23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. UREN presented a petition from certain electors in the States of the Commonwealth praying that the House will give immediate consideration to the increase of social service payments to meet the essential needs of recipients.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement concerning: (a) The discussions that were held last Saturday between the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mr. Dean Rusk, and the Soviet Foreign Minister, Mr. Gromyko, on world affairs and particularly in reference to the situation in Laos; (b) any other developments concerning events in that troubled area and the discussions that are now proceeding at the conference of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization in regard to Laos; and, (c) the reported and alleged statements of ViceAdmiral Sir Roy Dowling in regard to Australia’s preparedness in the event of war in Laos?
– While the Government has some knowledge of the discussions to which the honorable gentleman had referred between the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Rusk, and the Soviet Foreign Minister, Mr. Gromyko, I am not in a position at present to recount what may be known of these discussions. I am sure that we all hope that success and progress will attend the discussions which are designed to advance the cause of disarmament, and that we shall come closer to the point of enduring world peace. All the weight and influence of the Australian Government will go behind efforts to achieve that end. I am sure that when the Prime Minister returns, he will wish to take an early opportunity to recount to the Parliament what occurred at the recent conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and that he will make a statement as well on the situation in Laos and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization conference which he is to attend al Bangkok.
I am not in possession of the precise details of what Vice-Admiral Dowling, who is Chairman of the Australian Chiefs of Staff Committee, said or is reported to have said. Vice-Admiral Dowling is the principal Australian military adviser in this sphere and he is aware that the military preparations which the Australian Government and Australian Parliament combined have made over many years to equip Australia to meet an emergency are effective. No doubt he commented on this as a military personage.
The matter of commitments which Australia may make in the future, of course, is completely within the control of the Australian Government. I say without equivocation that the aspiration of the Australian Government and, I am sure, of the Australian Parliament, is that the problems in Laos shall be resolved satisfactorily by political means and not by military intervention.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that in late February of this year the American Management Association sponsored a three-day seminal which decided that Australian business offers the stability of the English common law and gains for investors in it a partnership in a fairly sophisticated business community. As a result of this decision, did that seminar agree that Australia was the best country in the world in which to invest?
– The only knowledge I have of the details of the seminar to which the honorable member refers ls that which I have acquired through press reports. I hope to read a much more detailed account of the discussions that took place when the information is available 10 me in Australia. I find nothing surprising in what has been reported of those discussions. Rather am I gratified by these reports. I believe there is a growing recognition in the United States of America that Australia, with a stable political and economic situation, and with a great potential for development, offers a security of investment - indeed an attractiveness of investment - which could bring large quantities of investment capital from the United States. It is known that American interest iri Australia has been increasing. I believe the proportion of American funds in overseas investments in Australia has been increasing. We welcome these developments if, accompanying them, there is a growing participation by Australians in work or investment in these enterprises. There are many important ties between our two countries. We have common interests of a very significant kind and, to the extent to which trade and commerce between us can be fostered as a result of discussions of this kind, I am sure we all welcome and applaud them.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Government has been engaged recently in discussions with the New Zealand Government, or with Ansett Transport Industries Limited about the future ownership and operation of Tasman Empire Airways Limited, or Teal as it is called? Can the Minister give the House an assurance that the Government is not planning to sell Australia’s half share in this AustraliaNew Zealand air service either to the other shareholder - the New Zealand Government - or to private enterprise?
– I shall have to convey that question to my colleague in another place. I do know that recently the Australian Minister for Civil Aviation had discussions with the New Zealand Minister, Mr. McAlpine, at the request of the New Zealand Government. I do not know what matters were discussed, but I shall find out and let the honorable member know.
– I address my question to the Attorney-General in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I ask whether in the last quarter housing activity has decreased significantly in the south Wollongong and Illawarra districts. Is the Government aware that if this is so there may be a shortage of new employees in the rapidly expanding steel industry and in ancillary heavy industries such as coal-mining? Also, is the Government aware that the housing development companies are curtailing their activities, giving as reasons the restriction of credit and inadequate water reticulation? Is it a fact that there was no intention to produce this result when the economic measures were brought down? When the Government is looking at the housing situation, will it consider this area as a special case? Is it a fact that the Australian steel industry is one of the most efficient in the world? If its maximum development is hampered, will this in turn prevent maximum development in Australia, reduce exports and in the long term increase imports of steel? Will the Government look at this as an extremely urgent matter? My question is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Cunningham yesterday.
– The honorable member has asked a large number of questions. I shall have to pass them to my colleague in another place, but I can immediately say this: The Government has the housing situation under close observation, has no intention whatever of damaging such important export industries as those at Port Kembla and does realize the relationship between the availability of housing and the capacity of these industries to expand. However, I shall ask my colleague in another place to supply answers to the honorable member’s questions.
– I asked the Minister for Primary Industry on 1st December last whether an application had been made by the Queensland pineapple industry for a temporary subsidy by way of loan. I now ask the Minister whether the industry has submitted a stabilization plan to the Commonwealth Government? If it has, what has been the result? Has the industry asked the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance in any form and what has been the result of any such request?
– Some time last year - I cannot remember the month - the pineapple industry submitted a stabilization scheme to the Commonwealth Government through me and we sought further information on it. In the meantime, the industry decided to amend its plan and to submit a plan to the State Government. This was more to its liking. The State Government approved of the proposal. The plan was in turn submitted to the pineapple growers by referendum and was endorsed. However, after the referendum, it was ascertained that it was not possible legally to implement the plan by legislation. That is the present position. The industry and the State Minister no doubt will now have further conferences on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the increasing Communist influence in the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Trades and Labour Councils and key trade unions, will the Minister take steps to ensure that any Australian trade union delegations sent to newly emerging nations in Africa are completely free from Communist delegates?
– The composition of delegations sent by the A.C.T.U., or for that matter by the constituent Trades and Labour Councils, to any overseas country is a matter for the councils to decide. I think every one in the House knows that an active Communist, whether he be at home or abroad, is a source of mischief and treachery, whatever he may be doing, and I think that this is peculiarly so with respect to the sending of delegations to the newly emerged free countries of the world, which, after all, are striving for the maintenance of freedom and not for domination by the Communists. I think that perhaps the wise thing to do, in order to indicate the feeling of some members in this House, would be to send the honorable gentleman’s question to the Australian Council of Trade Unions with a request that that body circulate the text among its constituent Trades and Labour Councils.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. As a preface, I remind the Minister of previous representations which I have made to him seeking an increase in the fees paid to officials who assist in the conduct of federal elections in view of the increases in costs that have occurred since the last determination of these fees was made in 1955, and in view of the disparity between the fees paid in respect of Federal and State elections. 1 now ask the Minister whether this matter has been considered. If any new rates have been fixed for officers who conduct federal elections, what are those new rates?
– A decision to increase the rates has been made. I do not carry the exact amounts in my head, but I shall get them and inform the honorable member.
– I ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs a question. Has he heard that Mr. Chamberlain, the federal secretary of the Australian Labour Party, has made a further statement in Perth subsequent to his declaration that Formosa is expendable and that its abandonment in order to recognize red China would be justifiable? Is the Minister aware that Mr. Chamberlain said that the Prime Minister of Australia now subscribed to the recognition of red China - a policy which is part of the Australian Labour Party’s platform - and that a statement to this effect which he alleged had been made by the Prime Minister arose out of his favouring red China’s representation at the disarmament discussions or its admission to the United Nations? Is this statement by Mr. Chamberlain correct?
– I can well understand Mr. Chamberlain wishing that he had the Prime Minister leading his party. Unfortunately, Mr. Chamberlain’s statement was not in accordance with the facts. I said in this House a few days ago that the policy of this country with respect to the recognition of Communist China and its seating in the United Nations had not altered. I repeat that. But I think it is very important to call the attention of the House again to the several distinctions that have to be observed in considering this matter. It is one thing to bring Communist China to the conference table to discuss disarmament outside the United Nations. I remind the House that the ten-nation committee on disarmament is a body outside the United Nations, although it has undertaken to report to the United Nations. Recognition of Communist China in the juristic sense is a different thing again. The Australian Labour Party tries to make this a simple issue, but it is not. Communist China will not accept recognition unless it has control of Formosa - unless we put the whole of the Formosan people under its control. We say again that we will not be a party to that.
The seating of Communist China in the United Nations is a different thing again, and this raises quite involved questions. At the present time, the United Nations seat ot China, as referred to in the United Nations Charter, is occupied by the Republic of China. The question strictly is not one of admitting China to the United Nations. It is a question of turning out Formosa in order to put Communist China in. Chen Yi, the Foreign Minister of Communist China, a few days ago made it quite plain in a statement - he was emphatic - that he would not entertain as a solution the recognition of two Chinas. Until some such thing is worked out, the seating of Communist China and its recognition by the United Nations are separate and quite different issues, apart from the question of recognition in the juristic sense, and, of course, quite apart again from trade, which does not rest on recognition or a seat in the United Nations, or on the admission of Communist China to the disarmament committee.
I would like to conclude by saying quite emphatically that Mr. Chamberlain’s view, that the Formosans are expendable, is not the view of this Government.
– I would like to ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs to start again. I ask him: What will be the attitude of his Government if, at the next session of the United Nations in September, there is a majority vote in favour of seating red China in that organization as the Government of China? In other words, will the Australian Government’s representatives walk out of the United Nations, or will they then recognize red China? I would ask him, too, what authority he has for saying that Mr. Chamberlain said the Formosans were expendable, other than a press report which Mr. Chamberlain disputes.
– I thought the Leader of the Opposition would know that a hypothetical question as to what might happen in the future, in regard to a matter of policy, is not in order.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister for Trade. In view of the increases in overseas shipping freight rates and their effect particularly on the cost of marketing our exported fruit, will the right honorable gentleman consider a system of freight rebates, which would enable Australia to compete effectively with other countries which enjoy the advantages of short hauls and consequently much smaller freight charges?
– I would need a proposal in some concrete form before I could react to the suggestion implicit in the honorable member’s question. The fact of the matter is that fruit exporters are at a double disadvantage at the present time, with comparatively low prices being received for their products in distant markets, and with high freight charges having to be met. But I can assure the honorable member, and all others who are interested in fresh fruit export, that under the system of freight determination that has been agreed to between shippers and ship-owners, a freight rise of 19 per cent, for fresh fruit would have been justified on the basis of the agreed formula. The shippers of fruit took advantage of a provision in the agreement that they could appeal in certain cases of hardship, and the ship-owners, fairly readily, I think, were induced to reduce the extent of the increase to 7i per cent. After further approaches, in which I personally figured, the increase was reduced to 5.8 per cent., if I remember the figure precisely. That is the level of the increase this year.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister a question. I preface it by saying that in reply to a number of questions about the Newcastle University College, the chairman of the Australian Universities Commission, Sir Leslie Martin, said that the Tighe’s Hill site and arrangements were sufficient but not ideal, and that it was unlikely that any additional funds would be recommended for the development of the college on the present site. Will the Government consider making a special grant of £100,000, so that planning may be proceeded with immediately on the basis of the establishment of an autonomous university on the selected and very satisfactory site at Shortland? Did the Government make a special grant of £150,000 to the Victorian Government for the purchase of land for, and the planning of, the Monash University? If this is so, why does not the Government make a similar grant for a university at Newcastle?
– I am not an expert in these matters, as honorable members know, but I think an established procedure has been evolved as a consequence of the Commonwealth’s recent intervention in the matter of providing financial aid for universities. The position in respect of Newcastle, as I understand it - and, for that matter, in respect of any other centre where a similar proposal is made - is that the initiative is taken by the State Government, which makes a proposal to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth then seeks advice from the Australian Universities Commission. I understand that a request has not been advanced by the Government of New South Wales for a new university to be established at Newcastle. On the other hand, I think that the funds for the university triennium which has just commenced have been approved and they involve substantial additional funds for the Newcastle University.
– They provide £18,000 out of £100,000,000!
– That was consequent upon the recommendation of the Universities Commission. But, as in the case of the new Monash University in Victoria, the procedural course is that the State Government must first take the initiative in making a proposal to the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth then seeks the advice of the Universities Commission.
– ^1 ask the Minister In charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether it is a fact that shipments of desiccated coco-nut from Ceylon recently have been found to be infected with salmonella. Is it a fact that most insurance companies will no longer insure consignments from Ceylon against the risk of bacterial infection? Can the Minister inform the House what steps are being taken by his department to prevent the likelihood of the Australian public suffering from infection as a result of any such importations? Will the Minister endeavour to make any necessary arrangements that will enable the importation of desiccated coco-nut from Ceylon to be effected under the cover of a certificate of freedom from infection issued by the Government of Ceylon?
– The protection of the public from infection from contaminated desiccated coco-nut or other materials is a State matter and the Commonwealth is in consultation with the States on it. Measures to prevent the spread of infection have to be taken by the States. As far as quarantine goes, there have been a few shipments in which salmonella bacteria have been detected in desiccated coco-nut. Representations have been made to the Government of Ceylon in this matter. I will obtain for the honorable gentleman details of arrangements which have been made. I think he will find that satisfactory and appropriate steps have been taken by both the Commonwealth quarantine authorities and the State governments concerned.
– Has the Minister for Trade received a letter from the chairman of directors of a large textile mill near Abbotsford in Victoria? Is he aware that representatives of textile factories, particularly woollen piece-goods mills in this large textile area, have stated that the industry is in a grave position, the working week of the mills having been reduced to four days? Is he aware that the number of registered unemployed at the nearest Com- monwealth employment office at Collingwood has more than doubled since the end of December? Is he aware that the letter to which I have referred contains the assertion, which other representatives of the industry have also made, that consideration of the position by the Tariff Board since 1955 has resulted in no adequate protection being afforded and that unless something is done more directly to protect the industry it will be considerably reduced in operation because, to quote the letter to which I have referred, the Government regards the industry as expendable? Is the Minister aware of these facts? When can we expect a decision by the Government as a result of the inquiries that have been made? Can the Minister give any indication of what the decision might be?
– In the first place, 1 deny emphatically that the Government would regard any sector of Australian industry - I speak in particular, as the honorable member’s question invites me to, about the textile industry - which has historically been protected, as being expendable. There are sectors of the Australian textile industry which have not been protected, and the honorable member may know of them. But predominantly and overwhelmingly the Australian textile industry has been a protected industry. Overwhelmingly the protection has been at a high enough level to secure to the Australian industry the major part of the Australian market.
I had a conference in Sydney, on Friday last, with the leaders of the Australian textile industry, the central textile control, and the problems of various sectors were discussed. It was then proposed that the woollen sector should take a step which I have described many times during the last year or two as being available to it; that is, appoint a panel of those who can speak for the industry and engage in business discussions, across a table, with experienced officers of the Department of Trade. If a prima facie case rs demonstrated for an ordinary reference of this industry to the Tariff Board, or an emergency reference under the temporary duties provision, I say here and now, as I have said on many occasions, that the reference would be made without delay. I think it will follow that there will be a consultation, upon the terms that I have invited, with the woollen sector - I think it is the one to which the honorable member refers - in the near future.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I preface it by reminding him that while the new country telephone directory is a decided improvement on the preceding one, there is a number of subscribers who are not at all satisfied with it. Before the next one is issued, will he give consideration, firstly, to placing the list of exchanges in the front of the book and not in the centre, as it is in the new directory? Secondly, will he also consider extending the size of the districts so as to overlap them and thus avoid the necessity for subscribers on the boundaries of districts to purchase a second directory?
– Since the publication of the new form of district directory I have had a number of representations made to me and representations have also been made to the Postmaster-General’s Department. I agree that there are certain features of this new directory which could be improved and, therefore, I am able to tell the honorable member that the two points to which he has directed attention - that is, the list of exchanges being placed in the front of the directory, and some overlap between adjoining districts - are receiving consideration, together with other suggestions that have been put forward. We realized, when we embarked upon the production of this new type of directory, that certain faults would be disclosed and it is our intention, as the result of experience, further to improve the directories.
– I ask the Treasurer: Subsequent to recent statements of the Government’s intention to nationalize or conscript stated percentages of the funds of insurance companies and superannuation funds, was there any appreciable improvement in the contributions of those bodies to the recently completed government loan compared with their efforts in the recent past?
– The first part of the honorable member’s statement surely indicates that he sees all things through the eyes of the socialist. I advise him to await the details of the Government’s policy before he anticipates just what its contents may be. As to the recent loan experience, such examination as I have been able to make of the position suggests that the volume of insurance company investment was of approximately the same order as on the two previous occasions. This is not necessarily a net investment, as insurance companies have a turnover of securities, and experience has shown that investment by them in one particular loan is usually followed by the liquidation by them of Commonwealth securities which they had acquired earlier. In the result, over the period of ten years to the end of 1959, whilst the holdings by the insurance companies of government securities generally increased by £81,000,000 out of a total increase in the assets of the companies of £562,000,000, only £4,000,000 of that amount was invested in Commonwealth loans. As I said, the volume of subscriptions to the recent loan was not of an abnormal character, and certainly did not appear to reflect any anticipation of government legislation.
– I ask the Minister for
Immigration: Does the estimated intake of migrants for the current financial year appear likely to be reached? In view of reports that Canada is making a strong bid for likely new settlers from South Africa, is the Australian Government taking any similar steps?
– I said yesterday, in reply to the honorable member for Darling Downs who asked me a question on not dissimilar lines, all the indications are that the Government will achieve, and probably more than achieve, its migrant target for the current financial year.
– More to add to the ranks of the unemployed.
– To that statement yesterday - in spite of the gloomy and lachrymose interjection from my friend from East Sydney - I really have nothing to add. So far as migrants from South Africa are concerned–
– What about migrant Menzies? Can you give him a boost?
– Order! These interjections are disorderly.
– It seems that honorable members opposite do not wish to hear what I have to say.
– Order! The Minister for Immigration has the floor.
– So far as migrants from South Africa are concerned, the Government has for some time now had a phase of attraction which we describe as our general assisted passage scheme, under which the Commonwealth pays approximately half of the fare to Australia which, in exact terms, is £71 8s. 6d., for approved migrants from South Africa. Since my honorable friend from Ryan has raised this subject, he and the House might be interested to know that the volume of applications and, indeed, of migrants from South Africa who have entered Australia has increased quite sharply and indeed very noticeably in the last three years.
– Sharply, after Menzies’s speech!
– I should have thought that the honorable member for Parkes could be expected to listen to what I have to say instead of making such a flood of commentary, because this is a matter of some importance to the House. To show the honorable member for Ryan the increasing number of people who are coming to Australia from South Africa I inform him that, if my memory is not faulty, in 1958 a total of 379 South Africans came to Australia, in 1959 the figure had risen to 579, and in the year 1960 no fewer than 1,390 came to these shores. As to the future, Mr. Speaker, I do not think that at this stage, when so many matters resulting from South Africa’s projected withdrawal from the Commonwealth have yet to be determined, it would be very profitable for the Government to announce any change in its present policy towards recruitment of immigrants from South Africa.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Interior: Were personnel of the defence and service departments transferred from Melbourne to Canberra shown, before they left Melbourne, illustrations and floor plans of the types of houses that would be available to them in Canberra? Were they thus enabled to select the types of houses suitable to their family needs? Were they told what the rentals of these houses would be? Was the amount of rental a factor influencing the selection of housing by these transferees? Are the rentals of many of these homes now to be substantially increased? Is this is a breach of faith by the Government?
– lt is true that from time to time members of the defence staffs were shown plans of houses and given an indication of the rents that they would be asked to pay, just as any tenant, when he contemplates occupancy of a house, is given an indication of the rent. But where a person is a weekly tenant he occupies the house on a weekly tenancy basis which enables the landlord, whether a private person or the Government, to increase the rent at relatively short notice. No undertaking was given to any of these transferees that the rents were fixed in perpetuum.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Last week, in reply to a question relating to the adoption of decimal currency, the right honorable gentleman linked this proposal with the building of an Australian mint. Can he now inform the House what stage plans for the mint have reached? Is it proposed that the mint shall be in Canberra? If so. what site has been selected? Have any plans yet been drawn up? When does he expect the mint to be completed?
– A decision was taken, in principle, by Cabinet some time ago that a mint should be established in Canberra. Preliminary drawings for the project have been undertaken. The plans were advanced a further stage last year when a delegation was sent overseas to examine new minting techniques and to report on the type of equipment which should be installed in the new mint. The delegation’s report is now being examined by our experts and shortly we shall be considering how the programme for constructing the new mint should be regulated to reduce the coinage problems which would arise in the event of a decision being made to change to decimal currency. No decision has yet been taken as to the site of the mint in Canberra.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether the Government has decided on the appointment of a judge to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory? If an appointment has not been made, will the Attorney-General inform the House of the present position?
– As I told the honorable member in the House a few days ago, I hoped at that time to announce very shortly a permanent appointment to this office. Some difficulties, which I need not mention now, arose, but I have realized, as the honorable member pointed out to me, that the former acting judge has had to go to Christmas Island. Accordingly, I am proposing to appoint immediately an acting judge who has been made available to me by the Victorian Government. His name is no secret. Judge Dunn of the County Court of Victoria will be acting in the position and will be in Darwin to commence sitting on 5th April. He will be there for at least one month until the other difficulties which have arisen can be cleared out of the way. I may add that the Government of Victoria has co-operated readily with me in making this judge available.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral’s attention been directed to a statement by a member of the Victorian Legislative Council relating to the lack of telephones in the Notting Hill area in Victoria, and his comment on “Phones for tote but not for industry “? In explanation of my question let me add that to my knowledge the gentleman who made the statement has been making applications for some time for telephones on behalf of an industry with which he is concerned in his private capacity. However, in view of the very strong representations which have been made by the honorable member for Bruce, in whose electorate this area stands, and by myself, will the Postmaster-General investigate, as a matter of urgency, telephone installations in this district?
– I have seen the statement to which the honorable member for La Trobe has referred in which it was said that the Postmaster-General’s Department was giving some form of priority to the installation of telephones for totalisator work over installations for business institutions. I am glad of the opportunity to say that that statement is completely incorrect. No such priority is given. The fact that there have been installations in one area when it has not been possible to make installations in other particular areas, stems almost always from the fact that in one area the equipment is ready for immediate installation whereas it is not available in others. That applies particularly to the Notting Hill area where there has been enormous industrial development over the past two or three years. In such areas, it is a question of installing a considerable amount of new equipment before the department can provide telephones. The honorable member asked whether some investigation could be made of the Notting Hill area. I am glad to inform him that as the result of discussions I have had with the honorable member for Deakin and the honorable member for Bruce, and of the ventilation of the matter by the honorable member himself, investigations are being conducted to determine what progress can be made in that area.
– by leave - On 24th February, 1961, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics delivered to the Australian Embassy in Moscow a note, requesting the surrender to the Soviet authorities of Ervin Richard Adolf Petrovich Viks because of certain alleged war crimes.
The note contained an assertion that Mr. Viks had personally participated in the mass shooting of Soviet citizens near Tartu in July, 1941. It also asserted that while he was in that year chief of the political police of the Tallin-Harin prefecture, certain shootings of Soviet citizens and certain arrests of people and their incarceration in concentration camps took place under his official guidance, and that in the following year, whilst chief of a certain department of the Estonian security police he, in that capacity, guided punitive activities, personally passed death sentences and participated in executions.
No evidence of any kind accompanied the note although it claimed that Soviet investigation agencies had archival documents together with Mr. Viks’s signature which the note claimed to testify to Mr. Viks’s complicity in annihilating hundreds of people. It also claimed that witnesses were available to confirm the contents of the documents.
The Soviet note, in requesting the surrender of Mr. Viks, called the attention of the Australian Government to what it termed the appropriate international agreements which called for war criminals to be handed over for trial and punishment to the countries in whose territories the war crimes had been committed.
The four international instruments were as follows: -
The full texts of these instruments are available in the Parliamentary Library.
No claim was made by the Soviet authorities that any extradition treaty existed which imposed any relevant obligation upon the Australian Government.
Mr. Speaker, this note reached my hands, in translation, on 13 th March, whereupon
I took it immediately into consideration, having the assistance of officers both of the Department of External Affairs and of the Department of the Attorney-General. After investigation, I concluded that the request must be refused.
On 15th March the Australian Embassy delivered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Moscow the Australian Government’s reply to the Soviet request. That reply was in the following terms: -
The Australian Embassy presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has the honour to refer to the Ministry’s note of 24th February requesting the surrender of Mr. E. R. A. P. Viks for alleged war crimes in Estonia 19 years ago.
The Australian Government notes that the Ministry, in the absence of any extradition treaty between Australia and the Soviet Union, bases its request on certain international declarations and recommendations, made between the years 1943-1947, concerning the surrender and prosecution of war criminals.
Australia fully shared in the common desire of the United Nations to bring to justice the Nazi, Fascist and Japanese war criminals and, so far as lis own immediate theatre of war was concerned, established or participated in tribunals which conducted the trials of a great number of war criminals.
However, the contents of the Ministry’s note and the terms of the above-mentioned instruments make clear when carefully examined, as they have been by the Australian Government, that these instruments have no application to the present matter, and that Australia is under no obligation to surrender Mr. Viks.
The Embassy is instructed to add that the Australian Government has not conceded that the place where the alleged offences are said to have been committed constitutes juridically part of the territory of the Soviet Union.
Before I explain to the House the full reasons for the Australian Government’s reply, may I remind the House of some basic considerations. The Australian Government has no power or authority to arrest, detain, or surrender any person in Australia, whether or not an Australian citizen, except in accordance with the rule of law. There must exist some law authorizing such arrest, detention or surrender, and the Government must meticulously observe all the requirements of that law. The great writ of habeas corpus is always available to bring the executive government before the courts of the land to justify any detention of a person in Australia. Australia knows nothing of, and would not for a moment, I am sure, tolerate any power in the executive government arbi trarily; that is to say, without the support of law, to detain persons. On the other hand, some nations know nothing of the rule of law which protects the liberty of the people.
Under our system of law, the surrender of a person to another country takes place under and in accordance with the statutory law, usually in the form of extradition acts, which depend for their operation upon the existence of an extradition treaty with the country to which the surrender is made. Under such acts, there must first be a legal proceeding, in which the evidence against the person sought to be surrendered is closely examined by an impartial tribunal, and in which that person is given full opportunity to place evidence before and to address the tribunal in his own defence. The extradition may take place only if the tribunal is satisfied that a prima facie case of guilt is made out upon the evidence, and authorizes the surrender. In the present case, no extradition treaty exists between Australia and the Soviet Union. Consequently, there is no legal authority under which the Australian Government could interfere with the liberty of Mr. Viks at the request of the Soviet Government.
I should point out, however, that in the extradition treaties to which Australia is a party, a discretion is reserved to the Government in any case to refuse to surrender a person of Australian citizenship whether by birth or by naturalization. It is the practice of Australia to refuse to surrender an Australian citizen, even if an extradition treaty exists. In the instant case, Mr. Viks is an Australian citizen, having been naturalized in the year 1957. I should also point out that extradition treaties to which Australia is a party contain a further limitation, namely, that no surrender should be made if the crime alleged by the requesting country is a political crime in the international sense in which those words are used. This limitation applies to Australian residents as well as to Australian citizens. Broadly speaking, crimes of a political character, for the purpose of the extradition system, include crimes committed in the course of conflict between contending political groups or organizations. Breaches of the laws of war committed by commanders in the field would scarcely come under this heading. But the position of acts performed in the purported exercise of government authority is doubtful. There are cases in which it has been held that acts so done do not justify extradition under the ordinary treaties and statutes. Partly for this reason, special international arrangements and recommendations were made, during and at the conclusion of the World War, with respect to the surrender and trial of war criminals.
The Soviet note accordingly bases its request upon international instruments that stand outside the extradition system. Before I briefly inform the House of the Australian Government’s understanding of each of these instruments, may I say that the Soviet Note is based upon the premise that Estonia is now, and was in July, 1941, part of the Soviet Union so as to make the places in Estonia mentioned in the Note part of Soviet territory for the purposes of the international instruments to which the Australian Government is referred. Australia, Mr. Speaker, has never recognized, and does not now recognize, the juridical incorporation of Estonia into Soviet territory - a circumstance of some significance in relation to some of the instruments to which I now turn.
The first of them was the Moscow Declaration of 1943. This was directed to the situation that would arise upon an armistice with Germany, then in prospect, and was in terms limited to German officers and men and members of the Nazi party. Quite clearly, even if it bound Australia - a matter into which I need not go - this declaration has no application to the present case.
The second was the agreement of 1945. This concerned the trial of major war criminals by a particular tribunal - the Nuremberg tribunal - which long ago ceased to exist. The agreement was also limited to German officers and men and members of the Nazi party. This instrument is clearly inapplicable to the present matter.
The third and fourth were the two recommendatory resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Whilst these resolutions create no obligations, the Australian Government would feel itself obliged to examine closely the question of how far steps should be taken to implement them, if the Government thought that the resolutions were now applicable. But an examination of the resolutions shows quite clearly that they referred to the situation immediately following upon the cessation of hostilities in the war of 1939-1945, and that they contemplated prompt action so as expeditiously to clear up questions of war guilt. The terms in which the resolutions are couched lead quite quickly and certainly to the conclusion that the two recommendatory resolutions are now spent, and presently call for no action by the Australian Government.
These conclusions, Mr. Speaker, are sufficient to dispose of the present request for the surrender of Mr. Viks. But I think I should make it quite clear, without in any way assuming guilt on the part of Mr. Viks, that the Australian Government does not condone for one moment such crimes against humanity as have been the subject of the Nuremberg or Tokyo trials, or as may be involved in the acts that the Soviet Note here asserts. Australia has demonstrated its conviction in this regard and its willingness to take prompt action - it participated, through its representatives, in approximately 1,000 war crimes trials in respect of the Pacific area.
Two deep-seated human interests, however, may well here come into conflict. On the one hand, there is the utter abhorrence felt by Australians for those offences against humanity to which we give the generic name of war crimes. On the other hand, there is the right of this nation, by receiving people into this country, to enable men to turn their backs on past bitternesses and to make a new life for themselves and for their families in a happier community. This has formed a precious part of the heritage of the West, in which Australia has an honorable share.
In a given case the choice between these two human interests may present a government with a difficult decision. In the present instance, however, the Government came to the clear conclusion that, all questions of legal obligation apart, if such a choice had been necessary to resolve the matter, its right of asylum must have prevailed. Australia has established a thorough, though of course not infallible, system for sifting and screening the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have enriched our national life since the World
War. In default of a binding obligation requiring Australia at this- point of time to do otherwise, these, who have been allowed to make their homes here, must be able to live, in security, new lives under the rule of law.
In saying this, I must not for one moment be thought to be critical of any nation which, in this field, makes a different decision in any particular instance. It may be their duty, and it certainly is their right, to do so. Honorable members will, no doubt, have in their minds the proceedings now immediately pending in Israel against a man who stands charged, in effect, as a major war criminal. For ourselves, however, in the kind of case which the present demand suggests, and which is distinguishable in many respects from the case in Israel, we think .the time has come to close the chapter. It is, truly, the year 1961. This, indeed, is in the spirit of the United Nations resolutions themselves; for the General Assembly recognized how important it was that that which should be done should be done quickly.
Mr. Speaker, I have thought that this statement was due to the House in a matter of such importance. The ground of the Government’s refusal was based upon a full examination of the international instruments cited by the Soviet Government, for I felt that it was necessary first to examine whether there was any international obligation upon this country. If there had been, I should have felt that Australia would wish to honour it.
I was convinced there was no international obligation. The reply therefore took this ground. Consequently, there was no need to rely upon other possible grounds, some of which I have broadly indicated in what I have said.
I ought finally to say that, if there had been an international obligation, legislative steps would have been necessary. The existence of such an international obligation would not of itself have entitled the Government to interfere with personal liberty. Conformably with the rule of law by and under which we live, authority would have had to be sought from the Parliament. I have explained in detail to the House why the Government thought that this course was neither necessary nor desirable.
Mr. Speaker, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Soviet request for surrender of Mr. E. R. A. P. Viks - Ministerial Statement.
– by leave - I move -
That the paper be printed. 1 ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later time.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honorable members, I lay on the table the following paper: -
United Nations - General Assembly - Fifteenth Regular Session (First Part), New York, 20th September to 20th December, 1960- Report of the Australian Delegation.
Copies of the report will be distributed to honorable members when bulk supplies have been printed. In the meantime, a copy is available with the Clerk of the Papers.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent, before the AddressinReply is adopted, consideration by the House of a matter of urgent public importance proposed to Mr. Speaker by the Leader of the Opposition.
I have received a letter from the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The arrogant and the provocative statements made by the Prime Minister after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference on the question of South Africa.
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) -
– On 16th March last, we learned with very great regret that
South Africa had decided to quit the Commonwealth of Nations. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) made a statement to the House, which was accepted by the very great majority as representing Australian opinion. I made a statement by leave in much the same strain and I should like to flatter myself by believing that my views too were representative of the opinion of the Australian people.
We all regretted that the South African Prime Minister had decided to leave the Commonwealth of Nations because the application he made for South Africa’s admission to the Commonwealth, once it became an independent republic in June next, was not favoured by a majority or by more than a substantial minority of the Prime Ministers assembled in the conference. The question of apartheid would never have arisen at the conference if South Africa had not decided last year to become an independent republic. Had it decided to remain a dominion inside the Commonwealth, the discussion that took place at the recent Prime Ministers conference would never have arisen and could never have arisen. South Africa had been practising this policy of apartheid for a number of years and the issue had never previously been raised at these annual conferences of Prime Ministers. I want to make that point at the beginning because our Prime Minister has attempted to equate apartheid with our immigration laws. We of the Opposition believe that he has done a very great disservice to Australia, that his observation is arrogant, that h endangers Australia, that it is provocative and that it should not have been made at all.
Immediately the conference ended, the Prime Minister of Australia made a statement which most Australians read. They were concerned at some parts of it and wondered just precisely what he meant when he said -
The debate was of a frankness and intimacy which, in my experience, is possible only in a meeting of Prime Ministers.
It is, I think, deplorable that it can never be conducted in such a forum and atmosphere again.
What the implications for the future nature of the Commonwealth may be, we do not as yet know.
For myself, I am deeply troubled.
That seemed to me at the time to be the emotional reaction of a man who had taken a very active part in trying to persuade the conference to allow South Africa to remain a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and who, when he failed, felt that he had to give vent to his disappointment. But as the days passed, the Prime Minister’s language became more intemperate and his remarks more provocative. This was quite different from the attitude adopted by other Prime Ministers. Mr. Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister of Canada, was the man responsible for South Africa leaving the Commonwealth, so we are told, but when the conference was over he made no statement at all. He went quietly back to Canada. He was not criticized or attacked by South Africa or by any other nation. Indeed, Dr. Verwoerd’s own statements were, in all the circumstances rather moderate. He said -
South Africa will be stronger than ever.
He also said -
We seek our own unity.
That was understandable enough for a man who had lost and was determined to make the best of the situation that had been created. He did make an attack on some nations of the Afro-Asian group, such as Ghana, India, Malaya and Ceylon. He said that in these countries oppression and discrimination were openly practised and the basic principles of democratic government were flouted. It was understandable that Dr. Verwoerd should say this, but it is certainly not understandable that the Australian Prime Minister should join in that type of attack. There is no reason in the world for the Australian Prime Minister to go out of his way to attack the Asian nations. Having failed as the advocate defending Dr. Verwoerd, there is no reason why he should want to continue the fight outside the conference long after it had ended. However, he has been making quite a number of statements since the end of the conference.
I should like to return to this question of apartheid being discussed at the conference. Dr. Verwoerd agreed to the question being raised. The discussion was not forced on South Africa against its will. Many newspapers report that the South African Prime Minister said he would defend its position at the conference and that it hoped to be able to persuade the Prime Ministers that what it was doing was right and that it had a right to do this even though others may disagree. When the issue was raised at the conference, Dr. Verwoerd took a leading part in the discussion. According to press reports, he seems to have occupied a good deal of the time of the conference in answering objections to his policy. Every Prime Minister at the conference had something to say about the matter.
When the announcement was made after the conference that South Africa had decided to leave the Commonwealth of Nations, we all believed that that was a correct description of what had happened. Newspaper headlines said, “ South Africa quits “ and “ South Africa leaves the Commonwealth “. Since the conference, our Prime Minister has been trying to create the impression that South Africa was kicked out of the Commonwealth. He has spent a considerable amount of time arguing in this way and creating propaganda against the nations he believes were responsible for doing this. They are the nations nearest to us, geographically. They are the nations alongside whom we live, with whom we wish Vo have the most kindly and best possible relation and with whom we have to trade. We have cultural ties with them. We are helping them in the Colombo Plan. We are encouraging their scientists and others to come here.
The Prime Minister, by his speeches in London, and particularly by the two most recent ones, has been poisoning the atmosphere against Australia in Asian countries and lining us up as a junior partner in the policy of apartheid. The Prime Minister now takes the view publicly for the first time that apartheid rs wrong. He would not condemn the policy of apartheid when the matter was under discussion in this Parliament last year. He specifically refused to do so, and on that issue he proposed an amendment to a motion which I had presented on behalf of the Opposition. The Prime Minister would not attack the policy of apartheid by name last year. He does so this year. But then he is seeking to help South Africa in every way possible. He says, in effect, “The South Africans have the right to adopt this policy, even if it is wrong, and rt is wrong for anybody else to interfere and to criticize it “. The Prime
Minister said that some day, perhaps, Australia’s immigration policy will be involved.
– He sard that quite gratuitously.
– That was a gratuitous statement which had no foundation and the comparison is not justified. We do not deny to anybody the right to vote. We do not discriminate against anybody within our boundaries, and our white Australia policy has been defended by no less a figure than Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of Malaya. But although the Prime Minister of Malaya said that we are entitled to follow that policy, our Prime Minister, in a spirit of pique and disappointment, seeks to create the impression that we shall be put on the spot at some time or other, and he says that we may be kicked out of the Commonwealth of Nations. He struck a dramatic pose and said that he would adopt the same attitude as has been taken by Dr. Verwoerd and that he would not have our immigration laws scrutinized by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. Then he added - I won’t be bossed.
The Prime Minister held a press conference on Sunday and, on Monday evening, he attended an Australia Club dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London. Quite a number of Asian and African diplomats and a number of distinguished Englishmen, including the Duke of Gloucester and Field Marshal Viscount Slim were present, and our Prime Minister ranted; he harangued them. There was nothing temperate in what he said. There was nothing balanced in what he said.
It is our view, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister, by his speech on Monday night, has harmed Australia without helping South Africa. He has made difficulties for Australia by his outbursts, all made in a spirit of resentment, and by the series of diatribes that he has delivered over the last few days he has done himself no credit. It would have been far better if his statements had never been uttered. Mr. Nehru has made no statement since the conference ended. Mr. Macmillan has! been noted for his temperate remarks over the whole issue. He wants to try to bring South Africa back into the Commonwealth. So do we all. But the statements made by our Prime Minister are helping to extend the fissure and make it deeper and wider.
All that I want to say in conclusion is that the Prime Minister apparently feels that he must have the limelight. Dr. Verwoerd has had it; somebody else has had it; and now our Prime Minister wants ir. So he made his speech on Monday evening in the hope that he would get the headlines. This is the contribution of our talkative and peripatetic Prime Minister. There are problems in Australia that he ought to attend to. He ought to come home now and deal with them. The Prime Minister is charged with this responsibility, because he has the majority in this Parliament behind him. But, as Prime Minister of Australia, he is concerned only about interfering in overseas events. His failures with Nasser over the Suez Canal crisis in 1956, at the General Assembly of the United Nations and in connexion with the Summit Conference in 1960, and now at the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in 1961 are milestones on his road to failure!
– Mr. Speaker, we all can understand a parliamentary Opposition wanting to advance its own interests in an election year, but it is a pity when, in very difficult international circumstances, the Opposition in this Parliament seeks to advance its own interests on the domestic scene ‘by deriding the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) while he is overseas on a mission of great importance. The Australian Prime Minister is a man of great distinction and is recognized as such on the international scene. All the sneers of the Opposition in this Parliament will not detract from the respect that attaches to his name in international circles.
– He is promoting international discord.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition was given a good hearing. In the circumstances, I remind the honorable member for East Sydney that he must obey the Standing Orders.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) almost immediately after he started his speech, said - this appeared very noticeable to me - that I had used words that were acceptable when I dealt with this matter the other day, and he then sought to establish a contrast between my words and those of the Prime Minister. I assure the honorable gentleman that nothing he can say, and no device that he and his party can resort to, will succeed in driving a wedge between the Government parties. We know where we are going as the Government of this country. We are solid and coherent, and I have not the slightest doubt that the solidarity of the Government parties is the envy and dismay of the disunited Australian Labour Party and its fragments about the country.
The Leader of the Opposition applied the term “ arrogant “ to the Prime Minister, but he cited nothing to substantiate the charge of arrogance. Those of us who watch what goes on in the electorate see that the Australian Labour Party obviously is seeking to attach this word to the name of the Prime Minister. This is a trick, but it is one that will get the Opposition nowhere. The Prime Minister has done a statesmanlike job at the meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth countries. What he stood for at the conference, and what he has been espousing since, is a principle which touches on the vital interests of the Australian people. That the Commonwealth of Nations - what we used to speak of as the British Commonwealth - of which Her Majesty the Queen is accepted as the head, remain strong and coherent is in the interests of the Australian people. That this Commonwealth remain strong and coherent is good for all, and it is good for each. What has happened recently has been the first evidence of dismemberment.
The Australian Labour Party representatives in this Parliament, instead of expressing regret and proposing some formula for the solution of the problem - as I hoped would be done as a result of the last address to the House on this issue by the Leader of the Opposition, which encouraged me to expect some efforts by the Opposition to discover some way of preserving the coherence of the Commonwealth - have adopted a stratagem which can only serve to weaken the Commonwealth of Nations. Surely, the central point of the Commonwealth is the periodic meetings of the Prime Ministers of its sovereign states. They meet, each with his own distinct policies on political issues, economic problems, racial matters and international affairs. All have different problems of relationships. When they meet, all are conscious of their domestic problems. They have a healthy respect for each other’s problems and a willingness to have their policies discussed at such conferences, but they do not accept that their policies shall be torn up or subjected to direction by others. It was only on the occasion of the most recent conference that we saw this attempted. Mr. Verwoerd, the South African Prime Minister, raised no objection on this occasion to having the policies of his government discussed. The South African Prime Minister raised no objection a year ago, at the 1960 conference, when, incidentally, my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), was present with the Prime Minister. Indeed, reference to the policies of South Africa is to be found in the communiqué which emanated from the 1960 Prime Ministers’ conference. However, after that conference, a referendum of the South African people was held and the government - and presumably the Parliament - of that country decided to change their form of government from the monarchial to the republican. The South African Prime Minister, following the rules of the game, informed the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers of this fact and indicated that South Africa would seek to remain in the Commonwealth with its new republican form of government.
The real issue then arose, when some of the Prime Ministers present sought to relate an internal procedural point - the decision to change to a republican form of government - to the internal racial policies of the South African Government, and used some forms of words designed to criticize the internal policies of that Government and to impose compulsion upon it. The Prime Minister of South Africa, I say, as our Prime Minister has said - leaving aside the merits of the policy of apartheid, from which we have both dissociated ourselves - was completely justified in contending that neither this policy nor any other domestic issue should have been used for the purpose of laying down a condition upon which his country would be permitted to remain a member of the Commonwealth.
That is right! That is clear! What people on earth has more at stake in the principle that was brought into issue than the Australian people? We have our controversial policies. It is betraying no secret to name them, as the Prime Minister has done, or as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has done to-day. But is it in the interests of the Australian people that some policy that is followed at their wish should be produced in the forum of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference as an issue upon which a decision should be made as to whether Australia is to be permitted to remain within the Commonwealth?
I have stated the issue. It does a grave disservice to the Australian people to have this Parliament apparently split on that issue. Frankly, I do not think it is split. I think that the Labour Party either misapprehends the situation or is taking advantage of a convenient occasion. I do not know which I would prefer to believe - that it misapprehends the reality of the situation, or that it is practising a political trick to make a political point. Let us be quite clear on this matter. The Australian people, I am sure, would wish to see the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Labour Party completely cohesive on the point that what is decided as good for the Australian people by the Australian people is not challengable nor subject to direction by any outside person or nation. That is the issue, and that is the principle that we stand by.
This conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers is an invaluable meeting point. I have accompanied the Prime Minister to such conferences on more than one occasion, and I have seen how the debates are conducted. I have seen the freedom with which every country expresses itself, and, on occasions, dissociates itself from the policies of other member nations. Prime Ministers, knowing the policies of their own governments and the desires of their own peoples, will not agree to change their policies, but will leave a conference, where free discussion has taken place, not uninfluenced by what others have said. When they get back to their countries they are able to recount in their own cabinets and parliaments and in the public forums, not under compulsion or duress, but because of having been influenced in free and open debate, the points of view of the other countries and the extent to which, in their judgment, it might be desirable that certain domestic policies be modified in order to preserve harmony within the Commonwealth. This is where we see the great British political wisdom working at its best. No one is compelled; everyone feels free. Everyone, in point of fact, has such a sense of freedom that he is not inhibited from being influenced by someone else’s point of view, and from explaining the extent to which he has been influenced in the central point of government in his own country - the cabinet or the parliament.
This is what we stand for, and we believe it to be completely right. We would regret the carrying of any resolution in the Parliament condemning the Australian Prime Minister for voicing his protest against a course of events which has had the outcome of compelling a member country to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Nations. A resolution having that flavour about it would be wrong in the Australian Parliament, and I have not the slightest doubt that the overwhelming majority of the Parliament will vote against it, and that the Labour Party will feel very sorry that it ever proposed it.
.- I have ten minutes only in which to add to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in proposing the resolution now before us. I have been deeply shocked by the. ninteenth century ranting of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen). He. displayed no awareness whatsoever of the way in which the world lives to-day. He typified the arrogance of the white man. The Afro-Asians have been forgotten by him. The right honorable gentleman talked in the terms that would have been used by some one talking at the time of the Boer War.
As is usual when members of the Country Party attempt to discuss a particular matter, the Acting Prime Minister did not get to the point. He never touched the question of the arrogance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when representing Australia overseas. That is the point we want to drive home to-day. Instead of adverting to that matter, the right honorable gentleman danced like a rabbit in front of his burrow, defending his kittens in Possum Paddock.
We have a cause here to-day, and only ten minutes in which to substantiate it. However, I think I should repeat the description given by the Leader of the Opposition of the matter of urgent public importance which he proposed for discussion. Unfortunately the Acting Prime Minister left the matter completely out of all his calculations. The words used by the Leader of the Opposition were, these -
The arrogant and the provocative statements made by the Prime Minister after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference on the question of South Africa.
Our charge of arrogance and provocation has yet to be answered. I contend that the Prime Minister’s statement was an arrogant one. It was an unhappy combination of arrogance and old brandy, in my view.
– It is something that has to be challenged. We are not making any apologies to-day. We want to rouse the Australian Government to an awareness of its opportunities and its duties overseas. All we get from the Prime Minister is a complaint such as, “ They have pushed my mate out of the Prime Ministers’ club “. We do not care whom they push out of the Prime Ministers’ club, so long as justice, sanity and common sense are restored in a world that has swayed completely away from the concept that our Prime Minister has had of it.
The Acting Prime Minister asked us, “ What do you mean by arrogance? Why don’t you specify it? “ I will specify it, and I will quote from the transcript of the Prime Minister’s own speech in doing so. He said -
If the general public or the people at United Nations don’t like it they can jump in the Serpentine.
He said, further -
I believe in the British Commonwealth with “ fa:lh in my guts “.
I would say there was plenty of room for manoeuvre in those circumstances. But we want to pose this suggestion: Never mind about faith in your guts; think rather about love in your heart. What about the picture of Sharpeville, with dead men and women lying in the roadway? When one thinks of that, does it matter a hoot what Mr. Verwoerd said, or whether he is in or out of the Commonwealth? He is out of it in the conscience of the Australian people and of all fair-minded people in the world, because of his policy.
It is all very well for the Prime Minister to be dramatic about these events after they have been concluded. Inside the conference he was quite peaceful and, according to the statements he made there, he indicated acceptance of the resolutions that were carried and of their consequences. It is only when he gets outside the conference that he indulges in these bursts of arrogance. He is indeed the enfant terrible of our peripatetic Prime Ministers. In the United Nations he made an arrant fool of himself. He did not even bother to find out what the great Afro-Asian group was doing about the matter then before the assembly, but rushed in with a resolution that was convincingly crushed. That was not a good performance. One of his own ex-Ministers made some remarks to-night, using the typical double talk of the Liberal-Country Party Government. He said that we ought to have two Ministers for External Affairs, because there is a lot of work for them. He implied that the present one was doing nothing. If he had had the guts which the Prime Minister speaks about he would have said, “ We ought to sack the Prime Minister as an utterly incompetent Minister for External Affairs, never at any time representing the faith and aspirations and beliefs of the Australian people”. The Prime Minister said that since the early days he had had a great vision of the Commonwealth; a great vision of his duty. What vision does he see? As the great White Sahib he sees himself as a great statesman in London. But what about the sixteen new African nations? What about the people at the United Nations listening to this man? What about our children and our children’s children who will live in this country? We cannot be protected by Whitehall any more. We have to live in a community in Asia. We belong to a multi-racial unit. The Commonwealth of Nations itself is multi-racial, but all we hear from our Prime Minister is arrogance. I would say that 99 per cent, of Australians would not, in their wildest dreams, be associated with the Prime Minister of South Africa. The thought would be abhorrent to them. It is a bad thing that our Prime Minister said, “ I also have my problems in regard to immigration “ - trying to trade the White Australia policy for comradeship with the Prime Minister of South Africa. This is a serious matter and it has been dealt with in arrogance.
The Acting Prime Minister, to his eternal credit, has given us an opportunity to discuss this subject to-day, but he did not deliver a speech in which there was any real essence. He did not give us any real reason why we should not pursue this matter. The Prime Minister said that apartheid in South Africa was a matter of domestic policy. Surely that is the most fatal thing that could be said. Hitler’s domestic policy eventually led to the incineration of 6,000,000 Jews, the breaking up of the unions and the murder of union leaders. The domestic policy of tyrants is the concern of the world. We should concern ourselves with the domestic policy of tyrants. The Prime Minister’s little, pinch-penny attitude to these matters has filled us with horror on this side of the House.
The Prime Minister presented a defence of the high priest of apartheid, whether he believes in it or not. He has a yes-no, off-again-on-again, Finnegan’s idea of economic policy, and nobody knows what he really stands for; but he said that he had no time for the United Nations. He said that, at the United Nations, one might listen to the representatives of 45 natrons making speeches lasting two and a half hours each, but that he would rather listen to what was said at home. He said -
I do not mind if 99 nations at New York go on making speeches lasting two and a half hours each . . . Nothing will ever persuade me that you can identify the exquisite personal relations of the Commonwealth with the debating society that goes on in New York . . .
Are we to give away the United Nations because the Prime Minister has a comradely pat on the shoulder for the murderer of Sharpeville? Are we going to pass these things by? It is no good the Government scuttling into its burrow. It has to answer these things. It is a matter of high policy, of international importance, and the honour of human dignity and the human soul. Every time the Prime Minister puts his comradely arm around the shoulders of Verwoerd he encourages him to another slaughter of the Bantu people. Never mind about his moral guts! If any man has Christian principles he will say to the people of South Africa, “ It is about time that the Christians, the wise and the educated communities of the world, came to aid you - not to oppose you - in the exploitation that has taken place over the last 300 years “.
Therefore, in our attack on the Prime Minister we do not intend to pull any punches. The Acting Prime Minister made no case at all because he did not know what he was talking about. He has no concern about the matter. But surely in this House we should answer this prime question - this primitive, simple question: Upon which side do we arraign ourselves? I advise honorable members with narrow electoral margins not to be caught up in this horror for the purposes of a vote. They have to stand up for what the Australian people believe in and they do not believe in slaughter and decimation of minorities. Australians, whether Liberals, Country Party or Labour, have always been for the under-dog. Yet our Prime Minister says to all the press of the world, in London, “ I am in favour of the tyrant who put the Africans down “. He does not say it in so many words but he says, “ I am grieved and deeply troubled “, and he uses all the ponderous hyperbole which, in essence, means that he is always with the rulers. He is always with the top dogs and he cannot think in terms of Sharpeville, in terms of Angola, in terms of the Congo, and in terms of the agony that is wrenching the world. He lives in a hemisphere surrounded by colour but he talks as if he was safe m Belgrave Square or in Mayfair for the rest of his life.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have not been long in this House but in the time that I have been here I have not heard the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) hold up as an illustration of oppression what occurred in Hungary and point to the bodies in the streets. In the United Nations, when somebody had what was thought by the Soviet to be the effrontery to call attention to the Soviet’s treatment of captive nations, the Rumanians, at the instigation no doubt of the Soviet bloc, upset the whole meeting by claiming that this was a domestic matter into which the United Nations ought not to go.
What is the Labour Party really saying? The honorable member for Parkes got very close to saying it - that there is no domestic policy in this country into which the rest of the world cannot pry and, by weight of numbers, overturn. That is his proposition, because his remarks left no domestic policy which could be kept for the Australian people themselves to work out and decide, free from pressure of numbers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has seen a great risk in the dramatic change that has taken place in the Commonwealth - and it has been dramatic. At one moment there was a group of men who could sit down and quietly talk, seeking to influence one another in all the legitimate ways one can adopt in conversation, passing no resolutions but going away with their minds, perhaps unconsciously, moulded and affected. In this manner Commonwealth countries could assist each other through their best men. At one moment that was the position. What was it at the next moment? The Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers became a place where numbers counted - that was all. I should have thought that the Australian Labour Party would have been very quick to get in behind the Prime Minister and the Government parties in saying, “This is something which we really do not want to happen “. That is all the Prime Minister has said, and I should imagine that he said it without ranting but with forceful and clear words.
Where is this alleged arrogance? I have read the speeches and I am wondering whether the Opposition could pick me out some phrase that shows arrogance. There was the expression about jumping in the lake - and that is what the Serpentine is. I have used the expression - we have all used it, without any degree of arrogance, but with firmness. Does any real Australian deny that he would say that to anybody who came to this country and said, “ We will determine your domestic policy “? Would any of us not say, “ You can go and jump in the lake “ ? It is firmness. It has been said in the interests of this country and with a long-term, far-sighted view; not for the sake of a general election this year, not for the sake of any personal popularity, not for the sake of cheer chasing or anything of that sort; but because the Prime Minister has a deep love of this country in his heart and nothing more. I have heard from the Leader of the Opposition the remark that our Prime Minister began to talk after the conference, whereas the other Prime Ministers did not, and that is broadly true. It is to his very great credit, because the Prime Minister was wise enough not to burn his boats or have his bridges down before he went to the conference. The other Prime Ministers - or some of them - did, and because of their utterances they found themselves not quite as free as they might have liked to be to do the things which really ought to have been done or not to do the things which ought not to have been done in this conference. The Prime Minister was silent.
It will be remembered that the Prime Minister pointed out in this House that it was a signal and important necessity that there should be people in the Commonwealth of Nations who could assist each other. When the discussions had finished and the die was cast he did speak and speak clearly. He took several occasions to traverse much the same ground and he put his strong point of view as to what effect this dramatic change in the circumstances of the Commonwealth might have for all of us.
There is a line to which T wish to refer in the first press statement to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) called attention. Let me read it to the House, if I may. On 15th March the Prime Minister said -
The debate was of a frankness and intimacy which, in my experience, is possible only in a meeting of Prime Ministers.
And his experience is probably second to none among those who were there! He continued -
It is, I think, deplorable that it can never be conducted in such a forum and atmosphere again.
– What does h mean?
– The “ it “ refers - this is as plain as a pikestaff - to a discussion with South Africa in a Prime
Ministers conference. It is tragic because, as the Prime Minister pointed out, South Africa is not a government but a group of people, black, coloured and white, who will never again - unless some small miracle takes place and South Africa comes back into the Commonwealth of Natrons - be able to have the assistance that is to be gained when top men sit down and get the benefit of frank and clear discussion, not inhibited by the fact that there is a pressman or somebody else just outside the door to whom one has to accommodate oneself in a discussion. In that passage to which the Leader of the Opposition called attention the Prime Minister stated clearly what the real tragedy is, because South Africa has a problem which we are lucky not to have.
I have said in this House previously that an approach to the problem of the South African situation calls for a great deal of tolerance and good feeling. The people of South Africa are going to need a great deal of assistance in the course of the years and they will not now get it through the Commonwealth of Nations. That is the tragedy, and that is the change that has taken place. Do not worry, for the moment, about whether we are involved in it. Just look at it as a change taking place in the utility and the great advantages of this very remarkable Commonwealth of Nations.
I know that members of the Opposition have great trouble in thinking of a group of men who can sit down in club and afterwards not tell others what has happened; men who can trust each other and discuss things frankly. The Opposition knows nothing of that, but this side of the House does. We know what it is to sit down and trust one another and keep our mouths shut about what has happened. This is one of the great advantages that the Commonwealth offers this group of young peoples and soon there will be more of them - S’erra Leone and Tanganyika. Even those which have recently come in are not very strong yet and they need this very advantage. They need a foregathering place where men can exchange ideas and one nation derives benefit from the experience of the others.
Australia has a very long and honorable experience in government. We have inherited great traditions and we are useful to people like those of South Africa. We may not succeed with one government or Prime Minister, but governments and Prime Ministers come and go over the years. The people whom the Opposition appears to feel most for are those who will suffer most because of this event. They are the coloured and black people who will be virtually unrepresented and unable to get any assistance. These are the people for whom one should feel when we realize, with the Prime Minister, what has taken place.
Let me now turn to what both speakers on the other side of the House referred to. They seem to think that because the Prime Minister was forthright the Asian and African nations would somehow be repelled. I think that is one of the silliest ideas I know of, because the African and Asian people want to be treated as equals. That means that they want to be criticized just as two white men will criticize each other.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– This afternoon, amazingly enough, the House has heard the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) openly criticizing in this Parliament the conduct of the Prime Ministers of fellow Commonwealth countries, and that is a deplorable thing indeed. It is an unfortunate development of a very bitter situation that the Commonwealth of Nations is facing at the moment. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) was unworthy enough to suggest that the Labour Party was merely using this as an opportunity to sneer at the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), for electioneering purposes. On the contrary, I suggest that what the Labour Party has done in this House this afternoon will meet the overwhelming wishes of the Australian people who have been dismayed and amazed at the utterances of the Prime Minister in London in the last few days.
The Acting Minister for External Affairs, who is tactless enough in this House publicly to criticize the conduct of Commonwealth Prime Ministers at the conference, was also extraordinarily foolish enough this afternoon to say that he regarded the Prime Ministers sitting in conference as members of a club who could talk things over, trust one another and keep their mouths shut about what had happened.
The great criticism against the Prime Minister is that he will not keep his mouth shut about what has happened. Instead, he has come out of this completely confidential gathering of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and has stirred up trouble all over London by revealing what took place inside the conference, which no other member of the conference has done.
– Prove that statement.
– I will. He did that, to the pleasure of the enemies of the British Commonwealth all throughout the world. There is an amazing contrast between the tone of the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister in this House and the tone of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) when the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth was announced last Thursday and the tone of the statement since made by the Prime Minister and echoed by the Acting Prime Minister in the House this afternoon. It is a complete and most unfortunate change of attitude.
Two entirely separate issues were decided by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in London. The first was the issue of apartheid, and I am certain that it was to the satisfaction of the great majority of the people of the British Commonwealth that once a decision upon that matter became inevitable it went against apartheid and in favour of the departure of South Africa instead of being in favour of the departure of a number of the new AfroAsian nations which have recently joined this Commonwealth with faith and trust in its adherence to the principles of justice in the world. But the Prime Minister of Australia, alone among all those who attended the conference, has been the one man who has spoken no word in moral disapproval of the policy of apartheid - none whatever.
– That is not true.
– Indeed, in his speech last night he justified it up to the hilt as a policy of separate development. The only criticism that the Prime Minister has made of the policy of apartheid is that it will not work. Otherwise he has no objection to it whatever.
– Could you ever stick to the truth in one of your speeches?
– Do not be more offensive than you have to be.
– I quote from the Prime Minister’s statement last night “ that a foundation member of the British Commonwealth - South Africa - was, in effect, told to leave “.
What right did the Prime Minister of Australia have to say that? We know the circumstances, to which the Acting Prime Minister referred in the House last Thursday, in which South Africa left the Commonwealth. Did the Prime Minister make this statement in order to help to preserve the unity of the British Commonwealth or in an endeavour to spread disunity and resentment among its members? Why else did he make it? What is his purpose in conducting this campaign in London, in which he betrays every secret of the discussion that took place between the Commonwealth Prime Ministers on that occasion? Here we speak about the arrogance of the Prime Minister. I ask whether this is not arrogance -
Here is a time of passion and rhetoric, broad sweeping statements, the kind of things you expect to have in the United Nations Assembly but not in the British Commonwealth.
Whom is he criticizing here? First, the United Nations General Assembly, to which he purports to stand superior; secondly, his fellow Prime Ministers in the British Commonwealth conference. In his arrogance he condemns and criticizes them both. Then I refer to his next statement. Why did he say this?
Next time it might be Australia. How do I know? We have things in our policy which are our policy and our business.
Why does he trail hrs coat? Why is he inviting an attack on Australia’s policy in the conference of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers? Again, as an example of arrogance, take this statement -
T would not tolerate having these things discussed by other people. I would not tolerate being lectured by other people on what we ought to do.
He would not even tolerate having them discussed! He would not tolerate being lec tured! What kind of language is that in the modern world in which we are trying to build the unity and the strength of the members of the British Commonwealth? Then he goes on - and here is the most extraordinary statement of all, because it is an attack upon the policies of other British Commonwealth countries -
But who talks about the rule of Parliament, the rule of law? I could very well have a word or two to say about some of these things like imprisonment without trial, if the drill is that in the Commonwealth this is to be changed so that we’re sitting in judgment.
Then he goes on -
I am bound to tell you I will have something to say about that, and by the time I have said it, by the time the answers have been made, there won’t be any Commonwealth, because we will all have expelled each other.
This is the Prime Minister of Australia, speaking last night. Let me repeat his words -
That was the Prime Minister of this country speaking in the interests of the unity of the British Commonwealth of Nations and in the interests of the people of Australia, in London last night - arrogance, intolerance, provocation! Listen to this! -
I do not mind if 99 nations at New York go on making speeches.
This is Mr. Menzies. He is referring to the proceedings of the United Nations in a most contemptuous and derogatory way. He goes on - . . what hurts me is that this great Commonwealth is being dragged into this area of thought which has no relation to it.
Can you beat that for arrogance, intolerance or provocation? Let me finish the quotation, which goes on -
Nothing will ever persuade me that you can identify the exquisite personal relations of a Commonwealth with the debating society that goes on in New York.
That is his public estimation of the United Nations upon which the hope of all the ordinary and peaceable people in the world to-day depends. Is that open sneering, open provocation, open arrogant attack?
Of course, in doing these things he is injuring Australia and the cause of the
Australian people, and is provoking the very people in whose part of the world we live whom we have been glad to welcome into this British Commonwealth. He is taking the very steps that will either drive them out of the British Commonwealth or incite them to criticize and challenge Australia’s policy in the proceedings of the British Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference. That is the amazing, inexplicable behaviour of the Australian Prime Minister following this conference in London. He had a right to put his point of view there. He put it, and he lost, and ever since he lost he has been squealing louder and louder every day. By publicly expressing the extent of disunity, opposition and quarrelling that he says went on inside that conference, as I say, he has given joy to every enemy of the British Commonwealth throughout the world and caused grief to all its friends, and he is doing his utmost, wittingly or unwittingly, deliberately or not, to injure the interests of this country.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Australian Labour Party has sunk very low in recent years, but it has never sunk so low, nor resorted to lower parliamentary tactics, than it has in this debate this afternoon. What it has done has been to make a cheap personal attack upon a man who is not here to defend himself. The Labour Party has not had before it the Prime Minister’s own account of what he said and what he did. It has based its charges on newspaper accounts. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) waved under our noses newspapers giving their version of what happened. I am not prepared to accept these newspaper versions of what the leader of this country said, because, as one spokesman for the press has gone on record over the weekend as saying - and this could hardly be misreporting, because it is reported in his own newspaper -
In the government of this country there is clearly a lack of an effective opposition. The press must take on the position of being the unofficial Opposition.
So, Sir, anything I read in the press of this country - certainly anything that I read in those sections of it which have set them selves up as the unofficial Opposition - I read with that proviso in my mind. Why has the Opposition chosen this moment at which to make a personal attack upon the Prime Minister? Honorable gentlemen opposite know that he is going to be back in this Parliament when we meet again. They know that he is going to be here in his place able to give us his own account of the things he said and how he came to say them. The Prime Minister is a man who holds strong views, of course, and can express himself more articulately than any other man in the public life of this country. Why do not members of the Opposition have the sportsmanship and the sense of fair play to wait until the Prime Minister is in his place here and able to speak for himself and answer, for himself, the cheap sneers and jibes that members of the Opposition have been throwing across the table? The reason that they do not wait for that is because they do not want to issue a fair challenge, they do not want to subject their attack to rebuttal by the facts. One might class them as a lot of jackals yelping at the heels of a lion, who flee as the lion turns to face them, but of course they do not measure up even to that. They do not even wait for the lion to be in the neighbourhood. They just come yelping and hoping that he will not return in a hurry to discomfit them. It is not their way to do otherwise. If they think that to-day’s performance here can weaken the esteem in which the Prime Minister, who has held his distinguished office for a record term and who has had a succession of victories at the polls against honorable gentlemen opposite, is held by the people of this country, they are very much mistaken.
There is no proper opportunity for us this afternoon to go into the merits of the South African decision or all its implications. After the Prime Minister had stated publicly in London that he was troubled by that development the Leader of the Opposition expressed his regret for what had happened and his hope that South Africa would be back in the Commonwealth at some point of time. Is he not troubled by the loss from the Commonwealth of one of its foundation members who has stood with us through two great world wars and who has joined us to fight for the freedom of mankind against the challenges which have confronted us? Is it surprising that our own Prime Minister, in the thick of these discussions, with the weight of responsibility upon him and seeing more clearly than many less experienced around that conference table the implications of decisions then being taken, felt strongly, as I believe our fellow Australians feel, and that he spoke strongly on these matters for Australia? Here was a great Commonwealth principle and course of action being jettisoned.
Let us not debate at this time - we shall have a more adequate opportunity later - the merits of, in effect, casting South Africa out of the Commonwealth on a matter of domestic concern. Of course, there are differences of opinion as to how far a domestic issue can go beyond the boundaries of a nation before it becomes an issue of concern to the Commonwealth as a whole, but unless such a contingency is so exceptional that it is not likely to occur more than once in a lifetime or once in a century, how can our Commonwealth proceed? Certainly it can never hope to proceed with the intimacy and co-operation that we have enjoyed in the past.
To-day, we have had from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) one of the most poisonous speeches that I have ever heard from him. When he throws at this Government the accusation that its leader, the Prime Minister, has no heart, that he has no regard for the coloured people of South Africa, when he sinks to the depth of throwing around in this House the name of Sharpeville, then it is time for us to remind honorable gentlemen opposite that there have been episodes in recent history when they were in power and we were gravely embarrassed and Australia was greatly prejudiced by the course of action which they pursued.
– Which episodes?
– I shall cite some. On more than one occasion I have paid a tribute to the great job that the Leader of the Opposition did in relation to our immigration policy, but when it came to the practical application of the restrictive immigration aspects of that policy no man did more to threaten it than did that honorable gentleman by the ham-fisted way in which he antagonized the people of other nations. There was the case of the O’Keefe family in Indonesia which was on the front page of every newspaper in Asia. His attitude in that case caused us grave embarrassment. Then there was the ill feeling which was whipped up in the Philippines because of his handling of the Sergeant Gamboa case. Then there was the cheap sneer that he made on more than one occasion about the Wong family, which was thrown across the headlines of journals throughout Asia. He said, “ Two Wongs don’t make a white “. Those are things that honorable gentlemen opposite would do well to remember when they start to throw brickbats in our direction.
Even more recently we have had the de facto head of the Labour Party, who is not a member of this Parliament - I refer to the present federal secretary and former federal president of the Labour Party - giving tongue to his views and to his warmth of heart in terms which have been quoted by a respected correspondent, Homer Bigart, in the authoritative “New York Times “. Following an interview with Mr. Chamberlain, on 27th February, this was how Mr. Bigart reported Mr. Chamberlain’s attitude to the people of Taiwan -
He could not see why the United States, now that it has a new Administration, should have any qualms about letting Taiwan go to Communist China. Face could be saved by quietly fomenting a revolution in Taiwan against Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, he suggested. The United States did this in Seoul to get rid of Syngman Rhee and it could do it in Taipei, said Mr. Chamberlain seriously.
This is the foreign policy of the Labour Party - “ Hand over the people of Formosa to the Communists. Start a revolution. You did it on one occasion and you can do it again. What does it matter what happens to them? “
We rn this place are proud of our leader. We know that the Commonwealth is proud of the leadership that Mr. Menzies gives when he goes to the conferences of Prime Ministers in London. When he returns to this country and is able to face his accusers of to-day - the Labour Party which has sunk as low as I ever expected it to sink, but which in all probability will sink a great deal lower - he will tell them in his own terms just where he stood for Australia, and invite them to challenge the validity of his stand.
– Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2 1st March (vide page 439). on motion by Mr. Chipp -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator be agreed to -
May it Please Your Excellency-
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- I am pleased to have the opportunity to takepart in the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech that was delivered by the Administrator on the occasion of the opening of the third session of the Twenty-third Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. At the outset, I wish to congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion - the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) and the honor- able member for Calare (Mr. England) respectively. These were their maiden speeches. Both honorable members spoke very well.
I have listened carefully to the debate and have also read the Administrator’s Speech closely.I believe that Australia must continue to be strong in its membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations.I also favour, and have always supported strongly, our alliance with the United States of America. Our association with the United States has not always been supported by the Opposition, but I believe that, above all, we must have strong allies. It does not make much difference whether we have good crops, a strong economy or bountiful seasons if we cannot defend the country.If we came under the power of an invader all would be. lost. Therefore, I believe that our future lies in our adherence to strong allies.
Members of the Opposition are already beginning to interject. On many occasions they have criticized this Government’s association with the United States. They have said that American influence on Australia is too strong. I believe that the British people have had much more influence on America from the very beginning than America could ever have on this country or on any British country. Therefore, I say to the Opposition: If you are not going to have as our allies the strong United States and also the British Commonwealth countries, who are you going to have? After all, the two world wars have shown us that we are a community of nations and we must look to each other for protection. I affirm to-day my strong support for Australia’s close association with the United States and the free nations of the world.
Listening to this debate, I found many inaccuracies in speeches of members of the Opposition and I want to put them right at the outset. After reading the Administrator’s Speech, I listened last night to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue). The honorable member referred to the Governor-General, the late Lord Dunrossil, as a man who was loved by Australia. I liked to hear the honorable member say that. Lord Dunrossil was loved here just as he was loved overseas before he came to Australia. Referring to the Governor-General’s Speech delivered on 8th March, 1960, the honorable member for West Sydney said that His Excellency read the Speech on behalf of the Government with the greatest sincerity. I heard the Speech and I know that is true. But the honorable member went on to say - but that was the end of it. No one word of it was carried into effect during the ensuing twelve months; and this Government stands condemned for having brought the country to its present condition.
I challenge the honorable member for West Sydney. Can he tell me one thing in Lord Dunrossil’s Speech that has not been put into effect or is not in the course of being put into effect? I have read through the Speech, which is not very long and has not many vital passages.
– The Governor-General did not write it.
– It does not matter whether he wrote it or not. The honorable member for West Sydney said that nothing in the Speech had been carried out. I say that everything has been carried out or is in the course of being put into effect. The Governor-General said, for example -
My Government is willing to participate in the World Bank scheme for settlement of the Indus Waters question.
Action is being taken in that direction. The Governor-General referred to many other matters. He said -
My advisers have informed me that, whilst employment and production are high and increasing and all branches of trade are active, there are trends in the economy which have been causing them concern.
That is more than twelve months ago. His Excellency continued -
In particular, costs and prices have been rising at an increasing rate. My advisers believe that if these were allowed to continue it would bring needless hardship to a great many people and it would imperil the stability upon which Australia depends.
They have therefore decided upon certain courses of policy of which the broad aim is to counter these untoward tendencies, restore balance between demand and supply and bring the rise in costs and prices to an end.
The Opposition has been saying that the financial restrictions introduced by the Government only recently were unheralded. The honorable member for West Sydney has said that not one thing mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech last year has been put into effect. That is not a fact. The things that were mentioned in the Speech have been carried out. The restriction of credit was foreshadowed in the Speech last year yet members of the Labour Party have risen time and time again and have said that nobody had any idea that the Government would bring down these restrictions. They forget these things. I do not say they forget them deliberately, but they do come into this Parliament and unthinkingly make statements that have no foundation of truth. It is time some one rebutted such statements here. Many other things are said by honorable members which need clarification. Let me now turn to some of the things said by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in order to illustrate how members of the Labour Party exaggerate. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, how can you believe speeches by members of the Labour Party when I can quote such glaring inaccuracies as appear in a statement which I am about to quote and which appeared in yesterday’s “ Hansard “? When the honorable member for Hunter was speaking about the plight of poultry-farmers in the Paterson electorate as the result of the lifting of certain import restrictions, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) interjected “ Canned chickens! “ Probably he was trying to prompt the honorable member for Hunter, who replied -
Yes, £3,000,000 worth of canned chickens has been brought into this country since the lifting of import restrictions!
Just fancy, £3,000,000 worth.
– Yes. That is right.
– Now the honorable member says: “Yes. That is right”. Canned chicken to the value of £3,000,000 was not brought into this country.
– Not 3,000,000 pounds in weight.
– I have said nothing about weight. The honorable member said that £3,000,000 worth had been brought in. I heard him say that, and the “ Hansard “ report is accurate on the point. It states that he said £3,000,000 worth was brought in. I questioned the Department of Trade to ascertain the facts and I learn that much less than £300,000 worth of canned chicken was imported. When an honorable member makes a statement like that, one is led to wonder whether the rest of his speech contains any truth. I notice that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) is laughing. He knows that what I say is true. He knows that my proposition is a fair one. The honorable member for Hunter is a very good chap, and I think it only right to suggest that he should obtain the correct figure and then admit in this House that he had mis-stated the position when he spoke last night.
– A member of the Country Party supplied the information.
– All I can say in reply to that is that the honorable member must have more faith in the Country Party than he says he has, and that the Country Party man must have been wrong on this occasion. But even if somebody did give the honorable member wrong information, is it not time for him to admit that his information was wrong? I think it is. I do not want to be continually attacking members of the Labour Party because, although I do not agree with their policies, generally speaking, they are personal friends of mine. As I have said on many occasions, I do not attack persons; I attack policies, and I have ample scope for attacking the policy of the Labour Party.
Much has been said about the Country Party. I notice that the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) is smiling. I remind him that he said last night that in the electorates of Calare and Richmond, and a number of other country areas in which he had participated in by-election campaigns, he found things to be not as they should be. He also said -
Country Party leaders generally are traitors to the interests of the primary producers.
The honorable member for Cunningham helped in the by-election campaign in the electorate of Calare, an area represented by my esteemed friend who sits behind me in this House now. During that campaign, the honorable member for Cunningham said that the leaders of the Country Party generally were traitors to the country people. What happened. He was supporting a Labour candidate, and that Labour candidate suffered an ignominious defeat. The new honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) is a member of the Country Party, and we are proud of him. He has already made his mark in this House. He is representing the country people and the many town-dwellers of rural areas in a way in which no member of the Labour Party, who is restricted so greatly by executive control, could hope to do.
I think the member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) is somewhere about.
– The honorable member for Bass.
– 1 am pleased to call him the “ honorable member “, for he is quite a good fellow. The honorable member became quite annoyed while the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) was speaking, and when he rose to follow the honorable member for La Trobe in the debate he said this -
Let me inform him-
That is, the honorable member for La Trobe - that every member on this side of the House, if he wishes to do so, or if he has reason to do so, is entitled to criticize both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Let me make that point for the ‘benefit of the honorable member for Lilley also, because he knows only too well that if the honorable member for La Trobe criticizes his Leader or Deputy Leader he will be where the honorable member for Lilley is now and will remain there.
I was in the House when the honorable member for Bass made his speech, and I looked across the chamber and saw the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) sitting in his accustomed place. He was smiling. He seemed to be quite happy and satisfied. From looking at him, I could not see that any dire fate had befallen him. My memory went back to a colleague in this Parliament, a member of the Labour Party and a friend of mine, Mr. Chambers, who represented the electorate of Adelaide. I also remembered Mr. Vic Johnson, from Kalgoorlie. Both of those gentlemen criticized the Leader of the Labour Party, and where are they now? Are they sitting in this House, like the honorable member for Lilley is doing? Or have they been banned from the Parliament because they dared to say something against their leader? The important point is that they were put out of the Parliament because they dared to question the party leadership. If any member of the Labour Party dares to say anything at all about his leader he will lose his endorsement.
Another person who is considered to be a prominent member of the Labour Party, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), also spoke recently. He said -
For some years, many people throughout Australia thought that this country was prosperous. Unemployment seemed to be gone forever. The worker could get overtime or a second job and the businessman could rely on untaxed capital appreciation to keep him well ahead of inflation.
The worker could get overtime! Does not every member of this Parliament know that many unions have banned overtime? Does not this Federal Parliament know that railway stations in Victoria are still not manned at night time because the worker is not allowed to work overtime?
– Overtime is not banned. It is an award condition.
– Does not this Parliament know that a strike occurred in Victoria because the Labour organizations, the unions, which are supported by the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party, opposed the working of overtime? Of course the workers could not get overtime; it was not allowed!
The honorable member for Yarra also said that a man could have two jobs. He is approving of a man’s having two jobs! Is it not a fact that in the past the Labour Party’s policy was one man one job? Has that gone by the board now? Does the Labour Party say now that a man can have as many jobs as he likes? It would seem that it does because the honorable member for Yarra has objected to the fact that a man now cannot get two jobs. 1 could go on and on referring to things said by various members of the Labour Party. For instance, the other night the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), who sits near me in this chamber, referred to the fact that a number of men who were unemployed went to Mildura, in my electorate, to pick grapes. I interjected, “ Yes, and 72 of them were in gaol at the week-end “ He replied, “ What a reflection on the workers for the honorable member for Mallee to say that!” I agree that it was a reflection on the workers. Of course all the workers who went to Mildura were not of that class. Many of the men and women who go there to pick grapes are excellent types and efficient workers, but I venture the opinion that before long the Labour Party will be adding to the number of unemployed these 72 workers who were in gaol and who had to queue up for about two hours while the watchhouse keeper was booking them in. When they get out of gaol and leave Mildura, these 72 workers, who are undesirables, will apply for work and will be added to the number of unemployed. Even the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) will include them in his figures relating to the number of people who are out of work. This sort of thing is happening all the time.
I should like now to refer to the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who spoke about the wool industry. Fancy the honorable member for Wills speaking about the wool industry! He said - and this is worth noting -
What is the use of running a wool-promotion campaign when we sell all the wool we produce? Every fibre of wool produced is sold already, and there is no carry-over.
What an incredible statement for an honorable member to make. If ten blocks of land were to be sold in Canberra, they could perhaps be sold without any advertising, which is really only sales promotion; but if they were offered for sale after some publicity had been given to them, they could bring £200 or £300 more than they otherwise would. The same argument applies with the sale of livestock. The price of cattle, sheep and lambs sold at, say, Homebush or Newmarket fluctuates up and down; it does not remain constant. But when the demand is strong, the price goes up. Therefore, I say that whether you have a reserve price for wool within the auction system or not a buoyant demand is essential to satisfactory marketing. The only way to have a buoyant demand is to advertise the product, and advertising means the promotion of wool all over the world. This will induce more buyers to come to the sales. If a reserve price within the auction system is good, let us have it; but after all it is the buoyant demand for wool that will keep competition strong and the price high.
Much has been said about various industries. When the wheat stabilization plan was being discussed about 1948, before most honorable members came here - I do not mean the honorable member for Brisban (Mr. Lawson) - he was here long before I was - I pointed out that near the top of Flinders-street Station in Melbourne there was a neon sign calling for youth employees for the railways at £12 to £13 a week. At the same time, the wheat-grower, who was an owner-operator, was allowed £361 8s. per annum for his work in the computation of the cost of production. This was not much more than half the amount offered to young railway employees. With Australian Country Party agitation and the cooperation of the Government, the allowance to wheat-growers has been increased to £1,079, and this has meant a tremendous difference for primary producers.
– How many hours a week would that represent?
– I could not say, long hours but they vary. I asked a question yesterday about the sale of wheat to mainland China. My question was -
Are recent sales of Australian wheat to mainland China in any way restricting our sales of this product in traditional markets, or are these sales of wheat to mainland China only assisting in reducing Australia’s wheat surplus?
I knew what the answer of the Minister for Primary Industry would be; I asked the question because I wanted to give some publicity to this matter. The Minister said that these sales were not restricting the sale of wheat in traditional markets, but would help to reduce our surplus. The Minister has announced that this year we will have 250,000,000 bushels of wheat for sale. Australia takes about 60,000,000 bushels for home consumption and of the remaining 190,000,000 bushels, 100,000,000 bushels are guaranteed at the cost of production under the stabilzation plan. This leaves 90,000,000 bushels for sale on the open market. To hear members of the Australian Labour Party speak, one would think the Government owned this wheat and sells it. The Australian Wheat Board sells the wheat for the growers and if the wheat is not sold overseas the growers are the losers. As our traditional markets are not being affected by the sale to mainland China and as we are only selling our surplus, I agree that the sale to mainland China should be made.
I have very little time left in which to speak and I should like to deal with the Government’s present policy. Surely no one believes that the primary producer could continue to sell most of his products overseas and at the same time purchase what he needs in Australia’s high cost economy. Of course he could not, and something had to be done. The Government abandoned import licensing and has now brought in restrictions to slow down the amount of imports. I believe its policy will be successful and this will do away with the unbalance that has existed between primary production and secondary production. On many occasions in this House I have advocated that our secondary industries should be built up, but that we should not do this at the expense of primary production. After all, this country is still dependent, above all else, on the products of the soil and if the primary producer cannot produce in this economy and sell his goods overseas satisfactorily, his production will not continue at its present level. This will mean that the amount available for the purchase of raw materials overseas will be reduced and that our secondary industries will not be able to import sufficient raw materials for their requirements. Unemployment will then reach a point that has never been known in this country before.
Therefore, 1 support the Government’s policy. Although we have some unemployment now - and I regret this - the Government is safeguarding the employment position for the future. Any thinking man must know that this country could not continue as it was with secondary industries unable to export because of the high cost of production, and primary producers unable to afford the purchase of the goods that would enable them to continue and expand production, and export to world markets the products that are the life-blood of the Australian economy.
– It is always a pleasure to follow the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in any debate, because his manner is so engaging that the small audience that is left by the time he h?.s finished speaking is usually in a good frame of mind. I hope that I will not unduly disturb the lessening audience.
It has been customary in recent years for the Speech put into the hands of the ViceRegal representative at the formal opening of the Parliament to contain some boastful reference to the housing achievements of the Government. I find it significant that the Speech presented by His Excellency the Administrator several weeks ago contained no reference to housing. The usual boastful reference is completely missing. It may be that the Government has realized at last that you cannot fool all the people all the time and indeed that you cannot fool all the people even some of the time. The Government’s housing achievements can be judged on its performance in the Australian Capital Territory where it has complete and unfettered control, where it need seek no agreement with any State government, where indeed it owns all the land and where it is the employer of probably 67 per cent, of the working population. Moreover, in this Nation-1 Capital the Government is able to state with accuracy what the population of the city will be from year to year. The city exists only for the purposes of government and the population increases only because of decisions of the Government to transfer departments to this place and so increase governmental activity here.
The Government in its eleven years of office has had ample opportunity to plan ahead for the housing of the people of this city and to construct the housing that is required. In recent years, the population of the city has increased at the rate of 5,000 a year. The exact figures are given to us by the experts in these matters who can forecast what the population will be from year to year. Canberra now has a population of 54,000 and we are told that in 1 970 it will have a population of at least 100,000 and possibly 104,000. I ask the Parliament, the Government and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who is now at the table: Where the hell will they live? On the performance of this Government, there just will not be houses for these people. We have only to look back over recent years to see what has been happening and to realize that this Government has failed miserably to provide housing for the people in a territory in which it has, as I have said, complete and unfettered control and absolute responsibility. This city exists for the purposes of government, but you cannot have a city just of public servants. You cannot build a city without the carpenters, the plumbers, the plasterers, the painters and the other tradesmen that you must have in all the branches of construction. And you will not get these people and keep them unless you can provide them with housing.
The policies of this Government not only have failed to provide adequately for the housing of the people of this Territory but also have now led the Government into a position in which it must practise discrimination between one class of citizen and another in the allocation of houses here. 1 shall develop that theme very shortly. The Government has failed, and failed miserably, to provide housing. Last year, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had occasion to raise this matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is ministerial head of the Public Service Board, which administers the Public Service, and who, in that capacity, has responsibility for the decisions which bring public servants to this place as a result of the transfer of departments, and so on.
Before I deal with that, I just want to state the present position in this city. It is all very well for members of the Parliament who come here from time to time and who are occupied with their official business while the
Parliament is sitting, and for visitors and tourists, to look about this city and see how beautiful it is. If they had an opportunity, as I and other members of the Parliament have, to look behind the pretty face of Canberra and see the misery in which hundreds of families in this city are living, they would be shocked and horrified.
– Take us on a trip about Canberra.
– I would gladly take the honorable member on a trip about Canberra and show him the misery in which these families are living. Their conditions are far worse than were those in which the farmers of the Mallee found themselves in 1930 and 1931. Recently, a Government supporter in this Parliament - a member of the Liberal Party of Australia - put to me the case of one of his former constituents who had moved to this city in the course of his work. This man and his wife and three children have no hope of obtaining housing of any kind. Although he has his name on the housing list, they can look forward to no prospect of obtaining housing in less than at least three years. The Liberal member concerned said that he was horrified to find that families in Canberra are living in shacks and shanties, in garages, and in caravans in the backyards of other people’s homes, rent being paid for the privilege. But some families are living in even worse conditions. In some instances, a man and his wife and teenage children are living in one room and paying £5 or £6 a week for the privilege of occupying it.
This Government has failed the people of this city. It has failed to provide housing in Canberra as it should. It has failed to provide housing even for its own employees, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Long ago, of course, the Commonwealth accepted the responsibility of providing housing for all sections of the community here. For years, there were two separate housing lists - one for government employees, and one for others. In those years, the waiting time for a private employee was one year longer than that for a government employee. When Sir Philip McBride was Minister for the Interior, the two separate lists were combined and an undertaking was given that housing would be provided evenly and equally for all the citizens of this Territory.
Recently, when the decision to transfer the Department of Defence and allied departments to this city was made, the then Minister for the Interior gave an assurance that the housing to be provided for defence personnel would be additional to the ordinary Canberra programme of housing. He gave an assurance in this Parliament and publicly outside it that the waiting time for those who were already on the housing list in Canberra would not be increased by the defence transfer. In fact, he said that it might well decrease. The plain fact is that the waiting time for housing in this city has increased until those who are now getting the few houses being made available to people at present on the list in Canberra - those who are being allocated houses to-day - are those who registered on 17th March, 1958. They have been waiting for three years and many of them have been living in the conditions that I have described to the House. The Government is proceeding with the transfer of defence departments to Canberra. I for one want to see every Commonwealth department transferred to this place, because I believe in the development of Canberra and I consider that all Commonwealth activities should be centred on this place. But I believe most fervently that the Government has a responsibilitiy to provide housing for all citizens on an equal basis.
– No matter how many people come to Canberra?
– The only ones who come here are those whose coming is determined by this Government.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– That is absolutely true, and the Minister knows it. There is no increase in the number of people coming to Canberra unless there is growth in government activity here. There is no growth in this city unless additional departments are transferred here, and the Minister knows it. If departments are transferred here, obviously there must be people here to build the homes, service the industries and provide the goods and services needed for the increasing population. The basic reason for the increase in population, as the Minister well knows, is the transfer of departments. The Government has it completely in its hands to provide the housing that is needed, but it has failed - and failed miserably. The mistakes that have been made over the years are being repeated.
At present, as the most recent housing return shows, there are 3,000 people on the waiting list for homes in this city.
– Where are they living?
– The honorable member has returned to the chamber since I told the House that many of these families are living in shacks, shanties, garages and all kinds of make-shift accommodation in shocking and terrible conditions.
– It is a wonder that the honorable member has not brought this up before.
– I have brought it up time and time again. I have brought it up as many times as the honorable member has brought up skeleton weed and rabbits.
– The honorable member should be fighting it.
– 1 shall be fighting it as long as I am here. I am fighting it all the time. The Government has a responsibility, and the Minister for the Interior knows it
– The Government has made this the most attractive city in Australia.
– -It may be attractive to look at, but I suggest that the honorable member ought to look behind the pretty picture of this city.
– The people of Canberra enjoy amenities that are not found in any other city in Australia.
– What, for example?
– Look at the pre-school kindergartens.
– Rubbish! The honorable member comes from Western Australia, and apparently feels that he must spring to the defence of the Minister for the Interior, who also is from Western Australia, but the honorable member does not know what he is talking about. I have mentioned the shocking things that exist behind the beautiful appearance of Canberra. I ask the honorable member to get behind that beautiful appearance. If he does, he will see that, as I am telling him from my own knowledge, there are hundreds of families who have come to Canberra from every other city in Australia and who live here in shocking conditions.
– The honorable member ought to read articles in a few newspapers other than the “ Canberra Times “.
– I am not reading any articles at the moment. I am talking about the terrible conditions in which families are living in this city. I am stating again the case that I have put time and time again to the Minister and the Department of the Interior on behalf of these people who are living, as I have said, in shacks and shanties and in conditions that should not be tolerated in any city, let alone in this planned National Capital.
– Are these people the families of Commonwealth servants?
– Many are. Some are not. But all of them have come here, and I am not concerned about whether or not they are the families of Commonwealth servants. They are citizens of Australia and they are entitled to decent housing.
I have raised this matter with the Prime Minister as the ministerial head of the Public Service Board and, therefore, in a sense, of the Public Service. I raised the matter by way of question in this House last year, and I subsequently wrote to the Prime Minister about it.
– Cannot people in Canberra get land and build for themselves?
– It is all very well for the honorable member to talk about these people getting land and building for themselves. The Government owns all the land here and it makes leases of residential blocks available at auction sales on such conditions that the Government’s friends, the entrepreneurs, can outbid the small man who wants to obtain a block of land on which to build a home for himself. It is all very well for the honorable member to talk about people building for themselves, but the Government must continue to provide housing for rental in this city if it intends to build it as a proper national capital.
– The cheapest land in Australia is available in Canberra.
– The Minister does not know what he is talking about when he says that. He is just talking nonsense. Does that sort of talk give the man who comes to work in this city a chance to obtain a block of land and build a home? Of course it does not.
– The honorable member talks about people being outbid for land. He ought to compare prices in Canberra with those in Sydney and Melbourne.
– I am talking about the small man being outbid by the big entrepreneurs. The Minister has already admitted that costs are higher in Canberra than in any other city in Australia. For that very reason, the Commonwealth takes 20 per cent, off the cost of a government-owned dwelling here in arriving at the value on which rent is assessed. The Minister knows that a house in Canberra to-day costs from £4,500 to £5,000 and that the maximum loan available is £2,750, repayable over 45 years at 4i per cent, interest. How can the working men living in Canberra - plumbers, plasterers, joiners, carpenters, busdrivers, bricklayers and the like - find the money that they would need to build a house at present-day costs here? They cannot do it. How does the Minister explain the fact that there are 3,000 people listed as waiting for homes in this city to-day, and that these people have to wait at least three years to get one? How does the Minister explain these circumstances? Let him join in this debate and give his explanation.
– Why is the cost of housing high?
– Because of the necessity to transport materials to this place.
– What about wages?
– Wages costs are the same as in any other place.
– They are always trying to blame it on wages!
– Always! I have suggested to the Prime Minister that because of the tragic situation that exists here, he should consider deferring the transfer of the defence departments to Canberra. I can see no other practical way in which the housing difficulties of people in this city can be overcome. Because of the necessity to transfer officers of those departments and their families here - sometimes 200 families at a time - it has been decided by the Government that all new housing construction, as from April of last year, shall be frozen for allocation to the defence personnel. I admit that if you must transfer departments here, and consequently bring large numbers of people here, you must obviously have housing here for them. But the Government’s building programme has been so designed that the fact that new construction must be held for defence departments personnel has meant that every other person in the community, whether working for the Government or working privately, who wants a house must wait ever and ever longer before getting one.
As I said, I have suggested to the Prime Minister that he should seriously consider a deferment of the transfer of defence departments for at least twelve months, in order to give the people already here, who have been waiting for a long time, and often in most desperate conditions, a chance of getting the houses that they need. I am not making an attack on the defence departments personnel. They are blameless. They are being transferred in the course of their employment, and, quite obviously, if they are being brought here houses must be provided for them. But in order to give justice and fair treatment to the defence departments personnel we are denying justice and fair treatment to the other citizens of Canberra, who are equally citizens of the Commonwealth and who should have an equal right to housing provided by the Government. When the Government is spending public money in building houses for the public, the benefits should be shared equally by all.
I hope the Prime Minister will discover some way to resolve the problem. The only alternative to a deferment of defence transfers for twelve months or so is to double the present rate of house construction in Canberra, and that does not seem possible of achievement, because the people who are brought here to do the actual building can find no decent housing for themselves.
The waiting time for a house is now almost exactly three years. People getting houses now are those who registered in March, 1958. The last allocation was made to an applicant who registered on 17th March, 1958. That is the waiting time for people who are prepared to take the first house offered to them, no matter what its construction or in what suburb. Because of the necessity to hold completed houses for defence transferees, the only new houses becoming available to people on the Canberra housing list, the 3,000 people I have referred to, are those which prove to be beyond the needs of the defence transferees, or, in other words, those that are not acceptable to them. The arrangement is that before being brought here the defence departments personnel are given an opportunity to study descriptions of the kinds of houses available and to make their selections from a number slightly in excess of those required for the number of transferees.
The Minister is doing his best to interject. I suggest to him that he can make his speech later. I have discussed this matter with people actually handling the housing situation. The Minister himself has said that only sixteen new houses a month are presently available to the people already in Canberra. Those getting houses now are those who registered in March, 1958. At that time registrations were being made at the rate of five a day, or 25 in a working week. This works out at 100 a month. Against the needs of those people there are only sixteen new houses a month being allocated, according to the Minister’s own figures.
– That is terrible in a city like Canberra.
– Well, that is the picture behind the Canberra that we see to-day. Let me turn to the last housing return issued by the Department of the Interior, for the quarter ended 31st December last. The total number on the waiting list at that time was 2,956. That is the list of people waiting for houses or flats. There is also a separate list of people waiting for one-bedroom flats.
– How much private building is going on?
– At that time there were more than 1,000 private homes under construction, so the private sector of the economy is doing its share in the construction of homes, while the Government has failed. At that time, also, completed houses and flats held vacant for defence personnel numbered 134.
As I have said, the only alternatives I can see are either a doubling of the rate of housing construction, which does not presently seem possible, or a deferment of defence transfers for twelve months, so that the houses already held vacant and those now being completed could be made available to the hundreds of families who are already here and waiting for a home. Over and above that number of 3,000 whose names appear on the waiting list there are literally hundreds of families with inadequate accommodation in flats constructed and owned by the Government or in houses too small for their present family needs. These people are inadequately housed because this Government, a government of the people, spending the people’s money to provide housing for the people, has built the kinds of homes that the people do not want. Against all advice previous Ministers for the Interior went ahead with programmes for building huge blocks of flats, and people in desperation took them because they could not face the prospect of waiting for years for houses. They were told that within a couple of years they would be able to move out into houses adequate to their needs, but because of the failure of the Government to implement the right kind of building programme they are not now able to move out.
When a survey was taken some time ago by the National Council of Women at the request of the National Capital Development Commission, it was found that 62 per cent, of families living in flats stated that they would prefer to live in houses. Only 15 per cent, said they preferred flat life. Of those who preferred houses, 47 per cent, said they would move out on the very day on which they were interviewed into any house in any suburb, just to get away from their flats. Because of the failure of this Government to provide adequately for the needs of the people, these people are condemned to go on living in completely inadequate accommodation. I know it is not the policy of the department, or of the Housing Branch, to put people into flats, but, as I said, families took this kind of accommodation in desperation while waiting for houses. Now they find that their families are growing up in completely unsatisfactory surroundings in the flats provided by this Government, which has not been able to honour its undertaking to move them out into houses as their family needs demanded.
There are also literally hundreds of families living in houses which are now far too small for the needs of their growing families. Some of these families have had their names on the transfer list for periods as long as ten years, hoping that they would be able to get from this Government houses adequate to the needs of their families.
I could talk for a long time on this subject. I could talk of the kinds of houses that are being constructed. Really and truly, they are shocking. The Minister for the Interior, in answer to a question on notice last year, gave me figures that showed that three-bedroomed houses being built in the suburb of Narrabundah had an average area of 10.14 squares. Of 50 houses being built in that area, twelve had 10.6 squares and 38 were of 10 squares. These are all threebedroomed houses. Yet the average floor area is 10.14 squares!
– What do you want - Buckingham Palace?
– I want decent places for families to live in, places with enough room for the families to grow, - places with enough room for children to study; not places where everyone is crowded into cramped quarters. I will guarantee that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) would not live in one of these houses. Will he come with me and see what the Government is doing and then speak his mind in this place? Will he come and look at what is known as Fairhall barracks? Will he look at the Narrabundah hen houses and the “ Everglades “?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join with members of the House in express- ing my sorrow at the tragic passing of His Excellency Viscount Dunrossil. Both he and Lady Dunrossil, in the short time we knew them, endeared themselves to us and they, in turn, came to love Australia. Lord Dunrossil will be remembered by all of us with great affection. Sir, the Government’s programme, as outlined by His Excellency the Administrator, is good news. It is good news to me, particularly, because so many of the developmental plans announced concern my own electorate of Kalgoorlie. The announcement that the Government is favorably disposed to a network of good roads in the cattle country of the north will be widely welcomed by the residents of the Kimberleys. For too long, this area has been held back by the use of obsolete and inefficient methods. Good roads will enable producers to truck cattle to killing centres and ports instead of walking them. This will allow the turning-off of younger cattle and, consequently, will result in more cattle. In addition, decreased wastage will mean a gain of many thousands of pounds of beef. The value of this move to our export earnings will be tremendous.
Similarly, the Government’s plans to boost the search for minerals including oil will give great encouragement to Western Australia. Exploration of the enormous mineral wealth of Western Australia is hampered by difficulties of exploration, by lack of water for ore treatment, and by the cost of transportation over great distances. Incentives which will overcome or compensate for these obstacles could open up almost unlimited mineral resources. Australia simply cannot afford not to apply every effort to finding oil. Petroleum products are by far our largest import item and while one geological indication that oil can be found in Australia remains, we must spare no expense to get it. The Government is to be congratulated on its farsighted policy in this respect.
The standardization of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana, coupled with the Western Australian Government’s plans to exploit the iron ore deposits at Koolyanobbing will boost tremendously our export earnings as well as giving the Western Australian economy generally a much needed shot in the arm. As a State, Western Australia simply cannot survive without fully exploiting its natural resources, mineral and agricultural, as well as the resources of the sea. We must make this exploitation and development possible by providing means of transport, social amenities, communications and, in fact, every possible and practicable incentive and assistance to the people who are willing to perform the vital job of developing the nation.
At this point, Sir, I should like to refresh the minds of honorable members on the subject of our past development. During the debate on the Opposition’s farcical want of confidence motion, we were told that Australia was standing still. Too often, we hear honorable members opposite, and their ill-informed supporters, saying that this country should be developed at a faster rate, even though Australia, over the past ten years, has gone through and is still going through the greatest period of development ever. We have been going ahead at such a pace, in fact, that it was necessary recently for the Government to slow down the rate of progress in the interests of economic stability. This slowing down process has been the subject of much criticism both by the Opposition and by certain sections of the press. One is tempted to recall that often in the past economists advising the Opposition and the press have decried the Government’s economic policy and the measures used in implementing that policy. But the policy has, for eleven years, been successfully tried and tested. It has stood up to every type of economic trial, and crisis after crisis has been dealt with effectively within the framework of the general policy.
It is interesting to speculate, in view of the success of the Government’s measures, on what would have happened to the economy had the alternatives of either the press or the Opposition been put into operation. This, of course, applies chiefly to the press. The Opposition has demonstrated recently quite clearly that it has no real alternatives to offer. But, Sir, to return to the question of our development, I think that some refreshing of the mind may be called for, because our memories are short and we are all inclined to take things for granted without taking the trouble to remember how things were ten or twenty years ago. In spite of our greatly increased industrialization, we are still essentially a primary producing country. More than 80 per cent, of our total export earnings come from primary industries.
As my electorate of Kalgoorlie is a primary producing area it can, I think, be used as a fair guide to the development and expansion of Australia generally. The Kalgoorlie electorate produces practically every primary product that the State produces, with the exceptions, I think, of timber, coal and dairy products in volume. Our products include nearly every mineral, wool, beef, wheat and other cereal crops, bananas and other fruit, vegetables, pearl shell, whale oil, fat lambs, rice and crayfish. Every primary industry with the exception of the gold mining and pearl shell industries has made an advance over the past ten years. In some cases, the advance has been spectacular; in others, the advance has been at a steady rate. For instance, for the ten years ended 1939, the average annual value of Australia’s cereal crops was £35,000,000. The average for the past ten years is £160,000,000.
In terms of acreage and yield, the rise, in some cases, has been tremendous. For the five years immediately preceding the war we produced an average of 286,000 bushels of oats per year. For the past five years, the average has been over 5,000,000 bushels annually. In Western Australia since the war, the area under crops alone has increased by well over 1,500,000 acres. The beef cattle population has increased by 25 per cent. If this is not outstanding development, I do not know what is. Nevertheless, however commendable this expansion has been, nobody suggests that we should be complacent about it. We must expand and develop continually within the bounds of sound economic planning and common sense. For any who have doubts about our prosperity and development I recommend comparing the Commonwealth “ Year Books “ of 1939, 1949 and 1959. It is rather illuminating to compare the production in those years not only of primary products but also of motor vehicles, domestic appliances and other secondary goods, for both export and domestic consumption. To make that comparison is to be convinced that our growth has been little short of miraculous, and one must also be convinced that such growth is the result of an economic climate created by this Liberal Government.
Prosperity gives us the means to expand, and expansion leads to still greater prosperity. With continued careful economic control by a sound Commonwealth government, prosperity and expansion will keep on complementing each other to the infinite benefit of Australia and her people. The same picture extends to the mining industry; but the gold-mining industry is the exception. The gold-mining industry cannot prosper whilst the price of gold and the cost of production remain where they are. All the other principal minerals - copper, lead, iron, silver, tin, manganese and zinc, to mention some - are now being produced in greater quantities, and subsidies and bounties granted by the Menzies Government have at least arrested decline in the production of gold and pyritic sulphur. In respect of gold, the present Government has provided some millions of pounds by way of subsidies and in tax concessions designed to keep marginal mines in production and, with one or two exceptions, this end has been achieved. However, I look forward to an increase in the subsidy rates next year when the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act becomes due for renewal. Similarly, I trust that the Government will have another close look at the subsidy as it applies to the small producers of gold.
The Amalgamated Prospectors Association of Western Australia has, both through me and direct to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), submitted good cases for the raising of the 500-ounce limit which dennes the small producer of gold. The subsidy of £2 8s. per ounce payable to the small producers is greatly appreciated by them. However, the placing of the limit for the purposes of this subsidy at a production of 500 ounces per year has the unfortunate effect of limiting the output of some shows to 500 ounces. The obvious reason for this is that 500 ounces of gold with the subsidy is worth £4,012 12s. 6d., and 501 ounces of gold - that is without the subsidy because of the extra ounce - is worth only £2,827 5s. The stupidity of this position is quite clear. The answer may be to pay a subsidy on a sliding scale according to the amount of gold produced, or it might be to pay a flat rate subsidy on the first 500 ounces irrespective of the total production. Whatever the answer is I hope very much that the Treasurer will find it.
Turning now to the north, I was gratified, during the Address-in-Reply debate this year, to note how many honorable members on this side of the House, who come from metropolitan and southern areas generally, have taken up the cause of northern development. Those honorable members are led by my honorable and esteemed friend the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), who knows the north so well. It is gratifying to me, who have been expounding the cause of the north over the last couple of years, to see a quickening of interest in this House. I do not presume to say that this quickening is because of my continued representations in this matter, but nevertheless it is gratifying to see the interest taken in that direction.
I am encouraged by the fact that the Government has recognized the need for road transport in the north, as outlined by His Excellency the Administrator in his Speech. I am also encouraged by the general recognition that the Government has displayed of the need for federal assistance to the north. This has been further evidenced, as 1 think I mentioned some time ago, by the two grants of £2,500,000 that the Government made during the last Parliament for use in the Kimberleys, and by the not inconsiderable participation of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in such northern institutions as the Kimberley Research Station. Every other federal government has a shocking record of neglect in the north.
– I would not say that.
– I would, because I know. In this respect it is amazing to hear both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and his deputy promising the north untold millions. Labour governments are notorious for limiting their interest to the cities.
– Keep politics out of it.
– What do you think we are here for? Never has any Labour government made even a token effort to understand the problems of the north, let alone do anything about them. Now the Labour Party realizes that Australia as a whole regards this problem as one of national dimensions and not only Jumps on the band wagon but tries to bog it down to the axles with money, without having a policy or ideas or plans of any sort or even any knowledge of the area.
– That is why the electors keep returning the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who is a representative of the Labour Party.
– I exclude him from my previous remarks. Members of the Labour Party have no knowledge of the north. I think £60,000,000 was the figure which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned - he was parroted by his deputy - when asked what he was going to do about the north, and he cast his mind, quite obviously, to a map of Australia to find out where the north was. Then he said, “ We have that problem fixed. We are going to spend £60,000,000 per year there.” The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) made his statement on a television broadcast in Western Australia. One of the interviewers asked him, “ Where are you going to get £60,000,000 per year from? “, and he looked very wise and said, knowingly, “ Well, of course the Commonwealth has the power to impose taxation, you know “. We all know that very well. The people of Australia would not mind being taxed an extra £6 per head, man, woman and child, if they knew how the money would be spent and that it would produce the goods, but they will be most indignant, I suggest, if they are taxed this amount by a government with no idea in the world of what to do with it. If the Opposition is sincere in this matter, I challenge any member opposite to produce a practical developmental plan for the north country costing £60,000,000 per year. As the Labour Party is committed to a policy of socialization and nationalization, perhaps it estimates that by socializing production it will finish each year with a deficit of £60,000,000 in this respect, and in that case the estimate is a reasonable one.
The big problem in the north is the cost of transporting stock to markets, the cost of transporting wool and other produce to markets, the cost of transporting supplies from the south and even the cost of transporting children to school. In many instances the freight on an article to a station exceeds the original cost of that article. That is a ludicrous situation.
– And the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory a while ago said Canberra people were hard done by!
– Yes, the poor old fellow! The high cost of transport is crippling the north. After all, people’s personal economies are of great importance when we talk about developing a certain area. Development comes with population, and a population will come to the north only when the north is made attractive both financially and socially. In this respect the Government would do well to examine some of the disadvantages associated with living in the north. As an example, the cost of educating children, for people living in the north, is so prohibitive that a great many leave the area and return south. While that situation obtains populating the north will remain a dream. It must be realized that not only in the north, but also in many other parts of Western Australia, children must be sent to schools, particularly high schools, which lie hundreds of miles from their homes. This means that the children must either go to boarding schools or be boarded out in homes. Either course is beyond the means of the average person. I am not speaking of people who wish to give their children an exclusive education. I am speaking of people who must, both legally and morally, give their children an ordinary education. One would think that the Government would be aware of this. I have mentioned it before and have written to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) about it, and one would think that, being aware of the position, the Government would decide that the least it could do is to make these inordinate and extraordinary education expenses allowable deductions for income tax purposes. I hope that in the near future the Government will see the necessity for doing that, to help people who live in remote areas without education facilities for their children.
Before I conclude I should like to say that although everybody knows that the Australian Labour Party has sunk to an all-time low few people - very few I should say - realize that it had reached such depths as to have on its front bench a man capable of uttering such a statement as was uttered by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) this afternoon-
– The honorable member does not know what 1 am about to say. The honorable member for Parkes was speaking on an urgency matter and said, in reply to an interjection - it was my own - that members on this side of the House with narrow majorities-
– Order! The honorable gentleman may not refer in this debate to statements made in the previous debate.
– In that case, Sir, I conclude by saying that I commend the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– I should like to address my remarks on the Administrator’s Speech primarily to a matter that already has been referred to by several members on both sides of the House, namely, national development, especially development of the northern areas of Australia. The Administrator made a number of comments which touched upon this subject, but, despite this, and the need for the development of various parts of Australia, no portion of His Excellency’s Speech indicated any intention on the part of the Government to ‘act in this direction. We have talked about development of the Northern Territory and other northern areas of Australia for far too long. We never seem to get down to doing anything about it. In his Speech the Administrator stated -
I spoke earlier of the need to develop quickly this country’s capacity to export. National development has always been a major objective, and indeed an achievement of my advisers. As a further contribution to national growth and the development of exports, the Government is considering some important specific development proposals, and will co-operate with the States concerned in detailed planning so that, as circumstances allow, actual construction may proceed without delay. The projects under particular and sympathetic consideration are road development in the north . . .
His Excellency then mentioned certain other matters such as the standardization of rail gauges and he referred further to this subject in another section of the Speech. His Excellency stated that the
Government was considering some important specific proposals for the development of the north. The Government has been in office now for twelve years and already has given a lot of consideration to this matter, but nothing specific has been done. I would have expected that Ministers who have participated in this debate would have advanced some concrete proposals for the planning and construction of developmental roads in the northern parts of Australia in the immediate future, but all we have had is the bare statement that the Government is considering the matter.
In another section of the Speech His Excellency stated -
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization continues to make important contributions to the solution of many national problems and a considerable part of the organization’s resources is devoted to problems associated with the development of Northern Australia.
This organization has been in operation for many years, and although it has done very important and excellent work in the Northern Territory and in other northern parts of Australia, in no instance has the Commonwealth Government taken any active steps to put into effect any of the information that the organization has made available. Another portion of the Speech is in these terms -
In the Northern Territory my Government will introduce a scheme to assist pastoralists and agriculturists in the development and improvement of water supplies on their properties. Also within the Northern Territory research into cattle disease and the most suitable fodders is continuing.
It is true that something has been done in relation to water supplies but the Government is only toying with the development of the north. Its proposals do not go nearly far enough, but this is an illustration of what the Government has been doing for the last twelve years. It has been talking about development but doing nothing in a concrete form. The responsible Minister forgot to advise His Excellency of when the Government contemplated putting into general effect the proposals contained in the Speech. All the statements in the Speech are generalizations. The Minister was in Darwin on 2nd February last at the opening of the Northern Territory scientific liaison conference which was attended by the top scientists in the field of tropical development from all over Australia. They had gathered to report on and to discuss problems associated with the north. Addressing the conference the Minister said that the Government at that time had at its disposal all the information that it required to put a developmental programme into effect, lt only remained for the Government to make the necessary finance available. But no money has been forthcoming and no indication has been given as to when it will be forthcoming. 1 support the honorable members who, in this and other debates during this sessional period, have referred time and time again to the necessity to get on with the development of the north, lt is good to see the interest that members on both sides of the House have taken in this subject and to hear them express the desire that this work should be begun and continued. But it is no use back-benchers talking about it unless they can convince the Government that such an undertaking is a necessity and that it should be commenced immediately.
If the Government has at its disposal the information which it claims to have, it should appoint now - not at some time in the future - a developmental commission for the express purpose of co-ordinating the information which is already available. After a considerable amount of trouble and work, the Forster committee last year submitted its report but 1 feel that the report is destined to lie in a pigeonhole of some department for years before anything is done to implement any of its recommendations. A commission should be appointed immediately to co-ordinate all the reports that have been submitted to agricultural, pastoral, mining and the other branches of activity that go to make up a developmental project. Then it could draw up a system of priorities showing the order in which the work is to be undertaken over, say, a ten-year period. The responsibility would then rest on the Government to find the money to allow the commission to implement the plan.
We know the success that such a commission can achieve. We have only to look at the example of the Snowy Mountains Authority which has achieved outstanding success. If we had in the north a commission such as the Snowy Mountains Authority to draw up and implement a programme of development, we would move along the road a lot quicker than we are doing at present. After all, the amount involved is not so great. We can spend £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 a year on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Surely we can spend, eventually, an equivalent amount on the development of the Northern Territory and the north of Australia generally, which represent one-third of the total area of this continent. We have to do this, not only for the sake of development but also for the security and protection that such development would afford in time of war. We have to do it to justify our claim to ownership of this land. We cannot continue to hold vast empty spaces while there are hundreds of millions of land-hungry people to the north of us. If we do not develop Australia, we deserve to lose it.
The best way to implement a developmental policy would be through the establishment of a commission. Such a commission would have to co-ordinate the various reports and the information we have already at our disposal. Then the Government would have to make money available to it.
I believe that we should also strengthen the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory so that it can do the domestic tasks required of it. We must divide administration and government into two different departments. One would direct the broad developmental programme that would be worked out on a national basis and financed by the taxpayers of ‘Australia. That would be the Government’s means of ensuring that the money so expended on behalf of the Commonwealth taxpayers would be used to the best possible advantage. However, there are certain local governmental activities that would be best served and administered by the people of the Territory themselves; and the strengthening of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory for that purpose would have the desired results.
Only recently, the Government announced the appointment of a former Minister of the New South Wales Labour Government, Mr. Nott, to the post of Administrator of the Northern Territory. That was an admirable selection. You could search the length and breadth of Australia and not find another man with the qualifications of Mr. Nott for the position. I am quite happy with the selection, and I believe that is the feeling also of the people of the Northern Territory. However, the time has arrived when the system of government for the Northern Territory should be overhauled. In this day and age, it is absurd to expect one man to administer the needs of 500,000 square miles of country. It is a physical impossibility for any one man.
I suggest that the administration and the government should be split into two different departments. One would administer the developmental side and the other the domestic affairs, which would be left in the hands of the local population with the guidance, if so desired, of an Administrator. I do not under-estimate the capabilities of Mr. Nott. I believe that his was the best appointment that could have been made. With the assistance of the Government through delegated powers, he will do a good job in existing conditions; but now rs the time for an overhaul of the whole system of administration. As I have said, I believe it should be put on a different basis.
I wish to turn now to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. We were told last year that, under new legislation which was passed through this Parliament, the people of the Northern Territory would have a greater say in the government of that part of Australia; but things have not worked out according to expectations. Already, the Government has said, “ You can do this and you cannot do that “. The Government has disallowed two very important bills that were passed by the Legislative Council within the past few weeks. The legislation, which was ushered in with a fanfare of trumpets, appears to be on the verge of collapse.
– Should that legislation have been allowed through?
– I am not arguing the merits of the legislation; but I say that when a majority of members of the Legislative Council, consisting of members duly elected by the people and three members nominated by this Government to protect and safeguard the interests of the people, combine to pass legislation, the Government should take heed of it. It is futile for the Government to sit in judgment on the morals of the people. Certainly, one piece of legislation concerned betting and the other provided discretionary power for magistrates to impose fines instead of imprisonment upon persons supplying liquor to natives. I challenge the idea that the magistrates should not have such discretionary power. Under existing legislation, it is mandatory upon a magistrate to imprison a person who supplies liquor to a native. The magistrates cannot take into consideration any mitigating circumstances whatever. All we ask is that the magistrates be given discretionary power, in certain circumstances, to impose a fine instead of a mandatory sentence of imprisonment. If the Government has no confidence in our magistrates to administer a system such as this, they should not be occupying their positions. A person who is sentenced for the offences I have mentioned can appeal to the Supreme Court to have the sentence of imprisonment reduced to a fine; but he has to go to the expense of time-consuming legal processes. Why not operate from the source of the problem and give the magistrates power to deal with the accused summarily?
– Do you agree with that?
– Certainly, I agree with it.
– And do you agree with the betting legislation also?
– I feel that I am not competent to sit in judgment on the needs of the people. The fact is that representatives of the people, and persons nominated by the Government, have seen fit to provide that the people of the Northern Territory should have some means of betting in a controlled and regulated form instead of indulging in illegal starting price betting that goes on all over Australia. In Victoria - the home State of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) - the people have been given facilities for off-course totalisator betting. Apparently Victorians can have these privileges, but they are denied to the people of the Northern Territory. Can the honorable member see any consistency in that?
– The punters lost on the totalisator in Melbourne last Saturday. They are not too happy about it.
– The punters in the Northern Territory would be prepared to take the risk. 1 wish to refer now to the disabilities under which pensioners in the Northern Territory are suffering. They complain - I believe with justice - that the method of assessing the pension rights of people in the Northern Territory is different from that which is applied to pensioners in the south. In support of their argument, they claim that wage and salary earners in the Northern Territory have no taxation allowances or cost-of-living adjustments for the disabilities suffered by people working in that area. Public servants in the Northern Territory have housing and rental subsidies. All these subsidies are desirable, and it is only right that they should be paid, but I point out that they are granted for the express purpose of overcoming in part, if not wholly, the disabilities people suffer in that part of the world. We say that if it is right to consider the wage-earner in this way, it is equally right that the same principle should apply to pensioners of all descriptions. If the Government decided to agree to the request, it would be a simple matter to arrive at an appropriate scale to be applied through the range of pensions in the Northern Territory. I emphasize that although I speak of the Northern Territory, the conditions to which I refer apply also to north Queensland and the north of Western Australia because those areas are included in the tax zoning scheme. The adoption of my proposal would greatly induce people to stay in the area. There, the people have not the same amenities for the aged as are to be found in the southern parts of Australia. For instance, we have neither homes nor facilities for conducting homes for the aged, and the adoption of my suggestion would be one means of encouraging people to stay there and would certainly give them some slight recompense for the labour they have put into the development of that part of Australia.
I know that nothing can be done about the matter now, but I mention it at this time because, very shortly, the Government will be considering this matter and others when framing the Budget it proposes to present next August. I ask the Government to give earnest consideration to the plea of the pensioners of the Northern Territory for the introduction of a zone system of pension payments in the same way as tax deductions are allowed at present
– I recall that it is exactly one year to-day since I spoke last in this House on the Address-in-Reply. What I had to say then had very little effect, but I want to say it again and perhaps elaborate a little in the hope that it will have more effect now. There is much in the Administrator’s Speech upon which I should have liked to comment. I was particularly pleased to see in it reference to the study of aboriginal life. I was particularly pleased to see references to the possibility of further standardization of rail gauges. I should have liked to speak, as some honorable members have done during this debate, about foreign affairs, but instead, I shall concentrate upon the economic situation which I think is uppermost in the minds of most honorable members and perhaps of most of the people in Australia. I hope that what I shall say will be taken as being constructive because I feel that during this debate, which is now drawing to its close, too little of a constructive nature has been said.
I wish to make three appeals to the Government. I ask first that it prosecute the oil gamble with greater vigour. Secondly, I wish to ask that it do something about our short-term difficulties in relation to imports and credit. Thirdly, but perhaps most importantly, I ask th* Government to evolve some long-term plan to prevent a recurrence of the crises which have beset and bedevilled the Australian economy for so long.
First, let me deal shortly with the oil gamble. The Government has done something towards encouraging the search for oil in Australia, but the effects of its efforts have not been good enough. Something over three-quarters of the available drilling rigs are idle, and they have been idle for some time. This is not good enough in a continent like Australia, which, in spite of impressions put about to the contrary, is relatively undrilled and geologically unexplored. Nobody can be certain that oil is here until it is found, but, having regard to our geological conditions, our sedimentary basins and so on, it would be extraordinary if oil were not here. Perhaps, when oil is found, people will say that its finding is a miracle. To my way of thinking, it is a miracle that oil has not been found already, and we have done precious little about its discovery so far in the history of Australia. If oil is here, it has been lying here for centuries, perhaps for thousands or millions of years before the coming of the white man. If it is found, we should not just congratulate ourselves; we should be worried that we had not found it earlier. Oil is not only strategically the most important deficiency in Australia; it is also the source of imports which are costing us, with freight, something like £150,000,000 a year. And that is an increasing figure which tends to double every eight or nine years. If we do not find oil here, it will not be long before our bill for oil imports is bigger than our wool cheque. That is not good enough. As I say, the search for oil is a gamble. To rely on finding it would be foolish, but some of the indications are by no means unfavorable, and it would not be extraordinary if we struck oil between now and Christmas. We cannot rely on that, but it is not good enough to have the present situation in which three-quarters of the drilling rigs in Australia are idle.
Now let me turn from my first appeal to the Government, which, as I have said, is to see that the oil search is prosecuted much more vigorously, and say something about imports and about credit. Our imports bill, as honorable members know, has shot up alarmingly since the removal of import restrictions. For this year, it will probably nudge £1,200,000,000. That is far more than we can afford. Tt is probable that the present flood of imports will abate. At the moment, our imports are running high - at the rate of about £100,000,000 a monthbut it is probable that, within a few months’ time, there will be a sharp downward trend both because stocks are being built up here and because the dampening down of economic activity in Australia consequent upon credit restrictions has reduced the appetite for those imports which form part of the investment schedules.
I do not think we should be too encouraged if and when that sharp down-turn comes because the maintenance of a lower level would itself be conditioned by a depressed state of affairs in Australia on both the consumption and the investment sides, a state of affairs which we could not and should not endeavour to maintain. So I do not think we should be too much encouraged by any possible future temporary sharp down-turn in imports because, alongside this, something else is happening. The fringe of substitution of imports for locally made goods is moving slowly but quite substantially forward all the time. Manufacturers are finding that they can incorporate an imported component more cheaply than a locally manufactured component, and many of the goods which are Australian made are now carrying a high proportion of imported components. In the shops, too, as will be known to most people, imported goods are slowly ousting the locally made goods. This fringe of substitution moves forward because, at the present level of costs inside Australia, we are incapable of competing with some of the sources of external supply. This happens slowly because there is an inertia in these things. The Australian importer does not always know quickly what is available abroad or the price at which it can be bought. Even when he does know, he is unwilling sometimes to commit himself too far before he can try out the Australian market and the Australian consumer becomes habituated to these items only after a time. Even though there may be at some hypothetical time in the future a sharp down-turn in imports, it will not be enough because it will be correlated with a slow but quite massive increase in imports for the future, unless other action is taken.
Two bad effects result from this excessive flow of imports. In the first place, and most critically, our balance of payments is seriously threatened. For some time our adverse balance on current account has been of the order of £200,000,000 a year, and this is made good by capital inflow. For this financial year, the year ending next June, the adverse balance will exceed £500,000,000 and that is too much. Because of this we can get into quite serious difficulties with our international finances. The flow of imports, therefore, is unhealthily high.
The second bad effect is that the flow of imports displacing Australian-made goods tends to create in some instances local unemployment. If the unemployed can always be absorbed, it does not perhaps matter so much; all that is done is- to shift workers from one job to another and the job they take is ex hypothesi of higher productivity. That is all right if the absorptive process can be maintained, but if the absorptive capacity should fail, as fail it could, it can be said that imports have caused unemployment. As honorable members know from experience in their electorates, imports have already displaced some local articles. If this should result in unemployment, it should be deplored and should be stopped.
I appeal to the Government, therefore, to do something quickly about the now of imports. Many means of halting the flow are available. They all have advantages and they all have disadvantages. We could have a rise in tariffs, but a rise in tariffs is arbitrary in a way. It raises local costs and it may conflict with our obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or the British preferential agreement. There are some difficulties - they are not insuperable - about a rise in tariffs. Let it be said that the Government did make some provision along these lines by setting up machinery for emergency tariff increases. I remember that when the bill was in the House it was, surprisingly to me, opposed by Opposition members. I do not think they realized what they were doing, but oppose it they did. I doubt whether the present machinery will be in itself sufficient, but at least it is part of a move in the right direction.
We could go to primage, either overall primage or selective primage, which is the same as a tariff. We could do something rather more fundamental and change our exchange rate. This would have the double effect of encouraging exports and making the exporting industries more profitable whilst at the same time increasing the price of imports on the local market. This is in some ways the best method to adopt, but it does have the disadvantage at present, when we are so dependent on the maintenance of the inflow of capital from overseas, that it would cause some lack of confidence. This method, therefore, could have a bad side effect. We could go to exchange control, as some other countries have gone, or multiple exchanges. These are complicated measures and perhaps difficult to administer satisfactorily.
Another method open to us is to go back to the quantitative restriction of imports. This is the situation that we had for eight or nine years in the past. There were abuses. I do not think the administration was as good as it could have been and I believe there are methods free of some of the abuses by which we could quantitatively restrict imports. These methods would not be free of all the abuses of the system which the Government tolerated for eight or nine years, but would be free of some of them. If we go back to quantitative restrictions in any degree, I hope we will do it in a better way than the old administrative system. There are ways of doing it which do not incur the full measure of abuse that characterized the old system.
I think that probably the correct solution to our import problem may be found in a combination of the methods I have suggested, not relying exclusively on one method but adopting a combination of them. But I do appeal to the Government to do something quickly, because the present drift is bad and quite dangerous. It could endanger the stability of our international funds and it could endanger local employment. Of course, some people may say that we should build up exports. I am sure that all honorable members will agree with this suggestion. But this unfortunately is not a short-term solution to the problem. There is not the room to manoeuvre over the short term.
Now, on the matter of credit, let me say that at present credit is unhealthily tight and is leading to some quite ludicrous situations in all States. It is hitting development. It is no solution to our productivity problem to have people working short time or even to be reducing the amount of overtime. It is certainly no solution to our productivity problem to have machines idle and hands unemployed. As I say, credit is unhealthily tight. So far there is no unemployment of any massive character, although there are some patches of unemployment. However, those who are more closely in touch with the situation are somewhat alarmed at the potential developments of the next six or seven weeks. I believe that the time to do something about relaxing credit, like the time to do something about restricting imports, is now overdue.
That is my short-term appeal to the Government - do something about imports and do something about credit. Now let me come to the long-term matters, and here I will not be able to say in the short time available to me all that I would like to have said at length. I refer once again to the propositions I put forward in this House exactly a year ago to the day. I believe that they are correct. I am talking now of our long term. So far as our balance of payments is concerned, I would think that on the whole import replacement, including perhaps the hypothetical and problematical item of oil, might be offering rather more scope for achievements than the increase of exports, although we should be striving for them both.
If we are going for an increase of exports, let us do it selectively and avoid the dangers of encouraging industries which could be faced with disaster owing to the loss of foreign markets. I suggest that we should not export manufactured goods to low-wage countries unless one of the following three criteria is satisfied: We should export goods in respect of which we have a great natural advantage, as we have in fact in respect of iron and steel; or we should export to markets where the custom-built article can maintain an advantage even though technological skill may be advancing in countries overseas; or we should export to countries with which we can make reciprocal trade agreements which can be relied on to continue. I suggest that if one of these three criteria is not satisfied, we should not artificially encourage exports to low-wage countries.
The present rather frenzied rush for the export of manufactured goods to Asia seems to have inherent in it a number of longterm dangers, because no longer can we rely on the great lag in the spread of technological skills to low-wage countries. Technology is now much more readily exported than it was a couple of decades ago. The time lag is not so great as it was. United States management is sending abroad teams to organize production in low-wage countries in Asia, and we need not think that we in Australia shall have an advantage of skill sufficient to overcome the wage disparities. Reliance on this will be dangerous. We should be developing exports of manu factured goods to high-wage countries. This is something which we can do much more safely.
With respect to this matter, I want to say one thing in particular: One great possibility which we have not exploited is that of reciprocal trade in return for our oil imports. At the present time, 60 per cent, of our imports of oil come from the Persian Gulf area - a part of the world which, strategically, we cannot very well rely on. Furthermore, this area buys from us practically nothing in return, and can buy practically nothing in return. When I was in North America recently, I learned from conversations with the chairman of the Oil Committee of the Canadian Parliament that at Vancouver - a deep-water port - Canada has available in an oil pipe line unused capacity sufficient to supply to Australia as much oil as we at present import from the Persian Gulf area. The ocean haul from Vancouver to Sydney is considerably shorter than is that from the Persian Gulf to Sydney or Melbourne.
Why cannot we get from Canada this major item of our imports and sell to that country in return the things that we have to sell? We could replace Cuban sugar on the Canadian market with Australian sugar. Furthermore, Canada will want for its works at Kitimat, on the west coast, the alumina which can be produced in the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland in four or five years’ time. We could sell to Canada mutton, dried fruits, fresh fruits, iron and steel and a number of other commodities which we could get on to the Canadian market in return for oil, because the Canadians are desperately keen to export oil and use the present idle capacity in the Vancouver pipe line. I hope that this will be regarded as a constructive suggestion.
– Where would we refine it?
– -We would refine it in exactly the same places as we refine it now - in the refineries on the east coast. I have made inquiries on this point, and have ascertained that these refineries could be used for the refining of the crude oil from Canada, because it is of a grade which can be refined in the same way as the crude oil now obtained from the Persian Gulf is refined in the plants on our east coast.
– Is the price of the Canadian oil right?
– The price would be a matter for negotiation, but I see no reason why it should not be right. This is the kind of trade development which is open to us over the long term.
I should have liked to say something about savings and the need for increasing them, Sir. I think that the instrument available to our hands for this purpose is that of taxation policy. I believe that structural changes in the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act could and should be made for the purpose of curing what I term the endemic disease of a shortage of Australian savings - a shortage which represents the real weakness in our economy and the cause of the recurrent crises which we have experienced. I should like to develop this theme, but I see that I have not sufficient time to do so now. I hope that I shall have an opportunity to develop it in this House at some other time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the Administrator.
– I desire to inform the House that the AddressinReply will be presented to His Excellency the Administrator at Government House at 5 p.m. to-morrow. 1 shall be glad if the mover and the seconder, together with other honorable members, will accompany me to present the Address.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) agreed to -
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to be granted to Her Majesty.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 21st March (vide page 388).
Clauses 1 to 9 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 21 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 24 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 25 to 39 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 40 to 51 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 52 to 59 - by leave - taken together.
.- Mr. Chairman, this bill which we now have before us contains some variations from the earlier one which was withdrawn. I refer to clause 56, which relates to the recognition of marriages solemnized in accordance with the laws or customs of other countries. It provides -
A marriage solemnized in Australia by or in the presence of a diplomatic or consular officer of a proclaimed overseas country, being a marriage to which the last preceding section was applicable, shall be recognized as valid in Australia if -
the marriage is recognized as a valid marriage by the law or custom of the overseas country; and
the marriage has been registered under this Division.
Perhaps I am a little dense with regard to this aspect of the legislation, but I would like the Minister to give us an explanation of this clause, as he did of a similar clause in the earlier bill. Clause 56 refers to a marriage solemnized in Australia by a diplomatic officer being recognized as valid if “ the marriage is recognized as a valid marriage by the law or custom of the overseas country “. Can the Minister give us a few explanatory words with regard to that clause, and in general with regard to the whole of Division 3 of Part IV., which deals with marriages by foreign diplomatic or consular officers? This part of the legislation is of particular concern to immigrants, and is most important from their point of view.
– These provisions are really a replacement of the repeal provisions of the Marriage (Overseas) Act 1955 and the Marriage (Overseas) Act 1958, which acts are repealed by clause 4 of the bill now before us. The portion of the legislation now being considered provides for a procedure similar to the existing system which enables diplomatic and consular officers to marry people abroad in proclaimed countries. Clause 54 provides limitations with regard to the particular countries that may be proclaimed. It says -
Where the Governor-General is satisfied . . . that (a) the law or custom of that country authorizes the solemnization by or in the presence of diplomatic officers of that country, or consular officers of that country, or both, of marriages outside that country. . . .
That is to say, there must be reciprocity. If the officers of country A are allowed by the law of that country to marry people in Australia according to the laws of country A, then we will allow our consular officers similar powers in country A.
– It is a kind of reciprocal arrangement?
– Yes. It is also necessary that the law and custom of the country in question does permit the solemnization of marriage. There is no more to these provisions, apart from matters of technical detail, than that.
.- I am satisfied with what the Minister has said, but I must direct attention to the fact that we have an extensive intake of immigrants into Australia. Many of these people were in refugee camps during and after the war, and they became spread and dispersed all over Europe. I am somewhat concerned about marriages that may take place of such people, particularly having regard to the limiting factors that the Minister has explained, for instance with reference to laws and customs of other countries. I think the Minister has done his best with this legislation and with his explanation, but I believe we may still run into a certain amount of trouble. We need machinery to ensure that people who desire to contract valid marriages in this country may be fully protected.
Clause 57 (3.) provides that the AttorneyGeneral may appoint a person to be Deputy Registrar of Foreign Marriages. Would this be a kind of supernumerary job for the present Director of Births, Deaths and Marriages, or is there to be a special new appointment of a person who will be concerned only with foreign marriages? Will there be a special man in the offices of the Registrars in the capital cities, or will it simply mean that extra duties will devolve on the existing staff? Since the Commonwealth authorities are now exercising power with regard to marriage and divorce, according to legislation that has been through the hands of the Minister, I think .we should have some further information on this matter. Perhaps I have not quite understood the intention with regard to these references to a deputy registrar and to the “Registrar. What sort of a person will this deputy registrar be? I know that his duties are fairly clearly set out here, but I ask the Minister to give us some further information, because the position will be an important one. There will presumably be registrars in the various States, and I take it that they will have an immense amount of responsibility with regard to foreign marriages. They will need to have facilities for translation, and probably will need to know something of various languages. They will need some kind of staff to make the system really workable.
I think that what the Minister has provided is right, but I also think we should look at this part of the legislation carefully and see just what it involves. The Minister may care to elaborate on these provisions.
– The officers to whom the honorable member refers are Commonwealth officers at present functioning as such. Clause 61 (5.) provides -
The persons holding office immediately before the commencement of this Act as Registrar of Overseas Marriages and Deputy Registrar of Overseas Marriages under tho Marriage (Overseas) Act 1955-1958 shall be deemed to have been appointed Registrar of Overseas Marriages and Deputy Registrar of Overseas Marriages, respectively, under this section.
There is already a federal register. We do not seek to impose any duty on the States with regard to this registration.
– I think I understand.
– Then the honorable member made a brief reference to another subject. Let me anticipate any question about it by giving the answer now. It is true that people who have been married according to the laws of foreign countries, and who are in doubt about the validity of their marriages and as to whether Australia will recognize them, can be left in a difficult situation. This problem has been covered in the bill in this way: If a person really doubts the legal validity of his or her marriage, that person may, under the provisions of this legislation, obtain some form of legal opinion that there is a doubt as to the validity of the marriage, and then go through a form of marriage here and obtain a marriage certificate here. That certificate will be registered, but it will record on its face the fact of the former ceremony, so that if in another day the legal point is raised as to whether the earlier marriage really took place - it may be in connexion with devolution of property or some other rights - all the surrounding facts will be recorded on the certificate and set out, as it were, for posterity.
This is part of a general provision in the bill which has been introduced by amendment, which enables persons in doubt as to their former marriage to go through a ceremony here. It also enables persons who want to be married according to some faith which we would not recognize as necessarily calling for a monogamous marriage, but who want to be able to avail themselves of the benefits attaching to that form of marriage if they go to some other country where such a form of marriage will have full validity, to go through such a form of marriage, and also to receive a certificate of marriage after going through the form of marriage recognized in this country.
The same procedure allows people who like to renew their vows, sometimes years after their marriage, to go through a second ceremony. That is provided for in this bill, stipulating always that the person who wants to go through the second ceremony, first acknowledges that the first ceremony was valid. That procedure will also be available when people of different faiths desire to marry and would like two ceremonies. They can choose whichever they like as the first, and that will be the marriage. The second ceremony will not give rise to a certificate of marriage although, for their comfort, they will be able to take from the second celebrant a certificate that he has performed that second ceremony. The honorable member anticipated a little. His question is covered in that group of provisions.
– I should like to know whether we have dealt with clause 40 or whether it is included in the group now under discussion.
– The only clauses now before the committee are clauses 52 to 59.
Clauses agreed to.
– I should like to ask the committee to give leave to reconsider clause 5, the interpretation clause. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) had notified me that he had a question to ask the AttorneyGeneral concerning marriages of aborigines. Clause 5 seemed to be the most appropriate section under which to deal with this matter.
Clauses 1 to 9 - by leave - reconsidered together.
.- I address a question to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in relation to the aborigines of Australia and their marriage ceremonies and customs. As far as I can determine, it has not been the custom for marriages of aborigines to be recorded adequately. Therefore, doubt sometimes exists as to whether aborigines are legally married. Such a case arose in the Northern Territory, some twelve months ago, T think, when a drover wished to marry a woman of aboriginal descent. Whether she had been previously married was hard to determine.
Would an aboriginal who has been married under tribal customs be regarded as married under the bill? To what extent does tie Attorney-General propose to insist upon the registration of such marriages? The questions that have arisen in this connexion have been extremely difficult to answer. T understand that, in many instances, there has not been an adequate record of marriages of aborigines, even in places where you would expect it, such as remote mission stations. Will the Attorney-General explain the position of aborigines as a result of this legislation? Could he take steps to see that formal approval is given of aboriginal customs for the time being? I think that quite a lot of people would be happy if they could get a guarantee on this matter.
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has touched on a very difficult area in relation to this subject. Under clause 6, the bill is said not to exclude the operation of the law of a State or of a Territory making special provision for the welfare of aboriginal natives of Australia or other persons insofar as that law makes provision for or in relation to requiring the consent of an officer or authority of the State or Territory to the marriage of any person who has attained the age of 21 years.
Except for that provision there are surely no exclusive words which would exclude from the operation of this bill the aboriginal natives of Australia. If they marry before an authorized celebrant, of course, the registration provision will work. This bill is built around a fairly well-known pattern in that you have an authorized celebrant who is registered with the Government as being authorized to solemnize marriages. The marriages that he celebrates must be of a monogamous character. “ Marriage “ is not defined in this bill, as such, but it is quite plain from the legislation, particularly from the inclusion of a provision against bigamy, that marriage is a union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of others. The honorable member for Wills will recall that when we last discussed this subject on the second reading of the earlier bill it was suggested that I might provide that in a civil ceremony, where there is no minister of religion present, the registrar should shortly remind the people concerned of what marriage really involves. You will find that provision in this bill. I was indebted to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) for the suggestion.
– Under the Constitution, we could pass bills on monogamous marriages only, could we not?
– That is right. We are probably compelled constitutionally to confine ourselves to monogamous marriages. I made some inquiries about natives from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). Of course, those who are still living in a tribal state have their own marriage customs, which are not uniform, and they do not confine themselves to monogamy. From their point of view, the principal consequences of a marriage would probably be its effect on the devolution of property and the rights of succession in their tribal ways. That is a matter which the States and the Territories can regulate, not by making marriage laws, but by carrying into statutory provision a tribal arrangement so as to formalize tribal marriages for these people.
I considered for some time whether I would endeavour, in this bill, to make some special provision for aboriginal native customs as to marriage. I felt, in the long run, that I could not. The bill leaves the matter in this position: Natives who desire to have the full benefit of marriage under this legislation will need to go before an authorized celebrant - there will be plenty of those people - and then their marriage will be registered. But any provision for the registration of their tribal arrangements or for the devolution of their property on marriage or for otherwise entering into their tribal customs is left apart from the bill. Does that answer the honorable member?
– The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has answered my question. I also wish to ask to what extent this bill will supersede the requirements of a State act that an aboriginal must apply for permission to marry. In some States it does not matter how old a person is, if he or she is an aboriginal, he or she has to apply for permission to marry. This applies to a full-blooded aboriginal in the Northern Territory who has not been declared a ward. Would a marriage carried out without the approval of the Director of Welfare be a valid marriage in the light of this bill? A lot of aborigines are concerned about their legal position in this matter. They are not legalists in the strict sense. But they feel a sense of inferiority in that regard and also consider that the demand that they apply to some State authority to be married, when they are adults, transgresses their ordinary rights. Would a marriage carried out in accordance with this clause, even if they had not obtained the approval of the State authorities, be a legal marriage or would it be invalid?
– This act, as a federal law, broadly is to displace the State laws on the subject and therefore it is necessary, in clause 6, to which T called attention previously, to provide specially that the act will not push aside the State provisions as to the need for consent to marriage of aboriginals, and so on. On the question as to whether or not the absence of consent in a particular case makes the marriage void, 1 think you may turn partly to the provisions in the Matrimonial Causes Act and partly to the State provisions.
.- Can the Attorney-General tell us whether any of these definitions includes the title of “ Registrar of Marriage “? I am wondering whether there will be a Commonwealth Registrar of Marriages with counterparts in the States, known as deputy registrars of marriages. I was wondering how this provision will be administered, whether it will be left to the State registrars throughout the Commonwealth or whether there will be a Commonwealth authority in Canberra, having in his possession all the registrations throughout the Commonwealth, and deputies in each State having duplicate copies, or vice versa? I do not know whether that aspect of the matter is covered in the bill. I think that the Attorney-General could help us on that point. In short, is any distinction made, in the definition of “ Registrar of Marriages “, between the one who celebrates the marriage and the one who registers the marriage? If my reading of the bill is correct, the word “ Registrar “ has no distinction. It is just the one word “ Registrar “. I am not sure whether that fine distinction has been made between the two sections - the one who celebrates the marriage and the one who registers it.
– The act provides, in clause 6 (a) that it will not displace the State laws as to the registration of marriages. It is not proposed to lift the registration of marriages up into the federal sphere. This has been made possible by negotiations by myself with the State Attorneys-General and they are prepared to continue the State registers. It would be rather a large task at this stage to lift the whole of the registration of marriages up into the federal sphere.
– There would be no separate registrar?
– No. The
Registrar of Marriages is usually in a State the Registrar of Births and Deaths as well. If you took part of his functions away and set up a federal register you would duplicate the personnel to a substantial degree.
The registrar of the marriage is quite separate from the celebrant. The celebrant is the authorized celebrant under the federal bill. He may be a minister of religion or a State servant in the office of a registrar, for State laws at present allow the registrar to perform the ceremony. To give him the authority, he will get a federal authorization from the Attorney-General to be an authorized celebrant. It may be that every registrar will not become authorized to celebrate marriages but some registrars in outlying places under the State arrangements will become authorized celebrants.
Arrangements are fairly complete, in anticipation of the passing of this bill. They have involved a good deal of negotiation and provide that there will be an adequate number of celebrants in all the places where they are likely to be needed, and that the registration system of the States will carry on as now; the States allowing their officers to bind up or register the federal certificate of marriage. The certificate of marriage will be a federal document - an instrument under the federal act.
Clauses agreed to.
– Mr. Chairman, might I ask the indulgence of the committee to reconsider clause 11, which relates to marriageable age? You will remember, Sir, that it was dealt with in the group, clause 10 to clause 21 inclusive.
– Does the committee agree to the reconsideration of clause 11? I should say to the committee that when discussion of the bill was resumed, I read the numbers of the clauses to the committee very slowly so that any honorable member who desired to rise would have the opportunity to do so. No honorable member rose and we agreed to clauses 10 to 21. With the approval of the committee clauses 11 and 12 will be reconsidered.
Clauses 11 and 12 - by leave - reconsidered together.
.- I would like to refer to clause 1 1 and apologize to the committee for the fact that it slipped through like a thief in the night, as it were.
– That is unparliamentary.
– If it is unparliamentary I will withdraw it and say that it just slipped through. As you will recollect, Sir. this matter of marriageable age has been carefully considered by the Labour Party. We have thought rather of the general aspect and have not examined the age of marriage in the narrow sense which I think the Attorney-General has. The clause states -
Subject to the next succeeding section -
a male person is of marriageable age if he has attained the age of eighteen years; and
a female person is of marriageable age if she has attained the age of sixteen years.
That seems reasonable enough until you examine the general information that has been gathered all over the world by the Commission on the Status of Women, a most active agency within the United Nations which has been investigating, in all countries, the uplifting of standards, moral and otherwise, and has done a good deal of research into the question of marriageable age in various countries. The members of the commission do not come down too heavily on the side of the Attorney-General in advocating that the marriageable age should be eighteen years for males and sixteen years for females. A report of the last meeting of the commission held in Buenos Aires, adopted a convention which could eventually bind us, as members of the United Nations, on this matter. Six votes were cast in favour of fifteen years being the permissible age for boys and girls to marry. Five were in favour of sixteen years of age and three in favour of fourteen years. There was none in favour of the Minister’s idea of the minimum age for a male being eighteen. It was the considered view of these women, who have had a lifetime of study in the field of marriage and the care of youth, and associated problems, that the age should be fifteen. The recommendation of the convention was submitted to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and I believe that by now it has been approved in the General Assembly.
– Well, I think it has been submitted or is about to be submitted. I have no further information. The Minister, who himself recently visited the United Nations, where he served in silence and with distinction, will remember more about it than I do. I think that in the circumstances the Minister should consider the amount of research put into this matter. Would the Minister put his theory against the considered opinion of many of the women of different parts of the world, grouped together in the Status of Women Commission? If he did, I could imagine them descending upon him like a cloud of witness and he would disappear under a barrage of criticism.
To be serious again, there appears to be solid opinion in favour of the age being fifteen years. We consider that the Minister has perhaps taken it near enough to that for females on Australian standards. If there must be a decision on the question of “ when “ in regard to permissible age and if legal prescriptions of this sort must be applied, let me point out that the Status of Women Commission has decided in favour of fifteen years as the minimum age for both males and females. In order to have due consideration of this matter by both sides of this committee, I point out that there are many factors that come into account. There is the question of legitimacy, the question of delinquency and the question of asking a police officer like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) about these things. Honorable members will see that there is something valid in our attempt to get what is a reasonable thing so far as early marriage is concerned. One may deplore too early marriage, but unfortunately the tragedies exist.
The proposals of the Minister elsewhere in the bill in regard to legitimization are quite acceptable to this side, but in this matter of the permissible age for marriage I think that the standard of the investigations by the United Nations, the decision of the Status of Women Commission, and the fact that the matter may go to the United Nations for decision, impel me to move on behalf of the Opposition to alter clause 11, which reads -
Subject to the next succeeding section -
a male person is of marriageable age if he has attained the age of eighteen years; and
a female person is of marriageable age if she has attained the age of sixteen years.
I now move -
This is a simple amendment which would have the effect of making the minimum marriageable age fifteen years for both males and females. This would be in conformity with the considered opinion of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
.- This is plainly a matter of opinion, on which one will come down flatly on one side or the other. I do not suppose that the arguments expressed by the protagonists on one side will greatly influence the protagonists on the other side, but I want to say that I am very warmly in favour of the proposal contained in the clause for the minimum permissible age to be eighteen for males and sixteen for females. My friend from Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has referred us to the Status of Women Commission and the inquiries that that body has made. I should like to put to him that surely in this matter our first responsibility is to determine what we in this country think is best for this country. If we are to base our judgment in relation to domestic matters on what is the consensus of opinion throughout the world, where would we end up?
– Excuse me, but the Commission on the Status of Women took a consensus, including the Australian age from our laws - which was sixteen years of age - and reached an average, which is fifteen years of age.
– I am conscious of that, but there may be other proposals which some other world organization might consider and make a judgment upon. Surely, we are not obliged to accept the finding of that particular organization. We are dealing with an Australian problem in an Australian climate. I suppose a rough analogy would be that simply because in some parts of the world people travel on camels there is no need for us to adopt that means of transport. I do not like travelling on a camel, and I am sure that the honorable member for Parkes would not like that mode of travel. What people elsewhere do is no concern of ours when we are dealing with our marriage laws. In some States the old minimum ages were fourteen and twelve respectively, and surely it is open to every member of the Parlia ment to judge that marriage at such ages inevitably produces tragedies in the lives of many people.
The Attorney-General has referred to what I should imagine would be the latest figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician- those for 1959. The honorable member for Parkes is asking us to accept his amendment which, on those figures would involve 245 girls aged fifteen. At the moment I do not see the figure in relation to boys, but there it is. Two hundred and forty-five girls were married in 1959 when they were fifteen years of age. Let us look at the position in other parts of the world. In Belgium the minimum marriageable age for a male is eighteen years and in Portugal the minimum is eighteen for a male and sixteen for females. In the country which - I hope the honorable member for Parkes will accept this as a cynical observation - is the spiritual and political home of the honorable member - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - 28 of the republics have a minimum age of eighteen years for both parties.
The honorable member has put to us the proposition that because of the findings of the Commission on the Status of Women we should automatically adopt the recommended age here. I want to put a contrary view to the honorable gentleman by saying that the overwhelming consensus of opinion - or what in fact exists - throughout the world to-day would indicate a tendency to raise the minimum permissible age for marriage and not lower it.
There are two sets of protagonists in this matter. I do not think we will go very far towards convincing each other very much one way or the other. It is a matter of opinion and environment. I have stated my opinion.
– As the two amendments are to the same clause, is it the pleasure of the committee to take them together? There being no dissentient voice, that course will be followed.
.- I support the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The Attorney-General ((Sir Garfield Barwick). in proposing the apes of eighteen for males and sixteen for females. said that his proposal was based on the increasing tendency in the world. As the honorable member for Parkes has pointed out, that statement is not accurate. This position was considered by the Commission on the Status of Women only a year ago.
– Which was attended by Australian delegates.
– Yes. There were three different views as to the age. Some delegates were in favour of fifteen, some in favour of sixteen and some in favour of fourteen. The respective votes for those ages were six, five and three. No votes were cast in favour of eighteen years. This recommendation from the Commission on the Status of Women will be submitted to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and, if that council approves it, to the General Assembly of the United Nations. We are prejudging the matter. We are increasing greatly the age at which males and females in the most populous States may marry, and we are increasing the age in all States at a time when this matter has been considered by an international assembly.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) mentioned some of the countries in which ages are as great as those set down in this bill, but he did not mention other countries which have lower ages, including ages as low as those that have been suggested by the honorable member for Parkes in his proposed amendment. Let me refer to the countries from which we are taking a very great number of migrants. The United Kingdom sets the age of sixteeen for males and females. Italy, the source of the next highest number of our migrants, sets the ages at sixteen for males and fourteen for females. The same ages are set by Malta, from which we also receive a steady stream of migrants. In New Zealand, where one would imagine that climatic and social factors would lead to the same ages being set as in Australia, the age rs sixteen for males and females. Tn fact, it is a rarity now to find the age of eighteen laid down.
Most of us would not like to see our own children marry at fifteen, sixteen or eighteen, but under the act it is not possible for a marriage to be contracted without the con sent of the parents if the parties are under the age of 21, or without the consent of a magistrate if the parties are under the ages of eighteen and sixteen respectively. The consent of a parent is not sufficient in the latter case. As the act now stands, when the parties are under 21 years of age, consent must be given by the parents or by other responsible persons. We all realize that it is physically possible for parties to marry at fifteen years or younger. Physiologists tell us that there is no reason why there should be different ages in different countries and different climates of the world at which marriages can be consummated. All that the honorable member for Parkes has suggested is that Australia should set the age which has commended itself to the last international body to consider this matter.
If we adopt the ages proposed in the bill we will have the unusual position that young people who can marry in the United Kingdom, Italy or some of the other countries from which migrants are coming to Australia will not be able to marry in this country. If they marry before they set out on the voyage to Australia, the marriage will be valid, but if they come to Australia first they will not be able to marry immediately. In the years to come, there will be a greater rather than a lesser migration of p’eoples to and from different countries of the world. It is surely sensible that we should set, as nearly as possible, an international standard in this social matter. I do not think we should lightly set aside the standard which has been considered and recommended by the last international body to look at this matter. The ages that we set here are not final, but why should we prejudice what the Economic and Social Council or the General Assembly of the United Nations may decide? Why should we assume that they will not accept what the Commission on the Status of Women has already recommended? In the meantime, the sensible thing seems to bte to adopt the standard which the commission has recommended.
For that reason, in the interests of a proper international standard in this matter, I support the amendment which has been proposed by the honorable member for Parkes.
.- As I understand it, this bill is not a party measure and the fact that I am speaking from this side of the House is purely coincidental. I do not think that we should be slavishly bound by the decision of some international conference. When all is said and done, economic and social conditions and cultural standards in various countries of the world vary enormously. Because some age may appeal perhaps to the Philippines, Burma or Pakistan, it does not necessarily follow that our decision should disregard our particular social and economic standards, our conditions and our traditions. Averages are always abstract and can be misleading. In fact, no particular case represents an average, so we should not be slavishly bound. If we are looking for guidance we would be best advised to look to the people who have experience in these matters in our own country and under our own conditions.
What is the real basis of this provision? It has not been mentioned, but let us look at it plainly. The ages proposed are eighteen years for a boy and sixteen years for a girl. Suppose a boy of seventeen or a girl of fifteen wish to marry. It is not asking very much that they should wait a year before doing so. But where the marriages involve children of more tender years, say, a boy of fifteen or a girl of fourteen, almost always those marriages result from the fact that the girl has become pregnant and there is a desire on the part of the parents of both children involved that the child of this union should be born legitimate. So it is, as it were, a shot-gun marriage. Let us be quite plain about it. Those are the circumstances that usually occur when young children are forced or persuaded into marriage by parents who want everything to be respectable.
The evidence of social workers in this country is quite unanimous on this. Almost invariably marriages of children of fourteen and fifteen years of age break down. The parties have been forced into a marriage that they did not want, and they were too young and immature to understand what a marriage involved. From the human and economic point of view, a boy cannot earn sufficient to keep himself, a wife and a child. What happens after the marriage breaks down? The child of the marriage has to be supported by a girl of fourteen or fifteen. This is impossible. In the fullness of time the child finds itself with foster parents of some kind or in some State home, or in some other way its life is ruined. But if you prevent this kind of marriage, there is a much more acceptable alternative for all the parties concerned; that is, the child could be adopted. There are far more parents anxious to adopt children than there are children available for adoption. But there is a very good chance - indeed, an excellent chance - that the child of this union will have a very good home where it will be loved by the people who adopt it. The children who have brought this child into the world will not go through the horrors of a break-up of the premature marriage into which they have been forced.
These are the realities of the situation. 1 do not think we should be guided by some international convention and by what the ladies of Pakistan, Burma, the Philippines or somewhere else may think of the matter. For my part, I will be guided by the experience of our own social workers in our own environment.
– I am glad that this is being treated as a non-party measure because I think the Parliament functions at its best in dealing with matters of this sort when honorable members are not bound by loyalty to party decisions. I find myself in the unusual position of having to speak against my colleague the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and my Deputy Leader, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). I am free to do so; but I do not want anybody to think that I am opposing him only because of the novelty of the experience.
– Is this a council for membership control?
– No, it is not a council for membership control; but with great respect to my two colleagues at the table, I think fifteen years is too young for either a boy or a girl to be permitted to enter into what is a pretty serious business. In entering into marriage, boys and girls have to decide that they will join some other person in matrimony and, when the marriage is unhappy, remain shackled to that person for the rest of their days. That is hell on earth.
– Not under the AttorneyGeneral’s uniform divorce legislation.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s Matrimonial Causes Act is an excellent piece of legislation and will do much to relieve the unhappiness of persons who are suffering the pangs of a virtual hell on earth because of their matrimonial circumstances. However, the divorce legislation does not permit persons in such circumstances to get out of marriage simply by looking towards the sun and saying, “ I divorce thee “, three times. They have to go through a complicated procedure and have the dissolution of their marriage endorsed by the courts.
The Matrimonial Causes Act provides that when a dissolution of a marriage is granted, the court shall - not may - impose on one of the parties concerned an obligation to see that the other party is properly maintained. In most cases, especially when there are children, that involves considerable expense. The process of getting a divorce is costly, and it is even more costly to maintain a former partner. For that reason, we should exercise caution in permitting persons who are merely children to enter into such a solemn contract as marriage which binds them until the day they die, or may involve them in heavy maintenance costs which could blight their lives. If they remain married, they have a life of hell on earth.
– A person cannot escape maintenance costs by declining to marry.
– No, maintenance in the case of refusal to marry applies only to the child. Many young persons who might not care for each other will marry because the girl concerned has become pregnant. They ought to be told by the law, if by no one else, that there is another way out, and that the boy does not have to marry and take upon himself the responsibility and expense of maintaining a wife as well as a child. In such cases the child is not wanted; but the wife is not wanted either. Often, it works in reverse, and the husband is not wanted. A young woman accepts the man because she thinks she has to accept him. At the tender age of fifteen years, the schoolboy approach to the problem is that once such circumstances arise, the pair have to marry. It is far better that they do not marry unless they love each other since a mere boy might have to face up to the cost of maintaining a child and the mother as well. I am sorry that I have to take the side contrary to my deputy leader. I must confess that I do enjoy somewhat the novelty of being able to say something contrary to what I normally would say.
– Enjoy it while you can.
– It will not be long now.
– It is shortlived. I hope that honorable members on both sides of the chamber will do what I am doing. I hope that those who favour fifteen years as the age for marrying will say so and that those who have views similar to mine will speak up. I am sure the Attorney-General would be the last to want to stop honorable members on the Government side from expressing their views freely as I have freely expressed mine.
.- Far from agreeing that the marriage age should be reduced as suggested in the amendment that has been moved by a member of the Opposition, I hold the contrary view. I do not think the minimum age should be eighteen years for a lad and sixteen years for a girl; I think it should be at least eighteen years for both.
– That is a novel approach.
– Like some other honorable members1 here, I am not in the least impressed by the suggested standardization of individuals to one pattern or form. I think we would be doing ourselves a graveinjustice if, under existing circumstances, we allowed, ourselves to be blinded by some international body and accept something which might be all right in other conditions in other parts of the world but would not be acceptable to the majority of people in Australia.
– How old1 was Juliet when she stood on the balcony?
– I do not care how old Juliet was on the balcony or what balcony she was on. In this day and age, we have to consider this serious question in the light of modern times. Even older persons who have gone into marriage have found it difficult at times to carry on. After all, marriage is an attitude of mind of one person to another.
– Do not be platonic.
– I know the attitude ot the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I do not believe I am being old-fashioned when I say that, at fifteen years of age, children cannot, except in the rarest cases, have an attitude of mind compatible with an ideal state of marriage. One might say that even at eighteen years of age they would not have the proper attitude of mind. I have given considerable thought to this matter and I believe that we are more likely to find a better attitude of mind to marriage in persons eighteen years old than we will find when they are fifteen. I strongly oppose a reduction in the marriage age. On the contrary, I would like to see the minimum age for both sexes eighteen years.
.- There can be no doubt that there are some strange bedfellows in this marriage debate. I should like to support the suggestion submitted by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby). Frankly, I cannot find any real warrant for the assumption that a girl becomes mature enough to marry at an earlier age than does a boy. If we came down to the lower levels of physical development, our physiologists would say, “ Yes “, but nobody is suggesting here that a girl of twelve should be permitted to marry. At the age of fifteen, which is the age suggested by the proposed amendment, a boy would certainly be as physically fitted for marriage as would a girl. The real guide as to whether a marriage is justified or whether it would be stable is the mental development, the psychological development, which includes emotional control and emotional stability. I have not as yet found any scientific evidence to justify the belief or social tradition that a girl is as mature at sixteen as is a boy at eighteen. Indeed, this whole argument draws my attention to the tradition that a girl should find a boy one or two years older than herself, and one of the consequences of this is that we have an abnormally high proportion of widows to widowers in the community At the other end of the scale, the average expectation of life for a man is, I think, five years less than that of a woman. This social tradition which requires a woman to marry a man older than herself only adds to the incidence of widowhood in our community. I men tion that as one consequence that occurs to me.
I am strongly opposed to allowing a youngster, either girl or boy, to marry at fifteen or sixteen years of age. I might be inclined to agree to seventeen years of age, but I mention that merely as an arbitrary opinion based upon casual observations. There does seem to be a number of young people in the community who are sufficiently physically developed, who are sufficiently emotionally controlled and who possess the various attributes necessary for a stable marriage at the age of seventeen, but, on the evidence that I have seen, I am not prepared to believe that, at the age of sixteen, a girl is sufficiently mature to marry. Certainly, I am not prepared to believe that she is so much more mature than the boy who is being required to wait until he is eighteen. Psychologists tell us that at twelve years of age girls are ahead of boys mentally, but that at about fifteen the margin has disappeared and their mental development is about even. As a general rule, however, mental maturity is attained at about the age of 17 years for both girls and boys. Therefore I would be a strong supporter of yet another amendment seeking to make the age either seventeen years or eighteen years for both girls and boys.
.- I support clause 1 1 as it stands. I think there is good reason why the male, in normal circumstances, should be at least eighteen years of age before he gets married. When he is married, he has to face up to heavy responsibilities and, as a general rule, he is not capable of carrying those responsibilities until he is at least eighteen years of age.
If I may, I should like to repeat what I said when the previous Marriage Bill was being discussed. That is that, in appropriate circumstances, it should be possible for both intending parties to a marriage to obtain special permission to marry even though they are younger than eighteen and sixteen years respectively. Under clause 12 of this bill, a girl of fifteen may apply for special permission to marry a boy of eighteen years of age, assuming she has obtained her parents’ consent but, if the boy is seventeen years of age, which is under the permissible marriageable age, a girl of fifteen cannot apply for permission to marry him. She may apply fox permission to marry only if the boy whom she proposes to marry is of permissible marriageable age. The boy, on the other hand, can apply for permission to marry the girl only if she is at least sixteen years of age. The suggestion I made previously and which I repeat now is that it should be possible, in appropriate circumstances, for a young girl of fifteen to marry a lad of seventeen if special permission is obtained under the law governing marriageable ages, although I do admit that, generally speaking, it is wise to provide that the marriageable age shall be eighteen for the boy and sixteen for the girl. Apart from the special circumstances I have mentioned, I support clause 11 as it stands.
.- 1 am another who will be voting against my deputy leader, the honorable member for Werrima (Mr. Whitlam). 1 feel that this provision fixing the minimum age at eighteen for boys and sixteen for girls has been included in the bill only after a great deal of thought, investigation and comparison with the laws of other places. The State laws relating to marriageable ages provide an interesting study. For instance, the the Tasmanian law was amended in 1942 to provide minimum ages of eighteen for the boy and sixteen for the girl, and that law has applied since that date. In Western Australia, the law was amended in 1956 to provide for minimum ages of eighteen and sixteen respectively. The South Australian law was amended in 1957 to provide minimum ages of eighteen and sixteen. This bill agrees with the provisions of those three States. I understand that in the eastern States, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, there is no statutory provision governing the age at which boys and girls may marry, but the common law provides minimum ages of fourteen for boys and twelve for girls, provided both parties first obtain the consent of their parents. I understand that there have been marriages in Australia between boys of fourteen and girls of twelve. The AttorneyGeneral can correct me there if I am wrong. I thought that such marriages took place only in India and other parts of Asia, and I was surprised to learn that there had been so many of them in Australia. So I come clown on the side which supports clause 1 1 and favour minimum ages of eighteen for boys and sixteen for girls.
Daring my eight years as a minister of religion, I did find it necessary, for the sake of propriety, to marry girls of fifteen years of age. I do not remember ha /ing married any girl under that age. The youngest boy I married was seventeen years of age, and in each case the consent of both the parents and the registrar in Tasmania was necessary. These marriages were purely to legitimize the expected child. Clause 12 enables males of sixteen and females of fourteen years to be married with the consent of a judge or magistrate. The purpose of the amendment moved by my colleague, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), is partly met. The judge or magistrate in such a case will gather all the relevant facts on the application to be married under the marriageable age and will be able to give a decision in favour of the application if he considers it to be right to do so.
For these reasons and because, as the father of three daughters, I believe that some sense of responsibility is called for in these matters, I will come down on the side of the provision in the bill. Mr. Chairman, if we should find in the next twelve months, or even in the next three or four years, with changes that take place in the social life of the community, thai eighteen years and sixteen years are too high, there would be no reason why an amendment to the provision could r.ot be presented and passed by the Parliament. This whole bill now before us can be amended in any or every respect if this Parliament so decides.
.- I support the viewpoint expressed by the honorable members for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) and Griffith (Mr. Chresby). I can find no justification for a differentiation in the age of marriage for males and females. Generally speaking, the differentiation between ages has descended, historically and traditionally, from the subjective positions that women have occupied in the community. In Australia at present, women have not reached full equality with men in the social and organizational life of the community. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) says that they have in his home. However, that is apparently the only place where he has occupied a subjective position.
The point I make is that there is no justification for a differentiation in the ages. I do not think there is any social desirability in attempting to adopt a younger marriageable age for females. We live at a time when an attempt is being made to encourage people to stay at school longer. The school leaving age in Tasmania is sixteen years and in Victoria it is fifteen years. In other fields of thought and activity we find that the same age is adopted for girls and boys and for men and women. They qualify to drive motor cars at the same age and to vote at the same age. The compulsory age for attendance at school is the same for both boys and girls. To adopt different ages in this bill is simply perpetuating part of the undesirable traditions of the past.
As the honorable member for Barton pointed out, an important social factor is involved. A provision such as this produces a large crop of widows. Males were 3.36 years older than females in marriages that occurred in 1958. The average life expectancy of females is some four or five years longer than that of males. This, of course, produces a large number of widows in their sixties and seventies, with all the social consequences that flow from this both for the individual and for the exchequer in the payment of pensions and so on. Therefore, although I do not propose to move a further amendment, I believe that the marriageable age for both males and females should be eighteen years.
.- I am rather amazed that the men of this Parliament should set themselves up as a superior authority to women on the question of marriage. It is against all precedent to believe that they would know more than women about this subject. One of the coy statements of the male is that he has been inveigled into marriage anyway. But now he becomes an authority and puts his views on the question of marriageable ages against the views of trained and thoughtful women. I find this hard to understand. I am shocked at the defection of my colleagues who sit behind me. They are mostly very loyal in matters of this sort. No doubt when they return to their homes and the true status of women re-exerts itself on a unitary basis, they will be asked to explain why they did not support the amendment moved by their colleague.
My honorable colleague from Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) almost wept into the despatch box about the plight of the little fifteen-year-old girls. I want to point out that, according to the statistics, these little girls did remarkably well for themselves. Here is the situation. Juliet, the immortal Juliet of “ Romeo and Juliet “, was just twelve years of age when she breathed on her young lover’s neck, “ Wherefore art thou, Romeo “. That was the most exquisite love ever phrased in the whole history of literature. We learn that Helen of Troy was thirteen when her face launched a thousand ships. Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh imagine that any of his recalcitrant girls would launch a thousand ships? I doubt whether they would launch a ferry boat on a good day in Port Adelaide. Then, Mary Queen of Scots, the flower of Scotland, became the bride of France at fifteen, did very well for herself, was full of experience, and had discarded her husband before she reached the marriageable age laid down by the Attorney-General in this bill. Therefore, his provision takes no account of the experience of the very young and knowledgeable about the ages of marriage. Finally, the Queen of Sheba, a most historic and biblical character, was only twelve when she ascended the Peacock Throne with Solomon himself in all his glory.
When honorable members talk of the marriageable age and shudder at the prospect of little girls of fifteen years not knowing what they are doing, we find that history certainly does not support them in any way. I rose in a reasonable attitude to point out to the Attorney-General that this is a highly contentious matter. Even if our amendment is defeated, we will still have the verdict of history to support our view that this age we have suggested is not too young. We have heard the poet and the composer on the same theme of the age of marriage. The Attorney-General is very didactic and certain of himself, and is a little too paternal. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) was almost in tears when talking about this situation. But I think that the facts I have given about what happened to
Juliet, Helen of Troy, Mary Queen of Scots and the Queen of Sheba certainly show that my amendment should be passed unanimously.
.- Some honorable members who have spoken on the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) have reflected on the capacity of the countries represented on the Commission on the Status of Women to make a mature judgment on these matters. I will, therefore, recall to the committee the members of the commission at the Buenos Aires meeting last year. They were Argentina, Canada, Formosa, Colombia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Greece Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the United States. I remind honorable members that nobody on the commission justified a difference in the age of marriage between males and females. No members proposed an age of marriage above sixteen years and the majority vote was in favour of fifteen years, which is the age proposed by the honorable member for Parkes.
.- Mr. Chairman, I think it is just as well to recall what we are trying to do. We are trying to set a statutory minimum age which will fairly work through the whole gamut of personality in the community, and we are trying to do it in Australia. We are not worrying about the historical phases to which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred so amusingly. In referring to the document prepared for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, those honorable members who think that the ages should be reduced called attention very pointedly to one of the defects of some of these agencies of the United Nations. They imagine that you can make a common rule for all the peoples of the earth on all matters. That is a proposition which I do not think the majority of members of this committee would accept.
The ladies who went to the meeting of the commission in Buenos Aires last year which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) mentioned were not actually deciding anything. They went to prepare working papers which were to be submitted to the commission this year in Geneva, and those working papers are at present being examined. There were in truth eighteen nations represented at Buenos Aires. The representatives of six of them thought that fifteen should be the minimum age for the marriage of a female, but there was no majority for fifteen. Seeing that they had to submit a figure in the working papers, they kept it low in order, I suppose, to afford greater opportunity to raise the figure when it came to be discussed formally by the commission itself. Even if the commission, which has not yet dealt with the matter, decided to accept fifteen as the minimum age, the issue would have to go before the United Nations General Assembly, and its submission to that body would result only in some sort of recommendation if any motion were carried by the Assembly by the requisite majority. So that the sub-stratum on which was based much of what has been said by some honorable members concerning the proposition contained in clause 1 1 was merely a working paper produced by these ladies at Buenos Aires with no majority for any age and certainly no unanimity. Six out of eighteen representatives in substance said, “ We shall put in ‘ fifteen ‘ because we must have a figure “.
The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) pointed out that economic and climatic conditions, as well as a great number of other considerations, would influence one if one were in New Delhi trying to fix a minimum age for the marriage of Indians, and that the age which one would choose there would probably be very different from that which one would choose in some other places. But this is Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was bold enough to say that we would not find any recent instance of an age set as high as that which I have suggested. But I remind the committee that in 1956, Western Australia chose the ages of eighteen for males and sixteen for females, and in 1957, South Australia chose eighteen and sixteen. Those are the nearest recent examples that we have in Australia. We must bear in mind that we are not saying what is the desirable age for marriage; indeed, I suppose that none of us who has children would welcome seeing a daughter go off at sixteen. None of us would be very anxious to see our sons take on at eighteen the heavy responsibilities which we want them to discharge honorably.
We have to take a fair figure which will apply right through the community - a figure which will not cause hardship and will not unduly excite young people to think that they can marry at ages at which they are quite immature. These ages of eighteen and sixteen have been set after a good deal of consideration and a good deal of advice and assistance from social workers throughout Australia. I may say, Mr. Chairman, that this bill has had a very wide circulation. The committee will remember that I introduced a bill last May and said that it could rest until the Budget session of last year. Then, after a lot of negotiation with the States and with various people and organizations, I brought in a large sheaf of adjustments designed to meet the criticisms which I thought were valid as they were made to me. This bill has been introduced almost a year after the introduction of that prototype; I have not had one letter or one request from any women’s organization in the whole of Australia to alter these minimum ages. Indeed, I think I can fairly say that I have had universal commendation from the women of Australia and their organizations. I think, therefore, that we can fairly put on one side this tentative document prepared by the Commission on the Status of Women to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred.
The committee will remember that this bill contains very liberal provisions as to legitimation. These provisions are probably as wide as they could be made within the power of the Commonwealth. With the existence of these provisions and the adoptive procedures in all the States, which we hope soon to get on a uniform basis, there is no fear of injury to an innocent child who is born out of wedlock. I have forgotten what choice of parents a child offering for adoption has in New South Wales, but I think that there are more than ten applicants for every child. The number is, I think, at least ten, at any rate. So there is no disadvantage in the fact that the parents of a child are unable to marry. If they wish to wait and then marry, they can legitimate the child by their subsequent marriage. In some States, this will be a new provision which will come in by means of this bill.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, “ You have the consent of the parents there to see that no harm is done “. But, in truth, one of the purposes of setting these minimum ages for marriage is to protect the young against parents, because children under the minimum ages prescribed in this bill often are led into marriage, not because any one thinks marriage will be good for them and not because two young people really want to marry one another, but because prospective grandparents do not want to have a stigma on the family or the family name. The social workers say that these marriages probably cause much more harm than we realize. They say, also, in response to my inquiries, that if a young unmarried girl who finds herself pregnant is asked in the early weeks of the pregnancy whether she would marry, she will say “ Yes “, but the experience of the social workers is that, generally speaking, after a few months, she does not want to marry, because she has adjusted herself to face life and what she has done. The child is fully cared for by the legitimation and adoption provisions.
One person can say that the minimum age for marriage ought to be seventeen, and another can say that it ought to be eighteen. In one sense, within a narrow range, one age is as good as another. But I want honorable members to bear in mind that this is a law being made for Australia. In three of the States at present, the minimum ages for marriage are eighteen for males and sixteen for females. I suggest that when you are trying to fix on uniform figures for the whole of Australia and there is some difference of opinion founded on not very much more than an individual’s particular idea or fancy, those who want to fix ages below eighteen and sixteen should remember this: We are fixing those figures for three States of the Commonwealth that have expressed their desire to have the minimum ages of eighteen and sixteen. The other three States, on the other hand, have rested on the common law minimum ages of twelve and fourteen. I suppose that nobody in this chamber would wish to support those minimum ages.
I suggest, as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said, that we do not easily convince one another about this, partly because we have preconceptions and partly because some have not gone into the matter as deeply as others have done. But my suggestion to the committee, with great respect, is that the bill as drafted sets minimum ages that are fairly workable in the Australian community. They will cause no hardship and, indeed, they will do a lot of good in deterring early unions of young people.
.- The Attorney-General will recall that in his second-reading speech, when referring to clause 12, he said that mere expectancy of a child would not be sufficient to justify the parties making use of the provisions of the clause. The language used in this clause is intriguing. Sub-clause (2.) (b) provides that the judge or magistrate shall hold an inquiry, and that he may make the order sought if he is satisfied that - the circumstances of the case are so exceptional and unusual as to justify the making of an order
I hope the Minister will make an adequate explanation of the force of this provision. I would like to mention to the honorable gentleman a possible circumstance, in which a girl of fifteen years finds herself pregnant. Both parties, with the full approval of their respective families, after a consideration of all the aspects, decide that marriage is in their interests. There is no social or religious inhibition. The two parties genuinely believe they are in love with each other and they do want to get married. The only justifying circumstance to which they can point is the mere expectancy of a child, to which the Attorney-General referred in his speech. If they went to a judge, with the permission of their parents, and asked for an order, he would say, “ Under the provisions of the act you do not qualify. The circumstances are not exceptional or unusual “. I would like to hear what the Minister has to say on this1 point.
.- The words were chosen deliberately, so that the magistrate, or the person authorized to give the consent or authority, will not treat mere pregnancy as a sufficient reason. The policy of the legislation is to reject mere pregnancy as a reason for the granting of an order under these provisions. There may be added circumstances, and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) once before asked me to illustrate the conditions that might give rise to the use of these provisions. Well, there are many such conditions, and at the moment I can give one or two illustrations. Assume there is a young couple, the male being over age and the female under age. The male is appointed to a post abroad. The couple really want to marry, and there may be no question at all of pregnancy. He may be going to a place where the minimum marriageable ages are greater than those provided under this bill. In a case like that I would expect the authority to say, “ I am satisfied that you really want to marry, and I consider the circumstances exceptional “.
Consider another case in which the man is over age and the girl under age. The couple really want to marry, and there are testamentary provisions affecting one of them, which provide that if the person concerned is married before a certain date he or she will succeed to property. The magistrate may well say, “They really are fitted for marriage. The one under age is mature enough. They really want to settle down together, and this other matter of financial benefit is sufficient to make the circumstances exceptional.”
In either case you may add, if you like, anticipated pregnancy in order to strengthen the circumstances, but I have given the two illustrations without suggesting any anticipated pregnancy in order to show the kind of circumstances which may be considered exceptional. The words of the sub-clause are deliberately strong words, so as to ensure that in only really exceptional cases will this power to allow marriage of persons under age be exercised.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 42 and 44 - by leave - reconsidered together.
.- I wish to direct attention to clause 42 (l.)(b), which provides that a marriage shall not be solemnized unless - there has been produced to that authorized celebrant, in respect of each of the parties -
I ask the Attorney-General: What is an official certificate or an official extract? In many cases the parties to a marriage may have been born in the district in which the marriage is to take place. In such cases the records of the births may be recorded in the register of the church in which the marriage is to take place. In those circumstances will the parties be required to produce an official certificate, and would not an entry in the baptismal register or the register of births in the particular church be sufficiently reliable proof of birth? I had intended, if an entry in the baptismal register is not acceptable under the legislation as now framed, to move the following amendment: -
After the words “ of the party “ in line 40 of page 19, insert the following words, “except where the baptismal register or register of births of the church in which the marriage is to be celebrated contains an entry showing the date and place of birth of the party “.
However, the Minister may already have had such a proposal put to him, and he may have had good reasons for not accepting it. I ask for his consideration of this point.
.- If the baptismal register of a church is an official register, as it may be in some places, then, of course, the officiating clergyman could merely take out an extract from his own baptismal register. But by and large throughout Australia the States have instituted official registration systems at central points. This paragraph has been framed sufficiently widely to cover any form of register or certificate which is recognized as official under the laws of the States, which still continue to operate in relation to the registration of births. The honorable member’s suggested amendment, therefore, is really unnecessary.
If, however, the honorable member wanted me to adopt a provision to make acceptable under Commonwealth law extracts from registers which were not official at present under State laws, I would not wish to accept such a proposition. We have escaped from the great difficulties attaching to parish baptismal registers, and we have these central civil registers. There is no trouble involved in getting an extract from them or a copy of a certificate. I do not think the honorable member really wants me to try now to bring these baptismal registers up to official level if they are not already there. If they are already there, there is no need for the amendment, because this clause would permit their use in the form of extracts.
.- I have noticed frequent references in this bill to the necessity to have two witnesses present at the time of solemnization of a marriage. I should imagine that the only reason for that would be to give the clergyman or other person authorized to solemnize the marriage some assurance that the parties to the marriage were qualified to contract the marriage. I should like this bill to make it compulsory for the parties contracting a marriage to place the print of their index finger on the marriage register. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) may think that that is stupid but I can assure him that, particularly in the war years, the offence of bigamy was very prevalent.
The Attorney-General will know that, to prove a case of bigamy, particularly under the New South Wales law, is very difficult because the evidence of the wife or husband is not regarded as satisfactory at law and witnesses have to be brought to the court. Great difficulty has been encountered by the Crown law authorities in New South Wales over a long period of years, first in finding witnesses and then in bringing them to court. Many prosecutions for bigamy are abandoned in New South Wales because witnesses would have to be brought from distant places, even interstate, and the cost involved would be considerable. The bigamist has no trouble in arranging a few witnesses to attend a bigamous marriage. That is done time and time again. During the war years there were more prosecutions for bigamy than ever before, due to the fact that two women would go to the Army pay office claiming one man’s allotment. In one case of which I have knowledge a man. had “ married “ seven different women.
– He was game.
– Yes. He was game. This man was a criminal and he contested a lot of the accusations against him. He gave no assistance. He took advantage of the principle of British justice that a man cannot be condemned out of his own mouth and he refused to talk. There may have been a lot more than seven bigamous marriage. In another case of which I know a ship’s captain married a woman in England, one in Canada and one in Sydney.
– In only three ports?
– There could have been others, but he was charged with the offence of bigamy in relation to the third marriage - the one in Sydney. In order to get him acquitted, his counsel disclosed the marriage in England because the Crown, in its indictment, had cited the marriage in Canada as the legal one and the marriage in Sydney as the bigamous one. Actually, the legal marriage was in England and the one in Canada was not a valid marriage. The AttorneyGeneral knows the counsel concerned very well. He is now a judge. He was not appointed by the Attorney-General, I am glad to say. The bigamist was recharged, but due to the fact that the Crown could not get witnesses from England, he was acquitted. He was broke when he was acquitted, I might add.
It is my submission that if a person had to imprint his index finger on the marriage register, the certificate would be sufficient proof that a person had gone through a form of marriage. Probably, the AttorneyGeneral would not like to amend the bill to meet my request because it would restrict the income of lawyers and so offend the Bar Council. I say that with all due respect to legal men in this chamber, including the respected Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). However, I seriously suggest that, if it is not too late, the AttorneyGeneral should give some thought to my suggestion in order to make prosecutions of bigamists easier and the cost to the taxpayer of launching prosecutions much less.
– I draw the attention of the Attorney-General to clause 42 (l.)(a) which reads as follows: -
Subject to this section, a marriage shall not be solemnized unless -
notice in writing of the intended marriage has been given in accordance with this section and has been received by the authorized celebrant solemnizing the marriage not earlier than the ninetieth day before the date of the marriage and not later than the seventh day before the date of the marriage;
I have had representations made to me which I have referred to the AttorneyGeneral. I presume that he has given them attention. A number of clergymen consider that seven days is too short notice to be given to the churches. They regard this as a very important sacrament of the church. When a marriage is notified in a number of churches they like to have the banns announced on three successive Sundays before the marriage. I think that the churches would like to have the period of seven days altered to 28 days. A number of clergymen like to give those who apply for the right to marry some very important instruction before the ceremony is performed. They think that the business of marriage is more important than seven days’ notice, would imply. Few ordinary contracts are finalized within seven days. I think this is a matter that should be considered. I move -
Omit “seventh”, insert “twenty-eighth.”.
.- I wish to refer to clause 44, but not for the same reasons as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to it. Clause 44 states -
A marriage shall not be solemnized unless at least two .persons who are, or appear to the person solemnizing the marriage to be, over the age of eighteen years are present as witnesses.
I submit that the age of eighteen years is too high altogether, for this reason: Many brides like to have their younger sisters as bridesmaids and this clause would make it impossible for a bridesmaid under the age of eighteen years to be a witness, that is, append her signature to the document after the marriage. I would like the AttorneyGeneral to tell me why he wants to set this age so high. After all, in this bill he allows a girl of sixteen years to marry and marriage is a far more serious proposition than is being a witness to the marriage of somebody else.
– The bridesmaid does not have to be a witness.
– No, but some brides would like their young sisters to be witnesses as well. I would like to know why the age of eighteen is necessary. The AttorneyGeneral states that a girl is old enough to be married at sixteen years but he will not permit her to be a legal witness to a marriage at sixteen years. I would like him to clear that point up.
.- I wish to deal with a point raised by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), regarding the seven days’ notice of the intended marriage. I think the wording of the bill makes it clear that one has up to the 90th day before the date of the marriage in which to give notice. However, seven days is the minimum and therefore, in every case where a clergyman wishes to have plenty of notice, he has ample opportunity for arranging that notice, because he has up to 90 days. Nevertheless, there are cases in which it would be inconvenient to have to give more than seven days’ notice. I think that that provision, as now worded, gives ample scope and is, therefore, desirable as it stands.
.- 1 would like to support the amendment moved by my colleague, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), which seeks to change the minimum period of notice from seven days to 28 days. Different views have been put by clergymen representing different denominations, and I think there is a logical case to be made out for the proposition. The clergy have pointed out that, for their requirements, they would like to have the official sanction of Parliament to encourage people to recognize that marriage is a sacred matter and a long-term arrangement and contract. They feel that anything that this Parliament can do to encourage the thought that ought to be given and ought to be indulged in prior to marriage would be very welcome. It is true, as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) has indicated, that the bill contains reference to 90 days’ prior notice. Nevertheless, by providing in the legislation that the notice can be as little as seven days I do not think we would give quite the kind of encouragement that the clergymen seek. They are trying to encourage the community to recognize the solemnity of marriage and the fact that it is a long-term contract, which ought to be talked over with counsel.
The clergymen, therefore, feel that, although not all people will want to go to clergymen to be married, perhaps there will be special circumstances and that legislation passed by this National Parliament ought to encourage the belief that some considered period of time much more than seven days should be required in the law as prior notice of marriage. There is a further point, apart from that raised by my colleague, that in commercial life people who need to survey a contract and all its implications require a time longer than seven days.
At present, many migrants are coming into the country. The vast majority of them are Christians. The clergy, and presumably other officers authorized to celebrate marriages, would like to have the opportunity, by statute, to ensure, as far as they are able, first, that the people about to contract marriage are eligible to do so and, secondly, that they have opportunity to talk the matter over and receive advice from counsel on Christian marriage. It is for those reasons that they stress this point. As one looks through some of the other provisions of this clause, one notices that the time can be even less than the minimum prescribed. Subclause (3.) provides that in certain circumstances not even both parties to a marriage are required to give notice seven days in advance but that only one need give notice seven days ahead and the other can do so immediately prior to the marriage.
I can understand - and I hope the Attorney-General can - some of the disquiet felt by some sincere clergymen who have had considerable experience in this matter. I believe they would like the endorsement of the Federal Parliament to a provision for adequate time of more than seven days’ notice. I believe they would think 28 days desirable so that due consideration could be given to the very solemn contract about to be entered into.
– I have great sympathy with the views expressed by the honorable members for Banks (Mr. Costal and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), but if they look at clause 47 of the bill they will find that it makes it quite clear that this question is fairly in the hands of the churches. I may say that I found no unanimity among the churchmen who spoke to me and to whom I spoke, in regard to this provision. Quite a number of them thought there was no need for any period of notice at all.
Clause 47 says two things, first, that no clergyman is bound to marry at all. let alone on seven days’ notice and, secondly, that the provisions of the act do not prevent the clergy from fixing a longer time. I hope they would do so for their own purposes, because I think there ought to be a longer period during which the clergyman has the opportunity to discuss quite serious matters with the young people. But when we are going to make a generally operating statute it seemed to me that seven days was the figure which ought to be chosen, and that the opportunity and the duty should be placed fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the churches to say, “ We will not marry in this denomination or even in this parish or in this particular church unless the notice is given for a longer period “. It seems to me that there is no difficulty in the churches doing that and the bill provides that it is their right. Indeed, there is a strong enough hint, I think, in the way in which it is drawn, that that is something which is desirable. That is the answer that I would make to both of those honorable members.
Now may I say something to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) in relation to his request. One of the functions of the witnesses is to ensure identification of the parties to the clergyman and also to import an air of solemnity and formality. Although the bride may be young, it seems .to me, with great respect, that the age of eighteen is the minimum age at which you could say you have two people who are able to perform the functions of witnesses to the ceremony. I do not understand bridesmaids to be brought along to be witnesses. I have been present only once when a register was signed, and I do not remember my wife’s bridesmaids witnessing the document. Perhaps the parents or somebody else did so.
– That was a long time ago.
– It is a long time ago. If you must know, it was many years ago to-morrow. I think that the age of eighteen is a fair compromise so as to ensure the solemnity and sense of responsibility of those who are witnesses.
I shall answer the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) as one who has practised and knows the difficulties - the very great difficulties - in which a prosecution is placed in these cases. I have great sympathy, if I may say so, with any devices which would make for certainty and reduce the cost and the volume of proof. But I point out to the honorable member that, having got a fingerprint on the marriage certificate, you have to get one with which to compare it. That means that you have to say that you will impose fingerprinting on the accused, not for the purposes of identification against a record by the gaol recorder, after conviction on a charge, so as to identify him from the point of view of convictions-
– As evidence to support the charge made.
– Yes, you are going to force people who are as yet entitled to be silent to provide evidence against themselves. As the honorable member knows, a strong principle of law and a strong principle of liberty is that every man accused has a right to be silent. The honorable member’s proposition would invade that principle, and say in effect to the accused: “ You cannot be silent with your finger. You must allow a print to be taken for the purpose of providing evidence against you on this charge.” That is not generally allowable under criminal law at the moment. Fingerprints are taken, but they are used for a different purpose - to identify the accused in relation to previous convictions. I say quite seriously to honorable members that however perfect that remedy might be-
– It is on the statute-book - section 353 of the Crimes Act.
– I know the purpose that is used for, but you would be asking me to import it into this particular area, and I really think that, efficient as it might be, the people of this country would resent that. There seems to be nothing that disturbs the people of this country more than being asked to leave their fingerprints anywhere. We used to have to provide fingerprints to get an American vise and, my word, there was an enormous amount of pressure in this country aimed at getting the American Government to forgo that practice.
– It is still existent.
– No, it is not. An American vise may now be obtained, I think, without the applicant providing his fingerprints. The practice was changed because of pressure on the part of the Australian population. With great respect, I would not be prepared to tread on that ground in this bill. There may come a time when we all will have to leave our fingerprints to be available subsequently, but that could not, in my view, be done in this bill.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 60 to 64 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 65 to 70 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 71 and 72 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 73 to 88 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 89 to 93 - by leave - taken together.
.- I want to ask the Attorney-General a question relating to clause 91. First, 1 should like to thank him for his courtesy in discussing this matter with me at some length at a late hour last night. I am simply seeking enlightenment as a bewildered layman. Clause 91 deals with the legitimacy of children of certain void marriages. So far as it relates to old Australians who have been through a form of marriage which they thought was valid in this country, and whose marriage is subsequently declared void by a court, the children of the union, despite the voiding of the marriage, will, under this clause, be deemed to be legitimate. That is a humane and proper approach, of which all of us would approve. But the difficulty arises in relation to sub-clause (2.), which reads -
The last preceding sub-section does not apply unless one of the parents of the child was domiciled in Australia at the time of the birth of the child or, having died before that time, was domiciled in Australia immediately before his death.
This appears to discriminate against, say, the children of new Australians in particular. Suppose that a marriage which the parties believed to be valid took place in another country, perhaps Italy, a child was born of the union and subsequently the parents migrated to Australia. If, having migrated to this country, a court in Australia declares that the marriage is and always was void - applying,I presume, the law of domicile of the parents when they purported to marry - the children of such a marriage are not legitimated. In other words, there appears to be a discrepancy between the treatment of children of old Australians and the treatment of children of new Australians. « I am putting this very broadly indeed and not completely accurately but I think that it is reasonable to put it in this way in order to make my point comprehensible.
I understand from the Minister that the reason for this apparent discrimination arises out of private international law, out of our constitutional powers in this country and out of technical reasons that are beyond my understanding as a simple layman. However, it would seem - again I speak as a layman - that sub-clause (2.) of clause 90 will do what one would like sub-clause (2.) of clause 91 to do. Clause 90 deals with foreign legitimations. Though an illegitimate child has been born in another country and though the parents may have married in that other country, the provisions of clause 90(1.), whether or not the law of the place in which the father was domiciled at the time of the birth permitted or recognized legitimation by subsequent marriage, legitimate that child in Australia. There must be some reason that I do not understand for this legitimation despite the fact that the birth or marriage took place elsewhere than in Australia. The Attorney-General was kind enough to give this matter further consideration last night. Although he did not hold out a great deal of hope that he could accede to my requests, he did say that he would look further into the matter. I hope that something can be suggested by lawyers in this chamber or in the other place. If some suggestion is forthcoming, I am sure that the Attorney-General will be happy to take any steps available to him in order to achieve the objectives which I think all of us would like to achieve.
– I did see the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) about this matter and since last night I have given some thought to the matters that he raised with me. But I think one must concede that there are radical differences between clause 90 and clause 91.
Clause 90 recognizes legitimations that the laws of some other place have effected. In that case the legitimation is not done in Australia. All that this bill says is that we will recognize what another country has done in the way of legitimation of a child if the various conditions be fulfilled. But clause 91 goes much further and probably goes to the very limit of what I feel this Parliament is able to do in the way of legitimation. Clause 91 legitimates a child. The clause allows legitimation to take place although the marriage was abroad, although the birth of the child was abroad and although foreign law has not legitimated the child, but there must be some connexion with Australia in order to attract our power in the matter. The condition that attracts Australia’s power in the bill is the domicile of the child or one of the parents of the child, which will perhaps be the same thing in some circumstances.
Apart from that connexion with Australia I do not feel, as at present advised, that we can hold out anyhope to have our legitimations recognized abroad. In dealing with a matter of this kind we must be careful that we do not lead people up the garden path only to find that they are not legitimate in some other country. However, I have not said the last word on this matter. I told the honorable member for Bradfield that I would continue to give it some thought. As yet I have not found any answer to the problem he put to me. If I do find an answer before the bill is passed in another place I most certainly will contrive to make some adjustment to the bill, but I do not want the honorable member to think that I am holding out any expectations to him. I merely say that I will continue to see whether I can find a solution to his problem.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 94 to 120 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill ‘be now read a third time.
.- Australia is now well on the way to having a uniform law for marriage, just as it has a uniform law for divorce. But there is one very vital sector of family laws that I feel has been neglected by all of us. I refer to the maintenance laws, and particularly do I refer to the plight of deserted wives. In the past I have raised this matter on several occasions, and I hope that in the very near future somehow or other the Parliament will avail itself of an opportunity to examine critically the desperate plight of deserted wives in this country. Deserted wives are, in asense, ancillaries of marriages. I am disturbed mightily to know that the Government and the taxpayers are finding for deserted wives a sum of money each year considerably in excess of £3,000,000. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) may be able to appeal to the State Attorneys-General to correct this palpable weakness in our family laws.
.- I take this opportunity to thank ‘the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) for tackling theproblem of marriage, and I trust that the bill will have a speedy passage in another place. The bill was dealt with on a non-party basis in this House and both sides of this House deserve commendation for treating the bill seriously and for passing it without division or amendment. The billis monumental, just as was the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) about deserted wives and maintenance. If the Attorney-General could find a way through the labyrinth of the Constitution to do something about this matter he would render a great service to the Commonwealth. Deserted wives represent a tragic social problem of our time. Honorable members on both sides of the House have been presented on many occasions with pathetic cases of deserted wives. We all know the higgledy-piggledy nature of the maintenance laws of the various States. I support the plea of the honorable member for Moreton. I hope that something practical will be done in this matter soon.
– in reply - On the points raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr.
Duthie), the question of bringing the maintenance laws of the States into a common form is already on the agenda for the meeting of Attorneys-General of the States and myself later this month.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) proposed -
That the House do not adjourn.
.- I wish to raise a matter that was brought to my notice a few days ago. In correspondence and in visits from representatives of several firms complaints have been raised about the Government’s attitude and policy in relation to the disposal of naval vessels to overseas firms for breaking up. In the past, Australian companies have tendered unsuccessfully for these vessels. At present, the Department of the Navy is disposing of a considerable number of ships. In doing so, it goes through the procedure of calling for tenders. Tenders are accepted from overseas firms as well as Australian firms, but in every case so far the Australian firms have been beaten by overseas firms. Consequently, the ships are being towed from Australia to places such as Hong Kong and Japan, and Australia is losing out in many ways.
Recently the Department of the Navy called for tenders, and again the same pattern occurred. Local firms could not compete with overseas organizations. I understand that the price tendered by the local firms varied from £5 to £6 a ton, and that the successful tender of £10 a ton came from an overseas firm. The local organizations claim that due to the cheap labour that is available overseas, they are finding it impossible to compete with foreign companies. I understand that in the very near future the Navy intends to dispose of additional ships, and it is possible that “ Hobart “ will go the same way as the other vessels have gone.
The shipbreaking industry in Australia is not a large one. In fact, it is a very small industry although it is very important, particularly to those people who have invested in it and to those who depend on it for their livelihood. I should like to read to the House extracts from a letter which was forwarded to me because they express better than I can the position in which the Australian industry finds itself. I shall not give the name of the firm concerned but any honorable member who wishes to see this letter may do so. The principal of this company states -
For the past eight years our company has been engaged in shipbreaking activities in association with . . who have exported the steel scrap resulting from this work.
It has been our policy to purchase old ships which have outlived their usefulness, but during the last two years we have experienced difficulty in acquiring such vessels as Far Eastern interests have been able to pay higher prices for such vessels which they tow away and break up with cheap labour at Hong Kong and elsewhere.
From time to time the Navy has ships which it disposes of through the Department of Supply, but here again we have been unable to compete with Hong Kong and Japan as the policy of the Commonwealth Government is to sell such old ships to the highest bidder without any consideration as to the local shipbreaking activity we have endeavoured to establish.
As the result of this, the position is now desperate and unless we can secure further ships shortly our operations on the waterfront must be suspended.
The concluding paragraph of the letter is in these terms -
It is requested that the Commonwealth Government give consideration to the policy governing the sale of old Navy vessels and that some provision be made for a quantity of these to be ear-marked for sale and breaking up in Australia.
Another Sydney firm which is interested in this matter wrote to the industries division of the Department of Trade, St. Kilda, Victoria, on 19th October, 1960. I have a copy of that letter which, I have been informed, was not even acknowledged by the Department of Trade. An extract from this letter reads -
Over the past year we have experienced increasing difficulty in securing vessels for shinbreaking, for on a number of occasions we have been outbid by Far Eastern buyers who have towed the vessels to Hong Kong where shipbreaking is performed by means of low cost labour which to some extent offsets the purchasers’ expenses of removing the vessels from Australia.
We are mindful of the fact that action has been taken by you to assist Australian industries.
As «n example, you have reduced the export quotas of scrap steel so that a sufficient tonnage of this raw material will remain in the country and thus be available for local mills and foundries.
For our shipbreaking industry vessels, such as the minesweepers for which we have tendered, represent equivalent raw material and the purpose of this letter is to request sponsorship by you on our behalf with a view to there being allocated to us at least two of these ocean minesweepers.
It is perhaps unnecessary for us to add that our shipbreaking industry supports a number of persons in their livelihood and, in addition, it makes some modest contribution to the local economy in its utilization of services such as transport and the consumption of local products such as oxygen and acetylene which we now use in substantial quantities in connexion with oxy-cutting.
Our request is perhaps without precedent, but we do hope you will view the situation our way and assist us out of our present difficulty, for owing to our inability to compete with Eastern buyers in the normal way we fear we may have to close down this activity early in the coming year.
To say the least, that letter deserved an acknowledgment, but the principals of the firm have assured me that their letter was not even acknowledged. The companies to which I have referred are unable to compete with Eastern buyers, and I have already indicated to the House the disparity that exists in the tender prices.
In the very near future the Navy will be disposing of some additional vessels and the local industry has asked that an allocation be made to it to enable it to keep going. In the circumstances, the industry’s request is reasonable. If the Government allows these vessels to be disposed of in the way that has been followed to date, the industry faces extinction. I trust that the Government will pay some heed to the supplications of the people who are so vitally interested.
.- During the Address-in-Reply debate yesterday, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) mentioned, among other things, alternate employment for coal-miners and ways in which greater use can be made of coal. I take this opportunity to refer to this matter in case my silence be taken to indicate my concurrence with all that the honorable gentleman said.
I agree with the honorable member foi Hunter regarding the continuing problems that exist in our coal-fields in general and, in particular, on the Cessnock field which is the one that concerns him most, because I have had the opportunity over the years to take part in conferences on this matter. The reason I mention this point is that I hope to attract the honorable gentleman’s cooperation in solving these problems rather than the criticism to which we listened yesterday. I think I should remind him of the things that have been done over the last few years by governments and through the agency of the Joint Coal Board. On our own level, we have assisted by establishing new mines and by putting into them the new mechanized methods of coal-mining, thus assisting in reducing the cost of coal and increasing output. We have arranged for alternate employment of miners, to which the honorable member referred yesterday. Further, we have done a lot by obtaining additional markets overseas for Australian coal and, within the last few days, we have announced the abolition of excise duty on export coal.
The Government of New South Wales, the honorable member’s own State, has also played its part by establishing power stations which use coal as their fuel. The power station at Wangi Wangi, which is in my electorate, has been operating for several years. Another power station is in course of construction at Vales Point, which is in the electorate of the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths); and a few weeks ago the New South Wales Government announced that a third power station would be established at Lake Munmorah, which also is in my electorate, and that station will have its own supplying mine. I understand the concern of the people of Cessnock about that fact that the third power station will not be established in their area, but therein lies one of the problems of Cessnock. Cessnock is unsuitable as a site; the selection of Lake Munmorah per se had nothing to do with our representations on behalf of Cessnock. Tt was solely a matter of suitability of site, and Lake Munmorah which has been selected by the State Government is obviously the best site. I hope I shall be able to find an opportunity later to deal with these matters in greater detail.
There is one other matter to which the honorable member for Hunter referred yesterday. He criticized the Government, and mentioned me in particular, for not having taken any constructive action in relation to the use of the Rathmines air base, which was vacated recently by the
Royal Australian Air Force. The honorable member said, amongst other things, that I should make representations for the establishment of homes for aged persons or for a physical fitness camp on the site. By saying that he showed that he was not aware of the facts of the case and indeed was ignorant of the way in which these matters are dealt with. As you, Mr. Speaker, know, when a station of this kind or a property used by a Commonwealth department is declared to be surplus to the requirements of the occupying authority the Commonwealth inquires whether any other Commonwealth department desires to use it. That has happened in this case. It may be recalled that the Department of the Army said that it thought the Rathmines air base might be suitable for its use. In reply to a question asked by me a fortnight ago, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) said that during the last recess the Army had considered using the site but had decided not to use it.
We have now reached the stage where, if no other Commonwealth department requires this property, it will be offered to the New South Wales Government. If in turn the New South Wales Government does not require it, the Commonwealth will inquire whether any local government authority needs it for a particular purpose. If no local government authority requires it, the subject property will be offered to the public at auction. I want the honorable member for Hunter to know that for a number of years I have discussed with representatives of local organizations their desires about the use of this station. I have been informed that they would like to have a hospital established there. If that is not possible, they would like a teachers’ college. If that is not possible, they would like to see a university college erected there. The establishment of all three institutions is within the power and responsibility of the New South Wales Government. I understand that during a visit to the area within the last few weeks the New South Wales Minister for Health said that it was the intention of the State Government to establish a hospital not in that area but on the other side of the lake. So that leaves the establishment of a teachers’ college or a university college to be considered by the New South Wales. Government.
I also wish to say to the honorable member for Hunter that, whilst I understand his remarks and have discussed with local organizations the establishment of a facility such as homes for aged persons, there is already afoot in the area a large venture to provide homes for aged persons and it may well be thought that any extra assistance that can be given should be given to the existing venture and that in any case the Rathmines site may be too isolated for the purpose.
I assure the honorable member - I ask him to convey the assurance to those of his constituents who are interested in the matter - that the Government has undertaken to confer with the New South Wales Government to see whether it can put this valuable site to use. If it cannot, it will follow the normal procedure and offer it to the local government authorities. If they in turn do not require the site, the matter will then be discussed with local organizations and others who are interested in it.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make some comment on the present state of the poultry-farming industry in Australia. Poultry-farmers, most of them being small men on family farms, have been left bewildered and dismayed by the impact of unrestricted imports on their industry. American canned chicken is coming into this country in increasing quantities and at prices which inevitably make it a serious competitor of local table poultry. This canned chicken is a surplus product which has been placed on the market as a result of mass production in America, which has a glut to dispose of. Unless something is done to limit the imports, it seems that the local producer must be overborne by their weight.
I directed the attention of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to the danger and I received a reply to the effect that he had asked producers for evidence to support the statement that serious damage had been done to the local industry. That is the usual departmental procedure. Where manufacturers who are operating, on a large scale are concerned, it may be all right. But how is the information to be obtained in this case? Poultry-farmers are scattered over the whole of the Commonwealth. There are hundreds of them in my electorate alone. Nearly all of them are working on a comparatively small scale and they are not able to keep complete accounting systems in the same way that big business is able to do. They are not even able to maintain a large-scale professional industry organization such as is maintained by the wheatproducers and the wool-growers. It would take months to assemble enough figures to satisfy a sceptical department. In the meantime, the danger continues to increase. Having recognized this fact, the Minister has gone further and has asked the officers of his department to approach the industry and to offer to help it to establish the facts of its case. That is a sympathetic approach, and it must be of considerable assistance to the industry in preparing its case. But the questions the department may ask provide their own answers.
These imports are coming in, as the figures of the Department of Customs and Excise will show. We can see the products displayed in shops and shop windows. We know the selling price, and th:e department knows the cost of production of the Australian farmers. It is obvious that the imported product is being sold, and this must be at the expense of reduced sales of the local product. When a doctor sees a man knocked down by a motor car, he does not bend over him and ask him to supply documentary proof that he has been injured. He acts on the evidence that is before his own eyes.
The Government has recently very wisely taken to itself powers to deal with situations like this without waiting for the cumbersome and often unsatisfactory and unrealistic Tariff Board procedure to be followed. The present case provides an excellent opportunity for the use of these new powers. It is highly probable that these imports come within the definition of dumping - morally, if not legally. Once again, however, the poultry-farmer has no chance to furnish proof. Evidence can be gathered only by some one who is on the spot in America. We may ask, for example, “What price does the United States producer pay for stock feed? “ As far as can be ascertained, stock feed is heavily subsidized by the American Government, and that is one reason why American chicken can undersell our product. The structure of the price support programme and other farm subsidy programmes of the United States is so complex that it would take an economist on the spot months to ascertain how much subsidy, direct and indirect, is being paid for the production of canned chicken.
It should be emphasized that this is not a case of an Australian industry wanting the Tariff Board to protect it because of its inefficiency. On the contrary, the poultry meat industry has made big strides in efficiency in the last few years, and the price of birds on the farm has not risen in spite of greatly increased costs. This is because much more meat is now being produced in much quicker time from every pound of feed. This is the result of scientific breeding programmes, which are still being pursued.
In view of this improvement, it might be asked: How is it that they are not able to meet overseas competition? The answer is that the Americans have been working on similar lines for a longer time and they are still ahead of us. To achieve this, they imported stock from various parts of the world. Normally, we could catch up with them by importing some American stock, but the fear that disease might be brought into this country prevents1 this as well as precluding the importation of American eggs for hatching.
If our farmers are allowed to continue their stock breeding programme, it is estimated that they will reach present American standard’s by 1966. However, if prices are brought down by imports, it will just not be worth while to go on with it. I appeal to the Minister not to let that happen. We have something in this development of our poultry industry which is bringing chicken meat - previously a luxury item - within the reach of every one. A few years ago, many saw chicken meat only at Christmas time; soon, if the industry is allowed to continue its plans, chicken can be put on the tables of these same families whenever they like.
Not only poultry meats are affected by the imports. If they are not checked, egg production will be made dearer and will be reduced. Wheat-growers will be other sufferers for it is estimated that the poultry farming industry buys £30,000,000 worth of grain and stock feed each year. Farmers want either restrictions on imports or a tariff on canned chicken imports, and in the circumstances, I believe this is a reasonable request.
I am more and more convinced every day that there must be some form of regulation by the Government of non-essential imports. Our economy just cannot stand up to unrestricted imports, however laudable the idea may be in principle. Further, I am convinced that the matter generally is not one for the Tariff Board. The Government, and no one else, must take the responsibility for maintenance of our currency reserves. The Tariff Board may be useful to ascertain the facts in connexion with a particular industry but unfortunately, even when doing that, its thinking seems to hark back to the old free-trade days. Some form of selective import control must come, and the sooner the better. The rush of luxury imports is doing serious damage to our economy and I submit that the plight of the poultry farmer provides an excellent example of a case in which the principle of not permitting non-essential imports can be applied immediately.
.- In view of the fact that comments have been made in the past few days about certain unfortunate events overseas in connexion with South Africa, and as charges have been made tending to suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been responsible in no small way for helping to break up the British Commonwealth of Nations, I should like to place on record and direct the attention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and of the nation to certain facts concerning the Australian Labour Party’s attitude a few short years ago. I think this is very important.
Let us consider these matters in chronological order. A recent leader of the Australian Labour Party, who is now in another place, wrote a book when he was a Justice of the High Court of Australia. His book was entitled, “ The King and His Dominion Government”. The author is recognized throughout the world as a constitutional authority of no small order. In that book, Mr. Justice Evatt, as he was then, directed the attention of the nation to the dangers inherent in the adoption by Australia of the
Statute of Westminster. He directed special attention to sections 2 and 4 of that statute and pointed out what could happen to Australia if any government adopted or ratified the statute.
The author’s first action when he became the Attorney-General of Australia was to introduce a bill into this House, supported by the Australian Labour Party, which ratified the very document he had condemned in the book I have named. His next step, in conjunction with the introduction of the bill into this House, was to endeavour to get the Premiers of the several Australian States to agree to hand over to the Commonwealth complete powers of government in Australia. Later, as honorable members will remember, Dr. Evatt tried to push through, by referendum, a new section of the Commonwealth Constitution which would have put the decisions of this Parliament on any matter beyond challenge by the High Court of Australia.
It was perfectly clear what was in his mind. Under section 2 of the Statute of Westminster, the Colonial Laws Validity Act no longer applied to the Commonwealth, although it still applied to the States. Under section 4 of the Statute of Westminster, it was perfectly clear that by the process of petitioning the United Kingdom Parliament from the House - from the House, mark you - Australia could have become a republic.
At that stage, however - as the position still exists to-day - the necessary powers required to establish or implement complete socialization for Australia rested within the legislative constitutional control of the six Australian States. It was therefore necessary to rush through the House - and through the nation if it could be done by referendum - an alteration to the Constitution to enable all those powers to be made resident in this Parliament.
The next and third step would have been quite obvious because the sequence of actions taken was a clear indication of the objective in view. It would have meant that, without consulting the Australian people or the several States, and without an act of Parliament, the leaders of the Australian Labour Party, having got powers from the States after ratifying the Statute of Westminster, and with all those powers centralized in this Parliament and not challengeable by any court in the land, could have handed over the powers of the Australian people to any group or body they might have chosen. I ask honorable members to consider this matter closely. I have studied this question for many years and I know what I am talking about. Australia would have become a republic and in due course we would have cut the painter holding us to the throne.
I want to place these relevant facts on record so that they will be remembered by those who try to charge us with attempting to break up the British Commonwealth of Nations. Our Prime Minister is a lover of all things British - as I am - in matters of constitutional law and constitutional development. Anybody who charges us with wishing to break up the Commonwealth should bear well in mind that the alternative government would come from the ranks of the Australian Labour Party.
.- I rise because the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) was good enough to invite the attention of myself and the nation to the remarks he was about to make. Apparently, his remarks stem from speeches which were made earlier to-day concerning the conduct of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in connexion with various matters during the recent meeting of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers and in the various post mortems thereafter. He traversed certain events in respect of which he said that the Chief Justice of New South Wales, while a Justice of the High Court and later Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, had advocated certain policies which would, as I understand the honorable gentleman, have put Australia in the position that South Africa is now in - outside the Commonwealth of Nations.
He made several references to the Statute of Westminster. I know the honorable gentleman’s great interest in legal matters, but I must say with all respect to him that I think his understanding of that statute is astray because sections 8 and 9 make it quite plain that there can be no change in the method required to be used to alter the
Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia or of our six States.
– I would be happy to debate that with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I will see whether I can find the time to do so. Mr. Speaker, the method of altering the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia and of the six States is not affected by the adoption by this country of the Statute of Westminster.
– Is it not a fact that the United Kingdom Government at one time altered the Australian Constitution with respect to a Geneva convention?
– To which Geneva convention are you referring?
– The convention dealing with the amelioration of the sick and wounded of armies in the field.
– Are you referring to the four Geneva conventions that we ourselves adopted by our own statute two years ago?
-Order! The debate is out of order.
– There are many Geneva conventions and other conventions dealing with the treatment of prisoners of war, the conduct of war and so on. In answer to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) I say that the United Kingdom Parliament could have altered the Australian Commonwealth Constitution, or the Constitutions of the States before we adopted the Statute of Westminster, but as I understand the position it could not do so after we adopted that statute. As the monarchy is part of our constitutional setup, the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States can only be altered as previously; that is by a referendum initiated by this Parliament or by reference of State powers to this Parliament.
The honorable member for Griffith has made a valiant attempt to divert attention from the antics of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) overseas in the last few weeks. I believe that I can specify the contributions of the Prime Minister, under his personalized diplomacy, to a break-up of the Commonwealth of Nations by citing the record of voting in the session of the United Nations General Assembly which started last year and has just resumed. Australia has voted on 31 occasions in the current United Nations General Assembly. Australia has voted beside the United Kingdom on all 31 occasions, beside Canada and New Zealand on 22 occasions, beside Pakistan on sixteen occasions, beside Malaya on eight occasions, and beside Ghana and India on three occasions. Two other members of the Commonwealth of Nations did not vote on all the 31 occasions. Nigeria voted on 25 of the occasions and we voted beside that country on two of them. South Africa voted on 24 of the occasions and we voted beside her on eighteen occasions. lt is quite plain that as far as Australia is concerned under a Liberal Government, the Commonwealth of Nations might as well not exist. Nobody has done more, or has done it more vociferously and consistently, to break up the Commonwealth than has the Australian Prime Minister. He has no proper appreciation of the transition which has taken place in the middle of this century. The Commonwealth can play a better part than any other organization in retaining British ideals in. the newly emergent countries of Asia and Africa. Our Commonwealth is the only organic bridge between the developed and industrialized countries of Europe and similar countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and on the other, the newly emergent countries which are still seeking to establish themselves in the parliamentary and industrial senses in Asia and Africa. In that transition Australia, geographically and historically, could play a better role than any other part of the Commonwealth of Nations, but under our Prime Minister it has failed to take advantage of that opportunity and to meet that obligation.
I wish to refer to the remarks of two other honorable gentlemen who have spoken during this debate. The first is the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). He commented on a speech made last night by my colleague the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). It is sufficient to say that he did not have the courtesy to tell the honorable member for Hunter that he intended to comment on that speech. The second honorable gentleman is the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) who reflected, in terms with which I completely agree, on the administration of import controls by this Government which he’ supports. It is significant that either he did not tell the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that he was about to make those remarks, or the Minister for Trade failed to come into the chamber. Secondly, it is significant that either the honorable member for Mitchell did not tell the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) that he intended to speak on that subject, or if he did, the Minister, upon entering the chamber from the vestibule, withdrew when he heard the subject of the honorable member’s remarks.
.- Because of the lateness of the hour, I wish to comment only briefly on the remarks made by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) in regard to the poultry industry. In respect of the other remarks that have been made during this debate, I am sure that anybody who looks at the situation and appreciates what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has done for Australia will see in his actions the complete answer to the charges levelled by the Opposition on many occasions to-day. There is an interesting point in the remarks of the honorable member for Mitchell, with which I agree to a very large extent and which high-lights a tremendous problem. The solution is not an easy one to find. We have seen a problem develop in the timber industry in which I am particularly interested, but I am confident that the Government will find a solution to it just as it has found solutions to other problems. The Government should not be asked to throw out of the window an economic policy which is designed for the whole of the Commonwealth.
One of the most interesting points raised by the honorable member for Mitchell is one to which we in Australia will have to give some attention. It is obvious that if the United States of America finds itself in some degree of employment difficulty, it will naturally look overseas for markets for its production. Because of the tremendous resources that the United States has at its disposal, countries such as Australia will be placed at a disadvantage. As I said, Mr. Speaker, because of the lateness of the hour
I shall not speak at length. I believe that the Government will have to keep this matter in mind in the months that lie ahead.
.- I rise only because I think honorable members should have their memories refreshed on what actually happened in respect of the work of the Labour Government led by the late John Curtin and the 1944 proposals to amend the Commonwealth Constitution. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) informed us, in effect but not in these words, that inherent in the 1944 referendum proposals was a plot or a plan to introduce socialist powers or to nationalize all industry in Australia. Let us examine the facts. In 1942, the then Prime Minister and war-time leader of this nation, the Right Honorable John Curtin, and his Cabinet colleagues, considered that if this country was to emerge from the war in a position to rehabilitate the servicemen of this country and to restore our economy to an effective peace-time basis is was essential that this Parliament be vested with certain powers to enable it to take the necessary action. The then Prime Minister then assembled at a convention in Canberra every State Premier and every leader of a State Opposition party. He submitted fourteen points to those leaders from the various State governments of the Commonwealth and, lo! and behold, every one of them, irrespective of whether he bore a Liberal Party tag, a Labour Party tag, or the tag of any other party, agreed that the fourteen points suggested by the Right Honorable John Curtin were reasonable and that action should be taken to give the Commonwealth Parliament the requisite powers. To avoid the necessity to hold a referendum, it was agreed by every Premier of Australia, Labour and Liberal alike, and every leader of every Opposition in the State Parliaments of the country that approval should be given to the passage of legislation in every State in Australia referring the requisite powers to the Commonwealth, as is provided for in the Commonwealth Constitution.
– Now answer the first charge I made.
-If what you say is correct, then, by deduction, every Liberal premier was equally as culpable as the other premiers of seeking to introduce socialistic powers. What happened? Those men went back to their Parliaments, and the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, introduced legislation - which was passed by the Victorian Parliament - referring the requisite powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. There was inserted in that legislation a reservation that the reference of these powers to the Commonwealth by Victoria would not operate unless every other State parliament in Australia passed a similar measure. Mr. Dunstan did not say he was not in favour of referring the powers; he said that he was in favour of referring them only if all State parliaments referred them. Down in the little State of Tasmania, where they had an undemocratically elected Legislative Council, the bill seeking to refer the requisite powers was rejected. That meant that the bill that was passed by the Victorian Parliament was inoperative, and the late Mr. Curtin’s proposal collapsed. There was no objection to the proposal because of some hidden power it contained with relation to the socialization of industry.
Later, in 1944, the late John Curtin, still believing that it was essential that the Commonwealth have these powers, submitted the fourteen points to the electors of Australia for their ratification or rejection. The electors rejected them and, because of that rejection, every Commonwealth Government since then has lacked the power that would have enabled any sensible, wisely directed government to prevent the shocking inflationary trend that we are now experiencing, and to govern this Commonwealth more effectively than it can be governed to-day. It is strange, but nevertheless true, that a great many of the powers that were sought by that referendum have been recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee. This indicates that the only thing that was wrong with the referendum proposals made by the late John Curtin was that they were before their time so far as the needs of this great Commonwealth are concerned.
I remind the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) that amongst those fourteen points there, was. no proposal to amend that section of the Constitution which deals specifically with the nationalization of the banks. The nationalization episode did not take place until 1947. So all the honorable member’s talk, assumptions and allegations are nothing more than the ravings of a man who does not understand what he is talking about.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
z asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What limitations are. imposed upon commercial television stations in respect of the inclusion of advertising in their programmes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The conditions governing the televising of advertisements by commercial televison stations are set out in paragraphs 33 to 49 of the Television Programme Standards determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I shall be pleased to supply a copy of these standards to the honorable member.
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Why are commercial television stations permitted to advertise so much more than commercial broadcasting stations in Sunday programmes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The permissible advertising content on Sunday is, under the relevant programme standards, the same for both television and broadcasting stations, namely six minutes in any programme period of one hour.
Overseas Investments in Australia.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable gentleman to a question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney, the answer to which appeared in “ Hansard “ of 6th October, 1960.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Banking Corporation has supplied the following information: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
FN .30 Rifle.
d asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. We are producing the rifles to a programme laid down by the Department of the Army and production and deliveries are to schedule and have always been to schedule.
Imports of Paper.
e. - On 15th March, the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) asked when action could be expected as a result of representations made regarding imports of paper at dumping prices.
I am now able to inform the honorable member that following the representations made by Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited for the imposition of dumping duty on certain types of imported paper and paperboard, evidence was obtained which indicated that a prima facie case of dumping had been established.
A reference was forwarded to the Tariff Board on 16th March which in due course will form the subject of a public inquiry. In the meantime provisional measures of protection are being accorded1 to the industry by means of cash securities to be imposed on all shipments made at unfair prices.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 March 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610322_reps_23_hor30/>.