23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. J. R. FRASER presented a petition from certain citizens of the Australian Capital Territory praying that the Government will take immediate action to defer the implementation of rental increases of Government-owned dwellings in Canberra and conduct an inquiry into Canberra rentals at which evidence may be taken both from individuals and from community organizations.
– Before you call on questions, Mr. Speaker, I should like your permission to refer to the fact that I understand that to-day will be, for a variety of reasons, the last appearance in the House of our great friend, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson). He will not be here during the next few weeks, and I understand that when Parliament resumes after the winter recess he will be overseas as a member of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation. I am also informed by my honorable friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), that the honorable member for Brisbane is not proposing to stand for re-election. It is, therefore, with very mixed feeling that I refer to this.
For 30 years the honorable member for Brisbane has been a member of this House, and I think that for 30 years everybody in this House has been his friend. I can myself recall many, many happy associations with him. I do not want to take too long on this matter, Sir, because I may give my old friend the impression that we are bidding him a perpetual farewell. We are not.
They tell me that the honorable member is 80 years of age. If that is to be believed, I hope I am around when he is 90. But I do want him to know - .and to convey to his wife, who will be travelling with him overseas - as this does happen to be the last time he will actually sit in this chamber, that we all desire to wish him God speed on his journey, and to thank him for 30 years of the most agreeable companionship.
– As the Leader of the Australian Country Party I should like to be permitted by the House to express, on behalf of that party, our very best wishes to the honorable member for Brisbane, who has given to this Parliament and this country a most distinguished life of service. It is quite remarkable to recall that we are speaking of a gentleman who served with the Australian forces in the Boer War, and from that commencement of service to his country has gone on to give distinguished service in the Parliament as a Minister as well as a private member, and always as a credit to this House. The Australian Country Party wishes the honorable member for Brisbane and his wife the best of health and enjoyment during the period of his retirement.
– I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the valedictory messages they have uttered to our very good and kir.d friend from Brisbane. The honorable member for Brisbane has quite a number of distinctions, one of which is that he once voted himself out of political existence. He was then a member of the Legislative Council of Queensland and was one of six gentlemen whom it was my pleasure to know who decided with the rest of their Labour colleagues to stick by their principles and vote that Legislative Council into oblivion.
The honorable member for Brisbane was a member of the first Curtin Government, and he has filled many other offices in this Parliament. He early won and all the time retained the regard of his colleagues on both sides of the House, and that will probably be the most pleasant memory he will take into retirement. The Prime Minister says that he hopes he will be about when the honorable member for Brisbane is 90. I assure my distinguished friend that the honorable member for Brisbane will be 90.
– The question is whether I will be about.
– Yes. I think the honorable member for Brisbane will live to be 100. Because he is a modest man, I accept the challenge of the Prime Minister on his behalf. The honorable member will represent Australia overseas for a second time and he will give the same valuable service on this occasion as he gave on the previous occasion. As Leader of the Opposition, I feel very proud of the unanimous expressions of goodwill towards the honorable member for Brisbane.
– Mr. Speaker, 1 thank the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for their remarks. It is true that I will be relinquishing my position here to-day and will be retiring when the next election is held. I believe that during my lo;.g period in this House I have made many great friends. I regard all my colleagues on both sides of the House as my friends. I have always attempted to do the right thing in this House, and I have always tried to be loyal to the party to which I belong.
It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, that I will be proceeding overseas as a delegate to the meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I hope I shall do justice to that position, as I have always endeavoured to do justice to positions that I have held previously. It will be some time before I return to Australia. I intend to spend a month or two overseas and, as the Prime Minister has said, I will be taking my wife with me. I am sure she will appreciate this, because as honorable members’ know, until a short time ago I had not been in good health for a few years, but I thank God that I am. feeling very well now, and I believe that, in doing what she did for me during my long illness, my wife was responsible for my return to good health.
I wish to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and every member of the House for the kindness and the treatment that have been meted out to me as long as I have been here. I wish to thank members of the staff of this House and also the Clerks of the House, not forgetting the “ Hansard “ reporters, because, as I say, they have at all times endeavoured to give me all the assistance it has been possible for them to give me. With those few words, Mr.. Speaker, I again sincerely thank you, thePrime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I thank you, one and all.
– My question is addressed: to the Postmaster-General. In view of the big profit of £6,000,000 disclosed in thePost Office accounts in the recent annual report, will the Postmaster-General give some concessions to blind pensioners for telephone rental charges? He will agree with me that telephone charges are very high. Is he aware that the Labour Government of New South Wales givesconcessions on government-owned transport, and that local government rates are rebated to age and invalid pensioners because of the low-rate pensions paid by the Menzies Government? Will he apply these principles to blind pensioner telephone subscribers?
– The honorable member for Banks mentioned a figure as indicating a large profit disclosed in the Post Office. I remind the honorable member that yesterday T presented the commercial accounts of the Post Office iD conjunction with the rest of the department’s report, and in accordance with a recommendation from a very high-level committee, the profit disclosed in the 1959-60 year is about £428,000, and not £6,000,000 as the honorable member suggested. If he studies that report he will find that the Telephone Branch discloses a lower profit than the Postal Branch. I therefore suggest that the premises upon which the honorable member bases his question are not sound. However, he referred to a question that has been submitted to me on a number of occasions by various honorable members - the provision of special concessions for blind persons in respect of telephone rentals and charges. I have only to say to him that although the matter is still under some consideration I have nothing to add to what I have already told him and other honorable members on that matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade been directed to the advertisement inserted by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures in yesterday’s Melbourne “Herald”? Will he inform the House what is the difference between the selective import licensing advocated by the chamber and the import licensing which was in force last year, and which the exporting sector of the economy saw lifted with such relief? Is it the intention of the Government to be brow-beaten by this example of political blackmail?
– I, of course, have seen the advertisement-
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: If your ruling on items inspired by or arising from newspaper reports includes only news items are we to assume in future that we can quote from advertisements in the press in this House?
– The position is quite clear. An honorable member may direct attention to a newspaper comment. He must vouch for its accuracy, but he cannot read from it or comment on its contents.
– I have seen the advertisement appearing in last night’s issue of the Melbourne “ Herald “, attributed to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Replying to the honorable member, I can only express the opinion that what is referred to as “ selective import licensing “ by people who have a vested interest in the exclusion of overseas goods from Australia would, in most instances, be found to be selective by excluding the goods competing with the vested interests at stake in Australia. I think I can sum up the reaction of my colleagues and myself by saying that while
We concede the prerogative of any section of a democracy to attempt to defeat a government, or to attempt to persuade a government, none of us will ever succumb to a threat to our existence by any individual or by any organized group.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia was fined £500 for contempt of court by the Commonwealth Industrial Court because of a stoppage of work in Melbourne on 15th March last. I also ask whether this brings the total of fines imposed on this union, together with legal costs ordered to be paid by it, to about £5,000 since a provision for the banning of strikes was inserted in the waterside workers’ award in March, 1960. If these are facts, I ask the Minister: Does he understand that the trade union movement throughout Australia affirms, as a basic principle, that unions and workers have a right to strike in pursuit of industrial justice, and, further, does he agree with this principle? Finally, will the Minister take action in this Parliament to repeal repugnant portions of the relevant legislation, because sections of the people have been forced to come into conflict with its provocative provisions, have been penalized by severe fines and have been threatened with other punitive action?
– I think the answer to the first two questions asked by the honorable member is in the affirmative, but I will check the statements, and if the honorable member’s information is not correct I will let him know. As to the third question, the waterside workers have ample opportunity to take remedial action if they believe themselves to be aggrieved. They can go to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and apply for a change in their award. They can also approach the employers and try to achieve something by negotiation. What they are doing is this: They are trying to get the benefit of awards without living up to their obligations. No law-abiding community can tolerate such action for very long, and the waterside workers should realize that every time they unlawfully go on strike they cost the community large amounts of money, and that this increases the general level of our costs and has an adverse effect on our international trade.
As to the honorable member’s final question, I can state quite emphatically that the time has come when the waterside workers should appreciate the fact that they are their own worst enemies. I can also state that I have no intention of recommending any change in the relevant legislation.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. It is supplementary, in a way, to the question that was asked by the honorable member for Wakefield. Would the Treasurer say that the advertisement inserted by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures in yesterday’s Melbourne “Herald” affords an unusual example of blatant self-interest, and a distressing disregard for political decency? Would it be reasonable to expect a sense of responsibility from a powerful economic group such as the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, and help from it in meeting the difficulties confronting the community? Is it not likely that the tactics adopted by the chamber will tend to exacerbate the feelings of uncertainty that unfortunately exist in the industrial community at the present time, and will militate against the very recovery that the chamber is eager to achieve?
– My colleague, the Minister for Trade, has already replied, at least in part, to the question raised by the honorable member for Warringah. I am quite certain that members of this Parliament, wherever they sit in this place, will resent tactics of the kind to which attention has been directed, and will deplore the fact that they have been indulged in by a body which has previously enjoyed a reputation for responsibility in public affairs.
– You resent the advertisement only because it is directed against your Government.
– I would not expect the honorable member for East Sydney to have any feeling for Parliament as an institution, or to resent the employment of tactics designed to weaken the function of Parliament as an institution. Dealing with the points raised by the honorable member for Warringah, the Minister for Trade has said that it is open to any citizen in a democracy to make his opposition to government policies publicly known. The tactics to be employed in that process become a question of judgment, good sense and good taste. I am sure that it is the common judgment of all thoughtful members of this Parliament that the Victorian chamber has exceeded those bounds in this instance.
I agree with the honorable gentleman’s contention that attempts in ways which go beyond the bounds of good taste and good judgment to exert pressure on governments to alter policies not only defeat their own purpose but, as in this case, add to the difficulties which members of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures claim to be experiencing at present.
I would like to say a good deal more on this matter, and indeed I intend to do so when an opportunity is provided later in the morning on the Grievance Day discussion, but I think in fairness to Mr. Gordon More, the president of the Victorian chamber - a man whom I believe to be wellmeaning and conscientious in his service to his members but who, in my judgment at any rate, is inexperienced in the handling of matters of this kind - I should say that he has sent a telegram to all Government members, the text of which was notified to me this morning by the Associated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia. The telegram is in these terms -
Victorian chamber disassociates itself entirely from outlays of proposed newspaper advertisements circulating in Parliament. Victorian chamber has no intention of using these in future advertising campaign. Report in Sydney Morning Herald of Victorian chamber’s use of radio and TV media completely inaccurate. No commitment for future advertisements either by press radio or TV have been entered into.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. After the closing of Mort’s Dock, I directed the Minister’s attention to the plight of employees of the dock in relation to long service and annual leave entitlements. In that question I asked the Minister to consider introducing legislation to safeguard the position of employees in the future. I now ask him whether there has been any further development in this matter which would ensure a measure of protection for all employees, which is now lacking.
– I am sorry that my memory does not go back far enough to enable me to recollect the answer that I gave to the honorable gentleman on the occasion to which he has referred. I thought he asked me to endeavour to protect the moneys that were due to the employees, but I shall have to look up the question and let the honorable gentleman have a full reply.
– I refer the Minister for Trade to the question that I asked him last week. Is the Minister yet in a position to say whether a reference will be forwarded to the deputy chairman of the Tariff Board to enable him to consider whether the timber and plywood industries should receive temporary protection from imports?
– Yes, I am now in a position to advise the honorable member for Richmond and other honorable members who are interested. First, may I remind the House that as recently as last December the Tariff Board recommended against any increase of duties for either the Australian sawn timber industry or the Australian plywood industry. Of course, recent as that was, it would not in any sense preclude appropriate consideration in justifiable circumstances of a reference to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board for a recommendation in respect of a temporary duty. Such a request was made, using the panel system in both the timber and the plywood industries, and the analysis that was made of the case was examined by Cabinet last night.
The current and recent situations in regard to imports of timber do not reveal a case justifying the request for consideration of a temporary duty by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. The imports of timber during the first three months of the present year are now running at approximately the average level of timber imports from 1956 until restrictions were lifted a year ago. With free imports of timber now running at no higher rate than the average during the days of severe import restrictions, it is clear to the Cabinet that a temporary duty is not warranted. The problems of the Australian timber industry relate clearly to an overall fall-off of demand from the very high peak levels of production at the end of the year.
The current position of the plywood industry is comparable. Importation of plywood has dropped very severely. While it was relatively high in the first two months of the present year’s importations, during March imports were lower than the yearly rate during any period of import licensing running back to 1956. It was clear to the Cabinet that the problems of this industry are the result not of inadequate tariff protection, but of a fall-off in the overall demand.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. My question arises from a ruling that you gave on a question based on a newspaper report recently. Does the expression “ vouch for its accuracy “ mean that the member must vouch for the accuracy in the sense that his question corresponds accurately with the wording used in the newspaper, or must he vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper report in the sense that the report on which he bases his question must correspond with the facts?
– 1 should think that the honorable member would be obliged to vouch for the accuracy of the contents of the report.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that a recognized authority on balance-of-payments questions, Dr. Perkins of Melbourne University, recently offered to give expert evidence on his subject to assist the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission during its current hearings on the basic wage case upon which balance-of-payments questions have a close bearing? Also, is it a fact that the Commonwealth denied itself the benefit of Dr. Perkins’s knowledge and advice by insisting that if he gave evidence on his own subject, he would be subject to virtually unlimited cross-examination on all other matters, including those of a distasteful personal nature for an indefinite period by crude and hectoring counsel, as was the fate of Professor Campbell and other witnesses? Does the Government attach importance to the willingness of independent and objective experts to assist the commission in fixing the basic wage, the most influential internal factor determining the course of our economic life? If so, are any means available whereby such experts willing to give evidence on the complex issues involved can be protected from the bullying and distasteful personal tactics of counsel who are expert in this kind of activity but in not much else?
– I think I have to dissociate myself from the strong language of the honorable gentleman, much as I understand the depth of his feelings about the matter. I should state that there were exceptional circumstances in this case because some of the other witnesses when being given, as it were, an opportunity to restrict their evidence to their basic submissions, preferred to be cross-examined on any aspect of the issue that was before the commission. When the professor himself asked that cross-examination be confined to his paper, the commission decided, in view of what had happened, that it would permit cross-examination relevant to any issue before the commission, but that this would relate only to the present proceedings, and in future the matter would then be judged on its merits. 1 cannot at the moment give the honorable member an answer on the question of how far cross-examination should proceed in arbitration matters before the commission. As Acting Attorney-General, I shall obtain advice from the department, and convey it to the honorable member. I desire to make it clear that the course of action determined upon by the commission was, I think, determined largely by what had previously transpired, and the commission did make its reasons plain to the witness.
– As the Prime Minister has already given both the Seato Conference and this Parliament the benefit of his knowledge and experience, which everybody hopes will help to achieve a peaceful solution of the problems existing in Laos, I direct his attention to a report that a member of his own party has said that he - the member concerned - favoured a shooting war in Laos if necessary, with Australians taking part, even though - and I quote the honorable member concerned, the honorable member for Moreton - “ admittedly a couple of million lives might be lost …” I therefore ask the right honorable gentleman: Does this view represent the considered opinion of any responsible section of the Liberal Party, or is it only the opinion of the honorable member for Moreton? If it is only the opinion of the honorable member for
Moreton, will the Prime Minister take disciplinary action to ensure that such provocative and harmful statements are not repeated? I assure the right honorable gentleman that the statement was made during a television interview on a “ Meet the Press “ programme.
– The honorable member for Moreton, like other honorable members, does not fall within my administrative jurisdiction. I have stated to the House, I hope quite plainly, what the views were at the meeting of the Seato Council of Ministers. I do not add to that, nor do I subtract from it. That exhibited our view. 1 did not hear the honorable member’s statement, nor have I read it, and therefore I cannot comment on it, but, when the Leader of the Opposition, in a gentle, insinuating way, suggests that I should take disciplinary action against a member who says something, I must say that I might return the compliment with interest.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he realizes that considerable inconvenience is being caused to primary producers because the date set by the Commonwealth Statistician for the collection of statistics is not the same as the concluding date of the financial year as adopted by nearly all farmers. Will he ask the Commonwealth Statistician to consider altering the date for collecting these figures to 30th June?
– I am not concious that complaints of this kind have previously reached me, although it is quite possible that there have been earlier representations directed to this matter. I recognize that it could be of some interest and importance to the rural community, and 1 shall be glad to take up, through the Treasury, with the Commonwealth Statistician the question raised by the honorable member and give him a more detailed reply later.
– In view of the Government’s proposal to induce life assurance societies and superannuation funds to invest 30 per cent, of their funds in public securities, I ask the Treasurer whether he can assure the House that any increase by these organizations in their holdings of public securities will not be al 1he expense of investments in housing, as it was in 1951 when the Government last intervened in their investment policies.
– It is a fact that the Government will be introducing legislation designed to encourage the life offices to invest in government securities to the extent mentioned by the honorable gentleman. We have given a good deal of thought to the implications of the proportion of this investment compared to other types of investment normally engaged in by the life offices concerned. I would think that there is little likelihood of any disturbance of the normal investment pattern of life offices for these two important reasons: First, the figure of 30 per cent, referred to by the honorable gentleman is significantly below the average of investment in government securities maintained by the life offices at the present time. Secondly, it is a traditional part of life office business to lend to a home-builder or purchaser and associate that lending with some policy investment by the borrower, not only in order to secure the immediate business from the borrower, but in order to commence an association with him and his family which will be likely to produce other insurance investment as the years go on. I believe that any insurance office which appreciably reduced its lending for home-building or home-purchase would find itself at a serious competitive disadvantage with those life offices which were prepared to make funds available for this purpose.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs been directed to the report that, within the last few days, a Norwegian ship, allegedly carrying goods for Israel, had been apprehended in the Suez Canal by the Egyptian authorities? If the facts are as stated, is this action not in flagrant disregard of the agreement entered into concerning the freedom of the canal? In view of the importance of the canal to Australia’s own trade, and in view of the rights of small nations, can the Prime Minister advise the House of the actual position in regard to this matter and the possibility of action by the United Nations?
– For a number of years now, cargoes destined for Israel have been refused transit through the Suez Canal by the Egyptian authorities. It is a long time since the United Nations expressed its view on this practice and condemned it. The answer made by Egypt was that Egypt was still in a state of war with Israel. This was before the Suez incident. The United Nations has never done anything about that matter since. The honorable member will recall that when the Israel authorities decided that if Egypt was at war with them for purposes of excluding their cargoes from the canal, they must also be at war with Egypt, and so did a bit of fighting. Then, of course, the United Nations did intervene.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that, until recently, the income permitted to persons in receipt of the age pension was assessed over a twelvemonthly period. Is it true that, recently, his department has laid it down that the permissible income shall be assessed over a two-weekly period and not over a twelvemonthly period? As this is causing great hardship to people who are not able to get regular employment at the permissible income but could get irregular employment at a higher rate, although not at an annual rate greater than that of the permissible income, will the Minister have the matter reviewed?
– Perhaps the honorable member was not present when I answered a question addressed to me on this matter a few days ago.
– I was, but I did not understand the Minister’s answer.
– He has improved since. Tell him again.
Mr. ROBERTON__ Yes. If the honorable member will listen with the intelligence that is available to him, perhaps he will understand that there has been no alteration in the application of the means test with respect to either income or property.
– But the Minister wrote me a letter last week and stated that there had been an alteration.
– It is a fact that the introduction of the merged means test can affect the position of people who qualify and are eligible for pensions and who have both income and property. The pension is then determined on the means as assessed. But where a person has income and no property, the means test is exclusive to the income, and where a person has property and no income, the means test is exclusive to the property. There has been no change in the policy of the Department of Social Services or of the Government in that respect.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Defence, relates to the eight Bell Iroquois helicopters that are being purchased for the Royal Australian Air Force. When they have been purchased and a squadron has been established, can a detachment be based in Western Australia, especially during the summer season, which is a period of high hazard with fires in the south and floods in the north, bearing in mind also the value of such a detachment for general defence purposes?
– I understand the honorable member’s concern over the floods, fires and other natural hazards in Western Australia, but I do not think it would be possible to base a helicopter there, although that is something that could be considered in the light of all the circumstances. I should like the honorable member to know that one of the reasons why the Bell Iroquois helicopter was chosen was that it can be transported in our Hercules CI 30 aircraft, and only a few hours would be taken in getting one or two helicopters across to the west in the event of an emergency.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that there is a growing public feeling against the policy of the broadcasting’ stations in devoting the major part of their broadcasting time to the playing of pop music, which caters generally only for the younger section of the community, whereas the time devoted to music suitable for people of more mature age is of small proportions? Will the Minister request the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to discuss this matter with the radio stations in order to ensure that programmes are prepared to cater for all musical tastes?
– With respect to television, I think it would be correct to say that the licensees of television stations set out to cater for all musical tastes, as the last part of the question suggests should be done The attainment of that objective, of course, is highly important to the licensees of the commercial stations, because their returns are based on the appeal of their programmes to the viewing public. In order to enable them to judge the popularity of their programmes, people highly qualified in the determination of such matters make surveys from time to time. The results of some of these surveys make it obvious that the pop music mentioned by the honorable member commands a good deal of popularity. I do not know why, but there it is. I agree that it would be better if other kinds of music were given a greater percentage of broadcasting time, but the broadcasting stations have the right to determine what they consider to be the kind of programme most in demand. Although the Australian Broadcasting Control Board lays down a series of programme standards in general terms to which the licensees conform, the board does not exercise immediate control over every programme which is broadcast. It could not, of course, be expected to do that.
– I ask that further questions be placed on the notice-paper. I may explain, Sir, that I am doing this at the usual time, although I know that we spent ten minutes on a matter other than questions this morning. I am asking that questions without notice finish now because it is Grievance Day and, as I said just now to the Leader of the Opposition, it is not desirable to cut down the rights of members.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
– Does the honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I most decidedly do. During question time the Leader of the Opposition, in the course of a question to the Prime Minister, alleged that during a television interview I had said that I was prepared to see millions of people killed in a hot war over Laos. That allegation is completely without foundation. I was asked in that interview whether I was prepared to go to war over Laos. I pointed out to the questioner that he apparently had some difficulty in understanding that we were already at war. I was then pressed to explain that statement. I did so by pointing out that during the years between 1920 and 1958 the Communist world had taken territory at the rate of 22.5 square miles an hour and that for every fortnight during those years 1,000,000 people had been taken into servitude. I was then asked whether I favoured going into a hot war over Laos. I said then that if otherwise another free country was to be engulfed what was the alternative? That remains my attitude. I do not apologize for it. I appreciate the interest that the Leader of the Opposition has shown in what I have to say. I would only wish that he would show the same interest in both the substance and the detail of truth.
– You are running away from it,
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Australian Economy - Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement - Pollution of the Sea by Oil - Export of Iron Ore - Shipbuilding - The Parliament - Industrial Arbitration.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
– I take the unusual course of intervening, as a Minister, in the Grievance Day debate, because the matters to which I shall refer affect, I believe, the position of members of the Parliament generally wherever they sit in this place. 1 may say that if what I am about to say produces a discussion which eats into the time normally available for grievance purposes I propose to so arrange the business of the House that, at a reasonably early hour honorable gentlemen will be provided with opportunities on the adjournment debate to raise matters which they might have been disposed to raise during the Grievance Day discussion.
The two matters on which I intend to make some comment are, first, the report which appears in this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ headed, “ Manufacturers in attack on economic measures “. The second matter is the full-page advertisement inserted by the executive of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, which was published in the Melbourne “ Herald “ of yesterday, 19th April. These two matters are linked, as I hope to show.
It is not unusual, of course, to find the newspapers of this country giving accounts, or what purport to be accounts, of proceedings inside party rooms. As all honorable members know, discussions in the party rooms on both sides of the Parliament are conducted on a confidential basis. The press is not admitted, and only in rare instances is an authorized version of what occurs in a party room given to the press. But we all know that most, if not all, newspapers represented in this place expect of their reporters - and, indeed, I am sure, in most instances instruct their reporters - to obtain for publication a version of what has occurred in a party meeting. In the nature of things, what is published can be neither a complete nor an accurate version of what occurs in a party meeting, and its publication must rely on methods with which we are familiar - methods which I am sure most decent members of the press gallery find quite humiliating and even degrading to themselves, because they have to snoop around the corridors, moving furtively into the rooms of members, and seek in some way to piece together a version which they can send to their editors of what has occurred in a confidential party meeting. Mostly they must rely for their information on a type of person who, unfortunately, does exist. Regrettable though it may be to have to admit it, there are to be found, in most large party gatherings, people who either have some personal ambition to serve or some policy line of their own to promote, and who lend themselves in a quite dishonest and mischievous way to this process.
I hope that none of m, Sir, will condone that kind of performance. We deplore it. We regret that it can occur in this institution, whether it comes from one side of the House or the other. But it is one of the facts of political life. I repeat that the reports which appear are, because of the very manner of their compilation, unbalanced, distorted, inaccurate and, in the main, mischievous accounts of what has occurred in party room discussions. Honorable members on both sides know, from their own experience of having been present at party meetings and then reading next day the press version of what has occurred at those meetings, just how inaccurate and unfair those accounts can be, and how they can either put in a quite embarrassing light the attitude of members who have not expressed themselves at all in some cases, or give some presentation which is quite unrepresentative of what honorable members actually said.
This “Sydney Morning Herald” article of to-day goes even beyond the normal level of inaccuracy and distortion that we have come to expect from that journal in recent months. It is well recognized by members on the Government side that this newspaper has set out on a campaign of distortion and misrepresentation of the Government’s economic policy, and all of us who have been parties to the discussions know that this is so.
I shall not dwell on that matter. I simply
State it as a fact which is well known, I repeat, to members on this side of the House. But in this press report, not merely has the newspaper dealt with the developments which have occurred in Victoria but, reporting the statement which I read out this morning from the president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, it has set out the position of that chamber quite inaccu rately. It talks of a campaign having been launched in advertisements in newspapers and on radio and television. The president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has been quick to disavow any accuracy in the reference to radio and television. It goes on to say-
– Is this published letter of Mr. More’s inaccurate, too?
– I am not claiming that it is inaccurate or that Mr. More has suggested that it is inaccurate. I think it sets out Mr. More’s views as he sees them as president of his chamber. Leaving aside the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ account of what happened in the party room, here is another example of inaccuracy. This is not inaccuracy as to what happened inside the party room where in the nature of things a reporter cannot expect to get an accurate account, but an inaccurate version of what the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures is doing, although it would be possible to contact the responsible officers of this organization and elicit the facts from them.
Now let me turn to the second development. I said earlier to-day that no one in a democracy can resent the fact that people who are opposed to one’s policies are entitled to take appropriate action to deal with them. But the question of the methods and tactics that are adopted in the presentation of the case is more arguable. The first point I want to make on this matter is that at no time have I denied an opportunity to Mr. More, either through correspondence or personal interview, to put the views of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures to me. Indeed, he has done so in person and at some length twice in quite recent times. In one of these discussions he referred to this propaganda campaign for which substantial sums of money had been collected. He made it quite clear to me - I do not wish to misrepresent him - that if the Government would only say that it would introduce selective import controls, there would be an end to the campaign criticizing the Government, and his organization would get right behind the Government in its economic policy. I state that as a fact. I do not think he will seek to deny it and indeed one can only assume that when he found from the Government’s public statements, which I reiterated to him, that we had no intention of changing our policy, the campaign to which he had referred was put in progress.
The matter came to us yesterday in our party room. [Extension of time granted.] One of our members, himself a manufacturer, produced some layouts for advertising which had been given to him by the member of the Chamber of Manufactures whom we understand to have been placed in charge of this publicity campaign. He told the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox), who will be able to give his own version of this - I hope I am stating it accurately - that he did not claim these layouts had been approved, that they were not yet out and that the campaign would be continued. He went on, however, to say, “ It is you back-benchers we are out to get, because if we get enough of you the Government will lose support “. I have the layouts available here. Each depicts a distressed mother with her children around her. One is headed. “ Why is he taking our frigde, mummy?” Another is headed, “ What are you crying for, mummy? “ The third is headed, “Why is dad out of work, mummy?” It looks the sort of propaganda that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) might dream up in one of his less agreeable moods.
I believe I state the position fairly for the majority of members of the Chamber of Manufactures when I say they hastily repudiated propaganda of this kind. The way it was presented to us, and to the honorable member who in good faith brought it to our notice, was that this was not necessarily part of the campaign; it had not yet been approved. Earlier to-day, I read Mr. More’s statement in which he promptly rejected any suggestion that this sort of advertising would be employed in the campaign.
The point I make is that tactics of this kind and in this form are intimidatory. The tactics employed in discussion with the honorable member for Henty, which he was both requested and authorized to bring to the attention of members of the Government parties, were designed to intimidate not only back-bench members of the Government parties but the Government itself. I am not surprised that honorable gentlemen opposite who have never revealed any great sense of responsibility in these matters are jeering, but I believe that here is a matter of considerable importance to the Parliament and to the public interest. By all means let bodies that have great interests to preserve make their views known. The Government has an obligation to make itself available to hear and consider those views, and that has been done. We have sympathy with people and organizations who may have suffered discomfort or hardship as a result of policies adopted in good faith and with the best judgment we can bring in the national interest. But action of this kind not only defeats its own purpose in that it produces quite the opposite influence on governments and those who sit behind them to that which is intended, but it also creates public concern and public anxiety which may have the very effect of reducing commercial confidence and the level of trade in the community.
My final word is this: In the body of the “Sydney Morning Herald” article, reference was made to anger in the party room. If there were any anger - honorable gentlemen on this side will know how much weight to give to that word - it would be anger directed against tactics of this kind which had been brought to our notice. As in any great party or group of parties, there are, of course, differing points of view, but the Government parties have been united behind the Government in their support of this policy.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s extended time has. expired.
.- All I want to say about the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is that his reference to intimidation of honorable members were extremely humorous. In view of the vast intimidation that was levelled at Labour members during the time of bank nationalization - the Treasurer made no comment on that intimidation - it ill becomes him when his Government is allegedly being intimidated to criticize any group of people who attempt to make representations to the Government. It was a death-bed repentance by the Treasurer, and his remarks will not convince anybody.
This morning I want to criticize the Government because of its marked refusal to include in the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement any special provision for slum reclamation. After the great public outcry in every capital city in the past two years and in view of the representations that have been made to the Government at the official level, I would have thought that the Government would have seen fit to recognize that allied to the housing problem is the problem of slum reclamation. Every body knows of the social evils that are associated with slums. They are an accepted fact, but this Government just resolutely closes both eyes to what is fast becoming one of the greatest social evils in the Commonwealth. When we look at Melbourne, the capital city with which I am very well acquainted, we find that a survey by the Victorian Housing Commission a couple of years ago assessed that 1,000 acres in the inner suburbs of Melbourne can be labelled as slum areas. The survey further showed that to reclaim those areas it would cost between £40,000 and £50,000 per acre. Unfortunately, these prices are somewhat inflated because people, particularly migrants, paid inflated prices for housing near the city and naturally that inflation must be reflected in the price of acquisition. Where to find this money is a basic problem for the State governments.
The State governments, as everybody knows, have not the wherewithal to carry out this most desirable proposition. The Victorian Housing Commission - I can only speak of Victoria although the other State housing commissions, I take it, would be in a parallel position - has all the necessary power and experience to acquire and clear areas and the re-development of those areas presents no great problem. At the present time the Victorian Housing Commission receives a grant of £500,000 a year from the State Government for the service of slum acquisition and finds an additional £150,000, or, in all, £650,000 per year. This is nowhere near sufficient to tackle the job adequately, and to-day, I regret to say, that housing commission has reached a position where the proclamation of new areas for slum reclamation is practically at a standstill. To-day we find that the commission has sites in Melbourne half cleared and is not able to complete them quickly as sites suitable for re-building.
What are the present achievements of the Victorian Housing Commission? Of the 1,000 acres which are slum areas we find that it has reclaimed 47 areas, totalling 100 acres, or one-tenth of the total reclamation. But of these 100 acres only 80 acres have been acquired, although hundreds of acres have been proclaimed. Of the 80 acres acquired only 42 acres have been re-developed - 42 acres of 1,000 acres. So it can be seen that under the present set-up there is no hope whatever of tackling slum reclamation on a large scale. The Victorian Housing Commission’s reclamation in Melbourne has involved 4,000 people, and it has not met with any great problem in their rehousing. The question of compensation has not caused any ructions. When we talk about a government instrumentality acquiring land it is frequently said that such instrumentalities pay very low prices, but the Victorian Housing Commission’s experience in Melbourne has been that it pays full market values which are arrived at by taking the higher of two sworn private valuations. If the owner is not satisfied he can go to arbitration, but that course is very seldom taken by any owner. It is quite apparent, therefore, that an additional source of finance must be obtained.
It has been suggested that the municipal council should come to the party, and I am pleased to state that only two or three weeks ago the Melbourne City Council decided to pay, for slum clearance, £100,000 a year for three years. This, in itself, was very desirable; but it is merely tackling the problem in a minute manner when we look at its magnitude. The Commonwealth Government must interest itself in making grants for this purpose because it is the only authority with the requisite money to face up to the situation adequately. A number of problems are involved in acquisition which are beyond the capacity of the Victorian Housing Commission to tackle adequately, because the value of a house that is demolished cannot be recovered and only reclaimed land has any value. When it pulls a house down, despite the fact that it has had to pay for it, the house is of no value at all.
Overseas experience has shown that reclaimed land after clearance has a value of about SO per cent, of the acquisition cost, and therefore it can be seen that a great deal of money is lost at the original stage as the result of acquisition; but it is the only way in which this problem can be solved. This is a problem of truly national importance. In the United States of America the Federal Government makes a contribution of 50 per cent, of the cost. The Federal Government has done it in America and the United Kingdom Government has made very large contributions to slum clearance in Great Britain. I, therefore, suggest that the Commonwealth Government, even at this late stage, when it examines the proposed new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement should undertake to contribute large sums of money to the various States for slum acquisition. Any contribution by the Commonwealth should not be at the expense of the existing housing funds which are needed for the re-development of the acquired sites.
A further point which I would like to make is that the problem is not stationary. More houses are reaching the demolition category all the time, and therefore it is a matter of urgency to deal with the present position within a reasonable space of time before further slums appear. Otherwise the task will become unmanageable. I am afraid that in Melbourne the present efforts, although they are commendable and admirable, are so puny that the problem in the inner areas will become incapable of solution. Other countries are tackling this problem with commendable enterprise. In England a five-year plan was inaugurated by the United Kingdom Government to deal with the worst of the slums. It was not adhered to 100 per cent., but was substantially adhered to. In Great Britain to-day there is going on slum clearance and re-development which gladdens the heart of anybody interested in this vital problem.
The Victorian Housing Commission has very limited funds available for re-building. This year it will build 2,300 housing units, and the number will be lower next year, because the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will give to cooperative housing societies 33i per cent, of the total housing funds instead of 30 per cent., as at the present time. As the result of this very reactionary proposal the commission will have £300,000 less next vear to spend on housing units than it has had over the last three years. The Victorian Housing Commission builds 1,000 country units a year as well as additional housing units in suburban areas; and what is left for the re-development of reclaimed areas is not a very large amount. I point out to the House that the commission has the responsibility of re-housing all families displaced from clearance areas. Therefore, the demand is made on the commission to accelerate. If any slum re-housing programme-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As the member responsible for bringing to the notice of the Government the draft lay-outs which are at present on the table of the House, I want to confirm the fact that they were handed to me by a member of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures for the express purpose of bringing them to the notice of the Government. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) came to me this morning to confirm these facts, after he had received a telegram from Mr. Gordon More, the president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. The person who handed them to me also provided me with a draft for a radio announcement along the same lines. He assured me that members of a certain section of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures felt so strongly about the Government’s policy of lifting import controls, and the credit squeeze, that it intended to conduct a nation-wide campaign over the radio and television stations and through the press, criticizing the Government for its action and urging the re-imposition of selective import controls.
In fairness to the person who handed me the lay-outs, I can say that he assured me that they had not yet been approved by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures for use in newspaper advertisements, but that they were still being considered and that his section of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures felt so strongly about the matter that he believed the lay-outs might yet be used and the advertisements inserted. I was also assured by him that the efforts of the Victorian chamber would be directed towards unseating back-bench members, rather than against the Cabinet, because without the support of the necessary number of back benchers the Cabinet would not be here as a Cabinet in any future government.
I believe that any organization is entitled to express, as forcibly as it can, its point of view, particularly if it feels that its cause is being harmed by government policy. But I am sure that this kind of advertising can do nothing at all to assist industry or to alleviate unemployment, and that it can do a great deal of harm both to industry and to the people in general, because of the panic situation that may develop when people read advertisements inserted by a responsible body such as the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures showing the upward trend in the rate of unemployment. Incidentally, at the time the advertisement was inserted, the number of unemployed did not exceed 2 per cent. of our work force.
If this organization had, during the past year, inserted newspaper advertisements directing attention to the way in which the level of unemployment was falling as a result of the policy followed by the Menzies Government, until in October, 1960, it represented less than 1 per cent. of the work force, its action on this occasion would have been understandable, if not entirely appreciated. But at a time when the Government’s policy is beginning to have the desired effect, when the level of imports is falling, when the drive for increased exports is achieving some success, and when, I believe, a feeling of confidence is beginning to return to the business community. I think it is a great pity that a responsible body like the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures should attempt to exert pressure in this way.
I did what I promised to do, and that was to bring to the notice of the Government the depth of feeling in certain sections of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, and to acquaint the Government of the reasons for this feeling. But I now want to say quite definitely that the wording of the lay-outs submitted to me, which are now on the table of the House, does not represent fair criticism, and that these proposed advertisements are not, in my opinion, in the best interests of Australia.
.- It is very interesting to listen this morning to the squeals of honorable members opposite. We have heard squeal after squeal from Government supporters, from those in the top ranks to those in the bottom. I challenge honorable members opposite who have yet to take part in this debate to deny the truth of the statements appearing in the advertisements in yesterday’s Melbourne “ Herald “. I challenge every one of the members of the Government to deny those statements. I will put the question to them specifically: Is the statement contained in this full-page advertisement inserted by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures a lie? I hear not one interjection from the Government benches, and I challenge honorable members opposite to interject and say that this statement is a lie. Of course it is a fact, and they know it as well as I do. The advertisement commences -
If your job, your business or your income has been affected by the credit squeeze and the lifting of import controls, read this open letter to the Federal Government.
Do Government supporters deny the truth of the statements contained in the section of the advertisement headed, “ Here are the up-to-date employment facts “? It reads -
Compared with 30th November, 1960, No. of persons employed in factories in Victoria has fallen by the following percentages in the last few weeks–
Are these statements lies?
-Order! I think the honorable member should restrain himself a little and avoid the use of unparliamentary language.
– I ask whether these statements are untrue, as they appear in the advertisement -
Week ended 17th March, ‘61-5.1%
Week ended 24th March, ‘61-5.9%
Week ended 31st March, ‘61-6.8%
Week ended 7th April, ‘61-7.7%.
– These are unemployment figures?
– Yes. These are the uptodate figures with regard to unemployment in Victoria. Certainly honorable members opposite are squealing, but I remind the House that they thought it was great fun some years ago when the bank nationalization issue was being discussed and all the chambers of manufactures in the Commonwealth, and the various other reactionary bodies, criticized and attacked the Labour Government. When the bank officers campaigned against the Labour Government’s move, and when the banks themselves financed the Liberal Party’s campaign against the nationalization of banking, honorable members who now sit opposite thought it was great fun. When they are now on the receiving end of the criticism by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, what is their cry? The chamber is telling untruths! It is distorting the facts! It is divided!
The real facts are these: Members of the Government, from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) down, object to the truth being told by this organization. The members of the Chamber of Manufactures are the people who should know just what is taking place as a result of the Government’s economic policies. They are the people who know, from practical experience, that their turnover has been reduced, that they are not selling as great a volume of goods as they previously did. They know what effect the credit squeeze is having on them, and this advertisement is obviously an expression of lack of confidence in this Government and its policies by those who are in a position to know what the situation is.
If the Government is so confident that what it is doing is right, why does it not go to the people as early as possible and find out what the people think of it, by holding an election? It has a right to do so. It can go to the people to-morrow if it wants to. It can take the necessary action to-day to dissolve this Parliament, and then it can go to the people and find out what the people have to say about its policies. But the Government is not prepared to do this, and its members will sit here and ride out the storm as long as they can.
The matter I particularly wished to deal with this morning is one that affects my electorate. I must express my opinion once again that the Government has railed to do anything about a problem that is causing a considerable amount of inconvenience and damage to persons and property on the east coast of Australia. I refer to the pollution of our beaches and our ports by crude oil which is deliberately dumped at sea by vessels using the shipping lanes along our coasts. The Government is still making no effort to bring those responsible into line. I am pleased to see the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) at the table while I am making these statements. In 1954 an international agreement was arrived at, and certain proposals were submitted to the various countries with a view to preventing the pollution of the sea by oil. It was not until 13th May, 1960, that we saw fit to enact legislation for the ultimate ratification of that agreement. I believe that even now two States, Tasmania and South Australia, have not passed the necessary legislation to enable the Commonwealth Government to ratify the agreement.
– Do not blame us for that.
– I am not blaming you. All I say is that you, as Minister, after the bill had been passed through this House on 13th May last year, should have made some definite proposals to the two States I have mentioned, to induce them to enact the necessary legislation as early as possible. The pollution is still taking place on quite an extensive scale. I have before me some cuttings from newspapers published in my electorate. I shall read a portion of one of them, which contains statements by a spokesman for the Maritime Services Board. This article appeared in the Newcastle “ Morning Herald “ on 24th January, 1961, and it reads in part -
The oil, in emulsified form like chunks of black putty, has become embedded in the sand, principally at Newcastle and Bar Beach.
An officer of the board said yesterday that specimens had been collected and examined. Their condition seemed to indicate that the oil had been in the water for some time . . .
The spokesman said that the board was seriously concerned about oil pollution over the past few months, which was the worst experienced on the beaches.
Unfortunately, there might be a tendency for the situation to occur more often because of the increase in the number of oil-burning ships. “ Previously, only a proportion of ships used oil, but there has been a general conversion to the fuel “, he said. “There are also great difficulties in finding the source of oil pollution out to sea. A southerly current sweeps along the east coast at a rate of 36 to 96 miles a day. “ The oil found on Newcastle beaches may have originally been discharged 500 miles away, off Queensland. Nor does it follow that the oil found on the beaches was discharged recently “
The article goes on further to speak of damage to bathing costumes, towels and clothing, and says that oil is getting into people’s hair. All the promenades adjacent to the beaches are being stained with the oil and the tarry substance which has collected. The Government should do something more definite about this matter than it has done to date. Some concrete proposals should be advanced and some definite action should be taken against the people responsible for this pollution.
The spokesman for the Maritime Services Board was quite mild in his comments. I believe that the pollution is being caused by the bulk carriers of crude oil because most of the damage is being caused by crude oil that has been brought to the refineries that have been established on the east coast. The oil tankers carrying this crude oil discbarge their cargoes in Sydney or Melbourne and on the return journey clean out their tanks without having any regard to the damage that they cause to sea life, beaches and so on. They dump the oil residue and waste substances over the side and that is what is causing the damage along the coast. As the spokesman for the Maritime Services Board pointed out, the oil could have been dumped 500 miles away from where it finally hits the beach. I ask the Minister whether there should not be some observation by aircraft.
– Do you mean to tell me that you would have aircraft 500 miles out to sea?
– I did not say anything about having aircraft 500 miles out to sea. If you would only open your ears instead of having them clogged up-
– I did not say anything about ships dumping waste matter 500 miles out to sea. I said it could have been dumped 500 miles up the coast. If the Minister had been listening he would have heard what I said. It could have been dumped 500 miles up the Queensland coast and the southerly rip has brought it southward and deposited it on the beaches. Aircraft fly over the sea lanes. They could detect the oil and see whether any tanker is in the vicinity. It would then only be a matter of laying the blame on the ship concerned. I have discussed this matter with people outside and they have all assured me that the Martime Services Board and shipping authorities would be aware of the locality of the vessels.
Some definite action has to be taken. If the countries which have not ratified the convention do not do so in the immediate future, we must consider the possibility of refusing them permission to use Australian ports.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The House has again heard two ridiculous suggestions from Opposition members, one from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the other from the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), both of whom have referred to the remarks that were made this morning in relation to the intimidation of members of this Parliamen by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. The honorable members have suggested that a similar set of circumstances existed when the Chifley Labour Government introduced its bank nationalization proposal. I think all of us realize that the honorable members are confusing a spontaneous movement by the people of Australia over bank nationalization with an attempt by a section of the community to influence the Government. Every one in Australia was concerned at the effects of the Labour Government’s banking proposals and at the following election the people showed their feelings in no uncertain manner by putting the Labour Government out of office. It has never been in office since.
When the Crimes Bill was being debated, groups organized by the Communist Party invaded King’s Hall and had the active support of members of the Opposition in endeavouring to intimidate the Government. This happened only recently and is within the memory of all honorable members.
On this occasion I wish to refer to something that I have mentioned previously in this House.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it competent for honorable members to claim constantly that they have been intimidated in carrying out their duties as members of Parliament without a question of privilege arising?
– If an honorable member claims to have been intimidated he has the forms of the House to protect him.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. For the benefit of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) I claim that it was attempted intimidation.
– That is the same thing.
– At any rate, I will not be intimidated on this occasion. We all applaud the Government’s efforts to promote exports by our secondary industries so that they will be able to share some of the burden that is at present falling so heavily on the shoulders of the primary producers. There are many opportunities for a great forward step in the development of secondary industries in a much more positive way than perhaps the Government’s measures envisage. The Government should use all of its endeavours to attract an overseas steel industry to Australia. We are exporting, or about to export, large quantities of iron ore. There is no need for me to point out to honorable members that we have in Australia tremendous stocks of coal. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has shown that it is able to produce steel and steel products which will compete with those of any other country. Unfortunately, its capacity is such that it is unable to supply Australia’s requirements and at the same time build up a substantial export trade. I do not think that the company has the financial capacity to establish an industry sufficiently large to make any great impact on our overseas funds.
– Is it not a fact that the B.H.P. has £31.000,000 invested in Commonwealth bonds?
– Obviously the honorable member for Newcastle is again seeking to detract from the suggestion that I am advancing which would be of great assistance to Australia. It would be a mistake to consider only our future domestic requirements of iron ore. We should look to Australia becoming one of the largest, if not the largest, centres of heavy industry in the southern hemisphere. Our reserves of iron ore and coal are so great that we could supply steel and steel products to meet not only our own requirements but also those of Africa, the Far East and South America. If this industry could be expanded in the way that I have suggested, we would provide thousands of high standard jobs for Australians and for our immigrants. The ideal site for such an industry would be at the port of Gladstone in Queensland. Gladstone has a first-class harbour and is adjacent to one of the largest coal deposits in Australia. This Government is anxious to advance the interests of Queensland, and an industry at Gladstone would help to build up the population in a sub-tropical area.
The presence of a basic industry would also assist our overseas trading services. Large tonnages are usually carried by charter, and the ships engaged in this trade could take quite a quantity of primary products from Australia. For example, the trade mission which visited South America reported there were opportunities there for the sale of a few tons of butter, cheese and other primary products here and there. We are not getting that trade now because there is no shipping service. If we had a steel industry using ships which went to other countries with basic cargoes, an opportunity would be presented to export primary products as well. If we act now, we can establish an industry before similar rival industries start in Asian countries. Probably it will be a few years before they are in active operation, but as the standard of living rises in Asia consumption of steel and steel products will increase considerably. I believe there would be an opportunity also to attract overseas steel interests to Australia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is extraordinary that every speaker on the Government side has devoted part of his time this morning to criticizing an advertisement that has appeared in a Melbourne newspaper. The attitude of those honorable members is not without humour. They have not attempted so much to answer the criticism contained in -the advertisement!) but seem to be incensed that somebody should have the effrontery to criticize the Government’s policy publicly. It is also a remarkable fact that none of those speakers attempted to answer categorically the statements contained in the advertisements. All that is at issue is whether the advertisements and the figures contained in them are false. On that issue, supporters of the Government have been particularly careful to avoid expressing themselves. Instead, they have embarked on wholesale criticism of the press and a particular organization in Victoria.
This is rather odd in view of what has happened during the past ten years in the press reporting of the proceedings of this Parliament. Every time there has been criticism of the Treasurer or the Government, no matter how mild, particularly in recent days, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has displayed a degree of sensitivity that is somewhat humorous. The right honorable gentleman has nothing at all to say about newspapers that cravenly follow whatever policy the Government produces. The Treasurer has nothing to say about the partial reporting of the proceedings of this House. From time to time, the Treasurer himself has criticized the very mild criticism of the Government that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has indulged in through its editorials. On the other hand, he has nothing to say about the disgusting partiality of the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, not only in its editorial columns but also in its reporting of proceedings of the Parliament.
Any opinions expressed in the editorial columns of a newspaper are the responsibility of that newspaper, and it is entitled to express them in editorial form; but the reporting of proceedings of the House is an entirely different matter. I refer in particular to the “ Daily Telegraph’s “ report of the foreign affairs debate in this House last week. Any one who has been an impartial observer of the proceedings in this House would say that this was the first time in eleven years that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been in such a spot. He was continually on the defensive and was disconcerted by the attack of the Opposition; but any one reading the newspapers would have no idea of what was happening. The other example of -partial reporting by the “ Daily Telegraph “ was its report of the debate on the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) through which he tried to get some action on the report presented some two years ago by the Constitutional Review Committee. The “ Daily Telegraph “ in reporting that debate gave about ten lines to the Leader of the Opposition and approximately 80 lines to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) who presented the Government’s case. In those circumstances, I think the Governments approach to the matter honorable members have been discussing will leave most people unmoved.
I wish to refer to the shipbuilding industry in Australia, which has reached a very parlous state. Shipbuilding is declining and in many cases has ceased. Only two shipbuilding yards engaged in building merchant ships have any continuity of work. They are the yards at Whyalla and the State dockyards at Newcastle in New South Wales. Yards which were flourishing a few years ago and contributed substantially to the development of our economy are idle. Mort’s Dock which employed up to 2,000 men is closed down. The shipbuilding yards of Poole and Steel played a vital part in our war effort but now they are out of production and the only man on the premises is a watchman. The same thing has happened in Brisbane and Maryborough.
Many opportunities are open to the Government if it wishes to save the shipbuilding industry. It could do something for merchant shipbuilding and also by way of a naval programme. The Government could give an impetus to the industry by building merchant and passenger ships. There are opportunities on the Australian coast for passenger shipping. As to naval shipbuilding, I quote from the Melbourne “Age” of 18th April. When speaking at the launching of the anti-submarine frigate H.M.A.S. “ Derwent “, the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) said that no more naval vessels would be built in the near future, and he regretted that there should be a hiatus in naval building at Williamstown naval dockyard and Cockatoo Island, but financial considerations had put an end to any immediate prospect for building new ships. I think the Minister might more appropriately have used the word “ gap “ instead of “hiatus”. The fact is that the naval shipbuilding programme has come to an end, and this is grim news for every one.
At the launching of this frigate last Saturday, the Minister stated categorically that there would be no naval shipbuilding in this country in the future. I remind the House that at the launching of a similar vessel - H.M.A.S. “Stuart” - the week previously, at Cockatoo Dockyard, the managing director of the constructing firm said that, for the first time in 30 years, his company had no ship under construction. So we have the fact that neither Cockatoo nor Williamstown has any further shipbuilding orders for the Navy. That is a deplorable situation. The reason given for it by the Minister is that there is no money available for future shipbuilding. Although there are two ships to be fitted out, that work will not absorb the number of men who were employed on their construction and, of necessity, those who will not be required for the fitting out will be displaced. As time goes on, the number of men engaged on the fitting out work will dwindle, and unless further shipbuilding orders are forthcoming rapidly, the shipbuilding industry in this country will revert to the position in which it was in the thirties, when it was allowed to run completely to seed. This Government provides money for many other things, and I believe that it must now find money for the purpose of keeping these men employed. If it is not possible to undertake any further naval shipbuilding, then I submit that it is possible to undertake a programme of building merchant ships. In view of the importance of this industry not only to our economy, but also to our defence, I urge upon the Government the dire necessity for taking almost immediate action in this direction.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Events of the last few hours clearly demonstate that certain fundamentals are being lost sight of in this party warfare in which we are continuously engaged. Although I am quite aware of the old saying that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, I am perfectly happy to be foolish in this instance and to rush in and refer to matters which I believe it is essential that we appreciate. I remind honorable members that one may argue the pros and cons of many policies and actions but, unless one bases all argument on a firm foundation, one will not get anywhere. All that can result from the use of arguments without firm foundation is heated discussion.
During the time at my disposal, I should like to mention certain points that we continue to forget. There is not the slightest shadow of doubt that, irrespective of their occupation in life, there are few men in this country who would not tell us that they know how to govern the country, that they know how to solve all the problems which beset any government, irrespective of its political complexion. Whether they be in an office chair, in their club, having a glass of beer or sitting before a television set, these people find it easy to solve the problems of the country.
That brings me to a discussion of the functions and duties of parliamentarians. Both those of us who have been here for a long time, and those who, like myself, have been here for only a short while, know that, according to the points of view and the policies current at the moment, we are blackguards, we are thieves - indeed, we are everything that makes for the worst type of clot or clown in the community. Apparently, to some people, the only use we have is to find jobs for those who require them, to arrange contracts for others, to arrange for the installation of a telephone, to attend some fete or bazaar, or to dig deep and give, give, give.
I do not complain about all this; I am simply endeavouring to bring out points which have been overlooked. Already, on one or two occasions, I have taken the opportunity to mention them. No Parliament can continue to exist if the people of the country fail to appreciate the functions of both Parliament and parliamentarians. For instance, we have had many clear illustrations that all sections of the Australian community believe that sole responsibility for the preservation of principles rests with Parliament. I emphasize that responsibility for the preservation of cherished principles rests not with Parliament solely, but with every section of the Australian community. That great constitutional authority, Blackstone, once told us that parliamentarians are the only men who are not required to be trained for the occupation and the responsibilities they undertake, lt is true that in all other walks of life either an apprenticeship, a university background or specialized training is required for the post undertaken. No such qualification is required of a parliamentarian. 1 think we are inclined to forget at times that we in this Parliament represent a true cross-section ot all types in the community.
– What are you a cross section of?
– I do not mind if my statements give some honorable members a brief moment of humorous satisfaction. 1 am quite happy to be the butt of their humour. At the same time, I point out that, before we enter this place, we are not required to be experts in anything. If anything, the only qualification required of us is that we shall have the gift of the gab, that we shall be expert in exercising that gift.
– Or experts on the hovercraft.
– Yes, I am happy to be an expert on the hovercraft. But all sections of the community expect us to be experts on everything that comes before Parliament. They expect us to be oracles of wisdom. They expect us to know everything. They expect us to be magicians who, at the flick of a finger, can produce the answer to all problems. We are expected to be experts on trade and commerce, indeed on every conceivable thing, fancied or real, which affects mankind, lt is essential that we bring some sense to our operations. Not one journal, not one newspaper suggests that we should be anything but the be-all and end-all in solving the country’s problems. I raise no objection to constructive criticism, but I do emphasize that every action we take is subjected to all sorts of interpretations. We, in this chamber, are no better and no worse than the people who elect us. We are no better and no worse than those sections of the community which, because they cannot get this or that, start to lambast us.
I think that, in this place, we have sometimes failed to draw the attention of the community to the fact that if we are to achieve the benefits of which I have spoken - of science, mechanics, and the ingenuity of man - we must have the maximum cooperation and teamwork of all sections of the community. I know that there are many in this chamber who think that I am an idealist and unfitted, because of that, to sit in this place. Whether that is true or not, I express what I believe. If the honorable member who is interjecting likes to take temporary enjoyment from that fact, I am happy to afford him that enjoyment, but he does not destroy the central core of the principle about which I am talking - responsibility and teamwork. That brings me to the next point that I want to make.
I said before that everything has its purpose. If it has not, there is no meaning in it. We cannot exist unless we carry out the function for which we are here. What is our function? I said in a recent speech that it is to legislate to the best of our ability and so to order the affairs of the country that the majority of the people, in fact every man and woman, can achieve a certain ideal. I quoted a passage, from a well-known and very popular book. I again say that we are failing to recognize that.
– Why do you not resign?
– I have no intention of resigning for this reason: Very few members of Parliament are here because they look upon this as a mere job. In view of the functions and the tasks involved, no man would take this on merely as a job.
– Speak for yourself.
– If you look at it merely as a job I am sorry. There are few men who do not look upon their function in this place as a vocation- in which they believe.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The economic programme of the Government including its credit squeeze, the flood of imports, the freezing of wages, the increasing of interest rates on advances for homes and rural industries, has been accompanied by unemployment, but it has not decreased costs. Overseas loans have been increased and overseas funds have been dangerously reduced. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has drawn attention to the results of the Government’s programme and has been accused by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) of intimidation. The object of the Treasurer’s wail of course. is to silence all opposition to the Government, but particularly the opposition from the back benches of the Liberal Party. With that object, the Treasurer has put on a performance this morning because of what occurred at his party meeting yesterday.
According to the Chamber of Manufactures, supported by evidence, the average wage in the community has been reduced by £1 5s. per week by unemployment, by the elimination of overtime and by a reduced working week. The following is part of a newspaper report of a statement by the Chamber of Manufactures: -
The Federal Government’s credit restriction policy had caused unexpected damage to commerce and industry in Victoria . . . Unemployment in industry is showing an alarming increase . . . Substantial unemployment in Victoria will extend far beyond the manufacturing industry, which to date has felt the greatest impact . . .
Mr. More said that the Victorian Chamber had the latest information covering the steep production fall-off, stocks build-up, overtime curtailments, unemployment increase, and general lack of funds for financing the industry and commerce in Victoria.
Those are very definite and grievous charges against the Government. The Treasurer has produced a copy of some document that has been printed in order to secure the elimination of the programme that is having these results. He has said that these statements are unfair. He believes that it is undesirable that it should be pointed out that there is unemployment and that unemployment, inevitably, is accompanied by a restriction of foodstuffs for members of a family. It is unfair tactics to point this out, according to the Treasurer this morning.
The Chamber of Manufactures has a responsibility in reference to this matter because it, in company with other big financial interests, is responsible for the Government’s being in office. Those interests provided millions of pounds to buy the press, television and radio in order to influence the votes of the people to put the Government back in power. They find, after this vast expenditure of money which was accompanied by an expenditure of effort, that the Government is destroying Australian industries and putting Australian workers out of employment. Of course, these interests are not so much concerned about the reduction of £1 5s. per week in the pay envelope of the average worker, which means in many cases a much bigger reduction in the pay envelopes of the average family, as they are with the fact that their industries are beginning to stagnate and their profits are not as great as they were.
We of the Australian Labour Party stand for Australian industry. We are concerned about Australian industries because they are the avenues of employment for the people, and upon them and their prosperity depends the standard of living of the Australian people which is being ruthlessly destroyed by this Government. When a voice is raised against this, the Treasurer puts on a performance before this House. The Government objects to criticism. Criticism must be silenced if it appears in the newspapers. It must be silenced if it is heard from the Chamber of Manufactures. It must be silenced, particularly, if it is expressed in the party room of the Liberal Party by some back-benchers who see that unemployment is increasing in their constituencies, and who see the manufacturers’ sympathies being alienated fromthem.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), for example, finds that he no longer represents a majority of the people of Maribyrnong. That being the position, he rises in anger in the party room to draw attention to the fact that his job is in danger. He considers that his particular sphere of influence is likely to be destroyed.
Because of that - and because of that only - the Treasurer has come into this chamber in order to silence the honorable member for Maribyrnong and other members of his party and, of course, to have some admonitory effect, so he hopes, on the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and the press of this country with respect to the criticism that they are levelling at the Government. After all, the greatest criticism levelled at this Government is constituted by the fact that 81,000 workers are registered as unemployed. Taking into account girls in the clothing trade and the like who are out of employment or are on part-time work, and wives and dependants, this probably means that in reality the livelihood of more than twice 81,000 people has been effectively destroyed during the last few months. That is the sort of effect which the administration of this Government has. This is a government which destroys industries in the cities and the home market of the primary producers. This Government refuses loans and advances to the primary producers. It borrows money overseas at higher and higher rates of interest in order to recoup its dissipated overseas funds. When it seeks to induce to come to this country what it terms overseas capital for investment here, in reality it sells the industries and the land of Australia bit by bit to foreign investors and gives control over the Australian economy to capitalists overseas. That situation, of course, presents the future of this country with grave disabilities. This Government’s policy, Mr. Speaker, is designed to set on edge the teeth of future generations of Australians.
.- Mr. Speaker, on 6th April last, there were before the Commonwealth Industrial Court proceedings in which the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia was charged with, and in fact subsequently convicted of, contempt of court. The court had made an order that the federation obey the terms of the award, which bans all restrictions oi work. At an earlier stage, there had been a stoppage of work and the court had enjoined the federation to obey the award. On a number of occasions, the union refused to obey the award and was in fact cited for contempt, convicted and fined. The particular facts of this matter that make it important are to be found in certain passages of conversation and submission that passed between the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, which was composed of Mr. Justice Spicer, the Chief Judge, Mr. Justice Dunphy and Mr. Justice Eggleston. Mr. Docker, was the advoctate for the Waterside Workers Federation.
– For whom did the honorable member appear?
– I did not appear in that case. I have with me an extract from the transcript of the proceedings. The importance of it is that it indicates the attitude of the Waterside Workers Federation, as expressed through its advocate before the court, for the Industrial Court as a court, for the act to which the federation is subject and for the award. 1 think that the simplest thing for me to do is to read the relevant part of this transcript, which is as follows: -
Mr. Docker: I do not propose to address at any length but simply wish to say the offence with which we are charged was a one day stoppage on the Melbourne waterfront which involved the holding of a meeting of the members of the Melbourne branch of the Federation which was considered by them necessary.
Spicer, C.J.: They might have asked for leave, 1 suppose, Mr. Docker.
I point out that there is provision in the award whereby authorized stoppages of work may be held. The transcript continues -
Mr. Docker It was considered by them , if I might put it this way , necessary to have it immediately, Your Honour, and there was no way of obtaining leave immediately. I do not propose to go into the details of the matter - my friend has not opened on them - but simply wish to indicate that this matter occurred after a day of negotiations with employers over an industrial matter in which they were unsuccessful. 1 would submit that the stoppage was a simple exercise of a traditional right of workers to stop work in defence of their interests and I only desire to add further, Your Honours, that legislation of the type now being invoked which is obviously designed to abolish the right to strike is not the type of legislation that is accepted by us as part of the trade union movement.
Proceedings such as these were can arise only if there is provision in the award prohibiting stoppages. Such provision is to be found in the metal trades award, for example, the waterside workers’ award and in some other awards. Such a ban clause appears in only a very small percentage of awards, however. The transcript of the proceedings before the Commonwealth Industrial Court goes on -
Spicer, CJ.: We do not discuss the legislation, Mr. Docker, you know that. We are only here to administer it and we are not going to have discussions about the merits of the legislation.
Mr. Docker: I do not intend to discuss the merits, Your Honour; I simply wish to put our position.
Spicer, CJ.: In effect what you say is, no matter what the Court says, no matter what the law says, if your organisation decides it is going to have a stop work meeting, it will have it.
Mr. Docker: If it decides it is necessary in the interests of the members, that is so. All I desire to say about this legislation is that we just do not accept it as just or legislation worthy of respect.
Dunphy, J.: I do not think anybody appearing with leave in this Court should be heard to say that sort of thing.
Mr. Docker: Your Honour
Dunphy, J.: Do not interrupt me, Mr. Docker. You have been told this before and I think if you say that again your leave to appear should be withdrawn. That is final as far as 1 am concerned.
Spicer, CJ.: You see, many of us have to accept legislation and obey legislation that we do not like, lt is no use coming along and telling us you do not like the legislation. That does not get you anywhere. It only tends to emphasise the fact that your organisation will disobey the Court’s order whenever it feels disposed to do so.
Mr. Docker: Y’our Honour, all I can say on this question that Mr. Justice Dunphy has raised is that it is my submission on matters of this nature where we virtually represent the defendant, that I am entitled to put anything that is not improper in defence of the organisation and I submit that what I put was not improper.
Dunphy, J.: I consider that it is improper and no member of the legal profession would be heard to say it and if you persist in saying it your leave to appear should be withdrawn.
Mr. Docker is not a member of the legal profession. The transcript continues -
Mr. Docker: My submission is that 1 am in the same position as a criminal in criminal proceedings who is entitled to make a statement from (he dock. I am not in the position of a legal advocate–
Spicer, C.J.: I think you are. The only right to appear that you have is that you are a lay advocate given leave to appear before the Court.
Mr. Docker: If that is so, there is no way in which the defendant can appear in its own right.
Spicer, CJ.: That may be so; it is true of every corporation. It is one of the disabilities of being a corporation.
Eggleston, J.: Strictly speaking I think a corporation can only appear by Counsel in the ordinary course. But you have a special permission which enables you to stand in the place of Counsel.
Mr. Docker: What I am putting is that because we are a corporate body we should not be in any different position to the position we would be in if we were a single individual defendant.
Mr. Docker then went on to say
The only other point I wish to put, Your Honours, is that it is true, as the situation stands, that an exercise of our right to withhold our labour for a day even can constitute a contempt of this Court and in that sense we plead guilty, but we do so with no sense of guilt or shame in the matter.
We simply say, Your Honours, that in fulfilling our proper function-
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1930-1960 I present the report relating to the following work: -
The proposed construction of a chemical physics laboratory building for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization at Clayton, Victoria.
The committee has found that the existing facilities incorporate very few of the conditions desirable for the type of research work being undertaken, and recommends the construction of the building to the size and design proposed.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - For the information of members and for the completeness of the record, 1 wish to present to the House an outline of the work of the Native Welfare Conference held at Parliament House, Canberra, on 26th and 27th January last. This was a conference of Federal and State Ministers responsible for native welfare and the agenda was formed of items relating to matters which governments handle in respect of the advancement of native welfare. In keeping with the custom of Federal-State Ministerial conferences each participating Minister is reporting the results to his own government, and the responsibility will rest on each government to make decisions on matters which fall within its constitutional powers. The conference agreed on the following statement of the meaning of the policy of assimilation, to which all Australian governments adhere, and on methods of advancing that policy.
The policy of assimilation, in the view of all Australian governments, means that all aborigines and part aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, hopes and loyalties as other Australians. Thus, any special measures taken for aborigines and part aborigines are regarded as temporary measures not based on colour but intended to meet their need for specal care and assistance, to protect them from any ill effects of sudden change, and to assist them to make the transition from one stage to another in such a way as will be favorable to their future social, economic and political advancement. In making this statement attention should be drawn to the rather loose use of the term “ citizenship “ when aborigines are said to have achieved citizenship by being exempted from the provisions of special State and Territory statutes which apply only to aborigines. In some respects, the position is somewhat like that of a minor who is basically a citizen but who, because he is under the age of 21 years, may not be able to do everything that other inhabitants of Australia may be able to do, and may be protected and assisted in ways in which the adult is not protected and assisted. In our view, Australian aborigines are Australian citizens by virtue of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1960. The special rights and disabilities which they have under State and Territory statutes can in no sense derogate from citizenship in the sense of status as Australian citizens. In effect then, a person placed under the provisions of State and Territorial native welfare acts has certain restrictions placed on him in some States but that does not in any way take his Australian citizenship away from him, although it may limit for the time being his exercise of some of the rights enjoyed by other citizens and may afford him assistance not given to other citizens.
Secondly, the conference gave attention to methods of advancing the policy. They are -
The conference also gave attention to methods of advancing this policy, to be taken either severally or in co-operation. The conference agreed that, apart from measures covered by other items on the agenda, particular attention needs to be given to the following: -
In addition to the matters I have traversed, the conference of Ministers examined closely a number of other matters and I shall enumerate some of them. Attention was given to the problem of aborigines who, by moving from one State to another, may come under restrictive legislation. In one State, they may be free of restriction. They cross the border into another State and because in that State they are regarded by law as coming under special legislation, their position may become different. The Ministers agreed to confer withtheir Governments on any measures that may be necessary to overcome this problem.
The conference agreed that the extension of social service benefits to aborigines, which has now been in operation for twelve months, has worked very smoothly, There should continue to be close co-operation on the administration of social service benefits. In any case where there was misunderstanding, arrangements were made for consultation with the Department of Social Services. At this point, I should interpolate that- the conference had the assistance of my ministerial colleague, the Minister for Social Services, in this part of its work.
The special problems of nomadic and semi-nomadic people moving between South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory were recognized as involving co-operation between the authorities concerned, and it was agreed that a consultative committee be established. This is a problem affecting a comparatively small number of aborigines who are still in a nomadic or semi-nomadic condition and roam freely across the borders of those two States and the Northern Territory. We will co-operate to see that they are dealt with to the best advantage.
The Ministers agreed that aboriginal children should be educated in schools with special curricula and special teaching methods only for as long as the educational authority considers that they will derive greater benefit from a form of education developed to suit their stage of advancement than they would under the normal curriculum. Where such schools are needed they should be either conducted or supervised by the authority responsible for aboriginal education, which in most States is the Education Department. Unless this applies, the children should, wherever practicable, be educated in normal schools rather than in special schools. This is particularly important for children in higher grades. Ministers from States where the schools are conducted by the Education Department emphasized that they would continue that method. It should be recognized that already very large numbers of aboriginal children are attending the same schools as are other Australian children.
The Ministers paid a tribute to the valuable work the Christian Missions have done and are doing in education for aborigines.
Consideration was given to problems of staff for welfare work. The Ministers agreed that, while there are common elements of training associated with welfare work in all States and the Northern Terri tory, the recruitment and training of welfare workers is primarily a matter for each State, having regard to its particular requirements.
The conference considered the laws of those States and the Northern Territory which limit the supply to or consumption of alcohol by aborigines. The discussion brought out clearly that conditions in the States in which some limitation still applies vary greatly and that therefore a common policy throughout Australia is at this stage not possible and may be undesirable. It was agreed that the matter is one that should be decided by each government concerned.
Consideration was given to further study and research in respect of particular problems that may arise in such fields as health, nutrition, education, housing and vocational training.
It was agreed that, while further research into health problems is necessary, the most urgent need in this field is to educate aborigines and part aborigines in an understanding of the basic requirements of health - personal hygiene, preparation of meals, feeding of infants, and pre-natal and post-natal care. The Ministers agreed that the National Health and Medical Research Council should be asked to discuss particular fields in which further research should be carried out.
The conference considered problems of education, including the use of English in teaching, and the nature of the curriculum for aboriginal children in the process of transfer from settlement to normal schools.
Employment, particularly the types of jobs in which aborigines are at present engaged and the extent and diversity of jobs available now and in the future, was discussed.
The conference agreed that further research was necessary into the social organization of aborigines and the nature of social change. It was agreed that a number of topics should be referred to the Social Science Research Council which should be asked to put them before appropriate university authorities.
The Ministers agreed that directors of the State authorities and the Northern Territory should keep each other informed on research projects on aboriginal welfare which are undertaken in their various States, and that the Department of Territories should consult the Bureau of Census and Statistics to seek suggestions on the way in which the State authorities and the Northern Territory might present the statistics in their report to facilitate comparisons, and the Department of Territories should pass any suggestions to the State directors and the Northern Territory Administration. One of the difficulties and a cause of much misunderstanding in any public discussion of this problem is that figures which may be used by one authority in its reports are not directly comparable with figures which may be used by another authority. A good deal of misunderstanding and even misrepresentation occurs just because we do not have that common statistical basis.
The Ministers agreed that the discussions at the conference had been valuable and decided to hold meetings in future at twoyearly intervals. The next conference is expected to take place in Western Australia early in 1963.
That concludes the summary of conclusions reached by the conference of Ministers. In reviewing the work of the conference - work which was essentially practical and was confined to matters involving government responsibility - I would suggest to the House that we should try to keep this problem in perspective. We are concerned with the problems of advancement and adjustment of a racial and social minority of approximately only 70,000 people in a total population of 10,000,000. It is estimated that there are already - apart from those 70,000 - approximately 30,000 aborigines or people of aboriginal ancestry who do not come under any form of restrictive or protective legislation but live like other Australian citizens.
– Are they of the 70,000, or in addition to them?
Mr. HASLUCK__ They are in addition to the 70,000. There are 30,000 persons who, in ancestry, may be regarded as of the aboriginal race but who are not regarded as aborigines but just as much Australian in every privilege and manner of living as is the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) or myself.
– That means 100,000 altogether?
– Yes. That includes some part-aborigines.
– How many partaborigines?
– I would not give an exact figure for the full-bloods, but my estimate is that of the 70,000 who are still, for the purposes of the law, regarded as aborigines or part-aborigines, and under special care, possibly from one-half to twothirds would be full-bloods - possibly twothirds. Where special legislation applies to aborigines only, it is solely because of a clear and temporary - I accentuate the word “ temporary “ - need for this in their own interests. Contrary to popular belief, the restrictions are of limited effect. For example, in three States that have protective legislation the persons who come under protection are fully eligible to vote at elections. In two States there are no restrictions of any kind. In all States and Territories restrictions are being lessened.
The recent conference demonstrated the strong and growing interest of Australian governments in aboriginal welfare and the fact that a considerable effort is being made. Continuing changes in legislation and administrative practice have advanced the policy of assimilation. While it is recognized that each State and the Northern Territory have particular problems in aboriginal advancement and that conditions differ from place to place, the exchange of views at the conference was valuable to every one concerned. The decisions arrived at will accelerate the attainment of the objective of a single Australian community. In conclusion, we should emphasize, however, that although the Governments can do a great deal towards helping the aboriginal people towards assimilation, ultimately the success of assimilation will depend on acceptance of aborigines by the whole Australian community and assistance to them in this difficult period of transition. At the present stage the most direct challenge comes not togovernments but to the whole of the Australian community. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Native Welfare Conference - Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the paper be printed.
– The statement by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), dealing with the Native Welfare Conference held in Canberra on 26th January last seems to me to highlight the main weakness in our methods of dealing with native welfare, that is, the lack Of continuous and permanent machinery of consultation. Here we have a conference of Ministers who have not met for many years and who do not intend to meet again for another two years. We know only too well, from recent events, that the eyes of the world are shifting from the South African episode to our own country and its policies. In particular we want to see, at this stage, something concrete emerging from conferences of this nature, so that we can reassure not only our own people in Australia but also the rest of the world, that we are in earnest when we say we are doing our utmost as a nation to assist our native people.
It is useless in these days to shrug off the scrutiny and queries of people overseas when they deal with our own native policy. It is useless for the Commonwealth to say that it has no control or only limited control over all the aborigines in Australia and that the States exercise sovereign rights and control nearly 75 per cent, of the native people of the continent. The people of the outside world hold the Commonwealth Government responsible for the treatment of these people. It cannot be too strongly stressed that although in Australia we realize these facts, in the eyes of the world it is the Commonwealth Government which has to accept responsibility for the welfare of our native people. No reason and no excuse that we as a nation can offer in this regard will alter that position. Here we have a weakness in our own domestic position, where each State goes its own way, subject to these casual conferences at some fiveyearly intervals. It is no wonder the world asks of us what our national policy is and what we are doing in respect of it not only in one area such as the Northern Territory but also in the States in respect of the native people within the continent of Australia.
Conferences of this kind, held at infrequent intervals, do not provide a satisfactory answer to this question. I know that from the constitutional point of view the Commonwealth Government lacks the power to take over the responsibility of providing for the care and future of the whole of these people. I know that in existing circumstances only the States, exercising their sovereign right, can dictate policy in respect of the people in their respective States. Surely, however, the time has arrived when some overriding commission or body, acceptable to the States and the Commonwealth, can be set up to sit in constant watch over the policy and the implementation of the policy for the whole of Australia. Financed by Commonwealth funds, such a body, having State representation, after taking into consideration the differing conditions prevailing in each State as well as the differing state of advancement of these people, could even lay down a policy which would set the minds of our own people in Australia at rest and impress upon them that everything possible is being done to facilitate the advancement and assimilation of these people into our society, as well as impressing on the minds of people overseas that that is in actual fact what is happening. This, in turn, would demonstrate to the world at large that we have at long last decided to treat the matter of our native races as a national one and that we are drawing on the full resources of the central government in all our efforts to overcome the back-lag. I appreciate that there will be a fear in the minds of some people that the States, or particular States, might be ahead of the Commonwealth at this particular time in the care and welfare of the native people, but I envisage a policy accepting the most progressive and practicable ideas and applying that policy for the benefit of the more backward States, which, although not lacking in feeling or interest, are not able to assist their people adequately through lack of funds and the means to do the job properly.
The figures of population are interesting in this respect. The figures that I will mention have been taken from the Commonwealth “Year-Book” for 1960, and refer to the census of the year 1954. That is the only figure we have to go on in respect of the States in regard to population figures. The expenditure figures are for the year 1958-59. When dealing with the three States or areas of the Commonwealth *>»« have the main body of the native people, we find that in the Northern Territory, where there are 17,000 natives, there was an expenditure of £791,695, or approximately £45 per head. Western Australia had a native population of 10,000. The amount spent on them was £591,000, which works out at a little less than £60 a head. In Queensland there were 10,000 natives, and the expenditure amounted to £726,000, or about £70 a head.
I do not know whether these figures include expenditure on capital works, but in any case they give a fair indication of the amounts spent on native welfare during the period in question. I know that substantial increases have taken place in Commonwealth expenditure in this direction since these figures were prepared. I know that last year the expenditure by the Commonwealth on native people in the Northern Territory amounted to £1,300,000. This included expenditure on capital works.
I realize, of course, that the expenditure of money does not necessarily indicate that progress is being made, or even that a given position is being maintained. What is important is that the money should be spent wisely and the maximum benefit derived from it. It is for this reason that I consider there would be an advantage in having an overriding commission comprising many members rather than that the responsibility be left to one person, as is the case at the present time.
The problem of assimilation cannot be solved by a mere wave of the hand, lt must be done progressively. I agree with the Minister’s comment that the assimilation policy must be carried out progressively, and in a manner that will not react to the disadvantage of the people whom it is sought to help, and will not disrupt the Australian economy in general.
I shall now turn to the Minister’s statement itself. I shall deal with only a few of the points that he made, because other speakers will also advert to various parts of the statement. First, let me say that this is not a statement of achievement. It simply sets out the Government’s aims and objectives, and in no way does it tell us what is being done by the States in the various fields of activity that are mentioned in the statement. I would like to have had & state ment from the States themselves showing what they are doing at this point of time in respect of education, housing, employment, health and other services. I would like to have heard from the States what they are doing about providing homes for aborigines. We realize, of course, that one cannot take natives from the nomadic state, put them straight into homes and expect them to look after themselves. Therefore we would like to know what the States are doing in this regard.
I would like to have had information also on what the States are doing to fit the natives to take their places in the community. I believe that one of the weaknesses inherent in the Commonwealth’s policy in regard to native affairs is a tendency to put natives in settlements and so take away from them their initiative. They are not imbued with any desire to go out end work and become producing members of the community. While we are trying to assist these natives we should not deprive them of their initiative, because this is something they must retain if they are to fit themselves into the community. While it is highly desirable that we should help the natives to renounce their nomadic existence, educate them and house them, we should not merely put them into houses and feed them and provide other services without emphasizing the necessity for them to help themselves and to acquire some degree of initiative and preserve their selfrespect. We do not want them to become mere mendicants, but rather essential and valuable units in the community.
I would like to have heard something of what the States are doing with respect to education. Are they concentrating on the academic side of education, or are they trying to make the natives proficient tradesmen so that they can perform valuable work for themselves and the community? We all know that it is not easy for natives to go through their schooling period in the same way as other Australian children do. The parents of the native children are still nomadic in many cases, and for this reason a child’s schooling is often interrupted. Children may acquire a certain amount of academic education, but as they have had no trade training they find it very difficult to play a worth-while part in the life of the community. We realize that they must have some degree of academic education, so that they can compete with other members of the community.
I wish now to refer to the consumption of alcohol by aborigines. This is a most important problem, and it is no use sidestepping it. I believe this is one matter that should have been settled by the conference about which the Minister has spoken. Natives are constantly moving from one area to another. If a native has spent some time in a State in which he is allowed to consume alcohol, he should not be penalized if he happens to cross the border into a State in which he is prohibited from taking alcohol. This is a most important subject, and it does nobody any good for the States and the Commonwealth to dodge their responsibility to lay down and follow a common policy.
I come now to the very important matter of personal hygiene, which is bound up with the problem of preparing natives to fit themselves into our society. Great pains should be taken to teach the native people the essentials of personal hygiene. Speaking from my knowledge of these matters in the Northern Territory, I can say that this problem is of particular importance in connexion with education. Many white parents object to native children sitting beside their children in the schools, because they feel strongly that the personal hygiene of native children is by no means what it should be. They believe that there is a definite risk in allowing the children to mix at present. I know that this lack of personal hygiene on the part of native children is one of the objections that have been raised to mixed schooling. This objection in some instances is valid. We must be at great pains and exercise extreme care until the natives learn the rudiments of hygiene. They should be constantly supervised and advised of the need for it.
Although the conference mentioned the subject of employment of natives it did not touch upon the wages and conditions of natives employed within this and other areas. The conference should have called the trade unions into consultation so that some broad means of gradually developing and improving the wages and conditions of native employees, not only on stations but also throughout industry generally, could have been hammered out. Many problems are associated with this aspect. If, in general form, we impose award wages and conditions out of hand, we may legislate a lot of natives out of work. I believe that the unions have a sympathetic attitude towards these people and are knowledgeable enough to hammer out a workable arrangement, with the parties concerned, some means of granting to the native workers some, if not all, of the conditions that are the privilege and right of every other citizen of Australia.
A biennial conference is not sufficient. The conferences should be held much more frequently to formulate any changes in policy that may be necessary from time to time. That is why I have suggested the appointment of an overriding commission. Such a body would be the answer to many of the problems associated with the biennial conferences that are held at present.
As honorable members know, the Parliament recently set up a select committee to inquire into the advisability of granting voting rights to aborigines. I have my own views on this question, but it would be wise for me to refrain from expressing them at this stage because in the next few months I, as one of the representatives of my party on the committee, will have to gather, sift and consider evidence relating to many aspects of this problem.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like to thank the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for allowing this debate to take place. It is very commendable that debates on such serious subjects should be held and I hope that we will be granted similar opportunities more often in the future. It is a pity that we were not given more notice of this debate because I, for one, was unable to carry out the necessary research on this question which gives unlimited scope for discussion.
I find this problem of the future of Australia’s native population to be a very difficult one. The more one knows about aborigines, their problems and their way of living, the less chance one has of finding a solution. The people who seem to have the greatest number of ideas for solving the problem invariably are those who have not the faintest idea of what the problem is. I understand that there are one or two associations for the betterment of aboriginal welfare centred mainly in Melbourne, of all places. I attended a conference recently which had representation from every State. On the agenda paper was a motion, originating from the Tasmanian delegation, to the effect that something should be done about our aborigines. Of course, all States could solve their aboriginal problem if they did what was done in Tasmania, but 1 do not advocate that as being the best solution. Most people who tell us what should be done about the aborigines invariably claim that the “ poor aborigines “ are expected to live in conditions in which we ourselves would not live. Naturally they live in conditions in which we ourselves would not live because circumstances have changed. Many centuries ago our stone age ancestors were living in conditions similar to those in which the stone age tribal aborigines of Australia now live.
Some people say that the natives should have houses. Anyone who knows anything about native people and their tribal customs and traditions knows that on every occasion when houses or quarters are provided for them, such as was done at Rosemont in the Northern Territory, they live in the houses until some one dies in one. An aboriginal will not live in a house in which some one has died. Some of the more superstitious tribes will not inhabit a house in which one of their dogs or anything else has died. One cannot provide European standards for people whose tribal customs do not fit in with those standards.
I suppose I should not say this, but the “ do-gooders “ claim that the aborigines should have all the privileges that Europeans enjoy. I do not think it is a matter of giving them privileges; it is a matter of not burdening them with responsibilities that they are not able to bear. That is the important consideration. When an aboriginal is dealt with by a court it is often said that the court was too hard on him and that it should have taken into account that his way of living did not fit him for the responsibility of obeying the law. But in many instances the law not only is written to fit in with those peculiarities but also is applied by the courts with them in mind. One cannot have it both ways. One cannot claim, on the one hand, that these people should be dealt with leniently by the court and, on the other hand, claim that they should have all the privileges of a white man. One must recognize that these are primitive people who must be treated as such.
It is admirable to talk of assimilation, but many years will elapse before the aboriginal population is brought up to our standard. If this is done hurriedly and with a sense of panic which international opinion may instil in us, it will be disastrous for our position in the world as well as for the aborigines with whose welfare we are concerned.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has a great interest in these matters, has stated that we must reassure our own people that we are doing something about the aborigines. That is correct, but it should be borne in mind that all Australians, not only members of Parliament, can do most by their attitude towards our native people. The Minister for Territories has brought out some very good publications about these people, but I do not think this is the sort of literature that would appeal to everybody.
The people must be made to realize that the problem of assimilation, which must be our ultimate goal, can be solved only when everybody is willing to assimilate these people into our way of living. The problem must be investigated by persons who know something about the subject. We must have native welfare officers in both Commonwealth and State spheres who understand the problems involved. I know that some of them in at least one State which has a native problem do not understand the problems of the aborigines. I have heard stories of a native welfare officer in Western Australia, who is not now in the service, who made a practice of going to the creek where aborigines were camped and playing poker with them. Anybody who knows anything about natives knows that they are suckers for a game of poker. I am not saying that this is the sort of person we have in the service, but it did occur and it should not have been allowed.
Another anomaly that should be cleared up one way or another concerns the State law which provides that a court may declare that an aboriginal is fitted to be granted citizenship rights. As the Minister has said, this is a loose term. It does not actually mean citizenship rights at all, but that is what is done in Western Australia. An aboriginal who is granted these rights is allowed all the privileges and accepts all the responsibilities of a white man; but if he happens to be a drover in the Kimberleys and he takes a mob of cattle to North Queensland, the Queensland authorities do not recognize him in that State. The same thing happens on the way back. A Queensland native who is recognized in Queensland and has these rights cannot mix with Europeans in Western Australia, but is forced by custom in that State to go to the creek and live with the natives.
I do not know whether this Parliament has the constitutional power to do anything about that but I am sure it is a problem that the States in concert could solve. The honorable member for the Northern Territory emphasized the position of the States which have differing laws and policies regarding aborigines. I agree that this is most unsatisfactory, especially at this time. Australia can no longer say in the forums of the world, “Of course, we have no power to make laws with respect to aborigines “. That story will not go over in international company. Something has to be done to make this a national matter. I know the Minister for Territories is to be commended for the way he has conducted his portfolio. He knows more about the tribal customs, traditions and anthropology of the Australian aborigines than any previous Minister, and he has taken great interest in this matter. I am sure that if his policies are enforced, assimilation will occur, and that the States will get together somehow and act in concert on this problem. I commend the delegates to the conference upon their intelligent deliberations on this most difficult problem.
Mr. BEAZLEY (Fremantle) [3.101. - When the Minister for Territories (Mr.
Hasluck) assumed office, he found that the expenditure upon aborigines in the Northern Territory was £16,000 a year. The expenditure on aborigines now is more than £1,000,000 a year. When the Minister assumed office, there was one school for aborigines; there are now 30. I believe there were fewer than 400 aboriginal children in the Northern Territory in schools; there are now something in excess of 2,500. These are very great achievements, and nothing can ever take the credit for them from the Minister. What is more, he has not only improved the position of the aborigines of the Northern Territory by his own exertions, but also by the force of his example and possibly through Commonwealth grants to the States he has caused a very large increase in State expenditure on aborigines. For example, in 1951, Western Australia was spending something like £70,000 a year. That was when the Minister turned his attention to these matters. The expenditure in that State is now something like £800,000.
I feel that that actually constitutes the answer to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne), who appeared to me to be asking the Australian community to take an interest in the Australian aborigines while saying at the same time that it would be quite useless if they did so because they would only become do-gooders and their ideas would be brushed aside. It is quite clear that the problem that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was talking about and the problem which the Minister has moved a long way towards solving are really different problems, because the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was talking about aborigines in the tribal state. The people who have been coming into the schools of the Northern Territory and who have been the recipients of increased Commonwealth expenditure are, of course, detribalized fullbloods very largely, but not exclusively, and detribalized men, women and children of mixed European and aboriginal descent. The problem of the detribalized natives and the problem of the aborigines who are living in the tribal state are quite distinct. I take it that the Minister’s officers have not pursued nomadic tribes through the bush with ballot-boxes, nor have they pursued them through the bush with child endowment money. You can always attack any suggestion that is made about Commonwealth expenditure on the aborigines by making the kind of estimation that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has made and applying these things to the most primitive and the most remote aborigines. Of course, nobody is really doing that at all.
I find very great difficulty in accepting this word “ assimilation “ because it is an imprecise word. The Oxford Dictionary gives it six meanings, and the use of it is confusing the Australian community. In the Oxford Dictionary one meaning of “ assimilation “ is “ to make similar to “ and that is the usage of the Minister. But another meaning of assimilation is “ to absorb “, and consequently I feel that every time the Minister says his policy is assimilation, there are large numbers of persons in the Australian community who believe that the Minister’s policy is to breed the aborigines out by absorption by inter-marriage into the Australian community. That may take place, but it is not the meaning of the Minister. The word that would actually best meet his purpose is “ civilization “. It is time we disposed of this word “ assimilation “ because it is leading to serious confusion.
I think that the objective of our policy ought to be, not the breeding out of the Australian aboriginal race, but its survival under conditions of health, employment, education, cultural and spiritual opportunities, vocational skills and home and land ownership comparable with Europeans of the Australian community. I found it strange, while the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) was speaking on housing, to think of a constitutency problem which I am at the moment handling. It is the problem of an aboriginal lady who has become widowed, and whose husband was buying their home from the State Housing Commission. He was killed in a road accident, and the widow is concerned at trying to make up, from a widow’s pension, the instalment payments on the house. She does not wish to lose the house because she feels that the litigation she has directed against the man who killed her husband in the road accident may cause her to receive such a lump sum as will enable her to buy the house. She came and discussed all these problems with me in a mature way, and I find it quite impossible to reconcile that experience with the statement by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that people question why these aborigines should own houses. Here is one woman struggling to pay her instalments and considering the effect of litigation. She is visualizing receipt of a lump sum which will enable her to pay the house right off, for she dearly wishes to hold on to the home as a rallying point for her family and her children. Any one who cares to move among the aborigines and part-aborigines of the great southern district of Western Australia will find that many of the women do monumental work in holding their families together, and that to own a home is one of their deepest longings. Therefore, I feel that the statements made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie in this connexion were erroneous.
Now let me set aside for a moment the question of home ownership. I do feel that, as well as this question of the health of the aborigines who are detribalized and are living as part of the European community, there is room for the kind of massive attack on the problem of the general health of the nomad which the Minister has already caused to be made in connexion with the specific problems of yaws and leprosy. The massive attacks which the Commonwealth has made on these particular problems have been one of the causes of the cessation of the decline in the number of aborigines, and the reversal of that trend to the point where now the number of aborigines is growing. But I also believe that, in consultation with the States, the Commonwealth, which at the moment seems to be providing the main moral impulse because of the interest of the Minister (Mr. Hasluck), should also take a look at those things that were revealed in the Warburton Ranges. I refer to such diseases as the eye disease, trachoma. Here I, at least, believe that the representatives of the State of Western Australia are unduly complacent. It is my opinion that the health of nomads should be a Commonwealth concern everywhere, and the Commonwealth could help to end the complacency of the States in connexion with these matters, a complacency which is often a defensive reaction, because the States lack the financial resources to make the kind of massive attacks which the Commonwealth has made. I understand that there is a vast difference between the leprosarium in the Northern Territory and the leprosarium in the north of Western Australia, due lo the failure or inability of the Western Australian Government to bring the standards of the State up to the Commonwealth.
I believe also that in the matter of education we need to look at the conditions for teachers in the remoter areas. I am thinking in particular of the Forrest River, where the aborigines are being educated to a very high standard, where they have a great deal of pride and self-respect and where, in fact, they objected to the teacher’s method of teaching Australian history. When he asked why they objected, they said he taught about Australian explorers, but never mentioned the aborigines who guided them. Naturally, he had to go into a whole welter of research to discover the aborigines who had led John Forrest, Alexander Forrest, Sturt and some of the early explorers and give them the credit that was their due. That story makes me very happy, because it shows growing self-respect in the aborigines of the north of Western Australia, who are not prepared to have their people’s achievements brushed aside. But the housing of the teachers in these mission areas, and the inducements to skilled teachers to go there, seem to me to be matters in which the Commonwealth could support the States. I am impressed by the fact that the teachers who actually go there usually do not want to leave, and ask for extensions of their periods of teaching in those areas.
I believe also that we have got to look at another question, that the aboriginal community lack capital. When we speak about the contribution made by aborigines to the cattle industry in the north of Western Australia, we always assume that they must occupy positions as wage-earners who work for somebody else who owns or leases the land. They have not the capital ever to own the land themselves, and if we are at all sensitive we ought to recognize that there is surely some place for aboriginal farmers and aboriginal pastoralists. We are all the time undertaking such settlement projects as soldier settlement schemes for Europeans. Even at the moment, in Western Australia, we are opening up a large area at Esperance for the settlement of Europeans. We also know that in the great southern district there are aborigines, and part-aborigines who are skilled in agriculture, and we ought to see that they are given some share in land ownership, that their communities are given some capital backing in that respect. There is a great deal of Crown land unalienated in States like Western Australia, and it might be a good objective for the Minister to have in future to induce the governments of that State and of Queensland to set aside some of the Crown land, or some of the farming land which comes under their control in other ways, for aborigines who have shown that they have the skill and management experience in the industry necessary to make them good settlers.
– They would need a fair amount of supervision, would they not?
– I am not sure of that. I am convinced some of them are highly skilled. I think they could become successfully established in the pastoral industry, and even if they do require the supervision suggested by the honorable member for Perth, that should be one form of vocational guidance that we should be prepared to give.
I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that we ought to take a look at the industrial conditions of the aborigines who are working in the pastoral and other industries to ensure that they have industrial protection. Without making it a matter for inflammatory propaganda, and without suggesting exploitation of the aborigines, we should see to it that aborigines are given the same kind of legal safeguards as are afforded European agricultural and pastoral workers. The essential problem confronting us is to ascertain just what steps are necessary for the survival of the aboriginal people at the maximum level of dignity.
I come now to the natives who are still in the tribal state. In some respects, this constitutes perhaps the least difficult aspect of the problem. In some of the northern areas of Western Australia, where hunting conditions are good, and where fishing conditions are good, the aborigines are of excellent physique, but there seems to be a good deal of evidence that towards the interior, towards the Warburton Ranges area, they are not of equally satisfactory physique. That condition is clearly related to nutrition. It seems to me that anything that can be done on the reserves to increase water supplies for the game to live on, and perhaps to teach the aborigines how to grow certain types of food to supplement their diet, and to make a regular check on their survival, and the survival of their children, would be the most that the Commonwealth could do for them, although I emphasize that I speak on these points quite ignorantly; I have no expert knowledge of the problem. I am reluctant to think - 1 know the Minister does not think it - that these people should be brought into civilization under pressure if they are now living their own way of life. They are, in fact, living their way of life but they have not the whole of Australia over which to roam as they once had. They are subject to the restrictions that white settlement has imposed. I think that we need to check periodically on their health, survival conditions and welfare. I feel that the Minister is to be congratulated upon his success in getting co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States and on the great advances that there have been already in his aboriginal policy.
.- I would like to join with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in congratulating the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), not only for the concern he has shown for our friends the aborigines, but because he is bringing Australia out in a particularly good light in a world atmosphere conditioned by apartheid in South Africa, segregation in America, half-naked aborigines in Malaya, deplorable conditions in South America, the caste system in India, and the other racial and tribal barriers which exist. I think the Minister clearly demonstrated his policy when he said -
The policy of assimilation means that all aborigines and part aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibility, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, hopes, and loyalties as other Australians.
That statement, when given a bit of thought, shows how completely different is the approach of Australia to this very great problem from the approach of other countries in which similar problems are coming to a head. We regret that in Angola in Africa there is warfare and slaughter, due to racial problems. Australia has shown a very enlightenend approach, as the Minister has shown in a very distinguished way. Probably Australia is fortunate that, at this period of its history, a man such as the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) is our Minister for Territories. Australia is maturing in this respect.
Recently, I was fortunate to meet the secretary of the Indian Cabinet. 1 asked him whether any of the Colombo Plan students went home from Australia with any soreness or bitterness, feeling that there was a colour bar or racial discrimination. The secretary said that the period which Asian students spend in Australia was the high period of their lives. The first impression they gained and carried with them always, was that Australia had dignified labour. They observed that all the people joined in the ordinary work of household or farm. Whereas in India and other places another race or a lower caste had to do work such as blackening boots, washing- up and all the chores that were looked upon as drudgery and as being beneath the status of the superior caste, in Australia everyone took a part in these chores as a matter of course. The Asian students who come here see this enlightened approach. They see equality in work, equality before the law and equal opportunity for everybody.
In this year of 1961 we are attempting an enormous task. The outlook is correct but the task is difficult. 1 agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) that you cannot take a person from a nomadic existence - the first existence that man knew as a hunter, living in the bush - and change him, almost in a day, to a highly civilized person living in a civilized home fitted with modern conveniences.
– Who is trying to do that?
– We are trying to do it, but we have a lot of difficulties. There must be understanding by us, by the people in control, and by the aborigines themselves. Of course, the person who is in a more difficult situation than the aboriginal is the half-caste. That is so in Asia, too. The half-caste gets it from both sides.
Those of us who know what has happened, in many cases, when good houses have been built for aborigines will understand the difficulty. When a contractor came to look at one house in an aboriginal settlement in order to tender for repairing it, he found that every window but one had been smashed and all the fibro sheets had been smashed except two. He tendered for replacement of the lot because he knew that by the time he got back, there would not be one sheet of fibro or one window left intact. That was because the family concerned had not had sufficient preparation for its big change. There must be understanding.
Those of us who know the aborigines well know them to be easy-going, lovable, kindly and generous. That makes our job all the more important because we have good human beings to work with. I do not say that you cannot take a very young aboriginal and make him an excellent civilized citizen. That can be done. But when members of a family grow up in certain surroundings - they may be living down by the river as one member said - they cannot change in one day and begin living in a highly civilized state with high standards of housing. That is impossible.
However, there is the case of the Mulgoa children which some members may recall. Early in 1949 those children were brought from Groote Eylandt. They were war orphans. They lived in the rectory of the Mulgoa Church of England near Penrith. These children were quite young when they came to this area. They were looked after by Mr. and Mrs. Potter for the Church of England. They were sent to the local school and they went to Penrith High School. Some of those children managed to top their class. Some became magnificent sports. One of them - I think his name was Jimmy Macarthur - went to England and became the flying aboriginal wing three-quarter of one of the great football clubs. With the challenge of living successfully in this community in front of them and with the loving care of the Potter husband and wife, these children accomplished a magnificent achievement.
When the time came for them to go to central Australia there was a great outcry in the district. The local people said that they had been pleased to give these children equality amongst them. The local people were afraid that when these children went to live in the conditions which then existed where they were to go, the children would not do so well. Some of the girls had been trained in a Sydney metropolitan public hospital in hygiene and normal sanitation. I saw them, well dressed in starched white clothing, passing round the tea at the farewell to the children who had to leave Mulgoa. These girls were quite attractive and quite desirable.
I come now to this point: The United Nations, in its efforts to assimilate native peoples and raise standards of living in some of the primitive countries of the world, has found that the only way is to work through the women. In other words, the women are responsible for the standard of living in the home, for the clothing that the family wears, for the standard of sanitation and of hygiene and for all those things which are factors in the standard of living. When you educate men, you educate individuals only. When you educate women, you educate the whole community, and particularly the coming generations. The officers of various United Nations agencies such as the World Health Organization, the Educational, Social and Cultural Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization tried to lift standards of living, first, by putting up notices saying, “ Do not use this water. It is filthy. Use that clean water over there “, or by giving examples to be followed and by trying to train native women in midwifery and the various health requirements. But these officers found that this was a complete failure, and that the old shibboleths and taboos still lingered on. However, when they began to educate the women among these primitive peoples, they began to get the best results. So I suggest that the policy of assimilation can be much more successful if it is undertaken on the basis that the education of the women is the best way to tackle the situation.
Some people say that you are wasting your time if you build houses for aborigines, because they do not know how to live in them properly. That has been shown tobe true. This means that the women have to learn elementary sanitation and elementary hygiene if the aborigines are to be brought out of their primitive conditions. 5 am thinking now of the places in western New South Wales where aborigines live near swamps and drains and in the dumps that we hear about from time to time. People such as these cannot go immediately into modern homes and make the transition successfully. There must be a half-way stage, or a number of stages in the transition, during which the women can be trained. This is really a practicable idea. In the electorate of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), on the north coast of New South Wales, the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales formed a successful branch of its organization at the Purfleet aboriginal station, and in the activities of this branch the aboriginal women are attending classes in dressmaking, homecrafts, cooking and all the domestic activities which are so important to the standard of living.
What I am getting at is that you cannot deprive people of their old tribal customs and transplant them into this complex community of ours in which we adopt high standards of living which depend on modern housing, kerbing and guttering, sewerage, hot water systems, town water supplies and all the other amenities that we lake for granted. All of these things are developing g rapidly, and if people who are not ready for them are exposed to them there is disaster.
The training of women comes into the next point that I wish to make. We Australians of European race who have held this country for the last 170 years or so are not new Australians and we are not the true old Australians. We who have come in between must accept the idea of the assimilation of our aborigines. Those who know aborigines well know how terribly sensitive they are and how important is the keeping up of their morale. Sometimes, Europeans who are not very splendid characters make remarks about aborigines in their hearing, and this sort of thing destroys the morale of the aborigines, perhaps for ever. When I went to Adelaide to see how the boys from the hostel at Saint Francis’s Church at Mulgoa were getting on, I took them along the street to a restaurant to get them a cup of tea. Although they had come from a quite good atmosphere at the hostel, I found that they would not walk beside me but walked a few yards behind me. I slowed down and tried to get them to walk beside me, but they would not. During the trip from Mulgoa to Adelaide, somebody had said something which had hurt their feelings and destroyed their morale.
Many aboriginal people are good and capable citizens. They have some skills which we have not attained. 1 have seen photographs which prove to anybody that the boys and girls at the Mulgoa hostel can catch a rabbit with their bare hands. 1 do not think that anybody in this House or anybody else trained in the European tradition could do that. But the native people have a quickness of hand and of eye which enables them to do some things better than we can. If they are trained from early boyhood and girlhood in domestic science, homecrafts and various other skills, and in our sports, they can excel many Europeans at those activities.
We face a challenge to-day in developing and putting into effect this policy of assimilation, because this is one of the most important matters in the world. The situation which makes it necessary has perhaps been deliberately created, but, nevertheless, it is there. This is a matter of race and of colour, and it has to be dealt with in a very serious fashion. We in Australia had in control of our affairs in the past some wise men who refused to do what was done by the United States of America, which took in the great numbers of people from Africa. As a result, the United States now has a very real racial problem. When our forefathers brought in natives to work in the sugar industry, the native workers were returned to the Pacific Islands when they were no longer required. We still maintain a policy of immigration restriction in order to preserve our standard of living. No doubt because of that wise policy, we do not have a racial problem as great as that which the Americans have or as dreadful as that which exists in South Africa and in other parts of the world.
I support the honorable member for Fremantle in his quite generous praise of the Minister for Territories. I am sure that all honorable members realize the enlightenment that the Minister has brought to bear in the administration of his policies with respect to these problems. This is a long, hard task and it cannot be accomplished in a year or in ten years, or perhaps even in a generation. People with traditions like those of our aborigines cannot be taken completely away from their own home territory and their tribal conditions unless they are taken at a very early age, as were the children at the Mulgoa hostel whom I have mentioned, and trained in very special conditions.
The Potter family, of whom I spoke earlier, knew that reading the Bible to these children, and showing them biblical pictures of Arabs dressed in flowing robes and riding camels or looking at the stars, and all the rest of it, were not enough. The Potters knew that Christianity had to be practical. They knew that these native children had to be shown loving kindness and care. They had to be shown it in their welfare, in their food, in their clothing and in all sorts of ways. In these conditions it is shown that all human beings are born equal, and that they can remain equal it they enjoy equal conditions right from babyhood. But after they have lived in glorious irresponsibility in the warmth of Northern Australia, where at times food is easy to get, where there is that glorious indiscipline of walkabout, and nomadic conditions, and they are influenced by old tribal customs-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- There was quite a deal of warmth and humanity in much of what was said by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). 1 agree with the remarks which have been passed about the general administration of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). He has probably made a bigger contribution to the solving of this single problem than has any other person of ministerial rank. I do not know that I would call all of his policy enlightened, but I will say that in many respects he has reversed some of the rather poor trend’s that were in evidence in relation to native welfare over the rest of Australia. I wish that people would get away from the atmosphere that was developed in the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne). After all, he has probably some thousands of constituents who fall into this category. The tone in which the honorable member for Macarthur opened his remarks was one of pessimism. He started off with what might be termed the old approach about coals in the bath, and you cannot put aborigines in good houses because they will smash the windows and break the walls, and they would not wash and so on. I do not know in what way that is particularly relevant to this matter, because housing is, of course, a difficult problem for the underprivileged white people in our society also. I believe that talk like that produces an atmosphere of pessimism. After all, we are talking about some 70,000 people who are defined as aborigines, and another 30,000 who are part aboriginal, so there are 100,000 people who can reasonably call themselves aborigines. When you speak of these people you speak of some very primitive folk and of large numbers of people for whom somebody has coined a most appropriate term - “ fringe dwellers “ - a large number of people who live in missions and government stations, and thousands scattered throughout the metropolitan, urban and country areas of Australia. There is a complexity involved, not so much because of geographical location as because of the diversity of approach of State and Commonwealth governments. This is where I think we must take up the cause. The first need is definite Commonwealth action and the acceptance of definite Commonwealth responsibility, and this is where the initiative lies in the hands of the present Minister. How can aborigines feel that they are free citizens in a free Commonwealth while there is the following section in the Commonwealth Constitution: -
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
I know lots of aboriginal folk, some of them very well, and every one of them is hurt by that section. That is part of the morale-damaging structure of the legal system of Australia which ought not to be allowed to persist. So, I suggest that the first step that the Minister should take before he retires from his high office as a result, perhaps, of the next general election, is to initiate adoption of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee which, I think, recommended that this particular section be amended. That can only be done by a Commonwealth referendum. The initiative lies right here with this Government, in this Parliament and, I would say, in particular with the Minister. That is the first step that ought to be taken. If we are to induce self-respect and a growth of morale among the aboriginal folk, we must remove the legal disabilities that make it look to these people that they are Jess than others are. That is an essential step towards what one might term full citizenship, or equality, or just the common brotherhood of fellow Australians.
There are other provisions in the Constitution which should be attended to also. The first thing I note is that the constitutional position is difficult, and it appears to me that at the conference of Ministers this was inadequately dealt with. The legal position of the Australian aboriginal is terribly complex. It is especially difficult. An aboriginal would almost need to take his legal adviser with him if he wants to travel round the country. In Victoria - and this is to the credit of the Liberal Party there - I think it was in 1950, all legal disabilities were removed from aborigines. People from the northern parts of Australia might say, “ That is all right for you in Victoria, because there are not many aborigines there “. But the fact is that in Victoria and Tasmania all legal disabilities have been removed. An aboriginal from northern Queensland, who suffers disabilities under the legislation there, may come to Victoria and may go on the electoral roll, and drink in an hotel if he wants to do so. Unfortunately, one of the things that has developed around the whole question is that the right to drink has become almost the badge of citizenship for an aboriginal. There is, in fact, an aboriginal at the Broadmeadows Police Depot now. He is from northern Queensland, and he may go on the electoral roll and vote at the next Victorian State election. But as soon as he returns to Queensland he will be deprived of a vote, because he will come under the act there. So, no matter how distinguished an Australian may be, if he is an aboriginal, as soon as he crosses a State border he may well have to look to his right to go into an hotel, and he may have to get into an argument if he wants to vote. That is the legal position, and it should not be allowed to continue. That disability can be removed only by Commonwealth action and Commonwealth initiative. It is not good enough to ask the State Ministers to do something about it. We all know - we on this side of the House in particular - how difficult it is to get coordinated State legislation through.
I speak as one who may perhaps come within the honorable member for Kalgoorlie’s category of do-gooder, but as one also who has seen and has talked with the people and done his best to make the community conscious of its duties in this matter. I think that while these legal disabilities make it appear on paper that the aboriginal is less than his white fellow he is obviously hurt, and we thereby start an oppressive system which we ought to remove. Laws were made for men, and men ought not to have to conform to laws which oppress them or put disabilities on them.
These are the first steps that the Parliament should take. The material position of the aborigines, of course, gives any person with a sense of humanity a great deal of concern. Recently, I showed at my home some slides taken in Queensland. The position is much the same all over Australia, and I am not picking Queensland out in particular. I remember throwing a picture on the wall when there was sitting in the room a woman member of the aboriginal community of Victoria. She said, when she saw a picture of some dwellings, “ Aborigines live there?” I said, “ Yes.” She looked in a hopeless sort of a way and said, “ Why must our people live in humpies all over the country?” That is another step you have to take - a national housing programme which will overcome one of the disabilities under which the aborigines suffer.
Then there is the employment problem. It is a misfortune, because of geography as much as anything else, and of Australia’s pattern of development, that a great number of these aboriginal people live in parts of Australia where there is the least possibility of full employment for them once they have been through the processing which, particularly in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, is being given in the education system. That also will need Commonwealth initiative. One thing that needs special attention is education at all levels. It is not just a matter of their passing through the primary schools. We perhaps need to call in international assistance to see what we are going to do with a special group who need education not only in the 3 R’s, but also in the management of homes and domestic life and ali the rest of it. I know that in the Northern Territory a good deal of this, on the material side, is being done. I have seen it, and I have talked to the people who are faced with the problem up there. But, unfortunately, the Commonwealth work is being carried out in isolation. The superintendent of Aboriginal Welfare in Victoria has little chance of visiting the Northern Territory and talking to his colleague up there. The superintendent in New South Wales is also in the same position, because all State government departments are bedevilled by lack of money and other resources. A telephone call from one end of Australia to the other is almost beyond the resources of some State departments.
Here again is another field in which there should be co-ordination and Commonwealth initiative and action. This is a national question that should be the concern of all the people of Australia. I come from south of the Murray, the wealthiest part of Australia, according to taxation statistics. We have a minute aboriginal problem. I suppose 300 homes would solve the principal part of the social question. But in Western Australia, somewhere between one in 30 and one in 33 of the population is in this category. The people of Western Australia should not be asked to carry the burden on their own. So I look for Commonwealth acceptance of responsibility.
The aborigines should have citizenship - citizenship in whatever way the Government cares to define it, but they should become Australian citizens. I know that the Nationality and Citizenship Act gives them Australian citizenship. Once an aboriginal from Queensland lands in New Zealand or in Victoria, he is a free Australian. But something must be done to give aborigines the same rights all over Australia. They should have the same privileges and should be encouraged to develop the same sense of responsibility that other citizens have. This is a national question that only Commonwealth resources can resolve, and only Commonwealth initiative can overcome.
Therefore it lies principally in the hands of the Minister for Territories.
In some ways, one looks at the report given us by the Minister with, well, a little bit of dismay that further and more definite steps were not taken. I realize, of course, that it is not always easy to get State Ministers and State senior public servants in the one place at the one time, and I recognize that the Minister had taken the initiative sometime before but the invitations had not been accepted, or something of that nature. However, eight or nine years were allowed to pass, then we had a conference but will have no more for two years. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) was quite right when he said that there should be a continuing consultative body pending the time when the Commonwealth has responsibility. I hope the Minister will do something on these matters. I believe that he would have the encouragement and support of every member of the Parliament and the great mass of the people outside, if he would only take more definite and bolder steps in his dealings with his colleagues in the State spheres.
I have dealt with the ministerial conference. I want now to tell the House of another conference held recently. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred to people who like to talk about this problem without having lived amongst the aborigines. I am one who could be included in the dogooder department. At Easter, I attended a conference in Brisbane of people concerned with the aboriginal question. It was the annual conference of the Council for Aborigines Advancement and it was attended by 150 people. Four years ago, we started in Adelaide with seventeen. In Victoria in the following year we had some 35 or so. In New South Wales last year, we had more than 100 and this year we had approximately 150. These people come from all walks of life and hold varying political opinions, and a significant proportion of them are aborigines. The conference was a sign of life amongst the aborigines themselves and a sign of the growing consciousness of the Australian people. One of the big disappointments of the conference was that the Minister in Queensland chose to be rude to us. He was invited to attend or to send his representative. He said that he considered no good purpose would be served by having his representative attend. I could have forgiven him had he not also done this some years earlier at a similar conference in Cairns. Fortunately the Minister for Territories enabled one of his officers to attend and to give advice.
At the Brisbane conference there was a man from the far north-west of Western Australia. He came from the Roebourne district, in the Port Hedland area, where he was associated with the activities of cooperatives. He was a full-blooded aboriginal and he stood up and spoke at this conference. I know that one delegate to the conference made sure that he obtained a photograph of him. He said, “ 1 wonder whether at any time before, a full-blooded, almost tribal, aboriginal has addressed an Australian national conference “. There he was. He told in halting, slow terms some of the story of the attempt that was being made by his people to lift themselves above their disabilities. He was one of the original men of the Pindan group. I know that a lot of contention revolves around these matters, but during my visit to the people of the Pindan some five or six months ago, I was impressed by the fact that they could meet you on equal terms and look you in the eye. They showed that they could look after their camp and handle their own affairs. They have a long uphill struggle ahead of them, and we must give them all the assistance that we can.
At the conference there was another man, I suppose a three-quarter aboriginal. He came from Cairns and he became president of the organization. Aborigines were present and they spoke for themselves. Sometimes I do not agree with what they say, but I think it is an essential part of building the spirit of the Australian aborigines that we provide every possible opportunity for them to meet and to speak for themselves amongst themselves and amongst their fellow Australians. I believe that the organization to which I belong and to which I have given some encouragement is doing just that, and I hope that in the future the governments of Australia will give it a conscious lift, and some assistance and support. I do not necessarily mean financial assistance. I am speaking of the encouragement and support that should be given to those who attempt to achieve something in a national way.
In Victoria, the league has a hostel for girls. It runs a holiday scheme and also has an education system for the schools. If any secondary school concerned with the study of the aboriginal question wants information, we try to supply a speaker or to give the information that is needed. I think that the Minister should encourage the States to turn an encouraging eye on these matters. As the Minister points out, it is only the community itself that can handle these problems. It is the community that must break down social barriers; it is the community that must enfold the aboriginal people and make them feel at home as free citizens.
I support the approach of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) to the question of assimilation. I hope that the Minister does not mean the breeding out of the Australian aboriginal. As my friend Pastor Dick Nicholls says in Victoria, “ What is wrong with being black? “ Only a few weeks ago a leading Australian athlete, a champion in his own field, sat in my home and discussed these matters with me. He had come from Queensland where in fact it is necessary for a person to deny that he is an aboriginal before he can be exempted from the act and so become a free citizen. He said, “ Why should I have to deny that I am an aboriginal to become a free citizen? “ I agree with him all the way. If the assimilation policy is carried to such a length that it becomes an abstract doctrine, as it has apparently in some ways, little will be achieved. For a girl from the north coming to Victoria to be told not to associate with the aboriginal people in Victoria is to pursue a hard and fast doctrine that transcends human rights.
As far as I can see, it is only when aborigines start to speak up for themselves and to be proud of their ancestry that they will be accepted as citizens. Aborigines can be just as proud of their ancestry as any of us here can be proud of our European ancestry. If it is good enough for the Prime Minister of Australia to be proud of his Scottish ancestry, it is good enough for the aboriginal people of Australia to be proud of their ancestry. These are essential features in building their morale and I hope in the near future more initiative will be taken by the governments. The Minister for Territories has a great opportunity laid at his door. This is the field in which Australia is most earnestly and critically examined by many people overseas. This is the question that was raised at the United Nations by Khrushchev himself. We cannot rest at peace at night while these problems face us. It is not much good our wringing our hands about the people of the Congo or South Africa if some thousands of our aboriginal people are left to sleep at night on the river banks, cold, wet and hungry.
This problem can be solved only by coordinated Commonwealth action. I want to make it clear - I believe that this is the feeling of my fellow citizens in Victoria - that people living in a State which has no great material responsibility for aborigines should consider it their duty to share the burden that falls so heavily on the people of the northern part of Australia. This sharing of the burden can be achieved only through Commonwealth action. One of the most pressing problems involves employment, I do not know exactly how this will be solved, but there should be some industrial opportunities offered in the northern parts of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. It is no good passing them through primary or secondary schools if, when they stand outside the school door, there is nowhere for them to turn for full employment and a gainful and satisfactory existence. It is not a question of a sub-race or an inferior people. I think everybody with any conscience in this field has given that idea away. The aborigines of Australia are entitled to equal legal rights.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join with previous speakers in paying my tribute to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for his efforts to solve this very difficult problem. I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I do not think any other Minister who has had the responsibility of doing something for the aborigines of Australia has succeeded to the extent that the present Minister has. I believe he has one of the most difficult tasks that any one could have in Australia. Here we have not only native people in differing states of development; these people live in States which have different problems to meet in respect of aborigines.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has preached that we should give the aborigines full citizenship rights. 1 realize that he means well when he says that; but, after long experience of aborigines, I think that step would be disastrous for them. It might work out all right in southern Victoria, or in Tasmania or elsewhere, where the stage of development of the aborigines is advanced, but not in north Queensland, the Northern Territory or Western Australia, although I have never been to Western Australia. I think such a policy would tend to degrade the aborigines. I do not mean that the right to vote in our community would degrade them. The right to vote would be meaningless to most aborigines. However, like many primitive races who have not a traditional experience of alcohol, alcohol would degrade them.
– It degrades some white people.
– It has worse results for black people. I have seen the effect of alcohol on people who are unable to cope with it.
– When are they going to get this experience, and how?
– Possibly, the honorable member for Yarra would suggest that we rush this matter. The Minister stated as one method of applying policy -
A liberal approach to the removal of restrictive or protective legislation as soon as the capacity and advancement of the individual make this possible.
That is a very wise method. It states the position very plainly and envisages the fact that the aboriginal will advance to a position where he will be able to look after himself in our modern society. As I have said, we have variations between the States. I do not think there are any nomadic aborigines in Queensland, although there may be some on Cape York Peninsula who could be classed as semi-nomadic. But development is taking place very quickly in that region and that class of native will rapidly disappear in Queensland. In the Northern Territory and Western Australia there are considerably greater numbers of nomadic natives.
How are we to approach the problem of the aborigines? Somebody has said that where it is possible to leave them in the nomadic state they would probably be happier than if they were assimilated in our community. I cannot help but agree with that view because in his natural environment the aboriginal is very happy. He has his tribal rites and rules, which we may think are barbaric; but, unfortunately, when we break down those tribal rules and laws he has nothing to live for. He is at a loss and his morale drops. Unfortunately, however, we cannot leave him in his nomadic state because, with the development of Australia, white people are gradually pressing into areas where the nomad’s exist, and we must therefore help in smoothing out contact between the two races. We are indebted to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) for stating the difficulties of these people who are taken from their semi-nomadic conditions into conditions under which the white race exists. I refer to putting them into houses and under conditions to which they are not used. That is probably the greatest problem we have to face in raising the standards of living and life of the aborigines.
How can we meet that problem? The Minister stated that there should be preschool training for aboriginal children. That is very important. How are we to provide this pre-school training? Are we to establish camps and settlements and that sort of thing, and establish the schools in the traditional environment of the natives? Such a system might work; but the children on finishing school would go back to their parents who are completely steeped in tribal customs. There have been instances, of course, as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) mentioned, in which aboriginal children have been taken by whites and reared and educated by them, and such children have made a success of their lives. However, in general, it would be impossible to take aboriginal children from their parents because there is a deepseated affinity between the parents and the children. But I have no doubt that in the case of orphans, for instance, such an opportunity would be presented. There is another way, I believe, which would give greater scope to prepare these people gradually for the way of life which we follow, and that is in their natural surroundings on the cattle stations in the north.
I know from experience that the treatment of aborigines varies considerably from station to station. I have seen spectacular successes achieved by some station owners in the development of their aborigines. On the other hand, I have seen some frightful results of the treatment of aborigines on stations. The important factor, from the point of view of the aboriginal, is the example set by the particular white to whom he owes allegiance, whether as his employer or in some other capacity.
Much can be done for aborigines on stations. The aboriginal is a natural stockman and a natural horseman, and he is very happy in station life, which is somewhat similar to the life in the open that he and his kind have been used to. When aborigines work on a station, in good conditions, some educational facilities should be provided, so that their children may be prepared for some other way of life, should they wish to follow it.
I think it was the honorable member for Macarthur who said that the aboriginal is a very sensitive individual. That is very true. His feelings can be greatly hurt. All our experience shows, 1 believe, that in most cases sensitive people are quite admirable people. It is because of this sensitiveness, and also a high degree of kindliness, that aboriginal women are particularly suited for work as hospital nurses. In the outback of Queensland there is a great demand for nursing staff. I believe that many hundreds of aboriginal women could be absorbed into our outback hospitals. The women themselves would be greatly assisted, because they would have the satisfaction of doing something useful in the community. They would be able to establish themselves both as individuals and as useful units in the community.
I have mentioned two ways - and I have no doubt there are many other ways - in which aborigines could be enabled to establish themselves gradually in our community.
The attitude of our white people, of course, is most important. In fact, it constitutes probably the most difficult problem we have to overcome. I think the Minister’s statement made reference to it. The Minister mentioned, as one method of advancing the policy of assimilation -
Positive steps to ensure awareness in the community that implementation of the policy of assimilation is not possible unless advanced aborigines and part aborigines are received into the community and accepted without prejudice, and to ensure, as far as possible, that the community plays its full part.
The Government itself cannot take these steps; it can merely instill the idea into the people. This is something that the people themselves can do. It is a way in which the people can make the assimilation of aborigines easier.
I think it was the honorable member for Wills who said that the aborigines have nothing to be ashamed of. I quite agree that they are admirable people. Unfortunately - or, perhaps, from another point of view, fortunately - they were cut off geographically from the rest of the world for thousands of years. While people in other parts of the world continued to develop, the aborigines, remained at the Stone Age level, and it is a tremendous task for them to catch up in a comparitively few years.
I am not going to suggest what the Minister meant by assimilation. I will simply say that assimilation apparently has one of two meanings in the context in which we are r.t present using it. It means either, first, making the aboriginal people similar to us while preserving their entity as aborigines, or, secondly, absorbing them by intermarriage. I see nothing wrong with either meaning. If we do not absorb them by intermarriage, we will simply erect another barrier. Are we to forbid them to intermarry with whites? If we do, we will simply lower their standards further.
– It is simply a question of the meaning of the Government’s objectives, that is all.
– But is it not better that they intermarry?
– Nobody is arguing against that proposition.
– If they are allowed to intermarry they will be absorbed, because although people do not generally realize it, we are, genetically speaking, a particularly dominant people, and after a few generations there would be no remaining signs of the aboriginal strain. The contrary result has been seen, of course, with other races.
In this connexion I remind the House that the history of New Zealand shows what splendid results can come from intermarriage between whites and Maoris or Polynesians. Although I am not an expert in these matters, I have read somewhere that in the distant past we all had a common taproot in the Caucasian race. Having had some experience in breeding some of the lower animals, I feel that there is an important lesson to be learned from this fact. At least it shows that the aborigines could be quickly assimilated.
I think the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) spoke of the expenditure per head on aborigines in the various States and in the Northern Territory. I think he said that the Commonwealth spent £45 a head per annum on aborigines in the Northern Territory, and that this compared adversely with the expenditure by the various States. I defer to his intimate knowledge of conditions in the Territory, but I suggest that in large areas of the Northern Territory, particularly in Arnhem Land, the aborigines live in their wild state, and that the comparison which he has made is hardly a fair one. However, the consideration should not be confined to the amount of money that is spent. The important point is the effectiveness of the expenditure and the results that are achieved.
– I think I stressed that point.
– Then I agree with the honorable member. I was most impressed by his useful contribution to this debate. I am very hopeful, as are other honorable members, that much good will result from the conference that has been held, and from the report that has been given by the Minister. He has stated the problems that have to be faced, and, after all, if we are to find a solution to a problem, it is most important, first, that the problem be stated.
– I join with other honorable members in complimenting the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on his presentation of a report which, generally speaking, puts the position of the aborigines reasonably fairly. Far too few members of this Parliament have given any attention to the problems of the aboriginal people of Australia. Apart from the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) I can think of few on either side of the House who have given much thought to the welfare of aborigines. I believe the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has given the matter quite a deal of attention and has made some worthwhile contributions to debates on the subject.
– What about the honorable member for Macarthur and the honorable member for Perth.
– No, they are recent converts.
– And the honorable member for New England?
– No, they are all very recent converts to the cause of aboriginal welfare. I am glad that the Minister has mentioned them because he has given me the opportunity of saying that this is the very first time I have heard the honorable member for Macarthur pay the slightest attention to the plight of the aborigines. However, it is very nice, after all these years in Parliament, to find the honorable member belatedly, and perhaps reluctantly, coming in on the side of the aborigines. A lot more could have been done, a Jot more should have been done, and .a lot more should have been said by the Minister. Although the things which have been mentioned in the statement are good as far as they go, a lot has been omitted from it. The Government should take more positive steps than it has taken already to ensure that aborigines receive the same award rates of pay as white men receive for the same class of work. That is ;no,t so at present. For years courts have refused applications to give to aboriginal station hands in Western Australia, South Australia, New ‘South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria the same rates of ;pay .as apply to
F.2778/61. - R. - 1421
non-aborigines. The cold hard fact is that aboriginal stockmen, station hands and boundary riders are far better in those positions than are the majority of white men.
– Why do they not join the Australian Workers Union?
– They do.
– Then why do they not obtain the increased rate of pay?
– I am glad that the Minister has interjected. The aborigines join the Australian Workers Union, and the union includes in its applications to the court for a variation of the federal pastoral award a claim for these people to be brought within the provisions of the award, but on each occasion the court rejects that claim. According to the decision of the Commonwealth court, the only aborigines in the pastoral industry who are entitled to award rates are shearers and that is because the shearing section of the pastoral award obliges the employer and the employee to enter into a personal contract which stipulates that the award rates of pay and other conditions prescribed for the shearing personnel shall apply. But the station hands who come within the category of aborigines set down by the various State authorities are not entitled to the provisions of the federal pastoral award, even though they are members of the union and even though the union repeatedly has made application to the court that they should be given .the benefit of the award.
– Why are the applications refused?
– Because the graziers, by whom the aborigines are employed, and who now occupy the land which once was theirs, always vigorously oppose the application in the court. They do everything that they can to ensure that these remnants of this fast disappearing race, on whose land ;they are now squatting, are refused even the rudiments of industrial justice. Can any one justify that? I should like to hear the views of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), whose association - the Graziers Association - was responsible for preventing these aborigines-
– Who said that it is my association? I am a member of the Wool and Wheat Growers Association.
– You are also a member of the graziers association.
– How do you know?
– I looked up the list. I also learned that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has contributed to the graziers’ association so that he can put forward a, case against aboriginal station hands receiving the same rate of pay as others receive. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) is a member of the graziers’ association. Where is he now? All these honorable gentlemen who protest in this House that they believe in giving the aborigines justice and a fair go, and who are members of the graziers’ association are wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly, by their contributions helping to pay the costs of the case that is put forward by the graziers’ association each time that the union submits its application to the court to ensure that the union’s proposal is defeated.
The Government belatedly has dealt with the matter of social services for aborigines. Only last year, after years of agitation by honorable members on this side of the House, I wrote two or three letters to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pleading with him to do something about this matter. It was a waste of time writing to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) who is not even bothering to listen to what I have to say now. The only way in which I eventually got some common sense out of the Government was by forgetting the Minister for Social Services and by writing to the Prime Minister, reporting to him that the Minister for Social Services was unable to understand the logic of my submission, and reminding him that as well as being our Prime Minister he was also the Prime Minister of the aborigines. I think this softened his heart because shortly afterwards he directed the Minister for Social Services to ensure that the aborigines were given social service benefits.
– The Minister for Social Services was a strong campaigner for that.
– He did not show any evidence of it.
– He did. He campaigned very hard for it.
– I did not notice any evidence that he was a strong campaigner for social services for aborigines. In fact, my understanding is that if he had his way he would cut out social services altogether.
– That is completely false. Be fair to him.
– This statement by the Minister, who seems to be quite vocal at the moment-
– You say such extraordinary things.
– The Minister’s paper states -
The conference agreed that the extension of social service benefits to aborigines, which has now been in operation for twelve months, has worked very smoothly.
I do not know how the conference came to that conclusion because the scheme has not worked very smoothly for the aborigines. I have complained vigorously in Parliament about the fact that the Playford Government in South Australia takes all the social service benefits to which the aborigines are entitled and gives them only a small handout which is, in fact, less than what a white man who is an inmate in a hospital receives. Can any one justify that?
When I took up this matter with the Minister for Social Services I received a reply which I am still trying to interpret, but the fact is that no action has been taken to correct the anomaly to which I referred. The Government talks about giving justice and equality to these people. Why does it not give the Minister for Social Services a good shake-up and tell him to get over to South Australia and direct Tom Playford to cough up the money, that has been contributed by the taxpayers of Australia, to the people living on mission stations? These people are not wild, roving nomads, savages or primitive natives. Some live on the Point McLeay mission station and some on the Point Pearce mission station. They pay taxes as we do. They send their children to school and they can read and write and speak English as well as, if not better than, some of us here. They are good workers. They go into the shearing and other industries and stand shoulder to shoulder with the white men, doing their work just as well as any white man does it. The native shearers, in the main, are better shearers than the white men.
How disgusting it is for the Minister to sit at the table stroking his forehead with his hand and appearing to take absolutely no notice of the fact that the Playford Government is receiving all of the money that is sent to South Australia for aborigines living on government mission stations! What right has the Playford Government to take this money? Why does not this Government take its courage, if it has any, in its hands and state that it will pay the social service benefits to which the natives are entitled direct to them? I made inquiries into this matter and I learned that the Playford Government claims that it is putting portion of the money into a trust fund, but it will not state who is to operate the trust fund. Not one member of the aboriginal race living on these mission stations knows what his share is of the money that is now presumably in the trust fund. When social service benefits were introduced the first thing the Playford Government did was to show its concern for the native people by charging them for electricity which previously had been free.
When you come to think of it, this country at one time was owned by these people, and we got it by guile, by murder and by the worst form of exploitation. Honorable members on the Government side may protest, but that is true. If honorable members read any history of Australia, they will see that some of the settlers spent the week-ends murdering natives. That was the week-end sport for some of the squatters. They went out shooting not kangaroos, but aborigines. It is useless for supporters of the Government to scream their heads off at that statement. They can consult the historical works and they will see that there is ample evidence that squatters did, in fact, go out at week-ends and cut these people down for the very sport of it. They poisoned the aboriginal children by putting strychnine in honey and by placing the honey on top of the posts so that the aboriginal children would eat it.
– This is fantastic nonsense.
– It is true, and 1 can produce writings to prove it. I can produce historical works and writings to prove everything I have said is absolutely true. We have a disgraceful record in Australia. The people who came here at the beginning of our settlement of this country have a disgraceful and wicked record so far as treatment of the aborigines is concerned. We virtually wiped out the whole race. The Minister has stated that there are only 70,000 of them left. What a record. What an admission.
– You have not produced one tittle of evidence.
– You have the Minister’s own statement. He admits that we have wiped out all but 70,000 of the aborigines.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member alleged that I had admitted that we had wiped out all but 70,000 of the aborigines. I have not said anything of the sort. He has not produced one word of proof or one authority for the monstrous statements he has made.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order raised by the Minister.
– I refer the House to page 5 of the Minister’s statement. He said -
We are concerned with the problems of advancement and adjustment of a racial and social minority of approximately only 70,000 people in a total population of 10,000,000.
Is not that what I said? Did I not say that we have only 70,000 aborigines left in Australia? That is what the Minister has declared. Of the people who inhabited this continent when we first came here, there are now only 70,000 left although 150 years or more have elapsed. What happened to the rest of them? The Minister and his supporters know that those are questions that they cannot answer.
Not long ago the Aborigines Department in South Australia was feeding the natives at Ooldea on boiled wheat. They were treated like pigs. The department sent up bags of wheat, boiled it and shovelled it out as though the aborigines were some low form of animal life. That is how the Government treated these people. Anybody who has travelled on the eastwest railway and has seen the poor, pitiful things called human beings who come to the sidings to see the train when it stops will know perfectly well that we have nothing to be proud of. It is an absolute disgrace to the Australian people that we have allowed these things to go on for so long, and that we have treated so badly these people who were the original inhabitants and owners of Australia.
We have denied them the right to vote. Until a year ago, we denied them any social service benefits. Whenever they worked, we compelled them to pay the same taxes as we pay. We do not give them the same wages as we give to white men. We have a very disgraceful record in our treatment of the aborigines. No one who has been in a position to see what is happening to the aborigines can ever say he is happy and satisfied with what we have done for them. It is useless hiding our heads in the sand. Measured against events in other parts of the world, is it any wonder that some of us are ashamed of the way we have treated these people?
What about the right to drink? The natives are not the only people who cannot take alcoholic beverages-. I am not referring to this Parliament, because parliamentarians are above that sort of thing. Very rarely, if ever, does one see anything to complain about in that connexion in Parliament House. I cannot say I have ever seen anything of the sort here; but you have only to go outside and attend certain functions. I am not talking about the electorate of Hindmarsh because so far as I can see, the railway workers are better behaved than are those who attend posh functions to which I have been invited. When I have been to certain functions, particularly in the higher strata of society, and have looked at the people who emerged at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, I have wondered whether there ought not to be a law against white men drinking. That is what I think of the way some of them behave.
There should be no discrimination between white men and black men, either in their right, to drink or in their obligation to observe the law if they become stupid with the booze. If you are going to run aborigines into gaol every- time they are found drunk, that is all right with me provided you treat white men the same way. Let the law be fair and let us not discriminate against the natives. If a person drinks too much and makes a nuisance of himself, the law should be applied against him fully whether he. is black or white.
The honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) said that we must prepare these people gradually for our way of life. He must be very happy with what has happened in the. past 150 years because if anything, could be more gradual than the preparation we have made for the aborigines in that time, I would like to know of it. The Opposition’s complaint is that we have been too gradual. If honorable members cannot claim any further advance than we have achieved in 150 years of gradual preparation of the aboriginal people for our way of life, then I am far from satisfied with it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Before the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) spoke, I thought that most honorable members who had been in the House during the course of this debate were of the opinion that it was one of. those rare occasions in the Parliament when a topic could be discussed on non-party lines and that nothing but good could result from the discussion. But all that has been destroyed in the last twenty minutes. I have never heard a speech more damaging to Australia and the aborigines. The honorable member should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. I think he was only half serious in his attitude. He did not intend to speak in the debate. He walked into the House, and I received a message that he wanted to speak for a few minutes. He got a copy of the statement of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), and in his. speech he wandered over things that are dangerous in the extreme. If he was sincere and if he prepared what he said, I am sure that he is the wrong type of man to represent Hindmarsh in this Parliament:
The honorable member talked about award rates for native stockmen obtained by the Australian Workers Union. Mr. Victor Johnson held a seat in this Parlia-ment for a long time. He knew more about the natives than the honorable member for Hindmarsh knows about anything.
– He was also respected in the A.W.U.
– That is exactly right. He was a man who had gone amongst them, who knew their habits and knew what was best for them. I do not think any one ever heard him advocating in this House some of the things that have been advocated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. H the honorable member for Hindmarsh cares to go to the north-west of Western Australia where there are many natives working on stations and cattle runs, he will find that one of the worst things he could do would be to bring down for the natives an award similar to that applying to the white pastoral worker:
– The honorable member thinks it is rubbish because he cannot think of anything but a sum of money. Let him go to some of the big pastoral properties up there like Gogo,. Liveringa and Fossil Downs, where cattle-raising, is carried on under great difficulties, where the amount of profit is not great and where they employ a great amount of aboriginal labour, and he will appreciate the position. If the pastoralist employs one stockman it means that he must feed and clothe not only that stockman but fifteen or twenty other aborigines in his family. The stockman’s family lives on. his property and the pastoralist supplies housing of a fairly good standard, with ablution blocks and cement floors. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh goes to one of those properties he will see some of the tribal members of the family giving up what we call, comforts such as buildings with cement floors and sitting out in the age-old fashion, on the sand in front of a fire, where they love to sit. If nobody disturbs them, they, are extremely happy. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh were to come along and say: “ This happiness has got to cease. This man to whom- you have been paying £1 a week and whose family you have been keeping must now be paid £15 a week “, the owner of the station would reply: “ I cannot possibly do that. Indirectly, it is costing me that now. I will have to let the whole family go.” Therefore, the whole family of aborigines would be penalized, and anybody who knows anything about the aborigines of Western Australia will know that what I say is true. As I said before, anybody who heard the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) speaking during this debate would have felt that the debate was proceeding along lines calculated to serve the best inrterests of the aboriginal population. The honorable member for Fremantle devoted a good deal of his time to praising the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). I was glad to hear that but, although on most occasions when the honorable member for Fremantle speaks here his speeches are given a great deal of space in the Western Australian newspapers, I would wager, if I were a betting man, that his praise of the Minister on this occasion will not receive so much space in the Western Australian press. I admit at once that the honorable member for Wills has given some- study to this subject, as has the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, but I cannot agree entirely with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie when he refers to certain people as dogooders. In the past, organizations such as that to which the honorable member for Wills belongs, and others operating in Western Australia, have been helped in their work by some very devoted and idealistic people whose aim is to lift up the status of the natives. Now that this matter has been highlighted, there is a danger that power will get into the wrong hands. These people who have worked in the interests of the natives in the past feel that if power is taken from the organizations which they have been helping, it will not be in the best interests of the aborigines.
The honorable member for Wills advocates complete federal control of aborigines. I do not think that would be practicable, especially when we realize what, the States have been doing over the last, few yearsEven the honorable, member for Wills, paid tribute to the States of Victoria and Tasmania. He went so far as to pay tribute to a Liberal government for removing all legal barriers, and he pointed to Victoria as an example to be followed by the other States. But it is well to remember that, according to the latest figures available, the number of aboriginal persons in the various States varies so much that it cannot be said with certainty that a problem which exists in one State will necessarily arise in another. For instance, out of a total of some 39,319 full bloods, New South Wales has 1,403, all of whom are accounted1 for, Victoria has only 141, all of whom are accounted for, Queensland has 9,579, of whom 2,000 are estimated, South Australia has 2,500, of whom about 1,800 are estimated, Western Australia has 10,000, of whom some 3,500 are estimated and the Northern Territory has about 15,500, of whom 10,000 are estimated.
– How many are in the Australian Capital Territory?
Mr. CHANEY__ The Australian Capital
Territory had one full-blooded native at the time this count was taken. We must be careful to guard against working on the basis that what can be done in one State can be done in another. Uniform provisions cannot be applied to all States because the natives are in so many different stages of advancement. One speaker used the argument that if natives were given houses we should find that windows and shutters would be broken. It is ridiculous to condemn a race of people because of the actions of perhaps one or two. That is one point on which I can agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh. It is possible to find amongst white people who should know better as much stupidity as is to be found amongst aborigines who do not know better. But at the same time, we cannot talk about a complete national housing scheme, as the honorable member for Wills did, because, if we had the power, the money and the capacity to erect and provide a house for every aboriginal family in Australia, and did so, we would certainly reach the stage of broken windows, broken asbestos and destroyed doors. Our housing programme has got to be a gradual one, and here I pay tribute to two successive Ministers for Native Welfare in Western Australia, one a member of a
Labour government and the other a member of a Liberal-Country Party government, who were most sympathetic towards the aborigines. Both those Ministers were ably assisted by a most efficient and sympathetic Director of Native Welfare, a mar named Middleton who, before his appoint ment as director, was a member of ouown Papua-New Guinea native administration.
The honorable member for Wills also said that a State like Western Australia, with a great number of aborigines, should not be asked to carry the responsibility of ministering to them. I do not agree with that. I believe that the care of aborigines should remain the responsibility of the States, and special provision is made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission for those States which suffer in carrying out this work. I do not think it is fair to rise in this Parliament and blame the State governments for what they have or have not done in this respect, and I am supported in this by the honorable member for Hindmarsh who, amongst the many untruths he uttered, did utter one small truth when he said that the average Australian had not been interested in this problem. It is true that to-day there is a greater awareness of the problem, and I believe that the, only way in which we can solve it is to absorb gradually into the community those who have been developed a little, so that they may become ordinary citizens amongst the “people of Australia.
To those who are interested in this question, I recommend a perusal of the annual reports of the Commissioner of Native Welfare, which are presented to the Western Australian Parliament each year, and are available in the Parliamentary Library here. In reply to the references made, by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to the people whom he calls the do-gooders, let me quote, from a statement made by the superintendent of a desert mission station where some dedicated people are working in the interests of the aborigines. It is a statement by Reverend Father John McGuire of Balgo Pallottine Mission. In it he speaks about placing the foot of the ex-desert native child on the bottom rung of the ladder of assimilation. It will be remembered that I said to one speaker by way of interjection that it was impossible simply to take a native from his tribal way of life and put him straight into society without doing great damage to the native himself. I think, too, that it was Daisy Bates who said: “ If you want to destroy a native, if you want to wipe the natives out completely, civilize them and take them into your community. If you want them to increase in numbers, let them develop in their own environment as that is best for them.” Father McGuire said -
The system of education at Balgo is based on Christian principles; the dignity of the human person is stressed, a dignity which demands rights from society and equally so demands duties or obligations on the individual’s part. However, the process is by necessity a slow one, a Christian can never be a savage, equally so a savage - or one little removed - cannot be a Christian. Although we have been established 20 years here, we still do not baptise the children. With the limitations of these people it would be most unfair to place such responsibilities en masse upon them. On occasions babies baptized on the point of death have lived, indeed the tribal king’s wife brought her small baby to be baptized believing that the baby was dying. I do not envy the future of these isolated Christians; although on fire with our chosen vocation, we are prepared to wait for the second or third generation.
This is the salient point -
Would that other bodies were as patient re the development of the Natives - I refer to articles in the popular press.
He might also have referred to something that the honorable member for Wills mentioned, a statement by Khrushchev in the United Nations. It is a pity that Khrushchev would not see, as this man has seen after living amongst the natives, that, in the ultimate, any attempt to hurry this process along hurts the people we are trying to assist.
In my own State, various experiments have been carried out. One of the greatest problems of the aborigines, I believe, concerns those who have been made ready to move into a civilized community, who have been able to absorb the education of the white people and tolive in the environment of the white people. The Australian native, of course, has had some wonderful ambassadors in this respect. Most of us remember Captain Reg Saunders, of New South Wales, who, during the Second World War, was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force, fought overseas, attained the rank of captain, and later served with the Citizen Military Forces. We also re member Harold Blair, the singer, and Eddie Gilbert, the test cricketer. In Western Australia we have a young lad called Irwin Lewis, who was granted a scholarship by the Church of England to board at Christchurch Public School. He passed the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations and went to the university. He was a prominent Rugby League footballer and he is now working in the Department of Native Affairs. I know that we cannot establish general principles from isolated instances or from individuals and say that a whole race would react in the same way, but these instances show that aboriginals can do these things, given the opportunity and given, as the Minister mentioned in his speech, a chance by society’s accepting its responsibilities in this matter.
In 1951, I think, the Department of Native Affairs decided to establish in the suburb of Mount Lawley, which is a part of the electorate of Perth, a home for native girls who were proceeding to the Junior or Leaving Certificate examination or to higher technical education. The moment that the department purchased a house for this project there was, as one might expect, an outcry from some of the people in surrounding houses to the effect that values would go down and that native girls could not be housed in such an area. Fortunately, there were more people who made a sympathetic and sensible approach to this matter and the home was established without notice being taken of the small minority who cried out in opposition. A few years later, sixteen girls were in residence. This report reads -
At 30th June, 1959, there were sixteen girls in residence at Alvan House; this number being made up of seven girls resident in 1958 and returned in 1959 plus nine girls who entered the home in February, 1959. Only two girls were discharged at the end of 1958. Both completed their education to Junior Standard. One is now employed at the Laverton District Hospital and the other in this Department’s Central District Office.
The present inmates attend Mount Lawley High School and all are enrolled for the commercial course - two in third year (tenth grade), five in second year, seven in first year.
It is pleasing to report that two of the first-year girls have been appointed school prefects.
That is most important. It indicates that the other children at the school have accepted these girls as ordinary students, with complete equality. The report continues -
All girls play sport and either hockey or basketball in the Y.W.C.A. competition each Saturday. In the 1958 season the Alvan House hockey team was defeated in the final and the house basketball team in the semi-final.
This year the hockey team was undefeated up to the 30th June.
The report goes on to deal with social activities, and then states that the health of the girls was generally good, and that no major dental attention was necessary. It continues -
The house and grounds continue to be kept in first class condition. Each girl has specific assignments to be completed each day plus her personal washing and cleaning weekly.
The important point is that here we have complete acceptance of a group of young aboriginal girls who, one could say, are a credit to their race. What we must do is to move a step beyond this. It will be noticed that in every instance where employment has been offered ‘to these people it has been with a governmental or semi.governmental authority. If we can train these people to a level at which they can take their places in commerce, there must be free acceptance of them throughout, not only by their employers but also by all employees in the establishments in which they work. One of the tragedies of the matter is that when an aboriginal who has been educated to the standard attained by our own children finds himself to be socially unacceptable, there is only one course open, which is to return to some sort of tribal life with the lower-grade natives who are sometimes to be found around the capital -cities. This is one of the tragedies that we must avoid. If I can use my own State as an example, the present welfare administration is tackling this .problem with wisdom, foresight and a great deal of -success, but the welfare departments must be given what is most important, namely, time, lt is foolish for the honorable member for Hindmarsh to say, “ Look at what we have not done for 150 years”. The thing to do is to look at what we have done in the short space of time since the public and governments generally became aware of this problem. If we can do that, I believe that we have nothing to worry about and that we can face any nation in the United Nations
Organization when this subject comes up for discussion.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) mentioned per capita expenditure by the Commonwealth and the States. I am open to correction, but 1 “understand that the expenditure by the Commonwealth and the expenditure by the States are worked out in different ways. For instance, in working out the Commonwealth expenditure on native affairs no account is taken of items which are included in the expenditure of some States. The cost of health services is an example. In Western Australia, the allocation of £591,000 for native affairs in the year before last included reimbursement to the Education Department of the cost of salaries of people employed in native schools, and expenses of administration, including salaries and wages, of hostels. The interesting point is that .a breakdown of the amount expended on .native welfare shows that missions accounted for 37 per cent., health for 28 per cent., relief 14 per cent., administration 10 per cent., and education 9 per cent. The amount for education represented only reimbursement of salaries. So, it is pleasing to see that even though the amount is small in relation to the size of the task envisaged-
– ‘Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We have had a very interesting debate this afternoon on this matter. I should like to compliment the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) upon his statement. I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that .the Minister is to be congratulated ,upon the wonderful work that he has done in connexion with aborigines in the Northern Territory. My remarks to-day will relate mostly to those Northern Territory aborigines, with whom we are mainly concerned. I was rather impressed by the fact that the number attending school is six times the number that attended some years ago. However, there are two or three phases of the matter that have come to my notice and that give me great concern.
During the Christmas period, two representatives of a mission near Alice -Springs took a number of aboriginal children - I think there were hardly any full-bloods among them - to Victoria and South Australia. On a Saturday afternoon 1 was asked by the president of the local branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League to present to the children gifts from the league. I was pleased to go and do so.
The boys and girls were very nicely dressed. Clearly their standards of personal hygiene were good and altogether they were a very fine crowd. The younger ones were very shy. When I tried to give them a present, they could hardly take their eyes off the floor, which showed that they still had a little diffidence when coming in contact with white people in the normal way. There were three or four girls of about fourteen years of age, nicely dressed, just as any white girls would have been. I said to the man and the woman who were with them, “What is going to become of these girls now? “ They said, “ That is one of the tragedies that we have - the difficulty, when they reach a certain age at the mission, of placing them where they will be able to continue life in a satisfactory way “. They said: “ Unfortunately, there is nothing much that we can do. Very likely, within two or three years they will marry aboriginal lads who, perhaps, have not very much future and they will drift back to the lower standard from which they have come “.
When I was in Port Darwin about three years ago I met the Director of Welfare, Mr. Giese, who is a fine man and who is doing a fine job. We visited some of the schools. The question arose of what would become of the boys - what jobs they could get - when they finished their schooling. Again, there was a difficulty. In order to give them a job in one of the large towns it would be necessary to take them away from other aboriginal children who had no: had the same opportunities and the community would lose the benefit of having in it the boys who had been educated. Yet, if they were not sent away to take positions in the towns they could not get a job commensurate with their education and the rise that had occurred in their personal standards. I think that that is one of the great difficulties which the Minister must be facing.
It might be possible to employ these boys in Port. Darwin or Alice Springs. But at
Alice Springs I found that there were a lot of natives - some half-castes and some. full-bloods - doing no. work but just drifting along. The aboriginal boys to whom I have referred have been educated to appreciate, something better than they have come from, which may have been a humpy on the bed of a creek. But what are we to do with them? There is not enough work in a place like Alice Springs to provide all of them with jobs suited to their education. I do not know the answer to this problem, but I do know that it is one of the big problems in connexion with aboriginal welfare, particularly in the Northern Territory.
The difficulty is not as great in New South Wales where an aboriginal settlement may be close to a town. There, perhaps, it is possible to lift the aborigines stage by stage until they almost reach equality with our own people. The great number of aborigines for the welfare of whom the Federal Parliament is responsible, as distinct from those in the States, are scattered about the Northern Territory. I think that Bagot is the name of a settlement at which I visited a school one Saturday afternoon. The Minister for Territories or whoever was responsible is entitled to 100 per cent, marks for that school. It was no shabby thing. lt had shiny steel furniture, just as any school in the. Australian Capital Territory might have. I picked up the book of a girl, nine years of age, who had written an essay on the human teeth - milk teeth, molars and the rest. The writing was good and it was most enlightening to read this essay, composed by a girl coming from a small aboriginal settlement where the people were occupying small huts and perhaps sleeping on bags on the verandahs.
This brings me back to the plight of the girls who were entertained by the Returned Servicemen’s League. When such girls reach fourteen years of age, what are you going to do with them? The mission cannot continue to keep them. It might be possible to place odd’ ones on stations to work in the homes but that would mean taking them, away from their relatives and those with whom’ they have been brought up/. The relatives would lose sight of them instead of having the benefit of their company.
We are apt to say that you cannot depend on aborigines because they go walk-about. We must recognize that, for thousands of years, a system of life has been bred into their bones and it cannot be altered in five minutes. Consequently, from time to time, these people will hark back to the walkabout. But the aborigines are not the only ones who behave in this way. Sometimes British immigrants who have been here for three or four years want to go back to see what things are like at home. They want to leave their jobs here and go back to the old surroundings - to go walk-about, as it were. So the practice of walk-about is not something that you have to worry about very much. Human nature in the aboriginal is the same as human nature in the white person. If an aboriginal gets a job, has a decent home and decent surroundings, he will not be anxious to go walk-about in the bush where he will have to look for tucker.
A way of getting over the problem has been found in the bigger centres where there is a school with a lot of children, lt might be possible to establish small manufacturing industries, such as furniture making, into which boys who have been educated in the schools could be absorbed.
I happened to be in Darwin at the time the local show was held. I am not like some people who go to Melbourne about the first week in November to attend a certain sporting event there; and I did not go to Darwin specifically to visit the show. However, I had great pleasure in attending the function and I found that it was a sort of Mecca to which the folk in the Territory came. The first thing that impressed me was the very good displays of produce in the various pavilions. I saw work that had been done by native people, perhaps under white supervision, and it was really good. I was also impressed with the appearance and bearing of native people who attended the show, and particularly the womenfolk. One honorable member to-day spoke about the necessity for doing everything possible to encourage native women to become teachers. Many native women who attended the show had small children with them. It is true that in appearance and dress they may not have been up to the standard of people to be seen in the suburbs of Can berra, but it was obvious that these aboriginal women - many of them full-blooded aborigines - had the same love for their children, and the same desire to do something for them, as other womenfolk in Australia.
The native women obviously tried to dress their children in the best way they could and to provide them with the highest standard of living within their means. That illustrates that it is possible for these people to raise their standards. Some people say that they are no-hopers. Well, 1 have lived in Port Adelaide nearly all my life. If you wanted to find worse no-hopers among white people than some who have been born in that district you would have to go a long way. Generally speaking, you cannot reasonably condemn any group of people just because there are some notorious no-hopers amongst them. I may go to a town and see twenty drunk people walk out of a pub at 6 o’clock. I may be inclined to say, “What a boozy place that is “, but I would be forgetting the 20,000 sober, solid citizens in the town. One has to be careful not to judge the whole group by the behaviour of a few.
I am pleased that the Minister has recognized that we must do the best we can to help the aborigines. When the Public Accounts Committee held an inquiry in the Northern Territory, some of us took the opportunity to visit Beswick and Katherine, and we saw what was being done in those places. It seemed to me that the greatest concern of the Government was to improve the conditions of the public servants, to raise the standard of housing and schools, to construct wharfs and undertake various other public works. It is on such projects that the great bulk of our money is being spent. I am not decrying that sort of thing one little bit. I believe that it is necessary for the people to have those proper standards. Although the great bulk of the money is being spent for the benefit of the Northern Territory, it is not being spent for the benefit of the aboriginal people themselves. A large sum may be provided for their welfare, but generally speaking most of the allocation is used to promote general progress in the community.
We are most concerned now about teaching the aborigines how to use the country. The Government has made every effort to get white people to go to the Territory and successfully cultivate the land. That is a laudable object and something of which we can be proud, but at the same time I think we should recognize that, after a period of training, the aborigines themselves should be able to do a lot of that work. Even in a white community it is only a small percentage who succeed in business. It is only a small percentage of the people who go on to the land who make a success of farming. One has to be cut out for the job to make a real success of it. The same applies to the aborigines. We must provide facilities for them to do the job, and in order to provide these facilities it is necessary to supply the money that is required.
I hark back to the point I made at the commencement of my speech. What are we going to do with these people when we educate them up to a certain standard? An attempt has been made on the far west coast of South Australia to help the aborigines by setting aside a large area where they can run cattle and sheep and learn how to look after them. Something more will have to be done about that. I know that the Government has done something along those lines in the Northern Territory, and I am not telling the Minister anything new. What I am saying is that we must recognize the necessity to do more for these people than we have done in the past.
I happen to be one of those peculiar people who believe that every man, whether he be black, white or brindle, as we say, is God’s creature, and is entitled to the best treatment the country can give him.
– That is not being peculiar.
– It is not peculiar, but I am one of those people. Some say that people are peculiar because they believe that of their fellowmen. The difficulty is to get people to go the whole way. They believe in the principle but when it comes to the application of that principle there is always a “ but “ involved. I remember a member of Parliament in South Australia. If some proposition was put up he would say, “ I think that is a really good idea, but . . .”. We named him “ But “. He always gave a reason why something that had been suggested could not be done. I am a person who has no “ buts “ about these things. I think we should go the whole hog, as it were, and see that the aboriginal people are given every opportunity. On behalf of these folk I make a plea that we be not satisfied with building schools, sending teachers to those schools, raising the aborigines up to a certain standard and then saying to them, “ If you go 500 or 1,000 miles away you will be able to get the real benefit from what you have been taught “. I submit that we should do something to give these people an opportunity to do something in the areas in which they live. We talk about our unpopulated north and about how very few people there are north of the Tropic of Capricorn. It has been said that if we do not populate these areas we will not be able to keep them. We are spending large sums to bring migrants to Australia.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Many constructive speeches have been made during this debate and not by any means from only one side of the House. Although we may differ from time to time, this question has been approached with goodwill and sincerity. Honorable members have acknowledged what the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has done, what the Government has done and what the Government intends to do. However, we cannot be satisfied with the present position. We must realize that an appallingly difficult problem exists. The problem has been difficult, not only in Australia and not only during a recent period of history. The aborigines in India, for example, are a problem to the Indian Government, which faces some of the difficulties which we are facing in Australia.
Going back a little in history, I find that in Africa the races corresponding to our aborigines - the Bushmen - met disaster at the hands of the Bantu - the black people who came down from the north. So the problem of an aboriginal race is not peculiar to Australia, although I think that our aborigines are perhaps now unique and probably one of the most interesting and, in a sense, most important groups of -people in the world. I do not think that any of lis believes that the .individual aboriginal is either better or worse, person for person, than we are, but we .do know that he mas lived in a different environment for a very long time and that this makes it very difficult for him to be assimilated into our way of ‘life. This does not absolve us from the responsibility of assimilating our aborigines. It does not absolve us from the responsibility of allocating resources of money, land and material to this task.
What we are talking about at .present is not the principle of this .policy of assimilation, on which we all agree. What we are talking about .is the way of bringing about the inevitable transition which will be best for the aboriginal himself. I was very glad to see that in the Administrator’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament recently there was a reference to the making of a study of these people and their ways of life. Such a study is necessary and desirable if we are to deal with the numerous problems which various honorable members have discussed and if we are to carry through this transition in the way which is best for the aboriginal people themselves. This fact is further acknowledged in the statement made this afternoon by the Minister for Territories, who, speaking of the recent Native Welfare Conference, said -
The conference agreed that further research was necessary into the social organization of aborigines and the nature of social change. It was agreed that a number of topics should be referred to the Social Science Research Council which should be asked to put them before appropriate university authorities.
As I say, this is not in any sense an excuse for doing nothing. It is a means of determining the best thing to do. Looking at our efforts in the past, I am not certain that we have been wise in entirely ignoring the tribal organization as an instrument of transition. The aborigines have been living in a complex environment. Let us not underestimate the physical skills which they have demonstrated in maintaining life and surviving in the very difficult terrain of the Australian countryside. This is an achievement which none of us would like to be asked to emulate and which we probably would not be able to copy successfully with the tools and implements which the aborigines “have at their disposal.
In the very difficult conditions in which the aborigines live, they have evolved a very complex tribal organization. Until recently, we have not appreciated fully the delicacy of this mechanism and the way in which it works. It differs from our community organization in that it is a personal and not an impersonal one. The transition from the personal to the impersonal is -the big change which the aboriginal has to face. He is involved in a tribal life which is very rigorous and very complicated, but it is a life in which he knows by name and personally practically every one of his associates, because he lives in a small community. He has now to be translated into a community in which not only the laws are different. That is perhaps not such a big thing. The great difference is that the aboriginal has to go into an impersonal community, because he has to come into contact with thousands of .people, most of whom he will not know personally, in place of being in contact with a few hundred people, almost all of whom he knows personally. To him, this is a tremendous shock. .Let us not underestimate the psychological troubles which inevitably will follow when the things in which he has believed - -the tribal beliefs - are broken down and become of no account. Which of us would survive without psychological shock an experience of this kind? Let us not underestimate *the terrific difficulties with which the aboriginal is faced as an individual in making this transition. With these considerations in mind, I say that perhaps we have been unwise in the past in ignoring entirely the aboriginal’s own tribal organization as a means of transition, because the transition and the advancement that are envisaged have to take place.
As honorable members know very well, the Australian aboriginal is a hunter. He is in a sense a nomad, although he lives within strict tribal boundaries, and he has no agriculture as such. The universal experience of the human race has been that it has progressed from the hunting stage through an agricultural stage to the present industrial civilization in which we live. I am not certain of this, but I put it forward as something ‘which merits examination rather than as a conclusion, because I feel that in these matters we know far too little and .that we should not be dogmatic about any conclusions in this field. This transition of which I have spoken may well be achieved through an agricultural phase, using to some extent the old tribal organization in order to pass through this agricultural phase quickly, and perhaps in a generation. Where we have tried putting aborigines on farms, we have found that they do not take to them. As we know, the aboriginal is not tolerant of agriculture. He is good with animals, but he is bad with plants. However, I am not at all certain that we have persisted sufficiently with our efforts along these lines, and we may well find that we can adapt a tribal organization for agricultural purposes. This is what has happened in the past with all humans, including our own ancestors. This may well be the natural path along which we can force the aboriginal quickly in order to achieve the full transition to our way of life. We want this full transition to take place as soon as possible.
I think that the Minister’s statement describes the objectives admirably, and I am glad that it has received so much support from both sides of the House. May I just reiterate by saying that, whatever we do, we need to be more carefully informed about the background. We shall handle the problems of the aborigines more sympathetically, more successfully and with less hurt to themselves during the period of transition if we are better informed about both the background from which the aboriginal comes and the nature of the psychological forces’ which will -be at work in the making of the necessary transition.
– Mr. Speaker, I agree .with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that many .constructive speeches have been made in this debate and that many honorable members have looked impartially at the problems which confrant the various governments in Australia and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) with respect to the aborigines. The speech made by the honorable member himself was an example of .constructive and impartial thinking, as were those of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) and the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). However, unfortunately, .a little earlier, the House was treated to a demonstration by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) which was of an entirely different kind and which has indeed cast a shadow over the whole of this debate. As the honorable member for -Perth (Mr. Chaney) stated, what the honorable member for Hindmarsh said during his speech could be used by ‘the enemies of this country to do Australia great harm in the forums of the world. The honorable member for Hindmarsh attacked the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) when, amongst other things, he belittled the great advance that had been made by giving aborigines the full social service and pension rights that are applicable to other Australians. It may well be that this should have been done earlier. There have been Commonwealth governments in Australia for 60 years, but it has only been during the term of office of this Government and of the present Minister for Social Services that this advantage has been given to the Australian aborigines That is something for which credit must be given.
The .honorable member for Hindmarsh said that our progress in dealing with the problems, of aborigines over a period of 150 years has been much too slow. If he had been just in his remarks, he would have admitted that for a great while no one tried to do very much about it. This Government and the present Minister for Territories in -particular have kept pace with changing conditions over the last ten or twelve years. More has been done in relation to these matters under the administration of the -present Minister than was done during -the whole of the earlier history of the Commonwealth.
There is only one other remark that 1 should like to pass about the honorable member for Hindmarsh. It is something of which honorable members and the country at large may well take note. The honorable gentleman has been engaged in a battle with the union to which he belongs - the Australian Workers Union, the greatest union in Australia - for much more than one year. In fact, “I think it has now extended over several years. The A.W.U. does not want this man as a member of the union or of its executive, and it will do everything it possibly can to reject him. It is a pity that electors in the division of Hindmarsh do not examine the reasons for the A.W.U.’s action and do the same in regard to his membership of this House.
Having regard to earlier debates in this session and events that have occurred overseas, the statement of the Minister for Territories is very important. It dennes quite clearly the aim of assimilation and sets out in clear and concise terms which cannot be misunderstood, except by those who want to misunderstand them, the meaning of and the methods that will be used to achieve assimilation. Unfortunately, some doubt has been cast upon the meaning of the term “ assimilation “. Surely it means that ultimately the aborigines will have the same privileges, responsibilities and rights that other Australians now have. In other words, aborigines will live in the same street as other Australians and will be treated as their equal, as indeed they are in certain areas already. It is our hope that at some stage in the future all aborigines will achieve that status. The marriage of two persons of different colour would be a part of their assimilation. It may well be that by that means the aboriginal race will be absorbed over a period of time. As far as I can see, assimilation and absorption are part of one and the same thing.
The methods that the Government and those who attended the conference on native welfare laid down in moving towards this objective of assimilation are many and varied and are different in the various States. It has been pointed out that the processes that are applicable to the north of Australia may not be applicable to the State of Victoria in which I live and in which the problems are different. Various methods of assimilation will be followed out. There will be greater government settlement of tribes and” people who are still living in a nomadic or a semi-nomadic state. More health services and education services must be made available to aborigines in all States. Child welfare services will have to be extended. Already there are special schools for aborigines. Those will have to be extended so that aboriginal children ultimately may be taken to the stage where they will sit side by side with white children in the same school. The provision of special schools is a transitional process which we hope will not last for too much longer. The special school is necessary because of language difficulties, environment and heredity. It is not necessary because of any lack of natural intelligence in native children who, I am led to understand, having regard to language difficulties and difficulties of environment, are as intelligent as the average white child.
A great deal will have to be done in relation to housing and hygiene. I shall say more about that later. The provision of vocational training so that aborigines may get different kinds of jobs and not have to rely upon the pastoral industry for most of their employment is certainly important. It is also important that they play a great part in the sporting activities of this country. The honorable member for Perth has directed attention to the part that aborigines have been able to play in this sphere and to the increasing part that they will probably play in the future.
Perhaps most importantly, the report of the conference directs attention to the fact that certain restrictive legislation which remains on the statute-book must, as time permits, be removed and that the sooner it is done away with the better the position will be. The last point to which I wish to refer in dealing with this aspect of the problem of assimilation is the importance of ensuring that the white people accept their responsibility. The process of assimilation will succeed or fail according to the attitude that is adopted by the white people of Australia. There are many persons in this country who at some time or other have uttered what could be described as pious remarks in relation to the shortcomings of white people in other countries but who themselves have not been put to the test of facing up to the problems of a multi-racial society. Of course, in Australia the problem is a small one, because of the smallness of the number of aborigines. It is quite certain that in certain parts of Australia the good faith of Australians will be put to the test. It is my hope and belief that Australians will not fall short in this regard.
The conference agreed that particular attention will have to be given to the transitional housing of members of the aboriginal race who are not used to housing of any kind and who are reluctant to move into the kind of houses that we regard as being traditional and normal. The conference also directed particular attention to the supervision of welfare staff. I think it was the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) who made some pertinent remarks regarding the importance of this matter. Attention was directed also to certain special problems brought about by the nomadic or semi-nomadic state of many aborigines, and to the fact that the settlement and assimilation of these people will involve the co-operation of several States and the Commonwealth, for reasons that have already been brought to the notice of the House. Quite clearly, if an aborigine is entitled to vote in one State, he should also be entitled to vote in other States. But that is not the position at the present time. The more that can be done to remove this anomaly, the sooner will a great step forward be taken in the process of assimilation.
Attention is also directed in the report of the conference to the fact that this problem involves approximately 70,000 aborigines throughout Australia, and that 30,000 or more aborigines and part aborigines have full citizenship rights. This is clear and straightforward evidence to any one who tries to argue to the contrary that our process is one of assimilation and that it is quite different from processes that are being followed in other countries, such as South Africa.
The Minister indicated, towards the end of his statement, that a conference of the kind we have been considering will be held every two years. That is a great step forward. I think the previous conference was held in 1951; the Minister might correct me if I am wrong. If a conference is held every two years, it will be much easier for the States and the Commonwealth to cooperate, and to learn from each other’s successes and mistakes in this field.
The Minister is to be congratulated on the progress that has been made in the treatment of aboriginal people. The Department of Territories was created by this Government in 1951, and the present Minister has been Minister for Territories since that date. I said a little earlier that I believed more progress has been made in that time than was made in the whole of the previous history of the Commonwealth. This is due to the drive and the initiative of the Minister. If some people believe, on the facts and figures, that progress has at times been too slow, they should not forget the extreme difficulties of the task before us. The honorable member for Mackellar directed our attention to these difficulties. Few people in the world are living in a more primitive state than are the Australian aborigines. The aborigines here were, and some still are, in a nomadic state. Many are not accustomed to any kind of housing, many travel from one area to another and they do not possess any skills that could readily be used in their assimilation in the kind of society to which we are accustomed and which we are trying to bring the aboriginal people to accept.
About 16,000 aborigines in the Northern Territory receive benefit from the welfare ordinances. In this year, £1,100,000 is being spent on their account and works programmes costing nearly £130,000 are being undertaken. Development work has been, and is being, undertaken at each of several settlements, and on an average this costs £250,000 at each settlement. At the settlements, the growing of food, animal husbandry, fishing, forestry and trades are taught, and the aborigines show a readiness to learn these skills, which will be useful to them. The Government has afforded other assistance. Subsidies are paid to mission workers and to native hygiene assistants. In this year, about £370,000 will be going to missions for assistance of one kind or another.
I have already mentioned that, in the field of education, the object is ultimately to have one system of schools for black and white children where aborigines are living. However, at present this is not always possible, simply because of language and environment differences which make it impossible for the aborigines to take their place in the white schools. So, special schools have been created to meet this demand. I emphasize that this is a transitional phase which will not be continued. It is worth noting, and it is praiseworthy, that there are now more than 2,000 native children in 28 schools in native settlements, pastoral properties which have willingly co-operated, and missions.
One of the most important factors in the assimilation of aborigines is housing - and the acceptance by white people df aborigines living in houses in the same street. This is an important question, and at times there have been arguments on it. I believe that Victoria has set a good example. The report of the Aborigines Welfare Board1 for 1959 draws attention to this question of housing and points to the success that has been achieved in Victoria. It is worth noting that, as the honorable member for Wills said, aborigines in Victoria, whether of full or part blood, have full citizenship and voting rights. Referring to housing, the board reported -
Approximately 30 families are tenants of the Housing Commission in the city and in various country towns and generally they are making a good effort to maintain themselves, but are faced with rentals which some of them cannot consistently meet. During the year the Board has assisted some of these families who have fallen into arrears with rent, taking the view that it was essential to preserve the tenancy and keep the family together rather than allow them to drift back to sub-standard living conditions and become a heavier burden not only on the Board but on other Social Service activities of the State. There are 160 families satisfactorily housed in various districts throughout Victoria - some ot them owning their own homes or in the process of buying them.
The report refers to the Mooroopna Housing Settlement, which is the first special housing project for aborigines. It was originated by the board and carried out with the co-operation of the Housing Commission. The report also directs attention to the fact that aborigines quickly adapted themselves to their new homes and set about improving the surroundings with gardens. The report goes on to say - . . regardless of their previous conditions the tenants’ response to new housing has been immediate and continuous and a very potent factor in the acceptance of the settlement’s child!im in the schools and their parents in the general life of the town.
That is a most important feature, because in this debate some doubt has been cast on the ability of aborigines to look after a house when given one for the first time. The general experience in Victoria is that the aborigines have looked after their houses very well and have taken a pride in them, and good care of them.
The report of the Aborigines Welfare Board refers to the fact that several aborigines are living in town districts in areas not by any means set aside for aborigines, but in ordinary houses in a street just as any one else would have a house in a street. No objection is raised to this, and there is a very willing acceptance of it. However, this must be extended, and further efforts in this regard are being made in Victoria.
The Commonwealth has shown a very real sympathy for the problems of the aborigines, especially in the last few years under the administration of the present Minister. Further evidence of this is shown in the fact that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) has announced in the House that a select committee has been appointed to examine the subject of full voting rightsfor aborigines. Surely enough has- been said in this Parliament to make honorable members doubt the wisdom of giving full voting rights to aborigines immediately. I hope honorable members will agree with me. A select committee has been established to examine the difficulties, to see what more can be done to speed up the process and to see whether advantage can be taken of this as a further move in bringing the aboriginal people’ closer to full assimilation. The Commonwealth has shown its sympathy and understanding by its attitude in the field of social services, and I have previously mentioned this matter.
I Would like to emphasize the part that the Australian community must play. This will become increasingly important, and every Australian has a duty to ensure that the white race iri Australia plays its part honestly, fully and justly. But it is worth noting that the present policies are directed most to helping the children of the aborigines. An aboriginal who has lived a nomadic life can probably never be fully assimilated into the Australian community, but his child can if he has the right attention, care and help from welfare workers and from the State and Federal governments. It is my belief that if this assistance is given we will see the assimilation of aborigines.
Sitting suspended from 6.54 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Speaker, I think it would be as well at this stage of the debate to remind the House of the remarks made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in relation to the policy of assimilation: and the- meaning of that policy. An outstanding, feature of this debate has- been’ the fact that honorable members on both sides of the House, with one or two exceptions - notably the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) - have agreed that the policy being pursued by the Government is a good oric It is a policy that calls for cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. I emphasize that the policy has been accepted almost unanimously in this House, because that is important from an Australian point of view. In his speech to-day the Minister, dealing with the meaning of the policy of assimilation, said -
The policy of assimilation means that all aborigines’ and part aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities,, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs-, hopes and loyalties as other Australians. Thus, any special measures taken for aborigines and part aborigines’ are regarded as temporary measures not based on colour but intended to meet their need for special care and assistance, to protect them from any ill effects of sudden change and to assist them to make the transition from one stage to another in such a way as will be favorable to their future social, economic and political advancement.
That is a statement with which hardly anybody in this House has disagreed or with which, I submit, hardly anybody could disagree. But other statements have been made in the fairly recent past and I understand that still others will be made in the near future. I would like to refer to some of those statements in a moment. Before doing so, however, let me say that I am aware that most honorable members realize that in the past - and, in terms of our Australian history, long in the past - the attitude towards Australian aborigines has been by no means- a good one. I think all honorable members will agree with that statement. To-day the honorable member for Hindmarsh endeavoured to show, not only to the people of Australia, but to the people of the Commonwealth of Nations that that attitude still lives to-day. That k completely wrong.
A- paragraph on page 76 of the “ Queensland Year Book” for 1959, under the heading “ Aboriginals “, reads -
The advance of the white population on to the black man’s domain was not only conducive to much, hostility, bat it- led to the rapid decline of the native population and the steady growth of a half-caste population.
That is undoubtedly true, and we all now regret it. The paragraph continues -
The public conscience was awakened to the plight of the aboriginals, and in all of the States measures for greater protection were instituted.
I think it should be pointed out that those measures were commenced in the latter part of the last century - more than 60 years ago. Since that time there has been a tremendous change of feeling - an awakening of conscience. There is not the slightest doubt that the attitude of 60 or 70 years ago is no longer the attitude of to-day.
Let me refer now to an article that appeared in the “ Bulletin “ fairly recently. I propose to confine my remarks mainly to Queensland, because Queensland has the largest aboriginal population of any Australian State. In my opinion, and in the opinion of other people whom I will quote if time permits, Queensland has the best and most humane system for treating aborigines and attempting to raise them to the stage of assimilation that we all desire. The “ Bulletin “ article, which I propose to quote refers to a meeting of the Aboriginal Advancement League, held at the Queensland University during the Easter period. That article states -
This month the Federal. Council of the Aboriginal Advancement League is holding its conference in Queensland. They have invited representatives ot the Government to attend because if any Act is worth throwing away it is the Queensland one.
That article was written by Kylie Tennant. I do not know how many Government supporters were invited to attend that meeting. I know that the conference started on a Friday and on the preceding Wednesday 1 received a telegram from a Victorian member of the Opposition inviting me to the conference and advising me that all State members of Parliament would be welcome to attend. I presume that conference was arranged a long time earlier but it was not until the Wednesday preceding the Friday on which the conference opened that State and Federal members were invited to attend. If the people associated with the conference were genuinely interested in having members of Parliament present, they should have invited us earlier.
Queensland has an aboriginal population of about 37,000. In addition, there are some Torres Strait islanders, but they are in a completely different category and I do not propose to deal with them this evening. More than 20,000 of Queensland’s aborigines are in no way controlled. They are normal citizens and have rights identical with those of other members of the community. The number of aborigines in Queensland who have full citizenship rights exceeds the combined total of such aborigines in four or five other States.
– Why should they not have full citizenship rights?
– They should have full citizenship rights. They do have them, but I did not hear the honorable member say anything about that in his speech. The honorable member endeavoured to create the impression abroad that Australia has not in recent years given much consideration to our very great friends, the aborigines. I call them my friends because I was reared amongst them. They are great friends of mine. The honorable member for Hindmarsh implied that Australia has treated her aborigines shabbily and is continuing to do so. That is completely false. Our treatment of the aborigines in the past has been wrong in many ways but to-day governments, both State and Federal, are doing their best to overcome the mistakes of the past as quickly as possible.
On 21st April the “ Tribune “-the Communist publication - contained a report concerning a conference that was to be held on some unspecified date. In that report the “ Tribune “ foreshadowed that a resolution dealing with Australian aborigines would be adopted by that conference. What was foreshadowed in the “ Tribune “ of 21st April had been foreshadowed in a release from Moscow on 12th April, in which, among other things, it said -
As for Mr. Menzies, he continues to defend the South African racialists. One wonders, may it not be because the native population of Australia, as the Brisbane Conference on the rights of aborigines pointed out, is subjected to racial discrimination, like the Africans in the Union of South Africa. Just as in South Africa there is segregation in Australian schools, theatres, cinemas, and other public places with regard to the aborigines.
We who are assembled here to-night know that to be a complete and utter lie.
I shall quote now from the Communist draft resolution as published in the “ Tribune “ and I have no doubt the honorable member for Hindmarsh who is interjecting, will be interested in this, if he does not know it already. It is as follows: -
The Austraiian ruling class has long oppressed this national minority in the most brutal way, and to-day is seeking to destroy their identity and culture in the name of “assimilation”. Persecution, racial discrimination and abject poverty is the lot of this oppressed people. The Communist Party stands for the right of these magnificent people to decide on their own national development, including their right to establish autonomous regions if they so desire.
What has caused all the recent trouble in South Africa? It has been caused by the apartheid policy and segregation. The authorities there were not game to allow the blacks and whites to mix. Now the Communist Party wants to bring this very problem into Australia! We do not have it to-day. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is the only Opposition member in this House who has foreshadowed the line the Communists propose to take. The draft resolution continues -
As first steps, we call for full citizens’ rights, full award wages for aboriginal workers, especially the pastoral industry, preservation of the remaining tribal lands and provision of land for those driven off the reserves, education and training facilities, and abandonment of racial discrimination, and the repeal of the infamous Aborigines’ Protection Acts, and encouragement to the aborigines to establish their own committees to manage their affairs.
I went to school with aborigines and I am glad I did, because I grew to love them.
– What school was that?
– It was at a school on the north coast of New South Wales at a place called Batars Creek, if the honorable member wants to know.
I would like to read to the House a letter written by Mr. O’Leary, the Director of Native Affairs in Queensland, in reply to a letter written by a Mr. Dunstan, M.P., and published in the issue of the “ Sydney
Morning Herald “, of 6th April. Mr. O’Leary wrote as follows: -
Your issue of Thursday, 6th April, contained a letter from Mr. Don Dunstan, M.P., under the heading -
As misstatements and inaccuracies appear in that letter it is necessary, in fairness to Queensland Administration and the aborigines benefiting therefrom, that the true position should be given. In support of his argument that Government practice in Australia achieves the same result as apartheid, he particularly quotes the case of Queensland thus - “ in Queensland no aboriginal has a vote for any parliament even if exempt and thus some 37,000 people are disfranchised.”
Of an estimated population of 37,904 aboriginal coloured people in Queensland, the majority (19,700) have full citizenship rights, including the right to vote and the right to drink. No other State can claim that achievement towards assimilation or integration.
The foregoing figures indicate that there are more coloured people in Queensland not controlled than controlled. No other State can claim that achievement.
That Queensland’s policy of tuition preparatory to assimilation has resulted in that State having more people of aboriginal blood with full citizenship rights than have the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory combined, must be a compliment to Queensland.
And this is the one, mark you, which Kylie Tennant wanted changed, because it was not a good one! The letter continues -
Queensland’s policy for the care of its coloured people is clear and definite in that it has established Government Settlements - a better term could be “ townships “ - for the accommodation, care, protection and tuition, all aimed at the ultimate assimilation of those residents requiring such. These settlement townships are -
The assertion that the residents of these settlement townships are there against their will is wrong. Of the total number of 4,059, 90% are opposed to leaving their homes and associates. Their menfolk are fully employed and the children receive tuition in primary and secondary schools, the latter tuition being provided by the Church and State, the State paying the cost of all such, preparatory to their assimilation into the white community. That the Director of Native Affairs can order people subject to the Act onto a Government settlement is true. Their removal there is always consistent with the necessity for their care and protection which is not available to them outside of the settlement township. In the main this removal is of a temporary nature to help the family to settle down preparatory to the man obtaining work and accommodation for his family. There is no life restriction on any person on these settlement townships. The main problem of the Department is to induce them to leave.
That Queensland aboriginals have no control over their earnings and Savings Bank deposits is an old argument that has over the years been consistently refuted. Over the twelve months ended 30th June,1960, the amount deposited by aboriginals to Savings Bank accounts totalled £497,609. The withdrawals against these deposits were £495,544. These figures must be accepted as a rebuttal of Mr. Dunstan’s contention of the limit of the availability of deposits from earnings.
In Queensland, with the exception of the Pastoral Award, every aboriginal worker is entitled to the wages provided by the various callings subject to Industrial Awards. Irrespective of the exclusion of aboriginals from the provisions of the Pastoral Award, many receive the full rate applicable to white workers, but where they are not employable at these rates, a reduced rate, consistent with their ability, is determined by the Department. It must be remembered that many of the pastoralists, in addition to paying wages to the workers, maintain his dependants.
Exemption from the Queensland Aboriginals’ Preservation and Protection Act does give aboriginals the same rights as Australians of European origin.
– That is a silly statement. I will come to that point in a moment. The letter continues -
One would imagine from Mr. Dunstan’s letter that the Queensland aboriginals and half-bloods, subject to the existing Act, are dissatisfied with their lot and that their conditions are not equal with those applicable to coloured people in other States. That such is not the case is evidenced by the following: -
There is a wide gap between the thinking of the aboriginal and many of the advocates for alteration of his present status in Queensland. That these advocates are not all ignorant of the position in Queensland is evidenced by the following: -
Unfortunately, I have not time to read the statements which follow. I have much pleasure in supporting the statement made by the Minister.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
£8.20].- in reply- The statement on the native welfare conference, which was presented to the House this afternoon, has been debated for more than four hours and honorable members on both sides of the House have spoken on it. The gratifying feature of the debate has been that the principles put forward in the statement have received the endorsement of the whole House and the methods of applying that policy have gained the approval of the majority of the House. Although this is not an occasion on which a vote is necessary - nor will a vote be taken - on the questions of policy, it will be of some interest to the Australian nation, and I hope to nations overseas, that this Parliament, having had presented to it a statement, agreed upon by the representatives of all the governments of Australia, has seen fit to endorse that statement and to approve of the methods which are proposed to be applied. We should remember that not only in this Parliament but also in other parliaments in Australia the responsible Ministers who took part in the conference will, no doubt, in due course inform members of their parliaments what it is .proposed to do. I trust that the proposals will receive a similar endorsement from their members.
There are only two minor comments I should like to make on the speeches. One is almost a trivial comment, but I think it needs saying. In the course of the debate some statistics were used, particularly by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). Although I am sure he used them and other speakers used their statistics in good faith, I would counsel some caution in the use of figures because, for the reasons set out in the statement, there is no agreed and uniform basis of presenting statistics on native welfare work in Australia. That is one of the minor problems to which we must give attention. So, any comparative statements based on statistics are open to question.
The other point on which I wish to comment very briefly is what seemed to me to be a grossly distorted account of Australian history given by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). I do not want to go into it in detail. I do not think the honorable member sets himself up as an historian. He certainly did not enhance his reputation as one when he spoke this afternoon. I think I am correct in saying that the broad pattern of the history of relationships between the aboriginal population and the European settlers in Australia in all the colonies that were successively formed was something like this: The original settlers came to Australia with a good Christian and humanitarian intention. In the course of a very few years, clashes occurred between them and the aboriginal people whom they were dispossessing. The nature of those clashes sometimes led to the spoiling of property and, unfortunately, to the taking of life. That led to a period of reprisals. We have to confess that as part of our national history the reprisals that were taken, unfortunately, were sometimes far more severe than the original offence warranted. But those reprisals were not in themselves - I say this advisedly - the cause of the de-population of the aboriginal race. Diseases - often mild diseases such as measles, to which the aboriginal population were not immune - and sometimes more deadly diseases were the cause of the reduction of the Australian aboriginal population. Diseases caused more fatalities among them than the rifle or illtreatment ever did.
After that period came a period of complete compassion - rather mistaken and perhaps ignorant compassion - when people with kindly hearts said: “Pity the poor aborigines. They are bound to die out. Let us do the best we can for them while they are still here.” Up to the close of the last century there was a period when a great number of people, out of a sense of pity, were ministering to the aborigines; but they were ministering to them without hope and without any intention that they could do any lasting good for the aborigines, who they thought were bound to die out.
Over the last half century at least, an entirely different view of the position has come into Australia. I believe that it can be historically shown that the origin of this new attitude is to be found in Australia itself, particularly in one of the principles which have animated Australians in handling their own social problems. There is one principle that we all have; that is the idea of giving a man a fair go. It was that idea that animated the pioneers of trade unionism in this country. It was that idea that animated many of the social reformers, I believe that it was that idea which was the mainspring of modern ameliorative efforts on behalf of the aborigines. The attitude has been, “ These people are living in this country with us and we are going to give them a fair go”.
Increasingly in modern times - rising to a faster tempo in the post-war years - we are making a conscious effort, of which we need1 not be in the least ashamed, to tackle this extremely .difficult social and racial problem. It is not a great problem. Australia has 70,000 aborigines in a population of 10,000,000. We, as a nation, have tackled many difficult social problems. We, as a nation, have many great social achievements to our .credit. I .am sure that as Australians, irrespective of party and any minor differences there may be about method, we can beat this problem. I am sure that we can bring it to a triumphant conclusion and do justice by these fellowAustralians who live with us.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said two things which in my opinion were wise. I was going to say “ unusually wise “, but that would have seemed to be a slight on his contributions to debates in this ‘House - an undeserved slight. One of the things he said was that this problem of an aboriginal race and an immigrant race is not new; it has happened all over the world. The ancient Britons were aborigines. : Eventually they were completely assimilated in successive waves of conquerers or immigrants. To-day the ancient Britons live on as a racial infusion in the inhabitants of the British Isles, with some influence on the language spoken in the British Isles and with a minor influence on the customs in the British Isles. In nearly every Asian country one sees the remnant of an aboriginal race that has been submerged by an invading race. So, do not let us think that this is necessarily a white-black clash. It is a problem of an aboriginal race, which in every continent and many parts of every continent of the world, has suffered from the incursion of a stronger invading population. So, the problem is not novel.
The honorable member for Mackellar also referred to the terrific adjustment which the Australian aboriginal people had to make because, as he described it, their society was a personal society with a very clear relationship between all the members of that society and under the pressure of circumstances they had to try to fit themselves into a society such as ours, which is largely impersonal. I will enlarge on that a little by pointing out that the aborigines had a very complex and highly involved social organization of their own, but in that social organization the relationships between one member of the society and every other member of it were clearly defined and clearly understood by everyone, and the obligations which one member bore to every one else were clearly understood. When they enter into our society and necessarily try to work out some sort of similar personal relationship to members of our society, of course they find great difficulty in doing so.
I wish to correct an unfortunate impression which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has. The easiest adjustment that the aborigines of this continent ever had was on the pastoral stations because, whether it was good or bad, living in a sort of feudal situation on a pastoral station where the pastoralist was something like a feudal baron with a tribe and two or three white stockmen around him, it was comparatively easy for the native tribe, whose territory was not disturbed and whose hunting rights were left untouched, to enter into an easy new personal relationship with the new white society. But when agricultural settlements and mining settlements became established, and when aboriginal people began to be attracted into the towns, an easy adjustment to the new life was far beyond the compass of their understanding.
Part of our difficulty was, and still is, as it has been constantly over the past half century, that in trying to apply our policies for the advancement and the welfare of the aboriginal people we have been dealing with aboriginal societies that have already collapsed. We are dealing with decaying remnants of the people, not with a people having a vitality of their own, except, perhaps, in some of the newly opened regions in which, in comparatively recent years, the nomadic people have been ‘brought in touch with settlement. Over recent years the pace has been greatly quickened by the pressure of Australian development, and also by the fact that the curiosity of the aboriginal people is causing them to be attracted, of their own volition, more and more to our settlements.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) made a statement which seemed to suggest that he thought that in the centre of Australia there are still untouched a fairly large number of aborigines leading a fully tribal life. The number of aborigines untouched would now be down to only a few score, or, at the most, a couple of hundred. The aborigines have been attracted more and more into the settlements that we have established. They may come and go at first, but in greater and greater numbers they are coming in. A great deal of the work we are doing in the Northern Territory is in bringing schooling to the children of aborigines who, ten years ago, were completely tribal nomads with limited and occasional contacts with Europeans.
Somebody has suggested that in the process of assimilation we should concentrate on the education of the children. It has been claimed that if a man has grown up in a nomadic and primitive condition you cannot alter his life very much, but that if you start with the children you may effect a transformation. I think it was the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) who gave a very clear illustration of what had happened in the case of a particular group of children who, because of the exigencies of war, had been transferred from the north to the friendly atmosphere of a parsonage in New South Wales, and had responded very well and had taken advantage pf the opportunities available to them in their new environment. Of course, that kind of movement of aboriginal people involves a complete severance from the primitive life and the adoption of a completely new life. Whether we are right or wrong, we do not care to make the severance as complete as that. I do not really think that you can tear up human beings completely by the roots and transplant them in such a final fashion. You still have to give them some sort of native soil in which to grow, some sort of relationship with their own families, some sort of feeling for their own society, even though this may impede your own efforts to educate them.
I remember going out to one of our stations on the edge of the desert, at a place called Yuendumu, where we had established a school, and talking with the school-teacher about his problems. They were very real problems. We had established a well-equipped school, staffed with qualified teachers, and it was being regularly attended. The schooling consisted not only of reading, writing and arithmetic, but included instruction in such things as the morning shower, the cleaning of teeth, the blowing of noses. We gave the children a good mid-day meal and taught them how to eat at table. We instructed them in all these matters which are, in essence, just as important, from the point of view of living with other people, as being able to read and write.
The school-teacher told me about his problems, one of which was just beginning to confront him, because the children had been at the school for only five or six years. He said that he could bring the boys up to the age of about thirteen years, and the prospect would be promising. Then, as he put it, one day he would notice a kind of a dreamy look in a boy’s eyes, and he would know quite well that back in the camp the old men had been talking to him, and that the time for initiation was drawing near. Inevitably the boy would leave school in order to undergo his tribal initiation. In these new areas where the tribal influence is still strong, the period of initiation sometimes is as long as two or three years.
We have tried one or two novel means of overcoming this problem. We have talked to the old men, and have sometimes suggested to them that they may be able to contract the period of initiation. Initiate the boy, by all means, but over two or three week-ends rather than two or three years.
– A crash programme.
– Yes, a crash programme of initiation. We have also suggested that instead of carrying out the initiation by their rather crude methods, with no asepsis, they should let one of our doctors do the necessary act in a surgery in a matter of a few minutes, with the old men standing around to see that it was done thoroughly and well. In a few cases we have succeeded with suggestions of this kind. 1 have mentioned these matters simply by way of illustration, to show that the problem of the advancement of a primitive people has many novel aspects. In the few minutes remaining to me I would like to mention only two other matters. There are many others that I could refer to, but I think there are only two that really demand consideration. First, our toughest problem in this work of assimilation is not with the tribal nomads. The toughest problem is with what, for lack of a better term, we call the fringe-dwellers. These are aboriginal people, some full-bloods and some of mixed blood, who are living very close to the fringes of our society, but who are not of that society. The difficulty in the case of these people arises from the fact that in periods of past neglect they have tried to make their adjustment by creating a new society of their own, on the very borders of ours. Some people think you need only to be friendly towards one of these mixed bloods living on the fringe of a town to transform his life. He has his own barriers against us. He has his own comfortable little group of people living in what might be mistaken for a gipsy encampment. He has to make an adjustment to his own society before he can come over to ours. In some ways the kind of social entrenchment that these fringe-dwellers have made in periods of past neglect, when they were rejected by our society, is much stronger than the entrenchment of the primitive people against us.
This problem of the fringe-dwellers is much more difficult than many people realize. Although friendliness on our side, the provision of opportunities for housing and education are supremely important, and opportunities for employment are absolutely essential, these things by no means cover the whole problem. We still have to enter into the minds and the understanding of the people who make up these little societies of aboriginal people and people of mixed blood, and who have grown up alongside us. Until they are persuaded to modify the little societies that they have established, it will be difficult for them to enter our society.
The other point I wanted to make is one that has emerged very clearly in this debate. It is that the problem throughout Australia is most diversified. We are not dealing with one social problem but with about a dozen social problems throughout Australia. There is the problem of the primitive nomad, the problem of the group of people who are still largely under tribal influence, the problem of the group of people who have obtained employment but are still feeling the lingering effects of tribal influence, the problem of the completely displaced full blood, who is not yet habituated to the ways of our society, and the problem of the fringe-dwelling mixed blood, who is almost in our midst, and sometimes right in our midst, even in the city slums, but who is still not fully received into our society. There is a diversity of problems, and we must not generalize when dealing with any one of them, and think that what we say about the aboriginal problem in one situation will be true of all situations throughout the Commonwealth. We must realize, of course, that these people are not only a group of human beings; they are also individuals. As individuals, they have the same degree of diversity as we have in this House.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1961.
Without requests -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1961.
– I have received advice from the Prime Minister that he has appointed Mr. Fairbairn to be a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr. Howse.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message).
Motion (by Dr. Donald Cameron) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation ot revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to establish a Foot and Mouth Disease Eradication Trust Account in respect of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory of Australia, and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr; Donald Cameron and Mr. Opperman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Donald Cameron, and read a first time.
Dr. DONALD CAMERON (Oxley-
Minister for Health) [8.44]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide machinery for financing the eradication of foot and mouth disease from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory should that disease ever gain access to either of these Commonwealth Territories.
Foot and mouth disease is an extremely contagious and devastating disease of cattle, pigs and sheep. It is widespread throughout much of the world, including the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. It is one. of the worst livestock diseases in the world. A vigilant, highly competent quarantine service has so far ensured that Australia is still free of this disease. This has been possible, however, only by imposing rigid prohibitions and controls on imports of such things as meat, hides, fertilisers and fodder, and of animals which might bring the disease into this country. Precautions are also taken to ensure that rural migrants do not introduce the disease into Australia in soil on their boots or clothing.
Notwithstanding all the precautions taken through quarantine, the possibility nonetheless exists that the disease could break through, for example, by wilful evasion of the quarantine laws. Should it ever do so, there will be grave implications for our economy. A rigorous and costly eradication campaign would have to be implemented to combat an outbreak of the disease to prevent its spread throughout the country. Furthermore, it would be necessary to act quickly to effect the immediate slaughter of infected animals and animals in contact with them, and the destruction of all other sources of infection.
The principles to be followed and the action to be taken in such an event were agreed upon some time ago by the Commonwealth and State members of the Australian Agricultural Council. The Commonwealth has agreed to share the costs of an eradication campaign on a £1 for £1 basis wherever foot and mouth disease might break out in Australia. However, it will be necessary to have funds available to conduct an eradication campaign, and owners of stock and property will have to be compensated for their losses. For these reasons this bill proposes the establishment of a trust account to provide for compensation payments and other expenses in the event of a campaign ever having to be mounted against foot and mouth disease in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory.
Moneys received from the States under agreements to share the costs of eradication of foot and mouth disease will be paid into the trust account, as will amounts from Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue. These will be used to pay the expenses of eradication measures and to pay compensation. Compensation will be paid for animals and property which have to be destroyed and for animals which die from the disease in quarantined areas. Owners will be paid the market value of the stock tor property so lost. They will, under the provisions of clause 13 of this bill, be entitledto sue in a court or agree to go to arbitration to settle any dispute over the amount of compensation due.
This bill could be described as an effective means of providing for a situation which we all hope will never occur. Should it in fact occur, then the existence of an act erribodying the provisions of this bill will be of material assistance in enabling the outbreak of foot and mouth disease to be dealt with swiftly and effectively. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21st March (vide page 388), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- “The Commonwealth Electoral Act provides the fabric of Australia’s democracy. Nothing is more vital to the working of a democracy than the mechanism by which the Parliament is elected. The electoral mechanism should be constructed on four principles. The first principle is that all adults should have a vote without a means test, an education test or any other qualification. This principle is necessary to ensure that everybody should be represented in the Parliament. The second principle is that all electorates should have the same population. This is necessary to ensure that everybody shall be equally represented. The third principle is that the Parliament should have to face the electors at regular intervals. This is necessary to ensure that the Parliament will be representative of the electors from time to time. The fourth principle is that all candidates should have equal access to propaganda. This is necessary so that the electorate may be an informed one and so that every candidate shall have an opportunity to present his views to his fellow citizens in an effort to gain their suffrage.
The Australian Constitution enshrines but a few of those principles. The Commonwealth Electoral Act does not enshrine them all. The Constitution does not guarantee the vote for all adults; it does not preclude a means test or any other test for the vote; it does not ensure that all divisions will have approximately the same population, and it does not ensure that a State shall be divided into divisions. These things are provided for by the statute which we are now amending. The. only safeguard which the Constitution affords is that the House shall continue for not longer than three years, that the number of members for each State shall be in proportion to its population, and that no person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the State Parliament shall be prevented by any Commonwealth law from voting for both Houses of this Parliament.
There is no provision anywhere relating to equal access to propaganda. This principle has been increasingly abused as the years have gone by. There is a greater concentration of propaganda in fewer hands in Australia than in any other country on our side of the iron curtain. Three-quarters of the daily newspapers in Australia are published by the Melbourne “ Herald “, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and their subsidiaries and affiliates.
The bill now before us reproduces the bill which was introduced last year. It does not make many or very important amendments. It is a bill for discussion principally in committee. We shall then move several amendments which, we believe, will improve the act.
There are certain matters, however, that I should mention at this second-reading stage. One concerns the re-enactment of a blot on the Australian statute-book. I refer to the fact that this bill prevents, as last year’s bill prevented, aborigines from voting for this Parliament if they live in Queensland, Western Australia or the Northern Territory. This bill will re-enact that ban. The present act denies the vote to aboriginal natives of Australia, Asia, Africa or the islands of the Pacific except New Zealand, unless they are entitled to vote for the more numerous House of a State Parliament, or have served or are serving in the defence force. This bill will repeal that sub-section of the act and insert a new section which will deny the vote to Australian aborigines in the same circumstances as the vote was denied to all aborigines previously.
The obnoxious thing about the original enactment and the re-enactment is that the vote is being denied to aborigines because they are aborigines. The vote is not being denied to Australian citizens, as aborigines are, because they are nomadic, illiterate, spendthrift, unhygienic or for any of the reasons which are commonly advanced for depriving aborigines of the vote. We shall vote against the re-enactment, as we announced last year when the previous bill was introduced, and as we announced some weeks ago when we knew that the reintroduction of this bill was imminent. If this sub-section is not re-enacted, aborigines and other Australians will not be able to vote if they are nomadic because people, can enrol, and therefore vote, only if they have a real place of living. If other Australians are nomadic - for instance, if they move from place to place in a caravan - they cannot be enrolled and, therefore, cannot vote. So, under the act aborigines would not be able to vote if they were nomadic.
– They can as long as they remain within a division. It could be a large division.
– However large a division is I do not think a person can enrol unless he has a real place of living. Aborigines should not be denied the vote on the ground that in some cases they may be illiterate, because other Australians are not denied the vote on that ground. In fact, other Australians are given assistance to vote. No Australians other than aborigines are denied the vote or are prevented from enrolling because they may be spendthrift, unhygienic and so on. This is a thoroughly obnoxious requirement of our law. Hitherto and, if the Government has its way, in future we shall deny the vote to aborigines if they live in Queensland, Western Aus tralia and the Northern Territory. We shall grant them the vote - we have to under the Constitution - if they have the vote in other States, as they do. I am indebted to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) for the information that aborigines can cast completely valid votes. There is one polling place at Wreck Bay in his electorate where some scores of aborigines are enrolled and vote. It is one of the very few polling places in Australia where no informal votes are cast.
As the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) rightly stated this afternoon, the Commonwealth is held responsible overseas in matters of aboriginal welfare. We plead constantly that the Constitution does not permit us to count aborigines in the census upon which the distribution of seats is based, and that this Parliament cannot pass laws concerning aborigines. The rest of the world will not readily acquiesce in that excuse, because the relevant sections of the Constitution can be repealed if the people so decide at a referendum - but there cannot be a referendum on the subject until this Parliament gives the people the opportunity to vote at a referendum. A couple of years ago the Constitutional Review Committee recommended unanimously that the section precluding aborigines from being counted in the census should be repealed. We have no doubt that such a proposal would receive the overwhelming support of the Australian people. Aborigines should be counted in the census, and the distribution for this Parliament should be based on a count of all citizens of Australia, including aborigines.
Although the States are responsible in so many respects for aboriginal welfare, they are not accountable internationally because they are not recognized internationally. No representatives of the States are given audience at any international gatherings. The representatives of the Commonwealth Government alone are given that audience. In the interests of the whole nation we must accept promptly the responsibility in these matters.
It is anomalous, as well as unnecessary, for us to deprive aborigines of the vote if they do not have the vote for some State parliaments, and to grant them the vote if they have it for other State parliaments. The Constitution requires that we should give the vote for both Houses of Parliament to anybody who has a vote for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State in which he resides. It does not prevent us from giving the vote to any person who does not have the vote for the more numerous House of the Parliament of his State. There is no necessity for us to re-enact this provision. We can delete it this week or next.
It applies, as I have said, in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Something has already been said about conditions in Queensland. Conditions in Western Australia would be better if the Legislative Council of that State had not rejected bills which the Hawke Government sent up to it and which, I dare say, other governments sent up to it. Bills were sent from the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia to the Legislative Council two or three years ago and they were rejected by that Legislative Council. That is another illustration of the fact that legislative councils have never been guardians of civil liberties or human rights in Australia.
Then we have the position in the Northern Territory. We are not beholden to State governments in any matter there. We are entirely responsible for aboriginal welfare in the Northern Territory. Aboriginal natives are entitled to enrol or vote in the Northern Territory only if they are not wards as defined by the welfare ordinance, or if they are or have been members of the defence forces. They can vote unless they are declared to be wards, but they are automatically declared to be wards. At some time during every aboriginal’s minority, he will be gazetted in the Northern Territory “ Gazette “ as a ward. At the moment, the aborigines who have not been gazetted as wards in the Northern Territory - that is, the only aborigines who have a vote for the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and the House of Representatives in this Parliament - number 71. Of that number, 52 had their declaration as wards revoked when they married citizens. That means that only 19 aborigines are en titled to vote on the ground that they were never declared as wards. It is highly illustrative of the paternal attitude which has obtained in recent years in the Northern Territory that although aborigines can have the right to vote we deny it to them by administrative action.
It is true that aborigines are not the only persons who can be declared to be wards, but has anybody heard of a person other than an aboriginal being declared to be a ward under that ordinance? There is no compulsion on the Administration to declare aborigines as wards but, as a settled administrative policy, every aboriginal is automatically declared to be a ward in the Northern Territory and is thus deprived of his suffrage. Does anybody believe that there are only nineteen aborigines in the Northern Territory who live as do the rest of the Australian community? Are we to believe that there are only nineteen aborigines there who can read, write, earn their livings and conduct themselves in an assimilated or integrated manner?
I trust that I have commented sufficiently on the purely internal circumstances which should persuade us to take this opportunity to clean up the Australian statute-book and expunge this blot from it. But there are also external circumstances which should persuade us, or even compel us, to this course. Australia was an initial signatory to the Charter of the United Nations. This is the law of our country.
– Do you mean that the charter is the law of Australia?
– Yes; you will find it as a schedule to a 1945 act of this Parliament. Article 55 of the charter states - . . the United Nations shall promote:
Article 56 states -
All Members pledge themselves to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the Organization for the achievement of the purposes set forth in Article 55.
In the past few weeks, we have heard much in the United Nations about joint and separate action for the achievement of such humanitarian purposes. In furtherance of
That article was adopted unanimously by the United Nations.
– It was signed by the Soviet Union, too; it means nothing.
– That is a shameful, cynical attitude to take and is in accordance with the. honorable gentleman’s telecasts on similar subjects. The article was adopted unanimously by the United Nations in 1948. No nation voted against the declaration as a whole, 48 nations voted in favour of it and eight abstained. They were the nations in the Soviet bloc, as we call it, in addition to Saudi Arabia and South Africa. That means that there is no question that all the nations which expressed their views on this matter are in favour of it. We have undertaken the obligation to. give all our citizens a vote for our Parliaments. As this country has- acknowledged in the United Nations in the past few weeks, human rights are not a matter of domestic jurisdiction under Article 2, paragraph 7, of the charter. We are clearly in breach of our protestations and, I believe, of our obligations.
More recently, in 1957, Australia attended an International Labour Organization conference which adopted a convention concerning the protection and. integration of indigenous and other tribal and semi-tribal populations in independent countries. The convention acknowledged that there may be social, economic and cultural conditions which render it- necessary to make special laws for the protection
Enjoyment of the general rights of citizenship, without discrimination, shall not be prejudiced in any way by such special measures of protection.
We attended that conference, although admittedly the Australian Government abstained from voting.. We are members of an organization which proclaims that although there may be special protective measures for. indigenous persons in any country, those persons should not thereby be deprived of the rights of citizenship. I greatly regret that, after consultations with the federal departments concerned and with the State governments, the. Commonwealth Government has said, that it does not propose, for various pretexts or reasons, to ratify this convention. There is no question that the world as a whole will think that Australia is falling down on its obligations until it gives aborigines a vote for both Houses of this Parliament, in every State and in both Territories. They have it in one Territory now. Why not in the other?
I have been speaking about the reenactment of this blot in our electoral legislation. I now wish to direct the attention of the House to a lost opportunity to modernize our electoral machinery with respect to those matters which could have been done by statute, which would not require constitutional reform, and upon which the Constitutional Review Committee reported. The Constitutional Review Committee reported to the Parliament on 1st October, 1958, with summary reasons, and on 26th November, 1959, with very full reasons, on several subjects which concern this statute. I cannot understand why the Government did not carry out these recommendations when bringing this bill forward. It is no secret that the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who was a member of that committee, and who, as Parliamentary Secretary to the former Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), was particularly concerned in drawing up a new electoral bill, had proposed to make these reforms in that legislation. I expect that all members of the Constitutional Review Committee will accept our amendments on these subjects. The” committee recommended proposals for regulating, the appointment of distribution commissioners, and for ensuring that there were no’ gerrymanders either by
lapse of time or by distortion of population - that is, that there would be electorates of approximately equal size - and that redistribution of electorates would take place at intervals of no more than 10 years. This recommendation was unanimous. It was strong. It was a recommendation by equal numbers of the Government parties and of the Opposition parties, including senators as well as honorable members of this House. I need hardly remind honorable members that the members of this House whom the Government parties- elected were the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) and the former honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Joske, who is now a. distinguished member of the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
I repeat that these recommendations were unanimous as was the recommendation concerning the census of aborigines. There is no question that a basic feature of electoral reform should be equal electorates. I’n dealing with that subject, the Constitutional Review Committee had this to say -
The Committee feels constrained to say, however, that the one-fifth margin on either side of the quota for a State which the Act allows may disturb quite seriously a principle which the Committee believes to be beyond question in the election of members of the national Parliament of a Federation, namely, that the votes of the electors should, as far as possible, be accorded equal value. The full application of the margin each way to two divisions in a State could result in the number of electors in one division totalling 50 per cent, more than the number of electors in the other division. Such a possible disparity in the value of votes is inconsistent with the full realization of democracy.
To give an illustration, if the quota were 40,000, a distribution would be permissible which gave one electorate 32,000 electors and a neighbouring one 48,000 electors. The evidence before the committee made it quite clear that it is easy to have a distribution where the margin is no more than onetenth; that is to say, where, for instance, the variation is from 36,000 to 44,000.
– It is usually less than thar.
Mir. WHITLAM; - lit is. In fact, there are a minute number of cases where, at the time of distribution, the one-tenth margin is exceeded. It may be said that some electorates will become unduly large if there is to be a margin of no more than one-tenth, but in actual fact no electorate distributed within that margin would be nearly as large as the electorates which honorable members represented in this place as late as 1949. The committee also said -
The adoption of a maximum margin of onetenth would make a very material contribution towards preventing possible manipulation of the divisional structure of a State for political purposes.
The other factor is that a re-distribution should take place at no greater intervals than ten years. From South Australia, we learn of the electoral distortion which can flow from having no re-distribution. For a quarter of a century there was no redistribution in South Australia and in consequence, some city electorates came to have three times the population of other city electorates and some country electorates three times the population of other country electorates.
– What about New South Wales? In that State we have an excellent example of gerrymandering.
– That is completely inaccurate. In New South Wales, the distribution is mathematically the most precise in Australia. The only criticism I make of the New South Wales system is that the country quota is smaller than the- city quota. I believe that the principle followed in Tasmania and Victoria is the correct one, namely, that the same number of persons should be on the roll for all electorates wherever they are. We do not believe that one can achieve a better distribution of population by distorting the distribution of electorates.
– How do you get over the problem of Kalgoorlie?
– I have already referred to the problem of an electorate such as Kalgoorlie and, one might add, Leichhardt and Kennedy. I have pointed out that, with a margin of one-tenth, those electorates would, not be appreciably larger, if at all, and they would still be very much smaller than the electorates which bore those names twelve years ago. Furthermore, if aborigines were given a vote in
Australia, those electorates, which are the three in which most aborigines in Australia live, would in fact have smaller areas than they have now.
– That is wrong, because you would have to amend the Constitution.
– You would not have to amend the Constitution.
– You do not count the aborigines in the number of voters.
– We can still give the aborigines in those electorates a vote. I appreciate the point the Minister has made; the aborigines could not be counted in fixing the quota. The three electorates, however, could be given the minimum number of electors permitted by the one-tenth margin. Then, with the inclusion of aborigines, the number of electors would equal the quota.
Let me illustrate the distortion which can occur by lapse of time. In New South Wales, at the time of the last distribution, while the quota was not departed from at all significantly, there was in fact a very great difference in the populations because of migrants and infants. We shall not be moving an amendment to cover this position in the act, although it is an unfortunate feature that the voters whom the distribution commissioners have to consider in dividing a State into electorates do not include the whole population.
– They include only those who are enrolled.
– And do not include migrants and infants. One would think that the fact that there was a great number of migrants or infants in an electorate would entitle the electorate to a smaller number of electors. The distribution commissioners, unfortunately, invariably ignore that feature. I shall give the position on that point which has arisen in New South Wales in recent years. At the time of the last census, 30th June, 1954. the most populous electorate in New South Wales, my electorate of Werriwa, had a population of 86,952. The electorate with the smallest population, that of Warringah, had 64,238.
– Not voters?
– No, population, the difference being due to the fact that in my electorate 48.24 per cent, of the population was enrolled and in Warringah the figure was 69.88 per cent. That illustrates the vast demographic difference between different electorates, for which this act makes no allowance whatever.
– You have a young, virile population in your electorate.
– That is true. It is a young population and, also, many of the parents there are not yet eligible for enrolment. By the end of last month the position had become still more distorted. In Warringah there were 64,000 and in my electorate 121,000. The position is worse in Victoria. At the time of the last census, the most populous electorate in Victoria was Lalor, which had a population of 98,345, and the least populous was Higgins, which had 63,074. The proportion of the population on the rolls was 43.38 per cent, and 69.25 per cent, respectively. At the present time, the population of Lalor is 184,000 and the population of Higgins is 58,000. That is, my colleague represents three and a half times as many people as does the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt).
This may be a relatively academic subject. I know that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) is interested in it, because when he was a university lecturer the only contribution he ever made to academic writing was a justification of the South Australian electoral system. It was a real tour de force. The figures show that distribution under this act is quite unbalanced. The task of representation in this Parliament is very uneven as between members.
The concluding point that I wish to make concerns the method of voting itself. Honorable gentlemen have frequently referred to the very great number of informal votes for the Senate. The Minister gave me an answer to a question on this subject on 10th May last year, concerning the percentage of informal votes at the Senate elections in 1958. The percentage of informal votes rises very greatly with the increasing number of candidates foi whom electors must vote in order to cast a valid vote. In New South
Wales, there were 21 candidates contesting the Senate elections. In one electorate there were 1 8.4 per cent, informal votes. In Victoria, seventeen candidates contested the Senate elections and there was one electorate in which there were 16.01 per cent, informal votes. In Western Australia, fifteen candidates contested the Senate elections and in one electorate there were 11.51 per cent, informal votes. One could go through all the electorates in this way. It is quite clear that the greater the number of candidates for the Senate the greater the percentage of informal votes. This is no reflection on the Australian electorate. The percentage of Australians able to read and write is as great as the percentage of people in any other country who are able to read and write, but our voting system for the Senate is the most complex voting system in the world. It is true that in the United States there are sometimes ballot-papers which have upon them very many more candidates and very many more positions, but in the United States one can vote for the Democratic or Republican ticket and the vote is valid. One casts, in effect, one vote.
Some method will have to be devised for effectuating the wishes of the majority of Australian citizens. The method we shall propose is that a vote for the Senate shall be valid if preference is indicated for the number of candidates required to be elected. That is, if there are five vacancies in the Senate, which is the usual happy position, one will cast a valid vote if he indicates a preference among five candidates. In the case of a double dissolution, one would cast a valid vote if he indicated a preference among ten candidates.
– What would happen if you had to go further in distributing preferences?
– It would be optional preferential voting, which is a well-known feature in electoral systems. There is little doubt that the number of informal votes would greatly drop if that system were introduced, and it is in fact followed in a great number of other legislatures. There is no legislature, I believe, which requires such a complex voting system as we have and where, accordingly, invalidity is so pronounced.
The other suggestion concerns voting for the House of Representatives. A candidate has a very definite advantage when his name is at the top of the ballot-paper. We propose to move in committee an amendment which will ensure that position on the ballot-paper for the House of Representatives shall be determined in the same way as position on the ballot-paper has been determined in Senate elections for the last twenty years, that is, by lot.
– You should have the sitting member on top.
– No, I would be prepared to forgo that advantage just as senators do. Why should we be deprived of a right that Senate candidates have? The consequence of twenty years’ voting for the Senate with position on the ballot-paper determined by lot appears quite clearly from the fact that Senator McKenna is the thirtieth senator in the alphabetical list of senators and Senator McManus is thirtyfirst. That is, the Senate is evenly divided alphabetically.
– That would surely be as a result of coincidence or accident.
– Let me give the figures which will show why I suggest that it is not accidental. In the alphabetical list of members of the House of Representatives there are 95 members with names beginning with letters from A to M, in the top half of the alphabet. There are 29 members whose names begin with letters in the lower half of the alphabet. That is not a coincidence.
– Did you check the telephone book?
– I would be prepared to make that test. I am quite certain that the telephone book would not have three times as many people with names beginning with letters in the first half of the alphabet. There are 95 members of this House whose surnames begin with letters between A and M and 29 whose surnames begin with letters between N and Z. Of Government members, the names of 61 begin with letters in the top half of the alphabet, and the names of sixteen begin with letters in the bottom half. The figures for the Opposition are 34 and 13 respectively.
– What is really relevant is whether they got the -first position on the ballot-paper or a lower position. A name beginning with B might still be in number two position.
– There is a very definite system of selection by the Government parties, I believe, to choose candidates in narrowly held electorates whose surnames begin with a letter higher than that of the sitting member. We can debate this in detail at the committee stage. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby), who is interjecting, is a very clear example of this. He just beat the sitting member at the last general election because he was above him on the ballot-paper. This can be proved quite clearly in committee.
As honorable members interject, I can see that the House is getting a little hilarious at the end of a strenuous week. Honorable gentlemen know the principal points concerning which amendments will be moved in committee. The figures which will be given in committee will prove that there is an advantage of somewhere between 2 per cent, and 4 per cent, of votes to the person who is on top of the ballot-paper. In recent years, the seats which have changed hands have usually changed in favour of the person whose name was on the ballot-paper above the name of the sitting member. At this second-reading stage, I hope I have given food for thought to some members who will follow in this debate. I hope that over the intervening week-end Government supporters will .prepare some .arguments instead of having only interjections to refute the very reasonable amendments which we will move at the committee stage.
.- I shall give an alphabetical favoritism to the points raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and will deal with his last point last. The Deputy Leader of the Oppositon, rightly so, treated this amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act in a more than semilegal way. There would be a lot in this bill for those in this House who are legally qualified to argue. But I believe that the debate not only will enter the legal interpretation field but also will wander over many other fields, because this is a bill in which every member is interested as it is legislation which, in the long run, will decide the political future of each one of us. The difficulty in trying to amend the act is that you cannot get one projected amendment that will prove popular with every member of this House, on either this side or the other side, because .most of the legislation is looked at in the light of how it will affect each member personally at the next general election when he goes before the people.
I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Electoral Act and elections were the fabric of Australia’s democracy. He then gave four principles upon which this matter should be decided. The first was that all adults should be granted a voice without test of any sort, whether means test or racial test, as long as -they are residents of Australia. I assume that that is a correct interpretation, of the honorable member’s remarks. Secondly, all electorates should have roughly the same population. Thirdly, the Parliament should face the electorate at regular intervals. And fourthly, all candidates should have equal access to propaganda. Based on those four principles and the fact that the Parliamentary system or the Electoral Act is the fabric of Australia’s democracy, I think that one .could compound a fair amount of argument against some of the proposals which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition put forward.
I believe it will be only a matter of time before natives are given a vote for the Federal Parliament. I cannot see the possibility of our suddenly deciding in this Parliament, this week, that every native in Australia should be entitled to a vote at a federal election. The more I have looked at this matter the more difficulties I have been able to see. I believe that the projected select committee which will consist, I think, of four members from this side of the House and three from the other side, will iron out the anomalies and find out the difficulties that would beset the proposal if we brought it in straight away. If they so desire, members of the committee from the other side of the House will be able to submit a minority report.
The proposal put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to me to have as many defects as at present exist in the act or in the present proposal. Because I do not write shorthand, I may be pardoned if I do not quote verbatim what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. I think he said that you would not have to give the vote to the nomadic native. He said that the vote could not legally be given to a nomadic native because under the Electoral Act a voter must have a place of residence. Imagine the difficulty of people in Western Australia deciding which native had a residence and which native did not. What is the definition, of a native residence? These are questions which will present difficulties until we decide on some system whereby we can bring into the voting sphere those natives who we believe to be qualified to vote. I realize that any restriction on voting qualifications for natives would be Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated - that every or.e should have a vote without being subject to any test, whether a colour test, racial test, means test, or otherwise. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not elaborate on the Opposition’s proposed amendments because, he said, most of the discussion on this measure would take place in committee. However, I think thai his alternative would surely be objectionable and most difficult to implement. He mentioned that a bill was introduced in the Western Australian Parliament and defeated in the upper house. That is quite correct. Sometimes there is a sigh of relief from some sections of the community when an upper house defeats legislation. I do not say it happened in this case.
Criticism has been levelled that we are frightened to give the natives a vote because of the possible impact of doing so upon the electorate. It has been said that the Government parties might as a consequence suffer the loss of some seats. I think it is unwise to assume that natives, if given a vote, will vote in any particular way. After all, they are capable of making up their own minds. I suppose that a large number of natives in Australia are more fit to vote at a federal election than a lot of people who already have the right to vote. Look at the informal voting, even in a straight House of Representatives election. All that is required is for a person to put the figures 1, 2 and 3 beside candidates’ names. Sometimes it is only necessary to put the figures 1 and 2; but there is a fair percentage of infor- mal votes. This shows that some of those to whom we have given this right cannot register a simple vote. If aborigines had the right to vote it might have a decided effect on an electorate such as Kalgoorlie.
When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking, I think the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) interjected that in Queensland the natives already have the vote, or a large number of them have it, so the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would not have any effect. 1 have here figures from the Commonwealth “Year-Book” for 1960 which gives the number of natives in Australia in 1954. The figures are in two sections, the first relating to natives who can. be found in a census and the other section gives estimated numbers. The total number of natives in the first section is 26,363, and in the second section 39,319. Of the 26,363 natives, fewer than 1,500 were in New South Wales, and only 141 were in Victoria. Those natives, spread over those States, could not make the slightest difference in a general election unless they were all, for instance, in the electorate of Maribyrnong.
– They all get a vote there.
– If they do, they would not affect the position there in the future.
– There are 38 full-bloods.
– In Victoria there were 141. In Queensland there were 7,000 natives, the majority of whom got a vote. In South Australia there were 740, in Western Australia 6,500, and in the Northern Territory 10,000. In the Northern Territory there is only one seat which could be influenced, I suppose, one way or another. I think that most of the criticism that has been offered is not worth worrying about There are 26,000 natives in Australia and there were 5,384,624 electors entitled to vote at the 1958 election.
Then, of course, a great deal was said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I do not think we should feel like orphans on this question of the Declaration of Human Rights. Three times a year a number of us in this House receive bills for the education of our children. By quoting the Declaration of Human Rights we could prove that we had no need to pay those bills because under the Declaration, which I am assured forms a part of the laws of this country, we are not supposed to do so. The Declaration of Human Rights can be used to prove or disprove a point according as the mood takes you.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said - and here again I am relying on my memory - that the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), when he was Parliamentary Secretary to a previous Minister for the Interior, had drawn up and had ready to submit to the Parliament amendments of the act designed to introduce the quota system. I hope that when the honorable member for Canning returns from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association regional conference he will give us his version of that matter.
I have just received some figures in relation to the quota system. The quota figures for the various States as at 31st March - I am talking of average enrolments, not population - show that for New South Wales the figure was 45,852. If we turn to the election of 1958, we see that very few of the seats in New South Wales with that quota came within the prescribed percentage one way or the other. The quota of 46,000 for Victoria is a bit higher, and again there are one or two electorates which are far removed from the quota. I think that is quite understandable and that it is inevitable. A census is to be taken this year, and there will probably be a redistribution of electoral boundaries following the next election. This is not the sort of thing that you can guarantee from day to day. There has been a terrific influx of population in the electorate of the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden). The honorable member for Bruce has 70,000 electors in his electorate. If a rural electorate in Victoria contained only 25,000 or 35,000 voters, you could not even up the position by transferring 10,000 electors from the division of Bruce to that electorate in Victoria. The boundaries laid down in the act are subject to certain geographical features and certain concentrations of population. It is no easy matter to adjust one electorate without making an overall adjustment throughout the country.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition advocated drawing for position on the ballot-papers for the election for the House of Representatives. As my surname begins with “ C “, I think it is highly democratic to retain the present system.
– We will not see you after the next election.
– I do not bet, but I am always interested in good odds. In view of the fabric of Australia’s democracy, I think we must consider the suggestion about drawing for positions on the ballot-paper in the light of the fact that voting is compulsory. We shall be only kidding ourselves if we decide to re-arrange the ballot-paper so that those whose names fall alphabetically between “ A “ and “ G “ or “ A “ and “ E “ will not have an advantage. What we should concentrate on doing is to find some way to prevent people from voting one. two or three - either up or down the ballotpaper - when they vote at a political election. Surely we should aim at political education. We should seek to amend the act so as to obviate the high rate of informal votes.
It should not be a difficult thing for somebody to remember the candidate from the time he enters a polling booth until he picks up a pencil to record his vote. In 99 per cent of cases the elector has a card in his hand. I understand that this House is comprised of 95 members whose names commence with letters between “ A “ and “ M “ and 29 members whose names commence with letters between “ M “ and “ Z “. The only electorate for which I have figures is that of the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin). Out of 9,500 electors in one sub-division, 6,000 names fell within the “ A “ to “ M “ section and 3,422 names fell within the “ N “ to “ Z “ section. So you have two to one in favour of the first part of the alphabet and only one-third within the second half. You would have to draw for alphabetical positions with the idea that those candidates with names commencing with letters “ A “ to “ E” would have some advantage, but those with names commencing with letters “ E “ to “ Z “ would have less advantage.
Figures for compulsory voting where people are forced to the polls under section 128a, sub-section 12, demonstrate how necessary it is for something to be done about this matter. In the Senate election of 1958, the informal votes cast out of a total of 5,141,000 votes amounted to 529,050, or approximately 10 per cent, of the total. I realize that there is a difficulty about Senate elections. The names are allotted as the result of a ballot by the parties. People may still make a 10 per cent, error, although the great majority of them are supplied with how-to-vote cards. In the last House of Representatives election, out of 5,100,000 votes cast, 147,616, or 3i per cent, were informal. In political elections people do not go to the polling booth because they want to, but because they are forced to vote. On the figures for last year, I think the excuses for failing to vote must have been of the very top level because only 3,000 persons had to pay the penalty imposed by the Federal Government for failing to record a vote.
In the Canadian elections of 1958, 9,131,200 people were entitled to vote, of whom 7,357,139 recorded a vote. It is impossible to get any record of informal votes from any source to which I have access. I do not know whether that is because there were no informal votes or because Canada does not keep a record of them. In the United States presidential campaign election, 106,974,000 people were entitled to vote, according to the rolls. Of that number 34,221,463 voted for Kennedy and 34,108,582 voted for Nixon. About half a million people voted for other candidates. That made a poll of 68,800,000 people. No record of informal votes is available. Again, I do not know whether the people in the United States do rot vote informally, or whether no record is kept of informal votes.
– They vote with a machine.
– Not all the votes are recorded on a machine. A machine is only used in some States. In other States I believe there is a most complicated ballotpaper; it includes a lot of questions. One source of information has said that the only type of informal vote is a scratched out ballot-paper. The practice of scoring out ballot-papers is adopted by people who go along to the polling booth to indicate that they wish to vote but who do not think there is a candidate worth voting for.
In the United Kingdom elections in 1959 - there is a voluntary system of voting in the United Kingdom - 13,750,000 votes were cast for the Conservatives and their supporters. Labour received 12,216,000 votes, the Liberals 1,640,000, the Communists 30,000 and the other parties 223,000 votes. The number who voted represented some 78 per cent, of the total number of electors.
These figures show that with a system of voluntary voting you get in all these countries a poll of about 80 per cent, of the people. Those who vote want to record a vote, they know whom they want to vote for and they will vote although they are under no compulsion to do so. I think that one of the greatest faults of the Commonwealth Electoral Act is that it forces people to go to the polls although they have no interest in the political scene and do not know what the election issues are. This is why we get so many informal votes and why we have this trouble about candidates and groups of candidates wanting to be placed first on the ballot-paper. As I said earlier, I think that obviously I have an advantage since my name begins with “ C “. Instead of juggling positions about, we should cease to force people to go to the polls. If that were done, the position of a candidates’s name on the ballot-paper would not matter. Under a voluntary system of voting nobody would get any advantage from a particular position on the ballot-paper, because every voter would know for whom he wanted to vote and would record a formal vote for the candidate of his choice.
Among other amendments to be made in the principal act by this bill is an amendment to section 85 which is designed to give due respect to the religious beliefs of people. I think that this provision will meet with general acclaim throughout the community. It will be approved not only by people of particular religious beliefs who are affected but also by everybody else, since in this country we have a greater degree of religious tolerance than can be found in most other countries.
The bill will also amend section 164b of the principal act by providing for an increase in the size of posters to 1,200 square inches. I have mixed feelings about this. Perhaps this amendment will lead to some sort of a rat race in which we shall see names plastered on huge posters all over every electorate. If this happens, the net result will be an increase in the expenses of candidates and the outcome will be much the same as if we maintained the present restriction on the size of posters.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition laid down four principles and said, among other things, that all candidates should have equal access to the various mediums of propaganda. The advent of television will make a great impact upon federal elections. Only limited use of television was made in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1958 general election campaign, but there are now two or three television channels in each State, and television will therefore become a great medium for electoral purposes. This in itself will pose financial as well as other problems. Any candidate who adopts the old style of electioneering with meetings in the streets of city and suburbs will probably lose more votes than he gains if he interrupts viewers’ favourite programmes such as “Maverick” or “Colt .45”. However, I suppose that we have to accept the fact that television will be used for electoral propaganda purposes and acknowledge that all candidates should have equal access to it in advertising themselves to the electors. Here, we have to be completely fair about giving a new candidate a chance against an established member who, as I said earlier, has a great advantage in any election campaign.
The Opposition has foreshadowed an amendment designed to confine polling to the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as at present. I consider that this is a fairly sound idea. I cannot imagine any one requiring more than ten hours to get to a polling place to record a vote. I look at the matter from the standpoint of the interests of the people who serve in various capacities in and outside polling booths. For them, the two hours of duty between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. are the worst two hours of the day. At that time of day, darkness is descending. Furthermore, in this country, elections are held on Saturdays, and on Saturday evenings most people want to go to some sort of entertainment. I think that an amendment such as has been foreshadowed by the Opposition has much to commend it. If an elector cannot get to a polling booth by mule train, donkey or some other means-
– Or by hovercraft!
– If he cannot get to a booth by means such as I have mentioned or by hovercraft, by 6 p.m., he will not get there in the two hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. These times are not like the old days when the farmers worked until sundown and then went to town to vote. Even the dairy-farmers who have to milk the cows in the evening - or at least start the milking machines - can get to town at some time during the day in the modern motor cars which most people have in these times. The electoral authorities provide adequate means of voting within easy reach of the people, and no one has to travel over vast distances* to record a vote.
– The Commonwealth Government, unlike the New South Wales Government, encourages postal voting. This Government does not want to disfranchise people as does the New South Wales Government.
– I suggest that perhaps the honorable member ought to have made that point in his own speech. However, I do not mind letting him have a little of my time, which has almost expired anyway, because- 1 have already made all the points that I wanted to make.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I bring to the notice of the House an important matter. During the last week or ten days, there has been accumulating evidence that unemployment is increasing in Australia and has become a serious problem in a number of areas’. This evidence has been met by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) with explanations dealing with transfers of labour and seasonal changes and with assertions that the economy is in a stronger position as a result of what has happened. Any one who knows anything of the circumstances knows that these explanations and assertions either are the result of definite ignorance of the situation or are made deliberately in order to put a favorable complexion on the circumstances for political purposes.
We know that over the last few weeks the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has made a widespread survey of manufacturing industry in Australia. This survey has established as a fact that aggregate unemployment now stands at 82,000 unemployed - as high as any figure reached in this country over the last twenty years. The survey has shown, also, that the rate at which unemployment is rising is increasing rather than stabilizing or easing off. The survey has shown, too, that there is very much unused capacity in industry and, further, that there is a great deal of what I term misemployment in the economy. Among those who are in fact employed are men who are skilled, for example, in the building industry or the engineering industry and who, having lost their jobs in those industries, have been able to get unskilled work elsewhere. As a result, skilled technicians and carpenters are now employed in unskilled capacities.
The survey which I have mentioned has shown, furthermore, that there are in certain parts of Australia very serious pockets of unemployment which are far greater than is the average level throughout the country. A good many country areas and fairly large country cities are in much the same position as is Rockhampton, where the aggregate number of those unemployed is 1,299. In a good many country towns in Victoria 300 or 400 workers are unemployed. That is not just a temporary feature of the economy. These circumstances have existed for months. They really mean that economic development of these towns and areas has come to an end, and that economic activity has stabilized or even begun to decline.
Unemployment is serious in particular industries. I should like to read to the House part of a letter which I received to-day from Furnishing Textiles Proprietary Limited, 71 Victoria Crescent, Abbotsford, in my electorate. It states -
We confirm having telegraphed you as follows: - Have dismissed to-day further 30 people making total reduction 100 out of maximum employment of 170. Copy of this sent to Carmody Department of Trade. Furnishing Textiles”.
Then it continues -
Frankly the situation is desperate. We made this decision only after long discussions with our customers, with the Textile Union and amongst our own Board and Executives.
We cannot see any light at all. We have a number of small orders which will soon be woven out, but they are insufficient to keep more than 6 to 7 weavers working out of a total complement of 36.
That is the situation in the textile industry almost all over Australia.
I turn now to another form of industry. To-day I received a telegram from a very old, long-established, very efficient heavy engineering concern which has been exporting to markets in almost all parts of the world for a number of years. The telegram reads as follows: - - Duplicate of telegram sent to Prime Minister Treasurer Minister for Transport Quote reference Minister for Transport telegram Chamber Manufactures published todays Sun we too are astounded at Government attitude stop Sincerely invite you visit our works to view situation first hand at your convenience any hour night or day unquote As our federal member requests your support Chamber policy in interest of your electorate.
It was signed by Alan McDonald and Neil McDonald for A. H. McDonald and Company Proprietary Limited, Bridge-road, Richmond. In this section of the engineering industry, which is totally unconnected with the motor car industry, the problems are as serious as that telegram reveals.
The general level of unemployment, the stagnation of the economy and the occurrence of severe pockets of unemployment in various parts of the country reveal a serious economic situation. It is not only a question of there being a greater level of unemployment; it is a question also of economic stagnation. The rate of growth of the economy is quite unsatisfactory. Such a state of affairs has not occurred as the result of a natural catastrophe. It is the result of deliberate government policy. The present level of unemployment, the stagnation of production and the setback in housing are all the deliberate result, as I have said, of government policy. The first act of policy which brought about this result was the removal of import controls in February of last year, which led to a run-down of overseas balances. In order to prevent a crisis in the external trade situation, which in itself would have been the result of government action, the Govern, ment had to apply a severe credit squeeze.
The credit squeeze has produced a very serious situation in various parts of the country. For example, 100 employees of the Castlemaine woollen mills have been put off since Christmas. In such localities there is no alternative employment. The possibility of transferring from one place to another does not exist. All these things are the result of a haphazard policy which is quite inadequate to meet the needs of the economy. The Government said it wanted to cut down imports, to restrict speculative building and to cut back the motor car industry. So what did it do? It applied a general credit control which depressed the whole of the economy, particularly manufacturers and producers who themselves have not enough capital to draw upon and who have to rely upon borrowing from other people. Those who can rely upon their own funds or reserves are not adversely affected by the credit squeeze. Sections of industry which make reasonable profits are quite adversely affected, but those sections that make excessive monopoly profits are not adversely affected by the squeeze. The result of the adoption of a policy of this kind is that not only is unemployment caused but also that production is cut back, particularly in places which can least stand the strain. lt is not surprising, Mr. Speaker, that the Chamber of Manufactures should have inserted, at enormous expense, advertisements in the daily press which obviously are designed to force the Government to change its policy rather than to force a change of government. I have no illusions about what the Chamber of Manufactures is trying to do. It is not trying to change the Government; it is trying to knock a bit of sense into the hard heads of Government supporters so that the Government will change its policy in time to win the next election. We realize what the situation is. The Chamber of Manufactures must realize that the kind of government which is now in office can never produce the type of economic policy that is necessary for the rapid development of this country.
– Do you support that press statement?
– I support this protest to the hilt. Those honorable members who are interjecting, those who are not concerned with employment, those who do not worry about unemployment, those who are not concerned about economic stagnation would surely be concerned, as I am sure the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is, about the threat of communism. But do you think we will be able to meet that threat with a stagnating economy and unemployment? Do you think that, with the inadequate economic policy the Government has pursued over the last ten years, we will be able to keep the Commonwealth of Australia in the forefront of the economic advance? Australia is lagging behind the European countries, which in their turn are lagging behind others. It is not of much use for the Chamber of Manufactures to hope to be able to force a change of policy, because it is up against a government which is committed to private monopoly and exploitation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, no one is astonished at the fact that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has spent some time to-night on the issue of unemployment. The fact of the matter is that he is not concerned about unemployment as such.
– Is he not interested in Cuba?
– He is the pretending Leader of the Opposition, and no doubt he will direct our attention to Cuba next week. He is the Australian representative of Fidel Castro. The honorable member is not concerned about unemployment as an issue. What he is concerned with is to use any degree of unemployment there may be as a political issue. The great hope of the Australian Labour Party is that there will be more unemployment. Indeed, its political prayer is, “ Give us more unemployment “. That has been its cry throughout the years. Not one honorable member opposite has been persuaded - indeed, I do not think we could kid them with carrots - to rise and explain away the attitude of Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In this country a great number of people move at one time of the year or another from one industry to another. Many thousands of Australians, for better or for worse, depend upon seasonal employment. The impact of that is to be seen in the eloquently expressed sentiments of my friend, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who thought that a tolerable level of unemployment would be within cooee of 5 per cent. What have honorable gentlemen opposite to say about this? There has been not one peep from them.
The final point to be taken into consideration is that over the last ten years the work force of this country has increased tremendously. That fact, related to the virtually continuing state of full employment, is a remarkable tribute to the sense, understanding and administrative capacity of the Government. Unemployment is the Opposition’s political hope. Its cry about unemployment is its political prayer.
I rose really to say something about what is rapidly becoming one of the lasting institutions of this place - the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). May I say of the honorable gentleman, without being impertinent, that he is a person for whom I have a great deal of affection. I am not interested in whether it is on a reciprocal basis. But then, my passions are not spread on the basis of reciprocity. Again I say without impertinence he is a kindly, understanding and human person, but this morning he simply staggered me when he sought the opportunity to make some mean, mischievous political capital out of something that I was alleged to have said. What the honorable gentleman tried to convey to the House and to the country was that irrespective of all considerations, I was prepared1 to commit this country and the whole of civilization to war. That is complete nonsense. But the House does well to bear in mind that there has been unleashed what is called a peace programme. One would judge from the devotees of the peace programme that the only ones who are interested in peace are those who are left of the left of politics.
Mr. Speaker, there is a very wicked and pernicious doctrine being peddled by the most malevolent of minds to the effect that if free people are threatened with the extinction of their liberties, they should prefer the loss in preference to defending them. This morning, the Leader of the Opposition tried to persuade the House to believe that anything was preferable to defending this country. He referred to what I had said some weeks ago concerning Laos. I am not in bad company, because a former president of the General Assembly of the United Nations and a distinguished New Zealand’er, Sir Leslie Munro, had this to say about Laos -
Communist infiltration into Laos held the same sinister significance for New Zealand and Australia as Hitler’s seizure of Prague held for Britain in 1939. . . . Sooner or later, we of the democracies will have to take a stand in South-East Asia.
I suppose it is open to legitimate argument whereabouts geographically you are prepared to take your stand. 1 said where I was prepared to take my stand. I said if another free country were to disappear behind the iron curtain, I believed that the democracies and those countries which have an ambition to remain free must declare themselves. Surely I am not to understand that the view of the Opposition has been expressed by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), who at a peace conference in Rockhampton a fortnight ago said: “Let us come down to brass tacks. This country can no longer afford, defence.” Surely if some pirate hove to off Sydney Heads and said to the government of the day, “ I am going to take over “, the Leader of the Opposition, if he were in control, would not say to the pirate: “ We are grateful to you for having advised us in advance that you are going to take over. We are not going to have a squabble about this. We want peace at any price.”
The political advantage that the honorable gentleman sought to take this morning surprised me. I am disappointed and I regret that he has been driven to these shameful and shabby tactics. If the price of personal political security is that I must say that under no circumstances would I seek to defend the ideals of liberty and that I would allow this country to pass into serfdom, I say to the House and to the Leader of the Opposition bluntly that I have no ambition for that security. None of us wants to see the world plunged into the horror of armed conflict. But surely we have not allowed our sense of fitness to deteriorate to the stage where we no longer feel capable of saying to those who pretend to control this nation that we are not going to surrender without a struggle.
If that is not the case, I say that not only have we lost all guts, but we have lost all moral fibre and we are prepared to trample into the dust a spiritual and material heritage that has been won and protected at great cost.
.-! want to make a reference to a remarkable speech made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) earlier to-day. The Treasurer was evidently rather peeved and upset over a press report of a very strenuous time he had had at his party meeting answering criticism by some back-bench members, lt is rather interesting to note that nobody supported the Treasurer’s statement of the situation. The Treasurer came into the House and for the first time to my knowledge found some objection to the methods used by pressmen to obtain information about party meetings, which he now declares every one knows to be confidential. When there have been alleged leakages of information from Labour Party meetings, honorable members opposite have asked the Treasurer and other Ministers questions obviously aimed at embarrassing the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It is only when we begin to get leakages from the Government party rooms that the Treasurer appeals to all members of the House to condemn roundly the tactics employed by pressmen.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), Deakin (Mr. Davis), Lyne (Mr. Lucock), Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and Phillip (Mr. Aston), who were all mentioned in the newspaper report of this very hectic meeting of the Government parties, have never yet given their version of what transpired. They have not said whether the report was accurate or inaccurate. I think the Treasurer is suffering from an early attack of election jitters. As the date of the election approaches, he naturally becomes a little disturbed and a little upset.
I want to say this to the Treasurer: It is rather peculiar that a government which claims to be controlling a democratic form of government should attempt to intimidate people who merely want to criticize its policy. The Government disciplines the members of the parties that support it and does not permit them to express criticism in this chamber. We have often heard the allegation that the Trades Hall controls the Australian Labour Party; but we do not hear voiced in this chamber the criticisms that are levelled by back-bench members of the Government parties in the party rooms, because these members are not permitted to speak about them. Honorable members on the Government side are just as rigidly under control as are any members of this Parliament, and they know it. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who was a member of the Constitutional Review Committee appointed by this Government, was not permitted recently, according to his own statement in the Parliament, to take part in the debate on the report of the committee. He was gagged by the Government that had appointed him and was not allowed to express his views.
I must direct attention to the peculiar attitude of certain officers of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. This body circularized all members of the Parliament and sent them a copy of the advertisement I now have in my hand. It sought their cooperation in raising the matter. We did not have time to raise it before Government supporters, particularly those in borderline seats, became alarmed. They began to protest in the party room and to criticize the Government and the Treasurer. They wanted to know what it was all about and what the Government intended to do about reversing its policy in order to save them in their border-line seats.
To-day the Treasurer quoted from a telegram which he said every member on the Government side had received from Mr. Gordon More, the president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. It is quite obvious that this was organized by the Treasurer. If it was not, why was the telegram not sent to every member of the Parliament, including Opposition members who also received this propaganda from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures? The Treasurer gave the game away in his own speech, because what he said to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures was that he resented this form of activity and that the chamber was trying to intimidate the Government and make it change its policy. Surely in a democracy this organization has a right to criticize the Government’s policy, to protest and to send its views to members of the Parliament so that we will all be aware of the attitude it is adopting.
I will tell honorable members why the advertisements that were exhibited in the Government parties room and brought into this chamber by the Treasurer will not appear in the press. They will not be published because the Treasurer has already issued an ultimatum to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. He has threatened reprisals against the chamber if it dares to continue to criticize the Government or to develop its plan. The result is that radio programmes, television programmes and newspaper advertisements that have been prepared will be abandoned. Mr. Gordon More, president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, has stated that the chamber did not mean to campaign against the Government. He now regrets that this impression has been formed from the activities of the chamber. I do not know what the chamber has to say about the advertisement, which was issued under the authority of the executive of the chamber. Why is the chamber now “ going for water”? Is it because the chamber is afraid that in its anxiety to bring pressure to bear on the Government to change its policy, the campaign may go too far and may lead to the defeat of the Government? The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, or at least a section of it, does not want to bring about the defeat of the Government. The chamber merely wants the Government to change its policy.
I wish to direct the attention of the House now to another matter, which is related to unemployment, and which was touched on by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) this evening. Recently a Church of England clergyman - the Reverend R. Fraser - directed attention to a Department of Immigration pamphlet distributed overseas which states that a four to five-bedroom brick house may be rented in Australia for between 30s. and £3 10s. a week. What an utterly ridiculous, false and misleading statement! What does the Government think it is doing in using false propaganda of that type to induce unfortunate people to come to Australia? The Reverend Fraser has stated that he recently assisted a desperate English migrant to secure the tenancy of a furnished garage at Narrabeen in New South Wales at a rental of £11 lis. a week.
Here is the really interesting point. False propaganda of this type is being distributed amongst people overseas to encourage them to come to Australia. At present, in this country 82,000 people are registered as unemployed. In my view, the number of persons out of work is much higher than that figure. Despite the unemployment situation the Government has announced that this year it will increase the intake of migrants from 115,000 to 125,000. The Australian taxpayer is being taxed to bring those people to this country. At the same time New Zealand authorities are advertising in Australian newspapers seeking to obtain Australian building workers who are out of a job here as a result of the Government’s policy. The New Zealand authorities are offering inducement to Australian workers to go to that country, not on a temporary basis but to settle there permanently. While we are attempting to bring new settlers to Australia the New Zealand authorities are inducing our skilled workers to emigrate! That is an indication of the utterly ridiculous situation that has developed in Australia. It is obvious that many skilled building workers, whose training has cost the country many nun.dreds, even thousands, of pounds, will be permanently lost to us. If the Government wants to claim that it is doing its best for the Australian community it should investigate the matters that I have raised.
I would like the honorable members opposite whom I accused of taking part in the fracas at the meeting of Government parties to rise in their places and tell the House what transpired. If they do not care to accept my invitation, is it because they are not permitted to do so? Are they browbeaten? Let us not forget that the big white father - the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - has warned that any leakages from the party room to the press will be dealt with drastically.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am one of the honorable members to whom the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has referred. I want to tell the House, particularly members of the Opposition, that, unlike our friends opposite, we who sit on this side of the chamber are allowed complete freedom of thought, movement and criticism. We do not expel from our parties members who may have criticized our leaders. I remind the Opposition that the Labour Party expelled the former honorable member for Adelaide, Mr. Cyril Chambers, because he dared to criticize its leadership. What happened to our good and respected friend from Kalgoorlie, Mr. Vic Johnson?
– He retired!
– The honorable member for East Sydney knows the full facts of this matter. He was one of the men who forced Mr. Johnson’s retirement from the Parliament. Ever since he was defeated for the position of deputy leader of his party the honorable member for East Sydney has had a chip on his shoulder and has done his utmost to wrest the mantle from the elected deputy leader of the party. We have seen the honorable member in action in this House time and time again. I have not heard him deny the allegation that he threw a punch at his deputy leader in a corridor of this building. Unfortunately, the honorable member, after his disappointment when he was not elected to the deputy leadership of his party, was forced to take leave on the ground of ill health, and we all sympathize with him in that regard.
Getting back to a serious matter, I say quite sincerely that members of the Liberal Party have a right to criticize the party’s leaders. I remind the House that I spoke against the Government in respect of one or two matters during ( a speech that I recently made in this chamber on the Government’s economic policy. The speech is on record for all honorable members to see. What action was taken against me following that speech? What action would have been taken against anybody who had the honour to be a member of the Government parties and who made a similar speech? None whatever! Last week we saw the real bosses of the Australian Labour Party sitting in the gallery of this chamber. They had their whips cracking, and the ringmaster - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) - sped to their defence with alacrity, particularly when the subject under discussion was unity tickets.
If any disciplinary action is called for against any honorable member in this House, it should be taken by the Labour Party against those of its members who stand on unity tickets with Communists. But the Labour Party is afraid to take any action about unity tickets. Will the honorable member for East Sydney deny a report that appears in the “ Daily Mirror “ alleging that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) in his party room this morning - it may have been yesterday morning - wanted to propose in the House that support be given to Castro and his Communist regime in Cuba? A matter such as that is more important to the Australian people than any allegation about what may have taken place in our party room yesterday. We on this side of the House have respect for each other. We stick together. Leakages from our party meetings are rare indeed, but we regularly read in the newspapers of what transpired at meetings of the Labour Party. So, if anybody should put their house in order, it is members of the Opposition. If they want to turn around and throw malarky at us, they should put their own house in order. In conclusion, I say that at no time has the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) threatened to expel, charge or cite any members of the Government parties who may disagree with the Government’s policies. Now that honorable members opposite have proof of that statement, they should at least have the decency to put their own house in order and thus win the respect, trust and confidence of their supporters. Honorable members opposite are so hopelessly divided in the matter of loyalty even to their own leader that they are falling down on their job as an Opposition.
We on this side of the House - I want to repeat this for the benefit of those sitting opposite - believe in the Liberal principles and not principles of socialism or left wing policies; we do not believe in dictatorship. We believe in the right to criticize and in freedom of speech. In the Government parties there is freedom of speech-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- There is no doubt in my mind that there is just as much discipline on the Government side of the House as there is on the Opposition side when it comes to party policy. I quote as an illustration an incident which occurred in the House last Tuesday week when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was making his statement about overseas affairs. On that occasion, I noticed that the Leader of the House called down the Government Whip and whispered something in his ear, and the Whip immediately went around the chamber and told Government supporters what they were to do. I heard him say to the Country Party Whip, “ Do your best to keep awake, boys, and do not forget to give a rousing cheer when the Prime Minister finishes his speech “. That is exactly what happened. Let us look at another aspect of the so-called discipline practised in the Government parties. There are a few Liberal Party members who agree with me that the Opposition’s system of selecting our Leader and Deputy Leader is a democratic one. I put that view to one Minister, because there is no doubt that of the very unsatisfactory lot who occupy the front bench at present there would be at least four of five alterations if members of the Ministry were elected in a democratic way.
Look at what happened to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) because they dared to stand up to the master. When I was talking to one Minister on this subject, he said, “ You have only to take your fellows up and shout them a glass of beer to get their votes “. This incident happened just after the Prime Minister’s daughter got married, and I said to this Minister, “ Whoever did not take a present to the wedding party did not get into Cabinet”. Let us look at this so-called party which says its members are not disciplined individually. I have in mind one member of the Government parties who is a bit fanatical in his point of view but at times advances some very worthwhile proposals in this House and probably has more intelligence than half the members of the Ministry. This gentleman criticizes his own party and his Leader. I refer to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). He has no chance of making the grade; but if there was a democratic election, I suggest he would be elected to the Ministry.
I rose, primarily, to bring up a very serious matter. I register my emphatic protest against the policy of this Government in allowing into this country imports that are adversely affecting our primary and secondary industries. In the case of secondary industries, we find that tinned ham is being imported into this country. Yet the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), whose electorate is one of the biggest ham-producing areas in Australia, has not said a word in protest. Has he no feelings for the primary producers who produce ham? Over 500,000 lb. of tinned chicken has been imported into this country. I point out from 10 to 12 lb. of wheat is used to produce one table bird. So, these imports mean that less wheat is being sold in Australia. The result is that many small poultry-farmers are being forced into bankruptcy. That is no exaggeration. I can supply proof of that statement if honorable members want it. But there is no protest from the so-called representatives of the primary producers.
Despite the fact that we produce in Australia cheese of superb quality, we find cheese being imported. Cheese produced in Australia is the equal of that produced anywhere in the world, but we do not find these great protectors of the dairy industry protesting against these imports. We see breakfast cereals, with a big wheat content, coming into this country, but again members of the Country Party remain silent. Jam and preserves are being imported, and again there is no voice, of protest from members of the Country Party. These imports have a big sugar content, yet we are ploughing thousands of tons of sugar into the ground in Queensland. Confectionery is being imported into Australia. Although I have no shares in any Australian confectionery factory, I would say our local product is equal in quality to that produced anywhere in the world; yet confectionery with a big sugar content is being brought into this country. We see pickles and tomato sauce being imported. Has any one ever heard of anything so ridiculous? It is like bringing coal to Newcastle. We see tinned vegetables and fruit coming into this country, but there is no protest from the representatives of the primary producers.
Let us examine the effect of some of these imports on the. secondary industries of Australia. The importation of paper has practically brought Australian paper manufacture to a stand-still. There are many employees at the paper mill in my electorate, but the stage has now been reached where they are frightened to get their pay packets on a Friday for fear that they will contain a dismissal notice. They are being told to take their long service leave, and retrenchments have been started. Unless things pick up by June of this year, more than 52 per cent, of these employees will have been retrenched by that time. Yet we see this Government bringing imported paper into Australia and destroying this Australian industry and putting Australians out of work. When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) stated that the unemployment situation was getting worse, Government members accused the Opposition of using that fact for political purposes. Nothing is further from the truth. It is our duty, as the Opposition, to point out these injustices which we say are4 occurring in Australia to-day. Even if there were only 20,000 instead of 80,000 people registered for employment, they would be entitled to jobs. These people are just as entitled to earn a living as any man who sits on the benches in this Parliament. Why should we not worry about them, whether there are 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 or 80,000 registered for employment? When the Opposition brings these matters to light it does not do so for political reasons. It is our duty to do so. I have mentioned this matter to-night because the people affected live in my electorate. I have written to the firm asking for information, and I have been informed that the industry is in dire straits. As I mentioned before, unless something is done, the industry will have to practically close its doors in the very near future.
The Government stands condemned for its stupid policy of abolishing import controls, which is affecting Australian industry and putting men out of work. I believe that before the next election the people of Australia will wake up to the fact that this Government does not really represent them, but represents only overseas vested interests and the capitalists.
– Any person or group of people has a perfect right to criticize a government or any politician. By the nature of their profession, politicians, to whatever party they belong, put themselves in a position where they will get a great deal of criticism. In the short time for which I have been a politician and a member of this House, it has been my experience that the greater part of the criticism that is directed at politicians has a grain of truth in it. However, the criticism and attacks made upon the Government in yesterday’s and this morning’s Melbourne press go far beyond the bounds of reasonable or sensible criticism. Although critics may say what they want to say, especially when they are ostensibly responsible people holding ostensibly responsible positions in the community, they have a responsibility to the community and to the Parliament to ensure that their criticism is based upon facts and reason. They should not criticize on the basis of something they think up to suit themselves, their own narrow sectional interests or one particular case.
The advertisement that appeared in last night’s and this morning’s Melbourne newspapers, by its nature, plainly was designed to mislead. I say that deliberately. It was designed to mislead any one who reads it as to the true position in the manufacturing industries at the present time. I say that in respect of certain sections of the advertisement which are in large print and which honorable members have seen for themselves. The advertisement says that in the week ended 17th March, 1961, employment fell by 5.1 per cent.; in the week ended 24th March, by 5.9 per cent.; in the week ended 31st March by 6.8 per cent.; and in the week ended 7th April, by 7.7 per cent. Those figures are designed to make any reader of that advertisement think that the falls in employment in those weeks have been 5.1 per cent., 5.9 per cent., 6.8 per cent, and 7.7 per cent, respectively. It is true that in very small print above those figures there are the words “ Compared with 30th November, 1960, the number of persons employed in factories in Victoria has fallen by the following percentages in the last few weeks “. But the way the figures have been presented makes one think, and it is intended that one should think, that those were the falls in employment which occurred in those weeks, without realizing that the figures related to the position on 30th November of last year.
When I saw the advertisement I made some inquiries. These are not departmental figures. They are not the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. His figures have been published only up to the end of February. The department does not publish weekly figures, but only monthly figures. Therefore, apparently they are figures compiled by the Chamber of Manufactures itself. I doubt whether the resources of the chamber would be adequate to enable it to make a complete and proper survey so as to present the proper position. Indeed, it is probable that the chamber has selected particular industries - the sample might have been very small; perhaps only one or two factories - and has applied the figures from that small sample to the overall position.
I wish to put on record what has occurred in Australia as a whole since the end of November last year. The fall in employment in December was .5 per cent.; in January 1.2 per cent.; in February .7 per cent.; and in March 1.9 per cent. In Victoria the falls were smaller than the falls for Australia as a whole, except in the month of March. In Victoria the falls were: December, .2 per cent.; January, .8 per cent.; February, .3 per cent., and March, 2.1 per cent. Those figures are quite different from the figures quoted by the Chamber of Manufactures and they give a completely different picture of the overall situation.
It is true that if one likes to exclude the food industries the department’s figures are to some extent nearer the figures given by the Chamber of Manufactures. Instead of the figures being 5.1 per cent.,- 5.9 per cent., 6.8 per cent., and 7.7 per cent., with the food industries excluded, the falls in employment were .4 per cent, in December, 1.2 per cent, in January, 1.7 per cent, in February and 2.3 per cent, in March. Those were the figures for the whole of Australia. The falls in Victoria were less than in the whole of Australia, except in the months of February and March. The falls in Victoria were .3 per cent, in December, 7 per cent, in January, 2.1 per cent, in February and 2.6 per cent, in March. Again those figures are quite different from the figures given by the chamber which,
I say again, were designed to mislead. If the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures felt that by the use of this advertisement and possibly other intended advertisements the Government and the back-benchers in this Parliament would be intimidated into pursuing policies designed to help sectional interests rather than the overall good of Australia, it will find that its plans have very sadly misfired.
– In my opinion, the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has done a very good job in directing attention to the state of the economy in the advertisements, for which it has paid, in the daily newspapers of Victoria. I hope that the chambers of manufactures throughout the Commonwealth will publish similar figures in order that the Australian people may know the facts of the situation.
What does the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures ask for in its open letter to members of the Parliament? It asks the Parliament to impose selective import restrictions, which is the policy of the Australian Labour Party. We agree with that. We said that the Government should never have abandoned the policy which it had adopted in favour of allowing an unrestricted flow of goods into this country. We said that for many reasons, and particularly for the reasons given to-night by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), about which the members of the Country Party are as dumb as the cattle they own.
The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has also said that the Government should ease credit restrictions. We say that that is perfectly reasonable if people are being denied the opportunity to obtain finance to buy homes and to carry on the normal work of the community. There is nothing revolutionary in this advertisement. How sensitive and how semi-hysterical members of the Government parties become in this election year when anybody directs attention to the failure of the Government to protect the economy, to protect the manufacturers of Australia, to protect the employees of Australia and to protect Australia’s wellbeing generally. We believe in the imposition of selective import restrictions. We also believe in effective tariff protection for Australian industries. The Labour Party is the only genuine, decent tariff protectionist party in Australia. Our party is the only real protectionist party that has ever entered the legislative halls of this country. The Country Party is plainly and unabashedly in favour of free trade and the Liberal Party has a little bit each way. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) objects to the progressive figures that are published in this advertisement in yesterday’s Melbourne “ Herald “. What is wrong with the figures? The figures merely show that the situation is growing worse week by week. Is that not the fact? Do not the Government’s own figures show that this is the case? We do not accept the figures given by the Department of Labour and National Service as showing necessarily the true position. All those figures show is the number of unemployed in receipt of relief payments. They do not show the number of unemployed persons throughout the Commonwealth. What we want is a summary of unemployed persons from week to week, and if we could get it I venture to suggest that my figure of 150,000 would not be far from the mark.
Take the position of the carpet industry. I invite any honorable member opposite to investigate the situation in that industry, in which, until recently, about 2,500 people were employed. As a result of this Government’s credit restriction policy and import policy 25 per cent. of the people who were employed in the industry in November last are now out of work, and 30 per cent. of those who are still in employment are working short time. What is happening in the carpet industry is happening in the woollen worsted industry and in many other industries. Yet the mealy-mouthed Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) tells us, through the document that he issues monthly, that there are 9,000 more unemployed, but he tries to balance out the position by referring to seasonal unemployment and other contributing factors.
I hope the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures will publish more and more advertisements of this kind. I hope it will give us £100,000 towards our election campaign funds, so that we can tell our own story in our way. I hope it will finance our appearances on television, so that we can tell the story through that medium. Then we will see how many honorable members opposite who are here to-night and wearing sickly grins will be in the Twenty-fourth Parliament.
I have only four minutes left, so I will have to leave until another time the reading of letters which I have received from Mr. John Egerton, the secretary of the Boilermakers Society of Australia, Queensland district, and Mr. Frank Waters, the secretary of the Postal Workers Union of Australia. These letters pulverize the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and others, who have maligned and slandered these two gentlemen. However, I am going to Queensland to-morrow night. I will be in Brisbane addressing a monster meeting on unemployment, and I will deal with honorable members from Queensland, and particularly from Brisbane, at that meeting. If they want to come along and ask their questions, I assure them that they will be free to do so.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Mr. L. J. Arnott is the Consul General and permanent representative to the European Office of the United Nations, has the classification of External Affairs Officer, Grade 5 (?3,008-?3,398) and is receiving a salary of ?3,370 per annum.
Dr. L. D. Thomson is the Counsellor, has the classification of External Affairs Officer, Grade 4 (?2,553-?2,878) and is receiving a salary of ?2,720 per annum.
Mr. P. G. F. Henderson is the First Secretary and Consul, has the classification of External Affairs Officer, Grade 3 (?2,293-?2,488) and is receiving a salary of ?2,395 per annum.
Mr. G. J. Gould is classified as Migration Officer (?l,903-?2,098) and is receiving a salary of ?2,200 per annum.
Mr. K. L. Brown is the Administrative Officer, has the classification of External Affairs Officer, Grade B (?1,078-?1,298) and is receiving a salary of ?1,345 per annum.
As in the case of all overseas posts the allowances applicable to established positions in Geneva are determined by the Public Service Board following post inspections by an officer of the board. The allowances so determined are the equivalent in Swiss currency of the following: -
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
ser asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 April 1961, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610420_reps_23_hor30/>.