapers discover what happens at party meetings, but when they do print stories about party meetings they are usually stories about the Labour Party’s caucus meetings. They do not seem very keen to print what happens at the party meetings attended by honorable gentlemen opposite. I guarantee that after every caucus meeting we have a swarm of bees around us wanting statements from the Leader of the Opposition and other people.
– Does the honorable member mean “ B’s “ or “ bees “?
– I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that with my way of talking I do not think of the sort of bees the honorable member speaks about. I was speaking about ordinary people. The newspaper reporters get a statement about what happened in the caucus. But are they satisfied with that? No! They go round to one person and another person picking up a little bit of information here and a little bit of information there, and they piece it together in accordance with their ideas. That kind of thing does not happen in respect of the party meetings of honorable members opposite.
We in the Labour Party abide by the majority decision of the Caucus. You people opposite say that you are democrats. What does democracy mean? It means that the decision of the majority shall prevail, but that every member of the minority shall be able to express his views. We in our party make no bones about it. If we in the party decide that we shall oppose a bill, and if any member of the party does not oppose it, or votes for it, we want to know the reason why.
– You do not seem too happy about it.
– I am quite happy about it. The best thing that honorable members opposite could do would be to drop the bill - to decide not to go on with it. The fact that honorable members opposite have not been able to produce any real evidence of why the Parliament should accept the bill shows that they should drop it. They could tell the people that the position was somewhat similar to the position when there is a deadlock in the Senate. They could say that, as there was not a majority opinion in favour of the bill, it would be dropped. But we know that in actual fact there will be a majority for the bill, because it would be an exceptional case indeed, if anybody on the other side were to vote against the bill, and an exceptional case if anybody on this side crossed the floor and voted for it. So the bill will go through this House, because the Government has the numbers to put it through.
I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am not adhering altogether to a discussion of the merits or demerits of the bill itself, but no member who has spoken so far in the debate has done so either. The burden of the debate so far has been what has happened in some other country, what some other country has decided, and what we should do in the light of what other countries do. We have been told about telephone tapping in Great Britain. We have been told about what happens in America. We have been told that this country’s security service was introduced in the war years, but that is not so. The security service was not started until after the war, and it was established as a result of pressure which was brought to bear by America on the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley. The Americans told Mr. Chifley that unless Australia had a proper security service this country would not obtain from America the information that was required to make Woomera an effective long-distance weapons range. Mr. Chifley realized that, if we were to be able to co-operate with the countries that were giving us co-operation, we would have to accede to that suggestion, and the Labour Government agreed to establish the security service. I do not know whether Mr. Chifley directly agreed to telephone tapping or whether he did not, but I say that if he did so, he might have done it in his capacity of Prime Minister and Minister controlling the security service. I will say also that as a member of the Labour Party I do not remember that matter being discussed, and I do not remember being told about it. I am not arguing on that, however. If Mr. Chifley did state that, then we ask for proof of the statement to be given to us.
I think that this statement about Mr. Chifley is just one of the things that honorable members opposite have brought in to bolster their case. The Attorney-General said that Mr. Chifley agreed to telephonetapping. I think that when honorable members on this side who were Ministers in the Chifley Government at the time now say that they knew nothing of it, they are not condemning Mr. Chifley by doing so. We say that if the Attorney-General has a security file to back what he has said, let him trot it out and we will be silent about this thereafter.
– If he is not prepared to produce the evidence he should not have uttered the statement.
– I was going to say that if he was not able to bring the evidence here and show us that what he claims was done by Mr. Chifley was done, then let him withdraw his statement. I am not claiming that the Attorney-General has said anything untrue; but honorable members on this side of the House remember that time very well indeed, and state definitely that they had no idea that what the Attorney-General claims was done. Does any honorable member opposite think that we on this side - and in particular the honorable member for East Sydney, who was one of the leading Ministers in the Chifley Government - would have challenged the Government about telephonetapping and all the rest of it if we knew that the accusation could be levelled against us that we initiated telephonetapping when we were in office?
– - That is your supposition.
– There is no use arguing about it. I want to be satisfied as to whether or not Mr. Chifley did what he was alleged to have done, or whether the Attorney-General has just taken a long chance and decided that it was likely that, because we established the security service, we agreed to anything that the security service might do.
I appeal in all earnestness to the Attorney-General and the Government to think again before they cause this measure to go through. Let them realize that by putting the measure through they are opening the way to danger. The measure provides that the authority to tap telephones will be given only to the Attorney-General and the Director-General of Security. Nobody else will have the authority to tap telephones, except employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department who may find it necessary to do so in the event of mechanical or other difficulties with the telephone service. The telephone-tapping to be permitted under the measure is to be directed towards maintaining the safety of this country; but what about people who might take the opportunity to tap telephone conversations for purposes other than security purposes? No matter what is in the bill, a dishonest man in a position to do so, who wants to tap a telephone conversation for a dishonest purpose and is prepared to take the chance of doing it, will tap it. This bill will not stop the crooks. The Government should be prepared to attend to security matters in an efficient manner without asking the Parliament to pass a bill of this nature.
It has been suggested that a subsequent government might use this bill for its own purposes. I do not think there is any need to fear that that would happen. The only people who have been mentioned as the target of this legislation are the Communists. There has been no claim that this measure is needed to deal with the man who engages in telephone tapping to put over a clever business deal. How do we know that that is not being done? I take it that, under its present powers, the Government has had reasonable control over telephone tapping throughout the years. If the Government has lacked that control and has been aware of the deficiency, it is a poor old Administration indeed to have waited for so long before taking this action.
I am opposing this bill, not because of what any one else has decided to do-
– You have been told how to vote.
– I have not. The Opposition caucus carried a resolution that we would oppose the bill, but nobody said to me, “ Bert Thompson, you have to vote against that bill”. I did not need to be told that, and I am sure that nobody has said to the honorable member for Gippsland, “ George Bowden, you will vote for the bill”. He will do that automatically. In fact, members of the Government parties are as automatic as vending machines.
Putting all joking aside, I believe that this measure will create a lot of ill feeling. Thousands of people who have heard this debate will reason the matter out. The contribution made to this debate by the honorable member for East Sydney has been criticized by Government supporters. It is true that the honorable member had a number of digs at certain people, but he explained very well what could occur as a result of this legislation. The Government will not be able to protect the people against the misuse of telephone tapping powers. This bill merely gives the Director of Security, through the Attorney-General, full power to intercept telephone conversations. If the security service is not able to operate more efficiently under this legislation than it has been able to operate in the last ten years, according to the admissions of the Attorney-General, the Government is just selling people a few old eggs that are not worth anything.
.- No one in this House doubts the honesty or sincerity of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). But I think that he himself gave the show away completely during the last couple of minutes of his speech when he turned to the Australian Country Party and said, in effect, “ Joking aside - let us get back to the serious business “. It seemed to me that his whole opposition to the bill was offered in a halfhearted, joking, way. I can imagine him going back to his electorate, where I know he is well liked and admired and saying, “ Don’t take much notice of that debate. We were against the bill but something like this is necessary. The honorable member for East Sydney was a bit fiery but he always is. He would be fiery if he were talking about a Sunday school picnic. You will find that this bill is probably in the best interests of the country anyway.”
I think that the 45-minute speech of the honorable member for East Sydney repre sented one of the best arguments for passing the bill. If we needed any proof of the necessity for this bill, it was given by the honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) and other Opposition speakers. It is quite ridiculous to argue along the lines upon which the Opposition has been arguing. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) tried to twist the title of the bill. He said that this bill which ostensibly was to prohibit the interception of telephonic communications, had been designed by the Government, in its sly way, to provide for interception. That statement will fool no one.
As has been stated by the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) in his second-reading speech, interception has been going on for the last eleven years. What does the Opposition want? Do Opposition members intend to move an amendment to provide that there shall be no interception of conversations and that any type of interception shall be punishable by fine or imprisonment? Or do they believe the interception should be permitted so long as those who give effect to it are not answerable to this Parliament?
Something that has been going on in Australia for eleven years has now been made the subject of legislation under which somebody will be responsible to this Parliament for what goes on. Since the Opposition is constantly saying that Parliament should have responsiblity in all matters, its members must have their tongues in their cheeks when they oppose this legislation.
How many cases of interception have there been? During the eleven years in which the Director-General of Security has been given a free rein to intercept where he has thought fit, there have been 118 interceptions - less than one a month. Now, this legislation lays down quite clearly the conditions under which interception can take place. And they are extremely difficult conditions. The Director-General must receive the sanction of the Attorney-General. If there were only 118 cases of interception in eleven years, when the Director-General had a free rein obviously it will be difficult under this bill, for the security service to have 1 1 8 cases in even 1 00 years.
We should consider the purpose of interception. Because so much has been said to try to make out that this Government is instituting a police state, I must take the time of the House to read the clause of the bill which is the most vital for the people of Australia. It is ridiculous to say that this bill can operate against trade unionists or against our civil rights. Later on, I want to talk about civil rights as mentioned by the honorable member for Wills. I shall read clause 6 of the bill, because the Opposition is constantly saying that this legislation is designed to institute a police state. They say that the legislation is aimed to make it easy for the security service to tap telephones, including those of honorable members. I hope that I will have sufficient time to comment on what the honorable member for East Sydney said about “ juicy bits “ being reported back to the Attorney-General. Clause 6 reads - (1.) Where, upon receipt by the AttorneyGeneral, of a request by the Director-General of Security for the issue of a warrant under this section in respect of a telephone service, the Attorney-General is satisfied that . . .
The fact that the Attorney-General has to be satisfied shows that no one with a clear conscience who is acting only in the interests of Australia need worry about this bill. The clause continues -
the telephone service is being or is likely to be -
the interception by the Organization of com munications passing to, from or over the telephone service will, or is likely to, assist the organization in carrying out its function of obtaining intelligence relative to the security of the Commonwealth.
I ask honorable members opposite whether they consider that the majority of trade unionists are not interested in the security of Australia. It is ridiculous to say that they are not. The record of trade unionists during the war showed that, in the main, they are as interested in the security and future of Australia as any one could possibly be.
– The other question you might ask is, “ What are the Communists interested in? “
– That is very true. I believe that an attempt is being made to prejudice people’s minds against legislation that they would be eager to agree with. Let us consider the speech made by the honorable member for East Sydney when replying to the Attorney-General on behalf of the Opposition. He said, in reference to juicy bits of information -
Is anybody in this Parliament naive enough to believe that if one of the security officers went to the Attorney-General and said, “ In listening to a telephone conversation the other evening I picked up a juicy piece of information about a prominent member of the Australian Labour Party “, the Attorney-General would say to the security officer, “ Take it away, I refuse to listen to it “. Are we to believe that?
The fundamental provision is contained in clause 6 of the bill. The Director-General cannot get authority to tap the phone of a prominent member of the Australian Labour Party, a prominent member of the Liberal Party or a prominent member of the Communist Party or of any other party who has given a juicy bit of information over the phone. He must be satisfied that the person whose phone he wants to tap is acting in a way subversive to the Commonwealth. Therefore, we need never fear that this power will be abused. It is ridiculous to think that the Director-General of Security would be interested in whether somebody was going to the races or in what the honorable member for East Sydney would regard as a juicy bit of information. He must establish that the person whose conversation he wants to listen to is a person acting against the interests of Australia.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), in his speech on this bill, said that it was a disgraceful thing that members on this side of the House were not interested in the civil rights, liberties and privacy of the Australian people. I asked him, by interjection, to define what he meant by civil rights. From what 1 know, civil rights are rights to live in a community in freedom and without fear. Those are the rights that we want. If legislation is designed to make it safer for people to live in Australia, and to preserve this country as a place where we can continue to bring up our children in the way that we have been accustomed to bring them up, the Opposition should support that legislation, instead of seeking to destroy it, as it is seeking to destroy this legislation for some reason known only to the honorable member for East Sydney.
If members of the Opposition are sincere in their case on this occasion, they are living in the past. This is not the Australia of the 1820’s or the 1860’s; it is the Australia of the 1960’s. It is an Australia which is a part of a world to which isolationism no longer belongs. What could be done 50 or 100 years ago has nothing to do with what we can do to-day. Nobody in Australia, including some of the people whom honorable members opposite say they champion, would believe members of the Opposition if they said there would not be a threat to our security either within this year or in ten or twenty years’ time.
I believe that the Government, in bringing down this legislation in the first place, had the support of the Opposition. I refuse to believe that members of the Opposition are sincere when they say that that was not so.
– Would the honorable member repeat that statement?
– I believe that members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for East Sydney, asked the Government to bring down legislation such as this, to legalize the tapping of telephones.
– That is deliberately untrue.
– It is not deliberately untrue. I believe that was the general consensus of opinion among members of the Opposition. They cannot, in all sincerity, say that they bitterly oppose this legislation, which legalizes something which they agreed eleven years ago could be done without the authority of Parliament.
– We did not agree to it.
– It is ridiculous to imagine that you would, but there is evidence that members of the Opposition do agree with it.
– Where is the evidence? Put it on the table.
– If the honorable member for East Sydney was required to lay on the table evidence to support the statements that he makes here, the table would almost fill the chamber. He has the colossal hide to sit there and ask members of this Parliament to produce evidence to support what they say. He is the greatest twister of things known to this Parliament.
I know that this legislation will be passed by this House and by the other place, to the great benefit of all Australian people, not because the Government has the numbers, but because it has the common sense to do what it believes is right for this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Davidson, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will recall that during the third session of the twenty-second Parliament I introduced into this House a bill for an act to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956. The bill passed all stages in this House, but was adjourned in another place, for reasons which I need not elaborate at this stage, and was therefore not proceeded with. The bill, which I now introduce, incorporates all the matter dealt with in the previous bill, except for one item, and also includes additional provisions which experience in the field of broadcasting and television since 1958 has shown to be clearly desirable.
I remind honorable members that television was introduced into the Commonwealth late in 1956 when, in both Sydney and Melbourne, one national and two commercial stations each commenced operations. In 1957, the Government gave its approval for the second stage of development, in the course of which a national television station would be established in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart, two commercial stations in Brisbane and Adelaide and one commercial station in Perth and Hobart. All these stations are now in operation except in Hobart, where the national and commercial stations will commence service in the next few weeks. From the stations already in operation, services are available to more than 60 per cent, of the population and those which are contemplated in country districts will increase this to 75 per cent. The further extension of the services to other areas will receive early consideration by the Government.
In the three and one-half years since the inception of television in the Commonwealth some 850,000 television viewers’ licences have been issued, and the number is being increased at the rate of more than 1,000 a day. It is nevertheless apparent from the fact that broadcast listeners’ licences have increased in the same period by 180,000 that the broadcasting services also retain their popularity. There are now 2,268,891 listeners’ licences in force. It will be realized that this rapid expansion has indicated problems which it is desirable to deal with in an amending bill.
I now come to a group of clauses in the bill which substitute a new Division 3 for the Division 3 of Part IV. that is now in the act. Division 3 in the act at present contains two very significant sections. The first is section 91 which provides that a person shall not be in a position to control directly or indirectly more than two television licences. The second is section 92 which provides that 80 per cent, of the share capital of a company holding a licence shall be held by residents of this country and that no non-resident shall hold more than 15 per cent, of that capital. These provisions were enacted to express this Government’s policy that this very important channel of communication should not fall into the hands of too few, and that the benefit derived from the exercise of licences which lay in the grant of the Government should be spread widely through the Australian community.
Experience has shown that this division could fail to operate so as to carry out that policy because a legal view could be taken that the control of a company rests with the general meeting of the company and that to control a general meeting, and thus control the company, it is necessary to be able to exercise as of legal right 51 per cent, of the voting power in the genera] meeting. The Government, however, recognizes that a company may be effectively controlled in a commercial sense by persons who hold less than 51 per cent, of the voting power, and also that in relation to such an activity as the management of a television station, control can be exercised by a variety of means other than the possession of voting power at a general meeting. The Government does not deviate from the policy which it asked this Parliament to express in sections 91 and 92 of the existing act and accordingly I have retained them in substance in the new Division 3. But the Government is desirous that there should be no frustration of that policy by sheltering behind a legal concept whilst in truth and in commercial reality the policy is being defeated. Accordingly, the new Division 3 which comprises sections 91 to 92k contains an endeavour on the part of the Government to ensure that its policy is in this respect effective. This is not the place to explain the provisions in detail, but may I sketch for the benefit of honorable members their broad import.
First, the Government has made it quite clear by a definition of the word “ control “ that the former section 91 which now appears as section 92 refers not merely to legal control or control by voting power, but to practical and commercial control by any means. Next, the Government has felt that it will be necessary, in order to have certainty in the operation of this division, to fix a percentage of the voting power which shall be deemed to give control of the company and of its operations. It should be borne in mind that this division is directed to preventing a person from having control of more than two licences. The policy of the provisions of the division is quite clear and in this respect quite unchanged, namely, that a person may lawfully be in a position to control two television licences providing they are not both in the same capital city, so that the various definitions and criteria set up by this division are particularly applicable to a person who has already placed himself in a position to control two television licences and is seeking to control a third and further television licence. The Government has decided that for this purpose possession or control of more than 15 per cent, of the voting power of a company shall be treated as giving to the person able to control it control of that company. I do not pause here to speak in detail of the manner by which the clauses ensure that this provision cannot be evaded by the interpolation of a company or a series of companies between the person seeking to control the television licence and the company which has it. In due course, this provision, which is proposed new section 92b of the principal act, will be further examined in committee.
Mr. Speaker, a provision not in this division, and contained in clause 25, is relevant to the operation of this proposed division because it provides that a television licence can be given only to a company formed within the limits of the Commonwealth or of its Territories and having a share capital. In order to assist in the administration of this division and to ensure, as far as possible, that a person does not obtain control of more than two television licences, particularly by means of voting power in a company, there are clauses in the division which, by way of condition of the licence, require a company holding a licence to have such provisions in its articles of association as will prevent a person from being or remaining a shareholder of that company where his shareholding would bring, or has brought, him into breach of the provisions of the act - that is to say, would place him in a position to control a third television licence.
– Why not cut him down to one?
– You will be able to make other suggestions in committee. Honorable members will be able to discuss the whole of these provisions in committee. They will be plainly seen as an endeavour to assist in the administration of the new Division 3.
Recognizing that the policy of a television station may well be controlled by means of common directorates, I have proposed in proposed new section 92c, which is contained in clause 27, that no person shall be permitted to be a director of more than two television companies. In order to foil any endeavour to secure control of a television licence by means of managerial agreements or agreements with respect to the selection of programme material, or by the possession of television film material as a weapon to secure control. I have included in this division clauses which will prevent a person from securing control of more than two television licences by means of managerial agreements, programme agreements or the possession of television film material. The Government realizes - I want to make this very plain - that there are many perfectly proper arrangements that may be made between television stations and others with respect to programmes and the provision of television film material. The Government has no desire to interfere with such situations. Honorable members will observe, when studying the sections of this division, that suitable exceptions are proposed in order to protect those bona fide commercial arrangements made in the ordinary course of business which are not made for the purpose of securing control of the operations of a third television station. I refer in this respect particularly to proposed new section 92 (a) (2.).
Mr. Speaker, there may, of course, at times be a dearth of available television film, and I do not propose to enter what is perhaps a controversial field of discussion as to whether that is or is not a prevailing condition at the moment, but the Government has decided that it will take its stand against any endeavour to monopolize television film - to corner it, to use an old and well-understood phrase - and to use it, not as an item of commerce but as an unwarranted source of power. Consequently, after a great deal of consideration, for this is, it will be realized, a very difficult area, the Government has decided to embody proposed new section 105a in clause 28 in this bill. Let me briefly indicate what it is designed to do./ It provides that when a person who has a right to sell or hire a television film refuses to make it available to a licensee of a television station, or to do so except on unreasonable terms and conditions, the television station seeking to obtain the use of the television film has the right to apply to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for an order that the film be made available, and the board may after due inquiry order it to be made available on just and reasonable terms./*
The Government realizes that there may be very many good and reasonable business reasons why a person may be justified in not parting with a television film. The proposed new section endeavours to protect all these sound commercial reasons, and it does so by two provisions. It provides that the board shall not make an order if there is reasonable objection to making it, and without prejudicing the generality of that provision the clause nominates a number of reasons which must - I repeat “ must “ - be taken by the board as good and valid reasons for refusing to make an order to make the film available. In short, Mr. Speaker, the Government has attempted by this clause to see that no genuine business transaction or business interest is harmed, whilst at the same time it provides that the use of the television film cannot be refused simply because there is a desire to use its possession as a means of obtaining control of the operations of a television station.
– Does that apply to national as well as commercial stations?
– Yes, it does. The Government has said that it favours independent stations.
– We do not believe it.
– If the Leader of the Opposition studies the bill, he will find that this is completely correct. The cornering of programmes could defeat this desire of the Government by leaving the independent station in a position where it could not secure on reasonable and just terms the television film wherewith to service its operations. Honorable members will find three sub-sections numbered (5.), (6.) and (7.) of proposed section 105a which will need to be explained in committee. They are designed to prevent persons who buy television film from tying up themselves and others so that others may not get access to the film. Honorable members will observe, in reading these provisions, that here again the proposed section protects reasonable restrictive covenants such as, in short, are necessary for the protection of the business of the person holding the television film or that of the person who is sponsoring it or using it in the ordinary course of business.
It will be at once recognized that there may be already on foot arrangements which offend these provisions. It may be that somebody is holding too many shares in what I call the third television company, or is a director of more than two such companies, or has some arrangement which gives him control of the third television station. The bill gives twelve months’ time for people to rearrange their shareholding, to alter the articles of association of the companies, and to terminate the offending arrangements, lt also gives a person six months in which to decide which two television company boards he will remain on, and to resign from the third or further boards. The Government feels that these are sufficient times to allow.
Mr. Speaker, this is necessarily a very brief account of a tremendously important part of this bill. It can be taken as an earnest that the Government, believing in a free-enterprise economy, knows that the protection of that economy at times requires measures to be taken against monopolistic and restrictive tendencies. It recognizes that in taking any such action the safeguarding of genuine transactions which are beneficial to the maintenance of such a free economy is important. This area of mass communication is one in which the Government has consistently taken the stand that there should not be an undue aggregation of power in the hands of any few. Proposed new Division 3 is an endeavour to prevent such a situation from arising.
Whilst the main purpose of this bill is to enact the new provisions to which I have just referred, the Government is taking the opportunity to make other desirable amendments to the principal act. In this connexion, I invite the attention of honorable members particularly to clauses 17 to 23, which, with the agreement of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, contemplate improvements to the existing provisions relating to the administrative and staffing arrangements of that body. They involve the establishment of a system of formal consultation and concurrence between the commission and the Public Service Board in regard to fixation of salaries, the determination of conditions of employment, including disciplinary conditions, and entrance qualifications to the commission’s permanent staff. The proposed procedure is comparable with the provisions already applying to a large number of Commonwealth statutory bodies, including the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The statutory rules relating to the commission will be replaced by staff rules to be subject to the concurrence of the Public Service Board. The objective here is to simplify the procedure for the implementation of desirable changes in conditions and to ensure that the staff of the commission, in the overall, enjoy no less favorable conditions than are applicable to the Commonwealth Public Service.
As part of these proposals, the existing statutory obligation for the commission to conduct entrance examinations for admission to its service will be eliminated. The commission would then, subject to the Public Service Board’s concurrence, lay down minimum qualifications for entrance for the various classes of staff concerned. Because of the difficulties in persuading young people to sit for such examinations when so many opportunities for employment are available elsewhere, the existing provisions of the act cause administrative problems. This is particularly so since other employers accept the recognized certificates of educational attainment when seeking new staff.
In regard to disciplinary conditions governing the commission’s employees, it is proposed to bring the provisions generally into line with the related provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. The bill allows the commission the right to fine an officer for misconduct, up to an amount of £20. The act provides at the moment that the commission may dismiss an officer or reduce his status or rate of pay in these circumstances, and it is thought that, consistent with the normal Public Service provisions, some lesser form of penalty such as a fine to a maximum amount of £20 should be provided for.
It is not intended to provide in the new staff rules for the Appointments Advisory Committee established under division 5 of the existing staff regulations. The committee at present comprises two senior executive officers and a representative of a staff organization. One of its principal functions is to review proposed nominations for vacancies, the majority of which are, of course, later subject to appeal to the independent Promotions Appeal Board. It also reviews charges affecting the staff’s salary and employment conditions.
With the expansion of the broadcasting service and the introduction of television, the staff of the commission has increased from less than 500 to approximately 2,500. Administrative arrangements within the organization are now considerably hampered through the existence of a formal committee system for consultation on these matters; delays have become the usual pattern in regard to the filling of vacancies and other general staffing adjustments.
Under the proposal in the bill, provisional promotions will still be subject to the existing appeal system, and the independent Appeal Board will continue to have authority to endorse or disallow the commission’s selection. The change will eliminate delays and duplication, and every officer who feels aggrieved will have the right of appeal. The commission will also continue to advertise vacancies for the benefit of interested officers, and will discuss major changes affecting the staff with their representatives. It will, of course, consider also individual requests from officers in all aspects of their working conditions.
By this bill, it is in addition proposed to allow the permanent appointment of nonBritish subjects to the commission’s permanent staff where the Minister so approves. This practice already applies in the case of the statutory authorities mentioned previously. The commission has already recruited a number of these persons in a temporary capacity and, as their employment is sometimes long term, it is felt that they should participate in the advantages available to officers who are permanently appointed. Under such an arrangement, individual appointments will always be subject to my own approval, in order to ensure that the rights of natural-born or naturalized persons are adequately protected.
The changes contained in clauses 17 to 23 are not radical in nature but brins the commission into line with existing Commonwealth Public Service practice: they guarantee, as I have already stressed. Mr
Speaker, that the employees of the commission enjoy no less favorable conditions than are available to employees of the Commonwealth in the general body of the Public Service.
The details of the clauses themselves I will leave to discussion in committee; they contain much that is purely of a drafting character. I have, however, touched on the important issues involved. In doing so I have made clear, I hope, that the intention of the bill in these clauses is not to make changes in existing conditions affecting the commission’s staff as set out in the regulations and the commission’s decisions. It is rather to ensure that, in the future, administrative arrangements for the introduction of desirable changes will be simplified considerably, and that the commission will also have the benefit of the Public Service Board’s expert advice on matters of principle. This will be of particular value in such matters as salaries and other employment conditions in which the commission, as a major employer, is involved, and in which common attitudes by all Commonwealth authorities are essential.
Clauses 6 and 7 propose amendments to the provisions of the principal act which relate to the terms of office of, and vacation of office by, members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The proposed new provisions are similar to those prescribed by the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 in relation to members of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. Clauses 15 and 16 propose similar conditions in relation to the commissioners of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and clause 16 also provides for the notification by a commissioner of any interest he may have in a contract made or proposed to be made by the commission and for his exclusion from any deliberation or decision of the commission with respect to that contract.
Clauses 8 and 14 contemplate amendments to sections 16 and 28 of the principal act which are closely related and may be dealt with together as they refer to the functions of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department in connexion with, interference to the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting and television stations. Since the inception of broad casting, the obligation to assist listeners to overcome interference to reception has been discharged by the Post Office. However, since the establishment of the board in March, 1949, the responsibility for the overall planning of the broadcasting and television services and the determination of standards and practices for technical equipment and the operation of services have devolved on that body. Implicit in this responsibility is the planning of the necessary measures for the prevention of interference to reception of broadcasting and television programmes and the supply of advice and assistance to listeners and viewers who are troubled by interference.
It is now proposed to amend section 16 of the act, which sets out the powers and functions of the board, to provide a clear charter for it to discharge these functions related to interference. At the same time, by the addition of a new section 28a, power will be given for the PostmasterGeneral to provide at the request and expense of the Broadcasting Control Board any facilities and services that may be required by it to carry out these functions. The amendments are, therefore, intended to clarify the position and also authorize the board to incur the expenditure involved in carrying out this important work.
Clauses 9 to 12 amend sections of the principal act which relate to inquiries conducted by the board in accordance with the requirements of the act. Clause 9 provides for the insertion of a new section authorizing the board to arrange with the Crown Solicitor for a barrister or solicitor to assist the board at an inquiry. The board, I might say, has already done so with my approval, but the new section is being inserted in the act to remove any doubts which may exist as to its legal authority to do so. Clauses 10 and 12 contain proposed amendments to sections 22 and 25 respectively of. the act, designed to give the board appropriate power to control proceedings at inquiries. Without adequate powers in this respect, the board has been at a disadvantage in the past and. as a result, some of its inquiries have lasted longer than was expected.
Section 87 of the act at present prescribes that the Minister shall not revoke a licence for a commercial broadcasting or television station unless he has first received a report from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In the opinion of the Government, this section does not go quite far enough, and should be amended to provide that in such cases a recommendation from the board for the revocation of any such licences will also be necessary. Clause 26 of the bill provides for this amendment.
In clause 29, the Government proposes to place on the commission and the licensee of each broadcasting or television station an obligation to cause a record to be made, in writing or by means of a device for recording sound, of matter which is broadcast or televised relating to a political subject or current affairs and to retain the record for a period of six weeks or such longer period as the Minister directs. The purpose of this clause is two-fold. In the first place, the Government considers that some protection should be provided for the public against the broadcasting or televising of defamatory statements, and in any case where legal proceedings are contemplated, the record of matter which may be required for the purpose of the proceedings may, under the proposed new section 117a have to be kept for a longer period. The second purpose of the proposed new section is to ensure the retention in the archives of a record of matter which is, in the opinion of the Minister, of sufficient historic interest to justify its being permanently preserved. Clause 29 does not apply to matter of historic interest which is broadcast from the Parliament, but in another bill which I propose to introduce to amend the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, Parliament will be asked to consider the desirability of arrangements being made for the retention of sound records of selected parliamentary proceedings.
Clause 30 proposes the insertion in the act of two new sections related to the licensing of broadcast and television receivers. Proposed new section 126a provides that persons who are engaged in the business of hiring these receivers to other persons shall have a licence for each such receiver. The operation of hire-purchase agreements in this connexion will be specifically excepted. It is considered unreasonable to require a person hiring a set for use for a short period to pay a full licence fee. and for more than one payment to be made in respect of the same receiver in a period of twelve months. The latter frequently occurs as a result of compliance with the law as it now stands.
An alternative course would be to provide for pro rata payments of licence fees. However, experience of this system, when it was in force in respect of broadcast listeners’ licences some years ago, was most unsatisfactory and policing of the requirement extremely difficult. In brief, the proposed amendment shifts the onus of obtaining licences for hired sets from the user to the supplier.
Proposed new section 126b deals with television and broadcast receivers in hotels, lodging houses and similar premises. It will require the keeper of such an establishment to have licences for each receiver, including each broadcast loud speaker, provided by him in any room of his premises which is occupied, or available for occupation, by any lodger or tenant. It is considered that receivers provided in this way are in a different category from those in private use. There has also been considerable difficulty in establishing the legal “ possession “ of such receivers as the act now stands. A similar requirement is imposed by the relevant licensing legislation in the United Kingdom.
Occupants of accommodation in hotels and lodging houses are being protected from committing an offence by reason of their use of any unlicensed receiver. It is felt that, by the transient nature of their occupation of the accommodation, no responsibility, in all fairness, can be placed on them. Both these types of licences will be transferable to avoid the inequitable effects which may otherwise accompany a sale of a lodging house or hiring business for which receiver licences have recently been taken out.
Clauses 31 to 33 provide for amendments consequential upon the proposals in clause 30. Clause 32 also amends sub-paragraph (c) of sub-section 3 of section 128 of the act which at present provides that a broadcast listener’s licence or a television viewer’s licence may be issued and renewed at reduced fees to a pensioner who lives alone, lives with another pensioner or lives with any person or persons if the income of each such other person does not exceed the maximum amount of income and pension allowed under the Social Services Consolidation Act or the Repatriation Act. Amendments made to the Social Services Act in 1956 provide for higher maximum pension payments to pensioners in charge of two or more children than those made to ordinary age, invalid or widowed pensioners. Thus, in existing circumstances, unless the number of children a pensioner may have under his or her charge is known, the maximum pension is not ascertainable in terms of the present legislation.
A further alteration is also desirable to paragraph (c) of sub-section 3 of section 128, to cover the alteration to the Social Services Act which excepts a permanently blind person from a reduction of age or invalid pension. The amendment proposed, therefore, includes as a qualification in regard to a pensioner who lives with another person, a reference to the maximum amount of income and pension such other person may receive, unless that person is a permanently blind person or person who has the custody, care and control of two or more children. Should the other person receive a greater income than that specified, then the pensioner does not qualify for reduced licence fees under the Broadcasting and Television Act. In addition, it is proposed to omit reference to section 87 of the Repatriation Act, which is unnecessary because the amount of income is fixed with reference to the provisions of the Social Services Act.
Clause 34 proposes a new section to enable the Minister, on the recommendation of the board, to grant a permit for what is known as a community antenna system. It sometimes happens that an area which is not far distant from a television transmitter is, because of the topography surrounding the area, screened in such a way that consistently reliable reception from the television transmitter cannot be obtained by viewers in the area. The difficulty can be often overcome by the erection of a very high aerial from which the programmes of a television station may be relayed by co-axial cable to houses in the affected area. At the present time such a procedure, if it entails the use of a line other than one erected on private land or within a private building is not permitted because of section 81a of the Post and Telegraph Act. Clause 34 accordingly proposes that the Minister may grant a permit for the use of a telegraph line for the purpose of community antenna systems and stipulates that the provisions of section 81a of the Post and Telegraph Act do not apply in relation to any such approved use of a telegraph line. The community antenna system may also have possibilities - I stress this point - for providing television services to pockets of people outside the normal range of television stations but this is a matter for consideration after our plans for the establishment of additional stations have been completed.
I commend the bill for consideration by the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Davidson, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is related to that just introduced to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act which, under clause 29, places on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and on commercial broadcasting and television station licensees, an obligation to retain, when so directed, a record of matter of historic interest and to deliver it, under fair compensation, to a designated person or authority. It is clearly desirable that a similar provision be made for the preservation of a record of notable occurrences in proceedings of the Parliament itself. However, it is equally clear that these arrangements should be in the Parliament’s own hands, and that any changes to be brought about should be effected by amendment of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act.
Having regard to timing difficulties, the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be given the initiative of choosing which parliamentary occasion to record, although, naturally, the commission will make an appropriate recording when so directed. The directions in this regard and the oversight of the procedure involved is placed by this bill in the hands of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings. The committee will make the decisions as to those items which will be put in permanent safe-keeping and also will make the appropriate safe-keeping arrangements.
In introducing this measure, I am sure it is unnecessary for me to stress the desirability of having a permanent record of notable occasions such as that when Her Majesty the Queen opened a session of this Parliament. I feel that all members will agree with me that adoption of the proposal in the bill will secure the addition of much material of historic interest to our national archives. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1704).
– This bill menaces the personal freedom of every one in Australia except two men. The two exceptions are the DirectorGeneral of Security and the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick). By this measure, they are empowered to listen secretly to the telephone conversations of any of their fellow citizens.
– How do you make that out?
– I hope to prove every word I say to the satisfaction of the House. Blackstone, in his “ Commentaries “ says -
Eavesdroppers or such as listen under walls or windows or the eaves of a house to hearken after a discourse, and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance.
Telephone tappers come into that objectionable category. The procedure is inherently repugnant to every healthy Australian concept. To propose to write this power for the security service for the first time into an act of the Australian Parliament is a matter of utmost public concern. The charge against the security service - and all the evidence that has come to light supports it - is that in recent years it has acted as a political instrument of the ruling party rather than as a security agency, and that on occasions it has acted with such cloak and dagger stupidity as to destroy all confidence in it. From the time that it supplied the Prime Minister with a hopelessly inaccurate list of alleged leading Communists until the recent notorious incident of the interview with Professor Stout-
– How do you know it was inaccurate?
– The Prime Minister admitted it in this House the following night. He came in and apologized for it. From that time, the security service has shown a capacity to brand the innocent as guilty, to treat genuine trade union activity as subversive, and to make blunder after blunder, if not worse than blunder.
That, of course, is upon the little that has come to light. The operations of the security service are secret and uncontrolled, and the tally of its offences against individual privacy and personal rights will, therefore, never be known. How many false reports against citizens are now contained in its files can never be challenged. How many victims have unjustly suffered in their employment and reputations through its activities may never be ascertained.
That is the damnable thing about such a service as this. It possesses immense power; it possesses unlimited money, it is superior to this Parliament; its paid agents, in order to justify themselves, must supply information regularly against some one or other; and there is no limit to how far or how widely that information may be circulated in this country. It is in these circumstances that this Government proposes to give unprecedented - I emphasize “ unprecedented “ - statutory authority to this security service to tap the telephone conversations of the Australian people. And it proposes to do so by a bill which, despite anything that the Attorney-General says, lacks any effective safeguard whatever of individual rights. In fact, it gives to the security service a blank cheque based upon the authority of Parliament itself. In no other country in the world, I believe, is there legislation on any statute-book comparable with the telephone tapping proposals now put to this House in this bill.
– Except when the Chifley Government was in power.
– I have issued the challenge. I have said that there is no legislation comparable with this on the statute-book of any other country of the world. Not one member of the Labour Party would be prepared to pass this bill in its present form.
– You were until yesterday morning.
– No. There has never been a stage at which any member of the Opposition would be prepared to pass this bill in its present form. We have been unanimous throughout that the measure now before the House ought to be rejected - and that, unquestionably, reflects the overwhelming opinion of the Australian people. The honorable member is not entitled to be present at a meeting of the Labour Party, and therefore I can only assume that he has either been snooping himself, or has been listening to a snooper. In any case, he has been misinformed.
The only question might be whether this wretched measure can be so amended as to conform to democratic principles and individual rights. Our opposition to the bill as a whole, root and branch, springs from the belief that its provisions are thoroughly obnoxious - so much so that they could not possibly be patched into any democratic shape, and therefore the bill ought to be rejected out of hand.
At the end of his speech, the AttorneyGeneral justified himself by blandly quoting the maxim that the safety of the people is the highest law. To his mind, that was that. The maxim could justify the measure. Mr. Speaker, this maxim, if taken by itself, as the Attorney-General has taken it, has been commonly mouthed throughout history to justify the utmost injustice, to authorize persecution and torture, to consolidate tyrants in their positions, to undermine freedom, to build up the master state. This maxim, which may become paramount in war, in peace normally requires to be read in conjunction with the vital statement of principle that the individual is superior to the State, and that the State exists as the servant of the individual and not as his master.
– That is socialism.
– That is liberalism in its true sense, spelt with a small “1”.
– Are not we engaged in a cold war? Are we at peace?
– We are at peace. This is not a time of war. This is not a time for throwing overboard all conceptions of the liberty of the individual in this country, even though the honorable member may argue that it is.
Mr. Speaker, the Government is surely making a deliberate attempt to mislead this Parliament by claiming, as it has claimed, that as, until now, telephone tapping has been unrestricted, any legislation to control it may be accepted as an improvement of the present position.
The Attorney-General attempted, rather heavily I thought, to bring the House to this way of thinking. He led off his speech with a great play on the argument that this was not a bill to initiate telephone tapping, but in general a bill to prohibit telephone tapping. With a cleverness that was perhaps more suited to the courtroom than to the legislative chamber he developed this theme right to the point of obscuring the real principle. The real truth, of course, is that all telephone tapping in Australia is already prohibited by law, except when done with the authority of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. That is set out in section 16a of the telephone regulations, and it is the existing law no matter how much the Government and the security service may have overridden it. The truth, too, is that Parliament is now being asked, for the first time in Australian history, to legislate to authorize telephone tapping. It is in that light that the bill before the House ought to be examined. We are being asked to create a legislative precedent, to set the pattern for the future, and if, under the guise of protecting democracy, we enact laws which are the antithesis of democracy, then we are simply defeating ourselves.
I should like to develop that point for a few moments. The first fact is that by this bill, if two men, and two men only, are in secret agreement, then there is no safeguard against the tapping of any conversation on any telephone in this country. Yet neither of these men possesses any qualifications to be accepted as the protector of the rights of the citizens. I am not examining now the particular qualifications of the present occupants of these positions, although I could do so. I simply say that the DirectorGeneral of Security, one of these two men, is whatever person the Government chooses to appoint to that position. He need possess no judicial qualifications, and in fact the present occupant of the position does not. He need not be impartial. If the Government so decides he may be the greatest redbaiter in the country. He may see a spy under every bed, and regard every militant left-winger as a subversive or disloyalist. He may consider every act of an active trade union chief to be subversive.
So much, then, for the Director-General. The other man to be concerned in this matter is the Attorney-General. He, of course, may be any member whatsoever of the Government parties in this Parliament. One has only to look around the Government’s ranks in this chamber to recognize that election to this House is no guarantee of possession of democratic principle, or of a balanced outlook, or of a sense of fair play, or even of ordinary plain common sense.
– We on this side could say exactly the same thing about your side.
– But still, you are the Government, and I am speaking about you, and you will probably accept it as correct. In the Government’s ranks are members admittedly with the most prejudiced attitude towards the workers of this country and towards their political and industrial representatives. This has been shown over and over again in the debate. Yet any one of these honorable members opposite may be Attorney-General. To-day it is the member for Parramatta. Tomorrow it may be the member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), or the member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) or the member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) or - dreadful thought - the member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who is the present Minister for Social Services.
I turn now, Mr. Speaker, to the procedure laid down in the bill to precede a telephone tap, and I propose to demonstrate that that procedure is an utter sham, that it gives none of the protection which the Government claims for it. After all, what does the Director-General of Security have to do to be authorized to tap a telephone? All he has to do is to make a request to the Attorney-General. It does not have to be sworn to, nor does the Director-General have to satisfy himself as to the accuracy of the information upon which he bases his request. He can act simply on information received, information that is, to the best of his belief, true.
– Or on suspicion.
– Yes, as my honorable friend from Wilmot reminds me, purely on suspicion. This is provided for in clause 6 (1 .) He does not even have to know that a person is engaged in prejudicial activities. He does not even have to suspect that a person is engaged in prejudicial activities. All he has to do is to suspect that a person is likely, or liable, to engage in prejudicial activities and on that ground he may request, and obtain, a warrant, which applies for six months or more, to tap a particular telephone service.
It is well to look for a moment at what the Director-General has to suspect in order to engage in telephone tapping. He has to suspect activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth. But he himself is the sole judge of what such activities are. He may choose to believe, as some honorable members on the opposite side believe, that action by a trade union official in conducting an industrial dispute comes within that category. He may equally choose to believe that the activities of a Labour member of Parliament in organizing opposition to, say, the Government’s defence policy are prejudicial to the national security. He can believe what he likes. There is no limit on it. And in setting out his beliefs he may obtain a warrant enabling him to employ any snooper whom he chooses, to listen-in to all conversation on a certain telephone line for the ensuing six months. That is the legislation to which every member of the Government parties will commit himself when he votes for the second reading of this measure.
It is when the stage I have referred to is reached that innocent citizens have to fall back on the Attorney-General for the protection of their privacy and of their rights. And in the light of what I said a moment ago, what a hopeless prospect that it! But even if the Attorney-General is not entirely satisfied with the grounds for the Director-General’s request, what alternative has he but to issue a warrant? The Director-General has made his request in writing. He has expressed his suspicions. He has set out his “ other grounds “ as they are called in the clause - whatever that may mean. He has complied with all the formalities and there is nothing that the Attorney-General can do in those circumstances but issue a warrant.
– He cannot exercise the power himself. The bill places a bureaucrat above him.
– That is correct The Attorney-General said in his secondreading speech that he must be personally satisfied that the Director-General’s conclusions are right. That is absolutely false. It is one of many misleading statements made by the Attorney-General in his speech. The Attorney-General does not have to be satisfied that the facts are right. The AttorneyGeneral does not have to bother about the facts at all. The position is clearly set out in the bill. The Attorney-General does not even have to be satisfied that the DirectorGeneral’s suspicions are right. He only has to be satisfied that the DirectorGeneral’s suspicions are reasonable - whether they are right or not - and the obligation is then upon him to grant the warrant. In setting out the circumstances in which the Attorney-General shall grant a warrant, clause 6, sub-clause (1.), states -
Where … the Attorney-General is satisfied that-
The telephone service is being or is likely to be -
used by a person engaged in,-
And here is the point - or reasonably suspected by the Director-General of Security of being engaged in . . .
So long as the Director-General has formed what he considers to be a reasonable suspicion and so long as the Attorney-General is satisfied that the Director-General is reasonable in forming his suspicion, he must grant the warrant.
– It would not be necessary for him to tap the telephone if he were positive.
– The honorable member confirms what I have said. There is no alternative available to the AttorneyGeneral, once the Director-General has applied in these terms, but to grant the warrant. So much for alleged safeguards. There is no safeguard for any one in this bill. The Attorney-General said -
That ought to be known by every citizen in Australia who has any regard for his rights and by any electors who are considering voting for a Liberal or a Country Party member at the next federal election.
The elaborate formalities surrounding the issue of a warrant by the Attorney-General are an equally elaborate farce. A telephone subscriber has no more protection from these formalities than if they did not exist. The Director-General might equally well be left free to tap where and how he likes without even going through the formality of seeking a warrant, because he only has to form a suspicion and he can listen to any conversation. It does not even have to be a suspicion that there are subversive activities. It need only be a suspicion that there may, at some time in the future, be subversive activities conducted over the telephone service.
Of course, if the Director-General decides that the matter is urgent, as he may decide in his own office without any one having any power over him, he can proceed to issue himself with a warrant and at once listen in to any conversation without awaiting these elaborate and farcical formalities to which I have referred. So much for the rule of law in the eyes of this Government. Surely, Mr Speaker, no further evidence is required of the falsity of the Attorney-General’s claim that this bill, as he said, prohibits telephone tapping “ except in circumstances coming within extremely narrow categories”. Instead of being narrow, the power to tap is as wide as the ocean. There is no real restriction on it and no safeguard whatever of any citizen rights.
The amazing fact is that any one at all in Australia can be authorized by the DirectorGeneral to tap a telephone conversation. That is clearly set out in the bill. It does not have to be the Director-General himself; it does not have to be some person who is sworn to secrecy; it does not even have to be an official of the security service. At page 1428 of “ Hansard “ the Attorney-General is reported as follows: - the authority to intercept . . . can only be exercised by the Director-General . . . or such person as he approves . . .
That means any one in Australia whom the Attorney-General chooses to empower as an official snooper on the telephone conversations of his fellow citizens.
– He might be a Labour man.
– There is no limitation whatever. A Government supporter could be authorized to tap a Labour member’s telephone for six months. The man next door could be empowered to listen in to the telephone conversation of his neighbour. The employer could be allowed to tap the telephone conversation of his employee. The employee could be allowed to tap the telephone conversation of his employer. All the reports, of course, would eventually go to the security service.
If any one believes that the information so collected will be known only to the security service he may abandon even that ray of comfort. The person approved by the Director-General as a phone snooper need be under no obligation of secrecy whatever. The Director-General himself has an unlimited licence to tell any one in the country whatever information he has collected from any source. It is specifically set out in the act of 1956, establishing the security service that the Director-General may communicate the information collected “ to such persons and in such manner as the Director-General decides “.
The extent of the abuses perpetrated under the unlimited power to overhear conversations and to whisper around the information so gathered cannot be gauged because there is no parliamentary check whatever on security activity. This bill, far from providing any such check as the Attorney-General pretends, in fact gives statutory authority to the exercise of unlimited power in telephone tapping.
The final pretence of the Government is. that the position is safeguarded because theultimate power rests in the hands of theAttorneyGeneral who is himself responsibleto this Parliament. It is said that, despite all the other abuses in the bill, the final* safeguard rests in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral and he is responsible to this Parliament and subject to it. That is the most flagrant pretence of all in this measure. In these matters, the Attorney-General is not responsible to Parliament and cannot be called to account for anything that he doesbecause all that he does is done in secret and, except by accident, Parliament will never know about it. The Attorney-General does not have to make any report whatever to Parliament on his exercise of this power. He actually said, as reported at page 1425 of “ Hansard “, that he does not intend, in future, even to disclose to Parliament the number of telephone tappings that he authorizes. Could arrogance go further or contempt for this Parliament be more flagrant? Yet members of the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party sit meekly by and propose to accept such domination over this elective institution!
Here is another extraordinary point: Parliament has no right whatever to be informed about the activities of telephone tapping, yet the Attorney-General and the Director-General of Security can inform any one else in the nation, as much as they choose and whenever they choose.
If there were in the bill even some guarantee that information without security significance would be destroyed or not passed on to others, that would be something. But even that position is not safeguarded. The bill purports to safeguard it, and the Attorney-General made a great song about it in his speech. He claimed that here was another protection of individual privacy in that any records which were not relevant to security would have to be destroyed. But if you look at clause 10, you will see that it is actually left to the unfettered discretion of the DirectorGeneral of Security to destroy what he chooses and to keep what he chooses. If he decides that any information, no matter how seemingly irrelevant, may some day or some time assist the security service in its work, then he is entitled to keep the record of that information and to communicate it, of course, to whom ever he chooses.
– Somebody must decide it; who is better qualified?
-The honorable member for Bradfield makes the position perfectly plain. That is exactly what members of the Government parties are accepting. He says that the Director-General ought to be allowed to decide what information will be kept, what information will be destroyed and to whom it will be communicated.
– What do we put him there for?
– The honorable member asks, “ What do we put him there for? “ We know that that is what the Government puts him there for.
– He exercises a responsibility.
– Exactly. The Opposition does not accept the statement of the Attorney-General that in the past no tapping has taken place of any member’s telephone service. There is much factual evidence to the contrary, and not one of the cases which were quoted to the House during this debate has been denied. The proposal to tap the telephone conversations of members, which is now deliberately imported into this measure, is not only a contemptuous breach of the privileges which are the foundation of the parliamentary system; it is much more than that.
– You prefer the Russian system?
– The honorable member for Isaacs should notice this and be careful of the rights of his constituents. This proposal is a denial of the right of every citizen to speak freely with his parliamentary representative without fear of being overheard or of being victimized, or in any way made to suffer for what he has said. Every member of the House knows that that citizen’s right is fundamental to the working of the democratic process, and every member who betrays it by his vote on this bill will be betraying the parliamentary system which he has sworn to uphold.
On all those grounds, I submit to the House and to the nation that this bill authorizes unlimited telephone-tapping and that the so-called safeguards in it are an utter fraud and an utter sham. I submit also that the unlimited power given by this bill will be given to an organization which has been changed by this Government from a genuine security service to a secret police agency of the ruling party in Australia.
On those grounds, it is the view of the Labour Party that it is futile to attempt to amend a measure of this kind and that it ought to be rejected outright. The Labour Party will so vote in this chamber, and it will carry with it the overwhelming support of the Australian people. Further than that, the Labour Party will carry this issue to the people at the general election next year, and upon the return of a Labour government the security service will be restored to its original form as a bi-partisan judicial body and all necessary steps will be taken to ensure the security of Australia.
In previous emergencies the Australian people have always turned to a Labour government for their security, and Labour has done the job. The Labour Party will always protect the national security of this country and it will always guard individual rights.
– I call the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). Before he begins to speak, I remind honorable members that this is the honorable member’s maiden speech and that he is entitled to the usual courtesy of being heard in silence.
.- I rise with great diffidence, conscious of the great national figures who have sat in this House, both in office and in opposition, since the first session of the Federal Parliament. As we know, Sir, the bill under discussion is a bill to prohibit the interception of telephone communications, except where specially authorized in the interests of the security of the Commonwealth.
I have sat in this chamber for the last two days, listening to this debate. I am new to this Parliament, as also is my friend, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). Honorable members on this side of the House and also on the other side have been kind enough to advise that I should sit and listen to the old hands, the members with experience who have been in this Parliament for a long time. I think I am very impressionable and susceptible to advice from senior people and prepared to learn from them.
I cannot imagine why any one should dissent from a bill which clearly and precisely restricts the interception of telephone messages and protects the privacy of the people. As I have already said, I have been listening to this debate for two days. I had the great honour of hearing the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) state his views on the protection of the interests of the Australian people. Being impressionable, I thought, “ Here is a man on a white charger who is fighting for the rights of all the people “. I thought that if I went back to about 1948 and 1949, when certain legislation was introduced into this House and when the Labour Party was in office, I would find some indication that a terrific battle had been joined between the honorable member for East Sydney and the government of the day, with the honorable member seeking to protect the people at that time. I regret to say that, although I have perused many volumes of “ Hansard “ extending over several years, I have found no such indication. But I have found a number of statements made by the then Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Evatt, and if I may, I will refer to some of them in a few moments.
I paid close attention to the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney, hoping that I might gather a few hints, because I respect his ability, but I found that his speech was nothing but an attack on the security service of Australia. As far as I am concerned, I am most grateful that we have a security service, and I give it every respect and honour. I have the pleasure of knowing the Director-General and I do not think a finer man could be found either inside or outside this Parliament. I have been rather concerned at the reflections cast upon the security service by honorable members opposite. I do not wish to be provocative, and I hope that I may be excused if I appear to be so. Possibly I will quieten down a little on that aspect.
During the speeches of honorable members opposite. I have heard the security service accused of being the tool of this Government. I have heard it said that, through the security service, the Government has intruded on the privacy of the individual. It has been suggested that if this bill is implemented there will be an intrusion on the privacy of the home. I have heard accusations that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has not answered questions asked in this House over a period of years concerning the security service. I should like honorable members to bear that in mind because, as an alternative, I should like to quote the answers which Dr. Evatt gave to various questions asked on a very similar subject.
The Prime Minister was further accused of not tabling security information in the House. We have been told also that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) was wrong in saying that in future he would not table information as to the number of warrants issued. We have heard also that the security service is of no value. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has assured us that there is no need for a security service in this country. I trust that he will bear with me if I do not accept that statement. We have been told that the security service is inefficient because it does not catch spies and because it has not arrested or prosecuted anybody. As the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) said, you do not take sprats when you want to catch mackerel. I think that the ex-servicemen on the other side of the House who possibly have had something to do with security, will realize that the function of the service may be summed up as investigation and the collation of information which, in the event of war, can be acted upon.
Returning to the criticisms which have been levelled at the Government, I confess that I am a little confused after hearing honorable members opposite say that we are the oppressors - the robber barons who take everything from the poor for our own use - and refuse to give information to Parliament on the security service, particularly when I read in “ Hansard “ the report of some of the speeches which they have made in the past in relation to secrecy and the tabling of security service reports. I should like to read to the House some extracts from a speech which was made by Dr. Evatt during the debate on the Estimates on 6th October, 1949, as reported on pages 1087 to 1091 of volume 204 of “Hansard”. Referring to Mr. Harrison, the then honorable member for Wentworth, Dr. Evatt said -
What we want to know from the honorable member is whether or not he favours the establishment of a security service to protect the internal security of this country. His speech showed him to be both for and against it. He has said that Australia is becoming a totalitarian country.
That statement might cause slight embarrassment to honorable members opposite having regard to some of the remarks that they have made during this debate. Dr. Evatt continued -
The security service must be operated with secrecy in order properly to protect the community. The results of the investigations of the security service are not published because the purpose of such a service is to protect the nation, especially against subversive activities.
Honorable members opposite have defined the phrase “ subversive activities “, but to date I have not been able to find in “ Hansard “ any record of them objecting when Dr. Evatt made his statement about subversive activities. He went on -
If the results of our security investigations were published, the attempt to defeat subversive activities would always be foiled.
I hope that honorable gentlemen opposite accept the opinion of their former leader. Dr. Evatt continued -
The security service, which is more important, especially under present-day conditions-
I remind the House that this statement was made in 1949, four years after the end of the war - is committed to my administration as far as the Parliament is concerned. I have to speak for the security service in the Parliament, but the charter under which that organization works gives the widest discretion to Mr. Justice Reed.
Mr. Justice Reed was the Director General of Security at that time ;
The Government has every confidence in the ability and independence of that gentleman. The Government does not concern itself with the precise methods that he uses.
That seems to bring the matter right back to the Opposition’s door. On 20th September, 1949, when replying to a question re lating to the security service, Dr. Evatt said -
To all intents and purposes the Director-General of Security is free from ministerial direction.
I shall not continue in this strain. I know that if honorable members were free to interject they would probably say, “ jolly good too “. I thank them for not doing that.
I have waited to hear some logic from honorable members opposite, but all that I have heard is an attack on the security service and the Government. As has been pointed out, the security service was established by the Chifley Government in 1949. Honorable members opposite who were Ministers in that Government and who are still members of this House are the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable members for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), Bonython (Mr. Makin) and Lalor (Mr. Pollard). If I have neglected to mention any others, I apologize.
The power of the security service which was set up by the Chifley Government was unlimited. It was not restricted in any way. The security service was wide open for any purposes whatever - that is, if one believes the statements which were made at that time by Dr. Evatt. Can we assume that, in view of the fact that the honorable members whom I have mentioned approved the establishment and authority of the security service which was set up in 1949, and now propose to vote against this measure, they disagree with the restriction which is to be placed on telephone tapping and wish to retain the unlimited right to tap telephones in case they should ever return to the government benches? According to last night’s Melbourne “ Herald “, a reporter discussed with the Leader of the Opposition the various amendments to the bill which the Opposition originally proposed to submit. When the reporter asked the Leader of the Opposition whether the Labour Party, if elected to office, would introduce telephone tapping, the honorable member said, in effect, “ Let us wait and see what happens after December, 1961 “.
The Government feels that interception of telephone communications should be controlled. As one honorable member on this side of the House pointed out, we are not authorizing telephone tapping for police or customs purposes. We are outlawing telephone tapping for all business and commercial purposes. We are endeavouring to provide by statute that telephone tapping shall be authorized only in certain circumstances. Any abuse of the act will carry heavy penalties, and certain requirements must be satisfied before a warrant to tap a telephone will be issued.
Honorable members opposite have said that the power to authorize telephone tapping should be given to a judge. They have also been claiming during the three weeks that I have been in this chamber that we are ruled by bureaucrats; that the Parliament is a subsidiary of the bureaucrats and has no control. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and I, more recently than others in this place, have been normal people. We have been normal voters. We have not been keeping any seat warm nor have we been seeking popularity. My frank opinion - and I can still remember being an ordinary voter - is that the Parliament is here to govern, to protect the people and to be responsible to them. If a judge were given the authority to say when a telephone should be tapped, to whom would the judge be responsible? A government can be voted out of office and I am very glad that power to authorize telephone tapping - with the safeguards provided in the bill - is being conferred upon the Attorney-General.
The Government feels that telephone tapping should be controlled and, indeed, prohibited except in two circumstances. The first is when officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department wish to check equipment, or to trace nuisance calls. When such calls are being made the subscriber may ring the department and its officers then tap the line in an attempt to catch the offender. As I have had one experience of this kind of misuse of the telephone I feel very strongly about it and I am sure that no one will object to that portion of the bill. The second exception is when phone tapping is considered essential for the protection of the Commonwealth against acts of espionage, sabotage or subversion. I have no doubt that we all agree with the first exception. In relation to the second, we should realize that this is 1960 and not 1906 when we were living in the midst of a wide open ocean and enjoying complete security. To-day we no longer have the safe existence that we had, and internal security is as essential as are our defence services. I give as an example of that the fifth column which originated in Spain. When an attack was started, a whole internal organization suddenly rose behind the lines of those who were attacked. I should not like to see that sort of thing happen here, but it could happen if preventive measures were not taken against it. We have also the examples of Belgium, Holland and many other countries.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who preceded me in this debate, said that a member who voted for this bill would be regarded in his electorate as having betrayed the trust of the Australian people. Although I have sat in this House for only three weeks, I am quite happy to go back to the electorate which I have the honour to represent and say that I put Australia before my occupancy of a seat in this place, and that I personally do not see any reason in the world why I should put myself above the people because I have been elected to this Parliament. If we are to have telephone tapping - if it is essential to the internal security of this country, as I believe it is - every person and every section of the community should be liable, if that person or section of the community is dealing in sabotage, subversion and the like.
I say frankly to Opposition members that if they ever take office while I am still a member of this Parliament and they find that they are unable to tap my telephone because this Government has limited the freedom to tap telephones, they are welcome to come to my office in Melbourne and listen at any time when I am having a telephone conversation. Indeed, they may open my mail and do any of the things which they say will be permitted if this bill is implemented. I say this because I believe that so long as one acts with decency towards all sections of the community one has nothing to fear. Only when one has something to fear does one have suddenly to take protective action to prevent his bastions from being thrown down.
In conclusion, I should like to say one thing. Over many centuries, the people who have talked about freedom and who have stood up and claimed, with gestures and magnificent volubility, to protect it, have frequently been those whose attitude really is: Keep the light of freedom burning until I am ready to put it out. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have no hesitation whatever in supporting this bill with very great earnestness and pride.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the House has recently been fortified by two new recruits. They come to this Parliament with one of the most precious inheritances - the goodwill which they have inherited from fathers who have rendered good service to their country. This evening, we have heard a vigorous and eloquent speech from the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), who is the first of these new recruits to make his maiden contribution to the debates in this place. I am sure that, even if the remainder of my remarks this evening do not receive unanimous support, I can, on behalf of all honorable members, compliment the first of the new members to address us on the speech which he has made to-night.
Insofar as this bill will prohibit telephone tapping, it will prohibit something which has already been illegal in Australia for the last 25 years. Oh the other hand, it will, for the first time, permit telephone tapping in certain circumstances - circumstances which this Parliament is never informed of and which it cannot review. I have said that the bill will prohibit a practice which has been illegal for 25 years, and I invite honorable members to compare clause 4 of the bill with sub-section (1.) of section 16a of the Telephone Regulations, which refers to the Postmaster-General’s Department and states -
Any person who, without the authority of the department (proof whereof shall lie upon him) -
connects any telephone line or apparatus to an authorized telephone line;
authorizes, permits or suffers any other person to connect any telephone line or apparatus to an authorized telephone line, or to use, directly or indirectly, any apparatus, device or fittings for the purpose of listening to or recording any conversation, signal or any form of electrical communication passing or being received over any authorized telephone line or of interrupting any such telephone line; or
directly or indirectly uses any apparatus, device or fittings for the purpose of listening to or recording any conversation, signal or any form of electrical communication passing or being received over any authorized telephone line or of interrupting any such telephone line; shall be guilty of an offence. Penalty: Twenty-five pounds.
Honorable members will notice that there is no significant variation between clause 4 of this bill and the regulation which I have just read - a regulation which was introduced in 1935 and which was fortified by the addition of the words “ directly or indirectly … or recording . . . or being received “ by this Government in November, 1950. That is to say, this Government went through the elaborate farce of confirming this practice of telephone tapping in certain circumstances, and, a few months later, introducing a regulation accentuating the illegality of the practice.
The law on this subject has been a dead letter throughout the term of office of the Menzies Government, Sir. There is no safeguard in this bill. If the Menzies Government has been able to turn a blind eye to the law of the land throughout its term of office, it can continue to turn a blind eye to any law that the Parliament passes. This bill comes at the end of a decade of delay, deception, duplicity and double-talk. If it had been left to members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party, our fellow citizens would never have known that this practice went on. Only consistent probingby members of the Australian Labour Party in this House has at last forced the Government to come clean and admit that a practice which it has consistently denied for ten years has been going on all that time.
I propose to quote, first of all, what successive occupants of the office of PostmasterGeneral have said on this issue in order to show how they have evaded it. Where successive Ministers who occupied the portfolio have told the truth, it has been but half the truth. On 25th September, 1953, in answer to a question on notice by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), the late Mr. Anthony said -
The tapping of departmental telephone services is not permitted.
This prepared and deliberate statement was not a statement of fact, as we now know. Mr. Anthony was forced to speak on the subject by allegations which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made on 19th November, 1953. For two pages of “ Hansard “ Mr. Anthony sought to bypass the issue by classifying the raising of it as a Communist technique. I interjected to ask -
Is the allegation in respect of the tapping ot telephone lines true or false?
Mr. Anthony replied ;
I give an assurance to every honorable member that whether he is engaged in espionage, or only in making a starting-price bet, he is quite safe in respect of his telephone conversations. “Later, he said - . . no honorable member need be afraid that any one is listening in to his telephone conversations.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh interjected -
Will the Minister state whether the telephone lines are being tapped?
Mr. Anthony said ;
I have told you that your telephone conversations are quite secure.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) later interjected to ask -
Are telephone lines being tapped?
The Minister answered -
I have informed the House that they are not being tapped.
This last reply was not true. We are forced to conclude either that the PostmasterGeneral of the day did not know that the security service had been tapping telephones or that he was prepared to mislead the House into thinking that the security service had not been tapping telephones.
– The same thing applies to the present Postmaster-General.
– Yes. I propose to quote the first reply that the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) gave in this House to a question on the issue. He may have been innocent at that stage. On 15th May, 1956, the present Minister said -
I want to point out to the House, however, that there is a provision in regulations under the Post and Telegraph Act which imposes a penalty of, I think, ?25, on any_one who can be shown to have taken action designed either to tap, or to record, any conversation over a telephone which is under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. That provision is very strictly implemented by the department and I want that fact to be clearly understood. . . . The PostmasterGeneral’s Department religiously observes the regulations under which it ensures complete privacy for telephone conversations.
One might well ask: Had knowledge of security telephone tapping been kept from the new Postmaster-General or was he keeping it from the Australian public?
On 7th May, 1958, the PostmasterGeneral gave me a reply to a question I had put on the notice-paper in these terms -
To what persons and in what circumstances can authority be given to intercept letters and tap telephone lines?
The Minister’s reply was -
Authority is given pursuant to the Post and Telegraph Act to selected postal officers to intercept under prescribed conditions letters reasonably suspected of containing any enclosure in fraud or violation of the Post and Telegraph Act, or any act relating to the customs. Technicians, linesmen and exchange supervisory officers are required, in the normal course of their duties, to check the efficiency of the telephone service by using prescribed observation procedures, and telephonists at manual and trunk exchanges must supervise the progress of calls made by subscribers and the public generally.
Here again, the Minister’s reply was true as far as it went, but it was not the whole truth, and I believe that by this time he knew it was no longer the whole truth. He could not have given this answer without mental reservations. He had been a Minister for over two years by that time.
On 6th May, 1959, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), the Postmaster-General stated -
The information to which the honorable member refers is not reliable because telephones are not tapped.
The Minister had been in office then for more than three years. Of course, in saying that he was going too far, but he quickly recovered himself and proceeded to say -
I really think that the honorable member for Banks, with his knowledge of Post Office procedure, knows that the tapping of telephones does not proceed in the department.
On 20th August last, I referred the Minister to this reply and asked him whether it was technically possible for persons outside the Postmaster-General’s Department to tap telephones and, if so, with whose authority it was possible for them to do so. The Postmaster-General replied -
Of course, it would be technically possible, I suppose, for somebody outside to tap a telephone line. I should think that that is not open to debate. But when the honorable gentleman asks me with what authority it can be done, my reply is this: The department has no such authority and would not attempt to exercise any such authority to provide opportunity for the tapping of telephone conversations. That would certainly not lie within the ambit of the department I administer.
Honorable gentlemen will notice the diplomatic finesse which the Minister had then developed. He had become adept at the double talk which has characterized this Government’s whole attitude on this matter in the past ten years. Is it any wonder that the general public and honorable members on this side of the House have the greatest reservations about any assurances that members of the Menzies Ministry give on security matters? It may be urged that the Postmasters-General have not known the facts because their officers have kept the facts from them, or because their officers did not themselves know the facts. No such excuse, however, can be made for the Prime Minister, because the AttorneyGeneral has now stated that he knew of the practice and authorized it.
The Prime Minister, for years now, has refused to answer questions on telephone tapping, or has prevaricated and equivocated in answering them. On 27th November, 1953, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked if his telephone line had been tapped. The Prime Minister replied -
In the absence of the Postmaster-General, I have no doubt that I can say at once that the honorable member’s telephone conversation was not tapped. Such a thing would be entirely unpardonable and it does not occur.
What was the purpose of making reference to the Postmaster-General? The Prime Minister knew that no member’s telephone could be tapped for security purposes unless he himself gave permission. He had made that decision early in 1950. The artful dodger was then deliberately putting honorable members off the scent. Thereupon, the honorable member for East Sydney asked him if the security service was permitted to tap telephone lines and record conversations without seeking permission from the
Prime Minister or the Government. The Prime Minister replied -
That is a hypothetical question.
Of course, we now find it was not, and the right honorable gentleman then knew it was not. He then tried to fob the question off by saying -
The authority of the security service is identical with the authority which it enjoyed when the honorable member for East Sydney was a Minister.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh then asked -
Will the Prime Minister deny that the telephones of private citizens or members of Parliament have been tapped by the security service?
The Prime Minister then replied -
I have no knowledge of the matter one way or the other.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh persisted, and said -
The right honorable gentleman cannot deny it.
The Prime Minister reiterated -
I have said I have no knowledge of the matter one way or the other.
This was sheer shuffling and quibbling. The Prime Minister’s words were capable of being understood, and he no doubt meant his hearers to understand them, as meaning that he did not know whether the security service had tapped telephones. They were also capable of being understood - as he himself understood them - as meaning that he did not know by what means or with what result the security service had tapped telephones. The following day the honorable members for East Sydney and Hindmarsh raised the tapping of parliamentary telephone lines as a matter of privilege. The Prime Minister said -
No conversation of any member of the Parliament has been monitored, is being monitored or will be monitored but it may very well be that under some circumstances, nothing to do with the members of Parliament, the security service, in defending the safety of this great country, might be compelled to resort to what we should regard as irregular means to counter irregular activities. All I want to say about that matter is that the instructions on which the security service acts now are identical with those upon which it acted in 1949.
This is the closest that the Prime Minister himself has ever come to being candid with the Parliament and the country. His statement was true as far as it went. It was,, however, a disarmingly and deliberately cryptic statement. On 18th August, 1954, the honorable member for Hindmarsh asked him whether the telephone conversations of reputable citizens of this country were still being tapped by officers of the security service. At this point, an honorable member interjected and the Prime Minister suggested that if he said everything he knew, the honorable member who interjected would not be in this place. This was a characteristic aside to smear and quell a critic. That remark gives rise to a justifiable apprehension in the minds of the Prime Minister’s fellow citizens as to the way in which he - and he alone up to this stage - has employed the security service and given it tips on how to carry out its work. The Prime Minister then told the honorable member for Hindmarsh that counter-espionage was not a matter to be discussed in public while espionage goes on in private, and he would not be a party to its public discussion. That was the formula which he used again and again in 1954 and 1955 when the honorable members for East Sydney and Hindmarsh continued to press him on this subject.
At the end of October, 1957, the Conservative Government in Britain released the report of the committee of three Privy Counsellors it had appointed to inquire into the tapping of telephones and interception of mails. On 5th November, 1957, when I asked the Prime Minister for information corresponding to that which the British Government had just made public, he told me he would await the full report. On 21st November, 1957, he told the honorable member for Hindmarsh he proposed to have the report examined by Cabinet with a view to considering some statutory basis for this matter in Australia.
On 13th May, 1958, I asked him who in Australia gave or would give the authority to tap telephones or intercept letters which, in the United Kingdom, must be given by the Home Secretary. He asked me to put the question on the noticepaper, where it remained unanswered until the Parliament was prorogued for the elections at the end of the year. When Parliament re-assembled last year, I again put the question on the notice-paper and on 23rd April, he side-tracked the question by replying that he was having the matter examined and proposed to dis cuss it with Cabinet as soon as possible. Until then, he had never come clean with the Parliament. If the British Conservative Government had not given information to the British Parliament, which we should have always been entitled to receive, we would still not have discovered that 182 telephone lines had been tapped in the meantime. We have dealt up to now with the tapping of telephone lines. Of course, the British Government also gave information on the interception of letters and telegrams, and the information in Britain is that letters are more frequently intercepted than telephones are tapped. We are still given no information on this subject in this House.
The bill contains a number of objectionable features. The Director-General can still issue emergency warrants. He can do what he has been doing until now. The difference is that he writes out a warrant for himself instead of merely doing it without a warrant. If this bill is passed, he will be able legally to do what up to now he has not been able legally to do. At least, he has not been able to do it legally, if what the Postmasters-General have said is true. They have persistently averred that no one has authority to tap departmental telephone lines. Departmental telephone lines have been tapped by the Director-General of Security. Did the Postmaster-General’s Department know or did it not know? There are no two ways about it; somebody has been acting in breach of the law - the department in permitting this and not prosecuting, or the Director-General in doing it without permission.
Another feature of the bill is that the Attorney-General need not report to Parliament on the number or the results of interceptions. There is no parliamentary supervision and there is no real responsibility. We are merely transferring the secrecy from an appointed official to an elected person, but the elected person is not subject to supervision. Nor does the Attorney-General have to report on the number of emergency warrants that he has refused to confirm or the number of requests by the Director-General” that he has refused to meet. The Director-General’s and the Attorney-General’s discretion and intelligence must seriously be in doubt in this country since the Professor Stout case. This can happen again, because the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1956, in section 5 (1.), says -
The functions of the Organization are -
to obtain, correlate and evaluate intelligence relevant to security and, at the discretion of the Director-General, to communicate any such intelligence to such persons, and in such manner as the Director-General considers to be in the interests of security;
Nothing in this bill prevents the DirectorGeneral on his own emergency warrant or on a six months’ warrant of the Attorney-General from communicating anything he learns to any person he wishes, and that happened in the case of Professor Stout. Admittedly, the Prime Minister was not particularly pleased at the procedure. He said that he did not regard it as a normal practice, but he did say that the Attorney-General found out what Professor Stout wanted to know and apparently conveyed it to the Director-General, no doubt with an intimation that he thought it may be useful if the Director-General saw him and helped him. However, he was careful to cover himself by saying that he did not regard this as a normal practice. Nevertheless, it is perfectly legal and the bill does nothing to correct the position or to permit us to know how it is being done.
The Attorney-General relied entirely when speaking to the bill on the fact that telephone tapping had been going on and said, in effect, that we may as well legalize the practice. He presented no arguments and gave no facts to justify the practice. To use the words in the bill, he gave no facts, no grounds. There has not been in this country a bi-partisan inquiry into the efficacy of telephone tapping, as there was in the United Kingdom. There has been no bi-partisan inquiry into the necessity to continue to tap telephones. We have heard no suggestion or argument from the Attorney-General, the only Minister to speak on the bill, on how telephones have been used or can be used for espionage, or on how tapping them would eliminate or reduce espionage. We have ourselves to form arguments and to guess at facts which should be basic to any bill which infringes, as this bill does, civil liberties.
What this bill does is to abrogate the law that has stood in this country for the past 25 years.
I have already mentioned that the bill legalizes, for the first time, certain telephone tapping. It makes no reference whatever to the interception of mail or telegrams, which are obviously related matters and were so regarded toy the British Conservative Government. There are other unsupervised security practices. The operations of security with respect to public servants and migrants are matters which constantly come before the notice of honorable members. Other countries with similar systems to ours have already brought in reforms. The Attorney-General came out with several platitudes about civil liberties and so on. We all agree that there should be legislation dealing with civil liberties. However, this bill does not confer one liberty; it abrogates liberties. If the Attorney-General is so concerned with the effect that security has on civil liberties, there are several subjects upon which he could legislate, andI shall suggest some of them. I suggested them three years ago, when the Australian Security Intelligence Organization bill was before the House.
The first is the question of migrants. We know that the recommendation of the security service is crucial in regard to naturalization, nomination and deportation of migrants. We all know of cases where migrants have lived here for the requisite number of years, have a knowledge of our customs and acquaintance with our language, where even their children and wives have already been naturalized, but they themselves have been refused naturalization. The only appeal that a man has in these circumstances is to approach his member of Parliament and have him persuade the Minister to override or disregard the objection of the security service. I know quite well, since I represent probably more migrants than any other member from New South Wales, that there are sections in the various communities from overseas which are prepared to pimp to or tip off security about their colleagues, and often do so for reasons of history in their own country, or family or business disputes. Not only can one never confront one’s accuser - that may be asking too much - but indeed one never knows the accusation. One can never clear oneself. There is. no procedure in this country for doing so. This also applies where naturalized, law-abiding citizens nominate relatives or other persons who are seemingly qualified to come to this country.
– Sometimes the spouse, even.
– Very often brides, wives or fiancees. To punish a man who is already here, he is denied a reunion with his wife or a union with his proxy bride. There is no way of remedying the situation at all. We have made one concession in regard to deportation. Provision was made in the Migration. Act of 1958 for a commissioner, who must be or have been a judge or practising lawyer, to inquire into deportation cases. We should extend the practice to the nomination and naturalization of migrants, because the security organization, a faceless informer whom one cannot counter, can defeat a nomination or application for naturalization. In the United States, a Board of Immigration Appeals hears appeals from decisions in exclusion as well as deportation, cases.
I have referred to public- servants. In this country, the promotion or the posting of a public servant can be affected by a security report. There is no way open to the public servant so affected to counter the accusation. This is not a matter which cannot be dealt with by legislative procedures. In the United Kingdom, a public servant who is suspended for disloyalty is given particulars of the date of his alleged membership of subversive organizations and of the nature of his alleged sympathies with them. He is given all the opportunities that might enable him to clear himself. There is a body called the Three Advisers which inquires into the allegations. There are loyalty boards in the United States of America which carry out the same procedures and before which a person so suspected can clear himself.
If the Attorney-General wants to safeguard or promote civil liberties in this country, there are plenty of fields where he can do so. He need not abridge the existing rights of private citizens. He could give not only citizens but also alien residents rights which they do not yet have in this country. He could give them rights which in- many cases are-, given to- the people of the United Kingdom: and the United States of America. There, is nothing to prevent this Parliament giving our citizens and alien residents rights similar to those given in those countries. If the Government really wants Australia to be a bastion of democracy and to adopt democratic procedures instead of lagging in. them, then let it readsome of the statutes of the United States and the United Kingdom and give the residents of Australia somewhat similar rights to those granted by the statutes of those countries. Security services, from Sejanus to Spry, have shown the need for safeguards; the people need protection from their protectors. This bill does not supply those safeguards, nor does it. provide that protection. For those reasons, we will oppose it at every step.
.- The House, owes a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) for bringing- the debate back to a better plane than that to which it had drifted. I congratulate him upon the careful thought behind his maiden speech. [Quorum formed.] 1 also congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) on his exposition- of this measure. It was refreshing to hear him get away from the type of speech to which we have been listening for the whole of this day. It was refreshing to have him depart from the vicious attack that has been made by his colleagues on the security service. It was particularly refreshing to note that he got away from the attack made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) who indulged in an orgy of personalities, abuse, hate, suspicion and misrepresentation of the Government’s objective. That attitude ill becomes the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who has been noted for being calm in debate and for presenting, in most instances, a fair exposition of a case.
The intention of the bill is plain. It is set out clearly; it is to prohibit the interception of telephonic communications. There is no qualification about it at all. I repeat that it is clearly stated that the purpose of the bill is to prohibit the interception of telephonic communications. There are certain exceptions. For instance, the bill goes on to state that interception is prohibited except where it is specially authorized in ‘the interests of the security of the Commonwealth. What ‘honorable -member sitting in this House of the Parliament of Australia could .quibble at a bill which prohibits something which both sides of the House agree is abhorrent? What honorable member of this Parliament can take exception to something which is in the interests of the security of the Commonwealth? Unfortunately, the Opposition has deliberately misinterpreted the intention of the bill, to suit its own purposes. But there is nothing new in that. Honorable members opposite do that frequently. They did it in connexion with the anti-Communist legislation that was passed here some years ago and which went to a referendum. By a manoeuvre similar to that in which they engaged to-night, honorable members opposite led the people to believe that the legislation submitted .to them at that time was an .attack on the individual. Their manoeuvre succeeded then, but I am confident it will not succeed on this occasion because the people fully understand that we are making no attack upon the individual.
– I would like to know what it is, if it is not an attack on the individual.
– The honorable member for East Sydney has spoken. If he cannot take what I am saying, it is just too bad. The original description by the press of the bill did not differ greatly from’ what I have described as the intention of the measure. Lately, unfortunately, we have seen published such headlines as, “ Telephone Tapping Legislation “, which would seem to indicate that the legislation sought to give authority to tap telephone communications. Another caption appearing in the press was, “ Phone Tapping Bill “. The newspaper in which that headline appeared went so far as to say that the bill regulates and restricts telephone tapping for security and counter-espionage purposes. I repeat that the bill seeks to prohibit the interception of telephonic communications. That fact must be borne in mind at all times during this debate. Another headline was, “ Telephone tapping intrusion on privacy “. Another was, “Labour opposes bill on phone tapping”.
I have said before that it has been the object of the members of the Opposition all through the debate to divert attention from the precise intention of the bill - that of prohibiting the interception of telephonic communications - so that they can spread themselves at great length in a vicious attack on the security service. In that connexion I want to remind the House that it is a common thing for .the Opposition to say that we should not attack, in this House, civil servants who cannot come here and speak for themselves. Yet here we see such a thing being done by the Opposition. We see an attack on people who are faithfully carrying out the job entrusted to them and who, by the very nature of their service, have no opportunity to defend themselves. This is a most despicable form of attack. It is made now, and has been made on previous occasions, on this kind of person.
One honorable member said earlier that there is no reason why this bill should become law and be implemented. Even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) went so far as to say - he was echoing the remarks of his colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, but in one respect he contradicted him - that at the present time telephone tapping is prohibited by law. The honorable member for EdenMonaro had added to his statement the proviso that it was prohibited except by permission of the Postal Department. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not go so far as to say that. What I want to point out to the House is that that may be so. There is a regulation to prohibit telephone tapping.
But what is the penalty provided, in the regulation, for such an offence? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not tell us that the maximum penalty under the regulation is a fine of £25. No gaol sentence is attached to conviction of the offender. However, in this bill the matter assumes a different form altogether, because the maximum penalty is now to be £500 or imprisonment for two years. How can it be said, therefore, that the bill makes no provision against telephone tapping that does not already exist in the regulations? At present, I repeat, the maximum penalty for an unauthorized interception of telephonic communications is £25. Under this bill, the penalty will be £500 or imprisonment for two years.
So there is every justification for saying that what the Government aims to do is to end dependence on a regulation of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and provide definitely by law against unauthorized interception of telephonic communications. In the first place, it is doing this in a law which will specifically prohibit telephone tapping, and in the second place it proposes a penalty which can be regarded as being just in such a case.
The Opposition says that there have been no instances of telephone tapping to justify this measure. We have heard members of this House in the past charging that there has been telephone tapping. For many years the honorable member for East Sydney has claimed in this House that there has been tapping of telephones. Even in his speech on the second reading he did not equivocate about that. He has stated thai not only is there telephone tapping, but that there is any amount of evidence of it. He referred to a letter held by the Leader of the Opposition which contained an apology from Sir Thomas Blarney for something that happened, I remind honorable members, during the regime of the Labour Government. The apology was for the fact that on one occasion a telephone conversation between the honorable member and Mr. Forde, who was then Minister for the Army, had been tapped and recorded by military intelligence. The honorable member said that he need not waste words by telling us this could not go on. This was the honorable member for East Sydney speaking through the Chair to the AttorneyGeneral.
– About something that happened at the time when he was a Minister.
– Yes, and when, no doubt, he had every occasion to know exactly what did occur with regard to this sort of action. He went on to say that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and other members of the Opposition have claimed that there is proof that members’ telephones have been tapped. He said, “ I think there is sufficient evidence in exist ence to show that that statement is correct “. But on no occasion has the honorable member for East Sydney produced any such evidence. He has made those accusations, and he has persisted in making them. They have been added to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. These honorable members have made accusations, not only that individuals’ telephones have been tapped, but that members’ phones have been tapped, and that the telephones of members of the civil service have been tapped. Thereby they have definitely made out a case for the passage of this measure.
What is their attitude to the measure? The bill has been introduced, and both the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have said that the Opposition will vote against it. In fact, they have gone so far as to say, “ We will reject this legislation out of hand. We will not, now that we have assured the Government that there is need for a bill to prohibit the interception of telephonic communications, and now that the bill has been presented, vote for the bill. We are not going to have anything to do with this legislation.” On the flimsy excuse that an exception to the law against telephone tapping is made in the interests of the security of the Commonwealth, they refuse to support the bill. They will not even go so far as to say that they will try to amend the bill at the committee stage so as to make it palatable to them. All they do is to say, “ We will not support this bill “. Actually, however, they are just using the debate in order to make a vicious attack on the security service.
The exceptions to the law against telephone tapping, as the Attorney-General has explained, are in two parts. In the first place, the Postmaster-General, on the complaint of a subscriber about abusive or indecent expressions being used on a telephone service, may order that such conversations be intercepted in order to prevent that kind of thing from happening. The Opposition says that it takes no exception to officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department intercepting a telephonic communication. They say, “ We do not mind that. That is quite all right. We do not mind anybody listening in on a telephone in that case.” But when it comes to giving the security service power to intercept tele- phone conversations, the Opposition will not accept that provision. They accept a provision allowing one section of the government service to intercept telephone messages, but as soon as the security service is mentioned there is an outcry from practically every member of the Opposition who has spoken up to the present. Honorable members can draw their own conclusions. How often in this House, whenever the security service has been mentioned, has there been a vicious attack on it?
What do the members of the Opposition not like about the security service? Have they any reason to treat it in this manner? Is there any justification for the attacks they are making on it? If a security service is necessary in this country - and the need for it was accepted by the Labour Party in 1947, when it was established, and in 1956, when the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill was passed with the approval of the then Leader of the Opposition - why do they attack it now? Dr. Evatt at that time suggested a qualification, which was embodied in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill. That qualification was that the DirectorGeneral of Security would be responsible to the Prime Minister, and thus to the Government. He said that that was a very good thing. The Opposition accepted the need for the security service then, but now honorable members opposite are doing everything they can to blackguard the service and harm it in the eyes of the people of Australia. That is the position we have had to face right through this debate - a vicious and unwarranted attack on the security service of Australia. The security service has a job to do. It is true, as I think the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said to-night, that we are not at war. We are at peace. But has he never heard of a cold war? Has he never heard of the enemy within our gates? Has he never heard of the necessity for security and the necessity for an intelligence service? Honorable members who have been in the services know very well what they owe to the intelligence service during wartime. Are we going to sit down and let the enemy white-ant or red-ant this country and do nothing whatever about it? Apparently that is what the Opposition wants us to do.
The Opposition has complained that the telephones of members of Parliament are not to be exempted. Why should’ members of Parliament have any exemption from interception of their telephone conversations if there is well-grounded suspicion that they are engaged in subversive tactics? Are we, as a body, so much above the rest of the people of Australia that the finger of suspicion could not be pointed at any of us? Any member of Parliament should be honest enough to say, as the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) said in his maiden speech to-night, “ I am prepared to let you intercept my telephone conversations. I have nothing to hide “. Those were the fine brave words from the new member. But members of the Opposition say, “ No. You are not going to tap our telephones. We are members of Parliament and we will not allow you to do it “.
The matter of security has been the subject of attack in this House for a very long time. The attack has now reached a stage at which it should be stopped. On many occasions the honorable member for East Sydney has attempted, by means of questions, to expose information concerning the security service in this House. Again tonight it has been suggested that the security organization should be compelled to disclose to this House exactly what it does. Is this security or just a farce? Of course it is a farce if the security service is not a secret organization. Opposition members say, in effect, “What a mean thing it is not to tell the owner of a telephone that his conversations are being intercepted!” What a farcical situation! Does a policeman go to a band of robbers and say, “ 1 am a policeman. I think you are robbers and I am going to stop here and find out if you are “? A warrant can be obtained to search the premises of persons who are suspected of having stolen goods in their possession. Yet it is said that a man who is trying to strike a blow at the security of the Commonwealth should be protected from telephone tapping by the security service even if it has good reason to suspect that he is engaged in subversive activities! Many cases can be given from the common law of the country in which opportunity is given to detect people who commit relatively minor offences and bring them to justice.
No honest man fears these things. I suggest that honorable members who say that their telephones should not be tapped have something to fear. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) in the course of this debate referred to “pimps” and “ informers “. Did he not benefit from the “ pimps “ and “ informers “ of the intelligence service when he was a member of the fighting forces? Do we not employ people to find things out? Is it not necessary, when dealing with a ruthless foe, to find1 things out as best we can? The suggestion that the security service would engage in pimping and spying on ordinary everyday people is too much of a travesty for words. -It is something which I am surprised to hear intelligent people mention in this House. You do not capture spies by announcing that you are a member of the security service.
It was said earlier in this debate that this bill would give the security service the right to listen in to anybody’s conversation. What a travesty of the truth that is! Unlike people listening to this debate on the air, honorable members have a copy of the bill in front of them. It is a short bill, a plain bill, a bill in so few words that it is plain to the meanest intelligence that by misrepresenting the provisions of the bill, the Opposition is trying to make a case, not against the bill, but against the security service. I suggest that either this is a sham fight on the part of the Opposition or there is a more sinister reason for the attack on the security organization.
This bill has one main part which is designed to prohibit the interception of telephonic communication, and the exceptions to that provision are only two in number. In the first place, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, when called upon by a subscriber to ‘intercept telephone messages of an offensive nature, may do so. No exception is taken to that by the Opposition. The other exception is when the security service seeks from the AttorneyGeneral the right to intercept a telephone message, purely for security reasons. I do not want to traverse all the various conditions that are laid down to make sure that that is done in good faith. However, I say, finally, that if we are to get any benefit from the security service, and if the security service is to save us from the machinations of the people who would destroy this Commonwealth, we have to give the service all the teeth that it requires to bite ofl that subversive activity. We have to give it every possible opportunity to carry out its investigations to the limit We have to fight any subversive organization that exists in our midst with all the strength at our hand. I strongly support the bill.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) when introducing this bill proceeded in accordance with the motto of the lawyer handling a bad case: If you cannot convince them, confuse them. This attitude was even more evident last night when the AttorneyGeneral - the man in whom we are expected to repose complete confidence that if this bill becomes an act it will be administered fairly and justly - constantly heckled and interrupted the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) while he sought to present a reasoned and convincing argument against the Government’s propositions. The Attorney-General knew that he was getting the worst of the debate and he just could not take it.
The small attendance of honorable members on the Government side during this debate has amazed me. There was a period, while the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was speaking - almost for half an hour - when the honorable member for Phillip who is now so vocal in interjecting was absent. The only Government supporters in the House at that time were the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), and the honorable members for Ryan (Mr. Drury), Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), Lawson (Mr. Failes), and Richmond (Mr. Anthony). All other Government supporters were absent. That indicates how much they care about telephone tapping or the rights of the ordinary citizen.
We are asked to pass a bill concerning which the Attorney-General has made a number of statements. He has refused to produce any evidence in support of these statements. He said that the Chifley Labour Government authorized telephone tapping by the security service. None of the four surviving members of that Government in this chamber has any recollection of any such- direction. We. have challenged the Attorney-General to produce the evidence in support of his statement but he has refused to do so. He refused to do that in answer to a question to-day. The honorable member for East Sydney who led the debate for the Opposition on this bill challenged the Attorney-General in the course of his speech last night.
We want to know - if the AttorneyGeneral will disclose what he says is information in his possession - how many of the 182 interceptions so far made by the security service took place during the period of office of the Chifley Government and how many under the Menzies Government. We would like to know, too, how many of these 182 interceptions produced any worth-while results. In other words, how many of them were duds and how many were of value to the security service? To use a very commonplace expression, we refuse to buy a pig in a poke. We refuse to vote for a bill which conveys so little information and is based almost exclusively on ministerial uncorroborated assertions and unverified allegations.
Even more serious than the failure to support his assertion with convincing proof is the baseless, arrogant and insulting observation that there are grounds for suspicion - suspicion in the Minister’s mind and in the minds of his associates, and maybe in the minds of the security service, although he did not say it - that members of the Labour Party in the Senate and in the House of Representatives are, or have been, involved in unauthorized telephone tapping. This baseless allegation was flung around the chamber to-day when the Minister was replying to a question by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). The question, of course, was arranged for the honorable member for Macarthur to ask. I have never yet known the honorable member to ask a question on his own initiative. The gratuitous gibe of the Attorney-General that one could not listen to some speeches from the Opposition side of the House without suspecting that unauthorized interception was going on is worthy only of a man whose argument has no merit and whose case is so flimsy that he seeks to defame in the hope that his impudent challenge cannot be answered or will not be replied to.
We want to know: Where is the evidence to support that allegation? Honorable members on this side of the House have been complaining about telephone tapping for a long, long time. I suppose it is true, in one sense, that this bill is a result of the continued protests against telephone tapping made by the honorable members for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), and by the former honorable member for Herbert, Mr. Edmonds. The bill now before us is completely unacceptable. The Government knows the ideas which have been canvassed’ among Labour members as to how the bill can be made better.. The honorable member for East Sydney has said that if the Government wants to- do something in regard to the Post Office, let it bring down a separate bill, and the Opposition will support it. If the Government would withdraw this bill and produce another measure containing a provision that a High Court judge, not the Minister or somebody in the security service, would have the final decision, it might create a more favorable atmosphere for the reception of its legislation.
This bill is not good enough. In opposing the legislation, members on this side believe that they are reflecting the opinion of the great majority of Australian people. Australians do not like the idea that they are being spied upon, that their telephones are being tapped, that their mail is being opened, and that somebody is seeking information from their closest associates and their families in regard to their political views or even in regard to their social habits. But the Government, under the pretence of preventing unauthorized telephone tapping, is doing something which we believe will produce a situation even worse than that which exists to-day.
Since the world slipped into the era of uneasy peace loosely termed the “ cold war”, we have witnessed a whittling away of fundamental, basic freedoms and a decisive and unwarranted encroachment upon the civil liberties of the individual. As democrats, we of the Labour Party hold that these rights and privileges should be cherished by everybody and should be protected by the Parliament. We should never allow ourselves to be stampeded into any form of legislation which seeks l’r> restrict any or all of the fundamental freedoms, without due heed and full cognizance of the consequences.
It was against this background that ali members ot the Opposition decided upon their attitude, individually and collectively, to the legislation now before us. Whatever our differences may have been as to the manner of our approach to this legislation and as to the way in which we might handle it in the Parliament, not one member ot the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party expressed his support for the bill as presented to this House by the AttorneyGeneral.
I consider that the description accorded to the bill as being one to curb the nefarious practice of telephone tapping, is a complete misnomer. It is not so much what is contained in the bill as the ramifications that could easily now from its implementation to which I object. No legislation without effective safeguards can prevent the extension of telephone interception once it is authorized, even in a restricted form. We argue that the Government’s contention that this bill will aid in the detection and prevention of subversion is spurious, lt will do neither.
To argue that it is essential to national security is fallacious. If this is so, it is a grievous reflection upon the capabilities and the effectiveness of the intelligence organization that it has to rely upon this type of legislation in order that it can guarantee the security of the nation. Those who engage in treachery, subversion and espionage are skilled in their deceitful art and none would be so foolish as to engage in an open conversation on his activities over the telephone.
Last night, the honorable member for East Sydney, speaking for the Opposition, said that we do not deny that a security service is necessary. We started the security service. We established it under a Supreme Court judge. We gave it a charter. But we believe that since the disclosures before the Petrov royal commission, the security service has been used by this Government as a political instrument. Honorable members have lost much confidence in the security service as it now exists.
We are not attacking members of the security service; we are attacking the Go vernment for the misuse it has made of that instrument, established by the Labour Government to protect the country. We have only to go back to 1954, to that great farce which was called the Petrov royal commission. We can remember very clearly that, as an election was approaching, one newspaper in New South Wales said that the Government would be defeated unless it produced a rabbit out of the hat. After the date of the election had been announced, and the then Leader of the Opposition had left for Sydney to fulfil an engagement, I was invited to the Prime Minister’s suite to be told that the Prime Minister had an important disclosure to make to the House that night. I ascertained where my leader could be found at a particular time and I telephoned him to advise him of what the Prime Minister had told me. The statement to the House by the Prime Minister was that a Russian Embassy official had defected. That broke on the country like a bombshell.
– It settled the fate of the Labour Party.
– Exactly, and it was designed to settle our fate. It was a concocted story, a piece of political chicanery that has had no equal in the history of British parliamentary institutions since the Zinovieff letter of 1924. A newspaper published in Melbourne said, in its next issue after the Prime Minister’s announcement, “ What we told you in our issue eighteen months ago has happened “. I looked back to an issue of that newspaper in January, 1953, and I found in it a statement, “ A prominent Soviet diplomat is about to defect “. Everything that was forecast in January, 1953, was revealed late in 1954.
It was as a consequence of the Prime Minister’s disclosure that the split in the Labour Party occurred, because we then found that certain people in the Labour Party were being supplied with information which enabled them to say eighteen months beforehand that Mr. Petrov was ready to break with the Russian Embassy. What amazes me is that the Russians themselves did not read this newspaper. Another thing that amazes me is that no action was taken on the matter by the Government until the eve of the 1954 election. The Government has had its benefit from the
Petrov disclosures. It has succeeded in its objective of splitting the Labour Party - but only temporarily. It can have its advantages for the time being, but it need not expect us to enthuse wildly over the activities of certain persons in the security service who proved, from their handling of Bialoguski and Petrov, that they were more concerned about destroying the Labour Party’s chances of forming the government of this country than they were in serving the interests of the nation.
That is the story of the Petrov commission, and some day we will have a royal commission on the royal commission. Some day we will have an inquiry into the manner in which we were destroyed, for the time being, electorally. It was not just an incidental happening that a certain justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales was asked to preside over that commission. I say that deliberately. That gentleman, Mr. Justice Owen, or Sir William Owen as he now is, said on the eve of the election that two members of the staff of the Leader of the Opposition were involved in the royal commission. If the inquiry was an honest attempt to ascertain the facts, at least the chairman of the commission might have kept quiet until the inquiry commenced.
– Was he at the Christmas party?
– Well, he was once a Liberal Party candidate in a State election in New South Wales. He was appointed by a Liberal government to the Supreme Court Bench of New South Wales. For his services on the Petrov royal commission he has been knighted, and I have not the slightest doubt that his friend, the present Attorney-General, is only waiting for an opportunity to give him an appointment to the Bench of the High Court of Australia. But we have had the satisfaction, at any rate, of seeing that gentleman fail to become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
It is in that atmosphere that we are considering this legislation. As the security service exists to-day it has not our confidence. It was appointed by the Chifley Government, and we want to see it function properly. I am not criticizing any but one particular man in the security service, and that is the man whose name was mentioned quite frequently during the course of the commission’s activities. And what a fiasco the commission proved to be! What evidence was brought before it to prove that any espionage was being carried on in Australia? There was only one man in this country who had occupied ministerial office who was mentioned in the commission’s report - and I was the man. I do not think any one suspects me of being a Communist agent. The only other member of the Parliament who was mentioned was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and he, like I am, in all these matters is as white as the driven snow. There can be no possible suspicion of us at all. The two members of the staff of the then Leader of the Opposition were cleared by the commission within five minutes when they came before it.
Why did Sir William Owen have to smear the Leader of the Opposition of the day, and his staff, and play the game - as the Government wanted him to - of creating the impression that there was something suspicious about honorable members on this side of the House? Several members of this Government have played that game, which we condemn so vigorously, ever since. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is now at the table, said during the 1958 election campaign that a government led by Dr. Evatt - which meant a government consisting of the Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party and all members of that party who might be appointed ministers - could not be trusted by foreign powers with any of their secrets. The latest addition to the House of Lords - who has gained admission to that assembly by virtue of only a life peerage - said much the same thing.
This smear campaign against the Labour Party has been carried on for years by members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party, and by their satellites in the Australian Democratic Labour Party and the Queensland Labour Party. It is useless for the Government to ask us to consider any legislation that it brings forward of this nature, or, for that matter, of any other kind.
– What about Molotov?
– How is he? I understand he is a friend of the honorable member for Gippsland.
The power to authorize telephone tapping is given in this bill to two men, the AttorneyGeneral and the Director-General of Security. Parliament is not to be given any means of scrutinizing their activities or challenging their actions. This fact was made perfectly clear by the AttorneyGeneral, who, after referring to alleged tappings in the past, said -
I would like to make it clear that I do not favour or intend any practice of periodic disclosure of a like kind.
Why should not the Parliament be told, at least in general terms, how this legislation is functioning? We lack confidence in certain of the people in the security service, and so we think that the AttorneyGeneral should, if the legislation is finally passed, present a report to the Parliament periodically, telling us how many phones have been tapped in a given period. He has told us that 182 interceptions have been made over a period of years, which could be ten years or fifteen years. Why can he not give us a periodical statement, a yearly statement, as to what is happening? For this reason alone the bill should be rejected, because Parliament should never grant such a power without possessing the most effective means of ascertaining just how that power is being exercised.
Why was this bill introduced at this particular tim’e? The Government has waited ten years or more before introducing this legislation. We were told during the course of the debate that the legislation is based on the findings of the British Committee of Privy Counsellors which reported in October, 1957, nearly three years ago. Since then members of the Opposition have asked many questions on this subject. The present Deputy Leader of the Opposition was told in November, 1957, by the Prime Minister that that gentleman was awaiting the report of the British committee with great interest. Sixteen days later the Prime Minister informed the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the full report had been received and was to be examined by the Cabinet. In May, 1958, quite a considerable period later, the Prime Minister told the honorable member for Werriwa, in a reply to a second inquiry, that although Cabinet had not given consideration to the report he personally, to use his own words, “ had given a good deal of attention to it “. But in March, 1959, the Prime Minister’s “good deal of attention” had become “ quite a little attention “, according to a reply to a question from the honorable member for Hindmarsh. For quite a number of years now, the Prime Minister has been talking about giving consideration to the matter. At last we have seen the legislation.
We have not been given one reason for the delay in considering a report which consists of a mere 48 pages. Anybody, even a man of the eminence of the AttorneyGeneral or of the legal prominence of the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is at the table, could have read a document of 48 pages quickly and have made a decision. I ask honorable members to contrast this Government’s lethargy with the promptness of the United Kingdom Conservative Government. A special committee was appointed in June of one year; it met sixteen times; it prepared its report and presented the report to Parliament within four months, and the British Government took action immediately on the report. The interminable delay which has occurred in this Government’s dealing with this question shows that it was not really serious about it. Perhaps it wants to create an atmosphere at this time that there are still a lot of spies around Australia. As the honorable member for East Sydney has said, the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, charged that there was a nest of traitors in his own department. That nest has never been discovered, nor have any of the fledglings which were in that nest yet emerged. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) has suggested that the nest must have been sat on by a broody hen.
Quite a number of people in various countries are concerned about telephone tapping, and the United Kingdom inquiry arose out of the fact that the telephone of a well-known British lawyer was tapped because he was suspected of being a racketeer. In fact, he was found guilty later.
– What was his profession?
– He was a lawyer, but I would not blame all lawyers for that Ultimately he went to gaol. We do not believe that any government, any police force or any security service should have to depend upon this way of getting information to secure a conviction against any one, because we never know where it is going to end. We never know whose telephone will be tapped.
I am sure that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will recollect an incident which occurred in 1941 when the Government of which he is a member was in power. This was just before Japan came into the war. A story was circulated - I think it had a good deal to justify it - that some people in Australia had planted microphones in the Japanese legation - this at a time when we were at peace with Japan. Of course, Japan came into the war a little later, but this just shows how dangerous it is to give authority to certain people to act in the name of protecting the security of a nation.
– Yet you concede that it is necessary to do so.
– I do not concede that it is necessary to rely on telephone tapping; and I do not think we ought to breach diplomatic privilege by installing microphones in the residences of ambassadors. Of course, it has not been done since. It would not be done by this or any other government, but it just shows what can happen if you leave authority in the hands of people who do not know how to use it. We have not got that much confidence in the security service as it exists to-day, in the light of the Petrov commission, to trust it to do the fair and proper thing by the people if it wants to establish a case against some one.
The Sydney “ Sun “ is not a radical newspaper, and it does not support our point of view. Certainly it cannot be said to be soft on communism, and certainly it is not a newspaper which wants to help espionage in this country. In its issue of 28th March last, the Sydney “ Sun “ stated -
All such prying systems start in this modest fashion. Invariably they end by converting the country which tries them into an official listening gallery … In America we have seen it grow from an attempt to snare gangsters into a great social evil with private and commercial tappers milking the phone channels for their rivals’ trade secrets.
That kind of thing can happen here. It is all very well for the Government to say, “ Ah, but the legislation will stop that. We shall tap telephones only when the interests of the nation are concerned. We shall only allow the Director-General of Security to act on his own initiative provided he obtains ministerial authority 48 hours after the event”. We do not agree with that kind of system because a lot of harm can be done in 48 hours to a lot of decent people. Once we permit telephone tapping we open the doors of our society to abuse and misuse by the unscrupulous and the depraved.
– There is a fundamental illogicality in the position which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has taken up. On the one hand, he concedes that in this day and age there is a necessity for a security service to defend the State but, on the other hand, he would deny to any such security agency the benefit of secret operation. He wants the results of its investigations tabled in the Parliament.
– No, I do not. I never said that.
– I must have misheard the Leader of the Opposition, because 1 thought I heard him say that he wanted the reports of the investigations of the security organization tabled in the House. He has talked about the Opposition refusing to buy a pig in a poke. In whose time was this particular pig bred? It was bred in 1947 when a Labour government, under the leadership of the late Mr. Chifley, was in office. So the Opposition is not refusing to buy a pig in a poke but is allowing the pig to roam the garden at will and is refusing to put a fence around him. That is what the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) is seeking to do in this bill - to put a fence around the pig. I think that the reasons for the obvious discomfiture of the Leader of the Opposition in relation to this measure are too well known to escape notice.
This bill seeks to restrict a practice which was introduced by the Chifley Government in 1947 - introduced for good reason, as we all know. This bill seeks to surround that practice with safeguards and to provide penalties for infringement of those safeguards; to restrict the existing practice which is now subject only to administrative direction and restraint; to put it on a proper statutory basis. The bill seeks to defend and create rights of privacy rather than to destroy them. The discomfiture of the Leader of the Opposition arises from the fact that he really supports the purposes of this bill. He knows the logic of the Government’s attitude but he has been forced, by a majority vote of his party, to oppose the measure.
– When did you last have a majority vote in your party?
– We have our votes in the House; we do not have them in the party. I should like to put a series of propositions to the House. The first is that interference with the privacy of communications is objectionable to free people. About that, there is no argument on either side of the House - the general principle that interference with freedom of communication in a free community is objectionable. My second proposition is that the exercise of that freedom must be subject to the limitation, in a civilized and democratic community, that the freedom is not abused and used so that it limits the freedom of others and particularly that it must not be used to destroy the freedom of others.
My third proposition is that in the world to-day espionage, sabotage and subversion are used deliberately as instruments of policy by our only potential enemies, the Communists, who wish to overthrow our State and substitute Communist tyranny in place of democracy. My fourth proposition is that to detect espionage and sabotage and subversion, when plotted in secret, recourse must be had to secrecy. That proposition is not denied by the Opposition. I do not know whether the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who is interjecting, seeks to deny that proposition. He might very well deny it for all I know. It was accepted by the leader of his party in 1947 and some lip-service has been paid to the truth of it by some of the speakers from his party to-night. It was recognized by the Labour Government in 1947; it is recognized by this Government to-day; it is recognized in England.
This bill does not create a right to interfere. It restricts an existing administrative practice, a practice which was introduced by the Labour Government in 1947. What was. the position in 1947? The Chifley Government set up a security service - the same security service that is anathema to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to-day. The Prime Minister of the day, the late Mr. Chifley, expressly authorized that security service to intercept telephone messages. I make that statement–
– Produce your evidence.
– The Prime Minister of the day expressly authorized the security service that he established to intercept telephone conversations! That is a statement of fact.
I will make another statement of fact, and that is that telephone conversation tapping did take place by the security service under the Chifley Government subsequent to 1947. The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), in his maiden speech tonight, on which I congratulate and compliment him, demonstrated the fundamental discomfiture of the Labour Party in this issue when he quoted from speeches of members of that party, when they were in government, words which established clearly that they believed then that the security service had to be unrestrained and had to work completely in secrecy.
In December, 1949, or immediately afterwards, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had come into office, this capacity to interfere freely with the privacy of telephone conversations was seen as needing restraint, and the right honorable gentleman imposed strict limitations on its exercise. He laid down that it was only to be used against espionage, sabotage and subversion. Without recourse to the niceties of legal definition, I say that is what the layman plainly calls treason. Now the Government takes the further liberal process of putting this administrative practice on a legislative basis - on a basis of statute - and hedging it round with very strict limitations. The Opposition has tried to create an atmosphere of emotion about this, as though it would be a destruction of the right of privacy instead of a defence of privacy. What is the position in England, the traditional home of parliamentary institutions, the origin of the modern idea of the rights of the individual and the rule of law in democratic communities? In England the power to tap telephone conversations - as the phrase is - has for many years been used - and still is used - subject to rigid administrative safeguards, for police purposes, for customs purposes and for security purposes.
I have said that in England there are strict safeguards to the practice, and that is true, but they are administrative only and they lie within the responsibility of the Secretaries of State. We have gone much further. We do not permit the interception of telephone conversations for police purposes. We do not permit the interception of these conversations for customs purposes. We will only allow them, subject to the very strict safeguards set out in this bill, for purposes of security. Some members of the Opposition have said that they would prefer to make this matter subject to the supervision of a judge. Presumably, if it is to be supervised by a judge, it will have to be done in open court. If I understand the background of the argument of honorable members opposite at all, I can only conclude that it would have to be done in open court and presumably it would have to be subject to some appeal, so that the whole matter would become public and the purpose of the practice, which is to restrict treasonable activities in the community would be utterly defeated.
I was referring to the practice in England. There, for generations, from time immemorial, private communications have been interfered with for police, customs and security purposes. Then, as a result of the Marrinan case, to which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred, a committee of Privy Counsellors was set up to look into the whole matter. That was the only one in which information obtained by intercepting a telephone conversation was subsequently made public in legal proceedings. This whole practice was investigated by three very distinguished Privy Counsellors. What was the result? Two of the members of the committee recommended the continuance of the practice subject to some additional administrative safeguards, and for all three purposes I mentioned - for police, for customs and for security. The third member - he was a member of the British Labour Party and made the minority report - recommended that the practice should not be used for police purposes or customs purposes, but he, too, recommended that the practice should be continued for security purposes. He was the Right Honorable Gordon Walker. The whole tenor of the report to which he subscribed in this respect as much as did the other two shows that an inquiry of this sort has to be conducted in secrecy if it is to be effective, and that the results of such interceptions must in no circumstances be made public.
What would one expect this Opposition to do? One would expect this Opposition, if it were looking at this measure objectively, to recognize that this is a defence of privacy. It is a restraint exercised administratively in the defence of the freedom and the privacy of individuals. One would have expected the Opposition to understand that and support it. But what does the Opposition do? It attacks the bill root and branch.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member agrees! It is common knowledge around this House why that is the case. It is common knowledge that the executive of the Opposition party was divided on this matter. It is common knowledge that the caucus was divided on it. It is common knowledge, also, that the leaders of the Opposition party would rather support the measure than oppose it. So we find that the honorable member for East Sydney leads for the Opposition with a touch of his old enthusiasm. Last month he was down; this month he is up.
Why is it that we have these shifts and changes in the Opposition party? The reason is clear, Sir. It is that the Opposition has no policy of its own. The Opposition party in this House has existed, throughout the years in which I have sat in this place, through an uneasy alliance between two partners. On the one hand, we have the old conservative trade union leader who, in the past, found the stimulus for his political activity in the support of the under-dog - a cause which, fortunately, with the progress of social legislation and economic development in this country, has lost its mainspring. The other uneasy partner in this loose political alliance which constitutes the Opposition is the doctrinaire socialist - the nationalizer. Post-war experience in other countries has robbed him of his cause, because it has been found to be impracticable. So, the Opposition has no policy, and authority within it moves from one side to the other. So we find these shifts and changes, and we see a leader and a deputy leader discomfited by having to come into the House to try to support one of their executive members in an attitude of mind to which they do not subscribe and which they would prefer not to have to support.
This situation of a weak and divided Opposition without a policy is one in which the Communist thrives. We heard only this morning, in a discussion on unity tickets, of some of the activities of the Communists who are not restrained by this Opposition in the way in which it should restrain them. The situation of the Opposition benefits only the Communists, who thrive on it. The Communists are the ones who would most like to see the complete removal of any capacity on the part of the security service to intercept telephone conversations when the plotting of subversion is suspected.
As I have said, Mr. Speaker, this bill will not interfere with any Australian rights. Rather will it create rights where they have not previously existed. The measure deserves the support of the House and the people, and I am confident that that support will be given.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority .. ..24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Without requests -
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to raise once again a matter that I raised last Thursday night on the motion for the adjournment of the House. This matter concerns the dismissal of 91 employees of the Commonwealth explosives factory at Mulwala. I am particularly disappointed that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) have not as yet stated what the Government intends to do about maintaining this factory for the production of sulphate of ammonia, and providing employment for the 91 men who have ahead) been dismissed and for the further 100 men who, it is expected, will be dismissed very shortly. Allegedly it is the policy of the Australian Country Party to decentralize industry in order to provide employment in country districts. The Acting Prime Minister is particularly concerned in these dismissals because Yarrawonga, which is just across the Murray River from Mulwala and is the town where most of the employees of the factory live, is in the right honorable gentleman’s electorate. As yet he has not said what he intends to do about these dismissals. He has given no indication of the action, if any, that he proposes to take to maintain this factory in full production and give effect to his party’s alleged policy of decentralization.
The Liberal Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, has sent a telegram to the Acting Prime Minister requesting that the date of dismissal be deferred for a further two months in order to give the people concerned an opportunity to find other employment. Two months is not long enough. This factory should be retained at full operating capacity if the leader of the Aus- tralian Country Party, who is at present Leader of the Government, is sincere about decentralization of industry. The men who are to be dismissed have been offered employment in similar factories at St. Mary’s, in New South Wales, and at Albion, in Victoria. I believe that these dismissals are being made as a result of this Government’s import policy. I have made inquiries and have ascertained that urea, which is a substitute for sulphate of ammonia - both substances are nitrogenous fertilizers - is being imported into Australia in ever-increasing quantities. In 1957-58 the quantity imported was 136,802 cwt. Of that amount 47,472 cwt. came from the United Kingdom, 30,804 cwt. came from Germany and 54,608 cwt. came from Japan. The remainder came from other countries.
In 1958-59 the quantity imported increased to 181,312 cwt. Of that amount 46,411 cwt. came from the United Kingdom, 39,425 cwt. came from Germany and 94,862 cwt. came from Japan. In the first nine months of the current financial year about 155,525 cwt. has been imported. I direct the attention of honorable members to the significant increase in the quantity imported from Japan. Of the total of 155,525 cwt. imported in the first nine months of the current year, 118,999 cwt. came from that country. That was for the first nine months of the year only. If that rate of importation is continued, the quantity will be stepped up to 207,368 cwt. - a considerable increase. That is the equivalent of approximately 25 tons of sulphate of ammonia. At present, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle has considerable stocks of sulphate of ammonia of which it is unable to dispose. The Mount Isa organization and the Electrolytic Zinc Company in Tasmania also have large quantities of which they cannot dispose. What is happening? The factory at Mulwala, which is a unit of a decentralized industry, has to be closed down to provide an opportunity for the I.C.I, plants in Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom to export to Australia, thus providing employment for the workers in other countries to the detriment of Australians.
– How many are employed?
– There are 272 employees at Mulwala. It is a big industry for a small centre of population. There are only 5,000 persons living in the district. If the employment of 272 people is taken away, obviously that must have a disastrous effect on the economy of a small town. I have mentioned what the Government proposes to do about the homes of the workers there. It will meet travelling expenses and the cost of transporting personal effects. But who will buy these homes? Obviously, nobody would want to buy homes in places such as Mulwala and Yarrawonga when the sole industry, probably, in the areas has been removed. I have been advised that a subsidy of £30,000 would maintain this industry at its present economic level. The Government will probably say that it does not believe in subsidizing industries. However, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) may point out, the sulphate of ammonia industry received a considerable subsidy from the Labour Government when it was in office.
Last year, the Shortland County Council, which is the second largest reticulator of electricity among the councils of New South Wales, called for tenders for a certain type of copper cable. Eleven stooge agents for Fairfield Cables quoted £55,537, and four agents for Olympic quoted the same amount, but the English firm of Enfield Cables quoted £39,966. The council approached the Department of Trade with a request that it be permitted to import the cable from the United Kingdom, but the council was told by the Department of Trade that that was against the policy of the Government. It was not prepared to permit the council to import the cable at approximately two-thirds of the Australian price, because the Australian company could provide a product of comparable quality. Therefore, the council had to buy the Australian cable.
I agree completely with that policy and I suggest that it be applied in the case of the sulphate of ammonia industry. The importation of urea, a substitute for sulphate of ammonia, should be restricted. Employment should be provided for these 91 men and the additional 100 men who will probably be displaced in a very short time. The sensible policy is to look after the employment of our own people and not to worry about the Japanese, who are being suppressed under the economic policy of the Japanese Government. The Japanese are not paid a decent wage and their products can therefore be sold in Australia below the Australian cost of production. Charity begins at home. Let us look after the Australian workers, curtail the importation of urea and give employment to our own people.
.- I am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) are in the House because the matters with which I propose to deal come under their administration. I shall be brief in dealing with two vital points. As we are approaching the period of the year when the Budget is being compiled, I want to ask the Treasurer to give special consideration, if he can, to treating as an allowable deduction for income tax purposes expenses incurred by country people who are advised by a doctor to seek the services of a specialist in a metropolitan area. I know that this suggestion has been put forward before. Sick people in my electorate, in places as far afield as Mildura, have to make long journeys to the cities for medical treatment and they are involved in heavy expense. A tax concession for these expenses would help them greatly.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who is showing some interest in this matter, realizes that Western Australians are in a very difficult position. People from as far as the Kimberleys have to travel long distances for specialist attention and their expenses are high. I assure the Treasurer that this is an earnest plea and that the need is urgent, and I ask him to take this matter into consideration when the Budget is under discussion.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is this: About five weeks ago I asked the Minister for Primary Industry, in a question addressed to him in this House, when a payment would be made to wheat-growers from one of the wheat pools. I pointed out that last year quite a number of wheatgrowers did not have any wheat at all and therefore they had no cash return. A larger number still had very indifferent crops and the return was very low indeed. The year before was a very good year. The Minister indicated that the time was not far distant when a payment would be made, probably from the previous pool. He said he thought that there was a certain amount of money in the pool and that it should not be long before a payment was made.
I want to tell the Parliament the good news that the Mallee is green again. The district was very dry when I spoke previously and it appeared that we would have another dry season, but good rains have fallen and as 1 came from the Mallee electorate to this Parliament last Monday, conditions were excellent. People on the wheat farms are working night and day, sowing crops and preparing the land for sowing. They are working at night with lights on their tractors. The machines are to be heard purring around the countryside at night while the farmers are putting in the wheat.
If a payment could be made soon from one of the pools, preferably the one before the last harvest, it would be of great advantage to the producers who are now engaged in seeding and general farming operations, because ready cash is very necessary. Not all of the farmers require money urgently. However, there are some who need finance immediately so that they can plan a programme of full production. I ask the Minister to make some announcement, even though it may refer to a future payment. If the farmers have a fairly accurate idea of how much money is coming in, they will be able to work out a programme for sowing this important crop. I ask the Ministers concerned to give these matters earnest consideration.
.- I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to the matter about which the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) has spoken to-night. I refer to the dismissal of approximately 200 men from the so-called explosives factory at Mulwala. As I understand the situation, the Mulwala explosives factory is in fact a sulphate of ammonia plant, f shall give briefly the history of this factory and of the factories producing sulphate of ammonia at Albion, Ballarat and Villawood. During the war Australia desperately needed nitric acid for the manufacture of explosives. The government of the day authorized the expenditure of approximately £2,500,000 on plants at the four places ‘that I have named. Before they were completed, hostilities ceased and the government decided to arrange for the conversion of the nitric acid factories to sulphate of ammonia factories. There had been and there continued to be a big shortage of sulphate of ammonia both produced in Australia and imported from overseas, and the conversion of these factories would give at least some independence from overseas supplies.
The point that particularly concerns the Postmaster-General, who is a Queenslander, is that sulphate of ammonia is used in very large quantities in that state. It is used extensively by the citrus industry in various parts of Australia and by vegetable growers, and, subject to price, could be used widely by other types of agricultural producers. I understand that in 1948-49, Australia’s sulphate of ammonia requirements were about 74,000 tons. By-products of the coke ovens at gas works and steel plants furnished about 20,000 tons and the government factories at Mulwala, Albion, Ballarat and Villawood were expected at that stage to yield at least 40,000 tons. This then left us with a shortage of about 14,000 tons, and it was difficult indeed to get 14,000 tons from overseas. The cost of production from coke ovens was substantially lower than the cost of production at the synthetic plants, and imported sulphate of ammonia was at a still lower rate. So the government of the day introduced a system under which imports, synthetic production and production from by-products plants were pooled and a charge to primary producers calculated. The resultant loss was met by a subsidy to the industries concerned. In 1949-50, the agricultural producers received on account of sulphate of ammonia production a subsidy of about £8 a ton. I think the Postmaster-General will recall the system.
After that I lost sight of the situation to some extent. I understand that the subsidy was removed and we came along to the present situation. Until recently, we still did not have sufficient supplies of sulphate of ammonia. Then it was found that there was available in Japan, and I understand in other countries, a product known as urea. Although expensive, urea was substantially smaller in bulk than sulphate of ammonia and was two-and-a-half times more potent. The practice has apparently grown up of importing urea - to the disadvantage of our balance of payments situation - to replace sulphate of ammonia produced in Australia.
I suggest that this situation warrants some investigation by the Government to ensure that the four factories converted to the production of sulphate of ammonia at a very substantial cost remain in production. No doubt they were efficiently managed by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, but to-day they are either closed down or sold, at a time when we are importing urea. The result of this has been that in the electorate of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) 91 men have been given notice of dismissal. Positions have been offered to them, I understand, at Albion in Victoria and at Villawood in New South Wales. But an assurance has not been given that housing will be available for them. I represent the portion of Victoria in which Albion is situated, and I can say authoritatively that I do not know of any possibility of housing being found for these men. However, of equal importance is the apparent apathy or indolence of the Government which has resulted in a Victorian town on the river Murray, Yarrawonga, being deprived of a population of about 400, including the men dismissed, their wives and families. This means that the tradespeople of Yarrawonga will lose the purchasing power of this community, amounting to about £1,000 a week. It would seem that a little thought should have been given to the feasibility of prohibiting the import of urea, even if this meant that the production of sulphate of ammonia had to be subsidized so that it would be available in sufficient quantities.
– That would require a fair subsidy.
– It might, but I suggest to the Postmaster-General that his Government showed no hesitation, as was mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle, in prohibiting the Newcastle City Council from importing plant which was thousands of pounds cheaper than the locally made plant. If it is good enough for Australian manufacturers to get the advantage of the sale of expensive plant to the municipality when the municipality could have purchased similar plant overseas at a lower cost, surely it is good enough for the Government to subsidize the cost of sulphate of ammonia to primary producers rather than to permit the import of urea, with the consequent adverse effect on our balance of payments. I should like to know - I hope the Postmaster-General will give me the information - what has happened to these four plants. Have they been sold to Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited? Are they still owned by the Government? Are all or any of them producing sulphate of ammonia?
– The Ballarat plant has been sold to LCL
– Exactly. I know of no announcement that has been made in the Parliament and I ask the PostmasterGeneral to furnish some information on this matter.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- At this comparatively early hour for a Thursday night, I want to say a few words about the Tariff Board and its hearings in respect of the timber industry. I am quite certain that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will agree with what I have to say. The timber industry is one of the foremost industries in Western Australia. In that State, we have 20 per cent, of Australia’s forest reserves. The industry employs oneseventh of the people engaged by forestry departments throughout Australia, and oneeighth of the total number employed in sawmills throughout Australia. The output of sawn timber is 204,000,000 super, feet out of a total of 1,418,000,000 super, feet. The value of production last year was approximately £5,000,000; and the value of the total Australian production was £52,000,000.
Honorable members will recall that the last report of the Tariff Board on timber was completed on or about 22nd April, 1958. Hearings were held in Melbourne and Sydney during May and July, 1957, and the report of the board was presented to Parliament on 14th May, 1958. At the present time the Tariff Board, having received representations from the timber industry, is in the process of investigating that industry and intends to sit in Sydney on 30th May, and in Melbourne on 21st June.
On 14th April the Associated Sawmillers of Western Australia sent a telegram to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) asking him to use his influence to get the board to take evidence in Perth. That is something with which I am wholeheartedly in agreement. The Acting Prime Minister replied to the telegram on 29th April, in these terms -
The board decides its programme of inquiries in the light of all the circumstances including its own work position. I feel that it would be unacceptable to industry generally if I were to assume the responsibility of determining the location of Tariff Board hearings. I shall arrange to have a copy of this correspondence forwarded to the board so that members will be aware of your views.
I agree with the reply of the Minister because those who look at the matter closely will concede that it would not be possible for a Minister to interfere with the Tariff Board’s programme or decide where it sat However, I do hope that the board will take note of the correspondence and will realize the grave injustice it is doing to the timber industry by confining its sittings to Melbourne and Sydney.
The Tariff Board says that nobody is prevented from presenting evidence at those hearings, that all a person has to do is submit a signed copy of his evidence and it will be placed before the board and treated as though the person had actually given evidence before the board. That procedure is not satisfactory to the section of the industry in Western Australia because it believes that its representations should be put before the board personally by way of question by the board and answer by the witness, the board thus being made fully aware of conditions in the industry. The industry in Western Australia believes that it is not possible to inform the board of the full facts of the case by correspondence.
I know that the board is a very busy body and that the question of travel enters into its considerations. Surely it is easier for a board such as this to travel to a far-distant place like Western Australia than it is for the industry to bear the cost of sending witnesses who desire to give evidence to Sydney or Melbourne! I think that the board is doing a great injustice to Western Australia and a grave injustice to the timber industry in that State which employs so many people, and contributes to the wealth of the State. I understand that twelve witnesses desire to give evidence in the present inquiry, some of them from the city and some from the country. None of them is in a position to go to Melbourne or Sydney, and, therefore, I think that the board should do the right thing by the industry in Western Australia by travelling over there to hear evidence from a section which represents a large percentage of the timber industry in Australia.
– The board could meet at a half-way place such as Adelaide.
– Even so, the industry is of such vital importance to the economy of Western Australia, and there is so much evidence to be presented, that I think the board should travel to Western Australia to take evidence rather than restrict its hearings to Sydney and Melbourne as it has done in the past. If the board does not do that, I am quite certain not only that the evidence it receives will be not in the best interests of the industry, but also that the board itself will suffer as an instrument of the people in this country because of its lack of courtesy to an industry in Western Australia.
I hope, therefore, that the copy of the correspondence that has been forwarded to the board by the Acting Prime Minister will prompt this board to get off its tail, as it were, and visit a State where the timber industry at present is in a rather desperate position. By doing so the board could hear evidence that would enable it to recommend to this Government steps to stabilize an industry that is of vital importance to my State.
– I desire to direct the attention of the House to conditions at the Adelaide airport at West Beach and the methods adopted by airline companies to arrange to hire taxis for travellers. The Department of Civil Aviation has laid it down that taxi drivers are not allowed to enter the passenger lounge for the purpose of touting for fares - a very commendable restriction. Outside the passenger lounge the department has erected two taxi stands. One is situated immediately outside the entrance and carries five taxis, and the other is situated some 30 or more yards away and is capable of carrying 30 taxi cabs.
The procedures adopted by the two operators, Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. are worth comparing. T.A.A. adopts the procedure that the air hostess on the aircraft, when in flight, ascertains how many passengers require taxis. When the aircraft lands the hostess notifies the T.A.A. desk and a T.A.A. employee then obtains a taxi from the waiting taxis on the rank, thus ensuring that a passenger obtains a taxi immediately and also that the taxi which is at the head of the waiting list receives the job. This naturally suits the passengers, and it suits the taxi companies as it ensures a fair go for all taxis on the rank. The travelling public obtain a taxi without any waiting. If there were no taxis on the stand, T.A.A. would have to rmg one of the companies. But it would be most unusual if there was no taxi on the rank.
Ansett-A.N.A. adopts a different system which is causing much discontent amongst taxi operators and great inconvenience to the travelling public. The procedure that Ansett-A.N.A. follows is that the air hostess, like the hostess on T.A.A. aircraft, ascertains how many taxis are required. On landing she contacts the Ansett-A.N.A. desk. If there happens to be a taxi on the rank belonging to a certain company, Ansett-A.N.A. calls the cab irrespective of its position on the rank - whether it he first or last - and that cab obtains the fare. This happens despite the fact that eight, nine or a dozen taxis may have been waiting for an hour or so for a fare. The taxi to which Ansett-A.N.A. gives the job may have been on the rank for only a few minutes.
More often, however, there is no taxi belonging to this company available on the rank, and Ansett-A.N.A. then rings the company through a direct line phone which is installed at the Ansett-A.N.A. counter. A passenger may have to wait, fifteen or twenty minutes for a taxi to come to the airport from the city or from some other point. Ansett-A.N.A. hostesses, if they are touting for taxi business whilst the aircraft is in flight, should make it clear that a passenger will not be provided with a taxi off the rank at the airport, and that he probably will have to wait for fifteen to twenty minutes for a taxi.
Ansett-A.N.A. has a perfect right to order a taxi from anyone it likes to obtain whatever pay-off it can from the taxi company, but the passenger should be considered and should be informed that he may have this long wait. Taxis which are prepared to stand on the rank provided by the Department of Civil Aviation to provide a service for the travelling public should also be considered. There could be a dozen or so taxis waiting for a fare, but Ansett-A.N.A will telephone for a taxi which is five miles or so away from the terminal. It is, in fact, trying to create a monopoly from its terminal for this particular company. The department rightly prevents touting inside the passenger lounge, and the methods adopted by T.A.A., in co-operation with the department, give a fair go to the taxi companies and a first-class service to the travelling public. I should like to know from the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the taxi company referred to pays the Department of Civil Aviation any fee for the right to have a direct phone installed in Ansett- A .N.A’s section of the passenger lounge. If no rent is payable by that company, I should like to know whether Ansett-A.N.A. receives payment from the company for the privilege of having a direct phone installed there. Again, I ask whether the Minister will consider moving that direct-line phone to a position outside the passenger lounge. I suggest that if one company is to be allowed to have a directline phone outside the passenger lounge then at least equal opportunity for similar facilities should be granted to all taxi companies.
The civil aviation authorities have attempted to introduce a fair system of providing a good taxi service for the travelling public by prohibiting touting and canvassing by taxi drivers, and by taking steps to ensure that taxis are available to passengers immediately they alight from aircraft at Adelaide. Trans-Australia Airlines has co-operated with the Department of Civil Aviation, and Ansett-A.N.A. should do likewise. I ask the Postmaster-General to pass on my complaint to the Minister for Civil Aviation with the suggestion that he investigate the matter with a view to ensuring the smooth working of the very good system which has been introduced by the department in South Australia. The Taxi Control Board of South Australia is powerless to act as all those transactions are effected on the property of the Department of Civil Aviation, and I am sure that board would be very pleased if the Minister for Civil Aviation would step in and ensure that orderly services are provided for the public and that Ansett-A.N.A. co-operates with the department in the same way as T.A.A. does.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) concerning Mulwala will be brought before the notice of the appropriate Minister, who is the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme); I think the honorable member for Lalor was under the impression that Mulwala might be connected with my department. I assure him that I shall bring his remarks to the notice of the appropriate Minister. I give the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) an assurance that I shall refer his suggestion to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge).
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), as he always does, has put up a plea for the wheat-growers. I do not know whether what I am about to say anticipates what the Australian Wheat Board would like to include in a statement issuing from it, but, as the Minister to whom the board is responsible, I am able to announce that it has recommended to me that a second payment of ls. a bushel be made on last year’s crop which is the No. 22 Pool. I have approved of the recommendation, and the payment will be made on 14th June next.
– Only ls. a bushel?
– That payment will be in addition to the first advance of lis. I think that is good progress. Sales have been satisfactory, and I hope that the proposed second payment will assist the wheat-growers to meet expenses during the coming planting season.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) who is ill and unable to be present has communicated to me his concern about the fact that the ordnance factory at Bendigo is likely to curtail its operations. He tells me that shop No. 7, the painting shop, and shop No. 9, the machine shop, are to be closed, and that shop No. 31, the gear shop, which cuts any kind of gears and is capable of cutting bigger gears than can be cut by any other shop in the southern hemisphere, is likely to be transferred to Maribyrnong. Should that happen, the only two shops that would be left would be No. 10, the assembly shop, and No. 8, the plate shop. Further, should this take place, a minimum of 150 men would be put out of work in Bendigo.
I am sure that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) would be concerned about the question of decentralization and would not like to support the closing-down of any Government undertaking in a country centre and the transferring of some of its activities to the metropolitan area of Melbourne. On behalf of my colleague who, we hope, will be back with us in August, I make a plea to the Government to try to halt these dismissals which seem to be imminent and to find some means by which this work will not be lost to these 150 men and by which Bendigo will be saved the loss of the purchasing power of 150 families.
– I am sure we all regret that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) is not here to-night to put his case in person, and that we echo the hope expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that he will be back with us quite well again very shortly. I simply say to the Leader of the Opposition that the case he has submitted on behalf of the honorable member for Bendigo will be referred to the relevant Minister and will receive the necessary attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.7 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Homes for the Aged.
z asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honormember’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600512_reps_23_hor27/>.