24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. LUCOCK presented a petition from certain citizens of New South Wales praying that use of the area known as the Bombing Range at Anna Bay for Air Force bombing and Army gunfire be discontinued forthwith, and that the range be shifted to the area known as Uralla, or to Salt Ash, or one of the islands off the coast.
Petition received and read.
Mr. JAMES presented a petition in similar terms.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral what stage has been reached in providing studios and facilities for the Australian Broadcasting Commission television transmitter in Canberra which will serve a wide surrounding area in New South Wales. Will the studios be ready for use when A.B.C. television transmission from Canberra begins in December? Is there any truth in the statement that the erection of the studios has not yet even begun and that the earliest time at which they can now be in operation is December, 1963? Does this mean that no regional news and no local programmes can be provided for at least a year after A.B.C. television begins? Finally, as the Government has provided the money for this building, will the Minister find out who is responsible for this fantastic hold-up, and will he induce them to stand aside so that the studios can be built?
– The latest information that I have regarding the development of Australian Broadcasting Commission services in Canberra - information gained partly from a personal visit to the site and partly by reference to my officers - does not justify the term “fantastic hold-up” which was used by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. As I announced pre- viously, there is to be a studio in Canberra associated with the Australian Broadcasting Commission television service because of the importance of the National Capital and the necessity for making special provision for putting on programmes which will have a national content. On my last visit, the preparations for building the studio and the transmitter mast were well advanced. I have not been on the site for a few weeks, but I shall be happy to obtain the latest information and supply it to the honorable member. I can say that there will be no inordinate hold-up.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer concerning income tax clearance certificates. The right honorable gentleman will recall that I asked a question on this matter about six weeks ago, and he undertook to give further consideration to it. Since then, many travellers intending to go overseas have tried to find out whether there is any chance that the clearance certificates will be abolished. This matter is still of very great interest, therefore. Will the Treasurer inform the House whether there is any more information available on this matter?
– The matter was under examination by the committee set up by the Commonwealth Government to inquire into taxation. One of the recommendations of that committee was that the tax clearance system should be abolished. At first, it was thought to be undesirable to deal with one recommendation out of context with the others; but the point raised by the honorable gentleman, and the convenience of so many tourists going from Australia at this time of the year, as well as the fact that there is a growing volume of tourists coming to Australia by the faster means of travel now available compared with the time when the system was introduced, have had a bearing on our consideration of the matter. In the result, the Government has decided to abolish the taxation clearance system.
There will be some danger of loss of revenue, which the system was designed to protect, but there will be savings of about £100,000 in administration costs incurred in dealing with some 200,000 tax clearance certificates. These are savings to the Government. On top of this, there will be important savings in terms of convenience to individual travellers, and also to travel agents, banks, accounting offices and other persons and organizations of that sort. I am sure that this decision will be welcomed by most people as a contribution to speedier and more comfortable travel arrangements.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Does he consider that his statement issued yesterday answers the charge of the Leader of the Opposition that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board1 was by-passed in relation to the new television licences to be issued for the capital cities? I point out that the first the members of the board heard about the issue of additional licences in the capital cities was when they read about it in the newspapers. Is the Minister prepared to table the report of the board which was sent to him suggesting that these licences be granted? Does he agree with the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the licences have already been fixed and that the dogs have been barking the names of the lucky ones in Sydney and1 Melbourne? Will the Minister allow me to supply him with the names of the groups who will get the licences? I have here an envelope containing the names of the people concerned. If I hand it to Mr. Speaker, will the PostmasterGeneral submit the Government’s nominations? I am sure they will coincide.
– The honorable member is attempting to suggest to this House that he is a remarkably good prophet, but I do not think he is. I noticed with some surprise the statement in the press attributed to the Leader of the Opposition the other day. I may also say, Mr. Speaker, that I noticed, not with surprise but with very great interest, a comment by one newspaper on the origin of the statement. Because of this I did make a statement in reply. No doubt honorable members have seen it. I retract nothing of what I said in that statement.
The Government does, of course, refer certain matters to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for report. The board makes its report and, in accordance with the common practice, it is the Government’s prerogative to consider such reports and, in the light of the recommendations made, to decide its policy on the matters to which they refer. We have done that previously, and previous governments have done exactly the same thing. We shall continue to follow that practice. It is only proper that that attitude should be adopted by the Government. Now, as to the tabling of reports: We have tabled in this House reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the various phases of television, and they are available for anybody to look at.
The honorable member also refers to a matter which has already been voiced, and on which I have already replied in this place - a suggestion that the successful applicants, in the fourth phase, for commercial licences in the metropolitan areas, have already been decided. I again flatly deny the truth of any such statement, and if the honorable member sets out to show me the truth of the statement I think he will be taking on a job.
– There was another infamous suggestion, too.
– I understand, Mr. Speaker, that there is a suggestion that some secret report has already been received. That I emphatically deny, because the fact of the matter is that no applications have yet been received, and neither I nor the Government has any knowledge whatsoever of who the applicants will be. I want to make one correction to this. I understand, if one can believe what one sees in the press, that the Australian Labour Party will be an applicant for a licence.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by reminding him that the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act prohibits telephone tapping except in certain defined circumstances. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a report in the Melbourne “ Herald “ last Friday that after a police raid by the Victorian gaming squad the leader of the police party is reported as saying that postal officers “ gave us full co-operation “, and that two technicians “ accompanied us quickly to the house and rigged up a line 60 that we could listen to incoming calls “ ? Under what authority was this action taken?
– I am very glad indeed that the honorable member has raised this matter here in this chamber, because the statement made in the press was brought to my attention, I think on Monday morning. The statement appears to be an acknowledgment from the gaming police in Victoria that they had received every co-operation in this matter from the Postal Department. We have always offered such co-operation. However, the press statement was couched in a way which could convey to readers the idea that there had been agreement by the Postal Department’s officers to some form of telephone tapping. That, I am glad to have the opportunity to deny emphatically.
These are the facts of the case: The police did, in this particular case, invite the assistance of our technicians when, having entered the place under warrant, they found that some interference had been made with telephone connexions. The technicians, being called to rectify some fault in the telephone - a properly established telephone, and only one, mark you - found the telephone had been interfered with by some persons who, the police acknowledged, were not Postal Department officers. They remedied the fault, as they are required to do in the normal course of their duty. Whatever use was made of that telephone - a proper service, mark you Mr. Speaker -by the Victorian police officers afterwards, has nothing to do with the Postal Department. Time and time again I have made it plain - I take this opportunity to say it again - that in all the investigations that are taking place in co-operation between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the police, we will not tolerate anything in the nature of telephone tapping by our officers.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, by referring to the recent formation of the Council of Egg Marketing
Authorities of Australia. This is the first evidence of unity amongst poultry farming organizations throughout the Commonwealth. In view of the serious crisis that at present confronts the poultry industry, will the Minister take every possible action to aid the council in its urgent aim to achieve a single Commonwealth marketing authority to control all overseas sales and to co-ordinate the activities of the State egg boards? Will the Minister urge the Government to take action to effect a constitutional reform so that more orderly marketing of eggs may bring benefit to producers and consumers alike? Finally, in an endeavour to find the causes of and the cure for the continued instability in the industry, will the Minister recommend to the Government that a committee of inquiry examine all aspects of production and marketing?
– A Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia has been formed, but to date I have not received any recommendations from it. As to the price of egg pulp and eggs, I point out that there has been a division of opinion between the New South Wales Egg Board and the Australian Egg Board on methods of selling. Hitherto the New South Wales Egg Board has chosen to act by itself. I have tried to get the two egg boards reconciled, and I am glad to know that they are now in agreement. Representatives of both boards are proceeding to London with a view to selling next year’s egg pulp production. I think this will improve the position very much in the future.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I preface it by saying that I understand that the right honorable gentleman has received a telegram from the Macleay River County Council concerning financial assistance to restore flood mitigation works damaged by recent floods. When examining this request, will the Prime Minister consider treating this in the same manner as requests for relief for individuals have been treated, that is, on a matching basis with the State Government?
– The honorable member is no doubt familiar with the general rules that have been applied to these matters. Grants matching those of the government of the State are made for the relief of personal hardship. No doubt we will be receiving communications from the State Government of New South Wales. This is the normal approach. The honorable member may rest assured that the usual rules we apply to these matters will be applied sympathetically in this instance.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Lyne. In view of the disastrous floods on the north coast, will the Prime Minister consider making an immediate grant to the people suffering distress? Will he also make available drag lines and any equipment necessary to assist in the cleaning up of flood debris so as to release the impounded water? As the people of the area have suffered a great deal of distress and the loss of personal property, stock and crops, will the right honorable gentleman act immediately so that they may be rehabilitated? With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out the importance of this question. In the Clarence valley alone, over 1,000 properties^
-Order! I think the honorable member is now giving information.
– The honorable member for Cowper is also, I have no doubt, familiar with the general approach that we have on these matters. These are deplorable events. Nobody underestimates their impact on the people concerned. We have long since established a practice - I do not think we have ever departed from it - that where an event falls into this major category and the State government concerned, with which we deal, says that it desires to do something to relieve cases of personal hardship and distress, we match what is done by the State government. In my experience, we have invariably said: “Very well. Whatever you propose, we will match it.”
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by bringing to his notice the fact that some accountants and tax agents, as well as wool-growers, are in doubt about the taxability of profits made on the sale of wool futures. Can the Treasurer inform the House regarding the taxability of profits and the deductibility of losses in futures dealings with respect to both woolgrowers employing this device as a hedge and persons speculating on wool futures?
– Does the honorable member refer to wool-growers speculating on wool futures?
– And also speculators generally.
– I discussed this matter, as I recall it, some time ago with the Commissioner of Taxation in relation to wool-growers themselves. Where a profit is made or a loss is incurred in the course of a wool-grower’s business, such profit or loss is taken into account in assessing his taxable income, and it is difficult to see how trading in wool futures could be regarded by a wool-grower as divorced from the conduct of his wool-growing business. In that case, I believe, the position is quite clear. As to the second aspect - that of persons not in the wool-growing business trading in wool futures purely as a speculation - I should like to have an opportunity to study the matter and perhaps to supply the honorable gentleman with a more detailed answer.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Did the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, two or three years ago, recommend that only one commercial television licence be granted in each of the cities of Brisbane and Adelaide, and did the Government order the board to recommend which two of the applicants should be granted the licences in each of those cities? Were two licences then granted by the Government in spite of the board’s opposition? What evidence has been placed before the Government to indicate that these cities can now support three commercial television stations? Why was the board not consulted before the Government announced its intention to add another licence in each of the five mainland State capital cities? What reason has the Government to believe that Perth and Hobart can support two commercial television stations each?
– The Leader of the Opposition pursues the subjects which be brought up in the press quite recently. First of all, he asks about a report by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board some time ago regarding licences in Brisbane and Adelaide. There is not much need for him to ask about that matter. He should remember, and I am sure he does remember, that the board’s report on this matter was openly tabled in this House, lt originally recommended one licence. The Government, in its wisdom and in the exercise of its prerogative, having gone into the matter, decided that in continuing its policy of providing as wide a television service as possible, two licences would be preferable, and it asked the board, “ In the event of two licences being granted, which two applicants would you recommend? “ Two licences were proceeded with, and the wisdom of the Government’s decision is now apparent, on the operations of the two commercial stations in each of the cities of Brisbane and Adelaide. The financial results of the companies concerned are available to me and to the Government from time to time. However, I do not propose to announce them in this House. That would be improper. I repeat that it is obvious that the Government’s decision was justified.
The honorable gentleman also asked, I think, whether the board was consulted before the announcement about the granting of third licences in capital cities. This question has been under Cabinet consideration for a considerable time. Several times the Cabinet has been consulted, and the board has made certain comments on the proposal to the Government from time to time. Before we decided finally on the fourth phase of television the question of third licences in capital cities was considered, and at that stage it was decided, as I announced, that when the fourth phase of television, involving further extensions into country areas, was well under way we would further consider the question of extra licences in the capital cities. That is exactly what we have done.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the shortage of skilled labour in Australia has resulted in some serious thinking about the existing apprenticeship system? Is the honorable gentleman concerned about the retention of the age limits which now apply to apprenticeships? Is there any sound reason why an adult should be debarred from becoming a tradesman?
– I think it is correct to say that in some industries, particularly in the building and electrical trades, there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen. I think, too - and in this I am supported by the opinions of persons competent to judge - that there will be an increasing shortage of building tradesmen during the next few months. For that reason my department is very interested in the matter of apprenticeship and in deciding what new and improved methods can be adopted, including the apprenticing of persons over 21 years of age, to ensure a steady supply of those technical personnel who will be so much needed by this country. Recently, my department consulted representatives of industry and of the trade union movement, and a booklet has been published setting out the views of those who engaged in the consultations. I think I should make available to the honorable member a copy of that pamphlet, in which he will find most of the information he wants, particularly with regard to new avenues to be explored for the purpose of overcoming the difficulty.
– Is the Treasurer aware of unrest among the staff of the Commonwealth Bank in Queensland because of the introduction of the 8.45 a.m. starting time? Does the Treasurer realize that this means that members of the staff are now required to work an extra hour and a quarter each week? Will the right honorable gentleman investigate this matter, with a view to allowing the staff of the Commonwealth Bank in Queensland to revert to the 9 a.m. starting time, which operates in the case of the private banks?
– This matter had not come to my notice. My normal range of activity does not, of course, include making decisions on administrative matters of this kind. I assume that such a matter as this would be within the competence of the board of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. However, as a matter of courtesy to the honorable gentleman, I shall see what information I can obtain and give to him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation. It is related to a recent statement by the Minister to the effect that in an attempt to overcome an Australia-wide shortage in the important medical branch of bacteriology, the Repatriation Department will offer three cadetships in bacteriology- Two of these cadetships will be offered in Victoria and the other in New South Wales. I ask the Minister why only those two States have been singled out for these cadetships, and why Western Australia, in particular, has not been included. Will he consider giving similar cadetships in Western Australia, and perhaps also in the other States?
– The honorable member was quite correct when he said that these cadetships in bacteriology had been offered for the States of Victoria and New South Wales. I am sorry that I cannot give him an assurance that during this financial year any further cadetships will be offered in this subject. Arrangements are made for cadetships of this nature in accordance with the requirements in each State. At the present time we have one bacteriologist operating in all the mainland States and that is sufficient for our present requirements. The cadetships have been offered with a view to overcoming any deficiency in the immediate future. I hope that during the next financial year further cadetships will be available and perhaps, when the requirements are known at that time, Western Australia, Queensland and the other States may be included.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that the Stevedoring Industry Authority acts as informer, prosecutor and judge against waterside workers, whilst overseas shipping monopolies are allowed to attack industrial conditions without penalty. Also, is it a fact that waterside workers are required to be available for work on 354 days a year for twenty years to obtain long service leave whereas workers in other industries are required to work only some 260 days a year for twenty years to get the same leave benefits? I ask, further, whether some 22,000 waterside workers are to-day holding stop-work meetings throughout Australia in protest against the unjust penalties imposed by legislation introduced by this Government. Finally, I ask the Minister whether, as the Minister responsible for permitting such provocative and unjust legislation to exist, he will resign his portfolio to-day.
- Mr. Speaker, I think this should be said: Already the waterside workers have been permitted a four-hour stop-work meeting to consider changes that are to be made in the stevedoring industry legislation, and that stop-work meeting was approved by the Stevedoring Industry Authority and by the steamship owners. Now, if ever there was proof of the necessity for legislation it is this totally unwarranted strike called by the executive of the Waterside Workers Federation against the law of this country, a strike which holds up shipping and which can only increase costs and be of disadvantage to our primary producers and1 prevent them from competing effectively in international markets. There is another reason why I believe this strike is totally irresponsible and should not have been called. I have had discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation.
– In January last. They mentioned more than twenty problems.
– More than you can absorb.
– Order! The purpose of question time is to afford an opportunity to honorable members to gain urgent information. Honorable members are being unfair by continually interjecting. I remind them that to interject is contrary to the Standing Orders, and that it prevents a Minister from making a prompt and short reply so that more questions may be asked in the time allotted.
– The Australian Council of Trade Unions has been informed that we are now ready to continue discussions. It knows our general line of thinking on certain amendments that we hope to be able to make, and 1 therefore believe that this stoppage is not only unwise, but is also contrary to the best interests of the country and the men themselves.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he has received from the Chief Secretary of the State of Victoria a report submitted by a committee of members of the Victorian Police Force. If so, does he contemplate holding an inquiry? If he does contemplate holding an inquiry, could that inquiry be of a judicial kind?
– The honorable member for Bruce refers to a matter which has been the subject of a good deal of public controversy in the last week or two, and concerning which I made a statement in this House. Since the publication of that statement, a copy of which 1 sent to my colleagues in Victoria, I have received no official information, but I learned from statements appearing in the press that a departmental inquiry was being held, and I think it was about half way through last week that I learned that the report from Inspector Hill’s inquiry had been forwarded to the Commissioner of Police and the Chief Secretary. I was informed only yesterday that this report had been received and that it was intended to forward the report to me here for consideration. I understand that it is stated in this morning’s press that the Chief Secretary had said that the report contained certain matters which he felt might warrant further investigation, and that if such further investigation were carried out we would have the co-operation of the State Government but, because of the nature of the report, it was not intended to publish it.
I welcome the forwarding of the report to us because this is a matter which I desire to be thoroughly clarified. Up to the time of coming into the House this afternoon, I had not received the report in my office. I hope it will arrive very shortly and I can assure the honorable member for Bruce and all other honorable members that when it does arrive it will receive very close and urgent attention, and that I shall refer it to Cabinet for decision on what further action should be taken.
As to whether there will be a judicial inquiry, I can only say that this will be determined by Cabinet after consideration of the report, but I personally believe that the matter warrants the fullest investigation by an impartial investigator who would consider all the factors involved.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, before calling tenders for the new defence block in Canberra, his department followed its practice in regard to such large projects of interviewing and checking prospective tenderers before actually calling tenders. Did his department accept the lowest tender submitted by the acceptable tenderers? If not, what was the approximate difference in amount between the accepted tender and the lowest tender?
– I assume that the honorable member is referring to tenders for the Russell office block. My recollection is that the lowest tender was not accepted. I forget the precise figures, but if the honorable member will put his question on the noticepaper I will get the information for him.
– Is the Treasurer aware that residents in decentralized areas are being unjustly penalized by the continuation of the practice of adding freight charges to the cost of goods and charging sales tax on the total? Will the Treasurer list this matter for review during the coming Cabinet budget discussions with a view to eliminating the charging of sales tax on transport costs?
– This matter has been thoroughly examined on many occasions and it has been the subject of a very lengthy statement in the Senate by the Minister for National Development. I shall supply the honorable gentleman with a copy of that statement. If, having perused it, he feels that certain aspects have not been adequately covered I will be glad to take those up with him. As the honorable gentleman is aware, this is a very complex question. I can assure him that it has been carefully and sympathetically analysed by the Government. I think that he will find that no easy solution to the problem exists.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Country Party-Liberal Party Government of Queensland consulted the Commonwealth Government before it decided to sell the 67-mile railway line between Cooktown and Laura in the north of Queensland to a private contractor for dismantling. Is it a fact that, as a result of the closing of this railway, the already sparse population of this area will be reduced by one-third, and that those hardy Australians remaining will in future be dependent foi transport on extremely poor roads? Will the Prime Minister state whether the decision to close this railway is part of the Liberal Party’s plan to develop north Australia?
– As the honorable member, no doubt, well knows, this matter has never been brought before me nor has it ever been a matter for decision by this Government. It is obviously purely a State matter, and I do not profess to exercise jurisdiction over it.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House when he will be in a position to announce the results of his discussions with the banks, particularly in relation to the provision of long-term and intermediateterm finance for export industries?
– I hope to be able to give some information on this matter to the House before it rises at the end of this week. One aspect of the discussion involves consultation with State Premiers, largely in a formal sense. I have communicated with the Premiers and when I have their replies I shall be in a position to supply the information requested by the honorable member.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that local government authorities are not required to pay tax on diesel fuel used in graders but are obliged to pay tax on diesel fuel used in diesel motor trucks. If this is so, will the Treasurer take steps to relieve the local authorities from paying tax on diesel fuel used in both items of equipment? If he is not able to do so, will he tei! the House the reason for drawing a distinction between them? Is there any reason why all diesel fuel used by local government authorities could not be purchased tax free?
– I am not able to give the answer to that question immediately. I shall study its text and inform the honorable gentleman when I am able to answer it.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by mentioning that broadcast listeners’ licence-fees are reduced in certain zones, the amount of reduction depending on the distance from a radio station. For instance the licence-fee in zone 2 is reduced from £2 Ss. to £1 18s. In view of the disability suffered by television viewers who are distant from transmission stations, will the Minister consider permitting reduced television licence-fees to be paid by these viewers?
– I think I heard all of the question although the introduction to it was interrupted by some parrot cries to which we are becoming accustomed in this House. The honorable member for Moore is correct in stating that reduced listeners’ licence-fees are payable in certain zones outside the range of effective broadcasting. However, it is too early in the history of the development of television to be able to determine with any degree of accuracy zones in which reduced television licence-fees might apply if reduced fees were decided upon. I point out, again, that we are now in the first stage of country television development. Several stations - about seven - are either in operation or about to come into operation, and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is paying particular attention to the coverage that they will give. I have already said that when, as a result of experience, we find out that certain centres are not being properly served we will give attention to how they can be served. Until we go into the fourth phase of television which will bring, we think, about 91 per cent, of the Australian population into the ambit of television viewing, it will be too early to start talking about a reduced fee for viewers. Before purchasing an expensive television set a person has the opportunity to test it and ascertain the quality of reception that he can expect. If it is not worth while paying ?5 for a licence-fee it is not worth while paying from ?150 to ?200 for a set.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, I wish to announce to the House that His Excellency, the Governor-General, has been pleased to approve the appointment of the distribution commissioners for the purpose of redistributing the several States into electoral divisions for the election of members of the House of Representatives. The names of the commissioners are follows: -
Mr. F. L. Ley, Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, chairman;
Mr. C. E. Elphinstone, SurveyorGeneral and Director of Mapping for the State of New South Wales; and
Mr. R. F. Mallon, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of New South Wales.
Mr. C. J. A. Lack, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of Victoria, chairman;
Mr. F. W. Arter, Surveyor General for the State of Victoria; and
Mr. F. E. Cahill, Chief Electoral Officer for the State of Victoria.
Mr. I. F. Weise, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of Queensland, chairman; Mr. T. Hein, Surveyor-General for the State of Queensland; and
Mr. D. W. Fraser, Public Service Commissioner for the State of Queensland.
Mr. F. B. Phillips, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of
South Australia, chairman;
Mr. H. A. Bailey, Surveyor General for the State of South Australia; and
Mr. A. P. H. Oke, 5 Godden street, Hawthorn.
Mr. Oke was formerly Commonwealth Public Service Inspector for South Australia.
Electoral Officer for the State of Western Australia, chairman;
Mr. H. Camm, Surveyor General for the State of Western Australia; and
Mr. R. J. Little, Deputy Commonwealth Statistician for the State of Western Australia.
Mr. J. M. Windsor, Commonwealth Electoral Officer and Chief Property Officer for the State of Tasmania, chairman;
Mr. F. Miles, Surveyor General and Secretary for Lands for the State of Tasmania; and
Mr. H. J. Corrigan, Chief Electoral Officer for the State of Tasmania.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Fortieth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, dated 1st June, 1961.
Taxation Statistics 1959-60- and move -
That the papers be printed.
As a result of proceedings in the High Court in the Magrath case, it is not desirable that copies of the report be made available to honorable members or published until the Parliament has given the necessary authorization. I have mentioned this aspect to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and he has agreed not to oppose the motion in order that the report may be circulated as soon as possible.
In preparing this year’s report, the Commissioner of Taxation has produced the taxation statistics, which formerly were included in the appendices of his report, as a supplementary document. It is hoped that this procedure will meet the convenience of honorable members and others who read the Commissioner’s report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
States Grants Bill 1962.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1962.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1962.
Loan Bill 1962. Jj”, :
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
Restrictions being suffered by those on social services, notably new restrictions on pensioners in letting rooms in their homes, the increasingly severe restriction on pensioner medical entitlement and the exclusion of unemployed persons from such entitlement, the exclusion of all mental hospital patients from any pension payment, the undue restrictions which have become apparent in the operation of the supplementary allowance and other similar restrictions,
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– It is said that the Government intends to curtail discussion on this matter. If that is so, I think it is very regrettable because, although the matters contained in this submission are not major matters of policy and do not involve any very large expenditure, they are matters of very great importance to the people who have to depend on social services. An unfettered discussion of these restrictions might lead to very useful results for the pensioners concerned.
At this date, it is not possible to say whether the parties sitting on the Government side or the party now in opposition will present the next Commonwealth Budget: but as we now advance towards the recess, it seems most likely that the Government will survive until Budget time. If so, this is an appropriate time to bring these matters to the attention of the Government. Many of them can be remedied by administrative action. Only a few of them need legislative change. I put them, therefore, to the Government and to the Minister for
Social Services (Mr. Roberton). Honorable members will know, of course, that I do this in no party spirit whatever but in the hope that these matters can receive the careful consideration of the Government between now and Budget time. As many of the changes we propose have great merit, I hope that the Government may see fit to make them. In particular, I would say to the Minister for Social Services that I hope he will not allow that rather dreadful old tory, Peter Snodgrass, to have his ear too frequently when he is considering social service matters. Even as Scrooge was able to have a change of heart, so it is possible that this Minister can yet develop into one of the most humanitarian, forward-looking and progressive Ministers for Social Services we have yet had.
– Nothing is impossible under Providence. The first change 1 bring to the attention of the Minister is that dealing with restrictions on pensioners letting rooms in their homes. Every honorable member who has dealt with pension cases will know of the general nature of the new restrictions. However, I have found in discussion with colleagues that in their application the restrictions vary somewhat from State to State. Formerly the position was quite clear. The act provides that a pensioner’s home shall not be counted as property for means test purposes. Until recent years, providing there was a connecting door in the home between the premises let and the premises occupied by the pensioner, no objection was raised to his letting them and the value of the let portion was not held against him under the property means test. If, however, he converted portion of his house into a separate and self-contained flat, then and then only that portion of the premises was regarded as being separate from his home and was taken into account under the property means test. All that has been completely changed and, as honorable members who deal with these cases will know, the interpretations given in recent times have become increasingly narrow and severe. For this, I do not blame the departmental officers at all. They must follow the directions given to them by the Government and its
Minister who ultimately must be responsible for the interpretations which are given in this respect.
As I understand the position at present, provided a pensioner does not let more than five single rooms, and lets them to five separate persons, he should not be held to account under the property means test, although we all know of cases in various parts of Australia in which that rule does not appear to be applied. If the pensioner lets more than five rooms, at that stage I understand the department takes the right - although it does not always enforce it - to regard the building not as the home of the pensioner but as a business lodging house. If it so regards it, then the department takes into account the amount of property which the pensioner is letting.
But cases arise from time to time in which the department declines to regard the rooms let to lodgers as part of the home unless the lodger shares the house and all the facilities in it. For example, provided a pensioner lets a room to one lodger and shares with him the bathroom, kitchen, living room and all other facilities in the house, then he is in the clear. But now - and this appears of very recent origin - if a pensioner lets two rooms in his house to one person and that one person uses one as a bedroom and one as a living room and has exclusive possession of them both, even though he shares the kitchen, bathroom and other facilities, the department in some places regards those two rooms as property separate from the pensioner’s home and values them against him under the property means test.
I ask the Minister to look very carefully at this restriction and endeavour to bring it back as far as possible to the original interpretation. I know of the difficulty that arises. Before income from property was disregarded, there was a barrier to the amount of income the pensioner could obtain by letting rooms. To-day, income from property is disregarded and that barrier does not exist. I know that, therefore, you have restrictions to prevent, for example, a retired hotel keeper from living in one room, letting all the other rooms in the hotel and still drawing the pension. We are not asking the Minister to permit anything absurd. What we are asking him to do is to give the most liberal and humane interpretation possible so as to allow pensioners who have* -spare rooms in their homes, at a time when the nation is suffering from an acute housing shortage, to let as many of those rooms as possible, both to augment their own incomes and also to provide accommodation for other people who need it at moderate rentals.
I want to refer now to the increasingly severe restrictions on pensioner medical entitlement. The position here is that, up to 1955, every pensioner was entitled to a pensioner medical card. As from 1955, every subsequent applicant was debarred from receiving such an entitlement if his income exceeded the permissible income away back in 1952 - namely, £2 a week.
– From any source.
– Yes, as the honorable member says, from any source. Everybody will agree that since 1952, and even since 1955, the value of money has decreased considerably. On that ground alone there is a very good argument for now increasing the permissible income to qualify for the pensioner medical service. We should like the service to be extended in accordance with Labour policy to allow all pensioners to participate in it. However, if the Minister is not prepared to do that, it is to be hoped that he will at least grant the modification which is justified by the decrease in the value of money since the change was made.
This thing is full of anomalies. Take the case of three pensioners living side by side in three separate dwellings. One was a pensioner before 1955 and is entitled, therefore, to a pensioner medical card no matter how much income he has, so long as he is entitled to any pension at all. The pensioner next door, who retired on superannuation of £5 a week after 1955, is not entitled to any pensioner medical service. The third man - and this is very important to know - so long as he made sure that he had no income at the time he applied for pension, is entitled to a pensioner medical card and retains it no matter how much he earns so long as his earnings are not so much as to disqualify him entirely from drawing some pension. The entitlement, once granted, is not withdrawn.
– Do not tell the Minister that!
– I want to make pensioners aware of their entitlement under the law. This is a very important provision.
The next thing is the need for medical entitlements for unemployed persons. This becomes of importance because we have been suffering from a long period of mass unemployment. I agree that it might not be possible to give unemployed persons a medical card which would run indefinitely, as in the case of pensioners, but at least a system could be adopted under which an unemployed person could be given a medical entitlement card renewable from time to time while he was receiving unemployment benefit. The Minister surely knows that a great many unemployed people are suffering severely at present through their inability to receive the required medical attention.
Now I direct the Minister’s attention to the hardship caused by the exclusion of mental hospital patients from receiving pensions. Take a typical case of a pensioner couple, the wife needing from time to time to enter a mental hospital for stabilization. While she is away the income of the household is halved, although the costs of the remaining person in the home - the husband - are greatly increased. Not only has he to meet out of half of the previous income all the costs of the household, but he also has to bear the cost of fares when he visits his wife, the cost of small comforts and luxuries that she might need in hospital, the cost of providing his meals while travelling to and from the hospital, and perhaps even the cost of accommodation overnight during his visits. There are many cases in which it would now be appropriate to make even a partial pension payment in respect of pensioners in mental hospitals. I bring that matter again to the Minister’s attention.
Finally, I refer to the undue restrictions which have become apparent in the payment of supplementary rental allowances. If a pensioner has an income of 10s. a week and qualifies in other respects he may receive the rental allowance of 10s. However, if his income is 10s. 6d. a week he misses out on the whole 10s. of the rental allowance. That is an obvious in justice. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) took quite dramatic action to bring this injustice to the Government’s notice. I again bring the matter to the notice of the Government. If a pensioner has an income of 10s. 6d. a week and, perhaps because it is from war pension or something of the kind, is unable to have his income reduced to the statutory limit of 10s., he misses out on the whole of the 10s. a week rental allowance. He is therefore a substantial sufferer because he has that extra 6d. a week. To qualify for the rental allowance a pensioner must live alone. There must be no other recipient of social services in the premises. Even a dependent wife is sufficient to shut the pensioner out from entitlement to the rental allowance. A pensioner with a dependent wife, the couple receiving £5 5s. and £2 7s. 6d. a week in pension respectively, must live far below the standard of what we can regard as a decent human existence. Yet they cannot get supplementary assistance. I think that the conditions governing entitlement to rental allowance could be substantially and1 liberally modified.
I have not time to deal with any further matters. I know that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton) will develop these, and bring others to the notice of the Government. I sincerely hope that since we have raised these matters well before the introduction of the Budget the Minister will examine them carefully and, if he is still Minister for Social Services at that time, will take some sympathetic action in regard to them.
– 1 welcome this opportunity to refer to the astonishing achievements of the Government in the extending sphere of social services during the last twelve years. Opportunities of the kind come but rarely to me, and they are usually restricted to the annual occasion when social service legislation is introduced during the budget session. That is never adequate.
In 1949, when the total expenditure on health services and social services had reached £81,000,000 a year, the Labour Government of that period believed that the limit had been reached, and said so in unequivocal terms. Honorable members on both sides of the House had to accept that situation at that time but, providentially, Mr. Speaker, that was the last year - and I speak in the prophetic sense of the term - of the Labour administration. No one at that time dreamt that with the change of government expenditure on health services and social services would move up year by year and budget by budget until, in the short space of the succeeding twelve years, it has reached the staggering total of more than £365,000,000, or more than £1,000,000 a day. No one at that time dreamt that the traditional exclusions, restrictions, limitations and qualifications surrounding the payment of social services could be eased to provide benefits of one kind or another to some 4,500,000 people - men, women and children. But that is the proud record of this Government.
It would give me great satisfaction to refer to the major changes in social services at some length and in some detail, but the fifteen minutes available to me demand that I should deal categorically with the four allegations set out in the matter raised, in all innocence I hope, by the Opposition. The first point refers to what are described as “new restrictions on pensioners in letting rooms “. Mr. Speaker, no new restrictions have ever been imposed by the present Government on pensioners letting rooms in their homes. On the contrary-
– Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order. Do the Standing Orders permit the Minister to tell a deliberate untruth?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
- Mr. Speaker, I take full responsibility for what I have to say. No new restrictions have ever been imposed by the present Government on pensioners letting rooms. On the contrary, the old restrictions have been eased to the material advantage of pensioners who do let rooms.
– I take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister is reading his speech. This, I take it, is not permissible under the Standing Orders.
– Order! I think the position is quite clear. Some relaxation of the Standing Orders is allowed so that a Minister may read a speech. This is done so that the information will be accurate.
– I am replying to allegations made by the Opposition.
– Mr. Speaker, is it permissible for an honorable member to keep on repeating the same speech in this House?
– The point of order is not upheld.
– No new restrictions have ever been imposed by the present Government on pensioners letting rooms. On the contrary, the old restrictions have been eased to the material advantage of pensioners who do let rooms. May I remind honorable members that prior to 1954, any income derived from letting rooms had to be taken into account as income in the application of the means test? But since 1954 and subsequent to an amendment to the Social Services Act, income from this source being income from property has been disregarded. Where the building in which a pensioner resides is shared by other persons who pay for their accommodation, it is necessary to examine the position in order to decide whether the accommodation charge should be regarded as income from property and therefore exempt for means test purposes. For this purpose, it is the practice to decide whether such persons are lodgers, boarders or tenants. Generally speaking, a person who is provided with sleeping accommodation only is a lodger and the pension rate is not affected. A boarder is usually provided with accommodation and meals, but again, generally speaking, the pension rate is not affected. A tenant, on the other hand, is usually a person renting a suite of rooms, a flat or self-contained accommodation, and the pension rate in this instance may be affected.
The decisions in each case are not made by me. They are made by the officers of the department, and the officers are in all cases and at all times most anxious to give a liberal interpretation to the letter and the spirit of the Social Services Act. For any honorable member to suggest that new restrictions have been imposed is to confess complete ignorance of the progress that has been made in social services during the last twelve years, of which this aspect in which the old restrictions have been eased provides a classic example.
The second point - I shall quote the absurd allegation - is “ the increasingly severe restriction on pensioner medical entitlement and the exclusion of unemployed persons from such entitlement “. The authority for the pensioner medical service, which was introduced by the Government in February, 1951, is the National Health Act which is administered by the Minister for Health. By 1955, liberalizations of the pensions means test and increases in pension rates had made it possible for a married pensioner couple to have a joint income, including a pension, of £15 per week. This was approximately £3 a week greater than the basic wage. Thus the situation had been reached where some pensioners were receiving incomes in excess of the wages being earned by many men with families who had to provide for their own medical needs.
Clearly, many pensioners could not be regarded as coming within the indigent group for whom the pensioner medical service was intended. It was not unreasonable to expect that these pensioners would insure, at very low cost, with a registered organization, and receive the benefits of the Commonwealth’s medical and hospital schemes. A condition of the original agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia for the provision of a free medical service for pensioners was that if the means test applying to pensions were liberalized or abolished, the question of a pensioner’s eligibility to receive the benefits of the pensioner medical service would be reviewed. To meet that condition, Mr. Speaker, the Government was required to introduce an income means test-
– I take a point of order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the tolerance extended to a Minister covers the reading of a prepared speech in reply to a matter of urgent public importance, the contents of which could not have been known by the Minister.
– Order! The practice is well known, and the Minister is within his rights.
– I have only a few minutes at my disposal to reply, as far as I am able, to four allegations made by honorable members opposite. To meet the condition I have mentioned, the Government was required to introduce an income means test, although it does not apply to persons in receipt of the tuberculosis allowance and their dependants and those persons whose pensions commenced prior to 1st November, 1955. An unemployment benefit is designed to meet a temporary situation of short duration. It has no other purpose, and unemployed people have never been included in the pensioner medical service. Prior to qualifying for the unemployment benefit, it is normal for people to have been in employment, and, when in employment, it is usual for them to insure under the Commonwealth’s medical benefits scheme. These benefits continue to be payable during any period when the insured person may be in receipt of unemployment or sickness benefits, even though he may be in arrears with his insurance payments.
Against this background of unchanged qualifications since 1955, the reference in the matter raised by the Opposition to “ increasingly severe restrictions “ is meaningless and indeed false.
The third point directs attention to the “exclusion of all mental hospital patients from any pension payment “. Mr. Speaker, where a pensioner enters a mental hospital his pension is suspended in accordance with the provisions of the Social Services Act. The pension is resumed when he is discharged and he becomes entitled to payment for four weeks of the period of suspension. This has been the position ever since the Commonwealth commenced to pay pensions in 1909. Since 1942, pensions have been available for the wives of pensioners admitted to mental hospitals. Successive Commonwealth governments have declined to alter the law on the ground that the maintenance and care of mentally afflicted persons in State mental hospitals is the responsibility of the State governments. Because the mental hygiene laws differ from State to State, it is most difficult to solve with complete satisfaction the problem of providing pension payments for inmates of mental hospitals without prejudice to the payment of pensions to the wives of inmates of mental hospitals.
The Opposition has used the coloured word “ exclusion “. The fact of the matter is that patients in mental hospitals have never been included, despite the fact that the Opposition, when in office, had plenty of opportunity to include them had it wished to do so. It was left to this Government in 1955 to make the most dramatic and outstanding contribution in the history of the Commonwealth to the welfare of mental patients by making a grant of £10,000,000 to the States towards meeting the capital cost of the construction of adequate and modern accommodation for the mentally sick.
The fourth point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, reveals the utter confusion in the minds of Opposition members. Let me quote the distortion in full - the undue restrictions which have become apparent in the operation of the supplementary allowance and other similar restrictions.
In 1958, the Government introduced the payment of supplementary assistance of 1 0s. a week to single or widowed persons receiving age, invalid or widow’s pension, and to married age and invalid pensioners where only one party receives a pension, when they pay rent for their accommodation and are entirely dependent on their pension. This was the first time in the history of social services in our country that recognition had been given to the fact that there were groups of pensioners with special needs. In any large scale scheme of government assistance, it is necessary to draw lines to define limits of eligibility. No matter where those lines are drawn, there will inevitably be dissatisfaction among those who are just excluded.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Opposition sponsors the proposal for the discussion of this question as a matter of urgency in order to direct attention to many hardships and irritations suffered by persons in receipt of social services. We have just heard from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) a romantic vocal refrain couched in colourful language of the kind for which he is becoming so well known. I challenge his statement that there are no new restrictions on persons letting rooms in their homes. If I had time, I could quote from correspondence between the Minister and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in which a specific case was debated. That was the case of an aged pensioner who let two rooms in her home and was penalized for so doing. Yet we are now told that five rooms may be let to five individuals.
I think that the statement by the Minister about the entitlement of pensioners to benefits under the pensioner medical service indicates that the Australian branch of the British Medical Association, which has now become the Australian Medical Association, has dictated to the Government or the Department of Social Services and said, “Although income from property up to certain limits is not taken into account for social service benefits generally, all income from all sources shall be taken into account in determining eligibility for a pensioner medical card”. “ Hansard “ is studded with appeals by honorable members to the Minister for Social Services seeking to rectify hardships and anomalies. The Minister’s answer is always the same. He invariably replies in these terms: “The matter will receive sympathetic consideration when the next Budget is being prepared”. That is the stock answer to all inquiries. We want the Minister to transform his slogan of “ sympathetic consideration “ to “ sympathetic administration”. The Social Services Act embraces many phases of our social life, and the question of sympathetic administration becomes a very important factor.
We do not direct our criticisms at the department, because we recognize that it only reflects and carries out the policy of the Government and, in particular, the policy of the Minister in charge of the department. I cannot recall any instance in which the Minister has said “Yes” to the hundreds of representations on social services made to him during question time in this House. He always absolves himself with the standard formula: “The matter will receive sympathetic consideration when the next Budget is being prepared “. Invariably, that is the end of the matter, because, when the next Budget is being prepared, the Government skips over the glaring anomalies and gives precious little to people who depend on social services. An exception, of course, is the budget before an election. That always contains some election bait by way of a few concessions in social service entitlements. Then we find a gradual tightening up in administration, presumably on the basis: “ Let us save money wherever we can “. Money is saved at the expense of recipients of social services.
As the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) pointed out, there is a stiffening of administration in regard to the treatment of pensioners in their own homes where they are trying to augment their meagre pensions by letting one or two rooms. If a pensioner commits the terrible crime of letting two rooms to one person, the value of the rooms is taken into account and used against the pensioner in the assessment of pension. If the two rooms are let to two individuals, that is OK and no sin has been committed. What greater anomaly could there be? What greater irritation could be inflicted on any pensioner than to be treated in this manner? Invariably, a pensioner who has to let a room and, as a consequence, share the conveniences in the home, does so only because of financial stringency.
– There is certainly no logic in the Minister’s argument.
– As the honorable member says, there is certainly no logic in the Minister’s argument. The sharing of conveniences is a hardship in itself, and a pensioner who is forced into the unfortunate position of having to do this is doubly penalized. Not only has the pensioner to suffer the irritations of sharing conveniences with other people, but also the value of the rooms let is taken into account and used against him in the assessment of his pension entitlement. We on this side of the House say that this is an important matter that needs to be rectified. The Minister should take heed of the appeals that we make to him on this matter. The Government could change the situation if it wished to do so, but, unfortunately, it does not wish to do so. Therefore, the anomaly remains, and it probably will continue until a Labour government takes over the treasury bench.
As has been said before, the letting of rooms by pensioners has been a highly controversial matter. I was saddened to read in correspondence sent to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the Department of Social Services has had to invoke legal opinion in order to justify its attitude in this matter. Matters such as these involving pensioners should never end in a resort to legal interpretations. These are questions of humanity and human values, and they should be dealt with in a very simple way. What moral right has the Government to hedge about with all kinds of “ ifs “ and “ buts “ its provisions in relation to pensioners who are trying to improve their standard of existence in the sunset of their lives?
Under this Government’s policy, the pensioner who lets the major portion of his home to tenants can be deemed not to be living in his own home, and the value of the property is then taken into account to reduce his pension entitlement. This is another instance of the need for sympathetic consideration. On the question of sympathetic consideration, it is pertinent to recall a statement made by one of South Australia’s early statesmen, who said, “ You can make what laws you like so long as you allow me to administer them “. I commend the moral of that statement to the Minister for Social Services.
In the brief time remaining at my disposal I shall direct attention to other anomalies and irritations inherent in the Social Services Act. The allowance for the wife of an invalid pensioner is inadequate. An invalid pensioner’s wife has virtually no earning potential, because she must spend all her time in caring for her husband. Civilian widows are harshly dealt with in the matter of allowances for children. The widow’s pension is reduced as soon as one of her children reaches the age of sixteen years. In most cases this means that the child cannot continue its education, even though it may have a great deal of intelligence. In practically all cases the widow cannot afford to maintain the child through the period during which a higher education might be obtained.
Hardship almost invariably occurs also in a case in which a husband is a pensioner and his wife has not yet reached the age of 60 years. The maximum income of the couple is then £12 Ss. a week, made up of £5 Ss. pension and £7 in allowable earnings. If the husband and wife are both pensioners the maximum income is £17 10s. There must obviously be some hardship in the case of the pensioner whose wife is under 60 years of age, because it is rarely possible for an ageing wife to obtain or perform work to increase the income of the couple beyond £12 Ss. a week.
The next item of social services about which I shall make a few remarks is child endowment. Here is the greatest opportunity of all for the Government to increase the family wage, by a review of the child endowment system. But, as in the case of other items of social services in which anomalies and irritations are apparent, the Government has turned a deaf ear to all pleas, and the Minister has remained sphinxlike.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Here we have the clearest case of the pot calling the kettle black. A Labour Government was in office for eight years until 1949, and during that time it did very little for pensioners and aged people. It went out of office at the end of 1949, leaving our social services legislation riddled with restrictions, exemptions and anomalies of various kinds. During the twelve years in which the present Government has been in office it has, year by year, improved social service benefits and has removed many restrictions and conditions.
Let us deal specifically with the matters referred to by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). First, there is the question of the home in which a pensioner resides and the letting of rooms in such a home. In this respect no alteration of the legislation has been made since this Government came to power. The law is exactly as it was left by the Labour Government. The act says that the value of the pensioner’s home is not considered when deciding entitlement to pension. It is a question of fact whether a pensioner has more than one home. When a pensioner divides his home into two residences a decision must be made as to which part is the pensioner’s home and which is not. If an aged person purchased a delicensed hotel containing 30 rooms and let 29 of them, living in the other one, not even the honorable member for Eden-Monaro would suggest that such a person should get a pension. It is quite clear that the department must decide whether a person has more than one home, and what is the home in which he resides.
I have found the department most generous in making its decisions. It gives the benefit of the doubt in every case to the pensioner or aged person. If an honorable member of this Parliament is not satisfied with a decision of the department he is perfectly entitled to bring the matter before the Minister or to raise it in this House. I think the experience of all honorable members is that the department is very fair and just in deciding what is the home in which a pensioner resides.
Let me pass to the second point raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, concerning the supplementary allowance. A Labour Government was in office for eight years, and it did nothing about granting a hardship pension of this kind. It was left to this Government to realize that there were cases of hardship, mainly amongst single persons, and particularly amongst single persons paying rent, and that these persons needed financial help in addition to the pension. The Government provided the supplementary pension of 10s. a week, which has proved of tremendous benefit to a great number of single people.
I have no doubt that this Government, just as it has liberalized allowances, removed restrictions and provided additional and improved benefits every year in the last twelve years, will continue to provide additional benefits as the circumstances justify such provision and the economy of the country permits.
Let me now pass to the next matter raised by the honorable member, that of free medical attention and free medicine. Once again we find that after eight years of Labour rule there was no provision for free medical attention and free medicines. It was left to this Government to provide for pensioners the benefits of free medicine and free medical attention. At the present time 88 per cent, of pensioners receive these benefits. The people that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro spoke of represent only 12 per cent, of all pensioners. Who are these people? Every one of them receives, if single, at least £2 a week, and, if married, at least £4 a week, more than the pension. In other words, the single person is at least £2 a week better off than the pensioner who is entirely dependent on his pension. It is possible for such a single person to join a medical benefits fund and to be reimbursed for most of the fees paid for medical attention.
If a provision is in a certain form it does not necessarily follow that it will remain in that form for all time. This Government is a dynamic one. When it finds that injustices and inequalities exist it takes steps to remedy them. If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro believes that these people who now receive £2 a week or more above the pension, and who represent 12 per cent, of pensioners, should have free medical attention, he is perfectly justified, as any other honorable member would be, to ask the Government to consider providing such a benefit when it is preparing the next Budget. But to propose this subject for discussion as a matter of urgent public importance and suggest that this Government has not given the greatest consideration to pensioners is complete nonsense. This Government has provided the free medical scheme, and it will review the free medical scheme for pensioners from time to time in the light of the economic position of the country and the needs and justice of the particular case.
Let us now look at the supplemental allowance. In eight years of Labour government nothing was done in that category, but this Government has provided the benefit. It is clear that at present it is harder for single pensioners to make ends meet than it is for married pensioner couples. Where two pensions come into the home it is much easier for the married couple to live on twice the amount of pension received by the single pensioner, who still has to pay rent or meet the cost of maintenance of a home on the single pension. That is the reason why this Government introduced the supplemental allowance. And I have no doubt that where it is proved that hardship still exists the Minister and the Government will give consideration to this matter in the light of other calls on government finance.
The last matter raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) with which I wish to deal is the subject of mental hospitals. Health is a State matter and one which comes entirely within the jurisdiction of the State concerned. The Commonwealth pays substantial grants to the States, and, in addition, has paid special grants to the States for the provision of mental hospitals. As far as I know there is no charge to mental patients in State mental hospitals. Therefore, if pensions were paid to mental patients while they were in mental hospitals, that would obviously have to be taken into account in relation to the grants by the Commonwealth to the States.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 19).]
Mr. Chairman, Customs Tariff Proposal No. 19, which I have just introduced, provides for temporary duties on electrical capacitors - condensers - of the following kinds: - Electrolytic, paper, 2 microfarads or higher, ceramic and plastic.
In each of these instances, the temporary duties are imposed on the recommendation of a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board, whose report I shall table later this day. The normal protective needs of the industries concerned have been referred to the Tariff Board for full inquiry and report. The temporary duties will remain in effect only until the Government has taken action on the final report of the board, but in any case not longer than three months after receipt of the relevant report.
.- I lay on the table of the House a report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board on whether temporary duties should be imposed on capacitors.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 7th March (vide page 5 1 5), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to sanction the raising of a loan of 100,000,000 dollars, or £44,700,000 Australian, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The proposed loan is in keeping with the Government’s policy of borrowing overseas. This is in every respect a borrowing government, and here, may I observe that of recent date this Government has borrowed a plank or two from the Labour Party’s platform with respect to current economic policies.
In his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has not made it clear what is to be bought, and no reason was given for the change of policy in financing the Snowy Mountains project, for which this borrowing is to be made. The adequacy or otherwise of our overseas funds has not been mentioned, and our own financial capacity to continue to provide the necessary funds has been dismissed without a word. The problem associated with the repayment of principal and the payment of interest on aloan from abroad, and the outflow of capital has not rated the sketchiest consideration of the Treasurer. Because the Government has not established a case for the loan, because it has ignored our balance of payments problem, and in view of the Government’s wretched record of national housekeeping, the Opposition intends to vote against the authorization of thisloan. It has been said that our overseas trade has a murky future. I think Sir John Crawford made that observation, and that factor dictates a policy of restraint in overseas borrowing. The Government hopes to evade the unpalatable truth that there must be a day of reckoning with regard to the repayment of loans and with regard to our capital outflow.
Mr. Speaker, there is no evidence that our overseas financial position will improve while this Government remains in office and while the Government continues to rely on borrowing its way out of the economic morass that Australia is in at the present time. The Government has a strange conception of national housekeeping and sound economic policy. It shifts its policy from day to day, from week to week, veering first to the north, then to the south, then to the east, and then to the west, without any fixed ideas, and, when it reaches a stage of desperation in financial matters, it seeks to borrow money overseas to solve its problems.
I assert that it is imperative that we be more self-reliant. Our bank deposits are high, and we have already proved that the Snowy Mountains project can be financed internally. The figures relating to bank deposits indicate a healthy position at home even if the people are not prepared to endorse this Government’s handling of the nation’s affairs.
This borrowing forms part of the panic measures associated with the credit squeeze. The Australian Labour Party is deeply interested in the progress of the Snowy Mountains project, this magnificent undertaking, which was conceived by visionaries and patriots, planned by a Labour Government, with faith in our skilled engineers, technicians and workmen to carry out this challenging task. It also has faith in the capacity of the people of Australia to finance this important work. It is to be regretted, indeed it is to be deplored, that this grand concept, this great Australian project, the Snowy Mountains scheme, should be blighted by this Government resorting to overseas borrowing in view of the fact that we have gone half the way in completing the project, and so far have been able to finance the undertaking from revenue. No less than £181,183,249 has been made available by the taxpayers of Australia. In all, as a result of our own efforts in this country, some £212,250,000 has been provided for this work.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have here a table setting out the financial arrangements with respect to the Snowy Mountains scheme from 1950 to 1961. It is from the official report of the Snowy Mountains Authority and I ask that it be incorporated in “ Hansard “ for the edification of honorable members and others who may care to read it. The table, which is from page 37 of the report, reads as follows: -
The speech of the Treasurer was significant not for the information which it made available to the House, but for its lack of justification for the proposal to borrow from abroad. From the figures that I have already submitted to the House it is clear that failure to obtain this loan from abroad would not result in the cessation of work on the Snowy Mountains scheme. This nation has the capacity, as it has had in the past, to finance this undertaking.
The loan which we are being asked to authorize is for 25 years’ duration - from 1962 to 1987. As 1 remarked previously, the total cost of the Snowy project has been estimated at £400,000,000. Already, £181,200,000 has been found by the taxpayers of this country. This loan is for only £44,700,000 and it is to be regretted that we are obliged to go overseas to borrow this money when it could be made available by the people of Australia. The Australian Loan Council is obliged to approve the loan. No doubt that is a mere formality, but an important aspect of the matter is that the cost of flotation of the loan is 1 per cent. It may be said that this is a normal procedure and practice. But it is also important that this loan will bear interest at the rate of 5i per cent. All other government loans have been floated at considerably lower rates of interest. In view of fact that we have the capacity to raise this money in our own country, I say that the imposition of 1 per cent, to cover the cost of flotation is not justified.
In looking through the report of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development I was somewhat perturbed to find that, in this world in which many countries are striving to develop and play their part in world affairs, Australia should be one of the biggest borrowers from the bank. From time to time, Australia is called upon to provide finance to assist various backward countries and one would expect those countries to be the heaviest borrowers from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. But the figures indicate that the countries that are drawing the most from this bank include India, which has borrowed 558,500,000 dollars, France, which has borrowed 337,000,000 dollars, Japan, which has had 323,000,000 dollars, and Australia, which has had 317,750,000 dollars, excluding the loan now under consideration. This, of course, will add to our liability another 100,000,000 dollars. These sums of money ought to be made available to backward countries to lift their standards of living and help them overcome their problems.
We could have a happier world, a better world, and a more contented world, if we were to proceed along the lines that I have suggested, but this country with its capacity to develop and with its capacity, financially, to commence all sorts of magnificent undertakings is vieing with backward countries for loans from the International Bank.
The Government ought to say precisely what we will buy overseas with the dollars that will be raised by this loan. We should also be told from what nation we are to buy the skills, the materials and the equipment needed. We should also be told why dollars have to be borrowed to finance work by Australian workmen using Australian equipment on an Australian task. The bill has appended to it a schedule which gives our position in relation to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development but there is no schedule to indicate precisely what Australia will buy with the money that it is borrowing.
I am disturbed, too, to think that the Snowy Mountains scheme, this grand Australian undertaking which is a show place for the world, will in future be subject to inspection by representatives of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The bank’s inspectors will look over the project to see how we are spending the money that we have borrowed. Instead of being in that position, Australians should be able to say proudly that this is their project, that this is what they are doing themselves, and that the funds for this project are being provided by the people of Australia. 1 think it desirable that a table setting out the equipment which will be purchased with the dollars borrowed should be provided for honorable members. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, in a letter, copies of which have been made available to honorable members, has pointed out the great problem that is facing Australian manufacturing industries many of which are not working to full capacity. The letter, which is dated 28th March, states -
There is a real necessity for the Government to use tariffs and quotas to get back into use the large amount of unused plant capacity at present lying idle in Australia. Delay in doing this is costing the nation untold millions of pounds.
Despite that need, it would appear from this loan proposal that we are to buy overseas goods that could be manufactured, and services that could be obtained, within Australia. The history of the Snowy Mountains undertaking has conclusively proved that this loan of 100,000,000 dollars is unnecessary for the purpose for which it is being raised. When we borrow money we create a debt. We also create unemployment when we buy goods which could be made in Australia. Our great electrical organizations are not working to full capacity. Skilled workmen who have been thrown out of jobs by the credit squeeze continue to be unemployed and on the dole while equipment which could be made by them is imported. Mr. Deputy Speaker, this loan is a liability on the future national effort.
With the prospect of falling earnings from trade, our balance abroad could reach unmanageable proportions. The Government seems to disregard these problems. It seems to be thinking in terms of sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. If it can borrow to-day, it does not worry about who will have to pay the money back or the conditions under which it is repaid. It has no concern for the possible condition of the national economy or whether Australia will be forced into devaluing the fi. Will these things come about because of our impoverishment or bankruptcy? These are things the Government disregards.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Government cares less about these prospects because it knows that a Labour government will be in office and will have to face a legacy of such responsibilities in the future. Consequently, the Government is adopting a reckless attitude in borrowing from abroad. This disregard of sound finance characterizes the conduct of the Government. If this loan is being sought to help bolster up our balance of payments, it deserves the condemnation of the House and the nation. If the real purpose of the loan is to try to retrieve our hopeless trade situation, again the Government invites the censure of the House because it has failed to face up to its responsibilities in dealing with overseas payments and trade matters generally. Quite recently, the overseas shipping lines increased shipping freight rates from Australia. I have yet to hear one honorable member on the Government side - either Liberal or Country Partyvoice any opposition to that action by which the primary producers are being plundered.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member relate his remarks to the bill before the House.
– I have referred to these matters because they are related to the prospects of Australia repaying the proposed loan. All these matters are related to fiscal policy, financial policy and our ability to meet the burden of debt that has been built up by this Government. I know that members of the Australian Country Party in particular will find my remarks most unpalatable. However, I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This Government has disregarded sound financial practice. It has gone along as though these problems belonged to another day. It has failed to preserve our balance of payments overseas and we are facing grave difficulty.
The Government has raised many loans overseas, and it has been condemned throughout the country. I am indebted to the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) who recently asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) a question regarding loans raised overseas by the Commonwealth Government since 1950. The Treasurer informed the honorable member that the Government has borrowed £530,000,000 in that time overseas. This Government will not face up to its obligations and responsibilities. It will not adopt sound financial practices. In a sort of rake’s progress, when it is in trouble it runs off to the moneylenders seeking loans to carry it on from day to day and from week to week. I am indebted to the economist of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ for the following statement published in that newspaper on 24th October, 1960: -
A country with a heavy burden of external indebtedness clearly is in a weak state. Earlier generations discovered this to their bitter cost when the 1880’s and 1920’s - two previous boom periods similarly showing increasing dependence on overseas capital - came to their close.
In Australian economic history, one generation regularly forgets the experience of its predecessor. Memory of the past undoubtedly guided the Chifley Labour Government in its restraint concerning overseas borrowing and for a time a similar restraint was reflected in the policy of the Menzies Government.
Political attitudes, however, have changed, showing increasing forgetfulness of the past. After each of its forays into the world’s money markets, the Government represents the sums borrowed almost as a great national victory, naturally coupled with a reminder of the service that is being rendered to the electorate.
The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ economist certainly went directly to the point. For an example of how the economy should be run, one has only to turn to the Budget Papers for 1961-62. There we find the proud record of finance under the Chifley Labour Government in war and peace. This Government wants to borrow its way out of its financial difficulties. Despite bad government, the nation is sound and so are the people. Only the Government is bad, and we should not confuse the problems of the people with those of the Government.
If it is not the desire of the Government to finance the Snowy Mountains scheme out of revenue, it could do so with internal loans. During the Second World War, the Labour Government raised £1,227,636,924 within Australia from the people for war purposes. The people had faith and confidence in the leadership of the Labour Government. It was inspiring leadership. The people knew that they could invest their money in war loans knowing that the money they lent would not be destroyed by inflation, and they responded magnificently. For war and allied purposes, the Chifley Labour Government raised £1,783,966,435. This Government cannot raise anything unless it receives the wholehearted support of State governments, shire councils and everybody else. Then, when it raises a few pounds, it boasts about its achievements. If it is prepared to raise money internally, we are willing to help it out. That is to be preferred to going to the international money market.
The loan proposed in this bill is the natural outcome of the Government’s disastrous economic policies. We have challenged those policies and we say that this loan is one of the worst features of the Government’s policy. It is in accord with the Government’s panic-stricken record and its uncertainty. This is the sort of thing that gave us higher sales tax on motor cars, which was reduced within a few months. It is the sort of thing which reversed the Government’s policy of restraint and turned it into one of spending. This is typical of the uncertain, panicstricken outlook of the Government. It has no long-range policy for economic planning. If the Government got its objectives clear, made up its mind where it was going and worked to that end, we could appreciate its problem and difficulties; but all this uncertainty shows that it is a desperate government. lt has thrown sound monetary principles overboard and proposes to raise a loan at a time when it is faced with grave trade and economic problems. In its panic, it is seeking money abroad. It has already been established that the Snowy Mountains project can be financed from revenue, that savings bank deposits are high and that the internal loan market is healthy if only the Government inspires confidence. In July, 1961, there was a total of £1,594,600,000 in savings bank accounts. By February, 1962, the figure had grown to £1,664,900,000 - an increase of £70,300,000. That indicates that the people of this country have money. If appealed to, and if they had confidence in the Government, they would subscribe to loans.
We had the view expressed by Mr. Prowse, who is the representative of the bankers’ association, that there is £700,000,000 in bank overdraft money available and unused in this country. All that suggests that if the Government could inspire the people, could lead the people, there would be money available. Why, even the loan of £55,000,000 which the Government raised recently was over-subscribed by £35,000,000! All this surely indicates that there is no need to go overseas in search of monely to continue with the Snowy Mountains undertaking. We have already gone half-way in financing this work in Australia itself.
Now I turn to our long-range problems. The “Year Book”, No. 47 of 1961, shows that our balance-of-payment position was down £208,300,000 in 1958-59 and was down £252,000,000 in 1959-60. At present it seems to be on the way up, and more healthy than hitherto. That is to be commended, and it is pleasing to know that our overseas funds position is improving; but if those funds have taken a new lease of life and if this is the result, to some extent, of our overseas borrowings, I think we ought to call a halt to such borrowings. We ought to live within our means for a while, and try to balance our accounts. The most recently published figures tell us that our overseas funds are now about £452,100,000. Of course, this has been made up by borrowings from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and elsewhere. As I insisted from the outset, the Government is maintaining the country’s overseas funds by borrowing. Borrowing has become the chief means by which this Government is retaining its position.
The Government seems to have completely disregarded long-term problems in relation to our balance of payments. In the ten years from 1951-52 to 1960-61, Australia was down on its balance of payments by something like £1,644,000,000, but this fact has apparently been disregarded by the Government. We have borrowed over those ten years £530,000,000, which indicates the trend that I have been trying to bring to the attention of honorable members - a dangerous trend that ought to be changed because of the new problems, such as the European
Common Market, that are now affecting us. Our overseas trade position is disturbing, even frightening. As the clouds of the Common Market threaten rural industry, the recent increase of 5 per cent, in shipping freights adds a heavy impost in the form of invisibles - freight, interest and insurance - and the new charge for trade promotion must also be added to our overseas payments. But all this, too, seems to be disregarded by those honorable members whose responsibility it is to look at these matters.
Of recent date we have had the famous statement by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in which he referred to the difficulties facing Australia, and said that he feared other countries would lead us tj a precipice. It was suggested by those in charge of the Common Market that Australia would be treated like any other third party, and that we could not expect any favorable terms. If one looks at all those matters in an honest way, and faces up to our responsibilities, one must hold that action should be taken now, and not left to the future, to meet our impending difficulties. We have been told that adequate safeguards are a long way off. The people who have expressed the opinions that I have mentioned are fully aware of our difficulties in respect of the European Common Market.
The Government has built up debts and charges for the Australian people which will fall with the utmost severity on the community at a time when we may be less able to bear the burden than we are to-day. To me the lesson is clear. If we are able to pay our way now we should do so. In the past, we have paid for the Snowy Mountains undertaking out of revenue, and unless this Government admits to bankruptcy at home and abroad we should continue to pay for this great work from internal sources. Let the Government give the House the reasons for the change. Up to date it has not done so. If our funds overseas are adequate to meet our commitments they should be used for that purpose; if they are inadequate now the position may be worse in the future. Let us heed the words of the Minister for Trade about our serious trade position. He said that we might be led to a precipice.
Now I turn to existing loan commitments and the grave position in regard to the increasing outflow of capital. A caw has not been made, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for this loan of 100,000,000 dollars. If a private person were to engage in the kind of financial dealings that this Government has engaged in with other countries, and borrowed in the same reckless fashion as this Government has done, and evaded an honest, decent way of managing the household purse in the same way as this Government has done in respect of the nation’s purse, that person would be derided in the community and regarded as a very bad risk. The Minister for Trade has left no doubt about the seriousness of the position, yet this Government, with all its difficulties and problems, continues wilh its reckless borrowing throughout the world.
According to the “Sydney Morning Herald “ of 4th April, the Minister for Trade said that he feared that the Common Market countries were thinking of arrangements for Australian trade that would lead us to a precipice. He said -
It makes me fearful that they are thinking of them in terms that will lead us to a precipice.
He went on at length in the same strain. No less a person than Sir John Crawford said that we were glossing over the danger to our trade. A report of Sir John’s statement reads -
The way Australia was glossing over the effects of Britain’s entry into the European Common Market had shocked him, Sir John Crawford said to-day.
This appeared in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 4th April. The report continued - “ Let us have no nonsense that our exports will not be seriously affected “, he said. “ It is too early to say ‘ conclusively ‘, but that word is not too strong if some modification to the common agricultural policy is not made.
Sir John Crawford is one of the most trusted officers of the Government.
– Order! I think that the honorable member has pursued the subject of the European Common Market for long enough now.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have tried to deal with this matter in my speech because it affects our physical problems and our capacity to repay a debt. Without canvassing your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker - because I do not intend to proceed on the line I was on - I want to say that any person borrowing money privately or publicly should have his position thoroughly examined, and his capacity to repay the debt, and all the problems affecting the repayment, should be carefully analysed. It is the duty of the Parliament to scrutinize these matters and to consider our ability to repay loans in the foreseeable future. Unless we look ahead and consider our earning capacity, the amount that will flow into Australia, and the amount that will flow into our international payments, we will not do justice to the problem.
The trend of capital outflow is a matter of ever-increasing concern for the Parliament. Before we borrow overseas, we should carefully count the cost. We should clearly and surely establish the need to borrow and we should be certain of our ability to repay the loan without impoverishing our people. If the Government were about to commence a new major project for which there was a shortage of equipment, plant and skills, a case could be made for the borrowing of money from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. If the loan were to be raised for the long-promised Burdekin scheme and if our resources of capital and labour were strained, favorable consideration could be given to the proposal. If the Government were shaken out of its inertia and proposed to go ahead with a great scheme of development in northern Australia, again favorable consideration could be given to the loan proposal, provided that our resources of capital, skills and labour were exhausted. But the Snowy Mountains scheme has proved beyond any shadow of doubt that we have the capacity to finance huge undertakings, and that we have a work force with the necessary ability. Consequently, no case has been made to justify the Government rushing off to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in search of a loan of 100,000,000 dollars, which will impose a burden on the future generations that will have to pay it.
The strange conduct of the Government is revealed in its stark absurdity by the recent repayment of loans of £78,000,000 to the International Monetary Fund at interest of only 2 per cent., whilst the Parliament is being asked to approve a loan of £44,700,000 at 5* per cent. If there is any justification for this course, I should like to hear of it from the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Bury), the Treasurer himself or some person of responsibility in the Parliament. Truly this is a paradoxical situation and it cannot be justified.
The position of our overseas balances, largely built up on borrowings and capital inflow, has been ignored by the Treasurer. The figures tell of a growth in the capital structure of overseas companies whose interest in Australia depends on their capacity to make profits here. 1 refer the House to one special case which shows the threat to our ability to meet our debts, and that is the development of General MotorsHolden’s Proprietary Limited. In its last published balance-sheet-
– Order! The honorable member should let that subject rest and get back to the bill.
– 1 feel that this subject is of vital concern, because £8,400,000 was sent out of this country in one year. If the trend persists, our ability to meet repayments of loans must be damaged. There cannot be any evasion of these facts. What is true of General Motors-Holden’s Proprietary Limited is true also of overseas companies in other spheres. This is a damning indictment of the financial policy of the Government. The Government has not taken these matters into consideration, either in the flotation of the loan that is now before us for consideration or in any other financial matter affecting the nation. In reluctantly passing over the sad and pathetic story of General Motors-Holden’s Proprietary Limited, I commend the general thought in that subject to honorable members.
The matter of overseas investments in Australia is linked with our financial problem. We cannot dissociate the two. They are very closely linked because they both relate to our capacity as a nation to repay money borrowed overseas. The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) raised the question of our capacity to meet these repayments abroad and, in replying, the Treasurer acknowledged that the service charges on overseas investments were quite a substantial burden for the nation to bear. Having regard to all these matters, I say that there are dangers in borrowing abroad instead of adopting a more Keynesian philosophy of skimming off the available funds in this country to meet our commitments internally so that we will not be condemned in the future by the people who will be called on to meet payments on overseas loans.
I repeat that the repatriation of profits by overseas companies is seriously affecting our capacity to meet our loan repayments. The full effect of overseas investments has not yet become apparent. Quite a lot of money has been re-invested and these compounding profits will eventually leave Australia. In doing so they will pose serious problems for the nation and for the parliaments of the future. The outflow could cause serious damage to our balance of payments and to our national solvency. For that reason we should not borrow unnecessarily and not load the nation with a serious interest burden.
I have looked at some very interesting statistics on overseas investments in Australia. They have a direct relationship to our borrowing and are certainly most startling. The “ Annual Bulletin of Overseas Investment in Australia, 1959-60, New Series No. 5 “ shows that the inflow in 1947-48 was £38,400,000, and in 1959-60, £108,900,000. We have to take into consideration the effect this inflow will have on the country in the future. The Australian Labour Party is not opposed to the inflow of capital, but we must always remember that profits will leave the country, either when earned or later. It is not for me, in this debate, to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of capital inflow, and I do not propose to do so. I merely state that the repatriation of profits imposes a serious burden on the nation and accordingly we should carefully consider the dangers of further borrowing.
A recent report from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics shows that the annual inflow of capital in 1959 was £125,000,000, in 1960 £189,900,000 and in 1961 £228,500,000. Dealing with our financial capacity to repay loans, we find that in 1947-48 investment in Australia was £38,400,000.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, six previous loans have been obtained by the Australian Government from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and I have taken the opportunity to look at the “ Hansard “ record of the debates on each of them. I find that the standard of debate on the Opposition side in relation to bills such as this has been deteriorating. I fear that the trend continues to-day. The ferocity has completely gone out of the Opposition. The old arguments have been trotted out again, but they have not been applied on this occasion as directly as in the past.
Before I discuss the bill and the borrowing from the International Bank for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric project, I shall deal with some matters raised by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). He said that this is a borrowing government - that this Government has adopted borrowing as a means of maintaining its position abroad. What he fails to see is the conclusion which must be drawn from this: We are able to borrow merely because we are a country with a very high credit rating. The honorable member said, also, that we should borrow money. As I have already mentioned, I looked through the reports of the debates on the occasion of previous borrowings such as these. I found some remarks made by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) - he was not then Leader of the Opposition- on 7th December, 1950, at the second-reading stage of the Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Bill 1950. As reported at page 4018 of Volume 211 of “ Hansard “, he said -
One plank of the platform of the Labour Party is, “ No more overseas borrowings “. We have had enough of that policy in the past.
. the Chifley Government . . . did not raise one penny by way of loan overseas during its term of office.
What a magnificent declaration! That is a declaration that the Australian Labour Party has no interest in developing this country as rapidly and as effectively as possible.
– The statement is not even a true one.
– As I am reminded by the Minister for Air, the statement is not even a true one. However, the declaration merits some examination. Obviously, a party that wants this country to be developed as rapidly and as effectively as possible will seek the added finance which is available. The honorable member for Macquarie said that we ought to borrow the money within Australia. He himself pointed to the fact that the last two Commonwealth loans have been greatly over-subscribed. This is due to the attitude of mind of the people of Australia, who want to contribute to loan funds. The Government has decided to borrow overseas in order to make additional money available for the more rapid development of our great Commonwealth.
I think that another thing that the honorable member for Macquarie said is worthy of some attention. He said that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had not told us what is to be bought with the money borrowed. I would have thought that the Treasurer’s second-reading speech made it perfectly clear that the money borrowed is to be used to finance what may be described as the Murray stage of the Snowy Mountains project. The Treasurer said that, as money was paid to the contractors, funds would be drawn from the International Bank. That is the way in which the proceeds of the loan will be spent - in the completing of these works on the Snowy Mountains project. Evidently, the honorable member for Macquarie did not take that in when he heard the Minister’s speech.
The honorable member said also that he wanted to know the reason for the changed policy on the financing of the Snowy Mountains project. The reason can be only that we want to find the money for the development of the scheme, if possible, in the classic way in which money is found for capital development - by obtaining loan funds, so that the scheme can be paid off over a period as the capital works come into greater use. There has been a great deal of complaint from the Opposition about the Government financing capital works from revenue. Capital works are now being financed from loan moneys, but Opposition members still complain. Really, they just do not know what they want!
The honorable member for Macquarie said that the Government should have told the House what goods will be bought with the money borrowed from the International Bank and where the goods will be obtained. It appears that the honorable member has confused past borrowings from the bank with the present loan. In the past, Australia has borrowed from the bank what were known as basket loans. These enabled the Commonwealth to provide the exchange for individuals to purchase equipment from other countries. When earlier loans were obtained, the bank was prepared to let Australia have a lump sum which was paid over by the bank on the presentation of certificates of payment. Under that arrangement, a person in Australia who wanted to import heavy machinery, perhaps from the United States of America, was able to apply to the exchange control authorities, obtain the necessary exchange and pay for the goods in the normal way as an ordinary business transaction. The Commonwealth Government then presented to the International Bank what may be described as the receipt and the bank made dollar funds available. That was the way in which a basket loan worked. The bank gave Australia the right to borrow in that fashion at a time when it refused other countries borrowings on the same terms.
The bank has since turned its back completely on these basket loans and will now lend only on a specific project. So, the Commonwealth, in order to borrow from the bank, has had to nominate a specific project as the basis for the borrowing. The specific project proposed is the Murray stage of the Snowy Mountains project. It is true that investigators from the bank came to Australia and examined, if one so wishes to describe them, the economics of the Australian Government. In any event, the investigators decided that this developmental project was a sound economic proposition. The recommendation of the investigators prevailed and the loan was made available. Those are the reasons for this loan, and I would have thought that they were rather obvious to anybody who proposed to speak in this debate.
The honorable member for Macquarie said that Australia’s overseas position would not improve under this Government. He stated that this country is in a morass. He himself said that at present our overseas reserves total about £440,000,000, notwithstanding the fact that, only a matter of weeks ago, £78,000,000 was paid back to the International Monetary Fund because the money was no longer required to meet any possible decline in our overseas funds.
The honorable member said, also, that he would expect under-developed countries to borrow from the bank rather than countries like Australia. The very basis of the bank’s lending is an assessment of whether or not a sound economic project is proposed. We in Australia have been able to satisfy the bank’s tests, whereas other countries have not always been able to satisfy those tests. If my memory serves me correctly, 57 countries are members of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Therefore, there are 57 potential borrowers. Loans have already been made to, I think, almost 50 countries. If my memory serves me correctly again, 27 loans were made to various countries in the financial year 1960-61, as is disclosed in the bank’s last annual report. These are the things which demonstrate the illogicality of the arguments of the honorable member for Macquarie. All the countries of the world seek to borrow from this bank, because funds available from this source make it possible to undertake development projects over a long term when they cannot be financed out of revenue or, alternatively, there are competing demands foi the revenue funds available.
When the honorable member for Macquarie, for the fifth time, says that the Treasurer should tell us from what countries goods are to be bought and where we are to get the skills required, we may find the answer in the report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. This report will show where the money is going to be spent. It will be spent on payments to contractors. I will come to that in a moment, when I talk about the schedule to the bill, which describes the projects on which the money will be spent.
The honorable member talks about the chambers of manufactures and about employment. The honorable member may not be aware of it, but to my knowledge at least two of the contractors performing work for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority are members of chambers of manufactures. I am quite sure that if the honorable member took the trouble to ask representatives of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures what their attitude is towards this borrowing he would find that they wholeheartedly support it. To suggest that they do not is to depart from reality.
The honorable member tells us that Australian workers will be on the dole while equipment is being imported. This is absolute nonsense, for reasons that I will point out later. In point of fact, there is a fastdeveloping situation of over-full employment in the building and construction industry in Australia. The effect of this will be felt in the Snowy area, and in the near future difficulty may be experienced in finding employees to go to the Snowy to complete these projects on time.
The honorable member for Macquarie says that this loan is a load on the future. Well, so indeed it is. Future generations will be required to meet the redemption payments, and I have no doubt that they will meet them, and that they will look back to this Parliament and to the passage of this bill and will realize what a great piece of legislation it was that enabled an extra 100,000,000 dollars to be provided for this great Australian developmental scheme.
I thought the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie at the conclusion of his speech were quite amusing. The honorable member said that we ought to lean more towards the Keynesian policy of skimming off the available funds. I wonder just what he meant by that. This suggestion seems to me to be very closely allied to the view inherent in the remarks of the honorable member’s leader, which I have already quoted. It is apparent that the Labour Party is completely opposed to borrowing. This clearly stems from the Labour Party’s attitude towards the nationalization of banks. It has pledged itself to this policy, and the nationalization of banks would still be one of its major objectives if ever it found itself in a position to form a govern ment - although, mark you, Labour spokesmen still conceal this objective when speaking at election campaigns.
Now I wish to look at the bill as a bill. It is not a very remarkable document. It has very few clauses, but it has a number of schedules. The first schedule contains the agreement between the Australian Government and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This schedule contains several articles which are themselves important, because they set out the terms upon which the bank will lend, but I do not propose to go into them in detail. One of the sections of the agreement covers provisions for paying back the money. It is worth noting that the first date set down for the payment of any contribution is 15th September, 1960. It is also worth noting that it is anticipated that the projects on which the money will be spent will be completed in June of 1966. That is, of course, if everything goes according to plan.
The schedule also contains a description of the various projects. This is the kind of information that the honorable member for Macquarie was seeking. The money is to be spent on the Island Bend dam, on the Eucumbene-Snowy tunnel, the Geehi dam, the Murray 1 pressure tunnel, the Murray 1 pressure pipeline, the Murray 1 power station and the Khancoban dam. A good deal of information is available about these projects. The contract for the Island Bend dam was signed on 23rd November, 1961. The successful tenderers were Utah Construction and Engineering Proprietary Limited and Brown and Root Sudamericana Limited. The contract amount was £5,100,000. The completion date for the Island Bend dam was stated as December, 1965, and for the three-mile long section of the Snowy-Geehi tunnel, which is included in this contract, the completion date was given as June, 1966.
The contract for the Eucumbene-Snowy tunnel was signed on 23rd November, 1961, by the same contractors. The contract amount was £15,700,000 and the completion date, December, 1965. The Geehi dam contract was signed on 1st March, 1962, the successful tenderer being Thiess Brothers Proprietary Limited. The contract amount was £10,100,000 and the completion date,
June, 1966. For the Murray 1 pressure tunnel the contract was signed on 1st March, 1962, the contract again being let to Thiess Brothers Proprietary Limited. For this project the contract amount was £8,800,000 and the completion date, June, 1966. In the case of the Murray 1 pressure pipeline no contract has yet been placed. Tenders closed on 5th March, 1962, and the contract calls for completion in June, 1966. As for the Murray 1 power station, tenders are to be advertised in the immediate future, and the contract will call for completion in June, 1966.
The work that will be carried out by the expenditure of this loan money will result, of course, in a build-up of the work force on the Snowy scheme. At present there are 4,700 employees of contractors on Snowy projects. This figure does not include any administrative staff of the authority itself. It is expected that by December of 1962 this number will have increased to 5,500, and the peak level of between 6,500 and 7,000 is expected to be reached in the last quarter of 1963. Of course, the rate of increase of the work force cannot be accurately predicted. It will depend on factors that are themselves unpredictable, such as the nature of underground rock conditions and the severity of winter weather.
It is quite clear from conditions in and around capital cities, and from information available to the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service, that there is in at least two sections of industry a rapidly developing condition of full employment. There is a clearly perceivable threat of overfull employment in these industries, the building and construction industry and the motor car industry. This brings up the question whether it will be possible to build up the work-force in the Snowy area in the near future to the required level. It also raises problems with regard to reemployment of persons now out of work. As I say, there are two industries in which a condition of over-full employment is being approached. In addition, we have a public works programme which I think could safely be described as more extensive than any other programme in Australia’s history. I think I can safely say that the public sector of the economy is more active to-day than it has ever been. In these circum stances, we may well consider the numbers of persons who are now registered as unemployed and wonder where these people will be re-absorbed in the work-force.
There is no doubt that this legislation providing for extra money for the Snowy project is a good bill, and a proper one for this House to pass. I think is it worth while reading a statement which appears in the Twelfth Annual Report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the year ended 30th June, 1961: -
Since 1949, when the Scheme was started, the interest rate has increased from 3i per cent, to 5i per cent. Such a significant variation has had a marked effect on the cost of energy since interest is by far the major cost factor.
When one considers the increase of the interest rate as set out in that statement, one sees that the rate of 51 per cent, provided for in this legislation is by no means unreasonably high. When you look at the 5i per cent, you realize that it includes a 1 per cent, commission. Actually it is a gross misnomer to describe it as a commission and I think the word “ commission “ has misled the honorable member for Macquarie. The 1 per cent, which is called a commission charge is the amount charged to all borrowers and goes into a fund to build up the lendable funds from the bank itself. So the amount of 51 per cent, cannot be regarded as very great, especially when you know that the bank itself raises a tremendous amount of its funds by debentures and recently raised money on the New York money market and had to pay something of the order of 4$ per cent.
The 5$ per cent, has to repay the amount borrowed plus the 1 per cent, for the bank’s reserves. The honorable member for Macquarie referred to the possibility of our paying for this loan and the servicing of it. I sought and obtained figures in relation to our past International Bank loans. Our total borrowings from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development amount to 317,200,000 dollars. Of the total of those loans at 31st March last there remained outstanding 235,800,000 dollars. But one should make the point that all those repayments have been made completely and directly in accordance with the amortization schedule set out in the agreements under which those moneys were borrowed on each occasion. I think this bill is a good one and that the consequence of it, the authorization of this borrowing programme, will have a tremendous effect on the development of our great national projects. I do not believe, as many people express themselves as believing, that borrowing overseas is, per se, bad. On the contrary, I believe it is desirable to raise loan funds for great development projects. I believe, further, that we ought to borrow overseas whenever loans on reasonable and appropriate terms and conditions are available to us, because the money we borrow adds to the great sum of money which the people of this country can put into its development and the development of projects necessary to creating conditions where our population and our standards of living can grow. I think anybody who holds a contrary view completely overlooks the realities of our economic development which history has shown over the years.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Absence of Member from Division.
– by leave -Earlier this afternoon I missed a division of the House on the application of the gag moved, I understand, by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) on the urgency debate initiated by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it was not my fault that I missed the division. Apparently the public address system in my room was not functioning, and I first noticed the green light when the buzzer came on. I ran from my room to the chamber, only to find that the first door was closed, and before I reached the second door, Mr. Speaker had ordered the closing of the doors. I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that probably the public address system should be examined each sitting day so that there will be no recurrence of this trouble. I also feel that there should be an attendant placed on each door of the chamber so that members could gain admission by any door into the chamber. I offer that explanation, Sir, in view of what happened this afternoon.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement relating to sugar, and certain sugar products, made between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- by leave- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The basic purpose of this bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments to regulate the production and marketing of sugar within the Commonwealth for a period of six years from 1st September, 1961.
The 1956-61 Sugar Agreement expired on 31st August, 1961, and the two governments agreed, by an exchange of letters, to extend the agreement in its existing form until 31st May, 1962, in order to allow time for consideration of the report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee which was then investigating the sugar industry and its financial relationship with the manufactured fruits industry. It was considered desirable, for administrative reasons, to give retrospective effect to the new agreement from 1st September, 1961, in order to cover the period not at present covered by legislation, and to extend it for three months longer than the five-year period which has been the normal duration of these agreements. This in effect brings the timing back into line with the traditional expiry date of 31st August. It is proposed that the agreement will therefore operate until 31st August, 1967. The agreement, which appears as a schedule to the bill, continues a long series of broadly similar agreements which extend over a very long period of years. Its terms are little different from those contained in the present agreement. Such changes as have been effected have been made for the sake of clarity and simplicity in operation.
Sugar is a protected industry in almost every sugar-producing country in the world. World sugar production amounts to about 52,000,000 tons annually, but of this quantity only about 12 per cent, is traded on the so-called free market. The remainder is covered by various protective and preferential trading arrangements. In the case of Australia nearly one-third of our production and well over 50 per cent, of our exports have to compete on the free market, so our sugar industry is exposed to world market forces far more than most other producing countries. In some people’s minds the words “ protected industry “ carry with them the idea of a permanently inflated home consumption price, but this is not true in the case of sugar. Because of the sugar agreements there have been extended periods when the domestic consumer has been able to purchase sugar at a cheaper price than would have been the case had Australia been purchasing her sugar on the world market. The sugar agreements, therefore, are not one-sided arrangements by any means.
Of equal importance to price is the assurance of supplies. Past agreements have ensured, and this one will continue to ensure, that no matter how attractive the overseas price might be, the Australian market has first call for all its needs at the prices fixed by the sugar agreement. I am sure all honorable members will agree that to have guaranteed supplies at stable prices is a very desirable position to be in with any basic commodity, and also that this position can only be achieved when the industry producing the commodity has a guarantee of long-term stability. This is what the sugar agreements of the past have provided, and what the agreement that the House is asked to approve in this bill will continue to provide.
Actually the agreements have achieved far more than this: They have made possible the settlement of our tropical east coast to an extent that no other commodity could have done. Because the industry is protected, however, the Government has a duty to the consumers, both to the housewife and to the industries which use sugar, to see that it is efficient and does not cloak excessive costs behind the protective barrier.
In 1960, the Government appointed a committee of three, under the chairmanship of Sir Mortimer McCarthy, the former Chairman of the Tariff Board, to investigate the industry. I have already tabled extracts from the committee’s report, and it will be seen from them that the com- mittee found there was no inefficiency in any section of the industry and that there was constant striving for even greater efficiency.
The committee’s report cannot be published in full because, although the inquiry was essentially a public inquiry, and public hearings were held in every State, the committee was also commissioned to accept information in confidence, and it did accept information from the sugar industry on that basis. The main body of the report which the committee submitted to the Government contains frequent and extensive reference to this confidential material, and publication of the full report would not be possible without betraying the trust placed in the committee. This Government is all in favour of open investigations and reports, but under certain circumstances frankness and full publication, as I think every one will appreciate, do nothing but provide undesirable advantages to competitors.
As I said earlier, over 50 per cent, of our sugar exports have to compete on the world market and I am sure all honorable members will agree that it would be foolish, especially at this difficult period, when for every buyer there are many sellers, for us to publish an authoritative report on the workings of our industry and its cost structure which could be used by our competitors to our disadvantage. In the circumstances the Government has decided to publish only the summary of conclusions and the recommendations which I have tabled.
The Government has already announced that it is not prepared to accept the recommendation of a majority of the committee that the formula for determining the domestic price should be amended. The present formula, which has been supported by the Menzies Government ever since it took office, and also by preceding governments, is designed to return to growers and millers the average cost of production in respect of a quantity of sugar which is, by and large, the aggregate of domestic consumption and export quotas under international sugar agreements plus a safety margin to allow for a bad season - that is, “mill peaks “. This term is not to be misconstrued as meaning all that the mills can produce; it represents the quantity which the Queensland Government guarantees to acquire or, in the case of New South Wales mills, purchase in any year. Sometimes, and this year is a case in point, the Queensland Government decides it will take more than “ mill peaks “ - excess sugar this is called - but when it does, this sugar is taken at “ producer’s risk “ and does not enter into the domestic price formula. Our exports exceed domestic consumption and this has been the case for some considerable time. The suggestion made by the majority of the committee was that the quantity of exports taken into account in determining the domestic price should only be equal to the quantity consumed at home. They further suggested that this formula should be written into the agreement and immediately applied, and that the domestic price of sugar be reduced by one half-penny per lb.
The Government has not accepted this recommendation. It seemed to us wrong in principle to throw overboard the mill peaks formula which has been at the core of all the previous agreements. All the controls on production imposed by the Queensland Government are based on the concept of mill peaks, and the industry has been brought up to its present stage of development because of the assurances inherent in the agreements that domestic price would be based on such a quantity.
The majority recommendation on the price of sugar was qualified in a very important way. The report says with reference to that recommendation -
The Committee’s conclusions regarding the domestic price of sugar are based on a continuance of conditions that have existed in the past.
It then directs attention to some clouds which it indicated were then appearing on the sugar marketing horizon. The committee’s report was completed in August last year when the free market price was about £stg.28 per ton, and at that time the biggest cloud had not yet appeared. I refer, of course, to the suspension of quotas under the International Sugar Agreement. This has thrown the whole free sugar market into confusion. The price has since dropped as low as £19 15s. sterling per ton and, although at the moment it has recovered to about £25 sterling, there seems little pros pect of a sustained recovery from these very low prices for some time at least.
Apart from other considerations, it would clearly have been unreasonable to have introduced a new concept into the domestic market price formula at a period when the future prospects for export prices are anything but bright. The Government therefore decided to retain the existing formula for determining the domestic price and the prices in the new agreement are unaltered. The wholesale price of refined sugar for domestic use will remain at £90 5s. 2d. per ton which, with the customary sellers’ margin, permits sugar to be retailed at lid. per lb. in all State capital cities. The prices to manufacturers will also be unchanged.
This agreement is probably one of the most important between the Commonwealth and a State, because although it is called the Sugar Agreement, and is between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland, its ramifications, through the system of domestic and export sugar rebates, extend far beyond” the sugar industry and Queensland. They affect every grower and processor of canning fruits and every exporter of goods containing sugar.
The new agreement provides that the sugar rebate system will continue in substantially the same form as at present. The rate of domestic rebate remains at £5 per ton of sugar used in products made from Australian fruit for which a reasonable price has been paid. The method of calculating the export rebates is basically the same as in the present agreement. Such changes as have been made in relation to the rebates have been dictated by the experience gained in administering the rebate arrangements.
The domestic rebate system is designed to stabilize the canning fruit growing industry and, despite the apparent smallness of the incentive provided to induce processors to pay for fruit the minimum prices which are declared each year by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, it has worked effectively, as growers of canning fruits know.
The committee, which was appointed to investigate the sugar industry, was also commissioned to investigate the financial relationship between that industry and the canning fruits industry. In its report the committee said that it could see no fundamental reason why the stabilizing factor for the canning fruits industry should be provided through the domestic rebate system, and it recommended that future policy should be directed towards reducing the rebate, and restricting its field of operation with the ultimate object of removing the rebate arrangement from the sugar agreements.
Despite any weaknesses there may be in the system, it works, as I said earlier, very well and the Government can see no reason for changing it, especially at this time when the future of the export markets for canning fruit is far from assured.
The agreement provides that the State of Queensland shall, on behalf of the sugar industry, continue to contribute £264,000 annually to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the payment of domestic rebates.
– Does that mean that the State Government of Queensland will have to pay that amount?
– No. It is a nominal sum, Only in a technical sense is this paid by the sugar industry because it is included in that industry’s cost structure and, in the final analysis, it is paid through the domestic price by the consumers of sugar. This is also the position in the case of the export rebates.
I think most honorable members will be familiar with the export rebate system and what it is designed to achieve. Under the new agreement, exporters Of both fruit products and other products will continue to receive rebates on the sugar content of goods sold overseas, and will suffer no disability by reason of the fact that the sugar used in the goods could not be purchased by them at the world price.
The Commonwealth, for its part, will continue to prohibit the importation of sugar and sugar products, except in special circumstances which are specified in the agreement. The benefits conferred by this agreement on the industries directly affected by its terms and conditions are, in my opinion, absolutely essential for their continued well- being and for the well-being of Australia generally. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 29th March (vide page 1 180), on the following paper tabled by Sir Garfield Barwick:-
West New Guinea - Netherlands-Indonesian- Dispute - Ministerial Statement.
And on the motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the paper be printed.
– This is a debate on a motion for printing a statement on West New Guinea made by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick). In that statement, my colleague placed on record in historical order, the various transactions affecting this question in which Australia has been engaged. He also affirmed the principle which the Australian Government is seeking to apply. In response to that statement, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) made a speech which quite properly, I think, one has to assume expressed the view of the Australian Labour Party and is supported by all members opposite since it came from the parliamentary leader of the A.L.P.
Before stressing in my own words what seems to be the most important aspect of Government policy on this matter, I want to look rather briefly at the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. With all respect to the honorable gentleman, most of his speeches remind me of the game of pussinthecorner. Whenever he sees a vacant space, he rushes for it, but he never stops on one theme long enough to be caught out or to be pinned down. On this occasion, talking of New Guinea, his speech was more interesting than usual because, as he darted from one corner to another, he appeared in a different disguise. At one corner, he was fully equipped like Mars, ready for war. At the next corner, with dove in hand and an olive branch in his mouth, he tripped and flapped like an angel of peace. Just when we became accustomed to that role, the honorable gentleman rushed to another corner in the striped pants, the homburg hat and furled umbrella of a diplomat; and of course, every now and again, he appeared in the slightly battered role of the Leader of the Opposition, moved by the single principle that whatever the Government does is wrong.
If I might say so with respect, the Leader of the Opposition falls into this state of frantic uncertainty because he confuses policy with an instrument of policy. I should like to illustrate that point by taking up the topic of war. I am sure the honorable gentleman, were he present in the House, would agree with me that war is not a policy but an instrument of policy; or perhaps, more frequently, it is just an expedient which is adopted when all other instruments of policy fail. But still, in his speech, the honorable gentleman repeated a statement which he made outside the House on 7th February. He said -
If Indonesia seeks to use force to create a potential threat to Australia’s security, then 1 say, with all due regard to the gravity of the situation, that threat must be faced.
It is true that a little later in his speech he said some words which, if one tries to interpret them might be taken to mean that he really did not mean war; he really meant to use, in his own words, “ renewed diplomatic activity”. But in the meantime, since 7th February, whatever he might mean now, the honorable gentleman has obtained in certain quarters outside this House a warm approval for his firm and war-like showing. He has been hailed as a man who was prepared to face up to the threat of war, to answer force by force, to show strength and fight, if not to the last ditch, at least to the next election.
Is the Leader of the Opposition in fact such a war-like character and is this, in fact, Labour policy? Are these words of 7th February an expression of Labour policy? The honorable gentleman certainly conveyed the impression that he was a strong man even if he does not clearly maintain that role now. Perhaps - particularly in view of the silence of his own party when I asked them if this meeting of force with force was Labour policy - I might criticize him for having changed his mind and ask: What made him do so? When the bugle was blown, did the awkward squad of the
Labour Party refuse to fall in? Did he have second thoughts? Did he realize that he had spoken in rather a foolish way? But I am not going to take that line of criticism or attack. I will not criticize him for changing his mind, because I recognize that I would have great difficulty in trying to prove that a man had changed his mind when all I could demonstrate was that he had only a muddle inside his head. How could I argue that he had changed his mind when we had difficulty in understanding what his mind was and what was the reality behind these muddled words and the silence of the Labour Party concerning them?
Let us apply one test to him by asking whether these words of 7th February were well-considered words. Let us apply the test by asking what he really did mean when he said that force should be resisted. Did he have a clear view about when and where and how, with what and at what time it was going to be resisted? If he did not have that clear view, then he was only talking wildly and dangerously. On the one hand he was misleading the Australian people, and on the other hand he was offering, not resistance but only a tangle of words to the comfort of the people of New Guinea. Let us apply a second test to this question of whether his words of 7th February were well considered. Did he really think that this was the best way in which he could improve the situation in West New Guinea? Did he really think that talking in this fashion was the best contribution he could make to bringing about a happy state of affairs in New Guinea?
I am sure the honorable gentleman himself, and all honorable members, would agree when I say that we do not want war. We want a settlement of the West New Guinea dispute. Even if it came to hostilities against our soil, the hope would be not in war as a hope in itself but for a settlement. Was the Leader of the Opposition really thinking that he was prompting a settlement by talking as he did? This, of course, is a matter of judgment. I wonder whether it is the judgment of all honorable members in the A.L.P, that the Leader of the Opposition was helping a settlement when he talked as he did on 7th February. I suggest that it was a thoughtless statement, first because it was not going to improve the situation and, more seriously, because it showed a disregard of the surrounding world circumstances.
On this point I would quote some words of which I wholly approve, and which were spoken by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in the debate which followed. If I might say so without appearing to patronize or praise or offer anything gratuitous, the honorable member for Fremantle expressed the reality of the situation when he said as reported in «’ Hansard “at page 1173-
I do not think there is any doubt that Indonesia is being urged on to war by the Soviet Union … I have no doubt that Communist China, the Soviet Union and the P.K.I. - the Communist Party of Indonesia - desire Indonesia to start a war but it is extremely doubtful whether they desire Indonesia to succeed in that war. Lenin had a policy of revolutionary defeatism which could be put into effect in several ways. If Indonesia entered upon an unsuccessful war with the Netherlands, and if as a result Nasution and Soekarno were discredited, the Communist Party’s chances of taking over the country would be enhanced. In the world to-day only the Communists have a vested interest in disaster.
It is not necessary for me to commit myself to total agreement with what the honorable member said, but I do suggest that he showed a real awareness of the fact that the situation in West New Guinea is surrounded by many other situations which must be taken into account before we reach judgment on it. This statement does remind us of something that we must never forget - that there is a great conflict going on in the world to-day, and that it is impossible to separate any international incident from that total conflict. Of course, all these matters with which we are dealing would be very simple if it were not for the fact that a world contest of power is being waged. All these matters would be plain and straightforward if it were not for the ideological conflict, and for those forces which are dividing the world on such false issues as race and colonialism.
– What shocking fellows!
– I am glad that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) publicly confesses that the people who are stimulating those forces of division are shocking fellows. I think he said it ironically. If he said it ironically it is less to his credit than it would be had he said it sincerely.
What is the issue here? If we separate from this great world conflict the issue that is peculiar to West New Guinea surely it is the issue of what happens to a few hundreds of thousands of people who live in West New Guinea - people who cannot speak for themselves and most of whom are quite unaware of what is going on to settle their fate. The honorable member for Fremantle, whom I seem to be quoting rather freely, spoke against what he called “ trading in people”. It is an effective phrase and a true phrase. The issue here does concern that question of trading in people. Is the fate of a few hundred thousand people to be decided against their will without any opportunity being given to them to express their own choice? Let those who talk a lot about colonialism in various parts of the world remember that the situation here is a situation which involves disposing of the present and the future of several hundred thousand people without bothering about their own views. It might seem a trifling matter to a world which has murdered millions but surely, close to our doors, it is the paramount question that must concern us.
I should like to give a second example of what I call the confusion between policy and instruments of policy in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition. I find this illustration from his references to the United Nations, and I quote his speech. He said -
I charge the Government with having failed to take the initiative in the United Nations.
And he quoted from his own policy speech of last November to this effect -
We believe that the dispute over Dutch New Guinea should be resolved in the United Nations.
That is all very well and good; but what he does not say and what he should be expected to say is what precisely it is that he intends to place before the United Nations, and in what terms. He overlooks the fact that this issue has been before the United Nations on several occasions. He ignores the results of the previous debates, and he ignores the pattern of voting revealed in the United Nations on each occasion. He overlooks the efforts made by the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations to bring the parties into negotiation with one another. Once again, does not the honorable gentleman realize the political realities of conditions in the United Nations to-day?
Apparently he does not, and his case suffers accordingly.
I want to pass from the honorable gentleman and, as quickly as I can, stress what seem to me to be the important issues in this matter, the important points to be remembered. I would suggest to honorable members opposite, and to honorable members on my own side of the House, that there is probably not a real difference in objective for most of us. We want a peaceful settlement of the issue in West New Guinea. We recognize the continued existence of this dispute as a danger to ourselves. We are deeply concerned about the consequences of this continued dispute on the people of the territory of West New Guinea. We can see its possible harmful effects on the people of the Territory which we ourselves administer.
We want a settlement, and in the settlement we want to maintain three main principles. First of all is the principle of a peaceful settlement. We deplore the threat of force and we are gravely troubled, as all Australians must be gravely troubled, over any possibility that force or the threat of force can succeed. We know as a sad fact of the post-war world that force and the threat of force have succeeded. This is another point where we who want peace, we who want the aggressor to fail, must again apply our minds as best as we can to that particular problem. But of one thing I am sure: It is not going to help the solution if we start making declarations and waving our arms about.
The second principle that we must try to preserve is respect for sovereignty - again a principle, like the former principle, embodied in the United Nations Charter, a principle which was painfully established over centuries of growth in civilization, a principle which has been grossly violated on many occasions in this post-war world. In the particular case under notice this principle of sovereignty is surely linked with the idea that any settlement of a dispute is reached by a negotiation between two sovereign powers, and that except by agreement by those sovereign powers there should be no change in sovereignty. There can be changes in sovereignty and territory, but not by disregard for territorial rights or by complete contempt for sovereignty.
This principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity is, I suggest, even more precious to the newly emerged states which were formerly colonies than it is to any of the others. When it comes to the final say they cannot preserve their sovereignty or their territorial integrity by force of arms. It is only as a result of respect for this great principle that their very survival can be ensured. I would hope most sincerely that throughout the world there will be a growing realization of the importance of this principle to the survival of all the small and middle powers. This is a principle which, I remember vividly from the days of the San Francisco conference, was expounded with eloquence and force and persistence by the small and by the middle powers in face of the pressure of the great power alinements. The small powers in all parts of the world joined to express in the charter, and to declare in debate, that their position in the world rested on the principle of sovereignty and respect for territorial integrity, and it was written into the charter. Since then, unfortunately, many of the smaller powers of the world have joined in debate and joined in votes in order to destroy the principle that they had fought to establish.
The third great principle that we must try to maintain in this matter is the principle of self-determination, probably the most important of them all - the right of people to choose. We Australians have committed ourselves to that principle in our own Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I personally, on behalf of the Government, have said to great assemblies of the people there - assemblies numbering thousands - “ So long as you need our help we will give you our help. So long as you need us we will stay. It is for you to choose and for no one else to choose.”
That is the policy that we have tried to promote in our own territory. That is the policy that we hope will be observed in any settlement regarding the future of West New Guinea.
It is a matter of common knowledge that further discussions towards a settlement in West New Guinea are taking place. This is primarily a matter for the Netherlands and Indonesia. We are not a party principal, but as a close neighbour of both parties and as a nation that wants to live in friendship and harmony with both of them we hope that whatever settlement is reached will be reached without force or the threat of force, and that it will respect sovereignty, which means, in effect, that it will be reached only by agreement between the parties. Above all, we hope that it will reserve completely the right of the people of West New Guinea to choose their own future. It will be a bad settlement if it does not observe those three principles. It will not only be a bad settlement; it will be a settlement which flies in the face of international morality and, if the United Nations Charter is to be considered as law, a settlement which flies in the face of international law.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- One of the principal reasons for the Government’s being so slow and ineffective in putting the argument on self-determination in the United Nations has been the protracted and patriarchal performance of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who has just spoken, in the administration of Australia’s own trust territory. Under Article 76 (b) of the charter of the United Nations, Australia’s obligation is to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the territory.
In relation to political advancement, how genuine will our plea of self-determination appear when, after 80 years, we have failed to train one Papuan to the stage where he is capable of casting a vote? If, however, we have trained any Papuans to that stage, how genuine will our plea appear when we have failed to give one Papuan a vote? Again, how genuine will our plea appear in relation to economic advancement when we have imposed some limitation, if not a complete limitation, upon the production in the Territory of so many of the crops that it can produce and the world can consume? Then, how genuine will our argument of self-determination appear in relation to educational advancement when we have provided primary education, which the Government recognizes, for only one child in five in the Territory; when for a school population of well over 500,000 we have provided secondary education for some 1,500 or 1,600, technical education for some 700 at the most, and when we have provided three undergraduates, all in their first year?
Whenever anybody makes so bold as to reveal this performance in the Australian Parliament, the Minister for Territories seeks to stifle discussion by appealing to our patriotic reticences. I do not suggest that there have not been successes in Australia’s administration of its two New Guinea Territories, but as in so many of these matters, what successes this Government has had have been inherited from its predecessor. Before the war Australia spent nothing in the mandated Territory of New Guinea and spent £40,000 a year in Papua. Under the administration of my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the legislation was passed under which the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was given a legislative council, local government councils and cooperative societies, the indenture system was terminated and administration schools were set up in Papua. As in so many matters concerning the Territory the Government has been too complacent since that time.
In 1957, without consultation with Indonesia which was known to be a claimant to West New Guinea, the Government made an agreement with the Netherlands concerning the administration of the whole island. Now the Government says that the Netherlands is proceeding too fast. The Government has still done nothing to harmonize and synchronize selfdetermination in the two halves of the island.
The position in West New Guinea derives from the fact that this Government has not inherited a policy but has had to devise one for itself. Indonesia was recognized as independent on 27th December, 1949, and was admitted to the United Nations ten months later. In all other matters of foreign affairs in the last decade, the Menzies Government has followed the United States, or where, as with Cyprus and Suez, the British Government has followed a more war-like or colonial attitude, it has followed the United Kingdom. But in West New Guinea the United States and the United Kingdom have studiously avoided any involvement. The Menzies Government has had to devise a policy unaided and accordingly its policy is now in ruins.
The fumbling fatuity of the Government’s foreign policy sufficiently emerged from the speech delivered almost four weeks ago by the latest Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), but the defeats and retreats of the Government were fully exposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) a fortnight after that. He was followed in the debate, not at the usual week’s interval but immediately, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The Prime Minister sought to avoid the whole issue first with a hoary chestnut - deploring the personal abuse of his friend, the Leader of the Opposition, and saying that he always afterwards received an apology for it. Even jurymen give a wan smile as that one is trotted out these days. But more ominously, the Prime Minister then said that the Leader of the Opposition would be caught in a coldblooded lie on the question of selfdetermination.
The Leader of the Opposition, in fact, was completely factual in his analysis of the Government’s attitude on self-determination. He traced the history of this Government’s belated acceptance of and emphasis on the principle of self-determination in respect of the western half of the island. Then he deplored the fact, that, having at last come to emphasize that issue, the Government was abandoning it. He had previously quoted the following words from the Prime Minister’s own statement a year ago: -
What Australia has done in the United Nations when the West New Guinea item has come up there is to support sovereignty and domestic jurisdiction. Sovereignty is basic for Australia no less than for others, including Indonesia.
The Leader of the Opposition demonstrated from the Prime Minister’s own words that in the United Nations Australia has never pushed the argument of self-determination in respect of West New Guinea.
The Prime Minister, who had had two hours in which to read the speech of the Leader of the Opposition before it was commenced - three hours by the time he had commenced his own speech - deliberately misinterpreted it and quoted from his own speeches to this House in the past. He quoted from a speech made a year ago, after the visit by General Nasution, to show that he had in fact mentioned self-determination. The Leader of the Opposition showed from the Prime Minister’s own words that the right honorable gentleman had never urged self-determination in the United Nations. Indeed, the record shows that Australia has never emphasized it in the United Nations. If the question of a coldblooded lie arises, it cannot be sheeted home to the Leader of the Opposition.
In the United Nations, this Government has always emphasized, as the Prime Minister said, sovereignty and domestic jurisdiction. It has taken the same attitude as it took on Algeria and on Cyprus - incidentally, long after France and Great Britain were no longer seeking to emphasize this attitude. It is interesting to note the transformation in the Prime Minister’s own attitude. If one looks through his speech of three years ago after the visit by Dr. Subandrio and the communique of Mr. Casey, as he then was, one finds that selfdetermination was mentioned fifth and last in the list of objectives. A year ago, after the Prime Minister’s own conversations with General Nasution, he at last realized the point. He saw the validity and the logic of it and mentioned it under nearly every heading.
He was some years behind Mr. Casey. Mr. Casey, in 1954, in the first edition of his book “ Friends and Neighbours “, did not mention the question of selfdetermination in respect of West New Guinea. He first mentioned it in the second edition of that opus. The question of West New Guinea had arisen on four occasions before the last session in the United Nations. In 1954, Mr. Casey spoke in the General Assembly and Sir Percy Spender in the First Committee; in 1955, Mr. Casey in the General Assembly and Sir Percy Spender in both the First Committee and the Assembly; in 1956, Mr. Casey in the General Assembly and Sir Percy Spender in the committee; and in 1957, Mr. Casey in the First Committee. On each occasion, self-determination was given no more than a perfunctory nod. It was never in the forefront of our arguments. We always relied on matters of defence or on the fact that West New Guinea was alien to Indonesia in race, language, history and religion. All the specious arguments were put forward, and the only logical and moral argument was never emphasized. Selfdetermination is a good argument, and its strength has never yet been put in the United Nations by this Government’s representatives.
The strength of the argument lies in the fact that for more than 40 years the League of Nations and the United Nations have said that the inhabitants of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea are not yet fit to govern themselves, and they have accepted Australia’s offer to train them to the stage at which they will be fit to govern themselves. In all logic and morality, the same argument should apply to the western half of the island. But the comparison between the eastern and the western halves has never been put by this Government’s representatives in the United Nations. The argument might well have succeeded. I recall that when my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney, was Minister for Territories, and Dr. Evatt, who is now the Chief Justice of New South Wales, was Minister for External Affairs, Australia obtained the permission of the United Nations to administer jointly its own colony and its own trust territory.
Are our arguments no longer effectively put? The argument is just as effective. The same argument could have been put for the whole of the island, and could any one have gainsaid it? My own leader, for several years past, has put the argument that we merely wish the people of the whole island to be given the opportunity, in sections, if you wish, to determine how they shall be governed - independently, as part of Indonesia or as part of some Melanesian federation, if they wish, within the British Commonwealth of Nations. But this Government still puts the argument of selfdetermination in only a subsidiary place. The Minister of Territories tonight put it third after territorial integrity and sovereignty. Territorial integrity and sovereignty, of course, can be served just as well by Indonesia incorporating the territory as by the Netherlands retaining it.
The argument of self-determination is put by this Government only to be undermined by the argument that we shall forget about self-determination, first, if the two parties to the dispute, peaceably and without threats, settle their differences, or, secondly, if the International Court of Justice decides the matter one way or another. So ingenuous are we about this reference to the World Court that we persisted in the suggestion in 1957 when the matter was last raised in the United Nations and more recently through the Prime Minister’s own lips in this place, even after Sir Percy Spender became a judge of the court. And Sir Percy Spender is one judge whose earlier misconceptions and misrepresentations of the Indonesian case could not command that country’s confidence.
The Minister for External Affairs, a month ago, was at pains to distinguish between the obligations of member countries to non-self-governing territories like the Australian and the Dutch colonies under Article 73 (b) of the United Nations Charter to develop self-government - I quote his gloss, “ not, it may be observed, independence” - and, on the other hand, their obligations to a trust territory under Article 76 (b) to promote development towards self-government or independence. Indonesia accepts the obligations under Article 73 (b), which applies to selfgovernment but not independence. The Netherlands now accepts, and Australia always has accepted in respect of Papua as well as the trust territory, the obligations under Article 76 (b). If Indonesia were to accept those latter obligations, there could be no objection to the Indonesian claim. The object of Australian diplomacy should be to ensure, through the United Nations, that Indonesia accepts as fully the enlarged obligations to the inhabitants of West New Guinea as Australia has always accepted the obligations to eastern New Guinea and as the Netherlands latterly has accepted the obligations to West New Guinea. We cannot assume that Indonesia would be less able to train for self-government than the Dutch are. The Dutch might spend more. But in West New Guinea, as we know from the Australian part of New Guinea, a great deal of the expenditure is for the benefit of expatriate citizens.
I dealt earlier with the special pleading by the Prime Minister. Then there was the special pleading by the Minister for External Affairs. I point out that, under the Labour Government, Australia persuaded the United States of America to join with it in taking this matter to the United Nations, and succeeded in having it handled there. But under the Menzies Government, we have deliberately by-passed the United Nations. This is probably because, in 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957, we voted on every occasion - and not only voted, but also were foremost in speaking - against successive propositions that the United Nations should deal with this very matter. Sir Percy Spender and Mr. Casey, at every session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, 1955 and 1956, said that there was no threat to peace in this area. On every occasion, they said that this matter should not be discussed, because discussion of it would only put heat into the argument. They buried their heads in the sand in these three sessions, and Mr. Casey did so again in the 1957 session. Is it any wonder, Sir, that our neighbours have come to regard the Australian coat of arms as featuring not an emu but an ostrich?
I ask honorable members to look at the text of the four successive resolutions. The Government is now too shame-faced to sponsor in the United Nations the very propositions which it opposed on four previous occasions. The Minister for External Affairs would have us believe that the resolutions we supported failed last year because of the new members of the United Nations since 1955. There were sixteen new admissions to the organization in 1955 and seventeen in 1960. If the vote on the Brazzaville resolution had been confined to the countries which belonged to the United Nations before 1955, the resolution still would not have succeeded in obtaining the necessary two-thirds of the votes. It would have received 34 votes to 21, with 9 abstentions. If the countries admitted in 1960 had been excluded, the resolution would also have failed to obtain a two-thirds majority of the votes. It would have received 38 votes to 36, with 9 abstentions. The point of view which we took on the Indian resolution, similarly, did not receive two-thirds of the votes. Nor would it have come any nearer to receiving such a majority if the vote had been confined to the countries which belonged to the United Nations before 1955, or, again, before 1960.
It is of no use to blame the new members of the organization for the lack of success of our diplomacy on the question of New Guinea. Up to the end of last year, we had never persuaded the United States to our point of view. It had always abstained from voting on the question. We had never persuaded any of the Commonwealth countries in Asia, and we had never persuaded any of the Asian countries which are members of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. We have done our best to discourage and belittle the United Nations, but we now say that we used to have the numbers there. We not only voted in the United Nations against these propositions which we now say we would support. We also led the opposition to them. We failed in our diplomacy, and Indonesia has succeeded in hers. Ours has been less successful and persistent. We never*’ pushed the question of self-determination with determination. On this question, Sir, as in so many other external matters and so many internal matters, the Menzies Government has shown its increasing incompetence.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As always, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has been very fluent and vigorous in putting his view before the House. Following his argument as best I could, I can understand his endeavouring to make out a strong case against the Government, but I have completely failed to discover just what the Opposition wishes the Government to do. I am perfectly well aware of the statement which was made publicly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). From that statement a certain conclusion could be drawn, but the honorable gentleman adroitly side-stepped any suggestion that it was proper to draw such a conclusion.
I am not concerned this evening merely with making points in a debate. I want to bring before the House and the people of Australia a realization of the seriousness of the question that the Parliament is called upon to debate. There is not the slightest reason why we should not try in this House to clarify our thoughts on the proper course to take in certain circumstances. I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition that this Government has failed in a world of constantly changing conditions. Every one who has had political experience will agree with me that in domestic politics there is no more useless method of attacking an opponent than to dig up statements made by some opposition leader or some Premier or some member, three, four or five years ago. What is to the point is what is being said and done in the light of the principles espoused by a particular party or a particular government, and in the light of current events. The salient fact that we have to consider to-day is a dispute between an old and valued friend and ally on the one side and a newly emergent nation of some 90,000,000 people on the other side. We must consider the further fact that somehow or other we have been caught up in this dispute.
In preparing my speech for this evening, I made some study of the history of the Indonesian people. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, in 1945 Indonesia declared its independence of the Dutch nation, which had ruled that country for about 350 years. For a long time before Sir Stamford Raffles had withdrawn from Malaya at the request of the British Government, and for a long time after, the Dutch were in possession of Indonesia. Now Indonesia, following the course of many other nations that were colonial, in the sense that they were ruled by other nations, has achieved its independence.
There is one remark that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made which I think calls for some passing reference. The honorable member said he had not the slightest doubt that Indonesia was as capable of developing West New Guinea as were the Dutch people. Is that correct? Let us consider some of the material facts about Indonesia. In Java and Madoera there are 58,200,000 people. In Sumatra there are 14,600,000. In Borneo, a relatively small portion of which is British North Borneo, and which, I believe, is the third biggest island in the world, the Indonesians have 3,900,000 of their people. In the Celebes they have 6,600,000 and in the Lesser Sunda Islands, 5,900,000. There are a few in other small areas who make up the total. It is quite obvious that Indonesia, with her newly acquired independence, has a tremendous task to build up and develop her economy. With an island like Borneo, which is very big but virtually uninhabited, Indonesia has a major task on its hands. I rather think that my friend begs the question when he suggests that Indonesia is anything like as well equipped to develop West New Guinea as is a highly developed European nation with abundant know-how and resources at its disposal. In making this statement I cast no reflection on the natural ability of the people of Indonesia.
There is one further point I would like to make in this debate. It is of not the slightest use getting up in this House and suggesting that the matter we are debating is not of first-rate importance to Australia, and even a matter affecting our survival. When I say this I do not cast any aspersions upon the good intentions of the Indonesian people. But has anybody taken the trouble to discover and point out that from Daru, which is, I believe, our oldest settlement in Papua, to Cape York Peninsula by way of a string of islands, is 74 miles, while Merauke, which is in the territory of West New Guinea, is at no great distance from these places?
What I want to make clear is that the matter we are discussing is not one that Australians are justified in considering lightly. It is not the Indonesians, with whom we have enjoyed the friendliest relations, that we have to fear. If by some freak of chance an arrangement were made, by force or otherwise, for certain nations to instal their offensive devices in West New Guinea, many things could happen. Such nations could use that territory as a base from which to launch an attack on our mainland. We have been thinking - and quite rightly so - of what might happen to the Territories of Papua and New Guinea, which we hold either as original possessions or in trust. But in our statements to the public we have not pointed out how close is the southern portion of West New Guinea and of Papua to the Australian mainland. We must remember that the nearest part of the Australian mainland to the disputed area is Cape York Peninsula, where we have discovered some of the richest mineral deposits in the world.
I have dealt wtih that from the Australian point of view. I follow it up by saying that if the attitude of the Indonesians is a complex in regard to the nation which ruled over them for something like 400 years, that is quite understandable. They have secured their independence. West New Guinea is the one remaining possession of the Netherlands in the region surrounding Indonesia and the attitude of the Indonesians is quite understandable. If they had some tremors in regard to the Netherlands, remembering that in days gone by it was a military and naval power of no mean strength, I could understand it.
But what is not understandable to me is Indonesia’s claim to sovereignty over West New Guinea and its refusal to consider the Netherlands’ offer to transfer this territory to the control of the United Nations and to guarantee to its people self-determination in that process. That offer was quite definite as was brought out in the paper which is before the House, where it is stated frankly by our Government that at first the Netherlands had indicated that the adoption of a ten years’ plan for West New Guinea did not necessarily mean that the Dutch would retire from the territory upon the accomplishment of that plan. But of course the 1961 proposal to internationalize the administration of the territory of Dutch New Guinea was of a different order. It was a proposal that the territory should be handed over to the United Nations, an international authority, for the purpose of bringing the people of the territory up to the point of self-determination. It is all very well for people to talk around the subject of self determination. I appreciate the debating point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but let us face the facts. We live in a different day and age from the early times in our own country when, as is recorded, a man and his wife and children could be listed in the sale of things which could be transferred to a new power or a new owner. I hope the day has gone for ever when 600,000 people, unable properly to take charge of their own affairs in a complex world, could be handed over willy-nilly, whether they liked it or not, to some other power that claimed sovereignty over their territory.
I discussed this question once with an Indonesian diplomat of fairly high rank. I asked him, “ On what do you base your claim to West New Guinea? “ And he replied, “ Upon legal grounds “. I said, “ Then you do not base it upon an ethnological grounds? “ And he replied, “ Oh no.
We stand on the legal grounds.” Of course, he did not stand on racial or ethnological grounds. He knew perfectly well that he could not sustain that stand because there is no resemblance between the Papuans of West New Guinea and the Indonesian people. The suggestion that is now brought in that there is more resemblance between the people of West New Guinea and the Indonesians than between the people of West New Guinea and those of the Netherlands is beside the point. The point is that they are people, as far as a people can be, of one nation with those who occupy the eastern territory of Australian New Guinea and Papua. I then asked my Indonesian friend, “What do you mean by ‘legal grounds’?” “Well”, he said, “it was administered by the Dutch and when they went out it reverted to us”. “Well, my friend “, I said, “ if that is the basis upon which you argue you will get yourself into a considerable tangle throughout the world, because Great Britain has left a good many countries from which she formerly administered others, and if those countries start claiming the territories formerly administered from within their boundaries there will undoubtedly be blood on the moon “.
I feel that behind Indonesia’s claim to West New Guinea there is a complex of fear of what the Netherlands might perhaps do under certain circumstances to try to retrieve the possessions she lost in Indonesia. While I sympathize with and understand that point of view on the part of a people who had 400 years of foreign rule, at the same time I think it is so unrealistic that one can scarcely see how they could entertain that view on grounds other than those which I have put forward. If the Netherlands to-day tried to reconquer Indonesia the whole force of world opinion would be against it. I do not think there is the slightest ground for believing that the Netherlands would attempt to do that. I do not believe that the people of the Netherlands are other than fair when Hey say they are prepared to give the people “>f West New Guinea selfdetermination. I hf..”’ watched, with considerable admiration, the speed with which the Dutch have built up their attempts to bring the people of West New Guinea to selfgovernment. I think these are things which have to be taken into consideration even more than the matters mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
I believe that in the final analysis, if Australia stands firmly on the ground of belief in self-determination for the people of West New Guinea she will be on solid ground before the nations of the world. 1 believe that the people of the East will respect a stand such as that. If the offer that has been made by the Netherlands in the United Nations is again taken up it will do much to restore the prestige of the United Nations in the eyes of the people of the world. But if it is taken up on the basis that the people of one nation shall be handed over willy-nilly to another nation, without their consent and while they are not yet in a position to do other than indicate that they do not want to change their present sovereignty until they have self-determination, and Australia stands firm on the grounds I have mentioned, she will win respect. One thing which will not win respect is constant vacillation from one side to the other. One course which will not win respect is to say that we believe in a certain principle but
We are not prepared to stand up for it.
.- Any person who takes an interest in the foreign affairs of this country must be alarmed and disturbed at the bungling of the Government in this situation. The Government is now very anxious to make it clear that it has no intention of supporting the Dutch in any resistance that they may put up to the Indonesian occupation of West New Guinea. Had the Government made that plain from the start many of the difficulties we are now confronted with would not have arisen. When this issue was first raised in this Parliament in 1950, the Government of the day declared itself for Dutch sovereignty, with no mention of self-determination for the natives of West New Guinea. The Government further indicated that it was prepared to back Dutch sovereignty if the necessity arose and that, if the Dutch retired from the territory, Australia was prepared to occupy it. The Government has retreated from that position now, and we have listened with great interest to what the Minister for External
Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) had to say about it. Those of us who can recollect the long, wearisome statement that he read to this House realize that the Government still does not face up to the real issues, and that it does not answer the questions which many people in Australia to-day are asking and which they are wanting this Government to answer. When we say to the Government, “ If conflict breaks out between the Dutch and the Indonesians over the possession of West New Guinea, what do you propose to do if you receive a request from the Dutch to land their planes in Australia or to use our port facilities? “, the Government will never state exactly what its attitude is. Ministers simply say, “ That is a hypothetical question “. But it is such a distinct possibility that the people of this country want some answer to it!
The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) directed attention to the Government’s complacency, and it is rather interesting to note that we had to wait nearly twelve months before the Parliament was given a further opportunity to discuss the critical position that was developing in the north. Even after the general elections had been held and the Government had barely retained its position on the treasury bench, the Government was not anxious to call the Parliament together although the situation was becoming more urgent in the north. The honorable member for Chisholm is reported as having said -
In December Indonesia was massing to take West New Guinea by force, yet Canberra-
Obviously referring to the Government - did not consider there was an emergency.
He went on to say -
The Christmas holidays, the Davis Cup and other sporting fixtures were of more importance.
I recollect members of the Opposition asking the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to convene the Parliament to discuss this urgent situation and there is no doubt about the person to whom the honorable member for Chisholm was referring when he talked about sporting fixtures, because it is a well-known fact that the Prime Minister has often neglected important business of state in order to attend a cricket test match or a Davis Cup match. This Parliament has not been kept informed about the actual situation. The Parliament has not been taken into the confidence of the Government. As a matter of fact, not so long ago, the Minister for External Affairs said that there was no crisis, and that statement has been repeated. He told us on innumerable occasions that the Government had received assurances from various Indonesian leaders that they did not intend to use force to occupy West New Guinea, and the Prime Minister has said, “ lt will be a breach of faith if they do “.
When the Government decided to change its policy - I should not say that the Government changed its policy because this Government acts according to directions from those to whom it refers as “ our powerful friends”, and has never believed that Australia should have an independent voice in international affairs. The Prime Minister is reported as having said -
Australia was an independent nation with the right to express its own views on international affairs, but Australia was independent only in the legal sense. The notion that Australia was truly independent was a grand conception.
So he does not believe that Australia has the right to express an independent point of view on this particular matter!
Let me pass on now to who has changed the mind of the Government. Everybody knows that the United States of America and the United Kingdom, to whom it is obvious that the Prime Minister was referring when he spoke of “ our powerful friends “, determined some time ago that there was not to be any second front in South-East Asia, that there was not to be any fighting over West New Guinea. As a matter of fact, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Soviet and Czechoslovakia have all been supplying arms to Indonesia. When questions were asked about this, the Government said that the arms were being supplied to Indonesia to ensure its internal security. Are bombing planes with a range of 4,500 miles for internal security? These people knew that the Indonesians were amassing arms, and they were helping to supply those arms in order that the Indonesians might be able to carry out their plan to occupy West New Guinea. So that when the Government had been told that it would have to change its policy, it was not prepared to come to this Parliament and declare, “We were wrong, and therefore have decided on a change of policy “. Instead, the Minister for External Affairs goes to Melbourne and has an offtherecord talk with three newspaper editors. When the newspapers revealed that the Government had changed its attitude, when they revealed that the Government had recognized that the occupation of West New Guinea by Indonesia was imminent, the Minister for External Affairs said, “ It is unofficial; it is speculative “. But he did not deny it. He did not say that the Government had not changed its plans with respect to West New Guinea.
Let me pass on to one or two of the other decisions of the Government. The Government claims now that the paramount issue is whether the natives of West New Guinea, along with the natives in the other part of New Guinea, are to be given the right of self-determination. But the Government did not talk about selfdetermination while it believed there could be a negotiated settlement between the Dutch and . the Indonesians. No matter what the conditions of the settlement were, this Government was prepared to let selfdetermination go. Apparently, the Government thought “ self-determination “ was a good term to use in an effort to influence the Australian public, bur I remind honorable members of this significant statement by the Minister for External Affairs -
On 25th January I declared publicly that the Government’s policy as stated by the Prime Minister on 12th January was unchanged. That declaration stands.
At least we have here a record in that this Government’s policy actually stood unchanged for thirteen days! That is a remarkable performance for this Government, judged on its record so far.
I have said before, and I repeat, that I do not think there is any danger of this country being involved in war over West New Guinea. For one thing, everybody knows the state of Australia’s defences. Everybody knows that even if we wanted to defend New Guinea, we would be unable to do it without the aid of powerful allies. So there is no suggestion at the moment that there will be any war over West New Guinea so far as Australia is concerned. The Prime Minister himself has stated -
Australia will not act except in concert with our great and powerful friends.
This Government could not act without those great and powerful friends because it has not the means with which to act even if it wanted to.
Let me turn now to the question of selldetermination. This Government is only a recent convert to self-determination. Honorable members on the Government side would have us believe that the Government parties have always supported this principle, but I remind the House that as far back as 1945 the Labour Government, in which I was Minister for Territories, introduced a measure called the Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Bill. The then Liberal member for Balaclava, Mr. White, led the debate for the Liberal and Country parties. In setting up this provisional administration, we proposed certain changes for the benefit of the natives of New Guinea. Amongst other things, we proposed a 44-hour working week. We also proposed to abolish the indentured labour system. We intended to give the natives the opportunity of returning to their villages just as other personnel serving in the forces were permitted to do. When we announced these proposals, certain people in this Parliament declared that we were wrecking the economy and the future of New Guinea. Let us see what Mr. White, the Liberal member for Balaclava, had to say when we were endeavouring to do something to improve the standards of the New Guinea natives. He said -
If we suddenly enforce labour laws which might be applicable to a completely civilized democratic community, over-pay natives for their work and give to them too much leisure, we shall be spoiling them.
Do honorable members know what we had proposed at that time? In the pre-war period the natives received between 5s. and 7s. 6d. a month plus rations, of course, and their accommodation. The Labour government of the day did not propose anything tremendously drastic. It proposed to lift the monthly pay to 15s. as well as improving their rations and conditions. We had decided to do that as a temporary measure and we intended to examine the situation in order to see what improvements we could effect in the immediate future. Members of the parties opposite who now express their great concern for New Guinea natives were, at that time, horrified. Some of their speakers said that we wanted to increase the natives’ pay by 200 per cent. That, they said, was unheard of! According to those members who are now concerned about the welfare of the New Guinea natives, 15s. a month was too much. Do honorable members know what the late honorable member for Richmond, Mr. Anthony, said? He said, referring to the natives -
Any legislation or administrative acts that will weld them into a social force must be examined with the greatest care. If they become an educated force they may one day join our enemies.
Yet honorable members opposite to-day claim that they are protagonists of selfdetermination. Let us move on to 1949 when we dealt with the question of United Nations trusteeship of the Territory of New Guinea. Did the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) talk about selfdetermination in those days? He said, referring to the Labour Govern rr -it -
Why do supporters of the Government object so indignantly to the suggestion that New Guinea might be annexed?
The Treasurer wanted Australia to take it over. He had no intention in those days of permitting a United Nations trusteeship until the natives were ready for selfdetermination. He wanted to annex the Territory. The same attitude was adopted by Sir Howard Beale, Sir Percy Spender, and Sir Eric Harrison, who were then members of the House. Sir Howard Beale, who was then Mr. Beale, the honorable member for Parramatta, and who was succeeded by the present Minister for External Affairs, said -
The bill contains a fantastic proposal to have native representatives on the Government councils.
He was a member of the party which now says it wants self-determination for the natives. In 1957, the Prime Minister said that Australia was in New Guinea and Australia would remain there. There was no question of a ten-year developmental and educational programme. There was no question of self-determination. He went on to say -
We do not regard our presence here as temporary.
In those days, members of the Liberal Party intended that Australia should remain in permanent occupation of New Guinea. It is only as a result of the pressure of world opinion and of opinion from the Australian Labour Party and the trade unions of this country that the Government has now altered its attitude. The Prime Minister now says -
Above all things we stand for the principle of self-determination.
But members of the Government do not mean “independence” when they talk about “ self-determination “. The Minister for External Affairs has said -
There is no simple definition of selfdetermination.
Self-determination does not extend, according to the Minister, to the point of New Guinea declaring its independence. The layman - which is all I claim to be - would imagine that “ self-determination “ meant that the majority of the people, through the ballot-box, should determine the form of government that they desire. Here is a government which professes to favour selfdetermination yet we have not selfdetermination in the real sense in our own country. We have elective parliaments but surely nobody would suggest that a government comprising two parties which are only able to muster less than 41 per cent, of the electors’ votes between them represents the will of the Australian community. What self-determination is possessed by the people of South Australia? Although 56 per cent, of them voted to defeat the Playford Government, Playford is still the Premier of South Australia. Yet these are the champions of selfdetermination!
Let us look at the situation in regard to target dates to enable self-determination to be applied in the Australian portion of New Guinea. Honorable gentlemen opposite say that their purpose in remaining in occupation of East New Guinea is to improve the educational standards of the natives until they can determine their own political future. Away back on 25th August, 1960, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) declared that the Government proposed to give target dates which had been requested by the United Nations. The Government has not stated target dates yet. Members of the Government are moving so slowly that if they are not careful they will have to get out very soon whether they like it or not. Evidently, the Prime Minister foresees that day. Did he not say, “ I would prefer to get out too soon than too late? “ So we have to speed up or we will be faced with a situation identical to that which faces the Dutch on whom pressure to leave is now being exerted.
This Government entered into an agreement with the Netherlands Government in 1957 and it was quite obvious, at that point, that it intended to make common cause with the Dutch, even to the extent of recourse to arms, to prevent the Indonesians from moving into West New Guinea. This is what the Government agreed to do under the terms of the agreement with the Netherlands -
To pursue policies directed towards the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the peoples in their territories in a manner which recognizes their ethnological and geographical affinity. … In so doing the two governments are determined to promote an uninterrupted development of this process- until the natives were in a position to determine their own future.
One of the important aspects of this question is the possibility that, if the situation is not handled carefully, Australia could attract an hostility from Asian countries which it does not deserve. It was the Labour Government and the trade union movement of Australia which gave aid to the Indonesians in their fight for independence when members of the present Government parties were opposing them with all their power. Recently, a great London newspaper reported the Prime Minister as being notably ill at ease with Asians. We all know that he is ill at ease with Asians. We all know that the Government has failed to take the initiative in calling the Seato powers together because some of the members of Seato are Asian countries which might not support this Government’s attitude to South-East Asian affairs. During the general election campaign of 1961, the Prime Minister said-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- A great deal could be said about the speech that rumbled in a tumbril-like way from the lips of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I hope that the House will accept it as a form of penance on my part if I resist the temptation to follow him through the labyrinth of argument to which in the course of the last twenty minutes, he has treated us. Nevertheless, I would like to make one or two comments on his speech. First of all, I should like to say, with some pain and, indeed, with some anxiety, that the honorable gentleman did not seem to me to-night to be his usual self. The usual style of his speech had gone. The lofty, detached, academic approach which has long distinguished the honorable gentleman was missing. The tranquillity of sentiment that has long endeared itself to this House and to the people of Australia was missing. The sweetness and charm that flowed so naturally and so easily from the honorable gentleman was missing. Instead of exhibiting the characteristics to which I have made fleeting and, no doubt, imperfect reference, the honorable gentleman to-night fussed and fumed and fulminated with all the impatience of a bull in splendid isolation.
I would have thought that if any person in this Parliament or in this country would have sworn himself to a trappist style of silence on the matter of New Guinea, it would have been the honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable gentleman has referred to-night to history. Of course, again he did so with his infinite respect for truth in these matters. I hope that he will regard it as tolerable impertinence on my part if I remind him of certain events, because memory is an imperfect carriage in these matters. Some years ago, the honorable gentleman went on record as saying -
It is amusing to hear people say we will not give up New Guinea. To those people- and one can imagine the ecstatic way in which this was said -
I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our mandated Territories, they should defend them themselves.
Yet the honorable gentleman talked to-night about defence. Then he said, with what I thought was an impartial reference to the Government’s record of defence, “ We can’t do it alone. We can’t go it alone.” The honorable gentleman knows that in any contest for power you cannot achieve much unless you have the numbers, but he ignored that as he ignored other things. I shall come back to the honorable member, because, despite what I have said, I have an affection for him, although I might say perhaps that it is cunningly concealed.
I shall move on now to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who led for the Opposition in this debate. When I listened to my honorable friend, I was tempted to forgive him because his mind, on the matter of New Guinea, is like a jungle; it is over-grown. It is over-grown with bitter prejudice and sordid confusion. The honorable gentleman based a great deal of his argument on two bases. First, he launched an attack on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Does it add anything to the galaxy of understanding that the Leader of the Opposition should make a personal attack on the Prime Minister? The honorable gentleman referred to the fact that the Prime Minister led a deputation of sorts to Suez. I would have thought that every person in Australia, irrespective of party politics, would have taken a quiet and decent pride in the fact that the leader of the Australian nation was asked by eighteen nations to lead a delegation to see President Nasser on the Suez dispute. Is a man’s integrity impeached and is his argument to be regarded as impaled because he has failed? If that is the test in this matter - and according to the Leader of the Opposition that is to be the test - all I can say is that the Leader of the Opposition has been an inglorious failure. Then the Leader of the Opposition attacked my honorable and learned friend the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick). He said that the Minister had presented what was, in fact, a lawyer’s brief. Does the Leader of the Opposition expect the honorable member for Parramatta to desert the discipline of his profession? Or is the honorable gentleman, with his well-known allergy to facts, unable to reconcile his allergy with the fact that in the presentation of his case the Minister for External Affairs showed a sharp relevance to facts?
I turn from that caricature of events to what I consider to be the substance of this tremendous and crushing issue so far as the Australian people are concerned. There is doubt and a genuine anxiety in the minds of many millions of Australians on this issue. None of us is at liberty to be content with the modest view of the hymn writer. We must ask “to view the distant scene “ because one step in this matter may be fatal and may lead to great danger. If I might say so with great respect, I find that sovereignty is the key to this issue. If honorable members study critically the statement of the Minister for External Affairs, they are left with the conclusion that that also is his view, because he referred to sovereignty on seventeen occasions. I do not disguise for one moment that I was enraptured by his views on it because sovereignty in recent years has come to be used, in the minds of many people, with undertones of shame. Sovereignty has indeed been despised. It has been thought of as something unclean. I thought the Minister’s use of the word was quite refreshing.
I hope the House will pardon my reflecting on this matter in a personal way, but sovereignty to me personally conjures up something that is solid and comforting. Without doing too much violence to Keats, I would say -
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Barwick speak out loud and bold.
That is on the issue of sovereignty. Sovereignty is the very centre of this conflict, and to ignore it is to ignore the conflict completely. Putting to one side the IndonesianDutch dispute as such, I think the country should be advised to consider the relative attitudes of those who sit in this Parliament. The Government’s attitude has been made quite plain. Sovereignty is not dismissed and not despised. But what of the Opposition? I think that at least one of the things that must be said is that there has been a partial eclipse of regard for sovereignty. If you go through the Minister’s speech, Mr. Speaker, you find that two questions are brought out clearly. The first is the issue of sovereignty. Then we have the Minister’s statement -
Australia is neither a party principal, nor a self-appointed arbitrator in these matters.
I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the two matters can be commingled. I am assuming for the moment that the Opposition’s attitude is a fragile tenderness for sovereignty and that the Leader of the Opposition is no ebullient busy-body. I think the kindest thing that may be said about the Opposition is that there has been little constancy of love for the two principles that this question enshrines. The great truth of the matter is that no party in Australia in this century has propounded a policy compounded of mischief and muddle that could rival the Australian Labour Party’s policy on the Dutch and the Indonesians. That proposition can be readily tested. Look to the immediate post-war years. Sovereignty was trampled on by the Labour government of the day. Admittedly, the Labour Prime Minister of that time stated on 25th September, 1947 -
The Australian Government is not taking sides in the dispute and never made any attempt to do so.
The record shows that that statement was demonstrably false. What of the ban on Dutch shipping in Australia for nearly three years when the leader of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions of that day was driven to express the view that there was no more mischievous form of industrial unrest and expression of opinion than this ban. Who determined the foreign policy of Australia in those days? It was determined by the Waterside Workers Federation.
The honorable member for East Sydney was a Minister of the Crown in those days. Was he heard to complain? Did he bleat in his characteristic way? Did he protest that here was sovereignty being despised? The Labour Government’s attitude at that time could be described in one word - cowardice. There is no other word for it.
Now I turn from the domestic scene to the international scene. The Labour Government was, or at any rate claimed to be - and for the purposes of my argument I will concede it - responsible for bringing the dispute before the United Nations. The United Nations charter in this matter is quite explicit. Clause 7 of Article II. refers to non-interference in domestic disputes. But there was no section of the DutchIndonesian dispute in the immediate postwar years that could be perceived by the government of the day as being domestic. It regarded the whole thing as being the concern of the whole world. Where, Sir, was the fervent expression of regard for sovereignty on that occasion when the government of the day - that is, the Labour
Government of the day - not merely interfered but took sides? When the dispute came before the Security Council on two occasions the Australian vote was against the Dutch. To-day, the Labour Party poses as the great friend of the Dutch.
There was a conference in New Delhi in 1949 to consider the Dutch-Indonesian dispute. Various countries were invited. The Australian Government was invited to send a delegation, and it sent a delegation. Australia was not a party principal, but a delegation went from this country. The Netherlands, a nation which was plainly a party principal, was not invited. Was there any protest by the Labour Government of that day against the failure to invite the Dutch to that New Delhi conference in 1949? Did the honorable member for East Sydney complain about it? No, he was as silent as the Sphinx and, I suppose, as useful as the material that composes it.
But, Sir, to-day the Leader of the Opposition is trying to give the impression that he would like to dethrone President Soekarno. He has described the President in unbecoming language, to put it mildly. We wonder whether he would mind recalling his language - the honorable member for East Sydney made reference to this - when he was discussing Papua-New Guinea in 1949. This is what he had to say then -
Did I hear some one mention the word “ twist “? This is no twist on the part of the Leader of the Opposition. This represents a most violent convulsion. He said this, not with complaint but with utter resignation and, if not explicity, most certainly implicitly, approved the fact that it would be the Indonesians who would run Dutch New Guinea. Yet to-day the honorable gentleman rivals the honorable member for East Sydney in his fussing and fuming and fulminating about the issue, and takes the view that Australia has done nothing about it at all.
There is wide Australian concern over the position. I should like to say a word or two about the fact that several Asian countries have regarded the DutchIndonesian dispute over Dutch New Guinea with, if not reservation, then with suspicion of the Dutch - one might even say hostility. I think it is fair to say that this is something that springs from the naturally and environmentally conditioned view of many Asian countries concerning colonialism, but I hope that they would not think it impudence or impertinence on my part to point out to them that there is a form of colonialism far more grievous to people than the old-style colonialism which is now rapidly disappearing. There is a form of surrender of power which can be more violent and more oppressive than the old style of colonialism. I should like to make a very genuine appeal to people who find themselves in that position to realize the enormous consequence of ignoring the vital issue that is involved. It is very easy for people to try to dispose of other people’s property, but when you are put into the position where you have to make a sober and determined judgment on your own account I believe you should at least be prepared to consider all the elements.
So before I sit down I should like to advise, not only my friend the Leader of the Opposition but also all those who feel as though they have a great interest in this matter, to recall the language of a man who wrote with impeccable good sense, though it was many years ago. The words, the language, the sentiment are quite pertinent to our time and our circumstances. He wrote -
Terror is not always the effect of force; and an armament is not a victory. If you do not succeed, you are without resource; for, conciliation failing, force remains; but, force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left. Power and authority are sometimes bought by kindness; but they can never be begged as alms by an impoverished and defeated violence.
It would seem to me that not only the Leader of the Opposition and President Soekarno but every person who feels as though he has an interest in this dispute would do well to contemplate by day the sentiment expressed in those words, and to meditate on it by night.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) was not up to his usual form tonight and I may say, Sir, that I do not intend to follow him through his maze of irrelevancies. However, there was one matter on which he placed great emphasis, a matter with which I should like to deal - the subject of sovereignty. The honorable member’s speech proves beyond all doubt the charge that has been made by both the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that sovereignty and not self-determination is the Government’s first concern in regard to West New Guinea. I certainly do not remember the honorable member for Moreton devoting a single word of his speech to the principle of self-determination. So it is not for me to try to review the honorable member’s remarks, having regard to the unfortunate way in which he sought to express himself in terms not strictly related to the matter at issue.
The Australian people are very concerned about the situation to our north. They are concerned about the future of West New Guinea, and their undoubted thought is that the people of that area have a rightful claim to self-determination. The Labour Party has declared in emphatic language its absolute adherence to the principle of self-determination. I shall read to the House from the declaration made in April, 1961, by the Federal A.L.P conference on this very issue. It reads -
The Labour Party asserts that the only people who have the right to determine the future of the island of New Guinea are its indigenous people.
The United Nations holds that the inhabitants of the Trust Territories of New Guinea are not fit yet to govern themselves. The Labour Party believes this to be true of the inhabitants of the rest of the island.
The Labour Party will support and co-operate in the efforts of the United Nations to resolve the present dispute over West New Guinea so as to avoid armed conflict.
I wish to associate myself emphatically with the declarations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on this issue. He expressed the policy of the Australian Labour Party on this issue when he spoke in the debate a week or so ago.
Independence and the right of selfdetermination are as precious to the people of West New Guinea as to the people of any other nation. I remember the loyalties of the people of New Guinea in both war and peace, and we should give no impression of forsaking them now. This situation could have a serious reaction for other than those directly affected in West New Guinea. As has already been said, we do not resolve the problem of colonialism by substituting one colonial power for another.
There is another aspect that has not yet been mentioned in this debate. This also has relation to the security of Australia. If a military power becomes a dominant influence in New Guinea, will this delay the withdrawal of Australia from that part of New Guinea we are preparing for selfgovernment and nationhood? It is to be earnestly hoped that this will not be so. But there is only one way that security can be assured to these people and to ourselves, and that is for a trusteeship of the United Nations to guarantee the rights of the native peoples concerned. This is a very important aspect of the situation. The Netherlands Government in the past may not have been perfect in its administration of distant dependent territories, but at least in this instance it is endeavouring to lead the native peoples of West New Guinea towards selfgovernment. In this, it is expending considerable amounts from the revenues of Holland so that it may maintain some care of these people. I believe that the Netherlands Government wishes the people of these parts to achieve self-determination at the earliest possible moment.
It is welcome news that Indonesia is to return to the preliminary talks in Washington concerning an agenda for a conference on settlement of the West New Guinea dispute. I believe that these proceedings should have been under the direct supervision of the United Nations. The SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations is, of course, attending as an observer, but in my opinion that is not sufficient. The whole matter should have been subject to the direct intervention of this international authority. It is in this respect that Australia could have given good offices. The Government has failed in a signal responsibility in not taking the initiative to present the matter to the appropriate instrumentality of the United Nations. Of all the nations in this area, Australia could have done much to preserve the peace and to safeguard against disturbed relations, or at least to curb anything in the way of fanaticism on one side or bad faith on the other. Australia should have made its voice heard by the disputing nations directly. This should have been followed by positive action in the General Assembly of the United Nations, even if the Security Council had refused to intervene. But no positive action was taken by the Australian Government.
What a different attitude would have been taken by a Minister for External Affairs in a Labour government! Let me recall the actions of the former leader of this party, Dr. Evatt, when he was Minister for External Affairs. When matters were in dispute between the Netherlands and Indonesian leaders at the time of the transfer of sovereign powers of certain areas that were known as the Dutch East Indies, the Netherlands was accused by the Indonesian leaders of certain police action. I shall read what Dr. Evatt had to say during a foreign affairs debate at that time. This reveals the difference between the attitude adopted by a Labour Minister for External Affairs and the attitude of the present Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) in a Liberal-Australian Country Party Government. When referring to the action of which the Indonesian leaders had complained, Dr Evatt said, according to “ Hansard “ of 9th February, 1949-
Australia accepted part responsibility for that intervention, not only on its own account but as a member of the United Nations, and for one purpose only - to see that fighting in this territory so close to our shores should be stopped and that conciliation or arbitration should be substituted for warfare.
That is the fundamental principle of the United Nations and it applies everywhere. There is no question of who is right in the present dispute.
An honorable member has interjected that the present dispute is not our business. Nobody can say that it is not our business. It is the business of the United Nations organization, of which We are a part, and of the people of the world because the life or death of a Dutch or Indonesian soldier is just as important as that of any man anywhere in the world, and one of the purposes of the United Nations is to substitute the rule df law for the arbitrament of force, to attempt to Conciliate differences and to substitute for all that has been suffered in two world wars some rule which all the nations can obey. I hope to make it perfectly clear to the House that this is a question not of the particular merits of the dispute but of the purpose and principles of the United Nations and of the necessity for loyalty to its decisions. As a loyal member of the United Nations, we have tried to carry out its decisions.
– Who said that?
– That was the statement of the then Minister for External Affairs, Dr. H. V. Evatt, who is now the Chief Justice of New South Wales. In his statement, there was no condoning of force or the threat of force but an immediate offer of good offices. There was an outspoken rebuke for any breach of the peace or any threatened breach of the peace. He sought through the United Nations the peaceful settlement of all issues in dispute. I know something about this matter. Following instructions from Dr. Evatt as Minister for External Affairs at that time, I engaged in discussions with the State Department of the United States of America with the object of giving added weight to the good offices of this and other nations that were offered in an attempt to avoid any breach of the peace.
If I may say so calmly and with due respect, Indonesia has much to acknowledge in the good offices of Australia at that time. Great help and friendship, also, have been bestowed on the people of that country since. These good offices cannot be swept aside or denied. Proof of that is the presence in this country of so many nationals of Indonesia studying at our universities and other schools of learning in the subjects of engineering, education, nursing, medicine, science, agriculture, accountancy, arts, economics and food technology. The ships and brave men of this nation, in association with those who were our allies in the last war, sought to repel the invader and aggressor of those days from the shores of the islands that to-day comprise the Republic of Indonesia. Australia also received and succoured refugees from the Indonesian area during the last war. Surely these things cannot be forgotten by a people worthy of that help. Australia has spent £3,650,000 in recent years on the training of the students that I have mentioned. More Indonesians than any other national group have been trained here - even to the extent of denying similar opportunities to many young Australians. Surely our intervention in any situation involving such people would be accepted by them in good faith and with respect.
Australia could have spoken in the troubled situation concerning West New
Guinea much more effectively than could most others. The weak and vacillating voice of the Australian Government has done nothing to try to bridge the difficulty. This Government’s attitude has given an entirely wrong impression of the Australian people’s view concerning any threats of a war-like character. In fact, the Menzies Government’s inglorious inactivity has encouraged certain people to become more vocal in their threats of recourse to military force. The language that they have used is not the sort of language that the people of this country appreciate. Any nation that employs military force which amounts to aggression forfeits the right to respect and to the trust of nations with peaceful intentions. I may say that there seems to have arisen in recent times a new technique by which, in times of negotiation, people continue to make threats of armed aggression. I believe that that is an entirely wrong point of view. It is contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Charter of the United Nations.
I come back to the issue that I introduced at the beginning of my speech - selfdetermination for the indigenous people of West New Guinea. The Right Reverend Philip Strong, who has been Anglican Bishop of New Guinea for 26 years, declared a view that I have no doubt is widely held by the natives of those parts, when he said -
Gain by aggression was morally wrong. Signs of weakening in Australia’s policy of selfdetermination for West New Guinea have distressed me. Australia’s policy of self-determinataion apparently started to weaken when the policy did not receive full support from some other nations.
New Guinea natives trust Australia. Failure to give full support to the policy of self-determination would be a great shock to them.
I add that Australia cannot afford to allow that to happen. There should be only one consideration when we remember the Charter of the United Nations. There seems to me to be one course only - a form of trusteeship for West New Guinea. The Dutch remaining in the area or annexation by Indonesia will not bring a settlement. The only prospect is for some nation apart from those two to be charged with the responsibility for trusteeship until the people themselves can express their intention regarding self-determination. This, I believe is the only course that will resolve the aggravated situation in West New Guinea in a satisfactory manner and avoid sacrifice and suffering for thousands of Papuan natives. This will, at the same time, be the surest way to promote peace and, ultimately, ordered government by the people1 of this territory.
The longer the present dispute is allowed to continue, the more bitter become feelings on both sides, and the more difficult becomes the problem of achieving a settlement. Now is the time when every effort should be made with the nations concerned and in the councils of the United Nations to find an answer. Australia, with trust territory immediately adjoining West New Guinea, cannot remain complacent and indifferent to the situation. Australia is a land with peaceful intentions.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have been listening to a debate which I deplore very much indeed, because it has shown, on a matter which is of paramount importance to all parties and people in this country, that there has developed a partisan view - a party view, to put it more accurately. This, I think, is to the great detriment of the Parliament and the country. We all know that the sword of Damocles hangs over both the Government and the Opposition, for the numbers in this House are very evenly divided. The Government has a voting majority of only one. However, I hoped that on this vital issue we could have come to some common attitude.
What are the questions posed by this issue? In my view, they are these: First of all, have we a moral responsibility for the people of our own Territory of Papua? I say that we most definitely have. There can be no question about that. Nor can there be any question that we have a responsibility to discharge our obligation to the people who have virtually given their lives - in some instances, lives have in fact been given - in the administration of that Territory. The next question, as I see it, is this: Do we lightly accept the possibility of the people of the Territory being taken over by another power? This, really, is the crux of the argument, and I think that it has been ignored rather too much by some people. We have an obligation to the people of Papua and New Guinea. That obligation is not to say that we want to go to war with Indonesia. No sensible, thinking person wants that for one second. But we have an obligation to say to the people of Papua and New Guinea, “ Should the snowball threaten to roll over you, we will protect you “.
I shall explain what I mean by using the word, “ snowball “. At the beginning of the dispute over West New Guinea, President Soekarno of Indonesia said that Indonesia’s campaign to win control of West New Guinea is a rolling snowball that will run down everything and everybody. If we are quiescent and apathetic and do nothing in the face of a statement of that kind, we abnegate our responsibility to the people of Papua and New Guinea. We who have a trusteeship over these people cannot allow them to be put in a situation in which they may be overwhelmed by a snowball.
Now I want to deal with a contentious point. No doubt there will be many honorable members on both sides of the House who will not agree with my statement. It has been said by certain members of the Government that all of the peoples of Asia support Indonesia’s claim. I have been to some of the Asian countries in recent years, and I have had direct information from people in certain Asian countries, including the Philippines, Formosa, Japan and Borneo. 1 say positively that the people in many Asian countries do not necessarily agree with this attempt that is being made by Indonesia to establish some form of colonialism in what they call West Irian. 1 would say quite bluntly that the people of these countries are a little wary of Indonesia’s future intentions. In addition, they are people who have experienced, in their time, various kinds of colonialism. They do not support Indonesia’s claim because they believe it is an attempt at colonialism, an attempt to grab a bit more territory, if I may use a few plain words. Therefore, I suggest that the statement made by some members of the Government, that Indonesia’s claim is supported by the people of Asia, is entirely wrong.
We cannot abnegate our responsibility for one moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because with our history and tradition we must be pretty solidly opposed to any form of colonialism. We passed through a period in which our country was a colony. For this reason I believe that the people of Papua and New Guinea and of South-East Asia as a whole will accept our statement that we are opposed to colonialism. For this reason also I believe that they will accept our word when we say that we will grant self-determination to the people of Papua and New Guinea as soon as we possibly can. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has, I think, done quite a remarkable job of policy making, as have his predecessors. The people in the Administration of the Territory have done a dedicated job, as no one can deny. It is up to us as a Parliament and as a people to support the officers of the Administration and the Minister, and to stand right behind them.
– Do you think we could do more?
– I think, perhaps, that we could do more, but I am not going to argue that matter. I have been to the Territory on two occasions, and I am very well acquainted with it. I would say that, man for man and £1 for £1, we are doing as well in the administration of the Territory as any country could possibly do with a trusteeship of this kind.
Now I want to move on to a point which, I think, is important. If we do not agree with Indonesia’s claim to West Irian, as it is called by Indonesia, then what is our stand on this matter? I believe that U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, made one valuable suggestion in this regard. He asked, “ Why not let the United Nations take over that territory, with no single country being particularly concerned? “ There is a problem inherent in this proposition: Whom would you appoint to do the actual administration? However, I see no reason why that should be an insurmountable barrier. Do the Papuans want Indonesia to take them over, or do they want the Dutch to continue to control them? I do not think there is a complete answer to either of those questions. However, I think that if they were given a completely impartial administration, presided over by the United Nations, with people appointed to carry out the administrative jobs, it might well constitute the happiest solution for the people of West New Guinea in the long run.
We have heard a lot of legalistic argument to-night. We have heard honorable members going through the various United Nations resolutions on the matter. Let me suggest that we have to make up our minds on two simple questions. The first is: What is our attitude? I have suggested that we should simply support the proposition that West New Guinea be put in the hands of the United Nations. We would not do this simply for the purpose of disposing of the question completely, but merely so that the people concerned could be given the right to determine their own future. We have heard a lot of loose talk to-night about self-determination. I suggest these people should be given the right of self-determination, and the suggestion that I have put forward would provide the best possible solution to the problems con* fronting the people of West New Guinea.
.- This evening we have heard, Mr. Deputy Speaker, many views expressed on the destiny of the people of West New Guinea. The only speaker on the Government side who has made any attempt to clarify the matter has been the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). The Government claims that its policy in respect of West New Guinea is one of selfdetermination. I doubt whether that is really a policy. If we have a policy we must be prepared to implement it, given the opportunity to do so. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said during this debate that if the Indonesians and the Dutch can reach an agreement, we will recognize it. That is not consistent with a policy of selfdetermination. That is an attempt to establish a proposition that if two persons have custody of a third person’s property it is quite legal for them to divide that property up among themselves. That is not self-determination. Self-determination for the people of West New Guinea means, if it means anything, that those people shall have the right to establish their own independent government.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was quite correct when he said that if this Government said to Indonesia, “ We will assist in protecting the people of
West New Guinea from aggression “, there would be no aggression. I think the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was quite right when he said that perhaps some of the Government’s powerful friends, about whom they talk occasionally, are not so much concerned that the Indonesians could take West New Guinea, as that they might fail to do so, and that a government of a different complexion would then arise in Indonesia.
Let us have a look for a moment at the facts about West New Guinea. First, there must be the problem of administration. If it passes to Indonesia, has Indonesia the economic and financial resources to administer it on anything like the scale that the Dutch have? Remember that from 1955 to 1961 the cost to the Dutch of administering West New Guinea has risen by 600 per cent.
The population of the territory is stated variously to be from 700,000 to 800,000. In an English language paper published in Moscow Russia puts the population of this territory at 1,200,000, but I think that figure is probably more associated with propaganda than with fact. Why should Indonesia want this country of 750,000 natives, 18,000 Dutch, 10,000 Chinese and 8,000 Indonesians - most of the latter being Eurasians, who of course would not like to see the Indonesians there? They cannot wish to take it for its economic value. It has none, for them. It could not help feed them and would be a drag on them. They have no claim to it from a racial point of view. Racially, they could not be farther from the Papuans. Politically the territory has value to the Indonesians only because it can be exploited at home as a conquest and a triumph over the people who formerly held Indonesian territory. But there is something else in it which might be worth looking at.
To-day the Indonesians are being provided with arms by certain nations that must have a very slim chance of ever being paid. There is a possibility that if they can urge the Indonesians to get possession of more territory they may be paid. There may be possibilities. Let us look at what is known of West New Guinea. It does not produce surplus food and could not produce clothing for the Indonesians. It would not even add to them an indigenous population that would be of use to them. But it has nickel, cobalt. iron, tin, copper, gold, silver, uranium, pyrites and platinum. The extent of the occurrence of these metals is not known, or at least we do not have the information. But is there a possibility that those who are loading Indonesia with debt in return for arms hope they will be paid in these things which would be of great value to the people providing the rifles and ammunition. So perhaps the powerful friends of the Government might be making a mistake. The native people of West New Guinea have organized themselves into political groups, which have their own views, the only views that we are likely to get from the primitive Papuans of West New Guinea. They have some five political parties. There is one which they call the D.V.P. and there are the Sama-Sama, the Parsepp, the Epang and the Pong; and all of them are opposed to Indonesia.
The Indonesians claim they have a legal right to West New Guinea. They say the Dutch promised that twelve months after the signing of the original agreement they would hand the territory to Indonesia. But the Dutch said no such thing. I have perused the agreement, which says - . . that the status quo of the Residency of New Guinea shall be maintained, with the stipulation that within a year from the date of the transfer of sovereignty to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia, the question of the political status of New Guinea be determined through negotiations between the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
That is not a promise to hand the territory over, but to discuss the matter and arrive at a decision. Article 2 (a) of this agreement contains the phrase -
The status quo of the Residency of New Guinea shall be maintained.
The Dutch, as an afterthought and realizing that they could be misunderstood, in an effort to ensure that they should not be misunderstood, on 22nd November, 1949, wrote to both the Indonesian delegations, in identical letters, explaining that “ it shall be maintained through continuing under the Government of the Netherlands”. One cannot misinterpret that provision. It is quite clear. Remember that there were two Indonesian delegations present at this conference; and neither of them has any control in Indonesia at the moment. The first delegation was from the “ Federal Consulta tive Assembly “, and the other from the “Indonesian Republic Union”. Both of those have since been replaced by a dictatorship. Remember, also, that had the stipulation, which the Indonesians claim, been contained in the agreement, it would now have been quite useless because the agreement was broken by the Indonesians themselves. Any one who reads the agreement will realize that clauses such as that ensuring full protection of the rights of foreign residents in Indonesia, quite apart from the Dutch, have been broken. That protection has not been given to the Chinese residents who were there when the territory was transferred. How many of the Dutch have been expelled, and their property confiscated? So the Indonesians have broken the agreement.
What about that part of the agreement which provided that the United States of Indonesia should remain within the Dutch empire? That has been thrown overboard. And once an agreement is broken by one party to it, it is null and void. One cannot just uphold the sections of an agreement that happen to suit one and disregard the rest. And the position is that the Indonesians were given no such promise. If that is so, they have no claim at all. But in their view they have a very good reason for their claim. They must bolster up the political position of their dictatorship which is unable, economically, to maintain its grip on domestic affairs and thus needs foreign adventure to maintain its power. The Indonesians are not the first to discover that fact. It is a course which has been followed by dictatorships from time immemorial, and these people are no exception to the rule. They say “ We have no further territorial claims”, but we have heard that said before. Such a statement has never meant the termination of claims by a dictatorship.
Who can say that if the Indonesians succeeded in getting sovereignty over West New Guinea, which has a frontier common with our Territory of Papua-New Guinea, we would not find them making claims to further territory? That frontier is very illdefined except for the portion which follows the bend in the Fly RiveT. I repeat that what the honorable member for East Sydney said is correct. If this Government were even now to say, “ There will be no aggression in West New Guinea “, there would be none. We have been told that if we interfered - this has been stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - all of Asia and Africa would support Indonesia. Is it therefore contended that the majority of the people of Indonesia must be right, although 90 per cent, of them would not know what the argument is about? They base their claim on racial grounds and, as the Prime Minister admits, all Asia and Africa will back them. Does that make it right? I would suggest, as did the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), that we have a moral responsibility to these people. The people of West New Guinea are a primitive race. I suggest it would be quite safe to say that 99 per cent, of them do not even know there is a dispute. They live in a tribal state and have no means of learning about these things. They speak neither Dutch nor Indonesian. They have no newspapers, and they listen to no radio broadcasts. They do not even have the advantage of listening to the broadcasts of the proceedings of this Parliament. But even then they would not know what it was all about. I repeat that we have a definite moral responsibility for these people. We have in our care the greater part of this island and the greater part of its population and, insofar as anybody can have a moral responsibility for somebody else, we have a moral responsibility for all the people of Papua and New Guinea. We on this side have often been twitted by Ministers of this Government and asked what we suggest the Government should do.
– They are always asking us what to do.
– That is true, but if we told them, they would not do it anyway. This Government has a definite responsibility to make up its mind on its policy and to adhere to that policy. One of the oldest questions ever to be asked and recorded in the history of mankind is, “ Am I my brother’s keeper? “ If we fail to stand up to our moral obligations in this instance we are denying the great principle underlying that question, and a moral responsibility clearly does fall upon us here.
.- I listened with great interest to the contribution by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) to this debate. It was a reasoned contribution which indicated that he had given more thought to the subject than was given to it by some of the other honorable members who have taken part in the debate.
It is a great pity that in the year 1962 the mere fact that there are primitive people living in a country does not have any great effect upon the deliberations of the United Nations organization. It is a great pity that the United Nations should be making decisions affecting primitive people who have little chance of looking after themselves, because those decisions are based not on whether people are primitive, but purely on what colour the people concerned happen to be. If we study the composition of the United Nations we see that the scales are heavily weighted against any decision we might make in the best interests of the people concerned in this instance. I believe that the solution of the West New Guinea problem is the great testing point for the United Nations organization, especially in Australia, because most Australians have been led to believe that their one hope of future peace, that their one hope of life on this planet rests in the United Nations being able to solve the major problem of war. If an organization like the United Nations organization cannot solve the problems of West New Guinea, then it will have no possible chance of solving problems like the Berlin question, the Formosa question, or any other question in the world to-day. I believe, too, that if hostilities did break out over West New Guinea then, so far as Australia is concerned, that would sound the death-knell of the United Nations organization as a force in the world for the peace of the world.
The honorable member for Capricornia said that if Indonesia was given West New Guinea, or if she took West New Guinea, we in Australia would be in grave danger, because then we would have a common frontier with a country that might turn its eyes towards Australia. That is one of the facts of life that we have to face. Throughout the whole of our history to date we in Australia have lived in isolation, we have lived separated from any danger because we were sheltered by such things as our geographical isolation, by the fact that colonial powers ruled the countries to our north and by the might of the British Navy. To-day, those three sheltering influences have disappeared.
– And so has the Menzies Government.
– That is the sort of interjection I would expect from the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who, in this instance, as in all other cases, does not understand the question under consideration. For the first time in our lives, we are faced with the possibility of having a common frontier, of having something which the countries of Europe have had during the whole of their existence, and it is one of the things with which we have got to live. To those who would say that we should give away the idea of remaining in Papua-New Guinea, I would say that the fundamental reason why we should remain there may be seen by any one who cares to stand on the hills overlooking the Australian war cemeteries at Moresby, Lae and Rabaul. From those spots may be seen the reason why we have the right to remain in New Guinea, why we have the right to say when the indigenous people of New Guinea are able to decide for themselves what they want, and, when they are in a position to make their decision, help them stand by that decision, and we should not interfere with other nations.
It is a simple matter to see that we have no right at this stage to say how the people of West New Guinea should determine their future. We can advocate in the councils of the world that they should be given the right, but at the moment we believe that the Dutch have sovereignty over the country to which the Indonesians are making a claim. But if we study the history of that county since the independence of Indonesia was proclaimed shortly after the World War, we see that there are faults on both sides, in relation to West New Guinea. There are certainly faults on the side of Great Britain, because I believe that Great Britain looks upon us, as on any other place in this part of the world as part of the Far East, and of no great importance to her, situated as she is, just off Europe. It is a strange thing that, over the years since the Australians have inhabited this continent, we have tended to follow the British line of thinking and call this part of the world the Far East when, to us, it is the very Near East. Places which are as near to us as France is to Great Britain have occupied a much greater part in our thinking than they have in the thinking of Great Britain.
I believe, too, that the United States of America has not met her obligations as a world power, a mantle that has fallen on her since the Second World War. The United States of America has always looked upon the Dutch-Indonesian dispute as a question of colonialism. Since it is a question of colonialism, she sees it as something in which she should not take a very great part. I think if the United States had been a little more forceful in expressing her opinions about the question of West New Guinea in the councils of the United Nations over the last few years we would not have reached the situation we are in to-day.
Holland herself is not without blame. Holland is filled, I suppose, with a feeling mainly of pride - pride because this is her last possession in the Pacific, and because she is also somewhat annoyed over the confiscation of her assets in Indonesia, she is determined to hold on to West New Guinea as long as possible. It is only the force of world opinion that has caused her to come round in the last few years, by a system of crash programmes, with relation to a decision, to self-determination for the inhabitants of West New Guinea. Indonesia herself is to blame, too. Actually, Indonesia must surely have a greater right to claim British Borneo and Portuguese Timor as part of the Indonesian empire, if such a thing exists, than it has to claim West New Guinea, which is not associated with them in any way at all except that it was once part of the Netherlands East Indies.
The honorable member for Capricornia mentioned that certain nations were rushing to supply arms to Indonesia, and that they were mostly nations behind the Iron Curtain. Here, again, I do not think we can blame Indonesia entirely for what has happened because I think we all remember that in about 1948 Indonesia’s efforts at the United Nations broke down. At that time, she was searching for weapons with which to arm her forces. I think it is impossible for a nation such as ours to say that any nation alongside us or away from us has not the right to build up armed forces.
American policy has always been based on two things: First, it has been based on the need for a country to have a defence against probable aggression from without. The Americans believe that they should assist a free nation to build up its arms if there is any fear of aggression from without. Secondly, American policy has been based on the need for a free nation to have small arms to enable the maintenance of internal order against subversive activities which would not be of great proportions and which would not be stimulated from abroad. Those two conditions have always decided whether the Americans would assist with arms any nation that asked for assistance.
In 1958, when Indonesia’s attempt to have this matter brought to the United Nations failed, that country immediately commenced a large purchase of arms programme. The Americans believed that the purchase of arms was designed to build up forces forcibly to take West New Guinea and decided not to supply Indonesia with arms. Indonesia immediately turned to somebody who was only too willing to help her with the supply of arms. Most honorable members on both sides of the House will remember that high-ranking Indonesian officers went to countries behind the Iron Curtain to purchase arms such as warships from Czechoslovakia and Poland, fighter aircraft and bombers from Russia, and any other arms that they could secure. The securing of arms almost immediately ties a country to the country from which it purchases them because technical advice is required on the use of modern weapons. This is especially so in the case of a country at the stage of development which Indonesia had then reached. So there was a slow infiltration of Communist technicians into Indonesia which, together with the infiltration of technicians from other Iron Curtain countries, offered a threat to the future of Indonesia’s so-called democratic government.
It is significant that the Indonesian army has always been considered as one of the strong forces against communism in Indonesia. It is interesting to realize, therefore, that the failure of the Indonesian army would remove this obstacle to communism in Indonesia. I think it is true, as the honorable member for Capricornia said, that very few of the people of West New Guinea would know that Indonesia existed and that very few of the people in the villages of Indonesia would know that West New Guinea existed unless they had heard the propaganda that has been carried out. In 1960, Dr. Helmi, who was the Indonesian ambassador to Australia, was asked to attend a summer school in Perth to discuss the situation in West New Guinea. During the talk that he gave there he said that his country’s industrial undevelopment, poor finances and military insecurity meant that there could be no alternative to peace for Indonesia. He said that Indonesia’s foreign policy was absolutely independent of the two opposing blocs.
That reminds me of a statement that you can be neutral only if you have something to be neutral against. The nations of the world have an opportunity to be neutral only because there are two opposing blocs. The moment that there are not two opposing blocks there will be no neutrals. Whether Dr. Helmi was speaking with the full authority of his Government or not I do not know. But at least he believed at that stage that an attempt to take West New Guinea by force would be in the worst interests of Indonesia in view of its economic and military situation. A lot has been said by leader writers in Australia on this question. I want to read to the House an extract from a leading article, the source of which I shall disclose when I have finished my quotation. It reads as follows: -
For an Anticolonlalist, Sukarno Is Building Quite an Empire
Despite his frequent sneers at colonialists, President Sukarno of Indonesia cannot look in the mirror without seeing one. Not content with holding many parts of his present empire against the will of the inhabitants, he is reaching out to annex half of the second-largest island in the world, New Guinea. Sukarno, who already rules 90,000,000 brown subjects in his misnamed “ guided democracy,” opposes self-determination for the black folk to the east of Indonesia. He has threatened war unless the Dutch turn their last colony over to him.
The gigantic island lies directly north of Australia, and its eastern half is under Australian rule. The western half, controlled by the Dutch, is called Netherlands New Guinea. The primitive people whom the Dutch are civilizing are 700,000 Papuans, many of whom have never learned that eating people is wrong. Such epicures also like to save the beads as trophies of battle. There are places where a woman suckles her child at one breast and an orphaned little pig at the other.
These are the people of whom I think that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that it is now time to see what they want. These are the people who should make a decision as to how they want to be ruled and by whom. The article continues -
Because the Papuans have been isolated in tiny groups by the stupendous mountains and the swamps and jungles, they have developed more than 200 separate languages. The vast majority of the people belong to what is known as the melanodermic (black-skinned) group. If Sukarno, the empire grabber, should succeed in annexing Netherlands New Guinea, he will then go on to demand the Australian half. There are nearly 1,500,000 Papuans there, and he will insist on getting them without a vote.
The Dutch have told the U.N. that they are willing to keep on contributing 30,000,000 dollars a year to guide western New Guinea out of the Stone Age. Working hard and skilfully, the Dutch are developing an educated minority. About 50,000 Papuan children receive elementary education. More than half the government jobs are held by Papuans. Some Papuans are legislators. Missionaries from the Netherlands and the U.S. are active in educational and medical work.
In a speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Foreign Minister Luns of the Netherlands has asked that the U.N. set up an authority to administer the territory. The Dutch will request their civil-service staff to remain as U.N. employees as long as they are needed, and thus prevent such terror and bloodshed as followed Belgium’s withdrawal from the Congo.
What proposal could be fairer
That article comes, not from an Australian or a Dutch newspaper, but from the “ Saturday Evening Post “. Honorable members may think what they like about the views of that journal.
I think that the Dutch attempt to get the United Nations to take the responsibility for this matter is the most important point of all. I believe that the United Nations, in failing to do this, has failed the world in fulfilling the purpose for which it was formed after the Second World War. In view of the expenditure undertaken by the Dutch in West New Guinea I think it is only a matter of time before the Netherlands Parliament will decide that that money has been spent to no purpose. If the Dutch leave West New Guinea a vacuum will be created which the United Nations ought to be prepared to fill if there is to be any hope of law and order in the world to-day.
So, Mr. Speaker, I believe that West New Guinea is not a question for the Australian people or the Australian Government to handle. It is a question for the United Nations. It is a question on which the future of the United Nations depends and on which the peace of the world depends. If the United Nations fails it will have failed, not only the Papuans in that island who know little about the world and what goes on in it, but it will have failed every citizen of this world. It will have failed the world as the League of Nations failed it once before.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- For some weeks, now-
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . , . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
x asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Employment Service does not have statistics which would enable answers to be provided to these questions.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Final accounts will not be available for some time. The estimates have been adjusted to allow for the proportion of space allocated to special bonds in the cash loan advertisements.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The request to which the honorable member refers was made in 1960, when the Premier of New South Wales wrote to the Prime Minister asking the Commonwealth to assist, on a £l-for-£l basis, in financing a number of flood mitigation projects, includng works estimated to cost £1,500,000 in the Clarence River area. The Government did not agree to provide the assistance requested because, under the constitutional division of responsibilities, the planning, financing and carrying out of flood prevention works fall within the province of State governments and their authorities. The provision of additional finance to expedite a programme of flood mitigation and control in a State is a matter for consideration by the State government concerned in the light of its overall financial position and other relevant circumstances. Requests for assistance with such projects have been received from time to time from various State governments, but they have without exception been declined for the foregong reasons. The Commonwealth Government is by no means unmindful of the fact that many State works (including works such as flood control) are of great importance in conserving and developing the nation’s resources. Primarily for this reason the Commonwealth has, in recent years, assisted the Loan Council borrowing programme on a large scale. Since 1951-52 when the Commonwealth first supported the Loan Council borrowing programmes, the amount of £2,036,000,000 has become available for the works programmes of the States, and £790,000,000 of this has been provided by the Commonwealth from its own resources. In arranging this special assistance the Commonwealth Government decided that it should assist the State loan programmes as a whole rather than finance particular projects, and thus leave the State governments free to decide on the particular works which should be undertaken. The Commonwealth, therefore, has been and still is taking action to ensure that the maximum practicable amounts are available for the financing of State works projects as a whole. The distribution among States of the overall amount of finance available for this purpose is, of course, determined by the Loan Council, but as mentioned above the projects to which a State applies its share are decided by that State. It is true that, in addition to its support of Loan Council borrowing programmes, the Commonwealth has agreed to provide special financial assistance for certain works projects in the States. There have been special reasons in each case for the provision of this addtional assistance. Of the projects referred to by the honorable member, the assistance provided in respect of beef cattle roads in Queensland is for the specific purpose of encouraging a greater flow of exports in the national interest. The assistance in respect of harbour and dam construction works in Western Australia is provided under the authority of the Western Australia Grant (Northern Development) Act for the purpose of assisting development undertaken by the State in that part of the State north of the twentieth parallel of latitude.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following information: -
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he consider the introduction of reduced charges for the rental and use of a telephone installed in a pensioner’s residence?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The matter of concession telephone rates for age and invalid pensioners is one to which the Government has given close attention. The Government has also been made aware of similar requests from and on behalf of blind and other afflicted persons. As the honorable member knows, the Budget for 1961-62 provided for an increase in the various social service pensions and, in reviewing the general rate of increases, it was decided that no further allowances such as concessional telephone rates could be made. It was also determined that future requests from individuals or organizations who considered they were entitled to special concessions should be handled by the Minister for Social Services or the Minister for Repatriation, whichever was appropriate.
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The matters mentioned by the honorable member have all been under consideration, but it is not appropriate or customary to make announcements of Government policy in furnishing an answer to a question.
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The principal source of profit arises from interest on investments acquired by the bank in carrying out its central banking functions.
The bank holds the bulk of Australia’s overseas reserves, and, apart from gold, these are invested mainly in London in United Kingdom government stock, United Kingdom treasury-bills and in funds lodged with the United Kingdom shortterm money market.
Australian investments consist mainly of Commonwealth government inscribed stock and Commonwealth treasury-bills obtained by the bank in its transactions with other banks and with governments and as a result of its market operations.
Income is also received from interest on advances made from time to time to the Rural Credits Department, banks and other central banking customers.
The earnings received from these sources are offset by outgoings which, in the main, comprise interest paid on deposits and expenses of management.
The profit represents the difference between interest received on assets held to cover Australian notes on issue and outgoings consisting mainly of costs of production and distribution of notes and other expenses of management.
The Department’s main income-producing assets are Commonwealth government inscribed stock, Commonwealth treasury-bills, United Kingdom treasury-bills and United Kingdom government stock.
The profit is derived mainly from interest received on advances to customers offset by payment of interest on bororwing from the central bank and expenses of management.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Does he propose to remove the £2,750 limit which he fixed on 9th January, 1960, on housing loans to individuals by the Commonwealth Trading Bank or the Commonwealth Savings Bank?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board periodically reviews the maximum amount of individual credit foncier loans made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank for housing purposes under Part VI. of the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959-1962. In making these reviews, the Board takes into account the funds available to the Bank for such loans, the extent of the demand on the bank for such loans and other relevant circumstances.
As a result of a recent review by the Board, the maximum amount of a credit foncier loan was raised last February from £2,500 to £2,750, which happens to be the maximum amount at present prescribed under the Commonwealth Banks Regulations. This was the extent of the increase which the board, after full consideration of the factors referred to above, felt to be practicable for the time being.
It needs to be appreciated, of course, that the funds available to the Commonwealth Savings Bank for credit foncier housing loans ate not unlimited. An increase in the amount of individual loans must, unless it is accompanied by an increase in the amount of funds available for such loans, mean a corresponding reduction in the number of loans the bank can make. The board has, therefore, to strike a balance between the objectives of assisting the greatest practicable number of the bank’s customers to obtain homes and of pitching the maximum individual amount at the highest practicable level.
The board would like to be able to raise further the increased maximum individual amount it fixed last February. However, it naturally wishes to examine the effects of the increase to £2,750 before considering further action. If as a result of experience in regard to the present maximum of £2,750, the board felt it could increase the maximum further, the Government would sympathetically consider the question of increasing the present limit to £2,750 under the Commonwealth Banks Regulations.
Although Part VI. of the Commonwealth Banks Act, which provides for the making of housing loans on special terms, formally applies to the Commonwealth Trading Bank as well as to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, all such business is in practice undertaken by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The Commonwealth Trading Bank does, however, provide some housing finance on an ordinary overdraft basis and the limit of £2,750 does not apply to this lending.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
g asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Assistance to Primary Producers in Queensland.
y asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 April 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620410_reps_24_hor35/>.